Report: China Could Follow South China Sea Strategy in Seeking Space Resources

Optical Mining of Asteroids, Moons, and Planets to Enable Sustainable Human Exploration and Space Industrialization (Credits: Joel Sercel)

Continuing our look at the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s 2019 Report to Congress, we examine how China is seeking to shape the governance of space activities. [Full Report]

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

China’s actions in asserting sovereignty over the disputed South China Sea could serve as a model by which that nation would claim extraterrestrial resources and consolidate its control over key space assets, a new report to the U.S. Congress warned.

“Contrary to international norms governing the exploration and commercial exploitation of space, statements from senior Chinese officials signal Beijing’s belief in its right to claim use of space-based resources in the absence of a clear legal framework specifically regulating mining in space,” according to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s 2019 report.

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Luxembourg, NorthStar Create Centre of Excellence for Clean Space

Luxembourg (Luxembourg Government PR) — The Luxembourg Government and NorthStar Earth & Space signed a Letter of Intent to create a Centre of Excellence for Clean Space in Luxembourg and to consider a contribution to NorthStar and its innovation activities in order to promote the safe and sustainable use of outer space for the benefit of all humanity.

The Centre will be operated by NorthStar in Luxembourg, it will deliver highly accurate Space Traffic Management and Space Situational Awareness information services. The Centre of Excellence for Clean Space will enable collaboration and cooperation with the international academic, industrial and governmental partners from the space and data analytics sectors already established in Luxembourg. This will promote an open, safe and sustainable use of outer space for the benefit of all mankind, common goals shared by Luxembourg and NorthStar.

Étienne Schneider, Luxembourg’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Economy stated: “The establishment of this Centre in the Grand-Duchy is in line with the country’s efforts to stimulate innovation and technological development in the data space sector. The project fits perfectly into our national data-based innovation strategy that aims at building a sustainable and reliable digital economy in general and the sustainable commercialization of space activities in particular.”

“The world faces global challenges which require technology companies and governments to innovate together,” said Stewart Bain, CEO and Co-Founder of NorthStar Earth & Space. “NorthStar is dedicated to developing solutions critical to space governance, security and sustainability.  As we move into the year 2020 and beyond, we are proud to have Luxembourg as our partner.”

ESA Commissions World’s First Space Debris Removal

ClearSpace-1 (Credit: ESA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ClearSpace-1 will be the first space mission to remove an item of debris from orbit, planned for launch in 2025. The mission is being procured as a service contract with a startup-led commercial consortium, to help establish a new market for in-orbit servicing, as well as debris removal.

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Germany Invests 3.3 Billion Euros in European Space Exploration, Becomes ESA’s Largest Contributor

  • Three years after the last ESA Council Meeting at Ministerial Level, held in Lucerne, Switzerland, government representatives from the 22 Member States met in Seville, Spain, on 27 and 28 November 2019 and committed a total of almost 14.4 billion euro [$15.87 billion] for space programmes over the next few years.
  • Germany is contributing 3.3 billion euro [$3.6 billion] to ESA programmes focusing on Earth observation, telecommunications, technological advancement and commercialisation / NewSpace.
  • At 22.9 percent, Germany is now ESA’s largest contributor, followed by France (18.5 percent, 2.66 billion euro), Italy (15.9 percent, 2.28 billion euro) and the United Kingdom (11.5 percent, 1.65 billion euro).
  • The ESA Council Meeting at Ministerial Level is the highest political decision-making body, and it defines the content and financial framework for ESA’s space programmes every two to three years.
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UK Invests in European Space Agency Programs

SEVILLE, Spain (UKSA PR) — The UK Space Agency has today (28 November) announced it will invest £374m [$411.75 million] per year with the European Space Agency (ESA) to deliver international space programmes over the next five years.

The UK is one of the founding members of ESA, an inter-governmental organisation established in 1975 to promote cooperation in space research, technology and applications development. ESA is independent of the EU, bringing together countries across Europe and around the world.

Membership enables the UK to collaborate with space agencies across the world on projects like the International Space Station and the ExoMars programme to send a UK-built rover to search for signs of life on Mars.

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ESA Ministers Commit to Biggest Ever Budget of $15.84 Billion

Credit: ESA

Ministers approved funding lunar Gateway, space station operations until 2030, Mars Sample Return and Hera asteroid missions

SEVILLE, Spain (ESA PR) — ESA’s Council at Ministerial Level, Space19+, has concluded in Seville, Spain, with the endorsement of the most ambitious plan to date for the future of ESA and the whole European space sector. The meeting brought together ministers with responsibility for space activities in Europe, along with Canada and observers from the EU.

The Member States were asked to approve a comprehensive set of programmes to secure Europe’s independent access to and use of space in the 2020s, boost Europe’s growing space economy, and make breakthrough discoveries about Earth, our Solar System and the Universe beyond, all the while making the responsible choice to strengthen the efforts we are making to secure and protect our planet.

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ESA Looks to Automate Orbital Collision Avoidance

A satellite mega-constellation (Credit: ESA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA is preparing to use machine learning to protect satellites from the very real and growing danger of space debris.

