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Monday, October 30, 2017

This Week in Satellite News! (Oct 23 – Oct 30 2017)

Inmarsat taps Arianespace for fifth Global Xpress launch

British satellite operator Inmarsat will launch its next Global Xpress satellite on an Ariane 5 rocket from Arianespace, the companies announced today.
The mission, slated for the second half of 2019, follows four other Global Xpress satellites, the first three of which launched on International Launch Services Proton rockets, followed by the fourth on a SpaceX Falcon 9. Global Xpress is Inmarsat’ Ka-band high-throughput constellation, operating in geosynchronous orbit.

Image result for Arianespace inmarsat
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SpaceX ties ULA’s annual launch record with 16th launch this year

SpaceX’s Oct. 30 launch of the Koreasat-5A telecommunications satellite doubled the number of Falcon 9 missions completed in a single year and ties the company with United Launch Alliance’s record of 16 launches in one year.
The successful mission took off from Cape Canaveral, Florida at 3:34 p.m. Eastern, deploying the satellite 36 minutes after liftoff. The Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage booster overcame choppier waters from tropical storm Philippe to land on the drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You” nine minutes later in the Atlantic Ocean.

SpaceX Falcon 9 Koreasat 5A launch
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Honeywell’s Connected Aircraft Hardware Certified for Helicopters

The helicopter industry can now take advantage of higher-speed onboard Wi-Fi, video transmission and telemedicine capability in Europe and North America using Honeywell’s Connected Aircraft solution, the Aspire 200 system, the company announced.
Honeywell was awarded a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) for the Aspire 200 satellite communications system on the Airbus Helicopters AS350 and Sikorsky UH-60 Blackhawk and has applied for an FAA STC for the Bell 429, while Transport Canada has certified the system on the Bell 429. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) approvals for those helicopters are also underway. In addition, EASA recently approved the installation of the Aspire 200 system on the Leonardo AW139 helicopter.

Airbus Helicopters delivers new Mississippi-built AS350 B3e helicopter to Mississippi Department of Public Safety. Photo: Airbus Helicopters.
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Globalstar Provides Satellite Tech to Protect Norway’s Reindeer

Globalstar Europe Satellite Services announced that its technology is at the heart of the SaveMyReindeer Internet of Things (IOT) solution developed by specialist animal tracking provider, FindMy. Accordign to FindMy, the solution is designed to prevent trains from colliding with reindeer in Norway’s hinterland.
Hundreds of kilometers of Norway’s railroads, reaching inside the Arctic Circle, traverse territories inhabited by the region’s indigenous Sami people, for whom keeping herds of reindeer as livestock has for millennia been central to their culture and economy. These animals roam free, often migrating into Sweden and Finland.

Reindeer traverse the Norwegian hinterlands. Photo: Globalstar.
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How close are high-altitude platforms to competing with satellites?

Balloons, airships, unmanned planes and other so-called pseudo satellites loitering in the stratosphere are likely to enrich the global communications and Earth-observation ecosystem in the not-so-distant future.
Google, an especially deep-pocketed proponent of these satellite alternatives,  demonstrated again this week that at least some high-altitude pseudo satellites have passed the purely research and development stage, when it dispatched its helium-filled balloons, developed as part of the Google Loon Project, to provide basic internet and text messaging services to a Puerto Rico still reeling from Hurricane Maria more than month ago.

Google deployed its Project  Loon high-altitude balloons to Puerto Rico to provide LTE service to the storm-ravaged island. Credit: Google Project Loon
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NanoRacks Has Deployed its Largest Microsatellite from ISS

NanoRacks has successfully deployed the Kestrel Eye 2M (KE2M) microsatellite via the company’s Kaber Microsatellite Deployer from the International Space Station (ISS). This is the largest satellite NanoRacks has deployed to date, and the first deployed from the Kaber deployer.
According to NanoRacks, the Kaber program allows for a larger “express” class of satellites to be deployed from ISS, up to 100 kg. NanoRacks deploys these Kaber-class satellites currently through the Japanese Experiment Module Airlock, and will shift deployments to the NanoRacks airlock module when the company’s commercial airlock becomes operational in 2019.

