Space Digest

January 26 — February 1, 2015

Photo of the Week

European IXV Experimental Spaceplane During Vega’s Fairing Encapsulation. Credit: ESA

Quote of the Week

I never want to write another check to Roscosmos after 2017

Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator, at a press conference to discuss US plans on launching astronauts to the ISS after 2017

Our’s of the Week

On Thursday, January 29, we published an article ‘Yuzhmash’s Plan to Overcome the Crisis’ about how leading Ukrainian enterprise, manufacturer of Zenit and Cyclone family of launchers, Dnepr rockets and Antares first stage, Yuzhmash is planning and hoping to tackle the crisis that resulted in salary debts in front of its employees and forced the plant to put on hold all operations for the winter 2014–15.

Before that, exactly a week ago, we published previous and the first edition of Weekly Space Digest (January 19–25, 2015). The main news last week was satellite Internet gold-rush, in which almost all prominent NewSpace companies take part: SpaceX, Google, Virgin Galactic, O3b Networks etc. Also we released an article about successful launch of Delta II with Soil Moisture Active Passive spacecraft, conducted by United Launch Alliance (ULA) on January 31, 2015, from Vandenberg Air Force Base.

News of the Week

3 Space Launches Were Conducted Throughout the World in Less Than 24 Hours

Delta II Launches SMAP Spacecraft. Credit: ULA

As it was mentioned above, on Saturday, January 31, 2015, ULA launched $916Mln three-year Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission atop its Delta II rocket from Space Launch Complex-2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. As a secondary payload among with SMAP, Delta II deployed into a sun-synchronous orbit 4 CubeSats of Educational Launch of Nanosatellite X, or ELaNa X, program: ExoCube, GEO-CAPE ROIC In-Flight Performance Experiment, or GRIFEX, and two FIREBIRD-II (A and B) small satellites. SMAP mission was the 153rd Delta II launch, the 52nd launcher’s mission for NASA and the second of 13 planned ULA missions in 2015.

Later, on Sunday, February 1, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries launched its H-IIA rocket with latest Japanese Information Gathering Satellite (IGS) reconnaissance satellite from Tanegashima Space Center. This radar surveillance satellite is designed as an on-orbit backup to support the nominal constellation of four IGS satellites, comprising two optical and two radar satellites. The launch continues a good run for the IGS, a top-priority national security space program that has been steadily replenished after a difficult start. The latest satellite is the sixth radar satellite launched for the constellation and 13th overall. The prime contractor for all IGS satellites is Mitsubishi Electric Corp.

Proton-M Launches Inmarsat-5 F2. Credit: Roscosmos

Also on February 1 International Launch Services (ILS) conducted a launch of Proton-M launch vehicle with Breeze-M upper stage and Inmarsat-5 F2 communications satellite into a 65,000 km-apogee super-synchronous transfer orbit (SSTO). Inmarsat-5 F2 is the second of three Inmarsat next-generation Global Xpress® satellites scheduled for launch on ILS’ Proton. The mission marked the first Proton launch of the year and the fourth SSTO mission for ILS. The satellite was manufactured by Boeing Satellite Systems and built on the reliable 702HP platform. Weighing over 6 metric tons at lift-off, it has 89 Ka-band fixed beams and 6 steerable ones. Expected mission lifespan is 15 years. This mission marked the 402nd launch for Proton overall and the 88th ILS’ Proton Launch. This was also the 17th Boeing-built satellite launched on ILS’ Proton.

Other News


  • Orbital Sciences expects to take delivery of the first pair of its newly purchased Russian rocket engines in June or July under a contract whose value Orbital said has been overstated in Russian press — via SpaceNews.
  • India to launch 58 space missions in next 5 years — via Kansas City Post.
Falcon Heavy Mission Animation (Satellite Deployment + First Stage Recovery). Credit: SpaceX
  • Europe continues using Soyuz for Galileo deployment — via SpaceNews.
  • M-TeX and MIST experiments launched from Alaska — via Space Daily.
  • Arianespace sees promise for Vega in SmallSat market — via Via Satellite.
  • Satellite fleet operator SES said it is likely to trade its midyear launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket for a slot later in the year rather than be the first to fly a Falcon 9 with Merlin 1D engines adjusted for improved thrust — via SpaceNews.
  • US Air Force awarded a $383Mln contract to United Launch Alliance (ULA), adding 3 launches to the existing contract, including the launch of a National Reconnaissance Office satellite. After that it now intends to put as many as 10 individual launch contracts up for bid between now and the end of 2017. Presumably SpaceX, being certified for national security satellites launches, may win those contracts offering better launch price than ULA — via Yahoo! Finance and Space News.
Next Generation of Chinese Launch Vehicles (CZ-7) Begins Its Long March at Wenchang Satellite Launch Center. Credit: PopSci


  • LightSail test flight scheduled for May 2015 — via Planetary Society.
  • European satellites still heavily dependent on US parts — via Space News.
  • Ball Aerospace integrates 2 of 5 instruments for JPSS-1 — via SpaceRef.
  • CNES, the French space agency, and the China National Space Administration (CNSA) have signed an agreement to step up the schedule for the China-France Oceanography Satellite (CFOSAT) mission — via Via Satellite.
  • SpaceWorks released its 2015 Small Satellite Market Observations report, in which it states they tracked 158 Nano/Microsatellites in 2014 of which 106 were commercial and they continue to track almost 1,100 future launches between 2015–2017.
  • Spire startup to launch 20-satellite commercial weather constellation this year — via Via Satellite.
  • ESA commits to finishing EDRS constellation — via Via Satellite.

Human in Space

  • NASA, Boeing, SpaceX outline objectives to the ISS flights — via NASA.
  • SpaceX prepares crewed Dragon for abort test — via Parabolic Arc.

New Tech & Tests

  • First SABRE development milestone reached — via Reaction Engines.
  • Students’ innovational atmospheric balloon could save space industry millions — via Florida Today.
  • Made In Space completes 1st round of 3D-prints on ISS — via Amtel Blog.
  • Moon Express completes initial flight tests at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center — via Parabolic Arc.
  • European Space Propulsion receives contract for 5‑Kilowatt Hall thruster — via SpaceRef.
  • Mini-models fire up for SLS base heating tests — via NASA.

Deep Space

  • Startup SpaceVR to send a 360-degree, 3D, ultra-HD camera to the ISS in 2015, then to the Moon, asteroid and Mars — via The Economic Times.


  • Private Moon race heats up as 5 Google Lunar XPrize (GLXP) teams take home $5.25Mln for key technological advancements — via GLXP website.
  • Orbcomm Acquisitions Shaping Company into Major Solutions Provider — via Via Satellite.
  • UrtheCast expands after signing $65Mln contract — via Parabolic Arc.
  • Overview of Indian space startups — via The Economic Times.
  • Orbital stockholders approve merger with ATK’s Aerospace and Defense Groups — official release.
  • Several space-related companies reported their financial results for the 4Q FY 2014 or 3Q FY 2015. These are: Lockheed Martin Space Systems (Via Satellite), Raytheon (SpaceRef) and ATK (official release).


  • European Commission facing decisions on Copernicus, Galileo funding — via Space News.
  • Interview with the Chairman of Indonesian National Institute of Aeronautics and Space (LAPAN) Thomas Djamaluddin — via JAXA.
  • Lawmakers introduced an idea of selling Spaceport America — via KRQE.
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