NASA Adds Shannon Walker to First Operational Crewed SpaceX Mission

Shannon Walker looking out of the international space station’s cupola at the Caribbean view beneath on November 25, 2010. (Credits: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA has assigned astronaut Shannon Walker to the first operational crewed flight of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft on a mission to the International Space Station.

Walker will join NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover Jr., as well as Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), for a six-month expedition aboard the unique space laboratory.

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ESA to Conduct BepiColombo Flyby Amid Coronavirus Crisis

BepiColombo approaching Mercury. (Credit: spacecraft: ESA/ATG medialab; Mercury: NASA/JPL)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Controllers at ESA’s mission control centre are preparing for a gravity-assist flyby of the European-Japanese Mercury explorer BepiColombo. The manoeuvre, which will see the mission adjust its trajectory by harnessing Earth’s gravitational pull as it swings past the planet, will be performed amid restrictions ESA has implemented in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Japanese Astronaut Prepares to Fly on SpaceX Crew Dragon

Japanese astronaut Noguchi Soichi. (Credit: NASA)

JAXA has announced that astronaut Noguchi Soichi is preparing and training for a trip to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard SpaceX’s first operational Crew Dragon spacecraft.

Soichi will be flying to the orbiting facility for the third time. He previously flew aboard the U.S. space shuttle on the STS-114 mission and on Russia’s Soyuz TMA-17 transport. Soichi has spent 177 days in space.

A Crew Dragon flight test with astronauts aboard is currently scheduled for mid- to late May. The schedule for the first operational flight has not been announced yet.

Asteroid Ryugu Likely Link in Planetary Formation

Formation scenario for Ryugu. More than one year ago, the Japanese Hayabusa2 orbiter deployed the German lander, MASCOT, which investigated the approximately one-kilometre-diameter asteroid Ryugu. Scientists are now imagining the history of its formation 4.5 billion years ago. First, flakes and grains of dust formed in the disc of dust and gas rotating around the Sun (1), before porous planetesimals agglomerated due to the accretion of these loose flakes (2). Recent investigations suggest that Ryugu’s parent body hardly condensed and was also highly porous. This may have resulted in the formation of a firmer core, but scientists also believe that a gradual increase in density towards the centre of the parent body is conceivable (3). Impacts and collisions with other asteroids (4) led to a fragmentation of the parent body; the large boulders on Ryugu probably originated here. Part of the debris was then the source material for the accretion of Ryugu (5), with porous blocks and loose material, and also some more compact blocks of higher density from the original core, some of which remain on the surface. Ryugu‘s present diamondlike shape (6) occurred over time due to its rotation. (Credit: Okada et al. Nature 2020)
  • Infrared images show that Ryugu is almost entirely made up.
  • The asteroid was formed largely from fragments of a parent body that was shattered by impacts of highly porous material.
  • DLR scientists participate in the publication in the scientific journal Nature.

COLOGNE, Germany (DLR PR) — The Solar System formed approximately 4.5 billion years ago. Numerous fragments that bear witness to this early era orbit the Sun as asteroids. Around three-quarters of these are carbon-rich C-type asteroids, such as 162173 Ryugu, which was the target of the Japanese Hayabusa2 mission in 2018 and 2019. The spacecraft is currently on its return flight to Earth.

Numerous scientists, including planetary researchers from the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR), intensively studied this cosmic ‘rubble pile’, which is almost one kilometre in diameter and can come close to Earth. Infrared images acquired by Hayabusa2 have now been published in the scientific journal Nature. They show that the asteroid consists almost entirely of highly porous material.

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Science Takes Time, Even in a Lab Moving 17,500 Miles per Hour

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly undergoes ultrasound measurements for the Fluid Shifts experiment during his one-year mission. The investigation measures how much fluid shifts from the lower to the upper body and in or out of cells and blood vessels as well as the effect on vision and the eye. (Credits: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The International Space Station, a microgravity laboratory orbiting Earth at 17,500 miles per hour, has hosted a variety of scientific research for nearly 20 years. Some of that research continues for months and even years.

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What is the Fatigue Countermeasures Lab?

View of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) Koichi Wakata, Expedition 38 Flight Engineer, strapped into his sleeping bag in his sleep station located in the Node 2. (Credits: NASA)

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — For many of us, it’s OK to feel a little sleepy at your desk after lunch. But for people with jobs where it’s critical to be alert and able to think quickly and clearly, feeling fatigued from sleep loss, jet lag, shift work or waking up groggy can be a problem.

