SpaceX Pushes Rocket Launch, Landing Attempt to Friday

SpaceX aborted the launch of a commercial communications satellite less than a second before liftoff this evening (Feb. 28), delaying the mission yet again.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket was scheduled to launch the SES-9 satellite from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 6:46 p.m. EST (2346 GMT) today, but that initial liftoff time was pushed back 35 minutes because a boat wandered into the mission’s “keep-out zone,” launch controllers said. At 7:21 p.m. EST (0021 GMT on Monday, Feb. 29), the Falcon 9’s engines began firing up, but they shut down just as the countdown clock was reaching 0

Read more at: Space.com

Meteor ‘Bright Flash’ Seen in Skies Over Scotland

Footage has been recorded of a large meteor in the sky over north-east Scotland.

Police received a number of calls after a big, bright flash or ‘fireball’ was seen – with people reporting seeing a blue, white or green light. Others said they had heard a rumbling sound.

Professor Keith Horne, from St Andrews University, said the meteor was probably about 10cm across, with the rumbling sound caused by a sonic boom. The light appears to have been seen as far south as Berwickshire in the Scottish Borders and Newcastle at about 18:45 on Monday.

Garry J Hunter contacted BBC Scotland to say he had seen the flash over Lumphanan in Aberdeenshire. He described it as “a huge fireball-like trail across the sky, which seemed to then explode and light up the whole sky”

Read more at: BBC

Fireball Meteor Exploded Over the Atlantic Earlier This Month

A fireball meteor shot across the sky over the Atlantic Ocean earlier this month, according to NASA, which describes the fiery object as the largest since the Chelyabinsk meteor over Russia in 2013.

The space agency’s Near Earth Object program identified the unseen fireball, which reached peak brightness on February 6.

NASA Astronomer Ron Baalke explained that the large fireball — the largest since the Chelyabinsk incident, was detected 30 kilometres over the South Atlantic. Astronomer Phil Plait described the object as a solid piece of space debris or meteoroid, which likely exploded.

In a Slateblog post, Plait estimates that it may have been four to nine metres across if made of rock like its Chelyabinsk predecessor, which was 18.8 metres across.

Read more at: AU News

Meteor Shower Points to ‘Potentially Hazardous’ Comet

While Earth can breathe easy for now, the SETI Institute and other astronomers are on the lookout for a “potentially hazardous” comet that may in the distant future pose a threat to our planet.

The search comes after a new meteor shower was spotted around New Year’s Eve. It has never been seen before or tracked in radar observations. Calculations of the stream show the Earth is safe for the foreseeable future, but astronomers will be on the lookout for the parent body.

“In a way, the shower helped chase bad spirits away,” said SETI Institute meteor astronomer Peter Jenniskens in a statement.  “Now we have an early warning that we should be looking for a potentially hazardous comet in that orbit.”

Read more at: Discovery News

Space Act will be in Place Soon, Says ISRO Chairman

The government’s new endeavour is to inject satellite-based technology into governance and numerous common uses. In this interview given to Madhumathi D.S. in mid-February, A.S. Kiran Kumar, who has completed a year as Secretary, Department of Space and Chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation, talks about new shifts in India’s space activities in satellite and launcher areas.

A space law has been in the offing. What is its status?

We have submitted papers to the government based on discussions we first had with academicians and legal experts in January 2015. It should be approved for circulation among a large number of departments — the Ministries of Home Affairs, External Affairs [Defence, Finance, Law,] etc. Some more insight should come in from there. Something concrete should come out by next year. A Space Act will be finally brought out through Parliament.

Read more at: Hindu

China Sets Sights on Mining the Moon

The space-faring nations have ignored the 1979 outer space treaty, and last year the US’s Space Act removed legal obstacles to extraterrestrial activity, and many people are gearing up to mine one of the most valuable substances that occurs in nature.

This extraordinary substance is the isotope helium-3, invaluable in ensuring the safety of nuclear power stations on Earth, and providing an all-powerful rocket fuel.

It is rare on Earth. It is found in troclotite, a metal of magnesium and iron, again rare but plentiful in the moon’s crust.

Read more at: Times Live

US Astronaut and Twin Assist in Zero-g Research

Spending time in zero gravity causes extreme stress on the human body — a phenomenon that astronaut Scott Kelly’s return from space will shed light on.

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly — along with Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko — comes back home Tuesday from a 340-day International Space Station mission, now holding the U.S. record with a total of 520 days in space. Scott Kelly’s return will offer the medical community the rare opportunity to analyze the differences between Scott Kelly, who has lived in zero gravity nearing a year with his twin, former astronaut Mark Kelly, who has been living on Earth, to better understand the effects of long-duration spaceflight on the human body.

David Hyland, aerospace engineering professor, said this unusually prolonged mission and rare case-study will help determine effects on the human body’s reaction to extraterrestrial environments.

“After a long duration like this, it allows us to study the physiological and psychological effects in space or zero-g on the human body,” Hyland said. “No human has ever traveled in interplanetary space, and after about 5 decades of space flight, we still don’t know how much g [experienced gravity] is required to keep humans healthy.”

Read more at: The Batt

Georgia House Passes Bill Requiring Commercial Space Passengers to Sign Away Rights to Sue

A bill supporters of a Georgia spaceport say is critical in attracting commercial spaceflight operators passed the House overwhelmingly Monday.

The House passed Georgia Space Flight Act, or House Bill 734, by a vote of 164-8 sending it on to the Senate for consideration. Sponsored by Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine, the bill would require rocket ship passengers to sign away any claims against the commercial operator and its suppliers if something goes wrong. He said competing states like Texas and Florida already have similar laws.

“You’re talking about people who can actually stroke a check [from] $300,000 up to $20 million to go into space,” he said. “So, we’re not talking about people who are not informed about the inherent risks of spaceflight.”

Read more at: Jacksonville

Orion Spacecraft’s Solar Array Successfully Put to the Test

Airbus Defence and Space has developed and delivered the qualification model of the solar array for the European Service Module (ESM) of the Orion crewed spacecraft. During a deployment test today at NASA’s Plum Brook Station facility in Sandusky, Ohio (USA), the model came through the test with flying colours. The tested solar array involves one qualification wing, consisting of a yoke and three panels, and three dummy wings.

In the past month, the solar array was integrated with the test model of the Orion ESM, of which the series is being developed and built by Airbus Defence and Space on behalf of the European Space Agency (ESA). The solar array deployment test is part of a series of dynamic tests that the ESM will undergo in the coming months at the NASA centre to prove that its design can withstand the hostile environment of an exploration flight beyond the Moon.

Read more at: Airbus Defence & Space

Earth’s Radiation Belts Change Wildly with Solar Storms

Satellites can short-out if they encounter a surge of radiation in Earth orbit and a new study of the Van Allen belts’ shape — an intensely charged region surrounding our planet — could help better protect them from this highly-charged environment, researchers say.

Astronauts in orbit are mostly protected from the Van Allen belts as these radiation-filled volumes start at 600 miles above the Earth’s surface — generally, astronauts in low-Earth orbit travel around 250 miles high. These belts extend as far as the altitude of geosynchronous satellites, at 25,000 miles. We’ve known this for decades, but scientists have just found a new link between charged particle (specifically electrons) behavior and the shape of the belts.

“The shape of the belts is actually quite different depending on what type of electron you’re looking at,” said lead author Geoff Reeves, of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s intelligence and space research division, in a statement. “Electrons at different energy levels are distributed differently in these regions.”

Read more at: Discovery News

China Presses Ahead with Space Ambitions

China announced Sunday it was sending its second space lab into orbit later this year, followed by a manned spacecraft that will dock with it.

Tiangong-2, or “Heavenly Palace-2,” will be the second Chinese space lab deployed above earth in five years.

If the launch is successful, the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft will go up with two astronauts on board and try to connect with Tiangong-2 while in orbit, a statement from the office of the China Manned Space Program said.

But before that, the country will test launch the Long March 7, a rocket it’s developing to carry a cargo spacecraft to the Tiangong-2 in early 2017.

Read more at: CNN

NASA Tests Life-Detection Drill in Earth’s Driest Place

In a harsh environment with very little water and intense ultraviolet radiation, most life in the extreme Atacama Desert in Chile exists as microbial colonies underground or inside rocks. Researchers at NASA hypothesize that the same may be true if life exists on Mars.

