The Best Laid Plans: Europe’s Ambitious Launch Year Goes Awry Due to International Tensions, Schedule Delays

The James Webb Space Telescope lifted off on an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, at 13:20 CET on 25 December 2021 on its exciting mission to unlock the secrets of the Universe. (Credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

On Christmas Day 2021, an European Ariane 5 rocket roared off its launch pad in French Guiana with the most expensive payload the booster had ever carried, the $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope. The launcher performed perfectly, sending the most powerful space telescope on a journey to its final destination 1.5 million km (900 million miles) from Earth. The launch was so accurate that Webb should have sufficient propellant to perform science operations for much longer than its planned 10-year lifetime.

There was a collective sigh of relief among the European, American and Canadian scientists and engineers involved in the long-delayed program. It was a superb Christmas gift to a world suffering through the second year of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

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Defence Procurement Minister Jeremy Quin Announces the Defence Space Strategy

Jeremy Quin

Speech
Kings College London
1 February 2022

It’s a huge pleasure to be here today on the next step in our execution of the Integrated Review, the Defence Command Paper and Defence and Security Industrial Strategy.

A lot has happened in Defence in the last year. From assisting in homeland resilience in issues as varied at vaccine delivery to Heavy Goods Vehicle support to the largest Royal Navy deployment in decades making our positive presence felt on the far side of the world.

Above all, as I speak, the Defence Secretary is meeting NATO partners, discussing the truly concerning situation on Ukraine’s borders – the most serious threat of a major war on our continent since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

However the British people know that what they can always expect from UK Defence is calm, determined, delivery.

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UK Cutting-edge Space Defence Backed by £1.4 Billion

  • UK’s first Defence Space Strategy published today to address growing threats
  • £1.4 billion invested in cutting-edge technology to protect UK interests in space
  • UK will strengthen partnerships with key allies and NATO to build stability and resilience

LONDON (Ministry of Defence PR) — The UK will invest £1.4 billion [US $1.9 billion] to bolster our national interests in space, as part of the first Defence Space Strategy published today.

Following publication of the National Space Strategy in September last year, the Defence Space Strategy (DSS) outlines how Defence will protect the UK’s national interests in space in an era of ever-growing threats, stimulating growth across the sector and supporting highly skilled jobs across the UK.

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UK Government Backs Space Technology to Tackle Climate Change

SWINDON, UK (UK Space Agency PR) — Trailblazing technology that will help tackle climate change and predict global disasters using satellites is receiving new funding from the UK Space Agency.

Eleven UK organisations have been awarded a share of just under £7 million of government funding to put into action the latest advances in space innovation. The majority of the projects focus on climate change or environmental management, with others designed to secure our telecommunication systems and protect digital infrastructure against cyber-attacks.

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BAE Systems Acquires Smallsat Manufacturer In-Space Missions

Faraday rideshare satellite (Credit: In-Space Missions)

FARNBOROUGH, UK (BAE Systems PR) — BAE Systems has acquired In-Space Missions, a UK company that designs, builds and operates satellites and satellite systems. The acquisition will combine BAE Systems’ experience in highly secure satellite communications with In-Space Missions’ full lifecycle satellite capability, to make a compelling sovereign UK space offer.

In-Space Missions was founded in 2015 and is based in Hampshire with more than 30 employees. It specialises in offering space services for activities covering earth observation, satellite communications, navigation, and space science and exploration. 

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Ministry of Defence Makes £9.5 Million Investment for Military Space Communications

LONDON (Ministry of Defence PR) — The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) have awarded a £9.5 million [US $13.1 million] contract to In-Space Missions Ltd for the build of the Titania satellite, which will undertake vital research on the next-generation of communications technology.

To be launched in 2023 and approximately the size of a washing machine, the satellite will support the ‘Titania Operational Concept Demonstrator’ which is exploring the military utility of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) direct-to-earth free-space optical communications (FSOC).

As modern battlespace technology requires increasingly high bandwidth, FSOC has the potential to transform military communications with its ability to transfer large volumes of data, with a low risk of detection or interception.

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Launch 2020: U.S. Reclaimed Top Spot, Flew Astronauts Again from American Soil

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)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The United States reclaimed the top spot in launches from China last year as NASA astronauts flew into orbit from American soil for the first time in nearly nine years, SpaceX deployed the world’s first satellite mega-constellation with reused rockets, and two new launchers debuted with less than stellar results.

American companies conducted 44 launches in 2020, with 40 successes and four failures. Bryce Tech reports that U.S. companies accounted for 32 of the 41 commercial launches conducted last year. The majority of those flights were conducted by SpaceX, which launched 25 orbital missions.

China came in second with a record of 35 successful launches and four failures. The 39 launch attempts tied that nation’s previous record for flights during a calendar year.

Let’s take a closer look at what U.S. companies achieved last year.

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Next Electron Launch Set for July 3

Electron lifts off from the Mahia Peninsula on its 12th flight on June 13, 2020. (Credit; Rocket Lab webcast)

LONG BEACH, Calif., 15 June 2020 (Rocket Lab PR) –Satellite manufacturer and global leader in dedicated small satellite launch, Rocket Lab, has today announced its next Electron mission is scheduled to launch just three weeks after its most recent mission in a demonstration of the company’s rapid launch capability.

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