|October 25, 2021
Solar Panel Issue After Lucy Launch (Source: Space News)
NASA says it's investigating a potential issue with one of the solar arrays on the newly launched Lucy spacecraft. NASA announced Sunday that one of the two circular arrays may not be fully latched after its deployment shortly after launch early Saturday. The two arrays are each 7.3 meters in diameter and combined will generate 500 watts of power when the spacecraft is as far from the sun as Jupiter. The spacecraft is otherwise in good condition. Lucy launched early Saturday on an Atlas 5 on a 12-year mission that will take it out to two swarms of asteroids called the Trojans. Scientists believe those asteroids may be relics from the formation of the solar system. The spacecraft will fly by seven of the asteroids from 2027 to 2033. (10/18)
NASA Plans Lucy Solar Array Fix (Source: NASA)
NASA says it will make another attempt as soon as late next week to fully deploy a solar panel on the Lucy spacecraft. In an update late Tuesday, the agency said one of the two arrays appears to be partially deployed but is generating nearly all its expected power. The other array is fully deployed and latched in place. A second attempt to fully deploy the array is scheduled for no earlier than late next week. Other systems on the spacecraft are working well, but controllers have postponed the deployment of its instrument platform to focus on the solar array issue. (10/20)
SpaceX Postpones Vandenberg Starlink Launch (Source: Noozhawk)
SpaceX quietly postponed a Falcon 9 launch of Starlink satellites from Vandenberg Space Force Base. While the company had not made a public announcement of its launch plans, it had been gearing up for a launch Sunday morning from Vandenberg. However, by Friday marine warnings of the launch had been cancelled and the droneship to be used for the landing was returning to port. The company did not disclose the reasons for the delay or when the launch may be rescheduled. (10/18)
Blue Origin Wants Piece of DoD Rocket Cargo Program (Source: Space News)
Blue Origin says it's interested in participating in a U.S. military "rocket cargo" program alongside SpaceX. A Blue Origin executive said the company is in discussions with U.S. Transportation Command for a cooperative agreement to study the use of rockets for rapid transportation of cargo around the world. The command issued an agreement to SpaceX last year to study such services. The agreements will inform a rocket cargo program established by the Space Force and Air Force Research Lab. The Air Force in its budget proposal for fiscal year 2022 is seeking $47.9 million to conduct studies and rocket cargo demonstrations. (10/21)
Branson Trails Bezos in Space Tourism, While Musk’s SpaceX is in a League of its Own (Source: CNBC)
2021 has been a whirlwind for private space tourism, with this week especially crucial for the ventures founded by Jeff Bezos and Sir Richard Branson. While Bezos’ Blue Origin took a step forward in flying people on suborbital space trips, Branson’s Virgin Galactic took a step back – putting the latter company at least a year behind the former in the niche market. Elon Musk’s SpaceX also launched four non-professional astronauts on the private Inspiration4 mission in September, although that mission notably spent three days in orbit, rather than just flying to the edge of space.
Today’s reality does not match the perception of the space tourism race presented just a few months ago, when Branson in July flew successfully to space with Virgin Galactic just nine days before Bezos launched with Blue Origin. At the time, the dueling spaceflights made it seem like the companies were neck-and-neck. Yet, three months later, Blue Origin has flown its second and third customers on its New Shepard rocket, while Virgin Galactic has yet to launch one of the about 600 people who have reservations for tickets on future flights. (10/20)
SpaceX’s First Orbital Starship Launch Slips to March 2022 in NASA Document (Source: Teslarati)
A NASA document discussing a group’s plans to document SpaceX’s first orbital-velocity Starship reentry appears to suggest that the next-generation rocket’s orbital launch debut has slipped several months into 2022. In March 2021, CEO Elon Musk confirmed a report that SpaceX was working towards a target of July 2021 for Starship’s first orbital launch attempt.
SpaceX built five Starship prototypes practically from scratch in roughly eight months and then completed five test flights in less than five months – all of which were largely successful.
Combined with recent developments in the FAA’s Boca Chica environmental review process, the odds of SpaceX attempting the first orbital Starship launch by the end of 2021 have rapidly dropped from decent to near-zero. From a technical perspective, it seems likely that SpaceX could still be ready for an orbital launch attempt just a few months from now. From a regulatory perspective, though, it would be practically unprecedented for the FAA to complete a favorable environmental review and approve even a one-off orbital Starship launch license in ~10 weeks. (10/18)
Musk Says Starship May be Ready for Orbital Launch Next Month (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Elon Musk, the billionaire founder of SpaceX, said Friday the company’s huge new Starship rocket could be ready for its first orbital test launch from South Texas as soon as November, but the schedule comes with two big uncertainties that may push the launch to next year. “If all goes well, Starship will be ready for its first orbital launch attempt next month, pending regulatory approval,” Musk tweeted. (10/22)
SpaceX Begins Installing ‘Mechazilla’ Arms Designed to Catch Starship Rockets (Source: Teslarati)
After a busy few weeks spent attaching Mechazilla’s two rocket-catching arms to a carriage-like backbone, SpaceX has begun the process of installing the integrated structure on Starbase’s ~450 ft (~135m) tall Starship ‘launch tower’.
Once complete, SpaceX will have created a first-of-its-kind launch tower designed to stack and manipulate Starships and Super Heavy boosters in far worse conditions than cranes can tolerate and catch both rocket stages out of mid-air. Referred to internally as ‘chopsticks,’ the giant pair of steel arms will join a third ‘quick disconnect’ (QD) arm tasked with stabilizing Super Heavy during Starship installation and feeding the reusable upper stage power, comms links, and some 1200 tons (~2.65M lb) of propellant. (10/21)
SpaceX Starship Proposal Draws Vocal Public Support, Some Criticism in FAA Hearing (Source: C/Net)
Dozens of people had the chance Monday to let the US government know how they feel about SpaceX's plan to begin orbital flights of Starship from "Starbase," the company's launch site in Boca Chica, Texas. A majority of the public comments given during an online hearing held on Zoom by the FAA were in support of the development of Elon Musk's next-generation space vehicle, which NASA plans to use in its Artemis program to return astronauts to the surface of the moon.
Many spoke not just of admiration for SpaceX, Musk and their rockets but also pointed to the benefits of decades of space exploration up to the present day, including new technologies like GPS and satellite connectivity. "Some piping plovers may have to move but there are always trade-offs," Dan Elton said in his statement supporting SpaceX. The final comment of the night came from Jessica Tetreau, a city commissioner for the neighboring Texas city of Brownsville, who said the company's presence has led to a complete reversal of fortune for a town long beset by poverty and economic stagnation. (10/18)
Environmental Racism? SpaceX Faces Public Hearings in Texas (Source: PJ Media)
Commenters at the FAA public meeting for Boca Chica, local and otherwise, talked about the problems with infrastructure projects attached to SpaceX, including a solar farm. Other concerns included area homes getting shaken and beach and road closures during launches. Even residents from Mexico weighed in with environmental comments and concerns about gentrification as the project grows.
Round 2 was held Wednesday night. One of the biggest bones of contention was that not enough accommodations were made for Spanish-speaking people. One speaker called it a civil rights violation. Much of the objections and messages of support were the same as in the previous meeting, however some opponents referred to the project as “environmental racism.” The night brought out the worst in some people, including one man who upped the racial tension when he said he that did not want a “billionaire” to “hire a bunch of Mexicans because they’re just polluting the local area,” this despite the fact that Mexico is just miles away. (10/21)
SpaceX Uses Robot Dog to Inspect Starship After First Engine Test in Months (Source: Teslarati)
SpaceX’s first orbital-class Starship prototype has survived the first of several expected Raptor tests, kicking off an engine test campaign that could mark a number of new milestones. With just 20 minutes left in a seven-hour test window, Starship prototype S20 (Ship 20) appeared to either unsuccessfully attempt its first Raptor static fire test or complete its first intentional Raptor preburner test on Monday. Rather than a violent jolt and roar kicking up a cloud of dust, Ship 20 came to life with a (relatively) gentle fireball that lasted for several seconds.
SpaceX took advantage of one of at least two Boston Dynamics Spot robots on-site to physically walk a camera up to the active pad and inspect several secondary fires. Ultimately, SpaceX appears to have successfully safed Starship with no damage to the vehicle itself, but odds are good that the sources of those secondary fires will need to be fixed and any pad damage repaired before Ship 20 proceeds into static fire testing. (10/19)
Morgan Stanley Says SpaceX’s Starship May ‘Transform Investor Expectations’ About Space (Source: CNBC)
The valuation of Elon Musk’s SpaceX has hit $100 billion, and Morgan Stanley believes the Starship rockets the venture is developing will have wide-reaching implications. “This technological development has the potential to transform investor expectations around the space industry,” the firm said. In Morgan Stanley’s view, Musk’s company has created a “double flywheel” of technology with its reusable rockets and Starlink internet satellites. (10/19)
Morgan Stanley Suggests SpaceX Can Make Musk the First Trillionaire (Source: Bloomberg)
A Wall Street firm thinks SpaceX will turn Elon Musk into the first trillionaire. A research note by Morgan Stanley this week argued that SpaceX's value will soar because of the combination of its space transportation business and its Starlink constellation. Musk is currently the world's wealthiest person, with an estimated net worth of $241 billion, but his stake in SpaceX accounts for only about one-sixth of that. The majority of his net worth comes from his shares in Tesla. (10/21)
NASA Wallops Supports Department of Defense Rocket Launches (Source: NASA)
NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility supported the launch of three suborbital sounding rocket the evening of Oct. 20, 2021, for the Navy Strategic Systems Programs and the Army Hypersonic Program Office. The High Operational Tempo for Hypersonics flight campaign was executed by Sandia National Laboratories. The test will be used to inform the development of the Navy’s Conventional Prompt Strike and the Army’s Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon offensive hypersonic strike capability. (10/22)
US Conducts 'Successful' Test of Hypersonic Missile Technology at Virginia Spaceport (Source: Space Daily)
The United States successfully tested hypersonic missile technology, a new weapons system which is already being deployed by China and Russia, the US Navy said Thursday. The test, conducted Wednesday at a NASA facility in Wallops, Virginia, is a "vital step in the development of a Navy-designed common hypersonic missile," the navy said in a statement. (10/21)
Booster Rocket Failure Stops U.S. Hypersonic Weapon Test at Alaska Spaceport (Source: CBS News)
A booster rocket carrying a hypersonic glide body failed to launch Thursday morning during a test by the Defense Department's hypersonic weapons program. "The booster stack used in the test was not part of the hypersonic program and is not related to the Common Hypersonic Glide Body. The missile booster is used for testing purposes only."
