Once A Regulator, Now A Customer, George Nield Champions Commercial Spaceflight

George Nield retired as head of the FAA’s commercial space transportation regulatory office four years ago and is about to become a customer of one of those companies, crossing the line from air into space on Blue Origin’s next New Shepard flight. A long-time advocate for the commercial spaceflight industry, he sees a robust and exciting future ahead.

Blue Origin’s next flight of New Shepard, NS-20, is scheduled for March 23 from its launch facility near Van Horn, Texas. This is the fourth New Shepard to carry passengers and the 20th overall. [Update: the launch was postponed to March 29.]

Read more at: Spacepolicy online

Hope Fading For Recovery Of European Radar Imaging Satellite

European Space Agency officials said prospects are dimming for the recovery of a radar imaging satellite that malfunctioned nearly three months ago, but that efforts to save the spacecraft continue.

The Sentinel-1B spacecraft malfunctioned in December, keeping the spacecraft from collecting C-band synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery. ESA said in January that they were investigating a problem with the power system for the SAR payload on the satellite, launched in April 2016.

In a Feb. 25 update, ESA said work was continuing to investigate problems with both the main and backup power system for the payload but that effort had yet to identify a root cause of the anomaly. The problem doesn’t affect operations of the spacecraft itself, which has remained under control.

Read more at: Spacenews

NASA Astronaut Breaks American Space Record

Vande Hei made it into record books on Tuesday, March 15, 2022: He broke the record for the most consecutive days in space by an American explorer.

Vande Hei arrived at the space station on April 9, 2021, and is expected to return home March 30, 2022, after spending 355 days in low-Earth orbit. This duration breaks the previous record, held by NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, by 15 days.

Read more at: NASA

Chari, Maurer Complete ISS Upgrades in Lengthy U.S. EVA-80

NASA astronaut Raja Chari, teamed with Germany’s Matthias Maurer of the European Space Agency (ESA), wrapped up a six-hour and 54-minute session of Extravehicular Activity (EVA) outside the International Space Station (ISS) on Wednesday. Despite a delayed start, the duo—with Chari making the second spacewalk of his career and Maurer becoming only the fourth German national to perform an EVA—installed hoses onto a Radiator Beam Valve Module (RBVM) and routed power and data cables between Europe’s Columbus lab and its Bartolomeo payloads-anchoring platform. However, the delayed start to the EVA caused several low-priority tasks to be deferred. It was the fourth and last planned EVA of the current Expedition 66.

Read more at: Americaspace


Asteroid Spotted Just Before Hitting Earth’s Atmosphere Wows Astronomers

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China Plans To Open Its Tiangong Space Station For Tourism Within A Decade

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Northrop Grumman Says Customers Are ‘Lined Up’ For On-Orbit Satellite Servicing

SpaceLogistics, a satellite-servicing firm owned by Northrop Grumman, last week successfully fired the electric propulsion system it is developing for the Mission Extension Pods it plans to launch in 2024.

“It’s proceeding well. We achieved first light,” Rob Hauge, president of SpaceLogistics, told reporters March 24 at the Satellite 2022 conference. 

The Mission Extension Pods, or MEPs, are propulsion jet packs that will be installed on client satellites in orbit by a Mission Robotic Vehicle (MRV) that SpaceLogistics also is developing.

Read more at: Spacenews

Arianespace And SpaceX Work To Adjust Launch Manifests

Arianespace says it is working to remanifest payloads that were to launch on Soyuz rockets while SpaceX says it’s finding ways to accommodate new customers on its vehicles.

During a panel at the Satellite 2022 conference March 22, Stéphane Israël, chief executive of Arianespace, acknowledged the company’s plans had been upended by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and subsequent suspension of both Soyuz launches from French Guiana and those from the Baikonur Cosmodrome carrying satellites for OneWeb.

Read more at: Spacenews

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin Is Bidding On NASA’s Lucrative Moon Contract Again After It Lost To Spacex Last Year

Read more at: Business insider

Astra Reaches Orbit In First Mission For New Customer Spaceflight Inc.

