Report: Ukraine’s space industry a big casualty of Crimean crisis


Ukraine’s space industry has lost 80 percent of its revenue since its conflict with Russia began.

A report by the International Monetary Fund concluded Ukrainian space companies lost about $75 million a year, largely because of contract cancellations by Russian companies.

Ukrainian companies are involved in the Dnepr and Zenit launch vehicles, which are being phased out by Russia, and the Sea Launch venture that has been on hiatus since its last launch in May 2014. [Parabolic Arc]

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An H-2A rocket successfully launched a Japanese astronomy satellite early Wednesday. The H-2A lifted off from the Tanegashima Space Center at 3:45 a.m. Eastern time and placed the Astro-H spacecraft into low Earth orbit. Astro-H is an X-ray observatory carrying instruments provided by several space agencies, including NASA. The Japanese space agency JAXA announced shortly after the launch that Astro-H will be called “Hitomi,” the Japanese word for the pupil in an eye. The launch was originally scheduled for last Friday but postponed because of weather. [Kyodo]

Europe’s latest Sentinel Earth observation satellite is in orbit after a launch Tuesday. The Rockot launch vehicle lifted off from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia at 12:57 p.m. Eastern time and put the Sentinel-3A spacecraft into its planned orbit. The spacecraft, built by Thales Alenia Space, is designed to provide land, sea and ice measurements. The satellite is the latest in Europe’s Copernicus program of Earth-monitoring satellites, which officials say should come in under budget by 2020 thanks to cost savings on later versions of the satellites. [SpaceNews]

American Airlines is seeking to terminate an existing contract for in-flight broadband with Gogo so it can sign a deal with ViaSat. The airline filed suit to terminate is contract with Gogo because, it argued, ViaSat can provide better performance with its Ka-band satellite-based service. Gogo countered that it can improve on its terrestrial service with a Ku-band satellite system. Gogo’s stock closed down more than 27% on news of the lawsuit. [SpaceNews]

Aerojet Rocketdyne reported a decline in profits in its fiscal fourth quarter. The company said Tuesday it had $7.7 million in net income compared to $11.9 million in the same quarter of 2014. Net sales, though, increased from $443.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2014 to $486.5 million in 2015. The company reported for all of fiscal year 2015 a net loss of $16.2 million, which includes a $50 million payment the company made to Orbital ATK as part of a settlement over the October 2014 Antares launch failure, in which Aerojet’s AJ-26 engine was implicated. [Sacramento Bee]

China has long-term plans for a series of space science missions, an area of spaceflight to which the country had previously not devoted many resources. Wu Ji, director-general of China’s National Space Science Centre, said several missions are in the early stages of development for launch around 2020, including studies of the Earth’s magnetosphere and an X-ray camera. Future missions under consideration for the 2020s include a large solar telescope and a spacecraft to search for exoplanets. China launched a spacecraft late last year to search for dark matter, the country’s first space science mission since the Double Star program with Europe more than 10 years ago. [gbtimes]

The head of the Canadian Space Agency wants to start a new dialogue with the agency’s stakeholders. Sylvain Laporte, named president of the agency last March, said he is still new on the job because of the change in governments after last October’s election. Laporte said at a conference earlier this month he wants a “more intense level of collaboration” and discussion with various organizations associated with the agency’s activities. Laporte added he plans to meet with senior leadership at NASA in March to discuss future collaboration opportunities. [SpaceRef Canada]

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NASA is seeking to purchase several cubesat buses from industry for use on future technology demonstration missions. A request for proposals released by NASA last Friday calls for buying at least one, and as many as five, 6U cubesat buses for its Pathfinder Technology Demonstration program. NASA will use the buses to test propulsion, communications and attitude control technologies. The agency also hopes to help support the emerging smallsat industry by purchasing relatively standard buses that companies can also sell to other customers. [SpaceNews]

A Cygnus cargo spacecraft will depart the International Space Station this Friday. The station’s robotic arm will detach the Cygnus spacecraft from its port on the Unity module and release it at about 7:25 a.m. Friday. The spacecraft will depart the station and later burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere. The Cygnus has been at the station since Dec. 9, three days after its launch on an Atlas 5. The next Cygnus mission to the station, also launching on an Atlas, is scheduled for March 22. [NASA]

Astronomers have for the first time measured the atmosphere of a “super-Earth” exoplanet, and it’s not particularly inviting. Scientists used the Hubble Space Telescope to collect spectra of 55 Cancri e, a planet eight times the mass of the Earth that orbits very close to its parent star. They detected evidence of an atmosphere of hydrogen and helium, but no evidence of water vapor or oxygen. The planet was never considered particularly hospitable for life, though, given its surface temperature of more than 2,000 degrees Celsius. [GeekWire]