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  • Writer's pictureMatt Russell

#180 - Space News Week

There being only one universe to be explained, nobody could repeat the act of Newton, the luckiest of mortals.

Giuseppe Lodovico Lagrangia - 25 January 1736 - Turin

Died 10 April 1813 (aged 77) in Paris, France

Turned out not quite to be true, as Einstein showed.


One year on exactly - Scientists from the Event Horizon Telescope project announces the first-ever image of a black hole, located in the centre of the M87 galaxy.


This Week is Apollo 13 50th anniversary week


Space News Week.

After last week telescope special- COVID-19 forces Earth's largest telescopes to close

COVID-19 forces more than 100 of Earth's largest telescopes to close,

By Eric Betz reporting in Astronomy Magazine.

“If we have our first bright supernova in hundreds of years, that would be terrible,” says astronomer John Mulchaey, director of the Carnegie Observatories. “But except for really rare events like that, most of the science will be done next year. The universe is 13.7 billion years old. We can wait a few months.”

Reported on The Diplomat

This week Christopher Ford, U.S. assistant secretary at the State Department’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, explicitly laid out that any attack on US space-based assets that were part of its strategic Nuclear command would be considered serious enough that the US may respond with Nuclear retaliation. Basically saying to the Chinese, don’t mess with our satellites, shoot them down or disable them, because if any are part of our Nuclear systems then the world is basically over. ...Which is a comforting thought?

As far as I can understand there isn’t an actual list of which satellites this would include, as obviously it is secret, so this could happen quite feasibly if China were just trying to knock out an annoying spy sat.

Ford notes that “It is essential that any potential adversary understand this with crystalline clarity,”

Launch of MS16 and Crew Safely at station.

Members Anatoli Ivanishin, Ivan Vagner, Christopher Cassidy "a very strict quarantine" for the past month and is in good health. Neither Russians have clothes awaiting them at the space station as they were swapped out last minute. Ivanishin said that they will be taking some clothes with them on the Soyuz, and the next Russian supply ship will deliver more later.

The Soyuz MS-16 lifts off from Site 31 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Thursday, April 9, 2020 sending Expedition 63 crewmembers Chris Cassidy of NASA and Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner of Roscosmos into orbit for a six-hour flight to the International Space Station and the start of a six-and-a-half month mission. Credits: NASA/GCTC/Andrey Shelepin

This will be the first launch in a couple of weeks after the first-ever Space Force Launch on 26th March on an Atlas V,


Which you can watch in VR

The test was conducted by dropping an Electron first stage test article from a helicopter over the open ocean in New Zealand. A parachute was then deployed from the stage, before a second helicopter closed in on the descending stage and captured it mid-air at around 5,000 ft, using a specially designed grappling hook to snag the parachute’s drogue line. After capturing the stage on the first attempt, the helicopter safely carried the suspended stage back to

  • Previous test: in December 2019 and January 2020, Rocket Lab successfully completed guided the re-entries of Electron’s first stage. Both stages on those missions carried new hardware and systems to enable recovery testing, including guidance and navigation hardware, S-band telemetry and onboard flight computer systems, to gather data during the stage’s atmospheric re-entry. One stage was also equipped with a reaction control system that oriented the first stage 180-degrees for its descent, keeping it dynamically stable for the re-entry. The stage slowed from more than 7,000 km per hour to less than 900 km by the time it reached sea-level, maintaining the correct angle of attack for the full descent.

  • Next test is a opening a parachute on the booster and letting it hit the ocean late 2020.

  • Reusability isn’t about cost here it’s more about doubling production output a getting better launch cadence, ie more frequent launches., despite building a rocket every 20 days!!!


NASA has awarded $75.9 million to Masten Space Systems to deliver and operate a lander on the Moon’s South Pole in 2022, to help lay the foundation for human expeditions to the lunar surface beginning in 2024. under NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative

“Under our Artemis program, we are going to the Moon with all of America,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “These CLPS deliveries are on the cutting edge of our work to do great science and support human exploration of the Moon.”

Last year only 15 people were working for Masten out in the desert ...that is a big achievement.

Space X

The Dragon 1 Spacecraft flew it’s final mission this week, Capsule C122.3 flew SPX-20, the 20th resupply mission to the ISS for NASA. it will be superseded by Dragon 2, which can auto dock to the space station, plus second-hand Crew Dragons will be used as Cargo dragons. Only Capsule C109 which was destroyed in 2015 on SPX-7 which lost the International Docking Adapters (IDA), not by the failure of the rocket , it could have parachuted to safety, but the situation wasn’t in the code.

Hard to understate how important that Dragon is, essentially the CRS, NASA's Commercial Resupply Services program, has been instrumental in bringing in the cash for Musk to develop all his rockets. December 2010, Dragon became the first commercially built and operated spacecraft to be recovered successfully from orbit, On 25 May 2012,Dragon became the first commercial spacecraft to successfully rendezvous with and attach to the ISS

SpaceX Dragon XL resupply spacecraft to carry over 5 tonnes of cargo, to NASA's planned Lunar Gateway under the Gateway Logistics Services (GLS) contract where it would stay for six to 12 months and payloads inside and outside the cargo vessel could be operated remotely.

The same week, however, SN3 was destroyed while filling up the tanks with cryogenic nitrogen.

It looks like the bottom half didn’t have enough pressure to hold up the now heavy top half and the thing just crumpled up like a defaulting bouncy castle or one of the side of the road inflatable flappy men.

Elon Musk, said on Twitter, "We will see what data review says in the morning, but this may have been a test configuration mistake."

And apparently the biggest excitement of the week, NASA have painted the Worm logo on the Crew dragon Falcon 9 booster. Controversial as the worm logo (1976-92) is often associated with the bad times for NASA. Likely to be delayed till June, because of some stupid virus.


Rival Boeing, are still very much struggling, they have decided to stick over $400 million from their own pockets to refly the Starliner. After "high-visibility close call" of the December test.


Today April 10th very early morning BepiColombo will be visible to amateur and professional astronomers during its only Earth flyby, as the spacecraft makes its way to Mercury, the innermost planet of the Solar System. The best place to spot it is the southern hemisphere, but observers in southern locations of the northern hemisphere might also catch a parting view of the spacecraft

  • This is the first of a series of nine gravity-assist manoeuvres

  • The next two flybys will see BepiColombo proceed towards Venus in October 2020 and August 2021

  • followed by six flybys of Mercury

  • ESA’s Mercury Planetary Orbiter and Mio, the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) – will separate from the Mercury Transfer Module in late 2025 and start their scientific operations at Mercury in early 2026

8 April 2010 It is the 10th Birthday of Europes mighty Cryosat.

The one that looks like it has breasts. a Dnepr rocket blasted off from an underground silo in the remote desert steppe of Kazakhstan, launching one of ESA’s most remarkable Earth-observing satellites into orbit. Tucked safely within the rocket fairing, CryoSat had a tough job ahead: to measure variations in the height of Earth’s ice and reveal how climate change is affecting the polar regions. Carrying novel technology, this extraordinary mission has led to a wealth of scientific discoveries that go far beyond its primary objectives to measure polar ice. And, even at 10 years old, this incredible mission continues to surpass expectation

It brings us good news like Greenland and Antarctica losing ice six times faster than expected.

The first European external commercial facility on the International Space Station arrived at its new home last week: the Columbus laboratory module. Bartolomeo, named after the younger brother of Christopher Columbus, was installed by robotic arm on the forward-facing side of the space laboratory on 2 April 2020. Put into place by Dextre attached to the Canadarm In an intricate process controlled from Earth, the robotic arm took Bartolomeo from the external trunk of the Dragon cargo vessel and moved it into position on Columbus

ESA’s Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite has spotted a hole in the planet's ozone layer above the Arctic that is set to be the largest of its kind ever detected. The reason why may be due to extreme temperatures and unusual weather over the course of this year's winter at the Earth's North pole

Cosmic expansion measured across the sky. Credit: K. Migkas et al. 2020 – CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

Probing cosmic isotropy with a new X-ray galaxy cluster sample through the LX–T scaling relation K. Migkas: PhD researcher in astronomy and astrophysics at the University of Bonn,, K. Migkas et al. (2020) is published in Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Isotropy: uniformity in all orientations

Astronomers have assumed for decades that the Universe is expanding at the same rate in all directions. This study based on data from ESA's XMM-Newton, NASA's Chandra and the German-led ROSAT X-ray observatories suggests this key premise of cosmology might be wrong.

  • isotropy hypothesis: the Universe has, despite some local differences, the same properties in each direction on the large scale

  • CMB back this up: uniform distribution in the sky suggests that in those early days the Universe must have been expanding rapidly and at the same rate in all directions.

  • BUT: "we looked at the behaviour of over 800 galaxy clusters in the present Universe," says Konstantinos. "If the isotropy hypothesis was correct, the properties of the clusters would be uniform across the sky. But we actually saw significant differences."

    • The team used a sample of 313 galaxy clusters for their analysis, containing 237 clusters observed by Chandra with a total of 191 days of exposure, and 76 observed by XMM-Newton, with a total of 35 days of exposure. They also combined their sample of galaxy clusters with two other large X-ray samples, using data from XMM-Newton and the Japan-US Advanced Satellite for Cosmology and Astrophysics (ASCA), giving a total of 842 different galaxy clusters. They found a similar result using the same technique.

  • used X-ray temperature measurements of the extremely hot gas that pervades the clusters

  • compared the data with how bright the clusters appear in the sky. Clusters of the same temperature and located at a similar distance should appear similarly bright ….but not in this study!!!

  • "The difference was quite significant, around 30 per cent. These differences are not random but have a clear pattern depending on the direction in which we observed in the sky."

    • They ruled out undetected gas or dust clouds obscuring the view

    • They have not ruled out bulk flows, large-scale motions of matter caused by the gravitational pull of extremely massive structures such as large cluster groups

    • the X-ray absorption treatment, the effect of galaxy groups and low redshift clusters, core metallicities, and apparent correlations with other cluster properties, but none is able to explain the obtained results

  • "This is a hugely fascinating result," comments Norbert Schartel, XMM-Newton project scientist at ESA. "Previous studies have suggested that the present Universe might not be expanding evenly in all directions, but this result – the first time such a test has been performed with galaxy clusters in X-rays – has a much greater significance, and also reveals a great potential for future investigations."

  • Is this the work of Dark Energy? the X-rays may reveal that dark energy is stronger in some parts of the universe than others, causing different expansion rates.

  • Lots of results need revisiting if a major assumption is overthrown, This result demonstrates that X-ray studies that assume perfect isotropy can produce strongly biased results whether the underlying reason is cosmological or related to X-rays. The identification of the exact nature of these anisotropies is therefore crucial for any statistical cluster physics or cosmology study. Even if it’s bulk flows.

  • ESA's upcoming telescope Euclid, designed to image billions of galaxies and scrutinise the expansion of the cosmos, its acceleration and the nature of dark energy, might help solve this mystery in the future.

  • Further data will also come soon from the X-ray eROSITA instrument, built by the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics. The instrument, aboard the recently launched German-Russian satellite Spektr-RG, will conduct the first all-sky survey in medium-energy X-rays, focusing on the discovery of tens of thousands previously unknown galaxy clusters and active galactic centres.

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