Chinese Space Enterprise Gears Up For Record-Breaking 40-Plus Launches In 2021

The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), the leading force of the country’s space industry, has released a plan for more than 40 space launches for 2021, a new high following the already busy and fruitful 2020.

The construction of China’s space station, the key space mission in the year, will enter a crucial stage, according to the CASC.

The country plans to launch the core module of its manned space station in the first half of 2021. Subsequent space missions include the launches of the Tianzhou-2 cargo craft and the Shenzhou-12 manned craft.

Read more at: Spacedaily

DARPA Satellites Damaged At Processing Facility Ahead Of SpaceX Launch

Two satellites from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency that were part of an upcoming SpaceX rideshare mission have been damaged at the payload processing facility, the agency confirmed Jan. 6.

The mishap happened on Jan. 4 at SpaceX’s launch processing facility at Cape Canaveral, Florida. DARPA’s satellites were scheduled to fly to orbit on a Falcon 9 rocket as part of the Transporter-1 mission, SpaceX’s first dedicated rideshare mission scheduled to launch Jan. 14.

Read more at: Spacenews

SpaceX Dragon Capsule To Make First Of Its Kind Science Splashdown

By capsule, helicopter, boat, plane, and car, space station science experiments are about to make a first of a kind journey back to researchers on Earth.

On Jan. 11, the SpaceX cargo Dragon spacecraft carrying out the company’s 21st commercial resupply services (CRS-21) mission for NASA undocks from the International Space Station, heading for splashdown off the coast of Florida about 12 hours later. This upgraded Dragon transports significantly more science back to Earth than possible in previous Dragon capsules and is the first space station cargo capsule to splash down off the coast of Florida.

Read more at: Spacedaily

NASA Sets Mid-January Target For SLS Hot Fire Test

NASA is moving forward with a crucial test-firing of the core stage of the first Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket as soon as Jan. 17 after engineers were satisfied with the results of a fueling test last month.

The hot fire test is the culmination of the SLS Green Run, a year-long series of checkouts of the program’s first flight-ready core stage on the B-2 test stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.

The core stage will fly on the Artemis 1 mission, the first full-up test flight of the Space Launch System and the Orion crew capsule. Artemis 1, which will fly to the moon and back without astronauts, is officially targeted for launch in late 2021, but that schedule may be in doubt after delays in the Green Run campaign at Stennis.

Read more at: Spaceflight Now

European Gateway Module To Be Built In France As Thomas Pesquet Readies For Second Spaceflight

ESA signed a contract with Thales Alenia Space to start building the European module for the lunar Gateway that will provide the new human exploration facility with communications and refuelling.

The Gateway is being built by the partners of the International Space Station and will enable sustainable exploration around – and on – the Moon, while allowing for space research and demonstrating the technologies and processes necessary to conduct a future mission to Mars.

Read more at: Space daily

China Plans To Launch Core Module Of Space Station This Year

The milestones are coming fast and furious for China’s space program.

The robotic Chang’e 5 mission successfully returned pristine moon samples to Earth in mid-December, something that hadn’t been done since 1976. China’s first fully homegrown Mars mission, Tianwen-1, is scheduled to arrive at the Red Planet on Feb. 10. And shortly after that, the nation plans to begin assembling its space station in Earth orbit.

Read more at:

Northrop Grumman’s NG-14 Cygnus Spacecraft Completes Primary Mission to the International Space Station

Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) announced today that the company has completed the first phase of its 14th cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Mission (CRS-2) contract. Cygnus was released by the station’s robotic arm at 10:11 a.m. ET, carrying more than 4,000 pounds of disposable cargo and will remain in orbit for approximately two weeks for the secondary phase of its mission.

“For more than six years, Northrop Grumman has supported human spaceflight by delivering critical cargo to astronauts aboard the International Space Station and acting as a host to a number of science experiments and technology demonstrations,”

Read more at: parabolic arc


Rocket Lab’s To Launch Communications Satellite For OHB Group In First 2021 Mission

Rocket Lab, the global leader in dedicated small satellite launch, has announced its first Electron launch of the new year will be a dedicated mission for European space technology company OHB Group.

