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« Odpowiedź #420 dnia: Luty 13, 2024, 11:42 »
7/II 2024 [29-32]

29) Review: The Space Race
by Jeff Foust Monday, February 19, 2024

The Space Race: The Untold Story of the First Black Astronauts
Directed by Lisa Cortes and Diego Hurtado de Mendoza
91 minutes, not rated
Streaming on Disney+ and Hulu

Just after midnight Eastern time on March 1, a Crew Dragon spacecraft is set to launch to the International Space Station on the Crew-8 mission. Among the astronauts on board will be Jeanette Epps, a Black woman who was selected as a NASA astronaut in 2009 but is only now making her first flight.

30) The evolution of India’s weather satellite programs
by Ajey Lele Monday, February 19, 2024

A GSLV Mark 2 rocket launched the INSAT-3DS weather satellite February 17. (credit: ISRO)

On February 17, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) successfully launched the GSLV-F14 mission. It was the tenth flight of ISRO’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) with an indigenous cryogenic upper stage and the seventh operational flight of GSLV with such a stage. This launch placed India’s INSAT-3DS satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit.

31) From Southwest Regional Spaceport to Spaceport America
by Thomas L. Matula Monday, February 19, 2024

New Mexico’s Spaceport America, developed with Virgin Galactic as the anchor tenant, is far different than what was earlier proposed as the Southwest Regional Spaceport. (credit: Spaceport America)

As a space economist with a long interest in commercial spaceports, I was among hundreds of spectators parked along the tracks of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad in southern New Mexico on May 22, 2021. We came to witness the first crewed flight into suborbital space from Spaceport America.

32) Delivering a business case for rocket cargo
by Jeff Foust Monday, February 19, 2024

A notional illustration of the “Rocket Cargo” concept being studied by the US Air Force for the rapid delivery of cargo. SpaceX’s Starship is the most likely vehicle to be able to perform such services in the near term. (credit: USAF)

Even in an era where the landing and reuse of rocket boosters has become commonplace (at least for one company), the idea seems a little, well, out there. Launch a rocket and have it land, 60 or 90 minutes later, halfway around the world, carrying tens of tons of cargo needed for military operations, humanitarian relief, or other purposes where time is of the utmost essence.

8/II 2024 [33-36]

33) Review: The Battle Beyond
by Jeff Foust Monday, February 26, 2024

The Battle Beyond: Fighting and Winning the Coming War in Space
by Paul Szymanski and Jerry Drew
Amplify Publishing, 2024
hardcover, 400 pp., illus.
ISBN 978-1-63755-071-7

Earlier this month, Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), chair of the House Intelligence Committee, warned fellow House members of a “serious national security threat” that he called on the White House to declassify. Within hours, various reports indicated that threat came from a Russian anti-satellite weapon of some kind, but details of which were unclear.

34) Cybersecurity for satellites is a growing challenge
by Sylvester Kaczmarek Monday, February 26, 2024

Protecting space assets from cyberattacks is becoming an urgent issue.

In today’s interconnected world, space technology forms the backbone of our global communication, navigation, and security systems. Satellites orbiting Earth are pivotal for everything from GPS navigation to international banking transactions, making them indispensable assets in our daily lives and in global infrastructure.

35) The middle of No and Where: Johnston Island and the US Air Force’s nuclear anti-satellite weapon
by Dwayne A. Day Monday, February 26, 2024

Johnston Island, located hundreds of kilometers from Hawaii, was the location of an American nuclear-armed anti-satellite program for approximately a decade. The island was small and offered no protection from weather or rocket launch accidents. The island is now abandoned. (credit: USAF)

Recently there was a flurry of media attention about Russia’s reported development of a nuclear-armed anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon. Soon after the space age began in the late 1950s, both the United States and Soviet Union began studying and then developing and deploying ASATs. From 1962 to 1975 the United States Air Force operated the nuclear-armed Program 437 ASAT from a remote location in the Pacific Ocean known as Johnston Island. Johnston was not only remote, it was small.

36) The phases of lunar lander success, revisited
by Jeff Foust Monday, February 26, 2024

An image from the Intuitive Machines IM-1 lunar lander mission after the spacecraft entered orbit around the Moon. (credit: Intuitive Machines)

Once again, the space community is grappling with how to characterize something less than undisputed, 100% perfection in a mission. That was the case last year when SpaceX launched its Starship vehicle on its first two test flights, both failing to complete their mission profiles but providing valuable experience for the company ahead of its next test flight, as soon as March (see “Grading on a suborbital curve”, The Space Review, April 24, 2023.)

9/III 2024 [37-40]

37) Ode to Engle and Truly
by Emily Carney Monday, March 4, 2024

Astronauts Joe H. Engle, left, and Richard H. Truly greet reporters upon their return to Ellington Air Force Base near NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC), from Kennedy Space Center (KSC) after learning their flight (STS-2) has been postponed a week. (credit: NASA)

“Nostalgia—it’s delicate, but potent… It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn’t a spaceship; it’s a time machine. It goes backwards and forwards… it takes us to a place where we ache to go again.” – Don Draper, Mad Men.

38) Taking stock of the US space program
by Namrata Goswami Monday, March 4, 2024

The first Vulcan Centaur launched in January, one sign of the strength of the US space program even as it has weaknesses elsewhere. (credit: ULA)

In 2023, a paradigmatic shift occurred regarding government space programs that was perhaps missed by the global space community. Euroconsult’s 2023 Government Space Program report highlighted that shift: defense-related space expenditures ($59 billion) exceeded civil space budgets ($58 billion) in 2023 for the first time.

39) Squinting at the universe
by Jeff Foust Monday, March 4, 2024

A notional design for the Habitable Worlds Observatory space telescope presented at a recent meeting. NASA and the science community is only beginning the work to determine the real design of the spacecraft, expected to launch in the 2040s. (credit: NASA)

Last week, many astronomers got bad news about a good thing. The Space Telescope Science Institute, which operates the James Webb Space Telescope, announced the selections for the next round of JWST observations, called Cycle 3 and set to begin this summer. The institute said it selected 253 proposals for 5,500 hours of “prime time” observations from solar system objects to the distant universe.

40) A North Korean satellite starts showing signs of life
by Marco Langbroek Monday, March 4, 2024

Kim Jong Un and his daughter visiting a Malligyong assemblage facility in May 2023. A Malligyong satellite (or mock-up thereof) can be seen in the background (credit: KCNA)

Three and a half months ago, on November 21, 2023, North Korea launched its first military reconnaissance satellite, Malligyong 1. A Chollima-1 rocket launched from Sohae inserted Malligyong-1 (international designator: 2023-179A) into a Sun-synchronous orbit of 512 by 493 kilometers and an inclination of 97.4 degrees. Within days of the launch, North Korea claimed that the satellite is taking imagery of targets of interest.

10/III 2024 [41-44]

41) Review: The New World on Mars
by Jeff Foust Monday, March 11, 2024

The New World on Mars: What We Can Create on the Red Planet
by Robert Zubrin
Diversion Books, 2024
hardcover, 320 pp., illus.
ISBN 978-1-63576-880-0

As soon as this Thursday, SpaceX will launch its Starship/Super Heavy vehicle on its third integrated test flight, after launches last April and November. On this flight SpaceX hopes, beyond avoiding the explosive ends of those earlier flights, to test a payload bay door and transfer propellant within Starship, key capabilities needed for that vehicle’s early missions to launch Starlink satellites and land humans on the Moon for NASA.

42) The psychological challenges of a long voyage to Mars
by Nick Kanas Monday, March 11, 2024

The four-person crew of NASA’s CHAPEA experiment enter their simulated Mars habitat last summer for a year-long Mars analog mission. (credit: NASA/Josh Valcarcel)

Within the next few decades, NASA aims to land humans on the Moon, set up a lunar base, and use the lessons learned to send people to Mars as part of its Artemis program.

43) India unveils its first set of Gaganyaan astronauts
by Jatan Mehta Monday, March 11, 2024

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets the four Gaganyaan astronauts at a February 27 event. (credit: Press Information Bureau)

After four years of secrecy, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on February 27 the first four astronauts selected to fly on the country’s initial set of human spaceflight missions mid-decade via ISRO’s ambitious Gaganyaan program. The selectees are all test pilots and Group Captains: Prashanth Nair, Angad Prathap, Ajit Krishnan, and Shubhanshu Shukla. They have received extensive training in India and Russia, and at least one of them will receive advanced training in the US at NASA facilities sometime this year. The announcement of Gaganyaan astronauts is a great time to review India’s progress in putting people in space.

44) The difficult early life of the Centaur upper stage
by Trevor Williams Monday, March 11, 2024

A Centaur V upper stage being hoisted into position to be integrated with a Vulcan rocket ahead of the Vulcan’s first launch. (credit: ULA)

On January 8, the first Vulcan rocket by United Launch Alliance successfully placed the Peregrine lander on a trajectory bound for the Moon. This lander then experienced propulsion problems that prevented a lunar landing attempt, but the Vulcan had performed its task perfectly. The upper stage of the Vulcan, the Centaur V (V signifying 5, not Vulcan), is a high-energy upper stage that contributes to the Vulcan’s impressive performance for planetary missions and others.

11/III 2024 [45-48]

45) Review: Space: The Longest Goodbye
by Jeff Foust Monday, March 18, 2024

Space: The Longest Goodbye
directed by Ido Mizrahy
87 minutes, not rated

NASA is offering people a chance to go to Mars—or, rather, “Mars.” The agency announced last month they were accepting applications for its second year-long mission in its Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog (CHAPEA) project.

46) “A rose, by any other name”: Proposing a national naming competition for our lunar exploration program (part 1)
by Cody Knipfer Monday, March 18, 2024

NASA has used a variety of naming conventions for both crewed and robotic spacecraft throughout its history. (credit: NASA)

What’s in a name?

For Shakespeare’s Juliet Capulet, it is the embodiment of forbidden love. The last name of her amour, “Montague,” bears significance—in her and Romeo’s case, the tragic implications of a familial rivalry. Much the same, names have weight in the real world, especially so for the real-world explorers of yesteryear and today.

47) Texas Space Commissions, from Conestoga to Starship
by Thomas L. Matula Monday, March 18, 2024

Texas hosted the first launch of a privately developed rocket more than 40 years ago but soon lost any first-mover advantage. (credit: Celestis)

The Lone Star State once again has a Texas Space Commission thanks to a bill signed into law on June 14, 2023, by Governor Greg Abbott.[1] The former Texas Aerospace Commission, which ceased operations in 2003, started out as the Texas Space Commission in 1987, spurred on by the launch of the first commercial rocket into space five years before.[2]

Trzeci test odbył się po trajektorii suborbitalnej przy uzyskaniu prędkości orbitalnej.

