Report: 3,600 Smallsats to Clog Space in Next 10 Years

According to Euroconsult’s latest report, Prospects for the Small Satellite Market, we are on the cusp of a major revolution for the space sector and overall space ecosystem, as more than 3,600 smallsats are expected to be launched over the next ten years, a significant increase from the previous decade.

The total market value of these satellites is anticipated to be $22 billion (manufacture and launch), a 76% increase over that of 2006-2015. This rate of growth is unprecedented for the space sector and will bring about fundamental changes as both new and established industry players attempt to increase their capabilities in order to gain market share.

“Earth observation is expected to exhibit the strongest growth in terms of units launched; over 2,100 satellites are anticipated from 2016 to 2025. Four companies plan to launch more than 1,400 satellites during this period alone: Planet, Spire, BlackSky Global and Satellogic,” said Adam Keith, ManagingDirector of Euroconsult Canada and editor of the report.

Read more at: Parabolic Arc

Virgin Galactic to Restart Flight Tests of Commercial Spaceship

Virgin Galactic Ltd., the commercial space company founded by billionaire Richard Branson, is set to resume test flights next month in a new spaceship that replaces the craft that crashed in a fatal accident two years ago.

The company is due to complete ground tests in August and move to testing the vessel in the skies while attached to an aircraft, according to Jonathan Firth, vice president at Virgin Galactic. The spaceship, named Unity, is scheduled to begin the final stage of testing — independent, fully powered flights — next year.

Branson is vying with Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin to be the first to ferry private adventurers to the edge of space in reusable craft. Virgin Galactic’s flights have been grounded since October 2014, after its SpaceShipTwo broke up in mid-air, while Bezos’s offering has successfully fired and landed its craft multiple times.

Virgin Galactic has yet to set a date for the first commercial flight, and Firth said this would depend on the results of the tests.

Read more at: Bloomberg

China’s Second Space Lab Tiangong-2 Reaches Launch Center

China’s second orbiting space lab Tiangong-2, which may enable two astronauts to live in space for up to 30 days, has been delivered to Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. The lab was sent from Beijing Thursday by railway and reached the launch center Saturday, marking the start of the Tiangong-2 and Shenzhou-11 manned spacecraft missions, said a statement issued by China’s manned space engineering office.

Assembly and tests will begin at the center ahead of the lab’s launch scheduled for mid-September, the statement said. According to the statement, Tiangong-2 will be capable of receiving manned and cargo spaceships, and will be a testing place for systems and processes for mid-term space stays and refueling in space. It will also be involved in experiments on aerospace medicine, space sciences, on-orbit maintenance and space station technologies.

Read more at: Xinhuanet

Upgraded Soyuz Pulls into Port at ISS Following Textbook Rendezvous

A crew from Russia, the United States and Japan made an on-time arrival at the International Space Station Saturday morning, docking to the orbital outpost aboard their Soyuz MS-01 spacecraft after a two-day transit.

Set for a stay of four-months, the Expedition 48/49 crew will support a busy scientific program in progress aboard ISS, oversee multiple vehicle arrivals and departures and participate in spacewalks.

Second time space-flier and first-time Soyuz commander Anatoli Ivanishin and his two rookie Flight Engineers Takuya Onishi of JAXA and NASA’s Kate Rubins oversaw a fully automated approach to to ISS starting in the very early hours on Saturday and culminating in a straight-in approach for docking at 4:06 UTC to double the Station’s population and restore a six-person human presence in orbit.

Read more at: Spaceflight 101

Molly Macauley, Renowned Space Economist, Killed While Walking Her Dogs

Molly Macauley, one of the few economists specializing in satellites and the space program generally, was murdered last night (July 8) while walking her dogs near her home in Baltimore, MD.  She was 59.

According to the July 9 Baltimore Sun, she was stabbed to death while walking her two dogs in the Roland Park neighborhood in Baltimore.  No suspects have been identified.

