Launchapalooza: 26 New Boosters Debuting Worldwide

Vega-C lifts off on its maiden flight on July 13, 2022. (Credit: Arianespace)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

During the first seven months of the year, five new satellite launch vehicles from Europe, China, Russia and South Korea flew successfully for the first time. As impressive as that is, it was a mere opening act to a busy period that could see at least 20 additional launchers debut around the world.

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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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Commercial Space Travelers Outnumbered Professional Astronauts in First Half of 2022

Axiom Mission 1 astronauts, left to right, Larry Connor, Mark Pathy, Michael López-Alegría, and Eytan Stibbe. The astronauts are approved by NASA and its international partners for Axiom Space’s first private astronaut mission to the International Space Station. (Credits: Chris Gunn – Axiom Space)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The first half of 2022 saw more commercial travelers — 16 — launch into space than the 10 professional astronauts who work for government-run space agencies. However, those numbers come with an asterisk or two.

Four of the 14 astronauts who launched into orbit flew on Axiom Space’s privately funded and operated crew flight to the International Space Station (ISS). Blue Origin launched 12 individuals into space on two flights of the company’s New Shepard suborbital vehicle.

The other 10 astronauts who launched to ISS and the Tiangong space station worked fulltime for NASA, European Space Agency (ESA), China Manned Space Agency, or Russia’s Roscosmos State Space Corporation. SpaceX flew American and European astronauts to ISS on the company-owned Crew Dragon spacecraft under a NASA contract. The Russians and Chinese flew aboard government-owned and operated spacecraft.

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77 Launches Conducted During First Half of 2022 as Access to Orbit Expanded

Falcon 9 launches 53 Starlink satellites while the Dragon that will carry Crew-4 to the International space Station awaits its turn. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

It was a busy first half of 2022 that saw 77 orbital launches with 74 successes and three failures through the 182nd day of the year on July 1. At a rate of one launch every 2 days 8 hours 44 minutes, the world is on track to exceed the 146 launches conducted in 2021.

A number of significant missions were launched during a period that saw more than 1,000 satellite launched. SpaceX flew the first fully commercial crewed mission to the International Space Station (ISS), Boeing conducted an orbital flight test of its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, China prepared to complete assembly of its space station, South Korea launched its first domestically manufactured rocket, and Rocket Lab sent a NASA mission to the moon.

Let’s take a closer look at the numbers.

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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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Arkadia Space Partners with ArianeGroup to Investigate Green Space Vehicle Concepts for ESA

  • Arkadia Space is part of the industrial consortium, led by ArianeGroup to investigate future space transportation solutions to be exploited in the period 2030-2050, with strong emphasis in sustainability.
  • The conclusions of the study will pave the way for the new green technology roadmaps in the field of propulsion and space transportation in Europe.
  • Arkadia Space has a relevant participation in the overall contract with a leading role in the assessment of green in space transportation concepts and their associated propellants.

BENLLOCH, Spain May 12, 2022 (Arkadia Space PR) — Arkadia Space and ArianeGroup have partnered together to study and define new concepts for “Ultra Green Launch & Space Transportation Systems” for the European Space Agency – ESA.

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Arianespace Signs Unprecedented Contract with Amazon for 18 Ariane 6 Launches to Deploy Project Kuiper Constellation

Artist’s view of the configuration of Ariane 6 using four boosters (A64) (Credit: ESA – D. Ducros)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Arianespace PR) — Arianespace and Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) announced an unprecedented launch service contract during the International Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, USA, on April 5. Under the terms of the contract, Arianespace will perform 18 Ariane 6 launches for Amazon’s Project Kuiper over a period of three years from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. Among the 18 launches planned for the deployment of the Project Kuiper, 16 will be carried out with an advanced version of the Ariane 64.

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ESA-developed P120C Solid Rocket Motor Enters Production

The P120C full-scale model solid rocket motor for Ariane 6 and Vega-C, filled with 142 tonnes of inert propellant, is prepared for further integration with other structures. (Credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA’s Ariane 6 and Vega-C will soon join the family of launch vehicles operating from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana to guarantee more opportunities for Europe to reach space. The P120C motor, which will power both Ariane 6 and Vega-C, will soon come into operations with the Vega-C inaugural flight.

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Ariane 6, Vega-C, Microlaunchers: ESA Looks to Full Range of Launch Options for European Institutional Missions

Artist’s view of Ariane 6 and Vega-C. (Credit: ESA – D. Ducros)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher today underscored the Agency’s determination to ensure that ESA’s work in space is not derailed by the tragic events in Ukraine. Mr Aschbacher stresses that work continues to assess the impact on each ongoing programme, including on missions affected by Roscosmos’ withdrawal of Soyuz launch operations from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana.

In addition, ESA is preparing proposals that, if endorsed by its Member States, will further support European microlauncher services to complement the Ariane and Vega programmes, which form the backbone of Europe’s space transportation capability.

