August 7, 2020

Pentagon Picks ULA and SpaceX for Major Launch Services Contract (Source: Space News)
The Pentagon has selected SpaceX and United Launch Alliance for contracts to launch national security satellites for the next five years. The two companies won National Security Space Launch Phase 2 awards, with ULA receiving 60% of the launches using its new Vulcan rocket and SpaceX 40% for its existing Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets. The two companies beat out Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman, which also submitted bids. (8/7)

Bezos Sells More Than $3 Billion in Amazon Shares, Blue Origin a Likely Beneficiary (Source: CNBC)
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos this week has sold more than $3.1 billion worth of shares in his company, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The sales were part of a prearranged 10b5-1 trading plan, according to the filings. Earlier this year, Bezos sold more than $4.1 billion worth of shares in the company. The sales this week bring his total cash out in 2020 to slightly more than $7.2 billion so far. He still owns more than 54 million shares, worth more than $170 billion, making him the richest person in the world.

By way of comparison, Bezos sold $2.8 billion worth of shares in 2019. Bezos has previously said he’s selling about $1 billion of Amazon stock a year to fund his space exploration company, Blue Origin. Amazon shares are up 73% for the year, including a 2.1% gain on Wednesday. (8/7)

Veteran Satellite Manufacturers Question Pricing Strategy of Newcomers (Source: Space News)
NanoAvionics, a relative newcomer in the small satellite business, is attracting orders thanks in part to low prices. For customers, “it’s never just price but it usually comes down to that in the end for selection,” said Brent Abbott, CEO of NanoAvionics US, part of the Lithuanian startup founded in 2014. “Our growth has been in expanding our share of the existing market based on low cost points, credibility in the market and experience on orbit.

Veteran manufacturers questioned that strategy during an Aug. 6 SpaceNews webinar and suggested customers to look beyond price tags. Customers shouldn’t simply buy the least expensive satellite, said Brian Rider, chief technology officer for LeoStella, a joint venture of Thales Alenia Space and Earth observation company BlackSky. “They need to be able to rely on that satellite to work,” Rider said. “They need to be able to get the efficiency and the capability out of it that is baked into their business models. If they don’t get that done it’s really just a loss of value from an operations perspective and from an infrastructure perspective.” (8/7)

Astronomers Use Breakthrough Radio Wave Method to Spot Exoplanet Around Wiggling Star (Source: Sputnik)
The newly tested method has proved to be a real milestone in the detection of exoplanets, currently the top priority endeavour undertaken by astronomers and astrophysicists. After more than a year of painstaking observations of a cool star, the red dwarf TVLM 513–46546, 35 light-years from Earth, astronomers have succeeded in catching a glimpse of a previously unseen Saturn-size exoplanet.

It is not, however, the object that is most remarkable in the endeavour but the method the scientists used to keep track of the movement of the star through the galaxy. In particular, they managed to register and record a wobble, or rather wiggling that is typical of the star’s pace affected by its circling exoplanets. The approach is called the astrometric technique, and this is the first time it's been successfully deployed using a radio telescope - the continent-wide Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA). (8/7)

Mysterious 'Fast Radio Burst' Detected Closer to Earth Than Ever Before (Source: Live Science)
Thirty thousand years ago, a dead star on the other side of the Milky Way belched out a powerful mixture of radio and X-ray energy. On April 28, 2020, that belch swept over Earth, triggering alarms at observatories around the world. The signal was there and gone in half a second, but that's all scientists needed to confirm they had detected something remarkable: the first ever "fast radio burst" (FRB) to emanate from a known star within the Milky Way, according to a study published July 27 in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Since their discovery in 2007, FRBs have puzzled scientists. The bursts of powerful radio waves last only a few milliseconds at most, but generate more energy in that time than Earth's sun does in a century. Scientists have yet to pin down what causes these blasts, but they've proposed everything from colliding black holes to the pulse of alien starships as possible explanations.  So far, every known FRB has originated from another galaxy, hundreds of millions of light-years away. (8/7)

NASA's IXPE Smallsat Mission Sees Delay From Pandemic (Source: Space News)
The launch of a NASA astrophysics smallsat mission will slip several months next year because of the pandemic. The Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) mission was scheduled to launch next May on a Falcon 9, but in a presentation at the Small Satellite Conference this week an engineer with Ball Aerospace, which is providing the spacecraft bus, said the launch is now scheduled for September. Delays shipping X-ray detectors from Italy and assembling mirror components at the Marshall Space Flight Center contributed to the delay. (8/7)

Competition Testing for Satellite Hacks (Source: WIRED)
Hackers will spend this weekend trying to break into a satellite from the comfort of their homes. The Hack-a-Sat competition, sponsored by the Air Force and Defense Digital Service, selected eight teams in May as finalists to first work on a set of challenges involving a "flat sat" in a lab. If successful, they will then attempt to take control of an unnamed satellite in orbit and direct it to take an image of the moon — "a literal moon shot," as Will Roper, the head of acquisition for the Air Force, put it. Because of the pandemic, members of the teams are working remotely rather than gathering in one location. (8/7)

NASA Considers More Diversity and Inclusion in Astronomical Naming (Source: NASA)
NASA will reexamine the nicknames it uses for some astronomical objects as part of diversity and inclusion efforts. The agency said this week that it will no longer use the name "Eskimo Nebula" for one object, planetary nebula NGC 2392, or the name "Siamese Twins Galaxy" for the galaxies NGC 4567 and NGC 4568. NASA said it will work with diversity, inclusion, and equity experts in the astronomical and physical sciences to identify other names that are considered insensitive or actively harmful. (8/7)

Black Holes Could Be Orbited by Planets (Source: Space.com)
The black hole in the center of the Milky Way galaxy might host thousands of planets. Astronomers argued in a recent paper that such planets would likely form from the dust disk surrounding the supermassive black hole, millions of the times the mass of the sun, in much the same way planets form in the protoplanetary disk around stars like the sun. Such planets, which astronomers called "blanets" in a paper, are more likely to form around smaller supermassive black holes like the one in our Milky Way, which are cool enough to allow ice-coated dust particles, a key element of planetary formation, to exist. (8/7)

SpaceX Launches 57 Starlink Satellites, Recovers Booster on Droneship, Misses Fairings (Source: Space News)
SpaceX launched another set of Starlink satellites, and two BlackSky imaging satellites, early this morning. The Falcon 9 lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center at 1:12 a.m. Eastern and deployed the two BlackSky satellites a little more than an hour after liftoff, followed by 57 Starlink satellites a half-hour later. The rocket's first stage, making its fifth flight, landed on a droneship successfully, but SpaceX was unable to catch the two payload fairing halves. The launch had been delayed several times since late June, which SpaceX said was caused by weather and payload issues, and not problems with the rocket itself. (8/7)

SES Orders Four Satellites From Boeing (Source: Space News)
SES has ordered four more O3b mPower satellites from Boeing. The new high-throughput communications satellites join seven ordered by SES from Boeing in 2017 and are based on Boeing's new 702X series of software-defined satellites. Those satellites were expected to launch by the end of 2021 on a pair of SpaceX Falcon rockets, but current plans call for launching the first three late next year, six more in 2022,  and the final two in 2024. Each O3b mPower satellite will have the ability to beam 50 megabits to "multiple gigabits per second" to customers, according to Boeing. (8/7)

Maxar Doubts Win on Telesat Constellation Bid (Source: Space News)
Maxar no longer expects to win Telesat's competition to build a broadband satellite constellation. Maxar CEO Dan Jablonsky noted in an earnings call this week that Telesat has continued to delay a decision on selecting a manufacturer for a constellation of several hundred satellites, and that he no longer expects to win any business, at least initially, for the system. Maxar originally was cooperating with Thales Alenia Space to build the Telesat LEO satellites, but those companies went their separate ways in late 2019. Thales is now collaborating with Airbus Defence and Space. Telesat said last week it expects to make procurement and manufacturing announcements "in the coming months." (8/7)

Space Coast Provides Grants for Small Business During Pandemic (Source: Florida Today)
Brevard County is tripling its grant targeted to temporarily subsidize jobs for small businesses hurt by the coronavirus pandemic. County commissioners voted Thursday night to increase its funding for the program to $2.25 million, up from the previously approved $750,000. The program is administered by CareerSource Brevard. The money comes from the $105.03 million federal allocation to Brevard County through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. Judy Blanchard, vice president of industry relations for CareerSource Brevard, said 160 companies applied for subsidies, under which up to 16 weeks of wages for a hired or rehired worker would be covered by a grant. (8/7)

RoscosmosTeases Names of Next Year's ISS Tourist Group Flight (Source: Sputnik)
Since 2001, only seven people have traveled into space as tourists with American company Space Adventures. The industry appears to be blossoming, however, as several other firms, including Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin and Zero2Infinity have announced plans to offer space jaunts. The Russian space agency Roscosmos announced that the names of two space tourists who will travel to the International Space Station (ISS) will be revealed in the beginning of 2021.

The upcoming flight with two tourists accompanied by one experienced cosmonaut should become the first in the space tourism history. Apart from announcing the 2021 tour under a contract with Space Adventures, Roscosmos said that negotiations are ongoing with other American companies to send tourists into space.

In 2019, NASA said it would make commercial flights to ISS available, using American spacecraft. According to reports, NASA is planning to use the SpaceX Dragon capsule and Boeing's Starliner orbital vehicle. In February 2020, Space Adventures announced plans to offer space tourists rides in the Space X Crew Dragon capsule. Trips could be capable of spending up to five days in a low-Earth orbit. As of now, every space tourist has traveled to orbit in a Russian-made Soyuz space vehicle, with the prices reportedly varying from $20-50 million dollars for each traveler. (8/7)

August 6, 2020

Businesses Now at the Center of NASA's Transition (Source: Quartz)
A transition toward complete focus on the Artemis moon-landing program is what NASA would like, but moving on it won’t be simple, and not only because Boeing is still working to deliver the spacecraft it owes NASA as part of the commercial crew program. Unlike NASA’s partnerships with private companies to replace the Space Shuttle, Artemis isn’t obviously time sensitive (whereas every year without access to the International Space Station meant waste); it’s definitely not cheap; and it doesn’t help the US save face with the Russians, on whom the Americans had become embarrassingly dependent for access to low-earth orbit, and paying out the nose for the privilege, until SpaceX came along.

