China plans large-scale extraction of resources in space, and the ISS is moving to a new level of high-speed communication

Selection of the most interesting space news for the week: China successfully launched a commercial rocket from an offshore platform; the Indian lunar rover was put into sleep mode, and we tell you why NASA did not introduce the thirteenth zodiac sign.

“The real question is not whether machines think but whether men do. The mystery which surrounds a thinking machine already surrounds a thinking man.”

― B.F. Skinner, Contingencies of Reinforcement; A Theoretical Analysis

How will the Chinese use the resources of the Solar System

Chinese scientist Wang Wei presented a draft roadmap for using the resources of the Solar System until 2100. It contains projects for the extraction of water ice at the south pole of the Moon and the creation of transport nodes at Lagrange points. The program is divided into stages to be completed in 2035, 2050, 2075 and 2100.

Everything should start with the extraction of ice at the South Pole of the Moon. Then it will be decomposed into hydrogen and oxygen and used for flights to other planets. Later in the process of their development, intermediate hubs will be created at Lagrange points: L1 of the Earth-Moon system, L1 and L2 of the Sun-Earth system, and the Sun-Jupiter L1. In the future, the system should grow to an even larger scale and will contain mining infrastructure, gas stations and raw materials storages. To implement it, we will have to develop a number of breakthrough technologies and develop cheap technology for returning resources to Earth.

Indian lunar rover completed its journey

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) announced the completion of the main scientific program of the Pragyan lunar rover. It was put into hibernation mode.  Pragyan arrived on the Moon on August 23 aboard the descent platform of the Chandrayaan-3 mission. A few hours after landing, it left for the lunar surface. In the following days, the 26-kilogram vehicle traveled about a hundred meters, took a series of pictures, and also conducted studies of the chemical composition of the regolith. Aluminum, iron, calcium, chromium, titanium, manganese, oxygen and silicon, as well as sulfur were found in it. 

The approach of the lunar night marked the end of the scientific program of the mission. Pragyan does not have radioisotope heating elements, and most likely will not survive a two-week overnight stay at temperatures falling below -120 °C. Nevertheless, ISRO engineers have taken all possible measures to increase the chances of survival of the lunar rover. Its battery was fully charged, the radio receiver was turned on, and the rover was oriented in such a way that the rising Sun illuminated its solar battery. It remains to be seen on September 22 whether this plan will succeed or not.

Japan has launched an X-ray observatory and a new lunar mission

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) successfully launched an H-IIA rocket. It placed the X-ray telescope XRISM into orbit, along with a lunar lander probe called SLIM (Smart Lander for Investigating Moon). It will try to land on the Moon.

The XRISM observatory has a mass of 2.3 tons and is equipped with two scientific instruments designed for observations in the soft X-ray range. One of its primary objectives is to study the hot gas that fills galactic clusters. This will allow researchers to determine their mass, shedding light on the formation and evolution of the Universe.

In contrast to XRISM, the 590-kilogram SLIM probe will not remain in Earth’s vicinity. The spacecraft will perform a series of maneuvers to gradually increase its orbit’s apogee and head into interplanetary space. There, it will be captured by lunar gravity. This strategy allows for significant fuel savings, but it comes with a longer duration for mission realization. It will take almost four months for the Japanese probe to reach the Moon. SLIM’s main task is to test the technology of an accurate landing on the Moon.

The ISS is transitioning to a new level of communication at a speed of 1 gigabit per second

Revolutionary research is taking place aboard the International Space Station (ISS), opening up new horizons for space travel and providing humanity with the opportunity to live and work in space. One of the sensational achievements of the ISS was the establishment of high-speed broadband internet with a speed of 600 Mbps, which is 10 times faster than the average global internet speed. The system, which already exists on the ISS, includes the Laser Communications Relay Demonstrator (LCRD) and will soon receive an upgrade from the integrated modem terminal and amplifier for low earth orbit user (ILLUMA-T). After the upgrade, this system will become the first two-way laser relay system to provide the ISS with gigabit internet connectivity

Such systems use infrared light, allowing for data transmission at incredible speeds. This method offers many advantages for laser relays in missions in low Earth orbit. It will also enable missions beyond low Earth orbit to transmit more images and videos to Earth in a single transmission. Due to their lightweight and efficiency, laser systems consume less energy compared to radio communication.

Chinese company launched a rocket from an offshore platform

The Chinese company Galactic Energy has successfully carried out the first sea launch of its Ceres-1 rocket from a floating platform near Hainan Island.It successfully launched four satellites of the Tianqi network into an orbit 800 km high. This was the first launch of this carrier, in which the payload was put into orbit above 500 km. “Tianqi” is the Internet of Things, a network in which devices can exchange data automatically. This is another success of Chinese private space.

Ceres-1 is a solid-fuel rocket with a take-off weight of 33 tons. Its length is about 20 m, and its diameter is 1.4 m. It is capable of carrying loads weighing up to 400 kg into low Earth orbit or 300 kg into a synchronous solar orbit with a height of 500 km.

Photo of the week

The sun on the background of the dome of the Extremely Large Telescope. Source: E. Garcés/ESO. Ack.: N. Dubost

The image shows the sunrise against the background of the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) being built on the top of Cerro Armazones Mountain. We can see the construction cranes and the frame of the observatory dome against the background of the solar disk.

After the construction is completed, the height of the ELT dome will be 80 meters, and the mass will be 6,100 tons. It will be able to rotate 360 degrees with the help of rail trolleys. A 39-meter ELT main mirror consisting of 798 individual hexagonal segments with a total area of 978 m² and a weight of 132 tons will be placed inside the dome. It must be controlled in real time by a system of high-precision sensors providing constant optical adjustment. Thanks to this, the observatory will be able to collect 100 million times more light than the human eye, and 13 times more than the largest operating optical telescopes.

Interesting figure  —  5,500 confirmed exoplanets

Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA announced the overcoming of a significant milestone. The number of confirmed exoplanets, information about which is contained in the organization’s database, has exceeded the 5,500 mark.

The first exoplanet of a “normal” star was found in 1995. It became the hot-Jupiter Pegasus 51 b, located at a distance of 50 light-years from Earth. Initially, the number of discovered exoplanets did not grow very rapidly. Everything changed after the launch of specialized spacecraft designed to hunt for extraterrestrial worlds. The most successful of them was the Kepler telescope. It confirmed the existence of over 2,700 exoplanets. The TESS space telescope, launched to replace it, has found 320 exoplanets so far. The mark of 5,500 confirmed exoplanets was crossed on August 31, when NASA announced the discovery of the following six extrasolar worlds.

Something to read on the weekend

This September we celebrate the 46th anniversary of the launch of Voyager 1. It went down in history as the first and fastest spacecraft to enter interstellar space, as well as as the farthest object from Earth made by human hands. In case they are picked up by representatives of an alien civilization in the distant future, there is a message on board. But few people know that a well-known native of Ukraine also got into this message.

The Ukrainian news agencies and social media have been abuzz with sensational news: NASA has introduced the thirteenth zodiac sign — Ophiuchus. This has supposedly changed the signs for 80% of people. Let’s clarify what’s really going on with this news and why NASA did not introduce the thirteenth zodiac sign.

Read also: India is ready to launch a new research mission, and astronomers have managed to capture a space bombardment on Jupiter: news digest

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