Re-Entry: Block-ML from 2001 Molniya Launch Re-Enters After Skipping

A Block-ML upper stage that had helped send a Molniya-3K dual-use communications satellite into orbit re-entered the atmosphere on March 17, 2018 after bouncing off the atmosphere in July 2016.

The Molniya-M rocket carrying the Molniya-3K No. 1 communications satellite launched from Plesetsk on July 20, 2001 and, with the help of the Block-ML upper stage, sent the 1,740-Kilogram satellite into a highly elliptical Molniya orbit for optimized coverage over the Russian territory including its northern regions. The Molniya satellite series, inaugurated in the 1960s, was employed for military and civil communications via Omega-S transponders (for Molniya-3K). Only one Molniya-3K satellite reached orbit, a second launch in 2005 ended in failure and marked the end of the Molniya program as Geostationary communications satellites had taken over for civilian communications while Russia’s Meridian took over military communications from Molniya Orbit.

Read more at: Spaceflight 101

Deep-Space Radiation May Be Getting More Dangerous for Future Astronauts

Space radiation may be a bigger worry for voyaging astronauts than scientists had thought, at least in the near future, a new study suggests.

“The radiation dose rates from measurements obtained over the last four years exceeded trends from previous solar cycles by at least 30 percent, showing that the radiation environment is getting far more intense,” study lead author Nathan Schwadron, a professor of physics at the University of New Hampshire’s Space Science Center, said in a statement.

“These particle radiation conditions present important environmental factors for space travel and space weather, and must be carefully studied and accounted for in the planning and design of future missions to the moon, Mars, asteroids and beyond,” Schwadron added.

Read more at: Space.com

Avoiding Collisions in Outer Space

A revolution is afoot in space. As the use of satellites transforms from a national and military-led enterprise to one dominated by businesses, governments worldwide are playing catch-up with the rules and regulations that apply. It’s now possible for a private enterprise with headquarters in the United States to launch Argentine satellites from New Zealand’s soil.

The gaps in international regulations and coordination became clear recently when a California-based start-up, Swarm Technologies, launched four tiny satellites called SpaceBees on an Indian rocket, over the objection of the Federal Communications Commission. Among other things, the F.C.C. is responsible for making sure satellites are trackable by the government’s Space Surveillance Network to minimize the chance of collisions. The SpaceBees were so small (about 4 inches by 4 inches by 1 inch) that the network could not regularly track them, though a private tracking service, LeoLabs, says it has been tracking them since the launch.

Read more at: NY Times

SpaceX Launch Last Year Punched Huge, Temporary Hole in the Ionosphere

Contrary to popular belief, most of the time when a rocket launches, it does not go straight up into outer space. Rather, shortly after launch, most rockets will begin to pitch over into the downrange direction, limiting gravity drag and stress on the vehicle. Often, by 80 or 100km, a rocket is traveling nearly parallel to the Earth’s surface before releasing its payload into orbit.

However, in August of last year, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch from California did not make such a pitch over maneuver. Rather, the Formosat-5 mission launched vertically and stayed that way for most of its ascent into space. The rocket could do this because the Taiwanese payload was light for the Falcon 9 rocket, weighing only 475kg and bound for an orbit 720km above the Earth’s surface.

Read more at: Arstechnica

Will Private Rockets Destroy the Ozone Layer?

Private space companies like Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s Space-X are sending rockets into the upper atmosphere.

Does more activity in space mean more pollution for Earth? That’s a concern of listener Laurie McQuaig of Seattle.

She asked us to investigate the issue, so reporter Katherine Banwell took the question to local science and tech expert. Alan Boyle. He says there’s no need for concern at the moment — yet.

Read more at: kuow

Earth Microbes could Contaminate Space Samples, Researchers Say

Scientists studying “clean” labs in which extraterrestrial objects ranging from meteorites to Moon rocks are stored have found that these facilities may not be quite as clean as they thought. This raises concerns for when Japan’s Hyabasu-2 and NASA’s OSIRIS-REx missions bring back samples from two asteroids in 2020 and 2023.

As scientists search for life on Mars and other worlds, one of the biggest concerns has been ensuring that we don’t contaminate them with bacteria hitchhiking from Earth on spacecraft and landers.

But the reverse also applies: we need to make sure that the same organisms don’t contaminate samples brought back from other worlds.

