James Webb Space Telescope Launch Slips into 2021, Cost Overruns

Artist’s impression of James Webb Space Telescope. (Credit; NASA)

Costs Rise from $8.8 Billion to $9.66 Billion

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — The Independent Review Board (IRB) established by NASA to assess progress on its James Webb Space Telescope has unanimously recommended that development on the world’s premier science observatory should continue; NASA has established a new launch date for Webb of March 30, 2021.

A report issued by the review board addresses a range of factors influencing Webb’s schedule and performance, including the technical challenges and tasks remaining by primary contractor Northrop Grumman before launch.

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ESA Council Approves Completion of Ariane 6, Transition from Ariane 5

Ariane 6 variants (Credit: ESA–David Ducros,)

PARIS — 14 June 2018 (ESA PR) — The ESA Council met today in Paris to discuss the path towards the future exploitation of Ariane 6.

In view of the progress made in the Ariane 6 programme, Participating States have decided on the completion of the development up to full operational capability and agreed to fund industrial incentives associated with the development of Ariane 6 and P120C solid rocket motor.

Participating States also committed to start with the first step of the Ariane 6 and P120C Transition Programme. This programme supports the evolution from Europe’s Ariane 5 to full operational capability of Ariane 6.

Ariane 6 is Europe’s new-generation launcher, designed to secure guaranteed access to space for Europe at an affordable price for European institutional users. It will operate in two configurations: Ariane 62 is fitted with two P120C strap-on boosters while Ariane 64 has four. Ariane 6’s maiden flight is planned for mid-2020.

P120C is the largest carbon-fibre solid propellant booster ever built in one segment at almost 13.5 m long and about 3.4 m in diameter. Two boosters will be used on Ariane 6’s maiden flight in 2020.

Arianespace to Launch BSAT-4b Spacecraft

Ariane 5 liftoff (Credit: ESA)

EVRY, France (Arianespace PR) — Arianespace announced today that it will launch BSAT-4b, under the term of a turnkey contract between B-SAT and Maxar’s SSL.

BSAT-4b will be launched by an Ariane 5 in 2020 from the Guiana Space Center, Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, as part of a turnkey contract between the Japanese satellite operator B-SAT and the California-based satellite manufacturer SSL.

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Ariane 5 Launches Communications Satellites

Ariane 5 liftoff (Credit: ESA)

KOUROU, French Guiana (ESA PR) — An Ariane 5, operated by Arianespace, has delivered the DSN-1/Superbird-8 and Hylas-4 telecom satellites into their planned orbits.

Liftoff was announced at 21:34 GMT (23:34 CEST, 18:34 local time) yesterday from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The mission lasted about 33 minutes.

DSN-1/Superbird-8, with a launch mass of 5348 kg, was moved into position for release after about 25 minutes. The 4050 kg Hylas-4 was released 33 minutes after liftoff.

DSN-1/Superbird-8, operated by Sky Perfect JSAT, will provide communications services for Japan. The satellite has a design life of more than 15 years.

Hylas-4, owned and operated by Avanti, provides broadband and connectivity services to Africa and Europe. The satellite has a design life of 15 years.

The performance requested for this launch was about 10 260 kg. The satellites totalled about 9398 kg, with payload adapters and support structures making up the rest.

Flight VA242 was the 98th Ariane 5 mission.

First Quarter 2018 Launch Report: China & USA Battle for Lead

A SpaceX Falcon Heavy begins its first flight. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The world’s launch providers have been extremely busy in the first quarter of 2018, with 31 orbital launches thus far. This is more than one third of the 90 launches conducted last year.

China leads the pack with 10 successful launches. The United States is close behind with a total of nine launches with one failure. The tenth American launch is scheduled for Monday afternoon from Florida.

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Review of Spaceport Earth: The Reinvention of Spaceflight

Spaceport Earth: The Reinvention of Spaceflight
by Joe Pappalardo
The Overlook Press
240 pages
2018

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Most travel books promote exciting locales such as Paris, Machu Pichu or Bali that people actually want to visit to relax and escape the pressures of life in the 21st century.

Joe Pappalardo had a different idea for his travelogue. The contributing editor for Popular Mechanics decided to visit various spaceports and rocket test sites to gauge how commercial space is transforming the industry.

Pappalardo’s travels take him from the sandy beaches of Florida and Virginia to the desolate deserts of the American Southwest and steaming jungles of French Guiana. Along the way, we meet everyone from Elon Musk to the crew at Masten Space Systems and the local gentry in the various towns adjoining these facilities.

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Updated Global Launch Schedule Through April

Expedition 55 crew members Ricky Arnold, Drew Feustel and cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev. (Credit: NASA)

Below is the updated launch schedule through the end of April. The 17 scheduled launches include:

  • 7 USA (6 Falcon 9, 1 Atlas V)
  • 4 Russia (1 Soyuz, 1 Soyuz-2.1, 1 Proton, 1 Rockot)
  • 3 India (2 GSLV Mk.2, 1 PSLV)
  • 2 China (2 Long March 3B)
  • 1 Europe (1 Ariane 5).

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Falcon 9 & Soyuz Launch Communications Satellites

Soyuz rocket takes off from French Guiana on March 9, 2018. (Credit: Arianespace)

It was a successful week for launches around the world.

On Tuesday, SpaceX conducted its 50th launch of the Falcon 9 rocket. The booster orbited the 30W-6 communications satellite for Hispsat of Spain from Cape Canaveral Air Force Base in Florida. At 6 metric tons, it was the heaviest geosynchronous satellite ever launched by SpaceX.

On Friday, a Soyuz booster roared off the pad in French Guiana to deliver four O3b F4 communications satellites for SES. It was the third successful launch of Russia’s workhorse Soyuz rocket this year.

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Scheduled Launches for March

Atlas V booster launches the GOES-S weather satellite. (Credit: ULA)

Below is the current launch schedule for March. In total, there are 8 launches planned for the month with 16 communications satellites, one meteorological satellite, and one crew mission to the International Space Station. The launches include:

  • United States: 3 (2 Falcon 9, 1 Atlas V)
  • Russia: 2 (Soyuz from Baikonur & French Guiana)
  • Europe: 1 (Ariane 5)
  • China: 1 (Long March 3B)
  • India: 1 (GSLV Mk. 2)

This schedule is subject to change. Please visit https://spaceflightnow.com/launch-schedule/ for updates.

March 1

Launch Vehicle: Atlas V
Payload: GOES-S meteorological satellite
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida
Outcome: Successful

March 6

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Hispasat 30W-6 communications satellite
Launch Window: 12:33-2:33 a.m. EST (0533-0733 GMT)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz
Payload: O3b F4 communications satellite
Launch Time: 11:38:36 a.m. EST (1638:36 GMT)
Launch Site: Kourou, French Guiana

March 15

Launch Vehicle: Long March 3B
Payload: Apstar 6C communications satellite
Launch Time: TBD
Launch Site: Xichang, China

March 21

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz
Payload: Soyuz MS-08
Launch Time: 1:44 p.m. EDT (1744 GMT)
Launch Site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan

NASA astronauts A.J. (Drew) Feustel and Ricky Arnold and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev will travel to the International Space Station.

Launch Vehicle: Ariane 5
Payload: Superbird 8/DSN 1 & Hylas 4 communications satellites
Launch Time: 5:42 p.m. EDT (2142 GMT)
Launch Site: Kourou, French Guiana

March 24

Launch Vehicles: GSLV Mk.2
Payl0ad: GSAT 6A communications satellite
Launch Time: TBD
Launch Site: Satish Dhawan Space Center, India

March 29

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Iridium Next 41-50 communications satellites
Launch Time: 10:19:49 a.m. EDT; 7:19:49 a.m. PDT (1419:49 GMT)
Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base, California

Action Plan Approved for Next Ariane 5 Launches

Ariane 5 launches with SES-14 and Al Yah 3 satellites. (Credit: Arianespace)

PARIS, 2 March 2018 (ESA PR) — After the release of the conclusions of the Ariane VA241 Independent Enquiry Commission on 22 February, the findings and recommendations were formally presented to a Steering Board on 28 February. The board included Daniel Neuenschwander, ESA Director of Space Transportation; Stéphane Israël, Arianespace CEO; and Alain Charmeau, ArianeGroup CEO.

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Investigation Pinpoints Cause of Ariane 5 Partial Failure

Ariane 5 launches with SES-14 and Al Yah 3 satellites. (Credit: Arianespace)

Bad Coordinates Placed Satellites in Incorrect Orbits

EVRY, France (Arianespace PR) — The Independent Enquiry Commission formed after the Ariane 5 launcher’s trajectory deviation during its January 25, 2018 mission issued its conclusions on Thursday, February 22. The anomaly’s cause is perfectly understood and recommendations are clearly identified.

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Ariane 5 Anomaly: Satellites Healthy But Not Where They Should Be

Ariane 5 launches with SES-14 and Al Yah 3 satellites. (Credit: Arianespace)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

An Ariane 5 booster delivered two communications satellites into the wrong orbits on Thursday, but their owners say the spacecraft are healthy and will be able to reach their intended destinations using on-board propulsion.

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Ariane 5 Suffers Anomaly, Chinese Launch 3 Satellites

UPDATE: Agence France Presse (AFP) is reporting the problem with Ariane 5 involved more than just a loss of telemetry:

But a source told AFP the satellites did not detach from the rocket in the correct place after the craft followed an “imperfect trajectory”.

Arianespace said they were currently “repositioning the satellites in the right place using their propulsion systems” adding that the current status was “reassuring after strong concerns”.

I don’t see any further updates on the mission on the websites of Arianespace, SES or Yahsat. This leads me to believe the AFP report is accurate. If it had been a simple telemetry loss, Arianespace would have said so, and there would be press releases and social media messages declaring the flight to be a complete success.

Yahsat does have a link to a page with an update about the mission. It’s in Arabic so I ran it through Google Translate. The update doesn’t appear to go beyond Arianespace’s original statement about the spacecraft separating from the second stage and being in contact with control centers.
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Controllers lost contact with the upper stage of an Ariane 5 booster carrying a pair of communications satellites on Thursday. The loss telemetry began a few seconds after ignition of the stage and continued through the rest of the powered flight, Arianespace said in a statement.

“Subsequently, both satellites were confirmed separated, acquired and they are on orbit,” the company said. “SES-14 and Al Yah 3 are communicating with their respective control centers. Both missions are continuing.”

The precise orbital parameters of the geosynchronous communications satellites are unknown.  SES-14 will use electric propulsion to reach its intended orbit while the Al Yah 3 will use a liquid bi-propellant transfer system.

Earlier on Thursday, China launched the fourth group of three Yaogan Weixing-30 satellites. A Long March 2C booster flew from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center.

Officially, the Yaogan Weixing are remote sensing spacecraft. However, analysts believe they are military reconnaissance satellites.

The flight marked China’s fifth successful launch of 2018. The nation is aiming to achieve more than 40 orbital launches this year.

Arianespace Prepares for Intense 2018, Looks to Future with Ariane 6 & Vega C

Ariane 5 launch on Dec. 12, 2017. (Credit: Arianespace)

EVRY, France 9 (Arianespace PR) — The past year saw Arianespace carry out 11 successful launches; sign 19 additional launch contracts, including three for Vega C and two for Ariane 6; and enter a new governance structure alongside ArianeGroup.

Building on these achievements, Arianespace is targeting a record number of launches in 2018, while actively focusing on the next decade with its Ariane 6 and Vega C launchers.
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Intelsat Signs Contract with Arianespace for Two Satellite Launches

EVRY, France (Arianespace PR) — Arianespace signed an agreement to launch two satellites for longtime customer Intelsat, one of the world’s largest satellite operators. This continues the longstanding relationship between Intelsat and Arianespace that dates back to 1983.

The first launch will carry the Galaxy 30 satellite together with the Orbital ATK Mission Extension Vehicle-2 (MEV- 2) as a stacked pair. Galaxy 30 will be the first replacement satellite for the North American Galaxy Fleet and in addition to its C-band payload, Galaxy 30 will include Ku- and Ka-band payloads to support broadband applications in North America. The launch of Galaxy 30 demonstrates Intelsat’s commitment to its distribution neighborhoods, which has an unmatched penetration of cable headends in the United States. Galaxy 30 is based on Orbital ATK’s GEOStar-2™ satellite platform.

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