Smallsat 2016: Updates on Launch Vehicle Development

CubeSats (Credit: ESA/Medialab)
CubeSats (Credit: ESA/Medialab)

The Small Satellite 2016 Conference got underway today in Logan, Utah. Although I was not able to make it, I’ve been able to follow the conference via Twitter. A number of small satellite launch companies provided updates on launch vehicles they are developing. There is information below on Firefly Space Systems, Nammo, Rocket Crafters, Rocket Lab, Super Strypi, Vector Space Systems and Virgin Galactic.

Information came from the following Tweeters who are attending the conference:

  • Jeff Foust ‏@jeff_foust
  • C. G. Niederstrasser ‏@RocketScient1st
  • David Hurst ‏@OrbitalDave.

Enjoy!
(more…)

Orbital ATK’s Small Satellite Launch Vehicles Facing Increased Competition

A Minotaur V rocket carrying NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) lifts off from at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Friday, Sept. 6, 2013. (Credit: NASA/Chris Perry)
A Minotaur V rocket carrying NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) lifts off from at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Friday, Sept. 6, 2013. (Credit: NASA/Chris Perry)

Recently, there’s been a bit of a kerfuffle over the use of surplus intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) to launch satellites. Orbital ATK would like to lift the ban on using them to launch commercial satellites, the U.S. Air Force would like to find a way to sell the engines, and an emerging commercial launch industry that doesn’t want what it considers government-subsidized competition.

Now, you’ve probably been wondering a few things. What does Orbital ATK do with these engines? What does it launch on them? And what launch vehicles are in operation or in development to compete with these boosters?

Those are all great questions. And now the answers.

(more…)

House Appropriations Committee Sets NASA Spending at $19.5 Billion

 NASA astronaut Suni Williams exits a test version of the Orion spacecraft in the agency’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab in Houston. The testing is helping NASA identify the best ways to efficiently get astronauts out of the spacecraft after deep space missions. (Credit: NASA)
NASA astronaut Suni Williams exits a test version of the Orion spacecraft in the agency’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab in Houston. The testing is helping NASA identify the best ways to efficiently get astronauts out of the spacecraft after deep space missions. (Credit: NASA)

The House Appropriations Committee is marking up a FY 2017 spending bill today that would boost NASA’s spending by $215 million to $19.5 billion dollars. The amount is roughly $500 million more than the $19 billion requested by the Obama Administration.

Appropriators have zeroed out money for NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), instead instructing the space agency to focus on lumar missions applicable to sending astronauts to Mars.

(more…)

FAA Releases Annual Compendium of Commercial Space Transportation

faa_compendium_2016The Annual Compendium of Commercial Space Transportation: 2016

Executive Summary

The size of the global space industry, which combines satellite services and ground equipment, government space budgets, and global navigation satellite services (GNSS) equipment, is estimated to be about $324 billion. At $95 billion in revenues, or about 29 percent, satellite television represents the largest segment of activity. Following this is government space budgets at $76 billion, or 24 percent, and services enabled by GNSS represent, about $76 billion in revenues. Commercial satellite remote sensing companies generated on $1.6 billion in revenues, but the value added services enabled by these companies is believed to be magnitudes larger. Because remote sensing value added services includes imagery and data analytics from other sources beyond space-based platforms, only the satellite remote sensing component is included in the global space industry total.

(more…)

GAO: DOD’s Responsive Launch Effort Lacks Consolidated Plan

Boeing's ALASA launch system features a F-15E aircraft and an innovative booster. (Credit: Boeing)
Boeing’s ALASA launch system features a F-15E aircraft and an innovative booster. (Credit: Boeing)

A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) study has found the Defense Department lacks a consolidated plan for developing a responsive launch capability that could rapidly place satellites into orbit on short notice.

(more…)

Ambitious NASA Smallsat Mission Lost in Super Strypi Launch Failure

Eight small-sized satellites total a big bonus for science. The Edison Demonstration of Smallsat Networks (EDSN) mission was to have used a swarm of small spacecraft to carry out scientific measurements. (Credit: NASA Ames Research Center)
Eight small-sized satellites total a big bonus for science. The Edison Demonstration of Smallsat Networks (EDSN) mission was to have used a swarm of small spacecraft to carry out scientific measurements. (Credit: NASA Ames Research Center)

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — On November 3, the eight small satellites of the Edison Demonstration of Smallsat Networks (EDSN) mission were lost in the failure of the launch vehicle during the U.S. Air Force-led Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) Office’s ORS-4 mission that was carrying them to orbit as secondary payloads.

