This month is Space: August 2020

The month of August was dominated by Elon Musk. With multiple success, he’s company has been the main highlight for this month’s review.

Compared to July, August has been really eventful. I talk about 2 new space comapanies, WrapSpace and TRSC. India and Nigeria has a new MOU. Amazon get clearance for their satellites.

Due to formatting issue, I’m no longer pasting the entire post on the website. Instead, I’ll pos the google doc link. Here is the link to google doc: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1UNmB1qAkOkD7NtkmhdZFFpAme5HLSirCpLoHoxG7YtU/edit?usp=sharing

This month in Space: July 2020

Hey guys, sorry for the delay.

Actually, I’m really busy trying to find a job right now. So not enough time to put the series together. Also, due to formatting issue, I decided, from this month, I won’t post the whole thing on the website. I’ll post a link to the google doc.

Not many news to cover for July. We have 2 significant launch. Both to Mars. For the majority of the post, I rant about peaceful use of space.

Link to the google doc: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1on9xNmzqSRX-7gq4tKnlgAEScR_7w07QU9ZOPcM7N4k/edit?usp=sharing

Thank you IEEE-AESS@BRACU

Thank you members IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society at BRAC University. Although I was online, it was pleasant to interact with you all via Q/A.

If you still have questions unanswered, you can always shoot them at: maisun.i.monowar@ieee.org

Hello everyone, with the start of the IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society BRACU Student Chapter, we are very…

Posted by IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society BRACU Student Branch Chapter on Wednesday, July 22, 2020
Event poster
Space Expedition : BRAC Onnesha | IEEE AESS

IEEE AESS presents to you it's very first event – Webinar that is focused on BRAC Onnesha! Our chief guest is Professor Dr.Arifur R. Khan. In addition, meet the very pioneers of BRAC Onnesha! There's a Q/A session after the main event. You may post your queries in that chat below and we'll try our best to have them answered!

Posted by IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society BRACU Student Branch Chapter on Saturday, July 25, 2020
Recorded Video.

Depreciation of smartphones

I noticed this month, my cell phone’s battery is dying. I don’t have the statistics of my battery cycling, but it makes sense. Although I’ve been cautious to preserve battery life, it’s been 2 years since I bought my phone. Only naturally I need a replacement now. That got me thinking, should I just buy a phone that I can throw away every year?

The phone I have right now is about $500 phone. It’ll probably last until the end of this year. So roughly, $200 depreciation for every year. So how about I buy a phone with this $200 and not bother when the phone dies. Cheap phones are great nowadays. Sure, occasionally they give you a headache. But if you are just checking your emails and receiving text, they are more than enough. Or, how about buying a $400 phone for 2 years. So the yearly cost is the same, but you get so much more. Buy an OnePlus phone and I don’t think you’ll be missing much. You have everything you could possibly need. Third option bit more luxurious. How about you buy a phone as soon as it comes out. Then keep watching the market. As soon as the second-hand market value goes below a threshold, you sell it. That way, you get the best of both world, with some risk. Your phone value may go to zero. You may break it, or lose it. All options seem like a good one. So I tried to post a poll on Facebook. Here is the result,

Option 1. Buy a $400 phone, use for 2+ years, throw away
8 votes
29%

Option 2. Buy a $200 phone, use for 1+ year, throw away
9 votes
32%

Option 3. Buy an $800 phone, use for 1 year, try to sell for $600
3 votes
10%

others
12345678
29%

total 8+9+3+8 =28 votes

So,
32% of people for option 2
29% of people chose option 1
10% of people chose option 3
29% of people would do something different.

In short, most people will buy the cheapest phone they can find. Rest will buy a sensible phone and hold on as long as possible.

Makes sense. I checked the online public data on smartphone value depreciation. iPhones do depreciate, but a lot slower compared to Androids. Android phone loses a large chunk of their value as soon as you unbox.

I looked at the amazon price history. Note8 is selling for 50% of their original value. Note10 lite has already lost 40% of its value in 6 months. Some phones are refurbished. Also, comes with no warranty.

Here’s what I think,
This time, I’ll fix my phone for $100. A new battery should keep the phone running for 2+ years. When the phone dies, I’ll buy something like Note 10 lite. A phone which is cutting edge, but already selling for less in the refurbished market. Or buy a phone like Note 8. A 2-year-old model but great features and low price.

This month in Space: March 2020

📹 🔊 Indian astronaut starts training

Source 1:

Indian Astronaut Candidates Start Training In Russia

Source 2:

Virgin Galactic gearing up to start selling suborbital spaceflight tickets again

For some reason, India, Pakistan & Bangladesh announced that they will send Astronauts into space. Bangladesh just made the announcement this year. Pakistan plans to team up with China in this regard. As far as I know, only India out of these three countries have taken actionable steps. 

After a thorough selection process, the four Indian Air Force fighter pilots became the ISRO’s candidates for the planned Gaganyaan human spaceflight mission.

The 12-month training programme began on Monday, 10 February 2020. The programme includes comprehensive and biomedical training of the Indian candidates, which will be combined with regular physical tests and exercises.

I hope they continue this process. If the goal is to send people into space for publicity, I would say that it is a terrible way to spend your money. If you want to send your pilots into space, just use Virgin Galactic. They will go to space for a couple of hours for cheap. 

