ESA to Conduct BepiColombo Flyby Amid Coronavirus Crisis

BepiColombo approaching Mercury. (Credit: spacecraft: ESA/ATG medialab; Mercury: NASA/JPL)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Controllers at ESA’s mission control centre are preparing for a gravity-assist flyby of the European-Japanese Mercury explorer BepiColombo. The manoeuvre, which will see the mission adjust its trajectory by harnessing Earth’s gravitational pull as it swings past the planet, will be performed amid restrictions ESA has implemented in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Virgin Orbit Designs New Mass Producible Ventilator of COVID-19 Patients

Bridge ventilator (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

LONG BEACH, Calif., March 30, 2020 (Virgin Orbit PR — Virgin Orbit has developed a new mass-producible bridge ventilator to help in the fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The Virgin Orbit team has been consulting with the Bridge Ventilator Consortium (BVC), led by the University of California Irvine (UCI) and the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin), a group formed to spawn and nurture efforts to build producible, simple ventilators to aid in the current COVID-19 crisis.

Pending clearance by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Virgin Orbit aims to commence production at its Long Beach manufacturing facility in early April, sprinting to deliver units into the hands of first responders and healthcare professionals as soon as possible.

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Japanese Astronaut Prepares to Fly on SpaceX Crew Dragon

Japanese astronaut Noguchi Soichi. (Credit: NASA)

JAXA has announced that astronaut Noguchi Soichi is preparing and training for a trip to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard SpaceX’s first operational Crew Dragon spacecraft.

Soichi will be flying to the orbiting facility for the third time. He previously flew aboard the U.S. space shuttle on the STS-114 mission and on Russia’s Soyuz TMA-17 transport. Soichi has spent 177 days in space.

A Crew Dragon flight test with astronauts aboard is currently scheduled for mid- to late May. The schedule for the first operational flight has not been announced yet.

Virgin Galactic Stock Goes Up Again (After Going Way Down)

Sir Richard Branson and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson in front of WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo during the Spaceport America runway dedication ceremony in October 2010. The spaceport still awaits its first suborbital flight. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Virgin Galactic’s wild roller coaster ride on Wall Street continued over the past week as Richard Branson’s spaceline marked five months as a publicly traded company and 13 months since the last launch of its SpaceShipTwo suborbital tourism vehicle.

Since debuting on the New York Stock Exchange at $12 last Oct. 28, the stock soared to a high of $42.49 on Feb. 20 before sinking to $10.49 on March 19. Over the past week, the stock has risen again; it reached $14.68 in after-hours trading on Monday.

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Stratolaunch Unveils Hypersonic Test Beds, Space Vehicle

Talon A hypersonic vehicle (Credit: Stratolaunch)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Stratolaunch has unveiled a pair of hypersonic test bed vehicles and a reusable spacecraft the company plans to launch from its giant dual fuselage airplane.

“Talon-A is a fully reusable, autonomous, liquid rocket-powered Mach 6-class hypersonic vehicle with a length of 28 feet (8.5 m), wingspan of 11.3 feet (3.4 m), and a launch weight of approximately 6,000 pounds (2,722 Kg),” the company’s website said.

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SpaceX’s Starship SN3 Arrives at Launch Site

Video Caption: SpaceX Starship SN3 has arrived at the launch site and is being integrated ahead of a test campaign that includes pressure testing, Static Fire(s) and a hop.

Video and Photos by Mary (@BocaChicaGal) for NSF. Edited by Jack Beyer (@thejackbeyer)

Space Biology on Station Ahead of Cargo and Crew Ship Activities

The International Space Station as it appears in 2018. Zarya is visible at the center of the complex, identifiable by its partially retracted solar arrays. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The Expedition 62 crew wrapped up the workweek with more space biology research to understand what living in space does to the human body. The International Space Station is also getting ready to send off a U.S. cargo craft and swap crews.

