June 1, 2023

Using Data From Spitzer and TESS, Scientists Discover Exoplanet Littered with Volcanoes (Source: NSF)
Using data collected by NASA’s retired Spitzer Space Telescope and NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), a team of scientists has discovered an exoplanet that could potentially be covered with volcanoes. The exoplanet is Earth-sized, and the team’s results suggest that the gravitational pull of a neighboring exoplanet could be causing an increase in volcanic activity on the exoplanet.

If the results and conclusions from the team, which is led by Merrin Peterson of the Trottier Institute for Research on Exoplanets (iREx) at the University of Montreal, are true, the exoplanet, named LP 791-18 d, could be extremely similar to one of Jupiter’s four Galilean moons, Io — which is the most volcanically active celestial body in our solar system — and undergo regular outbursts of volcanic activity. (5/31)

Satellite Data Could Boost Border Security, Disaster Response (Source: Defense One)
Data should join radios, flashlight, and maps as indispensable tools in disaster response and border operations, Department of Homeland Security leaders say. “It's not always conducive to operations to just give somebody a radio. I also need to be able to see where they're at,” said Dan Steadman, the acting assistant chief for U.S. Border Patrol, during the GEOINT conference.

Steadman recalled the fatal shooting of a border patrol agent by a fellow agent in 2012. He said he heard shots fired over the radio, and he believes the death could have been prevented with the right technology and information, namely the Team Awareness Kit or Tactical Assault Kit, known as TAK. If TAK were available in 2012, the agents “would have seen each other, they would have known where each other were, they would have been able to respond appropriately to the situation that was going on. Being able to respond to sensors, they would have had overall situational awareness and that increased officer safety,” he said. (5/31)

Rocket Lab's Neutron Rocket Costs $50 Million To Launch, Competing With SpaceX's Falcon 9 Rocket (Source: TradeAlgo)
Rocket Lab is developing a larger, reusable launch vehicle named Neutron, with a cost of around $50 million per launch to compete with Elon Musk's SpaceX. "We are positioning Neutron to compete directly with the Falcon 9," Rocket Lab CFO Adam Spice said earlier this week at a Bank of America event in London on Tuesday.

‍The company revealed Neutron when it went public in 2021, and Spice says the rocket will launch in 2024. Rocket Lab said in its fourth-quarter report last month that it had begun production of Neutron's initial tank structures, as well as the building of the rocket's launch pad. Spice stated that the business intends to undertake the first "fire test" of an Archimedes engine, which will power Neutron, "before the end of the year." SpaceX offers a Falcon 9 launch for $67 million, and Spice says Rocket Lab is seeking to match that pricing for satellite clients on a cost-per-kilogram basis. It implies Neutron is aiming for a "$50 million to $55 million launch service cost," according to Spice. (5/25)

Space Law May Soon Focus on Space Debris Cleanup, Not Just Mitigation (Source: SpaceRef)
A test mission that involves cleaning up a piece of space debris by grabbing and moving it with a metal claw may preview how regulations could change in the future, according to a space law professor. Clearspace-1, a mission with a four-armed spacecraft developed by Switzerland’s ClearSpace which resembles the prize-grabbing claw machine one would find in an arcade, is expected to launch in 2026.

The goal of the CLEAR mission is to remove from orbit a Vespa upper stage that’s been whizzing around the planet since it was left behind during a 2013 mission. The European Space Agency backed the mission to demonstrate debris removal, although the Vespa will fall gradually back to Earth’s atmosphere over time regardless of intervention.

Most space debris situations fall under the United Nations’ Liability Convention that entered in force in September 1972. The nonbinding convention for signatories builds on language from the Outer Space Treaty, which is widely regarded as a foundational part of space law despite being equally nonbinding. Simply put, both the treaty and the Liability Convention make the launching party responsible for the damage caused by any space objects on Earth or in space. (5/31)

Rocket Lab to Launch Telesat Prototype Satellite (Source: Rocket Lab)
Rocket Lab will launch a new prototype satellite for Telesat's broadband constellation. Rocket Lab said Wednesday it won a contract to launch the LEO 3 satellite on an Electron in the third quarter of the year. Telesat announced earlier this week it contracted with the University of Toronto's Space Flight Laboratory to build the satellite, allowing Telesat to continue tests it had been doing with another prototype satellite. (6/1)
New Zealand Releases National Space Policy (Source: Reuters)
The New Zealand government has unveiled a national space policy. The policy, released Wednesday, seeks to grow the country's space sector and create international partnerships. It also promotes "safe and secure" space activities and the use of space to protect national security interests. (6/1)

Scotland's Orbex Hires New CEO (Source: Northern Times)
Launch vehicle developer Orbex has hired a new CEO. The Scotland-headquartered company said it hired "tech veteran" Martin Coates as CEO, citing his more than 30 years of experience leading various companies. Coates served on the board of Orbex in its first few years. The company's founding CEO, Chris Larmour, unexpectedly resigned in April, saying the company needed new leadership for its next stage of growth. Orbex is developing a small launch vehicle called Prime yet to make its first launch. (6/1)

Space Assets Need More Cybersecurity (Source: IEEE Spectrum)
Cybersecurity researchers worry the space industry is not paying enough attention to protecting systems from cyberattacks. In a paper presented at a recent conference, a digital security researcher noted that there were no cybersecurity requirements in the call for proposals for new spacesuits. Those researchers note that a "security by obscurity" approach that had previously been used for space systems may no longer be valid today, citing vulnerabilities ranging from theft of data to ransomware. (6/1)

UCF and KSC Scientists Examine How Rocket Exhaust From Moon Landings Will Threaten Future Missions (Source: Discover)
The ejecta from lunar landings and launches could envelop the moon in a cloud of high-velocity dust particles that threaten other lunar missions. But just how significant this problem will be is currently unknown. Enter Philip Metzger at the University of Central Florida and James Mantovani at the NASA Kennedy Space Center, who have attempted to quantify the risks for the first time. They say that spacecraft orbiting high above the lunar surface should be safe but others making closer approaches risk significant impacts with this dust.

The exhaust from a 40-tonne lander is likely to accelerate surface dust to speeds of around 4500 meters per second, more than enough to send them into lunar orbit and beyond. Metzger and Mantovani calculate the trajectory of these particles and say they will form a sheet of ejecta that the orbiting Lunar Gateway is likely to have to fly through several times before it disperses. However, the damage from such impacts is likely to be minimal. Click here. (5/31)

Fortify Raises $12.5 Million for Digital Composite Manufacturing (Source: Space News)
Boston-based startup Fortify raised $12.5 million from investors including Lockheed Martin Ventures and Raytheon Technologies’ RTX Ventures. It was the first joint investment by the venture capital arms of Lockheed Martin and Raytheon. With the additional funding, Fortify plans to accelerate development of its Digital Composite Manufacturing platform, which prints composite materials designed down to the nanoscale for high performance, said Karlo Delos Reyes, Fortify co-founder and chief customer officer. (6/1)

Patrick Space Force Base Selected to Host the Space Training and Readiness Command Headquarters (Source: USAF)
The Department of the Air Force selected Patrick Space Force Base, Florida, as the preferred location to host the Space Training and Readiness Command Headquarters, along with Space Delta 10. Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, is the preferred location for Space Delta 11, and Schriever Space Force Base, Colorado, is the preferred location for Space Delta 12.
STARCOM, one of three U.S. Space Force field commands, is responsible for the deliberate development, education, and training of space professionals in addition to the development of space warfighting doctrine, tactics, techniques, and procedures, and the operational test and evaluation of Space Force systems. Space Delta 10 is responsible for doctrine and wargaming, is expected to also be located at Patrick Space Force Base, Florida. This delta develops Space Force doctrine and tactics, conducts the service’s Lessons Learned program, and executes and supports wargames to adequately posture space forces and designated joint and allied partners. (5/31)

U.S. Space Command Takes Over Responsibility for Protecting Homeland From Missile Strikes (Source: Space News)
U.S. Space Command has officially been assigned responsibilities for protecting the US from missile attacks, a job previously held by US Strategic Command. The plan directs the transfer of missile defense responsibilities from the U.S. Strategic Command commander to the U.S. Space Command commander. A key role in missile defense is to detect launches of potential threats such as North Korean ballistic missiles, and provide early warning. (5/31)

UFOs Will Remain Mysterious Without Better Data, NASA Study Team Says (Source: Space.com)
NASA held the first public meeting to discuss the findings of its UAP independent study team on May 31. The group, formed in June 2022, aims to examine data related to unidentified anomalous phenomena (UAP), a new term that encompasses objects or incidents in the sky, underwater or in space that can't be immediately identified. The group includes former astronaut Scott Kelly and 15 other investigators from a wide variety of fields including astronomy, oceanography and even journalism.

During the opening remarks in today's hearing, team members stressed that the biggest roadblock in terms of understanding these unidentified phenomena is a lack of data. Nevertheless, NASA's Daniel Evans, assistant deputy associate administrator for research within the agency's Science Mission Directorate, noted that, because public interest in UAP is at a seeming all-time high, it is NASA's responsibility to give the topic the "rigorous scientific scrutiny" it deserves. "First and foremost, it provides an opportunity for us to expand our understanding of the world around us," Evans said. "This work is in our DNA."

