Inflatable Systems Can Make Small Satellite Exploration of Other Planets Possible

Illustration of Low-Earth Orbit Flight Test of an Inflatable Decelerator (LOFTID). (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

LOGAN, Utah — Small satellites could explore Mars and Venus cheaply and efficiently using inflatable structures that would enable them to more easily enter orbit around these planets, according to research presented at the Small Satellite Conference on Saturday.

(more…)

Truist Financial Says Sell Virgin Galactic on Latest Schedule Delay, Quarterly Loss

Virgin Galactic is getting pounded by Wall Street analysts after announcing on Thursday that it was delaying the commercial start of its suborbital space tourism service from Q1 to Q2 2023. MarketBeat reports:

Virgin Galactic (NYSE:SPCE – Get Rating) was downgraded by Truist Financial from a “hold” rating to a “sell” rating in a report released on Friday, The Fly reports. They presently have a $5.00 price objective on the stock, down from their previous price objective of $8.00. Truist Financial’s target price indicates a potential downside of 28.67% from the stock’s previous close.

Several other research firms have also recently commented on SPCE. Wells Fargo & Company initiated coverage on Virgin Galactic in a research note on Tuesday, June 21st. They issued an “underweight” rating and a $4.00 target price for the company. Canaccord Genuity Group lowered shares of Virgin Galactic from a “buy” rating to a “hold” rating and decreased their price target for the company from $36.00 to $8.00 in a report on Friday, May 6th. Finally, Canaccord Genuity Group cut Virgin Galactic from a “buy” rating to a “hold” rating and lowered their target price for the stock from $36.00 to $8.00 in a research note on Friday, May 6th. Five investment analysts have rated the stock with a sell rating, five have given a hold rating and two have assigned a buy rating to the company. Based on data from MarketBeat.com, the stock currently has an average rating of “Hold” and a consensus target price of $13.00.

Virgin Galactic reported a net loss of $111 million for Q2. The company has lost more than $1 billion since going public in October 2019. Prior to being listed on the New York Stock Exchange, the company had forecast beginning commercial flights in June 2020. The latest schedule shift represents a delay of nearly three years.

A major reason for the latest delay is the overhaul of the 14-year old WhiteKnightTwo VMS Eve mothership, which air launches SpaceShipTwo vehicles from around 50,000 ft. The vehicle was rolled out by builder Scaled Composites in July 2018 and first flew in December of that year. Scaled intended it as a proof of concept prototype that was never designed to enter commercial service.

Indian Small Satellite Launch Vehicle Fails in Maiden Launch Attempt

Small Satellite Launch Vehicle lifts off on maiden flight. (Credit: ISRO)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

India’s new Small Satellite Launch Vehicle failed to orbit two small satellites on Sunday after its fourth stage engine failed to fire as planned, stranding the two Earth observation satellites in an unstable elliptical orbit from which they later burned up in the Earth’s atmosphere.

(more…)

A French Seismometer Aboard Upcoming Draper Mission to Far Side of the Moon

Draper lander on the moon.

PARIS (CNES PR) — CNES and the Institut de physique du globe de Paris (Université Paris Cité/IPGP/CNRS) have been selected to integrate a seismometer on NASA’s next lunar mission. As part of the CLPS (Commercial Lunar Payload Services) program, NASA has just selected the Draper company to send the lander that will carry this instrument and land on the Moon in May 2025.

(more…)

NASA Team Troubleshoots Asteroid-Bound Lucy Across Millions of Miles

By Lauren Duda
Lockheed Martin Space

Following the successful launch of NASA’s Lucy spacecraft on Oct. 16, 2021, a group of engineers huddled around a long conference table in Titusville, Florida. Lucy was mere hours into its 12-year flight, but an unexpected challenge had surfaced for the first-ever Trojan asteroids mission.

Data indicated that one of Lucy’s solar arrays powering the spacecraft’s systems — designed to unfurl like a hand fan — hadn’t fully opened and latched, and the team was figuring out what to do next.

(more…)

Exposed! International Space Station Tests Organisms, Materials in Space

The MISSE Flight Facility on the exterior of the space station. (Credits: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Space may look empty, but it contains extreme temperatures, high levels of background radiation, micrometeoroids, and the unfiltered glare of the Sun. In addition, materials and equipment on the outside of the International Space Station are exposed to atomic oxygen (AO) and other charged particles as it orbits the Earth at the very edge of our atmosphere. Only the hardiest materials, equipment, and organisms can withstand this harsh environment, and scientists conducting research on the orbiting laboratory have identified some of them for a variety of potential uses.

(more…)

Additional Artemis I Test Objectives to Provide Added Confidence in Capabilities

Orion spacecraft in orbit around the moon. (Credit: NASA)

NASA Mission Update

During Artemis I, NASA plans to accomplish several primary objectives, including demonstrating the performance of the Orion spacecraft’s heat shield from lunar return velocities, demonstrating operations and facilities during all mission phases from launch countdown through recovery, and retrieving the crew module for post-flight analysis. As the first integrated flight of the Space Launch System rocket, Orion spacecraft, and the exploration ground systems at NASA’s 21st century spaceport in Florida, engineers hope to accomplish a host of additional test objectives to better understand how the spacecraft performs in space and prepare for future missions with crew.

(more…)

Launchapalooza: 26 New Boosters Debuting Worldwide

Vega-C lifts off on its maiden flight on July 13, 2022. (Credit: Arianespace)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

During the first seven months of the year, five new satellite launch vehicles from Europe, China, Russia and South Korea flew successfully for the first time. As impressive as that is, it was a mere opening act to a busy period that could see at least 20 additional launchers debut around the world.

(more…)

The Best Laid Plans, Moscow Edition: Ukraine Invasion Damages Russia’s Launch Business

Soyuz-2 rocket launches a military satellite from Plesetsk Cosmodrome. (Credit: Russian Ministry of Defense)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Ambitious launch schedules typically go awry when a rocket suffers a catastrophic failure that takes months to investigate and implement modifications to ensure the same accident doesn’t happen again. In the majority of cases, the failures involve a machine launching a machine. All that can be replaced, albeit at substantial cost.

Russia’s ambitious launch plans for 2022 fell apart due to a far more momentous and deadly action: the nation’s invasion of Ukraine. The decision ruptured cooperation with the West on virtually every space project on which it was safe to do so. The main exception was the International Space Station (ISS), a program involving astronauts and cosmonauts that would be difficult to operate safely if Russia suddenly withdrew (as it indeed threatened to do).

Due to the invasion, Western partners canceled seven launches of foreign payloads in less than a month. The cancellations put Russia even further behind the United States and China in launch totals this year.

(more…)

Astra Space, Virgin Galactic Stock Prices Plunge on Launch Delays, Large Quarterly Losses

Astra Space and Virgin Orbit both saw their shares decline sharply on Thursday after announcing that their next launches would be delayed into 2023 and reporting large quarterly losses.

Astra Space announced that it is abandoning its Rocket 3.3 small-satellite booster, which failed on two of its three most recent flights. It will move to a larger Rocket 4 capable of carrying more payloads. The company reported a $53 million Q2 net loss. The company is looking to raise an additional $100 million through a stock sale.

Astra Space hit a high of $1.68 on Thursday. It was trading at $1.31 as of 11 a.m. EDT on Friday, a decline of 22 percent.

Virgin Galactic stock plunged 14.5 percent as the company delayed additional flight tests of its VSS Unity suborbital vehicle from Q4 2022 to Q1 2023. Commercial flights have been delayed into Q2 of next year. Flight tests of a second SpaceShipTwo named VSS Imagine won’t begin until the middle of next year. Commercial flights of that vehicle could begin as early as Q4 2023, but could slip into 2024.

Virgin Galactic reported a Q2 loss of $111 million. The company also announced it would raise another $300 million through a stock sale.

Astra Announces $100 Million Committed Equity Facility

ALAMEDA, Calif., August 02, 2022 (Astra Space PR) — Astra Space, Inc. (“Astra”) (NASDAQ: ASTR) today announced that it has entered into a common stock purchase agreement with B. Riley Principal Capital II, LLC (“B. Riley Principal Capital II”).

