Astroscale successfully demos in-space capture-and-release system to clear orbital debris

By Aria Alamalhodaei

Astroscale hit a major milestone Wednesday, when its space junk removal demo satellite that’s currently in orbit successfully captured and released a client spacecraft using a magnetic system.

The End-of-Life Services by Astroscale-demonstration (ELSA-d) mission was launched in March, with the goal of validating the company’s orbital debris removal tech. The demonstrator package, which was sent up on a Soyuz rocket that launched from Kazakhstan, included two separate spacecraft: a “servicer” designed to remove space junk, and a “client” that poses as said space junk.

“A major challenge of debris removal, and on-orbit servicing in general, is docking with or capturing a client object; this test demonstration served as a successful validation of ELSA-d’s ability to dock with a client, such as a defunct satellite,” the company explained.

The demonstration today showed that the servicer — a model of Astroscale’s future product — can successfully magnetically capture and release other spacecraft.

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Origin Space’s Robot can Capture Space Debris

Concept: China’s space exploration startup Origin Space has launched a robot prototype ‘NEO-01’ into low orbit Earth with a large net that can scoop up debris or waste left behind by other spacecraft. The 30kg robot was launched alongside other satellites on the Chinese government’s Long March 6 rocket. The aim is to forge new paths to the future of technology capable of mining elements on asteroids.

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NASA is training human-like robots to explore caves on Mars


BY SOPHIE LEWIS

When searching for signs of life on other planets, scientists say caves are a crucial place to look. But how can a team on Earth effectively explore intricate, dark, unfamiliar landscapes on another world? 

NASA and Boston Dynamics have found an answer: Fully autonomous robots.

Caves are one of the most likely places to find signs of both current and past life on other planets because they are capable of protecting life from cosmic rays and extreme temperature fluctuations around our solar system. A NASA project called BRAILLE is now working on exploring Mars-like caves that already exist on Earth in order to hone key technologies for future missions. 

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CHINA REVEALS PLANS TO COLONISE SPACE WITH A MARS BASE, CARGO FLEETS, ALIEN CITIES, AND A ‘SKY LADDER’

A potential space elevator could reduce the cost of space travel by 99 per cent – if the technology can be invented

By Adam Smith

China’s plans for the future of space exploration include a Mars base, planetary development, and a ‘sky ladder’ to transport cargo.

The first of a three-step plan involves androids launched to take samples of Mars and look for the location of a Mars base site, said Wang Xiaojun, head of the state-owned China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT) at the Global Space Exploration Conference, as reported by Global Times.

Following that will be a manned Mars mission to develop the base, while the third stage will be transporting cargo fleets from Earth to Mars to construct a community on the planet; the current timetable schedules these launches approximately every two years from 2033 until 2043.

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World’s first wooden satellite aims to prove plywood can survive space

Woodsat will take plywood to new heights in orbit later this year after acing a stratospheric test flight.

Amanda Kooser


The WISA Woodsat team is working with ESA on testing and sensors for the world’s first wooden satellite.Arctic Astronautics

Toothpicks. Tables. Crates. Spoons. Satellites? An ambitious project will send a tiny wooden satellite into orbit later this year to see if it can stand up to the brutal conditions of space. It’s already survived a test run into the stratosphere.

The WISA Woodsat is a 4-inch (10-centimeter) square satellite that’s scheduled for a fall launch on a Rocket Lab Electron rocket in New Zealand. Getting to orbit is only part of the adventure. Once it’s there, the team will monitor the little cube to see how its plywood build stands up to cold, heat, radiation and the vacuum of space.

Woodsat is the brainchild of Jari Makinen, co-founder of CubeSat replica kit company Arctic Astronautics. The European Space Agency, or ESA, is providing a suite of sensors to track the satellite’s performance and will also help with pre-flight testing.

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The Perseverance rover split CO2 on Mars to make breathable air

The MOXIE instrument, shown here being lowered into the Mars Perseverance rover while still on Earth, is a small “electrical tree” that converts carbon dioxide into oxygen on Mars.JPL-CALTECH/NASA

By Lisa Grossman

The test also shows astronauts could also make oxygen this way to fuel their trip home.

The Perseverance rover has created a breath of fresh air on Mars. An experimental device on the NASA rover split carbon dioxide molecules into their component parts. This created enough breathable oxygen to sustain a person for about 10 minutes. It was also enough oxygen to make tiny amounts of rocket fuel.

The toaster-size instrument that did this is called MOXIE. The acronym stands for Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment. Carbon dioxide, or CO2, is the primary gas in the atmosphere on Mars. MOXIE’s job is to break the chemical bonds in CO2, releasing oxygen

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Why NASA is building a gigantic telescope on the far side of the Moon

NASA’s Lunar Crater Radio Telescope could help us study the cosmic dark ages

STORY BY The Cosmic Companion, Exploring the wonders of the Cosmos, one mystery at a time.

