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(13 January 2021 – MethaneSAT) The nonprofit MethaneSAT announced today that it has signed a contract with SpaceX to deliver its new satellite into orbit aboard a Falcon 9 rocket.

Now under construction after completing an intensive design process, the MethaneSAT instrument is on schedule for a launch window that opens October 1, 2022.

An artist’s rendering of MethaneSAT (courtesy: MethaneSAT)

“This is a unique mission on an ambitious timeline,” said Dr. Steven Hamburg, MethaneSAT project co-lead. “SpaceX offers the readiness and reliability we need to deliver our instrument into orbit and begin streaming emissions data as soon as possible. We couldn’t ask for a more capable launch partner.”

MethaneSAT is the newest in a growing wave of methane satellites. It is designed to fill a critical gap between existing missions by providing higher sensitivity and better spatial resolution than global mapping instruments like TROPOMI, combined with a much wider field of view than point-source systems like GHGSat. MethaneSAT plans to stream its data online at no charge for non-commercial users.

Cutting human-made methane emissions is increasingly recognized by scientists, policymakers and the oil and gas industry as a necessary element of any successful climate strategy. Measurements taken by MethaneSAT will enable both companies and governments to locate, quantify and track methane emissions from oil and gas operations worldwide, and use that data to reduce emissions of the highly potent greenhouse gas.

MethaneSAT is building an advanced data platform to automate complex analytics required to determine the amount of methane that is being released across a landscape, transforming a process that now takes scientists weeks or months into one that provides users with actionable data in just a few days. Making methane emissions data for oil and gas infrastructure across the globe freely available will create unprecedented transparency, giving stakeholders and the public a vital window on the progress toward emission reduction goals.

Unique mission

MethaneSAT is a subsidiary of Environmental Defense Fund, which has a long record of working with both business and policymakers to create innovative, science-based solutions to critical environmental challenges.

“Reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas industry is the fastest, most cost-effective way we have to slow the rate of warming right now, even as we continue to decarbonize the energy system,” said Mark Brownstein, EDF Senior Vice President for Energy. “MethaneSAT is designed to create transparency and accountability to make sure companies and governments don’t miss that opportunity.”

Last month, the Bezos Earth Fund announced a $100 million grant to EDF that will support critical work including completion and launch of MethaneSAT.

A leading source of expertise on methane emissions, EDF coordinated a sweeping series of studies that produced more than 50 peer-reviewed scientific papers involving more than 150 academic and industry co-authors who assessed methane emissions at every stage in the U.S. oil and gas supply chain.

Cutting methane emissions from the oil and gas industry 45% by the year 2025 would have the same 20-year climate benefit as shutting down one-third of the world’s coal-fired power plants.

The idea for MethaneSAT was first unveiled by EDF President Fred Krupp in an April 2018 TED Talk, as one of the inaugural group of world-changing ideas selected for seed funding by the Audacious Project, successor to the TED Prize.

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Exolaunch delivers 30 small satellites into orbit on SpaceX’s first dedicated Rideshare launch

Exolaunch delivers 30 small satellites into orbit on SpaceXs first

(24 January 2021 – Exolaunch) Exolaunch has announced a successful launch of 30 commercial, space agency, and university satellites for its customers from Europe and the U.S. on the first dedicated rideshare mission of SpaceX’s SmallSat Rideshare Program.

The mission, named “Zeitgeist,” lifted off on January 24 at 15:00 UTC on Falcon 9 “Transporter-1,” completing one of the largest and most diverse rideshare missions for Exolaunch.

Falcon 9 liftoff (courtesy: Exolaunch)

Zeitgeist kicked-off the first of several rideshares Exolaunch will manifest on Falcon 9 as part of a multi-launch agreement with SpaceX. On this mission, Exolaunch provided deployment, mission management and integration services to the German Aerospace Center (DLR), Dresden Technical University, ICEYE, NanoAvionics and other commercial companies for IoT, Earth observation and scientific applications.

“This Zeitgeist mission set a new standard for rideshare launches and not only was a successful demonstration of Exolaunch’s capabilities, but also paved the way for smallsat developers from around the world to participate in SpaceX’s SmallSat Rideshare Program,” said Jeanne Medvedeva, Vice President of Launch Services at Exolaunch. “We are proud to be working with so many of the world’s leading satellite and technology companies to advance the NewSpace industry, and we are already looking ahead to additional Falcon 9 launches later this year.”

Zeitgeist was Exolaunch’s 12th rideshare mission. As with previous launches, Exolaunch utilized its proprietary flight-proven separation systems – CarboNIX, the next generation shock-free separation system for microsatellites, upgraded modifications of EXOpod cubesat deployers, as well as its EXObox sequencers to flawlessly deploy its customers’ satellites into the target orbit. With this launch, Exolaunch has flown 140 smallsats on multiple launch vehicles.

