NASA Administrator Signs Declaration of Intent with Japan on Artemis, Space Station Cooperation

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and the Government of Japan Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) Koichi Hagiuda signed a Joint Exploration Declaration of Intent (JEDI) during a virtual meeting on July 9 (July 10 Japan time).

The JEDI describes the plans for cooperation regarding the International Space Station and NASA’s Artemis program, including Japanese contributions to Gateway and lunar surface exploration. The scope of intended cooperation covered by the JEDI extends to both human and robotic exploration.

“Today’s signing of this declaration of intent builds on the long history of successful cooperation between the U.S. and Japan in space,” Bridenstine said. “We appreciate Japan’s strong support for Artemis and look forward to extending the robust partnership that we have enjoyed on the International Space Station to cis-lunar space, the lunar surface, and beyond.” 

Through Artemis, NASA will land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024 and establish sustainable lunar surface exploration with our commercial and international partners by 2028. 

Artemis is the next step in human exploration and is a part of NASA’s broader Moon to Mars strategy. Specifically, NASA’s lunar operations will provide the Agency with the experience and knowledge necessary to enable a historic human mission to Mars.

DoD Awards $15 Million Contract to LeoLabs

WASHINGTON (Defense Department PR) — As part of the national response to COVID-19, the Department of Defense entered into a $15 million agreement with LeoLabs, Inc. to ensure the continued viability of space surveillance capability through the operation and maintenance of a world-wide highly capable phased-array radar network.

The ability to surveil and analyze spacecraft in low earth orbit is essential to national defense. LeoLabs, Inc. is the only domestic commercial supplier with demonstrated capability in this critical area.

Using funds authorized and appropriated under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, this DPA Title III investment will offset direct workforce and financial distress brought about by the coronavirus pandemic to a sole-source capability within the defense industrial base and ensure resultant critical capabilities are retained within the U.S.

LeoLabs, Inc. is based in Menlo Park, California, with operating locations throughout the United States.

MDA Engineers, Scientists in Quebec Go on Strike

SAINTE-ANNE-DE-BELLEVUE, QC, July 4, 2020 (SSESA PR) — Given the employer’s refusal to stop its arbitrary and abusive practices, the Québec engineers and scientists of MDA, a leader in spaced-based radar and satellite communication systems, voted 87% in favour of a strike mandate. The Space Systems Engineers and Scientists Association (SSESA) criticizes the employer’s refusal to address job insecurity and loss of expertise issues, while merely proposing superficial and cosmetic modifications to the collective agreement.

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U.S. Bankruptcy Court Approves OneWeb Sale

The sale of bankrupt satellite maker OneWeb to the UK government and Bharti Global Ltd of India was approved by the Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York on Friday.

The partners bid more than $1 billion for the assets of the company, which was launching a satellite constellation to provide high-speed broadband services around the world.

“The parties will work to complete the plan sale process, including filing our plan and disclosure statements with the court, conducting voting with our creditors, and seeking regulatory approval and completing customary closing conditions, and expect the process to be completed by the fourth quarter of 2020,” OneWeb said in a statement.

Before it declared bankruptcy in March, OneWeb had 74 of 648 satellites planned for the company’s initial constellation.

NASA Awards SETI Institute Contract for Planetary Protection Support

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA has awarded the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, a contract to support all phases of current and future planetary protection missions to ensure compliance with planetary protection standards.

The SETI Institute will work with NASA’s Office of Planetary Protection (OPP) to provide technical reviews and recommendations, validate biological cleanliness on flight projects, provide training for NASA and its partners, as well as develop guidelines for implementation of NASA requirements, and disseminate information to stakeholders and the public. The role of OPP is to promote responsible exploration of the solar system by protecting both Earth and mission destinations from biological contamination.

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Johnson-Built Device to Help Mars Perseverance Rover Search for Signs of Life

As seen in this artist’s concept, the SHERLOC instrument is located on the end of the robotic arm of NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Later this summer, NASA is launching the Mars Perseverance Rover to the Red Planet with the Mars 2020 Mission. The rover is loaded with equipment to search for signs that there once was life on Mars. One device, called the Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals (SHERLOC) instrument, will be used to detect chemicals on the Martian surface that are linked to the existence of life.

To keep the instrument working well, a team from the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science (ARES) division at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) recently built a new calibration device for the rover to check SHERLOC’s function and properly tune it during the upcoming mission.

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NASA’s Venus Rover Challenge Winners Announced

This collage shows all 15 finalists for the “Exploring Hell” competition. In all, 572 entries from designers, makers, and citizen scientists were submitted from 82 countries. (Credits: NASA/HeroX)

An overwhelming response to the competition will help advance the design of a mechanical rover concept that could one day explore the hellish surface of Venus.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — How do you design a vehicle that can withstand the furnace-like heat and crushing pressures of Venus? One idea being explored by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California is a wind-powered clockwork rover, and it’s just been given a boost by designers, the maker community, and citizen scientists from around the world.

In February, NASA launched a public competition to seek ideas for a mechanical obstacle-avoidance sensor that could be incorporated into the novel rover’s design. And today, the winners have been announced.

