PARIS — Satellite fleet operator Eutelsat on July 30 said revenue for the coming year would slow because of launch delays, payment difficulties among some of its Russian customers and continued soft demand in government – mainly U.S. government – use of the company’s fleet.
Paris-based Eutelsat said revenue for the 12 months ending June 30, 2016, is likely to be just 2-3 percent ahead of the previous year before increasing by 4-6 percent annually in the two following years as new satellites come into service. The new forecast does not account for eventual foreign-exchange fluctuations.
As is the case with its main European competitor, SES of Luxembourg, Eutelsat’s near-term forecast has been upset by delayed launches following launch failures of two of the three main commercial providers.
Eight of the 10 recommendations adopted by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) yesterday about the SpaceShipTwo (SS2) crash were directed at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and its Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST). An FAA spokesman said today the FAA will respond within the next three months. The other two were for the Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF) and its President, Eric Stallmer, said CSF would carry them out promptly.
FAA spokesman Hank Price told SpacePolicyOnline.com that the FAA “takes all NTSB recommendations seriously and we will review and respond to them within 90 days as required.”
PARIS — Russia has formally notified its International Space Station partners that it will continue in the partnership at least to 2024, ending several months of doubts that were fueled by the current poor state of Russia’s relations with the West.
The 22-nation European Space Agency confirmed that the Russia space agency, Roscosmos, had notified ESA and the other partners of its commitment to 2024, a decision that followed similar guarantees by NASA – the station’s general contractor – and the Canadian Space Agency.
That leaves ESA and the Japanese space agency, JAXA, as the only two current partners yet to make a decision. ESA has yet to commit even to 2020 but expects to do so at a meeting of its member governments in late 2016.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has provided details into the probable cause of the SpaceShipTwo failure during last year’s test flight. The investigation found co-pilot error and procedural issues relating to the SS2’s feather system were to blame. With the investigation now closed, Virgin Galactic are building a new spacecraft with modifications to mitigate a repeat issue.
"Today, a team of impartial experts at the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) concluded their thorough investigation of the in-flight breakup of SpaceShipTwo during a test flight on October 31, 2014. In a public hearing held at the NTSB’s headquarters in Washington, DC, the organization’s experts and board members discussed their findings from the investigation.
"As our founder, Richard Branson, said: 'While it is good to have passed this milestone and be able to focus on the future, we are acutely aware that it does not alter the fact that this was at heart a human tragedy. Our thoughts go out again today to the family, friends and colleagues of Mike Alsbury.'"
WASHINGTON — The accident that destroyed the SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicle and killed one its pilots last year was caused by the co-pilot’s premature unlocking of the vehicle’s feathering system and inability of its developer, Scaled Composites, to foresee such an event and take measures to prevent it, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) concluded July 28.
The NTSB, during a public meeting at its headquarters here, accepted a report regarding the Oct. 31 accident that also criticized the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation for rushing to approve the vehicle’s experimental permit application without properly scrutinizing its safety issues.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) voted on Tuesday to adopt its final report on the October 31, 2014 SpaceShipTwo (SS2) accident that killed one of the spaceplane's two pilots. The Board agreed to 17 findings and 10 recommendations, along with a statement of probable cause that focused on the failure of Scaled Composites to "consider and protect against" the possibility that a single human error could doom the vehicle and its crew.
SS2 broke apart during a flight test over the Mojave Desert killing co-pilot Michael Alsbury. The pilot, Peter Siebold, survived after being thrown clear of the spaceplane unconscious. He regained consciousness during the fall to Earth and was able to detach himself from his seat and his parachute opened automatically.
Governments have largely deferred plans for human missions to the Moon, citing their cost, while private ventures offer more affordable concepts but struggle to raise funding. Jeff Foust reports on a new study that argues that a combination of the two, through public-private partnerships, could reduce the cost of human missions by as much as an order of magnitude.
The first two domes that will form the pressure shell of the Structural Test Article, or STA, for Boeing’s CST-100 spacecraft have arrived at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The STA Crew Module will be assembled inside the former space shuttle hangar, known as Orbiter Processing Facility-3, so the company can validate the manufacturing and processing methods it plans to use for flight-ready CST-100 vehicles. While the STA will not fly with people aboard, it will be used to determine the effectiveness of the design and prove its escape system during a pad abort test. The ability to abort from an emergency and safely carry crew members out of harm’s way is a critical element for NASA’s next generation of crew spacecraft.
WASHINGTON — A new report concludes that public-private partnerships, like those NASA has used in its commercial cargo and crew programs, could return humans to the moon for as little as $10 billion and within seven years.
The 100-page study, funded by NASA, concluded that an “evolvable lunar architecture” could eventually lead to a permanent human base at the lunar poles to convert water ice there for propellant that could be sold to NASA or other customers. However, those involved in the study acknowledge that the biggest obstacle to this approach may be convincing policymakers of the plan’s effectiveness.
PARIS — Satellite fleet operator SES on July 24 said the rapid rise in the U.S. dollar has been good news for its revenue and profit but bad news for certain customers operating in developing nations.
Luxembourg-based SES also said it could not provide a forecast of 2016 revenue until SpaceX sets a firm date for the launch of the large SES-9 satellite.
Originally scheduled for mid-2015, then delayed to September earlier this year, the satellite’s launch has now slipped into to-be-determined category since the June 28 failure of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.
"The co-founder and president of Escape Dynamic, Laetitia Garriott de Cayeux is a true role model of business leadership in science & technology. Escape Dynamics is building an electromagnetically-powered space launch system that will enable reusable single-stage-to-orbit spaceplanes, and plans to reduce costs of access to space by 100x for small payloads. They will do this by abandoning the path that all chemical rockets have used for the last 50 years, and instead will beam energy wirelessly to the rocket from ground to space," says Azam Shaghaghi, the President of Space Tourism Society of Canada, who had the rare opportunity to sit down with Laetitia during the International Space Development Conference 2014.
PARIS — Mobile satellite services provider Iridium Communications on July 30 said the Russian launch of its first two Iridium Next second-generation satellites would be delayed by two months, to December, because of a recent problem with hardware assuring the satellites’ Ka-band feeder links.
McLean, Virginia-based Iridium said that despite the delay, it still expects commercial launch provider SpaceX to conduct the seven following Iridium Next launches, each carrying 10 satellites, by the end of 2017.
Insurance officials in the past have said they want to see the first two Iridium Next satellites operational for around four months before underwriting coverage for the follow-on launches, to be sure there are no systemic issues on the satellites.
WASHINGTON — Orbital ATK is wrapping up the final report into last October’s Antares launch failure for delivery to the Federal Aviation Administration, but has not indicated when the report will be released to the public.
At a meeting of the NASA Advisory Council at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory July 29, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said he believed Orbital ATK “is about ready” to deliver its report on the Oct. 28 launch failure to the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation. Orbital had led the investigation into the FAA-licensed launch of a Cygnus cargo spacecraft intended to resupply the International Space Station.
“We feel pretty confident in the results” of that investigation, Bolden said, without going into detail about what the report concluded. “We think that it was very thorough and really appreciate the conclusions that were found.”
WASHINGTON — While acknowledging delays in interim milestones for its two commercial crew contracts, NASA officials said July 28 they still require the full funding requested for 2016 to avoid delays in the overall program.
In a presentation to the human exploration and operations committee of the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) meeting at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, agency officials said they risk having to issue stop-work orders to Boeing and SpaceX and renegotiate their contracts if Congress provides less than the $1.243 billion NASA requested in its original 2016 budget proposal.
The recommendations coming out of a federal investigation of last October’s fatal SpaceShipTwo breakup are likely to add to the challenges facing the commercial spaceflight industry – but they could also provide an opportunity to do something about those challenges.
“They gave us some work to do, and we embrace it,” Eric Stallmer, president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, told GeekWire.
The National Transportation Safety Board’s recommendations, issued at the end of its nine-month probe of the fatal crash, focus at least as much on the Federal Aviation Administration as on Scaled Composites, the California company that was in charge of testing Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo rocket plane.
"Today the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) held a public hearing to adjudicate the probable cause of last year’s SpaceShipTwo test flight accident, which resulted in an in-flight breakup. NTSB’s investigators and analysts presented their findings, conclusions, and recommendations in a draft report to the NTSB Board members. Throughout the discussion, NTSB staff and Board members praised the industry’s strong commitment to transparency and cooperation during the investigation, which helped lead to a more timely and complete resolution of the accident investigation.
"'We cannot undo the unfortunate events that transpired last October,' said CSF President Eric Stallmer, 'but we will successfully apply, and in some cases have already applied, the lessons learned to make our entire industry better and safer as a result.'"
The fatal in-flight breakup of Virgin Galactic’s futuristic SpaceShipTwo rocket plane during a test flight last October was the result of pilot error, possibly triggered by a high workload, unfamiliar vibration and rapid acceleration, the National Transportation Safety Board concluded Tuesday.
But the NTSB also found that the pilot’s misstep was at least partially the fault of spaceplane builder Scaled Composites, which failed to fully recognize and address the consequences of critical single-point human failures, trusting pilots to properly perform without a full understanding of those consequences.
Tuesday’s findings, issued in conjunction with an NTSB hearing on the accident in Washington, D.C., mark the end of the agency’s nine-month-long investigation – and close a dark chapter in Virgin Galactic’s decade-long effort to send passengers to the edge of space. The company says it’s addressing the factors raised during the investigation as it builds a second SpaceShipTwo in a hangar at California’s Mojave Air and Space Port.
Craig Clark, founder and CEO of Scotland’s Clyde Space Ltd., gives his views on the small satellite market and innovations like OneWeb’s planned mega-constellation venture.
“OneWeb and SpaceX, with their constellations, they’re just getting up there and doing it,” Clark said in an interview during the UK Space Conference in Liverpool July 13-15. “I think we’ll see a massive shift in the way we do space in the future.”
SpaceX CEO and Chief Designer Elon Musk has ordered the installation of contingency abort software into all future Dragon cargo spacecraft, providing them with an option to deploy their parachutes after an off-nominal launch scenario. Such software may have allowed the CRS-7 Dragon to save herself after she was thrown free of the failing Falcon 9 during June’s ill-fated launch.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will meet in public session on Tuesday, July 28, to deliberate and vote on its report on the probable cause of the October 31, 2014 SpaceShipTwo (SS2) crash. The meeting begins at 9:30 am ET and will be webcast on the NTSB website.
The NTSB ordinarily has five members, but there is one vacancy at the moment. The Tuesday meeting is an opportunity for all four members to hear from the NTSB staff at the same time about their findings, conclusions and recommendations. The Board members have had access to factual reports and draft staff reports already, but this is the formal unveiling and opportunity for debate. The Board will vote to adopt or modify the staff's draft. The Board can make changes to the recommendations, although an NTSB spokesman told SpacePolicyOnline. com on Friday that typically they add or suggest rewordings to staff-developed recommendations rather than making wholesale changes.
WASHINGTON — Members of NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) said the agency has done a good job dealing with the loss of three cargo missions to the International Space Station in eight months.
“The cumulative effect of the three cargo mission losses are, in our opinion, significant, but the ISS program was well positioned to mitigate the impacts,” said ASAP member Brent Jett, a former astronaut, at a July 23 meeting of the panel at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia.
Jett said a few key pieces of station hardware lost of those missions “put the ISS in a little bit of a tough position.” That included filtration beds for the station’s water processing system, two of which were lost on the October failure of a Cygnus cargo spacecraft and two more on the June failure of a Dragon cargo spacecraft. Jett said that NASA was able to procure replacement filtration beds that will fly on a Japanese H-2 Transfer Vehicle mission launching to the station in August.
Just like the personal computer paved the way for a new category of software companies or Amazon Web Services spawned scores of cloud applications, private spacecraft is the infrastructure enabling businesses that never before could have existed. Amazon.com founderJeff Bezos even has his own space company, Blue Origin, which flew its first successful test flight in April.
Combine that with the rapid growth of cloud computing, big data analytics, the collapse in prices for electronic components in mobile devices and a thriving ecosystem of coders, and suddenly space is attainable and affordable.
The Aerospace Corp. did not set out to establish an organization focused on designing and building miniature satellites. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, engineers who began building spacecraft weighing a few kilograms or even less worked in multiple departments. That changed in 2007 when the company established its Mechanics Research Department.
“At the time, the Mechanics Research Department seemed like a good home for microsatellite activity,” said Richard Welle, who led the department and now serves as Microsatellite Systems Department director. “Then the microsatellite activity just outpaced everything else in that department.”
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