The cold and dry conditions on Mars open the possibility that evidence for life may be found below the surface where negative effects of radiation are mitigated, in the form of organic molecules known as biomarkers. But until humans set foot on the Red Planet, obtaining samples from below the surface of Mars will require the ability to identify a location of high probability for current or ancient life, place a drill, and control the operation robotically.

Read more at: Space Daily

Bridenstine Lays Out Multipronged Legislative Agenda for Commercial Space

Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Oklahoma) is planning a multipronged approach to getting government space agencies to adopt commercial solutions.  He will introduce a comprehensive bill — the American Space Renaissance Act — later this year, but does not expect it to pass en toto.  Instead, he sees it as a repository of “plug and play” provisions that will be inserted into other pieces of legislation, especially this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Speaking at a Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF) breakfast meeting on Friday, Bridenstine laid out his plans “to promote policies that will permanently make America the predominant spacefaring nation.”   A draft of the American Space Renaissance Act will be released at the Space Foundation’s Space Symposium in April and Bridenstine is seeking feedback from interested parties.

Read more at: Space Policy Online

More Details Unveiled about China’s Space Plan

Additional details have been unveiled by Chinese space authorities about their plans for the creation of China’s own orbiting space lab. As part of the plan, the latest step will be the launch of the second space lab, the Tiangong-2, which is scheduled for the third quarter of this year.

Shortly afterward, the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft is due to carry two astronauts to dock with the lab sometime before the year is out. The plan is to have them stay inside the new lab for 30 days, doubling the previous Chinese record for the longest manned space mission.

Nie Haisheng, chief of China’s astronaut brigade, says staying in space for a longer period of time comes with a number of challenges.

Read more at: CRJEnglish

NASA Invites India to Jointly Explore Mars, Send Astronauts

In future, India and the US could jointly explore Mars and who knows an Indian astronaut could also head to the Red planet on a joint mission.

India’s maiden mission to the Red Planet, Mangalyaan, has opened the eyes of the world on ISRO’s capabilities at undertaking low cost, high value inter-planetary mission.

Charles Elachi, director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory or JPL, a part of NASA and an institution better known for piloting most of the American planetary exploration efforts with rovers like Curiosity, says India and the US could jointly explore Mars and even invited India to send astronauts to the Red Planet.

Read more at: Zee News

Logistics Rule on Tiangong 2

China recently announced that the crew of Shenzhou 11, bound for the Tiangong 2 space laboratory, will only consist of two astronauts. That’s a big step back from recent trends in Chinese spaceflight, which has favoured three-person crews for recent missions.

Two crews were launched to the Tiangong 1 space laboratory, and they both contained three people. So did the Shenzhou 7 mission, which carried out China’s first spacewalk. There was one exception to this trend. Shenzhou 8 carried no crew at all, but this was not an operational human space mission.

The Shenzhou spacecraft can easily accommodate three people. It’s even larger than Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft. Furthermore, the crew of Shenzhou 11 will spend most of their time aboard the Tiangong 2 laboratory, which has yet to be launched. So why the cutback?

Read more at: Space Daily

Orbital ATK Launch Abort Motor Case for the Orion Crew Capsule Passes Structural Qualification Test

Orbital ATK, a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies, conducted a successful structural qualification test January 26 on its abort motor case that is being manufactured for use on NASA’s Orion spacecraft. Orbital ATK’s launch abort motor is integral to Orion’s Launch Abort System, which is designed to ensure the safety of astronauts who will fly on NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS).

The successful test of the Motor Structural Test (MST-1) case represents a significant milestone on the path to qualifying the abort motor production design. Motor qualification tests demonstrate the abort motor design is capable of performing under the extreme temperatures, G-forces and speed of a crew rescue.

Read more at: Orbital ATK

Europe Studies Automated Smallsat Air Launch System

The ALTAIR project (Air Launch space Transportation using an Automated aircraft and an Innovative Rocket) is a European Horizon 2020 project coordinated by ONERA and involving partners from six countries. The goal is to demonstrate the industrial feasibility of a low‐cost launching system for small satellites. This research program will last 36 months.

The ALTAIR project focuses on an innovative solution for launching space satellites in the 50‐150 kg range into low Earth orbit at altitudes between 400 and 1000 km. ALTAIR will use a semi‐reusable “air launch” system, whose carrier will be a reusable automated aircraft, releasing an expendable launch vehicle at high altitude.

This launcher will use an environmentally friendly hybrid propulsion, advanced lightweight composite structures, innovative avionics and an upper stage providing mission versatility. The architecture of the ground systems will target cost‐effective operations.

Read more at: Parabolic Arc

Space Solar Power Being Considered at High Level

The National Space Society (NSS) congratulates the “Space Solar Power D3” team on making it to the winners circle in a Department of Defense (DOD) competition to find promising new technology ideas that could simultaneously advance diplomacy, development and defense.

Space Solar Power (SSP) is among only six winners out of 500 entries for the DOD’s first innovation challenge for the D3 (Diplomacy, Development, Defense) Summit. The SSP team proposal is titled “Carbon-Free Energy for Global Resilience and International Goodwill.” Their team has won the opportunity to present to the highest-level gathering of the three departments that are primarily responsible for U.S. foreign policy.

Read more at: National Space Society

Former Marine Astronaut Leading Flight Plans for NASA’s Mission

Though a great and many challenges tried his determination, Charles “Charlie” Bolden, the 12th and current Administrator of NASA, rose among the few and proud to become one of the most successful Marines in modern history. Since seventh grade, Bolden aspired to attend the U.S. Naval Academy.

“I saw a program on television called ‘Men of Annapolis’ in seventh grade and I fell in love with the uniform watching the movie,” said Bolden. “After watching the movie, I decided I wanted to go to the U.S. Naval Academy.”

Read more at: Space Daily

ULA Wins Big with Two AF Propulsion Contracts, One with Blue Origin, One with Aerojet Rocketdyne

The Air Force awarded the last two of four contracts to develop new rocket propulsion systems today.  The United Launch Alliance (ULA) is partnered with Blue Origin on one of the awards and with Aerojet Rocketdyne on the other.  The Air Force announced the other two awards last month.

The Air Force is using “Other Transaction Authority” to enter into public-private partnerships with companies to develop new rocket engines.  The first two awards went to Orbital ATK and SpaceX in January, with initial government investments of $46.9 million for Orbital ATK and $33.6 million for SpaceX.

The awards announced today will benefit ULA’s development of a new rocket, Vulcan, to replace its existing Atlas V.

Read more at: Space Policy Online

S. Korea, U.S. Agree on Space Cooperation Deal

South Korea and the United States have agreed on a space cooperation deal to boost civilian exchanges in the space sector, Seoul’s Foreign Ministry said Monday.

The agreement, reached on Sunday, is aimed at establishing a legal and institutional framework for increased civilian cooperation in space science, earth observation and space exploration.

It is the first time the U.S. has agreed to a government-to-government deal on space cooperation with an Asian nation, the ministry said. The allies “will soon take steps for its signing and coming into effect,” a ministry official told reporters on the customary condition of anonymity.

Read more at: Yonhap News

From Astronaut to Refugee: How the Syrian Spaceman Fell to Earth

The Neil Armstrong of the Arab world has an office in a ramshackle building in Istanbul’s Fatih or “Little Syria”. Muhammed Faris is a refugee, just like the people milling outside, facing up to the hardest challenge in his life; one that has already seen the roles of fighter pilot, spaceman, military advisor to the Assad regime; protester, rebel and defector.

In Syria, Faris is a national hero, with a school, airport and roads named after him. Medals on the wall of his office honour his achievements as an astronaut (or, strictly speaking, a cosmonaut). Here, hundreds of miles from his birthplace, Aleppo, he campaigns for democratic change in Syria, “through words, not weapons”.

In 1985, he was one of four young Syrian men vying to join the Interkosmos training programme, for allies of the Soviet Union, at Star City just outside Moscow.

Read more at: Guardian

Astronaut Ron Garan: ‘Soyuz Reentry is Like Niagara Falls Barrel Ride, On Fire’

If you ask retired NASA astronaut Ron Garan which he prefers for reentry into Earth’s atmosphere, the Soyuz or the Shuttle – he has flown both – he will tell you the latter, and without hesitation. Why? Because the Soyuz return trip, as he puts it, “is like going over Niagara Falls in a barrel, on fire, then crashing really hard.” In fact, he says, it’s the most violent thing he has ever experienced and, as an F-16 fighter pilot, he has had to eject from his aircraft more than once.

In the first part of this interview with Garan, we discussed a more peaceful endeavor – his new job as chief pilot for World View Experience, a company planning to take tourists for $75,000 a ticket to 100,000 feet above sea level in a pressurized balloon capsule. Here, the affable astronaut gives graphic detail about his reentry via Soyuz.

Read more at: Forbes

NASA to Simulate Growing Potatoes on Mars in Peru

Do Peru’s potatoes have the right stuff?

That’s the question scientists will be asking in Lima next month, when a selection of tubers will begin undergoing tests to determine whether they’re fit to grow on Mars. NASA, the US space agency, is conducting the pioneering experiment together with Lima’s International Potato Center (CIP).

They will cultivate a hundred selected varieties already subjected to rigorous evaluation in extreme, Mars-like conditions that could eventually pave the way to building a dome on the Red Planet for farming the vegetable.

The selection was made from a total of 4,500 varieties registered at CIP, a nonprofit research facility that aims to reduce poverty and achieve food security.

Read more at: Mars Daily

How XCOR’s Lynx Space Plane Works

Lynx is XCOR’s planned suborbital passenger space plane. The craft is designed to use conventional kerosene fuel, take off and land on a standard airport runway and make up to four flights per day.

Lynx carries a pilot and one passenger to an altitude of about 62 miles (100 kilometers), where they experience about 5 minutes of weightlessness.

Read more at: Space.com

Reusable Military Spaceplane Tops DARPA Wishlist

For the second year in a row, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s highest funded project is a reusable military spaceplane. For 2017, DARPA requested $50 million for the XS-1 spaceplane program, intended to quickly deliver satellites into orbit. In 2016, the agency had requested $30 million for the program

The spaceplane would likely not be solely for delivering satellites. A press release about the project in 2015 explained, “in an era of declining budgets and adversaries’ evolving capabilities, quick, affordable, and routine access to space is increasingly critical for both national and economic security.”

Read more at: Space War

New Sensor Payload Capability Available for Global Hawk

A Northrop Grumman solution to enable the use of legacy and future sensor systems on its RQ-4 Global Hawk drone has been successfully demonstrated.

The test involved the use of a legacy SYERS-2 intelligence gathering sensor attached to the high-altitude, long-endurance drone through the use of the company’s innovative Universal Payload Adapter, a bracket mounted onto a Global Hawk airframe to support a wide variety of payloads.

With the success of the SYERS-2 flight, Northrop Grumman now plans to fly an Optical Bar Camera sensor and an MS-177 multi-spectral sensor later on the RQ-4 later this year.

Read more at: Space Daily

NASA Unveils Supersonic Airliner of the Future

Its astronauts already travel fast enough, so now NASA wants to bring the ultimate in speedy flight to the masses.

NASA officials on Monday unveiled the design of a supersonic aircraft that would boast speeds comparable to the Concorde – but without that jet’s sonic boom. The weird-looking new vehicle boasts a long, skinny nose, oddly angled wings and a tail fin folded into what looks like an origami airplane.

The jet NASA calls QueSST would fly at speeds of Mach 1.4, or roughly 1,100 mph. Today’s commercial jetliners poke along at 600 mph, while the Concorde, which made scheduled passenger flights from 1976 to 2003, achieved the blistering pace of more than 1,300 mph.

Read more at: USA Today

What It’s Like To Freefall from 20 Miles Above the Earth

Before NASA had its Mercury 7 astronauts, the Air Force was launching its own team into the stratosphere — in balloons.

Without the glamour or budget of NASA, these early space scientists and test pilots performed extreme experiments that helped pave the way for the Mercury crew. Among them was Captain Joseph Kittinger, who in 1960 stepped from his balloon into free fall from 103,000 feet above the ground — nearly 20 miles.

“I said, ‘Lord, take care of me now.’ And then I jumped,” now-Colonel Kittinger tells NPR’s Lourdes Garcia-Navarro.

Read more at: NPR

Paraglider: How NASA Tried and Failed to Land Without Parachutes

Images of round-bottomed capsules hanging beneath huge orange and white parachutes miles above the ocean are iconic of the Apollo era. But in many ways, splashdowns were a flawed landing method, so much so that NASA sunk $165 million into a paraglider development program in the mid-1960s, with the goal of making splashdowns obsolete. Called the Rogallo wing, it was a runway landing system for the Gemini spacecraft that has become little more than a footnote in the history of America’s Moonshot.

Read more at: PopSci