The test took place at the Pacific Spaceport Complex-Alaska in Kodiak, and was conducted to inform hypersonic technology development. Despite the setback, the department is still on track to fielding offensive hypersonic capabilities in the early 2020s, according to Gorman. (10/22)
The Hyper-Costly Space Race (Source: GCAC)
It’s a space race that escapes the attention of many, but one that involves the Gulf Coast thanks to Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The race is not only between countries, but also between companies as well as separate programs. And it’s also a program that needs to find a way to lower costs, according to the Pentagon. The goal is the creation and deployment of hypersonic missiles that are far more capable than the current mature systems.
In the new arms race for hypersonic weapons, China and Russia have already deployed several types of hypersonic missiles and the U.S. is testing several. But the significance of testing an air-breathing hypersonic weapon, as the U.S. is doing, represents a much more advanced capability than that offered by most existing hypersonic weapons.
The high cost was obvious last month when Future Hypersonics at Eglin Air Force Base awarded nearly $95 million in contracts to Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon for the Southern Cross Integrated Flight Research Experiment (SCIFiRE). SCIFiRE seeks to develop full-size prototype scramjet hypersonic missiles, which may involve coproduction in Australia and the US. They have been collaborating on hypersonics for 15 years through the Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation (HIFiRE) program. (10/20)
Stennis Testing Helps Commercial Space Companies (Source: GCAC)
The recent completion of a thrust chamber test at Stennis Space Center is the latest example of the Gulf Coast’s crucial role in commercial space efforts. In late August, the Hawthorne, Calif.-based satellite launch company Launcher completed a thrust chamber assembly hot fire test. For two years the company has partnered with Stennis Space Center to conduct testing for its 3D-printed Engine-2 (E-2).
Launcher is developing the 22,000-pound-thrust engine. The company is just one startup competing in the small satellite launcher class of rockets. With information collected from its SSC tests, the company is seeking to develop the world’s most efficient rocket capable of delivering small satellites to orbit. Virgin Orbit has also used the thrust chamber assembly. The Virgin Orbit thrust chamber assembly had a 75,000-pound force. The objective with the Virgin Orbit was to test different propellant injector configurations to determine which will maximize performance and efficiency.
Another company benefiting from the valuable test facilities at SSC is Relativity Space, a Los Angeles-based startup developing small launch vehicles using additive manufacturing technologies. It entered an agreement with SSC that authorizes the startup to use one of SSC's test stands exclusively. (10/20)
Astra Gets Approval to Expand California Rocket Manufacturing (Source: Alameda Sun)
On Oct. 11, the Planning Board approved Astra Space Inc.’s application for an approximately 14-acre conditional-use permit for rocket research and development, light manufacturing, and indoor rocket engine testing at the former site of the U.S. Naval Air Station. The permit will allow Astra to bring hundreds of new jobs to Alameda, including engineering, technology, and skilled labor employment. City staff believes that Astra could attract similar high-technology businesses to invest in Alameda Point and help the City grow its employment base. (10/19)
Former Astra Chief Engineer Joins Phantom Space (Source: Quartz)
Despite dozens of companies spending hundreds of millions of dollars to develop small satellite launchers in recent years, only two—Rocket Lab and Virgin Orbit—have put any birds on orbit. In recent months, we’ve seen launch attempts by strongly backed companies like Astra and Firefly go awry. Other competitors, like Relativity Space and ABL Space Systems, have yet to make it to the launch pad.
Chris Thompson knows more about building rockets than most people; after fifteen years at Boeing’s space division, he was one of the earliest employees at SpaceX, where he helped develop the company’s rockets, and later worked at Virgin Galactic. After three years as Astra’s chief engineer, Thompson left the company last month. Now he will be the chief technical officer at Phantom Space, a firm founded to build small rockets, and a direct competitor of Astra. (10/21)
Phantom Space Outsources Propulsion (Source: Quartz)
Phantom Space has its own unusual history. It was founded by Jim Cantrell, another veteran of the private space world who was an early advisor to Elon Musk. Cantrell founded his own rocket firm, Vector, but it went bankrupt in 2019 after its key backer, the venture fund Sequoia, pulled out following test and production delays. Now, Cantrell says his new firm has raised enough money to build four demonstration rockets that it will launch by 2023. And, he says, the bruises of his previous failure have taught him important lessons about cost discipline.
Cantrell says that he sees his company mainly competing with Virgin Orbit and Astra, and that firms like Rocket Lab, Firefly, and Relativity Space, which aim to build larger rockets for bigger payloads, face more pressure from SpaceX, the leading private rocket builder. “The only secret to being successful in a small vehicle is production rate and flight rate,” he says. For Thompson, that means starting with a simple design and optimizing over time.
One key difference between Vector and Phantom Space is that the new firm has outsourced the production of its propulsion system, the most expensive and difficult part of any rocket. Vector foundered when its in-house rocket engine failed to deliver on time. Instead, Phantom is buying a propulsion system from Ursa Major, a company specializing in rocket engines. Astra, too, has found in-house propulsion work a challenge, and is reportedly purchasing rocket engines from its competitor, Firefly. (10/21)
Former Lead Virgin Galactic Test Pilot Takes New Gig at Blue Origin (Source: CNN)
Mark "Forger" Stucky, who for six years headed the test pilot program at space company Virgin Galactic before he says he was fired earlier this year, is taking a job with the company's chief competitor, Blue Origin. Stucky said he will join Blue Origin's "Advanced Development Programs" team, where he said in a statement to CNN that he will "do my best to contribute to [CEO Jeff Bezos'] amazing vision of humans not just having a continuous presence in space but truly becoming a space-faring species." Blue Origin confirmed Stucky's hiring in an email. (10/19)
Group of Texas Engineer Friends Turns Rocketry Passion Into Multimillion Dollar Exos Aerospace (Source: Spectrum News)
With the emergence of SpaceX and Blue Origin, Texas has become a hotbed for companies eyeing space exploration. According to a PwC 2020 report, Texas ranks as the fourth-best state for aerospace manufacturing. Some companies have relocated their headquarters to the Lone Star State thanks to a pool of engineering talent and the ample amount of land available for research and development. Before Starbase, Texas, existed and the Blue Origin company was established, a group of North Texas friends who had a passion for rocketry began conducting experiments of their own beginning in the 1990s.
"These guys were literally doing what a small team [does], very much like a Skunkworks project," said John Quinn, the CEO of Exos Aerospace. Before the 2015 inception of Exos Aerospace, a group of less than a dozen men formed a brotherhood out of an airport hangar at the Caddo Mills Airport. Between the 1990s and early 2000s, the group of engineers would compete in rocketry contests and construct rockets that could burst through gravity, hover and descend back to the ground without malfunctioning.
Fast forward here to 2021, the original group of men are still doing what they love, but on a massive scale. Their multimillion-dollar company is now winning over contracts with the U.S. military and even ally countries. Project Jaguar is their next big mission. The company is eyeing to send a 1,000 pounds payload to space within the next three years. (10/15)
Rocket Lab Ready for First Stage Recovery (Source: Rocket Lab)
Rocket Lab says it will attempt to recover the Electron first stage on its next launch. The recovery will be the third time the company has retrieved the stage after splashing down in the ocean as part of its efforts to make the first stage reusable. On this launch, scheduled for no earlier than Nov. 11, a helicopter will observe the recovery. Rocket Lab ultimately plans to have the helicopter capture the descending stage in mid-air, but will not attempt to do so on this mission. (10/20)
Rocket Lab Reschedules BlackSky Mission (Source: LA Business Journal)
Long Beach-based Rocket Lab USA Inc. has scheduled two dedicated launches for Seattle-based BlackSky Global in November, the company announced Oct. 11. A two-week window is planned for the first launch — from Nov. 11 to Nov. 24 —when its Electron rocket will deploy two satellites into low-Earth orbit. The company aims to deploy two more satellites in the second launch for the mission after Nov. 27. Both launches are scheduled to take place at the Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Māhia Peninsula. (10/18)
New Zealand Law Review Sparks More Debate About Launching Military Payloads (Source: Stuff)
A review of the Outer Space and High-Altitude Activities Act that regulates launches and payloads received only 17 responses last month, but consultation on the “peaceful, sustainable and responsible” use of space, delayed until next year because of Covid-19, is likely to get a much more heated reception. Peace groups, the Green Party and members of the Māhia community have already been vocal about their opposition to Rocket Lab’s military work in the wake of the controversial Gunsmoke-J satellite it launched for the United States Army Space and Missile Defense Command.
The Outer Space and High-Altitude Activities Act outlaws payloads that contribute to nuclear weapons programs or capabilities, harm, interfere with or destroy other spacecraft or systems on earth; support or enable specific defense, security or intelligence operations that are contrary to government policy, or are likely to cause serious or irreversible harm to the environment. Economic and Regional Development Minister Stuart Nash has veto powers, and by the end of June, he had signed off on 79 payload permits after taking expert advice from the New Zealand Space Agency (part of MBIE), other government agencies, and consulting the security minister. (10/17)
|Ukrainian Officials Support Canadian Spaceport (Source: SpaceQ)
Ukrainian officials will travel to Canada next month to help win approval for a launch site. The delegation, led by Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Uruskyi, will visit Nova Scotia, where Maritime Launch Services (MLS) is working to finalize plans for a launch site for Ukraine's Cyclone-4M rocket. MLS executives were in Ukraine this week to discuss the status of the project, which is still awaiting environmental approvals by the provincial government. (10/22)
UK Spaceports and Launchers Gearing Up for First Flights (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
In recent months, the United Kingdom’s endeavor to tap into a rapidly-growing market of commercial spaceflight has become a firm prospect. To achieve this, spaceports and aerospace companies are clearing major hurdles in order to begin orbital launches as soon as next year — as several projects are vying to provide an unprecedented orbital launch capability from British soil. Click here. (10/18)
Scottish Space Strategy Launched (Source: AstroAgency)
A new strategy to secure a £4 billion share of the global space market for the Scottish economy has been published. The Scottish Space Strategy sets out plans to develop a network of satellite launch sites, pursue green technologies and build on existing strengths in data analysis and research. A collaboration between the Scottish Government and its enterprise agencies, industry group Space Scotland and the Scottish Space Academic Forum, its main aims include:
1) Positioning Scotland as a global leader for commercial space developments; 2) Establishing a range of managed launch and orbital services, supporting the largest launch capability in Europe; 3) Developing a world-leading environmental strategy for Scotland’s space industry, from reducing emissions to supporting the use of satellite data for environmental monitoring; and 4) Building Scotland’s international economic opportunities through increased exports and target inward investment to plug critical gaps in capability. (10/20)
Germany's ExoLaunch Expands in US (Source: Space News)
German launch services provider Exolaunch is expanding to the United States. The company has opened a U.S. headquarters in Denver as well as a Washington office for government affairs. Exolaunch has booked satellites on the three to four Transporter missions SpaceX has scheduled for 2022, and also plans to use Soyuz rockets and emerging small launch vehicles in Germany. Opening a U.S. office gives the company an opportunity to secure U.S. government customers, as well as broaden its potential investor base and funding options. (10/20)
Brazil, Germany Collaborate on Rocket Project (Source: Space Daily)
On Oct. 1, an S50 solid-propellant rocket motor, which will form the first two stages of the new VLM-1 launch vehicle, successfully completed a static firing test in Brazil. The test was conducted by an engineering team from the Aeronautics and Space Institute, which is headquartered in Sao Jose dos Campos, on behalf of the Brazilian Air Force, and the Brazilian Department of Aerospace Science and Technology.
