There were 15 flight tests of eight suborbital boosters in 2018, including six flights of two vehicles — Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo and Blue Origin’s New Shepard — that are designed to carry passengers on space tourism rides.
The race to provide launch services to the booming small satellite industry also resulted in nine flight tests of six more conventional boosters to test technologies for orbital systems. Two of the boosters tested are designed to serve the suborbital market as well.
A pair of Chinese startups took advantage of a loosening of government restrictions on launch providers to fly their rockets two times apiece. There was also suborbital flight tests of American, Japanese and South Korean rockets.
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.)
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.
Statement of Jason Crusan Director, Advanced Exploration Systems Division Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Subcommittee on Space Committee on Science, Space, and Technology U. S. House of Representatives
Lunar CATALYST: Promoting Private Sector Robotic Exploration of the Moon
As part of the Agency’s overall strategy to conduct deep space exploration, NASA is also supporting the development of commercial lunar exploration. In 2014, NASA introduced an initiative called Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown (CATALYST). The purpose of the initiative is to encourage the development of U.S. private-sector robotic lunar landers capable of successfully delivering payloads to the lunar surface using U.S. commercial launch capabilities.
WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected an instrument developed by investigators at Arizona State University and Malin Space Science Systems as a U.S. contribution to the Korea Aerospace Research Institute’s (KARI) first lunar exploration mission, Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO). ShadowCam will address Strategic Knowledge Gaps, or lack of information required to reduce risk, increase effectiveness, and improve the designs of future human and robotic missions. ShadowCam joins four KARI-developed instruments on KPLO.
COLOGNE, Germany (DLR PR) — A DLR delegation led by Pascale Ehrenfreund visited South Korea and Japan from 21 to 27 February. The delegation cultivated and expanded the close cooperation with partner organisations. Two important partnership agreements were signed during the visits.
Russia once again led the world in orbital launches in 2013, keeping the International Space Station supplied with a study stream of crew members and cargo while earning hard currency with commercial satellite launches.
Although the vast majority of Russia’s launches were successful, the spectacular failure in July of a Proton rocket — which nosedived into the ground shortly after liftoff — accelerated efforts to reform the nation’s failure-prone space program. By the end of the year, the Russian space agency Roscosmos had a new leader and a major effort was underway to consolidate a large part of the bloated and inefficient space sector under a single government-owned company.
During 2013, Russia introduced a new variant of its venerable Soyuz rocket while also making progress on constructing a new spaceport in the Far East and developing a larger human spacecraft to replace the Soyuz transport and a heavy-lift booster to facilitate deep space exploration.
MOSCOW (Khrunichev PR) —In the Khrunichev Space Center are close to completing work on the creation of the first stage for the South Korean rocket KSLV-light class 1. In July, scheduled for the test stage to control the test stand of the plant, and in August to implement sending the product to South Korea.
The third launch of KSLV-1 launch pad with the National Space Centre “Naro” is scheduled for the fourth quarter of this year.
Cooperation of South Korea and Russia in the field of missile technology has been going on for eight years. In 2004 a contract was signed for the Korean Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) for the development and creation of space rocket with a booster light class KSLV.
Editor’s Note: Both parties are hoping that the third time will be a charm. The first launch failed after the payload shroud didn’t jettison. The second launch vehicle exploded, for reasons that the Russians and Koreans could not agree upon. There is a dispute over whether the Russian first stage or the Korean second stage was at fault.
The Russian stage is powered by a scaled-down version of the engine that will be used in the new Angara rocket, which is set to make its debut in the second quarter of 2013.
JAXA has posted a Q&A with Seung-Jo Kim, President of the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI). Most of the interview relates to growing cooperation between KARI and JAXA, but there is a good overview of South Korea’s plans in rocketry, ISS experiments and lunar exploration for the next decade. Key excerpts from the conversation follow.
On Rocket Development
“Korea’s space policy is part of the Basic Space Development Promotion Plan, which was based on the Basic Space Development Promotion Act, enacted in 2005. In particular, we emphasize the development of a purely domestic satellite launch rocket called KSLV-2. Our major goal is to launch a domestic satellite on a domestic rocket, making use of the technology and experience gained through the development of the Naro rocket.
The Korea Times has a story about the stalemate between KARI and Russiaâ€™s Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center over a possible third launch of the KSLV-1 (Naro-1) rocket, which has failed in its only two launch attempts.
Korea’s Space Rocket ‘Naro’ Gets Transported to Launch Pad Arirang
With just two days left until the second launch attempt of Korea’s satellite-carrying rocket, the KSLV-1, scientists at the Naro Space Center successfully raised the rocket on the launch pad in preparation for its lift-off on Wednesday.
Space News has some interesting ISS news from Europe:
The head of the 18-nation European Space Agency (ESA) on Feb. 2 roundly endorsed the new direction U.S. President Barack Obama proposed for NASA, saying a firmer U.S. commitment to the international space station and space-based Earth science would further tighten trans-Atlantic cooperation.
In an interview, ESA Director-General Jean-Jacques Dordain also said his agency was ready to propose to NASA and the other space station partners â€” Russia, Japan and Canada â€” that China, India and South Korea be invited to join the station partnership.
The Roskosmos website has the transcript of an interview that deputy director Sergei Saveliev gave to RK magazine. The session covered a range of topics, including Russia’s increasingly profitable international cooperation and the possibility of Russian involvement in the next generation of Indian rockets. Some highlights:
“Today, in the field of space activity 75 intergovernmental agreements were concluded by Russia, including a set of 26 Russian-Kazakhstan agreements on cosmodrome ‘Baikonur’, and also 42 interdepartmental agreements. Preparation of 20 intergovernmental agreements with 18 countries is in the process. The number of joint projects increased. All this is due to the fact of improvement of industry financing. Russian government assured prompt support for leading enterprises of space-rocket industry in crisis, and it inspired them with confidence in the future.”