JAXA Spacecraft Data Indicate Massive Lava Tube on Moon

The SELENE (Kagiya) orbiter studied the moon using radar. (Credit: JAXA/SELENE/ Crescent/Akihiro Ikeshita)

Some very cool news out of Japan today where researchers say they have found an enormous lava tube stretching about 50 km (31 miles) under the lunar surface

The cavern, found in the Marius Hills area on the near side of the moon, is about 100 meters wide and extends for about 50 km, according to data taken by JAXA’s Selenological and Engineering Explorer (SELENE), also called the Kaguya moon probe.

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Launch Crews 3-for-3 Today

Falcon 9 launch

Launch crews in the United States, China and Japan are celebrating successful flights to start a busy launch week.

China got things started by launching the Venezuelan Remote Sensing Satellite aboard a Long March 2D rocket from Jiuquan.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 followed up with an early morning launch of 10 Iridium NEXT satellites from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The flight included the 17th successful landing of a Falcon 9 first stage.

The Japanese successfully launched the Michibiki 4 navigation satellite from the Tanegashima Space Center.

Below is the launch schedule for the rest of the month. It is possible that an Atlas V that had been scheduled to launch a national reconnaissance satellite last week will be added to the schedule for later this month. The launch was delayed twice due to weather and the third time because of a faulty telemetry transmitter. ULA has not set a new launch date.

October 11

Falcon 9
Payload: SES 11/EchoStar 105 communications satellite
Launch window: 6:53-8:53 p.m. EDT (2253-0053 GMT)
Launch site: LC-39A, Kennedy Space Center, Florida

October 12

Soyuz
Payload: Progress 68P resupply ship
Launch time: 5:32 a.m. EDT (0932 GMT)
Launch site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan

October 13

Rockot
Payload: Sentinel 5p Earth observation satellite
Launch time: 5:27 a.m. EDT (0927 GMT)
Launch site: Plesetsk Cosmodrome, Russia

October 17

Minotaur-C
Payload: 6 SkySat Earth observation satellites
Launch time: 5:37 p.m. EDT; 2:37 p.m. PDT (2137 GMT)
Launch site: SLC-576E, Vandenberg Air Force Base, California

October 30

Falcon 9
Payload: Koreasat 5A communications satellite
Launch window: 3:34-5:58 p.m. EDT (1934-2158 GMT)
Launch site: Cape Canaveral, Florida

SpaceX to Launch Comsats From Vandenberg on Busy Monday

Falcon 9 lifts off from Vandenberg Air Force Base. (Credit: SpaceX)

Early risers in Southern California will be able to see a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch 10 Iridium Next communication satellites on Monday morning. The flight from Vandenberg is set to take off at 5:37 a.m. PDT (8:37 a.m. EDT/1237 GMT).

The SpaceX mission will be the second of three launches planned for Monday and Tuesday. China is scheduled to launch a remote sensing satellite for Venezuela and Japan is planning to orbit a navigation satellite.

SpaceX is also scheduled to launch two communications satellites from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Wednesday evening.

October 9

Long March 2D
Payload: Venezuelan Remote Sensing Satellite
Launch time: Approximately 12:10 a.m. EDT (0410 GMT)
Launch site: Jiuquan, China

Falcon 9
Payload: Iridium Next 21-30 communication satellites
Launch time: 8:37 a.m. EDT; 5:37 a.m. PDT (1237 GMT )
Launch site: Vandenberg Air Force Base, California

H-2A
Payload: Michibiki 4 navigation satellite
Launch time: Approx. 6:01 p.m. EDT (2201 GMT)
Launch site: Tanegashima Space Center, Japan

October 11

Falcon 9
Payload: SES 11/EchoStar 105 communications satellite
Launch window: 6:53-8:53 p.m. EDT (2253-0053 GMT)
Launch site: LC-39A, Kennedy Space Center, Florida

UNOOSA, JAXA Open Third Round of KiboCUBE

VIENNA/TOKYO, 26 September (UN Information Service) – The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) have announced the opening of the third round of the KiboCUBE initiative.

KiboCUBE was launched in September 2015 as a capacity-building initiative between UNOOSA and JAXA to offer developing and emerging countries the opportunity to deploy cube satellites (CubeSats) from the Japanese Kibo module of the International Space Station (ISS).

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Astroscale, JAXA Sign Research Agreement on Orbital Debris

TOKYO (Jaxa PR) — ASTROSCALE Japan Inc. (hereinafter referred to as “ASTROSCALE”) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency signed a joint research agreement (“the agreement”) regarding the removal of space debris.

