Chinese Rocket Breaks Up Over Texas After Putting Three Spy Satellites In Orbit To Monitor South China Sea

Part of a Chinese rocket used to send military surveillance satellites into space has plunged back to Earth and disintegrated over Texas. The second stage part of the Chang Zheng 2D ‘Long March’ rocket, which was launched on June 23 2022, came down over the Lone Star State on Wednesday. Defense officials told USNI, which revealed the incident, that the segment disintegrated as it hurtled back to Earth at around 17,000 miles per hour.

Read more at: Dailymail

This Week in Spaceflight: NASA Artemis Moon Suit Reveal, SpaceX ISS Cargo Mission, and More

The coming week is poised to be an exciting one for rocket lovers, with no less than seven launches planned in the next seven days. It’s also the week when when finally get to see what NASA’s Artemis Moon suits will look like.

Terran 1, Electron, Falcon 9, these are a few of our favorite things. These rockets are all poised to take to the skies this week, but whether they’ll all get a chance to fly remains an open question.

Read more at: gizmodo


Collision Course! 92-Foot Asteroid 2020 FV4 Dashing Towards Earth, Set To Get Very Close

Asteroids are in abundance not just in our solar system, but throughout the Universe. These ancient space rocks, left over from the early formation of our solar system, vary in size from just millimeters to hundreds of kilometers. Asteroids, along with other celestial objects are one of the biggest threats to humanity in the Universe. And there is proof of it since asteroids were one of the main reasons behind the extinction of dinosaurs.

Read more at: MSN

How Often Does The International Space Station Have To Dodge Space Debris?

Every so often, space debris gets in the way of the International Space Station. The International Space Station (ISS) has been in orbit since 1998 and space debris has forced evasive maneuvers dozens of times. According to a December 2022 NASA report (opens in new tab), the ISS has course-corrected itself 32 times to avoid satellites and trackable space debris since 1999. Strikes by micrometeoroids or space debris have been recorded on Russian Progress and Soyuz craft and space robotics like Canadarm2, as well as the wraparound cupola window that faces Earth.

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More Lunar Missions Means More Space Junk Around The Moon. Two Scientists Are Building A Catalog To Track The Trash.

Scientists and government agencies have been worried about the space junk surrounding Earth for decades. But humanity’s starry ambitions are farther reaching than the space just around Earth. Ever since the 1960s with the launch of the Apollo program and the emergence of the space race between the U.S. and Soviet Union, people have been leaving trash around the moon, too.

Today, experts estimate that there are a few dozen pieces of space junk like spent rocket bodies, defunct satellites and mission-related debris orbiting in cislunar space – the space between Earth and the moon and the area around the moon.

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International Space Station Fires Thrusters To Dodge Space Junk

The International Space Station (ISS) had to perform a debris avoidance maneuver to dodge yet another piece of space junk on Tuesday (March 14). Russia’s federal space agency Roscosmos reported that the incident occurred at 2:54 p.m. Moscow time, or 7:54 a.m. EDT (1154 GMT) on Tuesday, in a statement (opens in new tab) on Telegram. The Russian Progress MS-22 cargo capsule currently docked at the orbital laboratory fired its thrusters for 135 seconds to move the station to safety and adjust its average altitude to 260 miles (419 km) above Earth’s surface.

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Asteroid Headed For Earth In 2046 Tops The “Risk List” For Planetary Impact

A newly discovered space rock is poised to fly by Earth in approximately 23 years — and while the chance that it hits Earth is not tremendous, among all known asteroids it has the highest chance of hitting Earth, according to NASA. 

The asteroid, known as 2023 DW, was only discovered in late February, but it has already skyrocketed to the top spot on the “Risk List,” a registry organized by the European Space Agency (ESA) as a way of ranking near-Earth objects with a “non-zero impact probability.”

Read more at: salon

Asteroid May Collide With Earth With Force Of 12-Megaton Bomb, Wyoming Astronomer Says

You might want to hold off on making plans for Valentine’s Day – in 2046.

That’s the projected day asteroid 2023 DW, which was discovered Feb. 26, may cross paths with Earth. The object, estimated to be about 164-feet in diameter, has a 1-in-607 chance of crashing into our planet.

And while the impact of a 50-meter-wide rock might not be considered an ELE (extinction-level event, for those who haven’t seen the 1998 movie “Deep Impact”), a collision could still create a disaster zone over 800 square miles.

