Successful Qualification of India’s High Thrust Vikas Engine

High thrust Vikas engine test (Credit: ISRO)

MAHENDRAGIRI, India (ISRO PR) — Today (July 15, 2018), a high thrust version of the Vikas Engine was successfully qualified through a ground test for a duration of 195 seconds at ISRO Propulsion Complex (IPRC), Mahendragiri, Tamilnadu. Vikas Engine is the workhorse liquid rocket engine powering the second stage of India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), second stage and the four strap on stages of Geosynchronous Launch Vehicle (GSLV) and the twin engine core liquid stage (L110) of GSLV Mk-III.

All the propulsion parameters during the tests were found satisfactory and closely matched the predictions. This ground test has validated the performance adequacy of the Vikas Engine for its use in the upcoming second developmental flight of GSLV Mk-III. This engine will improve the payload capability of PSLV, GSLV and GSLV Mk-III launch vehicles.

Mid-Year Global Launch Report: China & USA Continue to Battle for Lead

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket carrying the NROL-47 mission lifts off from Vandenberg Air Force Base. (Credit: ULA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The world’s launch providers were extremely busy in the first half of 2018, with China and the United States battling for the lead.

There with 55 orbital launches through the end of June, which amounted to a launch every 3.29 days or 79 hours. The total is more than half the 90 launches attempted in 2017. With approximately 42 missions scheduled for the last six months of the year, the total could reach 97. (more…)

India Moving Toward Human Spaceflight Program

Escape tower fires (Credit: ISRO)
Last week’s test of a crew escape system signals a renewed push by ISRO for an indigenous human spaceflight program, Business Standard reports.

Days after it successfully carried out a flight test for a new system, meant for saving lives of astronauts in an exigency, ISRO today said it would approve in a month’s time an ‘internal document’ on developing crucial technologies under its Human Spaceflight Programme.

“No human spaceflight programme has been approved in India yet. We had prepared the document to develop crucial technologies in 2004.

Now we are in the process of revising it. In a month’s time, we will approve our internal document,” ISRO Chairman Dr K Sivan told reporters after the 11th annual Katre Memorial Lecture here…

Sivan said the document, which was being worked on for over a decade, is being revised for review and interactions with stakeholders, including Indian Air Force and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.

Full Video of ISRO Capsule Escape Test

The test looks fine until just before the end. The parachutes released a wee bit early and the capsule plunged into the water.

“Hey, we’re safe, we made….Oh no! Brace for impact!”

ISRO Successfully Tests Crew Escape System

Escape tower fires (Credit: ISRO)

SRIHARIKOTA, India (ISRO PR) — ISRO carried out a major technology demonstration today (July 05, 2018), the first in a series of tests to qualify a Crew Escape System, which is a critical technology relevant for human spaceflight. The Crew Escape System is an emergency escape measure designed to quickly pull the crew module along with the astronauts to a safe distance from the launch vehicle in the event of a launch abort. The first test (Pad Abort Test) demonstrated the safe recovery of the crew module in case of any exigency at the launch pad.

After a smooth countdown of 5 hours, the Crew Escape System along with the simulated crew module with a mass of 12.6 tonnes, lifted off at 07.00 AM (IST) at the opening of the launch window from its pad at Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota today. The test was over in 259 seconds, during which the Crew Escape System along with crew module soared skyward, then arced out over the Bay of Bengal and floated back to Earth under its parachutes about 2.9 km from Sriharikota.

Capsule descending under parachute (Credit: ISRO)

The crew module reached an altitude of nearly 2.7 km under the power of its seven specifically designed quick acting solid motors to take away the crew module to a safe distance without exceeding the safe g-levels. Nearly 300 sensors recorded various mission performance parameters during the test flight. Three recovery boats are being exercised to retrieve the module as part of the recovery protocol.

NASA ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar Satellite Moving Forward

NASA ISRO synthetic aperture radar satellite (Credit: NASA)

A joint collaboration between NASA and ISRO to orbit an advanced synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imaging satellite is moving forward toward a 2021 launch date as engineers at the two agencies learn to work together effectively, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) assessment.

“The NISAR project continues to track a risk that process differences between NASA and its development partner, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), could negatively affect cost and schedule, but a recent project assessment concluded that collaboration between the two organizations has been effective,” the GAO report stated.

(more…)

FCC: Satellite Companies Must Obtain Licenses Before Launch

Swarm SpaceBee satellite (Credit: ISRO)

In the wake of an unlicensed satellite launch by a Silicon Valley startup, the FCC has issued an advisory spelling out licensing requirements that company must comply with before launch.

“Compliance with requirements for licensing of satellite communications is not optional,” the commission said. “Failure to comply with FCC requirements can and will result in enforcement action.”

