The Best Laid Plans: Europe’s Ambitious Launch Year Goes Awry Due to International Tensions, Schedule Delays

The James Webb Space Telescope lifted off on an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, at 13:20 CET on 25 December 2021 on its exciting mission to unlock the secrets of the Universe. (Credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

On Christmas Day 2021, an European Ariane 5 rocket roared off its launch pad in French Guiana with the most expensive payload the booster had ever carried, the $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope. The launcher performed perfectly, sending the most powerful space telescope on a journey to its final destination 1.5 million km (900 million miles) from Earth. The launch was so accurate that Webb should have sufficient propellant to perform science operations for much longer than its planned 10-year lifetime.

There was a collective sigh of relief among the European, American and Canadian scientists and engineers involved in the long-delayed program. It was a superb Christmas gift to a world suffering through the second year of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

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NASA Adds Helicopters to Mars Sample Return Mission

This illustration shows a concept for multiple robots that would team up to ferry to Earth samples collected from the Mars surface by NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA Mission Update

NASA has finished the system requirements review for its Mars Sample Return Program, which is nearing completion of the conceptual design phase. During this phase, the program team evaluated and refined the architecture to return the scientifically selected samples, which are currently in the collection process by NASA’s Perseverance rover in the Red Planet’s Jezero Crater.

The architecture for the campaign, which includes contributions from the European Space Agency (ESA), is expected to reduce the complexity of future missions and increase probability of success.

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77 Launches Conducted During First Half of 2022 as Access to Orbit Expanded

Falcon 9 launches 53 Starlink satellites while the Dragon that will carry Crew-4 to the International space Station awaits its turn. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

It was a busy first half of 2022 that saw 77 orbital launches with 74 successes and three failures through the 182nd day of the year on July 1. At a rate of one launch every 2 days 8 hours 44 minutes, the world is on track to exceed the 146 launches conducted in 2021.

A number of significant missions were launched during a period that saw more than 1,000 satellite launched. SpaceX flew the first fully commercial crewed mission to the International Space Station (ISS), Boeing conducted an orbital flight test of its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, China prepared to complete assembly of its space station, South Korea launched its first domestically manufactured rocket, and Rocket Lab sent a NASA mission to the moon.

Let’s take a closer look at the numbers.

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Relativity and Impulse Space Announce the First Commercial Mission to Mars

Video Caption: Impulse Space, Inc. – leading the development of in-space transportation services for the inner solar system –announced a groundbreaking partnership and launch mission with Relativity Space, Inc., the first company to 3D print entire rockets and build the largest metal 3D printers in the world, to deliver the first commercial payload to Mars. With an anticipated launch window starting in 2024, the historic partnership rapidly advances the companies’ shared goal of a multiplanetary existence for humanity.

Under the exclusive agreement, Relativity is scheduled to launch Impulse’s Mars Cruise Vehicle and Mars Lander in Terran R from Cape Canaveral, FL in an exclusive arrangement until 2029. Terran R will deliver Impulse’s Mars Cruise Vehicle and Mars Lander on a trans-Mars injection (TMI) orbit launched from Earth to Mars. Once in Mars orbit, the aeroshell-equipped Mars Lander will enter the red planet’s atmosphere and propulsively land on Mars’ surface. Impulse’s Mars Lander will have its own payload capacity to the Martian surface, supporting the research and development needed to build toward humanity’s multiplanetary future.

Designed as the world’s first fully reusable, entirely 3D printed rocket, Terran R is pioneering a new class of reusable launch vehicles that will open new opportunities for space exploration and scientific research. Made possible through Relativity’s proprietary 3D printing process and exotic materials, Terran R features unique design geometries that are not possible to achieve in traditional manufacturing, driving exponential innovation and disruption in the industry.

With a five-meter payload fairing and the ability to launch almost 20 times greater payload than Terran 1 –Terran R represents a large leap towards Relativity’s mission to build humanity’s multiplanetary future, by serving as a point-to-point space freighter capable of missions between Earth, the Moon and Mars. To date, Relativity has signed a total of five customers for Terran R totaling more than $1.2B in backlog, including a multi-year, multi-launch Launch Services Agreement (LSA) with OneWeb recently announced in June 2022.

For more on Terran R, visit our website: https://www.relativityspace.com

For more information on Impulse, visit https://www.impulsespace.com

Franco-Japanese Space Cooperation Focused on Exploration, Earth Observation and Next-gen Launchers

Simulation of the MMX Rover on Phobos. (Credit: DLR)

PARIS (CNES PR) — The week of June 27, 2022, on the occasion of the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the French space agency at the French Embassy in Japan, the President and CEO of CNES, Philippe Baptiste, met with Takayuki Kobayashi, Minister of Economic Security, in charge of Japan’s space policy, and Hiroshi Yamakawa, President of JAXA. This visit contributed to confirming Japan as one of CNES’s leading international partners, allowing discussions on current projects and cooperation prospects.

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Q&A: Former NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver Talks Commercial Space, ‘Bro’ Culture and Her New Book

NASA then-Deputy Administrator Lori Garver and Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin for the dedication of the Spaceport America runway in 2010. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

by David Bullock
Staff Writer

Former Deputy Administrator of NASA Lori Garver came out with a new book in June titled, “Escaping Gravity: My Quest to Transform NASA and Launch a New Space Age.” The book is a memoir of her time in the space sector, particularly focused on her time in the Obama Administration where she spearheaded commercialization efforts. Here, we talk about the book and other topics about the government organization and the private sector.

Q. What is the most important thing(s) you want readers to take away from your book?

I think that the value of humans first exploring space was most directly tied to looking back and seeing our home planet and recognizing we are in this together. We often envision space being about just going to somewhere else, but we have learned so much about ourselves and our planet from just going to space. I would like people to recognize that the government program can focus on those priorities and reduce the cost of accessibility to space, so even more people, satellites can go to space for valuable purposes.

How has the move toward commercial space you led helped the U.S. space program?

NASA has always had commercial industry involved in our space program very closely. What we have been starting, decades before, was recognizing the things that are routine about space could be done by the private sector in ways that reduce the cost through innovation and opening new markets. Lowering the cost of space transportation by some of the policies that I helped drive has allowed us to take better advantage of the unique vantage of space and allowed NASA to focus, or should allow even more, NASA to focus on things that are uniquely important to the government.

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ESA Releases Exploration Roadmap for Space Autonomy and Leadership

Credit: ESA–Olivier Pâques

PARIS (ESA PR) — In a bold vision to secure Europe’s role in space exploration and so benefit from the many scientific, economic, and societal rewards, ESA is publicly releasing its new exploration roadmap after its presentation to its Council, the agency’s highest ruling body.

Called Terrae Novae 2030+ (Latin for new worlds), the document lays the groundwork for Europe to ensure its leading role in space exploration for future prosperity.

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Rocket Lab Moon Mission for NASA a Success as CAPSTONE Heads for the Moon

Credit: Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab successfully deploys CAPSTONE satellite to lunar transfer orbit for NASA, charting a new path to the Moon. CAPSTONE is testing a never-before-flown orbit of the Moon and is the first mission of NASA’s Artemis program

LONG BEACH, Calif., July 4, 2022 (Rocket Lab PR) – Rocket Lab USA, Inc. (Nasdaq: RKLB) (“Rocket Lab” or “the Company”), a leading launch and space systems company, today announced it has successfully deployed a pathfinding satellite for NASA, setting it on a course to the Moon.  The deployment marks the successful completion of Rocket Lab’s first deep space mission, paving the way for the Company’s upcoming interplanetary missions to Mars and Venus. 

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This Week on The Space Show

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

Tuesday, June 28 — 7 PM PDT (9 PM CDT; 10 PM EDT): We welcome back DR. JOHN BRANDENBURG regarding his new sci-fi book just released. In addition, there is new scientific information regarding isotope distributions in the Martian atmosphere that Dr. B wants to tell us about. Knowing Dr. B, there will be lots more discussed on this program.

Wednesday, June 29 — Hotel Mars pre-recorded. See the Upcoming Show Menu at www.thespaceshow.com for details.

Friday, July 01 — 9:30-11 AM PDT; 11:30 AM- 1 PM CDT; 12:30-2 PM EDT: We welcome back KAI STAATS, Director of SAM Research @ Biosphere 2, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona.

Sunday, July 03 — 12-1:30 PM PDT, (3-4:30 PM EDT, 2-3:30 PM CDT): No program today due to the July 4th national holiday in the U.S.

NASA, Partner Establish New Research Group for Mars Sample Return Program

Lockheed Martin will lead development of the Mars Ascent Vehicle (pictured), cruise stage for the Mars Sample Retrieval Lander, and the Earth Entry System that will help return the first ever Martian rock samples to Earth. (Credit: NASA)

Sixteen scientists from the U.S., Europe, Canada, and Japan have been chosen to help future samples from the Red Planet achieve their full potential.

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA and ESA (European Space Agency), its partner in the Mars Sample Return Program, have established a new group of researchers to maximize the scientific potential of Mars rock and sediment samples that would be returned to Earth for in-depth analysis. Called the Mars Sample Return Campaign Science Group, the 16 researchers will function as a science resource for the campaign’s project teams as well as for related Earth-based ground projects, such as sample recovery and curation.

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From the Earth to the Moon and on to Mars – ESA and NASA take decisions and plan for the future

Noordwijk, The Netherlands (ESA PR) — The next steps in exploring and using space for the benefit of European citizens were this week on the agenda at ESA’s Council meeting in ESA/ESTEC, the Netherlands on 14 and 15 June. The possibility of the first-ever European astronaut to set foot on the Moon, a telecommunication satellite for lunar exploration and a mission to return precious rock samples from Mars were all discussed.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson joined the meeting with ESA Member States in a decisive gesture to advocate for Europe’s strong role in multiple projects which reinforce the enduring partnership between the two leading space agencies.

“From understanding our changing planet to exploring Mars, I hugely value the cooperation we have with NASA” says ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher.  “By contributing key European hardware and services to exciting programmes such as Artemis and Mars Sample Return, we are building Europe’s autonomy while also being a reliable partner.”

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New Study Reveals Solar Heat to be the Likely Cause of Dust Storms on Mars

Mars weather seen from the InSight lander. (Credit: NASA)

COLUMBIA, Md. and HOUSTON, May 16, 2022 (Universities Space Research Association PR) — A team of scientists, including Dr. Germán Martínez from the Universities Space Research Association, just published a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. This study indicates there are seasonal energy imbalances in the amount of solar energy absorbed and released by Mars which is a likely cause of dust storms and could play an important role in understanding the climate and atmosphere of the red planet. 

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NASA Seeks Input on Moon to Mars Objectives, Comments Due May 31

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — As NASA moves forward with plans to send astronauts to the Moon under Artemis missions to prepare for human exploration of Mars, the agency is calling on U.S. industry, academia, international communities, and other stakeholders to provide input on its deep space exploration objectives. 

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