March 21, 2017

Kourou Spaceport Labor Strike Delays Ariane 5 Launch (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
An Ariane 5 launch scheduled for today has been delayed at least a day because of a labor strike. Arianespace said Monday that a "social movement" at the Kourou, French Guiana, launch site prevented the company from moving the rocket to the launch pad Monday as previously planned. The launch, of the SGDC and Koreasat 7 communications satellites, has been rescheduled for Wednesday, assuming the rocket can be moved to the pad today. (3/20)

U.S. Denies Visa for Chinese Space Official (Source: Space News)
The U.S. government reportedly denied a visa for a Chinese official to speak at a planetary science conference. Guobin Yu, vice director of the Lunar and Space Exploration Engineering Center of China, was scheduled to speak at a symposium near Houston Sunday to provide updates on the country's planned missions to the moon and Mars. However, conference organizers said at the last minute the U.S. embassy in Beijing denied Yu a visa for unknown reasons. Other Chinese scientists were approved to attend the conference. (3/20)

Air Force: SpaceX Likely Raised Price to Meet Requirements (Source: Space Intel Report)
The Air Force appeared to buttress SpaceX’s claim that it charges more for U.S. government launches than for commercial missions not just because it can, but because government customers demand more than commercial customers for each launch. The company's win of a 2019 GPS launch against rival ULA allows a rare apples-to-apples comparison.

In an identical GPS-3 competition a year earlier, SpaceX was the sole bidder and won the contract with an offer of $82.7 million...substantially lower than SpaceX’s commercial price of $70 million or less. Leon declined to speculate on what elements go into SpaceX’s price calculation. But she said the difference between last year’s and this year’s could be explained by SpaceX’s realization of how much work goes into an Air Force mission.

“The proposal for their [earlier] bid was their first time bidding on an EELV contract,” said Dr. Claire Leon, launch enterprise director at the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center. Leon’s statements lent credence to SpaceX statements that a price difference of 20% or more is justified given the additional Air Force requirements that are not typical of a commercial mission. European, especially French, government officials have long accused SpaceX of lowballing its bids for commercial missions, and offsetting these marginally profitable missions with U.S. government work. (3/20)

Rocket Lab Raises $75 Million to Scale Up Launch Vehicle Production (Source: Space News)
Rocket Lab, a U.S.-New Zealand company developing a small launch vehicle, has raised an additional $75 million that will help the company scale up production of the rocket. The new funding round is led by venture capital firm Data Collective, with contributions from another VC firm, Promus Ventures, and an undisclosed investor. Several prior investors, including Bessemer Venture Partners, Khosla Ventures and K1W1, also participated in the round.

Rocket Lab said the Series D round brings the total raised by the company to $148 million, and values the company at more than $1 billion. Rocket Lab announced a Series B round of unspecified size in 2015, and Peter Beck, the company’s chief executive, said the company did an unannounced Series C round in the interim involving only existing investors.

The company has moved into a new headquarters facility in Huntington Beach, California. The 150,000-square foot building will be used to manufacture engines for the Electron rocket as well as electronics systems. The vehicles themselves will continue to be assembled at a factory in New Zealand, although Beck said it’s possible in the future that some rockets will be built in California as well, particularly for launches from U.S. sites. (3/21)

SpaceX Signs Lease for Booster Refurbishing at Former SpaceHab Facility (Source: Florida Today)
SpaceX has signed a five-year lease for a warehouse and office facility at Port Canaveral, where it plans to process, refurbish and store rocket boosters for future reuse. The commercial space company has occupied the 53,360-square-foot former SpaceHab building on the north side of the port since August, under a month-to-month lease, and has been renovating the facility, located at 620 Magellan Road.

Now, with the signed lease agreement, "they can forge ahead" with their plans, Port Canaveral Chief Executive Officer John Murray said. The company also plans to build an adjacent 44,000-square-foot hangar on the 4-acre parcel. (3/21)

Stephen Hawking is Going to Outer Space (Source: Futurism)
Stephen Hawking, the world’s most renowned physicist and cosmologist, stated today that he is, in fact, heading to space—and it’s happening all thanks to the Virgin group (and a bit of modern technology). In a statement back in 2015, Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin group, said that, one day, he hoped to be able to carry Hawking to the stars. In the statement, Branson noted that this offer came as a result of the great respect and admiration that he has for Hawking.

When discussing the anticipated event, Hawking told Good Morning Britain that he never dreamed he’d have such an opportunity, and that he “said yes immediately.” Hawking continued by noting that he looks forward to the voyage with great anticipation, comparing flying into space to the same joy that his three children have brought him. During the discussion, he stated, “my three children have brought me great joy – and I can tell you what will make me happy, to travel in space.” (3/20)

The Cislunar Gateway with No Gate, Revisited (Source: Space Review)
If NASA and other space agencies press ahead with plans for a cislunar gateway outpost, how would it be most effectively developed? John Strickland proposes a design that emphasizes cargo and propellant storage that can support, and be supported by, a lunar base. Click here. (3/20)
A Farewell to ARM? (Source: Space Review)
In the White House budget proposal released last week, the Trump Administration mentioned in passing that NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission would be cancelled. Jeff Foust reports on what’s known about those plans, and the limbo that statement puts ARM into. Click here. (3/20)
Taking Salvage in Outer Space from Fiction to Fact (Source: Space Review)
The concept of salvaging spacecraft in outer space has long been a part of science fiction, but faces legal challenges if attempted in real life. Michael Listner discusses how salvage could be applied to satellites or other space assets. Click here. (3/20)

Air Force Reveals Plan for Up To 48 Launches Per Year From Cape Canaveral (Source:
Major General David D. Thompson of the U.S. Air Force discussed the 45th Space Wing’s plan to ramp up to 48 launches per year – a feat made possible in large part due to the introduction by SpaceX of the new Autonomous Flight Termination System and the increasing and booming commercial launch market. With four flights under its belt, the 45th Space Wing is now preparing for the remaining 31 launches on this year’s manifest – the next two of which are scheduled within three days of each other on 24 and 27 March.

In the past ten years, the CCAFS and Kennedy Space Center combined have seen anywhere from between 7 to 18 launches per year, with the lowest of those numbers coming in 2008 and the highest in 2016. However, this year alone, the CCAFS and the 45th Space Wing of the Air Force plan to nearly double its 2016 number, with 35 total launches manifested, 28 of them being commercial missions.

Monteith stated that this new AFTS combined with two operational SpaceX pads at Kennedy and the CCAFS will allow the company to launch two Falcon 9 rockets – one from 39A and one from SLC-40 – within 16 to 18 hours of each other. “When pad 40 is up and operating, [it will] give us the capability of launching a Falcon from both pad 39A and pad 40 on the same day,” stated Monteith. (3/20)

Broadband for All (Source: Aerospace America)
If Iridium’s constellation of 66 low-Earth-orbit communications satellites sounds like a lot, try these numbers: OneWeb, a startup based in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., plans to launch up to 700 satellites into low-Earth orbit and begin space-based broadband service as early as 2019. Boeing aims to launch 1,300 satellites within six years, and it says it will expand that constellation to 2,900. SpaceX of California told regulators it wants to launch a network of up to 4,425 satellites. Click here. (3/20)

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