Progress MS-05 Docks with ISS Following Soyuz-U Swansong

The Russian Federal Space Agency, Roscosmos, launched the Progress MS-05/66P resupply mission on Wednesday morning aboard the final Soyuz-U rocket in history.  Liftoff from pad 1/5 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome began a mission that concluded with an orbital rendezvous and docking with the Station on Friday.

Following confirmation of the most probable cause of the Progress MS-04 launch failure on 1 December 2016, Roscosmos ordered a complete third stage engine replacement on the last remaining Soyuz-U carrier rocket, which will be used to launch Progress MS-05 to the International Space Station. The engine replacement is also being carried out on the third stage of the Soyuz-FG rocket, which is used to launch the crewed Soyuz missions to the Station.

It is understood that this engine replacement was made with an 11D55 (RD-0110) engine built in 2016, instead of the previously installed 11D55 engine that was produced in 2014 with the engine that failed on MS-04’s launch.

Read more at: NASA Spaceflight

NASA Authorization Bill Calls for Orion-to-ISS Study

A NASA authorization bill passed by the Senate Feb. 17 would require NASA to reexamine the feasibility of using the Orion spacecraft to transport crews to and from the International Space Station. The provision is one of the few major changes in the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017, which the Senate approved by unanimous consent, compared to a bill that the Senate passed in the final days of the previous Congress in December.

The new language, including in a section of the bill about the Space Launch System, Orion and ground systems, calls on NASA to prepare a report within 60 days of the bill’s enactment “addressing the ability of Orion to meet the needs and the minimum capability requirements described in section 303(b)(3) of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2010.”

That section of the 2010 NASA authorization act, the last one to become law, states that one requirement of the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle — the vehicle known as Orion — is to have the “capability to provide an alternative means of delivery of crew and cargo to the ISS, in the event other vehicles, whether commercial vehicles or partner-supplied vehicles, are unable to perform that function.”

Read more at: Space.com

Safety Panel Raises Concerns About Crew on First SLS Launch

A NASA independent safety committee wants NASA to provide a “compelling rationale” for putting astronauts on the first flight of the Space Launch System, a proposal NASA is currently studying.

In a statement at the beginning of the Feb. 23 meeting of the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP), chairwoman Patricia Sanders said that if NASA decides to put a crew on the first SLS/Orion launch, Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1), it must demonstrate that there is a good reason to accept the higher risks associated with doing so.

“We strongly advise that NASA carefully and cautiously weigh the value proposition for flying crew on EM-1,” she said. “NASA should provide a compelling rationale in terms of benefits gained for accepting additional risk, and fully and transparently acknowledge the tradeoffs being made before deviating from the approach for certifying the Orion/SLS vehicle for manned spaceflight. If the benefits warrant the assumption of additional risk,” she added, “we expect NASA to clearly and openly articulate their decision-making process and rationale.”

Read more at: Space News

Recalculating Risk

NASA has long had a complex relationship with risk. On one hand, it has emphasized the risky nature of many of its missions—think, for one example, its media campaign about the “seven minutes of terror” for the entry and landing of the Curiosity Mars rover. On the other hand, it at times has appeared to be a very risk-averse organization, particularly when human lives are at stake.

That issue of risk is coming back to the fore with new spacecraft and NASA’s plans for human missions beyond Earth orbit—eventually to Mars, via cislunar space, depending on what the new administration plans to do. Within the next two years, Boeing and SpaceX will fly commercial vehicles intended to ferry NASA astronauts to and from the ISS. NASA will also fly an uncrewed Orion on the first Space Launch System rocket, in preparation for a crewed flight into cislunar space as soon as 2021.

Read more at: Space Review

NASA: No Preconceived Decision About Putting Crew on First SLS Launch

wo top NASA human spaceflight officials explained today that the study they are conducting about whether it would be feasible to put a crew on the first flight of the new Space Launch System (SLS) is just that, a feasibility study.  It will lay out pros and cons, but not make a recommendation. Both said they have no preconceived decision about what the study will say.

Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, and Bill Hill, Deputy Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Development, spoke at a media teleconference this afternoon that had been announced just four hours earlier.

NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot announced last week that he was initiating a study to determine the feasibility of putting a crew on the first launch of the SLS, currently scheduled for late 2018.  The existing plan is for that launch to be an uncrewed systems test of SLS and the Orion spacecraft that is being designed to take crews beyond low Earth orbit to orbit the Moon and someday go to Mars.  That first uncrewed launch is designated Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1).  The second flight, EM-2, scheduled for no earlier than August 2021, would be the first to carry astronauts.

