Rocket Lab Launches NASA CubeSats on First Ever Venture Class Launch Services Mission

Ellectron launches NASA’s Venture Class CubeSats. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

HUNTINGTON Beach Calif. (Rocket Lab PR)  – US small satellite launch company Rocket Lab has launched its third orbital mission of 2018, successfully deploying satellites to orbit for NASA. The mission, designated Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa)-19 , took place just over a month after Rocket Lab’s last successful orbital launch, ‘It’s Business Time.’ Rocket Lab has launched a total of 24 satellites to orbit in 2018.

(more…)

Griffin Drafts DARPA to Create DOD Space Development Agency

Mike Griffin

SpaceNews reports that Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Mike Griffin has drafted DARPA to help put together the DOD’s Space Development Agency, which is designed to help cut through red tape to develop new systems rapidly.

In a Dec. 6 memo titled, “Space Development Agency Study Team Direction and Tasking,” Griffin directed Fred Kennedy, director of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, to lead a study team and come up with recommendations for the “implementation of the Space Development Agency.”

A DoD source shared the contents of the memo with SpaceNews. The memo was sent to key leaders across the department, including the secretaries of the military services, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Strategic Command, as well as the director of the National Reconnaissance Office.

Kennedy was not given a lot of time to complete the study. “I expect this effort will require 45 to 60 days,” Griffin wrote. The DARPA team has to provide an “interim progress report” within 30 days to Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and the space governance committee.

NASA Seeks US Partners to Develop Reusable Systems to Land Astronauts on Moon

Astronaut John Young salutes the flag on the moon during the Apollo 16 mission. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — As the next major step to return astronauts to the Moon under Space Policy Directive-1, NASA announced plans on Dec. 13 to work with American companies to design and develop new reusable systems for astronauts to land on the lunar surface. The agency is planning to test new human-class landers on the Moon beginning in 2024, with the goal of sending crew to the surface in 2028.

(more…)

Praise from FAA for Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo’s Flight Above 50 Miles

SpaceShipTwo’s two pilots after landing. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Statement of FAA Assistant Administrator Bailey Edwards
on the Successful Virgin Galactic Flight

Let me start by congratulating Virgin Galactic on a successful flight and return from space for the first time since 2004. We applaud your determination and pioneering spirit that delivered today’s milestone flight.

This year, it seems that we continue to reach new milestones within an industry that truly seems to see no earthly bounds. If you’re looking for the next big thing, commercial space is it. Safely growing this aerospace sector is a priority of President Trump, Vice President Pence and Transportation Secretary Chao who represents us with the President’s National Space Council.

(more…)

ESA Council Welcomes Bridenstine, Reviews Ongoing Programs

DARMSTADT, Germany (ESA PR) — The ESA Council held its 277th meeting at the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt on 12 and 13 December 2018.The Council welcomed NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who presented NASA’s vision for future space exploration. Mr Bridenstine praised the long-standing cooperation between ESA and NASA over the past 40 years through more than 260 major agreements including the iconic Hubble Space Telescope.

He strongly advocated international cooperation with ESA regarding space science, Earth science, the extension of the International Space Station operations and recognised the leading role of ESA on space safety and protection of space assets.

(more…)

Prometheus: Testing of the Future LOX-Methane Engine Demonstrator Begins

Prometheus rocket engine (Credit: ArianeGroup Holding)
  • Prometheus is a very low cost and potentially reusable European engine demonstrator intended for use by Europe’s launchers by 2030
  • Testing of the 3D-printed gas generator is under way at the DLR site in Lampoldshausen, Germany
  • The engine’s Design Review began on 30 November at the Vernon and Ottobrunn sites and is scheduled to close in January 2019

LAMPOLDSHAUSEN, Germany (ArianeGroup PR) — Exactly one year after the signing of the Prometheus demonstrator development contract between the European Space Agency (ESA) and ArianeGroup, testing of the 3D-printed gas generator has started at the DLR site in Lampoldshausen, Germany.

Prometheus is a European demonstrator for a very low cost reusable engine operating on liquid oxygen (LOx) and methane. It is the precursor of the future engines for Europe’s launchers by 2030.

(more…)

NanoRacks Delivers Educational Research, CubeSats, and Novel Medical Science to the Space Station

A SpaceX Dragon spacecraft launches to the International Space Station at 1:16 p.m. EST Dec. 5, 2018, on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The spacecraft, on its 16th mission for NASA under the agency’s Commercial Resupply Services contract, carries more than 5,600 pounds of research equipment, cargo and supplies. (Credits: NASA Television)

Cape Canaveral, Fla. (NanoRacks PR) – Last weekend, Dragon, the spacecraft from the sixteenth SpaceX contracted resupply mission, berthed with the International Space Station carrying educational experiments, CubeSats, and industry science research from NanoRacks’ customers into orbit. Within this mission, the NanoRacks team delivered payloads for four of the Company’s commercial platforms on Space Station.

(more…)

10 CubeSats Ready for NASA’s First Venture Class Launch

Electron It’s Business Time lift-off (Credits: Kieran Fanning & Sam Toms)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — RNASA will enable the launch of 10 small research satellites, or CubeSats, selected through the CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) for launch on Rocket Lab’s first mission for NASA. The CubeSats were built by three NASA centers, seven universities, and a middle school as part of the Educational Launch of Nanosatellite XIX (ELaNa-19) mission.

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — More than 250 students have been involved in the design, development and construction of the CubeSats scheduled to be flown as payloads on Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket. This mission will be the first launch under NASA’s Venture Class Launch Services (VCLS) contracts, which aims to provide a dedicated launch capability for smaller payloads such as CubeSats on smaller rockets.

Rocket Lab is now targeting the ELaNa-19 launch Dec. 15 with a launch window opening at 11 p.m. EST from the company’s launch complex on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand.
(more…)

Trump Nominee to Head NOAA Unlikely to Receive a Senate Vote


President Donald Trump’s nominee to head NOAA remains in limbo as the current Congress prepares to go out of business this month and the administration approaches its second year in January, The New York Times reports.

Barry Lee Myers, the chief executive of AccuWeather, a private forecasting firm that relies largely on data from the agency’s National Weather Service, has been a controversial figure since President Trump first nominated him to lead the agency in October 2017. Democrats have said that Mr. Myers has significant conflicts of interest, including his past eagerness to privatize the National Weather Service. For several years, Mr. Myers fought government programs that would compete with AccuWeather services….

Under Senate rules, any nomination not approved or rejected during one session of Congress must be resubmitted by the president unless the Senate unanimously agrees to waive the rule. It’s unclear whether Mr. Trump will put Mr. Myers’s name forward a third time. An attorney for AccuWeather who has been representing Mr. Myers, Tom Fahy, referred questions to the White House, which did not respond to requests for comment.

In addition to predicting the weather, the agency is charged with monitoring oceans, helping coastal communities protect themselves from storms and managing fisheries. The agency is also responsible for launching and maintaining satellites that provide data for climate trends and weather forecasts for severe events like hurricanes.

Scientists said the administration’s failure to install permanent leaders in top positions underscored its disinterest in science.

ICEYE Receives 10 Million Euros Loan to Initiate Internet of Locations Network

HELSINKI, December 14 (ICEYE PR) – ICEYE, an Earth observation company creating the world’s largest Synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) satellite constellation, today announced it has received a 10M€ [$11.3 million] capital loan from Business Finland that is meant for the orchestration of Growth Engines. Business Finland is the most important public funding agency for research funding in Finland, and it is directed by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment. The received funding is used for SAR satellite manufacturing during 2019 and for establishing the Internet of Locations ecosystem originating from Finland.

ICEYE successfully launched its second SAR satellite, ICEYE-X2, on 3rd of December. The satellite launch is an initial step of creating the necessary SAR satellite constellation of ICEYE for frequent and reliable satellite-based information about any location on Earth. ICEYE is establishing the Internet of Locations to support vast economic growth in Finland in the various parts of generating, analyzing, and consuming satellite data for operational uses.

(more…)

Videos of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Flight

The flight….

…the landing….

…and the welcome.

Invitations Lost in the Mail (or Internet)

Richard Branson with the pilots of SpaceShipTwo. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Well, it looks like somebody is peeved over being left out of all the fun here in Mojave yesterday.

Not sure what media outlets are being referred to here (although I could take a pretty good guess), but I would recommend a .re-reading of the coverage accompanied by a review of the NSTB accident report. Might clarify the situation out here a bit.

In any case, not everyone gets invited to these events. Reuters couldn’t get a photographer to the gathering beside the tower because Virgin limited attendees  to reporters. Ultimately, it’s their shindig; they have a right to control who is there. They did provide a running commentary on Twitter as the flight progressed.

SpaceShipTwo fires its hybrid engine. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

I’ve seen a SpaceShipTwo flight from next to the tower with Branson and his team. It’s great and adds a lot to the experience. I’ve also seen flights from out in the desert on the edge of nowhere. And here’s one thing I’ve learned: it’s what’s happening in the sky that matters. It’s the only thing that matters. I’ve seen what happens when things go sideways. It’s heartbreaking.

I’m relieved everything went well yesterday. Congratulations to everyone at Virgin Galactic for achieving this milestone. I wish them nothing but success in the future. Here’s to many more flights like the one we witnessed on Thursday.

Awesome Images From the Flight of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo

WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo take off at 7:11 a.m. PST from the Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo take off from the Mojave Air and Space Port.

SpaceShipTwo fires its hybrid engine. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

SpaceShipTwo is dropped and fires its engine.

Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo’s first flight above 50 miles on Dec. 13, 2018. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

A closeup of SpaceShipTwo in powered flight.

The curvature of the Earth from SpaceShipTwo. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

C.J. Sturckow and Mark Stucky got some great views of the Earth.

A view from inside the cockpit. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

SpaceShipTwo has a lot of windows.

A view from SpacehipTwo. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

The pilots could see the curvature of our planet from 51.4 miles.

SpaceShipTwo lands after a successful flight test. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

SpaceShipTwo touches down on Ruway 12-30.

SpaceShipTwo’s two pilots after landing. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

The pilots after landing.

Richard Branson with the pilots of SpaceShipTwo. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Richard Branson celebrates with the pilots.