Lockheed, Aerojet bet on 3-D printing for manufacturing

Lockheed Martin Space Systems is using "additive manufacturing" - better known as 3-D printing - to greatly decrease costs and lower production time when creating parts like this partially-built tank. Credit: Phillip Swarts

COLORADO SPRINGS – Major aerospace corporations such as Lockheed Martin and Aerojet Rocketdyne are developing greater 3-D printing capabilities as a way to speed production and lower costs.

Speaking to reporters during the 33rd annual Space Symposium last week, both companies said they are expanding the number of components they manufacture via 3-D printing, more formally known as additive manufacturing.

“The advantage that additive [manufacturing] typically provides is not only reduced cost, but it’s really reducing the span time,” said Brian O’Connor, Lockheed Martin Space Systems’ vice president of production.

One example he provided was a spherical titanium tank, comprised of two domes 117 centimeters in diameter, used on one of the company’s A2100 satellite buses. With 3-D printing, manufacturing time has dropped by two-thirds, he said.

“This allows us to cut that span time down from 18 months to go get a tank down to a neighborhood of less than 6 months,” O’Connor said.

The 3-D printing also allows Lockheed to create greater custom designs for satellites and satellite parts to meet specific functions, without needing a huge amount of capital to retool manufacturing capabilities.

“It allows you to do designs that you can’t produce in a normal fashion, you can’t do it in a machining operation in a single part,” O’Connor said. “So it allows that additional degree of freedom for our engineers.”

Lockheed said it is planning to use additive manufacturing on a military satellite for the first time. For the next Air Force Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite, AEHF-6, the company built a remote interface unit, which the company describes as “an aluminum electronic enclosure designed to hold avionic circuits,” using 3-D printing.

Manufacturing time went from six to one and a half months, and the assembly time dropped from 12 hours to just three, the company said, adding that the effort will serve as a model for using similar techniques on other A2100 buses.

NASA’s Juno spacecraft, currently orbiting Jupiter, launched in 2011 with Lockheed’s first 3-D printed parts: a series of eight titanium brackets. The company is also exploring applications for 3-D printing beyond satellites. Lockheed said it’s looking at manufacturing parts that could be included on rockets.

Another company is already using 3-D printing for rocket engines. Aerojet Rocketdyne announced April 3 that it successfully test-fired a full-scale 3-D printed copper thrust chamber assembly for the RL10 rocket engine.

Creating the thrust chamber takes just under a month, the company said, and reduces the part count by more than 90 percent over the current design that uses multiple stainless steel tubes.

Aerojet is now looking at implementing similar 3-D printing techniques for its RS-25 engine that will be used on NASA’s Space Launch System, and the in-development AR1 engine that the company is hoping will be selected to power United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan rocket.

“For rocket engines, it’s actually having a big effect on our business,” said Julie Van Kleeck, vice president of advanced space and launch programs. “It not just works on the cost side of things, but it also allows you to do things you couldn’t do in terms of the types of passages for cooling, and so on.”

“With rocket engines, the prices go down, the build times go down, the development cycles go down,” she said. “The key there is, can you really build what you think you’re building and get the material properties? We live at the edge of engineering with what we do, so our material properties have to be what we think they are.”

SpaceNews.com

Falcon Heavy build up begins; SLC-40 pad rebuild progressing well

As SpaceX continues to make excellent progress on rebuilding SLC-40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the company has achieved a major milestone toward the debut of its Falcon Heavy rocket.  With the first Falcon Heavy side core on the test stand at McGregor, Texas, SpaceX is in final preparation for the all important hot fire test of the booster before its shipment to the Kennedy Space Center ahead of a planned maiden flight later this year.

SLC-40 progress – long-pole to Falcon Heavy debut:

Following completion, activation, and christening of LC-39A in February, SpaceX’s dedicated team of pad engineers switched focus a few miles down the beach to SLC-40.

Working the same magic they conducted on 39A, which performed flawlessly during its inaugural use for Falcon 9 back in February, those same engineers have since been hard at work rebuilding the company’s SLC-40 pad on the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Heavily damaged – but not destroyed – by the mishap during the Falcon 9 static fire for the AMOS-6 mission on 1 September 2016, the pad is now one of the primary driving factors toward the company’s upcoming debut of its Falcon Heavy rocket.

But not because Falcon Heavy will launch from SLC-40.

Instead, SLC-40 is needed for single-stick Falcon 9 missions – a primary charge the pad will take once it is operational again so that the final elements of work on LC-39A can be completed to host the Falcon Heavy.

Basically, the plan is to shift all Falcon 9 missions back to SLC-40 following its reactivation.

At that point, LC-39A will be taken offline for 60 days to allow engineers to complete work on the pad’s Tail Service Masts (TSMs) needed for fueling and support equipment connections to the two side boosters for the Falcon Heavy.

Previously, SpaceX had stated in the post-launch CRS-10 press conference, that all work on 39A was complete in terms of the pad’s readiness to host a Falcon Heavy.

A few weeks later, that statement – which was given by SpaceX’s Dragon manager – was corrected in information acquired by NASASpaceflight.com’s L2 section and confirmed last month by Elon Musk.

That L2 information revealed that SpaceX had opted to forgo some work on the TEL (Transporter/Erector/Launcher) and two of the three TSMs on LC-39A.

The two work-deferred TSMs for the side boosters of the Falcon Heavy were in no way needed for single-stick Falcon 9 flights – hence why their work was postponed in favor of launching Falcon 9s from 39A as soon as possible.

This TEL and TSM work is now scheduled to begin once SLC-40 is operational.

Down the road, SLC-40’s own TSMs are now receiving their share of attention as SpaceX engineers work to install new TSMs to replace the ones that were damaged in the AMOS-6 conflagration.

According to information obtained by NASASpaceflight.com, available on L2, the damaged TSMs at SLC-40 actually fared quite well through the AMOS-6 incident and could have been refurbished and repaired instead of being replaced.

SpaceX nonetheless opted to build new TSMs as that was deemed easier and quicker than the repair option.

Currently, the old TSMs have been removed from SLC-40 and were initially placed in a staging area alongside their replacements.

The replacements appear to be more or less identical to the old TSMs – though some upgrades were likely incorporated into their design.

