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Walter Sierra

Sierra’s Space Update - March 2022 - Newsletter

Sierra’s Space Update - March 2022 - Newsletter

March 2022

Headlines

  • Russia Invades Ukraine
 - Ukraine’s proud space industry faces    obliteration, but there is hope for the    future
  • Russia Invades Ukraine
Ukraine’s proud space industry faces obliteration, but there i hope for the  future
  • James Web Space Telescope Undergoing Alignment, Final Testing, and Calibration
  • SpaceX Announces Starlink Premium Service
  • Record number of satellite launches – 134—set in 2021
  • Proliferation of Space Debris a Growing Concern

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Russia Invades Ukraine

On February 24, 2022, Russia launched a large-scale military invasion of Ukraine, one of its neighbors to the southwest, marking a major escalation to a conflict that began in 2014. Following Ukraine’s Revolution of Dignity in 2014, Russia had annexed Crimea and Russian-backed separatist forces had seized part of the Donbas in eastern Ukraine, leading to an eight-year war in the region. Several officials and analysts called the invasion the largest conventional military attack in Europe since World War II.

From early 2021, there was a Russian military buildup around Ukraine’s borders. The US and others accused Russia of planning an invasion, but Russian officials repeatedly issued denials. During the crisis, Russian president Vladimir Putin condemned the post-1997 enlargement of NATO as a threat to his country’s security, a claim which NATO rejected,[47] and demanded Ukraine be barred from ever joining NATO. Putin expressed Russian irredentist views,[49] and questioned Ukraine’s right to sovereignty. Before the invasion, in an attempt to provide a casus belli, Putin accused Ukraine of committing genocide against Russian speakers in Ukraine; accusations that were widely described as baseless.

On 21 February 2022, Russia officially recognized the Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics, two self-proclaimed states controlled by pro-Russian forces in the Donbas. The following day, Russia’s Federation Council unanimously authorized Putin to use military force abroad, and Russia openly sent troops into the breakaway territories. On 24 February, Putin announced a “special military operation” in eastern Ukraine; minutes later, missiles began to hit locations across Ukraine, including the capital, Kyiv. The State Border Guard Service of Ukraine said that its border posts with Russia and Belarus were attacked. Two hours later, Russian ground forces entered the country. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy responded by enacting martial law, severing diplomatic ties with Russia, and ordering general mobilization. The odds appear stacked against Ukraine, but it has already surprised the entire world with its defiance.

The invasion received widespread international condemnation, including new sanctions imposed on Russia, triggering a financial crisis. Global protests took place against the invasion, while protests in Russia were met with mass arrests. Both prior to and during the invasion, various states provided Ukraine with foreign aid, including arms and other materiel support. On March 2, U.S. President Joe Biden announced a ban on Russian flights from U.S. airspace. Many other countries were hopping on the sanctions bandwagon

Credit Viewsridge on Wikipedia

Credit Viewsridge on Wikipedia

Ukraine’s mighty space industry faces a dire crisis. The country’s potential might soon lie in ruins together with its dreams as Russia continues its bloody siege. However, Volodymr Usov, the country’s former space

boss, stated on March 2 that he still has hopes for the future and believes the underdog Ukraine could help fill Russia’s shoes in international collaborations. With 16,00 employees, the Ukrainian Space Agency nearly matches NASA’s size. Ukraine builds over 100 launch vehicles a year, including the Zenit rocket family, first stages for the Antares rocket which launches Northrop Grumman Space Systems’ Cygnus cargo vehicle to the International Space Station, engines for Europe’s Vega rockets, and a new generation of solid fuel rocket motors. Antares features a Ukrainian-built first stage powered by two Russian-made RD-181 engines. Kurt Eberly, director of space launch for Northrop Grumman, stated: Hopefully it [the crisis] can be resolved…the best mitigation we can have is to be buying ahead.” The United Launch Alliance uses Russian-made RD-180 engines for its workhorse Atlas V rocket that sends numerous missions to space every year, including Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner capsule which is targeted for a flight test in late May. ULA said that they do not anticipate any supply-chain issues related to the Russia-Ukraine situation, for it already has all the RD-180s it needs in storage.


Ukraine’s mighty space industry faces a dire crisis. The country’s potential might soon lie in ruins together with its dreams as Russia continues its bloody siege. However, Volodymr Usov, the country’s former space

boss, stated on March 2 that he still has hopes for the future and believes the underdog Ukraine could help fill Russia’s shoes in international collaborations. With 16,00 employees, the Ukrainian Space Agency nearly matches NASA’s size. Ukraine builds over 100 launch vehicles a year, including the Zenit rocket family, first stages for the Antares rocket which launches Northrop Grumman Space Systems’ Cygnus cargo vehicle to the International Space Station, engines for Europe’s Vega rockets, and a new generation of solid fuel rocket motors. Antares features a Ukrainian-built first stage powered by two Russian-made RD-181 engines. Kurt Eberly, director of space launch for Northrop Grumman, stated: Hopefully it [the crisis] can be resolved…the best mitigation we can have is to be buying ahead.” The United Launch Alliance uses Russian-made RD-180 engines for its workhorse Atlas V rocket that sends numerous missions to space every year, including Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner capsule which is targeted for a flight test in late May. ULA said that they do not anticipate any supply-chain issues related to the Russia-Ukraine situation, for it already has all the RD-180s it needs in storage.


