Space News Weekly Recap: India’s first private spaceflight, ISRO Mars return, and more

ISRO’s plans for Mars return

During a presentation on ISRO’s future missions, Anil Bharadwaj, Director of the Ahmedabad-based Physical Research Laboratory, announced that the space agency planned to send a probe to the red planet.

According to the initial plans charted out by the Indian space agency, it will build a lunar lander and rover that will be put into orbit by a Japanese rocket, with a landing planned near the south pole of the Moon. “The rover will then travel to the permanent shadow region of the moon which never sees sunlight,” Bhardwaj said, reports PTI.

Space News Weekly Recap: India’s first private spaceflight, ISRO Mars return, and more Inspired by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, the Mumbai-based Space Aura Aerospace Technology Pvt Ltd company has begun to build a space capsule measuring 10 feet x 8 feet, which can carry six tourists besides the pilot into space at a time. (Representational image)

Space Aura wants to send space tourists in balloon-propelled capsule

Mumbai-based Space Aura has begun building a space capsule that measures 10 feet by 8 feet, able to carry six tourists and a pilot into space, according to PTI. The company presented a prototype, named SKAP 1, during a science during a space conference held in Dehradun.

The space capsule will reportedly be propelled by a balloon filled with helium or hydrogen gas, which can take it to up to 25 kilometres above sea level. At this height, space tourists can witness the Earth’s curvature and the blackness of space for around 1 hour, according to CEO Akash Porwal.

ISRO-reusable-rocket-20220906 ISRO’s Small Satellite Launch Vehicle pictured here ahead of its unsuccessful launch on August 7. India doesn’t yet have a reusable rocket. (Image credit: ISRO handout / PTI)

ISRO’s first runway landing experiment of reusable launch vehicle

ISRO says it is ready for the first runway landing experiment of its Reusable Launch Vehicle. (RLV) PTI reports that the RLV wing body will be carried to an altitude of three to five kilometres by helicopter and released four to five kilometres away from the runway with horizontal velocity.

If all goes according to plan, the RLV will glide, navigate towards the runway and land autonomously using its landing gear. New systems like landing gear, parachutes, hook beam assembly, a radar altimeter and pseudolite have reportedly already been developed and qualified.

The mission will help the company test its systems in space. (Source: @SkyrootA)

India’s private launch vehicle’s maiden launch

The Indian Express reported that Hyderabad-based Skyroot’s Vikram-S launch vehicle is all set to go on its first flight between November 12 and November 16, from the spaceport in Sriharikota. The mission is named “Prarambh” and will carry three commercial satellites into sub-orbital flight.

“The Vikram-S rocket is a single-stage sub-orbital launch vehicle which will carry three customer payloads and help test and validate technologies in the Vikram series space launch vehicles,” said Naga Bharath Daka, COO and co-founder of the company to The Indian Express.

James Webb Space telescope Artist’s impression of the James Webb Space Telescope in space. (Image credit: NASA GSFC/CIL/Adriana Manrique Gutierrez)

NASA works around JWST glitch

NASA scientists had run into a technical glitch with the James Webb Space Telescope’s Mid-Infrared instrument earlier this year. Mission engineers have diagnosed the issue and have defined new operational procedures to allow JWST to continue science observations despite the glitch.

The issue was with a grating wheel mechanism that supports Webb’s “medium-resolution spectroscopy” (MRS mode). Engineers discovered that the mechanism was showing signs of increased friction. MRS mode was put on hold for a while till the engineers devised the new operational procedures.

Artemis 1 | SLS rocket | Orion spacecraft NASA engineer’s have secured the Artemis 1 mission’s SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft to protect them from the storm. (Image credit: NASA / Twitter)

Artemis 1 delayed, again

Tropical storm Nicole forced NASA to once again postpone the scheduled launch date of its Artemis 1 mission. This time, the launch was shifted from November 14 to November 16. In the meanwhile, the Artemis 1 mission stack, which includes the SLS rocket and the Orion spacecraft, was left at the launch pad to weather the storm.

According to the American space agency, the SLS rocket can withstand speeds close to 136 kilometres per hour or 74.4 knots. It is also designed to endure heavy rains. To protect the Orion spacecraft, all of its hatches were secured to ensure that water does not enter.

Hubble Space Telescope Through a phenomenon called gravitational lensing, three different moments in a far-off supernova explosion were captured in a single snapshot by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. (NASA, ESA, STScI, Wenlei Chen (UMN), Patrick Kelly (UMN), Hubble Frontier Fields/Handout via REUTERS)

Hubble captures stellar death

In a rare occurrence, the Hubble Space Telescope was able to capture three images which documented a supernova in “blow-by-blow” detail, according to a Reuters report. The distant star is about 530 times the size of our Sun and is about 11.5 billion years away. The images were discovered during a review of Hubble’s archival data from 2010.

Hubble was able to capture these images thanks to a phenomenon of gravitational lensing. The immense gravitational force exerted by a galaxy cluster in front of the supernova worked like a lens, bending and magnifying the light from the supernova behind it.

This photo provided by NASA shows a Northrop Grumman cargo ship about to be captured by the International Space Station’s robot arm on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022. The capsule delivered more than 8,000 pounds of supplies to the International Space Station on Wednesday, despite a jammed solar panel. (NASA via AP)

Cygnus reaches ISS with one solar panel

A Cygnus spacecraft was able to carry several tons of supplies to the International Space Station despite a jammed solar panel. When one of the solar panels of the spacecraft was jammed, flight controllers tried to open it many times to no avail. Finally, missions teams decided to go ahead without the second solar panel since the flight was managing to draw enough power with just one.

Space station crew took pictures of the spacecraft as it approached to understand what went wrong. According to Reuters, a piece of debris from the Antares rocket which launched the spacecraft had become lodged in the solar panel’s mechanism during liftoff. This was what prevented the second panel from deploying.

NASA | LOFTID | HIAD Image credit: NASA

NASA completes LOFTID demonstration

NASA successfully completed the Low-Earth Orbit Flight Test of an Inflatable Decelerator (LOFTID) mission, which demonstrated technology that could one day help land humans on Mars. The Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD) technology was developed by the space agency over more than a decade.

The entire HIAD system is foldable, packable and deployable, which means that it takes up less space on rockets compared to rigid alternatives. This also allows the design to be scalable. The large size of the device also means that it creates more drag and starts the deceleration process higher in the atmosphere than conventional alternatives.

NASA Ames Research Centre Artist’s illustration of NASA’s CAPTONE spacecraft. (Image credit: NASA Ames Research Centre/ Twitter)

NASA’s CAPSTONE about to enter lunar orbit

NASA says its CAPSTONE CubeSat is scheduled to enter the Moon’s orbit on November 13. The microwave-sized CubeSat weighing around 25 kilograms is designed to test a unique lunar orbit called a near rectilinear halo orbit, (NRHO) which is very elongated and is located at a precise balance point between the gravities of the Earth and the Moon.

This orbit could help future long-term missions like Gateway sustain a lunar orbit by spending a minimal amount of energy. Apart from the orbit, the CAPSTONE mission also demonstrates a key software technology— the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System (CAPS). CAPS uses a spacecraft-to-spacecraft navigation solution that allows it to determine its location in space without relying on tracking from Earth.

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Spy agency uses 'computer network exploitation' to take digital information

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The GCSB retrieves information directly from where it is stored or processed on computers. Photo: 123rf One of the country’s two spy agencies has revealed it retrieves information directly from where it is stored or processed on computers. The “computer network exploitation” operations have been a highly-classified secret at the […]
Spy agency uses ‘computer network exploitation’ to take digital information