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Artemis to Include Two Lunar Gateway Instruments for Space Weather Forecasting

Two space weather instrument suites, NASA‘s HERMES and ASA’s ERSA, will be used by the astronauts in the Artemis Moon mission to forecast the weather. In this scenario, the weather is defined as energized, subatomic particles and electromagnetic fields moving through the solar system.

The dual instrument suites that are christened after two of Artemis half-siblings will be pre-loaded on the Gateway before the launch of the initial two modules: The Power and Propulsion Element and the Habitation and Logistics Outpost, and the two will be used to monitor the lunar radiation environment and send data back before the arrival of the crew.

Together with European Space Agency (ESA), NASA is constructing each instrument suites to monitor the weather conditions in outer space and send a report back to Earth. The two components are expected to share the work between them, with ERSA checking out the space radiation at advanced energies to protect the astronauts. At the same time, HERMES will be used to monitor lower energies necessary for scientific investigations.

When looking up the night sky, it may look obscure and void, but the Earth moves through an open sea of high energy particles consisting of electrical and magnetic fields. Electrons and ions pass by at high speed, reaching over a million miles per hour, and the random blasts from solar storms push them close to the speed of light. This stream of particles is what is referred to as solar wind. The Earth’s magnetic field, which is around 60,000 miles, is the one responsible for our protection, together with the astronauts nearer to home on the International Space Station.

Heliophysics Environmental and Radiation Measurement Experiment Suite (HERMES) will take a look at the activities at the magnetotail, which will give room for NASA to make a comparison between two of the five THEMIS spacecraft, a pair of ships orbiting the moon and have the same type of instruments as HERMES. The opportunity to collect data from these three instrument suites in different locations will give room for reconstructing the solar wind behavior in relation to change over time. HERMES will gauge lower energy radiation meant for astronauts’ safety, but its primary mission will be scientific.

European Radiation Sensors Array (ERSA) will be used to study the effects of the solar winds on astronauts and their equipment. Loaded with five pieces of equipment, ERSA will measure energetic particles emanating from the Sun, galactic cosmic rays, neutrons, ions, and magnetic fields around the Gateway. The measuring of these particles will explain radiation’s physics in the solar system and comprehend the risks they pose to the astronauts and their tools.

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The latest Sirius XM satellite, SXM-7, has crashed in orbit

In a report with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, the corporation revealed that SiriusXM’s latest satellite, SXM-7, experienced undisclosed defects during in-orbit processing on January 27. “During the in-orbit evaluation of the SXM-7, incidents happened which have caused the problem of specific SXM-7 payload modules. An assessment of SXM-7 is ongoing. The seriousness of the situation to SXM-7 has not yet been known,” Sirius XM stated in the filing. It is unclear at this point whether it is possible to retrieve the satellite.

The satellite, designed by Maxar Technologies, was deployed on December 13 on the Falcon 9 rocket of SpaceX. The corporation said that the malfunction was unconnected to the launch vehicle and which a complete satellite assessment is ongoing. The satellite SXM-7 is centered on an SSL-1300 satellite bus from Maxar Technologies. Driven by 2-large solar arrays (as well as on-orbit storage batteries), it was planned to work between 2.32 GHz as well as 2.345 GHz in the S-band spectrum. The 15, 432-lb. satellite (7,000 kg) is a component of a pair designed by Maxar and launched by SpaceX for the Sirius XM. The other, SXM-8, is currently under development and is expected for deployment later this year.

Every satellite’s service life is 15 years, and it was planned to substitute two aging satellites already in space. The satellites are planned to support the optical radio operation of Sirius XM, offering coverage in the United States, Canada as well as the Caribbean. On January 4, which is a standard shakedown stage before a satellite joins operation, SXM-7 started its in-orbit testing process. Usually, the testing continues for several months. The organization is yet to decide what went so wrong but claims the satellite is under surveillance. “We do not anticipate our satellite radio system to be affected by these detrimental SXM-7 incidents,” Sirius XM stated in its filing.

“Our XM-3 as well as XM-4 satellites keep operating and are planned to sustain our satellite radio service for several years.” Although these two satellites have been the ones Sirius hoped to replace for many years to come, they are stable and are anticipated to remain to help the broadcasting operation. It also has an orbital replacement, SXM-5, which is waiting by, the firm also stated. Maxar Technologies passed all responsibility to Sirius XM after launch, which is a standard procedure in the launch market.

In a report of its own, nevertheless, Maxar reported that it is supporting the broadcaster in “debugging and identifying the scenario to determine the severity of the problem to the SXM-7 satellite.” As per Sirius XM, from deployment through this first year of service, it paid $225 million in net premiums for the mission protecting the spacecraft. “We have informed the underwriters of these regulations of a prospective applicant with regard to SXM-7,” Sirius XM stated in its report.

