Issue No. 65

The Orbital Index

Issue No. 65 | May 19, 2020

🚀 🌍 🛰

The Artemis Accords. Last week, NASA announced the Artemis Accords, a set of guidelines for their vision for a multinational cislunar space. The proposed guidelines range from rescuing foreign astronauts in distress, to sharing full scientific data openly, to the governance of resources extracted from planets, moons, and asteroids. Related to resource extraction, the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 states that you cannot claim territory in space. The US has taken the stance that this applies to resources as well, with them becoming “owned” by an entity once they are extracted—this is a stance that has not been agreed on or objected to by any other nation to date. But, with the proposed bilateral negotiation of agreements in the Artemis Accords, it may become the accepted interpretation. Related: The Moon Village Association is currently requesting public feedback on a second draft of their Moon Village Principles, internationalist guideposts to building a human presence on the lunar surface.

Demo-2 is almost upon us. SpaceX and NASA’s DM-2 mission is still scheduled for the 27th, hopefully bringing the gap in US-based crewed launch to a close at a little short of 9 years. DM-2 will launch from KSC LC-39A to the ISS, where it will stay for between 30 and 119 days (while this mission is limited by solar panel degradation due to atomic oxygen, future versions of Crew Dragon will be rated for 210 days on-orbit, like Soyuz). The Crew Dragon and Falcon 9 (sporting the recently revived worm logo) are ready to be mated and their astronauts have started the standard two-week “health stabilization” quarantine. Already assuming an uneventful trip, SpaceX is preparing for Crew-1, their first operational mission, scheduled for later this year. (Related: SpaceX is sending a mosaic of pictures of Class of 2020 graduates onboard DM-2—if that’s you, add your own photo!)

Papers (about exoplanets and interstellar objects!)


News in brief. After 83 days at the ISS, the disposable Cygnus NG-13 cargo craft left for its eventual fiery trash disposal in the atmosphere, but first it will deploy two CubeSats and perform the Saffire-IV fire safety experiment safely away from the ISS and its occupants; Planet is launching six of their SkySats as rideshares on two upcoming SpaceX Starlink mission (meanwhile, due to weather, the next Starlink mission was delayed from launching this week until after DM-2); SLS has been formally delayed until late 2021—it was originally planned to launch in 2017; two 93 kg Chinese IoT satellites launched last week with demonstration intersatellite laser links; following up from last week, the first stage of China’s massive 21-ton Long March-5B primary stage made a uncontrolled reentry and parts landed on villages in the Cote d'Ivoire (after being detected on reentry by Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization infrasound stations)—had it returned 15 min earlier, parts could have hit New York City; an Atlas V launched the X-37B OTV; and, a derelict Russian Fregat upperstage broke up (possibly for a second time), generating 65 pieces of trackable debris in a high, >2,000 km orbit.

Cygnus’ solar array over Abu Dhabi, Dubai, shared by the Planetary Society.



  • NASA Kennedy Space Center is hiring a US-resident postdoc to work on bioreactors. The ideal background is chemistry, biology, or environmental engineering. Reach out to for an introduction. 
  • The Aerospace Corporation currently has 366(!) positions posted including everything from non-technical positions to technical-area experts. Aerospace is the only federally funded, non-profit, R&D center focused on space.

Watch baby planets form in the sharpest image ever taken by ALMA. These gaps are likely due to planets forming around HL Tauri. DSHARP has more lovely images of planetary disks. Related: even more images of planet-forming disks taken recently with infrared interferometry

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