India sets record with launch of 104 satellites on a single rocket
The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle lifted off on schedule at 10:58 p.m. Eastern from the Satish Dhawan Space Center with its payload of 104 satellites, all but three of which were cubesats.
All the satellites were successfully deployed into sun-synchronous orbit.
The rocket’s primary payload was an Indian remote sensing satellite, Cartosat-2D. Among the rest, 88 were cubesats for Planet and eight were cubesats for Spire. [Reuters]
With the PSLV launch a success, India is gearing up for two launches of its larger Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle in the coming months. A GSLV Mark 2 rocket is set to launch a communications satellite India developed for the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, while a more powerful GSLV Mark 3 will launch the GSAT-19 communications satellite, with both launches set to take place by April. A.S. Kiran Kumar, chairman of the Indian space agency ISRO, said after the PSLV launch that the agency’s first lunar lander mission, Chandrayaan-2, is now planned for the first quarter of next year. [PTI]
Reports of an imminent landing of the Air Force’s X-37B spaceplane turned out to be a false alarm.Satellite observers thought the spaceplane could make a landing as soon as Tuesday morning at the Kennedy Space Center based on changes in its orbit, airspace restrictions and a recent training exercise as KSC. However, the X-37B remains in orbit, and Air Force officials said Tuesday that the program “is conducting a regularly scheduled exercise this week.” [SpaceNews]
An Ariane 5 launched two communications satellites Tuesday afternoon. The rocket lifted off at 4:39 p.m. Eastern and placed the SKY Brasil-1 and Telkom 3S satellites into geostationary transfer orbit. The launch, the 77th consecutive successful Ariane 5 mission, was the second of 12 planned Arianespace missions in 2017 involving the Ariane, Soyuz and Vega rockets. [Arianespace]
The head of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center said Tuesday he is looking for policy direction from the new administration soon. In a luncheon speech Tuesday, Robert Cabana said there’s been no changes in the activities at the center, and that he expects “some direction here in the very near future” from the administration on any changes it seeks. Cabana said that KSC had achieved its long-running goal of becoming a “multi-user spaceport,” noting the work being done there for both NASA’s exploration programs and commercial users, like SpaceX. [Florida Today]
A Californian is the new top Democrat on the House space subcommittee. Rep. Ami Bera was named Tuesday as the ranking member of the House Science Committee’s space subcommittee, as the Democratic members of the committee announced subcommittee assignments. Bera succeeds former Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.), who did not run for reelection last year in order to make an unsuccessful bid for the Senate. Seven other Democrats were named to the subcommittee. Republicans made their subcommittee assignments last month. [SpaceNews]
ViaSat is thinking small, but on the ground and not in space. The company is working to reduce the size of satellite gateways to as small as closets in order to maximize the throughput of its planned ViaSat-3 broadband system. ViaSat-3 will use large satellites in geostationary orbit, an approach the company preferred over a constellation of smaller satellites in medium or low Earth orbit. ViaSat CEO Mark Dankberg said he believes there is sufficient demand to support both his company’s system and constellations like OneWeb. [SpaceNews]
Two veteran astronauts will join the Astronaut Hall of Fame this year. The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation announced Tuesday that its 2017 class will feature Michael Foale and Ellen Ochoa. Foale flew on six missions, including long-duration stays on the Russian space station Mir and the ISS, as well as a shuttle servicing mission for the Hubble Space Telescope. Ochoa flew on four shuttle missions and is currently the director of the Johnson Space Center. [collectSPACE]
An orbiting exoplanet causes its star to vibrate. Astronomers said the elliptical orbit of HAT-P-2b brings it close to its parent star every 5.6 days, close enough that its gravity tugs on the star’s outer layers. That creates a pulsation seen in hundreds of hours observations of the star by the Spitzer Space Telescope. Such pulsations have been seen in binary star systems before, but this is the first time they have been linked to an exoplanet. [Space.com]
New Mexican students can take a field trip to Spaceport America without leaving their classrooms. The spaceport has partnered with FieldTripZoom, a company that provides virtual reality field trip-like experiences, to give students in schools across the state an opportunity to take a virtual tour of the commercial launch site. The VR experience is available to New Mexico schools free of charge. [Spaceport America]