Issue No. 224

The Orbital Index

Issue No. 224 | Jun 28, 2023

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Euclid. ESA is scheduled to launch Euclid, their latest astrophysics mission, on July 1st on a Falcon 9. Euclid will study the “dark Universe” by mapping the three-dimensional positions of billions of galaxies out to 10 billion light-years in order to study dark energy and the distribution of dark matter and their effects on the evolution of the Universe. The 1.2-m-diameter telescope will reside at the Earth-Sun L2, joining JWST and ESA’s Gaia to orbit a point of balanced gravitational forces about 1.5 million km away from Earth (Euclid’s specific L2 orbit will be a halo about 1 million km in diameter). Once it arrives, the newest space telescope will observe the cosmos in visible and near-infrared spectra for a nominal six-year mission (hopefully extended if fuel can be conserved). Euclid will survey roughly ⅓ of the extra-galactic ‘sky’ and is 4x sharper than existing ground-based sky surveys.

Euclid attached to its Falcon 9 ahead of a NET July 1 launch from Cape Canaveral.

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Orbiter anomaly. Launcher (recently acquired by Vast) deployed its Orbiter SN3 space tug from the F9 upper stage launched on Transporter-8. Unfortunately, after separation, SN3 suffered an anomaly that caused it to enter a high rate of spin, consuming propellant and battery reserves. This forced an emergency deployment of the three small satellite customer payloads (as well as the deployment of cubesats by the TRL11 hosted payload). While all primary payloads were able to make ground contact, at least one of the payloads, Starfish Space’s Otter Pup, inherited significant spin during deployment. Otter Pup continues to be power positive and in communication with ground systems, but, unless it’s able to remove the imparted spin, it is unlikely to be able to perform its mission objectives, and definitely will not be able to re-dock with Orbiter as planned. Despite turning off all non-critical systems, SN3 itself was unable to become power positive and, after 6 ground station passes, Launcher lost contact with the craft. Orbiter’s anomaly was caused by a software error in its attitude control system—space software is hard too.


A galaxy edge-on, or something more exotic? You decide. The top is the mysterious object imaged by Hubble, the middle and bottom are views of a local galaxy, without a bulge, edge-on.

Funding News
(Other) News in brief. Ecuador became the 26th country to sign the Artemis Accords, quickly followed by India, in a geopolitically impactful step, becoming the 27th—the US will also support India with ISRO astronauts training and collaborate on future initiativesA Delta IV Heavy launched a secret NRO mission, probably a geostationary electronic signals intelligence (ELINT) satelliteESA and Ariane Group completed a first hot-fire of their reusable Prometheus engine and Themis demonstrator—the engines are designed to be 5x reusable, with the demonstrator targeted to be fully flight-tested and ready for integration into full scale ESA rockets in 2025AST SpaceMobile announced that its large (and bright) BlueWalker 3 LEO sat successfully hit 10 Mbps download speeds repeatedly with normal cell phones in Hawai’iESA announced the Zero Debris Charter at the Paris Air Show, by which they mean that they will figure out their plans for generating zero space debris (hopefully) by the end of the year, to be implemented by 2030SES has ended merger talks with Intelsat—the deal would have been valued at roughly $10BSpaceX performed a six-engine static-fire test of their next Starship upper stage, Ship 25.
ESA’s BepiColombo flew past Mercury last week, coming within 236 km of the airless world. BepiColombo’s next Mercury flyby will be in September 2024. The solar electric spacecraft will finally enter Mercury orbit in 2025. Credit: ESA/BepiColombo/MTM

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