|October 3, 2022
Minimal Damage From Ian at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Florida Today)
The Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station survived Hurricane Ian with only minor damage. KSC officials said late Thursday only "minimal" damage was reported at the center from the storm as it passed by earlier in the day. The center instructed employees to return to work Friday "in accordance with their supervisor's guidance." The Space Force also reported minimal damage to Cape Canaveral facilities, which will start to reopen on Friday. (9/30)
NASA Studying Post-Storm Launch Options for SLS (Source: Space News)
With the Space Launch System back in the Vehicle Assembly Building, NASA is studying when it be ready for another launch attempt. The SLS returned to the VAB Tuesday morning ahead of Hurricane Ian. NASA officials said they plan to replace the batteries in the rocket's flight termination system while in the VAB as well as work on other potential "limited life" items on the SLS and Orion spacecraft. NASA said it was keeping all options open for a next launch opportunity, but acknowledged it would be difficult to get that work done and be back on the pad for another launch by the end of October, when the next launch period closes. After that, the next opportunity is in mid to late November. Shortly after arriving in the VAB Tuesday morning, the building was evacuated after an electrical spark triggered a fire alarm, but there was no damage to the SLS or Orion. (9/28)
NASA Says Artemis Launch Before November Will Be 'Difficult' (Source: Space Daily)
The next possible launch windows -- determined according to the positions of the Earth and the Moon -- are from October 17 to 31, then from November 12 to 27. "We know that the earliest it could go is late October, but more than likely we'll go in the window in the middle of November," NASA administrator Bill Nelson told CNN. (9/27)
NASA’s Artemis I Launch has Officially Been Delayed Until November (Source: Verge)
The long-anticipated launch of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket has been pushed back to mid-November after NASA waved off its September 27th launch plans in the wake of Hurricane Ian (via Space.com). The space agency announced on Friday that it’s aiming to squeeze in the Artemis I launch between November 12th and November 27th. (10/1)
See How NASA's New Lunar Mega-Rocket Sizes Up to Past and Future Astronaut Launch Systems (Source: Business Insider)
The Space Launch System (SLS) is 17 years and an estimated $50 billion in the making. It's designed to fly astronauts to the moon for the first time since 1972, when astronauts conducted the last moonwalk of the Apollo era. Now NASA is kicking off a new program, called Artemis, to build a space station orbiting the moon and set up a permanent human presence on the surface of the lunar south pole. Eventually, the agency wants to mine resources there to send astronauts to Mars.
NASA needs a powerful rocket to carry out such a long-distance mission. The current iteration of SLS, called Block 1, stands taller than the Statue of Liberty at about 30 stories. To understand just how large that is, and just how much power it takes to fly to the moon, let's compare it to other astronaut-flying rockets. SLS is huge, but it's small for a moon rocket. Click here. (9/26)
Hurricane Ian Delays Commercial Crew, ULA Launches From Florida (Sources: Space News, ULA)
The hurricane will delay an upcoming commercial crew launch. NASA announced Tuesday it was delaying the Crew-5 Crew Dragon mission, which was scheduled for next Monday, Oct. 3, by a day, adding that storm could further delay the launch. At a briefing Monday, NASA managers said they were moving ahead with a launch early next week but keeping an eye on the weather. There are additional launch opportunities later next week if needed. Weather was the only issue for the launch of a new set of American, Japanese and Russian space station crewmembers. Separately, United Launch Alliance announced Tuesday it was delaying the Atlas 5 launch of two SES communications satellites, previously scheduled for Friday, to Oct. 4 because of the hurricane. (9/28)
Florida’s Space Coast on Track After Ian, Set for 3 Launches in 3 Days (Source: Ars Technica)
Hurricane Ian cut a devastating swath across Florida this week, and its core passed directly over the Cape Canaveral Spaceport on Thursday. However, by then, Ian had weakened to become a moderately strong tropical storm. Damage to NASA's launch facilities at Kennedy Space Center, and the Space Force launchpads at Cape Canaveral, was minimal. Accordingly, by Friday, work was already underway at facilities along Florida's Space Coast for a rapid-fire succession of three launches in three days.
First up on Oct. 4 at 5:35 pm EST is a commercial mission on ULA's Atlas V rocket to launch SES-20 and SES-21 satellites from LC-41. Next up in Florida is NASA's Crew-5 mission, which will launch on a Falcon 9 rocket to the ISS. NASA officials confirmed this mission remains on schedule for noon EST on Oct. 5 from LC-39A. Finally, on Oct. 6, SpaceX will launch a Falcon 9 from LC-40 to deliver Intelsat's Galaxy 33 and 34 satellites. The launch is set for 7:07 pm EST. (9/30)
Crew-5 Launch Preparations Continue Amid Hurricane Threat (Source: Space News)
NASA is, for now, moving ahead with plans for a launch of the next crew to the International Space Station early next week as it watches an approaching hurricane. NASA held a flight readiness review Sep. 26 for the Crew-5 mission, scheduled for launch Oct. 3. The Crew Dragon spacecraft will carry NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata and Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina to the station.
Officials acknowledged at a briefing after the review that the schedule is dependent on weather as Hurricane Ian heads towards the west coast of the Florida peninsula, with effects to be felt throughout the state, including the Kennedy Space Center. That forecast prompted the agency to announce Sept. 26 that it would roll back the Space Launch System from Launch Complex 39B to the Vehicle Assembly Building, a process completed by early Sep. 27. (9/27)
SpaceX Breaks Pad Turnaround Record with Two Falcon 9 Launches in Six Days (Source: Teslarati)
SpaceX has completed its 43rd launch of 2022 and 62nd dedicated Starlink launch overall, breaking a launch pad turnaround record in the process. That pad – Cape Canaveral Space Force Station (CCSFS) Launch Complex 40 (LC-40) – is the single most important cog in SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch machine, significantly increasing the significance of what might otherwise be ‘just’ another broken record for a company that is famous for never settling.
Following several delays linked to another weather-plagued Starlink launch (4-34) that flew out of the same pad, a Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from LC-40 on SpaceX’s Starlink 4-35 mission at 7:32 pm EDT, Saturday, Sep. 24. As usual, the mission used a flight-proven Falcon 9 booster (B1073), two flight-proven payload fairing halves, and an expendable second stage. As usual, all four components performed flawlessly, and a new batch of 52 Starlink V1.5 satellites was deployed about 15 minutes after liftoff. (9/25)
Wallops Moves Closer to Rocket Lab Launches, Manufacturing (Source: DelMarVa Now)
"Activities continue at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in preparation for Rocket Lab’s Neutron rocket pad and production facility," according to a NASA Wallops statement to Delmarva Now about current plans at Wallops. "Construction of the production facility outside of the Wallops Island gate has begun. Rocket Lab has targeted the first launch of the Neutron rocket from Wallops for no earlier than 2024."
The Launch Complex 2 at Virginia Space’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility is a dedicated pad for Electron launches developed to support missions from U.S. soil for government and commercial customers. NASA Wallops also said it, along with Rocket Lab and the Virginia Space Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, is preparing for the first two launches of the company’s Electron rocket targeted for December 2022 and January 2023.
In February, Rocket Lab announced the selection of NASA's Wallops Flight Facility as the site for its upcoming rocket launch and the state for its manufacturing center, which could create up to 250 jobs in the area. This manufacturing complex near Wallops for the Neutron will be located within proximity of Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 2, the company’s first launch site in the United States. It was built specifically for the Electron rocket, the second-most frequently launched U.S. rocket annually since 2019. (9/27)
Space Force Developing Strategy for Launch Pad Allocation (Source: USSF)
The United States Space Force (USSF) Space Launch Delta 45 (SLD 45) hereby issues the following special notice: A number of Commercial Space Launch Service Providers (CLSPs) have requested use of unused launch sites on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station (CCSFS), Florida. SLD 45 is currently developing a Launch Pad Allocation Strategy (LPAS) to grant use of its remaining launch sites in the near future.
The purpose of this announcement is to formally seek interest from CLSPs who wish to potentially lease a launch site at CCSFS, yet do not have a Commercial Space Operations Support Agreement (CSOSA) with the USSF or a CSOSA Annex A with SLD 45. Respondents must be able to demonstrate that they have the technical and financial capability to begin launch operations within the next five years. Click here. (9/28)
24 Hours From ‘Go’: Next Space Force ‘Responsive Launch’ Experiment Aims to Loft Satellite in a Hurry (Source: Breaking Defense)
The Space Force’s next “Tactically Responsive Space” experiment will feature an attempt to launch a satellite within 24 hours of receiving the “go” order. “What we have challenged that team to do … is to rapidly respond to a real threat with an operational capability using operational crews on operationally relevant timelines,” said Lt. Gen. Michael Guetlein.
If the service can pull that off during its attempt next summer, it would represent an unprecedented feat for the Pentagon’s long-running effort to achieve the capability to launch satellites to meet wartime timelines for space-based capabilities, such as battlefield intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. Indeed, so-called ‘responsive launch,’ the ability to launch practically on demand, has been a Holy Grail for the Pentagon for more than a decade — see Operationally Responsive Space —arguably without much real-world progress until very recently. The last such experiment managed relatively speedy work by getting a satellite up in just under a year.
