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  • Writer's pictureMatt Russell

#223 - Space News

This week Chris joins Matt to shoot the breeze about the world of Space. Who's doing what in rockets and spacecraft around the globe.

One of the hardest engineering problems known to man is making a reusable orbital rocket. It's stupidly difficult to have a fully reusable orbital system. It would be one of the biggest breakthroughs in the history of humanity.


8 February 1992 - Ulysses - closest approach to Jupiter

Ulysses was a robotic space probe to study the Sun and study it at all latitudes. It was launched in 1990 and made three "fast latitude scans" of the Sun in 1994/1995, 2000/2001, and 2007/2008.

In addition, the probe studied several comets.

Ulysses was a joint venture of NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) with participation from Canada's National Research Council

To study the Sun at all latitudes, the probe needed to change its orbital inclination and leave the plane of the Solar System.

To change the orbital inclination of a spacecraft to about 80° requires a large change in heliocentric velocity, the energy to achieve which far exceeded the capabilities of any launch vehicle.

To reach the desired orbit around the Sun, the mission's planners chose a gravity assist manoeuvre around Jupiter, but this Jupiter encounter meant that Ulysses could not be powered by solar cells. The probe was powered instead by a radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG).

The spacecraft was originally named Odysseus, because of its lengthy and indirect trajectory to study the solar poles. It was renamed Ulysses, the Latin translation of "Odysseus", at ESA's request in honour not only of Homer's mythological hero but also of Dante's character in the Inferno.

The last day for mission operations on Ulysses was June 30, 2009

Space News around the world


Surprising record!

Crew-1 Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins and Shannin Walker, and Soichi Noguchi currently living aboard the ISS orbital outpost will break the record on Sunday for most days in space by a crew launched aboard a US spacecraft. They have been up for longer now than the 84 days set by the Skylab 4 crew in 1974

Surprisingly Valuable

After almost reaching orbit during its second launch attempt in December, Astra announced this week it will be listed publicly in late 2021, by joining a "special purpose acquisition company," and is valued at $2.1 billion. The stock would trade as ASTR on Nasdaq.

The transaction is expected to raise about $500 million.

Surprising turnaround

A Falcon Booster that managed to fly twice in a month, a massive record!!! reduced from 37 to 27 days. This booster is B1060. Turnaround time used to be four months, and now it's four weeks.

Unsurprisingly a Failure.

SN9 the second starship prototype to attempt a very big hop and belly flop, like your drunk uncle at a swim party. Seemed like it was further away this time, epic explosion.

Great to see two on the launch pads.

FAA approval not actually fully granted on SN8 so there was a bit of a kafuffle for sn9. But it all seems resolved now, but I guess if you chuck very big explosives up in the air, you have to expect some trouble?

A Surprising Number of fully Commercial crew Spaceflights

Fourth Quarter 2021

Inspiration4 will be a 4 seat, 2-3 day Orbital free flyer using the SpaceX Crew Dragon

The commander will be accomplished pilot of civilian and military aircraft, Jared Isaacman, who‘s day job is the founder and CEO of Shift4 Payments, is donating the three other mission seats to people “who will be selected to represent the mission pillars of leadership, hope, generosity and prosperity.”

He has pledged $100 million to St. Jude Hospital and is hoping to raise as much as $200 million more, by giving the othe 3 seats to

St. Jude ambassador who exemplifies the values of the hospital

Raffle winner selected from members of the public who financially support St. Jude’s during the month of February.

An entrepreneur who utilizes the new Shift4Shop eCommerce platform.

It will be advertised at the Superbowl, and spectators will also be able to see the ISS fly overhead that night, weather permitting

There will be another as yet unmanned Orbital free flyer using the SpaceX Crew Dragon in 2022. The mission will attempt to break the orbital altitude record for private citizen spaceflight.

First Quarter 2022

Axiom Ax-1 will be an International Space Station visit again on a SpaceX Crew Dragon. Axiom Space and SpaceX have teamed up to send Nasa veteran Michael López-Alegría (commander), Entrepreneur Larry Connor (pilot), Canadian Investor Mark Pathy (mission specialist), Israeli Air Force Pilot Eytan Stibbe (mission specialist) Close friend of Ilan Ramon.

They will conduct a series of scientific and educational projects during the mission.

And of course, don’t forget the #Dearmoon


Astronaut of the Week

Millie Elizabeth Hughes-Fulford (December 21, 1945 – February 2, 2021) was an American medical investigator, molecular biologist, and the first female NASA payload specialist who flew aboard the NASA Space Shuttle Columbia sts-40 in 1991. the first mission dedicated to biomedical studies. The mission flew more than 3.2 million miles, completing 146 orbits around Earth, and its crew completed more than 18 experiments during a nine-day period, bringing back more medical data than any previous NASA mission.

She was the principal investigator on a series of SpaceHab/Biorack experiments, which examined the regulation of bone cell growth. These experiments flew on space shuttle missions STS-76, STS-81 and STS-84 and contributed to studies examining the root causes of osteoporosis as it occurs in astronauts during spaceflight.