Read more at: Cosmos Magazine

Tiangong-1 Re-Entry

Tiangong-1 – a ten-meter long, pressurized space station module from China – is approaching an uncontrolled re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere in March or April 2018 after suffering a fatal power failure in 2016, marking the start of a slow descent toward its eventual demise. The re-entry of Tiangong-1 is considered a ‘high-risk event’ by those tracking events such as this because fragments of the module will survive and impact the ground; however, the risk for any individual being hit is minuscule, well below the probability of getting hit by lightning – contrary what tabloid press will be writing in the lead up to the spacecraft’s fiery plunge.

Read more at: Spaceflight 101

Scientists Narrow Down When China’s Falling Space Station Will Burn Up in the Atmosphere

China’s Tiangong-1 space station has been in a pretty precarious position for the past several months. The defunct station was decommissioned and deorbited as it was replaced by the newer Tiangong-2, but seeing as how China appears to have lost control of the station in late 2016, nobody knows for sure when the station is going to reenter the atmosphere, or where it will land.

As the station continues to drop ever lower in its orbit, it becomes easier to predict its reentry date. In early March scientists knew enough to pinpoint the reentry date at somewhere near the end of the month, and now better data has given us an even more accurate estimate: March 31, plus or minus a few days. But if predicting when Tiangong-1 will come down is hard, predicting where it will reenter is pretty much impossible.

Read more at: Popular Mechanics

Researchers Track Chinese Space Station as it Falls

A defunct Chinese space station, Tiangong-1, is expected to fall to Earth any day now—on March 31, give or take a few days. When it does, it will be the largest manmade object to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere in a decade.

As the day draws near, Vishnu Reddy, University of Arizona assistant professor of planetary sciences, and Tanner Campbell, an aerospace and mechanical engineering graduate student, are tracking its re-entry using a $1,500 optical sensor they built in four months.

Launched in 2011, Tiangong-1 served as a laboratory for three manned missions and initially was intended to de-orbit in 2013. Now as it tumbles, seemingly uncontrollably, through space, researchers across the globe are scrambling to predict when and where it will come down. Tiangong-1 occupies low Earth orbit, or LEO. LEO is relatively close to Earth’s surface compared to other orbits, such as medium Earth orbit and geostationary orbit, a faraway space where communication satellites reside.

Read more at: Phys.org

House Committee Advances Two Space Bills

The House Science Committee favorably reported bills March 22 that would recognize a NASA center as a center of excellence in rocket propulsion and would resolve a commercial space regulatory issue.

The committee approved H.R. 5345, the American Leadership in Space Technology and Advanced Rocketry (ALSTAR) Act, and H.R. 5346, the Commercial Space Support Vehicle Act, on voice votes and with no opposition. “Together, the two bills help ensure that America remains competitive in space,” Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the committee, in opening comments during the brief markup session.

Read more at: Spacenews

NASA’s Broken Robonaut will Head Back to Earth This Spring

NASA’s robotic space station crewmember could head down to Earth as early as May for repairs. Robonaut 2 will hitch a ride on a Dragon spacecraft as a part of SpaceX’s 14th commercial resupply mission, which is set to launch to the International Space Station no earlier than April 2 and is slated to return to Earth a month later, NASA officials said.

“Robonaut has had some issues with being able to power up on orbit, and that’s gone on for at least a year, maybe two,” Pete Hasbrook, associate program scientist for the International Space Station program at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, said during a news teleconference today (March 19).

Read more at: Space.com

Is SpaceX Planning to Build its BFR Mars Rocket in Los Angeles?

SpaceX is negotiating with the Port of Los Angeles to build a facility there for manufacturing “large commercial transportation vehicles,” according to documents on the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners website.

SpaceX currently builds all of its rockets and spaceships at the company’s headquarters, in the Los Angeles suburb of Hawthorne. So speculation is swirling that the new Port of LA facility will focus on the BFR (Big Falcon Rocket, or Big F***ing Rocket), which SpaceX is developing to get people to Mars and other destinations throughout the solar system.