The S50 is the largest rocket motor ever manufactured in Brazil, with 12 tonnes of solid propellant, and employs innovative technologies such as the use of carbon-fibre-reinforced composites for the engine casing, which makes it lighter and more efficient. The first launch with an S50 is planned for 2023 from the Alcantara Space Center
As part of the long-standing cooperation between Brazil and the German Aerospace Center, the rocket motor that has now been tested will also be used for a new European sounding rocket. This will significantly improve the range of services available in the field of suborbital launchers. (10/18)
India's Skyroot Launcher Startup Plans to Raise $40 Million, Double Workforce to 180 Next Year (Source: Free Press Journal)
Skyroot Aerospace is gearing up to raise $40 million next year to support its growth and satellite launch solutions in 2022. Founded in 2018 by former ISRO rocket scientists, the company is planning to double its workforce by next year and has started hiring people for middle to senior-level positions.
''We are providing the lowest cost solution per kilogram for small launches. We are seeing a good amount of interest and hence building a solution to align with satellite launches planned in 2022. Our target is to raise $40 million next year to support our growth and launches,'' Skyroot CEO and co-founder Pawan Kumar Chandana told PTI. (10/19)
South Korea Launches Own Space Rocket for the First Time (Source: Space Daily)
South Korea launched its first domestically developed space rocket on Thursday, carrying a 1.5-tonne payload into orbit it seeks to join the ranks of advanced space-faring nations. The Korea Space Launch Vehicle II, informally called Nuri, rose upwards from the launch site in Goheung trailing a column of flame. The three-stage rocket was to deploy a dummy satellite cargo. (10/21)
South Korean Rocket Fails to Deposit Dummy Payload (Source: Space News)
South Korea's first KSLV-2 rocket failed to place its payload int orbit after launch Thursday. South Korean President Moon Jae-in said the payload failed to reach orbit, calling the launch nonetheless a "great achievement." The rocket's third stage shut down 46 seconds early, preventing the payload from reaching orbital velocity. South Korea will make a second launch of the KSLV-2, capable of placing 1.5 tons into a sun-synchronous orbit, next May. (10/21)
Ariane 5 Sets New Record on Latest Launch (Source: ESA)
Europe’s Ariane 5 has delivered two telecom satellites, SES-17 and Syracuse-4A, into their planned orbits. Arianespace announced liftoff on 23 October from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. “For this launch, we increased the Ariane 5 fairing volume by attaching a 1.5 m raising cylinder to accommodate these two very large, stacked satellites... Today's launch of 11.2 t to geostationary transfer orbit is a record performance for Ariane 5,” said Daniel de Chambure. Flight VA255 was the 111th Ariane 5 mission. (10/24)
Ten Years of Soyuz at Europe’s Spaceport (Source: ESA)
On 21 October 2011, the first pair of Galileo navigation satellites was launched by a Russian-built Soyuz rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. The introduction of Russia’s Soyuz 2 rocket to Europe’s Spaceport was a milestone of strategic cooperation in the space transportation sector between Europe and the Russian Federation, and an exciting new opportunity for ESA.
ESA’s Ariane 5 rocket at the Spaceport met all requirements for launching large satellites, while ESA’s Vega rocket – still under development at that time – would serve the small satellite market. It was found that the reliable Russian Soyuz would consolidate European access to space for medium-sized satellites, thereby complementing the ESA developed launch vehicles, Ariane 5 and Vega, increasing the flexibility of launch services from Europe’s Spaceport.
Most of the Soyuz launcher-dedicated installations were like those of Baikonur and minimal modifications had to be made to the Kourou versions of the vehicle, Soyuz-STA and Soyuz-STB, to preserve the overall coherence within Europe’s Spaceport, conform to the safety regulations in force and to deal with environmental conditions. The main change made by Europe’s Spaceport to the operational procedures developed in Baikonur was the integration process, with the introduction of a mobile gantry protecting the rocket from the weather in the lead up to launch and enabling vertical integration of the upper composite. (10/20)
Russian Military Launch Fails to Reach Proper Orbit, Satellite Reenters Over USA (Source: Space.com)
A Russian military satellite that apparently failed after launch reentered early Wednesday over the United States. The Cosmos 2551 spacecraft launched Sep. 9 but did not maneuver to raise its orbit, suggesting it suffered an unrecoverable malfunction. The spacecraft's orbit decayed, leading to a reentry around 12:43 a.m. Wednesday. A fireball seen by many from Tennessee to Michigan at that time corresponds to the last known orbit of the spacecraft. (10/21)
Chinese Shiyan-10 Satellite Raises its Orbit After Initial Problems (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
After initial reports that the Chinese Shiyan-10 satellite failed after a nominal launch of the rocket, it is now confirmed that the satellite was reactivated and is raising its orbit from the initial deployment height. China launched the Shiyan-10 satellite on a Long March 3B/E rocket on Sep. 27, lifting off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center. The name and purpose of the payload were not confirmed before the launch, however, an object was cataloged in orbit a few hours after the launch, confirming it reached orbit. (10/17)
China Claims Purported Hypersonic Missile Test Was a Reusable Space Vehicle (Source: BBC)
China has denied reports that it tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile earlier this year, insisting instead that it was a routine spacecraft check. The initial report prompted concern in Washington, where US intelligence was reportedly caught by surprise. On Monday, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a media briefing that a routine test had been carried out in July to verify different types of reusable spacecraft technology. "This was not a missile, this was a spacecraft," he said. "This is of great significance for reducing the cost of spacecraft use." (10/18)
China's Longest-Yet Crewed Space Mission Impressive, Expert Says (Source: Space Daily)
China's Shenzhou XIII crewed spaceship successfully docked with the port of the space station core module Tianhe on Saturday, a move overseas experts have called another "key step" forward in China's space exploration. Three Chinese astronauts aboard the Shenzhou XIII will stay in orbit for six months, making China's longest yet crewed mission for space station construction. Denis Simon, executive director of the Center for Innovation Policy at Duke Law, told Xinhua that China's success in space continues to be impressive. (10/19)
Chinese Institutions to Receive 2nd Batch of Lunar Samples for Research (Source: Xinhua)
China has announced a list of research institutions that are to receive the second batch of lunar samples brought back by its Chang'e-5 mission. The newly distributed samples, weighing about 17.9 grams, will be divided into 51 lots and handed over to scientists from 17 research institutions, according to a notice issued by the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense. (10/21)
China Launches Classified Space Debris Mitigation Technology Satellite (Source: Space News)
China launched the Shijian-21 satellite from Xichang late Saturday with the stated aim of testing space debris mitigation technologies. A Long March 3B lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center, southwest China, at 9:27 p.m. Eastern, Oct. 23, sending Shijian-21 into geosynchronous transfer orbit.
The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CASC) confirmed launch success within an hour of launch. Chinese state media Xinhua reported that Shijian-21 will “ test and verify space debris mitigation technologies.” No details of the satellite or its capabilities were made available. Coupled with the fact that space debris mitigation technologies are “dual-use,” having both civilian and military applications, the satellite is likely to attract interest and scrutiny outside China. (10/24)
She Is Breaking Glass Ceilings in Space, but Facing Sexism on Earth (Source: New York Times)
Col. Wang Yaping is a pilot in the People’s Liberation Army’s Air Force. She is a space veteran, now making her second trip into orbit. She is set in the coming weeks to be the first Chinese woman to walk in space as China’s space station glides around Earth at 17,100 miles per hour.
And yet, as she began a six-month mission last week at the core of China’s ambitious space program, official and news media attention fixated as much on the comparative physiology of men and women, menstruation cycles, and the 5-year-old daughter she has left behind, as they did on her accomplishments. (No one asked about the children of her two male colleagues.)
Shortly before the launch, Pang Zhihao, an official with the China National Space Administration, let it be known that a cargo capsule had supplied the orbiting space station with sanitary napkins and cosmetics. “Female astronauts may be in better condition after putting on makeup,” he said in remarks shown on CCTV, the state television network. (10/23)
China Test Fires Giant Solid Rocket Motor (Source: Space.com)
China has test fired a huge new solid rocket motor, creating more propulsion options for the country’s growing space activities. The rocket motor was ignited Tuesday (Oct. 19) at a site near Xi'an city in north China, firing for 115 seconds, creating a tremendous trail of flame and exhaust.
The new motor was developed by the Academy of Aerospace Solid Propulsion Technology (AASPT) which belongs to the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), the country's main space contractor. The motor has a diameter of 11.48 foot (3.5 meters)1 and a maximum thrust of 1,00,000 pounds-force (500 tons) is powered by 330,000 pounds (150 tons) of solid fuel. A CASC statement said it is the most powerful solid rocket motor with the largest thrust in the world so far. (10/24)
China's Space Progress Benefits Us All (Source: ECNS)
An open invitation for international cooperation has been issued, in the hope that China's space station will facilitate broader collaboration between nations as it progresses towards full utility. The launch of the station will round off what have been a spectacular few years for the country's space endeavors, rapidly promoting China alongside the United States as a world leader in space exploration, as well as the technological research gains that naturally come from such resource-intensive risk-taking.
China's achievements in space have snowballed in the last year-and-a-half. In June 2020, the final Beidou satellite was successfully launched, providing a network of satellites for global navigation akin to the US-owned GPS and Europe's Galileo networks. The network is set to bring greater coverage to the surrounding Asia region, which makes up roughly 50 percent of the world's population, potentially benefiting billions of people. (10/22)
A Chinese-Russian Moon Base? Not So Fast (Source: Foreign Policy)
In June, China and Russia unveiled a road map for a plan for a joint moon base dubbed the International Lunar Research Station, the latest example of burgeoning Sino-Russian cooperation and a direct challenge to the United States’ own plan for a moon base. “More than six decades ago, brave men began their exploration of the moon.” the Chinese-Russian announcement video said. “This time we come with greater courage, stronger determination, and more ambitious goals.”
