Panel Urges Government, Industry Action to Improve Battered Space Supply Chain

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

LONG BEACH, Calif. — The question of how to strengthen the U.S. space industry’s weakened supply chain, which has been battered over the past two years by the global COVID-19 pandemic, was the subject of a panel discussion at the Space Tech Expo last week. The answers boiled down to the Pentagon adopting an agile approach to developing and acquiring technology, and reversing a decades-old trend by industry of outsourcing manufacturing abroad.

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OneWeb Suspends Satellite Launches From Baikonur

Soyuz rocket launches 36 OneWeb satellites from Baikonur Cosmodrome on Dec. 27, 2021. (Credit: Arianespace)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The Friday launch of 36 OneWeb broadband satellites aboard a Soyuz rocket from Baikonur Cosmodrome is officially canceled as the London-based company refused demands from the Russian government amid growing international tensions over the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“The Board of OneWeb has voted to suspend all launches from Baikonur,” the company said in a one-sentence statement.

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Russia Holds OneWeb Satellites Hostage; No Launch Unless Company & British Government Meet Demands

Vladimir Putin receives a briefing from Roscosmos General Director Dmitry Rogozin. (Credit: Office of the Russian President)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

In what is likely the first hostage drama involving communication satellites, the head of the Russian space program has demanded that the British government divest its shares in OneWeb and that the broadband satellite operator not provide services to foreign militaries in order to launch a new batch of spacecraft. The move comes amid growing tensions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and sanctions imposed on the country by western nations.

Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin tweeted that unless these demands are met, Russia will refuse to launch 36 OneWeb satellites that sit atop a Soyuz-2.1b rocket currently on the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The launch is scheduled for Saturday morning Moscow time.

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NASA Spinoffs Help Fight Coronavirus, Clean Pollution, Grow Food & More

The interior of the Biomass Production Chamber at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida replicated the closed growing environment astronauts will use in space or on other planets to grow fresh crops. As the first controlled environment vertical farm in the United States, the chamber helped NASA provide critical data for the indoor farming industry. (Credits: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA’s mission of exploration requires new technologies, software, and research – which show up in daily life. The agency’s Spinoff 2022 publication tells the stories of companies, start-ups, and entrepreneurs transforming these innovations into cutting-edge products and services that boost the economy, protect the planet, and save lives.

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New Chairman Takes Charge as India Space Agency Struggles to Launch Satellites and Begin Human Spaceflight

New ISRO Chairman Shri. S. Somanath (left) takes over from K. Sivan. (Credit: ISRO)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

A new chairman has taken over the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) at a crucial time as the space agency continues to struggles with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the challenge of becoming only the fourth nation capable of launching astronauts into orbit.

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2021 in Review: Highlights from NASA in Silicon Valley

Ingenuity Mars helicopter flies on the Red Planet. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS)

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — Join us as we look back at the highlights of 2021 at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley.

1) NASA’s water-hunting Moon rover, the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, made great strides this year. The VIPER team successfully completed practice runs of the full-scale assembly of the Artemis program’s lunar rover in VIPER’s new clean room. Two rounds of egress testing let rover drivers practice exiting the lander and rolling onto the rocky surface of the Moon. NASA also announced the landing site selected for the robotic rover, which will be delivered to the Nobile region of the Moon’s South Pole in late 2023 as part of the Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative. NASA also chose eight new VIPER science team members and their proposals to expand and complement VIPER’s already existing science team and planned investigations. This year’s progress contributed to VIPER’s completion of its Critical Design Review, turning the mission’s focus toward construction of the rover beginning in late 2022.

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Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against Virgin Galactic Alleging Securities Fraud

Michael Colglazier (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

A class action lawsuit was filed in New York on Dec. 7 alleging securities fraud by Virgin Galactic, which went public on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in October 2019 after merging with Chamath Palihapitiya’s Social Capital Hedosophia (SCH).

Named in the lawsuit are Virgin Galactic Holdings, CEO Michael Colglazier, former CEO George Whitesides, former current chief financial officer Doug Ahrens, and former chief financial officer Jon Compagna.

The lawsuit was filed amid years-long delays in the start of commercial human suborbital flights that have caused a sharp decline in the value of the stock. Virgin Galactic began trading on the New York Stock Exchange at an opening price of $12.34 on Oct. 28, 2019. The stock is now trading at $14.46 having previously soared to a high of $62.80.

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India Delays Gaganyaan Crew Flight as Mission Specific Training Begins

Indian Coast Guard recovering ISRO’s Crew module Atmospheric Re-entry Experiment (CARE) at 114 nautical miles South West of Indira point. [Credit: Indian Coast Guard (GODL-India)]

India is delaying its planned launch of its Gaganyaan crew vehicle due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. India Today reports:

India’s maiden space mission, Gaganyaan, will be launched in 2023, Science & Technology Minister Dr Jitendra Singh said on Thursday. In reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha, the minister said that India’s maiden human space mission will soar to the skies in 2023, making the country the fourth nation in the world to launch a human spaceflight mission after the US, Russia and China.

Meanwhile, the test vehicle flight for the validation of Crew Escape System performance and the first uncrewed mission of Gaganyaan are scheduled at the beginning of the second half of 2022.

“This will be followed by the second uncrewed mission at the end of 2022 carrying “Vyommitra” a spacefaring human-robot developed by ISRO and finally the first crewed Gaganyaan mission in 2023,” he said.

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Emission Reductions From Pandemic Had Unexpected Effects on Atmosphere

Worldwide restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic caused huge reductions in travel and other economic activities, resulting in lower emissions. Seen here, almost-empty highways in Colombia during the pandemic. (Credits: International Monetary Fund)

Earth’s atmosphere reacted in surprising ways to the lowering of emissions during the pandemic, showing how closely climate warming and air pollution are linked.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting limitations on travel and other economic sectors by countries around the globe drastically decreased air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions within just a few weeks. That sudden change gave scientists an unprecedented view of results that would take regulations years to achieve.

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Vladimir Putin to Roscosmos: Do More with Less

Russian President Vladimir Putin tours Vostochny Cosmodrome in September 2019. (Crredit: Roscosmos)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Russian President Vladimir Putin has Roscosmos taken to task for failing to compete a series of goals even as his government prepares to cut the budget of the Roscosmos state corporation that runs the nation’s space program by more than $500 million.

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This Week in Elon: Musk Mocks Biden Amid Cooler Political Climate, Federal Investigation of Tesla

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

It seems that Elon Musk is a bit peeved that President Joe Biden didn’t congratulate SpaceX on completing the privately-funded Inspiration4 crewed mission last week and helping to raise $210 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

“He’s still sleeping,” Musk wrote in response to a question from a Twitter follower about Biden’s silence. It was a clear reference to ex-President Donald Trump’s description of him as “sleepy Joe” during the campaign.

The remark set off the usual battle on social media. Musk’s legion of defenders called the omission unforgivable. Musk’s critics noted his willingness to amply praise authoritarian China where Musk’s Tesla Motors has a manufacturing plant even as he called U.S. officials “fascists” for their efforts to contain the deadly COVID-19 virus.

For his part, Jared Isaacman, the billionaire who funded and commanded the Inspiration4 flight, says Biden’s silence is no big deal.

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COVID-19 Related Propellant Supply Issues Delay Landsat 9 Launch, Impact SpaceX Missions

Landsat 9 Operational Land Imager 2 (Credit: Ball Aerospace)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA says that a surge in COVID-19 cases has caused supply issues that have delayed the planned launch of the Landsat 9 Earth observation satellite from Vandenberg Space Force Base by one week to no earlier than Sept. 23.

“Current pandemic demands for medical liquid oxygen [LOX] have impacted the delivery of the needed liquid nitrogen supply to Vandenberg by the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) and its supplier Airgas,” the space agency said in a blog post. “Airgas converts the liquid nitrogen to gaseous nitrogen needed for launch vehicle testing and countdown sequences. DLA and Airgas now have implemented efforts to increase the supply of liquid nitrogen to Vandenberg.”

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Launch 2020: India’s Flight Rate Declined Due to COVID-19, but Nation Moved Forward with Commercialization

PSLV-C50 lifts off with the CMS-01 satellite. (Credit: ISRO)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, India’s growing space program managed only two domestic launches last year as it was forced to delay the Gaganyaan human spaceflight program and several other high profile projects.

However, India was able to move forward last year on a sweeping commercialization of its state-controlled space industry designed to make the country internationally competitive.

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Masten Mission to Lunar South Shifted 11 Months to Late 2023

Masten’s XL-1 lunar lander will deliver science and technology payloads to the Moon’s South Pole in 2022. (Credits: Masten Space Systems)

MOJAVE, Calif., June 23, 2021 (Masten Space Systems PR) – Masten Space Systems is proud to be one of NASA’s providers for lunar delivery services to the Moon as part of the agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative. Masten Mission 1 includes delivery of science and technology instruments near the Haworth Crater at the lunar south pole, a site expected to offer insight into the presence of important volatiles on the Moon. In addition to commercial payloads, Masten’s XL-1 lunar lander will deliver and operate eight NASA-sponsored payloads to assess the composition of the lunar surface, evaluate radiation, and detect volatiles, such as water, methane, and carbon dioxide, under the agency’s Artemis program.

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