“We have spent a lot of time admiring the problem of how to be responsive in space,” Guetlein said. “We are done admiring the problem, and we are getting after the combatant commands’ need to truly protect and defend the peaceful use of space.” The rapid launch is part of SSC’s planned VICTUS NOX (roughly translating to “defeat the darkness”) mission to build a low Earth orbit satellite equipped with a sensor to keep tabs on adversary satellites and danger space debris. (9/28)
Firefly Aborts Launch Attempt at California Spaceport (Source: Space.com)
Firefly Aerospace aborted a launch of its Alpha rocket just as its engines ignited early Friday. The rocket's four engines appeared to ignite for a launch at 3:51 a.m. Eastern at Vandenberg Space Force Base, only to shut down immediately. The company said the rocket "went into auto abort" but did not disclose additional details about the issue that caused the abort. The company has a backup launch window early Saturday but has not officially announced a new launch date yet. (9/30)
Firefly’s Alpha Rocket Launches Successfully in Second Attempt (Sources: Bloomberg, Tech Crunch)
Firefly Aerospace launched its first rocket into orbit, advancing the private space startup’s bid to become a reliable partner for NASA. The Alpha rocket took off from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California early Saturday and successfully put three small payloads into Earth orbit, including one for the US space agency. A previous launch attempt failed in September 2021 when the debut Alpha rocket veered off course and had to be exploded shortly after takeoff.
This is a major achievement for Firefly, which has been a lot to get here: The company originally began operations as Firefly Space Systems, which went bankrupt, and was then reborn as Firefly Aerospace after its assets were acquired by Max Polyakov’s Noosphere ventures in 2017.
Tom Markusic, who founded the company and led it as CEO, also departed the post in June. Markusic shifted into a technical advisory and full-time board member role, but his departure was preceded by the very public leaving of Max Polyakov, who in February shared a post pointing the finger at the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), the Air Force and other U.S. agencies for his forced exit. Polyakov is a UK citizen but was born in Ukraine. (10/1)
Astra Making Progress on Launch Failure Investigation (Source: Astra)
The Astra team has made significant progress in the investigation into the LV0010 early shutdown of the upper stage. Our investigation process consists of four core steps: a) Flight Data Review; b) Timeline Reconstruction; c) Fault Tree Analyses; and d) Implementing Corrective and Preventative Actions.
We have completed steps #1 and #2, and are nearing completion of step #3. We’ve determined that the upper stage shut down early due to a higher-than-normal fuel consumption rate. Through the review of flight data, reconstruction of flight timelines, and the construction of an extensive fault tree, we have narrowed the root cause to an issue with the upper stage engine. We have also completed many rounds of ground testing, including multiple tests that yielded results consistent with the failure condition in flight.
The team is conducting additional experiments to verify the root cause before wrapping up the investigation with the FAA. We are focused on conducting an exhaustive investigation and ensuring that we extract all lessons learned. (9/28)
NASA Maintains Launch Agreement With Astra (Source: Astra)
Astra and NASA have agreed to modify the terms of our existing launch services agreement for NASA’s TROPICS mission to allow for the future launch of comparable scientific payloads on version 4.0 of Astra’s rocket. We are delighted to maintain our strong partnership and to have NASA as a launch customer on the next version of Astra’s rocket. (9/28)
Vaya Space Wins International Green Award for Sustainability and Environmental Impact (Source: Vaya)
Vaya Space, Inc., the vortex-hybrid rocket engine company and emerging leader in sustainable space access, today announced that it has been awarded the International Green Apple Environment Award and named as a Global Green World Ambassador. The International Green World Awards represents the world's premier recognition for companies and countries for their positive impact on the environment.
Established in 1994, The Green Organization is an international, independent, non-profit, non-political, environment group dedicated to recognizing, rewarding, and promoting environmental best practice around the world. The program is considered the biggest environmental awards campaign worldwide, recognizing governments, ministries, companies, organizations, and communities across the private and public sectors. Previous winners include The Coca-Cola Company, Phillip Morris, DoTERRA, Infosys, BNP Paribas, and the Desalinization Institute in Saudi Arabia. (9/27)
Firehawk’s Rocket Engines and 3D-Printed Fuel Hit Testing Milestones Ahead of First Launch (Source: Tech Crunch)
Although today’s rocket engines are advanced and powerful, they tend to rely on traditional — and naturally volatile — fuels. Firehawk Aerospace has a safer and more stable new solid fuel, new engines, and millions in new funding to take it through the next round of tests to its first in-atmosphere demonstration launch.
Firehawk appeared on the scene two years ago with a fresh take on hybrid engines; the breakthrough made by CEO Will Edwards and chief scientist Ron Jones was to give that fuel a structure and 3D print it in a specially engineered matrix.
The structured, solid fuel grain is more stable and easier to transport than other fuels, and burns in a very predictable way. The company designed engines around this concept and tested them at smaller scales, though they have also been working on the kind of engine you might actually use if you were going to space. But the company has said that one of the strengths of the system is its adaptability. (9/27)
National Space Council to Seek Industry Input on Future Regulatory Framework (Source: Space News)
The National Space Council plans to hold “learning sessions” with industry in coming weeks on how to develop a new regulatory framework for novel commercial space activities. Diane Howard, director of commercial space policy for the National Space Council, said the council would soon publish formal notifications of those sessions to get input on both the types of space activities and how they should be supervised in order to comply with the Outer Space Treaty.
“I’d like you to start thinking about supervision: what it would look like, what are some ways to provide meaningful supervision of the operational phase of missions that doesn’t burden business models and doesn’t hinder innovation,” she said. One learning session, scheduled for a little more than a month from now, will invite industry to discuss their planned missions “so we can better understand them and be more effective in crafting a flexible framework that can grow with them,” she said. A second session will focus on how to implement that supervision.
The sessions are part of an effort kicked off by Vice President Kamala Harris at the Sept. 9 meeting of the National Space Council, where she called for ideas to develop a new regulatory framework for commercial space activities that don’t fit into current systems. Those activities include in-space servicing and debris removal and commercial space stations. Harris asked for recommendations on that framework in 180 days. (9/30)
ITU Gets New Chief (Source: AP)
Doreen Bogdan-Martin will be the next secretary general of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Member states voted overwhelmingly for Bogdan-Martin over the only other candidate, Russia's Rashid Ismailov, at a meeting Thursday in Bucharest. Bogdan-Martin is the first woman to lead the ITU and the first American to do so since the 1960s. The ITU handles a wide range of communications policy issues, including coordinating spectrum used by satellite systems. (9/29)
Senate Confirms Saltzman to Lead Space Force (Source: Space News)
The Senate confirmed the nomination of the next head of the U.S. Space Force. The Senate voted Thursday by unanimous consent to promote Lt. Gen. B. Chance Saltzman to general and assign him as chief of space operations. Saltzman succeeds Gen. John "Jay" Raymond, who is retiring after 38 years of service. Raymond was the first chief of the military space branch established in December 2019. (9/30)
SECAF Warns of Destabilization of Militarized Space (Source: Space News)
Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall warned that competition in space is becoming more destabilizing. Speaking Thursday at the Center for American Progress, he said that the "unfortunate truth is that space has become to a certain degree militarized" and mentioned activities by China and Russia. "A characteristic of space, unfortunately, is that it's a sort of a no man's land where each side has the other side under observation, and there's instability associated with that, because whoever moves first could have a significant advantage," he said. (9/30)
Colorado's Senators Push Again for Space Command HQ Decision (Source: Space News)
Colorado's senators are pushing the Air Force to decide on the permanent headquarters for U.S. Space Command. The letter from Sens. Michael Bennet (D) and John Hickenlooper (D) argues that the Ukraine conflict and China's expansion in the Pacific require the Air Force to move quickly on a decision. The senators argue that keeping Space Command at Peterson Space Force Base would allow the command to reach full operational capability sooner and less expensively than moving it to Redstone Arsenal in Alabama, the recommendation the Air Force reached in January 2021. (9/27)
Colorado’s Lawmakers Want Space National Guard, But Others Question Why the U.S. Needs It (Source: CPR News)
As Colorado’s congressional delegation continues to fight to keep U.S. Space Command in Colorado Springs, another effort is underway to establish a Space National Guard; an endeavor looking increasingly unlikely as this year’s Pentagon budget shapes up. Not only are the majority of guardians based in Colorado, but so is the largest contingent of space-focused national guard personnel.
Yet, those troops remain in the Air National Guard, which top guard leaders say has led to problems equipping and training them as the newly-minted Space Force develops its own independent procedures and culture. This year, the idea has new traction as Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) have co-sponsored a bill to create a Space National Guard outside the National Defense Authorization Act. But just as some lawmakers urge the formation of a Space National Guard, others are critical of the idea.
Opposition is also fierce elsewhere. A 2020 report from the Congressional Budget Office says setting up the reserve could cost anywhere from $100 million to $500 million per year, depending on the size of the force. The Biden Administration also “strongly opposes the creation of a Space National Guard,” arguing creating the reserve would create new government bureaucracy without delivering new capabilities to the armed forces. (9/28)
Biden Administration Offers Alternative to Space National Guard (Source: Space News)
A key congressional supporter for a Space National Guard said he would consider an alternative backed by the White House and Space Force leaders. Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) said Wednesday "there's merit" to a concept for creating a hybrid active-reserve component that provides full-time and part-time service options. Lamborn has pushed for creating a Space National Guard, including language establishing it in the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act. The Senate version of the bill does not contain a similar provision, and the Biden administration opposes it. (9/29)
In Colorado Senate Race, Joe O’Dea Criticizes Opponent Over Space Command (Source: CPR)
Republican businessman Joe O’Dea made his case for why he should replace incumbent Democrat Michael Bennet in the U.S. Senate. O’Dea criticized his opponent by saying Bennet should use his vote as a bargaining chip. He said Bennet should have held up legislation to force President Joe Biden to address moving Space Command from Colorado Springs to Huntsville, Alabama. (9/30)
Space Development Agency Transfers to USSF (Source: USSF)
he Space Development Agency, responsible for rapid delivery of space-based capabilities to the joint warfighter, transferred to the U.S. Space Force, Oct. 1, 2022, as part of a planned realignment mandated by Congress in the National Defense Authorization Act. SDA originally stood up in March 2019 under the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering as an independent defense agency with the understanding that it would eventually become part of the USSF. (10/1)
Space Force Reemphasizes Focus on Situational Awareness (Source: Space News)
The head of the Space Force's Space Systems Command said that improved space domain awareness is "foundational" to national security. Lt. Gen. Michael A. Guetlein said that space domain awareness is critical to ensuring the operations of other space systems that provide the "overmatch" for the U.S. military against adversaries. He said space domain awareness needs to be improved, though, to better identify objects and their intent, something he said requires collaboration with industry, academia and international partners. (9/29)
Space Force Studying Requirements for Cislunar Space Domain Awareness (Source: Space News)
The Space Force expects to know by next spring what capabilities it will need to carry out space domain awareness activities in cislunar space. Col. Marc Brock, commander of Space Delta 2, the unit responsible for space domain awareness for the Space Force, said a study is underway by the 19th Space Defense Squadron (SDS) on what’s needed to monitor activities beyond geostationary orbit, called xGEO by the Space Force, and out to the moon.
That study, he said, will look at requirements to create an “operational capability” for cislunar or xGEO space domain awareness. That includes training, technologies and centers needed to carry out the mission. He said that report should be ready by next April or May. “Following that, the timeframe to have a viable capability is dependent on the resourcing that we have as a service,” he said. Some existing ground-based resources already exist to carry out that mission, he said, but said there will likely need to be new space-based systems. “We need a space-based capability to really provide the surveillance of xGEO or cislunar and so I can’t give you a timeframe for when that is,” he said. (9/30)
DOD's Largest Telescope Receives Mirror Recoat, Preserves Space Domain Awareness (Source: Space Daily)
The Air Force Maui Optical and Supercomputing site's Advanced Electro-Optical System, or AEOS, the Department of Defense's largest telescope, measuring 3.6 meters or 11.9 feet, has received a face-lift. Located on the summit of the 10,023-foot volcano Haleakala, the telescope is part of a series of telescopes called the Maui Space Surveillance System, which the U.S. Space Force uses for space domain awareness, or SDA, recognizing space as a priority domain for advancing national security. (9/28)
U.S. Space Surveillance Telescope in Australia Achieves Initial Operational Capability (Source: USSF)
The Australian Department of Defence and the U.S. Space Force declared initial operational capability for the Space Surveillance Telescope at Naval Communication Station Harold E. Holt, Australia, Sep. 30, 2022. The SST is a military telescope that provides ground-based, broad-area search, detection and tracking of faint objects in deep space to help predict and avoid potential collisions, as well as detect and monitor asteroids. Commander Defence Space Command, Air-Vice Marshal Cath Roberts said this milestone was an important step for the Alliance and the future of space capability in Australia. (9/30)
Space Force Still Struggling to Ingest Commercial Space Monitoring Data (Source: Breaking Defense)
The Space Force’s Delta 2, responsible for space domain awareness, is still working to figure out how commercially supplied satellite and debris monitoring data can be routinely used by Space Command in keeping an eye on the heavens, according to Col. Mark Brock, Delta 2 commander. He said that taking advantage of commercial observation capabilities — which in some cases are more accurate and up to date than data acquired from the military’s own Space Surveillance Network of radar and telescopes — continues to be a challenge, in part one of the service’s own making. (9/29)
Space Force Wants to Create Temporary ‘Training Ranges’ in Orbit (Source: Breaking Defense)
The Space Force’s second-in-command says that his service is building what he described as a “space test and training range” that could offer Space Force guardians and their international partners brief opportunities to practice operating with real spacecraft in orbit overhead. The real-world practice would mark a change of pace from the largely-virtual simulation that most Space Force training consists of. However, the nature of orbital physics means there likely will not be dedicated real estate dedicated to military training purposes.
“It’s just a matter of establishing with a specific set of spacecraft in a specific region for a specific period of time the sets of activities that you need to do, you do them at that point in time for that purpose and then [regular] activity continues,” said Vice Chief of Space Operations Gen. David Thompson in a conversation with Defense One on Wednesday. “So in reality, the physical range is the entire domain of space. It’s bringing together people and tools and an approach at a specific point in time and in space to conduct tests and training.” (9/29)
DoD and Commerce "Working Together" on Space Traffic Management (Source: Breaking Defense)
An agreement between the Defense Department and Commerce Department on space traffic management (STM) left many unanswered details. The agreement, announced at the National Space Council meeting earlier this month, is intended to support the transition from Defense to Commerce of civil STM work. However, the agreement merely directed the two agencies to work together on the transition and left for future discussion issues such as exchanging commercial space situational awareness data and sharing information about the orbits of classified spacecraft. (9/27)
Space Command, Commerce to Stage Commercial Space Tracking Pilot (Source: Breaking Defense)
Space Command and the Commerce Department will run a joint pilot project this fall to demonstrate live how commercial space monitoring data can be used to keep tabs on satellites and dangerous space junk, according to Richard DalBello, head of DoC’s Office of Space Commerce. (9/30)
Dangerous, Expanding Satellite Population Poses Policy Challenges to US Government (Source: Breaking Defense)
The rapid increase in constellations comprising large numbers of satellites pose serious environmental hazards in space and to the atmosphere, but mitigation is challenging — in large part because there hasn’t been enough research on what can be done, finds a new report from the Government Accountability Office. The report, released today, explained that there are “almost 5,500 active satellites in orbit as of spring 2022, and one estimate predicts the launch of an additional 58,000 by 2030.” Large constellations in low Earth orbit (LEO) “are the primary drivers of the increase,” the report said. (9/29)
FCC Aims To Cut Satellite Debris, But Can It Regulate Space? (Source: Law360)
The Federal Communications Commission's plan to narrow the time frame for de-orbiting defunct satellites by 20 years has support from industry experts who call it a necessary step to fuel space innovation, but it's also raising questions about the extent of FCC authority to regulate activities in space. (9/23)
Some in Congress Seek to Tap Brakes on FCC Orbital Debris Rule (Source: Space News)
The leadership of the House Science Committee asked the FCC to defer consideration of a new orbital debris rule. FCC commissioners are set to meet this morning to vote on the proposed order that would direct operators of low Earth orbit satellites to deorbit them as soon as possible after the end of their mission and in no more than five years.
However, in a letter to the FCC this week, the bipartisan leadership of the House Science Committee said it had concerns about the FCC's authority to promulgate such regulations and worried that the commission's "unilateral" action could undermine its broader government coordination on the issue. In filings to the FCC this month, several companies expressed support for the proposed rule but requested minor changes, such as waivers to the five-year rule for satellites that suffer failures beyond their control. (9/29)
FCC Approves New Orbital Debris Rule (Source: Space News)
The Federal Communications Commission adopted a new rule Sept. 29 that will shorten the time for satellite operators to deorbit low Earth orbit satellites from 25 to 5 years. Commissioners voted 4-0 to adopt the draft rule, published earlier this month, intended to address growing debris in LEO.
