Archive for the ‘Space News’ Category

SSTL’s Demonstration of Technology-4 lunar communications satellite.
Credit: SSTL

To change the economics of space around the Moon – that’s the plan from Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL).

A leading smallsat developer, SSTL is designing a low cost, roughly 80 pound (35 kilograms) lunar communications satellite mission called Demonstration of Technology-4, or DoT-4 for space shorthand.

SSTL’s Demonstration of Technology-4 satellite.
Credit: SSTL

Targeted for a 2021 launch, DoT-4 will be the pre-cursor mission for a larger lunar communications satellite to follow in the 2023 timeframe. That spacecraft would carry a more robust payload and also have the potential for navigation services.

Credit: Goonhilly Deep Space Network

Deep space network

According to a SSTL statement, DoT-4 will provide the communications relay back to Earth using the Goonhilly Deep Space Network in Cornwall, South West England, and will link up with a rover on the surface of the Moon.

Goonhilly is developing the capability to support the exploration of Lunar and Deep Space for institutions and private enterprise. The Goonhilly Earth Station endeavor is focused on becoming the world’s first commercial deep-space communications station, capable of tracking future missions to the Moon and Mars.

Small step

DoT-4 will prove technologies in the lunar environment and enable testing of radio communications with landers and rovers on the Moon’s surface.

“During the test phase, we will assess the compatibility of our proximity communications with the surface assets and we will verify the Earth communication link with several ground stations,” says Gary Lay, SSTL’s Director of Navigation and Exploration. “This small step will establish an infrastructure around the Moon to enable others to explore beyond Earth’s orbit.”

SSTL explains that they are currently in discussions with a number of parties for the lunar mission, and expects to disclose further information on mission partners and funding early in 2019.

Credit: Center for Space Policy and Strategy (CSPS).

Mega-constellations consisting of tens, hundreds and even thousands of satellites in non-geostationary orbits are now being proposed to bring affordable broadband and other services to the world.

However, investors in and operators of such constellations must clear multiple hurdles before getting their hardware off the ground, including rounds of technical reviews, securing financing and gaining regulatory approvals.

Even after receiving orbital and spectrum licenses, these proposed mega constellations risk significant delays because they must be deployed within a defined period and failure to do so has onerous consequences.

A new policy paper — Launch Uncertainty: Implications for Large Constellations – has been issued by the Aerospace Corporation’s Center for Space Policy and Strategy (CSPS).

Mitigate potential delays

Once regulatory approvals have been met, the paper notes, constellation operators may still face a shortfall of launch vehicles, satellites and ground systems or launch site processing issues, cancellations and flight anomalies.

Credit: Center for Space Policy and Strategy (CSPS).

The paper offers ideas for better understanding prospects for delays, such as analysis of historical delay data coupled with event simulation, which can help operators and investors understand, plan for, and ideally mitigate these potential delays.

Schedule margin

Delay risk can be mitigated by actions, the policy document suggests, such as adding launch processing infrastructure, increasing workforces, using overtime judiciously, and having ample schedule margin, as well as potentially policy and rule changes to facilitate government relief for those actors not directly responsible for delays.

To view a copy of Launch Uncertainty: Implications for Large Constellations, go to:

Credit: ESA

The walking and hopping quadruped robot is currently being tested in the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Mars Yard.

“Legged robots can traverse unstructured terrain and could be used to explore areas of interest, such as craters, which rovers are unable to reach,” explains team member Patrick Barton. “As they are very versatile, they can change gait to adapt to different terrain.”

SpaceBok has been designed by a Swiss student team from ETH Zurich and ZHAW Zurich, under the supervision of Professor Marco Hutter and PhD student Hendrik Kolvenbach.

Built for hopping

SpaceBok is primarily built for hopping and on the Moon the robot could reach a height of four meters off the lunar terrain. “This would allow for a fast and efficient way of moving forward,” says team member Elias Hampp in an ESA press statement.

In low gravity environments hopping proves to be energetically more efficient than walking.

The aim of the research effort is to build a jumping robot capable of overcoming large obstacles and thus increase the operation range of mobile robots for data collection.

To see SpaceBok in action, go to this video:


Credit: Trailer – The Wandering Earth/Screengrab/Inside Outer Space

Forget about shooting off interstellar probes, chips, plaques and records, or keepsake mementos…whatever.

How about launching the Earth outward?

China’s “The Wandering Earth,” is set to hit Chinese movie screens on February 5 of next year – Chinese New Year in Chinese theaters.

The film is adapted from a same name short story novel in 2000 by Hugo Award winner Liu Cixin.

The movie stars Guangjie Li, Chuxiao Qu, Man Tat Ng, Jinmai Zhao, Jing Wu.

