Vega Launches Earth Observation Satellite

On 7 November 2017, Vega flight VV11 lifted off from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana to deliver the Earth observation satellite Mohammed VI-A into orbit for the Kingdom of Morocco. (Credit: ESA)

KOUROU, French Guiana (ESA PR) — Arianespace has launched a Vega rocket to deliver an Earth observation satellite into orbit for the Kingdom of Morocco.

Liftoff of Vega’s 11th mission from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana came at 01:42 GMT on 8 November (02:42 CET; 22:42 local time on 7 November).

With a mass at liftoff of 1110 kg, Mohammed VI-A was manoeuvred into its target Sun-synchronous orbit about 55 minutes into the mission after a series of burns of Vega’s upper stage.

Complying with debris regulations to help keep space clean, Vega’s upper stage fired a final time to burn up high in the atmosphere over the ocean.

Vega is a 30 m-high, four-stage vehicle designed to accommodate small scientific and Earth observation payloads of 300–2500 kg, depending on the orbit.

Arianespace Signs Contract with ELV/AVIO for 10 Vega & Vega C Launchers

Veta lifts off with OPTSAT-3000 and Venµs aboard. (Credit: Arianespace)

LYON, France (Arianespace PR) — Arianespace and ELV/AVIO announced today the signature of a contract for Arianespace to order 10 Vega and Vega C launchers from the Italian manufacturer.

The signing ceremony was attended by French President Emmanuel Macron and Paolo Gentiloni, the President of the Council of Ministers of the Italian Republic, at the Prefecture du Rhône, in Lyon, France, on the occasion of the 34th French-Italian summit.

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Vega Orbits OPTSAT-3000 and Venµs Satellites

Veta lifts off with OPTSAT-3000 and Venµs aboard. (Credit: Arianespace)

KOUROU, French Guiana (Arianespace PR) — For the second time this year – and the 10th overall since entering service in 2012 – Vega has successfully launched a payload from the Spaceport, with this lightweight vehicle’s latest mission delivering the OPTSAT-3000 and Venµs Earth observation satellites to Sun-synchronous orbits.

Lifting off from the Spaceport’s SLV launch complex at precisely 10:58:33 p.m. French Guiana time on August 1, Vega lofted its multi-passenger payload during a flight sequence lasting 1 hour, 37 minutes.
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Mid-Year Launch Report: U.S. (& SpaceX) in the Lead

Screenshot of SpaceX Falcon 9 Bulgaria 1 satellite launch. (Credit: SpaceX)

We are now halfway through 2017, so it seems like a good time to take a look at the year in orbital launches.

ORBITAL LAUNCHES THROUGH JUNE 2017
NATIONSUCCESSES
FAILURES
PARTIAL FAILURESTOTAL
United States130013
Russia8008
China6017
Europe5005
India4004
Japan3104
New Zealand0101
TOTAL392142

A total of 42 launches have been conducted thus far, with 39 successes, two failures and one partial failure. The two failures were inaugural flight tests of new boosters.

American companies have launched 13 times. Nine of those flights have been conducted by SpaceX, giving the company more launches than anyone else thus far. United Launch Alliance successfully three three Atlas V boosters and one Delta IV rocket.

Russia has conducted eight launches. Included in the total are two Russian Soyuz flights conducted from Europe’s spaceport in French Guiana.

China is close behind with seven launches. Six flights were successful, but a Long March 3B booster suffered a partial failure earlier this month that left a spacecraft in a lower-than-planned orbit.

LAUNCHES BY VEHICLE THROUGH JUNE 2017
LAUNCH VEHICLENATIONSUCCESSES
FAILURES
PARTIAL FAILURESTOTAL
 Falcon 9United States9009
 Soyuz 2Russia6006
 Ariane 5 Europe4004
 Atlas VUnited States 300 3
 H-IIAJapan3003
 Long March 3BChina2013
 PSLVIndia2002
 Delta IV United States1 001
 GSLV Mk II India 1 001
 GSLV Mk III India 1 001
KT-2 China 1 001
 Kuaizhou 1 China 1 001
 Long March 2D China 1 001
 Long March 7 China 1 001
 Proton Russia 1 001
 Soyuz-2.1vRussia 1 001
 VegaEurope 1001
 Electron New Zealand0101
 S-520-4 Japan010 1
TOTAL392142

Europe follows with five successful launches, including four using the Ariane 5 booster and one using the Vega launcher.

India launched four times, with the highlight being the successful first orbital test of the new GSLV Mk. III booster. The launch vehicle — the nation’s most powerful to date — had been previously tested during a suborbital flight without an upper stage.

Japan also launched four times with three successes. The maiden flight test of Japan’s new SS-520-4 nanosat launcher failed in January, destroying some CubeSats.

New Zealand made the orbital launch list for the first time this year. The maiden flight test of Rocket Lab’s Electron booster failed to orbit an inert mass. Rocket Lab is a U.S.-New Zealand company.

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ESA Signs Contracts to Improve Ariane 5, Vega Boosters

Vega launch vehicle (Credit: ESA–Stephane Corvaja, 2015)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA Director of Space Transportation, Daniel Neuenschwander, signed five contracts with industry at the Paris Air and Space show in France this week.

“Five contracts, one goal: to consolidate space transportation services and capacities for the benefit of Europe’s competitiveness,” he commented.

Contracts signed with ELV SpA and Airbus Safran Launchers will improve launch performance and flexibility, and maintain the competitiveness of Europe’s current and future space transportation systems.

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Avio Goes Public in Successful Offering

Italian rocket manufacturer Avio SpA, which is the prime contractor and systems integrator for Europe’s Vega booster, went public this week in Milan.

Shares of Avio jumped 11 percent following the listing Monday, which came after a merger with investment vehicle Space2 SpA and marked the exit of private-equity funds led by Cinven Ltd., while doubling the stake held by Italian aerospace and defense group Leonardo SpA.

Chief Executive Giulio Ranzo said in an interview that Avio, maker of the Vega rocket, will now be able to tap capital in a more flexible way, something that’s crucial as the launcher industry is targeted by well-funded entrants such as SpaceX and Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin LLC.

“Our industry is changing a lot,” Ranzo said. “There is an unprecedented move towards more and more commercial demand. If we want to be able to compete we need to be able to mobilize resources, invest in new products and bring them to the market.”

Read the full story.

European Commission Commits to Minimum Ariane 6, Vega C Orders

Ariane 6 variants (Credit: ESA–David Ducros,)

There’s was some good news this week for Airbus Safran Launchers and Arianespace, which were looking for a guaranteed number of orders for their new boosters.

The European Commission will commit to buying at least five Ariane 6 and two Vega C launches per year when both rockets are in operation, Elzbieta Bienkowska, the European Commission’s lead space commissioner, said Wednesday….

“We will aggregate our institutional launches to support those two launchers,” she said…

Bienkowska also said Europe’s confidence in the suitability of Ariane 6 and Vega C, both of which are single-use rockets, remains unshaken by the early success of SpaceX and Blue Origin in demonstrating their reusable rockets.

“We observe very closely the ongoing revolution in the launcher market, especially here in the United States, around the principle of reusability,” she said. “Europe’s answer is the development of the next-generation of cost effective, reliable and competitive European launchers: Ariane 6 and Vega C.”

The launch orders will be aggregated from the European Commission, ESA, Eumetsat and various national space agencies.

Ariane 6, which is the successor to Ariane 5, is expected to begin flight tests in 2020. The booster is designed to lift payloads weighing up to 10.5 tonnes into geostationary transfer orbit.

The Vega C will be an upgraded version of the Vega booster, which can place payloads weighing up to 2.5 tonnes into orbit. The Vega C’s capacity will be increased by at least 300 kg. The booster will use a first stage engine being developed for Ariane 6.

Read the full story.

Arianespace Signed 13 Launch Contracts in Past Year

Flight VS13 was the 13th Soyuz liftoff performed from French Guiana since this vehicle’s 2011 introduction at the Spaceport. (Credit: Arianespace)
Flight VS13 was the 13th Soyuz liftoff performed from French Guiana since this vehicle’s 2011 introduction at the Spaceport. (Credit: Arianespace)

While Elon Musk and SpaceX have been dominating the media spotlight with their spectacular Falcon 9 first-stage landings and even more spectacular launch pad firexplanomaly, Arianespace has quietly went about the task of putting satellites into orbit and signing new launch contracts.

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Orbital Launch Statistics for 2016

The Soyuz MS-02 rocket is launched with Expedition 49 Soyuz commander Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos, flight engineer Shane Kimbrough of NASA, and flight engineer Andrey Borisenko of Roscosmos, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Ryzhikov, Kimbrough, and Borisenko will spend the next four months living and working aboard the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)
The Soyuz MS-02 rocket is launched with Expedition 49 Soyuz commander Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos, flight engineer Shane Kimbrough of NASA, and flight engineer Andrey Borisenko of Roscosmos, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

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There were 85 orbital launches in 2016, not including the Falcon 9 that exploded on launch pad prior to a pre-flight engine test. The launches break down as follow:

  • United States: 22 (22-0)
  • China: 22 (20-1-1)
  • Russia: 19 (18-1)
  • Europe: 9 (9-0)
  • India: 7 (7-0)
  • Japan: 4 (4-0)
  • Israel: 1 (1-0)
  • North Korea: 1 (1-0)

For a more detailed description of these launches, please read US, China Led World in Launches in 2016.

Let’s look at launches by booster and spaceport and the flights that were required for human spaceflight.
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USA, China Led World in Launches in 2016

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the OA-6 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41. (Credit: ULA)
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the OA-6 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41. (Credit: ULA)

Part 1 of 2

The United States and China led the world in orbital launch attempts in 2016 with 22 apiece. The combined 44 launches made up more than half of the 85 flights conducted around the world.

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ESA Approves 10.3 Billion Euro Budget; ISS Extended, ExoMars Funded

ESA logoMinisters from 22 ESA member countries approved a multi-year spending plan of €10.3 billion ($11 billion) for the European space agency, a reduction from the  €11 billion ($11.74 billion) that Director General Jan Dietrich Woerner had sought.

The budget includes an extension of the International Space Station to 2020 to 2024. ESA was the last of the international partners to approve the extension after the United States, Russia, Japan and Canada.

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Commission Approves Airbus Safran Launchers Acquisition of Arianespace

Ariane 6 variants (Credit: Airbus Defense and Space)
Ariane 6 variants (Credit: Airbus Defense and Space)

BRUSSELS (EU PR) — Following an in-depth review, the European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of Arianespace by Airbus Safran Launchers (ASL), a joint venture between Airbus and Safran. This approval is subject to conditions.

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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.

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IMF: Ukraine Space Sector Possibly Suffered 80 Percent Revenue Loss

The first stage of Orbital Sciences Corporation's Antares rocket is shipped out from Yuzhnoye design bureau in Ukraine. (Credt: Yuzhnoye)
The first stage of Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Antares (aka, Taurus II) rocket is shipped out from Yuzhnoye design bureau in Ukraine. (Credt: Yuzhnoye)

The International Monetary Fund estimates the Ukrainian space industry lost up to 80 percent of its revenues following the Russian invasion of the eastern part of the country.

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