Benchmark to provide propulsion for Spaceflight’s Sherpa-NG

SAN FRANCISCO – Satellite propulsion startup Benchmark Space Systems announced an agreement Aug. 5 to provide non-toxic chemical propulsion for rideshare provider Spaceflight Inc.’s next-generation orbital transfer vehicle, Sherpa-NG.

At the same time, Burlington, Vermont-based Benchmark revealed a permanent licensing partnership with Tesseract Space, a California propulsion startup. Under the terms of the deal, Vermont-based Benchmark will integrate Tesseract’s intellectual property, assets and staff to further its goal of providing non-toxic chemical propulsion for the global small satellite market.

The partnership with Tesseract will help Benchmark offer a broad range of non-toxic propulsion systems for satellites ranging in size from one-unit cubesats to Spaceflight’s Sherpa-NG, Chris Carella, Bechmark executive vice president of business development and strategy, told SpaceNews. “I’m hoping people realize that they can work with one partner and get the right green propulsion solution for every mission,” he added.


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Splashdown! SpaceX And NASA Astronauts Make History

Two NASA astronauts are back on Earth after their space capsule splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Pensacola, Fla.

The last time any NASA astronauts came home by splashing down was in 1975 — and back then, they were in an Apollo space vehicle. This time, the astronauts were in a white, bell-shaped capsule owned by SpaceX.

The success of their test flight, to the International Space Station and back, is a milestone for SpaceX, the first private company to send people to the outpost.


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NASA’s Mars 2020 rover Perseverance is ‘go’ for launch

NASA’s next Mars rover has been cleared for liftoff.

This morning (July 27), the $2.7 billion Mars 2020 Perseverance rover passed its launch readiness review, the last big hurdle to clear before its planned liftoff Thursday (July 30) from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

“The launch readiness review is complete, and we are indeed go for launch,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said during a news conference today.


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The UAE has successfully launched the Arab world’s first Mars mission

(CNN)The United Arab Emirates successfully launched its Mars-bound Hope Probe on Sunday, marking the the Arab world’s first interplanetary mission — and the first of three international missions to the Red Planet this summer.

The Hope Probe took off from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan, after a delay last week due to bad weather. The solid rocket booster successfully separated from the launch vehicle, and the probe has established two-way communication with the ground segment in Dubai.

For those at northerly latitudes, Comet NEOWISE up in the evening now, too

Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) has been putting on a grand show at dawn for binocular users. It’s very far to the north on the sky’s dome, becoming visible now (with optical aid) to observers in the northern U.S. and Canada in the early evening skies as well. Charts and more info here.

We still have to wait for another very bright comet, what astronomers call a great comet. But a wonderful binocular comet has been gracing our early morning skies, and now it’s becoming visible in the evening as well, for observers at northerly latitudes such as those in the northern U.S. and Canada. Later this month, the comet will become visible in the evening for those at latitudes like those further south in the U.S. Some skilled observers have reported that – once you spot it with binoculars – you can remove them and glimpse this comet as a fuzzy ball, using only the unaided eye. Using binoculars or other optical aid is a must, though, if you want to see this comet’s splendid split tail. The comet is called C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE). In this post, we provide charts (below) that can help you see this celestial visitor.

Astrophotographers have been catching Comet NEOWISE before sunup and producing some glorious photos. Just today, we saw a Facebook post from astronomer Bob King in Duluth, Minnesota (see below), clearly showing the comet in the northwest after sunset. Check the bottom of this post for a few more photos, and visit EarthSky Community Photos for many more shots from people around the world of Comet NEOWISE. Thank you to everyone who has submitted photos!


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How Sally Ride blazed a trail for women in space

On June 18, 1983, Sally Ride would become the first American woman to launch into space. She had already survived NASA’s grueling training and a barrage of tests, but there was another hurdle to cross before she boarded the Challenger space shuttle—overcoming the scrutiny of the media and the public.

In the lead-up to the launch, the astronaut fielded questions about menstruation, fashion, and even whether she might cry in space. But despite long-standing biases about women’s ability to withstand the rigors of space flight, Ride broke barriers—and changed the face of the space program along the way. (Here’s why women may be best suited for spaceflight.)

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Kathy Sullivan becomes first woman to Challenger Deep; EYOS coordinates call between International Space Station and DSSV Pressure Drop

In a world first, EYOS Expeditions today coordinated a call between the International Space Station and the DSSV Pressure Drop, the mothership of submersible DSV Limiting Factor. Limiting Factor ‘LF’ had just returned from a full ocean depth dive in the Challenger Deep, the deepest point in the ocean, with pilot Victor Vescovo of Caladan Oceanic and oceanographer/astronaut Dr. Kathy Sullivan onboard. The ISS is in Low Earth orbit at an altitude of 408 kms (254 miles) while the LF operates at a depth of nearly 7 miles.


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NASA’s SpaceX launch is not the cure for racial injustice on Earth

The inspiration that human spaceflight brings cannot erase the anger and pain felt by communities around the United States who are reeling from violence and racial injustice.

This weekend, Americans celebrated the launch of SpaceX’s Demo-2 mission, a historic crewed mission that returned astronaut flights from U.S. soil for the first time since 2011. The mission launched NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station on a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule.

But at that same moment, people across the country were protesting the death of George Floyd, who was killed Monday (May 25) when the now-former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck while other officers looked on. Chauvin was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter on Friday (May 29), but the incident, captured on video and stemming from a history of police brutality against people of color, has sparked outrage across the nation.

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Image credit: Bill Ingalls/NASA

At 82, NASA pioneer Sue Finley still reaching for the stars

Sue Finley began work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory as the US prepared to launch its first satellite into orbit in 1958, racing to match the Soviet Union, which had accomplished the feat months earlier.

Finley had dropped out of college and joined a group of mathematically gifted individuals, overwhelmingly women, whose job it was to solve the complex equations thrown at them by rocket scientists before electronic computing became affordable and reliable.


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Mount Pleasant students design space helmet, named finalists in national NASA competition

What started out as a project led by a group of students at Wando High School could one day be used as part of a NASA deep space mission.

After designing a space helmet to protect astronauts from harmful solar radiation, Wando’s student-led team was selected as one of 18 finalists in the NASA Wear competition, a nationwide event that challenges middle and high school students to design and create wearable space technology.

The best part? Components of the best designs might one day be used in NASA’s Moon to Mars mission.


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Image Credit: Louanne Murphy