Taking its lead from the UK’s Paradigm Private Finance Initiative (PFI) deal which had Astrium, in the form of its Paradigm Secure Communications outfit (now called Astrium Services) providing satellite services to the UK military, at the Global Milsatcom conference in London, Japan revealed that it has now selected a consortium led by SkyPerfect JSat to provide similar X-band services via two communications satellites it will construct and launch by 2016. In return the Japanese government has agreed to lease this X-band communications capacity for 15 years.
Archive | November, 2012
Having already had a launch attempt in October delayed by a ground systems-related fuel leak, the launch of the South Korean KSLV-1 (NARO-1) launch vehicle was again delayed by a technIcal fault. This time it was on the second stage thrust vectoring system. The launch which was to carry the STSAT-2C scientific satellite into orbit on 29 November is now delayed until well into December. South Korea is taking especial care of this launch, which uses a Russian-design first stage, given taht the first two flights of the KSLV-1 ended in launch failure.
While the Falcon 9 launch vehicle of Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) is repidly becoming the commercial launch vehicle of choice due to its low price (though Arianespace remains market leader), satellite operators are still wary of Falcon 9 launch schedule delays. As such, some operators are now booking back up launches with other launch providers lest SpaceX cannot get their “birds” up on time.
The communications satellite Chinasat 12 has been launched from a Long March 3B/E launch vehicle flying out of the Xichang launch site at 1013 GMT on 27 November 2012. The spacecraft was formerly known as Apstar 7B as it was originally ordered from Thales Alenia Space as a back up for Apstar 7 before it was launched. However, in September China Satcom bought the satellite from APT Satellite Co as APT did not need it given Apstar 7′s successful launch into orbit.
There has been much tabloid interest in what is a re-release of the revelation originally made by the protect’s leader Leonard Reiffel in 2000, that the US Air Force had once considered exploding an atom bomb on the surface of the moon. The plan, as part of Project A119 “A study of Lunar Research Flights” was thought up in the late 1950s to be “shot across the bows” of the Soviet Union after its Sputnik satellite launch. The demonstrqation which would have included he explosion’s flash being visible from Earth was also planned to be morale booster for the US general public. The young astrophysicist Carl Sagan was part of the team predicting the effects of the bomb.
One of NASA’s two specially strengthened Boeing 747-100 series aircraft, dubbed Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (tailcode NASA N905NA), has been landed at Ellington Field in Houston, Texas, after being flown from Edwards Air Force Base in California. The aircraft is one of the two NASA owned Boeing 747s used to ferry the Space Shuttle from landing to launch sites and including their final museum resting places is to be publically displayed by NASA in Houston
Despite having just had its Echostar XVI (Echostar 16) communications satellite successfully launched by an ILS Proton M/Breeze M, on 20 November, nevertheless, EchoStar Corp has apparently lost faith with its “usual” launch provider and has now jumped ship to Arianespace. On 26 Novermber, the major US commercial satellite operator, Echostar, announced that it had signed a deal for Arianespace to provide mulitple launches for Echostar satellites. This multi-launch, multi-year deal shows that Arianespace can still compete for business despite its own cost issues. The agreement was signed after an initial one-off contract allowed a Ariane 5 ECA to successfully launched the Echostar 17 satellite in July (along with Europe’s weather satellite MSG 3).
A new Centre for the Study of Existential Risk has been opened at Cambridge University by the Astronomer Royal, Lord Rees, who has previously written at length on threats posed to mankind and the rest of the world in his book Our Final Century which he wrote in 2003 The “usual suspects” include nuclear war, an asteroid hitting the Earth, and biological risks e.g. naturally occuring or man-made pandemic diseases. There is one other to add to these three horsemen of hte apocolypse: artificial intelligence which can control war machines and robots.
A Chinese Yaogan 16 satelltie and two sub-satellites which are assessed to be a constellation of three satellites conducting an Electronic Intelligence mission with a possible Naval Ocean Surveillance capability, were launched via a Long March 4C on 25 November, at 0406 GMT from the Jiuquan launch facilty in China.
ESA really had three choices with respect to its launch vehicle development: it could built the Ariane 5 ME which might buy a little more time for Arianespace; or It could develop the module expendable (and cheaper) Ariane 6 rocket; or it could go for a full scale reusable or partially reusable rocket design. Each option had downsides.
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