Space policy roundup – Jan.31.2019

A sampling of links to recent space policy, politics, and government (US and international) related space news and resource items that I found of interest:


** Tue, 01/29/2019Rod Pyle talked about “his new book Interplanetary Robots: True Stories of Space Exploration plus specific missions, Mars, Saturn, the Moon, the attributes of a PI and much more”.

** Mon, 01/28/2019Laura Forczyk spoke about her book project “Rise Of The Space Age Millennials: The Space Aspirations of a Rising Generation, plus additional multiple commercial space topics, policy issues, and STEM subjects”.

** Sun, 01/27/2019Robert (Rob) Godwin talked about his new book, Outpost in Orbit: A Pictorial & Verbal History of the Space Station.

** John Batchelor Show: The steady and discreet success of Blue Origin. Bob Zimmerman,

** John Batchelor: Cheap SpaceX shuts down the expensive competition. Bob Zimmerman,


Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto

Videos: TMRO Orbit 12.04 – “A possible goodby to the Opportunity Rover”

The latest episode of the space show is now available: A possible goodbye to the Opportunity Rover – Orbit 12.04

While the Opportunity rover isn’t officially dead yet, at this point engineers seem to be struggling to get communications restored. It’s possible there could be a eureka moment, but for now Oppy remains silent. We chat about our favorite Opportunity Science, Moments and even enjoy the launch itself.

This week we also chat about Stratolaunch history and Future (by way of community vote), Blue Origin Test Flights and Onboard Science and the recent higher-resolution picture of Ultima Thule from New Horizons.

Space news is now presented by TMRO in a separate video:

This is your space news update for January 30th, 2019. Our Space Mike hologram is back, in non hologram form this week to deliver Launch Minute as well as an update on the SpaceX DM-1 mission. We also chat about the recent Blue Origin Test Flight and the ground breaking for their new engine production facility. OneWeb may have access to a lower cost ground based system for their upcoming satellite constellation. And finally, a quick update on NASA’s Opportunity Rover.

A TMRO Science program was also webcast: Breaking down ocean waste with bioremediation – Discovery 02.01

Dr. Rose Jones of Bigelow Lab for Ocean Sciences joins us on TMRO.Science to talk about Deep-sea microbial communities, extremophiles and bioremediation of acid mine drainage sites. How these systems all interact and can be used to help break down ocean waste.


Galaxy Girls: 50 Amazing Stories of Women in Space.

Space science: Deep water on Mars, Rovers update, & Juno mission midway

A sampling of planetary science news:

** Yet more Mars water: A new study finds evidence for a deep groundwater table on Mars: Well water likely available across Mars | Behind The Black

A science paper released today and available for download [pdf] cites evidence from about two dozen deep impact craters located from the equator to 37 degrees north latitude that Mars has a ground ice table at an elevation that also corresponds to other shoreline features.

The third take-away from this paper however is possibly the most important. The evidence suggests that this deep groundwater water table (as ice) almost certainly still exists at all latitudes, though almost entirely underground. From a future explorer’s perspective, this data reinforces the possibility that water will be accessible across much of the Martian surface. All you will have to do is dig a well, something humans have been doing on Earth for eons.

Diagram of surface feature evidence for a deep ground water table

** Curiosity on the move:  The Curiosity rover continues its long slow methodical trek up Mount Sharp – Curiosity Says Farewell to Mars’ Vera Rubin Ridge | NASA

NASA’s Curiosity rover has taken its last selfie on Vera Rubin Ridge and descended toward a clay region of Mount Sharp. The twisting ridge on Mars has been the rover’s home for more than a year, providing scientists with new samples — and new questions — to puzzle over.

On Dec. 15, Curiosity drilled its 19th sample at a location on the ridge called Rock Hall. On Jan. 15, the spacecraft used its Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera on the end of its robotic arm to take a series of 57 pictures, which were stitched together into this selfie. The “Rock Hall” drill hole is visible to the lower left of the rover; the scene is dustier than usual at this time of year due to a regional dust storm.

Curiosity has been exploring the ridge since September of 2017. It’s now headed into the “clay-bearing unit,” which sits in a trough just south of the ridge. Clay minerals in this unit may hold more clues about the ancient lakes that helped form the lower levels on Mount Sharp.

A selfie taken by NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover on Sol 2291 (January 15) at the “Rock Hall” drill site, located on Vera Rubin Ridge. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS Full image and caption

** Last hope for Opportunity: NASA JPL will try some new techniques in hopes of awakening the long silent Opportunity rover – Rover Team Beaming New Commands to Opportunity on Mars – NASA JPL

Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, have begun transmitting a new set of commands to the Opportunity rover in an attempt to compel the 15-year-old Martian explorer to contact Earth. The new commands, which will be beamed to the rover during the next several weeks, address low-likelihood events that could have occurred aboard Opportunity, preventing it from transmitting.

The rover’s last communication with Earth was received June 10, 2018, as a planet-wide dust storm blanketed the solar-powered rover’s location on Mars.

“We have and will continue to use multiple techniques in our attempts to contact the rover,” said John Callas, project manager for Opportunity at JPL. “These new command strategies are in addition to the ‘sweep and beep’ commands we have been transmitting up to the rover since September.” With “sweep and beep,” instead of just listening for Opportunity, the project sends commands to the rover to respond back with a beep.

** Juno midway in Jupiter mission: The Juno spacecraft in December completed its 16th orbit of Jupiter, halfway to the 32 orbit target to complete its primary mission – NASA’s Juno Mission Halfway to Jupiter Science | NASA

“With our 16th science flyby, we will have complete global coverage of Jupiter, albeit at coarse resolution, with polar passes separated by 22.5 degrees of longitude,” said Jack Connerney, Juno deputy principal investigator from the Space Research Corporation in Annapolis, Maryland. “Over the second half of our prime mission — science flybys 17 through 32 — we will split the difference, flying exactly halfway between each previous orbit. This will provide coverage of the planet every 11.25 degrees of longitude, providing a more detailed picture of what makes the whole of Jupiter tick.”

Launched on Aug. 5, 2011, from Cape Canaveral, Florida, the spacecraft entered orbit around Jupiter on July 4, 2016. Its science collection began in earnest on the Aug. 27, 2016, flyby. During these flybys, Juno’s suite of sensitive science instruments probes beneath the planet’s obscuring cloud cover and studies Jupiter’s auroras to learn more about the planet’s origins, interior structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere.

“We have already rewritten the textbooks on how Jupiter’s atmosphere works, and on the complexity and asymmetry of its magnetic field,” said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno, from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “The second half should provide the detail that we can use to refine our understanding of the depth of Jupiter’s zonal winds, the generation of its magnetic field, and the structure and evolution of its interior.”

** A sampling of recent images from Juno:

**** Juno’s SRU Captures Jupiter Lightning

Juno’s Radiation Monitoring Investigation used the Stellar Reference Unit (SRU) star camera to collect this high-resolution image Jupiter’s northern auroral oval on May 24, 2018 (Perijove 13). Also present in the image are several small bright dots and streaks — signatures of high energy relativistic electrons from polar beams that are penetrating the camera. The large bright dot in the lower right corner of the image is a flash of Jupiter’s lightning. Juno was less than 37,000 miles (60,000 km) from the cloud tops when this SRU image was collected — the closest view of Jupiter’s aurora with a visible light imager.

**** Juno’s Latest Flyby of Jupiter Captures Two Massive Storms

“This image of Jupiter’s turbulent southern hemisphere was captured by NASA’s Juno spacecraft as it performed its most recent close flyby of the gas giant planet on Dec. 21, 2018. This new perspective captures the notable Great Red Spot, as well as a massive storm called Oval BA. The storm reached its current size when three smaller spots collided and merged in the year 2000. The Great Red Spot, which is about twice as wide as Oval BA, may have formed from the same process centuries ago.” – NASA JPL

**** PJ12-83 – Jupiter during Perijove 17

Jupiter during Juno 17th orbit. Credits: Kevin M. Gill at Junocam public image processing gallery
**** Jupiter at home in the Milky Way

“Jupiter at Home in the Milky Way” – Credits: CosmEffect at  Junocam public image processing gallery
See also


Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto

Space access roundup – Jan.29.2019

A sampling of items regarding rockets, spaceships, etc:

** China’s Long March 5, the country’s largest heavy lift rocket, is set to launch again this year : China Plans Return-to-Flight of Long March-5 Booster –

An essential launcher for China’s future space station and Moon exploration plans is being readied for a July flight.

