Launch of Falcon 9 comes as new documents reveal the state of SpaceX’s finances.
Those documents show a steady increase in launch revenue at the company from 2011 through 2014, dipping in 2015 because of a launch failure. That failure resulted in a loss of a quarter billion dollars.
The documents also reveal that the company expects launch revenue to continue to grow, but be eclipsed by much faster growth in revenue from a planned constellation of broadband satellites.
That system is projected to generate more than $30 billion a year in revenue by 2025. [Wall Street Journal]
SpaceX returned the Falcon 9 to flight Saturday with the successful launch of 10 Iridium satellites. The Falcon 9 lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 12:54 p.m. Eastern and released the satellites into low Earth orbit about an hour later. The rocket’s first stage made a successful landing on a droneship in the Pacific. The launch was the first since a September pad explosion destroyed a Falcon 9 being prepared for a static-fire test. This launch used new fueling procedures that started earlier in the countdown than before. The 10 Iridium Next satellites launched are the first of at least 70 planned to replace the existing constellation of communications satellites, with these satellites being used to fill a hole in the current system created as those older satellites fail. [SpaceNews]
The first flight of an experimental Japanese small launch vehicle ended in failure Saturday. The SS-520-4, a converted sounding rocket, took off from the Uchinoura Space Center at 6:33 p.m. Eastern Saturday. The flight initially appeared to go well, but the Japanese space agency JAXA said afterwards that a loss of telemetry prevented the rocket’s second stage from igniting, and the rocket fell into the ocean. The rocket, intended to demonstrate the ability to develop a low-cost dedicated smallsat launch vehicle, was carrying a single three-kilogram cubesat. [Nikkei]
A Hong Kong-based technology company is raising money in a bid to buy mobile satellite company Thuraya. China Trends Holdings Limited is planning to raise $195 million to acquire Thuraya, having recently also acquired Skynet Satellite Data Limited, another Hong Kong-based company that signed an MOU with Thuraya last year to invest in Thuraya and that company’s next-generation satellite system, Futura. China Trends Holdings said the main risks of the proposed acquisition are shareholder approval and regulatory obstacles, including export-control issues associated with Thuraya’s two Boeing-built satellites. [SpaceNews]
Spacewalking astronauts made swift work of a battery replacement outside the International Space Station Friday. NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough and ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet spent six hours outside the station, completing a planned battery swap ahead of schedule. The two also completed additional “get-ahead” maintenance tasks during their spacewalk. Kimbrough and NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson performed a similar spacewalk a week earlier, also to replace batteries. [CBS]
Moon Express said Friday it closed a $20 million funding round that keeps the company on track for flying its first lunar lander mission this year. The $20 million raised in the Series B-1 round brings the total raised by the Florida-based company to $45 million. Moon Express is developing a small lunar lander, the MX-1E, that it plans to launch to launch this year on a Rocket Lab Electron rocket in a bid to win the Google Lunar X Prize. [SpaceNews]
A Danish company has purchased a launch on a small Chinese vehicle.Gomspace signed a contract with Chinese company Landspace for the launch of a cluster of small satellites on a Landspace-1 rocket in 2018. The privately developed Landspace-1 is expected to make its first launch later this year or in 2018. [Xinhua]
ESA’s newest member has jointed a technology-transfer program. Hungary, which became a full member of ESA in 2015, will be the 16th country to take part in a technology-transfer program intended to help companies in the country make use of space-related technologies. The move is one Hungary’s first steps towards greater involvement in the space agency. [SpaceNews]
A California company has won a NASA contract to build a series of cubesats for technology demonstration missions. Tyvak Nanosatellite Systems will build at least one six-unit cubesat for NASA’s Small Spacecraft Technology Program, with options for four more. The cubesats will be used for NASA’s Pathfinder Technology Demonstrator missions for flight demonstrations of selected technologies. Neither NASA nor Tyvak disclosed the value of the contract. [NASA/Ames]
The National Geographic Channel is going back to Mars. The network announced Friday it would produce a second season of Mars, the six-part miniseries that the channel aired in the fall that mixed a fictional depiction of the first human missions to Mars with documentary segments about real-life efforts to explore the red planet. The channel didn’t disclose when the second season would air, or what topics it would cover. [Deadline]