N° 33–2020: Loss of Vega flight VV17: Independent Enquiry Commission announces conclusions

On Tuesday, November 17, Arianespace announced the loss of the Vega VV17 mission, which was carrying two payloads, SEOSAT-Ingenio, an Earth-science observation satellite for the European Space Agency (ESA), on behalf of Spain’s Center for Development of Industrial Technology (CDTI), and TARANIS for France’s National Centre for Space Studies (CNES). The first three stages functioned nominally until the ignition of the AVUM upper stage, eight minutes after liftoff. At that time, a degraded trajectory was detected, followed by a loss of control of the vehicle and the subsequent loss of the mission.

Read more at: ESA

NASA Will Fly Orion Deep-Space Crew Capsule ‘As Is,’ Despite Failed Component

NASA is opting to fly its future deep-space crew capsule Orion “as is” next year, after the agency discovered that one of the spacecraft’s power instruments had suffered a failure. Engineers had been mulling over whether to replace the instrument before the vehicle’s flight but ultimately decided that there was enough redundancy in the system to withstand the failed component.

“NASA has confidence in the health of the overall power and data system, which has been through thousands of hours of powered operations and testing,” the agency wrote in a blog post announcing the decision.

Read more at: Verge

Virgin Galactic Traces Spaceshiptwo Launch Abort To Bad Computer Connection

A bad computer connection foiled Virgin Galactic’s attempt to reach space over the weekend, company officials said.

VSS Unity, Virgin Galactic’s newest SpaceShipTwo vehicle, lifted off Saturday morning (Dec. 12) from New Mexico’s Spaceport America beneath the wings of its carrier airplane, VMS Eve.

Unity’s destination was suborbital space, but it didn’t get there. Eve dropped Unity at an altitude of about 50,000 feet (15,000 meters) as planned, but the space plane’s onboard rocket motor didn’t light up properly, and pilots C.J. Sturckow and Dave Mackay brought Unity down for a premature but safe landing at Spaceport America.

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First European Service Module for Artemis accepted and handed over to NASA

On 11 December the first European Service Module passed its Acceptance Review and was formally handed over to NASA, the hardware is now officially NASA property. This marks the end of 9 years of designing, building and putting all the pieces together to make the next-generation powerhouse that will propel Orion spacecraft to the Moon.

The Acceptance Review was held as teleconference with 85 people attending specifically for the first European Service Module – each module gets their own individual acceptance review.

Read more at: Airbus

China’s Chang’e 5 Capsule Lands On Earth With The 1st New Moon Samples In 44 Years

For the first time in more than four decades, humanity has brought moon rocks down to Earth.

A capsule loaded with lunar dirt and gravel landed in Inner Mongolia today (Dec. 16) at 12:59 p.m. EST (1759 GMT), capping China’s historic and whirlwind Chang’e 5 mission.

The last such moon delivery came courtesy of the Soviet Union’s Luna 24 mission, which returned about 6 ounces (170 grams) of material in 1976. Chang’e 5’s haul should be much larger — about 4.4 lbs. (2 kilograms), if all went according to plan on the lunar surface.

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Japan Space Agency Confirms Asteroid Soil Inside Capsule

Japan’s space agency said Monday it has confirmed the presence of black soil samples inside a capsule that the spacecraft Hayabusa2 brought back from a distant asteroid last week.

Read more at: ABC news

Russian ISS Cosmonauts Struggle To Find An Air Leak

Cosmonauts are considering sealing off the affected area, but worry this would impact the overall operation of the orbital station. Russia’s space agency has said it can send more oxygen to the ISS, if necessary.

The International Space Station is still losing oxygen but the situation is under control, Russian space agency Roscosmos said on Saturday, adding that the agency was ready to send an additional supply of oxygen if the problem escalates.

Read more at: DW

Russia Resumes Angara Test Flights With Third Mission

After a six-year pause, Russia has resumed flight tests of its next-generation Angara rocket with a demonstration mission from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome on Monday. The Angara-5 vehicle lifted off at 08:50 Moscow Time (05:50 UTC), carrying an inert payload bound for a near-geosynchronous orbit.

Monday’s launch marked the third flight of the Angara rocket, the second test of the heaviest configuration, Angara-5, and the type’s first flight since December 2014. The mission, which continues work to certify Angara to carry national security payloads, had already been delayed by several years due to manufacturing and quality control issues.

Read more at: NASA Spaceflight


Removing Space Debris Requires Action And Caution

Over the icy tundra of Siberia in 2009, a derelict Russian military satellite, Kosmos-2251, slammed into an active communications satellite, Iridium 33, at speeds in excess of 26,000 miles per hour. Both were immediately smashed to smithereens.

As a result of this single collision, approximately 1,800 large pieces of space debris, each capable of destroying any spacecraft unfortunate enough to cross its path, remain in orbit to this day and for the foreseeable future.

Read more at: Techcrunch

NASA Releases Best Practices Handbook to Help Improve Space Safety

NASA has released the first iteration of its Spacecraft Conjunction Assessment and Collision Avoidance Best Practices Handbook to share information on best practices for coordinating in-orbit activity in a safe and responsible manner. The agency aims for these best practices to bolster stability, reduce current and future operational risks, and contribute to a sustainable space environment for future public and private sector activities.

Emerging commercial ventures, such as satellite servicing, in-space manufacturing, and tourism, as well as new technologies enabling small satellites and large constellations of satellites, present serious challenges for safely and responsibly using space in a stable, sustainable manner. These challenges affect not only the United States, but also its allies and industry partners.

Read more at: NASA

Isro’s Inaugurates Space Object Tracking Centre

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on wednesday formally declared its SSA (Space Situation Awareness) Control Centre in Bengaluru operational.

In view of the ever growing population of space objects and the recent trend towards mega-constellations, SSA has become an integral and indispensable part of safe and sustainable space operations, ISRO said adding it has been carrying out SSA activities, mainly focused on safeguarding India’s space assets for the last few decades.

Read more at: Times of India

So ‘Asteroid’ 2020 SO Was Actually 1960s Space Junk. It May Be The First Of Many To Come.

The detective story of 2020 SO, an erstwhile asteroid now formally identified as a 54-year-old piece of space junk, sounds like a wild yarn today but may become the first installment in a long series of such puzzles.

The object dubbed 2020 SO was spotted in September by an asteroid survey, but there was always something a little fishy about the space rock. One NASA expert theorized simply from its orbit that it was likely an upper-stage rocket body from the 1966 launch of a lunar mission called Surveyor 2.

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Space Junk

Outer space is crowded. Satellites, pieces of rocket, and stuff that astronauts left behind, such as cameras and poop, are just floating around. This space junk can pose a threat to our communication systems.

In this episode we talk with Lisa Ruth Rand, a fellow at the Science History Institute, about her upcoming book on space junk. She tells us how space weather—that’s right, there’s space weather—can have an effect on what falls on Earth. She also talks about how our views on space debris reveal our attitudes back on Earth and how space junk truly made the space age global.

Read more at: Science history

Maverick Astrophysicist Calls For Unusually Intense Solar Cycle, Straying From Consensus View

When the chips are down and a big storm is brewing on Earth, odds are that forecasters are predicting close to the same thing. But when it comes to space weather and storms that flare up on the surface of the sun, that’s not always the case. The sun has begun a new 11-year cycle, and scientists have very different ideas on just how much energy will be available to fuel its eruptions.

The consensus view of an international panel of 12 scientists calls for the new cycle, Solar Cycle 25, to be small to average, much like its predecessor, Solar Cycle 24.

Read more at: Washington post


Three Companies Win NASA Small Launch Contracts

Three small launch vehicle developers won a combined $16.7 million in NASA contracts as part of an effort to support the development of new launch vehicles.

Astra Space, Firefly Aerospace and Relativity Space won the contracts through NASA’s Venture Class Launch Services (VCLS) 2 program, the agency announced Dec. 11. The companies will launch cubesats provided by NASA on those missions, with launches required by the end of June 2022.

Read more at: spacenews

Blue Origin’s New Glenn Added to NASA launch contract

NASA has added New Glenn, the large launch vehicle under development by Blue Origin, to the list of vehicles eligible to compete for future agency missions.

NASA announced Dec. 16 it awarded a launch services contract to Blue Origin, adding New Glenn to its NASA Launch Services (NLS) 2 contract vehicle as part of an annual “on-ramp” process. NASA uses the NLS 2 contract to purchase launches for spacecraft missions.

Read more at: Spacenews

Astra Narrowly Misses Reaching Orbit On Second Launch

Small launch vehicle developer Astra Space fell just short of reaching orbit on its second launch attempt Dec. 15, but the company is “beyond ecstatic” with the performance of the rocket.

Astra’s Rocket 3.2 vehicle lifted off from Pacific Spaceport Complex – Alaska at 3:55 p.m. Eastern. The company did not provide a live webcast of the launch but instead offered a series of updates via Twitter as the vehicle made it through its initial phases of flight, including main engine cutoff, stage separation and passing the Karman Line, the 100-kilometer altitude commonly used as the demarcation of space.

Read more at: Spacenews


What Does Space Do To The Human Body? 29 Studies Investigate The Effects Of Exploration

Astronauts endure radiation, weightlessness, isolation and a number of other physical and mental stresses of spaceflight. So what do these hazards actually do to their bodies? 


