COVID-19 Related Propellant Supply Issues Delay Landsat 9 Launch, Impact SpaceX Missions

Landsat 9 Operational Land Imager 2 (Credit: Ball Aerospace)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA says that a surge in COVID-19 cases has caused supply issues that have delayed the planned launch of the Landsat 9 Earth observation satellite from Vandenberg Space Force Base by one week to no earlier than Sept. 23.

“Current pandemic demands for medical liquid oxygen [LOX] have impacted the delivery of the needed liquid nitrogen supply to Vandenberg by the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) and its supplier Airgas,” the space agency said in a blog post. “Airgas converts the liquid nitrogen to gaseous nitrogen needed for launch vehicle testing and countdown sequences. DLA and Airgas now have implemented efforts to increase the supply of liquid nitrogen to Vandenberg.”

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Launch 2020: India’s Flight Rate Declined Due to COVID-19, but Nation Moved Forward with Commercialization

PSLV-C50 lifts off with the CMS-01 satellite. (Credit: ISRO)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, India’s growing space program managed only two domestic launches last year as it was forced to delay the Gaganyaan human spaceflight program and several other high profile projects.

However, India was able to move forward last year on a sweeping commercialization of its state-controlled space industry designed to make the country internationally competitive.

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Masten Mission to Lunar South Shifted 11 Months to Late 2023

Masten’s XL-1 lunar lander will deliver science and technology payloads to the Moon’s South Pole in 2022. (Credits: Masten Space Systems)

MOJAVE, Calif., June 23, 2021 (Masten Space Systems PR) – Masten Space Systems is proud to be one of NASA’s providers for lunar delivery services to the Moon as part of the agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative. Masten Mission 1 includes delivery of science and technology instruments near the Haworth Crater at the lunar south pole, a site expected to offer insight into the presence of important volatiles on the Moon. In addition to commercial payloads, Masten’s XL-1 lunar lander will deliver and operate eight NASA-sponsored payloads to assess the composition of the lunar surface, evaluate radiation, and detect volatiles, such as water, methane, and carbon dioxide, under the agency’s Artemis program.

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Launch 2020: A Busy Year Filled with Firsts in the Face of COVID-19 Pandemic

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is launched from Launch Complex 39A on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley aboard, Saturday, May 30, 2020, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls & Joel Kowsky)

SpaceX dominated, China surged and Russia had another clean sheet as American astronauts flew from U.S. soil again in a year of firsts.

First in a series

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was a very busy launch year with a number of firsts in both human and robotic exploration. A total of 114 orbital launches were attempted, with 104 successes and 10 failures. It was the same number of launches that were conducted in 2018, with that year seeing 111 successes, two failures and one partial failure.

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Senior NASA Employee Pleads Guilty to COVID-19 Related Loan Fraud

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (DOJ PR) – A Senior Executive Service (SES) employee of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) pleaded guilty today to submitting fraudulent applications for over $350,000 in COVID-19 economic relief loans and benefits.

“Despite holding a senior executive position at NASA, the defendant applied for over $350,000 in fraudulent loans and benefits,” said Raj Parekh, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “In doing so, he essentially treated COVID-19 relief programs as a personal piggy bank, using funds intended to provide pandemic relief for small businesses and the unemployed to pay down his credit card debt, pay off loans for a residential pool and minivan, and pay a dog-breeder, among other personal expenses. EDVA will continue to hold accountable individuals who exploit a national economic crisis in order to unlawfully enrich themselves at the expense of those in genuine need due to the pandemic.”

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COVID-19 Impact on Smallsat Market Mitigated by Funding Availability, Government Support

PARIS, WASHINGTON DC, MONTREAL, YOKOHAMA (Euroconsult PR) — The latest update of “Prospects for the Small Satellite Market” was released this week by Euroconsult, forecasting further growth in the global supply and demand of government, commercial and academic satellites weighing up to 500 kg.

The market intelligence report, now in its 7th edition, builds upon Euroconsult’s previous iteration that accurately predicted more than 1,000 satellites would be launched during 2020, a record year despite COVID-19. The new release further reinforces the sentiment that the 2020s will be the decade of small satellites, anticipating the launch of close to 14,000 smallsats before 2030.

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COVID-19 Delays to Cost NASA $3 Billion

High-resolution illustration of the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope against a starry background. (Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will cost NASA an estimated $3 billion due to program delays, according to a report from the space agency’s Office of Inspector General.

The report focused on the pandemic’s impact on 30 major programs and project with life-cycle costs of at least $250 million.

