The Space Show this week – June.24.2019

The guests and topics of discussion on The Space Show this week:

1. Monday, June 24, 2019; 2-3:30 pm PDT (4-5:30 pm CDT, 5-6:30 pm EDT): No show for today. Monday is for special and timely programs only.

2. Tuesday, June 25, 2019; 7-8:30 pm PDT (9-10:30 pm CDT, 10-11:30 pm EDT): We welcome back Dr. Anita Sengupta to discuss her new work regarding electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) vehicles, aka flying cars, for urban aerial mobility.

3. Wednesday, June 26, 2019; Hotel Mars: David Livingston and John Batchelor will talk with Alan Boyle about “Stratolaunch, , what will happen to it?” Hotel Mars is pre-recorded by the John Batchelor Show. It is archived on The Space Show site after John posts it on his website.

4. Friday, June 28, 2019; 9:30-11 am PDT (11:30 am-1 pm CDT, 12:30-2 pm EDT): We welcome noted author Charles Fishman to discuss his new book, One Giant Leap: The Impossible Mission That Flew Us to the Moon.

5. Sunday, June 30, 2019; 12-1:30 pm PDT (3-4:30 pm EDT, 2-3:30 pm CDT): We welcome Nancy Atkinson to discuss her brand new book, Eight Years to the Moon: The History of the Apollo Missions.

Some recent shows:

** Fri, 06/21/2019 –  Dr. Bruce Cordell talked about “Lunar return space policy in the context of trends based on Maslow Window opening opportunities plus more”.

** Tue, 06/18/2019Robert Godwin talked “about his latest book, Manned Lunar Landing and Return, plus the untold story of Dr. Conrad Lau in developing Lunar Orbital Rendezvous (LOR”.

** Mars Hotel with John Batchelor & Dr. David Livingston – Wed, 06/19/2019: Dr. Robert Zubrin interviewed about “his new book, The Case for Space: How the Revolution in Spaceflight Opens Up a Future of Limitless Possibility, plus how best to do space plus lots more”.

** Fri, 06/14/2019James A. M. Muncy talked about “draft regulations for commercial space transportation and launches, rules, regulations, and much more”.

See also:
* The Space Show on Vimeo – webinar videos
* The Space Show’s Blog – summaries of interviews.
* The Space Show Classroom Blog – tutorial programs

The Space Show is a project of the One Giant Leap Foundation.

The Space Show - David Livingston
The Space Show – David Livingston


Student and amateur CubeSat news roundup – June.23.2019

A sampling of recent articles, press releases, etc. related to student and amateur CubeSat / SmallSat projects and programs:

TechDemoSat-1 sail deployed May 2019
TechDemoSat-1 drag sail deployed May 2019. The sail, developed at Cranfield University, will reduce the time for the satellite to de-orbit.

** Cranfield University team’s Icarus-1 drag sail successfully deployed on Surrey Satellite’s TechDemoSat-1 smallsat in orbit back in May: TechDemoSat-1 on-board camera captures drag sail deployment | SSTL

TechDemoSat-1, a 150 kg in-orbit technology demonstration small satellite mission, validated 8 innovative UK spacecraft instruments and software payloads and also acquired ocean wind speed datasets using GNSS reflectometry.

The deployed sail measures approximately 6.7 m2 and is designed to significantly increase the spacecraft’s rate of orbital decay, in compliance with current Space Debris Mitigation best practice and guidelines. 

Stephen Hobbs, Head of Cranfield University’s Space Group, commented “At Cranfield we are delighted to see our Icarus de-orbit technology demonstrated successfully in orbit – again.  With the Icarus sails now deployed on both TechDemoSat-1 and Carbonite-1, SSTL and Cranfield have demonstrated clear leadership in this technology.  We hope to see many more satellites following TechDemoSat-1’s example to keep space clear of debris.  It’s been great to work with SSTL on this mission.”

The Icarus-1 drag sail consists of a thin aluminium frame fitted around one of the external panels of the spacecraft in which four trapezoidal Kapton sails and booms are stowed and restrained by a cord.  Deployment is achieved by activating cord-cutter actuators, allowing the stored energy in the spring hinges to unfold the booms and the sail. 

TechDemoSat-1 built by Surrey Satellite Systems, Ltd.

** The Planetary Society’s LightSail-2 to launch on the SpaceX Falcon Heavy STP-2 mission. The sail follows several previous solar sail projects (Japan’s IKAROS 2010 was the first to demonstrate sunlight driven propulsion) and aims to be the first of the Society’s sails to demonstrate net thrust. The sail will be released from the Georgia Tech Prox-1 carrier satellite (see below) about a week after the launch.

Follow progress with the mission at:

LightSail-2 in orbit
Artist’s depiction of LightSail-2 in orbit.


LightSail-2 teleconference (transcript (pdf)) with

  • Bill Nye, CEO of The Planetary Society
  • Bruce Betts, Chief Scientist and LightSail 2 Program Manager
  • David Spencer, LightSail 2 Project Manager and Associate Professor at Purdue University
  • Jennifer Vaughn, COO of The Planetary Society

** Georgia Tech’s Prox-1 smallsat was built by students and will be student-operated as well. The goal of the mission is to

… demonstrate proximity operations for space situational awareness, through the use of a low thrust propulsion system for orbital maneuvering, and visible and infrared imaging for reconnaissance. The Prox-1 mission is directly applicable to Air Force Space Command’s priority to develop and maintain complete knowledge of assets in the on-orbit environment.

Prox-1 will conduct rendezvous and proximity operations with an on-orbit “objective”: the expended launch vehicle that delivers Prox-1 to orbit. Through multiple circumnavigations of the objective while acquiring visible and infrared images, a three-dimensional model of the objective will be developed and material properties will be established. The orbit of the objective will be determined, and a time-history of the objective attitude will be acquired. As an extended mission goal, Prox-1 will conduct proximity operations with additional objects in the near-space environment. The primary mission duration is three months.

This animation is somewhat dated but shows the primary operational tasks of the mission:

See also The Future Is Small – Georgia Tech’s Research News – 2015

** Northwestern Univ. & Univ. of Illinois students work to get SpaceICE CubeSat ready for space after the project missed the first launch opportunity.

we are sending freeze-casting to Low Earth Orbit! At Northwestern, we are designing the experiment and payload, while UIUC (CubeSat Project) is building the satellite. This project is funded by NASA’s Office of Education through the Undergraduate Student Instrument Project. Our anticipated launch date is late 2018.

Once in orbit, we’ll collect image and temperature data while freezing aqueous suspensions of silver coated glass beads and salt water solutions. Whereas we were limited to freezing very quickly during our parabolic flight work, the CubeSat platform will allow us to test a range of freezing velocities.

Here is a history of the SpaceICE CubeSat project: Despite launch delay, NU undergrads plow ahead with redesign for NASA freeze-casting experiments | Medill Reports Chicago

Young scientists are racing to deliver by October a satellite payload of instruments to test freeze-casting — technology that could free space explorers from expensive, time-consuming deliveries of supplies from Earth.

The team of Northwestern University undergraduates building the innards for a small satellite called a “CubeSat” missed the launch window last year but are getting ready for another try.

“The sample container failed,” explains Kristen Scotti, a graduate student and mentor for SpaceICE, the initiative creating the CubeSat instrumentation to test freeze-casting for eventual manufacturing needs in space. Essentially, the glass containers for three sample suspensions were cracking, and anything less than airtight would jeopardize the freeze-casting process, dependent upon controlled temperatures and accurate readings.

** Several university teams win grants for Phase 1 of National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s MagQuest, “a $1.2 million global open innovation challenge to advance how we measure Earth’s magnetic field” – NGA announces 10 winners in MagQuest Phase 1; launches $1 million Phase 2 –

MagQuest is designed to attract new ideas to increase the efficiency, reliability, and sustainability of geomagnetic data collection. With this open innovation challenge, NGA is inspiring solvers to apply their expertise to a wide range of potential solution areas. “From seafloor observatories to satellites, the breadth of ideas that emerged from Phase 1 of MagQuest is impressive and energizing,” said Richard Salman, Director of NGA’s Office of Geomatics. “We look forward to seeing the novel thinking and new technologies solvers will bring to Phase 2 of the challenge.” 

** Nepal and Sri Lanka now have their first satellites in orbit. The BIRDS 3 CubeSats were built in collaboration with Japan’s Kyushu Institute of Technology, whose BIRDS project is intended to help non-spacefaring developing countries get into orbit. (See posting here.) The Birds-3 satellites were deployed from the ISS into orbit last week. ISS crew member Nick Hague posted images of the deployments:

Yesterday I monitored the deployment of 4 small satellites (CubeSats), as they were ejected outside of the JEM laboratory on @Space_Station. The first set of CubeSats deployed were from Nepal, Sri Lanka & Japan, & the last CubeSat was from Singapore.

