Starship Could Have A Big Impact On Small Launch Vehicles

A large launch vehicle could end up having a big effect on the small launch vehicle market through low prices and encouraging customers to build larger satellites.

The emergence of SpaceX’s Starship vehicle, which is designed to place 100 metric tons or more into low Earth orbit, has captured the attention of companies developing vehicles that can place one metric ton or less into orbit because of Starship’s potential to further reshape a market already affected by the company’s Falcon 9.

Read more at: spacenews


Astronomers And Megaconstellations Learn To Get Along

The last time Patricia Cooper attended a meeting of the American Astronomical Society, she wasn’t sure what she was getting into.

It was January 2020 and Cooper, at the time a vice president at SpaceX, had agreed to represent the company on a panel discussion at the conference on the interference satellite constellations could create for astronomers.

That discussion was prompted by SpaceX’s first launch of 60 Starlink satellites a little more than six months earlier, widely visible in the night sky and alarming astronomers, who feared what tens of thousands of such satellites would do to their observations. “The term I kept hearing was ‘into the lion’s den,’” she recalled of preparations for the panel.

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‘Severe’ Geomagnetic Storm Conditions Impacting Earth, NOAA Says: What To Know

A major geomagnetic storm is impacting Earth, the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) said Sunday afternoon. The U.S., however, may not see the aurora commonly associated with such celestial events.

Saturday, the SWPC issued geomagnetic storm watches through Monday as a coronal mass ejection was on track to impact Earth. At the time, the agency said the geomagnetic storms could reach G2 “moderate” and G3 “strong” strength.

Read more at: Hill

NASA Finds Doomed Asteroid That Exploded In Mars Atmosphere

Mars is a desolate, irradiated, lifeless, windswept land. But it’s also the site of dramatic activity, as space rocks pummel the Martian surface. Asteroids or chunks of comets often scar Mars’ desert, in part because the Red Planet orbits near our solar system’s asteroid belt, a region teeming with millions of asteroids. And when they do collide with Mars, the Martian atmosphere is just one percent the density of Earth’s, meaning these space rocks are less likely to heat up and disintegrate.

Read more at: mashable


Satellite Manufacturers Defend Diminished GEO Market

Manufacturers of traditional geostationary communications satellites insist demand for their products is not going away thanks to technological advances and interest in multi-orbit solutions.

During a panel at the Satellite 2024 conference here March 18, executives with several manufacturers acknowledged demand for their satellites had dropped significantly from historical levels of 20 to 25 orders a year but that the market itself was not dying.

“GEO’s not dead,” said Chris Johnson, chief executive of Maxar Space Systems. “By no means is it dead, but it has evolved.”

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SpaceX Is Poised To Make Rocket Launches 10 Times Cheaper With Starship, Experts Say

SpaceX’s Starship launch on Thursday didn’t only look cool. It may have marked a major turning point for the space industry.Elon Musk’s enormous mega-rocket, which didn’t carry a payload or people, did not survive the landing on Thursday. But it did cruise through space and plummet back through Earth’s atmosphere before exploding, a watershed moment for SpaceX, 22 years to the day after it was founded.The rapid progress of the Starship-Super Heavy launch system’s development offers high hopes the 400-foot-tall behemoth will be fully functional — and fully reusable — very soon.

Read more at: Yahoo

Orbit Fab Reveals Price Tag For Its Satellite Refueling Ports

Orbit Fab, a startup developing infrastructure to refuel satellites in space, said its docking mechanism for transferring propellant has been qualified for flight after completing a battery of tests to simulate harsh conditions in orbit.

The company announced March 19 that its RAFTI satellite refueling port has passed qualification tests assessing its ability to withstand extreme temperatures, vibrations and radiation exposure encountered in space environments.

RAFTI, short for Rapidly Attachable Fluid Transfer Interface, is a docking interface that allows satellites to receive propellant from external sources while on the ground or in orbit.

