Do Space Tourists Really Understand The Risk They’re Taking?

Space tourism vehicles just might be the only transportation technology out there with the potential to kill humans that doesn’t need to undergo independent safety certification. For now, aspiring space travelers seem okay with that, but is the fledgling industry playing a dangerous game?

The four private astronauts of SpaceX’s Inspiration4 mission — the first-ever all-civilian flight to orbit — seemed relaxed a day before their Sept. 15 launch as they pondered the prospect of blasting off into nothingness sealed inside a space capsule, atop a rocket filled with explosive fuel.

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Panel: Orbital Debris Problem Is A Lot Like Trying To Fix Climate Change

A study just completed by NASA looked at what new roles the space agency — and the U.S. government more broadly — should play in mitigating the growth of orbital debris and promoting space sustainability. “And it is absolutely a complicated issue,” Bhavya Lal, senior advisor for budget and finance at NASA, said Sept. 28.

Speaking on a panel at the Space Sector Market Conference in Cambridge, Mass., Lal compared the debris challenge to the debate over how to address climate change.

“There’s international dimensions, regulatory dimensions, commercial dimensions,” she said.

Read more at: Spacenews


Virgin Galactic Cleared To Resume Space Flights

Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic company has been cleared to resume flights of its space plane, Unity. The vehicle was grounded while the US Federal Aviation Administration carried out an investigation into the mission that took the British entrepreneur above the atmosphere in July. Unity briefly stepped outside the airspace that had been reserved for it. The FAA says Virgin Galactic “has made the required changes” to its operations and can now return to flight.

Read more at: BBC

Starship Ship 20 Undergoes Cryogenic Proof Testing At Starbase

SpaceX’s Starship prototype Ship 20 underwent cryogenic proof testing, one of many tests and steps needed before the company can fly its first orbital Starship mission. Late in the evening Sept. 29, 2021, at SpaceX’s Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas, Ship 20 was loaded with super-cold liquid nitrogen in order to simulate the pressures and temperatures of its liquid oxygen and liquid methane propellants.

“Proof was good!” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted shortly after the conclusion of the test. Detanking of the 165-foot-tall (50-meter-tall) Ship 20 took place just before midnight.

Read more at: Spaceflight Insider


Mitigating Lunar Dust: Masten Completes FAST Landing Pad Study

Landing on the Moon (and staying on the Moon) is no easy task. The lunar surface has limited sunlight, extremely cold temperatures, and lots and lots of dust (a.k.a. lunar regolith). But the good news is, Masten is up for the challenge!

We’re building the technologies and infrastructure to enable sustainable access and utilization of our solar system, starting with the Moon. Our goal is to accelerate ecosystems on the Moon, Mars, and beyond to unlock the value in space for humans on Earth.

Read more at: Masten

Ariane 6 Launch Complex Inaugurated At Europe’s Spaceport

With this, ESA celebrates another important milestone in the Ariane 6 roadmap as it forges ahead with combined tests between launch vehicle and launch base and preparations towards the first launch campaign.

Clearly visible from space, the facilities feature remarkable complex structures above and below ground specially designed to support Ariane 6 launches into the next decade. It is the proud achievement of the French space agency, CNES – prime contractor to ESA for the development of the launch base, and its European industry partners.

Read more at: ESA

After Years Of Futility, NASA Turns To Private Sector For Spacesuit Help

This week NASA’s Johnson Space Center issued a call to industry for new spacesuits. The space agency’s existing suits are decades old, and new ones are needed both for the International Space Station as well as Artemis missions to the lunar surface later this decade.

“Our undertakings in low-Earth orbit, at the Moon and beyond have evolved and are calling for innovative technology,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy. “The next astronauts on the Moon—including the first woman—will be kept safe in revolutionary spacesuits that fit better and enable greater human exploration than ever before.”

Read more at: Arstechnica

3D-Printed Rocket Engines: The Technology Driving The Private Sector Space Race

The volatile nature of space rocket engines means that many early prototypes end up embedded in dirt banks or decorating the tops of any trees that are unfortunate enough to neighbour testing sites. Unintended explosions are in fact so common that rocket scientists have come up with a euphemism for when it happens: rapid unscheduled disassembly, or RUD for short.

Every time a rocket engine blows up, the source of the failure needs to be found so that it can be fixed. A new and improved engine is then designed, manufactured, shipped to the test site and fired, and the cycle begins again – until the only disassembly taking place is of the slow, scheduled kind.

Read more at: Conversation


British Government Releases National Space Strategy

The British government released a highly anticipated space strategy Sept. 27 that outlines its plans to turn the country into a major global space power, but does away with a key metric it had been using to measure its progress.

The National Space Strategy sets five general goals for the United Kingdom in space, including growing its space economy, promoting its values of a “open and stable international order” in space, supporting research and innovation, defending national interests and using space for national and global challenges like climate change.

