The Weekly Space Recap: August 20 – August 26, 2023

India Lands on the Moon – August 23, 2023

chandrayaan-3 landing on the moon
Credit: ISRO

India has achieved a significant milestone in space exploration by successfully landing the Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft near the moon’s south pole.

This achievement places India as the fourth nation, following the United States, the former Soviet Union, and China, to accomplish a lunar landing and the first to land near the Moon’s south pole.

ISRO Chairman Sreedhara Somanath excitedly announced the successful soft landing and exclaimed, “We have achieved a soft landing on the moon! India is on the moon!”

The Chandrayaan-3 mission, costing approximately 6 billion rupees ($73M), is an endeavor that holds significance beyond its financial investment.

The landing site’s challenging south polar region is of great interest to scientists and exploration enthusiasts due to its potential reservoir of water ice.

This precious resource could serve as rocket fuel and life support for future crewed missions.

India’s previous lunar landing attempt, with the Chandrayaan-2 lander in 2019, was unsuccessful due to a software glitch.

Rocket Lab Achieves Major Reusability Milestone – August 23, 2023

rocket lab launch with first pre-flown engine
Credit: Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket, carrying an Earth-observation radar satellite for Capella Space, successfully launched from Rocket Lab’s New Zealand launch site.

Among the Electron’s first-stage Rutherford engines, one had already been used on a previous mission in May.

This marked the first occasion an Electron rocket utilized a previously flown engine.

The CEO of Rocket Lab, Peter Beck, noted that this mission represents a significant step towards achieving reusable Electron rockets. 

North Korean Satellite Launch Fails – August 23, 2023

North Korea has faced yet another setback in its space endeavors as its recent attempt to launch a spy satellite into orbit ended in failure.

The nation encountered a rocket stage separation issue during the flight of its Chollima-1 rocket carrying the Malligyong-1 satellite on Wednesday, according to the Associated Press.

The failure occurred during the third stage of the launch.

North Korea failed satellite launch.
Credit: KCNA

This failure follows a similar incident from almost two months ago when North Korea lost its first Malligyong-1 satellite into the Yellow Sea due to an unknown launch issue.

In response, the National Aerospace Development Administration of North Korea announced its intentions to conduct a third launch attempt in October after conducting a thorough analysis.

The agency indicated that the cause of the failure does not greatly impact the reliability of the cascade engines and the overall system.

While this recent launch failure is a setback for North Korea, the nation successfully placed the Kwangmyongsong-4 Earth-observation satellite into orbit in 2016.

This event coincided with the 74th birthday of the nation’s late leader, Kim Jong-Il, and marked an achievement in North Korea’s space ambitions.

However, the Kwangmyongsong-4 satellite ultimately decayed and re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere on June 30, 2023.

SpaceX Gets Sued – August 24, 2023

spacex office in california
Credit: Megan Geuss

The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) has taken legal action against SpaceX, alleging that the aerospace company engaged in discriminatory practices against job applicants who are refugees or asylum recipients.

The lawsuit claims that between September 2018 and May 2022, SpaceX discouraged refugees and asylees from applying for positions and treated those who did apply unfairly, a breach of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

SpaceX repeatedly claimed in job postings and public statements that it could only employ U.S. citizens or green card holders due to export control laws, which aim to prevent adversarial nations from accessing crucial U.S. technology for national security purposes.

However, the DoJ argues that such laws do not impose such restrictions, and asylees and refugees possess permission to work and reside in the United States without any expiration.

They are on equal footing with U.S. citizens and permanent residents concerning export-control laws.

The Department of Justice further emphasized that companies like SpaceX can hire refugees and asylees for the same positions as U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents.

SpaceX’s founder and CEO, Elon Musk, disagrees with the DoJ’s allegations.

He stated that the fundamental principle of ITAR law mandates U.S. companies with advanced weapons technology, such as intercontinental-range rockets, to employ permanent American residents, preventing sensitive technology from falling into the hands of hostile nations.

He also noted that the company was repeatedly informed that hiring non-permanent residents would breach international arms trafficking laws, constituting a criminal offense.

In response to the situation, Musk criticized the Department of Justice for what he perceives as political motivations behind their actions, suggesting that SpaceX is being targeted beyond a strict interpretation of the law.

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