Virgin Orbit Partners to Use Japanese Airport for Launches

Virgin Orbit’s Cosmic Girl 747 taxis down runway 12-30 at the Mojave Air and Space Port with the LauncherOne booster under its wing. Northrop Grumman’s Stargazer L-1011 aircraft, which also air launches the Pegasus XL rocket, can be seen in the background. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

OITA, Japan/LONG BEACH, Calif., April 2, 2020 (Virgin Orbit PR) — Virgin Orbit, the California-based small satellite launch company, has announced a new partnership with Oita Prefecture to bring horizontal launch to Japan.

With the support of regional partners ANA Holdings Inc. and the Space Port Japan Association, Virgin Orbit has identified Oita Airport as its preferred pilot launch site — yet another addition to the company’s growing global network of horizontal launch sites — in pursuit of a mission to space from Japan as early as 2022. 

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Video: Virgin Orbit Cosmic Girl Taxi Test with LauncherOne Attached

Video Caption: Virgin Orbit’s Cosmic Girl 747 conducted a slow-speed taxi test down the runway with a fueled LauncherOne under its wing at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California on March 5, 2020. The test covered about 2 miles on runway 12-30.

The taxi test was a precursor to a flight test with a fueled booster for Sir Richard Branson’s launch company. LauncherOne is designed to orbit small satellites after being dropped from the modified Boeing airliner. Virgin Orbit plans to conduct a flight test of the booster for later this year.

NASA Selects Universities for Collaborative Development of Small Spacecraft Technologies

The Lunar Flashlight, flying as secondary payload on the first flight of NASA’s Space Launch System, will examine the moon’s surface for ice deposits and identify locations where resources may be extracted. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Nine university teams will collaborate with NASA to advance small spacecraft technologies that will help pave the way for human and robotic lunar exploration. Under NASA’s Artemis program the agency plans to return humans to the Moon by 2024; small spacecraft, or “SmallSats,” will help blaze the trail.

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Momentus Space to Provide Flexibility for SpaceX Rideshare Missions

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (Momentus Space PR) — As we have written in the past, SpaceX has proven a new paradigm for the satellite launch industry. From record-breaking launches for payloads (number of satellites on one rocket) to one of the most innovative and flexible ridesharing programs, the team there has proven that the world’s first orbital-class reusable rocket can bring down costs for smallsat operators through regularly scheduled, dedicated Falcon 9 rideshare missions.

Still, many CubeSat and smallsat operators would prefer to be in custom orbits at different inclinations, in different orbit planes, or at different altitudes.

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UK’s Black Arrow Startup Pursues Seaborne Satellite Launches

SWINDON, UK (Black Arrow PR) — On the 50th Anniversary of the first successful British rocket launch, the Black Arrow name is reinvigorated as Black Arrow Space Technologies starts up in business.

Black Arrow Space Technologies is a new British company developing spaceflight technologies designed to launch satellites into orbit. Black Arrow unique offer is their seaborne launch system – commercial rockets launched from their own Space Ship! This will enable Britain to offer a global service unavailable elsewhere in the world, bypassing many of the issues faced by land launches.

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FAA Concerned Georgia Spaceport Could Kill Residents, Burn Down Islands

Spaceport Camden launch complex (Credit: Camden County)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Camden County is facing a series of significant challenges in winning FAA approval to build a spaceport for vertical launches in the coastal Georgia county. At the root of the county’s problems: the launch site isn’t actually on the coastline.

“Camden County’s application includes populated areas within an overflight exclusion zone. Camden County has not demonstrated that it can control and manage the population in the vicinity of the proposed launch site, particularly on Little Cumberland Island,” according to a letter the FAA sent to county officials on Oct. 17.

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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.

JAXA Signs Agreement for Piggyback Launch Opportunities for Small Satellites

H-III launch vehicle variants (Credit: JAXA)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has selected, following public solicitation, and signed an agreement with Space BD Inc. who provides private companies and universities with piggyback launch opportunities for their small satellites when JAXA launches its own satellites using H-IIA and H3 launch vehicles.

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NASA Selects TriSept to Support New Round of CubeSat Missions

CHANTILLY, Va., December 2, 2019 (TriSept PR) – TriSept Corporation, a leading provider of launch integration, management and brokerage services for commercial and government missions, today announced that it has been selected as a preferred provider to support NASA’s third round of CubeSat missions with dispenser hardware and integration services.

