Virgin Orbit Launches 10 Payloads for NASA

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

MOJAVE, Calif., January 17, 2021 (Virgin Orbit PR) — Virgin Orbit, the California-based satellite launch company, confirmed that its LauncherOne rocket reached space during the company’s second launch demonstration today, successfully deploying 10 payloads for NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP).

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Video of Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne Flight

Erik Franks captured video from the beach of Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne successful flight on Sunday.

LauncherOne Reaches Orbit, Deploys Payloads

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

UPDATE: Virgin Orbit has confirmed that the second stage fired as planned for the second time and that the payloads were deployed into the planned orbit.

Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne reached orbit for the first time on Sunday with 10 CubeSats aboard, marking a major milestone for Richard Branson’s air launch operation.

The modified Cosmic Girl Boeing 747 took off from the Mojave Air and Space Port and flew out over the Pacific Ocean where it dropped the booster. Virgin Orbit tweeted that the NewtonThree and NewtonFour engines on the first and second stages fired as planned to reach orbit.

The rocket is now coasting in orbit. The NewtonFour engine will ignite a second time to circularize the orbit before the 10 CubeSats are released. The CubeSats are aboard as part of NASA’s Educational Launch of Nanosatellites program.

NASA provided funding for the launch under its Venture Class Launch Services program, which is designed to help fund new small satellite launch vehicles.

Three Launches & a Hot Fire in Three Days

Fully loading the propellant and detecting no leaks is a major milestone for the Green Run test series. A total of 114 tanker trucks delivered propellant to six propellant barges next to the B-2 Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. (Credits: NASA)

The upcoming holiday weekend (Martin Luther King Day on Monday) will see NASA conduct the long awaited Green Run hot fire of its Space Launch System rocket core and orbital launches by Rocket Lab, Virgin Orbit and SpaceX involving 71 satellites.

Saturday, January 16

Launch Vehicle: Rocket Lab Electron
Mission Name: “Another One Leaves the Crust”
Payload: OHB Group micro communications satellites
Launch Time: 2:41 EST (0741 UTC)
Launch Site: Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand
Webcast: www.rocketlabusa.com (begins 15 minutes prior to launch)

UPDATE: Launch scrubbed as engineers examine sensor data. They have a 10-day launch window.

Hot Fire: Space Launch System Core
Test Window: 5-7 p.m. EST (2200–0000 UTC)
Test Site: Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Miss.
Webcast: www.nasa.gov (begins at 4:20 p.m. EST/2120 UTC)
Post-test Briefing: Approximately two hours after test completion on NASA website

Sunday, January 17

Launch Vehicle: Virgin Orbit LauncherOne/Cosmic Girl
Mission Name: NASA ELaNa-20 mission
Payloads: 10 CubeSats
Launch Window: 1:00-5:00 p.m. EST (1800-2200 UMT)
Launch Sites: Mojave Air and Space Port, California (Cosmic Girl Boeing 747), Pacific Ocean (LauncherOne)

Monday, January 18

Launch Vehicle: SpaceX Falcon 9
Mission Name: Starlink V1.0-L16
Payloads: 60 Starlink broadband satellites
Launch Time: 8:45 a.m. EST (1345 UTC)
Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center, Fla.
Webcast: www.spacex.com (begins 15 minutes before launch)

Space BD Contracted with JAXA to Undertake Integration Work Package for Innovative Satellite Technology Demonstration-3

Reform its board member and move to the next phase with the new service and team

TOKYO — Space BD Inc., the leading Japanese space startup providing access to space with the International Space Station (ISS) “Kibo” module and piggyback launch on Japan’s flagship launch vehicle “H3”, announced that they contracted with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to undertake the integration work package for Innovative Satellite Technology Demonstration-3 Small Satellites and Cubesats.

The satellites will be launched using Japan’s solid-propellant launcher, Epsilon. With the integration work package contract, Space BD approached the various launch method in Japan, which Space BD has aimed.

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Virgin Orbit Delays Flight Test to Sunday

Cosmic Girl performs a pitch up maneuver during a flight test on April 12, 2020. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

Virgin Orbit has delayed the flight test of its LauncherOne booster originally scheduled for Wednesday until Sunday, Jan. 17. Operations are expected to take place between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. PST (1800-2200 UTC). Your local time may vary; please adjust accordingly.

Virgin Orbit’s modified Boeing 747 named Cosmic Girl will take off from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. It will release LauncherOne over the Pacific Ocean west of San Nicolas Island. The rocket’s first stage will fire once the booster is clear of the aircraft.

LauncherOne’s second flight test will carry 10 CubeSats for NASA under the space agency’s Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) program. NASA also funded the launch under its Venture Class Launch Services (VCLS) program.

LauncherOne’s first flight test failed on May 25, 2020. The first stage fired for about four seconds, but then quit due to a break in a propellant line.

This second flight test is seen as crucial for Virgin Orbit, which is attempting to raise an additional $200 million in investment. Founder Richard Branson has said the company has already raised $1 billion in its effort to reach orbit.

Momentus Announces Service Agreement with Orbit NTNU for SelfieSat

Vigoride (Credit: Momentus)

SANTA CLARA, Calif., January 07, 2021 (Momentus PR) — Momentus Inc. (“Momentus” or the “Company”), a commercial space company offering in-space infrastructure services, and Orbit NTNU (https://www.orbitntnu.com/), a non-profit student organization stationed at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim designing and building cubesats, today announced a service agreement for the 2U cubesat: SelfieSat.

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Virgin Orbit Launch Attempt Scheduled for Jan. 10

Cosmic Girl with a fueled LauncherOne on approach to Mojave on April 12, 2020. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The U.S. Coast Guard has posted a Local Notice to Mariners (LNM) that says Virgin Orbit is planning to conduct the second flight test of its LauncherOne rocket off the coast of California on Sunday, Jan. 10.

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GomSpace Signs Development and Supply Contracts for Colombia, North America

UPPSALA, Sweden (GomSpace PR) — GomSpace has signed the second FACSAT-2 contract to support advanced science and technology activities to enhance the satellite capabilities of the Colombian Airforce. The contract and collaboration consist of a three-party agreement between CODALTEC / Colombian Air Force (“FAC”) and GomSpace to continue the FACSAT-2 satellite mission and associated intensive virtual technology transfer program. The contract is worth 3.91 MSEK [US $472,800] and will be delivered during the second half of 2021.

The FACSAT-2 project comprises design, manufacture, test, and operation of an advanced 6U remote sensing spacecraft. The program will build on the successful collaboration established and local capability built during the FACSAT-1 program under which a Colombian 3U satellite was launched in 2018 and is today in continued operation by FAC.

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What We Learned This Year from Space Station Science

NASA astronaut Anne McClain is pictured in the cupola holding biomedical gear for the Marrow experiment. The study measures fat changes in the bone marrow before and after exposure to microgravity. (Credits: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Dozens of experiments are going on at any given time aboard the International Space Station. Research conducted in 2020 is advancing our understanding in areas of study from Parkinson’s disease to combustion.

Space station research results published this year came from experiments performed and data collected during the past 20 years of continuous human habitation aboard the orbiting laboratory. Between October 1, 2019, and October 1, 2020, the station’s Program Research Office identified more than 300 scientific publications based on space station research.

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NASA Approves Heliophysics Missions to Explore Sun, Earth’s Aurora

From the International Space Station’s orbit 269 miles above the Indian Ocean southwest of Australia, this nighttime photograph captures the aurora australis, or “southern lights.” Russia’s Soyuz MS-12 crew ship is in the foreground and Progress 72 resupply ship in the background. (Credits: NASA)

ASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has approved two heliophysics missions to explore the Sun and the system that drives space weather near Earth. Together, NASA’s contribution to the Extreme Ultraviolet High-Throughput Spectroscopic Telescope Epsilon Mission, or EUVST, and the Electrojet Zeeman Imaging Explorer, or EZIE, will help us understand the Sun and Earth as an interconnected system.

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Commercial CubeRover Test Shows How NASA Investments Mature Space Tech

The Astrobotic CubeRover traverses the terrain in the Granular Mechanics and Regolith Operations Laboratory regolith bin at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Dec. 10, 2020. The regolith bin simulates the mechanical properties of the Moon’s surface. NASA and Astrobotic employees put the CubeRover through a series of more than 150 mobility tests over several days to evaluate and improve wheel design. (Credits: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

by Linda Herridge
NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center

Researchers at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida recently put a new, small robotic rover through its paces inside a 120-ton bin of regolith rock and dust that simulates the lunar surface.

The four-wheeled CubeRover rolled over dunes of abrasive dust, turned in place, and then trundled up and down steep trench walls within the Granular Mechanics and Regolith Operations (GMRO) laboratory as it performed more than 150 mobility tests. The rover’s creators, from Astrobotic Technology of Pittsburgh, worked alongside Kennedy’s Swamp Works team, assessing the robot’s maneuverability and how its sensor, motor, and power systems operated in the dusty environment.

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EMXYS & Royal Observatory of Belgium Receive Go Ahead for Participation in ESA’s Hera Planetary Defense Mission

Juventas CubeSat coming in for asteroid landing (Credit: ESA – Science Office)

ELCHE, Spain (EMXYS PR) — EMXYS and the Royal Observatory of Belgium have been selected by the European Space Agency to provide a gravimeter for the Juventas spacecraft that will land on asteroid Dimorphos as part of the European Space Agency’s planetary defence programme.

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China’s Long March 8 Rocket Makes Successful Debut in Step Toward Reusability

Long March 8 launches for the first time on Dec. 22, 2020. (Credit: CNSA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

China’s newest booster, Long March 8, successfully placed five satellites into sun-synchronous orbit on Tuesday from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center in a step toward partial reusability.

The medium-lift booster blasted off at 12:37 p.m. local time from Hainan island carrying the classified XJY-7 remote sensing technology test satellite and four smaller payloads.

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