FCC Launches Review of Satellite Orbital Debris Mitigation Rules

WASHINGTON, November 15, 2018  (FCC PR) — The Federal Communications Commission today initiated a comprehensive review of its orbital debris mitigation rules. [Download proposed rules here.]

Orbital debris, also known as space debris, consists of a variety of objects, including non-functional satellites, that are orbiting the Earth. Debris can pose a risk to operations in Earth orbit, including satellites and manned spacecraft, and in some instances, pieces of debris falling back to Earth can pose a risk to persons and property on the surface of the Earth.

(more…)

Astroscale Secures Additional $50 Million for Space Debris Service

ELSA-d Chaser satellite (Credit: ASTROSCALE)

SINGAPORE, October 31, 2018 (Astroscale PR) — Astroscale Pte. Ltd (“Astroscale”), the market-leader in developing a space debris removal service to secure long-term spaceflight safety, obtained additional funding of US $50 million from a group of investors led by INCJ Ltd. (INCJ), and including funds operated by SBI Investment Co., Ltd. (SBII) and Mitsubishi Estate Co., Ltd. (Mitsubishi Estate) among others.

This is the fourth round of funding raised by the ground-breaking company based in Singapore and it brings the total amount of capital investment to US $102 million.

(more…)

Britain, Australia Sign Space Agreement

BREMEN, Germany (UKSA PR) — The United Kingdom and Australia will co-operate on activities including communications technologies, space situational awareness and satellite navigation, Science Minister Sam Gyimah announced today (3 October).

The Memorandum of Understanding, signed at the International Astronautical Congress in Bremen, Germany, provides a framework for collaborative activities and the exchange of information, technology and personnel between both nations.

(more…)

LeoLabs Selects New Zealand to Expand its Space Radar Network

New Zealand Government and LeoLabs Ink Agreement to Extend Space Debris Tracking for Low Earth Orbit to the Southern Hemisphere

MENLO PARK, CA, USA September 29, 2018 — LeoLabs, Inc., the leading commercial provider of low Earth orbit (LEO) mapping and Space Situational Awareness (SSA) services, today announced a broad-based agreement to build its next space radar in New Zealand. This establishes New Zealand as the site for the first radar of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. As the third radar in LeoLabs’ network, the New Zealand radar will be the first to track debris as small as 2cm in low Earth orbit.

(more…)

NASA ODPO’s Large Constellation Study

J.-C. LIOU, M. MATNEY, A. VAVRIN, A. MANIS, AND D. GATES

In recent years, several commercial companies have proposed telecommunications constellations consisting of hundreds to thousands of 100-to-300-kg class spacecraft in low Earth orbit (LEO, the region below 2000-km altitude). If deployed, such large constellations (LCs) will dramatically change the landscape of satellite operations in LEO. Fig. 1 shows the current mass distribution in LEO. The top blue histogram shows the total and the three curves below show a breakdown by object type (spacecraft, rocket bodies, or other). The mass distribution is dominated by spacecraft and upper stages (i.e., rocket bodies). The yellow bars from 1100 km to 1300 km altitudes show the notional mass distribution from 8000 150 kg LC spacecraft or, equivalently, 4000 300 kg LC spacecraft. From the large amount of mass involved, it is clear that the deployment, operations, and frequent de-orbit and replenishment of the proposed LCs could significantly contribute to the existing orbital debris problem.

Figure 1. Mass distribution in the current LEO environment. The blue histogram is the total and the population breakdown is shown in red (rocket bodies), green (spacecraft), and black (others). The yellow bars between 1100 km and 1300 km shows the notional mass distribution from 8000 150 kg spacecraft or, equivalently, 4000 300 kg spacecraft.

(more…)

Small Satellite Demonstrates Possible Solution for ‘Space Junk’

Remove Debris satellite. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The International Space Station serves as humanity’s orbital research platform, conducting a variety of experiments and research projects while in orbit around the planet.

On June 20, 2018, the space station deployed the NanoRacks-Remove Debris satellite into space from outside the Japanese Kibo laboratory module. This technology demonstration was designed to explore using a 3D camera to map the location and speed of orbital debris or “space junk.”

The NanoRacks-Remove Debris satellite successfully deployed a net to capture a nanosatellite that simulates debris. Collisions in space could have have serious consequences to the space station and satellites, but research has shown that removing the largest debris significantly reduces the chance of collisions.

RemoveDEBRIS Satellite Net Captures Space Junk in Successful Test

GUILDFORD, UK (Surrey Satellite PR) — RemoveDEBRIS began its experimental phase of its mission on 16 September with the deployment of the net to capture a deployed target cubesat.

The net was developed and supplied by a team of engineers at Airbus in Bremen, Germany.

The RemoveDEBRIS satellite platform was designed and manufactured by SSTL and houses two target cubesats and four debris removal technologies – a net, a harpoon, vision based navigation using cameras and LiDaR, and a de-orbit dragsail. The spacecraft is operated in orbit by SSTL’s engineers from our Spacecraft Operations Centre here in Guildford.

