NewSpace News #114 – December 2014

NewSpace News #114 – December 2014

December 13, 2014 NewSpace News

Planet Labs has rebounded quickly after the loss of 26 satellites in the Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket mishap in October. In the 9 days that followed, they have built, tested, secured launch slots, and delivered 2 satellites to Houston to be integrated on SpaceX’s Commercial Resupply Mission (CRS-5) to the ISS, which is scheduled for mid-December. Planet Labs has also partnered with Geoplex, who are specialists in mapping and geographic information systems (GIS), to provide up-to-date mapping services for markets in Australia and New Zealand.
– Updates by Planet Labs

On November 24th, Made In Space has printed itself into history as the first 3D printer to operate in space. The machine has been installed on the International Space Station (ISS) and has printed its own faceplate. This first printer will be used to conduct experiments by manufacturing test coupons and parts, which will be compared to those made on Earth, and the results will be incorporated into the next printer which is scheduled for launch next year. This is an important step forward for 3D printing in space – paving the way for future missions to more effectively live off the land and bringing long-term space settlement that much closer to reality.
– Press Release by Made In Space

As is becoming standard, SpaceX has had another productive month. SpaceX’s CEO and CTO Elon Musk has recently tweeted pictures of the company’s new “autonomous spaceport drone ship” and novel hypersonic grid fins on Falcon 9’s first stage, which will be used for attitude control of the stage upon reentry. In an unrelated tweet, he also teased that SpaceX is hard at work developing large networks of advanced microsatellites, which is likely intended to provide global internet access at low cost.
– Tweets by Elon Musk

Following the tragedy of SpaceShipTwo last Halloween, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has concluded its on-site assessment of the crash and will be independently analyzing all of the video footage and flight data. Currently, the most likely cause seems to be the premature activation of SpaceShipTwo’s feathering system during transonic flight, where the craft transitions from subsonic (below the speed of sound) to supersonic speeds. Sir Richard Branson has pledged to continue onward to realize the dreams of spaceflight that everyone, including the test pilots, have dedicated their time and effort. The second SpaceShipTwo is currently two-thirds constructed, and test flights will resume in 2015 once the spacecraft is complete.
– Press Release by Virgin and NTSB, Article by Bloomberg

[Note: The plume is clear due to liquid hydrogen propellant!!!] XCOR Aerospace has made a significant step forward in the development of their XR-5H25 pump-fed liquid-hydrogen-liquid-oxygen (LH2-LOX) engine. A successful hot fire test this month marks a milestone in an ongoing program with United Launch Alliance (ULA) and two firsts in the history of rocketry. This was the first time LH2-LOX was fed to a rocket engine using a piston pump. This was also the first American-made engine of its size to fire using a pump-fed LH2-LOX mixture.
– Press Release by XCOR

Two of the co-founders of Paragon Space Development Corporation, President Jane Poynter and CEO Taber MacCallum, have left the company to lead Paragon’s spinoff company, World View Enterprises. The announcement was made days after the success of World View’s successful demonstration of StratEx, where Google executive Alan Eustace broke the record for longest sky dive. Grant Anderson, who was the Chief Operating Officer, has assumed the responsibilities of Poynter and MacCallum.
– Article by Arizona Daily Star

Since the explosion of the Antares rocket in October, Orbital Sciences Corporation has been working to establish a plan to fulfill its contract with NASA to provide resupply missions to the ISS and to reestablish its launch capability. Orbital has announced that it will be accelerating the development of an upgraded Antares and will most likely replace the problematic Russian engines. The launchpad also suffered damage, and repairs will be undertaken quickly in order to resume launch operations from Wallops Island in 2016.
– Blog Post by Project Loon

Reynolds, Smith, & Hills (RS&H), in partnership with Sierra Nevada Corp (SNC), has presented research on the feasibility and value of landing Dream Chaser at standard public-use airports with minimal interruption or unusual impact on daily operations. Presented at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, the spacecraft’s current capabilities were summarized, as well as plans for the future. SNC has detailed their efforts to meet all current and future environmental and safety requirements as they continue to develop Dream Chaser’s landing capabilities.
– Press release by SNC

