George Nield to Retire from FAA AST

George Nield, who has overseen commercial space transportation at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the past decade, will be retiring at the end of March, according to

In his position as associate administration for the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST), Nield has overseen the granting of launch licenses and experimental permits to Virgin Galactic, SpaceX, Blue Origin, ULA, Orbital ATK and other commercial space companies.

Nield has been credited with as being an effective champion of commercial space since joining FAA AST as deputy associate administrator in 2003. He was elevated to his current position upon the retirement of Patti Grace Smith in 2008.

According to his official FAA biography, Nield has more than 30 years of aerospace experience. He came to the FAA after a stint as senior scientist for Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Advanced Programs Group.

Read more at: Parabolic arc

Space Council Acts to Streamline Regulations, Encourage Commercial Missions

The newly re-activated National Space Council is acting quickly to streamline convoluted regulatory requirements that frequently slow development of new commercial space initiatives, a shift in focus in keeping with the Trump administration’s directive to encourage more private sector development on the high frontier.

Chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, the space council met at the Kennedy Space Center Wednesday to review recommendations that will be sent to the president for approval, reiterating the administration’s push to end government funding of the International Space Station in 2025 in favor of one or more commercially-developed follow-on outposts.

Read more at: CBS News

Soyuz Spacecraft Brings Three Station Fliers Home

Bidding their crewmates farewell, a Russian cosmonaut and two NASA astronauts boarded their Soyuz ferry craft, undocked from the International Space Station and fell back to Earth Tuesday, landing safely on the snowy steppe of Kazakhstan to close out a 168-day mission.

With cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin at the controls in the Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft’s center seat, flanked on the left by flight engineer Mark Vande Hei and on the right by Joe Acaba, the Russian spacecraft separated from the station’s Poisk module at 6:08 p.m. EST (GMT-5) to begin the three-and-a-half-hour trip home.

After moving a safe distance away from the station, Misurkin and Vande Hei monitored a critical four-minute 39-second rocket firing that slowed the spacecraft by 286 mph, just enough to lower the far side of the orbit deep into the atmosphere for a fiery plunge back to Kazakhstan.

Read more at: Spaceflight Now

China’s Big Space Lab May Fall to Earth This Month

The European Space Agency (ESA) has issued a new re-entry forecast for China’s Tiangong-1 space lab. The 8.5-ton spacecraft is now expected to fall into Earth’s atmosphere between March 24 and April 19, though ESA officials stressed that this is a rough estimate.

“Re-entry will take place anywhere between 43 degrees north and 43 degrees south (e.g. Spain, France, Portugal, Greece, etc.)” latitude, officials with the Space Debris Office at ESA’s European Space Operations Center in Darmstadt, Germany, wrote in an update last week. “Areas outside of these latitudes can be excluded. At no time will a precise time/location prediction from ESA be possible.”

Read more at:

Action Plan Approved for Next Ariane 5 Launches

After the release of the conclusions of the Ariane VA241 Independent Enquiry Commission on 22 February, the findings and recommendations were formally presented to a Steering Board on 28 February. The board included Daniel Neuenschwander, ESA Director of Space Transportation; Stéphane Israël, Arianespace CEO; and Alain Charmeau, ArianeGroup CEO.

As stated in the Arianespace press release of 23 February, the direct cause of the trajectory deviation on 25 January was an incorrect value provided to the launcher’s two Inertial Measurement Units (IMUs). Given the special requirements of this mission, the azimuth required for the IMU alignment was 70º but the usual value for geostationary transfer orbit missions of 90º was erroneously used instead. This difference led to the 20º shift to the south in the trajectory from the first seconds of flight.

The underlying reasons for the direct cause have been clearly identified: a need to strengthen the processes for establishing, verifying and approving the specific operational procedures involving the IMU reference frame.

Read more at: ESA

Orion Crew Access Arm Installed on Mobile Launcher

As astronauts prepare for trips to destinations beyond low-Earth orbit, their last steps before boarding an Orion spacecraft will be across a crew access arm on the mobile launcher at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This week, the agency reached an important milestone on the path to Exploration Mission-1 with the installation of the crew access arm at about the 274-foot level on the mobile launcher tower.

