Archive for November, 2018

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:

Credit: The Aerospace Corporation’s Center for Space Policy and Strategy

Even for technical experts in one of the many scientific and engineering disciplines central to space activity, it can be hard to make sense of how underlying policy direction is fundamentally shaping the art of the possible.

That’s the premise behind a newly issued primer that concisely identifies key concepts, issues, and organizational actors involved in space policy. Furthermore, a number of difficult policy questions face the United States and other spacefaring nations.

How should goals be defined for the next chapter in space exploration, commercialization, and security?

Space policy essentials

The document — Space Policy Primer: Key Concepts, Issues, and Actors — has been issued by The Aerospace Corporation’s Center for Space Policy and Strategy, written by James Alver and Michael Gleason.

“This primer lays out the essentials on the participants and processes of space policy, with minimal jargon and acronyms,” explains Jamie Morin, Executive Director of the Center for Space Policy and Strategy. “We hope this primer becomes a useful reference document for everyone from space policy novices to those with extensive experience with space issues.”

NASA astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson, Expedition 24 flight engineer, looks through a window in the Cupola of the International Space Station. A blue and white part of Earth and the blackness of space are visible through the windows.
Credit: NASA


While the primer is somewhat U.S.-centric, it reflects the global environment and should be useful for non-U.S. observers seeking to understand the complexities of U.S. space policy, Morin adds.

The primer contents include looks at rationales for spaceflight, international space law and international organizations, civil, commercial and national security space, as well as national cross-cutting issues.

For the document, go to:

Aerospace’s artist rendering of the Solar Gravity Lens concept which will enable enhanced viewing of potentially habitable exoplanets.
Credit: The Aerospace Corporation


An innovative deep-space concept that relies on a solar gravity lens (SGL) to enable enhanced viewing of exoplanets is under study by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and The Aerospace Corporation.

The SGL would provide 100-billion optical magnification, allowing it to show details as small as 10 kilometers across – similar to being able to spot something the size of New York City on an exoplanet.

As detailed in a press statement from The Aerospace Corporation, according to Einstein’s theory of relativity, light traveling through space will bend if it passes near sufficiently massive objects. This means that distant light will bend around the periphery of the sun, eventually converging toward a focal region as if it had passed through a lens.

The SGL mission would send spacecraft to that region to view the focused light.

Aerospace’s artist rendering of a swarm of spacecraft flying out of the solar system at a velocity of over 75 miles per second to reach the solar gravity line.
Credit: The Aerospace Corporation

Array of detectors

“SGL requires placement of an array of detectors that starts to observe the light from exoplanets once they arrive at a distance of approximately 50 billion miles or 550 astronomical units (AU) away from Earth,” said Tom Heinsheimer, Aerospace’s technical co-lead for SGL.

“To get to that solar gravity line,” Heinsheimer says, “the swarm of spacecraft will need to use a solar sail to fly out of the solar system at a velocity of over 75 miles per second.”

Stay in line!

Navigation and propulsion technologies will need to keep the sensors on the spacecraft flying in the one-mile-wide line that contains the light from the exoplanet. The roundtrip communications link of six light days will make ground control of the spacecraft impractical, so the spacecraft will need to be adaptable and able to learn from experience.

To undertake the two-year SGL study, Aerospace was awarded $130,000 from Phase II of NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program through a contract with JPL which leads the overall NIAC study.

Geologist Harrison Schmitt performs Moon tasks during Apollo 17 mission in December 1972.
Credit: NASA


The Moon is a Disneyland of Dust.

Its pervasive nature was characterized by the last man on Moon, Gene Cernan. He reported after his 1972 Apollo 17 mission: “we can overcome other physiological or physical or mechanical problems except dust”. Dust adhered ‘to everything, no matter what kind of material” with “restrictive, friction-like action,” he explained.

Research by an Australian scientist suggests that dust is the major surface problem for risk management plans of future lunar expeditions – both for humans and robotic explorers.

Apollo 17 helmets and dusty spacesuits stuffed inside lunar lander following the last human treks on the Moon in December 1972.
Credit: NASA

Apollo dust

Brian J. O’Brien of the School of Physics and Astrophysics at the University of Western Australia has taken a retrospective and future look at worrisome “Apollo dust,” sunrise-driven storms of Apollo dust, and other phenomenon. There’s need for a paradigm change from a “culture of dismissal” of the problem to top priority, he suggests.

Apollo dust is defined as all fine dust on and in the vicinity of the surface of Moon that can cause or lead to operational impacts and operational problems for robotic and human expeditions and lunar settlements. Also, ejecta dust is defined as high speed dust particles resulting from hypersonic meteoritic or cosmic dust impacts on the Moon, including secondary products of ejecta.

O’Brien’s research work – “Paradigm shifts about dust on the Moon: From Apollo 11 to Chang’e-4” – is newly published in the journal, Planetary and Space Science.

Risk management

There’s need for a re-examination of risk management of effects of Apollo dust given international expeditions including a Moon Village and private groups headed for the Moon.

Speculated by O’Brien is that lunar dust storms were consistent with being a cause of immobilization of China’s Yutu rover that was dispatched on the Moon in December 2013. Such dust, he notes, may have caused moving parts of Cheng’e-3 Yutu lunar rover to be subjected to the friction-like effects of dust gumming up parts of the robot.

China’s Yutu rover. A victim of dust? Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences

Back in July 1969, O’Brien reports, rocket exhaust from the Eagle’s lunar lander departure blew contaminating dust so large it caused overheating and failure within 21 Earth days of the first science observatory deployed by a human on Moon.

Unfinished business

Studying Apollo dust is “unfinished business,” O’Brien points out. Looking forward, he is hopeful that updated 21st century dust detectors and their data on China’s Chang’e-4 far side lander and perhaps India’s Chandrayaan-2 lander/rover will study movements of Apollo dust.

“With the splendid high technology and miniaturization of cameras and electronic devices,” O’Brien explains, “it may well be that a modern innovation can cause a new paradigm change in understanding Apollo dust.”

Private lunar lander operations.
Credit: Astrobotic Technology, Inc.


Special caution

In concluding remarks, O’Brien has a “special caution” for private entrepreneurs and others “who might assume that dust can be dismissed for any expedition which completes activities on its first lunar day before the first sunrise. Every dust problem and bothersome operational difficulty for every Apollo astronaut occurred on his first lunar day. I enviously wish you all well.”

To read “Paradigm shifts about dust on the Moon: From Apollo 11 to Chang’e-4” — in the journal, Planetary and Space Science, go to:

Credit: Virgin Orbit



Sky flying over Southern California, Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne, mated to a specially modified 747-400, made its first captive carry test flight.

Sir Richard Branson’s small satellite launch company completed a test jaunt, proving that its carbon-fiber two-stage rocket can be paired with Cosmic Girl, the customized former passenger aircraft that serves as the company’s “flying launch pad.”

The company’s plans are to reach orbit in early 2019.

Credit: Virgin Galactic

Testing regime

The Sunday, Nov. 18 flight lasted 80 minutes in total, during which Virgin Orbit’s flight crew assessed the take-off, landing, and low-speed handling and performance of the integrated system.

This portion of the extensive testing regime will conclude with a drop test, during which a rocket will be released from Cosmic Girl — without igniting — generating critical data about Cosmic Girl’s and the rocket’s performance as it freefalls through the atmosphere.

Credit: Virgin Orbit

As part of that program, the company will conduct several more flights of its 747-400, some with a LauncherOne rocket attached and some without.

Test facility

The twosome departed from and returned to a Victorville, California test facility close both to Virgin Orbit’s Long Beach factory and to one of its operational launch sites, the Mojave Air and Space Port.

Credit: Virgin Orbit



Virgin Orbit intends to be a flexible launch service for commercial and government-built satellites.

LauncherOne rockets are made in Long Beach, California, and will be air-launched from its carrier aircraft capable of operating from many locations in order to serve each customer’s needs.



For more information, go to:

Au natural: Earth’s Moon as seen from the International Space Station.
Credit: NASA/ESA

NASA and the Departments of State and Commerce have submitted a report to the National Space Council outlining future opportunities and challenges for human spaceflight in low-Earth orbit (LEO), and its potential economic contributions to the broader field of exploration.

The National Space Council requested NASA lead an interagency effort to produce the report, entitled ‘A Strategy for Human Spaceflight in Low Earth Orbit and Economic Growth in Space,’ during its February meeting.

The first U.S. astronauts who will fly on American-made, commercial spacecraft to and from the International Space Station, wave after being announced, Friday, Aug. 3, 2018 at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. The astronauts are, from left to right: Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins, Bob Behnken, Doug Hurley, Nicole Aunapu Mann, Chris Ferguson, Eric Boe, Josh Cassada, and Suni Williams. The agency assigned the nine astronauts to crew the first flight tests and missions of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon.
Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Overarching goals

The report details four overarching goals for human spaceflight in LEO that were developed in collaboration with NASA’s interagency partners:

To achieve a continuous U.S. presence in LEO – both NASA astronauts and private citizens – in order to support the use of space by U.S. citizens, companies, academia, and international partners and to maintain a permanent American foothold on the nearest part of the space frontier.

To create a regulatory environment in LEO that enables American commercial activities to thrive.

To conduct human spaceflight research in LEO that will advance the technology and systems required for long-duration spaceflight systems, including systems for interplanetary travel and permanent space habitation.

U.S. President Trump signing bring back the National Space Council.
Credit: White House

To expand and extend commercial opportunity though international partnerships and engagement.

Executive summary available

These goals are among the priorities of NASA’s exploration plans for the coming years. NASA will continue to work with its interagency partners to achieve these objectives and milestones with commercial crew and advancement of long-duration human spaceflight systems.

The report itself is for intra-governmental use only, due to the inclusion of sensitive information.

However, a one-page executive summary is available online at: