ESA Signs Contracts to Improve Ariane 5, Vega Boosters

Vega launch vehicle (Credit: ESA–Stephane Corvaja, 2015)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA Director of Space Transportation, Daniel Neuenschwander, signed five contracts with industry at the Paris Air and Space show in France this week.

“Five contracts, one goal: to consolidate space transportation services and capacities for the benefit of Europe’s competitiveness,” he commented.

Contracts signed with ELV SpA and Airbus Safran Launchers will improve launch performance and flexibility, and maintain the competitiveness of Europe’s current and future space transportation systems.

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High-Tech Gründerfonds Invests in Orbex

LONDON (Orbex PR) — Germany’s High-Tech Gründerfonds has made its first investment in the space sector with UK-based Orbex. Founded in 2015, Orbex is building an orbital micro-launch vehicle to insert small satellites into low Earth orbit from Europe.

The Orbex launcher exploits a novel, sustainable fuel strategy to create one of the lowest inert mass fractions of any space launch vehicle ever built. All vehicle subsystems are being developed in-house, including rocket engines, avionics, guidance, software and patent-pending structures technologies.

“Our goal is not just to build a space launch vehicle. It’s to build a complete service offering to help businesses, governments and academic projects get their small satellites to orbit – on time, at a reasonable fixed price, from within Europe,” said Chris Larmour, CEO of Orbex.

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Rocket Lab Reaches Space But Not Orbit on First Flight

Electron lifts off on maiden flight from Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

Rocket Lab conducted the maiden flight of its new Electron small-satellite launcher on Thursday from New Zealand. The company reports the booster reached space, but it did not orbit its inert payload as planned.

It was the first of three flight tests of the launch vehicle for the New Zealand-American company from Launch Complex 1 on the Mahia Peninsula. Despite failing to reach orbit, Rocket Lab officials were happy with the results.

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Rocket Lab Postpones First Electron Launch Attempt

First Electron rocket on launch pad. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

Rocket Lab postponed the first launch attempt of its Electon booster on Monday due to high winds. company officials said.

The delay occurred on the first day of a planned 10-day launch window at the company’s base on Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand. The company plans to try again as early as Tuesday if conditions are acceptable.

The first Electron carries an inert payload. Rocket Lab plans three flight tests of the booster with inert payloads before launch satellites.

Electron is designed to place payloads weighing up to 150 kg (330 lb) into a 500 km (311 mile) sun-synchronous orbit.

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Spaceflight Purchases an Electron Rocket from Rocket Lab

First Electron rocket on launch pad. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

SEATTLE, May 17, 2017 (Spaceflight PR) — Spaceflight, the company reinventing the model for launching small satellites into space, today announced the purchase of a Rocket Lab Electron rocket to increase the frequency of its dedicated rideshare missions. The Electron is an ideal launch vehicle for dedicated and rideshare missions, especially those serving difficult-to-come-by launch destinations such as mid-inclination orbits for remote sensing satellites. In late 2015, Spaceflight began its dedicated rideshare launch service with the purchase of a SpaceX Falcon 9 and now expands the rocket partnership to Rocket Lab with the Electron.

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Vector Declares Rocket Launch Successful

Flight test of P-19H engineering model of the Vector-R launch vehicle from Friends of Amateur Rocketry site in California. (Credit: Vector Space Systems)

CANTIL, Calif. (Vector PR) — Vector, a micro satellite space launch company comprised of new-space and enterprise software industry veterans from SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, McDonnell Douglas, Sea Launch and VMware, today announced the successful test launch of the P-19H engineering model of the Vector-R launch vehicle.

This flight test is the first of several upcoming launches which will enable Vector to evaluate critical technologies and functions of the operational family of Vector launch vehicles.

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Vector Space Systems Selected for NASA Small Business Funding

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) additive manufactured injector by was successfully hot fire tested by Vector Space System on Dec. 8, 2016 using Liquid Oxygen/Propylene propellant (LOX/LC3H6). This work was performed under a 2015 STMD ACO Space Act Agreement. (Credit: Vector Space System)

Vector Space Systems has been selected for a NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I contract to develop new technology for the company’s Vector-R small satellite launch vehicle.

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Alaska Aerospace Corporation Eyes Asian Smallsat Launch Market

ANCHORAGE, Ala. (AAC PR) — Following participation in the 2017 Japan Space Symposium, Alaska Aerospace Corporation (AAC) President and Chief Executive Officer Craig E. Campbell traveled to Hokkaido, Japan with a joint Japanese and American delegation to visit a proposed launch site in the coastal town of Taiki.

As part of the itinerary, the delegation toured the headquarters and manufacturing facility of Interstellar Technologies. Interstellar Technologies is a Japanese company developing a launch vehicle to support the nano and micro commercial satellite industry.

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Generation Orbit Awarded Contract for GO1 Flight Testing

Credit: Generation Orbit

ATLANTA, April 7, 2017 (GO PR) – Generation Orbit Launch Services, Inc. (GO) is pleased to announce the award of a Follow-On Phase II SBIR (Small Business Innovative Research) contract from the Air Force Research Laboratory, Aerospace Systems Directorate, High Speed Systems Division (AFRL/RQH) for development and flight testing of the GOLauncher 1 (GO1).

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China Developing Air Launched Booster for Small Satellites

Look out Virgin Galactic, Orbital ATK, Generation Orbit, Stratolaunch Systems and zero2infinity! The air launch business is about to get crowded.

China is developed an air-launched rocket to launch small satellites.

The China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology has designed a solid-fuel rocket that could carry a 100kg payload into low Earth orbit, said Li Tongyu, the head of the agency’s carrier rocket development.

Li said the rockets would be carried by large Y-20 strategic transport planes before launch and that the academy planned to eventually develop a larger rocket that could carry a 200kg payload.

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Video: Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides Interview

Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides was interviewed on the TMRO Space show on Saturday. The interview begins at 20:54 in the above video.

Below are the highlights of the interview.

SpaceShipTwo

Whitesides was asked whether SpaceShipTwo could fly above the Karman line at 100 km (62.1 miles), which is the internationally recognized boundary of space. He didn’t provide a yes or no answer.

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Camden Welcomes Vector Space Systems to County

WOODBINE, Ga., March 28, 2017 (Spaceport Camden PR) — The Camden County Board of Commissioners and County Administrator Steve Howard welcomed Vector to the future site of Spaceport Camden to conduct an initial set of ground operations on its full-scale Mechanical Engineering Unit (MEU) of the Vector-R rocket and the associated Transporter-Erector-Launcher (TEL). The visit was an opportunity to showcase the Vector-R launch system and concept of operations (CONOPS) to key members of the spaceport community, stimulate discussions regarding future launch operations and familiarize Vector personnel with Spaceport Camden.

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NASA Selects CubeSat, SmallSat Mission Concept Studies


WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA has selected ten studies under the Planetary Science Deep Space SmallSat Studies (PSDS3) program, to develop mission concepts using small satellites to investigate Venus, Earth’s moon, asteroids, Mars and the outer planets.

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Firefly Space Systems Assets to be Auctioned on Thursday

The assets of Firefly Space Systems will be auctioned off on Thursday, March 16, in Menlo Park, Calif.

Notice of the auction has been posted by Development Specialists, Inc. There also is a classified advertisement in USA Today.

The company had been developing a small satellite launch vehicle before it suspended operations in September due to financial difficulties.

Virgin Galactic had launched litigation against Firefly co-founder Thomas Markusic, who had previously led Virgin’s effort to develop a competing launcher. Virgin claims that Markusic took intellectual property when he left the company in 2014.