Nicki Fox, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, said that the UAP independent study team was commissioned "to create a roadmap on how to use the tools of science to evaluate and categorize the nature of UAPs going forward." Fox noted, however, that accessing high-quality data is difficult because the sensor platforms used to capture data are often classified. She stressed the need for high-quality unclassified data, which "make it possible for our team to communicate openly to advance our understanding of UAP not only with each other, but across the scientific community and to the public." (5/31)

FCC Dings Spaceport America and a N.M. State Agency for Pirate Radio (Source: Radio World)
This is definitely not your typical case of pirate radio enforcement. The Federal Communications Commission has issued a notice of illegal radio broadcasting to an FAA-licensed space complex and a state agency in New Mexico. The Denver office of the FCC Enforcement Bureau said it got a complaint about unlicensed FM broadcasts on 95.3 MHz and 96.3 MHz in June of last year. Its agent traced the signals to the property of Spaceport America and said they were heard during the Spaceport America Cup 2022 event.

So the commission sent a letter to Spaceport America Director of Aerospace Operations Bill Gutman and to New Mexico State Land Office Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard. It is similar to the letter it has been sending to property owners and landlords as part of its ramped-up enforcement efforts under the PIRATE Act. It warns the spaceport and the state agency of possible financial penalties of up to $2.3 million “if … we determine that you have continued to permit any individual or entity to engage in illegal radio broadcasting on the property that you own or manage.” (5/30)

Sierra Space’s Dream Chaser Spaceplane Comes to Life (Source: Sierra Space)
Sierra Space announced the successful power up of its revolutionary Dream Chaser spaceplane. Dream Chaser represents a groundbreaking leap in space transportation technology, designed to provide reliable and cost-effective access to space for a wide range of applications. With its unique lifting body design, the spaceplane combines the flexibility of an aircraft with the capabilities of a spacecraft, revolutionizing space travel.

The power-up of Dream Chaser signifies the activation of its integrated systems, showcasing the culmination of years of rigorous engineering, design, and testing. Sierra Space simulated the power that will be generated from Dream Chaser’s solar arrays once on orbit. Test engineers plugged that power into Dream Chaser and began turning on systems. Sierra Space exercised flight computers, base processors and low-voltage distribution units. (5/31)

Korea to Launch Earth Observation Satellite on Vega Rocket (Source: European Spaceflight)
The Korea Aerospace Research Institute has selected the Arianespace Vega C rocket to launch its Kompsat-6 Earth observation satellite. The launch is scheduled for no earlier than December 2024 from the Guiana Space Center in French Guiana. (5/31)

Environmental Analysis Clears Sentinel Missile Infrastructure Construction for Takeoff (Source: USAF)
The construction phase of Sentinel, the Air Force’s multi-billion-dollar missile modernization effort, was cleared to begin May 19 as Robert Moriarty, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for Installations, signed the project’s environmental record of decision. The Sentinel project will replace the 50-year-old Minuteman III ICBM program. The effort to modernize the land-based leg of the nation’s nuclear triad touches multiple states, covers thousands of miles, and impacts communities in Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, Colorado, Utah and Arizona. (5/24)

ESA Supports Commercialization of European Micro and Mini Launchers (Source: ESA)
Are you a European launch service provider of European privately developed micro or mini launchers? ESA is interested in supporting your growth and competitiveness! In line with the commercialization priority outlined in Agenda 2025, the primary objective of this call for ideas is to enhance the competitiveness of the European space transportation sector and identify to which extent European launch services based on privately developed micro and mini launchers could respond to ESA’s small payload needs, once they become operational. (5/31)

Company Insiders Made Billions Before SPAC Bust (Source: Wall Street Journal)
The SPAC boom cost investors billions. Insiders in the companies that went public were on the other side of the trade. Executives and early investors in companies that went public via special-purpose acquisition companies sold shares worth $22 billion through well-timed trades, profiting before share prices collapsed.

Some of the biggest winners were Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores’s investment firm Platinum Equity, British billionaire Richard Branson and convicted Nikola founder Trevor Milton. They were among many insiders who got shares on the cheap and sold them as they rose in value, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of insider-trading disclosures associated with more than 200 companies that did SPAC deals. Companies that went public this way have lost more than $100 billion in market value. At least 12 have filed for bankruptcy and more than 100 are running low on cash, battered by higher interest rates and rising costs. (5/30)

Melissa Quinn Explains Her Spaceport Cornwall Departure, Next Steps for Spaceport (Source: Via Satellite)
It could be another two to three years before another rocket launches from Spaceport Cornwall after the failed Virgin Orbit mission, says outgoing leader Melissa Quinn, who recently announced she will be leaving her role as head of the spaceport. Quinn told Via Satellite in an interview that the spaceport is taking a “wait and see” approach, but it seems another launch is some time away. The spaceport was the site of the Virgin Orbit launch failure during the spaceport’s first mission in January. Virgin Orbit is now ending operations after going through bankruptcy, selling its assets to Rocket Lab, Launcher, and Stratolaunch. (5/30)

Cutting-Edge Reconnaissance Satellites: Revolutionizing National Security from Space (Source: Space News)
IAI, a world-leading high-end reconnaissance satellite provider, offers both Electro-Optic (EO) and SAR capabilities. Designed as compact mini-satellites, they can be launched into orbit by smaller satellite launchers or ride-share with larger satellites on commercial missions. Built on IAI’s rich heritage of observation satellites, the OPTSAT 3000 represents the third-generation IAI’s EO Observation Satellites. This versatile system is designed to meet multi-purpose applications and critical national requirements. With the associated ground control stations, also developed and built by IAI, OPTSAT 3000 provides operational autonomy and full sovereignty to its customers. With high geo-location accuracy, these satellites deliver excellent image quality, agility, and multimode imaging capability. (5/30)

May 31, 2023

NASA Wants People to Stop Cyberbullying Its UFO Researchers (Source: Daily Beast)
NASA officials began the agency’s long-awaited public hearing on UFOs on Wednesday with a plea for people to stop bullying the agency’s UFO experts. Nicola Fox, an associate administrator for NASA, said that the agency’s 16 expert panelists had faced a wave of online harassment for their research into unidentified anomalous phenomena, or UAPs, which NASA classifies as sightings that can’t be ruled out as aircraft or known natural phenomena.

“It is really disheartening to hear of the harassment that our panelists have faced online all because they are studying this topic,” Fox said. “Harassment only leads to further stigmatization of the UAP field, significantly hindering scientific progress and discouraging others to study this important subject matter.” Daniel Evans, another NASA official, expressed hope that “conversations like this one are the first step to reducing the stigma surrounding UAP reporting.” (5/31)

A Strategic Framework for Space Diplomacy (Source: Space Policy Online)
Driven by these new commercial opportunities and the geo-strategic importance of space, the number of space faring nations has dramatically increased. Countries without current launch capacities are investing in space-based assets and infrastructure. The norms, best practices, and principles that guide outer space activities must evolve to promote responsible stewardship of the outer space environment and maximize the benefits of the growing space economy for current and future generations. Click here. (5/31)

Worried About China, U.S. Lays Out ‘Space Diplomacy’ Goals (Source: Washington Post)
It’s not breaking news that cutthroat competition between the United States and China has gone to infinity and beyond — outer space, that is. But the State Department unveiled a blueprint Tuesday to showcase a new hope of setting up a “rules-based international framework” for managing it. The “Strategic Framework for Space Policy” is the kind of government document that earnestly prescribes “[c]ontinue identifying synergies” as a policy goal. But it makes for an interesting one-stop-shop for assessing U.S. fears and ambitions — and the depth of the rivalry with China in the final frontier.

The report quotes from the Director of National Intelligence’s 2023 Threat Assessment, which cites China’s assertive space policy “with the intent to match or surpass the United States by 2045.” ... “China’s space activities are designed to advance its global standing and strengthen its attempts to erode U.S. influence across military, technological, economic, and diplomatic spheres” that section continues.

Among the developments the framework attempts to address is the sharp rise of commercial space travel. Here, the report has two warnings.
One is about the temptation countries that are trying to develop space programs may feel to partner with, well, not just not-the-United States but competitors or hostile rivals. Another is about the State Department’s dual-hat role. It will promote the U.S. space industry, while encouraging new players to adopt U.S.-endorsed best practices. But it will also try to keep U.S. space technologies out of the hands of bad actors. (5/30)

Maxar Explores New Uses for Earth Observation Satellites (Source: C4ISRnet)
Maxar Technologies, which provides satellite imagery to the Defense Department and intelligence community, is considering how its Earth-facing spacecraft sensors could serve a dual-purpose in observing objects and activity in orbit. The company is one of three firms on contract with the National Reconnaissance Office, the agency that develops and operates spy satellites, to provide imagery over the next 10 years through its Electro-Optical Commercial layer program, or EOCL. (5/30)

Congress Threatens to Block Space Command Funding Over HQ Location Controversy (Source: NBC News)
Republican and Democratic members of Congress from Alabama submitted a draft House bill late last week that would block funding for the continued growth of U.S. Space Command's temporary headquarters in Colorado. Two congressional officials said the bill would prohibit the command from spending money on constructing, leasing or modernizing facilities until the secretary of the Air Force formally selects and publicly announces the location of its permanent headquarters, which the Trump administration said would be in Huntsville, Alabama.

