To the Moon! U.S. Space Force’s Operational Area Just Got Much Larger

The Moon seen from the International Space Station. The image was taken by ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli during his second mission to ‘MagISStra’ on 20 March 2011. Paolo commented on the image: “Supermoon was spectacular from here!” (Credit: ESA/NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

I looked a bit more into this memorandum of understanding (MOU) that was signed earlier this week by NASA and the U.S. Space Force (USSF) to deepen cooperation between the two agencies. And there’s a really fascinating aspect to it.

“With new U.S. public and private sector operations extending into cislunar space, the reach of USSF’s sphere of interest will extend to 272,000 miles and beyond — more than a tenfold increase in range and 1,000-fold expansion in service volume,” the MOU said.

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Stratolaunch Conducts Wind Tunnel Tests on Talon-A Vehicle

So, what is Talon-A? Here’s the description from the website:

The Stratolaunch Talon-A is a flexible, high-speed testbed built for hypersonic research, experiments, and enabling operational missions.

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Begins its Countdown to TAG

by Brittany Enos
University of Arizona

A historic moment is on the horizon for NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission. In just a few weeks, the robotic OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will descend to asteroid Bennu’s boulder-strewn surface, touch down for a few seconds and collect a sample of the asteroid’s rocks and dust – marking the first time NASA has grabbed pieces of an asteroid, which will be returned to Earth for study.

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SES Becomes Microsoft Azure Orbital Founding Connectivity Partner

LUXEMBOURG, 22 September 2020 (SES PR) – SES today announced it has joined as the medium Earth orbit (MEO) connectivity partner for Microsoft Azure Orbital, Microsoft’s new managed service enabling network operators to communicate and control their satellite capacity, process data, and scale their operations directly within Azure.

The integration is part of a multi-year agreement  between the two companies that accelerates and expands SES’s use of Azure to significantly advance the digital transformation of the company’s services and operations as part of its cloud-first strategy.

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BlackSky Announces Next Generation Dual Payload Satellite Architecture to Deliver High Resolution and Nighttime Imaging Capabilities

HERNDON, Va. , September 24, 2020 (BlackSky PR) – BlackSky, a leading provider of global monitoring services, geospatial intelligence and satellite imagery, announced today the next phase of expansion of its high-revisit commercial satellite constellation with the unveiling of its next generation, Gen-3, satellite architecture.

In addition, the company also announced it has conducted the preliminary design review of its Gen-3 satellite design for the U.S. Army Tactical GEOINT (TACGEO) prototype program as part of a multi-year contract with the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU). 

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Trump Fills Key NOAA Posts with Global Warming Skeptics

An aircraft drops chemicals on wildfire at Vandenberg Air Force Base. (Credit: USAF)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

With the West Coast ablaze with wildfires and rising seas threatening to flood coastlines, the man who called global warming a Chinese hoax is filling two top jobs at the U.S. government’s premiere weather and climate agency with people who don’t believe warming is a problem.

The Washington Post reported that President Donald Trump has tapped Ryan Maue to fill the post of chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

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Shotwell, Koch and Meir Make Time’s 100 Most Influential People List

Gwynne Shotwell

SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell and NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir have made Time magazine’s list of The 100 Most Influential People of 2020.

Shotwell is listed in the Titans category and credited with guiding SpaceX to success.

“She is not only a quintessential engineer with a passion to build things, but also a “people engineer” who thrives on working with colleagues and customers. Gwynne Shotwell is helping to launch our future, and I can’t wait to see what she does next,” former NASA astronaut Kathryn Sullivan wrote.

Koch and Meir were listed together in the Pioneers category for conducting the first all-female spacewalk from the International Space Station in October 2019.

NASA astronauts Jessica Meir (left) and Christina Koch are inside the Quest airlock preparing the U.S. spacesuits and tools they will use on their first spacewalk together. (Credit: NASA)

“I believe that Koch and Meir, by their sheer skill and execution, shift us closer to a template based on intelligence, agility, capability, integrity, courage and excellence,” wrote former NASA astronaut Mae Jemison.

Read Jemison’s tribute to Koch and Meir here.

Blue Origin Scrubs New Shepard Launch

New Shepard launch (Credit: Blue Origin webcast)

UPDATE: The New Shepard NS-13 mission with NASA’s Tipping Point experiment is now slated for launch at 10:00 AM CDT/15:00 UTC tomorrow, Sept. 25. Webcast will start at T-30 minutes at www.blueorigin.com.

Blue Origin has scrubbed a planned launch of its New Shepard vehicle. The company tweeted:

We’ve detected a potential issue with the power supply to the experiments. Launch is scrubbed for today. New launch target forthcoming.

You can learn more about the flight and the experiments by clicking below:

Warming Temperatures are Driving Arctic Greening

When Arctic tundra greens, undergoing increased plant growth, it can impact wildlife species including reindeer and caribou. (Credits: Logan Berner/Northern Arizona University)

by Kate Ramsayer
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. — As Arctic summers warm, Earth’s northern landscapes are changing. Using satellite images to track global tundra ecosystems over decades, a new study found the region has become greener, as warmer air and soil temperatures lead to increased plant growth.

“The Arctic tundra is one of the coldest biomes on Earth, and it’s also one of the most rapidly warming,” said Logan Berner, a global change ecologist with Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, who led the recent research. “This Arctic greening we see is really a bellwether of global climatic change – it’s a biome-scale response to rising air temperatures.”

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The Artemis Files: Bold Dreams and Busted Budgets

Artist’s rendering of an ascent vehicle separating from a descent vehicle and departing the lunar surface. (Credit: NASA)

For NASA’s Artemis program, the future’s uncertain and the end may not be near

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Fall arrived on Tuesday and, along with cooler temperatures, earlier sunsets and changing leaves, the new season brought what has become an annual ritual in our nation’s capital: the running of the appropriators.

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Plans Underway for New European Polar Ice and Snow Topography Mission

CRISTAL satellite (Credit: ESA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Monitoring the cryosphere is essential to fully assess, predict and adapt to climate variability and change. Given the importance of this fragile component of the Earth system, today ESA, along with Airbus Defence and Space and Thales Alenia Space, have signed a contract to develop the Copernicus Polar Ice and Snow Topography Altimeter mission, known as CRISTAL.

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NASA’s OSIRIS-REx to Asteroid Bennu: “You’ve got a little Vesta on you…”

During spring 2019, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft captured these images, which show fragments of asteroid Vesta present on asteroid Bennu’s surface. The bright boulders (circled in the images) are pyroxene-rich material from Vesta. Some bright material appear to be individual rocks (left) while others appear to be clasts within larger boulders (right). (Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — In an interplanetary faux pas, it appears some pieces of asteroid Vesta ended up on asteroid Bennu, according to observations from NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. The new result sheds light on the intricate orbital dance of asteroids and on the violent origin of Bennu, which is a “rubble pile” asteroid that coalesced from the fragments of a massive collision.

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Space Health Institute Awards 5 Grants to Mitigate the Effects of Space Radiation on Healthy Human Cell-Derived Organs-On-A-Chip

An astronaut holds a tissue chip. (Credits: NASA/Josh Valcarcel)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH) at Baylor College of Medicine selected 5 researcher teams to advance the study of space radiation and investigate countermeasures for deep space exploration using human tissue/organ models.

TRISH funds health research and technology to protect astronauts during long-duration space missions. The crew headed to the moon or beyond will experience high Galactic Cosmic Radiation (GCR) levels, which could endanger their health and the mission’s success.

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ESA Awards Airbus €300 Million Copernicus Satellite Contract

CRISTAL satellite (Credit: ESA)
  • CRISTAL will measure sea ice thickness and ice sheet elevations
  • Airbus in Germany will lead the industrial consortium
  • Contract is worth € 300 million

FRIEDRICHSHAFEN, Germany, 21 September 2020 – The European Space Agency (ESA) has selected Airbus to develop and build the Copernicus polar ice and snow topography mission (CRISTAL). With two satellites the CRISTAL mission will ensure the long-term continuation of radar altimetry ice elevation and change records. It is one of six new missions to expand the current capabilities of the Copernicus space component for the benefit of all European citizens. The contract is worth € 300 million [$352 million].

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NASA to Provide Update on Agency’s First Asteroid Sample Collection Attempt

This mosaic image of asteroid Bennu is composed of 12 PolyCam images collected on Dec. 2, 2018, by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft from a range of 15 miles (24 km). (Credits: NASA/University of Arizona)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA is hosting a media teleconference at 3 p.m. EDT Thursday, Sept. 24, to provide an update on the agency’s first attempt to contact the surface of asteroid Bennu and collect a sample next month. Teleconference audio and visuals will stream live on NASA’s website.

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