Russia Gears Up for Angara 5 Test, Eyes Ending Use of Rockot

Rockot launch vehicle
Rockot launch vehicle

Following a successful suborbital flight of the Angara 1 booster in July, Russian space officials are gearing up to test the larger Angara 5 launch vehicle by the end of the year.

The Khrunichev-built Angara is a modular family of rockets on which additional boosters are added to the first-stage core.  Angara 5 is designed to place 24.5 metric tons of cargo into low Earth orbit (LEO). The smaller Angara 1 can loft 3.8 metric tons to LEO.

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USAF Awards Hosted Payload Contracts to 14 Companies

USAF_Space_Missile_Systems_CenterThe U.S. Air Force has awarded contracts worth a maximum of $494.9 million each to 14 companies under its Hosted Payload Solutions (HoPS) program.

‘The purpose of the multiple awarded HoPS IDIQ [indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity] contract is to provide a rapid and flexible means for the government to acquire commercial hosting capabilities for government payloads,” according to the contract announcement. “The contract is designed to create a pool of qualified vendors to meet the government’s needs for various hosted payload missions.”

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Tackling Tumors With Space Station Research

Thyroid cancer cell line FTC-133 after four hours of exposure to simulated microgravity. Nuclei are stained blue, components of the cytoskeleton stained green and red. (Credit: Team Daniela Grimm)
Thyroid cancer cell line FTC-133 after four hours of exposure to simulated microgravity. Nuclei are stained blue, components of the cytoskeleton stained green and red. (Credit: Team Daniela Grimm)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — In space, things don’t always behave the way we expect them to. In the case of cancer, researchers have found that this is a good thing: some tumors seem to be much less aggressive in the microgravity environment of space compared to their behavior on Earth. This observation, reported in research published in February by the Federation of the American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) Journal, could help scientists understand the mechanism involved and develop drugs targeting tumors that don’t respond to current treatments. This work is the latest in a large body of evidence on how space exploration benefits those of us on Earth.

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EADS Reorganizes, Acknowledges Success of SpaceX

Falcon 9 lifts off with the SES-8 satellite. (Credit: SpaceX)
Falcon 9 lifts off with the SES-8 satellite. (Credit: SpaceX)

Europe’s largest defense and aerospace company, EADS, has recently restructured and re-branded its operations and announced a series of planned layoffs designed to make the company leaner and more competitive. In the process, officials have acknowledged the competitive pressures placed on it by SpaceX.

EADS re-organized itself as the Airbus Group, with three divisions that include Airbus, Airbus Defence & Space, and Airbus Helicopters. The Airbus Defence & Space group includes the space company formerly known as Astrium.

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Arianespace Signs Ariane 5, Vega Contracts

Inaugural Vega flight. (Credits: ESA - S. Corvaja, 2012)
Inaugural Vega flight. (Credits: ESA – S. Corvaja, 2012)

EVRY, France (Arianespace PRs) — Arianespace, the world’s leading launch services company, and Astrium, the world’s second leading space technology company, have signed a contract for 18 additional Ariane 5 ECA launchers, worth more than 2 billion euros. These 18 new Ariane 5 rockets will be launched starting in 2017, following the 35 launchers that were already ordered in 2009, in the PB batch.

Arianespace also announces that it has signed a contract to launch two satellites into low Earth orbit. These launches will be carried out by two Vega launch vehicles, operating from the Guiana Space Center in 2017 and 2018.

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ESA Evaluates Ariane 6 Proposals, Awards $566 Million in Contracts to Astrium

Artist's conception of Ariane 6. (Credit: ESA)
Artist’s conception of Ariane 6. (Credit: ESA)

Industry has submitted 150 proposals for building the next generation Ariane 6 launch vehicle. Meanwhile, ESA has awarded incumbent Astrium more than $500 million in contracts for initial work on the new rocket and for an interim upgrading the existing Ariane 5. Space News reports:

The massive response, which officials said was better than they dared expect, will now be evaluated by the 20-nation European Space Agency (ESA) as it crafts a proposal to its governments to finance Ariane 6.

“Some of these responses have been extremely interesting and innovative,” said Jean-Yves Le Gall, president of the French space agency, CNES. CNES has indicated it expects to maintain its leadership in Europe’s launcher sector by financing 50 percent of Ariane 6.

Ariane 6’s current design specifications call for a rocket capable of lifting a commercial telecommunications satellite weighing up to 6,500 kilograms into geostationary orbit at a maximum cost of 70 million euros, or $95 million at current exchange rates.

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Snecma Completes Round of Vinci Engine Tests

Artist's conception of Ariane 6. (Credit: ESA)
Artist’s conception of Ariane 6. (Credit: ESA)

Courcouronnes, France, September 30, 2013 (Snecma PR) — Snecma has kicked off a new series of tests of the Snecma (Safran) Vinci® cryogenic rocket engine intended for the upper stages of the new Ariane launchers, the upgraded Ariane 5ME (Midlife Evolution) and the brand-new Ariane 6. The first two tests of the No. 5 development engine, on September 10 and 26, were a complete success.

