FAA Sued Over SpaceX Starship Launch Program Following April Explosion

Environmental and cultural-heritage nonprofits sued the Federal Aviation Administration on Monday, alleging the agency violated the National Environment Policy Act when it allowed SpaceX to launch the largest rocket ever built from its Boca Chica, Texas, facility without a comprehensive environmental review, according to court filings obtained by CNBC.

SpaceX’s Starship Super Heavy test flight on April 20 blew up the company’s launchpad, hurling chunks of concrete and metal sheets thousands of feet away into sensitive habitat, spreading particulate matter including pulverized concrete for miles, and sparking a 3.5-acre fire on state park lands near the launch site.

Read more at: CNBC

Europe Won’t Have Reusable Rockets For Another Decade: Report

The CEO of France-based launch company Arianespace says Europe will have to wait until the 2030s for a reusable rocket. Stéphane Israël delivered the comments to a French radio station on April 8, the European Spaceflight newsletter reported (opens in new tab). Arianespace is currently preparing its Ariane 6 rocket for a test flight following years of delays. Europe’s workhorse Ariane 5, which has been operational for nearly 30 years, recently launched the JUICE Jupiter mission and now has only one flight remaining before retirement.

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The Out-Of-Control Rockets And Spacecraft That Could Become DEADLY – As Scientists Warn There’s A 10% Chance Falling Debris Will Kill Someone Within The Next Decade

Just last week a dead NASA satellite crashed back to Earth amid warnings it had a one in 2,500 chance of killing someone.

As it was, the spacecraft smashed harmlessly into the Sahara Desert somewhere between Sudan and Egypt, but it once again highlighted the increasing risk of space junk in our daily lives.

Such is the scale of the problem that scientists have even warned there is a 10 per cent chance that a person could be struck and killed by a falling spacecraft or spent rocket booster within the next decade.

Read more at: dailymail

Cosmic Rays Pose Dangers To Frequent Flyers. This Radiation Detector Could Help.

Cosmic rays coming from ultrapowerful sources in the distant universe can pose risks to humans on Earth — particularly frequent air travelers, who are routinely exposed at the high altitudes of commercial flights. Now, astronomers have used low-cost radiation detectors to begin mapping the radiation environment over African skies, in the first steps to protect the safety of airline crews flying over that continent.

Cosmic rays constantly bombard us from every direction in the sky. But the “rays” aren’t exactly well named. Although the astronomers who first discovered cosmic rays thought they were a new form of radiation like X-rays and gamma-rays, further investigation revealed that cosmic rays are actually made of subatomic particles traveling at nearly the speed of light.

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Report: Space Force Could Benefit From Commercial Data To Monitor Satellites And Debris

U.S. military space watchers and space traffic managers face a daunting workload due to increasing congestion and threats in orbit. The Space Force is investing in new sensors and technologies to better characterize objects in orbit, but is not taking full advantage of commercially available data and services, says a new report by the Government Accountability Office.

GAO in a congressionally mandated report released April 24 said DoD lacks a consistent process to evaluate commercial data and tools for space situational awareness. The Space Force has a Unified Data Library (UDL) — a cloud-based data repository — to consolidate commercial and U.S. government SSA data, but many of the military’s systems used to track space objects are not compatible with data in the UDL, the report said.

Read more at: spacenews

The Kessler Syndrome Explains Why Hunks of Space Junk Are ‘Ticking Time Bombs’

Imagine a world with no functioning satellites for television, GPS, the military, communications, or science—a world where a zone of colliding debris in Earth’s orbit prevents us from sending missions to space. This hypothetical scenario is known as the “Kessler syndrome.”

“We are entering a new era of debris control … an era that will be dominated by a slowly increasing number of random catastrophic collisions,” Donald Kessler, the senior scientist at NASA who studied this risk, wrote in 2009. “The control of future debris requires, at a minimum, that we not leave future payloads and rocket bodies in orbit after their useful life, and might require that we plan launches to return some objects already in orbit.” He also recommended that we avoid sending large structures into space.

