space digest

July 13-19

Atlas V and Ariane 5 launches, Small-Class Vehicle Launch Pad at NASA's Kennedy, NewSpace companies' announcements, and many more in our weekly space digest!

Photo of the Week

NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana cuts the ribbon on a new Small Class Vehicle Launch Pad, designated 39C. Credit: NASA
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NASA's Kennedy Space Center took another step forward its transformation to XXI century multi-user spaceport with the completion of a new Small Class Vehicle Launch Pad, designated 39C, in the Launch Pad 39B area. This designated pad will make it more affordable for smaller aerospace companies to develop and launch from the center, and to break into the commercial spaceflight market - NASA.

Quote of the Week

“The biggest single difference between the US and Europe in general — risk appetite being the second-biggest — is the sense of speed.” Peter Platzer, Spire Global Chief Executive

This and many more thoughts of Peter Platzer you could find in a wonderful SpaceNews article 'The World According to Spire's CEO'.

Video of the Week

This funny and spectacular video 'Pluto Mars - Outbound Probe' by A Capella Science is here to once again commemorate historic Pluto flyby, performed by NASA's New Horizons probe on July 14th. News, videos, photos and all about this already legendary mission you could find at NASA's New Horizons dedicated webpage.

Successful space missions launches in the USA and Europe

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Launch of Ariane 5 with Star One C4 and MSG-4 satellites

On July 15, 2015, Arianespace conducted successful launch of Ariane 5 launch vehicle carrying two spacecraft, Star One C4 telecommunications satellite for Brazilian operator Embratel Star One and MSG-4 meteorological satellite for EUMETSAT, into a geostationary orbit from Guiana Space Center. This was the sixth mission of the year for Arianespace, and third for Ariane 5 heavy launcher.

Built by Space Systems/Loral (SSL), having lift-off mass of 5,565 kg, and fitted with 48 active Ku-band transponders, Star One C4 was positioned at 70° West. It will ensure continuity of telephone, television, radio, data transmission and Internet services in Brazil and across Latin America. MSG-4 is the fourth and last Meteosat Second Generation (MSG) satellite. Built by Thales Alenia Space, it weighs 2,043 kg and to be positioned at 3.4° West.

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Launch of Atlas V with GPS IIF-10 satellite

On July 15, 2015, United Launch Alliance (ULA) conducted successful launch of Atlas V 401 launch vehicle with GPS IIF-10 satellite into a medium Earth orbit of approximately 20,200 km altitude from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-41 at Cape Canaveral. This was the second of three GPS missions scheduled for 2015.

GPS IIF-10 mission marked the 55th Atlas V launch since the vehicle's inaugural launch in 2002, and the 27th flight of the 401 configuration. Also, in two days, on July 17th America marked the 20th anniversary of full operational capability of Global Positioning System (GPS) system. Every operational GPS mission has launched on a ULA or heritage rocket.

With 6 retweets and 12 favorites, our tweet dedicated to 20th anniversary of GPS system, has become the most popular for SpaceDigest to date
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  • Following successful launch of PSLV-XL rocket with 5 British satellites, more news on the commercial future of this Indian rocket have appeared. It was reported that Antrix, commercial arm of ISRO, has orders from 7 countries to launch 28 satellites. However, it might struggle to take up more business, as ISRO faces capacity constraints, e.g. lack of heavier rockets - Business Standard. On the other hand, according to officials, ISRO is targetting to perform up to 10 launches per year since 2016 - The Economic Times.
  • As a result of unexpectedly long certification of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket for National Security Space missions, the Institute for Defense Analyses completed its Broad Area Review of the US Air Force's certification process. The report recommends the USAF should adopt a four-phase approach to mission assurance - provider eligibility, launch system qualification, launch system certification, and flight readiness - Via Satellite.
  • European Space Agency on July 16 approved nearly $4.6 billion in contracts to design and build Europe's next-generation Ariane 6 rocket, the associated launch base and a more-powerful version of the current Vega small-satellite launcher - SpaceNews.
  • Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe announced that Aerojet Rocketdyne will invest $11 million to expand its manufacturing operation in Orange County. The company, which produces propulsion systems, operates propulsion R&D centers and test facilities, anticipates to create 100 new jobs - Press-release.
  • International Launch Services (ILS) is now actively marketing Angara 1.2 launch vehicle. The vehicle will be available for launch in 2017. Launches will be conducted from the Plesetsk. Meanwhile, Angara-5 heavy vehicle is expected to be available for missions by 2021, following completion of its launch site at Vostochny spaceport - ILS.
  • Arianespace inaugurated FCube (Fregat Fueling Facility), a new building dedicated to fueling Fregat upper stage of Soyuz rocket. Located at Guiana Space Center, this new facility will give Arianespace greater flexibility in managing its launch manifest, reducing the length of Soyuz launch campaigns by more than a week - Press-release.
  • United Launch Alliance (ULA) published an interesting infographics, comparing major features of development of a re-engined Atlas V booster, and a new Vulcan launcher with Blue Origin's BE-4 rocket engines.

Comparison of a re-engined Atlas V vs. new Vulcan rocket with BE-4 engines. Credit: ULA
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  • Lockheed Martin targets two to three commercial satellite deals per year. In an exclusive interview with Via Satellite, Rick Ambrose, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin's Space Systems, talks about the challenges for the company as it looks to become more of a force again on the commercial satellite landscape.
  • Small-satellite builder Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. remains hopeful that it will find a least one nation willing to purchase a fourth DMC-3 satellite to add to the three launched July 10 aboard India's PSLV rocket - SpaceNews.
  • US Government Accountability Office on July 16 denied a protest from Ball Aerospace that sought to overturn the award of a Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) weather satellite contract worth up to $470 million to rival Orbital ATK - SpaceNews.
  • Russian military satellite launched in March made at least 11 close approaches to the rocket upper stage that released it into orbit, according to the US Air Force spokesman. Such maneuvering capability is consistent with, but not necessarily indicative of, an on-orbit anti-satellite weapon - SpaceNews.
  • Immediately after successful launch of MSG-4, Arianespace and EUMETSAT signed a contract entrusting Arianespace with launch services for Meteosat Third Generation (MTG) series of geostationary satellites. The contract comprises two firm launch orders, for MTG-I1 and MTG-S1, and one option for MTG- I2, to be launched on Ariane 5 ECA launchers in the 2019-2023 timeframe - Press-release.
  • Planetary Resources announced that its Arkyd 3 Reflight (A3R) spacecraft deployed successfully from the ISS' Kibo airlock and has begun its 90-day mission. The demonstration vehicle will validate several core technologies including avionics, control systems and software, which company will incorporate into future spacecraft that will prospect for resource-rich near-Earth asteroids - Press-release.

A3R deploying from the ISS Kibo Airlock. Credit: NASA
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  • Recently released NSR's Global Satellite Capacity Supply & Demand, 12th Edition, projects demand for more than 7,700 transponders of traditional C-, Ku-, and Ka-band FSS capacity globally by 2024. NSR also forecasts over 3 Terabits of HTS bandwidth demand - Press-release.
  • ARCA SPACE announced start of operations in New Mexico, including production and flight tests of AirStrato UAV and Haas rocket series at ARCA's new facilities in Las Cruces Airport. The company will invest $1.2 million, and the New Mexico Economic Development Department will contribute $500,000 toward the construction of ARCA's new 1,300 sq. meter hangar and manufacturing space - Press-release.
  • Planet Labs entered into a definitive agreement to purchase BlackBridge and its RapidEye satellite constellation. The acquisition welcomes BlackBridge into the Planet family and is a strategic move by Planet to expand quickly into new segments and gain access to a robust imagery archive - Press-release.
  • UrtheCast announced that it has closed its previously-announced acquisition of Earth Observation business Deimos Imaging from Elecnor, for an aggregate price of €76.4 million. In addition to ownership of Deimos-1 and Deimos-2 satellites, UrtheCast has acquired satellite operations related to the collection, storage, processing, analysis, and distribution of imagery captured by these and other satellites - Press-release.
  • Spaceflight Networks announced partnerships with satellite data company Spire Global and spacecraft radio providers Tethers Unlimited, BitBeam and Syrlinks. Partnerships will support Spaceflight Networks as it builds out its “cell phone network for space," a low-latency data network to meet the communications needs of the burgeoning small-satellite sector - Press-release.
  • According to Tomasz Tunguz, space industry, in particular space travel sector, has become the 4th fastest growing area of startup investment in 2015:

