European Union Consolidating Space Programs Under Expanded & Renamed GNSS Agency

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The European Union (EU) is consolidating its space programs under an existing agency that is being given an expanded mandate.

The European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency (GSA), which will be renamed the EU Agency for the Space Programme (EUASP), will take on managing the use of the Copernicus Earth observation satellite system and oversee new initiatives in satellite communications named GOVSATCOM and space situational awareness (SSA).

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ISRO Opens Space Situational Awareness Center

BANGALORE, India (ISRO PR) — In view of ever-growing population of space objects and the recent trend towards mega-constellations, Space Situational Awareness (SSA) has become an integral and indispensable part of safe and sustainable space operations.

For the last few decades, ISRO has been carrying out SSA activities, mainly focused on safeguarding India’s space assets. Recognising the need for dedicated efforts to tackle the emerging challenges of operating in an exceedingly crowded and contested space domain, Directorate of Space Situational Awareness and Management (DSSAM) has been established at ISRO.

The Directorate engages in evolving improved operational mechanisms to protect Indian space assets through effective coordination amongst ISRO/DOS Centres, other space agencies and international bodies, and establishment of necessary supporting infrastructures, such as additional observation facilities for space object monitoring, and a control centre for centralized SSA activities.

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Space BD & ALE Sign Letter of Intent for Orbital Debris Prevention Utilizing ElectroDynamic Tethers

Space debris prevention component utilizing EDT. (Credit: Space BD)
  • Letter of intent signed in anticipation of sales agency agreement
  • The first step towards the social implementation of a device developed with the aim to create a sustainable space environment

TOKYO (Space BD PR) — Space BD Inc., the leading space startup in Japan that provides access to space using the International Space Station (ISS) Japanese Experiment Module “Kibo” and rideshares on Japan’s flagship launch vehicle “H3”, and ALE, with the mission to make space closer for people announced that they concluded a Letter of Intent (LOI) on 26th August 2020 towards a global Sales Agency Agreement for the space debris prevention component utilizing ElectroDynamic Tether (EDT).

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NASA Releases Best Practices Handbook to Help Improve Space Safety

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has released the first iteration of its Spacecraft Conjunction Assessment and Collision Avoidance Best Practices Handbook to share information on best practices for coordinating in-orbit activity in a safe and responsible manner. The agency aims for these best practices to bolster stability, reduce current and future operational risks, and contribute to a sustainable space environment for future public and private sector activities.

Emerging commercial ventures, such as satellite servicing, in-space manufacturing, and tourism, as well as new technologies enabling small satellites and large constellations of satellites, present serious challenges for safely and responsibly using space in a stable, sustainable manner. These challenges affect not only the United States, but also its allies and industry partners.

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Hyperspace Challenge Announces 2020 Cohort Winners

Winning Pitches by Resilient Solutions 21, Starfish Space, and Space Domain Awareness Address Three Key Ways to Improve Autonomous Space Operations

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M., Dec. 3, 2020 (Central New Mexico Community College PR) — Hyperspace Challenge, a business accelerator run by the Air Force Research Laboratory and CNM Ingenuity for the U.S. Space Force, announced today the first, second and third place winners of its 2020 cohort, which focused on identifying and developing safe and secure autonomous technology for the space domain.

The 2020 cohort’s first place winner was Resilient Solutions 21 (RS21), a data science analytics company based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. RS21 is leveraging machine learning and precision oncology techniques to predict satellite systems failures and provide operators with advance warning.

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ESA Purchases World-first Debris Removal Mission From Start-up

ClearSpace-1 mission (Credit: ClearSpace)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA has signed an €86 million [$104 million] contract with an industrial team led by Swiss start-up ClearSpace SA to purchase a unique service: the first removal of an item of space debris from orbit.

As a result, in 2025, ClearSpace will launch the first active debris removal mission, ClearSpace-1, which will rendezvous, capture and take down for reentry the upper part of a Vespa (Vega Secondary Payload Adapter) used with Europe’s Vega launcher. This object was left in a ‘gradual disposal’ orbit (approximately altitude 801 km by 664 km), complying with space debris mitigation regulations, following the second flight of Vega in 2013. 

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UK to Play Critical Role in Building ‘the Claw’ – the First Satellite to Remove Space Junk

ClearSpace-1 mission (Credit: ClearSpace)

SWINDON, UK (UK Space Agency PR) — Vital technology for the first ever mission to remove a piece of debris from space is going to be built in the UK, the Science Minister has announced.

Planned for 2025, Clearspace-1 is the first ever space mission dedicated to removing an existing object in orbit, and is a significant first step towards a cleaner space environment. The Clearspace-1 satellite – dubbed ‘The Claw’ – will use a pincer motion to collect debris, before giving it a controlled re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere – allowing it to decompose safely and away from life.

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Astroscale Announces March 2021 Launch Date for World’s First Commercial Active Debris Removal Demonstration Mission

End-of-Life Service by Astroscale demonstrator (ELSA-d) satellite. (Credit: Astroscale UK Ltd)

ELSA-d is the first mission to demonstrate the core technologies necessary for space debris docking and removal, a major step towards expanding on-orbit services and achieving Astroscale’s vision of safe and sustainable space for the benefit of future generations.