However Artemis proceeds, it is clear that the mode of space exploration has changed permanently. Trump’s commentary on NASA was posted over a video not of a NASA activity, but of SpaceX’s newest Starship prototype taking its first short hop. While technically a NASA-funded project, Starship never would have made it off a NASA whiteboard. The ability of private companies to carry humans into orbit as effectively as governments will increasingly put businesses at the center of space activity. (8/6)

SES Picks Both SpaceX and ULA for Satellite Launches (Source: Space News)
SES awarded contracts to SpaceX and ULA for the launch of new C-band satellites. Under the contracts announced Wednesday, ULA will launch two satellites built by Boeing on a single Atlas 5 in 2022, while SpaceX will launch two satellites built by Northrop Grumman on a Falcon 9 rocket the same year. SpaceX's contract includes an option for launching an additional "contingency satellite" not yet ordered. SES emphasized its decision to procure exclusively U.S.-built satellites and rockets, as the cost for both will be covered by winning bidders of the FCC's December C-band spectrum auction. (8/6)

China Launches Imaging Satellite (Source: Xinhua)
China launched a new Earth imaging satellite overnight. A Long March 2D rocket lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center at 12:01 a.m. Eastern Thursday and placed the Gaofen-9 04 satellite into orbit. The satellite is the latest in a series to provide high-resolution imagery. The launch also carried a small secondary payload from Tsinghua University called Q-SAT that is described as a gravity and atmospheric science satellite. (8/6)

Space Force Plans Portfolio of Smallsat and Commercially Developed Capabilities (Source: Space News)
Much of the U.S. Space Force's future space infrastructure will be commercially developed. Col. Russell Teehan, portfolio architect of the U.S. Space Force's Space and Missile Systems Center, outlined an operational architecture that has three key parts: space superiority, strategic effects, and theater effects. The center plans to fund technology demonstrations for key elements of that architecture, which Teehan said will include many opportunities for smallsats, including those developed commercially. (8/6)

NanoAvionics Triples Revenue (Source: Space News)
Smallsat manufacturer NanoAvionics says its revenue has tripled in the last year. The company, headquartered in Lithuania and with facilities in the United States, did not disclose specific revenue numbers but announced orders so far this year from British space video startup Sen, a consortium of Dutch and Norwegian government agencies and Thales Alenia Space. NanoAvionics also announced it is expanding its product line to provide "full control" of the overall development of its customers' satellites. (8/6)

California Seeks to Expand Commercial Operations at Vandenberg Spaceport (Source: Space News)
California is seeking to expand commercial launch activity at Vandenberg Air Force Base. State officials announced Wednesday an agreement with the Space Force and others to improve commercial space launch infrastructure at the base. Under the agreement, the organizations will develop a master plan for increasing commercial launch activity at the spaceport. The announcement didn't include any specific funding commitments by the state, Space Force or others regarding spaceport infrastructure. Click here. (8/6) 

ATLAS Wins NASA SBIR Phase II for Constellation Management (Source: Space Newsfeed)
ATLAS Space Operations) ATLAS Space Operations has been selected by NASA for a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II award to further the development of an algorithmic solution to develop satellite ground station contact schedules designed to optimize ground station antenna usage around a customer’s mission requirements. ATLAS’ intent is to provide this unique ability to satellite communications ground antenna owners, enabling automated analysis of a mission’s requirements and providing intelligent satellite communications schedules on a lights-out basis. (8/3)

Smallsat Reliability Improves (Source: Space News)
The reliability of smallsats is improving even as the number of such satellites continues to increase. An Aerospace Corporation study found that 87% of smallsats launched between 2009 and 2018 that had completed their missions had done so successfully, with higher success rates for satellites launched in the latter half of the study. Smallsats that do fail tend to do so in the first months after launch, with power and communications malfunctions the leading causes. (8/6)

ExoTerra to Expand Production of Smallsat Propulsion Units (Source: Space News)
Smallsat propulsion company ExoTerra Resources is preparing to quadruple production capacity to meet government and commercial demand. The company is moving into a new, larger facility in September that will allow it to produce 200 propulsion units a year. ExoTerra has grown rapidly in the last year, nearly doubling its staff to 35 people. It has won awards from the U.S. Air Force and NASA, including one from NASA for a miniature solar electric propulsion system. (8/6)

Interplanetary Cubesats: Difficult But Not Impossible (Source: Space News)
Two cubesats that successfully flew to Mars demonstrated that interplanetary cubesats are possible, but not easy. The twin Mars Cube One (MarCO) cubesats accompanied the InSight Mars lander spacecraft and flew past Mars, relaying data from InSight as it landed. Cubesats have the advantage of being cheaper to build than traditional larger science spacecraft, but those being used for deep space missions require more durable components than cubesats flown in low Earth orbit. Those challenges, though, have not deterred other missions under development at NASA and ESA to send cubesats to the moon and asteroids. (8/6)

Should South Korea Pursue a Launch Capability? (Source: Korea Times)
A new agreement with the U.S. could help South Korea's space program, but the country still faces other obstacles to its space ambitions. An agreement with the U.S. on missile guidelines will allow South Korea to develop larger solid-fuel motors that the country's government says could be used for future launch vehicles. However, others in the country's space industry say that South Korea is unlikely to be able to compete on the global launch market, and would be better off launching its satellites on foreign vehicles. [Korea Times]

Rideshare Available on Russian Lunar Mission (Source: Space News)
GK Launch Services is offering a smallsat rideshare opportunity on a Russian lunar mission. The company says it is selling space for secondary payloads on the Soyuz-2 launch of the Luna-Glob lunar lander mission, scheduled for October 2021. Secondary payloads launched on that mission would be placed in Earth escape trajectories. The company didn't disclose the cost of that launch opportunity, or rideshare missions on other Soyuz missions, other than to say they were "competitive" with SpaceX. (8/6)

Air Force Lab Prepares to Spend Billions on New Tech (Source: Breaking Defense)
The Air Force Research Laboratory has organized its first WARTECH summit to help the lab prioritize the development of promising technologies. The Air Force's Science and Technology Strategy 2030 calls for 20% of the lab's annual budget to be allocated toward "transformational capabilities." (8/5)

A Hypersonic Air Force One? (Source: Aerospace America)
Startup Hermeus aims to show how its planned Mach 5 airliners could carry the U.S. president, diplomats, others. Today, the president of the United States and other high-ranking officials fly from here to there no faster than you and I do. Now, the U.S. Air Force, which manages today’s executive fleet of converted Boeing, Bombardier and Gulfstream jets, is looking into the feasibility of adding a Mach 5 plane to the mix.

Hermeus Corp. of Atlanta, a 2-year-old startup, announced today that it has received a 12-month, $1.5 million contract from the Air Force Presidential and Executive Airlift Directorate to study how its conceptual Mach 5 planes might someday join the U.S. government’s fleet. Hermeus has so far targeted the civilian air transport market. (8/6)

Manufacturers Worry About Smallsats Getting Too Hot (Source: Space News)
As small satellites become more powerful, manufacturers say they need better ways to manage excess heat generated by their electronics systems. Small satellites are increasingly handling more data, be it collecting remote sensing imagery or routing traffic for ground-based sensors and smart devices. Planet’s optical-imaging cubesats increased in onboard memory from 16 gigabytes a satellite eight years ago to 2 terabytes in 2020, a 125-fold increase, Chester Gillmore, Planet vice president of spacecraft development and manufacturing, said

Tim Lynch, executive director of the Space and Airborne Systems Multi-Domain Architecture Group within L3Harris Technologies, said power-intensive spacecraft functions, such as high-data-rate communications can generate a lot of unwanted heat. “We’ve built electronics packaging in very small volumes and getting the heat out is tough,” he said. “Thermal management is a big deal.” Manufacturers and their suppliers are developing new ways to deal with unwanted heat on smallsats. Atlanta, Georgia startup Carbice anticipates seeing satellites launch this year with its new nanotech carbon fiber thermal management material onboard. (8/6)

August 5, 2020

Starship Makes Long Awaited Hop at Texas Spaceport (Source: Space News)
A SpaceX Starship prototype made a long-awaited brief test flight Tuesday evening. The Starship SN5 vehicle lifted off from the company's Boca Chica, Texas, test site shortly before 8 p.m. Eastern, touching down on a neighboring pad about 45 seconds later after flying to an estimated altitude of 150 meters. The "hop" test was the first free flight of a Starship prototype. Last September, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said such a flight would take place in one to two months, but several previous prototypes were destroyed in ground tests. (8/5)

DoD's SDA Wants Fast Action on Military Constellations (Source: Space News)
The head of the Pentagon's Space Development Agency (SDA) says he wants to move quickly in developing constellations of satellites. Derek Tournear said Tuesday that the motto of the agency, "semper citius" or "always faster," is intended to emphasize the idea that good enough capabilities in the hands of troops sooner is preferable than delivering the perfect solution too late. The first satellites that SDA plans to start deploying in 2022 will be a mix of surveillance sensors to help the military find targets on the ground and heat-tracking sensors to locate missiles in flight that might be aimed at U.S. or allied forces. (8/5)

NOAA to Use Commercial Satellite Data for Operational Weather Forecasting (Source: Space News)
NOAA is seeking proposals for the purchase of commercial satellite weather data for operational missions. NOAA is inviting companies to submit proposals within the next 30 days to offer radio occultation data under two-year indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity orders. NOAA has previously purchased such data in a pilot program, but used it only to evaluate its quality. The upcoming purchases will be for data that will be used to support weather forecasting models. (8/5)

PredaSAR Plans 48 Satellite Constellation (Source: Space News)
PredaSAR plans to launch at least one, and as many as 48, satellites with SpaceX. The company, which is developing a constellation of synthetic aperture radar satellites, said Tuesday it will launch its first satellite on a Falcon 9 rideshare mission in the spring of 2021. PredaSAR hopes to use SpaceX to launch the remainder of its 48-satellite system, but has not yet signed contracts for them. The company declined to say when it expects to have all 48 satellites in orbit, or to state the resolution of the constellation. (8/5)

New NASA Office to Coordinate Smallsat Rideshares (Source: Space News)
NASA's Science Mission Directorate has a new office to coordinate rideshare launches of its smallsats. The office works to identify NASA science missions whose launches have excess capacity and arrange for using that additional performance for launching smallsats for NASA or other agencies. It's part of an initiative by the directorate announced two years ago to increase its use of small satellites for a variety of science missions. (8/5)

China Plans Missioins to Moon and Asteroids (Source: Space News)
China is proceeding with development of future missions to the moon and to near Earth asteroids. The China National Space Administration is seeking proposals for student experiments that could fly on the Chang'e-7 mission, which will send an orbiter and lander to the moon, landing in the south polar regions of the moon in 2024. Also in development is ZhengHe, a mission to go to the near Earth asteroid 2016 HO3 and return up to one kilogram of samples, then visit the comet 133P/Elst-Pizarro. (8/5)

AFRL to Support Both Air Force and Space Force (Source: Air Force Magazine)
The Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) will continue to support both the Air Force and the Space Force. Brig. Gen. Heather L. Pringle, the new commander of AFRL, said the lab will continue to operate largely as it does now, even though some of its elements are being transferred to the Space Force. Those personnel will then be reassigned back to the lab, with Pringle predicting the change to be "seamless" for them. (8/5)

Benchmark Space Systems Offers Nontoxic Satellite Propellenat (Source: Space News)
Satellite propulsion startup Benchmark Space Systems will provide nontoxic chemical propulsion for a new transfer vehicle being developed by Spaceflight. That propulsion will be used on Sherpa-NG, a transfer vehicle for smallsat rideshare missions. Benchmark also announced a permanent licensing partnership with Tesseract Space, a California propulsion startup, giving Benchmark access to Tesseract's intellectual property, assets and staff. (8/5)

LockMart Working with Momentus and USC on Cubesat Program (Source: Space News)
Lockheed Martin will work with Momentus and USC on a cubesat program. Students at USC's Information Sciences Institute will build the satellites and integrate them with Lockheed Martin's SmartSat mission payload, with the goal of launching four such satellites over two years. Momentus will provide launch services through Falcon 9 rideshare launches, starting next February. (8/5)

Lunapolitics: 10 Points to Consider (Source: Space News)
Renewed competition for the moon is the basis for the rise of Lunapolitics: where political and economic interests intersect with the topography and physical properties of the moon, from its subsurface through to cislunar space. The competitors are primarily the United States and China, but also Europe, Japan, India, and Russia, as well as companies hoping to mine the moon’s resources. Lunapolitics is the equivalent of geopolitics, and it is a growing and important reality that will keep diplomats, executives, and strategists busy for decades to come. Click here. (8/1)

Rocket Lab Increases Electron Payload Capacity (Source: Space News)
Rocket Lab announced Aug. 4 it has increased the payload capacity of its Electron launch vehicle thanks to improvements in the batteries used in the rocket. Rocket Lab previously promoted a payload capacity of 150 kilograms to a 500-kilometer sun-synchronous orbit (SSO) and 225 kilograms to lower orbits. The company now says the vehicle can place 200 kilograms into SSO and 300 kilograms in lower orbits. (8/4)

Astronauts Praise 'Flawless' SpaceX Capsule Landing (Source: Space Daily)
Two NASA astronauts who returned from space to a splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday praised the SpaceX Dragon capsule's performance in their first public comments since the mission. "We're so proud of the SpaceX and NASA teams to get Dragon through its first crewed flight flawlessly," Doug Hurley said. "I'm almost kind of speechless, as far as how well the vehicle did and how, how well the mission went and all the things we did on board [the International Space Station]."

Hurley and Bob Benken spent 64 days in space after lifting off May 30 from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Their assessment of the trip is important because the flight was the last test of the Crew Dragon capsule before NASA considers certifying it for regular flights. The space agency still must pore over data from the flight, which could take weeks. If all goes well, the first regular SpaceX mission will be scheduled for as early as late September. (8/5)

SES Picks ULA for Launching Two Satellites in 2022 (Source: Space News)
SES signed launch agreements with SpaceX and United Launch Alliance to each launch two C-band communications satellites in 2022. The launch agreements follow contracts with manufacturers Boeing and Northrop Grumman signed in June to build the satellites. SES emphasized its decisions to purchase from U.S. companies amid pressure to rely on American suppliers. ULA will launch two satellites from Boeing on an Atlas 5, while SpaceX will launch two satellites from Northrop Grumman on a Falcon 9. SpaceX’s agreement includes room to launch an additional “contingency satellite” that has not yet been ordered. (8/5)

Arianespace Moves Ariane 5 Launch to Aug. 14 (Source: Arianespace)
Arianespace has rescheduled an Ariane 5 launch to Aug. 14 after a last-minute scrub July 31. The European launch provider said a sensor located inside a liquid hydrogen tank in the launcher’s main cryogenic stage demonstrated “unexpected behavior,” triggering the scrub. The launch, designated VA253, will carry communications satellites for Intelsat and BSAT, and Northrop Grumman’s second satellite servicer. Arianespace said launch preparations could be accelerated to Aug. 13, one day earlier than planned. (8/5)

Russia's RSCC Plans 10 Satellite Constellation, Service Beginning in 2021 (Source: RSCC)
The Russian Satellite Communications Company expects to start service with its two new satellites, Express-80 and Express-103, in early 2021. The satellites, built by ISS Reshetnev with payloads from Thales Alenia Space, launched on a Proton rocket July 30 and separated 18 hours after liftoff. RSCC said the satellites grow its constellation to 10 geostationary satellites and increase the company’s total capacity by a quarter. The state-owned company’s fleet covers Russia and 57 other countries. (8/5)

Solar Interference Put NBN Satellite Out of Service for 7 Hours (Source: IT News)
Solar weather likely caused an NBN satellite to stop service for about seven hours on Aug. 4. NBN said it believes one of its twin Sky Muster broadband satellites “experienced a natural radiation event” in orbit and “went into self-preservation mode to avoid being damaged." Approximately 60,000 Sky Muster broadband users lost service during the outage of the Australian satellite. Service was restored by 4:30 p.m. Australian Eastern Standard Time. (8/5)

Canada's ExactEarth Sells Satellite and Ground Station Assets to Australia's Myriota (Source: ExactEarth)
Canadian company exactEarth has completed the sale of four satellites and six ground stations to Australian startup Myriota. exactEarth expects the divestiture to save the company 1 million Canadian dollars ($760,000) a year. Myriota is planning a constellation of at least 25 small satellites to connect sensors and low-data-rate devices globally. (8/5)

Amazon Web Services Shifts Satellite Ground Station Plans (Source: Space News)
Amazon Web Services (AWS) is changing plans for its ground station business. AWS has built ground stations in six locations around the world instead of the 12 it had expected to complete by the end of 2019. Shayn Hawthorne, senior manager of AWS's ground station business, said the company realized customers wanted ground stations in different locations than AWS thought. That includes a new focus on ground stations at higher latitudes. (8/5)

LoftOrbital to Support Development and Launch of Canadian Quantum Communications Experiment (Source: Space News)
Loft Orbital will provide the spacecraft platform and arrange a launch for a Canadian quantum communications experiment. The company announced Tuesday a contract with Honeywell, who is the prime contractor for the Canadian Space Agency mission called Quantum Encryption and Science Satellite (QEYSSat). The satellite will use a Blue Canyon Technologies bus designed for spacecraft weighing about 100 kilograms. The satellite is projected to launch in 18 to 24 months. (8/5)

Trump Claims NASA Was Dead Until He Was Elected (Sources: Donald J. Trump, Space News)
On Wednesday, after learning of SpaceX's Starship hop, President Trump tweeted: "NASA was Closed & Dead until I got it going again. Now it is the most vibrant place of its kind on the Planet...And we have Space Force to go along with it. We have accomplished more than any Administration in first 3 1/2 years. Sorry, but it all doesn’t happen with Sleepy Joe!"

Space News' Jeff Foust tweeted a fact-check: "NASA was neither closed nor dead at the start of the current administration. Many recent NASA successes have their origins in prior administrations. The Starship test the president is retweeting has nothing to do with NASA; it’s a private effort by SpaceX." (8/5)

August 4, 2020

Swarm to Launch 24 Satellites on Falcon 9 (Source: Space News)
Swarm Technologies signed a deal with Exolaunch to launch 24 of its satellites on a Falcon 9. Exolaunch will arrange the launch of the SpaceBee satellites on a Falcon 9 mission launching in December under terms of a contract announced Monday. Earlier this year, Exolaunch announced an agreement with SpaceX to send multiple small satellites into orbit on the December rideshare flight. Swarm is planning a constellation of 150 such satellites, each one-quarter the size of a single-unit cubesat, to offer internet-of-things services. (8/4)

Momentus Offers Hosted Payload Services (Source: Space News)
In-space transportation startup Momentus plans to offer hosted payload services. The company announced Monday it will offer space for technology demonstrations, qualification missions and short-term demonstrations in its Vigoride transfer vehicle. Those experiments can be carried out once the Vigoride completes its primary mission of deploying satellites into their final orbits after launch on rideshare missions. Momentus purchased rides on five SpaceX Falcon 9 smallsat rideshare missions in 2020 and 2021. (8/4)

NRO Plans Increased Use of Smallsats (Source: Space News)
The director of the National Reconnaissance Office says his agency plans to make increasing use of small satellites. In a keynote at the 34th Small Satellite Conference this week, Chris Scolese said the NRO sees cubesats as both a way to develop technologies as well as to carry out intelligence missions. The availability of low cost small satellites and launch services allows the agency to put up more technologies in space "to research future mission capabilities," said Scolese, who also noted the NRO's interest in buying more commercial data. (8/4)

Swamp Watch: White House Withdraws FCC Commissioner Nomination (Source: Space News)
The White House has withdrawn the nomination of FCC commissioner Michael O'Rielly for a second term. The administration didn't give a reason for its decision Monday to withdraw the nomination, which was pending confirmation in the full Senate. While Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, had placed a hold on the nomination to force O'Rielly to vote to rescind the FCC's approval of Ligado's 5G network that could interfere with GPS, sources say the withdrawal is not related to that issue. O'Rielly was the most vocal FCC commissioner on the topic of C-band, having pushed satellite operators to give up more of the spectrum for 5G cellular services. (8/4)

'Save Space Camp' Drive Pulls In More Than $1 Million in Days After Pandemic Losses Threaten Closure (Source: WESH)
A fundraising drive launched to help the U.S. Space and Rocket Center and Space Camp through the coronavirus pandemic has pulled in more than $1.1 million in just a few days. The online effort that began Tuesday had brought in nearly $620,000 by Friday afternoon, and officials said Boeing contributed another $500,000. That brings total donations to nearly 75% of the $1.5 million that officials say is needed to keep the operation going after stiff losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The center is in danger of closing its doors for good because of coronavirus pandemic's financial hits. The museum in Huntsville, Alabama, which houses the legendary Saturn V rocket, is usually the state's top paid tourist attraction. But since the pandemic began, it has lost two-thirds of its revenue. More than 6,000 people and corporations worldwide have contributed to the fundraising drive, museum officials said in an announcement. (8/4)

Canadian Space Agency Awards $7.15 Million in Technology Contracts (Source: SpaceQ)
In just over the last month the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has awarded $20.6 million in contributions as part of the Space Technology Development Program (STDP) AO 6. The third, and most recent list of awards was posted to their website yesterday. The contributions went to 20 different companies with more than half going to small businesses, including several first time winners, and for some very interesting technologies. (8/4)

Loft Orbital to Fly Canadian Quantum Communications Satellite (Source: Space News)
Loft Orbital on Aug. 4 announced a contract to provide the spacecraft platform and arrange a launch for a Canadian quantum communications experiment. Loft Orbital signed the contract with Honeywell, the prime contractor for the Canadian Space Agency’s Quantum Encryption and Science Satellite mission, or QEYSSat for short. The terms of the contract were not disclosed. (8/4)

Space Catalog to Add RVS Thermal Vacuum Systems and YURI Microgravity Hardware (Source: Orbital Transports)
Rydberg Vacuum Sciences (RVS) today announced that they have joined the Orbital Transports partner network and will offer their 6UB and 6UC Thermal Vacuum Systems product line in the Space Catalog. RVS Thermal Vacuum Systems provides space simulation systems of exceptional value for flight qualification of small satellites and components. The advanced and affordable thermal vacuum bake-out and thermal vacuum cycling products are designed specifically for the small satellite community, providing a standard test platform sufficient for nanosatellites up to 6U in size.

Also, yuri GmbH announced today that they have joined the Orbital Transports partner network and will offer their modular experiment hardware and services for microgravity research through the Space Catalog. yuri offers a growing portfolio of off-the-shelf, flight-proven, reusable modules suitable for conducting microgravity experiments ranging from growing cell cultures in three dimensions and studying protein crystallization, to understanding fluid dynamics and interfacial phenomenon in the absence of gravity. (8/4)

Captured Flag (Source: Space Review)
On Sunday afternoon, the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft completed its Demo-2 mission with a splashdown that successfully returned two NASA astronauts to Earth. Jeff Foust reports on the end of a mission that was a long-awaited milestone for NASA’s commercial crew program. Click here. (8/3)
 
How the “Department of Exploration” Supports Mars 2020 and More (Source: Space Review)
NASA’s Mars 2020 mission that launched last week included a role for the Department of Energy, both for the rover’s power supply and its instruments. Paul Dabbar explains how his department supports Mars 2020 and other space science and exploration missions. Click here. (8/3)
 
Propelling Perseverance: The Legacy of Viking is Helping NASA Get to Mars (Source: Space Review)
NASA’s latest mission to Mars has an unexpected link to the first NASA mission to land on the planet nearly 45 years ago. Joe Cassady describes how a thruster used on Viking is still in demand on Mars missions today. Click here. (8/3)
 
Mars Race Rhetoric (Source: Space Review)
The wave of missions launched to Mars in recent weeks have led some to claim there’s a new “race” involving the Red Planet. Ajey Lele argues that the countries embarking on Mars missions are doing so for different reasons and with different capabilities that rules out any real competition. Click here. (8/3)

Exim Bank Guarantee Helps Support Florida Jobs with Embraer (Source: AIN Online)
Embraer has received a $97.2 working capital loan guarantee from the US Export Import Bank to help support 800 US jobs. "With [the] unanimous board action supporting 800 jobs, many of which are in Florida, Exim proudly reaffirms our dedication to American businesses and workers in overcoming the economic challenges posed by the unprecedented global pandemic," said Exim President and Chairman Kimberly Reed. (7/31)

Ice Sheets, Not Rivers, Carved Valleys on Mars, Study Says (Source: UPI)
The majority of Mars' valleys were carved by ice sheets, not flowing rivers, calling the Red Planet's supposed warm, watery past into question, according to new research. "Valley networks on Mars have historically been interpreted as surface water flows, either sourced by surface liquid water or by ground water," says study lead author Anna Grau Galofre. "The problem is that there are thousands of them and they all have very different morphologies," said Grau Galofre, former doctoral student in the department of earth, ocean and atmospheric sciences at the University of British Columbia. (8/3)

Virgin Galactic Delays SpaceShipTwo Commercial Flights to 2021 (Source: Space News)
Virgin Galactic has pushed the beginning of commercial flights of its SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicle to no earlier than the first quarter of 2021 while announcing plans to sell additional stock to raise money. The company, in its fiscal second quarter financial results released Aug. 3, said it expected to perform two more test flights of SpaceShipTwo from Spaceport America in New Mexico, both of which will be powered flights. The vehicle has made two glide flights since moving to the spaceport early this year.

The first of those powered flights, scheduled for the fall, will have two pilots on board. It will also carry payloads for NASA’s Flight Opportunities program that arranges flights of experiments on suborbital vehicles, said George Whitesides, chief space officer and former chief executive of Virgin Galactic, in a company earnings call. (8/3)

Virgin Galactic Announces Proposed Public Offering of Common Stock (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Virgin Galactic Holdings announced today that it has commenced an underwritten public offering of 20,489,977 shares of its common stock, for expected gross proceeds of approximately $460 million. All of the shares in the offering will be sold by Virgin Galactic. In addition, Virgin Galactic expects to grant the underwriters a 30-day option to purchase an additional 3,073,496 shares of its common stock in the offering. The proposed offering is subject to market and other conditions, and there can be no assurance as to whether or when the offering may be completed, or as to the actual size or terms of the offering. (8/3)

Surprising Number of Exoplanets Could Host Life (Source: Space Daily)
Our solar system has one habitable planet - Earth. A new study shows other stars could have as many as seven Earth-like planets in the absence of a gas giant like Jupiter. This is the conclusion of a study led by UC Riverside astrobiologist Stephen Kane. The search for life in outer space is typically focused on what scientists call the "habitable zone," which is the area around a star in which an orbiting planet could have liquid water oceans - a condition for life as we know it. Kane had been studying a nearby solar system called Trappist-1, which has three Earth-like planets in its habitable zone. (8/3)

Breakthrough Method for Predicting Solar Storms (Source: Space Daily)
Extensive power outages and satellite blackouts that affect air travel and the internet are some of the potential consequences of massive solar storms. These storms are believed to be caused by the release of enormous amounts of stored magnetic energy due to changes in the magnetic field of the sun's outer atmosphere - something that until now has eluded scientists' direct measurement. Researchers believe this recent discovery could lead to better "space weather" forecasts in the future. (7/30)

UK Claims Russia Has 'Reignited' Space Arms Race, But Ignores US Spending Spree (Source: Sputnik)
Last week, the US's new Space Force accused Russia of testing an anti-satellite weapon from one of its orbiting satellites. The Russian Foreign Ministry dismissed the claims as "propaganda," and urged "our US and British colleagues to show professionalism" and "sit down for talks." Russia's alleged July 15 satellite weapons test is responsible for reigniting fears of a new space-based arms race, The Financial Times has reported, citing US officials and Washington-based think tank analysts.

"To be clear, Moscow and Beijing have already turned space into a warfighting domain," Christopher Ford, assistant secretary as the State Department's Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation," was quoted as saying. Calling Russia "the most prominent space mischief-maker right now," Ford alleged that last month's alleged test was Moscow's second recent space-based projectile-firing satellite weapons trial following a similar reported test earlier this year.

UK Space Directorate chief Air Vice-Marshal Harvey Smyth chimed in to echo US concerns, suggesting that Russian actions like the alleged satellite weapons test "threaten the peaceful use of space" and could lead to debris damaging nearby satellites. Moscow has rejected the allegations regarding the alleged weapons test, with the Foreign Ministry urging Washington and London to come to the negotiating table for talks, and the Kremlin emphasizing that Russia remains committed to the full demilitarization of space. (8/3)

Iranian Satellite Once Derided as 'Tumbling Webcam in Space' Snaps Pics of US's Largest Mideast Base (Source: Sputnik)
The images were reportedly obtained amid the ongoing massive war games in southern Iran involving multiple branches of the armed forces, including elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) formations. The IRGC has released detailed images of Al-Udeid Air Base - the Qatar-based home of the US military's Central Command, with the snaps taken by Iran's new domestically-developed 'Noor' (Light) military satellite.

The images include several detailed snaps of the airbase itself, with the pictures apparently taken during various intervals, based on the changing positions of aircraft on runways. One of the images appears to be an infrared view showing heat signatures emitted by aircraft and the nearby facilities. Al-Udeid is the US's largest military base in the Middle East, with as many as 11,000 personnel permanently stationed at the facility at any one time, and the base used to direct US military operations across the region. (8/3)

Small Launch IndustrySees Pandemic, Government Affecting Market (Source: Space News)
Executives with several major small launch vehicle companies say both the economic repercussions of the pandemic and the growing interest by the U.S. government in such vehicles could reshape the industry. During an Aug. 3 SpaceNews panel discussion associated with the online version of the annual Small Satellite Conference, Dan Hart, president and chief executive of Virgin Orbit, said he believed the pandemic may accelerate a long-awaited shakeout of the industry, where dozens of companies are pursuing vehicles.

“This is a developing market area, and it’s messy. I think COVID is amplifying the dynamics,” he said. “We’re seeing winners and we’re seeing people fall out and we’re seeing reinventions, in some cases, of concepts.” Interest in small satellites is growing, he noted, particularly by government agencies. “That said, we’re not going to have a hundred healthy small launch providers launching on a frequent basis,” he said. “There will be a shakeout.” (8/4)

West Point Offering Space Education (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Army is expanding space education programs at West Point. The academy started a new space-focused program and graduated its first cadets with degrees in space science this year, part of efforts to encourage more officers to pursue space operations. Many West Point graduates go on to join the Army's cadre of space operations officers after serving in their core branch like armor, infantry, aviation or engineers. (8/4)

Ball Aerospace Proves Green Propellant on Satellite (Source: Space News)
Ball Aerospace is wrapping up a satellite mission to test a green propellant. The Green Propellant Infusion Mission satellite, built by Ball for NASA, proved that the new fuel, called AF-M315E, could be used to fly a satellite. AF-M315E is a higher performance fuel than hydrazine that is also nontoxic. The satellite launched last summer on the STP-2 Falcon Heavy mission and, with the tests complete, controllers are lowering the satellite's orbit for reentry late this summer. (8/4)

Cubesat Demonstrates Atmospheric Monitoring (Source: Space News)
A cubesat launched earlier this year is demonstrating an instrument to be flown on a later NASA mission. The Hyper-Angular Rainbow Polarimeter (HARP) cubesat was deployed from the International Space Station in February and is collecting data on cloud and aerosol particles. The Space Dynamics Lab, which built the three-unit cubesat, says the mission demonstrates that cubesats can perform useful work in the Earth sciences. A version of the HARP instrument will be flown on NASA's PACE Earth science mission launching in late 2022. (8/4)

Made In Space Explores Military Work (Source: Space News)
Made In Space is emphasizing national security applications for its in-space robotic assembly and additive manufacturing technologies. The company is best known for working with NASA to demonstrate those technologies, but is also working with DARPA to convert a payload adapter after launch into a structure for a phased array radar. The company also expects the U.S. Space Force and U.S. Space Command to be receptive to its technologies. (8/4)

France's Mecano ID to Develop Small Satellite Deployer for CNES (Source: Space News)
French company Mecano ID has won government support to accelerate development of a small satellite deployer. The EOS deployer, developed with support from the French space agency CNES, is designed to accommodate satellites weighing 15 to 60 kilograms. The company received in July an undisclosed amount of funding from the French General Secretariat for Investment's Future Investment Program, an initiative aimed at encouraging innovative and promising projects. (8/4)

August 3, 2020

UAE Space Program to Boost Asia’s Stake in Space Development (Source: SpaceWatch Global)
The UAE’s space programs, especially the successful launch of its Mars Mission, will give a boost to Asia’s lead in Industry 4.0, and make the Emirates “a big stakeholder in the development of developing countries across the globe,” a senior academic told Emirates News Agency, WAM. “Asians are leading the race in terms of the fourth industrial revolution [4IR] in which space technology has a core role. China, India, South Korea, and Japan are at its forefront, and the UAE has joined them with its successful space programmes,” said Dr. Narayanappa Janardhan who is a Senior Research Fellow at the Emirates Diplomatic Academy, EDA, in Abu Dhabi. (8/1)

Belgian Company SpaceBel Forms Hyperspectral Imaging Spinoff (Source: Space News)
A small Belgian company known for its work on European Space Agency programs has created a spinoff company to operate a constellation of five to 10 hyperspectral imaging satellites. SpaceBel, a space systems and software company, will seek to raise around 10 million euros ($11.8 million) in 2021 to initiate development of the constellation and prepare for a demonstration satellite launch in 2023, said Thierry Du Pre-Werson, SpaceBel chief executive. SpaceBel formed the spinoff company, called ScanWorld, in May with Belgian investment firm SRIW, he said. SpaceBel is the primary shareholder, but will gradually dilute its stake through outside investment, he said. (8/3)

Small Launch Startup ABL Secures Over $90 Million in New Funding and Air Force Contracts (Source: Space News)
ABL Space Systems, a three-year-old startup developing a launch vehicle for small satellites, has received two U.S. Air Force contracts worth $44.5 million and secured $49 million in new private funding. Based in  California, ABL is planning the first orbital launch of its RS1 vehicle in 2021. The $44.5 million Air Force contracts include a one-year deal from the tech incubator AFWERX to demonstrate launch technology and an agreement with the Space and Missile Systems Center’s Space Enterprise Consortium to conduct three demonstrations of an RS1 vehicle variant and deployable ground infrastructure in 2022. (8/3)

NASA Taps General Atomics to Build Solar Irradiance Satellite (Source: Space News)
General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems won a $32.9 million contract to build NASA’s Total and Spectral solar Irradiance-2 (TSIS-2) spacecraft, a small satellite scheduled to launch in 2023. Under the firm-fixed price, time and materials contract awarded July 6, General Atomics will develop and test the TSIS-2 spacecraft, integrate instruments, and support the launch and in-orbit operations for three years. TSIS-2 will be equipped with the Total Irradiance Monitor and Spectral the Irradiance Monitor built by the University of Colorado Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. (8/3)

Swamp Watch: Trump Does End-Run Around Congress to Install Tata at Senior DoD Post (Source: Washington Post)
Last week the Senate rejected President Trump's controversial nomination of retired Gen. Anthony Tata to become Undersecretary of Defense for Policy. Tata has a history of spouting conspiracy theories, making inflammatory statements about Muslims, and suggesting that a former CIA director should suffer sexual humiliation in prison. “Tata retired as a brigadier general in 2009 under a cloud after the Army inspector general found that he had at least two extramarital affairs, despite adultery being a crime in the military.” A senior GOP Senate aide said: "The administration should consider nominating people who are qualified." 

On Sunday night Tata's nomination was withdrawn, but he was instead “designated as the official performing the duties of the deputy undersecretary of defense for policy.” This circumvents Congress' role in confirming senior officials and providing oversight “to prevent the appointment of unfit characters.”  Trump has said he loves keeping people in “acting” positions, including in the Cabinet. It also circumvents congressional oversight. The president has installed loyalists and ideologues into critical positions when it was clear they could not get confirmed by the GOP-controlled Senate for the job, such as former acting director of national intelligence Ric Grenell. (8/3)

Virgin Galactic Partners with Rolls-Royce to Build an Aircraft for Supersonic Air Travel (Source: CNBC)
Space tourism venture Virgin Galactic announced it signed an agreement with Rolls-Royce to develop an aircraft for supersonic travel, giving a first look on Monday of the coming vehicle’s design. Supersonic travel is a long-term bet for Virgin Galactic, which has been developing reusable spacecraft capable of sending people on short trips to the edge of space for more than a decade.

Virgin Galactic said it completed a mission concept review alongside NASA of its supersonic vehicle design and now will work with the Federal Aviation Administration to create a framework for certifying the aircraft for flight. Previously Boeing’s venture arm invested $20 million in Virgin Galactic, specifically toward helping the company build a supersonic aircraft. (8/3)

L3Harris Completes Review for Experimental Air Force NavSat (Source: Space News)
L3Harris has completed the critical design review for an experimental navigation satellite. The review will allow the company to proceed with construction of the Navigation Technology Satellite-3 (NTS-3) for the U.S. Air Force, with launch scheduled for 2022. NTS-3 is intended to demonstrate that a spacecraft in higher geosynchronous orbit can supplement the Global Positioning System that operates from medium Earth orbit. The Space Enterprise Consortium selected L3Harris for the $84 million NTS-3 contract in 2018. (8/3)

BAE Completes Collins Aerospace GPS Unit Acquisition (Source: Space News)
BAE Systems has completed the acquisition of the Collins Aerospace military Global Positioning System business. BAE said Friday it closed the $1.9 billion acquisition of the Collins business from United Technologies Corp., which sold the unit in order to clear the antitrust regulatory requirements of its merger with Raytheon. Collins military GPS will be integrated into BAE Systems' Electronic Systems sector. (8/3)

Raytheon Designing Prototype Weather Satellite for Space Force (Source: Space News)
Raytheon is designing a prototype weather satellite for the U.S. Space Force. Raytheon's proposed Theater Weather Imaging and Cloud Characterization satellite will include a day-night band to enable observations at night with illumination from the moon. That system draws heavily on technology from the firm's Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) and Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer used on other weather satellites. Through the Electro Optical/Infrared Weather System program, the Space Force seeks to deploy a constellation of satellites to provide weather data before its current constellation of Defense Meteorological Satellites cease operations. (8/3)

Interim CEO for Spaceport America, and a $12 Million 2021 Budget (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Spaceport America has an interim CEO as an investigation continues. Scott McLaughlin, who joined the spaceport in 2019, said at a meeting of the spaceport's board Friday he is serving as acting CEO. Dan Hicks, who has been CEO since 2016, was placed on administrative leave in June after a complaint alleging misconduct was filed with the state government. The board approved at that meeting an operating budget of just under $12 million for fiscal year 2021. (8/3)

Space Coast Legislator Hospitalized with COVID (Source: Florida Today)
Space Coast state legislator Randy Fine (R-Palm Bay) has been hospitalized with the COVID-19 viris. The state representative put the following message on Facebook: "So I got the x-ray back and it wasn't what I expected. Doctor said I have some pretty serious damage in my lungs and is ordering me admitted to the hospital." (8/2)

Biden Statement on the Successful Splashdown of NASA-SpaceX Dragon Endeavour (Source: Medium)
Congratulations to NASA, SpaceX, astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, and all the hardworking women and men who made possible a successful conclusion to this historic mission. The first American splashdown in 45 years was executed with precision and professionalism, just like the entirety of this awe-inspiring trip to the International Space Station.

This is a victory for American innovation and persistence, and I am proud of the role President Obama and I had in fighting to ensure that commercial crew flights from American soil would become a reality. As president, I look forward to leading a bold space program that will continue to send astronaut heroes to expand our exploration and scientific frontiers through investments in research and technology to help millions of people here on Earth. (8/2)

Hazardous Landing Zone Turns Into Trump Boat Parade (Source: USCG, CBS, Florida Today)
Not long after the Dragon spacecraft splashed down off the coast of Pensacola Beach, a swarm of private watercraft encircled the capsule, despite warnings of potential safety hazards for both the boaters and the astronauts aboard Dragon. Boaters were videotaped approaching very close to the craft, one carrying TRUMP campaign flags, before being chased off by the Coast Guard. "Numerous boaters ignored the Coast Guard crews’ requests and decided to  encroach the area, putting themselves and those involved in the operation in potential danger."

“The actions of those boaters today were not representative of the average boating community, and they put themselves and others at risk through their actions,” according to a Coast Guard statement. “A comprehensive review of this operation will be conducted.” (8/2)

August 2, 2020

SpaceX Says Starlink Internet has ‘Extraordinary Demand,’ with Nearly 700,000 Interested in Service (Source: CNBC)
SpaceX said its nascent satellite internet service called Starlink has already seen “extraordinary demand” from potential customers. Elon Musk’s space company said in a filing Friday that “nearly 700,000 individuals” across the U.S. indicated interest in the company’s coming service. SpaceX asked regulators if it could increase the number of authorized user terminals — the devices that consumers would use to connect to the company’s satellite internet network — to 5 million from 1 million. (8/1)

Dragon Capsule Safely Splashes Down Off Pensacola Coast Carrying NASA Astronauts (Source: Weather Channel)
Despite a tropical storm on the other side of Florida, the SpaceX crew capsule made a successful splashdown Sunday afternoon in the Gulf of Mexico. Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken returned to Earth from the International Space Station inside the Dragon capsule, named Endeavour by its crew, at 2:48 p.m. The capsule landed in the Gulf off Pensacola in Florida's Panhandle and was greeted by a recovery ship and two smaller boats. Hurley and Behnken remained inside the spacecraft as the two smaller boats moved toward them. The splashdown was the first in 45 years for NASA. The last one was on July 24, 1975, when a joint U.S.-Soviet Apollo-Soyuz mission ended. (8/2)

SpaceWorks to Offer Reentry Device (RED) System in Space Catalog (Source: Orbital Transports)
SpaceWorks Enterprises, Inc announced that they have joined the Orbital Transports partner network and will offer their Reentry Device (RED) product line in the Space Catalog. The RED-50, RED-25 and RED-4U products are on-demand payload return capsules providing low-cost, autonomous downmass capabilities from Earth orbit. The RED systems accommodate flexible payload configurations, precision reentry, and thermal management requirements to provide rapid return for low Earth orbit manufacturing and experimentation. The capsule-shaped systems are nominally capable of returning 6-50 kg of payload from space to anywhere within the contiguous United States. (8/2)

Air Force Vetting Vandeberg AFB for Space Command Headquarters (Source: Edhat)
The U.S. Air Force will begin formally evaluating Vandenberg Air Force Base as the future permanent headquarters for the U.S. Space Command. The base has met the screening criteria required to move into the next phase, Air Force leadership informed base officials this week. Vandenberg’s candidacy has garnered broad support by local and state officials — a central factor in the decision — with about a dozen letters of support from Central Coast cities and counties, Gov. Newsom, U.S. Congressman Salud Carbajal, Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham, and a regional coalition of education and business groups organized by REACH. (7/31)

Branson Splits Up $1.7 Billion Stake in Virgin Galactic (Source: Bloomberg)
Richard Branson has broken out assets of the firm that held his stake in Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc., giving the British billionaire greater control of his most valuable listed holding. Shares in the space-travel company worth about $1.7 billion were distributed to a firm Branson controls and to Aabar Space, an Abu Dhabi investment company, according to a regulatory filing. Branson previously held his stake in Virgin Galactic through a company called Vieco 10, with his Virgin Group controlling 81% of the firm and the balance held by Aabar Space.

The distribution follows Branson selling part of his Virgin Galactic stake to support his broader business empire amid the coronavirus pandemic. Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. -- the company most responsible for building Branson’s global brand -- was rescued on the brink of collapse this month with a 1.2 billion-pound ($1.6 billion) package. Part of that deal included about 200 million pounds that Branson got from diluting his stake in Virgin Galactic. (8/1)

Thin Cloud Returns on Mars – Not Linked to Volcanic Activity (Source: SciTech Daily)
A mysteriously long, thin cloud has again appeared over the 20-km (~12 miles / 65,000 feet) high Arsia Mons volcano on Mars. A recurrent feature, the cloud is made up of water ice, but despite appearances, it is not a plume linked to volcanic activity. Instead, the curious stream forms as airflow is influenced by the volcano’s ‘leeward’ slope − the side that does not face the wind. “We have been investigating this intriguing phenomenon and were expecting to see such a cloud form around now,” explains Jorge Hernandez-Bernal. (8/1)

FAA Approves Rocket Lab to Resume Launches (Source: CNBC)
Rocket Lab is going back to the launchpad in August, as the company said it diagnosed the cause of its recent launch failure and received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to resumes launches. Alongside FAA investigators, RocketLab reviewed over 25,000 channels of data from the launch to identify the cause of the accident. “This disconnection was incredibly unusual because it was able to evade all of the pre-flight acceptance testing,” Beck said. The company made a “slight change” to its production process and will be screening for the issue in the rockets its built. “Anybody who flies on Electron now is going to be flying on a more reliable vehicle than they did before,” Beck said. (7/31)

New SpaceX Dragon Spaceship Almost Ready for Next NASA Astronaut Launch (Source: Teslarati)
The next Crew Dragon spacecraft assigned to launch NASA astronauts is almost ready to ship to Florida. Deep inside SpaceX’s Hawthorne, California rocket factory, the Crew Dragon capsule – believed to be C207 – assigned to the company’s operational astronaut launch debut (Crew-1) is in the late stages of final integration. A photo provided alongside the news confirms that the Crew Dragon is nearly complete. Aside from the installation of body panels and several other tasks that will be completed once the ship arrives in Florida, capsule C207 is already fully outfitted with a heatshield, windows, Draco maneuvering thrusters, SuperDraco abort thrusters, parachute deployment hardware, and much more. (7/30)

House Passes Appropriations Bill for NASA, NOAA, and FAA (Source: Space Policy Online)
The House passed the FY2021 funding bill that includes NASA, NOAA and the FAA today. Overall, there were only minor changes to the recommendations of the House Appropriations Committee. Efforts to add $2.6 billion to NASA’s budget and to elevate the Office of Space Commerce to the Secretary of Commerce’s office failed.  The next step is action by the Senate, which has not marked up any of its FY2021 appropriations bills yet.

The bill that passed, H.R. 7617, is a “minibus” combining six appropriations bills including Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS), which funds NASA and NOAA, and Transportation-HUD, which funds the FAA and its Office of Commercial Space Transportation. It also includes the Defense, Energy-Water, Financial Services, and Labor-HHS-Education bills.  The Homeland Security bill originally was included, but was removed because of ongoing disagreements. (7/31)

Trump's 2024 Moon Goal Faces 'Challenge' in Senate, GOP Chair Predicts (Source: Politico)
It will be a “challenge” to provide NASA the money it needs to follow through on President Donald Trump’s goal of returning astronauts on the moon in 2024, given competing priorities for the space agency, the top Senate appropriator for NASA says. Sen. Jerry Moran, chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, is a staunch supporter of the administration’s effort to return to the moon four years ahead of the previous schedule.

But the Kansas Republican acknowledged the moon program, which has already suffered a funding setback in the House, is competing with other needs such as education programs that must not be cut to pay for Project Artemis. “In order to prioritize the lunar landing, things would have to be reduced that also are a priority,” Moran, who also sits on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said. “We will try to provide all the necessary funding to keep Artemis on track for a lunar landing on schedule, but it is and will remain a challenge.” (7/31)

East Texas Facility to Play Key Role in NASA Balloon Mission to Study Stars (Source: KLTV)
One of NASA’s next missions to study the origins of stars will feature a record-breaking telescope hoisted by a football stadium-sized balloon and the space agency is relying on an East Texas facility to make sure it gets off the ground. The Astrophysics Stratospheric Telescope for High Spectral Resolution Observations at Submillimeter-wavelengths, or ASTHROS, is slated to be launched from Antarctica in December 2023. The radio telescope, managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is designed to make the first 3D maps of the gas around newborn stars.