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Astrobotic Readies Next Lunar Lander Following Failed Peregrine Moon Mission

Despite the failure of the first U.S. commercial lunar lander to ever operate in space, Astrobotic Technology is pressing forward on its next moon mission, still on the calendar for launch before year’s end. The build-up of hardware for the Astrobotic Griffin Mission One lander is now on view at the Pittsburgh-based private firm can be watched from the adjoining Moonshot Museum. The upcoming moon lander, known as Griffin is the largest lunar lander since the Apollo lunar module.

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Intelsat Expands OneWeb LEO Partnership

Geostationary satellite operator Intelsat has bought at least five times more capacity from Eutelsat’s OneWeb low Earth orbit (LEO) constellation to strengthen its multi-orbit broadband strategy.

The companies announced March 19 that Intelsat has made a firm commitment to buy $250 million worth of LEO capacity over six years starting mid-2024. Intelsat also has the option to acquire an extra $250 million worth of capacity under their deal, which would extend the length of the contract by a year to 2031.

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Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin Passes 4 Key Milestones For Its $172 Million NASA Contract To Build A New Space Station

The International Space Station won’t be around forever, and NASA is pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into its potential replacements. One promising candidate is Orbital Reef — a joint venture between Jeff Bezos’s space company Blue Origin and Sierra Space. On Wednesday, NASA reported that Orbital Reef passed four key milestones for some of its most crucial technology, including a system to recycle future astronauts’ and tourists’ urine.

Read more at: business insider

The US Government Seems Serious About Developing A Lunar Economy

For the first time ever, the United States is getting serious about fostering an economy on the Moon.

NASA, of course, is in the midst of developing the Artemis program to return humans to the Moon. As part of this initiative, NASA seeks to foster a lunar economy in which the space agency is not the sole customer.

That’s easier said than done. A whole host of conditions must be met for a lunar economy to thrive. There must be something there that can be sold, be it resources, a unique environment for scientific research, low-gravity manufacturing, tourism, or another source of value. Reliable transportation to the Moon must be available. And there needs to be a host of services, such as power and communications for machines and people on the lunar surface. So yeah, it’s a lot.

Read more at: Arstechnica

Permanently shadowed craters at the lunar poles are an area of interest for the resources they might harbor.


Russia And China Are Planning On Building A Nuclear Reactor On The Moon

In 2021, the Chinese and Russian space agencies signed a joint agreement to build a research base on the Moon. In a new announcement, the space agencies say they are hoping to build an automated nuclear reactor on the lunar surface to power the International Lunar Research Station by 2035.

You may have noticed that no human has set foot on the Moon since Apollo 17 left in December 1972. Plenty of uncrewed missions have been sent to the Moon in the last few years, with varying degrees of success, but it will still be some time before humans are once again bouncing around on everyone’s favorite satellite. Though China is planning on landing a human on the Moon by 2030, and Russia by 2031, the two space agencies are considering placing the reactor without human involvement.

Read more at: IFLscience

Bad News For Life On Mars? Red Planet’s Wet Epoch May Have Been Shorter Than We Thought

Mars may be dry and barren today, but multiple lines of evidence show that water flowed across the Red Planet billions of years ago.Now, new research has suggested that this water may have existed at the surface of Mars for less time than previously thought. That’s because gullies observed on Mars by spacecraft like NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), which had previously been thought to have been carved out by the flow of water, could have instead been created by explosively evaporating carbon dioxide ice.

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James Webb Telescope Confirms There Is Something Seriously Wrong With Our Understanding Of The Universe

Astronomers have used the James Webb and Hubble space telescopes to confirm one of the most troubling conundrums in all of physics — that the universe appears to be expanding at bafflingly different speeds depending on where we look.

This problem, known as the Hubble Tension, has the potential to alter or even upend cosmology altogether. In 2019, measurements by the Hubble Space Telescope confirmed the puzzle was real; in 2023, even more precise measurements from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) cemented the discrepancy.

