China Delays Mission While NASA Congratulates On Mars Images
China postponed a supply mission to its new space station on Thursday for unspecified technical reasons, while photos sent back from Mars by its newly arrived rover earned plaudits from NASA despite only sporadic contacts between the Chinese and American space programs.
The Tianzhou-2 cargo spacecraft was to have been launched early Thursday morning. China Manned Space announced the delay on its website but didn’t say when the rescheduled launch would occur.
It would be the first mission to the main Tianhe space station module that was launched on April 29. A total of 11 launches are planned by the end of next year to deliver the station’s other two modules, various components and supplies and a three-person crew.
Read more at: ABCnews
Virgin Galactic Launches 1st Spaceshiptwo Spaceflight From New Mexico
Virgin Galactic has launched its first human spaceflight from its New Mexico home port.
The company’s SpaceShipTwo vehicle VSS Unity conducted its third crewed test flight to suborbital space today (May 22), taking another step toward the start of commercial operations.
Unity’s first two spaceflights occurred in December 2018 and February 2019. Both of those missions lifted off from the Mojave Air and Space Port in southeastern California, near the headquarters of Virgin Galactic’s manufacturing subsidiary, The Spaceship Company.
Read more at: Space.com
Rocket Lab Says Engine Issue Caused Electron Failure
Rocket Lab said an Electron rocket failed to reach orbit May 15 when the vehicle’s computer system detected a problem with the second stage engine and shut it down.
In a May 17 statement, the company said it is continuing to review data from the launch, which suffered a malfunction of some kind around the time the second stage separated and ignited its single Rutherford engine. The engine shut down seconds later, resulting in the loss of the mission.
The company said initial reviews of the data “suggest an engine computer detected an issue shortly after stage 2 engine ignition, causing the computer to command a safe shutdown as it is designed to do.” The company added it had not seen that behavior before in testing of the engines, including a full-duration static fire of the stage.
Read more at: Spacenews
Rocket Lab Investigates Launch Failure, Begins Inspecting Recovered Booster
Rocket Lab is diving into two big jobs, one of which is much more pleasant than the other.
The California-based launch provider is investigating what caused its two-stage Electron rocket to fail early Saturday morning (May 15) during a mission called “Running Out of Toes,” which aimed to loft two Earth observation satellites for the company BlackSky. (The liftoff was the 20th overall for Electron, which explains the name.)
Read more at: Space.com
Martian Rover Zhurong Takes First Drive On Surface Of Mars, China Says
A remote-controlled Chinese motorized rover drove down the ramp of a landing capsule on Saturday and onto the surface of the Red Planet, making China the first nation to orbit, land and deploy a land vehicle on its inaugural mission to Mars.
Zhurong, named after a mythical Chinese god of fire, drove down to the surface of Mars at 10:40 a.m. Beijing time (10:40 p.m. ET), according to a post on the rover’s official Chinese social media account.
China this month joined the United States as the only nations to deploy land vehicles on Mars. The former Soviet Union landed a craft in 1971, but it lost communication seconds later.
Read more at: NBCnews
SPACE HAZARDS & STM
ESA Partners With Startup To Launch First Debris Removal Mission In 2025
The recent fall to Earth of a massive Chinese rocket has renewed concerns about the perils of space junk and one project from the European Space Agency might be able to help.
The European Space Agency (ESA) announced plans to launch a space debris removal mission in 2025 with the help of a Swiss start-up called ClearSpace. The mission, dubbed ClearSpace-1, will use an experimental, four-armed robot to capture a Vega Secondary Payload Adapter (Vespa) left behind by ESA’s Vega launcher in 2013. The piece of space junk is located about 500 miles (800 kilometers) above Earth and weighs roughly 220 lbs. (100 kilograms).
Read more at: Space.com
If A Satellite Falls On Your House, Space Law Protects You – But There Are No Legal Penalties For Leaving Junk In Orbit
On May 8, 2021, a piece of space junk from a Chinese rocket fell uncontrolled back to Earth and landed in the Indian Ocean near the Maldives. A year ago, in May 2020, another Chinese rocket met the same fate when it plummeted out of control into the waters off the West African coast. No one knew when or where either of these pieces of space junk were going to hit, so it was a relief when neither crashed on land or injured anyone.
