Reprogrammable Satellite Launched

Ariane 5 VA254 lifts off on July 30, 2021. (Credit: Arianespace)

KOUROU, French Guiana (ESA PR) — A sophisticated telecommunications satellite that can be completely repurposed while in space has launched.

Developed under an ESA Partnership Project with satellite operator Eutelsat and prime manufacturer Airbus, Eutelsat Quantum has pioneered a new generation of satellites with the European space industry.


Have Your Name Forever on the Moon with Spacebit–Wevolver Engineering Challenge

Asagumo 2.0 lunar rover (Credit: Spacebit)

AMSTERDAM (Spacebit/Wevolver PR) — The Spacebit Engineering Challenge enables engineers around the world to contribute to the development of “Asagumo 2.0”, a four-legged walking rover that is set to fly to the Moon with the NASA Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program in 2021 and 2022.

The challenge was catalyzed by the recent partnership agreement signed between UK-based Spacebit and the engineering community platform, Wevolver.


NASA, Government of Japan Formalize Gateway Partnership for Artemis Program

An Orion spacecraft approaches the lunar Gateway. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA and the Government of Japan have finalized an agreement for the lunar Gateway, an orbiting outpost that commercial and international partners will build together. This agreement strengthens the broad effort by the United States to engage international partners in sustainable lunar exploration as part of the Artemis program and to demonstrate the technologies needed for human missions to Mars. 


Bridenstine Criticizes Uncontrolled Long March 5B Stage Reentry

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

In a statement on Friday, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the uncontrolled reentry of the core stage from the recently launched Chinese Long March 5 could have fallen on U.S. cities before reentering over the Atlantic Ocean and west Africa.

“The empty core stage of the Long March 5B, weighing nearly 20 tons, was in an uncontrolled freefall along a path that carried it over Los Angeles and other populated areas. As a matter of fact, had this spent rocket stage, which is the largest uncontrolled object to fall from low-Earth orbit in almost 30 years, reentered earlier, it could have hit New York. Two villages in Cote d’Ivoire have reported finding what they believe to be debris from the fallen rocket.


SwRI Scientist Modeled Mars Climate to Understand Habitability

NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity used its panoramic camera to record this eastward horizon view on the 2,407th Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s work on Mars (Oct. 31, 2010). (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell University)

SAN ANTONIO, Texas, May 11, 2020 (SwRI PR) — A Southwest Research Institute scientist modeled the atmosphere of Mars to help determine that salty pockets of water present on the Red Planet are likely not habitable by life as we know it on Earth. A team that also included scientists from Universities Space Research Association (USRA) and the University of Arkansas helped allay planetary protection concerns about contaminating potential Martian ecosystems. These results were published this month in Nature Astronomy.


Virgin Orbit Moves Toward First Launch

Cosmic Girl with LauncherOne attached. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

MOJAVE, Calif. (Virgin Orbit PR) — The Virgin Orbit team has been firing on all cylinders as we button up our first orbital LauncherOne rocket and make final preparations for our upcoming launch demonstration.


Starliner Teams Analyzing Orbital Flight Test Data as Preparations Continue for Next Flight

The Orbital Flight Test Starliner being processed by technicians after return from White Sands Missile Range. (Credit: Boeing)

Boeing Starliner Update

Boeing and NASA are nearing the conclusion of detailed evaluations on how each Starliner system performed during last month’s Orbital Flight Test (OFT).  This process is separate from the joint Boeing-NASA independent review team investigating the mission clock anomaly that precluded docking with the International Space Station.  The thorough data analysis, which is part of the normal post-test flight review process, covers everything observed during prelaunch rehearsals and operations as well as the flight.  Ultimately the analysis team will disposition anomalies and observations and evaluate which objectives were met and which require more work.


Axiom Space Wins NASA Approval for Construction of Commercial Space Station on ISS

Axiom space station (Credit: Axiom Space)

HOUSTON, Jan. 27, 2020 (Axiom Space PR) — The human dream of universal access to living and working in space has drawn one step closer.

On Monday the National Aeronautics and Space Administration selected Axiom Space as the winner of the NextSTEP-2 Appendix I solicitation, which sought to grant access to the International Space Station’s Node 2 Forward port for a commercial space station that could ultimately serve as ISS’ replacement.


SpaceX, NASA Gear up for In-Flight Abort Demonstration

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA and SpaceX are preparing to launch the final, major test before astronauts fly aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

The test, known as in-flight abort, will demonstrate the spacecraft’s escape capabilities — showing that the crew system can protect astronauts even in the unlikely event of an emergency during launch. The uncrewed flight test is targeted for 8 a.m. EST Saturday, Jan. 18, at the start of a four-hour test window, from Launch Complex 39A in Florida.


NASA Receives 9th Consecutive Clean Audit

The NASA Office of the Chief Financial Officer (OCFO) has led the way for an unmodified audit opinion on the agency’s fiscal year 2019 (FY 2019) financial statements. This represents NASA’s ninth consecutive “clean” opinion from an independent accounting firm – the highest opinion possible.

“This audit opinion is an affirmation of NASA’s commitment to its fiduciary responsibility for maintaining the public trust regarding the agency’s valuable financial resources,” said NASA CFO Jeff DeWit. “Our highly trained financial professionals will continue the quest for accountability, efficiency, and excellence as NASA pushes each day to further America’s leadership in space.”

NASA’s OCFO prepared the FY 2019 Agency Financial Report, which highlights the agency’s accountability to taxpayers as the agency works to accomplish President Donald Trump’s vision of placing the first woman and next man on the surface of the Moon by 2024, and then on to Mars.

Through the OCFO, NASA manages about 0.5% of the federal budget, and with effective strategic planning and fiscal management continues to expand humanity’s knowledge of science, technology, and the universe. This includes significant achievements in research aboard the International Space Station, Earth science research, technology development, aeronautics research and deep space exploration. These achievements unlock new opportunities, new technologies and new sources of prosperity for the nation’s economy, creating thousands of jobs for Americans across the country in multiple sectors, and inspiring the next generation to pursue education in science, technology, engineering, and math.

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China’s Chang’e 6 to Deploy French DORN Instrument on Moon to Study Lunar Exosphere

BEIJING (CNES PR) — Wednesday 6 November, on the occasion of President Emmanuel Macron’s state visit to the People’s Republic of China, CNES President Jean-Yves Le Gall and Zhang Kejian, Administrator of the China National Space Administration (CNSA), signed in the presence of Presidents Macron and Xi Jinping a joint statement covering two fields of investigation.

First, in 2023 China’s Chang’e 6 lunar mission will fly the French DORN instrument proposed by the IRAP astrophysics and planetology research institute. DORN’s science goals are to study the transport of volatiles through the lunar regolith and in the lunar exosphere and lunar dust.


Giant Potato Buzzes Earth; Horticulturalists Amazed, Baffled

The asteroid Toutatis photographed by Chang’e 2. (Credit: SASTIND)

The Chinese space probe Chang’e 2 spacecraft snapped this image of the asteroid Toutatis.

A series of radar images of the asteroid are shown in the video below.

Video Caption: With optical telescopes, it’s difficult to make out the surface features of asteroid Toutatis. Radar gives us a different picture. On Dec. 12 and 13, 2012, scientists pointed NASA’s Goldstone Solar System Radar precisely on the asteroid while it was over four million miles/6.9 million kilometers away. Using the bounced radar signals scientists assembled these “images” showing the surface features of Toutatis, an asteroid measuring about 3 miles long (4.8 km). The orbit of Toutatis is well understood. An analysis indicates there is zero possibility of an Earth impact over the entire interval over which its motion can be accurately computed, which is about the next four centuries.

The Space Review: SBSP, Space 2.0, Lunar Lander Challenge and More

The Space Review
has some interesting analyzes this week:

John Marburry offers a way for government to support the development of space-based solar power despite the current economic meltdown.

Burke Fort, director of the director of the 8th Continent Project, describes how his group is helping foster the creation of companies that leverage space technology for terrestrial applications.

Jeff Foust reports on plans by several teams to win the Lunar Lander Challenge.

Taylor Dinerman worries that a U.N. effort to promote “sustainability” in space could be a power grab by the world body.