space digest

April 20-26, 2015

Ariane 5 launches two satellites, Ukraine focuses on Earth imaging and science, Russia cuts space budget, and many more in our weekly space digest!

Quote of the Week

I want to work more with entrepreneurial space companies. It’s not “OldSpace” versus “NewSpace”, but instead “NowSpace”. William Gerstenmaier, Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA

Video of the Week

Geckos, launched within Bion-M No.1 Russian space mission in April 2013, play in zero gravity.

Russian space industry tightens belts but still has ambitious plans

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Igor Komarov (right)

Chief of the Federal Space Agency of Russia (Roscosmos) Igor Komarov, in talks with Russian media, shed some light on draft Federal Space Program for 2016-2025. Some of the main points declared and rumored in such interviews are gathered below:

  • Russia's draft Federal Space Program for 2016-2025 envisions budget cuts by more than 800 billion rubles ($15 bln) to reach total of 2 trillion rubles ($37 bln) for the nearest decade (in current conversion rate) - via Sputnik News.
  • Russia won't develop a super-heavy launcher in the near future, but will modify heavy Angara-A5 rocket (in particular, its upper stage) to lift heavy loads - via Sputnik News.
  • Maiden flight of Russia's Angara-A5V new heavy rocket, with dummy payload, is scheduled for 2023 from Vostochny spaceport - via TASS Agency.
  • Russia expects to carry out manned lunar fly-by in 2025, and manned landing on the Moon by 2029. Angara-A5V 'dual-launch scheme' might be used in order to deliver into orbit cosmonauts crew and manned spaceship with landing module - via Sputnik News.
  • Russia will continue development of a nuclear engine for deep-space flights - via Sputnik News.
  • Russia targets to increase number of satellites in its orbital constellation by 2025 to 181 spacecraft - via Sputnik News.
  • New Russian orbital station, which may be formed after the International Space Station, is expected to consist of three modules in the initial phases of the project, and to be augmented with convertible and energy modules later - via TASS Agency.
  • Russia is ready to propose to BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) creation of joint orbital station - via TASS Agency.
  • Anual number of Progress cargo spaceship missions will be reduced to three per year since 2016. Current Progress launch frequency is 4 per year - via TASS Agency.

Progress M-27M spaceship being readied for launch atop Soyuz-2.1a rocket. Credit: Roscosmos
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Launch of Ariane 5 with Thor 7 and Sicral 2 comsats

  • On April 26, 2015, Arianespace conducted successful launch of Ariane 5 carrying two communications satellites, Thor 7 and Sicral 2, from Guiana Space Center. Thor 7 is a Space Systems/Loral-built satellite for private Norwegian company Telenor, and Sicral 2 is a co-passenger spacecraft for Telespazio, responsible for the launch service on behalf of the Italian Ministry of Defense and the French defense procurement agency DGA. The mission VA222 was the first Ariane 5 mission in 2015.
  • TEXUS 51 sounding rocket, carrying different materials, chemicals and biological substances, was launched on April 23 from Esrange Space Center in Sweden. The payload was successfully recovered and will be investigated by a German science team. TEXUS program is carried out jointly by DLR, Airbus Defence & Space, OHB and SSC.
  • Separate investigations into two loud commercial space accidents, Antares rocket failure on October 28 and SpaceShipTwo crash on October 31, 2014, are entering their final phases and will be completed in the next few months or even weeks - SpaceNews.

Photos of Antares rocket failure (left) and crashed SpaceShipTwo (right)
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  • Technical proposal of CBERS-4A Earth observation satellite, to be launched in 2018, was presented to executives of Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA) and Brazilian Space Agency (AEB) during a meeting at the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) in São José dos Campos, Brazil - INPE (in por.).
  • Glasgow-based Clyde Space announced that it was building CubeSats to observe the changing biology of the surface ocean and the implications for the marine food chain, as well as for climate scientists, fisheries and coastal resource managers, and other experts ranging from military personnel to oil spill responders - Herald Scotland.
  • Satellite fleet operator Turksat said construction of its first domestically produced satellite, Turksat 6A, has formally begun. The satellite is expected to be launched no earlier than in 2020. Turksat CEO Ensar Gul said the Turksat 6A budget remains 548 million Turkish lira, or $203 million at current exchange rates - SpaceNews.
  • Visiona, a joint venture between Telebras Telecomunicações Brasileiras and Embraer Defense and Security, estimates it is almost halfway to the point where it can build a satellite completely in-house. Established in 2012, the company's goal is to create a domestic satellite manufacturing capability in Brazil - Via Satellite.
  • Following a $103 million contract from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Raytheon awarded a 14-year contract to SES to host a payload on the upcoming SES-15 satellite. Raytheon's FAA contract funds a Wide Area Augmentation Systems (WAAS) hosted payload, which enhances the accuracy of GPS from 100 m to roughly 2 m for improved air navigation - Via Satellite.
  • Magellan Aerospace recently unveiled its new Advanced Satellite Integration Facility (ASIF) in partnership with the University of Manitoba. The Winnipeg-based 560-square-meter facility aims to expand Magellan's own satellite operations, as well as the presence of the nearby university in the satellite-engineering field - Via Satellite.
  • Ukraine aims to have by 2018 an orbital constellation of Earth imaging spacecraft that will consist of at least 3 satellites, including one with sub-meter resolution. This plan was declared by Chief of State Space Agency of Ukraine Oleg Uruskyi during his visit to Poland. He also commited to continue international space programs, where Ukraine takes part, and announced target to become ESA member state by 2020 - SpaceDigest.