Alabama lawmakers are concerned that the Biden administration and the Air Force have slowed the process with the goal of building a fully operational headquarters in Colorado and then arguing that a move would result in a pause in Space Command operations. Rep. Doug Lamborn, a Republican who represents Colorado Springs and has Peterson Space Force Base in his district, made that argument on Twitter last week. He contended that moving the headquarters to Alabama would prevent Space Command from reaching full operational capability for “four to six years.”  (5/31)

North Korea Says it Will Try Again ‘Soon’ to Launch Spy Satellite (Source: Washington Post)
North Korea said it would launch another rocket carrying a military spy satellite “as soon as possible,” after admitting Wednesday’s attempt had failed in midflight due to “serious” defects. North Korean military officials had said the country needed a “reliable reconnaissance information system” so that it could keep “a grip on enemy military activities in real time,” citing joint military exercises between the US and South Korea. North Korea fired a new type of rocket named Chollima-1 — after a mythological flying horse — Wednesday from its west coast and over South Korea’s westernmost Baengnyeong Island, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff. (5/31)

Seoul Salvages North Korean Satellite Wreckage After Emergency Evacuation Alarms (Source: AFP)
North Korea attempted to launch a spy satellite Wednesday but it crashed into the sea after a rocket failure, with the South Korean military retrieving part of the likely wreckage in a potential intelligence bonanza. South Korea's military said it had managed to locate and salvage a portion of the suspected debris. South Korean defense officials said the launch briefly triggered “false alarm” evacuation alerts in South Korea and Japan. (5/30)

Lawmakers Approve Texas Space Commission to Better Compete in Civil, Commercial and Military Space (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Texas lawmakers have approved a space commission to better compete with Florida, Colorado and other states already capitalizing on the new era of space exploration. The Texas Space Commission would create a strategy and incentives to boost the state’s presence in civil, commercial and military space. It was approved by the state House and Senate this month, and the proposal still needs a signature from Gov. Greg Abbott to become law on Sep. 1.  Legislators also appropriated $350 million to the commission in its budget for fiscal years 2024 and 2025.

The idea has been the brainchild of TexSpace, a nonprofit created in 2021 by former NASA astronaut Jack “2fish” Fischer, the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership and Gallant Culture. “The state of Texas doesn’t have the vehicle, if you will, right now to remain competitive,” said James Adams, executive director of TexSpace. “Other states across the country are already playing in this game.” (5/30)

SpaceX Launches Starlink Satellites From California (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
SpaceX launched another set of Starlink satellites overnight. A Falcon 9 lifted off from Vandenberg Space Force Base at 2:02 a.m. Eastern, deploying 52 Starlink satellites 17 minutes later. The booster, making its 14th flight, landed on a droneship in the Pacific Ocean. (5/31)

Spain's PLD Space Delays Suborbital Launch (Source: Reuters)
Weather scrubbed a suborbital test flight by Spanish startup PLD Space. The company had planned to launch its Miura 1 rocket early Wednesday from a Spanish military aerospace test site, but postponed the launch because of gusty upper-level winds. The company did not disclose a new launch date. Miura 1 is a suborbital prototype for the company's Miura 5 small launch vehicle. (5/31)

Saturn Moon Geyser Shoots Water 10,000 km (Source: Science)
An icy moon of Saturn has a plume of water vapor stretching for 10,000 kilometers. In a paper published Monday, scientists said observations of Enceladus by the James Webb Space Telescope revealed the plume, much longer than expected, extending from the moon's surface. Earlier models of the moon, based on data from the Cassini spacecraft, expected that the plumes would extend for only hundreds of kilometers. Scientists believe the plume is linked to a subsurface ocean that could have the ingredients to support life. (5/31)

Quest for Alien Signals in the Heart of the Milky Way Takes Off (Source: Space Daily)
Akshay Suresh, a graduate student at Cornell University, spearheads an extraordinary scientific endeavor - a groundbreaking mission to uncover periodic signals emanating from the core of the Milky Way called the Breakthrough Listen Investigation for Periodic Spectral Signals (BLIPSS). Such repetitive patterns could be the key to unlocking the mysteries of extraterrestrial intelligence in our galaxy. Suresh and his co-authors detail the project's results thus far in a paper accepted for publication in the Astronomical Journal, "A 4-8 GHz Galactic Center Search for Periodic Technosignatures." (5/31)

UF Scientists: One-Third of Galaxy's Most Common Planets Could be in Habitable Zone (Source: Space Daily)
Our familiar, warm, yellow sun is a relative rarity in the Milky Way. By far the most common stars are considerably smaller and cooler, sporting just half the mass of our sun at most. Billions of planets orbit these common dwarf stars in our galaxy. To capture enough warmth to be habitable, these planets would need to huddle very close to their small stars, which leaves them susceptible to extreme tidal forces.

In a new analysis based on the latest telescope data, University of Florida astronomers have discovered that two-thirds of the planets around these ubiquitous small stars could be roasted by these tidal extremes, sterilizing them. But that leaves one-third of the planets - hundreds of millions across the galaxy - that could be in a goldilocks orbit close enough, and gentle enough, to hold onto liquid water and possibly harbor life. UF astronomy professor Sarah Ballard and doctoral student Sheila Sagear published their findings the week of May 29 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Ballard and Sagear have long studied exoplanets, those worlds that orbit stars other than the sun. (5/31)

North Korea Launch Fails, Satellite Lost (Source: Yonhap)
A North Korean rocket failed shortly after liftoff Tuesday, plunging into the ocean with its spy satellite payload. The Chollima-1 rocket lifted off at 5:29 p.m. Eastern but apparently malfunctioned, falling into the sea 200 kilometers west of the South Korean island of Eocheong. The South Korean military recovered at least one component of the rocket, which they believed to be the interstage section between the first and second stages. The North Korean government confirmed the launch failed, blaming it on the failure of the rocket's second-stage engine. North Korea announced several days ago plans to conduct the launch to place a reconnaissance satellite into orbit. (5/31)

Axiom Crew Ends Mission with Florida Gulf Coast Splashdown (Source: Space News)
Axiom Space's second private astronaut mission to the International Space Station ended with a successful splashdown Tuesday night. The Crew Dragon spacecraft flying the Ax-2 mission splashed down at 11:05 p.m. off the coast from Panama City, Florida, 12 hours after undocking from the station. The four-person crew, commanded by former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, were in good spirits after the nine-day mission, which included eight days at the ISS. The crew had a "very busy time" while on the ISS, a NASA official said Tuesday, conducting more than two dozen experiments as well as outreach activities. (5/31)

Telesat Plans Another Test Satellite for Broadband Constellation (Source: Space News)
Telesat announced Tuesday plans to launch another prototype satellite for its Lightspeed broadband constellation. Telesat said it ordered the LEO 3 satellite from the University of Toronto's Space Flight Laboratory, a manufacturer of smallsats. The satellite is already in an advanced stage of production and will launch in the coming months. It will allow Telesat to continue tests that had used the LEO 1 satellite, which launched in 2018 but has run out of stationkeeping propellant. (5/31)

Russia Delays Lunar Lander Mission Again (Source: TASS)
Russia has again delayed the launch of a lunar lander mission. The Luna-25 mission, previously scheduled to launch in July, will now launch no earlier than August, Roscosmos announced Tuesday. The agency said it needs more time to complete testing of the lander before it will be ready to launch. Luna-25, Russia's first lunar lander mission since the 1970s, has suffered years of development delays. (5/31)

Cosmonauts Plan Yearlong Stay on ISS (Source: TASS)
The next cosmonauts to go to the ISS will spend a year there. Russian officials said this week they approved crew assignments for upcoming Soyuz missions to the ISS. Oleg Kononenko and Nikolay Chub, assigned to the Soyuz MS-24 spacecraft launching in September with NASA astronaut Loral O'Hara, will stay on the ISS for a year. That will allow Soyuz MS-25, launching in March 2024, to fly a Belarusian cosmonaut on a short-duration mission, returning on Soyuz MS-24 with a Russian cosmonaut and O'Hara. (5/31)

Civilian Astronaut Launch Signals Wider-Opening for China's Space Sector (Source: Space Daily)
Traditionally, China's astronauts are selected from among fighter plane pilots with ample flying experience, as they can control the machinery and have the training to stay calm should an emergency arise in space. Yet among the three astronauts aboard Shenzhou XVI, which is taking them to Tiangong, China's space station, is Gui Haichao, a professor from Beihang University. He is the first civilian China has sent into space, and will conduct space science experiments, collect and analyze data and maintain the lab devices on the space station. That's good news for the nation's space science, as he will be more professional in carrying out research experiments on the space station. (5/31)

China Readies for Launch of Broadband Constellation (Source: Space News)
China is building up launch capacity to support the deployment of its own broadband constellation. China plans to launch the first of 13,000 satellites for the Guowang constellation later this year but lacks the launch capacity to deploy the system in a timely manner. China is now building production and testing facilities as well as new launch pads at Wenchang spaceport on Hainan island to enable a much greater launch cadence for new rockets, including the Long March 8. One assembly facility near Wenchang will ultimately produce up to 50 Long March 8 rockets a year. (5/31)

Spain Signs Artemis Accords (Source: Space News)
Spain is the latest country to sign the Artemis Accords. Spanish officials signed the Accords in a ceremony in Madrid Tuesday attended by NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. Spain is the 25th country to sign the document, which outlines best practices for safe and sustainable space exploration. The signing took place as the U.S. State Department released its first Strategic Framework for Space Policy, a new white paper that described the roles that space can play in diplomacy and vice versa. The framework outlines how diplomatic tools like the Artemis Accords can advance U.S. policy objectives in space, as well as how space can advance broader diplomatic goals. (5/31)

Northrop Grumman’s Deep-Space Radar Passes Critical Design Review (Source: Space News)
A deep-space radar developed by Northrop Grumman for the U.S. Space Force passed a critical design review. The company said Tuesday that its Deep-Space Advanced Radar Capability (DARC) completed that review as well as a software demonstration of its ability to track objects in geostationary orbit. The $341 million radar will be located in the Indo-Pacific region, and Northrop Grumman is expected to deliver a prototype by late 2025 or early 2026. The Space Force is looking for locations for two other radars, one in Europe and the other in the United States. (5/31)

Viasat Completes Inmarsat Acquisition (Source: Space News)
Viasat has completed its multibillion-dollar acquisition of Inmarsat. The combined company has 19 satellites in orbit across Ka-, L- and S- band spectrum to provide connectivity and safety services across maritime, aviation, government, and consumer markets. Their merger is part of a broader wave of consolidation as satellite operators look to bolster their defenses amid a growing competitive threat from Starlink in the satellite broadband market. (5/31)

Robots Hold The Keys to Exploring Our Solar System (Source: Popular Mechanics)
We’ve made great strides in the past half-century of exploration of our solar system, lead by both human and robotic exploration. We’ve walked on the moon and roved on Mars. We’ve buzzed Pluto and danced in Jupiter’s orbit. But we have only scratched the surface. As we look ahead to the next century of exploration, we’ll have to strike just the right balance of cost and scientific gain as we decide whether humans or robots should lead the way.

