By Karl B. Hille NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
GREENBELT, Md. — Swarms of small satellites could communicate amongst themselves to collect data on important weather patterns at different times of the day or year, and from multiple angles. Such swarms, using machine learning algorithms, could revolutionize scientists’ understanding of weather and climate changes.
Engineer Sabrina Thompson is working on software to enable small spacecraft, or SmallSats, to communicate with each other, identify high-value observation targets, and coordinate attitude and timing to get different views of the same target.
In response to growing interest in capable SmallSats, a team of engineers and scientists are thinking outside the (CubeSat) box with DiskSat, a new circular satellite design.
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (Aerospace Corporation PR) — A defining feature of a standard CubeSat is its containerization—the shape, volume and design—which makes it rideshare-friendly. This quality was historically important since these devices comprised a minor part of the total payload. Containerization ensured that CubeSats could not endanger the launch vehicle or primary payload.
Now, Aerospace engineers and scientists have reevaluated whether the standard CubeSat may be the best shape for a mission.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., July 12, 2021 (Modularity Space PR) – Modularity Space and Orbital Transports announced a partnership to create a reusable ecosystem of suppliers, manufacturers, and rideshare opportunities for payloads. By combining mission planning and supply chain management services provided by Orbital Transports with reusable spacecraft engineering from Modularity Space, the companies can offer affordable opportunities for payloads to get to orbit with a full turn-key mission package. The combined service provides an easy on-ramp to space for payload types ranging from technology demonstration and qualification missions to full constellation-scale deployments.
The United States reclaimed the top spot in launches from China last year as NASA astronauts flew into orbit from American soil for the first time in nearly nine years, SpaceX deployed the world’s first satellite mega-constellation with reused rockets, and two new launchers debuted with less than stellar results.
American companies conducted 44 launches in 2020, with 40 successes and four failures. Bryce Tech reports that U.S. companies accounted for 32 of the 41 commercial launches conducted last year. The majority of those flights were conducted by SpaceX, which launched 25 orbital missions.
China came in second with a record of 35 successful launches and four failures. The 39 launch attempts tied that nation’s previous record for flights during a calendar year.
Let’s take a closer look at what U.S. companies achieved last year.
SpaceX dominated, China surged and Russia had another clean sheet as American astronauts flew from U.S. soil again in a year of firsts.
First in a series
by Douglas Messier Managing Editor
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was a very busy launch year with a number of firsts in both human and robotic exploration. A total of 114 orbital launches were attempted, with 104 successes and 10 failures. It was the same number of launches that were conducted in 2018, with that year seeing 111 successes, two failures and one partial failure.
NASA FACT SHEET FY 2022 Budget Request Space Technology ($ Millions)
The Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) develops transformative, cross-cutting technologies that lead to research and technology breakthroughs to enable NASA’s missions and is broadening its focus on cross-cutting space technologies that will support creating good jobs in a growing space industry.
SAN ANTONIO, Texas (SwRI PR) — NASA has selected Southwest Research Institute’s 100 kg-class small satellite (SmallSat) platform to be listed in the Rapid Spacecraft Development Office (RSDO) IV catalog used by the U.S. government to rapidly contract for flight-proven spacecraft. The Southwest Space Platform-100 (SwSP-100) is now available through the $6 billion, indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity (IDIQ) Rapid Spacecraft Acquisition IV contract.
PARIS, WASHINGTON DC, MONTREAL, YOKOHAMA (Euroconsult PR) — The latest update of “Prospects for the Small Satellite Market” was released this week by Euroconsult, forecasting further growth in the global supply and demand of government, commercial and academic satellites weighing up to 500 kg.
The market intelligence report, now in its 7th edition, builds upon Euroconsult’s previous iteration that accurately predicted more than 1,000 satellites would be launched during 2020, a record year despite COVID-19. The new release further reinforces the sentiment that the 2020s will be the decade of small satellites, anticipating the launch of close to 14,000 smallsats before 2030.
NASA has selected the research arm of Firefly Aerospace for a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) award to develop a solar electric transfer stage capable of taking payloads from the Earth to the moon.
“Firefly Research, LLC (FFR) is pleased to propose to NASA the development of a Space Utility Vehicle (SUV) to a CDR [critical design review] level of fidelity,” the technical abstract said. “This vehicle serves as a solar electric transfer stage, offering enough Delta-V to transfer more than 500 kg of payload from Low Earth Orbit (LEO) to Low Lunar Orbit (LLO) after launch on a small lift launch vehicle.
By Elizabeth DiVito NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center
A spacecraft is the sum of many parts – propulsion systems, radiation protection, communications systems, to name a few – and every mission has different technological needs and challenges. Before a technology innovation makes its way into deep space, however, its effectiveness can be tested a little closer to Earth through suborbital and orbital flights. These flight tests expose a technology to the challenging characteristics of spaceflight that ground testing cannot simulate, such as powerful forces of acceleration and the absence of gravity. While it offers critical benefits, this journey through several iterations of collecting flight data and fine-tuning a technology can sometimes take years and often stretches a research team’s bottom line.
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.”
Note: Story updated with information about ABL Space Systems’ RS1 booster.
by Douglas Messier Managing Editor
Rocket Lab’s announcement that it is developing the medium-lift Neutron rocket focused on launching satellite constellations was an inevitable consequence of SpaceX getting into the rideshare business.
bluShift Aerospace successfully launched its Stardust 1.0 (Stardust Generation One) sounding rocket on a low-altitude demonstration flight on Sunday from the Loring Commerce Centre in Limestone, Maine.
The technology demonstration mission will expand agile sailcraft technology and scientific discovery
JACKSONVILLE, Fla., January 26, 2021 (Redwire PR) – Redwire, a new leader in mission critical space solutions and high reliability components for the next generation space economy, announced today that its subsidiary Roccor has been awarded a subcontract to support NASA’s Solar Cruiser technology demonstration mission funded through NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. Roccor was selected by NASA to develop the deployable structure for a nearly 18,000 square foot (1,600 m2) solar sail that will allow solar scientists to view the sun from different perspectives—and stay in orbit longer—than before.
New small satellites to improve weather imaging day or night
ARLINGTON, Va. (Raytheon PR) — Today’s weather forecasts can help people decide whether to grab an umbrella on the way out or get ready for a big storm. A new class of small satellites in development at Raytheon Intelligence & Space could provide even better data to inform those decisions.