Macauley was a valued member of the space policy community for decades and renowned for her expertise on the economics of satellites, especially in the earth observation arena. Her professional portfolio was much broader, however, including the use of economic incentives in environmental regulation, climate and earth science, and recycling and solid waste management.  She testified before Congress many times and was the author of more than 80 journal articles, books, and book chapters. She was Vice President for Research and a Senior Fellow at Resources for the Future, a Washington-based think tank that focuses on the economics of natural resources.

Read more at: Space policy online

Space Debris Washes Up

It was an out of this world experience for police officers in Nevis on Sunday when they discovered debris of a space shuttle washed up at White Bay.

The fragments have been identified as pieces of a Russian rocket that fell to earth some time ago. ZIZ has learnt that the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority said the debris is part of a rocket associated with the launch of Sentinel Satellite 1b from the European Space Agency Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

According to the ESA website the satellite was launched on April 25 2016 and its goal is to deliver information for numerous services, from monitoring ice in polar seas to tracking land subsidence, and for responding to disasters such as floods. The debris that washed up in Nevis was reportedly part of the rocket that propelled the satellite into orbit.

Read more at: Zizononline

World View Exec Testifies in Congress About Space Tourism Regulations

As Pima County’s World view moves closer to entering the space tourism biz, there are regulatory issues to be sorted out. World View co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Taber MacCallum recently testified in front of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s Subcommittee on Aviation with suggestions on how the federal government should regulate commercial flights to the edge of space.

Congress first began regulating commercial space traffic in late 1980s as more private operators began launching satellites. But as years rolled by, more companies started looking at space tourism—or the idea of taking people on a fun (albeit expensive) ride to the edge of space. So in 2004, Congress established new rules for those companies designed to protect people and property on the ground while allowing passengers to travel at their own risk. It was called a “learning period” as companies developed the technology and aircraft for the job.

“Some really ingenious legislation was crafted in 2004 that basically said that if you’re going to fly humans in space, the FAA will give you a license to do that so you can charge a fee for flying a person into space and we’re going to regulate the safety of people on the ground,” McCallum told ITB after his testimony. 

Read more at: Inside Tucson Business

Airport Board Mulls Plans for Spaceport Tucson

The creation of a “spaceport” south of Tucson International Airport has won broad political and business support as a potential driver of local economic development.

But a recent meeting of the Tucson Airport Authority board raised some questions and concerns from airport stakeholders — including initial opposition from one of the airport’s biggest airline carriers.

Pima County is developing the spaceport site, about a mile and a half southwest of Tucson International Airport’s main runway, and is already constructing a building for World View to lease for balloon manufacturing and payload preparation. The county owns the property and building and will lease it to World View, which will also manage the launch pad under contract to the county.

World View is in a pre-application process with the Federal Aviation Administration for licenses to operate a launch site and commercial manned vehicles.

Read more at: Tucson

Surrey Space Centre to Lead Test Mission to Clear Up Space Junk in 2017

Surrey Space Centre is leading a test mission, RemoveDEBRIS, to test the world’s first low-cost space litter-picking technology to remove the 7,000 tonnes of space junk orbiting the Earth. University of Surrey scientists will be showcasing the technology at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition opening today.

Funded by the European Commission and led by Surrey Space Centre, the mission, which is due to launch in early 2017, has a range of European partners including: Airbus DS France; Airbus DS Germany; Airbus DS UK and SSTL (Surrey Satellite Technology Limited).

It will test technology that has been designed to remove the 7,000 tonnes of space junk ranging from flecks of paint and used rockets, to dead satellites and debris from past collisions of space junk. With debris orbiting the Earth at thousands of miles per hour, even small fragments of rubbish can damage communication satellites which are vital for the internet, mobile phones and satellite navigation. Junk that’s just 10cm across could completely obliterate a space station.

Read more at: Surrey

Setting a Satellite to Catch a Satellite

The target is set: a large derelict satellite currently silently tumbling its way through low orbit. If all goes to plan, in 2023 it will vanish – and efforts against space debris will have made a giant leap forward. That is the vision underpinning e.Deorbit, intended as the world’s first mission to remove a large piece of space junk – if it is given the initial go-ahead by Europe’s space ministers at the Agency’s Ministerial Council in December.