We have sent robotic probes to almost every corner of the solar system. Within the inner solar system, our trusted machine emissaries have landed on the moon, Mars, and even Venus (if only for only a few minutes). We’ve had several semi-autonomous rovers operating on the Red Planet, in addition to orbiters around Mars, Venus, and Mercury. We’ve taken samples of asteroids and comets and successfully returned those samples to Earth for further study. Click here. (5/29)

SpaceX and the Science of Failure (Source: The Hill)
When SpaceX’s Starship exploded not long after launch last month, it was generally seen as a failure. But for SpaceX, and for science and technology in general, failure can be the key to success. This type of rapid innovation cycle has worked for SpaceX. The company’s first rocket was the Falcon 1. Its first three launches were failures, followed by two successes — a fairly low success rate. Then Falcon 9 became the workhorse rocket for a decade, with just two failures in 232 launches, for a phenomenal success rate of 99 percent.

The public perception of science as a constant upward trajectory toward greater knowledge is wrong. Science is full of setbacks, twists and turns, and dead ends. Nearly everything that happens in the lab will never make it into print. Then again, even mistakes can lead to discoveries. (5/29)

Death of a Launch Company (Source: Space Review)
Virgin Orbit executives hoped someone would buy the company out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy and allow it to resume operations. Instead, Jeff Foust reports, the company’s assets were sold at auction last week to several other aerospace companies, marking the end of the air-launch venture. Click here. (5/30)
Red Planet Reality (Source: Space Review)
A space-themed reality show, hosted by William Shatner, will premiere on the Fox network next week. Dwayne Day discusses how, in the long history of efforts to create space reality shows, you have to fake it to make it. Click here. (5/30)
The Case for Space Ethics (Source: Space Review)
Government officials often talk about the importance of responsible space behavior, but what it means to be responsible is not defined. Magdalena Bogacz describes the importance of establishing an ethical framework for space. Click here. (5/30)
Navigating Space Bioethics (Source: Space Review)
Human spaceflight poses a number of medical challenges, and with them ethical issues. Vanessa Farsadaki outlines those bioethical questions posed by humans in space. Click here. (5/30)
China’s Spaceplane Returns: Is This a New Weapon in Their Counterspace Arsenal? (Source: Space Review)
An uncrewed Chinese spaceplane landed earlier this month after about nine months in orbit. Ajey Lele examines what little is known about the spaceplane and its potential role in potential future conflicts in space. Click here. (5/30)

Ancient Ocean on Mars? Chinese Rover Finds Marine Sediments (Source: EarthSky)
Decades of research using remotely-sensed data have extracted evidence for the presence of an ocean in the northern lowlands of Mars in the Hesperian, but these claims have remained controversial due to the lack of in situ analysis of the associated geologic unit, the Vastitas Borealis Formation (VBF).

The Tianwen-1/Zhurong rover was targeted to land within the VBF near its southern margin and has traversed almost 1.2 miles (2 km) southward toward the interpreted shoreline. We report here on the first in situ analysis of the VBF that reveals sedimentary structures and features in surface rocks that suggest that the VBF was deposited in a marine environment, providing direct support for the existence of an ancient (Hesperian) ocean on Mars. (5/30)

Telesat Orders Prototype Satellite to Continue LEO Broadband Tests (Source: Space News)
Telesat plans to launch another low Earth orbit (LEO) prototype satellite in the coming months to continue tests after an aging demonstrator for its delayed broadband constellation ran out of fuel. The Canadian geostationary satellite operator announced May 30 that it had ordered a microsatellite called LEO 3 from Space Flight Laboratory (SFL), part of the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS). (5/30)

First Saskatchewan-Made Satellite to Launch with SpaceX (Source: Global News)
A satellite from the University of Saskatchewan will go into orbit on Saturday as it launches with the SpaceX CRS-28 rocket. The team believes this is the first made-in-Saskatchewan satellite to reach space, and it will remain in orbit for a year collecting radiation data. “The RADSAT-SK cube satellite began development in spring 2018 with about 20 engineering undergraduate students on board,” said Sean Maw at the USask College of Engineering. (5/30)

North Korea Seeks 'Real-Time' Monitoring of U.S. and Allies with Satellite (Source: Japan Times)
North Korea has confirmed that it will launch its first spy satellite in June, with a senior official citing a need to monitor the U.S. and its allies "in real time" as they hold a series of ongoing joint military exercises, state-run media said Tuesday. Japan on Monday ordered the Self-Defense Forces to prepare to shoot down a North Korean ballistic missile or rocket that threatens Japanese territory, the Defense Ministry said, after Pyongyang notified Tokyo of plans to launch the satellite before June 11. (5/30)

Moon Exploration: Humanity’s Next Home (Source: WIRED)
Space exploration has come a long way since we sent the first man to the Moon. NASA, the US space agency, has set a goal to establish a sustainable human settlement on the Moon’s surface through its Artemis program. NASA expects to land the first woman and the first person of color on the Moon by 2024 and to establish a sustainable presence by 2028. This will pave the way for a long-term lunar presence. This Moon exploration program is named after Artemis, the Greek goddess of the Moon and twin sister to Apollo, which was also the name of a spaceflight program between 1961 and 1972. Click here. (5/29)

May 30, 2023

Boeing Begins Construction of New Advanced Coatings Center in Missouri (Source: Airforce Technology)
Boeing has started construction of a new advanced coatings center in St. Louis, Missouri, to support the post-assembly phases of future aerospace vehicles. The new Advanced Coatings Center will be operated by Phantom Works, a Boeing division focused on research, development and prototyping. The program will allow Boeing to scale a platform-agnostic, modular and flexible digital production system for deployment across future defence programs.

This marks the third new facility as part of Phantom Works’ Production System of the Future program. Last fall, the company opened the new purpose-built Advanced Composite Fabrication Center in Mesa, Arizona. Boeing also opened a Laboratory and Test facility in St. Louis.  Additional facilities are planned in coming years. Missouri Governor Mike Parson said: “With more than 15,000 employees, Boeing is Missouri’s largest manufacturer that helps spur this state’s economic growth every day. This new facility shows our commitment to growth and our investment in the talented workforce.” (5/29)

Moving (Too) Fast, Musk Riles Locals in Texas (Source: Daily Mail)
Musk has begun spending billions to build campuses for SpaceX and Boring Company across the Lone Star State, with the co-sign of Republican Governor Greg Abbott. Despite widespread approval of Musk and the jobs and industry he's bringing to Texas, many are saying he's simply moving too fast. Local officials have had their own complaints, with the Bastrop County's former director of engineering and development saying they were 'regularly hounded' by Boring Company staff, according to the Washington Post. He argued they were consistently trying 'to expedite and approve permit applications that are incomplete and not in compliance.' (5/29)

SpaceX Preparing for August Starship/Super Heavy Launch (Source: The Street)
Just hours after the April 20 Starship explosion, Musk said SpaceX would likely attempt another flight "in 1 to 2 months." ... "3 months ago, we started building a massive water-cooled, steel plate to go under the launch mount," the tech mogul said on April 21, just 24 hours after the explosion. "Wasn’t ready in time & we wrongly thought, based on static fire data, that Fondag would make it through 1 launch... Looks like we can be ready to launch again in 1 to 2 months," he added without providing an exact date.

He has just given an update with new, more precise details. These new elements suggest that the next attempt could take place in August. "Another step closer to Mars — the first flight test of a fully integrated Starship and Super Heavy rocket," SpaceX posted on Twitter on May 26, with behind-the-scenes and the April flight footage. To what Musk said: "Major launchpad upgrades should be complete in about a month, then another month of rocket testing on pad, then flight 2 of Starship." (5/28)

Japan Will Try to Beam Solar Power From Space by 2025 (Source: Engadget)
Japan and JAXA have spent decades trying to make it possible to beam solar energy from space. In 2015, the nation made a breakthrough when JAXA scientists successfully beamed 1.8 kilowatts of power, enough energy to power an electric kettle, more than 50 meters to a wireless receiver. Now, Japan is poised to bring the technology one step closer to reality. A Japanese public-private partnership will attempt to beam solar energy from space as early as 2025. The project, led by Naoki Shinohara, a Kyoto University professor, will attempt to deploy a series of small satellites in orbit. Those will then try to beam the solar energy the arrays collect to ground-based receiving stations hundreds of miles away. (5/28)

China Launches Crew to TSS (Source: Space News)
China launched a new crew to its Tiangong space station overnight. A Long March 2F rocket lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center at 9:31 p.m. Eastern Monday, placing the Shenzhou-16 spacecraft into orbit. The spacecraft docked with Tiangong seven hours later. The spacecraft is commanded by Jing Haipeng, making his fourth spaceflight, with Zhu Yangzhu and Gui Haichao on board. Zhu and Gui are the first members of the third class of Chinese astronauts, selected in 2020, to go to space; Gui is the first Chinese civilian to fly. The three will relieve the Shenzhou-15 crew who have been on Tiangong since November. That crew is slated to return to Earth on Saturday. (5/30)

China Plans Human Moon Missions by 2030 (Source: Space News)
Chinese officials announced plans to land humans on the moon by 2030. At a briefing Monday, officials said they were moving ahead with plans to develop a new launch vehicle, crewed spacecraft, lander and spacesuits needed for a landing by the end of the decade. The launch vehicle, called Long March 10, will be based on the Long March 5, with a test launch scheduled for 2027. The initial landing mission will be a short-term stay lasting just six hours, but will be the basis for longer-term missions to create a base at the lunar south pole. (5/30)

DARPA and BAE Plan AI-Supported Satellite Tracking (Source: Space News)
DARPA is working with companies to develop AI tools to automate the tracking of data collected by military satellites. BAE Systems won a $7 million contract for the project, called Oversight, with several other companies also involved. The Oversight program will pursue AI-enabled software that autonomously maintains constant "custody" of a large number of targets tracked by satellites. (5/30)

A Milestone for Parabolic Flight (Source: Space Daily)
On 23 May 2023, at 09:00, a very special Airbus A310 taxied to the runway at Bordeaux-Merignac Airport. The aircraft set off on a special flight - the first of a total of three flights that make up the 40th parabolic flight campaign of the German Space Agency at DLR, which will take place in Bordeaux from 15 to 25 May 2023. On board are 11 experiments - three from the fields of biology and human physiology and eight related to fundamental physics, technology and materials science. (5/24)

Deloitte Adding a Space Entity to its Repertoire (Source: (FNN)
The accounting firm Deloitte recently announced the launch of a formal space practice to connect organizations in rapidly growing global space ecosystem. It hopes to start consulting small and large organizations navigate an industry that’s forecasted to grow to more than $1 trillion by 2040. To find out more, I chatted with Brett Loubert who is principal of Deloitte Space. Click here. (5/29)

DARPA Launches Initiative to Help Tech Companies Work on Classified Programs (Source: Space News)
Greg Kuperman, program manager at DARPA’s Strategic Technology Office, worries that innovations emerging from the commercial space industry will never reach potential customers in the U.S. military. Discussions about next-generation technologies, particularly in the space sector, quickly veer into classified territory, and many commercial businesses developing these technologies don’t have security clearances. So much of the leading-edge technology is coming from commercial businesses and startups that DoD never hears about.

Kuperman is looking to attract more space businesses to work with DARPA. He currently oversees a program trying to develop low-cost optical satellite terminals, and a separate project seeking innovation in space sensors for low Earth orbit. Satellite antennas — including design, materials and manufacturing techniques — that can increase performance at less weight and cost are a key area of interest for DARPA, he said. “But in order to actually appropriately say what the problem is, I need to have a conversation at the classified level.” (5/30)

May 29, 2023

NASA Spacecraft Documents How Jupiter's Lightning Resembles Earth's (Source Reuters)
Hidden below the brownish ammonia clouds blanketing Jupiter are clouds that like on Earth are made of water. And like on Earth, lightning often is generated within these clouds - an eerie sight spotted by various spacecraft that have visited our solar system's largest planet, including NASA's Juno probe. Data obtained by Juno is providing fresh information on how the lightning processes on Jupiter are similar to those on Earth despite the dramatic differences between the two planets, according to scientists. (5/24)

North Korea Notifies Japan of Plan to Launch Satellite (Source: Reuters)
Japan put its ballistic missile defences on alert on Monday and vowed to shoot down any projectile that threatens its territory, after North Korea notified it of a planned satellite launch between May 31 and June 11. The nuclear-armed North says it has completed its first military spy satellite and leader Kim Jong Un has approved final preparations for the launch.

It would be the North's latest step in a series of missile launches and weapons tests in recent months, including one of a new, solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile. Tokyo expects North Korea to fire the rocket carrying its satellite over Japan's southwest island chain as it did in 2016, a defence ministry spokesperson said. (5/29)

Japan Says it Will Destroy North Korean Rockets After Satellite Launch Alert (Source:UPI)
Japan said Monday that it will shoot down North Korean missiles that enter its territory after Pyongyang notified Tokyo of its plan to launch a satellite between May 31 and June 11. "In order to prevent damage to human life and property ... we will implement destructive measures against ballistic missiles and other missiles that have been confirmed to fall on our territory," Japan's Defense Ministry said in a statement.

The ministry issued the order to Japan's Self-Defense Forces after North Korea notified Tokyo of a plan to establish a maritime danger zone during the May 31-June 11 launch period. Japanese forces will use Patriot PAC-3 missiles stationed on islands around Okinawa or Aegis-equipped warships to destroy the missiles, the ministry said.

"North Korea's forced launch of a ballistic missile purported to be a 'satellite' is a serious provocation to Japan's security," Matsuno said. "Such launches also violate relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions that prohibit any launches using ballistic missile technology by North Korea, even if they are called 'satellites.'" (5/29)

South Korea Slams North Korea's Planned Satellite Launch, Warns of Consequences (Source: Yonhap)
South Korea on Monday "strongly warned" against North Korea's plan to launch a satellite in the coming weeks, vowing to make Pyongyang pay "due prices" if it goes ahead with the launch. "We strongly warn against North Korea's announcement of provocative actions that threaten regional peace and urge them to immediately withdraw their illegal launch plan," said Lim Soo-suk of Seoul's foreign ministry. Lim warned the North will be made to pay "due prices" and suffer "pain" if the launch goes ahead. (5/29)

India Launches GSLV-F12 Carrying Navigation Satellite (Source: Deccan Herald)
India’s GSLV F12 rocket on Monday successfully launched NVS-O1, a second-generation navigation satellite series that will ensure continuity of legacy NavIC services and provide new service in L1 band. This is the 15th flight of India's Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) and the 9th flight with Indigenous Cryo stage. (5/29)

China Sets Sights on Crewed Lunar Landing Before 2030 (Source: Space News)
China’s human spaceflight agency has stated its goal to land astronauts on the moon before the end of the decade. “Recently, the moon landing phase of China’s crewed lunar exploration program has started. The main goal is to send Chinese astronauts to land on the moon for the first time by 2030,” Lin Xiqiang, deputy director of the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA), told media at a press conference at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center May 29.

“Focusing on this goal, the CMSA has started planning, research and construction work on the basis of previous key technical breakthroughs and solution verifications,” Lin said. “This includes the development of a new generation manned carrier rocket, namely the Long March 10 launch vehicle, a new generation crew spacecraft, a lunar lander, a moon suit and other spaceflight products. The construction of a new launch site and tests on related launch facilities are also underway.” (5/29)

Astrophysicist Propose Warp Drive for Superluminal Space Travel (Source:
Of course, in theory, moving at a speed higher than the speed of light is possible, if the dark energy in outer space around the craft is redistributed, so that there is an excess of it behind it, and a region of negative energy in front of it. Astrophysicist Erik Lentz proposes a way to create one of these “warp bubbles” from positive energy sources. While studying previous warp drive suggestions, Lentz realized there were specific configurations of spacetime bubbles that had been overlooked. These bubbles took the form of solitons, compact waves that travel at a constant velocity without losing their shape.

Solitons in space--time capable of transporting time-like observers at superluminal speeds have long been tied to violations of the weak, strong, and dominant energy conditions of general relativity. The negative-energy sources required for these solitons must be created through energy-intensive uncertainty principle processes as no such classical source is known in particle physics. This paper overcomes this barrier by constructing a class of soliton solutions that are capable of superluminal motion and sourced by purely positive energy densities. (5/28)

Swiss Company Selects Arianespace to Launch First Space debris Removal Mission (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Swiss-based in-orbit servicing startup ClearSpace has contracted Arianespace to launch its first debris removal mission to capture and deorbit a 100-kilogram (220-pound) piece of space debris. Europe’s Vega C will launch the ClearSpace-1 servicer spacecraft to low Earth orbit (LEO) from French Guaina in the second half of 2026 as a secondary passenger to a larger payload that has yet to be announced. The spacecraft will be injected into a sun-synchronous from where it will rendezvous, capture and deorbit a spent upper stage which was part of the Vega launcher’s second flight in 2013. (5/27)

Swiss/Monegasque Lunar Rover Unveiled (Source: Venturi)
On Saturday 27 May 2023, H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco visited Venturi Group’s Monegasque headquarters. Welcomed by the Group’s President, Gildo Pastor, the Sovereign was invited to take a historic first look at the lunar rover “FLEX”, developed by Venturi Astrolab (USA) in collaboration with Venturi Lab (Switzerland) and Venturi (Monaco). FLEX will be the largest and most advanced lunar vehicle ever made. It will be landed on the surface of the Moon by American firm SpaceX in 2026. (5/27)

Momentus to Deliver Lunasonde Technology Demonstration Payload to Orbit (Source: Momentus)
Momentus has signed a contract with Lunasonde to deliver the Picacho CubeSat to orbit. Lunasonde is a sub-surface imaging company with the goal of making underground resources – like water and minerals – easier to find. The Picacho CubeSat is a technology demonstration of Lunasonde’s sensors. It will measure the power spectral density of low-frequency radio signals in the ionosphere, which will help inform designs for the company’s future satellites. Picacho will fly on the Vigoride-7 spacecraft targeted to launch on the SpaceX Transporter-9 mission in October 2023. (5/25)

US ‘Ready to Fight in Space If We Have To’, Says Military Official (Source: The Guardian)
The US is ready for conflict in outer space, according to a senior military official, after developing anti-satellite technologies to counter the threats posed by “provocative” countries such as Russia and China. Brig Gen Jesse Morehouse at US Space Command, the arm of the military responsible for space operations, said Russian aggression and China’s vision to become the dominant space power by mid-century, had left the US with “no choice” but to prepare for orbital skirmishes. (5/28)

Orbit Fab Selects Impulse Space to Support GEO Refueling Mission (Source: Impulse)
Impulse Space, Inc. – a leader in the development of in-space logistics services for the inner solar system – today announced a landmark hydrazine refueling demonstration mission in geostationary equatorial orbit (GEO), where its Mira orbital service vehicle will serve as a hosting platform for the Orbit Fab fuel depot set to replenish Space Force Satellites in 2025. (5/25)

Sierra Space Trains NASA and JAXA Astronauts for Dream Chaser Spaceplane Mission to ISS (Source: Sierra Space)
Sierra Space has achieved another significant milestone in the journey to the first flight of Dream Chaser. The company hosted its first-ever official training for astronauts from NASA and JAXA to learn the inner workings of the world’s first commercial spaceplane. The astronauts – Jasmin Moghbeli (United States) and Satoshi Furukawa (Japan) – are two members of the upcoming SpaceX Crew-7 mission to the International Space Station (ISS). During their planned six-month stay, Dream Chaser will make its maiden voyage to deliver cargo to the ISS as part of NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services-2 (CRS-2) contract. (5/23)

Now that Blue Origin Has ‘Landed’ its Second Lunar Contract, What’s Next? (Source: The Hill)
NASA recently announced that the “national team,” led by Blue Origin will construct and operate the second human landing system (HLS), slated to serve on the Artemis V mission in the late 2020s or early 2030s. Blue Moon is divided into two parts. The first part is the actual lander, which will carry Artemis astronauts to the lunar surface. The second part is a refueling module that will carry propellant from Earth orbit to lunar orbit to top off the lander between missions.

