The Space Resource Newsletter - August 2019
Welcome to The Space Resources monthly newsletter for August 2019. India is about to land Chandrayaan-2 on the Moon, Arecibo Observatory gets critical funds to study asteroids, and water thrusters are picking up steam. We welcome all story ideas, so please contact us or reply to this email with any ideas. If you are not already subscribed to this newsletter, please consider subscribing here.
Arecibo Observatory receives NASA Grant to observe asteroids. The grant will allow the observatory to spend up to 800 hours a year studying near Earth objects during the grant period. Additionally, the funds will aid operations, maintenance, and upgrades to the radar system. Radar observations are key for characterizing asteroids and building shape models of them, a task not possible with terrestrial imaging telescopes. Link.
Sample sites selected for OSIRIS-REx mission. NASA has identified four areas on near Earth asteroid Bennu that fit the requirements needed to collect sample material. The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has been studying Bennu since it’s arrival in December 2018. Selecting sample sites has required more time due to the surface of Bennu being rougher than expected. The collection system requires material less than 2.5 cm (1 in) in diameter. The actual collection process will occur in 2020, after the sites are thoroughly studied. Link.
Chandrayaan-2 in lunar orbit, poised for September landing. After more than five orbit raising maneuvers, India’s Chandrayaan-2 successfully performed a trans-lunar injection. It is currently working to circularize its lunar orbit. The Vikram lander is expected to be deployed in early September. The two potential landing zones are in the South Pole-Aitken basin, a massive impact basin on the Moon’s southern hemisphere.
NASA successfully tests in-orbit robotic refueling connection. As part of the International Space Station based Robotic Refueling Mission 3 (RRM3), NASA demonstrated connecting two cryogenic-capable couplers. Once connected, these couplers are capable of transferring cryogenic liquids, such as methane, from one tank to another. Liquid transfer was not tested in this demonstration, however. This research expands operational knowledge of in-orbit refueling. Link.
NASA continues upgrades to its space network. The latest upgrade allows data rates of up to 600 Mbps between the ground and the International Space Station. This is double the amount of data the system was able to sustain previously, and is critical for an every expanding presence in space. Link.
Boise State University received NASA grant for in-space manufacturing research. A three-year grant from NASA provided $700,000 to explore the challenges and opportunities of plasma jet printing for NASA’s emerging In-Space Manufacturing (ISM) program. Plasma jet printing may allow a multi-purpose additive printer, capable of manufacturing equipment, sterilizing equipment, and treating food. Link.
Planning for deep space navigation, NASA starts Deep Space Atomic Clock demo. The accuracy of this clock is high enough to allow mapping of spacecraft trajectory in deep space, while also sufficiently small for use on spacecraft. The mercury-ion atomic clock offers accuracy 50 times greater than those used on GPS satellites. This technology will allow spacecraft to self-calculate trajectory without relying on Earth-based navigators. Link.
Tethers Unlimited plans for in-space test of Hydros-C water propulsion system. As part of the NASA Pathfinder Technology Demonstrator (PTD-1), the Hydros-C system will demonstrate the electrolysis of water into hydrogen and oxygen, where they will later be used for propulsion. The Altair spacecraft bus from Boeing’s Millennium Space Systems plans to use also Hydros-C. Link.
The Bradford Comet water thruster deployed on BlackSky Earth observation satellite. After a previous BlackSky Earth observation satellite launched in June with a Comet thruster, a second one was successfully launched August 19th. The water based Comet thruster was originally developed by Deep Space Industries (DSI) for use in their asteroid mining architecture. Bradford later acquired DSI and has continued development of the thrusters. Link.
University of Tokyo announces water thruster testbed launch. The Aqua Thruster Demonstrator (AQT-D) CubeSat is expected to launch in September. It will demonstrate a resistojet propulsion system called Aquarius, which uses vaporized water for thrust. This demonstration will conclude with a long-time firing test totaling 15 hours (90 ten minute firings). Link.