Progress Crash Investigation Sets Example of Close Russia-US Cooperation — Roscosmos

The Russian-US cooperation in investigating the causes of the Progress MS-04 cargo spacecraft’s loss in December is the example of successful teamwork between the two countries in the space sector, the head of Russian space corporation Roscosmos Igor Komarov said on Friday.

“Now the example of the Progress crash shows very close cooperation. We are working together on solving our joint problems, including ensuring the work of our joint crews,” Komarov told the Rossiya-24 TV channel.

The Roscosmos chief expressed hope that the Russian-US cooperation in the space sector will broaden under the administration of US President Donald Trump. “We hope that common sense will prevail and cooperation in the space area, first of all, the peaceful use of space, will be expanded,” he stressed.

Read more: TASS

Wall Street Journal: Draft GAO Report Finds Problems with SpaceX Turbine Blades

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported today that a draft study from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reveals problems with the turbine blades on SpaceX rockets that could impact safety and therefore the schedule for commercial crew launches.  A GAO spokesman told SpacePolicyOnline.com that he could not confirm the contents of the report because it is only in draft form.

WSJ’s Andy Pasztor cites unnamed “government and industry officials familiar with the details of the report” as the sources of the story that GAO found “persistent cracking” of  turbine blades in SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket engines.  Pasztor goes on to say that NASA “has warned SpaceX that such cracks pose an unacceptable risk for manned flights.”

SpaceX did not respond to a request from SpacePolicyOnline.com for comment on the WSJ story by press time. Pasztor quotes an unnamed SpaceX spokesman as saying that the company is modifying its design to avoid the cracks.

GAO Public Affairs Managing Director Chuck Young could confirm to SpacePolicyOnline.com only that GAO has work underway in response to language in the House Appropriations Committee’s report to accompany the FY2016 Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill (H.R. 2578).   He said he could not comment on the contents of a draft report and GAO had not provided copies to reporters.  The final report is expected to be released by the end of the month.

Read more at: Space Policy Online

First Commercial Launch of Proton After Engine Checks Due in April

The first commercial launch of the Proton-M carrier rocket after engine checks is scheduled to take place in April, the head of Russian space corporation Roscosmos Igor Komarov said Friday.

“We are now in talks with the contractor, but the first commercial launch of the Proton-M will take place in early April,” he said in an interview with the Rossiya 24 TV channel.

He said the federal program will not be affected by Proton troubles. “All rockets that should be launched under the state order are available,” he said. Previously, Roscosmos had recalled all engines equipping the Proton’s second and third stages made by the Voronezh Mechanical Plant (VMZ).

Read more at: TASS

Japan’s ‘Space Junk’ Collector in Trouble

An experimental “space junk” collector designed to pull rubbish from the Earth’s orbit has run into trouble, Japanese scientists said Tuesday, potentially a new embarrassment for Tokyo’s high-tech program.

Over 100 million pieces of garbage are thought to be whizzing around the planet, including cast-off equipment from old satellites and bits of rocket, which experts say pose a growing threat to future space exploration.

Scientists at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) are testing an electrodynamic ‘tether’—created with the help of a fishing net company—to slow the junk down and bring it into a lower orbit. The hope was that the clutter—built up after more than five decades of human space exploration—would enter the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up harmlessly long before it has a chance to crash to the planet. But JAXA says it is not sure if the tether, made from thin wires of stainless steel and aluminium, successfully deployed or not. JAXA will continue trying to remedy the situation before the cargo ship is expected to reenter the atmosphere on Saturday, the agency added.

Read more at: Japan Today

Suspects of Proton Carrier Rocket’s Crash Charged with $65 Million Damage

Russian prosecutors have wrapped up a criminal case against four employees of Energiya Rocket and Space Corporation complicit in the crash of a Proton booster with three GLONASS satellites and sent the case files to a court of law.

“Deputy Prosecutor General Viktor Grin has endorsed the criminal case’s indictment against Energiya employees Stanislav Balakin, Sergei Lomtev, Alexander Martynov and Yuri Bolshigin,” spokesman for the Prosecutor General’s Office Alexander Kurennoi told TASS. According to investigators, the Energiya employees are complicit in the crash of a Proton-M carrier rocket with three GLONASS-M satellites on December 5, 2010. The damage to the state amounted to over 4 billion rubles (about $65 million).

