This Year’s First Space Launch with Proton-M at Baikonur Space Center

A launch vehicle of the Proton-M family of vehicles has lifted off from the Baikonur Space Center in Kazakhstan with a European telecommunications satellite aboard, a spokesman for the state aerospace corporation Roscosmos said.

“This is the first space launch in 2016 where the Proton-M carrier has been used,” he said. According to the timing chart of the flight, the separation of first stage of the launch vehicle is to take place two minutes after takeoff. It is expected to fall on the ground in Kazakhstan’s central Karaganda region. The second stage will fall off 3.5 minutes after the separation of the first stage. The petals of the nose cone open up. They will fall down on the earth in the Altai Mountains area. The Briz-M booster block, which carries the satellite, is to separate from the third stage of the launch vehicle 9 mins 42 secs after the liftoff.

Read more at: TASS

Lift-off for Europe’s Space Laser Network

Europe has begun to roll out a data superhighway in orbit above the Earth.

The first node in the network is a telecommunications satellite that was launched from Baikonur, Kazakhstan. It will use a laser to gather pictures of the planet taken by other spacecraft and then relay them to the ground.

One benefit will be to put information on natural disasters, such as flooding and earthquakes, into the hands of emergency responders far faster than has previously been possible. Currently, it can take hours to get the pictures taken by Earth observation satellites down on the ground.

Read more at: BBC

NASA Preps for Next Orbital ATK Resupply Mission, Possibly Skipping SpaceX

NASA has announced a launch date for the next commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station, but the mission is the next one planned for Orbital ATK to fly, not the SpaceX mission that was expected to come first.

NASA is preparing for an early-morning, March 10 launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft will blast off, loaded with supplies and equipment, atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. The launch window opens at 3 a.m. and runs for a half-hour that morning.

Orbital ATK had been planning a March resupply mission all along, to follow up on its early December run of equipment and supplies to the space station.

Read more at: Florida Politics

Pair of Satellites Ejected from ISS for In-Space Navigation Exercise

A package of two satellites was ejected from the International Space Station on Friday to begin a mission dedicated to a demonstration of autonomous navigation, rendezvous and docking technology. The second LONESTAR mission is comprised of two satellites built by two American Universities to undertake a demonstration of communication cross links, data exchange, GPS-based navigation, relative navigation, stationkeeping and data transmission to the ground.

LONESTAR stands for “Low Earth Orbiting Navigation Experiment for Spacecraft Testing Autonomous Rendezvous and Docking” and includes four missions flown over a period of years in a cost-effective technology development program with the goal of mastering autonomous rendezvous and docking.

Read more at: Spaceflight 101

NanoRacks Project Could be a Giant Leap for Commercial Space

A Webster company could soon receive NASA’s blessing to build an airlock for the International Space Station that would launch small satellites and test experiments outside the station, while potentially providing an avenue for retrieving and repairing broken equipment.

The proposal by NanoRacks could be the first time a private company owns, designs and builds a complicated element of the space station. Until now, private companies have mostly owned research hardware to hold experiments.

“It’s a big deal,” said Mike Read, manager of the space station’s National Lab Office. “It hasn’t been done before.”

The space station has an airlock in the Japanese Experiment Module called Kibo that currently deploys satellites and places experiments outside the station, but it can’t keep up with demand. The airlock is opened only 10 to 12 times a year because of logistical constraints.

Read more at: Houston Chronicle

Antarctic Fungi Survive Martian Conditions on the International Space Station

European scientists have gathered tiny fungi that take shelter in Antarctic rocks and sent them to the International Space Station. After 18 months on board in conditions similar to those on Mars, more than 60% of their cells remained intact, with stable DNA. The results provide new information for the search for life on the red planet. Lichens from the Sierra de Gredos (Spain) and the Alps (Austria) also travelled into space for the same experiment.

The McMurdo Dry Valleys, located in the Antarctic Victoria Land, are considered to be the most similar earthly equivalent to Mars. They make up one of the driest and most hostile environments on our planet, where strong winds scour away even snow and ice. Only so-called cryptoendolithic microorganisms, capable of surviving in cracks in rocks, and certain lichens can withstand such harsh climatological conditions.

