Rocket Lab Spacecraft Confirmed for Mars as NASA Greenlights ESCAPADE Small Satellite Interplanetary Mission

The twin EscaPADE satellites will fly to Mars and circle the planet in complementary orbits to sample the hot ionized plasma (cross section in yellow and green) and magnetic fields (blue lines) to understand how Mars’ atmosphere escapes into space. (Credit: UC Berkeley/Robert Lillis)

The ESCAPADE mission – led by the University of California Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory to study Mars’ magnetosphere – with two Rocket Lab Photon spacecraft has received NASA approval to move toward launch.

LONG BEACH, Calif., 23 August, 2021 (Rocket Lab PR) — Rocket Lab, a global leader in dedicated launch and space systems, today announced it will begin final mission design and commence manufacturing two interplanetary Photon spacecraft for a science mission to Mars, delivering Decadal-class science at a fraction of the cost of typical planetary missions.

 The Escape and Plasma Acceleration and Dynamics Explorers (ESCAPADE) mission will orbit two Rocket Lab-built Photon spacecraft around Mars to understand the structure, composition, variability, and dynamics of Mars’ unique hybrid magnetosphere. The mission will also support crewed exploration programs like Artemis through improved solar storm prediction.

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Rocket Lab, Vector Acquisition Set Date for Vote on Merging, Going Public

Electron launches with OHB satellite. (Credit: Rocket Lab webcast)

LONG BEACH, Calif. (Vector Acquisition Corp. PR) — Vector Acquisition Corporation (Nasdaq: VACQ) (“Vector”), a publicly traded special purpose acquisition company backed by leading technology investor Vector Capital, today announced that its Annual Meeting of the Company’s shareholders (“Annual Meeting”) to consider the previously announced business combination (“Business Combination”) with Rocket Lab USA, Inc. (“Rocket Lab”), a global leader in launch and space systems, has been set for August 20, 2021. Shareholders of record as of the close of business on June 30, 2021 (“Record Date”) are eligible to vote at the Annual Meeting.

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Rocket Lab Awarded NASA Contract to Design Twin Spacecraft for Mars

Rocket Lab’s Photon spacecraft. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

LONG BEACH, Calif.. June 15, 2021 (Rocket Lab PR) — Rocket Lab, a global leader in dedicated launch and space systems, has been awarded a contract to design two Photon spacecraft for a scientific mission to Mars.

The Escape and Plasma Acceleration and Dynamics Explorers (ESCAPADE) mission, led by Rob Lillis at the University of California, Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory, is a twin-spacecraft science mission that will orbit two spacecraft around Mars to understand the structure, composition, variability, and dynamics of Mars’ unique hybrid magnetosphere. The mission will leverage its unique dual viewpoint on the Mars environment to explore how the solar wind strips atmosphere away from Mars to better understand how its climate has changed over time.

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UAE Hope Spacecraft Built in Colorado Enters Mars Orbit

The Emirates Mars Mission Hope Spacecraft prior to shipment to Dubai and the Tanegashima Launch site, with fully deployed solar panels and instruments visible (facing the floor) measuring nearly 5 meters across. (Credit: MBRSC/Ken Hutchison)

The United Arab Emirates is celebrating today as the nation’s first planetary spacecraft, Hope, has entered orbit around Mars as scheduled.

The UAE Space Agency tweeted:

Congratulations to our leadership, our nation and the Emirates Mars Mission’s heroes that have achieved the impossible! The #HopeProbe’s historic journey to the Red Planet doubles our joy as it adds to a year of celebrations in the country to mark the Golden Jubilee of the #UAE.

Launched on a Japanese H-IIA rocket last July, Hope will study Martian weather cycles and make other observations of the Red Planet. It will gather data on why the planet is losing hydrogen and oxygen into space.

Hope is the first planetary mission undertaken by an Arab nation and comes as the UAE is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its founding. The project is seen as a major advance for the nation’s science, technology and engineering sectors.

While that is true, Hope was actually built in Colorado with the participation of engineers from three American universities with substantial expertise in space missions. The Hope page in Wikipedia has a succinct summary:

The mission design, development, and operations are led by the  Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC). The spacecraft was developed by MBRSC and the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado Boulder, with support from Arizona State University (ASU) and the University of California, Berkeley….It was built by a joint Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP)/Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) team at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Although UAE paid for the $200 million mission, it wouldn’t have been possible without substantial American assistance.

This is not to rain on anyone’s parade, but simply to give credit where credit is due. Under other circumstances, Hope would likely be labeled a joint UAE-American mission to Mars.

Space Weather Discovery Puts ‘Habitable Planets’ at Risk

Artist’s impression of flare from our neighbouring star Proxima Centauri ejecting material onto a nearby planet. (Credit: Mark Myers/OzGrav)

Stellar flares with a chance of radio bursts: the weather from Proxima Centauri

SYDNEY (University of Sydney PR) — A discovery that links stellar flares with radio-burst signatures will make it easier for astronomers to detect space weather around nearby stars outside the Solar System. Unfortunately, the first weather reports from our nearest neighbour, Proxima Centauri, are not promising for finding life as we know it.

