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SpaceX, Amazon, OneWeb seek communications dominance in space

by Paul Brinkmann

Washington DC (UPI)

Jun 11, 2020

The developers of new communications satellite constellations – connecting virtually every part of the Earth – are engaged in a multibillion-dollar battle to develop dominance in space and the immense revenue that could bring, industry experts say.

Elon Musk’s Starlink is part of a new wave of ventures by several companies to cover the globe with faster, better internet by using constellations of satellites that number in the thousands. At stake is the future of communications on Earth and in space. Competitors include Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ Project Kuiper and startup company OneWeb, which not long ago filed for reorganization under Chapter 11 of U.S. bankruptcy laws.

But the road to profitability is not navigated simply by launching scores of satellites at a single shot. Other factors come into play.

For example, Musk acknowledged recently that the cost of the user terminal is the biggest challenge for his project. He previously said he hoped to develop a terminal that would sell for under $300, but analysts say that will be difficult.

“Getting the signal to the customer [affordably] has always been the issue with new communications satellite service,” said Hamed Khorsand, founder of California-based BWS Financial, which provides research on technology and communications companies.

“You can’t just put up satellites and think that will solve everything. You have to have revenue,” Khorsand said.

Both Starlink and OneWeb began in 2015. As OneWeb continued to develop, Starlink launched repeatedly. As of June 3, Musk’s SpaceX has launched 480 Starlink spacecraft.

The company has said it anticipates to invest about $10 billion in Starlink, with a potential for $30 billion to $50 billion in annual revenue if the system becomes fully operational.

Musk said on Twitter recently that limited service could be tested by around August – when SpaceX aims to have 800 satellites in orbit – in what is called a beta validation. In technology development, beta validations attempt to demonstrate a new software or service to a limited number of potential users.

Enter Bezos, whose plans for space communications services under the Project Kuiper mantle, are shrouded in secrecy.

In the battle for funding, Bezos’ deep pockets only grew deeper as the coronavirus pandemic sent more people online to shop. Analysts following the high-tech satellite slugfest say they have no idea how much Bezos – who consistently ranks among the wealthiest people in the world – is investing in Project Kuiper.

Amazon, though, aims to launch more than 3,200 satellites, according to filings with the Federal Communications Commission. But details of the constellation remain mostly under wraps as the company builds a new headquarters and prototype manufacturing laboratories near Seattle.

Like Starlink, OneWeb said it aimed to provide reliable internet service to remote regions. But OneWeb had only three launches and ran into funding trouble just as the pandemic took hold.

The company was testing and developing technology with 74 satellites in orbit and permits for up to 720.

In bankruptcy court, OneWeb reported assets of $3.3 billion, the most significant of which are radio-frequency licenses and licenses to receive signals in nations around the globe, while its debts and liabilities were $2.1 billion.

Pandemic hurt

Despite the positive balance sheet, the company said financial market fallout from the pandemic interrupted efforts to raise more money for expansion of the satellite network. As a startup, the company had no significant revenue.

OneWeb, based in Virginia and London, continues to operate with a reduced staff since it filed for bankruptcy in March and laid off about 450 workers – more than three-fourths of its payroll.

The satellite startup filed a new application with the FCC in late May to boost the number of planned satellites to 48,000.

OneWeb’s move to seek more satellite permits is aimed at making it more attractive to a new owner, or for a sale of the existing satellites, analyst Khorsand said.

“It’s really more about whether anyone can use the satellites that are up there already. I just don’t know if they are compatible with any other company’s technology, because most of the technology is pretty proprietary,” he said.

Despite backing from major players like Airbus and Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, OneWeb made its bankruptcy filing after a big investor, Japan-based Softbank Group, withheld additional funding in March as the pandemic spread and a recession took hold.

One veteran player had planned to join the fray, as well.

Intelsat reborn

Intelsat, founded in 1964, has been reborn with new investments several times. It planned a communications satellite constellation, but filed for bankruptcy protection in May as financial fallout from the pandemic hit many industries. The company cited only “substantial legacy debt” in its bankruptcy announcement.

Observers of the satellite communications industry are well-acquainted with struggling startups and bankruptcy – due to the high cost of getting underway and the time needed to become fully operational.

Costs increase more because federal and international regulations require thruster systems on the communications satellites to avoid potential collisions.

