Europe’s Tentative Step Towards Human Spaceflight

In March, the European Space Agency released a report prepared by an independent High-Level Advisory Group on human spaceflight. That report called on ESA to embark on a bold new direction in the field, developing its own capabilities to transport astronauts to orbit and beyond, lest Europe fall behind China and the United States (see “Europe contemplates a space revolution”, The Space Review, March 27, 2023.)

At the time, ESA officials said they would use the report to guide development of proposals the agency would take to its member states at a second European Space Summit in November in Seville, Spain. However, ESA disclosed few details about what exactly it was proposing in the realm of human spaceflight ahead of the November 6 event.

Read more at: spacereview


The Space Industry’s Climate Impact: Part 1

Space technology benefits humanity every day, from scientific understanding to the nuts and bolts of supporting the systems that enable life as we know it, but some advocates worry regulators are not paying enough attention to the potential downsides of a bustling space economy.

With more launches going up and more satellites raining back down to Earth, one thing is clear: these space missions deposit toxic gasses and metals into our atmosphere. That fact, however, raises more questions than answers, including about what level of pollution makes a difference, what the dangers may be, and how the space industry should be regulated as spaceflight becomes more commonplace.

Read more at: payloadspace

Geomagnetic Storm Likely To Impact Earth Through Tuesday: What We Know

Last week, many were treated to a dazzling display of auroras thanks to strong solar activity. This week, the Earth is likely to be impacted by even more solar activity, without the aerial color show.

Over the weekend, NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) issued a geomagnetic storm watch for Monday and Tuesday, saying a “high speed stream from a coronal hole is expected to influence the Earth” on both days.

Arrival was set for Monday morning, according to SWPC.

They even shared this minorly daunting image of the sun, which shows the coronal hole.

Read more at: thehill

99% of Space Junk is Undetectable. That Could Change Soon

Private and military organizations are tracking some of the 170 million pieces of space junk orbiting the planet, but they’re limited to how small an object they can detect. Only chunks larger than a softball can be tracked with radar or optical systems, and that only accounts for less than 1% of the junk out there.

But a new technique is being developed to resolve space junk to pieces smaller than one millimeter in diameter.

Called Space Debris Identification and Tracking (SINTRA), the project will test out a new technique that uses the state-of-the-art sensors to detect plasma waves created by fields of debris. The new sensors are used along with existing sensors, such as ground-based radar, tracking satellites, and optical sensors in order to identify and track space debris in the one-millimeter size range.

Read more at: universetoday

Solar Storm From 1977 Reveals How Unprepared We Are For The Next ‘Big One’

The strength of solar storms hitting Earth can vary dramatically over short distances, with places just a few dozen miles apart experiencing very different magnetic disruptions, new research finds.

This could mean that some areas are more vulnerable to large solar storms than previously appreciated, study co-author Eija Tanskanen, the director of the Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory (SGO) in Finland said in a statement. Today, most monitoring networks for solar storms have sensors that are spaced on average about 250 miles (400 kilometers) apart. But Tanskanen and her colleagues found that solar storm strength varies across much smaller ranges of around 62 miles (100 km).

Read more at: livescience

Tracking Undetectable Space Junk

Satellite and spacecraft operators may finally be able to detect small pieces of debris orbiting Earth using an approach proposed by researchers from the University of Michigan.

“Right now, we detect space debris by looking for objects that reflect light or radar signals,” said Nilton Renno, the principal investigator from the University of Michigan team and a professor of climate and space sciences and engineering and aerospace engineering. “The smaller the objects get, the harder it becomes to get sunlight or radar signals strong enough to detect them from the ground.”

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ArianeGroup CEO Finally Says Quiet Part Out Loud

ArianeGroup CEO Martin Sion has suggested that the company may not have “understood the reality of the situation” when it promised to debut Ariane 6 by 2020.

Sion made the comments during an interview with French news outlet Le Monde. The CEO took over from André-Hubert Roussel in April, with speculation at the time that the change was the result of continued Ariane 6 development delays.

Read more at: european spaceflight

NASA Hands Over Control As New Era Of Moon Missions Readies For Lift-Off

To the casual observer, the preparations under way at Cape Canaveral in Florida point to nothing more than a routine launch of another spacecraft to the latest destination in the solar system.

But the mission, scheduled for take-off on Christmas Eve, marks a turning point in space exploration. Rather than running the show, NASA is handing over control: it has paid a private company, Astrobotic, to design a spacecraft and handle its launch and landing.

