October 26, 2020
Morgan Stanley Expects SpaceX will be a $100 Billion Company Thanks to Starlink and Starship (Source: CNBC)
Morgan Stanley doubled its long-term valuation estimate for Elon Musk’s SpaceX on Thursday, now expecting the company to be worth at least $100 billion some day. “SpaceX continues to solidify its place as ‘mission control’ for the emerging space economy,” Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas wrote.
In Morgan Stanley’s base case, SpaceX’s rockets business reaches an $11.7 billion valuation while its Starlink satellite internet business grows to $80.9 billion, and the company adds point-to-point space travel as an $8.7 billion value. The company also in August sought $2.1 billion in a new round of equity funding, which valued SpaceX at near $44 billion.
“The pieces are coming together for SpaceX to create an economic and technological flywheel,” Jonas said. “It is clear to investors and industry observers that SpaceX’s launch cost advantages are being used to accelerate deployment of its LEO broadband network. As the company achieves pole position in LEO, which many believe is a winner take most (if not winner take all) arena ... the promise of a viable and capable satellite broadband service increases, helping the company attract large amounts of capital at attractive rates, further enabling development of even more capable launch architectures (Starship) that further deepens and widens the moat in satellite launch costs.” (10/22)
SpaceX Could Top Lockheed, Boeing As Most Valuable Aerospace/Defense Firm (Source: Investor's Business Daily)
SpaceX's valuation could exceed the market caps of the top aerospace and defense stocks, according to Wall Street analysts, even overtaking Lockheed Martin and Boeing. Morgan Stanley now gives Elon Musk's SpaceX a base-case valuation of $101 billion. That's nearly double its prior base case of $52 billion estimated in July.
It's also more than double the $46 billion valuation implied from SpaceX's latest fundraising round in August, when it attracted $1.9 billion in new capital. The new valuation from Morgan Stanley puts SpaceX within close range of Lockheed Martin's $103 billion market cap, which makes it No. 1 among defense stocks. Meanwhile, Boeing's market cap sits at about $95.5 billion, having plunged during the 737 Max grounding and Covid-19 pandemic. Among other defense stocks, Raytheon Technologies is worth about $96 billion, Northrop Grumman $50.6 billion and General Dynamics $40 billion. (10/22)
SpaceX Keeps Winning US Military Contracts — Here's Why, According to an Aerospace Expert (Source: Business Insider)
SpaceX has secured three military contracts in as many months — and one aerospace expert believes the deals won't end there. The DoD increasingly wants to transport supplies faster, according to Steve Nutt at the University of Southern California. SpaceX can fulfill that need at a time when the US military is "retooling" because of growing global political tensions, Nutt told Business Insider.
"The rockets that SpaceX has been asked to supply would address that need — delivering hardware and support supplies rapidly to anywhere in the world," Nutt said. Traditional contractors have proven to be "so stodgy, slow, and expensive that SpaceX is the only alternative," he said. In August, SpaceX won a slice of a billion-dollar agreement to launch new rockets for the Space Force. Two months later, it secured a $149 million Pentagon contract to make satellites that can track missiles.
Then, less than a week later, on October 8, the US military said it was teaming up with SpaceX to build a rocket capable of delivering weapons around the world at 7,500 mph. A 7,652-mile journey from Florida to Afghanistan could be completed within about an hour with such a high-speed rocket. The DoD's need for speed is increasingly important. "The days of heavily armored tanks and lumbering trucks are fading," Nutt said, as they are "too easy to target and destroy." Theoretically, the military can quickly get in and out before enemy forces attack, reducing the risk of casualties and damage, he said. "Unfortunately, I think we're entering another arms race." (10/19)
Risk Cost SpaceX Its Slot On $2.2B Air Force Deal, Judge Says (Source: Law360)
A California federal judge in a newly unsealed decision ruled that the U.S. Air Force reasonably excluded SpaceX from $2.2 billion in space launch prototype deals after deciding the company's rivals better met its needs. The Air Force had rationally decided that the technical advantages of SpaceX's proposed rockets didn't overcome the risk and cost of the company's proposal, the judge ruled. (10/16)
Falcon 9 Investigation Ongoing as SpaceX Continues Starlink Launches (Source: Space News)
A SpaceX Falcon 9 launched another set of Starlink satellites Oct. 18 as the investigation into another Falcon 9 launch abort more than two weeks ago continues. That scrub led NASA to postpone a Falcon 9 launch of the Crew-1 commercial crew mission, which had been scheduled for Oct. 31. NASA announced Oct. 10 it was postponing the launch to the first half of November while the investigation into the scrub continues.
NASA's Tim Dunn said that there has been a “tremendous amount of testing” since the GPS 3 launch scrub, including taking the Merlin engines from that rocket back to SpaceX’s McGregor, Texas, test site for further study. That investigation has involved NASA and Space Force personnel working with SpaceX. He did not elaborate, though, on the specific problem with the engines or when either the GPS 3 or Crew-1 missions might launch. “We’ve learned a lot. There’s going to be some hardware implications as we move forward, depending on the engines installed on various rockets,” he said. (10/18)
SpaceX Lights Up Texas Site with Static Fire of Three-Engine Starship Stage (Source: Teslarati)
On Oct. 20, Starship SN8 ignited all three of its Raptors’ preburners, producing a spectacular fireball noticeably larger than the one produced during the rocket’s first October 19th preburner test. A mere two hours later, with no break in between, the steel rocket prototype fully ignited all three Raptor engines for the first time ever, likely producing thrust equivalent to ~90% of a nine engine Falcon 9 booster for a brief moment.
Crucially, aside from physically demonstrating Raptor’s multi-engine capabilities, Starship SN8 – already a first-of-a-kind prototype – completed and survived a static fire seemingly unscathed on its first attempt. If the data SpaceX gathers from the milestone is as good as the test appeared to be, the company could be just a few days away from installing Starship SN8’s recently-stacked nosecone, followed by a second triple-Raptor static fire test. If that second static fire goes well, SN8’s next task will be the first high-altitude Starship flight test. (10/20)
'Scrubtober' Continues for SpaceX and Rocket Lab (Sources: Orlando Sentinel, Rocket Lab)
SpaceX scrubbed a Starlink launch Thursday because of "mission assurance" activities. The company said it halted the countdown about 10 minutes before liftoff "to allow additional time for mission assurance work," which SpaceX CEO Elon Musk later said was after a camera on the upper stage malfunctioned. Musk said that SpaceX halted the launch "to re-examine whole vehicle just in case," and has not yet set a new launch date. Rocket Lab, meanwhile, has rescheduled an Electron launch scrubbed on Wednesday to next Wednesday. Company CEO Peter Beck said a "small issue with an oxygen sensor" prompted the original delay, and weather is projected to be unfavorable for the next few days. (10/22)
Launch Scrubs a Sign the System is Working (Source: Space News)
The recent spate of launch scrubs may be disappointing, but a Space Force official says they're evidence the system is working. Col. Douglas Pentecost, deputy director of the Space Force's Space and Missile Systems Center Launch Enterprise, said at a conference Thursday that scrubs involving SpaceX and United Launch Alliance rockets in recent weeks show that systems designed to detect potential problems are operating as designed. "We see that as a success," he said, by preventing a launch failure. (10/22)
SpaceX Launches Another Batch of Starlink Satellites on 100th Successful Mission (Sources: SpaceX, SpaceFlight Now)
SpaceX on Saturday morning launched 60 Starlink satellites to orbit from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The rocket's first stage, which landed successfully downrange on the “Just Read the Instructions” droneship, previously supported the GPS III Space Vehicle 03 mission in June 2020 and a Starlink mission in September 2020.
This mission also marked the 100th successful flight of a Falcon rocket since Falcon 1 first flew to orbit in 2008. SpaceX has landed a Falcon first stage rocket booster 63 times and re-flown boosters 45 times. This year, SpaceX twice accomplished the sixth flight of an orbital rocket booster. And, in the ten years since its demonstration mission, Falcon 9 has become the most-flown operational rocket in the United States, overtaking expendable rockets that have been launching for decades.
SpaceX did not try to catch the Falcon 9’s two-piece payload fairing as they fell back to Earth under parachutes. A nose cone structure damaged a net on one of SpaceX’s fairing recovery vessels on the company’s most recent launch Oct. 18. Instead, SpaceX dispatched one of the boats from its fleet to retrieve the fairing structures from the Atlantic Ocean for inspections, refurbishment, and potential use on a future flight. (10/24)
Blue Origin Trying to Convince the Air Force to Continue to Invest in New Glenn (Source: Space News)
Blue Origin is seeking Air Force support for its New Glenn launch vehicle despite losing a recent competition. The company received a $500 million Launch Service Agreement (LSA) in 2018 to support work on its New Glenn vehicle, but the company was not selected for one of two National Security Space Launch Phase 2 launch contracts in August.
The Air Force originally said the LSAs would be terminated with those companies that did not win a launch services contract, but the company says it's in discussions with the Air Force to retain funding to support efforts to certify the vehicle for national security missions. Doing so, the company argues, would provide the Defense Department with a third option for launching national security payloads in an emergency. (10/20)
Blue Origin Takes One Small Step Toward Being a Competitor to SpaceX (Source: The Hill)
Besides New Shepard, Blue Origin has two projects that, when brought to fruition, may make it a competitor to SpaceX, currently the most famous and likely most profitable entrepreneurial space launch company. New Glenn is a planned two-stage launch vehicle, said to have capabilities that are comparable to the Falcon Heavy and the Delta IV Heavy. Development of the heavy lift launch vehicle has been funded by Blue Origin CEO Jeff Bezos, as well as the US Air Force and the US Space Force.
The first stage will be reusable, so it will have to operate much like the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy first stage, in that it will return to Earth and land vertically. New Glenn is aimed at commercial, military and NASA markets. Currently, the first flight is scheduled for 2021. The Blue Moon lunar lander has a cargo and a crew variant, the latter of which is Blue Origin’s entree into the Human Landing System competition. The lunar lander is a three-stage vehicle, consisting of a transfer stage, a descent stage and an ascent stage that could put both cargo and astronauts on the lunar surface.
Blue Moon has received some NASA funding and, if it makes the further cut, will receive more. The lunar lander may become the vehicle that astronauts use to land on the moon as early as 2024. Blue Origin is also considering getting into the commercial space station business. NASA has suggested that when the International Space Station (ISS) reaches the end of its useful life, it would like to be a customer of commercial space stations, creating a new industry in low Earth orbit. (10/18)
Jeff Bezos’ Company Is Carrying Scientific Cargo to Space. It’s Not Amazon. (Source: New York Times)
West Texas is not quite like the moon. But it can serve as a handy stand-in. Last week Blue Origin launched — and landed — its small New Shepard rocket and capsule for the 13th time as part of tests to verify safety before any passengers climb aboard. One day, this will be New Shepard’s main business: flying well-to-do people above the 62-mile altitude generally considered the beginning of outer space where they will experience a few minutes of weightlessness as the capsule arcs.