Under the new rule, spacecraft that end their lives in orbits at altitudes of 2,000 kilometers or below will have to deorbit as soon as practicable and no more than five years after the end of their mission. The rule would apply to satellites launched two years after the order is adopted, and include both U.S.-licensed satellites as well as those licensed by other jurisdictions but seeking U.S. market access. (9/29)
Majority of Tracked Russian ASAT Debris has Deorbited (Source: Space News)
Nearly two-thirds of the debris tracked from last year’s Russian anti-satellite (ASAT) test has since deorbited, but it could take more than a decade for the rest to reenter. In a talk at the Advanced Maui Optical and Space Surveillance Technologies (AMOS) Conference, Deshaun Hutchinson, an orbital analyst with the Space Force’s 18th Space Defense Squadron, said that as of August, there were 1,783 tracked objects associated with the November 2021 destruction of the Cosmos 1408 satellite by a Russian direct-ascent ASAT. (9/29)
Kayhan and UT Austin Win Space Force STTR for Orbital Servicing Software (Source: Space News)
Kayhan Space and two partners won a U.S. Space Force contract to develop software for in-orbit servicing vehicles. Kayhan announced Wednesday it, along with Astroscale US and the University of Texas at Austin, won a Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase 1 award worth $250,000 under the Space Force's Orbital Prime program. Under the contract, they will develop software to enable spacecraft to conduct proximity maneuvers autonomously. Orbital Prime is run by SpaceWERX, the technology arm of the Space Force, which selected 125 industry teams earlier this year for initial studies like this. Phase 1 winners will have an opportunity to compete for second-phase awards of up to $1.5 million to continue development and prototyping. (9/28)
Aiming Too High: the Advent Military Communications Satellite (Source: Space Review)
Complex military space programs that run behind schedule and over budget are nothing new. Dwayne Day explores the history of an overly ambitious military communications satellite program from the early years of the space age. Click here. (9/26)
NRO Picks Six Companies to Study RF Data Applications (Source: Space News)
The National Reconnaissance Office awarded study contracts for space-based radio frequency (RF) data to six companies Wednesday. Aurora Insight, HawkEye 360, Kleos Space, PredaSAR, Spire Global and Umbra Lab signed agreements giving the NRO access to their systems and business plans so the agency can decide what commercial data it might purchase for operational use. Such data can track ships, vehicles or devices emitting RF signals. The companies were selected under a broad NRO program rolled out in October called Strategic Commercial Enhancements, open to both U.S. companies and foreign-owned U.S. commercial providers. (9/29)
Infrastructure, Allies and ‘One Space Effort’ Key to Keeping US Ahead of China in Space (Source: Breaking Defense)
In order to stay ahead of China in the space domain, the US needs to increase investment in its infrastructure and develop stronger relationships with allies and partners, according to an official from the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit. Steven Butow, DIU’s Space Portfolio director, said increasing investment in “both physical and digital infrastructure” and having strong ties to its allies will help in “building the space economy” of the US and in times of war. It’ll also require bringing in all the different space-related efforts from agencies under one effort.
“In order to compete and retain its leadership role, the U.S. must clearly articulate a North Star vision for space that transcends administrations, and aggressively pursue a whole-of-nation action plan to achieve it,” according to the report. “Both the vision and plan must integrate and synchronize efforts across civil, commercial and national security space and leverage both the disruptive innovation that is rapidly maturing within the new space economy domestically and abroad.” (9/29)
China Pitches International Partnerships at IAC, Deleting Russia Mentions (Source: Space News)
China is looking to build international partnerships for its space exploration efforts while not mentioning its key partner, Russia. Chinese space officials presented a range of opportunities for international cooperation in the country's plans during a session at the International Astronautical Congress last week. That includes roles on the upcoming Chang'e-7 lunar south pole mission and Chang'e-8 in situ resource utilization test mission. There are also possible roles on a future series of Tianwen missions to near Earth objects, Mars, Jupiter and Uranus. The presentation, though, made no mention of cooperation with Russia, including on the International Lunar Research Station that the two countries jointly announced last year. (9/28)
An Analysis of Chinese Remote Sensing Satellites (Source: Space Review)
China has developed a wide array of remote sensing satellites for civil, commercial, and military applications. Henk H.F. Smid examines what is known about this growing fleet of spacecraft. Click here. (9/26)
China Launches Four Satellites (Source: Xinhua)
China carried out two launches Monday. A Long March 2D rocket lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 9:38 a.m. Eastern and placed the Yaogan-36 reconnaissance satellite into orbit. A Long March 6 lifted off from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center at 7:50 p.m. Eastern and placed into orbit Shiyan-16A, Shiyan-16B and Shiyan-17, which official media described as experimental satellites for Earth observation applications. (9/27)
China Launches Experimental Satellites (Source: Xinhua)
China launched two experimental satellites Saturday. A Kuaizhou-1A lifted off from a mobile launch platform at the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center at 6:55 p.m. Eastern and placed the Shiyan-14 and Shiyan-15 satellites into orbit. Chinese media said Shiyan-14 will be used for unspecified scientific experiments and technology demonstrations while Shiyan-15 will be used for Earth imaging. (9/26)
China Transfers Space Station Module to New Docking Port (Source: Xinhua)
China moved a lab module to a new docking port on its space station Friday. The Wentian module undocked from one port on the Tianhe core module and moved to a side port, a process that took about an hour. The maneuver sets up the launch of another space station module expected in October. (9/30)
Mangalyaan Quietly Bids Goodbye: India's Maiden Mars Mission Runs Out of Fuel (Source: India Today)
Over a decade after it was launched, India’s maiden mission to Mars — Mangalyaan — has completed its journey. The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) has, reportedly, run out of propellant, making it difficult to be revived in the Red Planet’s orbit. This development is fueling speculation that the mission is finally over. The Indian Space Research Organization, which operates the spacecraft around Mars, is yet to say anything on the matter of whether the probe can be revived or not. (10/1)
India Opens Cryogenic Engine Factory (Source: PTI)
An Indian company opened a new factory for producing cryogenic rocket engines. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited formally opened the Integrated Cryogenic Engine Manufacturing Facility in Bengaluru Tuesday. The factory will manufacture and test the CE-20 engine used on the upper stage of the GSLV Mark 3 rocket, as well as a new liquid oxygen/kerosene engine. Engine production will formally start next March. (9/28)
Bold New Thailand Space Policy Planned (Source: Bangkok Post)
The House Panel on Communications, Telecommunications, and Digital Economy and Society (DES House Panel) will seek expert assistance with plans to develop a space economy policy. Bhumjaithai Party MP Col Settapong Malisuwan, as vice chairman of the panel, said chosen digital business entrepreneurs will assist in assessing the potential for satellite-related commercial activities and other possible space missions. They will also contribute to the formulation of the country's first regulatory framework for commercial projects involving space travel and related industries, said Col Settapong. This sub-panel is to report the results of its study to the DES House Panel in 90 days. (10/1)
International Astronautical Federation Elects First Saudi Woman as Representative (Source: The National)
The International Astronautical Federation (IAF) on Sunday announced that Saudi Arabia's representative has been elected as one of the federation's 12 vice presidents. Aerospace engineer Mishaal Ashemimry is the first Saudi woman to hold a leadership position at the IAF. She was selected for the because of her vision for the development of the space sector globally, her contribution to the development and consolidation of the federation’s directions, and her role in strengthening the kingdom’s leadership position in the aerospace sector, the Saudi Press Agency reported. (9/26)
Will Jewish Astronaut Jessica Meir Be NASA's First Woman on the Moon? (Source: Jerusalem Post)
As humanity reaches for the stars with renewed vigor, Jessica Meir is one of the leading astronauts at the forefront of our cosmic ambitions. Born in Maine to a Swedish mother and an Israeli-Jewish father, Meir has been enamored with space from a young age and has been involved with NASA for nearly two decades. Since then, she has made waves as a successful and accomplished astronaut, including being part of the first-ever all-female spacewalk.
Throughout that time, Meir has made no secret about her closeness to Judaism and Israel, proudly putting her Jewishness and Israeli ties on full display on social media and bringing an Israeli flag, Star of David socks, a commemorative coin honoring late Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon and other related items with her into space. (9/25)
ESA Selects Harmony as 10th Explorer Mission (Source: Space Daily)
Following preparatory activities and a stringent process ESA Member States today formally selected Harmony for implementation as the tenth Earth Explorer mission within the FutureEO program. This unique satellite mission concept is, therefore, now set to become a reality to provide a wealth of new information about our oceans, ice, earthquakes and volcanoes - which will make significant contributions to climate research and risk monitoring.
This exciting new mission will comprise two identical satellites orbiting Earth in convoy with a Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellite. Each Harmony satellite will carry a receive-only synthetic aperture radar and a multiview thermal-infrared instrument. Together with observations from Sentinel-1, Harmony will deliver a wide range of unique high-resolution observations of motion occurring at or near Earth's surface. (9/25)
ESA Business Boosts Small Space Companies (Source: Space Daily)
ESA continues to break down barriers and create more opportunities for small companies to get involved in space. Start-up companies and small enterprises offer agile and bespoke development adding value to Europe's future space economy. One of the greatest concerns for a startup entering the space domain is securing its first contract. However, by 2020 about 1800 small and medium-sized enterprises working with ESA and for EU space projects together achieved an annual turnover of euro 3.9 billion with a total of 33 000 employees.
