February 23 - March 1

Launches of Falcon 9 and Soyuz-2.1a, Roscosmos' plans on the International Space Station, and many more in our weekly space digest!

Photo of the Week

So-called 'Doves' of Planet Labs, awaiting deployment from space station. Above in the title - two Flock-1B 3U CubeSats, released from NanaRacks' special deployer, installed on the ISS.
Preview 54f415d85370610ba13b0000

Quote of the Week

I loved Spock. Barack Obama's reaction to the death of Leonard Nimoy, American actor, best known for his role as Mr. Spock in the Star Trek franchise

Russia to extend participation in the ISS program until 2024

Scientific and Technical Council of the Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos) says Russia will extend participation in the International Space Station (ISS) program until 2024. After that, there are plans to disengage 3 modules from the Russian segment of the orbiting outpost and use them to develop an independent national space station in low Earth orbit (LEO). The new space station would be configured to incorporate multipurpose laboratory module, nodal module and scientific/power module, being built now in Russia and scheduled for launch to the ISS in 2016-2019.

Russia has become the second ISS partner after the US, which confirmed orbital station operations at least until 2024. Japan, Canada and the European Space Agency (ESA) are still to decide whether they continue the program or not. Whatever their decision would be, it seems very likely we'll have 3 space labs in the 2020th - US' (ISS), Russian and Chinese. Furthermore, this list may be enlarged by a commercial orbital station of Bigelow Aerospace, which plans to send their first expandable module to the ISS later this year.

Roskosmos also evaluated concepts for advancing national manned space program beyond LEO over the next two decades. Near-term plans are focused on studying the Moon using robotic spacecraft in lunar orbit, and to send humans to its surface by 2030. It was said that manned spaceflight division has approved the basic concept of Russian manned space program through 2025, and will take into account possible funding changes that could affect the program (the news largerly retrieved from Aviation Week article).

Below is 'virtual' tour over Khrunichev facility, with Proton-M boosters, future ISS' multipurpose laboratory module, and more:


Thumb 54f41d2f5370610ba13e0000
Launch of Soyuz-2.1a

  • Soyuz-2.1a successfully launched Bars-M mapping satellite on February 27 from Plesetsk. This is the first spacecraft of this series of Russian surveillance satellites.
  • Russia is planning to conduct 19 launches of Soyuz-2 rockets in 2015, breaking the record of 14 missions, performed in 2014 — via Tass.
  • Next launch of Angara-A5 heavy lift rocket planned for the first half of 2016 - via Tass.
  • Successful launch of three Terrier-Oriole suborbital rockets for the Department of Defense on February 24 from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility.

Thumb 54f41d2f5370610ba13f0000
Launch of Falcon 9 with ABS-3A and Eutelsat 115 West B

  • On March 2 (UTC), 2015, SpaceX conducted successful launch of Falcon 9 v.1.1 carrying ABS-3A and Eutelsat 115 West B telecommunications satellites into a super-synchronous transfer orbit from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral. The mission was conducted for Asia Broadcast Satellite (ABS) and Eutelsat satellite services providers, and already became the third mission SpaceX conducted in 2015, after CRS-5 (January 10) and DSCOVR (February 11) missions.


  • The launch of the US Air Force's newest generation GPS 3 satellite is delayed until 2017 — via SpaceNews.
  • The US Air Force intends to award a contract for 'a cost effective space-based passive microwave sensor' for the Weather Satellite Follow-on spacecraft that will replace Defense Meteorological Satellite System by 2021-22. Program cost is estimated at $860 million — via SpaceNews.
  • MDA signed near $23 million contract with Aselsan of Turkey to provide Ku-Band payload equipment for a communications satellite subsystem. This award is at addition to the contract announced in April 2014 for the provision of a X-band payload solution.
  • Two satellite market reports were released this week. Euroconsult forecasts a total of 510 SmallSats to be launched in the next 5 years, a 2/3 increase in the average number of SmallSats per year, with an estimated cumulative value of $7.4 billion. Meanwhile, NSR projects over 1,800 satellites, weighing more than 50 kilograms, to be ordered and launched over the next decade, generating $300 billion across global markets.
  • One more market research. The 'connected car' and 'smart cities' are potentially new and exciting markets the satellite industry could play in over the coming years - forecasts Frost & Sullivan.


