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Archive for May, 2019

Israeli spacecraft crashes during moon landing: mission control

By Stephen Weizman

Jerusalem (AFP)

April 11, 2019

Israel’s attempt at a moon landing failed at the last minute on Thursday when the craft suffered an engine failure as it prepared to land and apparently crashed onto the lunar surface.

“We didn’t make it, but we definitely tried,” project originator and major backer Morris Kahn said in a live videocast from mission control near Tel Aviv.

“I think that the achievement of getting to where we got is really tremendous, I think we can be proud,” he said.

During the broadcast, control staff could be heard saying that engines meant to slow the craft’s descent and allow a soft landing had failed and contact with it had been lost.

“We are on the moon but not in the way we wanted,” one unidentified staffer said.

“We are the seventh country to orbit the moon and the fourth to reach the moon’s surface,” said another.

Only Russia, the United States and China have made the 384,000-kilometre (239,000-mile) journey and landed safely on the Moon.

“If at first you don’t succeed, you try again,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from the control room, where he had been watching along with US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.

“We reached the moon but we’d like to land more comfortably,” he added. “That will be for the next attempt.”

The 585-kilogram (1,290-pound) unmanned spacecraft named Beresheet, which means “Genesis” in Hebrew, resembles a tall, oddly shaped table with round fuel tanks under the top.

Israeli NGO SpaceIL and state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), the project’s two main partners, have described it as the “world’s first spacecraft built in a non-governmental mission”.

Khan, a philanthropist and chairman of SpaceIL, put up $40 million of the project’s $100 million budget.

Other partners who joined later are from “the private sector, government and academia,” according to the IAI website.

Just before the landing attempt Netanyahu said that he was thinking about initiating a national space project.

“I am seriously considering investing in a space program,” he said in the webcast.

“It has national implications for Israel and implications for humanity.”

The country’s president, Reuven Rivlin, viewed the broadcast with 80 middle school space buffs at his official Jerusalem residence, his office said in a statement.

“We are full of admiration for the wonderful people who brought the spacecraft to the moon,” he said after the crash. “True, not as we had hoped, but we will succeed in the end. This is a great achievement that we have not yet completed.”

Although the journey is 384,000 kilometers, Beresheet will have traveled a total of 6.5 million kilometers due to a series of orbits.

It was launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida on February 22 with a Falcon 9 rocket from Elon Musk’s private US-based SpaceX company.

Its speed has reached 10 kilometers per second, (36,000 kilometers per hour).

The one-way trip was to have included an attempt to measure the lunar magnetic field, which would have helped understanding of the moon’s formation.

– Google prize –

The project began as part of the Google Lunar XPrize, which in 2010 offered $30 million in awards to encourage scientists and entrepreneurs to come up with relatively low-cost moon missions.

Although the Google prize expired in March without a winner, Israel’s team pledged to push forward.

The Israeli mission came amid renewed global interest in the moon, 50 years after American astronauts first walked on its surface.

China’s Chang’e-4 made the first-ever soft landing on the far side of the moon on January 3, after a probe sent by Beijing made a lunar landing elsewhere in 2013.

US President Donald Trump’s administration announced in March it was speeding up plans to send American astronauts back to the moon, bringing forward the target date from 2028 to 2024.

India hopes to become the next lunar country in the spring with its Chandrayaan-2 mission. It aims to put a craft with a rover onto the moon’s surface to collect data.

Japan plans to send a small lunar lander, called SLIM, to study a volcanic area around 2020-2021.

The United States remains the only country to have walked on the moon, with 12 astronauts having taken part in six missions between 1969 and 1972.

Source: Moon Daily.

Link: http://www.moondaily.com/reports/Israeli_spacecraft_crashes_during_moon_landing_mission_control_999.html.

US wants astronauts back on Moon within five years: Pence

Washington (AFP)

March 26, 2019

Vice President Mike Pence announced Tuesday that the United States intends to send astronauts back to the Moon within five years, with a woman first in line to set foot on the lunar surface.

“It is the stated policy of this administration and the United States of America to return American astronauts to the Moon, within the next five years,” Pence said in a speech in Huntsville, Alabama.

“Let me be clear, the first woman and the next man on the Moon will both be American astronauts launched by American rockets from American soil,” he said.

The first manned Moon mission in more than half a century had been scheduled for 2028.

But the program has encountered frustrating delays in the development of a new heavy rocket for the Moon missions, the SLS, whose first flight was recently pushed back to 2021.

In his speech, Pence criticized the “bureaucratic inertia” and “paralysis by analysis” that he said had resulted in the SLS delays, and called for a “new mindset” at the space agency.

He threatened to use commercial launch systems if NASA is not ready in time.

“If commercial rockets are the only way to get American astronauts to the Moon in the next five years, then commercial rockets it will be,” he said.

“Urgency must be our watchword. Failure to achieve our goal to return an American astronaut to the Moon in the next five years is not an option.”

NASA’s chief, Jim Bridenstine, recently said a woman would undoubtedly be the first human to set foot on the Moon since 1972, the last time there was a manned mission to the Moon.

Source: Moon Daily.

Link: http://www.moondaily.com/reports/US_wants_astronauts_back_on_Moon_within_five_years_Pence_999.html.

Returning Astronauts to the Moon: Lockheed Martin Finalizes Full-Scale Cislunar Habitat Prototype

Cape Canaveral FL (SPX)

Mar 15, 2019

For long-duration, deep space missions, astronauts will need a highly efficient and reconfigurable space, and Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) is researching and designing ways to support those missions.

Under a public-private partnership as a part of NASA’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) Phase II study contract, Lockheed Martin has completed the initial ground prototype for a cislunar habitat that would be compatible with NASA’s Gateway architecture. This habitat will help NASA study and assess the critical capabilities needed to build a sustainable presence around the Moon and support pioneering human exploration in deep space.

The full-scale prototype, or Habitat Ground Test Article (HGTA), is built inside of a repurposed shuttle-era cargo container, called a Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM), at Kennedy Space Center. Using rapid prototyping and modern design tools like virtual and augmented reality, the team customized the interior making full use of the entire volume of the module to accommodate a variety of tasks like science missions and personal needs of future astronauts.

The team also studied how to apply the advanced, deep space capabilities that are already built in to NASA’s Orion spacecraft. Through additional research and development funding, the NextSTEP team also applied mixed-reality technology to further refine the concept.

“Throughout the design and engineering process of this high-fidelity prototype, we have kept the diversity of missions top-of-mind,” said Bill Pratt, Lockheed Martin Space NextSTEP program manager. “By building modularity in from the beginning, our design can support Lunar orbit and surface science missions along with commercial operations, all while accelerating the path to the Moon.”

Over the past five months, the team used tools like virtual and augmented reality to simplify and streamline the build-up process. They also applied expertise from Lockheed Martin’s heritage of operating autonomous interplanetary robotic missions, like OSIRIS-REx and InSight, to integrate reliable robotic capabilities in to the design.

“Getting back to the Moon, and eventually Mars, is no small feat, but our team are mission visionaries,” said Pratt. “They have worked to apply lessons learned from our experience with deep space robotic missions to this first-of-its-kind spacecraft around the Moon.”

The Lockheed Martin team will soon transition the prototype to the NASA NextSTEP team for assessment. During the week of March 25, a team of NASA astronauts will live and work inside the prototype, evaluating the layout and providing feedback.

The NASA test team will also validate the overall design and will be able to evaluate the standards and common interfaces, like the International Docking System Standard (IDSS), and how to apply those systems for long-term missions based at the Lunar Gateway. Once NASA testing has completed, Lockheed Martin will continue to optimize and study the prototype to prepare for other Lunar efforts.

Source: Moon Daily.

Link: http://www.moondaily.com/reports/Returning_Astronauts_to_the_Moon_Lockheed_Martin_Finalizes_Full_Scale_Cislunar_Habitat_Prototype_999.html.

Floating ideas for an airlock near the Moon

Paris (ESA)

Mar 14, 2019

Assembly of a new habitable structure near the Moon, known as the Gateway, is scheduled to begin in 2023. The international project will allow humans to explore farther than ever before and it brings new opportunities for European design in space.

In late 2018, ESA commissioned two consortia – one led by Airbus and the other by Thales Alenia Space – to undertake parallel studies into the design of a scientific airlock. Similarly to the Japanese Experiment Module Kibo on the International Space Station, this airlock will allow scientific experiments to be transferred from the Gateway to and from outer space.

The scientific airlock forms one part of a European module called ESPRIT – a module that will also enable refuelling and provide telecommunications with the Moon and Earth.

Though it is still very early days for the ESPRIT development, ESA astronaut Jean-Francois Clervoy and ESA astronaut trainer Herve Stevenin recently had the opportunity to get hands-on with one airlock concept in Marseille, France and see how this could work in space.

Working underwater

Designed and constructed by French company Comex for Airbus, the mockup of ESPRIT’s interior was tested underwater to simulate the weightlessness of space.

The team, led by Peter Weiss, used 3D-printed models to represent the hardware that will be operated by astronauts in the Gateway. These included parts of the robotic arm to be developed for the Gateway by the Canadian Space Agency.

Comex diver Kathrin Nowack says the test’s main objectives were to evaluate requirements for payload operations and determine the best positioning for two cameras that will allow operations to be viewed from Earth.

“We wanted to see whether the astronauts had enough space to install hardware onto the payload table, perform any necessary checks and then move them through the airlock tunnel to be exposed to space,” she explains. “We also wanted to make sure the crew members had room to carry out maintenance or repair work inside the airlock and to identify where further crew interfaces – such as handrails – are required.”

To ensure a truly representative study, Jean-Francois and Herve carried out the testing in neoprene suits while breathing through a long regulator hose connected to the surface.

ESA study manager Philippe Schoonejans says this was important to “mimic the environment of the Gateway in which astronauts will be floating around in regular clothing”.

First impressions

Having spent 28 days in space over the course of three Shuttle missions, Philippe says Jean-Francois was well-suited to the testing. Herve has also logged seven hours in weightlessness while training astronauts during parabolic flights. These experiences enabled the pair to evaluate both the accessibility and the ergonomics of the module.

“Through the testing, we were able to confirm that this preliminary inner design would be compatible with tasks astronauts are expected to perform in weightlessness and identify the best place to put handrails to ensure optimal stability of the crew as they carry out payload handling and airlock operations,” Herve says.

Philippe says the team was also impressed with the sheer size of expected payloads and robotic interfaces.

“While we had seen the dimensions of these components in the documents, seeing full-scale 3D-printed models allowed us to better understand just how incredibly large they are,” Philippe says. “It’s something we will need to consider throughout the process in terms of balancing mass and strength.”

Forward to the Moon

So, what exactly are the next steps? Philippe says for Airbus and Comex this was a confirmation and fact-finding mission. They will now use the test results to refine their concept and streamline their design.

Thales Alenia Space will also continue to work on their airlock concept and ESA intends to issue a competitive request for proposal in the summer. At this stage both companies will be asked to present their concepts and costings for consideration ahead of ESA’s next Ministerial Council in November.

Source: Moon Daily.

Link: http://www.moondaily.com/reports/Floating_ideas_for_an_airlock_near_the_Moon_999.html.

JAXA and Toyota to study joint lunar project

Tokyo, Japan (SPX)

Mar 14, 2019

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Toyota Motor Corporation (Toyota) have announced an to consider collaborating on international space exploration. As a first step, JAXA and Toyota have reached agreement to further cooperate on and accelerate their ongoing joint study*1 of a manned, pressurized rover*2 that employs fuel cell electric vehicle technologies.

