Category Archives: Space participation

“Space for Humanity” reserves payload space on Xplore’s first Moon mission

Xplore is a company founded to provide low cost access to the inner solar system for missions ranging from government sponsored scientific studies to commercial endeavors. They also want to invite public participation such as program to send names to the Moon:

Xplore will fly your name on our first mission to orbit the Moon, expected 2022. Add your name to the list and you can come along on our Moon Xpedition™.

The company today announced the first customer to place a payload on their Moon mission:

Xplore To Host Space for Humanity Payload on its First Moon Mission
Xplore Reserves Private Payload for Non-profit Organization, Space for Humanity

Xplore Inc., a commercial space company providing Space as a ServiceTM today announced that space industry leader Dylan Taylor plans to reserve payload space on Xplore’s first mission beyond Earth orbit. The payload will be hosted onboard the XcraftTM, Xplore’s highly capable, multi-mission spacecraft designed to perform frequent, low-cost missions in the inner solar system.

The Xplore Xcraft™ will be a standardized vehicle for deep space exploration. Credits: Xplore

The diverse payload reservations Xplore is attracting now includes private citizens. Dylan Taylor is a successful founder, philanthropist, prominent space investor and also the CEO of Voyager Space Holdings, a multi-national space holding firm that acquires and integrates leading space exploration enterprises globally. He is also the first private citizen to manufacture an item in space when a gravity meter he co-designed and commissioned was printed on the International Space Station in 2017. Dylan has commissioned the Xplore payload for the benefit of Space for Humanity, a non-profit organization dedicated to democratizing space and supporting the education and future spaceflight for citizen astronauts.

Mr. Taylor said,

“My decision to choose Xplore as our payload hosting provider was a simple one – Xplore is opening up new markets for commercial space, and I fully support their business model and experienced team. Their next-generation ESPA-class Xcraft and payload hosting services gives the flexibility needed to design the optimum payload and send it to space with Xplore.” He added, “Space as a Service™ is more than a tagline – they are ushering in a new way of doing business that meets my organizations’ needs and supports a wide range of customers.”

Xplore Founder Lisa Rich, said,

“Xplore is honored to have Space for Humanity as one of the forward-thinking commercial customers on our first mission. We are pleased to serve a non-profit and appreciate Space for Humanity’s confidence in Xplore and our team. We have simplified the complexity behind sending payloads to space so that anyone with a purpose can fly their payload.” She added, “In the same way that we allow scientists to focus on the science, not the spacecraft, Xplore gives Space for Humanity the freedom to focus on the purpose of their payload and how they plan to support it via meaningful engagement and outreach programs that benefit their organization’s mission.”

Dylan Taylor said,

“With Xplore, our mission does not need a design team or spacecraft to achieve our goals. We can engage Xplore to send our payload to space – which allows us to stay 100% focused on our core activities.” He added: “Xplore can take us to our desired destinations beyond Earth orbit – something few companies can do. Further, we will benefit from the creative input they provide as well as the flexibility of the missions they can perform.”

Xplore’s spacecraft, Xcraft™, is a highly-capable ESPA-class spacecraft that can carry 30kg – 70kg of payload in 50U volume and provides customers with the opportunity to fly scheduled or custom orbital missions. The company works with commercial customers, non-profits, sponsors, and organizations seeking to send their brands, instruments and other materials to space. While most customers desire to fly instruments to gather valuable science data, an increasing number of customers seek to use the significance of a space mission to send creative payloads and magnify the human impact of their message.

Xplore Xcraft in orbit around the Moon. Credits: Xplore

Lisa Rich said,

“The value of sending a payload beyond Earth orbit — and having Space for Humanity become one of the first private customers to do so, is exemplary. Citizens identify with the import of these human achievements and want to participate. We want to provide customers as well as the public with the ability to take part in our great space future.”

Xplore launched its public outreach website, Xplore Space, for this very purpose. Their site, https://www.xplorespace.com/ gives citizens and space enthusiasts alike the ability to send their name on Xplore’s first mission to the Moon, for free. Names of citizens will be saved on Xplore’s data storage system and placed inside of the Xplore Xcraft. While Xplore performs science missions for space agencies and researchers, citizens will become voyagers alongside scientific instruments making new discoveries. Millions of people will join Xplore on its missions, participating in the exploration of space.