Read more at: Popular mechanics

A Stormy, Active Sun May Have Kickstarted Life on Earth

The first building blocks of life on Earth may have formed thanks to eruptions from our Sun, a new study finds.

A series of chemical experiments show how solar particles, colliding with gases in Earth’s early atmosphere, can form amino acids and carboxylic acids, the basic building blocks of proteins and organic life. The findings were published in the journal Life.

Read more at: NASA


Editorial: Tireless Challenge Called For In Japan Startup’s Quest For Lunar Probe

Japanese startup ispace’s lander failed to touch down on the Moon, apparently running out of fuel to slow its descent and crashing into the surface.

The uncrewed probe was carrying a payload that included an explorer robot developed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Japanese toy giant Tomy Co.

Had the moon landing been successful, it would have been the first by a private company. We hope that the lessons learned from this failure will be applied to future projects.

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SpaceX To Spend About $2 Billion On Starship This Year, As Elon Musk Pushes To Reach Orbit

Elon Musk expects SpaceX to spend about $2 billion on its Starship rocket development this year, as the company pushes to build on its first launch earlier this month.

“My expectation for the next flight would be to reach orbit,” Musk said, speaking during a discussion on Twitter Spaces on Saturday.

While SpaceX does secondary rounds about twice a year, to give employees and other company shareholders a chance to sell stock, Musk said the company does “not anticipate needing to raise funding” to further bolster the Starship program and its other ventures.

Read more at: CNBC

Court Approves Plans For Virgin Orbit Bankruptcy Sale

A federal bankruptcy court has approved plans to conduct a sale of Virgin Orbit’s assets this month that could result in either new ownership for the launch provider or its dissolution.

During a May 1 hearing, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware approved an order setting up bidding procedures for the sale of the company’s assets. Virgin Orbit had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy with the court April 4.

Read more at: spacenews

Viasat Seeks Replacement For Ariane 6 For Launch Of Third Viasat 3 Satellite

On the eve of launching its first ViaSat 3 internet satellite on a SpaceX rocket, Viasat says it has moved the launch of an identical spacecraft off of Europe’s long-delayed Ariane 6 rocket, and is considering bids from other rocket companies.

The decision means the launch contract is up for grabs for the third ViaSat 3 internet satellite, the last of a three-satellite constellation Viasat is deploying to provide global broadband connectivity from space.

Read more at: spaceflight now

Rocket Lab Hitting Its Stride With High Cadence, New Venture For Electron

Life is pretty good right now for Rocket Lab and its founder, Peter Beck.

With a total of nine launches last year and as many as 15 planned for 2023, Rocket Lab now flies more boosters than any other company in the world not named SpaceX. In recent years, Rocket Lab’s cadence has surpassed United Launch Alliance, Arianespace, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and other major players.

This year, Rocket Lab may even launch as many boosters as Russia does, something that would have been unthinkable only a few years ago.

Read more at: Arstechnica

Virgin Galactic Cautiously Returns To Flight

After Richard Branson delivered some inspiring words from his seat aboard SpaceShipTwo Unity, he unbuckled himself and started to float around the vehicle’s cabin along with three other Virgin Galactic employees. Reaching an apogee of 86 kilometers (53 miles), the passengers enjoyed four minutes of weightlessness during the July 2021 flight that was live-streamed over the Internet to an audience of millions. After years of delays, SpaceShipTwo had finally demonstrated it was capable of taking paying customers to the edge of space. As far as victories go — it was pretty impressive.

Read more at: hackaday

Lockheed Martin Announces Reorganization Of Its Space Business

Lockheed Martin announced May 4 it is consolidating several businesses focused on space into three sectors: Commercial civil space, national security space, and strategic and missile defense.

“With an eye toward the future and building on our current business momentum, these changes position us to deliver end-to-end solutions for today’s mission demands and well into the future,” said Robert Lightfoot, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Space.

Read more at: spacenews

Spaceport America Rocket Launch Ends In Explosion, Celestis And UP Aerospace Vow To Persevere

An UP Aerospace rocket, 20 feet tall and carrying a NASA payload, exploded moments after liftoff today. The unfortunate event not only affected the NASA TechRise Student Challenge payloads but also delayed a poignant tribute to the late NASA astronaut, Phillip K. Chapman, and chemist Louise Ann O’Deen.

