SpaceX Wants More Government Funding for Renamed BFR

BFR servicing the International Space Station. (Credit: SpaceX)

Some news out of the NewSpace Europe conference:

The president of SpaceX said she expects the company would receive additional funding from the U.S. government to support the development of its large reusable launch system.

Speaking at the NewSpace Europe conference here Nov. 16, Gwynne Shotwell noted that SpaceX is already receiving funding from the U.S. Air Force supporting the development of Raptor, the engine that will power the vehicle known as BFR, or Big Falcon Rocket, and the reusable spacecraft known as BFS or Big Falcon Spaceship.

“I do anticipate that there is residual capability of that system that the government will be interested in,” she said. “I do see that we would likely get some funding from the government for BFR and BFS.” She added, though, that work on the vehicles was not contingent on receiving government funding.

The U.S. Air Force recently issued a request for proposals that will fund the development of new launch systems to replace ULA’s Delta IV and Atlas V boosters.

UK Space Agency Launch Tour ’17

SWINDON, England (UKSA PR) — The UK Space Agency is touring the country with industry workshops and public open evenings on LaunchUK – the campaign to enable small satellite rocket launches and sub-orbital flights from UK spaceports.

The Government wants to make the UK a world-leading destination for companies offering launch services. New legislation to regulate launch is currently before Parliament and in early 2018 the UK Space Agency will announce the outcome of its call for grant proposals to achieve low cost access to space. In total 26 proposals were submitted to the call, and the UK Space Agency is currently considering grant applications to support the first launches from UK soil.

(more…)

ESA to Launch Deep-space Asteroid Surveying CubeSat

M-Argo CubeSat. (Credit: ESA-Jacky Huart)

PARIS (ESA PR) — M-Argo is designed as ESA’s first CubeSat to enter interplanetary space.

Studied in the Concurrent Design Facility, ESA’s highly networked facility for designing novel missions, the ‘Miniaturised Asteroid Remote Geophysical Observer’, or M-Argo, is a nanospacecraft based on the CubeSat design employing standardised 10 cm cubic units within which electronic boards can be stacked and subsystems attached.

(more…)

Some Interesting Excerpts From Richard Branson’s Autobiography

The location on Cantil Road where Mike Aslbury’s body — still in its seat — crashed down, narrowly missing two truck drivers. (Credit: NTSB)

So, I’ve been reading Richard Branson’s latest autobiography, Finding My Virginity. Or at least the parts dealing with Virgin Galactic. Just finished the section dealing with the loss of SpaceShipTwo No. 1 three years ago.

It’s interesting, to say the least. That is to say, not good. Jaw dropping. Bone chilling. Puking up pea soup bad.

I scarcely know where to begin. While I’m gathering up my thoughts for a detailed critique, let me throw out a few interesting passages.

(more…)

Luxembourg Invests in Spire’s $70 million Series C Round

Luxembourg, November 15, 2017 (Luxembourg PR) – The Luxembourg Government and Spire Global signed a cooperation agreement to develop, through the opening of a European HQ by the US-based company, several key activities in the Grand Duchy focused on space platform engineering, data analytics, infrastructure engineering and business development. The office in Luxembourg will serve as Spire’s full-service European headquarters. Spire is a satellite powered data company with offices in the US, Europe and Asia offering products for global ship tracking and high frequency weather data.

(more…)

SSTL to build UrtheCast’s UrtheDaily Constellation

SURREY, England (SSTL PR) — A signed contract for the Earth Observation satellites for the UrtheDailyTM Constellation was announced today by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) and UrtheCast of Canada.  The UrtheDailyTM Constellation, planned for launch in 2020, will be capable of scientific-grade quality, multispectral imagery, high-resolution, targeted specifically at geoanalytics applications.

