Archive for August, 2019

Curiosity Navcam Right B image taken on Sol 2501, August 19, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 2502 duties.

The Mars machinery is headed for a conjunction, a few-week period when Mars goes behind the Sun and ground controllers stop communicating with spacecraft that are there.

Curiosity Front Hazcam Right B photo acquired on Sol 2501, August 19, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“Our last planning day before conjunction will be next Friday and thinking about that fast approaching day feels very similar to thinking about getting ready to leave for vacation,” reports Abigail Fraeman, a planetary geologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

“The Curiosity science team has many things we want to wrap up before conjunction,” Fraeman adds, “so we’re trying to work extra hard to do as much as we can before setting up Curiosity’s (figurative) auto-reply ‘I’m behind the sun’ email.”

Curiosity Mastcam Left image acquired on Sol 2500, August 18, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Analyses of drill sample

The recent weekend plan was all about running additional Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) Instrument Suite analyses on the Glen Etive drill sample.

The plan called for delivery of a portion of the drill sample to SAM on lucky sol 2500, Fraeman notes, and SAM was to analyze its composition using the gas chromatograph and mass spectrometer (GC-MS) on sol 2501.

“This SAM activity is preceded by an activity to clean the GC column on sol 2499, and the combined observations use so much power, there’s not a lot left for other activities,” Fraeman explains.

Curiosity ChemCam Remote Micro-Imager photo taken on Sol 2501, August 19, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

Some remote sensing

Mars researchers did manage to fit in a little bit of remote sensing, taking two Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) targets of “Sutherland” and “Risk” with their associated Mastcam images, along with some images to monitor dust in the atmosphere.

Fraeman concludes by pointing out that scientists are looking forward to seeing the results from the SAM run.

Dr. K Sivan, Chairman, Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).
Credit: ISRO


India is celebrating the Lunar Orbit Insertion (LOI) of the country’s Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft.

“The LOI maneuver was performed successfully today morning using the onboard propulsion system for a firing duration of about 29 minutes,” said Dr. K Sivan, Chairman, Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), in an August 20 press briefing.

“This maneuver precisely injected Chandrayaan-2 into an orbit around the Moon,” Sivan added. He emphasized the unique requirement of 90 degree orbital inclination of Chandrayaan-2 and said that it was achieved by the precise execution of both the Trans Lunar Injection (performed on August 14, 2019) and today’s LOI maneuver.

Credit: ISRO

Next milestones

India’s Moon mission – an orbiter, lander and rover — is now located in a lunar orbit with a distance of about 70 miles (114 kilometers) at perilune (nearest point to the Moon) and 11,300 miles (18,072 kilometers) at apolune (farthest point to the Moon.

Early next month, a series of four orbit maneuvers will be performed on Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft to enable it to enter its final orbit passing over the lunar poles at a distance of about 60 miles (100 kilometers) from the Moon’s surface.

Credit: ISRO

Lander release

Subsequently, on September 02, 2019 the Vikram lander will separate from the Moon-circling orbiter. 

Following this, orbit maneuvers will be performed on Vikram to place it in a 60 x 19 mile (100 x 30 kilometer) orbit around the Moon. 

The Vikram lander will then perform a series of complex braking maneuvers to soft land in the South polar region of the Moon between two craters, Manzinus C and Simpelius N on September 7, 2019.

Credit: ISRO

All systems healthy

A few hours following touchdown, the Pragyaan rover will roll down from Vikram and will perform on-the-spot exploration of the surrounding lunar surface.

The health of the spacecraft is being continuously monitored from the Mission Operations Complex (MOX) at ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) in Bengaluru with support from Indian Deep Space Network (IDSN) antennas at Bylalu, near Bengaluru.

All the systems of Chandrayaan-2 are healthy, reports ISRO.

Go to ISRO press event on the occasion of Lunar Orbit Insertion of Chandrayaan-2 Mission:

Credit: JAXA/NHK


It is called Great Lunar Expedition for Everyone (GLEE) – hundreds of tiny circuit boards to carry out local and distributed science missions on the Moon.

The concept stems from team work at Cornell University that developed a tiny spacecraft called ChipSat, a way to radically reduce the costs of spaceflight and exploration in low Earth orbit.

LunaSats are based on the ChipSat design. The leaf-sized LunaSats are the brainchild of Mason Peck, a professor at Cornell University.

