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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ISRO to Launch Brazilian Earth Observation Satellite, 18 Secondary Payloads

PSLV-C51 on the launch pad. (Credit: ISRO)

SRIHARIKOTA, India (ISRO PR) — PSLV-C51, which is the 53rd mission of PSLV, will launch Amazonia-1 of Brazil as primary satellite and 18 Co-passenger satellites from Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) SHAR, Sriharikota. The launch is tentatively scheduled for Feb. 28 at 1024 IST [0454 UTC/11:54 p.m. on Feb. 27], subject to weather conditions.

Watch live from 0950 IST [0420 UTC/11:20 p.m. on Feb. 27] onwards here.

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ISRO Chairman K Sivan Lays Out 10 Year Plan for Indian Space Program

Dr. K Sivan (Credit: ISRO)

BENGALURU, India (ISRO PR) — In the future, when we look back upon the year 2020, we will be reminded of the trials and tribulations caused in our official as well as personal lives, owing to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Notwithstanding this situation, huge quantity of work progressed in virtual mode in design and development of systems.

Gaganyaan & Chandrayaan-3 major technical issues were addressed. The concept of virtual LCC and SCC got evolved and implemented. In fact, this mode of work appears to be more efficient and can be the new normal. Even where field work was involved, the activities were completed with minimum travel and social distancing.

And thanks to the dedicated and hardworking personnel, who carried on the torch of progress and made sure that we complete two hugely successful launches by the end of the year. These achievements, even during hard times, in the face of financial & human resource constraints, is truly commendable and speaks volumes about the resourcefulness of team ISRO.

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India Launches Earth Observation Satellite, 9 Secondary Payloads

  • India’s first launch of 2020 lofts 10 satellites
  • ISRO has been hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic
  • India typically launches five or six times per year
  • Secondary payloads included four Kleos Space maritime applications satellites and four Lemur multi-mission satellites for Spire

SRIHARIKOTA, India (ISRO PR) — Today, India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, in its fifty first flight (PSLV-C49), successfully launched EOS-01 along with nine international customer satellites from the First Launch Pad of Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) SHAR, Sriharikota. 

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Kleos Space’s Team Completes Final Preparations Before Launch of Scouting Mission Satellites

Kleos Scouting mission. (Credit: Kleos Space)

LUXEMBOURG, 29 October 2020 (Kleos Space PR) — Kleos Space S.A. a space-powered Radio Frequency Reconnaissance data-as-a-service (DaaS) company confirms that its team of mission engineers have completed the final preparation of the Kleos’ four Scouting Mission satellites prior to launch on board the PSLV C49.

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Kleos Space’s Launch Team Arrive in India for Final Launch Preparations

LUXEMBOURG, 16 October 2020 (Kleos Space PR) – Kleos Space S.A, a space-powered Radio Frequency Reconnaissance data-as-a-service (DaaS) company, confirms that their team mission experts have arrived in Chennai, India in preparation for the launch of Kleos’ four Scouting Mission nanosatellites aboard PSLV C49 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, with launch targeted for the 1st half of November 2020.

Despite the unprecedented 2020 challenges of the launch industry to follow schedule, Kleos Space’s Gavin Bowyer supported by Ed Stevens from In-Space and mission manager Marcy Rugland from Spaceflight arrived in Chennai yesterday at 3:00 am local time.

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Private Indian Startup Unveils Rocket Engine, Aims for Smallsat Market

Dhawan-1 cryogenic engine (Credit: Skyroot Aerospace)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

On Thursday, a commercial Indian launch startup named Skyroot Aerospace unveiled its Dhawan-1 cryogenic engine to mark the 100th anniversary of Indian rocket pioneer Satish Dhawan.

The company said the engine is 100 percent 3D printed using additive manufacturing. It will be powered by liquified natural gas and liquid oxygen.

Satish Dhawan was an Indian aerospace engineer who was a pioneer experimental fluid dynamics research. He served as the third chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). The nation’s spaceport is named after him.

Dhawan-1 will be used as the upper stage of Skyroot’s Vikram II booster. The company is developing three Vikram rockets to serve the small satellite launch market.

Vikrams will launch payloads ranging from 225 kg to 720 kg depending upon the rocket used and the orbit desired. Skyroot says the boosters can be assembled and launched within 24 to 72 hours with minimal infrastructure.

According to a story in the Economic Times, Skyroot was founded by three former ISRO employee who are looking to take advantage of India’s decision to allow private space companies to operate.

