Close Call! 2 Huge Pieces Of Space Debris Had A Near-Miss In Earth Orbit

Two big pieces of space junk almost slammed into each other in low Earth orbit, highlighting the need to clear up space close to home.

Leolabs, a space traffic management services which tracks satellites and other objects in orbit, spotted the close call on Sept. 13, as a defunct Soviet payload and a spent Chinese rocket body whizzed by each other at incredible speeds.

The conjunction of the two objects saw the pair pass each other head-on. Leolabs identified these as likely being Cosmos 807, an 880 pounds (400 kilograms) payload launched in 1976, and a roughly 4,400 lb. (2,000 kg) Chinese Long March 4C rocket stage launched five years ago.

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USAF and FAA Deny Varda Reentry and Recovery Permission

Varda’s first in-space manufacturing capsule can’t come back down to Earth.

On Friday, TechCrunch reported that the US Air Force denied Varda Space Industries permission to use a Utah recovery range, and the FAA also denied a reentry license, leaving the company’s orbiting pharmaceutical factory waiting in orbit.

“The request to use the Utah Test and Training Range for the landing location was not granted at this time due to the overall safety, risk and impact analysis,” an FAA spokesperson said in a statement to TechCrunch. “In a separate process, the FAA has not granted a reentry license. All organizations continue working to explore recovery options.”

Read more at: payloadspace


NASA Awarded $850,000 To A Company That Wants To Pick Up Space Trash The Old-Fashioned Way — With Bags

In the middle of a space flight, an astronaut heard a massive bang. He looked up and saw a piece of space junk embedded in the window of the shuttle. If the debris had been bigger, it could have blown out the window, and the crew would have all died, the astronaut told Joel C. Sercel, the founder and CEO of TransAstra. “Space junk is one of the greatest perils that astronauts face in low Earth orbit today,” Sercel told Insider.

TransAstra was recently awarded an $850,000 contract from NASA to explore the possibility of cleaning up space junk with a giant “capture bag” that the company has dubbed Flytrap, Sercel said.

Read more at: business insider

India’s Moon Lander And Rover Didn’t Wake Up Despite High Hopes

Despite high hopes, two historic robots remain fast asleep near the moon’s south pole, according to the Indian Space Research Organization. India’s Chandrayaan-3 moon lander and its adorable sidekick lunar rover were set to wake up around September 22. The ISRO landed them on the moon in a historic first in August. Both ISRO’s Vikram lander and Pragyan rover run on solar power. Therefore, they need sunlight to charge their batteries and operate their scientific instruments.

They went to sleep in early September when night set in and their batteries drained. The next sunrise took place on September 22. ISRO hoped the solar panels would recharge and reawaken the spacecraft.

Read more at: business insider

Elon Musk’s SpaceX Lost 200 Starlink Satellites in Two Months, and Nobody Knows Why

Starlink is currently the most successful satellite internet network in the world, thanks to its extensive coverage and impressive bandwidth. In many parts of the world, Starlink is the only internet connection available. Even when there are alternatives, Starlink sometimes offers performance on par with landline communication lines. Its parent company, SpaceX, regularly launches new satellites into space to achieve this result, quickly expanding the network.

SpaceX’s safety record is no less impressive, with the company nailing launch after launch without losing a single rocket. It’s also the only space company that can reuse rocket thrusters. This reduces the launch costs significantly, as its rockets don’t need to be replaced after each launch. These achievements allowed SpaceX to build an impressive satellite constellation, with over 5,000 satellites launched into Earth’s lower orbit. About 4,500 of them are believed to still be active.

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Can ISRO’s Aditya L1 Mission Face Any Danger After NASA’s Parker Solar Probe Faces Most Powerful Cmes? Details Here

Aditya L1 Mission: The Aditya-L1 spacecraft, India’s first solar mission, lifted off successfully on 2 September, carrying seven different payloads designed for a detailed study of the Sun. As per the latest update from ISRO, Aditya-L1 performed the Trans-Lagrangean Point 1 Insertion (TL1I) manoeuvre successfully and the spacecraft was now in a trajectory that will take it to the Sun-Earth L1 point. Moreover, the space agency also informed that Aditya L1 has also commenced collecting scientific data.