Small and medium-sized enterprises bring innovative ideas and efficiency. ESA recognizes the value of disruptive technology, specialist skills and dynamic working practices. As a result, these enterprises are gaining ground in ESA programs. This gives them the credibility they need to succeed. In turn, this enriches the European space industry by growing expertise in the workforce and making it more competitive. (9/29)
Norwegian Space Industry Blasts Off with New Spaceport (Source: Business Norway)
After flying under the radar for decades, Norway’s space industry is rocketing into the limelight. In 2022, Norway will open the first launch base for satellites on the European continent. “Our commercial space activities will put Norway on the map as a strategic, European asset in the space sector,” says Christian Hauglie-Hanssen, Director General of the Norwegian Space Agency.
The spaceport is a part of Norway’s foray into New Space, the emerging commercial space industry. Andøya Space, a Norwegian aerospace company, is establishing a launch site for small satellites at Andøya in Northern Norway. This will make Norway one of the few countries worldwide to have a spaceport on their own territory. As a launch site operator, Andøya Space will provide the technical infrastructure including launch pads and buildings, while launch operators and launch service providers will bring their launch vehicles and payloads to the spaceport.
In addition, the Norwegian Government is fully behind the venture, allocating NOK 365.6 million (roughly USD 42 million) for development of the spaceport. Andøya’s remote location on the coast, 300 km within the Arctic Circle, is a perfect starting point to reach the polar and sun-synchronous orbits used by small satellites. (9/23)
UK's Spaceport Cornwall Open for Business (Source: Business Cornwall)
Spaceport Cornwall has officially opened its Space Systems Integration Facility, heralding a new era of capability within small satellite services. Virgin Orbit CEO, Dan Hart, attended the opening ceremony, along with Ian Annett, the deputy CEO of the UK Space Agency. This facility forms part of the Center for Space Technologies, which also comprises the Space Systems Operation Facility, an adjacent R&D work and office space that will complete early next year.
The opening of the state-of-the-art building comes ahead of the first-ever orbital UK launch and will be where the six satellite payloads will be integrated into Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket. (9/30)
UK Builds Leadership in Space Debris Removal and In-Orbit Manufacturing with National Mission and Funding Boost (Source: Gov.UK)
Two UK-based companies are designing missions to clear hazardous space junk alongside the launch of a new program to back cutting-edge space technology, the UK Space Agency has announced. ClearSpace and Astroscale have been awarded £4 million from the UK Space Agency to design missions to remove existing pieces of space debris, working with a consortium of industry partners.
Once the designs are complete, the teams, along with other UK space companies, could receive further funding to see the UK’s first national space debris removal mission launch in 2026. The projects will directly support the creation of 70 new jobs, with further opportunities to increase growth in the wider UK space sector, which already supports 47,000 jobs and generates an income of £16.5 billion each year. (9/26)
ClearSpace Secures a Major UK Contract to Help Clean Up Space (Source: Astro Agency)
Following the successful completion of a feasibility study of the CLEAR mission to remove two UK-registered derelict objects from low Earth orbit, a consortium led by ClearSpace has been awarded a follow-up contract by the UK Space Agency to perform the preliminary design of the mission. The company’s solution responds to the pressing need to preserve the increasingly congested space environment and is a stepping stone towards other services in orbit.
In 2021, the UK Space Agency (UKSA) commissioned the ClearSpace UK-based subsidiary to perform a feasibility study for a mission to remove at least two UK-registered derelict objects from low Earth orbit (LEO). In this study, the team explored different mission scenarios, defined the mission and system requirements and selected the technologies necessary for the implementation of the mission. In March 2022, ClearSpace and its partners successfully completed this first study phase.
ClearSpace has now been awarded a £2.2M contract by the UKSA to conduct the next phase of this mission. This design phase will last until October 2023 and will finish with the preliminary design review — an evaluation of the progress on the design and the technical adequacy of the proposed mission. The Clearing of the LEO Environment with Active Removal (CLEAR)mission, which will advance key technology building blocks, is a catalyst for the development of commercially viable disposal services. (9/26)
Outpost Completes Successful Flight Tests of Their Autonomous Re-Entry Paraglider (Source: Space Daily)
During a technical session at IAC, Michael Vergalla, CTO of Outpost, presented a paper on the findings of Outpost's two successful flight tests on a breakthrough technology of an autonomous paraglider re-entry system to enable industry-leading payload Earth return capabilities from orbit. The tests, conducted in April 2022, are a huge milestone for Outpost in creating a technology that will disrupt the future of satellite operations.
The autonomous high altitude paraglider system enables Outpost to achieve precision landing accuracy of its satellite system and customer payloads. This is meaningful because all enterprise-class spacecraft experience a 100km or more error dispersion when entering the atmosphere, making conventional low-altitude deployment of parachutes incapable of a precise and pre-coordinated landing. (9/25)
Investing in Space: Where Does NASA Go From Here? (Source: CNBC)
America’s interest in space is fueled by taxpayer dollars. So how does the public think the agency should spend its money? A Pew survey in 2018 painted a stark picture: Just 13% of Americans thought sending astronauts back to the moon should be a top priority, whereas 62% prioritized tracking objects that could hit Earth. It’s a sharp difference from where the agency is spending most of its money currently.
NASA maintains the path back to the moon through SLS and Orion is “sustainable,” even if costly and behind schedule. And don’t get me wrong: There’s a huge difference in what Artemis seeks to accomplish, versus missions like DART.
But the path to building a permanent human presence on the moon and beyond will require more than what one space agency or company can create, and it’s a disservice to think that flying passengers to the surface with the regularity of SLS — at most once a year — represents a meaningful return to the moon. Ultimately, the Artemis mission tagline, “We are going,” undersells what NASA can, and does, take on. (9/30)
NASA Updates Objectives for Exploration (Source: Space News)
NASA updated a list of objectives for its exploration architecture. NASA unveiled a revised list of 63 objectives for exploration of the moon and Mars last week, incorporating feedback from a draft list of 50 objectives published by NASA in May. The changes include revamping the list of science objectives as well as including a set of "recurring tenets" or common themes like the responsible use of space. The objectives are part of a broader approach by NASA to develop an architecture for human and robotic exploration, and use that to guide programs. (9/26)
Scientists May Have Discovered a Lake on Mars (Source: Time)
The Mars that was and the Mars that is are two very different things. Three billion years ago, the Red Planet was awash with water. But when the planet lost its magnetic field, it lost its protection from the solar wind, which stripped away much of the planet’s atmosphere and allowed most of its water to escape to space. A new study suggests that in the south Martian pole, there may be a liquid water lake buried beneath the ice, measuring as much as 30 km across, kept warm by geothermal heating, similar to the kind generated on Earth by radioactive isotopes or subsurface magma.
One clue to the possible presence of water beneath Mars’s south pole came from soundings taken by ESA's Mars Express orbiter, which revealed an area that was highly reflective, consistent with a large deposit of liquid water. But that finding wasn’t conclusive. NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor also took the measure of the region using a laser altimeter—and that scan revealed a surface undulation—with the ice at one end dipping as low as 4 meters below the surrounding terrain and at the other end rising 7 meters above it.
That up and down pattern has analogs on Earth, where buried bodies of water display precisely the same pattern, caused by upstream and downstream water flow. The question of just what is going on beneath the ice in Ultimi Scopuli has lingered since the twin spacecraft took their sightings, but now, an international team of researchers has taken on the mystery and come to the conclusion that the south pole of Mars is indeed home to a lake. The investigators based their findings on computer modeling. (9/30)
NASA Ingenuity Helicopter Flies 33rd Time on Mars (Source: NASA)
NASA's Ingenuity Mars helicopter made its 33rd flight last weekend. NASA said the helicopter flew 111 meters in the 55-second flight. Ingenuity has gradually ramped up flight operations after limiting activity during the Martian winter. (9/29)
Mars is Littered with 15,694 Pounds of Human Trash (Source: Space Daily)
People have been exploring the surface of Mars for over 50 years. According to the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, nations have sent 18 human-made objects to Mars over 14 separate missions. Many of these missions are still ongoing, but over the decades of Martian exploration, humankind has left behind many pieces of debris on the planet's surface.
I am a postdoctoral research fellow who studies ways to track Mars and Moon rovers. In mid-August 2022, NASA confirmed that the Mars rover Perseverance had spotted a piece of trash jettisoned during its landing, this time a tangled mess of netting. And this is not the first time scientists have found trash on Mars. That's because there is a lot there. Debris on Mars comes from three main sources: discarded hardware, inactive spacecraft and crashed spacecraft.
A lot of small, windblown trash has been found over the years - like the netting material found recently. Earlier in the year, on June 13, 2022, Perseverance rover spotted a large, shiny thermal blanket wedged in some rocks 1.25 miles (2 km) from where the rover landed. Both Curiosity in 2012 and Opportunity in 2005 also came across debris from their landing vehicles. (9/21)
Sex in Space Will Look Like Nothing We’ve Ever Seen Before (Source: Daily Beast)
Between the climate crisis, ongoing wars, the specter of future pandemics, and a whole host of other potential calamities on the horizon, many humans are already seriously pondering life beyond Earth. Werner Herzog and his son are exploring the feasibility of space colonization by humans in their new show, Last Exit: Space. Scientists are trying to figure out how to harvest water on the moon to drink and to use as rocket fuel, grow plants on Mars, and construct sustainable extraterrestrial homes that can keep us feeling warm and comfy.
