U.S. Strategic Command, Norway Sign Agreement to Share Space Services, Data

U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) entered into an agreement with the Norwegian Ministry of Defense and Norwegian Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries to share space situational awareness (SSA) services and information.

The arrangement will enhance awareness within the space domain and increase the safety of spaceflight operations. It was formalized in a memorandum of understanding signed by U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Clinton E. Crosier, the USSTRATCOM director of plans and policy, April 4, 2017, at the 33rd Annual Space Symposium, Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Norwegian Army Maj. Gen. Odd-Harald Hagen, the Norwegian Ministry of Defense Department of Defense Policy and Long-Term Planning director general, and Arne Benjaminsen, Norwegian Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries Research and Innovation Department director general, March 1, in Oslo, Norway.

“Maintaining freedom of navigation as an international norm is best approached via coalitions formed through an intersection of interests,” said Crosier. “Space situational agreements are a prime example of this, helping to strengthen our alliances while at the same time increasing our resiliency. This situational space awareness memorandum of understanding is an important milestone for Norway’s development as an active and responsible space nation in the High North and Arctic,” said Hagen.” This represents a practical and symbolic evidence of the strong relationship and continuing development between our two nations.”

Read more at: US Air Force

Declassification and Partnerships Needed for Better Space Defense, Hyten Says

The United States must get better at declassifying and sharing space information to maintain a safe environment in orbit, the head of U.S. Strategic Command advised.

Speaking at the 33rd Space Symposium April 6, U.S. Air Force Gen. John Hyten said that just two days earlier he had asked Congress for more support on integrating the commercial space sector into military operations. “One of the things I asked the Senate was some help in legislation that would help us to more effectively deal with the Commercial Integration Cell” at the Joint Space Operations Center, Hyten said of his testimony April 4 before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The Commercial Integration Cell at the JSpOC currently consists of DigitalGlobe, Eutelsat, Intelsat, Inmarsat, Iridium and SES Government Solutions. “They come in on their own dime,” he said of those companies. “Each of those companies has a need for more situational awareness of what’s going on. They have a need just like our allies do to understand what’s going on in space, because we don’t want bad things to happen. We want to make sure that we can effectively operate together in that environment.”

Read more at: Space News

Russia Open to Extending Life of International Space Station to 2028

Russia is ready to discuss extending the life of the International Space Station (ISS) to 2028, said Igor Komarov, director general of the Russian national space agency, Roscosmos.

Here at the 33rd annual Space Symposium yesterday (April 4), Komarov spoke about the need to maintain a research station in low Earth orbit if humans hope to eventually travel to Mars. He also discussed the agency’s plans to send a new module to the space station in 2018, when the agency will also re-add a third crew member to the station.

In what he said was his first visit to the U.S. while serving in his current position, Komarov confirmed a proposal within the agency to build a new space station if the ISS is retired after 2024. Currently, the U.S. and Russia each manage and support half of the station, and other international collaborators contribute. Those countries have committed to financial support and maintenance of the station through 2024.

Read more at: Space.com

Ziplines Installed to Whisk Personnel from Danger at Starliner Launch Pad

Ziplines are used by thrill-seekers in adventures around the world, but now they are coming to the U.S. space program as the emergency escape system for personnel at Cape Canaveral’s Complex 41.

Commercial, off-the-shelf ziplines have been installed on the 172-foot-level of pad’s newly-constructed Crew Access Tower and fully tested in support of Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft that will begin launching astronauts into space next year atop United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rockets.

“ULA is absolutely focused on the safety of the crews we will be supporting and although we hope to never use it, we are excited to announce the Emergency Egress System is fully operational,” said Gary Wentz, the company’s vice president of Human & Commercial Services.

Read more at: Spaceflight Now

Dream Chaser to Use Europe’s Next Generation Docking System

ESA and a team of European industrial contractors led by QinetiQ have finalised an agreement with Sierra Nevada Corporation for the use of Europe’s International Berthing Docking Mechanism on the Dream Chaser spaceplane.

The Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) Dream Chaser is being developed as a reusable, lifting-body, multimission spacecraft capable of landing at commercial airports or spaceports that can accommodate large commercial aircraft anywhere in the world.

Selected to provide cargo delivery, return and disposal services for the International Space Station under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 2 contract, it is a safe, affordable, flexible and reliable system, designed to provide crewed and uncrewed transportation services to low orbit destinations, such as the Space Station and future commercial space infrastructures.