48) Accelerating Starship
by Jeff Foust Monday, March 18, 2024

Starship/Super Heavy lifts off March 14 from SpaceX’s Starship site in South Texas. (credit: SpaceX)

When Starship lifted off Thursday morning from SpaceX’s launch site at Boca Chica, Texas, the one question on most people’s minds was this: how far would it get this time? Its first flight, nearly 11 months earlier, ended four minutes after liftoff when the tumbling Starship/Super Heavy stack was detonated by a flight termination system; the liftoff had, in the process, made a mess of the pad because of the lack of a water deluge system (see “Grading on a suborbital curve”, The Space Review, April 24, 2023).

12/III 2024 [49-52]

49) “For All Mankind”: space drama’s alternate history constructs a better vision of NASA
by Val Nolan Monday, March 25, 2024

Masha Mashkova and Joel Kinnaman in the fourth season of “For All Mankind”. (credit: Apple TV+)

Great art is often difficult to quantify. The Apple TV+ series “For All Mankind” is a case in point, running the risk of being too sci-fi for drama fans (rockets, moon bases, Mars) and having too much naturalistic drama for sci-fi aficionados (jealousy, divorce, institutional politics).

50) Preventing a “Space Pearl Harbor”: Rep. Turner leads the charge
by Brian G. Chow Monday, March 25, 2024

Maneuvers by China’s SJ-21 in GEO, including moving a Beidou satellite out of the belt, is just one of the many Chinese space activities with counterspace implications. (credit: ExoAnalytic Solutions)

Accolades are due to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Turner and the White House for a quick and amicable settlement of Russia’s developing space threat. It involved a balancing act between the American public’s need to know and the Biden Administration’s need for secrecy.

51) “A rose, by any other name”: Proposing a national naming competition for our lunar exploration program (part 2)
by Cody Knipfer Monday, March 25, 2024

A naming contest that went a bit awry led to a treadmill on the International Space Station being named for Stephen Colbert, complete with a custom patch. (credit: NASA)

[Part 1 was published last week.]

“By any other name…”: On naming competitions and outreach

Public consultation can take many forms: invited expert input, advisory committees, informal and formal “requests for information”—and write-in competitions.

52) Lessons from the first CLPS lunar landing missions
by Jeff Foust Monday, March 25, 2024

An image of the IM-1 landing, showing one of the lunar lander legs breaking as the spacecraft hit the surface faster than it was designed to. (credit: Intuitive Machines)

The IM-1 lunar lander mission officially came to an end Saturday. As the Sun dipped below the horizon on February 29, nearly a week after landing, flight controllers at Intuitive Machines put the lander, known as Odysseus or “Odie,” into a mode so that, when sunlight returned to the lander in a few weeks, it could wake up and start transmitting—if it managed to survive bitterly cold conditions.
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« Odpowiedź #421 dnia: Marzec 20, 2024, 06:09 »
13/IV 2024 [53-56]

53) Review: Our Moon
by Jeff Foust Monday, April 1, 2024

Our Moon: How Earth’s Celestial Companion Transformed the Planet, Guided Evolution, and Made Us Who We Are
by Rebecca Boyle
Random House, 2024
hardcover, 336 p., illus.
ISBN 978-0-593-12972-2

Next Monday, all eyes will turn skyward along a path stretching from Mazatlán, Mexico, to Gander, Newfoundland, including a stretch from Texas to Maine, to watch a total solar eclipse (or try to, weather permitting.) NASA, for example, has planned multiple events across the country for the eclipse, all part of a “Heliophysics Big Year” to promote the agency’s work studying the Sun. But, as the agency’s planetary scientists point out, you can’t have a solar eclipse without the Moon.

54) Strategic implications of China winning the space rescue race (part 1)
by Benjamin J. Johnis and Peter Garretson Monday, April 1, 2024

A futuristic Space Guard rescue scenario. (credit: James Vaughan, used with permission)

Several times in its history, the United States has proven unprepared for personnel recovery due to outdated policy that failed to anticipate novel personnel recovery challenges. Trend studies demonstrate the United States adjusts its personnel recovery policies after a major crisis or event occurs. The US government must break this reactive personnel recovery policy and investment cycle or America is at risk of losing its leadership role to China in cislunar space. Only a proactive national approach will ensure the United States remains the leader in space.

55) Touching space
by Lisa Pettibone Monday, April 1, 2024

The piece “Fingertip Galaxy” was included on the Euclid spacecraft launched last July. (credit: ESA)

In July 2023, I was eagerly awaiting the launch of European Space Agency’s Euclid Mission in Florida. Ten years in development, the Falcon 9 rocket would send a telescope, with one of the most powerful cameras in space and two sensitive instruments, to explore the nature of dark matter and dark energy. But the spacecraft was also dispatching another kind of invaluable instrument.

56) A space telescope’s cloudy future
by Jeff Foust Monday, April 1, 2024

Astronomers are concerned proposed budget cuts for the Chandra X-Ray Observatory could lead to its cancellation. (credit: NASA)

NASA has a long-standing process for evaluating whether to continue science missions. About every three years, each of NASA’s science divisions conducts a “senior review” of missions that have reached the end of their prime mission but are still operating. The reviews are intended to examine the performance of the missions and the science they are conducting to determine if NASA should keep funding their operations and what changes may be needed, such as efficiencies that can reduce their costs.

