Spaceflight Reschedules Launch of 89 Satellites

SHERPA space tug. (Credit: Spaceflight, Inc.)

While Elon Musk keeps adding missions to the moon and Mars to SpaceX’s already crowded launch manifest, a Seattle company has been forced to find alternative rides to space for 89 satellites originally booked to launch on a Falcon 9 booster.

The small spacecraft were set to be deployed using Spaceflight’s SHERPA carrier, which would have been a secondary payload on Taiwan’s Formosat-5 satellite. The launch was originally scheduled for the end of 2015, but it recently suffered yet another delay.

“We found each of our customers an alternative launch that was within the same time frame,” [Spaceflight’s President, Curt ] Blake wrote. “It took a huge effort, but within two weeks, the team hustled to have all customers who wanted to be rebooked confirmed on other launches!”

[…]

Spaceflight was anticipating that the launch would finally take place around May or June, but Blake said SpaceX “recently communicated their 2017 manifest, and the impact on the Formosat-5 mission is significant.”

“We learned our launch would occur potentially much later than expected,” he said. By some accounts, the Formosat-5 mission has been shifted into 2018. That’s what led Spaceflight to look at alternatives….

The payloads that had been scheduled for deployment from the SHERPA carrier include Planetary Resources’ Arkyd 6 satellite, which is designed to test a midwave-infrared imaging system; and the Pathfinder-2 satellite, an Earth-observing spacecraft that serves as a prototype for Spaceflight Industries’ BlackSky constellation.

Luxembourg Government Becomes a Key Shareholder of Planetary Resources

luxembourg_flag-svgLUXEMBOURG (Luxembourg PR)–The Luxembourg Government, the public-law banking institution “Société Nationale de Crédit et d’Investissement” (SNCI) and U.S.-based space technology company Planetary Resources have signed a 25 million euro investment and cooperation agreement within the framework of Luxembourg’s SpaceResources.lu initiative which aims at the exploration and the commercial utilization of resources from Near Earth Objects (NEOs), such as asteroids.

Within this agreement, the Luxembourg Government invests direct capital in Planetary Resources, Inc. and the Ministry of Economy is providing funding through different types of R&D grants.

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Planetary Resources Finalizes 25 Million Euro Investment

planetary_resourcesREDMOND, Washington, November 3, 2016 (Planetary Resources PR) – Planetary Resources, Inc., the asteroid mining company, announced today that it has finalized a 25 million euro [$27.75 million] agreement that includes direct capital investment of 12 million euros and grants of 13 million euros from the Government of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and the banking institution Société Nationale de Crédit et d’Investissement (SNCI).

The funding will accelerate the company’s technical advancements with the aim of launching the first commercial asteroid prospecting mission by 2020. This milestone fulfilled the intent of the Memorandum of Understanding with the Grand Duchy and its SpaceResources.lu initiative that was agreed upon this past June.

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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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Smallsat 2016: Updates on Planetary Resources, HawkEye 360

Ceres constellation (Credit: Planetary Resources)
Ceres constellation (Credit: Planetary Resources)

Planetary Resources and Hawkeye 360 gave updates on the remote sensing satellites they are planning to launch. The summaries below are courtesy of the following Tweeters:

  • Jeff Foust ‏@jeff_foust
  • David Hurst ‏@OrbitalDave
  • brianweeden ‏@brianweeden
  • Eric Anderson ‏@AndOneTech

Planetary Resources
Hannah Goldberg

  • Currently testing midwave infrared (IR) instrument using a Cessna aircraft
  • Two Arkyd-6 CubeSats will test IR instruments in space
  • First Arkyd-6 satellite to launch in Fall 2016, second in early 2017
  • Constellation of 10 larger Ceres spacecraft designed for Earth remote sensing
  • Hope to have Ceres constellation by 2018

HawkEye 360
Daniel CaJacob

  • Pathfinder constellation with 3 microsats flying in formation designed to triangulate radio frequency (RF) emissions from the ground
  • Launch of first 3 microsats planned for fourth quarter 2017
  • Deep Space Industries is prime contractor for satellites
  • University of Toronto Space Flight Laboratory is supplying the satellite bus
  • Satellites are pathfinders for a full commercial constellation of RF mapping and analytics system
  • Technology uses: ionospheric study, spectrum mapping, asset and natural resources monitoring, emergency response

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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Entrepreneurial Lingo Lesson: The Pivot

twist_chubby1_disrupt copy
First in an irregular series on entrepreneurial buzz words

Come on let’s pivot again,
Like we did last quarter!
Yeaaah, let’s pivot again,
Like we did last year!

Do you remember when,
ROI was really hummin’,
Yeaaaah, let’s pivot again,
Pivotin’ time is here!

Heeee, and round and round til IPO we go!
Oh, baby, make those investors love us so!

Let’s pivot again,
Like we did last quarter!
Yeaaah, let’s pivot again,
Like we did last year!

There comes a time in the existence of many startups when there an urgent need to change direction. You set up the company to pursue a goal, but for one reason or several — a lack of a market, shortage of investment, regulatory hurdles, a flawed concept — you have to direct all that talent, technology and enthusiasm toward a new objective that will keep the company in operation.

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Planetary Resources Signs MOU With Luxembourg Government, Bank

Arkyd-3 satellite (Credit: Planetary Resources)
Arkyd-3 satellite (Credit: Planetary Resources)

REDMOND, Wash., USA,  June 13, 2016 (Planetary Resources PR) – Planetary Resources, Inc., the asteroid mining company, announced today that it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and the banking institution Société Nationale de Crédit et d’Investissement (SNCI).

