China Delays Mission While NASA Congratulates On Mars Images
China postponed a supply mission to its new space station on Thursday for unspecified technical reasons, while photos sent back from Mars by its newly arrived rover earned plaudits from NASA despite only sporadic contacts between the Chinese and American space programs.
The Tianzhou-2 cargo spacecraft was to have been launched early Thursday morning. China Manned Space announced the delay on its website but didn’t say when the rescheduled launch would occur.
It would be the first mission to the main Tianhe space station module that was launched on April 29. A total of 11 launches are planned by the end of next year to deliver the station’s other two modules, various components and supplies and a three-person crew.
Read more at: ABCnews
Virgin Galactic Launches 1st Spaceshiptwo Spaceflight From New Mexico
Virgin Galactic has launched its first human spaceflight from its New Mexico home port.
The company’s SpaceShipTwo vehicle VSS Unity conducted its third crewed test flight to suborbital space today (May 22), taking another step toward the start of commercial operations.
Unity’s first two spaceflights occurred in December 2018 and February 2019. Both of those missions lifted off from the Mojave Air and Space Port in southeastern California, near the headquarters of Virgin Galactic’s manufacturing subsidiary, The Spaceship Company.
Read more at: Space.com
Rocket Lab Says Engine Issue Caused Electron Failure
Rocket Lab said an Electron rocket failed to reach orbit May 15 when the vehicle’s computer system detected a problem with the second stage engine and shut it down.
In a May 17 statement, the company said it is continuing to review data from the launch, which suffered a malfunction of some kind around the time the second stage separated and ignited its single Rutherford engine. The engine shut down seconds later, resulting in the loss of the mission.
The company said initial reviews of the data “suggest an engine computer detected an issue shortly after stage 2 engine ignition, causing the computer to command a safe shutdown as it is designed to do.” The company added it had not seen that behavior before in testing of the engines, including a full-duration static fire of the stage.
Read more at: Spacenews
Rocket Lab Investigates Launch Failure, Begins Inspecting Recovered Booster
Rocket Lab is diving into two big jobs, one of which is much more pleasant than the other.
The California-based launch provider is investigating what caused its two-stage Electron rocket to fail early Saturday morning (May 15) during a mission called “Running Out of Toes,” which aimed to loft two Earth observation satellites for the company BlackSky. (The liftoff was the 20th overall for Electron, which explains the name.)
Read more at: Space.com
Martian Rover Zhurong Takes First Drive On Surface Of Mars, China Says
A remote-controlled Chinese motorized rover drove down the ramp of a landing capsule on Saturday and onto the surface of the Red Planet, making China the first nation to orbit, land and deploy a land vehicle on its inaugural mission to Mars.
Zhurong, named after a mythical Chinese god of fire, drove down to the surface of Mars at 10:40 a.m. Beijing time (10:40 p.m. ET), according to a post on the rover’s official Chinese social media account.
China this month joined the United States as the only nations to deploy land vehicles on Mars. The former Soviet Union landed a craft in 1971, but it lost communication seconds later.
Read more at: NBCnews
SPACE HAZARDS & STM
ESA Partners With Startup To Launch First Debris Removal Mission In 2025
The recent fall to Earth of a massive Chinese rocket has renewed concerns about the perils of space junk and one project from the European Space Agency might be able to help.
The European Space Agency (ESA) announced plans to launch a space debris removal mission in 2025 with the help of a Swiss start-up called ClearSpace. The mission, dubbed ClearSpace-1, will use an experimental, four-armed robot to capture a Vega Secondary Payload Adapter (Vespa) left behind by ESA’s Vega launcher in 2013. The piece of space junk is located about 500 miles (800 kilometers) above Earth and weighs roughly 220 lbs. (100 kilograms).
Read more at: Space.com
If A Satellite Falls On Your House, Space Law Protects You – But There Are No Legal Penalties For Leaving Junk In Orbit
On May 8, 2021, a piece of space junk from a Chinese rocket fell uncontrolled back to Earth and landed in the Indian Ocean near the Maldives. A year ago, in May 2020, another Chinese rocket met the same fate when it plummeted out of control into the waters off the West African coast. No one knew when or where either of these pieces of space junk were going to hit, so it was a relief when neither crashed on land or injured anyone.
