Space Collision: Chinese Satellite Got Whacked By Hunk Of Russian Rocket In March

Yunhai 1-02’s wounds are not self-inflicted.

In March, the U.S. Space Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron (18SPCS) reported the breakup of Yunhai 1-02, a Chinese military satellite that launched in September 2019. It was unclear at the time whether the spacecraft had suffered some sort of failure — an explosion in its propulsion system, perhaps — or if it had collided with something in orbit.

We now know that the latter explanation is correct, thanks to some sleuthing by astrophysicist and satellite tracker Jonathan McDowell, who’s based at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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NASA Forced To Pause Work On SpaceX’s Moon Landing System Until Jeff Bezos’ Lawsuit Reviewed

NASA has temporarily stopped work on the development of its new lunar landing system, after Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin sued the US government over the decision to award the contract for the project to SpaceX.

The space agency said it had agreed to pause the project until November pending the outcome of the claim, which was filed with the US Federal Claims Court earlier this week.

Blue Origin alleges that NASA unfairly awarded a single $2.9 billion contract for the lunar lander to SpaceX, and is asking for the process to be rerun to give Bezos’ space company the chance to develop its own system.

Read more at: Unilad

Exclusive: Pentagon Poised To Unveil, Demonstrate Classified Space Weapon

For months, top officials at the Defense Department have been working toward declassifying the existence of a secret space weapon program and providing a real-world demonstration of its capabilities, Breaking Defense has learned.

The effort — which sources say is being championed by Gen. John Hyten, the vice-chairman of the joint chiefs of staff — is close enough to completion that there was a belief the anti-satellite technology might have been revealed at this year’s National Space Symposium, which kicks off next week.

Read more at: Breaking defense

Vibration Tests For Moon Rocket Help Ensure Safe Travels On Road To Space

Driving down a bumpy gravel road, even an off-road vehicle experiences bumps and vibrations, partly because of the car’s natural frequency. An object’s natural frequency is the frequency or rate that it vibrates naturally when struck. When forces like speed and the smoothness of the road are just right, the car will vibrate in tune with that same frequency.

Rockets flying through the atmosphere to space, including NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), are no different. They have natural frequencies and experience dynamic forces during launch and ascent. Understanding those frequencies and what they look like is critical to steering SLS and the Orion spacecraft safely through the atmospheric “road” to space.

Read more at: Spacedaily

Chinese Astronauts Conduct Second Space Walk Outside New Space Station Module

The China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) says two of the three crew members on board the Chinese space station module Tianhe have conducted their second spacewalk since the crew arrived there in June.

Chinese state television broadcast the six-hour spacewalk live, showing astronauts Nie Haisheng and Liu Boming hard at work fixing a robotic arm, installing thermal control equipment and adjusting a camera.

The third astronaut, Tang Hongbo, carried out the team’s first spacewalk July 4, and he assisted Friday’s event from inside the module’s control room. The spacewalk was the third ever in China’s space program.

Read more at: voanews


Engineer Studies Net-Shooting Robots That Corral Space Debris

University at Buffalo researcher Eleonora Botta studies how to prevent space debris from crashing into each other or from falling uncontrollably down to Earth.

An assistant professor of aerospace engineering, she was recently awarded a $175,000 National Science Foundation grant to examine how to best utilize robot tether systems to corral some of the 27,000 pieces of debris that NASA tracks. Many of these space-cleaning-systems call for using nets – imagine a satellite shooting a web, like Spiderman – to capture and control debris.

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SpaceX Starlink Satellites Responsible For Over Half Of Close Encounters In Orbit, Scientist Says

Operators of satellite constellations are constantly forced to move their satellites because of encounters with other spacecraft and pieces of space junk. And, thanks to SpaceX’s Starlink satellites, the number of such dangerous approaches will continue to grow, according to estimates based on available data.

SpaceX’s Starlink satellites alone are involved in about 1,600 close encounters between two spacecraft every week, that’s about 50 % of all such incidents, according to Hugh Lewis, the head of the Astronautics Research Group at the University of Southampton, U.K. These encounters include situations when two spacecraft pass within a distance of 0.6 miles (1 kilometer) from each other.