The plan is stunning in its ambition—a multidecade, multilateral effort consisting of 14 missions and culminating in a potential manned base—making it the largest cooperative project between China and Russia in space. This effort follows a trend of increased Sino-Russian cooperation in economic, military, and diplomatic spheres. To Americans, it is a challenge: The two primary U.S. adversaries are collaborating on a high-tech endeavor in an attempt to outmatch NASA’s lunar base plans—part of the Artemis program—and wrest leadership in space exploration away from the United States.
The Sino-Russian lunar base and the Artemis program both aim to recruit a global coalition of states to construct a lunar research base on the moon’s south pole. Beyond science and exploration, these efforts are about national prestige, spurring new technologies and industry, experimenting with resource extraction, and setting the groundwork for other missions to the moon and to Mars. (10/17)
Russian Progress Capsule Temporarily Disconnects From ISS (Source: NASA)
A Progress cargo spacecraft undocked from the ISS Wednesday evening, but will soon return. The Progress MS-17 spacecraft undocked from the station's Poisk module at 7:42 p.m. Eastern Wednesday and moved about 200 kilometers away from the station. It will approach the station and dock with the Nauka module at 12:23 a.m. Eastern Friday. The maneuver is intended to allow controllers to perform leak checks of propellant lines for Nauka's thrusters. (10/21)
Asia in the Midst of a Space Race, But it's Not Just About Exploration. It's Also a Military Flex (Source: ABC.net.au)
The space race has never purely been about planting a nation's flag on an object in space or benign scientific discovery. It's always had a military and strategic dimension. For almost half a century, as the US and Russia competed for dominance above Earth, both superpowers spent billions exploring space weapons, like death rays fired from rocket ships.
Yet while the cold war ended some 30 years ago, some fear that a new space race may be a sign the world is poised to enter another arms race too. This time, however, it won't just be limited to global superpowers. "The reality is that militarization — and, if you like, democratization — of space technologies, means that there are going to be more and more entrants into the area," said Brett Biddington.
China, India and Japan have already started to demonstrate both the ambition and technological skills necessary to be considered space powers. This week, South Korea revealed that it too wants to be taken seriously on the global stage, refusing to be left behind in the race to space. (10/21)
Japan's Maezawa Training for Soyuz Flight to ISS (Source: Reuters)
A Japanese billionaire is continuing his training for a flight to the ISS in December. Yusaku Maezawa and his assistant, Yozo Hirano, will fly on a dedicated Soyuz mission to the station along with Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin for a 12-day stay. At a press conference in Moscow last week, Maezawa said a zero-gravity flight felt "awkward" at first, but that after he got used to it, "it was very pleasant." (10/18)
Australia Plans Lunar Rover to Help NASA Find Oxygen on Moon (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Australia has agreed to build a 20-kilogram (44-pound) semi-autonomous lunar rover for NASA to take to the moon as early as 2026 in search of oxygen. The rover would collect soil that contains oxides and NASA would use separate equipment to extract oxygen from that soil, a government statement said. Oxygen extracted from the lunar surface would ultimately be used to sustain a human presence on the moon and support future missions to Mars. (10/18)
UAE Space Industry on Track to Become a Global Player (Source: Sharjah 24)
The UAE Space Agency outlined the tremendous business opportunities in space exploration, scientific research and its potential to advance economic growth and human progress at Expo 2020 Dubai.
Her Excellency Sarah bint Yousef Al Amiri, Minister of State for Advanced Technology and Chairwoman of the UAE Space Agency said the UAE’s space industry can become a key driver of economic growth and prosperity for the next 50 years. Delivering a keynote speech at the Space Business Forum, Her Excellency said her overriding objective was to ensure the UAE becomes a global player in the space industry. (10/23)
Israel and UAE to Cooperate in Space (Source: Jerusalem Post)
Israel and the United Arab Emirates have agreed to cooperate on space missions. The two countries signed a cooperative agreement that will include a role for the UAE on the Beresheet 2 lunar lander being developed in Israel. The two countries will also work together on data analysis from an Earth science satellite called Venus launched in 2017 as a joint project of France and Israel. (10/20)
Photos Show Life on Mars Training Camp in the Israeli Desert (Source: EuroNews)
The Ramon Crater in Israel’s Negev desert has been transformed into a Martian base camp. Giving scientists and astronauts the chance to experience what life might be like when humans venture to the red planet. During the one-month-long mission, six astronauts will sleep, eat and conduct experiments at the Desert Mars Analog Ramon Station (D-MARS). Experiments will serve as a simulation for future human and robotic Mars exploration missions.
When required to venture outside, the astronauts wear mock space suits fitted with cameras, microphones and self-contained breathing systems for data collection. Click here. (10/23)
The Indian Space Association Seeks to Broaden Commercial Interests (Source: Space Review)
Last week, Indian government and business leaders announced the formation of a new space industry group. Ajey Lele examines how it can support India’s push to commercialize the field. Click here. (10/18)
ISRO Chief Says India Will Allow Private Companies To Invest In Space Sector (Source: India Times)
India is taking another look at its existing policies while also framing new ones pertaining to the participation of private players in the Indian space sector. This is according to Dr K Sivan, Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization and Secretary Department of Space, Government of India, who revealed this at the Indian Pavilion of Expo 2020 Dubai. According to Sivan, recent changes in the Indian space sector has highlighted how the role of the private sector has transitioned from being just suppliers to actual partners in the overall journey. (10/18)
UK Research to Boost Astronaut Health for Future Space Missions (Source: Space Daily)
New research backed by the UK Space Agency will look to solve challenges such as muscle loss and isolation stress that astronauts face during long missions. The research, which uses the low gravity (microgravity) environment of the International Space Station and other facilities that provide similar conditions to space, could also potentially benefit people who suffer from conditions such as muscle degeneration or back pain. (10/18)
Monaco Establishes Space Agency (Source: Embassy of Monaco)
Monaco is the latest country to establish a space agency. Prince Albert II formally approved last week the creation of an Office of Space Affairs that will serve as a "one-stop-shop" for the country's nascent space industry. The office will also represent Monaco in international organizations. The office will hold a meeting this month with stakeholders in the industry to develop plans to address their needs. (10/18)
ESA Gets New Directors (Source: ESA)
ESA has selected three new directors. The agency said Thursday it named Simonetta Cheli as its new director of Earth observation, effective Jan. 1, and Francisco-Javier Benedicto Ruiz as its new director of navigation, effective Feb. 16. Cheli succeeds Josef Aschbacher, who became director general of ESA earlier this year, while Ruiz will succeed Paul Verhoef. ESA also named Géraldine Naja as its first director of commercialization, industry and procurement. She had been holding that post on an acting basis since it was established in May. (10/21)
UN Space Chief Supports Space Tourism (Source: The National)
The director of the UN's Office of Outer Space Affairs says she supports space tourism. Simonetta Di Pippo, attending Expo 2020 Dubai, said that space tourism flights that give more people the opportunity to experience space "can also help in policy and decision-making processes towards supporting space." Her comments stand in contrast to UN Secretary General António Guterres, who criticized "billionaires joyriding to space" in a speech last month. (10/20)
|Artemis 1 Orion Joins SLS to Complete Vehicle Stack (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
The Orion spacecraft that will fly to the Moon on NASA’s Artemis 1 mission was lifted atop its Space Launch System (SLS) rocket on October 20, completing major assembly of the full vehicle stack. Integrated operations team members from the agency’s Exploration Ground Systems (EGS) program and prime launch processing contractor Jacobs received the spacecraft in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) early the day before on October 19, hooked up a heavy lift crane, and moved Orion up and over from High Bay 4 to High Bay 3, where the SLS stands on its Mobile Launcher. (10/21)
NASA Targets February 2022 for First Artemis SLS Launch (Source: Space Policy Online)
NASA is targeting a two-week window in February 2022 for Artemis I, the uncrewed test flight of the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft. A lot of work remains to be done, including a dress rehearsal planned for January, so the timeframe is tentative, but the announcement is a sign that the long-awaited launch is drawing near. Artemis I is the first step in NASA’s effort to return American astronauts to the lunar surface five decades after the last Apollo crew departed.
NASA completed stacking the various components of the SLS/Orion system at Kennedy Space Center, FL on Thursday. The Orion spacecraft with its launch abort tower was the crowning piece. At a media briefing on October 22, officials said the 322-foot tall stack will be rolled out to the launch pad for a Wet Dress Rehearsal in January. The tanks will be fueled and a countdown conducted just as it would be for an actual launch, but the ignition command will not be sent. If that goes well, launch will be set for sometime in the February 12-27, 2022 time period. (10/23)
NASA Gets a Third Proposal for a New Private Space Station (Source: Bloomberg)
The commercial real estate market in low-Earth orbit is heating up as Voyager Space Holdings Inc.’s Nanoracks plans a new private space station to help replace NASA’s existing orbital laboratory. The planned Starlab station from Nanoracks will serve government and private customers. It’s at least the third such project announced to date, following commercial station plans by Axiom Space Inc. and Sierra Space. (10/21)
Nanoracks and Lockheed Martin Offer 'Starlab' Station (Source: Space News)
Nanoracks is joining forces with Lockheed Martin on a commercial space station project. The companies announced Thursday that they plan to develop Starlab, a station that could enter service as soon as 2027. Nanoracks will be the prime contractor and Lockheed the manufacturer, with Nanoracks' majority shareholder, Voyager Space Holdings, responsible for strategy and financing.
The announcement came the same day that witnesses at a Senate hearing, including former NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, warned of a potential "space station gap" should the ISS end before commercial stations are ready. Bridenstine recommended that NASA spend $2 billion a year to help develop those facilities. The agency requested $101 million for LEO commercialization in its fiscal year 2022 budget request. (10/22)
NASA RFI Seeks More US Capabilities for ISS Crew Transport (Source: NASA)
NASA released a request for information from American industry capable of providing safe, reliable, and cost-effective human space transportation services to and from the ISS to ensure a continuous human presence aboard the microgravity laboratory. NASA is considering the acquisition of commercial crew space transportation services from one or more U.S. providers through commercial services contracts as the agency works to extend the life of the space station beyond 2024.
This would allow for a seamless transition to commercially operated, low-Earth orbit destinations and allow NASA to continue its vital scientific research to prepare for human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit to benefit life on Earth. “NASA has a need for additional crew rotation flights to the space station beyond the twelve missions the agency has awarded Boeing and SpaceX under the current contracts,” said Phil McAlister at NASA. “We want to maintain competition, provide assured access to space on U.S. human launch systems and continue to enable a low-Earth orbit economy.”