Read more at: TASS

Technical Risks Threaten to Delay Mars 2020 Mission

A report released Jan. 30 by NASA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) identified several issues with the agency’s Mars 2020 rover mission that could delay its launch.

The report said that while project managers remain confident that the $2.4 billion mission to collect samples for later return to Earth will be ready for launch in July 2020, a number of problems with the rover’s technologies and contributions from international partners could derail those plans.

The biggest risk to the mission, according to NASA OIG, is the sampling system that will be used to collect and store samples of Martian rock and soil that a future mission will gather for return to Earth. That system, an essential part of the mission, has several key technologies that are less mature than planned at this phase of the mission’s development.

Read more at: Space News

Astronauts’ Brains can Change Shape During Spaceflight, Claims Study

As per a recent study, brains of astronauts can undergo changes in shape during a spaceflight, claim researchers. The study, believed to be the first to examine structural changes that take place in astronauts’ brains during spaceflight, found that the volume of grey matter increased or decreased, and the extent of the alteration depended on the length of time spent in space.

Scientists at University of Michigan (UM) in the US examined structural MRIs in 12 astronauts who spent two weeks as shuttle crew members and 14 who spent six months on the International Space Station (ISS). All experienced increases and decreases in grey matter in different parts of the brain, with more pronounced changes the longer the astronauts spent in space.

“We found large regions of grey matter volume decreases, which could be related to redistribution of cerebrospinal fluid in space,” said Rachael Seidler, professor at UM. “Gravity is not available to pull fluids down in the body, resulting in so-called puffy face in space. This may result in a shift of brain position or compression,” said Seidler.

Read more at: Zee News

Insider Exclusive: Orion Designed to Keep Crew in the ‘Loop’

NASA’s next crew-rated spacecraft, Orion, has been engineered so that the vehicle is designed with the crews – who will fly on it – firmly in mind. An official working on Orion told SpaceFlight Insider that Orion’s windows, flight controls, even the seats in the roughly 22,899 lbs (10,387 kg) vehicle are being carefully crafted to guarantee mission success.

SpaceFlight Insider interviewed Lockheed Martin‘s (the prime contractor on Orion) Orion Crew Module Director, Jim Bray, in November 2016, about how the 11-foot (3.3-meter) tall spacecraft is being crafted to support missions which could include destinations such as an asteroid, the Moon, and, eventually, Mars.

NASA’s Astronaut Office, based out of the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, is keeping its current corps of veteran and up-and-coming space-flyers in the mix in terms of Orion’s systems and subsystems. A fact Bray underscored. “Those of us working on Orion have become familiar with the acronym, ‘H.I.T.L.’ – which stands for ‘Humans In The Loop’,” Bray said. “Everything we do on Orion boils down to the 95 percent male, 5 percent female who will fly on her.”

Read more at: Spaceflight Insider

Elon Musk is About to Launch a Lethal Pathogen Into Space — It Might Just Save Your Life

February 14, 2017 won’t be just any Valentine’s Day. On that day, SpaceX and Elon Musk will launch a lethal pathogen into space and deliver it to the International Space Station. The pathogen is called methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, also known as MRSA, and causes very frequent and difficult-to-treat infections in hospitalized patients. One of the main clinical concerns is that this superbug is rapidly becoming resistant to most currently available antibiotics. Simply put, the pathogen is lethal and it’s going to take a grand effort to stop it. And that just might include space travel!

After launch and once MRSA is on board, it will be used in a fascinating study to examine the impact of near-zero gravity on gene expression and mutation patterns. The study is sponsored by NASA and CASIS and will be led by Anita Goel, M.D., Ph.D. Dr. Goel is the the Chairman and CEO of Nanobiosym, who was awarded the first XPRIZE in Healthcare for the Gene-RADAR technology—the world’s first mobile Tricorder device that enables real-time diagnosis of any disease with a genetic fingerprint at a cost at least 10 times cheaper than comparable diagnostic tests on the market today.

