SpaceX deals out 60 Starlink internet satellites

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida with 60 Starlink satellites packed in its nose cone. (Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex Photo via Twitter)

After two postponements, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket executed a mission that dealt out 60 Starlink broadband data satellites in low Earth orbit.

The rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, right on time, at 10:30 p.m. ET (7:30 p.m. PT) tonight.

A little more than an hour after launch, the flat-panel satellites — which were built at SpaceX’s development facility in Redmond, Wash. — floated away from the Falcon 9’s second stage and spread themselves out like a deck of cards.

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Maxar to build the first piece of lunar Gateway

Power and Propulsion Element

An artist’s conception shows the Gateway’s Power and Propulsion Element with its solar electric propulsion system in action. (Maxar / Business Wire Illustration)

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine today announced that the first major component for a future mini-space station in lunar orbit will be provided by Maxar Technologies, formerly known as SSL.

“The contractor that will be building that element is … drum roll … Maxar,” Bridenstine said during a talk at the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, south of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. “Maxar is going to be building that for the United States of America.”

Colorado-based Maxar will build the Power and Propulsion Element, or PPE, which will house the 50-kilowatt solar electric propulsion system as well as the communications relay system for the Gateway space platform. “It will be the key component upon which we will build our lunar Gateway outpost, the cornerstone of NASA’s sustainable and reusable Artemis exploration architecture on and around the moon,” Bridenstine said in a NASA news release.

The Gateway is destined to be the staging point for astronauts heading down to the lunar surface by as early as 2024. To meet that five-year deadline, the Gateway will have only one other component by that time, known as the mini-habitation module. NASA and its international partners expect to add more modules in the years that follow, leading up to a “sustainable” lunar presence by 2028.

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AWS Ground Station is open for business

AWS Ground Station currently makes use of two satellite ground stations and plans to add 10 more later this year. (AWS Photo)

Six months after a sneak preview, Amazon Web Services has just raised the curtain on AWS Ground Station, its cloud-based system for controlling satellites and downloading satellite data.

AWS says the service is now generally available, with two ground station installations already hooked into the system and 10 more due to be added later this year.

The software platform makes it easy to connect with satellites, upload commands and bring the data down into AWS Global Infrastructure Regions. From there, the data can make its way through AWS’ ecosystem for storage, analytics and machine learning services — or go wherever a user wants to take it.

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Tethers Unlimited works on satellite servicing robot

An artist’s conception shows the LEO Knight space robot at right, working on a small satellite in orbit. (Tethers Unlimited Illustration)

Bothell, Wash.-based Tethers Unlimited works on space technologies ranging from radios to robotic arms, but the company is planning to put all those pieces together to create a space robot called “LEO Knight.”

“LEO Knight is a microsat-class system intended to support in-space servicing, in-space assembly and in-space manufacturing activities,” Tethers Unlimited CEO Robert Hoyt told GeekWire in an email. “Likely timeline for the first mission is 3-4 years from now.”

The robot takes advantage of technologies that Tethers Unlimited has been developing under the terms of NASA and Defense Department contracts, plus some internally funded projects.

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Filings reveal details of SpaceX rocket lawsuit

BE-4 engine test

Blue Origin’s BE-4 rocket engine, shown here during a test firing in Texas, is being developed for use on Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket as well as United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan rocket. (Blue Origin Photo)

Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture and subsidiaries of United Launch Alliance and Northrop Grumman are intervening in a SpaceX lawsuit protesting $2.3 billion in rocket development awards to those three companies.

In a redacted version of the lawsuit, originally filed on May 17 and made public today, SpaceX says it was unfairly passed over when the awards were made last October — and disparages the three companies’ rocket projects.

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Put your name on NASA’s Mars 2020 rover

Members of the public who sign up to have their names sent to Mars will get a souvenir boarding pass to print out as well. (NASA / JPL-Caltech Image)

Space fans have been sending their names to Mars and other extraterrestrial destinations for more than two decades, and it’s that time again: From now until Sept. 30, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is taking names for the Mars 2020 rover mission.

All you have to do is type your name and location into an online form on NASA’s website and hit the “Send” button. You’ll instantly get the opportunity to print out or save a souvenir boarding pass, listing more than 300 million miles’ worth of faux frequent-flier award points.

Once all the names pass muster, they’ll be handed over to JPL’s Microdevices Laboratory to be etched onto a silicon chip with an electron beam. Each line of text will be a mere 75 nanometers wide — which is less than a thousandth the thickness of a human hair.

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Allen Coral Atlas adds Great Barrier Reef views

Great Barrier Reef

A wide-angle view shows the area of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef covered by the Allen Coral Atlas’ newly analyzed satellite imagery. (Allen Coral Atlas / Planet)

When you think of the crown jewels of the coral reefs, it’s hard not to think of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef — and now those jewels are on full display in the Allen Coral Atlas, one of the scientific legacies left behind by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

The atlas was unveiled just a couple of weeks after Allen’s death last October, following through on one of the late billionaire’s passions: preserving the world’s oceans. This month’s addition of satellite-based imagery covering 3,000 square kilometers of the central Great Barrier Reef, from Cairns to Cooktown, represents the largest expansion of the atlas to date.

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