Read more at: Space.com

CST-100 Starliner Reentry Thrusters Delivered

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner is expected to have its first test flight sometime later in 2018. To support that test, Aerojet Rocketdyne has completed the delivery of the crew module’s reentry thrusters. The thrusters were delivered to Boeing’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility (formerly Orbiter Processing Facility 3) at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Boeing technicians will integrate the 12 MR-104J engines into the spacecraft, which is designed to be used up to 10 times.

“Astronaut safety is paramount at Aerojet Rocketdyne, which is why we are providing a reliable propulsion system for the Starliner crew module to ensure a safe re-entry for all of Starliner’s passengers,” said Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO and President Eileen Drake in a press release. The MR-104J engines will be used to ensure the capsule is properly oriented during reentry. Each produces more than 100 pounds (45-kilograms) of thrust, according to Aerojet Rocketdyne. Additionally, the thruster engines are reusable. Aerojet Rocketdyne said it is also providing the launch abort engines, the service module reaction control thrusters, and service module orbital maneuvering and attitude control engines for Starliner.

Read more at: Spaceflight Insider

Exos Aerospace Prepares for First Suborbital Launch

With a key test completed and a launch license in hand, Exos Aerospace is preparing for the first flight of its reusable suborbital rocket in April.

In a statement, the company said it completed a “hover test” of its Suborbital Autonomous Rocket with GuidancE, or SARGE, rocket at its Caddo Mills, Texas, facility March 17. In the test, the rocket, suspended from a crane, fired its engine to hover in place, demonstrating the performance of its propulsion, guidance, and other systems.

That test went as planned, said John Quinn, chief operating officer of Exos Aerospace. It also came a month after the company received a launch license from the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation, authorizing flights of SARGE from Spaceport America in New Mexico.

Read more at: Spacenews

International Space Station Crew Size Doubles with Soyuz MS-08 Docking

The International Space Station returned to its full crew compliment of six people after the three-person Soyuz MS-08 docked with the orbiting outpost to join the ongoing Expedition 55.

Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev and NASA astronauts Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold docked their Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft at 3:40 p.m. EDT (19:40 GMT) March 23, 2018, at the space-facing port of the Poisk module on the Russian Orbital Segment of the ISS while the complex was flying 254 miles (408 kilometers) over Serbia. After a couple hours of leak checks, the hatches between the spacecraft and station were opened at 5:48 p.m. EDT (21:48 GMT).

The trio was welcomed aboard by Expedition 55 Commander and Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, NASA astronaut Scott Tingle, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Norishige Kanai, who have been living aboard the outpost since December 2017.

Read more at: Spaceflight Insider

Nanoracks and China’s Kuang-Chi to Develop Near Space Traveler Spacecraft

US company Nanoracks and Kuang-Chi of China have signed a cooperation deal on the near space ‘Traveler’ helium spacecraft, designed for space tourism and commercial applications.

Shenzhen-based Kuang-Chi has developed a number of craft for near space, and last year sent a live turtle to an altitude of over 20 kilometres aboard Traveler 3. It is aiming to be able to safely transport people and payloads to an altitude of around 25 kilometres, taking them into the zone known as ‘near space’ 20-100 kilometres above the Earth.

Read more at: GB Times

Small Rockets Aim for a Big Market

With a flawless launch and the successful release of four small satellites in low Earth orbit, Rocket Lab’s new Electron rocket nailed its final tryout on January 21. “We’re done testing,” says company CEO Peter Beck. “We’re ready for full commercial operations.”

Los Angeles-based Rocket Lab is the first private company dedicated to small satellites—which can be anything from tiny, three-pound CubeSats to spacecraft the size of a washing machine. The two-stage Electron rocket can lift up to 500 pounds to low Earth orbit.

Until now, smallsats have had to piggyback on rockets delivering larger satellites for better-paying customers, so they rarely got to call the shots. “They have no control over schedule and orbit,” Beck says. Rocket Lab aims to fix that.

Read more at: Air and Space

World’s Cheapest Space Explorer Plans to Build Lunar Structures

India, which sent an orbiter to Mars at about 1/10th the cost of NASA’s Maven probe, is examining how to build habitations on the moon.

“ISRO, along with academic institutions, is doing experimentation on potential structures for lunar habitation,” Jitendra Singh, the junior minister for space, told lawmakers on Wednesday, referring to the Indian Space Research Organisation. “Various options are being studied about the requirements and complexities of habitats. India’s declaration — just ahead of a planned lunar mission — comes at a time when governments are looking at the moon for the first time in years.

