Max Q — China’s space station gets a staff

Max Q is a weekly newsletter from TechCrunch all about space. Sign up here to receive it weekly on Mondays in your inbox.

This week, China started staffing up its own space station, and Rocket Lab got the nod from NASA to develop small satellites for the purposes of exploring Mars. Meanwhile, space startups continue to raise money and it doesn’t look like the pace of that is going to slow much heading into summer.

China delivers 3 astronauts to its space station

China has launched astronauts to its space station for the first time, delivering three to the station’s core module, where they’ll remain for a mission that lasts until September. This is the first time China has flown a crewed mission since 2012, and it’s also going to set a record for the longest period of time a Chinese astronaut has remained in space continuously.

This will be a big step forward for China’s space program, and a key evolution of its ambitions to establish a continuous presence in low Earth orbit. China is not an International Space Station partner, and no Chinese nationals have ever set foot aboard that station. The European Space Agency had welcomed overtures for them to participate as a member nation in the ISS last decade, but the US refused.

China has sated outright that it will welcome participation in its space station from foreign astronauts, though there hasn’t been any specific agreements put in place for who those might be, or from what countries.

Rocket Lab will build two orbital research spacecraft for a mission to Mars

Image Credits: Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab has landed a contract of a different sort from its usual business, tapped to build small spacecraft that will go to Mars and perform valuable science and exploration missions on behalf of NASA and its partners. These will make use of Rocket Lab’s Photon platform, which is a satellite platform that it originally developed as one of its value-add offerings for its launch customers.

This is unique for Rocket Lab because the spacecraft its developing won’t be launched aboard a Rocket Lab Electron spacecraft, and will instead fly them on a commercial rocket to be selected by NASA in a separate contract process that will happen later.

The goal is to have these fly to the red planet by 2024, and it’ll help support NASA’s deep space exploration ambitions more broadly.

Startups raise $$

Some interesting funding rounds this week, including $5 million for Hydrosat, a company that’s spotting ground temperature from space and providing that to customers for use in industries like agriculture, wildfire and drought risk, water table information and more.

This kind of data has been monitored by weather and environmental monitoring agencies in the past, but Hydrosat aims to collect it at a frequency that hasn’t been possible before.

Meanwhile, another startup whose entire focus is making sure that companies and other users on the ground can make use of Earth observation data also raised a chunk of cash. Skywatch picked up $17.2 million to help expand its platform, which not only provides access to the data for customers, but can actually also provide the customers themselves, a useful feature for brand new satellite companies.

Join us at TC Sessions: Space in December

Last year we held our first dedicated space event, and it went so well that we decided to host it again in 2021. This year, it’s happening mid-December, and it’s once again going to be an entirely virtual conference, so people from all over the world will be able to join — and you can, too.

#agriculture, #astronaut, #china, #european-space-agency, #flight, #human-spaceflight, #hydrosat, #international-space-station, #mars, #nasa, #outer-space, #rocket-lab, #space, #space-exploration, #spacecraft, #spaceflight, #tc, #wildfire

Venus Will Have a Fleet of Spacecraft as Europe Adds Orbiter Mission

The EnVision spacecraft will complement two NASA missions announced last week, ending the relative loneliness of a planet sometimes thought of as Earth’s twin.

#european-space-agency, #geology, #national-aeronautics-and-space-administration, #rocket-science-and-propulsion, #space-and-astronomy, #venus-planet, #volcanoes, #water

What to Name a Bunch of Black Holes? You Had Some Ideas.

Recently, astronomers asked aloud which plural term would best suit the most enigmatic entity in the cosmos. The responses were plentiful.

