Antenna for joint NASA-ISRO radar satellite needs fix, delaying launch

The large deployable antenna for a joint NASA-ISRO radar satellite, dubbed NISAR, that was targeting a spring launch will require an extra coat of reflective material, thus delaying the satellite’s launch until the second half of this year.

In a March 22 statement, NASA said a new launch date for the NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) mission will be set at the end of April because of work to protect the spacecraft’s reflector, an antenna that is 12 meters across when fully deployed, from temperatures when in its stowed configuration. “Testing and analysis identified a potential for the reflector to experience higher-than-previously-anticipated temperatures in its stowed configuration in flight,” NASA said in the statement. To prevent those increased temperatures, a “special coating” will be applied to the antenna so that it reflects more sunlight.

That work, NASA said, requires shipping the antenna, currently with the rest of the NISAR spacecraft in India, to a facility in California that can apply the coating. NASA did not state how long the process of applying the coating, as well as shipping the antenna to California and then back to India, will take.

It appears that the need for this additional coat was discovered during environmental testing by ISRO engineers in India as part of its preparation for launch on India’s GSLV rocket. Based on the JPL website for this mission, it appears this antenna system was built by JPL.

NASA is providing the mission’s L-band synthetic aperture radar, a high-rate communication subsystem for science data, GPS receivers, a solid-state recorder and payload data subsystem. ISRO is providing the spacecraft bus, the S-band radar, the launch vehicle and associated launch services.

Though the purpose of the final environmental testing prior to launch is specifically to find such issues and correct them, the question remains why this issue occurred. One can’t help wondering if the many management problems detailed at JPL in several reports (here, herej, here) might have contributed, including the organization’s total commitment since 2022 to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion quotas, making skin color and sex the primary qualifications for hiring, rather than skill, education, or talent.

Japan and India successfully complete launches

Japan and India today completed launches of different rockets, one on its first successful test launch.

First, early this morning Japan’s new H3 rocket successfully reached orbit for the first time, on its second attempt. The first attempt had problems, first with a launch abort at T-0 when the solid-fueled strap-on boosters failed to ignite. On the launch attempt the upper stage failed. Today’s launch was a complete success, placing a dummy payload into orbit.

Japan’s space agency JAXA however needs to learn how to run a launch in a professional manner. Minutes prior to launch an announcer began a second-by-second countdown, and continued this for minutes after the launch. Not only was this unnecessary and annoying, it made the real updates impossible to hear. India used to do this in its first few live streams, but quickly recognized the stupidity of it. In addition, the person translating the updates clearly knew nothing about rocket launches, so her translations were tentative and often completely misunderstood what had just happened.

All of this makes JAXA look like a second rate organization, which might also help explain its numerous technical failures in recent years.

About twelve hours later, at mid-day in India, India’s space agency ISRO successfully launched its GSLV rocket, placing a commercial radar environmental satellite into orbit.

The leaders in the 2024 launch race:

15 SpaceX
8 China
2 Iran
2 Russia
2 Japan
2 India

American private enterprise still leads the entire world combined in successful launches 17 to 16, with SpaceX trailing the entire world combined (excluding American companies) 15 to 16.

India and France sign deal to partner selling flights on their rockets

India and France have apparently signed a deal to not compete in selling flights on their biggest rockets, but instead work together to keep prices under their control.

Under the terms of the MoU [memorandum of understanding], NSIL’s [the commercial space division of India’s government] heavy-lift launch vehicle, LVM-3, and Arianespace’s Ariane-6 will be at the forefront of this joint endeavor.

The article at the link provides no information at all about the specifics of this deal. I am simply guessing that is it designed to control prices, especially because France by itself does not own the Ariane-6 and thus can not award launch contracts for it. All it can do is convince India to not charge less for its comparable LVM rocket (a variation of its GSLV rocket). If so, it is a bad deal for India, which can easily undercut any price that Arianespace can charge for the expensive Ariane-6. It will drive business from India, since other companies (such as SpaceX, ULA, and hopefully Blue Origin in the near future) will be under no obligation to match Ariane-6’s high cost.

It is also possible that the deal is simply an empty political gesture, timed during the visit to India by France’s President Emmanuel Macron. Its vague language suggests this. It gives Macron a photo op, but as an MOU it leaves India under no long term obligation.

