Max Q: Grounded

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Hello and welcome back, Max Q. By the time you read this, we will have less than 24 hours until the release of the first images taken by the James Webb Space Telescope. In this release:

  • CAPSTONE loses and then reconnects with Earth
  • Rocket Lab offers next day delivery to space
  • News from Virgin Galactic, SpaceX and more

CAPSTONE is “happy and healthy” and that is how I will always refer to CubeSats operating nominally from now on.

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NASA’s CAPSTONE CubeSat is “happy and healthy” after re-establishing communications with Earth, ending a jittery 24-hour period during which the spacecraft was out of touch with ground communications.

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The loss of communication occurred just a day after the launch of CAPSTONE from Rocket Lab’s Lunar Photon launch vehicle. CAPSTONE operated as normal for the first 11 hours after splitting from Photon, successfully deploying its solar arrays and communicating with the Deep Space Network (DSN) ground station in Madrid, Spain. (DNS is an international series of massive radio antennas used by NASA to support deep space missions.)

During the commissioning of the CubeSat communications system, DSN officials noted some conflicting data; while the team was trying to access diagnostic data to further investigate this issue, they sent an “incorrectly formatted command” that caused the CAPSTONE radio to not work, NASA explained July 7th. A fault detection system built into the spacecraft was supposed to reset the radio, but this did not happen due to a separate bug in the flight software. Eventually, the onboard software corrected the error, allowing CAPSTONE to re-establish contact with Earth.

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CAPSTONE successfully continued complete your first “TCM burn”, the first in a series of maneuvers the CubeSat must perform to make sure it stays on track for a possible final test orbit around the Moon.

Satellite illustration of CAPSTONE

Image credits: NASA / Daniel Rutter

Rocket Lab wants to do for space services what Amazon Prime did for retail

Rocket Lab is launching a new program that will allow satellite customers to deliver their payload and put it into orbit in as little as 24 hours.

Responsive space program a little more structured than that, of course. The company couldn’t just show up at Rocket Lab with a big check and a companion. But it does mean that companies participating in the program can partner with Rocket Lab on their specific launch challenges, such as reference orbits and integration specifications.

“From now on, Rocket Lab remains in a state of readiness with rockets and satellites on standby, awaiting notification from the customer about integration and launch,” the company said in a statement. “From the moment we arrive at the launch site, payload integration, encapsulation and launch can be completed in as little as 24 hours.”


Image credits: Sam Thoms and Simon Moffat

More news from TS

…and not only

  • Kongsberg Defense & Aerospace will acquire controlling stake in a small satellite manufacturer NanoAvionics, in a deal that values ​​the latter company at around $68 million. The stake is being sold by AST SpaceMobile, which is expected to generate about $28 million in gross proceeds from the deal.
  • L3Harris invests about 11.2 million euros ($11.4 million) to Mynaric, a company that builds laser communications for space applications.
  • Nanorex demonstrated new way to take out the trash created aboard the International Space Station and performed the first open-close cycle of the Nanoracks Bishop airlock.
  • NASA general list of space targets this will be included in the first batch of images from the James Webb Space Telescope to be released on July 12. Mark on your calendars!
  • Promus Ventures came out july update on the performance of New Space companies including Planet, Momentus and BlackSky, comparing earnings, share price and revenue data.
  • Rocket LabX next two runs will be for the US National Intelligence Agency. The launches of two satellites, the first of which is scheduled no earlier than July 12, will start from New Zealand with a difference of 10 days.
  • SpaceX launched another 53 Starlink satellites from Cape Canaveral in Florida. This is the 13th mission for this first stage booster.
  • SpaceX received a serious rejection from Dish due to his claim that increased use of the 12GHz band would render the Starlink service unusable. The conflict is underway before the US Federal Communications Commission.
  • star enterprises is launch of a new fund invest $23 million in early-stage space startups.
  • Vandenberg Space Force Base saw test rocket exploded 11 seconds after launch. No one was hurt, and a commission of inquiry was assembled to determine the cause of the explosion.

Photo of the week

NASA Mars Rover Perseverance

Mars rover Perseverance Rover took this photo on July 6th. The little robot has been taking pictures of the red planet since it landed on February 18, 2021. If you have never checked the bot’s raw image archive, worth a look. Image credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

Max Q brought you me Aria Alamalhodai. If you enjoy reading Max Q, consider forwarding it to a friend.

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