Italian Space Agency Shifts Satellite Launch From Vega-C to SpaceX Falcon 9

COSMO SkyMed satellite (Credit: ASI)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Citing delays with Europe’s new Vega-C rocket, two Vega booster failures and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Italian Space Agency (ASI) has shifted the launch of the second COSMO-SkyMed Second Generation (CSG-2) Earth observation satellite to SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.

“The delays, postponing the Vega-C Maiden Flight to Q1 2022, with a consequent tight schedule of launches in 2022, made the  launch period of CSG-2 no longer compatible with the needs of the COSMO Mission. Since Arianespace backlog was already full on Soyuz and Ariane systems in 2021, it was not possible to have a European back-up solution compliant with the CSG-2 schedule, thus an alternative solution with the US provider SpaceX has been adopted allowing to keep the CSG-2 launch within the current year,” ASI said on its website.

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EPSC 2021: Life Support Cooked up From Lunar Rocks

Artist impression of a Moon Base concept. (Credit: ESA – P. Carril)

STRASBOURG, France (Europlanet Society PR) — Engineers have successfully shown how water and oxygen can be extracted by cooking up lunar soil, in order to support future Moon bases. A laboratory demonstrator, developed by a consortium of the Politecnico Milano, the European Space Agency, the Italian Space Agency and the OHB Group, is presented this week at the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2021.

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ASI and Qascom to Bring Italy and Galileo Navigation System to the Moon

Photo of Mare Crisium taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. (Credit: NASA)

ROME (ASI PR) — Finding the best route for lunar orbit and easy parking on the Moon is the goal of NEIL (Navigation Early Investigation on Lunar surface) GNSS receiver with Software Defined Radio (SDR) technology. The creation of NEIL, named in honor of Neil Armstrong, the first man to touch the lunar soil, is at the center of an agreement between the Italian Space Agency (ASI) and NASA linked to the CLPS 19-D mission (NASA missions with contributions commercial and private of an experimental nature) with which the American space agency has planned to land with a lander in the Mare Crisium basin in 2023. [Editor’s Note: This is Firefly Aerospace’s Blue Ghost lander mission.]

NEIL, subject of the contract signed between ASI and the company Qascom SRL, is the on-board payload that will be an integral part of the experiment called Lunar GNSS Receiver Experiment  (LuGRE), defined in the ASI/NASA agreement, which aims to develop an activity in a lunar and cislunar environment.

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LICIACube is Ready for the First Planetary Defense Mission

LICIACube (Credit: Argotec)

An Italian microSat, made by Argotec and ASI, which will fly with NASA towards an asteroid

ROME (ASI PR) — LICIACube, the microsatellite built entirely in the Argotec plants in Turin on behalf of and in collaboration with the Italian Space Agency (ASI), will be delivered and shipped in the coming weeks to the integration site in the United States in preparation for the launch, scheduled for the end year, of the first planetary defense mission from future potential asteroid threats .

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ESA Selects Revolutionary Venus Mission EnVision

PARIS (ESA PR) — EnVision will be ESA’s next Venus orbiter, providing a holistic view of the planet from its inner core to upper atmosphere to determine how and why Venus and Earth evolved so differently.

The mission was selected by ESA’s Science Programme Committee on 10 June as the fifth Medium-class mission in the Agency’s Cosmic Vision plan, targeting a launch in the early 2030s.

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Telespazio at Head of ESA Consortium to Study Communication and Navigation Services for the Moon

  • The international consortium includes satellite operators, manufacturing and service companies, SMEs, universities and research centres
  • The services will rely on satellites and terrestrial stations to support space exploration and the development of the “Lunar Economy”
  • “Communications and positioning are essential for the sustainable presence of men and women on the Moon and for beneficial effects on life on Earth,” says CEO Luigi Pasquali

ROME (Telespazio PR) — Leveraging on the satellite communication and navigation services that are common on Earth, European Space Agency (ESA) has awarded a contract to a consortium led by Telespazio, a joint venture between Leonardo (67%) and Thales (33%), in the role of large mission integrator, to study how to design an equivalent infrastructure and service around the Moon.

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ESA to Unveil Plans for Lunar Satellite Constellation on Thursday

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA is backing a bold proposal to create a commercially viable constellation of satellites around the Moon.

Dozens of international, institutional and commercial teams are planning to send missions to the Moon, envisaging a permanent human lunar presence. Using a shared telecommunications and navigation service would reduce the design complexity of future individual missions and make them lighter, freeing space for more scientific instruments or other cargo, making each individual mission more cost-efficient.

Two consortia of companies will be funded by ESA to devise detailed definitions of how to provide telecommunications and navigation services for missions to the Moon, under the agency’s Moonlight initiative.

Such a lasting lunar link will enable sustainable space exploration.

Watch a press briefing with ESA directors and representatives of Surrey Satellites Technology Ltd, Telespazio, the UK Space Agency and the Italian space agency ASI that will be held on Thursday 20 May 14:00-15:00 CEST [9 a.m. EDT] and streamed live on ESA Web TV.

Avio Purchases 10 Additional Ukrainian Engines for Vega Launcher’s Upper Stage

Vega launches on April 28, 2021. (Credit: Arianespace)

DNIPRO, Ukraine (Yuzhnoye PR) — Yuzhnoye Design Office and the Italian company Avio have reached an agreement on the additional purchase of 10 Ukrainian-made engines for the Vega launch vehicle for a total of almost 6 million euros [$7.2 million]. 

The Italian side reaffirmed its readiness to expand cooperation on April 28. Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba welcomed the agreement reached by the joint efforts of representatives of the Ukrainian rocket and space industry and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine. 

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NASA Engineers Analyze Navigation Needs of Artemis Moon Missions

Illustration of NASA’s lunar-orbiting Gateway and a human landing system in orbit around the Moon. (Credit: NASA)

By Danny Baird
​NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. — Space communications and navigation engineers at NASA are evaluating the navigation needs for the Artemis program, including identifying the precision navigation capabilities needed to establish the first sustained presence on the lunar surface.

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UK Space Sector Receives £1 Million Government Boost to Support International Innovation

SWINDON, UK (UK Space Agency PR) — Five new projects have been awarded a share of over £1 million [$1.38 million] of government funding to work with international partners on innovative space technology.

Projects to remotely probe ice on Mars to help explorers find life below the surface, a system to warn of impacts of flood risks to infrastructure based on research in India and a scheme to design UK imaging technology for a space telescope are among the new international initiatives to receive backing from the UK Space Agency’s National Space Innovation Programme (NSIP).

The funding will see UK companies and organisations working with partners such as NASA, and space agencies from Canada, Japan and Italy. NSIP is the first fund dedicated to supporting the UK space sector’s innovation through collaborations with international partners designed to contribute to UK science, security and prosperity.

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Italy Takes First Steps Towards the Moon

Lunar multi-purpose module (Credit: Italian Space Agency)

The Italian Space Agency and Thales Alenia Space Italia are at work for the American lunar exploration program Artemis.

ROME (Italian Space Agency PR) — Italy is taking its first steps towards the Moon. The country system is preparing for the great leap on the surface of our natural satellite also thanks to the international relations between Italy and the United States and between the respective space agencies ASI and NASA, which have recently intensified on the basis of the mutual interest in collaborating on the program of Artemis exploration.

Within this strategic framework, a contract was born between the Italian Space Agency and Thales Alenia Space Italia, (JV between Thales 67% and Leonardo 33%) dedicated to the feasibility study and preliminary design (phases A / B) of a multi-purpose module linked to NASA’s Artemis mission which provides a human crew on the Moon.

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NASA, International Partners Assess Mission to Map Ice on Mars, Guide Science Priorities

This artist illustration depicts four orbiters as part of the International Mars Ice Mapper (I-MIM) mission concept. Low and to the left, an orbiter passes above the Martian surface, detecting buried water ice through a radar instrument and large reflector antenna. Circling Mars at a higher altitude are three telecommunications orbiters with one shown relaying data back to Earth. (Credits: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA and three international partners have signed a statement of intent to advance a possible robotic Mars ice mapping mission, which could help identify abundant, accessible ice for future candidate landing sites on the Red Planet. The agencies have agreed to establish a joint concept team to assess mission potential, as well as partnership opportunities. 

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Thales Alenia Space to Provide Study for ESA’s Cis-lunar Transfer Vehicle

Artist’s conception of Cis-Lunar Transfer Vehicle. (Credit: Thales Alenia Space)

TURIN, Italy, January 25, 2021 (Thales Alenia Space PR) – Thales Alenia Space, joint venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%) has signed a contract with European Space Agency (ESA), worth €4.5 million [$5.45 million], for the study of Cis-Lunar Transfer Vehicle (CLTV), a transportation logistic space vehicle to be used for a variety of missions: from the logistic resupply of Lunar Gateway pressurized modules, to the transportation of space infrastructure in low Earth orbit, and the potential use in future missions in support of the European Large Logistic Lander (EL3).

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NASA Advancing Global Navigation Satellite System Capabilities

Deployment of Bobcat-1 from the International Space Station. (Credit: Nanoracks)

by Danny Baird
​NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation program office

NASA is developing capabilities that will allow missions at high altitudes to take advantage of signals from Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) constellations — like GPS commonly used in the U.S. These signals — used on Earth for navigation and critical timing applications — could provide NASA’s Artemis missions to the Moon with reliable timing and navigation data. NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) program is developing the technologies that will support this goal.

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NASA Explores Upper Limits of Global Navigation Systems for Artemis

An Orion spacecraft approaches the lunar Gateway. (Credit: NASA)

By Danny Baird
​NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation program office

The Artemis generation of lunar explorers will establish a sustained human presence on the Moon, prospecting for resources, making revolutionary discoveries, and proving technologies key to future deep space exploration.

To support these ambitions, NASA navigation engineers from the Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) program are developing a navigation architecture that will provide accurate and robust Position, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) services for the Artemis missions. Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) signals will be one component of that architecture. GNSS use in high-Earth orbit and in lunar space will improve timing, enable precise and responsive maneuvers, reduce costs, and even allow for autonomous, onboard orbit and trajectory determination.

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