ESA’s First Satellite of 2018 is Size of Cereal Box

ESA’s biggest small satellite yet: the GomX-4B six-unit CubeSat will demonstrate miniaturised technologies, preparing the way for future operational nanosatellite constellations. (Credit: GomSpace)

PARIS, 2 February 2018 (ESA PR) — ESA’s first mission of the year was launched today: GomX-4B is the Agency’s most advanced technology-tester yet, featuring a hyperspectral camera and tiny thrusters to manoeuvre thousands of kilometres from its near-twin to try out their radio link.

These CubeSats are built around standard 10×10 cm units by GomSpace in Denmark. As ‘six-unit’ CubeSats they are as big as cereal boxes – but double the size of their predecessor GomX-3, released from the International Space Station in 2015.

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Japan Successfully Launches CubeSat With New SS-520 Booster

SS-520 booster (Credit: JAXA)

Japan successfully launched the SS-520 small satellite booster for the first time on Saturday.

JAXA reports the TRICOM-1R satellite successfully separated from the rocket 7 minutes 30 seconds after liftoff from the Uchinoura Space Center. The space agency says the 3U CubeSat, which carries an imaging camera and a store-and-forward communications system, is functioning normally.

It was the second launch attempt for the SS-520, which failed during its maiden flight in January 2017. The upgraded sounding rocket is equipped with a third stage that enables it to place a 3U CubeSat weighing 4 kg (8.8 lb.) into orbit.

Akash Systems Raises $3.1 Million to Develop Next Generation Smallsats

SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 30, 2018 Akash Systems, Inc., focused on resolving the explosive growth of data consumption by enabling smarter and lighter satellite systems, announced today it has raised $3.1 million and closed its seed round funding. Led by Khosla Ventures, the seed round also included Social Capital, Data Collective, Ruvento Ventures, Sriram Krishnan, and Backstage Capital. The funding will allow Akash to further its mission of reimagining tomorrow’s communication systems by developing the next generation of small satellites and the components that power them.

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SpaceWorks Announces Release of 2018 Nano/Microsatellite Market Forecast

CubeSats STMSat-1, CADRE and MinXSS are deployed from the International Space Station during Expedition 47. (Credit: NASA)

ATLANTA, January 30, 2018 (SEI PR) – SpaceWorks Enterprises, Inc. (SEI) announced today the release of its annual nanosatellite and microsatellite market forecast and the unveiling of its updated SpaceWorks Commercial website.

Projections indicate as many as 2,600 nano/microsatellites will require launch over the next 5 years. The 2018 market forecast is available in presentation form as a free download on the SpaceWorks Commercial website, www.spaceworkscommercial.com.

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CubeSats for Hunting Secrets in Lunar Darkness

Lunar Meteoroid Impacts Observer (Credit: ESA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Imagine sending a spacecraft the size of an airline cabin bag to the Moon – what would you have it do? ESA issued that challenge to European teams last year, and two winners have now been chosen.

The Lunar Meteoroid Impact Orbiter, or Lumio for short, would circle over the far side of the Moon to detect bright impact flashes during the lunar night, mapping meteoroid bombardments as they occur.

The other, the Lunar Volatile and Mineralogy Mapping Orbiter, or VMMO, would focus on a permanently shadowed crater near the lunar south pole, searching out deposits of water ice and other volatiles of interest to future colonists, while also measuring lunar radiation.

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Rocket Lab Successfully Tested Kick Stage During Electron Flight

Electron kick stage deploying satellite. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

Huntington Beach, California and Auckland, New Zealand (Rocket Lab PR): Rocket Lab, a US aerospace company with operations in New Zealand, has successfully tested a previously unannounced kick stage on the Still Testing Electron launch vehicle, using it to circularize the orbits of the two Spire Lemur-2 CubeSats on board.

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A Look Back at the Space Year That Was

Total solar eclipse photographed from NASA Armstrong’s Gulfstream III. (Credit: (NASA/Carla Thomas)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

I realize it’s a bit late, but here’s a look back at the major developments in space in 2017.

I know that I’m probably forgetting something, or several somethings or someones. Fortunately, I have eagle-eyed readers who really seem to enjoy telling me just how much I’ve screwed up. Some of them a little too much….

So, have at it!  Do your worst, eagle-eyed readers!

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Secondary Payloads Increasingly Take Center Stage

CubeSats (Credit: ESA/Medialab)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

On most launches, the small secondary satellites that ride along with the primary payloads garner little attention.

That has begun to change in recent years as CubeSats have become increasingly capable. The importance of these small satellites could be seen in the recent launch of an Indian PSLV rocket, which carried a CartoSat Earth observation satellite and 30 secondary spacecraft from India, Canada, Finland, France, Republic of Korea, UK and the United States.

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Second Rocket Lab Electron Flight Succeeds

Electron soars into orbit. (Credit: Rocket Lab webcast screenshot)

Rocket Lab has successfully launched its Electron rocket from New Zealand, marking the first success of the small satellite booster.

