NewSpace News #117 – February 2015

NewSpace News #117 – February 2015

February 1, 2015 NewSpace News

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Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop

To start things off this month, SpaceX delivered another round of goods to the ISS and very nearly succeeded in propulsively landing their reusable Falcon booster stage on an autonomous landing pad in the middle of the ocean [crash clip]. In preparation for future landings, a draft environmental assessment has also shown support for the construction of a new landing pad at Cape Canaveral. The U.S. Air Force (USAF) has pushed military payload certification of the Falcon 9 to mid-2015 and the two have come to a resolution regarding SpaceX’s protest of ULA block-buy contracts. Unphased, Elon has announced that SpaceX will soon be expanding into the satellite market with aims to kick start the global internet bandwagon. The project will be based out of the company’s new office in Seattle. Google and Fidelity Investments have also contributed $1B in financing. The company continues with plans for upcoming abort tests of their soon-to-be-human-rated Dragon V2. Statements by SpaceX

Space Station, And Step On It!

NASA has held a press conference on the future plans of its commercial crew program, which had been under wraps while the protest on the selection for the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts was being evaluated. Boeing plans to begin manufacturing its CST-100 after a critical design review in March, conduct a manned test flight in July 2017, and begin operational missions to the International Space Station in December 2017. SpaceX plans on flying an uncrewed version of Dragon to the ISS in 2016 and test crewed versions in early 2017. Release by NASA

Your Milestones May Vary

Google Lunar XPRIZE has announced that five teams have been awarded a combined $5.25 million in recognition of fulfilling milestones towards the quest to land a private spacecraft on the surface of the moon.  The awards go to: Astrobotic (US) for imaging, mobility, and landing, Hakuto (Japan) for mobility, Moon Express (US) for imaging and landing, Part-Time Scientists (Germany) for imaging and mobility, and Team Indus (India) for landing. The prize is sorted by category, with imaging fetching $250,000, mobility $500,000, and landing $1M. Congratulations to all teams for their success in demonstrating hardware tests and extensive design information and analysis to the judging panel. An example of some of the testing is from Moon Expresstesting its lunar lander MX-1 at Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility (KSC/SLF). Vehicle testing proved stable attitude control, propulsion performance, and flight profiles of the vehicle’s landing and mobility capabilities. Release by GLXP

Lynx Almost Ready To Pounce

XCOR Aerospace continues its progress on the passenger space plane, Lynx, that will provide passengers a co-pilot view of Earth from space for $90,000 at a height of 300,000 ft. The structure was tested to the equivalent of 6G re-entry forces while the cabin was submitted to its first pressure test. Flight tests are expected to occur at the end of the year. It is estimated that passenger flights could begin anytime 6-18 months after the first test flight, putting the timeline close to the end of 2016. Luminox has also announced that their partnership with Space Expedition Corporation (SXC) now also includes XCOR. Releases by XCOR, Luminox

Coming Back Strong

Planet Labs has recently raised $95M in Series C financing. This comes shortly after the successful launch of two more Doves, for a total of 73 satellites in orbit. These two Doves represent the company’s impressive turnaround time – built in just over a week and replacing those lost on Antares last October. The Planet Labs team continues to expand with the addition of Zachary Bogue to the Board of Directors and Tom Barton joining as COO. Release by Planet Labs


Qualcomm and The Virgin Group have invested in WorldVu to connect the other half of the world’s population that lacks access to Internet. WorldVu, which has rebranded itself as OneWeb, plans to launch a low Earth orbit satellite constellation consisting of 648 microsatellites, and it has selected Virgin Galactic and its LauncherOne rocket as the first launch service provider. Statement by Virgin, Article by Businesswire

Shooting For The Stratosphere

Stratolaunch Systems has completed 40% of the assembly of its 300 ft wide aircraft.  The first flight is targeted for 2016, and President Kevin Mickey has stated that the company has built 80% of the aircraft’s composites by weight. Stratolaunch is a flexible launching platform that will be able carry satellites, Orbital’s Pegasus Air Launch Vehicle, and possibly other payloads. Defense Daily Article

Cushioning The Blow

In New Mexico, Spaceport America has sought additional funding from the state in order to cover the potential revenue shortfall due to the delay in Virgin Galactic’s schedule to start flying customers. NM Governor Susana Martinez requests $1.7M from the state to be used for Spaceport America’s operational funding to address shortfalls from launch delays. This funding would only be used if needed as it is important to have a cushion. Articles by Las Cruces SunSilver City Sun

Resounding Approval To Join Forces

With near unanimity on both sides (97 and 99 percent of votes, respectively), the ATK – Orbital Sciences Corp. merger has been approved by shareholders. These votes were among the final steps to complete the process. ATK plans to first spin off their sporting goods division, and the new company, Orbital ATK Inc., is slated to start trading on Feb. 10 under the symbol OA. Article by Spacenews

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

In the wake of SpaceX’s efforts, the French space agency, CNES, has begun research on reuseable rocket technology. European-Russian efforts have been made in the past, but refurbishment was deemed too difficult economically without greatly increased launch rhythm. Usable results are likely some ways down the road, but Europe continues progressing towards the Ariane 6, which should significantly reduce launch costs. Article by Spacenews

Quick One Liners
CASIS & MLC Launch Galactic Grant Competition [Link]
Firefly enters Space Act Agreement with NASA [Link]
Urthecast Announces Advisory Board [Link]
Steve Knight Sworn into Congress [Link]
Scaled Composites Receives Award for Excellence [Link]
Sarah Brightman and Satoshi Takamatsu Begin Astronaut Training [Link]