Euro Updates: Ariane 6 Price Promises, SES Embraces SpaceX & Orbital Servicing

Artist's impression of Ariane 6. (Credit: ESA)
Artist’s impression of Ariane 6. (Credit: ESA)

Updates from the Old World: European officials say they can beat SpaceX’s launch pricing four years from now.

Europe’s next-generation Ariane 6 rocket remains on track for a 2020 first launch with a cost structure allowing the heavier Ariane 64 version to advertise per-kilogram prices below today’s Space X Falcon 9, European government and industry officials said April 6.

They said they saw no roadblocks to the 2020 first-flight date despite what they described as noncritical delays that have no impact on the rocket’s design, performance or cost targets.

These issues include a delay of several months in the ramp-up of Airbus Safran Launchers (ASL), which is the Ariane 6 prime contractor, due to tax issues in France, and an extended antitrust review by the European Commission of ASL’s plan to become the dominant shareholder of the Arianespace commercial launch consortium.

Meanwhile, satellite fleet operator SES is embracing on-orbit servicing and SpaceX’s reusable Falcon 9.

SES said specifically it had opened negotiations with two companies — industry officials said they are Dulles, Virginia-based Orbital ATK’s Vivisat and MDA Corp. of Canada — “to have each extend the life of one of our satellites once their services are operational.”

The two in-orbit servicing projects take different approaches. Orbital ATK’s Vivisat launches a small vehicle that latches onto the target communications satellite and stays attached to it, providing fuel. MDA Corp. has designed an in-orbit fuel depot that would visit satellites, fuel them and then leave to service other customers….

ES has said that, for the right price, it is willing to be the inaugural customer using a refurbished Falcon 9 first stage “to show our commitment to reusable rockets.”

SES plans to launch seven satellites by late 2017– three in 2016 and four in 2017 – of which five are slated for SpaceX Falcon 9 missions, with two on Europe’s Ariane 5 rocket. The first of the seven, SES-9, was successfully launched in March aboard a Falcon 9.

Shotwell: SpaceX Could Reduce Launch Costs By 30 Percent by Reusing First Stage

Gwynne Shotwell
Gwynne Shotwell

SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said earlier this week the company could reduce launch costs substantially by reusing the first stage of its Falcon 9 booster.

SES of Luxembourg, SpaceX’s biggest backer among the large commercial satellite fleet operators, has said it wants to be the first customer to fly with a reused stage. But SES Chief Executive Karim Michel Sabbagh said here March 8 that SES wanted a 50 percent price cut, to around $30 million, in return for pioneering the reusable version.

Shotwell said it was too early to set precise prices for a reused Falcon 9, but that if the fuel on the first stage costs $1 million or less, and a reused first stage could be prepared for reflight for $3 million or so, a price reduction of 30 percent – to around $40 million – should be possible.

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SpaceX Schedules Fourth Launch Attempt for Tonight

Falcon 9 launch (Credit: SpaceX)
Falcon 9 launch (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX will make its fourth attempt to launch the SES-9 satellite on Tuesday, March 1, at 6:35 p.m. EDT from Cape Canaveral. The company scrubbed three launch attempts of the Falcon 9 booster over the past week.

SpaceX will webcast the event at www.spacex.com beginning about 20 minutes before the launch window opens.

SpaceX Falcon 9 Launch Scrubbed Again

The Eastern Range is evaluating new launch dates no earlier than 48 hours after this one. So, no launch before Tuesday, March 1.

SpaceX Resets Falcon 9 Launch for Sunday Evening

Falcon 9 launch (Credit: SpaceX)
Falcon 9 launch (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX has reset the launch of a Falcon 9 carrying the SES 9 communications satellite for Sunday, Feb. 28, at 6:46 p.m. EST. The backup date is Monday evening.

Launch attempts were canceled on Wednesday and Thursday due to fueling issues.

SpaceX will webcast the launch beginning about 20 minutes prior to scheduled liftoff.

SpaceX Falcon 9 Set to Launch Communications Satellite Tonight

Falcon 9 launch (Credit: SpaceX)
Falcon 9 launch (Credit: SpaceX)

UPDATE NO. 2: The launch was scrubbed on Thursday due to a LOX loading problem. Since this was the backup date, SpaceX does not currently have a new launch date.

UPDATE: The launch has been scrubbed for Wednesday. SpaceX will try again on Thursday night.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to launch the SES-9 communications satellite to geosynchronous orbit this evening from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The approximately 90-minute launch window opens on February 24 at 6:46:14 pm ET. A backup launch window opens at 6:46:17 pm ET on February 25. The satellite will be deployed approximately 31 minutes after liftoff.

Following stage separation, the first stage of the Falcon 9 will attempt an experimental landing on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship. Given the mission’s unique launch profile, a successful landing is not expected.

The launch webcast will be live at spacex.com/webcast approximately 20 minutes before launch.

Delta IV, Falcon 9 Launches Set

NROL45_MissionArtNight owls and insomniacs in California will be able to witness a spectacular night launch on Wednesday morning.

A United Launch Alliance Delta IV is set to lift off at 3:39 a.m. PST (6:39 a.m. EST) from Vandenberg Air Force Base carrying the National Reconnaissance Office’s NROL-45. If there are clear skies, the launch will be visible for hundreds of miles.