#black-holes-space, #european-space-agency, #gravitation-and-gravity, #national-aeronautics-and-space-administration, #physics, #space-and-astronomy, #vanderbilt-university, #your-feed-science

Watch SpaceX launch its second crew of Space Station astronauts on a flight-proven Falcon 9 live

SpaceX is set to launch its second operational commercial crew mission to the International Space Station for NASA, with a liftoff time of 5:49 AM EDT (2:49 AM PDT) on Friday morning. The flight will carry four astronauts, including two from NASA, one from JAXA (the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) and one from the ESA (European Space Agency), to the station, where they will begin a regular tour of duty conducting science experiments, and maintaining and upgrading the orbital platform.

This is the second commercial crew mission for SpaceX, which officially qualified its Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket for human flight last year. NASA then launched four astronauts using SpaceX’s human-certified launch system later that year in November, becoming the first private company to deliver people to the ISS, and the first American vehicle to do so since the retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2011. Since the end of that program, NASA has relied on buying rides aboard Russian Soyuz rockets to keep up its representation on the ISS.

There’s already a SpaceX Crew Dragon at the Space Station from that Crew-1 launch last year, and it was relocated to another port on the station earlier this month in preparation for the arrival of the one flying for Crew-2. The Crew-1 Dragon capsule is set to return back to Earth with astronauts on board once they’re relieved by this flight’s crew, likely later this month on April 28.

One major notable change for this launch is the use of a flight-proven Falcon 9 rocket booster. SpaceX has previously used new boosters fresh from the factory for its human launches, though it has a spotless track record when it comes to booster re-use for its cargo flights. It’s also the first re-use of a dragon spacecraft, and both components of this launch system actually previously supported human launches, with the first stage serving during Crew-1, and the Dragon capsule providing the ride for Demo-2, which flew astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley.

The astronauts on today’s flight are Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur from NASA, as well as Akihiko Hoshide from JAXA and Thomas Pesquet from the ESA. As mentioned, liftoff time is set for 5:49 AM EDT, but SpaceX will begin streaming live hours in advance at approximately 1:30 AM EDT on Friday (10:30 PM PDT on Thursday).

#aerospace, #commercial-crew-program, #esa, #european-space-agency, #falcon, #international-space-station, #japan-aerospace-exploration-agency, #jaxa, #nasa, #outer-space, #private-spaceflight, #shuttle, #space, #space-station, #spacecraft, #spaceflight, #spacex, #tc

It’s Dinner Time on the Space Station. Lobster or Beef Bourguignon?

Earth’s gastronomical delights are being adapted to life in orbit.

#cooking-and-cookbooks, #ducasse-alain, #european-space-agency, #french-food-cuisine, #marx-thierry, #national-aeronautics-and-space-administration, #pesquet-thomas-1978, #space-and-astronomy

SpaceX is outfitting it Dragon spacecraft with an observation down for space tourists

SpaceX is set to make a change to its Crew Dragon spacecraft for its forthcoming history-making all-civilian launch, currently set for September 15. That Dragon will replace its International Space Station docking mechanism with a transparent dome, through which passengers will be able to take in an awe-inspiring surround panorama of space and the Earth from an orbital perspective.

The glass dome will be at the ‘nose’ of the Dragon capsule, or its topmost point when it’s loaded upright on top of a Falcon 9 rocket readying for launch. There should be space for one passenger to use it at a time, and it’ll be opened up once the spacecraft is safely out of Earth’s atmosphere, exposed by a protective cover that can be flipped back down to protect the observation deck when the spacecraft re-enters on its return trip.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk called it “the most ‘in space’ you could possibly feel” in a tweet sharing a concept render of the new modification in use. During a press briefing for the upcoming tourist flight, which is called ‘Inspiration4’ and led by billionaire Jared Isaacman, it was described as being similar to the exiting cupola on the International Space Station in terms of the views it affords.

The ISS cupola is an observatory module built by the European Space Agency (ESA) and installed in 2010. Based on these renders from SpaceX, the Dragon version will be a continuous unbroken transparent surface, whereas the ISS cupola is made up of segmented panes separated by support structure, so that could mean Dragon provides a better view.

International Space Station cupola exterior.

International Space Station cupola exterior.

This modification could pave the way for a more permanent alternate configuration of Dragon, one best-suited for SpaceX’s planned commercial passenger missions, most of which will likely aim to do orbital tours without any actual docking at the ISS. It’s possible the company will make further cabin modifications when the vehicle isn’t configured for crew delivery to the orbital science station.

SpaceX also revealed new details about the Inspiration4 mission today, including its planned launch date of September 15, and a three-day mission flight duration. The remaining two passengers on board the four-person crew were also revealed this morning.

#aerospace, #ceo, #commercial-spaceflight, #elon-musk, #esa, #european-space-agency, #international-space-station, #outer-space, #space, #spacecraft, #spaceflight, #spacex, #tc

IoT satellite network startup Hiber secures €26M in funding round led by EU’s innovation agency

European satellite and communications startup, Hiber BV has secured €26 million in EU and private investment to expand its IoT satellite network.  The funding comes from the European Innovation Council Fund (EIC Fund), the EU’s innovation agency, which has a €278 million Innovation Fund. The EIC co-invested with an innovation credit provided by the Dutch government and existing shareholders. Other investors include Finch Capital, Netherlands Enterprise Agency and Hartenlust Group. Hiber’s satellite constellation tracks and monitors machines and devices in harder-to-reach places.

At the same time co-founder of Hiber, Laurens Groenendijk, is to step aside as managing director to turn his attention to “other investment initiatives” the company said in a statement. Steven Kroonsberg joins as CFO. Roel Jansen joins as CCO. Groenendijk has been Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer at Treatwell as well as a serial investor.

Coen Janssen, Chief Strategy Officer and co-founder of Hiber, commented: “The €26 million funding is fantastic validation for Hiber’s success and a major boost for the European ‘New Space’ sector. It is a key step in realizing our aim of making the Internet of Things really simple and available for everyone in remote and developing regions of the world.”

In particular, because it can reach out-of-the-way areas, Hiber’s network may be able to reduce losses in food production and leakages from oil wells.

Nicklas Bergman, European Innovation Council Fund Committee Member, commented: “I am glad to announce the EIC Fund support to this highly innovative company aiming at creating a European champion in the satellite Internet of Things sector. This equity financing will help Hiber to enable affordable and ubiquitous connectivity for the IoT solutions.”

Elia Montanari, Head of Management and Control at the European Space Agency, commented: “This major success has been supported at European level by collaboration of major EU bodies (EIC, EIB, ESA) fostering the Space Value Chain”.

#articles, #cfo, #chief-executive-officer, #esa, #europe, #european-innovation-council, #european-investment-bank, #european-space-agency, #european-union, #finch-capital, #food-production, #innovation, #internet-of-things, #iot, #satellite-constellation, #satellite-internet, #tc

Europe Wants to Diversify Its Pool of Astronauts

In its first hiring drive in over a decade, the continent’s space agency is looking to recruit disabled people and more women.

#disabilities, #europe, #european-space-agency, #european-union, #international-space-station, #space-and-astronomy, #women-and-girls, #womens-rights

3 VCs discuss space junk and what else they’re betting on right now

Space may be the final frontier, but in terms of investment, VCs are just getting started. With that in mind during TC Sessions: Space 2020 last week, we spoke to three investors who’ve been actively funding what could become tomorrow’s biggest companies to learn where they might focus next.

Sustainability is a major issue for all of their portfolio companies.

Our guests — Tess Hatch of Bessemer Venture Partners, who has long focused on the commercialization of space; Mike Collett of Promus Ventures, a venture firm that invests in deep tech software and hardware companies; and Chris Boshuizen of the venture firm DCVC and a cofounder of Planet Labs — had a lot of intriguing observations on topics, including the dangers of orbital debris, space manufacturing, and how they’d rate the U.S. government when it comes to fostering space-related innovations.

For those who missed the event, we’ve posted a video of our conversation below.