Read more at: ESA

Orbital ATK’s New Booster Wants to Give SpaceX a Run for its Money

The already crowded rocket booster industry is getting more crowded: Orbital ATK, a Virginia-based company with deep ties in both aerospace and defense.

Orbital ATK was founded in 2015, a merger of Orbital Sciences, which was known for its satellites and launch vehicles, and Alliant Techsystems, which built the solid rocket boosters used for NASA’s Space Shuttle fleet that retired in 2011. The new company is returning to its roots, promoting what it calls a Next-Generation Launch (NGL) system.

Those roots are crucial to the NGL pitch, which Orbital ATK hopes to get into national security and space launches. The company’s boosters are already used by several branches of the government, from the U.S. Navy’s Trident missiles to the U.S. Air Force’s Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. That familiarity could lower costs for the government, the company says.

Read more at: Popular Mechanics

Ukraine in Talks With ESA to Become Member – Space Agency Chairman

On Tuesday, Radchenko said during the symposium that Ukraine was actively cooperating with the ESA with a goal to become a member of the agency. When asked whether Ukraine is holding discussions on the accession with the ESA, Radchenko said, “Yes.” He said the membership could be secured within “a reasonable” timeframe.

Radchenko did not specify what the accession conditions are. The annual 33rd Space Symposium brings together representatives of the world’s space agencies, commercial space businesses as well as military, national security and intelligence organizations to discuss and plan the future of space exploration.

Moreover, Ukraine’s State Space Agency is discussing various projects with the NASA, the agency’s Chairman Yuriy Radchenko told Sputnik in Colorado Springs.

Read more at: Sputnik News

Branson Hints at Virgin Galactic Commercial Flights by 2019

For the first time in a long time, Sir Richard Branson has commented on when he plans to see Virgin Galactic commercial flights underway at Spaceport America. Since the $219 million Spaceport opened in 2011, it has been a waiting game on Virgin Galactic as the anchor tenant. Closing in on a decade later, and still Branson’s envisioned commercial space flights at $250,000 per seat are just an idea.

Now, in an interview with UK-based The Daily Telegraph, Branson says he expects to have flights up in space by 2019. He told the Telegraph, “…I think I’d be very disappointed if we’re not into space with a test flight by the end of the year and I’m not into space myself next year and the program isn’t well underway by the end of next year.”

That means business might, at long last, boom at the Spaceport near T or C.

Read more at: krqe

Commercial Crew on Tight but Achievable Timeline for Crewed Flights in 2018

The long and arduous process of achieving commercial crew transportation services to space is closing in on an important milestone.  At a recent update to the NASA Advisory Council, NASA’s commercial crew transportation services program manager discussed numerous aspects to SpaceX and Boeing’s progress over the last few months and revealed that, while the timeline is tight, the two companies are on track for their scheduled crew demo flights of Dragon and Starliner in 2018.

As part of the standard series of reviews before the NASA Advisory Council (NAC), NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) has provided an update on SpaceX and Boeing’s initiatives to provide crew launch services to the International Space Station beginning next year. Overall, the presentation by Ms. Kathryn Lueders, Manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, to the NAC was overwhelmingly positive, with Ms. Lueders noting that she’s been “impressed with how both these providers with their fixed price contracts are not writing off their issues.  They’re not saying it’s okay.  They are going and doing the testing and the work that needs to be done.

Read more at: NASA Spaceflight

The Race to Destroy Space Garbage

Millions of pieces of human-made trash are now orbiting the Earth. Some are tiny, others are large enough to be seen with a telescope, but all pose a risk to space craft and satellites. And according to experts the threat is growing as space becomes more and more crowded. Some 23,000 pieces of space junk are large enough to be tracked by the US Space Surveillance Network. But most objects are under 10cm (4in) in diameter and can’t be monitored. Even something the size of a paper clip can cause catastrophic damage.

“At the moment we’re not tracking stuff that small,” says Brian Weeden of the Secure World Foundation, a Washington based organisation dedicated to the sustainable use of space. “And that’s important because something as small as a centimetre can cause problems if it runs into a satellite.”

Collisions are rare, but half of all near-misses today are caused by debris from just two incidents. In 2007, China destroyed one of its own satellites with a ballistic missile. In 2009 an American commercial communications satellite collided with a defunct Russian weather satellite.

Read more at: BBC

Air Force Restructures Space Responsibilities, JICSpOC Gets New Name

Acting Secretary of the Air Force (SecAF) Lisa Disbrow announced a number of changes to the Air Force “space enterprise” today, starting with creation of a new position of deputy chief of staff for space.  Also today, U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) Commander Gen. John Hyten told a Senate committee about a name change for the Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Center (JICSpOC) and discussed the need for a 21st Century deterrence strategy that includes space.

In a statement, Disbrow said the Air Force changes “reflect the reality that space is a joint warfighting domain.” Air Force Chief of Staff David Goldfein added that the new deputy chief of staff position will be a three-star (Lieutenant General) position and known as “A-11.” That person will serve as the space advocate within Air Force Headquarters and be “instrumental in fostering … the cultural change and capabilities evolution required to operate in an increasingly contested space domain.”

Read more at: Spacepolicy online

Iranian Satellite Jamming in Shiraz Could Cause 24,000 Cancer Cases in Coming Years

Iranian politicians representing the city of Shiraz in the Fars district of Iran have publicly claimed that Iranian government satellite jamming activities are causing significant health problems for their constituents.

Members of the Iranian parliament (called the Majlis in Farsi), Ali Akbari and Masoud Rezaee, have been vocal in their criticism of the Iranian government’s satellite jamming, and more specifically have blamed Iranian military and law enforcement agencies for carrying out this harmful activity.

The satellite jamming activity in Shiraz is so prevalent that mobile telephone networks and domestic radio and television broadcasts are regularly disrupted, and the Iranian Meteorological Organisation is often unable to conduct weather forecasting in the area.

Read more at: Space Watch ME

Asteroid to Fly Safely Past Earth on April 19

A relatively large near-Earth asteroid discovered nearly three years ago will fly safely past Earth on April 19 at a distance of about 1.1 million miles (1.8 million kilometers), or about 4.6 times the distance from Earth to the moon. Although there is no possibility for the asteroid to collide with our planet, this will be a very close approach for an asteroid of this size.

The asteroid, known as 2014 JO25, was discovered in May 2014 by astronomers at the Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson, Arizona — a project of NASA’s NEO Observations Program in collaboration with the University of Arizona. (An NEO is a near-Earth object). Contemporary measurements by NASA’s NEOWISE mission indicate that the asteroid is roughly 2,000 feet (650 meters) in size, and that its surface is about twice as reflective as that of the moon. At this time very little else is known about the object’s physical properties, even though its trajectory is well known.

Read more at: NASA

Nearly 200 Rescuers to Ensure Safe Landing of Soyuz-MS in Kazakhstan

About 200 rescuers of Russia’s Central Military District will be deployed in Kazakhstan to ensure safe landing of Russia’s Soyuz-MS spacecraft, the district’s press service said on Saturday.

“The effort to ensure the safe landing will involve a total of 14 Mi-8 helicopters, three An-26 and two An-12 aircraft, as well as 20 vehicles, including all-terrain (ZIL-4906) Blue Bird search and rescue vehicles,” the press service said. The landing pod is expected to depart from the International Space Station (ISS) and touch down on April 10 south of the Kazakh city of Zhezgazgan, bringing back to Earth NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko.

Read more at: TASS

The Dash to the Moon

Rahul Narayan sits perched on the edge of a simulated lunar landscape at the headquarters of TeamIndus on the outskirts of Bengaluru. Next to him is the prototype of the moon rover, a four-wheeled, all-aluminium robot that his team has built and which is in the process of undergoing final tests. If all goes well, the rover will be dropped on the moon’s surface by December 2017 and traverse

500 metres while sending back high-definition images and videos of earth’s closest celestial companion. If it succeeds, TeamIndus will create space history by becoming the first private enterprise in the world to not only build and land a spacecraft on the moon but have a rover ride the surface as well.

Read more at: India Today

NASA Crewed Mission to Venus Would Pave Way for Human Mission to Mars

A crewed mission to Venus before Mars might just be the best way to ensure success when astronauts finally make a run at the Red Planet. In fact, a crewed orbital mission to Venus would arguably make a great dress rehearsal for a much longer and more ambitious human Mars mission.

Successful injection into and out of Venus orbit would also allow NASA to test its SLS (Space Launch System) in a novel planetary environment well in advance of a real Mars mission.

A 2015 internal study by NASA Langley Research Center considered a crewed 440-day Venus mission that would deploy and inflate a habitable high altitude balloon. The idea would be for the crew to spend 30 days in Venus’ atmosphere at an altitude of 50 kilometers from its surface.

Read more at: Forbes

Researchers Bemoan Limited Space Weather Prediction Capabilities

Despite current low levels of solar activity, space weather experts warned April 5 that the sun could still produce powerful and unpredictable storms that could disrupt activities in space and on the earth. A panel during the 33rd Space Symposium here said that, despite the development of new space-based sensors to monitor solar activity, predicting when powerful storms could strike remains difficult.

“The current solar cycle is the weakest we’ve observed,” said Scott McIntosh, director of the High Altitude Observatory and associate director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research. “Cycle 25, or at least the initial traces of it that we expect to see in the next decade, may be even half the amplitude of that.”

He warned, though, that low overall activity doesn’t correlate with reduced risks of powerful storms. “While that may mean fewer [coronal mass ejections] and flares, in a backward sense that actually appears to be increasing the probability of a major storm,” he said.

Read more at: Space News

Op-ed | U.S. Satellite Rules Out of Focus; Time for New Vision

For over two decades, the United States has led the world in space-based commercial imagery, supporting our civil, commercial, and national security communities.

In  the past few years, American innovation in space-based remote sensing has enjoyed a period of immense growth. American companies are investing in and developing a host of new and innovative technologies, services and applications. These include space-based full-motion video, hyper- and multi-spectral imaging, space-to-space remote sensing, and commercial signals intelligence.

As these technologies grow, we must ask: Why, what, and how should we regulate space-based remote sensing activities? The last time Congress passed legislation on this subject was the 1992 Land Remote Sensing Act. Back then, cubesats had not yet been invented or standardized. Computers, sensors, and other key technologies were more expensive and far less capable. Today we depend on these technologies and the geospatial data they produce. Satellites, unmanned aerial vehicles, and many other data-collection systems provide the public with unprecedented information.

Read more at: Space News

The Factories of the Future Could Float in Space

This past summer, a plane went into a stomach-churning ascent and plunge 30,000 feet over the Gulf of Mexico. The goal was not thrill-seeking, but something more genuinely daring: for about 25 seconds at a time, the parabolic flight lifted the occupants into a state of simulated weightlessness, allowing a high-tech printer to spit out cardiac stem cells into a two-chambered, simplified structure of an infant’s heart.

Impressive though this may be, it’s just a brick in the road toward an even bolder goal. Executives at nScrypt (the makers of the stem cell printer), Bioficial Organs (the ink provider), and Techshot (who thought up the heart experiment) are planning to print beating heart patches aboard the International Space Station by 2019. The printer will fly up on a commercial rocket.

Read more at: PopSci

Cosmic Radiation: NASA Develops New Device to Keep Crews Safe When it Sends Humans to Mars

NASA has developed a new device that will monitor radiation exposure to neutrons and help keep crews safe when it sends humans to Mars. NASA scientists said they are testing the Fast Neutron Spectrometer on the International Space Station (ISS). The Fast Neutron Spectrometer is designed to detect and measure the energy of neutrons, which are known to be specifically harmful to humans.

Neutron radiation is created when the high-energy particles from our sun and outside our solar system interact with other particles or matter, such as a spacecraft or a planetary surface. “There are multiple types of radiation in space,” said Mark Christl, team lead for the study at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Read more at: Zee News

Blue Origin’s Staying Power Bankrolled by Jeff Bezos’s Multibillion-dollar Investment

Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos, now the second-richest person in the world, is funding his space company’s lofty ambitions $1 billion per year, driving Blue Origin closer to taking paying passengers to the edge of space and fielding a reusable satellite launcher that will usher in a golden age of space exploration, the billionaire tycoon said Wednesday.

Speaking in front of Blue Origin’s five-times-flown New Shepard booster at a space industry convention in Colorado Springs, Bezos said his financial backing will keep Blue Origin on course help foster a new commercial space economy made possible by cutting space transport costs.

“My business model right now for Blue Origin is I sell about $1 billion per year of Amazon stock, and I use it to invest in Blue Origin,” Bezos said. “So the business model for Blue Origin is very robust.”

Read more at: Spaceflight Now

Hyten: Our Job is to Ensure No War in Space, But …

General John Hyten (USAF), Commander of U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), said today that “our job is to make sure war does not extend into space” if possible.  At the 33rd Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, he repeatedly invoked the Command’s motto “Peace is Our Profession,” but added there is an implied “dot dot dot” at the end of that phrase for those who want “to go in another direction.”

Hyten assumed his current post after serving as Commander of Air Force Space Command so is completely versed in national security space matters.  He testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) on Tuesday, the same day that Acting Air Force Secretary Lisa Disbrow and Air Force Chief of David David Goldfein announced organizational changes to “reflect the reality that space is a joint warfighting domain” as Disbrow phrased it.

