Tag Archives: PSLV

India to use PSLV 4th stage for orbital research and docking tests

The new colonial movement: India’s space agency ISRO now plans to conduct research, including docking tests, using the 4th stage of its PSLV rocket following normal commercial operations.

The PS4 is the last stage of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket, which until now used to go waste after putting the spacecraft into the desired orbit. ISRO, in the last two attempts tried to keep PS4 alive in space, and was successful. As the next step, it has now called for experiments from national and international institutions. The experiments will cover six areas, including space docking

“The PS4-Orbital Platform (PS4-OP) refers to a novel idea formulated by ISRO to use the spent PS4 stage (fourth stage of PSLV) to carry out in-orbit scientific experiments for an extended duration of one to six months. The advantage being the stage has standard interfaces & packages for power generation, telemetry, tele-command, stabilization, orbit keeping & orbit maneuvering,” Isro said on Saturday.

All of this is engineering research, finding ways to operate in space effectively. More important, they are doing what SpaceX does, letting their commercial operations pay for their research and development. Rather than fly separate missions to do these engineering experiments, they will let their commercial customers pay for it.

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India’s PSLV launches Earth observation radar satellite

India’s PSLV rocket today successfully put a radar satellite designed to do Earth observations into orbit.

The leaders in the 2019 launch race:

7 China
5 SpaceX
4 Europe (Arianespace)
3 Russia
3 India

That India at this stage ties Russia says as much about India’s growing presence as a space power as it does about Russia’s fading presence.

In the national rankings, the U.S. still leads China 10 to 7.

Note: This and the last few posts were written from our hotel in London, near Covent Garden.

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India launches military satellite plus 28 smallsats

Capitalism in space: India today successfully used its PSLV rocket to launch one Indian military satellite plus 28 smallsats.

The rocket’s fourth stage demonstrated an additional capability.

Monday’s launch, the second of the year for India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), was tasked with a series of maneuvers for the rocket’s upper stage to insert twenty-nine deployable payloads into their pre-planned orbits over the first two hours of its flight.

Following separation of the last payload, the upper stage will maneuver to a final orbit where it will operate as a research platform, hosting three attached payloads to demonstrate this capability for future missions. The launch also tests out a new configuration for the PSLV, a further intermediate between the lightest and heaviest versions of the rocket.

UPDATE: Yesterday China also launched a communications satellite designed to facilitate in-space communications, using its Long March 3B rocket.

The leaders in the 2019 launch race:

4 China
3 SpaceX
3 Europe (Arianespace)
2 Russia
2 India

The U.S. continues to lead China in the national rankings 6 to 4.

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India’s PSLV rocket successfully launches military satellite

The new colonial movement: India today successfully launched a military reconnaissance satellite using a new configuration of its PSLV rocket.

The launch was broadcast live here and is still on-going as I write.

Thursday’s launch, the forty-sixth overall for the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), marks the maiden flight of the rocket’s new PSLV-DL configuration. Filling a gap in payload capacity between two of the rocket’s existing configuration, the PSLV-DL will help reduce the cost of India’s access to space. Its first payload consists of a demonstration satellite built around the rocket’s upper stage, testing this concept for future applications, and a military spacecraft with an imaging payload.

During the speeches after the launch, the head of ISRO, K. Sivan, did several things of note. First, he introduced the launch’s mission director and explained that this was his last PSLV launch, as he is leaving the program to take over important aspects of their manned program, dubbed Gaganyaan. Then he let this man speak, giving him a big platform that suggests he is definitely a rising star in their program. Unfortunately, I was not able to catch his name. We shall see him again, however, for sure.

Sivan also noted that the deadline for that first manned mission is December 2021. He also outlined the next few missions, including Chandrayaan-2 to the Moon.

The 2019 launch standings:

2 China
1 SpaceX
1 Japan
1 ULA
1 India

The U.S. and China are tied 2-2 in the national rankings.

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Successful launch tonight for India’s PSLV rocket

The new colonial movement: India’s PSLV rocket successfully placed 31 satellites into orbit, including an Indian Landsat-type satellite plus 30 commercial smallsats.

This ties India with Japan at six launches for the year. With one more launch scheduled for this year, they should end up ahead of Japan.

The leaders in the 2018 launch race remain unchanged.

33 China
18 SpaceX
11 Russia
9 Europe (Arianespace)
8 ULA

At 95 total successful launches so far this year, 2018 now matches the total from 1993, the last time the global aerospace industry accomplished that many. That year, China and Japan had one launch each, Europe seven, with the rest by Russia and the U.S. Now the wealth is much more widely spread, and has a strong potential to grow significantly in the next few years.

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Multiple launches today

Two launches today:

  • ULA’s last Delta 2 rocket launches ICESat-2 icecap tracking satellite for NASA
  • Indian’s PSLV rocket launches two British satellites

More details about ICESat-2 can be found here.

The PSLV launch raises India’s 2018 launch total to 4, tying Japan. The leaders in the 2018 launch standings:

24 China
16 SpaceX
8 Russia
7 ULA
5 Europe (Arianespace)

The U.S. and China are once again tied at 24 each.

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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.

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India’s PSLV successfully launches GPS satellite

India’s PSLV rocket tonight successfully launched a replacement GPS satellite for its navigational system, replacing the satellite lost on a PSLV launch last year.

The leaders in the 2018 launch standings:

11 China
7 SpaceX
3 Japan
3 Russia
3 ULA
3 Europe
3 India

It surely is getting crowded near the bottom. It is also interesting that nations like India and Japan are still running neck and neck with Russia and Europe. Just last year their total launches didn’t match Europe’s, and was just a touch over half of Russia’s.

Update: News articles today say that, according to the head of ISRO, India is aiming for another 9 launches in 2018, for a total of 12, a new record for that country, while Russia’s space chief says they will complete 30 launches before the end of the year. I think India’s prediction is accurate, while Russia’s is hogwash.

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India and ULA complete first launches in 2018

The competition heats up: In what looks like the beginning of what might be the most active launch year in almost three decades, India and ULA today each successfully completed their first launches of 2018.

ULA’s Delta 4 rocket launched a U.S. reconnaissance satellite, while India’s PSLV rocket placed in orbit 31 satellites, 30 of which were smallsats. For India, this was their first launch since an August PSLV launch failed when the rocket fairing did not release.

Update: I just discovered that China launched its second rocket yesterday, placing it in a tie with U.S. for most launches and ahead of everyone else.

2 China
1 SpaceX
1 ULA
1 India

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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.

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India’s next launch might slip to 2018

India’s next PSLV commercial launch might slip to 2018, despite months of effort to resume launches in 2017 following the August 31 PSLV launch failure when the rockets fairing did not release.

“We are working towards it. It will be in the end of December or first week of January. In that time frame,” ISRO Chairman A S Kiran Kumar said.

Kumar also said ISRO will try to launch on an average of once a month in 2018. The article also mentions the new and very oppressive Indian space law that has been proposed.

Asked whether the Space Activities Bill, 2017 would come up during the Budget session of Parliament, Kiran Kumar said “We have now put it in public comments. It would have to go through a set of discussions. The process has started.”

The draft of the proposed Bill to promote and regulate space activities of India, along with encouraging the participation of the private sector, has been uploaded on the ISRO website for comments from stakeholders and the public. [emphasis mine]

The highlighted text is typical of all news reports coming from India. The law does no such thing, and in fact will strongly discourage any work by the private sector. It appears that in India reporters either do not read the text of laws they are reporting on, or they really do not have freedom of the press there.

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TeamIndus still searching for funds for Google Lunar X-Prize mission

Capitalism in space: TeamIndus, one of the five finalists in the Google Lunar X-Prize mission, is still searching for the funds it needs to pay for its launch.

Bengaluru-based aerospace start-up TeamIndus is scouting for funds and sponsors to build a spacecraft with a rover for landing and exploring the lunar surface. “The total budget of the moon mission is about Rs 450 crore, out of which we have raised more than half (Rs 225 crore) and have spent. We’re trying to accumulate the rest through sponsors and others interested in this mission,” TeamIndus Fleet Commander Rahul Narayan told reporters here on Thursday.

They have a contract to launch on India’s PSLV rocket, but have been trying to raise the funds needed to pay for it now for months. In July they had raised half the needed funds. Though this article says they have raised more than half (in Indian money: Rs 225 crore), that number remains half of the total budget listed (Rs 450 crore). From this it appears they have not yet found any additional sponsorship.

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India hopes to resume launches before December

Despite an August 31 launch failure, India is still planning to resume launches before December.

On Friday, Mr Kiran Kumar [head of ISRO] was optimistic that the workhorse rocket would resume flights within a couple of months. “We have identified what the problem is, and we are going through simulations to make sure what we are concluding, is what has exactly happened (during the unsuccessful flight on August 31). The committee, which has been set up to go through the report is having detailed discussions and the report will come out very soon. After the committee gives its final report, we will resume the launches by November-December,” he said, on the sidelines of silver jubilee celebrations of Antrix Corporation Ltd, the corporate arm of ISRO.

They might not meet this goal, but that they are trying to resume launches in less than four months indicates that they are emulating the private sector and not most typical government agencies like NASA in this matter. Both NASA and ISRO have in the past sometimes taken years to recover from a launch failure. After SpaceX’s launchpad explosion in September 2016 they vowed to launch in less than four months, and managed to do it in five months. That ISRO is now trying to do the same indicates that the competition has forced them to up their game.

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India’s PSLV rocket fails to release satellite

India’s PSLV rocket failed to put a navigation satellite into orbit yesterday when the payload fairing did not separate.

The PSLV has had an excellent launch record, so this failure is unfortunate and a surprise. Whether it will effect that rocket’s next launch, putting two Google Lunar X-prize contestants into space, remains unknown.

We are about to leave Torry and head home. Further posts will be on the road, assuming I can get service.

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ISRO’s 104 satellite launched earned India about $7 million

Capitalism in space: India’s space agency ISRO on Wednesday revealed to that country’s parliament that its record-setting 104 satellite launch on June 23 earned about $7 million.

On June 23 this year, PSLV-C38 had launched 712-kg Cartosat-2 satellite along with 30 co-passenger satellites. Of the 30 nano satellites, while one belonged to Noorul Islam University from Tamil Nadu, the rest 29 were from 14 foreign countries. On Wednesday, the government informed the Lok Sabha that the launch of 29 foreign satellites helped Antrix Corporation Ltd (ACL), the commercial and marketing arm of Isro, earn Rs 45 crore (6.1 million euros).

Before the June 23 multiple launch, Isro made the world record when its PSLV C37 launched 104 satellites in one go on February 15 this year. However, the space agency did not reveal how much it earned from that record-breaking launch. Out of the 104 satellites, 96 were from the US, three from India and one each from Israel, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the UAE.

From an American perspective it is encouraging that U.S. companies dominated the satellite count. From India’s perspective, the profits here are only going to encourage that nation to push for more rockets and cheaper costs.

The one problem I see with this is that it is the government that is obtaining the profits, not private Indian citizens or companies. Such an arrangement will not be good for India in the long run, as it encourages the government to use its coercive power to squelch private competitors.

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Has India cut its cubesat launch prices?

Capitalism in space: A complex analysis of India’s recent launch prices suggests that ISRO reduced its cubesat launch prices when it launched a record-setting 103 satellites on the most recent PSLV launch.

The key paragraph however is this:

Small-satellite owners have long complained that the PSLV, whose reliability has been established in the market, has been slow to increase its launch tempo at a time of surging cubesat production. For the moment, none of these satellite customers’ launch options provide predictable launch cadence at affordable prices.

That may be about to change as several dozen vehicles designed specifically to accommodate the growing cubesat market are preparing to enter operations. Not all are likely to succeed in establishing a foothold, but the sheer number of them is impressive:

That makes it all the more important for ISRO’s Antrix Corp., the agency’s commercial arm, to cement a reputation for launch regularity and low prices.

In other words, because a flock of new smallsat launch companies, such as Rocket Lab, Vector, and Virgin Orbit, are about to enter the market ISRO is suddenly feeling the pressure, which is why they have cut prices as well as started to up their launch rate.

Isn’t competition wonderful?

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India’s PSLV rocket successfully launches 31 satellites

India today completed its fourth launch of 2017, using its PSLV rocket to successfully place 31 satellites in orbit, including 30 smallsats.

They also did in-orbit engine tests of the rocket’s fourth stage after releasing the satellites.

For 2017 India has at this moment completed as many launches as ULA, and only one less than Russia. They have four more launches tentatively scheduled, though it is likely that not all will fly this year. If they get them off, however, they will definitely move into the upper tier of launch nations.

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What ISRO charges for a launch

Capitalism in space: This article, outlining the overall expenditures and earnings of India’s space agency, ISRO included this tidbit about the price it charges for launches:

Several companies like SpaceX’s Falcon 9, Russia’s Proton ULA, and Arianespace are big names in the space but ISRO’s Antrix provides competitive rates for commercial launches. ISRO, that has now become a specialist in launching satellites, cost a third of SpaceX launches. The low rates are probably because of ISRO’s location while its Indian engineers earn a fraction of the salaries that engineers would command in foreign countries. [emphasis mine]

If India does charge in the range of $20 to $30 million per launch they are in a strong position to compete with SpaceX, even after it reduces its prices because of the use of used first stages.

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The first 3 of a 200 nanosat constellation delivered for launch

Capitalism in space: Sky and Space Global (SAS) has delivered the first three nanosats — of a planned 200 nanosat constellation — to India for launch.

The first three nanosats are to be launched by India on its PSLV rocket, but SAS has contracted Virgin Orbit to use its LauncherOne to put the next 197 up. They had made this first announcement last summer, saying the first three would launch in the second quarter of 2017. It appears that they are holding to that schedule.

They also said that LauncherOne would begin launching the other 197 satellites in 2018. For this I remain far more skeptical, since the track record at Virgin in getting its spacecraft off the ground on schedule has not been good.

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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.

