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.


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.

China Eyes Smallsat Air Launch

Look out Stratolaunch, Generation Orbit and Virgin Galactic! It looks like you’re going to have some competition from China in the small satellite air launch market.

The China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology has designed a solid-fuel rocket that could carry a 100 kg (220 lb) 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 being launched and that the academy planned to eventually develop a larger rocket that could carry a 200 kg payload.

“The jet will hold a rocket within its fuselage and release it at a certain altitude. The rocket will be ignited after it leaves the plane,” Li said.

Read the full story.

NASA Team Develops Modular Avionics Systems for Small Spacecraft Missions

Goddard technologist Noosha Haghani holds one of many electronics cards, which she and her team designed for a new avionics system called MUSTANG. MUSTANG has been baselined for two upcoming NASA missions. (Credit: NASA/W. Hrybyk)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — In just two years’ time, a team of NASA engineers accomplished what some thought impossible: the group created a smaller, more capable “brain” for smaller spacecraft.

Led by Project Manager and Chief Engineer Noosha Haghani, who works at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, the team leveraged years of knowledge gained during the development of NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale mission, or MMS, to design a significantly smaller electronics system.

Dubbed MUSTANG, short for the Modular Unified Space Technology Avionics for Next Generation missions, the technology acts as the mission’s brain and central nervous system, controlling every function needed to gather scientific data from a Small Explorer-type mission. This includes everything from spacecraft command and data handling to attitude control, power, and propulsion, to name just a few tasks. The team also developed a variation of the system — iMUSTANG — for instrument electronics and, like its sibling, it allows users to choose different capabilities depending on instrument needs.


Kanematsu Corporation Enters Agreement to Work With Vector Space Systems

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)

TOKYO (KG PR) — Kanematsu Corporation (KG) is pleased to announce the intention to establish a business collaboration through strategic investment with Vector Space Systems (Vector) for micro launch vehicles and related services.

Vector will offer small launch vehicles dedicated to micro satellites and related services. Vector’s CEO Jim Cantrell was involved in the start-up of SpaceX, an influential company which provides heavy lift launch vehicles. Incidentally, Vector’s CTO John Garvey had developed nanosat launch vehicles at Garvey Space Corp. (GSC) for 15 years prior to joining the team.


PLD Space Adds GMV as Partner, Receives 6.7 Million Euro Investment

 ARION 1 & 2 technology demonstration. (Credit; PLD Space)
ARION 1 & 2 technology demonstration. (Credit; PLD Space)

ELCHE, Spain, January 9, 2017 (PLD Space PR) — The International Tech Company GMV, with an important presence in the global space sector, has decided to trust in the PLD Space project and will take part in the ownership of the young space company as shareholder. GMV will also develop key technology and will work together with PLD Space in the development of the ARION 1 and ARION 2 launchers, an activity that will enable both companies to grow and position themselves strategically in the small space-launchers market.

The corporative endorsement of GMV enables PLD Space to raise a total investment of 6.7 million euros; between private investment through 2 Spanish investment vehicles and institutional funding coming from the contribution of Spanish government (CDTI and ENISA), public administrations (SUMA Teruel, IVF) and the European Commission (SME Phase1).


White House Announces $110 Million in New Smallsat Investments

Spacecraft specialists prepare spacecraft to perform the Edison Demonstration of Smallsat Networks (EDSN) mission. (Credit: NASA Ames Research Center)
Spacecraft specialists prepare spacecraft to perform the Edison Demonstration of Smallsat Networks (EDSN) mission. (Credit: NASA Ames Research Center)

Federal Agencies announce more than $100 million in new investments to develop small satellite systems and technology.

by Thomas Kalil
Deputy Director for Policy
White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

This past October, the White House announced the “Harnessing the Small Satellite Revolution” initiative. As part of the initiative, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and other Federal agencies identified multiple opportunities to encourage both government and private sector use of small spacecraft for a variety of applications, some of which were showcased at The White House Frontiers Conference in Pittsburgh.


Generation Orbit Names A.J. Piplica as CEO

Anthony J. Piplica (Credit: Generation Orbit)
Anthony J. Piplica (Credit: Generation Orbit)

ATLANTA, December 13, 2016 (GO PR) – Generation Orbit Launch Services, Inc. (GO) today announced that Mr. Anthony J. Piplica will assume the role of Chief Executive Officer (CEO), effective January 1, 2017.

Mr. Piplica has served as the company’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) since 2013. Mr. Piplica joined the Generation Orbit team in 2012, quickly rising to the position of COO. Within that capacity, he has been instrumental in managing the company’s growth and technical activities. Piplica has served as GO’s primary interface for its network of partners and suppliers, as well as key Air Force, NASA, and commercial customers.