Hughes-Fulford examined changes in T-cell gene induction in spaceflight as part of a NASA/ESA (European Space Agency) which flew to the space station in September 2006. That study examined the mechanism of action causing the decrease in T-cell activation in microgravity, a medical problem first discovered in Apollo astronauts upon their return to Earth. More recently, Hughes-Fulford and her team, along with their international colleagues, published a featured article in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology showing, for the first time, that microgravity itself is the root cause of T-cell dysfunction. In July 2013, NASA awarded her work as a top discovery on the International Space Station. In January 2015, her immunology experiment with the National Institutes of Health flew on a SpaceX mission to the space station.

She died of Lymphoma, which was the subject of her last research paper.


Happy Birthday Al Worden where ever you are.

Launches this week

SpaceX with 60 more Starlinks

Next week Antares 230+ with a Cygnus NG-15 SS Katherine Johnson ISS Logistics Flight.

Perseverance rover is almost at Mars and next week we will have the 7 minutes of Terror.

We will be having MARS Month in March to cover the mars mission properly.


Tianwen 1 (heavenly questions) made its fourth orbital correction burn on Friday evening, as it prepares for orbital insertion this Wednesday, roughly 200 days and 289 million miles later, to get 120 million miles away from home. The spacecraft is sending back new snaps of Mars from about 1.5 million miles away. This will be 2 days before the Chinese new year!!! Tianwen 1 which consists of an orbiter, deployable camera, lander and a rover successfully launched from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site on 23 July 2020 on a Long March 5

The Heavenly Questions is a poem attributed to Qu Yuan (the Chinese Marcus Aurelius?)and contained in the Classical Chinese poetry collection of Chu Ci, mega important with regards to the ancient culture of China, especially the area of the ancient state of Chu.

Brightness became bright and darkness dark; What has caused them to be like this? Yin and yang commingle; What was basic, what transformed? Upon what are the heavens folded? Where are the twelve stages divided? How are the sun and moon attached? How are the constellations arrayed? The sun emerges from the morning vale, It comes to rest on the crepuscular horizon. From dawn until dusk, How many miles does it travel?

The Second i-space Hyperbola-1 flight. Rocket disintegrated shortly after passing max q, so a failure after the success of this private space company achieving orbit 2019. The Rocket was painted with Xu Bing’s art on the side in the Chinese Song-style font from the Ming dynasty, but actually meant nothing, “when the sky can’t read your rocket, it may reject it”

They did get a LongMarch 3B off though.

United Arab Emirates

Hope orbiter will arrive this Tuesday at Mars, the day before China’s Tianwen-1 spacecraft.

The spacecraft orbiter is a mission to Mars to study the Martian atmosphere and climate. It was built by the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado Boulder with support from the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), Arizona State University (ASU), and the University of California, Berkeley and flown up on a Japanese H-IIa Rocket.


Roscosmos also announced that they will be taking Space Tourists up on the Soyuz to the ISS next year to add to the Space Tourism boom.

An electronic surveillance spy satellite was launched this week from Plesetsk.

Russia will also launch to the ISS this week with MS-16 logistics module the 168th flight of a Progress. from Baikonur Cosmodrome Site 31 on 15 February 2020 on a fast-track trajectory so will dock 3 hours 20 minutes after the launch, to the Russian Orbital Segment of the ISS, where it is expected to remain until June 2021. The Pirs module will also be deorbited along with it to make way for the Nauka module and European Arm, launching probably in late April

The ship's cargo included 600 kilograms of propellant for refueling, 420 liters of drinking water in the Rodnik system, 40.5 kilograms of pressurized gases with extra nitrogen supplies and 1,400 kilograms of various equipment and supplies, including the repair kit with reinforced glue patches for temporary sealing of the Transfer Chamber, PrK, in the Zvezda Service Module

Dmitry Rogozin bothering on still

"We’ve got our own Moon program, it "weighs" ten times less than the American one, but its results will be no less important for our scientists,"

Russia is in negotiations and talks with China to have its own Moonbase, and set-up essentially a rival Artemis program.

Russia has chosen four new candidates to begin cosmonaut training after an extended one-and-a-half-year selection process. The class includes Sergey Irtuganov, Alexander Kolyabin, Sergey Teteryatnikov and Harutyun Kiviryan


We will see a PSLV launch by the end of the month with the First Brazilian Earth observation satellite.

As mentioned a few months back India’s space agency the ISRO will be concentrating on kick-starting the commercial space economy. They have confirmed they are helping Hyderabad-startup Skyroot Aerospace to build its solid propulsion rocket to launch satellites in lower orbit, by signing an NDA that is able to access national facilities and technical expertise.

Skyroot joins Agnikul Cosmos already in this new program. They have already built prototypes of their engine called the Kalam-5.

In all, there are now over 50 startups in India building Space stuff


ESA Director General Jan Worner and Dr Hiroshi Yamakawa President of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) had an online bilateral meeting this week, confirming the status of cooperative activities between the two agencies

They already are collaborating a lot with things like Bepi columbo.

Two more mission were agreed on

Hera: an international planetary defence mission to carry out observations of the NASA DART mission's impact on the binary asteroid Didymos. Under this agreement, JAXA will provide the thermal infrared camera and science expertise.

MMX is a JAXA exploration mission, which plans to collect a sample/return mission to Phobos, one of Mar’s moons. ESA to provide JAXA with onboard communication components for the probe and assist in spacecraft tracking and control, and science collaboration.


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