The basic idea is simple: set a satellite to catch a satellite. e.Deorbit will rendezvous with, grapple and hard-capture the drifting satellite, then push the pair down to burn up harmlessly in the atmosphere. More than 75% of trackable space debris whizzes around in Earth’s heavily trafficked low orbits, below 2000 km altitude. Even if all launches stopped tomorrow, the level of debris would go on rising, driven by continuing collisions. The only way to stabilise debris levels over the long run will be to remove entire large items.

“While the concept is straightforward, the implementation is not – e.Deorbit will be like nothing ESA has ever attempted before,” explains Robin Biesbroek, ESA’s study manager.

Read more at: ESA

China Announces Success in Technology to Refuel Satellites in Orbit

China has successfully completed the in-space refuel of orbital satellites following last week’s launch of a new generation carrier rocket, the National University of Defense Technology announced on Thursday.

Similar to air refueling for planes, the process refuels a satellite in orbit in a microgravity environment and will extend a satellite’s functional life and boost its maneuver capabilities considerably. Developed by the university, Tianyuan-1 is the country’s first in-space refueling system for orbital satellites. It was launched into orbit aboard the Long March-7 carrier rocket on Saturday.

Read more at: Space Daily

Russia May Develop Proton Carrier Rocket’s Light Version in 2018 — Manufacturer

The light modification of Russia’s Proton carrier rocket may be developed in 2018, Khrunichev Space Center Head Andrei Kalinovsky said on Friday.

“We hope, in 2018,” he said, responding to a journalists’ question about the possible timeframe of developing a new version of the carrier rocket. The project is “at the stage of making a decision,” the head of the Khrunichev Space Center said. “We agree the issues at various levels for making a decision, including technical characteristics. It has to be understood that this project is commercial. The required business plan is available,” he said, adding that the approval process was under way.

Read more at: TASS

S.S. Alan Poindexter: Orbital ATK Freighter Named for Late Shuttle Astronaut

A NASA space shuttle commander who died in a 2012 water sports accident is being remembered with the naming of a space station-bound resupply vehicle, the company behind the spacecraft has announced.

“[The] OA-5 Cygnus [cargo spacecraft] will be named after former NASA astronaut and naval officer Alan Poindexter,” Orbital ATK announced last month.

The S.S. Alan Poindexter will launch on Orbital ATK’s sixth NASA-contracted mission to deliver scientific experiments, supplies and equipment to the International Space Station. The uncrewed, solar-powered capsule will be the first to fly on the company’s redesigned Antares 230 rocket since an earlier Cygnus freighter was destroyed in a launch failure in October 2014.

Read more at: Space.com

Frosty Cold Nights Year-round on Mars May Stir Dust

Some dusty parts of Mars get as cold at night year-round as the planet’s poles do in winter, even regions near the equator in summer, according to new NASA findings based on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter observations.

The surface in these regions becomes so frigid overnight that an extremely thin layer of carbon dioxide frost appears to form. The frost then vaporizes in the morning. Enough dust covers these regions that their heat-holding capacity is low and so the daily temperature swing is large. Daily volatilization of frost crystals that form among the dust grains may help keep the dust fluffy and so sustain this deep overnight chill.

Read more at: Phys.org

NASA IG Wants Better Mishap Investigation Policy for Commercial Cargo Launches

The NASA Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a report on Tuesday that praised NASA for some aspects of its management of the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract with SpaceX, but reiterated earlier concerns about the independence of mishap investigations into these “commercial cargo” launch services.  NASA concurred with most, but not all, of the OIG’s recommendations.

The OIG report was prompted by the June 28, 2015 SpaceX CRS-7 (SpX-7) Falcon 9 rocket failure that was intended to send a Dragon spacecraft full of supplies to the International Space Station (ISS).  Among the $118 million in cargo that was lost was an International Docking Adapter, the first of two needed for future dockings of SpaceX and Boeing commercial crew vehicles.