Now, the new SLC-40 TSMs are being installed onto the pad, progressing the pad’s repair work that aims to have SLC-40 “operational” by August, a goal that appears achievable at this time.

(It should be noted that “operational” is not necessarily the same as “first flight in August” in terms of pad language.)

Nonetheless, this August “operational” status for SLC-40 is critical toward Falcon Heavy’s planned debut in “late-summer” of this year from 39A – though at this time Falcon Heavy’s maiden flight is looking more like an autumn or later event than a summer one.

Falcon Heavy debut – first side booster at McGregor:

Per the current timeline, the earliest possible switch of Falcon 9 flights back to SLC-40 would be August – meaning the earliest that LC-39A could be deactivated for TSM and TEL work would be 1 August.

That therefore translates to a 60-day work flow culminating at the end of September (at the earliest) – which is past the summer months and into autumn.

Therefore, that would notionally place the first Falcon Heavy flight realistically in the October timeframe at this point.

Mr. Musk stated last month that 39A would not be taken offline prior to SLC-40’s activation.

Given that the personnel working to get SLC-40 up and running are the same engineers who will perform the final 60-day work period on 39A, there is no time between 39A launches to perform this work.

Nonetheless, that is not stopping SpaceX – nor should it – from progressing through Falcon Heavy’s various pre-launch milestones.

Earlier this year, the first side-mount booster – in reality, a regular Falcon 9 core with a nose cone on top – was seen in transit to the company’s McGregor, Texas, test facility.

Last week, on 8 April, that side-booster was hoisted onto the S1 (Stage 1) test stand at McGregor in preparation for its full-duration hot fire run – as all Falcon first stages do.

A test firing is scheduled to take place as early as Wednesday.

The side-booster is – as previously reported – a flight-proven core.

In fact, it is core #1023 – which was previously used to launch the Thaicom-8 mission last year.

That core performed a hot entry landing on the ASDS (Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship) barge Of Course I Still Love You in the Atlantic, suffering a crumpled landing leg that lovingly earned the core the unofficial nickname “The Leaning Tower Of Thaicom-8”.

The core – now named 1023.2 – will now be hot fired and tested before being wrapped up and transported by road and security escort to the Kennedy Space Center and the HIF (Horizontal Integration Facility) at LC-39A.

Between hot fires of the first stage cores needed for upcoming single-stick Falcon 9 missions, the Falcon Heavy’s second side-booster (which will be another flight-proven core) and its brand new center core will all undergo testing at McGregor – as will its Second Stage – before arriving at or back to Kennedy.

Once at Kennedy, the three cores will be integrated together for the first time inside the HIF.

As with any pad’s first use for a new rocket, Falcon Heavy is expected to be hauled to the pad on the TEL for a series of fit checks, tanking tests – to verify the new TSMs, and general checkout and validation activities ahead of its all important static fire.

This static fire will see all 27 engines at the base of the Falcon Heavy ignite at once and run through a 3-second checkout sequence before shutting down.

That will be the final major milestone before the mission lifts off.

At liftoff, the 1,420,788 kg (3,125,735 lb) Falcon Heavy will deliver 5.13 million pounds of thrust (lbf) from its 27 engines – well within 39A’s capabilities – before ramping up to 5,548,500 lbf during first stage flight.

When it launches for the first time, Falcon Heavy will become the most-powerful launch vehicle in the world – capable of delivering 63,800 kg (140,660 lb) to Low Earth Orbit, 26,700 kg (58,860 lb) to Geostationary Orbit, 16,800 kg (37,040 lb) to Mars, and 3,500 kg (7,720 lb) to Pluto.

(Images: SpaceX, L2 McGregor (Gary Blair), and L2 artist Nathan Koga – The full gallery of Nathan’s (SpaceX Dragon to MCT, SLS, Commercial Crew and more) L2 images can be *found here*))

(To join L2, click here: https://www.nasaspaceflight.com/l2/)

China launches an experimental communications satellite

china_long_march_3b_xinhua

China launched an experimental communications satellite this morning.

A Long March 3B rocket lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 7:02 a.m. Eastern carrying the Shijian-13 satellite.

The spacecraft, also known as ChinaSat-16, will test Ka-band communications and other spacecraft technologies, including electric propulsion, from geostationary orbit. [NASASpaceFlight.com]


More News

Crew assignments for commercial crew test flights next year could come this summer. In a recent interview, Robert Behnken, one of four NASA astronauts currently training to fly Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Dragon V2, said assignments for the crewed test flights that are key milestones in the development of those vehicles could come about a year before those flights. SpaceX is currently planning a May 2018 crewed test flight, and Boeing an August 2018 flight. Behnken said astronauts are currently being trained to fly both spacecraft, which ultimately will be designed so that any astronaut, as opposed to a special pilot class of astronaut, can fly them. [SpaceNews]

The former CEO of a satellite connectivity company is still upbeat about the industry’s prospects. Dave Davis left as CEO of Global Eagle in February, but is working with the company as a consultant. Davis said he stepped down because he had completed some major milestones with the company and felt someone else should lead the firm as it goes into its next stage of operations. He declined to comment on why his departure, and that of the CFO, coincided with delayed financial filings. He said he was still bullish on the use of satellites to provide in-flight connectivity, despite one company’s recent funding round to build a new terrestrial network, adding that inclined orbit geosynchronous satellites like the one Global Eagle recently acquired offer “compelling” economics. [SpaceNews]

The head of Roscosmos says Russia plans to launch two satellites from the Vostochny Cosmodrome late this year. In an interview with a government newspaper, Igor Komarov said that the Canopus-V and Meteor-M satellites will launch on Soyuz-2 rockets from Vostochny in December. The launch site, built in Russia’s Far East, hosted its first and, to date, only launch nearly a year ago. Komarov also said that construction of a launch pad at Vostochny for the Angara-A5 rocket will begin there next year, with the first Angara launch scheduled from there in 2019. [TASS]

The U.S. Air Force has ordered two more “neighborhood watch” satellites to monitor geosynchronous orbit. Orbital ATK says it has received a contract to build another pair of Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program (GSSAP) satellites. The company built the first four GSSAP satellites, launched in pairs on Delta 4 missions in 2014 and 2016. A launch date for this latest pair has not been announced, but Air Force officials said the launch contract will be competed between SpaceX and United Launch Alliance. The Air Force declined to give the value of the latest GSSAP contract. [Spaceflight Now]

