Israel, UAE Agree to Collaborate on Lunar, Earth Observation & Satellite Missions

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will collaborate on a mission to the moon, analyze data from an Israeli-French Earth observation satellite, and launch a joint education satellite under a landmark agreement signed last week to cooperate on a range of space projects, the Israel Space Agency (ISA) announced.

The two nations will collaborate on Genesis 2, an $100 million Israeli mission to launch an orbiter to the moon and deploy landers at two different locations on the lunar surface. The mission, which is to be half funded with foreign contributions, is scheduled to launch in 2024.

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New ESA Advisory Report Recommends Urgent Steps to Accelerate Europe’s Use of Space

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

With warnings about an imminent climate crisis and decreasing competitiveness, an independent advisory group has recommended the European Space Agency (ESA) urgently transform the way it uses space by establishing accelerators in three key areas leveraging commercialization, user-driven approaches and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.

“While space has the potential to enable effective and resilient solutions to tackle major societal challenges, it remains underutilised,” the advisory panel wrote. “The ESA Director General should investigate options for increasing the societal and economic impact of space, prioritising user-driven solutions and leveraging commercialisation, through a new concept of action, Accelerators, building on ESA’s programmatic capacities and acquired excellence.”

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Cargo Dragon Docks with International Space Station

Credit: NASA

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — While the International Space Station was traveling about 260 miles over the Western Australia, a SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft autonomously docked to the forward-facing port of the orbiting laboratory’s Harmony module at 10:30 a.m. EDT, Monday, Aug. 30. Flight Engineers Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur of NASA monitored operations.

Among the science experiments Dragon is delivering to the space station are:

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Bidding for Blue Origin Seat Reaches $4.8 Million; Live Auction Set for Saturday

New Shepard (NS-14) lifts off from Blue Origin’s Launch Site One in West Texas. (Credits: Blue Origin)

Bidding for a seat on Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital vehicle with Jeff Bezos ended on Thursday with the top bid at $4.8 million.

The auction, which began on May 5, will conclude on Saturday, June 12 with a live bidding session that will be streamed at www.blueorigin.com. The session will start at 1 p.m. EDT/17:00 UTC.

The winner will join Bezos and his brother Mark on New Shepard’s first crewed suborbital on July 20. They will fly on the 52nd anniversary of the first human landing on the moon by NASA astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on July 20, 1969.

The auction winner will undergo three days of training prior to the launch on the fourth day. The flight will take place at Blue Origin’s facility in west Texas.

Proceeds from the auction will go to Blue Origin’s education foundation, Club for the Future. The non-profit organization encourages students to pursue STEM careers and help plan for humanity’s future in space.

NASA Invests More than $45 Million in Small Business Projects

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Small businesses are vital to NASA’s mission, helping expand humanity’s presence in space and improve life on Earth. NASA has selected 365 U.S. small business proposals for initial funding from the agency’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program, a total investment of more than $45 million.

“At NASA, we recognize that small businesses are facing unprecedented challenges due to the pandemic,” said Jim Reuter, associate administrator for the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD). “This year, to get funds into the hands of small businesses sooner, we accelerated the release of the 2021 SBIR/STTR Phase I solicitation by two months. We hope the expedited funding helps provide a near-term boost for future success.”

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Tech Designed by University Students Could Shine Light on Extreme Lunar Environments

Michigan Technological University’s Tethered-permanently shadowed Region Explorer would extract and use the water ice located in and around the lunar polar regions through the use of super conducting cables to deliver large quantities of power to these extremely hard to access regions. (Credits: Michigan Technological University)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — “The dark side of the Moon” is sometimes used to describe mysterious things. Though the far side of the Moon isn’t actually dark, there are some areas on the Moon that haven’t seen the Sun in billions of years. Those are the unexplored areas university students aimed to help NASA reach.

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NASA Perseveres Through Pandemic to Complete Successful 2020

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In 2020, NASA made significant progress on America’s Moon to Mars exploration strategy, met mission objectives for the Artemis program, achieved significant scientific advancements to benefit humanity, and returned human spaceflight capabilities to the United States, all while agency teams acted quickly to assist the national COVID-19 response.

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SpaceX CRS-21 Delivers Student-Led Experiments to International Space Station

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla., December 7, 2020 (CASIS PR) – SpaceX successfully launched and docked its 21st commercial resupply services (CRS) mission to the International Space Station (ISS) earlier this afternoon. This mission, which launched from Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, carried thousands of pounds of supplies and research to our nation’s orbiting laboratory.

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Virgin Orbit 747 Flies the Racetrack Over the Pacific Ocean

Credit: FlightAware

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

A gloomy Sunday in Mojave didn’t stop Virgin Orbit from getting in some practice for the upcoming second flight test of its LauncherOne rocket.

Virgin Orbit’s modified Cosmic Girl Boeing 747 conducted a nearly three-hour long practice flight from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.

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Shad Canada Brings Space Exploration Online with Blue Origin

Blue Origin’s New Shepard reusable, suborbital rocket. (Credits: Blue Origin)

WATERLOO, Ont. (Shad Canada PR) – Canada’s premier STEAM enrichment program, Shad Canada, is launching a 20-day online program that concludes with a spaceflight competition with Blue Origin. In an unprecedented move to pivot their legacy live-in program in the face of COVID-19 closures, Shad has designed a STEAM program with synchronous online sessions for 600 high school students.

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House Appropriations Committee Rejects NASA Budget Hike, 2024 Moon Landing Goal

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The House Appropriations Committee has criticized the Trump Administration’s “ominous shift away” from legacy NASA programs in favor of a “politically motivated timeline” aimed at returning astronauts to the lunar surface in 2024 under the Artemis program.

“NASA’s fiscal year 2021 request, much like the 2020 amended budget request, reflected the Administration’s ominous shift away from legacy programs and programs with clear environmental and educational benefits,” the committee in a report on its funding bill.

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NRL Power-beaming Demonstrated on International Space Station

NASA astronaut Jessica Meir demonstrates how the LEctenna™, a light-emitting rectifying antenna constructed by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, converts electromagnetic waves into electric current on the International Space Station. Similar technology could be used on the Earth’s surface to convert electromagnetic waves beamed from space-based solar arrays. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NRL PR) — International Space Station astronaut Jessica Meir completed the first U.S. Naval Research Laboratory power-beaming demonstration in orbit February 12, 2020, using relatively simple components suitable for STEM activities.

Meir showed how NRL’s LEctenna™, a light-emitting rectifying antenna, converted a wireless network signal, similar to home networks, into electric power. While the current generated and light emitted was a small amount, the setup proved the concept in space.

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NASA Budget Proposal Laser Focused on the Moon

Astronauts on a future lunar walk. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Determined to land astronauts on the moon in time for the 2024 presidential election, the Trump Administration has proposed boosting NASA’s budget by 12 percent, an increase that includes $3.37 billion program for a human lander.

The $25.2 billion plan for fiscal year 2021 is $2.69 billion above the current spending level. More than half the amount, $12.95 billion, would be spent on human space operations in Earth orbit and preparing for missions to the moon.

How the proposal will fair in Congress is unclear. To boost Artemis spending, the Administration has proposed a number of cuts that Congress has rejected in previous Trump budgets. Those reductions include:

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NASA Struggles with Shortage of Skilled Workers

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA is already hampered by a shortfall of skilled workers, a problem that will be exacerbated as the space agency gears up to return astronauts to the moon by 2024 in the Artemis program.

That is the conclusion of a new report from NASA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG). The review identified attracting and retaining a highly-skilled workforce as one of the space agency’s seven biggest management and performance challenges. [Full Report]

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