But there’s one critical part to being human that we have not yet figured out: How are we going to bang in space? Since the dawn of civilization people have found out how to get busy in even the strangest and most extreme environments. The vacuum of space and the alien terrain of other planets and moons will be no exception. And even if it’s not solely for pleasure, people will want to have sex off the planet in order to procreate and raise children.
NASA doesn’t like to talk about sex in space, and most astrophysicists shy away from speaking candidly about the topic. But space sexology is a real thing. Trying to imagine humanity’s future in space requires us to seriously understand and explore how sex in space is supposed to work. After all, space seems almost like it was purposely designed to be as sexless as possible. Low gravity or even a complete lack thereof will make it a challenge to hold on to each other and stay close; the small confines of a spacecraft or extraterrestrial home might foster intimacy between people, or drive them apart to where they can’t stand each other; and if the billions of hazards in space don’t outright kill you, they may just kill the mood anyway. (9/23)
NASA and ESA Affirm Lunar Cooperation (Source: Space News)
NASA and ESA signed a joint statement last week affirming current and future cooperation in lunar exploration. The statement, signed during the International Astronautical Congress, outlined current cooperation between the agencies on Artemis and "highlighted ongoing discussions on future collaboration," NASA said. ESA is seeking funding for new lunar programs, including a large cargo lander and a communications and navigation network, that it could offer NASA in exchange for additional seats on Artemis missions. (9/26)
Who Wants to Go to the Moon? Europe Names Astronaut Candidates (Source: Space Daily)
The European Space Agency announced a team of seven astronauts on Wednesday to train for NASA's Artemis mission to the moon -- but only one will have the chance to become the first European to walk on the lunar surface. The candidates -- France's Thomas Pesquet, Britain's Tim Peake, Germany's Alexander Gerst and Matthias Maurer, Italy's Luca Parmitano and Samantha Cristoforetti, and Denmark's Andreas Mogensen -- have all completed at least one mission on board the International Space Station.
Between them, the team has the equivalent of 4.5 years in orbit and 98 hours of spacewalking. Three of the astronauts will be selected to go to the Lunar Gateway, a planned station that will orbit the moon. But only one will set foot on the moon by the end of the decade. At some point, the ESA will have to decide which of the seven candidates will get to go. (9/21)
Commander of Next SpaceX Crew Dragon to be 1st Native American Woman in Space (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
NASA and SpaceX are about to send another quartet for a months-long mission to the International Space Station, but among them will be the first Native American woman in space. Col. Nicole Aunapu Mann will command the Crew-5 mission slated to launch as soon as noon Wednesday from KSC on board the Crew Dragon Endurance atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Pad 39-A.
Mann, who previously trained to fly on Starliner switched over to SpaceX after delays in the Starliner program, but she’s also one of 18 NASA astronauts announced in 2020 to fly on potential Artemis missions to the moon. “I am very proud to represent Native Americans and my heritage,” she said. “It’s interesting, we’re all from very unique, different backgrounds.” (10/1)
Colombian Woman is NASA's New Flight Director (Source: Al Dia)
NASA has appointed Colombian aerospace engineer Diana Trujillo as one of its new flight directors. The Colombian will oversee the Artemis program to return to the Moon, the International Space Station (ISS), and commercial crew missions. "These highly qualified individuals will be responsible for keeping astronauts safe and executing manned spaceflight missions," said NASA Director of Flight Operations Norm Knight. (9/29)
NASA Selects Pioneer Astronautics to Test Dust Repellent Coating for Lunar Surface Missions (Source: Voyager Space)
Pioneer Astronautics, powered by Voyager Space (Voyager), today announced the company has entered into a Space Act Agreement with NASA to test the effectiveness of Clear Dust Repellent Coating (CDRC) technology on an upcoming Lunar mission. This will help expand the scientific understanding of Lunar dust interaction with modern materials, which is critical for a broad range of exploration technologies.
CDRC is a clear coating that can be applied to many surfaces and components as a passive dust mitigation method with the potential to reduce technical and safety risks for Lunar elements including NASA's Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU) spacesuit, Lunar Terrain Vehicle, pressurized rovers, and other future lunar surface assets. (9/29)
Soyuz Capsule Returns Three Cosmonauts From ISS (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
A Soyuz spacecraft carrying three Russian cosmonauts landed this morning in Kazakhstan. The Soyuz MS-21 spacecraft undocked from the International Space Station at 3:34 a.m. Eastern and landed safely in Kazakhstan at 6:57 a.m. Eastern. The spacecraft returned to Earth with Russian cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev and Sergey Korsakov after 195 days in space. Before the undocking, Artemyev handed over command of the ISS to ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti. (9/29)
NASA Seeks Alternative Launcher for TROPICS Satellites (Source: Space News)
NASA will find another way to launch a remaining set of Earth science cubesats after modifying its contract with Astra. The agency selected Astra last year for three launches of its Rocket 3.3 vehicle to deploy six TROPICS satellites to monitor tropical storms. However, the first of the three launches failed in June, and Astra announced in August it was retiring the Rocket 3.3 in favor of the larger Rocket 4 in development.
NASA said Wednesday it will seek a new launch provider for the remaining four TROPICS cubesats using the Venture-Class Acquisition of Dedicated and Rideshare (VADR) program, with a goal of launching them in time for the 2023 hurricane season. NASA will instead use the Astra contract for launching "comparable scientific payloads" on Rocket 4. Astra said Wednesday it is still investigating the June launch failure but narrowed down the cause to a problem with the engine in the upper stage. (9/29)
NASA Awards Commercial Small Satellite Data Acquisition Agreement to GHGSat (Source: Parabolic Arc)
NASA has selected GHGSat, Inc., of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, to provide commercial small constellation satellite products for evaluation to determine the utility for advancing NASA’s science and application goals. GHGSat will provide a comprehensive catalogue of Earth Observation data High Resolution Gas Detection Commercial Earth Observation Data products.
This is a fixed-price blanket purchase agreement and each call issued is not to exceed $7 million over a five-year period. The work will be performed at the contractor’s facilities in Montreal, Quebec. The contractor shall be responsible for delivery of a comprehensive catalogue of its commercial Earth Observation data High Resolution Gas Detection Commercial Earth Observation Data products indicating at a minimum: the data sets, associated metadata and ancillary information; data cadence; data latency; area coverage; and data usage policy. (9/29)
DART Pokes Asteroid (Source: Space News)
NASA's DART spacecraft successfully collided with a small asteroid Monday night. The Double Asteroid Redirection Test spacecraft hit Dimorphos, an object 160 meters across orbiting the larger near-Earth asteroid Didymos, as planned at 7:14 p.m. Eastern. The spacecraft hit within 17 meters of the center of Dimorphos after autonomously guiding its way to the asteroid in the mission's final hours. The deliberate impact is a test to see how such "kinetic impactors" could be used in the future to deflect hazardous asteroids. Astronomers will be measuring the change in the orbit of Dimorphos over the coming weeks to measure the impact's effectiveness. (9/27)
DART Produces Massive Plume on Dimorphos Asteroid (Source: Sky & Telescope)
Images from telescopes and a passing cubesat illustrated the aftermath of the deliberate collision of NASA's DART spacecraft with the asteroid Dimorphos. The Italian space agency ASI released images Tuesday returned from its LICIACube cubesat, which flew by Dimorphos moments after the collision Monday night. The images showed a massive plume of material created by the impact. Ground-based telescopes also detected the impact plume, while images from space telescopes, including Hubble and Webb, are being analyzed. Scientists said before the impact that it would likely be several days to a few weeks before they know how much the impact changed the orbit of Dimorphos around a larger near Earth asteroid, Didymos. (9/28)
Hubble and JWST Image Dimorphos After DART Impact (Source: NASA)
Two space telescopes captured the larger-than-expected aftermath of the collision of the DART spacecraft with the asteroid Dimorphos. NASA released images Thursday taken by the Hubble Space Telescope and James Webb Space Telescope, showing plumes of material streaming away from the asteroid in the hours after impact. The observations were challenging for JWST in particular, requiring the spacecraft to track the asteroid at much higher rates than it was designed to do. The images will help scientists better understand the dynamics of the collision and the nature of Dimorphos. (9/30)
Juno Makes Flyby of Europa (Source: AP)
NASA's Juno spacecraft returned stunning photos Thursday after a close flyby of Jupiter's icy moon Europa. The spacecraft passed about 350 kilometers from the moon early Thursday, the closest approach to the moon by a spacecraft since Galileo two decades ago. A camera on Juno took closeup images of the moon, although the spacecraft did not detect any plumes of liquid water thought to erupt from the surface. (9/30)
SOFIA Telescope Makes Final Flight (Source: Sky & Telescope)
The SOFIA airborne observatory flew off into the sunset. The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, a Boeing 747 with a 2.5-meter infrared telescope, made its final science flight this week as NASA winds down the project. NASA announced earlier this year it would shut down SOFIA at the end of the fiscal year, following a recommendation from the astrophysics decadal survey, which concluded that SOFIA's scientific productivity was not worth its high cost. (9/30)
Trans Astronautica and Celestron to Develop Space Telescope (Source: Space News)
Trans Astronautica Corp. announced an agreement Tuesday with telescope manufacturer Celestron to develop a space-qualified version of a telescope. Over the next year, TransAstra plans to modify the Celestron Rowe-Ackermann Schmidt Astrograph telescope design and substitute materials to produce a telescope that can withstand radiation exposure, temperature swings and the vibration and shock loads of space launch. TransAstra envisions launching several such telescopes to track objects from medium Earth orbit out to the moon. (9/27)
California Governor Vetoes Light Pollution Bill (Source: LA Times)
California Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill intended to address light pollution. The bill would have required shielding on lighting on state buildings installed after Jan. 1 to reduce the amount of light sent into the sky. That light brightens the night sky and is a growing issue with the switch to more energy-efficient but brighter LEDs. Newsom vetoed the bill because of "unfunded and potentially significant" costs to the state for implementing it. (9/27)
Plan to Research Solar Power From Space (Source: Space Daily)
The Sun never stops shining in space, and sunlight is much more intense there than on Earth's surface. So what if we could gather that energy up in space then beam it down to Earth? Recent studies funded by the Preparation element of ESA's Basic Activities program, show the concept, called Space-Based Solar Power, is theoretically workable and could support the path to decarbonizing the energy sector.
