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ESA Wants a Mach 5 capable flying test bed

Europe in Space
Issue 18. Subscribers: 404
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ESA is Pursing a Mach 5 capable flying test bed
ESA published an Invitation To Tender (ITT) in November last year that calls for the development of a vehicle capable of Mach 5 flight in the Earth’s atmosphere. The vehicle is required to be fully reusable, self-powered, and able to be reconfigurable to utalise different avionics, materials, and propulsion, which the ITT states could include Reaction Engines’ SABRE air-breathing rocket engines.
This is a Sabre-powered vehicle concept and now an illustration of relating to the INVICTUS ITT. Credit: Reaction Engines
This is a Sabre-powered vehicle concept and now an illustration of relating to the INVICTUS ITT. Credit: Reaction Engines
The project, dubbed INVICTUS, is being driven by the agency’s European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC). It will be utalised by industry and academia to more easily test new components for future missions.
According to a June 2021 ESA post, the agency is aiming to have INVICTUS in the air within the next four years. 
The objective of this specific ITT is to mature the INVICTUS concept, concluding with a system requirements review. The maximum contract award for this project is €500,000. The deadline for submissions is 21 September, with applicants required to be head officed in Great Britain.
Welcome to the big leagues - Isar Aerospace has been selected by CNES to be the first privately-funded launch operator granted access to the Guiana Space Centre in French Guiana. The company will operate its 28-metre Spectrum rocket from the facility from 2024 onwards. Isar is expected to debut Spectrum from Andøya Space in Norway in 2023. CNES opened a call to launch providers interested in operating from Kourou in December 2021. 
Would you like that to go? - UK-based launch startup Astraius has selected Northrop Grumman and Exquadrum to supply rocket motors for its vehicle. Northrop Grumman will supply its Orion rocket motors for the vehicle’s first and second stages, while Exquadrum will utalise its TopFuel technology in the development of the vehicle’s upper stage. The currently unnamed Astraius vehicle will be launched for the first time in Spring 2023 from Prestwick Spaceport.
Close but no cigar - Spain’s PLD Space aborted a 122-second full duration hot fire test of its Miura 1 vehicle just five seconds before ignition. According to CEO Raul Torres, the abort was due to LOX overloading, with the company having to perform several top-ups during the buildup due to the high temperatures being experienced in Europe.
It’s alive, IT’S ALIVE! - Portuguese software as a service startup Neuraspace has announced the market availability of its space debris monitoring and satellite collision avoidance system. The system is an automated solution that enables greater accuracy in detecting high-risk collisions while reducing human intervention by up to 75%. “We believe Neuraspace’s solution will be a benchmark in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning technology in the aerospace market worldwide,” said COO Chiara Manfletti.
It’s for the environment, man! - UK-based launch startup SmallSpark Space Systems has announced a more than 95% black carbon emission reduction in its rocket propellant. The stunning results conclude an eight-week collaboration with The University of Leicester that focused on exploring if new propellant blends enhanced by nano-additives could reduce the emission of black carbon. The reductions will increase environmental friendliness while also improving the performance of the company’s S4 Hive rocket engines that will power its Frost Micro and Frost One launch vehicles.
Breaking down boundaries in space - ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti became the first European woman to be involved in a spacewalk. Cristoforetti was joined by Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos for the 7-hour spacewalk. The pair performed a number of operations, including the deployment of nanosatellites, collection of radio electronics data, and the installation of platforms and workstation adapter hardware.
It’s probably the National Reconnaissance Office - Scottish satellite builder Alba Orbital has won a contract from an “unnamed US Government Department” to access the company’s Night Lights Earth Observation data in order to monitor light pollution. According to Alba Orbital, the contract is the company’s largest imagery pre-order to date. The unnamed customer is the third to sign on to Alba Orbital’s Early Access customer programme.
Captain Planet, he’s a hero - German startup OroraTech has partnered with EarthRanger, a data visualization and analysis software used by governments, protected area managers, ecologists, and wildlife biologists across more than 250 sites in 50 countries around the world. The partnership will allow EarthRanger to offer its users a wildfire detection and monitoring service.
Another one just like the other, please - UK-based thermal data from space startup Satellite Vu has signed a contract with Surrey Satellite Technology (SSTL) to provide a clone of the Mid Wave Infra-Red thermal imaging satellite SSTL is currently building for the company. The contract for the first satellite was signed in 2021 for delivery in the first quarter of 2023. This latest satellite is expected to be launched in early 2024. Satellite Vu commissioned the additional satellite in response to market demand for greater capacity and more frequent revisit times.
Phenomenal transmission powers! Itty bitty living space! - Oxford Space Systems (OSS) and Surrey Satellite Technology (SSTL) have completed work on an innovative deployable Synthetic Aperture Radar antenna for high-performance, low-cost Earth observation radar missions. OSS was responsible for the deployable antenna and SSTL, the high bandwidth radar instrument, and the RF system. The 3-metre diameter parabolic reflector can be stowed in a small volume, allowing it to be compatible with spacecraft as small as 150 kg. The project was supported by a grant from the UK Space Agency.
But what if we used helicopters instead? - NASA and ESA have revised the Mars Sample Return mission to remove the “fetch rover” that was to be built by Airbus UK. The rover would transport samples from the Perseverance rover (which touched down on February 18, 2021) to a lander equipped with an ascent rocket. However, the teams now believe that Perseverance will be able to conduct this process itself. Additionally, one or two helicopters like Ingenuity could be used as insurance.
UK Space Agency dreams big - The UK Space Agency released its “Corporate Plan” for 2022 to 2025. It included a 10-point national space strategy plan that allocated £1.72 billion in funding. The largest funding share went to space science and exploration (£633 million), high risk, high reward tech and application investments (£457 million), Earth observation (£261 million), and launch (£108 million). Under launch ambitious, the plan called for the first small satellite launch in 2022, with the UK becoming the leading provider of commercial small satellite launch services in Europe by 2030.  
How low can you go? - Thales Alenia Space and QinetiQ have signed a study contract with ESA to pave the way for the development of a small multi-mission satellite that will operate in very low Earth orbit (VLEO). Skimsat, the name the project has given, is designed to significantly reduce the cost of Earth observation whilst increasing performance by operating at lower altitudes. The small satellite will utalise high-efficiency electrical propulsion to compensate for air drag. The study contract is funded under ESA’s Discovery Preparation and Technology Development (DPTD) initiative and is focused on advancing the design of a Skimsat demonstrator. 
Giving an arm to get samples back from Mars - Italian aerospace and defence giant Leonardo signed a contract with ESA to produce the Sample Transfer Arm for the agency’s joint Mars Sample Return mission with NASA. Leonardo will lead a consortium of European companies to design, manufacture, integrate and test the arm. On the Red Planet, the 2.5-metre-long robotic arm will be used to transfer samples from a rover to the ascent rocket. 
Solar power from space - The government has assigned £3 million in funding that will be made available for space-based solar power projects. “Space-based solar power could provide an affordable, clean and reliable source of energy for the whole world to benefit from, helping them move away from expensive fossil fuels,“ said business and energy secretary Kwasi Kwarteng.
Has anyone seen my glasses? - A University of Cambridge-led team released a report on a new method that will allow us to ‘see’ through the fog of the early Universe and detect light from the first stars and galaxies. It also negates other sky noise signals and avoids the detrimental effect of the distortions introduced by the Square Kilometre Array, which was utalised in its development. To explain the methodology, researchers likened their approach to inferring a landscape by looking at shadows in the fog.
That’s a whole lot of euros - The European Commission announced plans to grant almost €1.2 billion in EU funding to support 61 collaborative defence research and development projects. The announcement included a pair of space-focused grants. The European Protected Waveform grant awarded €25 million to develop a solution to deal with increased throughput demand over satellite, dispersed operations, mobility, and new security threats. The Advanced Galileo PRS resilience for EU Defence grant awarded €24.3 million to develop ground and space-based systems to detect illegitimate activities in GNSS frequency bands.
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Andrew Parsonson

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