Khorsand noted that another firm in the competition, Iridium Communications, went bankrupt in 1999 after launching a communications satellite constellation. The company later emerged from bankruptcy and now provides service to major customers, including the U.S. military. It has 75 satellites in orbit.

With lucrative military contracts providing an enticement, SpaceX also is gunning for that market. The company said it already has worked with the Air Force to test the signal from Starlink.

SpaceX eventually wants to have an armada of satellites that would beam data around the globe, using laser optics in the vacuum of space that could move data close to the speed of light.

Iridium is the only commercial provider that presently uses such laser optics, said Chris Quilty, founder of Florida-based Quilty Analytics, an aerospace analyst firm.

New generation

Before such space laser connections can happen, Starlink will need a new generation of Starlink satellites, Quilty said. The current Starlink satellites in orbit aren’t designed for that technology, he said.

“Starlink will have ground stations, but over the ocean, there are no ground stations, so it has to have a crosslink based in space to beam super-fast service around the world,” Quilty said.

For Musk and Bezos, dominating the future of space communication also could benefit their long-term goals to explore the moon and Mars, Quilty said.

“You can’t fund Mars exploration only on the launch business, especially if SpaceX is successful at shrinking the cost of launch dramatically, which is the company’s goal,” Quilty said.

“If Musk is successful at establishing a colony on Mars, a good communications link to Earth will be vital, and Starlink would help that.”

Astronauts return to space from U.S. soil.

Source: Space Daily.

Link: https://www.spacedaily.com/reports/SpaceX_Amazon_OneWeb_seek_communications_dominance_in_space_999.html.

First Arab mission to Mars designed to inspire youth

By Dana Moukhallati

Dubai (AFP)

June 9, 2020

The first Arab space mission to Mars, armed with probes to study the Red Planet’s atmosphere, is designed to inspire the region’s youth and pave the way for scientific breakthroughs, officials said Tuesday.

The unmanned probe Al-Amal — Hope in Arabic — is to blast off from a Japanese space centre on July 15, with preparations now in their final stages.

The project is the next giant step for the United Arab Emirates, whose colossal skyscrapers and mega-projects have put it on the world map.

The UAE sent its first astronaut into space last year and is also planning to build a “Science City” to replicate conditions on Mars, where it hopes to build a human settlement by 2117.

Omran Sharaf, the mission’s project manager, said that apart from the ambitious scientific goals, the mission was designed to hark back to the region’s golden age of cultural and scientific achievements.

“The UAE wanted to send a strong message to the Arab youth and to remind them of the past, that we used to be generators of knowledge,” he told AFP.

“People of different backgrounds and religion coexisted and shared a similar identity,” he said of the Arab world, where many countries are today wracked by sectarian conflicts and economic crises.

“Put your differences aside, focus on building the region, you have a rich history and you can do much more.”

– Narrow window –

Sarah al-Amiri, the mission’s deputy project manager, said it was imperative that the project have a long-term scientific impact.

“It is not a short-lived mission, but rather one that continues throughout the years and produces valuable scientific findings — be it by researchers in the UAE or globally,” she told AFP.

She said that the probe will provide a comprehensive image of the weather dynamics in Mars’ atmosphere with the use of three scientific instruments.

The first is an infrared spectrometer to measure the planet’s lower atmosphere and analyse the temperature structure.

The second, a high-resolution imager that will provide information about the ozone; and a third, an ultraviolet spectrometer to measure oxygen and hydrogen levels from a distance of up to 43,000 kilometers from the surface.

The three tools will allow researchers to observe the Red Planet “at all times of the day and observe all of Mars during those different times”, Amiri said.

“Something we want to better understand, and that’s important for planetary dynamics overall, is the reasons for the loss of the atmosphere and if the weather system on Mars actually has an impact on loss of hydrogen and oxygen,” she said, referring to the two components that make up water.

Sharaf said that fueling of the probe is to begin next week.

It is scheduled to launch on July 15 from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Center and return to Earth in February 2021, depending on many variables including the weather.

“If we miss the launch opportunity, which is between mid-July and early August, then we’d have to wait for two years for another window,” Sharaf said.

But hopes are high that the mission will take place as scheduled, and not be derailed by the coronavirus pandemic.

In a new sign of warming ties between Israel and Gulf Arab nations, the Jewish state Tuesday wished the UAE success with the mission.