NASA Langley broke ground Tuesday on a new laboratory building. NASA says the Measurement Systems Laboratory, slated for completion in mid-2019, will support the center’s work in the research and development of measurement concepts, technologies and systems. The $95.6 million building is one of four new facilities being built as part of the center’s 20-year revitalization plan. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and other elected officials participated in the groundbreaking ceremonies. [WVEC-TV]

An Australian startup has raised an initial round of funding to support work on a planned constellation of nanosatellites to support the “Internet of Things.” Fleet, based in Adelaide, said it raised a US$3.8 million Series A round to support initial work on a planned 100-satellite constellation to provide communications for network-connected devices. Fleet joins a growing number of satellite operators seeking to provide services through existing or planned satellites for the estimated 75 billion devices that will have internet access by 2025. [Mashable]

Astronomers have wrapped up a project to connect telescopes around the work in an effort to directly image a black hole. The Event Horizon Telescope brought together millimeter-wave telescopes in the Americas, Europe and Antarctica for several days though a technique called very long baseline interferometry to create a telescope with a virtual aperture as large as the Earth. It will take months of analysis of the data to determine if their effort was successful. [Scientific American]

Jupiter has a second large spot, and it’s cold. The “Great Cold Spot” gets its name because it is nearly as large as the Great Red Spot observed by astronomers for centuries, and is about 200 degrees colder than the surrounding atmosphere. Scientists recently found the spot in infrared observations by the Very Large Telescope in Chile, and then confirmed its existence in older images by another telescope dating back 15 years. Scientists suspect the spot may be formed by interactions with the planet’s aurorae, and could be thousands of years old. [Space.com]

NASA will provide the first 4K, or Ultra HD, live video from the International Space Station later this month. The broadcast, on April 26, will feature NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson participating from the station in a panel discussion taking place at the National Association of Broadcasters Show in Las Vegas. The panel will be livestreamed in 4K, and lower-resolution traditional HD, by Amazon. [Variety]

SpaceNews.com

Long March 3B set for experimental ChinaSat-16 launch

The Chinese are set to return to launch action with the lofting of a new experimental communications satellite from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center. The launch will be conducted by the Long March 3B G2 ‘Chang Zheng-3B/G2’ (Y43) from the LC2 Launch Complex at the Sichuan province site, with T-0 expected to occur at 11:02 UTC.

Chinese Launch:

The 4.6-tonne satellite was developed by the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) and is based on the DFH-3B satellite platform. Shijian-13 was the satellite’s original designation, before being renamed Zhongxing-16 (ChinaSat-16).

The new satellite will test a new electric propulsion system to be used for orbit raising and station keeping at a geosynchronous altitude. It also carries the first high-throughput satellite payload (HTS) developed by China.

The satellite features a Ka-band broadband communications system capable of transmitting 20 gigabytes of data per second, making it the most powerful communications satellite the nation has developed to date.

According to Wang Min, deputy head of the CAST’s Institute of Telecommunication Satellite, ChinaSat-16 will provide better access to the Internet on planes and high-speed trains, with the increase in satellite throughput provided by the new satellite that will be located at 110.5° East.

The satellite is able to provide 26 user beams covering China and offshore areas – allowing it to also cover airborne and maritime communications and emergency communications, using Ka-band satellite broadband and multimedia services.

With a lifetime of 15 years, the satellite will be operated by China Satcom.

The satellite will also conduct space-to-ground laser communications experiments.

The DFH-3 (Dongfanghong-3) platform is a medium-capacity telecommunications satellite platform designed and developed by CAST.

The platform can be used for multiple telecommunications payloads for providing a range of services, including fixed communication, international satellite communication, national and regional communication, wideband data communication, mobile communication and direct broadcast; military communication, spacecraft tracking and data relay.

It comprises six subsystems: control, power, propulsion, measurement & control, structure and thermal control subsystem. The platform configuration features module subdivision, which includes a communication module, propulsion module, service module and solar array.

The platform adopts three-axis stabilized attitude control mode, with solar array output power of 1.7 kw by the end of its design lifetime. Its mass is 2,100kg with payload capacity 220kg.

The DFH-3 satellite platform has been successfully applied in the Beidou navigation test satellite, and other satellites, all of which are currently operating normally.

During numerous flight missions, the maturity and reliability of the DFH-3 platform have been proved. Moreover, it has strong expansion capacity and can be upgraded to some space exploration missions, such as meteorological satellite and lunar resource satellite services.

Its onboard Ion thrusters are designed for a wide variety of missions.

These thrusters have high specific impulses, that is, ratio of thrust to the rate of propellant consumption, so they require significantly less propellant for a given mission than would be needed with chemical propulsion.

Ion propulsion is even considered to be mission enabling for some cases where sufficient chemical propellant cannot be carried on the spacecraft to accomplish the desired mission.

Launch vehicle and launch site:

To meet the demand of international satellite launch market, especially for high power and heavy communications satellites, the development of Long March-3B (Chang Zheng-3B) launch vehicle started in 1986 on the basis of the fight proven technology of Long March launch vehicles.

Developed from the Chang Zheng-3A, the Chang Zheng-3B is at the moment the most powerful launch vehicle on the Chinese space launch fleet.

The CZ-3B features enlarged launch propellant tanks, improved computer systems, a larger 4.2 meter diameter payload fairing and the addition of four strap-on boosters in the core stage that provide additional help during the first phase of the launch.

The rocket is capable of launching a 11,200 kg satellite to a low Earth orbit or a 5,100 kg cargo to a geosynchronous transfer orbit.

The CZ-3B/G2 (Enhanced Version) launch vehicle was developed from the CZ-3B with a lengthened first core stage and strap-on boosters, increasing the GTO capacity up to 5,500kg.

On May 14, 2007, the first flight of CZ-3B/G2 was performed successfully, accurately sending the NigcomSat-1 into pre-determined orbit. With the GTO launch capability of 5,500kg, CZ-3B/G2 is dedicated for launching heavy GEO communications satellite.

The rocket structure also combines all sub-systems together and is composed of four strap-on boosters, a first stage, a second stage, a third stage and payload fairing.

