NASA/ESA Continue Challenging Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer Repair Spacewalks
NASA and ESA have concluded the third of four planned spacewalks to repair the Station’s Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer experiment. NASA astronaut Drew Morgan and European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Luca Parmitano completed the third spacewalk ahead of time.
Never designed to be serviceable after it was installed outside the Station in May 2011, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) requires the creation of sharp edges and other hazards in order to bring it back to full operational capacity.
Read more at: NASA Spaceflight
FAA Approves Commercial Space Office Reorganization
The Federal Aviation Administration has approved a reorganization of the office that oversees commercial launches in a bid to improve its efficiency as the number of launches grows.
During a panel discussion at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce commercial space conference here Dec. 3, Wayne Monteith, FAA associate administrator for commercial space transportation, said FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson formally approved the reorganization of Monteith’s office the night before.
Read more at: Spacenews
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Parachutes Are Almost Ready For NASA Astronauts
SpaceX says Crew Dragon’s upgraded “Mk3” parachutes are almost ready to safely return astronauts to Earth and need to pass just a few more consecutive tests before NASA will have the data it needs to qualify them.
Although SpaceX originally hoped to pursue a program of propulsive landing for Crew Dragon and Cargo Dragon space capsules, that effort was canceled to avoid the major cost increases and delays NASA’s qualification certification requirements would have triggered. Already designed with parachutes as a backup, SpaceX quickly pivoted and redesigned those parachutes as the primary (if not sole) method of gently landing astronauts back on Earth.
Read more at: Teslarati
SpaceX Aiming to Launch Crucial Crew Dragon In-Flight Abort Test This Month
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon astronaut taxi will get off the ground again this month, if all goes according to plan.
SpaceX is gearing up for a crucial, uncrewed in-flight abort (IFA) trial, which will take place at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Crew Dragon will lift off atop SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, then blast itself away from the booster using its onboard SuperDraco escape thrusters, showcasing the ability to keep astronauts safe in the event of a launch emergency.
Read more at: Space.com
Found! NASA Spots Crash Site and Debris from India’s Lost Moon Lander
Scientists and amateurs alike have spent months combing through images from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter looking for the remains of India’s moon lander — and that search has paid off.
Today (Dec. 2), the team that runs the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) instrument released images taken on Nov. 11 that show how the spacecraft has changed the surface of the moon. Imaging experts have spotted extensive evidence of the crash, including both debris from the craft and places where the collision seems to have stirred up the moon’s regolith.
Read more at: Space.com
Mesmerizing Graph Shows Uncomfortably Close Encounters Between Space Junk
As the number of satellites and space junk in orbit continues to increase, so do the chances of these human-made objects colliding with one another, potentially creating more debris that could threaten other healthy spacecraft. Now, a new tool shows just how crowded Earth orbit is by tracking space objects through their close calls every couple of seconds.
Called the “Conjunction Streaming Service Demo,” the graph tool illustrates in real time the sheer number of space objects — out of an assortment of 1,500 items in low Earth orbit — that get uncomfortably close to one another in a period of 20 minutes.
Read more at: Verge
NASA Is Quietly Helping Satellite Firms Avoid Catastrophic Collisions
NASA has been quietly helping select satellite companies avoid catastrophic collisions in orbit – for a price.
Documents obtained by New Scientist show that in September, NASA renewed an agreement with satellite imagery company Maxar Technologies to help protect four of the firm’s WorldView satellites. The spacecraft collect high-resolution images for customers including the US Department of Defense and Google Earth.
Read more at: NewScientist
European Plan To Tackle Space Debris? Hug It Out
The European Space Agency is working to tackle the issue of space debris with the technological version of a big hug.
It hopes to be able to use tentacle-like mechanical arms to embrace a dead satellite and remove it from orbit.
Other options considered include casting a net over the object, using a single robotic arm or firing a harpoon.
Read more at: Guardian
US Meteorite Adds To Origins Mystery
In January 2018, a falling meteorite created a bright fireball that arced over the outskirts of Detroit, Michigan, followed by loud sonic booms.