This dedicated mission, named ‘Another One Leaves the Crust,’ is scheduled for lift-off during a 10-day launch window opening on January 16th NZT/UTC. Encapsulated inside Electron’s fairing will be a single communication microsatellite that will enable specific frequencies to support future services from orbit.

Read more at: Spacedaily

This Startup Plans to Build a Space Hotel and Replace the International Space Station

The International Space Station is aging. According to one estimate, the ISS has only ten years left, at best, before it has to retire or undergo a major renovation in order to continue service. With monumental change now in sight, an entire industry has cropped up around providing the possibilities.

Future-minded space entrepreneurs are dreaming big to find a solution to this problem, floating creative proposals such as 3D-printing tools in space to do repair work, modifying dead rocket stages into space labs, and building a new space station from scratch.

Read more at: Observer

Los Angeles Rocket Startup ABL Space Aims For First Launch As Early As March

Rocket building startup ABL Space, founded by veterans of SpaceX and Morgan Stanley, is in the final stretch of preparations for its inaugural launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base.

“We’re tracking toward vehicle readiness in March,” ABL president and CFO Dan Piemont told CNBC on Monday during a tour of the company’s Los Angeles-area facilities.

“We’re working on the last bits of scheduling with the [Vandenberg launch] range. We do think that could push us into Q2, so right now no earlier than March but no later than June is the plan,” Piemont added.

Read more at: CNBC

Momentus And The Business Of Space

Ask the average person to think about space, and they’ll envision moonwalks, missions to Mars and science fiction movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey or Star Wars.

One aspect of space travel that has not exactly captured the public’s imagination is the grunt work required to transport payloads between orbits. Vessels handling this essential task are known as space tugs, the “tow trucks” of outer space (fun fact: the ship Nostromo from the film Alien was a space tug).

Read more at: Forbes

Virgin Galactic Says It Identified The Problem During Its Test Flight Over New Mexico

Virgin Galactic said Thursday it has completed analysis of why its spacecraft’s rocket failed to ignite during a test flight over New Mexico last month and work to fix the problem has begun.

“Once the corrective work has been implemented and verified, we will confirm our pre-flight timeline for the next test flight and share expected dates for when the flight window will open,” the company said in a brief statement.

The statement did not detail what went wrong. At the time of the incident, Virgin Galactic said the onboard computer monitoring the rocket motor lost connection, triggering a fail-safe scenario that halted ignition.

Read more at: lcsun


Defending Earth Against Dangerous Asteroids: Q&A With NASA’s Lindley Johnson

It’s a cosmic roll of the dice. There’s no doubt that a major asteroid or comet strike could cause extensive devastation and profoundly affect life on Earth.

The largest hit in recent times was the object that exploded over Tunguska, Siberia, in June 1908 with an energy impact of five to 15 megatons. Then there was that spectacular and destructive airburst in February 2013 over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk. The Chelyabinsk explosion generated a shock wave that shattered windows on the ground, and the resulting flying glass shards injured more than 1,000 people.

Read more at:

FCC Grants Permission For Polar Launch Of Starlink Satellites

The Federal Communications Commission will allow SpaceX to launch 10 Starlink satellites into polar orbit on an upcoming mission, but deferred a decision on a much broader modification of SpaceX’s license.

In an order published Jan. 8, the FCC granted SpaceX permission to launch 10 Starlink satellites into a 560-kilometer orbit with an inclination of 97.6 degrees. Those satellites will launch on a Falcon 9 no earlier than Jan. 14 as part of Transporter-1, a dedicated smallsat rideshare mission.

Read more at: Spacenews

Smallsat Launch Providers Readying For First Missions Of 2021

Virgin Orbit and Rocket Lab teams are gearing up for their first missions of the year in the coming days, with Virgin’s air-launched rocket set for its second demonstration flight and Rocket Lab’s Electron booster poised to launch a small German-owned communications satellite.

The second test flight of Virgin Orbit’s air-dropped LauncherOne vehicle is scheduled no earlier than Wednesday, Jan. 13. Ten CubeSats from U.S. universities and a NASA research center are aboard the rocket, which will be released from Virgin Orbit’s Boeing 747 carrier aircraft over the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Southern California.