Space junk could affect long-term sustainability

Hatch, who recently co-authored an informative piece on the topic, said there’s little consensus about whether space junk is a critical matter that deserves more regulatory attention or an issue that will resolve itself through tech advancements, even while startups like Astroscale and D-Orbit are focused on the issue. The commercial industry’s expectation seems to be that space companies can regulate themselves and launch constellations without leaving pieces of launch vehicles or rocket stages in space, she said.

For her part, Hatch said it’s something to potentially invest in within a “handful of years.” At the moment, she added, “it’s not at the top of my list just due to looking for a shorter return on my investment for my LPs in the fund.”

Collett and the others stressed that in the meantime, sustainability is a major issue for all of their portfolio companies. “Everybody wants to do their job as a corporate citizen to make sure they’re not leaving anything else up there that doesn’t need to be there. Indeed, Boshuizen noted that at Planet Labs, best practices were taken very seriously.

Still, Boshuizen noted concerns about newer capital sources that might be less focused on the issue of space debris. “I don’t think everyone necessarily has the same space background,” he said, explaining that “we’re seeing a lot of outside investment from new people joining the industry, which is exciting, but also they don’t really know how important this is [and] it’s important for people to realize that they’ve got to pay attention to this.”

#aerospace, #european-space-agency, #mike-collett, #planet-labs, #promus-ventures, #space, #space-debris, #startups, #tc, #tess-hatch, #venture-capital

Watch SpaceX launch a satellite that will monitor the world’s oceans

SpaceX is set to launch a Falcon 9 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Saturday morning, with a target liftoff time of 9:17 AM PST (12:17 PM EST). This is the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich Mission, which carries a satellite of the same name developed by the European Space Agency, NASA, and both U.S. and European meteorological monitoring bodies.

The Sentinel-6 is named for former NASA Earth Science Division Director Michael Freilich, who occupied the position between 2006 and 2019 and passed away in August. It’s one of two Sentinel-6-series satellites that will be launched for the program, with the Sentinel-6B set to join the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich sometime in 2025.

SpaceX will be looking to recover the Falcon 9 first stage booster with a powered landing back on Earth at Landing Zone 4 at Vandenberg. This is the first SpaceX launch from Vandenberg since June of last year, though it has flown plenty of missions from both Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The webcast above will go live approximately 15 minutes prior to the liftoff time, so at around 9:02 AM PST (12:02 PM EST). Should this mission have to be canceled today, there’s a backup opportunity set for Sunday at 9:04 AM PST (12:04 PM PST).

#aerospace, #california, #elon-musk, #european-space-agency, #falcon, #falcon-9, #florida, #hyperloop, #outer-space, #space, #spaceflight, #spacex, #tc, #united-states

A new window that forever changed our view of Earth.

Many of the greatest images you’ve seen from the space station were made in the cupola.

#earth, #european-space-agency, #international-space-station, #national-aeronautics-and-space-administration, #photography, #space-and-astronomy

European Space Agency awards $153 million contract for its first planetary defense mission

The European Space Agency (ESA) is doing its part to help protect the Earth from any errant asteroids that may threaten terrestrial life, awarding a €129.4 million ($153 million) contract to an industry consortium led by German space company OHB. The contract covers the “detailed design, manufacturing and testing” of a mission codenamed ‘Hera,’ after the Greek goddess of marriage and the hearth, which will support NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirect Test mission and help provide a path towards future planetary defense operations in space.

ESA’s Hera mission will launch a desk-sized satellite, which itself will contain small CubeSats, to perform a post-impact assessment of the effect NASA’s DART spacecraft has on as asteroid that it’s designed to essentially smash into at high velocity. Hera is intended to navigate around the asteroid autonomously while collecting data to help scientists back here on Earth understand whether their ambitious plan has been successful, in terms of using a human-made spacecraft to intentionally impact with an asteroid and change its trajectory through space.

The CubeSats will inspect the asteroid close-up once deployed from Hera – including a potential interior probe with a radar array, the first of its kind for an asteroid body. All told, Hera and its CubeSate companions will be spending six months studying the asteroids following their encounter with DART.

NASA’s mission is set to launch sometime in July, 2021, and will arrive at the pair of asteroids – called the ‘Didymos’ pair – in September the following year. The ESA’s Hera mission is set to launch in October 2024, and then rendezvous with the asteroids in 2026, so there will be a considerable gap between the impact and Hera’s close-up study – time during which its effects should hopefully be apparent.

#aerospace, #aida, #asteroids, #cubesat, #esa, #european-space-agency, #manufacturing, #outer-space, #prevention, #science, #space, #tc

Missions to Venus: Highlights From History, and When We May Go Back

Much visited in an earlier era of space exploration, the planet has been overlooked in recent decades.

#european-space-agency, #extraterrestrial-life, #india, #national-aeronautics-and-space-administration, #private-spaceflight, #research, #rocket-lab, #rocket-science-and-propulsion, #space-and-astronomy, #ussr-former-soviet-union, #venus-planet

European launch provider Arianespace successfully launches a satellite rideshare demonstration mission

The small satellite launch industry is heating up, with a number of small launch providers currently vying to become the next with an active orbital launch vehicle. Existing large launch vehicle operator Arianespace is also joining the fray, however, and performed a first demonstration launch to show how its rideshare offering will work for small satellite companies. This also marks the first launch for Arianespace in over a year, after a number of launches planned for earlier in 2020 were scrubbed or delayed due to COVID-19 and the mitigating measures put in place in French Guiana where it has its launch facility.

Arianespace launched its Vega light payload rocket from the Guiana Space Center at 9:51 PM ET (6:51 PM PT) on Wednesday evening, carrying a total of 53 satellites on board to various target destinations in low Earth orbit. This was a proof-of-concept mission, funded in part by the European Space Agency and the European Commission, but it did carry actual satellites on behalf of commercial customers – including 26 for remote space-based sensing company Planet. IoT connectivity startup Swarm had 12 of its tiny satellites on board, and communications satellite startup Kepler sent up. its third-satellite. Two other startups, Satellogic, which does remote sensing, and GHGSat, which does methane emission tracking, also had satellites among the large shared payload.

This mission was intended to show that Arianespace’s Vega vehicle is able to serve the needs of small satellite rideshare customers. The rideshare model is a popular one for small satellite operators, since it helps spread the cost of a launch across multiple customers. Small satellites are extremely lightweight relative to the large, geosynchronous satellites that many of these launch vehicles were intended to carry on behalf of government and defense customers, so their operators typically don’t have the budget to support booking up a full-scale launch.

SpaceX introduced a self-booked rideshare model last year for small satellite companies, and Rocket Lab offers a service dedicated to the same market, with smaller launch vehicles that greatly reduce launch costs and that can carry small satellites more directly to their target destination. The market seems ready to support more launch providers, however, and for Arianespace, it’s a way to diversify their offering and bring in new revenue while serving this growing demand.

#aerospace, #arianespace, #european-commission, #european-space-agency, #flight, #outer-space, #rocket-lab, #satellite, #satellogic, #space, #spaceflight, #spacex, #startups, #tc, #vega

NASA successfully launches its Mars 2020 Perseverance rover using an Atlas V rocket

NASA has launched one of its most crucial science missions to date, the Mars 2020 mission that carries its Perseverance robotic rover. This rover, a successor to the Curiosity robotic explorer, is equipped with sensors specifically designed to help it hopefully fund evidence of ancient, microbiotic life on Mars.

Mars 2020 departed from Cape Canaveral in Florida at 7:50 AM EDT (4:50 PM PDT). Perseverance was loaded atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket, which had a good liftoff and deployed its second stage which put the spacecraft into a parking orbit as it readies to depart on its trip towards Mars, which will see it arrive in February 2021.

