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ESA goes nuclear

European Spaceflight Update
Issue 20. Subscribers: 435
To my 18 new subscribers, welcome and enjoy your first issue.

ESA eyes propulsion solutions for deep space
With the announcement of ambitious projects like Voyage 2050 and Terrae Novae, the European Space Agency is moving to find solutions for a number of challenging problems. One such problem is propulsion.
Last week, the agency published a pair of open calls for the development of two next-gen propulsion solutions that will be vital for missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. 
Nuclear electric propulsion solutions
ESA announced on 5 August that it was opening the tender process for a preliminary reckon on nuclear electric propulsion for space applications. The solution calls for a bay of electric thrusters powered by a nuclear power source.
This kind of solution’s main advantage over chemical is its efficiency. When compared to solar, it has larger power outputs and is able to operate without the need for direct exposure to sunlight. This makes it an ideal solution for transporting heavy cargo with long time constraints for exploration beyond Mars orbit. The technology could also be used to power future habitats on the Moon and Mars.
The project, which is called Rocketroll, is part of ESA’s Future Launchers Preparatory Programme, which was launched in 2003.
The main objectives of this initial activity are to collect preliminary feasibility assessments, to perform first safety and security analyses, to identify key technologies, and to search for potential economic and industrial showstoppers.
High-efficiency, ultra-lightweight solar cells
In addition to studying nuclear electric propulsion solutions, last week, ESA also opened the tender process for the development of high-efficiency ultra-lightweight solar cells for deep space missions.
The project calls for the design of a highly efficient ultra-lightweight solar cell that does not show any deficiencies when operating in low intensity, low temperature (LILT) conditions as they are applicable at Saturn or even beyond at Uranus and Neptune.
The project calls for the identification of workable solar cell architecture, the manufacture of initial prototypes, testing and reiteration if needed, and the preparation of a development roadmap.
Putting some kilometres on the clock - According to CEO Giulio Ranzo, Italian rocket builder Avio completed the first 200-second firing of its M10 engine yesterday. The engine has now completed 18 tests totaling 800 seconds. The M10 engine is being developed for the upper stage of the company’s Vega E launch vehicle.
Are you ready to rumble? - UK-based launch startup Skyrora applied to the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to obtain the licence required for commercial spaceflight activities. The licence is required by the CAA to ensure that all operators meet regulatory requirements enacted by the UK’s Space Industry Act 2018 and Space Industry Regulations 2021. The process is expected to take between 9 and 18 months. Once granted, it will enable Skyrora to undertake its planned maiden Skyrora XL launch in 2023.
We can’t blame poor signal anymore - UK-based Isotropic Systems has announced that it has rebranded to All.Space. In addition to the announcement of the rebranding, All.Space unveiled its fifth-gen “smart terminal.” According to the company, the terminal is the “only field-proven platform to simultaneously deliver full-performance connections across all significant orbits from a single device.” Deliveries of the new terminal are expected to commence before the end of the year. 
Hello there - IoT network provider Hello Space has signed an agreement with UK-based Alba Orbital to launch its first PocketQube (5 cm3) satellite aboard the company’s Alba Cluster 7 mission. The PocketQube deployer mission will be carried to orbit aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rideshare mission in Q1 2023. Hello Space plan to launch an IoT constellation of 100 pico-satellites.
I need more power Scotty - Dawn Aerospace has been awarded €200k in ESA funding to extend the performance of its existing bi-porpellant thrusters to support deep space missions, including GTO to GEO transfers and lunar and Mars insertions. The funding is part of the agency’s General Support Technology Programme, which seeks to convert promising engineering concepts into usable products.
Sailing in space - German space tech company High Performance Space Structure Systems has secured €2.4 million in funding for the further development of its ADEO dragsail deorbit solution. Specifically, the funding will enable the company to develop a new ADEO medium solution which will be made up of a customisable dragsail between 5m2 and 25m2. The solution will be suitable for satellites with a mass of between 100 and 700 kilograms. The funding is part of the agency’s General Support Technology Programme.
A mystery customer returns - Swedish space tech company AAC Clyde Space has secured an order for 25 satellite power systems worth £600,000 (approximately €700,000). Although the customer is not named, the company has said that it will be a part of the “international customers’ Earth Observation constellation scale-up.” The new order builds on a previous 25-unit order from the same customer.
Keep your experiments inside the capsule at all times - German microgravity research provider Yuri signed a letter of intent with The Exploration Company to launch a selection of its customer’s “life science microgravity experiments aboard the startup’s demonstration flight. The flight is expected to be launched aboard The Exploration Company’s Nyx spacecraft in October 2024. According to the company, the flight is now at 80% capacity. Here’s a bit more about The Exploration Company.
I can see my house from here - Earth observation data provider LiveEO has raised $19.5M in funding. The round was led by MMC Ventures and includes €17M of venture capital, as well as further funds from the European Commission and Investitionsbank Berlin. The company will utalise the funds to accelerate its market expansion, including entering new markets like insurance.
Rest in peace, old friend - ESA has made the decision to end efforts to restore Sentinel-1B. The satellite experienced an anomaly related to the instrument electronics power supply, leaving it unable to deliver radar data. Its retirement severely limits the Sentinel-1 constellation’s coverage, with only Sentinel-1A remaining operational. ESA is working towards launching Sentinel-1C (originally developed to replace 1A) "as soon as possible.”
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