Exploration Upper Stage Unveiled: Revolutionary Leap in Crew Safety, Cargo Capacity, and Deep Space Power

After Artemis I launched in November 2022 atop the only super heavy-lift rocket capable of carrying crew and large cargo to deep space in a single lift, James Savage went outside with his two daughters, 9 and 12, and looked at the Moon. “We talked about where Orion was and how it was flying past the Moon at that point,” said Savage, chief engineer for Boeing’s Exploration Upper Stage, or EUS. “And we talked about how just a couple missions from now, the first woman will walk on the Moon. The whole experience was a little surreal.”

Read more at: spacenews

Virgin Orbit Shuts Down After Selling Key Assets To 3 Aerospace Companies

Virgin Orbit, the beleaguered satellite launch company that filed for bankruptcy close to two months ago, said it has agreed to sell key assets worth over $35 million to three aerospace companies and will cease operations. The piecemeal sale of the California-based company — which was operating at a $50.5 million loss and filed for bankruptcy in early April, days after failing to secure long-term financing and furloughing all but 100 staff members — is subject to court approval today (May 24), “with the transactions expected to close shortly thereafter,” according to a company statement on Tuesday evening (May 23).

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Virgin Galactic Makes First Suborbital Spaceflight In Nearly Two Years

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicle flew to space for the first time in nearly two years May 25 on what the company projected to be the vehicle’s final test flight before commencing commercial operations.

Virgin Galactic’s “mothership” aircraft, VMS Eve, took off from the runway at Spaceport America in New Mexico at 11:15 a.m. Eastern. The takeoff occurred more than an hour behind a schedule provided by the company the day before, but the company did not disclose the reason for the delay.

Read more at: spacenews


Solar ‘Superflares’ Millions Of Times Stronger Than Anything Today May Have Sparked Life On Earth

Life on Earth could have been sparked by enormous superflares from a hyperactive young sun, a new study suggests.

By firing charged particles found in the solar wind at a concoction of gases present in Earth’s early atmosphere, scientists found that the combined ingredients form significant quantities of amino acids and carboxylic acids — the building blocks for proteins and all organic life.

Scientists have been puzzling over the conditions that sparked life on Earth since the 1800s, when it was speculated that life may have begun in a primordial chemical soup referred to as a “warm little pond.” In the 1950s, experiments that exposed gas mixtures of methane, ammonia, water, and molecular hydrogen to artificial lightning showed that 20 different amino acids formed from the process.

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The Spaceport Company Demonstrates Offshore Launch Operations

Two companies have demonstrated the ability to conduct launches from a floating platform in U.S. territorial waters, a concept that could help address congestion at terrestrial launch sites.

The Spaceport Company announced May 23 it hosted four sounding rocket launches with the support of Evolution Space on May 22 from a platform in the Gulf of Mexico. The launches were part of a proof-of-concept test of the ability to conduct launches from an offshore platform.

Read more at: spacenews

Rocket Lab Buys Some Virgin Orbit Assets in Bankruptcy Auction

Aerospace firm Rocket Lab USA looks to be picking up some assets on the cheap from another space start-up that didn’t make it: Virgin Orbit.

Read more at: barrons

Stratolaunch To Acquire Virgin Orbit’s Modified Boeing 747

The company Stratolaunch has announced it will acquire Virgin Orbit’s modified Boeing 747 and its related parts and equipment. This acquisition is expected to close by July 31, 2023, and was approved by the US Bankruptcy Court in charge of Virgin Orbit’s Chapter 11, which began earlier this year and gave ‘Cosmic Girl’ an unforeseen new opportunity at flying.

On Thursday, the Mojave-based company Stratolaunch announced it will acquire ‘Cosmic Girl,’ Virgin Orbit’s modified 747, which was at the center of the company’s plans to conquer outer space.

Read more at: simpleflying

Fleet Space Secures $33 Million For Mineral Exploration Constellation

Fleet Space Technologies has raised around $33 million in a Series C round to expand its satellite-based mineral exploration services.

The funding round valued the eight-year-old Australian venture at more than $350 million Australian dollars ($232 million), Fleet Space said in a May 24 news release, doubling its valuation since 2021.

Australasian venture capital firm and existing investor Blackbird led the Series C round.

Fleet Space said the funds would primarily support the expansion of its Exosphere mineral prospecting business, particularly into North America.

