Private Space-Junk Probe To Conduct Up-Close Inspection Of Spent Rocket Stage

A space-junk removal satellite launched for Japanese company Astroscale has completed rendezvous maneuvers with its target and is commencing a proximity operations phase in which it will approach the other spacecraft.

The Active Debris Removal by Astroscale-Japan (ADRAS-J) satellite launched on a Rocket Lab Electron rocket on Feb. 18. It aims to get up close and analyze a Japanese H-2A rocket upper stage that launched the GOSAT Earth observation satellite in 2009, and in doing so, test technologies and operations for approaching and monitoring debris objects

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NASA Satellite’s ‘Shocking’ Space Junk Near-Miss Was Even Closer Than Thought

Humanity dodged an orbital bullet recently by an even slimmer margin than we thought. In the wee hours of Feb. 28, the dead Russian spy satellite Cosmos 2221 and NASA’s TIMED craft, which has been studying Earth’s atmosphere since 2001, made an uncomfortably close pass in orbit, zooming within a mere 65 feet (20 meters) of each other. That was the initial estimate, anyway. Further study has shown that the shave was actually even closer, according to NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy.

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Video Shows Space Junk After Object From ISS Came Crashing Through Florida Home

No one was more surprised by the sight of space junk in his home than Florida resident Alejandro Otero, who is currently dealing with damages made by a nearly 2-pound piece of hardware from space. NASA confirmed earlier this week that the hardware from nickel hydride batteries, that crashed through Otero’s roof and two floors came from the International Space Station, USA TODAY previously reported.

Read more at: USAtoday


The "jettison" that crashed into Otero's home on March 8 "weighs 1.6 pounds, is 4 inches in height and 1.6 inches in diameter, according to NASA.

How to Tell Space Rocks from Space Junk

Upcoming surveys will find dozens of near-Earth objects each night, but some of those objects will be space junk rather than asteroids. How will we tell the difference?

When humankind sent its first rocket toward the Moon 65 years ago, it marked the beginning of a long era of lunar exploration. Now, the cast-off rocket parts from decades of lunar missions are cropping up in an unexpected place: searches for near-Earth asteroids.

Read more at: spacedaily

India Aims To Achieve Debris-Free Space Missions By 2030

India has made a declaration to achieve debris-free space missions by 2030.

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Chairman S. Somanath made the declaration on April 16, at the 42nd Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC) annual meet.

“This initiative aims to achieve debris-free space missions by all Indian space actors, governmental and non-governmental, by 2030. India encourages all state space actors to follow this initiative for long-term sustainability of outer space.

Read more at: Hindu

New Upper Stage Disposal Rules Will Help, Not Harm, U.S. Leadership In Space

In September 2023, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposed a new rule for the disposal of upper stages after commercial launches. In short, for most launches to LEO and GTO, operators will either be required to conduct controlled reentries or move their stage to a higher disposal orbit.

As a researcher who has studied uncontrolled reentries for several years, I was pleased to see the FAA finally address the dangerous abandonment of upper stages. The new rule would reduce the growth in orbital collision risk; currently, there are over 2,000 derelict upper stages in orbit, with a net 36 more added each year.

Read more at: spacenews


Starship Faces Performance Shortfall for Lunar Missions

Perhaps the most frequent topic of conversation for the lunar exploration community is when American astronauts will return to the Moon.  NASA originally aimed to land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024, but that date was pushed back repeatedly to September of 2026 at the earliest.  The largest source of uncertainty in the schedule is SpaceX’s ambitious Starship Human Landing System (HLS), which NASA selected to ferry astronauts between the Orion crew vehicle and the lunar south pole.  While the HLS team is making progress with the development of Starship, Elon Musk recently disclosed a serious issue with the current iteration of the vehicle.  Starship is facing a 50% underperformance in terms of the payload which it can deliver to orbit.  If this issue is not rectified, it could have grave implications for Starship’s ability to complete a lunar mission.

Read more at: Americaspace

Canada Extends MDA Space’s ISS Robotics Contract To 2030

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has awarded MDA Space a contract extension worth around $182 million to continue supporting robotics operations on the International Space Station until 2030.

The contract now also includes robotics flight controller duties, in addition to the operational readiness support MDA Space has provided for the Mobile Servicing System on the ISS since 2001.

MDA Space has previously only provided training to CSA and NASA staff for operating this system, which includes the space station’s 17-meter Canadarm2 robotic arm, alongside mission planning and engineering support.

Read more at: spacenews

Boeing Says It Will Cut SLS Workforce “Due To External Factors”

On Thursday senior Boeing officials leading the Space Launch System program, including David Dutcher and Steve Snell, convened an all-hands meeting for the more than 1,000 employees who work on the rocket.