The rocket was set to launch the cremated remains of Chapman, NASA’s first Australian-born American astronaut, finally granting him his long-awaited journey to space.

Read more at: kvia


China To Land Astronauts On The Moon By 2030, Lunar Scientist Says

China will definitely put boots on the moon within the next seven years, according to a leading Chinese lunar scientist. “By 2030, the Chinese people will definitely be able to set foot on the moon. That’s not a problem,” Wu Weiren, chief designer of China’s lunar exploration program, told Chinese broadcaster CCTV on April 18, ahead of the country’s national “space day” on April 24. China is already working on the necessary hardware for landing astronauts on the moon. The country is developing a next-generation rocket to launch an upgraded crew spacecraft, while work is underway on a lunar lander.

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Chinese Rover Finds Liquid Water On Mars

Recently discovered salt water on the surface of modern-day Mars could answer whether there was ever life on the Red Planet, scientists revealed. The Chinese Zhurong rover found evidence of salty liquid water droplets at low Martian altitudes on dunes on the planet that are millions of years old – giving clues to the planet’s past.

Though calculations have previously demonstrated that conditions for water are possible on Mars today, this is the first occasion in which evidence of liquid water has been found on our neighbouring planet.

Read more at: walesonline

China’s Zhurong Mars Rover Is Likely Dead From Lack Of Sunlight

Like many spacecraft, Zhurong relies on solar radiation to charge its batteries and keep it rolling across the rust-colored alien landscape. In May 2022, the rover entered into a planned hibernation period to wait out the Martian winter and corresponding decrease in sunlight. The rover was meant to sleep through the dark months and reawaken when the Sun returned to kiss its face. So far, it hasn’t woken up.

Read more at: syfy

European Space Giants Join Forces For IRIS²

Europe’s largest space companies have banded together to bid for a role in the European Union’s proposed multi-orbit connectivity constellation.

The group is led by satellite operators Eutelsat, SES, and Hispasat; and satellite makers Airbus Defence and Space and Thales Alenia Space.

Satellite operator Hisdesat, spaceflight services company Telespazio, aerospace giant Thales, small satellite manufacturing specialist OHB, and terrestrial telcos Deutsche Telekom and Orange are also part of the group.

Read more at: spacenews

Europe Wants To Build A Nuclear Rocket For Deep Space Exploration

The European Space Agency (ESA) is funding several studies that will explore the use of nuclear propulsion for deep space exploration.

Propulsion in space currently is conducted using a storage chemical propellant or using electric or solar power. The issue facing space agencies is these propulsion methods are reaching their respective physical limits. A nuclear-based electric propulsion (NEP) could potentially overcome these limitations and launch space missions into a new age, enabling humanity to reach farther into space than ever before.

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Europe Explores Solar Farms In Space With Solaris Programme

The European Space Agency is investigating the possibility of setting up solar arrays in space in the hope that access to 24-hour sunlight will help to overcome issues of energy intermittency on Earth. As part of the Solaris programme, the European Space Agency (ESA) is looking into whether space-based solar power (SBSP) could meet Europe’s clean energy needs as early as the 2030s to help the continent reach its net-zero targets. It joins the space agencies of several nations including the US, China and Japan in exploring SBSP, which mostly relies on technologies that have already been proven to work here on Earth, according to the ESA.

Read more at: dezeen


UK Takes Over Leadership Of International Charter Space And Major Disasters

The UK Space Agency is taking over the leadership of the International Charter Space and Major Disasters (The Charter), which provides data from satellites to aid disaster response around the world.

The UK Space Agency’s six-month leadership will begin with the 49th Board Meeting of the Charter in Edinburgh this week (24 – 28 April 2023), attended by space agencies and organisations from across the globe.

The Charter has 17 members and 270 contributing satellites, supporting people in need in 131 countries. This mobilises space agencies and satellite operators across the globe and benefits from their knowledge and satellites through a single access point which operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and at no cost to the user.

