Sodak strato-selfies and lunar program plans this week

Wisconsinites earn Level 1 High Power Rocket certifications (Wisconsin Space Grant)

Regional News
26 Oct 2019 – 35 km stratospheric selfie stunt sails from South Dakota to Michigan
28 Oct 2019 – Iowa Space Grant names fourteen 2019-2020 fellows
28 Oct 2019 – Nikki Noughani (University of Wisconsin-Madison) featured by Wisconsin Space Grant
29 Oct 2019 – Elise Linna (Augsburg University) featured by Minnesota Space Grant
29 Oct 2019 ~ Wisconsin Space Grant rocket workshop yields 9 new Level 1 Certs

Further News
26 Oct 2019 – SARGE launched at Spaceport America – crash lands
26 Oct 2019 – InSight “mole” heat probe fails to burrow on second major attempt
27 Oct 2019 – X-37B returns to Earth after two years on orbit
28 Oct 2019 – First polar launch from Florida since 1960 scheduled for March 2020
29 Oct 2019 – NASA gets into practical details of Artemis lunar program
30 Oct 2019 – Starship Mk1 arrives at Boca Chica for 20 km test
31 Oct 2019 – Kepler Communications releases IoT SpaceComm DevKit

Lost Heinlein novel to be released March 2020

Heinlein’s previously unpublished story, The Pursuit of the Pankera, was celebrated at the 70th IAC in Washington, DC. (Heinlein Trust/Arc Manor Books)

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.

Starliner launch date set as IAC headlines the week

Chirstina Koch (red) and Jessica Meir service the Battery Charge Discharge Unit on the International Space Station, 18 Oct 2019. ISS EVA221 was the first spacewalk performed by two women. (NASA TV)

Regional News
18 Oct 2019 – University of Nebraska DC Space Law Conference
20 Oct 2019 – Wisconsin Science Fest ends
23 Oct 2019 – Ryan Bowers (University of Minnesota-Twin Cities) featured by Minnesota Space Grant

Further News
18 Oct 2019 – EVA 221: BCDU fixed in 7h17m, 2-woman EVA (Koch, Meir)
18 Oct 2019 – NASA shuts down last operational Van Allen Probe
21 Oct 2019 ~ Rocket Lab Photon offers 30 kg to lunar orbit
21 Oct 2019 – Japan joins Artemis, Russia plans to join Lunar Gateway
21 Oct 2019 ~ Arizona State’s MILO Institute marks first year as it teams up global universities to reach lunar surface and (99942) Apophis
22 Oct 2019 – First tweet sent over SpaceX Starlink network
22 Oct 2019 ~ NASA HLS lunar lander won’t use sea level pressure
22 Oct 2019 ~ UK-built ESA Solar Orbiter must arrive at KSC pre-Brexit
22 Oct 2019 ~ Astra Space left as sole contender for DARPA responsive launch ‘competition’
22 Oct 2019 ~ Maxar, Thales to compete, not cooperate, on Telesat LEO
22 Oct 2019 – ESA launches new online television channel
23 Oct 2019 ~ NanoRacks will reuse spent upper stages on-orbit, signs with Maritime Launch Services
23 Oct 2019 ~ Crew Dragon to test new fuel system, parachutes
23 Oct 2019 ~ Out of 199 smallsat launchers – 40 dead, 41 buried
24 Oct 2019 – Boeing CST-100 Starliner launch planned 17 Dec 2019
24 Oct 2019 ~ Eutelsat 5WB Solar Array half-stuck, may be 173 M€ failure
24 Oct 2019 ~ House Armed Services concerned about sole-source procurement of Minuteman III replacement

Late News
3 Oct 2019 – Four Latin American nations represented in recent University of North Dakota space habitat mission
17 Oct 2019 – Spektr-RG X-Ray instrument acquires first images
10 Oct 2019 – GEM63 SRB completes third and final test in Utah

University of Nebraska launches United States Center for Space Law

Dr. Stacey Henderson (University of Adelaide) speaks 18 Oct 2019, in a panel session on the topic of the Woomera Manual, at the 12th Annual University of Nebraska DC Space Law Conference (Credit: The Fargo Orbit)

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.

The new institution will carry forward the work of the University of Nebraska Space Law Network, as well as facilitate a US-based institution similar to the International Institute for Space Law, and with no small amount of inspiration from the operations of the European Centre for Space Law, which is based at the ESA in Paris.

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.

Missing Cessna found crashed near Aberdeen; Airman mourned

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.

Last week, the Rapid City Journal reported the deceased Ellsworth AFB servicemember to be SrA William T. Horton, 24 (28th AMXS).

Electron and Long March end the week

Regional News

11 Oct 2019 South Dakota blizzard claims aviation lives
14 Oct 2019 Wisconsin Space Grant features Katiya Fosdick (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
14 Oct 2019 Minnesota Space Grant features Mike Alves (Augsburg University, University of California-San Diego)
15 Oct 2019 Wyoming Space Grant balloon mission
17 Oct 2019 Wisconsin Science Fest begins – will run through 20 Oct

Orbital News

11 Oct 2019 0159 Cape Canaveral Pegasus ICON
17 Oct 2019 0122 Māhia Electron Palisade
17 Oct 2019 ~1520 Xichang CZ-3B TJSW-4

Further News

11 Oct 2019 – New Mexico EOS operator Descartes Labs raises funds, names new CFO
14 Oct 2019 – SpaceX upgrades vertical test stand for Raptor
15 Oct 2019 – Fault postpones battery swaps on ISS; BCDU repair (Meir, Koch) planned 18 Oct
15 Oct 2019 – Lockheed Martin delivers DreamChaser airframe core to Sierra Nevada Corporation in Colorado
16 Oct 2019 – Satellites arrive at CSG for next Ariane launch
17 Oct 2019 – InSight Mole Heat Probe back in action on Mars
17 Oct 2019 – Boeing CST Starliner readies for test at White Sands

Late News

2 Oct 2019 – JAXA’s Tsubame low-orbit satellite reenters
10 Oct 2019 – Bowersox admits SLS flight slipped to 2021
10 Oct 2019 – NASA needs Soyuz thru 2021Q2, new enabling law from Congress
10 Oct 2019 – George Nield calls for more US spaceports

Electron orbits Palisade satellite for Astro Digital

Electron “As The Crow Flies” launches from Māhia 17 October 2019 0122 UT. (Rocket Lab)

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.

ICON probe air-launched on Pegasus

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.

A Pegasus rocket with the ICON ionosphere probe falls from the Stargazer L1011 carrier aircraft moments before ignition, off the coast of Florida, 11 October 2019 0159 UT (NASA TV)

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.

Stargazer’s flight to and from the launch zone, off the coast of Cape Canaveral, 11 Oct 2019 (FlightAware)

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.