However, significant uncertainties and technical challenges remain. In response ESA is proposing a R&D program to mature the concept and its critical technologies - SOLARIS. The challenge of decarbonizing Europe's energy sector over the coming few decades is a massive one. Almost half the emissions cuts required to move us on to a path to net zero by 2050 may need to come from technologies that are not on the market yet."
SOLARIS will help decide if it is feasible to add Space-Based Solar Power - a decades-old concept for delivering clean energy - to this work list. Solar power satellites in geostationary orbit would harvest sunlight on a permanent 24/7 basis then convert it into low-power density microwaves to safely beam down to receiver stations on Earth. The physics involved means that these satellites would have to be large, on the order of several kilometers in size, and the same being true for the collecting 'rectennas' down on Earth's surface. (9/27)
NASA, SpaceX to Study Hubble Telescope Reboost Possibility (Source: NASA)
NASA and SpaceX signed an unfunded Space Act Agreement Thursday, Sept. 22, to study the feasibility of a SpaceX and Polaris Program idea to boost the agency’s Hubble Space Telescope into a higher orbit with the Dragon spacecraft, at no cost to the government.
There are no plans for NASA to conduct or fund a servicing mission or compete this opportunity; the study is designed to help the agency understand the commercial possibilities. SpaceX – in partnership with the Polaris Program – proposed this study to better understand the technical challenges associated with servicing missions. This study is non-exclusive, and other companies may propose similar studies with different rockets or spacecraft as their model. (9/29)
Sierra Space Weighs Public Offering to Help Fund Space Station (Source: Reuters)
Sierra Space, a subsidiary of private aerospace contractor Sierra Nevada Corp, may go public or pursue other funding options that would accelerate the company toward its goal of building a space station, company executives told Reuters. No private company has built a space station. Sierra is working with Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin to construct one, called Orbital Reef, in competition with other programs from companies such as Lockheed Martin and Axiom Space.
She declined to discuss whether the company would consider a traditional initial public offering or a special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC). A $1.4 billion funding round last year, valuing the company at $4.5 billion, allowed Sierra Space to double its workforce to nearly 2,000, come closer to completing its Dreamchaser spaceplane in 2023, and expand ground tests of an inflatable habitat central to the Orbital Reef concept. (9/23)
Space for (Mostly) All (Source: Space Review)
The International Astronautical Congress last week had a record turnout of more than 9,000 people from 110 countries. However, Jeff Foust reports that a lot of attention was on two major spacefaring nations, China and Russia, that had little or no presence at the event. Click here. (9/26)
New Theory Concludes That the Origin of Life on Earth-Like Planets is Likely (Source: Space Daily)
Does the existence of life on Earth tell us anything about the probability of abiogenesis - the origin of life from inorganic substances - arising elsewhere? That's a question that has confounded scientists, and anyone else inclined to ponder it, for some time. A widely accepted argument from Australian-born astrophysicist Brandon Carter argues that the selection effect of our own existence puts constraints on our observation. Since we had to find ourselves on a planet where abiogenesis occurred, then nothing can be inferred about the probability of life elsewhere based on this knowledge alone.
At best, he argued, the knowledge of life on Earth is of neutral value. Another way of looking at it is that Earth can't be considered a typical Earth-like planet because it hasn't been selected at random from the set of all Earth-like planets. However, a new paper by Daniel Whitmire is arguing that Carter used faulty logic. Though Carter's theory has become widely accepted, Whitmire argues that it suffers from what's known as "The Old Evidence Problem" in Bayesian Confirmation Theory, which is used to update a theory or hypothesis in light of new evidence.
Whitmire continues, "However, my existence is old evidence and must be treated as such. When this is done the conclusion is that it is much more probable that my conception was easy. In other words, the evidence of life on Earth is not of neutral value in making the case for life on similar planets. As such, our life suggests that life is more likely to emerge on other Earth-like planets - maybe even on the recent "super-Earth" type planet, LP 890-9b, discovered 100 light years away. (9/27)
Blue Origin Opens in Colorado's Highlands Ranch (Source: The Gazette)
Blue Origin, the space company founded by Amazon Executive Chairman Jeff Bezos, opened an expansion office in Highlands Ranch Friday. The Colorado operation would be involved in all of Blur Origin’s ventures, including the New Shepard rocket that has already carried 31 people to outer space over the past year, said Laura Maginnis, a company vice president and its Denver area site leader. On hand to celebrate the opening were Colorado's public policy leaders, who expressed pride in the new aerospace arrival. (9/30)
Florida Airbus-OneWeb Apprentices Win International Competition in Chicago (Source: SCCAP)
The Space Coast Consortium Apprenticeship Program (SCCAP), Kamm Consulting Group, and GAP Turnkey Solutions Partner Festo Didactic North America kicked off the first ever live SCCAP/FESTO Mechatronics Competition at the IMTS Student Summit in Chicago on Sep. 12. The competition culminating with a narrow first-place win by Carolyn MacGowan and Kate Borelli, SCCAP apprentices and employees of Airbus OneWeb Satellites with manufacturing facilities at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport.
The competition was planned to strengthen a US Germany Apprenticeship Exchange program. Eight apprentices squared off in four separate teams of two to compete for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place awards. All teams competed in several Industry 3.0 challenges on Festo Mech Lab units in a didactic approach to familiarize themselves with the tasks they would need to perform for the ultimate Industry 4.0 challenge to troubleshoot a problem on the Cyberphysical lab, which is a smaller-scale, fully automated manufacturing production line. (9/26)
Mixed Reactions for Space Industry Shift to Remote Work (Source: Space News)
Space companies are having mixed reactions to a shift to remote work. That shift, accelerated by the pandemic, is being embraced by some companies as a way to tap into larger talent pools and retain employees. Others, though, see problems with remote work and prefer to have employees together where they can more efficiently collaborate. Many are looking at hybrid approaches that require being on-site sometimes but with more flexibility to work remotely. (9/29)
PlanetWatchers Provides Farming Insights with SAR Satellite Data (Source: Seraphim)
PlanetWatchers, a crop monitoring company that can provide detailed crop insights, at any time, regardless of weather and lighting conditions, has raised $11m as part of its series A funding round as part of the company’s ambitious growth plans. The Company uses Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data to provide accurate insight at scale. PlanetWatchers exploits the unique benefits of SAR, to create in-season insights that reduce overheads and increase customer satisfaction.
The company, which works with a large number of crop insurance companies, uses time series-based radar data to provide detailed analysis of claims without ever visiting the field. The use of SAR, a powerful remote sensing technology bouncing microwave signals off the Earth’s surface, helps PlanetWatchers to detect physical properties and the changes to them over time, proving valuable insight to its customers. (9/27)
Aquarian Space and American Binary Plan to Bring Encrypted Internet to Solar System (Source: Space Daily)
American Binary is proud to announce that the company is working with Aquarian Space to bring post-quantum encrypted Internet to the Moon and greater Solar System. Post-Quantum Cryptography (PQC) is new encryption that is designed to be unbreakable by a future quantum computer. Post-Quantum Encryption is important because bad actor governments record encrypted data over their telecom networks. They do this so that in the future they can decrypt it with a future quantum computer.
