October 10, 2019

LeoLabs Planning to Triple Number of Radar Sites for Space Debris Tracking by Early 2020s (Source: Space News)
LeoLabs, a company using radar sites to track satellites and space debris in low Earth orbit, plans to increase its number of sites from two to six over the next few years.

Dan Ceperley, LeoLabs founder and chief executive, said the company wants to scale up its space situational awareness capabilities so it can monitor large constellations of broadband satellites that SpaceX, OneWeb and others are preparing and launching. “To complete the network, we’re looking at the next few years,” Ceperley said in an interview at the Satellite Innovation 2019 conference here. “We really need to be fully online as a lot of these large constellations hit their peak stride. We are right on schedule with that.” (10/10)

Inflection Point Within the Year for Megaconstellations? (Source: Space News)
An inflection point is coming in the next six to twelve months for the multibillion dollar satellite megaconstellations, when it will become apparent which ones will succeed and which ones “will take a pause or exit,” says Chris Baugh, Northern Sky Research president. New communications constellations being built by Amazon, LeoSat, OneWeb, SES, SpaceX and Telesat are in early phases of development. Firms are conducting research and development or starting to launch satellites but they have not yet reached the so-called Valley of Death, where products and services often languish or die.

“We’re in this early phase and we haven’t hit that chasm yet,” Baugh said. “We haven’t seen constellations drop out of the market yet. They’re still clicking along for better or worse.” There are enormous variations in the size of the proposed constellations and the value of individual satellites. Amazon and SpaceX plan to launch thousands of satellites. In contrast, LeoSat and Telesat have announced plans for 84 and 300 satellites, respectively, but their individual satellites will be more expensive than the ones in the enormous constellations, Baugh said.

With thousands of satellites in the queue, people betting on the success of the megaconstellations “have to come to some kind of belief system that the market will rise exponentially via price, performance, availability, all of those things,” Baugh said. “Because if it doesn’t, we will have an over-saturation problem.” (10/10)

Boeing Plans Uncrewed Starliner Test on Dec. 17 at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Space News)
Boeing plans to launch an uncrewed test of its commercial crew vehicle in mid-December. A company executive said Wednesday the Orbital Flight Test of its CST-100 Starliner is scheduled for Dec. 17 on an Atlas 5 from Cape Canaveral. The spacecraft that will fly that mission to the International Space Station is in the final stages of assembly and testing. Boeing will perform a pad abort test using another Starliner vehicle Nov. 4 from White Sands, New Mexico, using the spacecraft's abort motor to leap off a pad for a 90-second flight. SpaceX will carry out its own in-flight abort test of its Crew Dragon vehicle, likely to take place in late November or early December. Neither company has set a date for a crewed test flight of their spacecraft. (10/10)

SpaceX Clearing Final Hurdles Toward Crew Dragon Flights (Source: Aviation Week)
SpaceX says more than 90% of certification products for the upcoming crewed demonstration flight have been delivered, with 100% completion in some areas. Although SpaceX successfully completed Crew Dragon’s first demonstration mission, Demo-1, to ISS in March, progress toward the crewed Demo-2 flight hit a major hurdle when a space capsule exploded during static fire ground tests in April.

Further delays have also been caused by development issues with the vehicle’s parachute recovery system. In the meantime, NASA and SpaceX are preparing for an upcoming inflight abort test of Crew Dragon’s launch escape system, which SpaceX CEO Elon Musk says could take place in late November or early December. The investigation into the static-fire anomaly is “almost complete” and mitigation changes have been identified and are already being incorporated as a result. “Both the spacecraft and the Falcon 9 for the inflight abort test are now at the launch site in Florida." (10/9)

FAA Finalizing Streamlined Commercial Launch Regulations (Source: Space News)
The FAA expects to have a final rule streamlining commercial launch and re-entry regulations published by next fall. At a conference Wednesday, Wayne Monteith, FAA associate administrator for commercial space transportation, said his office was working through more than 150 comments submitted for a draft version of the rule earlier this year, a process that is taking up a significant share of his office's staff and budget. The FAA has not decided if it will publish an updated draft for more comment prior to the final rule, a decision that he said will be based on how many changes are made to the original draft. (10/10)

Chinese Space Startups Raise Money (Source: Space News)
Two Chinese space startups have secured new funding. GalaxySpace, a Beijing-based communications satellite producer, raised an undisclosed sum of series B round funding, led by JIC Technology Investment, that values the company at more than $700 million. GalaxySpace, founded in 2016 by Xu Ming, is planning to establish a constellation of low Earth orbit satellites to provide global 5G communications. Beijing-based MinoSpace, also known as Weina Star Technology Co., Ltd., secured series A+ funding from a number of investors. It is a developer and manufacturer of smallsats between 10 and 500 kilograms as well as satellite components. (10/10)

LeoLabs to Expand Ground Station Network (Source: Space News)
LeoLabs plans to triple the number of sites where it has radars to track objects in orbit. The company has radars active today in Texas and Alaska, with a third site under construction in New Zealand. The company hasn't disclosed where the next three sites will be located, but expects them to be built in the next few years to deal with the projected growth in satellites from megaconstellations. (10/10)

Shortage of Software Engineers Hampers Space Industry Growth (Source: Space News)
Space companies say they're having problems hiring software engineers given the competition from other industries. Space companies, including many in Silicon Valley, say competing with nearby tech giants, from Google to Apple, makes it difficult to find the talent they need. One advantage space companies do have, one executive said, is the "coolness" factor that attracts software engineers who also consider themselves space geeks. (10/10)

Virgin Orbit to Launch Polish Cubesats to Mars (Source: The Verge)
Virgin Orbit will launch Polish cubesats bound for Mars. Virgin Orbit said it's partnered with a Polish smallsat company, SatRevolution, and a dozen universities in the country to launch up to three Mars missions on its LauncherOne rocket as soon as 2022. LauncherOne is able to fly payloads weighing up to 50 kilograms on deep space trajectories. (10/9)

UK Company Plans Tiny Lunar Rover (Source: New Scientist)
A British company says it will fly a small rover — or, more accurately, walker — to the moon. SpaceBit said its rover, the size of a 1U cubesat with four legs, will go to the moon on Astrobotic's Peregrine lander mission in 2021. The rover will drop from the lander to the surface after touchdown and use its legs to move across the surface, an approach the company says could be better suited for steep, rough terrain than wheels. (10/10)

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