Image result for Microsatellite NanoRacks
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MicroLink Develops New Solar Cell Tech for Department of Energy

MicroLink Devices has entered into an exclusive license agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to commercialize Inverted Metamorphic Multi-Junction (IMM) solar cell technology. The IMM solar cell architecture enables the manufacture of solar cells with very high efficiency as well as light weight, which are ideal for powering satellites and solar aircraft.

MicroLink's ELO-based IMM wafers. Photo: MicroLink Devices.
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Vector to perform first orbital launches from Virginia

Vector, an Arizona-based company that has done test flights from California and Georgia, announced Oct. 19 it plans to make its first orbital launch from a Virginia site as soon as next summer.
Vector announced an agreement with the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority for three launches of the company’s Vector-R rocket from Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS), the commercial launch facilities on Wallops Island, Virginia, in the next two years. The agreement includes an option for five additional launches.

Vector-R Wallops
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Monday, October 23, 2017

This Week in Satellite News! (Oct 16 – Oct 23 2017)

Iridium switches next two launches to pre-flown Falcon 9s to preserve schedule

Mobile satellite services provider Iridium will use previously flown Falcon 9 first stages for its next two launches in order not to miss its mid-2018 goal for completing the Iridium Next constellation.
The first Iridium mission with a previously flown Falcon 9 first stage will take place Dec. 22 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, according to an Iridium statement. That launch, its fourth with SpaceX overall, will be followed by the second pre-flown mission early next year.
That will leave just three launches for Iridium and SpaceX to complete by the middle of next year.

Falcon 9 SpaceX Iridium-2
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Mapbox Tracks California Wildfires with DigitalGlobe Imagery

Mapbox has published a new map to give people affected by the wildfires in Northern California and across the United States access to the up-to-date information on fire perimeters in relation to specific locations and addresses.
Using data coming from the Geospatial Multi-Agency Coordination project and from the agencies and first responders on the ground, this map allows anyone to search a specific address to see where it falls in relation to the fire perimeters for wildfires burning across the United States.

DigitalGlobe uses a Shortwave Infrared (SWIR) sensor built by Harris on its WorldView 3 satellite to penetrate the smoke and detect heat beneath. Photo: DigitalGlobe.
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Blue Origin conducts first test of BE-4 engine

Blue Origin announced Oct. 19 that it conducted the first successful test of its BE-4 engine, a major milestone for both the company’s launch vehicle plans as well as for United Launch Alliance.
Blue Origin, in a tweet, said its first hotfire test of the BE-4 engine was a success. The company included a six-second video, taken from several angles, of the engine firing on a test stand, but provided no other information, including the date, duration or thrust level of the test. A Blue Origin spokesperson said the company was not releasing additional information about the test at this time.

BE-4 hotfire
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Reconnecting Puerto Rico: Perspective from the American Red Cross

Nearly a month after Hurricane Maria decimated Puerto Rico’s already frail infrastructure, 76 percent of total cell sites still remain out of service, according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The U.S. government’s response to the situation, as well as comments made by President Trump, have been largely controversial — but organizations such as the American Red Cross state they have nonetheless made significant progress in reconnecting the island’s residents using satellite technology.

American Red Cross team setting up mobile VSATs to reconnect Puerto Rico
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Companies seek roles in NASA’s return to the moon

As NASA develops a plan to carry out a new administration policy calling for a human return to the moon, companies developing lunar landers and related infrastructure are seeking to play a role.
At the annual meeting of the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG) and a follow-on “Back to the Moon” workshop here, four companies presented plans to develop robotic lunar landers that they argued could serve both commercial and government missions to the lunar surface in support of that new policy.

Blue Moon
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Bigelow Aerospace, ULA to Place Habitat in Low Lunar Orbit

Bigelow Aerospace and United Launch Alliance (ULA) are working together to launch a B330 expandable module on ULA’s Vulcan launch vehicle. The launch would place a B330 outfitted module in Low Lunar Orbit (LLO) by the end of 2022 to serve as a lunar depot.
The B330 would launch to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) on a Vulcan 562 configuration rocket, which according to ULA is the only commercial launch vehicle in development today with a large enough payload fairing to carry the habitat. Once the B330 is in orbit, Bigelow Aerospace will outfit the habitat and demonstrate it is working properly.