Once at Mars, the lander vehicle will take Perseverance down to the planet’s surface on February 18, 2021, to a target landing zone found in what’s known as Jezero Crater. This location on Mars was once a lake, long ago when the atmosphere on Mars was quite different than the dry, dusty and cold environment we know today. This has been chosen specifically because it’s a prime spot for finding any evidence of microbiological life that might exist, since it contains one of the best-preserved deposits of a river delta on Mars.

NASA scientists don’t expect to be able to confirm the existence of life on Mars using the instruments on Perseverance, however – they think they can find strong indications that the conditions and materials necessary for life once existed, but the ultimate proof could come from the ambitious Mars sample return mission being planned for 2026. This would involve NASA launching a return rocket to the red planet, which will carry a rocket that can take off from the Mars surface with samples collected by Perseverance on board. That would then meet up with a rover to be launched by the European Space Agency (ESA) which would then make the trip all the way back to Earth for scientists to study.

In addition to its contained, radioactive nuclear battery power source, environment sensors, cameras and a suite of other instruments to help pick up any preserved evidence of ancient life, Perseverance is equipped with microphones. This is the first time that microphones are making the trip to the surface of another world, and it means we could hear what it sounds like on the surface of another world, something we’ve never done before.

Perseverance also carries the Mars Ingenuity helicopter, a small drone designed for first-ever self-powered flight, which is also designed to warm itself to survive the cold Martian night. It is set to hopefully make up to five flights in 30 days, could include color photos – the first ever taken from an aerial vantage point.

This is a great first step for this historic Mars 2020 mission, and now we’ll wait and watch for other significant milestones, including next in around two weeks when the spacecraft fires its engines for its departure from Earth’s orbit and begins the long trip to Mars.

#aerospace, #esa, #european-space-agency, #florida, #mars, #mars-rover, #outer-space, #perseverance, #robotics, #rover, #science, #space, #spacecraft, #spaceflight, #tc

Watch NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover launch live

NASA is set to launch its newest rover to Mars later this morning. The liftoff is set for 7:50 AM EDT (4:50 AM PDT), with a broadcast beginning at 7:00 AM EDT (4:00 AM PDT). This mission will launch a ULA Atlas V rocket to carry the Perseverance rover to Mars with a trip that will last several months, arriving in February 2021.

The 2,260-lb rover is equipped with a range of sensors to help it search for signs of past micro organic life on Mars, as well as study the planet’s amtospheric and geological makeup. It also carries with it a helicopter drone called Ingenuity, which will seek to become the first ever vehicle to take-off and fly within the Mars atmosphere.

Perseverance is a big upgrade over prior rovers in a number of ways. It can cover way more ground operating autonomously per day than any of its predecessors, for instance, which should help it conduct more science than ever before. It’s also equipped with 19 cameras to provide a full, detailed and high-quality view of its surroundings back to Earth. The rover is also designed to prime the pump for future human Mars exploration (and long-duration human Moon missions), with experiments on board like MOXIE, an instrument that will create oxygen from the CO2 found in Mars’ atmosphere, and will set the stage for a washing machine-sized version to be developed in future that will essentially act as a self-sustaining Mars power source.

Image Credits: NASA

The Perseverance rover is also unique in that it is preparing for a return trip for some of the samples it collects: The plan is to ultimately combine the efforts of NASA and the European Space Agency to retrieve samples of Martian soil that Perseverance leaves behind in collection canisters using a future spacecraft and retrieval lander, so that they can be studied directly back here on Earth.

#aerospace, #astronomy, #european-space-agency, #exomars, #mars, #outer-space, #perseverance, #rover, #science, #space, #spaceflight, #tc

NASA reveals the astronauts who will fly on SpaceX’s second operational Crew Dragon spacecraft mission

NASA and SpaceX are looking to finish up the final demonstration mission of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon astronaut spacecraft at the end of this week, but it’s already looking ahead to Crew-2 – the second operational flight of Crew Dragon, currently set for sometime next spring. The agency revealed the four people that will fly aboard that launch, including two NASA astronauts, as well as one from the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and one from the European Space Agency (ESA).

