September 12, 2016

Blue Origin to Follow Suborbital New Shepard with Huge Orbital New Glenn (Source: Space News)
Jeff Bezos announced that Blue Origin is developing a family of orbital rockets it’s calling New Glenn. Both the two-stage and three-stage versions of the rocket would stand taller than the United Launch Alliance Delta 4 Heavy and SpaceX Falcon Heavy, according a new infographic released by Blue Origin. Both New Glenn 2 and New Glenn 3 would be powered by a cluster of  seven liquid-natural-gas-fueled BE-4 engines.

“The 2-stage New Glenn is 270 feet tall, and its second stage is powered by a single vacuum-optimized BE-4 engine. The 3-stage New Glenn is 313 feet tall. A single vacuum-optimized BE-3 engine, burning liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, powers its third stage. The booster and the second stage are identical in both variants.

“We plan to fly New Glenn for the first time before the end of this decade from historic Launch Complex 36 at Cape Canaveral, Florida. New Glenn is designed to launch commercial satellites and to fly humans into space. The 3-stage variant – with its high specific impulse hydrogen upper stage – is capable of flying demanding beyond-LEO missions." (9/12)

ULA Could Delay Vulcan Engine Decision to 2017 (Source: Space News)
United Launch Alliance may wait until next year to make a decision on the engine to be used on its Vulcan rocket. In an interview last week, ULA CEO Tory Bruno said the decision depends on when Blue Origin performs a full-scale static-fire test of its BE-4 engine, which Bruno suggested could take place as late as next spring.

That engine remains the "primary path" for Vulcan, the next-generation launch vehicle that will ultimately replace the Atlas and Delta. ULA's board continues to approve work on Vulcan on a quarterly basis, a process that Bruno said has not affected work on the vehicle. (9/12)

Intelsat Satellite Has In-Space Propulsion Problem (Source: Intelsat)
A new Intelsat satellite will enter service later than planned because of a propulsion problem. The company said Friday that the Intelsat 33e satellite, launched Aug. 24, will now be ready for service in the first quarter of 2017 instead of the fourth quarter of 2016 as previously planned. The company said a malfunction of the primary thruster in the Boeing-built spacecraft is the cause of the delay. (9/12)

NASA’s 'Forgotten Astronaut' (Source: Seeker)
Neil Armstrong may have been the first person to walk on the moon, but he wasn't the only astronaut on the Apollo 11 mission; someone had to stay onboard the ship. Michael Collins is one of three astronauts that were aboard the Apollo 11 mission to the moon. You're probably a little more familiar with the other two astronauts from the mission, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.

That's because Collins is the only one that didn't get to actually walk on the moon, earning him the title of NASA's "forgotten astronaut." Collins was the command module pilot on Apollo 11 so he stayed behind to man the spacecraft while Armstrong and Aldrin took their infamous moonwalk. Ultimately, this means that Collins isn't a household name, but he's still a very important part of space history.

While attending West Point Academy, Collins began his career in the sky as a flight test officer. After joining NASA, his first mission to space was as a backup pilot for Gemini X in 1966. Apollo 11 was his second trip to space but also his last -- he retired not long after, logging a total of 266 hours in space. Click here. (9/11)

Thales InFlyt Division on the Space Coast in Satellite Partnership with SES (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Europe’s largest satellite-services provider and the region’s leading aircraft-electronics maker are teaming up to offer enhanced broadband-via-satellite connections to airline passengers. After months of negotiations and decisions to scale back their initial plans, France’s Thales SA and Luxembourg-based SES SA, with a global fleet of more than 50 satellites, on Monday will announce they are jointly entering the already crowded field of companies marketing such high-bandwith links.

Thales already serves the segment through its FlytLive broadband unit, as well as its Avant in-flight entertainment equipment installed on Boeing Co. and Airbus Group SE jetliners. Thales will begin offering its new connectivity for the Americas starting next year using two existing SES satellites. The service will be bolstered with the addition of the planned SES-17 aircraft three years later. The new offerings are intended for planes coming off the assembly lines, as well as retrofits of existing fleets. (9/11)

Space Tech’s 3 Hottest Areas for Investing (Source: Venture Beat)
Six weeks ago, I wrote about skyrocketing VC funding in space tech companies. But according to brand new data from CB Insights, 2016 has actually seen a drop in investments following the 2015 surge I outlined. Moreover, some areas that VCs considered highly promising a year or two ago are now considered overhyped (for example, smallsat launchers and earth observation microsatellites). However, despite the drop in funding, there are some areas of space tech that remain promising and that have remained largely under investors’ radars so far. Click here. (9/10)

Spaceport Could Bring New Business (Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald)
A draft environmental assessment for the proposal is still in the works and would need to pass approval by the Federal Aviation Administration before it opens up to commercial ventures. Jim Crisafulli, aerospace program manager for the state’s Office of Aerospace Development, said Kona International Airport was selected as the best of 26 options for a potential spaceport.