  • Google Lunar XPrize teams HAKUTO and Astrobotic announced partnership for mission to the Moon in 2016. A pair of rovers is going to be launched on a SpaceX' Falcon 9 rocket — official release.
  • Astroscale, Singapore-based private space venture, has raised $7.7 million in series A round in order to set up an office in Japan to accelerate manufacturing of SmallSats for the world's first demonstration of space junk removal in 2017 — official release.
  • Mars One, a non-profit organization to send humans to Mars, has ended an agreement with entertainment company Endemol, announced in 2014, to develop a “worldwide TV event” for the selection process of the first Mars One crews. However, CEO Bas lansdorp said this won't affect the ongoing selection of crews — via SpaceNews.
  • Wall Street analysts are peppering satellite fleet operators with questions about how they plan to survive after the likes of Google, SpaceX, Facebook and OneWeb have launched 100s 1000s of satellites, drones, balloons and other Internet-delivery platforms. Largest operators – SES, Intelsat & Eutelsat – all told they welcome big-name interest in global connectivity, but question economical feasibility of stratospheric balloons or LEO-constellations - via SpaceNews.
  • SES announced an agreement with SpaceX to launch SES-14 and SES-16/ GovSat in 2017 using the Falcon 9 rocket — via SpaceRef.
  • XCOR will receive $200k from the Midland City Council for the rocket engine test stand.
  • Ardusat Secures $1 Million in Seed Funding to Expand Platform for Experiment-Based STEM Education.
  • MDA reported total revenue of $1.9 billion for the full-year 2014, up 15% from 2013. MDA financial results and the company's market prospects via SpaceNews.
  • Iridium reported total revenue of $409 million and net income of $75 million for the full year 2014. The Company issued its full-year 2015 outlook — via SpaceRef.
  • For the year ended on Dec 31, 2014, Telesat reported consolidated revenues of $923 million, an increase of near 3% ($26 million) compared to 2013 - via SpaceRef.
  • DigitalGlobe reported 2014 year results: revenue increased 9.4% to $185.7 million, net income was $12.2 million, and other results via SpaceRef.
  • Safran to inject $1 billion into joint venture with Airbus, called Airbus Safran Launchers, to reach an equal stake in it — via SpaceNews.


  • DARPA has proposed spending of $126.7 million (less than the $179.9 million in the current fiscal year) on 10 space programs in FY 2016.
  • The Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology (EIAST) and Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) discuss future space cooperation — ViaSatellite.
  • Hungary to Become 22nd ESA Member State.
  • Sylvain Laporte was named as President of the Canadian Space Agency — via SpaceRef.
  • China's next mission to space won't occur this year and may not involve moon landing.
  • ISRO news: India plans to test-fly the Reusable Launch Vehicle Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD) by mid-2015. ISRO plans launches of ten satellites per year from this year on, an increase from 4-5 satellites during previous years. New-generation, heavy GSLV Mk III rocket will be launched by December 2016. Indian government has allocated almost $1 billion for the Department of Space in the Union Budget for 2015-16, with a major focus on Launch Vehicle projects.

New Tech &Tests

Thumb 54f44e265370610ba1410000
Cryofenix experiment, conducted at Esrange Space Center in Sweden

  • Cryofenix experiment, using a two-stage VSB30 sounding rocket, was launched from Esrange Space Center in Sweden. The experiment studied the behavior of cryogenic liquids as part of CNES' launcher technology program— via SSC website.
  • NASA tested at Kennedy Space Center the upgraded giant-tracked transporter that will be able to carry Space Launch System on a mobile launch tower — FloridaToday.
  • European Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) will try to land on the ground during the program's next flight in 2019-2020 — via It is to remind that during last mission, conducted on February 11, IXV softly splashed down in the Pacific.
  • Aerojet Rocketdyne was awarded a contract to research and develop environmentally sustainable monopropellants and gas generators — via SpaceRef.
  • Boeing has filed a patent for a new reusable launch design that could get satellites into low-Earth orbit by way of four different vehicles working together:

  • Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) signed MOA with Shackleton Energy Company to develop and test in space a variety of new re-entry vehicles enabling on-demand, rapid return to Earth of time-critical experiments from LEO.
  • As part of the company's 'Tomorrow's Factory' initiative, Thales Alenia Space is deploying the Saphir Robotics Project in clean rooms. The project, developed with KUKA and AKEO+, creates a workstation with two robotic arms: one to prepare the work and the other to install inserts. The robotic workstation aims to automate the installation of inserts in composite panels used on telecommunications satellites.

Space Exploration

  • NASA will launch a new telecommunications orbiter to Mars in 2022 to replace the 13 year-old Mars Odyssey — via SpaceNews.
  • The bidding deadline for NASA's 13th Discovery mission has passed, and the agency is now vetting proposals from would-be principle investigators vying for up to $450 million in mission funding - via SpaceNews.

Next digest March 2-8, 2015 Previous digest February 16-22, 2015