Lisa Rich said,

“We believe that space is for everyone and that all should have access to it. Xplore is on a mission to accelerate scientific knowledge to benefit humanity — and for our part, we will start by expanding the human footprint by giving citizens the ability to send their name to the Moon so they are represented on our journey.”

About Xplore: Xplore is a Seattle-based company offering Space as a Service™. Xplore provides hosted payloads, communication relay services and exclusive datasets to its customers via the Xcraft™, the company’s multi-mission spacecraft. Xplore’s mission is to expand robotic exploration via commercial missions at and beyond Earth, to the Moon, Mars, Venus, Lagrange points and near-Earth asteroids for national space agencies, national security agencies, sovereign space agencies and universities. Visit: https://www.xplore.com

To Send Your Name to the Moon, visit: https://www.xplorespace.com/

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Night sky highlights for June 2020

[ Update June.12.2020: What’s Up: June 2020 – NASA JPL:

What are some skywatching highlights you can see in June 2020? Look for the Summer Triangle rising in the east after sundown, keep tabs on the morning planets and June 20 brings the solstice. Additional information about topics covered in this episode of What’s Up, along with still images from the video, and the video transcript, are available at https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/whats-up… Credit: NASA-JPL/Caltech

]

** Tonight’s Sky: JuneSpace Telescope Science Institute

Though the nights are shorter in June, they are filled with fine sights. Look for the Hercules constellation, which will lead you to a globular star cluster with hundreds of thousands of densely packed stars. You can also spot Draco the dragon, which will point you to the Cat’s Eye Nebula. Keep watching for space-based views of globular star clusters and the nebula.

** What’s in the Night Sky June 2020 #WITNS | Solar Eclipse | Milky Way | NLCs – Alyn Wallace

** What to see in the night sky: June 2020BBC Sky at Night Magazine

What can you see in the night sky this month? Astronomers Pete Lawrence and Paul Abel reveal their stargazing tips for June 2020.

** The Night Sky June 2020Auriga Astronomy – Science made Simple!

A look at the Planets and Major stars/Constellations visible during June 2020 (the shortest nights of the year)

** Skywatch: What’s happening in the heavens in June – The Washington Post

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ESA sponsors AI competition to spot GEO objects in low-cost telescope images

ESA sponsoring a new citizen science challenge at Kelvins- “ESA’s Advanced Concepts Competitions”. In the spotGEO Challenge, held in partnership with the  University of Adelaide,

… you are asked to develop an algorithm to detect Geostationary orbiting objects from simple png images (or frames) acquired by an unknown, low-cost ground-based telescope. Can you learn on how to cope with cloud cover, atmospheric/weather effects, light pollution, sensor noise/defects, star occlusions and more?

Check out the problem description, the dataset and the starter-kit (the dataset and the starter kit will only be available at the competition start date).

The start date is June 8, 2020. Here’s the official announcement from ESA:

Telescope-peering AI challenged to spot mystery space objects

“Artificial objects in or near geostationary orbit appear stationary or nearly stationary compared to the background stars, which appear to move due to Earth’s rotation, as shown in this sequence of observed images.” Credits: ESA/Univ. Adelaide

ESA’s latest public competition challenges ‘citizen scientists’ to combine AI with observations from low-cost telescopes to pick out mystery objects in and around geostationary orbit, thousands of kilometres above Earth.

Geostationary orbit is also known as the ‘Clarke belt’ – science fiction writer Sir Arthur C Clarke forecast it back in 1945. The further up that satellites orbit, the slower they need to travel to overcome Earth’s gravity. Orbiting at approximately 36 000 km altitude directly above the equator, satellite velocity precisely matches Earth’s rotation, enabling them hover above the same spots in the sky.

The result has been called the most valuable real estate in our solar system: a 265 000 km ring of telecommunications, meteorology and other satellites around our planet, carefully regulated by the International Telecommunication Union.

Despite its economic value however, geostationary orbit – as well as adjacent ‘geosynchronous’ orbits – must contend with the same problems of space debris also seen in lower orbits. ESA and other space agencies perform regular monitoring to identify and track potentially-hazardous debris items. This is usually done using either high-power radar or high-performance astronomical telescopes.

“Geostationary orbit is generally well managed and documented, partly because of its immense practical and commercial value,” notes Tat-Jun Chin of the University of Adelaide, partnering with ESA on the competition. “However, precisely because of that value we should put more efforts into further understanding and protecting it.”