Read more at: Bloomberg

SLS One Step Closer to Flight with Successful Completion of USA Design Review

Dynetics has announced the completion of the universal stage adapter’s (USA) preliminary design review for NASA’s new SLS rocket designed to send humans to the Moon and possible Mars. The adapter is critical for carrying additional cargo during Exploration Mission 2, the first planned crewed flight of SLS and NASA’s Orion spacecraft.

Dynetics issued a press release stating that it has designed hardware specifically for the use in future SLS configurations that could be able to send up to 81,000 lbs. (37 metric tons) to the Moon. “The USA is a critical piece of hardware for the SLS Block 1B configuration. It provides extra space for large cargos to be flown on the same mission that NASA is flying Orion and astronauts. We are nailing down the preliminary design now so we can proceed to final design and production,” said Robert Wright, Dynetics USA project manager via the release.

Read more at: Spaceflight Insider

NASA to Launch Parachute Test Off Virginia Coast March 27

NASA will test a parachute for possible future missions to Mars from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Tuesday, March 27. Live coverage of the test is scheduled to begin at 6:15 a.m. EDT on the Wallops Ustream site. The launch window for the 58-foot-tall Terrier-Black Brant IX suborbital sounding rocket is from 6:45 to 10:15 a.m. Backup launch days are March 28 to April 10. The NASA Visitor Center at Wallops will open at 6 a.m. on launch day for viewing the flight. The rocket launch is expected to be only seen from the Wallops area.

The rocket will carry the Advanced Supersonic Parachute Inflation Research Experiment (ASPIRE) from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. The payload carrying the test parachute is expected to reach an altitude of 32 miles approximately two minutes into the flight. The payload will splash-down in the Atlantic Ocean 40 miles from Wallops Island and will be recovered and returned to Wallops for data retrieval and inspection.

Read more at: NASA

ESA to Investigate Links Between Debris Removal and Satellite Servicing

The asuropean Space Agency is no longer proceeding full speed ahead with its campaign to send a 1,600-kilogram satellite into low Earth orbit to grab its defunct Earth observing Envisat and bring it back into the atmosphere around 2023. Instead, the agency has revised its e.Deorbit program plan to study the synergies between the mission and satellite servicing vehicles.

“What we are implementing at the moment is a study to find out whether we should modify the mission design to make the vehicle more flexible and able to perform a variety of servicing missions including removing objects from orbit,” said Luisa Innocenti, head of ESA’s Clean Space Office.

In parallel with that effort, ESA’s Clean Space Office expects to receive funding of approximately 10 million euros in 2018 to continue to develop robotic arm technologies with many possible applications including satellite servicing and active debris removal.

Read more at: Spacenews

60 Years in Orbit for ‘Grapefruit Satellite’ – the Oldest Human Object in Space

Sixty years ago, a grapefruit-sized aluminium sphere with six antennas and some tiny solar cells was launched into Earth orbit. The Vanguard 1 satellite is still up there and is the oldest human-made object in space. It’s our first piece of space archaeology.

Other early satellites – such as Sputnik 1, the first satellite to leave Earth in 1957, and Explorer 1, the first US satellite – have long since re-entered the atmosphere and burnt up. Vanguard 1’s legacy, as we enter the seventh decade of space travel, is a new generation of small satellites changing the way we interact with space.

Read more at: Space Daily

Space Junk Could Be This Company’s Treasure

“Within a few decades, we may not be able to use space anymore,” Nobu Okada, founder and CEO of the Singapore-based company Astroscale, told the crowd gathered at the New Space Age Conference held on March 11 here at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management.

Already, hundreds of millions of pieces of debriszoom around Earth at speeds of up to 17,900 mph (28,800 km/h). This cloud of junk presents a hazard to existing spacecraft, and the problem is set to get worse, because space is about to get a lot more crowded. In the next five to 10 years, for example, companies including SpaceX, LeoSat, and OneWeb plan to launch more than 15,000 satellites into low-Earth orbit (LEO), primarily to an altitude of between 500 miles and 750 miles (800 to 1,200 kilometers) above the planet, to provide global internet service.

