Falcon 9 Design Error

In 2015, one of the Falcon 9 rockets manufactured by SpaceX failed to launch properly. The first theory as to its demise was that a manufacturing defect had taken place. After careful research by NASA, it seems to be more likely that the incident was related to a design flaw. The mission in question is that of CRS-7. This mission meant to send the Dragon cargo unit to the International Space Station. SpaceX initiated an investigation to find out the nature of the problem, while NASA’s Launch Services Program performed their own.

As the teams made efforts to look into the situation, it proved difficult. The explosion happened exactly 139 seconds into the mission. It has been determined that the explosion began in the second stage oxygen tank. The sudden nature of the event initially made for more questions than answers. Usually, there are some preliminary signs leading to the issue. After careful consideration, it has been determined that a composite overwrapped pressure vessel (COPV) was the most likely cause. This COPV was filled with helium and is thought to have loosened from its resting place and headed upwards towards the top of the oxygen tank. When it hit the top dome of the tank, the impact may have caused the explosion.

The disagreement between NASA and SpaceX is related to the reasoning behind why the COPV became loose in the first place. SpaceX placed the blame on the defect of a bolt, referred to as a “rod end,” and discontinued use of the product in their future rockets. NASA concurs with the possible manufacturing defect, while also suggesting the possibility of faulty installation. NASA is also open to other theories about the event, and they believe a mistake in the design was part of the problem.

NASA is questioning the quality of the stainless steel used to manufacture the rod end. There are different grades of stainless steel, and the one used for space equipment is usually aerospace grade. SpaceX chose to use industrial grade for the rod end. The proper safety rating is not applied to this product, and it has not been tested for use in space, or launch related activity. NASA has released a formal statement, requesting that SpaceX reconsider its use of commercial products. NASA indicated that several parts of the Falcon 9 CRS-7, and possibly others, have been manufactured with commercial grade parts. This leaves them susceptible to the same fate. This could be even more serious if humans had been involved in the launch. Thankfully, this mission only involved cargo. SpaceX claimed that all issues have since been resolved.

If NASA approves of the efforts made by SpaceX, the next launch of cargo to the International Space Station should take off with a Falcon 9 CRS-14. A Transiting Exoplanet Survey satellite (TESS) is also planned for takeoff. There is some speculation as to why the report on the 2015 incident is just now being brought to light. NASA simply stated that it required a written account of the incident. NASA mentioned their continued collaboration with SpaceX was due in part to the prompt attention to the resolution of the issues mentioned. A January 2016 launch also used a Falcon 9 rocket. This launce included the Jason-3 Earth observation satellite. At this time, the incident report has been of interest to Congress, and more information has been requested.

(Source: http://spacenews.com/nasa-investigation-linked-2015-falcon-9-failure-to-design-error/)

How can satellite connectivity provide a pathway to sustainability?

Many people might ask what a private satellite company like Inmarsat is doing working within the international development arena? satellite communications, in my view, has a very important future within the social impact space – one where we can take our leading-edge services and capabilities and use them for some of the most pressing humanitarian […]

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China’s Long March 5 to Be Launched a Third Time

Long March 5 is China’s most powerful rocket, capable of carrying about 14 metric tons of weight in geostationary orbit. It was successfully launched first in November of 2016, though it did develop an issue with its first stage engines that became apparent during its second flight in July of 2017. After an investigation determined the cause of the failure, work on a third Long March 5 was completed.

Developers of the Long March 5 hope to use the rocket for numerous purposes, including the launch of a space station module and an eventual mission to Mars. The success of current missions and launches may determine the timeline for those projects. Representatives from China’s space agency have indicated that they plan to be on Mars by 2020. They hope that the Long March 5 can help get them and the required cargo to the Red Planet.

The rocket sees its third flight in November of 2018. Its payload this time includes an experimental telecommunications satellite called Shijian-20, or Practice-20. This satellite was designed to boost China’s communications satellites capacity. In addition, this launch is also meant to test out laser communications. Weighing in at over seven metric tons, it is the largest satellites sent into orbit. If this satellite functions as expected, it could support communication speeds of up to one terabit per second, which is a huge increase from its current levels of 20 Gbps.

