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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

This Week in Satellite News! (Feb 13 – Feb 20 2017)

Iridium Selects Target Date for Second Launch of Iridium Next

Iridium Communications has announced a targeted launch date of mid-June for the second mission of 10 Iridium Next satellites. Originally anticipated for mid-April 2017, the date has shifted due to a backlog in SpaceX’s launch manifest as a result of last year’s anomaly on Sept. 1. This second launch will deliver another 10 Iridium Next satellites to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. SpaceX is targeting six subsequent Iridium Next launches approximately every two months thereafter.
“Even with this eight week shift, SpaceX’s targeted schedule completes our constellation in mid-2018,” said Matt Desch, chief executive officer at Iridium.

Falcon 9 liftoff.
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Rocket Lab ships first Electron rocket to launch site

Small satellite launch company Rocket Lab shipped its first orbital launch vehicle to the company’s Launch Complex 1 facility to kick off pre-flight checkouts ahead of a test campaign consisting of three trial launches.
The startup had originally planned to commence test launches in 2016, but opted to perform additional ground testing, give its team some downtime around the Christmas holiday, and also complete infrastructure for the launch facility at Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand, Founder and Chief Executive Peter Beck told SpaceNews Feb. 15.

Rocket Lab Electron It's a Test
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Falcon 9 lifts off on first mission from Kennedy Space Center pad

A SpaceX Falcon 9 lifted off for the first time from a launch site here previously used by Apollo and shuttle missions Feb. 19, placing a Dragon cargo spacecraft into orbit.
The Falcon 9 lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at 9:39 a.m. Eastern and placed the Dragon cargo spacecraft into orbit 10 minutes later. The rocket’s first stage successfully landed at Landing Zone 1, a former launch site at neighboring Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, eight minutes later.

F9 LC-39A launch
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Indian PSLV-C37 Launches Record 104 Satellites in a Single Flight

In its 39th flight, the Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) successfully launched ISRO’s 714-kilogram Cartosat-2 satellite along with 103 co-passenger satellites from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India. This is the 38th successful mission for PSLV in a row.
PSLV-C37 lifted off at 9:28 a.m. Indian Standard Time (IST), as planned. After a flight of 16 minutes and 48 seconds, the satellites achieved a polar sun synchronous orbit of 506 kilometers inclined at an angle of 97.46 degrees to the equator. In the succeeding 12 minutes, all 104 satellites successfully separated from the PSLV fourth stage in a predetermined sequence, beginning with Cartosat-2 series satellite, followed by ISRO NanoSatellite-1 (INS-1) and INS-2.

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Expert panel supports study to accelerate first crewed SLS mission

A panel of former NASA astronauts and officials offered tentative support Feb. 16 for an agency study announced this week to examine putting a crew on the first flight of the Space Launch System.
The witnesses, which included two former astronauts, a former chief scientist and a former center director, were asked about the issue late in a two-and-a-half-hour hearing on NASA by the House Science Committee. The hearing took place a day after NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot announced plans to study the feasibility of putting crew on Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1), currently scheduled to launch in late 2018 without a crew.

NASA artist's concept of SLS.
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GAO drops one weather satellite from list of high-risk missions, but adds another

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued its biennial assessment of high-risk government programs yesterday.  The report addresses programs in all parts of the government, including civil and national security space programs.  NOAA's weather satellites have been on the high-risk list for several years, but GAO praised NOAA's progress with its GOES series of geostationary weather satellites and concluded they no longer warrant inclusion. NOAA's polar orbiting satellites remain on the list.  GAO also added DOD's weather satellite program to the high-risk list because DOD lacks a comprehensive plan for providing required capabilities.

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SpaceX delays next Iridium launch two months

Iridium Communications says SpaceX has pushed back the launch of its second batch of next-generation satellites from mid-April to mid-June, a move that shifts the expected completion date for Iridium Next to the middle of 2018.
In a Feb. 15 statement, Iridium said the two-monthly launch delay is “due to a backlog in SpaceX’s launch manifest as a result of last year’s September 1st anomaly.”
Iridium’s satellites are launching 10 at a time on Falcon 9 rockets lifting off from  from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California — part of what Iridium Chief Executive Matthew Desch described last June as a “separate queue” from SpaceX missions launching from the more frequently used Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. However, that was before a Falcon 9 exploded on the Cape’s Pad 40 during a routine pre-flight test. The accident halted SpaceX launches for four-and-half months. Falcon 9 returned to flight Jan. 14 delivering the first 10 Iridium Next satellites to orbit.

Falcon 9 Iridium-1 launch
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Commercial Space Industry Can Deliver Agility and Innovation for Better Space Resilience

The U.S. government urgently needs to transform its approach to space defense. Slow and onerous procurement processes are stunting the innovation necessary to sustaining the nation’s leadership in the national security space arena. A more responsive approach to acquisition can help the Department of Defense (DOD) boost the resiliency of its space enterprise, and provide access to the agility, diversity, and innovation of the commercial space sector.
Late last year senior government leaders from Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) and senior executives from a variety of companies gathered for the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) annual Executive Forum in Colorado Springs. The theme was “Preparing for Tomorrow’s Fight,” a priority identified in Gen. John Hyten’s Commander’s Strategic Intent. I had the privilege of representing Intelsat General (IGC) as the only commercial satellite operator invited to attend the event.

Can the Commercial Space Industry and National Parks Get Along?
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