November 18, 2020 9:05 am Published by

Welcome to Let’s Talk Space, your monthly guide to the most exciting news articles (in our opinion) within the space industry. This month’s episode, we discuss the DART project, the ISS, Tom Cruise, the Chinese Lunar Research Station and more! 

1. NASA and ESA are working on creating new technologies for planetary defence. Planetary defence-driven technologies are designed for preventing hazardous asteroids from impacting Earth. For this, NASA has developed the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) which intends to be the first demonstration of kinetic impactor technology which will aim to change the motion of an asteroid in space. The spacecraft will deliberately crash itself into the moonlet of a binary near-Earth asteroid called Didymos. It is expected that the collision will change the orbital period of the moonlet, which will be then observed and measured by telescopes on Earth. Dart’s launch window will begin in late July 2021, launching aboard SpaceX Falcon 9 and intercepting Didymo’s moonlet in late September 2022.

In conjunction with the DART mission, the European Space Agency has awarded an industry consortium, led by a German space company called OHB, €129.4 million to lead the ‘Hera’ mission. They will develop a desk-sized satellite containing small CubeSats which will perform a post-impact assessment of the effect from DART’s collision. The gathered information will allow scientists to understand whether the test has been successful. However, Hera is expected to launch in October 2024 and reach the asteroid in 2026, leaving a substantial gap between the collision of DART and a close proximity study, allowing enough time for the results to be significant for study. 

Click here to learn more about the DART mission. Click here to learn more about the Hera mission. 

2. Since 2003 with the creation of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program, China has been very active in the development of technologies and deployment of missions to enable the exploration of the Moon. Since 2007, it has deployed and planned a series of ongoing robotic spacecraft missions called Chang’e, after the Chinese moon goddess. Following a series of successful missions, China has visualised a more sustainable and prolonged stay in the Lunar surface, hopes which are envisioned in the International Lunar Research Station. The station is in search of international partners to bring this vision to life.

The Station is planned to be developed through a series of the Chang’e missions, and it is designed to involve long-term robotic presence and possibly short-term crewed missions with the goal for a sustainable, prolonged human presence between 2036-2045.

It is an extraordinary step towards collaboration from the Chinese space agency, as from the start of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program, there has been minimal involvement of international players. So far, the Russian Space Agency and the European Space Agency have shown great interest in participation.

Click here to learn more about this story.

3. What does scaling the Burj Khalifa, hanging onto a plane taking off and a HALO jump have in common? They are all stunts done by the infamous Tom Cruise. So when you think about all the crazy stunts he has done for his movies, you think there is no way he can top that! 

Well after finalising the final details with Elon Musk, Tom Cruise is set to travel to the International Space Station with Commander Michael Lopez-Alegria and Axiom Space in October 2021. NASA is highly supportive of this endeavour as Jim Bridenstine explained: “we need popular media to inspire a new generation of engineers and scientists to make NASA’s ambitious plans a reality”.

However, NASA is not the only one interested in bringing popular media onboard the ISS. Soon after the announcement of NASA’s plans the Roscosmos agency announced their plans to film the first feature film in Earth Orbit. The Agency has announced that it is searching for an actress willing to “Become a star, by flying to the stars”. Whilst there aren’t many details of the planned movie plot, the selection process itself is set to become a reality TV show.

Click here to learn more about Tom Cruise’s planned journey to the ISS. Click here to learn more about the Roscosmos plan.

4. After months searching, the crew at the ISS has finally found the ill-famed air leak. At first, the air leak wasn’t categorised as a big issue; however, as the leak rate escalated, the measures to find it increased too. The ISS is known to have a few air leaks which never cause a big alarm. However, in August the leak became a more significant cause of concern and the astronauts on board had to relocate to the living quarters of the Russian segment of the ISS. On 15th October the Russian Space Agency announced that the leak was finally found using a very unusual test; they used tea leaves to guide their search. Cosmonaut Anatoly released some tea leaves and the crew sealed the chamber and watched the tea leaves with video cameras. The tea leaves floated towards the source of the leak, and they were able to patch it with Kapton tape.

Click here to learn more about this story.

5. The SmallSat market more than quadrupled in the 2020s. According to the latest Euroconsult report the 2020s are expected to be the decade of the smallsat with an average of 1,000 small satellites to be launched annually. “From 2020 to 2029, the smallsat market is projected to grow to $51 billion of which $18 billion will amount to launches”. This growth is powered by the innovation brought forward by new startups and SMEs, which are simplifying and revolutionising the manufacturing and launch processes.

Companies such as SmallSpark Space Systems are dedicated towards the development of launch technologies that not only meet the demand of a growing market such as the smallsat industry but also are working in revolutionising the engineering process involved not only in the development of launch technologies but also other industries here on Earth. If you are interested in learning more about Small Spark Space Systems, please do get in touch with [email protected]

Click here to learn more about the Euroconsult report.

Click here to learn more about SmallSpark Space Systems.

Did you know??

A new reality TV show is in development, and if you participate, you could win a 10-day round trip to the ISS. The show will be called Space Hero, and the production company has already booked a seat on a SpaceX Dragon crew spacecraft. The show will be a combination of competitions around astronaut training, including physical, mental and emotional challenges. The show is set to take place in 2023. So do you think you got what it takes to be a Space Hero?

Click here to learn more about Space Hero.


Nissin has developed multiple types of their Cup Noddle most favourite flavours for astronauts in the ISS. The now called Space Cup Noodle will feature dried shrimp, ground pork, scrambled eggs and green onion. However, a few changes had to be made to the original recipe to allow for these to be reconstituted in the ISS. The new recipe allows for the noodles to reconstitute at 70-degree Celsius rather than 100 and they are thicker and more viscous to prevent them from swirling around in microgravity

Click here to learn more about the new Space Cup Noodle.

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