Blue Origin negotiating with India to use its rockets and capsule for Orbital Reef space station

According to the head of India’s space agency ISRO, he has been in discussions with Blue Origin about using different versions of that nation’s largest rocket (dubbed LVM-3 or GSLV-Mk3 depending on configuration) and its manned capsule (still under development) for eventually ferrying crew and cargo to Blue Origin’s proposed Orbital Reef space station.

Somanath said: “We are exploring … In fact, we’ve already discussed it with Blue Origin and they are very keen to consider this option of LVM-3 becoming a crew capsule mission to service the Orbital Reef. It is a possibility and we are engaging through IN-SPACe (Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre).”

On the challenge of integrating a docking system that is compatible, he said standard docking systems are in the public domain. “…Whoever can design a docking system that matches with the US design and standard, can be used. However, we will still need to have agreements with agencies to try it out given that there are multiple interfaces — electrical, mechanical and so on. It is not just one document, we will need to work with them to develop it. We will do that.

It appears Somanath has also had discussions with NASA about also providing the same service to ISS.

An Orbital Reef deal however suggests something very disturbing about Blue Origin. The plan had been to use Blue Origin’s New Glenn orbital rocket (also still under development but years behind schedule) to launch crew and cargo capsules to the station. That in fact is supposed to be Blue Origin’s main technical contribution to the station. Why would the company then look to India for such capability, unless it recognizes that there are more problems with New Glenn that it has not revealed?

It is also possible that Jeff Bezos is simply expressing his leftwing globalist agenda with these negotiations. Or it could mean some combination of both. This situation bears watching.

India’s space agency ISRO launches GPS-type satellite

India’s space agency ISRO today successfully used its GSLV rocket to place the first of a new constellation of that country’s second generation GPS-type satellites into geosynchronous orbit, lifting off from its Sriharikota east coast spaceport.

This was India’s fourth successful launch in 2023, matching its entire total last year. It appears that country has finally recovered from its panic during COVID.

The leader board for the 2023 launch race remains the same:

35 SpaceX
19 China
8 Russia
5 Rocket Lab

American private enterprise still leads China 40 to 19 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 40 to 35. SpaceX alone is now tied with the rest of the world combined 35 to 35, but trails the entire world including American companies 35 to 40.

India launches 36 OneWeb satellites

India’s space agency ISRO tonight successfully launched 36 OneWeb satellites using its LVM-M3 rocket, the largest version of its GSLV family of rockets.

This launch completes OneWeb’s constellation, with 618 satellites now in orbit, allowing them to now offer internet access worldwide in competition with Starlink. After Russia broke its contract and confiscated 36 OneWeb satellites, the company contracted SpaceX and ISRO to launch the satellites necessary to complete the constellation, with SpaceX doing three launches and ISRO two.

This was India’s second launch in 2023. The leaders in the 2023 launch race remain the same:

20 SpaceX
11 China
5 Russia
3 Rocket Lab

American private enterprise still leads China 23 to 11 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 23 to 19. SpaceX by itself now trails the entire world, including other American companies, 20 to 22.

ISRO successfully test fires a throttleable version of an engine used in two of its rockets

ISRO on January 30, 2023 successfully completed a static fire test of a throttleable version of its Vikas rocket engine, used in the upper stage of both its PSLV and GSLV rockets as well as in the GSLV’S first stage, running the engine at 67 percent power for a time period of 43 seconds.

The ability to adjust the power level of the engine during launch will give ISRO the ability to attempt the recovery of the first stages, as well as expand the ability of these rockets to place more satellites per launch in different orbits.

OneWeb paid ISRO about $130 million for two GSLV launches

It appears that OneWeb agreed to pay India’s space agency ISRO about $130 million for two GSLV launches, putting up 36 satellites on each launch.

When asked how much his business would spend to have 72 satellites launched, OneWeb Chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal told reporters in India that it would be more than Rs 1,000 crore.

Rs 1,000 crore translates to about $130 million, which means OneWeb paid about $65 million per launch, which is comparable to SpaceX’s standard Falcon 9 price, before discounts for using previously launched boosters.

It also appears that at present this deal is the only one between ISRO and OneWeb, and that the remaining 576 satellites that OneWeb needs to launch to complete its constellation are still open for others. At present, SpaceX and Relativity have contracts, though it is unclear how many each will launch. I suspect SpaceX will be the majority, since Relativity has not even completed its first test launch. It is also possible that ISRO will get more contracts based on its first launch success.

India’s GSLV-Mark3 rocket launches 36 OneWeb satellites

India’s GSLV-Mark3 rocket, its most powerful, has successfully placed 36 OneWeb satellites into orbit. As of this writing, the first 16 of the 36 satellites had successfully deployed.

This was the first international commercial launch for the GSLV rocket, previously used exclusively for Indian launches. It was also the first launch of OneWeb satellites since its deal with Russia was broken off due to the Ukraine war. Though the company had also quickly signed SpaceX to resume launches, I suspect that since half of OneWeb is owned by a major Indian investment company, India was given favored treatment in determining who would launch first.

This was the third successful launch in 2022 for India, the most since that country shut down in 2020 due to its panic over the Wuhan flu.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race remains unchanged:

48 SpaceX
45 China
16 Russia
8 Rocket Lab

American private enterprise still leads China 68 to 45, though it now trails the world combined 70 to 68.

OneWeb gets deal to provide internet on airplanes

The competition heats up: OneWeb will partner with Panasonic Avionics — which already provides WiFi for 70 airlines — to use the satellite constellation as part of its airline service.

Adding LEO capabilities from OneWeb would enable pole-to-pole coverage with forward link speeds approaching 200 megabits per second (Mbps), according to Panasonic, and return link speeds up to 32 Mbps. Ben Griffin, OneWeb’s vice president for mobility services, said the deal enables the LEO operator to leverage Panasonic’s “reputation, expertise, and reach” to bring its network to airlines.

The agreement also paves the way for OneWeb’s services to be integrated into existing in-flight entertainment systems that Panasonic provides for aircraft.

Both OneWeb and Starlink now have deals to provide internet capabilities for airlines. The competition can only mean the cost to consumers on those planes will likely drop.

Meanwhile, India’s government commercial launch division, NSIL, is prepping a GSLV rocket to launch 36 OneWeb satellites for an October 22nd launch. This will be the first launch replacing the Russians as OneWeb’s launch provider. The launch path over the ocean (with a turn to avoid dropping debris on Sri Lanka) can be seen here.

OneWeb to resume satellite launches this year, complete constellation by mid-2023

Capitalism in space: According to one OneWeb official at a conference yesterday, the company now expects to resume launching its satellites on SpaceX and Indian rockets by the fourth quarter of this year and will complete its constellation by the second quarter of next year.

Launches were suspended when Russia refused to do a launch — and confiscated the 36 satellites — after Europe imposed sanctions in response to the Russian invasion of the Ukraine.

Speaking at the Fourth Summit for Space Sustainability by the Secure World Foundation and the U.K. Space Agency, Maurizio Vanotti, vice president of space infrastructure development and partnerships at OneWeb, said new launch agreements with SpaceX and NewSpace India Ltd. (NSIL) would allow the company to launch the remaining satellites of its first-generation system by the second quarter of 2023.

“Our plan is to be back on the launch pad in quarter four, after the summer, and to complete deployment of the constellation by quarter two next year,” he said. It will take several months after that final launch for the satellites to move to their operational orbits, he added. “We’re going to be in service with global coverage, 24/7, by the end of next year,” he said.

At present OneWeb has not revealed the breakdown of launches from the two companies.

ISRO successfully tests human-rated solid rocket booster

India’s space agency ISRO announced on May 13, 2022 that it had successfully tested the man-rated version of the solid rocket strap-on booster used on its GSLV Mark 3 rocket that will launch its first manned mission into space.

The 20 m long and 3.2 m diameter booster is the world’s second-largest operational booster with solid propellant. During this test, about 700 parameters were monitored and the performance of all the systems was normal.

Launch of the Gaganyaan manned mission is now targeting ’23.

OneWeb signs deal to launch additional satellites using India’s GSLV rocket

Capitalism in space: OneWeb yesterday announced that it has signed a contract with New Space India, the commercial arm of India’s space agency, to launch additional satellites using that nation’s GSLV rocket.

