Virgin Galactic Unveils Flight Suits for SpaceShipTwo Pilots

On Friday, Virgin Galactic unveiled new flight suits for the pilots who will fly SpaceShipTwo. The company worked on the suits with Under Armour, which also designed similar garments for passengers.

The press release refers to the pilot garments as spacesuits 16 times even though they do not meet any accepted definition of the word. Per Marriam-Webster:

space suit: a suit equipped with life supporting provisions to make life in space possible for its wearer.

What Virgin Galactic and Under Armour have produced for both crew and passengers are flight suits that provide the wearer with zero protection against the vacuum and radiation of space. To call them spacesuits is false and unacceptable stretching of the word.

You can find the press release and pictures on Virgin Galactic’s website.

ispace Awarded Two Contracts by NASA for World’s First Commercial Transaction of Lunar Resources

HAKUTO-R lander. (Credit: ispace)

TOKYO (ispace PR) – Today, on December 3, 2020, at 1:00PM EST, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced that it has awarded contracts to both ispace, inc. (ispace) and the company’s subsidiary, ispace Europe S.A. (ispace EU), to acquire regolith from the lunar surface to be purchased by the space agency.

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Spaceport America Board Approves Spending $20 Million for New Capital Projects

The Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space terminal hangar facility (center), Spaceport Operations Center (Left) and “Spaceway” (Runway) at Spaceport America. (Credit: Bill Gutman/Spaceport America)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Fresh off a stinging report saying that it failed to properly oversee a state-owned facility rife with fraud, waste and abuse, the New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) Board of Directors approved spending up to $20 million on capital improvements to Spaceport America.

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Russia Graduates New Class of Cosmonauts

Cosmonaut class of 2020.. (Credit: Roscosmos)

MOSCOW (Roscomos PR) — Today, December 2, 2020, at the Yu.A. Gagarin, a meeting of the Interdepartmental Qualification Commission (ICQC) took place. By the decision of the commission, the qualification of a test cosmonaut was awarded to Konstantin Borisov, Alexander Gorbunov, Alexander Grebenkin, Alexei Zubritsky, Sergei Mikayev, Kirill Peskov and Oleg Platonov. They completed a two-year general space training course and successfully passed the State exam.

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NASA Selects Solar Sail, Earth Atmosphere Study SmallSat Missions

Solar Cruiser spacecraft (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected two SmallSat missions – a study of Earth’s outer most atmosphere and a solar sail spaceflight test mission – to share a ride to space in 2025 with the agency’s Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe (IMAP).

The missions – the Global Lyman-alpha Imagers of the Dynamic Exosphere (GLIDE) and Solar Cruiser – were selected as Solar Terrestrial Probes (STP) Missions of Opportunity. GLIDE will help researchers understand the upper reaches of Earth’s atmosphere – the exosphere – where it touches space. Solar Cruiser demonstrate the use of solar photons for propulsion in space.

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NASA Confirms New SIMPLEx Mission Small Satellite to Blaze Trails Studying Lunar Surface

Peering into the Moon’s permanently shadowed regions, Lunar Trailblazer will detect signatures of water ice in reflected light, and it will pinpoint the locations of micro-cold traps less than a football field in size. (Credit: Lockheed Martin)

Producing maps to locate ice or water trapped in rock at the Moon’s surface, Lunar Trailblazer will help support NASA’s efforts to establish a sustainable presence on the Moon.


PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — A small-satellite mission to understand the lunar water cycle – detecting and mapping water on the lunar surface in order to investigate how its form, abundance, and location relate to geology – has received NASA approval to proceed with the next phase of its development.

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Solar Superstorms of the Past Help NASA Scientists Understand Risks for Satellites

By Mara Johnson-Groh
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. — At the edge of space, the ever-growing fleet of satellites in low-Earth orbit are locked in a constant, precarious battle with friction. 