Read more at: Space Policy Online

NASA Measuring Risks and “Significant” Cost of Crew on Maiden SLS Launch

Earlier this month, NASA disclosed that the White House asked the agency to consider flying astronauts on the maiden launch of the massive Space Launch System rocket, known as Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), instead of using it as a test flight. On Friday, senior managers at the agency told reporters during a teleconference that they were “encouraged” by the opportunity to study this possibility, but they were also carefully weighing the risks against the rewards.

“We recognize this will be an increased risk,” said William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator of NASA’s Human Explorations and Operations Mission Directorate. “We take that increased risk, and we take it against the benefits we gain by doing this, and we say, ‘Is that something that is worthwhile for us to go and do?’ Then we have an agency-wide discussion on whether this is an appropriate risk for us to take.” The study should be complete in about a month, Gerstenmaier said.

Read more at: Arstechnica

Guardsmen to Test Space Capsule Recovery Systems

Forty-five members of the New York Air National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing are heading to Hawaii, Feb. 27, to participate in a joint NASA and Defense Department mission to evaluate recovery techniques and gear that will be used to recover NASA’s Orion spacecraft, the next generation of American space vehicle.

The team of 45 airmen is made up of pararescuemen; combat rescue officers; survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialists; and other support airmen assigned to the 106th Rescue Wing’s 103rd Rescue Squadron based here.

Pararescuemen are trained to rescue downed aviators behind enemy lines and from land and water environments. Each pararescue airman undergoes two years of training that includes extensive medical training as well as training in parachute jumping, scuba diving and survival skills. The pararescuemen are experienced in dropping fully stocked rescue boats to recover personnel.

Read more at: Defense.gov

Star-studded Cast Watches Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Glide Through Test flight

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo rocket plane glided through its third free-flying test run today, and although it hasn’t yet lit up its engine, there was a high-powered crowd to fuel the excitement at California’s Mojave Air and Space Port. The company’s billionaire founder, Richard Branson, was in attendance, as was his son, Sam Branson. Brian Cox, the British physicist and TV host, was there as well.

Cox is working on a documentary for the BBC and the Smithsonian Channel titled “The Quest for Space,” and today’s test is likely to provide grist for the show. For what it’s worth, Cox is scheduled to pay a visit to Blue Origin’s headquarters in Kent, Wash., next week.

Virgin Galactic’s unpowered glide tests begin with a twin-fuselage mothership, White Knight Two, taking off with SpaceShipTwo attached underneath. When the White Knight reaches the right altitude, SpaceShipTwo is released to glide down to a landing at Mojave.

Read more at: Geek Wire

Inside World View, the Company that Wants to Take You into the Stratosphere With a Balloon

If you want to get to space these days, the typical method of travel entails strapping yourself into a vehicle with a high-powered rocket engine and then hurtling through the sky at thousands of miles per hour. But for those prone to motion sickness, there is one US company that’s taking a more leisurely approach to exploring the high altitudes above Earth. It’s an organization known as World View Enterprises, and its business model is simple: design high-altitude balloons that can take scientific instruments — and people — into the planet’s stratosphere.

World View was officially founded in 2012, but this week the organization is celebrating the opening of its new headquarters in Tucson, Arizona. The new building spans more than 135,000 square feet, and the company claims it’s the world’s first building designed solely for developing stratospheric flight. It’s here that World View plans to manufacture and test out its balloon-ferried vehicles, made to travel up to 100,000 feet, or nearly 20 miles, above the Earth’s surface. From up there, you’ll be able to see the curvature of the planet.

Read more at: Verge

China Needs to Cut Commercial Space Costs to Compete with India

Over the past few days, some people have keenly followed the debate on whether China has lagged behind India in its space race. India’s successful launch of a record-breaking 104 satellites into orbit could serve as a wake-up call for China’s commercial space industry and there are a number of lessons for the country to learn.

Of the 104 satellites, 96 belong to the US, which makes India a fierce competitor in the global market for commercial rocket launch services. The South Asian nation’s achievements are largely driven by its low price advantage, a weak point for China’s commercial space sector.

Although China is developing rapidly into a major player in the space industry, the country’s commercial space sector is still in its infancy. Many of the world’s satellites are made in or use parts from the US. However, satellites and components made in the US are prohibited from being exported to China, making it very difficult for China to get contracts for commercial satellite launches with other countries.

Read more at: Global Times

OneWeb Weighing 2,000 More Satellites

Satellite telecom startup OneWeb, emboldened by the oversubscribed $1.2 billion Softbank-led investment gained in December, is on the verge of adding another 2,000 satellites to its previously proposed constellation of several hundred satellites.

OneWeb made a big splash in June 2015 when it went public with an impressive roster of investors pledging some $500 million to deploy more than 600 small, low-orbiting satellites to blanket the Earth in Ku-band broadband connectivity.

On Wednesday, Greg Wyler, OneWeb’s founder and executive chairman, told an audience at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London that the company has sold a considerable portion of the capacity of its initial planned constellation and is seriously considering quadrupling its size.

“We are adding 2,000 satellites at different altitudes in low Earth orbit,” Wyler told SpaceNews in London. “We have priority rights to another 2,000 satellites — 1,972 satellites, to be precise. With Softbank we have reinvigorated our activities and started talking about the strong possibility that we will be adding to the constellation using our priority rights.”

Read more at: Space News

Britain Eyes Cornwall for Take-off into Space

The wind is roaring off the Atlantic at Cornwall airport, blowing patterns in the puddles on the tarmac. In the brief silences between the gusts you can hear the sheep baa.

In just three years’ time, this could be Britain’s first spaceport. Jumbo jets will roll off the runway over the cliffs to the sea, carrying rocket payloads to launch over the ocean into space with clusters of next-generation ‘cube’ satellites. Within a decade, it may be one of a network of launchpads for Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, where the well-heeled leave their million-pound beachhouses for an off-planet jaunt, just for the larks. Not long after that, it might be a ‘hyper-sonic’ flight hub, where moguls and rockstars shell out for hops around the planet: New York in an hour, Sydney in three.

Read more at: smh

World View’s ‘Stratollites’ and New Spaceport Aim to Change the Business of Space

At World View’s new headquarters in Tucson, Arizona, the paint is barely dry on a gleaming new structure located near the airport, and just down the road from defense contractor Raytheon.

The facility, and the site, dominate the landscape, and reflect the enormity of World View’s main goal, which is nothing short of carving out a brand new and unique market for commercial spaceflight operations.

CEO and co-founder Jane Poynter explained in a press conference that World View is, at heart, a stratospheric flight and exploration company. This means that it sends gas-filled balloons to the very edge of space, complete with payloads that could include imaging and sensor suites. Others have done this in the past, but the challenge has been in doing this in a way that will allow the balloon craft (called “stratollites” by World View) involved to stay in a relatively fixed location — a game-changing capability for upper-atmosphere operations.

Read more at: Techcrunch

UK Stakes its Claim on the Global Space Market with Draft Spaceflight Legislation

It’s no secret the UK is keen to take a significant slice of the growing space industries pie. And on Tuesday, the government set out its plans for the future. If brought into law, the Draft Spaceflight Bill would allow horizontal flights to the edge of space from spaceports across the UK. Scientists will be able to “conduct vital medical experiments” in zero gravity.

The draft legislation also seeks to encourage commercial space businesses and the creation of a “space launch market” in the UK. The aim is to start commercial spaceflight from a UK spaceport by 2020. British astronaut Tim Peake, who spent six months at the International Space Station in 2016, has done much to invigorate the British space community.

“With millions inspired by Tim Peake’s mission last year, and ambitious plans underway to study and explore the Solar System, our future in space is bright,” write the authors of the draft bill.

Read more at: dw.com

Virgin Galactic Continues to Test LauncherOne Engine

Last week, Virgin Galactic continued to test the first stage engine of its air-launched LauncherOne. The NewtonThree (N3) engine recently completed a long-duration test at full thrust. The N3 produces about 73,500 pounds (327 kilonewtons) of thrust. It is powered by liquid kerosene (RP-1) and liquid oxygen (LOX). Previous firings include a full thrust, 90-second firing in the fourth quarter of 2015 and multiple full thrust firings throughout 2016.

LauncherOne’s second stage is powered by an N4 engine. It produces 5,000 pounds (22 kilonewtons) of thrust and is also powered using RP-1 and LOX. For most launches, the second stage will be ignited multiple times with a coast phase in between the burns. Combined, the second stage is capable of firing for almost six minutes. To try and minimize space debris in orbit, both LauncherOne stages will be de-orbited and will burn up in the atmosphere.

