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GIT Satellite News

This Week in Satellite News!

(Jan 22 - Jan 29 2018)

SpaceX sets first Falcon Heavy launch for Feb. 6

SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk said Jan. 27 that the company will attempt a first launch of its Falcon Heavy rocket on Feb. 6. 
The announcement came three days after the rocket completed a static-fire test at Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, a final test milestone before the launch itself. Musk said the test was “good” shortly after the test, but neither he nor the company provided additional details. 

Falcon Heavy on pad
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Ariane 5 Narrowly Avoids Disaster in First Launch of 2018

An Ariane 5 rocket managed to orbit two communications satellites and a NASA scientific payload on Jan. 25, despite an anomaly that threatened to tarnish Arianespace’s pristine launch record. Late Thursday evening, Arianespace was unable to acquire the rocket’s telemetry after it slipped under the horizon, but Arianespace Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Stephane Israel later confirmed that SES and YahSat have both made contact with their respective satellites. 

Image result for ariane 5 rocket SES and YahSat
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Potential end of the ISS raises concerns, presents opportunities

The White House’s next budget request for NASA will likely include plans to end the agency’s operations of the International Space Station by the mid-2020s, a plan that could create new opportunities for commercial space ventures but has already generated opposition from one key senator. 
A draft budget document for the agency’s fiscal year 2019 budget proposal calls for “ending direct federal government support of the ISS by 2025” as one of several items intended to implement Space Policy Directive 1, the executive order signed by President Trump Dec. 11 directing NASA to return humans to the moon. The document, rumors about which had been circulating in the space industry in recent days, was first reported by The Verge Jan. 24. 

International Space Station. Credit: NASA
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Reports of National 5G Network Bring Uncertainty to the Industry

The U.S. government is considering building a national 5G network to counter the risks of China interfering on emerging technology such as, self-driving cars, IOT, or spying on phone calls. However, it is unclear of how that network would be built and paid for, as well as how it would affect current telecom operators’ plans and satellite spectrum utilization. 

Congress 5G
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Solar panel suppliers adjust to GEO satellite slowdown

Suppliers of solar panels and related equipment for the space industry are pivoting to serve customers planning satellites for low and medium Earth orbits as the slow down in geostationary satellite orders persists.
Commercial satellite operators ordered just seven geostationary telecommunications satellites in 2017 — well below the 20 to 25 orders considered normal in years past. Orders for 2016 and 2015 topped out in the teens (still below average, but better than last year). 

Boeing employees extend the solar panels on Intelsat-35e, which launched last July on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Credit: Boeing
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Is the End Near for the Satellite Dish?

During its recent financial results reporting, U.K. broadcaster and Internet Service Provider (ISP)Skyannounced it will launch Sky over fiber in Italy and the company’s first all-IP service in Austria, “both without the need for a satellite dish,” according to Jeremy Darroch, group chief executive at Sky. 
The service will include all Sky channels and on-demand content streamed over IP. The question remains: will other broadcasters follow this step? Will this mean the end of the satellite dish? 

Eutelsat Dish
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Google Lunar X Prize to end without winner

The foundation running the Google Lunar X Prize announced Jan. 23 that the $20 million grand prize for a commercial lunar lander will expire at the end of March without a winner. 
The X Prize Foundation said none of its five finalist teams would be able to launch a mission before the current deadline of March 31. That deadline has been extended several times in the past, but foundation officials previously said there would be no further extensions of the competition. 
“This literal ‘moonshot’ is hard, and while we did expect a winner by now, due to the difficulties of fundraising, technical and regulatory challenges, the grand prize of the $30M Google Lunar XPRIZE will go unclaimed,” said a statement by Peter Diamadis, founder and executive chairman of the X Prize Founation, and Marcus Shingles, chief executive of the foundation. The $30 million refers to both the grand prize as well as a $5 million second prize and several ancillary prizes. 

SpaceIL lander
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Ariane 6 Gets Closer to Flight with Vulcain Engine Test Firing

The German Aerospace Center (DLR) has successfully tested the Vulcain 2.1 engine at its P5 test facility in Lampoldshausen, Germany. The Vulcain 2.1 will power the main stage of the Ariane 6 launcher, which will fly for the first time in 2020. 
This is a version of the Ariane 5 Vulcain 2 engine specially adapted for the Ariane 6 main stage to simplify production and to lower costs. To reach these objectives the engine integrates technologies such as a gas generator built using 3D printing, a simplified divergent nozzle, and an oxygen heater for tank pressurization. These adaptations contribute to achieving the cost targets set for the Ariane 6 launcher, while retaining the efficiency and reliability demonstrated on Ariane 5, according to ArianeGroup. 

