|August 3, 2020
Dragon Capsule Safely Splashes Down Off Pensacola Coast Carrying NASA Astronauts (Source: Weather Channel)
Despite a tropical storm on the other side of Florida, the SpaceX crew capsule made a successful splashdown Sunday afternoon in the Gulf of Mexico. Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken returned to Earth from the International Space Station inside the Dragon capsule, named Endeavour by its crew, at 2:48 p.m. The capsule landed in the Gulf off Pensacola in Florida's Panhandle and was greeted by a recovery ship and two smaller boats. Hurley and Behnken remained inside the spacecraft as the two smaller boats moved toward them. The splashdown was the first in 45 years for NASA. The last one was on July 24, 1975, when a joint U.S.-Soviet Apollo-Soyuz mission ended. (8/2)
Dragon Heat Shield Inspection Before ISS Departure and Reentry (Source: Business Insider)
The Dragon crew has wrapped up its test mission and is returning to Earth in early August. But before Behnken and Hurley return, NASA and SpaceX inspected Crew Dragon's heat shield, which protects the spaceship from temperatures of 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit during atmospheric reentry. In the rare event that Crew Dragon's shield has been damaged by micrometeoroids or orbital debris, the two men can stay aboard the ISS until another spaceship arrives to take them home. (7/25)
New SpaceX Dragon Spaceship Almost Ready for Next NASA Astronaut Launch (Source: Teslarati)
The next Crew Dragon spacecraft assigned to launch NASA astronauts is almost ready to ship to Florida. Deep inside SpaceX’s Hawthorne, California rocket factory, the Crew Dragon capsule – believed to be C207 – assigned to the company’s operational astronaut launch debut (Crew-1) is in the late stages of final integration. A photo provided alongside the news confirms that the Crew Dragon is nearly complete. Aside from the installation of body panels and several other tasks that will be completed once the ship arrives in Florida, capsule C207 is already fully outfitted with a heatshield, windows, Draco maneuvering thrusters, SuperDraco abort thrusters, parachute deployment hardware, and much more. (7/30)
Next Dragon Commercial Crew Crew Named (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected the astronauts that will fly on a SpaceX commercial crew mission next year. The Crew-2 mission, on a Crew Dragon spacecraft scheduled to launch in the spring of 2021 for a six-month stay at the International Space Station, will include NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet and JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide. It follows Crew-1, the first operational commercial crew mission, scheduled to launch in late September on another Crew Dragon spacecraft. (7/29)
Mars 2020 Launches From Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Space News)
NASA's Mars 2020 mission is on its way after a successful launch at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The Atlas 5 carrying Mars 2020 lifted off on schedule at 7:50 a.m. Eastern, releasing the spacecraft on a Mars-bound trajectory nearly an hour later. Mars 2020 will deliver the Perseverance rover on the Martian surface next February. That rover will collect samples of Martian rock for return to Earth by two later missions under development by NASA and ESA.
The $2.4 billion rover carries a wide range of other science instruments as well as Ingenuity, a small helicopter that will attempt to fly in the Martian atmosphere. Mars 2020 is the last of three Mars missions to launch this year, after the Hope orbiter by the UAE and China'a Tianwen-1 Mars orbiter and rover. (7/30)
Mars 2020 Spacecraft Operating Fine Despite Post-Launch Comm Glitch (Source: NASA)
NASA's Mars 2020 spacecraft is in good condition despite some post-launch glitches. NASA's Deep Space Network (DSN) initially had problems locking onto the spacecraft, which mission officials said was because the spacecraft's signal, so close to Earth, was strong enough to saturate the DSN's receivers. Once communications were established and telemetry received from the spacecraft, controllers found it was in a safe mode because of a "transient event" involving spacecraft temperatures as it went into the Earth's shadow. NASA said the problem wasn't serious and controllers were working to resume normal spacecraft operations. (7/31)
Getting to Mars is the Easy Part, Landing on Mars is Harder (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
When NASA’s Perseverance rover arrives at Mars, mission managers will be watching, helpless to do anything. The $2.4 billion spacecraft will hit the top of the Martian atmosphere at more than 12,000 mph and then come to a complete stop seven minutes later. That the 1-ton rover will end up on Mars on the afternoon of Feb. 18 is nearly certain. The spacecraft navigators will have put the robotic explorer on a collision course with the planet. The only question is whether Perseverance will be on the ground in one piece or smashed to bits.
Spacecraft from Europe and the Soviet Union have made it all the way to the red planet, only to end up as expensive scorch marks on its dusty surface. But NASA has a good track record with Mars. It is the only space agency so far to pull off a successful mission on the surface of the red planet. Perseverance is largely the same design as the Curiosity rover, which set down in 2012 and will have the same convoluted but now tried-and-true “sky crane” landing choreography.
One major addition to Perseverance is what NASA calls “terrain-relative navigation.” A camera on the spacecraft will take pictures of the landscape and match them with its stored maps. It would then steer to what looks like the safest landing spot it can. “I don’t need the whole place to be flat and boring,” Chen said. “I just need parts of it that I can reach to be flat and boring.” Without this system, there would be more than a 1-in-5 chance that Perseverance would end up somewhere unfortunate — damaged by a boulder, tipped over on a steep slope or surrounded by sand traps. That would be an unacceptably high risk for such a high-profile, expensive mission. (6/30)
Mars 2020 Mission to be Guided by USGS Astrogeology Maps (Source: Space Daily)
When NASA's Perseverance rover lands on Mars next year, it will be equipped with some of the most precise maps of Mars ever created, courtesy of the USGS Astrogeology Science Center. Not only are the new maps essential for a safe landing on Mars, but they also serve as the foundation upon which the science activities planned for the Mars mission will be built.
"Exploration is part of human nature and USGS has a long history and enduring interest in researching planets other than our own," said USGS director and former NASA astronaut Jim Reilly. "These maps will help the Perseverance mission unlock the mysteries of the red planet's past and guide future missions." Perseverance is expected to launch this week. The mission's goals are to search for evidence of past life and habitable environments in Jezero crater and collect and store samples that, for the first time in history, could be returned to Earth by a future mission.
To safely land on the rugged Martian landscape, the spacecraft will use a new technology called "Terrain Relative Navigation." As it descends through the planet's atmosphere, the spacecraft will use its onboard maps to know precisely where it is and avoid hazards. For the navigation to work, the spacecraft needs the best possible maps of the landing site and surrounding terrain. (7/28)
Mars Helicopter Ready for Mission (Source: Space Daily)
After years of design tweaks and dozens of flight tests, engineers are confident the Ingenuity helicopter is ready to make history with the first flight by a powered aircraft on another planet. The mission is scheduled to launch from Florida on Thursday. If all goes as planned, the Mars helicopter will lift off from the Martian surface next April. But even if Ingenuity never makes it off the ground, the project won't be in vain, engineers said.
"Mars helicopter is a technology demonstration mission. It's a different type of mission because we're trying to prove that you can do something for the first time, so it's a different kind of mindset," Teddy Tzanetos, test conductor for the helicopter, told UPI. "Getting to Mars and doing a system check, that will be a victory. Separating from the rover, that's another victory. Every one of these milestones will be a reason to celebrate," Tzanetos said. The helicopter is perhaps the most anticipated part of this mission. (7/27)
NASA Deploying Microphone On Mars Rover (Source: WMFE)
NASA’s new Martian rover launches from Cape Canaveral Thursday carrying something pretty unusual for a spacecraft — a microphone. The microphone will allow us to listen to the red planet. It will help scientists see what Mars is made of and search for signs of life. When the Mars Perseverance rover lands on Mars next February, it will unpack a suite of scientific experiments to help uncover ancient signs of life on the red planet — high tech cameras, spectrometers, sensors and a microphone.
Microphones on spacecraft are quite rare because there’s not much to hear in space. For soundwaves to travel you need an atmosphere. Still, spacecraft microphones have been used before. The Huygens space probe captured sound while descending through the atmosphere of Saturn’s moon, Titan. NASA InSight Mars lander also caught a snippet of sound without an onboard microphone — capturing wind vibrations from two of its sensors. The observation was a surprise to mission managers. Engineers converted the vibrations into sound, speeding it up and shifting the frequency for our ears to hear it. (7/29)
Perseverance Rover Will Carry First Spacesuit Materials to Mars (Source: Space Daily)
NASA is preparing to send the first woman and next man to the Moon, part of a larger strategy to send the first astronauts to the surface of Mars. But before they get there, they'll be faced with a critical question: What should they wear on Mars, where the thin atmosphere allows more radiation from the Sun and cosmic rays to reach the ground?
