Annual Fundraising Campaign: Please Help Parabolic Arc!

Hi everybody.

You have all been so supportive of Parabolic Arc over the years. I want to thank you for your readership and comments and for spreading the word about our work through Facebook, Twitter and other social media.

But, now I need your help. We’re once again seeking donations as part of Parabolic Arc’s annual fund-raising campaign. Your contribution will help us to continue delivering all the latest news and analysis of the rapidly growing space industry.

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Thank you again for all of your support.

Doug

NASA’s Mars 2020 Will Hunt for Microscopic Fossils

Lighter colors represent higher elevation in this image of Jezero Crater on Mars, the landing site for NASA’s Mars 2020 mission. The oval indicates the landing ellipse, where the rover will be touching down on Mars. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/JHU-APL/ESA)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Scientists with NASA’s Mars 2020 rover have discovered what may be one of the best places to look for signs of ancient life in Jezero Crater, where the rover will land on Feb. 18, 2021.

A paper published today in the journal Icarus identifies distinct deposits of minerals called carbonates along the inner rim of Jezero, the site of a lake more than 3.5 billion years ago. On Earth, carbonates help form structures that are hardy enough to survive in fossil form for billions of years, including seashells, coral and some stromatolites — rocks formed on this planet by ancient microbial life along ancient shorelines, where sunlight and water were plentiful.

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NASA IG Criticizes Additional Commercial Crew Payment to Boeing

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner’s four launch abort engines and several orbital maneuvering and attitude control thrusters ignite in the company’s Pad Abort Test, pushing the spacecraft away from the test stand with a combined 160,000 pounds of thrust, from Launch Complex 32 on White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. Credits: NASA

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA has agreed to pay Boeing $287.2 million above its firm-fixed price contract to transport astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) on operational flights of the Starlink spacecraft, according to a new audit of the Commercial Crew Program (CCP) by the space agency’s Office of Inspector General (IG). [Full Report]

The payment was made “to mitigate a perceived 18-month gap in ISS flights anticipated in 2019 for the company’s third through sixth crewed missions and to ensure the company continued as a second commercial crew provider,” the report stated.

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AeroCube-14 Takes Nanotech Experiments to Space

The AeroCube-14 CubeSats in the lab prior to launch integration. Once deployed, they’ll carry a number of nanotechnology experiments in low-Earth orbit. (Credit: Aerospace Corporation)

AeroCube 14’s experiments include nanotechnology payloads that will test new and emerging materials, including structural materials and thermal straps

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (Aerospace Corporation PR) — The Aerospace Corporation’s AeroCube-14 CubeSats launched on Nov. 2 loaded with nanotechnology payloads to conduct modular experiments and other research.

AeroCube-14 consists of two identical 3-unit CubeSats that launched as part of the Northrop Grumman-12 Cygnus cargo mission to the International Space Station. 

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LeoSat Folds After Failing to Find Required Funding

SpaceNews reports that LeoSat, a company that planned to deliver high-speed Internet using as many as 108 satellites, has folded due to lack of investment.

Mark Rigolle, CEO of LeoSat, told SpaceNews Nov. 13 that the company laid off all 13 employees — himself included — in August after its earlier investors decided not to fund the company any longer. 

LeoSat was anticipating that Spanish satellite operator Hispasat and Sky Perfect Jsat of Japan would complete LeoSat’s $50 million Series A after each made initial investments — Jsat in 2017, Hispasat in 2018 — but neither did. 

Rigolle said management changes at both companies this year prompted a reversal of their previous intent to invest further in the low-Earth-orbit broadband venture within months of each other, if not less. 

“I couldn’t have dreamt up a worse scenario,” Rigolle said. “This is like SoftBank suddenly saying to OneWeb ‘you’re not getting any more money,’ or Jeff Bezos saying in two years time, ‘no, bad idea, I’m not funding [Kuiper] anymore. It’s a 180-degree turn.”

Artemis Moon Landing is NASA’s Top Challenge

Astronauts explore a crater at the lunar south pole. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA’s Artemis program to land astronauts on the moon in 2024 — an effort that still lacks sufficient Congressional funding — is the space agency’s top management and performance challenge, according to a new report from the Office of Inspector General.

“Although NASA has made significant progress on several fronts to further its human exploration efforts, many questions remain about the total costs, schedule, and scope of the Agency’s Moon and Mars ambitions,” the report stated.

