Space news weekly recap: China’s plans for lunar minerals, Indian reusable rocket and more

While NASA began its work to replace the faulty hydrogen seal on the Artemis 1 mission’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, ISRO announced that it will be working on designing and building a reusable launch vehicle for the global market. Read about al the interesting space news that happened over the last week in our weekly space news recap.

Frank Drake, leader of search for extraterrestrial life, passes away

Frank Drake first pointed a telescope at a pair of stars in the hopes of finding an alien civilisation in 1960. Since then, he has been a leader in the search for intelligent life on other planets. The New York Times reports that drake passed away at his home in California on September 2 at the age of 92.

Among Frank Drake’s achievements was the development of the Drake Equation, which continues to be used to estimate the number of advanced civilizations in the galaxy. (Image credit: SETI)

In the early years of the search for intelligent alien life, Drake was sure that humans would come into contact with extraterrestrial intelligence within his own lifetime. But since then, he has acknowledged that he might not live to see that happen, since we have barely scratched the surface of the mysteries our universe has to offer.

His illustrious list of achievements includes the development of the Drake Equation, which continues to be used to estimate the number of advanced civilisations in the galaxy. The equation takes into account seven factors. Some of these are quite empirical, like the rate at which stars are born in the Milky Way, while others are more likely to be educated guesses at best, like the average lifetime of a technological civilisation.

India will design and build a reusable rocket for the global market: ISRO

ISRO Chairman S Somanath said that India is planning to design and build a new reusable rocket for the global market while speaking at the Bengaluru Space Expo. Somanath said that this is aimed at significantly cutting the cost of launching satellites.

“So, the idea is the next rocket that we are going to build after GSLV Mk III should be a reusable rocket. We will have to have a retro-propulsion to land it (rocket back on earth),” said Somanath, according to a PTI report. Somanath asserted that this idea cannot be ISRO’s alone, emphasising that the new rocket will have to be reusable in partnership with industry, startups and NewSpace India Limited (NSIL), the commercial arm of ISRO.

ISRO, ISRO launch, SSLV, SSLV launch, ISRO satellite launch, ISRO launch failure, ISRO SSLV failure, ISRO SSLV failure reason, Small Satellite Launch Vehicle, SSLV launch issues ISRO’s Small Satellite Launch Vehicle mission ferrying an earth observation satellite and a student satellite before its launch. (PTI)

“So, it’s a big shift from what we do today,” he pointed out. “I would like to see this (proposal) taking shape in the next few months.” “We would like to see such a rocket, a rocket which will be competitive-enough, a rocket that will be cost-conscious, production-friendly which will be built in India but operated globally for the services of the space sector. This should happen in the next few years so that we can retire all those operating launch vehicles (in India) at appropriate time,” he added, according to the report.

NASA replaces faulty seal

NASA says that it has replaced the faulty seal that caused the hydrogen leak during the second attempt at launching the Artemis 1 mission. Next, the technicians will reconnect the umbilical plates and perform inspections before preparing for a tanking demonstration that could happen as early as September 17. During this demonstration, engineers will check new seals under cryogenic conditions.

NASA teams will practice loading liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen in the rocket’s core stage and interim cryogenic propulsion stage. They will then confirm whether the leak has been repaired and will also perform a kick-start bleed test and pre-pressurisation test which will validate the ground and flight systems.

Webb captures a near-perfect ‘Einstein ring’

The James Webb Space Telescope captured this image of an Einstein Ring. This phenomenon is created when the light from a galaxy, star or other light-emitting cosmic object passes near a massive object before it reaches the observer, which in this case is the Webb Telescope.

An image of an einstein ring captured by the James Webb Space Telescope This image of an Einstein ring was captured by the James Webb Space Telescope. (Image credit: NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI/ u/spaceguy44 on Reddit)

When light passes through the distorted space-time caused by a massive object, it causes “gravitational lensing,” where the light gets diverted. Sometimes, when the source, gravitational lens and observing element are all in perfect alignment this causes the light to appear as a ring. In this image, the light originates from the distant galaxy SPT-S J041839-4751.8. The galaxy is around 12 billion light-years away from our planet, which also means that it is one of the oldest galaxies in the universe.

Hubble image shows two spiral galaxies seemingly overlapping Hubble captured this image of two galaxies over a billion years away from out planet. (Image credit: ESA/Hubble)

Hubble captures two galaxies ‘overlapping’

This image of two spiral galaxies seemingly overlapping was captured by the Hubble Space Telescope. The two galaxies in the image are called SDSS J115331 and LEDA 2073461 and they lie more than a billion light years away from Earth. Although it looks like both the galaxies are colliding in the image, they aren’t really interacting at all and just seem to be aligned from Hubble’s point of view.

This image was taken based on the highlights from NASA’s Galaxy Zoo project. Established in 2007, the project is a massive citizen science project which crowdsources galaxy classifications from thousands of volunteers. This project helps scientists sort through vast amounts of data and allocate valuable telescope time based on the results.

high resolution image of the sun's chromosphere The image of the Sun’s chromosphere captured by Inouye has an 18-kilometre resolution. (Image credit: NSO/AURA/NSF)

The Sun in a new light

The US National Science Foundation (NSF) released this image of the Sun in exquisite detail. It was captured by the foundation’s new Daniel K Inouye Solar Telescope on the Hawaiian island of Maui. The image captures the Sun’s chromosphere, the second of the three main layers in the Sun’s atmosphere.

What looks like the threads of a shag carpet in the image is actually fiery plasma flowing into the star’s corona. The blobs of matter that can be seen are granules that are about 1,600 kilometres. The image covers a region of over 82,500 kilometres of the Sun’s surface and has a resolution of about 18 kilometres, making it one of the highest definition images captured of the Sun.

Engineers perform checks on Europe's new MTG-I1 satellite designed to improve weather forecasting Engineers perform checks on Europe’s new MTG-I1 satellite designed to improve weather forecasting at the Thales Alenia Space plant in Cannes, France September 7, 2022. (Image credit: REUTERS/Tim Hepher)

Europe’s new satellite for faster extreme weather warnings

Europe unveiled the first of a 4-billion-euro family of satellites that are designed to give earlier warning of extreme weather that has been causing havoc across the globe. The MTG-I1 satellite is the result of 12 years for the European Space Agency and the 30-nation EUMETSAT. IT will be launched on an Ariane 5 rocket by the end of this year.

The 3.8-tonne satellite will be joined in its geostationary orbit by three more MTG-I1 imaging satellites and two MTG-S “sounding” satellites that would “slice the atmosphere” like a medical scanner. All four satellites should be in operation by 2030.

China has ramped up its ambitions in space in recent years, sending probes to the moon, building its own space station and setting its sights on Mars, plans that have put it in direct competition with the US. (Image credit: Getty / File photo)

China finds new lunar mineral and plans more Moon missions

China said it discovered a new lunar mineral called Changesite-(Y) via samples retrieved by its Chang’e-5 mission. Shortly afterwards, Bloomberg reported that China’s National Space Administration, the country’s NASA equivalent, received approval to send three orbiters to the Moon as part of the Chang’e lunar program.

China has been ramping up its space ambitions in recent years. Apart from sending probes to the Moon and building its own space station, the country has also set its sights on Mars, with plans that have put it in direct competition with the United States. Space mining could be the next source of tension with both countries eyeing the Moon’s minerals.

artist impression of space debris Artist’s impression of the space junk cloud around Earth based on actual density data. Debris objects shown at an exaggerated size. (Image credit: ESA)

US FCC to tackle space debris

Reuters reports that the American Federal Communications Commission said that it will vote this month on new rules to address the risk of growing orbital debris. The agency currently recommends that operators of satellites in low-Earth orbit ensure that their spacecraft will re-enter our planet’s atmosphere within 25 years after mission completion.

The new rules would be an update over its 2004 regulations and shrink the time frame required for post-mission satellite disposal. These regulations will apply to both US-licensed satellites as well as non-US satellites that seek US market access.

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