Read more at: Forbes

How a Year in Space Affected the Bacteria in Scott Kelly’s Gut

Ten teams of researchers are poring over the data collected for NASA’s Twins study — an experiment to see how a year in space affected the health of astronaut Scott Kelly, compared to the health of his identical twin Mark who stayed on Earth. One of those research groups, from Northwestern University, have been focusing on the changes to Scott’s gut microbiome, the thousands of microbe species that live inside the GI tract and help with digestion. And they’ve found an interesting divergence between the two brothers’ bacteria, though they aren’t sure what these changes mean just yet.

Based on stool samples from the twins, the Northwestern team found that there was a sustained shift in the balance between two major groups of bacteria — Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes — in Scott’s gut while he was in space. Meanwhile, his brother Mark only experienced minor fluctuations in this balance during the same time period. Once he returned to Earth, though, Scott’s bacterial balance went back to the way it was before the mission.

Read more at: Verge

Fiery Farewell for Progress as ISS Prepares for New Arrivals

The International Space Station (ISS) crew are busy preparing for new Visiting Vehicles, as one departed this week. The Russian Progress MS-03/64P resupply provided a stunning farewell as it conducted a destructive re-entry, while the Station prepares to welcome SpaceX Dragons in the near and long term.

Progress MS-03 arrived in July of last year, the 155th Progress mission since the program began in 1978 for resupply efforts of the Salyut 6 space station and the 66th Progress mission to the ISS. Progress MS-03/64P was the 64th of the Progress family vehicle to successfully reach the Station.

Read more at: NASA Spaceflight

Why a $100M Rocket Launch Site Might be Coming to Nova Scotia

A small Nova Scotia community that last waded into an international communications revolution about 130 years ago, could soon return to those heady days with a fiery bang.

The Canso-Hazel Hill area in Guysborough County has been shortlisted as a future launch base to send satellite-carrying rockets into space, one of a handful of spots across North American being eyed by a Nova Scotia company. On Tuesday, Maritime Launch Services will hold an open house at the Canso-Hazel Hill Fire Department hall from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. to share its plans with local residents. “The Canso site prospect is the most mature one in Canada at this point, but not the only candidate,” company president Steve Matier said in an email.

Matier spent most of 2016 evaluating about 15 potential launch locations in North America for the Ukrainian Cyclone 4M medium-class rocket.

Read more at: CBC

How Stressful will a Trip to Mars be on the Human Body?

Preliminary research results for the NASA Twins Study debuted at NASA’s Human Research Program’s annual Investigators’ Workshop in Galveston, Texas the week of January 23. NASA astronaut Scott Kelly returned home last March after nearly one year in space living on the International Space Station. His identical twin brother, Mark, remained on Earth.

Researchers found this to be a great opportunity for a nature versus nurture study, thus the Twins Study was formed. Using Mark, a retired NASA astronaut, as a ground-based control subject, ten researchers are sharing biological samples taken from each twin before, during and after Scott’s mission. From these samples, knowledge is gained as to how the body is affected by extended time in space. These studies are far from complete. Additional research analysis is in process.

Read more at: Eureka Alert

United Arab Emirates to Launch First Ever Islamic Mission to Mars

The United Arab Emirates is preparing to become the first Islamic nation to launch a mission to Mars. In 2020, an unmanned craft called Hope will take off from Japan and travel to the red planet.

Last year, religious leaders in the UAE issued a fatwa forbidding Muslims from landing on Mars. However, the robotic spaceship will not actually touch down on the Martian surface. It will blast off aboard a Japanese rocket and then go into orbit around the planet. “We are delighted to launch the UAE’s Mars explorer by the Japanese launch vehicle H-IIA from Tanegashima Space Center in Japan in 2020,” said Yuichi Yamaura, vice president of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. “We are confident that we will accomplish our responsibility, together with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.”

The UAE first created its space agency in 2014 with the express aim of becoming the first Arab nation to launch a Mars mission.

Read more at: AU News

Anatomy of a Debris Incident

A space debris avoidance manoeuvre planned for ESA’s Swarm mission proved unnecessary last week, but the close encounter highlighted the growing risk from space debris. It’s an increasingly common occurrence: ESA’s Space Debris Office starts monitoring a piece of debris – there are over 22 000 tracked in space now – that could pass near one of the Agency’s satellites.

