May 17, 2024

Huge Survey vs. Tiny Space Junk (Source: Space Daily)
As construction continues on the Vera Rubin Observatory, the skies above its mountaintop home grow more and more crowded following every rocket launch. Astronomers, conscious of the plans for mega-constellations of new satellites in the next few years, are rightfully worried: will these satellites and the tiny bits of debris that come with every deployment and collision affect the new telescope's long-awaited, gigantic survey? Click here. (5/16) https://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Huge_Survey_vs__Tiny_Space_Junk_999.html

Hawaii UH Manoa Researchers Uncover Origins of Life's Building Blocks in Space (Source: Space Daily)
Researchers at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa have made a key discovery about the formation of essential molecules in space, which could provide insights into how life began on Earth. A team from the Department of Chemistry has identified how nitrogen-carrying aromatic molecules can form in space. These molecules are crucial in many chemical and biological processes and are found in compounds like pharmaceuticals, dyes, plastics, and natural products. They are also present in important biomolecules such as amino acids, nucleic acids (DNA and RNA), and vitamins. (5/15)

Magic Lane Secures 3 Million Euro to Enhance Location Intelligence Cpabilities (Source: Space Daily)
Magic Lane, a leader in mapping and location services, has secured a euro 3 million investment to enhance its navigation technologies for micro-mobility and IoT applications. "With this investment, we can truly accelerate our efforts to transform the location industry," explained Raymond Alves of Magic Lane. "With our solutions, we address the evolving needs of the IoT and micro-mobility markets." (5/13)

Australian State Government Makes Biggest Venture Capital Investment Yet — in Space Tourism (Source: ABC.net)
The Victorian government has invested $37 million from its Breakthrough Victoria venture capital fund in a US satellite imagery and space tourism company. The company, Arizona-based World View, is selling tickets for near-space tourist flights from the Great Barrier Reef but has yet to receive approval for that venture. The investment represents the fund's biggest bet and came via an announcement made just days before Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas released the state budget.

According to Breakthrough Victoria, its $37 million investment in World View will see the company establish its Indo-Pacific headquarters in Melbourne and set up an advanced manufacturing facility in Victoria, creating up to 200 jobs in engineering, mission control and flight operations, and data and material sciences. (5/15)

Robotic “SuperLimbs” Could Help Moonwalkers Recover From Falls (Source: MIT News)
“We want to provide a safe way for astronauts to get back on their feet if they fall.” Harry Asada and his colleagues are designing a pair of wearable robotic limbs that can physically support an astronaut and lift them back on their feet after a fall. The system, which the researchers have dubbed Supernumerary Robotic Limbs or “SuperLimbs” is designed to extend from a backpack, which would also carry the astronaut’s life support system, along with the controller and motors to power the limbs. (5/15)

Russia Launched Research Spacecraft for Antisatellite Nuclear Weapon Two Years Ago, U.S. Officials Say (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Russia launched a satellite into space in February 2022 that is designed to test components for a potential antisatellite weapon that would carry a nuclear device, U.S. officials said. The satellite that was launched doesn’t carry a nuclear weapon. But U.S. officials say it is linked to a continuing Russian nuclear antisatellite program that has been a growing worry for the Biden administration, Congress and experts outside the government in recent months. The weapon, if deployed, would give Moscow the ability to destroy hundreds of satellites in low Earth orbit with a nuclear blast. (5/16)

The Billionaire Space Race Is About to Heat Up Again (Source: Robb Report)
Blue Origin’s resumption of commercial flights—rumored to cost anywhere between $200,000 and the $28 million one civilian astronaut supposedly paid for the initial flight—means the space race between Jeff Bezos’s company and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic is finally getting serious. Blue Origin announced that it will be launching a rocket this Sunday, ending a nearly two-year drought.

Virgin Galactic says it will be launching its seventh commercial flight aboard its supersonic aircraft VSS Unity on June 7. Unity will be tethered to a larger mothership, Eve. The two aircraft take off together and separate at 45,000 feet, at which point Unity heads skywards. This would be Virgin Atlantic’s seventh space-tourism flight after it officially launched its commercial flight program last year.  (5/15)

AST Shares Soar After AT&T Deal (Source: Space News)
Shares in AST SpaceMobile soared after the company announced a deal with AT&T for direct-to-device services. The company's shared closed up 68% Thursday, a day after the company reported a definitive agreement with AT&T to provide services until 2030 using the company's upcoming satellite constellation. AST SpaceMobile did not provide details about the agreement but said it did not come with additional prepayment revenue on top of the $20 million AT&T agreed to make in January. The company projects its first five commercial satellites will launch in July or August, which it says will provide "nationwide, noncontinuous" service in the United States. (5/17)

Omnispace Says Starlink Direct-to-Device Service Interferes with Its Satellites (Source: Space News)
Omnispace says it now has evidence that Starlink direct-to-device payloads interfere with its satellites. At a conference panel Thursday, an Omnispace executive said those Starlink payloads, using terrestrial spectrum from T-Mobile, generate noise that interferes with transmissions with its satellites using a mobile satellite services spectrum assignment. SpaceX has started to ramp up deployment of Starlink satellites with direct-to-device payloads, launching 26 since last week. Omnispace had previously warned the FCC that the SpaceX/T-Mobile plans would cause interference. FCC regulations adopted in March treat direct-to-device services using terrestrial spectrum as secondary to primary satellite spectrum allocations. (5/17)

NASA and ESA Finalize ExoMars Cooperation Agreement (Source: Space News)
NASA and ESA have finalized an agreement about NASA's contributions to ESA's ExoMars Rosalind Franklin rover mission. The agencies signed an agreement Thursday where NASA will provide thrusters, radioisotope heating units and launch services for the mission, scheduled for launch in late 2028. The NASA contributions replace components previously provided by Roscosmos before ESA halted cooperation when Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022. NASA's fiscal year 2025 budget proposal projected spending $339 million on the Rosalind Franklin mission through fiscal year 2029. (5/17)

Inversion Space Proposes In-Space Depot for DoD (Source: Space News)
Startup Inversion Space is offering the Defense Department "warehouses in space" for rapid delivery of cargo. The company says it has plans to store cargo in space that could be landed any place on Earth within an hour using return capsules it is developing. The company is launching its first demonstration mission as soon as this fall to test its reentry technologies. The company declined to disclose specific customers but the U.S. Air Force is a clear potential adopter. (5/17)

Russia Launches Classified Satellite (Source: Russian Space Web)
Russia launched a classified payload Thursday. A Soyuz-2.1b rocket lifted off from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome at 5:21 p.m. Eastern carrying multiple satellites. Russian officials did not disclose additional details about the payloads. The trajectory of the launch originally suggested that it carried a Bars-M military cartography satellite, but later information now indicates the launch carried a different, unspecified payload. (5/17)

Commerce Dept. Extends Pathfinder for Space Traffic Coordination (Source: Office of Space Commerce)
The Office of Space Commerce is extending a commercial pathfinder program for its space traffic coordination project. The office said Thursday it is extending agreements with five companies providing space situational awareness data and services by a month, through the end of June. The extension brings the combined value of the awards made earlier this year to $15.5 million. The contracts are a part of an effort by the office to test the ability to incorporate commercial data into its planned Traffic Coordination System for Space (TraCSS) project. (5/17)

NASA and South Korea Explore Increased Space Cooperation (Source: Yonhap)
NASA officials see prospects for greater space cooperation with South Korea. At an event Thursday at South Korea's embassy in Washington, agency officials said they expect more opportunities for South Korea to collaborate on NASA science missions. The Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute is supporting SPHEREx, a NASA astrophysics mission in development for launch next year. (5/17)

NASA Again the Best Federal Employer (Source: NASA)
NASA's streak continues as the best place to work among government agencies. NASA ranked first among large agencies in the annual survey by the Partnership for Public Service released Thursday. NASA has held the top spot for 12 consecutive years. (5/17)

"One Small Step" Grant Program Seeks to Support Historic Preservation (Source: Space 3.0)
“One Small Step” grants are designed to fill gaps in the area of space history. Applications from individuals and organizations are accepted throughout the year, whenever the need presents. We seek proposals where up to $2,500 could make a real difference—ideas such as digitizing historical documents, collecting an oral history, creating podcasts, or filling gaps at the Space Business & Commerce Archives. Click here. (5/17)

Astronomers Found New Earth-Sized Planet Where Days and Nights are Never-Ending (Source: WION)
Astronomers have detected a new Earth-sized planet, which is just 55 light-years away. It is orbiting an ultra-cool red dwarf star. The discovery is published in Nature Astronomy. The international team of astronomers revealed that the planet is only the second of its kind to be discovered around this type of star.

The star, known as SPECULOOS-3 b, takes approximately 17 hours to complete an orbit, meaning a year on the planet is shorter than a single Earth day. It is more than twice as cold as our sun. The astronomers said that it is ten times less massive and one hundred times less luminous. As per the discovery, days and nights on SPECULOOS-3 b are endless. (5/15)

TaxWatch Group Identifies Questionable Space Spending in Florida Budget (Source: Florida Today)
A Florida watchdog group sniffed out three projects in Brevard County totaling more than $6.2 million, among 450 state appropriations this year worth $854.6 million, that were bypassed normal legislative procedures. The group deems these items "Budget Turkeys." Two of the "turkeys" are for Space Coast aerospace projects: $5 million to the Florida Institute of Technology for "a university aerospace assured engineering and educational laboratory", and $650,000 for restorations associated with the historic lighthouse on the Cape Canaveral Spaceport.

This year's state budget once again has a record number of local member projects — more than 1,600 projects worth about $2.8 billion, Florida TaxWatch's report notes. "This marks the third year in a row that the budget contained at least $2.8 billion in member projects." TaxWatch annually urges the state's governor to veto items identified as turkeys. (5/16)

Swedish Space Corporation and Perigee Aerospace Join Forces for Satellite Launches from Esrange (Source: Techarenan)
In a recent collaboration, the Swedish Space Corporation (SSC) and Perigee Aerospace Inc. announced plans to launch satellites from Esrange Space Center in Sweden starting in 2025. Using Perigee’s two-stage rocket, two hundred kilograms is the utmost weight that can be launched into a Sun-Synchronous Orbit (SSO) at an altitude of 500 km.

By teaming up, SSC and Perigee aim to offer shared payload space onboard the rocket for both companies’ customer bases. This service could be further bolstered by SSC’s global satellite ground station network and additional space-to-ground services. (5/15)

Profile on Space Florida President Robert Long (Source: Florida Trend)
Robert Long, a retired Space Force colonel, was hired last September as president and CEO of Space Florida, the state’s aerospace economic development arm. Long spent most of his military career in the U.S. Air Force. At Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, he commanded Space Launch Delta 30, which oversees the Western Launch and Test Range and is responsible for all space launch operations from the West Coast. He spoke with Florida Trend about continuing Space Florida’s emphasis on infrastructure and financial tools to attract aerospace companies, and about planning for a future in space that was once limited to the pages of science fiction. Click here. (5/9)

Proliferation Provides Space Force Resilience, New Challenges (Source: National Defense)
The Space Force is shifting to orbital architectures made up of many small satellites instead of a few larger, more exquisite systems. These proliferated constellations provide several benefits but also pose new questions the service is trying to answer. Chief of Space Operations Gen. B. Chance Saltzman said the primary benefit of proliferation is increased resilience.