Fastest growing areas of startup investment. Credit: Tomasz Tunguz
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  • XCOR Space Expeditions announced that it would raise price of a flight aboard XCOR Lynx from $100,000 to $150,000 effective January 1st, 2016. With the Lynx Mark I spacecraft closer to completion and first flight, the price will be raised to align more closely with the current market value of a commercial spaceflight - Press-release.
  • British venture company Seraphim Capital secured cash investment from five European space-hardware and services companies to launch a venture capital fund, capitalized at 83 million pounds ($123 million), to invest in promising European - mainly British - start-up space companies - SpaceNews.
  • Com Dev of Canada and Hisdesat of Spain are selling 40-45% of their jointly owned exactEarth space-based maritime surveillance company in an initial stock offering expected to yield $69.2 million. In its prospectus to investors exactEarth described that it expects an average 30% annual revenue growth over the next few years to capture a market that is expected to quadruple in size in the coming decade - SpaceNews.
  • Struggling commercial launch services provider Sea Launch and its owner, RSC Energia of Russia, are in talks with Chinese government on selling the Sea Launch command ship and launch platform to Chinese interests that would station the system in international waters offshore China, industry officials said, informs SpaceNews. How far ITAR rules would reach into the operations of a mainly Russian-Ukrainian vehicle launched from international waters under Chinese ownership is uknown.
  • NanoRacks is teaming with Blue Origin to provide customer support for suborbital research and education opportunities by means of New Shepard vehicle - Press-release.

NanoRacks and Blue Origin's suborbital research solution. Credit: NanoRacks
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  • Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the law establishing a sixth state corporation, Roscosmos, which is expected to improve management of space systems and strengthen the country's security - Russia Today.
  • Roscosmos to establish commercial operators of space-based services in the areas of Earth imaging, telecommunications, and positioning - RIA Novosti (rus.).
  • Russia is starting implementation of a comprehensive reform in its space industry. Establishment of two large holdings, specialized in engine building and instrument-making, are planned, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said - Sputnik News.
  • Wales set a 15-year mission - to boldly go for a £2bn-a-year share of the space industry. Space clusters involving aerospace and technology firms working with university research centres would be developed in a new strategy from the Aerospace Wales Forum. The aim is for Wales to generate 5% of the UK space industry by 2030 - BBC.
  • Head of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority Christine Anderson told a legislative committee she's hopeful Virgin Galactic will begin commercial flights next summer, a key to ensuring the financial viability of Spaceport America - Santa Fe New Mexican.
  • Following Jeb Bush, another US Presidency candidate Hillary Clinton paid attention to space industry in a pre-election campaign. Speaking before a New Hampshire's town hall, she said experts should be mapping meteorites and asteroids on a security basis, noting the importance of scientific R&D in stimulating the US economy - Politico.
  • Delegations of State Space Agency of Ukraine (SSAU) and the European Space Agency held consultations at the European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) in Noordwijk, the Netherlands. Main purpose of the meeting was to initiate a dialogue on participation of Ukraine in ESA projects and explore further joint steps - Press-release.