Read more at: livemint

NASA Predicts Large Asteroid Impact Could Be In Earth’s Future

NASA scientists are predicting a chance that asteroid Bennu will strike Earth in the future, potentially affecting an area the size of Texas.

Bennu is a Near-Earth Object (NEO) that passes by the planet roughly every six years, and experts have been watching it since it was discovered in September 1999.

According to scientists, Bennu has a chance to pass through what they call a “gravity keyhole,” which would send it on a collision course with Earth in the year 2182.

Read more at: Hill


SpaceX Blows Up A Tank In Texas As It Waits For Starship Flight Test

After a flurry of activity late last month and for most of September, the tempo surrounding SpaceX’s next planned orbital test flight for its Starship rocket seems to have broken due to regulatory constraints. However, true to form, SpaceX is busy testing and building new rockets at its facilities in Boca Chica, Texas, and word on the street suggests that the firm is making upgrades to the flight termination system of the booster that will fly the second test flight. At the same time, other testing in Boca Chica shows that the firm recently blew up a tank likely to test its structural limits as part of the Starship development program.

Read more at: wccftech

Lockheed Martin’s Inflatable Space Habitats Aim For The Moon And Beyond

Things are heating up on the moon, at least figuratively. August saw the successful touchdown of India’s Chandrayaan-3 lunar mission’s lander and its ride-along rover near the moon’s south pole, as well as the announcement by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency of its seven-month study toward developing a lunar economy in the next decade. All that new focus on Earth’s one natural satellite can only help bolster the space habitat research that was already underway at Lockheed Martin.

Read more at: Forbes

It’s Been a Rough Week for Rockets

It was an unfortunate week for the rocket industry, with three distinct setbacks occurring and challenging the plans of three different aerospace companies across the globe.

U.S.-based Rocket Lab, private Chinese launch provider Galactic Energy, and Europe’s Arianespace all endured face-palming disappointments this week, with two rockets failing outright and one continually unable to get off the ground.

Read more at: Gizmodo

Space Industry Shakeups: Aerospace Consolidates, Maxar Breaks Up

Two big players in the space market restructured their organizations this week: federally funded research and development center (FFRDC) The Aerospace Corporation; and remote sensing industry behemoth Maxar Technologies.

Aerospace announced today that it “will be making significant changes to its organizational structure,” as of Oct. 1, combining “the Space Systems Group and its Defense Systems Group to create a unified organization” to support the FFRDC’s Defense Department customers.

“The space domain is undergoing rapid and profound change. By unifying our support to our largest customer, Aerospace will be well positioned to deliver end-to-end capabilities to outpace the threats we face in space,” said Aerospace President and CEO Steve Isakowitz.

Read more at: breaking defense

‘The Stars Have Aligned’: Commercial Space Companies Brace For Lunar Economy

More than 50 years after the Apollo mission landed the last American aircraft on the surface of the moon, Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic is attempting to repeat the same feat with one big distinction — becoming the first commercial space company to achieve a lunar landing.

“It took a while for technology to advance to the point where we could affordably, routinely, regularly get to the surface of the moon,” Astrobotic CEO John Thornton said. “The stars have aligned for the moon, if you will.”

Read more at: yahoo

Kayhan Raises $7 Million And Offers Autonomous Traffic-Coordination Service

Kayhan Space raised $7 million in an extension to the spaceflight safety startup’s seed round and unveiled an autonomous space-traffic coordination framework.

With funding provided by Space Capital and EVE Atlas, Kayhan is preparing to expand its staff, establish a Washington, D.C., office and offer new products and services.

“This significant investment round with Space Capital and EVE Atlas marks a major milestone for Kayhan Space and the overall space industry, as we accelerate delivery of the first-ever autonomous space traffic coordination framework in Pathfinder 3.0,” Siamak Hesar, Kayhan CEO and Co-counder, said in a statement.

Read more at: spacenews


Part Of The Sun Is Broken And Scientists Are Baffled

We don’t want to alarm anyone, but the sun is broken.

A section of the sun has left the surface and begun circulating around the top of the star as if it were a huge polar vortex, and it’s not exactly clear why it’s happened.

The observation was made possible thanks to the James Webb Space Telescope, and its no surprise that it piqued the interests of scientists everywhere.

