China’s First Mars Lander Performs Successful Hover Test

HEBEI HUAILAI, China (CNSA PR) — On November 14, 2019, the China National Space Administration invited some foreign embassies and international organizations to go to Hebei Huailai to observe China’s first Mars exploration mission lander hovering obstacle avoidance test and visit relevant test facilities. 

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Structural Failure Caused SARGE Crash

A cloud of dirt rises after the impact of the SARGE booster. (Credit Exos Aerospace webcast)

CADDO MILLS, Texas (Exos Aerospace PR) — On Saturday, October 26th, Exos Aerospace launched its SARGE-SRLV at Spaceport America. Launch initiation was at 11:39 MST. While we beat SpaceX to a fourth flight, we will likely not beat them to a fourth recovery, given the loss of the vehicle at T+48 seconds.

We are still in the process of evaluating video and telemetry data; however, it appears a structural failure resulted in an abort and deployment of the recovery system at speeds far beyond its design capability. Exos recovered the vehicle within the flight hazard area, and the retrieved hardware confirms that the safety systems performed flawlessly.

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The “Goodbye Ryugu” Campaign

Asteroid Ryugu with north polar boulder (Credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu and AIST)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — On November 13, 2019 at 10:05 JST (onboard time), the Hayabusa2 spacecraft departed from asteroid Ryugu to return to Earth. Until November 18 ~ 19, images of the receding Ryugu will be captured by the camera mounted on the spacecraft (images here).

After this time, the spacecraft will perform an attitude control maneuver to the orientation needed to operate the ion engines and will no longer be able to take photographs of Ryugu.

Therefore, from the departure from Ryugu until November 19, we would like to recruit messages about Ryugu and Hayabusa2 as part of the “Goodbye Ryugu” campaign. Please send a message to the Hayabusa2 Project! (Please understand that messages may be opened to the public.)

You can send your message via Twitter, on a postcard or in a letter:

Twitter

Please tweet your message with the hashtag #SAYONARA_Ryugu .

If you already have a Twitter account, you can also post via this post link with the hashtag.

Postcards and Letters

Please send to the Hayabusa2 Project.
JAXA Institute of Space & Astronautical Science (ISAS), 3-1-1 Yoshinodai, Chuo-ku, Sagamihara City, Kanagawa Prefecture, 252-5210, Japan

Application Period

November 13, 2019 (Wednesday) ~ November 19, 2019 (Tuesday) .

5 years after launch and at the conclusion of about a year and a half of missions at Ryugu, we would love to hear your thoughts on Hayabusa2 and asteroid Ryugu.

NASA to Announce Additional Commercial Moon Delivery Providers

Artist’s rendering of an ascent vehicle separating from a descent vehicle and departing the lunar surface. (Credit: NASA)

NASA will host a media teleconference at 4:30 p.m. EST Monday, Nov. 18, to announce additional American companies joining the competitive pool for delivery services to the surface of the Moon through the agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS)  project.

The teleconference audio and supporting visuals will stream live on the agency’s website.

In July, NASA announced an opportunity for American companies to join the CLPS contract to deliver larger, heavier payloads to lunar surface. The newly selected companies, along with the original nine selected in November 2018, all will be eligible to bid on future lunar delivery services, including task orders for heavier payloads, as well as payload integration and operations.

The investigations and demonstrations launching on CLPS flights will help NASA study the Moon as it prepares to send the first woman and next man to the lunar surface by 2024 through the agency’s Artemis program, with eventual human missions to Mars.

The teleconference participants are:

  • Steve Clarke, deputy associate administrator for exploration in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington
  • Chris Culbert, CLPS project manager at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston
  • Representatives from the newly selected service providers

For more information about NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/clps

The Shape of European Space Technology to Come

Mega-constellations of hundreds or even thousands of low-orbiting satellites offer a means of acquiring continuous coverage for telecommunications services or Earth observation. (Credit: ESA – Science Office)

JUAN-LES-PINS, France (ESA PR) — The space sector is in the midst of unprecedented change. Ahead of this month’s Space19+ Ministerial Council, where Europe’s space ministers agree ESA’s forward trajectory, technology leaders of our continent’s biggest space manufacturers came together to share their future visions.

At the latest European Space Power Conference, which took place in Juan-Les-Pins in France, the discussion ranged beyond providing for the power needs of future missions to the overall future of the space industry.

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A Roller Coaster Approach to Satellite Re-positioning

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (Aerospace Corporation PR) — When a natural disaster strikes or a national security emergency breaks out, every minute counts.

But it can take a satellite in low earth orbit 100 minutes to make one of the many passes needed to provide global coverage. Larger satellites can provide continuous coverage of greater areas but require higher altitudes and still only cover roughly one-third of the Earth.

In critical, fast-moving situations, space operators can find themselves challenged by the stubborn inflexibility of satellite positioning, which, despite numerous technological advances, still requires satellites to rotate or orbit into viewing range to image a target.

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Loft Orbital Raises $13 Million for “Satellite as a Service” Operation

A Loft Orbital-owned and -operated microsatellite, flying multiple customer payloads onboard as a service. (Credit: Loft Orbital Solutions Inc.)

Loft Orbital has raised a $13 million Series A round led by Foundation Capital.

The San Francisco-based company provides end-to-end service by integrating payloads onto standard microsat buses. Loft Orbital also manages the launch and operations of the satellites.