Each LunaSat – weighing approximately 5 grams — will work as a fully-capable spacecraft, an electronic board outfitted with a small solar panel, several environmental sensors, and a radio for communicating with other LunaSats and relaying data gathered back to Earth.

LunaSat mock-up: What the device may look like on the lunar surface.

LunaSats, for example, can gather temperature, GPS, magnetometer, humidity and accelerometer measurements. Their mission on the Moon will last two lunar days or approximately 56 Earth days.

GLEE goal

The GLEE goal: By December 14, 2022, 500 LunaSats, built by students from every nation on Earth, will land on the Moon to conduct multiple distributed science and technology missions.

The GLEE space mission is led by NASA’s New York and Colorado Space Grant Consortium. Peck is director of the New York Space Grant Consortium. More than 20 other space grant organizations have also signed onto GLEE.

The space grant consortium is funded by NASA’s Office of STEM Engagement under the National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program.

Prototype LunaSat next to ruler to show size of electronic circuit board.
Credit: Chris Koehler/Mason Peck

Moon dispersal plan

Each LunaSat is projected to cost less than $200, explains Chris Koehler, director of the Colorado Space Grant Consortium, which is based at CU Boulder.

Groups of high school and college students can apply to get involved in GLEE starting early December of this year. Participation will be free for all teams. Koehler and other “GLEEmers” are seeking out supporters from universities and private companies around the world.

Koehler told Inside Outer Space that there is no confirmed launcher as yet. “We hope to share a ride to the surface. We understand that we likely will have to pay for the ride,” he explained.

As now envisioned, the plan is to deploy the LunaSats from a lander firmly planted on the lunar terrain. “Using a simple device, the LunaSats would be spread out roughly 65 to 130 feet (20-40 meters) around the landing site,” Koehler notes.

Credit: GLEE Announcement Video/ Outer Space Screengrab

Team building

Individual LunaSats carry an integrated sensor suite that can be programmed by teams of students, from every member country of the United Nations, to a mission of their own design.

These teams will be mentored by GLEE program staff through the entire design, build, test, launch, and data gathering process.

Koehler underscores part of the GLEE mission statement: “From hands-on activities to a global citizen science network, GLEE is the next step in inspiring and engaging the world in a truly global mission to the Moon.”

For more information, go to:

Also, go to this informative video at:

Lastly, visit this personal message from Chris Koehler, founder of GLEE, at:

China’s new carrier rocket Smart Dragon-1 (SD-1).
Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space Screengrab


China Central Television (CCTV) reports:

China’s new carrier rocket Smart Dragon-1 (SD-1), designed for commercial use, made its maiden flight on Saturday, sending three satellites into the orbit.

The rocket, developed by the China Rocket Co. Ltd. affiliated to the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALVT), blasted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China at 12:11 (Beijing Time).

Vital internal organs

It is the smallest and lightest among China’s solid rockets. It is 19.5 meters long with a diameter of 1.2 meters and a takeoff weight of 23.1 tons.

“The rocket is small, but it has all the vital internal organs and a carrying capacity not small at all. It can carry 200 kilograms to the Sun-synchronous orbit 500 kilometers away from the Earth. So in terms of carrying efficiency, it is the highest in our solid carrier rockets,” said Gong Min, technical manager of the SD-1 project.

One of a trio of satellites lofted by Smart Dragon-1 (SD-1).
Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space Screengrab

Short launch preparation

Another advantage of the rocket is the short launch preparation. According to the company, it can be turned in [made available] six months after a contract is signed, and launched within 24 hours after it is transported to the launch center.

“We plan to make another launch at the end of this year in the Jiuquan center. Next year, we are going to make perhaps five launches. All the six launches have been booked by clients,” said Tang Yagang, President of the China Rocket Co. Ltd.

This time the rocket carried three commercial satellites which are to do remote sensing, telecommunication and navigation.

For video of launch, go to:




NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 2499 duties.

New rover Navcam imagery shows the scenic whereabouts of the Mars machinery, on the prowl since August 2012.



Landscape looks via Curiosity Navcam Right B, taken on Sol 2498, August 16, 2019.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


Neil Armstrong being suited up.
Credit: NASA/National Archives/Inside Outer Space Screengrab 



Help wanted: Within the archival film holdings from NASA at the National Archives, you will find a treasure trove of video relating to the space agency’s space flight programs, including Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, and the joint United States-Soviet Union program, Apollo-Soyuz.