Additional tracking data indicate the object – maybe a chunk of some old satellite already long abandoned – might pass too close, within the ‘risk threshold’ that surrounds each active spacecraft.

Upon closer look, uncertainty in the object’s track combined with uncertainty in the satellite’s orbit mean that a collision cannot be excluded. The only solution is for mission controllers to boost the satellite out of harms’ way. It’s time to take action.

Read more at: Space Daily

Micrometeorites Found on City Rooftops

Do you dread having to clean out those rain gutters this spring? Try rethinking what it is you’re cleaning. Mixed in with the muck and debris may just be a few tiny micrometeorites, debris literally from out of this world.

A recent study out of Imperial College London, the London Natural History Museum, the University of Brussels, and a group known as Project Stardust has shown a silent cosmic rain is falling just overhead.

The rain consists of micrometeoriods, small dust particles slamming into Earth’s atmosphere as our planet plows around the Sun at 30 kilometers (18.3 miles) per second. Micrometeorites are notoriously difficult to study in their pristine state, but Project Stardust has been collecting the sediment from urban rooftop gutters for the past seven years in a bid to find them. And they succeeded: the recent study recovered a fascinating array of micrometeorites from the urban rooftops of Oslow, Norway and Paris, France.

Read more at: Sky and Telescope

If Earth’s Orbit is so Crowded, Why Don’t we see Space Junk in Photos of Earth?

Sometimes, when we post a cool picture of the Earth taken from space, Popular Science gets questions about why, if there’s so much garbage in space, we don’t see an orbital landfill circling our planet in pictures of the Earth.

No, it’s not some massive conspiracy, and yes, the space above our planet is getting increasingly and worryingly crowded with satellites and space junk. It’s just that humans and the things we build are tiny compared to the vastness of our planet. There are about 4,256 human-made satellites orbiting the Earth, of which about 1,149 are still working. Most of these are fairly small, ranging from tiny CubeSats that are only four inches on each side to communications satellites that can be over 100 feet long. That’s still tiny when you consider that the Earth is 7,917.5 miles across.

Even our space station is puny when compared to our planet. Measuring 357 feet end-to-end, the International Space Station (ISS) is by far the largest human-made object orbiting the Earth. Even that isn’t large enough to register on Earth-observing instruments such as the DSCOVR satellite’s EPIC camera, which takes absolutely gorgeous pictures of the Earth from a million miles away.

Read more at: Popsci

Smith, Babin Urge Passage of NASA Transition Authorization Act

Two top Republicans on the House Science, Space, and Technology (SS&T) Committee are urging quick passage of the 2017 NASA Transition Authorization Act.  As we reported yesterday, a new draft is circulating right now and could see action in the Senate this week.

House SS&T Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX), who chaired the Space Subcommittee in the last Congress and is expected to do so again, both spoke at a Space Transportation Association (STA) event this evening.  Smith said he hoped for action in the Senate in the next few days.

The Senate passed the 2016 NASA Transition Authorization Act in the closing days of the 114th Congress, but the House had already completed its legislative business for the year so the bill did not clear Congress.  A slightly revised version is now being readied and Smith and Babin both spoke optimistically about its passage in order to achieve one of its key themes — continuity.   Congressional Republicans and Democrats have stressed the need to avoid any major disruptions to NASA programs as happened early in President Obama’s administration.  Obama cancelled President George W. Bush’s Constellation program to return humans to the surface of the Moon by 2020 and replaced it with a program to send humans to orbit Mars by the 2030s, with the Asteroid Redirect Mission in between. Obama also shifted NASA out of transporting astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS), instead using public-private partnerships to develop “commercial crew” capabilities.

Read more at: Space Policy Online

The Outer Space Treaty has been Remarkably Successful – but is it Fit for the Modern Age?

Space exploration is governed by a complex series of international treaties and agreements which have been in place for years. The first and probably most important of them celebrates its 50th anniversary on January 27 – The Outer Space Treaty. This treaty, which was signed in 1967, was agreed through the United Nations, and today it remain as the “constitution” of outer space. It has been signed and made official, or ratified, by 105 countries across the world.

