Space industry: 20 forecasts for 2020

US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — In 2019, the U.S. space forces were created, NASA was set a goal – by 2024 to send Americans to the moon. This year, new projects are also waiting for us in the space sector, SpaceNews believes and talks about twenty forecasts for 2020 made by its journalists.

1.We will see the emergence of suborbital space tourism

We have been waiting for this for many years. And now two leading companies specializing in manned suborbital flights can finally begin commercial activities in this direction. Virgin Galactic plans to transfer its VSS Unity (SpaceShipTwo suborbital manned spacecraft) to the America spaceport in New Mexico earlier this year for the final series of flight tests. Representatives of Virgin Galaxies, whose shares began to be listed on the stock exchange last October, said that by June of this year, the company plans to begin tourist flights. And at the beginning of 2019, the Blue Origin company announced that by the end of the year it would begin test flights with the crew aboard its New Shepard suborbital ship, however, then the company’s management specified that it wants to perform several more test unmanned flights. The Blue Origin has not yet begun to disclose in detail information about when tourists will start flying on these ships and what is the price of the flight.

2. Several flights to Mars

This year it is planned to carry out up to four flights to Mars. The most ambitious is the sending of the NASA Mars 2020 rover, which will collect soil samples and send them to Earth using two aircraft (this will happen after 2025). This project is being implemented in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA). However, the biggest questions are related to ESA’s own project called ExoMars 2020, which revealed problems with the parachute system. At the beginning of the year, a decisive series of tests will be carried out, during which experts will determine whether this summer, within the framework of this project, it is possible to launch the Russian Proton rocket or whether it will have to wait until 2022. China is also going to launch its vehicles on Mars (spacecraft, lander and rover). The United Arab Emirates is planning with the help of the Japanese H-2A rocket to send its first spacecraft called Hope to the orbit of Mars. If the launches are carried out exactly on schedule, then all the spacecraft will reach Mars in early 2021.

3. “Hangar 5” is back

In 2020, after a five-year hiatus, flights should resume the Russian Angara 5 rocket. In December 2014, Russia carried out the first and only launch of Angara 5 from the Plesetsk cosmodrome. In December, Jim Kramer, International Launch Services (ILS) technical director, said that two Angara 5 rocket launches were planned for this year. Both projects are state-owned. The Angara 5 is the successor to the best Russian Proton heavy missile. It is expected that the launch pad for the Angara 5 at the new Russian space center Vostochny will be ready by 2023.

4. The Federal Communications Commission of the United States put up for public auction a frequency band of C-band

In November, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decided to hold its own auction to sell the spectrum of satellite frequencies in the C-band, instead of allowing it to satellite operators. Giulia McHenry, Acting Head of the FCC’s Office of Economics and Analytics, said a few days later that the commission “is confident that we will be able to hold this auction before the end of 2020.” The frequency transmission of 280 megahertz, which is in the C-band, is dictated by the desire to increase speed in 5G cellular networks, FCC representatives emphasized. However, it is not yet clear how satellite operators currently using this band (Intelsat, SES, Telesat and Eutelsat) will get out of this spectrum.

5. Selection of winners of the US National Space Launch Program

The Big Four of the American space launch industry [United Launch Alliance, SpaceX, Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman] hopes to be one of two providers that will end this year years will receive five-year contracts for the transportation (starting from 2022) into space of goods intended to ensure national security. United Lunch Alliance, Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman, as part of the tender, are launching new delivery vehicles that are expected to be first launched into space in 2021. “This means that in 2020 we will finalize the design and manufacture of equipment for the first flight,” said Colonel Robert Bongiovi, director of the company, in December last year.

6. Satellite maintenance and space debris removal programs will be improved.

Spaceships will launch satellites into new orbits and clear orbital debris. In October, the Mission Extension Vehicle-1 satellite (owned by Northrop Grumman) was launched into orbit. As expected, in early 2020, he should dock with the Intelsat-901 satellite to extend its service life. In addition, in 2020, the Swiss startup ClearSpace plans to lead the European consortium. One of the consortium’s tasks is to capture the Vespa satellite payload adapter and accelerate it towards the Earth’s atmosphere (this operation is expected to be completed in 2025).