From the company’s press release:

The first launch with New Space India is anticipated in 2022 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) SHAR, Sriharikota. The launches will add to OneWeb’s total in-orbit constellation of 428 satellites, 66 per cent of the planned total fleet, to build a global network that will deliver high-speed, low-latency connectivity.

The company refused to release any additional details. The deal however clearly indicates two things. First, OneWeb wants an alternative to using SpaceX for launching the satellites that the Russians had been previously contracted to put in space. This gives it flexibility should one or another company have issues. For example, SpaceX simply might not have the immediate capacity to launch all these satellites as quickly as OneWeb wants. This second deal distributes that capacity across two launch vendors.

Second, it is likely in the long run that India is going to get a lot of business from OneWeb. This gain for India is Russia’s total loss. The deal will also help get India out of its extended panic over the Wuhan flu. Since the arrival of COVID India’s space industry has ground to a halt, completing few launches. The OneWeb deal might force it to come back to life.

ISRO pinpoints cause of August ’21 failure of India’s GSLV

India’s space agency ISRO has completed its investigation of the failure of the third stage of its GSLV rocket during an August ’21 launch, identifying a leaky valve as the cause.

The leakage in the Vent and Relief Valve is being attributed to the damage in the soft seal that could have occurred during the valve operations or due to contamination and valve mounting stresses induced under cryogenic temperature conditions.

“The committee has submitted comprehensive recommendations to enhance the robustness of the Cryogenic Upper Stage for future GSLV missions, which includes an active LH2 tank pressurization system to be incorporated to ensure sufficient pressure in the LH2 tank at the appropriate time before engine start command, strengthening of Vent & Relief Valve and associated fluid circuits to avoid the possibility of leakage along with the automatic monitoring of additional cryogenic stage parameters for giving lift-off clearance,” Isro said.

India entire space industry almost completely shut down for two years due to its panic over the Wuhan flu. This launch was part of its effort to resume launches, and the failure only added to that shutdown.

OneWeb and Arianespace scramble to find a rocket to launch satellites

Capitalism in space: With the cancellation of the last six Soyuz-2 launches for OneWeb and Arianespace due to Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, the two companies are struggling to find an alternative rocket to launch the remaining 216 satellites that would complete OneWeb’s satellite constellation.

OneWeb has already paid Arianespace for the launches, so the responsibility to get the satellites in orbit is at present Arianespace’s. The problem is that its flight manifest for both the Ariane-5 (being retired) and the new Ariane-6 rocket are presently full.

Going to another rocket provider is problematic, even if a deal could be negotiated. The flight manifest for ULA’s Atlas-5 and Vulcan rockets is also filled. Though SpaceX’s Falcon 9 could probably launch the satellites, that company’s Starlink satellite constellation is in direct competition with OneWeb, which makes it unlikely the two companies could make a deal.

There have been negotiations with India to use its rockets, but it is unclear at present whether this will work.

One other option is to buy a lot of launches from the smallsat rockets of Rocket Lab, Virgin Orbiter, and Astra. This will likely cost more because more launches will be required, and that would required a complex negotiation between all parties.

Wuhan panic continues to shut down India’s space agency

While most private companies and many nations, such as China and Russia, have been launching continuously since the advent of the coronavirus panic last year, India’s space agency ISRO continues to be shut down, completing few launches with a story today suggesting that the three remaining planned launches for 2021 will likely be delayed until next year.

There have only been two launches this year – the purely commercial PSLV C-51 launch in February carrying Brazil’s earth observation satellite Amazonia-1 and the GSLV-F10 mission in August carrying an Indian earth observation satellite EOS-03 that failed.

To be sure, the space agency has plans for three more missions before the end of the year, including the first development flight of the SSLV [Small Satellite Launch Vehicle]. The other two will use India’s workhorse PSLV to launch two earth observation satellites EOS-04 and EOS-06.

“The three planned missions appear unlikely this year,” a senior scientist at the agency said on condition of anonymity.

Worse, before the year began ISRO had reduced its targeted number of missions for ’21 from 16 to 5.