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Branson Wants to Take Virgin Orbit Public Through SPAC

Virgin Orbit Cosmic Girl Boeing 747 takes off from the Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

First Virgin Galactic. Now Virgin Orbit.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Richard Branson has hired Credit Suisse Group AG and LionTree LLC to take Virgin Orbit public through a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) at a valuation of up to $3 billion.

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Virgin Galactic Delays Space Tourism Flights to 2022, Lost $273 Million Last Year

WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo fly right overhead. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)
  • Rollout of Second Spaceship Scheduled to Take Place on March 30
  • Announced Expected Timing of Revenue-Generating Flight with the Italian Air Force
  • Next Rocket-Powered Spaceflight Targeted to Occur in May

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (Virgin Galactic PR) — Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: SPCE) (“Virgin Galactic” or the “Company”), a vertically integrated aerospace and space travel company, today announced its financial results for the fourth quarter and full year ended December 31, 2020.

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Abundant Idiocy: Peter Diamandis, MD and Founder of COVID-19 Vaccine Company, Held Super Spreader Event

Peter Diamandis
  • At least 32 people infected from illegal gathering that violated state and local restrictions
  • Event held while Southern California ICUs were at full capacity
  • Diamandis says he’s learned masks and social distancing really are important

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

On Saturday, I received an email from XPRIZE Chairman Dr. Peter Diamandis, holder of a medical degree from Harvard, about a super spreader event he held in Los Angeles last month that resulted in at least 32 people becoming infected with the deadly COVID-19. The email, sent to members of the Abundance 360 mailing list, was based on a blog post he had published the previous day.

I was impressed with how candid Diamandis was in admitting how his Abundance 360 Summit with nearly 100 participants had turned into a complete cluster expletive. Well, I was impressed until I found this MIT Technology Review story online only a short time later:

He started a covid-19 vaccine company. Then he hosted a superspreader event
https://www.technologyreview.com/2021/02/13/1018374/peter-diamandis-covid-superspreader-a360-conference/

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Trudeau Names New Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry

Justin Trudeau

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has replaced the minister who oversees the nation’s space program as part of a shakeup of his cabinet that also involved the first Canadian to travel to space.

Trudeau named minister of Foreign Affairs François-Philippe Champagne to replace Navdeep Bains as minister of Innovation, Science and Industry. The position involves overseeing the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) among other duties.

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Space Economy Valued at $385 Billion in 2020, with Commercial Space Revenues Totaling Over $310 billion

Credit: Euroconsult

Despite the Covid-19 global pandemic impacting certain segments of the commercial space market, government spending remains unaffected.

Paris, Washington D.C., Montreal, Yokohama (Euroconsult PR) – In its latest research product “The Space Economy Report 2020″, Euroconsult estimates that the consolidated space economy, including both government space investments, as well as commercial space, totaled $385 billion in 2020, a record amount. Commercial revenues of $315 billion in 2020 were down 2% from 2019’s $319 billion evaluation, due partially to the Covid-19 pandemic affecting certain commercial markets – in particular satellite communication sub-segments focused on high mobility such as, aero, maritime, offshore oil and gas, though other factors, such as video-related revenues continuing their pre-Covid downward trend contributed to the decrease.

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GAO: NASA Needs to Improve Artemis Management as New Schedule Delays Likely

Gateway with Orion over the Moon (Credit: ESA/NASA/ATG Medialab)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA needs to strengthen its management oversight of the lunar landing program to minimize delays and cost overruns as the space agency moves beyond the Artemis I flight test scheduled for November 2021, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

GAO’s program review also found that schedule for the maiden flight of the Space Launch System and second Orion spacecraft does not account for delays resulting from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

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Russia Achieves Clean Launch Record for Second Year in Row

Soyuz-2 rocket lifts off from the Vostochny Cosmodrome with 36 OneWeb satellites. (Credit: Arianespace)

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — The outgoing year 2020 has become a difficult test for the entire world marked by the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Many world economic players have encountered objective difficulties in the implementation of previously outlined plans.

Unfortunately, Roscosmos also had to correct a number of plans, including those related to launch activities. Nevertheless, Roscosmos management put the quality of production and the safety of personnel working at the Russian rocket and space industry enterprises and cosmodromes at the forefront.

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The Year of the Four Spaceships: Final Report

Crew Dragon docked at the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA webcast)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Back in February, I went out on a limb and predicted that 2020 could be the Year of the Four Spaceships, with SpaceX, Boeing, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic and reaching major milestones in human spaceflight. (See 2020: Four Spaceships & the End of America’s Cosmic Groundhog Day)

With the disruption and deaths caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it wasn’t the easiest year to get things done. Keeping that in mind, let’s see how the companies did in 2020. (Spoiler Alert: they came up a little short.)

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