FCC: Satellite Companies Must Obtain Licenses Before Launch

Swarm SpaceBee satellite (Credit: ISRO)

In the wake of an unlicensed satellite launch by a Silicon Valley startup, the FCC has issued an advisory spelling out licensing requirements that company must comply with before launch.

“Compliance with requirements for licensing of satellite communications is not optional,” the commission said. “Failure to comply with FCC requirements can and will result in enforcement action.”

The FCC says that Swarm Technologies launched four SpaceBee prototype satellites aboard an Indian PSLV rocket in January despite the agency having previously rejected the company’s application for a license.

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Update Global Launch Schedule for April

PSLV-C40 booster lifts off (Credit: ISRO)

The schedule is subject to change. Please check with our friends at Spaceflight Now for updates.

April 11

Launch Vehicle: PSLV
Payload: IRNSS 1I navigation satellite
Launch Time: TBA
Launch Site: Satish Dhawan Space Center, India

April 14/15

Launch Vehicle: Atlas V
Payload: AFSPC 11 mission
Launch Window: 6:00-10:00 p.m. EDT on 12th (2200-0200 GMT on 12th/13th)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida

The U.S. Air Force’s EAGLE satellite will carry multiple military experiments.

April 16

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS)
Launch Window: 6:32-6:33 p.m. EDT (2232-2233 GMT)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida

April 18

Launch Vehicle: Proton
Payload: Blagovest No. 12L communications satellite
Launch Window: 6:12 p.m. EDT (2212 GMT)
Launch Site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan

April 19/20

Launch Vehicle: Electron
Payload: 2 Spire Global CubeSats, 1 GeoOptics satellite
Launch Time: 8:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. EDT on 19th/20th (0030-0430 GMT on 20th)
Launch Site: Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand

April 21

Launch Vehicle: Long March 3B
Payload: Apstar 6C communications satellite
Launch Time: TBA
Launch Site: Xichang, China

NET April 24

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Bangabandhu 1 communications satellite
Launch Window: TBA
Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center, Florida

April 25

Launch Vehicle: Rockot
Payload: Sentinel 3B Earth observation satellite
Launch Window: 1:57 p.m. EDT (1757 GMT)
Launch Site: Plesetsk Cosmodrome, Russia

Final launch of Rockot, a converted ballistic missile.

First Quarter 2018 Launch Report: China & USA Battle for Lead

A SpaceX Falcon Heavy begins its first flight. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The world’s launch providers have been extremely busy in the first quarter of 2018, with 31 orbital launches thus far. This is more than one third of the 90 launches conducted last year.

China leads the pack with 10 successful launches. The United States is close behind with a total of nine launches with one failure. The tenth American launch is scheduled for Monday afternoon from Florida.

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Updated Global Launch Schedule Through April

Expedition 55 crew members Ricky Arnold, Drew Feustel and cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev. (Credit: NASA)

Below is the updated launch schedule through the end of April. The 17 scheduled launches include:

  • 7 USA (6 Falcon 9, 1 Atlas V)
  • 4 Russia (1 Soyuz, 1 Soyuz-2.1, 1 Proton, 1 Rockot)
  • 3 India (2 GSLV Mk.2, 1 PSLV)
  • 2 China (2 Long March 3B)
  • 1 Europe (1 Ariane 5).

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Silicon Valley Company Launched Satellites Without FCC Approval

SpaceBEE satellite (Credit: ISRO)

A Silicon Valley startup named Swarm Technologies has been accused of launching four tiny satellites into space without FCC approval. The four SpaceBEE satellites, which are about one quarter the size of a 1U CubeSat, were launched aboard an Indian PSLV booster in January. The satellites are testing Internet of Things technologies.

The only problem is, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had dismissed Swarm’s application for its experimental satellites a month earlier, on safety grounds. The FCC is responsible for regulating commercial satellites, including minimizing the chance of accidents in space. It feared that the four SpaceBees now orbiting the Earth would pose an unacceptable collision risk for other spacecraft.

If confirmed, this would be the first ever unauthorized launch of commercial satellites.

On Wednesday, the FCC sent Swarm a letter revoking its authorization for a follow-up mission with four more satellites, due to launch next month. A pending application for a large market trial of Swarm’s system with two Fortune 100 companies could also be in jeopardy.

In fact, the FCC told the startup that the agency would assess “the impact of the applicant’s apparent unauthorized launch and operation of four satellites… on its qualifications to be a Commission licensee.” If Swarm cannot convince the FCC otherwise, the startup could lose permission to build its revolutionary network before the wider world even knows the company exists.

Read the full story.

Video Interview With New ISRO Chairman

Video Caption: India’s “Rocket Man” Dr Sivan K, who was named the new chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation last month, is unfazed by the so-called cheap launches offered by Elon Musk’s SpaceX. ISRO’s rockets, he said, are cheap, robust and meet the nation’s needs.

The 60-year-old from Tamil Nadu, who was born in a farmer’s family, has helped take on SpaceX’s Elon Musk through the launch of 104 satellites in a single mission in February last year. The venture had placed India firmly on the map of commercial satellite launches.

In an interview to NDTV, Dr Sivan said the next big thrust to expand ISRO’s commercial ventures would be “Baby PSLV” – the smaller, modular rocket for on-demand launches. There is also a huge scope for re-usable rocket technology, another ongoing project, which would further reduce the cost of launch.

NDTV is one of the leaders in the production and broadcasting of un-biased and comprehensive news and entertainment programmes in India and abroad. NDTV delivers reliable information across all platforms: TV, Internet and Mobile.

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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New ISRO Chairman Takes Over

A new chairman took over leadership of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) last week.

K. Sivan, who previously served as director of ISRO’s Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre since June 2015, succeeded A S Kiran Kumar. Like his predecessor, Sivan has been appointed to a three-year term. Sivan also serves as secretary of the Department of Space and chairman of the Space Commission.

Sivan joined ISRO in 1982, working on the PSLV booster program. He is credited with turning around the troubled GSLV Mark II rocket program after a series of launch failures.

Sivan graduated from Madras Institute of Technology with a degree in aeronautical engineering in 1980. He earned a master of engineering degree in aerospace engineering at the Indian Institute of Science two years later. In 2006, he was awarded a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering by the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay.

ICEYE Launches World’s First Successful SAR Microsat

Helsinki, FINLAND  (ICEYE PR) – ICEYE, the leader in synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) technology for microsatellites providing expanded access to reliable and timely earth observation data, today announced the successful launch of its proof-of-concept satellite mission, ICEYE-X1, on ISRO’s PSLV-C40 rocket.

The success of the launch, from Satish Dhawan Space Center in India, distinguishes ICEYE-X1 as the world’s first microsatellite equipped with synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) to ever be deployed in space and as Finland’s very first commercial satellite. Making further history, ICEYE has also successfully established communications with the 70 kg satellite at 05:20, GMT (07:20 Finland time) now in orbit, signaling the next step in the mission’s success.

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SSTL Confirms the Successful Launch of CARBONITE-2 & Telesat LEO Phase 1 Satellite

PSLV-C40 booster lifts off (Credit: ISRO)

GUILDFORD, England (SSTL PR) — Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) has confirmed the successful launch of CARBONITE-2, an Earth Observation technology demonstration mission owned and operated by SSTL, and of the Telesat LEO Phase 1 communications satellite, an important milestone in Telesat’s plans to deploy a global low earth orbit (LEO) constellation that will revolutionise broadband communications services around the world.

These two small SSTL satellites were launched into a 505 km sun-synchronous orbit on board the PSLV launch vehicle from the Satash Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India on 12 January 2018 at UTC/GMT 03:59.

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Telesat Begins Deploying Its Global Low Earth Orbit Constellation with Phase 1 Satellite Launch

OTTAWA, CANADA, January 12, 2018 (Telesat PR) – Telesat announced today the successful launch of its first LEO satellite, an important milestone in the company’s plans to deploy a global LEO constellation that will revolutionize broadband communications services around the world.

Telesat’s Phase 1 LEO satellite was launched aboard a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) operated by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). The spacecraft was built by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL) based in the U.K., a world leader in small satellites and part of the Airbus Defence and Space group.

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Earth-i Launches Prototype of World’s First Full-colour, Full-motion Video Satellite Constellation

CARBONITE-2 (Credit: Earth-i)

GUILDFORD, England (Earth-i PR) — British ‘New Space’ pioneer Earth-i has confirmed that the pre-production prototype satellite of its upcoming satellite constellation was successfully launched earlier today.

The new commercial constellation – which the company announced is called Vivid-i – will be the first of its kind to provide full-colour video; and the first European-owned constellation able to provide both video and still images.

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India’s PSLV Booster Launches Remote Sensing Satellite

PSLV-C40 booster lifts off (Credit: ISRO)

SRIHARIKOTA, India (ISRO PR) — India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, in its forty second flight (PSLV-C40), successfully launched the 710 kg Cartosat-2 Series Satellite for earth observation and 30 co-passenger satellites together weighing about 613 kg at lift-off. PSLV-C40 was launched from the First Launch Pad (FLP) of Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) SHAR, Sriharikota.

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SpaceShipTwo Glides, SpaceX Scrubs, Delta IV & 3 Other Launches Pending

SpaceShipTwo Unity on the runway after its seventh glide flight. (Credit; Virgin Galactic)

A busy day in space, so let’s get right to it:

SpaceShipTwo Flies: Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Unity performed its seven glide flight this morning in Mojave. The flight appeared to go as planned based on what I could see from the ground and Virgin Galactic’s tweets; the space plane landed and rolled to a stop on runway 30. The pilots were Mark Stucky and Michael Masucci.

This is the seventh glide flight for Unity and the 37th glide test for the SpaceShipTwo program. Its predecessor, Enterprise, flew 30 glide and three powered flights before it broke up during its fourth powered flight on Oct. 31, 2014.

Virgin Galactic officials have said today’s test should be the final glide flight for Unity. If all went well, the next test will be powered.

UPDATE: Virgin Galactic has posted a description of today’s flight here.

SpaceX Scrubs: SpaceX scrubbed a static fire of the Falcon Heavy booster for the second time in as many days at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The company planned a 12- to 15-second firing of the 27 first stage engines of the heavy-lift rocket. No reason has been given for the scrub. Reports indicate that a third attempt is set for Friday. If the same schedule is maintained, the six-hour test window will open at 1 p.m. EST.

Delta IV Launch Set: United Launch Alliance is planning to launch a Delta IV booster with the NROL 47 reconnaissance satellite from Vandenberg this afternoon. The original launch time was set for 1 p.m. PST, but ULA says it is working a technical issue that will delay the launch until later. No new time as been set yet. The launch was scrubbed on Wednesday due to high winds.

Webcast available at  www.ulalaunch.com and  www.youtube.com/unitedlaunchalliance

UPDATE: Liftoff is now planned for 1:55 p.m. PST. Webcast commentary will start at 1:30 p.m. PST.
UPDATE 2: Liftoff now at 2:05 p.m. PST.

Chinese & Indian Launches Scheduled: A Chinese Long March 3B rocket will launch two Beidou navigation satellites at approximately 2300 GMT (6 p.m. EST) today. The flight will be conducted from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center.

India’s PSLV booster will launch the Cartosat 2F remote sensing satellite from Satish Dhawan Space Center on Friday at 0358 GMT (10:58 p.m. EST on Thursday, Jan. 11). It will be the first PSLV launch since August when a failure of the payload shroud to separate doomed an IRNSS-1H navigation satellite to a fiery destruction.

A Long March 2D rocket is set to launch an unidentified satellite from Jiuquan on Saturday at approximately 0710 GMT (2:10 a.m. EST). This will be China’s third launch of the new year.