U.S.-European Sea Level Satellite Gears Up for Launch

This animation shows the radar pulse from the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite’s altimeter bouncing off the sea surface in order to measure the height of the ocean. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich spacecraft will soon be heading into orbit to monitor the height of the ocean for nearly the entire globe.

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (NASA PR) — Preparations are ramping up for the Nov. 10 launch of the world’s latest sea level satellite. Since arriving in a giant cargo plane at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California last month, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich has been undergoing final checks, including visual inspections, to make sure it’s fit to head into orbit.

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Antares Flies, Falcon 9 Stays

An Antares rocket lifts off with the Cygnus resupply ship on Oct. 2, 2020. (Credit: NASA)

Update: SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted the Falcon 9 launch was aborted due to an “nexpected pressure rise in the turbomachinery gas generator. No word on when they will try launching again.

A Cygnus resupply ship carrying nearly 8,000 lb of cargo for astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) was blasted into orbit by an Antares rocket on Friday night.

The Northrop Grumman booster lifted off on time at 9:16 p.m. EDT from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island in Virginia. The flight followed a scrubbed launch on Thursday due to a software problem with ground equipment.

Cygnus, which is also a Northrop Grumman vehicle, is scheduled to arrive at the ISS early Monday morning.

Results were not as good on Friday night for SpaceX, which suffered its second Falcon 9 abort of the week in Florida. The countdown from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station was halted two seconds prior to a planned 9:43 p.m. EDT liftoff for an unknown reason.

The rocket is carrying the GPS IIII SV-04 navigation satellite for the Global Positioning System.

On Thursday morning, the launch of a Falcon 9 rocket carrying 60 Starlink broadband satellites from nearby Kennedy Space Center was halted with 18 seconds left in the count due to an out family reading from a ground sensor.

Three U.S. Launches Scheduled This Week

The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket launches NASA’s Parker Solar Probe to touch the Sun, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2018, from Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. (Credits: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Tuesday, September 29

Launcher: Delta IV Heavy
Payload: NROL-44 reconnaissance satellite
Launch Time: 12:02 a.m. EDT (0402 GMT)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
Company: United Launch Alliance
Webcast: www.ulalaunch.com

Launcher: Falcon 9
Payload: GPS 3 SV04 navigation satellite
Launch Window: 9:55-10:10 p.m. EDT (0155-0210 GMT on Sept. 30th)
Launch Site:
 Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
Company: SpaceX
Webcast: www.spacex.com

October 1

Launcher: Antares
Payload: Cygnus ISS resupply ship
Launch Time: 9:38 p.m. EDT (0138 GMT on Oct. 2)
Launch Site: Wallops Flight Facility, Va.
Company: Northrop Grumman
Webcast: http://nasa.gov/ntv

TBA

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payloads: 60 Starlink satellite broadband spacecraft
Location: Kennedy Space Center, Fla.
Webcast: www.spacex.com

The launch was scrubbed on Monday due to weather constraints. SpaceX has not announced a new date yet.

U.S. Defense Payloads to Fly on Reused SpaceX Boosters

Falcon 9 lifts off with the SAOCOM 1B satellite. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (SMC PR) — The U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center Launch Enterprise and Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) recently signed a contract modification to reuse a Falcon 9 first-stage booster – for the first time on a National Security Space Launch mission – starting with the fifth Global Positioning System (GPS)-III satellite, scheduled to launch next year.

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Five Launches Scheduled Over Three Days

Falcon 9 payload shroud. (Credit: SpaceX)

Things are about to get very busy, with four American launches and a Russian one planned over a three-day period beginning on Sunday, Sept. 27.

Here’s the schedule as it stands now. Schedule subject to change without notice. Wagering strictly under penalty of law.

Sunday, September 27

Launch Vehicle: Delta IV Heavy
Payload: NROL-44 reconnaissance satellite
Time: 12:10 a.m. EDT (1610 GMT)
Location: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
Webcast: www.ulalaunch.com

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payloads: 60 Starlink satellite broadband spacecraft
Time: 10:43 a.m. EDT (1443 GMT)
Location: Kennedy Space Center, Fla.
Webcast: www.spacex.com

Monday, September 28

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz
Payloads: 3 Gonets M communications satellites plus rideshares
Time: 7:20 a.m. EDT (1120 GMT)
Location:
Plesetsk Cosmodrome, Russia

Tuesday, September 29

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: GPS 3 SV04 navigation satellite
Time: 9:55 p.m. (0155 GMT)
Location: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
Webcast: www.spacex.com

Launch Vehicle: Antares
Payload: NG-14 — Cygnus International Space Station resupply ship
Time: 10:27 p.m. EDT (0227 GMT on Sept. 30)
Location:
Wallops Island, Va.
Webcast: www.nasa.gov

GPS III SV03 Receives Operational Acceptance

Falcon 9 lifts off with GPS III satellite. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

LOS ANGELES (Space and Missile Systems Center Public PR) — The United States Space Force (USSF) and the Space and the Missile Systems Center achieved another major Global Positioning System (GPS) milestone on July 27 when the GPS III Space Vehicle (SV) 03 received USSF’s Operational Acceptance approval.

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Space Force Awards National Security Space Launch Phase 2 Launch Service Contracts to SpaceX & ULA

WASHINGTON, (AFNS) — The Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), in partnership with the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), competitively awarded two Firm-Fixed-Price, Indefinite Delivery Requirement contracts for National Security Space launch services today to ULA and SpaceX.

“This is a groundbreaking day, culminating years of strategic planning and effort by the Department of the Air Force, NRO, and our launch service industry partners,” said Dr. William Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics. “Maintaining a competitive launch market, servicing both government and commercial customers, is how we encourage continued innovation on assured access to space. Today’s awards mark a new epoch of space launch that will finally transition the Department off Russian RD-180 engines.”

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Trump Withdraws Nomination of O’Rielly to Serve as FCC Commissioner

President Donald Trump has withdrawn the nomination of Michael P. O’Rielly for another five-year term on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

SpaceNews reports the White House withdrew the nomination because O’Rielly opposed a petition by the Trump Administration asking the FCC to re-examine section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

Section 230 provides free speech protections to Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. Conservatives have accused the companies of censoring their views and want the immunity removed.

O’Rielly’s nomination was already on hold in the Senate at the time it was withdrawn. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) announced on July 28 that he had put a hold on the nomination until O’Rielly publicly committed to overturning the FCC’s Ligado order.

In April, FCC commissioners approved a modification to Ligado’s license to operate L-band communications services. The approval was opposed by the Trump Administration, the Defense Department, and other agencies that believe it will interfere with Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation signals.

“I understand that O’Rielly has stated that he would give ‘due consideration to a stay’ ‘based on new data or evidence’ – but that isn’t enough,” Inhofe said in a statement. “This isn’t just about our military, but all users of GPS are united in opposition. All of America can’t be wrong, and he understands that. I need his commitment in plain English to vote to overturn the order, not just consider it, before I will allow his nomination to proceed.”   

OneWeb – The Opportunity for the UK

OneWeb satellite (Credit: OneWeb)

HARWELL, UK (Satellite Applications Catapult PR) — According to press reports, the UK government is a partner in a bid for OneWeb, the UK- headquartered satellite communications company which, following the well-publicised financial difficulties of a major investor, entered Chapter 11 in March. If these reports are true, and the bid is successful, then it is great news for the UK space sector and UK citizens.

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China Completes Beidou Satellite Navigation System

Note: As of June 28, 2019. Adapted from Kazuhiro Kida and Shinichi Hashimoto, “China’s Version of GPS Now Has More Satellites than US Original,” Nikkei Asian Review, August 19, 2019.

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

China completed its Beidou satellite navigation system with a launch last week, fully standing up a rival to the American Global Positioning System (GPS), Europe’s Galileo constellation, and Russia’s GLONASS system and strengthening the nation as a space power.

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Keep GPS Working Coalition Launched Following FCC’s Controversial Ligardo Approval

Global Positioning System (Credit: DOT&E)

Coalition’s first action is to endorse Inhofe-Reed legislation forcing Ligado to provide financial relief to consumers, industries and other end users

WASHINGTON (June 23)—Five organizations representing thousands of companies and millions of Americans have launched a new coalition to protect end users of GPS following the Federal Communications Commission’s April 22 decision to permit Ligado Networks to operate a terrestrial wireless network using its satellite spectrum.

Ligado’s planned use of its so called “L-Band”spectrum, which is closely adjacent to bands used by GPS, would threaten the reception capability of hundreds of millions of GPS devices.

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Australia Provides $11 Million in Space Grants to Boost Businesses and Local Jobs

CANBERRA (Karen Andrews PR) — The Morrison Government is backing a series of projects designed to grow Australia’s space sector and create local jobs, including improving GPS technology and the design of innovative spacesuits that will make spacewalking easier.

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews said the 10 projects sharing in $11 million [USD $7.6 million] would boost jobs and skills in the space sector, and contribute to the nation’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Future Space Travelers May Follow Cosmic Lighthouses

An image of NICER on the exterior of the space station with one of the station’s solar panels in the background. (Credits: NASA)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — For centuries, lighthouses helped sailors navigate safely into harbor. Their lights swept across the water, cutting through fog and darkness, guiding mariners around dangerous obstacles and keeping them on the right path. In the future, space explorers may receive similar guidance from the steady signals created by pulsars.

Scientists and engineers are using the International Space Station to develop pulsar-based navigation using these cosmic lighthouses to assist with wayfinding on trips to the Moon under NASA’s Artemis  program and on future human missions to Mars.

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SpaceX Launches 58 Starlink Satellites

Falcon 9 lifts off on June 13, 2020. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

SpaceX launched its ninth Starlink mission on Saturday, lofting 58 Starlink and three Planet SkySat Earth observation satellites into orbit.

Falcon 9 lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in the pre-dawn darkness.

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NOAA Harnessing Power of New Satellite Data this Hurricane Season

Hurricane Humberto (Credit: NOAA)

SILVER SPRING, Md. (NOAA PR) — With predictions for an above-normal 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, NOAA forecasters have added meteorological muscle from a new  combination of satellite data flowing into its computer models. 

The Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere and Climate (COSMIC-2) is a new fleet of six small satellites launched last June. Since May 26, the constellation has begun feeding more than 4,000 vertical sets of measurements of atmospheric temperature and humidity in the tropics and subtropics daily into our forecast models. Measuring the moisture in and around tropical cyclones is important because it is a key ingredient for their development and intensification.

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