Space startup-turned-public-company Astra reached orbit for a second time, in its debut mission for new customer Spaceflight Inc.

It’s a big win for the launch company. Astra reached orbit for the first time in November 2021, but it hasn’t been able to replicate that feat since. Until now.

The Astra-1 mission saw liftoff from Kodiak Spaceport in Alaska. The Rocket 3.3 vehicle, designated LV0009, had a nominal (which is to say, unremarkable — a good thing in the launch business) liftoff and stage separation. The launch carried payloads to orbit on behalf of three Spaceflight customers, including a CubeSat for Portland State Aerospace Society and a sat-to-sat communications system for NearSpace Launch. The third customer was not announced.

Read more at: Techcrunch

Ursa Major Says Its Hadley Engine Supports Vertical Launch And Hypersonic Uses

Startup Ursa Major announced Wednesday that it had completed qualification of its Hadley rocket engine for use by both a space launch vehicle and a hypersonic launch system. The Colorado-based company said it has already started delivering flight-ready Hadley engines to two customers, Phantom Space and Stratolaunch, and plans to produce a total of 30 engines this year.

The Hadley engine is relatively small as rocket engines go, with about 5,000 pounds of thrust. At that performance level, the Hadley is comparable to Rocket Lab’s Rutherford engine, nine of which power the first stage of Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket.

Read more at: Arstechnica


China Completes Engine Tests For Long March-5B Y4, Marching Toward Space Station Lab Module Launch

China has successfully completed final tests on the last set of high-thrust hydrogen-oxygen engines that will power the Long March-5B Y4 carrier rocket to ferry the country’s space station Mengtian laboratory module into orbit, the Global Times learned from project insiders on Tuesday. Researchers and engineers with the 101 Research Institute, the 6th Academy of the state-owned major aerospace contractor China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp (CASC), ran a 100-second test of the state-of-the-art liquid-propellant engine on Monday. The results showed that the craft’s performance met the mission requirements, the institute told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Read more at: Globaltimes

Why NASA’s New ‘Mega Moon Rocket’ Is So Incredible

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GEO Operators Say They Can Compete Against LEO Systems On Cost

Despite all the investment in low Earth orbit broadband megaconstellations, operators of geostationary satellites argue they can offer more cost-effective services.

During a Satellite 2022 panel March 21, executives pointed to innovations such as very small GEO satellites and software-defined payloads that allow new GEO satellites to provide broadband services at lower costs than LEO systems, albeit with higher latency.

“There’s no debate, at least for me, that from a cost-per-bit perspective and total cost of ownership, there’s no better economics than GEO, period,” said Bruno Fromont, chief technology officer of Intelsat.

Read more at: Spacenews

China Releases Images Of Martian Dust Storms Taken By Tianwen-1 Orbiter

China’s Tianwen-1 orbiter has beamed back high-resolution images of Mars, showing dust storms on the surface of the planet.

Released by the China National Space Administration on Thursday, the new pictures with a resolution of 0.5 meters were captured by a camera on the probe, which has been operating in orbit for 609 days at a distance of 277 million km from Earth.

Track marks left by Mars rover Zhurong can be seen in the pictures. With its 306 Martian days of service, the rover has traveled a total of 1,784 meters on the planet.

Read more at: Xinhuanet

Sorry, You Can’t Eat These Popular Foods On The International Space Station

Have you heard the joke about the astronaut who got food poisoning? Probably not, and for good reason. It’s because such an event has honestly never happened. To date, no astronaut has ever gotten a food-borne illness in space.

“At NASA, we actually have a higher microbiological standard compared to most companies in the general food industry,” says Xulei Wu, a NASA food scientist and food system manager for the International Space Station. In other words, NASA is a stickler about food safety and storage when it comes to space travel. 

Read more at: Popsci

Space Coast Company Vaya Space Hits Milestone With Recycled Plastic-Fueled Rocket

The test rocket wasn’t very big and it didn’t go that high, but officials with Space Coast company Vaya Space were thrilled with the results.

“We attempted to launch a rocket for the first time,” said company CEO Grant Begley about the Jan. 29 liftoff from a test site in Mojave, California. “The launch was successful, and that is highly unusual that a rocket company does a successful launch on the first attempt. That is a foot stomper.”

Read more at: floridanews

ISRO Successfully Tests Boosters That Will Power Small Satellite Launch Vehicle

The Indian Space & Research Organisation on Monday successfully conducted the ground testing of the newly developed solid booster stage (SS1) for its new Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV). The test was conducted at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota.

The test was conducted at 12:05 pm when the booster was fired up. Isro said that the successful testing has given it sufficient confidence to proceed with the first developmental flight of SSLV (SSLV-D1).

The remaining stages of SSLV (SS2 & SS3) have successfully undergone necessary ground tests and are ready for integration. The testing comes on the heels of Isro hinting that it will conduct the maiden launch of the new vehicles this year.

Read more at: India today

Methalox Race Likely To Be Won In 2022, But Winner Not Yet Clear

Right now, several methane-fueled rockets are in a race to orbit. With Starship from SpaceX, Vulcan from United Launch Alliance (ULA), and Neutron from Rocket Lab, all of the most active US launch providers are committed to using methalox-methane and oxygen.

Upcoming launchers such as New Glenn from Blue Origin and the Terran family from Relativity Space are also on the way toward flight, while the Chinese ZhuQue-2 rocket from Landspace may even be a favorite to fly before any of the American vehicles.

Read more at: NASA spaceflight


COSPAR President Says All Space Scientists, Including Russians, Welcome At July Meeting

Len Fisk, president of COSPAR, reaffirmed today that all space scientists, including from Russia, are welcome at the organization’s meeting in Athens this summer despite the Russian government’s invasion of Ukraine. Some international organizations are limiting or suspending participation by Russians, but COSPAR argues that “science is platform for dialogue even in times of profound geopolitical conflict.” It’s not business as usual, though. Joint projects with Russia will not be encouraged as they would have been in the past.

Read more at: Spacepolicy online

Russian Space Chief Says Cooperation With Europe Now Impossible

Russia’s space director said on Thursday that Europe had wrecked cooperation by imposing sanctions against his agency, and rockets that were meant to launch European satellites would now be used for Russian companies or countries friendly to Moscow.

Read more at: Reuters

Russian Invasion Of Ukraine: How It’s Affecting Europe’s Space Plans

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State Senator Opposes Repeal Of Spaceport Authority

An effort to nullify the recently activated Camden County Spaceport Authority stalled Thursday when State Sen. Sheila McNeill posted a letter to Facebook opposing the repeal effort.

“Sunsetting the Spaceport Authority would hamstring the County’s ability to attract private investment and sends the wrong message about economic development in our community,” the Republican from Brunswick wrote.

As the county’s state senator, McNeill’s opposition to the local legislation makes it more difficult to pass.

Read more at: Currentga

Legally, Russia Can’t Just Take Its Space Station And Go Home

The fate of the International Space Station hangs in the balance as tensions between Russia and the West escalate following the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

However, given that the conflict is now nearly a month old and the old laboratory is still flying high, it appears that the partnership among Russia, the United States, and 13 other nations will continue to hold. This article will consider the future of the partnership from three different dimensions: technical, legal, and political. It starts with the solid premise, repeated over and over by NASA officials, that the United States wants to continue flying the International Space Station through at least 2024.

Read more at: Arstechnica

Bahrain Joins Artemis Accords

Bahrain became the latest country to join the Artemis Accords as the agreement regarding principles for cooperation in space exploration continues to expand beyond traditional spacefaring nations.

Mohamed Al Aseeri, head of the National Space Science Agency of Bahrain, signed the Accords March 2 during the U.S.-Bahrain Strategic Dialogue. While the signing was briefly mentioned as part of those meetings, it was not formally announced by NASA and the State Department until March 7.

Read more at: Spacenews


Fire And Fury: North Korea’s Banned Weapons Tests

North Korea fired a new intercontinental ballistic missile on Thursday, Japan and South Korea said, denouncing the most powerful launch since 2017 by the isolated, nuclear-armed state.

Here is a look at the development of Pyongyang’s banned nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes, for which it has been hit with international sanctions:

– The beginnings –

North Korea starts working in the late 1970s on a version of the Soviet Scud-B missile with a range of about 300 kilometres (around 200 miles), carrying out its first test in 1984.

Read more at: Spacewar

Industry Proposals Sought For ‘Cislunar Highway Patrol’ Satellite

The Air Force Research Laboratory is asking companies to submit ideas on how they would design and develop a spacecraft to monitor outer space beyond Earth’s orbit. 

AFRL’s Space Vehicles Directorate is planning an experiment called Cislunar Highway Patrol System (CHPS). The satellite would operate beyond geosynchronous orbit, in the region near the moon.

The project is being managed by the Space Force’s Space Enterprise Consortium (SpEC). Only members of the consortium can view the details of the posting and can compete for contracts. Submissions are due April 1.

Read more at: Spacenews

What will Australia’s new Defence Space Command do?

Australia established a Defence Space Command in January this year, “to achieve our strategic space ambitions and lead the effort to assure Australia’s access to space”. The government also plans to spend around A$7 billion on space defence over the next decade.

Many areas within defence are already engaged in space activities, but Defence Space Command will bring them together. It will aim to build space capability not only in defence but also the rest of government, industry, and the research and education sectors.

Read more at: Conversation

France Puts Space At Top Of National — And European — Security Priorities

Read more at: Defensenews

Russia Hypersonic Missile ‘Not A Game Changer’ In Ukraine: US

Russia’s claim it used a hypersonic missile in Ukraine was a way to reclaim war momentum, but the next-generation weaponry has not proved to be a “game changer,” the Pentagon’s chief said Sunday.

Moscow has said it has fired two hypersonic missiles in Ukraine, and while US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin would not “confirm or dispute” whether Russia used such weapons, he warned that President Vladimir Putin’s invasion was undergoing a change in tactics including the targeting of civilians.

Read more at: Spacewar

SpaceLogistics Sees Potential Defense Market For Orbital Life-Extension Spacecraft

SpaceLogistics’ robotic satellite servicing spacecraft have sparked interest from the Space Force — with an eye not just on keeping military satellites operating longer but also opening the possibility of upgrading or adding new payloads while in orbit, says new company president Rob Hauge.

“In fact, just this past week, I was in Los Angeles briefing the senior leadership at Space Systems Command on our capabilities and they’re interested in mission extension vehicles, as well as mission extension pods,” he told Breaking Defense and Space News in a joint interview today. 

Read more at: Breaking defense


Former Momentus Executive Fred Kennedy To Lead Startup Focused On Nuclear-Powered Rocket Engines

Fred Kennedy, a former Pentagon official and veteran space executive, announced March 22 he is leading a new startup to commercialize nuclear thermal rocket propulsion. 

The startup, named Dark Fission Space Systems, “aims to accelerate the expansion of the space economy beyond low Earth orbit through the development and deployment of the first commercially available nuclear thermal rocket engine,” he said.

Kennedy said advances in the space and manufacturing industries make it possible to “produce a safe and reliable in-space propulsion capability with performance characteristics exceeding anything available today.”

Read more at: Spacenews

Accelerating Satellite Production Timelines Improving Market Health

Satellite makers are hopeful that higher frequency production rates will facilitate more innovation in the market, and fortify supply chains disrupted by the pandemic.

While higher volume and lower cost satellite production “doesn’t sound very sexy,” York Space Systems CEO Dirk Wallinger told the Satellite 2022 trade show March 22 in Washington D.C. that it also accelerates technology cycles in the industry.

“Consistent demand,” versus more periodic satellite orders, also supports relationships with suppliers that will bolster supply chains, Wallinger added.

Read more at: Spacenews

ESA Astronaut Andreas Mogensen Set To Return To Space

Danish ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen has been assigned a long-duration mission to the International Space Station and is expected to fly as the pilot of a Crew Dragon spacecraft in mid 2023 or early 2024.