Read more at: Indy100

Independent Reviewers Find NASA Mars Sample Return Plans Are Seriously Flawed

An independent review of NASA’s ambitious mission to return about half a kilogram of rocks and soil from the surface of Mars has found that the program is unworkable in its current form.

NASA had been planning to launch the critical elements of its Mars Sample Return mission, or MSR, as soon as 2028, with a total budget for the program of $4.4 billion. The independent review board’s report, which was released publicly on Thursday, concludes that both this timeline and budget are wildly unrealistic.

Read more at: Arstechnica

Capsule With NASA’s First Asteroid Sample Heads For Utah Touchdown

A NASA capsule carrying the largest soil sample ever collected from an asteroid is due to return to Earth on Sunday, expected to streak through the atmosphere and parachute into the Utah desert to deliver its celestial specimen to scientists.

The robotic spacecraft OSIRIS-REx is scheduled to release the gumdrop-shaped capsule, transporting about a cup of gravelly asteroid material, at 6:42 a.m. EDT (1042 GMT) for a final descent to Earth, climaxing a seven-year voyage.

Plans call for the capsule to touch down a little more than four hours later within a 250-square-mile (650-sq-km) landing zone west of Salt Lake City on the U.S. military’s vast Utah Test and Training Range.

Read more at: reuters

NASA Seeks Proposals from US Industry for Station Deorbit Spacecraft

NASA has released a request for proposal from U.S. industry for the U.S. Deorbit Vehicle (USDV), a spacecraft meant to safely deorbit the International Space Station as part of its planned retirement.

To maximize value to the government and enhance competition, the acquisition will allow offerors flexibility in proposing Firm Fixed Price or Cost Plus Incentive Fee for the Design, Development, Test and Evaluation phase. The remainder of the contract will be Firm Fixed Price.

Read more at: NASA

NASA’s Ingenuity Helicopter Breaks Altitude Record On 59th Mars Flight

NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter keeps pushing the boundaries of off-Earth flight.

The 4-pound (1.8 kilograms) Ingenuity aced its 59th Mars sortie on Saturday (Sept. 16), soaring higher than ever before in the process.

“Ingenuity has set a new record! The #MarsHelicopter successfully completed Flight 59, flying its highest altitude yet — 20 meters [66 feet]. The rotorcraft was in the air for 142.59 seconds,” officials with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, which manages the helicopter’s mission, posted on X (formerly Twitter) on Tuesday (Sept. 19).

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A Mysterious Hidden Force Is Generating Water on The Moon

We know there’s ice on the Moon – what’s less clear is where it came from. A new study suggests that waves of electrons, arriving indirectly from Earth and the Sun, are contributing to the formation of frozen water on the lunar surface.

These electrons hit the Moon as it passes in and out of Earth’s magnetotail, which our planet leaves behind as it rushes through space.

Within the magnetotail is a plasma sheet made up of highly charged electrons and ions, pulled from Earth’s atmosphere and solar wind radiation from the Sun.

Read more at: sciencealert


House Speaker Introduces Bill To Extend Commercial Spaceflight Regulatory Learning Period

Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy has introduced legislation that would extend a restriction on the Federal Aviation Administration’s ability to regulate commercial human spaceflight safety by another eight years.

McCarthy announced Sept. 21 he has introduced the Space Transformation And Reliability (STAR) Act. The one-page bill would extend what is alternatively called a “learning period” or moratorium on certain safety regulations, set to expire at the end of this month, through September 2031.

Read more at: spacenews

FAA: What Goes Up May Not Come Back Down Without A Re-Entry Permit

The first commercial spaceflight is currently stuck in orbit. Having failed to get permission to bring its orbiting laboratory back to Earth, the Varda Space Industries capsule has circled the globe for two months beyond its planned “mission.” The specimens are safe in their craft named a “Winnebago,” as Varda patiently waits for the FAA’s review of their plans.

“Varda Space Industries launched its vehicle into space without a reentry license,” an FAA spokesperson told Ars on Wednesday. “The FAA denied the Varda reentry license application on September 6 because the company did not demonstrate compliance with the regulatory requirements.”

Read more at: boingboing

US Federal Aviation Administration Proposes Revolutionary Way To Limit Human Litter In Earth’s Orbit

As humanity ventures out to the vast cosmos outside our planet, the space-junk we leave behind is growing.

