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

NASA Space Act Agreements with Virgin Galactic, Moon Express, NanoRacks and More

NASA has released a document listing the 1,206 active Space Act Agreements  (SAAs) the agency has with commercial companies, non-profit organizations and state and local governments.

From that list, I’ve extracted agreements with individual companies. Below you will find tables listing SAAs that NASA has signed with Virgin Group companies, Moon Express and NanoRacks. There is also a fourth table that has SAAs with a number of companies and organizations that we follow on Parabolic Arc.

SAAs come in three varieties: reimburseable, non-reimburseable and funded. Under reimburseable agreements, a company or organization will pay NASA for its services. No money exchanges hands under non-reimburseable agrements. And under funded agreements, NASA pays the company to perform work or provide services. (The space agency made substantial use of SAA’s in the Commercial Crew Program.)

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U.S. National Lab Research Payloads Headed for ISS

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL. (CASIS PR) The Orbital ATK Cygnus vehicle launched on its seventh cargo resupply mission (CRS-7) to the International Space Station (ISS) on April 18 aboard United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V vehicle, carrying more than 40 ISS U.S. National Laboratory sponsored investigations.

The ISS U.S. National Laboratory is chartered to facilitate research in the microgravity environment that benefits life on Earth. The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) is leading the effort in partnership with NASA, industry, other government organizations, and academia to manage and promote the best use of the ISS National Lab.

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Satellite Professions Name “Rising Five” New Space Companies

NEW YORK (SSPI PR) — The Society of Satellite Professionals International (SSPI) named today the first annual Rising Five, the five New Space Companies in the satellite industry that have made the most substantial progress over the past year. Decided by an international editorial advisory board, the 2017 Rising Five are the Kymeta Corporation, OneWeb, Planet, Spire Global and Virgin Galactic.

“The Rising Five represent the Society’s assessment of the progress made by innovative companies that are raising money, creating new technologies and pioneering new business models in this 60-year-old industry,” said SSPI Chairman Bryan McGuirk, chief commercial officer of Globecomm. “With so many new entrants in the market, the question is always who has the right idea, the right financing and the staying power to overcome the hurdles facing any new business and to find sustainable success. Our membership represents companies that know what it takes to succeed in one of the world’s most challenging technologies.”

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A Look at Payloads Launched in 2016

Built by Lockheed Martin, the WorldView-4 satellite will expand DigitalGlobe’s industry-leading constellation of high-accuracy, high-resolution satellites, and double the availability of 30 cm resolution imagery for commercial and government customers around the globe. (Credit: Lockheed Martin)

Excerpt from

The Annual Compendium of
Commercial Space Transportation: 2017

Federal Aviation Administration
Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA AST)

January 2017

State of the Payload Industry

Space industry companies and organizations worldwide, sometimes the same as launch vehicle manufacturers but also those specifically dedicated to spacecraft manufacturing, produce these spacecraft. Commercially launched payloads are typically used for the following mission types:

  • Commercial communications satellites;
  • Commercial remote sensing or Earth observation satellites;
  • Commercial crew and cargo missions, including on-orbit vehicles and platforms;
  • Technology test and demonstration missions, usually new types of payloads undergoing test or used to test new launch vehicle technology; and
  • Other commercially launched payloads, usually satellites launched for various purposes by governments of countries not having indigenous orbital launch capability.

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SpaceX Wants to Launch 12,000 Satellites

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX has filed a new application with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for approval to launch a constellation of 7,518 satellites to provide communications in the little used V band.

The system is in addition to  another constellations of 4,425 satellites (plus orbital spares) SpaceX proposed in November that would operate in the Ku and Ka bands. In total, the two constellations would have 11,943 spacecraft plus spares.

“When combined into a single, coordinated system, these ‘LEO’ and ‘VLEO’ constellations will enable SpaceX to provide robust broadband services on a full and continuous global basis,” SpaceX said in its application.

