China Launches Satellites, ULA & Rocket Lab Flights Set

Atlas V on launch pad. (Credit: ULA)

China launched a Long March 11 rocket with six satellites aboard on Friday from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. The booster orbited a pair of Jilin-1 Earth imaging satellites for the Chang Guang Satellite company as well as four secondary payloads.

ULA is set to launch an Atlas V rocket with an U.S. Air Force Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) GEO early warning satellite later today. The flight is scheduled to lift off at 7:48 p.m. from Cape Canaveral in Florida.  ULA scrubbed the launch on Thursday do to a problem with ground equipment.

The webcast is available at and

The delay has postponed an attempt by SpaceX to conduct a static fire of the Falcon Heavy’s first-stage engines on a nearby launch pad. The test had been planned for Friday, but the next earliest opportunity is Saturday providing the Atlas V launches tonight.

On Saturday, Rocket Lab will open a launch window for the second flight of its Electron rocket. The first four-hour window opens on January 20 at 2:30 p.m. NZDT (0130 a.m. GMT/8:30 p.m. EST on Friday).

Rocket Lab has reserved nine days with identical four-hour windows for this launch attempt. The booster is carrying CubeSats for Planet and Spire.

Check Rocket Lab’s website for information about the webcast.

Planetary Resources Launches Arkyd-6 CubeSat

Arkyd-6 spacecraft (Credit: Planetary Resources)

REDMOND, Wash., January 12, 2018 (Planetary Resources)Planetary Resources today announced the successful launch of the Arkyd-6, a 6U CubeSat, containing a demonstration of technology designed to detect water resources in space. The team has already begun to receive telemetry from the spacecraft. The data obtained from the Arkyd-6 will be valuable in the development of the Arkyd-301, Planetary Resources’ next spacecraft platform and the beginning of the company’s space resource exploration program.


Canadian Space Agency Looks Ahead to Busy 2018

Credit: CSA

LONGUEUIL, Quebec (CSA PR) — After all of 2017’s amazing moments and space discoveries, we have another exciting year ahead of us! From mapping an asteroid to sending a Canadian to space, here are five key projects that will make 2018 a year to remember for the Canadian Space Agency.

January–December 2018 – Canadian health science experiments will be conducted aboard the International Space Station

Credit: CSA

As space agencies from around the world are preparing to send people farther into the solar system, keeping astronauts safe and healthy during long missions will be critical. Canadian science conducted aboard the International Space Station (ISS) will help us better understand and offset the harmful effects of space on the human body (e.g. radiation exposure, which is a risk factor for cataracts and cancer; bone loss; muscle shrinkage; arterial stiffness; and weaker immune system).


2017: A Year of Progress and Poised for the Future

ISARA’s three antenna panels feature a printed circuit board pattern that narrowly focuses the CubeSat’s radio transmission beam in much the same way a parabolic dish reflector does. (Credit: Nanoracks)

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — Throughout 2017, NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) made noteworthy progress in maturing and demonstrating technologies to bolster America’s space agenda, while setting the stage for vital advancements within the next several years.

From expanding the utilization of space in low-Earth orbit and enabling new scientific discoveries, to advancing capabitilties for robotic and human exploration of deep space destinations – STMD is executing a broad cross-cutting agenda, one that is pioneering groundbreaking technologies and knowhow.


Some Rocket Launches to Watch in 2018

The world’s most powerful booster is set to make a flight test sometime in January. If all goes well, 27 first stage engines will power the new booster off Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The three first stage cores will peel off and land for later reuse while the second stage continues into space.


SpaceX Ruled Roost in 2017, Boosting U.S. to No. 1 in Global Launches

Falcon 9 carries the Dragon cargo ship into orbit. (Credit: NASA TV)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

SpaceX had a banner year in 2017, launching a record 18 times and helping to propel the United States to the top of the global launch table with a perfect 29-0 record. The U.S. total made up 32.2 percent of 90 orbital launches worldwide, which was an increase over the 85 flights conducted in 2016.

The 29 American launches were a leap of seven over the 22 flights conducted the previous year. This is the highest number of American orbital launches since the 31 flights undertaken in 1999. However, that year the nation’s launch providers suffered four failures whereas they were perfect in 2017.


Missions to Moon, Mars, Mercury & More Set for 2018

This artist’s concept shows the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft passing by Earth. (Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/University of Arizona)

Updated with SpaceX’s Red Tesla launch.

An international fleet of spacecraft will be launched in 2018 to explore the Moon, Mars, Mercury and the Sun. Two sample-return spacecraft will enter orbit around asteroids while a third spacecraft will be launched to search for asteroids that contain water that can be mined.

NASA will also launch its next exoplanet hunting spacecraft in March. And the space agency will ring in 2019 with the first ever flyby of a Kuiper Belt object.

And, oh yes, Elon Musk is launching his car in the direction of Mars.

Updates From Blue Origin, Space Angels, Exos Aerospace & More

New Shepard booster fires its engine just over the landing pad. (Credit: Blue Origin)

The Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference was held in Colorado earlier this week. I wasn’t able to attend this year, but the following folks tweeted the sessions:

Jeff Foust‏ @jeff_foust
Rand Simberg‏ @Rand_Simberg
Colorado Space News‏ @CO_Space_News
Laura Seward Forczyk @LauraForczyk

Below are summaries of a number of talks based on their tweets.  The talks included Erika Wagner of Blue Origin, Dylan Taylor of Space Angels, John Quinn of Exos Aerospace, Tim Lachenmeier of Near Space Corporation, Lewis Groswald of the University of Colorado Boulder, and Alain Berinstain of Moon Express.