14/IV 2024 [57-60]

57) Review: The Music of Space
by Jeff Foust Monday, April 8, 2024

The Music of Space: Scoring the Cosmos in Film and Television
by Chris Carberry
McFarland, 2024
paperback, 304 pp., illus.
ISBN 978-1-4766-8897-8

In space, no one may hear you scream, but at least you’ll get a soundtrack. Science fiction movies and television shows, particularly those about space, are known for their distinctive soundtracks, from orchestral to electronic. They set the mood for the shows and can have an impact that goes far beyond the big or small screen, in some cases becoming instantly recognizable cultural artifacts in and of themselves.

58) Strategic implications of China winning the space rescue race (part 2)
by Benjamin J. Johnis and Peter Garretson Monday, April 8, 2024

[Part 1 was published last week.]

A futuristic Space Guard rescue scenario. (credit: James Vaughan, used with permission)

Relationships between personnel recovery and policy

Event history analysis of policy changes

Recent conflicts between the United States and China regarding multi-domain strategies are trending towards a “Grey Rhino” event. Most have heard of a “Black Swan” event where high-impact incidents occur that are nearly impossible to predict.

59) A North Korean satellite starts showing signs of life (part 2)
by Marco Langbroek Monday, April 8, 2024

Kim Jong Un with a globe, an image evoking Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator”. (credit: KCNA)

In a previous article (see “A North Korean satellite starts showing signs of life”, The Space Review, March 4, 2024), I briefly presented evidence that the new North Korean military reconnaissance satellite Malligyong-1 (2023-179A) had performed a series of small orbit raising maneuvers in late February of 2024. In this follow-up analysis, I will be looking at the specific moments these maneuvers were initiated. They match passes over North Korea, it turns out.

60) GAMBIT vs KENNEN: The persistence of film reconnaissance in the digital age
by Dwayne A. Day Monday, April 8, 2024

The GAMBIT satellite program used film to take high resolution images. GAMBIT continued in service until 1984, even though the KENNEN digital imagery satellite entered service in late 1976. GAMBIT still had advantages over KENNEN in the short term. Here a GAMBIT satellite is launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in 1968. (credit: Peter Hunter Collection)

One of the mysteries of the American reconnaissance satellite program during the Cold War was why, after the KENNEN digital near-real-time reconnaissance satellite entered service in late 1976, the United States continued to operate film-return reconnaissance satellites well into the 1980s.

15/IV 2024 [61-64]

61) Nukes in space: a bad idea in the 1960s and an even worse one now
by Michael Mulvihill Monday, April 15, 2024

Photograph taken from Honolulu of the aurora created by Starfish Prime. (credit: US government archive)

The US and Japan are sponsoring a resolution for debate by the United Nations Security Council which, if passed, will reaffirm international commitments to the 1967 Outer Space Treaty (OST) forbidding the deployment and use of nuclear weapons in space.

62) Zero-gravity regulations
by David Gillette and Emma Rohrbach Monday, April 15, 2024

The commercial spaceflight industry has benefited from a limited regulatory regime that offers lessons for other industries. (credit: Virgin Galactic)

Journalists have filled headlines about the “ultrarich” taking costly field trips to outer space. The issue of space tourism, seemingly frivolous to some, provides important insights into US regulations on innovation (see “The normalization of space tourism,” The Space Review, October 18, 2021.) For 20 years, the US government took a laissez-faire approach to regulating space tourism.

63) FARRAH, the superstar satellite
by Dwayne A. Day Monday, April 15, 2024

Half-sized model of the FARRAH signals intelligence satellite in the restoration hangar at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles International Airport outside Washington, DC. The first FARRAH satellite was launched in 1982 and used to detect ground, and possibly sea-based radars. The way the satellite appears here is similar to how it would orbit the Earth, with the direction of flight for the rotating satellite to the left. The satellite spun at greater than 50 revolutions per minute, sweeping its antennas across the face of the Earth below. (credit: author’s photo)

The Smithsonian’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, located near Dulles International Airport outside of Washington, DC, has a large viewing gallery overlooking its restoration hangar. Whereas some museum artifacts spend years in the restoration hangar, many others cycle through quickly for a cleaning and minor repair work before returning to storage or display.

64) Lunar rover racing
by Jeff Foust Monday, April 15, 2024

The Lunar Dawn rover, proposed by a team led by Lunar Outpost, is among the three selected by NASA for its Lunar Terrain Vehicle program. (credit: Lockheed Martin)

When NASA returns astronauts to the Moon later this decade, they will be hoofing it. On the Artemis 3 and, perhaps, Artemis 4 missions, the astronauts will be limited like the early Apollo missions to terrain they can access on foot. That also means they will be limited in the equipment they can carry, and the samples they can gather, to what they can hold in their hands.

16/IV 2024 [65-68]

65) Review: Still As Bright
by Jeff Foust Monday, April 22, 2024

Still As Bright: An Illuminating History of the Moon, from Antiquity to Tomorrow
by Christopher Cokinos
Pegasus Books, 2024
hardcover, 448 pp., illus.
ISBN 978-1-63936-569-2

Early in his new book Still As Bright, Christopher Cokinos writes that, like so many boys in the early Space Age, he dreamed of becoming an astronaut after first becoming an Air Force pilot, even joining the Civil Air Patrol. “To this day, I remember Miss Hawk literally pulling me out of advanced algebra, though I don’t know why,” he writes, “and by the next class I was in remedial math, resigned, overnight, to never having wings pinned on a uniform.”