Read more at: Spaceflight Now

Momentus Delays First Vigoride Launch

In-space transportation provider Momentus is delaying its first operational mission, which was to fly on a SpaceX Falcon 9 later this month, because of delays completing an interagency review.

In a Jan. 4 statement, Momentus said the flight of its first Vigoride tug, which was to be part of the payloads on a Falcon 9 dedicated rideshare mission launching as soon as Jan. 14, will be delayed to later in the year because it was unable to get approval from the Federal Aviation Administration for the mission.

Read more at: Spacenews


NASA Explores Upper Limits of Global Navigation Systems for Artemis

The Artemis generation of lunar explorers will establish a sustained human presence on the Moon, prospecting for resources, making revolutionary discoveries, and proving technologies key to future deep space exploration.

To support these ambitions, NASA navigation engineers from the Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) program are developing a navigation architecture that will provide accurate and robust Position, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) services for the Artemis missions. Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) signals will be one component of that architecture. GNSS use in high-Earth orbit and in lunar space will improve timing, enable precise and responsive maneuvers, reduce costs, and even allow for autonomous, onboard orbit and trajectory determination.

Read more at: NASA

Last Year Reusable Rockets Entered The Mainstream, And There’s No Going Back

The notion of reusing rockets finally went mainstream in 2020. As the year progressed, it became clear that SpaceX launch customers have gotten a lot more comfortable with flying on used, or “flight-proven,” first stages of the Falcon 9 rocket. One commercial customer, Sirius, launched its XM-7 satellite on the seventh flight of a Falcon 9 booster in December. Also, the first national security payload flew on a reused booster last month when the US National Reconnaissance Office launched its NROL-108 mission on the fifth flight of a Falcon 9 first stage.

Read more at: Arstechnica

Russia to Launch Partially Reusable Rockets by 2026

Imagine if every airplane could fly only once.

Imagine if every time a commercial airliner completes a cross-country flight, it is dismantled by a sledgehammer, ditched into the sea, or otherwise incinerated. A ticket to board a single-use plane would be astronomical, and the industry would have no hope of a viable future.  

This, however, is the situation with rockets using expendable launch vehicles (ELVs), which despite the much-lauded success of SpaceX’s partially reusable launch system, are still the main method for launching satellites and spacecraft carrying human passengers. NASA’s flagship vessel that will carry out Project Artemis missions — the Space Launch System — will employ an ELV system.   

Read more at: Thomasnet

Japan Developing Wooden Satellites To Cut Space Junk

A Japanese company and Kyoto University have joined forces to develop what they hope will be the world’s first satellites made out of wood by 2023.

Sumitomo Forestry said it has started research on tree growth and the use of wood materials in space. The partnership will begin experimenting with different types of wood in extreme environments on Earth.

Space junk is becoming an increasing problem as more satellites are launched into the atmosphere.

Read more at: BBC

Making Methane on Mars

Among the many challenges with a Mars voyage, one of the most pressing is: How can you get enough fuel for the spacecraft to fly back to Earth?

Houlin Xin, an assistant professor in physics & astronomy, may have found a solution.

He and his team have discovered a more efficient way of creating methane-based rocket fuel theoretically on the surface of Mars, which can make the return trip all more feasible.

Read more at: Technology

The World’s First Integrated Quantum Communication Network

Chinese scientists have established the world’s first integrated quantum communication network, combining over 700 optical fibers on the ground with two ground-to-satellite links to achieve quantum key distribution over a total distance of 4,600 kilometers for users across the country. The team, led by Jianwei Pan, Yuao Chen, Chengzhi Peng from the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei, reported in Nature their latest advances towards the global, practical application of such a network for future communications.

Read more at: Spacewar

What Happens When Your Brain Can’t Tell Which Way Is Up Or Down?

What feels like up may actually be some other direction depending on how our brains process our orientation, according to psychology researchers at York University’s Faculty of Health.

In a new study published in PLoS One, researchers at York University’s Centre for Vision Research found that an individual’s interpretation of the direction of gravity can be altered by how their brain responds to visual information. Laurence Harris, a professor in the Department of Psychology in the Faculty of Health and Meaghan McManus, a graduate student in his lab, found, using virtual reality, that people differ in how much they are influenced by their visual environment.