Read more at: Space Daily

Astronaut Rescue Exercise Proves Det. 3 Command, Control Ready to Support DoD, NASA

It’s not common an astronaut must be rescued out of rough open waters after descending home to Earth in a crewed capsule but when those Space Race era days of human space flight return, a small Air Force detachment knows they will be ready.

The 45th Operations Group Detachment 3 joined NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and Air Force pararescuemen, Combat Rescue Officers and survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialists in a simulated astronaut rescue exercise here Jan. 14.

“At the strategic and operational levels of this exercise, we flawlessly met our objectives of effective command and control between our Joint Space Operations Center operating location and the combined Department of Defense and NASA landing support officers for the aircraft launch, relay of mission execution status, relay of astronaut medical status, and systems matter expertise to all players,” said Lt. Col. Jason Havel of Det. 3, which is also known as the Human Space Flight Support Office.

Read more at: Space Daily

Space Station Completes Reboost Maneuver for Upcoming Visiting Vehicle Traffic

The International Space Station successfully completed a reboost of its orbit Wednesday night, increasing its orbital altitude by a little over one Kilometer. The reboost used the engines of the Progress M-29M spacecraft currently docked to the aft port of the Zvezda module of ISS and was completed on Wednesday at 19:40 UTC with a total duration of five minutes and 33 seconds.

Prior to the Reboost, the Station was found in an orbit of 398.5 by 407.6 Kilometers. The reboost was the second in a series of reboost maneuvers in a campaign to set up the proper orbital geometry for three visiting vehicle operations

Read more at: Spaceflight 101

SpaceX Tests Crew Dragon Parachutes

Four red-and-white parachutes unfurled high above the desert near Coolidge, Arizona

This happened recently during a test of the system that initially will be used to safely land SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying astronauts back from the International Space Station. The test used a mass simulator as the weight of the spacecraft connected to the parachute system. The mass simulator and parachutes were released thousands of feet above the ground from a C-130 cargo aircraft. This test evaluated the four main parachutes, but did not include the drogue chutes that a full landing system would utilize.

As part of its final development and certification work with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, SpaceX continues to perform tests of flight-like hardware that allows engineers to assess the reliability.

Read more at: Space Ref

Project Skybender: Google’s Secretive 5G Internet Drone Tests Revealed

Google is testing solar-powered drones at Spaceport America in New Mexico to explore ways to deliver high-speed internet from the air, the Guardian has learned.

In a secretive project codenamed SkyBender, the technology giant built several prototype transceivers at the isolated spaceport last summer, and is testing them with multiple drones, according to documents obtained under public records laws.

In order to house the drones and support aircraft, Google is temporarily using 15,000 square feet of hangar space in the glamorous Gateway to Space terminal designed by Richard Foster for the much-delayed Virgin Galactic spaceflights.

Read more at: Guardian

Google’s Solara50 Drone Crash Caused by Wing Failure

In May 2015, one of Google’s Internet drones, a Titan Solara 50, crashed during a test flight in New Mexico. The drone was solar powered and didn’t last long in the air before crashing in the company’s Albuquerque test field. This drone was part of Google’s larger effort to deliver Internet from the stratosphere; investigators began probing the cause of the crash following the incident.

It has been more than half a year since the May 1 accident, and investigators have announced the cause of the crash: a wing failure. The National Transportation Safety Board states the drone experienced control problems shortly after take off, and while the remote operator attempted the stabilize the plane, a “thermal updraft” sent it upward at a faster speed.

Read more at: Slashgear

Update on Virgin Galactic-Firefly Litigation

Just a brief update on the legal fight between Virgin Galactic and Firefly Space Systems.

The hearing scheduled for today in Los Angeles Superior Court has been postponed until Feb. 23. The hearing concerns a lawsuit filed by Firefly board member P.J. King seeking to overturn an arbitrator’s ruling that he must turn over documents and other materials to Virgin Galactic.

Read more at: Parabolic Arc

European Space Agency Announces Plans to Build ‘Moon village’ by 2030

Villages on the Moon built by huge 3D printers and inhabited for months at a time by teams of astronauts could be a reality in the next decade or so, a recent conference of 200 scientists, engineers, and industry experts has concluded.

Construction of this manned lunar base could begin in as little as five years, the European Space Agency (ESA) announced at their International Symposium on Moon 2020-2030 in the Netherlands last month, suggesting that a new Moon village could provide a potential springboard for future missions to Mars.