The article makes believe the epidemic has shut down other programs, such as Artemis, in the same way, but that is false. NASA’s Artemis program might have lost a few months in ’20 due to the agency’s panic over COVID, but since then it has been moving as fast as it can, considering the cumbersome nature of its engineering. Even Rocket Lab, which has been badly hampered by New Zealand draconian Wuhan rules, has managed to launch eleven times since January 2020, compared to the four launches attempted by India during that same time.

Whatever has caused the shut down at ISRO, it really hasn’t been the epidemic. Something about the agency’s management and its bureaucratic culture has prevented them from resuming flights. And as they remained stalled, the private commercial companies in the U.S. and China are grabbing their customers.

India’s GSLV rocket fails in first launch since 2019

India’s attempt today to resume launches of its large GSLV rocket, stalled because of the Wuhan panic since its last launch in 2019, failed today when something went wrong with the third stage.

This entirely Indian-built rocket is the one they plan to use for their manned missions. This failure will certainly set that program back, already delayed significantly because of the shut down of their entire launch industry because of COVID-19.

The satellite, also Indian-built, is also a big loss. It was to be the first in a series of Earth observation satellites.

India begins countdown for 1st GSLV rocket launch since 2019

India today began the countdown for its first GSLV rocket launch in more than two years, since it launched the lunar orbiter Chandrayaan-2 with the lunar rover/lander that crashed onto the surface shortly thereafter.

The launch is targeted for 8:13 p.m (Eastern) tonight.

The long gap in GSLV launches was almost entirely because of India’s panic over the Wuhan flu. For the past year and a half its space agency ISRO has completed three just launches, all of which were delayed until late in 2020 because of the panic. Prior to that panic, India had hoped to launch as many as 8 to 12 times in ’20 and ’21 each. Instead, their space industry shut down, and the commercial business they hoped to capture went to American private companies instead.

Today’s launch update

This post will change throughout the day. At the moment, India has successfully finished out the year with its seventh launch, placing an Indian military satellite into orbit with its GSLV rocket.

Seven launches matches India’s previous high from two years ago, but it is also far below their predicted 12 launches. I have a hunch next year will see that jump in launches, especially now that they have now successfully launched their GSLV rocket multiple times.

Meanwhile, Blue Origin is now targeting December 21, in two days, for its suborbital flight of New Shepard, while SpaceX decided to hold off on a launch today of an Air Force GPS satellite while it analyzes more closely the technical issue that scrubbed yesterday’s launch.

An Arianespace Soyuz rocket is set to launch a French military satellite from French Guiana very shortly, while a ULA Delta-4 Heavy is on track for the launch of a National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) spy satellite later today. I will provide updates later today.

UPDATE: Arianespace has successfully launched the French military satellite, using a Soyuz rocket. This was the eleventh launch for Arianespace this year, and its third Soyuz launch. Some might assign these Soyuz launches to Russia, but I consider them European launches because the business comes from Arianespace.

UPDATE: The ULA’s launch today was scrubbed due to the detection of a fuel leak. No word on when they will try again.

India to attempt four more launches in 2018

The new colonial movement: In outlining the success of yesterday’s GSLV launch, the head of India’s space agency noted that they will attempt to complete four more launches before the end of the year.

Following the missions, Mr Sivan said, in January next, ISRO would launch the Chandrayaan-II mission (lunar lander) which will be the first operational mission of the GSLV-Mk III-vehicle.

Addressing reporters after the successful launch of the second developmental flight GSLV-MkIII-D2 carrying communication satellite GSAT-29, he said, “we have to achieve 10 missions before January.”

“That is six satellite missions as well as four launch vehicle missions. Definitely, the task in front of us is very huge,” he said.

According to him, after Wednesday’s flight, the heaviest launcher of India has completed its development flights and is entering into the operational group of launchers of ISRO, that is along with the PSLV (polar satellite launch vehicle) and GSLV.

Four launches in six weeks would require a launch every week and a half. IF ISRO can do this, they will demonstrate the ability to launch almost weekly, a capability that would place them close to becoming a world power in space.

India’s GSLV-Mark 3 rocket successfully launches communications satellite

The new colonial movement: India today successfully launched a new Indian communications satellite on the third launch of its larger GSLV-Mark 3 rocket.

The Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk.III, or GSLV Mk.III, is India’s newest and most powerful rocket. After making a suborbital demonstration launch in late 2014, the rocket made its first orbital mission last June when it deployed the GSAT-19 spacecraft.

Wednesday’s launch was designated D2, indicating that it was the rocket’s second developmental launch, however like last year’s flight its payload – GSAT-29 – is a fully operational satellite.

I have embedded a video of the launch below the fold. The launch occurs at about 25 minutes in.

With this success, the fifth launch this year by India, that country will be able to move forward on the January launch by the GSLV of its Chandrayaan-2 lunar mission.

The leaders in the 2018 launch race remains unchanged:

31 China
17 SpaceX
10 Russia
8 Europe (Arianespace)

China continues to lead the U.S. in the national rankings, 31 to 28.
» Read more

Chandrayaan-2 delayed again, until January 2019

The new colonial movement: ISRO, India’s space agency, has revealed that the launch of its lunar rover/lander Chandrayaan-2 has been delayed from October to Janaury 2019.

Dr M Annadurai, Director of U R Rao Satellite Centre confirmed to NDTV that the launch date for Chandryaan-2 “is slipping to 2019” from the initially planned launch in October this year.

Dr Annadurai said that India’s moon mission now aims to land in February and the rocket launch will take place in January next year.

Moreover, since the weight of the Chandrayaan-2 satellite has increased, Dr Annadurai said that now instead of GSLV MK-II, GSLV MK-III will be used. Geo-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle MK-III (GSLV MK-III), also called the ‘The Bahubali’, is India’s heaviest rocket that weighs nearly 640 tons and will be used to hoist the Chandrayaan-2 satellite from India’s rocket port at Sriharikota.

It appears that in building the spacecraft they have not been able to keep its weight low enough, and have been forced to switch launch vehicles, with this switch causing the delay.

The article also provides a tidbit of information about the GLSV MK-III rocket, that they have an real name for it, Bahubali. If so, they should use it. It sells much better than GLSV MK-III.

India tests upgraded rocket engine

The new colonial movement: India’s space agency ISRO has successfully tested an upgraded version of the Vikas rocket engine it uses in its PSLV and GSLV rockets.

The test was conducted on Sunday, and validated the performance adequacy of Vikas Engine to be used in the upcoming second developmental flight of GSLV Mk-III

Vikas Engine, a workhorse liquid rocket engine designed by the Indian Space Research Organsiation (ISRO), powers the second stage of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) of India. It also powers the second stage and the fourth strap of Geosynchronous Launch Vehicle (GSLV) and the twin-engine core liquid stage (L110) of GSLV Mk-III.

Essentially India here is doing what SpaceX did with its Merlin engine. Rather than start over with a new engine, they are upgrading it, a process that is faster and less expensive. And as they do it, they remain operational and competitive in the launch market, with as many as five launches now scheduled before the end of 2018.

India’s GSLV rocket successfully launches military communications satellite

India today successfully launched a military communications satellite using the Mark II version of its large GSLV rocket, the rocket’s fourth successful launch in a row.

Using a combination of liquid and solid-fuelled stages, the GSLV was designed to place communications satellites into geosynchronous transfer orbits. To this end, GSLV has increased performance over the smaller Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), from which it is derived.

GSLV’s first stage consists of a solid-fuelled core, with four radially-mounted liquid-fuelled strap-ons. The strap-ons are part of the first stage, and do not separate from the core. GSLV’s second stage, which is closely related to PSLV’s second stage, burns hypergolic liquid propellants, while the rocket’s third stage uses cryogenic fuel.

…The Mark II, which has a stretched third stage with an Indian engine, first flew in April 2010 but its new engine failed to ignite. The first successful Mk.II launch took place in January 2014. India also has a GSLV Mk.III. However, this is a completely new rocket that reached orbit for the first time last year. Excluding the Mk.III, Thursday’s launch was GSLV’s twelfth flight. In its previous eleven launches, GSLV has recorded six successes, four failures and one partial failure….GSLV’s current run of four consecutive successful launches is the longest that the rocket has achieved.

