Issy-les-Moulineaux, France (Airbus Safran PR) — At the presentation of his New Year’s greetings to the press, Alain Charmeau, CEO, took a look back at the activities of the first year of Airbus Safran Launchers, created in January 2015, following the ESA Ministerial Conference of December 2014.
Video Caption: Take a flight over dwarf planet Ceres in this video made with images from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft. The simulated flyover was made by the mission’s camera team at Germany’s national aeronautics and space research center (DLR).
DUBAI, AIE (UAE Space Agency PR) — The UAE Space Agency has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Italian Space Agency (ASI) aimed at strengthening joint strategic cooperation between the two agencies in the short and long terms. The MoU was signed during a visit made this week by a high-level delegation, including representatives from ASI and the Italian Embassy in the UAE, who met with key actors in the UAE space sector.
The visit complemented the terms of the agreement approved by the two sides during a visit made by the UAE Space Agency to ASI last year shortly after the founding of the agency.
NEW ORLEANS (NASA PR) — NASA’s Orion spacecraft is another step closer to launching on its first mission to deep space atop the agency’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. On Jan. 13, 2016, technicians at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans finished welding together the primary structure of the Orion spacecraft destined for deep space, marking another important step on the journey to Mars.
Welding Orion’s seven large aluminum pieces, which began in September 2015, involved a meticulous process. Engineers prepared and outfitted each element with strain gauges and wiring to monitor the metal during the process. The pieces were joined using a state-of-the-art process called friction-stir welding, which produces incredibly strong bonds by transforming metals from a solid into a plastic-like state, and then using a rotating pin tool to soften, stir and forge a bond between two metal components to form a uniform welded joint, a vital requirement of next-generation space hardware.
It appears as if something is finally flying out of Spaceport America:
Google is testing solar-powered drones at Spaceport America in New Mexico to explore ways to deliver high-speed internet from the air, the Guardian has learned.
In a secretive project codenamed SkyBender, the technology giant built several prototype transceivers at the isolated spaceport last summer, and is testing them with multiple drones, according to documents obtained under public records laws.
In order to house the drones and support aircraft, Google is temporarily using 15,000 square feet of hangar space in the glamorous Gateway to Space terminal designed by Richard Foster for the much-delayed Virgin Galactic spaceflights.
The tech company has also installed its own dedicated flight control centre in the nearby Spaceflight Operations Center, separate from the terminal….
Google is paying Virgin Galactic $1,000 a day for the use of a hangar in the Gateway to Space building, but had to split its SkyBender tests into two separate flight campaigns to ease Virgin Galactic concerns.
Some more potentially bad news for United Launch Alliance (ULA): the U.S. Air Force is considering ending its $800-million-a-year launch capability contract prior to its expiration in 2019 after the company’s decision not to bid on an launch contract.
Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, testifying Wednesday at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on military space launch, said she has directed staff to study the implications of ending the EELV Launch Capability contract early.
The Air Force buys ULA rocket hardware through a fixed-price EELV Launch Services contract but funds ULA’s launch infrastructure and engineering support through the cost-plus EELV Launch Capability contract that competitor SpaceX considers an unfair subsidy….
During Wednesday’s hearing, [Sen. John] McCain called ULA’s EELV Launch Capabilitity contract “$800 million to do nothing.” ULA disputes that characterization. On its website, ULA says the contract is not a subsidy since it “pays for very well-defined national security space requirements that allow the Air Force to launch exactly when and where it needs to launch.”
In her testimony, James said the contract currently is scheduled to end in 2019 after ULA carries out the final launch covered under an $11 billion sole-source block buy agreement with the Air Force. That deal, which predates the 2006 creation of ULA, covers the production of 36 Atlas 5 and Delta 4 rocket cores plus launch costs for a total of 78 missions.
Airbus Safran Launchers CEO Alain Charmeau says the company is making rapid progress on Europe’s Ariane 6 next generation launcher, with the basic design now frozen.
“We have already signed some major contracts, and more will be signed in the coming days. And for those equipments not on the critical path, we will sign contracts in the coming months after running some competitions.”
For its part, Airbus Safran does not envisage making Ariane 6 recoverable, not in the short term….
Long term it is hard to envisage Ariane shunning re-usability, and Airbus is studying a concept called Adeline that would modify the 62 and 64 variants to allow their main engine to fly back to a runway after consuming its launch propellant.
Whether Adeline, or some other re-usability concept, ever sees the light of day – and it would not be before 2030 – will ultimately come down to the attitude of European Space Agency member states. They fund the R&D of the Ariane programme and they may feel the American competition demands a response.
Reuters reports that Virgin Galactic partner Aabar Investments is trying to borrow $2.5 billion to refinance a loan that is due in April.
Aabar has a chequered past, having borrowed aggressively to build up its holdings around the turn of the decade but then suffering heavy losses as investments turned sour. For example, IPIC’s 2011 net profit was all but wiped out due to losses worth $3.42 billion by Aabar’s holdings in German carmaker Daimler and UniCredit.
It has since kept a lower profile as it seeks to repair its reputation within Abu Dhabi and manage its existing commitments….
The 2013 loan was split between tranches lasting three and five years, which were each denominated in dollars, UAE dirhams and euros. Among the banks to have backed the loan were Bank of America-Merrill Lynch, HSBC, JP Morgan and National Bank of Abu Dhabi, according to Thomson Reuters data.
Have you been wondering exactly what Spaceport America costs to operate? Curious about what officials spend money on? Anxious to know what this is going to cost you in the fiscal year ahead? Dying to learn how much anchor tenant Virgin Galactic is contributing to the budget?
Well, look no further. Parabolic Arc has the spaceport’s budget request for FY 2017, which begins on July 1. There’s a full description of spending and projected revenues right after the break.
WESTMINSTER, Colo., Jan. 27, 2016 (DigitalGlobe PR) — DigitalGlobe, Inc. (NYSE: DGI), a leading global provider of commercial high-resolution earth observation and advanced geospatial solutions, today announced its third customer commitment for direct access capacity on the WorldView-4 satellite, which is expected to begin commercial operations in early 2017 following its launch in September. Since the end of the third quarter of 2015, DigitalGlobe has received contracts and letters of intent from international defense and intelligence customers totaling $335 million for capacity on WorldView-3 and WorldView-4, representing $38 million of incremental annual revenue starting in 2017.
PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., has selected four companies to conduct design studies for a solar-electric-propulsion-based spacecraft for the agency’s Asteroid Redirect Robotic Mission (ARRM). The aerospace companies selected for the initial studies include: Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Littleton, Colorado; Boeing Phantom Works, Huntington Beach, California; Orbital ATK, Dulles, Virginia; and Space Systems/Loral, Palo Alto, California.
EL SEGUNDO, Calif., January 27, 2015 (Millennium Space Systems PR) — Millennium Space Systems has inked a contract for launch services with NanoRacks LLC of Webster, Texas, to launch its ALTAIR-1 Pathfinder satellite into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) this summer via cargo resupply to the International Space Station (ISS).
The ALTAIR platform will demonstrate and flight qualify key technologies developed in house by Millennium Space in Guidance, Navigation & Control (GN&C); Avionics & Flight Computing; Advanced Onboard Processing; Electrical Power & Distribution; and Software Defined Radio Communications.