I’m not against human expeditions. All I’m trying to say is, make it count. Training astronauts is an expensive process. It is also very stressful for the astronauts. I was fortunate enough to shake hands with 2 Japanese astronauts. They both trained in the USA. When asked about the most challenging part of his training, Dr. Takao Doi said, it was uncertain. He trained for months not knowing if he will ever fly on a mission. Just recently, two Russian Cosmonauts were switched with the backup team. One of the Cosmonauts had medical conditions for which he could not fly. The agency decided to switch the pair with the backup personnel. That’s how challenging and risky human space flight is. As an ordinary citizen, I would like to know the long term goal of my government. What Bangladesh hopes to achieve by sending a man to space. 

Citing medical reasons, Russia’s space agency announced Wednesday that it is replacing two cosmonauts who were scheduled to fly on the next Soyuz mission to the International Space Station in April with backup crew members.

Russian cosmonauts Nikolai Tikhonov and Andrei Babkin were training for launch April 9 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome with NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy on the Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft.

Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, said Wednesday Tikhonov and Babkin — both rookie cosmonauts — will be replaced by cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner on the Soyuz MS-16 mission. Cassidy’s assignment to the mission remains unchanged.

📹 Live long and prosper

In case you missed it: Have you seen the logo for the US Space force? Does it remind you of someone? Captain Picard maybe?

Screenshot from: https://twitter.com/mirikramer/status/1220822476621598720?s=20 

📹 🔊 Space Force gets $15.4 billion in 2021 budget request

That’s about 60% of what the White House allocates to NASA.

That money will be put to a variety of uses. For example, $1.6 billion is earmarked for three national-security launches, $1.8 billion will go toward Global Positioning System projects and $2.5 billion will support “space-based overhead persistent infrared systems,” Department of Defense (DOD) officials wrote in a press release today. 

The total DOD allocation in the request is $705.4 billion.

Source:

https://www.space.com/space-force-2021-budget-request.html

That is a lot of money. Also true, the US is a major world power. This is probably a fraction in contrast to their national budget. I only bring this up to point out how important it has become to have your presence in space as a part of national security. Just as a reminder, US is not the only country with a space force. France, Russia, China have branches of armed forces dealing with space aside from their space agency. 

🔊 Another case of data privacy violation

“I was using an app to see how many miles I rode my bike and now it was putting me at the scene of the crime,” said Zachary McCoy. Google’s legal investigations support team emailed him to let him know that local police had demanded information related to his Google account. McCoy’s lawyer “pointed to an Arizona case in which a man was mistakenly arrested and jailed for murder largely based on Google data received from a geofence warrant. McCoy said he may have ended up in a similar spot if his parents hadn’t given him several thousand dollars to hire Kenyon.”

The article also notes a Google filing last year reporting that the requests from state and federal law enforcement authorities increased by more than 1,500 percent from 2017 to 2018, and then again by 500 percent from 2018 to 2019.

Source:

https://yro.slashdot.org/story/20/03/07/2344241/google-tracked-his-bike-ride-past-a-burglary-and-that-made-him-a-suspect

Ok, this is not exactly space related news, but it ties up into a larger scope of what I care about and what I want you to pay attention to. You are encouraged to read the full story from the link above. And consider this your monthly reminder to check your digital privacy.

📹 🔊 Another small satellite launcher

Source:

https://www.space.com/

The California-based spaceflight startup Astra scrubbed a planned orbital launch attempt from the Pacific Spaceport Complex on Alaska’s Kodiak Island on Monday (March 2).

The mission’s guidance, navigation and control officer noticed some potentially problematic data less than a minute before liftoff Monday,

Three of them — Astra, Virgin Orbit and Vector Launch — advanced to become “full participants.” But Virgin Orbit and Vector Launch eventually dropped out, leaving Astra as the sole competitor.

Before this news came along, I actually did not know that DARPA had an ongoing competition to launch small satellites into orbit. Last month, I told you guys about Spin Launch. A company which recently secured $80 million in terms of seed money. 

SpaceX is doing an excellent job to bring down the cost of each launch. But SpaceX is targeting heavier satellites. SpaceX can still launch small satellites, it is just you need to find a partner to fill up the other seats. Otherwise you have to pay for the entire launch. If we have smaller rockets, (like Electron, from RocketLabs) you can pay less, launch more frequently. It is a race against a time.

📹 🔊 SpaceX raises over $500 million by selling shares

CNBC

Spin Launch isn’t the only company looking for raising money. SpaceX sold $500 million worth of shares. Not enough details are available. But I SPECULATE, this money will go into ‘Starship’ R&D. Each share was worth $220. 