LauncherOne is an air-launch system that was originally designed to be flown to its launch altitude by the WhiteKnightTwo aircraft. However, Virgin Galactic has now employed a Boeing 747-400 to be used.

Read more at: Spaceflight Insider

Vega Flight Opportunity for Multiple Small Satellites

Europe’s Vega small launcher is set to demonstrate its extended capability to deploy multiple light satellites using its new versatile Small Satellites Mission Service (SSMS) dispenser, in the second half of 2018.

This demonstration provides the first of the launch opportunities under the new Light satellite, Low-cost Launch opportunity (LLLor L3) Initiative initiated at the ESA Council Meeting at Ministerial Level in December 2016 with the aim to provide low-cost and regular launch services for European Institutional light satellites through full exploitation of the Ariane 6 and Vega C launch systems’ capabilities.

This first proof-of-concept flight using the current Vega launch system will demonstrate and validate standard innovative services for light satellites.

Read more at: ESA

Dear Science: Where do Old Spacecraft Go When They Die?

Dear Science, What happens to spacecraft when they break or their batteries run out? Is space just full of old junk that scientists aren’t using anymore? Here’s what science has to say: There is no “nice farm in the country” for old spacecraft, sadly. Instead, space agencies have two options for satellites, rovers and probes whose missions have come to the end:

1. Leave ’em out there.

2. Send them hurtling into the atmosphere of the nearest planet, where they will die a fiery, spectacular death.

The first option is a popular one. Earth’s orbit is clogged with more than 500,000 piece of space junk the size of a marble or larger, according to NASA. These bits of trash travel at speeds up to 17,500 miles per hour and include abandoned launch vehicle stages, space station trash, stuff that astronauts lost (gloves, tool bags, a spatula), as well as abandoned satellites and spacecraft. Most space debris eventually falls out of orbit and burns up as it re-enters Earth’s atmosphere, but plenty more is still out there. Vanguard I, a solar-powered U.S. satellite, has been hurtling around our planet since it was launched in 1958.

All this orbiting trash poses a threat to the spacecraft that are still operational. In 1999, a French satellite was damaged after being struck by debris from a rocket that had exploded 10 years earlier. In the spring, a window on the International Space Station was chipped by a fleck of paint — really, just a fleck.

Read more at: Washington Post

When is it Time to Turn Off a Satellite?

A previous article examined satellites that are at risk of breaking up and shedding pieces in orbit (see “Satellite breakups and related events: a quick analysis”, The Space Review, January 23, 2017). However, the subject of turning working satellites off is fascinating by itself, so this article goes into more depth about that decision.

Satellites are designed for a specific lifespan, though many of them exceed that by years. One thing that motivates organizations to use a satellite as long as possible is that getting them into the right orbit is still not guaranteed, so once someone has an operational satellite they will try to use it as long as possible. Still, every satellite comes to a point where it is time to retire them: when subsystems have failed or they are no longer reliable. At some point the return from them does not justify the time and effort of the crew on the ground that maintains them. So, for many organizations, they decide at some point to turn off operational satellites. This process is called “passivating” by many users.

Read more at: Space Review

Origin of Spooky Meteor Noises Reappraised by Sandia Researchers

When a meteor is about to conk your neighborhood and gives fair warning by emitting sizzling, rustling and hissing sounds as it descends, you might think that the universe is being sporting.

But these auditory warnings, which do occur, seem contrary to the laws of physics if they are caused by the friction of the fast-moving meteor or asteroid plunging into Earth’s atmosphere. Because sound travels far slower than light, the sounds should arrive several minutes after the meteor hits, rather than accompany or even precede it.

So maybe atmospheric shock waves from the meteors are not the cause of the spooky noises. Another theory is that the sounds are created by radio frequency emissions. That seems unlikely without designated receivers. But what if the sounds are caused by the brilliant, pulsating light emitted by the asteroid as it burns up in Earth’s atmosphere?

Read more at: sandia.gov

ESA Deal Hinges on What Trump Does with NASA’s Human Spaceflight Plans

A barter agreement the European Space Agency hopes to reach with NASA next year assumes the Trump administration won’t drastically change the deep space exploration plans set in motion by the Obama administration.

That assumption is now being put to the test as NASA studies putting astronauts on the first flight of the Space Launch System instead of waiting for the heavy-lift rocket’s second mission for Orion’s crewed debut. What’s more, a NASA authorization bill headed toward final passage next week calls for a 60-day look at what it would take to launch crew on Orion to the International Space Station using rockets other than SLS.

