space digest

June 29 - July 5

Launch of Progress M-28M cargo spacecraft and its docking to the ISS, Ukraine's space industry ambitions, and many more in our weekly space digest!

Photo of the Week

José Raimundo Braga Coelho, President of AEB (left), and Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator (right), signing a partnership deal. Credit: NASA
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NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Brazilian Space Agency (AEB) President José Raimundo Braga Coelho have signed agreements to further research into heliophysics and space weather and to enhance global climate study and educational opportunities - NASA.

Video of the Week

PLD Space of Spain unveiled teaser trailer of its Propulsion Vertical Test Stand 1 (VTC-1), located at Teruel Airport. For the first time in its history, the company conducted last week two hot-fire tests of NetonVac-1 engine, to be used on Arion family of SmallSat launchers. Credit: PLD Space

Will Ukraine be deeper involved in the world’s space industry?

In July representatives of Ukrainian space industry will take part in US-Ukraine Business Forum in Washington, D.C, and meeting with colleagues from the European Space Agency (ESA) in ESTEC center, the Netherlands. Will those events mean start of a new era for the country's space sector?

An insight of latest Ukrainian space companies' ambitions, including development of powerful LOx-kerosene rocket engine, to be used as a replacement of Russian RD-180s in the USA and on new Ukrainian Mayak family of launchers, plans to become ESA member state, and Paris Air Show afterwards' review.

Ukrainian space industry booth at the Paris Air Show 2015. Credit: SpaceDigest
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Launch of Soyuz-U carrying Progress M-28M. Credit: Roscosmos

  • On July 3, 2015, Roscosmos conducted successful launch of Soyuz-U rocket carrying Progress M-28M cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station from Baikonur. The spaceship made 34 orbits around the Earth during two days following the launch, and docked to the orbiting laboratory on July 5. Progress M-28M delivered to the station 2381 kg of cargo, which is near 100 kg more than during previous missions.
  • PlanetiQ is in discussions with Antrix, commercial arm of ISRO, to launch constellation of GPS Radio Occultation satellites. First two satellites of the constellation are planned to be launched aboard PSLV booster during the third quarter of 2016 - Via Satellite.
  • Following the launch failure of SpaceX' Falcon 9 carrying CRS-7 Dragon, US Air Force assured that SpaceX anyway 'remains certified and can compete for the upcoming GPS III launch service' - Reuters. Meanwhile, US Air Force rejected a congressional request to consider holding a competition for the launch of a missile warning satellite, known as SBIRS GEO-4, saying the contract will go to United Launch Alliance - SpaceNews.
  • The National Research and Development Agency of Japan and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced that country's new flagship rocket, currently under development, would be officially named H3 - press-release.
  • Rocket Lab announced plans to build and operate an orbital launch site. The launch site will be located on Kaitorete Spit in the Canterbury region of New Zealand's South Island, and will be used to launch Rocket Lab's Electron launcher, designed to deliver SmallSats to LEO - press-release.

Artist's view of Rocket Lab's orbital launch site. Credit: Rocket Lab
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  • Airbus Defence and Space delivered the heart of LISA Pathfinder scientific space probe - LISA Technology Package (LTP) - which will enable to observe gravitational waves, described by Einstein, from space - press-release.
  • Following environmental testing, Ball Aerospace delivered to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory laser frequency stabilization reference flight units for Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) Follow-On spacecraft, scheduled for launch as early as 2017 for measuring changes in Earth's ocean, groundwater and glaciers - press-release.
  • Space Systems/Loral (SSL) awarded a production order for the PPS®1350 Hall Effect Thruster family from Snecma (Safran). The contract comprises a firm order for several thruster Flight Sets between 2016 and 2018, as well as options on additional deliveries. It covers different models of the PPS®1350, including the PPS®1350-E with increased discharge power of up to 2.5 kW - press-release.
  • Orbital ATK has won a $23.6 million contract to launch a small space surveillance satellite for the US Air Force in 2017. The announcement did not say, though, which rocket Orbital ATK would use to launch the ORS-5 satellite or where the launch would take place - SpaceNews.
  • US Navy and Lockheed Martin delivered the 4th Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) satellite, the latest addition to a network of orbiting satellites and relay ground stations revolutionizing secure communications for mobile military forces, to Cape Canaveral prior to its expected August launch on a ULA's Atlas V rocket - press-release.