Bigelow Aerospace's B330 standalone space station. Photo: Bigelow Aerospace.
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Americans Want Space Businesses to Improve Life on Earth

Americans want private companies to seize opportunities in space — but they also want that to translate into better life on Earth, according to a survey released by the Brodeur Partners’ Space Group.
The poll, which surveyed the opinions of 600 Americans, found that most still view space technology through the lens of defense and national security. “But we also found that there is support for commercial activity in space, even government funding for that activity, if those businesses are reasonably regulated and can demonstrate benefits on Earth,” said Jerry Johnston, the author of the study.

The crew of Expedition 44 observes Flag Day in the U.S. in the ISS' Cupola. Photo: NASA.
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Google using O3b satellites to connect Project Loon over Puerto Rico

Google’s experimental high-altitude balloon project is using connectivity from O3b satellites to provide emergency communications in hurricane-ravished Puerto Rico.
O3b owner SES said Oct. 23 that it is providing satellite capacity and a “rapidly deployable” O3b FastConnect terminal in order to connect Google Loons over Puerto Rico to the internet, which then beam 4G/LTE mobile connectivity to people on the ground.
The majority of Puerto Rico’s cellphone towers were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Maria, which struck the U.S. island as a Category 4 storm Sept. 20. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission tallied 95.2 percent of cell sites across the island were knocked out by the storm.

Google Project Loon
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Monday, October 16, 2017

This Week in Satellite News! (Oct 09 – Oct 16 2017)

SpaceX seeks FCC approval to test satellite communications system in Seattle area

SpaceX has filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission to begin ground testing of a satellite communications system between its facilities in Redmond, Wash., as early as this month.
Redmond is the base of operations for SpaceX’s multibillion-dollar effort to create a 4,425-satellite constellation in low Earth orbit for global broadband internet access and remote imaging. This week’s filing suggests that the company is getting closer to deploying its first prototype satellites.

Image result for Starlink spacex
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Satellite Launches to Increase Threefold Over the Next Decade

According to the 20th edition of Euroconsult’s “Satellites to be Built & Launched” report, the firm anticipates that 300 satellites with a mass of more than 50 kg will be launched on average each year by 2026 for government agencies and commercial organizations worldwide. This is a threefold increase over the past decade as the satellite market experiences a paradigm shift with the rise of small satellites and mega constellations, such as that of OneWeb.

Photo: OneWeb.
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Jam-proof satellite terminals to shrink dramatically

The satellite communications systems that the U.S. Missile Defense Agency uses to send targeting data to interceptor missiles are huge — about the size of a building.
Such high level of SATCOM security has been unheard of in small systems that troops could take to the battlefield aboard a helicopter. But the technology is available, said industry officials. The only question is who will fund it.
As long as the Army was only fighting counterinsurgency wars in places where electronic threats were minimal, there was no urgency to invest in satellite terminals that can operate in “denied” environments. The reality has changed as the U.S. military believes the next war might be against peer competitors that have technologies to disrupt satellite signals.

A soldier monitors the satellite communications radio along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. (Army photo)
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Stunning Satellite Images of the California Wildfires

Northern California remains in a state of chaos as wildfires rip through wine country, leaving smoldering ashes where houses and businesses once stood. According to authorities, hundreds of people are missing or unaccounted for, and more than 3,500 structures have been destroyed in total so far. As the largest group of approximately 20 fires continues to burn unchecked, government agencies and first responders are leveraging satellite imagery to assess the extent of the damage.

Photo: DigitalGlobe.
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SpaceX launches third pre-flown rocket with EchoStar-SES satellite, lands booster

SpaceX completed its third launch with a previously used first stage booster Oct. 11, carrying a geostationary satellite for customers EchoStar and SES.
The Falcon 9 rocket lifted off at 6:53 p.m. Eastern from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at the beginning of a 2-hour launch window. EchoStar-105/SES-11 separated from the rocket’s upper stage roughly 36 minutes into the mission as planned.
The Falcon 9 booster, separating from the rocket’s upper stage about 2 and a half minutes after liftoff, returned to SpaceX’s drone ship “Off Course I Still Love You” in the Atlantic Ocean. The same booster first flew on a February mission to the International Space Station with a Dragon capsule.