“If it only takes me five satellites to perform a mission, that’s not very many targets for an adversary to think about,” Saltzman said at the Space Foundation’s Space Symposium. “But if we proliferate that out to hundreds of satellites performing that [mission], it changes the attack calculus substantially.” However, this approach creates challenges as well, such as figuring out how to get different companies’ satellites to share data with each other, said Col. Rob Davis, Space Systems Command’s program executive officer for space sensing. (5/16)

Space Force Plan to Build 7 New Telescopes Atop Haleakala Draws Strong Opposition (Source: Hawaii News Now)
The military’s proposal to build up to seven new telescopes on the summit of Haleakala is drawing stiff opposition, especially from Native Hawaiians. The Department of the Air Force concluded a series of three scoping meetings as it prepares a draft Environmental Impact Statement on the project, known as AMOS STAR — short for the Air Force Maui Optical and Supercomputing Site Small Telescope Advanced Research Facility.

It would require the construction of up to seven new telescopes and an optics lab on about an acre of land near the current Maui Space Surveillance Complex. A meeting Wednesday night in Kihei drew hundreds, with virtually everyone who spoke opposed to the idea.

“Tonight I want to reject your so-called alternatives that really leave no real alternative, and instead outright disrespect the principle of consent. That is, when we say no, it means no,” one woman told the gathering. “That mauna is my grandmother. That mauna is my family,” a man said. “This project is not merely about stars and satellites,” another woman said. “It is a continuation of settled colonial projects.” (5/16)

UCF Researcher Is Developing Algorithms to Further Space, Sea Exploration (Source: UCF Today)
“Cislunar space is vast,” says Tarek Elgohary, an associate professor of aerospace engineering. “The current SDA infrastructure, which is mostly Earth-based, is not equipped to provide the needed coverage in cislunar space. There is a need for fast and accurate solutions to quantify uncertainties to improve predictions and provide SDA information in the absence of continuous coverage.”

Elgohary and his team will develop those solutions with the support of a $350,000 grant from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research Dynamic Data and Information Processing Program. They will create a computational framework to rapidly and accurately track space objects in real time, onboard spacecraft or satellites like the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Oracle, which is designed to increase SDA capabilities in cislunar space. The algorithms will allow Oracle and other spacecraft to operate autonomously without intervention from Earth. (5/15)

May 16, 2024

France May Join US Space Effort (Source: Breaking Defense)
France is weighing whether to join a U.S.-led effort to defend space assets. Gen. Stephen Whiting, head of U.S. Space Command, said last month he invited France, along with Germany and New Zealand, to join Operation Olympic Defender, an effort to share intelligence about space threats and deter hostile actions. Gen. Philippe Adam, head of France's Space Command, said the country was still considering whether to accept the invitation but added that, if the country did, it would retain control of its military space assets. (5/16)

Patrol Spacecraft Are Urgently Needed, French Space Commander Says (Source: Aviation Week)
As France continues to see unfriendly maneuvers of Russian spacecraft around its own satellites, the Yoda demonstration program for space patrol missions and the follow-on Egide operational satellites have become pressing needs, Gen. Philippe Adam, the French Air and Space Force space commander, said May 14.

The Yoda program has been devised for the protection of valuable spacecraft, such as military communications or observation satellites, against hostile visits. As a demonstration, two nano-satellites will validate close maneuvers in geostationary orbit. Yoda stands for “in-orbit eyes for an agile demonstrator” in French. (5/14)

‘No Silver Bullet:’ Military Will Need Multiple Systems to Back Up GPS (Source: Breaking Defense)
As Defense Department concern grows about the increasing ability of adversaries to disrupt GPS satellite signals, experts warn that there is no one-size-fits-all alternative to meet military needs for positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) capabilities. Radio-frequency (RF) signals broadcasted from Global Positioning System satellites can be used by a wide variety of platforms for almost an infinite number of military missions — ranging from helping a soldier navigate an all-terrain vehicle in an unfamiliar landscape to steering an airborne missile to its target.

The Pentagon, the Space Force, the Army and the other military services have been scrambling to find alternatives for when (not if) GPS stops working on the battlefield. The difficulty, however, is that each technique available now or in the foreseeable future for what is often called “alt-PNT” comes with a need to make size, weight, power and cost trade-offs based on what type of platform is being used, as well as the nature duration of the mission, according to experts. (5/14)

DoD Space Tracking Technology a Top Priority, but Commercial Opportunities are Limited (Source: Space News)
The Pentagon's growing interest in space domain awareness (SDA) may not translate into many new commercial opportunities. SDA technologies are used to detect, track and characterize objects orbiting the Earth in order to prevent collisions, identify threats and determine the ownership and intent of satellites. A report by Booz Allen Hamilton identified SDA as one of the top 10 impactful technologies for national security in the coming years, but offered an uncertain outlook for commercial SDA businesses. It concluded that regulatory hurdles, dominance by established defense primes and existence of free public data services all pose challenges to SDA companies. (5/16)

Amazon's Kuiper Constellation to Bring Infrastructure, Launches and Jobs to Space Coast (Source: Florida Today)
Expect ecommerce giant Amazon to quickly become a major player in the Space Coast's commercial space industry when it begins building its Project Kuiper broadband satellite constellation. "Our satellites, we're making all those in-house in Kirkland, Washington. We're going to have the capability, when that's up and running at full capacity, to make up to five satellites a day. And then they'll be shipped here," Brian Huseman, vice president of public policy and community engagement, told the National Space Club Florida Committee.

Huseman delivered updates on Amazon's $10 billion Project Kuiper satellite initiative Tuesday during a fireside chat-style discussion at the committee's monthly luncheon. Satellite manufacturing is underway at Project Kuiper’s 172,000-square-foot Kirkland factory, Amazon announced Monday. At NASA's Kennedy Space Center, construction continues on Amazon's $120 million satellite processing facility to prep those satellites for launch into low-Earth orbit.

Huseman said Amazon is advertising to hire 50 full-time employees at KSC with average salaries of at least $80,000, including skilled workers, logistics personnel, mission managers and engineers. (5/15)

ULA Penalized for Vulcan Delays (Source: Bloomberg)
The US Air Force is imposing financial penalties on the United Launch Alliance, the Lockheed Martin Corp.- Boeing Co. joint venture, over delays of two military satellite launches this year, according to the service. “The government is holding ULA accountable for delays in accordance with the terms” of its contract, the Air Force said in a statement.

The service declined to disclose the amount of the “postponement fees,” saying only that they’re “assessed based on a variety of factors, including the duration of the schedule slip.” At issue are delays in executing a second non-military launch of the new Vulcan rocket powered by the BE-4 engine that’s intended to replace the Russian-made RD-180. The new engine is made by Blue Origin LLC, headed by Jeff Bezos. (5/15)

Another Nail in the Coffin for Failed Camden County Spaceport (Source: First Coast News)
After years of trying to bring a Spaceport to Camden County, Georgia Governor Kemp has signed legislation to end the authority responsible for purchasing the land. Representative Steven Sainz (R-St. Marys) introduced a bill to repeal the authority, which was signed into law this week. It comes after the Camden County Board of Commissioners voted to dissolve the authority in March of this year. (5/14)

Congress Passes FAA Bill with Learning Period Extension (Source: Space News)
Congress has passed an FAA reauthorization bill that includes another extension of the "learning period" restricting commercial human spaceflight occupant safety regulations. The House passed the FAA bill Wednesday after the Senate did so last week. One of the provisions of the bill is to extend the learning period only through the end of the year, leaving a long-term extension desired by much of industry to a dedicated commercial space bill. The FAA bill also directs the GAO to perform a study on the effects launches and other activities have on airspace congestion, and authorizes $10 million a year through 2028 for work on technologies to better integrate launches and reentries into the national airspace system. (5/16)

Intuitive Machines Wants to Help NASA Return Samples From Mars (Source: Tech Crunch)
Intuitive Machines is looking to help reshape the Mars Sample Return mission architecture with its own technology, based on architecture it has been developing for the moon, executives told investors during a quarterly earnings call Tuesday. It’s no surprise that Intuitive Machines is looking to become part of the program: The company made history when it became the first private company to land a spacecraft on the moon at the beginning of this year, so it makes sense to try to adapt that tech for Mars. It will likely be lucrative, too; contracts associated with MSR could easily top out at billions of dollars. (5/14)

Voyager Space to Develop New Airlock Concept for Mars Transit (Source: Space Daily)
Voyager Space (Voyager) announced it has received a Collaborative Announcement Notice (CAN) from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) to develop an airlock for the Mars Transit Vehicle, also known as Deep Space Transport. This cooperative agreement aims to enhance technology development at MSFC while advancing Voyager's technology and infrastructure.

This 12-month study, starting this month, will involve resources from Voyager and MSFC's Habitation team to evaluate the Bishop Airlock design's suitability for the Mars Transit Vehicle. The new airlock, called "Red Knight," will build on the flight-proven Bishop Airlock to meet deep space challenges, support the Mars Transit crew, and provide unique science opportunities. (5/15)

Mars Agriculture Simulations Show Promise and Challenges (Source: Space Daily)
This study explored the feasibility of soil-based food production in Martian conditions using an intercropping system with pea, carrot, and tomato. The experiment involved different soil types, including Mars regolith simulant, and assessed factors such as biomass, yield, and nutrient content.

While intercropping showed potential advantages, challenges like the absence of necessary bacterial nodulation in Mars regolith highlighted the complexities of Martian agriculture. Intercropping was beneficial for tomatoes but less so for peas and carrots in the Martian simulant due to harsh soil conditions that hinder bacterial survival and function.