That decision was made based on the airport’s proximity to the ocean and distance from residential areas. The existing runway and infrastructure that could support spaceplanes also played into decision making, Crisafulli said. The spaceport would only support spaceplanes that launch and land horizontally, similar to conventional aircraft. The spaceport wouldn’t support vertical takeoff.

Among the proposed operations is one that would launch tourists into suborbit, sending tourists up to the edge of space and putting Kona on the map as a potential hub for space tourism. That’s an exciting prospect for Kirstin Kahaloa, executive director of the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce. Space tourism, she said, is a chance to “enhance our uniqueness” that would also diversify Kona’s opportunities for tourism. (9/11)

'Cuteness Culture' in Space (Source: CBC)
They have names and personalities, they go on exciting journeys, and we're sad when they die. And we even create social media accounts just for them. Much like we do with pets, we often assign human characteristics to spacecraft. NASA's Mars Phoenix lander and Curiosity rover, and the European Space Agency's Philae lander and Rosetta spacecraft all cheerfully tweeted their progress as they carried out their missions, to the delight of thousands of fans online. Click here. (9/11)

Russia's Energomash Ready to Build Reusable Carrier Rocket Stages (Source: Space Daily)
Russian propulsion engineering firm Energomash is open to contracts to build partially reusable launch vehicles, the company's chief executive Igor Arbuzov said. "If a real customer turns up who will need a [carrier] rocket with a reusable stage - we will make one," Arbuzov told RIA Novosti. He added there had been no contracts for rocket stages that can safely return to the Earth after the launch, "although the topic of reusable stages is frequently discussed among chiefs of design bureaus." (9/12)

New Russian Rocket for Sea Launches Will Replace Ukraine's Zenit (Source: Space Daily)
A new carrier rocket will be developed in Russia to replace Ukraine's Zenit-SL system for launches from the Sea Launch (Morskoi Start) floating space pad, the chief of the S.P. Korolev Rocket and Space Corporation (RSC) Energia said. "There is undoubtedly an idea to create a new launch vehicle for the Sea Launch project, and it would be difficult for the new investor to work on this," General Director Vladimir Solntsev told reporters.

Solntsev forecast earlier in the day the planned sale of the project by early 2017, with Russian investors among the leading candidates. He expressed hope that Energia would stay involved with Sea Launch after its sale. Financial difficulties forced Kiev to freeze the production of Zenit-3SL launch systems. According to Arbuzov, the technology will help preserve costly booster engines that are used in first stages to propel the entire carrier rocket upwards. (9/12)

RD-180 License Expires in 2030 (Source: Space Daily)
The license to produce Russia-built RD-180 rocket engines in the U.S. expires in 2030 when all technical documents are due to be destroyed, the CEO of the Russian booster-making company said. RD-180 boosters are a key component of the US most powerful rocket, the Atlas V. Energomash's director estimated a total of 70 Atlas V rockets with Russian RD-180 boosters have been launched successfully so far.

"The expiry date of the license agreement is 2030. There is still time, so we will continue cooperating with the US, supplying them with RD-180 engines produced by Energomash in Russia," said the engineering firm's Director General Igor Arbuzov. Arbuzov said Energomash expected engine deliveries to continue at a high rate in the coming years and partially into 2019. "I expect us to sign a raft of additional agreements to the existing contracts in the near future," he added. (9/12)

Moscow, Beijing Considering Deliveries of RD-180 Rocket Engines to China (Source: Space Daily)
Moscow and Beijing are considering RD-180 rocket engines deliveries to China as part of broader cooperation in the field of aerospace, Russian Ambassador to China Andrei Denisov said Tuesday.

"The possible delivery of RD-180 rocket engines is being considered by us and our Chinese partners as a constituent part of broader cooperation, for example, in the field of design of heavy rockets, cooperation in the filed of space stations, distant space missions," he told journalists. Denisov stressed that aerospace was a very promising area and both Russia and China are interested in developing their cooperation in this area. (9/12)

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