The UrtheDailyTM spacecraft are based on the SSTL-250 platform and will be built by SSTL at its facilities in Guildford UK.  The spacecraft will deliver high-resolution imagery using spectral bands, which have been specifically selected to match Landsat-8, Sentinel-2, RapidEye and Deimos-1 bands to ease cross-calibration with trusted references and to minimise the effects of atmospheric variations.

Wade Larson, President and CEO of UrtheCast commented “I am delighted to be announcing the UrtheDailyTM Constellation contract has been placed today with SSTL, the world leader in the design and manufacture of small satellites.  Our two companies have developed a close synergy, and our combined experience and expertise has resulted in a space systems architecture for the UrtheDailyTM Constellation that will deliver exceptional data quality for a range of geoanalytics products.”

Andrew Cawthorne, Director of Earth Observation at SSTL said “We have worked closely with UrtheCast to develop an imaging system capable of detecting subtle changes on the planet, and we are very much looking forward to supplying the satellites for this landmark Earth Observation constellation.”

SSTL is a leading supplier of LEO missions to commercial owner operators: previous missions include Beijing-1, platforms for the 5 satellite RapidEye constellation, Deimos-1, exactView-1, KazEOSAT-2, and the 3-satellite TripleSat constellation.

Delta II Launch Scrubbed, Falcon 9 Flight Delayed

The launch of a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket carrying the JPSS-1 mission for NASA and NOAA was scrubbed today due to a range safety hold and high upper level winds. ULA is working to establish a new launch opportunity.

SpaceX has delayed the Falcon 9 launch of the Zuma payload by one day to Thursday to allow for some additional mission assurance work. The launch window opens at 8 p.m. EST and closes two hours later.

A Chinese Long March 4C launched the Fengyun 3D weather satellite into polar orbit from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center yesterday.

 

NASA CubeSat Missions Pushing the Boundaries of Technology

OCSD satellite (Credit: NASA)

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Small Spacecraft Technology Program is on the countdown clock to advance communications and proximity maneuvering capabilities for CubeSats with two separate technology demonstration missions.

The Optical Communications and Sensor Demonstration (OCSD) mission will showcase the first-ever high-speed data downlink from a CubeSat to a ground station using lasers, in addition to maneuvering the pair of diminutive spacecraft to up-close proximity.

(more…)

NASA’s Mars 2020 Mission Performs First Supersonic Parachute Test

A 58-foot-tall Black Brant IX sounding rocket launches from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Oct. 4. This was the first test of the Mars 2020 mission’s parachute-testing series, the Advanced Supersonic Parachute Inflation Research Experiment, or ASPIRE. (Credit: NASA/Wallops)

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. (NASA PR) — Landing on Mars is difficult and not always successful. Well-designed advance testing helps. An ambitious NASA Mars rover mission set to launch in 2020 will rely on a special parachute to slow the spacecraft down as it enters the Martian atmosphere at over 12,000 mph (5.4 kilometers per second). Preparations for this mission have provided, for the first time, dramatic video of the parachute opening at supersonic speed.

(more…)

Moon Express’ Progress in NASA’s Lunar CATALYST Program

Moon Express is one of three companies NASA has signed agreements with for the Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown (Lunar CATALYST) program.

“The purpose of the Lunar CATALYST initiative is for NASA to encourage the development of U.S. private-sector robotic lunar landers capable of successfully delivering small (30 to 100 kg) and medium (250 to 500 kg) class payloads to the lunar surface using U.S. commercial launch capabilities,” the agreement states.

“This no-funds-exchanged Space Act Agreement (SAA) with the Partner enables provision and coordination of NASA in-kind contributions at no cost to the Partner, of NASA civil servant technical expertise, access to NASA test facilities, the loaning of equipment, and software,” the agreement adds.

