Rocket Lab Wins Contract to Send CubeSat to the Moon

Electron rocket lifts off on Jan. 31, 2020. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected Rocket Lab of Huntington Beach, California, to provide launch services for the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) CubeSat.

Rocket Lab, a commercial launch provider licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration, will launch the 55-pound CubeSat aboard an Electron rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. After launch, the company’s Photon platform will deliver CAPSTONE to a trans-lunar injection.

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Qarman CubeSat: Falling Into a Fireball

ESA’s next CubeSat mission seen enduring the scorching heat of simulated atmospheric reentry inside the world’s largest plasma wind tunnel. (Credit: ESA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA’s latest mission will enter the vacuum of space, not aboard a rocket but by being released from the International Space Station. The first task of the shoebox-sized Qarman CubeSat is simply to fall. While typical space missions resist orbital decay, Qarman will drift down month by month until it reenters the atmosphere, at which point it will gather a wealth of data on the fiery physics of reentry.

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SMC, Mission Partners Successfully Deploy Aerospace Rogue CubeSats from ISS

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (USAF PR) — The U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center and its mission partners successfully deployed Aerospace’s Rogue Alpha and Rogue Beta CubeSats from the Northrop Grumman Cygnus capsule at 1 p.m. and 4:10 p.m. respectively, Jan. 31, 2020.

This marks the beginning of the program’s mission experiment plan, where the two satellites will use their short-wave infrared sensors to create a baseline for processing cloud backgrounds and inform future low Earth orbit satellites. The Air Force will also utilize this program’s unclassified data to investigate potential uses of the capability.

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SMC, NASA Deploy DoD’s STPSat-4 From ISS

Space Test Program Satellite-4 (STPSat-4) reaches its final orbit after deploying from the International Space Station, Jan. 28, 2020. (Credit: NASA)

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (USAF SMC PR) — The United States Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) and its mission partner, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), successfully deployed the Department of Defense (DoD) Space Test Program Satellite-4 (STPSat‑4) from the International Space Station at 11:20 p.m., Jan. 28, 2020.   

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Nanoracks Deploys 250th Satellite, Eighth Cygnus Mission

DULLES, Va., February 3, 2020 (NanoRacks PR) – Friday evening, Nanoracks successfully completed the Company’s eighth CubeSat deployment mission from Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft. Cygnus (S.S. Alan Bean) departed the International Space Station on January 31, 2020 and performed a number of on-orbit activities, including yet another historic Nanoracks deployment.

Nanoracks’ External Cygnus Deployment mission released seven CubeSats into a circular orbit of 465 km beginning at approximately 4:00 pm ET/9:00 PM GMT. The CubeSats deployed were: Aerocube 14 A/B & Aerocube 15 A/B (Aerospace Corporation), SwampSat II (University of Florida), Orbital Factory-2 (University of Texas, El Paso), and HuskySat-1 (University of Washington).

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Cygnus to Carry Multiple R&D Payloads Sponsored by the ISS National Lab

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER (FL), January 30, 2020 (ISS National Lab) – Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft will be packed with a wide variety of research investigations for its 13th commercial resupply services mission (contracted by NASA) to the International Space Station (ISS). The launch—which is slated for no earlier than Sunday, February 9 at 5:39 p.m. EST from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia—will carry a diverse set of research and technology development projects sponsored by the U.S. National Laboratory. This launch represents the first commercial resupply services mission to the ISS in 2020.

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The Pony Express Rides Again…into Earth Orbit

The Pony Express 1 mission is a hosted payload on Tyvak-0129, a next-generation Tyvak 6U spacecraft. (Credit: Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems, Inc.)

DENVER, Jan. 16, 2020 (Lockheed Martin PR) — A new era of space-based computing is now being tested in-orbit that will enable artificial intelligence, data analytics, cloud networking and advanced satellite communications in a robust new software-defined architecture.

Recently, Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) launched the Pony Express 1 mission as a hosted payload on Tyvak-0129, a next-generation Tyvak 6U spacecraft.

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CubeSat Finds its Way in Space with Galileo Receiver

This Astrocast CubeSat launched in December 2018 included a test satnav receiver. (Credit: Astrocast)

ZURICH (ESA PR) — A miniature CubeSat has become the first satellite to perform Galileo-based position fixes in orbit using a commercial satnav receiver.

CubeSats are nanosatellites based on standardised 10 cm-sized units. Originally devised for educational uses, they are nowadays being put to commercial and technology testing uses. The Swiss Astrocast company is assembling a constellation based on 3-unit CubeSats to serve the emerging ‘Internet of Things’.

