Annual Fundraising Campaign: Please Help Parabolic Arc!

Hi everybody.

You have all been so supportive of Parabolic Arc over the years. I want to thank you for your readership and comments and for spreading the word about our work through Facebook, Twitter and other social media.

But, now I need your help. We’re once again seeking donations as part of Parabolic Arc’s annual fund-raising campaign. Your contribution will help us to continue delivering all the latest news and analysis of the rapidly growing space industry.

Follow the link and, in just a few clicks, you will be able to support the valuable work we do here. Any amount will help.

Thank you again for all of your support.

Doug

Astronauts Complete First Excursion to Repair Cosmic Particle Detector

Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) attached to the Canadarm during the first Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer repair spacewalk on Nov. 15, 2019. (Credit: NASA)

Expedition 61 Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) and NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan concluded their spacewalk at 1:18 p.m. EST. During the six hour and 39 minute spacewalk, the two astronauts successfully positioned materials, removed a debris cover on the AMS, and installed handrails in preparation for the subsequent spacewalks.

The duo also completed a number of get-ahead tasks originally planned for the second spacewalk, including the removal of the vertical support beam cover for the area that houses the eight stainless steel tubes that will be cut and spliced together on the upcoming spacewalks.

Today’s work clears the way for Parmitano and Morgan’s next spacewalk in the repair series Friday Nov. 22. The main focus of the second spacewalk will be the access, cut, and label the stainless steel tubes that attach the current cooling system to the AMS. The plan is to bypass the old thermal control system, attach a new one off the side of AMS during the third spacewalk, and then conduct leak checks.

In addition to the overall complexity of the instrument, astronauts have never before cut and reconnected fluid lines, like those that are part of the AMS thermal control system, during a spacewalk. To cut the cooling lines and complete other tasks in this series of spacewalks, scientists, engineers and astronauts on Earth have gone through several iterations of designing, prototyping, experimenting and validating many specialized tools in preparation for the complex work in space.

Space station crew members have conducted 222 spacewalks in support of assembly and maintenance of the orbiting laboratory. Spacewalkers have now spent a total of 58 days 3 hours and 8 minutes working outside the station. Parmitano has now conducted three spacewalks in his career and Morgan has now logged four spacewalks since his arrival on the station in July.

Keep up with the crew aboard the International Space Station on the agency’s blog, follow @ISS on Instagram, and @space_station on Twitter.

ISS National Lab, NSF Announce Joint Solicitation on Transport Phenomena

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER (FL), October 30, 2019 – The International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory and the National Science Foundation (NSF) today announced a “Transport Phenomena” joint solicitation open to investigators interested in leveraging resources onboard the orbiting laboratory for research in the areas of fluid dynamics, particulate and multiphase processes, thermal transport, nanoscale interactions, and combustion and fire systems.

Up to $3 million will be awarded for multiple research investigations to support flight projects to the ISS National Lab. The ISS National Lab and NSF previously partnered on three separate fluid dynamics/multiphase processes solicitations and an additional funding opportunity focused on combustion and thermal transport.

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Virgin Galactic Kicks Off Astronaut Readiness Program

Virgin Galactic kicks off Astronaut Readiness Program. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

BALTIMORE (Virgin Galactic PR) — Virgin Galactic has kicked off its Astronaut Readiness Program – the process of preparing Future Astronaut customers for their flights to space. As the first and only private company to have put humans into space in a vehicle built for commercial service, we are now finalizing all elements of the customer experience, including the recently unveiled customer spacesuits, created in partnership with Under Armour, and the interior of our Gateway to Space headquarters at Spaceport America. The next phase in this process is to ensure that Future Astronauts are optimally prepared to fly to space.

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My Podcast Appearance on Tipping Point New Mexico

I recently talked with Paul Gessing who runs the Tipping Point New Mexico podcast. We talked about my article, “Spaceport America and Virgin Galactic: The Numbers Never Added Up,” which looked at the promises made to justifying spending $225 million on a custom-built spaceport for Richard Branson’s suborbital space tourism company. We also discussed Virgin Galactic’s recent move to go public.

Enjoy!

Aerospace CubeSats Blaze a Faster Trail to Space

Aerospace CubeSat (Credit: Aerospace Corporation)

The challenge: Build and launch a pair of cube satellites on a tight budget and even tighter timeline. 

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (Aerospace Corporation PR) — In mid-2018, The Aerospace Corporation engineers and scientists received a unique mission from the United States Air Force. Their challenge: Build and launch a pair of cube satellites on a tight budget and even tighter timeline of just 18 months.