Ariane 6 undergoes its first test firing at DLR's Lampoldshausen site. Photo: DLR.
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(Jan 15 - Jan 22 2017)

SpaceX, Iridium set March 18 launch date for fifth Iridium Next mission

WASHINGTON — SpaceX and mobile satellite services provider Iridium, now halfway through deploying the Iridium Next constellation, are preparing for their fifth mission on March 18 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. 
The Falcon 9 launch is expected to kick off a “rapid-cadence launch schedule targeting completion of the Iridium manifest by mid-2018,” according to a Jan. 22 Iridium statement. 
Iridium CEO Matt Desch told SpaceNews by email that the rapid cadence equates to “an average of about 5 weeks between launches to ensure we complete launch 8 mid-year.” 

Falcon 9 Iridium-3
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Government shutdown offers warning of impacts to government and commercial space

The first federal government shutdown in more than four years came to a swift end Jan. 22 but served as a warning of what a future shutdown could do to both government and commercial space efforts. 
The Senate reached an agreement Jan. 22 on a modified version of a continuing resolution (CR) that will fund the government through Feb. 8, eight days earlier than the version that failed to win passage in the Senate late Jan. 19, triggering the shutdown. The House then passed the CR and President Trump signed it into law that evening. 

NASA TV shutdown
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How Secure Are In-Flight Connectivity Systems?

The aviation world has come a long way from the days when the extent of connectivity in the cabin revolved around self-contained in-flight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) systems comprising a server, distribution system and seatback displays. Being connected was limited to watching a movie offered by the airline or scanning pre-recorded news broadcasts. 
Then came SwiftBroadband service followed by more powerful high-bandwidth satellites and Wi-Fi in the cabin, and with it, a proliferation of passenger smartphones and other devices. It’s not surprising that 81 airlines today offer a full range of IFEC services with the ability for travelers to connect their personal electronic devices (PEDs) to the aircraft’s wireless network. 

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NASA 2019 budget expected to include lunar exploration program details

Details about how NASA will implement a space policy directive regarding a human return to the moon will be in the agency’s 2019 budget request, scheduled for release as soon as early February. 
NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot, speaking at a Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) civil space forum here Jan. 18, didn’t discuss specifics of those plans, but suggested both international and commercial partnerships would play key roles in NASA’s approach to implementing Space Policy Directive 1. That directive, signed by President Trump Dec. 11, instructed NASA to return humans to the moon “for long-term exploration and utilization” as a step towards later missions to Mars “and other destinations.” 

Lightfoot CSIS
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Virgin Orbit to Launch GomSpace Nanosatellites

GomSpace has purchased a launch for several nanosatellites onboard a LauncherOne rocket from the California-based company Virgin Orbit. The flight, which is bound for a low-inclination orbit, is scheduled to occur in early 2019. 
GomSpace will use the launch to further build out a constellation of small satellites that will use Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) and Automatic Identification System (AIS) signal monitoring to track civilian aircraft and ocean-going vessels. This satellite constellation will provide continuous monitoring between 37 degrees north and 37 degrees south, helping provide global situational awareness for air-traffic controllers and shipping companies, and aiding in the identification and location of wayward or missing planes and ships.

LauncherOne Virgin Galactic Cosmic Girl
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A changing of the guard in NASA’s hunt for exoplanets

Sometime later this year NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, orbiting the sun more than 150 million kilometers from the Earth, will fire its thrusters for the final time. The spacecraft is running out of the hydrazine fuel used by those thrusters to maintain the spacecraft’s orientation. Once the thrusters sputter and shut down, their fuel exhausted, Kepler will no longer be able to control its pointing, and the mission will end. 
The project isn’t quite sure exactly when that will happen, since the calculation depends on rates of fuel usage and the challenges of measuring just how much hydrazine is left in the spacecraft’s tanks. “The fuel is expected to last somewhere between the spring and summer of 2018,” said Gary Blackwood, manager of NASA’s Exoplanet Exploration Program, at a Jan. 7 meeting of a NASA exoplanet advisory group. He added that the spacecraft’s manufacturer, Ball Aerospace, “has found very creative ways” to stretch out that remaining fuel. 

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Rocket Lab Electron reaches orbit on second launch

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 launch site and a technical issue with the rocket.

Rocket Lab Electron launch
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ULA Launches NRO 47 Payload on Delta 4 Rocket

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta 4 rocket carrying a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Jan. 12. Because the mission — designated NROL 47 — is classified, NRO has not released information on what the satellite will be used for, stating only that the mission is in support of national defense. 
ULA launched the mission aboard a Delta 4 Medium+ (5, 2) configuration Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) powered by one common booster core (powered by an RS-68A liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engine) and two solid rocket motors built by Orbital ATK. A single RL10B-2 liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engine powered the second stage. Aerojet Rocketdynemanufactured both the booster and upper stage engines. 

Image result for ULA Launches NRO 47 Payload on Delta 4 Rocket
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