Rocket Lab’s Next Mission to Launch 100th Satellite and Deploy Next-Generation Photon Spacecraft in Preparation for Moon Mission

Electron launches with 10 satellites on Oct. 29, 2020. (Credit: Rocket Lab webcast)

The mission will deploy a range of satellites for commercial and government customers, as well as place a next-generation Photon spacecraft in orbit to build heritage for Rocket Lab’s upcoming mission to the Moon for NASA

LONG BEACH, Calif. (Rocket Lab PR) — Rocket Lab, a leading launch provider and space systems company, has today announced its next mission will deploy a range of satellites for commercial and government satellite operators, and place a next-generation Photon spacecraft in orbit to build spacecraft heritage ahead of Rocket Lab’s mission to the Moon for NASA in Q3 this year.

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NASA, Boeing Test Crew Return and Recovery Procedures

Landing and recovery teams from Boeing and NASA take part in a crew landing dress rehearsal at the U.S. Army’s White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico in preparation for missions returning with astronauts from the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. (Credits: Boeing)

WHITE SANDS, NM (NASA PR) — Landing and recovery teams from Boeing and NASA recently completed a crew landing dress rehearsal at the U.S. Army’s White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico, in preparation for missions returning with astronauts from the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

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Russia Tests Direct-ascent Anti-satellite Missile — U.S. Space Command

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo., Dec. 16, 2020 (US Space Command PR) — Russia has conducted a test of a direct-ascent anti-satellite (DA-ASAT) missile.

“Russia publicly claims it is working to prevent the transformation of outer space into a battlefield, yet at the same time Moscow continues to weaponize space by developing and fielding on-orbit and ground-based capabilities that seek to exploit U.S. reliance on space-based systems,” said U.S. Army Gen. James Dickinson, U.S. Space Command commander.

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Supersonic & Hypersonic Civilian Transport Projects in Development

Overture supersonic passenger jet (Credit: Boom Supersonic)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Boom Supersonic’s recent rollout of its XB-1 supersonic demonstrator aircraft marked a milestone in an accelerating race to revive an era of civilian supersonic travel that ended when the Concorde jetliner was retired in 2003.

XB-1, aka Baby Boom, is set to begin flight tests next year from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. The Mach 2.2 (2,717 km/h, 1,688 mph) vehicle is the precursor to Boom’s 55-seat Overture airliner, which is scheduled to begin carrying passengers in 2029.

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Isotropic Systems Signs Contract with SES GS to Initiate Multi-Orbit Trials of Next-Gen Multi-beam Antenna Technologies for U.S. Military

READING/RESTON, 24 September 2020 (SES GS PR) – SES Government Solutions (SES GS), a fully-owned affiliate of SES, and Isotropic Systems, a leading developer of transformational broadband terminal technologies, today announced a two-phased antenna evaluation contract with the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, working in close collaboration with the U.S. Army Research Engineering Team, for tests of Isotropic Systems’ multi-beam terminal over SES’s O3b Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) constellation to ultimately unleash next-gen connectivity across the battlefield.  

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BlackSky Announces Next Generation Dual Payload Satellite Architecture to Deliver High Resolution and Nighttime Imaging Capabilities

HERNDON, Va. , September 24, 2020 (BlackSky PR) – BlackSky, a leading provider of global monitoring services, geospatial intelligence and satellite imagery, announced today the next phase of expansion of its high-revisit commercial satellite constellation with the unveiling of its next generation, Gen-3, satellite architecture.

In addition, the company also announced it has conducted the preliminary design review of its Gen-3 satellite design for the U.S. Army Tactical GEOINT (TACGEO) prototype program as part of a multi-year contract with the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU). 

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Raymond and Space Force Enter New, Ambitious Phase as U.S. Space Command Changes Leaders

Gen. John “Jay” Raymond. Chief of Space Operations, U.S. Space Force, Commander, U.S. Space Command, provides remarks at the USSPACECOM Change of Command. Gen. Raymond relinquished command of USSPACECOM to GEN James Dickinson. GEN Dickinson now leads the next generation of space warfighters. Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado Springs, CO. August 20th, 2020. (Credit: Lewis Carlyle)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (AFNS) — In a ceremony that was both crisp and solemn, Army Gen. James H. Dickinson took the reins Aug. 20 of U.S. Space Command, and in the process further cemented space’s ever-enlarging importance in national defense and in countless familiar acts of everyday life.

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Former Astronaut Tim Kopra Joins MDA

Tim Kopra (Credit: NASA)

BRAMPTON, ONT. (MDA PR) — MDA is pleased to announce that retired astronaut Tim Kopra will join its leadership team as Vice President of Robotics and Space Operations, effective immediately. As the leader for this business area, he will be responsible for the work of the robotics and space operations teams at MDA sites in Brampton, Ottawa, Saint-Hubert and Houston.

“We are thrilled to have Tim join our executive leadership team,” said Mike Greenley, Chief Executive Officer of MDA. “As we embark on the next decade of space exploration, with the Artemis lunar program, commercial on-orbit servicing and on-orbit manufacturing, as well increasing activity on Mars, MDA has a large role to play and I believe Tim’s operational experience and leadership skills will be essential to our continued growth and success.”

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Rocket Lab to Launch 3 More Defense Satellites Later This Month

Ellectron launches NASA’s Venture Class CubeSats. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif., April 3, 2019 (Rocket Lab PR) — U.S. small satellite launch company Rocket Lab announced today that it will launch three experimental research and development (R&D) satellites for the U.S. Air Force in April. The mission will lift-off from Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand, carrying three R&D spacecraft to Low Earth Orbit aboard an Electron launch vehicle. The launch will be Rocket Lab’s second orbital mission of 2019, and fifth orbital mission overall.
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Tethers Unlimited Delivers SWIFT K-Band CubeSat Transmitter

SWIFT K-Band CubeSat transmitter (Credit; Tethers Unlimited)

BOTHELL, Wash. (Tethers Unlimited PR) — Tethers Unlimited, Inc. (TUI) announced that it has successfully delivered the first flight unit of its new K-Band transmitter for small satellites to a confidential customer.

Developed under a Small Business Innovation Research contract from the US Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command, the SWIFT®-KTX transmitter builds upon TUI’s high-maturity SWIFT software defined radio platform to enable satellites as small as a loaf of bread to transmit data at rates exceeding 100 megabits per second (Mbps).

Capabilities

SWIFT-KTX provides small satellites with a high-throughput downlink in K-band. When paired with the next generation SWIFT baseband processor and sufficient link margin, real data rates of 500 Mbps or more are achievable using high order modulation (>3 bits/Hz) and Turbo/LDPC encoding.

Two transmitter front-end modules are currently in development. Each module includes a two 2W PAs that directly drive two switchable WR-42 waveguide interfaces for left/right antenna polarization agility. A third ≈10 dBm waveguide output is available before the PAs for driving TWTAs and integrated K-band ESAs.

  • >500 MHz real modulation bandwidth
  • Two discrete designs covering approximately:
    • 18-23 GHz
    • 23-28 GHz
  • ≈ 3 dBm saturated output power w/ ≈20 dB adjustable range
  • Three switchable WR-42 waveguide outputs (two w/ HPAs)

Target Specifications

  • >3 year LEO mission design life
  • 1/3U or smaller: 86×86 x < 40mm
  • < 500 grams
  • 6-36V unregulated DC
    • Integrated latch-up/fault detection and protection
  • Flexible mounting options
    • Flanges for deck mounting
    • Ears for CubeSat rail mounting
  • Power consumption:
    • Current generation 50 MHz baseband processor: ≈3W
    • Next generation 500 MHz baseband processor: ≈15W
    • K/Ka-band module power consumption for 33 dBm output: ≈16W
  • High-speed interface options:
    • 1Gbit Ethernet
    • 200 Mbps SpaceWire (LVDS)
    • 200 Mbps sync. HDLC over LVDS
    • 10+Gbps SERDES (next generation baseband processor only)











Astra Space Set to Launch From Alaska

Astra Space is set for the first flight of its new small-satellite launcher on Thursday from Alaska.

The FAA has granted a launch license to the California company for a suborbital flight of Rocket 1 from Launch Pad 2 at the Pacific spaceport Complex — Alaska on Kodiak Island.

