Spaceflight Reschedules Launch of 89 Satellites

SHERPA space tug. (Credit: Spaceflight, Inc.)

While Elon Musk keeps adding missions to the moon and Mars to SpaceX’s already crowded launch manifest, a Seattle company has been forced to find alternative rides to space for 89 satellites originally booked to launch on a Falcon 9 booster.

The small spacecraft were set to be deployed using Spaceflight’s SHERPA carrier, which would have been a secondary payload on Taiwan’s Formosat-5 satellite. The launch was originally scheduled for the end of 2015, but it recently suffered yet another delay.

“We found each of our customers an alternative launch that was within the same time frame,” [Spaceflight’s President, Curt ] Blake wrote. “It took a huge effort, but within two weeks, the team hustled to have all customers who wanted to be rebooked confirmed on other launches!”

[…]

Spaceflight was anticipating that the launch would finally take place around May or June, but Blake said SpaceX “recently communicated their 2017 manifest, and the impact on the Formosat-5 mission is significant.”

“We learned our launch would occur potentially much later than expected,” he said. By some accounts, the Formosat-5 mission has been shifted into 2018. That’s what led Spaceflight to look at alternatives….

The payloads that had been scheduled for deployment from the SHERPA carrier include Planetary Resources’ Arkyd 6 satellite, which is designed to test a midwave-infrared imaging system; and the Pathfinder-2 satellite, an Earth-observing spacecraft that serves as a prototype for Spaceflight Industries’ BlackSky constellation.

Smallsat 2016: Updates on Planetary Resources, HawkEye 360

Ceres constellation (Credit: Planetary Resources)
Ceres constellation (Credit: Planetary Resources)

Planetary Resources and Hawkeye 360 gave updates on the remote sensing satellites they are planning to launch. The summaries below are courtesy of the following Tweeters:

  • Jeff Foust ‏@jeff_foust
  • David Hurst ‏@OrbitalDave
  • brianweeden ‏@brianweeden
  • Eric Anderson ‏@AndOneTech

Planetary Resources
Hannah Goldberg

  • Currently testing midwave infrared (IR) instrument using a Cessna aircraft
  • Two Arkyd-6 CubeSats will test IR instruments in space
  • First Arkyd-6 satellite to launch in Fall 2016, second in early 2017
  • Constellation of 10 larger Ceres spacecraft designed for Earth remote sensing
  • Hope to have Ceres constellation by 2018

HawkEye 360
Daniel CaJacob

  • Pathfinder constellation with 3 microsats flying in formation designed to triangulate radio frequency (RF) emissions from the ground
  • Launch of first 3 microsats planned for fourth quarter 2017
  • Deep Space Industries is prime contractor for satellites
  • University of Toronto Space Flight Laboratory is supplying the satellite bus
  • Satellites are pathfinders for a full commercial constellation of RF mapping and analytics system
  • Technology uses: ionospheric study, spectrum mapping, asset and natural resources monitoring, emergency response

Entrepreneurial Lingo Lesson: The Pivot

twist_chubby1_disrupt copy
First in an irregular series on entrepreneurial buzz words

Come on let’s pivot again,
Like we did last quarter!
Yeaaah, let’s pivot again,
Like we did last year!

Do you remember when,
ROI was really hummin’,
Yeaaaah, let’s pivot again,
Pivotin’ time is here!

Heeee, and round and round til IPO we go!
Oh, baby, make those investors love us so!

Let’s pivot again,
Like we did last quarter!
Yeaaah, let’s pivot again,
Like we did last year!

There comes a time in the existence of many startups when there an urgent need to change direction. You set up the company to pursue a goal, but for one reason or several — a lack of a market, shortage of investment, regulatory hurdles, a flawed concept — you have to direct all that talent, technology and enthusiasm toward a new objective that will keep the company in operation.

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Planetary Resources Shelves Arkyd Space Selfies Due to Lack of Funding

Arkyd-3 satellite (Credit: Planetary Resources)
Arkyd-3 satellite (Credit: Planetary Resources)

Asteroid mining company Planetary Resources sent out the following cancellation and refund message today has been sent to supporters of its ARKYD Kickstarter. The campaign raised money so people could send pictures of themselves into space that would be displayed with Earth in the background.

According to the message, Planetary Resources was only going to launch the satellite if it got other people to give them even more money to fly the mission. That funding was which was not forthcoming from the multiple billionaires that back Planetary Resources (Larry Page, Eric Schmidt and Richard Branson among them) or anyone else the company targeted for funding.

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What Happened to Planetary Resources’ Real Satellite?

Arkyd-3 satellite (Credit: Planetary Resources)
Arkyd-3 satellite (Credit: Planetary Resources)

While Planetary Resources unveiled a tiny model of a spacecraft 3D printed from asteroid metals amid much hype at the glitzy Consumer Electronics Show this week, the space mining company has apparently remained silent for nearly six months about an actual satellite it launched into space.

The Arkyd 3 Reflight (A3R) CubeSat was deployed from the International Space Station on July 16 on a planned 90-day mission to “validate several core technologies including the avionics, control systems and software, which the company will incorporate into future spacecraft that will venture into the Solar System and prospect for resource-rich near-Earth asteroids.” It was the company’s first deployed spacecraft.

Miniature satellite model made from asteroid material. (Credit: Planetary Resources)
Miniature satellite model made from asteroid material. (Credit: Planetary Resources)

“The successful deployment of the A3R is a significant milestone for Planetary Resources as we forge a path toward prospecting resource-rich asteroids,” Co-founder Peter Diamandis said in a press release. “Our team is developing the technology that will enable humanity to create an off-planet economy that will fundamentally change the way we live on Earth.”