📹 🔊 Satellite Boom to ‘Wreak Havoc’ on Astrophotography, NASA

Source:

Satellite Boom to ‘Wreak Havoc’ on Astrophotography, NASA Says

Image:

https://petapixel.com/assets/uploads/2020/03/satellitenigyhtskyfeat-800×800.jpg

This is a topic I personally care about. We are experiencing a growth in the satellite industry. Business analyst companies are forecasting this growth to sustain for a while. A portion of the new satellites to be launched in the coming years, will be launched into Low Earth Orbit (LEO). This is an orbit where data latency is lower although the atmospheric drag is higher. There is a topic that goes unnoticed by many. Debris problem. When you have so many satellites orbiting the earth, how to control the debris problem. Over the years, people have started paying attention. We now need the same kind of attention to a different kind of pollution. Light pollution created by these satellites in LEO.lit

It kind of sounds funny coming from me. I was born and raised in Bangladesh. Light pollution is least of our worries. As a matter of fact, thousands of people still don’t have access to electricity, hence no light at night. We have water pollution, air is unbreathable. So, on a greater scale of things, it is not as important.

I love staring into the night sky. In 2008, I went to St. Martin Island with my college buddies. The island is disconnected with the mainland and too small to have a power plant. As a result, at night, we would have no power. Diesel generators would run for 1 hour. That’s all you’d get. Being a city kid it was disappointing at first. But once I stepped outside I experienced something I would never forget. The island was far away from the mainland. So you couldn’t see any lights coming from the city. Since the generators were not running, no bright light source on the island. When you stand on the beach and look up at the sky, the sight is unforgettable. That was my first glimpse into the Galaxy. Since that time, I’ve been longing for a similar experience. But within the city boundaries, it is impossible. Let’s say, in the future, I save up enough money for a similar trip. I save up money and go to a distant remote island. Question is, will I have the same experience? Probably not. We already know starlink is creating headaches for astronomers and more satellites are on the way. From the FCC they have permission to put 30,000 more of these satellites. Sure, recent black coatings are an improvement in the reflectivity of these satellites, but it will never be enough.Image from: https://petapixel.com/assets/uploads/2020/03/satellitenigyhtskyfeat-800x800.jpg

This makes me sad.

📹 🔊 20ms latency

Source:

Elon Musk: Starlink Latency Will Be Good Enough For Competitive Gaming

Every month I compile space news, there are so many news related to SpaceX, I might need a section dedicated to SpaceX news. 

This one is from SpaceX starlink project. Since the beginning of the Starlink project announcement, I had one question, “How will this business model work?” Because building and launching satellites is very very expensive. There is no guarantee that it’ll pay off. The Iridium constellation had similar goals. To bring everybody under cell phone coverage. It didn’t work for them. SpaceX wants to bring everybody under internet coverage. Will it be any different for them? There was a similar philosophical project before. I forgot the name of the project. Much earlier to the announcement of the starlink project, a small group was working on a small satellite that could provide internet to the disconnected part of the world. There was no constellation. So the service could never be in real time. The concept was, the satellite would come with a ground terminal. Ground terminal would act as a server. It’d have some wikipedia pages pre-loaded. Once the user requests a page which was not in the server’s memory, the server would then send a request to the satellite. In the subsequent passes, the satellite would send back the requested pages. It would consume a lot of time, but at least, people would have very rudimentary access to the internet. (If someone remembers the project name, please let me know in the comments). 

What SpaceX is trying to do is very expensive. Normally, you would need a tracking device to point your antenna. If the tracking device fails, you will never upload or download anything from the satellite. Starlink service requires no pointing mechanism. That means, no matter where you are pointing, a starlink satellite would always be there. That is a lot of satellites. A lot of investment. What if there was no customer to pay for such expensive service. As I’m wondering, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced, his company is working on the same thing, OneWeb. A web connectivity solution via satellites. These people clearly have done their research and they have means to survey the market. If both of them are racing towards global satellite connection, I’m starting to think there is a lot of money to be made. Whether or not anyone is right, only time will tell.

In his latest statement, Elon Musk has said, the satellite link will have a 20ms latency. This is a bold statement to make. Even many optical broadband lines cannot manage 20ms latency time due to various routing mechanisms and internet traffic. If Starlink satellite is truly such a low latency network, then surely, a lot of people will start to line up for the service.

I would like to remind my readers at this point that latency is not the same as bandwidth. Let’s say you have very very high bandwidth and a very very high latency. You decide to watch a movie in 4K. You open up your netflix and hit play. Because you have very very high latency, it will take some time to load the movie. But at the same time, since you have very very high bandwidth, your video will not buffer. If you are gaming on this imaginary system, you’ll see the difference much clearly. Your video quality would be great, but each click or each move you make in the video game takes a while to register. The game would lag behind.

If you had the opposite system, verry very low latency and very very low bandwidth, your videos would load up very fast, but you’ll never be able to watch youtube in 4k. Your video game performance would improve, but the video quality will be rubbish.  

🔊 Lockhead martin app

www.Stuffin.space 

You can actually get a job as an ‘Orbit Designer’. In this job you decide how many satellites your company needs to make to execute their plan. Or When you need to launch your satellite so it can reach Mars using the least amount of fuel. You come up with different solutions for different input. Of course, we now have computer tools to aid us in such a decision making process. But these software are very high tech and developed in house in space agency. 

Lockhead Martin has ported and simplified these software to run from an iPad. A fucking iPad. It only means one thing, lockhead Martin is aiming to build satellite constellations for multiple clients. The work is so repeatative for them, the came up with a fucking app. What’s next? A door to door salesman selling satellite constellations???

Now some of these softwares are available in public domain (orbitron for example). These softwares are not as interesting as your iPad apps but they work. Many apps are making their way into smartphones to raise public awareness. You can download most of them for free. In the meantime, I recommend checking www.stuffin.space to get a picture of how many satellites are currently in space. Alternatively, you can check out Celestrak.com, the website I use the most for satellite tracking. 

📹 🔊 SpaceX – Starlink

Source 1:

Falcon 9 Rocket Overcomes Engine Failure To Deploy 60 Starlink Satellites

Source 2: 

Source 3: 

One of the rocket’s nine first stage engines shut down prematurely around 2 minutes, 22 seconds

The first stage missed a landing attempt on SpaceX’s drone ship parked in the Atlantic Ocean northeast of Cape Canaveral, the second time SpaceX has missed a rocket landing in the company’s last three missions.

The sixth batch of starlink satellites is up in orbit. There was a slight glitch during the launch. One of the nine first stage booster rocket engines prematurely shutdown 2 minutes 22 seconds into the launch. The mission itself remained unaffected, thanks to other 8 engines that were working just fine. The anomaly could be (we are all speculating here) due the fact that this first stage had already been used in the past. 4 times already. So it is not so surprising that on its 5th trip to space, something was not perfect. The booster rockets could not make it back to the drone ship. This is probably due to burning up extra fuel & ground operators uploading the wrong wind data. Anyway, no biggie. I’m happy to see SpaceX is pushing their boosters to the limit and learning more about them. Not so happy about the new shinny(!) starlink satellites.

Miscellaneous

My Website got hijacked

I made my first website on openshift servers. They had a free plan. Anik vai initialized the whole thing for me. I didn’t have to do a thing. After that, I slowly learned to maintain my own website. Openshift servers then migrated to kubernetes. I either had to migrate my site using kubernetes or have them deleted. Since I don’t know enough web programming and I had no use of kubernetes, I chose not to migrate. My first website got deleted.

Next, I went to wordpress. It was easy to setup. WordPress.org had a free plan. I created my personal site over there. This time, I could build everything by googling. But the problem with free wordpress.org hosting was that it was very very slow. It took me a long time for a small edit. Loading the website was no faster. I had to change the server.

I found a cheap web server where I host my current site. I don’t remember what exactly happened, but I couldn’t transfer my entire website at that time either. I had some text backups. I tried my best to restore my site.

Earlier this month (April 2020) my site got hijacked. Every time I tried to access a page from my site, it’d be automatically redirected to some shady site. I didn’t set up that redirection. I could still log-in into the web site panel. So it was probably some malware plugin I was using. Now, my skills are not enough to clean malware from the server. I contacted my server tech support. Their advice was to do a clean install. Means I’ll lose my data once again. At this moment I cannot hire any wordpress expert. I had to do it myself. This morning I deleted all of it. Thankfully, I somehow managed to do a data restore from a backup made in February. I hope to restore the rest of the pages soon. 

This month in Space: January & February 2020

China resumes launch activities

Coronavirus is damaging us in more ways I had initially imagined. China is a major supplier in multiple industries, satellite services included. The space industry is time-sensitive. You need to launch your backup satellite while your current one is active. So that you can switch to backup service as soon as the main one fails. We don’t know the full extent of financial damage due to COVID-19 yet. Kudos to the people who are back to work amidst this madness.

Docking success / onward to future

Time is money. In the service industry, each millisecond is important. But satellite hardware doesn’t really have a particular or a well-defined lifespan. As you launch it, there is no guarantee it will work. It can be dead on arrival. Or a 2 year mission can continue for 15 years. (Opportunity rover for example) Sometimes, we just run out of fuel. Geo-satellites rely on thrusters are reaction wheels to position themselves in space. Sometimes the fuels run out even the hardware are in good shape. According to international space law, you HAVE to push your dying satellite into the graveyard orbit. Otherwise, a dead satellite will occupy useful orbit for years to come. Nobody wants this. If you could just put more fuel in your satellites, that would be great. Your business would benefit. This is the concept behind MEV or mission extension vehicles. Idea is, a smaller spacecraft will dock with a larger spacecraft with necessary life support for the dying satellite. It could be fuel. It could be the battery. It could be additional thruster or antennas. 

Space being difficult, you have to prove your idea first before you can deploy business based on your idea. Northrop Grumman is doing just that. MEV is their business model. This month they have successfully docked with IntelSat, a bigger satellite. Exciting times are ahead of us. Read the details from the link below. 

Two Private Satellites Dock In Space In Historic First For Orbital Servicing

This brings me to another slightly connected topic. If we could manufacture things in orbit, then we wouldn’t even need to launch a completed satellite. We could just MAKE them in orbit. Recycle them and use robots to make ANOTHER one. This is more fiction than science. But the foundation is being laid. NASA has awarded a $142 million contract to Maxar Technologies for a demonstration of in-space construction technologies. Read more in the link below. 

NASA funds in-space manufacturing demonstration

16-day cycle space beep

No. They are not aliens. I believe aliens have better things to do than emitting an omnidirectional radio burst which is apprehendable from 500 million light-years away. 

The truth is, we really don’t know. (That’s why we do science!!!) 

I know there are pulsars throughout the universe. But clearly, this is something different. It would be interesting to the development. One more item for followup in the future.

