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A SpaceNews daily newsletter | Monday, October 31, 2022
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China launched the third module for its space station Monday. A Long March 5B rocket lifted off at 3:37 a.m. Eastern from the Wenchang Space Launch Center, placing the Mengtian module into orbit. The module is scheduled to dock with the Tianhe core module of the space station later today. The module will provide additional laboratory space for the station. Like previous launches, the core stage of the Long March 5B is expected to make an uncontrolled reentry in the coming days. [Reuters]

A launch vehicle issue has delayed the launch of a weather satellite scheduled for Tuesday. NASA announced Saturday that the Atlas 5 launch of the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) 2 satellite, scheduled for early Tuesday from Vandenberg Space Force Base, will be delayed to replace a battery in the rocket's Centaur upper stage. The launch will now take place no earlier than Nov. 9. NASA and United Launch Alliance officials reported no issues with the vehicle during a briefing Friday after the mission's launch readiness review. JPSS-2 is a polar-orbiting satellite that will join JPSS-1 and Suomi NPP in providing weather data. The launch will also carry LOFTID, a NASA technology demonstration of an inflatable heat shield that could be used on future Mars missions. [SpaceNews]

Gen. John "Jay" Raymond, the first head of the U.S. Space Force, will retire this week. A change-of-command ceremony is scheduled for Wednesday at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, where Raymond will relinquish the Chief of Space Operations role to Gen. B. Chance Saltzman and retire after 38 years of service. Raymond because the first official member of the service when it was established in December 2019 and had to build the service from the ground up. Raymond said in a recent interview he is proud of what's been accomplished in less than three years and is confident that the Space Force is on solid footing. [SpaceNews]

Satellite antenna company SatixFy went public Friday after completing a SPAC merger. Israel-based SatixFy listed on the New York Stock Exchange following its merger with Endurance Acquisition Corp. and closed up more than 40% on its first day of trading. SatixFy has said it expects to raise up to $230 million in gross proceeds by merging with Endurance, which is backed by New York-based private equity firm Antarctica Capital, and will use the proceeds to fund an aggressive sales strategy for the antennas, terminals, and modems it produces based on semiconductors developed in-house. [SpaceNews]

NASA has rescheduled the launch of the Psyche asteroid mission for next October. NASA said Friday that the mission, which missed its launch window earlier this year because of delays testing the spacecraft's software, had passed a "continuation/termination" review to allow the mission to proceed for a launch next fall. NASA did not disclose the cost of the delay. Psyche will travel to the metallic main-belt asteroid of the same name, arriving in 2029. [SpaceNews]

NASA and ESA have approved plans to establish a cache of samples collected by the Perseverance Mars rover. NASA said Friday that Perseverance would place some of the 14 samples it has collected to date into a cache on the surface at a site called "Three Forks" in Jezero Crater. Those samples will be picked up by helicopters, based on Ingenuity, as part of a future lander mission to collect samples and launch them into orbit for return to Earth. The cache will serve as a backup should Perseverance be unable to return samples it collects to the lander. [SpaceNews]
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NASA has added a landing to a future Artemis mission previously devoted to lunar Gateway assembly. Early this year NASA said the Artemis 4 mission would not have a lunar landing but instead be used to install the I-Hab module to the Gateway. However, in a conference presentation Friday, NASA said Artemis 4 would now have a crewed lunar landing, using the "Option B" version of SpaceX's Starship. That will be an upgraded version of the Starship used on Artemis 3 to support longer lunar stays by larger crews. The Artemis 5 mission will likely be used to demonstrate the lander from a second company that NASA will select as part of the ongoing Sustaining Lunar Development procurement. [SpaceNews]

China has conducted a series of engine tests for a launch vehicle capable of sending astronauts to the moon. A 300-second mission duty cycle test of a kerosene-liquid oxygen engine called YF-100M took place earlier this month, while another engine using liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen for the rocket's third stage passed the milestone of 10,000 seconds of cumulative runtime. The new rocket is sometimes referred to as the Long March 5 Dengyue ("moon landing") or Long March 5G. It will be capable of sending 27 metric tons into translunar injection trajectory; two such launches would send a crewed spacecraft and lander to lunar orbit. Senior Chinese space officials say the country will be capable of executing this idea for a short-term lunar stay mission before 2030. [SpaceNews]

NorthStar Earth and Space will launch its first satellites to collect space situational awareness data next year with Virgin Orbit. The company announced last week its first three satellites, built by Spire through that company's "space as a service" offering, will launch in mid-2023. NorthStar is planning a constellation of 24 satellites that will track objects from low Earth orbit to geostationary orbit and beyond. [SpaceNews]

China launched a classified satellite late Friday. A Long March 2D rocket lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center at 9:01 p.m. Eastern and place the Shiyan-20C satellite into orbit. The satellite is believed to be a technology demonstration satellite, although few details are available about its mission or the technologies it will demonstrate. []

Stratolaunch flew its giant aircraft Friday with a hypersonic vehicle prototype attached. The plane made a five-hour flight from the Mojave Air and Space Port that, for the first time, had the company's Talon-A separation test vehicle, or TA-0, attached to the pylon on the center portion of its wing between its twin fuselages. Additional captive-carry flights are planned before a drop test of TA-0 in December over the Pacific. [GeekWire]

NASA and ESA released a new version of the famous "Pillars of Creation" image Friday. The new image of the region was taken by the Mid-Infrared Instrument on the James Webb Space Telescope, weeks after another instrument on the space telescope observed the region made famous by the Hubble Space Telescope. In the mid-infrared image many of the stars are now cloaked by gas and dust in that star-forming region 7,000 light-years away. []

The Week Ahead

Monday: Monday-Tuesday: Tuesday: Tuesday-Wednesday: Tuesday-Thursday:
  • Reston, Va.: CyberSatGov will discuss cybersecurity issues for space systems in both classified and unclassified sessions.
  • Plesetsk, Russia: Anticipated launch of a Soyuz-2.1b rocket carrying a military satellite at approximately 3:30 a.m. Eastern.
  • Cape Canaveral, Fla.: Scheduled launch of a Falcon 9 carrying Eutelsat's Hotbird 13G satellite at 11:24 p.m. Eastern.
Wednesday-Thursday: Wednesday-Friday: Thursday: Friday: Sunday:
  • Wallops Island, Va.: Scheduled launch of an Antares rocket carrying a Cygnus cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station on the NG-18 mission at 5:50 a.m. Eastern.

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