Competitor OneWeb has submitted a new application that would add an additional 2,000 satellites capable of operating in the V-band to its planned constellation of 720 satellites.

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Companies Propose Launching 8,700 Satellites into Non-Geosynchronous Orbit

OneWeb satellite. (Credit: Airbus Defence & Space)
OneWeb satellite. (Credit: Airbus Defence & Space)

While SpaceX has received most of the attention for its plan to launch more than 4,000 broadband satellite network, the constellation makes up just over half the number of spacecraft that companies have proposed placing in non-geosynchronous satellite orbit (NGSO).

Companies have filed applications with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to launch 8,731 NGSO communications satellites. While most of the constellations would provide broadband and communications services, others would collect Earth observation data.

According to the International Telecommunications Union, NGSO spacecraft “occupy a range of orbital positions (LEO satellites are located between 700km-1,500km from the Earth, MEO satellites are located at 10,000km from the Earth), and do not maintain a stationary position, but instead move in relation to the Earth’s surface.”

SpaceX leads the pack with 4,425 spacecraft, followed by Boeing with 2,956 and WorldVu (aka, OneWeb) with 720. Boeing has a second application before the FCC for a constellation with 60 satellites.

The table below provides a summary of the applications filed with the FCC.

 NGSO APPLICATIONS BEFORE FCC
COMPANYLOCATION
NO. OF SATELLITES
BANDSSERVICES
SpaceXHawthorne, CA4,425Ka, KuGlobal broadband
BoeingSeattle, WA2,956VAdvanced communications, Internet-based services
WorldVu (OneWeb)Arlington, VA720KuGlobal broadband
Kepler CommunicationsToronto, ONT140KuMachine-to-machine communications (Internet of Things)
 Telesat CanadaOttawa, ONT117Ka Wide band and narrow band communications services
 Theia Holdings A, Inc.Philadelphia, PA112KaIntegrated Earth observation and communications network
Spire GlobalSan Francisco, CA100KaMaritime monitoring, meteorological monitoring, and earth imaging services
 LeoSat MAPompano Beach, FL80KaBroadband services
BoeingSeattle, WA60KaVery high speed connectivity for end-user earth stations
 O3bWashington, DC60KaBroadband services
ViaSat  Carlsbad, CA24Ka, VBroadband services
 Karousel LLCAlexandria, VA12KaCommunications
Audacy CommunicationsWalnut, CA3K, VData relay constellation providing satellite operators with seamless access to NGSO satellites
Space Norway ASOslo, Norway2Ka, KuArctic broadband

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Harnessing the Small Satellite Revolution

Members of the NASA Ames Nodes Integration & Test team ready to integrate the Nodes 1 and 2 spacecraft (forefront) into the Nanoracks dispenser.(Credit: NASA)
Members of the NASA Ames Nodes Integration & Test team ready to integrate the Nodes 1 and 2 spacecraft (forefront) into the Nanoracks dispenser.(Credit: NASA)

by Steve Fetter and Tom Kalil
White House OSTP

Today, astronauts Scott and Mark Kelly are visiting the White House to talk to the President about developing innovative new space technologies. One critical area for technology development is making satellites more affordable, adaptable, and adept at providing the sorts of real-time information that will help advance knowledge out in space and on Earth.

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NOAA Awards Commercial Weather Data Program Contracts

noaa_logoWASHINGTON (NOAA PR) — On September 15, 2016, NOAA awarded contracts to GeoOptics, Inc., and Spire Global, Inc., as part of the Commercial Weather Data Pilot.

GeoOptics and Spire Global will each provide space-based GNSS radio occultation data to NOAA for the purpose of demonstrating data quality and potential value to NOAA’s weather forecasts and warnings. This approach is a win-win solution. Both NOAA and the commercial firms will gain a trial run of the NOAA evaluation process, a necessary first step to considering sustained operational use of new commercial weather data.

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