¶First captures for Euclid. ESA’s Euclid space telescope, launched in July as the first dedicated SpaceX mission purchased by the European agency, has delivered its first images. One of our favorites, of the Horsehead Nebula, is below. Euclid is a 1.2 m, wide-field survey telescope with a primary mission of mapping the extent of dark matter and dark energy by observing the large-scale structure of the Universe. While orbiting L2 it will capture more than ⅓ of the extragalactic sky beyond the Milky Way in both visible and near-infrared, creating a three-dimensional map of the Universe out to ~10B light-years that is 4x sharper than ground-based surveys (time is effectively the map’s third dimension). The mission’s nominal life is six years, with the hope for a mission extension only limited by budgets, any technical issues, and its supply of cold gas attitude control propellant. Related: The mission is named after the c. 300 BC father of geometry, yet the Universe doesn’t neatly fit into a Euclidean geometric box. Lorentzian Geometry (aka the geometry of Minkowski spacetime) seems to model the geometry of our universe by accounting for general relativity and the observed finite speed limit of light, something the Euclid telescope will be intimately familiar with.
Credit: ESA/Euclid/Euclid Consortium/NASA, image processing by J.-C. Cuillandre (CEA Paris-Saclay), G. Anselmi, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO
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¶Transporter again. The latest transporter mission—the ninth of its name and the fourth this year—took off on Saturday from Vandenberg AFB, carrying 113 payloads, 90 of which were deployed directly by the Falcon 9. The 23 other payloads will be deployed in the coming weeks by OTVs from Momentus (5 payloads) and D-Orbit (11 payloads, including 9 ⅓U IoT picosats from Apogeo), with Exotrail’s SpaceVan and Impulse Space’s LEO Express-1 flying demo missions as new entrants to the OTV field. Several companies also had large deployments, with Planet leading the way by launching their new demonstration sat Pelican-1 along with 36 SuperDoves. Other large deployments include 9 EO sats from SatRev, three new GHGSats (including the first fully commercial CO2 detector), four RF sats from Spire, and two SAR sats from Umbra. Rogue Space also debuted in space by launching Barry-1, a demonstration mission to test the integration of multiple data sources on orbit for faster response times. SpaceX has now conducted 83 operational launches this year, plus its first Starship test launch in April. Starship stands ready for its next orbital flight test, which could be approved for launch as soon as this Friday. Along with a heavy launch manifest for the last 45 days of the year, SpaceX will come close to, if likely just shy of, their 100 launch target.
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| ¶Short Papers|
- Simulations attempting to explain the abundance of nitrogen and carbon dioxide present in Venus’ atmosphere suggest that early Venus may have had plate tectonics similar to Earth (paper). Transient plate tectonics may be the norm, with Earth’s continued, life-enabling billions of years of plate tectonics the outlier.
- Exoplanet Gliese 367 b has almost twice the density of Earth (paper). It may be the iron core of a planet with its mantle now stripped away.
- Analysis of Mars InSight’s detection of a magnitude 4.7 Marsquake, the largest seen on the red planet, suggests that rather than meteoroid impacts like previous detections, this one was a significant tectonic event (paper). ‘We still think that Mars doesn’t have any active plate tectonics today, so this event was likely caused by the release of stress within Mars.’
- Another analysis of Mars InSight data suggests that Mars’ core is smaller than previously thought, and, above its liquid iron core, has a newly discovered layer of liquid silicates, quite different from Earth’s internals. These lighter elements in Mars’ core may suggest that the planet coalesced earlier than Earth during the solar system’s formation.
- A bright gamma-ray burst in 2022 was detected by spacecraft orbiting the Sun, Earth, and Mars, incrementally delayed as its 2.4 billion-year-old light propagated through our solar system (paper).