The Exploration Ground Systems team at Kennedy has been overseeing installation of umbilicals and other launch accessories on the 380-foot-tall mobile launcher in preparation for stacking the first launch of the Space Launch System rocket, called the SLS, with an Orion spacecraft. The SLS will be the largest launch vehicle in the world, designed for missions beyond low-Earth orbit carrying crew and cargo to the Moon or beyond.

Read more at: NASA

Re-Entry: GSLV Mk. II Rocket Stage

The third stage of an Indian Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk. II rocket re-entered the atmosphere on March 1, 2018 after spending over two and a half years spiraling down from a Geostationary Transfer Orbit. GSLV’s Cryogenic Upper Stage known as C15 is 2.8 meters in diameter and 8.7 meters long with an inert mass of around 2.5 metric tons, using aluminum alloy for its tanks and structural frame with one CE-7.5 engine sitting at the base of the stage.

Read more at: Spaceflight 101

SpaceX’s Biggest Rival has a ‘Genius’ Plan to Cut its Rocket Launch Costs More Than 70%

SpaceX turned heads around the world on February 6 with the first-ever launch of Falcon Heavy. The 230-foot-tall rocket’s three boosters helped push Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster into space, peeled off after running low on fuel, and then careened toward Earth.

Two of the 16-story boosters rocketed to a safe landing (the third fell into the ocean), and the flight was hailed as a huge success. It proved SpaceX could lift twice as much payload to space for about 25% of the cost of its closest competitor while recycling rocket parts worth tens of millions of dollars.

Read more at: Business Insider

Watch the World’s Biggest Airplane Taxi Down a Runway as it Preps for its First Flight

Stratolaunch, the world’s biggest airplane, hit a new milestone recently, taxiing down the runway at 46 mph. While that may not sound like much, it’s worth watching the video to see this 500,000-pound beast with twin fuselages and a wingspan of 385 feet lumbering down the concrete. The chase cars look like Micro Machines next to this thing.

It’s a big improvement over a low-speed test conducted last December, in which the Stratolaunch traveled down a runway at just 28 mph. Previously, the massive aircraft successfully conducted a test of its six turbofan engines at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. All of these incremental milestones are said to be leading up to the Stratolaunch’s first test flight in 2019.

Read more at: Verge

New Mexico’s Sad Bet on Space Exploration

Soon after departing the small resort town of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, the video monitors on the bus come to life. Stars glitter in the night sky, a mystical flute soundtrack lilts, and a narrator’s voice intones: “All that you see around you was at the bottom of the sea.” The Conquistadors named the flat desert basin that formed after the sea receded Jornada del Muerto, or Journey of the Dead Man. As the bus lumbers through it, the narrator chronicles humanity’s fixation with the mysteries of the sky.

This is the road to Spaceport America, which bills itself as “the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport.” But to believe the tourist-bus video, it’s not just a dormant industrial park erected with the promise of economic revitalization. It’s the latest stop in humankind’s ageless reach for the stars.

Read more at: Atlantic

Russian Space Tourism Program to Kick Off Next Year: Travelers will get a Spacewalk on their 10-day Trip (for $100 Million)

Ever planned of going to space and staying there for a short vacation? You soon can, through various commercial space flight options, the latest of which will be from none other than space exploration pioneers Russia — there are plans for a new Russian space tourism program to kick off sometime next year, according to a report.

And exactly what does the upcoming Russian space program entail? According to the report, the Russian plan involves allowing paying customers — the space tourists, that is — to go all the way to the International Space Station (ISS) and go on spacewalks for the very first time. Spacewalking will be just one item in the itinerary, however, as the planned trips are going to be 10 days long.

Read more at:

A Former NASA Astronaut Says it wouldn’t be so Bad to Transfer the Space Station to Private Management

When word got out that the Trump administration wanted to end government funding of the International Space Station by 2025, resistance to the idea was swift and forceful.

