What a Ride to Space Costs These Days

A Minotaur V rocket carrying NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) lifts off from at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Friday, Sept. 6, 2013. (Credit: NASA/Chris Perry)

Just in time for your late summer beach reading needs, the Government Accountability Office has released a new report, “Surplus Missile Motors: Sale Price Drives Potential Effects on DOD and Commercial Launch Providers.”

The report looks at the costs associated with using surplus rocket motors in Orbital ATK’s Minotaur launchers, which cannot be used for commercial missions.

Yes, it’s about as exciting as it sounds.

Anyway, the report does contain a couple of interesting tables showing what a ride into space costs these days.

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Orbital Launch Statistics for 2016

The Soyuz MS-02 rocket is launched with Expedition 49 Soyuz commander Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos, flight engineer Shane Kimbrough of NASA, and flight engineer Andrey Borisenko of Roscosmos, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Ryzhikov, Kimbrough, and Borisenko will spend the next four months living and working aboard the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)
The Soyuz MS-02 rocket is launched with Expedition 49 Soyuz commander Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos, flight engineer Shane Kimbrough of NASA, and flight engineer Andrey Borisenko of Roscosmos, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

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There were 85 orbital launches in 2016, not including the Falcon 9 that exploded on launch pad prior to a pre-flight engine test. The launches break down as follow:

  • United States: 22 (22-0)
  • China: 22 (20-1-1)
  • Russia: 19 (18-1)
  • Europe: 9 (9-0)
  • India: 7 (7-0)
  • Japan: 4 (4-0)
  • Israel: 1 (1-0)
  • North Korea: 1 (1-0)

For a more detailed description of these launches, please read US, China Led World in Launches in 2016.

Let’s look at launches by booster and spaceport and the flights that were required for human spaceflight.
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Orbital ATK’s Small Satellite Launch Vehicles Facing Increased Competition

A Minotaur V rocket carrying NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) lifts off from at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Friday, Sept. 6, 2013. (Credit: NASA/Chris Perry)
A Minotaur V rocket carrying NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) lifts off from at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Friday, Sept. 6, 2013. (Credit: NASA/Chris Perry)

Recently, there’s been a bit of a kerfuffle over the use of surplus intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) to launch satellites. Orbital ATK would like to lift the ban on using them to launch commercial satellites, the U.S. Air Force would like to find a way to sell the engines, and an emerging commercial launch industry that doesn’t want what it considers government-subsidized competition.

Now, you’ve probably been wondering a few things. What does Orbital ATK do with these engines? What does it launch on them? And what launch vehicles are in operation or in development to compete with these boosters?

Those are all great questions. And now the answers.

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JAXA Gets Modest Budget Increase, Sets Sights on New Launcher

Hayabusa2 launch aboard a H-2A rocket (Credit: JAXA)
Hayabusa2 launch aboard a H-2A rocket (Credit: JAXA)

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)
President Naoki Okumura
January Press Conference

Cabinet Approval of JFY 2015 Budget

The original Japan Fiscal Year 2015 budget was approved by the Cabinet on Jan. 14. JAXA’s total budget is 154.1 billion yen [$1.29 billion], about 400 million [3.35 million] less than that of JFY 2014 of 154.5 billion yen [$1.3 billion]. However, a supplementary budget of 29.9 billion yen [$250 million] was already set, thus the total will be 184 billion yen [$1.54 billion]. So, incorporating the supplementary budgets, the JFY 2015 JAXA budget is about a 2.5 billion yen [$21 million] increase from the 2014 budged of 181.5 billion yen [$1.52 billion].

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Epsilon Receives Excellence Awards

JAXA's Epsilon rocket on its first test flight. (Credit: JAXA)
JAXA’s Epsilon rocket on its first test flight. (Credit: JAXA)

Flush from its inaugural launch in September, JAXA’s new Epsilon launch vehicle has received prizes  from two different organizations.

The Epsilon launch vehicle recently received the Nikkei Award for Excellence at the 2013 Nikkei Superior Products and Services Awards (the 32nd event).   The rocket was also honored with the Gold Award in the JFY 2013 Good Design competition.

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JAXA Plans to Market Epsilon as Commercial Rocket

JAXA's Epsilon rocket on its first test flight. (Credit: JAXA)
JAXA’s Epsilon rocket on its first test flight. (Credit: JAXA)

Aviation Week reports that Japan is looking to commercialize its new Epsilon small-satellite launch vehicle, which flew successfully for the first time earlier this month:

Morita says the prototype Epsilon rocket, known as the E-X, is able to loft 1.2 metric tons to orbit for about $38 million (¥3.8 billion), though the inaugural mission launched this month from Japan’s Uchinoura Space Center cost closer to $53 million, a figure he says includes the rocket’s intensive test regime.

By 2015, however, JAXA plans to launch an interim variant of the three-stage Epsilon, known as the E-1 Dash, which will incorporate enhancements, including lighter avionics components, to deliver payloads weighing 1.4 metric tons to low Earth orbit for $38 million per launch.

If these missions go well, JAXA hopes to debut a more powerful version of Epsilon in 2017 that will deliver 1.8 metric tons to low Earth orbit for $30 million per launch.

Europe’s new Vega rocket, capable of launching up to 2.5 metric tons into low Earth orbit, costs approximately €32 million ($42 million) per flight.

JAXA Celebrates Successful Maiden Flight of New Epsilon Launch Vehicle

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched the first Epsilon Launch Vehicle (Epsilon-1) with the Spectroscopic Planet Observatory for Recognition of Interaction of Atmosphere (SPRINT-A) onboard at 2:00 p.m. JST on September 14, 2013 from the Uchinoura Space Center.

The launch vehicle flew smoothly, and, at about 61 minutes and 39 seconds after liftoff, the separation of the SPRINT-A was confirmed.

JAXA has confirmed that the Spectroscopic Planet Observatory for Recognition of Interaction of Atmosphere (SPRINT-A) has deployed its solar array paddles (SAPs) normally at 15:49 p.m. today through data received at the Uchinoura Ground Station. The satellite is currently in good health.

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Epsilon Rocket Roars Off Launch Pad

Japan's newest rocket, Epislon, lifts off from the launch pad. (JAXA webacast screen shot)
Japan’s newest rocket, Epsilon, lifts off from the launch pad. (JAXA webcast screen shot)

Japan’s newest rocket, Epsilon, roared off the launch pad in Kagoshima Prefecture at 2 p.m. JST (1 a.m. EDT) Saturday. Twelve minutes after liftoff, officials reported the burnout of the rocket’s third stage, which putting the Spectroscopic Planet Observatory for Recognition of Interaction of Atmosphere (SPRINT-A) satellite under the control of the Post-Boost Stage (PBS). The PBS will make two burns to optimize the spacecraft’s orbit.

The advanced, solid-fuel Epsilon rocket is highly automated and is being billed as a relatively inexpensive system for launching small payloads into orbit.

JAXA to Launch Epsilon Rocket on Saturday

epsilonJAXA will broadcast the launch of the first Epsilon Launch Vehicle (Epsilon-1) with the Spectroscopic Planet Observatory for Recognition of Interaction of Atmosphere (SPRINT-A) on board from the Uchinoura Space Center through the Internet. The webcast can be viewed here.

Scheduled launch day: Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013
Scheduled launch time: 1:45:00 p.m. JST (12:45 a.m. EDT/9:25 p.m. PDT)
Scheduled launch time window: 1:45 thru 2:30 p.m.

Broadcast Schedule

Saturday, Sept. 14 from from 1:25 p.m. JST (12:25 a.m. EDT/9:25 p.m. PDT)

Webcast Page

The above schedule is subject to change due to the preparation status and weather conditions.

JAXA Resets Maiden Epsilon Launch for Sept. 14

epislon2
TOKYO (JAXA PR) —
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) decided to postpone the launch of the first Epsilon Launch Vehicle (Epsilon-1) with the Spectroscopic Planet Observatory for Recognition of Interaction of Atmosphere (SPRINT-A) onboard on August 27 from the Uchinoura Space Center.

As a result of our cause investigation of the postponement and re-examination of the Epsilon-1, the new launch date will be September 14, 2013 (Japan Standard Time) or later.

JAXA Scrubs Maiden Epsilon Launch

epsilonTOKYO (JAXA PR) — The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) cancelled today’s launch of the first Epsilon Launch Vehicle (Epsilon-1) with the Spectroscopic Planet Observatory for Recognition of Interaction of Atmosphere (SPRINT-A) onboard from the Uchinoura Space Center, because an automatic stop alarm was issued as an attitude abnormality was detected approximately 19 seconds prior to the liftoff time during the automatic countdown sequence. The launch had been originally scheduled for 1:45:00 p.m. today (Japan Standard Time).

JAXA is currently investigating the cause.

JAXA Delays Inaugural Epsilon Launch

epsilon_illustrationTOKYO (JAXA PR) — The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) decided to postpone the launch of the first Epsilon Launch Vehicle (Epsilon-1) with the Spectroscopic Planet Observatory for Recognition of Interaction of Atmosphere (SPRINT-A) on board to August 27, 2013, from the Uchinoura Space Center. The launch was originally scheduled for August 22, 2013 from the center.

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Japan Sets August for Maiden Flight of New Epsilon Rocket

epsilon_illustration
Artist conception of Epsilon rocket (Credit: JAXA)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency will launch the Spectroscopic Planet Observatory for Recognitionof Interaction of Atmosphere (SPRINT-A) by the first Epsilon Launch Vehicle (Epsilon-1) in the following schedule.

Launch date: August 22 (Thursday.), 2013 (Japan Standard Time)
Launch time: between 1:30 p.m. through 2:30 p.m. (JST)*
Launch window: Aug. 23 (Fri) through Sept. 30 (Mon.), 2013
Launch site: Uchinoura Space Center

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Meet Japan’s New Epsilon Rocket

Epsilon_launch_illustration
Epsilon rocket (Credit: JAXA)

JAXA has spent the last six years developing a new small satellite launch vehicle designed to be launched much quicker and significantly cheaper than its retired predecessor, the M-V rocket. The solid-fuel Epsilon launch vehicle, which will be capable of placing up to 1.2 metric tons into low Earth orbit, is set for its maiden flight in August or September of this year.

The following information is taken from the JAXA website.

The Epsilon Launch Vehicle is a solid propellant rocket suitable for a new age, delivering both high performance and low cost. Based on the M-V Launch Vehicle, a multistage solid propellant rocket with the best performance in the world (discontinued in 2006), we try to achieve improved performance with the Epsilon Launch Vehicle, and build a system which will allow the frequent launch of launch vehicles by largely-reducing operational costs through enhancing aspects of operational efficiency, such as assembly and inspection.

Through increased launch opportunities, we anticipate that space development activity will increase. The biggest goal of the Epsilon Launch Vehicle is to make space more accessible as rocket launches are made easier.

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