Archive for the ‘Wait a Minute!’ Category

While NASA deservedly notes that the Space Launch System-boosted Orion spacecraft’s Artemis 1 mission is “exceeding performance expectation,” there is also an irksome development.

Deployed from the Space Launch System’s (SLS) adapter after its November 16 launch, a barrage of CubeSats – 10 of them – were released to space. These small, creative packages of technology, a mixture of U.S. and international spacecraft, were sent outward from a ring attached to the SLS upper stage.

NASA’s Space Launch System rocket carrying the Orion spacecraft launches on the Artemis I flight test. Image credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Varied set of duties

The CubeSats are built to carry out a varied set of duties. For example, solar sailing to an asteroid, thruster testing, reconnoitering the Moon for ice, to even plopping down on the lunar landscape.

Not only are these innovative CubeSats constructed for achieving great things, each demanded loads of team time and resources. Meanwhile, they collectively represent a pushing of the boundaries to showcase what CubeSats can pull off.

The CubeSat family ready for launch inside adapter.
Image credit: NASA/Cory Huston

Telemetry terror

All that said it’s disappointing to hear that a number of the CubeSats have run into trouble, perhaps 50 percent of them.

Mike Sarafin, Artemis I mission manager, said in a recent briefing that ArgoMoon, BioSentinel, Equuleus, LunaH-Map and OMOTENASHI “are on a path to success.”

Meanwhile, the other five — LunIR, Lunar IceCube, NEA Scout, CuSP and Team Miles — “either have encountered technical issues post-deploy or have had intermittent communications or, in one case, did not acquire a signal with the communication asset that they had planned,” Sarafin added.

NASA’s NEA Scout’s large deployable solar sail.
Credit: NASA

For sure, telemetry terror has reared its ugly head.

Timed release

In a NASA blog, the space agency explained that all 10 CubeSats were successfully deployed via timer from the SLS adapter.

Japan’s OMOTENASHI lunar lander.
Credit: JAXA/NASA

“The CubeSats’ individual missions are separate from Artemis I,” the blog states. “The small satellites, each about the size of a shoebox, are inherently high-risk, high-reward and the teams are in various stages of mission operations or troubleshooting in some cases.”

LunIR
Image credit: Lockheed Martin

Viewing the CubeSats as “inherently high-risk” caught my eye. Why so? There are plenty of CubeSats successfully circling the Earth; companies have been formed based on constellations of shoebox-sized CubeSats.

Then there are CubeSats like NASA’s CAPSTONE, while troubled en route, it has now successfully settled into near-rectilinear halo orbit (NRHO) operations around the Moon. And you can’t forget the twin Mars Cube One (MarCO) spacecraft zooming by the Red Planet in November 2018.

Linkage, root cause?

One wonders if there’s need for a “mishap board” to investigate if there’s any linkage or root cause between the problems encountered by the SLS-dispatched CubeSats?

Image credit: NASA/Morehead State University

Could the gaggle of hiccups and gotchas be sparked by hurricane and technical delays in getting SLS off-the-ground, or how long the CubeSats were attached inside the SLS adapter, or battery charging issues. There could be an “or…agami” of nested troubles.

Seemingly, some sort of post-mortem might be in order here – ostensibly of value to not only NASA but the pioneering CubeSat community too. That group of people put a lot of blood, sweat, tears, time, dedication and dollars into forging a bold avenue for deep space exploration.

Let’s try and shelve “inherently high risk” (sounds like “sure to fail”) and substitute a more pro-phrase term that evokes at least a hint of possible cutting-edge triumph.

Is this a teachable moment for all involved?

This is an opinion piece by Leonard David. Responses welcomed.

Credit: NASA

OTV-6 outfitted with service module.
Image credit: Staff Sgt. Adam Shanks

 

That fresh from Earth orbit X-37B space plane was outfitted for the first time with a service module, released from the craft prior to its landing after 908 days of flight.

The Boeing-built space plane set a new long-duration record –- with this latest flight, dubbed Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV-6) — surpassing the program’s previous record of 780 days. 

“Since the X-37B’s first launch in 2010, it has shattered records and provided our nation with an unrivaled capability to rapidly test and integrate new space technologies,” said Jim Chilton, senior vice president, Boeing Space and Launch.

“With the service module added, this was the most we’ve ever carried to orbit on the X-37B and we’re proud to have been able to prove out this new and flexible capability for the government and its industry partners,” Chilton added.

