space digest

July 6-12

Launch of 5 British satellites in India, unveiling of a 'chameleon satellite' in Europe, selection of the first commercial flights crew, and many more in our weekly space digest!

Photo of the Week

The best-quality colorful view of Pluto sent by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft on July 14. Credit: NASA
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The most recent high-resolution view of Pluto sent by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft. It is scheduled that New Horizons will fly-by Pluto on July 14, after a more than nine-year, three-billion mile journey. Meanwhile, Parabolic Arc published an interesting information on the key facts about Pluto and its moons.

Quote of the Week

"I'm a space guy" Jeb Bush, Candidate for the US Presidency, promising an increase to NASA budget if he is elected in 2016

Video of the Week

NASA selected four astronauts to train and prepare for commercial spaceflights that will return American launches to US soil and further open up low-Earth orbit transportation to the private sector. These astronauts are Robert Behnken, Eric Boe, Douglas Hurley, and Sunita Williams - all having already been veterans of two spaceflights.

United Kingdom expands its influence, and importance, in space industry

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Quantum satellite artist's concept. Credit: ESA

Planning to capture 10% of the global space market by 2030, the United Kingdom (UK) launched two new space facilities last week, and announced participation in a revolutionary communications satellite project, called Quantum, via the local arm of Airbus Defence and Space. Full article is here.

On July 9, Jan Woerner, ESA Director General, and Jo Johnson, UK Minister of State for Universities and Science, took part in the opening ceremony of ESA's first center in the UK, European Centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications (ECSAT) on the Harwell Campus in Oxfordshire. Ceremony was attented also by the first ESA Director General, Roy Gibson, after whom the new building was named.

There was also held opening ceremony of Rutherford Appleton Laboratory's (RAL Space) Space Development and Test Facility, called R100 building. It includes two new 5 meter in diameter Space Test Chambers along with a vibration facility, clean rooms and Assembly, Integration and Verification (AIV) control room. Cost of development of the state-of-art facility is estimated at £27.7 million ($43 million).

Inauguration for the multimillion pound space facilities was also the backdrop for the first contract signed from the new ECSAT center – a €180 million ($200 million) contract between ESA and Eutelsat for the first-of-its-kind class of geostationary communications satellite to be manufactured by Airbus Defence and Space in the UK, using flexible payload technology and a new platform from Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL).

European and UK's space industry executives in front of the new ECSAT center. Credit: ESA
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Launch of PSLV-XL with 5 British satellites. Credit: ISRO

  • On July 10, 2015, ISRO conducted successful launch of PSLV-XL launch vehicle with three DMC3, CBNT-1, and De-OrbitSail satellites into a sun-synchronous orbit from Satish Dhawan Space Center. With the overall lift-off mass of five satellites amounting to near 1440 kg, the mission has become the heaviest commercial mission undertaken by ISRO and its commercial wing, Antrix Corporation.
  • On July 7 NASA successfully launched Black Brant IX suborbital sounding rocket carrying two space technology demonstration projects. The rocket carried SOAREX-8 Exo-Brake Flight Test from NASA's Ames Research Center, and the Radial Core Heat Spreader from NASA's Glenn Research Center. Preliminary analysis shows that data was received on both projects - SpaceRef.
  • China may buy rocket engines for it space program from Russia, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin told - TASS Agency.
  • Blue Origin continues to have the upper hand in a competition with Aerojet Rocketdyne to build a new engine for United Launch Alliance's next-generation rocket, ULA chief executive Tory Bruno said - SpaceNews.
  • Ongoing investigation into the June 28 Falcon 9 launch failure has yet to find a cause for the accident based on the available data, SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk said. He admitted that the destruction of the vehicle did not appear to have a straightforward cause, and that the data the company had was difficult to interpret - SpaceNews.
  • The Orion Service Module Umbilical has been installed on to the Launch Equipment Test Facility at the Kennedy Space Center. The milestone marks the first umbilical to undergo testing ahead of being installed on the redesigned Mobile Launcher that will host the Space Launch System (SLS) for its maiden launch in 2018 - NASA Spaceflight.
  • In previous Weekly Space Digest we noted that Orbital ATK had won a $23.6 million contract to launch a small space surveillance satellite for the US Air Force in 2017. It was unveiled that ORS-5 mission will be launched on a solid-fueled Minotaur IV rocket from Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral - Spaceflight Now.
  • Several companies expressed interest in commercializing Super Strypi dedicated SmallSat launcher, currently under development by the US Air Force - Via Satellite.

