Launch Vehicles: Year in Review 2016

Recent Decline Continued, but Stage Set for Renewed Activity in 2017

Atlas V Launch

by Bill Ostrove, Space Systems Analyst, Forecast International.

The year 2016 saw 85 launches into Earth orbit  (this count excludes the Falcon 9 that exploded in September, since the explosion occurred during the pre-launch phase). Launches were carried out by nine countries, utilizing 22 different launch vehicle families, built by 13 different manufacturers or organizations. Continue reading

New ULA Website Marks New Era in Launch Industry Transparency and Competition

by Bill Ostrove, Space Systems Analyst, Forecast International.

ula

United Launch Alliance (ULA) has announced a new website that enables customers to shop for launch services and sets standard price transparency. It also provides insight into reliability, schedule assurance, and performance of the Atlas V launch vehicle. Continue reading

SpaceX Files to Build Massive Satellite Network

by Bill Ostrove, Space Systems Analyst, Forecast International.

Falcon 9 Launch

Falcon 9 Launch

SpaceX has officially filed with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to build and operate a massive network of low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites. According to documents submitted to the FCC, the satellite constellation will consist of 4,425 operational satellites along with in-orbit spares. The satellites will operate in 83 orbital planes, at altitudes ranging from 1,110 to 1,325 kilometers. They will operate in Ku- and Ka-bands. Continue reading

ILS Plans to Revitalize Proton Sales

by Bill Ostrove, Space Systems Analyst, Forecast International.

proton

Proton with ExoMars TGO

After dominating the commercial launch market for years – along with the Ariane 5 – the Proton is seeing a loss in appeal to commercial operators, along with a decline in sales. As a result, ILS has reduced staff and expenses to support only two to three launches per year, rather than its typical seven or eight. Continue reading

Forecast Roundtable – Discussion of Elon Musk’s Mars Colonization Plan

By Matthew Beres and Bill Ostrove, Forecast International.

forecast-roundtable-mars

Welcome to the Forecast Roundtable Podcast. Forecast Roundtable brings together expert analysts, industry professionals, and government officials to discuss the latest issues in the aerospace and defense markets. Produced at the Forecast International headquarters, Forecast Roundtable offers unique and in depth insight and discussion on any range of topics from geopolitics to aerospace and defense markets. Topic suggestions are welcome. Continue reading

Google’s Deep Pockets Benefit Terra Bella

by Bill Ostrove, Space Systems Analyst, Forecast International.

SkySat-1. Source: SkyBox Imaging.

Terra Bella is part of a wave of new remote sensing satellite operators that hope to utilize new technologies and business models to break into the Earth imagery business.  SkySat satellites have a launch mass of between 100 and 120 kilograms, making them larger than those of some competitors, such as Planet Labs, which is building 6-kilogram satellites.  However, SkySats are still smaller than typical commercial remote sensing satellites, like DigitalGlobe’s 2,800-kilogram WorldView-2.  Terra Bella expects its satellites to offer a compromise between the two extremes, with better resolution and lifespan than extremely small satellites but higher revisit rates than networks with a few large satellites. Continue reading

Elon Musk Lays Out Ambitious, Challenging Plan to Colonize Mars

by Bill Ostrove, Space Systems Analyst, Forecast International.

Mars image taken by Hubble. Source: NASA

Mars image taken by Hubble. Source: NASA

Elon Musk has proposed an ambitious plan to make humans a multiplanet species. The announcement of the initiative was made at the International Astronautical Congress on September 27 in Guadalajara, Mexico, to much fanfare. Attendees of the event described the atmosphere as closer to a rock concert than a scientific or business presentation. Continue reading

Clyde Space Remains at Forefront of Small Satellite Industry

by Bill Ostrove, Space Systems Analyst, Forecast International.

Outernet 1U CubeSat designed by Clyde Space

Outernet 1U CubeSat designed by Clyde Space

While at the 2016 Farnborough Air Show, I had the opportunity to speak with Robin Sampson, a sales manager at Clyde Space, a Scottish satellite equipment manufacturer. The conversation revealed interesting information about Clyde Space as well as some of the major trends within the growing small satellite market. Continue reading

Reusable Launch Vehicles Remain Appealing

by Bill Ostrove, Space Systems Analyst, Forecast International.

RLV-TD blasting off on 5-23-2016

RLV-TD blasting off on 5-23-2016

 

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has successfully launched a reusable launch vehicle demonstrator, dubbed the RLV-TD.  The RLV-TD is a delta-winged spacecraft designed to lift off vertically and land horizontally.  Its reusability reduces launch costs. Continue reading

Using Technology to Sort Through All the Garbage in Space

by Richard Sterk, Electronic Systems Analyst, Forecast International.

Space Debris

Space Debris

The U.S. Air Force’s Space Situational Awareness (SSA) Systems program (formerly known as SPADATS) tracks and logs satellites and various orbital space debris.  (Due to the amount of space junk up there – old satellites, spent rocket stages, etc., the orbits of the various pieces of debris must be taken into consideration prior to any space launch.)  As an umbrella effort, this program has hosted a number of surveillance programs and projects that have been absorbed and discarded over the years. One such program is the SPACETRACK effort. The reborn SPACETRACK/SSA Systems program is virtually the heart and soul of the overall Space Situational Awareness Systems program.  Continue reading