Quarterly Launch Report: US in the Lead Thanks to SpaceX

A Falcon 9 lifts off with 60 Starlink satellites on March 11, 2021. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

There were 27 orbital launch attempts with 26 successes and one failure during the first quarter of 2021. The United States accounted for nearly half the total with 13 launches behind nine flights by SpaceX.

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UK Space Sector Receives £1 Million Government Boost to Support International Innovation

SWINDON, UK (UK Space Agency PR) — Five new projects have been awarded a share of over £1 million [$1.38 million] of government funding to work with international partners on innovative space technology.

Projects to remotely probe ice on Mars to help explorers find life below the surface, a system to warn of impacts of flood risks to infrastructure based on research in India and a scheme to design UK imaging technology for a space telescope are among the new international initiatives to receive backing from the UK Space Agency’s National Space Innovation Programme (NSIP).

The funding will see UK companies and organisations working with partners such as NASA, and space agencies from Canada, Japan and Italy. NSIP is the first fund dedicated to supporting the UK space sector’s innovation through collaborations with international partners designed to contribute to UK science, security and prosperity.

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Rocket Lab Set for 19th Electron Launch

Electron launches with OHB satellite. (Credit: Rocket Lab webcast)

Rocket Lab Launch Update

Mission Name: They Go Up So Fast
Launch Vehicle: Electron
Launch Window: No Earlier than 23 March NZT/22 March UTC
Launch Time: No earlier than 11:20 am NZT/22:20 UTC/6:20 p.m. EDT
Launch Site: Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand

Rocket Lab’s 19th Electron mission will deploy a range of satellites for commercial and government satellite operators, as well as place a next-generation Rocket Lab Photon spacecraft in orbit to build spacecraft heritage ahead of Rocket Lab’s mission to the Moon for NASA later this year. 

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NASA Joins White House National Climate Task Force

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — As a leading agency observing and understanding environmental changes to Earth, NASA has joined the National Climate Task Force. President Joe Biden issued an executive order Jan. 27, which initially outlined details of the task force.

The administration’s climate agenda outlines putting climate at the center of the country’s foreign policy and national security and encourages a governmentwide approach to climate change.

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Capella Space Releases First Light High-Resolution Images From its Latest SAR Satellites

This Spot image of the Rybachiy Nuclear Submarine Base focuses on Russia’s largest submarine base, where several docked subs can be seen in the frozen Avacha Bay. A trained analyst can easily determine that the center submarine is 105m long and contains 3 fins, identifying it as the Akula-Class II submarine, K-295 or “Samara.”

The imagery, which is the highest resolution in the market, provides key insights to commercial and government agencies as well as new U.S. Defense and Intelligence partners

SAN FRANCISCO, March 18, 2021 /PRNewswire/ —Capella Space, an information services company that provides high quality Earth observation data on demand, today released the first high-resolution SAR images from Capella-3 and Capella-4, the latest satellites in the company’s constellation that launched with SpaceX earlier this year. At 50 cm x 50 cm, these Spot images are the highest resolution commercially available today, providing customers with significantly more insights to support Earth observation monitoring and change detection. Capella Space is the first American commercial SAR provider and the first commercial company to provide 50cm resolution SAR imagery.

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Japan’s ImPACT Program Creates Compact, Lightweight Technology for Compact Synthetic Aperture Radar Satellites

StriX-α synthetic aperture radar image of South Florida on February 8th, 2021 around 12:00 (Japan time). (Credit: Synspective)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — It has been said that it is difficult to reduce the size and weight of satellite-mounted synthetic aperture radar (SAR) technology, which has been a major technical issue.

At JAXA, based on the SAR technology accumulated in the Earth observation projects so far, the results started from the basic research on the miniaturization and weight reduction of this technology are summarized. 

We have raised the level of technology to practical application in collaboration with Synspective, the Tokyo Institute of Technology Hirokawa Laboratory, Keio University Shirasaka Laboratory and the University of Tokyo Nakasuka/Funase Laboratory.