NASA astronauts Megan McCarthur and Shane Kimbrough will join JAXA’s Akihiko Hoshide and ESA’s Thomas Pesquet on that flight, which will follow Crew-1 currently scheduled for sometime in late September after Demo-2 concludes. This is a regular mission, meaning the crew will be staffing the International Space Station for an extended period – six months for this stretch, sharing the orbital research platform with three astronauts who will be using a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to make the trip.

That means there will be seven total crew members sharing the Station at once, which is an increase of its usual full complement of six. It sounds like that’s going to become the new normal according to NASA, with the extra person meaning that the crew can “effectively double the amount of science that can be conducted in space.”

If it doesn’t sound like the math works out on that, consider that ISS crew members spend a lot of their time on routine maintenance and operational tasks. A seventh person on board helping with those everyday activities should indeed free up a lot of additional time for people to conduct experiments and do research, since it means less time split for needed, but unscientific, activities involved in keeping the orbital platform operating well.

All members of this crew have previously spent time in space, but this will be McArthurs’ first trip to the International Space Station. Her last trip to space was aboard the Space Shuttle in 2009, when she participated in the final servicing mission for the Hubble Space Telescope. McArthur is also the wife of fellow astronaut Bob Behnken, who is currently at the ISS having launched on Crew Dragon for its first ever human spaceflight.

#aerospace, #astronaut, #esa, #european-space-agency, #international-space-station, #outer-space, #science, #space, #space-shuttle, #spacecraft, #spaceflight, #spacex, #tc

Bringing Mars Rocks to Earth: Our Greatest Interplanetary Circus Act

NASA and the European Space Agency plan to toss rocks from one spacecraft to another before the samples finally land on Earth in 2031.

#european-space-agency, #geology, #mars-planet, #national-aeronautics-and-space-administration, #perseverance-mars-rover, #research, #rocket-science-and-propulsion, #space-and-astronomy

Closest Pictures Ever Taken of Sun Show Tiny Campfire Flares

Images of the new phenomenon were captured by Solar Orbiter, a joint European-NASA mission to study the sun.

#european-space-agency, #national-aeronautics-and-space-administration, #research, #solar-orbiter-spacecraft, #solar-system, #sun

NASA signs agreement with Japan to cooperate across Space Station, Artemis and Lunar Gateway projects

NASA has signed a new agreement with Japan that lays out plans for the two nations to cooperate on the International Space Station (continuing existing partnership between the countries there) as well as on NASA’s Artemis program, which includes missions in lunar space and to the lunar surface.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine signed the agreement with Government of Japan Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Koichi Hagiuda on July 10. It’s a Joint Exploration Decoration of Intent (JEDI), which essentially commits the two countries to laying the groundwork for more concrete plans about how the two nations will work together on projects that will extend all the way to include both robotic and human exploration of the Moon .

Japan was one of the earliest countries to express their intent to participate as an international partner in NASA’s Lunar Gateway project, all the way back in October 2019. Since then, a number of countries and agencies have expressed similar support, including Canada, which will contribute by building a third version of its Canadarm, the robotic manipulator that has been used on the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station, and the European Space Agency.

This new agreement formalizes that arrangement, and from here you can expect both parties to begin to detail in more specificity what kinds of projects they’ll collaborate on. Japan has plans to launch a robotic space probe mission to the moons of Mars and return samples from Phobos, its largest natural satellite, with a launch schedule for 2024, and it has launched a lunar orbiter exploration spacecraft called SELENE, and is planning a lunar lander mission dubbed the ‘Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) for 2022 that will be its first lunar surface mission.