As part of a five year, $18 million NASA indefinite delivery indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract, TriSept will be considered for CubeSat mission integration services and dispenser hardware procurement in support of upcoming CubeSat launches through 2025.

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NASA Announces New Tipping Point Partnerships for Moon and Mars Technologies

Astrobotic is one of 14 companies selected for NASA’s Tipping Point solicitation. This illustration depicts CubeRover, an ultra-light, modular and scalable commercial rover.(Credit: Astrobotic/Carnegie Mellon University)

Astrobotic, Blue Origin, ExoTerra, Paragon and SpaceX among contract awardees for advanced technologies

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 14 American companies as partners whose technologies will help enable the agency’s Moon to Mars exploration approach.

The selections are based on NASA’s fourth competitive Tipping Point solicitation and have a combined total award value of about $43.2 million. This investment in the U.S. space industry, including small businesses across the country, will help bring the technologies to market and ready them for use by NASA.

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Skykraft, Equatorial Launch Australia Sign Letter of Intent for Strategic Partnership

Letter of Strategic Intent

Skykraft Pty Ltd and Equatorial Launch Australia Pty Ltd (ELA) agree to develop a strategic relationship that leverages the strengths of both companies. Those being, Skykraft as a designer and manufacturer of small satellite (SmallSAT) constellations for a broad range of space-based services, and ELA as the operator of Australia’s first commercial spaceport, located near Nhulunbuy, Northern Territory.

The combination of Skykraft’s rapid constellation design and manufacture capability, plus ELA’s ability to tailor the launch options through their established spaceport and access to a wide selection of launch vehicles, provides Australia and the broader space community with an end-to-end solution for rapid, flexible and responsive space access.

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Kuaizhou-1A Lofts Two Satellites into Orbit, 8-9 More Launches Planned for 2019

China’s Kuaizhou-1A light launcher orbited two small satellites from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on Friday in a successful commercial mission.

The solid-fuel booster launched DFH Satellite Company’s KX-09 microgravity experimental satellite and SpaceTY’s Xiaoxiang 1-07 CubeSat.

The Kuaizhou-1A booster is manufactured and launches are managed by Expace, which is a subsidiary of the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC).

CASIS said it is planning to launch Kuaizhou-1A eight or nine more times before the end of the year. This was the booster’s first launch of 2019.

It was the fifth successful flight in five attempts for the solid-fuel Kuaizhou family of boosters, and the third success for the upgraded Kuaizhou-1A variant. The booster can place payloads weighing up to 200 kg (441 lbs) in 700 km (435 mile) high sun synchronous orbits.

Momentus to Provide In-Space Transportation Service to Customers on SpaceX Smallsat Rideshare Launch

Vigoride (Credit: Momentus)

SANTA CLARA, Calif., August 22, 2019 (Momentus PR) — Momentus (http://www.momentus.space), provider of in-space shuttle services that move satellites between orbits, today announced plans to provide orbital shuttle service to its customers on SpaceX’s first dedicated SmallSat Rideshare mission.

Momentus’ Vigoride orbital shuttle will carry multiple customer satellites, with a total mass up to 250 kg, each to its own custom orbit on a mission scheduled to launch no earlier than late 2020. As part of this launch, Momentus will offer its customers the ability to access multiple destination orbits through its in-space last-mile transportation services.

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New Chinese Booster Launches 3 Satellites

Xinhua reports that a new Smart Dragon-1 booster launched three satellites into orbit from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on its maiden flight.

The rocket, developed by the China Rocket Co. Ltd. affiliated to the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALVT), blasted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China at 12:11 p.m. (Beijing Time).

The three satellites, respectively developed by three Beijing-based companies, will be used for remote sensing services, communication and Internet of Things.

Different from the carrier rockets of the Long March family, the new Dragon series is developed in a commercial mode to meet the market demand of launching small commercial satellites, said Wang Xiaojun, head of CALVT.

The SD-1, with a total length of 19.5 meters, a diameter of 1.2 meters, and a takeoff weight of about 23.1 tonnes, is a small-scale solid-propellant carrier rocket capable of sending 200 kg payloads to the solar synchronous orbit at an altitude of 500 km.