...the who's who,
and the what's what 
of the space industry

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VALLETTA, Malta — Launch startup PLD Space of Spain raised 7 million euros ($8.2 million) this week from Madrid-based investment bankers Arcano Partners to continue development of its Miura family of partially reusable rockets.

PLD Space spokeswoman Lorena Santos said Sept.

Mars smallsat mission bumped from launch

Thursday, 17 September 2020 18:24
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WASHINGTON — A smallsat mission to study the atmosphere of Mars is looking for a new ride after being removed as a secondary payload on the launch of a NASA asteroid mission.

The Escape and Plasma Acceleration and Dynamics Explorers, or EscaPADE, mission, was one of three smallsat missions selected by NASA in 2019 for initial studies as part of the agency’s Small Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration (SIMPLEx) program.

US West Coast on fire

Thursday, 17 September 2020 16:05
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Between fire and hurricane

Over the past month, dozens of wildfires have burned vast swathes of land in California, Oregon and Washington State, killing more than 30 people and smothering the majority of the western United States in smoke. While photographs have circulated online showing the apocalyptic orange skies, satellites in orbit around Earth carry different instruments that can provide not only images, but a wealth of complementary information needed to monitor the blazes.

A new view of Enceladus

Thursday, 17 September 2020 16:00
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A new view of Enceladus Image: A new view of Enceladus
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New Space has for the last decade challenged the established design rules for spacecraft, and proved that is it possible to design and launch small spacecrafts at a fraction of the cost of traditional designs.

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The four most promising worlds for alien life in the solar system
NASA’s Curiosity Rover takes a selfie on Mars in June, 2018. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS, CC BY-SA

The Earth's biosphere contains all the known ingredients necessary for life as we know it. Broadly speaking these are: liquid water, at least one source of energy, and an inventory of biologically useful elements and molecules.

But the recent discovery of possibly biogenic phosphine in the clouds of Venus reminds us that at least some of these ingredients exist elsewhere in the solar system too. So where are the other most promising locations for extra-terrestrial life?


Mars is one of the most Earth-like worlds in the solar system. It has a 24.5-hour day, polar ice caps that expand and contract with the seasons, and a large array of surface features that were sculpted by water during the planet's history.

The detection of a lake beneath the southern polar ice cap and methane in the Martian atmosphere (which varies with the seasons and even the time of day) make Mars a very interesting candidate for life.

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The detection of phosphine in Venus' clouds is a big deal – here's how we can find out if it really is life
A radar mosaic image of Venus. Credit: NASA.gov

On Sept. 14, 2020, a new planet was added to the list of potentially habitable worlds in the Solar System: Venus.

Phosphine, a toxic gas made up of one phosphorus and three (PH₃), commonly produced by organic life forms but otherwise difficult to make on rocky planets, was discovered in the middle layer of the Venus atmosphere. This raises the tantalizing possibility that something is alive on our planetary neighbor. With this discovery, Venus joins the exalted ranks of Mars and the icy moons Enceladus and Europa among planetary bodies where life may once have existed, or perhaps might even still do so today.

I'm a planetary scientist and something of a Venus evangelical. This discovery is one of the most exciting made about Venus in a very long time—and opens up a new set of possibilities for further exploration in search of life in the Solar System.

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Solar storm forecasts for Earth improved with help from the public
Image shows a CME erupting from the Sun's surface, captured from either side by imaging cameras on board the two STEREO spacecraft. The red and pink lines show the outline as traced by volunteers in the Solar Stormwatch project, which helped add important data about the size and shape of the CMEs into the new forecasting model. Credit: University of Reading/NASA

Solar storm analysis carried out by an army of citizen scientists has helped researchers devise a new and more accurate way of forecasting when Earth will be hit by harmful space weather.Scientists at the University of Reading added analysis carried out by members of the public to computer models designed to predict when coronal mass ejections (CMEs)—huge solar eruptions that are harmful to satellites and astronauts—will arrive at Earth.

Image: Mesh reflector for shaped radio beams

Thursday, 17 September 2020 11:50
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Image: Mesh reflector for shaped radio beams
Credit: Leri Datashvili/Large Space Structures GmbH

This prototype 2.6-m diameter metal-mesh antenna reflector represents a big step forward for the European space sector: versions can be manufactured to reproduce any surface pattern that antenna designers wish, something that was previously possible only with traditional solid antennas.

"This is really a first for Europe," says ESA engineer Jean-Christophe Angevain. "China and the US have also been working hard on similar shaped mesh technology. It is needed so that sufficiently large antennas can be deployed in orbit, which would otherwise be too bulky to fit inside a launcher fairing, while also meeting required performance levels."

ESA's AMPER (Advanced techniques for mesh reflector with improved radiation pattern performance) project performed with Large Space Structures GmbH in Germany as prime and TICRA in Denmark as subcontractor.

Antenna reflectors for satellites are often surprisingly lumpy looking. Their basic paraboloid convex shape is distorted with additional peaks and valleys. These serve to contour the resulting radio frequency beam, typically to boost signal gain over target countries and minimize it beyond their borders.

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Crew Dragon docked to ISS

WASHINGTON — As a new venture proposes to send the winner of a reality show to the International Space Station, some investors see a stronger business case for a future commercial space station.

Air pollution in a post-COVID-19 world

Thursday, 17 September 2020 10:00
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Nitrogen dioxide concentrations over Europe

Air pollution is one of the biggest environmental problems of our time. According to a new report from the European Environment Agency (EEA), air pollution now contributes to one in eight deaths in Europe. Observations from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite have been vital in tracking the evolution of air pollution, specifically nitrogen dioxide concentrations, across Europe.

SpaceX postpones Starlink launch from Florida

Thursday, 17 September 2020 08:12
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Orlando FL (SPX) Sep 18, 2020
SpaceX postponed its 13th launch cluster of Starlink communications satellites Thursday, citing a "recovery issue." The launch aboard a Falcon 9 rocket had been planned for 2:19 p.m. EDT from Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center. It was called off about 2 p.m. Although the company didn't elaborate on the specific cause of the delay, SpaceX had planned to recover the first-stage rocket
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San Antonio TX (SPX) Sep 17, 2020
A Southwest Research Institute scientist has identified stellar phosphorus as a probable marker in narrowing the search for life in the cosmos. She has developed techniques to identify stars likely to host exoplanets, based on the composition of stars known to have planets, and proposes that upcoming studies target stellar phosphorus to find systems with the greatest probability for hosting life
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Berlin, Germany (SPX) Sep 18, 2020
The Wurzburg Center for Telematics, an independent research center in Germany, and Exolaunch, a rideshare launch and deployment solutions provider, announce a launch agreement for a NetSat nanosatellite formation. Under the launch agreement, Exolaunch will coordinate all launcher related activities, including satellite shipment to launch site, integration, and deployment services to the Wu
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Vilnius, Lithuania (SPX) Sep 18, 2020
NanoAvionics, a multinational nanosatellite mission integrator, has signed a partnership agreement with Ananth Technologies Ltd (ATL) which marks NanoAvionics' entry into India's growing NewSpace industry. The agreement makes Ananth Technologies the official distributor of NanoAvionics' products and services in India, giving companies one stop access to cost effective small, micro and nano
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