In lighter, more favorable soil conditions like sand, intercropping significantly exceeded the performance of monocropping. This finding suggests that with adjustments to enhance Martian soil conditions for bacterial nodulation, intercropping could become a viable strategy for efficient and sustainable agriculture on Mars. (5/2)

NASA's X-59 Passes Milestone Toward Safe First Flight (Source: NASA)
NASA has taken the next step toward verifying the airworthiness for its quiet supersonic X-59 aircraft with the completion of a milestone review that will allow it to progress toward flight. A Flight Readiness Review board composed of independent experts from across NASA has completed a study of the X-59 project team’s approach to safety for the public and staff during ground and flight testing. The review board looked in detail at the project team’s analysis of potential hazards, focusing on safety and risk identification. (5/15)

Lithuania Joins Artemis Accords (Source: Space News)
Lithuania is the 40th nation to sign the Artemis Accords. The country's minister of economy and innovation signed the Accords Wednesday in a ceremony in Vilnius. Lithuania is the seventh nation to sign so far this year and the 40th since the Accords were unveiled four years ago. At a recent event, officials with NASA and the State Department said they are seeing growing interest among countries to sign the Accords, which outline best practices for responsible space exploration and allow countries to discuss those issues in greater detail. Separately, the governments of Portugal and the U.S. said Wednesday they are starting discussions about Portugal signing the Accords. (5/16)

UK's SatVu Plans Two New Satellites to Replace One (Source: Space News)
British startup SatVu plans to launch two satellites next year to replace a thermal imaging satellite that failed several months ago. SatVu expects to launch its HotSat-2 in the first half of 2025 and HotSat-3 in the second half. Both carry thermal imaging payloads like the original HotSat, launched last June but which failed after just six months. An investigation into that failure is ongoing, with a power circuit malfunction the most likely cause of the loss of the satellite. (5/16)

Unseenlabs Plans Constellation of Larger Satellites for RF Emissions Tracking (Source: Space News)
Unseenlabs is planning a new constellation of larger satellites to track radio-frequency (RF) emissions. The French company currently operates 13 cubesats that track RF signals for maritime domain awareness applications. It recently announced a new generation of 150-kilogram satellites scheduled to begin launching in 2026 that will be used for maritime and other other markets. The new satellites will be able to operate individual to track objects, rather than work in clusters. (5/16)

Seraphim Picks Nine Startups for Accelerator (Source: Space News)
Seraphim Space has selected nine startups for its latest accelerator class. The startups from the United States, United Kingdom, Italy and India will participate in the three-month program, the 13th run by Seraphim. The startups are pursuing opportunities in propulsion, cybersecurity, space situational awareness, geospatial insights and in-orbit biotechnology manufacturing. Seraphim says that 93% of the companies that have completed the accelerator programs so far have secured funding. (5/16)

BepiColombo Propulsion System Lose Power (Source: ESA)
Engineers are troubleshooting a problem with the electric propulsion system on the BepiColombo mission. That spacecraft, a joint mission of ESA and JAXA, will go into orbit around Mercury after performing several flybys, using electric thrusters to adjust its trajectory. Those thrusters lost power last month just before the next scheduled maneuver. By last week the thrusters were back to 90% of their original power, but the spacecraft is still suffering from reduced electrical power. ESA said that BepiColombo should still be able to perform its next Mercury flyby in September as engineers work to determine how reduced power levels might affect future maneuvers if the problem cannot be fixed. (5/16)

Australia's Support for World View Draws Scrutiny (Source: Australian Broadcasting Corp.)
An Australian state government's investment in an American stratospheric ballooning company is drawing scrutiny. Breakthrough Victoria, a venture fund run by the Australian state of Victoria, has invested $37 million Australian ($24.7 million) in World View Enterprises, a company that develops stratospheric balloons for various applications, including eventually near-space tourism. World View will set up an Indo-Pacific headquarters in Melbourne and a manufacturing facility in the state, with long-term plans to perform tourism flights above the Great Barrier Reef. Some in Australia oppose the investment, saying that the state government should not be investing in speculative ventures when it is cutting funding for medical research and mental health services. (5/16)

Private Mission to Save the Hubble Space Telescope Raises Concerns, NASA Emails Show (Source: NPR)
Jared Isaacman, a private astronaut who has orbited Earth in a SpaceX capsule, basically has said he'd foot the bill to take a maintenance crew to Hubble if NASA would greenlight such a mission, potentially saving the space agency hundreds of millions of dollars. After initially fast-tracking a study of the idea in 2022, the space agency has remained mum. In response to repeated inquiries by NPR, a NASA spokesperson said in an email that "we expect to provide an update on this study in late spring/early summer."

Then, on Wednesday, the spokesperson said, "we're working to share something this week." Internal NASA emails obtained by NPR through a Freedom of Information Act request show that about a year ago, longtime Hubble experts were asked to weigh in. They expressed concerns about the risks of what was being proposed.

In a best-case scenario, a successful private mission could improve Hubble's ability to point at celestial objects and, by boosting its orbit, extend its life by years. In a worst-case scenario, however, an accident could leave the multibillion-dollar telescope broken — or, even more tragically, tethered to the dead bodies of the astronauts sent to repair it. (5/16)

AT&T + AST SpaceMobile Announce Definitive Commercial Agreement (Source: SatNews)
This summer, AST SpaceMobile plans to deliver its first commercial satellites to Cape Canaveral for launch into LEO. These initial five satellites will enable commercial service that was previously demonstrated with several key milestones. These industry first moments during 2023 include the first voice call, text and video call via space between everyday smartphones.

The two companies have been on this path together since 2018. AT&T will continue to be a critical collaborator in this innovative connectivity solution. Chris Sambar, Head of Network for AT&T, will soon be appointed to AST SpaceMobile’s board of directors. AT&T will continue to work directly with AST SpaceMobile on developing, testing, and troubleshooting this technology to help make continental U.S. satellite coverage possible. (5/15)

Space Coast Economic Development Group's Funding Renewed (Sources: Florida Today, SPACErePORT)
The Brevard County Commission voted to extend its relationship with the Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast for another year by approving a $1.4 million grant with the private, not-for-profit corporation. The EDC has been an aggressive partner in attracting aerospace jobs and investment to the Space Coast, working closely with companies like Blue Origin, Embraer, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Space Perspective, and others. The EDC has also won state grant funding for various projects to support military growth on the Space Coast. (5/15)

May 15, 2024

Starliner Launch Delayed Again for New Issue (Source: NBC)
Boeing’s first Starliner mission carrying astronauts into space has been delayed again — until at least May 21 — over an issue with the spacecraft’s propulsion system. Starliner’s mission carrying two NASA astronauts had been scheduled for liftoff from Florida last week, until a technical issue with its Atlas 5 rocket prompted a delay to May 17 — the latest postponement for a program years behind schedule and more than $1.5 billion over budget.

A new technical issue, now concerning Starliner itself, has prompted another postponement to at least next Tuesday, Boeing said in a statement. “Starliner teams are working to resolve a small helium leak detected in the spacecraft’s service module,” Boeing said, adding that engineers traced the leak to a component on one of the propulsion system’s 28 control thrusters that are used for maneuvering in Earth’s orbit. (5/14)

Volcanic Planet is "Constantly Exploding" with Molten Lava (Source: Salon)
Like a giant exploding ember floating in space, a planet made of molten lava and covered in active volcanoes was recently described in The Astronomical Journal. Known as TOI-6713.01, the exoplanet was first spotted by UC Riverside astrophysicist Dr. Stephen R. Kane using NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS. It is part of a star system known as HD 104067, one which is already roughly 66 light years away from our sun.

Like Earth TOI-6713.01 is a rocky planet, but it is almost one-third larger than our home and has a temperature of 2,600 degrees Kelvin, making it hotter than even certain stars. The properties of TOI-6713.01 are perhaps most similar to those of the Jovian moon Io, where scientists recently discovered a lava lake as smooth as glass. (5/14)

This Giant Gas Planet is as Fluffy and Puffy as Cotton Candy (Source: AP)
Astronomers have identified a planet that’s bigger than Jupiter yet surprisingly as fluffy and light as cotton candy. The exoplanet has exceedingly low density for its size, an international team reported Tuesday. The gas giants in our solar system — Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune — are much denser.

Scientists say an outlier like WASP-193b is ideal for studying unconventional planetary formation and evolution. The planet was confirmed last year, but it took extra time and work to determine its consistency based on observations by ground telescopes. It’s thought to consist mostly of hydrogen and helium, according to the study. (5/14)

The Spacecraft Control Center of the Future (Source: ESA)
ESA’s European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany, is evolving. On 14 May, ESA signed a contract with Darmstadt-based architecture office H2S Architekten for the construction of a futuristic new satellite control center at its existing ESOC site. Preparations for the construction of the new building will begin in 2025. (5/14)

It's Time to Rebalance Funding Toward the Air Force and Space Force (Source: Defense News)
It is time to rebalance Department of Defense resources so that our men and women in uniform can fight, if necessary, and win in an increasingly dangerous world. Given the threats posed by China, Russia, Iran, North Korea and an array of nonstate actors, the United States is facing extreme challenges, the likes of which we have never confronted in our history. This threat situation drives a new security environment that requires a revised investment strategy.

Two decades of ground-centric operations saw a dramatic surge in Army spending to the exclusion of sufficient investment in air power and space power. It is time for a reset. Combatant commanders today require more air power and space power — and budgets need to reflect that. (5/13)

Newly Discovered Subatomic Particle May Be the Universe's Mythical 'Glueball' (Source: StudyFinds)
Protons and neutrons are part of a family of particles called hadrons. Most hadrons, including protons and neutrons, are made up of even more fundamental particles called quarks, which are held together by other particles called gluons. Gluons are the “glue” that binds quarks together. They carry the strong nuclear force, one of the four fundamental forces of nature.

Here’s where things get even more interesting. The theory that describes the behavior of quarks and gluons is called quantum chromodynamics, or QCD for short. One of the key features of QCD is that, unlike the other fundamental forces, the strong force actually gets stronger with distance! Imagine if the further you pulled two magnets apart, the harder they tried to snap back together – that’s kind of how the strong force works.

This unique property of QCD leads to some fascinating consequences. One prediction is that, in addition to the usual hadrons made of quarks, there could exist particles made entirely of gluons – glueballs. Just like quarks can combine to form composite particles, the thinking goes, so too could gluons bind together with no quarks involved. These glueballs would be a completely new class of subatomic particles. (5/13)

This Time, We Take It From No One: Why Opening the High Frontier of Space Can Be Different (Source: Space.com)
In the movements and expansion of civilizations and peoples of the past, it has often been the case that, as one group expanded, it was at the cost of another. We have been driven in the past by changes in climate, the pressures of our populations, the collapse of our economies, the oppression of our ideas and beliefs, or the greed of those with a lot of stuff to gather more stuff under their control. Societies have also been forced to move to new lands by the movements of others being driven by others moving into their own, and so on.

It appears that the solar system is empty of intelligence except our own. It is in that sense ours, as it belongs to no one else, not in the way that greed and the grabbing of finite resources and wealth have been taken or possessed in the past, but in the sense that we are responsible for it, We, All of Us — the entire human race. It may be possible there is primitive life to be found under a frozen rock on Mars or beneath the under-oceans of the Jupiter moon Europa or Saturn's Enceladus. (5/15)

Space Force Should Consider Alternative Launch Sites, Lawmakers Say (Source: C4ISRnet)
As U.S. launch rates surge at the Defense Department’s two coastal ranges, House lawmakers are pushing the military to consider alternative sites for sending space payloads to orbit. In the House Armed Services Committee’s draft fiscal 2025 defense policy bill, lawmakers raised concerns about the ability of DOD’s most in-demand spaceports at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida and Vandenberg Space Force Base in California to meet military and commercial capacity needs in the coming years.