The Vinci® M5 variant features a hydrogen turbopump that incorporates the latest configuration changes. Lasting ten months, this series of tests will include a total of 16 firing tests and will enable validating the latest modifications in order to freeze the design by the end of 2014.

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Arianespace, Astrium Sign Agreement for 18 Ariane 5 Launchers

An Ariane 5 rocket soars into orbit on Dec. 29, 2010. Credits: ESA / CNES / Arianespace / Photo Optique vidéo du CSG
An Ariane 5 rocket soars into orbit on Dec. 29, 2010. Credits: ESA /CNES/Arianespace

Arianespace/Astrium PR — Arianespace and Astrium signed an initial agreement on 17 September to begin the production of 18 additional Ariane 5 ECA launchers.

As part of this agreement, Arianespace has ordered from Astrium, long-lead items and the start of production activities for the 18 additional launchers. These items and the first production activities are valued at more than 400 million euros. Astrium and Arianespace plan to sign the full production contract for the additional launchers before the end of 2013.

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Telespazio Eyes Ownership of Avio

Inaugural Vega flight. (Credits: ESA - S. Corvaja, 2012)
Inaugural Vega flight. (Credits: ESA – S. Corvaja, 2012)

Space News reports that Italy’s Avio launch vehicle builder is attracting some suitors:

The new chief executive of satellite services provider Telespazio said he is positioning the company to better compete with Astrium Services, and that ownership of Italy’s Avio rocket builder would enhance his product portfolio.

In a June 19 interview here at the Paris Air Show, Luigi Pasquali declined to say whether Rome-based Telespazio’s parent company, Finmeccanica, would enter the bidding for Avio in competition with France’s Safran/Snecma and with the EADS-owned Astrium Space Transportation company of France and Germany.

Other bidders may appear, depending on whether the Italian government weighs in with an opinion on the future of Avio, which is the industrial prime contractor for Europe’s Italian-led Vega small-satellite launcher. Vega has flown twice and is the first European rocket to succeed in its first two missions.

OHB AG of Germany ultimately may take part in an Avio bid but is unlikely to seek to purchase the entire stake of Avio’s majority owner, European private-equity investor Cinven, industry officials said.

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Astrium Gets CNES Space Debris Study Contract

astrium_logoPARIS (Astrium PR) – Astrium, Europe’s leading space technology company, has been awarded a study contract by the French space agency CNES. The study will analyse existing concepts and technologies and determine which can be used to successfully tackle large items of space debris, such as launcher stages and end of life satellites.

Entitled “The development of concepts and technologies for handling space debris”, the study is being conducted as part of the CNES’ Orbit Transfer Vehicle (OTV) programme. It will help define the parameters necessary for developing suitable space vehicle concepts through a two-step approach named OTV-DEMO/X technological demonstrator, followed by a system demonstrator known as OTV-DEMO/Y.

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Astrium Americas Establishes New Propulsion Office in LA

astrium_logoHERNDON, Va., Mar., 18, 2013 (Astrium PR) – Astrium Americas, an EADS North America company, has opened an office to provide Astrium’s in-space propulsion capabilities to the North American market. This new office is based in the Los Angeles area and will initially focus on business development.

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Astrium on the ESA Budget: Kah-ching!

Astrium PR — Astrium, Europe’s leading space company, is delighted by the decisions taken by the Ministerial Council of the European Space Agency (ESA) on 20 and 21 November 2012. The level of the budget voted for the period 2013-2017 (10 billion Euros) and the programmes funded mark a very real consolidation of the future of European space.

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New Astrium Americas Company to Serve North American Market

14 November 2012 (Astrium/EADS PR) – Astrium, a world leader in space technologies, and EADS North America today jointly announced the creation of Astrium Americas, America’s newest space company. A subsidiary of EADS North America, Astrium Americas will bring Astrium’s broad global space capabilities to North America. Astrium Americas will also provide government customers with secure satellite communications services formerly marketed by Vizada, Inc.

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Europe Hears SpaceX’s Footsteps as it Debates Ariane 5’s Future

Ariane 5 lifts off from Kourou.Space officials in Europe are deeply divided over the future of the Ariane 5 rocket as they face competition from other national programs and companies such as SpaceX. Speaking at a recent roundtable, Arianespace Chief Executive Jean-Yves Le Gall identified  the two main threats to Europe’s launch vehicle business:

The first, he said, is the nonmarket economies of Russia, China and India, all of which either have or are developing rockets to compete with Arianespace’s fleet of vehicles.

The second threat, he said, comes from “a couple of guys in a garage in Silicon Valley who start with a blank sheet of paper and come up with a brilliant idea.”

Unfortunately for Le Gall, there is no consensus among European space officials about how to meet these threats as an ESA ministerial meeting looms at the end of November.

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NanoRacks External Platform Completes First Interim Design Review


Las Cruces, NM (NanoRacks/Astrium PR) –
At the 2012 International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight, NanoRacks and Astrium North America announced the successful completion of the 1st Interim Design Review (IDR) for the External Payload Platform (EPP). The EPP owned and financed by NanoRacks, is designed and developed jointly by NanoRacks and Astrium. The platform is to be mounted on the exterior of the ISS and represents a first external commercial research capability for the testing of research payloads, sensors and electronic components in space.

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