Firefly Space Systems Assets to be Auctioned on Thursday

The assets of Firefly Space Systems will be auctioned off on Thursday, March 16, in Menlo Park, Calif.

Notice of the auction has been posted by Development Specialists, Inc. There also is a classified advertisement in USA Today.

The company had been developing a small satellite launch vehicle before it suspended operations in September due to financial difficulties.

Virgin Galactic had launched litigation against Firefly co-founder Thomas Markusic, who had previously led Virgin’s effort to develop a competing launcher. Virgin claims that Markusic took intellectual property when he left the company in 2014.

China Eyes Smallsat Air Launch

Look out Stratolaunch, Generation Orbit and Virgin Galactic! It looks like you’re going to have some competition from China in the small satellite air launch market.

The China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology has designed a solid-fuel rocket that could carry a 100 kg (220 lb) payload into low Earth orbit, said Li Tongyu, the head of the agency’s carrier rocket development…..

Li said the rockets would be carried by large Y-20 strategic transport planes before being launched and that the academy planned to eventually develop a larger rocket that could carry a 200 kg payload.

“The jet will hold a rocket within its fuselage and release it at a certain altitude. The rocket will be ignited after it leaves the plane,” Li said.

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Launch UK Brings Together UK Commercial Space Sector

LONDON — The UK Space Agency and partners brought together government and industry to enable satellite launches from the UK by 2020.

Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson and Minister for Aviation Lord Ahmad spoke alongside the UK Space Agency CEO Katherine Courtney at the Launch UK conference at the Royal Aeronautical Society on 21 February.

A key strand of the government’s Industrial Strategy is for the UK to hold a greater share of the commercial spaceflight market, worth an estimated £25 billion over the next 20 years, by developing competitive, commercial and safe spaceflight proposals for UK-based satellite launch services and sub-orbital flights.

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Aerojet Rocketdyne Acquires Coleman Aerospace

EL SEGUNDO, Calif., Feb. 22, 2017 (Aerojet Rocketdyne PR) — Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:AJRD) announced today that it has signed a definitive agreement to purchase Coleman Aerospace from L3 Technologies, Inc. for $15 million in cash, subject to customary adjustments. The transaction is expected to close by the end of the month. Coleman Aerospace will operate as a subsidiary of Aerojet Rocketdyne, Inc. and will be renamed Aerojet Rocketdyne Coleman Aerospace, Inc. (“Coleman”).

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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.

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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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