Read more at: Space.com

Material Engineering in the Final Frontier

If humans are ever to colonize—or even just spend significant periods of time on—the moon or Mars, they’re going to need habitats, tools and other physical resources to keep them alive in the harshness of life away from our home planet. It would be impractical, cumbersome and wildly expensive to bring all the materials to build these resources from earth, so researchers are tinkering with ways to fabricate tools and building supplies from the raw minerals available on extraterrestrial terrain.

Randall German, professor emeritus of mechanical engineering at San Diego State University, provided some insight into how space pioneers might accomplish that in a NASA teleconference earlier this week. The conference brought together a handful of scientists who are sending experimental materials to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard SpaceX’s reusable Dragon spacecraft on a resupply mission scheduled to launch in April.

Read more at: Newscenter

Ideas for New NASA Mission can Now Include Spacecraft Powered by Plutonium

NASA is giving scientists more choices for how to power their future spacecraft to explore the Solar System. Researchers proposing spacecraft ideas for NASA’s Discovery program — an initiative to develop deep-space missions that usually cost less than half a billion dollars — will be allowed to incorporate a special kind of radioactive battery in the designs for their vehicles. And that could potentially allow these missions to get more science done and go deeper into space.

Discovery proposals can now incorporate a type of power system known as a radioisotope thermoelectric generators, or RTGs. These generators are powered by radioactive material — a type of metal called plutonium-238. The metal naturally decays over time, producing heat that is then converted into electrical energy.

Read more at: Verge

A Changing Shade of Blue

Out in the desert of West Texas, engineers are preparing Blue Origin’s New Shepard vehicle for another suborbital test flight. Presumably. Maybe.

It’s been more than three months since the previous test flight of the vehicle, the first to use a new propulsion module and crew capsule. Since then, the company has remained quiet about when the vehicle might fly again, and how many more test flights are planned before people fly in it for the first time. Such silence, of course, has been a standard practice at the company, and can be both frustrating (a lack of details about their plans) and refreshing (a lack of hype about their plans.)

Read more at: Spacereview

CASIC Plans Space-based Internet with 80 Satellites

The Fourth Academy of the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC), the main contractor for the Chinese space program, officially unveiled a new subordinate entity on Friday to build space-based internet services using 80 small satellites.

Zhang Di, deputy director of the academy and also president of the new company Xingyun, said cellular mobile communication technology is unable to provide Internet across more than 80 percent of the land and 95 percent of the ocean. He said the new space-based service and Internet of Things will turn a new chapter in communication and allow easy connection whether on sea, islands or in the desert.

Xingyun will be dedicated to the research, manufacturing and launch of low orbit satellites, building a network and finally a space-based Internet of Things, according to Zhang.

Read more at: ECNS

Congress is Giving NASA More Money than it Requested to Build a Second Launch Platform

Today, Trump signed into law a massive $1.3 trillion spending bill that will fund the federal government through the rest of fiscal year 2018, and the deal is quite generous to NASA. Practically all of NASA’s programs get a funding boost, and the space agency even gets money that it didn’t ask for — notably, the funds needed to build a second launch platform for its next big rocket.

The spending bill gives NASA an extra $350 million in 2018 to make the structure, which will be used for future launches of the Space Launch System. That’s the deep space vehicle the agency has been developing for the last decade.

Read more at: Verge

Elon Musk: Starting SpaceX and Tesla were ‘the Dumbest Things to Do’

Elon Musk isn’t afraid of a bad idea. In fact, the billionaire CEO recently tweeted, “Creating a rocket company has to be one of the dumbest and hardest ways to ‘make money’.” And as USA Today pointed out, the billionaire CEO recently described starting SpaceX and Tesla, the two companies he’s best known for founding, as possibly “the dumbest things to do” in terms of new ventures.

That’s surprising, to say the least, especially considering that Tesla has a market cap over $52 billion, while Forbes values the private rocket company SpaceX at more than $20 billion.

Read more at: CNBC

Is NASA Still Necessary? How the Space Agency Sold Itself to Trump

Is NASA still necessary? Why spend billions on a space agency when billionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are doing big things in space with their own money? “Why don’t you just turn it over to the commercial guys?” is how NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot put it in Huntsville Tuesday.

A NASA veteran, Lightfoot is retiring April 30 to return home to Huntsville, where his future plans have not been announced. He’s run the agency for 14 months while waiting for Congress to approve President Trump’s nominee as the next NASA administrator or Trump to give up and pick someone else.