Space debris is any nonfunctional human-made object in space. As a professor of space and society focused on space governance, I’ve noticed that there are three questions the public always asks when falling space debris gets into the news. Could this have been prevented? What would have happened if there was damage? And how will new commercial companies be regulated as space activities and launches increase exponentially?
Read more at: Conversation
How Space Weather Could Wreck NASA’s Return To The Moon
Is NASA really going to return humans to the moon in 2024? That was the increasingly unlikely mandate issued to the agency by the Trump administration. President Biden hasn’t changed that goal yet, although most experts expect him to give NASA some much-needed breathing room and reset that deadline for later in the decade.
The problem is, 2024 might actually be a safer option. A new study published in the journal Solar Physicssuggests there’s a heightened risk of space weather events—storms of radiation and supercharged solar particles—in the latter half of the decade. This would pose increased danger to any crewed missions to the moon between 2026 and 2029. If NASA is serious about getting back to the moon and wants to keep astronauts as safe as possible, it may be prudent to accelerate efforts to ensure that it happens before 2026—or wait till the decade is over.
Read more at: Technology review
UBC Researchers Publish Paper On Risks Of Mega-Constellations
UBC researchers published a paper today in Nature’s Scientific Reports which outlines the risks of mega-constellations in low Earth orbit (LEO).
The paper is written by Aaron C. Boley, Department of Physics and Astronomy, and Michael Byers, Department of Political Science.
The abstract reads: “The rapid development of mega-constellations risks multiple tragedies of the commons, including tragedies to ground-based astronomy, Earth orbit, and Earth’s upper atmosphere. Moreover, the connections between the Earth and space environments are inadequately taken into account by the adoption of a consumer electronic model applied to space assets.
Read more at: SpaceQ
Europe Making Progress On Sovereign LEO Constellation As Oneweb And Starlink Race Ahead
The industry consortium devising a satellite network to keep the European Union from falling too far behind the megaconstellation goldrush is weeks away from nailing down key criteria.
The group has already made initial proposals on elements including frequency and orbital characteristics, according to Dominic Hayes, frequency manager for the EU space program at the European Commission’s Defence Industry and Space (DEFIS) department.
“They’re presenting those as firm deliverables in the course of the next few weeks,” Hayes told SATELLITE 2021’s EMEA + Asia Digital Forum May 18.
Read more at: Spacenews
SpaceX, Amazon, And Oneweb’s Mega-Constellations Risk Huge Collisions In Games Of ‘Chicken’, New Report Warns
The rapid development of mega-constellations – like the ones proposed by Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Blue Origin’s Project Kupier – risks “potentially dangerous on-orbit collisions on a regular basis”, according to a new report.
Read more at: Independent
Aevum Says Launching Satellites Will Be Side Gig For Cargo-Delivery Drone
Space launch startup Aevum on May 18 said that its Ravn X unmanned aircraft will be used to both deliver cargo and launch rockets, pending approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.
The Alabama-based company on May 4 received a patent for an “adaptive autonomous aircraft system with modular payload systems,” a technology that would allow Ravn X to be converted from a space launcher to a cargo delivery aircraft and vice versa.
Before receiving this patent, Aevum had been vague about its business plan, touting its autonomous aircraft as the first stage of a launch system that releases expendable rockets from under its belly.
Read more at: Spacenews
Russian, Japanese Satellites To Come Within 200 Meters Of Each Other On May 19
Russia’s Kanopus-V 5 remote sensing satellite and a Japanese earth observation satellite, ASNARO, may come within 200 meters of each other early on May 19, a spokesperson for Russia’s Roscosmos space corporation told TASS on Tuesday.
“According to information obtained from the Main Data and Analysis Center of the Automated Warning System of Hazardous Situations in the Near-Earth Space, satellites Kanopus-V 5 (Russia) and ASNARO (Japan) may come within the distance of approximately 200 meters of each other at approximately 4:00 a.m. Moscow time on May 19,” the Roscosmos press service said.
Read more at: TASS
Space Startup Astra Signs First Commercial Launch Contract, Boosts Rocket Capacity
Billionaire-backed space transport startup Astra, which aims to go public before July in a $2.1 billion blank-check deal, has signed its first commercial launch contract with private imaging firm Planet, its chief executive told Reuters.