The FCC says that Swarm Technologies launched four SpaceBee prototype satellites aboard an Indian PSLV rocket in January despite the agency having previously rejected the company’s application for a license.

(more…)

ISRO Loses Contact with Communications Satellite

GSLV Mk. II launches the GSAT-6A satellite. (Credit: ISRO)

ISRO is trying to restore contact with the GSAT-6A military communications satellite that it launched last week.

The space agency said contact was lost on April 1 as the spacecraft was preparing for a third and final burn of its onboard motor to place it in a planned geosynchronous orbit.

GSAT-6A was launched aboard a GSLV Mk. II booster from Satish Dhawan on March 31. ISRO did not report any anomalies with the launch.

Silicon Valley Company Launched Satellites Without FCC Approval

SpaceBEE satellite (Credit: ISRO)

A Silicon Valley startup named Swarm Technologies has been accused of launching four tiny satellites into space without FCC approval. The four SpaceBEE satellites, which are about one quarter the size of a 1U CubeSat, were launched aboard an Indian PSLV booster in January. The satellites are testing Internet of Things technologies.

The only problem is, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had dismissed Swarm’s application for its experimental satellites a month earlier, on safety grounds. The FCC is responsible for regulating commercial satellites, including minimizing the chance of accidents in space. It feared that the four SpaceBees now orbiting the Earth would pose an unacceptable collision risk for other spacecraft.

If confirmed, this would be the first ever unauthorized launch of commercial satellites.

On Wednesday, the FCC sent Swarm a letter revoking its authorization for a follow-up mission with four more satellites, due to launch next month. A pending application for a large market trial of Swarm’s system with two Fortune 100 companies could also be in jeopardy.

In fact, the FCC told the startup that the agency would assess “the impact of the applicant’s apparent unauthorized launch and operation of four satellites… on its qualifications to be a Commission licensee.” If Swarm cannot convince the FCC otherwise, the startup could lose permission to build its revolutionary network before the wider world even knows the company exists.

Read the full story.

Scheduled Launches for March

Atlas V booster launches the GOES-S weather satellite. (Credit: ULA)

Below is the current launch schedule for March. In total, there are 8 launches planned for the month with 16 communications satellites, one meteorological satellite, and one crew mission to the International Space Station. The launches include:

  • United States: 3 (2 Falcon 9, 1 Atlas V)
  • Russia: 2 (Soyuz from Baikonur & French Guiana)
  • Europe: 1 (Ariane 5)
  • China: 1 (Long March 3B)
  • India: 1 (GSLV Mk. 2)

This schedule is subject to change. Please visit https://spaceflightnow.com/launch-schedule/ for updates.

March 1

Launch Vehicle: Atlas V
Payload: GOES-S meteorological satellite
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida
Outcome: Successful

March 6

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Hispasat 30W-6 communications satellite
Launch Window: 12:33-2:33 a.m. EST (0533-0733 GMT)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz
Payload: O3b F4 communications satellite
Launch Time: 11:38:36 a.m. EST (1638:36 GMT)
Launch Site: Kourou, French Guiana

March 15

Launch Vehicle: Long March 3B
Payload: Apstar 6C communications satellite
Launch Time: TBD
Launch Site: Xichang, China

March 21

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz
Payload: Soyuz MS-08
Launch Time: 1:44 p.m. EDT (1744 GMT)
Launch Site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan

NASA astronauts A.J. (Drew) Feustel and Ricky Arnold and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev will travel to the International Space Station.

Launch Vehicle: Ariane 5
Payload: Superbird 8/DSN 1 & Hylas 4 communications satellites
Launch Time: 5:42 p.m. EDT (2142 GMT)
Launch Site: Kourou, French Guiana

March 24

Launch Vehicles: GSLV Mk.2
Payl0ad: GSAT 6A communications satellite
Launch Time: TBD
Launch Site: Satish Dhawan Space Center, India

March 29

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Iridium Next 41-50 communications satellites
Launch Time: 10:19:49 a.m. EDT; 7:19:49 a.m. PDT (1419:49 GMT)
Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base, California

Video Interview With New ISRO Chairman

Video Caption: India’s “Rocket Man” Dr Sivan K, who was named the new chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation last month, is unfazed by the so-called cheap launches offered by Elon Musk’s SpaceX. ISRO’s rockets, he said, are cheap, robust and meet the nation’s needs.

The 60-year-old from Tamil Nadu, who was born in a farmer’s family, has helped take on SpaceX’s Elon Musk through the launch of 104 satellites in a single mission in February last year. The venture had placed India firmly on the map of commercial satellite launches.