Read more at: al.com

Senator Nelson on the Way Forward to a Sustainable Space Future

Many milestones in space have occurred since that day in May 57 years ago when President Kennedy committed America to putting a man on the moon and return him safely by the end of the decade. The United States helped birth modern space exploration, from the pioneering Apollo missions to leading a decade-long, multi-country effort to construct the International Space Station (ISS) in 1998, aided by the first reusable spacecraft ever developed: the American shuttles.

And few senators possess the historical perspective on the importance of space more than those who have served as astronauts, including the late John Glenn of Ohio, the first American to orbit Earth, and Bill Nelson, the Democratic senator representing Florida’s Space Coast, who became the second sitting member of the United States Congress to fly in space. As a Florida congressman, he spent six days orbiting the Earth onboard the space shuttle Columbia in January 1986 — 16 days before the Challenger disaster.

Read more at: Satellite Today

A Space Renaissance

We are entering a renaissance era in human spaceflight. Just as the European masters brought forth a magical period of learning, discovery, invention, fine arts, and music five hundred years ago, with the advances in the science and technologies proliferating today we can expect a rejuvenation in human space activity in this dawn of the 21st century.

The new US administration has moved swiftly to reinstate a newly constituted National Space Council and in its first meeting on October 5, 2017, directed NASA to conduct a 45-day study with the express aim of returning astronauts to our Moon. On December 11, the president signed Space Policy Directive 1 to set us on this course.

Read more at: Spacereview

What NASA Loses Without a Permanent Leader

More than 60 representatives from the House are calling on the Senate to get a move on and confirm the Trump administration’s nominee for NASA administrator. The group — which includes mostly Republicans and a dozen Democrats — sent a signed letter to the Senate majority and minority leaders, urging them to vote and accept Trump’s candidate, Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK). They argue that without a leader, it’ll be hard to oversee the ambitious plans that the government has for NASA.

NASA has been without a permanent administrator since its previous leader, former astronaut Charles Bolden, resigned the day Trump took office over a year ago. The space agency has had an acting administrator — Robert Lightfoot — who has been fulfilling the role in the meantime, but this month, he announced his plans to retire at the end of April. Unless a permanent administrator is confirmed before then, NASA will be forced to rely on another temporary leader.

Read more at: Verge

U.S. House Colleagues Urge Senate to Confirm Bridenstine as NASA Head

Sixty-one House members, including 12 Democrats, urged Senate leadership Tuesday to confirm the nomination of Oklahoma 1st District Congressman Jim Bridenstine to head the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

The representatives serve with Bridenstine on the House Armed Services and Science, Space and Technology committees, and includes fellow Oklahomans Frank Lucas and Steve Russell.

Those supporting Bridenstine also included Rep. Brian Babin of Texas, whose district includes Space Center Houston and the Johnson Space Center. Babin coordinated the effort to win Bridenstine’s approval. Also backing Bridenstine were Rep. Mo Brooks, whose district includes the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Read more at: Tulsa world

China to Launch First Commercial Recoverable Satellite by 2020

China will launch its first commercial recoverable satellite between 2019 and 2020, an official with the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) has said. Recoverable satellites are an important part of China’s space capabilities and are highly reliable, CAST President Zhang Hongtai, told China Central Television earlier this week.

China has successfully retrieved more than 20 recoverable satellites since 1975. The same technology has helped Chinese astronauts return from space, he said. “We plan to upgrade this technology in order to satisfy the needs of commercial users,” said Zhang, adding recoverable satellites will be able to play an important role in space biology, space medicine and space scientific experiments.

Read more at: Xinhuanet

Bombs in Orbit? Verification and Violation Under the Outer Space Treaty

On March 1, Russian President Vladimir Putin provided details, mostly in the form of artist’s impressions, on a variety of provocative weapon systems under development. One of them, the RS-28 Sarmat, was depicted as placing a nuclear weapon into a presumably orbital trajectory that could strike targets by traveling the long way around the globe (in this case, with fictionalized land masses, but later depicted as descending on Florida).

The US State Department condemned the development of Russia’s new weapon systems as violations of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty but did not allege a violation of Article IV of the UN 1967 Outer Space Treaty (OST).1 Why?

