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#215 - Loredana Bessone - CAVES

Julio joins Matt to talk to ESA Caves Expert Loredana Bessone about space mission analogues. We also chat about the busy week in space especially rockets startups and the inevitable Musk talk.



“When I had satisfied myself that no star of that kind had ever shone before, I was led into such perplexity by the unbelievability of the thing that I began to doubt the faith of my own eyes.”

Tycho Brahe

Born on 14th December 1546. On the discovery of SN 1572, brighter than Jupiter possibly as bright as Venus and visible for 2 years, and among the more important observation events in the history of astronomy. sped up the revolution in astronomy challenged the Aristotelian dogma of the unchangeability of the realm of stars.


Often called "Tycho's supernova", because of Tycho Brahe's extensive work De nova et nullius aevi memoria prius visa stella ("Concerning the Star, new and never before seen in the life or memory of anyone", published in 1573 with reprints overseen by Johannes Kepler, not the first but he was probably the most accurate observer of the object with Wolfgang Schuler, Thomas Digges, John Dee, Francesco Maurolico, Jerónimo Muñoz, Tadeáš Hájek, or Bartholomäus Reisacher.


Tycho's Supernova Remnant. In 1572, the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe observed and studied the explosion of a star that became known as Tycho's supernova. More than four centuries later, Chandra's image of the supernova remnant shows an expanding bubble of multimillion degree debris (green and red) inside a more rapidly moving shell of extremely high energy electrons (filamentary blue). As a huge ball of exploding plasma, it was Irving Langmuir who coined the name plasma because of its similarity to blood plasma, and Hannes Alfvén who noted its cellular nature. The filamentary blue outer shell of X-ray emitting high-speed electrons is also a characteristic of plasmas. This is a false-colour x-ray image in which the energy levels (in keV) of the x-rays have been assigned colours as follows: Red 0.95-1.26 keV, Green 1.63-2.26 keV, Blue 4.1-6.1 keV. All x-rays images must use processed colours since x-rays (as are radio waves, infra-red) are invisible to the human eye. But they are not invisible to suitable equipment, such as x-ray telescopes. The red and green bands highlight the expanding cloud of plasma with temperatures in the millions of degrees.

Queen Elizabeth had the mathematician and astrologer Thomas Allen, come and visit "to have his advice about the new Star”

In the Ming dynasty, the star became an issue between Zhang Juzheng and the young Wanli Emperor: The emperor was warned to consider his misbehaviour since the new star was interpreted as an evil omen.


Also OTD 14th December.

1940 – Plutonium (specifically Pu-238) is first isolated at Berkeley, California.

1962 – NASA's Mariner 2 becomes the first spacecraft to fly by Venus.


Loredana Bessone


Head of Analogue Field Testing and Exploration Training Unit at European Space Agency

A colleague of Herve Stevenin, who Matt interviewed back in episode 69 see below.





Most important, she designed the astronaut training called CAVES (an acronym for Cooperative Adventure for Valuing and Exercising human behaviour and performance Skills) which is the focus of the interview. We talk as well about other analogue programmes such as NASA’s NEEMO and Pangaea





Orbex Secures $24 Million (19.8 Meuro) Funding Round for UK Space Launch

New funding secures roadmap to first launch from Sutherland spaceport in Scotland

Orbex is 1st UK space-sector company to win prestigious Horizon 2020 funding (funding programmes created by the European Union/European Commission to support and foster research in the European Research Area (ERA))

BGF and Octopus Ventures have joined existing investors High-Tech Gründerfonds, Heartcore Capital and Elecnor S.A. - parent company of the multi-national space firm Deimos Space - in a new funding round for the orbital launch services company. The new investments secure the roadmap to the first launch from the Space Hub Sutherland spaceport in Scotland. completed by a €2.5 million grant from the European Horizon 2020 SME Instrument programme – the first for a UK space-sector company – to support the development of patented coaxial tanking technology. Orbex previously won £5.5 million in grant funding from the UK Space Agency’s Launch UK programme in 2018.


“Orbex is an impressive UK company which is developing a strongly differentiated and innovative launch solution for the rapidly-growing small satellite market. In Europe, they are a recognized leader with an experienced team, substantial institutional support, a growing customer list and patented technology. The private space sector remains a key future industry for both Scottish and UK governments and we’re very excited to be backing one of the most compelling examples of this evolving sector,” said Keith Barclay, Investor at BGF.


Interview with Chris Larmour (Orbex CEO) on Podcast #120 for more details


The Orbex Prime rocket uniquely uses bio-propane, a renewable biofuel that cuts CO2 emissions by 90% compared to traditional kerosene-based rocket fuels.

As Larmour revealed to the Podcast, it is designed to be recoverable and re-usable but has yet to reveal the method, although it won’t be by parachute or helicopter., Orbex Prime is intended to leave no debris in the ocean or in orbit around the Earth. The company is constructing the rocket vehicle at factories in Forres, near Inverness in Scotland, and Copenhagen in Denmark.




“We want the UK to be Europe’s leading destination for launching small satellites – driving economic growth in communities up and down the country,”

UK Science Minister Amanda Solloway.


The funding round is completed by a €2.5 million grant from the European Horizon 2020 SME Instrument programme – the first for a UK space-sector company – to support the development of patented coaxial tanking technology. Orbex previously won £5.5 million in grant funding from the UK Space Agency’s Launch UK programme in 2018.




The race is on to be the European smallsat launcher, but it was a highlander that won the last race when there could be only one, do Orbex have a kind of magic?

  • Spectrum: Isar Aerospace, Germany-based Isar Aerospace, said Wednesday it has raised $91 million from investors

  • Rocket Factory Augsburg

  • HyImpulse;

  • Spanish startup PLD Space;

  • Skyrora

  • Electron / Lockheed Martin?



Development over in NZ

Dawn Aerospace Licensed to Fly NZ’s First Spaceplane

The New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has granted Dawn Aerospace an Unmanned Aircraft Operator Certificate to fly a suborbital spaceplane from a conventional airport.



Dawn’s Mk-II Aurora is the latest development in a series of test vehicles designed to take off and land from regular airports, it is capable of multiple flights per day. To achieve that, Dawn must fly just as other aircraft do, without the need to shut down airspace and have exclusion zones, as is typical for rocket launches.

“The challenge of getting to space is equal parts the vehicle, the launch infrastructure and the regulation,”

Chief Technical Officer, Stefan Powell.

First flights of the Mk-II Aurora will begin in 2021 from a remote airport, in an uninhabited area, on the South Island of New Zealand. It is a suborbital version and pretty small 5kg payload to Space, the MkIII will take 50kg - 100 KG to LEO and glide back to the landing.




And talking about space planes, this week ESA On 9 December 2020 signed the contract to finalize the development of Space Rider all the way to maiden flight. The first contract is for delivery of the Space Rider flight model including the reentry module and the AVUM orbital service module, by co-prime contractors: Thales Alenia Space Italy and Avio. The second contract covers the delivery of the ground segment by Italian co-prime contractors: Telespazio and Altec.


Matt interviewed Space Rider’s programme manager Giorgio Tumino back in episode 58.


SPACERIDER - Launched on a Vega-C rocket, the uncrewed robotic laboratory in low Earth orbit about the size of two minivans, up to 800 kg of customer payloads, returning to Earth (Kourou or Azores Portugal) with its payloads and being reused on future missions, the maiden flight is in the third quarter of 2023. ESA signed contracts with industry to build Space Rider space and ground segments. Riccardo Fraccaro, Undersecretary of State to the Presidency of the Councils of Ministers of Italy hosted the event which took place at Palazzo Chigi, Rome, in the presence of Italian government representatives.




Also, The Virgin Galactic Space Plane attempted a first suborbital space trip from spaceport America, but with no crowds!!!! ...it ended with an abort.





Belly flop or Big Flop.


Well, most of the press seems to get the Starship thing totally wrong.

As most rocket fans watched in utter wonder, with everyday astronaut seemingly close to losing his shit entirely.



Starship rose slowly from the pad, three Raptor engines, SN30, SN36, and SN42, struggling to lift over 500 tonnes off the launch pad. It almost looked like it had died on the spot.

It then just kept going with multiple feeds showing the almost unbelievable spectacle.

As it rose higher and higher one engine appeared to flame out ...was it broken, not it wasn’t this was deliberate they were throttling down, the excess exhaust gasses catching fire appearing to be equipment on fire within the engine bay. Then the rocket started to fly slightly sideways for a bit, presumably for safety, you don’t want it coming straight back down on the launch complex. The new flaps were pretty useless in this phase of the flight, then all of a sudden the control thrusters manoeuvred the rocket into belly flop mode and the incredible sight of the blunt fall of the spacecraft back to earth. This is really one of the most important bits, the blunter the re-entry the less heat one part of the ship will endure from the friction of reentry. The rocket started falling the electrically actuated flaps now doing their thing.

