PLD Space Receives $2.4 Million for Smallsat Launcher

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

PLD Space of Spain has received nearly 2 million euros ($2.4 million) from the European Commission to continue development of its reusable ARION 1 and ARION 2 launch vehicles.

ARION 1 is a suborbital booster that PLD Space plans to begin launching later this year.  The company said the rocket will validate 70% of the technologies required for ARION 2, which will place payloads weighing as much as 150 kg (331 lbs) into low Earth orbit.


Movement on Firefly-Virgin Galactic Legal Dispute?

This is an interesting Tweet from Firefly Space Systems’ co-founder Michael A. Blum on Wednesday to Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides with a cc: to Whitesides’ boss, Richard Branson. Claude appears to be Claude M. Stern, one of Virgin Galactic’s lawyers.


Firefly Receives Letters of Intent for 42 Launches

firefly_space_systems_logoLetters of Intent valued at over $300M
exceed projected launch capacity through 2021

CEDAR PARK, Texas, November 14, 2016 (Firefly Space Systems PR) — Firefly Space Systems, the Texas-based developer of dedicated launch vehicles for the small satellite market, announced today it has received letters of intent (LOI) in excess of projected launch capacity through 2021.

“The support from established and newspace satellite manufacturers following our recent announcement of financial difficulties has been tremendous. These LOI’s demonstrate the market demand for the small satellite launch product that Firefly is developing,” said Firefly co-Founder and CEO Dr. Thomas Markusic.


House Science Committee on ICBM Use as Launchers: It’s Complicated

Capitol Building
WASHINGTON, D.C. (House Science Committee PR) –
The Space Subcommittee today held a hearing to examine the current state of the small satellite commercial launch industry, which generates hundreds of billions of dollars of economic activity and serves both the private and public sector. Several companies are currently working to supply the growing demand for commercial launches. Witnesses today discussed various policy challenges that may need to be addressed.

Hyten Backs Plan to Use Decommissioned ICBMs for Satellite Launches

Gen. John E. Hyten
Gen. John E. Hyten

The head of the United States Space Command says he supports the idea of using decommissioned ICBMs to launch commercial satellites.

U.S. Air Force General John Hyten said that spare ICBMs should not be given away for free, nor dumped en masse into the commercial marketplace.

“I would like to figure out how to get some value out of the hundreds of millions investment we have in those excess ICBMs, but we cannot destroy the small launch business in doing that,” said Hyten during a press conference at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs. “There’s got to be a way to find the sweet spot.”

Hyten noted that the Air Force will not decide the issue, which could affect hundreds of millions of dollars in potential rocket launch orders in coming years. “This is going to be a national policy decision,” he said. Lifting the ban on using mothballed nuclear missiles requires action by Congress.

Orbital ATK is pressing U.S. lawmakers to end a ban on using ICBMs for launching commercial satellites, an initiative that has raised concern among companies, such as Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, that have invested millions of dollars in potential rival rockets.


Swiss Space Systems Announces Partnership with UAE Company

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

PAVERNE, Switzerland (S3 PR) — Swiss Space Systems (S3) – A satellite launcher for the Middle East Dubai, UAE / Payerne, Switzerland, the 30th of September, 2015 – Swiss Space Systems (Holding) SA, through its subsidiary S3 Middle East, announces major partnership with D&B Group to deliver access to space to the Middle East. The goal is to develop, manufacture, certify and operate unmanned suborbital shuttles to locally launch small satellites up to 250 kg by 2019.


ESA’s Vega Launcher Ready to Go

Vega on the launch pad. (Credits: ESA - S. Corvaja, 2012)

ESA PR — ESA’s new Vega rocket is now fully assembled on its launch pad. Final preparations are in full swing for the rocket’s inaugural flight from Europe’s Spaceport. The launch window opens on 9 February.

The upper composite, comprising LARES, ALMASat-1, seven CubeSats, the payload adapter and the fairing, was moved to the pad late Monday night. A night transfer is the standard practice in Kourou to avoid overheating the payloads.


Rocket Woes: Headaches for Satellite, Launch Providers

Space News‘ Peter B. De Selding takes a look at the choices facing Luxembourg-based SES, which owns the AMC-14 telecommunications satellite stuck in a lopsided orbit on March 15 by the failure of a Proton-M upper stage.

The company could use on-board engines to send the spacecraft directly to a geosynchronous orbit. Or it could loop the satellite around the Moon in a gravity-assist maneuver. Either method could use a large amount of the spacecraft’s fuel, cutting into its planned 15-year lifetime.

SES could declare the satellite a total loss and collect on a $192 million insurance policy. However, that option has a significant drawback: SES had leased the AMC-14 spacecraft entirely to satellite-television provider EchoStar of Littleton, Colo. As a result, SES would lose a significant revenue stream.

In a related story, Jeff Foust examines the Proton failure and the broader outlook for the launcher market over at The Space Review. Foust says SES might pursue both options, raising the AMC-14 to a geosynchronous orbit and filing an insurance claim based on the spacecraft’s reduced lifetime.

Foust reports that rocket providers are struggling to keep up with rising demand, which is driving up launch costs. In addition, insurance costs are rising due to a number of recent launch mishaps. The Proton has experienced three failures in the last two years and will likely be grounded for some time. The solution might be to get more launch providers into the market.