The first two stages, as well as the four strap-on boosters, use hypergolic (N2O4/UDMH) fuel while the third stage uses cryogenic (LOX/LH2) fuel. The total length of the CZ-3B is 54.838 meters, with a diameter of 3.35 meters on the core stage and 3.00 meters on the third stage.

On the first stage, the CZ-3B uses a YF-21C engine with a 2,961.6 kN thrust and a specific impulse of 2,556.5 Ns/kg. The first stage diameter is 3.35 m and the stage length is 23.272 m.

Each strap-on booster is equipped with a YF-25 engine with a 740.4 kN thrust and a specific impulse of 2,556.2 Ns/kg. The strap-on booster diameter is 2.25 m and the strap-on booster length is 15.326 m.

The second stage is equipped with a YF-24E (main engine – 742 kN / 2,922.57 Ns/kg; four vernier engines – 47.1 kN / 2,910.5 Ns/kg each). The second stage diameter is 3.35 m and the stage length is 12.920 m.

The third stage is equipped with a YF-75 engine developing 167.17 kN and with a specific impulse of 4,295 Ns/kg. The fairing diameter of the CZ-3B is 4.00 meters and has a length of 9.56 meters.

The CZ-3B can also use the new Yuanzheng-1 (“Expedition-1”) upper stage that uses a small thrust 6.5 kN engine burning UDMH/N2O4 with a specific impulse at 3,092 m/s.

The upper stage is able to conduct two burns, having a 6.5 hour lifetime and is capable of achieving a variety of orbits. This upper stage won’t be used on this launch.

The typical flight sequence for the CZ-3B/G2 sees the launch pitching over 10 seconds after liftoff from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre. The boosters shutdown 2 minutes and 7 seconds after liftoff, with separation from the first stage one second later. First stage shutdown takes place at 1 minutes 25 seconds into the flight.

Separation between the first and second stage takes place at 1 minute 26 seconds, following fairing separation at T+3 minutes 35 seconds. Stage 2 main engine shutdown occurs 326 seconds into the flight, following by the shutdown of the vernier engines 15 seconds later.

Separation between the second and the third stage and the ignition of the third stage takes place one second after the shutdown of the vernier engines of the second stage. The first burn of the third stage will last for 4 minutes and 44 seconds.

After the end of the first burn of the third stage is followed by a coast phase that ends at T+20 minutes and 58 seconds with the third stage initiating its second burn. This will have a 179 seconds duration. After the end of the second burn of the third stage, the launcher initiates a 20 second velocity adjustment maneuver. Spacecraft separation usually takes place at T+25 minutes 38 seconds after launch.

The first launch from Xichang took place at 12:25 UTC on January 29, 1984, when the Chang Zheng-3 (Y-1) was launched the Shiyan Weixing (14670 1984-008A) communications satellite into orbit.

The Xichang Satellite Launch Centre is situated in the Sichuan Province, south-western China and is the country’s launch site for geosynchronous orbital launches.

Equipped with two launch pads (LC2 and LC3), the center has a dedicated railway and highway lead directly to the launch site.

The Command and Control Centre is located seven kilometers south-west of the launch pad, providing flight and safety control during launch rehearsal and launch.

The CZ-3B launch pad is located at 28.25 deg. N – 102.02 deg. E and at an elevation of 1,825 meters.

Other facilities on the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre are the Launch Control Centre, propellant fuelling systems, communications systems for launch command, telephone and data communications for users, and support equipment for meteorological monitoring and forecasting.

Long March 3B launches experimental ChinaSat-16 satellite

The Chinese returned to launch action with the lofting of a new experimental communications satellite from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center. The launch was conducted by the Long March 3B G2 ‘Chang Zheng-3B/G2’ (Y43) from the LC2 Launch Complex at the Sichuan province site, with T-0 noted as 11:04 UTC.

Chinese Launch:

The 4.6-tonne satellite was developed by the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) and is based on the DFH-3B satellite platform. According to state media reports, the satellite will be named Shijian-13 during its test program phase, before being renamed ChinaSat 16 when it is transferred to China SatCom.

The new satellite will test a new electric propulsion system to be used for orbit raising and station keeping at a geosynchronous altitude. It also carries the first high-throughput satellite payload (HTS) developed by China.

The satellite features a Ka-band broadband communications system capable of transmitting 20 gigabytes of data per second, making it the most powerful communications satellite the nation has developed to date.

According to Wang Min, deputy head of the CAST’s Institute of Telecommunication Satellite, ChinaSat-16 will provide better access to the Internet on planes and high-speed trains, with the increase in satellite throughput provided by the new satellite that will be located at 110.5° East.

The satellite is able to provide 26 user beams covering China and offshore areas – allowing it to also cover airborne and maritime communications and emergency communications, using Ka-band satellite broadband and multimedia services.

With a lifetime of 15 years, the satellite will be operated by China Satcom.

The satellite will also conduct space-to-ground laser communications experiments.

The DFH-3 (Dongfanghong-3) platform is a medium-capacity telecommunications satellite platform designed and developed by CAST.

The platform can be used for multiple telecommunications payloads for providing a range of services, including fixed communication, international satellite communication, national and regional communication, wideband data communication, mobile communication and direct broadcast; military communication, spacecraft tracking and data relay.

It comprises six subsystems: control, power, propulsion, measurement & control, structure and thermal control subsystem. The platform configuration features module subdivision, which includes a communication module, propulsion module, service module and solar array.

The platform adopts three-axis stabilized attitude control mode, with solar array output power of 1.7 kw by the end of its design lifetime. Its mass is 2,100kg with payload capacity 220kg.

The DFH-3 satellite platform has been successfully applied in the Beidou navigation test satellite, and other satellites, all of which are currently operating normally.

During numerous flight missions, the maturity and reliability of the DFH-3 platform have been proved. Moreover, it has strong expansion capacity and can be upgraded to some space exploration missions, such as meteorological satellite and lunar resource satellite services.

Its onboard Ion thrusters are designed for a wide variety of missions.

These thrusters have high specific impulses, that is, ratio of thrust to the rate of propellant consumption, so they require significantly less propellant for a given mission than would be needed with chemical propulsion.

Ion propulsion is even considered to be mission enabling for some cases where sufficient chemical propellant cannot be carried on the spacecraft to accomplish the desired mission.