Read more at: Spacedaily

Meteorites May Have Brought Water To Earth In The Recent Past

Some meteorites that fell to Earth relatively recently may have contained liquid water within the past million years. This means space rocks might have delivered water to our planet’s surface throughout its history rather than just very early on.

Many scientists suspect that meteorites once brought water to Earth. But previous analysis of the rocks suggests the chemical reactions inside them that involve liquid water ceased billions of years ago. So there was a question mark over whether they lost their water long ago.

Read more at: New Scientist

China Tests High-Thrust Rocket Engine For Space Station Missions

China completed a reliability test run for its high-thrust oxyhydrogen engine designed for the Long March-5B carrier rocket on Friday, a critical step in the preparation for the subsequent space missions.

The Long March-5B carrier rocket will be used for launches of different modules of China’s space station as the core module is scheduled to launch this spring.

The engine ran 500 seconds during the test – the same amount of time of its designed full work cycle. It is the fourth time the engine has been tested with 500 seconds, showing great ability of extending service life, one of the goals of the test.

Read more at: CGTN


NASA, FAA Partnership Bolsters American Commercial Space Activities

NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) signed a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) reaffirming the agencies’ longstanding relationship to foster robust American commercial space transportation capabilities, including commercial crew and cargo activities.

The NASA-FAA MOU follows the success of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 launch – the first crewed mission from American soil to be licensed by the FAA.

Read more at: Spacedaily

Department of Energy Releases ‘Energy for Space’ Strategy

Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the “Energy for Space” strategy, an outlook of policy recommendations to further DOE’s role in powering the next generation of space exploration. “Energy for Space” supports President Trump’s recently released National Space Policy, and calls for DOE to be an essential source of the science, technology, and engineering solutions that are needed for advancing U.S. leadership in the space domain.

Read more at: Parabolic arc

Congress Asks For Report On Arecibo Radio Telescope Collapse

Congress wants a report investigating the December collapse of the iconic radio telescope at Arecibo Observatory by late February as the government evaluates what comes next for the facility, located in the mountains of Puerto Rico.


The request comes as the observatory’s supporters continue to rally on the facility’s behalf, including a successful public petition calling for White House support of rebuilding at the site and a decision by the island’s governor to allocate $8 million to the effort. 

Read more at:


USSF Becomes 18th Member of Intel Community

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe today welcomed the U.S. Space Force (USSF) as the 18th member of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC).

During an afternoon ceremony, Ratcliffe and Chief of Space Operations Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond announced the designation of the intelligence element of the U.S. Space Force as a member of the IC.

“This accession reaffirms our commitment to securing outer space as a safe and free domain for America’s interests,” said Ratcliffe.

Read more at: Parabolic arc

Biden Urged To Renounce Sole Control Of US Nuclear Weapons

A former US defense secretary has called on President-elect Joe Biden to reform the system that gives sole control of the nation’s nuclear arsenal to the president, calling it “outdated, unnecessary and extremely dangerous.”

The call from William Perry came the same day US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke with the nation’s top military leader about ensuring that an “unhinged” President Donald Trump not be able to launch a nuclear attack in his final days in office.

“Once in office, Biden should announce he would share authority to use nuclear weapons with a select group in Congress,” said Perry, who served under President Bill Clinton.

Read more at: Spacewar

US Strategic Command Chief Defends ICBM Replacement Program

The U.S. Defense Department must be allowed to press forward with replacing its Cold War-era Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles, the head of U.S. Strategic Command said Tuesday.

“You cannot life-extend Minuteman III,” said Adm. Charles Richard, who spoke with reporters during a Defense Writers Group event. “It is getting past the point of [where] it’s not cost-effective to life-extend Minuteman III. You’re quickly getting to the point [where] you can’t do it at all.”

Read more at: Defense news

Rob Quirk Goes ‘One-On-One’ With The Commander Of U.S. Space Command

Colorado Springs is on a short list of sites to become the permanent home of U.S. Space Command.