Space debris is any nonfunctional human-made object in space. As a professor of space and society focused on space governance, I’ve noticed that there are three questions the public always asks when falling space debris gets into the news. Could this have been prevented? What would have happened if there was damage? And how will new commercial companies be regulated as space activities and launches increase exponentially?
Read more at: Conversation
How Space Weather Could Wreck NASA’s Return To The Moon
Is NASA really going to return humans to the moon in 2024? That was the increasingly unlikely mandate issued to the agency by the Trump administration. President Biden hasn’t changed that goal yet, although most experts expect him to give NASA some much-needed breathing room and reset that deadline for later in the decade.
The problem is, 2024 might actually be a safer option. A new study published in the journal Solar Physicssuggests there’s a heightened risk of space weather events—storms of radiation and supercharged solar particles—in the latter half of the decade. This would pose increased danger to any crewed missions to the moon between 2026 and 2029. If NASA is serious about getting back to the moon and wants to keep astronauts as safe as possible, it may be prudent to accelerate efforts to ensure that it happens before 2026—or wait till the decade is over.
Read more at: Technology review
UBC Researchers Publish Paper On Risks Of Mega-Constellations
UBC researchers published a paper today in Nature’s Scientific Reports which outlines the risks of mega-constellations in low Earth orbit (LEO).
The paper is written by Aaron C. Boley, Department of Physics and Astronomy, and Michael Byers, Department of Political Science.
The abstract reads: “The rapid development of mega-constellations risks multiple tragedies of the commons, including tragedies to ground-based astronomy, Earth orbit, and Earth’s upper atmosphere. Moreover, the connections between the Earth and space environments are inadequately taken into account by the adoption of a consumer electronic model applied to space assets.
Read more at: SpaceQ
Europe Making Progress On Sovereign LEO Constellation As Oneweb And Starlink Race Ahead
The industry consortium devising a satellite network to keep the European Union from falling too far behind the megaconstellation goldrush is weeks away from nailing down key criteria.
The group has already made initial proposals on elements including frequency and orbital characteristics, according to Dominic Hayes, frequency manager for the EU space program at the European Commission’s Defence Industry and Space (DEFIS) department.
“They’re presenting those as firm deliverables in the course of the next few weeks,” Hayes told SATELLITE 2021’s EMEA + Asia Digital Forum May 18.
Read more at: Spacenews
SpaceX, Amazon, And Oneweb’s Mega-Constellations Risk Huge Collisions In Games Of ‘Chicken’, New Report Warns
The rapid development of mega-constellations – like the ones proposed by Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Blue Origin’s Project Kupier – risks “potentially dangerous on-orbit collisions on a regular basis”, according to a new report.
Read more at: Independent
Russian, Japanese Satellites To Come Within 200 Meters Of Each Other On May 19
Russia’s Kanopus-V 5 remote sensing satellite and a Japanese earth observation satellite, ASNARO, may come within 200 meters of each other early on May 19, a spokesperson for Russia’s Roscosmos space corporation told TASS on Tuesday.
“According to information obtained from the Main Data and Analysis Center of the Automated Warning System of Hazardous Situations in the Near-Earth Space, satellites Kanopus-V 5 (Russia) and ASNARO (Japan) may come within the distance of approximately 200 meters of each other at approximately 4:00 a.m. Moscow time on May 19,” the Roscosmos press service said.
Read more at: TASS
Aevum Says Launching Satellites Will Be Side Gig For Cargo-Delivery Drone
Space launch startup Aevum on May 18 said that its Ravn X unmanned aircraft will be used to both deliver cargo and launch rockets, pending approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.
The Alabama-based company on May 4 received a patent for an “adaptive autonomous aircraft system with modular payload systems,” a technology that would allow Ravn X to be converted from a space launcher to a cargo delivery aircraft and vice versa.
Before receiving this patent, Aevum had been vague about its business plan, touting its autonomous aircraft as the first stage of a launch system that releases expendable rockets from under its belly.