Read more at: Spacenews

After Technical Demonstrations, Satellite Servicing Grapples Other Issues

With the technical feasibility of satellite servicing now being demonstrated, companies and other organizations in the field are now grappling with other issues, from legal and regulatory challenges to the development of standards.

SpaceLogistics, a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman, docked its first two Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV) spacecraft to Intelsat satellites, most recently in April. Both are enabling those aging geostationary communications satellites to continue operations for up to five more years each.

Read more at: Spacenews

Space Policy Is Finally Moving Into The 21st Century

There’s never been more happening in space than there is today. Commercial activity has exploded over the past five years as private space companies have launched rockets, put satellites into orbit, and bid on missions to the moon. But some experts worry this surge of activity is getting too far ahead of international agreements governing who can do what in space. Most such policies were written and adopted long before the commercial space sector heated up. Now, countries are realizing that they need to update those agreements. This week, the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research held its annual Outer Space Security Conference in Geneva, Switzerland (participants had the option to attend virtually or in person). For two days, diplomats, researchers, and military officials from around the world met to discuss threats and challenges, arms control, and space security. Their conversations provided a window into what new space policies might look like.

Read more at: Technology review

China Urges US To Join Talks On Preventing Arms Race In Outer Space

The United States has been urged to join China and Russia for talks on banning weapons in outer space.

In a speech to a United Nations conference in Geneva on Tuesday, Li Song, China’s ambassador for disarmament affairs, urged the US to stop being a “stumbling block”.

“After the end of the Cold War, and especially in the past two decades, the US has tried its best to get rid of its international obligations, refused to be bound by new treaties and long resisted multilateral negotiations on PAROS [the 1967 UN resolution on the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space],” Li said.

Read more at: SCMP


U.S. Space Command Official Calls For Public-Private Effort To Avert War In Space

The United States needs better capabilities to monitor adversaries’ activities in space and to quickly deploy satellite constellations that can survive in an armed conflict, said Maj. Gen. David Miller. director of operations, training and force development at U.S. Space Command.

The military is counting on the space industry to deliver these capabilities fast, Miller said Sept. 29 at the Space Sector Market Conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

A stronger U.S. posture in space will help deter adversaries from attacking U.S. satellites, he said.

Read more at: Spacenews

S. Korean Air Force Opens Space Center To Bolster Space Strategy

South Korea’s Air Force held an opening ceremony on Wednesday that marked the beginning of operations at a space center within Air Force headquarters.

The space center, which reports directly to the ROK Air Force Chief of Staff, was established to devise and implement space policy. Another responsibility is to coordinate exchange and cooperation between higher agencies, including the Ministry of National Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other organizations, including the Korea Aerospace Research Institute and the Korean Astronomy and Space Science Institute, so as to develop Korea’s capabilities in space.

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Tomorrow.Io Wins Air Force Funding For Weather Satellite Constellation won a $19.3 million contract from the U.S. Air Force to support its planned constellation of approximately 32 weather satellites.

The Air Force issued the contract for’s constellation of radar-equipped weather satellites through its AFVentures Strategic Funding Increase program, which is focused on large-scale, strategic capabilities in support of Department of Defense missions.

Boston-based, which calls itself a meteorological intelligence company, plans to provide weather and ocean observations, including detailed global coverage of precipitation as a service to government agencies around the world.

Read more at: Spacenews


From Poo Politics To Rubbish Disposal: 5 Big Questions About The International Space Station Becoming A Movie Set

On October 5, an unusual crew will fly to the International Space Station. Director Klim Shipenko and actor Yulia Peresild will spend a week and a half on the station shooting scenes for the Russian movie Challenge. Peresild plays a surgeon who must conduct a heart operation on a sick cosmonaut. This is an exciting — if controversial — development for the station, which orbits around 400 km above Earth. Commercial use of its facilities could be a funding avenue to keep it in orbit. A Japanese documentary and an American movie, starring Tom Cruise, are also in the works.

Read more at: Conversation

The US Cooperates With Russia in Space. Why Not China?

In the most recent continuation of a rare success story of cooperation between the United States and Russia, Washington recently extended its agreement on cooperation in space with Moscow, which has survived deteriorating relations on Earth, until September 2030.

In 1975, two space modules, one American, the other Soviet, docked in the first international manned mission to space, Apollo-Soyuz. At the time, it seemed like an isolated example of rapprochement in space, but it set the stage for future cooperation.

Read more at: Diplomat

Is Space Tourism Ethical?

The private spaceflight for four tourists, commanded by billionaire Jared Isaacman on September 15, has renewed questions about the legitimacy of such trips. In this case, the flight really was for tourists, especially if compared to the space missions of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and business magnate Richard Branson. But the questions remain the same. Not from a legal point of view – everyone has the right to spend their money on whatever they want – but rather from an ethical perspective.

In recent days, criticism of this type of activity has multiplied. The most common argument is that it is a waste of money that could have been used to address more imperative needs. It’s been a recurring criticism since the first spaceflights, particularly, of missions to the Moon. Why is this money being wasted outside of Earth, when there are so many needs on our planet?

Read more at: Elpais