If the upcoming launch is successful, officials hope to use the rocket a fourth time for a lunar mission in 2019. The aim of this lunar mission is to collect samples of regolith in Oceanus Procellarum. In addition, Long March 5’s achievements are expected to lead to the further development and eventual debut of the Long March 5B. The China Manned Space Engineering Office made an announcement late last week about this modified version of the Long March 5. The goal is for it to launch a reusable version of the Shenzhou spacecraft, which is capable of deep space travel.

China has an ambitious few years planned for their space program. In 2018, they are planning over 40 launches, which is nearly twice the number scheduled in 2016. This is in addition to their 2019 lunar exploration and research mission. They are also hoping to launch an interplanetary mission, with an orbiter, lander, and rover set to be sent to Mars in 2020.

(Source: http://spacenews.com/chinas-long-march-5-heavy-lift-rocket-to-fly-again-around-november-in-crucial-test/)

CubeSat-based Science Missions for Geospace and Atmospheric Research

Funding Opportunity ID: 301800
Opportunity Number: 18-553
Opportunity Title: CubeSat-based Science Missions for Geospace and Atmospheric Research
Opportunity Category: Discretionary
Opportunity Category Explanation:
Funding Instrument Type: Grant
Category of Funding Activity: Science and Technology and other Research and Development
Category Explanation:
CFDA Number(s): 47.050
Eligible Applicants: Unrestricted (i.e., open to any type of entity above), subject to any clarification in text field entitled “Additional Information on Eligibility”
Additional Information on Eligibility:
Agency Code: NSF
Agency Name: National Science Foundation
Posted Date: Mar 17, 2018
Close Date: Jun 13, 2018
Last Updated Date: Mar 17, 2018
Award Ceiling: $1,200,000
Award Floor: $400,000
Estimated Total Program Funding: $800,000
Expected Number of Awards: 2
Description: Lack of essential observations from space is currently a major limiting factor in many areas of geospace andatmospheric research. Recent advances in sensor and spacecraft technolo­gies make it feasible to obtain key measurements from low-cost, small satellite missions. A particularly promising aspect of this development is the prospect for obtaining multi-point observations in space that are critical for addressing many outstanding problems in space and atmosphericsciences. Space-based measurements from small satellites also have great potential to advance discovery and understanding in geospace and atmospheric sciences in many other ways. To take full advantage of these developments, NSF is soliciting research proposals centered on small satellite missions. The overarching goal of the program is to support the development, construction, launch, operation, and data analysis of small satellite science missions to advancegeospace and atmospheric research. Equally important, it will provide essential opportunities to train the next generation of experimental space scientists and aerospace engineers. To facilitate launch of the satellites as secondary payloads on existing missions, the focus of the program is on CubeSat-based satellites. Launch of the satellites will mainly be through the standardized CubeSat deployment system, the Poly Picosatellite Orbital Deployer (P-POD). Launch of the P-PODS will be as auxiliary payloads on DOD, NASA, or commercial launches. This will be arranged after selection and is not part of this solicitation. This solicitation covers proposals for science missions to include satellite development, construction, testing and operation as well as data distribution and scientific analysis.
Version: 1

Intelsat Announces Early Tender Results for Certain Notes of Intelsat (Luxembourg) S.A.

Intelsat S.A. (NYSE: I), operator of the world’s first Globalized
Network and leader in integrated satellite solutions, today announced
the early tender results for the previously announced tender offer (the
“Offer”) by its indirect subsidiary, Intelsat Connect Finance S.A.
(“ICF”), to purchase for cash any and all of the outstanding 6 3⁄4%
Senior Notes due 2018 (CUSIP No. 458204 AN4; ISIN No. US458204AN49)
issued by Intelsat (Luxembourg) S.A., a subsidiary of Intelsat S.A. and
ICF’s direct parent company, that are not already held by ICF (the

As of the previou…

A Clear Path Forward for Military Organizations to Leverage HTS


EpicNG satellite

In the past year, Intelsat has proven the capabilities of its new constellation of Intelsat EpicNG high-throughput satellites (HTS) and recently put into service its fifth spacecraft. Tests and customer experience have demonstrated a path forward for military organizations to leverage EpicNG and realize the benefits of HTS. Intelsat continues further down that path this year with the availability of managed services.

“We spent 2017 doing a lot of showing, demonstrating, proving what the Intelsat Epic satellite can do in two key areas. One is essentially high-throughput data links to very small terminals for different applications, from vehicle-mounted to airborne, and for a range of different users,” Skot Butler, President of Intelsat General, said in an interview with Aviation Week & Space Technology (subscription required).  Intelsat also demonstrated how EpicNG can enable users to communicate not just with the hub side, but also user-to-user across a battlefield.