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NASA Selects 31 Promising Space Technologies for Commercial Flight Tests

by Nicole Quenelle
NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program

NASA has selected 31 promising space technologies for testing aboard parabolic aircraft, high-altitude balloons, and suborbital rocket-powered systems. By exposing the innovations to many of the rigors and characteristics of spaceflight – without the expense of an orbital flight – NASA can help ensure these technologies work correctly when they are deployed on future missions.

“By supporting suborbital flight testing, our Flight Opportunities  program aims to help ensure that these innovations are well-positioned to address challenges and enable NASA to achieve its lunar ambitions, while also contributing to a growing and vibrant commercial space industry,” said Jim Reuter, associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD). The Flight Opportunities program is part of STMD.

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Emirates Launch First Mars Probe with Help from UC Berkeley

The Emirates Mars Mission Hope Spacecraft prior to shipment to Dubai and the Tanegashima Launch site, with fully deployed solar panels and instruments visible (facing the floor) measuring nearly 5 meters across. (Credit: MBRSC/Ken Hutchison)

by Robert Sanders
UC Berkeley

At 2:58 p.m. PDT today (Sunday, July 19), the United Arab Emirates (UAE) successfully launched an interplanetary probe — the first by any country in the Arab world — thanks, in part, to science collaboration, training and instrument components provided by the University of California, Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory (SSL).

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Small Satellites to Study Martian Atmosphere

The twin EscaPADE satellites will fly to Mars and circle the planet in complementary orbits to sample the hot ionized plasma (cross section in yellow and green) and magnetic fields (blue lines) to understand how Mars’ atmosphere escapes into space. (Credit: UC Berkeley/Robert Lillis)

Escape and Plasma Acceleration
and Dynamics Explorers (EscaPADE)

Launch Vehicle: SpaceX Falcon Heavy (secondary payload on Psyche mission)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
Launch Date: July 2022
NASA Program: Small Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration (SIMPLEx)

Description

This mission’s objective is to characterize (on multiple scales) the acceleration processes driving escape from Mars’ atmosphere, as well as how the atmosphere responds to the constant outflow of the solar wind flowing off the Sun.

The principal investigator for this mission is Robert Lillis at the University of California, Berkeley. UC Berkeley will also provide project management.

SIMPLEx

Using small spacecraft – less than 400 pounds, or 180 kilograms, in mass – SIMPLEx selections will conduct stand-alone planetary science missions. Each will share their ride to space with either another NASA mission or a commercial launch opportunity.

EscaPADE will be managed by the Planetary Missions Program Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama as part of the Solar System Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Breakthrough Listen’s Search for Intelligent Life Releases Unprecedented Data Survey

SEATTLE, February 14, 2020 (Breakthrough Initiatives PR) – The Breakthrough Listen Initiative today released data from the most comprehensive survey yet of radio emissions from the plane of the Milky Way Galaxy, the region around its central, 4-million-solar-mass black hole, and observations of the interstellar comet 2I/Borisov.

Breakthrough Listen Principal Investigator Andrew Siemion announced the release of the nearly two petabytes of data at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. It marks the second “data dump” from the four-year-old, $100M search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) initiative. A first download of a petabyte of radio and optical telescope data was released in June 2019, marking the largest release of SETI data in the history of the field.

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NASA’s ICON to Explore Boundary Between Earth and Space

Illustration of ICON spacecraft. (Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Mary Pat Hrybyk-Keith)

UPDATE: Due to weather in the area, NASA and Northrop Grumman have decided to move the Pegasus XL and ICON launch 24-hours to October 10 at 9:30 p.m., with takeoff of the Stargazer L-1011 at 8:32 p.m. NASA’s live broadcast will begin tomorrow at 9:15 p.m. on www.nasa.gov/live.

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — On Oct.10, 2019, NASA launches the Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON, a spacecraft that will explore the dynamic region where Earth meets space: the ionosphere.   

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UC Berkeley Scientists Scramble to Build Payload for 2021 Moon Landing

Commercial landers like this will carry science and technology payloads, including one built by UC Berkeley, to the lunar surface, paving the way for NASA astronauts to land on the Moon by 2024. (Credit: NASA)

Robert Sanders
UC Berkeley Media Relations

Scavenging spare parts and grabbing off-the-shelf hardware, University of California, Berkeley, space scientists are in a sprint to build scientific instruments that will land on the moon in a mere two years.

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NIAC Phase I Award: Detoxifying & Enriching Martian Soil for Agriculture

Synthetic Biology Architecture to Detoxify and Enrich Mars Soil for Agriculture (Credit: Adam Arkin)

A Synthetic Biology Architecture to Detoxify and Enrich Mars Soil for Agriculture

Adam Arkin
University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, Calif.

Value: Approximately $125,000
Length of Study: 9 months

Description

Although the theoretical case for space biological engineering is convincing, since recent studies on the use of biology in space showed substantial payload minimization over abiotic approaches even before any engineering, the functioning of these biological technologies has yet to be proven in a space-like environment.

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