Inside Space - April 2nd, 2019

Inside Space (Apr 2nd, 2019)

India anti-sat test debris / Mars methane / Falcon heavy preps / ESA cubesat unit


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1. The debris generated by a recent test, in which India destroyed a satellite with a missile, may have endangered the International Space Station, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said. The test generated 600 pieces of debris, including 60 large enough to be tracked, he said. U.S. officials estimate the risk of a debris impact on the ISS increased by 44 percent in the 10 days after the test. Bridenstine said the test, which took place in late March, "is not compatible with the future of human spaceflight that we need to see happen." After the test, Prime Minister Narendra Modi boasted that his country had become "a space power." – SPACE


2. Researchers say that traces of methane found by the Mars Curiosity rover in 2013 may have originated from a layer of permafrost that was fractured by a geological event. The European Space Agency’s Mars Express orbiter detected methane in the Martian atmosphere the same day the Curiosity rover detected the gas, a new study says. "Our finding constitutes the first independent confirmation of a methane detection," said Marco Giuranna, at the National Institute of Astrophysics in Rome. However, in December, ESA announced that its Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) — which is equipped with two spectrometers designed to detect methane in very low concentrations — had so far failed to identify the gas in the Martian atmosphere. If there is methane under the Mars surface, humans could potentially use it to produce energy. – THE GUARDIAN


3. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine suggested that a Falcon Heavy rocket with a propulsion stage built by United Launch Alliance (ULA) could transport the Orion capsule to the moon in 2024. Bridenstine commented while talking about the possibility that private rocket companies may take the Orion into space for an unmanned test flight in 2020 – instead of using NASA's Space Launch System, which has been plagued by delays. He said that wouldn't be possible for several reasons, including the availability of Delta IV Heavy rockets and Orion design issues. But he said that SpaceX and ULA could join forces for a 2024 crewed mission to the moon even though it would "require time [and] cost, and there is risk involved." – ARS TECHNICA


4. SpaceX will test the engines of its Falcon Heavy this week in preparation for the rocket's first commercial mission. The Heavy is slated to transport a Saudi Arabian communication satellite into space in early April. The launch could take place on Sunday evening. If everything goes according to plan, the rocket's side boosters will land after the satellite is deployed and will be reused to launch a U.S. Air Force satellite in June. – SPACEFLIGHT NOW


5. NASA has chosen three possible designs for extraterrestrial habitats as part of its ongoing 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge. The three teams will split a cash price of 100,000. They now have until May to present 3D-printed prototypes of their designs for a chance to win $800,000. – CNN

6. A new study estimates the temperature at the boundary of the Moon's core and mantle at between 1,300 and 1,470 degrees Celsius. A better understanding of the moon's temperature profile can help scientists work out what minerals may be found in its mantle. – PHYS

7. The European Space Agency (ESA) has set up a unit to develop CubeSat missions in tandem with European companies. The group is currently overseeing nine projects. "Our projects aim to fly promising new technologies in space at low cost, and rapid pace, which our partner companies can then exploit commercially," said Roger Walker, the head of ESA’s new CubeSat Systems Unit. – ESA

8. A Soyuz rocket will launch four communication satellites from the Guiana Space Center in French Guiana on Thursday. The launch will allow satellite operator SES to increase the size of its non-geostationary constellation from 16 to 20 satellites. The constellation provides services to SES clients in almost 50 countries. – SPACE DAILY

9. NASA has released two images that illustrate the shrinking of the Länta Glacier in the Alps over the past 20 years. – UPI


10. Images by NASA and Digital Globe satellites show the flower boom that has attracted scores of people to the hills of Southern California in recent weeks. – SPACE


Written and curated by Eduardo Garcia in New York. Eduardo is a former foreign correspondent who spent 10 years in Latin America. He has reported on topics such as economics, political unrest, commodities and the environment. He writes regularly for the New York Times Climate Fwd: newsletter.

Editing team: Kim Lyons (Pittsburgh-based journalist and managing editor at Inside); Susmita Baral (senior editor at Inside, who runs the biggest mac and cheese account on Instagram); and David Stegon (senior editor at Inside, whose reporting experience includes cryptocurrency and technology).


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