Archive for October, 2014
UPDATE: Chinese space groups and news services are reporting the successful landing of China’s test lunar orbiter, parachuting down in north China’s Inner Mongolia.
Before its reentry to Earth, the spacecraft was moving at a velocity of 11.2 kilometers per second. This speed can generate temperatures of more than 1,500 degrees Celsius.
To help the craft slow down, spacecraft controllers employed a reentry method by letting the craft “bounce” off the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere, before reentering again.
The reentry angle had to be guided so precisely that a 0.2 degrees deviation would render the mission a failure.
China’s circumlunar test vehicle carried out a “trial by fire” reentry – hotfooting itself back to Earth by performing a skip reentry to slow down. The craft appears to have landed in safe and sound condition under parachute after some eight days of flight.
Zhou Jianliang, chief engineer of the Beijing Aerospace Control Center told China’s Xinhua news agency that there were challenges for the spacecraft to make its way home.
The window for landing was very small and required highly sophisticated telemetry, tracking and command system operations, Zhou said.The test orbiter maneuvered on the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere to slow from a speed of 11.2 kilometers per second before reentry, a process that generated extremely high temperatures.
Launched last Friday (Beijing time), the craft was hurled moonward by a Long March-3C rocket.This moon mission by China is seen as a partial test run for the Chang’e 5 spacecraft flight – part of the country’s multi-step program of lunar exploration.
Chang’e 5’s mission to return collected samples of the Moon’s surface back to Earth is expected in 2017, according to Chinese news sources.
Here’s a new story from me up on Space.com:
Ebola Outbreak May Hold Lessons for Handling Samples from Mars
by Leonard David, Space.com’s Space Insider Columnist
October 30, 2014 10:00am ET
China’s experimental mooncraft is on target to return back to Earth on November 1st.
Adjustments to the trajectory of the spacecraft have been made, with other nudges expected. Doing so will set up the craft to made a skip-reentry into Earth’s atmosphere, slowing it down from a speed of 11.2 kilometers per second – then parachuting into a pre-selected landing site.
Launched on October 24th (China time), the mission is designed to last some 8 days.
This craft is conducting a test run of procedures and technologies useful for China’s Chang’e 5 mission that will gather samples from the moon’s surface and return them to Earth.
One key element being evaluated on the mission currently underway is reentry technology – assuring that the return capsule can take the heat during its high-speed maneuvering through the Earth’s atmosphere.
A new story from me, up today on Space.com:
Mock Satellite Destroyed to Study Space Junk Collisions
By Leonard David, Space.com’s Space Insider Columnist
October 28, 2014 07:00am ET
A new NASA report provides an introduction and overview, and a look into the future, of the emerging “space ecosystem” and American private-sector space activities.
Titled Emerging Space: The Evolving Landscape of 21st Century American Spaceflight, the report is by the NASA Office of the Chief Technologist, 2014.
The report is available from NASA’s Emerging Space Office (ESO), “formed in recognition of the rising importance of private-sector individuals and organizations that invest their own time and money in space activities. This emerging space community is increasingly a major force in American space developments,” ESO’s website notes.
According to the newly issued report, the United States stands today at the opening of a “second Space Age.”
Industrial strength space
“Innovative NASA programs and American entrepreneurs together are transforming the space industry,” the report says.
“These initiatives – both at NASA and in the private sector – are expanding the nation’s opportunities for exploration and for the economic development of the solar system.”
The report stresses that NASA’s goal is to develop the capabilities that will allow the American people to explore, pioneer, and expand our economic sphere into the solar system.
“To do this we will build on our long-standing relationships with American industry by embracing new and diverse forms of partnerships,” the report explains.
Special thanks to the Space Frontier Foundation for flagging the release of this informative report.
Go to the report, Emerging Space: The Evolving Landscape of 21st Century American Spaceflight, at:
Also go to NASA’s Emerging Space Office (ESO) Website at:
Researchers are recovering valuable data by perusing stashed away and nearly forgotten images from 5 decades old NASA Nimbus data tapes and black and white film.
The upshot is that they are finding treasures in the pictures.
Experts at the Boulder, Colorado-based National Snow and Ice Data Center — part of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) — are expanding their understanding of sea ice in the Arctic and Antarctic.
In 1964, NASA launched the first of seven Nimbus spacecraft to study Earth from space.
Now fifty years later, scientists are getting an eye-full thanks to the old data via a NASA-sponsored Nimbus Data Rescue Project.
An informative video on this effort is available at:
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has unveiled their new report: The Space Economy at a Glance 2014.
This new report provides a statistical overview of the global space sector and its contributions to economic activity.
The new edition provides indicators and statistics based on both official and private data, in over forty countries with space programs, and identifies new dynamics in the space sector.
The report notes that globalization is affecting the space economy at different levels.
In the 1980s, only a handful of countries had the capacity to build and launch a satellite. Many more countries and corporate players across a wide range of industrial sectors are now engaged in space-related activities, a trend that is expected to strengthen in the coming years.
Supply chains for the development and operation of space systems are also increasingly evolving at the international level, even if the space sector remains heavily influenced and shaped by strategic and security considerations. Many space technologies are dual use, i.e. employed for both civilian and military programs, which tends to constrain international trade in space products.
Nonetheless, as evidenced by recent OECD research on global value chains, product and service supply chains for space systems are internationalizing at a rapid pace.
Among key findings, the report states:
Countries with long-established space programs face growing challenges as lower costs and technological advances draw more countries and companies into the sector and give rise to a burgeoning commercial space industry.
The Space Economy at a Glance 2014 shows that while space budgets in the 34 OECD countries totaled USD 50.8 billion in 2013, down from USD 52.3 billion in 2008, the combined space budget of the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China) swelled to USD 24.0 billion from USD 16.5 billion over the same period.
To view this new OECD (2014) report, go to:
An advanced Long March-3C rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China’s Sichuan Province has hurled toward the Moon China’s robotic test vehicle.
Launched early Friday (local China time), the spacecraft will fly around the Moon for half a circle and return to Earth in a test of reentry technologies to be used for China’s lunar return sample program.
On its return to Earth, the test spacecraft will make a “skip reentry” to progressively slow down before landing in north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.
Dubbed by China observers as the Chang’e-5 Test 1 (CE5-T1), the mission is to take some 8 days, according to China news outlets.
“Earthbound experiments can’t effectively simulate the complexity of the atmospheric environment,” Hao Xifan, deputy chief designer of the CE5-T1 and Chang’e-5 missions told China’s S&T Daily shortly before the launch, according to the AAAS ScienceInsider.
Hao said the spacecraft’s skip reentry must be well-controlled. “If it’s too low, the probe may be burnt. If too high, it won’t be able to land in the targeted area.”
Also on the China booster: Hitchhiking payloads 4M, developed by LuxSpace in Luxembourg and PS86X1 from Pocket Spacecraft – a virtual organization situated in the United Kingdom.
This current Moon mission by China is to gather experimental data and confirm re-entry technologies such as guidance, navigation and control, heat shield and trajectory design. That knowledge will be rolled into a future touch-down on the Moon by Chang’e-5, now targeted for a 2017 flight to land on the lunar surface and snag samples for return to Earth.
For an interesting look at China’s current and future robotic lunar missions, go to:
— Video: Launch of Chang’e 5 test mission
— Video describing the mission.
— Video: Chang’e 5 moon return test mission
According to LuxSpace:
After a thunderstorm two hours before liftoff, the skies cleared to see the Long March 3C booster rocket “through” the Orion constellation and head toward the Moon.
Here is a movie of the liftoff:
The LuxSpace 4M spacecraft has been successfully activated and has started to transmit to Earth with data received from stations all over the world (so far from Argentina, Brazil, USA, and Australia).
Temperature variations of the 4M spacecraft indicate that the last stage of the rocket is smoothly rotating, “making 4M’s journey to the moon and back so far not too harsh,” LuxSpace reports.
Here’s my new story and update on China’s next robotic trek to the Moon – while technical details are skimpy, this mission should sharpen the country’s lunar sample return program:
China Poised to Launch Next Moon Mission on Thursday
By Leonard David, Space.com’s Space Insider Columnist
October 22, 2014 07:00am ET
China’s new launch complex is the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center in Hainan province.
Construction of that facility began in 2009 and is now completed. It will soon become operational, China’s People’s Daily reported last week.
The center is designed to handle next-generation rockets, the lofting of large space station modules – as well as deep space missions.
Coastal launch base
The new launch facility is situated on the northeast coast of Hainan Island, about 37 miles (60 kilometers) from Haikou, the provincial capital. The center is the country’s first coastal satellite launch base – no danger of discarded booster parts sailing into residential areas.
Wenchang adds to a trio of other Chinese launch sites: the heavily used Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert, Taiyuan in the Shanxi province, and in Xichang, Sichuan province.
Space city with trams!
Wenchang is built to loft the Long March 5 rocket, China’s most powerful booster, which is now under development.
According to Qi Faren, former chief designer of the Shenzhou spaceships, the Long March 5 will be launched from the new center next year.
The launch site will be used primarily for dispatching heavy geostationary telecommunications satellites.
As China’s fourth “space city,” Wenchang also includes a space theme park where visitors will be given tram tours of the launch pads.
By the way, the third annual Hainan Wanning Riyue Bay International Surfing Festival will take place on Hainan from November 23-28.
Surf and space are up!