OSIRIS-REx Engineers Pull Off a Daring Rescue of a Monumental Asteroid Mission

This 3D view of asteroid Bennu was created by the OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter (OLA), contributed by the Canadian Space Agency. From Feb. 12 to Feb. 17, 2019, OLA made more than 11 million measurements of the distance between OSIRIS-REx and Bennu’s surface as the spacecraft flew less than 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) above the surface — the closest orbit ever achieved by a spacecraft. (Credits: NASA/University of Arizona/CSA/York/MDA)

By Lonnie Shekhtman
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Greenbelt, Md. (NASA PR) — On Friday, Oct. 11, the OSIRIS-REx team should have been preparing to point their spacecraft cameras precisely over the asteroid Bennu to capture high-resolution images of a region known as Osprey. It is one of four sites scientists are considering from which the spacecraft can safely collect a sample in late 2020.

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Rocket Lab Debuts Fully Autonomous Flight Termination System

Electron booster blasts into space. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

Huntington Beach, Calif. (Rocket Lab PR) – Rocket Lab, the global leader in dedicated small satellite launch, has flown a fully Autonomous Flight Termination System (AFTS) for the first time on an Electron launch vehicle. The AFTS flown on the company’s most recent mission, ‘Running Out Of Fingers’, makes Rocket Lab one of only three U.S. launch companies to fly with an autonomous system.

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Lasers at Forefront of Space Tracking Systems

CANBERRA (Australian Government PR) — The Australian Space Agency has signed a Statement of Strategic Intent and Cooperation with EOS Space Systems, an Australian company specialising in space tracking systems.

Anthony Murfett, Deputy Head of the Australian Space Agency said that the joint statement aligns with the Australian Civil Space Strategy, which sets out a 10-year plan to transform and grow the space industry.

“Space situational awareness and debris monitoring is one of the seven National Civil Space Priorities outlined in the Strategy,” said Mr Murfett

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Rocket Lab Opens Second Launch Complex on Wallops Island

Rocket Lab’s launch complex on Wallops Island. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Ten months after the first pilings were driven in, Rocket Lab declared its new launch complex on Wallops Island, Va., open and ready to serve the U.S. military’s need for rapid response launches with the company’s Electron booster.

“We’re proud to call Wallops Island in Virginia our home. We’re very proud to deliver a new launch capability to the United States. We’re very proud to support U.S. missions with a U.S. launch vehicle on U.S. soil,” CEO Peter Beck said during a press conference.

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Starliner Cleared for Dec. 20 Flight to Space Station

The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is guided into position above a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Nov. 21, 2019. Starliner will be secured atop the rocket for Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test to the International Space Station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The spacecraft rolled out from Boeing’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center earlier in the day.

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA and Boeing officials said on Thursday that Boeing’s Starliner crew spacecraft has been cleared for a Dec. 20 launch to the International Space Station (ISS).

The announcement came after Boeing and the space agency completed a flight readiness review for the eight-day orbital test of the vehicle. Starliner will not have a crew aboard for the flight.

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NASA Announces OSIRIS-REx Soil Sample Site on Asteroid Bennu

This image shows sample site Nightingale, OSIRIS-REx’s primary sample collection site on asteroid Bennu. The image is overlaid with a graphic of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft to illustrate the scale of the site. (Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — After a year scoping out asteroid Bennu’s boulder-scattered surface, the team leading NASA’s first asteroid sample return mission has officially selected a sample collection site.

The Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-Rex) mission team concluded a site designated “Nightingale” – located in a crater high in Bennu’s northern hemisphere – is the best spot for the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft to snag its sample.

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Northrop Grumman Signs Customer for First Flight of OmegA Rocket

OmegA rocket (Credit: Orbital ATK)

DULLES, Va., Dec. 12, 2019 (Northrop Grumman PR) – Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) announced that Saturn Satellite Networks has selected the OmegA space launch vehicle to launch up to two satellites on the rocket’s inaugural flight scheduled for spring 2021. OmegA will launch from Kennedy Space Center’s Pad 39B and insert the SSN satellites into a geosynchronous transfer orbit.

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Astrobotic Announces New Lunar Logistics HQ in Pittsburgh

The Astrobotic Mission Control will be the nerve center for the first U.S. mission to the lunar surface since Apollo. (Credit: Astrobotic)

Astrobotic to open new state-of-the-art, 47,000 square foot facility in May 2020 for the development of lunar landers and rovers

Pittsburgh, PA (Astrobotic PR) – Astrobotic proudly announces that it will open a new state-of-the-art headquarters for lunar logistics in May 2020. The 47,000 square foot facility in Pittsburgh’s North Side neighborhood of Manchester will house the company’s spacecraft integration cleanrooms, test facilities, lab spaces, rover test labs, payload operations room, and dedicated mission control. Astrobotic’s new headquarters is poised to become the epicenter for America’s return to the Moon.

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Kepler Communications Selects SpaceX to Launch Two Batches of its Nanosatellite Constellation

TORONTO, December 12, 2019 (Kepler PR) — Kepler announced today that it has selected SpaceX as launch partner to deliver a portion of its first Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite constellation into space onboard SpaceX’s reusable Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

Kepler has procured 400 kg of launch capacity from SpaceX for the deployment of multiple satellites. These spacecraft incorporate both a high-capacity Ku-band communications system and a narrowband payload, for both high-speed data transfers and for low-power direct-to-satellite IoT connectivity.

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Astrobotic Relocating HQ in Pittsburgh, Adding New Jobs

PITTSBURGH (Gov. Wolf PR) — Governor Tom Wolf announced that Astrobotic Technology, Inc., a space robotics company whose mission is to make outer space accessible to the world, will relocate its headquarters in Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, creating 95 jobs and maintaining 20 jobs.

“With products developed in Pittsburgh launching to the moon, companies like Astrobotic show the world the innovative work being done right here in the commonwealth,” said Gov. Wolf. “By investing in that innovation, we’re investing in the future of technology, the future of jobs, and the future of industry.”

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France Acquires Automatic 3D Geospatial Information Capability with AI4GEO

PARIS, December 10, 2019 (CNES PR) – The AI4GEO project to develop an automatic solution for producing 3D geospatial information, in which €30 million is to be invested over four years, is receiving €13.5 million in funding from the government’s PIA future investment programme led by the Secretariat General for Investment (SGPI) and operated by public investment bank Bpifrance. The signature of the contract marks France’s desire to acquire a 3D geospatial information capability at the cutting edge of innovation.

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Australian Space Agency Signs Cooperation Agreement with Thales

CANBERRA (Australian Government PR) — The Australian Space Agency has signed an agreement with space and defence giant, Thales, further strengthening Australia’s international space connections to create new local jobs.

Thales is a French company operating and investing in the Australian space and defence sectors, delivering satellite-based systems.

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews said this Statement of Strategic Intent and Cooperation is another important step in the Morrison Government’s plan to create opportunities for Australian industry and new local jobs.

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Private Equity Firm Purchased Stratolaunch

Stratolaunch flies (Credit: Stratolaunch)

Alan Boyle at Geek Wire reports that a private equity firm owned by a billionaire Donald Trump supporter that specializes n distressed companies is the new owners of Sttratolaunch.

Sounds about right. Stratolaunch has always been the indulgence of a billionaire. And it was certainly distressed.

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Blue Origin’s New Shepard Launches From West Texas

New Shepard launch (Credit: Blue Origin webcast)

Blue Origin launched its New Shepard rocket and capsule from its spaceport in West Texas on Thursday. The capsule reached an unofficial altitude of 43,061 ft (104.56 km/65.97 miles) and a speed of 2,227 mph (3,584 kph) during a flight that lasted 10 minutes 16 seconds. The booster touched down on a landing pad; the capsule came down under three parachutes nearby.

New Shepard Mission NS-12 Notable Payloads Manifested

Club for the Future
Thousands of postcards from students around the world from Blue Origin’s Club for the Future. The Club’s mission is to inspire future generations to pursue careers in STEM and help visualize the future of life in space.

OK Go
Earlier this year we partnered with rock band OK Go on a contest called Art in Space, giving high school and middle school students a chance to send art experiments into space on our New Shepard vehicle. We are sending the two winning art projects on NS-12.  

Columbia University
One of our educational payloads from Columbia University, designed and built by undergraduate students and advised by Dr. Michael Massimino (an astronaut), will study the acute impacts of microgravity environments on cell biology. This is crucial for humans living and working in space.

OSCAR
OSCAR, which was led by principal investigator Dr. Annie Meier, is a recycling technology payload from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. It is designed to create a mixture of gasses that could be used for propulsion or life support from common waste on a deep space human exploration mission. This is Blue’s first full-stack payload, meaning there will be more room to do complex studies in flight.

Northrop Grumman, AFRL Partner to Provide Critical Advanced Technology in Space Solar Power

An artistic representation showcases the capture of solar energy in space that is precisely beamed it to where it is needed through the Space Solar Power Incremental Demonstrations and Research (SSPIDR) Project. (Credit: Northrop Grumman)

Project directly supports the Space Solar Power Initiative converting solar power in space to radio frequency on Earth.

FALLS CHURCH, Va. (Northrop Grumman PR) — Northrop Grumman is working with the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) on a project to rapidly infuse space technological innovations to incrementally develop component technologies needed for a prototype solar energy collection system.

The project is designed to provide constant, consistent and logistically agile power to expeditionary forces operating in unimproved areas such as forward operating bases. These forces require assured power that will be transmitted via radio frequency (RF) from spacecraft.

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