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Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) satellites reveal China’s survey ship activities that could start diplomatic wars

According to reports from OSINT satellite images, China has deployed a survey ship in the Eastern Indian Ocean. As Xiang Yang Hong 03, this ship is collecting data on water and currents properties such as salinity. The ship is currently carrying out these activities on the Ocean region west of the Indonesian island Sumatra.

This ship is one of the many survey ships belonging to China, thought to be carrying out dubious activities by operating gliders beneath the ocean to map the ocean floor. “The suspicion is that as well as conducting civilian research, these ships may be gathering information for naval planners- currents, bathymetry, the salinity of the water- which are all relevant to submarine warfare,” explained H. I Sutton, OSINT’s defense analyst. “The eastern Indian Ocean is likely to be of particular interest to the Chinese Navy as they expand their submarine capabilities,” said Sutton. “The data from these surveys may help submarines navigate or improve their chances of remaining undetected.”

Sutton recently published an article on what could be cooking with China’s survey activities. According to the article, China’s activities have stirred controversy, where other countries are accusing the country of ‘running dark’ with no capability of broadcasting its location in foreign waters. Further reports claim this particular ship, the Xiang Yang Hong 03, has visited this area more than once. It is also not the only survey ship by the Chinese government. China’s activities are a plot to study America’s sensor networks that detect submarines on foreign waters. “These are designed to track Chinese submarines entering the Indian Ocean. Naturally, this cannot be confirmed,” said Sutton.

In November 2020, it was reported that Chinese Survey ships were deployed in Sri Lanka’s territorial waters. The Indian Navy noted these activities and released a note saying this would bring rivalry between the two nations. “Such unencumbered and suspicious activity within Sri Lanka’s waters will surely raise the hackles of other nations in the region and also has the potential to upset the delicate maritime balance in the IOR (Indian Ocean Rising),” the note stated.

Other Chinese survey ships carrying out similar activities are Xiang Yang Hong 06, 01, 03, and 19. They are controlled by China’s State of Oceanic Administration (SOA). They gather information about water currents and other water properties. This data is thought to be civilian-defense skeptical and may indicate preparations for future submarine warfare. The gliders deployed in Xiang Yang Hong 03 were the Sea Wing type, similar to those in Indonesian waters. “This raises the possibility that as well as the Xiang Yong Hong 06, other Chinese ships may be deploying the gliders. It is difficult to determine the launch point for the gliders. But it is not a great leap to suggest that China has deployed more in the Eastern Indian Ocean,” Sutton said.

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SatADSL is creating a partnership between the Brazilian satellite connectivity market and Telespazio Brazil

The agreement between SatADSL and Telespazio will facilitate the accessibility of the connectivity market established to serve satellite operators by availing the services that they offer. Telespazio Brazil will be using the Cloud-service Delivery Platform (C-SDP) developed by SatADSL and the Yahsat3 satellite to provide connectivity services. ST Engineering technology will create 26 spot beams that smoothen the provision of connectivity for consumers.

This technology will enable SatADSL to meet a wide range of services for its customers across the network and open the Latin American market for service provision through Telespazio Brazil. The senior vice president of Business Development at SatADSL, Guillermo Bosch, expressed his joy over this deal’s approval. He added that the collaboration with Brazil would unveil a market of new customers who have not experienced the company’s services.

Since reliable network connectivity is the trending aspect that most consumers in the communication industry seek, SatADSL will enable consumers in the Latin American nations to link with service providers through this portfolio. The Cloud-service Delivery Platform (C-SDP) offers customer connectivity to a reliable network without incurring the hefty costs they incurred utilizing the satellite facilities. The contract between Telespazio Brazil and SatADSL will ensure that customers have broad access to the ever-changing and hypersonic IP.

This technology will keep those businesses relying on high-performance connectivity at their best service delivery, especially in this pandemic season when the movement has become hazardous. The developers used the pandemic period to learn how they can create this platform and ensure the employees working from home are not affected or lose their jobs because of connectivity problems.

The chief executive of Telespazio Brazil, Marzio Laurenti, stated that SatADSL had proved its efficiency and reliability as a portfolio offering satellite solution services in South America without overcharging the customers or themselves losing their profits. He added that this collaboration would ensure that SatADSL achieves its vision of offering global connectivity services through the Cloud-service Delivery Platform (C-SDP).