The two-stage Electron roared off its launch pad on the Mahia Peninsula and appeared to have nominal flight. Commentary on the company’s webcast indicate the rocket successfully deployed three CubeSats from Planet and Spire.

Planet confirmed deployment of its satellite via Twitter. Spire also confirmed the successful deployment of two Lemur spacecraft.

The Electron booster’s second stage just prior to cutoff. (Credit: sRocket Lab webcast screenshot)

It marked only the second launch of the booster, which failed during its inaugural flight in May 2017. The ground lost telemetry from the rocket, which was blown up by range safety.

Electron is powered by Rutherford engines and is capable of placing payloads up to 225 kg (496 lb) into a 500-km (310-mile) sun synchronous orbit.

China Launches Satellites, ULA & Rocket Lab Flights Set

Atlas V on launch pad. (Credit: ULA)

China launched a Long March 11 rocket with six satellites aboard on Friday from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. The booster orbited a pair of Jilin-1 Earth imaging satellites for the Chang Guang Satellite company as well as four secondary payloads.

ULA is set to launch an Atlas V rocket with an U.S. Air Force Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) GEO early warning satellite later today. The flight is scheduled to lift off at 7:48 p.m. from Cape Canaveral in Florida.  ULA scrubbed the launch on Thursday do to a problem with ground equipment.

The webcast is available at www.ulalaunch.com and www.youtube.com/unitedlaunchalliance

The delay has postponed an attempt by SpaceX to conduct a static fire of the Falcon Heavy’s first-stage engines on a nearby launch pad. The test had been planned for Friday, but the next earliest opportunity is Saturday providing the Atlas V launches tonight.

On Saturday, Rocket Lab will open a launch window for the second flight of its Electron rocket. The first four-hour window opens on January 20 at 2:30 p.m. NZDT (0130 a.m. GMT/8:30 p.m. EST on Friday).

Rocket Lab has reserved nine days with identical four-hour windows for this launch attempt. The booster is carrying CubeSats for Planet and Spire.

Check Rocket Lab’s website for information about the webcast.

Planetary Resources Launches Arkyd-6 CubeSat

Arkyd-6 spacecraft (Credit: Planetary Resources)

REDMOND, Wash., January 12, 2018 (Planetary Resources)Planetary Resources today announced the successful launch of the Arkyd-6, a 6U CubeSat, containing a demonstration of technology designed to detect water resources in space. The team has already begun to receive telemetry from the spacecraft. The data obtained from the Arkyd-6 will be valuable in the development of the Arkyd-301, Planetary Resources’ next spacecraft platform and the beginning of the company’s space resource exploration program.

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Canadian Space Agency Looks Ahead to Busy 2018

Credit: CSA

LONGUEUIL, Quebec (CSA PR) — After all of 2017’s amazing moments and space discoveries, we have another exciting year ahead of us! From mapping an asteroid to sending a Canadian to space, here are five key projects that will make 2018 a year to remember for the Canadian Space Agency.

January–December 2018 – Canadian health science experiments will be conducted aboard the International Space Station

Credit: CSA

As space agencies from around the world are preparing to send people farther into the solar system, keeping astronauts safe and healthy during long missions will be critical. Canadian science conducted aboard the International Space Station (ISS) will help us better understand and offset the harmful effects of space on the human body (e.g. radiation exposure, which is a risk factor for cataracts and cancer; bone loss; muscle shrinkage; arterial stiffness; and weaker immune system).

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2017: A Year of Progress and Poised for the Future

ISARA’s three antenna panels feature a printed circuit board pattern that narrowly focuses the CubeSat’s radio transmission beam in much the same way a parabolic dish reflector does. (Credit: Nanoracks)

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — Throughout 2017, NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) made noteworthy progress in maturing and demonstrating technologies to bolster America’s space agenda, while setting the stage for vital advancements within the next several years.

From expanding the utilization of space in low-Earth orbit and enabling new scientific discoveries, to advancing capabitilties for robotic and human exploration of deep space destinations – STMD is executing a broad cross-cutting agenda, one that is pioneering groundbreaking technologies and knowhow.

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Some Rocket Launches to Watch in 2018

The world’s most powerful booster is set to make a flight test sometime in January. If all goes well, 27 first stage engines will power the new booster off Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The three first stage cores will peel off and land for later reuse while the second stage continues into space.

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SpaceX Ruled Roost in 2017, Boosting U.S. to No. 1 in Global Launches

Falcon 9 carries the Dragon cargo ship into orbit. (Credit: NASA TV)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

SpaceX had a banner year in 2017, launching a record 18 times and helping to propel the United States to the top of the global launch table with a perfect 29-0 record. The U.S. total made up 32.2 percent of 90 orbital launches worldwide, which was an increase over the 85 flights conducted in 2016.

The 29 American launches were a leap of seven over the 22 flights conducted the previous year. This is the highest number of American orbital launches since the 31 flights undertaken in 1999. However, that year the nation’s launch providers suffered four failures whereas they were perfect in 2017.

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