Suborbital Flights Stopped Being So Humdrum in 2018

Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo’s first flight above 50 miles on Dec. 13, 2018. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

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by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Throughout the Space Age, suborbital flight has been the least exciting segment of the launch market. Operating in the shadow of their much larger orbital cousins, sounding rockets carrying scientific instruments, microgravity experiments and technology demonstrations have flown to the fringes of space with little fanfare or media attention.

The suborbital sector has become much more dynamic in recent years now that billionaires have started spending money in it. Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic both made significant progress last year in testing New Shepard and SpaceShipTwo, respectively. Their achievements have raised the real possibility of suborbital space tourism flights in 2019. (I know. Promises, promises…. But, this year they might finally really do it. I think.)

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ISRO Chairman Lauds 2018 Successes, Lays Out Ambitious Plan for Future

Dr. K Sivan (Credit: ISRO)

2018 : A Year of many ‘firsts’ and ‘beginnings’

by Dr. K Sivan
ISRO Chairman

New Year is the best time to celebrate what we have accomplished and determine what direction we want to head. The year 2018 was a year of many ‘firsts’ and ‘beginnings’ with profound growth in all directions! This year, ISRO completed 16 missions, signing off with 7 successful missions within 35 days. This included two successful GSLV missions in a single year. GSLV Mk-III completed its development flights and has entered the operational arena. GSAT-29, the heaviest satellite launched from Indian soil and GSAT-11, the heaviest satellite built by ISRO, are the two hallmark achievements this year. The national confidence in ISRO is reflected in the highest ever allocation of about Rs 30000 Crore for 23 new and continuation programmes in a single year.

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India Legislation Would Open Space to Commercial Activities

The Indian government is looking to pass legislation next year that will allow for commercial use of space, the Hindustan Times reports.

After the draft of the bill was put in the public domain in November 2017, the government received 52 responses, of which 15 were from the general public. The rest were from the Indian aerospace industry and start-ups, law firms or lawyers, space experts and scholars, and satellite communication companies.

“Responses fall broadly under the category of seeking clarifications and suggestions on certain provisions, such as scope of space activities, regulatory mechanism, licencing and authorisation procedures, sharing of liability burden with a limit on damage costs, penal provisions, powers of Central Government, etc,.” the reply stated….

“This is much needed and much awaited. Allowing commercial use will increase the domestic capacity for launches. ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) is already hard pressed given the growing demand for communication, disaster management and several other national priority areas,” said Rajeswari Rajagopalan, head of the nuclear and space policy initiative at the Observer Research Foundation.

Indian Cabinet Approves Budget for First Human Space Mission

Capsule descending under parachute (Credit: ISRO)

The Indian government has approved the expenditure of RS 10,000 crore ($1.43 billion) to launch the nation’s first human space mission by 2022, according to media reports.

Plans call for the a three-member crew to spend seven days in Earth orbit after being launched by a GSLV Mk. III booster. The flight, currently set for December 2021, will be preceded by two flight tests without a crew, officials say.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi set a deadline to launch the mission within four years in an Independence Day speech in August.

India would become the fourth nation after the Soviet Union, United States and China to launch astronauts into orbit.

NanoRacks Announces First Customer Contract for India’s PSLV Launcher

PSLV booster launches on C-42 mission. (Credit: ISRO)

December 19, 2018 – Washington, DC — NanoRacks is excited to announce that the Company has signed its first customer contract for a small satellite rideshare on the India Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). Spire, a long-time customer of NanoRacks, has signed to fly four of their Lemur 3U CubeSats, targeting a March 2019 flight.

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India’s GSLV-F11 Successfully Launches GSAT-7A

GSLV Mk. II booster launches the GSAT-7A satellite. (Credit: ISRO)

SRIHARIKOTA, India (ISRO PR) — Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV-F11) successfully launched the communication satellite GSAT-7A from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) in Sriharikota today.

The GSLV-F11 lifted off from the Second Launch Pad at SDSC at 04:10 pm IST, carrying 2250 kg GSAT-7A and about 19 minutes later, injected GSAT-7A into a Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) of 170.8 km x 39127 km which is very close to the intended orbit.