Launch vehicle and launch site:

To meet the demand of international satellite launch market, especially for high power and heavy communications satellites, the development of Long March-3B (Chang Zheng-3B) launch vehicle started in 1986 on the basis of the fight proven technology of Long March launch vehicles.

Developed from the Chang Zheng-3A, the Chang Zheng-3B is at the moment the most powerful launch vehicle on the Chinese space launch fleet.

The CZ-3B features enlarged launch propellant tanks, improved computer systems, a larger 4.2 meter diameter payload fairing and the addition of four strap-on boosters in the core stage that provide additional help during the first phase of the launch.

The rocket is capable of launching a 11,200 kg satellite to a low Earth orbit or a 5,100 kg cargo to a geosynchronous transfer orbit.

The CZ-3B/G2 (Enhanced Version) launch vehicle was developed from the CZ-3B with a lengthened first core stage and strap-on boosters, increasing the GTO capacity up to 5,500kg.

On May 14, 2007, the first flight of CZ-3B/G2 was performed successfully, accurately sending the NigcomSat-1 into pre-determined orbit. With the GTO launch capability of 5,500kg, CZ-3B/G2 is dedicated for launching heavy GEO communications satellite.

The rocket structure also combines all sub-systems together and is composed of four strap-on boosters, a first stage, a second stage, a third stage and payload fairing.

The first two stages, as well as the four strap-on boosters, use hypergolic (N2O4/UDMH) fuel while the third stage uses cryogenic (LOX/LH2) fuel. The total length of the CZ-3B is 54.838 meters, with a diameter of 3.35 meters on the core stage and 3.00 meters on the third stage.

On the first stage, the CZ-3B uses a YF-21C engine with a 2,961.6 kN thrust and a specific impulse of 2,556.5 Ns/kg. The first stage diameter is 3.35 m and the stage length is 23.272 m.

Each strap-on booster is equipped with a YF-25 engine with a 740.4 kN thrust and a specific impulse of 2,556.2 Ns/kg. The strap-on booster diameter is 2.25 m and the strap-on booster length is 15.326 m.

The second stage is equipped with a YF-24E (main engine – 742 kN / 2,922.57 Ns/kg; four vernier engines – 47.1 kN / 2,910.5 Ns/kg each). The second stage diameter is 3.35 m and the stage length is 12.920 m.

The third stage is equipped with a YF-75 engine developing 167.17 kN and with a specific impulse of 4,295 Ns/kg. The fairing diameter of the CZ-3B is 4.00 meters and has a length of 9.56 meters.

The CZ-3B can also use the new Yuanzheng-1 (“Expedition-1”) upper stage that uses a small thrust 6.5 kN engine burning UDMH/N2O4 with a specific impulse at 3,092 m/s.

The upper stage is able to conduct two burns, having a 6.5 hour lifetime and is capable of achieving a variety of orbits. This upper stage wasn’t used on this launch.

The typical flight sequence for the CZ-3B/G2 sees the launch pitching over 10 seconds after liftoff from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre. The boosters shutdown 2 minutes and 7 seconds after liftoff, with separation from the first stage one second later. First stage shutdown takes place at 1 minutes 25 seconds into the flight.

Separation between the first and second stage takes place at 1 minute 26 seconds, following fairing separation at T+3 minutes 35 seconds. Stage 2 main engine shutdown occurs 326 seconds into the flight, following by the shutdown of the vernier engines 15 seconds later.

Separation between the second and the third stage and the ignition of the third stage takes place one second after the shutdown of the vernier engines of the second stage. The first burn of the third stage will last for 4 minutes and 44 seconds.

After the end of the first burn of the third stage is followed by a coast phase that ends at T+20 minutes and 58 seconds with the third stage initiating its second burn. This will have a 179 seconds duration. After the end of the second burn of the third stage, the launcher initiates a 20 second velocity adjustment maneuver. Spacecraft separation usually takes place at T+25 minutes 38 seconds after launch.

The first launch from Xichang took place at 12:25 UTC on January 29, 1984, when the Chang Zheng-3 (Y-1) was launched the Shiyan Weixing (14670 1984-008A) communications satellite into orbit.

The Xichang Satellite Launch Centre is situated in the Sichuan Province, south-western China and is the country’s launch site for geosynchronous orbital launches.

Equipped with two launch pads (LC2 and LC3), the center has a dedicated railway and highway lead directly to the launch site.

The Command and Control Centre is located seven kilometers south-west of the launch pad, providing flight and safety control during launch rehearsal and launch.

The CZ-3B launch pad is located at 28.25 deg. N – 102.02 deg. E and at an elevation of 1,825 meters.

Other facilities on the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre are the Launch Control Centre, propellant fuelling systems, communications systems for launch command, telephone and data communications for users, and support equipment for meteorological monitoring and forecasting.

Commercial crew flight assignments could come this summer

Behnken Starliner

COLORADO SPRINGS — One of the NASA astronauts training to fly on test flights of commercial crew vehicles said he expects the agency to make flight assignments for those missions as soon as this summer.

In a discussion with reporters here April 6 outside a simulator of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner commercial crew vehicle, Robert Behnken said those upcoming crew assignments will allow astronauts who have been training on both the Starliner and SpaceX’s Dragon v2 to specialize on one vehicle.

“I think it’ll be about a year or so from flight,” he said when asked when he expected crew assignments to be made. “If the schedules hold, I think that it’s possible this summer we would see people identified for the flights.”

Both companies are currently planning to perform test flights by the middle of 2018. SpaceX’s schedule calls for a crewed flight test to the International Space Station in May 2018, six months after an uncrewed test flight of the Dragon v2. Boeing expects to do a crewed test flight to the ISS in August 2018, two months after an uncrewed Starliner flight.

A key caveat, though, is whether that schedule of test flights holds. Both companies announced late last year delays in their test flight schedules, pushing crewed test flights into the middle of 2018. That has, in turn, delayed the formal NASA certification of those vehicles, required before they can begin regular flights to the ISS known as post-certification missions (PCMs), until late 2018.

At a March 28 meeting of the NASA Advisory Council’s human exploration and operations committee in Washington, Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA’s commercial crew program, acknowledged the delays and suggested it may be difficult for either vehicle to be certified by the end of 2018.

