Zenit Carrier Rocket for First Launch from Floating Sea Platform to be Ready in 2019

A Zenit carrier rocket may be manufactured for the first launch under the restarted Sea Launch project in 2019, co-owner of S7 Group Natalia Filyova said on the sidelines of the Russian investment forum in Sochi on Friday.

S7 signed a contract with Sea Launch Group in 2016 on the project’s acquisition.

“The year 2019,” she said, responding to a question about when the Zenit carrier rocket might be ready for the first blastoff under the Sea Launch project. Ukraine’s Yuzhmash, the producer of Zenit launchers, earlier reported it would deliver the first two carrier rockets for the Sea Launch project in 2018.

Read more at: TASS

UN Committee Approves Space Sustainability Guidelines

A United Nations committee reached agreement last week on nine guidelines intended to reduce the risk of collisions in space and other harmful space activities.

The non-binding guidelines, approved by a working group of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the UN’s Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), are intended to improve the long-term sustainability of space. They join 12 other guidelines on the topic approved by the committee in 2016.

Speaking at the Canadian SmallSat Symposium here Feb. 13, David Kendall, chairman of COPUOS, said the guidelines came out of a long-running effort by the committee to establish guidelines that, while themselves carrying no legal force, can be incorporated into national laws and regulations.

Read more at: Spacenews

Space Station’s Malfunctioning ‘Robonaut’ will be Sent Home for Repairs

The future of space travel is likely going to involve a lot of robots.

As artificial intelligence and robotic bodies develop, it makes sense to send machines out into space to do a lot of the menial tasks that human astronauts are currently stuck taking care of themselves.

As we look to the future of robotic space travel, it’s worth remembering that our species’ first attempt to send a humanoid robot buddy into space hasn’t exactly gone according to plan. After years of trying to fix Robonaut, the International Space Station’s resident machine (and unofficial Daft Punk cosplayer), NASA has made the decision to ship the robot back to Earth in order to complete necessary repairs.

Read more at: outerplaces

Thermal Cycle Test Confirms Orion and its Systems

When NASA’s Orion spacecraft launches into space atop the agency’s Space Launch System rocket on its first uncrewed integrated flight, Exploration Mission-1, it will travel thousands of miles beyond the Moon and return to Earth for splashdown in the Pacific Ocean. While traveling to deep space, Orion will experience extreme hot and cold temperatures, with re-entry temperatures nearing 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Before Orion is exposed to the harsh conditions of launch, deep space and re-entry, it is being prepared and tested inside the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building high bay at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The Orion Program successfully completed a thermal cycle test on the Orion crew module inside a specially constructed thermal cycle chamber in the airlock of the high bay. Over the next five days, the crew module was rapidly cycled between hot and cold temperatures to thermally stress the hardware and ensure the workmanship of the crew module’s critical hardware and its subsystem operations. The cycle of temperatures for the initial thermal test ranged from 29 to 129 F during 105 hours of testing.

Read more at: Colorado spacenews

SpaceX is About to Launch Two of its Space Internet Satellites — the First of Nearly 12,000

Now that the dust has settled from SpaceX’s first Falcon Heavy mission, the company is getting back to its routine with another Falcon 9 launch. The rocket is slated to take off from California on Thursday, sending up an Earth-observation satellite called Paz for Spain. But the vehicle will also have two additional satellites hitchhiking along for the ride: prototype probes built by SpaceX to test out the technology needed to beam down internet from space.

Sending up these two test spacecraft — named Microsat-2a and Microsat-2b — is a big first step in SpaceX’s long-term plans to create satellite internet. The company wants to create a giant constellation of nearly 12,000 satellites that will orbit in a synchronized dance above Earth, beaming internet connectivity to antenna receivers on the planet’s surface. One set of 4,425 satellites will sit about 700 miles up, while 7,518 satellites will sit about 200 miles up and operate on a different radio frequency. Such a massive satellite fleet will be constantly in motion around the planet and will supposedly be able to provide coverage to basically any spot on Earth at all times.

Read more at: Verge

Spacewalking Astronauts Finish Canadarm2 Work at Breakneck Speed

Two astronauts—one American, the other Japanese—suited up to venture outside the International Space Station to finish work upgrading the outpost’s robotic Canadarm2, a process that has now involved five extravehicular activities (EVAs) over some four months.