On the positive side, the OIG concluded that “NASA is effectively managing its commercial resupply contract with SpaceX to reduce cost and financial risk.”   It has “taken advantage of multiple mission pricing discounts” and negotiated “significant consideration” after the 2015 failure including reduced prices for five launches awarded thereafter (SpX-16 to SpX-20). However, the report criticized NASA for not having “an official, coordinated, and consistent mishap investigation policy for commercial resupply launches, which could affect its ability to determine root cause of a launch failure and corrective action.”

Read more at: Space policy online

Astronaut-turned-artist Nicole Stott Shares View from Space in Paintings

Nicole Stott would really like it if she could find her paint kit. A small watercolor set no bigger than a deck of cards, she knows the general location of where she last left it, she just can no longer go there to look for it.

“I did not think about bringing my little watercolor set home with me,” Stott admitted in a recent interview. “I left it there thinking other people might want to paint…in space,” she quickly adds.

Stott, a former NASA astronaut who was the first person to paint what she saw out the window while still in space, left her pallet aboard the International Space Station when she lived there for 90 days in 2009. She revisited the orbiting outpost two years later as a crewmember on thefinal flight of the space shuttle Discovery, but didn’t have the chance to look for it.

Read more at: Collect Space

Planetary Defense

Dinosaurs were fearsome creatures. Some had thick scales, sharp teeth, and, in many cases, lightning-fast reflexes. One thing they didn’t have: a planetary defense office. When an asteroid targeted Earth 65 million years ago, it took those masters of Earth by complete surprise. While we know of no large object that is on a collision course with Earth in the next 100 years, descendants of survivors from that catastrophic impact are determined not to make the same mistake.

In 2016, human astronomers now routinely scan the heavens for signs of potentially hazardous objects. When one is discovered, alerts are issued to observers around the world so space rocks cannot easily disappear into the blackness of space. NASA-funded survey projects have found 98 percent of the known catalogue of almost 15,000 near-Earth objects—asteroids and comets whose orbits periodically bring them within 30 million miles of Earth’s orbit. The list is growing at a rate of about 1,500 per year.

Meanwhile, researchers are giving serious thought to an even bigger problem: What would we do if a dangerous asteroid is discovered? How will we know if and when it will impact? Is it possible to deflect or destroy it before it reaches Earth?

All of this work—from discovery to tracking to potential mitigation—is being done by a sprawling network of government agencies, private and public universities, and both amateur and professional astronomers. Helping them work together is the job of NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office.

Read more at: NASA

Space Florida Approves Road Money, Short-term Loan in Space Deals

The Space Florida board of directors approved three emergency measures Wednesday to keep two huge space port developments in the works, including a deal to use state money to help build a road and another to provide short-term financing.

At a special meeting called to handle the three requests, the board approved the road improvements, to cost up to $2.7 million, to help provide transportation improvements between Blue Origin’s planned rocket manufacturing site in Space Florida’s Exploration Park industrial center, and the company’s leased launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Blue Origin, founded and operated by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos, plans to build a $200 million factory at Exploration Park and to operate a rocket assembly facility and launch complex at a launch pad it is sub-leasing from Space Florida at Cape Canaveral at the old Launch Complex 36.

Read more at: Florida Politics

The Mysterious Syndrome Impairing Astronauts’ Sight

In 2005, astronaut John Phillips took a break from his work on the International Space Station and looked out the window at Earth. He was about halfway through a mission that had begun in April and would end in October. When he gazed down at the planet, Earth was blurry. He couldn’t focus on it clearly. That was strange — his vision had always been 20/20. He wondered: Was his eyesight getting worse?

“I’m not sure if I reported that to the ground,” he said. “I think I didn’t. I thought it would be something that would just go away, and fix itself when I got to Earth.” It didn’t go away. During Phillips’s post-flight physical, NASA found that his vision had gone from 20/20 to 20/100 in six months. Rigorous testing followed. Phillips got MRIs, retinal scans, neurological tests and a spinal tap. The tests showed that not only had his vision changed, but his eyes had changed as well. The backs of his eyes had gotten flatter, pushing his retinas forward. He had choroidal folds, which are like stretch marks. His optic nerves were inflamed.

Phillips’s case became the first widely recognized one of a mysterious syndrome that affects 80 percent of astronauts on long- ­duration missions in space. The syndrome could interfere with plans for future crewed space missions, including any trips to Mars.