The selection of the second human landing system sets up a contest between the two most famous billionaires on the planet, SpaceX’s Elon Musk and Blue Origin’s Jeff Bezos. As the Daily Mail reports, the rivalry between the two men goes beyond business considerations to the deeply personal. Both men will be driven to succeed, lest they be shown up by the other. NASA is counting on that spirit of competition to lower costs and ensure that Artemis returns humans to the moon sooner rather than later. (5/28)

Strange Star System May Hold First Evidence of an Ultra-Rare 'Dark Matter Star' (Source: Live Science)
Astronomers long thought that a peculiar star system observed by the European Space Agency's Gaia satellite was a simple case of a star orbiting a black hole. But now, two astronomers are challenging that claim, finding that the evidence suggests something far stranger: possibly, a never-before-seen type of star made of invisible dark matter. Their research, which has yet to be peer-reviewed, was published April 18 on the preprint server arXiv.

The system itself consists of a sunlike star and, well, something else. The star weighs a little less than the sun (0.93 solar mass) and has roughly the same chemical abundance as our star. Its mysterious companion is much more massive — around 11 solar masses. The objects orbit each other at a distance of 1.4 astronomical units, about the distance at which Mars orbits the sun, making a complete orbit every 188 days. (5/23)

May 28, 2023

NASA and Boeing Say Preparations Continue for July Starliner Test Flight (Source: Space News)
NASA and Boeing said May 26 they are still working towards a July launch of the CST-100 Starliner on a crewed test flight despite “emerging issues” and concerns raised by a safety panel. In a statement issued just before the close of business ahead of a holiday weekend, the two organizations said they completed a “checkpoint review” May 25 of preparations for the Crew Flight Test (CFT) mission, currently scheduled for no earlier than July 21. Two NASA astronauts, Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams, will fly on CFT to the International Space Station on the short test flight, the first crewed flight of the spacecraft. (5/27)

Space Tourists Learn Harsh Reality of Space Station Bathroom (Source: Futurism)
This past week, a crew of private space tourists — carried by a vehicle built by SpaceX and operated by Axiom Space — arrived at the ISS for the vacation of a lifetime. And because everybody poops, once they arrived they had to confront the grim realities of using the restroom in microgravity. NASA seemed to allude to the struggles in a cursory blog post, saying the space tourists had "practiced" what it euphemistically referred to as "hygiene practices."

Because using the restroom here on Earth depends very much on gravity, doing so in space has long demanded the ingenuity of scientists. Modern technology has yet to fully deal with the challenge. The current generation of space commodes work by sucking both liquid and solid waste into tubes, but people involved say the stench can be appalling. There's also the issue that resources in space are precious, meaning that everything possible needs to be recycled. Back in the summer of 2020, it was announced that the ISS would be getting a new toilet that, uh, recycles the water out of fecal matter for reuse — only for NASA to come back to say that it was calling for new lavatory designs for the forthcoming Artemis moon missions .

Private spaceflight companies have yet to overcome the challenge. SpaceX, for one, admitted in 2021 that a previous crop of space tourists had struggled with waste management during a crewed mission. A month after that, we got more information when SpaceX revealed that it had fixed a problem on one of its Crew Dragon capsules in which its space toilet, which relies on two separate vacuum tubes for numbers one and two, was leaking and spraying urine onto the floor of the craft. (5/26)

Debt Ceiling Deal: Get Ready For Budget Cuts At NASA (Sources: Reuters, NASA Watch)
The deal would suspend the $31.4 trillion debt ceiling until January of 2025, allowing the U.S. government to pay its bills. In exchange, non-defense discretionary spending would be "roughly flat" at current year levels in 2024, "when factoring in agreed upon appropriations adjustments," a source familiar with negotiations said. It would increase by only 1% in 2025. What is this going to do to NASA’s Artemis plans, and issues within SMD over science missions – and the “nice to have” things like education? Stay tuned. (5/28)

Putin Establishes Gagarin Award for Achievements in Space (Source: TASS)
Russian President Vladimir Putin has presented a new state award, the Order of Gagarin, according to a presidential decree published on Saturday. The decoration will be awarded for merits is space exploration, for example, for a successful flight of a crewed spacecraft. Also, it will be awarded for prominent achievements in the training of scientists, engineers and other specialists of the space industry; for achievements in developing, manufacturing, testing and operating astronautics equipment without accidents, in developing and implementing new technologies, and in conducting research. (5/27)

Meet the Lunar Rover That Will Venture to the Moon’s South Pole (Source: CNN)
Engineers are busy constructing a rover set to land at the lunar south pole in 2024. About the size of a golf cart, VIPER, or Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, will search for ice, collect and analyze samples, and map how much ice may exist beneath the moon’s surface. A hardy, clever design will allow the robot to handle the extreme conditions of a place humans have yet to explore. The rover’s findings could help sustain a human presence on the moon by allowing astronauts to collect drinking water and uncover other resources. And it’s not the only lunar rover in the works. (5/27)

Texas Welcomed Elon Musk. Now His Rural Neighbors Aren’t So Sure (Souerce: Washington Post)
hap Ambrose has always been a fan of Elon Musk. He spent $100 to join the waiting list for Tesla’s first pickup in 2019 and bought internet service from Musk’s satellite provider. But then the billionaire’s companies moved in next door to the computer programmer, who works from his rural, hilltop home. Two years later, massive construction sites and large white warehouses have taken over the green pastures where cattle used to graze.

Semis barrel up and down the narrow country roads. And the companies — rocket manufacturer SpaceX and tunneling company Boring — are seeking state permission to dump treated wastewater into the nearby Colorado River. “I just have no faith that the leadership there values the environment and these shared resources,” said Ambrose, who leads a group of local residents pushing Musk’s companies to slow down and address concerns about the environmental risks of the development. (5/28)

Lunar Orbital Congestion II: Economic and Strategic Drivers (Source: Forbes)
Most proposed plans for lunar surveying and comms are less ambitious than the Earth orbital constellations. They depend on just a few satellites into higher, elliptical orbits, from which they can cover a lot of surface area, but are subject to longer observational distances and communications latency. If I am correct in projecting 1000 satellites in lunar orbits by 2030, the congested space around the Moon may result in international contention and/or a troublesome debris problem, similar to the one plauging Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The lunar equivalent of GEO are two points in space known as the Earth-Moon Lagrange Points 1 and 2 (L1 and L2).

Earth-Moon L2 is a great place to put a satellite for communicating with landers or rovers on the Moon’s far side, and China located their Queqiao relay satellite there to support their Chang’e 4 lander and Yutu-2 rover mission. The Lunar Gateway, a NASA lead multi-national space habitat, will be placed in a special halo orbit around L2, called a Near-Rectilinear Halo Orbit (NRHO). This weeklong orbit has one end which allows the Orion deep space capsule to dock and another in a good location for dropping a lander on the surface of the Moon. Click here. (5/26)

ULA Calls Off Critical Vulcan Centaur Test on Launch Pad Due to Engine Ignition Delay (Source: Space.com)
ULA called off the first-ever engine test of its new Vulcan Centaur rocket on the launch pad in Florida on Thursday (May 25) due to a technical issue on the booster. The Vulcan Centaur rocket engine test, called a Flight Readiness Firing, was scheduled Friday at Launch Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Spaceprt. But two hours before the test, ULA announced it was standing down. "During the countdown, the team observed a delayed response from the booster engine ignition system that needs further review prior to proceeding with the flight readiness firing," ULA officials wrote. (5/26)

May 27, 2023

SpaceX Launches Arabsat From Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
SpaceX kicked off Memorial Day weekend with an overnight launch Saturday from Cape Canaveral, boosting a nearly five-ton communications satellite into orbit for Arabsat, a multinational consortium providing TV and video broadcast services across the Middle East. SpaceX's first stage booster -- numbered B1062 -- landed on a drone ship more than 400 miles downrange. This was the 14th flight of this booster. (5/27)

Have Space Command HQ Requirements Changed? Investigations Underway (Source: AL.com)
The secretary of the Air Force, authorized with making the final decision on the permanent home for Space Command headquarters, is investigating changes made in the command’s mission of which the secretary was not aware. That’s according to a letter released Thursday by Alabama Congressman Mike Rogers, who announced a probe looking into those changes as well by the House Armed Services Committee that he chairs. The Armed Services Committee has oversight of the armed forces.