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India launches record 104 satellites at one go

The competition heats up: India today successfully used its PSLV rocket to launch a record 104 satellites.

I can’t quote the description of the 104 satellites as it is too long. The bottom line however is that India has demonstrated that it is now a major player in the space launch industry.

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Countdown begins on India’s record-setting launch of 104 satellites

The competition heats up: ISRO has begun the countdown for Wednesday’s launch of India’s PSLV rocket, carrying a record-setting 104 satellites.

he Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle would be carrying a 714 kilogram main satellite for earth observation and 103 smaller “nano satellites” which would weigh a combined 664 kilograms. Nearly all of the nano satellites are from other countries, including Israel, Kazakhstan, The Netherlands, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates and 96 from United States, said the state-run ISRO.

If successful, India will set a world record as the first country to launch the most satellites in one go, surpassing Russia which launched 39 satellites in a single mission in June 2014.

Obviously, all these different satellites got a cut-rate launch deal by sharing the launch, which helps make their launch affordable. The disadvantage here is that they do not have much flexibility in choosing their orbits, which is why there is also a market now for small rockets aimed at launching single smallsats, such as Rocket Lab’s Electron.

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India considers going to Jupiter and Venus

The competition heats up: India’s space agency ISRO is considering unmanned missions to both Jupiter and Venus, while also delaying their first manned test flight four years until 2024.

More significant, the second link had this quote:

Mr Somnath said during the current fiscal, Isro planned eight PSLV flights, up from six in 2016. “Our aim is to steadily increase the launches between 12 and 20 in phases with creation of necessary infrastructure.

Like everyone else, they are getting enough business to up their launch rate. 2017 is going to be an active year in the launch market.

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Fifth Google Lunar X-Prize team gets launch deal

Japan’s Team Hakuto has signed a deal to partner with another Google Lunar X-Prize competitor, Team Indus, to share the cost and launch together on a Indian PSLV rocket.

Essentially, both competitors will launch together. They will then race to the Moon to see which can first achieve the X-Prize goal of landing and roving 500 meters.

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PSLV places multiple satellites into different orbits

The competition heats up: India’s space agency ISRO has successfully used its PSLV rocket to launch eight satellites into two different orbits.

After the successful separation of SCATSAT-1, the PSLV-C35 mission continued. Still carrying the seven co-passenger satellites, the fourth stage of PSLV coasted over the South polar region and then started ascending towards the Northern hemisphere. A safe distance between the orbiting SCATSAT-1 and PSLV-C35 fourth stage was maintained by suitably manoeuvring the stage.

At 1 hour 22 minutes and 38 seconds after lift-off as the fourth stage was in the North polar region, the two engines of PSLV fourth stage were reignited and fired for 20 seconds. As a result of this, it entered into an elliptical orbit measuring 725 km on one side of the Earth and 670 km on the other. And 50 minutes later, as the PSLV fourth stage was again coasting near the south pole, its engines were fired for another 20 seconds. This second firing made the fourth stage to enter into a circular orbit of 669 km height inclined at an angle of 98.2 degree to the equator. 37 seconds later, the Dual Launch Adapter was successfully separated from the PSLV-C35 fourth stage. 30 seconds after this event, ALSAT-1N was the first co-passenger satellite to be separated successfully. Following this, the NLS-19, PRATHAM, PISAT, ALSAT-1B, ALSAT-2B, and Pathfinder-1 were separated from the PSLV fourth stage in a predetermined sequence thereby successfully completing PSLV-C35 mission.

This launch was also the 36th successful PSLV launch in a row.

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The Indian government considers privatization

The competition heats up: The Indian space agency, ISRO, is discussing with private companies ways in which it might privatize its smaller and successful rocket, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).

In order to step up the launch capacity within the country, ISRO is in the process of exploring the possibility of involving Indian industry in a greater role to meet the increased national requirements and possible commercial demand for launch services. Discussions are being held with the Indian industry towards formulating a plan and strategy to enhance the capacity as well as capability of managing the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) programme on an end to end basis.

The sense I get from this ISRO announcement is that the government is taking the lead, trying to drag the private companies forward to take over. I also sense that both the private companies as well as ISRO are at the moment are somewhat uninterested in doing it. Neither impression is stated anywhere in this announcement and are merely my personal impressions, based literally on no inside information, which of course means I could be very wrong.

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India launches sixth GPS satellite

The competition heats up: India has successfully launched the sixth satellite in its own GPS constellation. using its PSLV rocket.

They will complete the GPS constellation with a seventh satellite launch in April. The system however is already functioning, as it only needs a minimum of four satellites to work. Unlike the U.S. 24 satellite system, which is designed to be global, India’s system is regional with its focus centered over India itself. This is why they do not need as many satellites for it to function effectively.

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