iSpace Launches Payloads into Space

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

iSpace, aka, Beijing Interstellar Glory Space Technology Ltd., has become the first private Chinese company to launch payloads into orbit.

The company launched its four-stage Hypobola-1 rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert on Thursday afternoon local time.

iSpace reported the rocket deployed the CAS-7B amateur radio satellite and a technology verification satellite for China Central Television. Three additional payloads remained attached to the upper stage as planned.

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Lockheed Martin Ventures Invests in ABL Space Systems

EL SEGUNDO, Calif., (ABL Space Systems PR) — ABL Space Systems Company, the California-based developer of the RS1 launch vehicle, announced today that it has closed a strategic investment from Lockheed Martin Ventures.

Founded in 2017, ABL completed its first development vehicle in 2018. More recently, the company conducted a series of successful tests of the E2 bipropellant rocket engine at Spaceport America in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. The investment follows ABL’s recent announcement of an improved 1,200 kilogram payload capacity and $12 million price of RS1.

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FCC Chairman Pai Calls for Streamlined Smallsat Regulations

Ajit Pai

Remarks of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Policy Roundtable on Small Satellite Integration

Washington, DC
July 9, 2019

Thank you for that warm welcome and thank you to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for inviting me to join you this morning. I’m excited to have the opportunity to speak with you today about the U.S. satellite industry—and specifically how the FCC is promoting American innovation and investment in orbit.

The commercial space sector is growing rapidly. Today, we see reusable rockets, satellites and launch vehicles being miniaturized, and startups popping up all over the country. I would argue that for the first time in a generation, America is witnessing a revolution in spaceflight. Yes, this may just be a feeling, but as an astronomical pioneer once said, “Sometimes a feeling is all we humans have to go on.” (That was Captain James T. Kirk in Season 1, Episode 23 of Star Trek: “A Taste of Armageddon.”)

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Virgin Orbit to Launch Satellites from Cornwall in England

Cosmic Girl performs first captive carry with LauncherOne. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

CORNWALL, United Kingdom (Virgin Orbit PR) — For a while now, we’ve been working with our friends in Cornwall on the prospect of using LauncherOne to bring launch back to Britain. Today, that project took a massive step forward, as the U.K. Space Agency announced it aims to invest £7.8m (~$10 million) into the development of Spaceport Cornwall as a key operating hub for horizontal launch system, working towards a first launch from British soil in the early 2020’s.

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Virgin Orbit, ANA Partner to Launch Small Satellites From Japan

Virgin Orbit’s Cosmic Girl 747 performs its first captive carry of LauncherOne. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

TOKYO and LONG BEACH, Calif., 6 June 2019 (Virgin Orbit PR) — Virgin Orbit, Sir Richard Branson’s small satellite launch company, announced today that it has signed an agreement with ANA Holdings (hereinafter “ANA HD”), parent company of All Nippon Airways (ANA), Japan’s largest airline, to bring the company’s LauncherOne service to Japan.

Subject to U.S. Government regulatory approvals, Virgin Orbit’s unique and responsive system — which uses a 747 widebody jet as a “flying launch pad” for its rocket — will complement existing Japanese ground launch vehicles, enabling near-term access to space by the private sector, helping to grow the country’s burgeoning small satellite ecosystem, and helping to elevate Japan as the premier space transport hub in Asia.

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Dozens of Satellites Joining Vega’s Ride-share to Space

Vega’s versatile Small Satellites Mission Service dispenser developed within ESA’s Light satellite Launch opportunities initiative is designed to deploy multiple light satellites below 500 kg. (Credit: ESA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — More than 40 satellite missions will be launched at once by Europe’s Vega launcher this autumn, thanks to the innovative modular “Lego-style” dispenser resting on its upper stage.

Up until now the smallest classes of satellites – all the way down to tiny CubeSats, built from 10 cm modular boxes – have typically ‘piggybacked’ to orbit. They have to make use of any spare capacity as a single large satellite is launched, meaning their overall launch opportunities are limited.

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NASA Selects Small Spacecraft Technologies for Funding

New high-impulse thrusters and communications technologies that will facilitate missions by groups of spacecraft beyond Earth orbit are among the small satellite technologies that NASA is funding under its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

The space agency selected six research and development projects for SBIR Phase II funding. The awards are for up to $750,000 over two years.

Three of the proposals focus on small satellite thrusters. Alameda Applied Sciences Corporation (AASC) of Oakland, California will continue to develop its high-impulse metal plasma thrusters for use on CubeSat missions.

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Arianespace Fills Up Vega Small Spacecraft Mission Proof of Concept Flight

Vega begins its ascent from the Spaceport in French Guiana, carrying Italy’s PRISMA Earth observation satellite on the third Arianespace mission of 2019. (Credit: Arianespace)

PARIS (Avio PR) — Arianespace announced today that it has been selected by exactEarth to launch the ESAIL satellite using a Vega as part of the launcher’s Small Spacecraft Mission Service (SSMS) Proof of Concept (POC) flight.

With a mass of 110 kg, ESAIL satellite produced by exactEarth, leading provider of global AIS solutions (Automatic Identification System), is the last passenger to get on board of the Vega’s POC flight, now completely booked with 42 payloads onboard, whose launch is scheduled for 2019 from the Guiana Space Center, Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

The ESAIL satellite was supported by European Space Agency (ESA – ESTEC) through the ARTES 21 SAT-AIS (SATellite Automatic Identification System) program.