Growing demand has driven the Space Force to explore options to increase the number of launches its existing ranges can support and invest in the infrastructure at those bases through an initiative called Spaceport of the Future. But lawmakers also want them to consider the feasibility of launching NSSL payloads from other ranges as soon as 2025. The bill lists potential alternative sites, including Wallops Island in Virginia, Pacific Spaceport Complex in Alaska, and Spaceport America in New Mexico. (5/14)

Mystery of 'Impossible' Star Resolved by Three-Body Solution (Source: New Scientist)
The mystery of a star that seemed too small to exist has been solved – by the detection of another star hiding in the same system. In 2019, astronomers announced the discovery of an unusual system called KIC 8145411 in which a white dwarf – the dull, compact remnant left behind after certain stars exhaust their nuclear fuel – was orbiting a sun-like star every 450 days. The system is a rare example of a self-lensing binary. (5/14)

We are About to Hear Echoes in the Fabric of Space for the First Time (Source: New Scientist)
Astronomers saw the explosion of the Refsdal supernova. Then, 360 days later, it went bang again. This bizarre sequence of events was down to a phenomenon called gravitational lensing, in which massive objects warp the fabric of space enough to cause light to bend. The path of the flash from the supernova was changed in this way on its journey to us, so that portions of it took different routes and arrived at different times – almost a year apart in this extreme case. Gravitational waves can be lensed by massive galaxies so that they repeat, like an echo. (5/14)

Musk: Starship's Next Launch 'Probably 3 to 5 Weeks' Away (Source: Space.com)
We're likely still a month or so away from the next launch of SpaceX's Starship megarocket. That was the timeline Elon Musk offered in a post on X over the weekend, saying Starship's next test flight is "probably 3 to 5 weeks" away. "Objective is for the ship to get past max heating, or at least further than last time," the billionaire entrepreneur added. (5/13)

OneWeb Coverage Target Held Up by India Regulatory Delays (Source: Space News)
Regulatory delays in India have knocked Eutelsat off course for reaching 90% of the world with its OneWeb low Earth orbit (LEO) broadband constellation by summer, the French satellite operator said May 14. The company said last year it was the first to get permission to provide commercial satellite broadband services from IN-SPACe, India’s newly created space regulator, but radio waves from the country’s government still needed to be allocated. (5/14)

This is NASA's New Space Suit (Source: Cleo Abram)
These new suits will give astronauts the superpower to do more, for longer… and I’m one of the first civilians to put one on. In this video, we’re taking you behind the scenes to show how Axiom Space is designing, building, and testing NASA’s new space suits. I am going to put myself and this suit to the test, to give you a sneak peak into what it looks like, what it feels like, and how it could change what humanity can do in space. Click here. (5/14)

SpaceX Reveals Spacesuit With Heads-Up Display Inside Helmet (Source: Futurism)
The suit will make its first appearance during this summer's Polaris Dawn mission, which will see a crew of four space tourists stepping out of the capsule to go for a spacewalk. The suit is astonishingly slim compared to the bulky suits we've become accustomed to that allow astronauts to venture outside spacecraft like the ISS.

The EVA suit's helmet is made of 3D-printed parts and a visor. It also features a new Heads-Up Display (HUD) and camera that allow astronauts to keep track of the suit's pressure, temperature, and relative humidity without having to glance down at their wrists or take their gaze away from the Earth below. It can also show a mission clock to gauge the duration of various EVA tasks. (5/7)

DoD's Commercial Space Strategy Leaves Industry Wanting More (Source: Space News)
The recent release of Defense Department and Space Force strategic blueprints for the use of commercial space technologies has been met with cautious optimism by the industry. While acknowledging the importance of these vision documents, some executives remain concerned about the lack of a concrete roadmap.

Both documents offer a compelling vision for collaboration, but the strategies only highlight the intent to leverage commercial space capabilities and don’t detail how that will happen or commit funds, noted Ellen Chang, vice president of ventures at the consulting firm BMNT. Chang, who advises space startups that work with the U.S. government, said many companies have been eagerly awaiting these strategies, seeing them as important to unlock investments in the burgeoning commercial space industry.

However, she said, it’s unlikely that these high-level guidance documents will trigger an immediate overhaul in military space spending or a shift from established defense contractors to commercial ventures. (5/14)

Amazon Expanding Kuiper Footprint in Washington (Source: Seattle Times)
Amazon will open a new logistics center in Everett for its broadband satellite network, Project Kuiper, expanding its ability to design, test and manufacture satellites in the Puget Sound region. At the 184,000-square-foot facility, Project Kuiper workers will receive and sort supplies that will then be used to construct thousands of satellites. The new facility, set to open in June, will help streamline the manufacturing process as Project Kuiper prepares to launch its first production satellites later this year. (5/14)

TRAPPIST-1 Outer Planets Likely Have Water (Source: Universe Today)
The TRAPPIST-1 solar system generated a swell of interest when it was observed several years ago. In 2016, astronomers using the Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope (TRAPPIST) at La Silla Observatory in Chile detected two rocky planets orbiting the red dwarf star, which took the name TRAPPIST-1. Then, in 2017, a deeper analysis found another five rocky planets. It was a remarkable discovery, especially because up to four of them could be the right distance from the star to have liquid water. (5/14)

Space Economics 101: Why the Math on Refueling Just Doesn’t Add Up (Source: Space News)
The chief of space operations of the U.S. Space Force Gen. Chance Saltzman, told lawmakers at a recent hearing that the service is struggling with the math on satellite refueling. And we can’t blame him. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or a Nobel economics laureate to discern the obvious: the newest generations of satellites, built and launched for the Space Force by dozens of commercial contractors and suppliers, are not meant to be refueled.

The vast majority of smallsats in orbit are simple, solar-powered computers with a five-year design life and a potential useful life of eight to 10 years before deorbiting. From a cost and technical perspective — the lifeblood of any profitable space company — refueling small satellites makes no sense at all. Redesigning these satellites for a 15-year design life so they can be refueled would compel the U.S. Space Force to rely on absurdly obsolete computers for most of the satellites’ orbital life while attempting to maintain space superiority against a menacing Chinese threat.

Bottom line, the cost of these satellites would have to more than triple with redundancies and extraordinary radiation hardening. All of this just to defer launch costs, which have dropped 80 percent in the last decade and are poised for further declines with reusable boosters from SpaceX and intense competition. (5/9)

SpaceX Gearing Up to Launch Starship-Super Heavy Rockets From KSC (Source: Florida Today)
SpaceX Starship-Super Heavy launches from two nearby sites on the Space Coast continue proceeding to reality: Federal officials are now studying the two-stage mega-rocket's potential environmental impacts at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. SpaceX — which touts Starship-Super Heavy as "the world’s most powerful launch vehicle ever developed" — has already installed a large-scale launch tower here for future use.

The FAA environmental study will consider Starship-Super Heavy launches; Super Heavy booster and Starship landings at pad 39A or on drone ships; and expendable Super Heavy booster and Starship landings in the ocean. Meanwhile, just to the south, SpaceX officials hope a different Starship-Super Heavy complex starts hosting launches by 2026 at adjacent Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. The Air Force is preparing a Starship environmental impact statement with NASA, the FAA and Coast Guard. Public meetings occurred in March in Cocoa, Titusville and Cape Canaveral. (5/14)

MIT Researchers Discover the Universe's Oldest Stars in Our Own Galactic Backyard (Source: Space Daily)
MIT researchers, including several undergraduate students, have discovered three of the oldest stars in the universe, and they happen to live in our own galactic neighborhood. The team spotted the stars in the Milky Way's "halo" - the cloud of stars that envelopes the entire main galactic disk. Based on the team's analysis, the three stars formed between 12 and 13 billion years ago, the time when the very first galaxies were taking shape. (5/15)

ISS National Lab Offers Up To $750,000 for Technology Development in Space (Source: Space Daily)
The International Space Station (ISS) National Laboratory is calling for flight concepts for technology development that use the space environment of the orbiting laboratory. This solicitation, "Technology Development and Applied Research Leveraging the ISS National Lab," invites proposals in various technology areas, including chemical and material synthesis, translational medicine, in-space edge computing, and in-space servicing, assembly, and manufacturing (ISAM). It also includes the use of space station remote sensing data for geospatial analytics. (5/15)

Report: Space Force Should Develop Its Own Targeting Satellites (Source: Air & Space Forces)
A new study argues the Space Force should build its own targeting satellites rather than try to collaborate with the National Reconnaissance Office. The risk is especially acute in space-based intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, where bureaucratic processes are holding up progress, Harrison told Air & Space Forces Magazine.

In the three years since the joint Space Force-NRO effort was launched, he said, “They still have not passed Milestone B, and Milestone B is actually the formal start of the acquisition process…. they haven’t actually started the program yet. What that tells me is the traditional acquisition process and all the interagency coordination that they’re doing has effectively lost us three years in the competition." (5/10)

Terran Orbital Takes Charge After Switching Propulsion Suppliers on Satellite Program (Source: Space News)
Terran Orbital took a $13 million charge in its first quarter that the company blamed on problems with a supplier to deliver propulsion systems for a Space Development Agency program. Terran Orbital reported $27.2 million in revenue in the first quarter of 2024, down $1 million from the same quarter of 2023. The company said that the revenue included a $13.1 million negative impact from unfavorable estimate-at-completion adjustments, mostly from a single program.

Company executive explained in a May 14 earnings call that charge came primarily from having to switch propulsion systems subcontractors on that program. “Propulsion has been the number-one problem child here,” said Marc Bell, chief executive of Terran Orbital. “Unfortunately, we picked a propulsion manufacturer who was unable to deliver the product. That caused us to do some redesigns to accommodate a new propulsion manufacturer.” (5/15)

Commercial Space Stations Approach Launch Phase (Source: IEEE Spectrum)
A changing of the guard in space stations is on the horizon as private companies work toward providing new opportunities for science, commerce, and tourism in outer space.

Blue Origin is one of a number of private-sector actors aiming to harbor commercial activities in low Earth orbit (LEO) as the creaking and leaking International Space Station (ISS) approaches its drawdown. Partners in Blue Origin’s Orbital Reef program, including firms Redwire, Sierra Space, and Boeing, are each reporting progress in their respective components of the program. Click here. (5/10)

New Shepard's Crewed NS-25 Mission Targets Liftoff on May 19 in Texas (Source: Blue Origin)
Blue Origin announced its seventh human flight, NS-25, will lift off from Launch Site One in West Texas on Sunday, May 19. The launch window opens at 8:30 AM CDT / 1330 UTC. The webcast on BlueOrigin.com will start at T-40 minutes.

Sidus Space Joins $30M Intuitive Machines-led Moon RACER Team (Source: Sidus Space)
is a teammate on the NASA Lunar Terrain Vehicle Services (“LTVS”) Contract which was awarded to the Intuitive Machines-led Moon Reusable Autonomous Crewed Exploration Rover (RACER) team announced earlier last month. This contract represents the first phase of developing a crewed rover for human exploration of the Moon’s surface. The LTVS project aims to create a feasibility roadmap for developing and deploying a Lunar Terrain Vehicle (“LTV”) on the Moon using Intuitive Machines’ Nova-D cargo-class lunar lander. (5/14)

Pentagon Worried ULA Can’t Keep Pace (Sources: Washington Post, Ars Technica)
The Pentagon is growing concerned that ULA, one of its key partners in launching national security satellites to space, will not be able to meet its needs to counter China and build its arsenal in orbit with a new rocket that ULA has been developing for years. It has been nearly four years since the US Air Force made its selections for companies to launch military payloads during the mid-2020s. The military chose ULA, and its Vulcan rocket, to launch 60 percent of these missions; and it chose SpaceX, with the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy boosters, to launch 40 percent.