#aerospace, #artemis-program, #canada, #commercial-lunar-payload-services, #culture, #european-space-agency, #international-space-station, #japan, #jim-bridenstine, #lunar-lander, #moon, #outer-space, #science, #space, #spacecraft, #spaceflight, #sports, #tc

NASA, ESA and JAXA launch virtual hackathon for COVID-19 solutions

In an impressive display of international collaboration, NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) have come together to launch a virtual hackathon running between May 30 and May 31, with the aim of using open data to develop innovative solutions to problems arising from the global COVID-19 pandemic.

All three space agencies obviously work together on a regular basis, but this effort, cubed the ‘Space Apps COVID-19 Challenge,’ aims to pool their resources for a 48-hour concentrated sprint to employ Earth observation data gathered by satellites, info which should provide useful in examine how the virus spreads, and what kind of impacts it’s having on the Earth, ecosystems and cites.

Each agency involved is providing access to data gathered from satellites they respectively operate, and while Space Apps has run previously as a regular challenge offered by NASA to encourage use of its data for innovative problem-solving and product development. This is the first time that all agencies are collaborating on a global virtual hackathon, however.

NASA has also used its own internal crowdsourcing platform to seek ideas for ways that the agency can address the COVID-19 crisis and issues stemming from the coronavirus and its spread. The Space Apps Challenge is open to outside participants, however, and often sees participation from student, science and engineering teams around the world.

#aerospace, #apps, #esa, #european-space-agency, #government, #hackathons, #health, #japan-aerospace-exploration-agency, #jaxa, #nasa, #space, #tc

Valispace raises $2.4M lead by JOIN Capital to become the ‘Github for hardware’

Hardware engineering is mostly document-based. A typical satellite might be described in several hundred thousand PDF documents, spreadsheets, simulation files and more; all potentially inconsistent between each other. This can lead to costly mistakes. NASA lost a $125 million Mars orbiter because one engineering team used metric units while another used English units, for instance.

Germany-HQ’d Valispace, which also has offices in Portugal, dubs itself as “Github for hardware”. In other words, it’s a collaboration platform for engineers, allowing them to develop better satellites, planes, rockets, nuclear fusion reactors, cars and medical devices, you name it. It’s a browser-based application, which stores engineering data and lets the users interconnect them through formulas. This means that when one value is changed, all other values are updated, simulations re-run and documentation rewritten automatically.

That last point is important in this pandemic era, where making and improving medical ventilators has become a huge global issue.

Valispace has now raised a Seed Extension funding round of €2.2M / $2.4M lead by JOIN Capital in Berlin and was joined by HCVC (Hardware Club), based in Paris.

The funding will be used to expand into new industries (e.g. medical devices, robotics) and expansion of the existing ones (aeronautics, space, automotive, energy). The company is addressing the Systems Engineering Tool market in Europe which is worth €7Billion, while the US market is at least as big. It’s competitors include RHEA CDP4, Innoslate, JAMA and the largest player Status Quo.

Marco Witzmann, CEO of Valispace said: “Valispace has proven to help engineers across industries to develop better hardware. From drones to satellites, from small electronic boxes to entire nuclear fusion reactors. When modern companies like our customers have the choice, they chose an agile engineering approach with Valispace.”

Tobias Schirmer from JOIN Capital commented: “Browser-based collaboration has become a must for any modern hardware company, as the importance of communication across teams and offices increases.”

The company now counts BMW, Momentus, Commonwealth Fusion Systems and Airbus as customers.
Witzmann previously worked on Europe’s biggest Satellite Program (Meteosat Third Generation) as a Systems Engineer, while his Portugal-based co-founder Louise Lindblad (COO) worked at the European Space Agency, developing satellites and drones.

As satellite engineers, both were surprised that while the products they were working on were cutting edge, the tools to develop them seemed to be from the 80s. In 2016 they launched Valispace as a company, convincing Airbus to become one of their first customers.

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