These satellites orbit in a normally quiet region hundreds of miles above the surface, at the edge of Earth’s atmosphere. Usually, the satellites only feel a gentle push due to the headwinds of the rarified air there, but extreme storms from the Sun can change Earth’s atmosphere enough to pull a satellite farther off orbit in one day than they’d normally experience in a year.

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Private Launch Company Agnikul Cosmos Signs NDA that Allows Access to ISRO Facilities

BENGALURU, India (ISRO PR) — Department of Space has today (3rd Dec. 2020) entered into a Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA) with M/s Agnikul Cosmos Pvt. Ltd, a Chennai based start-up company located in the National Centre for Combustion R&D, IITM, Chennai building private small satellite launch vehicle.

Under the NDA, the company will be enabled for accessing the facilities and technical expertise available in ISRO centers to proceed with their launch vehicle development program.

The agreement is the first one of its kind, the Department has signed after the establishment of IN-SPACe, the authorization and regulatory body under DOS for enabling private players to undertake space activities in India.

The NDA was signed in the presence of Dr. K Sivan, Secretary, DOS/ Chairman, ISRO, and Prof. Bhaskar Ramamurthi, Director, IIT Madras. Shri R Umamaheswaran, Scientific Secretary, ISRO, was the signatory on behalf of Department of Space for the NDA with M/S Agnikul Cosmos Pvt Ltd. Shri Srinath Ravichandran, CEO, Aginukul signed the NDA on behalf of the company.

Dr K Sivan along with ISRO Centre Directors; Shri S Somanath, Director, VSSC, Dr V Narayanan, Director, LPSC, Shri Sam Dayala Dev, Director, IISU and Shri K Alagavelu, Director, IPRC assured all support to M/s Agnikul for testing and qualifying their launch vehicle.

The event ended with the wishes from the ISRO team to Agnikul for a grand success in their Space endeavor.

Video Shows Collapse of Arecibo Observatory

Video Caption: “This video, that starts with a view of the top of Tower 4, was taken from the vantage point of an Arecibo Observatory drone, utilized for monitoring the condition of Tower 4 support cables. Four cables are seen in the center of this video. The top cable does not support the telescope platform, but instead supports the catwalk described in the narrative for the previous video. The three lower cables are, from left to right, M4-1, M4-2, and M4-3.

Note that a number of individual wire strands of the M4-1 and M4-2 cables are noticeably broken at the beginning of this video. The M4-3 cable does not appear to have any broken wires at the beginning of this video.

The first indication of the coming failure is the breaking of another M4-2 wire, accompanied by a puff of “smoke” and chips of paint flying away from the surface of the cable. Four seconds later the entire M4-2 cable appears to disintegrate. The failure of M4-2 is followed a fraction of a second later by the demise of M4-1, followed a fraction of a second later by the failure of M4-3. The drone operator then swings the drone around to view the reflector dish and fallen platform, azimuth arm, Gregorian dome and the falling cables and catwalk.

The top section of Towe 12, near the Visitor Center, can be seen tumbling down the hill to the left of the operations building. The Tower 12 backstay cables that connect the top of Tower 12 to the ground cause damage behind Tower 12, well away from the edge of the telescope dish.”

Aevum Rolls Out Ravn X World’s First Autonomous Launch Vehicle & Largest Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS)

Ravn-X vehicle (Credit: Aveum)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla., December 3rd, 2020 (Aevum PR)— Aevum, Inc., a provider of comprehensive space logistics and autonomous launch services for lightweight payloads, is rolling out its Ravn X Autonomous Launch Vehicle today, the world’s largest Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS), by mass, designed to deliver satellites to space as fast as every 180 minutes. Aevum’s customer and mission partner, The United States Space Force, will also take part in the Ravn X unveiling.

Join us at 12 pm ET/9 am PT for the historic public unveiling (virtual for COVID restrictions): More details at www.aevumlaunch.com

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Chang’e-5 Ascender Lifts Off From Moon with Soil Samples

Chang’e-5’s ascender has lifted off from the moon on its way to an rendezvous with an orbital vehicle that will transport its lunar soil samples back to Earth.