Scale model of Super Strypi rocket, attached to the rail launcher. Photo: Sandia National Laboratories
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  • New R&D center will advance satellite sensing and communication technologies, broadly known as Radio Frequency (RF) payloads, at the Lockheed Martin facility in Denver. The RF Payload Center of Excellence will focus on developing reconfigurable payloads and advancing satellite systems - Press-release.
  • Despite a wave of funding and contract announcements by competitor OneWeb, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said his company was still taking a “careful" approach to plans for a communications satellite constellation. “A lot of companies have tried it and broken their pick on it... We want to be really careful about how we make this thing work, and not overextend ourselves," Musk said - SpaceNews.
  • Neptec UK Ltd. signed a contract with Sener of Spain for the development and delivery of Neptec's High Accuracy Metrology System (HAMS) for the European Space Agency's Proba 3 satellite mission, tentatively scheduled to launch in late 2018 - Press-release.
  • Thales Alenia Space announced that it has signed a contract with Airbus Defense and Space to supply Poseidon-4 spaceborne radar altimeters. These instruments will be installed on the Jason-CS/Sentinel 6-A and Jason-CS/Sentinel 6-B satellites developed by Airbus Defense and Space for the European Space Agency, in collaboration with EUMETSAT and the European Commission, for the Copernicus program - Press-release.
  • Second instrument arrived at Lockheed Martin for installation onto NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx Visible and Infrared Spectrometer (OVIRS) measures visible and near infrared light from a primitive asteroid to identify water and organic materials. NASA's Goddard built the instrument - NASA.

OSIRIS-REx Visible and Infrared Spectrometer (OVIRS). Credit: NASA Goddard
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  • Terran Orbital announced a new launch and satellite replacement insurance service for customers. The risk management and mitigation service provides insurance on major US and international launch vehicles. Terran Orbital partnered with Aon Risk Solutions' International Space Brokers, the world's only insurance broker dedicated exclusively to the space industry - Press-release.
  • UrtheCast said today that it closed its previously announced prospectus offering of 24,868,750 subscription receipts of the Company, raising aggregate gross proceeds of $99,475,000. The Subscription Receipts were offered on a "bought deal" basis at a price of $4.00 per one. The Offering was conducted by a syndicate of underwriters led by Raymond James Ltd. - Press-release.
  • Australian satellite internet company SpeedCast International bought land, buildings and equipment from rival NewSat, handing the embattled vendor a financial lifeline while expanding its local footprint. The companies did not disclose a price, but the sale will come as a partial relief for NewSat, which went into receivership in April after a backer withdrew support for a $650 million satellite launch - Yahoo! Finance.
  • Eduardo Bellido, 43, was named CEO of Thales Alenia Space España, Spanish subsidiary of Thales Alenia Space in replacement of Juan Garcés de Marcilla - Press-release.
  • Space Foundation released findings of its publication 'The Space Report 2015'. In 2014, global space economy grew more than 9%, reaching a total of $330 billion worldwide, up from 2013's $302.5 billion. Commercial space activities made up 76% of space economy. The industry as a whole demonstrated CAGR of 7% from 2005 to 2014, nearly doubling in size over the course of the decade - Press-release.
  • XCOR Aerospace and XCOR Space Expeditions announced hosting its first XCOR Lynx customer day, dubbed 'Operation Hangar 61'. Directed by XCOR Space Expeditions, the experience included 41 guests from 14 countries and 5 continents visiting XCOR in Mojave and attending XCOR events in Los Angeles, including a tour of the California Science Center and Griffith Observatory - Press-release.

