FIRST UP | Lockheed Martin gets $4.9B to build three missile-warning satellites • China’s main space contractor sets ambitious 2021 launch target
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A SpaceNews daily newsletter | Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Top Stories

Lockheed Martin won a $4.9 billion Pentagon contract Monday for three missile warning satellites. The contract covers the manufacturing, assembly, integration, testing and delivery of three geosynchronous Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (OPIR) satellites, which will complement two polar orbiting Next-Gen OPIR satellites being built by Northrop Grumman. Lockheed previously won a $2.9 billion contract for initial development of those satellites. The first of the Lockheed-built satellites could launch as soon as 2025. [SpaceNews]

The Space Force hopes its small launch vehicle program will rebound in 2021. Small satellite launches by the Space Force slowed considerably in 2020 due to the pandemic and technical setbacks, the service acknowledged, with launches by Rocket Lab, Space Vector and Virgin Orbit slipping to 2021. A Space Force official said they plan to evaluate as many emerging providers as possible and figure out how to contract for their services to meet a still-uncertain future demand. [SpaceNews]

China's main space contractor is planning at least 40 launches this year. China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) announced the target at a meeting Monday where it outlined its goals for the year. Those launches are expected to include the core module of China's new space station, along with a cargo spacecraft and the Shenzhou-12 crewed mission. China carried out 39 launches in 2020, with CASC responsible for 34 of them. [SpaceNews]

Chinese startup Spacety has released the first images from its synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite. Hisea-1, a satellite with a C-band SAR system, launched Dec. 22 as a secondary payload on the first Long March 8 rocket. The spacecraft started returning SAR imagery days later at a resolution of three meters, and Spacety released the first image, of a region of Tennessee, last week. Spacety says Hisea-1 is the first miniaturized C-band SAR satellite and the first commercial Chinese SAR system. [SpaceNews]

Other News

SpaceX is not having problems convincing customers to fly on "flight-proven" Falcon rockets. In an interview, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said persuading customers to fly on Falcon 9 rockets with previously flown first stages has been less difficult than selling the first Falcon launches, since the company has demonstrated its capabilities to safely launch and reuse the vehicles. Shotwell added that SpaceX has some launch services contracts where it can choose whether to use Falcon or its next-generation Starship vehicle for the mission. She said she was optimistic that Starship will make its first orbital flight this year. [Ars Technica]

SpaceX has been clearing the wreckage of the last Starship prototype as it prepares to launch the next one. Workers removed Monday the last major elements of the SN8 prototype vehicle from the landing pad at its Boca Chica, Texas, site. The vehicle exploded when it landed too fast on the pad at the end of an otherwise successful test flight last month. The SN9 prototype is currently on a launch pad at Boca Chica, preparing for what's expected to be a similar test flight later this month. [Teslarati]

SpinLaunch is expanding its New Mexico facility as it prepares to begin testing its centrifugal launch system. The company announced an agreement last month with state officials, securing up to $4 million in state grants in exchange for creating 59 new jobs at Spaceport America. The startup is building a centrifuge 30 meters in diameter there that it will use for suborbital tests of a system it plans to eventually scale up for launching small satellites. The first tests of the system, which will launch projectiles to an altitude of about 100 kilometers before landing at nearby White Sands Missile Range, will begin later this year. [SpaceNews]

More than two dozen Indian companies want to participate in a commercialization effort by the country's space agency. Jitendra Singh, minister of state for India's Department of Space, said those companies are seeking to work with the Indian National Space Promotion and Development Centre, or In-SPACe, which the government established last year as part of efforts to support the development of a commercial space industry. The companies include those working on small launch vehicles, satellite constellations and space applications, Singh said. [Deccan Herald]

Something to Look Forward To

"Everything is harder in space, except for pull-ups."

– Former astronaut Terry Virts, describing the challenges of adapting to weightlessness. [CNN]

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