Read more at: guardian

NASA Says SpaceX’s Next Starship Flight Could Test Refueling Tech

SpaceX and NASA could take a tentative step toward orbital refueling on the next test flight of Starship, but the US space agency says officials haven’t made a final decision on when to begin demonstrating cryogenic propellant transfer capabilities that are necessary to return astronauts to the Moon.

NASA is keen on demonstrating orbital refueling technology, an advancement that could lead to propellant depots in space to feed rockets heading to distant destinations beyond Earth orbit. In 2020, NASA announced agreements with four companies—Lockheed Martin, United Launch Alliance, SpaceX, and a Florida-based startup named Eta Space—to prove capabilities in the area of refueling and propellant depots using cryogenic propellants.

Read more at: arstechnica

This Company Wants To Create ‘Gas Stations In Space’

Since the dawn of the space age — the launch of the Sputnik I in 1957 — humans have sent over 15,000 satellites into orbit. Just over half are still functioning; the rest, after running out of fuel and ending their serviceable life, have either burned up in the atmosphere or are still orbiting the planet as useless hunks of metal.

As such, they pose a threat to the International Space Station and to other satellites, with the European Space Agency estimating that over 640 “break-ups, explosions, collisions, or anomalous events resulting in fragmentation” have occurred to date.

Read more at: CNN

Industry Report: Demand For Satellites Is Rising But Not Skyrocketing

A new report predicts that around 20,000 new satellites will launch by the end of the decade — a more conservative forecast compared to other sky-high projections.

Quilty Space, a research and consulting firm, says there are “positive indicators for sustained growth within the space industrial base, particularly given continuing momentum in the low Earth orbit broadband mega-constellation markets that make up about 85% of all satellite demand in Western markets.”

Read more at: spacenews

SpaceX Buys Parachute Manufacturer Pioneer Aerospace

SpaceX has acquired Pioneer Aerospace, a company that provided components for Dragon spacecraft parachutes before filing for bankruptcy.Elon Musk’s aerospace company paid $2.2 million to rescue Pioneer Aerospace , according to a Florida bankruptcy filing in November by Aviation Safety Resources (ASR), the parent company of Pioneer. The deal was first reported by The Information.Pioneer Aerospace is based in Connecticut and has long developed parachutes for space and other applications. This included drogue chutes for SpaceX Dragon capsules and NASA Mars and asteroid sample-return missions.

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Nuclear Power On The Moon: Rolls-Royce Unveils Reactor Mockup

The U.K. tech giant Rolls-Royce has unveiled a concept nuclear reactor that could power a future outpost on the moon.

The mini reactor, which appears to be about 3.3 feet (1 meter) wide and 10 feet (3 m) long, is not yet capable of producing any electricity, and it will take about six years and a few million dollars to get it ready for its debut space trip, if all goes according to plan.

The U.K. Space Agency awarded Rolls-Royce £2.9 million ($3.7 million U.S. at current exchange rates) in March of this year to fund the development of the potentially groundbreaking moon tech, a mockup of which was unveiled at the U.K. Space Conference in Belfast last month.

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NASA Says Hubble Telescope Will Resume Science Operations After Gyroscope Glitch

Following a string of setbacks concerning one of its directional instruments, the Hubble Space Telescope will get back to its job of capturing deep space images soon enough, NASA says.

It all began on Nov. 19, when one of the iconic observatory’s three gyroscopes (a trio that live on from an original set of six) began providing faulty readings. In general, gyroscopes are devices that use either circulating beams of light or rapidly spinning wheels to help scientists make sure an object is facing the direction they want it to face. Incorrect gyroscope readings on the Hubble Telescope, as you might imagine, can therefore drastically affect science measurements. To image a specific spot in deep space with this Earth-orbiting telescope, you’d have to make sure it’s actually facing that spot in deep space.

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Japan May Delay Its Mars Moon Sampling Mission MMX Due To Rocket Problems

Japan’s ambitious mission to explore the two mini moons of Mars could be facing a lengthy delay.The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) Martian Moons eXploration (MMX) is scheduled to launch in September 2024, taking advantage of a once-every-26-months launch window to the Red Planet.Arriving in Mars orbit in August 2025, coinciding with the World Expo in Osaka, MMX would attempt landings on Phobos to collect a minimum 0.35 oz (10 grams) of samples. It would then make flybys of the smaller moon Deimos before a module containing the samples is sent back towards Earth, arriving in 2029.

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Are We Ready to Head to Mars? Not So Fast.

In August 1998, 700 people came to Boulder, Colorado to attend the founding convention of the Mars Society. The group’s cofounder and president, Robert Zubrin, extolled the virtues of sending humans to Mars to terraform the planet and establish a human colony. The Mars Society’s founding declaration began, “The time has come for humanity to journey to the planet Mars,” and declared that “Given the will, we could have our first crews on Mars within a decade.” That was two and a half decades ago.

Read more at: singularity hub

South Korea Flies Solid-Fuel Rocket Amid Space Race With North Korea

South Korea on Monday successfully conducted a flight of a solid-fuel rocket carrying a satellite over the sea near Jeju Island, the defence ministry said, amid a growing space race with neighbouring North Korea.

It was the third successful test of the rocket’s technology after two others in March and December 2022.

The launch on Monday involved technology developed at the state-run Agency for Defense Development, and a booster and satellite produced by South Korea’s Hanwha Systems (272210.KS), the ministry said in a statement.

Read more at: reuters

OSIRIS-Rex Parachute Deployment Affected By Wiring Error

The drogue parachute on the OSIRIS-REx sample return capsule failed to deploy properly because of a design error, a flaw that did not prevent a safe landing of the capsule.

In a Dec. 5 statement, NASA said a review of data from the capsule’s Sept. 24 landing in the Utah desert and documentation about the vehicle led the agency to conclude that “inconsistent wiring label definitions” prevented the drogue from deploying as intended during the capsule’s descent.

Read more at: spacenews


China Space Authorities Name Elon Musk’s Spacex An ‘Unprecedented Challenge’

China’s ambition to become a dominant space power by 2045 is facing unprecedented challenges, especially from US company SpaceX, according to an official commentary in state-owned China Space News. Chinese aerospace workers must maintain “a deep sense of crisis” as the California-based company takes the lead in revolutionising and reshaping the global space industry.

Read more at: scmp

China’s Lunar Base: Major African Nation Joins Beijing’s International Moon Project

Space cooperation between China and Egypt has reached a new milestone, with the Arab nation joining the construction of a China-led moon base that is expected to be up and running by 2035.

A cooperation agreement on the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS) was signed between Zhang Kejian, director of the China National Space Administration (CNSA), and Sherif Sedky, chief operating officer of the Egyptian Space Agency, in Beijing on Wednesday.

Read more at: SCMP

SpaceX Gets FCC Approval To Test Phone Calls From Space

SpaceX on Monday was partially cleared by the Federal Communications Commission to start deploying its cellular Starlink system for short tests.SpaceX is allowed to deploy a “modified version” of its Gen2 Starlink satellite only to verify that the radio signals on the satellites work, according to the FCC’s ruling, obtained earlier by PCMag.The company still needs full FCC approval to begin offering the satellite cellular system to U.S. customers but has already filed a separate pending application to test the technology over 840 satellites as soon as next week.

Read more at: cordcutternews

SpaceX Starship Test 3 part-licensed

Communication permissions for Elon Musk’s third test flight of the SpaceX Starship has been issued by the FCC. The communications licence covers a period from December 1st to January 6th 2024.

The formal communications licence was issued to SpaceX on November 28th, but is not permission to actually launch. Those final permissions will come from the FCC and other US agencies.

Read more at: advanced-television

NASA Updating Policy For Rideshare Missions

NASA is developing an updated rideshare policy for science missions that reflects both new launch opportunities as well as challenges faced in accommodating secondary payloads.

During a presentation at a meeting last month of the National Academies’ Committee on Solar and Space Physics, Aly Mendoza-Hill, head of the rideshare office in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said an update to a rideshare policy for science missions was expected to be released in 2024.

Read more at: spacenews

Data Rights Limitations Affecting NASA Technology Development

Development of a key capability NASA needs for exploration of the moon and Mars is being hindered by limited access to data from companies working on those capabilities.

In a presentation at a Dec. 4 meeting of a National Academies’ Committee on NASA Mission Critical Workforce, Infrastructure, and Technology, agency officials said contracting mechanisms used with various companies to support work on cryogenic fluid management technologies limit the agency’s ability to access data from those efforts.

Read more at: spacenews


Experts Raise Concerns About U.S. Commitment To GPS Modernization

Members of a key advisory board questioned the U.S. military’s commitment to deliver enhancements to the Global Positioning System, arguing that the network is at risk of falling behind other satellite navigation systems built by Europe and China.

The critique came at last week’s annual meeting of the National Space-Based Positioning, Navigation and Timing Advisory Board.

Read more at: spacenews

The Complex Neutrality Of Commercial Space Actors In Armed Conflict

During an international armed conflict, commercial space actors under the jurisdiction or control of a third, neutral state may find themselves implicated in the conflict in various ways, which could increase tensions and trigger misunderstandings between a belligerent and neutral state and risk the latter losing its neutral status.