The six-hour U.S. EVA-48 began when NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Norishige Kanai put on their suits and exited the Quest airlock. The official start time occurred at 7 a.m. EST (12:00 GMT) Feb. 16, 2018, when the duo switched their suits from station power to battery power. Their primary task was to shuffle the locations of the two old latching end effectors (LEEs) that were replaced on earlier spacewalks.

Read more at: Spaceflight Insider

Five Years after the Chelyabinsk Meteor: NASA Leads Efforts in Planetary Defense

A blinding flash, a loud sonic boom, and shattered glass everywhere. This is what the people of Chelyabinsk, Russia, experienced five years ago when an asteroid exploded over their city the morning of Feb. 15, 2013.

The house-sized asteroid entered the atmosphere over Chelyabinsk at over eleven miles per second and blew apart 14 miles above the ground. The explosion released the energy equivalent of around 440,000 tons of TNT and generated a shock wave that blew out windows over 200 square miles and damaged some buildings. Over 1,600 people were injured in the blast, mostly due to broken glass.

Read more at: Space Daily

Floating Food isn’t Easy to Digest: Scientists Think this may be the Reason Astronauts Lose Weight

“As odds as it sounds, that’s one of the bigger challenges we have; getting crews to eat enough calories to maintain body weight,” admitted Dr. Scott Smith who leads the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)’s nutritional biochemistry lab. It is one of the more profoundly interesting problems facing astronauts today, but not one given much importance. Dr. Smith admitted that with the various constraints beset him and his team, including NASA’s limited budget, the nutritional aspect of astronauts has not been prioritized.

This is understandable; national space exploration efforts need to be given focus. President Donald Trump has been very vocal about his desire to improve our space programs, including sending people once more to the Moon. The end goal is to lay the foundation to enable human exploration on Mars.

Read more at: Space.News

Astronaut Twin Study Shows How Hard Space is on the Body

Between 2015 and 2016, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly spent 340 consecutive days in space while his identical twin brother Mark, a retired NASA astronaut, remained firmly planted on Earth. The pair were participating in a groundbreaking study that allowed scientists to study the impact of space travel on the body—critical knowledge for sending astronauts on increasingly long missions.

Researchers are finally reporting the initial results of the aptly-named Twins Study, which suggest that extended time in orbit can result in substantial changes to the human body—right down to the molecular level. As Alexandra Witze reports for Nature, NASA took a range of biological samples from the Kelly brothers before, during and after the space mission, testing everything from the microbiomes in their guts to the length of their DNA. Because the Kelly brothers have “almost identical genomes and similar life experiences,” Witze writes, researchers were seeking out differences between space-bound Scott’s biological samples and those of ground-based Mark.

Read more at: Smithsonian

How Space Flight Makes you Flighty: A Look at How Weightlessness Changes Astronauts’ Brains

Microgravity is an interesting phenomenon that affects astronauts in space in many interesting ways. Although space travel has been known to have certain effects on the bodies of astronauts, such as making bones and muscles atrophy after a certain time frame, a new study shows that there are effects on the human brain as well.

According to a report on the study, which was funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administrationand published in the New England Journal of Medicine, a team of researchers looked at before- and after-mission magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of a total of 34 different astronauts — 18 of them spent months working on the International Space Station (ISS) while 16 of them went on much shorter trips of about 14 days on average aboard the space shuttle. What they found was that microgravity had some noticeable effects that differed among the astronauts, regardless of their similarities in age and flight experience.

Read more at: Space.News

Long March Rockets on Ambitious Mission in 2018

The Long March-3B rocket launched Monday from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China’s Sichuan Province marked the seventh successful mission of the Long March rocket series since the beginning of 2018.

The year 2018 will be an ambitious year for China’s space program, with the largest number of Long March rocket launches.

According to Cen Zheng, rocket system commander-in-chief of the Long March-3A mission, 2018 will see 35 launches of the Long March rocket series, with 14 missions carried out by Long March-3A rockets and six by Long March-3C rockets.

Read more at: Space Daily

Is SpaceX Being Environmentally Responsible?