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Sierra’s Space Update

March 2022

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Sierra’s Space Update

March 2022

James Webb Space Telescope Update

As of January 24, the sunshield, mirrors and other components were fully unfolded to their operational configuration, the spacecraft entered orbit at the L2 Sun-Earth Lagrange Point, and all instruments were successfully powered on. On February 3, NASA tweeted that the telescope detected its first photons, and on February 11, NASA announced the telescope had almost completed phase 1 of alignment, with every segment of its primary mirror having located, imaged, and approximately centered the target star HD 84406. Phase 1 of the 7-phase alignment process was completed on February 18, 2022, and phases 2 and 3 were completed a week later on February 25, 2022, meaning that the 18 primary segments now work in unison, but still act as 18 smaller telescopes rather than a single larger one. Several weeks are still needed for the telescope to cool to its operational temperature. Mirror alignment and focusing and final testing and calibration will take about five months in total, potentially including the first formal images, before planned research begins

Step 4, Coarse Phasing, is highlighted above. Although Image Stacking puts all the light in one place on the detector, the mirror segments are still acting as 18 small telescopes rather than one big one. The segments need to be lined up with each other with an accuracy smaller than the wavelength of the light. Conducted three times during the commissioning process, Course Phasing measures and corrects the vertical displacment of the mirror segments.

Russia Invades Ukraine

In February 2022, SpaceX announced Starlink Premium, a higher performance edition of the service. It provides a larger high-performance antenna and listed speeds of between 150 and 500Mbps, with a cost of $2500 for the antenna and a $500 monthly service fee. Users will also benefit from 24/7, prioritized support. Deliveries are advertised to begin in the second quarter of 2022. On February 3, 49 satellites were launched as Starlink Group 4-7. Due to a significant increase in atmospheric drag caused by a G2-rated geomagnetic storm on February 4, up to 40 of those satellites were expected to be lost. By February 12, 38 satellites had reentered the atmosphere while the remaining 11 continued to raise their orbits. On February 26, Elon Musk announced that the Starlink satellites had become active over Ukraine after a request from the Ukrainian government to replace internet services destroyed during the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.

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Sierra’s Space Update

March 2022

A Look Ahead

In total, in 2021 there were 134 launches that put humans or satellites into orbit – the highest number in the entire history of spaceflight. Nearly 200 orbital launches are scheduled for 2022. If things go well, this will smash last year’s record.

Solar System Exploration

NASA will continue the mission of the Juno spacecraft at Jupiter, with a fly-by of Europa planned for 29 September 2022. In Mars exploration, the European Space Agency (ESA) has partnered with Roscosmos to launch the Rosalind Franklin rover using the Kazachok lander as part of ExoMars 2022.  NASA plans to launch the Psyche spacecraft, an orbiter mission that will explore the origin of planetary cores by studying the metallic asteroid 16 Psyche. It will launch on a Falcon Heavy launch vehicle along with Janus, a dual space probe that will visit two binary asteroids, (175706) 1996 FG3 and (35107) 1991 VH.

Lunar Exporation

Artemis 1, the first flight of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) and the first lunar mission for Orion, is scheduled to fly no earlier than April 2022. The United States will also launch a number of commercial lunar landers and rovers. As part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, the launch of Astrobotic Technology’s Peregrine lander and Intuitive Machines’ Nova-C lander is scheduled. Russia plans to resume its Luna-Glob exploration programme with the Luna 25 lander. Japan plans to launch the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) and OMOTENASHI lunar landers. India will make another attempt to deliver a robotic lander to the lunar surface with Chandrayaan-3. In 2022, Russia is planning to send the Luna 25 lander to the Moon’s south pole to trill for ice. Frozen water is an essential requirement for any Moon base. Russia is also continuing the construction of the Vostochny Cosmodrome. However, these events are being foreshadowed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Human Spaceflight

China will finish construction of the Tiangong space station with the addition of the Wentian and Mengtian lab modules. Boeing’s Boeing Starliner will conduct a second uncrewed test flight in the first half of 2022 in advance of a first crewed test flight later in 2022.

