The UK's first industrial contribution to the ISS: An end to sneakernet for spacefarers

Also: First all-commercial crew named, Boeing readies Starliner again and NASA's ex-boss is off to private equity


In Brief The UK will be making its first major industrial contribution to the International Space Station (ISS) with the Columbus Ka-band Terminal (ColKa), which will be fitted to the Columbus laboratory module during a spacewalk by flight engineers Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover.

The new antenna will enable a dedicated link to Earth, quite an improvement over the current process which, according to the UK Space Agency, involves a hard drive being carried back from orbit. A sneakernet for space, if you will.

Meanwhile, the government is to spend £85k to "support international efforts to promote space sustainability."

While the figure, funded from the international element of the UK Space Agency's National Space Innovation Programme, wouldn't make much of a dent in the cost of a mission to actually deal with orbiting debris, it will go towards a series of events and outreach efforts.

The announcement was accompanied by a natty video, the creators of which might have spent a little too long watching Pixar's WALL-E, judging by their representation of the clutter surrounding Earth. Thankfully, nobody had to dip into that £85k for the promotion. The UK Space Agency's own team put it together using footage from ESA.

NASA and Boeing set the date for Calamity Capsule Part 2: This time we tested it

More than a year after its near-disastrous debut, Boeing's CST-100 Starliner is set to have another crack at getting to the ISS on 25 March this year.

The opening was cropped with the delay to the STP Satellite-6 mission .

The mission, dubbed Orbital Flight Test-2, will launch atop United Launch Alliance's trusty Atlas V from SLC-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and, if all goes to plan, land a week later in the western United States.

First all-private Crew Dragon passengers lined up for 2022

Axiom Space, a company aiming to create a private space station, is making good on its promise to fly a private crew to the orbiting lab by chartering a Crew Dragon flight and loading it with four humans.

The mission, set for "no earlier than January 2022", will be the first entirely commercially operated crewed jaunt to the ISS. Named Ax-1, the crew will include former NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría, US entrepreneur Larry Connor, Canadian investor Mark Pathy and Israeli businessman Eytan Stibbe.

López-Alegría is also a vice president at Axiom Space.

The cost of an eight-day stint aboard the ISS is $55m for each of the three paying passengers.

While space tourists are hardly a new thing (the ISS has played host to such luminaries as Canonical CEO Mark Shuttleworth in the past) an entirely private orbital mission marks the beginning of a new era. Flights could occur as frequently as twice a year. If your pockets are deep enough, that is.

What Jim did next

Finally, former NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine has wasted little time in moving on to the next thing. He has joined Acorn Growth Companies, a private equity firm specialising in aerospace, defence and intelligence.

Bridenstine's role in the Oklahoma-based outfit will be as a full-time senior advisor. "Jim's wealth of knowledge in the space, military, aerospace and engineering sectors will be invaluable to Acorn," said Rick Nagel, managing partner of Acorn.

"He will play a key role in our efforts to deploy capital from our newest investment vehicle, Acorn Aerospace & Defense Fund V," he added. ®


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