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.

Read more at:

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.

Read more at:

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

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