Wicker Introduces Space Preservation and Conjunction Emergency Act to Put Commerce Department in Charge of Space Situational Awareness

WASHINGTON (Senate Commerce Committee PR) – U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today introduced the Space Preservation and Conjunction Emergency (SPACE) Act. The legislation would authorize the Department of Commerce (DOC) to provide space situational awareness (SSA) services to civil, commercial, and international space operators. 

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Im­proved Safe­ty in Space – GES­TRA Space Radar Ready to Be­gin Op­er­a­tions

Front of the GESTRA phased antenna (Credit: DLR)
  • After five years of development and construction, the first German space radar with transmitter and receiver units has been installed at Schmidtenhöhe near Koblenz.
  • Close cooperation between the DLR Space Administration, the Fraunhofer Institute for High Frequency Physics and Radar Techniques (FHR) and the German Space Situational Awareness Centre.
  • GESTRA data will also be used to improve security in low-Earth orbit at the European level.

Activity in space continues to increase. Several thousand satellites, spacecraft and other objects orbit Earth at altitudes of between 300 and 3000 kilometres. In addition to the inactive satellites and upper stages of rockets that are left behind here after missions, there are hundreds of thousands of smaller pieces of debris.

Satellites and other space infrastructure such as the International Space Station (ISS) need to be continuously monitored to avoid collisions. Active objects can engage in evasive manoevres, while inactive space debris such as disfunctional satellite parts, or the remains of rockets, pose a threat.

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Astroscale Brings Total Capital Raised to U.S. $191 Million, Closing Series E Funding Round

The additional investment makes Astroscale the most funded on-orbit servicing company globally and most funded space venture in Japan.

TOKYO, October 13, 2020 (Astroscale PR) – Astroscale Holdings Inc. (“Astroscale”), the market-leader in securing long-term orbital sustainability, today announced it has closed its Series E round with additional funding of U.S. $51 million from a group of investors led by aSTART Co., Ltd. (“aSTART”). This latest round brings the total investment raised to U.S. $191 million and makes Astroscale the most funded on-orbit services and logistics company globally and most funded space venture in Japan.

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The Current State of Space Debris

Debris and defunct launcher stages in the Geostationary ring. Aging satellites are known to release debris and explosions can occur due to residual energy sources. The resulting fragments can be thrown back and cross the Geostationary orbit. For this reason it’s fundamental to release residual energy once the nominal mission is completed. (Credit: ESA/ID&Sense/ONiRiXEL)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Swirling fragments of past space endeavours are trapped in orbit around Earth, threatening our future in space. Over time, the number, mass and area of these debris objects grows steadily, boosting the risk to functioning satellites.

ESA’s Space Debris Office constantly monitors this ever-evolving debris situation, and every year publishes a report on the current state of the debris environment.

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Constellationizing Space: Chinese Company Seeks Approval to Launch Nearly 13,000 Satellites

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Larry Press reports a Chinese company named GW has filed for spectrum allocation from the International Telecommunication Union for two broadband constellations called GW-A59 and GW-2 that would include 12,992 satellites.

The size of GW’s request indicates to Press that the company would compete globally with broadband constellations being built by SpaceX, OneWeb and Amazon. He wrote:

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Why UK is Backing its Leading Space Scientists to Clean up the Cosmos

Alok Sharma

by Alok Sharma
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS)

On 2 July 2018, a £100 million satellite called CryoSat-2 was completing its daily rounds of monitoring ice caps back on Earth from an orbital vantage point 700 kilometres above us, when mission controllers spotted a chunk of space debris hurtling towards it at 17,000 miles per hour.

To avert a potentially catastrophic collision, engineers fired up CryoSat’s thrusters and moved it out of harm’s way. This near miss was not the first, and it will not be the last.

An estimated 20,000 pieces of space debris, better known as ‘space junk’; are whizzing around the Earth as you read this. This includes zombie satellites and whole junkyards’ worth of whirling fragments left over from space missions.

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18 SPCS Now Predicts Debris-on-debris Collisions in Space, Enhancing Space Domain Awareness

An artist’s depiction of the Space Based Space Surveillance satellite tracking space debris. The 18th Space Control Squadron uses data collected from SBSS, and other sensors in the Space Surveillance Network, to track objects orbiting the earth, and provide Space Domain Awareness for space faring nations. (Credit: U.S. Space Command)

by Maj. Cody Chiles 
Combined Force Space Component Command

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif., Sept. 24, 2020 — For the first time, the Combined Force Space Component Command’s 18th Space Control Squadron began publicly sharing data for debris-on-debris conjunction predictions via www.Space-Track.org, Sept. 24.

