Roscosmos Eyes Crewed Flights from French Guiana, Seeks Partners for Lunar Base with China

A Soyuz-2 launches the CSO-2 defense satellite on Dec. 29, 2020. (Credit: Arianespace)
  • Roscosmos head discussed launching cosmonauts from Kourou with French counterpart
  • Russian-Chinese lunar south pole base is rival to planned U.S. facility
  • Russia to begin design work on new Earth orbiting station by late summer

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Roscosmos is exploring the possibility of launching spacecraft from the Guiana Space Centre in South America that would carry cosmonauts to the new Chinese space station and a base that Russia and China plan to build at the lunar south pole, according to media reports. Russia is also beginning work on a new Earth orbiting space station.

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European System Speeds Data Flow with 50,000 Links

EDRS-A in geostationary orbit (Credit: ESA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Valuable data is flowing rapidly from Earth observing satellites back to the planet, thanks to the most sophisticated laser communication network ever built.

Day-and-night radar images and multispectral high-resolution images of vegetation, soil and water cover, inland waterways and coastal areas – as well as information for emergency services – are arriving back at Earth in almost real time.

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Asteroid Day LIVE 2021 Programme Airs 30 June

LUXEMBOURG, 24 June 2021 (Asteroid Foundation PR) — The Asteroid Foundation’s annual Asteroid Day LIVE programme premiers Wednesday 30 June 2021 at 18:00 CET. With the help of leading experts, Asteroid Day Co-founder Dr. Brian May and the most engaging voices in science communications from around the world, the five hour programme will bring the solar system’s smallest worlds to vivid life for audiences of all ages and backgrounds.

This year, Asteroid Day LIVE celebrates the 25th launch anniversary of NASA’s NEAR-Shoemaker spacecraft, and the 2021 launch of three new asteroid missions, NASA’s Lucy, NEA Scout and DART – the world’s first mission to test an asteroid deflection technique – and much more.

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Launch 2020: A Year of Transition for Japan

The United Arab Emirates’ Hope Probe took off at 2:58 p.m. PDT on July 19 from a launch site in Japan, headed for Mars to study its atmosphere. (Credit: MHI Launch Services via YouTube)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

It was a typical year for Japan with four successful launches and no failures. Japan has averaged 3.8 launches annually over the past decade. Last year also saw a Japanese astronaut become the first foreigner to fly aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft.

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Virgin Orbit Hires SpaceX Veteran as New VP of Flight and Launch

Tyler Grinnell (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

Long Beach, Calif., June 25, 2021 (Virgin Orbit PR) — Virgin Orbit, the California-based responsive launch company, announced today that it has selected Tyler Grinnell to serve as the team’s new Vice President of Flight and Launch. As Virgin Orbit works to further evolve its commercial launch services, Tyler will play a key role in enabling the Flight and Launch teams to achieve the operating pace and efficiencies required to serve the company’s growing customer manifest.

Tyler brings with him a decade and a half of aerospace experience, joining Virgin Orbit after spending 12 years at SpaceX, where he held a number of positions including Launch Engineer, Launch Lead Engineer for Instrumentation & Avionics, Lead Launch Operations Development Engineer, Senior Manager of Launch Operations Development, and most recently Director of Launch and Recovery Operations. 

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Developing the “Brains” Behind Astroscale’s Debris Removal Spacecraft

The ELSA-d satellite servicer and client launched March 2021, the team prepares to demonstrate the servicer’s technology and capability to remove the Client debris from this summer. Credit: Astroscale)

Astroscale UK has been working in partnership with RUAG Space to develop the “brains”, based on RUAG Space’s constellation On Board Computer (cOBC), to command Astroscale’s space debris removing ELSA-M Servicer spacecraft.

DIDCOT, UK (Astroscale UK PR) — Developing the “brains” behind Astroscale’s debris removal spacecraft Astroscale UK has been working in partnership with RUAG Space to develop the “brains”, based on RUAG Space’s constellation On Board Computer (cOBC), to command Astroscale’s space debris removing ELSA-M Servicer spacecraft.

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Launch 2020: Europe’s Ambitions Frustrated by Pandemic, Booster Failure

The Ariane 5 for Flight VA251 departs the Spaceport’s ELA-3 launch zone with its EUTELSAT KONNECT and GSAT-30 satellite passengers. (Credit: Arianespace)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Last year was a tough one for Europe in terms of launches. The COVID-19 pandemic closed the Guiana Space Centre for extended periods. And the most troubled of the three rockets launched from the spaceport had another bad day.

Despite the problems, there were seven launches from French Guiana in 2020, with six successes and one failure. Five of the flights involved European rockets, and two others were Russian Soyuz boosters.

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Virgin Orbit Updates Schedule for Next Week’s Launch

LauncherOne ignites after being dropped from Cosmic Girl. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

LONG BEACH, Calif. (Virgin Orbit PR) — The Virgin Orbit team is excited to share an update on timing for our upcoming mission, Tubular Bells: Part One!  

When

With wet dress rehearsal successfully completed, our team is proceeding through the final routine items on our pre-flight checklist. We’re coordinating with our stakeholders to identify the final preferred targets for launch, with an eye on June 30th or the early days of July.

We will only proceed with the mission if all conditions for launch are nominal. If for some reason the launch is delayed, we have backup windows extending through July.

Where

Our carrier aircraft Cosmic Girl will take off from Mojave Air and Spaceport in California, and will travel approximately 1 hour out to sea before releasing the rocket just off the Pacific coast.

Mission Manifest

A total of 7 satellites will fly on LauncherOne for Tubular Bells: Part One. The full list of customers onboard this mission includes:

  • The U.S. Department of Defense, which is launching three CubeSat sets as part of the DoD Space Test Program’s (STP) Rapid Agile Launch (RALI) Initiative. This launch, also known as STP-27VPA, was awarded to Virgin Orbit subsidiary VOX Space by the DoD’s Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), an organization working to accelerate the adoption of commercial technology into the U.S. military to strengthen national security.  
  • The Royal Netherlands Air Force, which is launching the Netherlands’ first military satellite, a CubeSat called BRIK II, built and integrated by Innovative Solutions in Space.
  • SatRevolution, which is launching the first two optical satellites, STORK-4 and STORK-5 (A.K.A. MARTA), of the company’s 14-satellite STORK constellation.

How to Watch

For live updates as the flight progresses, please tune into our public livestream, which will be available on our YouTube. Alternatively, you can follow along with our live-tweets on Twitter (@VirginOrbit).

Spaceport America Bond Refinancing to Save $8.2 Million

Sunset at the “Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space” terminal hangar facility at Spaceport America. (Credit: Bill Gutman/Spaceport America)

SIERRA COUNTY, NM, June 25, 2021, (NMSA PR) — The New Mexico Spaceport Authority, an agency of the State of New Mexico, and operator of Spaceport America, has completed a $35.4 million refunding of its Public Project Revolving Funds of 2009 and 2010. The refinancing of the bonds significantly reduced the interest rates from about 4.50% to less than 0.80% per annum, which results in a savings of $8.2 million for New Mexico taxpayers over the remaining nine years of debt service payments.

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Sierra Space Provides Integration Services for New Nuclear Propulsion System as Part of DARPA’s DRACO Program

DRACO in orbit (Credit: Sierra Space)

LOUISVILLE, Colo., June 24, 2021 (Sierra Space PR) – Sierra Space, the new commercial space subsidiary of global aerospace and national security leader Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), will supply the propulsion components and integration services for a Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP) system under a recent contract with General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS). GA-EMS and Sierra Space will develop and demonstrate an on-orbit NTP system for a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) program called Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO).

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Successful Launch from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome

PLESETSK COSMODROME, Russia (Roscosmos PR) — The Aerospace Forces successfully launched the Soyuz-2 carrier rocket from the Plesetsk cosmodrome. The launch of the carrier rocket and the insertion of the Pion-NKS 1 naval intelligence satellite into the calculated orbit took place in the normal mode. This is reported by the Department of Information and Mass Communications of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation.

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Arianespace to Serve OneWeb’s Ambitions by Reaching a Key Milestone with 254 Satellites in Orbit

OneWeb satellites being prepared for launch aboard a Soyuz-2.1b booster from the Vostochny Cosmodrome. (Credit: Roscosmos)
  • The next Arianespace mission is planned from Vostochny Cosmodrome with Soyuz on July 1st, to deliver 36 satellites into orbit bringing the total OneWeb’s fleet to 254 satellites in Low Earth Orbit.
  • This 58th Soyuz mission conducted by Arianespace and its Starsem affiliate will be the fifth launch from the Vostochny Cosmodrome and represents OneWeb’s eighth launch overall.
  • By operating ST33 flight Arianespace will have put into orbit enough satellites, allowing OneWeb to deliver connectivity services in Canada, U.K., Northern Europe, Alaska and Arctic regions by the years end.

VOSTOCHNY COSMODROME, Russia (Arianespace PR) — Flight ST33, the fifth commercial mission performed by Arianespace and its Starsem affiliate from the Vostochny Cosmodrome, will put 36 of OneWeb’s satellites into a near-polar orbit at an altitude of 450 kilometers. The mission will have a total duration of three hours and 51 minutes and will include nine separations of four satellites, which will raise themselves to their operational orbit. This eighth launch to the benefit of OneWeb will bring up to speed Arianespace’s operations this year, and will raise from 218 to 254 the number of satellites deployed for the global telecommunications operator.

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U.S. DOT Renews Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee

WASHINGTON (US DOT PR) — The U.S. Department of Transportation is renewing the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) through June 2023.

COMSTAC members lend their expertise to provide advice and recommendations to the Department and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on a host of topics. From safety and technology to operations and the international competitiveness of the U.S. commercial space transportation industry, members provide useful and relevant information.

The committee is currently charged with proposing updates to FAA’s human spaceflight guidance materials and recommending a spaceport grant funding mechanism, among several other tasks.

The role of COMSTAC is critical as the pace of commercial space operations quickens. In 2020, the FAA licensed 41 commercial space launches and reentries, the most in the agency’s history. For 2021, that number could reach 50 or more.

COMSTAC was first established in 1984. It is composed of approximately 22 members with experience in commercial space transportation. Members are appointed by the Secretary of Transportation.

The new COMSTAC charter can be viewed here.

Launch 2020: Russian Missions Improved in Quality, Declined in Numbers

Soyuz-2 rocket lifts off from the Vostochny Cosmodrome with 36 OneWeb satellites. (Credit: Arianespace)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

For Russia, 2020 was a mixed year in terms of launch. Once the world’s leader in sending payloads into space, the nation finished a distant third behind the United States and China with only 17 orbital flights. That figure was eight below the 25 launches in 2019, and Russia’s lowest number of the 21st century. The U.S. and China finished with 44 and 39 launch attempts, respectively.

On the bright side, 2020 was the second year in a row in which Russia did not experience a launch failure. That streak came after more a decade during which the Russian launch industry was plagued with multiple fmishaps.

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