According to two people familiar with the meeting, the officials announced that there would be a significant number of layoffs and reassignments of people working on the program. They offered a handful of reasons for the cuts, including the fact that timelines for NASA’s Artemis lunar missions that will use the SLS rocket are slipping to the right.

Read more at: Arstechnica

Virgin Galactic Proposes Reverse Stock Split

Virgin Galactic will ask shareholders to approve a reverse stock split intended to boost the falling share price of the suborbital spaceflight company.

The company released April 18 a proxy statement and notice of its annual meeting, scheduled for June 12. The statement includes the list of proposals the company will ask shareholders to vote on at the meeting.

One proposal will ask shareholders to approve a series of amendments to its certificate of incorporation to perform a reverse stock split of between 1-for-2 and 1-for-20. That would convert anywhere from 2 to 20 existing shares of Virgin Galactic stock into one new share, with the exact ratio and timing of the reverse split to be determined by the company’s board.

Read more at: spacenews

China To Leverage Growing Commercial Space Sector To Launch Megaconstellations

China will utilize expected launch capacity from the country’s emergent commercial space sector to help realize its megaconstellation plans.

The move will help traditional state-owned players focus on civil and military programs, including human spaceflight, military and lunar plans, while also boosting China’s overall launch and space capabilities and meeting national strategic goals.

Read more at: spacenews

Astra Considered Bankruptcy As It Struggled To Raise Cash

Spacecraft propulsion and launch vehicle company Astra Space considered filing for bankruptcy several times in recent months as the company struggled to raise cash.

The company, which announced plans March 7 to go private in a deal with the company’s founders, released a delayed Form 10-K annual report with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission April 18.

In the filing, Astra reported nearly $3.9 million in revenue for 2023 and a net loss of $178.4 million. The company had $9.4 million in revenue in 2022 and a net loss of $411.4 million.

Read more at: spacenews

Astra Rocket 4


Tsinghua University Advances Lunar Habitat Construction Techniques

Tsinghua University’s latest research emphasizes the critical importance of in situ lunar construction as we shift from exploration to the establishment of Moon habitats. Focusing on regolith solidification and formation, the study, led by Professor Feng, evaluates nearly 20 techniques for creating building materials directly from lunar soil, aiming to maximize efficiency and reduce dependency on Earth-based resources.

The research classifies regolith solidification methods into four primary categories: reaction solidification (RS), sintering/melting (SM), bonding solidification (BS), and confinement formation (CF), each suited to specific aspects of lunar construction. These categories further divide into specialized techniques that consider the lunar environment’s unique challenges, such as extreme temperatures and resource scarcity.

Read more at: Moondaily

Voyagers Discover Evidence of the Heliopause

Nearly 15 years after they left home, the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft have discovered the first direct evidence of the long-sought-after heliopause — the boundary that separates Earth’s solar system from interstellar space.

“This discovery is an exciting indication that still more discoveries and surprises lie ahead for the Voyagers as they continue their journey to the outer reaches of our solar system,” said Dr. Edward C. Stone, director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Voyager project scientist.

Since August 1992, the radio antennas on the spacecraft, called the plasma wave subsystem, have been recording intense low frequency radio emissions coming from beyond the solar system. For months the source of these radio emissions remained a mystery.

Read more at: NASA

Lunar I-Hab Gateway Module Mockup Acceptance Review Completed

A full-size mockup of the European Space Agency’s Lunar I-Hab Gateway space station module has completed its acceptance review. The module’s prime contractor, Thales Alenia Space, will use the mockup to ensure future occupants can navigate the module safely and efficiently.

The I-Hab module, which was recently rebranded to the Lunar I-Hab module, is part of ESA’s contribution to NASA’s lunar Gateway space station. ESA awarded a €327-million contract to Thales Alenia Space back in October 2020 for the development and manufacture of the module.

Read more at: european spaceflight

The interior of the full-sized mockup of ESA’s Lunar I-Hab Gateway space station module will initially have a low-fidelity interior.

China Publishes World’s First High-Definition Lunar Geologic Atlas

China Sunday released a set of geologic atlas of the global moon with a scale of 1:2.5 million, which is the first complete high-definition lunar geologic atlas in the world, providing basic map data for future lunar research and exploration.

This set of geologic atlas, available in Chinese and English, includes the Geologic Atlas of the Lunar Globe and the Map Quadrangles of the Geologic Atlas of the Moon, according to the Institute of Geochemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

Read more at: CN english news

NASA Greenlights 2028 Launch For Epic Dragonfly Mission To Saturn’s Huge Moon Titan

NASA’s delayed Dragonfly drone mission to Saturn’s largest moon Titan is on track to launch in July 2028, the space agency confirmed late Tuesday (April 16).

The highly anticipated decision greenlights the mission team to proceed to final mission design and testing in preparation for the revised launch date.

