Quarterly Launch Report: US in the Lead Thanks to SpaceX

A Falcon 9 lifts off with 60 Starlink satellites on March 11, 2021. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

There were 27 orbital launch attempts with 26 successes and one failure during the first quarter of 2021. The United States accounted for nearly half the total with 13 launches behind nine flights by SpaceX.

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NanoAvionics Expands into Microsatellite Market with MP42 Bus

MP42 satellite in Earth orbit. (Credit: NanoAvionics)

Introducing the industry’s first commercially available modular microsat bus

COLUMBIA, Ill., March 23, 2021 (NanoAvionics PR) – Smallsat mission integrator NanoAvionics, which has gained recognition from the industry for its nanosatellite technology in recent years, aims to capture a share of the lucrative microsatellite segment with the first modular microsat bus in the industry, the “MP42”. With 10,000 smallsats scheduled to be launched over the next 10 years, NanoAvionics expects to grow fivefold in size across its entire service portfolio for nano- and microsatellite missions and produce about 120 satellites per year by 2025.

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Glavkosmos, Orbital Express to Cooperate in Promoting Services to the Global Space Market

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — Glavkosmos (part of Roscosmos) and the Russian private company Orbital Express have signed an agreement on cooperation in promoting services to the global space market with the help of the Russian rocket and space technology. The document was signed on Thursday at the Glavkosmos headquarters in Moscow. 

“Glavkosmos welcomes the initiative of Russian private NewSpace companies to enter the foreign space market,” says Dmitry Loskutov, Director General of Glavkosmos. “We hope that the interaction between Glavkosmos and Orbital Express will be successful. We believe that it will have a positive impact on the development of Russian rocket and space technologies.”

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Enpulsion to Provide Microthrusters for Blue Canyon Technologies Microsat as Part of MethaneSat Mission

MethaneSat in orbit. (Credit: MethaneSAT, LLC, Blue Canyon Technologies)

WIENER NEUSTADT, Austria (ENPULSION PR) – ENPULSION, the market leader in small satellite propulsion, today announced that it will provide the propulsion technology for Blue Canyon Technologies’ Microsat in support of the MethaneSAT mission. Blue Canyon Technologies is a small satellite manufacturer and mission services provider.

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Norway Selects Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) to Develop Technology Demonstrator Microsatellite

NorSat_TD satellite (Credit: Space Flight Laboratory)

TORONTO (Space Flight Laboratory PR) – The Norwegian Space Agency (NOSA) has awarded Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) of Canada a contract to develop the NorSat Technology Demonstrator (TD) microsatellite. With a primary mission of testing out new technologies in space, NorSat-TD will validate payloads and concepts from Norway, the Netherlands, France, and Italy.

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Space Flight Laboratory Announces Successful Launch of 12 Satellites on SpaceX Ride-Sharing Mission

HawkEye 360 RF geolocating microsatellite constellation. (Credit: SFL)

TORONTO, 25 January 2021 (SFL PR) – Space Flight Laboratory (SFL), a developer of complete microspace missions, today announced the launch and successful deployment of 12 satellites on January 24, 2021. The SpaceX Falcon 9 ride-sharing mission carried three different SFL-designed microspace platforms into orbit for three separate commercial constellations.

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Spaceflight Inc. Successfully Deploys 16 Payloads on SpaceX Transporter-1 Mission

SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts off on Transporter-1 mission. (Credit: Spaceflight Inc.)

Launch marks debut flight of its next generation OTV, Sherpa-FX

CAPE CANAVERAL SPACE FORCE STATION, Fla., January 25, 2021 (Spaceflight Inc. PR) — Spaceflight Inc., the global launch services provider, successfully launched and deployed 16 payloads, including 15 from its next-generation orbital transfer vehicle (OTV), Sherpa-FX1, aboard the SpaceX Transporter-1 mission. Dubbed SXRS-3 by Spaceflight, the mission launched January 24 from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. It delivered Spaceflight’s Sherpa-FX1 to Sun Synchronous Low Earth Orbit (525 km alt), where it deployed payloads for more than 10 organizations.

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SpaceX Postpones Transporter-1 Launch With Record 143 Satellite On Board

Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX postponed the Transporter-1 SmallSat Rideshare Program launch with a world record 143 satellite planned for Saturday morning due to inclement weather in Florida.

SpaceX has a 22-minute launch window available on Sunday, Jan. 24, beginning at 10 a.m. EST (1500 UTC). SpaceX will begin a webcast 15 minutes prior to the scheduled launch from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station at www.spacex.com.

On board this launch are 133 commercial and government spacecraft (including CubeSats, microsats, and orbital transfer vehicles) and 10 Starlink satellites – the most spacecraft ever deployed on a single mission. The Starlink satellites aboard this mission will be the first in the constellation to deploy to a polar orbit.

Falcon 9’s first stage booster previously supported launch of Crew Dragon’s second demonstration mission, the ANASIS-II mission, a Starlink mission, and launch of Dragon’s 21st cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station. Following stage separation, SpaceX will land Falcon 9’s first stage on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship, which will be stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.

JAXA Funds Tech to Capture Orbital Debris Using a Tether

TOKYO — The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is conducting in-orbit demonstration of key components and new elemental technologies using microsatellite as part of the development of innovative basic satellite-related technologies shown in the Basic Space Plan.

We are promoting the “Innovative Satellite Technology Demonstration Program” with the aim of implementing the above in a timely and inexpensive manner.

We are pleased to inform you that we have selected one additional demonstration theme below.