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Only Slight Chance Of Asteroid Bennu Hitting Earth: NASA

An asteroid known as Bennu will pass within half the distance of the Earth to the Moon in the year 2135 but the probability of an impact with our planet in the coming centuries is very slight, scientists said Wednesday.

OSIRIS-REx, a NASA spacecraft, spent two years near Bennu, an asteroid that is about 1,650 feet (500 meters) wide, observing its size, shape, mass and composition and monitoring its orbital trajectory around the sun.

Using its robotic arm, the spacecraft also collected a sample from the surface of the asteroid that will help researchers determine the future trajectory of Bennu.

Read more at: Spacedaily


Musk Says Starship Orbital Stack To Be Ready For Flight In Few Weeks

SpaceX founder Elon Musk said on Saturday the first orbital stack of the Starship rocket should be ready for flight in the coming weeks, taking the unorthodox billionaire a step closer to his dream of orbital and then interplanetary travel.

SpaceX in May successfully landed its Starship prototype, SN15, a reusable heavy-lift launch vehicle that could eventually carry astronauts and large cargo payloads to the moon and Mars.

The touchdown came after four prototype landing attempts had ended in explosions.

Read more at: Reuters

Elon Musk says SpaceX’s Orbital Starship Debut Headed for FAA Faceoff in a Few Weeks

CEO Elon Musk says that SpaceX’s first completed Starship rocket could be ready for its orbital launch debut just “a few weeks” from now – far sooner than most expected.

On August 6th, SpaceX very stacked that same vehicle – Starship 20 (S20) and Super Heavy Booster 4 (B4) – to its full height for the first time ever, briefly creating the largest rocket ever assembled. However, the feat was equally a symbolic photo opportunity. SpaceX did install an unprecedented number of Raptor engines on Booster 4 and Ship 20 in a spectacularly short timeframe and both stages are technically meant for flight, but Starship S20 was demated less than an hour later and shipped back to the factory shortly thereafter.

Read more at: Teslarati

Astra Given Regulatory Green Light for its First Commercial Orbital Launch at the End of the Month

Rocket launch startup Astra has received a key license from the Federal Aviation Administration, giving the green light for the company’s first commercial orbital launch at the end of the month.

Astra CEO Chris Kemp tweeted the news on Thursday, adding that the launch operator license through the FAA is valid through 2026. The new license is a modification of the company’s previous launch license and applicable to the current version of the company’s rocket, a company spokesperson told TechCrunch.

Read more at: Techcrunch

Judge Rules Sutherland Spaceport Project Can Go Ahead

SPACE Hub Sutherland, the world’s first carbon-neutral spaceport on A’ Mhoine peninsula, has been given the go-ahead by Lord Doherty after he ruled in a judicial review instigated by Danish ASOS billionaire Anders Povlsen.

It is now hoped the inaugural space flight from land on the Melness Crofters’ Estate could happen late next year.

In a 30-page decision, in which he said “none of the grounds of challenge is well founded”, the judge rejected every one brought by Wildland to block the development.

Read more at: National

Firefly Aerospace Conducts Successful Static Fire Test, Reveals Launch Date

A new rocket passed a key milestone with a successful test at Vandenberg Space Force Base this week en route to its maiden launch in two weeks. Firefly Aerospace announced on Thursday that the firm had performed a static fire test of the Alpha launch vehicle, which stands 95 feet tall, at Space Launch Complex 2. “The fully-fueled, flight-ready vehicle fired its first stage engines for 15 seconds,” Firefly announced on Twitter. A video posted online shows the static fire test with one crew member saying, “Burn, baby, burn.” Another crew member asked for the “plus count,” leading to someone else to report the tally “14, 15.”

Read more at: noozhawk


The Next Big Challenge for Lunar Astronauts? Moon Dust

As NASA and private space companies prepare to send equipment—and eventually astronauts—back to the moon, they are facing a nearly invisible threat to any future lunar outpost: tiny particles of dust. Ground-up lunar rock, known as regolith, clogs drills and other delicate instruments, and it’s so sharp that it scratches spacesuits. Because the dust absorbs sunlight, it can also overheat sensitive electronics.