Read more at: Washington Post

One Carbon Metabolism on the Space Station

It has been known for some time that time in space affects astronauts’ vision. Post-flight vision changes have been reported by many astronauts after they spend time on the International Space Station. Many, but not all. But why are only certain people affected by spaceflight in this manner?’

Results of a new study involving 49 space station astronauts may help crack this case. The research points to differences in the way some individuals’ bodies operate at the cellular level which may influence whether they develop vision or eye issues in space.

The human body is complex. Intricate networks of chemical interactions within our cells convert basic nutrients from the foods we eat, into the molecules that keep us ticking. These chemical processes use specific pathways, called metabolic pathways, and are spurred by enzymes, each with its own job to do.

Scott M. Smith from the Biomedical Research and Environmental Sciences Division at NASA’s Johnson Space Center explains, “One of these pathways, called the one carbon metabolism pathway — moves single carbon atoms from one compound to another in our cells. This is a nutrition and vitamin rich pathway that involves folate, vitamins B6, B12, and other vitamins, and is extremely important.”

Read more at: NASA

The Curious Case of Earth’s Leaking Atmosphere

Earth’s atmosphere is leaking. Every day, around 90 tonnes of material escapes from our planet’s upper atmosphere and streams out into space. Although missions such as ESA’s Cluster fleet have long been investigating this leakage, there are still many open questions. How and why is Earth losing its atmosphere – and how is this relevant in our hunt for life elsewhere in the Universe?

Given the expanse of our atmosphere, 90 tonnes per day amounts to a small leak. Earth’s atmosphere weighs in at around five quadrillion (5 × 1015) tonnes, so we are in no danger of running out any time soon. However, understanding Earth’s atmosphere, and how it escapes to space, is key to understanding the atmospheres of other planets, and could be crucial in our hunt for habitable planets and extraterrestrial life.

We have been exploring Earth’s magnetic environment for years using satellites such as ESA’s Cluster mission, a fleet of four spacecraft launched in 2000. Cluster has been continuously observing the magnetic interactions between the Sun and Earth for over a decade and half; this longevity, combined with its multi-spacecraft capabilities and unique orbit, have made it a key player in understanding both Earth’s leaking atmosphere and how our planet interacts with the surrounding Solar System.

Read more at: Phys.org

MUOS 5 Military Communications Satellite Hit by Onboard Anomaly, Orbit-Raising Halted

The U.S. Navy’s newest communications satellite, launched from Cape Canaveral two weeks ago, was forced to stop its ascent into a Geosynchronous Orbit due to an on-board anomaly, the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command confirmed in a statement on Friday.

The fifth and final Multi-User Objective System satellite lifted off atop an Atlas V rocket on June 24, enjoying a trouble-free three-hour ride on its launch vehicle. Blasting off in its most powerful version, Atlas V was helped by five Solid Rocket Boosters to deliver the 6,740-Kilogram satellite to a custom Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit from where MUOS 5 was to complete an eight-day ascent to its high-altitude perch.

Read more at: Spaceflight 101

U.S. Air Force Wants to Shift More Money into JICSpOC and Troubled GPS Ground System

The Pentagon wants Congress to approve an additional $39 million to help develop the Air Force’s next-generation GPS ground control system and another $30 million for a high profile space battle management center used by the Defense Department and intelligence community.

Both moves are part of a 2016 budget reprogramming request the Pentagon’s comptroller, Michael McCord, submitted to Congress June 30. Reprogramming requests are a way for the Defense Department to reallocate its current budget to address urgent funding needs.

Read more at: Spacenews.com

The Wizard War in Orbit

Tales of espionage are filled with lanky men in trenchcoats walking through cold Berlin streets at the height of the Cold War. But the most important intelligence—in terms of volume and reliability—was gathered by reconnaissance satellites far overhead. These satellites were precise, they collected vast amounts of information, and unlike spies, they did not forget, embellish, lie, or go rogue. Photographic reconnaissance satellites like CORONA, GAMBIT, HEXAGON, and KENNEN were in many ways the most prolific spooks. But they were also accompanied by other satellites, signals intelligence, or SIGINT, satellites that listened for the electronic whispers of radars and radios, engaged in a high-tech war of electrons against an enemy that could vanish and emerge at will.