In a rare sign of just how unpopular it was, two senators from opposing parties — Democrat Bill Nelson of Florida and Republican Ted Cruz of Texas — immediately came out against the proposal, which was contained in the president’s 2019 budget blueprint.

But former NASA astronaut Sandy Magnus said that stepping away from the space station could be seen as a sign of progress toward the eventual goal of sending humans out into the solar system. By transferring management of the ISS to private industry, she said, NASA still could lease space to continue its research in low Earth orbit while focusing more of its efforts on places like the moon and Mars.

Read more at: LA Times

Scientists are One Step Closer to Being Able to Predict the Kind of Solar Flares that can Knock Out the Power Grid

The sun, which holds steady in the center of the solar system, is fascinating enough in of itself. But it also produces solar flares, which are just as fascinating. However, no matter how mesmerizing they may seem to be, they are known to have negative effects on all sorts of systems and equipment here on Earth.

In an effort to be more prepared for future solar flare events and their potentially damaging consequences, a team of researchers in France have attempted to understand exactly what causes them to occur and why exactly they have the effects that they do. After conducting a new study, they concluded that solar flares are caused by the interaction of distinct magnetic structures, so they directly affect the Earth’s magnetic field, among other things.

Read more at:

The Moon will Get its Own Mobile Phone Network in 2019

Call it one giant leap for 4G. The moon is about to get its very own mobile phone network.

Vodafone Germany has teamed with Nokia to build the first 4G network on the moon. The network, which will be built in 2019, will support a private lunar rover mission by the Berlin-based team Part Time Scientists, known as PTScientists. The group was one of several teams that competed in the Google Lunar X Prize, a private race to the moon that will end in March with no winners.

But although the Google Lunar X Prize competition is over, PTScientists’ “Mission to the Moon” is not. The group aims to launch a lander and two small rovers to the moon from Cape Canaveral, Florida on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket during the 50th-anniversary year of NASA’s Apollo 11 moon landing.

Read more at:

Chinese Space Launch Vehicle Maker Provides Updates on Long March Launch Plans, New Rockets

New details of China’s ambitious launch plans for 2018 have been divulged, along with updates on the progress of new medium and super-heavy Long March launch vehicles.

Li Hong, president of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, the major space launch vehicle manufacturer in China and a subordinate of the main space contractor, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), revealed the details in an interview with state media.

According to Li, China plans to launch 36 Long March rockets in 2018, up from 16 last year and the current national record of 22 set in 2016.

Read more at: GB Times

“Hello, I am CIMON!”

Airbus, in cooperation with IBM, is developing CIMON (Crew Interactive MObile CompanioN), an AI-based assistant for astronauts for the DLR Space Administration. The technology demonstrator, which is the size of a medicine ball and weighs around 5 kg, will be tested on the ISS by Alexander Gerst during the European Space Agency’s Horizons mission between June and October 2018.

“In short, CIMON will be the first AI-based mission and flight assistance system,” said Manfred Jaumann, Head of Microgravity Payloads from Airbus. “We are the first company in Europe to carry a free flyer, a kind of flying brain, to the ISS and to develop artificial intelligence for the crew on board the space station.” Pioneering work was also being done in the area of manufacturing, Jaumann continued, with the entire structure of CIMON, which is made up of plastic and metal, created using 3D printing.

Read more at: Airbus

Could Smarter Space Suits Help Astronauts Stave Off Depression?

In space, no one can hear you sob.

The link between extraterrestrial exploration and emotional distress has been well-documented for decades, though those feelings aren’t always about what people experience in space. Buzz Aldrin, for one, lived with depression for years after walking on the moon, partly because that accomplishment outstripped so much of what he experienced after. Space travel, however, presents psychiatric risks of its own, especially over the course of protracted missions in cramped quarters.

Enter an ongoing research project—funded in part by a NASA grant—at Florida Polytechnic University that would use technology embedded in astronauts’ suits to evaluate their well-being and adjust conditions accordingly.