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This Week in Launches

New Shepard booster over the landing pad. (Credit: Blue Origin)

This current launch schedule for this week. Check for updates at https://spaceflightnow.com/launch-schedule/

December 18

Falcon 9
Payload: GPS 3-01 navigation satellite
Launch Window: 9:11-9:35 a.m. EST (1411-1435 GMT)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida
Webcast: www.spacex.com

SpaceX’s 21st and final launch of 2018.

New Shepard
Payloads: NASA microgravity experiments
Launch Time: 9:30 a.m. EST/8:30 a.m. CST (1430 GMT)
Launch Site: Van Horn, Texas
Webcast: www.blueorigin.com

Tenth New Shepard suborbital flight.

Soyuz
Payload: CSO 1 – French reconnaissance satellite
Launch Time: 11:37:14 a.m. EST (1637:14 GMT)
Launch Site: Sinnamary, French Guiana
Webcast: www.esa.int

Delta 4-Heavy
Payload: NROL-71 reconnaissance satellite
Launch Time: 8:57 p.m. EST; 5:57 p.m. PST (0157 GMT on Dec. 19)
Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base, California
Webcast: https://www.ulalaunch.com/

December 19

GSLV Mk.2
Payload: GSAT 7A communications satellite
Launch Time: Approx. 5:30 a.m. EST (1030 GMT)
Launch Site: Satish Dhawan Space Center, Sriharikota, India
Webcast: https://www.isro.gov.in/

December 20

Proton
Payload: Blagovest No. 13L communications satellite
Launch Time: Approx. 7:15 p.m. EST (0015 GMT on Dec. 21)
Launch Site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan

December 26/27

Soyuz
Payloads: Kanopus-V 5 & 6 Earth observation satellites
Launch Time: 9:07 p.m. EST (0207 GMT on Dec. 27)
Launch Site: Vostochny Cosmodrome, Russia

India Approves Cooperation with Russia on Human Spaceflight

Capsule descending under parachute (Credit: ISRO)

India’s union cabinet last week approved a memorandum of understanding (MoU) that covers cooperation on human spaceflight with Russia.

India and Russia will strengthen cooperation in space programmes, including manned space missions, under a memorandum of understanding signed between the two countries in October.

The MoU will provide an impetus for development of technologies and advanced systems required for the human space flight programmes, such as radiation shielding, life support systems, crew module, rendezvous and docking systems, space suit, training for astronauts etc.

The MoU will lead to a joint activity in the field of application of space technologies for the benefit of humanity. It will also help in the setting up of a joint working group, which will further work out the plan of action, including the time-frame and the means of implementing the provisions of the agreement.

Liftoff for Pioneering Nanosats

Pioneer Spire nanosatellite in RF test chamber. (Credit: Spire)

SRIHARIKOTA, India (ESA PR) — The first ‘Pioneer’ mission lifted off last week from Sriharikota, India, with the two inventive little nanosatellites now circling the Earth, ready for action.

The shoebox-sized satellites were launched at 04:27 GMT into low Earth orbit by the Indian Space Research Organisation’s PLSV launcher, and opened their first communication windows with their owner, Spire Global, less than an hour after they separated from the rocket.

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ISRO Launches Hyper-Spectral Imaging Satellite, 30 Secondary Payloads

PSLV C-43 mission launches on Nov. 28, 2018. (Credit: ISRO)

SRIHARIKOTA, India (ISRO PR) — The Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C43) on Thursday successfully launched 31 satellites from Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) in Sriharikota.

The PSLV-C43 lifted off at 9:57:30 (IST) from the First Launch Pad and injected India’s Hyper-Spectral Imaging Satellite (HysIS) into the 645 km sun-synchronous polar orbit, 17 minutes and 19 seconds after the lift-off.