Boundaries of experimentation

Adding his voice to the utility of the space plane’s add-on module, Lt. Col. Joseph Fritschen, Department of Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office’s X-37B Program Director:

OTV-6 – On the ground at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Image credit: Staff Sgt. Adam Shanks

“The X-37B continues to push the boundaries of experimentation, enabled by an elite government and industry team behind the scenes,” said Fritschen. “The ability to conduct on-orbit experiments and bring them home safely for in-depth analysis on the ground has proven valuable for the Department of the Air Force and scientific community. The addition of the service module on OTV-6 allowed us to host more experiments than ever before.”

Ring toss

The service module is a ring attached to the rear of the vehicle expanding the number of experiments that can be hosted during a mission. That hardware was left in space prior to the space plane’s dive back to Earth on November 12th.

The first X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle waits in the encapsulation cell of the Evolved Expendable Launch vehicle on April 5, 2010 at the Astrotech facility in Titusville, Fla. 
Credit: U.S. Air Force

 

Whether or not experiments within that service module remain active is an unknown.

In the coming weeks, the service module will be disposed of in accordance with “best practices” – seemingly indicating a propulsive push to purposely de-orbit the module in a controlled way.

On this point, Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall said: “The deliberate manner in which we conduct on­orbit operations-to include the service module disposal-speaks to the United States’ commitment to safe and responsible space practices, particularly as the issue of growing orbital debris threatens to impact global space operations.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. Space Force has issued a first-time-seen image of the hefty-looking service module, pre-liftoff back in May 2020.

Credit: Scientific Coalition for UAP Studies (SCU)

I was delighted to take part in This Week In Space podcast: Episode 36 —NASA is finally tackling UFOS.

This topic and others were addressed by space journalists Rod Pyle, Tariq Malik and myself, offering a number of opinions about UFOs and today’s sky-high extraterrestrial expression: Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon (UAP).

 

NASA study

One subject area tackled: how and why is NASA looking into UFO phenomenon with a new $100,000 study that will run into mid-2023?

GIMBAL/“Tic Tac”
Credit: DOD/U.S. Navy/Inside Outer Space screengrab

With a panel of experts, including scientists, astronauts (and yes, at least one space reporter), NASA has been charged with using its considerable expertise in the quest to understand what exactly UFOs (now called UAPs) might be all about.

Wait a Minute!

Deep dive

Are they extraterrestrial visitors?

Time travelers?

Earthly foreign agents?

Swamp gas (no, we don’t buy that one either)?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Give a listen to the podcast and join us as we deep dive into the possibility of extraterrestrial emissaries.

Go to: https://www.space.com/this-week-in-space-podcast-twit

Wait a Minute!

Note: “Wait a Minute!” is the first of a series of stories written to flag issues of concern, consternation, and constant aggravation.

Around and around it goes, where it ends up is anybody’s guess.

China’s “forget me not” Long March 5B core booster weighs an estimated 22.5-metric tons. That’s about the size of a 10-story building.

That core stage is a circling-the-Earth leftover associated with the recent launch of the third and final experiment module of China’s Tiangong Space Station, Mengtian.

Level of risk

“The uncertainty of where the large debris will ultimately land presents a level of risk to human safety and property damage that is well above commonly accepted thresholds,” explains The Aerospace Corporation and its Center for Orbital and Reentry Debris Studies (CORDS).

CORDS as is the U.S. military and a global network of satellite watchers are actively tracking the CZ-5B rocket body. And for good reason.

Notes The Aerospace Corporation, similar uncontrolled reentries of Long March rockets occurred in 2020, 2021 and most recently in July 2022 – of which, two resulted in large debris landing near populated areas.

Predicted Reentry Time: November 5, 2022 04:51 UTC ± 14 hours.
Predicted Reentry Time 05 Nov 2022 04:51 UTC ± 14 hours.
Yellow Icon – location of object at midpoint of reentry window
Blue Line – ground track uncertainty prior to middle of the reentry window (ticks at 5-minute intervals)
Yellow Line – ground track uncertainty after middle of the reentry window (ticks at 5-minute intervals)
Pink Icon (if applicable) – vicinity of eyewitness sighting or recovered debris.
Credit: The Aerospace Corporation/CORDS

Precautionary preparation

“Over 88 percent of the world’s population lives under the reentry’s potential debris footprint. Factors such as the rocket core’s uncontrolled manner of descent and its size, which is too large to entirely burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere, collectively present risks high enough that require additional precautionary preparation around the world,” adds The Aerospace Corporation.

China’s Long March 5B core stage is predicted for a November 5th return to Earth: latest predictions at The Aerospace Corporation’s CORDS site are available here at:

https://aerospace.org/reentries/cz-5b-rb-id-54217