NASA is Building a Mission That Will Refuel and Repair Satellites in Orbit

Illustration of OSAM-1 (bottom) grappling Landsat 7. Credits: NASA

NASA is planning a mission to demonstrate the ability to repair and upgrade satellites in Earth orbit. The mission, called OSAM-1 (On-orbit Servicing, Assembly, and Manufacturing-1), will send a robotic spacecraft equipped with robotic arms and all the tools and equipment needed to fix, refuel or extend satellites’ lifespans, even if those satellites were not designed to be serviced on orbit.

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Antarctica Lost an Ice Shelf, but Gained an Island

The eastern coast of Antarctica has lost most of the Glenzer and Conger ice shelves, as seen in these satellite images taken between November 15, 1989 - January 9, 2022. Credit: NASA GSFC/UMBC JCET.

Collapsing ice shelves on the eastern coast of Antarctica has revealed something never seen before: a landform that might be an island. But this is not the first newly revealed island off the Antarctic coast. A series of islands have appeared as the ice shelves along the continent’s coastline has disintegrated over the past few years.

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Starlink is the Only Communications Link for Some Ukrainian Towns, but the Terminals Could Also be a Target

A team of engineers from the University of Glasgow and the Ukraine have created an engine that could cut costs by "eating itself". Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to an outpouring of support and material aid from the international community. For his part, Elon Musk obliged Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov‘s request for assistance by sending free Starlink terminals to Ukraine. For some besieged communities, like the city of Mariupol, this service constitutes the only means of getting up-to-date information, communicating with family members, or sharing their stories from the front lines of the war.

Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s Vice Prime Minister and its Minister of Digital Transformation, thanked Musk on Twitter for the devices. However, there is also the possibility that as the fighting continues, Starlink transmissions could become beacons for Russian airstrikes. John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher with The Citizen Lab (University of Toronto), pointed out this potential danger via Twitter and even recommended strategies for how this can be avoided.

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What Would a Sustainable Space Environment Look Like?

A map of space debris orbiting Earth. Credit: European Space Agency

October 4th, 2022, will be an auspicious day as humanity celebrates the 65th anniversary of the beginning of the Space Age. It all began in 1957 with the launch of the Soviet satellite Sputnik-1, the first artificial satellite ever sent to orbit. Since that time, about 8,900 satellites have been launched from more than 40 countries worldwide. This has led to growing concerns about space debris and the hazard it represents to future constellations, spacecraft, and even habitats in Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

This has led to many proposed solutions for cleaning up “space junk,” as well as satellite designs that would allow them to deorbit and burn up. Alas, there are still questions about whether a planet surrounded by mega-constellations is sustainable over the long term. A recent study by James A. Blake, a research fellow with the University of Warwick, examined the evolution of the debris environment in LEO and assessed if future space operations can be conducted sustainably.

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Ukrainians urge satellites to publicly share real-time images of the Russian invasion

On the morning of February 24th, after years of proxy conflict in the border region, Russia invaded the neighboring country of Ukraine. This invasion was the culmination of eight years of conflict that began with the removal of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych (a long-time ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin) and Russia’s subsequent annexation of Crimea. This invasion has prompted the global community to mobilize and find ways to support Ukraine!

For instance, you have Earth Observatory System Data Analytics (EOSDA), a California-based “all-in-one cloud workspace” for Earth observation solutions. In a recent statement, EOSDA CEO Max Polyakov appealed to satellite imagery firms and space agencies worldwide to share their recent and real-time high-to-medium resolution optical and radar satellite imagery with EOSDA to assist military and humanitarian aid efforts in the region.

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Stunning Photos from Air, Space and Ground of the Atlas V GOES-T Launch

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying NOAA's GOES-T satellite, launching for NASA's Launch Services Program, lifts off from from Space Launch Complex-41 at 4:38 p.m. EST on March 1, 2022. Photo Credit: United Launch Alliance

NASA and NOAA now have a sophisticated new weather satellite in space. The GOES-T satellite launched on the powerful United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket on March 1, and it will provide forecasters with high resolution weather imagery. It will also provide real-time monitoring of events on the ground like wildfires, floods and landslides, while monitoring atmospheric and climate dynamics over the Western US and Pacific Ocean.

The liftoff from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station of GOES-T (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-T) provided stunning views, and incredibly, other satellites looked down and captured the launch of the new satellite from space, such as this shot from its older sibling, GOES-16:

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Europe’s ExoMars Rover Will Likely Miss This Year’s Launch Window Because of Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine

Artist's impression of ESA’s ExoMars rover (foreground) and Russia’s stationary surface science platform (background) on the surface of Mars. Artist's impression of ESA’s ExoMars rover (foreground) and Russia’s stationary surface science platform (background) on the surface of Mars. Credit: ESA/ATG medialab

As countries around the world respond to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with sanctions aimed at crippling Moscow and Vladimir Putin, the global cooperation in space exploration that has been forged over the past 30-plus years will certainly be impacted.

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Satellites can now see Exactly Where Methane is Being Dumped Into the Atmosphere

Methane is one of the most important greenhouse gases, despite the overwhelming interest in carbon dioxide emissions as the primary source of climate change.  It is hard to track, though, as its sources can range from leaking chemical and gas pipelines to literal farm fields.  Now an energy analytics company has a system they believe can track otherwise undocumented methane emissions in a way that could prove helpful in eliminating them altogether.

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Finally, a Practical use for Space-Based Power Beaming. Sending Power to Satellites in Shade

Power beaming is one of those technologies that can completely change the world.  Almost unlimited power wherever it is needed, whenever it’s needed, is literally a technology straight out of science fiction.  Researchers have been working on the technology for decades at this point, but there has been little commercial headway so far, so what is holding this revolutionary technology up?  A “killer app” would certainly help move it along – and that is what a team from Space Power, a private company, and the University of Surrey think they have found in the form of powering other microsatellites.

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A Chinese Space Tug Just Grappled a Dead Satellite

This graphic shows a satellite in geostationary orbit. Image Credit: NASA

A Chinese satellite pulled a defunct navigation satellite out of the way of other satellites on January 22nd. The satellite, called SJ-21, appeared to operate as a space tug when it grappled onto the navigation satellite from the Chinese CompassG2 network. The operation details didn’t come from Chinese authorities but a report by ExoAnalytic Solutions, a commercial space monitoring company.

Chinese authorities are tight-lipped about the operation, but what can observations tell us about Chinese capabilities?

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