A 3D bioprinter inside the station’s Columbus laboratory module is being deactivated and stowed today after a week of test runs without using human cells. NASA Flight Engineer Jessica Meir packed up the device that seeks to demonstrate manufacturing human organs to help patients on Earth. The Bio-Fabrication Facility may even lead to future crews printing their own food and medicines on missions farther away from Earth.

NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan checked out hardware for an experiment exploring how to create heart cells on the orbiting lab. The investigation may lead to advanced treatments for cardiac conditions on Earth and in space.

Morgan and Meir are also getting the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship ready for its departure on April 6. The duo gathered U.S. spacesuit components and packed them inside Dragon for engineering analysis on the ground.

During the morning, Commander Oleg Skripochka continued servicing a variety of laptop computers in the station’s Russian segment. After lunchtime, the veteran cosmonaut serviced hardware for a pair of experiments, one looking at the Earth’s upper atmosphere and the other to understand the degradation of station gear.

Back on Earth at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, three new Expedition 63 crewmembers are in final preparations for their April 9 launch to the station. NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner stepped out of the Cosmonaut Hotel today for pre-launch activities celebrating spaceflight heroes such as Yuri Gagarin.

This Week on The Space Show

This week on The Space Show with Dr. David Livingston:

1 Monday, March 30, 7 PM PDT (9 PM CDT; 10 PM EDT) No special programming these two days this week. Tuesday, March 31, 2020, 7 PM PDT (9 PM CDT; 10 PM EDT) We welcome back author ROD PYLE with his latest commercial space work and more.

2. Wednesday, April 1, Hotel Mars TBA pre-recorded. See upcoming show menu on the home page for program details.

4. Thursday, April 2, 2020: 7-8:30 PM PDT (9-10:30 pm CDT; 10-11:30 PM EDT): No special show today.

5. Friday, April 3, 2020; 9:30-11 AM PDT; 11:30 AM-1 PM CDT; 12:30-2 PM EDT. We welcome back DR. DAVID KIPPING regarding his work on “Earth as a telescope.”

5. Sunday, April 5, 2020 12-1:30 PM PDT, (3-4:30 PM EDT, 2-3:30 PM CDT): We welcome back DENNIS WINGO on his recent SLS history post and more.

Final Steps Underway To Operationalize Ultra-Secure, Jam-Resistant GPS M-Code Signal

Global Positioning System (Credit: DOT&E)

U.S. Space Force, Lockheed Martin upgrade Operations Control Segment (OCS) and refresh GPS constellation with new satellites

COLORADO SPRINGS, Co., Mar. 27, 2020 (Lockheed Martin PR) – The final steps to fully-enable the ultra-secure, jam-resistant Military Code (M-Code) signal on the Global Positioning System (GPS) are now underway.

As part of the U.S. military’s effort to modernize GPS, the U.S. Space Force has been steadily upgrading its existing GPS Ground Operational Control System (OCS). The Space Force recently announced Operational Acceptance of the GPS Contingency Operations (COps) upgrade, developed by Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT). COps enabled control of the operational GPS constellation, now containing 21 M-Code capable GPS satellites, including Lockheed Martin’s first two GPS III satellites, until the next generation OCX ground control system is delivered.

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GHGSat Supplying Methane Emissions Data With Bloomberg

Methane emissions risk index for the Permian Basin now available via Bloomberg Enterprise Access Point

MONTREAL, March 25, 2020 (GHGSat PR) – Today, Montreal-based GHGSat announced that it has begun supplying methane emissions risk predictions data for the Permian Basin with Bloomberg on a weekly basis. GHGSat methane emissions risk predictions have been integrated into Bloomberg’s offerings and are now available via the Bloomberg Enterprise Access Point platform.

The methane emissions risk predictions provided to Bloomberg are delivered as a risk index on a grid averaging 2km by 2km over the Permian Basin. The risk index is calculated using GHGSat’s own satellite measurements of methane emissions, combined with several other sources of data, that are then processed with proprietary algorithms.

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SpaceX Get Approval for 1 Million Starlink Ground Stations in USA

60 Starlink satellites begin to separate after deployment from the Falcon 9 second stage. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has granted SpaceX to deploy up to one million ground stations to connect users to its Starlink satellite broadband service.

Each ground station is just under 19 inches (.48 m) across.

“It looks like a UFO on a stick,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said earlier this month. “It’s very important that you don’t need a specialist to install. The goal is for … just two instructions and they can be done in either order: Point at sky, plug in.”

SpaceX has launched 362 Starlink satellites as part of a constellation that could eventually total 42,000. The FCC has given Musk’s company approval to launch nearly 12,000 spacecraft. The company has submitted paperwork to place another 30,000 into orbit.

SpaceX plans to launch additional groups of 60 satellites roughly every two weeks aboard Falcon 9 boosters. The company hopes to begin service in the United States later this year.

Musk has said Starlink satellites will be able to deliver high-speed broadband service with latency below 20 milliseconds.

AEHF-6 satellite Completes Protected Satellite Constellation

An Atlas V rocket carrying the AEHF-6 mission for the U.S Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41 at 4:18 p.m. EDT on March 26, 2020. (Credit: United Launch Alliance)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (US Space Force PR) —The Advanced Extremely High Frequency vehicle number six launched March 26, completing the planned protected satellite program.

The 4th Space Operations Squadron maintains and commands the protected satellite constellation and will fully integrate AEHF-6 into their family.

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10.9 Million Names Now Aboard NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover

A placard commemorating NASA’s “Send Your Name to Mars” campaign was installed on the Perseverance Mars rover on March 16, 2020, at Kennedy Space Center. Three silicon chips (upper left corner) were stenciled with 10,932,295 names and the essays from 155 finalists in NASA’s “Name the Rover” contest. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s “Send Your Name to Mars” campaign invited people around the world to submit their names to ride aboard the agency’s next rover to the Red Planet. Some 10,932,295 people did just that.

The names were stenciled by electron beam onto three fingernail-sized silicon chips, along with the essays of the 155 finalists in NASA’s “Name the Rover” contest. The chips were then were attached to an aluminum plate on NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on March 16. Scheduled to launch this summer, Perseverance will land at Jezero Crater on Feb. 18, 2021.

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CSA Issues Letter of Interest for 7 Priority Technologies

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has issued a Letter of Interest (LOI) for seven priority technologies the agency wants industry to develop under its Space Technology Development Program.

The technologies include: improved wide-field astronomical imaging; exoplanet search; advanced planetary exploration instruments; improvements in synthetic aperture radar imaging; and the use block chain with Earth observation data.

Below is a table summarizing the seven technologies.

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Bankrupt OneWeb Owes Arianespace Nearly a Quarter Billion Dollars

OneWeb listed Arianespace as its top creditor with $238,137,447.58 in unsecured debt in a bankruptcy filing on Friday.

The French company is far ahead of the other 29 top unsecured creditors listed in the filing. Other companies in the top 10 include:

  • Qualcomm Technologies: $8,000,000.00
  • Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Ltd: $6,861,336.01
  • Hughes Network Systems: $5,352,750.51
  • Deutsche Bank: $5,200,734.82
  • Wipro Ltd.: $2,470,647.25
  • Willis Towers Watson PLC: $1,899,895.09
  • Viasat: $1,225,000.00
  • Nokia Corporation: $988,051.09
  • Redapt, Inc.: 662,275.85.

Arianespace released a brief statement on the bankruptcy:

Arianespace is aware of the Chapter 11 filing by several OneWeb companies in US Bankruptcy Court in the state of New York (USA) on March 27, 2020.

As Arianespace is in a contractual relationship with OneWeb, the company was consequently listed among the creditors in the document filed on March 27.

Arianespace will monitor the progress of this procedure in accordance with its rights and commitments, and has no further comment to make at this time.

In its filing, OneWeb said it has between 1,000 and 5,000 creditors. The company estimated its liabilities and assets at between $1 billion and $10 billion apiece.

OneWeb has laid off all but a small number of employees who are overseeing operations of its 74 satellites. The company was building a constellation of satellites to provide global broadband services.