The company has made breakthroughs that the other satellite companies would surcharge their customers keeping in mind the operational costs they incurred in delivering connectivity. The customers will no longer worry about communicating with satellite operators to stay connected. The platform offers room for the customer to feedback the company in case of the services’ breakdown. Finally, Latin America will be saved the trouble of developing their technology to provide satellite connectivity by allowing these firms to sort the problem.

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GPS policy directive released by the Trump administration in the closing days

On January 15, the Trump administration released a policy memo reflecting on the dependency of the United States on the Global Positioning System as well as the need to brace for a day when GPS could not be accessible. A constellation of 31 United States Space Force powered GPS satellites use radio navigation to supply military and civilian users around the world with positioning, navigation as well as timing information. For navigation, space situational awareness, attitude control and emerging research applications, like radio occultation, satellites in the space depend on GPS.

Space Policy Directive-7 stresses the ever-increasing reliance of the United States on space-based navigation, positioning and timing. As GPS transmissions are likely to be interrupted, it indicates that government and commercial organizations should connect to back-up the PNT technologies. In an executive order which was issued in February 2020, SPD-7 echoes several of the points and proposals made by Trump. According to SPD-7, the growing dependency on GPS for military, civil as well as commercial applications renders the device fragile.

“GPS users need to plan for possible signal loss as well as take appropriate measures to confirm or authenticate the validity of GPS data and range signal received, particularly in applications where life losses can result from even small degradations.” SPD-7 notes that the United States is ‘encouraging the production of complementary strategies to PNT services and security, which can integrate emerging technology and services as they are being developed, like relative navigation, quantum sensing and alternative PNT services which are private or even publicly owned and run.’

The policy states that the United States encourages the use of PNT systems dependent on international satellites to complement GPS. Accuracy, affordability and resilience can be enhanced with the incorporation of new services, states SPD-7. However, the U.S. government “does not guarantee the accuracy or validity of foreign PNT providers,” the policy states. “In the face of increasing cyber threats, receiver manufacturers must continue to enhance security, integrity as well as resilience.” SPD-7 was released a few hours after a study outlining the Council’s effect on civil as well as national security space operations was released by Vice President of U.S., Mike Pence, who also served at the National Space Council as the chairman for the duration of the Trump Presidency.

SPD-7 states that GPS applications were no longer limited to Earth, but range from the volume of Terrestrial Service (3,000 kilometers of Earth’s surface) to the volume of the Space Service (3,000 kilometers of the geosynchronous orbit (GSO) at about 35,800 kilometers) to the volume of the Cislunar Service (from the GSO to and including the orbit of the Moon). Space Service Volume and Cislunar Service Volume satellites both do or may depend on the GPS. The latest Directive was published shortly after a definitive report on Space Council’s actions over the last four years was published by the White House.

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Traditions gave the crew heading for the lunar mission an opportunity to interact

The costumes gracing the floors leading to the crew members’ bedrooms one morning were evidence that one of them was celebrating a tradition. Apparently, a Slovakian, Michaela Musilova, the director of HI-SEAS, expressed her thanks to the crew according to the date they celebrate thanksgiving in their country. Michaela Musilova explained that it was always a surprise to her crew members when she would be celebrating her country’s traditions. The other crew members supported this to bring the vitality that comes with festivities. While the vice commander, James Ward, issued everyone a face mask with NASA logos, the chief science officer, Emily Seto, issued a Flipstick adhesive to create an atmosphere of festivities. 

Emily introduced the flipsticks to show everyone that the flipstick’s adhesive properties could be assigned to other electronics like phones by sticking them on surfaces. This move would enable the astronauts to continue with other operations like laboratory experiments and fieldwork. The other technology that the scientists are analyzing is the Lettuce Grow hydroponics system under the Sensoria M3 mission. Emily reached out to Lettuce Grow to widen the scope of foods from which the scientists and astronauts could select and evaluate its proficiency as a diet during the lunar mission. Moreover, the company’s products have displayed that they can grow properly under the LED lights maintaining the freshness and growth of the plants with the supplied temperature and humidity changes in the habitat. Additionally, the results of these plants may facilitate their selection as food in the upcoming space missions. 

The Lettuce Grow mini-greenhouse will be offering fresh food and at the same time serve as a Christmas tree habitat. The presents brought forward by the crew became their decorations for this lunar festive season coupled with a rubber chicken that made cocky noises. Musilova joked about using the squeaky chicken as a perfect alarm to wake the astronauts, and it was more efficient than an alarm clock. Additionally, she narrated that the chicken safeguards their ingredients to avoid wastage by the crew members considering that they have few ingredients for their meals. 