The Fatigue Countermeasures Lab at NASA’s Ames Research Center, in California’s Silicon Valley, studies the way fatigue affects people with complex tasks to perform. The realms for these tasks can be as diverse as aviation and spaceflight, NASA space mission operations, military settings and operating self-driving cars.

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NASA Selects First Science Instruments to Send to Gateway

Gateway with Orion over the Moon (Credit: ESA/NASA/ATG Medialab)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected the first two scientific investigations to fly aboard the Gateway, an orbital outpost which will support Artemis lunar operations while demonstrating the technologies necessary to conduct a historic human mission to Mars. The instruments selected for Gateway will observe space weather and monitor the Sun’s radiation environment.

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Japan’s Martian Moons Mission Gets Go Ahead

Artist impression of the MMX spacecraft. (Credit: JAXA)

Martian Moons EXploration (MMX) mission to explore moons, return soil sample from Phobos.

TOKYO (JAXA Program Update) — This week (19 February 2020), the MMX mission transitioned to become a JAXA Project: an official step in mission development authorised by the Japanese government. The mission was previously in the Pre-Project phase, where the focus was on research and analysis, such as simulating landings to improve spacecraft design. The focus will now move onto the development of mission hardware and software.

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JAXA Eyes Phobos Landing, Sample Return

Martian moon Phobos

The Asahi Shimbun reports on a proposal for a sample return mission to Mars’ moon Phobos.

JAXA officials submitted a plan to the science ministry on Feb. 19 that calls for the probe to attempt a landing on Phobos to collect rocks and sand.

The probe will use similar technology installed on the Hayabusa 2 probe, which allowed JAXA to collect and retrieve samples from the asteroid Ryugu in 2019.

Hayabusa 2 is scheduled to release a capsule containing those samples above Australia at the end of this year.

A new H-3 rocket will be used to launch the exploration plan dubbed MMX in September 2024.

Astroscale Selected as Commercial Partner for JAXA’s Commercial Removal of Debris Demonstration Project

TOKYO, February 12, 2020 (Astroscale PR) – Astroscale Holdings Inc. (“Astroscale”), the market-leader in developing technology and services to remove space debris and secure long-term orbital sustainability, today announced it has been selected as the commercial partner for Phase I of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) first debris removal project, a groundbreaking step by Japan to commercialize space debris removal.

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Japan’s Super Low Altitude Test Satellite (SLATS) Tsubame Sets Guiness World Record

Computer generated image of Tsubame. (Credit: JAXA)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced that its Super Low Altitude Test Satellite “TSUBAME” (SLATS) was registered by the Guinness World Records (*1) as having achieved the “lowest altitude by an Earth observation satellite in orbit.”

1. Details on the Guinness World Record set by the Super Low Altitude Test Satellite “TSUBAME” (SLATS)
URL: https://www.guinnessworldrecords.jp/world-records/592663-lowest-altitude-earth-observation-satellite-in-orbit

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JAXA Signs Agreement for Piggyback Launch Opportunities for Small Satellites

H-III launch vehicle variants (Credit: JAXA)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has selected, following public solicitation, and signed an agreement with Space BD Inc. who provides private companies and universities with piggyback launch opportunities for their small satellites when JAXA launches its own satellites using H-IIA and H3 launch vehicles.

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Ryugu Impact Crater Data Analysis Illuminates Complicated Geological History

Figure 1: Size and location of craters on Ryugu (Figure from the Journal paper): The craters are numbered in order of size.

KOBE, Japan (Kobe University PR) — Analysis of the impact craters on Ryugu using the spacecraft Hayabusa 2’s remote sensing image data has illuminated the geological history of the Near-Earth asteroid.

A research group led by Assistant Professor Naoyuki Hirata of the Department of Planetology at Kobe University’s Graduate School of Science revealed 77 craters on Ryugu. Through analyzing the location patterns and characteristics of the craters, they determined that the asteroid’s eastern and western hemispheres were formed at different periods of time.

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NASA IG: Decide Future of the International Space Station Soon

The International Space Station as it appears in 2018. Zarya is visible at the center of the complex, identifiable by its partially retracted solar arrays. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The sooner NASA can decide the future of the International Space Station (ISS), the easier it will be for the space agency to pursue its Artemis program to return astronauts to the moon by 2020, according to a new report from its Office of Inspector General (OIG).

“Whether NASA decides to extend, increase commercialization of, or retire the ISS, the timing of each of these decisions has a cascading effect on the funding available to support space flight operations in low Earth orbit, ambitions for establishing a permanent presence on the Moon, and ultimately sending humans to Mars,” the report stated.

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