Read more at: Spacenews
India’s Agnikul Bags $11Mn As It Eyes 2022 For The First Launch Of Its Smallsat Launch Vehicle
2021 is the year for the Indian start-up ecosystem and the space industry, both of which have registered strong growth. While the Indian start-up ecosystem smashed its way into record books after 13 Indian start-ups evolved into unicorns this year (so far), the space industry continues to add feathers to its cap thanks to SpaceX and NASA’s exploits.
On a day when fellow Indian start-up Skyroot raised $11 million in a Series A funding round, Chennai-based space tech start-up Agnikul Cosmos Pvt. Ltd. has raised $11 million in a Series A funding round as well, led by global venture capital company Mayfield India and existing investors Pi Ventures, Speciale Invest, and Artha Ventures. Mayfield India’s managing partner Vikram Godse will be joining Agnikul’s Board of Directors (BoD).
Read more at: Techportal
The FCC’s Big Bet on Elon Musk
Derrin Carelli’s Reddit post couldn’t be a better advertisement for Starlink, the satellite internet service brought to you by Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
In a short video, Carelli shows off the breathtaking view from his cabin, nearly 11,000 feet up in the Colorado Rockies. The camera pans down to a tiny satellite dish perched on the edge of a cliff, then Carelli walks into his cabin, where he taps on his iPad. A YouTube video of Joe Rogan interviewing Musk comes up and loads immediately. High-speed, low-latency internet in the middle of nowhere. Carelli gives the camera a thumbs up.
Read more at: Vox
Private Sector Seeks Bigger Role In NASA Earth Science Programs
Companies and organizations used a House hearing May 18 to advocate for a larger role in NASA’s Earth science programs, arguing their capabilities can complement NASA spacecraft.
The hearing by the House space subcommittee on NASA’s Earth science programs devoted much of its attention to how commercial Earth imaging spacecraft could supplement NASA missions to study climate change, a growing priority for both the agency and the Biden administration.
“As NASA is creating its next flagship missions, including the Landsat Next program, NASA should incorporate the planned, viable commercial capabilities into their procurement strategies and seek commercial capabilities as a forethought, rather than an afterthought,” said Robbie Schingler, co-founder and chief strategy officer of Planet.
Read more at: Spacenews
SpaceX HLS Contract Gets Protection in Revised Senate Bill
The Senate will take up the United States Innovation and Competition Act today. It incorporates the 2021 NASA Authorization Act approved by the Senate Commerce Committee last week, but one of the most controversial provisions was modified and now provides a level of protection for the contract awarded to SpaceX for the Artemis program’s Human Landing System (HLS). It also extends the deadline for NASA to comply with a requirement that it choose a second HLS contractor.
The NASA authorization act was made part of the Endless Frontier Act (S. 1260) when the “Cantwell_1 (as modified)” amendment was adopted by voice vote on May 12 during markup by the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) chairs the committee.
Read more at: Spacepolicyonline
Sen. Raphael Warnock Calls For More Study Of Proposed Spaceport Near Cumberland Island
Sen. Raphael Warnock sent a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration on Monday asking the agency to slow down and complete a thorough review of a proposed spaceport in Camden County.
“This is not the time to cut corners on environmental review or cut out public participation in the evaluation of this project,” he wrote. “The incoming FAA leadership should be given the opportunity to evaluate fully these issues with the benefit of public input before moving forward with a final decision.”
Read more at: savannahnow
Russia Has No Intention To Cede Space Tourism Market To US — Glavkosmos Company
Russia is capable of competing with the US on the market of space tourism in many respects, including safety, reliability and costs, the CEO of Glavkosmos company (an affiliate of Roscosmos), Dmitry Loskutov, told the round-the-clock television news channel Rossiya-24 in an interview.
“We are in no mood of ceding this market. It goes without saying that we are competitive by such parameters as safety, reliability and costs. As far as safety is concerned, our emergency rescue system has already proved its effectiveness more than once. Also, we are quite competitive, when it comes to costs,” Loskutov said, when asked about competition with the United States in the field of space tourism.
Read more at: TASS
Space Startup Astra Signs First Commercial Launch Contract, Boosts Rocket Capacity
Read more at: Reuters
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
Moonlight: Bringing Connectivity To The Moon
As international teams across the world forge plans to revisit the Moon, ESA is elaborating how best to facilitate this exploration.
As part of its Moonlight initiative, the agency is encouraging European space companies to put a constellation of telecommunications and navigation satellites around the Moon.
To succeed, the proposed lunar missions will require reliable navigation and telecommunication capabilities. Building these independently would be costly, complex and inefficient.
Read more at: ESA
Europe And Russia Plan To Put Spacecraft On Surface Of Mars
On Saturday 15 May, the Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported that the country had landed a robotic spacecraft on Mars. This is an important moment and it could be a taste of things to come.
Until China’s Zhurong rover touched down in the Utopia Planitia region of the Mars, only the US had succeeded in operating on the planet’s surface. Next year, however, a joint mission by the European Space Agency and Russia will attempt to replicate the success.
Read more at: Guardian
United Launch Alliance Nears First Fueling Test On Vulcan Rocket
United Launch Alliance could load cryogenic methane and liquid oxygen propellants into a Vulcan rocket test article at Cape Canaveral for the first time in the coming weeks, timing key tests for the next-generation rocket in between flights of Atlas 5 rockets that will share the same launch complex for the next few years.
ULA is using its operational Atlas 5 rocket, meanwhile, to validate elements of the more powerful Vulcan Centaur rocket well before the new launcher’s first flight. The readiness of new BE-4 first stage engines supplied by Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos’s space company, is driving the schedule for the first Vulcan test launch.
The first Vulcan rocket should be ready for launch by the end of this year, said John Elbon, ULA’s chief operating officer, in early May.
Read more at: SpaceflightNow
What Risks Do Humans Face In Space?
It was quite the job ad when NASA started looking for astronauts for its Moon to Mars mission. They’re searching for the first woman and next man to walk on the Moon – and maybe send them onto the Red Planet.
One of the first requirements for future space travellers is the ability to get along with crewmates, Dr Gordon Cable says. He’s an associate professor in aerospace medicine at the University of Tasmania, and his job is to look at the hazards and risks humans face in space.
He says they’ll need to deal with the distance, the isolation, and the “Earth-dependence” – those already on the International Space Station at least can still see our pale blue dot.
Read more at: Cosmosmagazine
Astronauts May Finally Start Cleaning Their Space Underwear (With Microbes)
We can probably all agree that sharing your unwashed underwear with another person isn’t ideal. However, for astronauts onboard the International Space Station (ISS), performing a spacewalk requires that they share not only the spacesuits, but also a next-to-the-skin piece of clothing that’s worn underneath the spacesuit and resembles long underwear, known as the Liquid Cooling and Ventilation Garment (LCVG).
Access to a freshly laundered LCVG isn’t an option on the ISS, but technicians with the European Space Agency (ESA) are taking steps to improve the antimicrobial properties in LCVG materials to keep these shared garments clean and fresh for longer, ESA representatives said in a statement.
Read more at: Space.com
A Revolutionary Method To Drastically Reduce Stray Light On Space Telescopes
A team of researchers at the Centre Spatial de Liège (CSL) of the University of Liège has just developed a method to identify the contributors and origins of stray light on space telescopes. This is a major advance in the field of space engineering that will help in the acquisition of even finer space images and the development of increasingly efficient space instruments. This study has just been published in the journal Scientific Reports.
Read more at: Eurekalert
Irregularly Shaped Moon Dust Creates Complex Scattering Effects
The Moon’s surface is covered with tiny rock grains that formed during eons of high velocity meteorite impacts. The shape of these grains affects how the lunar surface scatters light, and researchers in the US have now analysed these shapes in unprecedented detail. The results of their study – including the first computations of the optical scattering properties of nanosized Moon dust – should make it possible to create better models of the colour, brightness and polarization of particles on the Moon’s surface, and to understand how these quantities change as the Moon goes through its phases.
Read more at: Physicsworld
FAA, NASA Collaborating To Regulate Suborbital Space
The Federal Aviation Administration and NASA recently entered into a memorandum of understanding with the aim of growing American commercial space transportation capabilities, including commercial crew and cargo activities. The agencies hope this will help create a framework that companies can operate in a safe and cost-effective manner, as well as streamline spaceflight standards and requirements.