“Loft’s basic value proposition is twofold. First, for customers who don’t have space-industry expertise but want the benefits of sensing and communications from space, Loft provides white-glove service,” Foundation Capital General Partner Steve Vassallo wrote in a blog post.

“Customers in this category include new commercial players in the space industry and foreign governments that don’t have their own space programs,” he added. “Second, as Loft aggregates the sensors into one satellite and books the launches from all over the world with backup launches, not only is the cost much lower for each customer, speed to orbit is also much faster.”

Vassallo said the company is targeting the fast-growing 75-100 kg (166- 220 lb) microsat market segment. “The market for this microsatellite category is $12 billion at the moment and expected to grow to $35 billion by 2025,” he wrote.

Loft Orbital was founded by three veterans of Spire Global — Antoine De Chassy, Pierre-Damien Vaujour, and Alex Greenberg.

423 Teams Selected for Phase 2 of Astro Pi Mission Space Lab 2019/2020

Astro Pi Ed and Astro Pi Izzy in space. (Credit: ESA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA Education and the Raspberry Pi Foundation congratulate all the entries of this year’s European Astro Pi Challenge: Mission Space Lab for their outstanding proposals. This has been another record-breaking year with Phase 1 receiving a grand total of 545 entries from 23 countries! The 423 selected teams will now have a chance to write computer code for the scientific experiments they want to send up to Astro Pi Ed or Astro Pi Izzy to run aboard the International Space Station!

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Astronauts Complete First Excursion to Repair Cosmic Particle Detector

Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) attached to the Canadarm during the first Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer repair spacewalk on Nov. 15, 2019. (Credit: NASA)

Expedition 61 Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) and NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan concluded their spacewalk at 1:18 p.m. EST. During the six hour and 39 minute spacewalk, the two astronauts successfully positioned materials, removed a debris cover on the AMS, and installed handrails in preparation for the subsequent spacewalks.

The duo also completed a number of get-ahead tasks originally planned for the second spacewalk, including the removal of the vertical support beam cover for the area that houses the eight stainless steel tubes that will be cut and spliced together on the upcoming spacewalks.

Today’s work clears the way for Parmitano and Morgan’s next spacewalk in the repair series Friday Nov. 22. The main focus of the second spacewalk will be the access, cut, and label the stainless steel tubes that attach the current cooling system to the AMS. The plan is to bypass the old thermal control system, attach a new one off the side of AMS during the third spacewalk, and then conduct leak checks.

In addition to the overall complexity of the instrument, astronauts have never before cut and reconnected fluid lines, like those that are part of the AMS thermal control system, during a spacewalk. To cut the cooling lines and complete other tasks in this series of spacewalks, scientists, engineers and astronauts on Earth have gone through several iterations of designing, prototyping, experimenting and validating many specialized tools in preparation for the complex work in space.

Space station crew members have conducted 222 spacewalks in support of assembly and maintenance of the orbiting laboratory. Spacewalkers have now spent a total of 58 days 3 hours and 8 minutes working outside the station. Parmitano has now conducted three spacewalks in his career and Morgan has now logged four spacewalks since his arrival on the station in July.

Keep up with the crew aboard the International Space Station on the agency’s blog, follow @ISS on Instagram, and @space_station on Twitter.

ISS National Lab, NSF Announce Joint Solicitation on Transport Phenomena

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER (FL), October 30, 2019 – The International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory and the National Science Foundation (NSF) today announced a “Transport Phenomena” joint solicitation open to investigators interested in leveraging resources onboard the orbiting laboratory for research in the areas of fluid dynamics, particulate and multiphase processes, thermal transport, nanoscale interactions, and combustion and fire systems.

Up to $3 million will be awarded for multiple research investigations to support flight projects to the ISS National Lab. The ISS National Lab and NSF previously partnered on three separate fluid dynamics/multiphase processes solicitations and an additional funding opportunity focused on combustion and thermal transport.

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Virgin Galactic Kicks Off Astronaut Readiness Program

Virgin Galactic kicks off Astronaut Readiness Program. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

BALTIMORE (Virgin Galactic PR) — Virgin Galactic has kicked off its Astronaut Readiness Program – the process of preparing Future Astronaut customers for their flights to space. As the first and only private company to have put humans into space in a vehicle built for commercial service, we are now finalizing all elements of the customer experience, including the recently unveiled customer spacesuits, created in partnership with Under Armour, and the interior of our Gateway to Space headquarters at Spaceport America. The next phase in this process is to ensure that Future Astronauts are optimally prepared to fly to space.

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My Podcast Appearance on Tipping Point New Mexico

I recently talked with Paul Gessing who runs the Tipping Point New Mexico podcast. We talked about my article, “Spaceport America and Virgin Galactic: The Numbers Never Added Up,” which looked at the promises made to justifying spending $225 million on a custom-built spaceport for Richard Branson’s suborbital space tourism company. We also discussed Virgin Galactic’s recent move to go public.

Enjoy!

Aerospace CubeSats Blaze a Faster Trail to Space

Aerospace CubeSat (Credit: Aerospace Corporation)

The challenge: Build and launch a pair of cube satellites on a tight budget and even tighter timeline. 

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (Aerospace Corporation PR) — In mid-2018, The Aerospace Corporation engineers and scientists received a unique mission from the United States Air Force. Their challenge: Build and launch a pair of cube satellites on a tight budget and even tighter timeline of just 18 months.

In a world where the threats facing orbiting satellites proliferate with each passing year, the ability to field an agile response and quickly restore lost functionality is a critical, but still developing, capability.

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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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