Space 

Pentagon budget funds ‘small launch services’ to gain greater access to space

Defense budget establishes a “small launch” program with a dedicated funding line of $192.5 million over five years WASHINGTON — It’s been widely reported that the U.S. military views its satellites in space as prime targets of enemy aggression. But opinions diverge over how to deter and defeat potential attacks. One school of thought is that satellites could be made less attractive targets if the military were able to launch new ones into orbit at will, within minutes or hours of an attack. This approach appears to be gaining traction…

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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 

ESA awards five smallsat launcher study contracts

MOUNTAIN VIEW, California — The European Space Agency on Feb. 8 announced five companies will study potential small launch vehicles for the agency’s Future Launchers Preparatory Programme (FLPP). ArianeGroup, MT Aerospace, European Launch Vehicle, Deimos and PLD Space are all proposing “microlaunchers” for dedicated missions to low-Earth orbit that can be “economically viable,” and “commercially self-sustaining” but “without public funding,” ESA said. “A European commercial microlauncher can meet the growing need for dedicated launch services to companies with small satellites,” Jerome Breteau, manager of ESA’s Future Launchers Preparatory Programme,” said…

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Space 

Getting the cloud above the clouds (and surviving a dry spell)

This article originally appeared in the Dec. 4, 2017 issue of SpaceNews magazine. Sending data to and from different spots on Earth is big business for satellite operators, but Cloud Constellation sees a lucrative opportunity to offer satellites as the ultimate cloud storage solution for sensitive data. The Los Angeles-based startup, now approaching the third anniversary of its founding, has a way to go to fulfill that dream. In September, Cloud Constellation signed a launch agreement with Virgin Orbit for 12 LauncherOne missions, and has a memorandum of understanding with…

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Space 

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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Science 

Boeing and Lockheed Have a New Rival in Space

No one sells more goods and services to the government than Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) and Boeing (NYSE: BA). These two aerospace giants are the Nos. 1 and 2 biggest contractors to the federal government, respectively — and to the Pentagon and NASA — according to a 2016 report by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA). And yet, when it comes to space contracting, these two behemoths now have a new rival. No, I’m not talking about SpaceX. I’m talking about Virgin Orbit. Cosmic Girl Boeing 747 carrying a LauncherOne rocket. More VOX…

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Space 

Relativity Space aims to 3D print entire launch vehicles

This article originally appeared as “A relativistic shift in launch vehicle manufacturing” in the Nov. 20 issue of SpaceNews Magazine There’s no question that additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, has become an important technology in the aerospace industry. A growing number of companies are using the technology to make components for satellites and launch vehicles that are lighter or less expensive than if they were made with conventional techniques, if they could be made at all. One company is taking that technology to an extreme — or, in its view, to…

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Space 

Virgin Orbit wins first Defense Department launch contract

LUXEMBOURG CITY — Virgin Orbit announced Nov. 16 that it has received its first launch contract for a LauncherOne mission from a Defense Department agency. The company said the U.S. Air Force’s Space Test Program partnered with the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx) to make the launch award to Virgin Orbit through an other transactions agreement. The launch will carry a selection of Space Test Program payloads to be selected closer to launch. The award was the result of months of talks between the company and the Defense Department. “We…

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Science 

Saudi Arabia is About to Invest $1 Billion in Branson's Virgin Galactic

Saudi Arabia plans to invest $1 billion in Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic business. The billion-dollar agreement between Branson’s private space venture and Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund will primarily fund Virgin’s space tourism program and will help accelerate the development of a new launch vehicle to send small satellites into orbit. The Saudi Public Investment Fund also has the option on a future investment of up to $480 million in coming years, according to Virgin’s press release. The partnership means the fund will take a “significant” but minority stake…

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