Read more at: livescience

‘Potentially Hazardous’ Asteroid Bennu Contains The Building Blocks Of Life And Minerals Unseen On Earth, Scientists Reveal In 1st Comprehensive Analysis

Nearly four years after NASA’s OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft collected a sample from an asteroid, scientists are finally revealing the intriguing composition of the space rock.

Among them, the near-Earth asteroid, known as Bennu, contains a surprising reservoir of a mineral called magnesium phosphate. These bright-white particles sprinkled in a sea of Bennu’s dark rocks is a rare find in astromaterials, scientists say.

“It’s no surprise that we initially thought this might be a contaminant,” said Jessica Barnes, an assistant professor at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (LPL) who’s leading the phosphate analysis in the returned sample.

Read more at: livescience

A close-up of NASA's OSIRIS-REx sample trays, containing dust and rubble plundered from asteroid Bennu.


US And Japan Push For Ban On Nuclear Weapons In Space With UN Security Council Resolution

The US and Japan are sponsoring a UN security council resolution calling on all nations not to deploy or develop nuclear weapons in space, the US ambassador has announced.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield told a UN security council meeting that “any placement of nuclear weapons into orbit around the Earth would be unprecedented, dangerous, and unacceptable.”

The announcement follows confirmation from the White House last month that Russia has obtained a “troubling” anti-satellite weapon capability, although such a weapon is not operational yet.

Read more at: Guardian

EU Agrees US Deal To Launch Satellites With Elon Musk’s SpaceX

The European Union on Tuesday signed off on the terms of a security deal with the United States that will allow it to pay Elon Musk’s SpaceX to launch its satellites.

The agreement is needed because of lengthy delays to the next generation of Europe’s own Ariane rocket system.

Two diplomats told POLITICO that a deal allowing EU and European Space Agency (ESA) staff constant access to the launchpad and the first right to retrieve and store debris in the U.S. should the SpaceX rocket fail was approved Tuesday by national general affairs ministers.

Read more at: Politico

Space Tourists And Crew Suffer High Radiation Risks – Regulation Is Needed To Protect Them

In a decade or two, journeys into space could become as normal as transatlantic flights. In particular, the number of humans travelling into space with the help of commercial companies, such as Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, will increase significantly.

But such travel comes with huge radiation risks. Sudden changes in space weather, such as solar flares, for example, could have significant health implications for crew and passengers. Now our recent paper, from the University of Surrey, Foot Anstey LLP Space and Satellite Team, has found that current legislation and regulation don’t do enough to protect space tourists and crew.

Read more at: Conversation

FCC Approves Direct-To-Smartphone Regulatory Framework

U.S. regulators have approved ground rules for allowing SpaceX and other satellite operators to use radio waves from terrestrial mobile partners to keep smartphone users connected outside cell tower coverage.

The Federal Communications Commission voted March 14 unanimously in favor of its Supplemental Coverage from Space (SCS) regulatory framework.

SCS providers would operate as a secondary service to companies providing Mobile Satellite Services (MSS) with conventional frequencies already approved for use from space.

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The Future Of The Space Force Isn’t On Earth — It’s In The Solar System

At the ripe age of five, it is clear that the United States Space Force, while dominated by old thinking, still doesn’t know what it wants to be when it grows up, and is split among multiple different areas of focus. The challenge is that it has to grow up fast.

It seems the Force’s leadership are of three minds: those who look down, focusing on ground operations, those who look around at orbital space and those who look up and out.

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China’s Military Is Taking A Strategic Approach To On-Orbit Refueling

The People’s Liberation Army is working comprehensively on the technology and training tools for on-orbit satellite refueling for both peacetime and wartime scenarios.

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is already integrating lessons learned into military doctrine and training tools, while a defense contractor has already demonstrated what it calls a space fuel tanker in geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO), according to a report published by the China Aerospace Studies Institute (CASI) March 18.

