SpaceX sets first Falcon Heavy launch for Feb. 6SpaceX 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.
Ariane 5 Narrowly Avoids Disaster in First Launch of 2018An 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.
Potential end of the ISS raises concerns, presents opportunitiesThe 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.
Reports of National 5G Network Bring Uncertainty to the IndustryThe 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.
Solar panel suppliers adjust to GEO satellite slowdownSuppliers 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).
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?
Google Lunar X Prize to end without winnerThe 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.
Ariane 6 Gets Closer to Flight with Vulcain Engine Test FiringThe 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.