Media briefing of Apollo 1 crew: Grissom, White and Chaffee.
Credit: NASA/National Archives/Inside Outer Space Screengrab 



Meticulous steps

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Curiosity Front Hazcam Left B image acquired on Sol 2496, August 14, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech



NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 2497 tasks.

Curiosity is go for analyzing a new drill sample, reports Ashley Stroupe, a mission operations engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

After seeing that the redo of the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) Instrument Suite preconditioning in Monday’s plan was successful, the SAM team was ready to drop-off four portions to SAM for evolved gas analysis.

Curiosity Rear Hazcam Left B photo taken on Sol 2496, August 14, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Targeted science

“The power demands of SAM left little room for other activities on the first sol of the plan, but we were able to fit in some additional science on the second sol,” Stroupe adds.

In the afternoon of sol 2498, the plan called for the robot to do targeted science, including Mastcam and Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam), of the targets “Liberton” and “Torberg” to get the chemistry of the other plates near the drill target.

Curiosity Mastcam Right image taken on Sol 2495, August 13, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Additional analysis

“There are also some standard environmental observations, such as Mastcam tau and crater rim extinction imaging and Navcam imaging to search for dust devils clouds,” Stroupe notes.

Navcam image shows the view of the Mount Sharp summit from Curiosity’s current location. Navcam Right B image taken on Sol 2495, August 13, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Also planned was obtaining another data readout from the Chemistry & Mineralogy X-Ray Diffraction/X-Ray Fluorescence Instrument (CheMin) on the sample dropped off on Monday.

“The results of the SAM analysis will be available prior to planning on Friday, and based on those results, the SAM team will determine whether to do additional analysis on the Glen Etive drill sample in the weekend plan,” Stroupe adds.

Artist view of China’s space station. Credit: CMSE


China is offering space experiment “room and board” on the country’s future space station, as well as upcoming Moon, asteroid and comet explorers.

In early June, the China Manned Space Agency announced the first batch of nine international cooperation projects for the country’s space station involves 23 entities from 17 countries.

The deadline for new station proposals is August 31st.

Credit: CMSA

Rack space

Domestically, research institutions, universities, science and technology enterprises, and even the public are welcome to suggest experiments to be conducted on the Chinese space station through an online portal.

Sixteen experiment racks are to be installed in the core module of the space station, and two lab capsules of the space station and an extravehicular experiment platform.

Each rack is regarded as a lab that can support various space experiments, and astronauts can upgrade and replace the facilities. In addition, a capsule holding a large optical telescope will fly in the same orbit as the Chinese station, according to a report by Xinhua News Agency, quoting the Technology and Engineering Center for Space Utilization of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Prototype of the Tianhe core module. China’s space station is expected to be operational around 2022.
Credit: CCTV/Screengrab/Inside Outer Space

Future applications

In the future, applications will be reopened every two or three years, explains Zhang Wei, director of the Technology and Engineering Center for Space Utilization at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

China is scheduled to complete the construction of the space station around 2022.

More information about the United Nations/China Cooperation on the Utilization of the China space station can be found here:

China Space Station Progress: Shortlist of Experiment Ideas

Also, go to:

Credit: CNSA

Lunar exploration

In related China space news, an August 31st deadline has been set for proposals to fly on the Chang’e-6 lunar sample return mission.

Chang’e-6’s launch time and landing site will depend on the status of the upcoming Chang’e-5 lunar sample and return to Earth mission.

China’s Chang’e-6 lunar sample return mission elements.
Credit: CNSA









The orbiter and the lander will each provide 22 pounds (10 kilograms), with a total of 44 pounds (20 kilograms) for scientific payloads onboard.

Space experiment spots available onboard Chang’e-6 Moon mission.
Credit: CNSA

Asteroid, comet studies

Also available for ride-along experiments is a Chinese sample return mission to Asteroid 2016HO3 and the orbiting of a main-belt comet.

Following Earth return of the asteroid samples, the Chinese probe will make a gravity assist of Earth and Mars, and arrive at the asteroid belt and orbit the Comet 133P. Comet 133P/(7986) Elst–Pizarro is a body that displays characteristics of both an asteroid and a comet.

Credit: CNSA

The entire mission will last roughly 10 Earth years.

The deadline for scheme proposals for Chang’e-6 and the asteroid mission is August 31, 2019.

