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Canadian astronaut to join NASA’s first crewed Artemis mission around the moon



The moon as seen from the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

A Canadian space flier will join three NASA crew members on the first piloted flight of the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft around the moon, becoming the first non-U.S. astronaut on a lunar voyage, officials announced last week.

There will be a second flight opportunity for a Canadian astronaut on a later NASA mission to the international Gateway station in orbit around the moon.

NASA and the Canadian Space Agency announced the agreement for Canadian astronaut flights Dec. 16, as the agencies affirmed details of Canada’s contribution to the Gateway station, which is intended to serve as a waypoint, spacecraft refueling station, and deep space research outpost in the vicinity of the moon.

“Canada will join the U.S. on the first crewed mission to the moon since the Apollo missions,” said Navdeep Bains, Canada’s minister of innovation, science and industry. “Launching in 2023, a Canadian Space Agency astronaut will be part of Artemis 2, the first mission to carry humans to lunar orbit in over 50 years. This will make Canada only the second country after the U.S. to have an astronaut in deep space.”

Monica Witt, a NASA spokesperson, said the Artemis 2 crew will consist of three NASA astronauts and one Canadian space flier. The Artemis 2 mission is currently scheduled to launch in 2023.

The signature of a final agreement solidifies Canada’s participation in the NASA-led Artemis program, which aims to return astronauts to the surface of the moon in the 2020s. The Trump administration has a schedule goal of 2024 for landing humans on the moon’s south pole, a timetable widely viewed as ambitious and one that could be reset for later in the 2020s by the incoming Biden administration.

Under NASA’s Artemis architecture, astronauts will take off from Earth atop NASA’s Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket, fly to the moon’s vicinity in an Orion capsule, then link up with a human-rated lander for the trip to and from the lunar surface. The astronauts will then return to Earth in the Orion spacecraft.

An outpost named the Gateway, about one-sixth the size of the International Space Station, will be assembled in orbit around the moon. NASA has said the first two U.S.-owned elements of the Gateway could launch as soon as the end of 2023, although a report by the NASA inspector general in November suggested the launch of the station’s power and propulsion module and habitation section was likely to slip into 2024.

Canadian astronauts Jeremy Hansen, Jennifer Sidey-Gibbons, Joshua Kutryk, and David Saint-Jacques. Credit: NASA/Bill Stafford

Canada plans to build an upgraded robotic arm, named Canadarm3, for placement on the Gateway in the 2026 timeframe, according to NASA. The Canadian Space Agency has also formally agreed to provide robotic interfaces for Gateway modules, allowing the elements to host scientific instruments.

“Canada was the first international partner to commit to advancing the Gateway in early 2019, they signed the Artemis Accords in October, and now we’re excited to formalize this partnership for lunar exploration,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “This agreement represents an evolution of our cooperation with CSA providing the next generation of robotics that have supported decades of missions in space on the space shuttle and International Space Station, and now, for Artemis.”

The Canadarm3 robotic arm will be delivered to the Gateway by a commercial logistics mission, NASA said.. NASA has contracted with SpaceX to fly a bigger version of its Dragon cargo capsule to the Gateway in deep space. The Dragon XL will launch on SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket.

“Gateway will enable a robust, sustainable, and eventually permanent human presence on the lunar surface where we can prove out many of the skills, operations, and technologies that will be key for future human Mars missions,” said Kathy Lueders, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration and operations.

Earlier this month, NASA announced the selection of 18 U.S. astronauts to begin training for Artemis lunar missions. NASA has not revealed which of the astronauts will fly on the Artemis 2 mission — the first crewed test flight of the Space Launch System and Orion capsule — or on the first lunar landing mission.

Canadian officials did not announce which of its four active astronauts would take the seat on the Artemis 2 mission or the later flight to the Gateway.

“Canada’s fortunate to have a strong corps of highly trained professional astronauts, any one of whom would be an excellent choice,” said Lisa Campbell, president of CSA. “These decisions are made with all sorts of specific considerations at a moment in time when we get closer to flight.”

Artist’s concept of an Orion spacecraft at the moon. Credit: NASA

The Artemis 2 mission will follow an uncrewed SLS/Orion test flight, named Artemis 1, scheduled to launch no earlier than late 2021 on a trip to lunar orbit and back to Earth.

On the Artemis 2 mission, the four-person Orion crew will fly on a “hybrid free return trajectory” around the moon.

After launching from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Space Launch System will place the Orion crew capsule into orbit around Earth, where the astronauts will perform checkouts, test out the ship’s rendezvous and docking systems, and then fire Orion’s service module engine to fly to the moon a quarter-million miles away.

The crew will not enter orbit around the moon, but the trajectory will naturally bring the Orion spacecraft directly back to Earth after the astronauts arc out to a distance of 4,600 miles (7,400 kilometers) beyond the far side of the moon, farther than any humans have ever traveled into space.

The Artemis 2 mission will last around 10 days, paving the way for future landing expeditions and longer-duration flights to the Gateway.

NASA is also working with other international partners on the Artemis program, although those partnerships have not yet yielded a firm commitment for flight assignments for astronauts from other nations.

The European Space Agency and NASA signed a memorandum of understanding in October for cooperation on the Gateway. ESA will provide a habitation module developed together with Japan, along with a module to support enhanced communications, in-space refueling, and equipped with a window similar to the European-built cupola on the International Space Station.

ESA is also building service modules for Orion missions. The service modules include solar panels to produce the craft’s electrical power, and propellant tanks to feed the capsule’s rocket thrusters.

NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency have signed a joint exploration declaration of intent to begin negotiations for Japanese contributions on the Artemis program. In addition to helping ESA with the habitation module, Japan’s space agency has also expressed interest in launching resupply missions to the Gateway using the country’s next-generation HTV-X cargo freighter.

Artist’s illustration of the Gateway space station with Canada’s Canadarm3 robotic arm. Credit: CSA/NASA

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced last year that his country would provide robotics systems for the Gateway station near the moon. The government has committed 2.05 billion Canadian dollars (about $1.6 billion) over the next 24 years for the Canadarm3 program and associated robotic aids.

Canada’s four active astronauts, based at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, have been training for space missions for years. Only one of the four astronauts, David Saint-Jacques, has flown in space aboard the International Space Station.

“I’m pretty excited that Canada has had the vision and the leadership to commit to something that we do so very well — space robotics — (and) to take it into its next evolution,” said Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen. “This is a significant leap in technology. It has a lot of trickle down effects with respect to artificial intelligence.”

“The international (astronaut) corps here in Houston is over the moon excited by the prospect of these missions and for the opportunity for scientific discovery and innovation that they represent,” said Joshua Kutryk, one of Canada’s four active astronauts.



Source: – Spaceflight Now

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Twenty new COVID cases in New Brunswick as Edmundston region enters lockdown – The Record (New Westminster)



FREDERICTON — Public Health officials in New Brunswick reported another 20 cases of COVID-19 in the province Sunday, just hours after one of the province’s hardest-hit areas began a 14-day lockdown.

Nine of the new cases are in the newly locked-down Edmundston region which now has 144  of the province’s 334 active cases.

Ten of the new cases are in the Moncton region and there is one new case in the Miramichi area.

Health officials say the Edmundston lockdown is needed to curb a rise in daily infections that they fear is about to get out of control.

As of now, non-essential travel is prohibited in and out of the area, which borders Maine and Quebec’s Bas-St-Laurent region. 

The order also forces non-essential businesses, schools and public spaces to close, including outdoor ice rinks and ski hills. 

Provincial officials say they will evaluate the situation in the region every seven days, and cabinet may extend the lockdown if necessary. 

New Brunswick has had 1,124 COVID-19 cases and 13 related deaths since the pandemic began.

Five people are in hospital, including two in intensive care.

“We will be more confident in our decision making, and zone restrictions are more likely to be eased, if more New Brunswickers, in all health zones, who have symptoms get tested,” Dr. Jennifer Russell,  chief medical officer of health, said Sunday in a statement.

The Fredericton, Saint John and Moncton regions are in the red level of the province’s pandemic recovery plan, with the rest of the province at the orange level.

A handful of schools in the province are also poised to make the move to remote learning amid the surge in local infections.

Monday will be an operational response day at Andover Elementary School, Perth-Andover Middle School and Southern Victoria High School in Perth-Andover, as well as Donald Fraser Memorial School and Tobique Valley High School in Plaster Rock.

Students in those schools will learn from home starting Tuesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 24, 2021. 

The Canadian Press

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Most stable laser transmission: world record set by Australian and French researchers – World Record Academy



Perth, Western Australia, Australia–Scientists from the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research
(ICRAR) and the University of Western Australia
(UWA) teamed up with researchers from the French National Centre for Space Studies
(CNES) and the French metrology lab Systèmes de Référence Temps-Espace
(SYRTE) at Paris Observatory; by combining the Aussies’ phase stabilization technology with advanced self-guiding optical terminals, it allowed laser signals to be sent from one point to another without interference from the atmosphere, thus setting the new world record for the Most stable Laser transmission of a laser signal through the atmosphere.

The team set the world record for the most stable laser transmission by combining the Aussies’ phase stabilization technology with advanced self-guiding optical terminals. Together, these technologies allowed laser signals to be sent from one point to another without interference from the atmosphere.

Lead author Benjamin Dix-Matthews, a Ph.D. student at ICRAR and UWA, said the technique effectively eliminates atmospheric turbulence. “We can correct for atmospheric turbulence in 3-D, that is, left-right, up-down and, critically, along the line of flight,” he said. “It’s as if the moving atmosphere has been removed and doesn’t exist. It allows us to send highly stable laser signals through the atmosphere while retaining the quality of the original signal.”

Photo 1: UWA’s rooftop observatory. Credit: ICRAR.

The result is the world’s most precise method for comparing the flow of time between two separate locations using a laser system transmitted through the atmosphere, The reports.

ICRAR-UWA senior researcher
Dr. Sascha Schediwy said the research has exciting applications. “If you have one of these optical terminals on the ground and another on a satellite in space, then you can start to explore fundamental physics,” he said. “Everything from testing Einstein’s theory of general relativity more precisely than ever before, to discovering if fundamental physical constants change over time.”

The technology’s precise measurements also have practical uses in earth science and geophysics. “For instance, this technology could improve satellite-based studies of how the water table changes over time, or to look for ore deposits underground,” Dr. Schediwy said.

There are further potential benefits for optical communications, an emerging field that uses light to carry information. Optical communications can securely transmit data between satellites and Earth with much higher data rates than current radio communications.

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SpaceX Launches Rocket With 143 Satellites – The Most Ever Flown On A Single Mission – Forbes



Elon Musk’s company SpaceX has successfully launched the Transporter-1 mission, breaking the record for the most number of satellites ever flown on a single rocket.

Today, Sunday, January 24 at 10 A.M. Eastern Time, the company’s Falcon 9 lifted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida, with 143 commercial and government satellites on board.

The satellites were launched into a sun-synchronous orbit, one that stays in constant daylight, about 500 kilometers above Earth’s surface.

About eight minutes later, the bottom section of the rocket returned to Earth and landed in the Atlantic Ocean on a floating barge called Of Course I Still Love You – a norm now on SpaceX launches.

The launch was the first in SpaceX’s new “Rideshare Program”, designed to launch many satellites at a time and enable organizations to reach space at a lower cost.

SpaceX has launched rideshare missions before, notably its SSO-A mission in 2018 with 64 satellites on board, but this new program is intended to greatly expand the launch opportunities on offer.

It cost just $5,000 per kilogram to place a satellite on this rocket, or $1 million for 200 kilograms. The total mass of all the commercial satellites on board was about 2,700 kilograms, equating to almost $14 million.

The launch of 143 satellites broke the previous record for the most number of satellites on a launch, set by India in 2017 when it launched 104 on a single rocket.

The satellites on board included 48 satellites from Earth imaging company Planet Labs, a small NASA mission called V-R3x to test ways to track small spacecraft in Earth orbit, and 36 small communications satellites from Swarm Technologies.

Ten of SpaceX’s own satellites in its controversial Starlink internet mega constellation were included, which reached the milestone of 1,000 satellites launched last week.

The total mass of the satellites on board was about 5,000 kilograms.

However, the large number of satellites on board – while impressive – has caused some concern, specifically regarding space traffic management.

SpaceX did not release a detailed manifest of the satellites on board, meaning the purpose and nature of some of them was unclear at the time of launch.

“One of the problems is that we don’t even know for sure what all of the 143 satellites are,” astronomer and spaceflight expert Jonathan McDowell from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics told SpaceNews.

With some of the satellites being as small as a shoe box, they will be hard to track in orbit, a necessity to avoid collisions with other satellites.

This single launch alone will increase the number of active satellites in orbit by about five percent, given there are only about 3,000 active satellites currently orbiting Earth.

Or, in other words, one out of every 20 active satellites now in orbit were launched on this Transporter-1 mission.

Nonetheless, the launch is a huge milestone for SpaceX, letting it offer a new type of service unmatched by any other launch provider.

At $5,000 per kilogram, the flight was far cheaper for the satellites on board than on a rival commercial rocket.

For example, the New Zealand-based launch company Rocket Lab offers space on its smaller Electron rocket at about $20,000 per kilogram.

However, while these smaller launchers can’t match SpaceX on price, they can offer a dedicated launch to a specific orbit with a short wait time.

SpaceX with its rideshare missions, on the other hand, can only launch multiple satellites into one orbit, posing some issues to then move the satellites elsewhere.

Still, the service has clearly proven popular, and a Transporter-2 mission is expected later this year.

Now many will be hoping, if these launches are to become more regular, that more can be done to safely manage the large amounts of satellites deployed in orbit.

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