Archive for October, 2018

Curiosity Mastcam Right image taken on Sol 2171, September 14, 2018
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has just begun Sol 2217 science activities.

Melissa Rice, a planetary geologist at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington, reports that the full Curiosity science team is back in swing of things following the rover’s anomaly back on Sol 2172.

Curiosity Mastcam Right photo acquired on Sol 2211 October 25, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSSNASA’s 

“It has been over a month since we last looked at the ‘workspace,’ the region in front of the rover that the arm can reach,” Rice says, “and there were some surprises in store for us!”

Wind sweep

Prior to the robot’s anomaly, the rock eyed by Curiosity was covered with gray-colored tailings from a failed attempt to drill the “Inverness” target, however, those tailings are now gone – and so is a lot of the dark brown soil and reddish dust.

“So while Curiosity has been sitting still, the winds have been moving, sweeping the workspace clean,” Rice adds.

Curiosity Front Hazcam Left A image taken on Sol 2216, October 31, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Later this week, the plan calls for Curiosity to take advantage of this freshly-scrubbed surface by taking close-up Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) images of fine details in the rock, including the light-toned veins crisscrossing the outcrop that are peppered with interesting dark inclusions.

Curiosity Navcam Right A image acquired on Sol 2214, October 29, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Ripple field

As the science team eased back into science operations, on the plan is taking MAHLI images with the cover open and closed to inspect how much dust is on the cover, a MAHLI image of the Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) ultraviolet sensor, a Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) observation of the vein target “Grange,” and some Mastcam images of the nearby ripple field “Sandend” to look for more changes due to the wind.

Curiosity Navcam Right A photo acquired on Sol 2214, October 29, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

As a long-term planner, Rice explains there’s excitement for a new drive by Curiosity to a selected spot where it can successfully drill into the gray rock.

Concludes Rice: “Soon the wind won’t be the only thing moving around here!”

Credit: CSPS

Luxembourg has demonstrated a successful five-point approach toward a unique space policy and strategy for space sector growth. How can the U.S. leverage the Luxembourg model to support other countries around the globe?

A new report from The Aerospace Corporation’s Center for Space Policy and Strategy (CSPS) has concluded that Luxembourg has taken a unique approach to space sector development, opting for a commercial-centric strategy rather than the traditional government-centric strategy.

Five points

Examination of Luxembourg’s approach to space reveals five keys points that can be extracted from it: commercial focus, risk tolerant, cross-cutting, international, and visible. These five points can be used as a model that others can use as guidance in starting or growing their space sectors.

The just-issued paper is authored by Kristi J. Bradford, a senior member of the technical staff in The Aerospace Corporation’s Space Architecture Department.

“With the rise of nations that have ambitions to diversify their national economies or grow their space capabilities, the U.S. public and private sectors have ample opportunity to provide support to these countries, which could open doors to many opportunities for the U.S. The Luxembourg five point model offers a potential framework for supporting foreign nations in their space capability development,” Bradford concludes.

The October 2018 paper — A Model for Space Sector Growth: A Luxembourg Case Study — is available at:

China-France Oceanographic Satellite (CFOSat)
Credit: CNES

The China-France Oceanographic Satellite (CFOSat) was launched on October 29 by the Long March-2C carrier rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China’s Gobi Desert.

Jointly developed by the China National Space Administration (CNSA) and the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES), the French space agency, CFOSat will conduct 24-hour observations of global wave spectrum, effective wave height and ocean surface wind field, according to the CNSA.

Long March-2C carrier rocket departs Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China’s Gobi Desert.

Tidal patterns

The satellite carries an observation system with a French wavelength dispersive spectrometer designed to measure the direction and wavelength of ocean tidal patterns and a Chinese apparatus for monitoring wind strength and direction.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and French President Emmanuel Macron exchanged congratulatory letters, stressing the significance of the joint space project. Macron said in his message that the CFOSat launch marks an important step forward in bilateral space cooperation.

Credit: CCTV/Screengrab


The effort was first conceived in 2005. In the 13 years since then, French and Chinese researchers have worked side-by-side to overcome a range of obstacles, according to China’s state-run CCTV.

“Both sides learn from each other and have gains in the cooperation. We reach a consensus on relevant procedures in such international cooperation, despite our differences in culture and tradition. That has created favorable conditions for our follow-up cooperation,” said Zhao Jian, deputy director of the systemic project department of China’s State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense.