66) Tintin, the first man in space and on the Moon
by Anusuya Datta Monday, April 22, 2024

April 12 is a historic day for the space industry. On this day back in 1961, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space. Not to be left behind, the United States sent its first man into space in less than a month—Alan Shepard on May 5—thus sparking the famous space race between the two Cold War superpowers.

67) NASA’s strategy for space sustainability
by Jeff Foust Monday, April 22, 2024

NASA’s TIMED spacecraft came within ten meters of a defunct Russian satellite in February, narrowly avoiding a collision that would have created thousands of pieces of debris in low Earth orbit. (credit: Johns Hopkins APL/Steve Gribben)

At about 1:30 am EST on February 28, NASA’s Thermosphere Ionosphere Mesosphere Energetics and Dynamics Mission (TIMED) spacecraft passed close to a defunct Russian satellite, Cosmos 2221.

68) The ongoing triumph of Ingenuity
by William Pomerantz Monday, April 22, 2024

The Ingenuity Mars helicopter performed 72 flights over nearly three years. (credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU)

This is my love letter to Ingenuity.

I remember when I first heard about the concept of a small helicopter designed to catch a ride with a rover bound for the Martian surface. At the time, my wife worked as part of the “Mars Mafia” at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory: a wonderful job that meant she got to bring intriguing ideas and fascinating discoveries home from work regularly.

17/IV 2024 [69-72]

69) Review: Who Owns the Moon?
by Jeff Foust Monday, April 29, 2024

Who Owns the Moon?: In Defence of Humanity’s Common Interests in Space
by A. C. Grayling
Oneworld Publications, 2024
hardcover, 224 pp.
ISBN 978-0-86154-725-8

The current unfortunate state of space diplomacy was on display last week during a session of the United Nations Security Council. Japan and the United States, with more than 60 nations as co-sponsors, put forward a resolution they billed as the first devoted to space security to be considered by the council.

70) China’s interest in the far side of the Moon: scientific, military, or economic?
by Carlos Alatorre Monday, April 29, 2024

An illustration of Chang’e-6 on the surface of the lunar farside. (credit: CNSA)

On January 3, 2019, China achieved the first successful landing on the far side of the Moon with the Chang’e-4 probe. Twelve hours after touching down in the Von Karman Crater near the Moon’s south pole, the accompanying Yutu-2 rover began an exploration of the crater, a region that neither the United States nor the Soviet Union had explored before. This achievement was announced, gaining much fanfare within China as the first nation to deliver a probe to the far side.

71) Lazy Cat on a mountaintop
by Dwayne A. Day Monday, April 29, 2024

Cold War era artist impression of a Soviet high-powered laser. In the 1970s, the CIA became concerned that Soviet lasers could attack American satellites. (credit: Defense Intelligence Agency for Soviet Military Power)

In the last days of the rule of the Shah of Iran, the CIA installed a new dome atop a mountain next to a field of equipment used to gather information from inside the Soviet Union. But before the intelligence service could put it into operation in 1978, the Shah fell and the CIA hastily abandoned the site.

Ciąg dalszy opowieści o perturbacjach związanych z misją MSR

72) NASA looks for an MSR lifeline
by Jeff Foust Monday, April 29, 2024

A selfie taken by the Perseverance rover showing one of its sample tubes on the ground. NASA is still working to figure out how to get those samples back to Earth effectively. (credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

For more than half a year, dark clouds have hovered over NASA’s Mars Sample Return (MSR) program. Last September, an independent panel concluded that the current approach to returning samples being collected by the Perseverance rover was behind schedule and far over budget, with cost estimates as high as $11 billion. That prompted an internal NASA reassessment of the MSR program that, coupled with uncertainty about spending levels for the program in 2024, led to slowing work on much of MSR and, in February, laying off 8% of the staff at JPL, the lead center for MSR (see “MSR at serious risk”, The Space Review, February 12, 2024). (...)

The main technical difference was the inclusion of a radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG) on the lander, which previously was solar powered, to make lander operations more robust. (Including the RTG, the report noted, made little change to its price but it meant there would be no room for helicopters based on Ingenuity; those were intended to fetch samples from a cache on the surface as a backup to getting them directly from Perseverance.)

18/V 2024 [73-76]

73) Review: The Asteroid Hunter
by Jeff Foust Monday, May 6, 2024

The Asteroid Hunter: A Scientist’s Journey to the Dawn of our Solar System
by Dante S. Lauretta
Grand Central Publishing, 2024
hardcover, 336 pp., illus.
ISBN 978-1-5387-2294-7

Many people can identify a particular point where they found their purpose in life. It can be an event of some kind, either celebratory or traumatic; a chance encounter with someone; or maybe a book. For Dante Lauretta, it was an ad in a student newspaper.

74) The rising flood of space junk is a risk to us on Earth
by Thomas Cheney Monday, May 6, 2024

The ISS was the source of a piece of debris that hit a Florida home in March. (credit: NASA)

A piece of space junk recently crashed through the roof and floor of a man’s home in Florida. NASA later confirmed that the object had come from unwanted hardware released from the International Space Station.