Read more at:

New Battery could Power Mars Transport

Scientists have developed rechargeable batteries that can operate at temperatures low enough to operate in hostile environments such as Antarctica or the warmer regions of Mars.

The performance of current lithium batteries declines below minus-20 degrees Celsius, dwindling to 12% by minus-40. This means, for example, that the batteries that power the Mars Rovers need to be heated to keep them from grinding to a halt.

However, research published in the journal Joule unveils a lithium battery design with good performance as low as minus-70 degrees Celsius. The design substitutes conventional metal electrodes for organic polymers and employs a low-freezing-point electrolyte – the chemical which carries the current within the battery.

Read more at: Cosmos Magazine

Russia, China Strike Deal to Jointly Explore Outer Space

Russian State Space Corporation Rosсosmos and the China National Space Administration signed on Saturday the agreement of intent for cooperation in the sphere of exploration of the Moon and the Outer space as well as on the creation of the Joint Data Center on the Lunar projects, the corporation said in a statement.

According to the statement, the State Corporation Roscosmos and the China National Space Administration aim to cooperate in the sphere of exploration of the Moon and the Outer space as well as on the establishment of the Joint Data Center on the Lunar projects.

Read more at: Sputnik News

Abe Calls for International Cooperation in Space

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called for international cooperation on a manned mission to the moon. Abe made the appeal in a video message to a meeting of the International Space Exploration Forum in Tokyo on Saturday. Ministers and representatives of space agencies from some 50 countries, including the United States, China and Russia, as well as international organizations, participated in the gathering.

Abe said that space frontiers are now part of the social infrastructure essential to people’s daily lives, such as satellite communications and observations of the Earth. He said that global cooperation should be strengthened based on technical capabilities and a relationship of trust developed through various international joint projects. Abe stressed that countries should work hand-in-hand to go to the moon and beyond.

Read more at: nhk

In Response to Trump Budget, NASA Ending Separate Technology Plan

Even though Congress has yet to formally consider President Trump’s new budget for NASA, the space agency is already moving swiftly to implement some of its core principles. Among those is a White House desire to end a separate program within the agency focused on the development of advanced new spaceflight technologies intended to keep NASA at the cutting edge.

With an annual budget that has varied between $500 million and $1 billion, the Space Technology Mission Directorate was created in 2010 to develop the kinds of technology NASA needed to explore deeper into space, such as advanced propulsion and power systems, in-space manufacturing, and new means of landing on far-off worlds. If humans really were to expand beyond low-Earth orbit, research and development of these new technologies was deemed critical.

Read more at: Arstechnica

NASA Heads Back to Space Leaderless

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the storied agency that put humans on the moon in 1969, is adrift on Earth in 2018.

In its second year without a permanent leader, NASA is trying to pivot back toward human spaceflight for the first time since the space shuttle program ended in 2011. Simultaneously, it faces critical decisions about how to end America’s role in the International Space Station. And there’s that issue of commercial space billionaires putting it out of business entirely.

The Trump administration has twice nominated Representative Jim Bridenstine, 42, an Oklahoma Republican, to the post of NASA administrator. And twice, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee voted along party lines to send his nomination to the full Senate. And there it has languished.

Read more at: Bloomberg

Massive Review of the Defense Industry Nears Completion; Air Force Steps Up Rhetoric on China’s Space Challenge

A deep-dive analysis of the defense industrial base will be submitted to the White House in mid-April. Requested by President Trump last July, the hugely anticipated study will look at all sectors of the defense industry from a broad national security perspective.

The context of this review is growing angst about China gaining ground on the United States — or surpassing it in some cases — in technology development and manufacturing capabilities. Trump’s “National Security Strategy of the United States of America” released in December ties economic strength to national security, and calls for a greater effort to protect the “national security innovation base.”

Read more at: Space News

Air Force Tries to Create a Warrior Culture in Space

Skills to fight off enemies in space will be essential in wars against the likes of China and Russia, military strategists warn. That presumption has put Air Force Space Command in the spotlight.

