Deep space exploration

NASA makes a key discovery for the future of deep space exploration – TechCrunch

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Last week, we unveiled the schedule for the TC: Space sessions for the first time. This is our inaugural event focused on space startups and related technologies, and it takes place on December 16-17. It’s entirely virtual, of course, and the good news is that you can easily attend from anywhere in the world.

We have an amazing lineup, including journalists who we regularly cover here. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine will be in attendance, along with US Space Force Command Office Jay Raymond and Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck, to name a few. Tickets are available now, so register as soon as possible to get the best possible price.

SpaceX last week launched not one, but two separate Falcon 9 rockets loaded with Starlink satellites for its high-speed internet service. The first lifted off on October 19, and then just five days later another full complement reached orbit. SpaceX has now launched nearly 1,000, and it must be about to launch its public beta version of the consumer internet service.

The OSIRIS-REx probe

Picture credits: Nasa

NASA has successfully collected a sample from the surface of an asteroid in a first for the agency. The sample collection was made using NASA’s OSIRIS-REx robotic exploration probe, which was built by partner Lockheed Martin. OSIRIS-REx still has work to do at Bennu, the asteroid from which it sampled, but next year it will begin returning with its precious cargo to be studied by scientists here on Earth.

NASA is full of special discoveries this week – scientists working on its SOFIA Imaging Project have confirmed the presence of water on the moon’s surface exposed to sunlight. They suspected it was there, but this is the first confirmed evidence, and even if there isn’t much water, it could still change the future of human exploration of deep space.

Picture credits: Microsoft

Microsoft looks set to invest heavily in space business with Azure Space, a new business unit it has formed to handle all space-related activities related to its cloud data efforts. This includes a new type of deployable mobile data center that will be connected in part through SpaceX’s Starlink global broadband network, placing computing power where it’s needed in a scalable way.

Intel has loaded a small satellite with an energy-efficient cutting-edge AI processor, its Myriad 2 Vision processing unit. This will help the satellite perform its own onboard classification of the Earth images it takes, saving key bandwidth for what it transfers to researchers on the ground. Local AI could help satellite networks in general run much more efficiently, but it’s still in its infancy as a field.

Picture credits: relativity space

Relativity Space has tons of promise in terms of 3D printed rockets, but it still hasn’t reached the launch stage yet. It did, however, secure a key government contract, with Lockheed Martin selecting its rocket for an upcoming fluid management systems test mission for NASA.