During the Cold War the United States intelligence community gathered signals intelligence from the Soviet Union via a variety of means. These included ground stations, cable-tapping and bugging operations, airborne platforms such as the RC-135 Rivet Joint and RB-47 Stratojet, and signals intelligence satellites. Any history of SIGINT satellite operations during the Cold War is going to be limited in scope because much of the story remains classified, and unlike the reconnaissance photographs, signals intelligence is an arcane and esoteric subject.

Read more at: Space Review Part One, Part Two, Part Three

No Mention of Space in Democratic Party Platform

There is no mention of NASA or anything remotely close to space. No surprise. Platforms are just documents that are more focused on letting party people exercise their narrow interests than being close to anything that will ever really become a presidential administration’s future policies. Besides, space is a niche issue – at best – one that usually becomes a punch line when it does creep into presidential campaigns

Read more at: NASA Watch

Obama’s Top Scientist Talks Shrinking Budgets, Donald Trump, and His Biggest Regret

John Holdren is no stranger to the spotlight. Over his long career in science, Holdren — a physicist by training — has worked on controversial issues such as climate change and nuclear non-proliferation.

But for nearly eight years, he has enjoyed an even higher profile, as US President Barack Obama’s science adviser and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). With Obama due to leave the White House in January 2017, Holdren — now the longest-serving US science adviser — recently sat down with Nature for a wide-ranging chat.

Read more at: Nature

Poland Signs Space Partnership Deal with China, Eyes Increased Industry Cooperation

Poland’s space agency POLSA recently signed an agreement with the Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA). The two agencies are to cooperate on joint research, monitoring and developing new telecoms solutions.

The agreement was signed by Polish President Andrzej Duda and Chinese President Xi Jinping during the latter’s official visit to Warsaw in late June. “The cooperation between the Polish Space Agency and the Chinese National Space Administration will be related to three fields: space research, exchange and use of satellite data to develop our scientific knowledge on Earth, including observation and monitoring of climate change and the environment, and the development of space technology, including in the field of telecommunication,” professor Marek Banaszkiewicz, the president of POLSA, told SpaceNews.

Read more at: Spacenews.com

Why Investment in Space Companies is Heating Up

It used to be that the only way to get to outer space was through the government. Those days are long gone, as the commercial space industry becomes increasingly crowded with companies geared toward such diverse goals as launching small satellites and mining the moon for minerals.

This has made the commercial sector increasingly active for investors. A January report from aerospace consulting firm the Tauri Group found that space start-ups have attracted more than $13.3 billion of investment, including $5.1 billion of debt financing, since 2000. Nearly two-thirds of that investment funding has come in the last five years.

The Times spoke with Chad Anderson, managing director of Space Angels Network, about the growing interest and what’s next for the industry. Space Angels Network is a New York-based investor in early-stage private space companies, with virtual offices in Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, Zurich, Hong Kong, Stockholm and London, and investor members all over the world.

Read more at: LA Times

Review: International Space Station: Architecture Beyond Earth

The term “space architecture” brings to mind illustrations of lunar bases or 1970s visions of expansive space colonies at L5—that is to say, something of the far future, not today. Yet, one can argue that space architecture of a form exists today, in the form of the International Space Station, whose design and development took decades and many iterations.

That’s certainly the argument of International Space Station: Architecture Beyond Earth, a British book by David Nixon that likens the International Space Station (ISS) to some of the great architectural accomplishments on Earth. The ISS, like buildings and other structures on Earth, exhibits the same three basic design principles dating back to Roman times: strength, value, and style. The ISS has strength, of course, to survive the space environment, and its value comes from its promise to extend human knowledge. And style? The ISS, Nixon writes, “is, without doubt, a very stylish design.” (Russia’s Mir space station apparently was not, by comparison, but Nixon doesn’t offer much of an explanation why.

Read more at: Space Review