The treaty has worked well so far but challenges have increasingly started to crop up. So will it survive another 50 years? The Outer Space Treaty, like all international law, is technically binding to those countries who sign up to it. But the obvious lack of “space police” means that it cannot be practically enforced. So a country, individual or company could simply ignore it if they so wished.

Implications for not complying could include sanctions, but mainly a lack of legitimacy and respect which is of importance in the international arena. However it is interesting that, over the 50 years of it’s existence, the treaty has never actually been violated.

Read more at: Space Daily

Three Principles to Constructively Engage China in Outer Space Security

Of the many foreign policy challenges facing the Trump Administration, the task of addressing outer space security is one of the more daunting. The importance of outer space to the economic and national security of the United States makes this an important arena for the administration to address. Predominantly, it is critical to address outer space security with China, as that nation recognizes the importance of the high ground both in terms of its economic and national security.

China also recognizes the role soft-power plays in outer space security. Thus, China is not only pursuing space dominance through hard power, but it is also leveraging soft power through its diplomatic activities, with particular emphasis on the United Nations through measures like the Treaty on Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space and of the Threat or Use of Force against Outer Space Objects (PPWT).

Read more at: Space Review

NASA Seeks Partnerships with U.S. Companies to Advance Commercial Space Technologies

NASA is seeking partnerships with U.S. companies focused on industry-developed space technologies that can advance the commercial space sector and benefit future NASA missions through the “Announcement of Collaborative Opportunity (ACO)” solicitation released by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD).

NASA centers will partner with the companies that are awarded projects under the ACO to provide technical expertise and test facilities as well as hardware and software to aid in maturing technologies that can enable or enhance space systems and closely related subsystems. NASA’s investments in industry partnerships can reduce the cost of the development of technologies and accelerate the infusion of emerging commercial space system capabilities into space missions.

“This ACO continues to build on STMD’s strategy to advance commercial space capabilities aligned with NASA’s long-term strategic goals,” said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator for STMD at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “These partnerships will leverage NASA’s unique engineering expertise and test facilities to increase U.S. industry competitiveness in the space sector.”

Read more at: NASA

Sierra Nevada Corp. to Expand Louisville Site, Plans 400 New Jobs

Aerospace firm Sierra Nevada Corp. has leased 101,000 square feet of additional space within Louisville’s Colorado Technology Center, a move that could allow the company to make 400 new hires over the next year and a half.

The company is leasing space at 2000 Taylor Ave. from Etkin Johnson Real Estate Partners, a Denver-based company that constructed the building last year, according to company spokesperson Kimberly Schwandt on Friday.

“Sierra Nevada Corporation is excited to be a growing team doing innovative and important work,” Schwandt said. “Especially with the upcoming Dream Chaser CRS2 mission with NASA, we are adding staff and workspace to accommodate our expanding company.”

Read more at: Daily Camera

United Launch Alliance is Cutting Jobs Again

United Launch Alliance is again cutting jobs as it seeks to become more price-competitive with Elon Musk’s SpaceX and other rocket companies. The Centennial-based rocketmaker, the largest space launch contractor to the federal government, is seeking voluntary departures to trim an unspecified number of positions.

ULA said it isn’t specifying the number because it considers that competitively sensitive information. The company shed 350 jobs last year through a combination of voluntary buyouts and layoffs and said last summer more cuts would be coming this year. It has started seeking voluntary departures now in the hope that the majority of the positions being eliminated won’t involve laying off employees involuntarily, ULA spokeswoman Jessica Rye said. ULA is trying to achieve cost savings to make its launch services cheaper while maintaining the reliability customers expect, she said.

Read more at: Bizjournals

Sierra Nevada Prepares for Spring Landing Test of Dream Chaser

Continuing on a developmental track as part of its CRS-2 contract award from NASA, the Sierra Nevada Corporation has shipped the Engineering Test Article of their Dream Chaser space plane to Edwards Air Force Base, California, ahead of a planned spring 2017 free-flight to test the vehicle’s low-atmosphere control and landing capabilities – ahead of operational flights for NASA and the United Nations in the coming years.