Read more at: Spacereview

Reconsidering Damage Production and Radiation Mixing in Materials

Understanding the nature of radiation damage in materials is of paramount importance for controlling the safety of nuclear reactors, using ion implantation in semiconductor technology, and designing reliable devices in space.

The standard approach to estimating the radiation damage in materials analytically has been for more than 60 years a simple equation, known as “Kinchin-Pease”. However, the so called “displacements-per-atom” (dpa) number obtained from this equation does not in common metals usually correspond to any physically measurable quantity. This was established experimentally about 40 years ago, and computer simulations carried out during the last 25 years have firmly established the physical reason to this.

Read more at: Space Daily

New National Space Strategy Emphasizes “America First” Policies

A new National Space Strategy announced by the White House March 23 fits into an “America First” theme of the Trump administration, seeking to protect American interests in space through revised military space approaches and commercial regulatory reform.

The strategy was announced in a statement released by the White House. The strategy document itself has not been released, and an administration source says the release is intended to serve as the primary fact sheet for the strategy.

The statement says the strategy is intended to outline how the administration will protect American interests in space, fitting into a broader “America First” theme of policies by the current administration.

Read more at: Spacenews

Secret Spaceflight Company to Conduct First Commercial Launch From Alaska Spaceport

A California-based aerospace company is planning a launch from Pacific Spaceport Complex Alaska (PSCA) on Kodiak Island sometime between March 27 and April 6, as reported by Space News. Alaska Aerospace Corp. which manages the launch facilities in Alaska, confirmed to Space News in an email that a suborbital launch called “P120” is taking place, the first commercial launch ever conducted from the Alaska spaceport.

The U.S. Coast Guard also issued a “Local Notice to Mariners” on March 14, informing mariners of a rocket launch. “A rocket launch is scheduled from the Pacific Spaceport Complex located at Narrow Cape, Kodiak Island, Alaska, sometime between March 26th – April 6th, 2018,” says the notice. The document also outlines two “caution areas” for vessels to avoid during the launch, one immediately to the south of PSCA and another several thousand kilometers to the southwest.

Read more at: Popular Mechanics

Hyten Not Ready to Endorse Space Force

Gen. John Hyten, Commander of U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), declined to endorse President Trump’s call for creation of a Space Force at a Senate hearing today.  However, he is happy the President is talking about space as a warfighting domain and proposing increases in DOD’s space budget.  Separately, he expressed strong support for a space-based sensor element of ballistic missile defense, but not space-based interceptors.

Hyten testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) today on the broad range of issues he oversees as USSTRATCOM commander, of which space is only one part.   He is a former commander of Air Force Space Command (AFSC), however, so is extremely well versed about national security space programs.

Read more at: Spacepolicy online

Hyten: To Keep Edge in Space, Military Needs Cheaper Launch Costs, Faster Satellite Development

Air Force Gen. John Hyten has been insistent that U.S. military space programs need to “go faster” as adversaries continue to close in on the United States.

Hyten, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command based in Omaha, Nebraska, oversees the nation’s nuclear and space missions and has been outspoken in his criticism of the Pentagon’s procurement methods and technology choices.

The military space budget is getting a big boost in fiscal year 2019. But moving faster in space is about more than just bigger budgets. It also will require changing the culture of buying “exquisite” launch vehicles and satellites, Hyten said during a wide-ranging interview with SpaceNews reporters.

Read more at: Spacenews

SECAF: Accelerating Defendable Space, Multi-domain Operations Key to Future Readiness

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services Committee about the Air Force’s fiscal year 2019 budget March 20, 2018, in Washington, D.C. “The Air Force budget for FY19 aligns with the National Defense Strategy,” said Wilson. “In our budget, there are really two bold moves and one continuing theme. The first bold move is the acceleration of a defendable space.”

The Air Force, Wilson said, needs to be able to deter, defend and prevail against anyone who seeks to deny the nation’s ability to operate freely in space. “The United States of America is the best in the world at space and our adversaries know it. In any future conflict we expect that they will seek to deny us the use of space. So what we’re doing in this budget is accelerating our ability to defend our assets on orbit,” she said. The Air Force operates 76 satellites, 30 of which are GPS and another 25 are communication satellites. According to Wilson, the service is investing in jam-resistant satellite technology for both communications and GPS capabilities.