The European Space Agency, to cover its financial commitment to the International Space Station program through 2020, is paying Airbus Defence and Space roughly $400 million to design and build the service module that will be bolted onto Orion to provide power and propulsion when the capsule launches atop SLS in 2018 on a currently uncrewed mission dubbed Exploration Mission-1, or EM-1.

Read more at: Space News

How to Get Back to the Moon in 4 Years–This Time to Stay

According to the Washington Post, Donald Trump wants to make a splash in space. And he apparently wants to make that splash by orbiting the Moon. Orbiting the Moon? Merely circling it? What a comedown from America’s past high…landing twelve humans on the lunar surface. But there is a way to outdo America’s past achievements. And to accomplish this in a shorter time with a smaller budget than the Trump team imagines.

It’s a way to get to the Moon and to stay there permanently. A way to begin this process immediately and to achieve moon landings in less than four years. How?

Turn to private industry. Turn to two companies in particular—Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Robert Bigelow’s Bigelow Aerospace. Why? Because the approach that NASA’s acting administrator Robert Lightfoot is pushing won’t allow a Moon landing.

Read more at: Scientific American

NASA’s Raven Vision System to Enable Autonomous Rendezvous at the International Space Station

Set to launch aboard the 10th SpaceX commercial resupply mission is NASA’s Raven technology module, which features a vision system comprised of visible, infrared, and lidar sensors that will be affixed outside the International Space Station (ISS) to test technologies that will enable autonomous rendezvous in space.

Through Raven, NASA says it will be one step closer to having a relative navigation capability that it can take “off the shelf” and use with minimum modifications for many missions, and for decades to come. Raven’s technology demonstration objectives are three-fold: Provide an orbital testbed for satellite-servicing relative navigation algorithms and software, Demonstrate multiple rendezvous paradigms can be accomplished with a similar hardware suite, Demonstrate an independent visiting vehicle monitoring capability.

Read more at: Vision-systems

This Finnish Startup Democratizes Space Travel — and it Just Raised Over €3 million to Find the Next ‘Slumdog Astronaut’

After the dismantling of the NASA-program, space exploration has shifted towards private players, led by the likes of SpaceX, Axiom, and Buzz Aldrin-backed Moon Express. And now a Finnish startup and space media company Cohu Experience, is building the social and educational fabric of this movement. And it is using NASA’s learnings in the process.

CEO Kalle Vähä-Jaakkola says Cohu’s mission is to “build a global community centered around space travel and exploration”, and make it possible for anyone to fulfil their childhood dream of becoming an astronaut — with the help of Space Nation, a training app developed together with NASA astronaut trainers.

Read more at: Business Insider

Russia to Carry Out Tourist Flights Around Moon by 2022

Russia’s Korolev Rocket and Space Corporation Energia hopes to be the first to offer space tourism around the Moon aboard the Soyuz spacecraft by 2021-2022.

First round-the-Moon flights should be possible for space tourists aboard the Soyuz spacecraft in 2021-2022, Vladimir Solntsev, the head of Russia’s Korolev Rocket and Space Corporation (RSC) Energia, told Sputnik. “We are speaking of flying around the Moon. I think that RSC Energia will be ready to be the first to offer this service on the international market by 2021-2022,” Solntsev said.

Read more at: Space Daily

The Top 7 Ways a Trip to Mars Could Kill You, Illustrated

Elon Musk wants humans to travel to Mars. He just doesn’t want to be the first to go. Because, uh, there’s a very good chance of dying. “The risk of fatality will be high,” Musk conceded in the course of describing SpaceX’s absurdly ambitious (and still preliminary) plan to establish a human colony on Mars. “There’s no way around it.”

Much like early voyages to the South Pole or the initial moon launches were incredibly dangerous, the first would-be Martian explorers will face huge risks. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. There are so many good reasons to send humans to Mars. But there’s a cost to conquering new worlds and exploring hostile environments.

So what exactly makes a journey to Mars so perilous? Chris McKay, a senior scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center involved in planning future Mars missions, walked us through some of the hazards. Some, like exploding rockets, are hair-raising; others, like radiation exposure, could prove more tolerable.

Read more at: Vox

Russia’s largest private airline, S7, has been given a license to begin operations in outer space. The Novosibirsk-based holding company plans its first-ever rocket launch from Kazakhstan sometime this year.