Chinese media are reporting the ascender successfully reached orbit after lifting off from the Ocean of Storms. It is expected to rendezvous and dock with the orbiter-return vehicle on Saturday.

The ascender will transfer its samples to the return vehicle, which is scheduled to land under parachute in China’s Inner Mongolia on Dec. 16.

Chang’e-5’s lander collected soil from the surface using a drill and a robotic arm with a scoop. The goal was to collect at least 2 kg (4.4 lb) of soil.

If successful, China will become only the third nation to return samples from the moon after the United States and the Soviet Union.

Chang’e-5’s liftoff was the first from the lunar surface since the Soviet Union’s Luna 24 mission in 1976. And it was the first vehicle to enter lunar orbit after lifting off from the surface since the U.S. Apollo 17 manned mission in December 1972.

Soyuz-2 Launches Three Gonets-M Communications Satellites

Soyuz-2 rocket launches three Gonets communications satellites on Dec. 3, 2020. (Credit: Roscosmos)

PLESETSK COSMODROME, Russia (Roscosmos PR) — On Thursday, December 3, 2020, at 01:14 UTC, a Soyuz-2 launch vehicle with a block of spacecraft of the Gonets-M low-orbit commercial satellite communication system and the ERA-1 nanoscale service platform developed for the Russian Defence Ministry, designed for testing advanced micro-devices and orientation and astrogation microsystems, was launched from the Plesetsk cosmodrome in the Arkhangelsk region by the Aerospace Forces (VKS) combat crew.

All pre-launch operations and the launch of the Soyuz-2 rocket went nominally. The ground-based automated control system of VKS monitored the launch and flight of the carrier rocket. Two minutes after launch, the Soyuz-2 launch vehicle was tracked by ground-based means from the VKS Titov Main Test Space Center. At the estimated time, the Fregat upper stage routinely separated from the third stage of the Soyuz-2 launch vehicle and two hours later successfully put the spacecraft into the calculated orbit.

After being launched into orbit, the Russian Defence Ministry spacecraft received the serial number Kosmos-2548, and the Gonets-M satellites were handed over under the customer control, who will control them during the orbital flight. Titov Main Test Space Center specialists conducted operations to remove the Fregat upper stage from orbit.

Officers of the VKS Space Control Center entered information about the launched spacecraft into the Main Catalog of Space Objects of the Russian space control system, and began analyzing and processing information about new space objects for acceptance by ground-based means of the VKS Main Centre for Reconnaissance of Situation in Space.

UK Government-backed 5G Facility to be Built in Oxfordshire

UK businesses will be able to tap into the potential of 5G and satellite technology as a new testing facility is being created.

SWINDON, UK (UK Space Agency PR) — The engineering hub, set to be built by the IT and business consultancy CGI in ESA-ECSAT at the Harwell Campus in Oxfordshire, is being backed by over £3 million of government investment and due for completion in 2021.

Providing a base for UK researchers and businesses to experiment, the new 5G hub – eventually planned to extend across the entire Harwell campus – will provide a testing facility that can show the benefits of hybrid 5G and satellite communications networks. The hope is that once the technology is demonstrated the techniques can be rolled out to other businesses across the UK.

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ESA Purchases World-first Debris Removal Mission From Start-up

ClearSpace-1 mission (Credit: ClearSpace)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA has signed an €86 million [$104 million] contract with an industrial team led by Swiss start-up ClearSpace SA to purchase a unique service: the first removal of an item of space debris from orbit.

As a result, in 2025, ClearSpace will launch the first active debris removal mission, ClearSpace-1, which will rendezvous, capture and take down for reentry the upper part of a Vespa (Vega Secondary Payload Adapter) used with Europe’s Vega launcher. This object was left in a ‘gradual disposal’ orbit (approximately altitude 801 km by 664 km), complying with space debris mitigation regulations, following the second flight of Vega in 2013. 

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