While Dream Chaser never really left the arena of spaceflight, its initial long-term prospects looked relatively grim following NASA’s decision not to accept it as part of the 2014 Commercial Crew Transportation Capabilities contract awards for the International Space Station (ISS).  Nonetheless, the Sierra Nevada Corporation stated that it would continue to develop Dream Chaser on its own in the initial aftermath of that decision – following a failed appeal of NASA’s decision.

Read more at: NASA Spaceflight

Judge Voids Arizona County’s Development Deal for World View’s Strato-balloon Base

A judge in Arizona has struck down Pima County’s $15 million development deal with World View Enterprises for a stratospheric balloon launch facility near Tucson. Thursday’s ruling by Pima County Superior Court Judge Catherine Woods dealt a setback to World View’s plans to send tourists and payloads to heights above 100,000 feet.

The deal was forged more than a year ago, and led to the construction of a 700-foot-wide launch pad and headquarters facility for World View at Spaceport Tucson. The plan called for World View to lease the facility for 20 years, making annual payments ranging from $675,000 to $1.62 million. World View’s employees began moving into the facility at the end of last year.

Read more at: Geekwire

MoonWatcher will Launch on Virgin Galactic’s LauncherOne Bringing the Moon Closer to You

Imagine seeing the Moon as only astronauts have seen it before. Now with MoonWatcher, the first private satellite mounted with a state of the art camera, you will have this amazing opportunity.

Spectacular images of the Moon will stream live to the Internet with accompanying information and featuring the latest lunar news. To accelerate the path to orbit, today MoonWatcher announced a crowdfunding Kickstarter campaign to raise $150K. MoonWatcher will be putting these Kickstarter pledges towards their first satellite, which will be carried by Virgin Galactic’s LauncherOne into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) in 2018.

Read more at: Prnews wire

Chief Confident Over Spaceport Bid

The head of Newquay’s spaceport bid believes the scheme is still set for lift-off  despite concerns the space programme has stalled following Brexit. Miles Carden, the Enterprise Zone manager, is confident legislation will be in place to enable Cornwall Airport Newquay to accommodate the facility and meet the growing interest in satellite deployment, commercial space flights and conducting space experiments.

The Department for Transport was due to publish early in the New Year the Modern Transport Bill, which will set regulations to allow UK aerodromes to access space and for driverless cars. But the Government states there is currently no timetable for the introduction of the bill as Parliamentary time has been limited by events such as Brexit and the discussions over triggering Article 50.

Read more at: Newquay Voice

France’s Prometheus Reusable Engine Becomes ESA Project, Gets Funding Boost

A French reusable rocket engine program is getting a boost from the European Space Agency, which is ready to sign a contract with Airbus Safran Launchers that would lead to an engine test three years from now.

A small team of engineers from Airbus Safran Launchers and the French space agency CNES have poured a few million euros since 2015 into a liquid oxygen and-methane-fueled reusable engine dubbed Prometheus. ESA leaders agreed during December’s ministerial conference in Lucerne, Switzerland, to make Prometheus part of the agency’s Future Launchers Preparatory Program, or FLPP.

In an interview with SpaceNews, Airbus Safran Launchers CEO Alain Charmeau said FLPP is allocating 85 million euros ($91 million) to Prometheus to fund research and development leading to a 2020 test firing. Now that Prometheus is an ESA program, Charmeau expects more countries will get involved.

Read more at: Space News

Global Positioning System Sparks New Data Revolution

In 1996 a portion of the signals from the US military’s space-based Global Positioning System (GPS) became freely available, revolutionizing civil precision location, navigation and timing.  Shortly thereafter scientists began taking advantage of these free and globally-available radio signals to remotely sense water vapor in the lower atmosphere and the ionized content of the upper atmosphere.  In turn, these observations gave rise to a new era of weather forecasting, environmental monitoring, and real time assessment of solar activity in Earth’s geospace. Today another GPS data revolution is in the making, but this time in the realm of energetic particles in Earth’s radiation belts.

