UAE, CU Boulder to Team on Mission to Explore Venus and Asteroids

Venus hides a wealth of information that could help us better understand Earth and exoplanets. NASA’s JPL is designing mission concepts to survive the planet’s extreme temperatures and atmospheric pressure. This image is a composite of data from NASA’s Magellan spacecraft and Pioneer Venus Orbiter. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Fresh off the success of the Hope Mars orbiter, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the University of Colorado Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric Science and Physics (LASP) will team again on an ambitious mission to explore Venus and seven asteroids.

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Deep Space Atomic Clock Moves Toward Increased Spacecraft Autonomy

NASA’s Deep Space Atomic Clock has been operating aboard the General Atomics Orbital Test Bed satellite since June 2019. This illustration shows the spacecraft in Earth orbit. (Credits: General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems)

Designed to improve navigation for robotic explorers and the operation of GPS satellites, the technology demonstration reports a significant milestone.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Spacecraft that venture beyond our Moon rely on communication with ground stations on Earth to figure out where they are and where they’re going. NASA’s Deep Space Atomic Clock is working toward giving those far-flung explorers more autonomy when navigating. In a new paper published today in the journal Nature, the mission reports progress in their work to improve the ability of space-based atomic clocks to measure time consistently over long periods.

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Launch 2020: U.S. Reclaimed Top Spot, Flew Astronauts Again from American Soil

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is launched from Launch Complex 39A on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley aboard, Saturday, May 30, 2020, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls & Joel Kowsky)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The United States reclaimed the top spot in launches from China last year as NASA astronauts flew into orbit from American soil for the first time in nearly nine years, SpaceX deployed the world’s first satellite mega-constellation with reused rockets, and two new launchers debuted with less than stellar results.

American companies conducted 44 launches in 2020, with 40 successes and four failures. Bryce Tech reports that U.S. companies accounted for 32 of the 41 commercial launches conducted last year. The majority of those flights were conducted by SpaceX, which launched 25 orbital missions.

China came in second with a record of 35 successful launches and four failures. The 39 launch attempts tied that nation’s previous record for flights during a calendar year.

Let’s take a closer look at what U.S. companies achieved last year.

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Then There Were 3: NASA to Collaborate on ESA’s New Venus Mission

Artist rendering of ESA’s EnVision spacecraft. (Credits: European Space Agency/Paris Observatory/VR2Planets)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — On June 10, 2021, the European Space Agency (ESA) announced the selection of EnVision as its newest medium-class science mission. EnVision will make detailed observations of Venus to understand its history and especially understand the connections between the atmosphere and geologic processes. As a key partner in the mission, NASA provides the Synthetic Aperture Radar, called Venae, to make high resolution measurements of the planet’s surface features. 

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ESA Selects Revolutionary Venus Mission EnVision

PARIS (ESA PR) — EnVision will be ESA’s next Venus orbiter, providing a holistic view of the planet from its inner core to upper atmosphere to determine how and why Venus and Earth evolved so differently.

The mission was selected by ESA’s Science Programme Committee on 10 June as the fifth Medium-class mission in the Agency’s Cosmic Vision plan, targeting a launch in the early 2030s.

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NASA Selects 2 Missions to Study ‘Lost Habitable’ World of Venus

Venus hides a wealth of information that could help us better understand Earth and exoplanets. NASA’s JPL is designing mission concepts to survive the planet’s extreme temperatures and atmospheric pressure. This image is a composite of data from NASA’s Magellan spacecraft and Pioneer Venus Orbiter. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected two new missions to Venus, Earth’s nearest planetary neighbor. Part of NASA’s Discovery Program, the missions aim to understand how Venus became an inferno-like world when it has so many other characteristics similar to ours – and may have been the first habitable world in the solar system, complete with an ocean and Earth-like climate.

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Paragon to Develop Aerobot for Exploring Venus, System for Collecting Ice on Moon with NASA Funding

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Paragon Space Development Corporation will continue development of an aerobot for exploring Venus form the air and a system to extract ice from the lunar regolith with the help of a pair of NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II awards.

The Mechanical-compression Aerobot for extended Range Venus ExpLoration (MARVEL) would be an autonomous robotic balloon vehicle capable of carrying scientific payloads through the Venusian atmosphere. Paragon has teamed with Thin Red Line Aerospace to develop MARVEL.

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NASA Invests $105 Million in US Small Business Technology Development

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has a long history of supporting America’s entrepreneurs as they develop technologies from ideas to commercial readiness. The agency’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program is furthering that legacy with 140 new Phase II awards to 127 U.S. small businesses that will help them move their innovations to market.

The awards to these small businesses, located across 34 states and Washington, D.C., total $105 million. NASA’s small business program is dedicated to finding the most useful technologies for the agency and the commercial marketplace, and sourcing those innovations from a diverse  group of entrepreneurs with different backgrounds and perspectives. The companies chosen for Phase II funding include 33 women-owned, minority-owned, and veteran-owned small businesses.

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NASA Funds Research into Flying Environmental Sensors for Venus Exploration

Credit; Jeffrey Balcerski

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts 2021 Phase II Award
Amount: $500,000

Jeffrey Balcerski
Ohio Aerospace Institute
Cleveland, Ohio

The LEAVES (Lofted Environmental and Atmospheric VEnus Sensors) architecture is a “swarm” approach to obtaining key, in situ, Venus atmospheric data for exceptionally low cost and risk. This is made possible by an ultra-lightweight, passively-lofted, inexpensive atmospheric sensor package that can be deployed directly from orbit without an aeroshell and is sensitive enough to yield valuable new, transformative information on planetary atmospheres.

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Rocket Lab Set for 19th Electron Launch

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

Rocket Lab Launch Update

Mission Name: They Go Up So Fast
Launch Vehicle: Electron
Launch Window: No Earlier than 23 March NZT/22 March UTC
Launch Time: No earlier than 11:20 am NZT/22:20 UTC/6:20 p.m. EDT
Launch Site: Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand

Rocket Lab’s 19th Electron mission will deploy a range of satellites for commercial and government satellite operators, as well as place a next-generation Rocket Lab Photon spacecraft in orbit to build spacecraft heritage ahead of Rocket Lab’s mission to the Moon for NASA later this year. 

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NASA Wants Your Help Designing a Venus Rover Concept

An illustration of a concept for a possible wind-powered Venus rover. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, under a grant from the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts program, is running a public challenge to develop an obstacle avoidance sensor for a possible future Venus rover. The “Exploring Hell: Avoiding Obstacles on a Clockwork Rover” challenge is seeking the public’s designs for a sensor that could be incorporated into the design concept.

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Parker Solar Probe Offers Stunning View of Venus

When flying past Venus in July 2020, Parker Solar Probe’s WISPR instrument, short for Wide-field Imager for Parker Solar Probe, detected a bright rim around the edge of the planet that may be nightglow — light emitted by oxygen atoms high in the atmosphere that recombine into molecules in the nightside. The prominent dark feature in the center of the image is Aphrodite Terra, the largest highland region on the Venusian surface. Bright streaks in WISPR, such as the ones seen here, are typically caused by a combination of charged particles — called cosmic rays — sunlight reflected by grains of space dust, and particles of material expelled from the spacecraft’s structures after impact with those dust grains. The number of streaks varies along the orbit or when the spacecraft is traveling at different speeds, and scientists are still in discussion about the specific origins of the streaks here. The dark spot appearing on the lower portion of Venus is an artifact from the WISPR instrument. (Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Naval Research Laboratory/Guillermo Stenborg and Brendan Gallagher)

By Michael Buckley
Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

LAUREL, Md. — NASA’s Parker Solar Probe captured stunning views of Venus during its close flyby of the planet in July 2020.

Though Parker Solar Probe’s focus is the Sun, Venus plays a critical role in the mission: The spacecraft whips by Venus a total of seven times over the course of its seven-year mission, using the planet’s gravity to bend the spacecraft’s orbit. These Venus gravity assists allow Parker Solar Probe to fly closer and closer to the Sun on its mission to study the dynamics of the solar wind close to its source.

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France, India Space Cooperation to Focus on Climate and Human Spaceflight

French also to contribute instrument to India’s 2025 mission to Venus

PARIS (CNES PR) — On Wednesday September 30, Jean-Yves Le Gall, President of CNES, met with his Indian counterpart, Dr. K Sivan, President of ISRO. During this virtual session, all the subjects central to cooperation between the two countries were discussed.

In August 2019, CNES and ISRO embarked on the development and manufacture of a constellation of satellites. This, carrying telecommunications (AIS automatic identification) and observation (radar and optical) instruments, will constitute the first space system in the world allowing continuous surveillance of maritime traffic. 

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Breakthrough Initiatives to Fund Research into Search for Primitive Life in Clouds of Venus

Venus hides a wealth of information that could help us better understand Earth and exoplanets. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

SAN FRANCISCO (Breakthrough Initiatives PR)  – Breakthrough Initiatives, the privately-funded space science programs founded by science and technology investor and philanthropist Yuri Milner, are funding a research study into the possibility of primitive life in the clouds of Venus. The study is inspired by the discovery, announced yesterday, of the gas phosphine, considered a potential biosignature, in the planet’s atmosphere.

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Venus Phosphine Detection Fact Sheet

Artist’s impression of Venus, with an inset showing a representation of the phosphine molecules detected in the high cloud decks. (Credit: ESO / M. Kornmesser / L. Calçada & NASA / JPL / Caltech)

Royal Astronomical Society
Fact Sheet

On 14 September 2020, astronomers announced the detection of phosphine, a potential biomarker, in the atmosphere of Venus. Here are ten essential facts about the discovery:

What has been discovered?

A molecule called phosphine has been detected in the atmosphere of the planet Venus.

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