“We are at the war fighter table. We are not in the cheap seats anymore,” said Maj. Gen. Joseph Guastella Jr., director of integrated air, space, cyberspace and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations at Air Force Space Command.

Guastella is a career fighter pilot who is now a “space operator.” At Space Command, leaders are trying to bridge the cultural divide between the air and space professions to create a more cohesive force of space combatants. “We are in a cultural shift to a war fighting mentality,” he said Friday at a Mitchell Institute breakfast meeting on Capitol Hill.

Read more at: Space News

US Accuses Russia of Breaching Treaties with ‘Invincible’ Weapons

The United States has accused Moscow of openly breaching Cold War-era treaties by developing what Russian President Vladimir Putin called a new generation of “invincible” hypersonic weapons and submarines.

Putin unveiled the new arsenal Thursday in a state of the nation address, challenging Washington to a new arms race ahead of a March 18 presidential election that will all but certainly confirm his grip on power.

Putin left his usual Kremlin perch to speak from a nearby exhibition center — allowing him to show a series of video montages of missiles crossing mountains and oceans, heading over the Atlantic before striking the US eastern seaboard.

Read more at: Space Daily

STRATCOM Wants Space-Based Midcourse Tracking Vs. Missiles: Hyten

After 30 years of trying, the head of Strategic Command believes the time and technology are finally ripe for satellites to track both ballistic missiles and emerging threats such as hypersonics.

“I’ll talk about it with Congress over the next couple of weeks,” Gen. John Hyten told reporters here at AUSA’s annual missile defense conference. “I’ll advocate for that mid-course element of a surveillance architecture” alongside existing early warning radars — which spot the initial launch — and surface-based radars — which are best suited to tracking the latter phases of a missile’s flight. Mid-course tracking satellites are still a concept under study, not a funded program, but Hyten wants to move ahead much faster: “We ought to build those sensors, and I think we can do it affordably.”

Read more at: Breaking defense

10 Rocket Launch Failures that Changed History

Launching rockets to space is a high-stakes, unforgiving business, with razor-thin margins between success and failure and catastrophic consequences when things go wrong. Sometimes the smallest problems can doom a payload—and in the most tragic circumstances, an entire crew.

Here are 10 examples from recent history that reminds us of how tough this business can be.

In 2003, Brazil had high hopes to become a spacefaring nation. The country occupies a perfect spot on the equator, where the Earth’s spin bestows extra lifting power upon a rocket. But in August, three days before a scheduled launch by the Brazilian Space Agency, the town of Alcantara shook with a massive explosion.

Read more at: Popular Mechanics

Russia Claims it Now Has Lasers to Shoot Satellites

Russian defense companies have created a plane-mounted laser that can hit satellites — at least according to an anonymous source quoted by Russian news agency Interfax. On Saturday, an Interfax report cited the source as saying that weapons maker Almaz-Antey has “completed work on the anti-satellite complex,” which includes the laser and associated ground control gear.

Independent and Western observers have not yet verified the claim. But the Russian program does exist. Last April, Almaz-Antey general designer Pavel Sozinov told Russian news agency Ria Novosti that Russian leadership had ordered the company to develop weapons that could interfere electronically with or achieve “direct functional destruction of those elements deployed in orbit.”

Read more at: Defenseone

NASA, Boeing Rewriting the Book on Building the SLS Core Stage

NASA and Space Launch System (SLS) Core Stage prime contractor Boeing are making progress building their first vehicle, learning how to put it together and rewriting the assembly instructions on the fly.

The major elements of Core Stage-1 (CS-1) and its companion structural test articles (STA) are being built up in work areas at the Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) in New Orleans. Not far from each other, work to cover the outside of the flight propellant tanks with their thermal protection system (TPS) is going on in parallel with efforts to outfit the inside of the other multi-story tall structures with all the parts, plumbing, and wiring needed prior to being connected together.

The engine section is still the critical path for completion and remains the biggest challenge, with most of the parts, propellant lines, and wiring going into it. Work is now going on around the clock to finish the stage for delivery by the end of the year or early 2019.

Read more at: NASA Spaceflight

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