Blue Origin is not a new company — Mr. Bezos founded it in 2000 — but for most of its existence, it operated in secret without generating much revenue. Three years ago, Mr. Bezos said he was selling a billion dollars a year in Amazon stock to finance Blue Origin’s research and development. And he has declared broad ambitions for its business, such as competing with Elon Musk’s SpaceX and others in the orbital launch business, building a moon lander for NASA astronauts and eventually making it possible for millions of people to live and work in space.
But the cargo of Tuesday’s launch from a test site near Van Horn, Texas, shows that the company is finding a more modest business in the short term: turning the reusable New Shepard rocket and capsule into an effective, and profitable, platform for testing new technologies and performing scientific experiments. Tucked under the collar at the top of the booster on Tuesday’s launch were prototypes of sensors that could help NASA astronauts safely reach the lunar surface in a few years. It is part of NASA’s Tipping Point program, which seeks to push innovative technologies. (10/19)
Lockheed Martin Optimistic for ULA Launch Pricing (Source: Space News)
One of United Launch Alliance's corporate owners says the company can now offer a "compelling" price for launch customers. Ken Possenriede, chief financial officer of Lockheed Martin, said in an earnings call Tuesday that ULA's pricing should ensure that it will get "its fair share of awards over SpaceX." Both ULA and SpaceX won national security launch contracts in August, with ULA 60% of future launches to SpaceX's 40%. Lockheed Martin, which owns 50% of ULA, is bullish about its space business overall, which accounts for about $12 billion of its $65 billion in annual sales. (10/21)
Virgin Orbit Is the Next Space Unicorn Stock (Source: Motley Fool)
Up until 2017, there was only one space unicorn in existence: SpaceX. A second unicorn appeared that year when small rocket manufacturer Rocket Lab passed the $1 billion-mark. This week, investors discovered a potential third space unicorn stock, with Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Orbit preparing to join the club. And yes, I said "Virgin Orbit." As distinguished from the better-known Virgin Galactic, Sir Richard Branson's publicly traded space tourism company, Virgin Orbit is a related company that has yet to IPO.
Virgin Orbit was established in 2017, the same year Rocket Lab became a unicorn. Perhaps not coincidentally, Virgin Orbit aims to directly compete against Rocket Lab in the small satellite launch market. Rocket Lab currently holds a leading position in this market. Despite having to play catch-up to market-leader Rocket Lab, some analysts consider Virgin Orbit "a front-runner" in the market for small satellite launch.
After all, Virgin Orbit's method of accessing space promises several advantages over ground-based launches. For one thing, it's cheap -- estimated at about $10 million to $12 million to launch a 500-kilogram payload into Low Earth Orbit. For another thing, it's flexible. Because an airplane can theoretically fly to any point on Earth before launching its payload, and point itself in any direction desired once it gets there, it can target essentially any orbital trajectory that a customer desires. The company's upcoming funding round, which is scheduled to close before the end of this year, aims to raise "between $150 million to $200 million" by offering shares valuing the business at "around $1 billion," reports The Wall Street Journal. (10/21)
Firefly Aerospace Aims for First Launch From California in Late December (Source: CNBC)
Firefly Aerospace currently plans for its maiden Alpha rocket launch to happen as early as Dec. 22, co-founder and CEO Tom Markusic told CNBC. Standing at 95 feet tall, Firefly’s Alpha rocket is designed to launch as much as 1,000 kilograms of payload to low Earth orbit – at a price of $15 million per launch. Markusic is confident in the launch date because of the “rigid” requirements of Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, where Firefly is finishing up work to prepare the launchpad at SLC-2.
While “everything is susceptible to surprises,” with room in the schedule to launch as late as Jan. 31, Markusic said the “full gamut of rules” at Vandenberg means the company has put extra work into certification for Alpha’s first launch. “We took the hard route to flight, and that was by going to a launch range that has very strict requirements,” Markusic said. “So our design has been highly vetted, as we have a lot of requirements that are put on us by the range and that makes the rocket ultimately more reliable. “I think it’s very reasonable for us to expect complete success on the first launch,” Markusic added. (10/23)
Firefly's Alpha Launch Vehicle: Designing Performance In, Cost Out (Source: Composites World)
Firefly Aerospace’s all-composite Alpha small-satellite launch vehicle is scheduled for its first launch by the end of 2020. The rocket was originally conceived by Firefly Space Systems, which filed for bankruptcy in 2017. The intellectual property and assets of Firefly Space Systems were subsequently purchased by Dr. Max Polyakov’s Noosphere Ventures, which recapitalized and reopened it as Firefly Aerospace the same year.
The original Alpha vehicle was an all-composite, 6-foot-diameter rocket, with a payload capacity of 300 to 500 kilograms. In the reopening, the company decided that the new version of the launch vehicle, which can be referred to as Alpha 2.0, would be viable in the market only if it could carry a 1,000-kilogram payload, filling a need for launching mid-sized satellites to low Earth orbit (LEO).
In addition to increasing Alpha’s payload capacity, according to Jeff Duncan, Stage One airframe engineer, one of Firefly’s goals, for Alpha and for the company overall, is to take scientifically proven rocket technology and evolve it into a high-performance, relatively low-cost system (Alpha, for example, costs about $15 million per launch). Accordingly, Firefly Aerospace has spent the past three years designing, building, testing and qualifying the Alpha 2.0 rocket. Click here. (10/20)
Firefly Signs New Customer Ahead of First Launch (Source: Firefly)
Firefly Aerospace has signed a Launch Services Agreement (LSA) with Spire Global (Spire) for the launch of Lemur spacecraft on the Alpha launch vehicle. The LSA will provide for the launch of Spire spacecraft on multiple Alpha missions over the contract period. Firefly has also executed an LSA with Geometric Space Corporation for the full payload capacity of an Alpha launch vehicle. Firefly also announced the successful acceptance test of the first stage of its Alpha launch vehicle for its inaugural flight later this year, at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California (10/20)
TriSept to Launch Army Cubesat with Rocket Lab (Source: Space News)
TriSept will fly a U.S. Army cubesat on an Electron rocket. TriSept will act as the launch broker and integration manager for a three-unit cubesat technology demonstration mission called Gunsmoke-J, scheduled to launch in February 2021 on an Electron from New Zealand. The U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command is developing Gunsmoke-J to test technologies "relevant to U.S. Army warfighter needs" that could be used on future satellites. (10/21)
Lockheed Picks Relativity’s 3D-Printed Rocket for Experimental NASA Mission (Source: Tech Crunch)
Relativity Space has bagged its first public government contract, and with a major defense contractor at that. The launch startup’s 3D-printed rockets are a great match for a particularly complex mission Lockheed is undertaking for NASA’s Tipping Point program. The mission is a test of a dozen different cryogenic fluid management systems, including liquid hydrogen, which is a very difficult substance to work with indeed. The tests will take place on a single craft in orbit, which means it will be a particularly complicated one to design and accommodate.
The payload itself and its cryogenic systems will be designed and built by Lockheed and their partners at NASA, of course, but the company will need to work closely with its launch provider during development and especially in the leadup to the actual launch. Relativity founder and CEO Tim Ellis explained that the company’s approach of 3D printing the entire rocket top to bottom is especially well suited for this. “We’re building a custom payload fairing that has specific payload loading interfaces they need, custom fittings and adapters,” he said. “It still needs to be smooth, of course — to a lay person it will look like a normal rocket,” he added. (10/19)
ABL Space Systems Tests Launch Vehicle Stage (Source: Space News)
Small launch vehicle developer ABL Space Systems announced Oct. 22 that it has started a series of static-fire tests of the upper stage of its vehicle, putting the company on track for a first launch in 2021. The company said it performed integrated stage testing of the upper stage of its RS1 vehicle at Edwards Air Force Base in California. That test included fueling of the stage, refining startup sequences and firing its single E2 engine. (10/22)
Draper Signs Agreement to Provide Software for Stratolaunch's Hypersonic Vehicle (Source: Space Daily)
Precision guidance and navigation is critical to success and safety in spaceflight. Today, as Stratolaunch builds its next generation vehicle for hypersonic flight test, it will be guided by flight software developed by Draper. "As with Draper's past contributions to the U.S. space program, Draper's engineers are proud to develop a key component of Stratolaunch's hypersonic vehicle-guidance, navigation and control (GN&C) software," said Neil Adams, Draper's principal director of space systems. (10/16)
Spaceplane Catalyst (Source: Aerospace America)
No one without the right clearance knows exactly what the U.S. Air Force’s X-37B spaceplanes do in orbit, but it must be a lot given the cumulative years they’ve spent up there. The vehicles are sparking a resurgence of interest in spaceplanes as a necessary ingredient for expanding society to space. The vehicles are serving as an advertisement for the type of spaceplane likely to play an increasingly important role as entrepreneurs, Fortune 500 companies and NASA managers seek to extend the Earthly economy, and someday possibly even our society, into orbit.
“You can count on spaceplanes flying people and cargo to the edge of space or to low-Earth orbit and back very soon,” predicts Bobby Braun, a former NASA chief technologist and now director for planetary science for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. “Spaceplanes are here, and they’re here to stay.”
Not everyone considers X-37B, SpaceShipTwo and Dream Chaser spaceplanes. Some preserve the term for single-stage-to-orbit vehicles that take off from a runway, travel to orbit and return to a runway. Others include air-launched spacecraft as long as they have wings to maneuver and glide through Earth’s atmosphere on the way back from orbit to a runway. If vehicles that fit those definitions are eventually built and flown hundreds of times with minimal repair and maintenance between flights, they could slash the cost of space transportation and speed point-to-point travel on Earth. (10/21)
A New Day for Oklahoma's Spaceport? (Source: The Oklahoman)
The Oklahoma Space Industry Development Authority has had little to show for itself since its creation by the Legislature in 1999. Might that be about to change? Those now involved with the authority believe the answer is yes, as they are setting out on a new course intended to make the state’s spaceport more than simply a massive landing strip in western Oklahoma.