Dust particles also pose a health risk. Even though Apollo-era astronauts only went outside during a few days on each mission, some reported burning eyes and stuffy nasal passages when they returned from moon walks and took off their dust-covered spacesuits inside the capsule.

Read more at: Wired

A Technique To Predict Radiation Risk During ISS Missions

Astronauts traveling to the Moon, Mars, and other future deep space destinations will likely make new and amazing discoveries. Undertaking these exploration missions will not be possible without increased risk to crew members from exposure to the space environment. To reduce risks of the hazards of spaceflight and protect astronauts from space radiation, NASA is using the International Space Station to develop capabilities to predict space radiation exposure for future exploration missions.

Published in the journal Nature-Scientific Reports, results from an ISS Medical Monitoring study of International Space Station astronauts demonstrate how the sensitivity of an individual astronaut’s DNA to radiation exposure on Earth can predict their DNA’s response during spaceflight as measured by changes to their chromosomes.

Read more at: Spacedaily

Redwire Developing Key Technologies to Build Sustainable Lunar Infrastructure

The farther humans go into deep space, the more important it will be to generate products with local materials. Reducing Earth delivery requirements reduces overall mission cost and launch weight.  It also allows for the construction of infrastructure using space-based resources, a practice called in-situ resource utilization (ISRU). NASA is making long term investments to advance ISRU technology across multiple areas, including regolith-based in-space manufacturing and construction.

Lunar regolith is unconsolidated fragmented rock debris that covers almost all the Moon’s surface.  Regolith can also be found on Earth, Mars, asteroids and other rocky planets and moons.

Read more at: Parabolic arc

JAXA Plans To Collect Sample From Martian Moon

Japan’s space agency JAXA says it aims to bring back to Earth up to 10 grams of sand from the surface of a Martian moon, by a probe to be launched in 2024.

JAXA officials announced the details of the planned project during an online news conference on Thursday.

Under the project, called Martian Moons eXploration, or MMX, a probe is to land on the moon Phobos and carry surface samples back to Earth in 2029.

Read more at: NHK

Where The Sun Always Shines: Putting Solar In Space

“This is an idea that’s older than even the space program,” Caltech’s Harry Atwater told Ars over Zoom. Citing Asimov and Clarke, Atwater conjured an image of gleaming solar panels floating above the Earth on a large metal truss, all wired in to hardware that converts the current to a form suitable to beam back down to Earth. Unlimited clean power, delivered around the clock.

He then explained why the system he is working on will end up looking nothing like that vision, even if it will ultimately accomplish the same thing.

Read more at: Arstechnica

Spaceborne Computer-2 Shows Results On Space Station

After completing the first round of experiments on the International Space Station’s second-generation Spaceborne Computer, Hewlett Packard Enterprises and Microsoft executives say they are clearly demonstrating the value of processing data in orbit and funneling it into the cloud.

“We absolutely see the need for compute at the edge in space,” Mark Fernandez, HPE Spaceborne Computer-2 principal investigator, told SpaceNews. “When we can accelerate data to insight, we can accelerate the benefits to mankind.”

Four experiments focused on quantum computing, security, healthcare and life sciences have been conducted with the assistance of the Spaceborne Computer-2, which has been on the space station since February.

Read more at: Spacenews

NASA Awards $500,000 To Develop Moon-Mining Tech

NASA is doling out a big chunk of change to help make moon mining a reality. The space agency has awarded a total of $500,000 to 13 different teams via its Break the Ice Lunar Challenge, a competition designed to nurture the development of moon-mining technology. The extraction and use of lunar resources such as water ice is a key priority for NASA, which is working to establish a permanent human presence on and around the moon by the end of the decade through a program called Artemis.

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A Microwave-Powered Rocket? Drone Project Suggests It May Be Possible

Researchers in Japan are using microwaves to power free-flying drones, a project that could possibly pave the way for a new type of rocket. Currently, most rockets generate thrust by using controlled explosions of a solid or liquid fuel source, which can make up 90% of their total weight. However, new research published in the Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets demonstrates the potential of using an alternative source of fuel: microwaves.