Presentation of Yuzhnoye State Design Office during consultations between Ukrainian and European space authorities in ESTEC. Credit: SSAU
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New Tech & Tests

  • Rosatom, nuclear technologies state corporation of Russia, plans to commence creation of a prototype nuclear engine for a future spacecarft in 2016 - RIA Novosti (rus.).
  • Iridium Communications announced it has successfully completed the Compact Antenna Test Range (CATR) testing for Iridium NEXT satellites - Press-release.
  • Escape Dynamics announced successful tests of their thruster, powered by beamed high power microwave energy, with performance greatly surpassing the limit of chemical combustion rockets - Press-release.
  • NASA engineers again tested their Space Launch System RS-25 rocket engine at Stennis Space Center. During a 535-second test, operators ran the RS-25 through a series of power levels, including a period of firing at 109% of the engine's rated power - NASA.
  • Generation Orbit completed 2nd flight of its GO-Flight Experiments Testbed (GO-FET). The flight test is a key milestone on the company's roadmap to develop affordable air-launched rocket systems for access to space and for hypersonic research - Press-release.

GO-Flight Experiments Testbed. Credit: Generation Orbit
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Space Exploration

  • Encouraged by successful Mars Orbiter Mission and recent launch of 5 British satellites, ISRO mulls next possible space exploration destinations. According to ISRO Chairman Kiran Kumar, one of the considered missions would visit Venus - Spaceflight Insider.
  • Before NASA had confirmation that New Horizons probe had completed its historic Pluto flyby, the mission's principal investigator Alan Stern admitted he is already contemplating a follow-on mission: a Charon lander that could study surface of Pluto's largest moon while remotely observing the dwarf planet as an orbiter - SpaceNews.
  • In an interview with BBC, new President of ESA Johann-Dietrich Woerner noted that Europe should look to the future beyond the International Space Station, and admitted that he had proposed a Moon village on the far side of the Moon.
  • NASA and the team behind New Horizons spacecraft announced that Pluto has a giant tail. It's not a physical tail like a dog's, but rather a frigid cloud of ionized gases trailing an estimated 48,000 to 68,000 miles behind the dwarf planet - NASA.
  • European Space Agency (ESA) selected Airbus Defence & Space as the prime contractor to develop and build JUICE (JUpiter ICy moons Explorer) spacecraft, a mission to Jupiter and its icy moons. Contract is estimated at €350.8 million. JUICE is the first large mission of the ESA Cosmic Vision program, with a launch date in 2022 - Press-release.

JUICE mission artist's rendering. Credit: Airbus DS
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  • SpaceNews released its 'Top Fixed Satellite Services Operators' ranking. This year, the agency warns, rankings were distorted by sharp rise of US dollar against most major currencies by the end of 2015. The effect has been to show revenue declines at some companies that, when reporting in their local currencies, actually showed growth.
  • Meet Asterank - scientific and economic database of over 600,000 asteroids.
  • Parabolic Arc held an interesting poll with a question: "Which suborbital spacecraft would you most want to ride if you could?" 39% of voters (252 votes) selected Blue Origin' New Shepard, XCOR's Lynx became the second with 25% of votes, and only 16% of respondents choose Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo. Notably, 21% of voters selected an answer "Are you crazy? I'm not getting on any of them!"
  • On July 15-17 the world celebrated the 40th anniversary of the first international space project ever - legendary flight and docking in space of the USSR's Soyuz and the US Apollo spaceships with cosmonauts Aleksey Leonov and Valeriy Kubasov, and astronauts Tom Stafford, Deke Slayton and Vance Brand, correspondingly, aboard. Commemorating this event, RIA Novosti made a spectacular, must-see infographics.

Apollo-Soyuz crew, from left: US astronauts Deke Slayton, Tom Stafford, Vance Brand, and Russian cosmonauts Aleksey Leonov, Valeriy Kubasov. Credit: NASA
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