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  • Writer's pictureMatt Russell

#217 - Spodcat Review of the Year

Matt is joined by 5 of the Patrons to discuss their favourite stories of 2020.

For last year's words belong to last year's language and next year's words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.

T.S. Eliot


January 2020

Yusaku Maezawa backtracks on his plans to solicit a woman for a spacex moon journey and beyond through documentary “Full Moon Lovers.”

“To think that 27,722 women, with earnest intentions and courage, had used their precious time to apply makes me feel extremely remorseful to conclude and inform everyone with this selfish decision of mine.”

Close Call

“We are monitoring a close approach event involving IRAS (13777), the decommissioned space telescope launched in 1983, and GGSE-4 (2828), an experimental US payload launched in 1967” With a combined velocity of 4.7Km/s these two large satellites came within 50m of one another, a few days before the risk of collision was put at 100:1 ...really quite likely, considering just how bad the effects could be.

Jonathan McDowell, said that given the size of the satellites - about the size of a car and a rubbish bin - "a 15-to-30 metre predicted miss distance is alarming" especially as the GGSE-4 has a 60ft boom arm daggling of it. US Space Command said the two inactive satellites passed each other at 18:39 EST (23:39 GMT) some 550 miles (900km) above Pittsburgh.


The Mission Extension Vehicle MEV-1 became the first telerobotically-operated spacecraft to service another satellite on-orbit when it completed the first phase of a 5-year mission to extend the life of the Intelsat 901 (I-901) satellite.

MEV-1 captured the communications satellite, which had been moved to graveyard orbit some months before. In April 2020, MEV-1 successfully brought Intelsat-901 it back to a position in geosynchronous orbit where it is now expected to operate for another five years. This was a space industry first as satellite servicing had previously been accomplished only with on-orbit human assistance, during the missions to service the Hubble Space Telescope in the early 2000s

MEV-1 has rendezvoused with Intelsat 901 36,000km above the Earth in the hopes to extend its operational life by five years through in-orbit station-keeping.

Back on 9th October a Proton with a Briz-m took up an orbital ATK (now Northrop Grumman) MEV-1 spacecraft. They were joined in graveyard orbit testing all the systems for a few weeks before they drop back down to carry on with the mission in geo.

This is not refuelling which would require you to open up, fill and drain valves, put in fuel — which is very volatile — and then seal up all the interfaces and separate from the spacecraft. significantly more operational complexity. MEV’s approach is to go and attach to your client’s spacecraft and that’s it. Then MEV takes care of station keeping and attitude control. It’s a much simpler concept. MEV‑1 has the ability to dock and undock several times during its 15-year design life, allowing it to service multiple customers

Falcon Heavy Launch booked for Psyche Mission

Katherine Johnson, famous as one of the Hidden figures in NASA’s Apollo and Mercury missions died at 101

Heather Couper CBE dies at 70

  • In 1984, she was elected President of the British Astronomical Association

  • Couper was appointed Professor of Astronomy at Gresham College in 1993 – the first female professor in the 400-year history of the college – and held the position until 1996 Couper wrote over 40 popular-level books on astronomy and space and many articles for Sky at Night and The independent etc

Freeman Dyson also died this month

Musk has been tweeting a lot about Orbital flights happening THIS YEAR.

  • Iterations of SN1 and it’s build are easy to see on Twitter as it’s quickly thrown together, perhaps for a 20km hop later in the spring

  • A static fire of the SN1 vehicle's three Raptor engines could then occur in early March

  • SN3, 4, or 5 will attempt the orbital test

NASA astronaut Christina Koch set a women's record-breaking 328 days in space ending on 6 February 2020.


  • 50th Anniversary of Black Arrow number 2, the first British rocket to achieve a suborbital flight.

  • Seti@Home has switched off the Server!!!

  • The crackdown of Covid19 starts to affect space missions around the world.

  • Franklin: Rover mission delayed until 2022

  • One Web has to file for bankruptcy.


  • Launch of MS16 and Crew Safely at the station.

Members Anatoli Ivanishin, Ivan Vagner, Christopher Cassidy "a very strict quarantine"

  • Rocket Lab Successfully Completes Electron Mid-Air Recovery Test

  • The Dragon 1 Spacecraft flew its final mission

  • Return of the Worm

  • Bepi Columbo does an earth flyby

  • Hubble 30


  • Tom Cruise Going to space

  • China Long March 5B and their Orion type spacecraft.

  • Evgeny Anatolievich Mikrin passed

  • Birth of X Æ A-12 Musk!

  • SpaceX's Dragon 2 spacecraft made its first crewed flight to the International Space Station on 31 May 2020 as part of the Commercial Crew Program, 10th crewed orbital Vehicle


  • Nasa has approved the reuse of boosters for human-rated flight

  • Starlinks

  • Return to Flight for Vega

  • China complete Beidou

  • UK and USA sign a technology agreement paving the way for US launch from UK soil


  • The UK take a stake in OneWeb

  • Rocket Lab have their first failure

  • Comet Neowise

  • Thomas Paesquet gets a seat on Crew-2 ...Mission Apha

  • Hope Mission to Mars - H-IIA

  • Tianwen-11 mission to mars - LongMarch 5

  • Perseverance and Ingenuity - Mars - Atlas 5


  • MEV-2 Launched on an Ariane 5

  • Arecibo telescope cable snaps and damages dish

  • Jamie does 200th episode


  • Life in the clouds of venus?

  • More and bigger lakes on Mars


  • Penrose gets Nobel Prize

  • Bepi Columbo does avenus flyby

  • Fast TRip to ISS

  • The fastest Earth to dock with ISS 3h3m!!! 2-orbit manoeuvre Soyuz MS17/63S, that is genuinely a little quicker than my commute!!!! NASA astronaut and Kate Rubins (42nd Birthday!!) and Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov arrived aboard the International Space Station on Oct.

  • UK signs Artemis accords

  • OSIRIS REX lands on Bennu

  • Moon Water


  • Vega Fail

  • SpaceX Crew-1 Resiliance exp 64/65

  • The DragRacer mission will test Tethers Unlimited's Terminator Tape

  • Chang’e 5 23rd November

  • China's first lunar sample return mission. Lunar landing was confirmed on 1 December. The reentry capsule landed on Earth on 16 December and safely delivered 1.7 kg (3.7 lb) of lunar soil and rock samples. The orbiter is currently on an extended mission to the Sun–Earth L1 point


  • First higher altitude flight (~12.5 km) of Starship. Successfully tested flight with up to three Raptor engines, the controlled descent in a horizontal orientation and the flip manoeuvre in preparation of a vertical landing. Crashed onto the landing pad after a tank pressure was lower than planned.

  • Hayabusa

  • JAXA's Hayabusa2 mission returned samples of 162173 Ryugu to Earth on 5 December 2020, with its reentry vehicle recovered in Woomera, Australia

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