Dec 21, 2015

SpaceNews 2015 Year in Review

Estimated Article Reading Time: 2 min.

January: Japan approves a combined civil/military space budget of 324.5 billion yen ($2.75 billion) for fiscal year 2015, up 18.5 percent over the previous year, with a big focus on national security. An H-3 rocket and a data-relay satellite are also big budget items.

February: The U.S. government approves the commercial sale of optical Earth observation imagery with a 30-centimeter ground resolution, the first government to do so, giving DigitalGlobe of the United States a competitive edge on world markets. DigitalGlobe’s World View-3 satellite, which entered service in October 2014, has a 30-centimeter imaging camera.

March: U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and a longtime patron of NASA programs, announces she will not run for re-election in 2016.

April: ULA unveils plans for its next-generation Vulcan rocket featuring a U.S.-built main engine. Future versions will feature a new upper stage and, ultimately, reusable first-stage engines.

May: A Russian Proton rocket fails shortly after liftoff, destroying the $300 million Mexican Centenario mobile communications satellite. It is the fourth Proton failure in as many years.

June: A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying supplies to the ISS fails shortly after liftoff, stressing a commercial satellite industry already bottlenecked by the May failure of a Russian Proton rocket.

July: NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft successfully flies past the dwarf planet Pluto, collecting images and other data the spacecraft will be transmitting back to Earth over the next year.

August: ESA contracts with industry to build the next-generation Ariane 6 rocket and an upgraded Vega vehicle, called Vega-C, and with CNES to build the Ariane 6 launch installation. Vega-C’s inaugural flight is set for 2018, with Ariane 6 in 2020.

September: India’s PSLV rocket launches the country’s Astrosat astronomy spacecraft and, in a first, four commercial U.S. weather satellites for Spire. The Spire launch is further evidence that the U.S. government is relaxing its policy that discourages using Indian rockets to launch U.S. satellites or satellite components.

October: In a long-awaited deal, Facebook and Eutelsat agree to lease, for five years, Ka-band capacity on Israel-based Spacecom Ltd.’s Amos-6 satellite to provide Internet access in 14 nations in sub-Saharan Africa.

November: Blue Origin performs a second test flight of its New Shepard suborbital vehicle, reaching a peak altitude of 100.5 kilometers. The vehicle’s propulsion module makes a successful powered vertical landing.

December: Congress passes, and President Barack Obama subsequently signs, a transportation bill reauthorizing the Ex-Im Bank, whose charter lapsed in July.