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Suitcase-sized Spacecraft to Explore Asteroid

Model of M-Argo spacecraft . (Credit: ESA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — This replica model of ESA’s ‘Miniaturised Asteroid Remote Geophysical Observer’, or M-Argo, was on display at the Agency’s recent  Antennas workshop. It is the one of numerous small missions planned as part of in ESA’s Technology Strategy, being presented at this month’s  Space19+  Council at Ministerial Level.

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UNOOSA, Luxembourg Launch New “Space Law for New Space Actors” Project

LUXEMBOURG (Luxembourg Space Agency PR) — Today, at the margins of the New Space Europe Conference, Ms. Paulette Lenert, Minister for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs and Ms. Simonetta di Pippo, Director of United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) signed a funding agreement to support UNOOSA’s new “Space Law for New Space Actors” project.

The “Space Law for New Space Actors” project will offer UN Member States tailored capacity building to facilitate their drafting of national space legislation and/or national space policies in line with international space law, promoting the long-term sustainability of outer space activities. Such capacity building will support in particular new and emerging space-faring nations to conduct space activities in a responsible and sustainable manner.

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SpaceX Completes Crew Dragon Static Fire Tests

Crew Dragon abort static test (Credit: NASA)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla., Nov. 13, 2019 (NASA PR) — Today, SpaceX completed a series of static fire engine tests of the Crew Dragon spacecraft in advance of an in-flight launch escape demonstration, known as the In-Flight Abort Test.

The engine tests, conducted near SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, began with two burns for a duration of one-second each for two of Crew Dragon’s 16 Draco thrusters. The Draco thrusters are used for on-orbit maneuvering and attitude control, and would also be used for re-orientation during certain in-flight launch escapes. Following these initial Draco thruster burns, the team completed a full-duration firing for approximately nine seconds of Crew Dragon’s eight SuperDraco engines. The SuperDraco engines are designed to accelerate Dragon away from the F9 launch vehicle in the event of an emergency after liftoff.

In quick succession, immediately after the SuperDracos shut down, two Dracos thrusters fired and all eight SuperDraco flaps closed, mimicking the sequence required to reorient the spacecraft in-flight to a parachute deploy attitude and close the flaps prior to reentry. The full sequence, from SuperDraco startup to flap closure, spanned approximately 70 seconds.

In April, during a similar set of engine tests, the spacecraft experienced an anomaly which led to an explosion and loss of the vehicle. In the following months, an Anomaly Investigation Team made up of SpaceX and NASA personnel determined that a slug of liquid propellant in the high-flow helium pressurization system unexpectedly caused a titanium ignition event resulting in an explosion. Based on that investigation’s findings and months of testing, SpaceX redesigned components of the system to eliminate the possibility of slugs entering the high-flow pressurization system.

Today’s tests will help validate the launch escape system ahead of Crew Dragon’s in-flight abort demonstration planned as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. SpaceX and NASA will now review the data from today’s test, perform detailed hardware inspections, and establish a target launch date for the In-Flight Abort Test.

Ursa Raises $15 Series B Fuding Round

MENLO PARK, Calif. (Paladin Capital Group PR) — Ursa, a geospatial analytics-as-a-service company that is democratizing access to commercially available synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) data, announced it has secured $15 million in Series B funding led by Razor’s Edge Ventures. The Series B financing was joined by strategic investors Citi, New York Ventures, a division of Empire State Development, and others who will help usher Ursa into new industries such as the supply chain, logistics, and insurance markets. Building upon Ursa’s combined Series A and Series A-1 $12.7 million capital raise, the latest round is backed by return investors Paladin Capital Group, RRE Ventures and S&P Global Inc. (NYSE: SPGI).

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China Launches 6 Satellites on 2 Rockets in 3 Hours

China conducted two launches within three hours on Wednesday, placing a commercial Earth observation satellite and five military surveillance satellites into orbit.

A four-stage Kuaizhou 1A booster lifted off with the Jilin 1 Gaofen 02A satellite at 11:40 a.m. Beijing time from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern China.

The commercial imaging satellite, owned by Chang Guang Satellite Technology Co. Ltd., is designed to return high-definition video and images for civilian and military users.

The spacecraft joins 13 other Jilin-1 satellites launched by Chang Guang, which is a commercial spin-off of the Chinese Academy of Science’s Changchun Institute of Optics, Fine Mechanics and Physics.

Expace, a commercial subsidiary of the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp., manages Kuaizhou 1A launches. The booster is believed to be based on a Chinese ballistic missile.

Three hours after Kuaizhou 1 lifted off, a liquid-fuel Long March 6 booster launched from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center with five Ningxia 1 military remote sensing satellites.

The Xinhua news agency reported that the satellites “are part of a commercial satellite project invested by the Ningxia Jingui Information Technology Co., Ltd.”

NASA’s Small Investments in Small Businesses Pay Big Dividends

Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park. Sustainable Bioproducts, a previous recipient and NASA STTR funding, uses extremophile organisms from volcanic springs to create edible proteins. (Credits: Jim Peaco/National Park Service)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — In 2013, a startup company had an idea for using extremophile organisms from volcanic springs to create edible proteins that would serve as an environmentally conscious alternative to meat-based proteins.

Following a handful of small investments from government agencies, including a $124,000 Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) contract from NASA, Sustainable Bioproducts announced in early 2019 it received $33 million in venture capital financing, including backing from two of the world’s biggest food and agriculture companies.

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Plasma Crystal Research Conducted on the ISS

ISS and the Columbus module. (Credit: ESA/NASA)
  • Plasma research on the ISS – Cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov will be carrying out a new series of experiments from 10 to 16 November 2019
  • Important knowledge for tomorrow – the plasma crystal laboratory PK-4 provides insights into fundamental physical processes
  • Plasma is ionised gas and is considered to be the fourth state of matter in addition to solids, liquids and gases. Complex plasmas are formed when dust particles are present in the neutral gas

TOULOUSE, France (DLR PR) — More plasma research is being conducted on the International Space Station (ISS). From 10 to 16 November 2019, the Russian cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov will be carrying out a new series of experiments with the PK-4 plasma crystal laboratory. Under the direction of scientists from the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR), Skvortsov will record how microparticles move through a neon plasma in microgravity, forming structures and thus providing insights into basic physical processes.

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Kepler Communications, Cobham SATCOM Form Strategic Partnership for High-capacity Satellite Data Delivery

Credit Kepler Communications

Toronto, Canada and Lyngby, Denmark, November 13, 2019 – Kepler Communications, a pioneer of nanosatellite telecommunications solutions, and Cobham SATCOM, a market-leading provider of radio and satellite communications solutions, have today announced a strategic partnership aimed at eliminating barriers to widespread adoption of high capacity data services over Kepler’s Low Earth Orbit (LEO) network.

Under the new arrangement, organizations evaluating Kepler’s ability to cost-effectively move multiple gigabytes of data per day around the globe can experience a fully managed trial of the service anywhere on the planet with no upfront CAPEX spend, no lengthy service commitment, and certified installation & support executed through Cobham SATCOM’s global Technical Service Partner network.

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Hayabusa2 Leaves Ryugu, Heads Back to Earth

Hayabusa2’s shadow on the surface of asteroid Ryugu during deployment of two small rovers on the surface. (Credit: JAXA)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — On November 13, 2019, JAXA operated Hayabusa2 chemical propulsion thrusters for the spacecraft’s orbit control.* The confirmation of the Hayabusa2 departure made at 10:05 a.m. (Japan Standard Time, JST) was based on the following data analyses:

  • The thruster operation of Hayabusa2 occurred nominally
  • The velocity leaving from Ryugu is approximately 9.2 cm/s
  • The status of Hayabusa2 is normal

We are planning to conduct performance tests of onboard instruments, including the electric propulsion system, for the return to Earth.

(*) Hayabusa2 operation hours: 8:00 a.m. (JST) through 13:30 p.m. (JST), November 13. The thruster operation was pre-programmed in the event sequence earlier on the day, and the command was automatically executed.

Hayabusa2 Asteroid Probe (ISAS)
http://www.isas.jaxa.jp/en/missions/spacecraft/current/hayabusa2.html

Asteroid Explorer “Hayabusa2”
https://global.jaxa.jp/projects/sas/hayabusa2/index.html

Virgin Galactic Announces Third Quarter Fiscal 2019 Financial Results

SpaceShipTwo glides over the Mojave Desert after being released from its WhiteKnightTwo mother ship. (Credit; Virgin Galactic)

MOJAVE, Calif. (Virgin Galactic PR) — Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: SPCE) (“VG” or “the Company”), a vertically integrated aerospace company, today announced financial results for its third quarter of fiscal year 2019.

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