Dr. Tilly Wong – 01/01/2023
Rikal, Hathon, Novella Islands
Novellan National News Service
Aspire-3 launch schedule confirmed, core module for Curiosity ready for lift-off
Academics across the Novella Islands rejoiced today as Dr. Richard Meyer, the director of the Novella Islands Bureau of Aerospace Operations (NIBAO), released the tentative schedule for the new year’s launches. The highly anticipated launch of space station Curiosity was presented in Dr. Meyer’s closing remarks, where it was confirmed that the first module would be sent to orbit aboard Aspire-3. The announcement comes after a tense month-long period of orbital planning and weather monitoring, with many experts expecting the launch would be postponed for the third time.
The launch date for Aspire-3 – which will carry to orbit the first element of dozens planned – has been locked in for the 10th of October, weather permitting. Should delays be incurred, the Toulou Island Launch Facility will be able reschedule until the 18th, when the maintenance hangar needs to be cleared for Velocity-46 (scheduled to launch on the 21st). Crewing operations for the Curiosity core module are slated for the 2nd of November aboard Vantage-7, assuming the Aspire-3 mission completes successfully.
Aspire-3’s construction to set a new standard for the aerospace industry
Aspire-3 will be the first space launch from the Novella Islands solely comprised of domestic components, both a source of pride, and a spectacular demonstration of the Novellan aerospace industry’s maturation.
Novellan Aeronautics – the state-owned aerospace research and development corporation – completed construction of the core module in March, and has been running testing over the past six months. Mr. Peter Conway, a spokesperson for Novellan Aeronautics, said in a press conference, “While the Novella Islands was not the first nation to reach space, nor is it the most prolific producer of spacecraft, we do excel at one thing in particular. Our aerospace industry is the most sophisticated, technically advanced, and efficient.”
“Our experts are world-renowned, and Curiosity is just the latest demonstration of our intrepid nature as a nation,” he continued, concluding with the remark, “Curiosity truly is the most fitting name for our crowning achievement.”
While both the Apire-1 and Aspire-2 launch vehicles were completed using only locally-produced components, the spacecraft they carried to orbit all made use of at least one foreign element in their construction. However, with the Dell Government’s commitment for Curiosity to be completed solely with domestic parts, the launch of Aspire-3 sets a new benchmark for the aerospace industry moving forwards.
“Monday’s launch will also be the largest by mass in the Novella Islands’ history,” noted Dr. Meyer. “The Aspire-series of launch vehicles have a carrying capacity of approximately 250,000 kilograms of payload to low planetary orbit (LPO). The core module of the Curiosity is about 200,000 kilograms, with an additional 20,000 kilograms of propellant for station-keeping.”
When completed to the current specification – the space station is modular, and as such, is able to be expanded and modified at will – Curiosity will have over thirty different modules. Over twenty of these will be dedicated laboratories for various scientific experiments in space; these range from botany and zoology facilities for zero- and low-gravity life sciences, particle laboratories for astrophysics, and four modules dedicated to monitoring and treating the dozens of crew that will permanently inhabit the station when complete.
Space junk ‘primary threat’ to Curiosity, new point-defence systems installed
Contrary to the tall tales science fiction portrays of alien invasions, the primary threat to the Curiosity‘s mission will be relatively mundane, states Dr. Meyer. “The presence of space debris is really the make-or-break element to basically any launch. The worst part is that this becomes a greater problem, the more launches we make.” A potential threat of the continued build-up of space junk is Kessler syndrome, a phenomenon where there is so much debris in orbit that no further space travel is able to be conducted.
The overwhelming majority of this space junk is smaller than one centimetre in diameter, and much of it is as small as a few millimetres; specks of paint, frozen coolant, dust from solid rocket engines, and so on. However, it is not the size of the particles that is the primary threat to space operations. Each of these pieces of debris are travelling at well over five kilometres per second, with some reaching up to ten. Even at the minute mass of each particle, if it makes contact with the station, the transfer of kinetic energy will be ‘catastrophic’, states Dr. Meyer.
In order to defend against potentially disastrous impacts by space debris, academics at the Novellan Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) worked alongside NIBAO administrators and the state-owned Precision Optics Corporation to develop a response. The resulting Continuous Wave Point-Defence System (CWPDS) is a high-powered laser, guided by three dedicated sensing arrays, and is designed to neutralise all but the most massive of debris. Indeed, while it is expected that the launch of Curiosity will in and of itself generate some pieces of space junk, the net contribution over the life of the station is expected to reduce the total amount of debris in its orbital range by more than 35%.
“Curiosity‘s presence will, in essence, act as a ‘space clean-up’ service for anything that happens to fly by. Should the CWPDS demonstrate itself as overwhelmingly successful in the task it is assigned, I have no doubt it will become a standard feature of all launches from this point forward,” stated Dr. Meyer. “No doubt, Curiosity is the best testbed for advances in safeguarding the planet against Kessler syndrome.”
Controversially, a small group of lawyers have argued that the inclusion of the CWPDS on a craft destined for orbit is a breach of international law, although this view is not supported by legal experts. “While bringing weapons into space is indeed explicitly against international law, I disagree that the Curiosity‘s self-defence systems constitute a breach,” said Dr. Ian Tellar, a professor of international law at the Novella City School of Law. “It is singularly a system designed to defend against environmental threats. It’s practically useless as an offensive weapon, and is totally ineffective against anything larger than a breadbox… Even that is probably pushing it!”
The Dell Government disagrees with the criticisms levied, with Minister of International Relations and Foreign Affairs Dr. Justina Rivers stating, “There are absolutely no grounds upon which the Curiosity could be considered a breach. The Novella Islands takes each and every one of its obligations under international law very seriously.”