75) Boeing’s Starliner, an important milestone for commercial spaceflight
by Wendy N. Whitman Cobb Monday, May 6, 2024

Starliner is set to launch as soon as Monday night on its first crewed flight. (credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

If all goes well late on May 6, NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams will blast off into space on Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft. Launching from the Kennedy Space Center, this last crucial test for Starliner will test out the new spacecraft and take the pair to the International Space Station for about a week.
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76) Europe looks to end its launcher crisis
by Jeff Foust Monday, May 6, 2024

The first Ariane 6 is taking shape at the spaceport in French Guiana for a launch as soon as this summer. (credit: ESA/ArianeGroup/Arianespace/CNES)

In the early morning hours of April 28, the European Space Agency and European Commission celebrated the launch of the latest two Galileo navigation satellites. But in the announcements of the launch and confirmation that the two satellites were working well in orbit, there was something missing: just how the satellites got into orbit.

19/V 2024 [77-80]

77) Review: Alien Earths
by Jeff Foust Monday, May 13, 2024

Alien Earths: The New Science of Planet Hunting in the Cosmos
by Lisa Kaltenegger
St. Martin’s Press, 2024
hardcover, 288 pp., illus.
ISBN 978-1-250-28363-4

In a paper published last week, astronomers reported the detection of an atmosphere around a rocky “Earth-like” exoplanet, a first. The problem with the announcement, though, was that the exoplanet in question, 55 Cancri e, didn’t seem much like Earth: a diameter twice the size of Earth and a temperature of more than 1,500 degrees Celsius. (“To describe 55 Cancri e as ‘rocky,’ however, could leave the wrong impression,” a press release stated, noting its surface is likely molten.) Combine that with an atmosphere made of carbon monoxide and/or carbon dioxide, and 55 Cancri e doesn’t appear to be particularly hospitable to life.

78) Spaceplanes: why we need them, why they have failed, and how they can succeed
by John Hollaway Monday, May 13, 2024

Despite the failures of dozens of past efforts, companies like Radian Aerospace continue to pursue spaceplanes. (credit: Radian Aerospace)

“Rockets are terribly inefficient and expensive.” This admission can be found here in NASA’s own educational piece on the equation that governs rocket performance, also known as Tsiolkovsky's equation. But what is the alternative?

79) Is it time for space to come out from under the FAA’s wings?
by Jeff Foust Monday, May 13, 2024

The growth of commercial launch and reentry activity had been led by SpaceX, such as with this Falcon 9 launch May 6 from Florida. (credit: SpaceX)

Spaceflight is not routine in the same way as other modes of transportation, but it is becoming more commonplace. Through less than four and a half months of this year, there have been more than 90 orbital launches worldwide. Commercial launches, predominantly by SpaceX, have driven that growth, far offsetting declines by some other countries and companies.

80) Russian research on space nukes and alternative counterspace weapons (part 1)
by Bart Hendrickx Monday, May 13, 2024

Computer-simulated views of high-altitude nuclear explosions produced at the Institute of Computer-Aided Design (IAP) in Moscow. (Source)

In February, White House officials asserted that Russia is developing a space-based anti-satellite system that would violate the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which prohibits the deployment of weapons of mass destruction in orbit. They later confirmed media speculation that the system in question is a nuclear weapon. Part 1 of this article summarizes what has been revealed about the alleged weapon so far and attempts to chart academic and laboratory research on nuclear explosions in space done in Russia in recent years.

20/V 2024 [81-84]

81) Review: Weapons in Space
by Jeff Foust Monday, May 20, 2024

Weapons in Space: Technology, Politics, and the Rise and Fall of the Strategic Defense Initiative
by Aaron Bateman
MIT Press, 2024
paperback, 336 pp.
ISBN 978-0-262-54736-9

One of the most divisive military space programs was the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). To its advocates, SDI offered a way to protect America from nuclear attack and even, in the vision of President Ronald Reagan, render nuclear weapons obsolete. To critics, SDI was derided as “Star Wars,” an effort that was wasteful and ineffective as well as potentially destabilizing.

82) Assigning an identification to a satellite
by Charles Phillips Monday, May 20, 2024

Launches of multiple payloads, like this Falcon 9 rideshare mission in April, share a characteristic that links those payloads together. (credit: SpaceX)

This is another article about a useful technique to analyze satellite’s orbits, a technique that should be used to avoid mistakes in tracking these satellites. This technique should be useful to verify that a satellite is the same if it has not been tracked for a year or so, and I think that it has other uses that I am still developing.

83) Architecting lunar infrastructure
by Jeff Foust Monday, May 20, 2024

Commercial lunar infrastructure could benefit startups like Interlune, which proposes to harvest helium-3 on the Moon. (credit: Interlune)

You may have heard in recent weeks a two-word phrase whose individual words were very familiar but which, until now, had been rarely combined: lunar railroad. Earlier this month, NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC), the agency program that funds work on early-stage technologies, awarded a Phase 2 grant for a project called Flexible Levitation on a Track (FLOAT) to create a maglev railroad of sorts on the Moon and other planetary bodies. “We want to build the first lunar railway system, which will provide reliable, autonomous, and efficient payload transport on the Moon,” explained Ethan Schaler of JPL, who is leading work on FLOAT.
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84) Russian research on space nukes and alternative counterspace weapons (part 2)
by Bart Hendrickx Monday, May 20, 2024

The “Krot” plasma chamber in Nizhniy Novgorod is possibly being used for research on directed-energy counterspace weapons. (Source)

Part 1 summarized recent Russian academic literature on the effects of high-altitude nuclear explosions. The bulk of the research in this field seems to be taking place at Rosatom’s Federal Nuclear Center – All-Russian Scientific Research Institute for Experimental Physics (RFYaTs-VNIIEF) in Sarov and the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Computer-Aided Design (IAP) in Moscow. Both these organizations, as well as several others, also appear to be engaged in research on weapon systems that would mimic some of the effects of nuclear explosions in space without having the same devastating consequences.

