Arianespace to Launch Microcarb on Vega C

Vega rocket in flight (Credit: Arianespace)
  • Microcarb is a science satellite that will trace CO2 sinks and sources on a global scale.
  • The requested performance for this launch planned in 2023 is 190kg on a sun-synchronous orbit at 650km.

EVRY-COURCOURONNES, France, January 18, 2022 (Arianespace PR) — Arianespace has been awarded a launch contract by ESA, on behalf of the European Commission, to launch Microcarb in 2023 on Vega C. Microcarb is a 190kg satellite developed by CNES that will be delivered into a sun-synchronous orbit, 650km above the Earth.

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Assessing Perseverance’s Seventh Sample Collection

Debris in Perseverance’s Bit Carousel: Pebble-sized debris can be seen in the bit carousel of NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover in this Jan. 7, 2022, image. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

by Louise Jandura
Chief Engineer for Sampling & Caching
NASA/JPL

On Wednesday, Dec. 29 (sol 306) Perseverance successfully cored and extracted a sample from a Mars rock. Data downlinked after the sampling indicates that coring of the rock the science team nicknamed Issole went smoothly. However, during the transfer of the bit that contains the sample into the rover’s bit carousel (which stores bits and passes tubes to the tube processing hardware inside the rover), our sensors indicated an anomaly. The rover did as it was designed to do – halting the caching procedure and calling home for further instructions.

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NASA TV to Air SpaceX Cargo Dragon Departure from Space Station

The SpaceX Cargo Dragon spacecraft is set to depart the International Space Station on Friday, Jan. 21, for a splashdown Saturday, Jan. 22, off the coast of Florida. (Credits: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — A SpaceX Dragon cargo resupply spacecraft is set to depart the International Space Station Friday, Jan. 21. NASA Television, the agency’s website, and the NASA app will provide live broadcast of the spacecraft’s undocking and departure beginning at 10:15 a.m. EST.

Ground controllers at SpaceX in Hawthorne, California, will send commands at 10:40 a.m. for Dragon to undock from the space-facing port of the station’s Harmony module and fire its thrusters to move a safe distance away from the station. Controllers will command a deorbit burn the following day.

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NASA Sets Coverage for Russian Spacewalk Outside Space Station

Pictured from left are the Soyuz MS-19 crew spacecraft and the Nauka Multipurpose Laboratory Module with the Prichal docking module attached as the International Space Station orbited 266 miles above the Indian Ocean off the western coast of Australia. (Credits: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Two Russian cosmonauts will venture outside the International Space Station at about 7 a.m. EST Wednesday, Jan. 19, to conduct a spacewalk to ready the new Prichal module for future Russian visiting spacecraft.

Live coverage of the spacewalk will begin at 6 a.m. on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website.

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Rep. Randy Weber Introduces U.S. Leadership in Space Act

Randy Weber

WASHINGTON D.C. (Randy Weber PR) – On Thursday,  January 13, 2022, Congressman Randy Weber (R-TX-14), introduced H.R. 6391, the U.S. Leadership in Space Act of 2021.

“We are at a critical juncture in our nation’s history. It is important that Congress does the job it was intended to do: authorize, and then subsequently fund, critical government programs. Especially those that strengthen national security and scientific discovery.

“Space is an important domain for several reasons. As any military leader will tell you, whoever occupies the high ground has the strategic advantage. Continued inaction by Congress to adequately address the growing threats posed by an expanding uncontrolled debris field in earth’s orbit; the irresponsible and reckless anti-satellite missile tests by Russia that recently endangered the lives of astronauts (and cosmonauts) aboard the International Space Station (ISS); and the years of intellectual property theft, critical supply chain control, and other nefarious practices by China, require that Congress and this Administration come together to pass meaningful legislation that will ensure continued American preeminence in space.

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MDA Awarded Another Contract to Provide Lunar Landing Sensors as Number of Planned Moon Missions Increases

BRAMPTON, Ont. (MDA PR) — MDA Ltd. (TSX:MDA), a leading provider of advanced technology and services to the rapidly-expanding global space industry, today announced a contract with an undisclosed US-based space company for a key landing sensor for a 2023 mission to the Moon. This award was made as part of the company’s project involving NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative.

“Momentum is building as governments and private sector organizations work hand in glove on a shared mission that will take us back towards the Moon and beyond,” said Mike Greenley, Chief Executive Officer of MDA. “MDA is proud to be part of that collaboration and we look forward to supporting the upcoming missions to the lunar surface where our robotics and sensor technologies will play an important enabling role.”

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Lucy Cruising Outbound; Testing Solar Array Options on Ground

An artist’s concept of the Lucy Mission. (Credit: SwRI)

NASA Mission Update
Jan. 12, 2022

The Lucy spacecraft, launched on Oct. 16, 2021, is now over 30 million miles, or 48 million kilometers, from Earth and continues to operate safely in “outbound cruise” mode. Besides a solar array that didn’t latch after deployment — an issue the mission team is working to resolve— all spacecraft systems are normal. The arrays are producing ample energy, charging the spacecraft’s battery as expected under normal operating conditions.

The current plan supports a latch attempt in the late April timeframe; however, the team is continuing to study the possibility of leaving the array as is. In the meantime, in the lab, they are testing a dual motor solar array deployment using both the primary and backup motor. The testing aims to determine if engaging both motors at the same time applies enough force to complete the deployment and latch the solar array.

In addition to the solar array activity, the team continues to run routine operations on the spacecraft. The next activity is calibrating guidance, navigation & control hardware to ensure pointing accuracy of the spacecraft.

On January 5, Lucy completed a test to look at the dynamics of the spacecraft in order to characterize the solar array.

NASA’s Spitzer Illuminates Exoplanets in Astronomical Society Briefing

This illustration shows what clouds might look like in the atmosphere of a brown dwarf. Using NASA’s retired Spitzer Space Telescope, scientists were able to detect clouds and other weather features in brown dwarf atmospheres. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/IPAC/T. Pyle)

The infrared observatory may help answer questions about planets outside our solar system, or exoplanets, including how they form and what drives weather in their atmospheres.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Two new studies using data from NASA’s retired Spitzer Space Telescope shed light on giant exoplanets and brown dwarfs, objects that aren’t quite stars but aren’t quite planets either. Both studies will be the focus of virtual news conferences hosted by the American Astronomical Society on Jan. 13.

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NASA, White House Initiative to Spur Entrepreneurial Spirit of HBCU Scholars

Students participating in NASA’s MITTIC Challenge showcase their spinoff technology concepts in a poster session at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. (Credits: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA and the Department of Education are collaborating to enhance the federal Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Scholar Recognition Program using NASA entrepreneurial expertise.

Beginning in 2022, a NASA pitch competition for students at higher education institutions will officially become part of the HBCU Scholar Recognition Program, part of the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity. The competition will be a small-scale version of NASA’s Minority University Education and Research Program (MUREP) Innovation and Tech Transfer Idea Competition (MITTIC).

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Cheops Reveals a Rugby Ball-shaped Exoplanet

Artist impression of planet WASP-103b and its host star. (Credit: ESA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA’s exoplanet mission Cheops has revealed that an exoplanet orbiting its host star within a day has a deformed shape more like that of a rugby ball than a sphere. This is the first time that the deformation of an exoplanet has been detected, offering new insights into the internal structure of these star-hugging planets.

The planet, known as WASP-103b is located in the constellation of Hercules. It has been deformed by the strong tidal forces between the planet and its host star WASP-103, which is about 200 degrees hotter and 1.7 times larger than the Sun.

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2021 Tied for 6th Warmest Year in Continued Trend, NASA Analysis Shows

2021 was tied for the sixth warmest year on NASA’s record, stretching more than a century. Because the record is global, not every place on Earth experienced the sixth warmest year on record. Some places had record-high temperatures, and we saw record droughts, floods and fires around the globe. (Credits: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio/Kathryn Mersmann)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Earth’s global average surface temperature in 2021 tied with 2018 as the sixth warmest on record, according to independent analyses done by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Continuing the planet’s long-term warming trend, global temperatures in 2021 were 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit (0.85 degrees Celsius) above the average for NASA’s baseline period, according to scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York. NASA uses the period from 1951-1980 as a baseline to see how global temperature changes over time.

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NASA Prepares SLS Moon Rockets for First Crewed Artemis Missions

Casting and assembly of solid rocket booster, shown her, for the Artemis IV mission is underway at Northrop Grumman’s factory in Promontory, Utah. The booster motors for Artemis II and Artemis III have completed casting and are ready to go to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center where they will be assembled with other booster hardware being prepared for the missions. (Credit: NASA)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — As teams continue to prepare NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket for its debut flight with the launch of Artemis I, NASA and its partners across the country have made great progress building the rocket for Artemis II, the first crewed Artemis mission. The team is also manufacturing and testing major parts for Artemis missions III, IV and V.

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Intuitive Machines Validates Lunar Communication with MSU for First Lunar Landing

Illustration of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. (Credits: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

HOUSTON (Intuitive Machines PR) — Together, Intuitive Machines (IM) and Morehead State University’s Space Science Center (MSU) validated a complete lunar communications solution with the NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), including orbit determination pointing solution and data downlink.

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Webb Begins Its Months-Long Mirror Alignment

Artist rending showing light reflecting off of the primary and secondary mirrors of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, after it has deployed in space. (Credits: NASA/Mike McClare)

James Webb Space Telescope
NASA Mission Update
Jan. 12, 2022

Webb has begun the detailed process of fine-tuning its individual optics into one huge, precise telescope.

Engineers first commanded actuators – 126 devices that will move and shape the primary mirror segments, and six devices that will position the secondary mirror – to verify that all are working as expected after launch. The team also commanded actuators that guide Webb’s fine steering mirror to make minor movements, confirming they are working as expected. The fine steering mirror is critical to the process of image stabilization.

Ground teams have now begun instructing the primary mirror segments and secondary mirror to move from their stowed-for-launch configuration, off of snubbers that kept them snug and safe from rattling from vibration. These movements will take at least ten days, after which engineers can begin the three-month process of aligning the segments to perform as a single mirror.

NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel Releases 2021 Annual Report

Cover of NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel 2021 Annual Report (Credits: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — The Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP), an advisory committee that reports to NASA and Congress, issued its 2021 annual report Tuesday examining the agency’s safety performance over the past year and highlighting accomplishments, issues, and concerns. 

The report highlights 2021 activities and includes observations on NASA’s:

  • Strategic Vision and Guiding Principles
  • Agency Governance
  • Program Management

Throughout 2021, the panel explored the status of NASA’s ongoing program of work and focused on the longer term, strategic posture of the agency to address risk management. As a result, this annual report continues the panel’s focus on strategic issues and their bearing on current development, exploration, and operational matters.

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