Something In Deep Space Is Sending Signals To Earth In Steady 16-Day Cycles

Mars rover has left the building

I have to be honest, I didn’t know much about MARS 2020 missions. I kinda knew there was a mission, but I didn’t know what the mission was. Now, I know. A little bit. What I got to know fascinated me. It has some instruments that literally scream “Science, bitches!!!” It has laser spectroscopy. It can shoot freaking lasers!!! My heating up mars rock, it’s an onboard microphone with pick up the sound produced. That’s how we can do rough characterization of the rocks without even touching them. Its pure genius. 

I haven’t even mentioned the sample return mission. Getting to MARS is fucking hard. MARS 2020 mission will lay the foundation for sample return to earth! SAMPLE RETURN TO EARTH!!! It’ll fill canisters with MARS rock samples and eject them nearby. THEN, in subsequent missions, another flying rover will pick them up. If you haven’t seen the concept video yet, Mars sample return 

Launch window opens up at the end of August. 

The Mars 2020 rover has left the building! It will land on Mars 1 year from now! : spaceporn

https://mars.nasa.gov/news/8607/nasas-mars-2020-rover-goes-coast-to-coast-to-prep-for-launch/

https://mars.nasa.gov/news/8607/nasas-mars-2020-rover-goes-coast-to-coast-to-prep-for-launch/

SN1

The upcoming starship from SpaceX. We already know the testing will commence on a part by part basis. And we already know some tests will fail. In it’s latest pressure test, test object ‘SN1’ or ‘Serial No. 1’ has failed. I have a hunch this was filed under destructive test.  When you are doing failure analysis for materials, there are 2 ways. Non-destructive, where you used microscopes or other known property analysis to estimate material limits. Or, the shortcut, destructive way. You keep increasing the pressure until it explodes. 

SpaceX Starship SN-1 Fails Pressure Test and Explodes

And of course, more Starlink were launched. But that’s sort of old news. 

Blood clot on astronaut

An unnamed astronaut was diagnosed with a blood clot in her vein in space. Supply was medication was limited and the patient had to inject the available medicine into him/herself. On the 43 days of his/her mission, a supply ship delivered orally administered medicine. Upon landing, he/she needed no further treatment. 

An Astronaut Got a Blood Clot in Space. Here’s How Doctors on Earth Fixed It.

This is a real-life example of what to expect if human beings ever start doing interstellar travels. It is not only the question of how fast we can travel or what will we eat in such a long journey. We have asked much smaller questions which might not bother us in our day to day life. Say, for example, drinking water. How do WE drink water? We go to the tap or pick up the bottle of mineral water, and simply, drink. How do you drink water in SPACE? There is no tap. There is no supermarket to buy water bottles. 

So, how do you provide medical care to a team of astronauts where there is no doctor? Where there is no operating room? No pharmacy.

If you are interested in the life science realm of space, you may already know, perhaps better than me, about the different life science experiments that have been and are being conducted in space/microgravity. Chistina Koch will soon hold the record of longest space travel by a female. Record-breaking astronaut Christina Koch talks space records and more 

You might already know about the Kelly twins. Scoot and mark kelly. One brother went to space while the other stayed on earth. NASA’s Twins Study Results Published in Science Journal NASA did a lot of study on how space travel affects our lives. This case, astronaut being diagnosed with an illness in space, will no doubt be an important lesson learned in mankind space exploration history. 

Space cookies

This is similar to the topic above, ‘Blood clot on astronaut’. We really need to know how the properties of different objects change in microgravity. Fire is one of them. What do you do if a fire breaks out in space station? Because in space, shortage of Oxygen MIGHT kill you before the fire can do you any damage. 

We, as mankind, have performed experiments on growing plants in microgravity. A cooking experiment was only a matter of time. 

Nanoracks manufactured a small electric oven for ISS and they tried baking a cookie in it. Usually, it takes 20 minutes on earth to bake cookies. (That what the article said. I have no experience with baking) The first attempt in space did not go very well. After trial and error, they succeeded to bake a cookie in 2 hours. The cookies are still sealed and no one has eaten them yet. Cookies will be brought back to earth for tasting. 

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2020/jan/23/space-baked-chocolate-chip-cookies

Yay rocket lab

One of the key challenges of making space more accessible is to have a cheaper launch. Rocket Lab is addressing some of the challenges that SpaceX cannot do. Good to see they are making good progress. Rocket Lab launches satellite for US spysat agency, guides booster back to Earth 

Rocket lab recently had success to bring its first-stage booster back to earth intact. With their 11th mission, they have a visual data set that they have been hoping for. Birds Of A Feather Launch – 01/31/2020 

We know small satellites are revolutionizing space. But they are always dependent on their larger cousins for lunch. Companies like rocket labs are tackling that problem. Providing exclusive launch for smaller satellites. 

The reusable launchers will be a key factor in the future of the satellite industry. Many space faring countries are now realizing that. 

Still no GF

This one is a bit embarrassing. 

Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa is going to the moon. We already know this. He bought a few tickets from SpaceX which will fly a team of artists across the moon. The mission is supposed to inspire artists. YOu know, the same way it has inspired poets and songwriters in the past. You look at the moon and you suddenly urge a companion. 