At USSTRATCOM, Hyten is responsible for all U.S. strategic forces, including nuclear command and control.  At the hearing and today, Hyten stressed that his first priority is strategic deterrence, but that a 21st Century approach to deterrence is needed that moves beyond the focus on nuclear weapons to incorporate space and cyberspace.  “If deterrence fails,” however, “we will be prepared to deliver a decisive response.”

Read more at: Spacepolicy Online

STRATCOM Raises Spectre of Offensive War in Space

Offensive war in space is one of the truly hot button defense policy issues. Advocates say it is inevitable. Opponents say it violates the ideal of a cosmos marked for exploration and peaceful coexistence. Some say war in space would violate the Outer Space Treaty, which bars nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction from being stationed in space, as well as generally discouraging the weaponization of space.

Gen. John Hyten, head of Strategic Command, raised the question again during a hearing Tuesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee. (Tidbit: Hyten penned a piece when he was a colonel titled: “A Sea of Peace or a Theater of War? Dealing with the Inevitable Conflict in Space” — note the “inevitable”). Then Bob Work, Deputy Defense Secretary, added fuel to the policy fire with remarks in a classified briefing here today

Read more at: Breaking Defense

The Enormous Sea-Launched Rocket That Never Flew

The Space Race of the 60’s surface a whole ton of wild ideas: getting past the Van Allen belts, landing on the Moon, coming back from the Moon, showing how science could fundamentally change humanity for the better. But one of the most impressive ideas of the era never got built: a massive rocket called the Sea Dragon, which would have been launched from the middle of the ocean.

A two-stage rocket, the Sea Dragon was, on paper at least, capable of “putting 1.2 million pounds (550 metric tons) into low Earth orbit,” according to Encylopedia Astronautica. That is enough to lift a small space station into orbit. At the time of Robert Truax’s design in 1962, Apollo 11 was still seven years off. Just getting man to the Moon seemed far away.

Read more at: Popular Mechanics

Redefining NASA: Part 1

This is a three-part series of short articles that will examine NASA’s history and current affairs to determine the role it should play in the future of space exploration.

When most people think of space, NASA comes to mind, and rightly so, for the agency has been at the forefront of space innovation and exploration since the birth of the industry. The Apollo program put the first man on the Moon, the Hubble telescope has presented staggering images of the universe, and the Curiosity Mars rover stands as an unprecedented feat of engineering.

In recent times, however, the role played by NASA has diminished in value, both due to decreased political interest in the United States and because of the rise of other actors and agencies.

Read more at: Space Review

Cosmonaut Georgy Grechko Passes Away

Russia’s cosmonaut Georgy Grechko died night to April 8, a Russian space magazine wrote on its website on Saturday. “At night to April 8, at the age of 85 died the USSR cosmonaut, twice Hero of the Soviet Union, engineer and cosmonaut… Georgy Grechko,” the website reads. His daughter, Olga, told TASS that her “father passed away today at 06:40 am”

Georgy Grechko was born on May 25, 1931 in Leningrad. He was on three space missions of the total duration 134 days 20 hours 32 minutes and 58 seconds, went once into the open space (for 1 hour 28 minutes). His last flight was in September, 1985, – he was the engineer of a short-term mission to the Salut-7 station.

Read more at: TASS

Pioneer Astronaut John Glenn Finally Laid to Rest at Arlington National Cemetery

Almost four months after his death at the age of 95, the mortal remains of former astronaut and senator John Glenn were interred today amid Marine Corps pomp and circumstance at Arlington National Cemetery. Glenn became the first American in orbit in 1962, and the oldest human in space in 1998. Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot wished Glenn “Godspeed” in a statement: “As we say our final goodbye today to a great American and NASA pioneer, we send our deepest sympathies to the family of John Glenn, and our heartfelt condolences to his devoted wife Annie on what would have been their 74th wedding anniversary.”

Read more at: Geekwire

ISS Payload Design & Operation Safety

23-26 May 2017 – KAYSER Italia –  Tuscany (Livorno)

The course is designed to provide the participant with an understanding of safety requirements, procedures and processes that are used for design and operations of payloads for the International Space Station.You will find the description of the course in the IAASS Professional Training Courses Catalog 2017 – Course Code 004. To register, download the Registration Form, fill in and return to:[email protected] not later than 5 May 2017.

Read more at: IAASS