top of page
  • Writer's pictureMatt Russell

#166 -Moriba Jah - 2020 Vision

This week Jamie and Matt quickly chat about 2020 and Matt catches up with Space Environmentalist Moriba Jah. who has been working on the problem of “space junk” and recently developed ASTRIAGraph, the first searchable knowledge graph for space traffic monitoring which combines multiple sources of information about space debris orbiting the Earth.

"Truth is ever to be found in simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things."

Isaac Newton born this week in 4th Jan 1643. (25th December in the old calendar)

Podcast 166

TED 2019

Moriba Jah is an American space scientist and aerospace engineer known for his contributions to orbit determination and prediction especially as related to space situational awareness and space traffic monitoring. He is currently an Associate Professor of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics at the University of Texas at Austin. Jah previously worked as a spacecraft navigator at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he was a navigator for the Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Odyssey, Mars Express, Mars Exploration Rover, and his last mission was the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. He is a Fellow of the American Astronautical Society, the Air Force Research Laboratory, The International Association for the Advancement of Space Safety and, the Royal Astronomical Society. Jah was also selected into the 10th anniversary class of TED Fellows. He also was selected into the AIAA class of Fellows and Honorary Fellows in the year of the 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11. The AIAA "confers the distinction of Fellow upon individuals in recognition of their notable and valuable contributions to the arts, sciences or technology of aeronautics and astronautics


She's Gonna Blow!!!

Xavier Haubois (Observatoire de Paris) et al. Explanation: Betelgeuse really is a big star. If placed at the center of our Solar System it would extend to the orbit of Jupiter. But like all stars except the Sun, Betelgeuse is so distant it usually appears as a single point of light, even in large telescopes. Still, astronomers using interferometry at infrared wavelengths can resolve the surface of Betelgeuse and reconstructed this image of the red supergiant. The intriguing picture shows two, large, bright, star spots. The spots potentially represent enormous convective cells rising from below the supergiant's surface. They are bright because they're hotter than the rest of the surface, but both spots and surface are cooler than the Sun. Also known as Alpha Orionis, Betelgeuse is about 600 light-years away.

In late December 2019, variable star observers reported that Betelgeuse, which is that red star on the shoulder of Orion, and although it was in the top ten brightest stars for many years, it had become notably dimmer and is out of that chart, which led to speculation that it might be about to go supernova

stars run out of the nuclear fuel holding up their cores against collapse which leads to a runaway cataclysm: a core-collapse supernova. And this is a very quick process., Currently fusing helium to make carbon.

Betelguese is 900 times the radius, and 700 million times the volume, of our Sun, it’s close enough to image the surface!!!

Similar in the year 1604, for an event like this but was 20,000 ly

But Betelgeuse is 640 light-years away it is close and would be very very spectacular.

Even Currently only 13% of Betelgeuse’s energy output is detectable to human eyes. If we could see the entire electromagnetic spectrum from our perspective, Betelgeuse would outshine every other star except the sun

But disappointingly, this is not really an imminent explosion, well it might be, but very unlikely. What we are seeing is surface differences, and this pulsating surface or atmosphere has less to do with the nuclear fusion going on in the core than you think.

If it does go supernova - The star will brighten to the point where it gets brighter than a full Moon, clearly visible during the day for many months

Basically the only real way to see if the helium fusion has moved up to carbon fusion and therefore prone to collapse isn’t a visual thing but a neutrino detection thing, but we don’t have instruments anywhere near sensitive enough for that. Most models indicate that Betelguese is still just burning Helium and that collapse is still probably many hundreds of year away. But whatever is going on it’s still AMAZING to see an old friend get so dim in the night sky.


The final flight of 2019 saw a spectacular Chinese success with their Heavy Lift Long March 5, which puts their moon and mars ambitions back on track.

Quick Preview of 2020

It’s that biennial time of the calendar when trips to mars become feasible. So it’s gonna be Mars tastic ...4 major missions

NASA 2020 Mars Rover, with a repeat performance of the 7 minutes of terror.

  • 17th July Lanch, and actually we will have to wait for the terror until 2021 February when it will land in Jazero Crater.

  • 23 cameras on board (7 science, 7 engineering, 7 for entry, descent and landing)

  • Sample caching system for drilled rock core earth return!!!

  • New wheel design, and better turret.

  • SHERLOC: The Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals has a nickname: SHERLOC. Mounted on the rover's robotic arm, SHERLOC uses spectrometers, a laser and a camera to search for organics and minerals that have been altered by watery environments and may be signs of past microbial life.

  • "Key, driving questions are whether Mars is or was ever inhabited, and if not, why not? The SHERLOC investigation will advance the understanding of Martian geologic history and identify its past biologic potential." - Luther Beegle, Principal Investigator

  • The Mars 2020 Rover places SHERLOC about two inches above its target to gather data. That way, it is close, but doesn't contaminate the scene of the investigation. SHERLOC has a magnifying glass just like the fictional detective to see fine detail. SHERLOC uses ultraviolet laser light to spot organic chemicals in much the same way modern crime scene investigators look for forensic clues. SHERLOC carries small pieces of spacesuit material. It targets them to test its accuracy and to see how they hold up in the harsh Martian environment.

  • WATSON the camera assists SHERLOC as it helps solve mysteries about life on Mars.

  • SHERLOC may carry tiny pieces of a Martian meteorite that once was blasted off of Mars by an impact, traveled for billions of years through space, and landed on Earth. As far as anyone knows, it would be the first Martian meteorite to make the round trip from Earth, all the way back to the Red Planet!

  • Oh it’s also gonna take a freakin Mars Helicopter!!!

ESA and Roscosmos plan to send the Rosalind Franklin rover to Mars

  • A week later on the 25th July after NASA.

  • Rover, mostly built here in the UK, the rover is over twice the size off Oppportunity, but a third of Curiosity.

  • The wheels and suspension system were paid for by the Canadian Space Agency and were manufactured by MDA Corporation in Canada

  • Roscosmos will provide radioisotope heater units (RHU) for the rover to keep its electronic components warm at night

  • The Rover will search for biomolecules or biosignatures from past life using a 2-metre (6 ft 7 in) sub-surface sampling drill and Analytical Laboratory Drawer (ALD), supporting the nine 'Pasteur payload' science instruments

  • Mars Organic Molecule Analyzer (MOMA) - MOMA is the rover's largest instrument, very-high sensitivity search for organic molecules in the collected sample, using lasers and a mass spectrometer, built in germany and at NASA Goddard and France.

  • Russian lander named Kazachok, that will deploy the rover to Mars' surface on March 2021

  • Subject to a delay due to parachute issues, but good news on that front recently.

China : Mars Global Remote Sensing Orbiter and Small Rover, temporarily named Huoxing-1(HX-1),

  • The mission is planned to be launched in July or August 2020 with a Long March 5 heavy-lift rocket. Its stated objectives are to search for evidence of both current and past life and to assess the planet's environment.

  • A decade after their failed collab with the russians. Fobos-Grunt.

  • The lander carrying the rover will use a parachute, retrorockets, and an airbag to achieve landing

  • The rover will be powered by solar panels, probe the ground with radar, perform chemical analyses on the soil, and look for biomolecules and biosignatures

  • Just maybe this 2020 HX-1 mission will also cache samples for retrieval in 2030

  • The same week as the ESA mission on 23rd July - 5th August. Landing in Feb 2021

United Arab Emirates will launch the Hope Mars Mission orbiter on a Japanese rocket

  • The probe will study the climate daily and through seasonal cycles, the weather events in the lower atmosphere such as dust storms, as well as the weather on Mars different geographic areas. The probe will attempt to answer the scientific community questions of why Mars atmosphere is losing hydrogen and oxygen into space and the reason behind Mars drastic climate changes.

  • Launch July, insertion sometime in 2021

How many of these will launch? And how many will succeeed?

The odds are not great for landings, especially if you are Russian, European and British ….gulp!!! Or anyone who isn’t USA.

The Moon

December 2020 China - Chang'e 5, the first sample-return mission to the Moon since Luna 24 in 1976. Chang'e 5 again will use the recently developed / launched Long March 5 heavy-lift rocket.

The lander will carry landing cameras, a panoramic camera, a spectrometer to determine the mineral composition, a soil gas analytical instrument, a soil composition analytical instrument, a sampling sectional thermo-detector, and a ground-penetrating radar.[4][10] For acquiring samples, it will be equipped with a robotic arm, a rotary-percussive drill, a scoop for sampling, and separation tubes to isolate individual samples

The mission is reported to consist of four modules or elements: the lander would collect about 2 kg (4.4 lb) of samples from 2 metres (6.6 ft) below the surface[5] and place them in an attached ascent vehicle that will be launched into lunar orbit. The ascent vehicle will make an automatic rendezvous and docking with an orbiter that would transfer the samples into a sample-return capsule for their delivery to Earth.[4][10]

The estimated launch mass is 3,780 kg (8,330 lb), the lander is projected to be 1,200 kg (2,600 lb) and the ascent vehicle is about 120 kg (260 lb)

Asteroids samples

Osiris Rex will sample Bennu in July while Hayabusa-2 will return samples to earth in December.


ESA Solar Orbiter and ISRO Aditya-L1

Humans in Space!!!

  • Surely we are going to see Boeing and SpaceX put humans into space this year!!!!, although we have said this every year!!!!

  • February earliest for SpaceX, later now for CST-100

  • Maiden flight of Long March 5B, testing next-generation crewed chinese spacecraft.

  • First Gaganyaan flight test, the Indian crew capsule!!


China plans to test a new generation of crewed spacecraft in October, and begin construction of the Chinese large modular space station with the launch of the Tianhe Core Cabin Module, though this may be delayed to 2021


Ariane 6 will hopefully launch in Q4 - Carrying 34 x Oneweb sats under the UK flag.

The Japanese H3 will also probably maiden

But let’s face it, if Starship goes Orbital we will loose our shit.

Probably see a bunch of sea launch

Maiden orbital flight of LauncherOne

Maiden flight of India's Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV)

Maiden flight of the Firefly Alpha commercial smallsat launcher.

First orbital launch attempt of the Astra commercial smallsat launch vehicle. Planned for February or March 2020.

Maiden flight of Chinese Ceres-1.

Maiden flight of Vega-C

Maiden flight of taiwan Hapith V.

Maiden flight of Japanese Blue Whale 1

Maiden flight of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS).

Maiden flight of Jielong 2, also known as Smart Dragon 2 (SD-2)

Maiden flight of Kuaizhou 11

Maiden flight of Long March 6A.

Maiden flight of Chinese Nebula 1.

Internet satellite constellations

OneWeb constellation may become operational by the end of the year late 2020,

launch of the first 300+ satellites,

595 megabits per second to customers throughout the United States

By the end of the year, the constellation should grow to 600+ satellites.

SpaceX expects to begin operation of its Starlink in 2020, with about 720 satellites launched by the end of the year

Other things

The Dragracer mission will test Tethers Unlimited's Terminator Tape, an electrodynamic tether that can passively de-orbit satellites in order to reduce space debris

In July At the end of its mission, Progress MS-15 will deorbit the Pirs module to make way for the arrival of Nauka in December 2020, in November Nauka will be launched along with the European Robotic Arm

Juno, BepiColombo, Parker Solar Probe all doing magic stuff.


193 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page