The visitor not only dropped a slew of meteorites over the snow-covered ground, it also provided information about its extra-terrestrial source.
Although tens of thousands of meteorites have been recovered by humans, scientists have only been able to trace the orbits of a small number. Most of these have been calculated in the last decade.
Read more at: BBC
Scientists Spot Rare Minimoon Fireball Over Australia
A fiery meteor explosion over the Australian desert may have been an ultra-rare minimoon, researchers think.
Sometimes, objects from space come really close to Earth but are not immediately pulled in by our planet’s gravity. They often orbit for a short period of time before being either pulled into the atmosphere or hurled back out into space. These objects are called temporarily captured orbiters (TCOs), but are commonly referred to as natural Earth satellites or minimoons.
Read more at: Space.com
Rocket Lab Launches Japanese Satellite That’s Designed To Spit Out Shooting Stars For Olympics
Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket lifted off from its New Zealand launch pad today, sending a shooting-star satellite and six other miniaturized satellites into orbit.Japan’s ALE-2 satellite is designed to drop bunches of chemical pellets into the atmosphere from orbit, producing fiery streaks of glowing plasma that look like meteor showers. The “Sky Canvas” mission, arranged with logistical help from Seattle-based Spaceflight, could well light up the skies over the Tokyo Olympics’ opening ceremonies next June. New Zealand authorities cleared the satellite for launch after determining that the displays wouldn’t pose a danger and would have a “negligible” effect on light pollution.
Read more at: Geekwire
Lloyd’s Launches New Space Risk Product And New Analysis Of The Space Sector
Lloyd’s has, today, launched a new multi-million-pound space insurance policy for the emerging private spaceflight industry.
The product is designed to cater to the distinct needs of a rapidly growing new space sector, which, according to Lloyd’s, could be the driving force behind a tripling in size of the global space market by 2040.
The solution – called Llift Space – is only available in the Lloyd’s market and allows customers to cover their assets from the pre-launch phase, including transit and placement on the launch vehicle, through to the launch phase and in-orbit operation. It is designed for satellites that weigh less than 300kg.
Read more at: Lloyds
EXCLUSIVE DoD, Commerce Wrangle New Commercial Remote Sensing Regs
The Defense and Commerce department are in talks over whether to relax rules for commercial remote sensing satellites that could be kicked upstairs to Secretaries Mark Esper and Wilbur Ross over the next few weeks, insiders say.
The Commerce Department wants to relax the rules. Some in the Pentagon don’t. The two sides are scheduled to meet tomorrow at the policy level to informally discuss post-comment period revisions to the Commerce Department rule-making originally issued in May, and hopefully smooth out remaining — or new — areas of friction.
Read more at: Breaking defense
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
China’s Long March-8 Rocket Successfully Passes Engine Test
China has successfully tested the second stage engine of the Long March-8 rocket, preparing for its maiden flight in 2020, according to the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC).
The hydrogen-oxygen engine worked normally in the test and was shut down after completing all test procedures.
Developed by the CASC, the Long March-8 rocket is a new type of rocket that uses module design and can be prepared in a short time, making it competitive for commercial launch.
Read more at: XInhuanet
Mitsubishi Heavy Taps Automation To Halve Costs Of New H3 Rocket
Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has enhanced automation in the manufacturing of the country’s next-generation rocket, looking to slash production costs by half and boost global competitiveness.
The H3 launch vehicle — which Mitsubishi Heavy is developing with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA — is set to debut next fiscal year. The rocket will be used to compete for business with the likes of SpaceX.
Read more at: Asia Nikkei
The Wonder of Fire Without Gravity
A fire on the International Space Station, high above Earth and far from help, could be catastrophic, even deadly. Space agencies try to reduce the risk as much as possible. The station is equipped with smoke detectors, and astronauts practice fire drills. But astronauts have been setting fires in space for years. On purpose!
