Archive for the ‘Space News’ Category

Rollout of Long March-7 Y4 and the Tianzhou-3 cargo spacecraft.
Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

China’s Tianzhou-2 cargo spacecraft on Saturday was repositioned at the country’s space station construction site.

The cargo craft docked with the front port of China’s core module Tianhe, in order to make room for upcoming Tianzhou-3 cargo spacecraft.

According to China Central Television (CCTV) the Tianzhou-2 cargo craft separated from the rear docking port of Tianhe at 10:25 (Beijing time) Saturday, then completed a computer-orchestrated rendezvous and docking with the front port of Tianhe.

Credit: CCTV/CNSA/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Make room

Yang Sheng, general chief designer of cargo spacecraft system of the China Academy of Space Technology under the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, noted there are two main reasons for the change of position at this time: to make room for Tianzhou-3 cargo spacecraft and create conditions for the radial docking of the soon-to-launched Shenzhou-13 piloted spacecraft, targeted for launch in October.

Yang said that the core module has docking ports at both front and rear, and during orbit, Tianzhou-2 only needs to turn itself 180 degrees to complete a “U-turn” in space.

China’s space station is projected to be completed in late 2022.
Credit: CAST

Autopilot repositioning

After separation, Tianzhou-2 moved backwards, during which it always keeps in communication with the core module. Then it circled under the core module.

During the rendezvous, the Tianzhou-2 cargo spaceship made a U-turn, and the core module maintained a steady position. After moving to the front of the core module, it docked with the front port of the core module.

Repositioned
Tianzhou-2 cargo spacecraft.
Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

“The entire process is all automatic from separation to docking,” Yang told CCTV. Reportedly, the entire start to end process lasted approximately four hours.

The combination of the Tianzhou-3 cargo spacecraft and a Long March-7 Y4 carrier rocket has been transferred to the launching area of the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site, stated the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA).

The CMSA said the Tianzhou-3 cargo spacecraft will be launched in the near future “at an appropriate time” – with Monday the likely liftoff day.

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Right B image taken on Sol 3240, September 17, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover at Gale Crater is now performing Sol 3241 tasks.

Reports Catherine O’Connell-Cooper, a planetary geologist at University of New Brunswick; Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, a sample of Mars was delivered to the robot’s SAM (Sample Analysis at Mars) for an EGA (evolved gas analysis) activity. That step involved heating the sample to very high temperatures and measuring the gases that bake out of the sample with each temperature increment.

Curiosity Rear Hazard Avoidance Camera Right B photo acquired on Sol 3240, September 17, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Researchers were waiting to see what SAM thought – had it got enough information from the sample, or was there interest in going further?

“And SAM said Yes please!…and requested a follow up activity, using the gas chromatograph and mass spectrometer (GCMS), which can identify different compounds,” O’Connell-Cooper adds.

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 3239, September 16, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Weekend plans

On the first sol of the weekend, SAM will uplink a sequence to clean the SAM Gas Columns (GC) before analyzing the sample on the second sol of the weekend plan (Sols 3241-3243).

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 3239, September 16, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“These are very power intensive procedures,” O’Connell-Cooper notes, so the rover was limited in its activities. “Luckily, this workspace continues to interest us.”

A raised vein area, with one sample “Falls of Shin” right on the vein itself and a second sample “Falls of Foyers” a little beyond the vein area. This image was taken by Left Navigation Camera, with the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) target “Falls of Shin” in the center of the image. Photo taken on Sol 3222, September 29, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) is conducting a paired experiment across a raised vein area, with one sample “Falls of Shin” right on the vein itself and a second sample “Falls of Foyers” a little beyond the vein area.

“This will allow the ChemCam team to study the alteration effects associated with the vein,” O’Connell-Cooper explains.

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera image acquired on Sol 3240, September 17, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Moving toward conjunction

No Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) or Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) activity is allowed until the drilled sample is emptied from the drill.

“However, next week will be busy, cramming all our final contact science investigations on the Maria Gordon drilled samples before we move into conjunction the following week,” O’Connell-Cooper adds.” Curiosity gets to take a bit of a vacation for a couple of weeks, as it moves behind the sun, and all communications will cease for two weeks.”