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Planetary Scientists Find Evidence Of Solar-Driven Change On The Moon

Tiny iron nanoparticles unlike any found naturally on Earth are nearly everywhere on the Moon-and scientists are trying to understand why. A new study led by Northern Arizona University doctoral candidate Christian J. Tai Udovicic, in collaboration with associate professor Christopher Edwards, both of NAU’s Department of Astronomy and Planetary Science, uncovered important clues to help understand the surprisingly active lunar surface.

In an article recently published in Geophysical Research Letters, the scientists found that solar radiation could be a more important source of lunar iron nanoparticles than previously thought.

Read more at: Moondaily

If The Universe Is Only 14 Billion Years Old, How Can It Be 92 Billion Light Years Wide?

The age of the universe, as determined by the latest astrophysical measurements, is approximately 13.8 billion years. Meanwhile, the diameter of the universe, which is probably shaped like a sphere, is roughly 92 billion light years. So if nothing travels faster than light, how can there be such a discrepancy between time and space scales? Shouldn’t the size of the universe in light-years match its diameter precisely, and are these numbers really true?

Read more at: Technology

Why We Need Plutonium Power For Space Missions

All spacecraft need electrical power to function. Most use solar panels that harvest energy from the Sun, but this solution has its limitations. Missions exploring the distant reaches of the solar system cannot generate enough energy from the distant, dim Sun. Shadowed craters, two-week-long lunar nights, and the dusty plains of Mars also prevent dependence on solar energy for long-lived missions. We need another source of power to explore these extreme cosmic locales.

That solution is Plutonium-238 (Pu-238), a non-weapons-grade radioactive material that generates large amounts of heat. This heat is used to generate electricity for spacecraft day or night, dusty or clear, distant or not.

Read more at: Planetary


NASA’s Hopes for Infrastructure Funding Grow to $15.7 Billion

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson revealed earlier this year that he was seeking $11.5 billion as part of the infrastructure/jobs bill to pay for a second Human Landing System for the Artemis program, repairing and upgrading NASA facilities, and other needs that were not included in the agency’s FY2022 budget request. That now has grown to $15.7 billion. The likelihood of getting any or all of it is anyone’s guess.

In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-VT), three Democratic Senators put forward the case for including $15.7 billion for NASA as part of reconciliation, a budgetary process Democrats are using to provide $3.5 trillion in “human infrastructure” funding for Democratic priorities in areas such as health care, education and clean energy.

Read more at: Spacepolicy online

NASA “Pauses” HLS Contract With SpaceX

In light of Blue Origin’s lawsuit against NASA for awarding only SpaceX a contract for a lunar lander, NASA has “voluntarily paused work” with SpaceX. Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos is suing NASA in the Court of Federal Claims insisting NASA’s acquisition decision was flawed even though the Government Accountability Office rejected the company’s protest.

Blue Origin filed its lawsuit last Friday, August 13, which SpaceX since has joined as an intervenor.

Read more at: Spacepolicy online

The Space Advocate Newsletter, August 2021

Is nuclear propulsion the answer for sending humans to Mars, or just a costly diversion?

The answer depends on your point of view.

Fission nuclear power (powered by uranium, not the stately Plutonium-238 used by spacecraft since the 1960s) can enable powerful and efficient engines. These can reduce travel times and allow access to more orbital trajectories, providing value for a wide range of missions: scientific, human exploration, and national security.

Read more at: Planetary

South Korea Touts Artemis Accords As A Way To Settle International Space Issues 

From the accumulation of space junk in low Earth orbit to questions concerning the ownership of space resources, the 21st century space race is spawning a slew of issues that can cause conflict among spacefaring nations. 

South Korea’s vice foreign minister said last week that the most effective way to settle them is through an international diplomatic framework like the Artemis Accords. The vice minister expects the more intense the space race becomes, the more significant the role for diplomacy will be.