(more…)

Former NASA Ames Official Joins Luxembourg Space Affairs Department

Gary Martin

Luxembourg, November 14, 2017 (Luxembourg PR) – The Luxembourg Ministry of the Economy today announced that Mr. Gary Martin, former Director of Partnerships at NASA Ames, recently joined its Space Affairs Department. As an independent advisor, Gary Martin assists the Directorate-General for Research, Intellectual Property and New Technologies, in charge of Space Affairs, to implement the strategy relating to the SpaceResources.lu initiative in close collaboration with national partners from research and academia.

Gary Martin retired from the position as Director of Partnerships at NASA Ames Research Center, which is one of ten NASA field centers and is located in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley. He was in charge of identifying new business opportunities, creating entrepreneurial partnerships, transferring NASA technology to industry, and contributing to the development of the Center’s long-term strategy. Gary Martin was with NASA for over 25 years and worked at Langley Research Center, NASA Headquarters and Goddard Space Flight Center before joining NASA Ames.

Gary Martin stated: “I am honored to assist the Luxembourg Government in its efforts to position Luxembourg as an ideal location for innovative projects in advanced space technologies.”

Luxembourg Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Economy, Etienne Schneider, commented: “I am delighted to welcome in our team a recognized expert for his contribution to research and innovation at NASA. Gary Martin will put his expertise and experience to the benefit of Luxembourg’s willingness to sustain the development of a new economic era in space and the positioning of the country as a global space hub.”

Kardashians Want to Blast Off Into Space

WhiteKnightTwo carries SpaceShipTwo No. 2 on its first captive carry flight. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

The Kardashians — America’s first family of WTF? reality show programming — is apparently eager to blast off into space.

Kris Jenner is said to be keen to fly the family further than she ever has before to shoot an episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians – which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary – on Richard Branson’s Virgin space shuttle.

An insider close to Kris told heat magazine: “Kris is fascinated by outer space, and is looking into paying for her and the family to be among the first passengers on Virgin’s commercial space shuttle.

“Kris just signed a $150 million deal that will keep their reality show until the end of 2019. The pressure is on to keep things exciting, and what better way than by filming an episode in space?

“They’d be the first family to orbit the planet, and Kris is convinced she’s hit on the ultimate storyline.”

If they want to orbit the Earth, they shouldn’t be talking to Branson. SpaceShipTwo will only get them about four to five minutes of weightlessness in suborbital space.

Hopefully that would be enough. But, then again, when is anything ever enough for the Kardashians? Their appetite for money, fame and attention seems as boundless as space itself.

General Atomics Acquires Assets of Surrey Satellite Technology US

SAN DIEGO, CA, 13 NOVEMBER 2017 (General Atomics PR)  – General Atomics announced today that it has acquired the majority of the assets of Surrey Satellite Technology US LLC (Surrey-US), an Englewood, Colorado.-based provider of innovative small satellite technologies, systems and services.

The assets and workforce will be integrated into General Atomics’ Electromagnetic Systems Group (GA-EMS) to support the organization’s growth initiatives focused on the development and delivery of small satellite and advanced payload systems.

(more…)

Cygnus Arrives at ISS

The Canadarm2 robotic arm is seen grappling the Orbital ATK Cygnus resupply ship on Nov. 14, 2017. (Credit: NASA TV)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo ship was bolted into place on the International Space Station’s Earth-facing port of the Unity module at 7:15 a.m. EST. The spacecraft will spend about three weeks attached to the space station before departing in early December. After it leaves the station, the uncrewed spacecraft will deploy several CubeSats before its fiery re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere as it disposes of several tons of trash.

(more…)

Delta II Launch Scrubbed, Rescheduled for Wednesday


Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., Nov. 14, 2017 (ULA PR)
– The launch of a United Launch Alliance Delta II carrying the JPSS-1 mission for NASA and NOAA was scrubbed today due to a red range and a late launch vehicle alarm. Due to the short window there was insufficient time to fully coordinate a resolution.

The launch is planned for Wednesday, Nov. 15, from Space Launch Complex-2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The launch time is 1:47 a.m. PST.