SpaceX Rockets U.S. Launches to New Heights in 2022

Falcon 9 launches 53 Starlink satellites on June 17, 2022. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Powered by 33 flights of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 booster, the United States leads all nations with 48 launch attempts through the first seven months of the year. The total is three short of the number of U.S. launches attempted last year, and far ahead of the 27 launches conducted by second place China through the end of July. The U.S. has conducted more launches than the 43 flights conducted by the rest of the world combined.

A number of notable flights were conducted. SpaceX launched two Crew Dragons to the International Space Station (ISS), including the first fully privately funded mission to the orbiting laboratory. United Launch Alliance (ULA) launched Boeing’s CST-100 Starship crew vehicle on an automated flight test to ISS, a crucial step before astronauts to fly on the spacecraft. Small satellite launch provider Rocket Lab conducted its first deep-space mission by sending a spacecraft the size of a microwave to the moon.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil Reaches Space Station

ROME (ASI PR) — The samples of Italian extra virgin olive oil have reached the International Space Station, thanks to a project included in the framework of the agreement between the Italian Space Agency and CREA, in collaboration with Coldiretti and Unaprol-Consorzio Olivicolo Italiano.

As part of its role as National Agency, ASI promoted the project and, in the context of its institutional relations with other Space Agencies and as a country participating in the ISS program, made available the opportunity to fly and coordination with ESA necessary for the implementation of the experiment.

The collaboration with Coldiretti and Unaprol-Consorzio Olivicolo Italiano aims to underline the importance of the Italian agri-food heritage and to enhance and sensitize an asset for the country’s exports, as well as to promote the principles of proper nutrition.

(more…)

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).

(more…)

How to Watch the First Vega-C Launch on July 13

Vega C launch vehicle (Credit: ESA)

ESA Mission Update

ESA’s new medium-lift Vega-C rocket is nearly ready for its inaugural flight. You can follow live on ESA Web TV. Flight VV21 will lift off as soon as 13 July at 13:13 CEST, pending suitable conditions for launch.

    Broadcast begins 12:45 CEST/11:45 BST [6:45 a.m. EDT/10:45 UTC] on ESA Web TV

    13:13 CEST/12:13 BST [7:13 a.m. EDT/11:13 UTC] – liftoff

(more…)

Vega-C Set for Inaugural Launch Next Week

Vega rocket in flight (Credit: Arianespace)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA’s new medium-lift Vega-C rocket is nearly ready for its inaugural flight, with its four stages stacked stages and ready to receive the payload fairing before final checks and launch from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. 

Flight VV21 will lift off as soon as 13 July, pending suitable conditions for launch.

(more…)

Artemis Mission Agreement Signed by ASI and NASA on Lunar Surface Module

Italian Space Agency President_Giorgio Saccoccia and NASA Administrator Bill Nelson at signing ceremony. (Credit: Italian Space Agency)

ROME (Italian Space Agency PR) — The Italian Space Agency and NASA have signed an agreement for bilateral cooperation. The objective is the realization of a preliminary study dedicated to the development planning of the housing capacities related to the future lunar modules, the Lunar Surface Multi-Purpose Habitation (MPH) Module (s) proposed by ASI, of the Artemis program.

(more…)

Plan Proposed to Invest NIS 600 Million to Boost Space Industry in Israel

The new program also includes the establishment of a satellite for research purposes, increasing the number of researchers and high school graduates working in the field.

TEL AVIV (Israel Space Agency PR) — Israel’s strategic plan for space development is unveiled for the first time: an investment of NIS 600 million [USD $179.96 million] over a five-year period, with the aim of doubling the number of local space companies and quadrupling the volume of annual sales in the field. The goals of the program are also, among other things, to increase the number of high school graduates who have dealt in a tangible way in the field as well as the number of space researchers in academia. 

The strategic plan for the advancement of the field of civil space in Israel was presented by the Israel Space Agency to the ministry of Innovation, Science and Technology Orit Farkash-Hacohen. This follows her request to map in detail the space of opportunity as well as the vision, goals and actions required to take advantage of these opportunities. In the background of the program is the dramatic change that has taken place in the field of space in the world in recent years, with the opening of space to entrepreneurs and private investors and its transformation into a growing and developing market. 

(more…)

NASA Moon Mission Set to Break Record in Navigation Signal Test

Artistic rendering of LuGRE and the GNSS constellations. In reality, the Earth-based GNSS constellations take up less than 10 degrees in the sky, as seen from the Moon. (Credit: NASA/Dave Ryan)

By Danny Baird
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. — As the Artemis missions journey to the Moon and NASA plans for the long voyage to Mars, new navigation capabilities will be key to science, discovery, and human exploration.

Through NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative, Firefly Aerospace of Cedar Park, Texas, will deliver an experimental payload to the Moon’s Mare Crisium basin. NASA’s Lunar GNSS Receiver Experiment (LuGRE) payload will test a powerful new lunar navigation capability using Earth’s Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) signals at the Moon for the first time.  GNSS refers to satellite constellations commonly used for position, navigation, and timing services on Earth. GPS — the GNSS constellation operated by the U.S. Space Force — is the one many Americans are familiar with and use on a daily basis.