“Data acquired by the China-France Oceanography Satellite will be open to all the scientists and research institutes around the world so as to promote human research on the ocean,” said Zhao.

Video of launch can be viewed at:

Credit: China Central Television

Credit: Marco Peroni Ingegneria


Research work is underway to protect a future settlement on Mars from cosmic rays. Artificial magnetic fields can be created through a series of high voltage electric cables arranged in a toroidal geometry around the inhabited environment.


Credit: Marco Peroni Ingegneria

These cables are able to generate an external magnetic field of 4/5 Tesla of intensity, enough to reject cosmic rays, and, at the same time, helps to null a magnetic field inside the settlement to avoid biological damage to future Mars dwellers.

Cable frame

Italian civil engineer, Marco Peroni, has drawn upon his earlier research work on an artificial magnetic field used as a shield for a lunar base, protected from solar wind by a huge toroidal-arranged cable frame, placed vertically and partially emerging from the lunar surface.

Credit: Marco Peroni Ingegneria

Peroni has also designed innovative spaceships that utilize artificial magnetic fields. Both types of ships are protected during the voyage to Mars from Earth, thwarting dangerous cosmic rays with an artificial magnetic shield, generated by a series of electric cables that envelop the ship’s structure.

Modular units

A spaceship made of modular habitable units that, once entering Mars orbit, disassembles, with segments landing on the planet to form a modular settlement on the surface of the Red Planet.

Credit: Marco Peroni Ingegneria

On Mars, following positioning of the modules and hooking them together, the settlement will be completed by installing the electrical cables above the ground. Earlier, a group of first settlers will have prepared the site, including the positioning of underground cables the complete the toroid. By flowing electricity in the circuit, the magnetic shield against cosmic rays will be generated.

Visual plus

Peroni’s approach offers a visual plus: No need to live underground in lava tubes or having a base buried underneath large amounts of Martian soil and rock. The modular community can have large windows for insiders to peer out onto the landscape. That mitigates psychological effects of crews living long-term on Mars…far away from Earth.

Credit: Marco Peroni Ingegneria

Peroni told Inside Outer Space that office experiments are helping to verify his thesis about the presence of the magnetic field outside the cable toroid, “and that the same field is null inside (the compass sign the north pole) in order to allow the construction of inhabited areas.”

Both Moon and Mars scenarios advanced by Peroni have been presented at recent technical conferences of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).

Credit: CCTV/Screengrab

China’s private launch group, LandSpace , launched the ZhuQue-1 rocket carrying the Weilai-1 (Future-1) satellite from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, Gansu Province, northwest China, on 27 October 2018.  According to Zhang Changwu (CEO, LandSpace Technology Corporation), the spacecraft failed to achieve orbit due to an issue with the third stage.

Credit: CCTV/Screengrab

This was the first launch of the ZhuQue-1, developed by LandSpace Technology, a private company located in Huzhou City, Zhejiang Province, east China.

Weilai-1 or “Future” micro-satellite.
Credit: CCTV/Screengrab

The satellite — Weilai-1 or “Future” — was a micro-satellite owned by China Central Television (CCTV) and intended for scientific experiments and Earth observation.








Go to this film of the launch at:

Credit: China Central Television (CCTV)

Credit: Elon Musk/SpaceX

If you didn’t have that winning big billion dollar + lottery ticket, here’s another toss of the dice.

The new space race isn’t to the Moon, but rather to Mars and the analysts at MyBookie say the smart money is on Elon Musk.

In-depth look

Analyst & oddsmaker, David Strauss took an in-depth look at the two private aerospace companies and determined that SpaceX and their Big Falcon Rocket places the company far ahead of Blue Origin as well as any government organization.

Credit: Subcommittee on Space, Committee on Science, Space, and Technology/Screengrab

Strauss said in a press statement: “Bezos may have the discipline, but Musk has the infrastructure and just the right amount of craziness to make a successful mission happen. The days of government organizations staging trip to another planet are behind us. I would be surprised if NASA truly makes it back to the Moon.”

Rocketeer Jeff Bezos and his commercial rocket firm, Blue Origin.
Credit: Blue Origin


Odds are

The MyBookie stats regarding the first organization to send a crewed mission to Mars:

Space X: -300 odds or 75% chance

Blue Origin: +400 or 20% chance

Boeing: +500 or 17% chance

US Space Force: +2000 or 5% chance

Russia: +4500 or 2% chance

NASA: +6000 or 1.5 percent chance

Link to odds at:

Curiosity Navcam Right A photo acquired on Sol 2210, October 24, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now in Sol 2213 and its eyes are on the sky reports Lauren Edgar, a planetary geologist at the USGS in Flagstaff, Arizona.