They do it in the name of science, at the careful instruction of researchers back on the ground. The experiments unfold in small facilities inside the station, safe from other equipment, the crew, and their precious supply of breathable air.
Read more at: Atlantic
Emotion-Sensing Robot Launches To Assist Space Station Astronauts
An intelligent robot equipped with emotion-sensing voice detectors was headed to the International Space Station after launching from Florida on Thursday, becoming the latest artificial intelligence-powered astronaut workmate in orbit.
The Crew Interactive Mobile Companion 2, or CIMON 2, is a spherical droid with microphones, cameras and a slew of software to enable emotion recognition.
The droid was among 5,700 pounds (2,585 kg) of supplies and experiments aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, whose midday launch had been delayed from Wednesday due to high winds.
Read more at: Reuters
The Starlink Situation
By now many of us have seen the photo of the Starlink satellite train launched by SpaceX crossing the field of view of a professional telescope, and perhaps also the video of Starlinks interfering with a meteor-monitoring video camera.
The shots are dramatic — even shocking — but they’re also a bit misleading. The real problems that Starlink and other so-called megaconstellation satellites pose are actually more insidious.
Read more at: Sky and Telescope
SPACE POLICY & REGULATIONS
ESA Commits to ISS Extension, Cooperation on Gateway
The ministers of the European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) 22 member countries have agreed on plans for ESA’s future investments in space science, exploration, applications, and security. Among them are extending operations of the International Space Station (ISS) through 2030 — a goal expressed by NASA and some in Congress, but not yet established as policy — and cooperating with NASA on building a Gateway in lunar orbit. All in all, they approved the largest ESA budget ever: €14.4 billion (about $15.9 billion) over 5 years.
Read more at: Spacepolicy online
NASA’s New Human Spaceflight Chief Optimistic for Moon 2024 Goals
NASA just appointed a new leader for its human spaceflight program, and he’s dead set on making sure the agency puts astronauts on the moon in 2024.
Douglas Loverro was sworn in as the new associate administrator for NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate on Monday (Dec. 2), and on Tuesday he hosted an agency-wide town hall at NASA Headquarters in Washington to introduce himself to the workforce.
Read more at: Space.com
Space Race Is On: US Can’t Afford Congressional Inaction In This Critical Economic Sector
Last holiday weekend we were thankful to see the bipartisan effort of Congress confirmed by President Trump’s signing of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. This bold act demonstrated that our government can effectively work together on important legislation. Yet political paralysis threatens a number of important bills, budgets, and programs that should be nonpartisan. These include support for two organizations necessary to American success in the space-based economy of the 21st century.
Read more at: Hill
Bridenstine Implores Congress to Finalize FY2020 Appropriations for Desperately Needed HLS
Speaking at a Space Transportation Association (STA) event on Capitol Hill today, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine implored Congress to finalize FY2020 appropriations rather than keeping NASA funded by Continuing Resolutions (CRs) — or worse, allowing a shutdown. In particular, funding for Human Lander Systems (HLS) is “desperately” needed to meet the White House’s goal of returning astronauts to the Moon by 2024.
Read more at: Spacepolicy online
ESA Gets Its Biggest Budget Ever, Supports Reusable Spaceship and ISS Extension
Reusable spaceships and the International Space Station shine in the European Space Agency’s (ESA) largest budget ever — $15.9 billion (14.4 billion-euro).
This past week (Nov. 27-28) in Seville, Spain, European ministers in charge of space activities along with participants from Canada and the European Union gathered for the ESA’s Council at Ministerial Level, or Space19+, to allocate funding for the space science programs they have planned for the 2020s.
“Together we have put in place a structure that sees inspiration, competitiveness and responsibility underpin our actions for the coming years, with ESA and Europe going beyond our previous achievements with challenging new missions and targets for growth along with the wider industry,” ESA Director General Jan Wörner said at the event, according to a statement.
Read more at: Space.com
Green Light for BRICS Satellite Amid Space Arms Race Fears
The plan was first mooted by China to improve co-operation around natural disasters. But it took shape later when BRICS space agencies agreed to build a “virtual constellation of remote sensing satellites”.
