Our's of the Week - News of the Week
This week two notable space launches were conducted from the western coast of the Atlantic Ocean in a 10-hours period of time. On February 11, 2015, Arianespace conducted successful launch of Vega small-class launch vehicle with the European Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) from the Guiana Space Center, Kourou, French Guiana. The IXV atmospheric re-entry demonstrator was injected into a suborbital path at an altitude of near 350 km.
Being released, IXV attained an altitude of around 412 km, allowing it to reach a speed of 7.5 km/s when re-entering the atmosphere at an altitude of 120 km — fully representative of any return mission from low Earth orbit (LEO). IXV collected a large amount of data during its hypersonic and supersonic flight, being controlled by thrusters and aerodynamic flaps. The vehicle then deployed a parachute to slow its descent for a safe splashdown in the Pacific Ocean to await recovery and analysis.
Few hours later SpaceX conducted successful launch of Falcon 9 v.1.1 launch vehicle with Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) spacecraft from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Being deployed at parking position on a low Earth orbit, in 110 days the satellite will reach its final destination at the Sun-Earth L1 Lagrangian point, about 1.5 million kilometers from the Earth in the direction of the sun, which is more than four times farther than the Moon.
What could be more interesting than DSCOVR launch itself is another SpaceX attempt to softly land Falcon 9 first stage on an unanchored ocean platform in the Atlantic Ocean. Previous one was performed during CRS-5 mission on January 10, 2015, when the stage did landed on the platform, but landed hard, breaking up and damaging some of the equipment on the platform. Later it was informed that the cause of that was leakage of hydraulic fluid that actuated four special grid fins placed on-top of the stage. Despite the fact that this time the rocket was filled with 50% more of actuating hydraulic fluid, unfortunately, rough waves in splashdown region of the Atlantic Ocean prevented an attempt to recover the first stage on the drone ship.
- DARPA plans to conduct 12 orbital test launches of an Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (ALASA) integrated prototype (prime contractor Boeing), starting in 2016 - via Via Satellite.
- Chinese scientists test-fired the engines of Long March-5 in a series of ground tests of the country's next-generation rocket, which may fly as early as next year - via Xinchua News Agency.
- Arianespace ordered 6 more Soyuz-ST rockets to launch them from Guiana Space Center within the next four years, until 2019. Thus, the European launch services provider exercised an option to its near $400 million contract that was concluded last april with Russian partners for production of 7 Soyuz-ST rockets - via TASS Agency.
- Satellite fleet operator NewSat of Australia was forced to delay the launch of its first fully owned satellite, Jabiru-1, from the original date of 2014 to mid-2016. NewSat said it was in “technical default" of nearly $400 million in loans, what resulted in froze of further payments to continue work on Jabiru-1, a large Ka-/Ku-band spacecraft currently under construction at Lockheed Martin Space Systems - via SpaceNews.
- The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will be launching Google's Skybox Imaging 120-kg satellite for GPS maps as a co-passenger along with the main payload during one of the satellite launching this year. The relevant agreement was concluded with Antrix Corporation, commercial branch of ISRO - via IamWire.
- The Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) has chosen Arianespace to launch the two satellites in its GEO-KOMPSAT-2 program. GEO-KOMPSAT-2A (GK2A) and GEO-KOMPSAT-2B (GK2B) will be orbited by Ariane 5 launchers in May 2018 and March 2019 from the Guiana Space Center - Arianespace release.
- Thales Alenia Space and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) are establishing in Singapore a joint research laboratory on NTU's campus dedicated to developing new concepts and technology for small satellites. The lab, named Smart Small Satellite Systems-Thales in NTU (S4TIN), will focus on spacecraft with a mass of less than 100 kilograms - via Via Satellite.
- New estimates predict that space investments by the private sector will reach $10 billion by the end of 2015 - via Smithsonian.
- Orbital ATK, Inc. (NYSE: OA), marks its first full day of operations following the completion of the merger between Orbital Sciences Corporation and the Aerospace and Defense Groups of Alliant Techsystems Inc. The merger brought into existence a new $4.5 billion space, defense and aviation systems manufacturer that employs more than 12,000 people in 20 states across the US - Orbital ATK release.
- Dauria Aerospace, Russian developer and manufacturer of SmallSats, plans to close its representation offices in Europe and the US. Currently it focuses on the Russian part of business, whereas the European and US parts are gradually scaling down their activity. The reason - uneasy political and economic situation in the world, which negatively affects the Russian company and its ability to attract financing - via TASS Agency.
- SpaceX and the US Air Force have reached an agreement to loan and use a former Atlas launch pad on Cape Canaveral as a landing site for returning Falcon rocket boosters - via Florida Today.
- The president and CEO of Alaska Aerospace Corp. expressed an idea that the state-owned corporation may become a private company - via The Washington Times.
- Virgin Galactic opened new state-of-the-art nearly 14,000 sq.meters facility in Los Angeles area for its satellite launch vehicle, LauncherOne - Virgin Galactic release.
- Scott Seymour, the chief executive of GenCorp, the parent company of Aerojet Rocketdyne, announced that he is taking over as president of the space propulsion company as the firm faces financial challenges. Scott Seymour taking over as president of Aerojet Rocketdyne from Warren M. Boley, Jr., effective immediately - via SpaceNews.
- Germany To Invest in French Recon Satellite for Access to Full Constellation - via SpaceNews.
- NASA Solicitation: Procurement of Crew Transportation and Rescue Services from Roscosmos - via SpaceRef.
- China and Russia strengthen satellite navigation cooperation - via iCrossChina.
- JAXA Gets Modest Budget Increase, Sets Sights on New Launcher - via Parabolic Arc.
- CNES and Agencia Espacial Mexicana (AEM) Tighten Partnership - via Via Satellite.
- New NOAA Satellite Boss Shoots Down Commercial Weather Pilot Program - via SpaceNews.
- US Air Force Secretary Expects Falcon 9's Certification Checklist in March - via SpaceNews.
- European space hardware builders and some individual European governments are pressuring the European Commission to revamp the way it does space research and technology as it prepares a seven-year Horizon 2020 program with the promise of near $1.7 billion in available cash - via SpaceNews.
- The US Air Force is increasingly concerning that the $1.6 billion ground system for its next-generation GPS satellites will not be ready when needed and is putting a backup plan in motion - via SpaceNews.