Project manager Jose Siles says this understanding of the cosmos will be valuable in understanding the origins of life on Earth. “Every atom in our bodies comes from a star. It was formed in a star millions of years ago.” The engineer says the heart of the ASTHROS mission is ta the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility in East Texas. NASA’s team in Palestine is responsible for assembling the technology, then managing the launch, flight, and recovery. (7/31)

Ispace Reveals the Final Design of its Lunar Lander Ahead of its First Mission to the Moon in 2022 (Source: Tech Crunch)
Japanese new space startup ispace has revealed the final design of its HAKUTO-R lunar lander, a spacecraft set to make its first touchdown on the moon in 2022 if all goes to the updated plan (it had been set to fly in October 2021 until today). Ispace is part of a team led by Draper selected by NASA for its Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program to deliver various payloads to the moon ahead of a NASA planned human mission to the lunar surface in 2024.

The lander is just a bit taller than a person, at around seven and a half feet tall (it’s basically that wide and long as well). The design includes a 4K color camera that will beam back images throughout the mission, as well as fuel tanks for holding its propellant, solar panels for power generation, landing gear, thrusters and payload compartments for holding up to 66 lbs of experiments and other materials. (7/30)

Astronomers Puzzle About Luminous Energy Circles in Space (Source: Medium)
Astronomers have discovered several strange circles in space that are only visible in the radio range. They made the observation using one of the most sensitive observatories in the world. The mysterious rings “do not appear to correspond to any known class of objects,” and have been dubbed Odd Radio Circle, or ORC for short, according to a new study conducted by Western Sydney University astrophysicist Ray Norris.

“To the best of our knowledge, we have discovered a new class of radio astronomical objects. They consist of a circular disk, which in some cases has luminous edges. Sometimes there is a galaxy at its center,” Norris and his colleagues write in the study, which was published on the pre-print server arXiv at the end of June. A peer review, i.e. evaluation by other researchers, is still pending. (7/23)

FAA Striving For Balance in Supersonic Regs (Source: AIN Online)
The FAA is placing a priority on supporting the emergence of supersonic technologies, but the agency must apply appropriate regulatory and environmental safeguards, said a key agency official. “Our focus…has been how we can support the reemergence of supersonic aircraft from a regulatory perspective to ensure that, as technology advances, the FAA is putting in place the necessary regulatory changes,” said Kevin Welsch, executive director of the FAA’s Office of Environment and Energy during a recent American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Aviation Forum.

For years, certification projects remained steady and “looked similar,” he said. But in the last few years, “all of a sudden that space has exploded in terms of the types of regulations we are doing… It is a lot of work for government agencies to catch up with innovation. That’s one of our major focuses,” Welsch said. Welsch pointed to the two primary regulatory activities underway on supersonic, one involved with enabling certification fight testing and another establishing certification noise landing and takeoff standards. The agency is now sorting through comments on both proposals as it shapes a final rule. (7/29)

August 1, 2020

Getting to Mars is the Easy Part, Landing on Mars is Harder (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
When NASA’s Perseverance rover arrives at Mars, mission managers will be watching, helpless to do anything. The $2.4 billion spacecraft will hit the top of the Martian atmosphere at more than 12,000 mph and then come to a complete stop seven minutes later. That the 1-ton rover will end up on Mars on the afternoon of Feb. 18 is nearly certain. The spacecraft navigators will have put the robotic explorer on a collision course with the planet. The only question is whether Perseverance will be on the ground in one piece or smashed to bits.

Spacecraft from Europe and the Soviet Union have made it all the way to the red planet, only to end up as expensive scorch marks on its dusty surface. But NASA has a good track record with Mars. It is the only space agency so far to pull off a successful mission on the surface of the red planet. Perseverance is largely the same design as the Curiosity rover, which set down in 2012 and will have the same convoluted but now tried-and-true “sky crane” landing choreography.

One major addition to Perseverance is what NASA calls “terrain-relative navigation.” A camera on the spacecraft will take pictures of the landscape and match them with its stored maps. It would then steer to what looks like the safest landing spot it can. “I don’t need the whole place to be flat and boring,” Chen said. “I just need parts of it that I can reach to be flat and boring.” Without this system, there would be more than a 1-in-5 chance that Perseverance would end up somewhere unfortunate — damaged by a boulder, tipped over on a steep slope or surrounded by sand traps. That would be an unacceptably high risk for such a high-profile, expensive mission. (6/30)

Artemis SLS Hardware Arriving at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
One more piece and NASA will have all the parts needed for the biggest rocket to ever blast off from Earth. Kennedy Space Center got its hands on the second to last piece of hardware for Space Launch System rocket to be used on the Artemis I mission to moon. The launch vehicle stage adapter made its way to Kennedy aboard NASA’s Pegasus barge this week and was transported on Thursday into the Vehicle Assembly Building. The adapter fits on top of the massive core stage of SLS, the one piece that has yet to arrive to KSC, to connect it to the upper stage, and also acts as protection for the upper stage’s engine, which will be what propels the Orion spacecraft to the moon. (7/30)

Rocket Lab Pinpoints Cause of July 4 Launch Failure (Source: Business Insider)
As Rocket Lab's six-story Electron vehicle thundered off a New Zealand launch pad on July 4, a pernicious electrical problem that would ultimately doom the vehicle began to set in. The private firm's rocket worked normally for the first leg of its flight, successfully using up and shedding its heavy, nine-engine lower-stage booster. This freed the vehicle's single-engine upper-stage rocket — which contained a payload of seven small satellites on top — to continue on its way to low-Earth orbit.

Instead, about two minutes into the upper-stage engine's burn, it shut down. Rocket Lab lost its video feed of the launch, and the upper stage later disintegrated as it tumbled through the atmosphere, taking the would-be satellites with it. In a call with reporters on Friday, Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck said a nearly month-long investigation, conducted in partnership with the Federal Aviation Administration, concluded that a single electrical connection of a battery pack in the upper stage failed. This disconnection severed a vital source of power to the rocket's components, triggering the engine to stop blasting, the rocket body to slow, and the mission to fail. (7/31)

Boeing Donates $500,000 to U.S. Space & Rocket Center’s 'Save Space Camp' Campaign (Source: WAAY)
Boeing has donated $500,000 to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center’s “Save Space Camp” campaign. The center said on July 28 that it must raise a minimum of $1.5 million to keep the museum open past October and to reopen Space Camp in April 2021. Since the campaign's launch, more than 6,000 donations have been made. The center says Boeing's donation brings the amount of funds raised to more than $1.1 million, as of Friday afternoon. (7/31)

Amazon Will Invest Over $10 Billion in its Satellite Internet Network After Receiving FCC Authorization (Source: CNBC)
The Federal Communications Commission declared on Thursday that Amazon may build its ambitious satellite internet system, which would compete with SpaceX’s Starlink network. Amazon’s project, known as Kuiper, would see the company launch 3,236 satellites into low Earth orbit. Amazon says it will deploy the satellites in five phases, with broadband service beginning once it has 578 satellites in orbit.

“We conclude that grant of Kuiper’s application would advance the public interest by authorizing a system designed to increase the availability of high-speed broadband service to consumers, government, and businesses,” the FCC secretary Marlene Dortch said in its authorization order. After the FCC announced the authorization, Amazon said that it “will invest more than $10 billion” into Kuiper. (7/31)

Whistling Past The Graveyard: Why Space Comedy Is No Laughing Matter (Source: Forbes)
Netflix’s slapstick Space Force is getting praise from all corners during this election year. Even General Jay Raymond, America’s first Chief of Space Operations, was quick with a joke when comparing himself to his fictional counterpart. But none of us can afford to pretend for a second that the existential threats the real Space Force is facing are a joke.

The most recent deployment of a co-orbital space weapon by Russia demonstrates how at-risk and vulnerable our nation’s most precious and expensive space systems are, and how easily they can be rendered useless. It also carries a scary implication: that our adversaries could easily (and soon) have hundreds more of these weapons on orbit, ready to strike at our satellites with a single keystroke.

It isn’t clear yet why our government, and the clandestine groups who develop and operate these systems, would openly acknowledge this particular event. But if past experience is prologue, there are very likely numerous more of these events occurring that cannot be publicly acknowledged for operational reasons - not to mention the many more that our government doesn't even know about but should. (7/31)

The Space Economy Has Grown to Over $420 Billion and is ‘Weathering’ the Current Crisis (Source: CNBC)
The global space economy continued to grow last year and reached $432.8 billion, according to a report by the Space Foundation, although the industry’s past decade of growth is now threatened by the coronavirus pandemic. Total output by the world’s governments and corporations in the realm of rockets, satellites and more has climbed steadily, with the space economy expanding more than 70% since 2010. But like any industry, the recent expansion in space, which has seen record private investment, has been put at risk due to this year’s crisis.

A big driver for last year’s growth was from the commercial side. By Space Foundation’s definition, commercial is essentially any revenue or sales that doesn’t stem from a government organization such as the military or NASA. For the U.S., Zelibor noted that non-government spending in space rose 7.7% last year. “That’s really continuing to be the dominant part of the space economy,” Zelibor said. What brought down the U.S. space economy’s growth last year was noted declines on the government side, according to the Space Foundation. While NASA’s spending increased 3.7%, the Department of Defense’s fell 9% and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s dropped 19%.

