China Launch Surge Left U.S., Russia Behind in 2018

Long March 2F rocket in flight carrying Shenzhou-11. (Credit: CCTV)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The year 2018 was the busiest one for launches in decades. There were a total of 111 completely successful launches out of 114 attempts. It was the highest total since 1990, when 124 launches were conducted.

China set a new record for launches in 2018. The nation launched 39 times with 38 successes in a year that saw a private Chinese company fail in the country’s first ever orbital launch attempt.

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Amazon Constellation Sends Number of Planned Communications Satellites Soaring Above 20,000

F6 satellite (Credit: OneWeb)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Jeff Bezos’ Amazon has jumped into a crowded field of companies seeking to provide high-speed broadband, data and other communications services to the entire globe.

Amazon’s Kuiper constellation of 3,236 satellites brings the total number of spacecraft in the 16 announced systems to 20,241 spacecraft. The competition includes SpaceX, Boeing, Telesat, SES and government-backed companies in China and Russia.

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Report: Musk Replaces Senior Management of Starlink Program

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

Reuters reports that Elon Musk fired at least seven senior members of the management team of SpaceX’s Starlink program back in June over disagreements about the pace of developing the satellite Internet constellation.

Known for pushing aggressive deadlines, Musk quickly brought in new managers from SpaceX headquarters in California to replace a number of the managers he fired. Their mandate: Launch SpaceX’s first batch of U.S.-made satellites by the middle of next year, the sources said….

Among the managers fired from the Redmond office was SpaceX Vice President of Satellites Rajeev Badyal, an engineering and hardware veteran of Microsoft Corp and Hewlett-Packard, and top designer Mark Krebs, who worked in Google’s satellite and aircraft division, the employees said. Krebs declined to comment, and Badyal did not respond to requests for comment.

The management shakeup followed in-fighting over pressure from Musk to speed up satellite testing schedules, one of the sources said. SpaceX’s Behrend offered no comment on the matter.

Culture was also a challenge for recent hires, a second source said. A number of the managers had been hired from nearby technology giant Microsoft, where workers were more accustomed to longer development schedules than Musk’s famously short deadlines.

“Rajeev wanted three more iterations of test satellites,” one of the sources said. “Elon thinks we can do the job with cheaper and simpler satellites, sooner.”

Starlink aims to launch 4,425 satellites to provide Internet and other communications services to any place on the globe. A future constellation would bring the total number of satellites to about 12,000.

In February, Starlink launched two test satellites named Tintin A and Tintin B. The program faces competition from OneWeb and other companies that are aiming for the same market.

Watch First Two SpaceX Starlink Satellites Deployed

These test satellites were secondary payloads on the Falcon 9 launch of the Paz satellite from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California this morning. Elon Musk’s company plans to provide global broadband services through two satellite constellations composed of 12,000 satellites.