The Best Laid Plans: Europe’s Ambitious Launch Year Goes Awry Due to International Tensions, Schedule Delays

The James Webb Space Telescope lifted off on an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, at 13:20 CET on 25 December 2021 on its exciting mission to unlock the secrets of the Universe. (Credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

On Christmas Day 2021, an European Ariane 5 rocket roared off its launch pad in French Guiana with the most expensive payload the booster had ever carried, the $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope. The launcher performed perfectly, sending the most powerful space telescope on a journey to its final destination 1.5 million km (900 million miles) from Earth. The launch was so accurate that Webb should have sufficient propellant to perform science operations for much longer than its planned 10-year lifetime.

There was a collective sigh of relief among the European, American and Canadian scientists and engineers involved in the long-delayed program. It was a superb Christmas gift to a world suffering through the second year of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

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Safran, Airbus and CNES at Forefront of Earth-Space Optical Communications

PARIS (CNES PR) — In partnership with CNES and Airbus Defense & Space and as part of the TELEO project, Safran Data Systems has successfully delivered the first in a series of digital modems dedicated to Earth-Space optical communications: the Cortex Lasercom.

Laser optical communications will make it possible to achieve speeds 10 to 100 times higher than the radio frequency communications currently used. Heir to the Cortex HDR, the world reference satellite imagery reception modem, Safran Data Systems has developed the Cortex Lasercom modem equipped with processing and decoding capabilities allowing to reach a record speed of 10 Gigabits per second of bit rate for Earth-Space optical communications, a level unequaled in the world.

The Cortex Lasercom will be used in several cooperation projects between Safran, Airbus and CNES, and will equip future optical ground stations (OGS) (Optical Ground Stations) marketed by Safran. These OGS will allow the link with all future satellites that will carry laser communication capabilities with the Earth. Two demonstrations on Airbus and CNES programs will take place in 2023, a world first: LASIN on the constellation of CO3D imaging satellites, and TELEO on the future BADR-8 telecommunications satellite. On this occasion, the Cortex Lasercom will be equipped with error-correcting codes developed by Airbus Defense & Space, which make it possible to deliver useful and error-free information to the user.

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Following the Success of the Inaugural flight, Arianespace to Start Operations of Vega C with Seven Launchers Already Sold

Vega-C lifts off on its maiden flight on July 13, 2022. (Credit: Arianespace)
  • Following the success of its inaugural flight, Vega C will now begin its operational phase, under the responsibility of Arianespace, with a target of at least four launches per year and a fast-growing backlog that already includes 7 launches and 10 auxiliary payloads.
  • Vega C is an upgrade to the Vega launcher and can better answer institutional and commercial customers’ needs. Thanks to its increased capabilities, Vega C will serve the burgeoning Earth observation market as well as long-term institutional and commercial needs.
  • The first commercial launch of Vega C is scheduled in November 2022. The flight, designated VV22, will deliver Pléiades Neo 5 and 6, a pair of satellites wholly funded, manufactured and operated by Airbus.

KOUROU, French Guiana (Arianespace PR) — On Wednesday, July 13 at 10:13 am local time in Kourou, French Guiana, the first Vega C, the new European launcher designed and manufactured by AVIO, was successfully launched under the supervision of ESA from the Guiana Space Center, Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana (South America).

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Northrop Grumman Selects Airbus US Space & Defense as its Satellite Platform Supplier for Tranche 1 Transport Layer Prototype Constellation

Northrop Grumman’s T1TL mesh satellite constellation will provide resilient, low-latency, high-volume data transport supporting U.S. military missions around the world and serve as a critical element for Joint-All Domain Command Control. (Credit: Northrop Grumman)


REDONDO BEACH, Calif., July 5, 2022 (Northrop Grumman PR) – Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) today announced the selection of Airbus U.S. Space & Defense Inc. as the commercial provider of satellite platforms for its proliferated-LEO constellation. Under the terms of the contract, Airbus U.S. will supply 42 satellite “bus” platforms, as well as support vehicle assembly, integration and testing.

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Thales Alenia Space Reaches Major Milestone in CRISTAL Mission Development for Europe’s Copernicus Earth Observation Program

Contract amendment signed for development and qualification of the IRIS radar altimeter

CANNES, France, June 27, 2022 (Thales Alenia Space PR) — Thales Alenia Space, the joint company between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%), today signed an amendment to the CRISTAL contract with Airbus Defence and Space, prime contractor for the satellite. The amendment provides for the development and qualification of IRIS, the Interferometric Radar Altimeter for Ice and Snow to be carried on the Copernicus polaR Ice and Snow Topography ALtimeter (CRISTAL) mission. CRISTAL is part of the European Space Agency’s Copernicus Expansion program, in partnership with the European Commission. Copernicus is a European flagship program providing Earth observation and in situ data, along with a broad range of services for environmental monitoring and protection, climate monitoring and natural disaster assessment to improve the quality of life for all European citizens.

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First Ariane 5 Launch of 2022 Orbits Satellites for MEASAT and NSIL

Ariane 5 launches on June 22, 2022. (Credit: Arianespace)

– The Ariane 5, operated by Arianespace, has successfully placed two telecommunications satellites into geostationary orbit: MEASAT-3d for the Malaysian operator MEASAT, and GSAT-24 built by the Indian Space Agency ISRO on behalf of NSIL.
– Carrying out its first mission of the year, and the 113th overall, Ariane 5 once again demonstrates its exceptional reliability.
– Mission VA257 will improve broadband coverage in the Asia-Pacific region and represents another commercial success for Ariane 5 in the Asia-Pacific market.

KOUROU, French Guiana, June 22, 2022 (Arianespace PR) — On Wednesday, June 22, 2022 at 06:50 pm local time, an Ariane 5 launcher lifted off from the Guiana Space Center, Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana (South America), successfully orbiting two geostationary telecommunication satellites, MEASAT-3d and GSAT-24.

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Mynaric and Airbus U.S. Space & Defense, Inc. Sign Contract for Laser Communication Demonstration on ISS Bartolomeo Platform

Bartolomeo platform on the International Space Station. (Credit: Mynaric)

Airbus’s payload hosting platform to demonstrate Mynaric’s laser communication product on the International Space Station 

HOUSTON, May 12, 2022 – Mynaric (NASDAQ: MYNA)(FRA: M0Y) and Airbus U.S. Space & Defense, Inc. have signed a contract to host Mynaric’s CONDOR Mk2 terminal for space-based laser communication on the International Space Station’s (ISS) functional testbed, Bartolomeo. Mynaric plans to operate its industrialized optical communications terminal on the ISS, with the goal of demonstrating the product’s capabilities in low Earth orbit and providing its customers with an extended range of experimental mission scenarios.  

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Airbus Reports Strong Full-Year 2021 Results

  • 611 commercial aircraft delivered in 2021
  • Financials reflect strong operational performance group-wide
  • Revenues € 52.1 billion; EBIT Adjusted € 4.9 billion; EBIT (reported) € 5.3 billion
  • Free cash flow before M&A and customer financing € 3.5 billion; Net cash € 7.6 billion
  • Record net income of € 4.2 billion; EPS (reported) € 5.36
  • Dividend proposal: € 1.50 per share
  • 2022 guidance issued

Amsterdam, 17 February 2022 – Airbus SE (stock exchange symbol: AIR) reported consolidated Full-Year (FY) 2021 financial results and provided guidance for 2022.

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Arianespace’s 13th Flight for OneWeb Successfully Deployed 34 Additional Satellites

Soyuz-2 rocket launches 34 OneWeb broadband satellites from the Guiana Space Center. (Credit: Copyright ESA-CNES-Arianespace/Optique Video du CSG – P Piron)
  • First Arianespace’s mission of 2022 and OneWeb’s thirteenth launch, Soyuz Flight VS27 successfully put 34 additional constellation satellites into a near-polar orbit.
  • In the course of 2022, Arianespace will continue to deploy OneWeb’s satellite network, which now comprises 428 satellites in low Earth orbit.

KOUROU, French Guiana (Arianespace PR) — Today’s launch, Flight VS27, was the first Arianespace’s mission of 2022 and the 340th launch overall for the Arianespace family of launchers Ariane, Soyuz and Vega. Performed on Thursday, February 10 at precisely 03:09 p.m. local time at Guiana Space Center (06:09 p.m. UTC), this mission orbited 34 OneWeb satellites bringing the size of the fleet in orbit to 428.

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Arianespace to Serve OneWeb’s Ambitions, will Orbit 34 Additional Satellites with Soyuz

Soyuz-2 launches 34 OneWeb satellites. (Credit: Arianespace)
  • After the successful launch of NASA’s Webb Space Telescope on December 25 with Ariane 5, Arianespace is back to the Guiana Space Center (CSG) with Soyuz for a February 10 lift-off.
  • The first Arianespace mission of the year will orbit 34 additional OneWeb satellites.
  • With this mission, Arianespace will exceed 100 satellites launched on Soyuz from the CSG, while OneWeb’s fleet will be brought to 428 satellites on Low Earth Orbit.

SINNAMARY, French Guiana (Arianespace PR) — Scheduled for February 10 at 03:09 p.m. local time (06:09 p.m. UTC), Arianespace’s Soyuz Flight VS27 will mark the European launch service provider’s first flight of the year. Performed from the Soyuz Launch Complex (ELS) at Sinnamary, French Guiana, Flight VS27 will put 34 of OneWeb’s satellites into a near-polar orbit at an altitude of 450 kilometers. The total duration of the mission will be 3 hours and 33 minutes and will include nine satellite separations, after which the satellites will subsequently raise themselves to their operational orbit.

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Defence Procurement Minister Jeremy Quin Announces the Defence Space Strategy

Jeremy Quin

Speech
Kings College London
1 February 2022

It’s a huge pleasure to be here today on the next step in our execution of the Integrated Review, the Defence Command Paper and Defence and Security Industrial Strategy.

A lot has happened in Defence in the last year. From assisting in homeland resilience in issues as varied at vaccine delivery to Heavy Goods Vehicle support to the largest Royal Navy deployment in decades making our positive presence felt on the far side of the world.

Above all, as I speak, the Defence Secretary is meeting NATO partners, discussing the truly concerning situation on Ukraine’s borders – the most serious threat of a major war on our continent since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

However the British people know that what they can always expect from UK Defence is calm, determined, delivery.

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Arianespace to Launch Microcarb on Vega C

Vega rocket in flight (Credit: Arianespace)
  • Microcarb is a science satellite that will trace CO2 sinks and sources on a global scale.
  • The requested performance for this launch planned in 2023 is 190kg on a sun-synchronous orbit at 650km.

EVRY-COURCOURONNES, France, January 18, 2022 (Arianespace PR) — Arianespace has been awarded a launch contract by ESA, on behalf of the European Commission, to launch Microcarb in 2023 on Vega C. Microcarb is a 190kg satellite developed by CNES that will be delivered into a sun-synchronous orbit, 650km above the Earth.

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Cheops Reveals a Rugby Ball-shaped Exoplanet

Artist impression of planet WASP-103b and its host star. (Credit: ESA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA’s exoplanet mission Cheops has revealed that an exoplanet orbiting its host star within a day has a deformed shape more like that of a rugby ball than a sphere. This is the first time that the deformation of an exoplanet has been detected, offering new insights into the internal structure of these star-hugging planets.

The planet, known as WASP-103b is located in the constellation of Hercules. It has been deformed by the strong tidal forces between the planet and its host star WASP-103, which is about 200 degrees hotter and 1.7 times larger than the Sun.

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Arianespace to Launch PLATiNO 1 & 2 on Vega and Vega C

Vega rocket in flight (Credit: Arianespace)
  • PLATiNO 1 and 2 are Earth observation satellites that will be launched on a Sun-synchronous orbit.
  • Both small satellites are due to be launched between 2022 and 2024.
  • PLATiNO is an all-electric multi-purpose small satellite platform developed in Italy, suitable for a wide range of applications (e.g. Optical, SAR, Telecom, etc.)

Évry-Courcouronnes, France, January 6, 2022 (Arianespace PR) — Arianespace has been awarded a launch contract by SITAEL, with the Italian Space Agency (ASI) as the final customer, to orbit PLATiNO 1 & 2 satellites, between 2022 and 2024 on Vega and Vega C. PLATiNO 1 and 2 are Earth observation small satellites operating on Sun-synchronous orbits. PLATiNO 1 will embark a Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), operating in the X band, while PLATiNO 2 will carry an optical thermal instrument.

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Flight ST37, the 15th Operated by Arianespace in 2021, Successfully Placed 36 More OneWeb Satellites into Orbit

Soyuz rocket launches 36 OneWeb satellites from Baikonur Cosmodrome on Dec. 27, 2021. (Credit: Arianespace)
  • Thanks to ST37, 60% of OneWeb’s constellation is now in orbit, bringing the constellation to 394 satellites launched.
  • Thanks to ST37, Arianespace have conducted 15 launches in 2021, including eight missions for the benefit of OneWeb and a total of nine Soyuz flights, from three different spaceports.
  • This launch also marks a new milestone in Arianespace history: since its creation in 1980, the company has officially deployed 1,101 satellites.

BAIKONUR COSMODROME, Kazakhstan, December 27, 2021 (Arianespace PR) — On Monday, December 27, at precisely 06:10 p.m. local time at Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome (01:10 p.m. UTC), Soyuz flight ST37 lifted-off with 36 OneWeb satellites bringing, after this successful deployment, the size of the fleet in orbit to 394. Flight ST37 was the 63rd Soyuz mission carried out by Arianespace, the 37th with its Starsem affiliate, and the 12th mission for OneWeb.

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