From system conception in the 1960s, engineers knew that individual GPS spacecraft would operate in the brutal radiation environment beyond Earth’s atmosphere.  There, the subatomic particles of the Van Allen radiation belts relentlessly pummel every satellite. For decades, many (and now most) of the spacecraft host particle detectors that provide constellation operators with a direct view of the environment affecting the health and status of the system.  Vital for new scientific research, these detectors have also been monitoring the hyperactive Van Allen belt electrons and protons.  These data, however, were not available to the broader scientific community.

Read more at: EOS

That Time a Monkey Flew to the Edge of Space and then Smashed into a Destroyer

Sam the rhesus monkey had already experienced one hell of a ride to the edge of space when he splashed down into the Atlantic Ocean—but his adventure didn’t end there. Although the dry, original accounts of Sam’s 1959 flight offer scant detail about the journey, mainly confirming that NASA’s new Mercury capsule kept him alive, Bob Thompson tells a more colorful story.

Now in his early 90s, Thompson can still dominate a room with his commanding voice. And on a recent January morning, standing in his kitchen, Thompson did just that as he recounted the landing of Sam nearly six decades ago. In doing so, he offered a parable for NASA as it considers rescue operations for its Orion spacecraft at sea.

Read more at: ArsTechnica

The Evolution of US Spacesuits from Mercury to Today

In order for humans to survive in the hostile environment of space, mankind has invented technologies ranging from rockets that lift them into space to spacecraft capable of sustaining us in that hostile environment, as well as the ultimate personal space ‘vehicle’ – the spacesuit.

Designed to keep a person alive in the event of a spacecraft failure or while working outside of the spacecraft, a spacesuit must provide enough protection to keep the wearer alive in extreme conditions.

Two types of suits have been developed: Launch and Entry suits, and Extravehicular Activity (EVA) spacesuits. These spacesuits have evolved from the rudimentary suits used by Edward White on Gemini IV on June 3, 1965, to the more complex suits of today. Changes were made to reflect the march of technology, to fix deficiencies in prior suits, and to enable the suits to be used for new purposes.

Read more at: Spaceflight Insider

Louisville’s Dream Chaser Makes Big-screen Appearance in ‘The Space Between Us’

Dream Chaser won’t make its debut as a reusable space utility vehicle performing missions in low Earth orbit for another two years. But in Hollywood, it’s already a prime-time player in space.

The Dream Chaser spacecraft, designed and manufactured by Louisville’s Sierra Nevada Corp., has a cameo in a new feature film opening today, “The Space Between Us,” which tells the futuristic story of the first human born on Mars.

Read more at: Daily Camera

Tycoon’s Ticket to Space may be Final Frontier in Divorce Battle from Glamorous Wife

A £160,000 ticket for the trip of a life time into space is at the centre of a stellar divorce battle. The glamorous wife of Ashish Thakkar, once described as Africa’s youngest billionaire, is taking her husband to the High Court next week to argue his precious ticket into space should be included in his assets as part of the divorce settlement.

Mr Thakkar, 35, who was born in Leicester but grew up in east Africa, now faces having to sell on his cherished ticket to pay off his wife.

Read more at: Telegraph

German Lawmaker Says Trump White House Underscores Need for Europe’s Space Sovereignty

A member of Germany’s ruling party said the isolationist signals emanating from the Trump White House are reinforcing the need for Europe to be able to go it alone in space.

“If we recognize the vibrations that the new U.S. government sends over the ocean to us — and maybe it’s not only a vibration — I think it’s very necessary more than ever before that we in Europe have our own capacity and our own competence to enter the space, to shoot satellites into space and to put together all the European competence you can find for a successful mission,” said Norbert Barthle, parliamentary state secretary for Germany’s Federal Ministry of Transportation and Digital Infrastructures.

Barthle was speaking Jan. 27 at  Arianespace’s Jupiter Control Center in Kourou, French Guiana, following the successful launch of Hispasat-36W-1, a satellite built by German manufacturer OHB Systems AG and orbited on a Europeanized-Russian Soyuz rocket.

Read more at: Space News

Jim Bridenstine for NASA Administrator

It’s rare that someone actively seeks to be NASA administrator. But Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) has informed the Trump transition team that he would like the job. One reason he is campaigning to head an agency that is at once popular with the American people and held in some disrespect by the political class is that he harbors ambitions for the space agency that go beyond business as usual.

Currently in his third and last term, as he has term-limited himself, Bridenstine is the author of the American Space Renaissance Act, which contains a wide-ranging number of proposals to reform military space, commercial space, and NASA. More recently he posted in his Congressional blog an explanation of “Why the Moon Matters.” He provides a cogent, economic reason why Americans should return to the moon, the sooner the better.

Read more at: The Hill

Under Trump, Astronauts Might Chart a New Path to a Familiar Place: The Moon

A return to the moon is gaining traction. A trip to an asteroid looks iffy. And Mars is still the ultimate destination.

The space program did not get much attention in last year’s presidential race. But President Trump’s promise to “Make America Great Again” will likely include a refocus on — if not a return to — to the moon, which astronauts last visited in 1972. Expect also more partnering with private firms on space activities and missions and a reduction in NASA’s role monitoring Earth’s rising temperatures and sea levels.

Read more at: USA Today

Mixed Reactions in Space Community to Immigration Executive Order

As scientists and others protest a White House executive order restricting immigration from several nations, many in the space industry are not yet taking a stand on the issue.

The executive order, signed by President Donald Trump Jan. 27, blocked entry into the United States for 90 days for people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. It also suspended the entry of refugees into the U.S., regardless of nation of origin, for 120 days.

The order generated protests across the country, particularly at major airports where travelers deemed to be in violation of the order were detained. Organizations also filed legal challenges to the order, leading in some cases to legal injunctions against its implementation.

Those protests extended to the scientific community, concerned that the order would restrict the travel of scientists and prevent them from studying or working in the United States. A Jan. 31 letter from the American Association for the Advancement of Scientists, signed by more than 150 other organizations and universities, called on the president to rescind the executive order.

Read more at: Space News

Goldfein Shares Space Focus

Space is no longer the final frontier for the joint warfighter as the Air Force will organize, train and equip those who rely on the critical domain of space.

During the Mitchell Institute’s Space Power Breakfast Feb. 3 at the Capitol Hill Club, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein described space as a warfighting domain, and said the Air Force is responsible for 90 percent of the Department of Defense’s space assets. The Airmen responsible for securing these assets hold tremendous responsibility.

“Only when we think about and talk about space in the same way we talk about operations in the air, on land, at sea or in cyber will we move in the direction of truly integrating space across all warfighting domains,” Goldfein said. “Because the opposite of integration is separation which moves us in exactly the wrong direction as a joint team.” Goldfein shared anecdotes from his recent trip to California where he met with Airmen and leadership from Vandenberg and Los Angeles Air Force Bases. Overall, the general said he was in awe of the Air Force’s space warrior and proud of the achievements made thus far.

Read more at: US AirForce

Secretive Colorado Springs Airmen Solve Space Problems by — gasp — Talking

Airmen at Schriever Air Force Base are solving problems in space by doing something unusual in their secretive world. Members of two squadrons in the 50th Space Wing are talking. It’s part of a plan launched six months ago to see if issues with communication satellites on orbit can be fixed by communication between airmen on earth in an Integrated Operational Environment.

“We have better situational awareness,” said Lt. Col. Chad Igl, commander of Schriever’s 3rd Space Operations Squadron. “It allows us to better respond to anomalies.”

Read more at: Gazette

Hyten: U.S. Must Deter Chinese Aggression in Space

The U.S. must be prepared for any Chinese aggression in space, said Gen. John Hyten, leader of U.S. Strategic Command.

China tested the ability to destroy a satellite in low-Earth orbit in 2007, and “they continue to test that capability today…at multiple orbital regimes,” Hyten said during a Jan. 24 speech at Stanford University, one of his first appearances at a university since taking over STRATCOM in November.

“In the not-too-distant future, they will be able to use that capability to threaten every spacecraft we have in space,” Hyten said, according to a press release from the Defense Department. “We have to prevent that, and the best way to prevent war is to be prepared for war. So the United States is going to do that, and we’re going to make sure that everybody knows we’re prepared for war.”

Defending and protecting the space environment is one of his two jobs as leader of STRATCOM, Hyten said, the other being defending the American people against any threats.

Read more at: Space News