ISS Orbit Adjustment Maneuver Successful

The Progress M-29M cargo spacecraft has adjusted the average altitude of the International Space Station (ISS) in orbit, raising it by almost 2 km, the Mission Control Center (MCC) outside Moscow told TASS on Wednesday.

“The correction maneuver has been successfully completed,” an MCC representative said.

He said the adjustment was needed for the upcoming station’s docking with the Soyuz TMA-20M manned spacecraft that will be launched on March 19 to bring to the ISS the next expedition crew – Russian cosmonauts Alexei Ovchinin and Oleg Skripochka and NASA astronaut Jeffrey Williams.

Read more at: TASS

Report: Ukraine’s Space Industry a Big Casualty of Crimean Crisis

Ukraine’s space industry has lost 80 percent of its revenue since its conflict with Russia began.

A report by the International Monetary Fund concluded Ukrainian space companies lost about $75 million a year, largely because of contract cancellations by Russian companies.

Ukrainian companies are involved in the Dnepr and Zenit launch vehicles, which are being phased out by Russia, and the Sea Launch venture that has been on hiatus since its last launch in May 2014.

Read more at: Space News

China’s Mission to Lunar Far Side Opens New Frontier for Mankind

China announced Jan. 14 that it was committed to landing a rover on the far side of the Moon in order to make in situ surveys of the lunar surface. In this way, China is on the verge of opening up a new frontier for mankind’s exploration of the Galaxy. While China has only been a space-faring nation since the 1990s, its pace of development—as with China’s economic development generally—has been mind boggling. While the United States, under George W. Bush, and even more under Barack Obama, has been dismantling space capabilities built up over four decades, China is proceeding by leaps and bounds, not just to repeat what other space-faring nations have done, but now to chart new paths.

The mission of Chang’e-4 to land on the far side of the Moon before 2020 is indeed going above and beyond what other nations have achieved.

Read more at: Larouchepub

Obama Administration Proposes Smaller 2017 NASA Budget 

The Obama Administration has announced its new Federal budget and is proposing to cut NASA’s Fiscal Year 2017 Budget to $19 billion by carving away significant funding for deep space exploration, whereas the overall US Federal budget actually increases to over $4.1 trillion.

This 2017 budget request amounts to almost $300 million less than therecently enacted NASA budget for 2016 and specifically stipulates deep funding cuts for deep space exploration programs involving both humans and robots, during President Obama’s final year in office.

The 2017 budget proposal would slash funding to the very programs designed to expand the frontiers of human knowledge and aimed atpropelling humans outward to the Red Planet and robots to a Jovian moonthat might be conducive to the formation of life.

Read more at: Universe Today

Russian Scientists Against Using Nuclear Weapons to Clear Space Debris

The use of nuclear weapons in order to clear space debris is meaningless, said the director of the Institute of Astronomy of the Russian Federation Boris Shustov. “We have brought such a large number of man-made objects into the Earth’s orbit that it is possible that in 10-20 years we may lose access to space,” the scientist told Sputnik.

“Near-Earth space has become so contaminated that there is a serious threat that we will not be able to continue to move in space. Since each of the fragments of space debris sweeps through space at thousands of kilometers per hour, it has terrible destructive power,” Shustov explained.

“At such speeds, a grain of sand becomes a bullet. Right now experts are considering a variety of methods to deal with space debris, including the use of nuclear weapons.

“But it is pointless and completely unnecessary. It is akin to shooting sparrows with cannon. Therefore, scientists are actively developing new techniques: from using ‘fishing nets’ to applying lasers.”

Read more at: Space Daily

Governance Challenges at the Intersection of Space and Cyber Security

The disruption of capabilities that space assets provide would have immediate, far-reaching and devastating economic, political, and geostrategic consequences. Over the past two decades, space vulnerabilities have grown dramatically in a manner commensurate with terrestrial dependency on space-based capabilities and enablers. This is true for both civilian and military activities. Purposeful interference with space systems could rather easily trigger a retaliatory spiral of actions that could compromise a safe and secure operating environment in space. Accordingly, having available a range of measures to prevent or preempt an incident, or even full-up conflict, is of rapidly growing importance to an increasing number of countries.

Read more at: Space Review

Chinese Scientists Invent Leak Detection System for Moon Exploration

Chinese scientists have developed a system to measure the leak rate for a vacuum environment which will be used in the country’s third step moon exploration program.

According to scientists at the Lanzhou Institute of Physics under the China Academy of Space Technology, the measurement system will help scientists figures out a better way to preserve samples from the moon, which are stored in a vacuum capsule, increasing the accuracy of research.

“The third step of the lunar exploration project involves taking samples from the surface of the moon back to earth,” said Li Detian, chief scientist of the research team. “The samples will be packed in a vacuum environment. The accuracy of measuring the finest leak in a vacuum capsule will have direct impact on the research result of the samples,” he said.

Read more at: Xinhuanet

Fears Grow that Philae Comet Lander may Never Wake Up

Time is running out to save the Philae space probe, which made history when it became the first to touch down on a comet more than a year ago.

The German Aerospace Center hasn’t made contact with the lander since July and now conditions on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko are becoming so extreme as to make it nearly impossible to bring it back to life. It’s now falling below minus 292 Fahrenheit at night on the comet.

“The chances for Philae to contact our team at our lander control center are unfortunately getting close to zero,” Stephan Ulamec, Philae project manager at the German Aerospace Center, DLR, said in a statement. “We are not sending commands anymore and it would be very surprising if we were to receive a signal again.”

Read more at: Fox News

Budget Proposal Offers Big Increases for Small Space Offices

Three U.S. government offices that deal with commercial space issues, which combined received less than $20 million in 2016, would get large  increase — on a percentage basis, at least — in the proposed fiscal year 2017 budget.

The 2017 budget request, released Feb. 9, proposes $19.8 million for the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST), an increase of $2 million over what the office received in 2016. That 2016 figure was itself an increase of $1.2 million over 2015.

The office is responsible for licensing commercial launches and reentries, as well as the spaceports that host those activities. In recent years, as commercial launch activity has increased, both the FAA and industry have warned that the office needed more resources in order to keep pace with the growing demands for licenses and safety inspections.

Read more at: Space News

Students to Build a Third Space Debris Observation Satellite

Too bad there is no frequent flier program for microsatellites. If there was, University at Buffalo students would accrue serious points.

For the third time in the past four years, they have been selected by federal agencies to design and build a microsatellite destined for outer space.

The latest satellite, called Spectrometry Observation for Reflectivity Analysis (SORA), will help identify what the thousands of pieces of orbiting Earth are made of. Researchers aim to use that information to ensure that debris, also known as space junk, does not crash into other spacecraft.

Read more at: Phys.org

China Conducts Final Tests on Most Powerful Homegrown Rocket

China’s largest and most powerful rocket the Long March 5 underwent final tests at the Wen-chang Satellite Launch Center in Hainan province.

The rocket’s first flight will be conducted in September, according to a senior project manager. The Long March 5 is China’s latest and most technologically advanced rocket. The tests were conducted for more than 130 days of September last year.

The Chang’e 5 lunar probe, which will land on the moon and take samples before returning to Earth, also took part in the tests, said Li Dong, a senior designer at the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology and head of the Long March 5 project, newspaper China’s Daily reported.

Read more at: Space Daily

Mystery About Chelyabinsk Superbolide Continues Three Years Later

In 2013 February 15, the approach of asteroid (367943) Duende to our planet was being closely monitored by both the public and the scientific community worldwide when suddenly a superbolide entered the atmosphere above the region of Chelyabinsk in Russia.

Three years and hundreds of published scientific studies later, we are still looking for the origin of such unexpected visitor, that caused damage to hundreds of buildings and injuries to nearly 1,500 people. Finding the precise value of its speed as it touched the top of the atmosphere appears to be the key to determine the orbit of the parent body of the Chelyabinsk superbolide.

Read more at: Science Daily

The Privatization of Human Spaceflight

NASA seems to want to walk a road that will totally end the use of the traditional military procurement paradigm that built the Apollo and the Space Shuttle programs. It makes me grin, and makes a lot of sense given how much Congressional strings have cost space exploration in delays over the years. If lawmakers let NASA get away with cutting down their cherry tree it might finally kick the momentum for exploitation of space back in gear.

Military-style contracting is like what they’re doing to build the Space Launch System and Orion.

Read more at: Spaceindustry News

The Antipode: Flying from New York to London in 11 Minutes

Remember the Skreemr, a concept for a supersonic plane that could travel at Mach 10?

Scratch that, there’s now a design for a plane that could cruise from London to New York in 11 minutes, traveling at Mach 24 — that’s 12 times faster than the Concorde!

Charles Bombardier, the industrial designer who came up with both designs, has dubbed this newest concept the Antipode, which he conceived in collaboration with Lunatic Koncepts founder Abhishek Roy. In theory, it could carry up to ten passengers up to 12,430 miles in under an hour.

“I wanted to create an aircraft concept capable of reaching its antipode — or diametrical opposite — as fast as possible,” Bombardier told Forbes.

Read more at: CNN

India Needs Planetary Defence: Indian-origin Space Scientist

An Indian-origin space scientist says the suspected meteorite strike in Vellore, Tamil Nadu, last week that killed a man on a college campus is a glaring reminder that the country needs to seriously think about putting in place a meteor defence and reconnaissance infrastructure and evolve a national meteor disaster preparedness policy.

“Catastrophies originating from outer space are no fiction,” Chaitanya Giri, who was earlier with Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany and is currently with the Earth Life Science Institute in Tokyo. Such catastrophies “are potential and credible threats to our national interests,” he said.

Giri said the US, in 2005, mandated its NASA space agency to build infrastructure for surveillance of potentially hazardous asteroids and to divert those on a likely collision course with Earth. The European Union, Japan, and Russia followed suit and are continually tracking comets and asteroids while Canada has its own “near earth object surveillance satellite” to identify unwelcome visitors from space, he said.

Read more at: Zee News

Russia’s Improved Ballistic Missiles to be Tested as Asteroid Killers

Russian scientists have developed a project of upgrading intercontinental ballistic missiles to destroy near-Earth meteorites 20-50 meters in size, leading researcher of the Makeyev Rocket Design Bureau Sabit Saitgarayev told TASS on Thursday.

The scientists would like to test the improved missiles’ capabilities against the asteroid Apophis expected to come dangerously close to the Earth in 2036, the scientist said.

“Most rockets work on boiling fuel. Their fueling begins 10 days before the launch and, therefore, they are unfit for destroying meteorites similar to the Chelyabinsk meteorite in diameter, which are detected several hours before coming close to the Earth. For this purpose, intercontinental ballistic missiles can be used, which requires their upgrade,” the scientist said.

Read more at: TASS

Virgin Galactic Satellite Launch Plans Advance with Carrier Aircraft Modifications

Virgin Galactic’s bid to enter the small satellite launch business is building momentum on two fronts, with heavy work now under way in Texas on modifications to the 747-400 that will serve as a dedicated air-launch carrier while colleagues in California work to increase the payload capacity of the in-development booster rocket, LauncherOne.

Speaking today at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London, VG’s executive vice president of spaceport and programme development, Jonathan Firth, revealed the former-Virgin Atlantic 747, acquired in December by the launch operation, is now in Waco undergoing a D-check and will be transferred to San Antonio for modification as a carrier aircraft.

Read more at: Flight Global

Apollo One Crew Remembered Nearly Half-century After Accident

Family and friends of the Apollo One crew gathered for an evening memorial service and celebration of life, hosted by the 45th Space Wing at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Due to poor weather in the area, this year’s service was held indoors in the Space Wing’s main headquarter conference room.

About 30 of the approximately 100 attendees were seated in the area reserved for family members, while the balance of the room was made up of servicemen and women, friends, NASA employees, and members of the Space Coast press community.

Read more at: Spaceflight Insider

Astronaut ‘Graffiti’ Seen for First Time in Decades

One of the world’s most famous and oldest spacecraft is revealing some of its past. Apollo 11 was the first mission to land humans on the moon. As Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the lunar surface, Michael Collins circled above in the command module called Columbia.

Columbia is where the three astronauts lived during most of the eight-day mission in July 1969. It’s the only part of the spacecraft that returned to Earth, and it’s been at the Smithsonian since 1970 and at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., since it opened in 1976.

Museum guests are able to peer inside the windows of the cramped, 10-by-12-foot, cone-shaped capsule and look at the flight controls, navigation equipment and the three uncomfortable-looking seats. What they haven’t been able to see are markings hidden from view for the past 47 years.

Read more at: NPR

White House Requests $1.2 Billion for New Rocket in Air Force Budget

The U.S. Air Force plans to invest more than $1.2 billion over the next five years to develop a new launch system that would aim to end the Defense Department’s reliance on a Russian rocket engine, according to budget documents set to be released Feb. 9.

The President’s budget request for the next fiscal year also includes about $2.1 billion in 2021 to develop follow-on systems to two of the Air Force’s crown jewels in space: the highly protected communication satellites known as the Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellites and the missile-warning satellites in the Space Based Infrared System constellation.

But the spending on the new rocket shows how replacing the Russian engine has become a top priority for lawmakers as well as Defense Department and intelligence community leaders.

Read more at: Space News

GPS and the World’s First “Space War”

Twenty-five years ago U.S.-led Coalition forces launched the world’s first “space war” when they drove Iraqi troops out of Kuwait. Although the actual fighting did not take place in the upper reaches of the atmosphere, satellite-based global positioning systems (GPS) played a critical role in the Coalition’s rapid dismantling of Saddam Hussein’s military during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Without their orbiting eyes in the sky U.S. troops in particular would have had a much more difficult time navigating, communicating and guiding their weapons across the hundreds of kilometers of inhospitable, windswept desert battlefields in Kuwait and Iraq.

GPS would change warfare and soon became an indispensible asset for adventurers, athletes and commuters as well. The navigation system has become so ubiquitous, in fact, that the Pentagon has come full circle and is investing tens of millions of dollars to help the military overcome its heavy dependence on the technology.

Read more at: Scientific American