Satellogic and SpaceX Announce Multiple Launch Agreement

Falcon 9 launches the Turksat 5A satellite. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

First mission, scheduled for mid-2021, will further expand Satellogic’s industry-leading in-orbit capacity

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (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 a Multiple Launch Services Agreement (MLA) with SpaceX. Through the agreement, SpaceX becomes Satellogic’s preferred vendor for rideshare missions. The first launch, scheduled for June 2021, will deliver Satellogic satellites to Low Earth Orbit on a Falcon 9 rocket.

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The Good, the Bad and the Brexit: UK’s Participation in European Space Programs Curtailed by EU Departure

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Although the United Kingdom’s (UK) “Brexit” departure from the European Union (EU) on Jan. 1 will not affect its membership status in the European Space Agency (ESA), the nation’s participation in a number of European space programs is either ending or being curtailed.

On Christmas Eve, the UK and EU announced an agreement in principle that will govern trade, security and political relations after Brexit. Under the agreement, the UK’s participation in the:

  • Galileo satellite navigation and European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS) program will end;
  • Copernicus Earth observation satellite program will continue, contingent upon a further agreement to be worked out next year; and
  • EU Space Surveillance and Tracking (EUSST) program will end, although the Britain will continue to receive data as a non-EU country.
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China Completes Record Launch Year With Successful Flight

Long March 4C lifts off from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on Dec. 27, 2020.

China completed a busy year that saw the nation tie its own record for launch attempts with the successful orbiting of a remote sensing satellite and a secondary nanosat on Sunday.

A Long March 4C rocket lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center at 11:44 p.m.. local time carrying the Yaogan Weixing-33 (R) spacecraft. The spacecraft will be “mainly used for scientific experiment research, marine and land resource surveys and other tasks,” the China National Space Administration (CNSA) said.

Yaogan Weixing-33 (R) is the replacement for a similarly named remote sensing satellite that was lost due to the failure of a Long March 4C booster in May 2019.

A scientific research satellite named Weina Jishu Shiyan was also placed into orbit on Sunday as a secondary payload.

The successful flight was the last of 39 launch attempts for 2020 and the final one in the nation’s 13th Five-Year Plan, CNSA said. China finished the year with 35 successes and four failures.

The 39 launch attempts tied the national record China set in 2018. The nation finished that year with a record of 38 successes and one failure.

China finished second in launch attempts behind the United States in 2020, which completed the year with 40 successes and four failures.

Sunday’s mission was the 69th launch of the Long March 4C booster and the 357th launch of the Long March family of rockets.

NASA Perseveres Through Pandemic to Complete Successful 2020

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In 2020, NASA made significant progress on America’s Moon to Mars exploration strategy, met mission objectives for the Artemis program, achieved significant scientific advancements to benefit humanity, and returned human spaceflight capabilities to the United States, all while agency teams acted quickly to assist the national COVID-19 response.

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China’s Long March 8 Rocket Makes Successful Debut in Step Toward Reusability

Long March 8 launches for the first time on Dec. 22, 2020. (Credit: CNSA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

China’s newest booster, Long March 8, successfully placed five satellites into sun-synchronous orbit on Tuesday from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center in a step toward partial reusability.

The medium-lift booster blasted off at 12:37 p.m. local time from Hainan island carrying the classified XJY-7 remote sensing technology test satellite and four smaller payloads.

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Exolaunch Integrates 30 Small Satellites for SpaceX First Dedicated Rideshare Launch

A rendering of rideshare smallsat deployments from Falcon 9 into space. (Credit: Exolaunch)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Exolaunch PR)–Exolaunch, the leading rideshare launch and deployment services provider for the NewSpace industry, begins its launch campaign to integrate 30 small satellites from the U.S. and Europe aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rideshare mission scheduled for no earlier than January 2021. This is the first dedicated rideshare mission of SpaceX’s SmallSat Rideshare Program and the first of several rideshares Exolaunch is manifesting on Falcon 9 as part of a multi-launch agreement the company signed with SpaceX earlier this year.

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NASA, UN Sign Memorandum of Understanding on Peaceful Uses of Space

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) pledging cooperation in areas of science and technology to support the peaceful use of outer space.

The MOU, signed Thursday, Dec. 17, brings together NASA’s wealth of publicly available Earth observation data and dynamic exploration opportunities with UNOOSA’s unique position as the only U.N. entity dedicated to outer space affairs.

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Capella Space Releases the Highest Resolution Commercial SAR Imagery Available in Market at 50 cm

China’s Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center (Credit: Capella Space)

U.S.-based smallsat technology delivers unprecedented 50 x 50cm SAR “Spot” imagery to power critical applications for Government, Defense & Intelligence, and Commercial Customers 

SAN FRANCISCO, December 16, 2020 — Today Capella Space released 50cm x 50cm ‘Spot’ imagery, delivering the highest resolution commercial synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery on the market. Prior to Capella, the best resolution on the market was 1m x 25 cm with non-square pixels which created its own challenges.

These previous images were collected with limited bandwidth of 300 MHz where Capella imagery is collected with up to 600 MHz of bandwidth. In the midst of increasing global change, Capella Space is setting the standard for how large organizations extract key insights and make better decisions through Earth observation data. Capella Space’s spot imagery delivers the highest resolution, most usable all-American made SAR imagery data on the market.  

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Government Funds UK Companies at the Forefront of Space Innovation

21 UK organisations have been awarded a share of over £7 million of funding to put the UK at the forefront of the latest advances in space innovation

SWINDON, UK (UK Space Agency PR) — The cash injection is going to high-risk, high-reward projects that support companies and universities with radical ideas for how we tackle climate change through Earth Observation or address satellite communications challenges, from providing greater connectivity to remote places to increasing the efficiency of our homes.

Projects set for the cash boost include The Open University who will use the money to create the UK’s first Precision Forestry tool, TreeView, which will support efforts to tackle the climate emergency through detailed measurement of tree-planting initiatives aimed at increasing carbon dioxide removal.

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NASA, US, European Partner Satellite Returns First Sea Level Measurements

The data in this graphic are the first sea surface height measurements from the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich (S6MF) satellite, which launched Nov. 21, 2020. They show the ocean off the southern tip of Africa, with red colors indicating higher sea level relative to blue areas, which are lower. (Credits: EUMETSAT)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, a joint U.S.-European satellite built to measure global sea surface height, has sent back its first measurements of sea level. The data provide information on sea surface height, wave height, and wind speed off the southern tip of Africa.

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Teledyne e2v Receives UK Space Agency Grant to Develop AI Processes for Intelligent Detection

RAPID – Real-time AI processes for Intelligent Detection to help manage high data volumes generated on space-based Earth Observation platforms aimed at tackling climate change

Chelmsford, UK, December 8, 2020 – Teledyne e2v’s Space Imaging team, a part of the Teledyne Imaging Group, has secured funding from the UK Space Agency’s National Space Innovation Programme (NSIP) that will demonstrate and help support intelligent image processing platforms. The funding is in response to the 2020/2021 NSIP theme for “Earth Observation to Tackle Climate Change” and will be jointly delivered with Craft Prospect, based in Glasgow.

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Arianespace to Launch CO3D Constellation on Vega C Booster

Artist’s impression of Vega-C launcher in flight. (Credit: ESA-Jacky Huart)

EVRY, France (Arianespace PR) — Arianespace has signed a contract with Airbus to launch four new-generation optical observation satellites of the CO3D (Composante Optique 3D) constellation, to be orbited using the Vega C launcher.

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Vega Launcher: Full Support for the Return to Flight Activities From Italian and French Institutions

Vega takes off on its 17th flight on Nov. 16, 2020. (Credit: Arianespace webcast)

ROME (Avio PR) — After the yesterday meeting in Rome, the Undersecretary of State with responsibility for Space Riccardo Fraccaro and the French Minister of Finance with responsibility for Space Bruno Le Maire, issued a joint statement highlighting the full institutional support to the Ariane and Vega programmes, with particular regard to the return-to-flight of the Italian launcher designed and produced by Avio S.p.A. with the ESA (European Space Agency) mandate.

The support was also reiterated by the Italian Interministerial Committee for Space and Aerospace Policies.

The full statement is below

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Inverted Cables Caused Vega Rocket to Fail

Vega takes off on its 17th flight on Nov. 16, 2020. (Credit: Arianespace webcast)

Engineers say they have identified what caused the loss of a European Vega rocket and its two satellites on Monday evening. The BBC reported:

The problem was traced to the actuators that change the direction of thrust on the Vega’s upper-stage engine.

When they received commands from the guidance, navigation and control (GNC) system, they turned the motor’s nozzle counter to the intended direction.

Roland Lagier, from Arianespace, the company that markets and launches Vega rockets, said cabling on the thrust vector control system must have been inverted when the upper-stage engine was assembled.

“This was of course a production and quality issue. It was a human error and not a design one,” the chief technical officer told reporters.

Lost in the failure were Spain’s SeoSat-Ingenio Earth observation satellite and France’s Taranis research spacecraft, which was to study high-atmosphere lightning.

Vega has compiled a record of 15 successes and two failures since its maiden flight on Feb. 13, 2012. The first failure occurred during the 15th flight on July 11, 2019. An investigation determined the most likely cause was a thermo-structural failure in the forward dome area of the Z23 second stage motor.

Vega made a successful return to flight on Sept. 3, 2020, by launching 53 small satellites on its first rideshare mission.

Thales Alenia Space to Build Copernicus CHIME Satellites

Copernicus Hyperspectral Imaging Mission (CHIME) satellite. (Credit: Thales Alenia Space)

CANNES, France (Thales Alenia Space PR) — Thales Alenia Space, a joint venture between Thales (67 %) and Leonardo (33 %), announced today that it has signed a 90 million euro [$106.5 million] first tranche contract with the European Space Agency (ESA) to design and build the 2 environmental monitoring satellites of the Copernicus Hyperspectral Imaging Mission for the Environment (CHIME), the global amount being 455 million euros [$538.5 million].

The CHIME mission is part of the expansion of the Copernicus Space Component programme of the European Space Agency, ESA, in partnership with the European Commission. The European Copernicus flagship programme provides Earth observation and in situ data and a broad range of services for environmental monitoring and protection, climate monitoring, natural disaster assessment to improve the quality of life of European citizens.

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