A notice to airmen (NOTAM) about the launch has been posted for April 5 at 2000 UTC and ending on April 6 at 0200 UTC (12 to 6 p.m. AKDT /4 to 10 p.m. EDT).

Details are sparse about the company and booster. However, it is believed that the two-stage rocket will be capable of placing a payload weighing up to 100 kg into orbit.

The Alaska Aerospace Corporation, which runs the Kodiak spaceport, has billed the flight as the first of what it hopes will be many commercial launches from the underused facility.

Formerly known as Ventions LLC, Astra Space is operating under a $2 million contract with NASA to develop and flight test a high performance electric pump-fed launch vehicle. The 18-month contract runs through mid-December.

Founded in 2004, the company has been awarded 29 contracts worth nearly $21 million over the past 11 years from NASA, U.S. Air Force, DARPA, Missile Defense Agency and the U.S. Army.











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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SpaceX Ruled Roost in 2017, Boosting U.S. to No. 1 in Global Launches

Falcon 9 carries the Dragon cargo ship into orbit. (Credit: NASA TV)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

SpaceX had a banner year in 2017, launching a record 18 times and helping to propel the United States to the top of the global launch table with a perfect 29-0 record. The U.S. total made up 32.2 percent of 90 orbital launches worldwide, which was an increase over the 85 flights conducted in 2016.

The 29 American launches were a leap of seven over the 22 flights conducted the previous year. This is the highest number of American orbital launches since the 31 flights undertaken in 1999. However, that year the nation’s launch providers suffered four failures whereas they were perfect in 2017.

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Defense Measure Calls for Arlington Memorial to Apollo 1 Crew

Astronauts, from the left, Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee stand near Cape Kennedy’s Launch Complex 34 during training for Apollo 1 in January 1967. (Credits: NASA)

The National Defense Authorization Act passed by both houses of Congress calls for the construction of a memorial marker to the crew of Apollo 1 at Arlington National Cemetery. The measure awaits President Donald Trump’s signature.

The United States Army will lead the effort to create the memorial in consultation with NASA, the Commission of Fine Arts, and the Advisory Committee on Arlington National Cemetery.

Astronauts Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee were killed when a flash fire swept through their Apollo 1 command module during a practice countdown on Jan. 27, 1967. The astronauts had been scheduled to fly the first manned test of the spacecraft in Earth orbit the following month.

Grissom was one of the original seven Mercury astronauts who became the second American in space aboard Liberty Bell 7 and commanded Gemini 3, the first manned flight of that two-person spacecraft. White became the first American to walk in space during the Gemini 4 mission. Chaffee was scheduled to make his first spaceflight aboard Apollo 1.

The fire resulted in major overhaul of the troubled Apollo command module. The first manned flight of the Apollo program did not occur until October 1968, more than 20 months after the fire.











North Korea’s Kim Jong-un Helping to Keep Alaska Aerospace in Business

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency and U.S. Army soldiers of the 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade from Fort Bliss, Texas, conducted a successful missile defense test on July 30 using the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system. (Credit: MDA)

The nuclear missile threat posed by North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un has proven to be a lifeline to the Alaska Aerospace Corporation and its little used Kodiak launch facilities.

Twice during the past month, the U.S. Army launched Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile interceptors from the The Pacific Spaceport Complex in Kodiak. The tests were done under an $80.4 million contract with the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.

The contract helped revive the struggling agency, which suffered serious damage to its launch facilities in 2014 after a U.S. Army rocket exploded shortly after takeoff. The state-run corporation is eyeing the booming small-satellite market.

One commercial contract that is signed and scheduled for December is with a new space company that cannot now be identified, Campbell said.

Vector Space Systems, an Arizona-based company formerly known as Garvey Spacecraft, has also signed with Alaska Aerospace for test flights of its new Nanosat Launch Vehicle, the Vector-R, in 2018.

A contract that still in negotiation for launches planned in 2018 and 2019, is with Rocket Lab USA, a California-based company that has been in the space business for several years.

Rocket Lab now wants to use Kodiak for launches of its new “Electron” rocket, Campbell said.

Another company in discussions for launches in 2019 is Zero Point Frontiers, based in Alabama, for its 55-foot Xbow Launch Vehicle that will launch small satellites to orbit.

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