Category Archives: Space participation

Virgin Orbit to Launch Stem Education Payloads for UK’s Junior Astronaut program

An announcement from Virgin Orbit and UK’s Junior Astronaut program:

Virgin Orbit to Launch Stem Education Payloads for UK’s Junior Astronaut
Junior Astronaut’s Nanonaut Satellite Can be Tracked from Space Via Smartphone App,
Helping to Inspire a New Generation of Space Enthusiasts

Long Beach, California — January 8, 2021 — Virgin Orbit, the California-based responsive space launch company, announced today that it has signed a launch services agreement with Junior Astronaut, a UK-based company that provides Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education programs for young space enthusiasts. Flying as a rideshare onboard several upcoming missions — including missions from Spaceport Cornwall in Newquay, UK — Junior Astronaut’s Nanonaut payload will remain affixed to LauncherOne’s upper stage.

LauncherOne rocket released from carrier aircraft. Credits: Virgin Orbit

Each Nanonaut payload can be tracked and monitored via telemetry from Earth using Junior Astronaut’s smartphone app. The app also offers a number of STEM-based activities such as algebra tutorials and other educational teasers, supporting Junior Astronaut’s broader purpose of inspiring young students to become more engaged and excited about space.

Founded in 2020, Junior Astronaut exists to encourage young people toward careers in STEM and space science through participation. In addition to the Nanonaut program, Junior Astronaut will soon offer space camps and a flight experiments package to take young people’s interest to the next stage.

Junior Astronaut to begin a flight experiments program. Credits: Junior Astronaut

Virgin Orbit launches for Junior Astronaut will commence no earlier than mid-2021.

“Knowledge is the most powerful tool for shaping a better future for everyone. The Junior Astronaut program is designed to inspire young people to push the limits of the unknown, to discover and innovate. The way to do this is education. Space is such an inspirational way to get people interested. We want space to be accessible to everyone, and for the next generation to push boundaries and move all our societies forward. Space is how they will do this,”

said Miranda Ashcroft, Junior Astronaut co-founder.

“With every LauncherOne mission, we want to chip away at the barriers preventing equitable access to space, so this partnership with Junior Astronaut is particularly meaningful to our team,” said Stephen Eisele, Virgin Orbit’s vice president of business development. “These Nanonauts are all about getting students to recognize that they too can have a role in shaping the future of space, and we’re really excited to help bring them into the fold. These are the kinds of missions that will capture the hearts and minds of tomorrow’s space innovators.”

Virgin Orbit is in the midst of final preparations for Launch Demo 2, its second orbital test flight with the LauncherOne system, currently expected to occur in mid-January.

About Virgin Orbit: Virgin Orbit builds and operates the most flexible and responsive satellite launcher ever invented: LauncherOne, a dedicated launch service for commercial and government-built small satellites. LauncherOne rockets are designed and manufactured in Long Beach, California, and will be air-launched from our modified 747-400 carrier aircraft – allowing us to operate from locations all over the world in order to best serve each customer’s needs. Virgin Orbit’s systems are currently in an advanced stage of testing, with initial orbital launches expected soon. To learn more or to apply to join Virgin Orbit’s talented and growing team, visit

About Junior Astronaut: Junior Astronaut is a worldwide charitable organization that wants to awaken young people’s curiosity and guide them towards choosing a STEM career. Junior Astronaut’s vision is to bring forth a new generation of STEM professionals that will have the knowledge, creativity, drive, and empathy to address global challenges through innovation. Our mission is to create thrilling participative programs that nurture real life skills and inspire a sense of wonder, curiosity, and the desire to explore. Our initiatives include the Nanonaut program, space camps, in-flight experiments, zero gravity experiences, and – in the future – a full sub-orbital experience. In the long term, we aim for youths who start our program to one day build STEM careers at NASA, ESA, or other world-renowned space companies like Virgin Orbit.

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Videos: Night sky highlights for January 2021

** What’s Up: January 2021 – Skywatching Tips from NASA JPL

What are some skywatching highlights in January 2021? Mark Earth’s closest approach to the Sun for the year, called perihelion, at the start of the month, then spot a couple of elusive planets: Uranus on Jan. 20th and Mercury throughout the second half of the month. 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….

** What’s in the Night Sky January 2021 #WITNS | Quadrantid Meteor Shower | MercuryAlyn Wallace

00:00 Intro
00:39 Skillshare
01:30 Northern Hemisphere Night Sky
07:39 Southern Hemisphere Night Sky
12:19 Quadrantids Meteor Shower
15:20 #WITNS Winners

** Tonight’s Sky: JanuarySpace Telescope Science Institute

In January, the northern hemisphere features beautiful views of Capella, a pair of giant yellow stars; Aldebaran, a red giant star; and two star clusters—the Hyades and the Pleiades. Keep watching for the awe-inspiring space-based views of the Crab Nebula, the remains of a star that exploded as a supernova.

**  What to see in the night sky, January 2021BBC Sky at Night Magazine

A new year means a new stargazing calendar! Pete Lawrence and Paul Abel reveal what’s in the night sky throughout January 2021. Head out and see what you can spot tonight.

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DreamUp sent 35 student experiments to the ISS via Cargo Dragon

An announcement in my email from the DreamUp education program:

Thirty-Five DreamUp Student Experiments Launch on SpaceX-21

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida – December 6, 2020 – DreamUp, the leader in space-based educational offerings, is proud to announce the launch of thirty-five student-designed experiments to the International Space Station on today’s SpaceX Falcon 9 CRS-21 rocket launch. These educational payloads, built by students from middle school to university around the world, represent their unprecedented perseverance as they continued to prepare their experiments for flight in unusually challenging circumstances due to COVID-19.