The leaders in the 2018 launch standings:

8 China
5 SpaceX
3 Japan
3 Russia
2 Europe
2 India

Both Russia and China have scheduled launches for today, with SpaceX having a launch scheduled for tomorrow, so expect these standings to be updated a lot in the next 24 hours.

India aims to double launches in 2018

The new colonial movement: The head of India’s space agency ISRO said in a newspaper interview today that the agency hopes to more than double the number of launches it completes in 2018, increasing the number to between 10 to 12 launches from the four successful launches in 2017.

“We are targeting 10 to 12 launches next year. The communication satellite GSAT-6A and Chandrayaan-2 mission will be launched by GSLV-Mk-II rockets. The second mission of GSLV-Mk-III rocket with a communication satellite and the launch of navigation satellite also will take place next year”, Kiran Kumar explained.

The much-awaited Chandrayaan-2 mission could be launched in the second quarter of 2018. “The moon lander is ready for the mission and undergoing tests. The flight hardware is getting assembled and going through tests. We are targeting the second quarter of the next year for the launch”, the top scientist said.

The two GSLV launches are critical, as this larger rocket is needed for India to really compete in the international market.

India’s GSLV rocket successfully launches communications satellite

India’s successfully launched a communications satellite early today using its Mark II GSLV rocket.

Friday’s launch, designated GSLV F09, was the fifth flight of the Mark II GSLV which debuted in April 2010. This replaced the Mark I, which first flew in 2001 and made its final flight at the end of 2010, introducing an Indian-developed third stage engine instead of a Russian-built engine flown on the Mark I. With this new cryogenic propulsion system, the GSLV Mk.II is a fully indigenous vehicle.

The GSLV’s service has been marred by concerns over its reliability – to date only half of its flights have been successful – however last September’s launch of INSAT-3DR saw it achieve three consecutive successes for the first time.

This launch success significantly strengthens ISRO’s ability to sell its launch services worldwide. They now have three different rocket configurations, all entirely home built, and all with a string of launch successes.

India preparing rover for 2018 Moon landing

The competition heats up: India preparing rover for 2018 Moon landing.

Isro’s Satellite Applications Centre Director, M. Annadurai, revealed the tentative launch schedule while speaking to the press at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Shar, Sriharikota on Wednesday. He said a Lander and a six-wheeled Rover were being prepped to go with the Chandrayaan-II mission. The chief scientist added that a launch is likely to take place in the first quarter of 2018. According to Dr P.V. Venkita Krishnan, the director of the Isro Propulsion Complex at Mahendragiri, engineers were currently testing soft-landing engines.

India’s launch of a record 104 satellites on a single rocket has pumped up the Indian press, as there were almost 20 stories on space and that launch in their press today, almost all favorable.

This article however is from the U.S., and takes a look at the ineffective American space policy that supposedly forbids American companies from launching on Indian rockets.

The U.S. Commercial Space Launch Agreement of 2005 prohibits the launch of commercial satellites on the Indian vehicle. The reasoning is that struggling U.S. commercial launch providers needed time to establish themselves in the market and would be wiped out by India’s PSLV, which is developed by the Indian Space Organization.

Since 2015, commercial satellite owners have successfully obtained waivers to the policy.

The article notes India’s competitive prices, as well as the overall state of the smallsat industry and its dependence on bigger rockets as secondary payloads to get into space. India’s rockets, funded and subsidized by the government but also built to be inexpensive so as to attract customers, is clearly positioned to effectively compete with SpaceX, who until now charged the least.

What will our Congress do? My preference would be for them to repeal this part of the 2005 law so that American satellite companies can fly on whoever they wish. That would increase competition but it would also likely invigorate the overall launch industry because it would increase the satellite customer base for those rockets and thus create more business for everyone.

Sadly, I suspect that Congress will instead demand that the waivers to the law cease, and will thus block the use if Indian satellites by American companies. The short-sightedness of our politicians never ceases to surprise me.

India delays next launch of its largest rocket

India has delayed the next launch of its GSLV rocket from January to no earlier than March in order to conduct tests on the rocket.

This does not change the schedule for the next launch of their smaller PSLV rocket, which is still set for February and will launch a record of over a hundred satellites, most of which are smallsats.

Posted from Tucson Internationa Airport. I am heading to St. Louis today to give a lecture to the local chapter there of the AIAA.

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