— Nick Hague (@AstroHague) June 18, 2019

This video shows the Birds-3 deployment at around the 15:15 point:

Singapore’s Spooqf-1 cubesat is deployed at around 20:15. The Spooqf-1 is a project of “a multi-disciplinary group at the Centre for Quantum Technologies in Singapore […] located on the National University of Singapore campus”. The “Quantum Nanosatellite” is testing entangled photon encryption communication technologies. SpooQy-1: Singapore’s experimental quantum CubeSat and its Kibo launch | SpaceTech Asia.

** AMSAT news on student and amateur CubeSat/smallsat projects: ANS-174 AMSAT News Service Special Bulletin

  • Candidates for the AMSAT Board of Directors Announced
  • Help Celebrate AMSAT’s 50th Anniversary – Take W3ZM on the Road!
  • Lightsail-2 Scheduled for Launch June 24 – Beacon on 437.025 MHz
  • NASA Lightsail-2 PR and TV Coverage
  • Listening to Lightsail-2 Co-passengers
  • AMSAT President Joe Spier Speaks With SIP Interns
  • Upcoming Satellite Operations
  • ARISS News
  • How to Support AMSAT
  • Shorts From All Over

General CubeSat/SmallSat info:


LEGO Ideas NASA Apollo Saturn V 21309
Outer Space Model Rocket for Kids and Adults, Science Building Kit
(1900 pieces)

Space transport roundup – June.22.2019

A sampling of recent articles, videos, and images dealing with space transport:

** Blue Origin’s BE7 lunar lander engine was fired successfully this week:

** Jeff Bezos described his goals for Blue Origin during an on-stage interview held at the recent JFK Space Summit in the JFK Library in Massachusetts.

** Spinlaunch awarded a Dept. of Defense contract for delivery of payloads to low earth orbit with the company’s catapult style launch system, which is currently in development at the New Mexico spaceport.

From the PR:

LONG BEACH, Calif.–Jonathan Yaney, founder and CEO of SpinLaunch, has announced that the company has been awarded a responsive launch prototype contract from the Department of Defense (DOD), facilitated by the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU).

SpinLaunch is developing a kinetic energy-based launch system that will provide the world’s lowest-cost orbital launch services for the rapidly growing small satellite industry. In 2018, the company received $40 million in a Series A financing round from Airbus Ventures, Google Ventures and Kleiner Perkins.

The recently published State of the Space Industrial Base states that the future and growth of the U.S. space economy is “critically dependent on continuing reductions in the costs and risks associated with launch. There is a bifurcation of launch providers between lower-cost, ‘bulk’ carriers…and higher-cost, ‘niche’ providers offering lower lift-mass, but launch to a specific orbit.”

“SpinLaunch fills this gap by providing dedicated orbital launch with high frequency at a magnitude lower cost than any current ‘niche’ launch system,” stated Yaney. “This will truly be a disruptive enabler for the emerging commercial space industry. There is a promising market surge in the demand for LEO constellations of inexpensive small satellites for disaster monitoring, weather, reconnaissance, communications and other services.”

In January 2019, SpinLaunch moved from Silicon Valley to its new 140,000 square foot headquarters in Long Beach, California and last month broke ground on a new $7 million test facility on 10 acres at New Mexico’s Spaceport America. First kinetic energy flight tests are expected to occur early 2020 and the company has announced its plans for first launch by 2022.

Few technical details are known publicly about the Spinlaunch system. This image was released with the PR but it’s difficult to decipher. It appears to show the launch projectile attached to the rotating mechanism that will bring the projectile up to a significant fraction of orbital velocity.

Spinlaunch PR image
“Illustration depicting SpinLaunch orbital vehicle inside the electric kinetic launcher.” (Photo: Business Wire)

See also the Spinlaunch Fact Sheet (pdf)

Due to its unique technology, SpinLaunch is able to offer readily-available, low cost, dedicated launches at high frequencies. SpinLaunch is working to provide up to five launches per day at a price of $250,000 / launch.

** Orbit Fab‘s satellite water propulsion initiative begins with water sent to the ISS: Orbit Fab Becomes the First Private Company to Supply the International Space Station with Water – Orbit Fab

Within a year of securing venture funding, Orbit Fab has launched their hardware twice to the International Space Station (ISS) and supplied the station with water. Following the success of the multi-day microgravity refueling demonstration, Kenneth Shields, COO of the ISS U.S. National Laboratory, said in a statement, “With their recent successful completion of in-orbit water transfer operations aboard the space station, Orbit Fab became the first private company to supply the ISS with water using its own proprietary refueling equipment and processes. This concept of operations was not previously conceived of in the original design of the ISS, thus demonstrating NASA’s flexibility and desire to accommodate private sector clients who are utilizing the ISS U.S. National Laboratory as a steppingstone to an industrialized Low Earth Orbit.”