TOKYO, November 18, 2020 (Astroscale PR) – Astroscale Holdings Inc. (“Astroscale”), the market-leader in securing long-term orbital sustainability, today announced that its End-of-Life Services by Astroscale-demonstration (ELSA-d) mission will launch on a Soyuz rocket operated by GK Launch Services from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, in March 2021.

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NorthStar Building World’s First Satellite Constellation to Combat Imminent Threat of Space Collisions

Skylark satellites (Credit: NorthStar)

MONTREAL (NorthStar Earth & Space PR) — NorthStar Earth & Space (NorthStar), a Canadian company with a first-in-space mission to deliver safe and sustainable operations for the rapidly accelerating New Space Economy, has contracted Thales Alenia Space (TAS) to build the first three satellites of its debut “Skylark” constellation for Space Situational Awareness (SSA) services, with Seattle, WA’s LeoStella overseeing the final assembly.

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Rocket Lab to Launch Most Diverse Mission Yet

Electron launches with 10 satellites on Oct. 29, 2020. (Credit: Rocket Lab webcast)
  • The mission will deploy 30 satellites to unique orbits using the Electron launch vehicle’s Kick Stage space tug
  • The satellites will enable internet from space, test new methods of deorbiting space debris, and enable research into predicting earthquakes
  • The launch will also feature a 3D printed mass simulator for Valve’s Gabe Newell to raise funds for Starship Children’s Hospital

LONG BEACH, Calif., November 2, 2020 (Rocket Lab PR) – Leading space systems company, Rocket Lab, has today announced its next Electron mission will feature a diverse range of payloads from the United States, France and New Zealand.

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Launchspace Technologies To Test Orbital Debris Collection & Spacecraft Shielding Experiment on ISS

Launchspace will utilize a slot on the new ISS-external Bartolomeo platform for the in-orbit demonstration of an Orbital Debris Collection and Spacecraft Shielding payload

TOULOUSE, France (Airbus PR) — Airbus and Launchspace Technologies Corporation (LTC) have signed a contract for a mission on the International Space Station (ISS): Airbus’ Bartolomeo platform will host the Launchspace Orbital Debris Collection and Spacecraft Shielding Demonstration Payload for a 12-month period starting in 2022.

The payload consists of orbital ‘Debris Impact Pads’, which house a series of sensors that record the impact, force and orbital location of debris on the ISS.

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Wicker Introduces Space Preservation and Conjunction Emergency Act to Put Commerce Department in Charge of Space Situational Awareness

WASHINGTON (Senate Commerce Committee PR) – U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today introduced the Space Preservation and Conjunction Emergency (SPACE) Act. The legislation would authorize the Department of Commerce (DOC) to provide space situational awareness (SSA) services to civil, commercial, and international space operators. 

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Im­proved Safe­ty in Space – GES­TRA Space Radar Ready to Be­gin Op­er­a­tions

Front of the GESTRA phased antenna (Credit: DLR)
  • After five years of development and construction, the first German space radar with transmitter and receiver units has been installed at Schmidtenhöhe near Koblenz.
  • Close cooperation between the DLR Space Administration, the Fraunhofer Institute for High Frequency Physics and Radar Techniques (FHR) and the German Space Situational Awareness Centre.
  • GESTRA data will also be used to improve security in low-Earth orbit at the European level.

Activity in space continues to increase. Several thousand satellites, spacecraft and other objects orbit Earth at altitudes of between 300 and 3000 kilometres. In addition to the inactive satellites and upper stages of rockets that are left behind here after missions, there are hundreds of thousands of smaller pieces of debris.

Satellites and other space infrastructure such as the International Space Station (ISS) need to be continuously monitored to avoid collisions. Active objects can engage in evasive manoevres, while inactive space debris such as disfunctional satellite parts, or the remains of rockets, pose a threat.

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Astroscale Brings Total Capital Raised to U.S. $191 Million, Closing Series E Funding Round

The additional investment makes Astroscale the most funded on-orbit servicing company globally and most funded space venture in Japan.

TOKYO, October 13, 2020 (Astroscale PR) – Astroscale Holdings Inc. (“Astroscale”), the market-leader in securing long-term orbital sustainability, today announced it has closed its Series E round with additional funding of U.S. $51 million from a group of investors led by aSTART Co., Ltd. (“aSTART”). This latest round brings the total investment raised to U.S. $191 million and makes Astroscale the most funded on-orbit services and logistics company globally and most funded space venture in Japan.

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The Current State of Space Debris

Debris and defunct launcher stages in the Geostationary ring. Aging satellites are known to release debris and explosions can occur due to residual energy sources. The resulting fragments can be thrown back and cross the Geostationary orbit. For this reason it’s fundamental to release residual energy once the nominal mission is completed. (Credit: ESA/ID&Sense/ONiRiXEL)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Swirling fragments of past space endeavours are trapped in orbit around Earth, threatening our future in space. Over time, the number, mass and area of these debris objects grows steadily, boosting the risk to functioning satellites.

ESA’s Space Debris Office constantly monitors this ever-evolving debris situation, and every year publishes a report on the current state of the debris environment.

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