U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and U.S. Representative John Culberson (TX-07) have introduced a bill in Congress to require NASA to develop plans for the future of U.S. human space exploration, with the goal of landing an astronaut on Mars. The plan is called the Mapping a New and Innovative Focus on our Exploration Strategy (MANIFEST) for Human Spaceflight Act. According to a statement released by Senator Cornyn’s office, the plan is based on recommendations of a 2014 National Academies report. Continue reading
Recent Decline Continued, but Stage Set for Renewed Activity in 2017
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
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
On October 5, Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket performed an in-flight test of the capsule’s full-envelope escape system, designed to quickly propel the crew capsule to safety if a problem is detected with the booster. The test flight represents the fifth launch of the booster and crew capsule. Both the booster and capsule were successfully reused after the first four launches. Continue reading
China plans to start launching commercial payloads on its Kuaizhou-11 launch vehicle in 2017. The Kuaizhou-11, which first launched in 2013, is a solid-fuel rocket developed by China Sanjiang Space Group (CSSG). It was originally developed as a quick-reaction launch vehicle that could carry lightweight payloads into low-Earth orbit (LEO) with short notice. Continue reading
The average size, or launch mass, of commercial communications satellites is declining. After the average launch mass reached a peak of 4,424 kilograms in 2012, it declined to 3,578 kilograms in 2013 and 2,755 kilograms in 2014. Even the launch mass of geosynchronous satellites, which are typically heavier than LEO spacecraft, declined in 2014. The launch mass of GEO satellites peaked in 2013, when it reached 5,288 kilograms. The average launch mass of geosynchronous satellites declined to 4,276 kilograms in 2014.