Development of a space-based economy, space settlement, and space news

Space news

The following are recent presentations on space-related news, made to the North Houston chapter of the National Space Society.  Most are saved in pdf format, and can be viewed simply by clicking on the link.  However, a few presentations include gif animations, which don’t work in pdf viewers.  In that case, the format is a Powerpoint presentation, which you may have to download to view.  To see the animations in Powerpoint, you may need to click on the picture, or go to “slide show” mode.  Even if you haven’t previously installed Microsoft Powerpoint, you can download and use a read-only version of Powerpoint for free from Microsoft.

Space News, April 4, 2020 (pdf) OneWeb launches 34 more communications satellites, then declares bankruptcy. SpaceX Starlink receives FCC license for 1 million user terminals, which are now a “UFO on a stick”. NASA selects SpaceX for transportation to Lunar Gateway (if it’s ever built). “Space Fence” for tracking satellites and space debris completed. COVID-19 impact. Recent launches

Space News May 2, 2020 (pdf) ISS (International Space Station) crew launch and return. NASA contracts for robotic lunar landings in 2021-2022 by Masten Space Systems, Intuitive Machines, Astrobotic. NASA funding for lunar Human Landing System by Blue Origin/Lockheed Martin/Northrop Grumman, Dynetics/Sierra Nevada, and SpaceX. Starlink update on addressing astronomers concerns on satellite brightness. Recent launches.

Space News, June 6, 2020 (pdf) Historic crewed launch to ISS on SpaceX Falcon 9/Crew Dragon. Serious re-usability shown in 8th Starlink launch. SpaceX Starship prototype SN4 explodes. Asteroid near miss. China announces space station in 2 years. Miscellany. Recent launches.

Space News, July 11, 2020 (pdf) Delayed US Mars Perseverance mission to Mars preview. Starlink and OneWeb updates. Spaceship Neptune:  To the stratosphere in a balloon. Zombie satellites return from the graveyard. NASA “Lunar Loo Challenge. “Eau de Space”. A noisy way to light birthday candles. Recent launches.

Space News, August 1, 2020 (Powerpoint) 3 missions to Mars launched by UAE, China, US. Launch windows and Hohmann transfer orbits; miscellany. Recent launches.  (Click on the animated gifs, especially for the Hohmann transfer orbits, or go to slide show mode)

Space News, September 5, 2020 (pdf) SpaceX Starlink update, including use of barges, polar orbit launches and related history of the “most expensive cow in history” in Cuba. SpaceX Starship tests. US Department of Defense selection of primary rocket launch companies. Chinese lunar base plans. Recent launches.

Space News, October 3, 2020 (pdf)   NASA’s Artemis (Moon) plans and treaty issues. Venus might have life. Cubesat launching. Recent  launches.

Space News, November 7, 2020 (pdf)  Asteroid Bennu sample collection by OSIRIS-REx. Other asteroid missions past and future.; SpaceX Starlink update.  More water found on the Moon.  NASA Tipping Point contract.  Venus life might be a false alarm.  ISS inhabited 20 years continuously. 7 nations joined Artemis accords. Blue Origin New Shepard test.  Recent launches.

Space News, December 12, 2020 (pdf)  Chinese lunar sample return (Chang’e 5) and the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program (CLEP) in general. Japanese Hayabusa 2 asteroid sample return..  Arecibo observatory collapses. SpaceX Starship protoype SN8 test “puts a crater in the right spot”. SpaceX Starlink gets FCC subsidies over 10 years. Relativity Space raises money, becoming 2nd most valuable venture-backed company. Recent launches include everything from ISS astronauts and cargo, to large spy satellites, and communications satellites the size of a slice of bread.

Space News, January 9, 2021 (pdf)  Chinese lunar sample return (Chang’e 5) update. Japanese Hayabusa 2 asteroid sample return update, with lessons re-learned  about our future space-based economy, including not to expect “space freighter captain” to be a real job.  Offbeat news on ashes smuggled aboard the ISS for Star Trek’s Scotty, smuggling alcohol and food to space stations, and Space Force now as “guardians of the ... galaxy?”.  Recent launches, and a scorecard on launches in 2020. 

Presentations on space-related topics

Presentations on specific topics related to the development of a space-based economy and settling in space are:  

Biosphere 2 and closed ecological systems:  systems biology for sustainable life outside earth, and a space settlement prototype 30 years ahead of its time

Biosphere 2 was constructed as a demonstration/test site for prototyping sealed life support systems to support future space colonization, and to better model how earth’s ecosystems work. 8 people were sealed in the 3.14 acre facility for 2 years starting in 1991.  It holds the record as the world’s largest and longest-running closed environment test.  The facility is still there and open to the public, although it is no longer sealed. The presentation Biosphere 2:  A space settlement prototype 30 years ahead of its time (pdf) offers a retrospective on its unique contributions to understanding the complexities of sustaining life outside earth.  The presentation was to the AIAA (American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics) Annual Technical Symposium (Houston),  October 24, 2020.  There also a video of the AIAA Biosphere 2 presentation on the Houston AIAA site.

Lunar gateway orbit options

The “lunar gateway” has gone through various name changes over time.  If it is built, it will be a small-scale, short term human habitat orbiting the moon (also called “cis-lunar space”).  An overview of the issues in choosing an appropriate orbit is given in this Lunar gateway orbit options presentation (Powerpoint) from January, 2019.  The presentation includes some animations.  To see those, you may need to go into “slide show” mode.

SpaceX’s StarLink and other satellite-based internet services

StarLink is a satellite-based worldwide internet service being built by SpaceX.  It was initially envisioned to be based on up to 12,000 Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites, although there is now an application to increase this to 30,000 satellites.  By comparison, there were only about 5000 satellites in orbit at the time of the first launch.  There are other competitors who also are launching large numbers of satellites in the race to provide space-based internet service.  This StarLink presentation (Powerpoint) from June, 2019 provides an overview.  The presentation includes some animations.  To see those, you may need to go into “slide show” mode or click on the picture.


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