ClassificationRecruitment IssuesTheme NameProposing Organization
(Representative)
Main Reasons for Selection
MicrosatelliteDemonstration of technology and concept to create new space utilization market in Japan and overseas by new space utilization business conceptDebris capture technology demonstration using space tether technologyShizuoka University
(Kimihiro Nomi)
The business of utilizing debris as a recycling resource is novel. 
We can expect continuous human resource development in collaboration with space ventures.

In the future, we will proceed with preparations such as concluding necessary arrangements, technical adjustments, and safety examinations for the launch.

Three Launches & a Hot Fire in Three Days

Fully loading the propellant and detecting no leaks is a major milestone for the Green Run test series. A total of 114 tanker trucks delivered propellant to six propellant barges next to the B-2 Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. (Credits: NASA)

The upcoming holiday weekend (Martin Luther King Day on Monday) will see NASA conduct the long awaited Green Run hot fire of its Space Launch System rocket core and orbital launches by Rocket Lab, Virgin Orbit and SpaceX involving 71 satellites.

Saturday, January 16

Launch Vehicle: Rocket Lab Electron
Mission Name: “Another One Leaves the Crust”
Payload: OHB Group micro communications satellites
Launch Time: 2:41 EST (0741 UTC)
Launch Site: Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand
Webcast: www.rocketlabusa.com (begins 15 minutes prior to launch)

UPDATE: Launch scrubbed as engineers examine sensor data. They have a 10-day launch window.

Hot Fire: Space Launch System Core
Test Window: 5-7 p.m. EST (2200–0000 UTC)
Test Site: Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Miss.
Webcast: www.nasa.gov (begins at 4:20 p.m. EST/2120 UTC)
Post-test Briefing: Approximately two hours after test completion on NASA website

Sunday, January 17

Launch Vehicle: Virgin Orbit LauncherOne/Cosmic Girl
Mission Name: NASA ELaNa-20 mission
Payloads: 10 CubeSats
Launch Window: 1:00-5:00 p.m. EST (1800-2200 UMT)
Launch Sites: Mojave Air and Space Port, California (Cosmic Girl Boeing 747), Pacific Ocean (LauncherOne)

Monday, January 18

Launch Vehicle: SpaceX Falcon 9
Mission Name: Starlink V1.0-L16
Payloads: 60 Starlink broadband satellites
Launch Time: 8:45 a.m. EST (1345 UTC)
Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center, Fla.
Webcast: www.spacex.com (begins 15 minutes before launch)

Space Flight Laboratory Awarded Contract by GHGSat to Build Three More Greenhouse Gas Monitoring Microsats

TORONTO (SFL PR) – Space Flight Laboratory (SFL), a developer of 52 distinct microspace missions, has been awarded a contract by GHGSat of Montreal to build the next three microsatellites in its commercial greenhouse gas monitoring constellation.

“SFL congratulates GHGSat on its success in providing commercial greenhouse gas monitoring services from space,” said SFL Director, Dr. Robert E. Zee. “This contract highlights GHGSat’s need to expand data collection capacity to meet the growing demand for its valuable services.”

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Bishop Airlock Cycles Pre-Purchased by NASA and European Space Agency

Workers stand before NanoRacks airlock. (Credit: NanoRacks)

WASHINGTON, DC, OCTOBER 20, 2020 (Nanoracks PR) – Nanoracks is pleased to announce that both NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) have pre-purchased Bishop Airlock Cycles for agency and third-party use. The Nanoracks Bishop Airlock, launching this Fall to the International Space Station (ISS), is the first-ever commercially built, owned, and operated airlock on the ISS and provides five times the existing payload volume currently available on station.

ESA has pre-purchased five airlock cycles, and NASA six, with an option for four additional cycles at a discounted rate.

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Spaceflight Inc. Signs Multi-Launch Agreement with HawkEye 360

HawkEye satellites (Credit: HawkEye 360)

New multi-year MLSA provides launch capacity for nine microsats, end-to-end mission management services, and schedule reliability for fast-growing radio signal mapping constellation

SEATTLE, October 7, 2020 (Spaceflight Inc. PR) —Spaceflight Inc., the leading satellite rideshare and mission management provider, today announced it signed a Multiple Launch Services Agreement (MLSA) with HawkEye 360. Under the agreement, Spaceflight will provide capacity, engineering, and mission management services to launch HawkEye 360’s Cluster 4, 5, and 6 of its radio frequency mapping satellites. Each cluster in the constellation consists of three approximately 30 kg microsats which fly in a unique formation to gather a wide variety of geolocation data.

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Momentus Announces Service Agreement with Australia’s Skykraft and France’s MECANO ID to Deploy Microsatellite Constellation Pathfinder

Vigoride (Credit: Momentus)

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (Momentus PR) — Momentus Inc.  (“Momentus” or the “Company”), a commercial space company offering in-space satellite transportation and hosted payload services, today announced a launch service agreement for deploying Skykraft’s microsatellite on Vigoride’s mission in June 2021.

Skykraft’s spacecraft is a pathfinder for a future large LEO constellation, and will be deployed via a new separation ring named EOS and developed by MECANO ID under a CNES contract thanks to the partial financing of the Future Investment Plan.

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T4i Won Contract from ESA for REGULUS Propulsion System Evolution

REGULOUS propulsion (Credit: T-4i)

PADUA, Italy (T4i PR) — T4i, a company providing customized and off-the-shelf propulsion systems, is entering the microsatellite market with its first propulsion system product, REGULUS. It all begun in 2006 with the initial thruster development at the University of Padua.

Passing through the years the first thruster version was miniaturized and then surrounded by all the other subsystems to get a complete propulsion unit. Today REGULUS is almost ready to be integrated in UNISAT-7 for its first launch in space in October.

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