The company has not posted an update on its website about this significant milestone since the satellite was deployed. The silence is rather odd given the significance of the mission and the company’s PR savvy.

A3R might have already re-entered the atmosphere. A search on N2YO.com indicates a satellite by that name re-entered the atmosphere on Dec. 23. However, the listing indicates a November 1998 launch date.

UPDATE: The A3R did in fact re-enter the atmosphere on Dec. 23. The November 1998 launch date is for the ISS Zarya module that was launched at that time. Anything deployed from the space station has that launch date.

Planetary Resources, Planet Labs Launching Satellites Aboard Dragon

The asteroid mining company Planetary Resources is launching its first test satellite aboard a SpaceX Dragon resupply ship today. The Arkyd 3 Reflight (A3R) satellite will test out technologies for the company’s future spacecraft. It will be launched from the International Space Station at a later date.

The first Arkyd test satellite was lost when Orbital Sciences’ Antares launch vehicle exploded shortly after liftoff in October. The spacecraft was aboard a Cygnus resupply ship headed for the space station.

Planet Labs is sending up 14 more of its Dove remote sensing spacecraft aboard the mission. They are being launched as secondary payloads.

Planetary Resources to Launch First Spacecraft on Monday

Arkyd 100 spacecraft. (Credit: Planetary Resources)
Arkyd 100 spacecraft. (Credit: Planetary Resources)

Asteroid mining company Planetary Resources will launch its first satellite aboard the Cygnus spacecraft on Monday. Here is the company’s previous press release announcing the launch.

The A3 is the Arkyd 100’s technology demonstrator, and the mission will provide for early testing and serve to validate the spacecraft’s core technology and software in the development of the program.

Planetary Resources is under contract with NanoRacks, through its Space Act Agreement with NASA, to release the A3 from the International Space Station’s Kibo airlock.

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DARPA Awards Arkyd SBIR Phase I Contract for Spacecraft Hypervisor

Arkyd 100 spacecraft. (Credit: Planetary Resources)
Arkyd 100 spacecraft. (Credit: Planetary Resources)

Arkyd Astronautics, a company owned by Planetary Resources, has been selected by DARPA for  2013 SBIR Phase I award for a project to incorporate hypervisor-based software virtualization into spacecraft architectures. I know that’s a mouthful; the benefits of it are described in the company’s abstract below.

Arkyd was one of four companies working on hypervisor technology that DARPA selected for Phase I awards. The other companies were: DornerWorks, Ltd., of  Grand Rapids, MI; Emergent Space Technologies, Inc., of Greenbelt, MD; and Intelligent Automation, Inc., of Rockville, MD.  All the abstracts are below.

DARPA 2013 SBIR Phase I Awards
Hypervisor Software Virtualization

Arkyd Astronautics, Inc.
Bellevue, WA
PI:  Ray Ramadorai
Title: Spacecraft Hypervisor Implementing Modularity and Security (SHIMS)

Abstract: Incorporating hypervisor-based software virtualization into spacecraft architectures offers the capability to integrate payload software in a plug-and-play fashion, enabling more flexible and reconfigurable platforms. The hypervisor allows the payload software to be implemented in an abstracted, virtualized environment, which isolates the payload software from core spacecraft functions and offers significant advantages for payload development efficiency, modularity, re-use, integration, and test. (more…)

Planetary Resources Raises $1.5 Million on Kickstarter

Arkyd_kickstarter_final
Bellevue, Washington, July 1, 2013 (Planetary Resources PR) –
Planetary Resources, Inc., the asteroid mining company, successfully completed its crowdfunding campaign yesterday to launch ARKYD – the world’s first public space telescope. Over the course of the 33-day campaign, the company generated support from more than 17,600 backers who pledged US$1,505,366 for the cause. This marks the most successful crowdfunding effort for a space project and ranks the ARKYD campaign among the top 25 projects in Kickstarter history.

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Planetary Resources Launches Arkyd T-shirt Design Contest with Freelancer.com

Arkyd 100 spacecraft. (Credit: Planetary Resources)
Arkyd 100 spacecraft. (Credit: Planetary Resources)

SYDNEY, June 17th 2013 (Freelancer.com PR) — High value contests on Freelancer.com continue to achieve out of this world results for businesses.

Planetary Resources, a company dedicated to space exploration and resource discovery, has taken the first step towards making space accessible to everyone. Planetary Resources has turned to both crowdfunding and crowdsourcing, in partnership with Freelancer.com, to involve global communities in building, promoting and launching the first publicly accessible, orbiting space telescope, the ARKYD.

Planetary Resources, backed by visionaries Eric Schmidt, Larry Page and director James Cameron, has partnered with Freelancer.com to run a $7,000 “Design a T-Shirt” contest allowing every designer in the world to enter their designs and have the chance to become part of history.

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America’s Rocket Renaissance

rutan_talkBy Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

During recent public talks, Scaled Composites Founder Burt Rutan has bemoaned the lack of recent rocket development in the United States. After the initial burst of creativity in the 1950’s and 1960’s, decades went by with very few new rockets being developed. He has also pointed to Scaled Composites’ SpaceShipTwo, SpaceX’s Dragon and Stratolaunch Systems air-launch project (which he worked on for 20 years) as the only serious developments in the field at present.

My first thought was: Burt’s wrong. There’s a lot more going on than just that. Including developments just down the flight line in Mojave that he somehow fails to mention. And my second thought was: well, just how wrong is Burt, exactly?

A lot, it turns out.

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