Testing of New Russian Nauka Space Station Module Continues

Fitting a radiator for the cooling system and installation of devices. (Credit: Yuzhny Space Center/Roscosmos)

BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan (Roscomos PR) — In accordance with the prelaunch preparation schedule, factory control tests of the Nauka module continue in the assembly and test building of site No. 254 of the Baikonur cosmodrome.  Its launch to the Russian segment of the International Space Station (ISS) is scheduled for 2021 using the Proton-M launch vehicle.

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Astronauts to Boost European Connectivity

Image taken by ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano from outside the International Space Station on the first spacewalk to service the cosmic ray detecting Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS-02). The image shows the three main laboratory modules, clockwise from top: the US Destiny lab, Japanese Kibo module and the European Columbus lab. (Credit: ESA–L. Parmitano, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Astronauts aboard the International Space Station are planning a spacewalk to install a high-speed satellite link that will improve their connections with Europe.

The system will enable astronauts to connect at home broadband internet speeds – delivering a whole family’s worth of video streaming for communications and a data pipeline connecting the scientific experiments aboard the Station to researchers in Europe.

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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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CASIS Releases International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory 2020 Annual Report

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. January 14, 2021 (CASIS PR) – The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) has released the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory 2020 Annual Report. The report is intended to educate the public on ISS National Lab highlights and accomplishments from the 2020 fiscal year (October 1, 2019 through September 30, 2020).

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SpaceX CRS-21 Safely Splashes Down Off the Coast of Florida, Returning Science From the Space Station Back to Earth

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla., January 14, 2021 (CASIS PR)  – SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft splashed down safely off the coast of Florida last night, concluding a month-plus stay at the International Space Station (ISS) to bring back thousands of pounds of scientific research and cargo.

With this successful splashdown, SpaceX completed its 21st Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) mission to the orbiting laboratory for NASA. This also marks the first mission of the upgraded Dragon cargo spacecraft with double the powered locker capacity of previous capsules, allowing for even more research to travel back to Earth for analysis.

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SpaceX Waves off Undocking of Cargo Dragon

The SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle is pictured docked to the Harmony module’s space-facing international docking adapter. (Credit: NASA TV)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — As a result of adverse weather conditions at the targeted splashdown zone off the coast of Daytona Beach, Florida, SpaceX has waved off today’s planned departure of an upgraded SpaceX Dragon resupply spacecraft.

Teams are currently assessing weather conditions to determine the next opportunity for undocking.

Splashing down off the coast of Florida enables quick transportation of the science aboard the capsule to the agency’s Kennedy Space Center’s Space Station Processing Facility, delivering some science back into the hands of the researchers as soon as four to nine hours after splashdown. This shorter transportation timeframe allows researchers to collect data with minimal loss of microgravity effects. Previous cargo Dragon spacecraft returned to the Pacific Ocean, with quick-return science cargo processed at SpaceX’s facility in McGregor, Texas, and delivered to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

For updated information about space station activities, visit:  https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/. Get space station news, images and features via social media on Instagram at: @issISS on Facebook, and on Twitter  @Space_Station and @ISS_Research.

SpaceX Dragon Capsule to Make First of Its Kind Science Splashdown

NASA astronaut and Expedition 64 Flight Engineer Kate Rubins works inside the Life Sciences Glovebox conducting research for the Cardinal Heart study. The biomedical research seeks to help scientists understand the aging and weakening of heart muscles to provide new treatments for humans on Earth and astronauts in space. (Credits: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — By capsule, helicopter, boat, plane, and car, space station science experiments are about to make a first of a kind journey back to researchers on Earth.

On Jan. 11, the SpaceX cargo Dragon spacecraft carrying out the company’s 21st commercial resupply services (CRS-21) mission for NASA undocks from the International Space Station, heading for splashdown off the coast of Florida about 12 hours later. This upgraded Dragon transports significantly more science back to Earth than possible in previous Dragon capsules and is the first space station cargo capsule to splash down off the coast of Florida.

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NASA, NSF Sign Agreement to Advance Space, Earth, Biological, Physical Sciences

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA and the U.S. National Science Foundation  (NSF) have signed a  memorandum of understanding affirming the agencies’ intent to continue their longstanding partnership in mutually beneficial research activities advancing space, Earth, biological, and physical sciences to further U.S. national space policy and promote the progress of science.

The agreement addresses a broad range of research and activities in many areas of science, engineering, and education central to the missions of both agencies.

“When you look at the vast array of disciplines that make up NASA’s mission, there isn’t a single one that isn’t somehow informed by our partnership with NSF,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “We look forward to continued collaboration on areas of research here on Earth and in space – including aboard the International Space Station – as well as inspiring the next generation of STEM professionals.”

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Space Dynamics Lab Achieves Critical Milestone for NASA Space Weather Mission

NORTH LOGAN, UTAH, January 6, 2021 (Space Dynamics Laboratory PR) – Utah State University’s Space Dynamics Laboratory announced that it has successfully completed the Key Decision Point (KDP) C for NASA’s Atmospheric Waves Experiment (AWE). KDP-C provides NASA approval for the project to begin final design and fabrication, known as Phase C, and establishes baselines for its official schedule and budget.

Planned to be ready for launch to the International Space Station in 2022, AWE will study atmospheric gravity waves in Earth’s atmosphere to gain deeper knowledge of the connections caused by climate systems through our atmosphere and between the atmosphere and space. The AWE mission is part of NASA’s Explorers Program under the Goddard Space Flight Center Explorers and Heliophysics Projects Division and is led by Principal Investigator Dr. Michael J. Taylor at Utah State University. The Space Dynamics Laboratory will build the AWE instrument and is also providing project management, systems engineering, safety and mission assurance, and mission operations.

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European Gateway Module to be Built in France as Thomas Pesquet Readies for Second Spaceflight

Artemis Gateway orbiting the moon. (Credit: NASA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA signed a contract today with Thales Alenia Space to start building the European module for the lunar Gateway that will provide the new human exploration facility with communications and refuelling.

The Gateway is being built by the partners of the International Space Station and will enable sustainable exploration around – and on – the Moon, while allowing for space research and demonstrating the technologies and processes necessary to conduct a future mission to Mars.

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Space Station, Cygnus Test Technology for 5G Communications, Other Benefits

The Northrop Grumman Cygnus space freighter approaches the International Space Station as the Canadarm2 robotic arm is poised to reach out and capture the cargo vehicle. (Credits: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — A Northrop Grumman Cygnus supply craft carried a load of new scientific experiments to the International Space Station in early October. That is only one of the jobs the craft has, though. Once it undocks from the station Cygnus will continue operations by hosting a two-week test of emerging technologies known as SharkSat.

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China Plans Launch of Space Station Core During First Half of Year

Artist’s conception of China’s Tianhe-1 space station. (Credit: China Manned Space Engineering)

China will launch the Tianhe core module of its first permanent space station aboard a Long March-5B Y2 rocket from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site during the first half of 2021, according to the chief designer of China’s human spaceflight program. Xinhua reports:

“Subsequent space missions include the launches of Tianzhou-2 cargo craft and Shenzhou-12 manned craft after the core module is sent into orbit,” Zhou [Jianping] said.

China is scheduled to complete the construction of the space station around 2022.

Two experiment modules named Wentian and Mengtian will be attached to the core. Launches of the new modules are scheduled for 2021 and 2022.

The space station will be similar in size to the Mir space station built by the Soviet Union during the 1980’s. It will have a mass about one-quarter that of the International Space Station.

Chinese astronauts will travel to the space station using three-seat Shenzhou spacecraft. Later flights will be aboard the nation’s next-generation crewed spacecraft, which will be capable of carrying six or seven astronauts. The next-generation vehicle is being designed for trips to the moon.

Robotic Tianzhou-2 spacecraft capable of carrying around 6,000 kg of cargo will resupply the station.

CASC: More Than 40 Launches Planned for 2021

Long March 5 launches the Chang’e-5 mission to the moon. (Credit: CNSA)

The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) says it is gearing up to launch more than 40 times in 2020, which would break a national record. The Xinhua news agency reports:

The construction of China’s space station, the key space mission in the year, will enter a crucial stage, according to the CASC.

The country plans to launch the core module of its manned space station in the first half of 2021. Subsequent space missions include the launches of the Tianzhou-2 cargo craft and the Shenzhou-12 manned craft.

China’s Mars probe Tianwen-1 is designed to complete orbiting, landing and roving this year.

The spacecraft, launched on July 23, 2020, is expected to enter the Mars orbit around February. Afterward, it will spend two to three months surveying potential landing sites to prepare for its landing in May.

China launched 39 times with 35 successes and four failures in 2020,

Russia Achieves Clean Launch Record for Second Year in Row

Soyuz-2 rocket lifts off from the Vostochny Cosmodrome with 36 OneWeb satellites. (Credit: Arianespace)

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — The outgoing year 2020 has become a difficult test for the entire world marked by the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Many world economic players have encountered objective difficulties in the implementation of previously outlined plans.

Unfortunately, Roscosmos also had to correct a number of plans, including those related to launch activities. Nevertheless, Roscosmos management put the quality of production and the safety of personnel working at the Russian rocket and space industry enterprises and cosmodromes at the forefront.

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The Year of the Four Spaceships: Final Report

Crew Dragon docked at the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA webcast)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Back in February, I went out on a limb and predicted that 2020 could be the Year of the Four Spaceships, with SpaceX, Boeing, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic and reaching major milestones in human spaceflight. (See 2020: Four Spaceships & the End of America’s Cosmic Groundhog Day)

With the disruption and deaths caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it wasn’t the easiest year to get things done. Keeping that in mind, let’s see how the companies did in 2020. (Spoiler Alert: they came up a little short.)

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