Nokia secures $14.1m NASA funding to roll out 4G on the Moon
Nokia is teaming up with NASA to ensure that the new wave of lunar astronauts will be able to post their experience to their Instagram account if they so desire. The Finnish telecoms company will receive $14.1m funding from the US space agency to build a 4G cellphone network on the moon. The announcement comes as part of a $370m slew of contracts issued yesterday, as NASA pushes toward a return to the Moon in 2024 – with the first crew of the Artemis missions expected to include at least one woman.
The contract has been awarded to Nokia’s US subsidiary but will draw on the experience of the whole company. “The system could support lunar surface communications at greater distances, increased speeds, and provide more reliability than current standards,” said NASA in awarding the contract.
The 4G network would be used by astronauts, vehicles and as a foothold for any future permanent Moonbase: “With NASA funding, Nokia will look at how terrestrial technology could be modified for the lunar environment to support reliable, high-rate communications,” adds Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate.
ISS oxygen supply system in Russian module fails, but the crew is OK
First a pesky air leak on the space station and now this.
The International Space Station is all about redundancy. There's more than one toilet on the ISS, and there's more than one oxygen supply system that provides precious air for the crew in orbit. It's still not great when one of those systems fails.
An oxygen supply system in the Russian-built Zvezda module of the station failed Wednesday, according to an AFP report. It's not the only oxygen generation system on board, so the crew of six -- which includes three new arrivals from NASA and Roscosmos -- is not in danger.
A Roscosmos spokesperson told AFP that the crew will work to repair the issue this week.
Zvezda has been in orbit for 20 years. NASA describes it as "the early cornerstone for the first human habitation of the station." It contains living quarters, flight systems and life support systems.
During the original 1969-1972 Apollo missions, engineers were fully reliant on radio communication through a network of transmitters, base stations, and relays, back on earth, using NASA’s ‘S-Band’ of 2-4Ghz.
A digital, cellular service will be a vast improvement in terms of quality and efficiency of surface-to-surface communications, once we return to the Moon to stay.
but actually a good idea
$14M seems a bit low. Maybe that's just for the design research.
A spacecraft en route to Mercury just caught this fresh new look at Venus
New images taken by BepiColombo come at a time when interest in the second planet from the sun is at an all time high.
BepiColombo, a Mercury-bound mission jointly run by the European Space Agency and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), is snapping up a wealth of new images and collecting some new data that may tease out new clues about the Venusian atmosphere—and whether it could be home to extraterrestrial life.
What happened: On Thursday morning, as part of a long journey to Mercury, BepiColombo made a close pass of Venus at a distance of about 6,660 miles. The flyby is meant to use Venus’s gravity as a speed-reducing force to adjust the trajectory of the spacecraft on to its eventual destination.
Hype of life: Although the flyby was planned for maneuvering purposes, it afforded scientists an opportunity for a closer look at Venus. The interest around the flyby is bigger since last month’s revelations that Venus’s clouds contain phosphine, a possible sign that there is biological activity on the planet. If the phosphine is there, then there’s a good chance it’s a result of biology, and that means life might be residing within the thick, carbon-rich atmosphere. However, it’s also possible those traces of phosphine might be the result of exotic natural chemistry not found on Earth. Still cool, but not aliens.
What did the mission actually observe? Most of BepiColombo’s instruments are still stored away until the rendezvous with Mercury—including its primary camera. Those that are functional at the moment (10 in total) are still designed primarily for studying the atmosphere-less Mercury. But there are still some bits of data the spacecraft collected that may be useful.
Moreover, this first flyby of Venus could be thought of as a practice run for a second one BepiColombo will make in August 2021. Now that the mission team has a better sense of how to better calibrate these instruments to study Venus more closely, they’ll have a better opportunity to do some better data collection next year, when the distance will shrink down to just 340 miles. The chances of detecting phosphine on that flyby are still slim, but not zero. And traces of other biosignatures could be spotted too.
And what about Mercury? The mission will make its first flyby of Mercury the following October. The three separate spacecraft that make up BepiColombo will separate completely when the mission enters Mercury’s orbit in 2025.