The Indian space ministry has indicated major progress in terms of establishing a BRICS satellite for various applications including natural resources management and disaster management.
The five-nation group of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) plans to share crucial data under a “virtual constellation of remote sensing satellites” which is made up of satellites contributed by BRICS space agencies.
Read more at: Sputnik news
China Aims to Knock Out U.S. Space Systems in Conflict
China has spent the last 15 years testing kinetic kill, directed energy, electromagnetic, cyber and other systems in an effort to develop methods for crippling American satellites during a conflict.
“China’s development of offensive space capabilities may now be outstripping the United States’ ability to defend against them, increasing the possibility that U.S. vulnerability combined with a lack of a credible deterrence posture could invite Chinese aggression,” according to a new report to Congress by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.
Read more at: Parabolic arc
Air Force Projects Increased Launch Activity For 2020
At least twice as many national security launches are projected for 2020 compared to 2019, according to U.S. Air Force projections.
“It’s really going to be an exciting year,” Col. Robert Bongiovi, director of the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center’s launch enterprise, told SpaceNews Dec. 5.
“We could have as many as 11 national security launches in 2020, although I don’t think we’ll get that many,” he said. “It’ll probably end up between eight and 10.”
Read more at: Spacenews
Putin Fears The US And NATO Are Militarizing Space And Russia Is Right To Worry, Experts Say
NATO, the U.S. and Russia have a new domain to compete and conflict over: space.Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Wednesday that the U.S. saw space as as “theater of military operations” and that the development of the U.S. Space Force posed a threat to Russia.“The U.S. military-political leadership openly considers space as a military theater and plans to conduct operations there,” Putin said at a meeting with defense officials in Sochi, according to Russian news agency TASS.
Read more at: CNBC
The Department of National Defence is Looking for Engineering and Costing Proposals for a Space-Based Surveillance System
At the behest of Director General Space (DG Space), the Department of National Defence has issued an invitation to tender for proposals related to a space-based surveillance system.
Specifically, DG Space is looking at engineering and costing studies in three streams: Constellation Design concept, Data Exploitation concept and Alternate mission type design concept (non-SAR) for a space-based surveillance system.
Read more at: SpaceQ
Caroline Kennedy, Former NASA Administrator To Christen USS John F. Kennedy
The USS John F. Kennedy will be christened Saturday morning in Newport News, Virginia.
The vessel, the second of the new Ford-class carriers, was launched three months early, with officials saying the lessons of the first-in-class USS Gerald R. Ford have allowed it get ahead of its construction and testing schedule.
The new vessel includes an upgraded propulsion system, the electromagnetic aircraft launch system, advanced arresting gear, advanced radar and integrated warfare systems, among other new systems.
Read more at: Spacewar
Ex-Govt. Official Receives Suspended Prison Term
A Japanese court has sentenced a former senior education ministry official to a suspended prison term for taking bribes while working at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA.
On Wednesday, the Tokyo District Court sentenced Kazuaki Kawabata to 18 months in prison, suspended for three years.
Kawabata, who was the ministry’s director-general for international affairs at the time of his arrest, was treated to meals worth about 13,800 dollars from August 2015 to March 2017. In return, he did favors for a medical consulting firm in Tokyo.
Read more at: NHK
A Big Salary, Luxury Cars, And A New Dacha—Russia’s Space Leader Lives Large
Russia has a storied and capable space program. And following the space shuttle’s retirement in 2011, for nearly a decade, the country has safely and reliably provided a ride for US astronauts to get into space. But that does not mean the country’s space corporation, Roscosmos, is not riven with corruption.
A leading critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Alexei Navalny, recently turned his attention toward the country’s space program. In an entertaining 13-minute video not unlike those produced by “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” on HBO, Navalny tackles corruption surrounding the construction of the Vostochny Spaceport in far-eastern Russia, as well as the apparently lavish lifestyle of Roscosmos leader Dmitry Rogozin.
Read more at: Arstechnica