The Alameda, California-based company also said it would be able to lift satellites weighing up to 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds) to low-Earth orbit before 2025, a tenfold leap in capacity from its current designs, aimed at winning business from forthcoming broadband mega-constellations like Amazon.com Inc’s Project Kuiper.
Read more at: Reuters
India’s Agnikul Bags $11Mn As It Eyes 2022 For The First Launch Of Its Smallsat Launch Vehicle
2021 is the year for the Indian start-up ecosystem and the space industry, both of which have registered strong growth. While the Indian start-up ecosystem smashed its way into record books after 13 Indian start-ups evolved into unicorns this year (so far), the space industry continues to add feathers to its cap thanks to SpaceX and NASA’s exploits.
On a day when fellow Indian start-up Skyroot raised $11 million in a Series A funding round, Chennai-based space tech start-up Agnikul Cosmos Pvt. Ltd. has raised $11 million in a Series A funding round as well, led by global venture capital company Mayfield India and existing investors Pi Ventures, Speciale Invest, and Artha Ventures. Mayfield India’s managing partner Vikram Godse will be joining Agnikul’s Board of Directors (BoD).
Read more at: Techportal
The FCC’s Big Bet on Elon Musk
Derrin Carelli’s Reddit post couldn’t be a better advertisement for Starlink, the satellite internet service brought to you by Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
In a short video, Carelli shows off the breathtaking view from his cabin, nearly 11,000 feet up in the Colorado Rockies. The camera pans down to a tiny satellite dish perched on the edge of a cliff, then Carelli walks into his cabin, where he taps on his iPad. A YouTube video of Joe Rogan interviewing Musk comes up and loads immediately. High-speed, low-latency internet in the middle of nowhere. Carelli gives the camera a thumbs up.
Read more at: Vox
Private Sector Seeks Bigger Role In NASA Earth Science Programs
Companies and organizations used a House hearing May 18 to advocate for a larger role in NASA’s Earth science programs, arguing their capabilities can complement NASA spacecraft.
The hearing by the House space subcommittee on NASA’s Earth science programs devoted much of its attention to how commercial Earth imaging spacecraft could supplement NASA missions to study climate change, a growing priority for both the agency and the Biden administration.
“As NASA is creating its next flagship missions, including the Landsat Next program, NASA should incorporate the planned, viable commercial capabilities into their procurement strategies and seek commercial capabilities as a forethought, rather than an afterthought,” said Robbie Schingler, co-founder and chief strategy officer of Planet.
Read more at: Spacenews
SpaceX HLS Contract Gets Protection in Revised Senate Bill
The Senate will take up the United States Innovation and Competition Act today. It incorporates the 2021 NASA Authorization Act approved by the Senate Commerce Committee last week, but one of the most controversial provisions was modified and now provides a level of protection for the contract awarded to SpaceX for the Artemis program’s Human Landing System (HLS). It also extends the deadline for NASA to comply with a requirement that it choose a second HLS contractor.
The NASA authorization act was made part of the Endless Frontier Act (S. 1260) when the “Cantwell_1 (as modified)” amendment was adopted by voice vote on May 12 during markup by the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) chairs the committee.
Read more at: Spacepolicyonline
Sen. Raphael Warnock Calls For More Study Of Proposed Spaceport Near Cumberland Island
Sen. Raphael Warnock sent a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration on Monday asking the agency to slow down and complete a thorough review of a proposed spaceport in Camden County.
“This is not the time to cut corners on environmental review or cut out public participation in the evaluation of this project,” he wrote. “The incoming FAA leadership should be given the opportunity to evaluate fully these issues with the benefit of public input before moving forward with a final decision.”
Read more at: savannahnow
Russia Has No Intention To Cede Space Tourism Market To US — Glavkosmos Company
Russia is capable of competing with the US on the market of space tourism in many respects, including safety, reliability and costs, the CEO of Glavkosmos company (an affiliate of Roscosmos), Dmitry Loskutov, told the round-the-clock television news channel Rossiya-24 in an interview.
“We are in no mood of ceding this market. It goes without saying that we are competitive by such parameters as safety, reliability and costs. As far as safety is concerned, our emergency rescue system has already proved its effectiveness more than once. Also, we are quite competitive, when it comes to costs,” Loskutov said, when asked about competition with the United States in the field of space tourism.
Read more at: TASS