Using water as an in-space propellant has the advantage of being a very safe substance, which is important on the station where NASA is extremely cautious about such things.

Water was used for this propellant transfer demonstration as it is one of the most inert and easy to handle propellants available. Several companies offer satellite thrusters that use water as a propellant, among them is OrbitFab co-founder Daniel Faber’s former company, Deep Space Industries, which was recently acquired by Bradford Space. Orbit Fab plans on offering a variety of storable propellants on orbit, including water, xenon, green monopropellants, hydrazine, NTO, and hydrogen peroxide.

Orbit Fab water containers on the ISS
Two of the Orbit Fab water containers on the ISS.

Details on the hardware used to transfer water to a spacecraft are available at:

** The window for the next Rocket Lab Electron launch opens on June 27th.

The Make It Rain mission will launch multiple spacecraft as part of a rideshare flight procured by Spaceflight. The launch window will open in late June, with launch taking place from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Māhia Peninsula.

The mission is named ‘Make it Rain’ in a nod to the high volume of rainfall in Seattle, where Spaceflight is headquartered, as well in New Zealand where Launch Complex 1 is located. Among the payloads on the mission for Spaceflight are BlackSky’s Global-4 satellite and Melbourne Space Program’s ACRUX-1 CubeSat.

** Ariane V successfully launches two satellites to GEO:

** Commercial launch industry must deal with the double challenges of the introduction of lower priced reusable rocket flight services and a drop in the number of orders for big GEO communications satellites:

It’s been a little more than three years since Space X launched the Falcon 9 reusable rocket booster B1021 on a mission to the International Space Station (ISS) in April 2016. When the rocket came back to Earth, it became the first to land vertically on a ship at sea, and then the first to be flown again, on a March 2017 SES-10 mission. Shortly before then, in November 2015, Blue Origin launched its suborbital New Shepard booster, and successfully achieved a powered vertical soft landing.

Such demonstrations have proven that it is possible to bring big payloads into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) — and potentially do so at a fraction of the cost of expendable launches.

“The big factor here is time,” notes Marco Caceres, an analyst with Reston, Va.-based consultancy Teal Group. “When you have an expendable launch vehicle, everything is brand new and you have to test everything. And typically, you don’t launch more than once a month. With reusability your check out time is less, because everything tends to work. As long as there are no cracks, you’re going to launch again within a couple of weeks.”

** Student rocket teams battle it out at the Spaceport America Cup competition in New Mexico:

** EXOS Aerospace sets June 30th for next SARGE launch from Spaceport America. This will be the third flight of the reusable sounding rocker.

** Sweden’s arctic Esrange spaceport will support reusable rocket operations:

SSC is currently developing Esrange Space Center in northern Sweden with new capabilities and services. A testbed for reusable rockets is currently being established, and SSC aims at launching small satellites in a couple of years. In addition, SSC is now introducing a new flight ticket service for suborbital space flights, accessible and affordable for both current and new types of customers. The new concept introduces both the opportunity to fly fractional payloads, ranging from only a few kg up to 800 kg, and a substantially more frequent flight schedule. The flight ticket service is carried out jointly between SSC and DLR MORABA within the EuroLaunch partnership.

Swedish Space Corporation SSC has been launching more than 560 suborbital rockets from Esrange Space Center since the 1966. At Esrange, SSC also operates one of the world largest ground stations for satellite control and data reception. This legacy gives SSC a unique position in the European space community.

For scientists and researchers using microgravity as a tool, the new flight ticket concept SubOrbital Express covers a complete set of services ranging from a flight ticket including launch, quick and safe land recovery to customized services such as design and development of experiment payload modules.

The Spaceport Sweden project is a separate initiative aimed towards suborbital space tourism. The goal is to enable spaceflight participants one day to view the aurora from a Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo or other high altitude vehicle.

** Boeing aims to start Spaceliner crew spacecraft missions to the ISS this fall, starting with an uncrewed flight in September. An item today about a recent test:

** SpaceX:

*** Falcon Heavy set for launch on Monday evening from Pad 39A at Cape Kennedy Space Center during a 4 hour window that opens at 11:30 pm EDT (0330 GMT on 25th). A successful static firing of the engines took place last Wednesday:

The mission will be unusually demanding: SpaceX fires Falcon Heavy’s 27 booster engines ahead of “most difficult launch ever” – Teslarati.

