Satellite Industry


Cubesat Developers’ Workshop: April 21-23rd @ Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

What is a Cube Sat?

According to Wikipedia,

A CubeSat is a type of miniaturized satellite for space research that usually has a volume of exactly one liter (10 cm cube), weighs no more than one kilogram, and typically uses commercial off-the-shelf electronics components. Beginning in 1999, California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) and Stanford University developed the CubeSat specifications to help universities worldwide to perform space science and exploration.

Several companies have built CubeSats, including large-satellite-maker Boeing. However, the majority of development comes from academia, with a mixed record of successfully orbited Cubesats and failed missions.

The term “CubeSat” was coined to denote nano-satellites that adhere to the standards described in the CubeSat design specification. Cal Poly published the standard in an effort led by aerospace engineering professor Jordi Puig-Suari. Bob Twiggs, from the Department of Aeronautics & Astronautics at Stanford University, has contributed to the CubeSat community. His efforts have focused on CubeSats from educational institutions. The specification does not apply to other cube-like nano-satellites such as the NASA “MEPSI” nano-satellite, which is slightly larger than a CubeSat.

Press Release Oshkosh/Abu Dhabi, 28th July 2009: Aabar Investments and Virgin Group

Abu Dhabi’s Aabar Investments and Virgin Group
today announced that they have agreed to enter a strategic partnership, which will see Aabar
take an equity stake in the world’s first commercial spaceline – Virgin Galactic. To date,
Virgin Galactic has been wholly owned and funded by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group.

The deal, signed today at the EAA AirVenture air show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin attended by
Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group, and Mohamed Badawy Al-Husseiny, CEO of
Aabar. The signing ceremony is taking place alongside Virgin Galactic’s new carrier space
launch vehicle, WhiteKnightTwo (VMS Eve) which is making its public demonstration flying
debut in Oshkosh.

Under the deal, Aabar will invest approximately US$280m and take around a 32% stake in
Virgin Galactic’s holding company, valuing the business at about $900m. The transaction is
subject to obtaining regulatory clearances in the United States and elsewhere.  Additionally,
Aabar has committed $100m (plus transaction cost) to fund a small satellite launch capability,
subject to the development of a full business plan. It will also gain exclusive regional rights,
subject to regulatory clearances, to host Virgin Galactic tourism and scientific research space
flights. Finally, Aabar has plans to build spaceport facilities in Abu Dhabi.

Commenting on the acquisition, HE Khadem Al Qubaisi, Chairman of Aabar, said, “I am
pleased to announce this partnership. Virgin Galactic is the leader in the realm of space
tourism, having successfully established a potential global market for its offering in a very
short span of time. Aabar’s stake in Virgin Galactic will open a new avenue of opportunity for
Abu Dhabi in this unique and dynamic business. The significant partnership not only falls in
line with Abu Dhabi’s larger plans to inculcate technology research and science at a
grassroots level but also complements its aim to be the international tourism capital of the
region.”

Virgin Galactic is in the final stages of developing and testing commercial sub-orbital space
vehicles based on the prototype SpaceShipOne, that flew successfully to space and back three
times in 2004. The unique and innovative designs of the vehicles will transform the cost,
safety and environmental impact of access to space for people, science research and
education.

Sir Richard Branson said, “We are delighted to partner with Aabar in a strategic deal that is a
first for Virgin Galactic. The initiative will leverage the solid financial backing of Aabar and
the pioneering technology and strong global relationships of Virgin Galactic. This exciting
deal is indicative of the interesting and high value investments that mark the UAE’s
commercial portfolio.”

The new joint venture also proposes to undertake additional development which would enable
the space system to launch small satellites at unprecedented levels of cost, reliability and
flexibility.

“This transaction carries multiple potential for the creation of an exceptional platform for
space infrastructure such as research labs, space centre for commercial travel and much
more,” said Mohamed Badawy Al-Husseiny.

Virgin Group has invested over $100m in Virgin Galactic since its formation in late 2004.
The development of its new vehicles is being carried out by Scaled Composites, the renowned
Mojave CA based aeronautical firm, owned by Northrop Grumman and led by Burt Rutan.

Scaled Composites was responsible for designing and building SpaceShipOne which won the
$10m X Prize in 2004 as the first privately funded manned space vehicle. The system is
highly innovative: it utilises a carrier aircraft for launch of the spaceship at high altitude, a
controllable and benign hybrid rocket motor and a unique wing feathering design for a
failsafe re-entry. The spaceship makes a runway landing rendering it almost entirely reusable.

The new commercial vehicles are now at an advanced stage of development. VMS Eve, VG’s
new carrier aircraft is well into its test flight programme and is performing flawlessly.  It is
the world’s largest all carbon composite aircraft and has a unique high altitude, heavy lift
capability.  Sir Richard Branson is due to be onboard VMS Eve as a member of the crew for a
demonstration flight during EAA AirVenture at Oshkosh on Tuesday 28th July.

The new spacecraft, SpaceShipTwo will commence its own test flight programme before the
end of 2009.  Both vehicles offer a unique environment for space tourism and a wide range of
science research applications as well as a platform for small satellite launch.

Patrick McCall, the Virgin Group Commercial Director responsible for the transaction said,
“We are building a great partnership for the development of the world’s first private sector
integrated human and payload space launch system. All of us at Virgin Galactic are very
much looking forward to working with Aabar’s Chairman, HE Khadem Al Qubaisi, its CEO
Mohamed Badawy Al-Husseiny and the whole Aabar team as we move forward together at
the cutting edge of the coming industrial revolution in space access. I would also like to take
this opportunity to thank Brandt Mowry, the senior vice-president of corporate development
who managed the transaction on behalf of Virgin Group.”

Virgin Galactic expects the capital infusion to fully fund the company through to its
commencement of commercial operations.

Credit Suisse acted as the exclusive financial advisor and placement agent to Virgin Galactic
regarding the transaction.

About Aabar
Aabar Investments PJSC is an investment company headquartered in Abu Dhabi and is on the
Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange. It directly invests in various sectors including energy,
infrastructure, real estate, automotive and financial services companies. Its largest shareholder
is the International Petroleum Investment Company, which in turn is wholly owned by the
Government of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

About Virgin Galactic
Virgin Galactic was launched by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group in 2004 with the
objective of developing commercial space vehicles which would transform the safety, cost
and environmental impact associated with access to space. As well as offering 1000’s of
ordinary people the chance to experience space for themselves, the system will be used for
space and high altitude science research and potentially developed to launch small satellites.
In the future the company expects to move on to the development of orbital vehicles capable
of carrying people, including the possibility of offering very fast trans –continental flights
around the planet.

Virgin Galactic’s vehicles use the design and technology developed by the renowned
aeronautical engineer, Burt Rutan, for SpaceShipOne, which as the world’s first privately
built manned spaceship, flew safely to space and back three times in 2004.

This remarkable and unique project is now in its final stages with the test flight programme of
the commercial vehicles underway. Already, approximately 300 people from around the
world have paid approaching $40m in deposits, representing $60m of ticket sales, to
guarantee an early seat.

Virgin Galactic’s guiding star is safety. In addition to a system that is proven and safer by
design, the vehicles are being put through a comprehensive and exhaustive test flight
programme before the inaugural commercial flight takes place on which Sir Richard Branson
and his family will fly.

Virgin Galactic astronauts will be prepared and trained for an experience of sensory overload,
from the incredible acceleration at launch through to the “out of seat” zero gravity
experienced in the blackness of space whilst looking through large windows at the
breathtaking views of the Blue Planet below.

All of Virgin Galactic’s first astronauts will be pioneers in a new industry which in the future
will allow us to make better use of space to improve life here on Earth.

For further details and assets covering the investor announcement go to  www.VirginGalactic.com/PartnershipandBransonAboardVMSEve

Dr. Charles Lurio principal behind The Lurio Report is the 2009 Space Frontier Foundation Award for NewSpace Journalism. Congrtulations Charles on this well deserved award. Previous winners include David Livingston of “The Space Show,” prolific space writer and blogger Jeff Foust, and Alan Boyle of MSNBC.

There’s a one day event focusing on space tourism  in London on June 3oth being hosted by the Royal Aeronautical Society. I heard Dr. Charles Lurio, of the Lurio Report and  friend of 62MileClub, will be there to cover the event.

Topics for day include but are not limited to the following space tourism topics:

  • XCOR Aerospace’s Lynx Spacecraft
  • EADS Astrium’s space tourism project
  • Spaceport Sweden
  • Insurance perspective
  • Government’s role

Location: No.4 Hamilton Place, London UK
From the Royal Aeronautical Society Website:


This multi-disciplinary conference aims to bring together those who will contribute to making space tourism a reality to discuss the successful development of affordable space travel.

Following the success of the Royal Aeronautical Society’s inaugural Space Tourism conference in 2006, the Society will again provide a platform for those prominent leaders from the industry to outline the latest news of their ground-breaking projects. Subject experts will also be given an opportunity to present their opinions reviewing the challenges facing the industry today.

The first decade of this century has marked the advent of the age of the private space adventurer. In 2001 the American businessman Dennis Tito grabbed the world headlines when he became the first privately funded astronaut. In 2004 the public’s imagination was again captured by the inspirational flight of the Scaled Composites SpaceShipOne proving that affordable and widely accessible sub-orbital spaceflight was within reach. Since that time several organisations around the world have been striving to make this concept a reality by developing purpose-built commercial vehicles to satisfy the public’s desire to experience space travel. This has created a small, vibrant and global industry.

The conference will look at where the Space Tourism industry is today. It will consider the plans for the next few years; examine what is needed to realise affordable space travel; and address the industry’s hottest topics.

This conference is essential for those who are looking for the latest news on recent developments in this emerging industry. It is a unique opportunity to hear from a panel of experts; to interact with the leaders and innovators from the space tourism industry; and to develop a wide range of professional relationships.

Registration info


Press Release from Space Exploration Technologies

Musk Gets a Stimulus but at What COST?

Falcon 1 to fly again

Hawthorne, CA (June 1, 2009) – Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) and Astronautic Technology (M) Sdn Bhd (ATSB) of Malaysia announce a new launch window has been set for Falcon 1 Flight 5, carrying the RazakSAT satellite to orbit.  The launch window opens Monday, July 13th and extends through Tuesday, July 14th, with a daily window to open at 4:00 p.m. (PDT) / 7:00 p.m. (EDT).

The launch was delayed last month after SpaceX identified the potential for an unfavorable interaction between the satellite and the launch vehicle.  After further analysis, SpaceX determined the implementation of a simple vibration isolation system would address this concern.  SpaceX selected the SoftRide isolation system from CSA Engineering for this purpose, citing the system’s strong flight heritage and established success in addressing vibration concerns.

Falcon 1, a two-stage, liquid oxygen/rocket-grade kerosene vehicle designed from the ground up by SpaceX, will place the RazakSAT satellite, equipped with a high resolution Medium-Sized Aperture Camera (MAC), into a near equatorial orbit.

RazakSAT was designed and built by ATSB, a pioneer and leader in the design and manufacture of satellites in Malaysia. The satellite is expected to provide high resolution images of Malaysia that can be applied to land management, resource development and conservation, forestry and fish migration.

SpaceX’s Falcon 1 launch site is located approximately 2500 miles southwest of Hawaii on Omelek Island, part of the Reagan Test Site (RTS) at United States Army Kwajalein Atoll (USAKA) in the Central Pacific. Due to the location of the launch site, the Kwajalein local date at the opening of the launch window will be Tuesday, July 14th.

SpaceX will provide live coverage of the Falcon 1 Flight 5/RazakSAT mission via webcast at www.SpaceX.com . The webcast will begin 20 minutes prior to launch and will include mission briefings, live feeds and launch coverage from the launch site.  Post-launch, video footage and photos will be available for download on the Web site.

About SpaceX

SpaceX is developing a family of launch vehicles and spacecraft intended to increase the reliability and reduce the cost of both manned and unmanned space transportation, ultimately by a factor of ten. With the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 vehicles, SpaceX offers highly reliable/cost-efficient launch capabilities for spacecraft insertion into any orbital altitude and inclination. Starting in 2010, SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft will provide Earth-to-LEO transport of pressurized and unpressurized cargo, including resupply to the International Space Station (ISS).

Founded in 2002, the SpaceX team now numbers over 700, with corporate headquarters in Hawthorne, California.   For more information, please visit the company’s web site at www.spacex.com .

About ATSB®

Astronautic Technology Sdn. Bhd. (ATSB) was established to thrust Malaysia into the orbit of nations with space satellite technology. ATSB focuses on research and development in the area of design and development of space qualified systems employing advanced and innovative technologies.

As the pioneer and leader in the small satellite business in Malaysia, ATSB has recorded numerous achievements within a short span of time. These include the design, development, launch and operation of Malaysia’s first micro-satellite, the TiungSAT-1. This hereditary knowledge leads to the design and development of the second micro-satellite, the RazakSAT and also the undertaking of Malaysia’s high-technology intensive programmes. For more information, please visit the company’s web site at www.atsb.my .

About CSA Engineering
CSA Engineering delivers products and services in vibration suppression, precision motion and noise control. CSA has a 27-year history of meeting customer needs in government programs and commercial products, specializing in aerospace vehicles, structures and components.

A three-time winner of U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) awards, CSA was named the National Small Business Government Contractor for the year 2002. CSA was also acknowledged with the SBIR Tibbetts Award, and has received commendations from Boeing, Lockheed, NASA, Orbital Sciences, TRW and others.

CSA Engineering is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Moog Inc. and is part of Moog’s Space and Defense Group.  For more information, please visit the company’s web site at www.csaengineering.com .

(Source: New Scientist)
“Fewer astronauts, more robots. That’s the call from three European aerospace engineers, who argue that crewed satellite repair missions – like the ones flown by NASA to fix the ailing Hubble Space Telescope – are expensive, wasteful and set the wrong agenda for the space community. While such missions may be spectacular, they are unsustainable. Space agencies and satellite operators should instead be accelerating their efforts to develop robotic mechanics that can ply various Earth orbits, fixing errant satellites on demand. That way failing spacecraft can be repaired much more economically.” Full article here.

(Source: US News & World Report)
The Federal Communications Commission is likely to let satellite radio pioneers XM and Sirius come together. The companies say they need to merge to keep their business thriving in the face of growing competition. Ha. If they thought they had problems, it’s gotten worse in the 16 months that their merger proposal has languished in Washington bureaucracy.  (6/16)

(Source: Reuters)
Sirius Satellite Radio’s planned acquisition of XM Satellite Radio appeared on Monday to draw closer to consummation after a key U.S. regulator expressed support for the deal. FCC Chairman Kevin Martin confirmed published reports that he would support the transaction, with the companies agreeing to a series of conditions. Those conditions include a pledge to make 24 radio channels available for noncommercial and minority programming, according to FCC sources. In addition, the companies would agree to cap prices, provide interoperable radios and offer programming on an “a la carte” basis. (6/16)

(Source: ERAU)
Amid a sustained downturn in U.S. commercial satellite launches, Spacehab has hired retired Air Force General Lance Lord to lead its Astrotech subsidiary. The company has replaced much of its commercial satellite processing business with work for government agencies. (6/19)

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