Satellites, spacecraft and other launches all leave behind some junk littering the Earth’s orbit, increasing the risk of collisions. To lighten this space-junk load, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has proposed a rule.

The FAA has proposed that the amount of time a private rocket’s upper stages stay in orbit should be limited.

Read more at: wionews

FCC Directing More Satellite Constellations To Mitigate Effects On Astronomy

The Federal Communications Commission is requiring more operators of satellite constellations to work with astronomers to minimize the effects their satellites will have on ground-based astronomy.

The FCC issued authorizations Aug. 31 to Iceye and Planet, updating their licenses to add new satellites. Iceye, which operates a constellation of synthetic aperture radar imaging satellites, added eight satellites to its license, while Planet added seven of its upcoming Pelican high-resolution imaging satellites to its constellation

Both licenses now include provisions requiring the companies to coordinate with the National Science Foundation (NSF) “to achieve a mutually acceptable agreement to mitigate the impact of its satellites… on optical ground-based astronomy.”

Read more at: spacenews

Venezuela May Put An Astronaut On A Chinese Moon Mission

The first Venezuelan man or woman could land on the moon on a Chinese spacecraft, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said last week.

Maduro met Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on Sept. 13, during a state visit that saw the two countries sign a host of agreements to extend cooperation, covering areas such as oil, trade, mining, finance and space.

The visit included Zhang Kejian, administrator of the China National Space Administration (CNSA), and Gabriela Jimenez, Venezuela’s Vice President and Minister of Science and Technology, signing a space cooperation framework agreement, which was witnessed by the two presidents.

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US Space Force Launch May Have Punched Hole In Earth’s Upper Atmosphere

Firefly Aerospace launched a rocket carrying a United States Space Force satellite on September 14, within just 24 hours of receiving a launch notice, which could be a new world record. But this launch may have accidentally punched a hole in the ionosphere, which is part of Earth’s upper atmosphere.

The Victus Nox satellite is a Space Force experiment to test Firefly’s ability to launch a military satellite with just a 24-hour notice—a “responsive launch.” The last responsive space launch experiment took off on June 13, 2023, taking around 21 days from notice to completion.

Read more at: indian express

Japanese Startup To Develop Refueling Satellite For US Space Force

Japanese startup Astroscale Holdings Inc. said Friday it has won a $25.5 million contract from the U.S. Space Force to develop a satellite capable of providing in-space refueling services to other satellites.

Astroscale, a Tokyo-based company founded in 2013, aims to provide “on-orbit services,” such as refueling, that would extend the service life of satellites, and the removal of space debris.

Read more at: mainichi

Pentagon Plans To Transfer ‘High Accuracy’ Space Tracking Data To Commerce

The Defense Department plans to start transferring its extremely precise data about the whereabouts of satellites and dangerous space debris to the Department of Commerce (DoC) next year to help underpin the latter’s effort to establish a space traffic advisory service, according to a senior Space Force official.

“We are working to get the high-accuracy catalog released to the DoC, machine-to-machine starting in the spring of next year, every four hours, indefinitely. So, they will have everything they need in order to be seeded for spaceflight safety, which they then can augment with commercial data.”

Read more at: breaking defence

China Launches New Batch Of Yaogan Reconnaissance Satellites

China added to its recent flurry of reconnaissance satellite launches early Sunday, sending three new Yaogan-39 spacecraft into orbit.

A hypergolic Long March 2D rocket lifted off at 12:13 a.m. Eastern (0413 UTC) Sept. 17, rising into overcast skies above the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China.

The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) confirmed launch success around half an hour after liftoff, revealing the payload to be a Yaogan-39 satellite. Like the first Yaogan-39 series launch Aug. 31 however, the mission carried a trio of satellites.

Read more at: spacenews


ESA Gets The Job Of Building Europe’s Secure Satcomms Network

The European Space Agency has signed up to build and launch the European Union’s Infrastructure for Resilience, Interconnectivity and Security by Satellite constellation.

The project, known as IRIS2, has been on the books since 2022, when the European Union found €2.4 billion (£2.1bn, $2.55bn) to fund the effort aimed at giving the bloc’s members secure space-based comms capabilities and freeing them from reliance on other nations’ infrastructure.

In July 2023 European commissioner for competition Margrethe Vestager described IRIS2 as an effort to “deliver our safe internet from space.”