Oleg Uruskyi, SSAU (right) and Marek Banaszkiewicz, PSA (left). Credit: SSAU
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  • Lockheed Martin reported 1st Quarter 2015 financial results. Net sales of its Space Systems division raised from $1.859 billion in 1Q 2014 to $1.954 billion. Operating profit increased from $254 million to $288 million over the year. This positive performance caused Lockheed Martin to raise its full-year Space Systems profit target despite the fact that the division's overall revenue target was left untouched and that much of the 1Q 2015 results came from ULA and will drop later this year - SpaceNews.
  • Boeing reported first-quarter results. Defense, Space & Security division revenues amounted to $6.709 billion for the 1Q 2015 compared to $7.633 billion a year ago. Revenues of Network & Space Systems sub-division dropped from $1.867 billion to $1.732 billion. Earnings from operations of Network & Space Systems sub-division remained the same: $168 million in the 1Q 2014 compared to $167 million for 1Q 2015.
  • Harris Corporation announced preliminary financial results for the 3rd Quarter of fiscal 2015. Revenue and orders are to be $1.19 billion and $1.21 billion for 3Q fiscal 2015, respectively, compared to $1.27 billion and $1.11 billion, respectively, in 2014. Income from continuing operations dropped over the year from $137 million to $126 million.
  • Raytheon Company announced 1st Quarter 2015 earnings per share (EPS) from continuing operations of $1.78 compared to $1.87 in the 1Q 2014. Net sales for the 1Q 2015 were $5.3 billion compared to $5.5 billion in the 1Q 2014. Operating cash flow from continuing operations declined to $55 million from $659 million, respectively.
  • MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA) announced that it has signed multiple contracts with undisclosed customers, primarily in the US, to provide geospatial information and services. The contracts total in excess of $34 million.
  • UrtheCast Corp. announced that it has teamed with the NASA to stream real-time Earth video data from NASA's High-Definition Earth-Viewing System ("HDEV") aboard the ISS to UrtheCast's interactive web platform.
  • NASA pushed back by 3 months a decision on a new series of contracts to transport cargo to and from the ISS, claiming it needs more time to review the proposals. 5 companies have publicly stated that they submitted Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS-2) proposals. Those companies include SpaceX and Orbital ATK, which have two existing CRS contracts, Boeing, Sierra Nevada Corp. and Lockheed Martin - SpaceNews.
  • Satellite builder Thales Alenia Space, as part of what may be the most elaborate satellite technology-transfer contract ever signed, will be joining forces with Brazilian companies to develop local expertise in satellite thermal control, onboard propulsion, solar arrays and ground support - SpaceNews.
  • After many years of friendship, an Agreement was formalized between Michael López-Alegría and zero2infinity. The former NASA astronaut will advise the company in both technical and business matters.

Michael Lopez-Alegria next to the minibloon pod at zero2infinity’s. Credit: 0II00
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  • The federal budget issued last week by the Canadian Government includes proposal to provide $30 million over the next four years to support businesses who want to commercialize space technologies through the European Space Agency's (ESA) Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES) program and Canada's commitment extend its participation in the ISS program until 2024 - SpaceRef.
  • Turkey's Gokturk-1 optical reconnaissance satellite, completed months ago but held up because of a dispute over the readiness of satellite test and assembly center in Turkey, was cleared for shipment. More than two years behind schedule, Gokturk-1 suffered the complexities between Turkey, France and Italy, and strains of being the world's first export of a satellite with a ground resolution sharper than 1 meter - SpaceNews.
  • The House Science Committee released a two-year NASA authorization bill. According to the fact sheet about the bill, for FY2016 President Obama is requesting $18.529 billion for NASA, an increase of $519 million (2.9%) above the FY2015 appropriated level. The whole text of the fact sheet you could find here.

New Tech & Tests

  • NASA's Flight Opportunities Program has selected seven space technology payloads for flights on commercial, parabolic or suborbital launch vehicles to demonstrate new space technologies. Companies and organizations whose paylods were selected by NASA are: Astrobotic Technology, Northwestern University, Carthage College, Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Purdue University.
  • Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic is to begin testing a new SpaceShipTwo spacecraft this year, following the fatal crash that killed one of its pilots and risked ending the ambitious plans to send paying customers into orbit, The Telegraph reports.
  • Northrop Grumman will sponsor a research agreement with the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the development of Space Solar Power Initiative (SSPI). Under the terms of the agreement, Northrop Grumman will provide up to $17.5 million to the initiative over three years.
  • NASA 3D-prints first full-scale copper rocket engine part, a combustion chamber liner that operates at extreme temperatures and pressures:

NASA's 3D-printed copper engine part. Credits: NASA / MSFC / Emmett Given
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Space Exploration

  • The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is planning to attempt Japan's first unmanned lunar landing in fiscal 2018. JAXA said it will use unmanned probes to study the possible use of materials on the moon as well as its environment, which could pave the way for future manned missions - the Japan News.
  • The United Arab Emirates (UAE) opened the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center to oversee preparations of the country's Mars exploration probe mission - Sputnik News.


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