“The configuration of the spacecraft during the GRB 211211A event: panel (a) - location of STEREO A, SolO, MAVEN in HCI (Heliocentric inertial) coordinate system. The Earth’s orbit is shown in blue. Panels (b) and (c) display the locations of THEMIS and POES/MetOp spacecraft in the Geocentric Solar Ecliptic (GSE) coordinate system. The propagation of the GRB 221009A across the heliosphere is schematically shown with the set of planes.”
| ¶News in brief. Ingenuity flew back-to-back on consecutive sols for the first time, in preparation for its grounding over the next two weeks during the Mars solar conjunction ● OtterPup will not continue with its docking demonstration mission due to an anomaly with its Exotrail thruster—a second Otter Pup mission is planned for EOY 2024 ● Astra founders have offered to take the company private at a $30M valuation (it SPAC’ed at a valuation of $2.1 billion just two years ago) ● Virgin Galactic reduced its workforce by 18% and plans to scale back their VSS Unity flights (currently flying monthly) and then to stop by mid-2024 due to low profitability, focusing on their next generation aircraft (we hope this doesn’t go the same way as Astra) ● The US military’s reusable X37-B space plane will launch on a Falcon Heavy instead of a Falcon 9…maybe to GEO? ● LA-based Sift raised $7.5M to continue developing their telemetry analysis software ● Bulgaria became the 32nd nation to sign the Artemis Accords ● The SETI Institute received a $200M gift from the estate of Franklin Antoni, Qualcomm co-founder ● Unrelatedly, Qualcomm scrapped its plans to offer an Apple-copycat satellite SOS feature for Android phones because no smartphone makers signed up for the service ● Frank Borman, Apollo astronaut who commanded the first mission to orbit the moon, has passed away ● Saudi Arabia plans to create a "Science Fiction Space City" with a Mars focus in Taif to encourage tourism and interest in the space industry ● Rocket Lab will resume Electron launches starting with a mission for iQPS in late November, and is now aiming to launch their Venus Life Finder mission in late 2024 ● ESA is opening a competition to develop commercial cargo vehicles to transport cargo to and from the ISS ● They also signed an agreement with the developers of Starlab to explore how European missions, including cargo and crew capsules, could use the future crewed station ● NOAA-21, the agency’s latest polar-orbiting weather satellite, is now fully operational.|
Satellite imagery from NOAA-21’s VIIRS instrument shows Canadian wildfire smoke being pulled across the Atlantic Ocean by Storm Agnes.
- On this day, 35 years ago the Soviet Union launched the Buran spaceplane on an unpiloted, orbital flight around the Earth twice before making an autonomous, successful landing at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. It never flew again. 😢
- Rocket Lab shared the cause of their recent launch failure: an electrical arc in the second stage’s power supply, cutting power to the engine’s motor controllers and shorting its battery packs. This arc was possible due to a “rare interaction of multiple conditions” involving a low-pressure environment, AC current, small amounts of helium and nitrogen, and an insulation failure.
- The Starship Use Cases Hackathon has $100k in prizes for design report submissions capitalizing on the potential offered by Starship.
- ‘The European Space Agency may have a bullying problem.’ We don’t generally recommend reading the comments, but the ones on this article generally support its findings with personal stories and anecdotes of abuse.
- Meanwhile at SpaceX, ‘worker injuries soar in Elon Musk’s rush to Mars.’
- The Long Wait: a blog post from Ingenuity's chief engineer about the unplanned two-month delay between flights 52 and 53.
- A tool to find hotels with dark skies.
- We wrote about the notoriously unclear-when-it-will-launch JAXA/ISRO LUPEX mission back in Issue No. 235. Moon Monday helps clear up expectations on when these agencies' next lunar lander might actually lift off.
- Amazon Conservation Association’s MAAP project tracks illegal, often foreign-funded, gold mining in the Amazon using EO data and recently released a detailed map of this destructive and toxic activity. We’ve been impressed with Amazon Conservation Association’s work using EO data for conservation in the past, consider donating!
- Last week’s surprise moon of Dinkinesh is in fact two moons… sort of. Dink Jr. is a contact binary, and the first one humanity has seen orbiting another body. (Saturn’s Kiviuq and Bebhionn are also potentially contact binary moons.)
Dinkinesh’s surprise satellite is a surprise contact binary!