Read more at: Federalnewsnetwork
South Korea To Join NASA’s Artemis Project: Reports
South Korea is in last-minute negotiations with the United States to join NASA’s Artemis program, a news outlet here reported May 18, citing government sources. The negotiations are underway between U.S. officials and South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Science and ICT with the goal of reaching a deal before the May 21 summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden at the White House, according to Edaily. If it happens, the agreement will be included in a joint statement to be issued by the two leaders, it said.
Read more at: Spacenews
QLD Govt Gives Go-Ahead For A Small Rocket Launch Site At Abbot Point
Locals and tourists in the Whitsunday region could soon be watching rockets launching into space with the Queensland government today announcing its support for the local space launch industry.
In a statement, Deputy Premier and Minister for State Development Steven Miles said: “Growing our space industry in Queensland will add billions to the economy and create thousands of local jobs. That’s why we are committed the development of launch infrastructure.
“Our easterly facing position, proximity to the equator, and our leading launch and propulsion companies make Queensland the perfect place to invest in space.”
Read more at: gspacetech
Melroy, Spinrad Sail Through Confirmation Hearing
President Biden’s nominees for Administrator of NOAA and Deputy Administrator of NASA sailed through their nomination hearing today. Rick Spinrad and Pam Melroy seem destined for confirmation after a friendly hearing full of praise from Senators and reassuring answers from the witnesses. On the especially prominent issue of U.S. competition with China, Melroy said she supports existing restrictions on NASA cooperation with China and believes China’s goal is to wrest space superiority from the United States.
Melroy, a former NASA astronaut, was introduced by Sen. Mark Kelly, another former NASA astronaut. She is a retired Air Force test pilot. He is a retired Navy test pilot. Not surprisingly, he said his “friend and former boss” is an “outstanding choice” and “without a doubt the right person at the right time for this job.”
Read more at: Spacepolicyonline
European space: Balancing Cooperation with Competition
The global space industry has reached a new golden era, spurred by constant academic and technical innovation from both government and private entities.
Space has become an industry, more so than a scientific endeavour. As a result, it has become subject to the fickle whims of politics and business, which can be overbearing to the point of stifling in the worst of cases.
Brexit was a wrench in the system; there was a lot of uncertainty surrounding the future of cooperation between the European Space Agency (ESA) and the U.K. Space Agency (UKSA). Now that the dust has somewhat settled on that matter, it seems both entities are going full-steam ahead with new projects and grants, together and independently.
Read more at: londonlovesbusiness
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson Addresses China Concerns, Asks For Billions In Funding
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson addressed concerns regarding recent competition from China’s space program. Speaking virtually on Wednesday with lawmakers at his first congressional hearing as the agency’s 14th administrator, he discussed future China National Space Administration (CNSA) endeavors. Space.com reported that Nelson spotlighted the agency’s plans to send three “big” landers to the moon – whereas, comparatively, NASA is slated to launch just one ice-hunting rover there in 2023.
Read more at: Foxnews
Space Force To Increase Spending On Technologies To Turn Data Into Knowledge
The U.S. Space Force plans to spend billions of dollars over the next decade to convert huge amounts of data that resides in separate systems into a digital enterprise architecture.
Data is now stored in disconnected silos and it’s difficult to analyze it and make sense of it, Col. Jennifer Krolikowski, senior materiel leader for space command and control at the Space and Missile Systems Center, told SpaceNews.
“We need to do a lot of data-driven decision making,” she said. “The space domain is so data intensive.”
Read more at: Spacenews
A Starcruiser for Space Force: Thinking Through the Imminent Transformation of Spacepower
The U.S. military has launched and operated Earth-orbiting satellites since the Discoverer 1 mission in March 1959. Despite this long-term presence in space, spacepower as a mature military discipline remains in its infancy. However, change is coming faster than many expect. The X-37B spacecraft — the first true military spaceplane — foreshadows the “end of the beginning” for military space as satellites, tiny spaceplanes, and single-use orbital boosters give way to massive fleets of very large, maneuverable, and reusable spacefaring vehicles.
Read more at: warontherocks
Concerns Over ‘Weaponisation Of Space’ As RAAF Launches Space Force
A new space division inside the Air Force is not about “the militarisation of space”, its chief says, but that hasn’t quietened concerns that Australia is contributing to the “weaponisation” of the cosmos.
The Australian Defence Force joined nations like the United States, China and Russia on Tuesday in forming a ‘space division’. Unlike Donald Trump’s ‘Space Force’, created as a totally separate branch of military, Australia’s version will sit inside the Royal Australian Air Force from 2022.
Read more at: Newdaily
Blue Origin Sends Dinosaur Bones Into Space For ‘Dream Big’ Initiative
Blue Origin has launched pieces of the past for its Club for the Future. Jeff Bezos’ commercial spaceflight company recently sent dinosaur bones into space to support its non-profit’s Dream Big Alabama initiative and the Huntsville Science Festival. The fossil fragments, each 65 to 70 million years old, lifted off in April on the 15th and last test flight before Blue Origin plans to start flying people aboard its New Shepard suborbital launch vehicle. “The dinosaur bones are from a ‘dromaeosaurid’ in the raptor family — likely a Dromaeosaurus,” Joe Iacuzzo, founder of the Huntsville Science Festival and former editor and content developer for Universal Pictures’ Jurassic Park Institute, said in an interview published by the Club for the Future. “The bird-like, feathered carnivorous dinosaurs were about 7 feet long [2 meters], stood just over two feet high [0.6 m] at the hips and had ‘killer claws’ on each foot that sliced into its prey when deployed.”
Read more at: Collectspace
The Price for the World’s First Space Tourist Seat Is up to Nearly $3 Million—and Climbing
With bids approaching $3 million and expected to climb higher, the last remaining seat on Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket could become the world’s most expensive first-class ticket. Jeff Bezos’s space-tourism venture yesterday made public its bidding process as it moves towards a one-day public auction on June 12. The 11-minute ride into space is scheduled to take off on July 20, with six passengers aboard.
Read more at: robbreport
China Mars Rover Animation Appears to Copy NASA Video Shot for Shot
China made history last week when it became only the second nation to land a spacecraft on Mars, but an official animation of the event is now under scrutiny after producers at the Chinese space program appeared to have borrowed heavily from an old NASA video.
The two-minute video carried by China’s major state news outlets depicted several critical moments, including the lander’s separation from the Mars orbiter and its controlled descent onto the surface of the Red Planet on May 15, Beijing time.
Read more at: Newsweek
Solving the Mystery of Blue Origin’s Failure to Launch
Just a few years ago, the most interesting space race wasn’t the one between the United States and China, but the one between Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk.
Only in America could multiple individuals try to will themselves into being space powers… except that only one proved able to actually do it.
Read more at: pjmedia
First NASA Flight Director’s Mission Control Mementos At Auction
The original headset used by NASA’s first flight director has been given the “go” to proceed to auction.
The Western Electric Bell System 52 headset worn by Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., the “father of Mission Control,” is among the more than 100 artifacts and mementos being offered by Heritage Auctions on behalf of the legendary engineer’s estate. The auction house will hold the live sale on Friday (May 21) in Dallas and online.
“A valid argument can be made that Chris Kraft was as important to the growth and success of NASA as anyone in its history,” Brad Palmer, Heritage Auctions’ space exploration consignment director, said in a statement. “He was the director of the Johnson Space Center for a decade during a crucial time in NASA’s history, and came up with the concept of NASA’s Mission Control, which now bears his name.”
Read more at: Collectspace
ESA Extends Deadline For Astronaut Applications As New Associate Member Joins
Lithuania’s new status as an ESA Associate Member means Lithuanian citizens are now eligible to apply for all ESA vacancies. As a result, ESA is encouraging all those who meet the criteria for the ESA Astronaut or ESA Astronaut (with a physical disability) vacancies, and dream of flying to space, to put themselves forward.
Extending the deadline provides these applicants with the opportunity to submit a complete application.
Read more at: ESA