China is planning to be the first country to land a lunar probe on the far side of the moon, a Chinese lunar probe scientist said Tuesday.
The mission will be carried out by Chang'e-4, a backup probe for Chang'e-3, and is slated to be launched before 2020, said Zou Yongliao from the moon exploration department under the Chinese Academy of Sciences at a deep-space exploration forum Tuesday.
Zou said government organs have ordered experts to assess the plan over the past 12 plus months. "China will be the first to complete the task if it is successful."
The State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense announced earlier this year that Chang'e-4 will be launched before 2020.
The far side of the moon, or "dark side of the moon" as it is more commonly called, is never visible to Earth because of gravitational forces. According to Zou, the far side of the moon has a clean electromagnetic environment, which provides an ideal field for low frequency radio study. "If we can can place a frequency spectrograph on the far side, we can fill a void."
Zou said Chang'e-4 is very similar to Chang'e-3 in structure but can handle more payload. It will be used to study the geological conditions of the dark side of the moon.
China plans to launch its Chang'e-5 lunar probe around 2017 to finish the last chapter in China's three-step (orbiting, landing and return) moon exploration program.
Li Chunlai, one of the main designers of the lunar probe ground application system, said Chang'e-5 will achieve several breakthroughs, including automatic sampling, ascending from the moon without a launch site and an unmanned docking 400,000 kilometers above the lunar surface.
Chang'e-5 will also have a new launch site and launch rockets, said Li.
Chang'e-3 landed on the moon in 2013, making China the third country after the Soviet Union and the United States to soft land a spacecraft on lunar soil.
China to land probe on dark side of moon in 2018
BEIJING, Jan. 14 -- China has officially begun a new round of lunar exploration and will send the Chang'e-4 probe to the far side of the moon in 2018, China's State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND) announced Thursday.
The far side of the moon is never visible to Earth because of gravitational forces and has never been explored by humans. Chang'e-4 will be the first mission in human history to embark on this expedition, said Liu Jizhong, chief of the lunar exploration center under SASTIND.
China already boasts mature science and technology for sending a probe to the far side of the moon, and is open to cooperation with international society, said Liu.
China achieved its first soft-landing on the moon with Chang'e-3 in December 2013, and it is still sending messages back to Earth.
Liu said Chang'e-4 is very similar to Chang'e-3 in structure but can handle more payload. It will be used to study the geological conditions of the dark side of the moon.
China sent a letter of intent of cooperation to foreign countries in early 2015.
China also plans to launch its Chang'e-5 lunar probe to finish the last chapter in China's three-step (orbiting, landing and return) moon exploration program. The Chang'e-5 lunar probe is now being developed by Chinese scientists, Liu said.
China’s Mission to Lunar Far Side Opens New Frontier for Mankind
. . . If this capsule history of our progress teaches us anything, it is that man, in his quest for knowledge and progress, is determined and cannot be deterred. The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join it or not, and it is one of the greatest adventures of all times, and no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in this race for space.
—John F. Kennedy,
speaking at Rice University,
September 12, 1962
Feb. 6—China announced Jan. 14 that it was committed to landing a rover on the far side of the Moon in order to make in situ surveys of the lunar surface. In this way, China is on the verge of opening up a new frontier for mankind’s exploration of the Galaxy. While China has only been a space-faring nation since the 1990s, its pace of development—as with China’s economic development generally—has been mind boggling. While the United States, under George W. Bush, and even more under Barack Obama, has been dismantling space capabilities built up over four decades, China is proceeding by leaps and bounds, not just to repeat what other space-faring nations have done, but now to chart new paths.
The mission of Chang’e-4 to land on the far side of the Moon before 2020 is indeed going above and beyond what other nations have achieved.1 “The implementation of the Chang’e-4 mission has helped our country make the leap from following to leading in the field of lunar exploration,” said Liu Jizhong, chief of the lunar exploration center of the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense.
In fact, Chinese scientists decided at the start of their lunar exploration program that each new mission would break new ground. China’s Chang’e-3 mission, which soft-landed the Yutu rover on the Moon in 2013—the first spacecraft to do so in almost 40 years—has taken the first deep subsurface lunar radar measurements ever, and made the first astronomical observations from the lunar surface. The latter were obtained with its ultraviolet telescope, called a “cosmic observatory.” A second ultraviolet instrument will study Earth’s ionosphere.
The next lunar mission, the Chang’e-5 craft,2 now being developed for a 2017 launch, will be the star of an even more ambitious mission—landing on the Moon and then returning lunar samples to the Earth.
Mission to the Far Side
The follow-on Chang’e-4 mission to the far side of the Moon, to be launched before 2020, possibly as early as 2018, has generated great interest in the space science community. While the lunar far side was first photographed by Russia’s Luna 4 spacecraft in 1959—and was seen and photographed by Apollo astronauts as they orbited the Moon—we have yet to investigate the soil and understand the evolutionary history of this mysterious, crater-filled landscape.
Chinese National Space Administration
The Chang’e-4 relay satellite in this concept drawing from June 2015.
Because the far side of the Moon never faces Earth, due to its synchronous orbit,3 the radio waves it receives from outer space can be detected without interference from the radio waves we produce on Earth. And the radio waves which cannot even be detected by ground-based radiotelescopes—since they do not penetrate Earth’s ionosphere—will be detectable.
Speaking to the Yangguang network, Liu Jizhong said, “Chang’e-4 will utilize the distinctive features of the far side which are screened from the Earth’s radio waves to develop a space science region in a forward position for a low frequency radio astronomy survey that hopefully will fill in some of the blanks in our knowledge.”
Chinese National Space Administration
The Chang’e-4 lander concept as of June 2015.
The mission will study the geology and the dust features, and how they were formed. Liu explained, “Utilizing the very old rock of the lunar crust preserved on the far side of the Moon, we can investigate its geological characteristics, and hopefully by doing that, pull together for the first time a topographical configuration of the far side, its shallow structure, the composition of the lunar material of a particular cross-section, and attain a picture of its evolution, creating new knowledge about the history of the planet.” Russian scientists have contributed a lunar dust surveyor.
The mission will also measure lunar surface residual magnetism and study its interaction with the solar wind—a magnetized plasma consisting primarily of protons and electrons.
China will send a relay satellite to orbit the Moon, enabling communication with the lander and rover from mission control, and for sending data back to Earth. The relay satellite will be launched from Earth orbit into a lunar transfer orbit first, followed by the lander and rover. The relay satellite will enter a halo orbit around the Earth-Moon L2 Lagrange point (see Figure 1), located about 37,000 miles (60,000 km) beyond the Moon. This is considered the best location for a near-stationary communications satellite covering the Moon’s far side, while the line of sight to Earth for radiowave communication is never blocked by the Moon. The satellite is expected to be operational for three years.
The relay satellite will be parked in a halo orbit around the Earth-Moon L2 Lagrange point. The diagram view is of the ecliptic plane, the plane defined by Earth’s orbit about the Sun. In a two-body gravitational system such as the Earth-Moon system, there are five points in space in which a small satellite can be parked with stability or near-stability. These are called Lagrange points or libration points. It is possible to put a satellite in “orbit” around the near-stable points (Lagrange points 1, 2, and 3), even though there is no mass at the Lagrange point. These are called “halo orbits.” The satellite’s trajectory is not a true orbit around the Lagrange point, but is best described a periodic trajectory around it. The Lagrange point (and the halo orbit) move with the Moon. The diagram shows the trajectory of the satellite from the time of its launch from Earth (line in black, then red).
International Support for Chang’e-4
While the usual suspects in Washington are unnerved by the prospects of “Communist” China making such progress, the U.S. and international scientific community is extremely excited. One of the largest known impact craters in the Solar System, the Moon’s South-Pole Aitken Basin, may feature exposed mantle materials, according to Clive Neal of the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group affiliated with NASA. “There has been no surface exploration of the far side,” Neal told Agence France Presse. “I am sure the international lunar science community will be very excited about this mission. I know I am.”
In 2015, China sent out invitations internationally to institutions that might wish to take advantage of this mission by making proposals for experiments to be carried out on the lunar far side. While China’s space program began, as did the U.S. and Soviet programs, as primarily a military venture, it has been placed in a civilian agency. The China National Space Administration has expressed great interest in cooperating with other space agencies, and many agencies have shown a great deal of interest in such cooperation. The only outlier is the United States, where legislation passed by Congress has placed draconian restrictions on cooperation with China in space. In many respects, the Chinese program has replaced the role the U.S. program traditionally played, in encouraging space activities in all the countries of the world. For the Chang’e-4 mission, China has invited private enterprises to take part, and is conducting a competition to fly a small scientific instrument on the orbiter or lander, which will undoubtedly engage the interest of students.
The success of the Chinese space program has been greatly assisted by Russia, its great neighbor to the north, which inherited the bulk of the Soviet space program. And as the Chang’e-4 mission shows, their cooperation continues. While Russia is rebuilding much of the capabilities destroyed during the Yeltsin period, it is continually under fire from the United States and its British friends, intent on “keeping Russia down.”
But Russia’s collaboration with China has been mutually beneficial, with Russia contributing its expertise in space and China prepared to invest in the development of the Russian Far East. The close relationship between China and Russia has also served to help China assume its rightful role in the world, even in an environment in which China is still seen by the West as a potentially hostile power. Chinese efforts to counter this impression are coming up against decades of Cold War propaganda, which have left its traces in the fears and antagonisms of the Western population, propaganda which is being consciously revived to serve the war-mongering stance of the Obama Administration.
The U.S. “color revolution” in Ukraine and the “pivot” to Asia have together soured the relationships between these two important nations—Russia and China—and the United States, and have placed them both on a war footing.
Nevertheless, China has continued to progress and has very successfully mobilized its neighbors and the world to participate in President Xi Jinping’s “Belt and Road,” a program of infrastructure investment that promises to transform the region into a transmission belt of industrial and agricultural production and cooperation between East and West.
A Stark Choice for the West
At the same time, when viewing the condition of the Western economies, one is reminded of Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. The U.S. economy has become a veritable rust belt, and that includes our transportation system and overall infrastructure.
The submission to Wall Street’s demands that “shareholder prices” be maintained at the cost of productive investments, including infrastructure, has driven the living standards of what were considered middle class families into bankruptcy and even homelessness. As a result, the suicide rate is increasing exponentially. And our failure to continue a “war on drugs” has condemned an ever-increasing proportion of our youth population to a lifelong addiction and, in many instances, to an early grave.
The wars of the Bush and Obama administrations have created a flood of refugees from the war-torn Middle East into a Europe already savaged by murderous austerity administered by that satrapy of the London banking system, the European Union.
The direction that the Obama Administration and the European powers have taken by meekly submitting to the dictates of a bankrupt financial system—rather than taking measures to protect the people from the depredations of an out-of-control financial oligarchy through an immediate return to the Glass-Steagall firewall—has condemned the populations of these countries to an early death, perhaps even through the nuclear holocaust that the oligarchs are intent on provoking.
It doesn’t have to be that way. The alternative has been laid out by China, Russia, and India in the Silk Road Economic Belt, the Twenty-first Century Maritime Silk Road, and the program of space exploration. We can depart from the dangerous game of geopolitics and join in a win-win effort to begin to rebuild the world’s crumbling physical economy.
As economist and statesman Lyndon LaRouche noted in conversations with colleagues on February 1: “Now if you look at the picture of a map of society, you will say that most of the society we talk about, the trans-Atlantic community is a failure. It has been a failure. As of now, it continues to be a failure. And we are trying to kick it back into some kind of effectiveness. But, the fact is, we need to depend on the leading role of Russia and China. Now Russia and China are a different part of the whole planet than the other parts in general. India is part of this group of interest.”
President John F. Kennedy visits a NASA launch site.
What China has launched in Asia could become the path for moving humanity away from the imminent war danger and toward the “new frontier” of space, of which President Kennedy was an early leader, this time not as a space “race,” but rather as a collaborative effort of all nations to achieve the common aims of mankind.
1. “Chang’e” is the name of the Moon goddess.
2. Chang’e-5 will be launched before Chang’e-4.
3. The Moon rotates on its axis as it orbits the Earth, but the far side never faces Earth. To understand this, consider that you are the Moon. As you orbit Earth, if you do not turn, you will alternately show your face and your backside to Earth. But you could politely turn as you go, always facing Earth. (But why does the Moon maintain this synchrony? Is it really a result of gravitational interaction with Earth?)
China to use data relay satellite to explore dark side of moon
BEIJING, China will launch a data relay satellite to ensure communication between Earth and the lunar probe during an expedition to the far side of the moon, Ye Peijian, chief scientist with China's lunar exploration program, said Tuesday.
China in January announced plans to send the Chang'e-4 probe to the dark side of the moon around 2018. Due to gravitational forces, this part of the moon is not visible to Earth and has never been explored by humans. The data relay satellite will be launched six months before the probe.
Earth can contact Chang'e-4 with the help of a "communication station" on the Lagrange point L2 of the Earth-moon system, 80,000 kilometers away from the moon, according to Ye.
"The moon is too small to block the signal transmission between Earth and the data relay satellite," said Ye.
Chang'e-1 mission in 2007 began the era of China's lunar exploration, the launch of the Chang'e-2 and Chang'e-3 followed soon after. The latter marked completion of the second phase of China's lunar program, which includes orbiting, landing and returning to Earth.
Chang'e-3 delivered a rover and stationary lander to the moon in 2013, making China the third country after the Soviet Union and the United States to carry out such a mission.
China is preparing for its next lunar probe mission, Chang'e-5, which is expected to be launched around 2017.
The probe will be tasked with landing on the moon, collecting samples and returning to Earth.
To the Far Side of the Moon: China's Lunar Science Goals
China is planning to land a probe on the far side of the moon as part of its Chang'e 4 lunar mission, with and new details about potential instruments for the spacecraft coming to light.
Last month, scientist Y.L. Zou and colleagues from China's Key Laboratory of Lunar and Deep Space Exploration in Beijing were slated to discuss the Chang'e 4 moon mission (or CE-4 for short) during the Fourth European Lunar Symposium in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The CE-4 scientific objectives are anchored to a lander, a rover, and use of a telecommunication relay that will be sent to the Earth–moon L2 Lagrange point.
Under the current plan, CE-4 would launch toward the moon in about 2018. The weight of payloads onboard the lander total about 77 pounds (35 kilograms) and 37 pounds (17 kilograms) on the rover. [Chang'e 3 in Photos: China's 1st Moon Landing & Lunar Rover]
China's Yutu lunar rover took this image of Change'3 lander. New lunar landers are being readied for China's next step in Moon exploration.
Credit: NAOC/Chinese Academy of Sciences
CE-4 mission "propositional payloads" involve six on the lander, five payloads on the rover, and one payload on the telecommunication relay orbiter. The researchers report that the scientific objectives of CE-4 are many, including:
Study the characteristics and the formation mechanism of lunar surface floating dust;
To measure lunar surface temperature, analyzing its change with time and in different light conditions;
Measure the chemical compositions of lunar rocks and soils and study their distribution;
Carry out lunar surface low-frequency radio astronomical observation and research;
Identify the structure of cosmic rays, and to find the possible original position for these cosmic rays;
Observe the independent kilometer wave burst event from the high layer of the solar corona, investigate its radiation characteristics and mechanism, and to explore the evolution and transport of coronal mass ejection (CME) between the Sun and Earth.
Radio astronomy station
Once on the moon, the CE-4 lander would use cameras, a dust-analyzer, and other instruments.
Firmly footed on the bleak lunar terrain, the lander would also serve as a lunar far side radio astronomical station, staging low, mid and high-frequency sweeps of space from the lunar surface.
Along with other devices, the Chinese lunar rover is expected to be equipped with ground-penetrating radar.
Probing look at lunar ionosphere
In related moon research, another paper that was scheduled to be presented at the meeting details probing of the lunar ionosphere. This investigation made use of a service module now in lunar orbit. That module was a component of China's circumlunar return and re-entry mission that occurred in late 2014.
The circumlunar return and re-entry spacecraft — commonly tagged as Chang'e 5-T1 — was launched on Oct. 23, 2014 and nine days later the return vehicle landed at Inner Mongolia successfully. The service module performed a divert maneuver to avoid re-entry and moved to the Earth-moon L2 point (EML2).
After releasing a test return capsule to Earth, the solar-powered service module first loitered at Earth-Moon L2 and then moved into orbit around the Moon.
Credit: CCTV/China Space Website
That module remained at that location until Jan. 4, 2015 then conducted a departure maneuver to leave EML2 and begin a transition into lunar orbit. The module arrived on Jan. 11, 2015 in lunar orbit and then lowered closer to the Moon. It imaged the target landing zone for the 2017 Chinese lunar sample return mission — Chang'e 5 — a touchdown site which has yet to be disclosed.
Radio occultation finding
"During this period, we performed the radio occultation experiment to detect the lunar ionosphere," notes M. Y. Wang of China's National Astronomical Observatories.
Illustration of the service module of the circumlunar return and reentry spacecraft mission used for a radio occultation experiment.
The Moon man: Ziyuan Ouyang in his office at the National Astronomical Observatories with a lunar globe covered with images taken by Chinese craft. (Courtesy: Mingfang Lu)
I caught up this morning on the second day of my visit to Beijing with Ziyuan Ouyang, chief scientist of China’s Moon programme at the National Astronomical Observatories, which lies not far from the city’s iconic “bird’s-nest” Olympic stadium.
I’d first met Ouyang on my last visit in 2011 when the country had so far launched two lunar missions – Chang’e 1 (which orbited the Moon for 18 months before crash-landing onto the lunar surface) and Chang’e 2 (another lunar orbiter that later moved off into interplanetary space).
China’s lunar efforts have continued and Ouyang explained to me what has happened since my last visit – and what the country plans to do next.
In 2013 China’s Chang’e 3 mission soft-landed on the Moon, its rover transmitting data about the lunar surface before signals stopped in April 2105. Like all Chinese lunar missions, it’s named after the country’s goddess of the Moon.
Next up, Ouyang explained, is Chang’e 5, which will be China’s first lunar sample-return mission. Due to take off next year, Chang’e 5 will drill a hole two metres deep in the lunar surface, scoop out at least a kilogram of Moon rocks and load them onto a capsule that will be fired back to Earth. The Russians and Americans have returned Moon rocks to Earth before, but this will be the first time Chinese scientists have pulled off that feat.
Carrying such a heavy payload back home will require clever ways of cooling and decelerating the craft as it re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere, but fortunately Chinese researchers last year launched a simulator to practise the maneouvre.
In 2018, meanwhile, China is planning to launch the world’s first ever mission to land on the far side of the Moon. In addition to a lander and rover, Chang’e 4 will consist of a satellite at the Earth–Moon system’s second Lagrangian point, meaning that it’s always facing the far side of the Moon and so can beam data back to Earth even though that part of the lunar surface is hidden from view.
