IAC News 2019


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IAC News 2019

The 70th International Astronautical Congress began in Washington on Monday, at which representatives of major space agencies and space industry enterprises from around the world speak. The conference will last until Friday. The key news for the first two days of her work is below.

1. Blue Origin wants to develop a manned lunar lander in collaboration with other companies.

The American Space Agency continues to actively prepare for the flight of astronauts to the moon in 2024. Earlier this year, contractors were selected to create the propulsion, energy and gateway modules for the Gateway near-moon orbital station. September 30, NASA published the final version of the requirements for the lunar manned lander. Acceptance of applications from industry enterprises for participation in the program will last until November 1.

The company of billionaire Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin, has submitted an application for participation in the program together with the most experienced companies in the American space industry – Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper.

This proposal implies that Blue Origin will act as the “lead contractor”. On May 9, 2019, the company presented its own project of the lunar lander, on which it has been working for several years – Blue Moon. This work became the main new project proposed by NASA. Lockheed Martin will develop a manned cockpit take-off stage that will be certified for transporting astronauts. During its creation, the achievements created for the Orion manned spacecraft will be applied. Northrop Grumman will create an interorbital tug in charge of moving the landing gear between the orbit of the Gateway station and the low reference orbit of the moon. Finally, Draper will provide avionics and navigation systems.

In addition to the super-heavy SLS rocket, a partially reusable Blue Origin New Glenn rocket can be used to launch the device.

Previously, NASA planned to issue contracts for the creation of a takeoff and landing vehicle for two companies at once. Perhaps this joint proposal will deprive NASA of choice.

2. SpaceX wants to start commercializing Starlink next year.

Starlink is a low-orbit satellite communications system being developed by SpaceX as a commercial project. Starlink's analogue and direct competitor is the OneWeb satellite constellation.

The first 60 Starlink test satellites were launched on May 24 this year on the Falcon 9 launch vehicle. To start operating the system, it will take 6-8 launches (including the one that took place). The fully deployed grouping of the first stage will consist of 1584 satellites. At the second and third stages, SpaceX plans to launch 7518 satellites into a 340-kilometer orbit and 2841 satellites into a 1200-kilometer orbit, but keep in mind that the company's plans are constantly changing.

According to the president of SpaceX, Gwen Shotwell, it will be possible to complete the necessary number of launches to begin operating the system by mid-2020. In addition to deploying a minimal grouping, SpaceX should complete development and begin serial production of communication terminals. A test sample of such a terminal is already in the possession of the founder and technical director of the company, Ilon Mask, which allowed him to write a tweet “Wow, it works!”, Sent via Starlink satellites.

Shotwell once again confirmed that the US military is interested in using the Starlink system. In particular, during a test data exchange from the cockpit of a turboprop aircraft of the US Air Force, a speed of 610 Mbps was achieved. However, the company is primarily interested in private clients. Where possible, Starlink will work directly as an Internet Service Provider. But due to the legal norms adopted in many countries, it will often be necessary to work through local providers, providing them with the satellite trunk channel service.

The second launch of Starlink satellites is scheduled for mid-November. In this mission, the Falcon 9 rocket will be used with a reusable first stage, which will perform its fourth flight.

3. Polyakov will finance the creation of a constellation of radar satellites.

EOS Data Analytics, a satellite imagery processing company, has announced its intention to create a constellation of synthetic aperture radar satellites. The launch of the first satellite is expected in 2022. Firefly Alpha rockets capable of delivering 3-4 satellites into orbit in one launch will be used to launch the vehicles.

EOS Data Analytics is owned by Max Polyakov, an American businessman of Ukrainian descent, venture capital fund Noosphere Ventures. Noosphere Ventures previously acquired Firefly Aerospace, which is developing the ultra-lightweight Firefly Alpha launcher, with its first launch scheduled for next year. Polyakov also invested in two projects of the former Russian businessman Mikhail Kokorich – Astro Digital and Momentus. In the past, Kokorich created the Russian satellite startup Dauria Aerospace, but because of a criminal case against the NGO named after Lavochkin, opened in 2014, he was forced to emigrate to the United States. Now Dauria Aerospace has ceased operations.

According to Polyakov, the goal of Noosphere Ventures is to create a vertically integrated structure, which itself will be engaged in the development of tools for spacecraft, the spacecraft themselves, their launches into space and the processing of received data.

4. ESA intends to step up the development of Prometheus refillable methane engines.

The European Space Agency in November will appeal to participating countries with a proposal to finance the creation of 2-8 additional Prometey engines.

Prometheus is an experimental engine using liquid methane and liquid oxygen as fuel. The engine supports multiple starts and can be used on reusable launch vehicles. It is assumed that the thrust of Prometheus will be 1000 kN (more than 100 tf), and the cost of one engine will be kept within 1 million euros.

Work on the Prometheus program is being carried out with the aim of using the engine on a new generation rocket, which may appear in the 2030s. However, according to Jérôme Breteau, head of the Advanced Transport Systems Division at ESA, the engine can also be used on the Arian-6 rocket as part of its modernization.

5. Leading space agencies have confirmed their interest in participating in the American lunar program.

On Monday, October 21, at the International Astronautical Congress, a joint session of the leaders of the largest space agencies was held. The event was attended by NASA Director Jim Brydenstein, ESA Head Ian Werner, JAXA President Hiroshi Yamakawa, ISRO Space Center Director S.RO Somanat, Canadian Space Agency President Sylven Laporte, China National Space Administration Vice President Wu Yanhua and Roscosmos Manned Programs Executive Director Sergey Krikalev (from the presence of the head of Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin, the congress was protected by individual sanctions).

All representatives of space agencies agreed that space cooperation should continue. Jim Brydenstein separately called on other countries to participate in the American lunar program, which provides for the creation of the Gateway near-moon orbital station and regular landings on the lunar surface.

An agreement with NASA on cooperation has already been signed by Japanese and Canadian space agencies. After the approval of the next three-year budget, ESA is likely to join the program. Europe intends to continue supplying service modules for Orion manned spacecraft and to develop a module for the Gateway station. Werner would like a European astronaut to be able to take part in the moon landing after 2025. According to Sergei Krikalev, Russia also intends to participate in the program, but so far Roscosmos is trying to determine its role in it. One of the ideas is that Russia will create its own manned transport system, duplicating the SLS superheavy rocket and the Orion ship.

Brydenstein took the opportunity to recall that NASA's ultimate goal is to land on Mars. The head of the agency indicated that accelerating the lunar program at the same time brings closer the expedition to Mars. According to him, a flight to a neighboring planet may take place already in the mid-2030s, but it should be borne in mind that this is extremely unlikely. Even in NASA's old plans, which did not include landing on the lunar surface, a flight to Mars was planned only in 2040.

In recent weeks, some American politicians have questioned the need for accelerated development of the lunar program and the transfer of landing on the moon from 2028 to 2024. Against this background, Brydenstein’s words about Mars are most likely just an attempt to defend the Artemis lunar program.

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