NASA mission will touch down on asteroid Bennu today
(CNN)After orbiting the near-Earth asteroid Bennu for nearly two years, NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is ready to reach out its robotic arm and collect a sample from the asteroid's surface on Tuesday. That sample will be returned to Earth in 2023.
A van-size spacecraft has to briefly touch down its arm in a landing site called Nightingale. The site is the width of a few parking spaces. The arm will collect a sample between 2 ounces and 2 kilograms before backing away to safety.
"It's a historic first mission for NASA, returning an asteroid sample, and it's hard," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, during a Monday press conference.
The site itself is nestled within a crater the size of a tennis court and ringed in building-size boulders.
Located more than 200 million miles from Earth, Bennu is a boulder-studded asteroid shaped like a spinning top and as tall as the Empire State Building. It's a "rubble pile" asteroid, which is a grouping of rocks held together by gravity rather than a single object.
NASA Contacts Voyager 2 Using Upgraded Deep Space Network Dish
The only radio antenna that can command the 43-year-old spacecraft has been offline since March as it gets new hardware, but work is on track to wrap up in February.
On Oct. 29, mission operators sent a series of commands to NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft for the first time since mid-March. The spacecraft has been flying solo while the 70-meter-wide (230-foot-wide) radio antenna used to talk to it has been offline for repairs and upgrades. Voyager 2 returned a signal confirming it had received the "call" and executed the commands without issue.
The call to Voyager 2 was a test of new hardware recently installed on Deep Space Station 43, the only dish in the world that can send commands to Voyager 2. Located in Canberra, Australia, it is part of NASA's Deep Space Network (DSN), a collection of radio antennas around the world used primarily to communicate with spacecraft operating beyond the Moon. Since the dish went offline, mission operators have been able to receive health updates and science data from Voyager 2, but they haven't been able to send commands to the far-flung probe, which has traveled billions of miles from Earth since its 1977 launch.
Among the upgrades to DSS43, as the dish is known, are two new radio transmitters. One of them, which is used to talk with Voyager 2, hasn't been replaced in over 47 years. Engineers have also upgraded heating and cooling equipment, power supply equipment, and other electronics needed to run the new transmitters.
The successful call to Voyager 2 is just one indication that the dish will be back online in February 2021.
"What makes this task unique is that we're doing work at all levels of the antenna, from the pedestal at ground level all the way up to the feedcones at the center of the dish that extend above the rim," said Brad Arnold, the DSN project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab in Southern California. "This test communication with Voyager 2 definitely tells us that things are on track with the work we're doing."
NASA launch Saturday: This satellite will track Earth's sea level rise
More than 830 miles above Earth's surface, a next-generation satellite will keep an eye on global sea levels. The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite launched Saturday.
The joint venture between NASA and the European Space Agency launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on November 21 at 12:17 p.m. ET.
A livestream of the launch was available to watch on NASA's website. The satellite launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
The Falcon 9's first stage returned for a vertical landing on Earth.
Once in orbit, the pickup truck-size satellite will track global sea level for the next five and a half years.
For 30 years, satellites have helped monitor Earth's sea level. This satellite is the latest in that series, but it will collect the most accurate data yet on the global sea level and how it shifts in response to climate change.
Sentinel-6 has a higher resolution for collecting measurements, which means that it can track both large features, like the Gulf Stream, as well as smaller features such as coastline variations.
The satellite will gather data that can be used to improve weather forecasting, hurricane tracking and climate models, like humidity and atmospheric temperature. Scientists can also use the data to forecast areas where coastlines may shift.
This is a two-pronged mission and the satellite has a twin, Sentinel-6B, which will launch in 2025. Together, the twin satellites will carry the tradition of continuous monitoring of sea level rise into a fourth decade.
China's new moon mission to return the first lunar samples since 1976
The Chang’e-5 spacecraft is on its way to collect the youngest pieces of the moon ever returned to Earth, helping scientists piece together mysteries of lunar history.
China is attempting its most complex and ambitious space mission to date with the launch of its Chang’e-5 spacecraft, which will attempt to do something that has not been done since the 1970s: bring pristine pieces of the moon back to Earth.
On November 23 at around 3:30 p.m. ET, a Long March 5 rocket lifted off from Wenchang Satellite Launch Center, on the coast of China’s Hainan Island, carrying the 8.2-ton spacecraft. After separating from the rocket, Chang’e-5 will use its own thrusters to make the estimated four-day trip to the moon. The spacecraft will then release a lander that will touch down near a volcanic mound called Mons Rümker in the northwest region of the lunar near side. There, it will drill and scoop samples from the surface and store them in a protective capsule.
Chang’e 5 landing site
Aiming for the flat volcanic plain of Oceanus Procellarum, this Chinese lander is tasked with sampling lunar soil and rock and launching the specimens back to Earth. https://i.imgur.com/eDD9o9l.jpg
An ascent module on the lander will then launch that capsule back into orbit around the moon, hopefully carrying around 4.5 pounds of lunar material. Finally, the orbiting spacecraft will collect the capsule and return it to Earth, sending it on a high-speed reentry to land in Mongolia at the end of the roughly 23-day-long mission.
BTW ... it seems that I can see night launches from my property. It's about 100 miles as the crow flies to the cape. Saw one a couple of weeks ago at night. Looked like a red comet. Impressive even from this distance. Pictures were crap. Next time.
Chinese probe completes sample collection work on lunar surface
Chinese officials said the Chang’e 5 mission finished drilling and scooping samples from a lunar lava plain late Wednesday, hours before the spacecraft’s robotic ascender was due to take off from the moon to begin the trip back to Earth.
The milestone signaled the start of the mission’s return voyage, which includes an ambitious series of automated maneuvers to blast off from the lunar surface Thursday and rendezvous with an orbiter circling the moon. Chang’e 5 will attempt the first-ever docking between two robotic spacecraft in lunar orbit, then transfer the moon rock container into the return craft.
If all goes according to plan, Chang’e 5’s sample container should re-enter Earth’s atmosphere and parachute to a landing in China’s Inner Mongolia region around Dec. 16.
Chang’e 5 completed its sample collection work on the moon around 9 a.m. EST (1400 GMT) Wednesday, according to the China National Space Administration.
The lander touched down at 10:11 a.m. EST (1511 GMT) Tuesday in the moon’s Oceanus Procellarum, or Ocean of Storms, region in the northern hemisphere of the near side of the moon, east of a volcanic plateau named Mons Rümker.
CNSA said the lander deployed solar panels and a communications antenna after landing, then activated a panoramic camera, an instrument to analyze lunar soil structure, and a mineral spectrum analyzer to survey the alien landscape surrounding the spacecraft.
As early as Tuesday, December 8, the SpaceX team will make the first attempt of a high-altitude suborbital flight test of Starship serial number 8 (SN8) from our site in Cameron County, Texas. The schedule is dynamic and likely to change, as is the case with all development testing.
This suborbital flight is designed to test a number of objectives, from how the vehicle’s three Raptor engines perform, and the overall aerodynamic entry capabilities of the vehicle, including its body flaps, to how the vehicle manages propellant transition. SN8 will also attempt to perform a landing flip maneuver, which would be a first for a vehicle of this size.
With a test such as this, success is not measured by completion of specific objectives but rather how much we can learn as a whole, which will inform and improve the probability of success in the future as SpaceX rapidly advances development of Starship.
This will be a live feed of the flight test and will start a few minutes prior to liftoff. Stay tuned to our social media channels for updates as we move toward our first high altitude flight test of Starship!
SpaceX to attempt major Starship SN8 prototype test flight Tuesday. Here's how to watch live.
SpaceX's webcast is scheduled to start at 7 a.m. EST (1200 GMT).
(About 10 PM Japan time; or 8 hours from now, if my math is correct)
Moon rocks arrive on Earth for the first time since 1976 as China lunar mission ends
For the first time in more than 40 years, a capsule has returned to Earth carrying samples of rocks from the moon — thanks to a Chinese spacecraft that touched down Wednesday afternoon.
According to state media, a capsule from the uncrewed Chang'e 5 probe landed with its parachutes in the Siziwang district of the Inner Mongolia region just after 1:00 p.m. ET Wednesday, early Thursday morning in the region.
Shortly after the spacecraft touched down, state media tweeted photos of a ground search and recovery team hunting for the capsule at the landing site. It also reported that Chinese President Xi Jinping has congratulated the success of the mission.
Earlier this month, two of the spacecraft's four modules landed on the moon. They collected about 4.4 pounds of rock and soil samples from the surface after drilling about six feet into the moon's crust in a previously unexplored lava plain.
An ascent vehicle then carried the samples, kept in a sealed container, back to the return module to complete the apparently successful mission — yet another in a series of increasingly ambitious missions for China's space program.
The crew that went to Mongolia to recover the capsule, of course.
It was a pretty complex mission, with the rocket that took off from the moon not being the one that returned to earth. There had to be an automated rendezvous and docking in lunar orbit, and a transfer of the rock-containing part from one rocket to the other. Impressive stuff.
US Space Force members will now be called 'guardians'
Vice President Mike Pence announced the US guardians of the galaxy.
So now we know: US Space Force members will be called "guardians" going forward, US Vice President Mike Pence said Friday. His announcement came during a first-birthday celebration for the military branch.
"Soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and guardians will be defending our nation for generations to come," Pence said.
Russian ISS cosmonauts struggle to find an air leak
Cosmonauts are considering sealing off the affected area, but worry this would impact the overall operation of the orbital station. Russia's space agency has said it can send more oxygen to the ISS, if necessary.
The International Space Station is still losing oxygen but the situation is under control, Russian space agency Roscosmos said on Saturday, adding that the agency was ready to send an additional supply of oxygen if the problem escalates.
The leak is affecting the Russian section of the ISS, with the fault apparently located in an access section to the Zvezda module. The exact location is not yet clear, Russian media reported.
"We have had this leak for quite some time, the rate is very small, nothing has happened. One of the leaks was found and reduced, but it still remains," Roscosmos Program Director Sergei Krikalev told Russia's Interfax news agency.
Pressure to find the source of the leak is growing, as oxygen reserves and air pressure continue to decrease.
Cause of damage unknown
A 4.5-centimeter (1.7-inch) rip was already uncovered in October with the help of a floating tea bag, and sealed.
The astronauts, unaware of what caused the damage, then realized there was another leak from elsewhere in the same section of the 20-year-old spacecraft. However, they failed to find the fault during a spacewalk in November.
"The Astrobotic CubeRover traverses the terrain in the Granular Mechanics and Regolith Operations Lab regolith bin at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in" Florida, United States of America, on 10 December 2020. Photographer: Kim Shiflett, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Japan to create first wooden satellites that completely burn up on re-entry to eliminate space junk
The satellite would burn up without releasing harmful substances when it comes back to Earth
Japan may soon be producing the world's first wooden satellites which would burn up when they plunge back to Earth without releasing harmful substances into the atmosphere, in an effort to reduce space trash.
Sumitomo Forestry, a Japan-based wood processing company, said they have begun researching on an ideal wood material for space and will carry out research in partnership with Kyoto University and test the material in extreme environment on earth. They announced that the satellite can be ready by 2023.
The partnership says the problem of space debris will eventually affect the environment of the earth. Quoted by BBC, Taka Doi, an astronaut and professor at Kyoto University said: “We are very concerned with the fact that all the satellites which re-enter the Earth's atmosphere burn and create tiny alumina particles which will float in the upper atmosphere for many years.”
The wooden satellites would burn up on re-entry without raining debris on the ground.
Space junk, also called space pollution, comprises human-generated objects, such as pieces of spacecraft, tiny flecks of paint from a spacecraft, parts of rockets, satellites that are no longer working, or explosions of objects in orbit flying around in space at high speeds, according to Nasa.
As of October 2019, the US space surveillance network reported nearly 20,000 artificial objects in orbit above the Earth, including 2,218 operational satellites.