Amy Ross is looking for answers. An advanced spacesuit designer at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, she's developing new suits for the Moon and Mars. So Ross is eagerly awaiting this summer's launch of the Perseverance Mars rover, which will carry the first samples of spacesuit material ever sent to the Red Planet. While the rover explores Jezero Crater, collecting rock and soil samples for future return to Earth, five small pieces of spacesuit material will be studied by an instrument aboard Perseverance called SHERLOC (Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman and Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals). (7/29)
Mars Rover to Collect Samples for Later Missions to Return (Source: Space Daily)
On board the Perseverance rover are 43 containers the size of cigar tubes designed to hold rock and dirt samples. If all goes well, many of them will be back on Earth by 2031 as part of an international effort to study them for possible signs that life once existed on Mars. The plan to get them back involves several spacecraft, two rovers and the first attempt to launch a rocket from another planet. Perseverance, however, isn't equipped to send the samples back to Earth.
That will be up to two spacecraft NASA and the European Space Agency plan to launch around 2026 - the NASA-led sample retrieval lander and an ESA-led Earth return orbiter. The lander is to include a fetch rover to retrieve the samples and bring them back to the lander, from which a small rocket will launch them into Mars orbit. The orbiter then will retrieve the samples and fly back to Earth. NASA expects the samples to depart Mars in 2029 and return to Earth in 2031. The agency also plans to build a highly secure laboratory on Earth to house and study the samples. (7/30)
$7 Billion Cost for Mars Sample Return (Source: Space News)
NASA and ESA expect to spend at least $7 billion bringing samples of Mars back to Earth. That effort will start with the Mars 2020 mission, scheduled to launch Thursday morning and with an estimated cost of $2.7 billion through its first Martian year of operations. At a briefing Tuesday, ESA projected spending 1.5 billion euros ($1.75 billion) over the next decade on its share of the Mars sample return effort, which includes an Earth Return Orbiter mission that will be built by Airbus Defence and Space in cooperation with Thales Alenia Space. NASA estimated at the same briefing its cost of future Mars sample return work will be $2.5-3 billion. (7/29)
Mars Mission Expense Brought Cancelation of Other Exploration (Source: Quartz)
The Perseverance rover, originally sold as a money-saver that would copy the previous Curiosity rover, will cost more than its predecessor, which itself was more than $1 billion over-budget. Those overages, and plans for a new Mars mission to return samples collected by Perseverance to the Earth, have led to the termination of a generation of other deep space programs, which might have sailed a boat on a moon of Saturn, plunged into the oceans of Europa, or flown an airship in the atmosphere of Venus. (7/30)
ExoMars Orbiter Finds New Gas Signatures in Martian Atmosphere (Source: Space Daily)
ESA's ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter has spotted new gas signatures at Mars. These unlock new secrets about the martian atmosphere, and will enable a more accurate determination of whether there is methane, a gas associated with biological or geological activity, at the planet. The Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) has been studying the Red Planet from orbit for over two years. The mission aims to understand the mixture of gases that make up the martian atmosphere, with a special focus on the mystery surrounding the presence of methane there. Meanwhile, the spacecraft has now spotted never-before-seen signatures of ozone (O3) and carbon dioxide (CO2), based on a full martian year of observations by its sensitive Atmospheric Chemistry Suite (ACS). (7/28)
Artemis SLS Hardware Arriving at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
One more piece and NASA will have all the parts needed for the biggest rocket to ever blast off from Earth. Kennedy Space Center got its hands on the second to last piece of hardware for Space Launch System rocket to be used on the Artemis I mission to moon. The launch vehicle stage adapter made its way to Kennedy aboard NASA’s Pegasus barge this week and was transported on Thursday into the Vehicle Assembly Building. The adapter fits on top of the massive core stage of SLS, the one piece that has yet to arrive to KSC, to connect it to the upper stage, and also acts as protection for the upper stage’s engine, which will be what propels the Orion spacecraft to the moon. (7/30)
Trump's 2024 Moon Goal Faces 'Challenge' in Senate, GOP Chair Predicts (Source: Politico)
It will be a “challenge” to provide NASA the money it needs to follow through on President Donald Trump’s goal of returning astronauts on the moon in 2024, given competing priorities for the space agency, the top Senate appropriator for NASA says. Sen. Jerry Moran, chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, is a staunch supporter of the administration’s effort to return to the moon four years ahead of the previous schedule.
But the Kansas Republican acknowledged the moon program, which has already suffered a funding setback in the House, is competing with other needs such as education programs that must not be cut to pay for Project Artemis. “In order to prioritize the lunar landing, things would have to be reduced that also are a priority,” Moran, who also sits on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said. “We will try to provide all the necessary funding to keep Artemis on track for a lunar landing on schedule, but it is and will remain a challenge.” (7/31)
House Passes Appropriations Bill for NASA, NOAA, and FAA (Source: Space Policy Online)
The House passed the FY2021 funding bill that includes NASA, NOAA and the FAA today. Overall, there were only minor changes to the recommendations of the House Appropriations Committee. Efforts to add $2.6 billion to NASA’s budget and to elevate the Office of Space Commerce to the Secretary of Commerce’s office failed. The next step is action by the Senate, which has not marked up any of its FY2021 appropriations bills yet.
The bill that passed, H.R. 7617, is a “minibus” combining six appropriations bills including Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS), which funds NASA and NOAA, and Transportation-HUD, which funds the FAA and its Office of Commercial Space Transportation. It also includes the Defense, Energy-Water, Financial Services, and Labor-HHS-Education bills. The Homeland Security bill originally was included, but was removed because of ongoing disagreements. (7/31)
Irregular Disorder and the NASA Budget (Source: Space Review)
The House is scheduled to vote this week on a “minibus” appropriations bill that would provide NASA with the same overall funding in 2021 as 2020. Jeff Foust reports that the bill’s limited funding for lunar lander development puts the goal of returning humans to the Moon by 2024 into question. Click here. (7/27)
Pandemic Relief Bill Includes $1.5 Billion for NASA (Source: Space News)
A pandemic relief bill introduced in the Senate this week would give NASA $1.5 billion. The bill, introduced Monday as part of a broader package of supplemental funding and other relief measures, includes the funding to compensate NASA for a provision in the CARES Act earlier this year that allowed the agency to continue paying contractors even when they could not work on site. NASA officials previously called that measure "tremendously helpful" in ensuring that those contractors will be able to resume on-site work in the future. NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard said Wednesday that the $1.5 billion is a "good estimate" of the agency's costs caused by the pandemic, but that it's subject to change as the pandemic continues. (7/30)
GAO: Most Of $17.8B In COVID-19 Deals Not Competitive, DoD Spent $3 Billion (Source: Law360)
Federal agencies have awarded more than $17.8 billion in contracts for critical items needed to address the COVID-19 pandemic, more than half of which were awarded without competition, the U.S. Government Accountability Office said. The bulk of contracts for those critical goods and services as of mid-June, around $11 billion worth, or 62% of the total dollar value, were for items to either treat patients or protect health care workers, such as ventilators, personal protective equipment and N95 respirators, according to the GAO's report.
"Contracts play a key role in federal emergency response efforts, and ... contracting during an emergency can present a unique set of challenges as officials can face a significant amount of pressure to provide critical goods and services as expeditiously and efficiently as possible," the GAO said. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was the biggest agency spender, having awarded $8.94 billion in COVID-19-related deals, followed by the U.S. Department of Defense at just under $3 billion in contracts, according to the report. (7/29)
Governance of Global Moon Exploration and Settlement (Source: Moon Village Association)
Humanity will soon be returning to the Moon through the individual and cooperative efforts of multiple space agencies and private companies around the world. This new era of lunar exploration will witness resource extraction, energy generation, habitat construction, and, in time, a growing permanent international human presence on our Moon with everything that human settlements bring.