RemoveDEBRIS is a low cost mission funded jointly by the European Commission and 10 partners including Airbus, Surrey Space Centre, Ariane Group, SSTL, ISIS, CSEM, Inria and Stellenbosch University.

The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement #607099.

CBO: Implementing Space Situational Awareness Act Would Cost $127 Million

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that it will cost $127 million over five years to implement a House bill that gives the Department of Commerce authority to provide civilian space situational awareness and traffic management.

Of that amount, the Department of Commerce would spend $118 million for fiscal years 2019-23.

“The bill would authorize the appropriation of $20 million annually to implement the civil space situational awareness program, and an additional $5 million annually to develop and implement the pilot program,” the CBO report stated.

NASA would spend an additional $9 million over this period to establish and operate a research center focused on space situational awareness and traffic management.

Some of the costs of the program would be offset by fees.

(more…)

House Science Committee Approves the American Space SAFE Management Act

Lamar Smith

WASHINGTON – The U.S. House Science, Space, and Technology Committee today approved H.R.6226, the American Space Situational Awareness and Facilitation of Entity Management Act (American Space SAFE Management Act), introduced by Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas). This bill will establish the Department of Commerce as the civilian agency to provide civil space situational awareness and traffic coordination.

Chairman Smith: “This bill is an important step to secure the United States as the leader in space traffic management and improves the safety of all space operations. The number of commercial satellites in space are predicted to grow from 1,300 active satellites today to more than 10,000 in the next few years. Now is the time to solidify the role of the Department of Commerce in the development of space traffic standards and guidelines. The creation of an open basic data system that combines information from American commercial and government actors, as well as international entities, will provide for the overall safe operation and management of space. This bill also better enables the Department of Defense to focus its resources on national security.”

(more…)

House Science Committee Approves American Space SAFE Management Act

Lamar Smith

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The House Science Committee approved a bill on Wednesday that would transfer responsibility for space traffic management and situational awareness from the Defense Department to the Commerce Department over the objections of Democrats who said the measure rubber stamped a half-baked Trump Administration plan.

“This bill is an important step to secure the United States as the leader in space traffic management and improves the safety of all space operations,” Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said in a statement. “The number of commercial satellites in space are predicted to grow from 1,300 active satellites today to more than 10,000 in the next few years. Now is the time to solidify the role of the Department of Commerce in the development of space traffic standards and guidelines.”

The American Space Situational Awareness and Framework for Entity Management Act (American Space SAFE Management Act) is in line with Space Policy Directive 3, which President Donald Trump signed earlier this month. The program’s main goal is to prevent satellites from colliding with orbital debris and each other.

(more…)

SpaceX Scrubs, Pence Announces Stuff

TESS exoplanet satellite (Credit: NASA)

SpaceX has scrubbed the launch of NASA’s TESS exo-planet hunting satellite, which had been planned for Monday evening.

“Standing down today to conduct additional GNC analysis, and teams are now working towards a targeted launch of on Wednesday, April 18,” the company tweeted.

Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence addressed the 34th Space Symposium in Colorado Springs earlier today. He made the following announcements:

  • Ret. Adm. Jim Ellis has been named to lead the National Space Council’s Users Advisory Group; and,
  • The space council has come up with a set of guidelines on space traffic management that will be signed by President Donald Trump and implemented by the Commerce Department.  A key goal of the new guidelines is to deal with the threat of orbital debris.

That’s all, folks!

NIAC Phase I Awards Focused on Advanced Remote Sensing & Orbital Debris


The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program recently awarded 25 grants for the development of visionary new technologies. Here we’re going to take a closer look at two Phase I awards focused on advanced remote sensing and orbital debris.

Rotary Motion Extended Array Synthesis (R-MXAS)
John Kendra
Leidos, Inc.

On-Orbit, Collision-Free Mapping of Small Orbital Debris
Christine Hartzell
University of Maryland, College Park

Each award is worth up to $125,000 for a nine-month study. Descriptions of the awards are below.

(more…)

NanoRacks Sends Groundbreaking Satellite, Biological Research to ISS

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (NanoRacks PR) –  NanoRacks, the leading provider for commercial access to low-Earth orbit, has brought yet another unique payload mission to the International Space Station. Carrying a professional protein crystal experiment, college-level biological research, and a debris capturing microsatellite (MicroSat), this mission continues to push the boundaries of commercial opportunities on the International Space Station.

The SpaceX CRS-14 Dragon was successfully installed on the Harmony Module of the International Space Station at 9:00 EDT on Wednesday.
(more…)

Orbital Debris Removal Satellite Launches Aboard Dragon Resupply Ship

RemoveDEBRIS spacecraft during final assembly at SSTL. (Credit SSTL/Max Alexander)

A satellite equipped with a net and a harpoon was launched to the International Space Station on Monday as part of an experiment to capture and dispose of orbital debris.

The RemoveDebris spacecraft was aboard a SpaceX Dragon resupply ship launched from Cape Camaveral.  The European-built satellite will be deployed by astronauts from the space station.

(more…)