Branson’s Virgin Rocket Takes Satellites To Orbit

Ten payloads in total were lofted on the same rocket, which was launched from under the wing of one of the entrepreneur’s old 747 jumbos.

Sir Richard is hoping to tap into what is a growing market for small, lower-cost satellites.

By using a jet plane as the launch platform, he can theoretically send up spacecraft from anywhere in the world.

Read more at: BBC

The Five: Space Missions For 2021

James Webb space telescope: This Nasa telescope, which is to replace the Hubble, has been subject to many delays – its first planned launch was in 2007. A March 2020 takeoff was delayed due to Covid, while its initial $500m budget has spiralled to more than $10bn (£7.4bn). It is a more sensitive telescope than the Hubble and once operational it will be able to observe the formation of some of the first galaxies. It will be launched on a European Ariane 5 rocket on 31 October.

Read more at: Guardian

SpaceX’s Upgraded Cargo Dragon Supply Ship Makes 1st Atlantic Splashdown

A SpaceX Dragon cargo resupply spacecraft returned to Earth from the International Space Station Wednesday (Jan. 13), splashing down off the coast of Florida for the first time ever.


The Dragon CRS-21 mission, SpaceX’s 21st space station cargo delivery for NASA, launched Dec. 6, 2020, with 6,400 lbs. (2,903 kilograms) of supplies and science equipment for the seven-person crew of Expedition 64.

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Blue Origin Tests New Shepard Capsule Upgrades On NS-14 Mission

Blue Origin conducted flight 14 of the New Shepard rocket for Thursday, January 14.

Liftoff from Launch Site One in West Texas occurred at 11:17 CST (17:17 UTC) with the booster and capsule landing safely several minutes later.

The capsule on this flight featured new upgrades as Blue Origin progresses towards launching crewed missions. The environmental control system was upgraded for improved sound and temperature regulation, and new systems such as display panels, speakers, and push-to-talk microphones were added for future crews

Read more at: NASA spaceflight

Critical Engine Test For NASA’s Space Launch System Megarocket Shuts Down Earlier Than Planned

NASA fired up the core stage of its massive new rocket — the Space Launch System (SLS) — on Saturday (Jan. 16) in a critical test that ended prematurely when the booster’s engines shut down earlier than planned.


Smoke and flames billowed from the four RS-25 engines that power the behemoth rocket’s core booster, a centerpiece of NASA’s Artemis moon program, as it roared to life atop a test stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.

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Space Junk A ‘Disaster Waiting To Happen’, Expert Warns

Pieces of unwanted debris left by humans in low-Earth orbit have become the equivalent of a ‘new drifting island of plastic’ in outer space, an expert has said. Ekaterini Kavvada, who is the directorate general of Defence Industry and Space at the European Commission, described space junk as ‘not a theoretical threat but a reality’ which risks causing damage to active European and other satellites.

Read more at: Metro


British Launch Company Skyrora Completes Testing On Rocket Upper Stage – And Hopes To Reach Space This Year

Scotland-based startup Skyrora says it has fully tested the upper stage of its Skyrora XL rocket, which it hopes to launch as soon as 2022 – but may launch another smaller rocket in the next six months.

The company, headquartered in Edinburgh, says that on December 23, 2020, it successfully test fired the upper stage of its XL rocket for 450 seconds at its test site in Fife.

Read more at: Forbes

Two Friends Will Send India’s 1st Private Earth-Imaging Satellite On ISRO Rocket

Whenever we hear about private space companies, the first name that comes to our mind is Elon Musk’s SpaceX. But very soon, you’ll have to make room for India’s Pixxel space startup to that list.

While India’s space adventures are often associated with the government-backed space organisation ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization), it looks like startup Pixxel Space will soon join this list, as it readies India’s first homegrown private, commercial Earth-imaging satellite.

Read more at: Indiatimes


New Solar Arrays to Power NASA’s International Space Station Research

As the International Space Station orbits Earth, its four pairs of solar arrays soak up the sun’s energy to provide electrical power for the numerous research and science investigations conducted every day, as well as the continued operations of the orbiting platform. The space station is the springboard to NASA’s Artemis missions to the Moon, a platform to test advanced technologies for human exploration of deep space and future mission to Mars. NASA also has opened the space station for business and commercial activities, including private astronauts missions.

Read more at: NASA

CubeSat: Little Satellite, Big Deal

Meet the CubeSat: a miniaturized satellite that’s been growing in sophistication. In the last 20 years, over 1,000 CubeSats have been launched into space for research and exploration. We talk about three cutting-edge CubesSat missions, MarCO, Near-Earth Asteroid Scout, and Lunar Flashlight, and how this satellite technology evolved from university laboratories to deep space. (Encore)

Read more at: NPR


Apollo Landers, Neil Armstrong’s Bootprint And Other Human Artifacts On Moon Officially Protected By New US Law

It’s hard to care about bootprints sunk in soil 238,900 miles away as humanity suffers the combined burden of an unforgiving virus and a political unease. But how humans treat those bootprints and the historic lunar landing sites upon which they are found will speak volumes about who we humans are and who we seek to become.

On Dec. 31, the One Small Step to Protect Human Heritage in Space Act became law. As far as laws go, it’s pretty benign.

Read more at: Conversation

The Space Industry Must Reckon With America’s Politics

Amid protests against racial injustice and police brutality in 2020, the United States witnessed the return of its crewed launch capability with the SpaceX Demo-2 launch. 

But as some reflected on the historic launch, space leaders recognized that such an event itself was not a relief for those affected by racial injustice and inequality. In the days following the Jan. 6 Capitol Hill riots, some space professionals were relieved at being able to return their focus to their everyday work and to look forward to positive developments in space expected for 2021.

Read more at: Hill

Speech by Commissioner Thierry Breton at the 13th European Space Conference

Dear Ministers and representative of Member States, Dear Sophie Wilmes, Dear Manuel Heitor, Honourable Members of the European Parliament,

Dear friends from the space sector, Ladies and Gentlemen,

2020 has been an extraordinarily turbulent year, with the worst worldwide health crisis in the last century. We had to adapt to these new realities in our personal and professional lives. And the crisis hit every sectors, the aerospace industry included.

But Europe – it is my strong belief – has shown that it can take the necessary decisions to ensure our collective resilience.

Read more at: Europa EC

NASA, Government of Japan Formalize Gateway Partnership for Artemis Program

NASA and the Government of Japan have finalized an agreement for the lunar Gateway, an orbiting outpost that commercial and international partners will build together. This agreement strengthens the broad effort by the United States to engage international partners in sustainable lunar exploration as part of the Artemis program and to demonstrate the technologies needed for human missions to Mars. 

Under this agreement, Japan will provide several capabilities for the Gateway’s International Habitation module (I-Hab), which will provide the heart of Gateway life support capabilities and additional space where crew will live, work, and conduct research during Artemis missions.

Read more at: NASA


White House Executive Order Promotes Development Of Space And Defense Nuclear Power Systems

Less than a month after issuing a policy directive on space nuclear power, the White House released an executive order Jan. 12 seeking to promote the development of small nuclear reactors for space and defense applications.

The executive order, “Promoting Small Modular Reactors for National Defense and Space Exploration,” includes separate directions for NASA and the Defense Department to pursue small nuclear reactors for their uses, while cooperating on common technologies for those systems.

Read more at: Spacenews

Alabama’s Redstone Arsenal Selected As Future Home Of U.S. Space Command

The U.S. Army’s Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama, was picked as the future location of U.S. Space Command’s headquarters.

Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett announced the decision Jan. 13, one day before stepping down from her post.

The selection of Redstone Arsenal is a huge win for Huntsville, nicknamed “Rocket City.” U.S. Space Command is currently based at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs.

Read more at: Spacenews


How Far With Nigeria’s Space Dream?

Space exploration used to be a luxurious show of technological might between the United States of America and the defunct Soviet Union until developed nations realised the potential of space technology in addressing real-life challenges and improving the conditions of living on earth.

Developing nations, including Nigeria, followed suit, committing their limited resources at a smaller but significant scale to exploit outer space programmes for socio-economic gains, as well as national pride among the committee of nations.

Read more at: Guardian

How The Famed Arecibo Telescope Fell—And How It Might Rise Again

In the early morning of 10 August 2020, Sravani Vaddi, a postdoc astronomer at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, was working from home, but her thoughts were at Arecibo’s giant radio telescope. At 2 a.m., she had one precious hour to focus the 305-meter dish on NGC 7469, a distant galaxy. At its center, two supermassive black holes wheeled around each other, following an earlier galaxy merger. Vaddi wanted to see whether having two dark hearts instead of the usual one made the galaxy shine more brightly by stirring up gases and stoking starbirth. Radio emissions from the glowing gases would help her find out.

Read more at: Sciencemag

Inside The US Government’s Effort To Start Measuring The Space Economy

Word came down to the Bureau of Economic Analysis in 2019: We’d like you to measure the American space economy, please.

The task fell into the capable hands of Tina Highfill, a 17-year veteran of the statistical agency. Her role as a research economist includes developing new measures of economic activity that don’t fall into neat buckets already, like travel and tourism or healthcare. These are called “satellite accounts,” and now they need one for satellites.

Read more at: QZ