The authority’s executive director, Craig Smith, whose background is in communications and public affairs, said he believes OSIDA’s future is bright. He and his colleagues, Smith told Denwalt, are “just waiting for our friends, the manufacturers, our space partners, to recognize the capability that we have.” If that happens, it will have been a long, long time in coming. (10/21)
Mojave Spaceport Chief Steps Down (Source: Bakersfield Californian)
The head of Mojave Air and Space Port plans to step down. Karina Drees announced she plans to leave after completing her five-year contract as CEO of the airport and commercial spaceport early next year, but will remain until the airport's board selects a replacement. Mojave hosts a number of companies that are or have been involved in commercial space activities, including Virgin Galactic, Masten Space Systems, Scaled Composites and Stratolaunch. (10/22)
Why Hasn't Space Tourism Taken Off? (Source: The Guardian)
Listening to Richard Branson over the past 20 years, you'd be forgiven for assuming that space was by now being frequented by lots of tourists. However, despite the Virgin Galactic chief's optimism, the space tourism industry has yet to take off. Up to now there have been only seven self-funded citizens in space. And with billionaires such as Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk in the space race, why are there still no tourists in space? Click here. (10/22)
Bill Would formally Give Space Traffic Management to Commerce Department (Source: Space News)
A bill introduced in the Senate Wednesday would formally transfer civil space traffic management (STM) responsibilities to the Commerce Department. The Space Preservation and Conjunction Emergency (SPACE) Act, introduced by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), would codify elements of Space Policy Directive 3 that assigned Commerce responsibility for civil STM, and elevate the Office of Space Commerce to a bureau within the Commerce Department. The bill authorizes $15 million for the office in 2021, but funding would have to come from a separate appropriations bill. (10/22)
Space Weather Bill Signed Into Law (Source: Space Policy Online)
A space weather bill has finally been signed into law. President Trump signed the Promoting Research and Observations of Space Weather to Improve the Forecasting of Tomorrow, or PROSWIFT, Act Wednesday, more than a month after its passage by the House. The Senate passed the bill in July. The bill codifies elements of an existing space weather strategy and action plan. In a signing statement, Trump said he believed elements of the bill could limit his discretion to conduct the nation's foreign affairs, but did not elaborate on those provisions. He added that he believed the bill did not do enough to address space weather's effects on national security and critical infrastructure. (10/23)
The Next Environmental Crisis Could Be in Space (Source: Axios)
An unexpected frontier is facing calls for new environmental regulations and cleanup: outer space. Space junk clutters up orbits and poses an urgent threat to weather, security, communications and other satellites. Long-term, you can’t live or work in space if trash is literally slamming into you. While there are recommendations in place to help govern when and how satellites are de-orbited once their operational lives are over, it's not enough, according to experts.
Experts are working to come up with new models to understand exactly how different types of spacecraft and materials move in orbit in order to make tracking more effective. A team at the University of Texas is trying to quantify the "carrying capacity" of certain orbits in order to know exactly how many satellites can and should launch to various parts of space at any time, potentially allowing that to govern when and if certain constellations can launch. They are calling for better international collaboration on the space junk problem, with the U.S. lagging behind others like Europe in addressing the issue in innovative ways. (10/20)
How Space Technology Can Help fight Global Crises (Source: Your Story)
Chances are that the COVID-19 pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus is the only thing you have heard or read about from all possible sources in the past few months. The rampaging disease has virtually paralyzed daily life as we know it. The prevailing threat to human order of life is so enormous that there is a need to use every available measure to defeat this crisis.
However, there remains another option that has perhaps not been fully utilized to its potential -- space technology. Advances made in space technology today allow for a multitude of applications. Click here. (10/22)
The Elysium Effect: The Coming Backlash to the Billionaire 'NewSpace' Revolution (Source: Space.com)
In the 2013 film "Elysium," Earth's wealthiest 0.01% move to the ultimate gated community, a luxurious orbiting space colony, leaving a poverty-stricken humanity to fend for themselves on a ravaged planet. Interestingly, it is indeed some of today's 0.1% who are leading the way into space to build communities beyond Earth. However, quite the opposite of the movie, their goals are of the highest order, from democratizing access to space by lowering costs, to creating new products and ideas, to helping save the planet and opening space to future generations.
Yet, given the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, social justice and green movements, even as entrepreneurs like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson spend billions to support a human breakout into space, there is a backlash building that holds these projects as icons of extravagance — even as their work may help save the Earth. This is the "Elysium effect."
Prodded by the tears in our social fabric revealed by the coronavirus pandemic and the social justice movement now underway, the Elysium effect will escalate dramatically after the 2020 presidential election, as a rising "green generation" of socially active post millennials begins a long needed cultural shift towards planetary stewardship. The mood will become increasingly anti-waste, anti-greed and anti-corporate, as social agendas blend with environmental goals. Click here. (10/24)
Senior Space Officials Met to “War Game” Biden Administration Space Policy (Source: Ars Technica)
On Tuesday about a dozen space officials met virtually to simulate how a National Space Council might operate during a Joe Biden administration, should the Democratic Party nominee win the 2020 presidential election. The American Foreign Policy Council convened what it characterized as a "closed-door" and "scenario-based simulation" to understand how the Biden administration would think through important space events.
Invitations were sent to officials in the aerospace industry whom the Biden administration might call upon as advisers or to fill key leadership roles. The event was not organized at the behest of the Biden campaign. Invitations to would-be participants explained that they would be assigned various roles to play, such as NASA administrator and the head of other agencies such as the Department of Defense and Department of Commerce. The participants would then act as a "National Space Council" to war-game scenarios.
"The simulation moderator will provide anticipatable year-by-year headlines, and members of the National Space Council will roleplay and discuss how they would react in each situation," the invitation stated. "We are hoping to field about 12 individuals with expertise across the space enterprise who could convincingly role-play interests and responses, and develop ideas for anticipatory policy under a democratic administration and individuals likely to be part of the brain trust of such an administration." (10/22)
NASA Grabs Asteroid Sample in Agency First (Source: Space News)
NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft successfully touched down on the surface of asteroid Bennu Tuesday. The spacecraft briefly touched the surface at 6:12 p.m. Eastern, its sample collection system making contact for a handful of seconds before the spacecraft pulled away as planned. The touch-and-go, or TAG, maneuver, appeared to go as expected, but project officials said it will be several days before they know exactly how much material the spacecraft collected during that attempt. OSIRIS-REx has a goal of collecting at least 60 grams of asteroid material for return to Earth, but is capable of gathering up far more. (10/21)
NASA Confident That Asteroid Sample Was Captured (Source: Space News)
NASA is confident that the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft collected samples when it touched down on the surface of asteroid Bennu Tuesday. Project officials released images Wednesday taken during the "touch-and-go" sample collection effort. The spacecraft touched down within one meter of the target, and conditions at the site led them to conclude that the sampling mechanism likely collected small rocks and dust there. Scientists won't know exactly how much material it collected until after performing some additional tests in the coming days. If the sampling effort met the mission's goal of gathering at least 60 grams of material, the project will wrap up its science activities around Bennu and prepare to return the samples to Earth. (10/22)
Too Much Caught: Bennu Samples Leaking From OSIRIS Probe (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
The sampling mechanism on NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is stuffed with specimens captured from asteroid Bennu earlier this week — so full that some of the rocks are floating out into space. Officials said Friday they will stow the samples inside the mission’s Earth return capsule sooner than planned to minimize the loss of asteroid material.
“We had a successful sample collection attempt, almost too successful,” said Dante Lauretta, the mission’s principal investigator from the University of Arizona. “Material is escaping, and we’re expediting stow as a result of that.” NASA’s $1 billion Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer aims to become the first U.S. spacecraft to complete a round-trip journey to an asteroid. (10/23)
TAG, Bennu, You’re It (Source: Space Review)
On Tuesday, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will attempt to touch down on the surface of asteroid Bennu and collect samples for return to Earth. Jeff Foust reports on how this effort, already technically challenging, has turned out to be even more difficult than originally expected. Click here. (10/19)
NASA's Big Plans to Explore Small Bodies (Source: NASA)
Not all asteroids are the same. But scientists believe that asteroids similar to Bennu could have seeded Earth with water and organic compounds, and may be potentially rich in those resources and precious metals that could be valuable to humanity in the future to help power exploration of the solar system by robots and humans. Scientists are also eager to find more potentially hazardous asteroids, to learn more about their orbits and physical characteristics, and to develop potential protective measures to mitigate dangers posed to Earth.
In the next few years NASA will be launching several ambitious missions to study unique asteroids to fill in more pieces of the cosmic puzzle. The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) and Lucy missions will launch in July and October 2021, respectively. The Psyche mission follows closely with a 2022 launch date. And while New Horizons continues to investigate the Kuiper Belt following its rewarding flybys of Pluto and Arrokoth, the latest asteroid-bound mission, Janus, is in development. OSIRIS-REx is scheduled to begin its journey back to Earth in 2021 with return in 2023. (10/19)
JWST Launch Planned for October 2021 (Source: Space News)
NASA says the James Webb Space Telescope remains on schedule for a launch in a little more than a year. A program official said Monday that JWST had adequate schedule reserve for a launch at the end of October 2021. The telescope recently completed a final set of environmental tests and is now going through a series of deployment tests before it is packaged for shipment. The mission is still dealing with some technical issues, such as ongoing concerns that residual air inside the Ariane 5's payload fairing during launch could overstress parts of JWST's sunshield. (10/20)
NASA, Human Lunar Lander Companies Complete Key Artemis Milestone (Source: NASA)
NASA’s Human Landing System (HLS) Program recently checked off a key milestone in its progress toward landing the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024. The HLS Program conducted Certification Baseline Reviews (CBR) with the three U.S. companies competing to provide landers that will deliver Artemis astronauts to the Moon. These virtual meetings were the culmination of critical work by NASA and the companies since NASA announced the base period selections in April.
Since then, NASA has worked closely with the Blue Origin-led team, Dynetics, and SpaceX to better understand their human landing system proposals and approach for the agency’s Artemis program. The primary purpose of the CBRs was to finalize the functional and performance requirements for the companies’ landing system designs, confirm the standards to be applied to lander development, establish the baseline designs, schedules, and management plans for HLS contract execution and human spaceflight certification. Dr. Lisa Watson-Morgan, the HLS program manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, chaired the CBR board that approved the certification baseline for each contractor.