The launch will be conducted by a subsidiary, S7 Space Transport Systems, which holds the Russian government license. It is one of over 1,000 companies licensed to either produce or operate space hardware — a strictly regulated military and civilian industry.

S7 waded into the budding private space industry last year with the purchase of a mothballed floating launch platform known as Sea Launch. The platform was built as a joint project between U.S. aerospace giant Boeing, Russia’s Energia and Ukraine’s Yuzhmash.

Read more at: Moscow Times

Two Radar Eyes are Better than One

A novel airborne experiment over the flat agricultural landscape of the Netherlands recently simulated, for the first time, images that could be taken by radar satellites orbiting in tandem. Involving two aircraft flying in very close formation with each carrying a radar instrument, this first flight is part of a larger campaign in Belgium next month.

Carried out by the Dutch MetaSensing company, the campaign marks the opening of an exciting new way that radar satellites could be used in the future. Unlike today’s radar satellites with their single instruments, two satellites in tandem could view Earth’s surface from slightly different positions to offer a unique 3D view of the landscape below.

Read more at: ESA

India Can Develop Space Station, Says ISRO Chief

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman A S Kiran Kumar on Monday said the country has the capability to develop a space station, but it needed a long-term approach and an ambitious planning. His comment follows ISRO display of technological prowess last week by launching 104 satellites in a single mission.

“We have all the capabilities to set up a space station. The day the country takes the decision, we will ‘ok’ the project. Just draw a policy and provide us necessary funds and time,” Kumar said in Indore. He was in the city to attend the foundation day ceremony of Raja Ramanna Center for Advanced Technology (RRCAT).

“We still talk about what would be the immediate benefits of a manned space mission. That is why the country hasn’t made up its mind about when to invest in a space station,” he said. A long-term thinking was needed for setting up a space station, he said, adding “the sooner the better.” Kumar said ISRO was also mulling tying up with the industry to enhance the country’s satellite launching capability.

Read more at: NDTV

The Status of Russia’s Human Spaceflight Program (Part 1)

Russia’s economic downturn of the past three years, brought on by dropping oil prices and Western-imposed sanctions, is making itself felt in the country’s human spaceflight program. The most immediate effect will be the downsizing of the Russian crew on the International Space Station this spring. While partly attributable to recently introduced budget cuts, this move is also the result of continuing delays in the expansion of the Russian segment of the ISS that appear more related to managerial and bureaucratic issues than anything else. If ISS is retired in 2024, as currently planned, some of the yet-to-be launched Russian modules may be new enough to be detached and form a new all-Russian space station.

More seriously affected by the economic crisis have been long-range plans to send cosmonauts to the Moon, which was selected as the nation’s prime destination in space in 2011. The spacecraft that is supposed to take Russian cosmonauts to lunar orbit and back is years behind schedule and doesn’t have a launch pad yet. The heavy-lift rocket that should eventually enable Russian cosmonauts to land on the Moon hasn’t even left the drawing board. Despite the soured East-West relations, Russia’s first destination beyond Earth orbit may become an international outpost in cislunar space that seems to be gaining increasing support from space agencies across the world as the next logical step in human space exploration.

Read more at: Space Review

China and Italy Agree on Framework for Joint Space Cooperation

Director of China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) Wang Zhaoyao and the President of the Italian Space Agency (ASI) Roberto Battiston signed an frame-work agreement on cooperation in the area of human space flight activities. The signature ceremony in Beijing was attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping and the Italian President Sergio Mattarella.

The agreement is asking for the set-up of a Joint Cooperation Committee which will meet at least once a year to establish the modalities of the partnership, aiming at access to scientific data, joint scientific publications, exchange of staff and joint participation in technical reviews on human flight. “Space is a new Silk Road without boundaries, and international cooperation is a key element, both from a scientific point of view and from that of technological development,” said ASI President Roberto Battiston. “This agreement is important for the European and international scientific community in preparation for future missions of human exploration of the solar system. Only a common wealth of knowledge can make us move forward with success in space exploration.”

Read more at: Go-Taikonauts

Sky Views: Why is the UK Obsessed with Rockets?

Phwoar, the power. Just imagine it: the pulsing, explosive power of a rocket launch. The sheer force. Tonnes of rigid metal, spewing fire, surging straight up, heading out into the final frontier. Very alpha.