Mezawa san is recently single. And he didn’t want to fly alone. So he hosted (now cancelled) a contest. The winner of the contest would have been Maezawa san’s girlfriend. And a free ticket around the moon. The whole story is a bit embarrassing. Read it yourself.

Japanese billionaire calls off girlfriend contest for moon trip on SpaceX Starship

Space traffic:

It’s about time someone made a move to manage space traffic. Space is for everyone. Everyone can use it. Yet no one, in particular, owns it. 

As expected, space traffic is getting out of hand. For now, it is ok. Soon things might not be so manageable. 

I did a quick search in celestial. 297 objects names as Starlink. OneWeb launched 34 sats recently. Total 40 according to celsetrak. More Starlink satellites are on the way. It is no secret, I’m no fan of Starlink. I think they are too much. Anyway, I hope this committee can come up with some useful guidelines.

OneWeb launches 34 internet satellites into orbit to boost broadband megaconstellation

Commerce Department moves ahead on space traffic management work despite limited budget

Space Traffic Is Surging, And Critics Worry There Could Be A Crash 

No satellite crash: 2 pieces of space junk whiz safely by each other over Pittsburgh 

https://www.space.com/spacex-starlink-satellites.html

If you want to keep track of space objects or have an idea of how many objects are orbiting the earth or your area now, search for Saber Astronautics.

“Saber’s app will allow amateur space gazers to spot and log the location of satellites and debris that would be shared with governments and the space community. Australian universities and businesses are expected to initially sign up to the Saber satellite-tracking app, which will also be open to schools and hobbyists.”

Batteries are likely to blow:

https://www.space.com/exploding-directv-satellite-graveyard-orbit.html

Plans have been OK’ed to move Spaceway-1 to that great graveyard in the sky before exploding.

A Boeing satellite orbits the Earth. In February, a similar satellite named Spaceway-1 will likely explode as soon as its batteries kick on.

A Boeing satellite orbits the Earth. In February, a similar satellite named Spaceway-1 will likely explode as soon as its batteries kick on.

(Image: © Boeing)

Spaceway -1, a broadcasting satellite had an accident. Now it batteries might blow. I don’t know what kind of battery Spaceway-1 uses. I can only guess it uses some battery in a pressurized container. Now, the explosion, if it happens, won’t be cinematic. But, IF it does, it will put multiple other expensive satellites at a great risk. This is how dangerous space debris can be. 

“Following an unexplained accident, a satellite built by Boeing and operated by DirecTV is at risk of exploding in the coming weeks. To mitigate potential damage to other satellites, the U.S. government will allow the satellite TV provider to move the doomed craft to a higher orbit ahead of schedule.”

2 Russian satellites are stalking US spysat

“We view this behavior as unusual and disturbing,” Space Force chief says.

Welcome to the future everybody. Where one spy satellite spies on another spi satellite which spies on other spies. Crazy world. I don’t think we are going to have any kind of privacy in the future.he commander of the U.S. Space Force

“Yesterday (Feb. 10), Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, the Space Force chief of space operations, revealed to Time magazine that a pair of Russian satellites have come extremely close, within 100 miles (160 kilometers) of the U.S. spy satellite.“

“We view this behavior as unusual and disturbing,” Raymond told Time magazine. “It has the potential to create a dangerous situation in space.” 

UAE Space Law Details Announced To Facilitate Space Sector Development

I’m already planning on a piece of an article where I plan to talk about Space Policy. Meanwhile, the excerpt below says it all.

“The UAE Space Agency announced the details of the new UAE Space Law issued by President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

The announcement was made on 24 February 2020 during an introductory workshop for the UAE Space Law, organised by the UAE Space Agency and held in Abu Dhabi. Previously, the law was passed by the UAE Cabinet, headed by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, in late 2019.

During the workshop, the Agency revealed the details of the first law of its kind in the Arab and Islamic world, which aims to create a legislative and regulatory environment for the national space sector in line with the other laws and regulations in the UAE.

The UAE Space Law consists of nine chapters and 54 articles that regulate space activities across the country and governs the Agency’s role in this regard.”

https://space.gov.ae/Documents/PublicationPDFFiles/UAE_National_Space_Policy_English.pdf

Airbus slashing jobs

“Airbus Defence and Space plans to shed about 7% of its workforce because of  weak sales, Airbus Group said Feb. 19.”  

“Faury also said “postponed contracts on the defense side” factor into the layoffs.”

Airbus, citing weak space market, to cut more than 2,300 jobs

Boeing defends Starliner

“After Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner failed to reach the International Space Station in an uncrewed test flight in December, NASA has raised some serious questions about the company’s ability to safely launch astronauts into space.”

This news illustrates exactly why the space industry is hard. This case is simply a matter of preference. As much as I hate it, I have to side with NASA with this on. 

What happened is the team decided to run test case by case basis. That’s how usually an engineering team would approach the problem. Testing each segment of the whole problem. NASA has a bad experience regarding segmented testing. Google Ariane 5. 

The team did find 2 significant problems. However, they need to run the full test again to satisfy NASA standard. 

Goodbye Spitzer

NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope is going to be put out of service after 16 of use. This is not surprising. Look at your phone. I’m pretty sure it is no longer working as it used to. Spitzer was important telescope mankind had. I’m looking forward to Spitzer’s successor. 