Just two days ago, a team from the Pentagon visited and toured Peterson Air Force Base, the temporary home of U.S. Space Command since May 2020 and is now one of six finalists vying to be its permanent home.

The other finalists include Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, Redstone Arsenal in Alabama, Joint Base San Antonio, and Offutt Air Base, Nebraska.

Read more at: koaa

Space Force Needs Sensors To Distinguish Weapons From Benign Objects

China is developing satellites with robotic arms that could be deployed as space weapons. To prepare for the possibility that U.S. satellites might be targeted, the Space Force needs tools to identify whether a satellite is hostile or benign, a senior official said Jan. 6.

“We need something that gives us confirmation and confidence to say: ‘This just happened and this is who did it,’” said Maj. Gen. Leah Lauderback, U.S. Space Force director of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

Read more at: Spacenews

Exclusive: How The Space Force Foiled An Iranian Missile Attack With A Critical Early Warning

One year ago on the night of Jan. 7, 2020, Americans were shocked to learn that Iran had launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles at U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq.

Iran called it “fierce revenge” for the assassination of Gen. Qassem Soleimani. As reports of the attack inundated the airwaves, viewers were left wondering what had happened — and perhaps most importantly — were there casualties?

The barrage damaged runways, tents, equipment and a helicopter, and the Pentagon acknowledged that 110 people needed to be treated later for traumatic brain injuries. No one was killed.

Read more at: c4isrnet


Pace Steps Down From National Space Council

The top staff member of the National Space Council resigned last week as the council’s future in coordinating space policy remains uncertain.

In a Dec. 31 statement, Scott Pace announced he was resigning as executive secretary of the National Space Council to return to George Washington University, where he had served as director of its Space Policy Institute. Pace left the university in July 2017 to lead the day-to-day operations of the council, chaired by Vice President Mike Pence.

Read more at: Spacenews

Science Advocacy Groups Join Calls For Trump’s Removal

A number of science advocacy groups have joined calls for President Donald Trump to resign or be removed from office in the wake of his role in inciting a violent mob attack on the U.S. Capitol.

The March for Science is asking individuals and organizations to sign an online petition calling for Trump “to be removed from office immediately,” either through the congressional impeachment process or the invocation of the 25th Amendment by Vice President Mike Pence and Trump’s Cabinet.

“There is no room for hedging. We must be absolutely clear,” the petition reads. “This was an attempted coup, instigated by President Trump. Americans will indeed remember this day—with great shame—forever.” Nearly 3500 people, many of them scientists, had signed the petition as of Friday evening.

Read more at: Sciencemag

ESA’s Woerner To Depart Early

ESA Director General Jan Woerner announced today that he will step aside at the end of February instead of June as earlier planned. His successor, Josef Aschbacher, heads ESA’s earth observation programs, one of the reasons Woerner cited as enabling a shorter transition period.

Woerner took the helm at ESA in 2015 after nine years serving as the head of Germany’s space agency, the German Aerospace Center (DLR), and Germany’s delegation to ESA. He chaired the ESA Council from 2012-2014.

Read more at: Spacepolicy online

A Private Astronaut Explains Why His Next Flight — Likely With Tom Cruise — Is ‘Setting The Bar For Commercial Human Spaceflight Forever’

This year, a private company may charter a private spaceship, fill it up with private passengers, and fly it to orbit in the hands of a private astronaut.

The expedition is poised to be the first of its kind, and the gravity of that responsibility is not lost upon its commander, Michael López-Alegría, a retired NASA astronaut turned vice president of business development for Axiom Space, which is bankrolling the historic flight.

Read more at: Business Insider

Bad Days: Remembering Shuttle Columbia’s Brush With Disaster, 35 Years On

The opening weeks of every year are a somber time for America’s space program, as many minds reflect upon the triple tragedies of Apollo 1 and shuttles Challenger and Columbia and the catastrophic loss of 17 brave lives. And as Houston-based AxiomSpace prepares to launch the first all-commercial human space voyage later this fall (with a crew that includes movie star Tom Cruise), we look back this month at a real “Mission: Impossible” which took place 35 years ago, in January 1986.

Read more at: America space