Previously, the 18 SPCS only released debris-on-active satellite conjunction prediction data publically due to limited conjunction screening and reporting capacity.

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Government Backs UK Companies Tackling Dangerous Space Junk

Distribution of space debris around Earth (Credit: ESA)

Seven UK companies have been awarded a share of over £1 million [$1.3 million] to help track debris in space

  • Currently there are approximately 160 million objects in orbit – mainly debris – which could collide with satellites vital to services we use every day
  • UK Space Agency and Ministry of Defence sign formal agreement to work together on monitoring threats and hazards in orbit

SWINDON, UK (UK Space Agency PR) –Seven pioneering projects which will develop new sensor technology or artificial intelligence to monitor hazardous space debris, have been announced today by the UK Space Agency.

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First Laser Detection of Space Debris in Daylight

A visible green laser shone from ESA’s Optical Ground Station (OGS). Part of Teide Observatory, the OGS located 2400 m above sea level on the volcanic island of Tenerife, used for the development of optical communication systems for space as well as space debris and near-Earth orbject surveys and quantum communication experiments. (Credit: IAC– Daniel López)

Lasers on Earth are used to measure the position of space debris high above, providing crucial information on how to avoid in-space collisions. Until now, this technique has suffered from a fatal flaw.

For some time, lasers could only be used to measure the distance to space debris during the few twilight hours in which the ‘laser ranging’ station on Earth is in darkness, but debris objects high above are still bathing in the last of the Sun’s rays.

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EU Space Budget Request Slashed

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The European Commission (EC) has slashed its space budget for 2021-27 from a proposed €16 billion ($18.8 billion) to €13.2 billion ($15.1 billion) due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic and the exit of Britain from the European Union (EU).

Under terms worked out last week by EU leaders, the space budget will devote €8 billion ($9.4 billion) on the Galileo satellite navigation system and €4.8 billion ($5.65 billion) to the Copernicus constellation of environmental satellites.

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Spaceflight, Inc. Chooses Tethers Unlimited’s Terminator Tape for Deorbit of OTV

The Terminator Tape Deorbit Module interacts with the space environment to rapidly drag a satellite out of orbit. (Credit: Tethers Unlimited)

BOTHELL, Wash. (Tethers Unlimited PR) – Tethers Unlimited, Inc. (TUI) is pleased to announce that Spaceflight Inc. has selected TUI’s NanoSat Terminator Tape Deorbit System for end-of life disposal of its new Sherpa-FX orbit transfer vehicle.

As part of an upcoming mission, Spaceflight will test the deorbit process with the Terminator Tape. When the orbit transfer vehicle’s mission is completed, a timer release system will deploy the Terminator Tape to rapidly deorbit the Sherpa-FX vehicle so that it does not contribute to the growth of the space debris problem.

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ClearSpace-1 Mission Kicks Off

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (EPFL PR) — Work has just begun on building the first satellite that can capture and deorbit space debris. Making the space activities more sustainable is a huge responsibility – one that the European Space Agency has entrusted to EPFL startup ClearSpace.

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CSA Awards Additional Space Technology Development Contracts

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has awarded an additional 10 contracts worth nearly CAD $4.49 million (US $3.3 million) to eight companies under its Space Technology Development Program (STDP).

The awards were in addition to 14 STDP contracts worth just over CAD $9 million (US $6.6 million) the space agency awarded to eight companies last month.

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Australia Provides $11 Million in Space Grants to Boost Businesses and Local Jobs

CANBERRA (Karen Andrews PR) — The Morrison Government is backing a series of projects designed to grow Australia’s space sector and create local jobs, including improving GPS technology and the design of innovative spacesuits that will make spacewalking easier.

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews said the 10 projects sharing in $11 million [USD $7.6 million] would boost jobs and skills in the space sector, and contribute to the nation’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Using Sunlight to Save Satellites from a Fate of ‘Space Junk’

by Kayla Wiles
Purdue University

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — No satellite stays the same once launched into space. How much it changes can go unnoticed – until something bad happens.

Carolin Frueh is among only a handful of researchers who have persisted in using a complex technique that can diagnose a problem from thousands of miles away based on how the satellite reflects sunlight.

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