Just as Orbital Outfitters (OO) and XCOR Aerospace are getting settled in at Midland, TX, the governor’s office has informed them that they will soon have neighbors. “Spaceport Business Park” as it is being called is coming to Midland. Starting with XCOR and OO, the state of Texas hopes to help Midland become “one of the premier sites in the world” for the aerospace industry. Presumably, in preparation to compete with the growing list of spaceports (e.g. Spaceport America, NM; Mojave Air & Spaceport, CA; Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, VA…), the governor’s office is providing a $2M grant to develop the area, and both XCOR and OO strongly support the idea of bringing more “space” to the area.
– Article by Midland Reporter Telegram

UrtheCast, the company developing the “first UltraHD video platform of Earth from space,” has reported 3rd quarter earnings this month. The company has yet to report profits, but it is inching closer to the breakeven point. Their comprehensive year-to-date loss is $11.9M, which is $2.5M less than the same time last year, which was $14.4M. That said, the company has received the final signature and an “Authorization to Proceed” or ATP from a confidential customer, valued at $65M. This will provide the company with valuable capital for development and hopefully boost UrtheCast across that revenue threshold.
– Blog Updates by Urthecast

OmniEarth (Omni) has partnered with Ball Aerospace (Ball) on the construction of 18 midsize imaging satellites. Straddling the line between smallsats and fullsize communications platforms, Omni’s satellites will be “about the size of a dishwasher.” Omni plans to fill the gap between companies like Planet Labs that will provide lower quality images but with high revisit time and DigitalGlobe that provides sub-meter, high resolution images. Ball will be developing high-quality imaging instruments based on the technology used in one of NASA’s much larger imaging satellites, Landsat 8. The instrument will be scaled down to fit Omni’s smaller platform, and the satellites will be launched in an overlapping constellation, allowing users to track earthly events at a daily scale.
– Article by Forbes

Swiss Space Systems (S3) has completed a drop-test flight campaign in Canada. They tested their flight systems including their avionics systems, drone systems, and various instruments and sensors. These will be integrated into a scaled down mock-up of their SOAR suborbital shuttle, which will be tested next Spring.
– Press Release by S3

Deep Space Industries (DSI) has announced a partnership with Solid Prototype who will provide 3D printing services. DSI has also welcomed mining entrepreneur Julian Malnic to its board, and Meagan Crawfordhas joined DSI as their Public Relations and Communications Manager.
– Press Releases by DSI

The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) and its partner Boeing has awarded three projects a combined total of $600,000 through the MassChallenge Startup Incubator. The experimenters plan to use the unique microgravity environment of the International Space Station (ISS) to further the research of their technologies. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC), and CASIS has announced the “Galactic Grant Competition” that targets Massachusetts-based companies to submit life-sciences experiments on the ISS, and the state intends to spend $1 billion over the next 10 years to encourage the local life sciences ecosystem. Finally, CASIS has awarded a total of $800,000 spread across three projects that are focused on material science using the ISS.
– Press Releases by CASIS

Boeing has awarded Raytheon a contract to build hyperspectral imaging instruments for the two satellites that Boeing is manufacturing for HySpecIQ, a commercial Earth-imaging venture company. The information captured by this technology can provide further insights of the ground and atmosphere, such as “mineral content of soil, characterize atmospheric pollutants and distinguish physical properties of materials otherwise undetectable to the naked eye.”
– Press Release by Raytheon

Google has been working on providing Internet using balloons in their Project Loon. They have been working on automating the balloon manufacturing process and increasing its lifespan. Many of their balloons can now last beyond 100 days in the stratosphere. Improvements are being made to their operations, enabling them to autofill and deploy up to 20 balloons a day, and using simulation, they are improving their deployment accuracies, which is important for consistent global coverage.
– Blog Post by Project Loon

Quick One-Liners

Axelspace Successfully Launches Hodoyoshi-1 Microsat [Press Release]
Carnegie Mellon & Astrobotic Unveils Lunar Rover Andy [Press Release]
Masten Suits Up XaeroB With Fairings And Panels [Twitter]
Google Leases Moffett Field From NASA For 60 Years [USA Today]
Skybox Releases Nighttime 1080p Video Of Las Vegas [Blog Post]