MUOS-4 satellite, shipped to Cape Canaveral from Lockheed Martin’s manufacturing facility in California. Credit: Lockheed Martin
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  • Spire said it had raised $40 million in Series B funding to move into mass-production of its SmallSats. Company aims to have 100 SmallSats orbiting the Earth by 2017 - WSJ.
  • Houston Airport System was granted Launch Site License from FAA, enabling Ellington Airport (EFD) to establish itself as a launch site for orbital launchers, making it the 10th commercial spaceport in the US - press-release. Meanwhile, Satellite Applications Catapult of the UK signed MoU with the Houston Spaceport to become the first international partner for the city's commercial spaceport - Parabolic Arc.
  • Harris Corporation announced that it would reorganize its business segments to increase operational efficiency and capture synergies that result from Harris' recent acquisition of Exelis - press-release.
  • SmallSat entrepreneurs are confident that success of their businesses does not hinge on whether or not the US government will be an anchor customer. Earth observation companies at the Washington Space Business Roundtable (WSBR) luncheon, while acknowledging that the US government is a desirable, high-profile customer, said that their business plans are not contingent upon winning this single client - Via Satellite.
  • Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL) of the UK is celebrating 30 years of space innovation, marking anniversary of company's founding in June 1985 - press-release.

SSTL staff celebrating the company’s 30th anniversary at the Guildford site. Credit: SSTL
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  • As of July 1, 2015, European Space Agency has a new Director General: Johann-Dietrich Woerner, who has taken up duty at ESA Headquarters in Paris, France - press-release. Jan Woerner, meanwhile, wrote a post 'My first day at ESA' on his blog at ESA's website. Jean-Jacques Dordain, former Director General of ESA, was appointed as an Adviser to the President of CNES, Jean-Yves Le Gall - press-release (fr.).
  • Russia's lower House, State Duma, passed a law on establishment of Roscosmos Space Corporation in the third and final reading the law - Sputnik News.
  • US Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the recent failure of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket should not be used as “leverage” to buy more Russian rocket engines that power United Launch Alliance's Atlas V rocket - SpaceNews.
  • Russia and China begin talks on expanding cooperation in space industry, entailed implementing joint projects in the area, as well as the willingness to synchronize mutual hardware platforms and technological interfaces - Sputnik News. At the same time it is reported that Russia and India share cooperation in space sector, including manned space exploration and countries' navigation satellite systems - Sputnik News.
  • Emerging threats from Russia and China and an eye-opening government study known as the Space Portfolio Review have led the White House to add as much as $8 billion to intelligence and defense budgets over the next five years for activities to improve the resiliency of US national security space capabilities - SpaceNews.
  • Dmitry Rogozin, Vice Premier Minister at the Russian government, visited again Vostochny spaceport construction site and shared some photos taken during his visit:

New Tech & Tests

Aerojet Rocketdyne's improved 5 kilowatt class XR-5 Hall Thruster (XR-5A) successfully completed initial on-orbit validation testing on the unmanned X-37 space plane, which is presently on its fourth mission in space - press-release.

Space Exploration

  • A lunar sample-return mission that was among the three finalists in the 2011 NASA competition that punched Osiris-Rex's ticket to an asteroid will make another bid for $1 billion in funding in the agency's next New Frontiers competition - SpaceNews.
  • Following the successful Pad Abort Test in May, SpaceX began developing a plan that would move its in-flight abort test to provide higher fidelity data and reduce risk to future crews launched to the ISS aboard Crew Dragon spacecraft - NASA.
  • The first of five imaging instruments for a NASA asteroid-sampling mission launching next year arrived at spacecraft prime contractor Lockheed Martin for integration. The instrument, Osiris-rex Thermal Emission Spectrometer (OTES) will allow Osiris-Rex to analyze mineral and chemical composition of its target asteroid - SpaceNews.
  • NASA's New Horizons mission is returning to normal science operations after a July 4 anomaly and remains on track for its July 14 flyby of Pluto. The investigation into the anomaly that caused New Horizons to enter “safe mode” concluded that no hardware or software fault occurred on the spacecraft - NASA.
  • Expedition 44 commander Gennady Padalka broke 10-year-old record for the number of cumulative days in space, as he reached 804 orbital days on June 28. His more than two years of cumulative time in space puts him ahead of the previous record of 803 days, set by cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev on August 5, 2005. Padalka's current mission marks his fifth time in space, and he is set to return to Earth in early September - NASA.

Expedition 44 to the ISS: NASA astronaut Scott Kelly (left), and Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka (center) and Mikhail Kornienko (right). Credit: NASA
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SpaceDigest becomes more popular

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Jean-Jacques Dordain, former Director General of ESA (right), and Viacheslav Pronskyi, Editor-in-Chief at SpaceDigest (left)
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