Read more at: spacenews

SpaceX Making Progress Toward Next Starship Test Flights

Repairs following the maiden Starship flight and preparations ahead of the second launch are ongoing at Starbase, all while SpaceX is at an all-time high in terms of Starship vehicle production with a new ship and booster soon to be completed.

The current star of the show is Ship 25, which — following some testing at the Masseys test site — is now at the suborbital launch site ahead of a six-engine Static Fire test.

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The Moon Has a Hidden Resource That Could Sustain Billions of Humans for 100,000 Years

Alongside advances in space exploration, we’ve recently seen much time and money invested into technologies that could allow effective space resource utilisation. And at the forefront of these efforts has been a laser-sharp focus on finding the best way to produce oxygen on the Moon. In October, the Australian Space Agency and NASA signed a deal to send an Australian-made rover to the Moon under the Artemis program, with a goal to collect lunar rocks that could ultimately provide breathable oxygen on the Moon.

Read more at: inverse

How NASA Plans To Melt The Moon—And Build On Mars

In June a four-person crew will enter a hangar at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, and spend one year inside a 3D-printed building. Made of a slurry that—before it dried—looked like neatly laid lines of soft-serve ice cream, Mars Dune Alpha has crew quarters, shared living space, and dedicated areas for administering medical care and growing food. The 1,700-square-foot space, which is the color of Martian soil, was designed by architecture firm BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group and 3D printed by Icon Technology.

Read more at: arstechnica

NASA Safety Panel Skeptical Of Starliner Readiness For Crewed Flight

The chair of a NASA safety panel urged the agency not to rush into a crewed test flight of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner vehicle, calling for an independent “deep look” at technical issues with the spacecraft.

Speaking at a May 25 public meeting of the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, Patricia Sanders, chair of the committee, expressed skepticism that NASA and Boeing will be able to close known issues with Starliner in time for a launch currently scheduled for as soon as July 21.

Read more at: spacenews

Scientists May Be Able To Put Mars-Bound Astronauts Into ‘Suspended Animation’ Using Sound Waves, Mouse Study Suggests

Scientists have blasted the brains of mice and rats with ultrasound to knock them into a hibernation-like state, and the researchers say the technique could one day be used on injured humans in critical care or on astronauts taking long-haul spaceflights.

The first-of-its-kind method — which works by firing ultrasound at a region of the brain responsible for controlling metabolism and body temperature — reduced the rodents’ average body temperatures by up to 6.25 degrees Fahrenheit (3.5 degrees Celsius) while also slowing down their heart rates and reducing their oxygen consumption.

Read more at: livescience


SpaceX Set To Join FAA To Fight Environmental Lawsuit That Could Delay Starship Work

Elon Musk’s SpaceX is set to join the Federal Aviation Administration as a co-defendant to fight a lawsuit brought by environmental groups following the company’s first test flight of Starship, the world’s largest rocket, which ended in a mid-flight explosion last month. In a motion filed Friday in court, SpaceX requested that federal judge Carl Nichols allow the company to join the FAA as a defendant against environmental and cultural-heritage nonprofit groups that sued the aerospace regulator earlier this month.

Read more at: CNBC

Virgin Orbit Is Finished After Disastrous U.K. Launch

Virgin Orbit has permanently shut down mere months after the company’s bid to make history with a satellite launch ended in failure. Richard Branson’s California-based company—which was valued at $3.5 billion in late 2021—released a statement on Tuesday announcing that it is selling off its assets and then closing for good. The death knell comes after Virgin Orbit announced in March that it was making most of its staff redundant and then filing for bankruptcy protection in April. The catastrophic spiral began in January when the company attempted to launch the first satellite into orbit from British soil, only for the rocket to develop an anomaly and ultimately fail to reach its required altitude. CEO Dan Hart the following month said the company suspected that a “$100 part” caused the mission’s failure.

Read more at: dailybeast

A New Report Finds NASA Has Spent An Obscene Amount Of Money On SLS Propulsion

An independent report published Thursday contained troubling findings about the money spent by the agency on propulsion for the Space Launch System rocket. Moreover, the report by NASA Inspector General Paul Martin warns that if these costs are not controlled, it could jeopardize plans to return to the Moon.

Bluntly, Martin wrote that if the agency does not rein in spending, “NASA and its contracts will continue to exceed planned cost and schedule, resulting in a reduced availability of funds, delayed launches, and the erosion of the public’s trust in the agency’s ability to responsibly spend taxpayer money and meet mission goals and objectives—including returning humans safely to the Moon.”

