Space 

Canadian Space Agency president not surprised by NASA ISS transition plans

TORONTO — The president of the Canadian Space Agency said he is taking a “wait and see” approach to NASA’s plans to end funding of the International Space Station in the mid-2020s, citing the lack of detail. In an interview after a speech at the Canadian SmallSat Symposium here Feb. 13, Sylvain Laporte said he was not particularly surprised by the plans, included in NASA’s fiscal year 2019 budget proposal released the day before. Those plans call for stimulating the development of commercial low Earth orbit capabilities, including those that…

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Space 

FCC chairman urges approval for SpaceX’s satellite internet constellation

WASHINGTON — Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai wants his agency approve SpaceX’s 15-month-old application to serve the U.S. with its proposed megaconstellation. In a statement released just days before SpaceX launches its first two prototype satellites, Pai urged support of the company’s application within the FCC, saying Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX can help reach rural and isolated parts of the country with high-speed Internet. “To bridge America’s digital divide, we’ll have to use innovative technologies. SpaceX’s application — along with those of other satellite companies seeking licenses or access to the U.S.…

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Space 

Largest cubesat operators say 25-year deorbit guideline a priority

MOUNTAIN VIEW, California — Planet and Spire, operators of the two largest commercial cubesat constellations in orbit, say they manage their fleets to prevent retired spacecraft from lingering in space beyond internationally accepted guidelines. Speaking at the SmallSat Symposium here Feb. 7, officials from Planet and Spire said the companies have self-imposed rules to ensure their satellites burn up in Earth’s atmosphere within 25 years of shutting down, as suggested by the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination (IADC) committee. Earth-observation company Planet has 200 satellites in low Earth orbit, making its…

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Space 

New companies needed to maintain small satellite market growth

WASHINGTON — The number of small satellites launched in 2017 exceeded even the most optimistic forecasts, but continued growth of the market will require new companies to start deploying constellations in the next few years. The annual report by Atlanta-based SpaceWorks Engineering, published Jan. 30, found that more than 300 satellites weighing between 1 and 50 kilograms launched in 2017. That total far exceeded the 182 the company has forecast for 2017 in its previous report a year ago, and even eclipsed the more than 250 it projected for the…

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Space 

Sigfox’s CTO on where satellite fits in an IoT-only network

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 20, 2017 issue of SpaceNews magazine. Sigfox is forming a network uniquely designed for the Internet of Things (IoT), essentially building the infrastructure for legions of devices to share digital information. French global satellite operator Eutelsat is among Sigfox’s backers, participating in a $115 million capital raise in 2015 that ranked as the largest venture capital round in France’s history. Last November Sigfox raised another $159 million, furthering its development of a worldwide network for devices. Raoul Mallart, Sigfox’s chief technology officer, envisions…

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Space 

Rocket Lab launch also tested new kick stage

SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – The successful launch of Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket Jan. 20 also tested a kick stage designed to circularize the orbits of its satellite payloads. The company said Jan. 23 that the Electron carried a kick stage for the two Lemur-2 cubesats it launched for Spire. The kick stage separated from the Electron’s upper stage and, after a 40-minute coast phase, fired an engine called Curie to circularize its orbits before releasing the cubesats. The Electron’s upper stage placed the kick stage, as well as a…

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Space 

Kepler confirms health of LEO Ku-band cubesat

WASHINGTON — Kepler Communications, a Canadian startup designing a low-Earth-orbit constellation for satellite connectivity, says its first satellite is performing as expected following a Jan. 19 launch on China’s Long March 11 rocket. Kepler’s cubesat satellite was one of six satellites that China Great Wall Industry Corp. launched from China’s oldest spaceport, the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert. Nicknamed Kipp after a robot in the 2014 sci-fi movie “Interstellar,”  the 30-centimeter by 10-centimeter by 10-centimeter nanosatellite is the first of two demonstration satellites Scotland’s Clyde Space built for Kepler,…

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Space 

Rocket Lab Electron reaches orbit on second launch

Updated 10:30 p.m. Eastern with comments from Rocket Lab’s Peter Beck. WASHINGTON – Rocket Lab announced Jan. 20 that the second launch of its Electron small rocket was a success, reaching orbit and deploying three cubesats. The Electron lifted off from the company’s launch site on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula at 8:43 p.m. Eastern (2:43 p.m. local time Jan. 21) on the second day of a nine-day launch window for the mission. A launch attempt a day earlier was scrubbed by a combination of boats in restricted waters off the…

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GomSpace taps Virgin Orbit to launch nanosatellites for tracking ships and planes

WASHINGTON — Virgin Orbit, which expects to debut the air-launched LauncherOne rocket by summer, signed a contract Jan. 16 with GomSpace to send eight nanosatellites into orbit  next year to track airplanes and ships. GomSpace, a Danish cubesat manufacturer, bought the launch on behalf of Aerial & Maritime Ltd. (A&M), a Mauritius-based startup GomSpace spun off to operate a constellation of 80 ship-and-plane-tracking satellites by 2021. In a joint statement, Virgin Orbit and GomSpace said the early 2019 launch will put the satellites into a low-inclination orbit. GomSpace CEO Niels…

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Space 

PSLV launch a milestone for India and several companies

WASHINGTON — The successful launch of an Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) Jan. 11 marked not just the return to flight of the rocket but also major achievements for several of the companies with payloads on board the vehicle. The PSLV lifted off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in India at 10:59 p.m. Eastern Jan. 11, carrying a Cartosat-2 remote sensing satellite and 30 secondary payloads. All the payloads were successfully deployed into two low Earth orbits within two hours of launch. The launch was the first for…

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