Exolaunch’s manifest on the Transporter-1 mission includes the following satellites:

  • Charlie nanosatellite built by NanoAvionics for Aurora Insight: The first of two nanosatellites, built and integrated by NanoAvionics for US radio frequency spectrum and wireless data provider Aurora Insight.
  • CubeLCT nanosatellite from the German Aerospace Center (DLR): The CubeLCT is developed by DLR Institute of Communications and Navigation in close cooperation with its commercialization partner Tesat-Spacecom (TESAT) in Backnang. The satellite has been developed and integrated by the Danish company GomSpace. The development of the CubeLCT serves the demand for increasing bandwidth, resulting in new sensor capabilities on small satellites.
  • SOMP-IIb (Student’s Oxygen Measurement Project) nanosatellite from Dresden Technical University: Part of a student small satellite project of the Dresden Technical University, the goal is to measure atomic oxygen of the upper atmosphere, test flexible solar cells and more.
  • 3 x ICEYE satellites: Three more satellites of the commercial constellation of radar imaging satellites built and operated by ICEYE.
  • 24 satellites from unnamed commercial customers.
  • Exolaunch continues to make space more accessible through regular and cost-efficient rideshare missions for small satellites. In addition to successful satellite deployments from SpaceX’s Falcon 9, Exolaunch’s flight heritage includes Arianespace’s Soyuz-ST, RocketLab’s Electron, Roscosmos’ Soyuz-2 and a scheduled mission with ISRO’s PSLV later this year.

About Exolaunch

Exolaunch provides rideshare launch and deployment services for NewSpace companies. Its flight heritage includes the successful deployment of 140 small satellites into orbit through its global network of launch vehicle providers. Exolaunch enables the visions of New Space leaders, the world’s most innovative startups, research institutions, government organizations, and space agencies. The company also manufactures flight-proven separation systems to deliver the best-in-class integration services and deployment for small satellites.

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Northrop Grumman completes validation test of new rocket motor for United Launch Alliance

Northrop Grumman completes validation test of new rocket motor for

(21 January 2021 – Northrop Grumman) Northrop Grumman conducted a validation ground test of an extended length 63-inch-diameter Graphite Epoxy Motor (GEM 63XL) today in Promontory.

This variation of the company’s GEM 63 strap-on booster was developed in partnership with United Launch Alliance (ULA) to provide additional lift capability to the Vulcan Centaur rocket.

Northrop Grumman conducted a validation test of its GEM 63XL rocket motor on Jan. 21 at its Promontory, Utah, facility. The GEM 63XL will support the United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan Centaur launch vehicle. (courtesy: Northrop Grumman)

“This new motor optimizes our best-in-class technologies and leverages flight-proven solid rocket propulsion designs to provide our customers with the most reliable product,” said Charlie Precourt, vice president, propulsion systems, Northrop Grumman. “Evolving the original GEM 63 design utilizes our decades of GEM strap-on booster expertise while enhancing capabilities for heavy-lift missions.”

During today’s static test, the motor fired for approximately 90 seconds, producing nearly 449,000 pounds of thrust to validate the performance capability of the motor design. Additionally, this firing verified the motor’s internal insulation, propellant grain, ballistics and nozzle in a hot-conditioned environment.

Northrop Grumman has supplied rocket propulsion to ULA and its heritage companies for a variety of launch vehicles since 1964. The GEM family of strap-on motors was developed starting in the early 1980s with the GEM 40 to support the Delta II launch vehicle. The company then followed with the GEM 46 for the Delta II Heavy, and the GEM 60, which flew 86 motors over 26 Delta IV launches before retiring in 2019. The first GEM 63 motors supported ULA’s Atlas V rocket in November 2020.

Northrop Grumman solves the toughest problems in space, aeronautics, defense and cyberspace to meet the ever evolving needs of our customers worldwide. Our 90,000 employees define possible every day using science, technology and engineering to create and deliver advanced systems, products and services.

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SSC and Airbus Defence and Space Netherlands to collaborate in optical communication

SSC and Airbus Defence and Space Netherlands to collaborate in

(21 January 2021 – SSC) SSC and Airbus Defence and Space Netherlands (Airbus DS NL) have signed an MOU for collaborative activities regarding ground equipment for space-to-ground optical communication.

The agreement will accelerate the development of commercially viable optical ground stations that will be offered by Airbus DS NL and used by SSC in delivering ground network services.

One of the collaborative activities in developing this capability includes optical communication tests against the CubeLCT optical terminal on the Photo Images Cross Laser (PIXL-1) Mission, organised in close co-operation with project partner TESAT. PIXL-1 will be launched the 22nd of January.

“Airbus Netherlands will be an important partner as SSC continues to add optical communication solutions to our global network of ground stations. Their modern infrastructure and industry-leading knowledge will be a vital contribution to our service offering”, says Stefan Gardefjord, CEO at SSC.

Optical communication between ground stations and satellites in orbit enables broadband connectivity via space, providing a secure and efficient solution for the fast-growing worldwide demand for data.

“Optical communication will be a game changer in this era in which we increasingly share data. We have a strong desire to work with Swedish Space Corporation to further build up our capabilities for optical ground stations, as they have been at the forefront of ground stations services for decades”, says Maarten Schippers, CEO at Airbus Defence and Space Netherlands.

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