Read more at: Science Alert

Nasa to Test First Integrated-Photonics Modem

A Nasa team is working to build a new communications modem that will employ a revolutionary technology to transform everything from telecommunications, medical imaging, advanced manufacturing to national defence.

The space agency’s first-ever “integrated-photonics” modem will be tested aboard the International Space Station beginning in 2020 as part of Nasa’s multi-year Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD), the US space agency said in a statement.

The cell phone-sized device incorporates optics-based functions such as lasers, switches and wires onto a microchip much like an integrated circuit found in all electronics hardware.

Read more at: NDTV

Russia Forming Space Alliance with Iran, May Fly Iranian Astronaut

Quietly, the Russians appear to be forming a space alliance with the Islamic Republic of Iran,according to a Thursday story in Sputnik. Not only is Russia in talks to launch Iranian satellites on Russian rockets but also to include an Iranian astronaut on a future space mission.

What that space mission might be is open to question. A visit by an Iranian astronaut to the International Space Station would likely kick up a political firestorm with the United States, even though the Obama administration is attempting to develop a rapprochement with the Islamic Republic.

Read more at: Examiner

Rocket Launched in California to Test Missile Defense

A missile defense rocket has been successfully test-launched from a military base in Central California.

Authorities say a long-range interceptor blasted off Thursday from Vandenberg Air Force Base. The launch was testing thrusters on the Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle, which is designed to crash into enemy missiles and destroy them.

Read more at: My News 13

US Admiral Warns of China’s and Russia’s Growing Space Weapons Arsenal

Speaking last week at an event hosted by the Center for a New American Security, the head of U.S. Strategic Command, Admiral Cecil D. Haney, struck a familiar tone when warning about Russia’s and China’s burgeoning space warfare capabilities.

“Once thought of as a sanctuary, space is more congested, contested, and competitive than ever, and it is becoming increasingly vulnerable. Other nations understand our reliance on space and the advantages we have reaped in defense and commercial sectors,” he noted.

“Adversaries and potential adversaries want to exploit those dependencies by turning them into vulnerabilities.” He cautioned that threats are evolving faster than the U.S. military ever imagined and that they could “potentially threatens national sovereignty and survival.”

Read more at: Diplomat

China’s Progress in Developing Hypersonic Weapons Unsettles Pentagon

Although Beijing has repeatedly stated that its efforts to modernize its military are aimed strictly at boosting China’s defense capabilities, US military officials never miss an opportunity to present these developments as an alarming trend.

Admiral Cecil D. Haney, Commander of US Strategic Command, recently confirmed that in late 2015 China successfully launched a rocket carrying a record 20 micro-satellites, as well as tested hypersonic and anti-satellite weapons as part of its rapidly developing space program.

Read more at: Space Daily

Get Ready America: Russia and China have Space Weapons

Russia and China are increasingly pursuing the ability to attack America’s space-based assets, but is there anything the Pentagon can do to thwart Beijing and Moscow’s ambitions?

While it is sometimes treated as an afterthought here on earth, space-based capabilities like GPS, communications and reconnaissance satellites are the sinews that hold the U.S. military together, allowing American forces to operate across the globe. That’s a fact, however, that has not gone unnoticed in Beijing or Moscow.

Read more at: ATimes

US Air Force Pushes Back Experimental Missile Warning Satellite

The U.S. Air Force expects to launch an experimental missile-warning satellite in 2018 or 2019, about two years later than the timeline service officials used last January.

The Air Force said in a 2015 sole-source notice that it had planned to tap commercial satellite manufacturer Space Systems Loral of Palo Alto, California, to carry a wide-field-of-view sensor to near-geosynchronous orbit as a secondary payload in late 2016 or the first half of 2017. But shortly after it was published, the service canceled the notice.

Read more at: Space.com

U.S. Official: China Turned to Debris-free ASAT Tests Following 2007 Outcry

The outcry that followed the Chinese military’s 2007 destruction of a weather satellite and the immediate creation of thousands of pieces of space junk has helped dissuade China from conducting similar debris-generating tests, a U.S. State Department official said.

On Jan. 11, 2007, China deliberately destroyed one of its defunct weather satellites known as Fengyun-1C using a ground-based, medium-range ballistic missile. The action, which was widely condemned throughout the international space community, left a cloud of potentially hazardous debris in a heavily used belt of Earth orbit.

Read more at: Space.com