The Agency is developing a collision avoidance system that will automatically assess the risk and likelihood of in-space collisions, improve the decision making process on whether or not a manoeuvre is needed, and may even send the orders to at-risk satellites to get out of the way.

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SIA Releases Principles of Space Safety for Commercial Satellite Industry

WASHINGTON, DC (SIA PR) — The Satellite Industry Association (SIA) today announced the release of a set of Principles of Space Safety, drafted to help protect freedom of use and long-term access to space by ensuring safe flight operations for satellites, human spacecraft and other space missions.

SIA is a U.S.-based trade association that for more than two decades has advocated on behalf of the U.S. satellite industry regarding policy, regulatory, and legislative issues affecting the commercial satellite business. 

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LeoLabs Unveils Kiwi Space Radar

Kiwi Space Radar (Credit LeoLabs)

MENLO PARK, Calif., October 14, 2019 (LeoLabs PR) — LeoLabs, Inc., the leading commercial provider of low Earth orbit (LEO) mapping and space situational awareness (SSA) services, introduced a new era of transparency in LEO today with the launch of its Kiwi Space Radar (KSR).

As the first commercial radar to track objects in LEO smaller than 10 centimeters, the KSR sets a new standard for tracking the full range of threats to satellites from orbital debris. Located in New Zealand, the KSR also expands LeoLabs’ radar network to the southern hemisphere, and marks the first of a series of next generation LeoLabs radars to be deployed globally.

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Using AI to Stave Off Collisions in Space

Predicted conjunction between Aeolus and Starlink 44 satellites. (Credit: ESA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA is challenging machine learning experts to help forecast and prevent collisions in space. The Agency’s Advanced Concepts Team and Space Debris Office have come together to set up the latest in a series of AI-themed competitions based on actual space data.

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Canada Seeks Proposals on Tracking & De-orbiting Space Debris

Department of National Defence & Canadian Armed Forces

Challenged Details

Collision Course – Tracking and De-orbiting Space Debris
Full Tender

Challenge Statement

The Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces (DND/CAF) are looking for viable and cost-effective solutions for tracking and de-orbiting space debris in order to reduce the collision threat for orbiting space systems.

Background and Context

While “space debris” technically includes asteroids, comets and meteoroids, this challenge refers specifically to orbit debris, space junk, space waste, space trash, space litter or space garbage, as well as fragments from their disintegration and collisions. Space surveillance networks regularly track about 22,300 debris objects in earth orbits, totaling more than 8,400 tonnes, which includes 1,950 operational satellites. As of January 2019, the total number of debris objects that are estimated by statistical models to be in earth orbits are 34,000 (greater than 10 cm); 900,000 objects (1 cm to 10 cm); and 128 million objects (1 mm to 1 cm)1.

When in Earth orbits, space debris pose a risk of collision with space vehicles, humans, and even with other debris. The hazards posed by debris collisions include erosion to hulls, solar panels and optics; fragmentation leading to rapid increases in the total population of space debris; total loss of a vehicle and/or an asset; and major injury and/or loss of human life. Space debris will grow as the number of human-made objects in Earth orbits increase over time.

There are no operational debris removal capabilities in use, globally, and existing prototypes lack important capabilities and have proven ineffective. For instance, there is a need to capture and deorbit multiple pieces of debris per clean-up effort or the capability becomes extremely expensive; as well, capabilities are needed to track and capture space debris smaller than 10cm or larger than the capturing vehicle (e.g., rocket bodies).

Desired Outcomes

The DND/CAF is looking for innovative space debris solutions for one or more of the following:

  • Reliable and robust solutions for tracking space debris below the 10cm diameter size;
  • Concepts, designs or prototypes for deorbiting multiple pieces of debris of any size.

Maximum Funding and Performance Period

Multiple contracts could result from this Challenge.

The individual maximum contract funding available under Competitive Projects – Component 1a is up to $200,000 CAD [$170,412 USD] (excluding applicable taxes) for a maximum performance period of up to 6 months.

This disclosure is made in good faith and does not commit Canada to contract for the total approximate funding.

ISRO to Create Space Situational Awareness Center

BENGALURU, India (ISRO PR) — Space Situational Awareness & Management (SSAM) has become an internationally significant area due to the ever growing man made space debris population and the increased collision threat with operational spacecraft.

ISRO Chairman K Sivan laid the foundation stone for Space Situational Awareness Control Centre at Peenya, Bengaluru on 2nd August, which is an important milestone in the progress of ISRO.

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Astroscale Advances Environmentally Sustainable Use of Space through ESA / OneWeb Sunrise Project

End-of-Life Service by Astroscale demonstrator (ELSA-d) satellite. (Credit: Astroscale UK Ltd)

HARWELL, UK (Astroscale PR) – Astroscale Ltd. (“Astroscale”), the market-leader in developing a space debris removal service to secure long-term orbital sustainability, has been awarded a contract under the Sunrise Project, a Public-Private Partnership led by the European Space Agency (ESA) and OneWeb, a global communications company on a mission to connect the unconnected through a global satellite constellation.

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