Under the terms of the agreement, ASTROSCALE will have access to JAXA’s technologies that examine the methods to approach and capture space debris. The technologies will facilitate ASTROSCALE’s development of ELSA-d, a technology demonstration satellite scheduled to be launched in the first half of 2019. ASTROSCALE and JAXA will also work together to validate the imagery of simulated debris obtained through the ELSA-d on-orbit mission. JAXA will not take direct part in the development, launch, or operation of ELSA-d, but will be involved in the research and development of relevant component technologies.

It is estimated that more than 750,000 pieces of space debris over a centimeter in size are currently in orbit, some of which are the result of breakups and collisions of spacecraft. As the continuously rising debris population poses an immediate threat to the orbital environment, taking countermeasures is urgently needed.

JAXA, in cooperation with universities and the private sector, will further establish the technology to eliminate space debris. Through this endeavor, JAXA hopes to protect the space environment and realize sustainable utilization of space.

Video: The Continuing Adventures of Japan’s Adorkable Space Station Drone

Video Caption: JAXA has disclosed “Int-Ball Letter” Vol. 5 in which the latest video of the Kibo’s internal drone on the International Space Station (ISS) is presented.

This time, we will introduce how Int-Ball has grown as a buddy of ISS crew members. After its launch in June 2017, Int-Ball underwent the initial checkout on the ISS by NASA Astronaut Peggy Whitson and Astronaut Jack Fischer.

They returned to Earth on September 3, 2017 (JST). Let’s get a glimpse of the 3-month challenge and interaction that Int-Ball and they had on the ISS.

See here for further information on Int-Ball and the first disclosures of images: http://iss.jaxa.jp/en/kiboexp/news/17…

See here for further information on the Miniaturized Attitude Control Sensors and Actuators in an All-in-one Module installed in the Int-Ball:

https://youtu.be/58AjaW00_TI

http://www.kenkai.jaxa.jp/eng/researc…

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What a Ride to Space Costs These Days

A Minotaur V rocket carrying NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) lifts off from at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Friday, Sept. 6, 2013. (Credit: NASA/Chris Perry)

Just in time for your late summer beach reading needs, the Government Accountability Office has released a new report, “Surplus Missile Motors: Sale Price Drives Potential Effects on DOD and Commercial Launch Providers.”

The report looks at the costs associated with using surplus rocket motors in Orbital ATK’s Minotaur launchers, which cannot be used for commercial missions.

Yes, it’s about as exciting as it sounds.

Anyway, the report does contain a couple of interesting tables showing what a ride into space costs these days.

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Adorkable Japanese Drone Charms ISS Crew

JEM Internal Ball Camera taking a video. (Credit:JAXA/NASA)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has for the first time disclosed images and movies taken by the JEM Internal Ball Camera called “Int-Ball”-its first camera drone that can record video while moving in space under remote control from the ground.

Int-Ball was delivered to Japanese Experiment Module “Kibo” on the International Space Station by the US Dragon spacecraft launched on June 4, 2017, and is currently undergoing initial verification.
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Test Firings Begin on Japanese LE-5B-3 Engine

Test firing of LE-5B-3 engine. (Credit: JAXA)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — JAXA tested LE-5B-3, the liquid rocket engine designed to propel the second stage of H3 Launch Vehicle now under development. LE-5B-3 enhances the LE-5B-2 engine that likewise boosts the second stage of H-IIA and H-IIB. LE-5B-2 has earned the time-tested record of reliability after scores of successful H-II launches. Improvements are being made to lower the cost of LE-5B-3, without compensating the dynamics to blast off H3, a larger rocket and to sustain its flight.

Following the design improvements for affordability and performance which reached the desired level in August 2016, JAXA successfully conducted the test of the liquid hydrogen turbopump in December 2016 through January 2017. The liquid hydrogen turbopump — equivalent of the heart of a human body — draws in the propellants into the engine thrust chamber.

Since March 2017, the first engine with the hydrogen turbopump, assembled for certification was completed, kicking off its preliminary firing testing. The test is proceeding on schedule. By September 2017, test results will expectedly prove the soundness of the basic design improvements.

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Video Highlights JAXA-PeptiDream Research on ISS

The video highlights the protein crystallization experiment conducted by JAXA astronaut Takuya Onishi in the Kibo module on his last long-term International Space Station expedition.