Dario Izzo of ESA’s Advanced Concepts Team (ACT) adds:

“So, for our new ‘spotGEO’ competition, we want to see how well low-cost telescopes combined with tailored AI algorithms can identify ‘resident space objects’ at these altitudes.”

Competition entrants will receive a dataset made up of sets of five sequential images of unspecified segments of the geostationary belt, then challenged to pick out artificial objects against the surrounding stars.

This small telescope at the Univ. of Adelaide was used to “gather imagery of geostationary artificial objects for ESA’s GEOspot competition”. Credits: Univ. Adelaide/ESA

In theory this is made easier because such objects will remain static (or nearly static) compared to the background starfield, which appears to move because of Earth’s rotation. In practice, with atmospheric distortion and an approximately 40-second exposure time for each single image the objects will be smeared out and dimmed. Clouds, light pollution and sensor noise also add to the challenge.

“The sheer distance between the observer and the target objects makes this a difficult problem,” adds Dario.

“Each pixel observed at this altitude corresponds to an arc length of about 800 m – so the objects of interest are much smaller than a single pixel. But success should help us keep better watch on this essential region of space around our planet.”

Tat-Jun Chin and his team made contact with the ACT after winning the Pose Estimation Challenge, their previous space-themed AI competition, on estimating the orientation of distant satellites from a dataset of still images.

“Deep learning algorithms can be trained through such datasets to detect visual features of interest,” he notes. “Researchers in AI – particularly computer vision and machine learning – understand that having common datasets is vital towards making progress. These allow different methods to be compared objectively, so that the community can learn the best practices then apply them for their respective problems.

“Generally speaking, sharing datasets in space research is not so common, but the excellent Kelvins competitions are changing this, and after getting to know the ACT we decided to contribute our own.”

The University of Adelaide team coincidentally acquired these images during an observing campaign during the last Australian summer, so that forest fire smoke adds to the observing difficulty.

This is the latest competition hosted at the ACT’s Kelvins website, named after the temperature unit of measurement – with the idea that competitors should aim to reach the lowest possible error, as close as possible to absolute zero. The spotGEO dataset will be available there from 8 June, at the start of the three-month competition.

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Videos: Night sky highlights for May 2020

[ Update 2: What’s Up: May 2020 – Skywatching Tips from NASA JPL

What astronomy highlights can you see in the sky in May 2020? Venus, Sirius and the Milky Way. With so many of us staying home these days, here’s a look into the sky at dusk and dawn with an eye toward the vast stretches of wide open space right above our heads. Additional information about topics covered in this episode of What’s Up, along with still images from the video, and the video transcript, are available at https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/whats-up… Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

UpdateSkywatch: What’s happening in the heavens in May – The Washington Post.

]

** Tonight’s Sky: Space Telescope Science Institute – YouTube

In May, we are looking away from the crowded, dusty plane of our own galaxy toward a region where the sky is brimming with distant galaxies. Locate Virgo to find a concentration of roughly 2,000 galaxies and search for Coma Berenices to identify many more. Keep watching for space-based views of galaxies like the Sombrero Galaxy, M87, and M64.

** What’s in the Night Sky May 2020Alyn Wallace – YouTube

** What to see in the night sky: May 2020BBC Sky at Night Magazine – YouTube

Pete Lawrence and Paul Abel guide us through May’s stargazing highlights.

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“Xtronaut 2.0: The game of solar system exploration” – Xplore sponsors Kickstarter campaign

An announcement from Xtronaut:

Xplore Sponsors Xtronaut’s Kickstarter Campaign,
Donates Space Games to The Boeing Academy
for STEM Learning at The Museum of Flight

Xplore’s Xcraft™ Now Featured in
XTRONAUT 2.0: The Game of Solar System Exploration,
the award-winning space-themed board game

Xplore Xcraft™ playing card in Xtronaut 2.0 Game

Xtronaut 2.0, a fun, multi-player game for players ages eight and up, teaches the real-world challenges of solar system exploration and educates players on how to plan missions to deep space. Xplore’s high-performance spacecraft, the Xcraft™, is a new feature in Xtronaut 2.0, which mirrors real-life space missions. Players can plan exploration missions and send the Xcraft™ to the Moon, Mars, Venus, and asteroids, including Bennu, the target of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Return mission. Spacecraft in the game can launch on SpaceX, ULA, and NASA-SLS rockets. Planetary scientist Dr. Dante Lauretta created Xtronaut with CEO Michael Lyon. Lauretta is a University of Arizona Professor and Principal Investigator for OSIRIS-REx. Lyon, while at Space Adventures, helped orchestrate the private astronaut flights for Dennis Tito and Mark Shuttleworth to the International Space Station.