“How does NASA know it’s time to end a mission? For the Spitzer Space Telescope, the agency can blame it on the spacecraft’s juice.”

https://www.space.com/why-spitzer-space-telescope-must-end.html

Spin launch

https://www.space.com/spinlaunch-launch-startup-investment-funding.html

What I understand from reading the news, this is crazy shit. This tells you exactly how much money to be made in future for the company who can provide the cheapest launch opportunity. I knew about rocket labs. Spin launch is the newest one in my own knowledge domain. 

I could not dig up more info on this company. Something to do later. For the time being, we know this company has $80 million to develop their tech. 

This will be crazy.

Miscellaneous:

Meeting Astronaut Prof. Dr. Takao Doi

First of all, thanks to Ibukun, without whom I would be sitting in the lab with no clue that Dr Takao Doi was in the campus giving a talk. Somehow, I missed the email from Maeda Sensei which had information about the event. Anyway, I needed no introduction to Dr Doi. I received the first email from Dr Doi back in 2015. That email was a confirmation email to my PNST fellowship. Without the PNST program, it would have been very difficult for me to come this far, this fast. I like to believe I’m not alone. Dr Doi was the chief of the office of outer space for quite a long time (2009-2016). All of the PNST fellows start their journey in Kyutech after receiving that email. Getting to meet him in my final year of PhD was a surprise. Dr Doi is now a Professor at Kyoto University and his students are building CubeSats. That is the reason for his visit to KyuTech this year.

Dr Doi belongs to the first generation of Japanese Astronauts. He was selected to be an astronaut in 1985 with 2 other Japanese. He was the first Japanese to do a spacewalk. He flew 2 missions in space, STS-87 & STS-123. In his first mission, STS-87 he became the first Japanese to perform a spacewalk. In his second mission, he delivered and set up the KIBO module. Did I mention he has 2 Ph.D. degree and discovered 2 supernovae?!

During the seminar, he showed us a few videos of him taken during his expeditions. Talked about the features of Space Shuttle. Communication and other technical aspects of the space shuttle. The landing speed of the Space Shuttle is about 350 KM/hour. And landing is manual. Apparently, NASA has a rule which says, all space shuttle landing is to be done manually by the space shuttle commander. Also, since it has no propeller, it is a one-shot landing. if you miss the landing, and you are not going to have another chance. I didn’t know the commander of the space shuttle is always a US citizen.

Prof. Doi narrating his experience as video from his mission plays.

The seminar was a very humbling experience. A man went to space twice and came alive, where some of his colleagues did not. When asked about the biggest challenge of his life, he said it was training and waiting to be selected for a mission. He waited for over 10- years for each mission he went to. That is a lot of time training and waiting. That’s an amazing level of patience. This really brings out the question, or rather ‘the debate’. The people who have paid a lot of money to companies like SpaceX and Virgin Galactic will also go to space. But can we really call them astronauts??? Sure they will have the training and will experience liftoff and landing in a SpaceCraft. What about the risk and the sacrifices made by people like Dr Takao Doi, who dedicated his entire youth for training and made numerous other sacrifices in his personal life which we may never know? It is nearly impossible to match their level of dedication.

With Astronaut Prof. Dr. Takao Doi, who has flown to space twice, discovered 2 supernovae.

Maybe someday I’ll be lucky enough to take a selfie with Bangladeshi astronaut. The only question is, will I live long enough to do that day??? 

Sir Abed will forever live in our memories

Back in 2015 July, I was preparing my papers for Higher Studies in Kyushu Institute of Technology. At the same time I was a student of BRAC University. I was due to graduate in August. While I was making the preparation, I surprise news came in. If we could manage some research grant, we could start working on our own satellite immediately. A scope was there which later came to be known as BIRDS Project. We were very excited. We tried to approach the key personalities within the university. The time was short and it was considerable amount. We would never make it within the due time.

What if we could go and talk to Abed sir? Would that help? At that time, it was a crazy idea. But we somehow managed a 10 minutes appointment with Abed sir. We prepared the briefing material. At that time, nobody knew about Nano-satellites. Everyone we’d talk to, thought, we were trying to build a 3 ton satellite. So that’s how we prepared our briefing. I don’t remember how big it was. About 10 pages. We included all the questions you might have. What is a Nano-Satellite? Why they are useful? What sets them apart? Also, their limitations. On the day of the meeting, we were prepared to give the presentation. Arif sir would make the presentation and rest of us would be present in the room. Mind you, we were still BRACU students.

When Abed sir walked in, after the brief introduction of everyone, Arif sir prepared to started the presentation. To our surprise, he said something in the line of,

I’ve seen your file. Here’s what I don’t understand….

(* Paraphrased. I couldn’t find the minutes from the meeting.)

Imagine our surprise, until that day, we had to repeat same points over and over again to get somebody on the same page as us. This is quite normal. If you are managing a large office, I really doubt that you’ve sufficient time to do your homework. We understand. That’s why we were there, to show them what we’ve learned.