Note: Because of the Memorial Day holiday, next week’s issue will be published on Tuesday, May 28.

21/V 2024 [85-88]

85) Why planetary protection matters to the future of space exploration
by Dylan Taylor Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Sample tubes cached by the Perseverance Mars rover for later return to Earth, an effort that requires following planetary protection protocols for both forward and backward contamination. (credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

The hiker’s motto you often hear cited when it comes to dealing with forays into the wilderness is, “leave only footprints, take only memories.” As humanity spreads outward into space we need to try and adopt something similar —perhaps adding, “take only memories, readings, and bring back a few samples.” We are moving outward to study worlds beyond our own. As such, it behooves us to do our best to not alter the very thing that we have gone out to study—if studying these places is why we go there in the first place, which it is.

86) Ed Dwight: The first Black astronaut?
by John M. Logsdon Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Ed Dwight emerges from the New Shepard capsule May 19 after his suborbital spaceflight, more than 60 days after he was identified as a potential astronaut. (credit: Blue Origin)

Ninety-year-old Ed Dwight was one of six people aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard vehicle when it made its suborbital trip into space on May 19, 2024. In reporting on this flight, The New York Times identified Dwight as “the first Black astronaut.” Many other news accounts described him, more correctly, as “the first Black astronaut candidate.”

87) Columbia retold, and untold
by Dwayne A. Day Tuesday, May 28, 2024

The crew of the Columbia. At the Columbia Accident Investigation Board offices, a large photo of the crew hung in the main meeting room, reminding the board members and investigators of the people who lost their lives, and why finding the causes of the accident was so important. (credit: NASA)

Last month, CNN aired a four-part documentary about the Columbia accident that is the most comprehensive retelling of the events two decades ago that shocked the American public and changed the course of the American space program. Space Shuttle Columbia, the Final Flight was co-produced by BBC and Mindhouse Productions, and aired in Britain several months earlier. But despite its extensive interviews and over three-hour running time, the documentary was also incomplete, and distorted the history of what happened after the tragic accident that took seven lives.

88) Starlink’s disruption of the space industry
by Jeff Foust Tuesday, May 28, 2024

A Falcon 9 lifts off May 28 as SpaceX continues a high cadence of missions to deploy Starlink satellites. (credit: SpaceX)

Like many five-year-olds, Starlink celebrated its birthday with a big candle. In its case, it was a Falcon 9 that lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A on May 23, placing 23 Starlink satellites into orbit. That launch took place five years—almost to the minute—after another Falcon 9 lifted off from nearby Space Launch Complex 40 and put 60 Starlink satellites into orbit, the first dedicated launch for the broadband megaconstellation.

22/VI 2024 [89-92]

89) Review: USS Hornet Chronological Pictorial History
by Dwayne A. Day Monday, June 3, 2024

USS Hornet Chronological Pictorial History: Volume III and Volume IV
CVA-12 – CVS-12
Keeping the Peace 1953 – 1970
A William Ballenger Collection
Presented by The USS Hornet Sea, Air & Space Museum
Dennis de Freitas

Recovering astronauts in the middle of the ocean during the 1960s was a complicated, resource-intensive, and expensive operation. The US Navy provided substantial support for Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions, usually an aircraft carrier and other naval vessels. Today, several of the carriers used in these operations—Hornet, Intrepid, and Yorktown—are museum ships, and feature displays about their role in the space program. There are books about the recovery efforts, notably Moon Men Return by Scott Carmichael, and Hornet Plus Three by Bob Fish.

90) Space Resources 2024: In search of the Grand Bargain
by Dennis O’Brien Monday, June 3, 2024

Harvesting resources from the Moon or other bodies raises questions about how those activities can and should be governed. (credit: ESA)

The United Nations sponsored two meetings of space resource experts this spring, one in Luxembourg in March and the other in Vienna in April. The meetings were part of public outreach by the new Working Group on the Legal Aspects of Space Resource Activity (Working Group), created by the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS). The experts were selected by the member states of COPUOS. Although there was a wide spectrum of opinion on many topics, the possibility of an agreement still seems within reach, a grand bargain that will support the private sector while protecting essential public policies.

91) Power politics transcends space security
by Ajey Lele Monday, June 3, 2024

The UN Security deadlocked in a May 20 debate on a Russian resolution to ban weapons in space, weeks after Russia vetoed a resolution regarding nuclear weapons in space. (credit: UN Photo/Manuel ElĂ­as)

For some years now the mockery of space security has been on display at various international forums, particularly at the United Nations (UN). Recently, the UN Security Council (UNSC) voted against a resolution presented by Russia and China that would ban member states from placing weapons of any kind in outer space. Before this, the US-Japan resolution specifically to ban the deployment of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) was vetoed in the UNSC by Russia.
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Załoga przygotowuje się do trzeciej próby startu.
Wyciek (helu) w granicach normy.
Przy okazji wykryto nieoptymalne rozwiązanie konstrukcyjne związane z systemem silników deorbitacyjnych, czemu zaradzono tymczasowo poprzez modyfikację procesu jego działania.

