Upcoming Launches to Close Out March

Astra Space 1 of 3 rocket on the launch pad in Alaska. (Credit: DARPA webcast)

Here’s quick look at the launches scheduled for the rest of March. Information from Spaceflightnow.com’s launch schedule.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 launch scheduled for March 30 is listed. However, unofficial reports say it has been delayed indefinitely due to travel restrictions imposed in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The booster will launch the SAOCOM 1B Earth observation satellite for Argentine.

What the months ahead hold in terms of launch is uncertain. Europe has suspended flights out of its launch base in French Guiana. Whether other spaceports are closed remains to be seen. China appears to have weathered the worst of the virus.

I would expect crew and cargo flights to the International Space Station (ISS) to continue. The first crewed flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft to ISS is scheduled for mid- to late May. It’s difficult to say whether that schedule will hold.

March 23/24

Launch Vehicle: Long March 2C
Payloads: 3 Yaogan 30-06 military surveillance satellites
Launch Time: Approximately 11:40 p.m. EDT on 23rd (0340 GMT on 24th)
Launch Site: Xichang, China

UPDATE: Launch successful.

March 24

Launch Vehicle: Astra Rocket 3.0 “1 of 3”
Payloads: TBA
Launch Window: TBA
Launch Site: Pacific Spaceport Complex, Alaska

UPDATE: Media report of an “anomaly” during a dress rehearsal on Monday.. Extend of anomaly and new schedule uncertain. Doesn’t sound like they’re launching on Tuesday. More details here: https://kmxt.org/2020/03/anomaly-at-pacific-spaceport-complex-launch-rehearsal-no-injuries-as-a-result/

March 26

Launch Vehicle: Atlas V
Payload: AEHF 6 military communications satellite
Launch Window: 2:57-4:57 p.m. EDT (1857-2057 GMT)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
Webcast: www.ulalaunch.com

March 29

Launch Vehicle: Electron “Don’t Stop Me Now”
Payloads: Multiple CubeSats
Launch Window: 12:43-2:33 a.m. EDT (0443-0633 GMT)
Launch Site: Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand
Webcast: www.rocketlabusa.com/

UPDATE: Rocket Lab has suspended preparations on this launch due to the coronavirus.

March 30
(Possibly Postponed)

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: SAOCOM 1B Earth observation satellite
Launch Time: 7:21 p.m. EDT (2321 GMT)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
Webcast: www.spacex.com

Rocket Lab’s Electron Launch Vehicle Certified by NASA

Electron rocket lifts off on Jan. 31, 2020. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

The certification enables NASA to launch small satellites on Electron, providing confidence for the nation’s low-cost science, research and exploration payloads

Long Beach, California. 17 March 2020 – NASA has certified Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle, providing confidence for NASA’s low cost scientific, educational and technology demonstration small satellites.

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New Satellite Mission Contract and Second US Office for NanoAvionics

COLUMBIA, Ill., (NanoAvionics PR) – NanoAvionics announced the reception of a full mission contract for two 6U nanosatellites and the opening of a new sales and engineering support office in Columbia (IL), USA. The mission contract includes payload integration, launch and operation services for the two nanosatellites, both of which are based on NanoAvionics’ pre-configured M6P bus. The launch of both satellites is planned for the end of this year.

“Constantly increasing demand for our standardized satellite buses and this latest mission contract from a US commercial data services company represents a significant milestone of NanoAvionics penetration in the US market for New Space as well as in the US Civil space sector”, said F. Brent Abbott, CEO of NanoAvionics North America. “Completing our Columbia office will support our efforts to provide US customers with the most cost-efficient satellite buses and hosted payload flights in low Earth orbit (LEO).”

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Exolaunch to Deliver UAE Space Agency’s Small Satellite into Orbit on Soyuz-2

Pioneer satellites launch on board Soyuz. (Credit: Roscomos)

Exolaunch will launch MeznSat, a 3U cubesat aboard a Soyuz-2 rocket, for the UAE Space Agency in mid-2020.

BERLIN, March 17, 2020 (Exolaunch PR) — Berlin-based Exolaunch (www.exolaunch.com) – the leading launch services and deployment system provider for small satellites – today announced that the launch of a 3U cubesat, MeznSat, for the UAE Space Agency will be performed aboard a Soyuz-2 rocket. The purpose of the satellite is to study and monitor the greenhouse gases, specifically CO2 and Methane, over the UAE. 

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Space Video Company Sen Awards Multimillion-euro Contract to NanoAvionics

LONDON (NanoAvionics PR) – Sen, a British space company establishing video streaming media to provide real-time and timely Ultra-High Definition (UHD) video of Earth, has contracted NanoAvionics to build the first five nano-satellites of its constellation.

Sen has already demonstrated its technology of streaming ultra-high definition (UHD) video from space. It is now focused on developing its “EarthTV” constellation of nano-satellites to stream real-time and timely videos from space. The service, which will include a freely accessible app for individuals, will be used for monitoring environmental events and natural disasters such as wild fires, floods and storms, as well as monitoring climate change and movement of large groups of people.

