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📝 FAA regulation updates
🌙 Luna-25 crashes
🗓️ The week ahead
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The FAA Eyes Commercial Crew Regulations
Image: Blue Origin
The FAA is working on new rules aimed at ensuring the safety of commercial crew flights.
In a notice of proposed rulemaking issued Friday, the FAA suggested a few new regulations to be officially incorporated into the US Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act (CSLCA), mainly focusing on definitions and safety training for government astronauts.
A job for the professionals: In the notice, the FAA makes a clear distinction between government astronauts—i.e., those trained by NASA and employed either by the government or a partner government—and other participants in human spaceflight.
Much of the proposed rule revolves around incorporating this definition into the CLSCA and clarifying the responsibilities of government astronauts on commercial flights, depending on whether they are playing a critical safety role on those flights.
It would require additional training for government astronauts in safety-critical positions on commercial crew vehicles.
To be clear, NASA and its partners have already been training the pros who have flown on commercial vehicles on their unique safety procedures. The rule would make that existing practice an official requirement.
Government astronauts in non-safety-critical roles would also need to undergo some safety training, but with the goal of ensuring they wouldn’t get in the way of safety procedures when needed.
The notice also updates the definitions of launch vehicles and clarifies certain financial responsibilities.
A looming due date: As it stands now, the FAA only has the authority to regulate spaceflight safety as it pertains to people on the ground. Back in 2004, when regular commercial spaceflight was just a twinkle in a billionaire’s eye, lawmakers issued a moratorium on regulating the safety of commercial human spaceflight participants in an effort to keep stringent rules from squashing the possibility of the new industry.
Since then, the moratorium has been extended twice. The final extension is set to expire this October. It’ll be up to Congress to decide whether to keep the regulatory pause going, or whether the industry is now mature enough for a few new rules.
Space-Based Intelligence with BlackSky
BlackSky’s ability to capture and quickly deliver large volumes of dawn-to-dusk, time-diverse imagery increases transparency into strategic military and economic activities that otherwise would have gone unnoticed.
This ten-image collection captured over Ream, Cambodia, shows the rapid pace of development of a large Chinese military naval station from August 2021 until July 2023.
The high-resolution, electro-optical images are part of a collection of more than 520 images and contains time-diverse imagery taken as early as 8am and as late as 7:58pm, Indochina Time.
BlackSky’s unique constellation can capture imagery on an hourly basis up to 15 times a day, allowing customers to observe critical change over time.
The End of the Line for Luna-25
Image: Sergey Bobylev/TASS
The lunar surface has claimed another victim.
Russia’s Luna-25 crash-landed on the Moon this weekend after the spacecraft fired its engines in an attempt to maneuver into its pre-landing orbit. The failed mission is a blow to the Russian space program, which hoped for a triumphant return to the lunar surface after a 47-year absence.
“According to the results of the preliminary analysis, due to the deviation of the actual parameters of the impulse from the calculated ones, the device switched to an off-design orbit and ceased to exist as a result of a collision with the lunar surface,” Roscosmos said in a statement.
The lunar surface has now swallowed four spacecraft in four years, including Israel's Beresheet, India’s Chandrayaan-2 Vikram, and ispace’s HAKUTO-R M1.
The upshot: The failed Luna-25 mission comes as Russia’s space program continues to fall behind in global space dominance. The crash, coupled with the country's ongoing and costly invasion of Ukraine, further complicates Russia’s lunar ambitions, including its three additional lunar missions planned for the decade.
India at bat and Japan on deck: In better news, India’s Chandrayaan-3 probe is ready to take its crack at the daunting lunar landing. After successfully separating from its propulsion module and nailing its final pre-landing orbit this weekend, India’s space agency is tracking toward an Aug. 23 touchdown on the Moon’s south pole.
Then, in a grand finale to a busy lunar week, JAXA plans to launch its SLIM Moon Sniper lunar lander to the Moon on Aug. 26 for its landing attempt.
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In Other News
The Week Ahead
All times in Eastern.
Monday, Aug. 21: At 5:30pm, NASA will host a Crew-7 teleconference.
Tuesday, Aug. 22: At 2:04am, SpaceX plans to launch a batch of Starlink birds from Vandenberg. At 8:47pm, SpaceX is scheduled to launch its second Starlink-dedicated Falcon 9 of the day out of Cape Canaveral. At 9:08pm, Russia plans to launch the Progress MS-24 cargo vehicle to the ISS.
Wednesday, Aug. 23: At 2:40pm, NASA will host interviews with Crew-6 at the ISS before they head back to the Blue Marble. India’s Chandrayaan-3 lander will attempt a soft landing on the lunar south pole. At 7:30pm, Rocket Lab ($RKLB) will launch a Capella satellite to LEO.
Friday, Aug. 25: At 3:49am, SpaceX plans to launch Crew-7 to the ISS. At 8:34pm, Japan will send the SLIM lunar lander on a path to the Moon aboard an H-IIA rocket.
Sunday, Aug. 27: At 5:04pm, SpaceX is scheduled to launch two SES O3b mPOWER satellites out of Cape Canaveral.
The View from Space
It’s the final stretch for Chandrayaan-3. The Indian craft beamed home a few images of the far side of the Moon during its preparation for a lunar soft landing attempt on Wednesday.