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Report: Virgin Orbit Flight Test Set for This Month

LauncherOne attached to Cosmic Girl. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

Forbes reports that Virgin Orbit plans to conduct a flight test of LauncherOne later this month:

A spokesperson from the company confirmed that Virgin Orbit will perform its first orbital test flight in January. And if all goes well, the company aims to turn around and launch its first customer payload shortly thereafter, likely in February. The customer for that launch is NASA, and Virgin Orbit plans to deliver 10 small satellites from the space agency’s ELaNa project, which works with universities and high schools to put student-designed research missions into space.

We’ll see if they make this schedule. They have been overly optimistic before.

Original Firefly Shareholders Sue Firefly’s Markusic, Polyakov Alleging Fraud

Tom Markusic

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

A group of original shareholders in the defunct Firefly Space Systems have accused co-founder and CEO Tom Markusic of fraudulently conspiring with Ukrainian billionaire Maxym Polyakov to force the rocket company into bankruptcy in 2017 and reconstitute it under a nearly identical name without giving them any stake in the new venture.

Markusic “betrayed the trust of his original co-founders and investors and committed fraud to cut them out of his aerospace company. Instead of managing the operations of the Original Firefly, a revolutionary rocket company with endless potential, Markusic schemed with…Maxym Polyakov…to rob Plaintiffs of their investments and form a new company called Firefly Aerospace, Inc. (the ‘New Firefly’),” the plaintiffs said in a lawsuit.

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Sandbox Satellite to Test Operations Innovations in Space

As a flying laboratory, ESA’s OPS-SAT will test and validate new techniques in mission control and on-board systems. (Credit: ESA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — This coming Tuesday, ESA is launching the most powerful flight computer ever flown in space – inside a satellite smaller than a shoebox. The OPS-SAT nanosatellite will be the world’s first orbiting software laboratory, available to test novel methods of operating missions in actual space conditions.

OPS-SAT is ESA’s latest technology CubeSat – a small satellite based on standardised 10 cm boxes, much cheaper and quicker to build than traditional missions.

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NASA Selects TriSept to Support New Round of CubeSat Missions

CHANTILLY, Va., December 2, 2019 (TriSept PR) – TriSept Corporation, a leading provider of launch integration, management and brokerage services for commercial and government missions, today announced that it has been selected as a preferred provider to support NASA’s third round of CubeSat missions with dispenser hardware and integration services.

As part of a five year, $18 million NASA indefinite delivery indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract, TriSept will be considered for CubeSat mission integration services and dispenser hardware procurement in support of upcoming CubeSat launches through 2025.

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Germany Invests 3.3 Billion Euros in European Space Exploration, Becomes ESA’s Largest Contributor

  • Three years after the last ESA Council Meeting at Ministerial Level, held in Lucerne, Switzerland, government representatives from the 22 Member States met in Seville, Spain, on 27 and 28 November 2019 and committed a total of almost 14.4 billion euro [$15.87 billion] for space programmes over the next few years.
  • Germany is contributing 3.3 billion euro [$3.6 billion] to ESA programmes focusing on Earth observation, telecommunications, technological advancement and commercialisation / NewSpace.
  • At 22.9 percent, Germany is now ESA’s largest contributor, followed by France (18.5 percent, 2.66 billion euro), Italy (15.9 percent, 2.28 billion euro) and the United Kingdom (11.5 percent, 1.65 billion euro).
  • The ESA Council Meeting at Ministerial Level is the highest political decision-making body, and it defines the content and financial framework for ESA’s space programmes every two to three years.
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Ministers Approve ESA’s Hera Asteroid Mission

SEVILLE, Spain (ESA PR) — Europe’s space ministers gathered at Space19+ in Seville, Spain in November 2019 have approved ESA’s Hera asteroid mission for construction and launch, as part of the Agency’s broader planetary defence initiatives that aim to protect European and world citizens.

Hera will be humanity’s first-ever spacecraft to visit a double asteroid, the Didymos binary system. First, NASA will crash its DART spacecraft into the smaller asteroid – known as Didymoon – before ESA’s Hera comes in to map the resulting impact crater and measure the asteroid’s mass.

Hera will carry two CubeSats on board, which will be able to fly much closer to the asteroid’s surface, carrying out crucial scientific studies, before touching down. Hera’s up-close observations will turn asteroid deflection into a well-understood planetary defence technique.

In Orbit and On Budget: Launching Small Payloads Faster and Cheaper

The Affordable Vehicle Avionics payload fits into the avionics bay of UP Aerospace’s SpaceLoft vehicle. It provides the intelligence to command the guidance and control system for the rocket. (Credits: U.S. Army)

SPACEPORT AMERICA, NM (NASA PR) — What does a satellite the size of a shoebox, a human skin tissue sample and a 5G network testing device have in common? They are all examples of payloads NASA and other organizations would like to launch into orbit at low cost—to gather data for scientific research; test new technologies; and transmit and receive data for weather, broadcast, military and emergency communications. But doing so on any sort of accelerated schedule can be a challenge.

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