(more…)

Vega-C: Launcher Integration Begins for Inaugural Flight VV21

The Vega-C Interstage 1/2 has now been transferred to and integrated at the Vega Launch Zone (Zone de Lancement Vega) ZLV at Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana on 22 April 2022. (Credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace/Optique video du CSG/P Baudon)

KOUROU, French Guiana (ESA PR) — Launcher integration for the inaugural flight of Vega-C began with the P120C solid-fuel first stage being delivered to the Vega Launch Zone (Zone de Lancement Vega, or ZLV) at Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana on 15 April 2022. P120C will also fly on Ariane 6, with two or four units serving as boosters depending on mission requirements.

The interstage segment to join the P120C first stage with the Z40 second stage followed on the 22nd.

(more…)

Pre-shipment Review Held on LARES2 Platform for First Vega C Launch

LARES2 satellite undergoing pre-shipment inspection. (Credit: ASI)

The satellite, installed on the LARES System platform, is preparing to leave Italy to reach the European base in French Guiana where, on board the inaugural flight of the ESA Vega C launcher, it will be put into orbit.

MILAN, Italy (Italian Space Agency PR) — On 23 and 24 March 2022, the Pre-Shipment Review was held at the OHB Italia headquarters in Milan , during which the Italian Space Agency checked the status of the LARES2 System and authorized its shipment to the site launch, the European spaceport of Kourou in French Guiana.

(more…)

Rocket Lab Selected by MDA to Design and Build Spacecraft for Globalstar

Photon system (Credit: Rocket Lab)

The $143 million contract is the largest spacecraft bus order placed with Rocket Lab to date, encompassing the design and manufacture of 17 state-of-the-art spacecraft for Globalstar’s newest satellites

LONG BEACH, Calif., February 24, 2022 (Rocket Lab PR) — Rocket Lab USA, Inc. (Nasdaq: RKLB) (“Rocket Lab” or “the Company”), a global leader in launch services and space systems, today announced that it has been awarded a subcontract by MDA Ltd (TSX: MDA), a leading provider of advanced technology and services to the rapidly expanding global space industry, to lead the design and manufacture of 17 spacecraft buses for Globalstar’s new Low Earth Orbit satellites. Globalstar, Inc. (NYSE American: GSAT) is a leading provider of Mobile Satellite Services including customizable satellite IoT solutions for individuals and businesses globally.

(more…)

Second-generation PRISMA Earth Observation System Gets Underway

© Asi

The consortium led by Thales Alenia Space signs the feasibility study contract with Italian Space Agency

ROME, February 21, 2022 (Thales Alenia Space PR) — Thales Alenia Space, the joint venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%), has signed a contract with the Italian space agency (ASI) to conduct a feasibility study for the PRISMA Second Generation (PSG) hyperspectral Earth observation system. It will be leading a consortium that includes Leonardo, Telespazio (the joint-venture between Leonardo (67%) and Thales (33%), e-GEOS and SITAEL.

(more…)

Orbital Sidekick Characterizes Aurora, Secures Key Partnership to Enhance USG Support

The In-Q-Tel partnership supports technical capability enhancements

SAN FRANCISCO, February 17, 2022 (Orbital Sidekick PR) – Orbital Sidekick (OSK), the leader in commercial space-based hyperspectral monitoring, shares the validation of first light imagery from the company’s recent pathfinder mission and announces a strategic investment with In-Q-Tel (IQT). 

To assess the data quality of its Aurora hyperspectral satellite sensor, which launched on June 30, 2021, OSK performed a comparative study between Aurora and two well-known sensors: Hyperion and PRISMA. The Aurora sensor was designed in the likeness of the Hyperion sensor, a hyperspectral instrument launched as part of Earth Observing-1 in 2000 (decommissioned in 2017). PRISMA, a mission from the Italian Space Agency (launched in 2019) consists of two hyperspectral detectors, which together cover the wavelength ranges of Aurora and Hyperion. 

(more…)

Glaciers are Melting Faster With Far Greater Consequences Than Expected

Pope Glacier in Antarctica taken by Operation Ice Bridge in 2016. (Credit: NASA)

https://www.dlr.de/content/de/artikel/news/2022/01/20220128_gletscher-schmelzen-schneller-als-erwartet.html

  • West Antarctica: Smith, Pope and Kohler glaciers are melting faster than expected.
  • Critical area: Free-floating undersides of glaciers melt the most.
  • Ice masses in West Antarctica could raise sea levels by up to 1.3 meters.
  • Focus: space travel, earth observation, global change, TanDEM-X

COLOGNE, Germany (DLR PR) — The South Pole has new problem children. A group of smaller glaciers are melting faster than expected: Pope, Smith and Kohler. So far, the neighboring ice giants Thwaites and Pine Island have been the focus of research because they are very fragile and could cause global sea levels to rise by up to 1.2 meters. The German Aerospace Center (DLR) has uncovered and analyzed the changes in West Antarctica together with international research partners. Using special radar data from the TanDEM-X and COSMO-SkyMed satellite missions, they tracked down the causes of the rapid melting of the smaller glaciers.

(more…)