SpaceX has a webpage dedicated to the STP-2 Mission:

…this mission will deliver 24 satellites to space on the DoD’s first ever SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch vehicle. The STP-2 mission will be among the most challenging launches in SpaceX history with four separate upper-stage engine burns, three separate deployment orbits, a final propulsive passivation maneuver and a total mission duration of over six hours. In addition, the U.S. Air Force plans to reuse side boosters from the Arabsat-6A Falcon Heavy launch, recovered after a return to launch site landing, making it the first reused Falcon Heavy ever flown for the U.S. Air Force.

Weather conditions look promising: Falcon Heavy L-2 Weather Forecast: 70% Chance Favorable – SpaceX/NASA.

The SpaceX webcast will presumably start at least 15 minutes before liftoff.

The 24 payloads include four NASA sponsored spacecraft. So NASA TV is providing coverage of the launch: Coverage Set for NASA Tech Missions Launching on SpaceX Falcon Heavy | NASA.

This includes a “prelaunch NASA technology show […] scheduled for Sunday, June 23 at noon from Kennedy. NASA will stream the briefing live at“.

The platform for the center core to land on will be placed at “more than 1240 km (770 mi) off the coast of Florida”: A SpaceX surprise: Falcon Heavy booster landing to smash distance record – Teslarati

The payloads include university and private spacecraft such as the Planetary Society’s LightSail-2 solar sailing demonstrator: Here’s Our First Look at LightSail 2 Installed on SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy Rocket | The Planetary Society

LightSail-2 inside Prox-1
An image of  Prox-1, a satellite built by a team at Georgia Tech, with a dotted lines marking the location of The Planetary Society’s LightSail 2 spacecraft inside it. A week after the Falcon Heavy upper stage deploys Prox-1 into orbit, the deployer door will open and eject LightSail 2.

*** First Crew Dragon flight to the ISS no earlier than November 15th according to the latest schedule.

*** SpaceX has a third GPS launch set for December: SpaceX on track for US Air Force Falcon 9 mission later this year – Teslarati

Reading between the lines, the US Air Force has effectively confirmed that GPS III Space Vehicle 03 (SV03) – the third GPS III satellite built by Lockheed Martin – is ready for launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, scheduled no earlier than December 2019.

*** Starhopper still awaits the Raptor engine needed to do low altitude test flights. Preparation of the engines at the McGregor test site is taking longer than expected. It appears that first hops may not take place till July.

*** Starhopper preps and construction of the Starship orbital demostrators can often be viewed via these sources:

A recent Starhopper tank test:

A new structure is in construction at the Boca Chica facility:



Videos: “Space to Ground” ISS report – June.21.2019

The latest episode of NASA’s weekly Space to Ground reports on activities related to the International Space Station:

** ISS Research: “Breathing for the Sake of Science”: Understanding Asthma from Space | NASA

For five years, researchers with the European Space Agency have analyzed exhaled Nitric Oxide in astronauts’ breath to detect dust and other toxins. Future astronauts on the Moon or Mars could inhale dust that has collected in their habitats or on their spacesuits potentially inflaming their airways. Monitoring a crewmember’s airways could improve the mission environment and optimize crew health for a successful long-term mission. The research has also contributed to asthma diagnosis and treatment back on Earth. This week the crew completed the final session on the final subject for the investigation.

** Latest episode of NASA in Silicon Valley discusses “our plans to explore the lunar surface and eventually send humans to Mars”:

** NASA Live: Earth Views from the Space Station


Moon Rush: The New Space Race

Space policy roundup – June.21.2019

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:


** A Planetary Protection debate at ISDC 2019:

** The Space Show – Tue, 06/18/2019Robert Godwin talked “about his latest book, Manned Lunar Landing and Return, plus the untold story of Dr. Conrad Lau in developing Lunar Orbital Rendezvous (LOR”.

** The Space Show/Mars Hotel with John Batchelor & Dr. David Livingston – Wed, 06/19/2019: Dr. Robert Zubrin interviewed about “his new book, The Case for Space: How the Revolution in Spaceflight Opens Up a Future of Limitless Possibility, plus how best to do space plus lots more”.

** The Space Show – Fri, 06/14/2019 James A. M. Muncy talked about “draft regulations for commercial space transportation and launches, rules, regulations, and much more”.

** Ireland’s National Space Strategy for Enterprise 2019-2025:

The National Space Strategy for Enterprise 2019-2025 sets out Ireland’s vision for space enterprise – to develop and support an economically sustainable and expanding space-active industry, delivering quality jobs for the economy of tomorrow. Find out more at

** June 18, 2019 Zimmerman/Batchelor podcast | Behind The Black