Vector Space Systems Selected for NASA Small Business Funding

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) additive manufactured injector by was successfully hot fire tested by Vector Space System on Dec. 8, 2016 using Liquid Oxygen/Propylene propellant (LOX/LC3H6). This work was performed under a 2015 STMD ACO Space Act Agreement. (Credit: Vector Space System)

Vector Space Systems has been selected for a NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I contract to develop new technology for the company’s Vector-R small satellite launch vehicle.

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Airbus Safran Launchers Begins Production of Ariane 6 Ground Qualification Models

Ariane 6 variants (Credit: ESA–David Ducros,)
  • The “Maturity Gate 6.1” industrialization review was held March 27 to April 20, 2017, among Airbus Safran Launchers, its industrial partners and independent experts
  • Based on the positive outcome of this review, production of the Ariane 6 ground qualification models has been green-lighted
  • The first flight of Ariane 6 is scheduled 2020

TOULOUSE, France (Airbus Safran Launchers PR) — With “Maturity Gate 6.1”, Airbus Safran Launchers and its industrial partners have passed a major milestone in the development of Ariane 6, under contract with the European Space Agency (ESA).

The review confirmed that the maturity of the industrialization of Ariane 6 is sufficient to begin production of the ground qualification models for the future European launcher, in accordance with the objectives of the program.

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New Stratolaunch Photos Show World’s Largest Aircraft

Carrier aircraft cabin and wing (Credit: Stratolaunch)

Stratolaunch has revamped its website with some new photos of its gigantic carrier aircraft under construction at the Mojave Air and Space Port.

Carrier aircraft cabin (Credit: Stratolaunch)

The twin fuselage airplane will be the largest aircraft in the world, with a 385-foot wing span. Powered by six Boeing 747 engines, the aircraft will have a payload of more than 500,000 lbs. (226,796 kg) and an operational range of approximately 2,000 nautical miles (3,715 km).

Aircraft undercarriage (Credit: Stratolaunch)

The Stratolaunch aircraft is designed to air launch launch vehicles. The company has an agreement with Orbital ATK to use its Pegasus small-satellite booster.

Carrier aircraft with Pegasus boosters (Credit: Stratolaunch)

In March, billionaire backer Paul Allen has said he hopes the carrier aircraft will make its first flight test by the end of the year.

Carrier aircraft tail (Credit: Stratolaunch)

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ULA Slashes Atlas V Price

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying EchoStar XIX satellite lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41 at 2:13 p.m. ET. (Credit: United Launch Alliance/Lockheed Martin)

ULA has cut the price of its least expensive launch vehicle, the Atlas V, by more than one third.

“We’re seeing that price is even more important than it had been in the past,” Tory Bruno, chief executive of United Launch Alliance, or ULA, said during an interview at the U.S. Space Symposium in Colorado Springs.

“We’re dropping the cost of Atlas almost every day. Atlas is now down more than a third in its cost,” Bruno said.

As of December 2016, a baseline Atlas 5 rocket launch was selling for about $109 million, though satellite operators can make up at least half that cost by getting more favorable insurance rates and other factors, including an on-time launch, ULA has said.

In contrast, Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, lists the base price of a Falcon 9 rocket launch on its website at $62 million.

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Generation Orbit Awarded Contract for GO1 Flight Testing

Credit: Generation Orbit

ATLANTA, April 7, 2017 (GO PR) – Generation Orbit Launch Services, Inc. (GO) is pleased to announce the award of a Follow-On Phase II SBIR (Small Business Innovative Research) contract from the Air Force Research Laboratory, Aerospace Systems Directorate, High Speed Systems Division (AFRL/RQH) for development and flight testing of the GOLauncher 1 (GO1).

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Chinese Examining Reusable Rockets

Long March 5 on the launch pad. (Credit: China National Space Administration)

Like SpazceX and Blue Origin, China is examining whether it can develop reusable launch vehicles.

China is developing a system to recover parts of rockets used in space launches to bring down costs and make its space programme more commercially competitive, according to researchers involved in the project.

The system would bring the rocket engine and booster safely back to the ground so they can be reused in future launches. Besides saving operational costs, the recovery would also reduce the threat of debris falling to the ground, the researchers said.

The recovery system is under development at the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology in Beijing.

It involves using a set of multiple parachutes, which are stored in the first stage of the rocket, which is released from the rest of the craft before it burns its way through the Earth’s atmosphere….

in an article on the academy’s website, Deng Xinyu, a researcher on the Chinese rocket recovery programme, said that vertical landing involved many challenges and was extremely difficult to achieve.

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China Developing Air Launched Booster for Small Satellites

Look out Virgin Galactic, Orbital ATK, Generation Orbit, Stratolaunch Systems and zero2infinity! The air launch business is about to get crowded.

China is developed an air-launched rocket to launch small satellites.

The China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology has designed a solid-fuel rocket that could carry a 100kg payload into low Earth orbit, said Li Tongyu, the head of the agency’s carrier rocket development.