Although the large Vulcan rocket was still in development at the time, it was expected to take flight within the next year or so. Upon making the award, an Air Force official said the military believed Vulcan would soon be ready to take flight. ULA was developing the Vulcan rocket in order to no longer be reliant on RD-180 engines that are built in Russia and used by its Atlas V rocket.

"I am growing concerned with ULA’s ability to scale manufacturing of its Vulcan rocket and scale its launch cadence to meet our needs," Frank Calvelli wrote to ULA's co-owners, Boeing and Lockheed Martin. "Currently there is military satellite capability sitting on the ground due to Vulcan delays. ULA has a backlog of 25 National Security Space Launch (NSSL) Phase 2 Vulcan launches on contract." (5/13)

Virgin Galactic Sets June target for Next Commercial Spaceflight From Spaceport America (Source: Santa Fe New Mexican)
Virgin Galactic this month announced its seventh commercial spaceflight out of Spaceport America in Southern New Mexico for June 8. The flight will be Virgin Galactic’s second this year out of Spaceport America following a hardware issue when an alignment pin detached from the launch pylon of VMS Eve on its first commercial flight this year in January. (5/13)

Is Space Becoming the Next Front for War—and Traffic Jams? (Source: Yale Insights)
Constellations of satellites surrounding the planet enable everyday tools like GPS and weather forecasts, and allow militaries to track troop movements and target weapons—in fact, the war in Ukraine has been described as the world's first commercial imagery space war. But the most desirable orbits are increasingly crowded and vulnerable to attack. Jamie Morin, a Yale PhD and expert in space defense and policy issues, explains what's at stake and how we avoid squandering this shared resource. Click here. (5/13)

Draft House Subcommittee NDAA Language OKs Pentagon Commercial ‘Space Reserve’ Plan (Source: Breaking Defense)
The House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee has given the thumbs up to DoD’s nascent plan to create a commercial “space reserve” to bolster military satellite capabilities during wartime.

“The Secretary of Defense may establish and carry out a program to be known as the ‘Commercial Augmentation Space Reserve’ program. Under the program, the Secretary may include in a contract for the procurement of space products or services one or more provisions under which a qualified contractor agrees to provide additional space products or services to the Department of Defense on an as-needed basis under circumstances determined by the Secretary,” states the subcommittee’s portion of the draft fiscal 2025 space policy bill.

DoD stated its intent to pursue CASR, first initiated by the Space Force, in its new Commercial Space Integration Strategy issued in April. The strategy explained that the Pentagon wants to “ensure” its “access” to commercial capabilities, including “being able to surge commercial capacity to meet military requirements and capability needs across the spectrum of conflict.” (5/13)

Central Florida Power Couple Seeks Student Journalists to Cover Return Trip to Space (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Winter Park power couple Marc and Sharon Hagle already flew to space with Blue Origin. They’re set for a return flight soon and want to corral some student journalists to cover the story. It’s part of a contest from the Winter Park-based national nonprofit SpaceKids Global that Sharon Hagle founded in 2015. It aims to stoke interest in the space industry among elementary-school children, focusing on STEAM education, which is science, technology, engineering, art and math.

If the stars align, they also will interview and watch the Hagles on their return flight to space on Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket. The Hagles would launch from Texas, and the contest winners would be covering the launch remotely from Blue Origin’s Rocket Park complex in Florida. (5/13)

MDA Space Holds Steady in First Quarter as New Contracts Announced (Source: SpaceQ)
MDA Space, the newly rebranded MDA, reported strong Q1 2024 results on the back of the Telesat Lightspeed constellation announced in late 2023, along with new contracts. The company reported a record backlog of $3.3 billion, roughly 169 percent more than at this period last year. It also reported revenues of $209.1 million (up 4 percent from this period last year) and an EBITDA of $42 million. Adjusted diluted earnings per share stood at $0.15, with adjusted net income of $18.1 million. (5/13)

May 14, 2024

Catalyzing a Lunar Economy: DARPA's Initial Findings from LunA-10 Study (Source: Space Daily)
The expansion of commercial space capabilities has transformed how we deliver mass and services to the Moon. These capabilities could create a real off-Earth economy if they operate jointly. An underlying analytical framework emphasizing integrated models of economic activity is needed to bridge current approaches to lunar system development and an integrated future lunar economy. This framework aims to reduce barriers to lunar surface entry and promote shareable, scalable, sustainable systems.

The DARPA 10-Year Lunar Architecture (LunA-10) Capability Study seeks to encourage commercial companies to study the shift from self-supported systems to interoperable lunar infrastructure within the next decade. Click here. (5/14)

Tracing Organic Matter Origins in Martian Sediments (Source: Space Daily)
Scientists are investigating Martian sediments to understand early environmental conditions and potential signs of past life. Sediments collected by the Curiosity rover from Gale Crater, an ancient lake formed 3.8 billion years ago, revealed organic matter with a lower carbon-13 isotope content than Earth's, suggesting different formation processes on Mars. A study explains this finding. Researchers discovered that the photodissociation of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the Martian atmosphere to carbon monoxide (CO) and subsequent reduction produces organic matter with depleted 13C content. (5/14)

World's First High-Definition Lunar Geologic Atlas Revealed by China (Source: Space Daily)
The first high-definition geologic atlas of the entire Moon, scaled at 1:2.5 million, was unveiled on April 21. The atlas, available in Chinese and English, consists of the Geologic Atlas of the Lunar Globe and the Map Quadrangles of the Geologic Atlas of the Moon (including explanatory manual). The Geologic Atlas of the Lunar Globe includes the Geologic Map of the Moon, the Lithologic Map of the Moon, and the Tectonic Map of the Moon.

The research team studied and compiled lunar rocks, geological structures, and geological ages, independently developing technical specifications and standards for lunar geological mapping. Using this intellectual property (IP), they completed a series of geological maps of the Moon at 1:2.5-million-scale. Based on data from China's Chang'e Project and other lunar geological information, this atlas provides basic information and a scientific reference for lunar exploration projects. (5/14)

Maritime Launch Secures Conditional $12.9M Term Sheet from Canadian Government (Source: Space Daily)
Maritime Launch Services Inc. has received a conditional term sheet for a $12.9 million contribution administered under the Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF). The funding will support Maritime Launch in developing Spaceport Nova Scotia, preparing for a first orbital launch from Nova Scotia, Canada, in 2025. The term sheet from the Government of Canada proposes $12.9 million in project cost reimbursements, conditionally repayable, to support Maritime Launch's Spaceport Nova Scotia. This project aims to develop and commercialize Canada's first commercial orbital spaceport near Canso, Nova Scotia. (5/14)

SwRI Investigates Boiling Processes in Partial Gravity (Source: Space Daily)
Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) is examining how liquids boil under partial gravity in a series of parabolic flights. This internally funded project, conducted with Texas A&M University, aims to understand boiling on different surfaces in partial gravity, which is crucial for future space missions to the Moon or Mars. (5/14)

House Panel Advances Space Reserve Plan (Source: Breaking Defense)
The House Armed Services Committee's strategic forces subcommittee has approved the Defense Department's plan to create a commercial "space reserve" to enhance military satellite capabilities during wartime. The Commercial Augmentation Space Reserve will allow the DOD to contract qualified companies to provide additional space products or services as needed, ensuring the Pentagon can access and surge commercial capabilities. (5/13)

Sidus Space Begins Payload Activation Upon Successful Commissioning Phase of LizzieSat-1 (Source: Sidus Space)
Sidus Space has begun payload activation upon successful completion of its commissioning phase of LizzieSat-1 (LS-1). LS-1 was successfully launched and deployed via SpaceX Falcon 9 from Vandenberg SLC-4 on March 4, 2024. The Sidus team successfully completed the Launch and Early Operations Phase (LEOP) on March 14th after establishing two-way communications with the orbiting spacecraft.

With this milestone achieved, the Sidus MCC team will now focus on activating payloads onboard LS-1 and executing critical mission activities to meet or surpass payload mission success criteria. (5/14)

Dummy Payload Considered for Vulcan Validation Mission (Source: Space News)
DoD is considering allowing ULA to launch a dummy payload on the second Vulcan Centaur mission if its planned payload is delayed. A Pentagon official said it would consider the switch to speed up the launch of the rocket, clearing the way for it to be certified for national security missions. The current payload for that launch is Sierra Space's Dream Chaser spaceplane, and ULA says it still expects to launch Dream Chaser by Oct. 1, but has unspecified "backup plans" if that spacecraft is not ready in time.

Meanwhile, Frank Calvelli, assistant secretary of the Air Force for space acquisition, sent a letter to ULA's corporate parents, Boeing and Lockheed Martin, asking them to evaluate ULA's ability to carry out a backlog of 25 national security missions currently on its manifest through 2027. (5/14)

Lockheed Martin Picks Terran Orbital to Develop 18 Tranche 2 Buses (Source: Space News)
Lockheed Martin has awarded Terran Orbital a contract for 18 more satellite buses. The contract, announced Monday, is for the Space Development Agency's Tranche 2 Tracking Layer satellites. Lockheed announced its intent in January, when it won the $890 million SDA contract, to use Terran Orbital buses, but had not finalized the contract at that time. Terran Orbital announced the contract just before it releases its first quarter financial results today, and the timing of the announcement is seen as a way to reassure investors after Lockheed dropped its proposed acquisition of Terran Orbital earlier this month. (5/14)

OHB Moving to Go Private (Source: Space News)
European space company OHB says it expects to complete a deal to go private in the coming weeks. In an earnings call last week, executive said the final milestones to the deal are regulatory approvals in Belgium and Germany, which OHB expects to secure by late June. OHB announced a deal with investment company KKR last August where KKR would buy publicly traded shares not owned by the Fuchs family, which owns a controlling stake in OHB, effectively taking the company private.

OHB executives are also optimistic that both Ariane 6 and Rocket Factory Augsburg's RFA ONE rocket will make their debut launches this summer, and downplayed concerns about delays in the European Commission's award of a contract for the IRIS² constellation to an industry consortium that includes OHB. (5/14)

NASA Picks Four New Earth Science Missions for Study (Source: Space News)
NASA has selected for Earth science mission proposals for further study while awarding a contract for a smaller tech demo mission. NASA announced last week it selected four proposals for its Earth System Explorer program of competed Earth science missions. The proposals will each receive $5 million for one-year mission concept studies, after which NASA plans to select two for development to launch in 2030 and 2032.