Abed sir is just not the founder and Chairperson of BRAC Bangladesh, by then, BRAC model has been adopted in multiple other countries. Even countries like USA. (Google BRAC USA to know more). A guy who is managing one of the biggest NGO shouldn’t have had time for our briefing! That’s why we’re just satisfied with 10 minutes appointment.

We’re surprised but we’re happy. We’d now emphasize on the important bits. The questions came one after another. I wish I had taken more notes on that meeting….but from what I can recall, I was astounded that these questions were not general questions. Not questions like, “How big is it?” or “Why is it so small?”. He asked us questions on the topics those we debate over in an appropriate conferences and workshop. If my memory is correct he asked about ‘Orbital Debris’. Orbital debris is still a fresh field to do your research on. This guy, who runs one of the largest NGO in the world, works for the betterment of poor people, has no exposure to satellites, is asking us the big questions. Questions we didn’t know the proper answer back then (Fortunately, Arif sir was there)

All of us after the meeting.
From the Right: Dr. Md. Khalilur Rhaman, Dr. Md. Haider Ali, Dr. Arifur Rahman Khan, Sir Fazley Hasan Abed, Maisun Ibn Monowar, Raihana Shams Islam Antara, Abdulla Hil Kafi.

The whole meeting was just like a dream. It was over quickly. But we took total 20 minutes. He have us extra 10 minutes. We were all aware of the time. We knew the 10 minutes mark has been passed. We’re expecting to be cut off and said something in the line of, “Ok. I see. I’ll let you know. Bye.”. Instead, we received a reply like,

This is great project and a good opportunity. BRAC University should pursue projects like this.

(AGAIN, I’m paraphrasing.)

As he left the room, we were all standing in shock.

“Did our funding just got approved???!!!!!!!!!!”

Is that it? Is that all we had to do? No coming to accounts office everyday?? No talking / meeting with Mr. X?? Are we done???

It appears we’re done. Within days we received the good news that the research fund has been approved and on our way.

Fast forward in 2019, we built the first satellite for Bangladesh and people still grieve why didn’t we do it any sooner.

It was people like Sir Fazle Hasan Abed and Prof. Ziauddin Ahmad who we’re silently watching over us that we could come so far. Both of them are no longer with us. But we will keep walking. We will keep pushing forward. When I grow old, I want to be at-least 5% of the man Sir Abed was.

Thank you sir. You’ll forever remain in our hearts.

This Month in Space – October 2019

New Starship

SpaceX officially revealed updates for it’s Starship. A spacecraft designed to deliver human or payloads to Mars and beyond. Elon said the Starship could launch 100 humans into space simultaneously. First announced in IAC 2016, Starship is slowly making its way into existence.

The technical specifications are off the charts. While talking about the specification, we need to think in 2 stages!

First, there is the starship itself. 9 meters in diameter. 50 meters in height. Six raptor engines burning 1200 ton of Methane and Oxygen. You can put 100+ ton of payload inside its 9m by 18 m fairing. 

Second, the booster. The first stage of the rocket which will lift the Starship to LEO. Super Heavy booster has 37 raptor engine. 9 meter diameter. 68 meter height. Housing 3300 ton propellant. Producing 72 MN thrust. 

The Starship we saw in September, is only Mk1. 20 km hover test will be done with Mk3. 

When I saw Elon making announcement for BFR, or starship as we know it today, I was amused. I wasn’t exactly sure if it would ever come into reality. I thought Falcon 9 was the peak of innovation. A big rocket that goes up and comes back on its own, only to fly back up again. Why would you need a bigger launcher. I still don’t know if we truly need a bigger rocket. With the money being poured into Starship, there could very well be a need. 

https://www.spacex.com/starship

European Satellite Dodges Starlink 44

SpaceX again. This time, not so happy news. When Starlink satellites were launched we raised a concern. What happens to radio inference? Will it fill the space with spurious noise? What about astronomy? How do we get a deep space image when Starlink satellites are bouncing back to earth. What happens to space debris problem? Of all the good things SpaceX have done, personally I wasn’t 100% happy with Starlink. 

NORAD predicted Starlink 44 satellite was headed directly towards on of the ESA satellites. The predicted date of collision was on Sept. 2. Possibility was 1 in 1,000 — 10 times higher than ESA’s threshold. When ESA operators contacted SpaceX, there was no response. I guess this is because Starlink 44 is eventually destined for deorbiting maneuver tests. So to SpaceX, Starlink 44 might not be so valuable. Eventually, ESA operator performed a maneuver to avoid collision. 

I don’t know what went behind the curtains. However, I’m pretty annoyed with this news. SpaceX should thake debris problem more seriously. 

ISRO’s Moon Landing

India’s Chandrayaan-2 mission didn’t go 100% as planned. I’d be surprised if it did. Space is hard. Challenging. We’ll never have enough resources to complete a mission with 100% success. 

With what I could read up online, ISRO’s moonlander couldn’t slow down before touchdown. So it was a crash landing. Since then, the lander went radio silent. According to ISRO, The Lunar lander was spotted by the Lunar orbiter days later. The Lunar orbiter is functioning well.

Regardless of the statistics or the numbers, I this as an absolute win.

https://www.space.com/nasa-photographs-india-moon-landing-site.html

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/09/india-isro-lander-lost-final-approach-moon-located-190908145405011.html