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Senate Approves Bill Protecting Spacex, Blue Origin From Civil Lawsuits If Crew Members Are Killed Or Injured

SpaceX and Blue Origin, two aerospace companies backed by billionaires, could save money on legal expenses thanks to new protections from a Senate bill.

The Senate unanimously passed a bill that gives aerospace companies, like SpaceX and Blue Origin, more liability protection from civil lawsuits if crew members are killed or seriously injured in spaceflights.

Senators passed SB 1318 with a vote of 39-0 and no debate on the floor.

Read more at: florida politics

NASA Welcomes Czech Foreign Minister for Artemis Accords Signing

During a ceremony at NASA Headquarters in Washington Wednesday, the Czech Republic became the 24th country to sign the Artemis Accords. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson participated in the signing ceremony for the agency and Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský signed the Artemis Accords on behalf of the Czech Republic.

The Artemis Accords establish a practical set of principles to guide space exploration cooperation among nations, including those participating in NASA’s Artemis program.

Read more at: NASA

SpaceX Receives FCC Approval That Can increase Starlink Network Speeds Significantly!

SpaceX has received a crucial Federal Communications Commission (FCC) authorization for its Starlink satellite internet constellation. The firm, which has rapidly built the Starlink network and launched more than four thousand satellites to date, nevertheless suffered from high usage in certain areas and low in others even as it rushed to populate orbital shells with the satellites. This led to a degradation of internet speeds for users in North America, but now, it appears as if the internet speeds might improve. The FCC has approved SpaceX’s request to increase the transmit duty cycles of its second-generation user dishes after SpaceX submitted data to the Commission outlining that doing so would not violate any radiofrequency emissions regulations.

Read more at: wccftech


China Simulates Algorithm To Evade US’s Sophisticated Hypersonic Missile Defense System

People’s Liberation Army (PLA) researchers claim they have created algorithm-based technology to defeat sophisticated hypersonic missile interception systems.

Engineers led by Zhang Xuesong from China’s Strategic Support Force Information Engineering University developed the algorithm that analyzes the trajectory of hypersonic missiles in order to avoid detection by missile defense systems, South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported on Saturday.

Read more at: interesting engineering

ArianeGroup, Eutelsat And Magellium Selected To Improve French Space Surveillance Capabilities

ArianeGroup, Eutelsat and Magellium have won a contract from the French space agency (CNES), as part of the space component of the France 2030. Investing for the Future plan, with the aim of enhancing space surveillance capabilities in order to substantially improve the security of space operations.

The consortium will provide CNES with a Space Situational Awareness (SSA) data service through the deployment of multi-orbital optical sensors, and the development and implementation of an optical space segment in geostationary transfer orbit (GTO), to complement and enhance the performances of the existing ground-based network operated by ArianeGroup.

Read more at: Ariane

China Could Be Using Potent Laser Weapons to Hack American Satellites

A military base deep in Western China is unusually active when foreign satellites are overhead—a sign that Beijing could be using laser weapons to electronically probe them. The Korla East Test Site, located in Xinjiang province, is believed to be home to at least two Chinese laser weapons. The U.S. government believes China is practicing to take away its huge advance in satellite technology, damaging or even hijacking military satellites to deny them in wartime.

Read more at: Popular mechanics

Study Says US Spy Satellites Approaching China’s High-Value Space Assets A ‘Threat To Security’

US spy satellites carried out at least 14 close-in reconnaissance missions on Chinese high-orbit satellites in less than two years, according to a study by researchers in China’s space programme.

From February 2020 to December 2021 the US Air Force’s Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Programme (GSSAP) satellites repeatedly approached some of China’s most valuable and advanced satellites in the geostationary orbit (GEO) and came alarmingly close, according to the study.

Read more at: SCMP

Rocket Builder Firefly Takes On High-Speed Space Force Mission For Crucial Next Launch

The name says it all: Victus Nox, or, translated from Latin, “conquer the night.”