92) Star-crossed liner
by Jeff Foust Monday, June 3, 2024

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner atop its Atlas 5 rocket before a May 6 launch attempt. NASA astronaut Suni Williams is at right, in the tower near the crew access arm. (credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

Sometime in the near future—perhaps as soon as Wednesday morning—an Atlas 5 will finally lift off from Cape Canaveral, carrying Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner with NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams on board.  (...)

Boeing and NASA concluded that Starliner could fly as-is: the leak was not a major risk, and replacing the seal would have required extensive repair work. “If we were to remove the seal completely,” Nappi said, “the leak rate would not exceed our capability to manage that leak. That made us comfortable that, if this leak were to get worse, it would be acceptable to fly.”

Other work conclude that the damaged seal was not a systemic problem, with no evidence of problems with any other seals in the spacecraft’s propulsion system. “This is really not a safety-of-flight issue for ourselves, and we believe that we have a well-understood condition that we can manage,” Nappi concluded. (...)

As it turned out, there was something to be concerned about. The review turned up what he called a “design vulnerability” with Starliner’s propulsion system that had not been recognized. Starliner’s service module has four areas called “doghouses” spaced 90 degrees apart that host both larger Orbital Maneuvering and Attitude Control (OMAC) thrusters and smaller reaction control system (RCS) thrusters. If two adjacent doghouses failed for some reason, though, it would prevent the spacecraft from doing a deorbit burn even though the spacecraft is designed with multiple ways to carry out the deorbit burn using combinations of OMAC and RCS thrusters.

“It’s a pretty diabolical case,” Stich said of that scenario, which he and Nappi emphasized was rare, occurring in less than one percent of the potential combinations of failures in the propulsion system. “You would lose two helium manifolds in two separate doghouses, and they have to be next to each other.”

NASA and Boeing developed another approach to doing the deorbit burn using four RCS thrusters, splitting the deorbit maneuver into two separate burns. But the late discovery of this design vulnerability prompted questions about why it was found only now, after years of development and scrutiny—particularly since it came two months after the agency and the company made the case their reviews had not missed anything. (...)

NASA had hoped to start flying astronauts to the station on Starliner early next year, a mission designated Starliner-1, alternating missions with SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, but it’s not clear now if the certification work can be completed in time to support that schedule. (...)

23/VI 2024 [93-96]

93) Prospects for orbital data centers
by Lawrence Furnival Monday, June 10, 2024

A terrestrial data center. The business case for orbital data centers might close witha modest reduction in launch costs. (credit: KKR)

In the near future, orbital data centers could prove to be an important new revenue stream for launch providers and cloud services. As this article describes, if the price of a Falcon 9 was $20 million instead of $67 million, it would make sense to operate data centers in orbit with their current cost and weight. This goal could be moved significantly closer if space optimized data center systems were available—primarily shielding and cooling systems. Moreover, near-future launch costs per kilogram to low Earth orbit for SpaceX’s next rocket are thought to be about 10% of that of the current Falcon 9.

94) Challenges for India’s emerging commercial launch industry
by Jatan Mehta Monday, June 10, 2024

Agnikul launched a small suborbital rocket May 30 to test technologies for a future orbital launcher. (credit: Agnikul)

After persevering through four scrubbed launch attempts over a month, Chennai-based space startup Agnikul launched its first rocket demonstrator mission called “Suborbital Tech Demonstrator” (SOrTeD) on May 30. Unlike what many national and international media reports have implied though, and which tweets from the company or ISRO don’t actively clarify against, the single-stage SOrTeD vehicle was not intended to reach space. It was not just a suborbital mission but a squarely sub-space one, unlike competitor Skyroot’s 2022 launch of Prarambh, which achieved an apogee of 89.5 kilometers, versus the less than 10 of SOrTeD.

95) Hubble limps along
by Jeff Foust Monday, June 10, 2024

The Hubble Space Telescope at the end of the final shuttle servicing mission to it in May 2009. (credit: NASA)

For months, one of the three remaining working gyroscopes on the Hubble Space Telescope, designated Gyro 3, has been malfunctioning. A problem with the gyro would trigger a safe mode, taking the telescope offline for days while engineers worked to get the gyro working again, allowing observations to resume.

“Gyro 3, to be frank, has always performed a little bit out-of-family on orbit,” said Patrick Crouse, project manager for Hubble at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, during a media telecon last week. “It’s been ongoing work since 2018 on the operations team to learn to live with this gyro and make the best of it.”

96) National Reconnaissance Program crisis photography concepts, part 3: Axumite
by Joseph T. Page II Monday, June 10, 2024

A typical F-4 Phantom II. The NRO studied using the fighter jet as an air-launch platform for a crisis reconnaissance system. (credit: National Archives)

On November 3, 1970, the Deputy Director of the NRO, Dr. Fumio Robert “Bob” Naka, gave a series of presentations to the staff of Mr. Ray S. Cline, the Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research at the State Department. The presentations briefed capabilities within the National Reconnaissance Program (NRP) to monitor the Middle East Cease Fire Zone, established during the War of Attrition (1967–1970), with KH-8 Gambit systems and future capabilities such as KH-9 Hexagon. Additionally, Dr. Naka briefed concepts for future crisis reconnaissance systems, based upon the likelihood of further military action with little or no warning.[1]
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