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera image acquired on Sol 3240, September 17, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Credit: CNSA/CCTV/Inside Outer Space Screengrab

China’s trio of Taikonauts have returned to Earth. The Shenzhou-12 crew — Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo — touched down on September 17 at the Dongfeng landing site in north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

Credit: CNSA/CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

 

 

The crew spent three-months in Earth orbit, the first sent to begin assembling China’s space station.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

 

 

On June 17, the Shenzhou-12 spaceship was launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China and docked with the space station core module Tianhe. After docking, the three astronauts entered the core module and began their three-month stay in space.

During the space trek, the crew carried out two extravehicular activities, ran a set of space science and technology experiments, some dedicated to the continuous construction and operation of the space station. Also evaluated, were recycling and life support system gear, as well as station operations and in-orbit maintenance.

To watch just-released video of the return of the crew, go to:

https://youtu.be/Ec8dyLkVoXs

https://youtu.be/ftcRgMe0IsI

https://youtu.be/FoorpSN7va0

Credit: SAS Foundation

 

A “Safeguarding the Astronomical Sky Foundation” has been established to preserve the astronomical sky by calling for a halt to further launches and deployment of megaconstellations.

According to those engaged in the effort, humankind stands at a precipice from which there will be no return.

“A Great 21st Century Space Rush is now underway by commercial enterprises and the military, fomented and enabled in the U.S. by the FCC [Federal Communications Commission] and other U.S. government agencies to grab, deploy, transform, and own the Heavens for private gain, defense, and weaponization.”

At issue for the Italy-based SAS Foundation: Over the next 10 years 80,000+ non-stationary low orbit satellites will be launched and seamlessly integrated in terrestrial 4G/5G/6G+ industrial and military networks. Scores of new satellites are being launched every week from the U.S. and other countries.

Credit: One spacecraft of the OneWeb satellite constellation.
Credit: OneWeb Satellites

Suing the FCC

It’s the SAS Foundation view that ground-based astronomical observations will be severely damaged by the ongoing deployment of large fleets of satellites to ensure the functioning of future telecommunications technologies.

A legal action called “Healthy Heavens Trust Initiative” was begun a few months ago, which is currently suing the American FCC in American federal courts of justice – filed on August 13.

The SAS Foundation was established as a non-profit-making non-governmental organization (NGO)-type Association/Foundation, “to give a clear reference to all environmental protection associations, professional and amateur astronomical associations, individual astronomers and all astronomical bodies and societies.”

Starlink satellites visible in a mosaic of an astronomical image.
Courtesy of NSF’s
National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory/NSF/AURA/CTIO/DELVE)

Not a distant threat

The SAS Foundation, together with the “Appeal by Astronomers” supports the Società Astronomica Italiana petition initiative against the night-sky light pollution.

“Astronomers are extremely concerned by the possibility that Earth may be blanketed by tens of thousands of satellites, which will greatly outnumber the approximately 9,000 stars that are visible to the unaided human eye. This is not some distant threat. It’s already happening,” according to the Appeal by Astronomers.

After gathering more than 2,000 signatures of astronomers from more than 50 countries the Appeal is now ready to be used at the local level to increase awareness by governments and NGOs of some of the harms that will be caused by those satellites.

For more information, go to:

https://astronomersappeal.wordpress.com/safeguarding-the-astronomical-sky-foundation-sas-foundation/

Healthy Heavens Trust Initiative (HHTI) at:

https://healthyheavenstrust.org/

The Appeal by Astronomers at:

https://astronomersappeal.wordpress.com/safeguarding-the-astronomical-sky-foundation-sas-foundation/

Rollout of supply ship. Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

China’s next milestone in constructing the country’s space station has rolled out to the launch pad at the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in south China’s Hainan Province.

A Long March-7 booster was vertically transported to its liftoff location on Thursday. The launcher is topped by the uncrewed Tianzhou-3 cargo ship. The hardware will undergo final tests before the planned launch to China’s space station in the coming days.

Return to Earth

Meanwhile, the now in Earth orbit Shenzhou-12 crew is returning to Earth, tomorrow, on September 17. Earlier in the day, the China Manned Space Engineering Office announced the spacecraft had successfully separated from China’s space station.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

After departure from the Tianhe core station module, the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft crew is performing orbiting and radial rendezvous tests with the space station. Doing so, they will verify radial rendezvous technology, a technique for subsequent piloted missions.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

The Shenzhou-12 trio of taikonauts will parachute into the Dongfeng landing site in north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. A search and rescue team from China’s Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert recently conducted drills at the landing site.