Contacts for submitting ideas at the China National Space Administration (CNSA) is Gan Yong. At CNSA’s Lunar Exploration and Space Engineering Center the contact is Yang Ruihong.



Courtesy of NASA/JPL/USGS


If you have your eyes on the Moon and making money on water mining operations, a new analysis concludes the current market is over $200 billion.

The new market study has looked at the need for water in space over the next three decades.

Producing water on the Moon is considered to be viable and the assessment suggests that “the first company to exploit this identified demand will likely reap extraordinary profits.”

A source of water on the Moon could help make future crewed missions more sustainable and affordable.
Credit: RegoLight, visualization: Liquifer Systems Group, 2018

Attractive rates

The appraisal — Conceptual Economic Lunar Water Mining — comes from Watts, Griffis and McOuat Limited (WGM), based in Toronto, Canada.

WGM has concluded the current market is over $200 billion and that a viable water mining operation on the Moon could produce water at economically attractive rates.

Fundamental questions

According to WGM, the purpose of the study was to answer some fundamental questions regarding the viability of space water mining operations:

  • Is there a potential future market for water in space?
  • What is the expected market price for water in space?
  • Is it technically feasible to produce water in space and at what cost?

“Based on our research, the answer is yes to all these questions,” WGM explains, but adds: “We should note our work is a first-order estimate and is not definitive, as the market is evolving rapidly.”

No assurances

While bullish on lunar water prospects, WGM explains that its analysis is of a conceptual nature and there are “no assurances” that the group’s demand estimates are correct and cautions readers that there is a very high level of variance likely.

Credit: James Vaughan (Used with permission)

That said, WGM’s analysis of the space-based water market shows both economic and technical potential to create a space-based mining operation.

“Although our analysis does not conform to terrestrial standards for technical reporting, we have attempted to employ similar methodologies in creating our model. WGM trusts our work will assist future efforts to open up new ventures in space.”

South pole crater exploration.
Credit: NASA

Market demand

In spotlighting the market demand, the study includes looks at satellite refueling, International Space Station demand, as well as a lunar gateway space station, even space tourism and hotels.

The report recommends that additional engineering work be carried out by governments, academic groups and private enterprise to solve some of the technical challenges they have identified.

Credit: WGM



“We also challenge Earth’s entrepreneurs and financiers to consider how to finance and launch commercial ventures to take advantage of these markets. By doing so, WGM believes the colonization of space by humankind will be achievable in the not-too-distant future,” the study explains.




To read the full study — Conceptual Economic Lunar Water Mining – go to:

Credit: ISRO

The Chandrayaan-2 lunar orbiter/lander/rover mission has successfully entered Lunar Transfer Trajectory.

The final orbit raising maneuver of the Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft was carried out August 14, 2019 at 02:21 am IST.

During this maneuver, the spacecraft’s liquid engine was fired for about 1,203 seconds. With this burn, Chandrayaan-2 entered the Lunar Transfer Trajectory.

Chandrayaan-2 lunar orbiter/lander/rover mission.
Credit: ISRO

Spacecraft health

Earlier, the spacecraft’s orbit was progressively increased five times during July 23 to August 6, 2019.

The health of the spacecraft is being continuously monitored from the Mission Operations Complex (MOX) at the Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) in Bengaluru with support from Indian Deep Space Network (IDSN) antennas at Byalalu, near Bengaluru.

Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV Mk III).
Credit: ISRO

Since its launch on July 22, 2019 by a GSLV MkIII-M1 launcher, all systems onboard Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft are performing normally, reports ISRO.

Lunar orbit

Chandrayaan-2 will approach the Moon on August 20, 2019 and the spacecraft’s liquid engine will be fired again to insert the spacecraft into a lunar orbit. 

India’s Pragyan rover mounted on the ramp projecting from out of the sides of Vikram lunar lander.
Credit: ISRO

Following this, there will be further four orbit maneuvers to have the spacecraft enter into its final orbit passing over the lunar poles at a distance of about (62 miles (100 kilometers) from the Moon’s surface.

A tentative plan for future operation after Trans Lunar Injection has the spacecraft placed in a roughly 71 x 80 mile (114 x 128 kilometer) orbit at the Moon.




Subsequently, the mission’s Vikram lander will separate from the orbiter on September 2, 2019. Two orbit maneuvers will be performed on the lander before the initiation of a powered descent to make a soft landing on the lunar surface on September 7, 2019, touching down near the Moon’s south pole.