WESTMINSTER, Colo. (DigitalGlobe PR) — DigitalGlobe, a Maxar Technologies Ltd. company (formerly MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd.) (NYSE and TSX: MAXR), today announced it has contracted with SpaceX to launch the next-generation WorldView Legion satellite imaging constellation.
The U.S. Air Force has announced the awarding of launch contracts to Elon Musk’s SpaceX and rival United Launch Alliance. SpaceX’s firm-fixed-price contract totals $290,594,130 while ULA was awarded a firm-fixed-price contract worth $354,811,947.
“This contract provides launch vehicle production, mission integration/launch operations/spaceflight worthiness and mission unique activities for a GPS III mission, with options for two additional GPS III launch services,” the Air Force said about the SpaceX contract.
“This award is the result of a competitive acquisition and two offers were received,” the press statement said. “Fiscal 2017 and 2018 space procurement funding in the amount of $96,937,905 will be obligated at the time of award.”
ULA’s contract is for the launch of the AFSPC-8 and AFSPC-12 satellites to geosynchronous orbit.
“This award is the result of a competitive acquisition and two offers were received,” the Air Force said. “Fiscal 2017 and 2018 space procurement; and fiscal 2018 research, development, test, and evaluation funding in the amount of $354,811,947 will be obligated at the time of award.”
Nearly three years after a SpaceX Falcon 9 failed in flight sending a Dragon resupply ship to the bottom of the Atlantic, NASA has finally released a public summary of its own investigation into the accident. [Public Summary — PDF]
You might recall that SpaceX’s internal accident investigation blamed a defective strut assembly in the second stage liquid oxygen (LOX) tank. The strut, provided by an outside supplier, snapped under launch stresses, causing a helium bottle inside the tank to break free and destroy the LOX tank, the company said.
The NASA investigation found that is a credible scenario for the accident. However, the space agency blamed a “design error” by SpaceX. The table below shows a summary of the investigation’s technical findings.
It was a successful week for launches around the world.
On Tuesday, SpaceX conducted its 50th launch of the Falcon 9 rocket. The booster orbited the 30W-6 communications satellite for Hispsat of Spain from Cape Canaveral Air Force Base in Florida. At 6 metric tons, it was the heaviest geosynchronous satellite ever launched by SpaceX.
On Friday, a Soyuz booster roared off the pad in French Guiana to deliver four O3b F4 communications satellites for SES. It was the third successful launch of Russia’s workhorse Soyuz rocket this year.
NASA would launch the first element of a human-tended Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway in 2022 under a proposed exploration plan that would make use of commercial and international partnerships.
A power and propulsion module would be followed soon afterward by habitation, airlock, and logistics modules. The gateway would serve as a base for astronauts to explore the moon for the first time since Apollo 17 lifted off from the surface in 1972.
Below is the current launch schedule for March. In total, there are 8 launches planned for the month with 16 communications satellites, one meteorological satellite, and one crew mission to the International Space Station. The launches include:
The Brazilian government has been trying to entice foreign launch providers to use the equatorial Alcantara Launch Center. Reuters reports:
Brazil’s defense minister said on Thursday that Boeing, Lockheed Martin, SpaceX and other U.S. aerospace companies have expressed interest in launching rockets from its Alcantara military base near the equator and visited the site in December.
“They were very impressed,” Defense Minister Raul Jungmann told reporters. “They showed interest, but I can’t say whether it will materialize.”
Besides SpaceX, Lockheed Martin and Boeing, the Alcantara visit included smaller aerospace U.S. companies Vector Space Systems, which launches small satellites, and Microcosm, which focuses on providing low-cost access to space, an organizer of the trip said.
Rubens Barbosa, a former Brazilian ambassador to the United States who organized the visit to the base, said the U.S. companies were eager to use the Alcantara site.
Reuters reports that SpaceX denied interest in launching from the facility, whose location at about 2 degrees from the equator makes it ideal for launching communications satellites to geosynchronous orbit.
Alcantara is used for sounding rocket launches; it has never hosted an orbital launch. Brazil’s effort to develop a domestic launcher has not been successful. In August 2003, the program suffered a major setback when the explosion of a VLS-1 booster killed 21 people at Alcantara.
A joint Brazilian-Ukrainian effort to launch Cylcone-4 boosters from Alcantara collapsed in 2015 after a dozen years of effort. The project left behind partially completed launch infrastructure.
SpaceX successfully launched a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Thursday morning.
The primary payload was Hisdesat’s Paz satellite, which will provide radar imaging as well as ship tracking and weather data. The spacecraft was built by Airbus Defence and Space.
Elon Musk’s company also launched two of its own satellites, Microsat-2a and Microsat-2b, that will demonstration technologies needed to provide global broadband services. The company plans to orbit 12,000 satellites in two separate constellations for its Starlink broadband service.
Musk tweeted that the fairing missed landing on Mr. Steven, a ship equipped with a giant net.
“Missed by a few hundred meters, but fairing landed intact in water. Should be able catch it with slightly bigger chutes to slow down descent.”
SpaceX’s focus now shifts to Florida for a Falcon 9 launch scheduled for Sunday. The booster will carry the Hispasat 30W-6 satellite, which will provide communications services over Europe, North Africa and the Americas. The launch is scheduled for 12:35 a.m. EST (0535 GMT).
Fast Company has released its annual list of the most innovative companies for 2018. The 10 top innovators in the space industry are shown above.
I’m a bit surprised by Stratolaunch landing at no. 10. The aircraft is impressive; I’ve seen it in person outside, and it’s positively Spruce Goosian in its size and ambition. And I’ve been on tarmacs walking around a 747 and an A380, which are also very large airplanes.
That being said, the reality is that the only rocket it available to launch is a Pegasus, whose primary launch aircraft is Orbital ATK’s 44-year old L-1011 that’s parked just down the flight line from the Stratolaunch hangar. They’re working on developing a larger booster for the giant aircraft, so maybe Stratolaunch will be as innovative as Fast Company believes it is at some point. Never say never.
It just seems that Burt Rutan got focused on building the coolest flying vehicle he could while the whole issue of the rocket was not as well thought through. A similar thing happened with SpaceShipTwo, contributing to years of delay.
The other thing is I heard last fall is the Stratolaunch aircraft might not fly until sometime well into next year. So, it could be a while before we see how well that thing actually performs in flight.
SpaceX is set to launch two spacecraft next week that will demonstration technologies for providing fast global broadband services through a constellation of 12,000 satellites.
Microsat-2a and Microsat-2b spacecraft will hitch a ride aboard a Falcon 9 booster whose primary payload is the Paz synthetic aperture radar satellite. The launch has been rescheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 21 at 6:17 a.m. PST ( 9:17 a.m. EST; 1417 GMT) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California has been delayed until Wednesday, Feb. 21. The launch had been previously scheduled for Feb. 16 and Feb. 18.
The primary payload is the Paz satellite for Hisdesat of Spain. The spacecraft will provide radar imaging as well as ship tracking and weather data. The flight will use a previously-flown first stage.
Elon Musk’s company will also launch two of its own satellites, Microsat-2a and Microsat-2b, that will demonstration technologies needed to provide global broadband services. The company plans to orbit 12,000 in two separate constellations for its Starlink broadband service.
Here is the launch schedule for the next two weeks. Check for updates here.
Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9 Payload: Paz Launch Time: 9:17 a.m. EST; 6:17 a.m. PST (1417 GMT) Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base, California
Built by Airbus Defense and Space, Hisdesat’s Paz satellite will provide radar imaging as well as ship tracking and weather data. The flight will use a previously-flown first stage.
Launch Vehicle: H-2A Payload: IGS Optical 6 Launch Window: 11:00 p.m.-1:00 a.m. EST on Feb. 24 (0400-0600 GMT on Feb. 25) Launch site: Tanegashima Space Center, Japan
The Japanese government’s Information Gathering Satellite carries an optical reconnaissance payload.