The student payloads launched in SpaceX’s Cargo Dragon alongside thousands of pounds of NASA cargo, supplies, more than 250 science and research investigations, as well as the Nanoracks Bishop Airlock, the first permanent, commercial addition to the International Space Station infrastructure. The Cargo Dragon is scheduled to dock to the Space Station tomorrow, Monday, December 7, 2020.

Specifically, the investigations on board are designed and built by a diverse range of students hailing from several countries and participating in programs led by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE), Orbital Space, The Ramon Foundation, and the Tulsa Regional STEM Alliance (TRSA).

Notably, “E. Coli Consuming Carbon Dioxide to Combat Climate Change (E. coli C5)” will be the first payload launched to the International Space Station from Kuwait. Designed by a team of students from the American School of Kuwait who won Orbital Space’s “Experiments in Space” competition, this Mixstix experiment will investigate how a genetically modified strain of E. Coli bacteria that uses atmospheric carbon dioxide as a food source will behave in the microgravity environment of the Space Station.

The Tulsa Regional STEM Alliance, supported by Flight Night, solicited Mixstix experiment proposals from students throughout Oklahoma in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing. After participating in a two-phased selection process, six students from three teams were selected as winners. The three teams come from Jenks Southeast Elementary and Summit Christian Academy.

Twenty-eight Mixstix experiments from NCESSE’s Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) Mission 14 and three Mixstix from the Ramon Foundation’s Spacelab program represent long-enduring partnerships that reach students in a broad range of schools across Brazil, Canada, Israel, and the United States and inspire countless more.

“It is fitting that this notable launch for commercial space will be carrying such a large and diverse array of student investigations, and I am particularly excited to for the launch of the very first Kuwaiti experiment on the International Space Station!” said Allen Herbert, Interim CEO of DreamUp. “Student-designed microgravity research has the power to excite and engage not only young learners, but their parents, schools, and broader communities, and to equip them to pursue the challenges that humanity will face in the future. DreamUp is proud to support students as they pursue cutting-edge research on the most advanced commercial space platforms, and we congratulate them all on their persistence and tenacity in a challenging time.”

These launch opportunities were made possible via our partnership with Nanoracks and its Space Act Agreement with NASA.

For additional media inquiries, please email us at, and for continued updates, be sure to follow @DreamUp_Space on Twitter and Instagram.

About DreamUp: Based in Washington, DC, DreamUp is the first company bringing space into the classroom and the classroom into space. Uniquely positioned to inspire kids globally and engage them through scientific discoveries in space, DreamUp aims to foster an educational community where space-based research and projects will be available to all learners of all ages. DreamUp has a proven track record with more than 400 student research payloads from around the world launched on SpaceX and Northrop Grumman rockets to the International Space Station via a partnership with Nanoracks and its Space Act Agreement with NASA. For more information, visit

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Videos: Night sky highlights for December 2020

Update: What’s Up: December 2020 Skywatching Tips from NASA – JPL

What are some skywatching highlights in December 2020? Catch the year’s best meteor shower, the Geminids, in the middle of the month. Then witness an extremely close pairing of Jupiter and Saturn that won’t be repeated for decades. And mark the shortest day of the year on the northern winter 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….


** Tonight’s Sky: DecemberSpace Telescope Science Institute

Step outside on a cold December night when the stars shine bright to find the Big Dipper, Cassiopeia, and Cepheus. They will help you locate a binary star system, a fan-shaped open star cluster, and a variable star. Stay tuned for space-based views of a ragged spiral galaxy, an open star cluster, and an edge-on galaxy.

** What to see in the night sky, December 2020BBC Sky at Night Magazine

What can you see in the night sky tonight? Astronomers Pete Lawrence and Paul Abel talk us through the best sights to see in the night sky throughout December 2020, including how to see the Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn (03:30) and the Geminid meteor shower (08:48).

** What’s in the Night Sky December 2020 #WITNS | Great Conjunction | Solar Eclipse | Geminid Meteors – Alyn Wallace

** The Night Sky & A Telescope – The Night Sky Sights – December 2020Richard J. Bartlett

This month, Jupiter and Saturn are at their closest for 400 years, while Mars still shines in the evening hours. The Geminid meteor shower reaches its maximum on the 13th, and we’ll take a closer look at the Pleiades star cluster.

** More night sky advice:

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Videos: Night sky highlights for November 2020

** What’s Up: November 2020 Skywatching Tips from NASA – NASA JPL

What are some skywatching highlights in November 2020? Cool autumn evenings are a great time to look for the Pleiades star cluster. You’ll also have a couple of great opportunities to observe the Moon with Jupiter and Saturn. Plus, check out the phenomenon known as Earthshine. 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…

** Tonight’s Sky: NovemberSpace Telescope Science Institute

In November, hunt for the fainter constellations of fall, including Pisces, Aries, and Triangulum. They will guide you to find several galaxies and a pair of white stars. Stay tuned for space-based views of spiral galaxy M74 and the Triangulum Galaxy, which are shown in visible, infrared, and ultraviolet light.

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

What can you see in the night sky tonight? Astronomers Pete Lawrence and Paul Abel guide us through November 2020’s night-sky highlights.

** What’s in the Night Sky November 2020 #WITNS | Leonids Meteor Shower | Lunar EclipseAlyn Wallace

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