The Earth science decadal survey recommended NASA pursue a line of competed missions that would be less expensive than larger directed missions. NASA separately selected an Earth science smallsat mission called GRATTIS for development. The $12 million mission will test new sensors for mapping the Earth's gravitational field. (5/14)

SpaceX Slow to Pay Bills at Starbase (Source: Reuters)
While SpaceX is rapidly building out its Starbase site in South Texas, the company is slow to pay contractors. Construction companies hired by SpaceX to build facilities at Starbase say that the company is slow to pay its bills, requiring them in some cases to place liens against SpaceX properties to force the company to pay. Some contractors say they will no longer do business with SpaceX because of those payment issues, but others are willing to put up with the delays in the hopes of securing more work. (5/14)

Turkish Astronaut Among Flyers on Next Virgin Galactic Mission (Source: Axiom Space)
One of the people flying on the next Virgin Galactic suborbital flight will be a Turkish astronaut. Axiom Space said that Tuva Atasever will be the research astronaut previously announced by Virgin as one of the four customers on the Galactic 07 mission, scheduled for June 8. Atasever was the backup to Alper Gezeravc─▒, who flew to orbit on Axiom's Ax-3 mission to the International Space Station earlier this year. Atasever will perform seven experiments during the suborbital flight. (5/14)

India Seeks Commercial Developer for LVM3 Launcher (Source: ThePrint)
India's space agency is seeking proposals for commercial development of its largest current rocket. NewSpace India Ltd., the commercial arm of the space agency ISRO, announced it is seeking proposals for "large scale" development of the LVM3 rocket, also known as GSLV Mark 3. India is hoping to attract private partners to scale up development of LVM3 and offer it commercially for launches of geostationary satellites and low Earth orbit constellations. (5/14)

NASA Names Salvagnini as AI Chief (Source: NASA)
NASA has named its first chief AI officer. The agency said Monday that it has designated David Salvagnini, the current chief data officer of the agency, as its first chief AI officer. He will be responsible for planning use of AI tools and technologies across the agency. NASA created the position in response to an executive order last October that required federal agencies to designate a chief AI officer. (5/14)

SWISSto12 Provides RF Products to Northrop Grumman for GEOStar-3 Satellite Program (Source: Space Daily)
St12 RF Solutions, the US-based division of SWISSto12, has successfully developed, qualified, and delivered three integrated RF Antenna Feed Chains for the Northrop Grumman commercial GEOStar-3 satellite. The qualification was completed in January 2024, with the delivery of these feed chains marking a key milestone in payload integration for the satellite. (5/13)

Russian Research on Space Nukes and Alternative Counterspace Weapons (Source: Space Review)
US government officials revealed in February that Russia was developing a nuclear anti-satellite weapon of some kind, but offered few details. Bart Hendrickx examines the state of Russian research on the potential use of nuclear weapons in orbit as anti-satellite devices. Click here. (5/13)
 
Is it Time for Space to Come Out From Under the FAA’s Wings? (Source: Space Review)
As commercial launch activity continues to increase, the FAA office regulating launches is straining to keep up. Jeff Foust reports that some in industry, as well as an FAA advisory committee, think part of the solution is to move that office out of the FAA. Click here. (5/13)
 
Spaceplanes: Why We Need Them, Why They Have Failed, and How They Can Succeed (Source: Space Review)
Launch vehicles that can take off from and land on runways have long been a dream for space engineers and enthusiasts, but have never gotten off the ground. John Hollaway describes why they remain essential and how they might be developed. Click here. (5/13)

NASA Details Plans for Railway System on the Moon (Source: Voice of America)
The lunar rail proposal is called the Flexible Levitation on a Track, or FLOAT. NASA said such a railway system will be “critical to the daily operations” on the moon. The system aims to provide a “robotic transport system” for carrying loads of lunar soil and other materials to different areas of the lunar surface.

The other main use of the proposed railway would be to transport larger loads of materials and equipment to and from the areas where spacecraft land. Drawings by NASA suggest the plans call for flat, magnetic panels, called robots, to float, or levitate, over a flat rail line, or track. The robots have no moving parts and are unpowered. They are pushed along the track by electromagnetic energy.

NASA said the simple design of the carrier robots should help them last a long time and require little ongoing care. The system’s tracks can be placed directly on the lunar surface, avoiding the need to build a complex, permanent structure. They could also be moved around to change the transportation path. (5/12)

Meridian International Center Honors Space Diplomacy Visionaries (Source: Meridian)
Meridian International Center announced the selection of four honorees for the Meridian Global Leadership Award for Space Diplomacy. Recipients honored at the annual Meridian Diplomacy Forum in Washington, D.C. include: Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden Jr. (USMC-Ret.), Administrator, NASA (2009-2017); Michael Suffredini, Co-Founder and CEO, Axiom Space; Kam Ghaffarian, Co-Founder and Executive Chairman, Axiom Space; and His Excellency Yousef Al Otaiba, Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to the United States. (5/2)

Solar Storm Crashes GPS Systems Used by Some Farmers, Stalling Planting (Source: New York Times)
The powerful geomagnetic storm that cast the northern lights’ vivid colors across the Northern Hemisphere over the weekend also caused some navigational systems in tractors and other farming equipment to break down at the height of planting season, suppliers and farmers said. (5/13)

Estonia Summons Russian Envoy Over GPS Jamming (Source: Space Daily)
Estonia on Wednesday summoned Russia's charge d'affaires over GPS interference, which the NATO member said was Russian "hybrid activity" that had disrupted civilian air traffic. Estonia and fellow Baltic states Latvia and Lithuania last month warned that widespread Russian GPS jamming increased the threat of an aviation accident. (5/8)

Pakistan Sends Cubesat to Lunar Orbit with China's Assistance (Source: Space Daily)
In a significant advancement in lunar exploration collaboration, China has transferred satellite data from the Chang'e 6 mission to Pakistan. The data, collected by a cube satellite named ICUBE-Q, was formally handed over during a ceremony in Beijing. Zhang Kejian, the director of the China National Space Administration, presented the data package to Khalil-ur-Rahman Hashmi, the Pakistani Ambassador to China, signaling a deepened cooperative effort in space technology between the two nations. (5/11)

May 13, 2024

Defense Space Policy Chief Calls Russia’s Space Nuke Threat “a Thing Apart” (Source: Space News)
The departing assistant secretary of defense for space policy says that Russia's pursuit of a nuclear weapon for use in space is a deeply troubling threat. In an interview, John Plumb said that the weapon stands apart from other feared "counterspace" weapons being developed by Moscow, Beijing and others, calling it "a thing apart" that must be dealt with differently from those other threats.

He said hardening all U.S. satellites against such radiation would be unrealistic and prohibitively expensive. Instead, the Pentagon and other government agencies should do further studies and modeling of the potential impact of a nuclear detonation in orbit, and develop options to increase the resilience of military systems. (5/13)

Serbia Joins China's Lunar Program (Source: Space News)
Serbia has joined China's International Lunar Research Station program. Serbia's Ministry of Science, Technological Development and Innovation signed a memorandum of understanding with the China National Space Administration on ILRS, according to a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement last week. It is not clear how Serbia, with only modest space capabilities, will be involved in and contribute to the ILRS at this stage. Serbia becomes the 11th country to join the ILRS, following Nicaragua and Thailand in April. (5/13)

SpaceX Launches Starlink Mission on Sunday at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Space News)
SpaceX launched a set of Starlink satellites Sunday evening. A Falcon 9 lifted off from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport and deployed 23 Starlink satellites into orbit. With the launch SpaceX has 5,999 Starlink satellites in orbit, although not all of them are operational. (5/13)

China Launches Space Environment Monitoring Satellite (Source: Xinhua)
China launched a space environment satellite Saturday night. A Long March 4C satellite lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center and placed the Shiyan-23 satellite into orbit. The satellite will be used for space environment monitoring, Chinese media said, but did not provide any additional details about its mission. (5/13)

NASA and JAXA to Operate XRISM As-Is Despite Instrument Issue (Source: Space News)
NASA and JAXA will operate an X-ray astronomy satellite as-is for the next year and a half despite a glitch affecting one of its instrument. A gate valve, or aperture door, for the XRISM spacecraft's Resolve instrument failed to open after launch last September. The instrument itself is working fine, but the valve's beryllium disk attenuates X-rays, particularly at lower energies. At a National Academies meeting last week, the head of NASA's astrophysics division said NASA and JAXA decided not to make any more attempts to open the valve for the time being, instead collecting science data for the next 18 months before trying again. (5/13)

Yahsat Restores Partial Service to Thuraya-3 Satellite (Source: Yahsat)
Yahsat has partially restored service on its Thuraya 3 satellite. The company said Friday that it was able to resume voice and data services in the Indochina region from the satellite, which suffered a problem last month. Yahsat said it is still working to restore service in other parts of the Asia-Pacific region where that satellite operated. (5/13)

Red Tape Leaves Space Force Without Targeting Satellites (Source: Air & Space Forces)
Todd Harrison of the American Enterprise Institute argues in a new study that the US Space Force should develop its own targeting satellites instead of collaborating with the National Reconnaissance Office, highlighting that three years after a joint initiative was announced, bureaucratic delays have prevented the formal start of the acquisition process. Harrison's analysis points out that while the US currently leads Russia and China in space capabilities, they need to streamline acquisition and coordination to ensure this advantage. (5/10)

Startup Connects to Satellites in Orbit From Earth via Bluetooth — Using Off-the-Shelf Chip and a Software Update (Source: Tech Radar)
Tech startup Hubble Network has secured a $20 million for in-space connectivity. Their Transporter-launched satellites have managed to receive signals from Earth from a simple 3.5mm Bluetooth chip over an astonishing distance of 600 km, roughly the same distance from New York City to Boston, or London to Paris.

This development is significant because traditional networks often lag in delivering effective coverage in remote areas, consume too much power, and are prohibitively costly to operate at a global scale. Hubble’s approach directly tackles these problems by enabling standard Bluetooth devices to connect to their satellite network without cellular reception simply with a software update. (5/11)

Mayan Intercropping Could Be Key to Food on Mars (Source: Newser)
Researchers in the Netherlands are working to solve a food sustainability problem for space, when humans theoretically colonize the planet and won't exactly be able to rely on Uber Eats. In a new study that mimicked Martian conditions in a controlled greenhouse, attempts to grow food were boosted by using a technique pioneered by Mayans called intercropping. This agricultural method involves growing a combination of mutually beneficial crops together.

When the researchers tested intercropping different groups of tomatoes, peas, and carrots—grown in the same pots or alone—with soil that chemically and physically matched what's found on Mars, tomato yields were boosted when grouped with peas. The peas and carrots preferred to grow alone, but seeing tomatoes thrive with thicker stems, more and bigger fruit per plant, and faster maturation was an exciting find. "Now it's just a matter of adjusting the experimental conditions until we find the most optimal system. It can be different species, more species, different ratio of species." (5/12)

Lunar Lander Company ispace Sees Opportunities in Japan-U.S. Artemis Agreement (Source: Space News)
An agreement between the United States and Japan on contributions for the Artemis lunar exploration campaign could create additional opportunities for a Japanese lunar lander developer. Tokyo-based ispace cited the April 10 agreement between NASA and the Japanese government regarding roles in Artemis as a potential new market for the company. Under the agreement, the Japanese space agency JAXA will provide a pressurized rover for Artemis mission starting in the early 2030s, with NASA includes two seats on Artemis landing missions for JAXA astronauts. (5/11)

In the Race for Space Metals, Companies Hope to Cash In (Source: Undark)
Potential applications of space-mined material abound: Asteroids contain metals like platinum and cobalt, which are used in electronics and electric vehicle batteries, respectively. Although there’s plenty of these materials on Earth, they can be more concentrated on asteroids than mountainsides, making them easier to scrape out. And scraping in space, advocates say, could cut down on the damaging impacts that mining has on this planet. Space-resource advocates also want to explore the potential of other substances. What if space ice could be used for spacecraft and rocket propellant? Space dirt for housing structures for astronauts and radiation shielding?