The third Long March-5 takeoff follows a mishap of this booster-class on July 2, 2017. An intensive investigation was carried out to identify why the rocket failed less than six minutes after liftoff.

China’s Xinhua news agency reports that Yang Baohua, vice president of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), that the cause of the failure had been found.

2019 will be another busy launch year for China: China will attempt 30-plus launches in 2019, including crucial Long March 5 missions –

And Chinese commercial launch companies are ramping up as well: Chinese companies OneSpace and iSpace are preparing for first orbital launches –

** The USAF’s X-37 reusable spaceplane is still in orbit after nearly a year and a half: U.S. Air Force Space Plane Wings Past 500 days of Earth Orbiting –

The secretive mission of a U.S. Air Force X-37B mini-space plane has winged past 500 days of flight. This robotic drone is performing classified duties during the program’s fifth flight.

This mission – tagged as Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV-5) — was rocketed into Earth orbit on September 7, 2017 atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 booster from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

** Feb 19: An Arianespace Soyuz rocket will launch the first ten satellites of the OneWeb global broadband Internet constellation, which will eventually total over 900 satellites.

** Firefly Aerospace shows off an engine test:

** Vector Launch is testing as well:

** SpaceX:

*** A local TV news station reports on activity at the SpaceX launch facility near Brownsville, Texas:

*** The first Falcon Heavy commercial mission, and the second flight of the launch system, looks to happen in March and a third flight with mostly military payloads could happen in April: After government re-opened, SpaceX sought two Falcon Heavy permits | Ars Technica

Of potentially more interest are applications for two permits related to the launch of the next Falcon Heavy mission, Arabsat 6A, and the landing of two side boosters and the central core. These applications indicate that the launch of the Arabsat 6A mission will occur no earlier than March 7 from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A. This is consistent with existing estimates for the current launch date.

The landing permit also confirms that SpaceX will seek to land the two side boosters at its landing zone along the Florida coast—setting up for a repeat of the dramatic side-by-side landings during the inaugural Falcon Heavy test flight last February. The company will also attempt to land the center core on an ocean-based drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean about 1,000km offshore. During the first test flight of the Falcon Heavy rocket, SpaceX narrowly missed landing the center core.

There is a lot riding on these landings, as SpaceX intends to reuse both the side boosters and the center core for its third Falcon Heavy mission, Space Test Program-2. This flight could occur as early as April, although some slippage to the right seems likely, as a one-month turnaround of three boosters is ambitious. The payloads for this ride-share mission, bought by the US Air Force, include six weather research satellites, several demonstration missions, and academic projects.

See also:

*** Two Falcon 9 missions are set for February:

*** The Falcon 9 fairing catcher ship is traveling from the West Coast to Florida, where it will have more opportunities to use its net to snag nose-cone fairings ejected from the rockets during satellite launches: SpaceX fairing catcher Mr. Steven heads for Panama Canal after one last drop test –

Iconic fairing recovery vessel Mr. Steven appears to have quietly departed for SpaceX’s Florida launch facilities a few days after completing (successfully or not) one final controlled fairing catch test in the Pacific Ocean.

While bittersweet for those that have closely followed the vessel’s development and many attempted Falcon fairing recoveries, this move should ultimately give Mr. Steven around three times as many opportunities to attempt fairing recoveries thanks to SpaceX’s significantly higher East Coast launch cadence.

For updates on Mr. Steven, check out: SpaceXFleet Updates (@SpaceXFleet) | Twitter.

** Other items:


Telescopes and Binoculars at Amazon