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ESA Suspends Cooperation with Russia on ExoMars Mission, Launch Delayed at Least 2 Years

An artist’s impression of the ExoMars Rosalind Franklin rover on the surface of Mars. (Credit: ESA/ATG medialab)

PARIS (ESA PR) — As an intergovernmental organisation mandated to develop and implement space programmes in full respect with European values, we deeply deplore the human casualties and tragic consequences of the aggression towards Ukraine. While recognising the impact on scientific exploration of space, ESA is fully aligned with the sanctions imposed on Russia by its Member States.

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European Lunar Scientists and Engineers Design Moon Cave Explorer

ESA gathered a spectrum of experts in many different areas of science and engineering to design a mission to enter a pit on the Moon’s surface and explore the entrance to a lunar cave. The key parts of the mission would be a crane attached to a rover, and a probe that is lowered by the crane into the pit. (Credit: ESA/Vigea)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Lunar caves are not only a geologically pristine record of the Moon’s history, but they could also provide a safe home for future human explorers. Building upon ESA Discovery’s OSIP call and SysNova challenge, ESA gathered a spectrum of over 60 experts in many different areas of science and engineering to design a mission to enter a pit on the Moon’s surface and explore the entrance to a lunar cave.

The Moon is dotted with pits that scientists think could lead to huge underground tunnels. But a space mission has never been sent to explore what could lie within.

“A view into the interior of a lunar cave would be true exploration – it would reveal unexpected scientific information,” says Francesco Sauro, cave scientist and planetary lava tube expert, as well as technical course director of ESA CAVES and PANGAEA.

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Suspension of Soyuz Launches Operated by Arianespace & Starsem

Soyuz rocket launches 36 OneWeb satellites from Baikonur Cosmodrome on Dec. 27, 2021. (Credit: Arianespace)

Arianespace Press Release

Arianespace is strictly abiding by the sanctions decided by the international community (European Union, United States of America and United Kingdom) following the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.

As part of the mandate given by the ESA Member States to Arianespace, the operation of the Soyuz launcher from Europe’s Spaceport (CSG, French Guiana) and from Baikonur (Kazakhstan) through Starsem are governed by France/Russia inter-governmental agreement and ESA – Roscosmos space agencies agreement. This operation began after the end of the Soviet Union and has been very successful up to now. However, it is now challenged by Roscosmos’ unilateral decision to withdraw from CSG and suspend all Soyuz launches from Europe’s Spaceport. Readied Soyuz launchers and Galileo satellites are in stable configuration and in security.

Regarding ST38 for OneWeb from Baikonur, it has been postponed indefinitely following the conditions posed by Roscosmos to proceed. Arianespace will work with its partners to ensure the well-being of the goods and means currently in Baikonur.

Arianespace is in close contact with its customers and French and European authorities to best assess all the consequences of this situation and develop alternative solutions.

In the meantime, preparation of upcoming Ariane 5 and Vega C campaigns of 2022 are progressing according to plan and schedule.

Taking over from Ariane 5 and Vega, Ariane 6 and Vega C will provide Europe with a sustainable and autonomous access to space. Arianespace is confident in the success of these two launchers, to which it has been strongly committed since ESA’s 2014 Ministerial Conference in Luxembourg, on European institutional and global commercial markets.

OneWeb Suspends Satellite Launches From Baikonur

Soyuz rocket launches 36 OneWeb satellites from Baikonur Cosmodrome on Dec. 27, 2021. (Credit: Arianespace)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The Friday launch of 36 OneWeb broadband satellites aboard a Soyuz rocket from Baikonur Cosmodrome is officially canceled as the London-based company refused demands from the Russian government amid growing international tensions over the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“The Board of OneWeb has voted to suspend all launches from Baikonur,” the company said in a one-sentence statement.

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ESA Condemns Russia’s Ukraine Invasion, Says Joint ExoMars Launch “Very Unlikely” This Year

PARIS (ESA PR) — We deplore the human casualties and tragic consequences of the war in Ukraine. We are giving absolute priority to taking proper decisions, not only for the sake of our workforce involved in the programmes, but in full respect of our European values, which have always fundamentally shaped our approach to international cooperation.

ESA is an intergovernmental organisation governed by its 22 Member States and we have built up a strong network of international cooperation over the past decades, which serves the European and global space community through its very successful programmes.

We are fully implementing sanctions imposed on Russia by our Member States. We are assessing the consequences on each of our ongoing programmes conducted in cooperation with the Russian state space agency Roscosmos and align our decisions to the decisions of our Member States in close coordination with industrial and international partners (in particular with NASA on the International Space Station).

Regarding the Soyuz launch campaign from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, we take note of the Roscosmos decision to withdraw its workforce from Kourou. We will consequently assess for each European institutional payload under our responsibility the appropriate launch service based notably on launch systems currently in operation and the upcoming Vega-C and Ariane 6 launchers.

Regarding the ExoMars programme continuation, the sanctions and the wider context make a launch in 2022 very unlikely. ESA’s Director General will analyse all the options and prepare a formal decision on the way forward by ESA Member States.

ESA continues to monitor the situation in close contact with its Members States.