Northrop Grumman Acquisition of Orbital ATK Strengthens Diverse Space Offerings

by Bill Ostrove, Space Systems Analyst, and Richard Pettibone, Aerospace & Defense Companies Analyst, Forecast International.

Antares launch. Source: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Behind all the sound and fury surrounding the recent UTC/Rockwell deal, Northrop Grumman quietly moved in earlier this week and scooped up rocket and missile maker Orbital ATK in a deal valued at $9.2 billion.  Under the agreement Northrop Grumman will acquire Orbital ATK for approximately $7.8 billion in cash, plus the assumption of $1.4 billion in net debt. The transaction is expected to close in the first half of 2018 and is subject to customary closing conditions, including regulatory and Orbital ATK shareholder approval. Continue reading

Military Satellite Average Launch Mass Continues to Decline

by Bill Ostrove, Space Systems Analyst, Forecast International.

ORS-1 Reconnaissance Satellite, United States Air Force Illustration.

Between 2012 and 2016, global militaries took delivery of 203 satellites. Deliveries reached a peak in 2013 with the launch of 55 satellites. Launches declined to a low point in 2016, when only 26 satellites were delivered into orbit. Going forward, Forecast International expects yearly satellite deliveries to continue between those two endpoints. Continue reading

PSLV Launch with 104 Payloads Opens New Opportunities for Small Satellites

by Bill Ostrove, Space Systems Analyst, Forecast International.

PSLV-C37 with 104 payloads. Source: Indian Space Research Organisation

On the morning of February 15, 2017, ISRO’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (designated PSLV-C37) launched the 714-kilogram Cartosat-2 Series Satellite and 103 co-passenger satellites from Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Sriharikota. The launch – which marked the 38th consecutively successful PSLV mission out of 39 flights – was one for the record books.

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Cornyn, Culberson Restart Debate on Future of NASA’s Human Spaceflight Efforts

by Bill Ostrove, Space Systems Analyst, Forecast International.

Falcon 9 Launch. Source – SpaceX

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

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