ULA will webcast the launch at http://www.ulalaunch.com.

SpaceX is planning to be back in action two weeks later with a planned Feb. 24 launch of its upgraded Falcon 9 booster. The rocket will carry SES-9 communications satellite for SES S.A. of Luxembourg. SpaceX will conduct the launch from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

“In order to minimise the impact of moving the launch from late last year, SpaceX is supporting a mission modification,” SES said in a press release. “The changed mission will reduce the time needed for SES-9 to reach its orbital slot, keeping the Operational Service Date (OSD) in the third quarter of 2016, as previously foreseen….

“SES-9 will use a chemical bi-propellant apogee motor to quickly achieve a 24h synchronous orbit and then electric propulsion to circularise the final orbit and to remove eccentricity at 36,000 kilometers over the equator,” the company added. “Subsequent on-orbit manoeuvres will be executed with electric propulsion.”

Customers Edgy as SpaceX’s Schedule Slips; Falcon Heavy Flight Delayed Again

Falcon 9 launch (Credit: SpaceX)
Falcon 9 launch (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX’s customers are again experiencing the effects of Elon Musk’s focus on continuous upgrades to its Falcon 9 rocket as launch dates slide to the right. Meanwhile, the long-delayed debut of the company’s 28-engine Falcon Heavy vehicle has been postponed by at least five more months.

SpaceX’s silence on the schedule delays of its Falcon 9 Upgrade rocket, whose inaugural flight on Dec. 21 was a success, is causing ripples of concern among commercial customers, which like NASA are counting on a high launch cadence in 2016 to meet these companies’ schedule milestones, industry officials said.
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SpaceX to Fly Orbcomm, not SES, on First Test of Upgraded Booster

falcon9_debris
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 will loft 11 Orbcomm OG2 satellites into orbit instead of a SES spacecraft in a December launch that will be the rocket’s first flight since a catastrophic failure in June destroyed a Dragon cargo ship bound for the International Space Station. The launch will be the first test of upgrades to the Falcon 9 that will allow the rocket to lift heavier payloads.

In a statement, SpaceX said that unlike the geosynchronous SES 9 communication satellites, the OG2 spacecraft do not require a relight of the Falcon 9’s second stage following orbital insertion. Changing the order of the launches will allow SpaceX to test the second stage after the OG2 satellites have been deployed.

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SpaceWorks Review Finds Sharp Increase in Smallsat Launches

SpaceWorks_nano_microsat_2014
Excerpts From
2015 Small Satellite Market Observations
Full Presentation

Developed by:

Ms. Elizabeth Buchen
Director, Engineering Economics Group
SpaceWorks Enterprises, Inc. (SEI)
Atlanta, GA

2014

SpaceWorks’ 2014 Projection estimated between 140 and 143 nano/microsatellites across all sectors would launch globally in 2014; 158 nano/microsatellites were actually launched. This represented an increase of nearly 72% compared to 2013.

2015+

In 2014, 107 commercial nano/microsatellites (1-50 kg) launched and thousands of commercial small satellites (101-500 kg) are planned for launch over the next fifteen years. Recent multi-million and multi-billion dollar investments in various ventures confirm the commercial sector’s continued interest in the nano/microsatellite and small satellite industries.
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Falcon 9 Launch Failure Scrambles Schedule

Dragon capsule separated from Falcon 9 launch vehicle.
Dragon capsule separated from Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

With the failure of the Falcon 9 on Sunday, SpaceX’s only launch vehicle will be grounded for an unknown number of months while engineers identify the cause of the crash and make necessary changes to ensure that failure won’t happen again.

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SpaceX’s Busy To-Do List for Rest of 2015

SpaceX vehicle integration building at Pad 39A. (Credit: NASA)
SpaceX vehicle integration building at Pad 39A. (Credit: NASA)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell was making the rounds last week in Washington, D.C., speaking before the Satellite 2015 conference and a House Armed Services subcommittee meeting. Much of the focus was on the latter, where Shotwell engaged in a she said-he said battle over launch costs with United Launch Alliance CEO Tory Bruno.

More interesting were the updates Shotwell provided on SpaceX’s plans for 2015 and beyond. What emerged is just how crowded the company’s agenda is for the rest of the year. The table below provides a summary.

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SES Selects SpaceX for Two Satellite Launches

Falcon 9 static fire. (Credit: SpaceX)
Falcon 9 static fire. (Credit: SpaceX)

LUXEMBOURG/HAWTHORNE, CA, 25 February 2015 (SES/SpaceX PR) — SES (NYSE Euronext Paris and Luxembourg Stock Exchange: SESG) announced today an agreement with SpaceX to launch two new satellites in 2017 – SES-14 and SES-16/ GovSat – using the Falcon 9 rocket.

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SES to Fly Satellite on Upgraded Falcon 9 as SpaceX Plans Barge Upgrade

Falcon 9's Merlin 1D engines in an octoweb structure. (Credit: SpaceX)
Falcon 9’s Merlin 1D engines in an octoweb structure. (Credit: SpaceX)

Satellite operator SES has agreed to be the guinea pig for SpaceX’s upgraded Falcon 9 rocket later this year. Meanwhile, SpaceX is upgrading its barge where first stages will land to handle rough seas.

The decision comes after a review of the risks of launching the SES 9 satellite with rocket engines operating at higher thrust for the first time….

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