The car-sized Dragonfly, which is being built by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, will reach Titan in 2034. For the next 2.5 years, the nuclear-powered drone is expected to perform one hop every Titan day — 16 days to us Earthlings — hunting for prebiotic chemical processes at various pre-selected locations on the frigid moon, which is known to contain organic materials.

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FAA To Require Reentry Vehicles Licensed Before Launch

The Federal Aviation Administration is revising its licensing regulations to prevent a repeat of a situation last year where a spacecraft launched without approvals to return.

In a notice published in the Federal Register April 17, the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation announced it will no longer approve the launch of spacecraft designed to reenter unless they already have a reentry license. The office said that it will, going forward, check that a spacecraft designed to return to Earth has a reentry license as part of the standard payload review process.

Read more at: spacenews

Are We Prepared For Chinese Preeminence On The Moon And Mars? (Op-Ed)

The United States appears to be entering the golden age of space exploration. Over the past few years, the nation has conducted an unprecedented number of launches, countless space hardware developments, and notched innumerable other milestones. Nevertheless, despite these accomplishments, the United States could lose its decades-old leadership in space exploration and technology to China.

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is making steady drives forward in all aspects of human and robotics capabilities.

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NASA, Japan Advance Space Cooperation, Sign Agreement for Lunar Rover

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and Japan’s Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) Masahito Moriyama have signed an agreement to advance sustainable human exploration of the Moon.

Japan will design, develop, and operate a pressurized rover for crewed and uncrewed exploration on the Moon. NASA will provide the launch and delivery of the rover to the Moon as well as two opportunities for Japanese astronauts to travel to the lunar surface.

Today, President Biden and Prime Minister Kishida also announced, “a shared goal for a Japanese national to be the first non-American astronaut to land on the Moon on a future Artemis mission, assuming important benchmarks are achieved.”

Read more at: NASA

ESA And The EU Agree To Accelerate The Use Of Space

ESA will work closely with the EU to use space to improve life on Earth, following an agreement signed today by ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher (left) and the European Commission’s Director-General for Defence Industry and Space, Timo Pesonen.

The world faces challenges stemming from climate change, natural disasters and human actions. Space is crucial to help tackle these challenges, but many organisations have yet to realise its full potential. ESA has proposed three ‘accelerators’ – recent initiatives that contribute to sustainability and resilience on Earth and in space – and will work with the EU to realise their full potential.

Read more at: ESA

Slovenia Signs Artemis Accords

Slovenia signed the Artemis Accords outlining best practices for sustainable space exploration April 19, the third European country to do so in five days.

Matevž Frangež, state secretary of the ministry of the economy, tourism and sport in the Slovenian government, signed the Accords in a ceremony in Ljubljana, Slovenia. It took place as part of the broader U.S. – Slovenia Strategic Dialogue held there that day.

“Slovenia joins the principles, values and rules on the peaceful use of space as a common good of humanity,” Frangež said in a statement.

Read more at: spacenews

America’s Next Great Space Station Gets a Vote of Support From Japan

If you haven’t done so already, start the countdown now: In 2030, NASA intends to pull the plug on the International Space Station (ISS), deorbit the ISS, and allow it to first burn up in the atmosphere, then plunge into the sea.

And yes, I know, various members of the international consortium that built the ISS have been predicting its demise for years. At one point, in fact, the ISS was supposed to be deorbited in 2023. But here we are in 2024, and it’s still up there. That just serves to highlight the fact that the clock is ticking on the ISS, and its end is near at hand.

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Taking Law to the Final Frontier

More satellites are being launched into space today than ever before. Capitalizing on this space gold rush, a new course at the University of Arizona is exploring international ground rules to launch students into an emerging legal frontier: space law.The three-credit course, Space Law and Policy, co-taught by faculty in the James E. Rogers College of Law and the College of Science, introduces students to the law and regulatory issues raised by human activity in outer space, including asteroid mining, space tourism, traffic management, communications satellites and national security.

Read more at: arizona news

Japan To Create A 1-Trillion-Yen Fund To Bolster Space Business

Setting its sights on becoming a key player in the global space industry, Japan will set up a 1-trillion-yen ($6.47 billion) fund to achieve that goal.

The space strategy fund will be managed by the Japan Aerospace and Exploration Agency over a 10-year period to support technological innovation by companies and universities.

As early as this summer, JAXA will begin soliciting private-sector organizations that have the expertise to make things happen with the aim of bringing them aboard by the end of this fiscal year.

Read more at: asahi

Switzerland Signs Artemis Accords

Switzerland formally signed the Artemis Accords April 15, becoming the latest nation to join an agreement about sustainable space exploration.

In a ceremony at NASA Headquarters, Swiss Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin, the country’s minister for economic affairs, education and research, signed the accords alongside NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and officials from both countries.

