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

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

Despite U.S. Export Restrictions, Market for Commercialized Chinese Kuaizhou-11 Rocket Looks Strong

by Bill Ostrove, Space Systems Analyst, Forecast International.

Kuaizhou-11 launch vehicle.

Kuaizhou-11 launch vehicle.

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

USAF Awards Rocket Engine Development Contracts

by Bill Ostrove, Space Systems Analyst, Forecast International.

Atlas V liftoff (Credit: ULA)

Atlas V liftoff (Credit: ULA)

The U.S. Air Force has awarded two new contracts, worth a combined $161.9 million, as part of its effort to develop a replacement for the RD-180 rocket engine. Aerojet Rocketdyne was awarded $115.3 million to continue development of its oxygen/kerosene-fueled AR-1 booster engine, while United Launch Alliance (ULA) was awarded $46.6 million to continue work on the Blue Origin’s liquefied natural gas-fueled BE-4. ULA will also use funding to work on the Advanced Cryogenic Evolved Stage (ACES).[i] Continue reading

NSF’s Gravitational Wave Detection Could Encourage Adoption of $1.4 Billion NGO Mission

By Bill Ostrove, Space Systems Analyst, Forecast International.

Gravitational waves. Source - NASA

Gravitational waves. Source – NASA

For the first time, scientists have observed ripples in the fabric of space-time called gravitational waves. The detection was made on September 14, 2015, by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO). LIGO encompasses a pair of ground-based observatories in Hanford, Washington, and Livingston, Louisiana – both of which are funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The discovery was confirmed on February 11, 2016. Continue reading

Perseverance Pays Off for Sierra Nevada Corp in CRS Win, Putting Company in Strong Position

By Bill Ostrove, Space Systems Analyst, Forecast International.

Sierra Nevada Corp's  Dream Chaser

Sierra Nevada Corp’s Dream Chaser

After a nearly two-year-long search, in January 2016 NASA announced the winners of its second round of Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contracts. Two of the winners, SpaceX and Orbital ATK, already had contracts under the first CRS program, making their wins entirely unsurprising. Although not considered a favorite in the competition, Sierra Nevada Corp (SNC) also won an award. Continue reading

Multiple Issues Lead to Last Zenit Launch

By Bill Ostrove, Space Systems Analyst, Forecast International.

Zenit launcher being transported by rail.

Zenit launcher being transported by rail.

A Zenit 2SB launch vehicle lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on December 12 carrying the Elektro-L2, a geosynchronous meteorological satellite, into orbit. The Zenit 2SB is also referred to as the Zenit 3SLBF by some sources. Continue reading

With Passage of U.S. Law Legalizing Resource Ownership, Can the Space Mining Industry Succeed?

By Bill Ostrove, Space Systems Analyst, Forecast International.

Asteroid mining.

Asteroid mining.

On November 25, President Barack Obama officially signed into law the Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship Act of 2015 (SPACE Act of 2015, or H.R. 2262). The act addresses a number of commercial space issues, including commercial launch regulations, remote sensing licenses, and bureaucratic structures. Importantly, the bill delays the implementation of new regulations on the commercial launch industry until 2025.[i] Continue reading

Top-Five Military Satellite Manufacturers to Hold Strong Long-Term Market Positions

By Bill Ostrove, Space Systems Analyst, Forecast International.

Atlas V satellite launch

Atlas V satellite launch

Over the next 10 years, the top-five military satellite manufacturers will be Lockheed Martin, Mitsubishi Electric, Boeing, ISS Reshetnev, and Airbus. The companies are ranked based on the forecast value of production of their satellite products between 2015 and 2024. Although other companies act as subcontractors, this list is determined by estimating the revenues of the prime contractors in the military satellite industry. Continue reading

Aerojet Rocketdyne Reportedly Makes $2 Billion Offer for ULA

By Bill Ostrove, Space Systems Analyst, Forecast International.

Atlas V liftoff. Source, Lockheed Martin

Atlas V liftoff. Source, Lockheed Martin

The Wall Street Journal reports that Aerojet Rocketdyne is discussing an acquisition of United Launch Alliance (ULA) with owners Boeing and Lockheed Martin.[i] So far, company officials are not discussing the matter publicly, but a number of news outlets are reporting various details regarding the matter.[ii] Continue reading