We “hope this step will contribute towards deeper cooperation between all countries in the region,” its foreign ministry’s “Israel in the Gulf” Twitter account wrote in Arabic.

Source: Mars Daily.

Link: https://www.marsdaily.com/reports/First_Arab_mission_to_Mars_designed_to_inspire_youth_999.html.

Kids are building rockets from their bedrooms

Wellington NZ (SPX)

Jun 11, 2020

Peoply, the brainchild of 21-year-old Wellingtonian, Matt Strawbridge, has partnered with Rocket Lab to offer a rocket and space themed online program for kids ages 7-12. Each week, kids delve into a different topic that fosters curiosity and interest in the natural world through exploration and play.

Kids get to explore topics such as building and launching real-life rockets, Rocket Lab missions, the future of space, jobs in space, and even space entrepreneurship. Students join classes by jumping into a live “classroom” with up to six other students around the country. Each class has a “coach” who facilitates, inspires, and supports students.

“We are really excited to launch the Rocket Lab program for kids in New Zealand and the US. Outer space is something that fascinates and entices so many kids all over the world, and this program is designed to help foster this curiosity and discovery of something so much bigger than ourselves”, Strawbridge said.

Strawbridge has been obsessed with space and rockets since he was young, which is where the idea for this program came from. ‘It’s been such a privilege to work with Rocket Lab in developing this content for kids. This program is something that I would have loved to participate in growing up.”

Entrepreneurship and thinking differently are themes that run through the program. “Rocket Lab is such an innovative company, and Peter Beck (the CEO) is a leader that I’m really inspired by. He’s passionate about entrepreneurship, and so the final lesson of the program is teaching kids all about entrepreneurship and making sure that they know that they can become entrepreneurs, too.”

As well as developing important skills such as creativity, communication, and problem-solving, Peoply is designed to connect kids with others. “Enhancing connection and promoting mental wellness couldn’t be more important than it is right now.”

Kids can attend as many Peoply classes each week as they wish. Other programs include Discovering Your Superpowers, Role Models, and Mindfulness. “We hope that classes can bring a sense of routine and regularity for these kids – just as they would go to dance class or a swimming lesson after school, they can come to Peoply.”

Peoply was launched after Strawbridge spent years creating programs for dyslexic kids at his first company, Dyslexia Potential. Strawbridge founded Dyslexia Potential after his experience struggling to navigate the school system while having dyslexia. The Ministry of Education recently announced that Dyslexia Potential programs and resources are going to be available for free, to all families and schools within New Zealand.

Source: Space Daily.

Link: https://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Kids_are_building_rockets_from_their_bedrooms_999.html.

SpaceX’s 1st astronaut launch breaking new ground for style

May 24, 2020

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — The first astronauts launched by SpaceX are breaking new ground for style with hip spacesuits, gull-wing Teslas and a sleek rocketship — all of it white with black trim. The color coordinating is thanks to Elon Musk, the driving force behind both SpaceX and Tesla, and a big fan of flash and science fiction.

NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken like the fresh new look. They’ll catch a ride to the launch pad in a Tesla Model X electric car. “It is really neat, and I think the biggest testament to that is my 10-year-old son telling me how cool I am now,” Hurley told The Associated Press.

“SpaceX has gone all out” on the capsule’s appearance, he said. “And they’ve worked equally as hard to make the innards and the displays and everything else in the vehicle work to perfection.” The true test comes Wednesday when Hurley and Behnken climb aboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and, equipment and weather permitting, shoot into space. It will be the first astronaut launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center since the last shuttle flight in 2011.

It will also mark the first attempt by a private company to send astronauts into orbit. Only governments — Russia, the U.S., and China — have done that. The historic send-off deserves to look good, according to SpaceX. It already has a nice ring. Musk named his rocket after the “Star Wars” Millennium Falcon. The capsule name stems from “Puff the Magic Dragon,” Musk’s jab at all the doubters when he started SpaceX in 2002.

SpaceX designed and built its own suits, which are custom-fit. Safety came first. The cool — or wow — factor was a close second. “It’s important that the suits are comfortable and also are inspiring,” explained SpaceX’s Benji Reed. a mission director. “But above all, it’s designed to keep the crew safe.”