Looking even further ahead, China wants to send a mission to Mars by 2020, using a lander and rover to study the Martian climate and create a map of the surface that’s more accurate than any other country has managed. Ouyang even claims the mission will seek ways of changing Mars’s climate to render it more suitable for potential human astronauts on the red planet.
Whether that’s possible I’m not sure, but you have to admire Ouyang – still going strong at the age of 81 – for thinking big.
China Exclusive: China to send Chang'e-4 to south pole of moon's far-side
BEIJING, China aims to send the Chang'e-4 lunar probe to land in the south pole region of the far side of the moon in 2018, according to China National Space Administration (CNSA).
Scientists plan to send a relay satellite for Chang'e-4 to the halo orbit of the Earth-Moon Lagrange Point L2 in late May or early June 2018, and then launch the Chang'e-4 lunar lander and rover to the Aitken Basin of the south pole region about half a year later, said Liu Tongjie, deputy director of the CNSA's Lunar Exploration and Space Program Center.
"We plan to land Chang'e-4 at the Aitken Basin because the region is believed to be a place with great scientific research potential," Liu told Xinhua in an exclusive interview.
With its special environment and complex geological history, the far side of the moon is a hot spot for scientific and space exploration. However, landing and roving there requires the relay satellite to transmit signals.
The transmission channel is limited, and the landscape is rugged, so the Chang'e-4 mission will be more complicated than Chang'e-3, China's first soft landing mission on the moon, which was completed in 2013, said Liu.
The lander of Chang'e-4 will be equipped with descent and terrain cameras, and the rover will be equipped with a panoramic camera, he said. Like China's first lunar rover Yutu, or Jade Rabbit, carried by Chang'e-3, the rover of Chang'e-4 will carry subsurface penetrating radar to detect the near surface structure of the moon, and an infrared spectrometer to analyze the chemical composition of lunar samples.
But unlike Chang'e-3, the new lander will be equipped with an important scientific payload especially designed for the far side of the moon: a low-frequency radio spectrometer.
"Since the far side of the moon is shielded from electromagnetic interference from the Earth, it's an ideal place to research the space environment and solar bursts, and the probe can 'listen' to the deeper reaches of the cosmos," Liu said.
The Chang'e-4 probe will also carry three scientific payloads respectively developed by the Netherlands, Sweden and Germany, according to Liu.
"It's in-depth, friendly and win-win international cooperation under the leadership of the CNSA," said Liu. "The cooperation will help engineers and scientists from different countries study together. Scientists could conduct joint research and share scientific data."
The low-frequency radio spectrometer, developed in the Netherlands, will be installed on the Chang'e-4 relay satellite. The Dutch and Chinese low-frequency radio instruments will conduct unique scientific studies such as measuring auroral radio emissions from the large planets in the solar system, determining the radio background spectrum at the Earth-Moon L2 points, creating a new low-frequency map of the radio sky, and detecting bright pulsars and other radio transient phenomena.
"The Chinese and Dutch low-frequency radio spectrometers on the lander and relay satellite of Chang'e-4 might help us detect the 21-cm hydrogen line radiation and study how the earliest stars were ignited and how our cosmos emerged from darkness after the Big Bang," said Chen Xuelei, an astronomer with the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
The rover will also carry an advanced small analyzer for neutrals, developed in Sweden, to study the interaction between solar winds and the moon surface.
And a neutron dosimeter, developed in Germany, will be installed on the lander to measure radiation at the landing site. Scientists say it is essential to investigate the radiation environment on the lunar surface, in preparation for human missions to the moon.
The Chinese public, especially young people, are encouraged to participate in the Chang'e-4 mission. The CNSA launched a contest among students across China at the beginning of this year, collecting creative ideas on the design of the payloads on the lander, rover and relay satellite.
"We received a total of 257 submissions, and 20 items entered the primary selection. The final result will be announced in September after online voting and expert evaluation," Liu said.
According to the website of the CNSA's Lunar and Deep Space Exploration, entries including a micro-ecological circulation system, a deep lunar soil temperature detector, a 3D printing technology using lunar soil and a sound transmission experiment device have proved to be the most popular in online voting.
"The contest is based on creativity, but engineering feasibility has to be considered," Liu said. "We'll try to select one or two items eventually to take to the moon."
Q&A: China lunar chief plots voyage to far side of moon
As chief designer for the China National Space Administration's (CNSA’s) Chang'e lunar exploration program, Wu Weiren oversaw the Chang’e-3 mission that in late 2013 landed and released a rover on the moon's surface—the first soft touchdown on Earth’s satellite since a Soviet mission in 1976.
Two even more ambitious missions are on the way as China continues its rapid ascent in space science. Next year, Chang'e-5 will land, scrape up surface soil and rocks, drill down 2 meters for samples, and return the haul to Earth, all within 2 weeks or so. In 2018, CNSA, which runs the lunar program, will attempt the first ever landing on the far side of the moon. Remote observations of the far side’s geology have convinced some planetary scientists that it is the most accessible location in the solar system to study planetary accretion, crust formation, and the effects of impacts. An engineer, Wu concedes that engineering has priority in China’s lunar program: Without solid engineering, he says, scientific objectives cannot be realized.
The interview, conducted at CNSA headquarters in Beijing, was edited for brevity and clarity.
Q: Is Chang'e-3 still making observations?
A: It is. It has been functioning for more than 30 months. It has already fulfilled completely its scientific and engineering missions and is currently working overtime, conducting scientific observations, and testing [spacecraft components] for endurance.
Q: What is the schedule for Chang'e-5? Is the landing site on the moon's Ocean of Storms?
A: Chang'e-5 will be launched next year. We can't be too specific because of various factors but let's say the second half of next year. The Ocean of Storms is a big [region]. We don't want to duplicate [the Russian and U.S.] landing locations. So we're choosing in this [region] but with some consideration for an unprecedented landing site. From the launch until the samples return to Earth would be about a couple dozen days.
Q: Regarding Chang'e-4, is it correct that there will be a communications relay satellite launched in June 2018, and then the Chang'e-4 spacecraft itself with its rover launched before the end of 2018?
A: It is roughly correct. It depends very much on various factors when to launch this mission. But we are pretty sure it will be conducted by the year 2018. The mission includes a relay satellite, a lander, as well as a rover.
Q: Chang'e-4 was developed as a backup to Chang'e-3, with a lander and rover. Will the scientific instruments be similar?
A: We do not want to duplicate [the Chang'e-3] effort. So Chang'e-4 will have new instruments and upgraded instruments. In terms of categories, the first would be topography, to see the overall landscape of the moon. The second category would be geology, to further explore the geologic characteristics of the [moon]. The third category would be astronomy, observing the universe, and also solar activity, from the far side of the moon. [That will be] unprecedented.
Q: Will there be a Chang'e-6?
A: It is the Chinese practice to make redundant missions. Chang'e-6 is a backup for Chang'e-5. Once Chang'e-5 achieves complete success, the mission of Chang'e-6 will be redefined. [Launch] won't happen for a few years after Chang'e-5.
Q: Which has been more important: advancing your technological capabilities or the scientific objectives?
A: Engineering objectives have always been given priority in our lunar missions. We have to guarantee that we can access space, access a lunar orbit, and the lunar surface to realize the scientific objectives. We look carefully at our engineering objectives and the competences that we have and then based on that we design our scientific objectives.
China Prepares for Breakthrough Chang'e 4 Moon Landing in 2018
2018 could see a breakthrough in lunar exploration: China is planning a mission that, if successful, will see a space landing on the far side of the moon for the first time.
The first part of China's Chang'e 4 space mission will launch in June. A Long March 4C rocket will carry a 425kg relay satellite and station it some 60,000km behind the moon. A second launch later in the year will send a lander and rover to the far side of the moon, guided to a safe landing by the satellite.
Aboard the Chang'e 4 lander will equipment to study the geological conditions of the region, as well as a container made from aluminium alloy filled with seeds and insects.They will be used to test whether plants and animals could be grown on the moon.
"The container will send potatoes, arabidopsis seeds and silkworm eggs to the surface of the Moon. The eggs will hatch into silkworms, which can produce carbon dioxide, while the potatoes and seeds emit oxygen through photosynthesis. Together, they can establish a simple ecosystem on the Moon," Zhang Yuanxun, chief designer of the container, told the Chongqing Morning Post, according to China Daily.
Another advantage of a mission to the far side of the moon, is that a radio telescope stationed there would be undisturbed by radio signals coming from Earth, such as FM radio and the planet's ionosphere.
Astrophysicist Professor Heino Falcke of Radboud University, Nijmegen (The Netherlands) told the Guardian that he has been in talks with the Chinese and is hoping that his radio telescope will make it onto the mission. Falcke aims to use the telescope to detect low-frequency radio waves from the early universe.
"I think we built up a lot of good relations in China and there is goodwill on both sides to make this happen," the scientist said.
Testing on China's Chang'e-4 lunar far side lander and rover steps up in preparation for launch
The lander and rover which China aims to soft-land on the far side of the Moon have entered mechanical environmental testing as preparations for launch in late 2018 step up.
The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), the main contractor for the Chinese space programme, stated yesterday that testing had started following recently completed experiments.
The process will typically involve verifying system performance while experiencing vibrations similar to those during launch and flight as well as thermal vacuum and anechoic chamber tests.
Chang'e-4 was originally manufactured at the same time as Chang'e-3 spacecraft in order to provide a backup. Testing for Chang'e-4 will also likely involve lunar landing and lunar surface simulation for the six-wheeled rover, as with the previous mission.
CASC states that new technologies have added additional challenges to the development of China's fourth lunar mission, and includes the integration of payloads provided by international cooperation.
Chang'e-4 team members testing the six-wheeled rover, similar to the Yutu (Jade Rabbit) rover that set down on the Moon in late 2013. CASC
Launch plans and relay satellite
The lander and rover are expected to be launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in Sichuan in November or December this year.
Before this, in May or June, a relay satellite will be launched from same site, which will head for a Lagrange point beyond the Moon from which it can facilitate communication between the ground and the spacecraft on the lunar far side, which due to tidal locking never faces Earth.
A soft-landing on the far side of the Moon has never been attempted, though a US Decadal Survey has highlighted the significance of such as mission.
If all goes smoothly the mission will earn China international prestige but also likely significant scientific returns.
The candidate landing sites are within the South Pole–Aitken basin, a huge crater that may include lunar mantle excavated by the impact that formed it and thus offer unique insights into the interior of the Moon, what is made of, and how it formed.
The mission includes a mini ecosystem including potatoes, arabidopsis seeds and silkworm eggs, and further payloads including radio telescopes to take advantage of radio silence provided by the shielding from the Earth provided by the Moon.
Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands and Saudi Arabia are all also involved in the mission through various payloads.
The far side of the Moon and the distant Earth, imaged by the Chang'e-5T1 mission in 2014. Chinese Academy of Sciences
Mission to the moon: AUDI AG supports the German Team at Google Lunar XPRIZE
June 25, 2015 | CANNES/INGOLSTADT
Technical support for the Part-Time Scientists team
Audi know-how incorporated into the “Audi lunar quattro” moon rover
Luca de Meo, Board Member for Sales and Marketing: “We want to inspire others to partner with the project”
Audi is taking off for the moon – along with the Part-Time Scientists. Nearly 45 years after NASA’s Apollo 17 completed the last manned mission to the moon, the cooperating partners have selected the old landing site of Apollo 17 as the new target.
A group of German engineers in the Part-Time Scientists team is working within the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition to transport an unmanned rover to the moon. Audi is supporting the Part-Time Scientists with its know-how in several fields of technology – from quattro all-wheel drive and lightweight construction to electric mobility and piloted driving.
“The concept of a privately financed mission to the moon is fascinating,” says Luca de Meo, Audi Board Member for Sales and Marketing. “And innovative ideas need supporters that promote them. We want to send a signal with our involvement with the Part-Time Scientists and also motivate other partners to contribute their know-how.” Luca de Meo is presenting the partnership today at the international innovation forum Cannes Innovation Days.
Prof. Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, Audi Board Member for Technical Development, said: “We are pleased to support the project with our know-how in lightweight technology, electronics and robotics.”
The $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE is a competition to challenge and inspire engineers and entrepreneurs from around the world to develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration. To win the Google Lunar XPRIZE, a privately funded team must successfully place a robot on the moon’s surface that explores at least 500 meters and transmits high-definition video and images back to Earth.
AUDI AG is incorporating its technological know-how into optimization of the rover of the Part-Time Scientists, the only German team competing for the Google Lunar XPRIZE. The research group’s lunar vehicle has already been recognized during the course of the competition by a jury of aerospace experts with two Milestone Prizes.
As a cooperating partner, Audi is primarily supporting the team with its expertise in lightweight construction and e-mobility, with quattro permanent all-wheel drive and with piloted driving. Audi is also providing wide-ranging assistance in testing, trials and quality assurance. In addition, the Audi Concept Design Studio in Munich is revising the rover, which will be named the “Audi lunar quattro,” to ensure ideal lightweight construction conditions.
The lunar vehicle with the Audi lunar quattro should launch into space in 2017 on board a launching rocket and will travel more than 380,000 kilometers to the moon. The trip will take about five days. The target landing area is north of the moon’s equator, near the 1972 landing site of the Apollo 17, NASA’s last manned mission to the moon. Temperatures fluctuate here by up to 300 degrees Celsius.
The Part-Time Scientists developed their lunar vehicle, which is largely made of aluminum, during various rounds of testing undertaken in locations such as the Austrian Alps and Tenerife. An adjustable solar panel captures sunlight and directs it to a lithium-ion battery. It feeds four electric wheel hub motors. A head at the front of the vehicle carries two stereoscopic cameras as well as a scientific camera that examines materials. The theoretical maximum speed is 3.6 km/h– but more important on the rugged surface of the moon are the vehicle’s off-road capabilities and ability for safe orientation.
“With Audi we have acquired a strong partner that will bring us a big step forward with its technological and mobility capabilities,” said Robert Böhme, founder and head of the Part-Time Scientists. “We look forward to future interaction and a fruitful partnership.”
The Part-Time Scientists team was initiated in late 2008 by Robert Böhme, who works as an IT consultant in Berlin. The majority of the roughly 35 current engineers on the team come from Germany and Austria. Experts from three continents support the team, including former leading NASA employee Jack Crenshaw from Florida.
Supporters of the group, in addition to Audi, include numerous research institutions and high-tech companies including NVIDIA, Technical University of Berlin, the Austrian Space Forum (OeWF) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR).
The Google Lunar XPRIZE, which started off with more than 25 teams, is currently in its final round. Participants in the competition, in addition to Part-Time Scientists, include 15 teams from around the world including Brazil, Canada, Chile, Hungary, Japan, Israel, Italy, Malaysia and the United States.
Quelle: AUDI AG
BILD testet Deutschlands ersten Mondrover /
IM HERBST 2019 FLIEGT ER INS WELTALL
Der „Audi Lunar Quattro“ steht in einer unscheinbaren Gewerbehalle in Berlin-Marzahn, hinter einem kleinen Autohaus. Dort hat das Start-up „PTScientists“ sein Hauptquartier.
Das anfangs kleine Unternehmen ist erwachsen geworden: 18 feste und 34 freie Mitarbeiter, namhafte Sponsoren wie Audi und Vodafone, Unterstützung vom Deutschen Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR) sowie der Europäischen Raumfahrtagentur ESA.
Das Ziel der privaten Mondmission ist ehrgeizig: Die „PTScientists“ wollen Transport-Kapazitäten für Nutzlasten zum Mond anbieten, z. B. für wissenschaftliche Experimente. Das Kilogramm Fracht kostet eine Million Euro.
Und sie wollen auf dem Mond mit Hilfe von Vodafone ein LTE-Netz aufbauen. Darüber soll die Kommunikation zwischen Rover und Mondlandefahrzeug laufen.
„Ein LTE-Netz auf dem Mond ist für spätere Missionen und ein Moon-Village, wie es die ESA plant, von großer Bedeutung“, sagt Karsten Becker (36), Elektronik-Chef der Mission.
Mit diesem kleinen Tablet kann man den Rover steuern. Die Bedienung ist kinderleicht und schnell gelernt
Ganz nebenbei soll der kleine Rover die Überreste der Apollo-17-Mission der Nasa aus dem Jahr 1972 auf dem Mond finden.
„Von unserem Landeplatz bis zum Apollo-Landeplatz sind es nur 4,5 Kilometer“, sagt Karsten Becker. „Das schaffen wir locker!“
Der Rover wird nach der Landung vom Mission-Control-Center in Berlin gesteuert – auf eine Distanz von 384 000 Kilometern! Jetzt habe ich das kleine Tablet in der Hand. Ich berühre den Touchscreen, aber erst passiert nichts. Dann rollt das Gefährt langsam los. Mit 1,5 km/h fährt der Rover über den Sand. Karsten Becker: „Wir haben bereits eine Verzögerung von drei Sekunden eingebaut. So lange braucht im Ernstfall ein Signal von der Erde zum Mond.“
Die Bedienung ist kinderleicht. Da alle vier Aluminiumräder einzeln steuerbar sind, hat der Rover eine maximale Beweglichkeit, dreht sich auch um die eigene Achse. Das ist auf der rauen Mond-Oberfläche wichtig. Der Lava-Sand aus der Eifel, der das Testfeld ausfüllt, ist dem Mondgestein sehr ähnlich.
Aber die Generalprobe für den Rover steht noch bevor. „Wir bereiten gerade für das nächste Frühjahr eine Simulation in der Wüste der Vereinigten Arabischen Emirate vor. Dort haben wir ideale Test-Möglichkeiten“, sagt Dhana Marie Kulessa (25), die für Vodafone an dem Projekt mitarbeitet.
Die erste deutsche Mondmission in Zahlen
Bei der Mission werden zwei Fahrzeuge an Bord des Raumschiffes „Alina“ zum Mond gebracht.
Ein Rover wiegt nur 35 Kilogramm, ist einen Meter lang und 75 Zentimeter breit.
100 kg Nutzlast kann „Alina“ zusätzlich mitnehmen.
Die Reise zum Mond dauert fünf Tage.
Mit einer Falcon-9-Rakete des privaten Anbieters Space X soll „Alina“ in den Weltraum geschossen werden.
Die Lebensdauer der Rover beträgt rund zehn Tage. Danach dürfte die Mondnacht mit minus 180 Grad Celsius den technischen Geräten so stark zusetzen, dass sie nicht mehr einsetzbar sind. Tagsüber sind es auf dem Mond 120 Grad Hitze.
It may sound like something from a sci-fi movie but Luxembourg's joint-venture to mine asteroids is about to get very real.
(TL) It may sound like something from a sci-fi movie but Luxembourg's joint-venture to mine asteroids is more than the stuff of mere movies.
A world's first, the Grand Duchy is expected to work with SES, two US companies and financiers to pull off the crazy coup, which will see Luxembourg become a major global player in space resources.
The project, further information about which will be revealed by Luxembourg Economy Minister Etienne Schneider on Wednesday, will focus on harnessing resources such as gold, platinum, water and other minerals from the 13,000 or so asteroids found close to the earth.
Experts place the value of the minerals exploited from a cubic metre of an asteroid at 1,000 billion USD, making this a highly lucrative venture.
But, how can such resources be mined?
This is where Luxembourg comes in.
Minister Schneider has apparently been working on the project in secret since visiting NASA's research centre in August 2013, trying to convince the two main players to settle in Luxembourg.
The companies in question are Planetary Resources, founded in 2012 by a group of technology experts like Google founder Larry Page, and Deep Space Industries, considered the leader in the development of space tourism.
The project is not expected to come cheap. To have a rough idea of the price tag, NASA has reportedly budgeted a billion USD for the OSIRIS-REx mission to bring back just 60 grams of asteroid material.
And it remains to be seen to whom this matter mined in space will belong.
For Americans, the matter is somewhat clear. US President Barack Obama signed a law on November 25 stating that any asteroid material brought to earth by an American citizen belongs to them.
Quelle: Luxemburger Wort
Press Conference on June 3, 2016 on the Luxembourg Initiative to Support the Use of Space Resources
LUXEMBOURG--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Government of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is pleased to announce an international press conference to highlight the latest developments of the recently announced spaceresources.lu initiative. The initiative defines a framework for the exploration and commercial utilization of resources from Near Earth Objects (NEOs), such as asteroids.
The press conference will be hosted by:
Mr. Xavier Bettel, Prime Minister, Minister of State, Minister for Communications and Media
Mr. Étienne Schneider, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of the Economy
This media event will be held in the presence of:
Mr. Jean-Jacques Dordain, long-standing Director General of the European Space Agency ESA
Dr. Simon Pete Worden, long-standing Director of NASA’s Ames Research Center
The press conference is scheduled for 5:00 PM Friday, June 3, 2016 for a duration of 1 hour (Note : Times are in Luxembourg Time GMT+2).
Quelle: Business Wire
For the first time a country has invested heavily in space mining
We could live comfortably on resources just from space. But is it economical?
Luxembourg, a small European country about the size of Rhode Island, wants to be the Silicon Valley of the space mining industry. The landlocked Grand Duchy announced Friday it was opening a €200 million ($225 million) line of credit for entrepreneurial space companies to set up their European headquarters within its borders.
Luxembourg has already reached agreements with two US-based companies, Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries, to open offices in Luxembourg and conduct major research and development activities. "We intend to become the European center for asteroid mining," said Étienne Schneider, deputy prime minister and minister of the economy, during a news conference Friday.
The mining of space resources is a long bet. Although some deep-pocketed investors from Google and other companies have gotten behind Planetary Resources, and people like Amazon's Jeff Bezos have speculated that within a couple of decades most manufacturing and resource gathering will be done off Earth, there is precious little activity today. Humans have never visited an asteroid, and NASA is only just planning to launch its first robotic mission to visit and gather samples from an asteroid, OSIRIS-REx, this summer.
Nevertheless, no one doubts that outer space is overflowing with resources. Asteroids are packed with precious metals, 24-hour solar power from the Sun could be beamed back to Earth, and the reservoirs of water on the moon, asteroids, and beyond could be used for fuel, farming, drinking, and shielding us from radiation. Humans on Earth could theoretically live very comfortably on space resources without ever mining our home planet again.
The question is whether obtaining such resources could be made economical any time soon. Luxembourg intends to find out. Like the United States did last fall with its Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, Luxembourg plans to rewrite its laws so that private companies are entitled to the resources they mine from asteroids, but not entitled to own the asteroids themselves. "We will become the first European country to set out its own legal framework," Schneider said.
The country may also do more than just offer companies a line of private credit. Luxembourg may invest in those companies itself, just like it invested in SES, which is now one of the world's largest satellite companies. Back in the mid-1980s when Luxembourg first invested in SES, there was a similar amount of skepticism about the satellite industry, Schneider said. People wondered if they were in danger of satellites falling out of the sky on them.
Pete Worden, the former director of NASA's Ames Research Center, is advising Luxembourg on this initiative. NASA is interested in going to Mars, and Europe is interested in lunar exploration, Dr. Worden said. But it is inefficient for any space agency to launch all of the resources it needs for extended space missions from Earth and potentially much less expensive to pick up supplies once in space. This could allow for the use of smaller, less expensive rockets. Worden envisions a time when NASA contracts with space miners to purchase quantities of water and other materials needed to further their exploration.
"I believe the future lies in a robust space economy that is driven by commercial interests," Worden said during the news conference. "The interesting thing is that we’re seeing a situation here where space agencies globally are moving from doing these things themselves. Just as NASA is contracting with launch companies, what we hope here is that the resources one needs to explore space can be purchased from these entrepreneurs."
The two companies mentioned on Friday, Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries, are moving forward with plans to test asteroid mining techniques, both on the ground and then in space. Luxembourgian officials said Friday they believed that one or both of these companies could launch missions to survey potential asteroid mining targets within three years.
Quelle: ars technica
Luxembourg Stakes Initial 200 Million Euros to Become Silicon Valley of Space Resources
The Government of Luxembourg is staking 200 million Euros to kick-start the nascent space resources utilization business -- prospecting for and eventually mining and selling resources extracted from the Moon, asteroids or other solar system bodies. The country's Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister made the announcement Friday flanked by former European Space Agency (ESA) Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain and former NASA Ames Research Center Director Pete Worden.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and Deputy Prime Minister Etienne Schneider spoke at a press conference in Luxembourg to discuss the country's spaceresources.lu initiative, announced in February, and how it fits into the government's overall strategy to become "one of the top 10 space faring countries in the world." Dordain and Worden are members of the government's advisory board for the initiative.
Former ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain, Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, Luxembourg Deputy Prime Minister Etienne Schneider, and former NASA Ames Research Center Director Pete Worden at Luxembourg space resources initiative press conference June 3, 2016. Screengrab from webcast.
Although the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is a small country with a population of just 570,000, it already has a significant presence in the space business as the corporate home of the two largest global fixed communications satellite operators, SES and Intelsat. SES established its headquarters in Luxembourg in 1985 and Bettel and Schneider referenced that event several times as Luxembourg's entry into the space business.
Just as it passed a law at that time to create the legal framework for communications satellite services, Bettel and Schneider announced that they now will press forward with a new law to govern space resource utilization. Schneider said Luxembourg wants to be the European center for asteroid mining and to be the first European country to establish its own legal framework for that purpose. When asked if the new law will only cover asteroids or will the Moon, for example, also be included, Schneider replied it is "everything in outer space."
Luxembourg has a streamlined governmental structure that should allow it to move quickly. Bettel is not only the Prime Minister, but also the Minister of Communications and Media, Minister of State, Minister for Religious Affairs, and Minister of Culture. Schneider similarly wears several hats -- Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of the Economy, Minister of Internal Security and Minister of Defence. A constitutional monarchy, it has a unicameral legislature -- the 60-member Chamber of Deputies. Bettel said he will propose the new legislation this year and expects to pass next year.
One difference between the Luxembourg law and the space resource utilization provisions of the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act (CSLCA, also called the SPACE Act) enacted in 2015, Schneider said, is that the U.S. law applies only to U.S. companies with majority U.S. capital. The Luxembourg law will be "open to all investors" located in Luxembourg, so companies seeking international capital will be able to find it there. "I don't know why the Americans limited themselves to American capital, but we will not."
The relevant portion of CSLCA (Title IV of P.L. 114-90) applies to U.S. citizens as defined in section 50902 of title 51 of the U.S. Code -- (A) a U.S. citizen, (B) an entity organized or existing under U.S. law, or (C) an entity organized or existing under the laws of a foreign country if the controlling interest is held by (A) or (B).
Two U.S. companies focused on asteroid mining, Deep Space Industries (DSi) and Planetary Resources Inc, already have or plan to establish European headquarters in Luxembourg, Schneider said. DSi and Luxembourg announced a partnership last month to build a 3U cubesat, Prospector-X, to test technologies needed for asteroid mining (propulsion, avionics and optical navigation) in low Earth orbit. Planetary Resources, which bills itself as "the asteroid mining company," but just announced plans to build an earth remote sensing satellite, is also working with Luxembourg and Schneider said a Memorandum of Understanding would be signed soon for cooperation in both space resource utilization and earth observation.
The Luxembourg government established an advisory board that includes Dordain and Worden, who joined Bettel and Schneider at Friday's press conference. Dordain said the main goal is to attract entrepreneurs and investors to Luxembourg, bringing jobs. Worden added that his experiences in Silicon Valley (close to NASA-Ames) were a foundation for his work on the advisory board and he foresees Luxembourg becoming the Silicon Valley for space resources, a sentiment Schneider echoed.
Schneider revealed that his government has provided a 200 million Euro (approximately $230 million) line of credit to get started on creating the legal framework and for investing in new ventures. The money will be used for research and development (R&D) grants and other purposes, including Luxembourg becoming a shareholder in companies like DSi or Planetary Resources. He also made clear that the 200 million Euros is just the beginning. If more is needed, "we will be able to provide that money," he promised.
Luxembourg is a member of ESA and currently co-chairs, together with Switzerland, the ESA Council of Ministers. Schneider is Luxembourg's representative in that capacity. He noted that initially Luxembourg considered working through ESA on this initiative, but determined it would be too difficult to reach agreement with all of ESA's member states in the short term. Instead, Luxembourg will go it alone for now, but he noted that other ESA members are interested and future collaboration will be discussed at December's Ministerial Meeting. He and Bettel expressed repeatedly that it takes someone to take the risk to kick-start new ideas like this and Luxembourg wants to be that one.
Quelle: Space and Technology Policy Group.
Luxembourg digs deep for asteroid mining project
Luxembourg's Government has invested 25 million euros in asteroid-mining firm Planetary Resources Inc, making it a key shareholder.
The investment was made via public-law banking institution “Société Nationale de Crédit et d’Investissement” (SNCI) and was agreed as part of Luxembourg's SpaceResources.lu initiative to mine resources from near earth objects such as asteroids.
The funds will be used to further the firm's technical advancements so that it can launch the first commercial asteroid prospecting mission by 2020.
This partnership follows a memorandum of understanding signed this past June to develop in Luxembourg activities related to space resource utilization. In May 2016, Planetary Resources, Inc. established a wholly-owned Luxembourg based subsidiary named Planetary Resources Luxembourg.
The public equity position is taken by the SNCI to become a minority shareholder and Georges Schmit, Government's Advisory Board member of the SpaceResources.lu initiative, joins Planetary Resources’ Board of Directors.
Prior to his current position, Georges Schmit was Consul General and Executive Director at the Luxembourg Trade & Investment Office in San Francisco, after being Director General for Enterprise Policy, Economic Development and Foreign Trade, Secretary General, and Director of Industry at the Luxembourg Ministry of the Economy and Foreign Trade which he joined in 1981. From 1995-2002 he was Executive Chairman of the SNCI.
Planetary Resources, for its part, is strengthening the local space industry by developing several key activities exclusively in Luxembourg focused on propulsion development, spacecraft launch integration, deep space communications, asteroid science systems, Earth observation product development and mission operations.
Quelle: Luxemburger Wort
Luxembourg and the European Space Agency enhance cooperation on asteroid missions, related technology and space resources exploration and utilisation
Communiqué – Publié le
At the occasion of the 2017 Paris Air Show in Le Bourget, Luxembourg’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Economy Etienne Schneider visited the ESA pavilion and, together with ESA Director General, Jan Wörner, signed a joint statement on future activities concerning missions to the asteroids, related technologies and space resources exploration and utilisation.
The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and the European Space Agency jointly agreed on the opportunity to further studying technical and scientific aspects of space resources exploration and utilization activities. To this aim ESA will undertake an analysis of the feasibility assessment and technical maturity of asteroids exploration and utilization. The analysis shall contribute to assess future missions, and in particular, at national level to help defining specific requirements related to the authorisation and the supervision by the State as well as regulatory matters.
Furthermore, this analysis will also contribute to Near Earth Asteroids classification, define methods to study the interiors of asteroids, look at multi-sampling technology, and address technologies for in-situ extraction and operations on asteroidal surfaces. It may also consider laboratory experiments with meteorites/ analogues as well as the conception of a virtual institute devoted to the science of asteroids and related technologies.
As any other ESA Member States so requesting, Luxembourg will be associated to the analysis as element of its SpaceResources.lu initiative that aims to offer an attractive overall framework for the exploration and exploitation of space resources.
The Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of the Economy, Etienne Schneider declared:"The enhanced cooperation between Luxembourg and ESA is another significant milestone for our SpaceResources.lu initiative. It is the logical continuation of the collaboration we have had with ESA since the announcement of our initiative in February last year. The cooperation between ESA and Luxembourg joins the Grand Duchy’s commitment to helping the commercial sector realize its plans to develop space resources business. Luxembourg is ready and eager to support and nurture the growing number of commercial space initiatives, their many suppliers and customers – and the intrepid explorers that intend to make space mining a reality".
ESA Director General, Jan Wörner stated:"I am pleased of this opportunity to further enhance our cooperation with Luxembourg. Their initiative perfectly embodies my vision of Space 4.0 both as an example of and a driver in a new paradigm of conducting space activities."
By signing the joint statement, Luxembourg and ESA jointly recognized the benefits achieved by space exploration to the whole of humankind by furthering scientific knowledge, fostering technical innovation, inspiring the people and enhancing peaceful international cooperation. Moreover European accomplishments in space exploration foster European cohesion and identity and position Europe as an inspiring force globally. In this context, the important role of asteroids as potential resources to extend human presence in space as well as their potential risk of impacting Earth is jointly recognized.
Luxembourg has been cooperating with ESA for nearly 20 years now and has been an ESA Member State since 2005. At the latest ESA Council meeting at ministerial level Luxembourg increased its subscriptions also in fields associated with missions to Near Earth Objects (NEOs) and related technologies.
Conversely, ESA has been following with interest the Luxembourg’s SpaceResources.lu initiative. A joint Luxembourg / ESA working group has been meeting regularly to exchange information and prepare potential joint activities.
The Asteroid Science Intersections with In-Space Mine Engineering (ASIME2016) workshop held in September 2016 in Luxembourg with the support of the Luxembourg Ministry of the Economy, Europlanet, the University of Luxembourg, and ESA was an example of cooperation to advance on understanding on the issues related to asteroid missions and the exploration and future utilisation of space resources.
Luxembourg is 'ready and willing' to invest, says Schneider
"When you mention the word Luxembourg in the international space community, everyone stops and wants to hear more," says Gary Martin, the former NASA Ames Director who has recently joined the Luxembourg Ministry of Economy as an independent advisor for its space affairs unit.
But people in the industry seem not only willing to hear more about Luxembourg, they are also heading to the country to attend the first ever NewSpace Europe conference.
Put bluntly, everyone interested in exploring the economic opportunities offered by space, SpaceX, GomSpace, ispace among many others, made sure to be in the Grand-Duchy on November 16 and 17.
In that sense, the government's wish has already become true. Luxembourg is shaping up to be an international meeting point and a European hub for the exploration and the use of space resources.
And the ambition doesn't end there.
Luxembourg's space dream
In his opening speech at the conference, Deputy Prime Minister Etienne Schneider left participants in no doubt.
"Luxembourg is ready and eager to support and nurture the growing number of commercial space initiatives," he said.
Even more so, Schneider announced the launch of a space agency that would "take into account the needs of NewSpace companies". The agency will gather the private fund industry, venture capitalists and the government and will decide in which companies to invest.
"The Luxembourg government is even willing to invest into the more risky part of these businesses," added Schneider.
Luxembourg has committed to €200 million in funding for early-stage space ventures.
But perhaps for those who are are still left wondering why tiny Luxembourg is so keen on exploring and exploiting space resources, the answer is simple.
Luxembourg has always been focused on the future.
For Schneider, it has always been about "reinventing ourselves". He argued that the Grand-Duchy masters the art of combining "a liberal and extremely business-friendly climate with strong public support for innovation". So, focusing on the exploration and the use of space resources should be seen as a logical progression.
After all, Luxembourg has previously taken bets on industries that no one believed in at the time. Perhaps, space mining will turn out to be the new SES or will grow out to be Luxembourg's financial centre of tomorrow.
Seize the opportunity
In his speech, Schneider talked about 'recognising the opportunities' and acting on it.
"We have often been taking the world by surprise and have repeatedly demonstrated our strong ability to adapt and to take initiatives no one expected," he said.
And for the most part, Luxembourg is being praised for being a front-runner.
"It's great that Luxembourg is going in this direction...putting the country on the worldwide space map. I am really happy about that," says Johann-Dietrich Woerner, General Director of the European Space Agency (ESA).
"I welcome what Luxembourg is doing. It's the right way," he added.
The former NASA Ames director Gary Martin agrees. He believes Luxembourg is a small country, but a very agile one. It was this aspect that brought him to the Grand-Duchy, where he will be responsible for the creation and development of the local space ecosystem, involving national partners from research and academia.
Martin will be directly involved in the strategy of the SpaceResources.lu initiative and assist the Directorate-General for Research, Intellectual Property and New Technologies at the Ministry of Economy.
As Schneider noted, SpaceResources.lu was created 18 months ago to promote "the peaceful exploration and sustainable use of space resources" and provides a framework for such activities, including space mining.
Yet exploring space resources is not Luxembourg's first venture in space. It was over 30 years ago that SES was launched as a public-private partnership to become a global satellite operator based in the Grand-Duchy.
"In order to start SES, the Luxembourg government guaranteed the first launch, because no insurance was willing to do it," said the Deputy Prime-Minister.
"The guarantee represented 5% of the yearly government budget at that time, it was a "huge risk, he said, pointing out that the investment "paid out quite nicely".
Today the Luxembourg space sector amounts to 2% of the annual GDP and is one of the most dynamic in Europe.
Space mining law
Investing in space mining follows the same logic. And Luxembourg has taken the matter even further by passing the law on the mining and use of space resources last July.
The legislation, which puts Luxembourg at the forefront of European countries and second in the world, after the US, brings "key benefits" and "certainty" to companies and investors, according to Schneider.
"We confer to companies the ownership of resources they extract in space," he said.
"We now provide a unique legal, regulatory and business environment to all Luxembourg-based companies active in space technologies", he added, arguing that the approach is consistent with international law and in particular with the Outer Space Treaty.