In an interview to NDTV, Dr Sivan said the next big thrust to expand ISRO’s commercial ventures would be “Baby PSLV” – the smaller, modular rocket for on-demand launches. There is also a huge scope for re-usable rocket technology, another ongoing project, which would further reduce the cost of launch.

NDTV is one of the leaders in the production and broadcasting of un-biased and comprehensive news and entertainment programmes in India and abroad. NDTV delivers reliable information across all platforms: TV, Internet and Mobile.

China Launches Satellite to Look for Signals of Earthquakes

China launched a satellite that will search for signals that could help scientists to predict earthquakes on Thursday.

The China Seismo-Electromagnetic Satellite will study electromagnetic signals in Earth’s atmosphere and ionosphere to determine if they can be used to predict earthquakes. The Chinese-led mission is being conducted in cooperation with Italy.

The spacecraft was launched aboard a Long March 2D booster from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. It was the sixth successful launch of the year for China.

Here is the launch schedule for the rest of the month. Check for updates here.

Feb. 6

Launch Vehicle: Falcon Heavy
Payload: Tesla Roadster
Launch Window: 1:30-4:30 p.m. EST (1830-2130 GMT)
Launch Site: LC-39A, Kennedy Space Center, Florida

The inaugural flight of the Falcon Heavy will send a red Tesla Roadster into deep space.

Feb. 11

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz
Payload: Progress 69P
Launch Time: 3:58 a.m. EST (0858 GMT)
Launch Site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan

Resupply mission to the International Space Station.

Feb. 17

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Paz
Launch Time: 9:22 a.m. EST; 6:22 a.m. PST (1422 GMT)
Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base, California

Built by Airbus Defense and Space, Hisdesat’s Paz satellite will provide radar imaging as well as ship tracking and weather data. The flight will use a previously-flown first stage.

Feb. 22

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Hispasat 30W-6
Launch Window: TBA
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral, Florida

The Hispasat 30W-6 satellite, built by Space Systems/Loral, will provide communications services over Europe, North Africa and the Americas.

Feb. 24/25

Launch Vehicle: H-2A
Payload: IGS Optical 6
Launch Window: 11:00 p.m.-1:00 a.m. EST on Feb. 24 (0400-0600 GMT on Feb. 25)
Launch site: Tanegashima Space Center, Japan

The Information Gathering Satellite carries an optical reconnaissance payload.

Mid-February

Launch Vehicle: Long March 3B
Payload: Beidou
Launch Time: TBD
Launch Site: Xichang, China

The rocket will launch two Beidou navigation satellites.

February

Launch Vehicle: GSLV Mk. 2
Payload: GSAT 6A
Launch Time: TBD
Launch Site: Satish Dhawan Space Center, India

The GSAT 6A satellite will provide S-band communications services and demonstrate technologies for future satellite-based mobile applications.

Secondary Payloads Increasingly Take Center Stage

CubeSats (Credit: ESA/Medialab)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

On most launches, the small secondary satellites that ride along with the primary payloads garner little attention.

That has begun to change in recent years as CubeSats have become increasingly capable. The importance of these small satellites could be seen in the recent launch of an Indian PSLV rocket, which carried a CartoSat Earth observation satellite and 30 secondary spacecraft from India, Canada, Finland, France, Republic of Korea, UK and the United States.

(more…)

New ISRO Chairman Takes Over

A new chairman took over leadership of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) last week.

K. Sivan, who previously served as director of ISRO’s Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre since June 2015, succeeded A S Kiran Kumar. Like his predecessor, Sivan has been appointed to a three-year term. Sivan also serves as secretary of the Department of Space and chairman of the Space Commission.

Sivan joined ISRO in 1982, working on the PSLV booster program. He is credited with turning around the troubled GSLV Mark II rocket program after a series of launch failures.

Sivan graduated from Madras Institute of Technology with a degree in aeronautical engineering in 1980. He earned a master of engineering degree in aerospace engineering at the Indian Institute of Science two years later. In 2006, he was awarded a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering by the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay.

ICEYE Launches World’s First Successful SAR Microsat

Helsinki, FINLAND  (ICEYE PR) – ICEYE, the leader in synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) technology for microsatellites providing expanded access to reliable and timely earth observation data, today announced the successful launch of its proof-of-concept satellite mission, ICEYE-X1, on ISRO’s PSLV-C40 rocket.

The success of the launch, from Satish Dhawan Space Center in India, distinguishes ICEYE-X1 as the world’s first microsatellite equipped with synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) to ever be deployed in space and as Finland’s very first commercial satellite. Making further history, ICEYE has also successfully established communications with the 70 kg satellite at 05:20, GMT (07:20 Finland time) now in orbit, signaling the next step in the mission’s success.

(more…)