The EDSN spacecraft were developed by an engineering team at the NASA Ames Research Center, and the project was sponsored by NASA’s Small Spacecraft Technology Program in the Space Technology Mission Directorate.

(more…)

Super Strypi Launch From Hawaii Fails

Here is some video of a Super Strypi launch from Kauai that failed on Tuesday. Super Strypi is a new launch vehicle developed by Aerojet Rocketdyne and Sandia National Laboratories in cooperation with the Defense Department’s Office of Operationally Responsive Space. The University of Hawaii was also involved in the launch, which carried 13 small satellites.

UPDATE: The U.S. Air Force has released the following statement:

“The ORS-4 mission on an experimental Super Strypi launch vehicle failed in mid-flight shortly after liftoff at 5:45 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time (7:45 p.m. PST; 10:45 p.m. EST) today from the Pacific Missile Range Facility off Barking Sands, Kauai, Hawaii. Additional information will be released as it becomes available.”

Aerojet Rocketdyne Completes Engine Test for Super Strypi Launch Vehicle

SPARK_rocket_on_rail
SACRAMENTO, Calif., Aug. 13, 2014 (Aerojet Rocketdyne PR) —
Aerojet Rocketdyne, a GenCorp (GY) company, today announced that its Low Earth Orbiting Nanosatellite Integrated Defense Autonomous System (LEONIDAS) first stage solid propellant rocket motor (LEO-46) successfully completed a hot-fire static test at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

(more…)

Navy Looks to Extend Danger Zone at Pacific Missile Range on Kauai

SPARK_rocket_on_rail

Navy officials in Hawaii have begun preparations for the debut of a new small satellite launcher by requesting the expansion of a danger zone around the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) on Kauai, The Garden Island reports.

If approved, the danger zone fronting PMRF would roughly triple in size, encompass about 7 miles of coastline — from Barking Sands to Kokole Point — and extend between 2.96 and 4.19 nautical miles out to sea.

(more…)

SpaceWorks Review Shows Sharp Growth Expected in Nano- and Microsat Market

ss2_launcherone
Artist conception of WhiteKnightTwo and LauncherOne. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

SpaceWorks Enterprise has released an update to its nano- and micro-satellite market analysis study that indicates that between 121 to 188 spacecraft weighing 1-50 kg will need to be launched in 2020.  This is a significant increase from the 33 satellites launched last year.

“The Nano/Microsatellite Market Assessment by SpaceWorks shows that nano/microsatellite launches have grown by an average of 8.6% per year since 2000, with an expected 16.8% growth per year over the next 7 years (2013-2020),” according to a SpaceWorks press release.

(more…)

ORS, University of Hawaii Team Up on New Small Satellite Launcher

SPARK_rocket_on_rail
The U.S. Air Force’s Office of Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) has teamed up with the University of Hawaii and Aerojet to develop a new small-sat launch vehicle that will make its maiden flight later this year from a missile range on Kauai.

The rail-launched Spaceborne Payload Assist Rocket Kauai (SPARK, a.k.a., Super Strypi) will be capable of launching small satellites and CubeSats into low Earth and sun synchronous orbits at a low cost. The objective is to place 250 kg. (551 lb.) payloads into a 400-km (249 mile) sun-synchronous orbit from Kauai.

(more…)

America’s Rocket Renaissance

rutan_talkBy Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

During recent public talks, Scaled Composites Founder Burt Rutan has bemoaned the lack of recent rocket development in the United States. After the initial burst of creativity in the 1950’s and 1960’s, decades went by with very few new rockets being developed. He has also pointed to Scaled Composites’ SpaceShipTwo, SpaceX’s Dragon and Stratolaunch Systems air-launch project (which he worked on for 20 years) as the only serious developments in the field at present.

My first thought was: Burt’s wrong. There’s a lot more going on than just that. Including developments just down the flight line in Mojave that he somehow fails to mention. And my second thought was: well, just how wrong is Burt, exactly?

A lot, it turns out.

(more…)