Nonetheless, some voices in the business and academic communities are calling for more clarity on the laws governing space mining and the boundaries defined by the 1967 space treaty.
Luxembourg is also collaborating with a number of countries on the exploration of space resources and Schneider explained that Luxembourg authorities are advocating for cooperation on legal and regulatory matters as well as research and development (R&D).
Last June, Luxembourg signed a joined statement with ESA on future activities concerning missions to asteroids, related technologies and space resources exploration.
In October, Luxembourg signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the United Arab Emirates regarding the commercial exploration of space. Prior to that, a similar agreement was signed off with Portugal.
At the end of November, Luxembourg will sign an agreement around space activities with Japan, during a State visit, while discussions have also reached an advanced stage with China.
According to Schneider, the European Investment Bank (EIB) is also "willing to work with Luxembourg" at a European level.
"We are joining forces to accelerate the development of new space technologies. Luxembourg is being recognised as an "innovation leader," he said.
The Grand-Duchy will also deploy a Big Data Test Bed in the area of "Smart space" as part of a EU project in the field of Big Data enabled applications.
More commercial players
On the commercial side, seven companies active in space exploration and space resources have settled in Luxembourg since the launch of the SpaceResources.lu initiative, including US companies Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources as well as Tokyo-based ispace.
Blue Horizon - a subsidiary of the German space company OHB, Kleos Space - owned by a UK-based company and Sweden-based Gomspace have also set up entities in Luxembourg.
And the last one to join the local space ecosystem is Spire. Founded in 2012 in San Francisco, the satellite powered data company offers products for global ship tracking and high frequency weather data. Spire announced on November 15 it would open its European headquarters in Luxembourg and employs some 250 people.
"As every company registered in Luxembourg, they have access to national R&D grants, as well as to ESA programmes and funds," explained Schneider.
A 'win-win' situation
As Luxembourg is turning into the new space gateway for space exploration, the outcome of these activities are expected to be a 'win-win situation" for all.
"We are embarking upon a new phase which I hope will take mankind to the next level of civilisation and prosperity," he added.
Besides, "there is a chance the official language in space will be Luxembourgish", Schneider said upon leaving the stage.
So it turns out, conquering space will not only require specialised technical skills, it might also demand a higher number of Luxembourgish teachers.
TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, N.M. — When Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo rocket plane broke up in the skies over California's Mojave Desert eight months ago, killing one pilot and injuring the other, the shock wave was felt more than 600 miles away in New Mexico. The schedule for SpaceShipTwo's future space tourism flights from Spaceport America, an 18,000-acre facility that was built in the New Mexico desert with $219 million in state and local tax money, fell apart as well. "It was October 31st, and it was etched in our brains," Christine Anderson, Spaceport America's CEO, told NBC News last week. "You know, we had high hopes that Virgin Galactic would be here by now, flying passengers. And that didn't happen." If everything had proceeded according to plan, Spaceport America would be receiving millions of dollars in lease payments from Virgin Galactic. Instead, Virgin Galactic is having to start from scratch with a second SpaceShipTwo that's still under construction in California. There's no firm timetable for commercial spaceflights from New Mexico. And Anderson is now working on Plan B for Spaceport America. "You can't totally plan out a Plan B," Anderson said. "You have to take what you're learning from the experiment ... and then modify what you're going to do next." The broad outlines of Plan B are laid out in a business plan that Anderson and other spaceport officials issued in May. Some of the initiatives are in line with the spaceport's launch mission — for example, its use by rocketeer tenants ranging from SpaceX to UP Aerospace. Other initiatives extend that mission into other aerospace fields — such as the spaceport's efforts to bring in satellite ground operations and drone test flights. But still other initiatives are pretty far afield from flight. A local company is running guided bus tours to the spaceport, even though there are no takeoffs. Some companies are taking advantage of the facility's 12,000-foot runway to shoot motorcycle and car commercials. There's even a plan to host concerts and weddings.
"They're just throwing things at the dartboard," said New Mexico state Sen. George Munoz, who introduced a bill this year to sell off the spaceport. The bill didn't become law, but Munoz hasn't given up. He still wants to see the facility managed by the private sector rather than state officials.
"That place is a shopping center, and Virgin Galactic is your anchor tenant — but if Virgin Galactic is not there, you're not going to attract anybody else," he told NBC News. "The spaceport has done nothing for New Mexicans for their tax dollars."
How many dollars? How many jobs?
The New Mexico state budget allots around $460,000 annually for spaceport operations, and millions of dollars more have been appropriated to improve a gravel road leading to the facility from the south.
Even though the passenger spaceships haven't taken off yet, Spaceport America is already earning revenue. It receives $1.6 million a year in pre-flight lease payments from Virgin Galactic, and another $800,000 comes in from other commercial sources, Anderson said.
Once Virgin Galactic starts taking passengers to the edge of outer space, at a cost of up to $250,000 apiece, the spaceport's revenue stream should build up to $5 million annually, Anderson said. There's also the potential for entrepreneurs to launch additional tourist ventures close to the spaceport — a luxury hotel, for instance, or an Old West dude ranch.
"I think they're waiting for that first flight," Anderson said.
She estimated that the spaceport already has created 1,400 jobs — including jobs for the spaceport's firefighters, security workers and maintenance teams. "We are a small city," Anderson said. "There's a maintenance cost to running a city, and so we need to generate enough revenue for that."
How patient are taxpayers?
If and when space tourism takes off, Spaceport America will be well-placed to take advantage of the market, thanks to its average of 340 sunny days per year and its proximity to the controlled airspace at White Sands Missile Range. But how patient are New Mexico's long-suffering taxpayers?
For some, patience has run out. "We've already paid almost $300 million on this boondoggle," Sophia Peron said as she held up a protest sign in Truth or Consequences, 28 miles north of the spaceport.
Truth or Consequences is the town that's closest to the spaceport's "small city." The place is best-known for its Old West flavor and its hot-spring spas. Its population of 6,400, give or take, is a blend of retirees, families and artsy types — and for years they've been hoping to see an economic boost from the spaceport.
Those hopes took a big hit last October, said Jeff Dukatt, who runs a tie-dye shop on the road that leads from Truth or Consequences to the spaceport. "The interest died significantly after the crash," he told NBC News.
A billboard on the outskirts of Truth or Consequences touts the area's space connection. John Makely / NBC News
"They've put it off so much, and so much," said Nina Gomez, a kitchen worker at Sparky's Burgers in Hatch, another town that's 34 miles south of the spaceport. "Everybody's just waiting for the business and the jobs."
Even Linda DeMarino, who's the executive director of an economic development group called Main Street Truth or Consequences, acknowledges that so far, the hoped-for boom has been a bust.
"We do have the highest vacancy rate we've been in for a while," she told NBC News. "A lot of people were banking on the spaceport, and they didn't have a great business plan to begin with. After the crash, they threw up their hands. But Virgin Galactic was really great. They came around and tried to get the word out that they were still committed to Spaceport America."
Just after the October crash, DeMarino and her husband, Blair Wyman, also made a commitment to the future of Spaceport America and Truth or Consequences. They bought a storefront on the town's main thoroughfare. Now they're converting it from a shuttered restaurant into office and retail space.
Despite all the setbacks and delays, Wyman is sold on the spaceport. "This is quite possibly the next level of transportation," he said.
And as you'd expect, Anderson is sold as well.
"It's going to happen — it's not a matter of if, but when," she said. "It seems like we're inching along right now, but that's how you make history."
Departing CEO says Spaceport doing fine
As I move on after five and a half years on this tremendously important project, I am reflecting on our past accomplishments and our future at Spaceport America.
I am very proud of the fact that we built a small city in the middle of nowhere, helped to shape the future of the commercial space industry, inspired thousands of young people to consider a career in engineering, science or math, commercialized a brand which has brought the State of New Mexico over $104 million in positive Earned Media in the past year – that means positive media exposure that we did not have to pay for – and are attracting and signing many new customers, resulting in increased economic development in New Mexico.
This year, we are covering 75 percent of our operational budget through revenue and, next year, we project that we will be covering 90 percent. This means we have almost reached our goal of being self-sustaining.
Spaceport America’s strategic value proposition to the commercial space industry is our proximity to and close working relationship with the U.S. Army White Sands Missile Range, with its 6,000 square miles of protected airspace. Our remote and secure location provides aerospace companies a certain level of much-needed privacy to protect their proprietary technologies.
These attributes, paired with our extensive space launch experience, make Spaceport America a major player within the evolving commercial space industry.
As a founding member of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, the commercial space industry association with over 70 leading members, Spaceport America has been instrumental over the past 10 years in shaping the future of commercial spaceflight law and regulation. I have also been a member of the FAA Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee for over four years.
Spaceport America’s business development, aerospace and ground operations teams have worked tirelessly since our spaceport became operational in 2013 to take our offering to the market, and fill both our aerospace and non-aerospace business pipelines with new leads and opportunities.
We have conducted 28 launches to date and UP Aerospace, EXOS Aerospace Systems and Technologies, along with one other new customer, have planned six launches in the next few months.
We are also in discussions with three major companies for long-term flight testing; each requiring local support, technical services and construction. We are also very excited about the recent opportunity to partner with the U.S. Army White Sands Missile Range to assist with testing Boeing’s Crew Space Transportation System at Spaceport America.
Last year, Spaceport America achieved another milestone – our first major motion picture was filmed when we turned part of the horizontal launch area into a Hollywood movie set that brought work to over 500 extras and hundreds of film professionals in New Mexico. “The Space Between Us” by STX Entertainment will premier in theaters across the country on December 21, 2016.
That same week, we were supporting an aerospace customer flight test campaign, while welcoming tourists from countries as far away as the UK and Australia – all part of a day in the life of our commercial spaceport.
Stay tuned for an announcement about four new very exciting recurring Annual Spaceport America Signature Events starting this fall, each bringing in hundreds of participants and attendees requiring services from hotel accommodations to food and equipment rentals.
We will have our third Public Open House Oct. 1 – free to the public. Registration will open Sept. 1. Please come.
One of our favorite activities is hosting students at Spaceport America – the seed corn of our future. We conducted sessions with over 2,000 6th-grade students last school year and will begin again in September. All free.
So, the next time you read an article or hear someone say something that gives you the impression that Spaceport America is not doing well or isn’t taking the lead in the commercial space industry, don’t believe it! And, if you are not getting our News bursts, please sign up on our website spaceportamerica.com/newsbursts so you can keep up to date on all of our happenings.
I am looking forward to watching the spaceport continue to grow and thrive. I have appreciated your support for our spaceport. Spaceport America is a real game-changer for New Mexico.
It is great news that the county has selected a contractor who will soon begin construction of the southern road to Spaceport America.
The project has been delayed for years by a lengthy BLM review, squabbling between Sierra and Doña Ana counties and funding shortages. Without it, visitors have to drive north all the way to Truth or Consequences, and then head back down southeast.
In past years, the Spaceport Authority had dipped into the road fund to pay for operations. Even now, the $13 million to $13.6 million that the Spaceport Authority says it has available is less than the $15.2 million originally projected for the cost of the road.
Interim County Manager Chuck McMahon said they would seek additional funding from the state to build the road as originally intended. But even if the state declines that request, they will still be able to complete the project with the money on hand, with a smaller base course for the roadway foundation.
The County Commission voted 4-1 to move ahead with the project. The lone “no” vote by County Commission member John Vasquez not to spend money already appropriated for this project makes no sense.
To be clear, no additional county money was approved with Tuesday’s vote. Vasquez voted against spending money that had already been appropriated by the state.
“I don't know what we're doing up there, other than sending up rockets like we've always been doing from White Sands air space," Vasquez admitted in explaining his no vote. If the commissioner honestly doesn’t understand the difference between WSMR and the spaceport, he needs to educate himself before the next vote comes up.
The southern road has always been a critical component for Las Cruces and Doña Ana County to be able to gain the full economic advantages of the spaceport. Delays in getting it built have coincided with delays in Virgin Galactic’s development of the spaceships it will use to blast passengers into sub-orbital space from the spaceport.
But that process is coming to a conclusion. Speaking earlier this month at the Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight, Virgin Galactic Vice President Mike Moses said they “hope to be in space by the end of this year,” though he added that they would launch until ready.
Once Virigin Galactic begins regular launches, wealthy space tourists will be coming to southern New Mexico to be among the first to have that experience. If there is a southern road in place, those wealthy tourists will most likely be staying in Las Cruces, eating in our restaurants and browsing in our shops. If the southern road is not in place, they will more likely be staying in Albuquerque, eating in their restaurants and browsing in their shops.
Quelle: Las Cruces Sun News
‘We know you’ve waited a long time,’ Virgin Galactic says
Officials from the company at the center of Spaceport America’s hopes for success say they are getting ready for a ‘big move,’ with plans to base an additional 85 employees in the Las Cruces area over the next year. Courtesy photo
Virgin Galactic says to be patient, New Mexico. It is coming.
Officials from the company at the center of Spaceport America’s hopes for success say they are getting ready for a “big move,” with plans to base an additional 85 employees in the Las Cruces area over the next year.
With Virgin Galactic’s leaders talking of starting full passenger spaceflight operations by the end of 2018, boosters of the publicly financed $220 million facility and even skeptical policymakers are hoping that New Mexico’s bet on the commercial space industry will soon begin to pay off.
Spaceport America opened in late 2011, sold as a destination for wealthy adventurers willing to pay $250,000 for a ride into the heavens on Virgin Galactic’s private spacecraft.
While the facility has been host to several dozen rocket launches since it opened, tourists are not taking flight from the facility yet, six years later. Much of Virgin Galactic’s work remains concentrated at another spaceport in California’s Mojave Desert. And while the spaceflight industry is growing, the focus has shifted from sending tourists into space toward research and other commercial missions, particularly now that NASA has ended its shuttle program.
Critics argue Spaceport America is a boondoggle. Shoppers in Doña Ana and Sierra counties still pay a special gross receipts tax on their purchases to help cover the cost of building the futuristic facility.
Meanwhile, plans to launch spacecraft from the site continue to move along.
Virgin Galactic’s plans have suffered setbacks, particularly with the crash of a test flight over California in 2014 that killed a co-pilot.
And as recently as last month, Virgin Galactic’s president said the company’s billionaire founder, Richard Branson, won’t be headed to space in the next six months despite his proclamation that he would be “very disappointed” otherwise.
Earlier this year, Branson told a conference in Hong Kong that Virgin Galactic was resuming test flights and aimed to launch full commercial passenger operations by the end of 2018.
“We think we’re at the beginning of a very exciting period,” Richard Dalbello, vice president of business development and government affairs at Virgin Galactic, told a legislative committee in Santa Fe on Wednesday. “We know you’ve waited a long time and we are coming.”
Dalbello said the company’s next steps are to continue testing of its SpaceShip Two vehicles in California, move staff to New Mexico and complete testing of the crafts here.
The SpaceShip Two is designed to carry people and cargo into suborbital space and back, with a crew of two pilots and up to six fare-paying astronauts or payloads for research. Another craft, the WhiteKnight Two, would carry the vehicle part of the way. The company has been testing the two together. The company also has tested SpaceShip Two gliding without an engine.
Space.com reported in October that Mike Moses, president of Virgin Galactic, said the company aims to get SpaceShip Two vehicles up to 50 miles above Earth’s surface in the coming months.
Meanwhile, Virgin Galactic says it has added 10 full-time employees in New Mexico since this time last year and will have 30 full-time staff in the state by the end of 2017. If tests go according to plan, Dalbello said, another 85 employees will move to the Las Cruces area over the next year.
Local authorities are moving ahead with long-stalled plans to improve a road running south from Spaceport America through the desert toward Las Cruces. The road would make it easier to reach the facility from the south, without the need to drive over from Truth or Consequences. But that has worried some in Sierra County, who have been concerned they might be cut out of business drawn by the Spaceport.
The Spaceport Authority, the state agency that operates the facility, approved a budget request for the next year of about $1 million from the general fund, up $375,000 from this year with an eye toward more aggressively recruiting business to the site.
That might seem like a tough sell when the state’s budget is still tight and lawmakers face pressure from constituents who view the project as a waste of money. Legislators on both sides of the aisle seem eager to see it take off.
“I think everyone here wants it up and running,” Sen. Mark Moores, a Republican from Albuquerque, told Dalbello.
Euclid, ESA’s dark Universe mission, has passed its preliminary design review, providing confidence that the spacecraft and its payload can be built. It’s time to start ‘cutting metal’.
“This is really a big step for the mission,” says Giuseppe Racca, Euclid’s project manager. “All the elements have been put together and evaluated. We now know that the mission is feasible and we can do the science.”
First proposed to ESA in 2007, Euclid was selected as the second medium-class mission in the Cosmic Vision programme in October 2011. Italy’s Thales Alenia Space was chosen as the prime contractor in 2013.
Since then, the mission’s design has been studied and refined. This has involved a wide range of detailed technical designs, in addition to building and testing key components.
The outcome of Euclid’s recent review was positive, opening the door to the industrial contractors and external instrument teams building the spacecraft and payload for real. Airbus Defence & Space in France will deliver the complete payload module incorporating a 1.2 m-diameter telescope feeding the two science instruments being developed by the Euclid Consortium.
“This is a major milestone for us. Everyone is now ready to start cutting metal,” says René Laureijs, Euclid’s project scientist.
On the scientific side, this review checked that the mission can indeed deliver the required data. The combined performance of the spacecraft, telescope and instruments shows that the data returned over the six-year mission will achieve the objectives.
Euclid is designed to give us important new insights into the ‘dark side’ of the Universe, namely ‘dark matter’ and ‘dark energy’, both key components of the current model for the formation and evolution of the Universe.
Observations made over recent decades reveal that less than 5% of the matter in the Universe is in the form of normal atoms, while a much larger amount of dark matter is inferred from measurements including the rotation speeds of galaxies. This matter acts through gravity, but is invisible.
Dark energy, on the other hand, is invoked to explain the finding that the expansion of the Universe is accelerating.
Although they are thought to make up the majority of the matter and energy in the Universe, dark matter and dark energy cannot be seen. Instead, their presence is inferred by the movement of galaxies, the shape of galaxies, their distribution in space, and the rate of the Universe’s expansion as traced by the galaxies.
By mapping the shapes, positions and movements of two billion galaxies across more than a third of the sky, Euclid will provide astronomers with an unprecedented wealth of data to analyse.
The unrivalled accuracy of its measurements will allow them to close in on the properties and behaviour of dark matter and dark energy. This, in turn, will put constraints on the theoretical properties of what these two unseen components of the Universe may be.
With Euclid’s preliminary design review now safely passed, the next major milestone comes in two years at the critical design review.
At this point, the major hardware components will have been built and tested. If all goes well, Euclid will then be assembled.
After this, Euclid will be ready for launch in December 2020 on a Soyuz rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.
NASA Delivers Detectors for ESA's Euclid Spacecraft
Three detector systems for the Euclid mission, led by ESA (European Space Agency), have been delivered to Europe for the spacecraft's near-infrared instrument. The detector systems are key components of NASA's contribution to this upcoming mission to study some of the biggest questions about the universe, including those related to the properties and effects of dark matter and dark energy -- two critical, but invisible phenomena that scientists think make up the vast majority of our universe.
"The delivery of these detector systems is a milestone for what we hope will be an extremely exciting mission, the first space mission dedicated to going after the mysterious dark energy," said Michael Seiffert, the NASA Euclid project scientist based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, which manages the development and implementation of the detector systems.
Euclid will carry two instruments: a visible-light imager (VIS) and a near-infrared spectrometer and photometer (NISP). A special light-splitting plate on the Euclid telescope enables incoming light to be shared by both instruments, so they can carry out observations simultaneously.
The spacecraft, scheduled for launch in 2020, will observe billions of faint galaxies and investigate why the universe is expanding at an accelerating pace. Astrophysicists think dark energy is responsible for this effect, and Euclid will explore this hypothesis and help constrain dark energy models. This census of distant galaxies will also reveal how galaxies are distributed in our universe, which will help astrophysicists understand how the delicate interplay of the gravity of dark matter, luminous matter and dark energy forms large-scale structures in the universe.
Additionally, the location of galaxies in relation to each other tells scientists how they are clustered. Dark matter, an invisible substance accounting for over 80 percent of matter in our universe, can cause subtle distortions in the apparent shapes of galaxies. That is because its gravity bends light that travels from a distant galaxy toward an observer, which changes the appearance of the galaxy when it is viewed from a telescope. Euclid's combination of visible and infrared instruments will examine this distortion effect and allow astronomers to probe dark matter and the effects of dark energy.
Detecting infrared light, which is invisible to the human eye, is especially important for studying the universe's distant galaxies. Much like the Doppler effect for sound, where a siren's pitch seems higher as it approaches and lower as it moves away, the frequency of light from an astronomical object gets shifted with motion. Light from objects that are traveling away from us appears redder, and light from those approaching us appears bluer. Because the universe is expanding, distant galaxies are moving away from us, so their light gets stretched out to longer wavelengths. Between 6 and 10 billion light-years away, galaxies are brightest in infrared light.
JPL procured the NISP detector systems, which were manufactured by Teledyne Imaging Sensors of Camarillo, California. They were tested at JPL and at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland, before being shipped to France and the NISP team.
Each detector system consists of a detector, a cable and a "readout electronics chip" that converts infrared light to data signals read by an onboard computer and transmitted to Earth for analysis. Sixteen detectors will fly on Euclid, each composed of 2040 by 2040 pixels. They will cover a field of view slightly larger than twice the area covered by a full moon. The detectors are made of a mercury-cadmium-telluride mixture and are designed to operate at extremely cold temperatures.
"The U.S. Euclid team has overcome many technical hurdles along the way, and we are delivering superb detectors that will enable the collection of unprecedented data during the mission," said Ulf Israelsson, the NASA Euclid project manager, based at JPL.
Delivery to ESA of the next set of detectors for NISP is planned in early June. The Centre de Physique de Particules de Marseille, France, will provide further characterization of the detector systems. The final detector focal plane will then be assembled at the Laboratoire d'Astrophysique de Marseille, and integrated with the rest of NISP for instrument tests.
Flaws in NASA-provided detectors to delay European astronomy mission
WASHINGTON — Problems with infrared detectors provided by NASA will delay the delivery of an instrument for a European Space Agency astronomy mission by a year or more, a NASA official said Oct. 18.
Paul Hertz, director of NASA’s astrophysics division, said engineers found problems during recent testing of infrared detectors being provided by NASA for ESA’s Euclid space telescope, which had been planned for launch in 2020 on a Soyuz rocket from French Guiana.
“The detector systems that we had been developing for delivery for ESA has been failing in their characterization testing before delivery,” he said at a meeting of the Astrophysics Advisory Committee.
The problem, he said, is with an electronics package that malfunctions at the cold temperatures it will operate at on the mission. That problem did not appear in earlier qualification tests of the system.
“We are having to go back and redesign the electronics package,” followed by requalification of the unit, he said. Work on other elements of the instrument package are unaffected, he added, but overall integration will have to wait until the electronics are requalified.
That will delay the completion of the instrument. “This is going to cause a delay of at least 12 months, which will have impacts on the ESA mission,” he said. The instruments, he said, are on the critical path for the overall development of the spacecraft, although he did not indicate the length of the delay for Euclid itself.
NASA spokesperson Felicia Chou said Oct. 19 that NASA is looking into two possible solutions to the technical issues found during testing, both which involve redesigns that may take 12 to 18 months. “NASA will convene a review of both options in December 2017 by an independent panel,” she said.
Euclid is a two-ton space telescope selected by ESA in 2011 as a medium-class mission in its Cosmic Vision program of space science missions. The spacecraft features a 1.2-meter telescope with visible and near-infrared instruments to study dark energy and dark matter, which combined account for about 95 percent of the universe. Euclid will operate at the Earth-sun L-2 Lagrange point, 1.5 million kilometers from Earth, that is used by other infrared astronomy missions.
NASA agreed in 2013, as its contribution to Euclid, to provide components for the near-infrared instrument and establish a science center to support the mission. The agency spent $22.3 million on the mission in fiscal year 2016, the last year spending figures were available, and requested $6.9 million in 2018, stating that the decrease was linked to the completion of hardware.
ESA’s decision to involve NASA in the instrument, known as the Near-Infrared Spectrometer and Photometer (NISP), was based on the lack of similar detector technology in Europe. “The NISP detectors were procured in the USA because such advanced devices were not available in Europe at the time,” ESA noted in an April 2017 press release about the delivery of detectors for the instrument.
On Monday, June 6, astronaut Jeff Williams will enter the first human-rated expandable module deployed in space, a technology demonstration to investigate the potential challenges and benefits of expandable habitats for deep space exploration and commercial low-Earth orbit applications.
Williams and the NASA and Bigelow Aerospace teams working at Mission Control Center at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston expanded the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) by filling it with air during more than seven hours of operations Saturday, May 28. The BEAM launched April 8 aboard a SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, and was attached to the International Space Station’s Tranquility module about a week later.
Williams’ entry will mark the beginning of a two-year data collection process. He will take an air sample, place caps on the now closed ascent vent valves, install ducting to assist in BEAM’s air circulation, retrieve deployment data sensors and manually open the tanks used for pressurization to ensure all of the air has been released. He will then install sensors over the following two days that will be used for the project’s primary task of gathering data on how an expandable habitat performs in the thermal environment of space, and how it reacts to radiation, micrometeoroids, and orbital debris.
During BEAM's test period, the module typically will be closed off to the rest of the space station. Astronauts will enter the module three to four times each year to collect temperature, pressure and radiation data, and to assess its structural condition. After two years of monitoring, the current plan is to jettison the BEAM from the space station to burn up on re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.
Expandable habitats are designed to take up less room when being launched but provide greater volume for living and working in space once expanded. This first test of an expandable module will allow investigators to gauge how well the habitat performs and specifically, how well it protects against solar radiation, space debris and the temperature extremes of space.
The BEAM is an example of NASA’s increased commitment to partnering with industry to enable the growth of the commercial use of space. The BEAM, which Bigelow Aerospace developed and built, is co-sponsored by Bigelow and NASA's Advanced Exploration Systems Division.
The expansion process already has provided numerous lessons learned on how soft goods interact during the dynamic event of expansion.
The module measured just over 7 feet long and just under 7.75 feet in diameter in its packed configuration. BEAM now measures more than 13 feet long and about 10.5 feet in diameter to create 565 cubic feet of habitable volume. It weighs approximately 3,000 pounds.
BEAM Open for the First Time
NASA astronaut Jeff Williams floats in front of the entrance to the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM)
NASA astronaut Jeff Williams opened the hatch to the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) at 4:47 a.m. EDT Monday, June 6. Along with Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka, Williams entered BEAM for the first time to collect an air sample and begin downloading data from sensors on the dynamics of BEAM’s expansion. Williams told flight controllers at Mission Control, Houston that BEAM looked “pristine” and said it was cold inside, but that there was no evidence of any condensation on its inner surfaces.
Additional ingress opportunities to deploy other sensors and equipment in BEAM are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday. The hatch to BEAM will be closed after each entry.
Williams and the NASA and Bigelow Aerospace teams working at Mission Control Center at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston expanded the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) by filling it with air during more than seven hours of operations Saturday, May 28. The BEAM launched April 8 aboard a SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, and was attached to the International Space Station’s Tranquility module about a week later.
The BEAM is an example of NASA’s increased commitment to partnering with industry to enable the growth of the commercial use of space. The BEAM, which Bigelow Aerospace developed and built, is co-sponsored by Bigelow and NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems Division.
Astronaut Jeff Williams works inside the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module. Credit: NASA TV
The hatch to BEAM was opened up again today for the second day of outfitting the expandable module to determine its habitability and durability. BEAM, or the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, is set to demonstrate the overall performance and capability of expandable habitats for the next two years. The crew is predicted to enter BEAM between 12 and 14 times during its stay.
A look inside the Space Station's experimental BEAM module
NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik looks through the hatch of the International Space Station's Bigelow Expandable Aerospace Module (BEAM) on July 31, 2017.
He shared this photo on social media on August 2, commenting, "Ever wonder how you look when you enter a new part of a spacecraft? Well, this is it. First time inside the expandable BEAM module."
The BEAM is an experimental expandable module launched to the station aboard SpaceX's eighth commercial resupply mission on April 8, 2016, and fully expanded and pressurized on May 28.
Expandable modules weigh less and take up less room on a rocket than a traditional module, while allowing additional space for living and working.
They provide protection from solar and cosmic radiation, space debris, and other contaminants. Crews traveling to the moon, Mars, asteroids, or other destinations may be able to use them as habitable structures.
The BEAM is just over halfway into its planned two-year demonstration on the space station.
NASA and Bigelow are currently focusing on measuring radiation dosage inside the BEAM. Using two active Radiation Environment Monitors (REM) inside the module, researchers at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston are able to take real-time measurements of radiation levels.
Voraussichtlicher Zeitpunkt für russischen Venera-D Exploration Rover: 2025
Russia to send Venus exploration mission in 2025 — designer
"Initially, it was planned to realize the project in 2016, but now the year 2025 is a probable date,” Russia’s Venera-D exploration rover's designer Lavochkin NPO said
Russia’s Venera-D exploration rover that was initially planned to be sent to Venus in 2016 will be launched in 2025, according to a report prepared by the rover’s designer, Lavochkin NPO, for the Korolyov Readings in Moscow on January 27-30 that was made public on Monday.
“Russia’s federal space program for 2006-2015 that was drafted back in 2006 provided for a Venus mission project (Venera-D) — a long-lived orbiter and lander to explore Venus’ atmosphere and surface. Initially, it was planned to realize the project in 2016, but now the year 2025 is a probable date,” the document says.
In 2013, the Venera-D project consisted of an orbiter with an operational life of more than two years, a subsatellite, a Vega-type lander with a working life of three hours, and a long-lived station that was to operate on the surface for at least three days.
“Now, it is suggested to look at a possibility of concurrent operation of the Vega-type lander and a long-lived station with an active life of at least 24 hours and at extending the working life of the long-lived station to 100 hours,” the report says.
Venera-D's prime purpose is to make radar remote-sensing observations around the planet Venus in a manner similar to that of the Venera 15 and Venera 16 probes in the 1980s or the US Magellan in the 1990s. Venera-D will be the first Venus probe launched by Russia after the collapse of the former Soviet Union.
Russian, US experts suggest launching satellite and balloons as part of Venus space probe
The Venera-D mission might be launched in 2026
The Russian-American team that is fleshing out goals for a mission to Venus, known as Venera-D, suggest using a subsatellite with a mass no large than 120 kg and balloons as additional elements for the space probe, Roscosmos’ press service told on Friday.
"A subsatellite with a mass no large than 120kg for autonomous research and balloons of different construction for operation at an altitude of 50-55km in Venus’s atmosphere, as well as various payload proposed by the scientific community will be considered as additional elements for the space probe," the state corporation said.
It earlier emerged that the Venera-D mission might be launched in 2026.
According to previous reports, Roscosmos and NASA agreed to continue developing a joint mission to Venus in 2017-2018. The Russian side will present the Angara-A5 missile, an orbital module and a large lander for the mission, whereas Americans offer a number of devices and long-life small landers (up to 10kg).
The lander is to be dropped on the planet’s surface from Tesserae. It may be destroyed as Venus has a rocky landscape in these areas. However, it is here, on the place where the planet’s ancient surface is not covered by lava, that traces of past life may be discovered. Scientists also plan to study the greenhouse effect on the planet to avoid catastrophic heating of the Earth in the future.
The Alaska Congressional Delegation welcomed the announcement Friday by the Missile Defense Agency that it's examining the Pacific Spaceport Complex in Kodiak as a potential site for missile defense flight testing.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski said the Missile Defense Agency continues to recognize Alaska's geographic advantage in the execution of its mission.
Sen. Dan Sullivan said Friday's announcement reaffirms the fact that Alaska is the cornerstone of the nation's missile defense.
He said he is hopeful the news will breathe new life into a world-class launch complex on the island.
Congressman Don Young said with growing threats from North Korea, combined with Iran's nuclear ambitions, it's vital that the United States remain vigilant.
Missile tests stand up Alaska Aerospace business
North Korea dictator Kim Jong-un tested his new intercontinental ballistic missiles twice in July.
It was his way of showing the world he has a big one. Both times events in Alaska deflated him, at least a bit.
Kim’s first test was July 4 and his second on July 29. The U.S. fired off a test missile interceptor July 10 from Kodiak’s Pacific Spaceport with a second interceptor launched July 30, one day after Kim fired off his second test ICBM.
Both interceptors from Alaska hit their ballistic missile targets high above the Pacific Ocean. They were fired by U.S. Army units from the Kodiak launch facility, which is owned and operated by the state-owned Alaska Aerospace Corp.
It wasn’t really tit-for-tat with Kim Il-Sung, of course. The coincidence of the dual interceptions, both shortly after Kim launched his missiles, delighted Americans and sent a message to the North Korean dictator.
But the Alaska tests, involving the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, system, were actually planned a year ago by the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, according to Craig Campbell, CEO of Alaska Aerospace, who spoke July 26 at a World Trade Center Anchorage lunch event.
Still, Kim’s aggressive testing has lent an urgency to the U.S. missile defense program and focused new attention on Alaska’s role in it. U.S. missile defense interceptors aimed at intercepting intercontinental ballistic missiles in “mid-course,” high in their trajectory while in space, are already based at Fort Greely, east of Fairbanks.
Long-range radar systems that would detect enemy missiles are at Clear Air Force Station, southwest of Fairbanks.
Upgrades and expansions at both installations were underway even before North Korea launched its latest missile program, but these will now be accelerated.
Alaska’s U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan was able to get amendments into this year’s National Defense Authorization Act that would authorize 28 additional ground-based interceptors as well as development of new missile defense sensor technologies that would function in space.
Sullivan’s amendment includes a study of installation of up to 100 interceptor missiles at locations across the U.S.
The Alaska senator had previously introduced a bill expanding the interceptor program, co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of 25 senators, but he wound up being able to incorporate 85 percent of the bill in a series of amendments to the defense appropriation bill.
Kim’s missiles, however, have also extended a lifeline to the Alaska spaceport at Kodiak, which had been struggling. When the state formed the then-Alaska Aerospace Development Corp., or AADC, and built the Kodiak launch complex in the early 1990s, the goal was always to primarily service commercial space companies by offering an alternative, lower-cost launch site to the big government-owned launch centers at Cape Canaveral in Florida and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
The commercial space industry didn’t develop as quickly as expected, however, but the state was able to keep the lights on at its Kodiak facility by launching test missiles in the early stages of the U.S. missile defense program as well as for other government agencies. There were a handful of commercial launches too, including some that put satellites into orbit.
But the launches weren’t frequent enough, and by 2012 the future looked uncertain for the state’s space venture.
“We can’t pay the bills with just one launch every 12 to 18 months,” said Campbell, who came aboard at AADC in 2011 and became its president of in 2012.
Campbell, a former state adjutant general and lieutenant governor, moved to inject new life into the state corporation. For starters, the name changed, removing “development,” so that it became the Alaska Aerospace Corp.
It was an important distinction.
“We did this because we are really an operations, not a development organization,” Campbell said.
Having “development” in the name conveyed a message that the state corporation was still developing when, in fact, it had long proved itself as a capable manager of launch operations.
The Kodiak Launch Complex was also renamed Pacific Spaceport Complex to bring more attention to its location and access to a wide area of the North Pacific, with no populated areas, across which launches can be made safely.
There was some really bad luck in 2014, however. An Army test missile malfunctioned just after it launched and had to be destroyed, but debris from the explosion caused heavy damage at the Kodiak facility.
It seemed like the end of the road.
“The launch itself was flawless. The problem was in the missile itself,” Campbell said.
Alaska Aerospace was still without customers, however, and it now had a damaged launch facility. To top it off, in 2015 Gov. Bill Walker had to cut the small amount of state general fund support for the corporation as the state faced an implosion of its oil revenues.
Extensive repairs to the Kodiak facility totaling $35 million were largely paid for through the company’s insurers. Campbell wrote via email that as a state-owned corporation the complex was covered through the state insurance pool.
The repairs were completed in 2016 with $20.3 million worth of work completed by Davis Constructors and Engineers Inc. of Anchorage and the launch complex was back in business.
Meanwhile, Campbell and his crew hustled for contracts.
“Things were looking grim, but we went out with an aggressive marketing effort,” Campbell said.
AAC returned to a former prime customer, the Missile Defense Agency, and opened an office in Huntsville, Ala., where the MDA is headquartered.
The initiative paid off with an $80.4 million multi-year “task order” from the agency, a kind of purchase order to cover launch activities. The two THAAD tests in July were part of that.
More missile defense tests will likely happen and the timing if those is confidential. One that is officially set for next summer, however, is a test of a modified Israeli “Arrow” interceptor, a joint Israel-U.S. test program.
The Arrow 3 is a modified version of Arrow 2, which Israel has long used.
“Arrow 3 is a longer-range version and it needs a bigger test range. But you can’t just launch these over the Mediterranean Sea,” Campbell said.
The wide expanse of the Pacific south of Kodiak provides the space, he said.
MDA has brought breathing room for Alaska Aerospace, with funding to cover operations and maintenance until the commercial business picks up. That’s now happening, Campbell said.
Alaska Aerospace has strategically targeted a fast-emerging niche of the commercial space business, companies launching small rockets, typically with small satellites.
These firms need a lower-cost alternative to the big U.S. government launch sites, and also ones that can offer flexibility in scheduling because military and large commercial users dominate the schedules of Cape Canaveral and Vandenberg.
There are now several places in the world that can offer this, New Zealand for example, but few are in the U.S., an important factor for certain customers, Campbell said.
One commercial contract that is signed and scheduled for December is with a new space company that cannot now be identified, Campbell said.
Interestingly, this will be the first launch from Kodiak of a rocket using liquid fuels. All other rockets have been solid-fueled.
“This will require us to design and install facilities to handle liquid fuels,” with fuel storage and piping, as well as planning additional safety measures, Campbell said.
Once the liquid fuel systems are installed, the Kodiak facility will offer customers the option of using liquid-fueled rockets, which are typically less costly and more attractive to commercial customers. The military typically uses solid fuel rockets.
Vector Space Systems, an Arizona-based company formerly known as Garvey Spacecraft, has also signed with Alaska Aerospace for test flights of its new Nanosat Launch Vehicle, the Vector-R, in 2018.
A contract that still in negotiation for launches planned in 2018 and 2019, is with Rocket Lab USA, a California-based company that has been in the space business for several years.
Alaska Aerospace supported Rocket Launch earlier this year in a launch by the company in New Zealand; the Alaska corporation provided its mobile range safety and telemetry equipment in support of Rocket Lab, moving the equipment to New Zealand.
Rocket Lab now wants to use Kodiak for launches of its new “Electron” rocket, Campbell said.
Another company in discussions for launches in 2019 is Zero Point Frontiers, based in Alabama, for its 55-foot Xbow Launch Vehicle that will launch small satellites to orbit.
Interestingly, Zero Point Frontiers would use a rail-launch system it has developed for its small rockets, an alternative to the traditional vertical launch of rockets from a pad. Alaska Aerospace will be involved in helping design and install this, Campbell said. Once the system is installed it will remain in Kodiak, giving the Pacific Spaceport another new capability.
Also, some companies negotiating with Alaska Aerospace want an ability to put satellites in an equatorial orbit, which is more easily done from a launch site at a more southerly latitude than Kodiak, which is more suited to launches to polar orbits for satellites.
Alaska Aerospace is now investigating possible sites for alternative southern launch locations in the Pacific, one at Saipan and the other on Hawaii, the biggest of the Hawaiian Islands, Campbell said.
Scotland could host the UK's first dedicated base for spaceplanes, according to new government plans.
Ministers want to establish the UK spaceport by 2018 - the first of its kind outside of the US.
Eight aerodromes have been shortlisted and Scotland has six of the potential locations.
The Scottish government said only independence would lead to a greater development of the country's space industry.
For ministers and the space industry, the major interest in a UK spaceport is as a facility to enable satellite launches, but hopefully it would also become a centre for the new tourism initiatives from specialist operators such as Virgin Galactic and XCor.
Ahead of the announcement at this week's Farnborough Airshow, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander hinted that Scotland could become a key player in the UK government's future plans for developing commercial space travel.
He said: "I am delighted that the government is pushing forward with its ambitious plans to open a spaceport in the UK by 2018. Spaceports will be key to us opening up the final frontier of commercial space travel.
"Scotland has a proud association with space exploration. We celebrated Neil Armstrong's Scottish ancestry when he became the first man on the Moon and only last week an amazing Scottish company was responsible for building the UK Space Agency's first satellite.
"The UK space industry is one of our great success stories and I am sure there will be a role for Scotland to play in the future."
Britain plans to build commercial spaceport
Eight possible locations for spaceport will be announced by ministers at Farnborough air show on Tuesday
Britain is to build a commercial spaceport that will be used to launch manned missions and commercial satellites. A list of eight locations for the spaceport – which could be used by Virgin Galactic and the US company XCOR to launch space tourism flights – has been drawn up by the government and will be announced on Tuesday at the Farnborough air show.
It is planned to have Britain's spaceport in operation by 2018 even though a decision has yet to be made on its location. Several sites around the country have been linked to spaceport plans and are now being studied by officials.
"We have worked out the regulatory regime we need to launch spaceships in Britain and assessed what kind of aviation checks will have to be imposed when we put craft into space," said the science minister, David Willetts. "In the wake of that work we have now created a shortlist of locations for the first British spaceport."
Details of the list are being kept secret until Tuesday but experts believe locations could include the north of Scotland, Bristol, Norfolk and the Outer Hebrides. The first of these possible sites – Lossiemouth on the Moray coast of Scotland – is already home to a major helicopter rescue centre and has been pinpointed by Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic as a desirable site for launching its spaceplanes, a proposal that has been backed enthusiastically by the Scottish National party.
Virgin Galactic's first flights are set to take off from a purpose-built spaceport in New Mexico at the end of the year. Passengers will pay around £120,000 for a 150-minute flight in a tiny spaceplane that will take them to a height of around 100km (62 miles) and will allow them to experience about six minutes of zero-gravity. Once flights start taking off from New Mexico, Virgin says it wants to open spaceports in other countries and it has already had talks with Scottish ministers about locating a site at Lossiemouth.
"There are several other sites that have already been considered as potential spaceports in the UK and will have been looked at by space officials," added Nick Spall, of the British Interplanetary Society. "There is a rocket range at Benbecula and it has also been linked to spaceport plans in the past. However, the site – in the Outer Hebrides – is remote, and it is not clear that Richard Branson would want a location so far from the mainland to be used to launch his spaceplanes."
Another prospect is Filton airfield, near Bristol. All British-built Concordes flew out of Filton, and the base was also used to station Britain's fleet of Vulcan bombers during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. "Both Virgin Galactic and the California company XCOR are building spaceplanes that will take off like planes, which could make airfields like Filton very attractive to them," said Spall.
In the 1960s Britain considered building a launch pad for space rockets in Norfolk but abandoned the idea when engineers warned that jettisoned first stages could strike oil rigs as rockets flew out over the North Sea. Instead it was decided that Britain would launch its rockets in Australia until the Tory government decided in 1972 to cancel Britain's entire space launcher programme. The decision to build a UK spaceport now raises the prospect that a launch pad could be built in Norfolk half a century after the first plan was put forward.
Another consideration that will affect spaceport plans is the involvement of inventor Alan Bond, whose company Reaction Engines is developing a reusable spaceplane called Skylon which, it is hoped, will be able to take off and land like a plane. The government has already invested £60m in Bond's project. The first flights of Skylon are scheduled to take place before the end of the decade, and the spaceplane could use Britain's new spaceport as its base.
The decision to build a UK launch site represents a major change in attitude to the space industry by the government. Until recently, ministers have turned their backs on building rockets but the recent spectacular growth of British space companies, such as Surrey Satellites Technology, whose TechDemoSat-1 was launched into Earth orbit on board a Soyuz-2 rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan last week, have forced ministers to change their minds.
On Tuesday, the Business, Innovations and Skills Department will reveal that Britain's space industry sector has grown by 7.2% over the past two years and is now worth more than £11bn billion while employing around 34,000 staff. The long-term aim is to raise this figure to around £40bn in 2030, when it is hoped the UK space industry will employ more than 100,000 people. "With a spaceport, we will add significantly to our ability to create a very strong UK space industry," said Willetts.
Artist impression of how the new spaceport could look
A Moray councillor believes the region should boldly grab the chance to become the base for the UK’s first spaceport with both hands.
Graham Leadbitter said there was a “serious possibility” the region could land the facility – and a huge boost to the local economy.
RAF Lossiemouth and Kinloss Barracks were both named recently on a UK Government shortlist of possible sites where rockets, satellites and even tourists could be launched into orbit.
Experts have long described Moray as the “obvious” location for the port because of the runways at the two sites – RAF Kinloss used to be the main base for the air force’s fleet of Nimrod maritime patrol planes – as well as their proximity to the coast and the relatively clear path north over the sea they offer.
Last month, local councillors backed the development as an economic priority.
The global space market is estimated to be worth £400billion.
The Moray Economic Partnership is taking the lead in responding to a government consultation on the project.
Elgin City South SNP councillor Mr Leadbitter, who is his party’s economic development spokesman on Moray Council, said last night: “The SNP has been consistently arguing the case that Moray has strong potential for a spaceport given the technological and tourism potential it would bring to the region.
“People have been sceptical about this but it is becoming ever more clear that this is a serious possibility and we need to grab it with both hands.
“I am pleased Moray Economic Partnership and Moray Council are backing the idea and hope that people get behind us.”
Meanwhile, Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic has pledged its support to a UK spaceport.
A spokeswoman for the organisation said: “Virgin Galactic is currently focused on beginning commercial operations at Spaceport America in New Mexico.
“As it has long stated, the company remains interested in operating outside of the US at some point in the future.
“The current UK Government space initiatives are noteworthy and comprehensive in their thoughtful approach to space industry expansion.”
Moray’s response to the spaceport consultation is expected to be submitted to the government on October 6.
Quelle: The Press and Journal
Boldly gone? Fife’s bid to lead the UK space race cut adrift
Any hopes Fife had of playing host to the UK’s first spaceport appear to be dwindling fast due to a lack of interest, The Courier understands.
The former RAF base at Leuchars had been pinpointed as a potential temporary location for the out-of-this-world facility as the UK Government drew up a shortlist of sites from which tourists and commercial satellites could be launched into orbit over the coming years.
However, it now looks as if a licensing system will be used for suitable sites to apply for a spaceport licence, rather than a site being specifically chosen by the authorities.
With Glasgow’s Prestwick Airport signing an agreement with Houston Spaceport last month which will see it benefit from the Texas city’s links with NASA, it is understood that sources close to the Fife bid have all but resigned themselves to defeat.
Representatives from Fife Council made their pitch for a self-styled “St Andrews Spaceport”, which would be housed at Leuchars, at a Royal Aeronautical Society conference in London last February, when they suggested a Fife spaceport would be within easy reach for 45% of Scotland’s population and accessible for Scotland’s top universities.
Leuchars’ runway on the military aerodrome would be an ideal site as it would meet environmental and weather requirements as well as being accessible for staff and visitors and away from densely populated areas, the Fife team also argued.
Iain Shirlaw, from Fife Council’s Invest in Fife team, said its stance remained unchanged but confirmed there has been no appetite as yet from potential investors.
“We remain committed to support any possibility of developing the spaceport at Leuchars but have not received notice of any formal approach,” he said.
Those behind the Prestwick bid say a spaceport could be operational with just £1 million of investment, as a memorandum of understanding was signed with a delegation from Houston Spaceport and the Rice Space Institute last month.
It will allow both parties to share best practice for commercial space launch activities, operation, safety and environmental standards and would enable the Prestwick to use NASA technology, research and resources in a commercial environment, and could also lead to customer referrals between the two spaceports.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the UK’s Department for Transport and the UK Space Agency are expected to reveal more plans about a regulatory framework for UK spaceports later this year.
Quelle: The Courier
Aviation expert Laurie Price claims Prestwick Airport's spaceport hopes are flight of fancy
EX-GOVERNMENT adviser Price branded the plan a 'fanciful notion' but airport experts believe they will bring space flight to Ayrshire's airport.
Aviation expert Laurie Price (left) claims the Spaceport plan is "a fanciful notion"
A leading aviation expert has branded transforming Prestwick into a spaceport as complete pie in the sky.
Our airport is claimed to be the front runner to become the UK’s first base for firing satellites and tourists into orbit.
But Laurie Price MBE suspects the space lure is now just a convenience – to allow the Scottish Government to continue ploughing millions of pounds of public money into it.
He said firmly: “It will never happen and is just a fanciful notion.”
Price, 65, was a UK Government adviser on aviation and insists any dreams of getting spacecraft up in the air from Prestwick are just that.
He said: “Someone has not thought this through. I think this is all about political headlines rather than economic reality.”
The Scottish Government saved the ailing airport three years ago for £1 – but has cost taxpayers £750,000 every month since.
The UK Government backed UK Space Agency tasked the Civil Aviation Authority to make a shortlist for Europe’s first operational spaceport, home to a new generation of horizontally-launched spaceplanes.
We can reveal that three years ago Price and the then MP for Central Ayrshire Brian Donohoe – who sat on the Transport Select Committee for 12 years – made a private 30-minute presentation to Nicola Sturgeon while Alex Salmond was First Minister.
The proposal included a service from Prestwick to RAF Northholt, just nine miles from Heathrow, as well as other money making ideas.
In addition Sturgeon – who ironically used to live in Prestwick – was told the future could be as a safe diversion base for all UK planes.
Price said: “I believe our presentation was ignored. But when all these increments of revenue are put together, Prestwick could become viable.”
His credentials as an air transport economist include being appointed adviser to the House of Commons All Party Aviation Group while he was chief aviation strategist for global consultants Mott MacDonald.
Previously he was aviation adviser to the House of Commons Transport Select Committee from 1997 to 2005.
He still holds a light aircraft pilot’s licence and spent 20 years with British Caledonian Airways and BA, including responsibility for Government affairs and route planning for North America.
A spaceport at Prestwick – where crafts would take off under the belly of a transporter and be jettisoned to head into space at 40,000 feet – will not happen for a number of reasons, insists Price.
He said: “If you look at the density of aircraft moving across the UK at any one time, how on earth would you create room for space activity?
“That alone would stop this at Prestwick or any of the other four airports that are being considered.
“Nicola needs to look above her head, sea all the contrails and get a reality check.
“Imagine the airport telling Ryanair they would have to stop flights because there was a spaceport operation going on. That would not happen.
“Then you look at the weather ... these spacecraft will come back to earth on a glider. They cannot throttle up and make another approach over Prestwick if needed.
“Equally given Brexit and we could be out of European space programmes, where is the demand and who is going to fund it?”
Aside from that he points out facilities nearer the Equator – to gain from the inertia of the Earth’s rotation – would provide the best position to get into space.
Significantly, Sturgeon was told Prestwick could gain revenue by shifting the night Royal Mail mail hub from Edinburgh.
The Royal Mail use a second cross-wind at privately-owned Edinburgh to park its night mail and parcel fleet and the move would free up Edinburgh for more development.
He suspects that second runway could be sold off to create a business park and housing and if so Prestwick could take over the night mail services.
Price said: “There is a deal to be struck here. The owners of Edinburgh could be given the go-ahead to develop their second runway in return for the mail service relocating to Prestwick. The owners of Edinburgh could be asked to run Prestwick as part of the arrangement.”
Since their meeting another development could add to Prestwick’s position.
The MOD has ordered nine P8 Poseidon Maritime Patrol aircraft which are converted Boeing 737’s, an aircraft already maintained at Prestwick.
Brian Donohoe said: “My advisers over the years have given a programme of potential for the airport.
“It has never been looked at seriously and these prospects are the only serious player in town.
“Anything else on the agenda is, in practical terms, exceptionally difficult to achieve.”
But Prestwick reckons it’s bang on course to become the UK’s first spaceport.
And this week it says Brexit will help secure a base, rather than turn the idea into a non-starter.
And they say that working to secure a licence will attract businesses from the space sector to establish themselves here, including Orbital Access which has already set up.
A spokesman said: “The process to deliver a UK Spaceport is being driven at a Westminster level. The UK Government announced in early 2014 that it was looking to establish a spaceport by 2020.
“This process was initially a bid and industry experts assessed suitability and pulled together a shortlist – with Prestwick one of six sites to make the list.
“The airport commissioned a technical feasibility study to better understand its suitability and the requirements to become an operational spaceport. This study was carried out by a US company with vast experience in establishing and supporting US spaceports.
"The study found that we had favourable weather conditions, an ideal location for polar satellite launches and much of the infrastructure required for a spaceport already in place.
“In the past year, the UK Government has changed the spaceport selection process from a bid to a licensing regime, enabling the commercial market to drive this process forward.
“Prestwick Airport is working closely with the UK Space Agency, CAA and DfT to progress towards securing a licence. These agencies – along with a number of key players in the space industry including Houston Spaceport, satellite companies and academics – firmly believe we are a prime contender to become the first spaceport in the UK and Europe.
“The UK is well placed to capitalise on the fast growing space industry and through the creation of a spaceport is in a position to offer competitive access to space for satellite companies from across the world looking for polar launches.
“We believe that Brexit will accelerate the delivery of a UK spaceport as now is the time to secure our position in the global market to help to underpin and grow our economy.”
Quelle: Daily Record
Could Scotland really have a spaceport?
Two Scottish sites are fighting hard to be the UK's first designated spaceport but is the idea pie in the sky or will there actually be lift-off?
Prestwick Airport in South Ayrshire and Machrihanish, near Campbeltown on the Kintyre peninsula, have recently stepped up their attempts to move into the space age.
They have been liaising with the UK government and the UK Space Agency over the possibility of licences being issued to break out of commercial airspace into orbit.
They are now waiting for the government to bring forward a bill setting out the requirements.
How did the idea come about?
It all began five years ago when the UK government announced that Britain should lead the way on commercial space flight and set a 2018 target for getting a spaceport up and running.
The sites needed to be a safe distance from densely populated areas and have a runway that could be extended to more than 3,000m (9,842ft).
The need for a long runway was because the government envisaged the spaceport launching horizontal take-off "spaceplanes", not old-technology vertical rockets.
Most of potential spaceplanes, such as the British-built Skylon, are still quite some time away from flying but ministers wanted the UK to be in position to catch the first wave when it arrived.
There was much talk of spaceports taking tourists on sub-orbital flights but the Scottish space community seems agreed that initially their main business would be delivering satellites into orbit or carrying out scientific research.
Space race competition but no funding
Two years ago a shortlist of five potential sites was announced. In addition to Machrihanish and Prestwick, Stornoway in the Western Isles was mentioned because it was one of the few sites that would be able to accommodate vertical launch rockets.
The Scottish sites were in competition with Llanbedr Airport in Wales and Newquay Cornwall Airport.
However, in May last year the government changed its focus and decided that any airport that met the criteria could become a spaceport.
At the same time it announced a Modern Transport Bill, which would include "legislation to enable the future development of the UK's first commercial spaceports".
Dr Malcolm Macdonald, director of the Scottish Centre of Excellence in Satellite Applications at Strathclyde University, said: "Initially it was announced as a competition between different sites and the government would back a winner.
"They have moved away from that to a licensing process."
What will the spaceports do?
The major interest of ministers and the space industry in a UK spaceport is as a facility to enable satellite launches rather than passenger space tourism.
Small satellite operators have difficulty getting low-cost access to space.
