Stratolaunch to Test Rocket Engine Technology at NASA Stennis

Stratolaunch carrier aircraft (Credit: Dylan Schwartz)

Stratolaunch will test rocket engine technology next year at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi under agreements with the space agency.

Paul Allen’s company signed two agreements with NASA: an umbrella Space Act Agreement laying out the terms of cooperation, and an annex under with Stratolaunch will pay $5.1 million to the space agency to use the E1 facility at Stennis for engine tests.

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CASIS & NSF Announce Research Funding Opportunity in Tissue Engineering on ISS

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla., November 17, 2017 (CASIS PR) — The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) today announced a joint solicitation wherein researchers will have the ability to leverage resources onboard the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory to support enhancements in the fields of transformative tissue engineering. Up to $1.8 million will be awarded for multiple research investigations to support flight projects to the ISS National Lab.

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VOX Space Wins Defense Contract

LauncherOne ignites after being released from Cosmic Girl 747. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Virgin Orbit has received a Department of Defense (DOD) launch contract for its LauncherOne booster, the company announced this week.

“Their Space Test Program will fly some technology development payloads on our rocket as early as January 2019,” the company announced on Twitter.

LauncherOne will be air-launched from a modified Boeing 747 airliner. The first flight test is expected to occur in 2018.

The contract, which came through the VOX Space subsidiary that handles government work, came through the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx).

“We provide non-dilutive capital in the form of pilot contracts for commercial innovation that solves Dept. of Defense (DoD) problems. And we do so quickly, usually in under 90 days,” according to DIUx’s website. “Pilot contracts can include hardware, software, or unique services. More importantly, after a successful pilot, the company involved and any DoD entity can easily enter into follow-on contracts, just as fast.”

DIUx has also provided capital to two other space companies: Capella Space, a satellite company that uses synthetic aperture radar to provide Earth imagery that is based on Palo Alto, Calif.; and Orbital Insight, which provides geospatial data analytics that is based in Moutain View, Calif.

Loft Orbital Solutions Raises $3.2 Million

Credit: Loft Orbital Solutions

Loft Orbital Solutions Inc., has raised $3.2 million in seed funding for its plans for satellite rideshare service that will fly payloads from different users on the same spacecraft. The round was led by Uncork Capital, which was joined by MDI Ventures, V1 VC, Mercuria Investment Japan and The Remote Sensing Tech Center of Japan.

“Our turnkey service addresses all elements of a space mission,” the company states on its website. “You provide us with a payload. We deliver it to orbit and enable you to task it and access your data.”

The San Francisco-based company was co-founded by three veterans of Spire Global: Antoine de Chassy, Alexander Greenberg and Pierre-Damien Vaujour. The company recently hired , the first South Korean in space, Soyeon Yi, to serve as its business development and partnerships manager.

ULA, SpaceX Reschedule Launches

SpaceX launched its 12th resupply mission to the International Space Station from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 12:31 p.m. EDT on Monday, Aug. 14, 2017. (Credit: NASA Television)

UPDATE: SpaceX issued a statement late this afternoon: “We have decided to stand down and take a closer look at data from recent fairing testing for another customer. Though we have preserved the range opportunity for tomorrow, we will take the time we need to complete the data review and will then confirm a new launch date.”

SpaceX has rescheduled the launch of the mysterious Zuma payload for Friday, Nov. 17. The Falcon 9’s two-hour launch window opens at 10 p.m. EST at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

ULA has rescheduled the launch of the JPSS-1 weather satellite aboard a Delta II booster for Saturday, Nov. 18.  The launch time is 1:47 a.m. PST (4:47 EST) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Below is the launch schedule for the rest of November.

November 21

Launch Vehicle: Long March 6
Payloads: 3 Jilin 1 Earth observation microsats
Launch Site: Taiyuan, China
Launch Time: Unknown

November 28

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz
Payloads: Meteor M2-1 weather satellite; Spire weather CubeSats; Telesat experimental communications satellite
Launch Site: Vostochny
Launch Time: 0541:46 GMT (12:41:46 a.m. EST)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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