Verbatim | Wanna get away?
“The best time to plan a vacation is when a launch is predicted, because it almost certainly will not go on that day.”
— Mike Safyan, Planet Labs director of launch and regulatory affairs, speaking Feb. 23 at the SmallSat Symposium in Menlo Park, California.
Venture capital taking a shine to space startups
Venture capital investment in the space industry skyrocketed in 2015. A study released Feb.22 by The Tauri Group found that there was $1.8 billion of venture capital investment in the industry in 2015, nearly double the total of the previous 15 years combined.
That surge was largely due to two unusual events: a $1 billion investment in SpaceX by Google and Fidelity, and OneWeb’s $500 million Series A funding round.
Frustrated with Russian red tape, Iridium defects to SpaceX
Iridium Communications revamped the launch sequence for its 72-satellite Iridium Next constellation because of red tape in Russia and now plans a first launch of 10 satellites aboard a SpaceX rocket in July.
A second 10-satellite SpaceX launch would occur in October, with the five remaining launches occurring every 60 days thereafter, Iridium CEO Matthew Desch told investors Feb. 25.
Desch said the Russian Ministry of Defense, which oversees all activities at the Yasny spaceport, has not moved on a request from Dnepr rocket operator Kosmotras to issue the required licenses.
Dnepr, a silo-launched converted ballistic missile, had been scheduled to launch the first two Iridium Next satellites in April. Iridium then would test them in orbit, validating their performance to itself and its insurance underwriters, before proceeding with seven SpaceX launches starting in August.
Desch said SpaceX has agreed to move up the Iridium launch by one month. A second flight in October would mean only three months, not four, to complete in-orbit testing, but Desch said the delays in the program so far have permitted prime contractor Thales Alenia Space to fully vet the hardware.
Getting ready to rumble
The newest version of India’s GSLV is on track for a December launch after a recent engine test. India’s space agency ISRO said the final ground test of the CE-20 upper stage engine, conducted Feb. 19, was a success. That engine will be used on the Mark 3 version of the GSLV, which is scheduled for its first orbital launch in December. The GSLV Mark 3, also known as the LVM3, can place up to 4,000 kilograms into geostationary transfer orbit, double the capacity of the existing version of the GSLV.
Protest, Part Deux
Intelsat is protesting a new request for bids to provide satellite communications for the U.S. Defense Department. Intelsat filed the protest earlier this month, arguing that the Defense Information Systems Agency did not correct flaws in an earlier competition won by Inmarsat.
Intelsat protested that award last year to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, which the GAO sustained, forcing the new competition. The GAO said that, in the earlier competition, DISA gave conflicting information to Intelsat and Inmarsat, requiring Intelsat to provide capacity that Inmarsat was told was not needed.