Read more at: AFSPC

Omega Reveals ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ Chronograph for Apollo 8 50th

The 50th anniversary of the first mission to fly humans to the moon has inspired the design of a new timepiece from the watchmaker that made the chronographs worn by the crew.

NASA’s Apollo 8 astronauts, Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders, were the first to view the far side, or colloquially, “dark side” of Earth’s natural satellite while orbiting the moon in December 1968. Half a century later, Omega has brought into view the Speedmaster “Dark Side of the Moon” Apollo 8 chronograph.

“Omega has released a Speedmaster that truly brings the lunar surface to life,” the watchmaker wrote. “The Apollo 8 crew became the first humans to ever see the dark side of the moon. Omega has produced this incredible chronograph in tribute to that mission.”

Read more at: Collect space

Some Fresh Tidbits on the U.S. Military Space buBget

On the question of how much money the Pentagon plans to spend on space programs in fiscal year 2019, different numbers have been floating around. Now we know for certain that the unclassified budget request for national security space is $12.5 billion.

That is what the Pentagon included in the aggregated account known as MFP-12. This is the “major force program” spending category for national security space. It is $1.1 billion higher than the MFP-12 request for fiscal year 2018. The Air Force gets the majority of the funds — $11.4 billion. The remainder is for space programs run by the Army, the Navy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Defense Information Systems Agency.

Read more at: Spacenews

The Case for a New Branch of the Military: United States Space Force

When President Donald Trump suggested that a new branch of the military, to be called the United States Space Force, might be created, reactions came in two forms. Many people, attracted to the idea for its science fiction elements and its coolness value, cheered. In an era when missions to Mars and lunar bases are once again being seriously pursued, a space-faring military service sounds pretty attractive. Some members of the House have been pushing for the creation of a Space Corps for the past year, though the matter has been consigned to a study.

Others, however, rolled their eyes as they do at anything that comes out of the president’s mouth. The Air Force, which is currently tasked with military operations in space, has also taken a dim view. The attitude is ironic since the Air Force was part of the United States Army until shortly after World War II.

Read more at: Hill

US-Russia Tensions, Not in Space

Two American astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut are on their way to the International Space Station (ISS). The three were launched from the Baikonur space port in Kazakhstan on Wednesday. The launch comes at a time of increased tensions between Russia and the United States. Yet experts note that the two sides continue working together in space. Amy Shira Teitel is a space flight historian. She notes that NASA, the U.S. space agency, depends on Russia to reach the space station.

“Currently, Russia’s our only way up to orbit for the International Space Station and for any other human mission.” Cathleen Lewis is with the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington. She works as a curator in the museum’s Space History Department. Lewis says, since 2011, NASA has worked to develop its next generation of spacecraft. That means the space agency is depending on Russian cooperation.

Read more at: voanews

Mahathir Raises ‘Remote Takeover’ Theory in MH370 Mystery

Malaysia’s veteran ex-leader Mahathir Mohamad said Friday that missing flight MH370 might have been taken over remotely in a bid to foil a hijack, reviving one of the many conspiracy theories surrounding its disappearance.

The Malaysia Airlines plane disappeared in March 2014 with 239 people — mostly from China — on board while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. No sign of the Boeing 777 jet was found in a vast search of the southern Indian Ocean and the Australian-led hunt, the largest in aviation history, was suspended early last year.

Only three confirmed fragments of MH370 have been found, all of them on western Indian Ocean shores, including a two-metre wing part known as a flaperon.

Read more at: Space Daily

Was Giordano Bruno Burned at the Stake for Believing in Exoplanets?

In April, SpaceX will launch a Falcon 9 rocket carrying NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite. It will detect new exoplanets. Astronomers believe that innumerable such worlds exist. Already, more than 3,700 exoplanets have been discovered, especially by the Kepler Space Telescope.

Ironically, every exoplanet confirms not the cosmology of Kepler, but of Giordano Bruno, the Italian philosopher who was burned alive in Rome, in 1600, as a heretic.

Bruno said the universe has no center, and stars are suns, surrounded by planets and moons. Remarkably, he thus outlined large-scale aspects of our cosmology, while Copernicus and Kepler mistakenly thought the universe is spherical, the sun is its center, unmoving, and stars are not suns surrounded by planets.

Read more at: Scientific American

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