The team has been working consistently with morale, especially now that they are the only people roaming this part of the moon. The mission will be successful if the astronauts work as a team and not let their differences get the best of them. Musilova has always felt a tinge of happiness working with a crew for such a long time as they became familiar and related well with each other. 

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NASA’s Astrophysics Division is gradually accepting the reality of CubeSats and smallsats

NASA’s Astrophysics Division smallsats lead programmer, Michel Garcia, revealed at the virtual American Geophysical Union conference that the agency would be choosing three Astrophysics Pioneers missions while supporting them with $20 million. Garcia explained that the agency developed the Astrophysics Pioneers initiative to conduct astrophysics science on a pilot-scale than going the traditional explorative way. Garcia articulated this at the NASA Astrophysics Committee nine months ago. Pioneers are ready to facilitate investigations capping $10 million for the Astrophysics Research and Analysis program, a Space Grant program’s Research and Opportunities subsidiary. 

The Pioneers missions can book rideshare opportunities on CubeSats larger than six portions, satellite constellations, small satellites, the International Space Station, or space vehicles that stay in the atmosphere for one month or more. The $20 million capital for Pioneers exclusive of the deployment costs. Lead engineers of the Pioneers missions suggested 24 missions to host the next-generation coronagraphs, versatile clocks, polarimeters, and radiofrequency meters. These missions will be heading for different orbits, including the cis-lunar space and the Lagrange Point 2. This year, NASA developed the Pioneers program to motivate researchers to utilize affordable satellite buses, developed balloon technology, and affordable space escorts to conduct their scientific research. 

Garcia outlined that the program is a great opportunity for the researchers to grow their bond with the commercial space services providers. The executive stated some of the commercial entities that were doing urging the cosmic scientists and researchers to take advantage of these opportunities while they are available. For instance, SpaceX intends to give rideshare opportunities to the 200-kilogram payloads heading to the sun-synchronous orbit for $1 million is an affordable alternative that any scientist with a CubeSat can utilize to conduct their experiment. Moreover, Garcia noted that York Space Systems would be offering a three-axis-stabilized satellite for astronomical studies. Such missions help scientists to conduct costly missions that would be costly when pursued independently. 

Garcia continued to outline the companies offering rideshare missions like Blue Canyon Technologies, undergoing acquisition by Raytheon Technologies, a versatile space bus. The advantage of this bus is that it can host a half-meter telescope. The NASA Astrophysics Division has been procuring CubeSat proposals for the last eight years to make the best of them while they are in space. Some of the CubeSats that the agency solicited include the Colorado Ultraviolet Transit Experiment (CUTE), which they will be deploying next year via the Landsat 9 Earth observation satellite. 

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Isar Aerospace and Orbex generating capital to facilitate the development of small deployment vehicles

These two companies have garnered $115 million to enable them to resume the development of small launch vehicles that will launch in the next two years. Isar Aerospace, a German company, revealed that it had received $91 million in the Series B fundraiser. Europe’s Lakestar capital fund came first in this operation, with Vsquared Ventures and Earlybird following with their investments. Series A round witnessed Isar Aerospace receiving $17 million and is in the process of developing a deployment vehicle known as Spectrum that will deploy 1000 kilograms of payload in the low-Earth orbit. The company publicized the deal it had procured with the French space agency CNES to facilitate deployments from the spaceport in French Guiana. The CEO of Isar Aerospace, Daniel Metzler, stated that they have enough capital to meet the development and deployment of the small launch vehicles, with each test assuring the success of the missions. He boasted that this launch would be the first eventful deployment of a German spacecraft into the low-Earth orbit. 

Metzler explained that the spacecraft deployment would be happening in the next two years. The company has been adamant to reveal the customers who have applied for rideshare missions on the space vehicle. However, he outlined that the company has recorded contracts with customers looking for single payload deployment services while others require the launch of constellations of satellites. The company revealed that about all of its investors is European. Metzler articulated that they invited globally known investors before selecting the likes of Lakestar, who are known for developing multimillion-dollar companies like Spotify, which know the operations of the ecosystem in the international scenes. Metzler noted that the trend that investors are pursuing is the companies that have the expertise of venturing into deep technology. 

Stephen Nundy of Lakestar stated that Isar Aerospace would create a chance for Europe to remain in the lead when it comes to affordability and the procurement of launch activities for the satellite constellations undergoing development. He added that they intend to secure their position in the space ecosystem through investment to facilitate society’s advancement through technology. Moreover, Isar Aerospace has recieved support from the German government equivalent to 500000 euros through the European Space Agency. On the other hand, Orbex stated that new funding would facilitate the development of Prime vehicles in the next two years. The CEO of Orbex, Chris Larmour, said that they have raised about $70 million. The Prime vehicle is engineered to deploy 150 kilograms to the sun-synchronous orbit. 

