NASA Statement on Launch Failure, Loss of TROPICS Spacecraft

TROPICS mission CubeSat (Credit: Blue Canyon Technologies)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — While we are disappointed in the loss of the two TROPICS CubeSats, the mission is part of NASA’s Earth venture program, which provides opportunities for lower-cost, higher risk missions. Despite a loss of the first two of six satellites, the TROPICS constellation will still meet its science objectives with the four remaining CubeSats distributed in two orbits.  With four satellites, TROPICS will still provide improved time-resolved observations of tropical cyclones compared to traditional observing methods.

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Astra Space Rocket Launch Fails Again, Two NASA TROPICS Satellites Lost

Rocket 3.3’s second stage Aether engine flashes as it fails during a launch on June 12, 2022. (Credit: Astra Space/Nasaspaceflight webcast)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The second stage of an Astra Space Rocket 3.3 rocket failed less than a minute before planned shutdown on Sunday, sending two NASA TROPICS mission satellites plunging into the atmosphere instead of entering orbit.

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NASA to Launch 6 Small Satellites to Monitor, Study Tropical Cyclones

An image of Tropical Cyclone Batsirai over Madagascar captured by the TROPICS Pathfinder satellite in February of 2022. (Credit: NASA)

Update: The launch aboard an Astra Space Rocket 3.3 booster failed after the vehicle’s second stage shut down prematurely on Sunday. NASA said in an update that the TROPICS constellation can still improve the monitoring of tropical cyclones with four satellites. Astra Space has the contract to launch the four additional TROPICS spacecraft on two launches.

By Sofie Bates
NASA’s Earth Science News Team

NASA is launching the first two of six small satellites no earlier than June 12 that will study the formation and development of tropical cyclones almost every hour – about four to six times more often than is possible with current satellites. This is the first of three CubeSat launches for NASA’s Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats (TROPICS) mission. The remaining satellites will be placed into their orbits during two subsequent launches this year. If successful, the TROPICS satellites will be spread across three orbital planes to cover more of the globe more frequently.

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Astra Space Scheduled to Launch NASA TROPICS Mission on Sunday

Astra Space is scheduled to launch NASA’s TROPICS-1 mission on Sunday, June 12 from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The launch window opens at 12 p.m. EDT. A livestream of the launch will begin at T-30 minutes: http://astra.com/livestream#AdAstra

Astra’s Rocket 3.3 will launch the first two of six small Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats (TROPICS) spacecraft that will study the formation and development of tropical cyclones almost every hour – about four to six times more often than is possible with current satellites.

NASA Funds R&D Projects to Improve Small Satellite Performance

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Small satellites are increasingly being used for missions in Earth orbit and deep space. Although they are easy to launch, their size limits their capabilities and usefulness to scientists. NASA has selected a pair of research and development (R&D) projects designed to address some of these limitations for continued funding under the space agency’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

The space agency selected Flight Works for a Phase II award to continue developing a high-performance, pump-fed transfer stage for Venture Class cislunar and deep space missions. The space agency also selected Nanohmics of Austin, Texas, for a SBIR Phase II award to continue working on adaptive optics for low-cost CubeSat optical systems. Each award is worth up to $750,000 over 24 months. Both companies received smaller SBIR Phase I awards.

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NASA Funds R&D Projects to Improve Operations of Satellite Swarms

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA is funding a trio of research and development (R&D) projects by Nanoracks, Teltrium Solutions and Emergent Space Technologies aimed at enabling swarms of small satellites to better operate in Earth orbit and to explore other worlds.

The companies each received Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II awards worth $750,000 to continue work on the their technologies. They each received smaller awards under the first phase of of the program.

Nanoracks, which is based in Houston, is focused on reusing spent rocket stages known as Outposts to help improve communications with satellite swarms exploring the moon and other planets.

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Mitsubishi Electric Develops Technology for the Freeform Printing of Satellite Antennas in Outer Space

On-orbit manufacturing and deployment of a satellite antenna in space (from left). (Credit: Mitsubishi Electric Corporation)

New photosensitive resin harnesses solar radiation for low-power 3D printing in vacuum

TOKYO, May 17, 2022 – Mitsubishi Electric Corporation (TOKYO: 6503) announced today that the company has developed an on-orbit additive-manufacturing technology that uses photosensitive resin and solar ultraviolet light for the 3D printing of satellite antennas in the vacuum of outer space. The novel technology makes use of a newly developed liquid resin that was custom formulated for stability in vacuum. The resin enables structures to be fabricated in space using a low-power process that utilizes the sun’s ultraviolet rays for photopolymerization.

The technology specifically addresses the challenge of equipping small, inexpensive spacecraft buses with large structures, such as high-gain antenna reflectors, and enables on-orbit fabrication of structures that greatly exceed the dimensions of launch vehicle fairings. Resin-based on-orbit manufacturing is expected to enable spacecraft structures to be made thinner and lighter than conventional designs, which must survive the stresses of launch and orbital insertion, thereby reducing both total satellite weight and launch costs.