The U.S. now has about 183,000 people employed by the space industry, the report said. While the U.S. workforce grew just 2% in 2019, that is a notable bounce back from recent declines over the past decade. “If you look at the last four years, from 2016 till now, it’s actually rebounded,” Zelibor said.  “We’re launching astronauts from U.S. soil again, we’re putting satellites up there, we’re going to Mars. I don’t think there’s ever been a better time to be involved in the space community.” (7/30)

July 31, 2020

Amazon Gets FCC Okay for Kuiper Megaconstellation (Source: Space News)
The FCC has approved plans by Amazon to develop a constellation of 3,200 broadband satellites. The authorization announced by the FCC Thursday will allow Amazon to operate the Project Kuiper system in orbits ranging from 590 to 630 kilometers, providing Ka-band services. Amazon has to launch the first half of the constellation by July 2026, with the full system in orbit by July 2029. Amazon says it is still working on the design of the satellites as well as its launch plans, but anticipates deploying Project Kuiper satellites in five waves, starting service once the first, comprising 578 satellites, is in orbit. Amazon said it plans to invest more than $10 billion into Project Kuiper. (7/31)

Proton Launches Two Commsats (Source: Space News)
A Proton rocket launched two communications satellites Thursday. The Proton M lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 5:25 p.m. Eastern carrying the Express-80 and Express-103 communications satellites. The two satellites won't deploy from the Breeze M upper stage until 18 hours after liftoff. Those satellites, built by ISS Reshetnev for the Russian Satellite Communications Company, will provide C-, Ku- and L-band communications services for Russia and some neighboring countries. (7/31)

Space Force Acquisition Reform Tied Up in White House Review (Source: Space News)
A report on Space Force acquisition reforms is tied up in a White House review. A draft of the report was delivered to Congress in May and then pulled back for changes. Shawn Barnes, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for space acquisition and integration, said Thursday the report is still under review and that he was "a little frustrated" by the delay. The Office of Management and Budget reportedly objected to language in the report recommending that Congress "incrementally" appropriate funding for large programs like satellites instead of fully funding the entire cost of the program in the year the satellite is ordered. (7/31)

Intelsat to Market Eutelsat Capacity (Source: Space News)
Intelsat will market half the capacity on a new Eutelsat satellite. The operators said they agreed to use an orbital slot they co-own at 48 degrees east, a location in geosynchronous orbit with coverage over the Middle East and Northern Africa, for the Eutelsat Quantum satellite. That satellite, scheduled for launch late this year, features highly customizable beams that can be reprogrammed to change their shape, size and power. Intelsat General, the government sales arm of Intelsat, will market capacity on Eutelsat Quantum to the U.S. military with security upgrades. (7/31)

Mars 2020 Spacecraft Operating Fine Despite Post-Launch Comm Glitch (Source: NASA)
NASA's Mars 2020 spacecraft is in good condition despite some post-launch glitches. NASA's Deep Space Network (DSN) initially had problems locking onto the spacecraft, which mission officials said was because the spacecraft's signal, so close to Earth, was strong enough to saturate the DSN's receivers. Once communications were established and telemetry received from the spacecraft, controllers found it was in a safe mode because of a "transient event" involving spacecraft temperatures as it went into the Earth's shadow. NASA said the problem wasn't serious and controllers were working to resume normal spacecraft operations. (7/31)
 
South Korea Given Green Light for Solid-Propellant Rockets (Source: Space Daily)
South Korea has been permitted to develop solid-fuel space rockets after missile guidelines were revised with the United States. Kim Hyun-chong, South Korea's deputy national security adviser to President Moon Jae-in, said at a press briefing Seoul is to adopt amendments to current missile standards starting Tuesday. According to the presidential office, the revised missile guidelines will provide South Korea the power to launch Low-Earth Orbit military satellites "anywhere and at anytime." The satellites would operate at between 310 and 1,200 miles above the Earth's surface. (7/29)

Russia Conducts Anti-Satellite Weapon Test (Source: Space Daily)
U.S. Space Command has evidence that Russia conducted a non-destructive test of a space-based anti-satellite weapon. On July 15, Russia injected a new object into orbit from Cosmos 2543, currently Satellite Catalog Number 45915 in Space-Track.org. Russia released this object in proximity to another Russian satellite, which is similar to on-orbit activity conducted by Russia in 2017, and inconsistent with the system's stated mission as an inspector satellite. Tracking information can be found on Space-Track.org.

"The Russian satellite system used to conduct this on-orbit weapons test is the same satellite system that we raised concerns about earlier this year, when Russia maneuvered near a U.S. government satellite," said Gen. John W. "Jay" Raymond, Commander of U.S. Space Command and U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations. "This is further evidence of Russia's continuing efforts to develop and test space-based systems, and consistent with the Kremlin's published military doctrine to employ weapons that hold U.S. and allied space assets at risk." (7/27)

Russia Says It is Committed to Space Demilitarization Amid US Claims About Anti-Satellite Weapons (Source: Sputnik)
On Thursday, the US's recently created Space Force accused Russia of testing an anti-satellite weapon from one of its orbiting satellites. Russia is committed to the full demilitarization of space, and is opposed to the deployment of any types of weapons in space, presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Friday. Commenting on whether the Kremlin would react to US accusations about Russian anti-satellite weapons testing, Peskov suggested that "this should probably be done by our defence ministry and the foreign ministry."

Peskov's comments follow allegations by US Space Force officials Thursday that Russia had tested an anti-satellite weapon from one of its orbiting satellites. In a statement, the newly created branch of the US military alleged that "on July 15, Russia injected a new object into orbit from Cosmos 2543," a Russian 'inspector' satellite. "Russia released this object in proximity to another Russian satellite, which is similar to on-orbit activity conducted by Russia in 2017, and inconsistent with the system's stated mission as an inspector satellite," the US agency added.

Space Force admitted that there was no indication that the projectile said to have been launched from the Cosmos-series satellite actually struck another orbiting satellite, calling the alleged test a "non-destructive" one. Space Force chief of space operations and US Space Command commander Gen. John 'Jay' Raymond said the Russian system involved in the test was the same one that 'inspected' a US surveillance satellite earlier this year. (7/31)

Musk Partners on Cruise Space Film (Source: Deadline)
Elon Musk will reportedly be a partner on the film Tom Cruise wants to shoot in space. Universal Pictures has agreed to back the film involving Cruise and director Doug Liman, with an estimated budget of $200 million but with few other details, such as a script. SpaceX would likely provide the transportation to and from the International Space Station. That budget is considered a bargain given it's similar to the costs of other major films that don't require flying to the ISS. (7/31)

Astra Targets Weekend Launch at Alaska Spaceport (Source: Space News)
Astra is targeting Sunday night for its first orbital launch attempt. Company executives said Thursday that they are still aiming for a launch during a two-hour window that opens at 10 p.m. Eastern for the Rocket 3.1 launch, although forecasts call for a 60% chance of poor weather. The launch is the first of three the company plans to carry out to demonstrate the ability of its small launch vehicle to reach orbit, and this launch has the primary purpose of testing the performance of the first stage. (7/31)

DARPA: No Plans for Another Launcher Challenge (Source: Space News)
DARPA has no plans to conduct another competition like its DARPA Launch Challenge. DARPA acting director Peter Highnam told reporters Thursday that he didn't know "what the advantage would be of doing another competition" like the DARPA Launch Challenge, which sought to demonstrate the performance of small, responsive launch vehicles. That competition ended in March when Astra, the last finalist still in the competition, scrubbed a launch attempt on the last day of the competition. (7/31)

SpaceX Readies for Starship Hop at Texas Launch Site (Source: Ars Technica)
SpaceX may be ready for a long-awaited "hop" test of a Starship prototype. The company performed a successful static-fire test of its latest Starship prototype, SN5, at Boca Chica, Texas, on Thursday. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted shortly after that test that a free flight of the vehicle to an altitude of 150 meters would take place "soon," with airspace restrictions indicating it could take place as soon as Sunday morning. SpaceX performed a similar hop test of a smaller prototype, called Starhopper, last August. (7/31)

India Opens Spaceport for Commercial Launch Pads (Source: Times of India)
India's space agency will allow companies to build their own launch sites at the country's main spaceport. The chairman of ISRO, K. Sivan, said that as part of a new commercialization initiative the agency will offer its expertise to private companies, including access to the Satish Dhawan Space Centre launch site for building their own launch facilities there. Although many ISRO centers remain closed because of the pandemic, Sivan said the agency is ready to start talking with companies about their needs. (7/31)

America Can Protect Its Satellites Without Kinetic Space Weapons (Source: War on the Rocks)
Washington should not reinvigorate its former kinetic space weapons programs to address the threats to its satellites. The use of kinetic space weapons during a conflict would create an enormous amount of debris that would harm the space systems that the US needs for precision targeting, early warning, navigation, communications, and other critical functions. Debris, which can remain in orbit for years, is one of the most serious threats to satellites. The US military should focus on the development of non-kinetic systems that can disarm adversary satellites without physically destroying them.

If the US must “hit back” due to an attack on space systems, it can do so using non-kinetic capabilities (e.g., electronic warfare or cyber) or a kinetic response in another domain. Targeting command and control facilities on the ground using kinetic and non-kinetic weapons could negate adversary space capabilities without creating debris that would threaten American, allied, and neutral space systems. To prevent the creation of even more debris, Washington should also work with other spacefaring nations to establish a moratorium on testing kinetic weapons against objects in space.

Space security analysts have warned about the potential vulnerability of satellites to cyber attacks and electronic warfare. Hackers could take control of satellites, deny access to their services, and spoof satellites’ signals (e.g., broadcasting fake GPS signals that are disguised as real ones). In a crisis, the US should actively exploit these vulnerabilities to deny adversaries access to their military space assets. The objectives of the Defense Space Strategy can be achieved through the use of non-kinetic space weapons like the Space Force’s counter communications system. Instead of destroying communications satellites, they can be jammed. Rather than developing weapons to completely eliminate adversary intelligence satellites, the US can invest in directed energy weapons that could “blind” them. (7/31)

Xtar Sells Satellite to Hisdesat, Shifts to Lease Agreement (Source: Space News)
Xtar, a company that provides satellite communications services to the U.S. government, has sold its only satellite to Hisdesat, one of its shareholders. Virginia-based Xtar signed a leasing agreement that allows it to retain the same amount of capacity on the satellite, Xtar-Eur, despite the change in ownership. Xtar and Hisdesat of Spain said the transaction and lease back agreement models the type of organizational structure the companies will have in the future once Hisdesat’s two SpainSat Next Generation satellites are launched, one in late 2023 and the second in 2024. (7/31)