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Indian Spaceport Becomes COVID-19 Hot Spot as Launch Drought Continues

PSLV rocket (Credit: ISRO)

The New Indian Express reports that India’s Satish Dhawan Space Center, which has not conducted a launch in nine months, has become a COVID-19 hot spot.

For the second day in a row, India’s spaceport has recorded around 31 new Covid-19 cases causing serious headache for the administration. A total of 90 people, who were primary and secondary contacts of infected persons, were tested of which 31 are diagnosed positive.

Despite the sudden spurt in cases, Shar administration has decided not to suspend the operations and 50 per cent staff are asked to attend the duty. “The Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) works are going on in full swing. We are hopeful of launching maiden SSLV flight by end of this year,” a senior ISRO official said….

But, the people who are worst affected are the contract engineers residing outside Shar colonies. A contract employee said that he did not receive salary since last four months and with rising Covid-19 cases the possibility of a call back looks grim.

ISRO has not conducted an orbital launch from the facility this year. The Indian space agency usually launches five or six times annually. India’s most recent launch was on Dec. 11, 2019.

ISRO’s Satish Dhawan Launch Center Operating with Minimal Staff as COVID-19 Cases Rise

GSLV Mk III booster lifts off. (Credit: ISRO)

Due to a rise in COVID-19 cases, ISRO’s Satish Dhawan Space Centre has suspended all regular activities for the time being. The New Indian Express reports:

“In view of the considerable number of Covid-19 positive cases in Shar and Sullurpeta housing colonies, it is essential to trace the primary contacts, test and isolate them to avoid further spread. All the office premises need to be fumigated and sanitised wherever the Covid positive employees had worked. Hence, the regular activities of SDSC Shar are suspended till completion of aforementioned activities,” said Shar controller V Kumbakarnan, in an official circular dated August 15, which is accessed by The New Indian Express. 

Meanwhile, Pulicat Nagar employees colony, where maximum number of Covid-19 cases are diagnosed, has been placed on strict lockdown.

It is unclear how long normal activities at India’s spaceport will be suspended. The story also gave no indication of how serious the outbreak of COVID-19 is at the center.

ISRO, which typically conducts five or six orbital launches annually, has yet to launch in 2020. The space agency’s most recent launch was in December 2019.

Launches known to be on the manifest include:

  • GSLV Mk.2 — GEO Imaging Satellite 1 (GISAT 1)
  • Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) maiden flight
  • PSLV — RISAT 2BR2 radar imaging satellite
  • SSLV — 4 BlackSky Global Earth observation satellites.

Kleos Scouting Mission Satellites Dispatched to India for Launch

LUXEMBOURG, 12 February 2020 (Kleos Space PR) – Kleos Space S.A, a space-powered Radio Frequency Reconnaissance data-as-a-service (DaaS) company, confirms it has dispatched its four Scouting Mission nanosatellites to Chennai, India, in preparation for launch aboard PSLV C49 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre.

The dispatch starts the Kleos specific launch activity for the Scouting Mission satellites on PSLV C49, a rideshare mission conducted by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) that includes satellites from other organisations such as Spire Global.

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India Developing New Spaceport for Small Payloads

IANS reports that ISRO has begun buying up land to build a second spaceport to accommodate small satellite launches. ISRO Chairman K. Sivan revealed the plans in a press conference on Wednesday.

“The Tamil Nadu government has begun acquiring about 2,300 acres of land in Thoothukudi district for our second satellite launch port, ideally located for launching smaller satellites in the earth”s lower orbit,” the Indian Space Research Organisation Chairman told reporters here.

“The new location is ideal for launching smaller satellites of less than 500kg in the sun-synchronous orbit,” said Sivan.

India launches it satellites from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota. The PSLV, GSLV Mk. II and GSLV Mk. III boosters are launched from the spaceport.

ISRO is developing a new booster, rather creatively called the Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (or SSLV), to serve that market. Currently, small satellites are launched as secondary payloads or as part of dedicated missions aboard India’s existing boosters.

Spaceflight Announces Next Three Rideshare Missions on ISRO’s PSLV

SEATTLE – Oct. 15, 2019 – Spaceflight, the leading satellite rideshare and mission management provider, today announced it will launch 14 more spacecraft from India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) this year. Payloads will launch on PSLV’s C47, C48 and C49 missions, scheduled to launch in November and December 2019 from India’s Satish Dhawan Space Center. Customers aboard the missions include Analytical Space, Spire, iQPS and Kleos Space.

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