Credit: Trailer – The Wandering Earth/Screengrab/Inside Outer Space

Centuries-long journey

Liu’s “Wandering Earth” depicts how humans, endangered by a dying and swelling Sun, erect gigantic engines to hurl the planet out of the solar system, setting it on a centuries-long journey in search of a new sun.

Gong Geer, the producer of the film, told Xinhua news agency: “We hope the plot, characters and scenes in the film can impress our audience as being Chinese, as this is a very Chinese story.”

“Westerners may be surprised by the idea of humans leaving with the Earth instead of fleeing in spacecraft,” Gong told Xinhua.”What they may see in this film is the Chineses’ dedication to the land, as nurtured in the country’s long agricultural history.”

Credit: Trailer – The Wandering Earth/Screengrab/Inside Outer Space




The official trailers have been released, offering a look at various scenes, including a frozen “2044 Shanghai Olympic Mansion” and a massive “Earth Engine” towering over the Great Wall.

Take a look at these videos at:

Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The entry of the InSight Mars lander may be caught by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).


“The parachute image will be a distant view and probably smeared, so not a good looking image but still useful for engineering evaluation,” explains Alfred McEwen, the Principal Investigator of the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) for the MRO.

McEwen said that after InSight is on the Red Planet, a first post-landing image attempt is 3 days afterward, and most likely HiRISE will miss it on that first attempt, he told Inside Outer Space.

Credit: Werenbach


A Swiss space startup produces wristwatches made from the “upcycled” material of flown space rockets.

Zurich-based Werenbach is the start-up company offering “Race to Space Editions” of watches that incorporate materials from two rockets.

Credit: Werenbach



The watches belong to the MACH33 family. All models contain not just material from the respective space rocket but symbolic sections of the rocket: they are cut from the flag prints on the rocket faring as well as from the very tip of the rocket itself.

Credit: Werenbach




Watch 1: RTS1 RUS – Russia Flag Soyuz MS-04, 99 pcs

Watch 2: RTS2 USA – USA Flag Soyuz MS-04, 199 pcs

Watch 3: RTS5 GER – front of rocket Soyuz MS-09 (in reference to the first German ISS commander), 199 pcs

Credit: Werenbach


Special feature

Each of the watches in the MACH33 collection has a special feature: an integrated microchip that allows you to be connected to the livestream of Earth from the International Space Station, thanks to your smartphone. With these real-time video feeds, the watch-wearers can share a view that previously was only available to the astronauts aboard the ISS, but now can be accessed thanks to the watch on your wrist.

The watch straps, also made new for the collection, are each made in the respective national colors of the three countries.

The models are manufactured in limited quantities due to the very limited resources used for the editions.

For more information, go to:

Also, take a view of the video at:

Pangaea-X Moon base
Credit: ESA–A. Romeo


Future extraterrestrial romps by humans on the Moon can get a lunar leg up by training on Lanzarote, part of the Canary Islands. A European Space Agency (ESA) test campaign combines geology and space exploration with high-tech equipment.

The Pangaea geology field course is called Pangaea-X.

Moon-targeted experiments

For example, the week-long dry-run includes an experiment that ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano will carry out next year but this time from the International Space Station. The intent is to take Moon-targeted operations out into space.

Communications delays are to be included in the campaign. Astronauts operating rovers on the surface of the Moon, for example, must contend with low-quality links and delays in space.

Rover driving

Over the course of the week ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer, scientists, operations experts and engineers will work side-by-side on eight experiments and technology demonstrations to advance European know-how of human and robotic mission operations.

From Lanzarote, Matthias will drive a rover located at ESA’s main technology centre in The Netherlands.

Habitat modules are seen beside ‘garages’ for rovers, with an adjacent launch site. Note the robotic vehicles on the surface, proceeding with base construction.
Credit: RegoLight, visualization: Liquifer Systems Group, 2018

A team of scientists will advise Matthias on the most interesting samples from a scientific point of view. He will use a tool that integrates real-time positioning, data sharing, voice chat and much more.

3D printing

Meanwhile, a new ESA-led project is investigating the ways that 3D printing could be used to create and run a habitat on the Moon, reducing logistical dependency on Earth.

Everything from building materials to solar panels, equipment and tools to clothes, even nutrients and food ingredients can potentially be 3D printed.

The aim of 3D printing on the Moon would be to ‘live off the land’ as much as possible, by printing as many structures, items and spares out of lunar regolith as possible, or by using and reusing materials brought for the mission, rather than continuously relying on the long, expensive supply line from Earth.

Curiosity Front Hazcam Left A image taken on Sol 2236, November 20, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 2237 tasks.

“Curiosity is planning a smorgasbord of science over the next few days as it awaits results from digesting the ‘Highfield’ drill target material,” reports Fred Calef, a planetary geologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Curiosity ChemCam Remote Micro-Imager photo taken on Sol 2235, November 19, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

Also on tap is continuing change detection observations including subdiurnal (i.e. several times a martian day) Mastcam observations of “Sand Loch” and “Windyedge”, as well as use of the Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) to watch moving sand grains beneath the rover, throughout the planning cycle.

Curiosity Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) image acquired on Sol 2235, November 19, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS


“There’s also a good helping of Mastcam sky column, Navcam sky flats, crater rim extinction, and suprahorizon and zenith movies to round out the meal of atmospheric events,” Calef adds. “Repeating observations during the day of the same locations are one of the unique ways the rover can provide an hourly view of Mars’ surface that only a spacecraft on the ground can.”

Planned is use of the Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam) instrument, targeting scattered pebbles nearby: reddish/pink rocks named appropriately “Rosemarkie” and some more bluish toned rocks called “Grey Mares Tail.”

Curiosity Mastcam Right photo taken on Sol 2235, November 19, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Suspected meteorite

There will also be a look at the suspected meteorite “Little Todday” with a ChemCam Z-Stack (to measure its compositional variation with depth) and repeat Mastcam observations of the Highfield drill tailings to see if it’s still being pushed around by daily winds, Calef explains.

A Curiosity Mastcam color image of “Greenheugh”, a special type of ripple uniquely spaced apart and only seen on Mars, will be taken. “The last image of that target was from over 250 sols ago (!), which may allow us to determine how fast they move across the surface,” Calef adds.

Credit: Euroconsult, China Space Industry 2018 (used with permission)

A new deep dive report on China’s space industry has been completed by Euroconsult.

The report — China Space Industry 2018 – notes that the China space value chain had an estimated size of more than $16 billion in 2017, with the downstream market accounting for just over 85%.

Satellite Navigation, one of the key satellite applications in China, was the main revenue generator in 2017, ahead of Satellite Communications and Earth Observation.

The analysis looks into the current Chinese space ecosystem and future expected evolutions, from upstream to downstream, and covers these space segments:

  • Satellite Manufacturing
  • Launch
  • Satellite Communications
  • Earth Observation
  • Satellite Navigation
  • Space Exploration

    Credit: CCTV/Screengrab/Inside Outer Space

Rapidly evolving

“China’s space industry is rapidly evolving, with an increasing number of nominally private companies competing in different parts of the space industry in both China and abroad, and with the Chinese space industry starting to play a bigger role in cutting-edge technology,” explains Dimitri Buchs, Senior Consultant at Euroconsult and editor of the report. “Changes are occurring at a rapid pace across the value chain, for both upstream and downstream activities and for all application domains,” he adds.

According to a Euroconsult statement, the current changes in the space ecosystem are being brought about using different strategies, “such as the opening of some markets to private enterprises and greater competition among incumbents, all of which are aimed at fostering greater innovation among companies within China.”

Credit: China Manned Space Agency

Grander ambitions

Moving forward, Euroconsult adds it is expected that the Chinese government will continue to open different parts of the space industry.

“Indeed, with the state-owned giants more recently focusing on grander ambitions, such as China’s space station, the Chang’e moon mission, and eventually human missions to the Moon and Mars, it is possible that much of what is considered traditional commercial space, and even new space, will become more open to the private sector as the state sets its sights on bigger targets.”

For more information on China Space Industry 2018, go to:

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket successfully launches the U.S. Air Force X-37B space plane.
Credit: ULA

A new analysis by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C. focuses on the cost of creating a new military service for space, known as the Space Force.

Doing so is likely to be a hotly debated issue in the FY 2020 legislative cycle.

According to the CSIS report, one of the central questions about this proposal is how much it will cost and what the overall size and scope of the Space Force will be.

This just-issued brief provides rough estimates for the number of military and civilian personnel, the number and locations of bases, the budget lines that would transfer to the new organization, and the additional personnel and headquarters organization that would be needed for the new military service.

Credit: CSIS

Annual budget

This analysis finds that the total annual budget of the new service would range from $11.3 billion to $21.5 billion under the three options considered, more than 96 percent of which would be transferred from existing budget accounts within the Department of Defense.

Of these totals, only $0.30 billion to $0.55 billion would be new funding (or $1.5 to $2.7 billion over five years).

The report by Todd Harrison, director of Defense Budget Analysis and the director of the Aerospace Security Project at the CSIS, as well as research support provided by Nigel Mease, a Defense Budget Analysis intern at CSIS, is available at:

Griffith Observatory Event