“I think a lot of things have to go our way,” she said in response to a question from a committee member about whether the current schedules are feasible. “I think they’re pretty tough right now, but I would say not impossible.”

“I think the providers have a plan to get there, for at least their crewed demos next year,” she added. “I think it’s a little bit tougher to say for the PCMs.”

Behnken is part of a “cadre” of four veteran astronauts announced by NASA in July 2015 to train on both vehicles in preparation for test flights that are key milestones in each company’s commercial crew development contracts. In addition to Behnken, a former chief of the NASA Astronaut Office, the agency selected Eric Boe, Douglas Hurley and Sunita Williams.

At least three of the four will be assigned to fly on those test flights. SpaceX plans to use two NASA astronauts on its crewed Dragon v2 flight, while Boeing will pair one NASA astronaut with a Boeing commercial test pilot yet to be identified. Industry insiders have widely speculated that Chris Ferguson, a former NASA astronaut who is now director of Starliner crew and mission operations at Boeing, will be that test pilot.

The four astronauts in the commercial crew cadre have been training on both vehicles since the announcement, both learning how each spacecraft operates and providing feedback to the companies. They have been involved on all aspects of both vehicles, without specializing on any specific vehicle or subsystem.

That lack of specialization will carry over onto operational missions. Unlike the shuttle program, where astronauts were trained as either pilots or mission specialists, Behnken said there were no plans to create a class of pilot astronauts for Dragon or Starliner spacecraft.

“I think it’s become obsolete with the retirement of the space shuttle to some extent,” he said, citing the experience from the ISS. “It’s really made it so that you need a crewmember who can do everything, and for these capsules, both Boeing’s vehicle and SpaceX’s vehicle, the intent is to get to a place where anybody in our astronaut corps could operate the vehicles.”

Behnken said the four members of the cadre have been working together, comparing notes before making recommendations to the companies on changes they should make to their vehicles. The intent, he said, is to avoid when happened with the Gemini spacecraft design in the 1960s, when astronaut Gus Grissom played such a major role in its development that the spacecraft was nicknamed the “Gusmobile” by other astronauts.

“We wanted to be a little bit careful to build a spacecraft that was more representative of what the [astronaut] office would need versus what I need,” he said. “I didn’t want my name to be the one that was cursed for the rest of the life of CST-100 because I had agreed to something.”

SpaceNews.com

Q&A: Dave Davis, former Global Eagle CEO, on why he left and the future of in-flight connectivity

Dave Davis GEE Global Eagle

WASHINGTON — Dave Davis, Global Eagle Entertainment’s chief executive from July 2014 until February this year, left the company at the same time as Chief Financial Officer Tom Severson. Their departure also coincided with the company’s announcement that it would be late filing its annual financial report.

Davis, who has a three-month consulting agreement with Global Eagle for $50,000 a month, left the company with a $1.1 million golden parachute.

His departure left an air of mystery, which he declined to address. Global Eagle has yet to file its financial report, and received a warning from the Nasdaq stock exchange three weeks ago that it must submit it soon, provide a compliance plan, or otherwise risk being delisted.

Since February, Global Eagle promoted board member Jeff Leddy as CEO, and hired Paul Rainey, formerly of Harris CapRock, as its CFO, filling the gaps on its executive team.

Davis foresees continuing executive work in his future beyond Global Eagle, where he rose through the ranks after joining through the company’s acquisition of satellite in-flight connectivity provider Row 44 in 2012. While at Global Eagle, Davis facilitated the $550 million acquisition of EMC, a connectivity provider to maritime and remote locations, transforming Global Eagle from an in-flight entertainment and connectivity company to an all-around connectivity service provider for mobility markets.

Davis spoke to SpaceNews about his departure and industry trends.

Why did you leave Global Eagle?

What transpired was the board and I decided it was time to focus more on the integration and the build out of some of the back office functions at this stage in the company’s development. Those are the skills that Jeff Leddy is better suited for from an interest level and from a background level than I was, so we decided to make the change. Another factor that played into me stepping down was the fact that by the end of 2016, I had wrapped up several key initiatives including completion of the Southwest contract extension, signing of the HNA Group deal in China, refinancing of the company’s bank agreement and settling outstanding music litigation. Completion of these key milestones made it an easier time for me to transition out.

Global Eagle’s CFO left at the same time, and Global Eagle’s 10-K is overdue. Why did all those things coincide?

No comment.

You have a contract to work with Global Eagle for three months past your departure date. What is your role now?

I’m not focused on anything to do with investors or anything external-facing. I’m working on a number of different discrete projects that I had been working on before, and then really trying to drive to completion for the company.

After that’s done is consulting what you plan on doing?

After that is done I don’t really see myself as a full-time advisor, so I’ll probably get back into executive management or board work in someway.

Before you left, Global Eagle purchased the remaining lifetime of an SES inclined-orbit satellite. You hinted it wouldn’t be far-fetched for similar deals to happen in the future. Newer satellites are also being designed specifically for in-flight connectivity. Which type do you see as more important?

I think there are applications for both. It really comes down to throughput and cost. For a company like Global Eagle, or anybody in the mobile connectivity space today, there are a few factors. One is density of traffic. In certain areas of the world, like North America for Global Eagle, where there is a lot of traffic, the economics make the most sense to own an asset, particularly if you can get something along the lines of the cost of an inclined satellite.

In other cases it makes more sense to lease capacity given that there is not sufficient density to justify an entire satellite.

I think some of the satellites being designed now with mobility in mind, where you can dynamically steer throughput from one beam to another to follow traffic flows, or concentrate capacity around big hub airports, or the Caribbean for the cruise market, I think that represents a very interesting option for companies once those get launched. But right now the economics of these inclined satellites are really compelling. You’ve got an asset of less and less value to the big satellite operators because all of their fixed ground-based customers can’t really use them, but for a mobility company it doesn’t matter. You have an antenna on an aircraft that’s moving, so if the satellite moves a little bit that’s not much of an additional challenge.

SmartSky recently closed a $170 million Series B financing round for an air-to-ground (ATG) network. Is that an asset everyone will have to have too?

I think the applications for these air-to-ground networks are relatively limited geographically. You need to be flying over contiguous areas with enough landmass and enough density to justify the capital build out. North America is an obvious location.