Such a form of mobility is deemed necessary for human exploration activities on the lunar surface. Even with the limited amount of energy that can be transported to the moon, the pressurized rover would have a total lunar-surface cruising range of more than 10,000 km.

International space exploration, aiming to achieve sustainable prosperity for all of humankind by expanding the domain of human activity and giving rise to intellectual properties, has its sights set on the moon and Mars. To achieve the goals of such exploration, coordination between robotic missions, such as the recent successful touchdown by the asteroid probe Hayabusa2 on the asteroid Ryugu, and human missions, such as those involving humans using pressurized rovers to conduct activities on the moon, is essential. When it comes to challenging missions such as lunar or Martian exploration, various countries are competing in advancing their technologies, while also advancing their cooperative efforts.

JAXA President Hiroshi Yamakawa said about the agreement between JAXA and Toyota: “At JAXA, we are pursuing international coordination and technological studies toward Japan’s participation in international space exploration. We aim to contribute through leading Japanese technologies that can potentially generate spin-off benefits.

Having Toyota join us in the challenge of international space exploration greatly strengthens our confidence. Manned rovers with pressurized cabins are an element that will play an important role in full-fledged exploration and use of the lunar surface.

For this, we would like to concentrate our country’s technological abilities and conduct technological studies. Through our joint studies going forward, we would like to put to use Toyota’s excellent technological abilities related to mobility, and we look forward to the acceleration of our technological studies for the realization of a manned, pressurized rover.”

Toyota President Akio Toyoda said: “The automotive industry has long done business with the concepts of ‘hometown’ and ‘home country’ largely in mind. However, from now on, in responding to such matters as environmental issues of global scale, the concept of ‘home planet’, from which all of us come, will become a very important concept.

“Going beyond the frameworks of countries or regions, I believe that our industry, which is constantly thinking about the role it should fulfill, shares the same aspirations of international space exploration.

“Furthermore, cars are used in all of Earth’s regions, and, in some regions, cars play active roles as partners for making sure that people come back alive. And I think that coming back alive is exactly what is needed in this project.

“I am extremely happy that, for this project, expectations have been placed on the thus-far developed durability and driving performance of Toyota vehicles and on our fuel cell environmental technologies.”

Also, at a symposium held in Tokyo, JAXA Vice President Koichi Wakata and Toyota Executive Vice President Shigeki Terashi held a talk session, excerpts from which are shown below.

JAXA Vice President Koichi Wakata in speaking about the announcement said, “At JAXA, we are studying various scenarios as well as technologies that will be applied to specific space missions. Manned, pressurized rovers will be an important element supporting human lunar exploration, which we envision will take place in the 2030s. We aim at launching such a rover into space in 2029.

“Lunar gravity is one-sixth of that on Earth. Meanwhile, the moon has a complex terrain with craters, cliffs, and hills. Moreover, it is exposed to radiation and temperature conditions that are much harsher than those on Earth, as well as an ultra-high vacuum environment.

“For wide ranging human exploration of the moon, a pressurized rover that can travel more than 10,000 km in such environments is a necessity. Toyota’s ‘space mobility’ concept meets such mission requirements. Toyota and JAXA have been jointly studying the concept of a manned, pressurized rover since May of 2018.

“Thus far, our joint study, has examined a preliminary concept for a manned, pressurized rover system, and we have identified the technological issues that must be solved. Going forward, we want to utilize Toyota’s and JAXA’s technologies, human resources, and knowledge, among others, to continuously solve those issues.

“International space exploration is a challenge to conquer the unknown. To take up such a challenge, we believe it is important to gather our country’s technological capabilities and engage as ‘Team Japan’. Through our collaboration with Toyota as the starting point, we can further expand the resources of ‘Team Japan’ in the continued pursuit of international space exploration.”

Toyota Executive Vice President Shigeki Terashi further added, “As an engineer, there is no greater joy than being able to participate in such a lunar project by way of Toyota’s car-making and, furthermore, by way of our technologies related to electrified vehicles, such as fuel cell batteries, and our technologies related to autonomous and automated driving. I am filled with great excitement.

“Fuel cells, which use clean power-generation methods, emit only water, and, because of their high energy density, they can provide a lot of energy, making them especially suited for the project being discussed with JAXA.

“Toyota believes that achieving a sustainable mobility society on Earth will involve the coexistence and widespread use of electrified vehicles, such as hybrid electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, battery electric vehicles, and fuel cell electric vehicles. For electrification, fuel cell batteries represent an indispensable technology.

“Fuel cell electric vehicles have the ability to emit reduced amounts of harmful substances, such as particulate matter, that are found in the air they take in. As such, they are characterized by having so-called ‘minus emissions’*3. We want to further improve on this characteristic.

“Contributing to Earth’s environment cannot be achieved without the widespread use of electrified vehicles. As a full-line manufacturer of electrified vehicles, and aiming for the widespread use of such vehicles, Toyota?going beyond only making complete vehicles?wants to provide electrification to its customers in various forms, such as through systems and technologies.

“Our joint studies with JAXA are a part of this effort. Being allowed to be a member of ‘Team Japan’, we would like to take up the challenge of space.”

Source: Space Daily.

Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/JAXA_and_Toyota_Reach_Agreement_on_Consideration_Toward_International_Space_Exploration_999.html.

Japanese First Private Rocket MOMO Launched

Tokyo, Japan (Sputnik)

May 05, 2019

Japanese space company Interstellar Technologies successfully launched the country’s first private rocket dubbed MOMO-3, the NHK broadcaster reported on Saturday.

The previous two launches, in July 2017 and in June 2018, failed.

The rocket safely reached an altitude of 100 kilometers (62 miles), which was the aim of the launch, the broadcaster said.

The length of MOMO is 10 meters (32.8 feet), diameter is 50 centimeters (19.7 inches). It can carry surveillance devices weighing up to 20 kilograms (4 pounds). However, MOMO cannot put satellites into orbit, but the company plans to create a rocket capable of launching satellites and conduct the first launch by 2023.

Source: Space Daily.

Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Japanese_First_Private_Rocket_MOMO_Launched_999.html.

China plans to launch carrier rocket at sea

Beijing (XNA)

May 03, 2019

China plans to launch a Long March-11 carrier rocket at sea this year, which is expected to lower the cost of entering space.

The rocket has been named “CZ-11 WEY” under an agreement between the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, China Space Foundation and a Chinese automobile producer.

China’s first seaborne rocket launch is scheduled for mid-2019 in the Yellow Sea, said Jin Xin, deputy chief commander of the rocket, at a press conference of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation earlier this year.

A seaborne launch has many advantages over a land launch. For instance, the launch site is flexible and falling rocket remains pose less danger. Using civilian ships to launch rockets at sea would lower launch costs and give it a commercial edge, said experts.

The seaborne launch technology will help China provide launch services for countries participating in the Belt and Road Initiative.

The Long March-11, with a length of 20.8 meters and a takeoff weight of about 57.6 tonnes, is the only rocket using solid propellants among China’s new generation carrier rockets. It has a relatively simple structure and can be launched in a short time.

The rocket can carry a payload of up to 350 kg to a sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 700 km and 700 kg to a low-Earth orbit at 200 km. It is mainly used to carry small satellites, and can take multiple satellites into orbit at the same time.

The Long March-11, which made its maiden flight on Sept. 25, 2015, has so far sent 25 satellites into orbit in six launches with high reliability and good performance rates.

In addition, Chinese space experts are also developing the engine for a modified version of the Long March-11 rocket, which is expected to carry up to 1.5 tonnes of payloads to the sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 700 km.

Source: Space Daily.

Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/China_plans_to_launch_carrier_rocket_at_sea_999.html.

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