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PLA On-Orbit Satellite Logistics

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is preparing its satellite operators to perform on-orbit satellite refueling, for peacetime and wartime space logistics. They are also already integrating lessons learned into corresponding military doctrine and training tools. To further ready a PLA in-space logistics force, a Chinese defense contractor has indicated, for the last six years, that it has a mission ready satellite refueler for geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO). With more clarity on the PLA’s requirements for satellite logistics, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has approved new commercial players to enter the field to provide, not only technology, but also frameworks to shape international norms. These developments have largely gone unnoticed, perhaps because of an overemphasis on a low probability satellite grappling event.

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Orbit Fab Ships First Satellite Refueling Ports To Space Force

Orbit Fab, a company developing in-space depots to refuel satellites, said this week its fuel interface has completed flight qualification and is ready to ship to customers, including the Space Force.

The Colorado-based firm’s Rapidly Attachable Fuel Transfer Interface, or RAFTI, is designed to be installed on satellites to allow them to receive propellant either in space or on the ground before launch.

Read more at: c4isrnet


Accelerating Starship

When Starship lifted off Thursday morning from SpaceX’s launch site at Boca Chica, Texas, the one question on most people’s minds was this: how far would it get this time? Its first flight, nearly 11 months earlier, ended four minutes after liftoff when the tumbling Starship/Super Heavy stack was detonated by a flight termination system; the liftoff had, in the process, made a mess of the pad because of the lack of a water deluge system (see “Grading on a suborbital curve”, The Space Review, April 24, 2023).

Read more at: spacereview

DARPA Picks Northrop Grumman to Develop ‘lunar raiload’ Concept

Railroads could open the moon to serious and sustained economic development, as they did in the American West in the late 19th century.That’s apparently the hope of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which is supporting the development of a “lunar railroad” concept proposed by aerospace giant Northrop Grumman.”The envisioned lunar railroad network could transport humans, supplies and resources for commercial ventures across the lunar surface, contributing to a space economy for the United States and international partners,” Northrop Grumman representatives wrote in a press statement on Tuesday (March 19).

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China Launches Queqiao-2 Relay Satellite To Support Moon Missions

China launched its Queqiao-2 relay satellite Tuesday to support upcoming lunar far side and south polar missions.

A Long March 8 rocket lifted off from Wenchang Satellite Launch Center at 8:31 p.m. Eastern, March 19 (0031 UTC March 20). The China National Space Administration (CNSA) confirmed the Queqiao-2 satellite was on a trajectory towards the moon around 40 minutes after launch.

CNSA stated Queqiao-2 had deployed its solar arrays and was in its predetermined orbit with a perigee of 200 kilometers and an apogee of 420,000 kilometers.

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AT&T Underlines Support For Realizing Direct-To-Smartphone Satellite Service

AT&T is prepared to provide more funds to help get AST SpaceMobile’s direct-to-smartphone constellation plans off the ground.

AST SpaceMobile raised $155 million from AT&T and other investors in January, but the satellite operator needs more capital to provide 5G connectivity globally from low Earth orbit to phones and other devices outside cell tower coverage.

While AT&T is a conservative company that does not generally provide venture funding, Chris Sambar, head of network for the U.S. telecoms giant, said March 20 its investment in AST SpaceMobile is unlikely to be its last.

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The Stages For The Inaugural Ariane 6 Flight Currently Being Assembled

The main stage and the upper stage for the inaugural Ariane 6 flight are currently in the central core final assembly line in the Launcher Assembly Building (BAL) at the ELA4 launch complex. The central core is made up of the main stage and the upper stage, assembled together with an inter-stage interface structure. Once assembled, the central core will then be transferred from the BAL to the launch pad.

On the launch pad, the central core will be raised to the vertical position and placed on the launch table. The two boosters will then be added, one on each side, to form an Ariane 62. Finally, the upper composite consisting of the fairing and the payloads will then be added to the launcher on the launch pad.

Read more at: ariane group

The central core for the inaugural Ariane 6 flight currently being assembled