It comes down to economics. You look at the capital costs of an ATG network, and compare it to the ever dropping costs of satellite bandwidth services, and some of the advantages — like coverage over water and that you can use it gate to gate — those still lobby for continued use of satellite and for that to be the dominant method of mobile communications going forward.

I don’t think this is something where everyone needs to adopt an ATG network.

Inmarsat chose ATG and they are a satellite operator. Gogo is also reinvesting in ATG after previously talking up satellite.

I think part of the calculus here is that there is an ever-increasing appetite for bandwidth. People on airplanes wanted to open their email, now they want to watch Netflix. The bandwidth demand continues to grow massively, so how do you quickly get capacity to an aircraft?

I think there is a hybrid ATG-satellite approach here around the world, with satellite dominating over time.

How important are flat panel antennas for in-flight connectivity?

I would say it’s exceedingly important. One of the biggest barriers, let’s say the biggest barrier to adoption of in-flight connectivity, is cost, and a big chunk of that is capital costs. Antennas today are very expensive — you’ve got radomes that add weight and drag. I was in commercial aviation for most of my carrier. Fuel is the biggest cost component for an airline, so when you are adding hundreds of pounds of weight and then significant drag, it’s a real number when you are looking at the profit and loss statement of a flight. If you can put an antenna system onboard an aircraft that’s much lower weight and much lower profile, and then add a lower cost dimension to that, that’s a huge home run.

Pretty much all LEO systems are talking mobility. Do you think they will have a role in in-flight connectivity?

I think they could, but how long it’s going to take to build out those constellations is a real question. Airlines are adopting inflight connectivity at a relatively rapid rate around the world, and it’s GEO focused. Once that equipment is onboard, the cost to switch is relatively high. There may be a significant portion of the worldwide aircraft fleet already equipped with antenna systems that are predominantly designed for GEO satellites by the time these LEO networks get built.

Looking past that at new-build aircraft or when there are retrofits to new systems, the LEO systems from the numbers I’ve seen could offer such dramatically lower costs and dramatically improved throughput that it could be a game-changer for mobile communications. We need new antenna systems, flat panel systems that can track satellites that are moving very rapidly in orbit, but anything that brings down costs and improves throughput is a big deal for mobile communications.

EMC was Global Eagle’s biggest acquisition. What was the thought process behind that?

The biggest reason was the tremendous benefits associated with having one satellite network operating across all mobility sectors, be they in maritime or aviation. We looked at the networks of the two companies, and there was a lot of overlap.

If you look across the industry, more and more consolidation like that is going to take place, which I think is going to be a big theme among service providers.

The other rationale was the significant content business at Global Eagle. The company was already the dominant player in providing media content to the aero market. The company also has a business selling content to cruise lines. The idea was we could cross sell a lot more content into the maritime space and really grow that market as well.

You don’t see connectivity cannibalizing content?

I really don’t. These are going to be complementary products for a long time to come, and there are several reasons for that. A significant reason is that the availability of bandwidth to stream media content like movies to a 777 worth of passengers flying over the Pacific is many years down the road, and the economics of that are very unclear. Why have dozens of passengers streaming movies that you can store onboard much more cheaply?

Another thing to keep in mind is a lot of the content Global Eagle sells and that is viewable on seatback screens is new movies, things that you can’t get through streaming services. Studios are very reluctant to allow brand-new content to be displayed on a handheld device where it could potentially be copied.

And if you look at Boeing or Airbus, the order book for the next five years, 90+ percent of those aircraft have seat-back screens in them. Those things deliver over the next five to seven years and fly for the next 15 to 20 years. I think the future of seatback screens and entertainment have a very long tail.

SpaceNews.com

Scientists worried cuts to NASA’s Earth science programs could create climate data gap

At a time when NASA earth scientists are concerned their research may be scuttled by the incoming Trump administration, the space agency’s top science official is preaching pragmatism and unity. Credit: NASA

Scientists are worried that proposed cuts to NASA’s Earth science programs could create a climate data gap.

Last month’s budget proposal included terminating four planned or operational missions designed at least in part to collect climate-related data.

Scientists were worried even before the new administration took office about the potential loss of climate data, in part because of a perceived gap in the responsibilities of NASA and NOAA to study climate and weather. [New York Times]


More News

Aerojet Rocketdyne will move rocket engine development work from a historic California site under a consolidation plan announced Monday. The company said that, as part of the second phase of its Competitive Improvement Program, engine work currently done at the company’s facility near Sacramento will move to Huntsville, Alabama, and Southern California. About 1,100 of 1,400 jobs currently in Sacramento will be relocated or eliminated, with the facility becoming a “Shared Services Center of Excellence” handling administrative work. The company said the overall consolidation effort will help the company save $230 million a year once completed. [SpaceNews]

Italian launch vehicle company Avio started trading on the Milan stock exchange Monday. Shares in Avio rose 11 percent in the first day of trading Monday on the Borsa Italiana before falling back. Avio listed on the exchange after a merger with investment vehicle Space2 SpA and the departure of private-equity funds. Avio, which is the prime contractor for the Vega small launch vehicle and part of the Ariane 6 program, believes being publicly listed will make it easier for the company to access capital for future programs. [Bloomberg]

The chief financial officer of Harris CapRock has joined satellite connectivity company Global Eagle. Paul Rainey because CFO of Global Eagle earlier this month, filling a position vacated in February by Tom Severson, who departed the company abruptly with CEO Dave Davis. Rainey arrives at Global Eagle as the company faces a near-term threat to its Nasdaq listing because of the delayed filing of its 2016 financial results. [SpaceNews]

Satellite antenna company Kymeta has raised more than $70 million in its latest funding round. Filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission show that the company recently raised $73.5 million, bringing the total raised to date by the company to nearly $200 million. Among those investing in Kymeta is Intelsat, which said it played a minor role in this latest round. Intelsat and Kymeta announced a partnership last month that will use the Kymeta’s flat panel antennas to support a satellite broadband service. [GeekWire]

China plans to launch an experimental communications satellite on Wednesday. The Shijian-13 satellite, scheduled to launch at 7 a.m. Eastern, is a 4.5-ton satellite that will operate at 110.5 degrees east in GEO. The spacecraft will test Ka-band satellite broadband services and the use of electric propulsion. Shijian-13 will also test space-to-ground laser communications. [gbtimes]

An asteroid mining company got the royal treatment Monday. Prince Guillaume and Princess Stephanie of Luxembourg visited Planetary Resources, the Seattle-area company with long-term aspirations to obtain resources from asteroids. The government of Luxembourg invested more than $25 million into the company last year as part of its SpaceResources.lu initiative. The Luxembourg delegation, which also includes Deputy Prime Minister Etienne Schneider, is visiting other space companies in the United States this week as well. [GeekWire]

NASA will announce new discoveries about ocean worlds in the solar system this week. The agency said Monday it will hold a press conference Wednesday involving scientists using data from the Hubble Space Telescope and the Cassini spacecraft. Saturn’s moon Enceladus is thought to have an ocean of liquid water beneath its icy surface, based in part on plumes previously detected by Cassini, while Hubble observations have detected evidence for plumes emanating from Jupiter’s moon Europa, also thought to have a subsurface ocean. [Space.com]

SpaceNews.com

Aerojet to move rocket engine work out of historic facility

Aerojet Rocketdyne Sacramento

WASHINGTON — Aerojet Rocketdyne announced a second phase of the company’s consolidation plan April 10 that includes moving development of rocket engines from a decades-old California facility.

Aerojet Rocketdyne said this next phase of the company’s Competitive Improvement Program is intended to create additional cost savings of $85 million a year on top of the $145 million a year it expects from the first phase of that program, announced in 2015.

“Given the dynamic nature of this industry, strategic business decisions such as these, while difficult, are critical to establishing a solid course for our future,” Eileen Drake, president and chief executive of Aerojet Rocketdyne, said in a statement issued after markets closed April 10.

The biggest element of this phase of the work is the shift of engine development work from the company’s facility in the Sacramento suburb of Rancho Cordova, California. That site, used by Aerojet and other aerospace companies since the 1950s, had been used to build and test a variety of solid- and liquid-fuel engines, including the third stage of the Saturn 5 rockets used for the Apollo missions to the moon.

Aerojet Rocketdyne said it will move defense-related projects from Sacramento to Huntsville, Alabama, by the end of 2018. Other work will shift to company facilities in Southern California. The Sacramento site will become a “Shared Services Center of Excellence,” primarily hosting back-office services, once the company completes manufacturing work there by 2019.

The company said 1,100 of the current 1,400 jobs at the Sacramento facility will be relocated or eliminated. The site had also long served as the company’s headquarters, but in mid-2016 its parent company, Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings, moved its headquarters to the Los Angeles suburb of El Segundo, California.

In addition to the Sacramento site, Aerojet Rocketdyne plans to close its facility in Gainesville, Virginia, by the third quarter of 2018. The work there, including engineering and design work for missile programs, will move to Huntsville and another company plant in Orange, Virginia. About 170 jobs in Gainesville will be relocated or eliminated.

The winner in this consolidation is Huntsville. The company said it expects to add 800 jobs there as a result of moving work from California and Virginia. Huntsville is the site of the defense headquarters for the company. In January, the company announced it would build AR1 engines there, creating 100 jobs.

The AR1 is an engine under development by Aerojet Rocketdyne for potential use in United Launch Alliance’s next-generation Vulcan launch vehicle. In interviews last week at the 33rd Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Aerojet executives said work on the AR1 remained on schedule, with test-firings planned for 2018 and final certification in 2019.

ULA, though, has indicated that the BE-4 engine under development by Blue Origin remains the front-runner to be used on Vulcan’s first stage. That engine is set to begin a series of test firing at Blue Origin’s West Texas test site in the next several weeks, and ULA President and Chief Executive Tory Bruno said in an April 5 interview that, if the BE-4 passes those tests, he will likely select it for use on Vulcan.

Aerojet Rocketdyne has argued that it believes that the AR1 is the lowest-risk option for use on Vulcan, noting its performance is similar to the Russian-built RD-180 engine currently used on the Atlas 5. Company officials said that, regardless of ULA’s decision, they plan to continue development of the AR1 under an Air Force contract and, if needed, seek other opportunities for the engine.

Aerojet Rocketdyne estimates the overall cost of its Competitive Improvement Program to be $235.1 million, including $122.1 million for the second phase of the effort. According to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company said the cost of the second phase includes $65.2 million in employee-related costs, $36.2 million in facility costs, and $20.7 million in other costs, including product requalification and knowledge transfer.

SpaceNews.com

Global Eagle nabs Harris CapRock CFO

Global Eagle Entertainment GEE

WASHINGTON — Harris CapRock Chief Financial Officer Paul Rainey has left the company to join the executive team of satellite connectivity provider Global Eagle Entertainment.

Rainey fills the void left by Global Eagle’s previous CFO, Tom Severson, who stepped down from the company in February, concurrently with the departure of Chief Executive Dave Davis.

In an April 10 statement, Global Eagle said Rainey started his new CFO position on April 3, taking up responsibilities that CEO Jeff Leddy had been performing on an interim basis.

“With his significant experience in our industry and strong financial background, we are pleased to have Paul join Global Eagle’s executive team,” Leddy said in a prepared statement. “We are confident Paul will help us in achieving our short- and long-term goals while also guiding the finance team to meet its objectives.”

Rainey’s arrival comes as the company faces a near-term threat to its status on the Nasdaq stock exchange. Global Eagle received a warning from Nasdaq in March that it must submit its overdue 2016 financial results by May 19 or risk initiating the process of being delisted for noncompliance with the exchange’s listing rules.

Before a three-year stint at Harris CapRock, which SpeedCast purchased in November 2016 for $425 million, Rainey was CFO of General Electric’s Lighting Professional Solutions business from March 2013 to April 2014 and of its Power Equipment business from March 2010 to February 2013, each of which generated roughly $1 billion in annual revenue.  

In an April 7 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Global Eagle said Rainey will start with an initial annual base salary of $375,000, plus equity in the company collectively worth up to $850,000. Global Eagle said its stockholders must approve a new equity incentive plan to ensure he gets the equity, which is split into two stock amounts worth $350,000 and another worth $100,000.

Rainey is also eligible for an annual performance bonus that starts with an initial target of 75 percent of his annual base salary.

SpaceNews.com