A three-sol script has the robot focusing on environmental monitoring, as the robot continues to be on the mend following a memory glitch that’s impacted transmission of imagery and data.

Curiosity Navcam Right A image taken on Sol 2210, October 24, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Dust content

“The first sol kicks off with Mastcam tau, Navcam line of sight, and Navcam dust devil observations, to monitor the dust content in the atmosphere and search for dust devils,” Edgar says.

Then the rover’s Chemistry & Mineralogy X-Ray Diffraction/X-Ray Fluorescence Instrument (CheMin) will return the remaining raw data frames from the “Stoer” analysis from early September.

In the afternoon, Curiosity will acquire a Mastcam sky survey, Navcam zenith movie, and Navcam suprahorizon movie, which will provide additional atmospheric monitoring data.

Curiosity Front Hazcam Left A image acquired on Sol 2210, October 24, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech



Pre-anomaly imaging

“Similar environmental observations will be acquired early the next morning, with an additional Mastcam crater rim extinction observation,” Edgar points out. “The second sol also includes a redo of the pre-anomaly post-drive imaging, to look for changes and provide a terrain mesh prior to resuming full arm and mobility activities.”

Curiosity Mastcam Right image taken on Sol 2211, October 25, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS


Curiosity Rear Hazcam Right A photo taken on Sol 2210, October 24, 2018.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The third sol planned includes a final suite of Mastcam tau, Navcam dust devil and Navcam suprahorizon movies, in addition to the standard Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) and Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) passive observations throughout the plan.

“But while the environmental theme group has their eyes on the sky, I’ve got mine on the ground…looking south over the back of the rover, and the new terrain that we are tantalizingly close to reaching,” Edgar concludes. “Looking forward to resuming full science operations soon!”

Credit: Virgin Orbit

The Long Beach Airport in California was the scene, for the first time, Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket was integrated with its 747 carrier aircraft.

Credit: Virgin Orbit

LauncherOne is carried aloft by a customized 747-400 aircraft dubbed “Cosmic Girl,” modified explicitly for the purpose of serving as a flying launch site.

Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit’s system becomes the world’s “first concierge launch service,” said the company in an October 25 press statement.

Captive carry testing

Each mission of the system is to be tailored to a customer’s specific needs for launch location and orbital inclination—a boon to small satellite customers who want flexibility and responsiveness.

The rocket is outfitted and ready for flight on Cosmic Girl in the near future.

It will be used for an extensive test flight campaign that includes a number of “captive carry” flights—during which the rocket will remain attached to the aircraft, gathering terabytes of test data about aerodynamic performance, structural loading, and more.

Credit: Virgin Orbit

High-altitude launch

The company has already manufactured its first orbital rocket and has fully integrated rocket stages actively in testing on custom-built stands at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.

Richard Branson inspects modified 747 aircraft, Cosmic Girl.
Credit: Virgin Orbit

LauncherOne, at 70 feet long, weighs 57,000 pounds and is intended to toss satellites into Earth orbit, as small as a loaf of bread or as large as a household refrigerator.



Cosmic Girl will carry the rocket to an altitude of 30,000+feet before the rocket engages its thrusters, taking it to outer space.

Credit: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio

NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio issued on October 20 a visualization using a digital 3D model of the Moon built from global elevation maps and image mosaics by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission.

Set to Claude Debussy’s Clair de Lune, this visualization uses LRO data to show the stark beauty of evolving light and shadow near sunrise and sunset on the rugged lunar surface. Background music is performed by Timothy Michael Hammond, distributed by Killer Tracks.

Melancholy moonlight

The visualization was created to accompany a performance of Claude Debussy’s Clair de Lune by the National Symphony Orchestra Pops, led by conductor Emil de Cou, at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC, on June 1 and 2, 2018, as part of a celebration of NASA’s 60th anniversary.

Clair de Lune (moonlight in French) was published in 1905, as the third of four movements in the composer’s Suite Bergamasque, and unlike the other parts of this work, Clair is quiet, contemplative, and slightly melancholy, evoking the feeling of a solitary walk through a moonlit garden.

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter flies over Shackleton crater near the lunar south pole in this computer rendering.
Credit: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio

Sunrise, sunset

The visuals were composed like a nature documentary, with clean cuts and a mostly stationary virtual camera. The viewer follows the Sun throughout a lunar day, seeing sunrises and then sunsets over prominent features on the Moon. The sprawling ray system surrounding Copernicus crater, for example, is revealed beneath receding shadows at sunrise and later slips back into darkness as night encroaches.

This video is public domain and along with other supporting visualizations can be downloaded from the Scientific Visualization Studio at:

Visualization Credits: Ernie Wright (USRA), Lead Visualizer and Editor; Laurence Schuler (ADNET Systems Inc.), Technical Support; Ian Jones (ADNET Systems Inc.), Technical Support; Wade Sisler (NASA/GSFC), Producer; and Noah Petro (NASA/GSFC), Scientist.

Go to YouTube video at:


Credit: Deep Space Industries

ASDReports of Amsterdam, the Netherlands has published a new study on the prospective space mining market.

The appraisal — Space Mining Market – Global Forecast to 2025 – reports in a statement that the space mining market is expected to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 23.6% from 2018 to 2025. The space mining market is expected to grow from USD 0.65 billion in 2018 to USD 2.84 billion by 2023, at a CAGR of 23.6%.

“Ongoing and impending space mining missions, increasing investments of private stakeholders in space mining companies, and rising number of government initiatives to frame regulations with respect to asteroid mining drive the space mining market growth,” says an ASDReports statement. “However, the high costs associated with asteroid mining may hinder the growth of the space mining market.”

NASA’s Psyche spacecraft is targeted to launch in summer 2022 and travel to the asteroid using solar-electric (low-thrust) propulsion, arriving in 2026.
Artist’s concept of the asteroid 16 Psyche, which is thought to be a stripped planetary core. Image credit: SSL/ASU/P. Rubin/NASA/JPL-Caltech

M type asteroids

The study explains that type M asteroids are expected to grow at the highest CAGR in the space mining market during the forecast period.

Type M asteroids are metallic asteroids and are made of rare metals, such as the platinum group metals. These asteroids dwell in the middle region of the main belt in between S-type and C-type asteroids and have albedos varying from 0.10 to 0.18. Albedo is a measure of the reflecting power of a nonluminous object. The more reflective, or shiny, the object is the more light it will reflect. Darker objects reflect little sunlight.

These asteroids account for nearly 8% of the known asteroids. Examples of M-type asteroids include 16 Psyche, 21 Lutetia, 22 Kalliope, and 55 Pandora, among others.

Type M asteroid would grow at the highest CAGR during the forecast period. “M-type asteroids can be mined, and mined materials can be used in construction activities in space. Precious metals can be mined and taken back to Earth. Hence, a few players are targeting M-type asteroids for exploration and mining,” the market research group adds.

Artist’s illustration of astronauts at an asteroid as well as other mining and transportation vehicles operating in space.
Credit: TransAstra Corporation & Anthony Longman

Legal framework

Luxembourg is the first European country to have a legal framework for the extraction of space-based resources. Luxembourg, under the initiative, provides legal, regulatory, and business environment, enabling private investors and companies to explore and use space resources.

Also, the collaboration of Government of Luxembourg with various private players (such as Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources) to explore and mine asteroids is expected to provide opportunities for the players in the space mining market. “Therefore, Europe is likely to exhibit the highest CAGR in the space mining market during the forecast period.”

Major players

Major players and space agencies in the space mining market include Deep Space Industries (US); Planetary Resources (US); Moon Express (US); ispace (Japan); Asteroid Mining Corporation (UK); Shackleton Energy Company (SEC, US); Kleos Space (Luxembourg); TransAstra (US); OffWorld (US); SpaceFab.US (US); National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA, US); European Space Agency (ESA, France); Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA, Japan); China National Space Administration (CNSA, China); and Russian Federal Space Agency (ROSCOSMOS, Russia).

Honey Bee Robotic asteroid capture for ISRU resource return, as viewed in this artist’s conception.
Credit: TransAstra Corporation

Competitive landscape

The report covers qualitative information on different types of commodity resources available in space, categorization of asteroids based on their distance from earth, applications of space mining, and space and on-Earth utilization of space-mined materials.

Major drivers, restraints, opportunities, and challenges pertaining to the space mining market are detailed in the report.

An in depth competitive landscape of the key players (along with their revenues) in the market is included in the report.

In the process of determining and verifying the market size for several segments and sub-segments gathered through secondary research, extensive primary interviews have been conducted with people holding key positions across regions.

For more information on this 114-page report — Space Mining Market – Global Forecast to 2025, go to: