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  • Writer's pictureMatt Russell

#196 - Kate Underhill - Space News

This week we are joined by Kate Underhill a Rocket Scientist at ESA. But before we are, we chat about some developments in space around the world.

For when I look at the moon I do not see a hostile, empty world. I see the radiant body where man has taken his first steps into a frontier that will never end.

David R. Scott

OTD - 1971 – Apollo program: Apollo 15 astronauts become the first to ride in a lunar rover. David R. Scott, James B. Irwin. Orbiting above was Alfred M. Worden, the loneliest man of all time


Podcast guest

Kate Underhill is a FLPP Propulsion Engineer at European Space Agency

Launch systems specialist including launch operations. In-depth knowledge of liquid propulsion technologies and propulsion system design, project management including contract negotiation.


Space News Week

UK Space

Giant leap for UK spaceflight programme as consultation launches

A public consultation on regulations that will support the Space Industry Act 2018 opened on Wednesday paving the way for the UK's first-ever space launch.

  • Public consultation on the rules governing UK spaceflight

  • The first-ever launch into space could have lift-off by the early 2020s

  • Civil Aviation Authority to become the commercial spaceflight regulator

Getting the rules in place for space launches from UK territory may seem like one small step. But it paves the way for a giant leap in the development of our space sector

Grant Shapps

The steps taken today will join-up leading technology companies to rural areas across Great Britain, levelling up local economies and making them a leader in small payload space launches.

Transport Minister Rachel Maclean

The UK has the chance to be at the forefront of spaceflight development globally.We have a long and proud history of satellite technology and space research, and the CAA wants to support the industry to build on these foundations.

Richard Moriarty, chief executive of the UK CAA

Currently, the space activities of UK entities are governed by the Outer Space Act 1986. This requires any UK entities who procure the launch of a satellite and/or operate a satellite in orbit to hold a licence. The UK has a well-established and globally respected licensing regime for these activities. Whilst the Space Industry Act 2018 is now law, the draft secondary legislation contained in this consultation is required to create the regulatory framework necessary for commercial launch operations to be licensed in the UK. Once in force, the Space Industry Act 2018 will work alongside the Outer Space Act 1986 to regulate the spaceflight and associated activities of UK entities.

The licensing of space activities involving an orbital launch vehicle with human

occupants will not initially be possible

The licensing of spaceflight activities involving hypersonic (or any other experimental)

transport from A to B will not initially be possible;

The licensing of a procurement of an overseas launch carried out under the Outer Space

Act 1986 continues to be done under that Act.

The US and the UK, along with 33 other countries, are partners in the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)The MTCR’s concern with space launch technologies is “not designed to impede national space programmes or international cooperation as long as programmes could not contribute to delivery systems of WMD”. MTCR is not itself a legally binding treaty – but its objectives are realised through national legislation and regulations, and full adherence to the MTCR is an important international commitment of both the UK and US Governments

Drones for NHS

3 projects

part of a joint initiative between the UK Space Agency and the European Space Agency (ESA) to find and support space-enabled technologies and services that can support the NHS response to coronavirus.

Space-Enabled Delivery Drones for the COVID Response (SEDDCR)

Skyports, based in London, is working with NHS Highland, which serves a group of islands off the west coast of Scotland, to use drones to deliver medical supplies and samples from a hospital on the Argyll and Bute mainland. Drones will use mobile connectivity, satellite communications and navigation, and Earth observation data, to chart a course to others areas of the mainland and across the sea to nearby islands to reach medical practices in need.


Landmrk Limited, based in Bristol, will develop an app called Stay, a mobile platform for charities and organisations supporting young people’s mental health and wellbeing. Using satellite communications and Earth observation satellites the mobile-interactive app will reward young people for acting positively with ‘badges’, which will be linked to rewards, discounts or other incentives. Positive behaviour will include exercise, watching an educational video and answering a quiz and following distancing and hygiene guidelines.

Isolation +

Stevenson Astrosat, based in Musselburgh, Scotland, is developing a solution, called Isolation +, which uses advanced space data analytics combined with relevant ground information, to identify “hidden” vulnerable communities. This will allow voluntary organisations and local authorities to target support to those who are exposed to the impacts of Covid-19 through poverty and age.

Piece by Betty Bonnardel-Azzarelli from in Via Sat

Slightly unravelled the mystery of OneWeb

  • From early on in its journey, U.K. regulators, such as Ofcom and the U.K. Space Agency, showed openness and interest in OneWeb, - U.K. government was well-informed on the system, its assets, and its potential.

  • She led a study project for the European Space Agency (ESA) on the potential applications and services offered by large satellite constellations, in which OneWeb was used as the reference model. The user case study found that the greatest value of large constellations would come from government use, given the service is affordable, easy to install, and easy to maintain.

  • dual usage of large constellations in Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) by adding Positioning Navigation and Timing (PNT) - opportunity needs to be studied more in-depth and the cost-benefit-technical feasibility balance should also be assessed

  • OneWeb has also brought intellectual property and innovation to the U.K. The opportunity offered by OneWeb and similar projects provides a great opportunity to position the U.K. as a frontrunner in the provision of Non-Geostationary (NGSO) broadband capacity around the globe

  • investors should not avoid investment in new satellite and space projects due to the high risks of technology, the scale of a project, or a business model with a long infrastructure lead time. In the United States, private entities and government have invested in high-risk projects, and history has shown that the returns are immense. European investors have tended to be more conservative and seek short term ROI. This modus operandi does not work and will never match the successes the U.S. has had.

US Space Force keen to help out on Artemis????

Not the Artemis you are thinking, however.

US and UK are working closely on space defence including Operation Olympic Defender, The UK play a major role in Combined Space Operations Center, which executes the operational command-and-control of space capabilities. The deputy director of the organization is Royal Air Force Group Captain Darren Whiteley.

Artemis is a small very low orbit satellite system.


Film reviews of Eva Green’s new film Proxima, about a Mother Astronaunt leaving her child behind. Lot’s of ESA footage and Soyuz takeoffs ….look very good. Out soon.Strangly the film is named after Thomas Pesquet first space mission Proxima.

ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet has been assigned to the second operational flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, launching to the International Space Station in 2021. Thomas’ second mission to the International Space Station will be called Alpha. This is after Alpha Centauri, the closest stellar system to Earth, following the French tradition to name space missions after stars or constellations.

Latvia becomes ESA Associate Member State


NASA and its international partners have assigned the other crew members for Crew-2, which will be the second operational SpaceX Crew Dragon flight to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur (wife of Bob Benkhen) will serve as spacecraft commander and pilot, respectively, for the mission. JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet will join as mission specialists.

Crew-2 is targeted to launch in spring 2021, following the successful completion of both NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 test flight mission, which is expected to return to Earth this weekend Aug. 2, and the launch of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission, which is targeted for late September. The Crew-2 astronauts will remain aboard the space station for approximately six months as expedition crew members, along with three crewmates who will launch via a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. The increase of the full space station crew complement to seven members – over the previous six – will allow NASA to effectively double the amount of science that can be conducted in space.

Kimbrough’s third trip to space and his second long-duration stay at the space station

McArthur will be making her second trip to space, but her first to the station., previous was hubble servicing/

Hoshide’s third spaceflight

In case you have forgotten who crew 1 are - Michael S. Hopkins and Victor J. Glover were announced as the crew on 3 August 2018, Japanese astronaut, Soichi Noguchi, and a third NASA astronaut, Shannon Walker, were added on 31 March 2020 to the crew.

Nasa to launch the Mars 2020 curiosity Rover today.

So the rover is the 3rd attempt to get microphones to mars.

When the Perseverance rover arrives at Mars, it will have two microphones. It will not only touch and taste, but finally hear, the sounds of Mars.

NASA spacecraft that traveled to Mars in the past have carried microphones twice. Unfortunately, one of those missions, the Mars Polar Lander, failed. The Phoenix Lander had a microphone on the spacecraft’s descent camera, but that instrument was never turned on.

It has Entry Descent and Landing (EDL) microphones that will record the sounds of landing.

SuperCam's toolkit also consists of a microphone that will help study Mars rocks and soil. We may even be able to hear the sounds of the rover itself!

On a short 15 mm boom on the head of the rover’s long mast, When SuperCam fires a laser at a rock, a small amount of the rock vaporizes into a hot gas called "plasma", and heat and vibration creates a shockwave that makes a popping sound, which can be used as a fingerprint for chemical analysis.

SuperCam can listen for about 3.5 minutes at a time while performing science observations. This gives the rover the chance to hear the sounds such as the high-pitched sound of sand grains over the surface, the wind whistling around the rover mast, and low-pitched howls of dust devils passing by.

The microphone also records sounds of Perseverance itself, acting as a diagnostic tool, butt also may hear when it drops off the sample tubes.

The Microphones are in fact DPA 4006 mics that a lot of studio sound engineers will be familiar with. DPA(danish Pro Audio) are actually are a spin-off of Bruel and Kjaer who make precision capsules and lots of scientific instruments, and I use to use their capsules for acoustic measurements at Salford University and have often used DPA mics for Music. in fact Kjaer was a part of the faculty. B&K still make the capsule for DPA. Both were originally Denmark companies but were sold to a German company, but they now are part of Spectris ...a UK company. And DPA is owned now by RCF and Italian company.

The rover also carries a pocket-sized DPA audio interface, that attaches to the rover computer via USB.

Of course, insight has another type of vibration microphone (transducer), so we have heard vibrations on Mars, and this could be translated to sound.



Japan's hayabusa-2 spacecraft is making its way back home and on July 14th the Japan Aerospace exploration agency announced that they would be landing in the Australian Outback the woomera range complex on December 6th 2020 “Woomera is a very remote area,” says Karl Rodrigues, acting deputy director of the Australian Space Agency. “It makes it ideal for the safe management and landing of this particular craft and capsule.”

The last time Japan managed to bring back material was with Hayabusa it brought back a millionth of a gram of dust from the asteroid itokawa 2010, Due to a whole bunch of mishaps in deep space, however there should be more material in this one but we won't know until it landed anything up to a gram of material is hoped for.

After dropping the capsule off into the Earth's atmosphere for a fiery re-entry with and the final parachute down into Australia hayabusa2 actually fly off on an extended mission to two possible additional asteroids this is value for money.

Osiris-rex will also be returning samples from the asteroid bennu in 2023 and NASA and Jaxa have a plan to do a swap of material which is pretty cool


It has been over a year since the Chandrayaan-2 to mission launched on a gslv mk3, , Indian Space Research Organisation said all its eight payloads are performing well. The global mapping of the lunar surface and polar coverage are being carried out as per the mission plan, while public release of science data from for global use will begin in October, the space agency said.

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