2020-12-19

New ESA director general sees EU relations and commercialization as priorities

ESA Council selected Josef Aschbacher to be the next director general, effective at the end of June 2021 for a four-year term. Aschbacher has been director of ESA’s Earth observation programs and head of ESA’s ESRIN research center in Italy since 2016.The next leader of the European Space Agency says his top priorities are to improve the agency’s relationship with the European Union and support commercial space activities in Europe.

Satellite News

OneWeb resumes satellite deployment with Soyuz launch

OneWeb resumed deployment of its broadband satellite constellation with a Dec. 18 launch of 36 satellites, the first since the company emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Italy orders second pair of Cosmo-SkyMed radar satellites

The Italian government has ordered two additional Cosmo-SkyMed radar imaging satellites from Thales Alenia Space and tapped Telespazio to upgrade the constellation’s ground segment under a contract announced Dec. 15.

Thales Alenia Space Selected by ESA to Undertake a Scientific Study for a New Comet Interceptor Breakthrough Mission

In the UK, Thales Alenia Space has been selected by the European Space Agency (ESA) to lead one of two parallel studies for the Comet Interceptor mission. The Comet Interceptor mission consists of one spacecraft and two small probes. It was selected by ESA in June 2019 to combine breakthrough technology in new comet discoveries to reveal information about pristine comets entering the inner Solar System or an interstellar object

Exploration News

China recovers Chang’e-5 moon samples after complex 23-day mission

China has recovered precious lunar samples after a successful reentry and landing of the Chang’e-5 return capsule.

Launcher News

China rolls out Long March 8 rocket for weekend test flight

China has rolled out a Long March 8 to the pad for the first launch of a rocket that will later be adapted for vertical landing and reuse.

Blue Origin’s New Glenn added to NASA launch contract

NASA has added New Glenn, the large launch vehicle under development by Blue Origin, to the list of vehicles eligible to compete for future agency missions.

Astra narrowly misses reaching orbit on second launch

Small launch vehicle developer Astra Space fell just short of reaching orbit on its second launch attempt Dec. 15, but the company is “beyond ecstatic” with the performance of the rocket.

ESA Plans Demonstration of a Reusable Rocket Stage

The Themis programme will provide valuable information on the economic value of reusability for Europe and prove technologies for potential use on future European launch vehicles. Themis is founded on decisions taken at Space19+, European advances in technologies for reusability and a more agile and cost-driven approach to development. On 15 December, ESA signed a contract worth €33 million with prime contractor ArianeGroup in France for the ‘Themis Initial Phase’.

NewSpace  News

CNES Selects Anywaves For Reflectarray Antenna For Smallsats Demo

Selected from a call for tender, the French manufacturer is now launching the development of a folding antenna, Reflectarray type, working from the X- to the Ka-band and perfectly suited to the smallest platforms.

Blue Canyon’s CDR for DARPA’s BlackJack Space Program Successfully Completed

BCT was able to demonstrate maturity of the X-SAT Saturn-class bus design, validating the design and capabilities of the system in support of the Blackjack program. By incorporating commercial sector advances in LEO, including designs used for LEO broadband internet service, the goal of the Blackjack program is to demonstrate that a constellation of LEO satellites meets U.S

A GPS-Type Service To Be Added to OneWeb’s 2Gen Satellites

Sunil Mittal, Executive Chairman of OneWeb, has confirmed that the satellite operator will add a global positioning, navigation and timing system onto its 2nd Generation of satellites for a GPS-type service. Mittal’s Bharti is a joint investor with the UK government in OneWeb.

Satellite sensors could supply data for emissions trading systems

Satellite data could play a role in monitoring, reporting and verifying compliance with emissions trading systems also known as cap and trade.

NASA Astrophysics Division embraces cubesats and smallsats

Early next year, NASA plans to select a maximum of three Astrophysics Pioneers missions, investigations with a maximum price tag of $20 million,

Capella Space releases high-resolution Spotlight imagery

Capella Space released radar satellite images with a resolution of 50 centimeters by 50 centimeters, which the San Francisco startup says is the highest resolution available from a commercial Synthetic Aperture Radar satellite operator.

BAE Systems shrinks weather sensors for microsatellites

BAE Systems is developing miniature spectrometers to provide high-resolution weather data from a constellation of satellites in low Earth orbit.

Space Safety News

NASA to skip repair of Orion electronics unit

NASA will not repair a faulty electronics unit on the Orion spacecraft recently completed for the Artemis 1 mission after concluding there was sufficient redundancy in the overall system.

Investigation confirms improperly connected cables caused Vega launch failure

An independent investigation of a Vega launch failure in November confirmed that misconnected cables in the rocket’s upper stage doomed the mission and made recommendations to allow a return to flight in early 2021.

Science & Technology News

White House releases space nuclear power strategy

by Jeff Foust — December 16, 2020

The White House released a new space policy directive Dec. 16 intended to serve as a strategic roadmap for the development of space nuclear power and propulsion technologies.

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