The bulky, orange ascent and entry suits worn by shuttle astronauts had their own attraction, according to Behnken, who like Hurley wore them for his two previous missions. Movies like “Armageddon” and “Space Cowboys” stole the orange look whenever actors were “trying to pretend to be astronauts.”

On launch day, Hurley and Behnken will get ready inside Kennedy’s remodeled crew quarters, which dates back to the two-man Gemini missions of the mid-1960s. SpaceX techs will help the astronauts into their one-piece, two-layer pressure suits.

Hurley and Behnken will emerge through the same double doors used on July 16, 1969, by Apollo 11′s Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins — the Operations and Checkout Building now bears Armstrong’s name.

But instead of the traditional Astrovan, the two will climb into the back seat of a Tesla Model X for the nine-mile ride to Launch Complex 39A, the same pad used by the moonmen and most shuttle crews. It’s while they board the Tesla that they’ll see their wives and young sons for the last time before flight.

Making a comeback after three decades is NASA’s worm logo — wavy, futuristic-looking red letters spelling NASA, the “A” resembling rocket nose cones. The worm adorns the Astro-Tesla, Falcon and even the astronauts’ suits, along with NASA’s original blue meatball-shaped logo.

The white-suited Hurley and Behnken will transfer from the white Tesla to the white Dragon atop the equally white Falcon 9. “It’s going to be quite a show,” Reed promised.

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

First commercial space taxi a pit stop on Musk’s Mars quest

May 24, 2020

(AP) It all started with the dream of growing a rose on Mars. That vision, Elon Musk’s vision, morphed into a shake-up of the old space industry, and a fleet of new private rockets. Now, those rockets will launch NASA astronauts from Florida to the International Space Station — the first time a for-profit company will carry astronauts into the cosmos.

It’s a milestone in the effort to commercialize space. But for Musk’s company, SpaceX, it’s also the latest milestone in a wild ride that began with epic failures and the threat of bankruptcy. If the company’s eccentric founder and CEO has his way, this is just the beginning: He’s planning to build a city on the red planet, and live there.

“What I really want to achieve here is to make Mars seem possible, make it seem as though it’s something that we can do in our lifetimes and that you can go,” Musk told a cheering congress of space professionals in Mexico in 2016.

Musk “is a revolutionary change” in the space world, says Harvard University astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell, whose Jonathan’s Space Report has tracked launches and failures for decades. Ex-astronaut and former Commercial Spaceflight Federation chief Michael Lopez-Alegria says, “I think history will look back at him like a da Vinci figure.”

Musk has become best known for Tesla, his audacious effort to build an electric vehicle company. But SpaceX predates it. At 30, Musk was already wildly rich from selling his internet financial company PayPal and its predecessor Zip2. He arranged a series of lunches in Silicon Valley in 2001 with G. Scott Hubbard, who had been NASA’s Mars czar and was then running the agency’s Ames Research Center.

Musk wanted to somehow grow a rose on the red planet, show it to the world and inspire school children, recalls Hubbard. “His real focus was having life on Mars,” says Hubbard, a Stanford University professor who now chairs SpaceX’s crew safety advisory panel.

The big problem, Hubbard told him, was building a rocket affordable enough to go to Mars. Less than a year later Space Exploration Technologies, called SpaceX, was born. There are many space companies and like all of them, SpaceX is designed for profit. But what’s different is that behind that profit motive is a goal, which is simply to “Get Elon to Mars,” McDowell says. “By having that longer-term vision, that’s pushed them to be more ambitious and really changed things.”

Everyone at SpaceX, from senior vice presidents to the barista who offers its in-house cappuccinos and FroYo, “will tell you they are working to make humans multi-planetary,” says former SpaceX Director of Space Operations Garrett Reisman, an ex-astronaut now at the University of Southern California.

Musk founded the company just before NASA ramped up the notion of commercial space. Traditionally, private firms built things or provided services for NASA, which remained the boss and owned the equipment. The idea of bigger roles for private companies has been around for more than 50 years, but the market and technology weren’t yet right.

NASA’s two deadly space shuttle accidents — Challenger in 1986 and Columbia in 2003 — were pivotal, says W. Henry Lambright, a professor of public policy at Syracuse University. When Columbia disintegrated, NASA had to contemplate a post-space shuttle world. That’s where private companies came in, Lambright says.