“The Artemis Accords constitute a leap forward in space cooperation,” Parmelin said in remarks at the signing event. “Switzerland’s signing of the Artemis Accords underscores our commitment to this ambition and our belief that cooperation to creating an improved framework for our space community.”

Read more at: spacenews

NASA Embraces Sweden as Newest Member of Artemis Accords Family

On Tuesday, April 16, NASA welcomed Sweden as the 38th country to sign the Artemis Accords and commit to peaceful and safe space exploration. Minister for Education Dr. Mats Persson signed the accords on behalf of Sweden at an event in Stockholm.

“NASA welcomes Sweden to the Artemis Accords family,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “Our nations have worked together to discover new secrets in our Solar System, and now, we welcome you to a global coalition that is committed to exploring the heavens openly, transparently, responsibly, and in peace. The United States and Sweden share the same bedrock principles, and we’re excited to expand these principles to the cosmos.”

Read more at: NASA


Exclusive-Northrop Grumman Working With Musk’s Spacex On U.S. Spy Satellite System

Aerospace and defense company Northrop Grumman is working with SpaceX, the space venture of billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, on a classified spy satellite project already capturing high-resolution imagery of the Earth, according to people familiar with the program.

The program, details of which were first reported by Reuters last month, is meant to enhance the U.S. government’s ability to track military and intelligence targets from low-Earth orbits, providing high-resolution imagery of a kind that had traditionally been captured mostly by drones and reconnaissance aircraft.

Read more at: yahoo

NASA’s Chief Says China Is Being ‘Very, Very Secretive’ And Pretending Its Space Projects Aren’t Linked To The Military

National Aeronautics and Space Administration head Bill Nelson warned on Wednesday that China is passing off military endeavors in space as civilian projects, reiterating that the US is in a “race” with Beijing to reach the moon in the 21st century.

“China has made extraordinary strides, especially in the last 10 years, but they are very, very secretive,” Nelson told members of the House Appropriations Committee at a 2024 budget hearing.

“We believe that a lot of their, so-called civilian space programs is a military program,” Nelson continued. “And I think, in effect, we are in a race.”

Read more at: Business insider

Starlink Satellites ‘New Targets’ For Russian Military; EW Boss Issues Stern Warning To Musk’s SpaceX

The head of the Electronic Warfare Troops of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, Yuri Lastochkin, declared that the Russian military could potentially target the new terminals of the Starlink system used by Ukraine in the ongoing conflict.

Yuri Lastochkin revealed that the Russian military-industrial complex (MIC) possessed the capability to designate the new terminals of the Starlink communication system in Kyiv as potential targets in its “Special Military Operation” in Ukraine.

Read more at: eurasian times

Lockheed Wins Competition To Build Next-Gen Interceptor

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has selected Lockheed Martin to develop a new interceptor to defend the American homeland against intercontinental ballistic missiles, axing competitor Northrop Grumman, according to an MDA announcement.

The Next Generation Interceptor (NGI) win by Lockheed means the defense giant will continue as the sole contractor on the program through flight testing, which MDA expects “will lead to a follow-on production and emplacement contract” and enable the program to meet a deadline for initial operational capability in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2028. An MDA spokesperson said Lockheed’s selection is not a new award and that the aerospace giant will continue to use funds provided by a 2021 contract.

Read more at: breaking defense



Japanese Satellite Will Beam Solar Power To Earth In 2025

Japan is on track to beam solar power from space to Earth next year, two years after a similar feat was achieved by U.S. engineers. The development marks an important step toward a possible space-based solar power station that could help wean the world off fossil fuels amid the intensifying battle against climate change.Speaking at the International Conference on Energy from Space, held here this week, Koichi Ijichi, an adviser at the Japanese research institute Japan Space Systems, outlined Japan’s road map toward an orbital demonstration of a miniature space-based solar power plant that will wirelessly transmit energy from low Earth orbit to Earth.

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‘Astrobiodefense:’ Thinktank Calls For Defending Earth From Space Bugs

NASA is set to offer its response to that hard-hitting report issued last September by the Mars Sample Return Independent Review Board, including the rolling out of next steps for the program. On Monday (April 15), NASA shared the agency’s recommendations regarding a path forward for the costly Mars Sample Return initiative, but within a balanced overall science program. Indeed, such an enterprise has long been a major goal of international planetary exploration for the past two decades.

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Plasma Physicist Warns That Elon Musk’s Disposable Satellites May Be Damaging the Earth’s Magnetic Field

Dead satellites and other debris are constantly burning up as they fall out of Earth’s orbit.

Conventional wisdom is destroying all that space junk is good, because it keeps orbit less cluttered. But it may have harmful effects on our planet’s magnetic field, as plasma physicist and former Air Force research scientist Sierra Solter — the author of a contentious and yet-to-be-peer-reviewed paper — argues in a new essay for The Guardian.

Read more at: Futurism