'Operation Hangar 61' group photo. Credit: XCOR
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  • Export revenues will help Russian space industry to ease its budget expenditures on modernization, Roscosmos Chairman Igor Komarov said - Sputnik News.
  • Russia will have a space-based missile approach warning system up and running by 2020, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin announced - Sputnik News.
  • Russia and Brazil are considering a joint project that will detect and track space junk orbiting the Earth, Russia's President Vladimir Putin said - Sputnik News.
  • Ronnie Nader, the first cosmonaut of Ecuador and Director of Space Operations at Ecuadorian Space Agency (EXA), became a new member of the International Academy of Astronautics. He is the first Ecuadorian citizen to be elected to this role - EXA (sp.).
  • US Air Force asked Congress to reprogram $100 million in 2015 funding to launch the final satellite in the service's legacy weather satellite program, just weeks after the House and Senate recommended permanently shelving the hardware. In the request sent to Capitol Hill, the service said the money was necessary to launch the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program-20 (DMSP-20) satellite by 2017 - SpaceNews.
  • Jan Woerner, new Director General at the European Space Agency, describes his first week leading the Agency in his blog on the corporate website. In few words, Jan Woerner admits that first days were completely different from those he had imagined.

ESA Director General Jan Woerner in his freshly renovated office. Credit: ESA
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New Tech & Tests

  • Astrobotic Technology, in partnership with NASA under the Lunar CATALYST initiative, developed preliminary version of a flight software for precision guidance. This software will direct the Griffin lander to safe touchdown on the Moon at a pit in the Lacus Mortis region on Astrobotic's first mission - Press-release.
  • Aerojet Rocketdyne successfully tested a prototype system designed to improve the way power is delivered from the solar arrays to the high-power electric thrusters on Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP) spacecraft. The prototype was tested in a simulated mission environment to show that it could achieve improved system efficiency over the current Power Management and Distribution (PMAD) approaches - Press-release.
  • China will use its Beidou satellite navigation system (BDS) to track civil flights, in an attempt to avoid disasters like the Malaysian MH 370 - iCross China.
  • A Swiss research project plans to send a 'Pac-Man' spacecraft, having a big conical net extending from the front that closes once it gobbles up the satellite (like the iconic video game character), in order to 'eat' 1U-CubeSat named SwissCube. The CleanSpace One project is an initiative of Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne - NBC News.

Artist's impression of how CleanSpace One's 'Pac-Man' mechanism would capture SwissCube satellite. Credit: EPFL/Jamani Caillet
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Space Exploration

  • Orbital ATK announced that is has signed a $98 million agreement with Lockheed Martin to provide the launch abort motor for the Orion human spaceflight capsule's Launch Abort System (LAS). The Orion spacecraft will launch aboard NASA's Space Launch System, enabling humans to explore deep space destinations - Press-release.
  • Small bodies dominate NASA's latest Discovery competition. Over half of 28 proposals NASA received for a $450 million robotic solar-system mission launching in 2021 seek to explore small bodies such as comets, asteroids or tiny moons - SpaceNews.
  • A UK consortium, including weather forecasters the Met Office, is proposing a space mission to provide early warning of storms from the Sun. Called Carrington-L5, it will provide five days notice of hazardous space weather that could damage power and communications networks, and put satellites out of action - SEN.
  • Philae lander communicated with the Rosetta orbiter for 12 minutes on 9 July, and transmitted measurement data from the COmet Nucleus Sounding Experiment by Radiowave Transmission (CONSERT) instrument. Although the connection failed repeatedly after that, it remained completely stable for those few minutes - DLR.
  • NASA selected 7 technology proposals for continued study under Phase II of the agency's Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program. The selections are based on the potential to transform future aerospace missions, introduce new capabilities or significantly improve current approaches to building and operating space systems. For a complete list of selected proposals and more information about NIAC, visit this link.

Montage of several newly awarded NIAC Phase II concepts. Credit: NASA
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  • Take part in an online survey about the International Space Station and its usefulness.
  • A new book from NASA is showing how research aboard the International Space Station helps improve lives on Earth while advancing NASA's ambitious human exploration goals. NASA released “Benefits for Humanity” online and in print during the 4th annual International Space Station Research and Development Conference last week - NASA.
  • Carolyn Belle, analyst at Northern Sky Research (NSR), published an interesting article 'Mass Challenge for CubeSats', where she tries to find out 'an ideal CubeSat size' - NSR.
  • In the June 2015 newsletter Euroconsult agency published interesting infographics about satellite market. Image credits: Euroconsult.

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