Psst: Want to know who else has their snout in the Copernicus trough? (spoiler: it's not the UK)

Plus: SpaceX launches another GPS satellite, the next Mission Extension Vehicle arrives in French Guiana and.... come ON, Tim!

In Brief Rubbing salt into wounded British pride over a lack of prime contracts, Thales Alenia Space trumpeted its ESA awards last week.

The French tentacle of the outfit picked up the prime contractor prize for the Hyperspectral Imaging mission while its Italian arm took prime contractor duties for the Passive Microwave Imaging mission and the L-band SAR Mission.

Thales Alenia Space France will also be providing payloads for the Carbon Dioxide Monitoring mission and the Polar Ice and Snow Topographic Mission.

Sentinel-3B Lift Off (pic: ESA)

UK space firms forced to adjust their models of how the universe works as they lose out on Copernicus contracts


The order volume from the bid decisions is expected to be in the order of €1.8bn.

ESA confirmed the total awarded for the six new missions was €2.55bn, co-funded by the EU and ESA member states.

SpaceX launches the US Space Force's next GPS III satellite

SpaceX kicked off last week with a successful launch of a Space Force satellite from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The lift-off was followed by the never-humdrum landing of the Falcon 9's first stage on the "Just Read the Instructions" droneship, stationed in the Atlantic. The satellite itself was released approximately 90 minutes into the mission.

The mission had been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, eventually leaving the launchpad at 20:10 UTC on 30 June. It was the first flight for this particular Falcon 9 first stage, with the successful recovery setting the stage for future re-use. It was also the second GPS III satellite launched by a Falcon 9.

SpaceX's next launch should be the delayed ninth operational Starlink launch, currently planned for later in July and this time from Kennedy Space Center's LC-39A pad.

Come on Tim! Come to Scotland

Edinburgh-based Skyrora has signed up British astronaut, Tim Peake, to its advisory board. Proclaiming Peake's insights as "invaluable", the company has an eye on tapping both his expertise and "vast experience in the space industry" as it continues development of its orbital-class Skyrora XL ahead of launches in 2023.

Peake's "Principia" ISS mission ran from December 2015 to June 2016. He also notched up a successful 17-year career in the military and aeronautical industry and signed up with the European Space Agency for training from 2009.

Second Mission Extension Vehicle to launch in July

Northrop Grumman's Mission Extension Vehicle 2 (MEV-2) has arrived at the Arianespace launch facility at Kourou in French Guiana ahead of a ride to orbit onboard an Ariane 5 rocket alongside the Intelsat Galaxy 30 communication satellite.

MEV-2 follows the success of its predecessor, MEV-1, which was launched on 9 October 2019 and docked with the Intelsat 901 spacecraft on 25 February 2020.

IS-901 was fully operational, but running low on fuel. The attachment of MEV-1 should extend its useful life by five years before the stack is moved to a final decommissioning orbit and MEV-1 can move on to a new spacecraft. The extension vehicle is designed for multiple dockings and undockings and Northrop Grumman reckons the system can deliver over fifteen years of mission extension services.

MEV-2 will be tasked with a rendezvous with Intelsat 1002, originally launched in 2004 atop a Russian Proton. Should all go well, the spacecraft will meet in early 2021. ®

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