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Soyuz-2 to Launch 38 Spacecraft from 18 Countries on March 20

Soyuz-2 rocket lifts off from the Vostochny Cosmodrome with 36 OneWeb satellites. (Credit: Arianespace)

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — On March 20, a launch of the Soyuz-2 launch vehicle with the Fregat upper stage is scheduled from the Baikonur Cosmodrome that will deliver 38 spacecraft (SC) from 18 countries into three sun-synchronous orbits:

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Satellogic Partners with Leading US and International Space Organizations

NewSat Mark IV (Credit: Satellogic)

With US expansion, Satellogic joins United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation, Intelligence and National Security Alliance, SmallSat Alliance, and Open Geospatial Consortium

CHARLOTTE, N.C.,  March 11, 2021 (Satellogic PR) — Satellogic, the first company to develop a scalable Earth observation platform with the ability to remap the entire planet at both high-frequency and high-resolution, today announced new partnerships with four major US-based space organizations: The United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF), Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA), SmallSat Alliance and Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC).

Through its partnership with USGIF and INSA, Satellogic will help promote the application of geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) towards national security challenges, as well as advance intelligence and national security priorities. These organizational goals align with Satellogic’s long-term mission of providing the public sector with geospatial insights that enable decision makers to improve or protect their environments, including border, resource and infrastructure monitoring.

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Earth Observant Inc. Successfully Tests Next-generation Propulsion Technology to Support Future Very Low Earth Orbit Missions

Earth Observant completed tests of a pioneering Hall-effect thruster at the US Air Force Research Lab’s vacuum chamber facility at Edwards Air Force Base over a period of two weeks. The HET-X Thruster uses traditional EP fuel sources and a new, undisclosed propellant solution that is low-cost, non-toxic, and widely available.

SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 18, 2021 (Earth Observant PR) — Earth Observant Inc. (EOI) successfully completed a series of tests on its internally developed Hall-effect thruster that introduces new propellant types while maintaining thruster efficiency and minimizing erosion. This technology supports EOI’s core mission of operating a Very Low Earth Orbit (VLEO) constellation of Earth Imaging satellites to deliver ultra-high resolution image data.

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Dragonfly and Pixxel Sign Agreement for High Resolution Imagers for Pixxel’s Satellite Constellation

STELLENBOSCH, South Africa, Feb. 16, 2021 (Dragonfly Aerospace PR) — Dragonfly Aerospace is pleased to announce that it has signed a contract for the development and delivery of high resolution electro-optical imagers for Pixxel’s planned satellite constellation. The constellation will follow the upcoming launch of Pixxel’s first satellite ‘Anand’, which also happens to be India’s first private earth imaging satellite. The planned constellation of satellites will provide global coverage every 24 hours enabling organisations around the globe to detect, monitor and predict global phenomena in near real time.

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Rocket Lab’s Next Mission to Launch 100th Satellite and Deploy Next-Generation Photon Spacecraft in Preparation for Moon Mission

Electron launches with 10 satellites on Oct. 29, 2020. (Credit: Rocket Lab webcast)

The mission will deploy a range of satellites for commercial and government customers, as well as place a next-generation Photon spacecraft in orbit to build heritage for Rocket Lab’s upcoming mission to the Moon for NASA

LONG BEACH, Calif. (Rocket Lab PR) — Rocket Lab, a leading launch provider and space systems company, has today announced its next mission will deploy a range of satellites for commercial and government satellite operators, and place a next-generation Photon spacecraft in orbit to build spacecraft heritage ahead of Rocket Lab’s mission to the Moon for NASA in Q3 this year.

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ESA and JAXA Meet Online to Agree on Future Cooperation

Martian Moons mission approaches Deimos. (Credit: JAXA/NHK)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA Director General Jan Wörner and President of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Dr Hiroshi Yamakawa took part in an online bilateral meeting on 4 February, confirming the status of cooperative activities between the two agencies.

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MDA Announces RADARSAT-2 Continuity Mission

BRAMPTON, Ont. (MDA PR) — MDA is excited to announce that the company has embarked on a major new initiative to build a commercial Earth observation satellite mission which will serve to extend MDA’s market-leading geospatial data, products and analytics services business well into the future.

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48 SuperDoves Join Planet’s Constellation To Deliver Global Daily Data

Falcon 9 launches Transporter-1 rideshare mission. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (Planet PR) — 48 SuperDoves, our Flock 4s, were successfully delivered to orbit today on SpaceX’s Transporter-1 mission. This record-setting launch carried 143 satellites to orbit – the most spacecraft ever deployed on a single mission.

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