7. Wanweb and SpaceX begin to deploy a large satellite constellation

These two leading companies forecast to increase the number of rocket launches to launch new satellites into orbit. At the end of the year, they plan to switch to partial servicing of Internet access services using satellites located in low orbits. In February, OneWeb launched 34 small satellites operating in a wide frequency range with the Soyuz rocket into low Earth orbit. The company begins regular launches to deploy an orbital constellation of 650 satellites. SpaceX has already carried out five special launches of Starlink satellites and plans to carry out two dozen more launches this year. If 60 satellites will be displayed in a single launch, then by the end of the year SpaceX will have an orbital constellation in excess of 1000 satellites.

8. US National Intelligence Agency Attracts Commercial Image Suppliers

The United States National Intelligence Agency (NRO) is committed to attracting new geospatial data providers to create a national space security system. To this end, in 2019 NRO contracted with several commercial image providers. NRO spokesmen said 2020 could be a key year as the US National Intelligence Agency is considering entering into larger procurement contracts with commercial companies such as Planet and BlackSky, which claim to be dominated by the market. Maksar Technologies (Maxar Technologies), which now owns DigitalGlobe.

9. SpaceX will increase the number of space launches more than double

On December 16, 2019, SpaceX launched the last JCSAT-18 / Kacific-1 communications satellite last year. A total of 13 launches were carried out (11 less than the company planned). SpaceX seeks to increase the constellation of communication satellites operating in a wide range of frequencies. For this reason, as the President and CEO of SpaceX Gwynne Shotwell stated, in 2020 the company plans to carry out 35 to 38 space launches, including 15 to 24 launches as part of the formation of the Starlink near-Earth satellite system . On December 6, Shotwell told reporters, “You will observe space launches every two to three weeks.”

10. In China, the frequency of space launches will remain high

This year, China plans to conduct more than 40 space launches, including launching the most powerful Chinese missile, the Great March 5. In addition, China plans to put Beidou navigation satellites into orbit, send a spacecraft to Mars, and implement a project to collect and return lunar soil samples to Earth. Last year, China managed to carry out 34 launches from orbit, and in 2018 – 37 (at that time, for the first time in the number of such launches, China overtook the United States and Russia).

11. Telesat will choose a contractor to form the LEO satellite constellation

Last year, the Canadian company Telesat planned to select a partner to form (fully or partially) an orbital constellation of 300 satellites; Telesat tried to do this even before the tandem of two competing companies broke up. Maksar Technologies and Thales Alenia Space together decided to compete for a $ 3 billion contract, but at the end of last year they refused to cooperate with each other, explaining this by disagreements about the format, scale and financial indicators characterizing joint cooperation. Each of these companies currently competes alone with Airbus Defense and Space for the right to participate in the creation of the Telesat LEO satellite constellation,

12. New types of small launch vehicles enter the market

Several companies that are developing small-sized launch vehicles are likely to attempt their first launches in 2020. In December last year, Virgin Orbit announced that the first attempt to launch such a launch vehicle was “inevitable,” and it would take place shortly after the final test series of the upgraded Boeing 747 aircraft, on which carrier “Luncheruan”. In the near future, Firefly Aerospace will begin bench tests of the first stage of its Alpha rocket. Its first launch will take place at the end of this year at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Other companies, such as ABL Space Systems, Relativity Space and Stealth Space Company,

13. Earth observation: data integration is becoming a trend

Various types of data (electro-optical and radio-frequency, as well as radar images obtained using aperture radar synthesis) will be combined with information received from airborne and ground sensors, as well as information received through social networks. The purpose of this data merger is to get new information products and provide them to customers. During the 2010s, companies were able to prove in practice that they were capable of providing better information (at a higher frequency and with a higher spatial resolution). Data pooling will be the trend of the 2020s.

14. Space startups find it harder to raise money

The failures recently experienced by some space startups [for example, Vector Space Systems, Audacy, and Leosat] will force investors to be more careful about investing in space in 2020. sector. This does not mean that private capital will refuse to invest there at all. Not at all. Many investors will continue to invest in this sector. However, companies from some highly competitive sectors (such as launching small satellites) will find it more difficult to attract additional funding.