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SpaceResources.lu: New Law to Provide Framework for Space Resource Utilization

Asteroid Eros
Asteroid Eros

LUXEMBOURG CITY (Luxembourg Government PR) — The Luxembourg Government forges ahead with the SpaceResources.lu initiative by presenting an overall strategy to be implemented progressively for the exploration and commercial utilization of resources from Near Earth Objects (NEOs), such as asteroids. Amongst the key actions undertaken is the establishment of an appropriate legal and regulatory framework for space resource utilization activities to provide private companies and investors with a secure legal environment.

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Planetary Resources, Bayer Sign MOU on Space Data

Ceres constellation (Credit: Planetary Resources)
Ceres constellation (Credit: Planetary Resources)

MONHEIM, Germany, May 31, 2016 (Bayer/Planetary Resources PR) – Bayer and the aerospace technology company Planetary Resources, based in Redmond, Washington, USA, have signed a memorandum of understanding about the development of applications and products based on satellite images. Bayer intends to purchase these data from Planetary Resources to create new agricultural products and improve existing ones. The collaboration will be part of the Digital Farming Initiative at Bayer (www.digitalfarming.bayer.com). Financial details were not disclosed.

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Planetary Resources Announces $21.1 Million Funding Round For Sat Constellation

Ceres constellation (Credit: Planetary Resources)
Ceres constellation (Credit: Planetary Resources)

REDMOND, Wash.,  May 26, 2016 (Planetary Resources PR) – Planetary Resources, Inc., the asteroid mining company, announced today that it has secured US$21.1 million in Series A funding. The capital will be used to deploy and operate Ceres, an advanced Earth observation business that features the first commercial infrared and hyperspectral sensor platform to better understand and manage humanity’s natural resources.

The funding was led by Bryan Johnson and the OS FUND; and joined by Idea Bulb Ventures; Tencent; Vast Ventures; Grishin Robotics; Conversion Capital; The Seraph Group; Space Angels Network, a syndication of investors from Angel.co; and Larry Page. Earth observation will be another aspect of Planetary Resources’ operations in addition to prospecting and mining asteroids.

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Planetary Resources Shelves Arkyd Space Selfies Due to Lack of Funding

Arkyd-3 satellite (Credit: Planetary Resources)
Arkyd-3 satellite (Credit: Planetary Resources)

Asteroid mining company Planetary Resources sent out the following cancellation and refund message today has been sent to supporters of its ARKYD Kickstarter. The campaign raised money so people could send pictures of themselves into space that would be displayed with Earth in the background.

According to the message, Planetary Resources was only going to launch the satellite if it got other people to give them even more money to fly the mission. That funding was which was not forthcoming from the multiple billionaires that back Planetary Resources (Larry Page, Eric Schmidt and Richard Branson among them) or anyone else the company targeted for funding.

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Planetary Resources Receives Patent for Asteroid Prospecting & Mining

Spacecraft examine asteroid. (Credit: Planetary Resources)
Spacecraft examine asteroid. (Credit: Planetary Resources)

U.S. Patent No. 9,266,627
February 23, 2016
[Full Patent]

Method, apparatus, and system for asteroid prospecting and mining

Abstract

A method of prospecting asteroids for mining includes (a) launching at least one spacecraft, the spacecraft including a space telescope; (b) examining a plurality of asteroids using the space telescope to gather scientific data on the asteroids for characterization and cataloging; and (c) selecting one or more asteroids to mine from the plurality of asteroids examined by the space telescope and contained within the catalog. A system for prospecting asteroids for mining is also described.

Inventors: Anderson; Eric (Arlington, VA), Diamandis; Peter H. (Santa Monica, CA), Lewicki; Chris (Bellevue, WA), Voorhees; Chris (Bellevue, WA)

Applicant: Planetary Resources Development Corporation, Bellevue, WA
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Luxembourg’s Bold Move into Space Mining

ESA's Asteroid Impact Mission is joined by two triple-unit CubeSats to observe the impact of the NASA-led Demonstration of Autonomous Rendezvous Technology (DART) probe with the secondary Didymos asteroid, planned for late 2022. (Credit: ESA - ScienceOffice.org)
ESA’s Asteroid Impact Mission is joined by two triple-unit CubeSats to observe the impact of the NASA-led Demonstration of Autonomous Rendezvous Technology (DART) probe with the secondary Didymos asteroid, planned for late 2022. (Credit: ESA – ScienceOffice.org)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Luxembourg’s announcement of its space resources initiative provides three things that companies like Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries (DSI) need to make their dreams of mining asteroids a reality.

Legal Recognition. The United States is alone in the world in recognizing space property rights. There is some dispute over whether the law violates the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.
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Luxembourg Launches Space Resources Mining Initiative

Schematic view of asteroid (25143) Itokawa. (Credit: ESO)
Schematic view of asteroid (25143) Itokawa. (Credit: ESO)

LUXEMBOURG CITY (Luxembourg Government PR) — The Luxembourg Government announced a series of measures to position Luxembourg as a European hub in the exploration and use of space resources. Amongst the key steps undertaken, as part of the spaceresources.lu initiative, will be the development of a legal and regulatory framework confirming certainty about the future ownership of minerals extracted in space from Near Earth Objects (NEO’s) such as asteroids.

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