SpaceX has now launched the most powerful spacecraft since the Apollo era—the Falcon Heavy rocket—setting the bar for future space launches. The most important thing about this reusable spacecraft is that it can carry a payload equivalent to sending five double-decker London buses into space—which will be invaluable for future manned space exploration or in sending bigger satellites into orbit.

Falcon Heavy essentially comprises three previously tested rockets strapped together to create one giant spacecraft. The launch drew massive international audiences—but while it was an amazing event to witness, there are some important potential drawbacks that must be considered as we assess the impact of this mission on space exploration.

Read more at: Smithsonian

Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway will Extend Human Presence in Deep Space

As NASA sets its sights on returning to the Moon, and preparing for Mars, the agency is developing new opportunities in lunar orbit to provide the foundation for human exploration deeper into the solar system.

For months, the agency has been studying an orbital outpost concept in the vicinity of the Moon with U.S. industry and the International Space Station partners. As part of the fiscal year 2019 budget proposal, NASA is planning to build the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway in the 2020s.

The platform will consist of at least a power and propulsion element and habitation, logistics and airlock capabilities. While specific technical and mission capabilities as well as partnership opportunities are under consideration, NASA plans to launch elements of the gateway on the agency’s Space Launch System or commercial rockets for assembly in space.

Read more at: scitech daily

Trump Administration Supports Transition to Commercially-focused Space Station

The Trump administration is proposing to end direct government support of the International Space Station in 2025, but plans to include $150 million in NASA’s fiscal 2019 budget, to be unveiled Monday, to begin work on transitioning, if possible, to a more commercially focused outpost, according to an internal NASA review.

The idea is to ensure a seamless transition from government-funded ISS operations to an outpost using new components, or even elements of the current space station, that would be operated as a base for private sector innovation, international cooperation and NASA experiments and research needed for eventual flights back to the moon and on to Mars.

“The decision to end direct federal support for the ISS in 2025 does not imply that the platform itself will be deorbited at that time — it is possible that industry could continue to operate certain elements or capabilities of the ISS as part of a future commercial platform,” according to a draft summary of NASA’s ISS Transition Report required by Congress in the agency’s 2017 Authorization Act.

Read more at: Spaceflight Now

Hotel Billionaire Robert Bigelow is About to Launch a New Spaceflight Company

Robert Bigelow, who made billions forming the hotel chain Budget Suites of America, is gearing up to launch a new spaceflight company called Bigelow Space Operations.

Bigelow, age 72, already owns Bigelow Aerospace, which he founded in 1999. That company built an inflatable room, called the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), for NASA to attach to the International Space Station. BEAM launched into orbit and was fully deployed in 2016. Bigelow Aerospace has also reportedly helped conduct research on UFO sightings for a secretive Pentagon program.

Read more at: Business Insider

As Satellite Threat Looms, Air Force Moves to Buy Small Rocket Services

The US military apparently wants to get into the business of launching smaller satellites on smaller rockets. In the administration’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2019, the Air Force budget contains a new “Rocket Systems Launch Program” item for the purpose of buying “small launch services” for the timely delivery of smaller payloads into low-Earth and geostationary transfer orbit.

Read more at: Arstechnica

What Impact Might SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy Program have on the Atmosphere?

The first SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket soared towards Mars orbit last week. The cargo-lifting rocket was on a test flight that met most of its major objectives. The star of the show was a cherry red Tesla Roadster that the rocket hefted into space, complete with a space-suited mannequin in the driver’s seat. SpaceX founder Elon Musk is also the founder of Tesla, and he thought a car would be more interesting than some sort of simulated spacecraft

In the wake of the successful test launch, space pundits mused on what the successful Falcon Heavy launch would mean for founder Elon Musk’s eventual plans to build a Mars colony. Musk once said he hoped to transport a million colonists to Mars. They won’t be riding Falcon Heavy rockets — it will be long discontinued by then. The Falcon Heavy will be replaced by a bigger version called the Big Falcon Rocket — or Big F***ing Rocket.

Read more at: Seeker

Amateur Astronauts Flock to the Starfighters as Space Travel Becomes Reality

As NASA and its commercial partners are preparing to soon support the first crewed missions to take flight from Florida since 2011, private companies like the Starfighters are anticipating that a new wave of public interest in spaceflight will follow. Originally an aerobatic airshow team with over 500 performances under their belt, the Starfighters are lobbying to become the first certified astronaut training fleet endorsed by NASA to prepare both private pilot and non-pilot citizens for the rigors of space travel.