They do this so they can steal the IP that belongs to the S&P 500 and greater tech community. They also do this so they can use private data to blackmail and extort executives and private citizens. Post-Quantum Encryption is our only solution to stop this potentially inevitable outcome. "Aquarian Space and American Binary will be first to offer enduring digital security via post-quantum encryption for the future of humanity in space." (9/27)
mu Space and SpaceBelt to Develop Constellation for Data-Security-as-a-Service (Source: Space Daily)
Satellite manufacturer and service provider mu Space Corp and space-based service with secure cloud data storage provider SpaceBelt have agreed to work on constellation to demonstrate SpaceBelt's concept of Data Security as a Service (DSaaS). mu Space, at this moment, is able to produce 10 satellites a year at their mu Space Factory 1 with an expansion plan that will see the number move to 100 satellites per year. (9/25)
Lynk Global Satellite to Test 5G in Space (Source: Space News)
Lynk Global will test the ability to transmit 5G signals from a satellite launching in December. The company said the experimental 5G payload will be onboard its second commercial satellite, launching on a SpaceX rideshare mission. Lynk's initial satellites are designed to provide connectivity for its mobile network operator (MNO) partners' customers over 2G to 4G, but the company wants to test the ability to shift to 5G when its customers request it. Two other Lynk satellites are also due to fly on this mission to give the Virginia-based startup four commercial satellites in low Earth orbit. (9/29)
Apple and Globalstar Deal May Signal Future of Personal Satellite Communications (Source: SpaceQ)
In September 2022, Apple announced that their new iPhone 14 would have satellite connectivity, thanks to a new deal with Globalstar. Rumors to that effect had been swirling for a while, and the announcement had a huge impact. When the dust cleared, though, a question remained: what was actually being delivered, and how will this change the smartphone market? Will they really be “eliminating dead zones,” as so many of the promotional events promised?
The answer is yes, and no. The technology is real: satellite connections on a normal smartphone is possible. But there’s a reason Apple is using it solely for emergency distress messages. Its capabilities are likely to be sharply limited. Northern Sky Research is estimating that deals like this will only accelerate, as a potentially $67 billion market forms. Click here. (9/27)
SpaceX Produces 1M Starlink Terminals ~19 Months After Preorders Opened (Source: Teslarati)
Starlink’s ramp is accelerating, and it is getting undeniable. Just around 19 months since opening pre-orders for the satellite internet system, SpaceX has produced 1 million Starlink terminals. Elon Musk confirmed the news on Twitter, noting that “Starlink now over 1M user terminals manufactured.” This is incredibly impressive as SpaceX only opened pre-orders for Starlink kits in February 2021, just around 19 months ago. Prior to February 2021, SpaceX had only been distributing beta invites for several months. (9/25)
Musk to Provide Florida with Starlink Satellite Terminals in Response to Hurricane Ian (Source: Reuters)
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk agreed to provide the company's satellite internet service, Starlink, for help in response to Hurricane Ian in areas of Southwest Florida still without connectivity. "We are working with Elon Musk and Starlink satellite. They are positioning those Starlink satellites to provide good coverage in Southwest Florida and other affected areas," DeSantis told reporters on Saturday. "We are expecting 120 additional large Starlink units to deploy to Southwest Florida." (10/1)
No, Starlink Probably Won't Fix Iranian Internet Censorship (Source: The Intercept)
Iranian dissidents and their supporters around the world cheered Musk’s announcement that Starlink is now theoretically available in Iran, but experts say the plan is far from a censorship panacea. Musk’s latest headline-riding gambit came after Iran responded to the recent rash of nationwide protests with large-scale disruption of the country’s internet access. On Sep. 23, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken announced the U.S. was easing restrictions on technology exports to help counter Iranian state censorship efforts.
Musk, ready to pounce, quickly replied: “Activating Starlink …” Predictably, Musk’s dramatic tweet set off a frenzy. Within a day, venture capitalist and longtime Musk-booster Shervin Pishevar was already suggesting Musk had earned the Nobel Peace Prize. Just the thought of Starlink “activating” an uncensored internet for millions during a period of Middle Eastern political turmoil was an instant public relations coup for Musk.
In Iran, though, the notion of a benevolent American billionaire beaming freedom to Iran by satellite is derailed by the demands of reality. Anyone who wants to use Starlink, the satellite internet service provider operated by Musk’s rocketry concern, SpaceX, needs a special dish to send and receive internet data. While it may be possible to smuggle Starlink hardware into Iran, getting a meaningful quantity of satellite dishes into Iran would be an incredible undertaking, especially now that the Iranian government has been tipped off to the plan on Twitter. (9/27)
Spanish Startup Could Enter Direct-to-Cell Market (Source: Space News)
Spain’s Sateliot has thrown its hat into the ring for providing connectivity from satellites directly to standard mobile phones. The Spanish startup says satellite technology it is developing for small internet of things (IoT) devices could also be used to send and receive SMS messages from a regular handset. While providing direct-to-cell services was always part of the company’s strategy, according to Sateliot CEO Jaume Sanpera, he said the venture went public with the plan last week following a spike in interest for the capability.
Heavyweights SpaceX, Apple, and Chinese smartphone maker Huawei have recently announced their own direct-to-cell plans. However, on top of convincing smartphone makers to add a compatible chip into their designs, Sateliot also needs to secure more funds to deploy its planned constellation. The startup has enough funding to deploy its first five operational satellites next year, Sanpera told SpaceNews, and hopes to secure around $100 million for a full network of 250 satellites. (9/26)
Hungary's 4iG to Acquire Stake in Israel's Spacecom (Source: Space News)
Hungarian communications company 4iG plans to buy a majority stake in Israeli satellite operator Spacecom in stages following resistance from Israel's government. Israel's Ministry of Communications approved a plan by 4iG to buy an initial 20% of Spacecom. Under 4iG's agreement with Spacecom, it can increase its ownership by another 31% over the next three years if it can get approvals from the operator's shareholders and the Israeli government. While the companies announced the $65 million deal last year, the Israeli government raised concerns about foreign control of Spacecom, including 4iG's ties to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. (9/30)
Avanti to Pool Ka-Band Capacity with Turksat (Source: Space News)
Satellite operator Avanti Communications has secured its first major deal to use another regional satellite operator's capacity. Avanti announced this month a five-year partnership with Turksat to pool Ka-band capacity on two Avanti satellites as well as Turksat-5B. Avanti said the deal is part of efforts to expand its services in Africa, including a new managed service to help mobile operator customers bring connectivity to remote and hard-to-reach areas across sub-Saharan Africa. (9/26)
L3Harris FCA Billing 'At Least Reckless,' 3rd Circ. Told (Source: Law360)
A former L3Harris Technologies Inc. employee told the Third Circuit on Friday that his dismissed whistleblower claims targeting $10 million worth of improper billings for work on a Royal Australian Navy contract showed at least reckless disregard sufficient to keep the case alive in a lower court. (9/26)
Lockheed, Airbus Tell 4th Circ. Satellite Deal Not Commercial (Source: Law360)
Lockheed Martin and Airbus have urged the Fourth Circuit to ignore a broker's argument that a recent shipwreck salvage ruling supports its ability to pursue claims over a $3.1 billion South Korean military satellite deal, saying that salvage dispute isn't relevant. (9/26)
ESA Opens Retail Store in Rome (Source: ESA)
The European Space Agency is opening its first retail store in a shopping district in Rome. The ESA Space Shop, which will open Oct. 1 for three months, will sell clothes, memorabilia and other items associated with the agency. The store will also feature information about the agency itself as part of its outreach efforts. (9/29)
Kinder Joy Releases Space Toy (Source: CollectSpace)
A brand known for offering both candy and toys in a single package is offering a space-themed line. Kinder Joy, whose egg-shaped containers include both candy and a small toy, announced its space collection that features astronauts, spacecraft and rovers. The toys also "interact" with an augmented reality phone app that offers additional space-related features. The release of the toys is tied to World Space Week next week. (9/28)
How Netflix Series 'The Silent Sea' Recreated the Moon with Unreal Engine’s Tech (Source: Unreal Engine)
A widely acclaimed sci-fi mystery thriller, the Netflix series The Silent Sea stands out for its impressive, hyperrealistic recreation of space. Following successful Korean hits such as Squid Game, The Silent Sea also made it to the number one spot on the weekly Netflix Top 10 lists for non-English content. Westworld—a VFX studio located in South Korea daring to go beyond existing pipelines—is behind the show’s stunning visuals. The Silent Sea wasn’t Westworld’s first Unreal Engine project, but it was the first time they adopted in-camera VFX (ICVFX) using LED walls. The setting of the series, the lunar surface in outer space, has garnered rave reviews for its realism. (9/27)
What is this SPACErePORT?
The SPACErePORT is a free weekly chronicle for space industry insiders, investors, policy makers, and enthusiasts. It is distributed to ~1500 subscribers and is supplemented by a daily-updated SPACErePORT blog; a Twitter feed with 1800+ followers; and a spaceports-focused LinkedIn Group with ~300 members. (I also manage the National Space Club's Florida Committee LinkedIn and Twitter feeds.) If you appreciate this free resource, donations are encouraged using the PayPal tip jar, or Venmo using @Edward-Ellegood. I can also publish banner advertisements at affordable rates, or sometimes for free if I support the cause. Thanks!