Amid an otherworldly landscape outside of Hanksville, Utah, sits the Mars Desert Research Station. Facilities like these are intended to mimic how people might fare on Mars or the Moon, or on long-term orbital stations. Previous companies have rocketed toward similar goals before but went bust about a half decade ago. In the years since that first cohort left the stage, though, “the field has exploded in interest,” said Angel Abbud-Madrid, director of the Center for Space Resources at the Colorado School of Mines.

A lot of the attention has focused on the moon, since nations plan to set up outposts there and will need supplies. NASA, for instance, has ambitions to build astronaut base camps within the next decade. China, meanwhile, hopes to found an international lunar research station. Still, the pull of space rocks remains powerful and the new crop of companies hopeful. The economic picture has improved with the cost of rocket launches decreasing, as has the regulatory environment, with countries creating laws specifically allowing space mining. Click here. (5/8)

Sierra Space Reinvents Space Transportation with Dream Chaser (Source: Sierra Space)
Sierra Space, a leading commercial space company and emerging defense tech prime building a platform in space to benefit and protect life on Earth, announced today the successful completion of a rigorous environmental test suite on the revolutionary Dream Chaser spaceplane, Tenacity, at NASA’s Neil Armstrong Test Facility in Sandusky, Ohio.

As the first Dream Chaser moves toward orbital operations, Sierra Space and NASA test team members are preparing the vehicle, along with its Shooting Star cargo companion, for shipment to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for final testing and integration ahead of its inaugural launch later this year.

The final environmental tests – acoustic testing and electromagnetic interference and compatibility testing – will be performed onsite inside the SSPF. Remaining work on the thermal protection system will also be completed there. Dream Chaser Tenacity, the first in a fleet of spaceplanes, remains on track for a 2024 launch on the first of seven missions to resupply the International Space Station for NASA under a Commercial Resupply Services-2 (CRS-2) contract. A second spaceplane, named Reverence, is in production in Sierra Space’s Louisville, Colo., factory. (5/9)

SpinLaunch Board Announces Leadership Transition (Source: SpinLaunch)
SpinLaunch, a pioneering space company enabling rapid and sustainable low-cost access to space, today announced a change of leadership to align with the company’s next stage of growth to expand and commercialize its portfolio of disruptive space solutions. The SpinLaunch Board of Directors has appointed David Wrenn, the company’s current Chief Operating Officer (COO), as the new Chief Executive Officer (CEO), effective immediately. SpinLaunch’s Founder & former CEO, Jonathan Yaney, has completed his transition from the company, where he recommended and endorsed Wrenn’s elevation to CEO. (5/10)

May 11, 2024

Archimedes 3D Printed Engine Will Send the Neutron Rocket Into Space at Least 20 Times (Source: Auto Evolution)
A single Archimedes engine is capable of developing 165,000 pounds of thrust. Given how no less than nine of these things will power the Neutron rocket's first stage alone, that's a total of 1.45 million pounds of thrust at liftoff. A version of the Archimedes will be used to power the rocket's second stage, the one meant to operate in space. Optimized for use in a vacuum, this powerplant can develop on its own 202,300 pounds of thrust.

The engines have been designed to be able to withstand multiple restarts. In the case of the vacuum version, for instance, power can be turned on and off for up to six times, allowing for the spacecraft to change its orbital position depending on needs. The stage one Archimedes, on the other hand, will allow for up to 20 launches to be performed using the same setup. That's because the rocket engine "is intentionally designed to operate within medium-range capability, a choice that lowers thermal and operational strains." (5/10)

NASA's Strategy for Space Sustainability (Source: Space News)
The risks posed by orbital debris and collisions in Earth orbit are not new: after all, the idea of the Kessler Syndrome, a runaway cascade of collisions that would render orbits unusable, is decades old. There have been many solutions posed over the years to deal with that debris, from lasers that would be at home in science fiction to concepts like nets and harpoons that instead seem like something from Moby Dick. Surely the right technology is out there somewhere.

But Melroy, in a speech unveiling NASA’s first Space Sustainability Strategy, argued the focus on technology is premature. “That’s the part everyone jumps to first. We think it comes third,” she said. What she and the agency offered was a more deliberative approach to the issue of space sustainability, one that argues that the problem needs to be better defined and understood before attempting to create any solutions for it. “I’m really picky about strategy,” she said in a later briefing. “I really wanted them to diagnose the problem in a way that got to why it’s so hard to do this.”

“NASA defines space sustainability as the ability to maintain the conduct of space activities indefinitely into the future in a manner that is safe, peaceful, and responsible to meet the needs of the present generations while preserving the outer space environment for future activities and limiting harm to terrestrial life,” the strategy states. (5/10)

Looking for Life on Enceladus: What Questions Should We Ask? (Source: Phys.org)
Does life exist beyond Earth? One of the most compelling places to consider this possibility is Enceladus, a moon of Saturn with a liquid water ocean encased in a frozen shell. There, plumes of water spray from ice fractures into space, and spacecraft observations of these geysers suggest that Enceladus has all the chemical building blocks necessary for life.

It is no surprise that robotic missions to search for life on Enceladus are in development. On the brink of this new era of space exploration, Davila and Eigenbrode propose a strategic research framework for studying Enceladus and similar ocean worlds. Instead of simply asking whether Enceladus is inhabited, the researchers propose asking, "What is the extent of organic chemical evolution in Enceladus's ocean?" This shift in focus could allow for deep learning regardless of whether Enceladus is currently inhabited, on its way to developing life, past a time when it held life, or on a path unlikely to lead to life. (5/9)

Dragonfly: The Billion-Mile Mission to Explore Saturn's Biggest Moon (Source: Big Think)
We’re sending a flying laboratory to an alien, haze-covered moon that’s about 1 billion miles away. This is nothing short of science fiction, yet the mission is well along already. It’s slated to launch in just four years and should arrive at Titan in 2034. At this stage, however, the technical challenges, the solutions NASA scientists are finding, and the possibilities of what Dragonfly will achieve are what left my head spinning. Click here. (5/10) https://bigthink.com/13-8/dragonfly-mission-to-titan/

A Skeptic’s Take on Beaming Power to Earth from Space (Source: IEEE Spectrum)
With the flurry of renewed attention, you might wonder: Has extraterrestrial solar power finally found its moment? As the recently retired head of space power systems at ESA—with more than 30 years of experience working on power generation, energy storage, and electrical systems design for dozens of missions, including evaluation of a power-beaming experiment proposed for the International Space Station—I think the answer is almost certainly no.

Despite mounting buzz around the concept, I and many of my former colleagues at ESA are deeply skeptical that these large and complex power systems could be deployed quickly enough and widely enough to make a meaningful contribution to the global energy transition. Among the many challenges on the long and formidable list of technical and societal obstacles: antennas so big that we cannot even simulate their behavior. (5/9)

Shining a Light on Untapped Lunar Resources (Source: Phys.org)
Near the moon's south pole lies a 13-mile wide, 2.5-mile-deep crater known as Shackleton, named for Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton. Shackleton—and craters like it—may contain untapped resources that can be accessed with lunar mining.

Solar energy is the optimal energy source to power lunar mining since it does not need to be transported from Earth, but rather is beamed straight from the sun. The problem with using solar energy within craters is that even during the lunar day, some craters may be in complete shadow. Researchers at Texas A&M have partnered with NASA Langley Research Center to engineer a solution using solar reflectors to get solar power to the bottom of lunar craters. (5/6)

The Moon's Far Side Has Scientists Interested (Source: INFORUM)
Because it faces out away from our planet, the other side of the moon has been struck by many more asteroids and other random space objects than the side we see. In fact, it likely has blocked asteroids from hitting Earth. A Chinese rocket mission recently launched is designed to gather rocks from the far side and return them to Earth for further study. (5/10)

In Race to Space, One Startup Is Betting on Candle Wax (Source: Bloomberg)
Companies are trying all kinds of things to find their way in the increasingly competitive space industry. A German startup is adding candle wax to that list. HyImpulse Technologies last week launched a sounding rocket powered by a combination of liquid oxygen and solid paraffin – a petroleum byproduct that’s a key ingredient in candles.

Mario Kobald, who co-founded the company in 2018, is taking this approach because he saw too many young companies trying to develop rockets similar to SpaceX, which uses liquid oxygen and kerosene to fuel its workhorse Falcon 9 rockets. Instead, HyImpulse says its mission is to make access to rocket trips more affordable and environmentally friendly with “space-grade candle wax” as a key part of its strategy. The material is “cheap compared to kerosene,” Kobald says.

Paraffin also is “non-toxic and very safe to handle,” he says. The material’s stability allowed the company to transport a rocket — complete with the paraffin fuel — as ordinary cargo on a container ship from Germany to Singapore to Australia, without the need for expensive restrictions to prevent explosions. (5/10)

Mysterious Objects in Space Could Be Giant Dyson Spheres, Scientists Say (Source: Science Alert)
One group of scientists thinks that we may already have detected technosignatures from a technological civilization's Dyson spheres, but the detection is hidden in our vast troves of astronomical data. A Dyson sphere is a hypothetical engineering project that only highly advanced civilizations could build. In this sense, 'advanced' means the kind of almost unimaginable technological prowess that would allow a civilization to build a structure around an entire star.

The research is titled "Project Hephaistos – II. Dyson sphere candidates from Gaia DR3, 2MASS, and WISE." This is the second paper presenting Project Hephaistos. The first one is here. "In this study, we present a comprehensive search for partial Dyson spheres by analyzing optical and infrared observations from Gaia, 2MASS, and WISE," the authors write. "This second paper examines the Gaia DR3, 2MASS, and WISE photometry of ~5 million sources to build a catalogue of potential Dyson spheres," they explain. (5/11)

China Raises Stakes in SpaceX Internet Rivalry, Claims Higher Orbit for SkyNet (Source: South China Morning Post)
The first satellite in China’s ambitious Smart SkyNet broadband internet constellation – part of an effor to rival Elon Musk’s Starlink – was launched into medium Earth orbit on Thursday. The satellite, known as Zhihui Tianwang-1 01 or Smart SkyNet-1 01, left the Xichang spaceport atop a Long March 3B rocket. CASC said the satellite will test high-speed, user-friendly communication technologies from 20,000km (12,400 miles) above the Earth. (5/10)

NASA's New Mobile Launcher Stacks Up for Future Artemis Missions (Source: NASA)
The foundation is set at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for launching crewed missions aboard the agency’s larger and more powerful SLS (Space Launch System) Block 1B rocket in support of Artemis IV and future missions. On May 9, 2024, teams with NASA’s EGS (Exploration Ground Systems) Program and contractor Bechtel National Inc. transferred the primary base structure of the mobile launcher 2 to its permanent mount mechanisms using the spaceport’s beast-mode transporter – the crawler. (5/10)

Don’t Panic—At Least, Not about a Nearby Supernova (Source: Scientific American)
There are quite a few ways a supernova can dish out cosmic catastrophe. The most dangerous is high-energy radiation such as x-rays or gamma rays. Although our planet’s atmosphere would act as a buffer to absorb some of the deadly blast, doing so would literally change the chemistry of Earth’s air—and not in a good way.

The ozone layer could be devastated by such an event, for example, allowing harmful ultraviolet light from our sun to reach Earth’s surface unfiltered for years. This may lead to increased cancer rates in animals and, even worse, more fundamentally disrupt ecosystems by killing off microbes at the base of the planet’s food chains. Smog could be another atmospheric side effect from a nearby supernova. Molecular nitrogen, the principal component of our air, can be broken down by high-energy radiation to then recombine with oxygen, forming nitrogen dioxide, a dark reddish-brown (and poisonous) gas.

Astronomers have done a lot of research into this possibility, and the good news—sort of—is that a supernova would have to be less than about 160 light-years from Earth to inflict this sort of damage. That’s decently close on the vast scale of our galaxy, but it’s vanishingly unlikely to happen over a human lifetime. Are there any stars close enough to affect us should they go kablooey? Well, kind of. Spica is one of the brightest stars in the sky, easily visible in the constellation Virgo, and it’s massive, probably a dozen or so times the sun’s heft, so it fits the bill. It’s just now starting to run out of fuel, beginning its long journey to becoming a red supergiant. (5/10)

Air Force Secretary Rebuffs Pleas From Governors over Space Force National Guard Plans (Source: Washington Examiner)
Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall maintained his support for a proposal that would take some National Guard units and reassign them to the Space Force despite widespread opposition from the governors who have authority over those service members. The secretary refused to withdraw his support for the controversial proposal during a discussion with governors on Wednesday, according to Gov. Spencer Cox (R-UT), who serves as the chairman of the National Governors Association. (5/10)

Good Progress Made on Building ‘Floating’ Road to Sutherland Spaceport Site (Source: Northern Times)
Good progress is being made on the construction of an access road to Sutherland Spaceport, according to developer Orbex. More than 600 metres of “floating road” have now been installed along with the first bridge over a watercourse. An Orbex spokesperson said: “With over 600 metres of road already completed, it won’t be long before it facilitates the movement of the launch vehicle and its payload to the launch pad.” (5/10)

ISRO Tests ‘Made-in-India’ 3D-Printed Rocket Engine (Source: Hundustan Times)
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) achieved a major feat on Thursday as it successfully tested a liquid rocket engine made with additive manufacturing technology. The test lasted 665 seconds and used the PS4 engine from the upper stage of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket, ‘the Workhorse of ISRO,’ which has a stellar track record of delivering satellites to Low-Earth Orbits. (5/11)

Mars is Blasting Plasma Out of its Atmosphere Into Space (Source: New Scientist)
Mars appears to be blasting material out of its atmosphere, much as the sun launches explosive coronal mass ejections, even though the Red Planet has no overall magnetic field. The Red Planet launches large bursts of plasma into space from its upper atmosphere, much like the sun’s coronal mass ejections, despite not having a global magnetic field. (5/9)

Plans for Las Vegas Spaceport in Desert Outskirts Move Forward (Source: News2LV)
Clark County has given the first stage of plans for the Las Vegas Spaceport in the desert outskirts a green light. Commissioners this week unanimously approved construction permits for the Las Vegas Executive Airport, which would be located at a 240-acre site near Pahrump, north of Highway 160. Developers say the executive airport would be the cornerstone of the ambitious Spaceport, a complex serving as a hub for both commercial and private space tourism. (5/10)

Musk Bashes Historic Boeing Astronaut Flight, SpaceX Did it First (Source: Business Insider)
Elon Musk soured the day of Boeing's first astronaut flight to space by lobbing criticism at the company on X. "SpaceX finished 4 years sooner." Boeing did not immediately respond.

NASA gave Boeing $4.2 billion to design, build, and test its spaceship. Not only did SpaceX do it faster — its spaceship was also cheaper, costing NASA just $2.6 billion. Since its first crewed flight in 2020, the company has flown seven astronaut crews to and from the ISS for NASA, with its eighth currently living on the station. It has also flown four private missions. (5/6)

Solstorm's Nimbus Could Drag Space Junk Down (Source: Bloomberg)
A satellite the size of a milk carton may show a way to prevent Earth’s neighborhood from turning into a junkyard. The Nimbus, scheduled to soar on an Elon Musk rocket 280 miles (450 kilometers) above the planet in late 2024, will have a lifespan of just a few months, after which it could join the collection of man-made objects that are still in orbit years — sometimes decades — after their sell-by dates. Norwegian startup Solstorm plans for tiny Nimbus to move itself out of the way by deploying a drag sail that will slow the satellite, helping it fall into the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up harmlessly within a year. (5/9)

Regulations Create Opportunities for Space Junk Cleanup (Source: Bloomberg)
The nascent space-junk industry is nearing a turning point as companies move their ideas beyond the drawing board and into space, taking advantage of a growing awareness of the dangers junk poses. The Biden administration has unveiled new regulations to reduce risks of unintentional collisions, with the FCC requiring operators deorbit their satellites within five years of their expiration dates. Previously there was no rule, just a non-enforceable guidance of 25 years.

In April 2023, the FCC created a new Space Bureau responsible for the regulation of satellites and space debris, and in October the FCC issued its first debris penalty, fining Dish Network Corp. $150,000 for leaving a retired satellite parked in the wrong orbit. The Federal Aviation Administration in September proposed rules for companies to dispose of discarded rocket parts, including moving them toward an orbital graveyard in less congested parts of space. (5/9)

NASA Stuck in the Middle of Starliner Contractors' Valve Fight (Source: Payload)
The loser of a court battle over valve designs went scorched earth this week, with ValveTech CEO Erin Faville publicly urging NASA to cancel the launch of Boeing’s crewed Starliner “due to the risk of a disaster.” NASA had already made the decision to delay the mission to replace a valve in the second stage of the ULA Atlas V rocket. Engineers determined that the valve, which had been “buzzing” before launch, exceeded the number of cyclings it had been qualified to perform.

ValveTech’s surprising allegations stem from a long-running court battle that came to an end this week. The dispute: In 2011, Aerojet Rocketdyne, a division of L3 Harris—hired ValveTech to build valves for the Starliner’s propulsion system. After disputes over design between the two firms, Aerojet ended the relationship in 2017; ValveTech sued the company for violating NDAs and misusing its trade secrets to design new valves.

After years of motions, depositions, and a trial, a jury found in November that Aerojet had violated NDAs with ValveTech, but hadn’t misappropriated any trade secrets. ValveTech was awarded $850,000 in damages, but it sought further restrictions on Aerojet and court fees. On May 6, a judge denied those motions and closed the case. Boeing said the valves “meet all NASA and Boeing requirements,” and "ValveTech’s speculation about the cause of the scrub on Monday night is inaccurate and irresponsible.” (5/10)

Satellite Images Show Progress at World's Biggest Construction Site (Source: Newsweek)
In the northwest corner of Saudi Arabia, construction is underway on a megaproject that promises to one day house more people than New York City, spread across a vertical skyscraper taller than the Empire State Building and stretching the length of Manhattan to Philadelphia. The project ultimately will include two 105-mile long skyscrapers housing nine million people. New satellite imagery shows the state of progess at Neom, the brainchild of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Click here. (5/10)

Invisible 'Dark Radiation' May Explain a Big Problem with Dark Energy (Source: New Scientist)
There are hints that the universe may be behaving unexpectedly, and astrophysicists are racing to explain why. Their ideas to account for the surprising result include allowing dark matter and dark energy to interact, and arguing for the existence of strange “dark radiation” that is similar in nature to regular light but invisible.

In April, researchers using the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI) in Arizona released the biggest 3D map of the universe ever created, and it hinted that we may have been wrong about dark energy – the still-mysterious force causing the accelerating expansion of the universe. The data contained tentative indications that dark energy may be changing over time, meaning the rate of expansion of the universe isn't accelerating as smoothly as we thought. (5/9)

SpaceX Conducts a Successful Static Fire of Starship (Source: Teslarati)
SpaceX is moving rapidly with the Starship program. They have now conducted the first static fire of the Starship, which will be flying the fifth mission. Firing all 6 Raptor engines, Starship 30 began its test campaign. The company is waiting for approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to conduct the fourth flight of Starship, potentially in a month or so. (5/9)

Air Force Study Recommends Moving Guard Units to Space Force as Opposition Mounts (Source: FNN)
The Air Force’s in-depth report to Congress says moving all National Guard space units to the Space Force is the best path forward. But the Air National Guard, governors in all 55 states and territories and a bipartisan group of 85 lawmakers are pushing back against the Pentagon’s plan.

The study that’s been in the works for quite some time examines three possible courses of actions. It lays out the feasibility and advisability of giving the Space Force its own Guard component, leaving things as they currently are and moving Guard space functions and personnel to the Space Force. The study looks into risks, costs and benefits of each course of action.

The overall costs for all options are roughly the same, the study concludes, and the Air Force can execute any course of action if required. The study’s recommendation — transferring all space functions from the Guard into the Space Force. (5/9)

Virgin One Step Closer to Rolling the World's First Mass Production Line for Spaceships (Source: AutoEvolution)
Virgin Galactic is working on a new ship design called Delta class. It will be larger and capable of accommodating more people (six instead of four on the Unity), but more importantly, it will be tailored to support high-production volumes. Virgin plans to complete the Delta ships at a production facility in Phoenix, Arizona. In fact, plans were for the factory to be up and running back in 2023, but that, obviously, did not happen. The company did take a step in the right direction this week, opening a new system integration facility in Southern California.

The new facility will put Delta's main components through their paces before clearing them for flight. To do that the crews of engineers rely on a test platform known as the Iron Bird. The system allows elements such as avionics, feather actuation, pneumatics and hydraulics to be tested before going into the actual ships. Iron Bird's subsystems have already been installed and Virgin says the rest of the components will be added over the course of the year. But it's not the only test rig the company will use in the Delta program.

Another piece of hardware, a static test article, will be used to verify the structural integrity and load limits of the ships, but also to determine the final design. Using this method has the company's higher-ups confident that they'll shave “years off the development timeline" when compared to the VSS Unity. (5/9)

FAA to Begin Environmental Review of Starship Launches From Kennedy Space Center (Source: Space News)
The FAA is preparing to start an environmental review of SpaceX Starship launches from a pad at the Kennedy Space Center, reflecting changes in the vehicle since a 2019 assessment. In a notice published in the Federal Register May 10, the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation announced it was starting the process for an environmental impact statement (EIS) for Starship launches from KSC’s Launch Complex 39A.

That EIS is needed as part of FAA’s work to approve a launch license for Starship from that pad. The process will start with a series of in-person and virtual scoping meetings for the public, scheduled for June. Those meetings will allow the FAA to discuss their plans for the EIS and accept public comment on the issues they should consider in that environmental review.

The EIS will be the second environmental review involving SpaceX’s plans to use LC-39A for Starship launches. NASA completed an environmental assessment (EA) in 2019 of the company’s plans at the time to build launch infrastructure at LC-39A for Starship, finding it would have no significant impact. At the time SpaceX was planning up to 24 Starship launches from that pad annually. (5/10)