Aerospace companies like Blue Origin, SpaceX, Boeing and Virgin Galactic are all expecting to send both space tourists and federal astronauts above the 100 km boundary of space, called the Kármán line, by years end. Without a clear mandate of how to train astronauts not employed by NASA or other government-run space agencies, Starfighter founder and CEO Rick Svetkoff proposed that his fleet of four F-104 supersonic jets capable of flying mach 2.0, or 1500 mph, be the first official space support vehicles tasked to train private astronauts. Svetkoff’s team is hopeful their application for certification will pass by year’s end.

Read more at: Observer

Chinese Satellite Industry to Disrupt Markets Across Eurasia

NSR’s industry-first China Satcom Markets (CSM) report, released today, finds a Chinese satellite industry primed to take a larger share of the global satcom market through attractive one-stop-shop offerings, aggressive growth plans and enhanced exports.  For GEO-HTS satellites alone, NSR forecasts Chinese state-owned companies to manufacture and launch over 800 Gbps of capacity by 2026, with much of this coming over Southeast Asia, East Asia, and South Asia.

Since the end of the cold war, the satellite and space industry has been a duopoly between the United States and EU, with other players such as Russia, Japan, and now India playing a secondary role. At some point soon, however, it appears likely China will assume a position as a top tier space nation globally, with significant ramifications for the satellite telecoms industry.

Read more at: NSR

SpaceX Wants to Beam Internet Down to Earth. Here’s How it will Start.

SpaceX is preparing to hit another orbital milestone with the launch of a pair of experimental satellites on Sunday that are designed to beam an ultrafast, lag-free Internet connection down to Earth.

The test satellites, dubbed Microsat-2a and Microsat-2b, are a part of a years-long plan by chief executive Elon Musk to create a fleet of orbiting devices to blanket the globe in wireless broadband connectivity. SpaceX ultimately intends to put about 12,000 broadband satellites in low Earth orbit, and Sunday’s payload will mark the company’s first attempt at realizing the dream. The initial satellites in the network are expected to come online next year.

Satellite broadband is already available. But it’s slow, expensive and not really accessible to the masses. The goal of SpaceX and almost a dozen other companies is to deliver fast, reliable Internet access to virtually everyone.

Read more at: Washington Post

Elon Musk and SpaceX are ‘Adding Energy to the Space Market,’ Boeing CEO Says

Boeing is undeterred by all the buzz around SpaceX and its founder Elon Musk, which launched its Falcon Heavy rocket into history last week.

“They’re adding energy to the space market and we like the attention that that’s generating,” Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg told CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.” “I think it’s good for the country.”

The successful test flight of the new SpaceX rocket made it the most powerful in operation, capable of lifting a payload nearly three times that of the next largest rockets from United Launch Alliance – a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin – and Arianespace. While Falcon Heavy may crush its current competition, Boeing is the primary contractor for a new rocket built for NASA: Space Launch System (SLS).

Read more at: CNBC

OHB Expands Activities in the NewSpace Sector with the Founding of Blue Horizon Deutschland

With the founding of Blue Horizon Germany, Bremen-based space and technology group OHB SE is broadening its activities in the New Space sector. In April 2017, the listed company founded the start-up Blue Horizon in Luxembourg – as a company intended to substantiate the vision of enabling sustainable living in outer space and revitalising desolated landscapes on Earth. Both are enabled by technologies and processes from the field of “life sciences”.

At the Luxembourg site, Blue Horizon is currently working intensively on bids for research into autonomous ecosystems on the Moon (Cubehab), biological water monitoring systems (Aquahab), and the execution of biological experiments in zero gravity (Biosat) with a staff of three employees.

Read more at: OHB

How the Private Space Industry could Take Over Lower Earth Orbit — and Make Money off it

The Trump administration wants to end direct NASA funding for the International Space Station by 2025 — but that doesn’t necessarily mean the US will stop sending people into orbit around Earth by then. Instead, NASA hopes to transition the domain of lower Earth orbit, where the space station resides, to the commercial space industry over the next seven years. But what would it take for private space companies to take over this area of space — and what exactly would they do up there?