Li said the rockets would be carried by large Y-20 strategic transport planes before launch and that the academy planned to eventually develop a larger rocket that could carry a 200kg payload.

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Video: Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides Interview

Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides was interviewed on the TMRO Space show on Saturday. The interview begins at 20:54 in the above video.

Below are the highlights of the interview.

SpaceShipTwo

Whitesides was asked whether SpaceShipTwo could fly above the Karman line at 100 km (62.1 miles), which is the internationally recognized boundary of space. He didn’t provide a yes or no answer.

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Orbital ATK Completes Major Development Milestones on Next Gen Launch Vehicle

Artist’s rendering of Orbital ATK’s Next Generation Launch (NGL) System on pad 39-B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. (Credit: Orbital ATK)

DULLES, Virginia 3 April 2017 (Orbital ATK PR) – Orbital ATK (NYSE: OA), a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies, today announced that it has made important progress over the past 18 months in developing advanced solid rocket propulsion and other technologies to be used in a new generation of intermediate- and large-class space launch vehicles.

Through a combination of internal investment and government funding from an Air Force contract awarded in late 2015 by the Space and Missile Systems Center’s Launch Systems Directorate, the company’s Flight Systems Group recently completed design reviews, facility upgrades and tooling fabrication, and has now begun early production of development hardware for its Next Generation Launch (NGL) system.

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Falcon 9 Launch Succeeds, Reused First Stage Lands on Ship

Reused Falcon 9 first stage after landing on drone ship. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

SpaceX successfully launched the SES10 communications satellite on Thursday evening, with its reused first stage performing as expected and landing on an off-shore drone ship.

In a brief statement during the live webcast, SpaceX Founder and CEO Elon Musk called the flight a historic day for the company and the space industry. It had taken 15 years to get to this moment, he said.

In a video prior to launch, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said the company spent about four months refurbishing and testing the first stage booster after it landed on the drone ship after launching a Dragon resupply vehicle to the International Space Station last April. That flight marked the first time a first stage had landed on the drone ship.

Shotwell said the company’s eventual goal is to land the first stage, refuel the booster, and then launch it again the same day. She did not give a time table for when such a flight would be possible.

Musk has said that such a rapid turnaround is crucial to making first-stage reuse truly economical and significantly bringing down the cost of launches.

SpaceX does not recover the second stage of the Falcon 9 booster. So any same-day re-flight would include the installation of a new second stage as well as the payload.

There were reports that SpaceX would attempt to recover the payload shroud used for Thursday’s launch for later reuse. There is no word yet on whether that effort was successful.

Firefly Space Systems Assets to be Auctioned on Thursday

The assets of Firefly Space Systems will be auctioned off on Thursday, March 16, in Menlo Park, Calif.

Notice of the auction has been posted by Development Specialists, Inc. There also is a classified advertisement in USA Today.

The company had been developing a small satellite launch vehicle before it suspended operations in September due to financial difficulties.

Virgin Galactic had launched litigation against Firefly co-founder Thomas Markusic, who had previously led Virgin’s effort to develop a competing launcher. Virgin claims that Markusic took intellectual property when he left the company in 2014.

China Eyes Smallsat Air Launch

Look out Stratolaunch, Generation Orbit and Virgin Galactic! It looks like you’re going to have some competition from China in the small satellite air launch market.

The China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology has designed a solid-fuel rocket that could carry a 100 kg (220 lb) payload into low Earth orbit, said Li Tongyu, the head of the agency’s carrier rocket development…..

Li said the rockets would be carried by large Y-20 strategic transport planes before being launched and that the academy planned to eventually develop a larger rocket that could carry a 200 kg payload.

“The jet will hold a rocket within its fuselage and release it at a certain altitude. The rocket will be ignited after it leaves the plane,” Li said.

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Launch UK Brings Together UK Commercial Space Sector

LONDON — The UK Space Agency and partners brought together government and industry to enable satellite launches from the UK by 2020.

Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson and Minister for Aviation Lord Ahmad spoke alongside the UK Space Agency CEO Katherine Courtney at the Launch UK conference at the Royal Aeronautical Society on 21 February.

A key strand of the government’s Industrial Strategy is for the UK to hold a greater share of the commercial spaceflight market, worth an estimated £25 billion over the next 20 years, by developing competitive, commercial and safe spaceflight proposals for UK-based satellite launch services and sub-orbital flights.

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Aerojet Rocketdyne Acquires Coleman Aerospace

EL SEGUNDO, Calif., Feb. 22, 2017 (Aerojet Rocketdyne PR) — Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:AJRD) announced today that it has signed a definitive agreement to purchase Coleman Aerospace from L3 Technologies, Inc. for $15 million in cash, subject to customary adjustments. The transaction is expected to close by the end of the month. Coleman Aerospace will operate as a subsidiary of Aerojet Rocketdyne, Inc. and will be renamed Aerojet Rocketdyne Coleman Aerospace, Inc. (“Coleman”).

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