Thursday, January 21, 2021

FIRST UP | Airbus unseats OHB as new Galileo prime contractor • SpaceX sets several milestones with latest Starlink launch
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A SpaceNews daily newsletter | Thursday, January 21, 2021

Top Stories

Airbus Defence and Space and Thales Alenia Space won EU contracts to build the first set of next-generation Galileo satellites. The European Commission announced Wednesday that each company will build six satellites under contracts to be signed later this month with a combined value of 1.47 billion euros ($1.78 billion). The satellites, to be delivered for launch starting in 2024, feature several upgrades to the spacecraft bus and its navigation payload. OHB, which is the prime contractor for the current generation of Galileo satellites, also bid on the next-generation satellites but was not selected. [SpaceNews]

SpaceX set several milestones in the successful launch of the latest batch of Starlink satellites Wednesday. The Falcon 9, launching from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 8:02 a.m. Eastern, deployed the 60 satellites 65 minutes after liftoff. SpaceX has now launched more than 1,000 Starlink satellites, with about 950 currently in orbit. The launch also marked the first time a Falcon 9 booster was flown for the eighth time, and the shortest turnaround time between flights of the same booster. SpaceX will launch another Falcon 9 on a dedicated smallsat rideshare mission as soon as Friday. [SpaceNews]

The Biden administration has selected policy experts for space and missile defense at the Pentagon. David Zikusoka, aerospace research fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, will serve as special assistant at the office of the assistant secretary of defense for space policy. That position, which provides civilian oversight of the space enterprise at the Defense Department, will require Senate confirmation. Leonor Tomero, a senior staff member of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, will be deputy assistant director for nuclear and missile defense programs, a post that does not require Senate conformation. [SpaceNews]

Earth imaging company Satellogic has signed a multi-launch contract with SpaceX. The agreement cover four launches of Satellite satellites as part of dedicated rideshare missions, starting in June, with the option of flying additional satellites as rideshares on Starlink launches. SpaceX will be Satellogic's preferred launch provider after Satellogic previously used Chinese, European and Russian vehicles. Satellogic has 13 operational satellites today and plans to have a constellation of about 60 in service by the end of next year providing high-resolution imagery. [SpaceNews]

ESA will fly two payloads on an Airbus commercial platform on the International Space Station. The payloads will be installed on the Bartolomeo platform, mounted on the exterior of the Columbus module, in 2022 and 2024. One payload will study the effects of the space environment on organic materials and organisms, while the other will examine how the space environment degrades materials. The contract, valued at 6.5 million euros, is based on an agreement previously signed by ESA and Airbus to allow the agency to use Bartolomeo. [Airbus]

Other News

The new Biden administration is facing several challenges as it takes office. In civil space, the administration will have to decide how it wants to change the schedule or other aspects of the Artemis lunar exploration program, as well as how to implement a transition of space traffic management responsibilities to the Commerce Department. In national security space, the administration will have to address the growth of the Space Force and modernization of launch vehicles and spacecraft systems. [SpaceNews]

The White House's first small step in space involves a moon rock. The Oval Office now has a moon rock on a bookshelf, intended to represent "the ambition and accomplishments of earlier generations" and Biden's interest in science. The moon rock is believed to be one that NASA gave to the White House in 1999 to mark the 30th anniversary of Apollo 11. NASA astronauts currently on the ISS also provided a video message for a celebration of the inauguration Wednesday evening. [Washington Post]

NASA may be scaling back its presence in Russia. Russian sources said that NASA is considering reducing the number of employees at the Star City cosmonaut training center and an office in Moscow, and end its permanent presence at a biomedical facility. The moves are reportedly because NASA no longer plans to purchase seats on Russian Soyuz spacecraft, although the agency has stated its desire to barter seats on its commercial crew spacecraft for Soyuz seats. That's intended to ensure there will always be Americans and Russians on the ISS in the event one spacecraft is grounded. [Sputnik]

China's first mission to study the sun will launch next year. The Advanced Space-based Solar Observatory, scheduled for launch in the first half of 2022, will study the sun from low Earth orbit. The spacecraft will carry three instruments to monitor solar activity at a range of wavelengths. [Xinhua]

An Australian state will launch its first satellite. Steven Marshall, premier of South Australia, announced this week that his state will spend $5 million on the SASAT1 Space Services Mission, a cubesat that will provide a variety of Earth observation and monitoring services. The satellite will be built by a consortium of universities and companies in South Australia, which has positioned itself as the hub of the growing Australian space agency. The satellite will launch next year, and officials left open the possibility of launching it on an Australian rocket if one is available. [InnovationAus]

Thinking Big

"'Mars' surface area is smaller than Earth's, and consequently it cannot provide room for significant population and economic expansion,' Janhunen told Live Science. A Ceres colony, on the other hand, 'is growable from one to millions of habitats.'"

– From a article about a proposal by astrophysicst Pekka Janhunen to create a fleet of space colonies orbiting the dwarf planet Ceres, something he claimed could begin in as soon as 15 years.

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