The community of space lawyers and policymakers have responded to this new reality on multiple fronts and have produced a number of instruments including (i) the upcoming UNCOPUOS General exchange of Views on Potential Legal Models for Activities in Exploration, Exploitation, and Utilization of Space Resources, (ii) NASA’s Artemis Accords, (iii) The Hague Building Blocks for the Development of an International Framework on Space Resource Activities, and (iv) the Moon Village Principles regarding Best Practices for Sustainable Lunar Activity. Click here. (7/30)
Industry Partners Sought for Lunar Energy System (Source: Sputnik)
The prospective reactor must be able to generate an uninterrupted electricity output of at least 10 kilowatts. The US Department of Energy has recently put out a request to the private sector to construct nuclear power plants capable of operating beyond the boundaries of our planet. The Idaho National Laboratory (INL) request for information is aimed at securing "partnership on technologies and approaches to test and validate" the fission surface power systems that could be deployed on the moon and during the missions to Mars. (7/27)
Ispace Reveals the Final Design of its Lunar Lander Ahead of its First Mission to the Moon in 2022 (Source: Tech Crunch)
Japanese new space startup ispace has revealed the final design of its HAKUTO-R lunar lander, a spacecraft set to make its first touchdown on the moon in 2022 if all goes to the updated plan (it had been set to fly in October 2021 until today). Ispace is part of a team led by Draper selected by NASA for its Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program to deliver various payloads to the moon ahead of a NASA planned human mission to the lunar surface in 2024.
The lander is just a bit taller than a person, at around seven and a half feet tall (it’s basically that wide and long as well). The design includes a 4K color camera that will beam back images throughout the mission, as well as fuel tanks for holding its propellant, solar panels for power generation, landing gear, thrusters and payload compartments for holding up to 66 lbs of experiments and other materials. (7/30)
Russian Cosmonauts Could Be Going to the Moon Without a Super-Heavy Launch Vehicle (Source: Sputnik)
Russian space industry giant Energia is involved in the production of everything from rockets and satellites to space stations and ballistic missiles, and is the prime mover behind the current Russian manned spaceflight programs. Korolev Rocket and Space Corporation Energia has created and patented a means to fly cosmonauts to the Moon and back without an expensive new heavy-launch rocket.
"The technical result [of the method] is the possibility of transporting crew between a near-Earth orbital station and a base station [on the surface of the Moon] using a reusable manned spacecraft without the use of super-heavy launch vehicles and aerodynamic breaking," the description of the patent published by the Russian Federal Service for Intellectual Property reads. To land cosmonauts on the Moon and bring them back home, the patented system requires one Soyuz-2.1a rocket and three upgraded Angara A5V rockets. (7/27)
China's Probe Radar to Explore Internal Structure of Mars (Source: Space Daily)
After landing on Mars, China's Tianwen-1 probe will detect the surface and internal structure of the red planet by using its onboard radar equipment. A ground-penetrating radar, a key probe instrument, was developed by the Aerospace Information Research Institute under the Chinese Academy of Sciences. It is expected to survey the Martian soil and ice, and to collect data about the structure beneath the planet's surface at depths of between 10 and 100 meters. (7/28)
China Wants to Be First to Colonize the Moon and Mars (Source: Daily Beast)
China's Mars launch comes loaded with CCP officials’ desire for space colonization. One senior aerospace engineer and the head of China’s lunar exploration program, Ye Peijian, indicated two years ago that his country’s designs for space expedition mirror Beijing’s plan for the South China Sea—that is, the party seeks to occupy the moon and Mars at any cost. “The universe is an ocean, the moon is the Diaoyu Islands, Mars is Huangyan Island,” Ye said at the CCP’s annual plenary session in Beijing two years ago.
“If we do not go there now even though we can, then we will be blamed by our descendants,” Ye also said. “If others go there, then they will take over, and you will not be able to go even if you want to. This is reason enough.” The message was clear then: it’s a zero-sum game. The party’s officials see space as a place to be conquered, so they are compelled to stake a claim—fast. China has designs to become an astral superpower.
Details about state funding for space missions are opaque, but in 2018, Beijing earmarked at least $8 billion for the China National Space Administration, second only to the U.S. That amount has almost certainly increased every year since then, with Beijing hastening efforts to establish a permanent presence in space. China already has rovers on the moon. It will likely launch the core module of a space station to low Earth orbit next year. It is laying the groundwork for a crewed lunar mission in the 2030s, with plans to build a base near the lunar south pole. And Mars? If we take Ye’s words at face value, then the plan is to seize, annex, and build on top of it. (7/29)
DoD Needs Plans To Protect Commercial Space Industry, Says New Study (Source: Breaking Defense)
DoD should develop plans to “protect, support, and leverage commerce in space” in future — including establishing logistics capabilities all the way out to the Moon and beyond, recommends a new report spearheaded by the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU). “Our mission in the Space Force will become to protect that commerce, and I like to talk about it in terms of protecting the ‘celestial lines of commerce,’ or the space lines of commerce,” said Col. Eric Felt, head of the Space Vehicles Directorate at Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).
To meet this mission, Felt added, he is looking to focus efforts at AFRL on technologies to enable operations beyond Geosynchronous Orbit (GEO, 36,000 kilometers above the Earth), the maximum altitude for most military and commercial satellites. That means reaching into cislunar space — the region between GEO and the Moon — and out to the orbit of the Moon itself.
“I see a need for technology that is going to enable us to go to the cislunar area above GEO, and how do we operate up there and how do we maintain awareness of what’s going on up there,” he said. “And I see a need for logistical activities. … The further you go away from the Earth, the more you need logistics; and, logistics that are going to make you more resilient in your space capabilities, not more vulnerable in your space capabilities.” (7/29)
GAO: DOD Should Monitor Risks Due to Climate Change (Source: The Hill)
A report by the Government Accountability Office criticizes the Department of Defense for failing to adequately track climate change risk among contractors. "Excluding climate change and extreme weather considerations will limit DOD's ability to anticipate and manage climate-related risks so as to build resilience into its processes, and could jeopardize its ability to carry out its missions," according to the report. (7/27)
Space Command Chief Wants International Norms for Behavior in Space (Source: Space News)
The nominee to be the next head of U.S. Space Command called for cooperation in creating norms of behavior in space. U.S. Army Lt. Gen. James Dickinson said at a Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday that such norms of behavior, like those in international waters, are needed to ensure safety of space operations. He said that Space Command has been closely monitoring activities like recent Russian anti-satellite tests and is prepared to respond to aggression against U.S. satellites if need be. (7/29)
Russia Conducts Anti-Satellite Weapon Test (Source: Space Daily)
U.S. Space Command has evidence that Russia conducted a non-destructive test of a space-based anti-satellite weapon. On July 15, Russia injected a new object into orbit from Cosmos 2543, currently Satellite Catalog Number 45915 in Space-Track.org. Russia released this object in proximity to another Russian satellite, which is similar to on-orbit activity conducted by Russia in 2017, and inconsistent with the system's stated mission as an inspector satellite. Tracking information can be found on Space-Track.org.
"The Russian satellite system used to conduct this on-orbit weapons test is the same satellite system that we raised concerns about earlier this year, when Russia maneuvered near a U.S. government satellite," said Gen. John W. "Jay" Raymond, Commander of U.S. Space Command and U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations. "This is further evidence of Russia's continuing efforts to develop and test space-based systems, and consistent with the Kremlin's published military doctrine to employ weapons that hold U.S. and allied space assets at risk." (7/27)
Russia Says It is Committed to Space Demilitarization Amid US Claims About Anti-Satellite Weapons (Source: Sputnik)
On Thursday, the US's recently created Space Force accused Russia of testing an anti-satellite weapon from one of its orbiting satellites. Russia is committed to the full demilitarization of space, and is opposed to the deployment of any types of weapons in space, presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Friday. Commenting on whether the Kremlin would react to US accusations about Russian anti-satellite weapons testing, Peskov suggested that "this should probably be done by our defence ministry and the foreign ministry."
Peskov's comments follow allegations by US Space Force officials Thursday that Russia had tested an anti-satellite weapon from one of its orbiting satellites. In a statement, the newly created branch of the US military alleged that "on July 15, Russia injected a new object into orbit from Cosmos 2543," a Russian 'inspector' satellite. "Russia released this object in proximity to another Russian satellite, which is similar to on-orbit activity conducted by Russia in 2017, and inconsistent with the system's stated mission as an inspector satellite," the US agency added.
Space Force admitted that there was no indication that the projectile said to have been launched from the Cosmos-series satellite actually struck another orbiting satellite, calling the alleged test a "non-destructive" one. Space Force chief of space operations and US Space Command commander Gen. John 'Jay' Raymond said the Russian system involved in the test was the same one that 'inspected' a US surveillance satellite earlier this year. (7/31)
US, Russia Meet to Discuss Space Policies (Source: Breaking Defense)
A US delegation, including DoD officials, on July 27 in Austria will hold a first Space Security Exchange (SSE) with Russia. It’s the first formal bilateral meeting on space security since 2013, says Chris Ford, assistant secretary of State for International Security and Non-Proliferation. The purpose is to “help advance the cause of setting responsible norms of behavior in that vital domain,” Ford told reporters in a phone briefing today. In addition, he said, the US hopes to open a regular bilateral communications channel in order to avoid misperceptions and miscalculations about on-orbit activities. (7/24)
Whistling Past The Graveyard (Source: Forbes)
Netflix’s slapstick Space Force is getting praise from all corners during this election year. Even General Jay Raymond, America’s first Chief of Space Operations, was quick with a joke when comparing himself to his fictional counterpart. But none of us can afford to pretend for a second that the existential threats the real Space Force is facing are a joke.
The most recent deployment of a co-orbital space weapon by Russia demonstrates how at-risk and vulnerable our nation’s most precious and expensive space systems are, and how easily they can be rendered useless. It also carries a scary implication: that our adversaries could easily (and soon) have hundreds more of these weapons on orbit, ready to strike at our satellites with a single keystroke.
It isn’t clear yet why our government, and the clandestine groups who develop and operate these systems, would openly acknowledge this particular event. But if past experience is prologue, there are very likely numerous more of these events occurring that cannot be publicly acknowledged for operational reasons - not to mention the many more that our government doesn't even know about but should. (7/31)
America Can Protect Its Satellites Without Kinetic Space Weapons (Source: War on the Rocks)
Washington should not reinvigorate its former kinetic space weapons programs to address the threats to its satellites. The use of kinetic space weapons during a conflict would create an enormous amount of debris that would harm the space systems that the US needs for precision targeting, early warning, navigation, communications, and other critical functions. Debris, which can remain in orbit for years, is one of the most serious threats to satellites. The US military should focus on the development of non-kinetic systems that can disarm adversary satellites without physically destroying them.
If the US must “hit back” due to an attack on space systems, it can do so using non-kinetic capabilities (e.g., electronic warfare or cyber) or a kinetic response in another domain. Targeting command and control facilities on the ground using kinetic and non-kinetic weapons could negate adversary space capabilities without creating debris that would threaten American, allied, and neutral space systems. To prevent the creation of even more debris, Washington should also work with other spacefaring nations to establish a moratorium on testing kinetic weapons against objects in space.
Space security analysts have warned about the potential vulnerability of satellites to cyber attacks and electronic warfare. Hackers could take control of satellites, deny access to their services, and spoof satellites’ signals (e.g., broadcasting fake GPS signals that are disguised as real ones). In a crisis, the US should actively exploit these vulnerabilities to deny adversaries access to their military space assets. The objectives of the Defense Space Strategy can be achieved through the use of non-kinetic space weapons like the Space Force’s counter communications system. Instead of destroying communications satellites, they can be jammed. Rather than developing weapons to completely eliminate adversary intelligence satellites, the US can invest in directed energy weapons that could “blind” them. (7/31)
White House Nominates Space Force Generals for Promotion (Source: Space News)
The White House has nominated four Space Force major generals for promotion to lieutenant general. Maj. Gens. Stephen Whiting, B. Chance Saltzman, William Liquori Jr. and Nina Armagno would be assigned to various leadership positions in the Space Force. Their nominations will be considered by the Senate Armed Services Committee. (7/30)
Senate Rejects Trump Nominee for Senior DoD Policy Post (Source: Wall Street Journal)
A U.S. Senate committee on Thursday canceled a confirmation hearing for the Pentagon’s top policy job of a former Army one-star general widely criticized for spouting conspiracy theories, making inflammatory statements about Muslims and suggesting that a former CIA director should suffer sexual humiliation in prison. Retired Brig. Gen. Anthony Tata, 60 years old, nominated by President Trump to be undersecretary of defense, was to face the Senate Armed Services Committee following a wave of criticism from retired officials. Tata did not have the votes, a senior GOP Senate aide confirms. "The administration should consider nominating people who are qualified," the aide said. (7/30)
Space Force Delays Rank Structure Decision as Bill Moves Through Congress (Source: Space News)
The Space Force will delay final decisions about its rank structure and insignia. The Space Force currently uses the Air Force rank structure, but a provision in the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act would require the new service to use Navy ranks. Space Force members come from the Air Force so the idea that they could be using Navy ranks caught many by surprise. During a Facebook Live event last week, Chief Master Sgt. Roger Towberman, the senior enlisted adviser of the Space Force, said the space service will continue to use the Air Force rank structure until this issue is resolved in the legislative process. (7/28)
Space Force Structure Includes "Deltas" and "Garrisons" (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Space Force announced plans Friday to reorganize Air Force wings into its new structure of Deltas and Garrisons. Of the Air Force's five space wings, the three that were based in Colorado — the 21st Space Wing at Peterson Air Force Base, the 50th Space Wing at Schriever Air Force Base and the 460th Space Wing at Buckley Air Force Base — have been deactivated and new units have been stood up in their place. Deltas are commanded by colonels and are trained for specific missions and operations, while Garrisons are responsible for providing support functions to Deltas. The announcement is part of a realignment announced in June that created three major commands. Compared to Air Force organizations, the Space Force structure is flatter, eliminating one general officer echelon and one colonel-level echelon of command. (7/27)
Space Force Acquisition Reform Tied Up in White House Review (Source: Space News)
A report on Space Force acquisition reforms is tied up in a White House review. A draft of the report was delivered to Congress in May and then pulled back for changes. Shawn Barnes, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for space acquisition and integration, said Thursday the report is still under review and that he was "a little frustrated" by the delay. The Office of Management and Budget reportedly objected to language in the report recommending that Congress "incrementally" appropriate funding for large programs like satellites instead of fully funding the entire cost of the program in the year the satellite is ordered. (7/31)
Air Force Vetting Vandeberg AFB for Space Command Headquarters (Source: Edhat)
The U.S. Air Force will begin formally evaluating Vandenberg Air Force Base as the future permanent headquarters for the U.S. Space Command. The base has met the screening criteria required to move into the next phase, Air Force leadership informed base officials this week. Vandenberg’s candidacy has garnered broad support by local and state officials — a central factor in the decision — with about a dozen letters of support from Central Coast cities and counties, Gov. Newsom, U.S. Congressman Salud Carbajal, Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham, and a regional coalition of education and business groups organized by REACH. (7/31)
BAE Wins Major DoD Range Upgrade and Maintenance Contract (Source: Military Aerospace)
Test and measurement experts at BAE Systems will upgrade, repair, and maintain military radars, telemetry and optical range mission systems, flight termination systems, data acquisition systems, and Global Positioning Systems under terms of a $495.5 million six-year contract. Officials of the U.S. Air Force 45th Contracting Squadron at Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., are asking the BAE Systems Technology Solutions and Services segment in Rockville, Md., to undertake the Instrumentation Range Support Program (IRSP).
This contract provides for serviceable components and subsystems for instrumentation tracking systems worldwide for foreign and domestic government agencies to include radars, telemetry and optical range mission systems, flight termination systems, data acquisition systems, and Global Positioning Systems (GPS). There are 27 ranges participating in the program; including Air Force, Army, Navy, NASA, Department of Energy, and six foreign ranges in the United Kingdom, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Republic of Korea, and Switzerland. (7/27)
DARPA: No Plans for Another Launcher Challenge (Source: Space News)
DARPA has no plans to conduct another competition like its DARPA Launch Challenge. DARPA acting director Peter Highnam told reporters Thursday that he didn't know "what the advantage would be of doing another competition" like the DARPA Launch Challenge, which sought to demonstrate the performance of small, responsive launch vehicles. That competition ended in March when Astra, the last finalist still in the competition, scrubbed a launch attempt on the last day of the competition. (7/31)
Virgin Orbit Seeks Clarity From DoD for Small Launcher Support (Source: Space News)
A small launch vehicle company executive says the Defense Department is sending mixed signals about its support for the industry. Mandy Vaughn, president of VOX Space, the government services arm of Virgin Orbit, said Tuesday that the announcement of awards to six companies in June, only to be retracted a few weeks later, shows "a little bit of discombobulation" on the Pentagon's part and raises questions about how much the government is willing to support small launchers. She called for more clarity from the Defense Department on how it will back the industry. (7/29)
Rocket Lab Pinpoints Cause of July 4 Launch Failure (Source: Business Insider)
As Rocket Lab's six-story Electron vehicle thundered off a New Zealand launch pad on July 4, a pernicious electrical problem that would ultimately doom the vehicle began to set in. The private firm's rocket worked normally for the first leg of its flight, successfully using up and shedding its heavy, nine-engine lower-stage booster. This freed the vehicle's single-engine upper-stage rocket — which contained a payload of seven small satellites on top — to continue on its way to low-Earth orbit.
Instead, about two minutes into the upper-stage engine's burn, it shut down. Rocket Lab lost its video feed of the launch, and the upper stage later disintegrated as it tumbled through the atmosphere, taking the would-be satellites with it. In a call with reporters on Friday, Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck said a nearly month-long investigation, conducted in partnership with the Federal Aviation Administration, concluded that a single electrical connection of a battery pack in the upper stage failed. This disconnection severed a vital source of power to the rocket's components, triggering the engine to stop blasting, the rocket body to slow, and the mission to fail. (7/31)
FAA Approves Rocket Lab to Resume Launches (Source: CNBC)
Rocket Lab is going back to the launchpad in August, as the company said it diagnosed the cause of its recent launch failure and received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to resumes launches. Alongside FAA investigators, RocketLab reviewed over 25,000 channels of data from the launch to identify the cause of the accident. “This disconnection was incredibly unusual because it was able to evade all of the pre-flight acceptance testing,” Beck said. The company made a “slight change” to its production process and will be screening for the issue in the rockets its built. “Anybody who flies on Electron now is going to be flying on a more reliable vehicle than they did before,” Beck said. (7/31)
Astra Targets Weekend Launch at Alaska Spaceport (Source: Space News)
Astra is targeting Sunday night for its first orbital launch attempt. Company executives said Thursday that they are still aiming for a launch during a two-hour window that opens at 10 p.m. Eastern for the Rocket 3.1 launch, although forecasts call for a 60% chance of poor weather. The launch is the first of three the company plans to carry out to demonstrate the ability of its small launch vehicle to reach orbit, and this launch has the primary purpose of testing the performance of the first stage. (7/31)
SpaceX Readies for Starship Hop at Texas Launch Site (Source: Ars Technica)
SpaceX may be ready for a long-awaited "hop" test of a Starship prototype. The company performed a successful static-fire test of its latest Starship prototype, SN5, at Boca Chica, Texas, on Thursday. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted shortly after that test that a free flight of the vehicle to an altitude of 150 meters would take place "soon," with airspace restrictions indicating it could take place as soon as Sunday morning. SpaceX performed a similar hop test of a smaller prototype, called Starhopper, last August. (7/31)
Hurricane Damage and Other Technical Issues Scrub Texas Starship Test (Source: Teslarati)
Technical issues scrubbed a static-fire test of the latest SpaceX Starship prototype. The test of the Starship SN5 vehicle at the company's Boca Chica, Texas, test site was first delayed because of a connector damaged by Hurricane Hanna over the weekend, then scrubbed by other technical glitches. The static-fire test will be the first for a Starship prototype since the SN4 prototype was destroyed in an explosion minutes after a test two months ago. (7/28)
ASAP to Keep Eye on NASA's Safety Review of Commercial Suborbital Flights (Source: Space Policy Online)
NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) will be keeping on eye on how NASA goes about its safety review of commercial suborbital vehicles before putting agency personnel onboard. NASA revealed last month that it plans to fly astronauts and other employees on systems like Blue Origin’s New Shepard or Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo.
On June 23, NASA announced creation of a Suborbital Crew (SubC) office within its Commercial Crew Program to “perform a system qualification, or safety assessment, to enable NASA astronauts, principal investigators and other NASA personnel” to fly on suborbital missions. NASA already has flown payloads on such flights. Now scientists would be able to accompany their experiments. The flights could also be used for astronaut training. During its meeting last week, ASAP member Don McErlean said NASA needs to examine the safety of these services before putting its personnel onboard. (7/28)
Virgin Galactic Reveals Suborbital Spacecraft Interior (Source: Ars Technica)
Virgin Galactic has released the first images of what the interior of its VSS Unity spacecraft will look like. The design shows a seating capacity for up to six passengers who will fly on board the rocket-powered space plane, crest at an altitude above 80km, and experience a few minutes of weightlessness.
The images reveal a sleek cabin designed to give the company's "astronauts" a stunning view of the planet as they rise above most of Earth's atmosphere. Each passenger has two dedicated windows and two cameras recording their experiences throughout the flight. During the zero-gravity phase of the flight, the seats will bend nearly horizontal to maximize room inside the cabin. The seats are modular, so the cabin can also be configured with three seats on one side of the vehicle and research racks on the other. (7/28)
Branson Splits Up $1.7 Billion Stake in Virgin Galactic (Source: Bloomberg)
Richard Branson has broken out assets of the firm that held his stake in Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc., giving the British billionaire greater control of his most valuable listed holding. Shares in the space-travel company worth about $1.7 billion were distributed to a firm Branson controls and to Aabar Space, an Abu Dhabi investment company, according to a regulatory filing. Branson previously held his stake in Virgin Galactic through a company called Vieco 10, with his Virgin Group controlling 81% of the firm and the balance held by Aabar Space.
The distribution follows Branson selling part of his Virgin Galactic stake to support his broader business empire amid the coronavirus pandemic. Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. -- the company most responsible for building Branson’s global brand -- was rescued on the brink of collapse this month with a 1.2 billion-pound ($1.6 billion) package. Part of that deal included about 200 million pounds that Branson got from diluting his stake in Virgin Galactic. (8/1)
Sunglider UAS Flies From Spaceport America (Source: AeroVironment)
HAPSMobile Inc. and AeroVironment announced the fourth successful test flight of the “Sunglider” solar-powered high-altitude platform system (HAPS). The flight took place on July 23, 2020 (PT) at Spaceport America (“SpA”) in New Mexico. With all basic aircraft tests for the unmanned aircraft system (UAS) now complete, HAPSMobile will proceed with preparations for stratospheric test flights. (7/29)
Governor Signs Bill Giving Space Florida Expanded Financing Powers (Sources: Gov. DeSantis, Space Coast Daily)
House Bill 717, passed by the Florida Legislature earlier this year, streamlines the bonding process for Space Florida, and encourages a more competitive marketplace within the space industry. The bill gives Space Florida the authority to apply bonding processes that are used by other government entities, which are more well-known within the bonding community. HB 717 also makes it clear that state appropriations may not be used as a source of revenue and that revenue bonds may not be secured by the full faith and credit of Space Florida. (7/30)
Florida Governor Holds Roundtable with Aerospace Industry Leaders (Source: Florida Channel)
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis met after the Mars 2020 launch several of the state's aerospace industry leaders to discuss their programs and priorities, and the state's continued support to the space industry's growth and continued development. Space Florida, NASA, OneWeb, Blue Origin, Lockheed Martin, and others participated. Click here for a videorecording of the event. (7/30)
National Spaceports: The Future (Source: Space Review)
Oversight of the Eastern and Western Ranges will now be a responsibility of the Space Force. Wayne Eleazer argues the new service may finally be able to give spaceports the attention the Air Force never could. Click here. (7/27)
O'Keefe(!) & Grunsfeld: Joe Biden is the Best Choice for Space Progress (Source: Florida Today)
The plaque Apollo 11 left behind at Tranquility Base expressed the spirit in which America undertook the quest: “We Came In Peace for All Mankind.” Today, Americans face a choice about whether we want to renew that vision and continue to lead the world in exploration beyond our own planet, and our drive to unravel the mysteries of the universe. With opportunities at hand for innovation and exploration, the US can again go in peace for all humankind. We believe the best leader to realize that ambition is Joe Biden.
Like President Kennedy, Biden believes that NASA represents the best of America and helps our country to be even better — that NASA inspires all Americans, serves as an engine for economic and technology developments, engages citizens in science and engineering, and boosts our global leadership by working with our partners across the world for continued peaceful development of space to the benefit of all. Biden appreciates that our current space efforts, led by NASA with the support of the emerging commercial space companies, are important sources of scientific, economic, and technological progress which further improves our nation’s ability to leverage cooperation with other nations.
All eyes in the years ahead should again be on Florida’s Space Coast. With Biden’s leadership we will see new jobs, new missions and new benefits to extend our exploration horizons, seek answers to profound scientific questions, and provide tangible benefits for all Americans. We have some insight into what this will take. One of us is among the few to go to space and experience the wonder of exploration. One of us had the privilege to lead the agency that achieved great ambitions. Both of us are honored to support Joe Biden because he is uniquely qualified to lead the nation and our global partners in this next chapter of discovery. (7/28)
The Space Economy Has Grown to Over $420 Billion and is ‘Weathering’ the Current Crisis (Source: CNBC)
The global space economy continued to grow last year and reached $432.8 billion, according to a report by the Space Foundation, although the industry’s past decade of growth is now threatened by the coronavirus pandemic. Total output by the world’s governments and corporations in the realm of rockets, satellites and more has climbed steadily, with the space economy expanding more than 70% since 2010. But like any industry, the recent expansion in space, which has seen record private investment, has been put at risk due to this year’s crisis.
A big driver for last year’s growth was from the commercial side. By Space Foundation’s definition, commercial is essentially any revenue or sales that doesn’t stem from a government organization such as the military or NASA. For the U.S., Zelibor noted that non-government spending in space rose 7.7% last year. “That’s really continuing to be the dominant part of the space economy,” Zelibor said. What brought down the U.S. space economy’s growth last year was noted declines on the government side, according to the Space Foundation. While NASA’s spending increased 3.7%, the Department of Defense’s fell 9% and NOAA’s dropped 19%.
The U.S. now has about 183,000 people employed by the space industry, the report said. While the U.S. workforce grew just 2% in 2019, that is a notable bounce back from recent declines over the past decade. “If you look at the last four years, from 2016 till now, it’s actually rebounded,” Zelibor said. “We’re launching astronauts from U.S. soil again, we’re putting satellites up there, we’re going to Mars. I don’t think there’s ever been a better time to be involved in the space community.” (7/30)
Sen. Inhofe Blocks FCC Commissioner Confirmation for His Ligado Support (Source: Space News)
The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee has blocked the confirmation of an FCC commissioner because of his support for Ligado. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said he placed a hold on the nomination of Michael O'Rielly for another term as FCC commissioner because O'Rielly backed the FCC's decision to allow Ligado to build out a 5G network in a spectrum band adjacent to GPS signals. The Defense Department and others both in government and industry have warned that Ligado's network could interfere with GPS. Inhofe said he would continue to block the nomination until O'Rielly "publicly commits to vote to overturn the current Ligado order." (7/29)
Amazon Gets FCC Okay for Kuiper Megaconstellation (Source: Space News)
The FCC has approved plans by Amazon to develop a constellation of 3,200 broadband satellites. The authorization announced by the FCC Thursday will allow Amazon to operate the Project Kuiper system in orbits ranging from 590 to 630 kilometers, providing Ka-band services. Amazon has to launch the first half of the constellation by July 2026, with the full system in orbit by July 2029. Amazon says it is still working on the design of the satellites as well as its launch plans, but anticipates deploying Project Kuiper satellites in five waves, starting service once the first, comprising 578 satellites, is in orbit. Amazon said it plans to invest more than $10 billion into Project Kuiper. (7/31)
Amazon Will Invest Over $10 Billion in its Satellite Internet Network After Receiving FCC Authorization (Source: CNBC)
The Federal Communications Commission declared on Thursday that Amazon may build its ambitious satellite internet system, which would compete with SpaceX’s Starlink network. Amazon’s project, known as Kuiper, would see the company launch 3,236 satellites into low Earth orbit. Amazon says it will deploy the satellites in five phases, with broadband service beginning once it has 578 satellites in orbit.
“We conclude that grant of Kuiper’s application would advance the public interest by authorizing a system designed to increase the availability of high-speed broadband service to consumers, government, and businesses,” the FCC secretary Marlene Dortch said in its authorization order. After the FCC announced the authorization, Amazon said that it “will invest more than $10 billion” into Kuiper. (7/31)
SpaceX Says Starlink Internet has ‘Extraordinary Demand,’ with Nearly 700,000 Interested in Service (Source: CNBC)
SpaceX said its nascent satellite internet service called Starlink has already seen “extraordinary demand” from potential customers. Elon Musk’s space company said in a filing Friday that “nearly 700,000 individuals” across the U.S. indicated interest in the company’s coming service. SpaceX asked regulators if it could increase the number of authorized user terminals — the devices that consumers would use to connect to the company’s satellite internet network — to 5 million from 1 million. (8/1)
Hughes Plans $50 Million Re-Investment in OneWeb (Source: Space News)
Hughes Network Systems plans to invest $50 million in the restructured OneWeb. The company announced this week it would be a part of the team led by the British government and Bharti Global to take OneWeb out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and will be a distribution partner for OneWeb capacity. Hughes invested $50 million in OneWeb in 2015 as part of a $500 million Series A round, and has won more than $300 million in OneWeb business for gateway antennas and other ground infrastructure that remains unfinished. (7/29)
Satellite Broadband Revenues Impacted by Pandemic (Source: Euroconsult)
Satellite broadband revenues will take at least two years to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report from Euroconsult. The research firm doesn’t expect satellite connectivity revenue to grow again until 2022, citing slowdowns in bandwidth consumption by cruise ships, commercial airlines, and the energy sector. Euroconsult ultimately expects the satellite broadband sector to grow, matching its 2014 peak of $12 billion in revenues in 2024, and climbing to $18.7 billion in annual revenue by 2029. (7/29)
Adaptable Satellites Planned for Military Constellation (Source: Space Daily)
The U.S. Air Force and a private technology company in Texas started to develop new satellites this summer that are capable of quick software changes in orbit to respond to threats and to carry out new tasks. Austin-based Hypergiant, which works on several kinds of artificial intelligence, has a formal but classified agreement to develop technology for the Air Force, with a potential $10 million contract in weapon systems support satellites, founder and CEO Ben Lamm said.
The company, founded in 2018, has about 200 employees and develops artificial intelligence for satellites, surveillance technology and other applications. For the new military satellites, the goal is to create a new constellation of 24 to 36 satellites, called Chameleon, that could be retasked to avoid debris, counter new weapons and block new cyberattacks or whatever conditions they might encounter, Lamm said. (7/27)
Cubesats Get Close: Proximity Operation with Interesting Implications (Source: Space Daily)
With some technical panache, one of The Aerospace Corporation's CubeSats maneuvered itself within 22 meters of its sibling CubeSat and snapped a series of photos while orbiting at 17,000 miles per hour. This incredibly difficult technology demonstration, performed by a satellite the size of a tissue box, paves the way for future inspection or servicing missions.
"AeroCube-10 is by far the smallest spacecraft to have accomplished a rendezvous and proximity operation so close," said Catherine Venturini, an Aerospace Senior Project Leader and team lead for the AeroCube-10 mission. AeroCube-10 is a pair of 1.5U CubeSats (10 x 10 x 15 cm), one carrying a set of 28 deployable atmospheric probes and a laser beacon, and the other a camera and a propulsion system, which enables it to control its movements. (7/23)
Intelsat to Market Eutelsat Capacity (Source: Space News)
Intelsat will market half the capacity on a new Eutelsat satellite. The operators said they agreed to use an orbital slot they co-own at 48 degrees east, a location in geosynchronous orbit with coverage over the Middle East and Northern Africa, for the Eutelsat Quantum satellite. That satellite, scheduled for launch late this year, features highly customizable beams that can be reprogrammed to change their shape, size and power. Intelsat General, the government sales arm of Intelsat, will market capacity on Eutelsat Quantum to the U.S. military with security upgrades. (7/31)
Xtar Sells Satellite to Hisdesat, Shifts to Lease Agreement (Source: Space News)
Xtar, a company that provides satellite communications services to the U.S. government, has sold its only satellite to Hisdesat, one of its shareholders. Virginia-based Xtar signed a leasing agreement that allows it to retain the same amount of capacity on the satellite, Xtar-Eur, despite the change in ownership. Xtar and Hisdesat of Spain said the transaction and lease back agreement models the type of organizational structure the companies will have in the future once Hisdesat’s two SpainSat Next Generation satellites are launched, one in late 2023 and the second in 2024. (7/31)
SpaceWorks to Offer Reentry Device (RED) System in Space Catalog (Source: Orbital Transports)
SpaceWorks Enterprises, Inc announced that they have joined the Orbital Transports partner network and will offer their Reentry Device (RED) product line in the Space Catalog. The RED-50, RED-25 and RED-4U products are on-demand payload return capsules providing low-cost, autonomous downmass capabilities from Earth orbit. The RED systems accommodate flexible payload configurations, precision reentry, and thermal management requirements to provide rapid return for low Earth orbit manufacturing and experimentation. The capsule-shaped systems are nominally capable of returning 6-50 kg of payload from space to anywhere within the contiguous United States. (8/2)
Chinese Low-Orbit Satellites to Enable Internet for All (Source: Space Daily)
News earlier this month that the Chinese company Qingdao Airlines had become the first airline in China to offer high-speed satellite internet marks a watershed moment for Chinese domestic satellite internet. Using what is called a Ka band satellite, passengers on board will be able to enjoy access to high-speed internet in remote locations at up to 100 Mbps. Internet connections use the domestic organization China Satcom to maintain the frequency and connection required. It may soon be a technology that enables not just airline passengers, but countless people living in remote areas access to such services. (7/27)
Spain's Sateliot Picks Open Cosmos to Build Constellation Satellites (Source: Space News)
A Spanish smallsat constellation company has picked Open Cosmos to build its satellites. Open Cosmos is under contract to build two demonstration satellites for Sateliot, the first of which, a three-unit cubesat, is scheduled for launch later this year. Sateliot is planning a constellation of up to 100 satellites to connect sensors and devices from low-Earth orbit, but has so far raised only a small fraction of the funding needed for the full constellation. Open Cosmos anticipates receiving manufacturing orders in phases from Sateliot rather than a bulk order for 100 satellites. (7/30)
Proton Launches Two Commsats (Source: Space News)
A Proton rocket launched two communications satellites Thursday. The Proton M lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 5:25 p.m. Eastern carrying the Express-80 and Express-103 communications satellites. The two satellites won't deploy from the Breeze M upper stage until 18 hours after liftoff. Those satellites, built by ISS Reshetnev for the Russian Satellite Communications Company, will provide C-, Ku- and L-band communications services for Russia and some neighboring countries. (7/31)
Second Heavy-Lift Angara Prepped for Transport to Launch Site (Source: RIA Novosti)
The second launch vehicle of the heavy class "Angara-A5" is planned to be sent to the Plesetsk cosmodrome in the first half of August, a source in the rocket and space industry told RIA Novosti. "The dispatch of a train with blocks of the Angara-A5 rocket from the Khrunichev Center to Plesetsk is scheduled for the first half of August," the agency's source said. According to him, the preparation of the rocket at the cosmodrome will begin in the second half of August with the expectation of launching in November. (7/30)
China Launches New Earth-Observation Satellite (Source: Space Daily)
China launched an Earth-observation remote-sensing satellite at the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in North China's Shanxi province on Saturday, according to authorities in charge of the program. A joint statement from the China National Space Administration and the Ministry of Natural Resources said the Ziyuan 3-03 lifted off at 11:13 am atop a Long March 4B carrier rocket to a sun-synchronous orbit about 500 kilometers above the ground. The launch marked the 341st mission of the Long March rocket fleet. (7/27)
British Government Finalizing Launch Regulations (Source: Space News)
The British government expects to soon release a comprehensive set of regulations that will enable companies to perform commercial launches from spaceports in the country. During a July 22 webinar by the U.K. Space Agency, part of series of virtual events held in place of the Farnborough International Airshow, government officials said they were finalizing an estimated 900 pages of regulations that will cover licensing and oversight of launch vehicles and launch sites. (7/24)
South Korea Given Green Light for Solid-Propellant Rockets (Source: Space Daily)
South Korea has been permitted to develop solid-fuel space rockets after missile guidelines were revised with the United States. Kim Hyun-chong, South Korea's deputy national security adviser to President Moon Jae-in, said at a press briefing Seoul is to adopt amendments to current missile standards starting Tuesday. According to the presidential office, the revised missile guidelines will provide South Korea the power to launch Low-Earth Orbit military satellites "anywhere and at anytime." The satellites would operate at between 310 and 1,200 miles above the Earth's surface. (7/29)
India Opens Spaceport for Commercial Launch Pads (Source: Times of India)
India's space agency will allow companies to build their own launch sites at the country's main spaceport. The chairman of ISRO, K. Sivan, said that as part of a new commercialization initiative the agency will offer its expertise to private companies, including access to the Satish Dhawan Space Centre launch site for building their own launch facilities there. Although many ISRO centers remain closed because of the pandemic, Sivan said the agency is ready to start talking with companies about their needs. (7/31)
Latvia Joins ESA as Associate Member (Source: ESA)
Latvia is becoming an associate member of the European Space Agency. The country signed an agreement that will allow it to participate in some ESA programs and secure contracts for Latvian companies, and is a step below being a full member of the agency. Latvia has had a cooperation agreement with ESA since 2015. (7/30)
Japanese Astronaut Assigned to Another Crew Dragon Mission (Source: NHK)
A Japanese astronaut has been assigned to another commercial crew mission. The Japanese space agency JAXA said that Akihiko Hoshide will be on the crew of the second operational Crew Dragon mission in the spring of 2021. NASA has not yet announced crew assignments for that Crew-2 mission or confirmed a launch date. JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi will be on the Crew-1 Crew Dragon mission, along with three NASA astronauts, scheduled to launch no earlier than late September. (7/28)
Walheim Leaves NASA Astronaut Corps (Source: NASA)
A NASA astronaut who was on the final space shuttle mission is retiring. Rex Walheim left NASA Monday after a combined 36 years of government service at NASA and the U.S. Air Force. Walheim was selected as an astronaut in 1996 and flew on three shuttle missions, including the final flight, STS-135, in 2011. He was most recently deputy director of the Safety and Mission Assurance Directorate at the Johnson Space Center. (7/28)
NASA Selects Altius Space Machines for Small Business Awards (Source: Parabolic Arc)
NASA has selected Altius Space Machines for two small business awards to develop interfaces that can be used by robots for assembly and maintaining structures in space. The space agency made the awards under the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) and Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) programs. Each phase I award is worth $125,000.
Under the STTR award, Altius will work with Virginia Tech to develop an universal interface that can be used for assembly in space. The ESCHER interface is part of a larger concept working to enable swarms of robots to autonomously perform difficult construction tasks while minimizing the cost and complexity of doing so,” the proposal summary said. (7/29)
Leveraging Microgravity to Improve Medical Diagnostics (Source: Space Daily)
What if a single drop of blood were all that is needed to provide reliable medical diagnostics in any setting on-or even off-Earth? This week, NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken, who recently launched to the International Space Station (ISS) on the historic SpaceX Demo-2 mission, are working on an investigation from Boston-based biotech startup 1Drop Diagnostics to enhance a portable device that can run diagnostic tests from anywhere using just one drop of blood. Click here. (7/17)
New ‘Cognitive Radio’ System Could be a Game-Changer for Communication in Space (Source: Digital Trends)
Radio communications should travel perfectly through space, right? Well, not exactly, as it turns out. There’s plenty to interfere with radio communications away from the surface of Earth, including (but not limited to) cosmic noise and our planet’s fluctuating ionosphere that is perfectly capable of impairing the link between satellite and ground station.
To try and get around this problem, which could disrupt future space missions, researchers from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Penn State University have been working with NASA to test what they call cognitive radios. These smart radios use artificial neural networks to adjust their settings in real time, optimizing their ability to stay in contact even under challenging circumstances. As such, they could be game-changers in difficult space environments where getting a human to reconfigure them may be next to impossible. In the team’s tests, the cognitive radios were able to maintain a clear signal between the International Space Station (ISS) and the ground.
“Our cognitive radio maps the relationship between the parameters and the performance values of the space communication system, as well as includes the environmental conditions such as the signal-to-noise ratio, using an approach called reinforcement learning neural networks,” Alex Wyglinski, professor of electrical engineering and robotics engineering at Worcester Polytechnic, told Digital Trends. (7/24)
Looking for Gravitons? Check for the ‘Buzz’ (Source: WIRED)
The world of gravitons only becomes apparent when you zoom in to the fabric of space-time at the smallest possible scales, which requires a device that can harness truly extreme amounts of energy. Unfortunately, any measuring device capable of directly probing down to this “Planck length” would necessarily be so massive that it would collapse into a black hole.
Gravitons are thought to carry the force of gravity in a way that’s similar to how photons carry the electromagnetic force. Just as light rays can be pictured as a well-behaved collection of photons, gravitational waves—ripples in space-time created by violent cosmic processes—are thought to be made up of gravitons. With this in mind, the authors asked whether gravitational wave detectors are, in principle, sensitive enough to see gravitons. “That’s like asking, how can a surfer on a wave tell just from the motion that the wave is made up of droplets of water?” says Parikh.