Rocket Innovation

Arianespace’s Ariane 6 will make its long-delayed maiden flight in 2022, targeting a per-satellite launch cost similar to a Falcon 9. After suborbital tests in 2020 and 2021, SpaceX plans to conduct the first orbital test flight of the fully reusable Starship launch vehicle. In addition, NASA’s SLS, which is designed to return humans to the Moon in the Artemis missions, will have a test flight. The maiden flight of Vulcan Centaur is planned for 2022. The launch vehicle is designed by United Launch Alliance to gradually replace Atlas V and Delta IV Heavy at lower costs. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’s H3 launch vehicle, scheduled to enter service in 2022, will cost less than half that of its predecessor H-IIA. In late 2022 or 2023 Blue Origin plans to launch its first orbital-class New Glenn launch vehicle with a reusable first stage.

Ariane 6 in flight (artist’s concept)

Credit: ESA

SpaceX Starship on launch pad in Boca Chica, south Texas

Credit: SpaceX

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Sierra’s Space Update

March 2022

A Look Ahead

In total, in 2021 there were 134 launches that put humans or satellites into orbit – the highest number in the entire history of spaceflight. Nearly 200 orbital launches are scheduled for 2022. If things go well, this will smash last year’s record.

Solar System Exploration

NASA will continue the mission of the Juno spacecraft at Jupiter, with a fly-by of Europa planned for 29 September 2022. In Mars exploration, the European Space Agency (ESA) has partnered with Roscosmos to launch the Rosalind Franklin rover using the Kazachok lander as part of ExoMars 2022.  NASA plans to launch the Psyche spacecraft, an orbiter mission that will explore the origin of planetary cores by studying the metallic asteroid 16 Psyche. It will launch on a Falcon Heavy launch vehicle along with Janus, a dual space probe that will visit two binary asteroids, (175706) 1996 FG3 and (35107) 1991 VH.

Lunar Exporation

Artemis 1, the first flight of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) and the first lunar mission for Orion, is scheduled to fly no earlier than April 2022. The United States will also launch a number of commercial lunar landers and rovers. As part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, the launch of Astrobotic Technology’s Peregrine lander and Intuitive Machines’ Nova-C lander is scheduled. Russia plans to resume its Luna-Glob exploration programme with the Luna 25 lander. Japan plans to launch the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) and OMOTENASHI lunar landers. India will make another attempt to deliver a robotic lander to the lunar surface with Chandrayaan-3. In 2022, Russia is planning to send the Luna 25 lander to the Moon’s south pole to trill for ice. Frozen water is an essential requirement for any Moon base. Russia is also continuing the construction of the Vostochny Cosmodrome. However, these events are being foreshadowed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Human Spaceflight

China will finish construction of the Tiangong space station with the addition of the Wentian and Mengtian lab modules. Boeing’s Boeing Starliner will conduct a second uncrewed test flight in the first half of 2022 in advance of a first crewed test flight later in 2022.

Rocket Innovation

Arianespace’s Ariane 6 will make its long-delayed maiden flight in 2022, targeting a per-satellite launch cost similar to a Falcon 9. After suborbital tests in 2020 and 2021, SpaceX plans to conduct the first orbital test flight of the fully reusable Starship launch vehicle. In addition, NASA’s SLS, which is designed to return humans to the Moon in the Artemis missions, will have a test flight. The maiden flight of Vulcan Centaur is planned for 2022. The launch vehicle is designed by United Launch Alliance to gradually replace Atlas V and Delta IV Heavy at lower costs. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’s H3 launch vehicle, scheduled to enter service in 2022, will cost less than half that of its predecessor H-IIA. In late 2022 or 2023 Blue Origin plans to launch its first orbital-class New Glenn launch vehicle with a reusable first stage.

Ariane 6 in flight (artist’s concept)

Credit: ESA

SpaceX Starship on launch pad in Boca Chica, south Texas

Credit: SpaceX

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Sierra’s Space Update

March 2022

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Sierra’s Space Update

March 2022

Vulcan Centaur in Flight (artist’s concept)

Credit: United Launch Alliance

New Glenn in Flight (artist’s concept)

Credit: Blue Origin

Space Debris

On February 18, Space News published a story covering the recent discovery of ‘squalls’ of close encounters from orbital debris fields. For example, the space situational awareness company COMSPOC projects that next month, the peak squalls of the debris fields will cause 50,000 warnings each day! Of these, all but 15,000 will be from the most recent Russian ASAT test on November 15, 2021. Internet satellite megaconstellations will generate many thousands of post-mission satellites, both expired ones when their propellant runs out, and truly failed units. These could lead to 20,000 nearly inert post-mission satellites at any one time, if the constellations grow to 100,000 satellites. The current filings with the ITU for licenses are already above 70,000 satellites and climbing. These post-mission satellites will be in many crowded intersecting rings in order to provide continuous connectivity on the ground. The danger is that they could have many collisions with each other, and cause far more clouds of orbital debris. According to a space monitoring company, in January a Chinese satellite, SJ-21, grabbed an unused satellite and  “threw” it into an orbit with a lower risk for the space debris to collide.

Most space debris is in low Earth orbit, where the International Space Station flies

Credit: NASA

Credit: NASA

Most space debris is in low Earth orbit, where the International Space Station flies

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