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Gov. Janet Mills Signs Bill to Establish Maine Space Corporation

Gov. Janet Mills (left) signs into a law LD 1923, which was sponsored by Sen. Mattie Daughtry (right). (Credit: Maine Governor’s Office)

AUGUSTA, Maine (Mattie Daughtry PR) — On Monday, Gov. Janet Mills signed into law a bill from Sen. Mattie Daughtry, D-Brunswick. LD 1923, “An Act To Establish the Maine Space Corporation,” will help Maine’s emerging aerospace industry, create high-paying jobs and grow the state’s economy.

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NASA Funds Research to Use Smallsats to Improve Storm Predictions

Graphic depiction of Starburst: A Revolutionary Under-Constrained Adaptable Deployable Structure Architecture. (Credits: Jonathan Sauder)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA is funding research into the development of a constellation of small satellites (smallsats) capable of measuring a storm from start to finish in order to improve weather forecasting.

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‘New Space Ecosystem’ Should Be Leveraged to Provide Transformative Science Advancements, Says New Report

WASHINGTON (National Academies PR) — Commercial advances in launch capability and the ability to build spacecraft more rapidly and affordably has led to a paradigm shift in the space industry that U.S. government agencies should leverage to support a wide range of science missions, says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 

In the last decade, the emergence of small satellites weighing less than 600 kilograms — known as SmallSats — has helped bring about a “New Space ecosystem,” according to the report. This ecosystem is marked by lower barriers of entry along with agile commercial organizations with higher risk tolerance and a focus on increased, rapid, and affordable access to space. Forty percent of all SmallSats launched in the past 10 years were launched in 2020, dominated by SpaceX, Starlink and OneWeb satellites.

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SmallSat Idea-to-Space Launch Contest Presented by Entrepreneur Peter Wokwicz and Orbital Transports Selects the Winner

This image of Earth was compiled using tens of thousands of images from the Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission. (Credit: Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2019–20), processed by ESA and cloud layer from NASA)

CHICAGO, Feb. 10, 2022 (Peter Wokwicz PR) — Peter Wokwicz partnered with Orbital Transports to set out and find the next unique Small Satellite idea to turn into reality- offering a $10,000 prize, fully paid design/build/launch/operations of the satellite, and the opportunity for the winner to be involved in the process.

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NASA Selects Spaceflight Inc. to Support Dedicated and Rideshare Missions

Spaceflight to provide launch services for VADR missions for science and technology payloads

SEATTLE, January 27, 2022 (Spaceflight Inc. PR) — Spaceflight Inc., the leading global launch services provider, was selected by NASA to provide launch services for the agency’s Venture-Class Acquisition of Dedicated and Rideshare (VADR) missions. Spaceflight and 11 other companies selected will support missions designed to provide new opportunities for science and technology payloads and foster a growing U.S. launch market.

Spaceflight has a long-standing relationship with NASA, coordinating the launch of more than 20 payloads for the organization over the years. With more than a decade of experience providing comprehensive launch, mission management, and in-space transportation services, Spaceflight has launched nearly 400 satellites, ranging from CubeSats to a 700-kilogram satellite, across about 40 missions. In 2021 alone, Spaceflight launched 81 spacecraft across 11 different missions via a global launch vehicle network. 

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New Chairman Takes Charge as India Space Agency Struggles to Launch Satellites and Begin Human Spaceflight

New ISRO Chairman Shri. S. Somanath (left) takes over from K. Sivan. (Credit: ISRO)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

A new chairman has taken over the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) at a crucial time as the space agency continues to struggles with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the challenge of becoming only the fourth nation capable of launching astronauts into orbit.

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DEWA Signs Agreement with NanoAvionics to Provide Nanosatellites to Support the digitalisation of Dubai’s Power and Water Networks

Deal is part of DEWA’s Space-D programme

COLUMBIA, Ill. (NanoAvionics PR) — Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) has selected NanoAvionics, a leading smallsat manufacturer and mission integrator company, to design, build, test, and manage the launching of two nanosatellites 3U and 6U. The services supplied by NanoAvionics also include operation, knowledge transfer and training. This is part of DEWA’s space-D programme that seeks to enhance operational efficiency and reliability, and promote preventive maintenance for the planning, generation, transmission and distribution of electricity and water networks.

Through this programme, DEWA will lead the industry in improving the operations, maintenance and planning of its networks with the support of nanosatellite technology. Space-D supports DEWA’s grid digitalisation programme by using IoT and remote sensing technologies.

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AFRL Celebrates Launch of Smallsat Ascent to GEO Space

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket launches on the Department of Defense’s Space Test Program 3 (STP-3) mission from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021. The mission’s Space Test Program Satellite-6 (STPSat-6) spacecraft hosts NASA’s Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) and the NASA-U.S. Naval Research Laboratory Ultraviolet Spectro-Coronagraph (UVSC) Pathfinder. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFRL PR) — The Air Force Research Laboratory’s Space Vehicles Directorate small satellite named Ascent was launched Dec. 7 from Cape Canaveral, Florida as part of the U.S. Space Force’s Space Test Program-3 mission, aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket.

Ascent is a 12-unit Cubesat conceived and developed within the directorate’s Small Satellite Portfolio at Kirtland AFB, and in partnership with the Space Security and Defense Program.

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