# The Orbital Index

Issue No. 186 | Sep 21, 2022

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 ¶Ariane Talks Susie at IAC. ArianeGroup unveiled a multi-year design project for a new crew and cargo upper stage that it hopes will meet Europe’s appetite for space travel. Susie (Smart Upper Stage for Innovative Exploration) will launch on top of the nearly flight-ready Ariane 64 heavy-lift vehicle, carrying cargo and astronauts to LEO and, eventually, to deep space. Susie is designed for safety and reusability, providing abort capabilities for the entirety of the mission profile and landing vertically (like the DC-X and also the original vision for Dragon) after a Starship-esque belly flop reentry (however, its reorientation to vertical appears to come much sooner than Starship’s sweat-inducing last-minute version). The 12 m-long craft is significantly larger than Dragon, Starliner, or Orion—it features 40 cubic meters of payload space and a total mass of 25 tons. Susie is also designed to evolve over time, starting with cargo missions, then crew, and eventually launching on Ariane 6’s reusable successor, which will be built on technology developed by ESA’s Themis program and using the methalox Prometheus engine. (Ariane has a number of configurations for everything from a Vega replacement to a super-heavy lift vehicle using a small number of shared components across these projects.) Eventually, Susie could even move into deep space with the addition of a propulsion and life support module (it would seemingly rendezvous with this module in orbit). No timeline was announced, but we hope it garners ESA support and funding.
 Susie, with its payload bay open and solar panels deployed.
 ¶Jobs.Spire Global is hiring an FPGA Engineer in the United Kingdom.Two jobs at Colorado-based Karman+ in near Earth asteroid mining: Autonomy Lead Systems Engineer and Senior Extraction Engineer.
 ¶Lunar space suits. Last week, we mentioned that NASA awarded Axiom Space a $228M contract for “a moonwalking system” for the first crewed Artemis mission (III). This award passed over Collins Aerospace, the Apollo suit designer and the other winner of NASA’s recent xEVAS vendor contract. Both Collins and Axiom will still be eligible for future contracts for lunar and station suits through 2034, now that the Agency has stopped development on their own suits. With this win, Axiom’s ambitions are rapidly expanding—the company also brokers space tourism flights and is working on a commercial ISS module that will eventually bud off to become its own free-floating space station. If you’re looking for some light reading, here are the technical capabilities and requirements for the new suits. Axiom’s suits “must support at least six two-person Moonwalks, and release less than 100 grams of notorious lunar dust into the cabin post-moonwalks for safety” while letting astronauts survive inside frigid, permanently shadowed lunar craters for up to 2 hours.  ¶PapersResearchers looked at ancient continental crust from 2.8-3.8B years ago and found that the rate of crustal production increased roughly every 200 million years—in-sync with the Earth’s passage through the Milky Way’s spiral arms (paper). It’s possible that passing stars in these dense galactic regions dislodged Oort cloud comets, increasing bombardment and ultimately the release of magma that formed the crust. Co-author and isotope geologist Chris Kirkland noted that usually geologists focus on terrestrial processes, but their study looks at “extraterrestrial processes and where we fit in the galactic environment.”Saturn's axial tilt is 26.7°, clearly visible from the angle of its rings, and its rate of precession is nearly the same as that of Neptune’s orbital axis, leading astronomers to believe that Neptune’s gravitational pull resulted in resonant coupling and the high degree of tilt. However, a new study shows that, while the giant plants may have been in resonance in the past, they aren’t today. Through detailed simulation they propose that around 160 million years ago a missing moon dubbed Chrysalis, which had long provided the tugs necessary to keep Saturn in sync with Neptune, approached the gas giant too closely and broke apart (cf. its possible connection to Saturn’s other moons, below), resulting in instabilities that decoupled the planets. Some of Chrysalis’s material remained in orbit and became the planet’s striking rings, long thought to be about 100 million years old. So this hypothesis solves three unsolved mysteries at once: the origin of the planet’s tilt, how it coupled (and uncoupled) with Neptune, and the origin of Saturn’s rings. Perseverance has found more organic compounds in the solidified mud of an ancient river delta on Mars. Organic matter was previously detected by Curiosity and Perseverance itself, but this time the detection by the rover’s SHERLOC instrument was in sedimentary material that could have plausibly once held ancient life. Unfortunately, the instruments onboard Percy can’t tell us much more about the sample than that it contains the highest quantities of carbon on the mission yet. Further analysis will require Mars Sample Return.  