In this post, part of a series on War, law and outer space, Professor Guoyu Wang of the Academy of Air, Space Policy and Law at the Beijing Institute of Technology discusses the potential legal issues raised by such involvement under both neutrality law and international humanitarian law (IHL), including the significance of legal interpretation of the lex lata for space security governance.

Read more at: ICRC

SDA’s Tranche 0 Satellites Enable First Ever Link 16 Space To Ground Transmission

The Space Development Agency (SDA), a key player in the United States Department of Defense’s strategic initiatives, recently announced a significant milestone in space communication technology. In a series of demonstrations held from November 21-27, 2023, the SDA successfully executed the first-ever network entry using the Link 16 system from low Earth orbit (LEO) to a series of terrestrial receivers.

This technological breakthrough involved a series of active and passive network entries, precise synchronization, and the transmission of multiple tactical messages. These operations were conducted using L-band radios aboard the Tranche 0 (T0) Transport Layer satellites and were directed towards a ground test site within the territory of a Five Eyes partner nation.

Read more at: spacewar

Why Is There So Much Military Interest In The Moon?

Over the last few years, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, better known as DARPA, has increasingly zeroed-in on the moon.

A trio of proactive DARPA undertakings looking to advance technologies for use on the moon has been welcomed in some quarters. Back in 2021, DARPA kick-started its Novel Orbital moon Manufacturing, Materials, and Mass Efficient Design (NOM4D) program. Last month, DARPA threw in some “LOGIC” into the mix via the Lunar Operating Guidelines for Infrastructure Consortium, or LOGIC for short. DARPA has also initiated the 10-Year Lunar Architecture (LunA-10) Capability Study to spur the development of an integrated future lunar infrastructure for “peaceful U.S. and international use.”

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Lost In Space No More: Missing Tomato Found In Space Station After Eight Months

It might have remained one of the greatest mysteries of the universe, destined never to be solved until a freak recent discovery by the crew of the International Space Station (ISS).

The subject? A tomato grown from seed in microgravity by the US astronaut Francisco “Frank” Rubio as part of an agricultural experiment.

Rubio was accused of having eaten the fruit when it inexplicably disappeared more than eight months ago. However, the tiny specimen, or at least its remnants, have now been found, according to members of the seven-strong crew during a live stream this week to celebrate the orbiting outpost’s 25th anniversary.

Read more at: guardian

Rethink the Mars Program

NASA’s robotic Mars exploration program is in crisis. A recent review of the plan of its flagship Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission pegged its cost at $10 billion, a price tag that threatens to preclude funding any other exploration missions to the Red Planet for the next decade and a half.

While the decadal plan issued by a National Academy of Science committee identifies the MSR mission as the top priority for NASA’s Mars exploration program, given the cost and schedule numbers now available, it is time for the rest of us to question whether the program of record still makes sense.

Read more at: spacenews

The Advancements in Satellite Communication Technology: A Review

Satellite communication technology has experienced significant advancements in recent years, revolutionizing the way we transmit information across the globe. This review delves into the transformative developments that have taken place in satellite communication, including improvements in data transmission rates, reduction in latency, miniaturization of satellite hardware, enhanced signal processing techniques, and the rise of mega-constellations. We will also explore the impact these advancements have had on various sectors such as telecommunications, broadcasting, and emergency management.

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History Of The European Space Agency, Part 1: The Birth Of The Agency And The First Space Missions

The history of the formation of a united Europe as a global space player is full of difficulties and obstacles. After the Second World War, many outstanding astrophysicists and designers left the Old World, the vast majority of whom made their careers on the other side of the ocean in the United States. This colossal brain drain has led to uncertainty about the creation of a European Space Agency (ESA) – an organization which could ensure Europe’s independent presence in space.

However, a certain percentage of scientists remained to work in Europe, motivated by the dream that one day, the continent would receive its own independent space agency. This is the story of how their dream was realised.

Read more at: maxpolyakov

Why Europe is Particularly Good at Big Science

It is trite to see the vast dome taking shape on a lonely desert peak as a temple. But it is also unavoidable. How else to understand so much effort devoted to something truly otherworldly? When its mirrored eye opens to the universe in 2028, the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) currently under construction in Chile’s Atacama Desert will be by far the most capable such instrument ever built—quite possibly the most ambitious telescope that will ever grace the surface of the Earth. It will be a great and ennobling human achievement. It will also be a peculiarly European one.

Read more at: economist