Seeking to leverage NASA’s human spaceflight experience and the commercial sector’s speed and innovation, the agency specified a concept of operations and high-level requirements and standards but did not dictate approach or design, allowing the contractors to propose their own designs. This was a departure from NASA’s traditional procurement approach of providing contractors with highly detailed specifications for building spacecraft hardware. (10/22)
Orion Spacecraft Ready to Return Humans to Deep Space (Source: Space Daily)
The anticipated return to deep space in 2024 for the first time in nearly 50 years brings a unique set of challenges that only one spacecraft on the planet currently can meet, officials with Lockheed Martin said at a global space event this week. Life support and radiation shielding systems on NASA's Orion spacecraft, built by Lockheed, make it qualified for deep space missions -- those beyond low-Earth orbit where the International Space Station is situated, said Shelby Hopkins, senior systems engineer for Lockheed's Orion program. (10/16)
Masten Space Systems Awarded Two NASA Tipping Point Contracts (Source: Masten)
NASA and Masten Space Systems announced that the Space Technology Mission Directorate has chosen Masten for two Tipping Point awards as part of the agency’s Artemis mission to return to the Moon. The first award is for Masten’s Metal Oxidation Warming System (MOWS) which is being developed in partnership with Penn State as a chemical heating solution to help spacecraft survive in sunlight-deprived lunar environments. The second award will drive completion of Masten’s state-of-the-art aerospace testbed, named Xogdor, to provide the industry an updated flight test analog for critical Artemis technologies. (10/21)
NASA and Dept. of Energy Renew R&D Ties for Space Nuclear Power (Source: Space News)
NASA and the Department of Energy have signed a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) regarding cooperation. The MOU, announced Tuesday, establishes an executive committee of officials from NASA and the Department of Energy who will study potential cooperation in space nuclear power for the moon and Mars, as well as other technologies. The two agencies have discussed expanding cooperation that has traditionally been limited to nuclear power systems flown on NASA missions, while the Department of Energy has been working to expand its presence in the space field in general. (10/21)
Ultra Safe Nuclear Technologies Delivers Advanced Nuclear Thermal Propulsion Design To NASA (Source: USNC-Tech)
Ultra Safe Nuclear Technologies (USNC-Tech) has delivered a design concept to NASA as part of a study on nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) flight demonstration. NTP technology provides unprecedented high-impulse thrust performance for deep space missions such as crewed missions to the moon and Mars. The NASA-sponsored study, managed by Analytical Mechanics Associates (AMA), explored NTP concepts and designs enabling deep space travel.
"Key to USNC-Tech's design is a conscious overlap between terrestrial and space reactor technologies," explained Dr. Paolo Venneri, CEO of USNC-Tech. "This allows us to leverage the advancements in nuclear technology and infrastructure from terrestrial systems and apply them to our space reactors." A prime example of this is the nuclear fuel at the core of the USNC-Tech NTP concept.
The USNC-Tech NTP concept uses a specialized variation of USNC's FCM™ fuel, featuring high-assay low-enriched Uranium (HALEU) ZrC-encapsulated fuel particles. This variation enables high-temperature operation while maintaining the integrity of the fuel. FCM fuel is extremely rugged, enabling a new family of inherently safe space-optimized reactor designs that ensure astronaut safety and environmental protection. (10/19)
Artemis: What it Means for Luxembourg (Source: US Embassy in Luxembourg)
First and foremost, it not only recognizes the role of commercial and sustained lunar exploration and resource development – it makes that a priority. Second, the Artemis program mandates NASA work to make humanity’s return to the moon a global one. This is at the heart of how Luxembourg became a key player in this program: NASA is looking at Luxembourg’s new and successful model of a space agency which aspires to foster commercial opportunities and partnerships.
Space exploration used to be an exclusive province of a handful of Government space agencies solely reliant on public funding to achieve national objectives. That is rapidly changing. Increasingly, commercial enterprises are defining the goals for the use of outer space. The commercial sector will be a critical component of Artemis, ensuring a sustainable presence on the Moon.
Amid the growth of the commercial space sector, Luxembourg has been closely watching, and several years ago identified this nascent industry as a potential and significant contributor to its national economy, putting it on the vanguard of countries involved in this next chapter of space exploration. (10/21)
Japan to Select Lunar Astronauts (Source: NHK)
Japan will select a new group of astronauts as it prepares for lunar missions. Science minister Hagiuda Koichi said Friday a new class of astronauts is needed as the country anticipates participating in NASA's Artemis lunar exploration program, which could include opportunities for Japanese astronauts to fly to the moon in the late 2020s. Japan's current astronaut corps has an average age of 51, and nearly half will reach retirement age by the late 2020s. (10/23)
Astronaut Requirements Changing Rapidly with Private Spaceflyers, Long-Duration Missions (Source: Space.com)
Being an astronaut of the 2020s will be completely different than it was for any astronaut that came before. The spaceflight environment is rapidly changing due to several different factors. The International Space Station (ISS) is pushing harder into commercialization and will soon be welcoming more and larger space agency crews on commercial crew vehicles while bringing in a few private astronauts.
Meanwhile, NASA and its international partners are preparing for the next phase of human spaceflight missions after the ISS, which they hope will include moon landings in 2024 and eventual astronaut excursions to Mars. Also in the next few years, private companies such as Virgin Galactic hope to send paying astronauts on suborbital flights, in a bid to open up space to more people besides professional astronauts.
This is all quite a different environment from when the ISS housed the first long-duration crew in October 2000, which was 20 years ago this month. The demands of astronauts are quickly changing and evolving as the science progresses, even between missions, former NASA astronaut Cady Coleman said. The newer shift in astronaut training, he added, is getting ready for the proliferation of new spacecraft — including SpaceX's Crew Dragon, Boeing's Starliner and NASA's Orion spacecraft. This will add on to the Russian Soyuz spacecraft that currently ferries astronauts to space. (10/18)
NASA Just Picked a Winner in its Space-Toilet Competition (Source: Business Insider)
Before NASA can fly astronauts to the moon, it must design a toilet for the crew. The agency's "Lunar Loo" contest offered $20,000 for a space toilet design that would work both in microgravity and on the lunar surface. The space agency announced the contest winner this week, as well as the designs that took second and third place.
All submissions had to work for male and female astronauts of varying heights and weights, and weigh less than 33 lbs (15 kg) in Earth's gravity. "Bonus points will be awarded to designs that can capture vomit without requiring the crew member to put his/her head in the toilet," NASA's guidelines said. The contest received over 2,000 entries from around the world.
On Thursday, NASA announced the winners. First place went to a team that designed a toilet they call the Translunar Hypercritical Repository 1 (THRONE). The team, led by Washington-based engineer Boone Davidson, based its design on advice from former astronaut Susan Helms. That toilet won $20,000 in prize money, and the two runners up also got cash prizes. (10/24)
Self Sufficiency is the Acid Test for Mars Settlement (Source: The Independent)
Elon Musk believes a Mars settlement needs to be complete before a cataclysmic event takes place on Earth. “Civilization’s not looking super strong, it’s looking a little rickety right now," he says. Establishing self sufficiency would therefore be the ultimate benchmark of success for any colonization of Mars. “It’s helpful to have as the objective the creation of a self-sustaining city on Mars… Not simply a few people or a base, but a self-sustaining city,” he said. "The acid test really is, if the ships from Earth stop coming for any reason, does Mars die out? If it does, then we’re not in a secure place.” (10/20)
Nanoracks' Bishop Airlock Cycles Pre-Purchased by NASA and ESA (Source: Space Daily)
Nanoracks says both NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) have pre-purchased Bishop Airlock Cycles for agency and third-party use. The Nanoracks Bishop Airlock, launching this Fall to the International Space Station (ISS), is the first-ever commercially built, owned, and operated airlock on the ISS and provides five times the existing payload volume currently available on station. ESA has pre-purchased five airlock cycles, and NASA six, with an option for four additional cycles at a discounted rate. (10/21)
Twenty Years of Human Presence on Space Station (Source: Space Daily)
Join us for the most out-of-this-world work out as NASA celebrates 20 years of continuous human presence on the International Space Station. Lace up your running shoes and get outside, hop on the treadmill or work out however you envision a 91 minute and 12 second workout. The space station orbits Earth every 91 minutes and 12 seconds. Think your workout can beat one station orbit? Just for fun and to participate in the virtual race - simply track your start time and workout for 91 minutes and 12 seconds - to "beat" the space station by completing the workout before the station makes one orbit.
Just for fun and to participate in the virtual race - simply track your start time and workout for 91 minutes and 12 seconds - to "beat" the space station by completing the workout before the station makes one orbit. "Considering our ties to the orbiting laboratory, we want to celebrate 20 years of human presence on the space station," said Dwight Mosby, Payload Mission Operations Division Manager. "We want to encourage folks to pause and consider all the research that has gone on for 20 years and the benefits to each of us on Earth."
For almost 20 years, since the Expedition 1 crew arrived Nov. 2, 2000, humans have lived and worked continuously aboard the space station. This orbiting laboratory has advanced capabilities in long-duration human space operations and in conducting scientific research and technology development in space. Sweatin' with the Station honors the many accomplishments of 20 years of human presence aboard the space station. The station remains the sole, space-based proving ground, greatly enabling NASA to go forward to the Moon and Mars. (10/19)
What Happens When NASA Retires the International Space Station? (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Michael Suffredini knows what he knows: how to build and operate space stations. He also knows the U.S. government will never build another station for low-Earth orbit. So after two decades of working on the International Space Station, Suffredini left NASA in 2015 and co-founded Houston-based Axiom Space. He’s among those working on a succession plan for the beloved space station that, on Nov. 2, will celebrate 20 uninterrupted years of sheltering humans some 250 miles above the Earth.
NASA believes the orbiting lab will survive at least another 10 years, and there’s precedent for long-lasting space hardware. The Hubble Space Telescope recently celebrated 30 years in space. The Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft, launched in 1977, are still sending information to Earth. But eventually, the space station’s parts will wear down and its technology will become outdated. “The wear and tear on hardware is a real thing,” said Brendan Curry, chief of Washington operations for the Planetary Society, “and space is an environment that is constantly trying to, one way or the other, kill you or kill your hardware.” (10/23)
Axiom Space Finalizing First Commercial ISS Mission (Source: Space News)
Axiom Space hopes to soon finalize its first commercial mission to the International Space Station, scheduled for late 2021, as it continues development of a commercial module for the station. Michael Suffredini, president and chief executive of Axiom Space, said his company had lined up the the customers for that first mission, a 10-day flight to the space station on a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2021.
That mission is expected to feature three customers along with one Axiom astronaut, Michael Lopez-Alegria, a former NASA astronaut. Axiom has not disclosed who those customers are, although there has been widespread speculation that they will include the actor Tom Cruise. NASA previously confirmed it has been in discussions with Cruise about shooting a movie on the station.
Axiom Space is using missions like this as precursors to the series of commercial modules that it is building for the station, after winning a NASA competition to access a docking port there in January. Those modules will form the core of a commercial space station that will detach from the ISS when it reaches the end of its life, currently projected to be 2028 to 2030. (10/23)
Three Tissue Engineering Projects for ISS Experiments Awarded (Source: Space Daily)
The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced three flight projects that were selected as part of a joint solicitation focused on leveraging the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory to further knowledge in the fields of tissue engineering and mechanobiology.
