In the waning moments of the 70th International Astronautical Congress on 25 Oct 2019, one panel took a step back from the latest in real-world technological advancements to examine how science fiction has inspired the developments in the space industry.
The panel’s free-ranging discussion featured experts from the Smithsonian Institution (the joys of displaying the original USS Enterprise model at a museum), Lockheed Martin (more than a few inspiring stories of Nichelle Nichols connecting NASA, industry, and STEM workers), and the MIT Media Lab (which often works with sci-fi film greats like Doug Trumbull and J.J. Abrams), though the headline news was provided by Art Dula, the patent attorney who helms the day-to-day business of the Robert A. and Virginia Heinlein Prize Trust.
Following three years of editing and rights negotiations, The Pursuit of the Pankera, an alternate reality version of the venerable author’s The Number of the Beast (1980), dabbling in parallel universes (that is to say, the fictional settings of other authors), is set to be released by Arc Manor Books on 24 Mar 2020.
The creation of the United States Center for Space Law, a non-governmental organization dedicated to the study of the laws of outer space, was announced 18 Oct 2019 at the 12th Annual University of Nebraska DC Space Law Conference. The announcement was made between panel sessions held at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.
While ESA and the European Centre for Space Law have a clear and established relationship, the USCSL will be an independent 501c3 non-profit organization. It is not directly funded by NASA, but will be assigned some funds previously received by the University of Nebraska. The effort builds upon the University of Nebraska’s efforts to create law programs focused on space and telecommunications law, as well as efforts to build a national network of space law professionals.
The remainder of the conference was largely a conventional view on United States Space Policy, with a general sense of the need for American action to settle outstanding questions, with the sense of Europe and Japan as partners and fellow innovators, though there was also a sense that European policy was also expanding without clear focus, and centres of authority were proliferating.
Though the first
session’s insights into developing commercial space legislation in
the US and Europe were somewhat hampered by the unplanned absence of
a SpaceX representative, it was left to Audrey Powers of Blue Origin
to speak plainly about how the space industry felt about the FAA’s
recent effort to rush new commercial spaceflight rules out the door.
The panels continued with a featured panel of space lawyers from NASA, JAXA, ECSL, and CNES, who provided a comparative understanding of the complexities of international space cooperation. Japan’s approach, somewhat like the US, often requires policy changes to international initiatives at the space agency to pass through multiple government agencies for final approval. On the other hand, in France, CNES is authorized to sign, and change, space agreements on behalf of France.
The conference also
included insight on the spectrum issues in the satellite
communications industry, and the unique challenges when space-based
networks compete against terrestrial networks, and the vagaries of
negotiations at the ITU.
Finally, the conference included updates on efforts to the Woomera Manual, an effort of four universities, lead by Stacey Henderson at the University of Adelaide, to create a clear and complete compendium of the active, existing laws of war in space – an effort limited by the unclear positions of many states on key space policy questions, and by the propensity of many states to cloud their space programs, especially military space operations, in secrecy. Another challenge comes from how the field of space law continues to draw creative minds with active imaginations, which often spend valuable conference time not on settled law, but on other, as-yet unresolved questions, like whether astronauts could become prisoners of war, even when treaties presently accord them a diplomatic status.
The event was capped off by a lounge event celebrating Women in Space Law, on the very same day the first all-female spacewalk took place in orbit at the International Space Station. Overall, the conference demonstrated the continued leadership of Nebraska Law on legal matters in space. The evolution of the United States Center for Space Law will certainly be a factor in next year’s conference, already scheduled for 2 October 2020 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.
After air searches ended on 18 October, a passing hunter found a missing Cessna aircraft in a ravine just 5 km from Aberdeen, at about 2310 UT 21 Oct 2019, the American News reports. The Brown County (SD) Sheriff Department confirmed the only deceased to be Gerald W. Seliski, 70, of Hecla, SD. Seliski owned the plane but only held a student pilot certificate.
A CZ-3B launched the TJSW-4 satellite from Xichang 17 October 2019, at about 1520 UT. Other satellites in the TJSW series were built by CAST, operate in geostationary orbit, and are speculated to have military or surveillance missions.
An Electron rocket took off from Māhia 17 October 2019 0122 UT, carrying the Palisade 16U satellite to 1200 km. It was the ninth mission for the Electron rocket, dubbed “As The Crow Flies” in reference to launch customer Astro Digital, a satellite lab in California which has branded its mix-and-match satellite bus offerings as the Corvus platform.
The oft-delayed Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) is finally flying! On 11 October 2019 at 0159 UT, Northrop Grumman’s Lockheed L1011 TriStar, named Stargazer, loosed the rocket into the air, which promptly lit and hurled the 300-kg payload into a 27-degree, 600 km circular orbit.
It was the second try on the second day of its 2019 launch campaign. Just the day before, rain had scrubbed the launch. A previous attempt to fly the payload from Kwajalein Atoll in 2017, had been called off due to payload issues. Another two attempts were made in 2018, even shifting to Cape Canaveral, but these were also called off.
Even so, an abort on Pegasus doesn’t necessarily end the launch day; the initial abort being called just moments after other controllers deemed the lost radio channel non-essential. The plane, however, does need to be at a very specific speed, heading, and attitude, so the L1011 lumbered back around into the predetermined flight pattern, or “racetrack”, for a second pass. The flight made it back into the launch zone, or “box”, just before 10pm local time, and sent the probe to the top of the ionosphere.
The mission will now collect data for two years using its plasma sensor from the University of Texas-Dallas, a Michelson interferometer from the US Naval Research Laboratory, and two ultraviolet imagers from the University of California-Berkeley, which also hosts mission control.
The Pegasus strategy of using an airplane as a first stage will soon be matched by Virgin Orbit’s Cosmic Girl 747 and LauncherOne rocket, due to complete its first mission in the next few months.