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Five More Launches Scheduled for November

Rideshare launch (Credit: Spaceflight)

The following is a list of launches for the remainder of November based on Spaceflightnow.com’s Launch Schedule. The list includes two launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and one launch apiece from Xichang in China, Kourou in French Guiana, and Satish Dhawan in India.

Please check Spaceflightnow’s launch page regularly because launches tend to slip on a regular basis.

Editor’s Note: The SpaceX Falcon 9 launch scheduled for Monday has been postponed five or six days so engineers can conduct additional checks of the booster. The first stage is being flown for the third time.

November 19

Launch Vehicle: Long March 3B — SUCCESS
Payload: 2 Beidou navigation satellites
Launch Time: TBA
Launch Site: Xichang, China

November 20/21

Launch Vehicle: Vega
Payload: Mohammed VI-B Earth observation satellite
Launch Time: 8:42 p.m. EST on 20th (0142 GMT on 21st)
Launch Site: Kourou, French Guiana
Webcast: http://www.esa.int

November 26

Launch Vehicle: PSLV
Payload: HySIS hyperspectral imaging satellite
Launch Time: TBA
Launch Site: Satish Dhawan Space Center, Sriharikota, India
Webcast: https://www.isro.gov.in/

November 29

Launch Vehicle: Delta 4-Heavy
Payload: NROL-71 reconnaissance satellite
Launch Time: TBA
Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base, California
Webcast: https://www.ulalaunch.com/

TBD

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Spaceflight, Inc. SSO-A rideshare mission
Launch Time: TBD
Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base, California
Webcast: http://www.spacex.com

This flight will deploy more than 70 spacecraft from approximately 35 different organizations.

India Launches GSAT-29 Communications Satellites

GSLV Mk. III lifts off with GSAT-29 satellite. (Credit: ISRO)

SRIHARIKOTA, India (ISRO PR) — India’s GSAT-29 communication satellite was successfully launched by the second developmental flight of Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle MarkIII (GSLV MkIII-D2) on Wednesday from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) SHAR, Sriharikota.

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Spaceflight Arranges Launch of 12 Satellites Aboard India’s PSLV C43

Rideshare launch service provider prepares payload integration for its seventh launch with India’s PSLV

SEATTLE, Nov. 8, 2018 (Spaceflight PR) – Spaceflight, the leading satellite rideshare and mission management provider, today announced it will launch 12 spacecraft in November from India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). Payloads aboard the mission include Fleet Space Technologies’ Centauri I, Harris Corporation’s HSAT, Spire’s LEMUR satellites, and BlackSky’s Global-1 microsatellite.

‘In addition to securing capacity aboard the launch vehicle, Spaceflight executed the integration of most of the payloads at its Seattle integration facility. The payloads are currently en route to PSLV’s launch facility at India’s Satish Dhawan Space Center for a launch in late November.

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Russia, India Negotiate on Human Spaceflight Cooperation

Translated from Russian using Google Translate

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — On September 25, 2018, the delegation of the Roskosmos State Corporation headed by Dmitry Rogozin met with representatives of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).

The main topics of negotiations between the two space organizations were: joint work within the framework of manned space programs, where the Russian side is ready to offer its significant achievements and partnership, as well as possible joint initiatives in the areas of satellite navigation.

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India’s PSLV Rocket Launches Pair of British Satellites

PSLV booster launches on C-42 mission. (Credit: ISRO)

SRIHARIKOTA, India (ISRO PR) — PSLV-C42 successfully launched two foreign satellites from Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC), SHAR, Sriharikota on September 16, 2018.

This mission was designed to launch two earth observation satellites, NovaSAR and S1-4 (together weighing nearly 889 kg) of M/s Surrey Satellite Technologies Limited (SSTL), United Kingdom under commercial arrangement with Antrix Corporation Limited, Department of Space. Both satellites were injected into 583 km Sun Synchronous Orbit.

NovaSAR is a S-Band Synthetic Aperture Radar satellite intended for forest mapping, land use & ice cover monitoring, flood & disaster monitoring.

S1-4 is a high resolution Optical Earth Observation Satellite, used for surveying resources, environment monitoring, urban management and for the disaster monitoring.