After Columbia, the agency focused on returning astronauts to the moon, but still had to get cargo and astronauts to the space station, says Sean O’Keefe, who was NASA’s administrator at the time. A 2005 pilot project helped private companies develop ships to bring cargo to the station.

SpaceX got some of that initial funding. The company’s first three launches failed. The company could have just as easily failed too, but NASA stuck by SpaceX and it started to pay off, Lambright says.

“You can’t explain SpaceX without really understanding how NASA really kind of nurtured it in the early days,” Lambright says. “In a way, SpaceX is kind of a child of NASA.” Since 2010, NASA has spent $6 billion to help private companies get people into orbit, with SpaceX and Boeing the biggest recipients, says Phil McAlister, NASA’s commercial spaceflight director.

NASA plans to spend another $2.5 billion to purchase 48 astronaut seats to the space station in 12 different flights, he says. At a little more than $50 million a ride, it’s much cheaper than what NASA has paid Russia for flights to the station.

Starting from scratch has given SpaceX an advantage over older firms and NASA that are stuck using legacy technology and infrastructure, O’Keefe says. And SpaceX tries to build everything itself, giving the firm more control, Reisman says. The company saves money by reusing rockets, and it has customers aside from NASA.

The California company now has 6,000 employees. Its workers are young, highly caffeinated and put in 60- to 90-hour weeks, Hubbard and Reisman say. They also embrace risk more than their NASA counterparts.

Decisions that can take a year at NASA can be made in one or two meetings at SpaceX, says Reisman, who still advises the firm. In 2010, a Falcon 9 rocket on the launch pad had a cracked nozzle extension on an engine. Normally that would mean rolling the rocket off the pad and a fix that would delay launch more than a month.

But with NASA’s permission, SpaceX engineer Florence Li was hoisted into the rocket nozzle with a crane and harness. Then, using what were essentially garden shears, she “cut the thing, we launched the next day and it worked,” Reisman says.

Musk is SpaceX’s public and unconventional face — smoking marijuana on a popular podcast, feuding with local officials about opening his Tesla plant during the pandemic, naming his newborn child “X Æ A-12.” But insiders say aerospace industry veteran Gwynne Shotwell, the president and chief operating officer, is also key to the company’s success.

“The SpaceX way is actually a combination of Musk’s imagination and creativity and drive and Shotwell’s sound management and responsible engineering,” McDowell says. But it all comes back to Musk’s dream. Former NASA chief O’Keefe says Musk has his eccentricities, huge doses of self-confidence and persistence, and that last part is key: “You have the capacity to get through a setback and look … toward where you’re trying to go.”

For Musk, it’s Mars.

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Russian cargo ship docks with space station

April 25, 2020

MOSCOW (AP) — An unmanned Russian cargo capsule docked with the International Space Station, bringing more than 2 tons of supplies to the three-person crew. The Progress spacecraft docked at 0512 GMT Saturday, about 3 1/2 hours after blasting off from Russia’s Baikonur launch complex in Kazakhstan.

The ship carried fuel, water, food, medicine and other supplies. There are three astronauts aboard the space station: Russia’s Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, and Chris Cassidy of the United States.

Space launch includes 1st flyer from United Arab Emirates

September 25, 2019

BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan (AP) — An American, a Russian and the first space flyer from the United Arab Emirates blasted off Wednesday on a mission to the International Space Station. A Russian Soyuz rocket lifted off at 6:57 p.m. (1357 GMT) from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome to lift a Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft into orbit.

The ship carrying NASA astronaut Jessica Meir, Oleg Skripochka of the Russian space agency Roscosmos and Hazzaa al-Mansoori, a military pilot from the UAE, docked at the International Space Station about six hours later.

It was the third spaceflight for Skripochka and the first for Meir and al-Mansoori, who flew to the station was on an eight-day mission under a contract between the UAE and Roscosmos. Al-Mansoori was the first of two men chosen by the Gulf Arab nation to fly to the space station.

The trio will join two Russians, three Americans and an Italian aboard the space station. Meir and Skripochka will spend more than six months in orbit. Al-Mansoori will return to Earth next week with Russia’s Alexey Ovchinin and NASA’s Nick Hague.

Russian capsule carrying robot fails space station docking

August 24, 2019

MOSCOW (AP) — A Russian space capsule carrying a humanoid robot has failed to dock as planned with the International Space Station. A statement from the Russian space agency Roscosmos said the failure on Saturday was because of problems in the docking system. It said the space station itself and the six-person crew are safe.

Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin said on Twitter that a new docking attempt would be made on Tuesday. The capsule was launched Thursday as part of tests of a new rocket that is expected to replace the Soyuz-FG next year.

It is carrying a robot called Fedor, which will perform two weeks of tests aboard the space station. Vladimir Solovyev, flight director for the Russian segment of the ISS, said the robot had not been taught how to manually conduct a docking.

A Rover for Phobos and Deimos

Le Bourget, France (SPX)

Jun 21, 2019

Mars has two small moons, Phobos and Deimos. These are the target of the Japanese Martian Moons eXploration (MMX) mission, which also involves international partners. Scheduled for launch in 2024. it will enter Mars orbit in 2025, and return samples to Earth in 2029. The spacecraft will carry a German-French rover that will land on either Phobos or Deimos and explore the surface in detail for several months.

The scientists hope to gain new insights into the formation and evolution of the solar system. At the International Paris Air Show in Le Bourget, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum fuer Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR), the Japanese space agency JAXA and the French space agency CNES agreed to further collaborate on the world’s first exploration of a minor solar system body with a rover.

“The world-first exploration of the Martian moons with a rover is a major technical challenge that we are tackling within the framework of our strong and proven partnership with Japan and France,” says Pascale Ehrenfreund, Chair of the DLR Executive Board. “Together, we want to push the boundaries of what is technically feasible in robotic exploration and expand our knowledge about the origin of the solar system.”

On 18 June 2019, Hansjorg Dittus, DLR Executive Board Member for Space Research and Technology, Walther Pelzer, the DLR Executive Board Member responsible for the Space Administration, and Hitoshi Kuninaka, Director General of the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) at JAXA, signed a cooperation agreement outlining DLR’s participation in the Japanese-led MMX mission. The contributions that the Franco-German rover will make to the mission are central to this agreement.

In addition, DLR is making scientific findings about Deimos and Phobos available in preparation for the mission and is enabling tests to be conducted at DLR’s Landing and Mobility Test Facility (LAMA) and in the drop tower at the Centre of Applied Space Technology and Microgravity (ZARM) in Bremen.

On 19 June 2019, the Franco-German cooperation agreement for the development of the rover as part of the MMX mission was signed by Pascale Ehrenfreund, Hansjorg Dittus and CNES President Jean-Yves le Gall. The German-French rover will be designed and built as a joint effort.

DLR will, in particular, be responsible for developing the rover’s casing and its robotic locomotion system, together with a spectrometer and a radiometer that will both be used to determine the characteristics and composition of the surface.

The French space agency CNES is making major contributions with camera systems for spatial orientation and exploration of the surface, as well as the rover’s central service module. Upon landing, the rover will then be operated jointly by CNES and DLR.

The MMX mission follows in the footsteps of the successful predecessor mission Hayabusa2, which explored the asteroid Ryugu. As part of the mission, on 3 October 2018, the Mobile Asteroid and Surface Scout (MASCOT) lander ‘hopped’ across the asteroid’s surface and sent spectacular images of a landscape strewn with boulders, stones and almost no dust back to Earth. On that same day, JAXA, DLR and CNES signed a first memorandum of understanding for cooperation within the MMX mission.

Source: Mars Daily.

Link: http://www.marsdaily.com/reports/A_Rover_for_Phobos_and_Deimos_999.html.

Russian capsule carrying 3 docks with space station

July 21, 2019

BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan (AP) — A Russian space capsule with three astronauts aboard has docked with the International Space Station after a fast-track trip to the orbiting laboratory. The Soyuz capsule docked at 22:48 GMT Saturday, just six hours and 20 minutes after blasting off from Russia’s launch complex in Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

The launch took place on the 50th anniversary of the day U.S. astronauts landed on the moon. The capsule is carrying Andrew Morgan of the United States on his first spaceflight, Russian Alexander Skvortsov on his third mission to the space station and Italian Luca Parmitano.

They will join Russian Alexey Ovchinin and Americans Nick Hague and Christina Koch have been aboard since March. The crew patch for the expedition echoes the one from Apollo 11’s 1969 lunar mission.

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