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New spacecraft fuel gauges could hold satellites operating for longer

As a spacecraft flies, it uses about 75-90% of the propellant to reach orbit. The residual fraction decides how long it will last up there, so it is no easy feat in zero gravity to calculate the amount of fuel that remains in the tank. Research teams at the United States National Institute of Standards and Technology now have a solution based on a sensor suite that measures the liquid’s capacitance within the fuel tank of a spacecraft and uses this data to recreate a three-dimensional map of the remaining fuel. The prototype model could allow satellites to work for longer, according to the team, while also helping to deter harmful end-of-life collisions.

Liquid propellants bind to the interior of fuel tank walls under zero-gravity environments due to surface friction as well as capillary effects. This volatile spatial distribution makes it impossible to determine fuel levels. Propellants are also free, none of which exists on Earth, to slosh around, float, and form bubbles. 

Several methods for calculating onboard spacecraft propellants have been developed. One of the most popular, known as the methodology of bookkeeping, includes calculating how much is consumed with each thrust as well as subtracting this from the amount of fuel remaining in the tank. At the outset of a task, but although this methodology is extremely precise, each calculation error carries over to another. It accrues with each thrust, explains team member Nick Dagalakis, a mechanical engineer. “The calculations become more like approximate guesses by the period a tank is close to zero and can miss the point by as much as 10 percent,” he says.

Satellite operators are in a dilemma, Dagalakis adds, without accurate fuel calculations. It is a waste of resources to delete a satellite while it still has a lot of fuel remaining, but leaving the tank to run empty could leave the satellite stuck, with no remaining fuel to avoid other craft or travel to a secure orbit. NASA technology transition chief Manohar Deshpande has developed a new fuel gauge based on a 3D imaging technology known as electrical capacitance volume tomography (ECVT). In general, tomography is a means of analyzing an object’s internal structure without destroying it; familiar examples comprise positron emission tomography (PET), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and routine hospital-based X-ray tomography.

ECVT is a more modern version that uses a variety of electromagnetic wave-emitting sensors. The other sensors in the array will sense these waves, and how far they are distributed relies on the capacitance of whatever lies between them. If there’s nothing, the transmission is going to be big. However, if an object is available, the transmission will decrease as some electromagnetic waves will be absorbed by the object. Therefore by positioning these sensors around a container and measuring the signal at several places, a 3D image of the container’s objects can be generated.

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The Chang’e 5 spacecraft is ready to return the samples from the lunar orbit

The Chang’e-5 spacecraft is ready to deploy the samples collected from the lunar mission back to Earth for further analysis by scientists. The spacecraft coming from the Moon will be coming back to Earth with the samples gathered from this celestial body. The two spacecraft carrying these samples will make turns similar to those of the US missions in the 1960s and 1970s to prevent alteration of the samples during the spacecraft land on Earth. This mission will prove that China is ready to exploit the new technology that it has been working on in recent years., 

The technology will also be visible in the ZhengHe asteroid sample collection mission to retrieve samples from Mars. Nevertheless, the country is prepared to tackle any hitch in the test operations before they can deploy the spacecraft to the planet. The country has conducted several robotic and docking missions in the low-Earth orbit utilizing the Tiangong, Tianzhou, and Shenzhou, which was hosting passengers. This team’s challenge retrieving the samples from the Moon includes the distance between the Moon and Earth, over 400 kilograms that must be hosted by the spacecraft to Earth without succumbing to gravitational pull. 

Peng Jing, a senior designer of the Change-5 spacecraft at the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST), explained that the mission must attain the highest accuracy in docking to secure the samples collected from the Moon with an error allowance of five centimeters. Experts articulated that they won’t have expectations for the country to air such a mission since they have proved time and again that they like their missions to remain confidential until they have confirmed its success or failure. 

Nevertheless, in other cases, the country has live-streamed its missions through its TV and YouTube channels to scare away the countries that pry on their operations. Dr. Lin Yangting of the Institute of Geology and Geophysics in Beijing explained that the docking area is apparent with the necessary facilities to keep the spacecraft coming in at the sweet landing spots. The official added that they would be observing the landing area to ensure the rocks can withstand the traction of gravity that will be pressing on the incoming cargo. 

A planetary geologist at the University of Lorraine, Jessica Flahaut, outlined that they have completed transferring the radar and spectrometer to the docking site for further flight landing tests and land observation. Finally, the engineers overseeing the docking have already tested the procedure through simulations and practically with a spacecraft prototype. China is hopeful that the scientists can pull through this mission successfully.