Read more at: arstechnica

SpaceX’s Second Starship Launch Could Be ‘Significantly Delayed’ By Environmental Lawsuit

Though SpaceX has emphasized that it sees the first fully integrated flight test of Starship as a success, skeptics have pointed to the cloud of potentially harmful debris caused by the Mars rocket’s programmed explosion, as well as the massive crater it blasted into the ground at launch.

The first Starship launch, on April 20, also started a 3.5-acre fire on state park land, a report from Engadget points out.

Environmental and wildlife nonprofit groups have subsequently filed a lawsuit against the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), accusing the agency of failing in its duty of properly assessing the potential environmental impact of Starship.

Read more at: interesting engineering

Rocket Report: Europe Has A Rocket Problem, FAA Testing Safety Of Methane

Virgin Galactic takes to the skies again. On Thursday morning Virgin Galactic successfully returned to human spaceflight after a nearly two-year hiatus. In a news release, the company said its VSS Unity spacecraft reached an apogee of 87.2 km before landing at Spaceport America in New Mexico. Virgin Galactic says it is now readying the vehicle for the start of long-awaited commercial operations, with the “Galactic 01” mission planned for late June.

Read more at: Arstechnica


Air Force Research Lab To Fund Development Of Ursa Major’s Rocket Engines

Rocket propulsion startup Ursa Major announced May 23 it won a U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory contract to support the development of two of the company’s rocket engines.

The Colorado-based company said it could not disclose the value of the agreement but said it is an “eight-figure” contract,, larger than a previous $3.6 million Air Force contract it received last year for development of Ursa Major’s Hadley engine for small launch vehicles.

Read more at: spacenews

Missile-Warning Satellite Passes Preliminary Design Review

A U.S. missile-warning satellite completed a major review, keeping the spacecraft on track for launch in 2028.

Northrop Grumman announced May 24 that the Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (OPIR) polar satellite passed its preliminary design review earlier this month.

Preliminary design review “is the first milestone that demonstrates the maturity of the system to meet the mission,” Alex Fax, Northrop Grumman vice president of Next-Gen OPIR polar program, told SpaceNews. “It’s significant that we got there on time, per an accelerated schedule, so we can get the spacecraft delivered on time.”

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Northrop Grumman Wins $45 Million Space Force Contract To Launch Small Weather Satellite

Northrop Grumman won a $45.5 million contract to launch a small weather satellite in 2025, the U.S. Space Force announced May 25.

The company’s Minotaur 4 rocket will launch a payload called Electro-Optical Infrared (EO/IR) Weather System (EWS) prototype that will demonstrate commercial weather imaging technologies for military use. The launch contract was a task order awarded by the U.S. Space Force’s Orbital Services Program-4.

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NRO Director Says Commercial Space Industry Helps Fuel The Spy Satellite Agency’s Ambitious Goals

The U.S. National Reconnaissance Office plans to quadruple the number of satellites on orbit over the next decade. It will need commercial space companies to help do it.

The spy agency’s success toward that goal will involve “a combination of our partnerships with industry, the advancement of technology, and the coincident reduction in cost of all of those [launch and satellite] systems,” said NRO Director Chris Scolese, in a rare interview for CNBC’s “Manifest Space” podcast.

“It’s helped us improve our reliability so that we can achieve more with more capability at a lower cost,” he said.

Read more at: CNBC

North Korea Constructing Satellite Launch Pad With ‘New Urgency’ – Report

Construction at North Korea’s satellite launching station has hit a “new level of urgency,” most likely in preparation for a launch, a U.S.-based think tank said in a report citing commercial satellite imagery. North Korea says it has completed its first military spy satellite, and leader Kim Jong Un has approved final preparations for a launch to place it in orbit, without publicising a date. Commercial satellite imagery from Monday shows that progress on a new launch pad in a coastal area east of North Korea’s Sohae Satellite Launching Station is moving forward at a “remarkable pace”, 38 North, a Washington-based programme that monitors North Korea, said in a report on Thursday.

Read more at: reuters

An Aerospace Engineer Explains What Makes China’s New Hypersonic Missiles Such A Threat

China’s newest hypersonic missile, the DF-27, can fly as far as Hawaii, penetrate U.S. missile defenses, and pose a particular threat to U.S. aircraft carriers, according to news reports of an assessment from the Pentagon. Chinese researchers claimed in a May 2023 research journal report that the country’s hypersonic missiles could destroy a U.S. carrier group “with certainty.” This capability threatens to sideline U.S. aircraft carrier groups in the Pacific, potentially shifting the strategic balance of power, and leaving the U.S. with limited options for assisting Taiwan in the event China invades.