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Video: Virgin Orbit Cosmic Girl Taxi Test with LauncherOne Attached

Video Caption: Virgin Orbit’s Cosmic Girl 747 conducted a slow-speed taxi test down the runway with a fueled LauncherOne under its wing at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California on March 5, 2020. The test covered about 2 miles on runway 12-30.

The taxi test was a precursor to a flight test with a fueled booster for Sir Richard Branson’s launch company. LauncherOne is designed to orbit small satellites after being dropped from the modified Boeing airliner. Virgin Orbit plans to conduct a flight test of the booster for later this year.

Momentus Space to Provide Flexibility for SpaceX Rideshare Missions

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (Momentus Space PR) — As we have written in the past, SpaceX has proven a new paradigm for the satellite launch industry. From record-breaking launches for payloads (number of satellites on one rocket) to one of the most innovative and flexible ridesharing programs, the team there has proven that the world’s first orbital-class reusable rocket can bring down costs for smallsat operators through regularly scheduled, dedicated Falcon 9 rideshare missions.

Still, many CubeSat and smallsat operators would prefer to be in custom orbits at different inclinations, in different orbit planes, or at different altitudes.

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ESA Selects New CubeSat Missions for Fly Your Satellite Program

Fly Your Satellite! selection workshop (Credit: ESA)

NOORDWIJK, Netherlands (ESA PR) — Three university teams have been selected for the third edition of the Fly Your Satellite! programme following a call for proposals open in the second half of 2019. The CubeSats’ evaluation and selection was carried out by a CubeSat Evaluation Panel, consisting of ESA experts from a range of disciplines. 

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Qarman CubeSat Deployed From ISS

Qarman CubeSat deployed from the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

The moment ESA’s latest mission left the International Space Station: the Qarman reentry CubeSat developed with Belgium’s Von Karman Institute was deployed by NASA astronaut Andrew ‘Drew’ Morgan via a Nanoracks dispenser on 19 February 2020. Qarman will now fall gradually to Earth, to eventually gather valuable data on atmospheric reentry physics.

Read more here.

NASA CubeSats Play Big Role in Lunar Exploration

The Lunar Flashlight, flying as secondary payload on the first flight of NASA’s Space Launch System, will examine the moon’s surface for ice deposits and identify locations where resources may be extracted. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — They might be small, but they’re also mighty. Very small and innovative spacecraft called CubeSats are poised to play a role in NASA’s  Artemis  program, which will return humans to the Moon by 2024.

Advancements in consumer electronics and miniaturized sensors enable small spacecraft to be powerful tools for space exploration.

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NASA Announces Next Round of Candidates for CubeSat Space Missions

Space Test Program Satellite-4 (STPSat-4) reaches its final orbit after deploying from the International Space Station, Jan. 28, 2020. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 18 small research satellites from 11 states to fly as auxiliary payloads aboard rockets launching in 2021, 2022 and 2023. The selected CubeSats were proposed by educational institutions, nonprofit organizations and NASA centers in response to NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) call for proposals issued in August 2019.

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CubeSat Launch Initiative Celebrates its 100th CubeSat Mission Deployment

An artistic rendering of HARP’s wide field of view of aerosols below. (Credits: NASA/SDL/UMBC)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Today the Hyper-Angular Rainbow Polarimeter (HARP) CubeSat made history by becoming the 100th CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) selected mission deployed into space. This mission marks nearly 12 years of the CSLI providing CubeSat developers rideshare opportunities to space via Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) missions.

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Rocket Lab Wins Contract to Send CubeSat to the Moon

Electron rocket lifts off on Jan. 31, 2020. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected Rocket Lab of Huntington Beach, California, to provide launch services for the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) CubeSat.

Rocket Lab, a commercial launch provider licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration, will launch the 55-pound CubeSat aboard an Electron rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. After launch, the company’s Photon platform will deliver CAPSTONE to a trans-lunar injection.

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Qarman CubeSat: Falling Into a Fireball

ESA’s next CubeSat mission seen enduring the scorching heat of simulated atmospheric reentry inside the world’s largest plasma wind tunnel. (Credit: ESA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA’s latest mission will enter the vacuum of space, not aboard a rocket but by being released from the International Space Station. The first task of the shoebox-sized Qarman CubeSat is simply to fall. While typical space missions resist orbital decay, Qarman will drift down month by month until it reenters the atmosphere, at which point it will gather a wealth of data on the fiery physics of reentry.

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SMC, Mission Partners Successfully Deploy Aerospace Rogue CubeSats from ISS

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (USAF PR) — The U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center and its mission partners successfully deployed Aerospace’s Rogue Alpha and Rogue Beta CubeSats from the Northrop Grumman Cygnus capsule at 1 p.m. and 4:10 p.m. respectively, Jan. 31, 2020.

This marks the beginning of the program’s mission experiment plan, where the two satellites will use their short-wave infrared sensors to create a baseline for processing cloud backgrounds and inform future low Earth orbit satellites. The Air Force will also utilize this program’s unclassified data to investigate potential uses of the capability.

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