Xplore founder and Chief Operating Officer Lisa Rich said,

“Xtronaut 2.0 provides valuable education about space missions, builds strategic skills, and inspires players to pursue STEM careers. We are proud to have the Xcraft™ featured in Xtronaut 2.0 and are delighted that our sponsorship enables us to give 120 games to the youth organization of our choice. Xplore selected The Boeing Academy for STEM Learning at The Museum of Flight to receive our gift to support their mission to enhance educational opportunities for young people, particularly students of color, females, and those from low income families and communities to access and pursue STEM pathways.”

Reba Gilman, Vice President of Education for The Museum of Flight said,

“The Boeing Academy for STEM Learning at The Museum of Flight is pleased to accept Xplore’s generous gift of 120 Xtronaut 2.0 games, and we look forward to distributing them among our students. Xplore aligns well with our goal of promoting STEM opportunities. They are a creative company that thinks out-of-the box in terms of how their commercial missions to space will impact the lives of others. While scientists, universities, national space agencies, civilian space agencies, national security space agencies and others will fly with them, our students can also benefit from their missions to space.” She added, “We appreciate the leadership of Xplore’s female founder, Lisa Rich, and are thankful Xplore is giving us this positive stay-at-home activity that students will enjoy during these uncertain times.”

Dr. Dante Lauretta said:

“We are excited to include Xplore as a real-world example of next-generation missions to space. Our original game allows players to fly heritage spacecraft. With Xtronaut 2.0, we have the added feature of flying the Xcraft™ as a small payload with enhanced capability for missions to our solar system. Our players will love this feature as it adds another layer of real-world authenticity to the game.” He added, “We are pleased that our game will support The Museum of Flight. Xtronaut 2.0 is a constructive way for students enrolled in The Boeing Academy for STEM Learning’s programs to expand their knowledge of the aerospace industry and encourage them to be a part of it.”

Xtronaut 2.0 is currently available on Kickstarter. To obtain a copy or sponsor games to give to the youth organization of your choice, visit: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/xtronaut/xtronaut-2?ref=discovery&term=xtronaut

More cards in the Xtronaut game.

About Xplore: Xplore is a Seattle-based commercial deep space company offering Space as a ServiceTM. Xplore provides hosted payloads, communication relay services and exclusive datasets to its customers via a fleet of networked multi-mission spacecraft.

The mission of Xplore is to expand robotic exploration via commercial Xpeditions™ at and beyond Earth, to the Moon, Mars, Venus, Lagrange Points and near-Earth asteroids in the inner solar system. Xplore provides hosted payload services for scientific instruments and technology demonstrations for national space agencies, national security agencies, sovereign space agencies and universities. Visit: https://www.xplore.com

About Xtronaut Enterprises, Inc.: Dante Lauretta and Michael Lyon founded Xtronaut Enterprises to develop innovative educational content associated with space exploration. Dr. Lauretta has spent over 16 years developing and leading the OSIRIS-REx mission. Xtronaut also produces the award-winning game Constellations: The Game of Stargazing and the Night Sky and Downlink: The Game of Planetary Discovery. Visit: https://xtronaut.com/

Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/xtronaut/xtronaut-the-game-of-solar-system-exploration

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Here is an interview with Xtronaut CEO Michael Lyon by Jason Kanigan of the Cold Star Project:

Michael Lyon is an attorney, startup accelerator mentor and space tourism pioneer. I’ve interviewed him for the full format Cold Star Project show (link below), and today he’s back to share Xtronaut 2.0. It’s a fun and educational space board game he has co-created that has already achieved 2X its funding target on Kickstarter. Xtronaut 2.0 was co-created by Dante Lauretta of Osiris-REx fame. Bill Nye and the Planetary Society are also involved. I want you to have the chance to hear about it, and maybe pick up some of the cool swag that comes along with backing the idea. Check out the Kickstarter for Xtronaut 2.0 here: https://coldstartech.com/msbxtronaut

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