One quantum state in particular, called a squeezed state, produces a much more pronounced graviton noise. In fact, Parikh, Wilczek, and Zahariade found that the noise increases exponentially the more the gravitons are squeezed. Their theoretical exploration suggested—against prevailing wisdom—that graviton noise is in principle observable. Moreover, detecting this noise would tell physicists about the exotic sources that might create squeezed gravitational waves. (7/26)
Astronomers Puzzle About Luminous Energy Circles in Space (Source: Medium)
Astronomers have discovered several strange circles in space that are only visible in the radio range. They made the observation using one of the most sensitive observatories in the world. The mysterious rings “do not appear to correspond to any known class of objects,” and have been dubbed Odd Radio Circle, or ORC for short, according to a new study conducted by Western Sydney University astrophysicist Ray Norris.
“To the best of our knowledge, we have discovered a new class of radio astronomical objects. They consist of a circular disk, which in some cases has luminous edges. Sometimes there is a galaxy at its center,” Norris and his colleagues write in the study, which was published on the pre-print server arXiv at the end of June. A peer review, i.e. evaluation by other researchers, is still pending. (7/23)
Moons of Uranus Are Fascinating, Deserve a Flagship Mission (Source: Universe Today)
What’s the most interesting fact you know about Uranus? The fact that its rotational axis is completely out of line with every other planet in the solar system? Or the fact that Uranus’ magnetosphere is asymmetrical, notably tilted relative to its rotational axis, and significantly offset from the center of the planet? Or the fact that it’s moons are all named after characters from Shakespeare or Alexander Pope?
All of those facts (with the exception of the literary references) have come from a very limited dataset. Some of the best data was collected during a Voyager 2 flyby in 1986. Since then, the only new data has come from Earth-based telescopes. While they’ve been steadily increasing in resolution, they have only been able to scratch the surface of what may be lurking in the system surrounding the closest Ice Giant. Hopefully that is about to change, as a team of scientists has published a white paper advocating for a visit from a new Flagship class spacecraft. (7/26)
Thin Cloud Returns on Mars – Not Linked to Volcanic Activity (Source: SciTech Daily)
A mysteriously long, thin cloud has again appeared over the 20-km (~12 miles / 65,000 feet) high Arsia Mons volcano on Mars. A recurrent feature, the cloud is made up of water ice, but despite appearances, it is not a plume linked to volcanic activity. Instead, the curious stream forms as airflow is influenced by the volcano’s ‘leeward’ slope − the side that does not face the wind. “We have been investigating this intriguing phenomenon and were expecting to see such a cloud form around now,” explains Jorge Hernandez-Bernal. (8/1)
East Texas Facility to Play Key Role in NASA Balloon Mission to Study Stars (Source: KLTV)
One of NASA’s next missions to study the origins of stars will feature a record-breaking telescope hoisted by a football stadium-sized balloon and the space agency is relying on an East Texas facility to make sure it gets off the ground. The Astrophysics Stratospheric Telescope for High Spectral Resolution Observations at Submillimeter-wavelengths, or ASTHROS, is slated to be launched from Antarctica in December 2023. The radio telescope, managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is designed to make the first 3D maps of the gas around newborn stars.
Project manager Jose Siles says this understanding of the cosmos will be valuable in understanding the origins of life on Earth. “Every atom in our bodies comes from a star. It was formed in a star millions of years ago.” The engineer says the heart of the ASTHROS mission is ta the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility in East Texas. NASA’s team in Palestine is responsible for assembling the technology, then managing the launch, flight, and recovery. (7/31)
What You Should Learn From Comet NEOWISE (Source: Space Review)
The passing Comet NEOWISE, on display in the night sky in recent weeks, can seem like little more than a brief diversion from our problems on Earth today. Hariharan Karthikeyan argues it’s a reminder to look up and think big. Click here. (7/27)
FAA Striving For Balance in Supersonic Regs (Source: AIN Online)
The FAA is placing a priority on supporting the emergence of supersonic technologies, but the agency must apply appropriate regulatory and environmental safeguards, said a key agency official. “Our focus…has been how we can support the reemergence of supersonic aircraft from a regulatory perspective to ensure that, as technology advances, the FAA is putting in place the necessary regulatory changes,” said Kevin Welsch, executive director of the FAA’s Office of Environment and Energy during a recent American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Aviation Forum.
For years, certification projects remained steady and “looked similar,” he said. But in the last few years, “all of a sudden that space has exploded in terms of the types of regulations we are doing… It is a lot of work for government agencies to catch up with innovation. That’s one of our major focuses,” Welsch said. Welsch pointed to the two primary regulatory activities underway on supersonic, one involved with enabling certification fight testing and another establishing certification noise landing and takeoff standards. The agency is now sorting through comments on both proposals as it shapes a final rule. (7/29)
Space Camp Survival Threatened by Pandemic (Source: CollectSPACE)
The operator of Space Camp is seeking donations to avoid a potential closure. The U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, which runs Space Camp along with a museum, said that the pandemic forced the museum and camp to close this spring, reopening recently at only a small fraction of normal attendance. The center laid off a third of its full-time employees and furloughed many of the rest. The center is seeking to raise $1.5 million to keep the museum open past October and to allow Space Camp, which will close again this fall, to reopen next April. (7/29)
Boeing Donates $500,000 to U.S. Space & Rocket Center’s 'Save Space Camp' Campaign (Source: WAAY)
Boeing has donated $500,000 to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center’s “Save Space Camp” campaign. The center said on July 28 that it must raise a minimum of $1.5 million to keep the museum open past October and to reopen Space Camp in April 2021. Since the campaign's launch, more than 6,000 donations have been made. The center says Boeing's donation brings the amount of funds raised to more than $1.1 million, as of Friday afternoon. (7/31)
Highway to the Danger Zone: The National Reconnaissance Office and a Downed F-14 Tomcat in Iraq (Source: Space Review)
The NRO is usually associated with collecting satellite imagery, but it once helped in the rescue of naval aviators. Dwayne Day recounts the NRO’s role in that rescue during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Click here. (7/27)
Meet the First and Only Air Force Pilot to Shoot Down a Satellite (Source: Task and Purpose)
On Sep. 13, 1985, an Air Force pilot pushed his F-15A into a steep climb at near-supersonic speeds as he prepared to launch into history. The pilot had prepared many months for what he was about to do: fire a heat-seeking missile towards a satellite the size of a 1969 Volkswagen as it hurtled through orbit at five miles a second. Basically, he was about to hit a bullet with another bullet, which would require absolutely perfect timing. But the pilot was ready for it.
“After we left the tanker, I started getting very confident we were going to make our timing,” said Maj. Gen. Wilbert “Doug” Pearson Jr. (ret.), who was then a major. “Everything was looking just perfect as we flew out to the launch point.” The G-forces piled on as Pearson climbed 7 miles over the Pacific Ocean at nearly Mach 1. He was about 200 miles off the coast of southern California, but his target, an aging weather satellite, was still over Hawaii, more than 2,000 miles west. That was just fine for Pearson, whose aircraft carried the ASM-135, a missile purpose-built to hit that faraway mark.
At 38,100 feet, Pearson launched the missile, which blew through two rocket stages as it left the atmosphere. It then released a miniature homing vehicle that locked onto the satellite’s infrared image and rammed it at 15,000 miles per hour 345 miles above the Earth. Pearson was too far away to see the hit or the 285 pieces of debris that scattered into orbit. Mission control back at Vandenberg Air Force Base also couldn’t tell him, since they were not using a secure channel and the event was considered classified. Click here. (7/7)
Musk Partners on Cruise Space Film (Source: Deadline)
Elon Musk will reportedly be a partner on the film Tom Cruise wants to shoot in space. Universal Pictures has agreed to back the film involving Cruise and director Doug Liman, with an estimated budget of $200 million but with few other details, such as a script. SpaceX would likely provide the transportation to and from the International Space Station. That budget is considered a bargain given it's similar to the costs of other major films that don't require flying to the ISS. (7/31)
Space TV Series Get Comic-Con Preview (Source: CollectSPACE)
Disney and National Geographic offered a first look at their remake of "The Right Stuff" over the weekend. The series, based on the Tom Wolfe book, is being produced by National Geographic and will air on the Disney+ streaming service this fall. The companies previewed the series and held a panel discussion during a session of the Comic-Con conference held online this year. That virtual conference also offered a first look at the second season of "For All Mankind," the AppleTV+ series about an alternative history of the space race. The second season leaps ahead to the 1980s and includes armed astronauts and what appears to be a shuttle flying to the moon. Apple has not announced when the second season will air. (7/27)
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