With the continued advancement on U.S. human spaceflight, NASA is soliciting information on the availability of existing agency certified crew systems and estimated timelines on the availability of future systems capable of accomplishing certification no later than 2027. Depending on mission requirements, NASA may purchase single seats, multiple seats within one mission, or an entire mission. (10/20)
Boeing Delays Starliner Test to August 2022 (Source: Space News)
Boeing officials say a Starliner test flight delayed in August because of stuck propellant valves might slip to the middle of next year. In an interview last week, executives said they're continuing to investigate the root cause of the stuck valves, methodically going through a fault tree of potential causes. A key issue is why the problem was seen on this spacecraft and not on the previous uncrewed test flight as well as ground tests. The OFT-2 uncrewed test flight has not been rescheduled yet, but officials said that "there's a chance we could fly before mid-2022" depending on the outcome of the investigation and the work required to correct the problem, but "that's yet to be determined." (10/18)
Humidity Caused Corrosion of Starliner Capsule Valves, Boeing, NASA Say (Source: Space Daily)
Humid Florida air may have caused valves to stick in Boeing's Starliner space capsule during preparation for a test launch Aug. 3, causing further delay in NASA's astronaut launch program, the company and NASA announced Tuesday. A nitrogen tetroxide oxidizer interacted with humidity to corrode at least 13 of 24 valves, said Michelle Parker, Boeing chief engineer for space and launch systems.
"It was a humid time of year, in August," Parker said. "We had looked at the humidity, and we've physically seen some evidence of condensation within the service module." Tests after the Aug. 3 scrub managed to free nine of those stuck valves using electric pulses or heat, Parker said. But the company still isn't certain of the root cause, and has sent two valves to NASA facilities for further tests. The capsule, already four years behind schedule at a development cost of $4.6 billion. (10/20)
NASA Confident Boeing Will Persevere with CST-100 (Source: Space News)
NASA says it remains confident in Boeing's ability to complete its CST-100 Starliner commercial crew vehicle despite lengthy delays. NASA and Boeing officials said Tuesday they're continuing to study the stuck valve issue that delayed the uncrewed OFT-2 test flight in August, with that mission now expected to launch some time in the first half of next year. The leading explanation for the valve problem is humidity interacting with nitrogen tetroxide propellant to create nitric acid that corroded the valves. NASA's commercial crew program manager said he had "every confidence that Boeing will be flying crew soon" and Boeing executives said they were "100% committed" to completing their NASA contract. (10/20)
NASA Renames Ellington Spaceport Hangar to Honor John Young (Source: CollectSpace)
NASA has renamed a hangar in Houston after the late astronaut John Young. The Capt. John Young Hangar at Ellington Airport, near the Johnson Space Center, is where NASA maintains its fleet of T-38 aircraft used for training by NASA astronauts. NASA renamed the former Hangar 276 after Young in a ceremony Tuesday. Young, who died in 2018, flew on Gemini, Apollo and Shuttle missions, including walking on the moon on Apollo 16 and commanding the first Shuttle mission. (10/20)
Senators Want NASA to Select Second HLS, Without Large Budget Bump (Source: Space News)
Senate appropriators want NASA to select a second Human Landing System (HLS) company, but offered only a small increase to the program's budget. The Senate Appropriations Committee released drafts of several fiscal year 2022 spending bills Monday, including one that funds NASA. In the report accompanying the bill, appropriators said NASA's claims that it doesn't have funding to support two companies "rings hollow" since the agency itself requested only a small fraction of what it previously projected it needs for HLS in 2022.
The bill would add $100 million to the $1.195 billion requested for HLS, but require NASA to support at least two companies. The bill overall would provide NASA with $24.83 billion, a slight increase over the request of $24.8 billion. The Senate bill is a starting point for negotiations with the House on a final 2022 spending bill. (10/19)
U.S. Needs Nuclear Spacecraft to Compete with China, NASA Official Says (Source: Space Daily)
NASA and U.S. aerospace experts urged Congress on Wednesday to invest more quickly and heavily in development of nuclear-powered spacecraft Wednesday to stay ahead of such competitors as China. The space agency believes spacecraft powered by a nuclear thermal rocket reach Mars in just three to four months, which is about half the time required by traditional, liquid propellant rockets.
"Strategic competitors including China are aggressively investing in a wide range of space technologies, including nuclear power and propulsion," Bhavya Lal, NASA's senior advisor for budget and finance, said during a congressional committee hearing Wednesday morning. "The United States needs to move at a fast pace to stay competitive and to remain a leader in the global space community," Lal said. (10/20)
NASA Accepts Nuclear Lifetime Achievement Award (Source: NASA)
Lori Glaze, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA HQ in Washington, accepted a Lifetime Achievement Award on behalf of NASA at The Observatory at the America’s Square on October 19 during the opening ceremony for Nuclear Science Week. National Museum of Nuclear Science and History Director Jim Walther, honored NASA and the Department of Energy with the 2021 Nuclear Lifetime Achievement Award for their work in nuclear science, space exploration, and discovery. (10/20)
The Artemis Accords After One Year of International Progress (Source: Space Review)
One year ago, the United States and seven other countries signed the Artemis Accords, outlining principles for space exploration. Paul Stimers and Audrey Jammes review the progress since then getting more countries to sign the Accords and explore the document’s long-term prospects. Click here. (10/18)
Space Systems Overlooked as 'Critical Infrastructure' by DHS (Source: Space News)
Space systems are not as protected as they should be from cyberattacks because they are not considered "critical infrastructure." The Department of Homeland Security identified 16 critical infrastructure sectors, such as chemical industries, healthcare, defense and financial services, but space is not among them. Industry officials said at a conference Tuesday that space should be designated as critical infrastructure in order to provide it with more resources for cybersecurity. Even once that designation is made, though, a lot of work will be needed to coordinate government and private sector cybersecurity efforts as all networks are interconnected. (10/20)
Disappointment With Commerce and NOAA at Lack of Space Traffic Management Progress (Source: Space News)
Senate appropriators, frustrated with the lack of progress on civil space traffic management, are threatening to withhold funding from part of NOAA. In a report accompanying its commerce, justice and science spending bill for fiscal year 2022, appropriators offered $20 million for the Office of Space Commerce, double its 2021 budget, primarily to work on civil STM. Appropriators said they were "extremely disappointed" with the progress made by the Office of Space Commerce, located within NOAA, with the funds allocated for 2021.
The report calls for NOAA to submit a five-year plan for the office, withholding a quarter of the funding allocated for "executive leadership" at NOAA until the report is delivered. Those provisions will have to be negotiated with the House version of the spending bill, which provides $10 million for the office and does not include the threat to withhold funding. (10/20)
Collision Risks in Outer Space Due to Mega-Constellations (Source: ORF)
Mega-constellations are composed of several hundreds of highly networked satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO), and they are fundamental in providing uninterrupted communication through networks across the globe, enabling internet access even in remote areas. The space industry has shown great interest in mega-constellations due to their expected high return on capital invested.
SpaceX, via its Starlink satellite internet constellations, has already launched 60 satellites into low earth orbit in May 2021. It plans to launch thousands more in the coming years as part of its mega-constellation project. OneWeb, Amazon, and several other private space companies have similar ambitions.
Unregulated launches of mega-constellations, however, make low Earth orbit too crowded to function safely and securely. Such congestion increases the risk of collision, such as with other active satellites, untracked debris, and meteoroids. Even a single collision in outer space can cause significant cascade effects, creating future collisions, as ‘collisions give rise to more debris and lead to more collisions’. (10/18)
Crowded Orbits Pose New Security Threats (Source: Space News)
Cybersecurity threats are a growing concern for day-to-day life on Earth. As thousands of satellites are launched to orbit, are there new risks to consider in the skies above? The vast majority of smallsats crowding low Earth orbit are ill-prepared for increasingly sophisticated security threats, according to Rob Spicer of TriSept. TriSept moved into software development a couple years ago to address this, creating an operating system it plans to roll out in December to protect small and large satellites from known and emerging vulnerabilities.
Spicer said hackers could theoretically seize control of a spacecraft’s propulsion system and cause mayhem in a congested LEO environment. Just one satellite collision could be disastrous for the space industry, and the daily life it underpins on Earth. “Satellites are just as susceptible to ransomware and cyberattacks as Colonial Pipeline was earlier this year — when nearly half of the fuel supply was disrupted across the Southeastern U.S.,” Spicer warned.
Current satellite security solutions are prohibitively expensive for smallsat business models, Spicer said. Its TriSept Secure Embedded Linux (TSEL) software, currently in advanced lab tests and functional trials, aims to provide a low-cost solution for wider market adoption. Spicer said TSEL is coming to the market as improving in-orbit security becomes increasingly critical for the space industry and governments worldwide. (10/20)
Hague Institute's "Off-World Approach" Seeks Inclusive, Equitable Space Future (Source: Space Policy Online)
Ken Hodgkins, recently retired after two decades as the State Department's space policy chief, has joined with Sohair Salam Saber to create the Off-World Approach as part of The Hague Institute for Global Justice. Their goal is to bring together space experts from around the world to formulate solutions that ensure the future of space is peaceful, inclusive, and equitable. The two envision the Off-World Approach as a platform for finding solutions to space security and justice issues like space debris and space traffic management. (10/210)
Space Force Endorsement Not Enough to Incentivize Debris Removal Industry (Source: Space News)
The Space Force's interest in commercial orbital debris removal services may not be enough to close the business case for those companies. Last month, a Space Force general said the service backed the development of such capabilities, but a report Thursday by Avascent said that endorsement alone is not sufficient.
The Space Force says it wants to buy debris removal services, but if space traffic management moves to another agency it's not clear who would make those buying decisions, the report noted. It recommended measures such as changing insurance requirements and adopting a space sustainability metric. (10/22)
DoD Preparing for Cislunar ‘Space Superhighway,’ Complete with Pit Stops (Source: Defense One)
U.S. Transportation Command and the U.S. Space Force see a future space superhighway system where the United States, commercial partners, and allies would be able to make repeat, regular trips to the moon or beyond by using multiple hubs where they could gas up, have maintenance done, and even throw out their trash.
Now they’re thinking about getting those orbiting pit stops up and running sooner rather than later. Because it’s not just about making the 238,855-mile lunar journey a little more comfortable. It’s about preventing China from building the hubs first. “There’s a first-mover advantage here,” Space Force Brig. Gen. John Olson said Wednesday at a panel with TRANSCOM at a National Defense Transportation Association seminar on space logistics.