It’s an experimental test run of national security capabilities in space, and a high-stakes mission for a pair of burgeoning space companies — a crucial chance to prove they can handle the high-speed demands of the U.S. Space Force.

The mission for the military’s Los Angeles-based Space Safari team calls for flying a Millennium Space Systems-built satellite on Firefly Aerospace’s Alpha rocket — on remarkably short notice. For Boeing subsidiary Millennium the mission will be just the 14th satellite it’s flown to date, and for Firefly it’s only the third launch of its rocket.

Read more at: CNBC


How The Boeing 747 Carried The Space Shuttle

The Boeing 747 is a great aircraft and has been popular with passengers and airlines for decades. As well as passenger and cargo airline use, it has also seen many other specialized, private, and VIP uses. One of the more unusual was as a ‘piggyback’ aircraft for the NASA Space Shuttle. Two 747s underwent many modifications to make this possible.

NASA introduced the re-usable Space Shuttle in 1977. After landing, the shuttle vehicle needed to be returned to its base at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It was unable to do this under its own power, of course, so a transport aircraft was needed. After considering the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy for the role, NASA selected the 747-100 as the aircraft to modify for this role (the main reason being its low rather than high wing design.

Read more at: simpleflying

Thales Alenia Space Signs Space Factory 4.0 Contract with Italian Space Agency

Thales Alenia Space, the joint venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%), has won a contract from the Italian space agency (ASI) to conduct the development of the Space Factory 4.0 program in the frame of the Italian National Recovery and Resilience Plan (PNRR)[1]. Thales Alenia Space is leading a consortium including Argotec, CIRA and Sitael, to develop an interconnected system with facilities located across Italy, set to start operations by 2026.

As the lead company, Thales Alenia Space will consolidate the country’s expertise in the design, production and testing of satellite components. The consortium will call on advanced automation and digitalization to build advanced satellites in particular in the micro and small satellite segment including the Platino and NIMBUS families.

Read more at: thales alenia space

USSPACECOM Forum Discusses Need For Space-Savvy Medical Personnel

U.S. Space Command’s office of the Command Surgeon hosted the 2nd USSPACECOM Joint Space Medicine Forum April 18-19, at the Catalyst Campus in Colorado Springs, Colo.

The two-day event brought together 37 medical leaders from combatant commands, service components, academia and NASA.

This year’s event emphasized a growing need for medical personnel to be “space savvy,” placing a greater focus on developing a working knowledge of care for those involved in both ground-based and space-based operational missions.

Read more at: spaceforce

Erdogan Announces Türkiye’s First Space Traveller Candidates

Türkiye has selected Alper Gezeravci and Tuva Cihangir Atasever as the country’s first space travellers to be sent into space in the last quarter of this year, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced.

Speaking at the country’s major technology event Teknofest on Saturday, he said Gezeravci, a pilot in the Turkish Air Force, will be sent to the International Space Station, while Atasever, a system engineer in the Turkish missile producer Roketsan in the field of space launch systems, was chosen as the reserve candidate.

Read more at: trtworld

The First Crewed Mission To Mars Should Be All Female. Here’s Why.

Men have crewed every mission to the Moon so far, but when we finally send humans to Mars it would be wise to send only women — at least at first.

Mind you, this wouldn’t primarily be for fairness — a correction for the rampant sexism that denied American women the title of “astronaut” until Sally Ride‘s historic flight in 1983 — but rather a practical decision based on calculations as cold as deep space. Available evidence bluntly suggests that women would be more efficient and capable crewmembers on long-duration missions away from Earth.

Read more at: bigthink

Elon Musk Provides Detailed Review Of Starship’s First Launch—And What’s Next

In a wide-ranging talk on Saturday night, SpaceX founder Elon Musk reviewed the debut launch of the Starship rocket on April 20. The bottom line, he said, is that the vehicle’s flight slightly exceeded his expectations and that damage to the launch site was not all that extensive. He expects Starship to fly again in as few as two or three months.

“Basically the outcome was roughly sort of what I expected and maybe slightly exceeded my expectations,” he said. “And I’m glad to report that the pad damage is actually quite small, and it looks like it can be repaired quite quickly. It was actually just good to get this vehicle off the ground because we’ve made so many improvements in Booster 9 and beyond.”