Through this collaboration, CASIS, manager of the ISS National Lab, will facilitate hardware implementation, in-orbit access, and astronaut crew time on the orbiting laboratory. NSF invested $1.2 million in the selected projects, which are seeking to advance fundamental science and engineering knowledge for the benefit of life on Earth.
This is the third collaborative research opportunity between CASIS and NSF focused on tissue engineering. Fundamental science is a major line of business for the ISS National Lab, and by conducting research in the persistent microgravity environment offered by the orbiting laboratory, NSF and the ISS National Lab will drive new advances that will bring value to our nation and spur future inquiries in low Earth orbit. Microgravity affects organisms-from viruses and bacteria to humans, inducing changes such as altered gene expression and DNA regulation, changes in cellular function and physiology, and 3D aggregation of cells. (10/20)
A Busted Toilet Kicked Off a Seriously Crappy Night on the ISS (Source: Gizmodo)
It was another long night aboard the International Space Station, as the crew had to deal with a series of minor problems, in what is starting to sound like a broken record. They’re more of an annoyance, but annoyances on the ISS seem to be in an abundance these days. The first problem to emerge last night was a broken toilet located in the Russian segment.
Ground controllers suspect the issue is an air bubble that formed in the system. An update from AFP suggests the toilet problem has since been fixed. Had it not been fixed, however, the cosmonauts could have relieved themselves in a toilet located in their Soyuz-MS-16 spacecraft, which is currently docked to the ISS. Failing that, they could’ve politely asked NASA for access to its fancy new $23 million toilet, the Universal Waste Management System, which arrived at the ISS earlier this month. If those options were somehow out, the crew could’ve just worn diapers normally used during spacewalks. (10/20)
Tape Used to Temporarily Patch 1-Inch ISS Crack (Source: Sputnik)
"The analysis of the photos suggests that the tear in the Zvezda Service Module is between two and four centimeters long. Cosmonaut [Sergey] Ryzhikov taped it with Kapton [a special tape]," a source told Sputnik). Earlier in the day, one of the crew members, cosmonaut Ivan Vagner reported to the ground force that the crew had found a makeshift solution for the leak which would be to tape it with Kapton, an adhesive film developed by DuPont in the late Sixties which can exist between -269 and 400 degrees centigrade. (10/19)
Air Leak Rate at Russia's ISS Zvezda Module Halves After Crack Sealed with Tape (Source: Sputnik)
The air leak rate in the Russian Zvezda module of the International Space Station has halved after the crack in the intermediate compartment was sealed with tape, according to the crew's communication with Earth, broadcast by NASA. On Friday, cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin informed the Moscow-based Mission Control Centre that the pressure in the compartment had declined by 52 mm Hg to 681 mm Hg over 11.5 hours, while the leak rate had fallen to 4 mm per hour from 7-9 mm per hour. The cosmonaut noted that the pressure continued to fall, but at a slower pace. He also suggested trying US patches to seal the crack. (10/19)
ISS Astronauts Return to Earth (Source: CBS)
A Soyuz spacecraft landed in Kazakhstan Wednesday night, returning three people from the International Space Station. The Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft landed at 10:54 p.m. Eastern, nearly three and a half hours after undocking from the station. The Soyuz returned to Earth NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, who spent 196 days in space. Remaining on the station are NASA's Kate Rubins and Roscosmos' Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, who arrived at the station last week for a six-month stay. (10/22)
Space Force Gets House Caucus (Source: Space News)
The Space Force is also getting a House caucus. The Space Force Caucus will be chaired by Reps. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) and Kendra Horn (D-OK), and will serve as "the chief advocate for our nation's exciting new service" in the House, Lamborn said. A group of senators established a similar caucus there last month. (10/21)
HASC Chairman Concerned About DoD Pandemic Stimulus Spending's Lack of Stimulus to Small Biz (Source: Space News)
The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee says that the Pentagon's pandemic stimulus efforts don't appear to be effective. Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) said Wednesday that he was concerned that funding provided to the Defense Department in a stimulus bill this spring wasn't really helping smaller companies in the defense industrial base. "Large corporations will find a way to gobble it up," he said. The Pentagon has estimated it needs an additional $10 billion to $20 billion to reimburse contractors for coronavirus-related expenses and to ensure companies can continue to carry out DoD programs. (10/22)
HASC Chairman: Space Force Has Bigger Worries Than Having to Use Navy Ranks (Source: Space News)
The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said Space Force leaders so far have not pushed back against proposed legislation that would require the space service to use the Navy’s rank structure. The Space Force “has not contacted me directly” about this issue, HASC Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) said.
Smith said he did not consider this a front-burner issue, and he commended the Space Force for not engaging lawmakers about the amendment even though service leaders are known to be opposed to using naval ranks. “That tells me their priorities are in the right place,” Smith said. (10/21)
Raymond Building Culture of Urgency Into New Space Force (Source: The Gazette)
Gen. Jay Raymond has talked about it for years and now he’s emblazoning as the one-word mantra for the 10-month old Space Force he leads. Speed. As Chief Space Officer, Raymond is building speed into the very culture of the new service and ensuring its new recruits get the message in basic training. America will win in orbit only if it can make faster decisions, rapidly develop new spacecraft and new tactics, and have troops who understand the urgency required in the future, he says.
“One of the things we want to get after is speed,” Raymond told the Gazette. Raymond, who now works at the Pentagon atop the Space Force, spent much of the past year commuting between Washington D.C. and Colorado Springs as he led the Air Force's space efforts amid the transition to a new service. He said Air Force Space Command, which he led before it was transitioned to the Space Force, gave him a solid legacy to build on. (10/23)
What Would a Realistic Space Battle Look Like? (Source: Universe Today)
For the next 50 years or so, any conflicts in space will involve attacks on satellites. But not everything will be an outright attack. The authors of an Aerospace Corp. paper outline four objectives in a space attack: 1) deceive an enemy so that they react in ways that hurt their interests; 2) disrupt, deny, or degrade an enemy’s ability to use a space capability, either temporarily or permanently; 3) destroy completely a space-based capability; and 4) deter or defend against a counter-attacking adversary, either in space or on Earth.
Satellites move very predictably. They move quickly, but it’s relatively easy to predict their future position and to intercept them, in many cases. Some satellites can change their orbital height, but they have no real maneuverability and almost no way to avoid an attack. Flight through Earth’s atmosphere isn’t exactly simple, but it is pretty intuitive. But in space, it’s completely different and isn’t accurately called flight. With no atmosphere and low gravity, things are very different. (10/21)
Space Force Welcomes New Command in Colorado Springs (Source: The Gazette)
If you just add a ‘k’ at the end of its acronym, you’ll see that America’s newest military command is witty. And leaders say Space Operations Command, or “SPOC,” pronounced like the pointy-eared Star Trek science officer, is also deadly if needed. The command, which was formally established Wednesday in Colorado Springs, will oversee Space Force satellite operators and others involved in defending those satellites and targeting enemies in orbit. (10/21)
Colorado's Case to House U.S. Space Command Grows Even Stronger (Source: The Gazette)
The operational piece of the Space Force was established here Wednesday and it may offer the strongest argument yet for why U.S. Space Command should stay in town. The Space Operations Command, or SPOC, provides most of the troops U.S. Space Command needs to defend America's space assets and fight wars in orbit if called. U.S. Space Command was established by Congress last year to oversee warfare in orbit; it was provisionally housed in Colorado amid a lengthy process to decide where it will land permanently.
Scores of cities are vying for the command, which brings billions in contracting dollars and 1,200 troops. With troops at Buckley, Schriever and Peterson Air Force bases, the operations command controls the nation's military satellites, spots incoming enemy missiles and monitors what other nations are doing in space. While other places want U.S. Space Command, the troops and contractors it needs to get the job done are already here. And with the Space Force firmly tying its operational troops to Colorado, the people that U.S. Space Command needs won't be found elsewhere.
Other things the command requires include high quality of life. Colorado is home to four of the nation's five most desirable cities according to a recent study, with Denver Boulder, Fort Collins and Colorado Springs getting high marks. It's no wonder that Colorado was the military's top choice to house U.S. Space Command before the process became mired in congressional politics and Pentagon bureaucracy. But Colorado brings even more to the table. Multiple nearby universities means U.S. Space Command has an easy pipeline here for the bright minds it will need in the future. (10/23)
Space Force Unifying Acquisitions (Source: Space News)
The Space Force is moving forward with plans to establish to unify space acquisitions. Gen. John "Jay" Raymond said Thursday that the Space Force is in the "final stages" of planning for the Space Systems Command, which he said should be established by spring 2021. The command will bring together multiple agencies that currently handle space acquisitions, with the major component being the Space and Missile Systems Center. The command will oversee research, development and acquisition of major programs such as satellites, launch services and information systems. (10/23)
Space Ops Command Seeks Industry Aid To ‘Scale Up’ Innovation (Source: Breaking Defense)
Figuring out how to scale up the use of secure digital design and innovative ideas from small firms will be one of the first orders of business for the Space Force command responsible for overseeing all military satellite programs following its official start-up on Wednesday, says Maj. Gen. DeAnna Burt.
“Any ideas there from industry of how you guys organized to take grassroots-level ideas from parts of your divisions and then scale them across the enterprise, those would be interesting thoughts,” Burt, who directs operations and communications at Space Force headquarters. told the virtual SpaceCom event today. “I’d love to take those, because we’re looking at how do we organize headquarters Space Operations Command here after we stand up this week.” (10/19)
Mandalorian Team Helping Simulate Space for Space Force (Source: Task & Purpose)
Science fiction fans rejoice: the studio who helped bring a helmeted mercenary and his frog-like companion to life is now helping develop a simulator for Space Force members to learn how to maneuver spacecraft around the Earth. The problem is, the U.S. military does not have the best tools for teaching astrodynamics — the mechanics of how man-made objects move in space — to service members. Right now the military’s space learning tools are either video lectures or super-detailed mission analysis simulators, and it’s been that way for years.
What they found was that students wanted to learn the basics of astrodynamics in a more hands-on, interactive way. The more students can play around with astrodynamics, the better they understand its effects on spacecraft and execute their missions, Stricklan explained. Unlike their current toolsets, students also wanted a simulator that wouldn’t take 20 minutes to configure, and which they could use at home on their tablets or smartphones.
Enter Slingshot Orbital Laboratory, the simulator which Slingshot Aerospace received $1 million from Space Force to develop, along with another $1 million from venture capital. Still, the company wanted the simulator to represent space physics accurately, look good, and feel easy to use, and that’s where The Third Floor, the studio which helped make ‘The Mandalorian’ look so cool, comes in. (10/20)
Space Force Embraces "Digital Engineering" (Source: Space News)
The Space Force plans to test the use of new digital engineering systems in future satellite programs. The Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) plans to implement the use of "digital engineering," where each piece of equipment has a digital model used throughout design and development. That approach, SMC says, poses some challenges, such as moving all program data to a cloud environment and ensuring it is protected. SMC intends to use this approach on two next-generation communications satellite programs and a modular satellite bus that could be adapted for multiple missions. (10/22)
Space Force Should Break the Mold in Recruiting and Retaining Talent (Source: Space News)
With space poised to become the next trillion-dollar economy, demand for expertise will only climb. The U.S. Space Force’s Chief of Space Operations Gen. Jay Raymond is taking a “clean sheet approach” to building a new service. One of his most important tasks is recruiting and developing the workforce required to meet the challenges of this ultra-modern domain.
For years, an outdated personnel management system has challenged America’s military ability to recruit and retain talent. This is even more pronounced in technical fields like space. We need a diverse talent pool that better reflects America in 2020. Military recruiting has become increasingly difficult. Less than 30 percent of U.S. youth are eligible for military service (even fewer for technical jobs), and private sector firms are stiff competition for an already limited talent pool. Even when our best and brightest do join, the services struggle to keep them.
We see these retention struggles in the exodus of military pilots to the airlines or cyber operators to the tech industry. Both examples paint a concerning picture for the future of Space Force personnel. With space poised to become the next trillion-dollar economy, demand for expertise will only climb. The conditions are perfect for Space Force to revolutionize military personnel management policies. With bipartisan support for the service in both the executive and legislative branches, this is the right time, as the political capital may never be higher. Click here. (10/20)
Space Force Grappling With How to Define Readiness (Source: Air Force Magazine)
The U.S. Space Force is trying to figure out what “readiness” means for space operations, seeking to sever itself from the Air Force’s aircraft- and deployment-centric model. The Air Force’s Air and Space Expeditionary Force model doesn’t work as a measure of Space Force readiness, said Lt. Gen. B. Chance Saltzman, deputy chief of space operations. Mission capable rates and other traditional measures of readiness don’t translate to Space Force, Saltzman said.
“Readiness is that term of art to express: Can you do your mission or not?” he observed. He said he was about to take a briefing on readiness and expected to be “underwhelmed,” because “quite frankly, we took a system that was primarily designed to show how Air Force expeditionary units made themselves ready for deployment or a high-end fight, and we tried to make that system work for Space Force,” which usually operates from garrison and is doing its mission every day.
Readiness assessments “never had the same flavor, because we never had to pick up and go somewhere and join in a fight,” he said. Today, it boils down to, “do you have enough people to man your consoles 24 hours a day? That is one small but important piece of what readiness is” for Space Force. The new service is trying to determine what will decide if its organizations are ready, in the form of the advanced training, exercises, and “experiences they need to be ready … on-orbit, against a near-peer competitor.” (10/18)
With its New Space Center, NATO Seeks the Ultimate High Ground (Source: CBC)
It's not the Space Force you may have heard about. Still, NATO's newly announced space center boldly takes the seven-decade-old institution where no international military alliance has gone before. Most of its leading members and adversaries have sought individual advantage in the final frontier over the decades. And while the European Space Agency is a collective body, its civilian mission and its politics are inarguably different from those of NATO.
That difference was on display this week as NATO defense ministers, meeting online, put the final pieces in place for the new center, which has been in the works for a couple of years. "The space environment has fundamentally changed in the last decade," said NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. "Some nations, including Russia and China, are developing anti-satellite systems that could blind, disable or shoot down satellites and create dangerous debris in orbit." (10/24)
Travis AFB Hosts Clinical Research for NASA’s Newly Developed Medical Technology (Source: US Air Force)
NASA representatives presented new medical diagnostic technology, the E-Nose Breathalyzer, to members of David Grant USAF Medical Center Oct. 21, 2020, at Travis Air Force Base. The E-Nose Breathanalyzer, under development at NASA’s Ames Research Center, will have the capability of analyzing compounds found within a person’s breath to diagnose a battery of illnesses and abnormalities including respiratory illnesses, infectious diseases and cardiovascular conditions. As the science continues to be explored, the breath analyzer may one day be used to diagnose cancer. Travis AFB Airmen are hosting the NASA technology and collaborative research at the DGMC clinical investigation facility. (10/23)
Musk Thinks There Could be Alien Life in These Two Spots (Source: Fox Business)
Life may not have found life outside of Earth just yet, but if it exists, SpaceX's Elon Musk thinks there are two likely spots for it. Musk said that Jupiter's moon Europa or under the surface of Mars are the two most likely spots. (10/19)
New Voyager Data: Space Much Denser Outside Solar System (Source: Futurism)
Voyager 2, a space probe launched in 1977 that finally made its way out of our solar system in 2018, is recording some weird data out in interstellar space. As it passed the boundary of our solar system, Voyager 2 picked up on an increase rather than a decrease in the particle density in its surroundings, according to ScienceAlert. Based on the assumption that it’s, well, the void of space, astronomers expected the density of interstellar space to drop — but now Voyager 2 is confirming similar reports from Voyager 1 years prior. (10/20)
Rogue Rocky Planet Found Adrift in the Milky Way (Source: Scientific American)
Of the approximately 100 worlds found to date by microlensing, only four have been identified as free-floating. All the rest are planets that spin around their stars on orbits that are stretched out so long that they typically elude detection through other standard planet-hunting techniques. It is possible that the newfound wee world, known as OGLE-2016-BLG-1928, could be attached to a star. But if so, its orbit would place it at least eight times as far from its stellar host as the Earth is from the sun. Confirming the planet’s likely free-floating status will require a few more years—time enough for any potential parent star, should it exist, to shift its position so that its light can be separated from that of the background star. (10/19)
The First Star in Our Galaxy Caught Sending Out Fast Radio Bursts Is Doing It Again (Source: Science Alert)
A little dead star that dazzled us earlier this year is not done with its shenanigans. Magnetar SGR 1935+2154, which in April emitted the first known fast radio burst from inside the Milky Way, has flared up once more, giving astronomers yet another chance to solve more than one major cosmic mystery.
On 8 October 2020, the CHIME/FRB collaboration detected SGR 1935+2154 emitting three millisecond radio bursts in three seconds. Following up on the CHIME/FRB detection, the FAST radio telescope found something else - a pulsed radio emission consistent with the magnetar's spin period. (10/22)
With New Shepard Launch, UF Space Researchers Become Space Customers (Source: Space Daily)
The University of Florida is helping to launch a new era in space research with a plant experiment aboard Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket that blasted off from the company's West Texas site Tuesday morning. Rob Ferl and Anna-Lisa Paul have been studying how plants respond to stressful environments for decades, placing their genetically engineered mustard plants on high-flying planes, on the space shuttle and on the International Space Station.
But the Blue Origin project is the first time UF has worked directly with a commercial launch provider, marking an important shift in how universities conduct space-related research, Ferl said. "This is one of the first wave of projects where a university is contracting directly with a commercial space flight provider to launch science experiments," he said. "Previously, NASA handled all of the arrangements." (10/20)
Embry-Riddle to Land First Student Project on Moon to Snap Selfie of Lunar Landing (Source: ERAU)
Embry-Riddle is partnering with NASA commercial payload provider Intuitive Machines to send a camera to space that will capture the first-ever selfie of a spacecraft touching down on the moon. The Nova-C Lunar Lander will launch a science and technology payload to a valley in the Ocean of Storms. Just before it reaches the lunar surface in late 2021, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University students will capture the world’s ultimate selfie: the first-ever third-person shot of a spacecraft making an extraterrestrial landing.
Intuitive Machines, the company developing the Nova-C, offered Engineering students at Embry-Riddle this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity — to design and build a camera system that will deploy from the Nova-C to capture the landing and, in the process, become the first university student project ever to land on the moon. Supported by a network of national scientists, Embry-Riddle’s “EagleCam” team — three Engineering professors along with a large interdisciplinary team of students — is designing a camera and communication system to launch to the moon and shoot the astronomical selfie. Just before approach, the CubeSat will deploy and freefall 100 feet to the surface to give the world its first glimpse of the spacecraft’s lunar landing. (10/20)
UCF Knights Beat Tulane in 'Space Game' (Source: Click Orlando)
Did a little rocket fuel help propel the University of Central Florida Knights football team to win the annual Space Game? It didn’t hurt that’s for sure. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket could be seen soaring over the UCF Bounce House stadium late Saturday morning just hours before the Knights host Tulane University for its Space Game. A little rocket power might have helped UCF’s top-ranked offense roll in a 51-34 victory over Tulane on Saturday.
But Saturday’s game wasn’t just any. With UCF’s strong ties to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and as a leader in planetary and space sciences the university dedicates its homecoming game every year to the subject with all the fanfare space deserves. Knights have specially-designed uniforms that are truly out of this world and players will be sporting some cleats worthy of walking on the moon. (10/25)
Florida Tech Senior Wins Competition for Satellite Artwork (Source: Florida Tech)
There are art galleries, and then there are art galleries. The one that is currently showcasing a piece by Florida Tech senior Nava Pishgar may not be as easy to visit as some, and the lighting can be a bit uneven. But it’s safe to say there are no other places like it in the world. That’s because this venue is not actually on planet Earth: It’s above it.
Pishgar, an aerospace engineering major and Brevard County native, was one of three winners of a national competition from the organization Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) and the California-based satellite company Planet to produce a piece of art for one of Planet’s Dove satellites. (10/20)
China's CASIC Has Ambitious Plans for Small Rockets, Spaceplanes, and Satellite Constellations (Source: Space News)
A Chinese state-owned aerospace company laid out ambitious plans for space projects over the next five years at a conference Monday. The China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp. (CASIC) says it plans to double the number of launches of its Kuaizhou series of small solid-fuel rockets by 2023, despite two recent failures of those vehicles. CASIC said it is working on a reusable two-stage spaceplane, Tengyun, that it plans to demonstrate by 2025, as well as the 80-satellite Xingyun constellation for internet-connected devices. (10/20)
Chinese Startups Eye Rocket and Satellite Markets (Source: Space Daily)
As China moves progressively toward its goal of becoming a major power in the global space arena that can rival the United States, space startups and local governments are also racing to tap into the boom in rockets and satellites. Over the past two months, about 2.4 billion yuan ($357 million) of investment was raised by two major private rocket companies in Beijing. In September alone, two massive manufacturing complexes-one for satellites and another for rockets-started construction in Hebei province's Tangshan and Shandong province's Haiyang.
