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More small space?
Material posted : Administrator Publication date: 02-12-2017

The good news is that suspended in the beginning of the year without funding the ultra-light rocket SS-520 will continue, and the second launch will take place in the period December-January. In the other hemisphere is preparing to re-test ultralight rocket Electron. In Sweden, discusses the transformation of the geophysical polygon in Baikonur, in the market of heavy geostationary satellites observed a curious effect, and even Strategic command of the Armed forces of the United States wants other satellites. Space "feel better"?

SS-520 No. 5

One of the lightest in the history of Astronautics, and Japanese rocket SS-520 was developed on the basis of geophysical rockets (read more here). The first launch took place on 14 January 2017 and failed after 20 seconds of flight is gone telemetry from the rocket, ground control gave the command to turn on the second stage, the rocket and payload fell into the ocean. Less than a month the cause of the accident was discovered. The fact that last millisecond before the disappearance of the signal became abnormal and were intermittently made Prime suspect a short on-Board electrical system. Engineers have analyzed and found potentially weak point between the second and third stages where the bundle of wires included in the technical hole.

A suspect area, photo JAXA

The cable was braided, but it could be damaged by vibration. To test the sample of cable is installed in the shaker, put the estimated tension and subjected to vibrations similar to flight. Depending on the frequency of vibration isolation was destroyed after 20-30 seconds.

The experiment, photo by JAXA

Repair was very simple, and various companies have expressed interest in continuing the project. Therefore, the Japanese space Agency took the decision to conduct a re mission. For the evaluation of the Nikkei it will cost from 2.64 to 4.4 million dollars. In the first experiment spent $3.5 million. But the extreme simplicity of design should make it cheap in mass production — on the SS-520 control system is activated only between the sections of the first and second stages, and the rest of the time the rocket should stabilize the rotation. Payload of ~4 kg will allow you to run one large cubesat 3U or 4U or up to four small 1U.

The second launch attempt is scheduled for the morning of December 25 with the possibility of transfer until 31 January 2018. Payload will be cubesat 3U (10х10х30 cm) TRICOM-1R for shooting the earth's surface, similar to lost in the accident TRICOM-1. Its creation was supported by the Ministry of economy, trade and industry of Japan.

TRICOM-1R, figure JAXA

"Still testing"

PH Electron at the launch site, Rocket photo Lab

Ultralight booster Electron at the end of may this year, crashed too offensively stupid reason — one wrong toggle switch mounted on the equipment of the contractor led to the loss of telemetry and sending a signal to the emergency termination of the flight. Electron is heavier than the SS-520, but also refers to the ultralight class, and its load capacity is 150 kg into a polar orbit or up to 225 kg into orbit with an inclination of 45°. In the design of the rocket used interesting technical solutions — electric drive pumps, 3D printing, composite tanks and service logistics head part (read more here).

Unlike the first launch, when the payload was the layout, this time try to launch real satellites — one Dove company Planet Labs (not to be confused — Rocket Labs Electron rocket makes, and Planet Labs Dove satellites/Flock, no imagination in names...) and two satellites Lemur-2 of Spire. All three devices are Kubatli 3U, the rocket will fly underused, but in the case of loss, the company will not suffer serious damage.

Launch date is not yet announced, but rocket has arrived to Baikonur, and the launch was called "still testing" (the first attempt was called "This is a test"). Roughly start to be implemented over the coming weeks. Private space companies have actively promoted than the state Agency, so the start-up Electron will be illuminated better than SS-520 No. 5.

Missiles go to the North

Space center Esrange, photos Swedish Space Corp

The Swedish government decided to evaluate the suitability of the expansion space center Esrange into a full-fledged spaceport. Located at 68° North latitude, the center was opened in 1966 and has been launch geophysical rockets and atmospheric probes, and is used to communicate with satellites. In the case of turning in the cosmodrome it will be the most northerly in the world — Plesetsk 5° to the South. This makes it completely useless for the geostationary orbit but polar orbit it will be able to launch satellites as effectively as any other spaceport. Assessing suitability means that Esrange may not be the spaceport, but, given the global interest in the market of microsatellites, the chances of such an expansion are large enough. Also it is too early to talk about what kind of booster it will run. In recent years there launched a geophysical rocket VSB-30 Improved Orion, first theoretically, you can try to make RN style SS-520, but no one bothers to develop a new project.


Two recent news relevant to the theme of light payloads. First, in a recent interview, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said they noticed a dip in orders of satellites in geostationary orbit. Indeed, if previously the norm was 20-25 orders for new satellites per year, then the last two years this number decreased, and in 2017 signed with a total of 8 contracts. No one knows whether this failure is temporary or is a tectonic shift in the area of non-geostationary satellites. The recent success of the acclaimed Planet Labs, or projects of hundreds of communication satellites from OneWeb and SpaceX — all non-geostationary constellation.

Second, recently the head of Strategic command VS the USA General John Khayten (John Hyten) saidthat he categorically did not like heavy military satellites, designed for the peace of the cosmos and represents the "big, fat, juicy goals." This does not mean that the General wants to equip them. No, in his opinion, it is necessary to develop a grouping of small cheap satellites that can survive the loss of several vehicles and destroy them all will not be easy. Warning comments I must say that the widespread opinion about the possibility to close the orbit "bucket nuts" incorrectly — a small exploding satellites length and orbital parameters would require inefficiently large number of "nuts" to destroy them.


Ultralight boosters lose the formal parameter value of a kilogram into orbit more lifting. But the ability to launch a satellite in the orbit with the necessary parameters may outweigh the financial loss from costs of time waiting associated "big" satellites. The space enthusiasts often dream about super-heavy missiles — only they can bring enough cargo for movement beyond low-earth orbit. Such projects are being developed, but it is unclear what to do with them witnessing the miniaturization of satellites. Will there be a super-heavy launch thousands of satellites to withdraw or die out, yielding ultra-light missiles (which have a base on the moon will not build), the future will show.


Tags: assessment , space

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