Startup smallsat rocket company signs spaceport deal with Brazil

The new colonial movement: A Canadian startup smallsat rocket company, C6 Launch Systems, has not only signed a spaceport deal with Brazil to build its own launchpad at that country’s Alcantara Space Center, it has also won its first launch customer.

First, the launchpad is for C6’s rocket, which is unnamed and designed to launch cubesats. The company webpage says they are aiming for suborbital flights in 2021 and orbital flights in 2022, but it is unclear if it has launched anything at this point.

Nonetheless, Brazil is very clearly teaming up with C6. The Brazilian air force hired it to build a launch pad, a Brazilian company, Concert Technologies, has awarded it a launch contract.

Concert Technologies S.A. who are developing a new small satellite constellation have signed a a non-exclusive letter of intent to launch three small satellites with C6 Launch. The broad agreement allows for Concert Technologies to schedule more launches to maintain and expand their high-resolution Earth Observation (EO) constellation.

It appears Concert’s satellites will be targeting both the Earth imagery market as well as communications services in the “internet of things.”

Virgin Orbit signs deal to launch from Brazil

Capitalism in space: Virgin Orbit yesterday announced that it has signed an agreement with the Brazil Space Agency (AEB) to establish facilities and conduct launches from that nation’s long unused Alcântara spaceport.

The license is granted to Virgin Orbit Brasil Ltda. (VOBRA), a newly formed and wholly owned Brazilian subsidiary dedicated to bringing the LauncherOne air-launch rocket system to the Alcântara Launch Center (Centro de Lançamento de Alcântara, CLA).

The formation of the VOBRA entity for dedicated Brazilian space activities is designed to bring an important new capability to the country and economic value to the region. Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne system, which uses a customized 747 aircraft, Cosmic Girl, as its flying and fully reusable launch pad, will conduct launches from the existing airbase at the Brazilian site, flying hundreds of miles before releasing the rocket directly above the equator — a global sweet spot — or at other optimal locations identified for each individual mission.

Being able to launch smallsats from the equator gives Virgin Orbit the ability to place those satellites in any orbit around the Earth for far less fuel, an advantage not available to spaceports at higher latitudes.

Brazil signs Artemis Accords

Brazil on June 15th became the first South American country to sign the Artemis Accords, designed to bypass the limitations placed on property rights created by the Outer Space Treaty.

U.S. policy requires any nation that wishes to participate in its Artemis program to go back to the Moon to agree to the accords. Brazil is now the eleventh country to sign, joining Australia, Canada, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, New Zealand, South Korea, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, Ukraine, and the United States.

Russia and China oppose the accords, which causes a problem for Russia as it desperately needs to partner with someone because it can’t on its own afford to build much. It is negotiating possible partnerships with China at its new space station as well as building a base on the Moon, but those agreements are not firm. And continues to send out feelers, including statements by Putin, calling for continuing cooperation with the U.S. in space.

Whether the Biden administration will make an exception for Russia in regards to the Artemis Accords remains unclear. That twelve countries have agreed to the accords however gives the U.S. greater leverage with those countries that have not yet signed.

Virgin Orbit signs deal with Brazil to launch from that country

Capitalism in space: Virgin Orbit and the Brazilian Space Agency have signed an agreement to allow the company to launch satellites from one of its facilities.

Launches would occur from the Alcântara Launch Center (Centro de Lançamento de Alcântara, CLA) on Brazil’s northern coast, located just two degrees south of the equator. Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne system, which uses a customized 747 aircraft as its flying launch pad and fully reusable first stage, could conduct launches from the existing airbase at the site, flying hundreds of miles before releasing the rocket directly above the equator or at other locations optimized for each individual mission. The approach enables Alcântara to become one of the only continental spaceports in the world capable of reaching any orbital inclination.

This is an excellent deal for both. Brazil gets some commercial space business, and Virgin Orbit’s 747 will no longer have to fly long distances to get to an equator launch point.

Rocket tank lands on Brazil farm

Chicken Little report: A propellent tank from an as-yet unidentified rocket landed near a house on a Brazilian farm on December 28.

The pictures at the link are neat, especially since the man in the selfie showing the farmer’s family and the tank in the background looks so much like New Jersey governor Chris Christie.

A Russia/Brazil partnership for Sea Launch?

The competition heats up: Russia is negotiating a partnership with Brazil to operate Sea Launch.

The Sea Launch rocket is built by Ukraine, which presently has hostile relations with Russia, to say the least. The platform, built with Boeing money, is presently docked on the the U.S. west coast, which is also not what Russia wants. Moving it to Brazil and adapting it for use with a Brazilian rocket solves both problems, though the usability of Brazil’s rocket is at this moment quite questionable.

A new housecat-sized feline species has been discovered in Brazil.

A new housecat-sized feline species has been discovered in Brazil.

Oncillas are housecat-size felines found throughout much of South America, and are also known as little tiger cats, little spotted cats or tigrinas. But not all oncillas are the same: New research suggests that little tiger cats in northeastern Brazil belong to a different species from those elsewhere on the continent, although they look virtually identical.

Researchers analyzed the genetic material of oncillas in northeastern Brazil, and compared them with nearby populations in the south. They found that there was no flow of genes between the two populations of oncillas, and hasn’t been any for millennia, according to the study, published today (Nov. 27) in the journal Current Biology.

This, along with other genetic differences, led researchers to conclude the two populations do not interbreed and are in fact different species, said study co-author Eduardo Eizirik, a researcher at Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil.