Good morning. Happy Thursday. This short week is flying by so, without further ado, we’ll jump right into the news.
📦 ESA solicits commercial cargo
👽 NASA talks UAPs
📝 The contract report
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Europe is Hailing a Ride to the ISS
Image: Mark Vande Hei
Europe is seeking its own cargo transport to the ISS. Last week, ESA announced that it is looking to support private companies’ development of cargo transport capabilities to the ISS and, in the future, to other LEO outposts.
“By launching this call, we are providing the supporting scheme, whereby private companies receive support from ESA to develop services to the International Space Station and future commercial destinations orbiting Earth,” Frank De Winne, ESA’s ISS coordinator, said in a statement on Wednesday.
The details: ESA is looking for commercial proposals from European space companies for vehicles that can transport up to 2,000 kg of cargo to LEO and carry up to 1,000 kg back home again. The agency is looking at 2028 for the first demo mission.
The agency has allocated €2M ($2.1M) for its contribution to the first phase of development, which is not meant to cover the full costs of the vehicle. Proposals are due at the end of the month, on June 29.
Too little, too late? ESA has recently been taking steps to bolster Europe’s independent access to space and catch up to its peers. Agency head Josef Aschbacher recently lamented how Europe has fallen behind in launch capabilities, specifically, and that it “finds itself today in an acute launcher crisis with a (albeit temporary) gap in its own access to space and no real launcher vision beyond 2030.”
In cargo transport, too, ESA lags behind NASA. The US agency has had its eye on commercial services to the ISS since launching its COTS (Commercial Orbital Transportation Services) program in 2005, leading to the first successful Cargo Dragon demo back in 2012.
With this call for proposals—as well as with other commercial partnerships, including through its planned Moonlight constellation in lunar orbit—ESA is looking to expand its relationship with the European space industry to build out its capabilities in the orbital arena.
Satellite Mission Operations Solutions Shouldn’t Break the Bank
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NASA’s UAP Team Shares Report Update
A NASA panel poured cold water on UAP (unidentified anomalous phenomena) hype in their first public meeting yesterday, saying better data was needed for conclusive answers.
“There is a very limited number of high-quality observations and data curation of UAP,” said Daniel Evans, who works within NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.
UAP craze: NASA organized a 16-member team in October to establish best practices for collecting and analyzing unidentified anomalous phenomena data. The group is separate from the Pentagon’s UAP hunters and only manages unclassified data.
There have been ~800 UAP investigations, with 150 of those being reported since the organization formed late last year. The vast majority of cases were resolved with terrestrial justifications, including:
Microwave ovens (careful next time you heat up the leftovers)
That being said, 2%-5% of the 800 cases—between 16 and 40 phenomena—were deemed anomalous, meaning they are “doing something weird,” according to Sean Kirkpatrick, director of the Pentagon’s All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office.
So, aliens? The discovery of slimy green figures will have to wait. “There is no conclusive evidence suggesting an extraterrestrial origin for UAP,” said Nadia Drake, science journalist and NASA UAP study member.
NASA’s UAP team will release its full report this summer.
In Other News
Spain’s PLD Space scrubbed the first flight of its Miura 1 rocket due to high winds.
Alabama lawmakers are threatening to block funding for US Space Command construction until the DoD finalizes the decision of where to base the HQ.
Sierra Space powered up its Dream Chaser spaceplane.
It’s back, baby! Futurama’s eighth season will drop on Hulu on July 24.
The Contract Report
Inmarsat nabbed a $187.4M contract with Australia and New Zealand’s SouthPAN to provide positioning services in the region.
L3Harris ($LHX) won an $80.8M AFRL contract to test commercial satellite internet integration with military applications.
Northrop Grumman ($NOC) won a $45.5M USSF contract to provide orbital launch services.
Planet ($PL) partnered with the UAE to build a satellite-powered climate change damage map.
Impulse Space joined forces with Orbit Fab to provide power, communications, attitude control, and propulsion for a GEO hydrazine refueling demonstration mission.
Telesat ($TSAT) selected Space Flight Laboratory to manufacture a LEO demo satellite.
BlackSky ($BKSY) partnered with SynMax to monitor coal storage at US power plants.
The View from Space
The glaciers in Patagonia are stunning. Glaciar Pared Norte, Chile.
— Woody Hoburg (@Astro_Woody)
May 31, 2023
Astronaut Warren Hoburg snapped this shot of glaciers in Patagonia from the ISS.