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Artemis agreements leave big questions about space mining largely unanswered – AlKhaleej Today



Last week, the United States, Australia, Canada, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom signed the relatively tight Artemis Accords, a series of rather vague recognitions on the future of space exploration. NASA has reportedly been working bilaterally with each of the signatories for some time to work out the details (or lack thereof) of the agreement. While Russia, which has long been a US partner in space exploration, hasn’t signed yet, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine hopes it will soon.

Artemis is the goddess of the moon in Greek mythology, and the deals appear to be interested, at least initially, in the upcoming similarly named U.S. Artemis Lunar Exploration Program, which is slated to resume manned missions to the moon through 2024. The deal is said to be the further consolidate the principles set out in the 1967 Space Treaty and its descendants. Therefore, the agreements – despite their broad, albeit superficial range of topics – seem to have a special purpose: The signing of the bilateral agreements, which are a prerequisite for inclusion in these NASA manned lunar missions, is intended to provide legal support for the mining of the moon and others Heavenly bodies.

Eight countries sign agreements on the future of space exploration. Photo: Getty Images

While it is ironic that on the eve of the 20th anniversary of human existence in space on the aptly named International Space Station, the US led these bilateral agreements for the most part alone, it is understandable why that choice was made. NASA administrators have essentially admitted that the UN Committee for the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) is probably the best forum for determining what we can and cannot do in space in the face of things like moon mining and mineral extraction It is not time to wait for the consensus-based body to come to a decision, especially if diplomacy, from a US perspective, calls for an underperformance provision that sees resource extraction from the moon as a necessity for future lunar bases.

While the issues of space mining are relatively new to space law, much of the other language agreed in the agreements reaffirms longstanding practice, if not full, of international law as set out in the first four of the five space treaties and as enacted by practiced by most of the aerospace nations for the past half century. These repetitions include, for example, the obligation to register relevant space objects as well as a renewed confirmation of the obligation to help personnel in need in space.

In particular, in the text of the new agreement, the term “astronaut” from the previous space treaties has been replaced by the more general term “personnel”. It is possible that this was intended, given the looming reality that future space travel will include civilian tourists and other unconventional passengers who are not astronauts in the traditional sense.

Regardless of the particular realization that billionaires like Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic will play an increasingly important role in space travel, there’s little other recognition that much of space exploration beyond Branson’s suborbital tourist flights will also be private in nature.

Richard Branson’s thoughts on an astronaut’s helmet. Photo: Getty Images

Indeed, the only direct recognition of the increasingly central role of private space actors seems to be that a data exchange exception has been worked out for these private actors. That’s it. In fact, it is unclear whether the lack of other outsourcing of private actors in the rest of the document implies that there aren’t any, and whether the private sector is equally tied to them or simply not part of the business. The latter seems more likely.

A particularly interesting aspect of the treaty is the commitment to preserve older landing sites as a common legacy of humanity, as if the bags of astronaut droppings that were unceremoniously thrown on the moon had a sacred value. However, this has been the goal of a number of non-governmental organizations for some time, so it is not surprising that it eventually became a multinational document. Similarly, in relation to the protection of the space environment, in the last two essential, albeit short and vague, paragraphs the parties have agreed to address one of the greatest problems in space – debris from space, also known as space debris. The agreements make a clear distinction between the space debris that we left on the moon and which is now protected under the treaties from the circulating space debris that must be removed with the garbage.

The most surprising part of the deals, however, was the not-too-subtle burying of the leadership. Finally, near the end of the document, the parties agree to the main purpose of the document outlined above: the mining of celestial bodies is legal under international law, and countries have the right to create “safety zones” that appear to be comparable to those in the document, excluding economic zones of the sea protecting distant coasts and national interests.

The controversial topic of space mining has been bouncing around for some time (like a lunar astronaut in an eighth of Earth’s gravity). The space treaties are somewhat ambiguous on this issue. You clearly state that space is the “province of all humanity” and that national appropriation is discouraged, but it is not clear whether that means you cannot extract any resources at all. For example, the Antarctic Treaty system, which regulates Antarctica, which is almost as remote, had to expressly stipulate a mining ban, as this is not clear enough from the other treaty texts.