SpaceX EchoStar-105/SES-11 launch
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Monday, October 9, 2017

This Week in Satellite News! (Oct 02 – Oct 09 2017)



SpaceX Launches 10 New Iridium Satellites, Sticks Rocket Landing

The private spaceflight company SpaceX successfully launched 10 communications satellites into low-Earth orbit today (Oct. 9) and landed the spent Falcon 9 first-stage rocket booster on a drone ship in the Pacific Ocean.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket took off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 8:37 a.m. EDT (1237 GMT/5:37 a.m. EDT), carrying 10 satellites for Iridium Communications, as part of the company's Iridium Next constellation. The first stage of the two-stage Falcon 9 landed on SpaceX's drone ship "Just Read the Instructions" in the Pacific about 7.5 minutes after the launch.

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National Space Council calls for human return to the moon

With the space program’s past as a backdrop, Vice President Mike Pence vowed Oct. 5 to reinvigorate the nation’s future in space through policies developed by the National Space Council, including a renewed emphasis on human missions to the moon.
Pence, chairing the first meeting of the Council since its reestablishment by an executive order in June, specifically instructed NASA to develop plans for human missions to the moon that will serve as a step toward later expeditions to Mars.

Image result for National Space Council
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NASA launching up to 72 smallsats with Spaceflight for $5.5 million

NASA signed its first contract with small satellite rideshare company Spaceflight to launch as many as 72 cubesats between now and 2020 for a total price of up to $5.5 million.
Specifically, the contract enables the launch of 72 “units,” which typically measure 10 centimeters in length, width and height, and have a mass of around 1.33 kilograms. These units are often assembled in groups to form larger cubesats, such as the 3U cubesats Spire and Planet use, or the 6U Arkyd satellites of Planetary Resources.

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Globalstar to make stock offer for $125 million

Mobile satellite services provider Globalstar announced after Wednesday’s closing bell a proposed public offering of $125 million in shares of voting common stock.
Shares of the Covington, Louisiana company’s stock, which trades on the New York Stock Exchange, closed Tuesday at $1.81 a share.
In a filing Wednesday evening with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Globalstar said Thermo Capital Partners LLC — which is led by Globalstar chairman and chief executive Jay Monroe — intends to buy up to $20 million in shares during the public offering. Thermo Capital is Globalstar’s controlling shareholder.

Globalstar constellation
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Iridium Begins On-Orbit Testing of its L-Band Service

Iridium Communications has begun live testing on-orbit of its Iridium Certus service on operational Iridium Next satellites. Iridium Certus will be the company’s new global broadband service, offering safety and critical L-band communications connectivity through the Iridium Next satellite constellation.
The testing and validation process started on Sept. 25 and has involved uploading and activating software to the Iridium Next satellites already in orbit to enable Iridium Certus. As of Oct. 4, several Iridium Next satellites in operation were already undergoing live on-orbit testing.

Thales Iridium NEXT
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In the face of growing threats, Army scrambles to secure satellite links

A recent examination of the Army’s combat networks turned out to be a huge wakeup call: The technology is not up to the job of ensuring systems are protected from enemy electronic attacks. Following years of experiments and failed procurements, the Army is back to the drawing board in its efforts to acquire modern tactical networks that are reliable and resilient for combat use.
A vulnerable satellite infrastructure has sent Army officials scrambling in search of solutions. In areas like satellite anti-jamming and secure communications, the Army is seeking new products from the private sector and trying to patch up existing systems.

Soldiers at Ft. Bragg, N.C. test tactical radios. (Army photo)
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ASRC 3D prints fuel injector prototype for RD-180 successor

ASRC of Beltsville, Md., has test fired a subscale propellant injector built via additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, paving the way for a version that could support whichever engine United Launch Alliance chooses to replace the Russian-built RD-180 on the Atlas 5 rocket.
ASRC’s Federal Technical Services division conducted the full-power test in April, retiring risk on an engine component that could potentially be built in a quarter of the time of previous techniques.

ASRC propellant injector
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ISS partners seek clarity on station’s long-term future

The head of NASA’s human spaceflight program says he would like to see a decision made in the next two years on whether and how International Space Station operations will be extended beyond 2024.
Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations, and other representatives of ISS partner nations discussed that timeframe during a panel discussion at the 68th International Astronautical Congress here Sept. 27.

