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.


Russians Lose Contact With Newly Launched Satellite

UPDATE: TASS reports that controllers have re-established contact with the spacecraft and are receiving telemetry. The report offers no further details at this time.

Russian officials say they have lost contact with the Angosat-1 communications satellite, which was launched from the Baikonur  Cosmodrome on Tuesday aboard a Zenit 2SB booster.

“Contact has temporarily been lost,” the source told AFP, adding specialists were now looking into the matter.

The source said officials had stopped receiving “telemetry data” but called it a “rather common situation” and expressed the hope that contact would be re-established.

The reason for the loss of contact was not immediately clear.

The Russian space agency Roscosmos said the Zenit booster performed as planned, deploying Angola’s first communications satellite into its intended orbit. Contact was lost after the spacecraft separated from the booster’s upper stage.

The spacecraft is a joint $280 million project between Angola and Russia that was funded with credit from Russian banks. The spacecraft was built by Russia’s RSC Energia. Fifty Angolans were trained to operate and maintain Angosat-1 from a control center outside Luanda.

SpaceX to Close Out U.S. Launch Year on Friday

Falcon 9 launch (Credit: SpaceX)

Heads up, SoCal!

SpaceX is set to close out the year with a night launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base on Friday. The The Falcon 9 booster with 10 Iridium Next communications satellite is set to take off at 5:27 p.m. PST. It will be the company’s 18th launch attempt of the year and the 29th for U.S. launch providers.

The SpaceX mission is one of six launches set for the rest of the rest of the year (see list below). If all flights go forward in the next 10 days, there will be a total of 91 orbital launches worldwide in 2017.

Thank you to for this update list of launches.

December 22/23

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payloads: Iridium Next 31-40 communications satellites
Launch Time: 0127:23 GMT on 23rd (8:27:23 p.m. EST; 5:27:23 p.m. PST on 22nd)
Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base, California

SpaceX will not attempt to recover the Falcon 9 first stage on this flight.

Launch Vehicle: H-2A
Payloads: GCOM-C & SLATS environmental satellites
Launch Tme: 0126:22-0148:22 GMT on 23rd (8:26:22-8:48:22 p.m. EST on 22nd)
Launch Site: Tanegashima Space Center, Japan

Launch Vehicle: Long March 2D
Payload: Unidentified military satellite
Launch Time: Approx. 0400 GMT on 23rd (11:00 p.m. EST on 22nd)
Launch Site: Jiuquan, China

Dec. 26

Launch Vehicle: Zenit 3F
Payload: AngoSat communications satellite
Launch Time: 1900 GMT (2:00 p.m. EST)
Launch Site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan

Dec. 27/28

Launch Vehicle: SS-520-5
Payload: TRICOM 1R communications & imaging CubeSat
Launch Window: 0330-0515 GMT on 28th (10:30 p.m.-12:15 a.m. EST on 27th/28th)
Launch Site: Uchinoura Space Center, Japan

Second attempt to launch the SS-520 microsat booster after the first failed in January.


Launch Vehicle: March 2D
Payloads: Superview 1-03 and 04 Earth observation satellites
Launch Time: TBD
Launch Site: Taiyuan, China

Loss of Weather Satellite Adds to Russia’s Near Decade of Launch Failures

Another fine day for Russia’s space program. A Proton crashes with three GLONASS satellites in July 2013. (Credit: Tsenki TV)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

For the second year in a row, Russia came tantalizingly close to breaking a string of launch failures extending back nearly a decade.

In three days, the nation’s space program would have gone 12 months without botching a launch. Thirty days after that, an entire calendar year would have passed without a full or partial launch failure. Last year, Russia came within four days and 30 days of those marks, respectively.


It’s Baaack! Sea Launch to Rise From Watery Grave Again

Zenit lifts off with communications satellite. (Credit: Sea Launch)

It seems you can’t keep a mediocre rocket down.

Sea Launch is coming back. After weathering a bankruptcy and a period of involuntary hibernation, new owners are bringing the troubled launch provider back to life for the third time.

“Work is underway to end the conservation of the complex and to restore launch activities with the use of Zenit carrier rockets in the current configuration until 2023,” S7 told Sputnik International.

Since making its first launch in 1999, Sea Launch has compiled a record of 32 successes, 3 failures and 1 partial failure. The company’s most recent flight was conducted on May 26, 2014.

S7 Sea Launch Orders 12 Zenit Boosters

Zenit lifts off with communications satellite. (Credit: Sea Launch)

DNIPROPETROVSK, Ukraine (Yuzhmash PR) — On April 28 this year, the contract was signed between Yuzhmash and S7 Sea Launch Limited on the production and supply of Zenit-series launch vehicles.

In general, the contract provides for the production of 12 launch vehicles for use in the Sea Launch and Land Launch programs for the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes in the framework of international space projects.

Now in production there are 2 rockets of modifications of Zenit-3SL and Zenit-3SLB.

The signing of this contract made a big step in overcoming the deep crisis in which Yuzhmash stayed since 2013 and which resulted from a massive decline in production volumes.

Persistent three-year work of the company’s specialists brought results. Today Yuzhmash portfolio of orders for the next few years more than 350 mln. US dollars.

Yuzhmash expresses its deep gratitude to the legislative and executive branches of power for providing the unprecedented, as for our enterprise, regulatory and financial support. Without this support, it was impossible to resume production and overcome the crisis.

Yuzhmash’s withdrawal into stable operation regime will create the appropriate conditions for the corporatization of the enterprise and the search for a strategic investor. The implementation of these measures, in turn, is a prerequisite for achieving the main medium-term goal of Yuzhmash, which is to ensure the full involvement of the enterprise in international cooperation in the production of rocket and space technology.



Ukraine Seeking ESA Membership

The chairman of Ukraine’s space agency, Yuri Radchenko. said last week his nation is seeking membership in the European Space Agency (ESA).

“Today, we held talks with the Head of the European Space Agency on this matter,” he explained. “The strategy and the tactics on the matter have been worked out. It is required to fulfill a number of conditions to become a member of the European Space Agency.”

He said the membership could be secured within “a reasonable” timeframe.


Another Year, Another Russian Launch Failure

The Progress 65 spacecraft is pictured at its launch pad Nov. 29 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. (Credit: Roscosmos)
The Progress 65 spacecraft is pictured at its launch pad Nov. 29 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. (Credit: Roscosmos)

They came so close this time.

In another four days, the Russians would have gone a full year without losing a spacecraft in a launch mishap. That’s something that hasn’t happened since 2009-10. In another 30 days, they would have gone an entire calendar year without a launch failure.

The loss of the Progress 65 cargo ship during its launch aboard a Soyuz-U rocket today marks the latest in a string of failures stretching back more than seven years. Since May 2009, Russia has suffered 13 launch failures and four partial failures involving its stable of satellite boosters. (See table below)


S7 Group Acquires Sea Launch Assets

Zenit lifts off with communications satellite. (Credit: Sea Launch)
Zenit lifts off with communications satellite. (Credit: Sea Launch)

MOSCOW, Sept. 27, 2016 (S7 Group PR) — S7 Group today announced that it has signed an agreement with Sea Launch Group to acquire the assets of the Sea Launch complex. The contract was signed today on the sidelines of the IAC 2016, the International Astronautical Congress taking place now in Guadalajara, Mexico.


Sea Launch Could Be Coming Back

Zenit lifts off with communications satellite. (Credit: Sea Launch)
Zenit lifts off with communications satellite. (Credit: Sea Launch)

It looks as if the moribound Sea Launch company could have a new lease on life.

Majority owner Energia has scheduled a press conference with the S7 Group on Tuesday during the International Astronautical Conference in Guadalajara, Mexico. The invitation promises a major announcement about the future of the long troubled venture.


Boeing Say N(ot)yet on Sea Launch Sale

Zenit lifts off with communications satellite. (Credit: Sea Launch)
Zenit lifts off with communications satellite. (Credit: Sea Launch)

The news that Roscosmos has found a buyer for  Sea Launch has sparked more litigation over the troubled launch provider.

Boeing has filed suit to block the sale until it can collect a court judgment of $298 million from its Russian and Ukrainian partners. Boeing won a court case in September that involves payments that RSC Energia and Yuzhnoye owe from previous business dealings.


Russia Says Buyer Found for Sea Launch

Zenit lifts off with communications satellite. (Credit: Sea Launch)
Zenit lifts off with communications satellite. (Credit: Sea Launch)

It looks as if Russia has found someone to take Sea Launch off its hands.

Russia’s space agency Roscosmos has found a buyer for a troubled commercial space project known as Sea Launch, the agency’s director Igor Komarov was cited by the TASS news agency as saying on Wednesday.

“I cannot tell you who the investor is, or the value of the contract, due to certain obligations. I hope that we will have something to say about it by the end of April,” Komarov said. He did, however, say that investors from the U.S., Australia, China and Europe have expressed interest in the project.

The troubled company, which uses a floating platform to launch communications satellite aboard Zenit boosters from the equator, has been on the market for several years. It is majority owned by RSC Energia.

Sea Launch’s last launch was in May 2014. The company has been troubled by launch failures and an inability to secure a significant percentage of the global launch market.

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.