Now, the southern coastal province of Guangdong, one of China's economic powerhouses, is determined to catch up and has chosen to start by building carrier rockets. Last week, Guangzhou, the provincial capital, began construction in cooperation with CAS Space, a Beijing-based startup virtually controlled by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, on the country's southernmost production facility for carrier rockets. The 40 hectare complex in Guangzhou's Nansha district will have an initial annual production capacity of 30 rockets upon the completion of the project's first phase around 2022, CAS Space said in a statement sent to China Daily on Friday. (10/13)
Chinese Rocket Companies Secure Local Government Support for Research, Production Facilities (Source: Space News)
Two young Chinese rocket have secured deals with local governments for the establishment of major launch vehicle research and production facilities. The agreements made in September demonstrate ongoing and deepening support of commercial space endeavors by Chinese provincial and local governments.
Beijing-based Galactic Energy will construct a base in Jianyang, a county-level city under the administration of Chengdu, a city of 16 million in southwest China. Chengdu is the provincial capital of Sichuan province and already hosts major traditional space sector activity. The facility in Jianyang will be for research, development and production of liquid propellant rocket engines for Galactic Energy’s Pallas series launch vehicles. The base has a planned total investment of about $225 million. A signing ceremony (Chinese) took place Sept. 3.
The partially reusable Pallas-1 will be capable of launching four metric tons to low Earth orbit (LEO) or two tons to Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO). A test flight is currently slated for late 2022. Galactic Energy is currently preparing to launch its first rocket with the mission expected in early November. (10/23)
18 Reserve Astronauts Selected for China's Manned Space Program (Source: Xinhua)
China's manned space program has entered the mission preparation stage with the selection of a new group of 18 reserve astronauts. According to the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA), the reserve astronauts, including one female, have been selected recently from 2,500 candidates. Among them are seven spacecraft pilots, seven space flight engineers and four payload experts. Flight engineers and payload experts have been selected for the first time as reserve astronauts to meet China's space station construction needs. (10/22)
Isar Aerospace Prepares to Launch its Rockets From Guyana Spaceport (Source: Space Daily)
Isar Aerospace has signed an agreement with the French Space Agency CNES to launch its orbital rockets from the Centre Spatial Guyanais (CSG) in French Guyana. The company has also hired Alexandre Dalloneau as Head of Mission and Launch Operations. He joins from Arianespace, where he was responsible for seven Vega rocket launches and three multi-GTO Ariane 5 missions.
With its proximity to the equator, CSG allows Isar Aerospace to launch its Spectrum rockets into any orbit from the same pad. Its latitude of 5 3' also boosts performance for equatorial and medium-inclined orbits by about 20 percent compared to high-latitude launch sites. CNES is welcoming and supporting Isar Aerospace as a commercial launch provider in CSG. Isar Aerospace is developing launch vehicles to transport small and medium-sized satellites into the Earth's orbit as early as 2021. Among other missions, these first-generation Spectrum rockets are also suitable for satellite constellations. (10/16)
Is the New Zealand Commercial Space Success Story a Model for Other Countries? (Source: Space Review)
New Zealand has in recent years developed a small but growing space industry in fields from Earth observation to launch. Marçal Sanmartí explores if the factors that supported that growth can be replicated in other countries. Click here. (10/19)
UK Space: Consultation on Draft Insurance and Liabilities Requirements to Implement the Space Industry Act 2018 (Source: Space Daily)
UK Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Rachel Maclean MP released 13 October 2020 a statement on the draft insurance, liabilities and charging requirements to implement the Space Industry Act 2018. This consultation seeks views on the operability and effectiveness of the proposed liabilities, insurance and charging requirements to implement the Space Industry Act 2018, including the use of license conditions to cover insurance requirements. It also seeks views on the Draft Space Industry (Liabilities) Regulations and the associated guidance documents, as well as to gather new evidence and test the assumptions in the consultation-stage impact assessment.
The UK's space sector is a unique national asset, and this government is committed to growing this exciting industry. Our regulatory framework for spaceflight will support safe and sustainable activities that will drive research, innovation and entrepreneurship in this vital sector, exploiting the unique environment of space, and providing a catalyst for growth across the space sector. Harnessing the opportunities provided by commercial spaceflight will also feed into our emerging National Space Strategy, the government's agenda to level-up the UK, and global Britain. Government and industry have set a target to grow the UK's share of the global market to 10% by 2030. (10/15)
Sweden to Pour $10 Million Into Esrange Spaceport (Source: Space News)
The Swedish government will upgrade the Esrange Space Center to host small satellite launches starting in 2022. The government expects to spend $10.2 million over three years to allow the site, which currently supports sounding rocket launches, to also accommodate small launch vehicles for orbital missions. The facility does not yet have a commitment from a launch provider for its maiden flight, but is in discussions with several small launch vehicle providers. German launch startups Isar Aerospace and Rocket Factory Augsburg previously agreed to conduct engine testing there. (10/22)
Lockheed Martin Could Launch Satellites From Shetland Spaceport (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Shetland Space Centre welcomed the announcement from the UK Space Agency that Lockheed Martin is transferring its satellite launch operations to Unst, creating hundreds of jobs. UKSA said that the move from Sutherland followed a thorough process of due diligence and the project would deliver long-term value and help establish a sustainable, commercial launch market as part of the UK’s spaceflight program – LaunchUK.
Shetland Space Centre anticipates that by 2024, the spaceport site could support a total of 605 jobs in Scotland including 140 locally and 210 across the wider Shetland region. A further 150 jobs will also be created through wider manufacturing and support services. (10/22)
Lockheed Martin Switches UK Spaceports (Source: Space News)
Lockheed Martin is moving from one Scottish spaceport to another. The U.K. Space Agency announced Thursday it approved a proposal by Lockheed Martin to conduct a "pathfinder" launch from the Shetland Space Centre in the Shetland Islands. Lockheed won a $31 million award from the agency in 2018 to be one of the first customers of Space Hub Sutherland, a spaceport in northern Scotland. Lockheed said that conflicting technical requirements with Orbex, the other company planning to launch from Sutherland, led to its decision to move to the Shetland Space Centre. Both spaceports are still in the planning stages, with first launches some time in the early 2020s. (10/23)
India Moves to Further Commercialize Satellite Communications (Source: Hundustan Times)
The Indian government has released a draft policy intended to further commercialize satellite communications. The Spacecom Policy establishes regulations for authorizing commercial communications satellites and ground stations, including how Indian companies can acquire orbital slots from the government. The draft is open for comments through Nov. 4, and will take effect after a final version is approved by the cabinet. (10/22)
Australian Invention to Make it Easier to Find 'New Earths' (Source: University of Sydney)
Australian scientists have developed a new type of sensor to measure and correct the distortion of starlight caused by viewing through the Earth’s atmosphere, which should make it easier to study the possibility of life on distant planets. Using artificial intelligence and machine learning, University of Sydney optical scientists have developed a sensor that can neutralize a star’s ‘twinkle’ caused by heat variations in the Earth’s atmosphere. This will make the discovery and study of planets in distant solar systems easier from optical telescopes on Earth. (10/21)
Russian Private Firm to Create Constellations of 510 Satellites (Source: TASS)
The new Russian private space firm Success Rockets is planning to create three satellite constellations of various designation, with one of them to comprise over 500 satellites. Two out of three clusters will comprise 24 satellites each (the same number of satellites is operational in Russia’s Glonass orbital navigation grouping). One of them will provide the global Internet of things, monitor the state of infrastructure and its particular components, track mobile objects (ships, auto convoys and railway trains) and serve other goals.
The other cluster will be designated for the Earth’s remote sensing. Finally, the orbital cluster for global Internet access will consist of 510 satellites to provide unlimited access to the World Wide Web in any point on the Earth and in any weather upon the availability of a subscriber terminal, according to the presentation. (10/19)
Canada's GHGSat Releases Methane Emissions Map (Source: Space News)
Canadian company GHGSat has unveiled a map of methane emissions created using data from its satellites. GHGSat's map, called Pulse, shows changes in methane concentrations measured in parts per million or parts per billion for each pixel during the year. The company collects greenhouse gas emission data using two satellites, including one launched last month. It plans to launch another satellite in December on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rideshare mission. (10/22)
NASA Taps Raytheon for Prototype Land Imaging Calibration Prototype (Source: Executive Biz)
Raytheon Technologies’ intelligence and space business has received a grant from NASA to develop and test a calibration system prototype as part of an effort to improve the quality of the agency’s land imaging data. Raytheon said Thursday the three-year agreement covers design, development and testing of the proposed Improved Radiometric Calibration of Land Imaging Systems on behalf of the NASA Earth Science Technology Office.
The grant additionally includes funding for specialized IRIS components such as focal plane elements. The system's architecture and weight will be 30 percent smaller and lighter than conventional calibrated imagers. IRIS will also have features designed to handle the blue to thermal infrared light spectrum, according to Raytheon. (10/16)
Satellite Imagery and Broadband Set to Grow Four Fold in Precision Ag Market by 2029 (Source: Space Daily)
For its latest research titled, "EO4AG - Earth Observation for Agriculture", Euroconsult has teamed up with TerraMetric, a US-based, global business development firm focused on geospatial and new space markets, to provide an in-depth analysis on the global trends, vertical integration opportunities and regional demand forecasted for Earth observation-based services and products addressing the agriculture sector.
The two companies forecast that by 2029, the total agricultural market is expected to double in value to reach over $815 million. While government-driven sales are foreseen to remain significant, the uptake of precision agriculture solutions within the private sector due to expected near-global broadband coverage is expected to be the main catalyst behind this anticipated market growth.