Read more at: cowboystatedaily


Leolabs To Build Radar In Argentina

LeoLabs announced plans March 13 to enhance tracking of space objects over the Southern Hemisphere with a new radar in Argentina.

The S-band radar, scheduled to be completed by the end of the year, will be located on the archipelago of Tierra del Fuego.

“The Southern Hemisphere has not been well covered for space safety and space domain awareness,” LeoLabs CEO Dan Ceperley told SpaceNews. “There are a lot of conjunctions close to the North Pole and the South Pole. This radar will make a very meaningful improvement in the tracking of those conjunctions.”

Read more at: spacenews

L3 Harris Wins $765.5 Million Contract To Develop Geoxo Imager

L3Harris Technologies won a $765.5 million NASA contract to develop the imager for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Geostationary Extended Observations satellite program.

The cost-plus-award-fee contract for the GeoXO imager, known as GXI, covers development of two flight instruments and includes options for additional imagers. The contract also covers 10 years of on-orbit operations and five years of on-orbit storage.

GXI, a multi-channel, passive imaging radiometer, will gather high-resolution visible and infrared imagery for monitoring weather, oceans, and the environment in the Western Hemisphere.

Read more at: spacenews

Starlink Faces Competition, Oneweb One Launch Away From Global Internet

U.K.-based OneWeb is one launch away from having enough satellites in orbit to cover the entire expanse of the Earth. Once ready, Elon Musk’s Starlink won’t be the only company offering such as service, the BBC reported.

Both OneWeb and Starlink use constellations of satellites in low Earth orbits (LEO) instead of the conventional geostationary orbits (GEO). The lower altitude of the LEO satellites helps in reducing latency or the delay that data takes to make a round trip over a network. Lower latency means a more responsive internet connection, smoother video calls, and hassle-free collaborations.

Read more at: interesting engineering

Elon Musk Says SpaceX’s Starship Rocket Only Has 50% Chance Of Reaching Orbit

SpaceX is preparing for its $3 billion Starship rocket’s first orbital launch — though CEO Elon Musk thinks it has just a 50% chance of making it in one piece.

Musk predicts the rocket will be ready to launch from SpaceX’s facilities in Boca Chica, Texas, within a month once it receives its license from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Musk, however, made no promises that the rocket will be able to reach orbit, joking that even if the launch fails, it would still be a spectacular sight.

“I’m not saying it will get to orbit, but I am guaranteeing excitement,” Musk said during an interview at the Morgan Stanley Conference last Tuesday.

“Won’t be boring!”

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Kayhan Offers Coordinated Collision Avoidance

Kayhan Space has upgraded its space traffic management platform to help satellite operators coordinate collision avoidance.

In contrast to Kayhan’s Pathfinder 1.0, which assesses conjunction risk and recommends maneuvers for individual constellations, Pathfinder 2.0 is designed to help satellite operators avoid one another.

“Operators can set preferences for how and when they want to maneuver based on their own operating constraints,” Matthew Shouppe, Kayhan’s new chief commercial officer, told SpaceNews. “Our system will allow them to pre-coordinate their preferences, before the event even happens.”

Read more at: spacenews

Astroscale On Course For First UK National Mission To Remove Space Debris

Astroscale Ltd. (“Astroscale UK”), the UK & Europe subsidiary of Astroscale Holdings Inc. (“Astroscale”), the market leader in satellite servicing and long-term orbital sustainability across all orbits, reveals how its Active Debris Removal (ADR) servicer can help secure the economic and environmental future of space, through the UK’s first national mission to remove space debris. 

The UK Government has a strategic priority (captured in the National Space Strategy, Sept 2021) to lead the global effort to clean up space.

Read more at: Astroscale


Managing The Complexity Of The World’s Largest Satellite Navigation System

Spaceopal is a joint venture between Telespazio and DLR-GfR. Founded in 2010, it is the prime contractor for the operational services of the European Satellite Navigation System Galileo and, therefore, is one of the largest satellite service operators in the world. Today we operate and maintain, with full end to end responsibility, the Galileo System providing navigation services, enhancing position, and precise timing for more than 3 billion users worldwide.

Read more at: spacenews

NASA Study Assesses Costs And Benefits Of Orbital Debris Removal

A NASA study concluded that some methods of removing orbital debris could pay for themselves within a decade by reducing the costs and risks borne by satellite operators.

The study, released March 10 by NASA’s Office of Technology, Policy and Strategy, examined the costs of several approaches to removing both large and small debris and the benefits they offered to satellite operators by reducing the number of avoidance maneuvers and losses of satellites damaged or destroyed by debris collisions.

Read more at: spacenews

How Astronauts Could Farm On The Moon With Lunar Soil Nutrients

A new technique for processing lunar soil may help foster plant growth on the moon in hopes for sustaining more long-term lunar missions. The European Space Agency (ESA) and Norwegian lunar agriculture company Solsys Mining have studied ways to treat lunar soil, or regolith, to create fertilizer for growing plants. Previous experiments using lunar samples returned to Earth show plants can grow in lunar soil. However, lunar regolith lacks certain amounts of nitrogen compounds and becomes tightly compact when wet, which makes it challenging for the plants to take root and flourish.

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ExoMars: Back on Track for the Red Planet

A year has passed since the launch of the ESA’s Rosalind Franklin rover mission was put on hold, but the work has not stopped for the ExoMars teams in Europe.

In this programme, the ESA Web TV crew travel back to Turin, Italy to talk to the teams and watch as new tests are being conducted with the rover’s Earth twin Amalia while the real rover remains carefully stored in an ultra-clean room.

The 15-minute special programme gives an update on what happened since the mission was cancelled in 2022 because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the plan ahead, the new challenges, the latest deep drilling test and the stringent planetary protection measures in place.

Read more at: ESA

NASA Starts To Build Its First Robotic Lunar Rover VIPER

Last September, Interesting Engineering reported on NASA finalizing the landing site for its lunar rover called VIPER (Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover). And today, we have news that NASA has begun work on its first robotic lunar rover. “I’m super excited…it makes me very proud of all the time and effort the team has invested to get this far,” David Petri, system integration and test lead for VIPER, said in a statement. The team recently began assembling the 1,000-pound rover at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Read more at: interesting engineering

Rolls-Royce Wins Bid To Power The Future Of Lunar Exploration

Rolls-Royce has received funding from the UK Space Agency to develop a nuclear reactor for a Moon base.

The project will look into how nuclear power could be used to support a future base on the Moon for astronauts.

Scientists and engineers at the British company are working on the micro-reactor programme to develop technology that will provide power needed for humans to live and work on Earth’s natural satellite.

All space missions depend on a power source, to support systems for communications, life-support and science experiments.

Read more at: oilprice

New All-Electric Thruster Draws ‘Limitless Power From The Sun’

North Dakota-based firm IVO Ltd., a leading developer of wireless power technologies, will send an all-electric propulsion system for satellites to space for the first time in June.

The system, called the IVO Quantum Drive, will launch atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket as part of the rideshare mission Transporter 8.

The company hopes to perform a successful demonstration of the satellite propulsion system in low Earth orbit (LEO), with a view to commercializing the technology.

Read more at: interesting engineering

Satellite Powered By 48 AA Batteries And A $20 Microprocessor Shows A Low-Cost Way To Reduce Space Junk

Common sense suggests that space missions can only happen with multimillion-dollar budgets, materials built to withstand the unforgiving conditions beyond Earth’s atmosphere, and as a result of work done by highly trained specialists.

But a team of engineering students from Brown University has turned that assumption on its head.

They built a satellite on a shoestring budget and using off-the-shelf supplies available at most hardware stores. They even sent the satellite—which is powered by 48 Energizer AA batteries and a $20 microprocessor popular with robot hobbyists—into space about 10 months ago, hitching a ride on Elon Musk’s SpaceX rocket.

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U.S. Space Force Budget Hits $30 Billion In 2024 Proposal

President Biden’s $842 billion budget request for the Defense Department for fiscal year 2024 includes $30 billion for the U.S. Space Force, the largest funding request to date for the military space branch.

The $30 billion request is $3.7 billion more than what Congress enacted for the Space Force in 2023.

“The largest space budget ever,” DoD said in budget documents released March 13 on the Biden administration’s funding request for the coming fiscal year that begins Oct 1. The proposed budget “procures and modernizes capabilities to secure the use of space in the face of increasing threats to U.S. national security space systems,” the Pentagon said in budget documents.

Read more at: spacenews

The Gold Rush For The Next Round Of Military Launch Contracts Has Started

The US military recently released a rather mundane-sounding document titled “National Security Space Launch Phase 3 DRAFT Request for Proposals #1.” That may be a mouthful of jargon, but it’s still a rather consequential document. Effectively, its release is the starting gun for the next round of launch contracts for US spy satellites, secure communications satellites, and more.

There is a pile of money at stake. Up for grabs are launch contracts worth billions of dollars—substantially more than $10 billion—as the military seeks to secure launch deals for the late 2020s and early 2030s.

Read more at: arstechnica

The FCC Wants To Get Satellite-To-Smartphone Service Rolling

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is starting to set up the legal framework that would let companies provide satellite service directly to cell phones, like SpaceX, T-Mobile, AST Spacemobile, and Lynk are trying to do. Today it adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that lays out how companies would get the appropriate licenses, what spectrum they’d be able to use, and a “clear and transparent processes” for the regulator to support their efforts.

Read more at: Verge

Arianespace Wins Vega Contract For Italian Imaging Satellite Constellation

In a vote of confidence for a troubled launch vehicle, Arianespace won a contract from the Italian government for up to three Vega C launches of an Earth observation constellation.

Arianespace announced March 14 it signed a contract with the European Space Agency, acting on behalf of the Italian government, for launching the IRIDE constellation of imaging satellites. The contract includes two firm Vega C launches, starting in late 2025, with an option for a third.

Read more at: spacenews

‘Space Resilience’ Highlighted In Biden’s Proposed Defense Budget

The Biden administration on March 9 unveiled its proposed spending plan for fiscal year 2024 that includes $842 billion for the Defense Department — an increase of $26 billion or 3.2 percent above what Congress enacted in 2023. 

The White House released only a summary of the budget proposal, with no details on what funding is being allocated to military space programs. More specifics will be released March 13. 

A running theme in the summary document is that increased defense spending is needed to compete with China. 

Read more at: spacenews

Why The Office Of Space Commerce Should Supervise Novel Commercial Space Activities

The commercial space industry is driving a new era of exploration, economic opportunity, and American leadership, introducing technologies that are revolutionizing access to the cosmos. The current regulatory regime governing space activities, divided among the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), has guaranteed public safety while providing the necessary freedom for companies to innovate and iterate.

Read more at: spacenews


Space Force: We Expect To See ‘Interfering, Blinding’ Of Satellites During Conflict

The U.S. Space Force chief of space operations Gen. B. Chance Saltzman in congressional testimony March 14 singled out China as the “most immediate threat” as it continues to weaponize its space technology.

Among the most concerning of China’s technologies, he said, are ground-based lasers designed to disrupt and degrade satellite sensors, electronic warfare jammers targeting GPS and communications satellites, and anti-satellite missiles.

Read more at: spacenews

Dod Seeking Seamless Military-Commercial Satellite Communications

Among the many new products unveiled this week at the Satellite 2023 convention were mobile communications terminals capable of talking to military and commercial satellites. 

Intellian Technologies rolled out a new terminal it developed with the U.S. Navy that provides simultaneous connectivity with commercial Ka-band satellites and with the military Wideband Global Satcom (WGS) constellation used by the U.S. and several allied nations. 

Read more at: spacenews

Project Blackjack: DARPA’s Test Of Satellite Laser Links Delayed

The Pentagon’s far-future research organization’s plans to to demonstrate cross-satellite laser links under its Blackjack program has been delayed, in part due the lack of an available launch window, according to industry and government officials.

“We are in the process of test integration at this point, awaiting delivery of government-furnished equipment. And because we’re beholden to DARPA [the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency] for rideshare on a SpaceX Falcon 9, I think the last I heard was that they’ve pushed us to January of next year for launch,” Rich Pang, Telesat Government Solution’s vice president for corporate development, said Tuesday during a panel at the Satellite 2023 show.

Read more at: breaking defense

China Launches Second Classified Gaofen-13 Remote Sensing Satellite

China added its initially civilian Gaofen Earth observation series Friday with the launch of the classified optical geostationary Gaofen-13 (02) satellite.

A Long March 3B rocket lifted off from the hill-surrounded Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 4:33 a.m. Eastern, March 17. The launch successfully sent the Gaofen-13 (02) satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CASC), announced.

The payload was only revealed after launch, with speculation that the Long March 3B would carry a ChinaSat communications or Beidou navigation satellite.

Read more at: spacenews

Northrop Grumman, IHI Team Up To Bolster Japan’s Space Domain Awareness Capabilities

Northrop Grumman and Japanese heavy-industry manufacturer IHI Corporation have signed a memorandum of understanding March 15 to develop “small, highly maneuverable satellites and other solutions” that will help bolster Japan’s space domain awareness capabilities, particularly for geosynchronous orbit. 

The two companies said their collaboration was to achieve Japan’s goal of reinforcing its space domain awareness capabilities and related infrastructure, which is stipulated in Japan’s National Defense Strategy, released Dec. 16, 2022.

Read more at: spacenews

As Dod Pivots To Smaller Satellites, Congress Airdrops A Big One Into The Budget

The U.S. Defense Department’s head of space acquisitions circulated a memo last fall calling for the Pentagon to embrace a faster, more commercial approach to building satellites.

At the top of Frank Calvelli’s “Space Acquisition Tenets” list is to pivot away from billion-dollar behemoths that take a decade to build in favor of smaller spacecraft that can be delivered in under three years.

Read more at: spacenews


Plane Uses Parachute After Engine Fails, Saving All Six On Board Including Baby

Six people on board a light aircraft had a lucky escape in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, after the plane was forced to make an emergency landing using a parachute.

The single-engine propeller aircraft was filmed by onlookers floating to Earth near jungle-covered hills in the southern province of Minas Gerais, saved by a device called the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System.

Footage of the incident was posted on Twitter on Saturday by Aeroin, a Brazilian aviation news service.

Read more at: National news

Space Force Pauses GPS Satellite Orders Due To Excess Inventory

With several GPS satellites in storage awaiting launch opportunities, the U.S. Space Force decided to press pause on new orders, the top Air Force budget official said March 13.

The Space Force in last year’s budget was projecting to order two Global Positioning System GPS 3F satellites from Lockheed Martin, but they were removed from the 2024 budget because they’re not needed, Maj. Gen. Michael Greiner, deputy assistant secretary for budget for the Department of the Air Force, said at a Pentagon news conference.

Read more at: spacenews

NASA Planning To Spend Up To $1 Billion On Space Station Deorbit Module

NASA is projecting spending nearly $1 billion on a tug to deorbit the International Space Station at the end of the decade to provide redundancy for safely disposing of the station.

NASA released additional details March 13 about its fiscal year 2024 budget proposal. An outline of the proposal, published by the White House March 9, requested $27.2 billion for the agency, a 7.1% increase from 2023 that roughly keeps pace with inflation.

Read more at: spacenews

How To Find A Meteorite In Antarctica

Humanity discovered the existence of Uranus, in 1781, before finding out about the presence of a sixth continent on its own planet, which did not happen until 1820. That belated discovery of Antarctica and its gargantuan ice cliffs triggered the imagination of writers: Edgar Allan Poe envisioned a route full of bloodthirsty, savage tribes; Jules Verne fantasized about a magnetic sphinx at the South Pole; and H. P. Lovecraft placed the Mountains of Madness, populated by voracious, fetid creatures, there.

Read more at: Elpais

LEO Constellations Are Starting To Disrupt GEO Capacity Contracts

Satellite broadband customers are increasingly demanding shorter-term contracts to hold out for better prices in a market set for a flood of low Earth orbit (LEO) capacity, according to executives of regional satellite operators.

While Starlink and OneWeb are still working on expanding their LEO constellations globally, operators of satellites in geostationary orbit (GEO) said March 14 they already see an impact on their businesses.

Read more at: spacenews

Scientists Develop ‘Cosmic Concrete’ To Construct Habitats On Mars

Over 50 years after the first human set foot on the Moon, humanity is preparing to take the next big steps in space exploration. The Moon, and eventually Mars, will be the first destinations for human settlement. Scientists have been testing various materials for the construction of such habitats on Mars. An innovation in this field comes from scientists at the University of Manchester. They have developed a new ‘cosmic concrete’ composed of extraterrestrial dust, a press release stated.

Read more at: interesting engineering

FAA Looking At Extending Voice Recording Duration To 25 Hours

The first concrete result of a high-profile “safety summit” held by the FAA last week may be extending the recording time of cockpit voice recorders to 25 hours. CVRs now operate on a mandated two-hour loop, and many of the flight deck exchanges between crews involved in the half-dozen airliner incidents in the past few months that prompted the summit were overwritten. The agency is now working on rulemaking that will require the 25-hour loop. It may be part of the agency’s pledge after the summit to “establish an Aviation Rulemaking Committee to explore how to make greater use of data gathered by the airplane and its systems.”

Read more at: avweb

FAA Holds First Emergency Safety Summit In 14 Years

Following a series of safety incidents, including several recent close calls between planes on U.S. airport runways, the Federal Aviation Administration held an emergency summit Wednesday.

Read more at: CBS news