First Spacebus Neo Satellite Launched

Spacebus Neo Konnect in the thermal vacuum test chamber. (Credit: Thales Alenia Space)

KOUROU, French Guiana (ESA PR) — Ariane 5’s first launch of 2020 has delivered two telecom satellites, Konnect and GSAT-30, into their planned transfer orbits. Arianespace announced liftoff at 21:05 GMT (22:05 CET, 18:05 local time) this evening from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

Konnect, with a launch mass of 3619 kg, was the first to be released after about 27 minutes.

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Farewell to the Eu:CROPIS mission

Euglena and Combined Regenerative Organic-Food Production in Space (Eu:CROPIS) satellite. (Credit: DLR)
  • The Eu:CROPIS mission ended on 31 December 2019
  • Three of the four on-board experiments yielded extensive datasets
  • The first on-board computer developed by DLR functioned reliably in space
  • Compact satellite design demonstrated innovative lightweight construction technologies in space
  • Focus: Space, exploration, research under space conditions, technology for space systems

COLOGNE, Germany (DLR PR) — The experimentation phase on board the Euglena and Combined Regenerative Organic-Food Production in Space (Eu:CROPIS) satellite developed by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) came to an end on 31 December 2019. The compact satellite has been in an orbit around Earth that passes over the north and south poles for over one year.

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ExoMars Rover Completes Environmental Tests

ExoMars rover undergoing environmental testing. (Credit: Airbus)

TOULOUSE, France (ESA PR) — The Rosalind Franklin rover of the joint ESA-Roscosmos ExoMars mission completed a series of environmental tests at the end of 2019 at Airbus, Toulouse, France. This included final thermal and vacuum tests where the Rover is heated and cooled to simulate the temperatures of its journey through space and on the surface of Mars.

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Early Weather Reports Positive for SpaceX In-Flight Abort Test

In-flight abort is the final, major test before astronauts fly aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. (Credits: SpaceX)

By Jim Cawley
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center


With the launch of SpaceX’s in-flight abort demonstration three days away, early weather reports are promising. According to Mike McAleenan, a launch weather officer with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing, there is a 90 percent chance of favorable weather at liftoff. The primary concern is flight through precipitation, as some shallow coastal rain showers are predicted.

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Ariane 5 Orbits Two Satellites to “Bridge the Digital Divide”

The Ariane 5 for Flight VA251 departs the Spaceport’s ELA-3 launch zone with its EUTELSAT KONNECT and GSAT-30 satellite passengers. (Credit: Arianespace)

KOUROU, French Guiana (Arianespace PR) — Arianespace opened its 2020 launch activity with a dual-satellite Ariane 5 mission from French Guiana that successfully placed EUTELSAT KONNECT and GSAT-30 into geostationary transfer orbit.

Conducted from the Spaceport’s ELA-3 launch site, today’s mission delivered an estimated payload lift performance of 7,888 kg.

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Roscosmos Lays Out Plans to Transition to Angara Boosters

Inaugural Angara A5 launch (Credit: Khrunichev)

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — The management of the State Corporation “Roscosmos” considers the launch of production of the Angara launch vehicles at the Omsk “POLET” Production Association (a branch of the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center and a part of Roscosmos) is a priority task for the Corporation.

Tight control is exercised over this year’s production of the first batch of the Angara LVs, as well as over their transfer to the customer – the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation. Until the reconstruction of the POLET plant is completed, the Khrunichev Center plans to produce two Angara-A5 heavy launch vehicles and one Angara-1.2 light LV per year.

In view of that, during the transition period, payload orbiting will be executed using partially the Proton-M launch vehicle, and partially the new Angara LVs. The target production capacity of Angara LVs will be eight heavy LVs and two light LVs per year.

NASA Hiring Director of Mars Sample Return Program

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)

NASA is advertising for a director for its Mars Sample Return (MSR) program. The position, located at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC, would pay $182,424 to $188,066 per year.

“The incumbent serves as the Director of the Mars Sample Return (MSR) Program within the Science Mission Directorate (SMD), reporting to the SMD Associate Administrator (AA),” the job posting states. “The incumbent is responsible for implementation of all MSR program activities, beginning with mission formulation and continuing through design, development, launch, and mission operations. The incumbent also assesses and evaluates the total flight program design, development, and operational activities.”

Check out the listing here.

NASA’s New Moon Rover Tested in Lunar Operations Lab

Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) engineering model undergoing tests. (Credit: NASA / Bridget Caswell, Alcyon Technical Services)

CLEVELAND (NASA PR) — An engineering model of the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER, is tested in the Simulated Lunar Operations Laboratory at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio.

About the size of a golf cart, VIPER is a mobile robot that will roam around the Moon’s South Pole looking for water ice in the region and for the first time ever, actually sample the water ice at the same pole where the first woman and next man will land in 2024 under the Artemis program.

The large, adjustable soil bin contains lunar simulant and allows engineers to mimic the Moon’s terrain. Engineers from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, where the rover was designed and built, joined the Glenn team to complete the tests.

Test data will be used to evaluate the traction of the vehicle and wheels, determine the power requirements for a variety of maneuvers and compare methods of traversing steep slopes. Respirators are worn by researchers to protect against the airborne silica that is present during testing.  

VIPER is a collaboration within and beyond the agency.  NASA’s  Ames  Research Center in Silicon Valley is managing the project, leading the mission’s science, systems engineering, real-time rover surface operations and software.

The rover’s instruments are provided by Ames, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and commercial partner, Honeybee Robotics in  California.  The spacecraft, lander and launch vehicle that will deliver VIPER to the surface of the Moon will be provided through NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, delivering science and technology payloads to and near the Moon.  

NASA, NOAA Analyses Reveal 2019 Second Warmest Year on Record

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — According to independent analyses by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Earth’s global surface temperatures in 2019 were the second warmest since modern recordkeeping began in 1880.

Globally, 2019 temperatures were second only to those of 2016 and continued the planet’s long-term warming trend: the past five years have been the warmest of the last 140 years.

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Starliner Arrives Back in Florida

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

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (Boeing PR) — On Wednesday, January 8, the Starliner that flew the uncrewed Orbital Flight Test returned safely to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.  After launching from Cape Canaveral on December 20, 2019, and landing at the White Sands Missile Range on December 22, the Starliner was recovered and prepared for shipment across the country, and then left the desert on January 3.

In general, the plan for post-flight processing of this spacecraft is as follows:

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Starliner Orbital Flight Test Cabin Camera Views

Video Caption: Take a look inside the Starliner on its Orbital Flight Test. Four interior cameras captured the mission, and this video covers nearly every dynamic event during the flight, including launch, separation events, on-orbit maneuvering, re-entry and landing.

Virgin Galactic Appoints Enrico Palermo as COO

Enrico Palermo (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

MOJAVE, Calif., January 15, 2020 (Virgin Galactic PR) – Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: SPCE) (“VG” or “the Company”), a vertically integrated aerospace company, is pleased to announce the appointment of Enrico Palermo as Chief Operating Officer (COO), effective immediately. In this newly created role, Enrico will be responsible for helping maintain efficiency and peak performance across the enterprise as it develops as a public company, and will lead the execution of specific company strategies and initiatives.

Enrico currently serves as President of The Spaceship Company (TSC), the wholly-owned aerospace manufacturing and development subsidiary of VG. In this role, Enrico leads over 500 employees at the company’s facilities in Mojave, California. He joined Virgin Galactic in 2006 as one of its first employees. Enrico will maintain his capacity of TSC President.

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NASA Rings in Busy New Year in Florida to Prepare for Artemis Missions

The Orion crew module for Artemis I is lifted by crane on July 16, 2019, in the high bay inside the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The crew module was moved to the final assembly and test cell and work was completed to secure it atop the service module. (Credits: NASA/Ben Smegelsky)

by Linda Herridge
NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida will have a busy year preparing facilities, ground support equipment and space hardware for the launch of Artemis I, the first uncrewed launch of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the Orion spacecraft. In 2020, Exploration Ground Systems (EGS) activities will ramp up as launch hardware arrives and teams put systems in place for Artemis I and II missions.

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Mars 2020 Rover Closer to Getting Name

An engineer works on attaching NASA’s Mars Helicopter to the belly of the Mars 2020 rover – which has been flipped over for that purpose – on Aug. 27, 2019, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Mars 2020 rover is one step closer to having its own name after 155 students across the U.S. were chosen as semifinalists in the “Name the Rover” essay contest. Just one will be selected to win the grand prize — the exciting honor of naming the rover and an invitation to see the spacecraft launch in July 2020 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

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