Read more at: register

Russia’s Alternative to GPS Satellites Is Outdated and Outnumbered

Vladimir Putin needs better satellites.

While Ukraine has successfully deployed precision rockets guided by orbiting US spacecraft to hit targets deep behind the front lines – and has also used Elon Musk’s cutting-edge Starlink satellite constellation to stay connected to the internet — Russia is stuck with an aging network that has hindered its ability to use smart weapons.

The Russian constellation of two dozen positioning, navigation and timing satellites — called Glonass — dates back to the 1980s, when the USSR created it as a rival to the US-run Global Positioning System. Today, that American constellation of about 30 GPS satellites, all controlled by the Pentagon, is essential for everything from Google Maps to commercial airliners.

Read more at: bloomberg

Digital Sovereignty: European Chips Act Enters Into Force Today

Today, the European Chips Act enters into force. It puts in place a comprehensive set of measures to ensure the EU’s security of supply, resilience and technological leadership in semiconductor technologies and applications.

Semiconductors are the essential building blocks of digital and digitised products. From smartphones and cars, through critical applications and infrastructures for healthcare, energy, defence, communications and industrial automation, semiconductors are central to the modern digital economy. They are also at the centre of strong geostrategic interests and the global technological race.

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Which Companies Own the Most Satellites?

Read more at: visual capitalist

The Second Attempt To Orbit The Starship Spacecraft May Be Delayed Until Early 2024

SpaceX has encountered another problem that prevents the early launch of the Starship spacecraft. Despite the fact that the American company was able to fix 57 of 63 flaws, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service does not approve the launch.

SpaceX will not be able to make a second Starship rocket system launch attempt without the agency’s approval. The Fish and Wildlife Service must evaluate the company’s efforts to use an automatic fire suppression system during a Starship launch.

Read more at: gagadget

Why We’ll Never Live in Space

NASA wants astronaut boots back on the moon a few years from now, and the space agency is investing heavily in its Artemis program to make it happen. It’s part of an ambitious and risky plan to establish a more permanent human presence off-world. Companies such as United Launch Alliance and Lockheed Martin are designing infrastructure for lunar habitation. Elon Musk has claimed SpaceX will colonize Mars. But are any of these plans realistic? Just how profoundly difficult would it be to live beyond Earth—especially considering that outer space seems designed to kill us?

Read more at: scientific american

SpaceX Sues US Attorney General In Bid To Stop Hiring-Discrimination Case

SpaceX has sued US Attorney General Merrick Garland and two other Department of Justice officials in response to the government’s allegations that SpaceX discriminated against asylees and refugees in hiring. SpaceX denied the hiring discrimination claims and alleged that the DOJ’s administrative process for handling the discrimination complaint is unconstitutional.

The Justice Department filed an administrative complaint against SpaceX on August 24 alleging that from at least September 2018 to at least May 2022, Elon Musk’s space company “discriminated against asylees and refugees throughout its hiring process, including during recruiting, screening, and selection, in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act.”

Read more at: Arstechnica

Hundreds Of Flying Taxis To Be Made In Ohio, Home Of The Wright Brothers And Astronaut Legends

The same Ohio river valley where the Wright brothers pioneered human flight will soon be manufacturing cutting-edge electric planes that take off and land vertically, under an agreement announced Monday between the state and Joby Aviation Inc.

“When you’re talking about air taxis, that’s the future,” Republican Gov. Mike DeWine told The Associated Press. “We find this very, very exciting — not only for the direct jobs and indirect jobs it’s going to create, but like Intel, it’s a signal to people that Ohio is looking to the future. This is a big deal for us.”

Read more at: APnews

First Ever 5G To Space: 14 Mbps Between Smartphone and Satellite Equals Competition For Starlink

AST SpaceMobile completed what it says is the first-ever 5G voice and data connection from a standard unmodified smartphone directly to a satellite in low earth orbit. The 5G call took place on September 8 from Hana, Hawaii to Madrid, Spain via the company’s BlueWalker 3 test satellite and using a stock Samsung S22 smartphone. A separate test achieved a download speed of 14 megabits/second.

Speeds like this will enable more than just phone calls. They’ll potentially enable browsing the internet, downloading files, using streaming video applications, and more.

Read more at: Forbes