Millennium Space Systems’ ALTAIR Pathfinder Spacecraft Completes Demo Mission Goals

ALTAIR(TM) Pathfinder successfully deploying its solar arrays just after deploying from the NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer on the International Space Station. (Credit: NanoRacks, NASA)

EL SEGUNDO, Calif., Dec. 6, 2017 (Millennium Space Systems PR) — Millennium Space Systems announces the successful completion of its ALTAIR™ Pathfinder mission objectives last week as the spacecraft reached its six-month milestone and 4,500 hours of successful operations in low earth orbit. ALTAIR™ Pathfinder was released via NanoRacks commercial launch service.


Spaceflight Prepares to Launch Eleven Spacecraft on India’s PSLV-C40

Cubesat integration complete as rideshare launch service provider prepares to deploy spacecraft for veteran and first-time customers in early January

Seattle – December 4, 2017Spaceflight, the leading satellite rideshare and mission management provider, today announced it will be launching 11 spacecraft in early January from India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). Spacecraft include Finland’s ICEYE-X1 SAR microsatellite, Planetary Resources’ Arkyd-6 6U asteroid prospecting demonstration cubesat, four Spire Global Lemur-2 cubesats, Astro Digital’s Landmapper-BC3, AMSAT’s Fox-1D cubesat, and others.


Satellites Lost in the Soyuz Launch Failure

Soyuz rocket blasts off from Vostochny on Nov. 28, 2017. (Credit: Roscosmos)

The failed launch of a Russian Soyuz rocket on Tuesday resulted in the loss of a Russian weather satellite and 18 CubeSats that were aboard as secondary payloads. The table below provides details about the lost spacecraft.

 Meteor M2-1 1Russian GovernmentFourth generation weather satellite; insured for insured for 2.5 billion rubles ($42.6 million)
Lemur-2 10Spire GlobalCommercial weather monitoring and ship tracking
Vantage 2 1 Telesat (Canada)Ka band prototype for 117 satellite constellation that will provide low-latency broadband links for planes, ships and remote locations. Twin Vantage 1 prototype scheduled for launch aboard an Indian PSLV in late December or early January.
Landmapper-BC 2Astro DigitalEarth imaging
 SEAM 1KTH Royal Institute of Technology (Sweden)Ionospheric measurements magnetic and electric fields
 D-Star One 1German Orbital Systems & iSky Technology (Czech Republic)Amateur radio
Baumanets 2 1 Bauman Moscow State Technical UniversityEducational satellite with optical camera and communications experiment
AISSat 31
 Norwegian Space CenterShip tracking
IDEA OSG 1 1ASTROSCALESpace debris using sensors developed by JAXA. Mission sponsored by OSG Corporation, a Japanese tool maker.

ESA’s Latest Technology CubeSat Cleared for Launch Site

GomX-4B with GomX-4A (Credit: GomSpace)

PARIS (ESA PR) — GomX-4B, ESA’s latest and largest technology-testing CubeSat, will be launched from China early next year, together with the near-identical GomX-4A. The pair will test intersatellite communication links and propulsion while orbiting up to 4500 km apart.

The cereal box-sized GomX-4B has been passed as ready to travel along with its twin from manufacturer GomSpace in Denmark in early December to begin launch preparations in China.


NASA Begins Checkout of Dellingr Spacecraft Designed to Improve Robustness of CubeSat Platforms

This is the Dellingr spacecraft right before its release. NASA specifically developed this spacecraft to provide high-quality science data on a small platform. (Credit: Nanoracks)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — NASA ground controllers have begun checking out and commissioning a shoebox-sized spacecraft that the agency purposely built to show that CubeSat platforms could be cost-effective, reliable, and capable of gathering highly robust science.

The Dellingr spacecraft will begin science operations once ground controllers complete checkout, which began a few hours after the NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer aboard the International Space Station released the CubeSat into its low-Earth orbit Nov. 20.


NASA Is Sending E. coli to Space for Astronaut Health

EcAMSat (Credit: NASA)

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — Ever wonder what would happen if you got sick in space? NASA has sent bacteria samples into low-Earth orbit to help find out.

One of the agency’s latest small satellite experiments is the E. coli Anti-Microbial Satellite, or EcAMSat, which will explore the genetic basis for how effectively antibiotics can combat E. coli bacteria in the low gravity of space. This CubeSat – a spacecraft the size of a shoebox built from cube-shaped units – has just been deployed from the space station, and may help us improve how we fight infections, providing safer journeys for astronauts on future voyages, and offer benefits for medicine here on Earth.


BEAM Work and Vision Checks for Crew Today

BEAM module interior (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — More CubeSats were ejected from the International Space Station today to demonstrate and validate new technologies. Back inside the orbital lab, the Expedition 53 crew continued outfitting an experimental module and studying life science.

Two more tiny satellites were deployed from the Kibo laboratory module into Earth orbit today to research a variety of new technologies and space weather. One of the nanosatellites, known as TechEdSat, seeks to develop and demonstrate spacecraft and payload deorbit techniques. The OSIRIS-3U CubeSat will measure the Earth’s ionosphere in coordination with the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.

Commander Randy Bresnik was back inside the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) today with Flight Engineers Paolo Nespoli and Joe Acaba. The astronauts are converting the experimental habitat into a cargo platform by replacing old BEAM hardware with new electronics and stowage gear.

Eye exams are on the schedule this week as two cosmonauts and two astronauts took turns playing eye doctor and patient today. Alex Misurkin and Sergey Ryazanskiy of Roscosmos started first with the optical coherence tomography hardware using a laptop computer. Next, Nespoli and NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei took their turn to help doctors on the ground understand the vision changes that take place in space.