The latest Intelsat EpicNG satellite, Intelsat 37e, pushes the boundaries of space innovation with full interconnectivity – any beam to any beam – in C-band, Ku-band, and Ka-band. Intelsat 37e is designed to deliver additional services and improved throughput in all major applications: cellular backhaul, enterprise networks, rural broadband, maritime, aeronautical, direct-to-home television and digital terrestrial television.

Like the other Intelsat EpicNG satellites, Intelsat 37e features beam switching and anti-interference capabilities, as demonstrated last year with a Block 5 Predator B/MQ-9 on the Intelsat 29e satellite. The unmanned aircraft system (UAS) flew 1,075 nautical miles round trip in a test where command-and control of the UAS as well as sensor data transmissions from the aircraft were successfully switched multiple times between two beams.

Despite last year’s demonstrations and validations, Intelsat General recognizes the need to further educate government customers on what it means to utilize a high-throughput spot-beam architecture versus a wide-beam architecture.

“The military has a long history of wanting to cover very large geographic areas with a single requirement so that they can use that capability as their needs change. Sometimes they’ve even kept that capability in their back pocket for something that might emerge,” Butler said in the Aviation Week interview.

The high throughput spot beam architecture is different. Each of the beams covers a smaller area, so to cover a large geographic area the platform may have to traverse across more than one beam.  A managed service allows you to move across those beams without having to buy capacity within each beam.  With a managed service, you move from one place to the next, and the capacity moves with you.

Going forward, it behooves military customers to also understand the role of low-Earth-orbit (LEO) constellations such as that planned by OneWeb. LEO isn’t a replacement for GEO, but rather is better suited for certain applications. For example, LEO is a good fit for low-latency requirements and coverage over the polar regions where GEO can’t get to today. The research firm NSR projects that by 2026, one quarter of the HTS needed by government customers could be supplied by non-GEO systems.

Commercial satellite providers like Intelsat General have cleared the way to enable military customers to take advantage of HTS, even going so far as to make procurement easier and more cost efficient through managed services. Now it’s up to the military to do its part in realizing these benefits.

For more information on how HTS supports government applications, click here for our white paper.

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Earth Day Workshop: Investigating Our Earth From Above and Below

Earth Day Workshop: Investigating Our Earth From Above and Below
Audience: Educators of Grades K-12
Event Date: April 14, 2018, 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m. PDT
Contact: Brandon.Rodriguez@jpl.nasa.gov
Join NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory for an educator workshop to explore activities to celebrate Earth Day in the classroom. Participants will investigate the water cycle in Southern California and demonstrate curriculum resources that get students exploring rainfall patterns, aquifers and satellite data. Learn how engineering feats have allowed scientists to measure water from space. The workshop will take place at the Chino Basin Water Conservation District in Montclair, California. Pre-registration is required.

Technology Drives Exploration: BEST Satellite and Engineering Design

Technology Drives Exploration: BEST satellite and Engineering Design
Audience: Educators of Grades K-12
Event Date: March 20, 2018, at 6:30 p.m. EDT
Contact: barbie.buckner@nasa.gov
Join the NASA STEM Educator Professional Development Collaborative at Texas State University for a free 60-minute webinar. Participants will learn about the International Space Station as a manmade satellite and explore the BEST (Beginning Engineering Science & Technology) activities that focus on using the engineering design process in the classroom. Online registration is required.

Thales Alenia Space announces shipment from its UK facility of the first instrument for the European Space Agency’s EarthCARE satellite mission

Thales Group - BBR_800_600
Bristol, March 15, 2018. Thales Alenia Space shipped today the broadband radiometer (BBR), a scientific instrument for the European Space Agency’s Earth Cloud Aerosol and Radiation Explorer (EarthCARE) satellite mission. Designed and built by Thales Alenia Space in the United Kingdom, it was shipped to satellite prime contractor Airbus integration center in Friedrichshafen, Germany.

The EarthCARE mission, developed in co-operation with JAXA in Japan, will improve our understanding of the relationship between clouds, aerosols and radiation and their combined effects on the Earth’s climate system. This high-priority mission will enhance our understanding of the science behind climatology and weather prediction.

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