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SpaceX Starlink Launch Set for Saturday Morning

Falcon 9 payload shroud. (Credit: SpaceX)

UPDATE: Launch scrubbed again. SpaceX tweeted: “Standing down from today’s launch of the tenth Starlink mission to allow more time for checkouts; team is working to identify the next launch opportunity. Will announce a new target date once confirmed with the Range”

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — SpaceX is targeting Saturday, July 11 at 10:54 a.m. EDT, 14:54 UTC, for launch of its tenth Starlink mission, which will include 57 Starlink satellites and 2 satellites from BlackSky, a Spaceflight customer. Falcon 9 will lift off from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Falcon 9’s first stage previously supported Crew Dragon’s first demonstration mission to the International Space Station, launch of the RADARSAT Constellation Mission, and the fourth and seventh Starlink missions. Following stage separation, SpaceX will land Falcon 9’s first stage on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship, which will be stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.

The BlackSky Global spacecraft will deploy sequentially beginning 1 hour and 1 minute after liftoff, and the Starlink satellites will deploy approximately 1 hour and 32 minutes after liftoff. Starlink satellites will be deployed in a circular orbit, as was done on the first through fourth Starlink missions. Additionally, all Starlink satellites on this flight are equipped with a deployable visor to block sunlight from hitting the brightest spots of the spacecraft – a measure SpaceX has taken as part of our work with leading astronomical groups to mitigate satellite reflectivity.

You can watch the launch webcast here, starting about 15 minutes before liftoff. If you would like to receive updates on Starlink news and service availability in your area, please visit starlink.com.

ExIm Bank President Announces New Program to Counter China

WASHINGTON (EXIM Bank PR) – Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM) President and Chairman Kimberly A. Reed today hosted a teleconference roundtable discussion with over 180 business leaders and stakeholders in the space technology sector. The event was the fifth teleconference in EXIM’s “Strengthening American Competitiveness” initiative, which provides valuable stakeholder input to EXIM’s new Program on China and Transformational Exports.

On the call, Chairman Reed highlighted how EXIM’s partnership with the private sector can provide new economic and security opportunities for U.S. companies. She also underscored EXIM’s commitment to accelerating the success of American companies in this key sector.

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Boom Supersonic Forms Strategic Partnership with Flight Research, Inc., Bringing XB-1 Flight Tests to Mojave Supersonic Corridor

XB-1 technology demonstrator (Credit: Boom Supersonic)

DENVER (Boom Supersonic PR) — Boom Supersonic, the Colorado company building history’s fastest supersonic airliner, has announced the formation of a strategic partnership with Flight Research, Inc. (FRI) aimed at bringing test flights for XB-1, Boom’s supersonic demonstrator aircraft, to the supersonic corridor stretching across the Mojave Desert.

As part of the partnership, FRI will provide Flight Test Support to Boom with a T-38 Talon, a two-seat, twin-jet supersonic trainer, for pilot proficiency training as well as a chase aircraft during XB-1’s flight test program.

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NASA’s Perseverance Rover Attached to Atlas V Rocket

The nose cone containing the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover sits atop a motorized payload transporter at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on July 7, 2020. (Credits: NASA/KSC)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover has been attached to the top of the rocket that will send it toward the Red Planet this summer. Encased in the nose cone that will protect it during launch, the rover and the rest of the Mars 2020 spacecraft – the aeroshell, cruise stage, and descent stage – were affixed to a United Launch Alliance Atlas V booster on Tuesday, July 7, at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Central Florida.

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Chinese Launch Vehicle Fails on Maiden Flight

Kuaizhou 11 lifts off from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.

China’s Kauizhou 11 booster failed on its maiden flight on Friday, destroying two satellites and dealing a setback to the nation’s commercial launch industry.

The three-stage, solid-fuel rocket apparently failed during the latter stages of flight after lift off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. Chinese media said an investigation is under way.

Destroyed in the launch failure were the Jilin-1 video satellite and the CentiSpace-1-S2 navigation spacecraft.

Operated by Expace, the booster is a larger version of the Kauizhou 1A launcher. Kauizhou 11 is designed to launch payloads weighing 1,000 kg into sun synchronous orbit.

Expace is a commercial spin-off from the stage-owned China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation.

China has launched 19 times this year, with 16 successes and three failures. In March, the Long March 7A booster was destroyed during its maiden flight. A Long March 3B failed in flight the following month.

Coming Soon(ish) to a Spaceport Near Me: Boom!

XB-1 technology demonstrator (Credit: Boom Supersonic)

Boom Supersonic to Roll Out Historic XB-1 Demonstrator Oct. 7

Virtual Global Event Will Mark Key Milestone en Route to Company’s 2021 First Flight [at the Mojave Air and Space Port]

DENVER, July 8, 2020 (Boom Supersonic PR) – Boom Supersonic, the aerospace company building the world’s fastest airliner today announced that its supersonic demonstrator, XB-1, will roll out on October 7, 2020. In keeping with CDC-recommended social distancing measures, the entire event will be available online and allow attendees an opportunity to submit questions to company leadership.

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Paragon Eyes Flying a Balloon Over Venus

Venus hides a wealth of information that could help us better understand Earth and exoplanets. NASA’s JPL is designing mission concepts to survive the planet’s extreme temperatures and atmospheric pressure. This image is a composite of data from NASA’s Magellan spacecraft and Pioneer Venus Orbiter. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

With surface temperatures exceeding 470 degrees C (880 F), Venus has always been a difficult place to explore. The Soviet Union’s most successful lander, Venera 13, survived for only 127 minutes before succumbing to the heat.

Conditions in Venus’ atmosphere are more temperate. Venus’ atmospheric pressure and temperature at an altitude of 65 km (40.4 miles) are similar to those on Earth.

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