Read more at: Spacenews


Cyberspace And Outer Space Are New Frontiers For National Security, According To An Expert Report

What do cyberspace and outer space have in common? As we make clear in a new report to the Department of Defence, both are new frontiers for national security that blur traditional ideas about borders, sovereignty and defence strategy. These “areas” are important elements of Australia’s critical infrastructure and are vital to our ability to defend our nation and keep it secure. They also have a “dual use” character: both areas (and often even individual pieces of equipment) are used for both military and civilian purposes.

Read more at: Conversation

The Space Force Met Its 18-Month Deadline To Get Up And Running. Here’s What’s Next.

When Congress created the U.S. Space Force in December 2019, the Pentagon hadn’t launched a new military service since 1947. Lawmakers wanted the idea to become reality in just 18 months.

The Space Force met that deadline earlier this summer. Now, it turns from tackling the first organizational steps to the meat of becoming an effective warfighting branch.

Read more at: Airforcetimes

Anti-Satellite Weapons Push Military To Rethink Where It Puts Missile Sentinels In Space

For decades, the United States has used the same approach to detecting ballistic missiles from space: Put a handful of satellites with infrared sensors high in orbit and spread them out to achieve 24/7 coverage of the Earth’s surface.

And it’s largely worked. The Space Force tracks thousands of missiles a year, and in one high-profile case in 2020, America’s premier missile detection satellite system was credited with giving a last-minute warning to war fighters in Iraq who were able to seek shelter from incoming missiles launched from Iran.

Read more at: c4isrnet


No Pressure Suits? Bezos, Branson Spark Alarm Over Safety in Space

The billionaires who blasted into space in recent weeks did so with style. Blue Origin’s Jeff Bezos sported a cowboy hat after landing and Richard Branson wore a blue Virgin Galactic jumpsuit he’d called “sexy.” To some of the world’s leading experts in space-travel safety, something else stood out: Neither company equipped the passengers of their spacecraft with pressure suits to protect them from a rapid decompression outside Earth’s atmosphere.

Read more at: Bloomberg

GAO Report Details Rejection Of HLS Protests

The Government Accountability Office offered more details about its decision to reject protests filed by two companies of NASA’s Human Landing System (HLS) award to SpaceX. The GAO released Aug. 10 a 76-page decision denying protests filed in April by Blue Origin and Dynetics of NASA’s decision to make a single HLS award, valued at $2.9 billion, to SpaceX. The GAO announced its decision July 30 but withheld the formal decision memo until a version suitable for public release, with redactions, was available.

Read more at: Spacenews

Blue Origin Reportedly Lost A Significant Number Of Key Employees

There are significant amounts of money to be made in the commercial spaceflight program with NASA. With significant amounts of money to be made, multiple companies compete to land contracts with NASA for various missions and to place payloads into space. SpaceX seems to be the darling of NASA right now, winning more contracts and handling more missions than other competing companies. Recently, SpaceX was given the contract worth billions of dollars to place a lunar lander on the moon’s surface.

Read more at: Slashgear

Special Aerospace Services Announces Expansion Into The Cummings Research Park In Huntsville, Alabama

It was announced today that Special Aerospace Services (SAS), a tactical engineering company, is expanding and opening a production facility in the Cummings Research Park in Huntsville, Alabama.

The facility, located in the Cummings Research Park — the fourth largest research park in the world and second largest in the U.S. — is part of SAS’ expansion strategy that will expedite its strategic, tactical, manufacturing, logistics, and R&D activities. The new facility, called “The Campus,” is a 55,000 square foot federal services, research, and special activities branch. It will encompass an engineering and training space, high bay assembly, advanced manufacturing, and research bays. The eventual phased development of The Campus will encompass up to three major buildings and 50 high technology jobs.

Read more at: Spaceref

On This Day in Space! Aug. 24, 2006: Pluto Loses its Planetary Status

On Aug. 24, 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) decided that Pluto wasn’t a planet anymore. Instead, Pluto is now officially classified as a dwarf planet along with four other confirmed dwarf planets in the outskirts of the solar system.

This decision sparked outrage around the world, and the controversy is still very much alive today. Astronomers in favor of Pluto’s demotion argued that a planet by definition should have cleared its orbit around the sun.

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