An option would be for one or more companies to take over full-time management of the International Space Station (ISS). But the orbiting lab is expensive to fly: NASA spends between $3 billion and $4 billion each year to keep the station afloat, and that’s money that most commercial companies either don’t have or aren’t willing to spend. Multiple astronauts and flight controllers also have to work around the clock to keep the ISS running at all times, and the private sector may not have the personnel or the resources to take on such a daunting task.

Read more at: Verge

ISRO Technically Ready for Human Space Missions

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is ready with technologies needed for human space missions and only political clearance is needed, according to a senior professor. Delivering the spotlight address at the fourth ORF-Kalpana Chawla Space Dialogue here today, B N Suresh, Honorary Distinguished Professor of the ISRO, said as far as ISRO is concerned, its team is ready to undertake such missions. This year’s Dialogue was kicked off on Thursday night with the inaugural address by Lt. Gen. Amit Sharma, former Commander-in-chief, Strategic Forces Command and special address by Sunil Gupta, Secretary, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. ORF Chairman Sunjoy Joshi delivered the welcome address.

Read more at: Sify

Farewell to a Pioneering Pollution Sensor

On Jan. 31, NASA ended the Tropospheric Emission Spectrometer’s (TES) almost 14-year career of discovery. Launched in 2004 on NASA’s Aura spacecraft, TES was the first instrument designed to monitor ozone in the lowest layers of the atmosphere directly from space. Its high-resolution observations led to new measurements of atmospheric gases that have altered our understanding of the Earth system.

TES was planned for a five-year mission but far outlasted that term. A mechanical arm on the instrument began stalling intermittently in 2010, affecting TES’s ability to collect data continuously. The TES operations team adapted by operating the instrument to maximize science operations over time, attempting to extend the data set as long as possible. However, the stalling increased to the point that TES lost operations about half of last year.

Read more at: JPL

Long March Rockets on Ambitious Mission in 2018

The Long March-3B rocket launched Monday from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China’s Sichuan Province marked the seventh successful mission of the Long March rocket series since the beginning of 2018.

The year 2018 will be an ambitious year for China’s space program, with the largest number of Long March rocket launches.

According to Cen Zheng, rocket system commander-in-chief of the Long March-3A mission, 2018 will see 35 launches of the Long March rocket series, with 14 missions carried out by Long March-3A rockets and six by Long March-3C rockets.

Read more at: Space Daily

Astronomer Replaces Fighter Pilot in Private Bid to be First German Woman in Space

A private effort to launch the first German woman into space has a new potential candidate.

Suzanna Randall, an astronomer with ESO, the European Southern Observatory in Garching, was announced as the new trainee for Die Astronautin (The Female Astronaut) on Friday (Feb. 16), replacing a fighter pilot who dropped out of the privately-run program in December. Randall will now compete with meteorologist Insa Thiele-Eich, the daughter of veteran German astronaut Gerhard Thiele, for a chance to become the first woman from Germany to launch to the International Space Station on a privately-funded mission.

Read more at: Collect Space

Pentagon Looks to Counter Rivals’ Hypersonic Missiles

Even as the Pentagon hustles to ensure that its defenses keep pace with North Korea’s fast-growing rocket program, US officials increasingly are turning attention to a new generation of missile threat. These weapons under development by China and Russia — as well as by the United States — can fly at many times the speed of sound and are designed to beat regular anti-missile defense systems.

The hypersonic missiles could change the face of future warfare, as they can switch direction in flight and do not follow a predictable arc like conventional missiles, making them much harder to track and intercept.

“China’s hypersonic weapons development outpaces ours… we’re falling behind,” Admiral Harry Harris, who heads the military’s Pacific Command, warned lawmakers on Wednesday.

Read more at: Space Daily

Quality Assurance for Space Projects

26 – 29 June 2018 – Athlone, Ireland

The course is designed to provide the participant with an understanding of basic principles of Quality Management, Quality Assurance and Quality Control, as they are usually applied to space projects. You will find the full description of the course in the IAASS Professional Training Courses Catalog (download from the right bar on this page). Please register for attendance at the course by sending a completed Space Quality Assurance June 2018 – Booking Form to Catherine Lenehan by e-mail: [email protected]

Read more at: IAASS