 

New record…for China

The Shenzhou-12 crew has worked and lived in the space station for 90 days, setting a new record for Chinese astronauts’ in-orbit stay for a single mission.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Launched on June 17, the Shenzhou-12 trio entered the space station’s core module on the same day.

The China space station, orbiting the Earth at a height of about 250 miles (400 kilometers), is still under construction. Eight more missions, including three piloted flights, are still being arranged to complete the space station by late next year.

Radial rendezvous

China’s Shenzhou-12 spaceship crew is conducting radial rendezvous with the Tianhe core module combination in orbit for the first time on Thursday.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Different from the forward and rearwards rendezvous China had done in the past on its spacecraft, the radial rendezvous is a much more difficult task to achieve in terms of the technical level, said Xie Yongchun, director of the Technology Committee in China Academy of Space Technology (CAST)’s 502 Research Institute.

“The forward and rearward rendezvous are conducted on a 200-meter contact point. It is a stable point, which means it can be kept unmoved if the engines on the spacecraft are off. But the radial rendezvous is something different,” Xie told China Central Television (CCTV).  “Due to the kinetic characteristics of the orbit, the spacecraft will not be able to stay there stably in space. Therefore, we will keep conducting orbit control of the spacecraft.”

Attitude maneuver

During the radial rendezvous process, Shenzhou-12 has to adjust its attitude constantly. How to keep the attitude of the spacecraft stable and how to keep its interface with the core module accurate are difficult problems faced by aerospace scientists.

“We must ensure that the sensor information will not be lost in the process of attitude maneuver, in a dynamic process. This is more difficult to achieve than when the sensor is in a stable status. We have to solve this problem by improving the measurement accuracy and stability of the sensor in dynamic conditions,” Xie said.

The radial rendezvous test on Shenzhou-12 this time will be conducted without the docking process, in efforts to prove whether or not the sensor on the spacecraft, which can be viewed as the spacecraft’s “eyes”, can play its role effectively.

Shenzhou-12 crew members prepare to depart core module.
Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

“It will have a great impact on our measurement accuracy if we can’t see the mark point clearly. Another thing is, the lighting conditions might be different during the process of the radial rendezvous, very different from the forward and rearward rendezvous. Since the space station is in orbit, the lighting conditions may change anytime during the rendezvous process. This will affect the reflection characteristics of the mark. So we have to conduct trial operations beforehand,” Xie said.

China’s space station is projected to be completed in late 2022.
Credit: CAST

Launch schedule

The soon to launch Shenzhou-13 piloted spaceship will dock with the Tianhe core module, starting a three-person, six-month stay in orbit, according to the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA).

After the five launch missions this year, China plans to have six more missions in 2022, including the launch of the Wentian and Mengtian lab modules, two cargo spacecraft and two crewed spaceships  to complete the construction of the space station.

New videos

Go to these newly released videos for a view of the rollout of the Tianzhou-3 supply ship, radial rendezvous, the Shenzhou-12 crew departing the core module, and preparations underway for recovery of the returning trio of Taikonauts.

Long March-7 Y4 ready to launch Tianzhou-3 at:

https://youtu.be/rQbl6HjRDAs

Shenzhou-12 radial rendezvous test explained at:

https://youtu.be/Srt70MyXeFo

China’s Shenzhou-12 Manned Spaceship Undocks from Space Station Core Module for Return Trip at:

https://youtu.be/KBeyx-him5M

Ground Search Team Ready for Return of Shenzhou-12 Crew to Dongfeng Landing Site at:

https://youtu.be/gQQEgmYDC8A

 

 

With an increasing cadence, humans from multiple nations are rocketing into Earth orbit, and soon outward to the moon. Given added commercial as well as government flights, chances are also soaring of a stranded crew desperately requiring an in-space rescue.

A new report flags the fact that the United States government and commercial spaceflight providers have no plans in place to conduct a timely rescue of a crew from a distressed spacecraft in low Earth orbit, or anywhere else in space. Without orchestrated rescue planning, today’s space travelers will journey at their own risk.

Inspiration4 space travelers.
Credit: SpaceX

Space tourism

For example, this week’s Inspiration4 is the world’s first all-civilian trek into orbit. The mission has four private citizens who will reside onboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft for a three-day, Earth-circling jaunt.

Then there’s the dearMoon project – a lunar tourism mission and art project conceived and financed by Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa. It will make use of a SpaceX Starship on a private spaceflight flying a single circumlunar trajectory around the Moon. This week-long journey of Maezawa and crewmates is expected to occur no earlier than 2023.

To read my new SPACE.com story “Humanity needs a space-rescue capability, report stresses” go to:

https://www.space.com/space-rescue-capability-needed-report

China’s Shenzhou-12 crew appears headed for return to Earth this Friday, September 17, departing the Tianhe space station core module.

A navigation warning issued indicates that the Taikonaut trio will land around 5:30 UTC, according to the Zarya website, maintained by Robert Christy.

The crew — Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo – are targeted for landing at the Dongfeng landing site in the desert of North China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

Utilized for the first time for returning space adventurers, that landing zone received the unpiloted return capsule of China’s trial version of a new-generation crewed spacecraft back in May 2020, following a flight of two days and 19 hours.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Prior to the Shenzhou-12 spaceship return, it was earlier reported that it will also conduct circumnavigation and radial rendezvous tests with the core module, all preparatory work for the Shenzhou-13 mission.

Robotic arm helps on space station construction.
Credit: CCTV/CNSA/Inside Outer Space screengrab

 

Next liftoffs

To continue the build-up of China’s Tiangong (Heavenly Palace) space station, an uncrewed Tianzhou-3 resupply spaceship is now being primed for liftoff, perhaps departing next Monday from the southern island of Hainan.

A piloted Shenzhou-13 spaceship is reportedly ready for a takeoff in September-October from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China.

This new fresh trio — likely including a woman – will stay in orbit for six months.

Given the launch today of the SpaceX Falcon booster, placing the four-person Inspiration4 into Earth orbit, there will be 14 humans circling the planet: The Shenzhou-12 threesome; Seven people on the International Space Station, and the Inspiration4 space travelers.

This image was taken by Curiosity’s Right Navigation Camera onboard NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 3225.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover at Gale Crater has just begun performing Sol 3238 duties.

“Curiosity is working her way through a busy drill campaign at the Maria Gordon location and keeping her eyes on the beautiful cliffs nearby,” reports Lauren Edgar, a planetary geologist at USGS Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona.

“Unfortunately the weekend plan didn’t uplink to the rover due to a DSN [Deep Space Network] issue,” Edgar adds, so that means that a recent two-sol plan (3238-3239) was devoted to recovering those activities.

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Left B image acquired on Sol 3229, September 5, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Drill sample analysis

The robot’s Chemistry & Mineralogy X-Ray Diffraction/X-Ray Fluorescence Instrument (CheMin) got to analyze the drill sample last week, so now it’s the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) Instrument Suite turn.

The plan calls for the drop-off to SAM and Evolved Gas Analysis.

CheMin will also dump the sample to clear out the cell for future use.

Delicious target

“The science team planned a lot of targeted remote sensing observations, including a ChemCam observation down the drill hole, multiple Mastcam mosaics to investigate nearby stratigraphy and nodule-rich areas, another ChemCam observation of a delicious target named “Chocolate Bloc” and a lot of environmental monitoring activities to monitor dust and clouds and search for dust devils,” Edgar concludes. “Can’t wait to find out what SAM thinks of the Maria Gordon sample!”

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Right B image taken during Sol 3234, September 11, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

 

The Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 3236 tasks.

Curiosity Rear Hazard Avoidance Camera Right B image acquired on Sol 3234, September 11, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Scott Guzewich, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland reports that the robot’s primary goal this weekend is for the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) Instrument Suite to study the material from the newly created Maria Gordon drill hole – #33 that the rover has done.

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 3234, September 11, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

 

 

“SAM will heat the material to very high temperatures to determine what it’s made of and how water may have interacted with the rock in the distant past,” Guzewich adds.

Curiosity Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam) Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) photo taken on Sol 3233, September 9, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

Curiosity Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam) Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) photo taken on Sol 3233, September 9, 2021.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

Also on tap is for Curiosity to perform a variety of imaging with Mastcam and take a Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) long-distance image of Rafael Navarro mountain.

 

 

Newly released images from flight 13 of the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter. The aerial device acquired these images using its high-resolution color camera. This camera is mounted in the helicopter’s fuselage and pointed approximately 22 degree below the horizon. These photos were acquired on September 5, 2021, Sol 193 of the Perseverance rover mission.

For flight 13, the rotorcraft flew at an altitude of 26 feet (8 meters). Ingenuity traveled at 7.3 mph (3.3 m/s) taking images pointing southwest of the South Seítah region. This aerial scouting continues to aid in planning future moves of NASA’s Perseverance rover.    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech