Regardless of the pandemic, 2021 has so far been the most exciting year for Aerospace in the 21st century. With the lunar sampling mission by China, the 3 Mars missions by NASA, UAE and China, upcoming missions to Venus and the Sun, and the space tourism missions by SpaceX, Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin. It seems this decade there will be more advancements in space technology than the whole past space history combined. It’s an exciting time to be alive. My website is www.drguven.com and you can read the latest developments at www.aerospacelectures.com.
The video below shows my views on the summary of the 2021 year, as one of the best years for aerospace developments.
SpaceX successfully launched a Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying four nonprofessional astronauts on its first private crewed mission named Inspiration4 on Sept. 15, a long-awaited milestone in the commercialization of spaceflight.
The Falcon 9 lifted off at 8:02 p.m. Eastern from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. There were no issues reported during the countdown or liftoff, with the Crew Dragon spacecraft Resilience separating from the rocket’s upper stage 12 minutes after liftoff after reaching orbit.
The Crew Dragon is flying a private mission called Inspiration4. The four people on board, none of whom are astronauts employed by a government agency or company, will spend three days in space at an altitude of approximately 575 kilometers before splashing down off the Florida coast.
The mission is the fourth crewed flight by SpaceX, but the first that does not involve NASA. The Demo-2, Crew-1 and Crew-2 missions all featured astronauts from NASA, the European Space Agency and Japanese space agency JAXA on missions to the International Space Station. Inspiration4 will not dock with the station.
Resilience, which first flew on the Crew-1 mission that returned to Earth from six months at the ISS May 1, is largely unmodified from others used for ISS missions, said Benji Reed, senior director of human spaceflight programs at SpaceX. The main difference is the addition of a large domed window, or cupola, in place of the docking adapter in the nose of the spacecraft.
“Since we’re not docking anywhere, it makes sense to have a cupola, and have the biggest continuous window that’s ever been put in space,” he said at a prelaunch briefing Sept. 14. “It’s otherwise the same, very safe Dragon that we’re flying right now for NASA.”
Inspiration4 is led by Jared Isaacman, a billionaire thanks to the online payments company, Shift4 Payments, that he founded. Isaacman and SpaceX announced Inspiration4 in February as a mission to raise at least $200 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
The four people flying the mission fit into themes of leadership, hope, generosity and prosperity. Isaacman, the commander, represents leadership. The hope seat is filled by Hayley Arceneaux, a physician assistant at St. Jude who was treated for cancer there as a child. The 29-year-old is the youngest American to go into orbit and is the first with a prosthetic, a titanium implant in her leg from bone cancer treatment.
The other two people came from competitions Inspiration4 conducted in February. Chris Sembroski was the winner of a raffle contest for the “generosity” theme, where people purchased tickets to win a seat. The aerospace engineer entered the competition and was not selected, but got a seat when an unidentified friend who did win gave that seat to him.
The fourth seat went to Sian Proctor, a geoscientist and artist who set up an online shop through Shift4 and submitted a video describing her desire to fly in space for the “prosperity” seat. She participated in analog space expeditions on Earth and was a finalist for a NASA astronaut selection round in 2009.
Inspiration4 will also conduct a series of medical experiments arranged by the Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH) at Baylor College of Medicine and Weill Cornell Medicine. Those experiments range from biomedical monitoring of the crew to cognitive tests, comparing their health while flying at an altitude of 575 kilometers versus the lower altitude of the ISS.
Isaacman said he pushed for the higher altitude for this mission to help tackle some of the risk associated with human spaceflight beyond low Earth orbit, such as radiation exposure, although it’s unclear how much data a three-day flight at that altitude will provide.
“It is a higher radiation profile than what would be observed at the space station,” he said. “The greater the understanding we can have on that, the better planning we can make for future long-duration missions, like going to Mars.”
The mission has more intangible goals as well. The mission is a demonstration of the feasibility of dedicated commercial human orbital spaceflight, a long-standing goal of both the space industry and NASA.
Firefly Aerospace launched its first Firefly rocket last Thursday. After two minutes and thirty seconds of flight, the launch was terminated due to an engine issue.
Why it’s important: Though Firefly did not reach orbit, this was a significant step forward for the company.
- Firefly was the first new space startup to livestream their first launch. This kind of transparency is impressive considering that launch companies don’t like airing “growing pains.” You can watch a replay of the Everyday Astronaut stream here.
- The Alpha launch vehicle (1,300 kg to low Earth orbit) flew for two minutes and thirty seconds…not bad for it’s first-time launch performance:
- SpaceX: Falcon 1 (670 kg) first launch lasted 33 seconds
- Astra: Rocket 1.0 (< 100kg) first launch lasted 27 seconds, Rocket 2.0 (< 100 kg) second launch lasted 30 seconds
- Virgin Orbit: LauncherOne (500 kg) first launch lasted a few seconds
The details: Firefly launched its maiden orbital attempt on Thursday from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. About 15 seconds into the flight, engine 2 (there are four Reaver engines on the first stage) shut down. According to the company, the engine didn’t fail — the propellant main valves on the engine closed and thrust terminated. The remaining three engines were able to maintain control until the vehicle reached supersonic speeds after which it lost control. The range then detonated the flight termination system causing the rocket to explode.
Background: Founded in 2017, Firefly is a launch services provider based in the Austin area. Firefly’s “end-to-end” space transportation solution is unique in the industry, and consists of three major systems:
- Rockets to fly from earth to space (the Alpha launch vehicle)
- A space utility vehicle (think “space taxi”) to maneuver previously launched spacecraft to alternative orbits, and
- A lander to carry payloads down to planetary surfaces.
What’s next? Firefly intends to launch its second Alpha launch vehicle by the end of this year. But first, the company must complete an anomaly investigation to gain an understanding of why engine 2 shut down early, and uncover any other relevant unexpected events during flight.
As Aerospace Lectures organization, we believe that the addition of these launch companies will help make commercial spaceflight become more viable, transparent, and cost-efficient. This way space can be accessible for everyone. Thus, we commend Firefly on its maiden flight and we hope to see many successful space launches in the future.
China’s moon-sampling mission spacecraft is continuing its extended mission with its destination currently unknown.
The Chang’e-5 orbiter module which facilitated China’s complex lunar sample return last year is on its way to the moon following deep-space tests.
The orbiter, one of four distinct Chang’e-5 mission spacecraft, delivered a return module containing 1.731 kilograms of lunar samples to Earth Dec. 16 before firing its engines to deep space for an extended mission. This was one of the most important lunar missions in Lunar History as it was the first return of a lunar sample after the 1970s.
The Chang’e-5 orbiter later successfully entered an intended orbit around Sun-Earth Lagrange point 1, roughly 1.5 million kilometers, in March. There it carried out tests related to orbit control and observations of the Earth and Sun.
New data from satellite trackers now suggests Chang’e-5 has left its orbit around Sun-Earth L1 and is destined for a lunar flyby early September 9 Eastern time. It was noted that Chang’e-5 may have altered its orbit Aug. 30 based on observations by and data from amateur satellite trackers Daniel Estevez and Scott Tilley and independent astronomy software developer Bill Gray.
The spacecraft is under the control of the Beijing Aerospace Flight Control Center (BACC), which is responsible for telemetry, tracking and command of spacecraft. BACC has not yet provided an update on the plans for Chang’e-5.
Potential maneuvers such as entering lunar orbit, heading for another Sun-Earth Lagrange point or an Earth-moon Lagrange point depend on how much propellant the orbiter has remaining. Another possibility could be using the flyby to set Chang’e-5 on a trajectory to flyby 469219 Kamoʻoalewa, a quasi-satellite of Earth and the target for China’s 2024 near-Earth asteroid sample-return mission.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk says he may be able to launch the company’s massive new Starship to the moon for NASA “probably sooner” than the space agency’s 2024 target even in the face of contract and other delays.
Starship was selected as NASA’s lander of choice for the Artemis human landing system (HLS) in April, but two situations held up the contract in the months since.
First there were protests by competitors Blue Origin and Dynetics, in part expressing concern about NASA’s decision to select one provider instead of two (the companies cited lesser budgetary funds available for HLS as a probable cause). After the Government Accountability Office confirmed NASA’s choice of SpaceX in a detailed decision published earlier this month, Blue Origin filed a lawsuit. This means that the work is again paused on HLS until at least November.
NASA administrator Bill Nelson told on Monday (Aug. 23) that he anticipates “further delay” to the agency’s plans for Artemis, which since 2019 (before Nelson’s tenure) has targeted a 2024 moon-landing.