Then suddenly the rocket was being flipped upright again, using two raptors which were gimballing crazily with the unused engine gimballed fully out of the way, The rocket stabilised with the raptor jets beautifully blue, pointing out like walking fingers, the header tanks had worked, the switch to them was perfect. However just as the rocket came close to the landing one engine flamed out, and the other was probably burning very oxygen-rich fuel, leading to the situation where it’s actually eating itself (engine rich mix) and this engine material (copper) made the jet appear bright green, Oh dear not quite enough thrust so the Rocket hit the floor just a little bit too hard. But wow what an end, a mighty explosion. Musk instantly tweeting they had got all the data and they had lost pressure in the Header tanks which is why the engines had failed at the last second. and caused the Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly. completing 6 minutes and 42 seconds of flight

Great pictures of Musk wondering the wreckage a day later, looking pretty pleased with himself.

Next up SN9, can they nail that landing? ...well in the meantime this has fallen over!!!



In the meantime, SpaceX has already set an annual launch record. Sunday's launch of a Cargo Dragon to the International Space Station was the 24th successful one for SpaceX this year, with probably 3 more to go, this will beat their 2018 record of 21.


Starliner gets a new launch date.

NASA and Boeing are targeting March 29 of next year, 15months after the first attempt, for the launch of Starliner's second uncrewed flight test to the International Space Station



NASA name the people likely to be stepping on the moon in the next 10 years!!

The Artemis Team members are:



Joseph Acaba 306 days in space three spacewalks. master’s degrees in geology, he taught high school science and middle school math and science.


Kayla Barron bachelor’s degree in systems engineering and a master’s degree in nuclear engineering. As a submarine warfare officer, a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy.


Raja Chari, A colonel in the U.S. Air Force, degree in astronautical engineering and a master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics. Test Pilot F-35,


Matthew Dominick Bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and a master’s degree in systems engineering. Developmental test pilot specializing in aircraft carrier launches and landings before coming to NASA.


Victor Glover Navy Commander earned a bachelor’s degree in general engineering and master’s degrees in flight test engineering, systems engineering, and military operational art and science. He piloted the Crew-1 Dragon Resilience and is currently serving as an Expedition 64 flight engineer aboard the International Space Station.


Warren Hoburg bachelor’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics, and a doctorate in electrical engineering and computer science. assistant professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a seasonal member of the Yosemite Search and Rescue team.


Jonny Kim, Navy SEAL , bachelor’s degree in mathematics, doctor of medicine.


Christina Hammock Koch record for longest single spaceflight by a woman, with 328 days in space and six spacewalks. bachelor’s degrees in electrical engineering and physics, and a master’s degree in electrical engineering.


Kjell Lindgren, 141 days in space and performed two spacewalks. Born in Taipei, Taiwan, he holds a bachelor’s degree in biology, a master’s degree in cardiovascular physiology and a doctor of medicine. flight surgeon supporting space shuttle and space station missions.


Nicole A. Mann training as pilot for the Crew Flight Test of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner. earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering. The U.S. Marine Corps lieutenant colonel was an F/A-18 fighter pilot and Test Pilot


Anne McClain, She has spent 204 days in space and conducted two spacewalks. The U.S. Army lieutenant colonel is a Senior Army Aviator and graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School as a helicopter test pilot. She holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical/aeronautical engineering, and master’s degrees in aerospace engineering and international relations.


Jessica Meir: She has spent 205 days in space and performed three spacewalks. She earned a bachelor’s degree in biology, a master’s degree in space studies, and a doctorate in marine biology. studied the physiology of animals in extreme environments.


Jasmin Moghbeli, major in the U.S. Marine Corps, bachelor’s and master’s degrees in aerospace engineering. Naval Test Pilot School and tested H-1 helicopters


Kate Rubins currently in space on her second flight aboard the International Space Station. bachelor’s degree in molecular biology and a doctorate in cancer biology. She was the first person to sequence DNA in space and has performed two spacewalks.


Frank Rubio U.S. Army lieutenant colonel considers Miami, Florida, bachelor’s degree in international relations and a doctor of medicine. Blackhawk helicopter pilot and a flight surgeon in the Army


Scott Tingle Navy captain has spent 168 days in space and performed one spacewalk. bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering. Graduated from the U.S. Navy Test Pilot School.


Jessica Watkins received a bachelor’s degree in geological and environmental sciences and a doctorate in geology. postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology, where she served as a member of the science team for the Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity.


Stephanie Wilson, A veteran of three space shuttle flights, she has spent 42 days in space. bachelor’s degree in engineering science and a master’s degree in aerospace engineering. Before becoming an astronaut, she worked on the Galileo spacecraft









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