Rocket Lab Releases Video of Electron Engine Tests

Video Caption: Rocket Lab has completed qualification and acceptance testing of Electron’s first stage booster. Completion of the tests marks the final major technical milestone ahead of first test launch of the Electron vehicle.

Rocket Lab Completes First Stage Flight Qualification & Acceptance

Electron first stage test. (Credit: Rocket Lab)
Electron first stage test. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

LOS ANGELES, December 13, 2016 (Rocket Lab PR) — Rocket Lab today announced the flight qualification and acceptance of the first stage booster of the Electron launch vehicle.

All primary components of the stage – including engines, vehicle structures, avionics and software systems – were designed, developed and tested in-house at Rocket Lab.

“Rocket Lab has had a hugely successful year with qualification of all major vehicle systems, completion of Launch Complex 1 and considerable growth of our team and customer base,” said Peter Beck, Rocket Lab CEO.

“We will continue to test the vehicle extensively in the lead-up to commercial operations and are looking forward to beginning the test flight program. Our focus with the Electron has been to develop a reliable launch vehicle that can be manufactured in high volumes – our ultimate goal is to make space accessible by providing an unprecedented frequency of launch opportunities.”

Rocket Lab plans to begin full vehicle testing in early 2017 once international launch licensing is complete. The tests will occur from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1, located on the Mahia Peninsula of New Zealand.


RUAG Space to Build Spacecraft Structures for OneWeb

ruag_logoBERN, Switzerland (RUAG Space PR) — RUAG Space will supply the structures for the OneWeb satellite constellation. A contract between OneWeb Satellites, the company responsible for constructing the OneWeb satellites, and RUAG Space has been signed that anticipates delivery of structures for 900 satellites by the end of 2020.

OneWeb is revolutionizing global connectivity and by far the largest satellite constellation ever. In just a few years’ time, about 900 satellites will be manufactured to be launched into low Earth orbit at an altitude of around 1,200 kilometres. These will offer broadband internet with up to 50 Mbps around the globe.


Vector Space Systems Receives $1.25 Million From Space Angels Network

P20 sub-scale test vehicle launch (Credit: Vector Space Systems)
P20 sub-scale test vehicle launch (Credit: Vector Space Systems)

TUCSON, Ariz., Nov. 18, 2016  (Vector Space Systems PR) — Vector Space Systems, 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 that it has received an additional $1.25M in angel funding led by Space Angels Network, a New York City-based investor in early-stage space companies. As one of the largest communities of space investors and entrepreneurs in the world, Space Angels Network will be contributing to the rise and success of the micro satellite industry through its investment in Vector.

With this additional seed financing, Vector will accelerate development efforts towards the goal of being one of the first commercial dedicated micro satellite launch vehicles to achieve low earth orbit. Vector continues to strive to connect space startups and innovators with affordable and reliable access to space. Its mission to reshape the multi-billion-dollar launch market has never been more critical. This need for dedicated low-cost micro satellite launches and software defined satellites to democratize space access and the speed to orbit has increased significantly since the company’s founding earlier this year.


Movement on Firefly-Virgin Galactic Legal Dispute?

This is an interesting Tweet from Firefly Space Systems’ co-founder Michael A. Blum on Wednesday to Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides with a cc: to Whitesides’ boss, Richard Branson. Claude appears to be Claude M. Stern, one of Virgin Galactic’s lawyers.


Construction of Prototype Lunar Base Proposed for Hawaii

HILO, Hawaii (PISCES PR) — During the Hawai’i Aerospace Summit in Honolulu last October, PISCES Board Chairperson and entrepreneur Henk Rogers called for the construction of a prototype lunar base on the Big Island that could catapult the State of Hawai’i into the frontlines of the global aerospace industry.


NASA Smallsats to Take Fresh Look at Earth

TROPICS, a new NASA Earth-observing mission announced this year, will study the insides of hurricanes with a constellation of 12 CubeSats. (Credit: MIT Lincoln Laboratory)
TROPICS, a new NASA Earth-observing mission announced this year, will study the insides of hurricanes with a constellation of 12 CubeSats. (Credit: MIT Lincoln Laboratory)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Beginning this month, NASA is launching a suite of six next-generation, Earth-observing small satellite missions to demonstrate innovative new approaches for studying our changing planet.

These small satellites range in size from a loaf of bread to a small washing machine and weigh from a few to 400 pounds. Their small size keeps development and launch costs down as they often hitch a ride to space as a “secondary payload” on another mission’s rocket – providing an economical avenue for testing new technologies and conducting science.