The first satellite designed and built in Scotland was launched in July 2014 via a rocket in Kazakhstan, piggy-backing along with other larger payloads.
Dr Macdonald said: "My feeling is they should have been targeting the launch of small and even nano satellites.
"That is what the sites in Scotland are now looking towards, while at the same time recognising the opportunities that would come along with space tourism."
Dr Macdonald added: "There are companies like OneWeb looking to launch a constellation of 650 spacecraft in the next three or four years to effectively deliver broadband from space.
"They have get them into orbit and they want to do that as cheaply as possible."
"If they can get operational very quickly they may be able to capitalise on that kind of market. There are number of companies looking at these mega constellations."
What is the hold-up?
The UK government's Department for Transport (DfT) told BBC Scotland it had been working hard to develop the Modern Transport Bill but there was currently "no timetable" for its implementation.
A DfT spokeswoman admitted that events over the last year, such as Brexit, had made it difficult to find parliamentary time for the bill.
Dr Macdonald said the Modern Transport Bill was very important as it would bring "clarity" to the regulatory requirements for a UK spaceport.
He said one of the problems would be how the spaceflight would "transition" through the area where civil aircraft are operating would need to be quite well regulated.
"On top of that if you are launching a rocket as an external store on an aircraft or if you are using a spaceplane then the fuel can be quite explosive so you need to have the correct blast radius" Dr Macdonald said.
"There would be a whole range of things that would be required."
Prestwick has done a lot of work in preparation, basing the requirements on those in place in the USA.
They claim it would only cost between £1m and £3.5m to have the airport fit to receive a US licence.
Prestwick Airport's spaceport development officer Richard Jenner said the airport would need to make some modifications but it was confident it already had most safety measures in place.
What are the Scottish sites planning?
The Machrihanish plan is being put together by DiscoverSpace UK.
Its managing director, Tom Millar, told BBC Scotland that vertical take-off was "not on the cards" so it was looking into the options for horizontal launches.
Machrihanish has a very long runway and is not close to large settlements, which meets the original government criteria.
Mr Millar also said that the airspace above the runway had very few commercial flights, taking away the concern over interference with passenger aircraft.
The project is also looking at connecting to a restricted airspace corridor that runs from the Ministry of Defence rocket range at Benbecula.
According to Mr Millar, getting small satellites into space would be a viable revenue stream.
He said the logistics of space tourism "do not stack up at this point".
Prestwick Airport's Richard Jenner said a company called Orbital Access was looking at an air-launch system.
It would use a wide-body carrier aircraft, with special modifications, to support the launch rocket before its release at altitude.
Dr Macdonald says: "They would use an aircraft to get up to altitude. It would carry a launcher rocket underneath the aircraft wings which is released at altitude and it goes up into space from there."
"It is an hybrid solution but would allow you to have a high frequency of launches. It could take off from any airport in terms of the aircraft but because of the rocket there would be a need for additional safety precautions."
Will it happen?
Dr Macdonald says: "I'd be surprised if at least Prestwick does not get a licence.
"Again it comes back to the qualifier that we don't know what the government are looking for but Prestwick have done a lot of work.
"They could start to build up the possibility.
"Whether they will ever become a day to day spaceport, that's quite a long way down the line but in some respects even if you develop the local capability in Scotland to design and build the vehicles that are accessing space but they they go off to operate in China, if they are designed and built in Scotland we are getting a lot of that value anyway."
Spaceport backers in bid for funds
One of the spaceplanes that could be flying out of Newquay.
THE group behind a bid to create a spaceport in Newquay plan to bid for a “large chunk” of the £10 million the Government is offering to push forward commercial spaceflight activity in the UK.
The Cornwall Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) aims to establish horizontal spaceplane launches deploying satellites from Cornwall Airport Newquay, as well as provide low-cost access to space.
The Government is inviting applications for grants to make the UK the first place in Europe where commercial space operators can launch small satellites into orbit, or offer spaceplane flights for science and tourism from 2020.
The growing space and aerospace sector is a key priority for the Cornwall LEP as Newquay airport boasts one of the UK’s longest runways and uncongested airspace, while Goonhilly Earth Station offers mission control, tracking and communication facilities.
Sandra Rothwell, chief executive of the Cornwall LEP, said: “Newquay is the only site able to offer low cost access to space in the UK by the target date of 2020. We are perfectly placed to maximise the potential from the global small satellite launch market, and spaceplane development.
“We are studying the detail of the Government’s call for applications for grant support. They are expecting joint bids from potential launch sites and launch vehicle operators, and the Aerohub team at Newquay is already in dialogue with a number of potential partners from around the world. We are also working with three other LEPs with space-related assets to create a UK-based satellite launch programme and a UK spaceport in Cornwall. And we will be making the case for Cornwall’s ability to deliver what is a vital part of the Government’s new Industrial Strategy.”
Aerohub Enterprise Zone manager, Miles Carden, added: “It is a very welcome announcement and an exciting time for the Enterprise Zone at Cornwall Airport Newquay. We have been working hard behind the scenes for two years to build our plans for a spaceport and a complete satellite launch capability from Cornwall. We are going to make a bid to the fund and hope to get a large chunk of that £10 million for Cornwall.
“What is quite exciting about the bid is that is not just for the infrastructure for the spaceport but also for space vehicle operators such as horizontal launched spaceplanes. We are looking to deliver a specialised facility. This will house, for example, a traditional airliner with a rocket and satellite payload attached. Satellites will be launched by the rocket from the aircraft at a high altitude.
“The money would also be used to support the launch system. We are working with Goonhilly to be our mission control and system tracking services so we are offering a complete package.”
Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson has promised to publish draft legislation to enable safe spaceflight from the UK by 2020 in the next few weeks. The Spaceflight Bill is needed because the rocket planes and other launch systems currently in development around the world would not be able to operate out of the UK.
Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling, said: “We intend to publish a draft spaceflight bill later this month, dedicated to commercial spaceflight in the UK. This legislation will enable small satellite launches and sub-orbital flights from the UK, ensuring we are well placed to take advantage of a growing global market. The space sector is vital to the future of the UK economy, with a strong record of creating high-value jobs and generating wealth across the country. The UK Space Agency is inviting commercial space consortia to apply for grant funding to take the action that will make our ambitions a reality.”
“Together, the proposed legislation and grant funding will have the potential to enable commercial spaceflight from a UK spaceport by 2020.”
Jo Johnson added: “Spaceflight is one of the key pillars of our Industrial Strategy. We want to see the UK space sector flourish, that is why we are laying the groundwork needed for business to be able to access this lucrative global market worth an estimated £25 billion over the next 20 years.”
Newquay MP Steve Double has welcomed the announcement by the Government that they are launching a £10 million scheme looking for bids for grants. Mr Double said: “Cornwall Airport Newquay has been heavily tipped as a potential location for the spaceport and making this a reality is something I have been working with the excellent management team there, as well as colleagues locally and in Westminster, to bring about.
“With this announcement it is clear that Cornwall Airport Newquay is at an exciting place right now. I look forward to supporting the bid for Newquay and will continue to champion Cornwall as the best location for the UK spaceport.”
The LEP and the Aerohub will be attending a UK Space Agency conference in London later this month that will highlight progress being made towards small satellite launch and sub-orbital flights in the UK. The team will be setting out why Newquay is the best place for a UK spaceport. Newquay will also be represented at the national UK Space Conference in Manchester later this year.
Quelle: Newquay Voice
Britain's first spaceports set for lift off as new laws are unveiled that will allow rockets and satellites to take off from Britain
Under the new SpaceFlight bill space ports will be built across the UK
They could be operational as soon as 2020, launching rockets and satellites
Ministers said the UK space sector is the 'future of the British economy'
Private companies will be able to launch their own rockets into space from UK spaceports under new laws unveiled today (Mon).
The powers will allow the launch of satellites, vertical rockets and horizontal flights from the UK for the first time.
Currently satellites can only be launched into orbit from space stations in countries such as the US and India.
But under a new SpaceFlight bill, space ports will be established in regions across the UK.
Spaceports, like this artist's rendition, could soon be operational all around the UK
They will be operational as soon as 2020 and will allow Britain to surge ahead of other countries in the global space race.
Announcing the bill, ministers said the UK space sector is the ‘future of the British economy’ and the Government wants the UK to ‘remain at the forefront of a new commercial space age for the next forty years’.
New powers will mean British scientists will be able to conduct vital experiments in zero gravity which could help develop vaccines and medicines.
Antibiotics grow differently where there is no gravity and so the move has the potential to help scientists conduct revolutionary research.
The flights could also carry out hundreds of vital scientific experiments on medical issues such as ageing and the human body.
Once launched, the space satellites could also help provide broadband to rural communities and monitor weather systems as they move around the earth.
They could even help rural health workers who use satellite communications to diagnose and assist patients situated far from specialist health services.
Aviation Minister Lord Ahmad said: ‘The UK’s space sector is the future of the British economy.’
He said it already employs thousands of people and supports industries worth more than £250million to the economy, and he wants it to grow it further.
He added: ‘Forty years ago, meteorologists couldn’t have imagined the importance of satellites for predicting the weather.
Up until now UK companies have been reliant on space ports in other countries, such as this one in French Guiana
‘Today over 90 per cent of data used in every forecast comes from a satellite, with hundreds of other applications used in GPS, telecommunications and broadband.
‘We have never launched a spaceflight before from this country.
‘Our ambition is to allow for safe and competitive access to space from the UK, so we remain at the forefront of a new commercial space age, for the next forty years.’
The new laws give powers to commercial companies to apply to send rockets into space.
A bill will be introduced later this year which will set out specific rules and regulations for operators - such as safety and insurance measures.
The Government is calling for businesses and industries to come forward with specific proposals for space launches.
In addition, the Government is inviting commercial space businesses to bid for funding to help create a space launch market in the UK.
The space sector already employs thousands in the UK and supports industries worth £250 billion to the economy
The Department for Transport said the ‘sector is vital to the future of the UK economy’.
A spokesman added: ‘It creates high-value jobs and generates wealth across the country.
‘Our regions will benefit from direct access to space as the building of local space ports will lead to more demand in hospitality and tourism services, creating jobs and opportunities.’
Businesses currently have to rely on launch services located in other countries such as the US, Japan, or India, and often have to share launch vehicles, which can lead to delays and restrictions on where satellites can go.
The Bill builds on £10 million of grant funding announced by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy earlier this month which will deliver an early boost to the UK’s commercial spaceflight market.
Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson said: ‘From the launch of Rosetta, the first spacecraft to orbit a comet, to Tim Peake’s six months on the International Space Station, the UK’s space sector has achieved phenomenal things in orbit and beyond.
‘With this week’s Spaceflight Bill launch, we will cement the UK’s position as a world-leader in this emerging market, giving us an opportunity to build on existing strengths in research and innovation.’ New launch technology for small satellites will provide low cost, reliable access to space, the department added.
Forecasts suggest the global market for commercial space flights will be worth £25 billion over the next twenty years.
Quelle: Daily Mail
Craig Dalzell: We’re on the cusp of another revolution – and the space sector could cement Scotland's place at its heart
THE world is becoming increasingly connected and our industries are becoming ever more technological in nature. Right now, Scotland stands on the cusp of a new industrial revolution which could boost our nation’s economy into new frontiers. Encouraging Scotland’s already powerful yet still nascent space industries by the creation of a Scottish Space Agency is precisely the tool we need to become one of the world’s leading space nations. Knowledge of our current strengths and weaknesses in this sector is key and this is where Craig Berry’s paper for Common Weal comes in.
His paper lays out clearly why Scotland’s space industry needs the dedicated and locally present support of a Scottish Space Agency which can tie the sector together and allow it to grow.
Under control of the mission team at ESOC, LISA Pathfinder discarded its propulsion module on 22 January 2016.
After a six-week journey, LISA Pathfinder arrived at its destination today, an orbit around a point of balance in space where it will soon start testing technologies crucial for exploring the gravitational Universe.
LISA Pathfinder is testing the key elements that could be used for a future mission to detect gravitational waves – ripples in spacetime predicted by Albert Einstein in his General Theory of Relativity.
To this end, it will release two test masses into near-perfect free fall and measure their motion with unprecedented accuracy.
LISA Pathfinder was launched on 3 December 2015 and arrived today in its orbit around ‘L1’, the first libration point of the Sun-Earth system, a virtual point in space some 1.5 million km from Earth towards the Sun.
LISA Pathfinder’s arrival came after a final thruster burn using the spacecraft’s hard-working propulsion module on 20 January. The small, 64-second firing was designed to slightly change its speed and just barely tip the craft onto its new orbit about L1.
Since launch, the propulsion module raised the orbit around Earth six times, the last of which kicked it towards L1.
“We had planned two burns to get us into final orbit at L1, but only one was needed,” says Ian Harrison, Spacecraft Operations Manager at ESA’s ESOC operations centre in Darmstadt, Germany.
Separation after arrival 1.5 million km away
The propulsion module separated from the science section at 11:30 GMT (12:30 CET) today after the combination was set spinning for stability.
“Heat and vibration from the regular, hot thrusters on the propulsion module would cause too much disturbance during the spacecraft’s delicate technology demonstration mission,” notes Ian. “Primary propulsion during the rest of the mission will be provided by cold-gas microthrusters to keep us at L1.”
These small thrusters were used in the hours after separation to kill the spin and stabilise the spacecraft.
Today’s operations were monitored by the mission control and science teams at ESOC in real time via the Agency’s deep-space station at Malargüe, Argentina.
During this evening, the craft will be slowly turned to point towards Earth and, around midnight, establish a full communications link via ESA’s New Norcia ground station, Australia.
Next week, LISA Pathfinder’s trajectory will be fine-tuned with a series of three microthruster bursts, taking it onto its final orbit, a 500 000 × 800 000 km orbit around L1.
L1 was chosen because it is a quiet place in space, far away from large bodies such as Earth and is ideal for communications.
Freely floating in space
TEST CUBES FLOATING FREELY INSIDE LISA PATHFINDER
ESA’s LISA Pathfinder has released both of its gold–platinum cubes, and will shortly begin its demanding science mission, placing these test masses in the most precise freefall ever obtained to demonstrate technologies for observing gravitational waves from space.
Launched on 3 December, LISA Pathfinder reached its operational location on 22 January, some 1.5 million km from Earth in the direction of the Sun.
As tests on the spacecraft and its precious payload continue, a major milestone was reached today. For the first time, the two masses – a pair of identical 46 mm gold–platinum cubes – in the heart of the spacecraft are floating freely, several millimetres from the walls of their housings. The cubes sit 38 cm apart linked only by laser beams.
Throughout LISA Pathfinder’s ground handling, launch, the burns that raised its orbit, and the six-week cruise to its work site, each cube was held firmly in place by eight ‘fingers’ pressing on its corners.
The interior layout of LISA Pathfinder's science module.
At the heart of the science module lies the LISA Technology Package. This contains inertial sensors, an optical metrology system, the payload computer and a diagnostic system. The inertial sensors and optical metrology system provide signals to the Drag-Free and Attitude Control System, which in turn commands three clusters of cold-gas micronewton thrusters, as well as feeding back to the inertial sensors.
The solar array (shown here as partly transparent for illustrative purposes) provides the spacecraft with solar power and shields it from the Sun.
On 3 February, the locking fingers were retracted and a valve was opened to allow any residual gas molecules around the cubes to vent to space.
Each cube remained in the centre of its housing held by a pair of rods softly pushing on two opposite sides.
The rods were finally released from one test mass yesterday and from the other today, leaving the cubes floating freely, with no mechanical contact with the spacecraft.
“This is why we sent the test cubes into space: to recreate conditions that are impossible to achieve in the gravitational field of our planet,” says Paul McNamara, ESA’s project scientist.
“Only under these conditions is it possible to test freefall in the purest achievable form. We can’t wait to start running experiments with this amazing gravity laboratory.”
It will be another week before the cubes are left completely at the mercy of gravity, with no other forces acting on them. Before then, minute electrostatic forces are being applied to move them around and make them follow the spacecraft as its flight through space is slightly perturbed by outside forces such as pressure from sunlight.
On 23 February, the team will switch LISA Pathfinder to science mode for the first time, and the opposite will become true: the cubes will be in freefall and the spacecraft will start sensing any motions towards them owing to external forces. Microthrusters will make minuscule shifts in order to keep the craft centred on one mass.
Then the scientists will be in a position to run several months of experiments to determine how accurately the two freely-flying test masses can be kept positioned relative to each other, making measurements with the laser that links them.
Roughly speaking, the required accuracy is on the order of a millionth of a millionth of a metre.
Testmassen von LISA Pathfinder schweben frei
Entscheidender Meilenstein auf dem Weg zum wissenschaftlichen Missionsbetrieb im März
Die LISA Pathfinder-Missionswissenschaftler haben erfolgreich erstmals beide würfelförmigen Gold-Platin-Testmassen im Satelliten freigesetzt. LISA Pathfinder wird diese Würfel im präzisesten jemals erreichten freien Fall vermessen, um Kerntechnologien für die Beobachtung von Gravitationswellen im Weltraum zu demonstrieren.
LISA Pathfinder startete am 3. Dezember 2015 ins All und erreichte sein Ziel – rund 1,5 Millionen Kilometer von der Erde entfernt in Richtung Sonne – am 22. Januar 2016. Die erste Komponenten der wissenschaftlichen Nutzlast wurden erfolgreich zwischen dem 11. und 13. Januar in aktiviert, gefolgt von weiteren Inbetriebnahmeschritten.
Nun wurde ein Meilenstein auf dem Weg zum wissenschaftlichen Missionsbetrieb erreicht, der am 1. März beginnen soll. Erstmals wurden die beiden Testmassen von LISA Pathfinder – zwei identische 46 mm große Würfel aus einer Gold-Platin-Legierung – von ihren Haltemechanismen freigegeben und schweben nun frei innerhalb des Satelliten. Ein Laserinterferometer vermisst den Abstand zwischen den Massen mit höchster Präzision.
„LISA Pathfinder arbeitet weiterhin perfekt! Das Freilassen der Testmassen erforderte etwas Lernen, aber das Team hat dann schnell eine elegante Lösung gefunden. Mit dem erfolgreichen Betrieb eines Laserinterferometers im Weltraum zwischen zwei freischwebenden Testmassen liefert LISA Pathfinder eine echte Weltneuheit!“, sagt Prof. Karsten Danzmann, Director am Max-Planck-Institut für Gravitationsphysik und Direktor des Instituts für Gravitationsphysik der Leibniz Universität Hannover. „Wir stehen nun kurz vor dem Beginn der wissenschaftlichen Mission, die Schlüsseltechnologien zur Beobachtung von Gravitationswellen im Weltraum demonstrieren wird.“
Während der Vorbereitung des Satelliten am Boden, während des Starts und der Bahnmanöver, die LISA Pathfinder nach einer sechswöchigen Reise zum Lagrangepunkt L1 brachten, wurden beide Würfel fest mit acht „Fingern“ an den Ecken fixiert. Am 3. Februar wurden diese Haltefinger gelöst, gleichzeitig wurde ein Ventil geöffnet, um die Restmoleküle aus der Vakuumkammer um die Testmassen zum Weltraum zu entlüften.
Ein Paar von Druckstäben, die die Würfel beidseitig feinfühlig fixierten, hielt die Testmassen bislang in der Mitte der Einhausungen fest. Diese Druckstäbe wurden nun gestern von der einen Testmasse und heute von der anderen gelöst. Nun schweben die Würfel frei im Abstand von einigen Millimetern von den Wänden der Einhausung ohne mechanischen Kontakt zum Satelliten.
Präzisionsmessungen mittels Laserinterferometrie
Zwischen den zwei Testmassen, die rund 38 Zentimeter von einander entfernt sind, befindet sich ein Laserinterferometer, das die Positionen und die Ausrichtung der beiden Testmassen relativ zum Satelliten und zueinander mit bisher unerreichter Genauigkeit von etwa zehn Pikometern (hundertmillionstel Millimeter) bestimmt. Dieses optische Präzisionsmesssystem wurde unter Federführung und mit maßgeblicher Beteiligung von Forschenden des Max-Planck-Instituts für Gravitationsphysik und von der Leibniz Universität in Hannover entwickelt und gebaut.
Die Testmassen werden derzeit durch elektrostatische Kräfte von den Elektrodeneinhausungen kontrolliert. Dies sorgt dafür, dass die Testmassen den Bewegungen des Satelliten folgen. In einer Woche soll LISA Pathfinder erstmals im wissenschaftlichen Messbetrieb laufen. Dann werden die Testmassen im vollständigen Freifall sein und der Satellit wird ihren Bewegungen mittels seiner Mikronewton-Triebwerke folgen.
Datenanalyse in Hannover
Nach einer Woche letzter Überprüfungen wird die wissenschaftliche Mission von LISA Pathfinder am 1. März beginnen. Diese wird Schlüsseltechnologien für den Nachweis von Gravitationswellen im Weltraum demonstrieren und validieren. So wird die Mission den Weg für zukünftige Gravitationswellen-Observatorien im All – wie eLISA – ebnen.
Forschende der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft und der Leibniz Universität in Hannover sind führend an der Entwicklung der Auswertungssoftware beteiligt, die eine zentrale Rolle beim Extrahieren der entscheidenden Information aus den Messdaten spielt. Dafür betreibt das Institut einen Kontrollraum in Hannover. Da eine unmittelbare Auswertung der Daten für die Konfiguration der Folgeuntersuchungen entscheidend ist, besetzen Forscher des Instituts außerdem rund um die Uhr Schichten im Darmstädter Kontrollzentrum (ESOC) der europäischen Weltraumagentur ESA.
LISA Pathfinder ist eine Mission der ESA. Daran beteiligt sind europäische Raumfahrtunternehmen unter der Systemverantwortung von Airbus DS, Forschungseinrichtungen aus Frankreich, Deutschland, Italien, den Niederlanden, Spanien, der Schweiz, und Großbritannien sowie die NASA.
LISA Pathfinder wird aufgrund eines Beschlusses des Deutschen Bundestages vom Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Energie über das Deutsche Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR) gefördert.
Wegbereiter für eine neue Astronomie
LISA Pathfinder ist Wegbereiter für eLISA, ein großes Weltraumobservatorium, das eines der am schwersten fassbaren astronomischen Phänomene direkt beobachten soll – Gravitationswellen. Der Nachweis dieser von Albert Einstein im Jahr 1916 vorhergesagten winzigen Verzerrungen der Raumzeit erfordert eine sehr empfindliche und hochpräzise Messtechnik. Kürzlich gelang mit den erdgebundenen Advanced LIGO-Detektoren der erste direkte Nachweis. Weltraumobservatorien wie eLISA werden Gravitationswellen mit Frequenzen im Millihertz-Bereich nachweisen, wie sie Paare extrem massereicher schwarzer Löcher oder Doppelsternsysteme aus weißen Zwergen aussenden. So ergänzen sie irdische Detektoren wie GEO600, aLIGO und Virgo, die bei höheren Frequenzen (im Audiobereich) Gravitationswellen von weniger massereichen Objekten aufspüren sollen. Im Zusammenspiel mit anderen astronomischen Methoden werden diese Gravitationswellen-Observatorien bisher noch unbekannte Bereiche beobachten, gleichsam die dunkle Seite des Universums. Mit eLISA wollen die Forscher in 20 Jahren verfolgen, wie massereiche schwarze Löcher entstehen, wachsen und miteinander verschmelzen. Und auch die Entwicklung von Galaxien während der gesamten Vergangenheit des Universums wird sich erfassen lassen. Außerdem soll eLISA Vorhersagen der Allgemeinen Relativitätstheorie überprüfen und nach bisher unbekannter Physik suchen.
Das hochempfindliche Messsystem von LISA Pathfinder
In den zwei separaten Vakuumtanks der wissenschaftlichen Nutzlast von LPF sollen während des Missionsbetriebs jeweils eine würfelförmige Testmasse von zwei Kilogramm (nahezu) frei von allen inneren und äußeren Störkräften schweben und so die präzise Vermessung einer kräftefreien Bewegung im Raum demonstrieren. Eine spezielle Gold-Platin-Legierung sorgt dafür, dass auf die Massen keine magnetischen Kräfte wirken; eine berührungslose Entladung mit Hilfe von UV-Strahlung stellt sicher, dass keine elektrostatische Aufladung erfolgt. Eine besondere Herausforderung stellt dabei der sogenannte Caging-and-Venting-Mechanismus dar, der die Testmassen während der heftigen Vibrationen beim Start von LISA Pathfinder sichert, sie kontrolliert freigibt und sie gegebenenfalls auch wieder einfängt. Mittels Laserinterferometrie werden die Positionen und die Ausrichtung der beiden Testmassen relativ zum Satelliten und zueinander mit bisher unerreichter Genauigkeit von etwa 10 Pikometern (ein hundertmillionstel Millimeter) gemessen. Darüber hinaus werden die Positionen über kapazitive Inertialsensoren mit geringerer Genauigkeit erfasst. Die Messdaten werden dazu verwendet, mit Hilfe eines „Drag-Free Attitude Control System (DFACS)“ die Sonde so zu steuern, dass sie gewissermaßen stets auf eine der Testmassen zentriert bleibt. Die eigentliche Lageregelung des Satelliten erfolgt dabei durch Kaltgas-Mikronewton-Triebwerke. Diese ermöglichen eine extrem feine und gleichmäßige Regelung des Antriebschubs. Die Schubkräfte liegen im Bereich von Mikronewton – dies entspricht der Gewichtskraft eines Sandkorns auf der Erde.
Quelle: Max-Planck-Institut für Gravitationsphysik (Albert-Einstein-Institut)
WATCH LISA PATHFINDER BRIEFING
Livestreaming of the media briefing on the first results from ESA’s LISA Pathfinder mission will begin on 7 June at 09:30 GMT (11:30 CEST). LISA Pathfinder is a technology demonstrator for the observation of gravitational waves from space.
09:30–09:40 GMT / 11:30–11:40 CEST
Opening up the gravitational Universe for ESA’s Science Programme
Fabio Favata, Head of the Coordination Office, ESA Directorate of Science
09:40–09:50 GMT / 11:40–11:50 CEST
LISA Pathfinder: A new way to look at our Universe
Paul McNamara, ESA LISA Pathfinder Project Scientist
09:50–10:00 GMT / 11:50–12:00 CEST
LISA Pathfinder optical metrology performance
Martin Hewitson, LISA Pathfinder Deputy Primary Investigator, University of Hanover
10:00–10:10 GMT / 12:00–12:10 CEST
LISA Pathfinder first results
Stefano Vitale, LISA Pathfinder Primary Investigator, University of Trento
10:10–11:00 GMT / 12:10–13:00 CEST
Question and Answer sessions and opportunity for individual interviews
LISA PATHFINDER EXCEEDS EXPECTATIONS
ESA’s LISA Pathfinder mission has demonstrated the technology needed to build a space-based gravitational wave observatory.
Results from only two months of science operations show that the two cubes at the heart of the spacecraft are falling freely through space under the influence of gravity alone, unperturbed by other external forces, to a precision more than five times better than originally required.
In a paper published today in Physical Review Letters, the LISA Pathfinder team show that the test masses are almost motionless with respect to each other, with a relative acceleration lower than 1 part in ten millionths of a billionth of Earth’s gravity.
The demonstration of the mission’s key technologies opens the door to the development of a large space observatory capable of detecting gravitational waves emanating from a wide range of exotic objects in the Universe.
LISA Pathfinder performance
Hypothesised by Albert Einstein a century ago, gravitational waves are oscillations in the fabric of spacetime, moving at the speed of light and caused by the acceleration of massive objects.
They can be generated, for example, by supernovas, neutron star binaries spiralling around each other, and pairs of merging black holes.
Even from these powerful objects, however, the fluctuations in spacetime are tiny by the time they arrive at Earth – smaller than 1 part in 100 billion billion.
Sophisticated technologies are needed to register such minuscule changes, and gravitational waves were directly detected for the first time only in September 2015 by the ground-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO).
This experiment saw the characteristic signal of two black holes, each with some 30 times the mass of the Sun, spiralling towards one another in the final 0.3 seconds before they coalesced to form a single, more massive object.
The signals seen by LIGO have a frequency of around 100 Hz, but gravitational waves span a much broader spectrum. In particular, lower-frequency oscillations are produced by even more exotic events such as the mergers of supermassive black holes.
With masses of millions to billions of times that of the Sun, these giant black holes sit at the centres of massive galaxies. When two galaxies collide, these black holes eventually coalesce, releasing vast amounts of energy in the form of gravitational waves throughout the merger process, and peaking in the last few minutes.
NASA moves to rejoin sped-up gravitational wave mission
Earlier this year, scientists announced the detection of gravitational waves—Einstein’s ripples in spacetime—for the first time on Earth. Those ripples are now reverberating through NASA, nudging the agency to mend fences with the European Space Agency (ESA) and rejoin an ambitious mission, called the Laser Interferometry Space Antenna (LISA), to study gravitational waves from space.
This week, at the 11th LISA symposium in Zürich, Switzerland, a NASA official said he was ready to rejoin the LISA mission, which the agency left in 2011. Meanwhile, ESA says it is trying to move the launch of the mission up several years from 2034. “This is a very important meeting,” says David Shoemaker, a gravitational wave physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. “It feels like a turning point.”
Plans for LISA date back more than 2 decades. Three separate spacecraft, flying millions of kilometers apart from each other at the vertices of a giant triangle, would precisely measure their mutual separations using sensitive lasers, and thus be capable of detecting low-frequency ripples in spacetime. The objects causing these low-frequency ripples—such as orbiting supermassive black holes at the centers of distant galaxies—would be different from the higher frequency ripples, emitted by collisions of much smaller black holes, that have so far been detected on Earth.
Originally, LISA was conceived as a joint ESA-NASA mission. Both partners would pay 50% of the mission cost, estimated at some $2 billion. But in April 2011, NASA dropped out of the collaboration because of budgetary problems, and the program was almost killed. “The next year, the LISA symposium felt like a funeral,” recalls astrophysicist Paul McNamara of ESA’s space research and technology center ESTEC in Noordwijk, the Netherlands.
Then, in 2013, a trimmed-down, €1 billion version of LISA was selected by ESA as its L3 mission—the third large mission in its Cosmic Vision 2020 program. Called eLISA (where the “e” euphemistically stands for “evolved”), it would have less capability and sensitivity than the original design. Launch was foreseen for 2034. NASA expressed interest to become a minor partner, providing technological support.
But things have changed a lot in the past few years. ESA’s technology demonstrator LISA Pathfinder, launched in December 2015, has performed flawlessly, says McNamara, who is the mission’s project scientist. Then, in February, the ground-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory experiment announced that it had bagged its first direct detections.
In June, a NASA-appointed L3 Study Team presented its interim report, suggesting ways for the agency to rejoin the program as a senior partner. And on 15 August, a midterm assessment of the National Academy of Sciences’s (NAS) 2010 Decadal Report, which reviews U.S. priorities for astronomy and astrophysics, strongly recommended NASA to restore support to the space observatory this decade, and to help restore the mission to its original full capacity.
It now looks like the recommendations are taking effect. At the Zürich meeting, Paul Hertz, the director of NASA’s astrophysics division, said: “2011 saw the dissolution of our original LISA partnership. But I’m here to move forward from that.” NASA’s contribution may not get back to 50%, but according to the NAS report, what’s required is “a significantly larger U.S. contribution than the $150 million […] currently being considered”.
Meanwhile, ESA’s Director of Science Alvaro Giménez in Madrid announced that the call for mission concepts for eLISA will be brought forward from 2018 to next month. “We want to make your dreams come true,” he told the gravitational-wave scientists at the meeting. “Although 2029 is probably too optimistic, we might be able to launch the mission a few years earlier, somewhere in the early 2030s.” According to Giménez, not restoring a much stronger partnership with NASA is now almost unthinkable.
Scientists at the meeting were pleased. “When we launch 14 or 15 years from now, this meeting will be seen as the rebirth of LISA,” says Karsten Danzmann of the Albert Einstein Institute in Hannover, Germany, who is LISA Pathfinder’s co–principal investigator.
Adds Shoemaker: “Let’s drop the ‘e’ in eLISA from now on. There’s only one LISA again.”
NASA Microthrusters Achieve Success on ESA's LISA Pathfinder
This cluster of four colloid thrusters, part of the Disturbance Reduction System developed by NASA/JPL, helps keep the LISA Pathfinder spacecraft extremely stable. › Larger view
A next-generation technology demonstration mission has just passed a big milestone.
The Space Technology 7 Disturbance Reduction System (ST7-DRS) is a system of thrusters, advanced avionics and software managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. It has been flying on the European Space Agency's LISA Pathfinder spacecraft, which launched from Kourou, French Guiana on Dec. 3, 2015 GMT (Dec. 2 PST). As of Oct. 17, the system had logged roughly 1,400 hours of in-flight operations and met 100 percent of its mission goals.
Most thrusters are designed to move a spacecraft, but ST7-DRS has a different purpose: to hold Pathfinder as perfectly still as possible. This allows the spacecraft to test technologies used in the detection of gravitational waves, whose effects are so miniscule that it requires extreme steadiness to detect them.
Just how steady is that? Steady enough that "position noise" -- subtle vibrations in Pathfinder's position -- won't exceed 2 nanometers. That's about the diameter of a DNA helix. This kind of precision is needed to counteract the biggest disturbance to Pathfinder: the pressure from sunlight pushing on the spacecraft (about 25 micronewtons).
"Here's another way of thinking about it: when the thrusters fire at full throttle, they produce a maximum force of 30 micronewtons -- equivalent to the weight of a mosquito landing on the spacecraft," said John Ziemer of JPL, ST7-DRS systems lead. "To maintain our precise position, the thrusters can be controlled in 0.1 micronewton increments, equivalent to the weight of that mosquito's antenna."
Balancing all the disturbances on the spacecraft allows Pathfinder's instruments to stay in near-perfect free fall. This lays the groundwork for a future Pathfinder-type mission, which will need this kind of stability to cancel out any force other than the subtle tug of gravitational waves, produced by supermassive objects like black holes.
"This achievement represents the last hurdle for this microthruster technology development, which the project has been chartered to perform," said JPL's Phil Barela, project manager for ST7-DRS. "Our successful development and demonstration of this electrospray technology will pave the way for future gravitational wave missions, or other missions requiring precise control of spacecraft position and pointing."
Large space observatories and spacecraft formation-flying missions could both benefit from this technology, Barela added.
ST7-DRS is a system of eight thrusters positioned on either side of the Pathfinder spacecraft. Each thruster emits microscopic liquid droplets called a colloid electrospray, which are created and charged through an electric field. These ionized droplets are accelerated by a second electric field with an opposite charge, which pushes them out of the thruster. The force of that reaction provides the "thrust" that steadies the spacecraft.
The electrospray microthrusters were developed by Busek Co., Inc., Natick, Massachusetts, with technical support from JPL.
"The success of the ST7-DRS mission emphasizes the enormous benefit of one of NASA/JPL's key charters: to mature high-risk technology that can benefit future space exploration," Barela said. "The collaborative relationship between NASA/JPL, ESA, Busek and Goddard Space Flight Center has been the key enabler for this project's success."
The Pathfinder spacecraft was built by Airbus Defence and Space, Ltd., United Kingdom. Airbus Defence and Space, GmbH, Germany, is the payload architect for the LISA Technology Package.
Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages JPL for NASA.
LISA PATHFINDER: BAKE, RATTLE AND ROLL
LISA Pathfinder operating in space
The final days of the LISA Pathfinder mission are some of the busiest, as controllers make final tests and get ready to switch off the gravitational pioneer next Tuesday.
Following 16 months of scientific effort, LISA Pathfinder completed its main mission on 30 June, having demonstrated the technology needed to operate ESA’s future LISA space observatory to study gravitational waves – ripples in spacetime predicted by Albert Einstein in his General Theory of Relativity.
The LISA mission will comprise three spacecraft orbiting some 2.5 million km apart in a triangular formation, with their ‘test masses’ isolated from all external forces bar gravity and linked by laser beams.
With the required sensitivity fully proven by LISA Pathfinder, teams are now using the spacecraft’s last days to conduct a series of technical tests on components and devices, making full use of every remaining minute.
LISA Pathfinder flight controllers
“These tests will give us a better grasp of the craft’s behaviour and provide valuable feedback to the manufacturers about the characteristics of their equipment, in both routine and unusual conditions,” says spacecraft operations manager Ian Harrison.
“The gravitational wave detectors work by measuring the changing separation of two cubes that are in free-fall. Changes in the spacecraft’s state or any movement may interfere with the measurements, and we want to better understand these for the future mission.”
In addition to satellite movement, the delicate cubes on LISA Pathfinder can be influenced by variations in their environment, such as in temperature and magnetic interference.
Working at ESA’s mission control centre in Darmstadt, Germany, the controllers have been conducting daily tests since the mission formally ended its normal phase on 30 June. These could not be performed before because meeting the science goals required a very stable and ‘quiet’ environment.
Engineers have commanded the craft to turn to assess thermal effects on its systems, particularly the micropropulsion system, from solar illumination.
Repeating thermal tests previously performed on the ground will help to improve procedures for the future LISA mission.