The agreement governs a Committed Equity Facility that provides Astra the right, in its discretion and without obligation, to sell and issue up to $100 million of its Class A common stock over the course of 24 months to B. Riley Principal Capital II, subject to certain limitations and conditions, including that in no event will the number of shares of Class A common stock sold exceed 19.99% of its outstanding Class A and Class B common stock.

(more…)

Falcon 9 Launches South Korea’s First Mission to the Moon

Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (Danuri) (Credit: Ministry of Science and ICT)

A SpaceX Falcon 9 launched South Korea’s first mission to the moon on Thursday evening from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

The Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO), a.k.a., Danuri, is equipped with five instruments from South Korea and a camera from the United States that are designed to search for water ice, aluminum, helium-3, silicon and uranium on the lunar surface. The spacecraft will produce a topographical map of the moon to assist future lunar landings.

Danuri was developed by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI). The spacecraft has a launch mass of 678 kg (1,495 lb).

NASA’s ShadowCam will search for evidence of water ice in permanently shadowed regions of the moon. The instrument is 800 times more sensitive than the camera used on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Scientists at Arizona and Malin Space Science Systems developed ShadowCam.

Danuri’s other five instruments include:

  • Lunar Terrain Imager
  • Wide-Angle Polarimetric Camera
  • KPLO Magnetometer
  • KPLO Gamma Ray Spectrometer
  • Delay-Tolerant Networking experiment.

Danuri will spend four months gradually circling out from Earth orbit and into a trajectory bound for the moon. The NASA CAPSTONE mission launched in June is using a similar method, which makes it easier for small spacecraft to make lunar orbit insertion burns.

Astra Space Report $53 Million Net Quarterly Loss, Abandons Rocket 3.3 After Multiple Failures, Delays Next Launch into 2023

Rocket 3.3 lifts off from Kodiak Island on March 15, 2022. (Credit: Astra Space/NASASpaceflight.com webcast)

ALAMEDA, Calif., August 04, 2022 (Astra Space PR) — Astra Space, Inc. (“Astra”) (Nasdaq: ASTR) today announced financial results for its second quarter ended June 30, 2022.

Astra announces that after two of its four Rocket 3.3 flights were successful, the Company will transition to the next version of its launch system and is working with customers to re-manifest all payloads onto the new launch system, designed for higher capacity, reliability, and production rate.

(more…)

Virgin Galactic Appoints Mike Moore as Executive Vice President, Spaceline Technical Operations

Aviation veteran to lead the expansion of Technical Operations capabilities in preparation for high frequency flights in commercial service

TUSTIN, Calif., August 3, 2022 (Virgin Galactic PR) – Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: SPCE) (the “Company” or “Virgin Galactic”), a vertically integrated aerospace and space travel company, announced today that former Delta Air Lines executive Mike Moore has been appointed Executive Vice President, Spaceline Technical Operations, effective August 22.

Moore will lead Virgin Galactic’s technical operations and maintenance team in charge of ensuring the Company’s vehicles are ready for flight. As part of this new position, he will help design and implement the operational model and technical infrastructure needed to support high cadence spaceflights during commercial service. Moore will report to CEO Michael Colglazier.

(more…)

AstroForge Aims to Succeed at Mining Asteroids Where Others Failed

Matthew Gialich (Credit: AstroForge)

By David Bullock
Staff Writer

While other asteroid mining companies such as Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries have gone bust,, AstroForge CEO Matt Gialich thinks his company is ready to succeed where they failed because of his management style and changes in technology.

“We are a company that, at this stage, is focused on ownership,” Gialich said. “What I mean by that is each individual contributor that we bring in is responsible for some component that they work on, be it refinery-tech or a space vehicle, and they own that from start to finish. Our management style is very much that you’re brought in for your aptitude and your skill set, and you know what to do. We are all engineers here. We allow people to perform with the best of their needs and that they know what they’re doing.”

 “We are 100% focused on mining asteroids and that’s it,” he added. 

(more…)