Issue No. 184

The Orbital Index

Issue No. 184 | Sep 7, 2022

🚀 🌍 🛰

Artemis 1 scrubbed again. After Aug 29th’s scrub (due to a liquid hydrogen umbilical leak and faulty engine thermal sensor), a second attempt on Saturday was scrubbed as well, this time because of an even worse hydrogen leak on the core stage. A launch this month is now looking unlikely. NASA engineers will first replace the leaky quick disconnect seal while at the pad so that they can test the fix with cryogenic liquids only available there. However, after that, they may still have to roll SLS back to the VAB—the Eastern Range requires that the flight termination system batteries be reset and recertified before the next launch attempt (although a waiver might be possible). The next available launch period runs from September 19 – October 4 with the following (and probably more likely) window being October 17 - 31. We’re hoping the onboard smallsats’ batteries can survive the wait.

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RIP Frank Drake, father of SETI. Renowned radio astronomer and SETI pioneer Frank Drake passed away at 92. Drake devised his eponymous equation to estimate the number of intelligent civilizations in our galaxy—the equation’s results vary widely, with optimistic variable selection yielding estimates as high as 60 million civilizations in our galaxy, while the bear case can suggest an average of less than one. Drake, an original trustee of the SETI Institute, designed the Pioneer plaque with Carl and Linda Sagan and in 1974 wrote the Arecibo message, the first purposeful message transmitted into space for other civilizations to receive. His daughter Nadia Drake is a science journalist (who often writes about space) and penned a touching eulogy including messages from his family—Ad Astra, Frank.

The Drake equation (top of image) along with a more recently developed successor (bottom) created by Aaron Frank and Woodruff Sullivan. (The latter addresses a slightly different question: what is the number of advanced civilizations likely to have developed over the history of the observable universe?)

(Short) Papers
This HR diagram shows the stellar sequence of stars similar to the Sun. Credit: ESA/Gaia/DPAC.
News in brief. Satellite images captured the devastating floods in Pakistan—estimates put flooding at having inundated ⅓ of the country since the spring Outpost Technologies raised a $7M seed round to develop satellites that can autonomously return to Earth for in-space manufacturing and microgravity experimentationChina launched another Yaogan Earth observation (and maybe spy) satelliteOQ Technology closed $13M in funding to build out its satellite-based IoT network—their first commercial satellite will launch on Vega-C in Dec. or Jan., followed by 6 more in their initial constellationSouth Korea’s KARI is seeking $459M for an ambitious year-long lunar lander mission (which suggests it can survive the frigid lunar night)Yet another Starlink launch (YASL) and then YASL, this time with a Spaceflight Sherpa-LTC craft as a rideshare—this brings SpaceX to 40 launches this year, a record for the company, in just 35 weeksMicrochip won a $50M contract to develop a next generation 12-core RISC-V space-rated processor for NASANASA also awarded Astrobotic, Honeybee Robotics, and Lockheed Martin $19.4M in total to develop deployable solar arrays for use on the MoonABL Space Systems announced that the first orbital launch attempt of their RS1 rocket will happen later this monthNASA bought five more crewed ISS missions from SpaceX for $1.4BThe US is lobbying for countries to join an anti-satellite weapons test (ASAT) ban agreement at the UNSkyroot Aerospace closed a $51m Series B for their Vikram series of small launch vehiclesA Chinese megawatt-class nuclear reactor for use in space has passed initial evaluationSpaceX static fired multiple engines on the Super Heavy Booster 7 for the first time (2 engines, apparently… a potential 33-engine test would be something to behold, although it seem unlikely the orbital launch mount could hold it down).
Booster 7’s 2-engine static fire. Credit: LabPadre
Artemis III will head to the rocky and frigid lunar south pole. Below is a long-term illumination map of the lunar south pole region, with Shackleton crater (19 km diameter) at the center. The dark regions are permanently shadowed and can approach 25 K (-248 °C), potentially the coldest places in the entire solar system. With China headed to the same region, the race is on. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University.

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