In a world where the threats facing orbiting satellites proliferate with each passing year, the ability to field an agile response and quickly restore lost functionality is a critical, but still developing, capability.

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NASA’s Mars 2020 Will Hunt for Microscopic Fossils

Lighter colors represent higher elevation in this image of Jezero Crater on Mars, the landing site for NASA’s Mars 2020 mission. The oval indicates the landing ellipse, where the rover will be touching down on Mars. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/JHU-APL/ESA)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Scientists with NASA’s Mars 2020 rover have discovered what may be one of the best places to look for signs of ancient life in Jezero Crater, where the rover will land on Feb. 18, 2021.

A paper published today in the journal Icarus identifies distinct deposits of minerals called carbonates along the inner rim of Jezero, the site of a lake more than 3.5 billion years ago. On Earth, carbonates help form structures that are hardy enough to survive in fossil form for billions of years, including seashells, coral and some stromatolites — rocks formed on this planet by ancient microbial life along ancient shorelines, where sunlight and water were plentiful.

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NASA IG Criticizes Additional Commercial Crew Payment to Boeing

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner’s four launch abort engines and several orbital maneuvering and attitude control thrusters ignite in the company’s Pad Abort Test, pushing the spacecraft away from the test stand with a combined 160,000 pounds of thrust, from Launch Complex 32 on White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. Credits: NASA

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA has agreed to pay Boeing $287.2 million above its firm-fixed price contract to transport astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) on operational flights of the Starlink spacecraft, according to a new audit of the Commercial Crew Program (CCP) by the space agency’s Office of Inspector General (IG). [Full Report]

The payment was made “to mitigate a perceived 18-month gap in ISS flights anticipated in 2019 for the company’s third through sixth crewed missions and to ensure the company continued as a second commercial crew provider,” the report stated.

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AeroCube-14 Takes Nanotech Experiments to Space

The AeroCube-14 CubeSats in the lab prior to launch integration. Once deployed, they’ll carry a number of nanotechnology experiments in low-Earth orbit. (Credit: Aerospace Corporation)

AeroCube 14’s experiments include nanotechnology payloads that will test new and emerging materials, including structural materials and thermal straps

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (Aerospace Corporation PR) — The Aerospace Corporation’s AeroCube-14 CubeSats launched on Nov. 2 loaded with nanotechnology payloads to conduct modular experiments and other research.

AeroCube-14 consists of two identical 3-unit CubeSats that launched as part of the Northrop Grumman-12 Cygnus cargo mission to the International Space Station. 

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LeoSat Folds After Failing to Find Required Funding

SpaceNews reports that LeoSat, a company that planned to deliver high-speed Internet using as many as 108 satellites, has folded due to lack of investment.

Mark Rigolle, CEO of LeoSat, told SpaceNews Nov. 13 that the company laid off all 13 employees — himself included — in August after its earlier investors decided not to fund the company any longer. 

LeoSat was anticipating that Spanish satellite operator Hispasat and Sky Perfect Jsat of Japan would complete LeoSat’s $50 million Series A after each made initial investments — Jsat in 2017, Hispasat in 2018 — but neither did. 

Rigolle said management changes at both companies this year prompted a reversal of their previous intent to invest further in the low-Earth-orbit broadband venture within months of each other, if not less. 

“I couldn’t have dreamt up a worse scenario,” Rigolle said. “This is like SoftBank suddenly saying to OneWeb ‘you’re not getting any more money,’ or Jeff Bezos saying in two years time, ‘no, bad idea, I’m not funding [Kuiper] anymore. It’s a 180-degree turn.”

Artemis Moon Landing is NASA’s Top Challenge

Astronauts explore a crater at the lunar south pole. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA’s Artemis program to land astronauts on the moon in 2024 — an effort that still lacks sufficient Congressional funding — is the space agency’s top management and performance challenge, according to a new report from the Office of Inspector General.

“Although NASA has made significant progress on several fronts to further its human exploration efforts, many questions remain about the total costs, schedule, and scope of the Agency’s Moon and Mars ambitions,” the report stated.

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Suitcase-sized Spacecraft to Explore Asteroid

Model of M-Argo spacecraft . (Credit: ESA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — This replica model of ESA’s ‘Miniaturised Asteroid Remote Geophysical Observer’, or M-Argo, was on display at the Agency’s recent  Antennas workshop. It is the one of numerous small missions planned as part of in ESA’s Technology Strategy, being presented at this month’s  Space19+  Council at Ministerial Level.

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UNOOSA, Luxembourg Launch New “Space Law for New Space Actors” Project

LUXEMBOURG (Luxembourg Space Agency PR) — Today, at the margins of the New Space Europe Conference, Ms. Paulette Lenert, Minister for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs and Ms. Simonetta di Pippo, Director of United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) signed a funding agreement to support UNOOSA’s new “Space Law for New Space Actors” project.

The “Space Law for New Space Actors” project will offer UN Member States tailored capacity building to facilitate their drafting of national space legislation and/or national space policies in line with international space law, promoting the long-term sustainability of outer space activities. Such capacity building will support in particular new and emerging space-faring nations to conduct space activities in a responsible and sustainable manner.

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SpaceX Completes Crew Dragon Static Fire Tests

Crew Dragon abort static test (Credit: NASA)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla., Nov. 13, 2019 (NASA PR) — Today, SpaceX completed a series of static fire engine tests of the Crew Dragon spacecraft in advance of an in-flight launch escape demonstration, known as the In-Flight Abort Test.

The engine tests, conducted near SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, began with two burns for a duration of one-second each for two of Crew Dragon’s 16 Draco thrusters. The Draco thrusters are used for on-orbit maneuvering and attitude control, and would also be used for re-orientation during certain in-flight launch escapes. Following these initial Draco thruster burns, the team completed a full-duration firing for approximately nine seconds of Crew Dragon’s eight SuperDraco engines. The SuperDraco engines are designed to accelerate Dragon away from the F9 launch vehicle in the event of an emergency after liftoff.

In quick succession, immediately after the SuperDracos shut down, two Dracos thrusters fired and all eight SuperDraco flaps closed, mimicking the sequence required to reorient the spacecraft in-flight to a parachute deploy attitude and close the flaps prior to reentry. The full sequence, from SuperDraco startup to flap closure, spanned approximately 70 seconds.

In April, during a similar set of engine tests, the spacecraft experienced an anomaly which led to an explosion and loss of the vehicle. In the following months, an Anomaly Investigation Team made up of SpaceX and NASA personnel determined that a slug of liquid propellant in the high-flow helium pressurization system unexpectedly caused a titanium ignition event resulting in an explosion. Based on that investigation’s findings and months of testing, SpaceX redesigned components of the system to eliminate the possibility of slugs entering the high-flow pressurization system.

Today’s tests will help validate the launch escape system ahead of Crew Dragon’s in-flight abort demonstration planned as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. SpaceX and NASA will now review the data from today’s test, perform detailed hardware inspections, and establish a target launch date for the In-Flight Abort Test.

Ursa Raises $15 Series B Fuding Round

MENLO PARK, Calif. (Paladin Capital Group PR) — Ursa, a geospatial analytics-as-a-service company that is democratizing access to commercially available synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) data, announced it has secured $15 million in Series B funding led by Razor’s Edge Ventures. The Series B financing was joined by strategic investors Citi, New York Ventures, a division of Empire State Development, and others who will help usher Ursa into new industries such as the supply chain, logistics, and insurance markets. Building upon Ursa’s combined Series A and Series A-1 $12.7 million capital raise, the latest round is backed by return investors Paladin Capital Group, RRE Ventures and S&P Global Inc. (NYSE: SPGI).

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China Launches 6 Satellites on 2 Rockets in 3 Hours

China conducted two launches within three hours on Wednesday, placing a commercial Earth observation satellite and five military surveillance satellites into orbit.

A four-stage Kuaizhou 1A booster lifted off with the Jilin 1 Gaofen 02A satellite at 11:40 a.m. Beijing time from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern China.

The commercial imaging satellite, owned by Chang Guang Satellite Technology Co. Ltd., is designed to return high-definition video and images for civilian and military users.

The spacecraft joins 13 other Jilin-1 satellites launched by Chang Guang, which is a commercial spin-off of the Chinese Academy of Science’s Changchun Institute of Optics, Fine Mechanics and Physics.

Expace, a commercial subsidiary of the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp., manages Kuaizhou 1A launches. The booster is believed to be based on a Chinese ballistic missile.

Three hours after Kuaizhou 1 lifted off, a liquid-fuel Long March 6 booster launched from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center with five Ningxia 1 military remote sensing satellites.

The Xinhua news agency reported that the satellites “are part of a commercial satellite project invested by the Ningxia Jingui Information Technology Co., Ltd.”