Two classroom-chalk-sized rock cores inside Perseverance’s drill were extracted on “Wildcat Ridge” in Jezero Crater.  ¶Booster 7 static fires 7. On Monday, SpaceX hit a new milestone by static firing seven Raptor 2 engines at once (another video) on Super Heavy Booster 7 (BN7). Prior to the test, a prime spin test was conducted, where turbopumps on the engines were spun up to operating speed, testing the rocket’s plumbing system, but gasses were not ignited (video). After the static fire, BN7 was depressed, detanked, and moved back to the High Bay, while BN8 was rolled out to the Orbital Launch Mount (OLM) for some testing of its own. Next up, the seven Raptors will be checked out and BN7 will get some upgrades. Then, back out to the OLM for a full stack wet dress rehearsal and eventually the long-awaited 33-engine static fire. We’re still wondering if the OLM can hold down 33 raptors worth of thrust (~7,590 tons of thrust minus the weight of BN7) when the monster isn’t fully fueled with SN24 sitting on top—the seven Raptors that fired on Monday roughly equaled the thrust of one of SLS’s five-segment SRBs.  ¶News in brief. NASA technicians replaced two seals on SLS’s QD liquid hydrogen feed and fueled the rocket to test the fix, a launch attempt could happen next week (refer to this handy chart for available launch windows) ● Spaceflight signed a deal with Rocket Factory Augsberg for the upcoming RFA One rocket to carry their Sherpa space tug (this comes after SpaceX severed its long-term relationship with the company for unknown reasons earlier this year) ● Axiom will fly the first Turkish astronaut to space (which mission is TBD) ● A new bi-partisan US bill would promote the development of active debris removal systems in LEO (raw text of the bill) ● A UAE-built lunar rover will be onboard China’s Chang'e 7 lander NET 2024 ● CAPSTONE continues to tumble, but the spacecraft’s communication situation has improved and its propulsion system is being warmed back up to operating temperatures ● NASA is requesting proposals for a second crewed lander for Artemis missions in addition to Lunar Starship ● SPACs are back—Intuitive Machines is planning an$815M-valued SPAC ● Morpheus Space, a maker of miniature electric thrusters, raised a $28M Series A ● Rocket Lab launched their 30th Electron mission with a Synspective SAR sat on board (and SpaceX launched their 60th mission this year) ● Lynk has received the first FCC license for direct-to-smartphone service, giving them a lead in the SpaceX/T-Mobile/Apple/AST SpaceMobile race ● Starlink is now available on every continent ● Germany and Japan joined the US pledge to avoid kinetic ASAT tests ● ABL completed a wet dress rehearsal of its RS1 rocket and is now working with the FAA to finalize a launch window for its maiden flight from the Pacific Spaceport in Alaska ● DART should slam into and measurably move Dimorphos on Monday the 26th.  An image of asteroid Didymos taken by DART’s optical navigation camera on July 27, 2022.  ¶Etc.Next Monday, Sept 26th, Jupiter will be at its closest point to Earth in 59 years—just ~590 million kilometers away. “With good binoculars, the banding (at least the central band) and three or four of the Galilean satellites (moons) should be visible.”However, Jupiter lost the crown for ‘most moons’ to Saturn in 2019 after astronomers discovered 20 new moons (mostly ~5 km wide) bringing Saturn’s count to 82, beating Jupiter’s 79. Of those, 17 of the newly found Saturnian moons have similar retrograde orbits to previously known moons—these may be remnants of a larger moon that broke apart, perhaps Chrysalis.The Saturn V was 203 decibels at launch (paper), the SLS may be louder, and Super Heavy could be the loudest of all three. (But no, this still isn’t loud enough to melt concrete or ignite a grass fire, as is rumored of the Saturn V.)ULA’s Tory Bruno and his team are advocating for the US to form a Strategic Propellant Reserve in space by incentivizing companies to mine lunar resources (water) for a “$3 trillion cislunar economy in the next 30 years.”A deeper look at the proposed Tianwen-3 Mars sample return mission from The Planetary Society.“Asking the public to name probe to Uranus may have been a mistake.”