A slide presentation shared at the conference showed how hub positions at low earth orbit, geosynchronous orbit and cislunar orbit would provide a supported route of travel to the moon. “Within this decade, probably by the middle of the decade, we'll start to see lunar surface operations happening,” said Sam Ximenes, chief executive officer of the Exploration Architecture Corporation, (XArc) who also spoke on the panel. (10/20)
Court Backs Space Force's Decision To Nix $113M Eastern Range Contract Solicitation (Source: Law360)
A Court of Federal Claims judge handed the U.S. Air Force a win Thursday against Florida engineering consulting firm Yang Enterprises Inc.'s allegations that the agency arbitrarily canceled a solicitation for support services worth an estimated $113 million at a tracking station in the South Atlantic called Ascension Island. (10/22)
Battle Brews Over Creating Space National Guard (Source: Politico)
The Space Force is here to stay. But the debate over whether the military's newest branch should have its own weekend warriors has turned into the latest space-based political brawl. Lawmakers from Colorado, Florida, Hawaii and other states that are home to space operations are pushing for a dedicated Space National Guard that can provide a talent pool for the technical space branch — while also benefiting from some of the additional spending that would go with it.
The House recently passed bipartisan defense policy legislation mandating that a Space Guard be established within 18 months. But the White House “strongly opposes” the move, arguing it “would not deliver new capabilities” and only “create new government bureaucracy.” The Pentagon is also not eager to create a new organization. Some active-duty leaders are reluctant to have to contend with another powerful lobby in Washington pushing parochial interests and projects, according to current and former military officials and experts. (10/21)
Investigations of Space Command HQ Decision Could Stretch Into 2022 (Source: Space News)
Investigations into the decision to move the headquarters of U.S. Space Command to Alabama will likely stretch into next year. Two members of Colorado's congressional delegation said Monday they've been told investigations by the GAO and the Pentagon's inspector general won't wrap up until next spring. Those members, who believe the decision to move the headquarters from Colorado was politically influenced by the Trump administration, said they want those investigations accelerated. For now, lawmakers are trying to stop the relocation by denying funding. (10/19)
Air Force Materiel Command Reaches IOC as Servicing Major Command for Space Force (Source: USSF)
The Air Force Materiel Command declared Initial Operational Capability for its support to the U.S. Space Force on Oct. 1, 2021. The IOC milestone means AFMC is well on its way to fully supporting the Space Force as its Servicing Major Command for Space Force-assigned Airmen. The USAF and USSF took a series of steps over the past year in the designation of AFMC as Servicing MAJCOM for the USSF.
Those actions included a programming plan, approved this summer, outlining the functional support AFMC will provide to Airmen assigned to the USSF. At IOC, a memorandum of agreement has been established between the Department of the Air Force and U.S. Space Force, and the functions and personnel who will be serviced by AFMC have been identified. (10/21)
Space Force Wants Cooperation with South Korea (Source: Space News)
The head of the U.S. Space Force says he supports greater cooperation with South Korea. Gen. Jay Raymond, speaking by video at a conference in Seoul, said a "deeper partnership" is critical to ensure stable and peaceful use of the increasingly contested space domain. The Space Force signed an agreement with South Korea's air force in August to cooperate on military space activities. While speakers from the U.S. at the conference largely focused their presentations on how to strengthen the Space Force's capabilities, Korean speakers discussed policies and regulations that will help bolster the nation's space power and industry. (10/19)
Senate Appropriations Proposes $500 Million Extra for Space Force in 2022 (Source: Air Force Magazine)
The Senate Appropriations Committee released its version of the 2022 Department of Defense Appropriations Act on Oct. 18, as lawmakers look to provide the Pentagon with its annual budget before the current continuing resolution funding the government expires Dec. 3. The $725.8 billion bill would raise DOD spending above the total proposed by President Joe Biden’s administration back in May and put it in line with similar increases included in the National Defense Authorization Act passed by the Senate Armed Services Committee and the full House.
While the NDAA authorizes the funds for the Defense Department, the Department of Defense Appropriations Act actually appropriates the money. The House Appropriations defense subcommittee reported its version of the bill, which kept spending in line with the administration’s request, back in July, but the entire chamber has not proceeded with a vote on it. The Senate panel’s version, meanwhile, adds spending across four main priorities. (10/18)
Senate Panel Outlines $24B Defense Budget Increase (Source: Breaking Defense)
The Senate Appropriations Committee wants to increase the 2022 Pentagon budget by $24 billion for programs that include advancing missile tracking in the Indo-Pacific region to counter China's capabilities and establishing a $100 million Rapid Defense Experimentation Reserve. The proposal also includes a $500 million increase for the adoption of artificial intelligence technologies. It would provide the still nascent Space Force with $17.9 billion for military personnel, operations and acquisition accounts, a 16% increase over last year’s enacted budget. (10/18)
DOD, NASA, GSA Consider Adding Climate Factors to Acquisition Rules (Source: GovConWire)
The Pentagon, General Services Administration and NASA are seeking input on how the Federal Acquisition Regulation could quantitatively and qualitatively contemplate greenhouse gas emissions during the procurement decision-making process. The goal is to reduce climate-related financial risk when developing solutions. (10/18)
A Trip to Space May Be Just the Thing for VP Kamala Harris (Source: Boston Herald)
Vice President Kamala Harris should have boldly rocketed into space with Captain Kirk. That would have shut her critics up. It also would have helped turn her sagging image around. And if a 90-year-old actor can make the flight, so could a 56-year-old vice president. Maybe even a 78-year-old president, although some critics might argue that he is already lost in space.
Upon landing in the West Texas desert, instead of the West Wing of the White House — after her historic flight Wednesday aboard Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin rocket — Harris could have talked about space with real high school students. After all, she would have been the first vice president — let alone the first female vice president — to have rocketed into space. Upon disembarking in her snazzy space suit, she could have said to the press, “America is back, baby, and so am I.” (10/18)
|The Normalization of Space Tourism (Source: Space Review)
Blue Origin’s latest suborbital spaceflight, with Star Trek’s William Shatner and three others on board, was the fifth mission with private astronauts in three months. Jeff Foust reports that space tourism is starting to shift from exceptional even in the space community to something a little more normal. Click here. (10/18)
Prince William ‘Misinformed’ on Benefits of Space Tech, Says Industry Body Chief (Source: Sunday Times)
The head of the trade association for the British space industry has hit back at criticism from Prince William over space exploration. Will Whitehorn, the head of UKspace, said the heir to the throne’s comments were “misinformed” and could be seen as “anti-technology”.
Prince William criticized entrepreneurs focused on space tourism, insisting they should invest more time and money in saving the Earth. Whitehorn who is also chancellor of Edinburgh Napier University and former president of Virgin Galactic, said: “I understand the sentiment behind Prince William’s comments, but the reality is that space is an essential tool in the battle against climate change and reaching net zero. It’s not about a few millionaires going on a jaunt into space." (10/24)
Space Adventures No Longer Planning Crew Dragon Flight (Source: Space News)
Space Adventures has dropped plans to fly space tourists on a high-altitude Crew Dragon flight but has not ruled out revisiting the mission concept in the future. Space Adventures announced in February 2020 that it has signed a contract with SpaceX for a Crew Dragon mission that would not go to the International Space Station. Instead, the spacecraft, with four customers on board, would go to an orbit twice as high as the ISS, staying there for five days before returning. (10/22)
Black Ugliness and the Covering of Blue: William Shatner’s Suborbital Flight to “Death” (Source: Space Review)
When William Shatner returned from his brief suborbital spaceflight, he described the experience in a way few others have. Deana Weibel discusses how his comments differ from what we’ve come to expect from professional astronauts. Click here. (10/18)
Simmer Down, Sulu, Stop Hatin' on My Spaceflight! (Source: TMZ)
George Takei thinks his good "Star Trek" buddy, William Shatner, is just an old-timer who played lab rat for Jeff Bezos' latest jaunt to space ... but Captain Kirk's not having it. Bill fired back over a reported comment Takei made this week, following his costar's ascent above the Karman Line ... where he hung out in zero gravity for a few minutes before coming back down in Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket ship. (10/16)
The Mission to Break Barriers to Space Travel for People with Disabilities (Source: The Verge)
When Sina Bahram shifted into weightlessness for the first time on Sunday, he could feel the air brushing past his skin as his body began to float into the air. As someone who’d longed to be an astronaut since he was four years old, he’d been waiting many years to have this exact feeling. Bahram was one of 12 people with a disability to experience weightlessness on Oct. 17, during a parabolic flight, which took off from Long Beach, California.
It was the first flight of its kind, arranged by a non-profit called Mission: AstroAccess, which has the stated goal of flying one or more of these flyers — called ambassadors — to space in the years ahead. Recently, the European Space Agency announced plans to select an astronaut with a physical disability through its Parastronaut Feasibility Project. (10/20)
Making a Movie Is Hard. Making One in Space Is Insane (Source: Daily Beast)
On Oct. 5, a Russian Soyuz spacecraft flew into space with three people on board and docked with the International Space Station a few hours later. The crew’s mission: principal photography on the first fictional feature film shot in space. That’s right—the point of this trip was not to enable new scientific research or a cutting edge demo of new technologies, as astronauts normally do in space. Along with cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, the Russian crew included movie director Klim Shipenko and actress Yulia Peresild.
The latter two will spend a total of 12 days aboard ISS gathering footage for The Challenge, a movie about a surgeon sent to the space station to treat a cosmonaut in orbit. It’s the first time in history scenes are being shot for a feature film in space. And it certainly won’t be the last time. The entertainment industry has finally made it to space, and it plans to stay—despite all the challenges to space travel. In May of last year news broke that Tom Cruise was in talks with NASA and SpaceX to film a feature aboard ISS.
A new space race had begun—not to land on the Moon, but to bring space to the silver screen. Russia’s space agency rose to the challenge, in an effort to remind the world they are still a powerful force in global space operations. The race for the first feature film shot in space is over before most of us realized it had begun, but it’s only the latest step in a growing relationship between space exploration and entertainment. Low-earth orbit has been the setting for YouTube videos, press briefings, social media posts from orbiting astronauts, IMAX movies—and at least one viral music video. Click here. (10/16)
Soyuz Returns Russian ISS Film Crew to Earth (Source: Space News)
A Soyuz spacecraft returned a cosmonaut and a film crew to Earth early Sunday. The Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft landed in Kazakhstan at 12:35 a.m. Eastern, a little more than three hours after undocking from the International Space Station. On board the Soyuz were Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy, who spent more than six months in space, and spaceflight participants Yulia Peresild and Klim Shipenko, who were on the station for 12 days to shoot scenes for a Russian movie. NASA and Roscosmos, meanwhile, are investigating what caused the spacecraft's thrusters to fire longer than expected during a test early Friday, causing the station to briefly lose attitude control. (10/18)
Rhea Space Activity Receives USAF Contract to Enhance Domain Awareness in Cislunar Space (Source: Space Daily)
Rhea Space Activity (RSA) has been selected by the United States Air Force (USAF) AFWERX program for a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) award to continue its effort in the development of an enhanced Lunar Intelligence (LUNINT) Dashboard in support of Space Domain Awareness (SDA).