A collection of 29 papers,19 of which were published Nov. 25, has advanced our knowledge of how spaceflight affects the human body farther than ever before. This work stems from the NASA “Twins Study,” which followed NASA astronaut Scott Kelly’s year-long mission in space on board the International Space Station while his twin brother Mark Kelly, a retired NASA astronaut, served as a control back on Earth. 

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Why Space Radiation Matters

Outside the protective cocoon of the Earth’s atmosphere is a universe full of radiation – it is all around us. Say the word “radiation” to three different people, and you’ll probably get three different reactions. Your aunt may tell you how radiation destroyed her cancer. Your neighbor might mention the “duck and cover” procedures of his day. And your comics-loving friend will explain how gamma rays turned Bruce Banner into The Hulk. Radiation comes in many forms and is all around us, all the time. But what is radiation?

Radiation is a form of energy that is emitted in the form of rays, electromagnetic waves, and/or particles. In some cases, radiation can be seen (visible light) or felt (infrared radiation), while other forms—like x-rays and gamma rays—are not visible and can only be observed with special equipment.

Read more at: NASA

Deceleration of Interstellar Spacecraft Utilizing Antimatter

Antimatter-based propulsion and power has emerged as a leading technology capable of enabling science missions to the exoplanet Proxima b. In stark contrast to other mission proposals involving beamed energy, this mission assumes prompt and continuous science return during the entire voyage, deceleration at Proxima Centauri, and decades-long exploration and scientific data return. Scientific data from Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud object weekly flybys are anticipated starting within a few years of launch.

Read more at: NASA

SPEAR Probe – An Ultra Lightweight Nuclear Electric Propulsion Probe for Deep Space Exploration

Nuclear electric propulsion (NEP) systems have the potential to provide a very effective transit mechanism to celestial bodies outside of the realm of solar power, yet the heavy power source and massive radiators required to justify a reactor core often push NEP spacecraft towards very large masses and major missions. If the total mass of an NEP system could be reduced to levels that were able to be launched on smaller vehicles, these devices could deliver scientific payloads to anywhere in the solar system. One major destination of recent importance is Europa, one of the moons of Jupiter, which may contain traces of extraterrestrial life deep beneath the surface of its icy crust.

Read more at: NASA


Memorandum on the National Strategy for Space Nuclear Power and Propulsion (Space Policy Directive-6)

National Strategy for Space Nuclear Power
and Propulsion

Section 1. Policy. The ability to use space nuclear power and propulsion (SNPP) systems safely, securely, and sustainably is vital to maintaining and advancing United States dominance and strategic leadership in space. SNPP systems include radioisotope power systems (RPSs) and fission reactors used for power or propulsion in spacecraft, rovers, and other surface elements. SNPP systems can allow operation of such elements in environments in which solar and chemical power are inadequate. They can produce more power at lower mass and volume compared to other energy sources, thereby enabling persistent presence and operations. SNPP systems also can shorten transit times for crewed and robotic spacecraft, thereby reducing radiation exposure in harsh space environments.

Read more at: Whitehouse

Legal Standards Of Space Tourism: Clarifying The Status Of Space Tourists As Astronauts

Space tourism may as well be rocket science. This article recognize the inherent complexities and limitations of commercial space travel as well as the contemporary interest of civilians in exploring outer space for recreational purposes. It interrogate the laws vis-a-vis imperative measures needed to regulate orbital, suborbital and lunar flights which are the basic types of space tourism. This article further juxtaposes and analyzes the status of space tourists as well as the disparities in affiliating space tourists as astronauts and envoys of mankind within the meaning of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty (OST).

Read more at: Spacelegal issues

Intellectual Property Aboard the International Space Station

Let us have a look for this new space law article at intellectual property aboard the International Space Station (ISS). We cannot ignore today the more than preponderant place of new technologies in our society. Even more, we speak of digital life and especially with regard to space and satellite technologies, ultimately essential to our era. These technologies have over the years enabled new scientific discoveries, new commercial products and services, new inventions.

So, who says inventions, necessarily says intellectual property right. Indeed, space technology is ultimately nothing other than intellectual creations, thus raising the question of property and this, even more since the proliferation of private and commercial space activities in a legal framework both national and international.

Read more at: Space legal issues

What You May Have Missed In The New National Space Policy

Last week, the Trump administration released itsNational Space Policy, capping off what has been a revolutionary and comprehensive government-wide effort to refocus America on the stars. This effort has been so complete that it is fair to say that there has not been a similarly dedicated effort in government since the Kennedy administration and the original moon-shot. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), led by AdministratorJim Bridenstine and the reinvigorated National Space Council within the Executive Office of the President, led byScott Pace (under thedirect supervision of Vice President Mike Pence) should be commended for their vision, advocacy, and effort to bring American space policy into the 21st century.