Musk, who is known for his optimistic timelines, made the the earlier-than-2024 comment on Twitter in response to a question from the Everything Artemis unofficial Twitter account, asking if he could make the 2024 deadline. Musk’s response: “Probably sooner.”
The account also cited an Aug. 14 report from CNBC space reporter Michael Sheetz that SpaceX received $300 million from NASA on July 30, after the GAO denied the protests to its competitors.
Earlier this month, the Office of the Inspector General cited a 20-month delay to Artemis lunar surface spacesuit development that, according to the office, made a 2024 moon-landing “not feasible.” And SpaceX has its own development timeline to consider, too. Starship is a prototype that has not yet flown an orbital mission. While SpaceX wanted to get that done in July and the system has been stacked on the pad once already as part of a test, the company has been awaiting the outcome of a program environmental assessment from the Federal Aviation Administration. A typical timeline on that is months, according to media reports.
Other considerations for the 2024 deadline include Congressional funding for HLS, which has so far not been to the agency’s requests; the launch of the untested Space Launch System moon rocket that could be in late 2021; and the ongoing pandemic and spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant, which could induce fresh U.S. slowdowns in the coming weeks.
So, can SpaceX go to the moon? Can the SpaceX starship reach the moon? (Starship to the moon)
As the resources on Earth dwindle, the need for natural resources grows exponentially. Naturally, people look out toward space to fill these needs. Many scientists agree that asteroids contain all sorts of valuable minerals and natural resources including gold, iron, nickel, aluminium as well as some trace elements used in microelectronics. It would be prudent to be able to mine these resources for the benefit of mankind. Hence, space mining may become more important then ever.
So how do we get these metals from these faraway asteroids? Perhaps the best way is to bring the space rocks to Earth.
When our planet was still molten, almost all of the heavy metals sank to the core, which is pretty hard to get to. The accessible veins of gold, zinc, platinum and other valuable metals instead came from later asteroid impacts on Earth’s surface. Those asteroids are the fragmented remains of almost-planets, but they contain all of the same mixtures of elements as their larger planetary cousins. And you don’t have to dig down into their cores to get it.
But the main problem with asteroids is that they are far away. Not just in space (tens of millions of miles for even the “near”-Earth asteroids), but also in speed. To rendezvous with an average asteroid, the rocket has to change its velocity by another 3.4 miles per second (5.5 km/s). And once the asteroid were mined, asteroid prospectors would be faced with a difficult choice: They could try to refine the ore right there on the asteroid, which would entail setting up an entire refining facility, or ship the raw ore back to Earth, with all the waste that would involve.
So instead of trying to mine a distant asteroid, how about we bring the asteroid back to Earth? NASA’s ill-fated Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) was an attempt to do just that. The goal of the mission was to grab a 13-foot (4 meters) boulder from a nearby asteroid and return it to cislunar space (between the orbits of Earth and the moon), where we could then study it at our leisure.
In fact, a recent study found a dozen potential asteroids, ranging from 6.6 to 66 feet (2 to 20 meters) across, that could be brought into near-Earth orbit with a change in velocity of less than 1,640 feet per second (500 m/s). And the solar electric propulsion schemes cooked up for ARM would be perfectly capable of that, although it would take a while. Once an asteroid is in near-Earth space, many of the difficulties of asteroid mining are significantly reduced.
Sending missions to Mars have been one of the forefronts of many space agencies across the world. Naturally, especially NASA has been busy sending various Mars missions including the latest Perseverence mars mission that has the world’s first Martian helicopter exploring the terrain. In addition, Russians during the soviet era have sent various Mars missions and we will have to add Indian Mars mission which cost less then the movie gravity. In addition, Chinese and UAE have sent Mars missions in 2021 as well.
Japanese space agency scientists said they plan to bring soil samples back from the Mars region ahead of the United States and China, which started Mars missions last year, in hopes of finding clues to the planet’s origin and traces of possible life.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or Jaxa, plans to launch an explorer in 2024 to land on Phobos, a Martian moon, to collect 10 grams of soil and bring it back to Earth in 2029.
The rapid return trip is expected to put Japan ahead of the United States and China in bringing back samples from the Martian region despite starting later, project manager Yasuhiro Kawakatsu said in an online news conference.
Nasa’s Perseverance rover has landed in a Mars crater where it is to collect 31 samples that are to be returned to Earth with help from the European Space Agency as early as 2031.