The award marks an essential next-step for RSA's SDA program. During its recently completed Phase I effort, RSA worked directly with the United States Space Force (USSF) to identify potential national security issues emerging from hard-to-predict cislunar trajectories entering the Earth's geostationary belt. Throughout this next Phase II effort, RSA will further develop critical capabilities that will directly inform operational SDA needs. (10/21)
Capella and Army Explore SAR Imagery Applications (Source: Space News)
Capella Space will work with the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Technical Center to study the Army's potential use of synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery. Under an agreement announced Thursday, Capella and the U.S. Army Payload Development Lab will explore applications for SAR through simulation and testing. Capella executives declined to comment on whether any funding was associated with the agreement, the latest in a series of relationships the company has made with U.S. government agencies. (10/22)
PlanetIQ Plans Cubesat Constellation to Monitor SatNav Signal Occultation (Source: Space News)
PlanetIQ is raising money for a constellation of radio occultation cubesats. The company launched its GNOMES-2 satellite in June, and company executives said the weather data it is collecting by monitoring occultations of satellite navigation signals is better than expected. Based on the performance of that satellite, PlanetIQ is raising money to accelerate development of a 20-satellite constellation that it hopes to have in orbit by 2024. (10/18)
LeoLabs Adds Satellite/Debris Tracking Radars in Australia (Source: Space News)
LeoLabs will build two tracking radars in western Australia. The company announced Tuesday that it will build the phased-array radars, used to track satellites and debris in low Earth orbit, to improve its coverage in the Southern Hemisphere as well as coverage of launches from Asia. The company currently operates radars in Alaska, Costa Rica, New Zealand and Texas, and announced plans this summer to place radars in the Azores. LeoLabs expects to eventually deploy radars at 24 locations around the world. (10/20)
Kleos Orders Four RF Reconnaissance Satellites From Innovative Solutions (Source: Space News)
Kleos Space has ordered four more radio-frequency (RF) reconnaissance satellites. The Luxembourg-based startup said it ordered the satellites from Dutch company Innovative Solutions in Space, which will be launched on a SpaceX rideshare mission in mid-2022 brokered by Spaceflight. Kleos Space has plans for as many as 20 clusters of satellites, designed to detect and geolocate RF transmissions for applications ranging from combating piracy and people smuggling to illegal fishing. (10/20)
TrustPoint Raises $2 Million for SatNav System (Source: Space News)
A startup has raised a seed round of funding for a private satellite navigation system. TrustPoint raised $2 million from venture capital firm DCVC to expand its engineering team and continue developing core technologies. The company wants to develop a satellite navigation system that will provide improved accuracy and resilience to jamming than GPS and other existing systems. (10/18)
York Space Systems Expanding Satellite Manufacturing in Colorado (Source: Space News)
York Space System is once again expanding its satellite manufacturing facility. The company said Thursday it will start building satellites at the Denver Tech Center building, with the ability to produce 70 satellites simultaneously. The company announced in May its intent to build a "mega manufacturing facility" in Denver, whose plans are still being reviewed by city officials. (10/22)
Polish Consortium Plans Imaging Nanosatellites (Source: Space News)
A Polish industry consortium will develop three imaging nanosatellites for the Polish armed forces. Poland's leading privately-owned space industry player, Creotech Instruments, was commissioned to build the three nanosats called Polish Imaging Satellites (PIAST) in cooperation with the project's leader, the country’s Military University of Technology. The PIAST satellites will launch in 2024 and provide imagery at a resolution of five meters. (10/19)
Satellite Control Hackathon Planned at Space Tech Expo (Source: Leanspace)
Leanspace, ClearSpace, the International Astronautical Federation and International Space University announced a hackathon at the Space Tech Expo Europe. Participants will be tasked with building a satellite control center with Leanspace for the Cleaspace-1 debris-capture mission. Prizes include scholarships, internships and a trip to see progress on Clearspace-1. (10/20)
AAC Clyde Space to Supply Core Avionics to Arctic Weather Satellite (Source: Space Daily)
AAC Clyde Space, a leading Newspace company, has been selected by OHB Sweden to deliver core avionics worth approx. 797 kEUR (approx. 8.2 MSEK) to ESA's Arctic Weather Satellite. The order has been preceded by a tightening of the original requirements of the systems. OHB Sweden is the mission prime contractor for the Arctic Weather Satellite, providing the satellite platform and system integration. AAC Clyde Space has been contracted to deliver the Starbuck power system, with mission specific customization. An engineering model is to be delivered in Q1, 2022 and a flight model in Q4, 2022.
L3 Harris Wins $120 Million Contract to Upgrade Space Force Electronic Jammers (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Space Force awarded L3Harris Technologies a $120.7 million contract to upgrade a ground-based communications jammer used to block adversaries’ satellite transmissions. The contract, announced Oct. 22, is for upgrades to the Counter Communications System Block 10.2 that currently operates at Peterson Space Force Base, Colorado; Vandenberg Space Force Base, California; Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida; and classified deployed locations overseas. (10/22)
L3Harris Wins NASA Contract for Satellite Forecasting Project for Hurricanes, Other Weather (Source: Florida Today)
L3Harris Technologies Inc. has been selected by NASA to work on new technology designed to significantly improve the accuracy and timeliness of U.S. forecasting of hurricanes and other severe weather. The Melbourne-based company will test and evaluate an advanced concept for satellite weather sensors — called "sounders" — that measure temperature and water vapor for NOAA. The weather prediction modeling study begins this month.
Rob Mitrevski, vice president and general manager of spectral solutions for L3Harris Space and Airborne Systems, said the technology L3Harris is working on is important in helping improve the accuracy of weather forecasting. "Sounders help get ahead of that severe weather," Mitrevski said. Mitrevski said the current sounder development contract is valued at $8 million, and the production contract will be valued at "much more" than that. (10/18)
European Space Startups Have Fewer Financing Options (Source: Space News)
A lack of accessible financing options is holding European space startups back, an industry group warns. A paper by the Access Space Alliance, a smallsat industry group, concluded that European space startups face many challenges in securing public and private investments, which are still larger in the U.S. and other markets outside Europe. One solution it suggested is for government agencies to be early customers of such startups, providing an essential bridge between research and sales. The group said that supply shortages and price rises risk derailing the industry's post-pandemic recovery. (10/19)
Intelsat Plans Post-Bankruptcy Transformation (Source: Space News)
Intelsat is devising a transformational business plan for its operations after it emerges from bankruptcy restructuring later this year. A company executive said in an interview that software-defined satellites will be essential to its long-term strategy. The company issued an RFP at the end of July for 10 satellites that could be reconfigured in-orbit for changing mission needs. Intelsat expects to select multiple manufacturers for those satellites by the first quarter of next year. (10/19)
Intelsat CEO Plans Retirement After Bankruptcy (Source: Space News)
Intelsat CEO Stephen Spengler said Thursday he will retire once the satellite operator emerges from Chapter 11. Spengler, who has been at Intelsat for 18 years, including the last six and a half years as CEO, said now was the "right moment to make my retirement plans clear" so that the company can choose a new leader. Intelsat, which filed for bankruptcy protection in May 2020, has hoped to complete its restructuring by the end of this year, but that timeline is uncertain because of legal challenges. His announcement came one day after Eutelsat, another major satellite operator, said its CEO would be stepping down to take a job outside the industry. (10/22)
Eutelsat Leader Steps Down (Source: Space News)
Rodolphe Belmer, CEO of Eutelsat, is stepping down. The company announced Wednesday that Belmer will resign at the beginning of 2022. He will become CEO of Atos, a French information technology and consulting company. Belmer has been at Eutelsat's helm since March 2016, spearheading its expansion into the connectivity market amid a gradual decline in broadcast revenues for the satellite industry. Eutelsat has not announced a successor to Belmer. (10/21)
Fashion, Media, Business Career Options in Space are Limitless (Source: Gulf News)
Did you know? We have baby food thanks to space technology. Apparently supplements and formulated food, all come from space. Shelli Brunswick, Chief Operation Officer of Space Foundation’s gentle reminder to take vitamins is more than trivia – it is the future of a burgeoning space economy that has brought us our Zoom calls, remote schooling, virtual doctor’s appointment and card transactions. We certainly don’t think about the 24 GPS satellites in orbit when we fire up our navigation app before a drive.
But we should, insists Brunswick in an interview with Gulf News at Expo 2020 Dubai’s Space Week – because in the next 10 years, the global space industry will be valued at $1 trillion. Currently 80 per cent of that economy in the US is commercial, inclusive of Elon Musk’s aerospace company SpaceX. If the space-developed GPS had not been opened to the public in the 1980s, we would be missing out on life’s most convenient inventions and jobs.
Career options in space are as limitless and diverse as the interstellar expanse itself. Think SpaceX and its one-piece white space suits reminiscent of superhero franchises. Musk hired Hollywood costume designer Jose Fernandez to bring some of that coolness beyond Earth, giving astronauts a refreshing makeover even in zero gravity. (10/20)
|Who Are the World’s Biggest Climate Polluters? Satellites Sweep for Culprits (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Satellites are emerging as a tool to fight climate change, exposing hidden sources of greenhouse gas emissions and allowing governments to monitor compliance with international pacts. Over the past three years, satellite images have been used to spotlight previously unreported leaks of methane—or to bump up estimates of known emissions—in Russia, Turkmenistan, Texas’ Permian Basin and elsewhere, in some cases triggering international scuffles. (10/19)
Satellites Reveal the Secrets of Water-Guzzling Farms in California (Source: NPR)
In a new push to stop further depletion of California's shrinking aquifers, state regulators are turning to technology once used to count Soviet missile silos during the Cold War: satellites. Historically, California's farmers could pump as much as they wanted from their wells. But as a consequence of that unrestricted use, the underground water table has sunk by hundreds of feet in some areas, and the state is now trying to stabilize those aquifers.
Regulators need to calculate just how much water each farmer is using across California's vast agricultural lands, and scientists and private companies are now offering a technique that uses images from orbiting satellites. "The days of agricultural anonymity are over," says Joel Kimmelshue, co-founder of the company Land IQ, which is helping to hone the technique. Water surveillance got a big boost when California passed a law in 2014 that aims to protect the state's aquifers. It places limits on the amount of water that farmers are allowed to pump.