Following the Big Bang, our budding Universe slowly cooled, and the first atoms took shape. Gravity gradually pulled on clumps of hydrogen and helium gas, forming the earliest stars. This era, lasting a few hundred million years prior to the large-scale formation of stars, is called the cosmic dark ages.

The Lunar Crater Radio Telescope (LCRT), an ambitious concept to place a massive radio telescope on the far side of the Moon, would study the Universe during this ancient era in detail for the very first time.

“While there were no stars, there was ample hydrogen during the universe’s Dark Ages — hydrogen that would eventually serve as the raw material for the first stars. With a sufficiently large radio telescope off Earth, we could track the processes that would lead to the formation of the first stars, maybe even find clues to the nature of dark matter,” explained Joseph Lazio, radio astronomer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and a member of the LCRT team.

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Cosmic comms: How the first humans on Mars will communicate with Earth

By Georgina Torbet

If you think it’s a pain to get cell reception when you visit your relatives in another state, just imagine trying to communicate with people who are at least 40 million miles away and are constantly moving relative to you. That’s what we’ll have to deal with if we plan to send humans to Mars, when communications won’t just be important – they’ll be vital.

To find out how to create a communications network that covers Mars and beyond, and how current systems are being upgraded to meet the challenge of ever-increasing amounts of data, we spoke to two experts who work on NASA’s current communications system – one on the Earth side and one on the Mars side.

This article is part of Life On Mars, a 10-part series that explores the cutting-edge science and technology that will allow humans to occupy Mars

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Why we need to colonize Mars as soon as possible

It’s our best chance to save the human race

STORY BY The Cosmic Companion

Exploring the wonders of the Cosmos, one mystery at a time.

Exploring other worlds and moving humans onto the Moon and Mars may seem foolish in light of the significant challenges we face as a species. On the surface, it might seem superfluous to bring humans to the Moon and start living on Mars, while hunger, disease, and poverty affect billions of people worldwide.

This feeds a dangerous trend, however — an anti-scientific backlash against space exploration. Some memes traveling the interwebs call for ending the exploration of other worlds, in order to “fix Earth,” or “plant trees.”

These are noble goals, vital to the survival of life (human and otherwise — let’s not forget cats). However, these significant, even existential, challenges (global warming, I’m looking in your direction) must be met with the best, most powerful tool humankind has ever devised to overcome obstacles — science.

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NASA CONSIDERING REALITY TV SHOW FILMED ON SPACE STATION

WHO’S GOING TO BE AN ASTRONAUT?

by VICTOR TANGERMANN

New Deal

NASA has signed paperwork to explore the prospect of letting a company film what would be the first reality show set in space Space.com reports.

The show, titled “Space Hero,” claims to be “the world’s first ever global casting show where contestants compete for a trip to the International Space Station,” according to a statement, with flights being offered up by Axiom Space.

Despite the agreement, nothing is set in stone just yet. The document signed by NASA this week “does not authorize a private astronaut mission to the International Space Station,” as a NASA spokesperson told Space.com. Instead, it’s meant to facilitate “initial cooperation and information sharing between NAS and Space Hero.”

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New laser to help clear the sky of space debris

by James Giggacher , Australian National University

Researchers at the Australian National University (ANU) have harnessed a technique that helps telescopes see objects in the night sky more clearly to fight against dangerous and costly space debris.

The researchers’ work on adaptive optics—which removes the haziness caused by turbulence in the atmosphere—has been applied to a new ‘guide star’ laser for better identifying, tracking and safely moving space debris.

Space debris is a major threat to the $US700 billion of space infrastructure delivering vital services around the globe each day. With laser guide star adaptive optics, this infrastructure now has a new line of defense.

The optics that focus and direct the guide star laser have been developed by the ANU researchers with colleagues from Electro Optic Systems (EOS), RMIT University, Japan and the U.S. as part of the Space Environment Research Centre (SERC).

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STARTUP SAYS ITS SUPER POWERFUL LASER CAN BLAST SPACE JUNK FROM DOWN ON THE EARTH’S SURFACE

TOP SNIPER

by DAN ROBITZSKIAPR

IT’S LIKE PLAYING A HIGH-STAKES GAME OF MISSILE COMMAND.

The Australian startup EOS Space Systems says it has finally finished building a powerful laser capable of blasting dangerous space junk out of orbit ‰ all the way from the surface of the Earth.

After seven years of development, the company says it can accurately track and snipe debris orbiting the planet from Australia’s Mt. Stromio Observatory, 9News reports. That’s an impressive feat, given the junk can travel at speeds up to 17,500 miles per hour. But if it works, the laser could make space safer for satellites and especially human astronauts without needing to launch risky cleanup missions.

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