Read more at: fastcompany

US ‘Ready To Fight In Space If We Have To’, Says Military Official

The US is ready for conflict in outer space, according to a senior military official, after developing anti-satellite technologies to counter the threats posed by “provocative” countries such as Russia and China.

Brig Gen Jesse Morehouse at US Space Command, the arm of the military responsible for space operations, said Russian aggression and China’s vision to become the dominant space power by mid-century, had left the US with “no choice” but to prepare for orbital skirmishes.

Read more at: Guardian


Would You Let NASA Lock You Up in a Fake Mars Habitat for a Year?

If we’re ever going to send people to visit Mars, we’re going to have to deal with one big problem: We just don’t know what will happen to the human body there. Humans have never set foot on another planet before, and when they do they’ll have to deal with weird circumstances like eating strange food, living in a tiny box, and regularly tromping through miles of dusty desert in a spacesuit. If these future explorers are going to have any chance at survival, we’ll need to know a lot more about what this will do to their bodies and their minds.

Read more at: dailybeast

NASA Found The Japanese Moon Lander That Crashed Into The Moon

ispace’s attempt to become the first private company to safely land a robot on the Moon left a mark: A NASA space telescope orbiting Earth’s nearest neighbor in space spotted the impact of the vehicle on the lunar surface.

The Japanese firm hoped its Hakuto-R mission would demonstrate the ability to safely reach the Moon so it could ride a wave of NASA and private spending on lunar cargo deliveries.

Read more at: yahoo

South Korea Cancels Satellite Launch Plan Citing Technical Problem

South Korea canceled its planned launch Wednesday of its first commercial-grade satellite due to a technical issue, days after rival North Korea reaffirmed its push to place its first military spy satellite into orbit.

The cancellation was announced about two hours before South Korea’s homegrown Nuri space launch vehicle carrying eight satellites — including the main, commercial-grade one — was scheduled to lift off from a southern launch facility.

Read more at: APnews

SpaceX and Starlink Revenue is Growing Faster

Starlink Mobility (RV and other users) has 300,000 customers who pay $2500 for installation and $250 per month. This is more than the $120 per month for regular residential. The higher charges for mobility/RV users and the higher estimate of Starlink mobility customers, the increase in residential charges of $10 per month, increases my conservative estimate for Starlink 2023 revenue by about $1 billion to over $17 billion.

Read more at: nextbigfuture

Spacex Investment In Starship Approaches $5 Billion

SpaceX will have spent $5 billion or more on its Starship vehicle and launch infrastructure by the end of this year, according to court filings and comments by the company’s chief executive.

SpaceX filed a motion with federal district court in the District of Columbia May 19, asking to be added as a defendant in the lawsuit filed by several environmental and Native American groups against the Federal Aviation Administration May 1. That suit alleges the FAA improperly carried out an environmental review of SpaceX Starship launches from Boca Chica, Texas.

Read more at: spacenews

Will The UK’s Space Industry Survive The Collapse Of Virgin Orbit?

The collapse of British billionaire Sir Richard Branson’s satellite firm Virgin Orbit this week has thrown the future of the UK’s space industry into jeopardy.

On Tuesday, the firm announced it was permanently ceasing operations, months after a major mission failure.

Melissa Quinn, chief executive of Cornwall Spaceport, where the project was based, stepped down last week, leading to concerns the sector is now facing an uncertain future.

But Britain’s leading voices in the space industry have told The National they are confident the sector will continue to “thrive”, with new advances emerging.

Read more at: national news

Whisper It, But Scotland Is On The Verge Of Becoming A Space Superpower

Yesterday afternoon, shattering the moorland peace of Inverard, in North Argyll, powered jets burst into action. For the second time in two months a space ship took off, its fiery trail vanishing wisp-like into the blue autumn sky.”

Thus Angus MacVicar began his novel Return to the Lost Planet, with words that have stayed with me since its publication in 1954 and its later serialisation by the BBC. Scotland was here depicted as an international centre of rocketry, with its glens and hills regularly reverberating to the sound of missions blasting their way to other worlds, in this case “the lost planet” of Hesikos.

Read more at: guardian