The assignment was announced by ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher during the Danish Ministry of Higher Education and Science’s national space conference in Denmark today.

Read more at: ESA

Turn Your Phone Into A Space Monitoring Tool

A newly released Android app will turn your smartphone into an instrument for crowdsourced science. Leave it by your window each night with your satnav positioning turned on and your phone will record small variations in satellite signals, gathering data for machine learning analysis of meteorology and space weather patterns.

The CAMALIOT app, developed through ESA’s Navigation Innovation and Support Programme (NAVISP) with the support of the Agency’s GNSS Science Support Centre, is suitable for more than 50 models in the smartphone market which come equipped with dual frequency satnav receivers.

Read more at: ESA

Inside World View’s Space Tourism Capsule For Stratospheric Cruises

Stratospheric exploration company World View has revealed images of the interior of its passenger capsule that takes people to the edge of space while attached to a giant balloon. Champagne will also be served. Jenny Southan reports Ahead of World View space flights taking off in 2024, the company has built a full-scale prototype of its innovative spacecraft capsule, which will silently ascend to the heavens suspended beneath an enormous silver balloon.

Read more at: Globetrender

Omega and Swatch introduce Speedmaster-inspired MoonSwatch

The first wristwatch worn on the moon has taken a new giant leap… towards affordability.

Omega, the Swiss watchmaker behind the Speedmaster Professional that was selected by NASA for use on the Apollo lunar landings, has collaborated with its sister company Swatch to create the MoonSwatch, a collection of solar system-inspired watches based on the Moonwatch, but available for a fraction of the price.

“Omega’s Moonwatch is legendary and a must-have for collectors. Swatch’s witty bioceramic MoonSwatch collection makes the iconic design accessible to fans everywhere,” Swatch officials said in statement. “It’s a down to earth take on the watch that went to the moon, which is a perfect representation of Swatch’s joy of life and innovation philosophy.”

Read more at: Collectspace

Israel’s Space Tourist Being Sued For Hundreds Of Millions By The Minesweeper

After Calcalist revealed the legal troubles that next-Israeli astronaut Eytan Stibbe is embroiled in with the former partners of his firm the LR Group (Luminer) in Africa, it has been revealed that Stibbe had an additional business dispute with a former partner, who is filing a lawsuit against Stibbe’s activity in defense exports in Africa. That partner is Avi Buzaglo-Yoresh, the founder of Geomine, which developed a technology that can detect minefields through aerial images, which earned him the Prime Minister’s Prize for Initiatives and Innovation, as well as the nickname Minesweeper.

Read more at: calcalistech

Coin Honoring Sally Ride, First US Woman In Space, Enters Circulation

The United States’ first woman to fly into space has lifted off a new mission, this time to orbit the nation in the form of a new circulating coin.

The U.S. Mint on Monday (March 21) began shipping the Dr. Sally Ride quarter, the second coin in its American Women Quarters program. Struck at the Mint’s facilities in Philadelphia and Denver, the 25-cent pieces — each displaying an engraving depicting the late astronaut — should begin showing up at banks and in the change tendered at stores over the next three to four weeks.

“Dr. Sally Ride captured the nation’s imagination as a symbol of the ability of women to shatter barriers. Heralding her accomplishments via this beautiful quarter provides the Mint with yet another opportunity to connect America through coins,” Ventris Gibson, deputy director of the U.S. Mint, said in a statement.

Read more at: Collectspace

Gaia Snaps Photo of Webb at L2

On 18 February, the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope was photographed by ESA’s Gaia observatory.

Both spacecraft are located in orbits around the Lagrange point 2 (L2), 1.5 million km from Earth in the direction away from the Sun. Gaia arrived there in 2014, and Webb in January 2022.

On 18 February 2022, the two spacecraft were 1 million km apart, with an edge-on view of Gaia towards Webb’s huge sunshield. Very little reflected sunlight came Gaia’s way, and Webb therefore appears as a tiny, faint spec of light in Gaia’s two telescopes without any details visible.

Read more at: ESA