Researchers had developed a way to estimate the amount of water used by agricultural crops from satellite images. Land IQ was using that same technique — supplemented with stations on the ground — to collect data on field-by-field water use. Figuring out which crops are growing on each field is one step. The satellite images contain clues: the shade of green, the spacing of vegetation, the time of year the field turns green. Combining those clues produces a fingerprint of each crop. "We have a fingerprint for walnuts and a fingerprint for alfalfa, tomatoes and all these different crops." (10/18)
NASA has Selected New Space Telescope Project to Study Milky Way's Evolution (Source: Space.com)
NASA has picked a new telescope to head into space, where it will peer out in search of the most powerful light emissions made in the universe. Radio, visible light and X-rays are all part of the electromagnetic spectrum. These waves vary in intensity, with gamma rays being the most energetic. The most violent and powerful events in the universe, like supernovas and neutron star mergers, produce gamma-ray bursts.
After several decades of scientific planning and several tiers of NASA concept reviews, the Compton Spectrometer and Imager (COSI) telescope is finally making its way to space. The $145 million mission is slated to launch sometime in 2025, according to the space agency's announcement on Monday. (10/20)
NASA Challenges Students to Design Moon-Digging Robots (Source: Space Daily)
NASA seeks young engineers to help design a new robot concept for an excavation mission on the Moon. The Lunabotics Junior Contest is open to K-12 students in U.S. public and private schools, as well as home-schoolers. The competition, which is a collaboration between NASA and Future Engineers, asks students to design a robot that digs and moves lunar soil, called regolith, from an area of the lunar South Pole to a holding container near where Artemis astronauts may explore in the future. (10/21)
NASA Picks Winners of Deep Space Food Challenge (Source: Space Daily)
Variety, nutrition, and taste are some considerations when developing food for astronauts. For NASA's Deep Space Food Challenge, students, chefs, small businesses, and others whipped up novel food technology designs to bring new solutions to the table. NASA has selected 18 U.S. teams to receive a total of $450,000 for ideas that could feed astronauts on future missions. Each team will receive $25,000. Additionally, NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) jointly recognized 10 international submissions.
Editor's Note: Two Florida firms are among the 18 winners: Space Bread of Hawthorne (near Gainesville), and Kemel Deltech USA in Cape Canaveral. Click here for the full list. (10/21)
NASA Defends Keeping JWST Name (Source: Space News)
NASA officials are defending a decision to keep former administrator James Webb's name attached to a space telescope. The agency said in a once-sentence statement last month that it found no evidence that Webb, either as NASA administrator in the 1960s or his earlier time at the State Department, was directly involved with purges or other discriminatory actions against LGBTQ employees. Some astronomers protested that decision because of a lack of details, and one member of the agency's Astrophysics Advisory Committee resigned in protest.
NASA's acting chief historian said at a meeting of that committee that the historical review found no evidence of any actions by Webb, but that the research would continue when historical archives, closed by the pandemic, reopen. The James Webb Space Telescope is scheduled to launch Dec. 18. (10/21)
Resignation Follows NASA Rejection of James Webb Space Telescope Renaming (Source: AL.com)
A NASA adviser has resigned after the space agency denied their request to rename the James Webb Space Telescope. Lucianne Walkowick, a member of NASA’s Astrophysics Advisory Committee who identifies as non-binary, wrote in an open letter the agency’s handling of the matter “made a farce” of the committee and its work.
Walkowick was one of more than a thousand people – including two professors at the University of Alabama – who signed a petition to rename the $10 billion space telescope over concerns regarding Webb’s tenure as U.S. Undersecretary of State during the dismissal of gay and lesbian federal employees in the 1940s and ‘50s. Webb served as NASA Secretary from February 1961 to October 1968 and is credited with being instrumental in the Apollo moon program. (10/18)
NASA Picks Gamma Ray Telescope for SMEX (Source: Space News)
NASA picked a gamma-ray telescope for its next small astrophysics mission. NASA said Monday that it selected the Compton Spectrometer and Imager (COSI) spacecraft as its next small Explorer, or SMEX, mission. The $145 million spacecraft, slated to launch in 2025, will observe gamma-ray emissions in the galaxy to study the formation of elements and sources of antimatter. (10/19)
Close Call for ESA Gamma-Ray Space Telescope (Source: ESA)
ESA's Integral observatory was within hours of being lost in September. One of three reaction wheels shut down unexpectedly Sep. 27, causing the gamma-ray space telescope to start spinning. Controllers had three hours to correct the problem before the spacecraft drained its batteries. They were able to first shut down systems to reduce power consumption, buying more time, then used the reaction wheels to stop the spinning. By Oct. 1, science operations of the nearly 20-year-old spacecraft had resumed. (10/19)
Rover Images Confirm Jezero Crater is an Ancient Martian Lake (Source: Big Think)
The first scientific analysis of images taken by NASA’s Perseverance rover has now confirmed that Mars’ Jezero crater — which today is a dry, wind-eroded depression — was once a quiet lake, fed steadily by a small river some 3.7 billion years ago. The images also reveal evidence that the crater endured flash floods. This flooding was energetic enough to sweep up large boulders from tens of miles upstream and deposit them into the lakebed, where the massive rocks lie today. (10/21)
Results From Perseverance Mission Show Evidence of Flash Floods on Mars (Source: Los Alamos)
New images from the Perseverance mission show evidence of delta and flood deposits in Jezero Crater on Mars, indicating that there were massive flash floods as well as periods of stability on the Red Planet. The deltas are an ideal place to search for signs of ancient life. “These images show large boulders that have been washed down the river. They could have only been moved by powerful flood waters,” said Roger Wiens. “The location of the boulders also tells us that the lake was not full at the time of the flash floods, indicating fluctuating water levels. This could mean Mars experienced changes in climate over time.” (10/11)
Scientists Suggest Hitching a Ride on a Centaur to Study Comet Process (Source: Space Daily)
Deep in the solar system, between Jupiter and Neptune, lurk thousands of small chunks of ice and rock. Occasionally, one of them will bump into Jupiter's orbit, get caught and flung into the inner solar system-towards the sun, and us. This is thought to be the source of many of the comets that eventually pass Earth. A new study lays out the dynamics of this little-understood system. Among the findings: it would be doable for a spacecraft to fly to Jupiter, wait in Jupiter's orbit until one of these objects gets caught in the planet's gravity well, and hitch a ride with the object to watch it become a comet in real time.
Between Jupiter and Neptune, there lurks another, lesser-known population of objects called the centaurs (named after the mythical hybrid creatures due to their classification halfway between asteroids and comets). Space agencies, the scientists said, could send a spacecraft to Jupiter and have it sit in orbit until a centaur bumps into Jupiter's orbit. Then the spacecraft could hitch a ride alongside the centaur as it heads toward the sun, taking measurements all the way as it transforms into a comet. This is a beautiful but destructive process: A comet's beautiful tail is produced as its ice burns off as the temperature rises. (10/18)
An Exploration of Earth’s Defenses Will Launch Next Month (Source: Economist)
The departure of Lucy, on October 16th, if all goes well, is not the only forthcoming mission with asteroids as its destination. On November 24th dart should follow. The Double Asteroid Redirection Test, though, has a more practical purpose than Lucy. It will assess the feasibility of changing an asteroid’s path, should one be discovered that threatens to collide with Earth.
Dart, a probe weighing 600kg, is intended to crash, in September 2022, into Dimorphos, a tiny asteroid in orbit around a larger one, Didymos, at a velocity of 6.2km per second. The intention is to alter the speed of Dimorphos’ orbit by about half a millimeter a second, thus shortening its orbital period, now 11.9 hours, by about ten minutes. (10/13)
How a Nuclear Bomb Could Save Earth From a Stealthy Asteroid (Source: New York Times)
An atomic blast is not the preferred solution for planetary defense, but 3-D models are helping scientists prepare for a worst-case scenario. But would it work? Their focus is on relatively small asteroids, those about the size of football stadiums, notable for their abundance as well as their ability to evade asteroid-hunting observatories. “Those are the ones that we tend to worry more about because they could come out of nowhere,” said Megan Bruck Syal, a planetary defense researcher at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
Such a diminutive asteroid may not sound like much of a danger compared to the 6.2-mile colossus that slammed into Earth 66 million years ago with apocalyptic results. But a meteor that exploded over Siberia back in 1908 was only about 200 feet across — and the blast’s shock wave leveled 800 square miles of forest. “That’s the size of the whole Washington D.C. metro area,” said Dr. Bruck Syal.
Using high-fidelity simulations, scientists reported in a study published earlier this month that a stealthy asteroid as long as 330 feet could be annihilated by a one-megaton nuclear device, with 99.9 percent of its mass being blasted out of Earth’s way, if the asteroid is attacked at least two months before impact. Using a nuclear blast to obliterate an interplanetary interloper “will always be the last resort,” said Patrick Michel. But if we are short on time, it may be our only hope. (10/18)
Black Holes Belch Out Intergalactic Smoke (Source: Cosmos)
Astronomers have just watched the evolution of streamers of gas around an active black hole – and they look a bit like the smoke produced by a volcanic eruption. The team used the ultra-sensitive Low-Frequency Array (LOFAR) in the Netherlands, as well as the Spektr-RG space observatory, to study a system of 20 galaxies called Nest200047, 200 million light-years away. One of these galaxies has an active black hole at its heart, which produces radio jets that in turn create bubbles and other structures in the surrounding gas. (10/19)
Hawaiian Scientists Discover One of the Youngest Planets Ever Seen (Source: CBS)
An international research team led by the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa has discovered one of the youngest planets ever observed. The findings, published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, estimate the planet is a "few times more massive" than Jupiter. The new planet was found in a "stellar nursery" and formed approximately several million years ago — around the same time that the main Hawaiian islands emerged from the ocean. Named 2M0437b, researchers first spotted the planet orbiting a remote, infant star in 2018. (10/23)
Grimes and Space Communes (Source: Space Review)
When Elon Musk talks about human settlement of Mars, people take him seriously. Layla Martin wonders why we shouldn’t take his former partner seriously when she offers her own vision of space. Click here. (10/18)
‘Profoundly Talented:’ Space Coast Launch Photographer Hospitalized From Crash, GoFundMe Raises $50k (Source: Click Orlando)
The fundraiser to support a Brevard County rocket launch photographer critically injured in a head-on crash has exceeded its $50,000 goal with help from the space media community. Jenny Hautmann, 20, was on her way to photograph NASA’s Lucy mission launch early Saturday morning. As she was driving along State Road 407 near the Beachline Expressway, a U-Haul truck driving the opposite direction drifted into her lane and crashed head-on into her Tesla Model 3, according to Florida Highway Patrol. Hautmann was airlifted to the hospital where her family said she has since undergone five surgeries. (10/21)
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