Another inhospitable place, the deep sea, is also considered a universal resource, and like in Antarctica, we are allowed to extract fish from the deep sea. In addition, deep-sea lawns allow minerals to be extracted under international law, although none have yet been extracted. To some extent, the US is trying to create the same understanding of space, with the support of a handful of other international actors.

At least two countries, the US in 2015 under President Obama and Luxembourg in 2017 and possibly the most recently the United Arab Emirates, already have laws that provide for the extraction of minerals from extraterrestrial bodies. The signing of these new agreements merely further concretizes this US understanding of international space law in the Artemis Agreement. This US legal understanding could become an established law, especially if other nations don’t oppose NASA’s mining activities on the moon.

To get the ball going early, NASA transparently offered in September to buy extracted lunar regolites from private companies to set a precedent for further strengthening its position in international mining law. NASA hopes no one will cause international fuss when this happens.

Perhaps this lucrative business opportunity can help fund the next Israeli moon shot and provide much-needed financial assistance to the growing Israeli civil space industry.

These were the details of the news Artemis agreements leave big questions about space mining largely unanswered for this day. We hope that we have succeeded by giving you the full details and information. To follow all our news, you can subscribe to the alerts system or to one of our different systems to provide you with all that is new.

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SpaceX launches 60 more satellites during 15th Starlink mission – Yahoo Lifestyle UK




<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="SpaceX has launched another batch of 60 Starlink satellites, the primary ingredient for its forthcoming global broadband internet service. The launch took place at 11:31 AM EDT, with a liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. This is the fifteenth Starlink launch thus far, and SpaceX has now launched nearly 900 of the small, low Earth orbit satellites to date.” data-reactid=”19″>SpaceX has launched another batch of 60 Starlink satellites, the primary ingredient for its forthcoming global broadband internet service. The launch took place at 11:31 AM EDT, with a liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. This is the fifteenth Starlink launch thus far, and SpaceX has now launched nearly 900 of the small, low Earth orbit satellites to date.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="This launch used a Falcon 9 first stage booster that twice previously, both times earlier this year, including just in September for the delivery of a prior batch of Starlink satellites. The booster was also recovered successfully with a landing at sea aboard SpaceX’s ‘Just Read the Instructions’ floating autonomous landing ship in the Atlantic Ocean.” data-reactid=”20″>This launch used a Falcon 9 first stage booster that twice previously, both times earlier this year, including just in September for the delivery of a prior batch of Starlink satellites. The booster was also recovered successfully with a landing at sea aboard SpaceX’s ‘Just Read the Instructions’ floating autonomous landing ship in the Atlantic Ocean.

Earlier this week, Ector County Independent School District in Texas announced itself as a new pilot partner for SpaceX’s Starlink network. Next year, that district will gain connectivity to low latency broadband via Starlink’s network, connecting up to 45 households at first, with plans to expand it to 90 total household customers as more of the constellation is launched and brought online.

SpaceX’s goal with Starlink is to provide broadband service globally at speeds and with latency previously unavailable in hard-to-reach and rural areas. Its large constellation, which will aim to grow to tens of thousands of satellites before it achieves its max target coverage, offers big advantages in terms of latency and reliability vs. large geosynchronous satellites that provide most current satellite-based internet available commercially.

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SpaceX adds another 60 satellites to Starlink network – Spaceflight Now – Spaceflight Now



A Falcon 9 rocket lifts off Saturday from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX successfully deployed 60 more Starlink internet satellites in orbit Saturday, continuing a record launch cadence while engineers assess a concern with Falcon 9 rocket engines that has delayed other missions, including the next crew flight to the International Space Station.

The 60 Starlink satellites blasted off from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 11:31:34 a.m. EDT (1531:34 GMT) Saturday. The mission was delayed from Thursday to allow time for engineers to assess a problem with a camera on the Falcon 9 rocket’s upper stage.

Nine kerosene-fueled Merlin 1D engines powered the 229-foot-tall (70-meter) launcher into the sky on a trajectory northeast from Cape Canaveral.

The rocket’s first stage shut down its engines and separated two-and-a-half minutes into the mission, beginning a controlled descent to a pinpoint landing on a floating platform parked some 400 miles (630 kilometers) northeast of the launch site.

The landing concluded the third trip to space and back for the reusable Falcon 9 booster — designated B1060 — and the touchdown occurred moments before the rocket’s upper stage delivered the 60 Starlink satellites into a preliminary parking orbit.

SpaceX did not try to catch the Falcon 9’s two-piece payload fairing as they fell back to Earth under parachutes. A nose cone structure damaged a net on one of SpaceX’s fairing recovery vessels on the company’s most recent launch Oct. 18.

Instead, SpaceX dispatched one of the boats from its fleet to retrieve the fairing structures from the Atlantic Ocean for inspections, refurbishment, and potential use on a future flight.

After coasting across the Atlantic Ocean, Europe and the Middle East, the Falcon 9’s upper stage briefly reignited its single engine at T+plus 44 minutes to inject the Starlink satellites into a near-circular orbit at an altitude of roughly 170 miles (275 kilometers) with an inclination of 53 degrees to the equator.

All 60 satellites, which were flat-packed on top of the Falcon 9 rocket for launch, separated from the upper stage at 12:34 p.m. EDT (1634 GMT). A live video feed from the rocket showed the flat-panel satellites receding from view as they flew south of Tasmania.

The satellites, built by SpaceX in Redmond, Washington, were expected to unfurl power-generating solar arrays and prime their krypton ion thrusters to begin raising their orbits to an operational altitude of 341 miles (550 kilometers), where they will join more than 800 other Starlink relay stations to beam broadband internet signals across most of the populated world.

SpaceX plans to operate an initial block of around 1,500 Starlink satellites in orbits 341 miles above Earth. The company, founded by billionaire Elon Musk, has regulatory approval from the Federal Communications Commission to eventually field a fleet of up to 12,000 small Starlink broadband stations operating in Ku-band, Ka-band, and V-band frequencies.

There are also preliminary plans for an even larger fleet of 30,000 additional Starlink satellites, but a network of that size has not been authorized by the FCC.

SpaceX says the Starlink network — designed for low-latency internet service — is still in its early stages, and engineers continue testing the system to collect latency data and speed tests. In a filing with the FCC dated Oct. 13, SpaceX said it has started beta testing of the Starlink network in multiple U.S. states, and is providing internet connectivity to previously unserved students in rural areas.

On Sept. 28, the Washington Military Department announced it was using the Starlink internet service as emergency responders and residents in Malden, Washington, recover from a wildfire that destroyed much of the town.

Earlier this month, Washington government officials said the Hoh Tribe was starting to use the Starlink service. SpaceX said it recently installed Starlink ground terminals on an administrative building and about 20 private homes on the Hoh Tribe Reservation.

A catalog of Starlink satellites maintained by Jonathan McDowell, a widely-respected astronomer who tracks global spaceflight activity, indicated that 53 of the Starlink satellites have been deorbited since their launch, primarily test models that launched last year. Two other satellites have failed and another 20 appear have stopped maneuvering, leaving around 820 spacecraft presumably operational, according to McDowell.

Since Oct. 6, SpaceX has shot 180 Starlink satellites into orbit on three dedicated Falcon 9 rocket missions. That’s more satellites than in the entire constellation operated by Planet, which owns the second-biggest fleet of spacecraft in orbit.

As of this week, Planet had around 150 active SkySat and Dove Earth-imaging satellites in its fleet, a company spokesperson said.

SpaceX continues Starlink launches while engine issue delays other missions

The launch of three Starlink missions on Falcon 9 rockets this month occurred as SpaceX delayed other launches to study an issue with Merlin engines that aborted a Falcon 9 countdown Oct. 2 with a U.S. military GPS navigation satellite.

Elon Musk, SpaceX’s founder and CEO, tweeted after the abort that the countdown was stopped at T-minus 2 seconds after an “unexpected pressure rise in the turbomachinery gas generator,” referring to equipment used on the rocket’s nine Merlin first stage main engines. The gas generators on the Merlin 1D engines drives the engines’ turbopumps.

NASA announced Oct. 10 that the launch from the Kennedy Space Center of SpaceX’s first operational Crew Dragon flight to the International Space Station would be delayed from Oct. 31 until early to mid-November to allow time for engineers to study and resolve the engine issue.

Kathy Lueders, head of NASA’s human spaceflight programs, tweeted Oct. 21 that the space agency and SpaceX were making “a lot of good progress … on engine testing to better understand the unexpected behavior observed during a recent non-NASA launch.”

It’s too early to report findings at this point, as SpaceX continues testing to validate what’s believed to be the most credible cause,” Lueders tweeted.

She wrote that SpaceX is replacing one engine on the Falcon 9 rocket assigned to the Crew Dragon mission — known as Crew-1 — and one engine on the Falcon 9 booster designated for launch of a U.S.-European oceanography satellite next month from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

The engines being replaced displayed behavior during their ground testing that was similar to the “early-start behavior” noted during the aborted GPS launch Oct. 2., Lueders wrote.

The launch of the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich oceanography satellite remains scheduled for Nov. 10 from California, Lueders said.

“We are also still working towards a mid-November launch for Crew-1,” she added. “We will want a few days between Sentinel-6 and Crew-1 to complete data reviews and check performance. Most importantly, we will fly all our missions when we are ready.”

The Crew-1 mission will launch four astronauts to begin a six-month expedition on the International Space Station. It follows a two-man Crew Dragon test flight that launched May 30 and concluded with a successful return to Earth on Aug. 2, the first orbital flight of astronauts to launch from U.S. soil since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011.

In a press briefing Oct. 16, a NASA manager said engineers from NASA, the U.S. Space Force, and SpaceX are jointly investigating the engine problem that surfaced during the Oct. 2 countdown.

“I can tell you an incredible amount of data has been looked at, to include members from our commercial crew program which also has an upcoming Falcon flight,” said Tim Dunn, NASA’s launch director for the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich mission.

In addition to testing at the launch base at Cape Canaveral, SpaceX removed engines from the Falcon 9 rocket for the GPS mission and returned them to the company’s test facility in McGregor, Texas, for detailed testing and reviews.

“We’ve learned a lot,” Dunn said. “There’s going to be some hardware implications as we move forward, depending on the engines installed on various rockets. The GPS mission obviously is affected. The NASA Crew-1 mission is affected. On Sentinel-6, we are looking at the engines that are on our first stage. We are going to work through what we need to do, but as of today, we have a path forward that allows us to do whatever necessary rework may be required and still maintain that Nov. 10 launch date.”

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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NASA spacecraft leaking asteroid samples into space is 'victim of own success' – Euronews



A NASA spacecraft has been so successful in grabbing rubble from an asteroid hurtling through space millions of miles from Earth, that it collected too much and is now spilling its precious cargo back into the void.

In the space agency’s first attempt at taking samples from an asteroid, the spacecraft Osiris-Rex briefly touched asteroid Bennu earlier this week.

But scientists now know it collected far more material than was expected, and its sample container is jammed open.

“We’re almost a victim of our own success here,” said the mission’s lead scientist, Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona.

Lauretta said there is nothing flight controllers can do to clear the obstructions and prevent more bits of Bennu from escaping, other than to get the samples into their return capsule as soon as possible.

The flight team was scrambling to put the sample container into the capsule as early as Tuesday – much sooner than originally planned – for the long trip home.

Scientists were shocked on Thursday when they saw the pictures coming from Osiris-Rex following its contact with Bennu two days earlier.

A cloud of asteroid particles could be seen swirling around the spacecraft as it backed away from the asteroid.

The situation appeared to stabilise, according to Lauretta, once the robot arm was locked into place but it was impossible to know exactly how much material had already been lost.

The requirement for the mission was to bring back a minimum of 2 ounces (60 grams).

Because of the sudden turn of events, scientists won’t know how much the sample capsule is holding until it’s back on Earth.

The samples won’t make it back until 2023 – seven years after the spacecraft took off.

The complicated €675 million mission, which started with a launch back in 2016, is expected to provide information about the building blocks of the solar system.

They initially planned to spin the spacecraft to measure the contents, but that manoeuvre was cancelled since it could spill even more debris.

Japan, meanwhile, is awaiting its second batch of samples taken from a different asteroid, due back in December.

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