Precision agriculture incorporates a broad range of technology areas. In this context, it refers to supporting commercial agricultural supply chains by providing Earth observation-based solutions and tools to back farming optimization processes, as well as research and development initiatives. For precision agriculture to evolve, connectivity will be key. (10/21)
Airbus Invests in Singapore's Zero-Error Systems (Source: Space News)
Airbus Ventures has invested in a startup in Singapore working on radiation-hardened integrated circuits. Airbus invested $1.85 million into Zero-Error Systems, a spinoff from Singapore's Nanyang Technological University that is working on electronics designed to operate in high-radiation conditions, such as space. Through the new investment, Airbus Ventures expands its space-related portfolio, which includes Isar Aerospace and Morpheus Space of Germany and U.S. companies Astra, Atlas AI, LeoLabs and SpinLaunch, among others. (10/22)
Intelsat: SES Misled FCC by Presenting Study that FCC Used to Apportion C-Band Incentive Payments (Source: Space Intel Report)
Fleet operator Intelsat said competitor SES knowingly misled U.S. regulators by distorting a study of the two companies’ U.S. C-band satellite operations to win a greater slice of government-approved C-band clearing compensation payments. According to Intelsat, the tactic worked: Without any other measure available, the FCC relied on the mislabeled SES-provided market-share data in apportioning C-band clearing incentive payments among the satellite operators. (10/20)
Intelsat Rejects SES Claim it Scuttled C-Band Alliance (Source: Space News)
Intelsat rejected a $1.8 billion claim filed by SES in its Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. SES filed the claim in July, arguing that Intelsat broke up the C-Band Alliance to seek a larger share of FCC C-band spectrum clearing payments. Intelsat countered that the Alliance was established when plans called for a market-based auction of spectrum, and served no role in the public auction the FCC ultimately decided to pursue. Intelsat also argued SES shared a confidential report with the FCC prepared for the Alliance and misrepresented its contents, which may have cost Intelsat as much as $1.6 billion in spectrum payments. (10/23)
Momentus to Launch Kepler Satellites (Source: Space News)
Momentus will launch two satellites for Kepler Communications. The cubesats will fly as part of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rideshare mission and placed into their final orbit by a Momentus Vigoride tug. Kepler is starting the deployment of a constellation that will provide store-and-forward and internet-of-things services, launching the first two operational satellites for that system last month. Monetus has signed up dozens of customers for Vigoride, which is scheduled to make its orbital debut later this year. (10/21)
Mynaric to Provide Laser Link Terminals for Blackjack Satellites (Source: Mynaric)
Mynaric has been selected by Telesat to supply multiple units of its flagship CONDOR optical inter-satellite link terminals to DARPA’s Blackjack Track B program, in a deal demonstrating continued success for Mynaric in accessing the U.S. government market. The terminals are scheduled to be delivered in mid-2021 to DARPA’s Blackjack System Integrator with satellites scheduled to launch in the latter part of 2021. (10/21)
Inter-Satellite Laser Links Improving Starlink Performance (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
SpaceX Senior Program Reliability Engineer Kate Tice confirmed that there had been tests conducted using two satellites which featured ‘space lasers’. “Recently as the Starlink team completed a test of two satellites …that are equipped with our inter-satellite links which we call called space lasers,” she said, “With these space lasers, the Starlink satellites were able to transfer hundreds of gigabytes of data.”
Continued testing and optimization of the inter-satellite communications through the “Space-Laser” feature will be an important component and benchmark to follow as SpaceX’s Starlink network data improves overall transfer rates, allowing latency rates to decrease and out-perform competing communications options. The company plans to mass-enable these inter-satellite links: “Once these space lasers are fully deployed, Starlink will be one of the fastest options to transmit data all over the world,” Tice stated. (10/18)
Microsoft Supporting SpaceX Missile Tracking Satellite Project (Source: Space News)
SpaceX is working with Microsoft on a Space Development Agency (SDA) contract. SpaceX said Tuesday that Microsoft is a subcontractor on its $149 million SDA contract to build four missile-tracking satellites. The companies did not discuss what specific role Microsoft will play in the SDA program, but SpaceX was reportedly interested in a digital environment developed by the Microsoft Azure cloud computing division that allows the user to visualize an entire satellite architecture and test satellite designs and artificial intelligence algorithms. (10/21)
SpaceX, SES to Provide Broadband for Microsoft’s Azure Space Mobile Data Centers (Source: Space News)
Microsoft on Oct. 20 announced it is expanding its cloud computing services for the space industry. The company will offer mobile cloud computing data centers that can be deployed anywhere in the world and connect to SpaceX’s Starlink and SES’ O3b internet satellites. The service is part of Microsoft’s space-focused cloud business called Azure Space.
Azure is aimed at private industries and government agencies that use data collected by satellites but don’t want to invest in the ground infrastructure to process and analyze the data. Azure Space has emerged as a direct competitor to Amazon Web Services’ space data business. SpaceX joining forces with Microsoft adds another twist to the rivalry between space billionaires Elon Musk and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
Azure’s mobile cloud computing unit called a “modular data center” is aimed at customers like military forces or industries such as agriculture and energy who operate in “challenging environments” where there is no infrastructure, said Microsoft's Tom Keane. SpaceX and SES will provide point-to-point connectivity. “You don’t need fiber, you basically talk to the satellites that we have in orbit, the satellites will talk to each other and get that data to the other point on Earth where it’s needed,” said SpaceX's Gwynne Shotwell. (10/20)
Astrobotic Unveils New Headquarters in Pittsburgh (Source: Astrobotic)
Astrobotic officially opened its new headquarters in Pittsburgh on Monday. The 47,000 square foot complex is the largest private facility in the world dedicated to lunar logistics. Astrobotic’s Peregrine and Griffin lunar landers will be built on-site, with Peregrine set to become the first commercial mission to the Moon, and the first American lander on the Moon since the Apollo missions.
Monday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony was attended by a wide range of prominent federal, state, and local officials, including U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, U.S. Congressman Conor Lamb, Pennsylvania Governor’s Action Team SW Director Eric Bitar, Allegheny Country Executive Rich Fitzgerald, and Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto. (10/20)
L3Harris Aids Businesses Negatively Affected by Pandemic (Source: Space Coast Daily)
L3Harris has given more than $450 million in accelerated payments to suppliers nationwide to support the US aerospace and defense supply chain during the ongoing coronavirus crisis. In addition, the L3Harris Foundation has made donations to groups in 19 states that provide a variety of services, including veteran assistance, STEM student mentorships and small business financial opportunities. (10/15)
Former Danish Rocketeer Captured After Prison Escape (Source: Washington Post)
Peter Madsen, a Danish man serving a life sentence for the 2017 murder of Swedish journalist Kim Wall, was apprehended Tuesday after he briefly escaped from prison. Authorities received word of an escape from Herstedvester prison in Denmark, and within minutes, they surrounded and handcuffed a fugitive, who turned out to be Madsen, 49. Editor's Note: Madsen in 2008 co-founded Copenhagen Suborbitals, which endeavored to build and launch rockets from a floating platform in the North Sea. (10/20)
Resting Places for Boeing’s Moon Rovers Win Washington State Landmark Status (Source: GeekWire)
Three spots on the moon are now official Washington state historic landmarks, thanks to a unanimous vote by a state commission. The thumbs-up, delivered on Friday during a virtual public hearing organized by the Washington State Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, provided state landmark status to the rovers that Boeing built during the 1960s at its facilities in Kent, Wash., and that NASA sent to the moon for the Apollo 15, 16 and 17 missions.
King County awarded similar status more than a year ago, but the state commission’s 9-0 vote — delayed for several months due to the coronavirus outbreak — literally takes the landmarks to the next level. The rover sites are now eligible for listing in the Washington Heritage Register. (10/24)
Rock-Solid (Blue) Cube: Galileo and the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake (Source: Space Review)
Thirty-one years ago, the Loma Prieta earthquake shook the San Francisco Bay Area, including a military space control center. Joseph Page II recounts how that facility still managed to remain operational to support a shuttle launch the next day. Click here. (10/19)
Applied Witchcraft: American Communications Intelligence Satellites During the 1960s (Source: Space Review)
Starting in the early 1960s, the National Reconnaissance Office flew a series of missions to perform what’s known as communications intelligence, seeking to understand patterns of communications within the Soviet Union. Dwayne Day examines what’s known about those early missions. Click here. (10/19)
Retired 4-Star Lester Lyles Leads a Life of Rocket Science, Personal Ethics and Inclusivity (Source: Washington Executive)
A retired general and former vice chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force, Lyles today serves on the board of directors for KBR Corp., and is a former director of General Dynamics Corp., Battelle Labs and USAA, where he also served as chair. He’s also chaired or served on various councils related to the U.S. space program, and advised on national security and intelligence boards. (10/21)
New Hummer EV was GM's 'Moonshot,' Features Nods to Apollo 11 (Source: CollectSpace)
General Motors may not have designed its first all-electric pickup truck to drive on the moon, but the first edition of its new GMC Hummer EV has a definite lunar look. The Edition 1, set to be available in the fall of 2021, also comes with what General Motors (GM) calls "a unique Lunar Horizon interior." Each Hummer EV Edition 1 truck will have a white exterior and an interior color palette that features black, grey and gold details that are evocative of the Apollo lunar module and lunar roving vehicle (General Motors' Defense Research Laboratories provided the wheels, motors, and suspension for the NASA rover).
The metal speaker grills for the Hummer EV's sound system are overlaid with a topographical map of the moon's Mare Tranquillitatis, or Sea of Tranquility, the site where Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin made their historic lunar landing in July 1969. The design even includes a boot print styled after the treads that were left behind by the two moonwalkers. The same lunar surface pattern is repeated on the rubber floor mats and on the lining of a pass through compartment in the center console. (The Apollo boot print was included on an early version of the driver's foot rest but was omitted from the final design.)
The space exploration theme also extends to the dashboard displays, which feature graphics depicting the Hummer EV driving over lunar and Martian terrains. In launch control mode, or what GM calls "Watts to Freedom," the propulsion system channels its power into acceleration bursts, including a 0-60 mph boost in approximately 3 seconds. (10/24)
'Starman' Just Zipped Past Mars in His Rapidly-Decaying Tesla Roadster (Source: Live Science)
Starman — the dummy riding a cherry-red Tesla Roadster through space — has made his closest approach ever to Mars. That electric convertible with its mannequin passenger bolted to the top of a Falcon Heavy rocket as a stunt during the SpaceX rocket's first test launch Feb, 6, 2018. (It's common for test launches to include heavy payloads, but they're usually more boring than cherry-red sportscars.) Two years later, the Falcon Heavy upper stage and the vehicle at its tip are making their second trip around the sun.
Jonathan McDowell, a Harvard astrophysicist who tracks space objects as a side project, found that Starman passed 4.6 million miles (7.4 million kilometers) from Mars at 2:25 a.m. EDT Oct. 7. That's about 19 times the distance from Earth to the moon, and 35 times closer than anyone on Earth has gotten to Mars. (10/21)
Netflix Cancels ‘Away’ After One Season (Source: Variety)
Netflix is not renewing science fiction drama series “Away” for a second season, Variety has confirmed. The cancellation comes just six weeks after the show’s first season was released on Sep. 4. “Away” stars Hilary Swank as astronaut Emma Green, who leads the first crewed expedition to Mars aboard the spaceship “Atlas,” called the Mars Joint Initiative. (10/19)
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