Japanese Smallsat Launcher Fails in Maiden Flight

The world’s smallest launch vehicle failed in its maiden launch from a Japanese spaceport on Sunday.

JAXA’s SS-520-4 booster took off from the >Uchinoura Space Center at 8:33 a.m. local time carrying the TRICOM-1 CubeSat. The space agency said although the rocket’s first stage fired normally, the second stage failed to ignite. The booster and its payload fell into the ocean.

The SS-520-4 is an upgraded version of a Japanese sounding rocket that is designed to launch micro-satellites. The three-stage booster stands only 9.5 meters (31.3 ft) tall and has a diameter of .52 meters (1.7 ft).

The TRICOM-1 spacecraft was developed by the University of Tokyo. The 3-kg (6.6 lb) CubeSat included store-and-forward communications equipment and Earth observation cameras.

PLD Space Adds GMV as Partner, Receives 6.7 Million Euro Investment

 ARION 1 & 2 technology demonstration. (Credit; PLD Space)
ARION 1 & 2 technology demonstration. (Credit; PLD Space)

ELCHE, Spain, January 9, 2017 (PLD Space PR) — The International Tech Company GMV, with an important presence in the global space sector, has decided to trust in the PLD Space project and will take part in the ownership of the young space company as shareholder. GMV will also develop key technology and will work together with PLD Space in the development of the ARION 1 and ARION 2 launchers, an activity that will enable both companies to grow and position themselves strategically in the small space-launchers market.

The corporative endorsement of GMV enables PLD Space to raise a total investment of 6.7 million euros; between private investment through 2 Spanish investment vehicles and institutional funding coming from the contribution of Spanish government (CDTI and ENISA), public administrations (SUMA Teruel, IVF) and the European Commission (SME Phase1).

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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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Swiss Space Systems Declares Bankruptcy

SOAR spaceplane atop an A-300. (Credit: S3)
SOAR spaceplane atop an A-300. (Credit: S3)

A court in the Swiss canton of Vaud declared Swiss Space Systems (S3) bankrupt last Wednesday, according to media reports.

S3 has been developing an air-launch satellite booster and had planned to offer parabolic aircraft flights to the public later this year.

The bankruptcy declaration comes after nearly two years of financial difficulties. Members of the U.S. office departed the company at the end of 2015 after going much of the year without being paid.

Founder and CEO Pascal Jaussi was hospitalized in August with serious burns. He told authorities two men forced him to drive to a remote area where they doused him with gasoline and set him on fire.

Generation Orbit Names A.J. Piplica as CEO

Anthony J. Piplica (Credit: Generation Orbit)
Anthony J. Piplica (Credit: Generation Orbit)

ATLANTA, December 13, 2016 (GO PR) – Generation Orbit Launch Services, Inc. (GO) today announced that Mr. Anthony J. Piplica will assume the role of Chief Executive Officer (CEO), effective January 1, 2017.

Mr. Piplica has served as the company’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) since 2013. Mr. Piplica joined the Generation Orbit team in 2012, quickly rising to the position of COO. Within that capacity, he has been instrumental in managing the company’s growth and technical activities. Piplica has served as GO’s primary interface for its network of partners and suppliers, as well as key Air Force, NASA, and commercial customers.

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Rocket Lab Releases Video of Electron Engine Tests

Video Caption: Rocket Lab has completed qualification and acceptance testing of Electron’s first stage booster. Completion of the tests marks the final major technical milestone ahead of first test launch of the Electron vehicle.

Rocket Lab Completes First Stage Flight Qualification & Acceptance

Electron first stage test. (Credit: Rocket Lab)
Electron first stage test. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

LOS ANGELES, December 13, 2016 (Rocket Lab PR) — Rocket Lab today announced the flight qualification and acceptance of the first stage booster of the Electron launch vehicle.

All primary components of the stage – including engines, vehicle structures, avionics and software systems – were designed, developed and tested in-house at Rocket Lab.

“Rocket Lab has had a hugely successful year with qualification of all major vehicle systems, completion of Launch Complex 1 and considerable growth of our team and customer base,” said Peter Beck, Rocket Lab CEO.

“We will continue to test the vehicle extensively in the lead-up to commercial operations and are looking forward to beginning the test flight program. Our focus with the Electron has been to develop a reliable launch vehicle that can be manufactured in high volumes – our ultimate goal is to make space accessible by providing an unprecedented frequency of launch opportunities.”

Rocket Lab plans to begin full vehicle testing in early 2017 once international launch licensing is complete. The tests will occur from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1, located on the Mahia Peninsula of New Zealand.

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Vector Space Systems Signs Partnership With ATLAS Space Operations

Credit: Vector Space Systems
Credit: Vector Space Systems

TUCSON, Ariz., Nov. 3, 2016 (Vector Space Systems PR) — Vector Space Systems, a micro satellite space launch company comprised of new-space industry veterans from SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, McDonnell Douglas and Sea Launch, today finalized a strategic partnership agreement with ATLAS Space Operations to seamlessly integrate ATLAS’ network of capabilities into Vector Space Systems’ existing product offerings, diversifying the company’s launch tracking capabilities.

As early as 2018, Vector Space Systems will be able to provide a space-to-ground communication network from the Galactic Sky division to its customers through ATLAS LINKS™ – the world’s first mobile, rapidly deployable, and electronically steered array RF ground system that is revolutionizing the space industry.

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Vector Space Systems to Set Up Shop in Tucson

P20 sub-scale test vehicle launch (Credit: Vector Space Systems)
P20 sub-scale test vehicle launch (Credit: Vector Space Systems)

Vector Space Systems has found a home in Tucson, Ariz.

Vector Space Systems plans to open a Tucson headquarters and manufacturing plant to make rockets for launching small satellites into space.

The Tucson-based company is expected to create 200 jobs locally within three years of beginning operations, at an average annual salary of $70,000. It could employ as many as 500 people within five years as production ramps up, said its co-founder and CEO, Jim Cantrell.

Vector plans to invest roughly $19 million during the first three years, and possibly as much as $50 million over the next 15 years, according to Pima County officials. The total direct economic impact of the facility could be $290 million over five years, says an analysis by Phoenix-based Applied Economics completed for Sun Corridor Inc., the local economic-development agency.

The company plans to build 36,000 square feet of office space and another 40,000 square feet for manufacturing south of Tucson International Airport.

Read the full story.

Moraliss-Nerva Nano-satellite Launcher Development Project Commences

polytechnic_bucharestBUCHAREST (UPB PR) — Through the National Agency for Scientific Research (NASR), the Romanian government has commenced sponsorship of NERVA, a Romanian orbital nanosatellite launcher currently in development by a team of professors and students from University “Politehnica” of Bucharest and ADDA – The Association Dedicated to Development in Astronautics, through a new 3-year grant funded by the European Union.

Project co-founded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF 2014-2020) through the Competitiveness Operational Program.

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Vector Space Systems Receives NASA Award for Launch Vehicle

P20 rocket (Credit: Vector Space Systems)
P20 rocket (Credit: Vector Space Systems)

TUCSON, Ariz., Sept. 8, 2016 (Vector Space PR) — Vector Space Systems, a micro satellite space launch company comprised of new-space industry veterans from SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, McDonnell Douglas and Sea Launch, today announced that NASA has selected its Phase II proposal under the 2015 SBIR/STTR program to continue development of an advanced prototype of the upper stage for the Vector-R launch vehicle.

The contract, proposed through Vector’s acquired Garvey Spacecraft Corporation subsidiary, complements an earlier SBIR award from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) that addresses the use of the Vector-R first stage as a second stage for the XS-1 Experimental Spaceplane. In conjunction with the awarded contracts, totaling approximately $2.5M, Vector is investing in related infrastructure and range site preparations to enable high performance flight testing by the fourth quarter of 2017.

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Video Profile of Firefly Space Systems

Video Caption: Soul of the Machine tells the stories of designers and engineers that work to bring products with global impact to life. Episode 2 features Tom Markusic, CEO of Firefly Space Systems and one of the world’s leading propulsion engineers, who has set out to revolutionize the way we get to space. He and his team are rapidly working toward their first launch of NASA satellites set for March of 2018.

Links to Parabolic Arc’s Coverage of Small Satellite 2016 Conference

SkyFire’s new infrared technology will help NASA enhance its knowledge of the lunar surface. (Credit: Lockheed Martin)
SkyFire’s new infrared technology will help NASA enhance its knowledge of the lunar surface. (Credit: Lockheed Martin)

The Small Satellite 2016 Conference is now over. Below are links to Parabolic Arc’s coverage of the conference and the CubeSat Workshop that preceded it last weekend. There are also links to announcements made during the conference and in recent weeks.

Small Satellite Conference Coverage

Recent Smallsat News & Announcements

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A Closer Look at Which Space Companies U.S. VC’s are Investing in

Falcon 9 launches the Dragon CRS-9 mission to the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)
Falcon 9 launches the Dragon CRS-9 mission to the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

NASA’s new publication, “Economic Development of Low Earth Orbit,” consists of a series of papers that examines a number of important policy questions that will be of rising importance as NASA transitions human spaceflight in LEO to the private sector.

One of the papers, “Venture Capital Activity in the Low-Earth Orbit Sector,”
has detailed information on what U.S. venture capitalists have invested in. Key excerpts from the paper follow.
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PLD Space Receives Additional $1.1 Million From Spanish Government

Engine hot fire (Credit: PDL Space)
Engine hot fire (Credit: PDL Space)

ELCHE, Spain, July 21, 2016 (PLD Space, PR) — The European rocket company PLD Space has received another $1.1M contract to foster its liquid rocket engine propulsion program. This new economic support has been provided by the regional investment fund of the Aragón area, called SUMA Teruel. PLD Space had already received the $1.56M TEPREL contract in April 2016 to upgrade for flight its 25 KN Liquid Oxygen – Kerosene rocket engine.

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