SpinLaunch Raises $40 Million for Radical New Launch System

Bloomberg reports that Silicon Valley startup SpinLaunch has raised $40 million for a new approach to launching small satellites.

The company remains tight-lipped about exactly how this contraption will work, although its name gives away the basic idea. Rather than using propellants like kerosene and liquid oxygen to ignite a fire under a rocket, SpinLaunch plans to get a rocket spinning in a circle at up to 5,000 miles per hour and then let it go—more or less throwing the rocket to the edge of space, at which point it can light up and deliver objects like satellites into orbit.

SpinLaunch’s so-called kinetic energy launch system would use electricity to accelerate a projectile and help do much of the dirty work fighting through gravity and the atmosphere. In theory, this means the company could build a simpler, less expensive rocket that’s more efficient at ferrying satellites. “Some people call it a non-rocket launch,” said [founder Jonathan] Yaney. “It seems crazy. It seems fantastic. But we are actually using relatively low-tech industrial components to break this problem into manageable chunks.”

An impressive group of investors have signed on to support Yaney’s vision. The bulk of the $40 million came from Alphabet Inc.’s GV (formerly Google Ventures), Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Airbus Ventures.

Aerospace Corporation Policy Paper Proposes Launch Unit Standards for SmallSats

CubeSats STMSat-1, CADRE and MinXSS are deployed from the International Space Station during Expedition 47. (Credit: NASA)

EL SEGUNDO, Calif., June 8, 2018 (Aerospace Corporation PR) – The Aerospace Corporation’s Center for Space Policy and Strategy (CSPS) released a new policy paper today that explores the benefits of Launch Unit standards for smallsats during its Emerging Issues in Space Technology and Policy event at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C.

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PLD Space Completes 17 Million Euro Funding Round

ARION1 booster (Credit: PLD Space)

ELCHE, Spain (PLD Space PR) — PLD Space, the European Microlauncher company, has closed a new funding round of 9 million euros [$10.6 million] completing its Series A round of 17 million euros [$20 million]. Among the new investors are the Spanish aeronautical company Aciturri, founded by Ginés Clemente, and the Spanish investment fund JME Venture Capital, led by José Manuel Entrecanales, CEO of Acciona, one of the largest infrastructure and renewable energy companies in Spain.

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Spaceflight to Launch Smallsats for Canon, BlackSky & Others on 3 Rocket Lab Flights

Electron launch (Credit: Rocket Lab)

SEATTLE, Wash. – June 11, 2018 (Spaceflight PR) – Spaceflight, the leading satellite rideshare and mission management provider, announced today it has partnered with Rocket Lab for three upcoming launches. The first Electron mission, scheduled for the end of 2018, will launch a BlackSky microsat along with several rideshare customers. The second mission will launch satellites from commercial and government organizations in early 2019, and the third mission, also scheduled for early 2019, will launch a spacecraft from Canon Electronics.
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JAXA Selects Kibo Small Satellite Deployment Service Providers

Japanese KIBO module

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — On February 23, 2018, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) made an announcement to the private sector that it would compare proposals and select service providers capable of providing small satellite deployment services from Kibo on the International Space Station. And after carefully evaluating the proposals, JAXA has selected Space BD Inc. and MITSUI & CO., LTD. as the service providers.

In line with the second version of the “Kibo Utilization Strategy” adopted in August 2017, JAXA intends to promote the private sector’s autonomic activities in the module (private sector participation). These two companies were selected as service providers for small satellite deployment activities in the first phase of the strategy.

In 2012, JAXA developed the Small Satellite Orbital Deployer (J-SSOD) for assuming unique small satellite missions utilizing two advantageous technologies–the Robot Arm and Airlock of Kibo on the ISS. As of the end of May 2018, JAXA has successfully deployed more than 200 small satellites from Kibo, including deployment opportunities for the United States as well.

The market of small satellites is expected to further expand globally. JAXA has to date provided fee-based services on its own. JAXA expects that companies Space BD Inc. and MITSUI & CO., LTD. will provide unique services based on their original private entity ideas to both domestic and international markets, and thus further expand the demand for small satellite deployment. As a result, the utilization of Kibo and low Earth orbits will also increase.

Phase Four Signs Contract with NASA to Vet Propulsion System for Upcoming Smallsat Missions

Thruster (Credit: Phase Four)

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (Phase Four PR) — Phase Four, a provider of electric radio frequency (RF) thrusters for in-space propulsion, today announced that NASA has purchased one of Phase Four’s second-generation RF thrusters to vet its capabilities for small satellite propulsion.

The Phase Four thruster is part of an Integrated Propulsion Assembly (IPA) that contains: propellant storage and management, engine control electronics, power processing, and a thruster in one integrated solution. NASA will utilize the P4 propulsion solution to gain operational flight experience that demonstrates Phase Four’s capability to meet NASA’s upcoming small satellite mission goals. The IPA will be delivered to NASA in 2019.

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Low-cost Operations Help Drive Smallsat Launch Market Toward $62 Billion by 2030

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

Dedicated, flexible, on-demand launch vehicles crucial to meet huge demand, finds Frost & Sullivan

LONDON, May 14, 2018 (Frost & Sullivan PR) — The evolution of small satellites from technology demonstrators to providers of low-cost operational services across distributed industry segments is attracting launch demand from organisations all over the world. By 2030, there will be an estimated 11,631 launch demands for new constellation installations and replacement missions, which could take the market past the $62 billion mark. As the lifespan of these satellites is between two years and five years, there will be constant launch demand and participants will look to enhance their systems and infrastructure.

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Firefly Aerospace Receives USAF Statement of Support for Use of Vandenberg Launch Complex

Space Launch Complex 2 West with Delta II booster. (Credit: NASA)

CEDAR PARK, Texas, May 1, 2018 (Firefly Aerospace PR) — Firefly Aerospace, Inc. (Firefly), a developer of orbital launch vehicles for the small to medium satellite market, announced today that the United States Air Force (USAF) has issued a “Statement of Support for the Firefly Aerospace Program, Alpha and Beta Launch Vehicles” to utilize Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB) Space Launch Complex 2 West (SLC-2W) for future launches of the Firefly Alpha and Beta launch vehicles.

“Firefly Aerospace is greatly appreciative that NASA and the USAF support the transition of SLC-2W to a commercial launch site dedicated to the launch of Firefly vehicles,” said Firefly CEO Dr. Tom Markusic. “SLC-2W has been an incredible asset for US space missions for over 50 years. We are humbled and honored that Firefly Alpha and Beta launch vehicles will be adding many successful missions to the already storied history of SLC-2W.”

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York Space Systems and RUAG Space Partner for Complete Space Deployment Solution

DENVER (York Space Systems PR)York Space Systems, an aerospace company specializing in complete space segment customer solutions and the manufacture of standardized spacecraft platforms, today announced a partnership with RUAG Space, a leading product supplier for satellites and launchers, to become York’s sole supplier of separation systems for the S-CLASS spacecraft platform. As part of the collaboration, RUAG will develop a customized separation system for York’s first mission, the Harbinger Mission, which will be launched later this year.

The partnership, unveiled at the 34th Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colo., will further enable York to offer commercial companies a turn-key solution for rapid and affordable complete space collection deployment solutions. This new agreement with RUAG to become York’s preferred spacecraft separation system, further demonstrates the additional value gained by end customers through its growing network of partners across the segment.

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Rocket Lab & York Space Systems Team to Develop Rapid Response Launch Capability

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

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. and AUKLAND, NZ, April 18, 2018 (NanoRacks/York Space Systems PR) — US orbital launch provider Rocket Lab and spacecraft platform developer York Space Systems have entered into an MOU to develop a universal Interface Control Document (ICD) and supporting Concepts of Operations (CONOPS) that will streamline the manifesting process for small satellite launch customers.

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First Quarter Commercial Space Investment Reached Nearly $1 Billion

SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts off with a Dragon resupply ship on April 2, 2018. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

SpaceX received $500 million of the nearly $1 billion in investment raised by commercial space companies during the first quarter of 2018, according to the Space Investment Quarterly report from Space Angels.

“SpaceX shows no signs of slowing down—after the inaugural flight of the Falcon Heavy, the company secured $500 million from Fidelity Investments to drive development of their satellite communications network, Starlink,” the report added.

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Vector Names New VP of Manufacturing

Vector rocket (Credit: Vector)

TUCSON, Ariz., April 12, 2018 (Vector PR) — Vector, a microsatellite launch company comprised of new-space and enterprise software industry veterans from SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, McDonnell Douglas, Boeing, Sea Launch and VMware, today announced plans to reshape the aerospace industry by incorporating best practices from the automotive industry to mass manufacture its Vector-R and Vector-H launch vehicles.

Spearheading the revolutionary endeavor will be Brian Barron, Vector’s new vice president of manufacturing. Barron brings to Vector more than two decades of global automobile manufacturing experience, most recently at BMW Manufacturing and Lucid Motors, an automotive electric vehicle startup.

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A Closer Look at Astra Space

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

At some point in the next few weeks, the Pacific Spaceport Complex — Alaska will host its first commercial rocket launch. Officials at the Alaska Aerospace Corporation, which runs the spaceport, are hoping the suborbital test flight is the first of many commercial flights from the underused facility.

While officials have not identified the California company conducting the launch, a perusal of the corporation’s board minutes indicate it is almost certainly a small Bay Area startup named Astra Space.

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NASA Selects Smallsat Technology Projects for SBIR Funding

Credit: NASA

NASA has selected nine small satellite technology projects for funding under the space agency’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. Each contract is worth up to $750,000 over two years.

The proposals include:

Antara Teknik, LLC
Granite Bay, CA
Efficient and Secure Network and Application Communications for Small Spacecraft

Busek Company, Inc.
Natick, MA
Milliarcsecond Small Spacecraft Attitude Control System

CU Aerospace, LLC
Champaign, IL
Fiber-fed Advanced Pulsed Plasma Thruster (FPPT)

Froberg Aerospace, LLC
Rolla, MO
Multi-Mode Micropropulsion

Gener8, Inc.
Sunnyvale, CA
Integrated Waveguide Optical Gyroscope

Innoflight, Inc.
San Diego, CA
Compact Multi-Protocol Modem

Tethers Unlimited, Inc.
Bothell, WA
MakerSat

Valley Tech Systems, Inc.
Folsom, CA
Affordable Small Satellite Launch Vehicle Reaction Control System

Vector Launch Inc.
Tucson, AZ
Flight Demonstration of a Micropump-based Stage Pressurization System

Summaries of the proposals follow.

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