Read more at: brookings

NASA, UN Sign Memorandum of Understanding on Peaceful Uses of Space

NASA and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) pledging cooperation in areas of science and technology to support the peaceful use of outer space.

The MOU, signed Thursday, Dec. 17, brings together NASA’s wealth of publicly available Earth observation data and dynamic exploration opportunities with UNOOSA’s unique position as the only U.N. entity dedicated to outer space affairs.

“From suborbital flights, to the International Space Station, to the Moon, Mars, and beyond, our scientific and exploration activities represent a singular opportunity for the advancement of human knowledge and international partnerships,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

Read more at: NASA

Making a Point with Moon Rocks

NASA is paying for moon rocks. In September, America’s civil space agency announced its intention to purchase lunar regolith. On December 3, NASA said it was buying from four companies, two from the United States and two international. The price for the moon-rock contracts? As high as $15,000, and as low as $1! Not exactly an extraterrestrial gold rush, but for those looking for pro-commerce space policy, it’s a welcome step.

Intriguingly, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine affirmed that these were “in-place” transfers of ownership. The companies don’t actually have to bring the materials back to earth.

Read more at: National review


Space Force Commander Explains How The New Military Service Operates Like A Startup

The latest branch of the U.S. military was founded just a year ago and will celebrate its first birthday on December 20. General John W. “Jay” Raymond spoke at TC Sessions: Space and explained how the youngest military branch operates like a startup.

“In some ways, we’re a startup as well,” Gen. Raymond said. “The National Defense Authorization Act provided us a great opportunity. And that’s to be bold, think differently, start with a clean sheet of paper and build processes that work for us as needed to operate in the domain we’re responsible for.”

Read more at: Techcrunch

What’s With All The US Space-Related Agencies?

For centuries, the U.S. military has fought wars on land and sea. For that, America has the Army, the Navy and the Marine Corps. Then, in 1909, the U.S. Army bought America’s first military aircraft with a $30,000 contract awarded to the Wright brothers. Less than four decades later, in 1947, the U.S. military gave birth to the U.S. Air Force to operate in the air domain.

Now, the Defense Department sees another domain beyond land, sea and air: space. To fight and win in that domain, the DOD created the U.S. Space Force, a new service, in December 2019.

Read more at: Spacewar


World’s Space Achievements A Bright Spot In Stressful 2020

This year was a big one for space and next year promises more achievements. 2020 had astronauts blasting into orbit from the U.S. again, and three countries sending spacecraft hurtling toward Mars. Those orbiters and landers will be arriving at the red planet in February. Next year, Boeing hopes to catch up with SpaceX in launching NASA astronauts. Space tourism may finally get off the ground. There’s also the planned launch of the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope in the fall. And NASA is still targeting November for the debut of its new moon rocket.

Read more at: ktiv

ESA Council Appoints Josef Aschbacher As Next ESA Director General

Today, the ESA Council appointed Dr Josef Aschbacher as the next Director General of ESA, for a period of four years. He will succeed Prof. Jan Wörner, whose term of office ends on 30 June 2021.

Dr Aschbacher is currently ESA Director of Earth Observation Programmes and Head of ESRIN, ESA’s centre for Earth Observation near Rome.

Read more at: ESA

Lost in Space

We may have much different opinions but it is an op-ed worth reading

During the mid-1980s, Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, delivered a talk at my campus. After his presentation, Roddenberry fielded questions from the audience. One of the students asked him about the future of manned space travel. Roddenberry replied that the idea just did not make sense to him. Space exploration, he explained, is a job for machines, not humans. You could have heard the boos from the sold-out auditorium on Ceti Alpha V.1 Coming from the creator of Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, Lieutenant Uhura, and Mr. Sulu, this response felt like a betrayal. After all, few people in recent decades have made the notion of space exploration seem quite so appealing. Yet his candid assessment of the prospects for manned spaceflight has proven to be entirely accurate. Roddenberry was right. It simply does not make sense.

Read more at: inference-review

NASA Names W. Russ DeLoach as Chief of Safety and Mission Assurance

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has selected W. Russ DeLoach to be the agency’s next chief of safety and mission assurance (SMA). DeLoach will transition into the role beginning Friday, Jan. 1, as his predecessor, Terrence W. Wilcutt, retires after serving NASA for more than 30 years.

“Russ truly understands NASA’s safety environment and protocols,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “His leadership will ensure NASA continues its safety first ideology across the entire agency.”

Read more at: NASA