China in May became the second country to land and operate a spacecraft on Mars and plans to bring back samples around 2030.
Jaxa scientists believe about 0.1% of the surface soil on Phobos came from Mars, and 10 grams could contain about 30 granules, depending on the consistency of the soil, Kawakatsu said.
Collecting samples from multiple locations on Phobos could provide a greater chance of obtaining possible traces of life from Mars than obtaining soil from a single location on Mars, he said.
Any life forms that might have come from Mars will have died because of harsh solar and cosmic radiation on Phobos, Jaxa scientists said.
The Nasa and the European Space Agency missions focus on potential life forms and evolution of the area of the Jezero crater, believed to be an ancient lake.
By studying Phobos soil samples including material from Mars, scientists hope to learn about the evolution of the Martian biosphere, Usui said.
Venus has been an important planet that has been the focus of scientists and science fiction writers alike. Understanding the hellish atmosphere of Venus including the hot temperatures and the incessant, powerful lightning in the Venusian atmosphere would go a long way into understanding our solar system and its creation. There may also be signs of life in Venus so perhaps the question of is there life on venus can be answered with more probes and examinations of the planet. Bepiolombo interplanetary probe has helped to shed light on these questions.
BepiColombo, a joint mission by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), recorded the audio with its magnetometer instrument, providing a rare glimpse into the interaction between the stream of charged particles flowing from the sun, known as solar wind, and the thick carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere of Earth’s closest planetary neighbor.
The Mercury-bound BepiColombo spacecraft listened to the sound of the solar wind at Venus as it flew just 340 miles (550 kilometres) above the planet’s surface during a manoeuvre designed to adjust its path.
The audio is not the actual sound that could be heard in space but a so-called sonification, a translation of data into sounds, ESA said in a statement.
“This was the first time we could obtain such multi-dimensional measurements of the environment around Venus,” Johannes Benkhoff, ESA BepiColombo project scientist, told Space.com. “That could enable us to see, for example, how the solar wind interacts with the planet and its atmosphere and how fast the processes are.”
India’s first launch of 2021 has ended in failure.
An Indian rocket carrying a new Earth-observation satellite for the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) suffered a catastrophic failure shortly after launching early Thursday (Aug. 12) from the country’s Satish Dhawan Space Centre on Sriharikota Island in eastern India. The liftoff occurred at 5:43 a.m. local time in India (8:13 p.m. EDT Aug 11/0013 GMT).
The launch failure, the first for India since 2017, occurred sometime past the six-minute mark when the mission’s rocket, the 12-story-tall Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle, was expected to have ignited its cryogenic third stage. That third stage ignition did not happen, ISRO officials said.
“Performance of first and second stages was normal. However, Cryogenic Upper Stage ignition did not happen due to technical anomaly,” ISRO officials wrote in an update on Twitter. “The mission couldn’t be accomplished as intended.”
The launch “could not be fully accomplished” because of a “technical anomaly observed in the cryogenic stage, ISRO chair K. Sivan said in a brief televised statement after the failed mission.
Lost with the GSLV rocket was the EOS-03 Earth observation satellite designed to be a state-of-the-art tool for ISRO to study our planet. The satellite was expected to last at least 10 years working to provide near real-time images of India, track natural disasters and other short-term events and collect data to assist agriculture and forestry by monitoring crop health, according to an ISRO mission description.
The GSLV launch failure breaks a streak of 14 successful launches for ISRO, the launch tracking site Spaceflight Now reported. It began after the the 2017 failure of a different Indian rocket, a smaller Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, carrying a satellite for the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System. That 2017 failure was the first in 20 years for India’s PSLV.
NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter on Mars, a tissue-box-sized rotorcraft that landed with the Perseverance rover in February, completed its 10th flight over the red planet on Saturday.
Each Ingenuity flight has been more daring than the last. So Saturday’s flight was likely the helicopter’s riskiest yet: If everything went according to plan, Ingenuity climbed 40 feet in the air, then headed south-by-southwest toward a collection of rock features called “Raised Ridges,” before looping back around to a landing zone about 310 feet west of its initial takeoff spot.
Before Saturday, Ingenuity had already flown nearly one mile in total, so its 10th flight helped it hit that threshold. The flight should have lasted about 2 minutes, 45 seconds. During that time, Ingenuity is expected to have visited 10 distinct waypoints, snapping photos along the way.