Bigelow module on ISS
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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

This Week in Satellite News! (Sep 25 – Oct 02 2017)

SpaceX Moves Third Iridium NEXT Satellite Launch to Oct. 9

SpaceX has pushed back the launch of a third batch of satellites for Iridium CommunicationsNEXT constellation by five days to Oct. 9, Iridium announced Tuesday on its website.
Iridium CEO Matt Desch said the schedule change was requested by SpaceX to provide more time to prepare the Falcon 9 rocket that will carry the 10 NEXT satellites to low Earth orbit, Spaceflight Now reported Tuesday.

Image result for iridium next launch
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Puerto Rico's cell service is basically nonexistent. So this is happening

So many U.S. satellite phones are being shipped to Puerto Rico right now that phone providers say they may run out soon.
With 88% of the island’s cell phone network down as of Monday and few landlines operating, satellite phones are one of the few ways for people to communicate and for relief workers to coordinate efforts. Unlike cell phones, the heavier and more powerful phones don't rely on cell towers or landlines. Instead, they communicate directly with satellites in orbit around the earth. 

Image result for devastation Hurricane Maria brought to Puerto Rico
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Musk unveils revised version of giant interplanetary launch system

SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk announced plans to develop a revised version of a reusable interplanetary transport system that he said would be more affordable and versatile.
Musk, speaking before a packed auditorium at the conclusion of the 68th International Astronautical Congress here Sept. 29, unveiled an updated version of the Interplanetary Transport System he announced at last year’s conference in Mexico.

BFR lunar base
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JWST launch slips to 2019

NASA announced Sept. 28 that the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope mission, which had been planned for next fall, will now be delayed until the spring of 2019.
In a statement posted on the agency’s website, NASA said that an assessment of overall work needed to complete integration and testing of the $8 billion spacecraft led to the decision to postpone the launch by about half a year.

After much tinkering, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems has at last finished the cryogenic cooler that will keep JWST's Mid-Infrared Instrument at its frosty-cool operating temperature of minus 270 Celsius. Credit: NASA artist's concept
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Hitachi Expands Telematics Service with Iridium Capacity

Iridium announced a new long-term agreement with Hitachi Construction Machinery to bring Iridium network capacity to Hitachi’s Global e-Service construction machinery management system. By integrating Iridium connectivity, Hitachi will now be able to expand the service to regions and markets previously not possible, the company stated.
Hitachi’s Global e-Service construction machinery management system provides customers with maintenance information to help companies control CO2 emissions, minimize idling times and monitor fuel consumption.

A Hitachi EX2600-6 mining excavator and shovel, which comes equipped with Hitachi's Global eService. Photo: Hitachi Construction Machinery.
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Lockheed Martin adds lander to Mars Base Camp concept

Lockheed Martin released an update to its Mars mission architecture Sept. 29, adding a reusable lander capable of making multiple trips between Mars orbit and the surface.
The company presented an updated version of the Mars Base Camp concept during a talk at the 68th International Astronautical Congress here, arguing that the proposal fit into growing interest in operations in cislunar space as well, including landings on the surface of the moon.

Mars Base Camp lander
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The government of Luxembourg has deployed its Rapid Response Kit to provide vital satellite-enabled connectivity to the coordination center in Dominica following the devastation brought by the Category 5 Hurricane Maria. The connectivity provided on an SES satellite is used for broadband and voice communication to ensure that emergency services and first responders can stay informed and connected, and are able to act quickly where they are most needed.
Luxembourg deployed the solution following a request from the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC) to support the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA). Volunteers from Luxembourg Civil Protection helped install the Rapid Response Kit.

NOAA satellite GOES-16 captured this geocolor image of Hurricane Irma passing the eastern end of Cuba at about 8:00 a.m. EDT on Sept. 8, 2017. Photo: NOAA.
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Rocket Lab to fly satellites on second Electron launch

Rocket Lab, the U.S.-New Zealand company developing the Electron small launch vehicle, said Sept. 26 that it will fly four cubesats from two companies on the rocket’s next test flight late this year.
In a statement, Rocket Lab said the Electron’s second test flight later this year will carry two Dove cubesats from Planet and two Lemur cubesats from Spire. The company had originally planned to carry only a test payload on this mission, similar to the rocket’s inaugural launch in May.

Electron launch
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