Commercial Spaceflight And The Dawning Age of NewSpace

Archive for July, 2015

Iridium Delay Allows Glimpse of SpaceX Insurance Policy

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.

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Falcon 9, Proton Failures Tap the Brakes on Eutelsat Growth | SpaceNews.com

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.

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Orbital ATK Completing Final Report on Antares Failure | SpaceNews.com

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.”

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FAA Will Repond to NTSB’s SpaceShipTwo Report Within 90 Days

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.”

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NASA Says Commercial Crew Milestone Changes Don’t Affect Budget Request | SpaceNews.com

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.

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Russia Formally Commits to Station Through 2024 | SpaceNews.com

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.

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NTSB’s SpaceShipTwo findings put more pressure on FAA

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.

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