Well, the Government wants some of that action. This week the Department for Transport published a draft Spaceflight Bill. It should allow spaceports to be built and satellites to be launched from British soil for the first time. All by 2020. Woof!

It’s space-viagra for a flaccid, post-Brexit Britain. And it’s the ultimate stimulant. Look at the euphoria that greeted Major Tim Peake’s trip to the International Space Station.

Read more at: Skynews

The ‘Celestial Empire’ Looks to Space

China’s State Council, the country’s chief administrative authority, recently published a White Paper on its space policies. It not only lifted a veil of secrecy that shielded Beijing’s space policies, but also outlined the country’s recent achievements and offered a five-year outlook on future activities.

Since its first satellite launch in 1970, China has become a major player in the space domain. However, it was only in 2003 that China became the third country to independently send people into space.

Beijing has placed significant resources into narrowing the capability gap that has separated it from other leading nations in this area. It took only eight years from its entry into manned spaceflight, in 2003, to the launch of the first prototype component of its space station, the Tiangong-1. And the breathless pace is set to continue: Beijing seeks to have a fully-functioning space station in orbit by 2023.

Read more at: Rusi

Air Force Eastern Range Innovates, Expedites Access to Space

The U.S. Air Force has been breaking barriers since 1947, and this year is no exception with the implementation of the Autonomous Flight Safety System.

The Eastern Range has supported more than 3,500 launches to date. With more stakeholders demanding access to space, both the Eastern and the Western Ranges were faced with developing innovative solutions to launch rockets without compromising public safety while accounting for aging infrastructure and recognizing that the wing has fewer resources and personnel accomplishing comparable and greater launch rates than before.

AFSS provides the capability to not only reduce reliance on aging range infrastructure, but enhances the ability to support more launches by expediting range turnaround times with more stringent safety standards and fewer people on console while reducing overall launch costs.

Read more at: Patrick AF

John Glenn’s Orbital Mission Tested the Mysteries of the Human Body in Space

Fifty-five years ago this month (Feb. 20, 1962), John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth. At that time, there was a space race starting up between the United States and the Soviet Union, with the Soviet Union racking up several firsts in a short time. This included the first satellite (Sputnik, 1957) and the first person to not only go into space, but orbit the Earth (Yuri Gagarin, 1962).

The United States had already sent two astronauts into space before Glenn, but Alan Shepard and Gus Grissom’s 1961 launches were suborbital flights, meaning that the spacecraft flew up and then splashed down without going around the Earth.

Glenn’s achievement — three orbits in space — caught attention worldwide and made him famous overnight. Here are some highlights about Glenn’s flight, which was recently featured in the movie “Hidden Figures.” Glenn died in late 2016 at age 95.

Read more at: Seeker

Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo

As the world watched the outcome of the Apollo space missions, crowded around televisions and radios, the heroes of NASA – the controllers and support teams inside Mission Control – clenched their fists and sweated every detail through each liftoff and descent. Now, the compelling untold story behind this extraordinary team comes to life in the new film “Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo,” which will arrive in select theaters across the U.S. and VOD on April 14.

Gravitas Ventures has secured worldwide rights from Haviland Digital to the compelling untold story behind this extraordinary team, told with unprecedented access to archival footage and stories from the men who lived it, including the creator of Mission Control, Dr. Chris Kraft, retired NASA Flight Directors Gene Kranz (portrayed by Ed Harris in “Apollo 13”), Glynn Lunney and Gerry Griffin. Also appearing are Flight Dynamics Officer Jerry Bostick, Flight Controller John Aaron, iconic astronaut Captain James Lovell (played by Tom Hanks in “Apollo 13”), and moonwalkers Charlie Duke and the late Captain Gene Cernan.

Read more at: Spaceref

Top Rocket Scientist Dies, Age 102

Ren Xinmin, a scientist whose dedication and expertise propelled China’s aerospace industry onto the world stage, died on Sunday afternoon in Beijing. He was 102.

China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp, the country’s major space contractor, announced his death.

Ren was a famed expert in missile and rocket technologies who helped build China’s first artificial satellite. Alongside Tu Shou’e, Huang Weilu and Liao Shounie, he was regarded as one of the “Four Elders of China’s Aerospace”, only exceeded by the founder of China’s aerospace industry, Qian Xuesen.

Ren is the last of the four to pass away, but people from the industry remembered him fondly by the moniker “the Chief Chief Engineer”.

Read more at: Anhuinews