It’s the first indication that changes have been made to the evaluation process and goes beyond the stepped-up rhetoric in recent months from Alabama’s representatives in Washington as well as Montgomery. Gov. Kay Ivey said last week that Alabama “would not take ‘no’ for an answer” on Space Command. Those changes, Rogers’ letter said, could alter the requirements previously outlined for the Space Command headquarters. (5/25)

Russian Soyuz Rocket Launches Reconnaissance Satellite (Source: NSF)
A Soyuz 2.1a rocket launched from Site 1S at Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia. Onboard the Soyuz was the Kondor-FKA n°1 satellite, which was lofted to a Sun-synchronous orbit. The Kondor satellites are a series of Earth observation satellites that provide reconnaissance services for the Russian military. (5/26)

Former NASA Science Director Joins ETH Zurich (Source: ETH Zurich)
From 2016 to 2022, Thomas Zurbuchen was responsible for research at NASA, the US space agency. From August this year, he will become director of ETH Zurich Space. This initiative aims to promote space research and teaching at ETH and to expand and strengthen cooperation with the space industry. Considered to be one of the most influential scientific leaders in the world, Thomas Zurbuchen has had a decisive influence in space science. After more than 20 years in the USA, he returns to his home country. From August, he will lead ETH Zurich Space as a Professor of Space Science and Technology. (5/25)

Port Canaveral Expansion to Balance Cruise, Space, Cargo, Military, Fishing, Entertainment, and Other Users (Source: WFTV)
The port is growing in several areas, including industrial, space, cargo, and cruising. Balancing all the bustling areas is becoming a delicate balancing act. “We’ve got aggregates, road building materials, fuels, so you know, gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, we keep the airports flying. So, there’s a lot that we do that isn’t quite as boutique as cruising,” Canaveral Port Authority CEO Capt. John Murray said.

But Port Canaveral is now considered the world’s busiest cruise port surpassing the Port of Miami. And this week, port commissioners gave the go-ahead to review a potential location for a seventh cruise terminal. “We’re not a large port. We only have 1,100 acres that is usable for port operations,” Murray said. “And we have a recreation component and a cargo component, space component, marinas, even an entertainment venue with our restaurants and so forth. So we have to balance it all.” (5/25)

Report Takes NASA to Task Over Multibillion-Dollar SLS and Artemis Cost Increases (Source: Florida Today)
A new report by NASA's inspector general took the agency to task, challenging the need to overspend – to the tune of billions of dollars – for Artemis program engines and boosters. In the 56-page analysis, auditors said NASA continues to see cost increases and delays related to the two main components of the SLS rocket's propulsion: four RS-25 main engines and two solid rocket boosters. The moon-focused program will burn through four main engines and two boosters.

Early in the program, NASA had hoped to see significant cost savings by refurbishing former space shuttle main engines (RS-25) and reusing them on the SLS rocket. The engines were built by Aerojet Rocketdyne; it's also responsible for the refurbishment of old engines and, because there aren't enough left from the shuttle program, production of new ones. The company was awarded two contracts by NASA – one for refurbishment, one for production of new engines – for a combined total of $5.7 billion. The $6 billion cost increases mentioned in the report are on top of the contract prices.

"The complexity of developing, updating, and integrating new systems along with heritage components proved to be much greater than anticipated, resulting in the completion of only 5 of 16 engines under the Adaptation contract and added scope and cost increases to the Boosters contract," the OIG said. The boosters are built by Northrop Grumman, which has been awarded $7.6 billion so far. "The cost impact from these four contracts increases our projected cost of each SLS by $144 million through Artemis IV, increasing a single Artemis launch to at least $4.2 billion," the OIG said. (5/26)

Space Development Agency to Launch 13 Satellites in Late June (Source: Space News)
The Space Development Agency is preparing to launch at least 13 satellites in late June, the agency’s director Derek Tournear said May 26. This will be SDA’s second launch of Tranche 0 satellites for its proliferated low Earth orbit constellation. Tranche 0 is a 28-satellite demonstration constellation. The first 10 spacecraft — eight communications satellites made by York Space and two missile-detection satellites made by SpaceX — launched April 2 on a SpaceX Falcon 9. SDA initially planned to launch all 18 remaining in June but made some late changes to the manifest, Tournear said. (5/26)

Desantis Holding Budget Items Hostage for Campaign Endorsements and Donations? (Source: Mediaite)
Staffers for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) have been soliciting donations to his presidential campaign from lobbyists while the state budget sits on the governor’s desk and each line item is facing the threat of his veto pen, according to a new bombshell report. These are staffers who work directly for the governor’s official, taxpayer-funded office and agencies, not the campaign, and that this activity is “a breach of traditional norms that has raised ethical and legal questions and left many here in the state capital shocked.”

Florida law grants the governor line-item veto power over the state budget, meaning that DeSantis could potentially eliminate a program’s budget with one stroke of his pen. The 2023 legislative session ended earlier this month, and several bills still await DeSantis’ signature — including the record $117 billion pending in the state budget. For lobbyists who have spent the entire session advocating for a specific bill or program (and in some cases, multiple sessions to get something across the finish line), it’s essentially a hostage situation. The implied threat is clear: donate to DeSantis 2024 or risk your pet project ending up on the chopping block.

Editor's Note: Several aerospace-focused line items are awaiting approval or veto within the budget, including over $12 million for academic and workforce projects at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University ($3M), Florida Tech ($7M), and other K-12 and workforce organizations. (5/26)

NASA Pursues Lunar Terrain Vehicle Services for Artemis Missions (Source: NASA)
NASA is seeking industry proposals for a next-generation LTV (Lunar Terrain Vehicle) that will allow astronauts to go farther and conduct more science than ever before as they explore the south polar region of the Moon during Artemis missions. Artemis astronauts will drive to explore and sample more of the lunar surface using the LTV than they could on foot. NASA will contract LTV as a service from industry rather than owning the rover. Contracting services from industry partners allows NASA to leverage commercial innovation and provide the best value to U.S. taxpayers while achieving its human spaceflight scientific and exploration goals. (5/26)

DoD Space Test Program Eyes Satellite Contract Awards (Source: SpaceRef)
The US Space Force announced during a recent teleconference call with media that it expects to make awards in December under its Space Test Experiment Platform (STEP) 2.0 program, which will procure spacecraft to host Department of Defense (DoD) sponsored payloads designed to test and mature new technologies. Vendors selected for the DoD satellite contracts will build satellites, integrate payloads onto them and launch vehicles, and provide ground support for orbital operations, DoD officials said during the conference call on May 8. STEP 2.0 will award indefinite delivery/indefinite quality contracts. (5/26)

Terran Orbital Announces $37.1 Million Registered Direct Offering (Source: Space Daily)
Terran Orbital has entered into a definitive securities purchase agreement for the purchase and sale of 29,000,000 shares of the Company's common stock (or common stock equivalents) and warrants to purchase 29,000,000 shares of common stock at a combined purchase price of $1.28 per share of common stock (or common stock equivalent) and accompanying warrant in a registered direct offering. (5/26)

Bank of America Hits Spacecraft Builder Terran Orbital with Rare Double Downgrade (Source: CNBC)
Bank of America hit Terran Orbital with a rare double downgrade this morning, dropping its rating to underperform from buy, over concerns of the company's backlog and liquidity. (5/26)

The Search for Habitable Planets Expands (Source: Space Daily)
A University of Michigan astronomer and his team are suggesting a new way to expand the search for habitable planets that takes into account a zone not previously considered: the space between the star and what's called soot-line in planet-forming disks. Worlds that form in this region-a disk of dust rotating around a central star from which planets may be built-could have surfaces rich in volatile carbon compounds quite different from Earth's. These planets would also be rich in organic carbon, but water poor, according to Ted Bergin, who led the study that included geochemists, planetary scientists, astrochemists and exoplanet experts. (5/26)

Inmarsat's Expands Inflight Broadband Plans for Business Aviation Customers (Source: Space Daily)
Inmarsat has announced the next chapter of its market-leading Jet ConneX (JX) inflight broadband solution, with a new range of service plans introduced to redefine gold standard connectivity in the business aviation market and satisfy even the most data-hungry users for many years to come. Launched as part of Inmarsat's JX Evolution program, these latest service plans are available for new and existing customers to order today, marking a step-change in performance that is backed by guaranteed speeds and Inmarsat's hallmark consistent customer experience. (5/24)

NASA’s VIPER is Leading the Way for the Next Generation of Moon Rovers (Source: CNN)
With NASA’s Artemis mission planning to return astronauts to the moon for the first time since 1972, there’s a new buzz about lunar exploration. Space agencies around the world are developing cutting-edge moon rovers with advanced capabilities, with NASA’s VIPER rover among the vanguard of new robotic explorers. VIPER, or Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, has now begun construction and is scheduled to land at the moon’s South Pole in 2024. Its mission is to search the lunar surface for water ice. Armed with a suite of scientific instruments, VIPER will collect and analyze samples and map the distribution of water ice beneath the surface – which could lay the foundation for sustained lunar exploration. (5/25)

Intuitive Machines Lunar Landing Site Moves to South Pole (Source: Space Daily)
NASA, in cooperation with Intuitive Machines, is moving the landing site for the first Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) mission to Moon's South Pole as an important first step in managing risks for future Artemis landings. One of the first lunar payload deliveries under NASA's CLPS initiative was awarded to Intuitive Machines in May 2019. The company's first flight, Intuitive Machines-1 (IM-1) will carry six NASA payloads on its Nova-C lunar lander to a site near the Malapert A crater. This relatively flat and safe region is within the heavily cratered southern highlands on the side of the Moon visible from Earth. (5/26)

SpiderOak Joins the Northern Virginia Space Hub (Source: Fairfax County EDC)
Cyber space resiliency company SpiderOak is reaching out for new horizons – not only has it segued its business operations from, well… Earth — to space on satellites — but has moved its headquarters from Chicago to Fairfax County, Virginia. SpiderOak’s CEO Dave Pearah sat down with the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority to talk about the company, its innovative technology and recent pivot to space, and why they chose to relocate from Kansas and Chicago to Fairfax County.

Officially opening the doors of its Reston office on April 10, 2023, SpiderOak is one of the latest of many space and satellite companies of all sizes to move to and set up shop in Northern Virginia, a burgeoning hub for space companies. SpiderOak’s relocation was also precipitated by the recent growth of the space industry in the Greater Washington region. While in past decades space companies were expected to be located next to launch pads in places like Florida and Texas, that is no longer the case, CEO Dave Pearah noted. (5/25)

May 26, 2023

Space Nation Day Event Held at Permian Basin Petroleum Museum (Source: NewsWest 9)
The Permian Basin Petroleum Museum in Midland Texas had a free admission because Space Nation Day, which aims to educate the public on both space exploration and the oil and gas industry. Space Nation, a company focused on space exploration and training, teamed up with the petroleum museum in Midland for the event. What brought the two organizations together were the parallels between space exploration and the oil and gas industry. (5/22)

ispace "HAKUTO-R" Lunar Lander Crashed After Altitude Measurement Problem (Source: ispace)
ispace has reviewed and completed the analysis of the flight data from its HAKUTO-R Mission 1 landing sequence on April 26, 2023. The flight data was obtained by operations specialists at ispace’s Mission Control Center in Nihonbashi, Tokyo. The analysis reveals that the lander fully completed the entire planned deceleration process, slowing to the target speed of less than 1 m/s in a vertical position, but at an unexpected altitude of approximately 5 kms above the lunar surface.

Although the lander did not complete a soft landing, the cause has been identified and improvements are being incorporated into Mission 2 and Mission 3. During the period of descent, an unexpected behavior occurred with the lander’s altitude measurement. While the lander estimated its own altitude to be zero, or on the lunar surface, it was later determined to be at an altitude of approximately 5 kms above the lunar surface. After reaching the scheduled landing time, the lander continued to descend at a low speed until the propulsion system ran out of fuel. At that time, the controlled descent of the lander ceased, and it is believed to have free-fallen to the Moon’s surface.

The most likely reason for the lander’s incorrect altitude estimation was that the software did not perform as expected. Based on the review of the flight data, it was observed that, as the lander was navigating to the planned landing site, the altitude measured by the onboard sensors rose sharply when it passed over a large cliff approximately 3 kms in elevation on the lunar surface, which was determined to be the rim of a crater. According to the analysis of the flight data, a larger-than-expected discrepancy occurred between the measured altitude value and the estimated altitude value set in advance. (5/26)

L3Harris Wins $80 Million Air Force Contract for Satcom Experiments (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory awarded L3Harris Technologies a contract worth $80.8 million to conduct communications experiments using multiple commercial space internet services. Under a program called Defense Experimentation Using Commercial Space Internet (DEUCSI), AFRL is working with defense contractors and commercial satcom providers to figure out how to integrate commercial space internet services with military platforms and weapon systems. (5/26)

Daytona Museum Spotlights James Webb Space Telescope in New Exhibit (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
When NASA’s new James Webb Space Telescope’s first images were revealed in July 2022, the details were stunning, even for most people seeing them on just their computer screen or cellphone. Those images and more released in the past 10 months, though, get a much grander stage with a new exhibit titled “Unfolding the Universe: The James Webb Space Telescope” open to the public starting Saturday at the Museum of Arts & Sciences in Daytona Beach. (5/19)

Blue Origin to Expand Engine Manufacturing in Alabama (Source: LA Times)
Blue Origin will further expand a rocket engine manufacturing plant in Alabama. The Huntsville City Council approved Thursday the sale of nearly 15 acres adjacent to Blue Origin's facility, which will be used to expand the factory. The company opened the 37,000-square-meter plant in 2020 and is completing an expansion to add 18,500 square meters. The new property would allow the company to effectively duplicate its original factory next door. (5/26)

Supernova Spotted by Japanese Astronomer (Source: Space.com)
A supernova in a relatively nearby galaxy has grabbed the attention of astronomers. The supernova was spotted by a Japanese astronomer last week in the Pinwheel Galaxy, also known as M101, 21 million light-years away. It is the closest supernova in a decade and is bright enough to be seen in small telescopes. (5/26)

Northrop Grumman to Launch Space Force Weather Satellite on Minotaur (Source: Space News)
Northrop Grumman won a $45.5 million contract to launch a small weather satellite in 2025, the U.S. Space Force announced May 25. The company’s Minotaur 4 rocket will launch a payload called Electro-Optical Infrared (EO/IR) Weather System (EWS) prototype that will demonstrate commercial weather imaging technologies for military use. The launch contract was a task order awarded by the U.S. Space Force’s Orbital Services Program-4. (5/25)

Orbit Fab Selects Impulse Space’s Orbital Vehicle for In-Space Refueling Demo (Source: Space News)
Orbit Fab announced May 25 it selected an orbital vehicle made by Impulse Space to host a fuel depot for an in-orbit refueling demonstration funded by the U.S. military. A startup planning to offer in-orbit refueling services, Orbit Fab will seek to refuel the U.S. Space Force Tetra-5 spacecraft with up to 50 kilograms of hydrazine. The demonstration, planned for 2025, was funded by the Space Force and the Defense Innovation Unit. (5/25)

SpaceX Investment in Starship Approaches $5 Billion (Source: Space News)
The company filed a motion to intervene last week in a suit brought by several environmental groups against the FAA regarding the agency's approval of plans by SpaceX to launch from Boca Chica, Texas. SpaceX seeks to become a defendant in the case, arguing it would be financially harmed if the plaintiffs win the case and strip SpaceX of its Starship launch license. SpaceX's CFO said in the filing the company has spent more than $3 billion to date on Starship, including launch infrastructure at Boca Chica, and CEO Elon Musk said last month he expects to spend about $2 billion on Starship this year. (5/26)

Virgin Galactic Flies Again From Spaceport America (Source: Space News)
Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo made its first suborbital spaceflight in nearly two years Thursday. The vehicle, named VSS Unity, launched from its VMS Eve carrier aircraft at 12:23 p.m. Eastern, reaching a peak altitude of 87.2 kilometers before gliding back to a runway landing at Spaceport America in New Mexico. There were two pilots and four company mission specialists on the flight, the first to go to space since a July 2021 mission that carried company founder Richard Branson.

Unlike other commercial spaceflight companies, Virgin Galactic did not webcast the launch, providing only a trickle of social media text updates. This was the last test flight planned for SpaceShipTwo before beginning commercial service with a flight for the Italian Air Force scheduled for as soon as late June. (5/26)

NASA Panel: Don't Rush Boeing CST-100 (Source: Space News)
A NASA safety panel urged the agency not to rush into a crewed test flight of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner this summer. At a meeting Thursday, the chair of the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, Patricia Sanders, said NASA still had considerable work to do to certify Starliner for that crewed mission, currently scheduled for launch as soon as July 21 with two NASA astronauts on board. "That should not be flown until safety risks can either be mitigated or accepted," she said, citing work certifying parachutes, testing software and mitigating battery concerns. She recommended NASA "step back and take a measured look" at the remaining work on Starliner, perhaps through an independent review. (5/26)

Viasat Acquisition of Inmarsat Clears All Regulatory Hurdles (Source: Space News)
Viasat's acquisition of Inmarsat has cleared all its remaining regulatory approvals. The European Commission provided unconditional approval of the deal Thursday, days after the FCC in the U.S. signed off on the acquisition. The companies said they expect to complete the transaction by the end of May, transforming U.S.-based Viasat into a global connectivity provider across multiple spectrum bands. (5/26)

Rocket Lab Launches Second Pair of TROPICS Satellites (Source: Space News)
Rocket Lab launched a second pair of NASA storm-monitoring cubesats overnight. The company's Electron rocket lifted off from Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand at 11:46 p.m. Eastern Thursday and deployed the two TROPICS cubesats into their planned orbit. The satellites join two others launched on another Electron earlier this month, forming a four-satellite constellation to track the development of tropical storms. The launch, the 37th for the Electron, took place almost exactly six years after the first Electron launch. (5/26)

South Korea Launches Eight Satellites, All But One Successfully Deployed (Source: Space News)
One of eight satellites launched on a South Korean rocket Thursday is unaccounted for. One of four 6U cubesats for the SNIPE space science constellation may not have deployed from the rocket, officials said hours after the launch of the KSLV-2 rocket. Those officials still considered the launch a success, noting the deployment of the other seven satellites, including the primary payload, the NEXTSat-2 technology demonstration satellite. (5/26)

Kleos Partners with General Atomics for RF Constellation Analytics (Source: Space News)
Kleos Space announced a partnership this week with General Atomics. The agreement is designed to make it easier for analysts to derive insights from radio-frequency (RF) data collected by Kleos Space's constellation. Kleos will create new RF data products for General Atomics' Optix cloud-based data processing and analytics platform. (5/26)

New Florida Law Shields Companies From Human Spaceflight Liability (Source: Rolling Stone)
Florida's governor has signed a bill regarding spaceflight on Thursday just one day after he announced his presidential run. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law CS/SB 1318 – Spaceflight Entity Liability along with 27 other bills. The law exempts “spaceflight entity from liability for injury to or death of a crew resulting from spaceflight activities under certain circumstances.” The measure also requires “a spaceflight entity to have a crew sign a specified warning statement.” (5/26)