15. The first flights “Arian 6” and “Vega S”

In 2020, the first launch of two next-generation launch vehicles created in Europe is planned – the heavy Ariane 6 rocket and the light Vega C rocket. Both launches will be carried out by Arianespace. The Arian 6 rocket is supposed to put into orbit 30 small communications satellites for the OneWeb company, and the Vega S – the scientific satellite Lares-2, owned by the Italian Space Agency. Arian 6 is 40-50% cheaper than Arian 5, and Vega S should put 700 kg more cargo into low Earth orbit than Vega. The exact launch dates for the new launch vehicles have not yet been announced.

16. Tuneable communications satellites come first

Over the past few years, stagnation has been observed in the satellite market. However, their creators did not waste time: they began to invest in advanced technologies that offer more opportunities. The satellite manufacturing companies say that at present, reconfigurable (“flexible”) communication satellites capable of changing various radiation parameters (power, shape, direction) have already laid down, in fact, a standard for satellites. For example, last year, Airbus, Tails Alenia Space, and Boeing began to create new reconfigurable satellite links. And now satellite operators, discussing plans for the future, emphasize the importance of such reconfigurable satellites, as evidenced by the following facts: Inmarsat purchased three OneSat satellites from Airbus last year,

17. Artemis is making progress

At the end of 2019, additional funding was allocated for NASA (more precisely, most of the requested amount) for the Artemis project to return people to the moon by 2024. At the beginning of the year, NASA is likely to conclude contracts for the development of devices for landing on the moon, but underfunding of this program (for the fiscal year 2020, $ 600 million was allocated instead of the requested $ 1 billion) could lead to the number of companies able to receive contracts will decrease. Other important stages of the Artemis project are, firstly, the environmental tests of the Orion spacecraft at the NASA Plum Brook Station test center (this phase is due to end this spring) and, secondly, conducting fire tests of the Space Launch System or SLS at the booth at the John Stennis Space Center at the end of the year. However, the first launch of SLS in unmanned mode (a project called “Artemis-1”) is unlikely to take place before the beginning of 2021. NASA is expected to unveil in Washington the amount that will cost the first phase of the Artemis program (right up to the landing of the device in 2024) – this amount may cause shock for some congressmen.

18. Launch of satellites engaged in electronic intelligence from space

In 2020, important launches are planned for companies intending to use electronic constellation to conduct electronic reconnaissance from space. At the end of the year, HawkEye 360 ​​HawkEye 360, which already has three satellites in orbit, will launch the other three with the Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle or PSLV. Last September, the French UnseenLabs announced that it plans to launch six more satellites in 2020 after the successful launch of its first-born rocket, Electron, developed by Rocket Lab; this launch took place in August last year. And the Luxembourgish “Kleos Space” (Kleos Space), which I’m in the last year instead of missiles “Elektron” has chosen an Indian PSLV rocket,

19. Commercial test manned launches

In 2019, Boeing and SpaceX tested their manned vehicles in unmanned mode, which paved the way for next year’s test flights with crew on board. NASA has not yet set a date for the Crew Dragon Demo-2 and CST100 Starliner Crew Test Flight flights, set up by SpaceX and Boeing, respectively, although SpaceX CEO Elon Musk suggested that his company will operate at the end of December. the flight will be around the middle of this year, but only after SpaceX tests the crew emergency rescue system in January and NASA makes a final decision on flight safety. NASA expects that at least one of the companies mentioned above will be able to begin work this year,

20. Commercial alternatives to NASA’s satellite tracking and relaying system are emerging

The increase in human activity and robots in low Earth orbits will encourage government agencies and commercial companies to invest in the creation of networks designed to transmit messages from satellites to Earth and from Earth to satellites. In 2020, the Sostar Space Company (Solstar Space Co.) plans to upgrade transceivers to enable people to use Wi-Fi and connect computers to it in orbit. Addvalue Innovation plans to expand production and arrange the supply of terminals for the inter-satellite data relay system, which it developed in conjunction with the satellite operator Inmarsat. In addition, NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation Specialists


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The article is written and prepared by our foreign editors from different countries around the world – material edited and published by Ordo News staff in our US newsroom press.