Read more at: Arstechnica

A New, Mysterious Balloon Has Been Detected In US Airspace — This Time Over Hawaii

Another mysterious balloon has been spotted by the US military in American airspace — this time high in the sky off the coast of Hawaii, according to the Department of Defense.

It’s unclear who owns the balloon, but the object did not fly over any sensitive areas and poses no threat to national security, the DOD said.

The unidentified object traveled 36,000 feet above the coast of Hawaii and has been the military’s radar since Friday when it was detected by the DOD and Federal Aviation Administration, officials said.

Read more at: NYpost

Did NASA Forget How to Put People on the Moon?

NASA’s plodding, iterative approach to its Artemis program gives the distinct impression that it has somehow forgotten how to land humans on the Moon. A closer inspection uncovers the many reasons—whether justified or not—for why it’s taking NASA so long to return boots to those vaunted lunar grounds.

When Apollo 17 astronauts Eugene Cernan, Ronald Evans, and Harrison Schmitt said goodbye to the Moon in December 1972, no one would have guessed that at least 50 years would go by before the next set of humans would return. The closing Apollo mission ended a frenetic period of scientific and technological advancement, an era sparked by the famous “space race” speech given by President John F. Kennedy in 1962.

Read more at: Gizmodo

The Next Space Race Starts At Our Spaceports

In a recent article, “Cape Congestion: World’s busiest spaceport stretched to its limits” (Jeff Foust, March 24), SpaceNews wrote about various factors impacting Cape Canaveral and U.S. spaceports in general. There is no doubt that the commercial launch has experienced phenomenal growth over the last decade. The number of orbital-capable launch firms has leaped from a couple to more than a dozen, and the cadence of U.S. orbital launches has moved from monthly to weekly, with this trend accelerating upward on a non-linear curve.

Read more at: spacenews

African Space Agencies Have The Potential To Lead The Global Space Race

African nations have the potential to become leading competitors in the space industry due to the continent’s rapidly expanding space industry, the amount of institutional knowledge already available, and its large youth population poised to become the next generation of space innovators.

Africa’s emerging space industry is booming. Currently, more than 20 African countries have space programs. In 2017, the African Union passed the African Space Agency Act. The act established the African Space Agency (AfSA) and created a governance structure and strategy for continental-wide space activities. On Jan. 25, 2023, the African Union Commission and the Egyptian Government formally inaugurated and declared the African Space Agency operational. The AfSA will serve as the headquarters for intercontinental and international collaboration on space activities.

Read more at: spacenews

Webb May Have Just Found An Earth-Like World With An Atmosphere

The hunt for an Earth-like planet shielded with a protective atmosphere has so far eluded scientists, but a new detection by the James Webb Space Telescope could be the first. Astronomers are taking a closer look at GJ 486b(opens in a new tab), relatively close to our solar system at just 26 light-years away in the constellation Virgo. Discovered two years ago, it’s a rocky exoplanet(opens in a new tab) about 30 percent larger than Earth, orbiting a red dwarf star(opens in a new tab) every 1.5 days. Despite its being so close to its host star and having a scorching-hot temperature of about 800 degrees Fahrenheit, the planet shows signs of having water vapor — a hint that the alien world may have an atmosphere swaddling the planet.

Read more at: mashable

Orbex Breaks Ground On Sutherland Spaceport As UK Prepares To Enter Domestic Launch Market

United Kingdom (UK) based spaceflight company Orbex has begun construction at the Sutherland Spaceport in Scotland. Set to host launches of Orbex’s Prime rocket, Sutherland is the UK mainland’s first vertical launch site.

With another vertical-launch site at SaxaVord Spaceport in the Shetlands, and Spaceport Cornwall’s horizontal-launch options, the UK is finally ramping up its domestic spaceflight ambitions after decades in the wilderness.

Formerly known as Space Hub Sutherland, the Scottish site will boast the first vertical-launch spaceport to be built on the UK mainland.

Read more at: NASAspaceflight