Vega’s POC flight will be the first mission for SSMS – a program initiated by ESA in 2016 with the contribution of the European Commission. For all European partners involved, its purpose is to perfectly address the burgeoning microsatellite market for both institutional and commercial needs with a new rideshare concept on the Vega light-lift launcher.

The industrial prime contractor for Vega is Avio, based in Colleferro, Italy.











NIAC Award: Low-Cost SmallSats to Explore to Our Solar System’s Boundaries

Small satellites for exploring the Solar System’s boundaries. (Credit: Robert Staehle)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program
Phase I Award: Up to $125,000 for 9 Months

Low-Cost SmallSats to Explore to Our Solar System’s Boundaries
Robert Staehle
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Overview: New Horizons, Voyager 1 & 2, and Pioneer 10 & 11 are the only spacecraft to venture beyond Saturn’s orbit. Each weighed >250 kg (some >>250 kg), cost >FY19$300 M, and required operations teams with 10s of people. All required radioisotope power to operate at Jupiter and beyond. We propose a completely different approach for focused heliospheric science investigations to 125 AU, and potentially farther beyond the heliopause, without need for radioisotopes and their long, expensive launch approval process.

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Made In Space, Inc. Announces Manufacturing System for Smallsat Interferometry

Optimast-SCI (Credit: Made in Space)

MOFFETT FIELD, CA, April 8, 2019 (Made In Space PR) — Made In Space, Inc. (MIS) announced today that it is developing an in-space manufacturing system to enable precision long-baseline interferometry missions. This technology, known as Optimast-SCI (Structurally Connected Interferometer) equips an ESPA-class small satellite with the company’s extended structure manufacturing technology. It enables the deployment of a 20-meter optical boom interferometer with modular internal optics bench developed with Lowell Observatory, a world leader in astronomical optical interferometry.

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Microlaunchers to Grow Europe’s Economy

Five feasibility studies on launch services using microlaunchers in Europe, contracted within ESA’s Future Launchers Preparatory Programme in 2018, proposed solutions for economically viable and commercially self-sustaining microlaunch services. (Credit: ESA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — A flourishing small satellites market is driving demand for new ways to access space. Recent industry feasibility studies backed by ESA for new microlauncher services, are creating new business opportunities.

ESA intends to strengthen European industry by fostering a globally competitive European space sector with increased industry participation in launcher development.

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LeoStella Names Aerospace Veteran as CEO

Mike Hettich

Mike Hettich brings three decades of aerospace leadership to the emerging small-satellite manufacturer

TUKWILA, Wash., March 7, 2019 (LeoStella PR) – LeoStella, a joint venture created by Thales Alenia Space and Spaceflight Industries to meet the growing demand for efficient and cost-effective small-satellite production, today announced Mike Hettich has been named as the company’s CEO and has transitioned into the leadership position previously held by Chris Chautard.

Hettich brings more than 30 years of aerospace system design, development and production experience to LeoStella. He will lead the company as it enters the next phase of growth, designing and manufacturing small satellites at scale at its state-of-the-art production facility. The company’s first major undertaking is constructing 20 satellites for BlackSky’s Earth-observation constellation.

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NASA Receives Significant Funding Increase with $21.5 Billion Budget

The Lunar Gateway (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA has received a $21.5 billion budget for fiscal year 2019, which is $736.86 million above FY 2018 and $1.6 billion above the total requested by the Trump Administration.

The funding, which came more than four months into the fiscal year,  was included in an appropriations bill signed by President Donald Trump on Friday. NASA’s budget has been on an upward trajectory over the last few years. In FY 2018, the space agency received an $1.64 billion increase over the previous year.

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LeoStella Inaugurates State-of-the-Art Smallsat Production Facility

Satellite production facility (Credit: LeoStella)

Thales Alenia Space and Spaceflight Industries joint venture plans to disrupt the smallsat industry by producing cost-effective satellites at scale

TUKWILA, Wash., Feb. 15, 2019 (LeoStella PR) – LeoStella, a smallsat design and manufacturing company, today announced the official inauguration of its production facilities in Tukwila, Wash. The company is a joint venture between Thales Alenia Space, joint venture between Thales (67 %) and Leonardo (33 %), and Seattle-based Spaceflight Industries. Formed in March 2018, LeoStella has been developing a state-of-the-art production facility to construct smallsats cost-effectively and at scale.

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Suborbital Flights Stopped Being So Humdrum in 2018

Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo’s first flight above 50 miles on Dec. 13, 2018. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Part 1 of 2

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Throughout the Space Age, suborbital flight has been the least exciting segment of the launch market. Operating in the shadow of their much larger orbital cousins, sounding rockets carrying scientific instruments, microgravity experiments and technology demonstrations have flown to the fringes of space with little fanfare or media attention.

The suborbital sector has become much more dynamic in recent years now that billionaires have started spending money in it. Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic both made significant progress last year in testing New Shepard and SpaceShipTwo, respectively. Their achievements have raised the real possibility of suborbital space tourism flights in 2019. (I know. Promises, promises…. But, this year they might finally really do it. I think.)

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