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.

Rocket Lab to Open Electron Launch Window on Jan. 20

Eelectron rocket on the launch pad. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

AUKLAND, January 11, 2018 (Rocket Lab PR) — Rocket Lab, a US aerospace company with operations in New Zealand, will open a nine-day launch window from Saturday January 20, 2018 (NZDT) to carry out the company’s second test launch of the Electron rocket. During this time a four-hour launch window will open daily from 2:30 p.m. NZDT.

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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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Busy Launch Week With Flights to ISS, Electron Test

The Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

We’ve got a busy launch week coming up with a new three-man crew headed for the International Space Station (ISS), SpaceX launching a Dragon resupply mission to the station, and Rocket Lab attempting the second flight test of its Electron small-satellite launcher. Europe and China are also launching satellites this week.

December 10

Launch Vehicle: Long March 3B
Payload: Alcomsat 1 communications satellite (Algeria)
Launch Time: Approx. 1635 GMT (11:35 a.m. EST)
Launch Site: Xichang, China

December 10/11

Launch Vehicle: Electron
Payloads: 3 Planet and Spire CubeSats
Launch Window: 0130-0530 GMT on 11th (8:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. EST on 10/11th)
Launch Site: Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand
Webcast: http://www.rocketlabusa.com

December 12

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Dragon (CRS 13 mission)
Launch Time: 1646 GMT (11:46 a.m. EST)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida
Webcast: http://www.spacex.com and http://www.nasa.gov/nasatv/

Launch Vehicle: Ariane 5
Payloads: Galileo 19-22 navigation satellites
Launch Time: 1836:07 GMT (1:36:07 p.m. EST)
Launch Site: ELA-3, Kourou, French Guiana
Webcast: http://www.esa.int

December 17

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz
Payload: Soyuz spacecraft with Anton Shkaplerov (Roscosmos), Scott Tingle (NASA) and Norishige Kanai (JAXA)
Launch Time: 0720 GMT (2:20 a.m. EST)
Launch Site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan
Webcast: http://www.nasa.gov/nasatv/

Rocket Lab Electron Launch Window Set to Open on Dec. 8

Rocket Lab says it will live stream the flight at http://www.rocketlabusa.com minutes before the scheduled launch time.

This will be Rocket Lab’s second attempt to launch the Electron rocket from New Zealand after the first launch failed to reach orbit on May 25. The flight will carry CubeSats from Planet and Spire Global.

Steve Jurvetson Leaves Own Venture Capital Firm Over Harassment Claims

Steve Jurvetson

Steve Jurvetson — a key investor in SpaceX, Tesla Motors and Planet — is leaving the venture capital firm he founded, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, over allegations of sexual harassment. Recode reports:

DFJ announced the move in a letter to limited partners on Monday. The firm released a statement to Recode that read:

As of today and by mutual agreement, Steve Jurvetson will be leaving DFJ. DFJ’s culture has been, and will continue to be, built on the values of respect and integrity in all of our interactions. We are focused on the success of our portfolio companies, as well as the long-term vision for the firm and will continue to operate with the highest professional standards.

The firm did not specify the reason for the ouster in the letter, but sources said that the investigation uncovered behaviors by Jurvetson that were unacceptable related to a negative tone toward women entrepreneurs….

The departure comes as Jurvetson was being investigated by his own firm for harassment. An entrepreneur had alleged predatory behavior was “rampant” at DFJ. The woman, Keri Kukral, did not name Jurvetson in her Facebook post.

Jurvetson denied the claims in a Twitter post.

 

Orbital ATK’s Minotaur-C Orbits 10 Planet Satellites

Minotaur-C launch from Vandenberg. (Credit: Orbital ATK)

DULLES, Va., 31 October 2017 (Orbital ATK PR) – Orbital ATK (NYSE: OA), a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies, announced its commercial Minotaur C rocket successfully launched 10 commercial spacecraft into orbit for Planet. The Minotaur C launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

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The Excitement and Uncertainties of a Rocket Launch

Minotaur-C booster lifts off from Vandenberg Air Force Base. (Credit: Orbital ATK)

“Negative telemetry at base,” a voice crackled over the radio.

It was the last thing anyone wanted to hear. Minutes earlier, an Orbital ATK Minotaur-C rocket had blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base carrying 10 Planet satellites had disappeared into a cloudy California sky. And now the stream of data from the booster had disappeared as well.

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SpaceX & Orbital ATK Launches Set for Next Week

SpaceX launched its 12th resupply mission to the International Space Station from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 12:31 p.m. EDT on Monday, Aug. 14, 2017. (Credit: NASA Television)

SpaceX and Orbital ATK are scheduled to conduct launches on opposite sides of the country on Monday and Tuesday.

SpaceX will start things off on Monday with the Falcon 9 launch of the Koreasat 5A communications satellite for KTsat. The flight will be conducted from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The launch window is 3:34–5:58 p.m. EDT (1934-2158 GMT). This will be SpaceX’s third launch in October and 16th launch in 2017.

An Orbital ATK Minotaur-C booster is set to launch six SkySat Earth observation satellites for Planet and several CubeSats on Tuesday, Oct. 31 at 5:37 p.m. EDT (2:37 p.m. PDT/2137 GMT) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The Minotaur-C is an upgraded version of the Taurus satellite launcher.

IAC Updates: Starliner, Rocket Lab and Long March 5

Electron lifts off on maiden flight from Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

The International Astronautical Congress has been going on all week down in Adelaide, Australia. In addition to Elon Musk’s presentation on Friday and some news I’ve already posted here, there have been a few updates on various programs.

Boeing CST-100 Starliner.  Boeing is aiming for a test flight of the CST-100 Starliner to the International Space Station in the third quarter of 2018. However, the first crewed test flight could slip from the fourth quarter of 2018 into the first quarter of 2019.  Link

Rocket Lab. The company’s next test launch will carry will two Dove Cubesats from Planet and a pair of Lemur CubeSsats from Spire Global. The satellite will allow Rocket Lab to test deploying spacecraft from the second stage of its Electron rocket. The launch is planned for several weeks from now. Link

Long March 5. The failure of a Long March 5 booster in July will delay the launch of China’s Chang’e-5 lunar sample return mission, which had been scheduled for November. The Chang’e-4 mission, which will land on the far side of the moon, also will be delayed. That flight had been scheduled for late next year. The accident investigation is ongoing. Link

Start-up Space Blasts Off

Bryce Space and Technology has produced a new report, Start-up Space: Update on Investment in Commercial Space Ventures.

Below is the executive summary. You can also download the full report.

Executive Summary

The Start-Up Space series examines space investment in the 21st century and analyzes investment trends, focusing on investors in new companies that have acquired private financing. Space is continuing to attract increased attention in Silicon Valley and in investment communities world-wide. Space ventures now appeal to investors because new, lower-cost systems are envisioned to follow the path terrestrial tech has profitably traveled: dropping system costs and massively increasing user bases for new products, especially new data products. Large valuations and exits are demonstrating the potential for high returns.
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