JAXA’s strategic partnership with Japanese biopharma, PeptiDream Inc., has been crystallized into this innovative experiment under near zero gravity.

Latest Results from High-Quality Protein Crystal Growth Experiment on Kibo Module

A non-standard cyclic peptide
bound to a target protein. (Credit: JAXA)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — PeptiDream Inc. (PeptiDream), a Tokyo-based public biopharmaceutical company, and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), a national research and development agency, has established a strategic partnership for the High-Quality Protein Crystal Growth (PCG) experiment on the Japanese Experimental Module (“Kibo”) of the International Space Station (ISS).

This strategic partnership agreement (this Agreement) is a renewal of the current fee-based contract and represents a further expansion of the relationship between PeptiDream and JAXA. Under this Agreement, the number of experimental protein samples to be investigated is increased six-fold over the original agreement, and the term is further extended from August 2017 to August 2020.

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JAXA Begins Tests of H-III Engines

H-III launch vehicle variants (Credit: JAXA)

The Nikkei Asian Review reports JAXA began test firings of the LE-9 rocket engine, which will power its new H-III launch vehicle. The first round of testing will include 11 firings through June.

The new booster is set to replace the H-IIA and H-IIB launchers, which are the mainstay of Japan’s orbital rocket fleet. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and IHI are leading the development of the new two-stage launch vehicle.

H-III is designed to launch payloads at lower costs. The basic configuration can carry 4 metric tons into sun synchronous orbit.  By adding two to four strap-on boosters to the first stage, H-III will be able to lift up to 6.5 metric tons into geostationary transfer orbit.

The new booster will have a base cost of about 5 billion yen ($43.9 million). The H-IIA costs an estimated 10 billion yen ($87.8), with the more powerful H-IIB costing 10 billion yen ($131.5 million).

JAXA’s goal is for the H-III to complete flight tests and enter service in March 2021.

Global Efforts to Deal with Orbital Debris

JAXA has published this Q&A interview with Michiru Nishida, a Japanese Foreign Affairs official who works on space debris debris issues.

— In light of the fact that the space debris situation is becoming more serious, what international agreements have been made, if any?

In 2007, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines drafted by the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS). This is a “soft law” that aims to limit the generation of new space debris. A soft law is not legally binding – member states are left to make efforts on their own initiative. The guidelines specify, among other things, that rockets and satellites should be designed to produce no debris, and that satellites in low Earth orbit should re-enter the atmosphere within 25 years of ending their mission.

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Preventing Collisions Between Debris and Spacecraft


JAXA has published the following Q&A interview with  Mayumi Matsuura, the space agency’s space situation awareness (SSA) system project manager.

— What is the current state of space debris monitoring in Japan?

Kamisaibara Spaceguard Center (Credit: JAXA)

Space debris is monitored at the Kamisaibara Spaceguard Center and the Bisei Spaceguard Center, both in Okayama Prefecture. At Kamisaibara, we use radar to monitor debris in low Earth orbit (LEO) up to an altitude of approximately 2,000 km. Although the size of debris that can be monitored depends on its altitude, we can simultaneously track a total of 10 targets 1 meter or more in diameter. At Bisei, we use an optical telescope, which allows us to monitor debris in geostationary Earth orbit (GEO) at an altitude of 36,000 km.

JAXA analyzes data from these facilities to pinpoint debris orbit and position, and when this data and other inputs show that there is a possibility of debris colliding with satellites, a warning is issued to the satellite team. This is the role of the Space Tracking and Communications Center (STCC), where I work. To avoid being hit by debris, all you need to do is change your orbit, so the center prepares detailed proposals on when and how to do this. In some cases, debris is expected not to burn up on reentry into the atmosphere, but to fall back to Earth. In these situations, my job is to predict where it will reenter the atmosphere.
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Cleaning up Orbital Debris: Q&A With ASTROSCALE CEO Nobu Okada


The Japanese space agency JAXA has published the following Q&A with Nobu Okada, founder and CEO of ASTROSCALE PTE. The company is focused on cleaning up orbital debris.

— It’s been said that you are the first private enterprise in the to attempt to clean up space debris.

Our mission is to secure long-term spaceflight safely by solving space debris issues. To achieve this, ASTROSCALE will extend its business model to a debris removing technology after gaining an understanding of the present space environment. As our first step, we investigate how much space debris exist in outer space. The size of space debris varies, and it is important to ascertain its density etc.

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