First Rocket Made Ready for Launch at Russia’s Vostochny Spaceport

A Soyuz-2.1a carrier rocket has been installed at Russia’s new Vostochny Cosmodrome’s launch site ahead of its first space launch, Russia’s Federal Space Agency Roscosmos said Saturday in a statement.

On February 12, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin announced that the carrier rocket had been assembled ahead of its maiden launch from the Vostochny spaceport scheduled for April 27. The Soyuz-2.1a rocket will lift off from Vostochny to orbit small research satellites, such as Aist-2D, Mikhailo Lomonosov and SamSat-218.

Vostochny, which has been under construction since 2012, is expected to reduce Russia’s dependency on the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan. Baikonur is on lease to Russia until 2050.

Read more at: Sputnik News

SpaceX Still Doing Site Prep for Boca Chica Launch Pad

Trucks are dumping dirt on the site at Boca Chica Beach, east of Brownsville, to stabilize the ground there before construction of the launch site itself can begin.

While SpaceX suggested in a September 2014 groundbreaking ceremony that the launch site could be ready as soon as 2016, the company is now planning a first launch from there in 2018.

Read more at: Space News

Kepler Recovered and Returned to the K2 Mission

The Kepler spacecraft has been recovered and, as of 8:30 a.m. PDT today, it is back on the job as the K2 mission searching for exoplanets—planets beyond our solar system.

The team began the process of returning the spacecraft to science late on Tuesday. The process involved a succession of steps over the course of the next two days. The pointing tables and science targets—instructions that tell the spacecraft where to look and at what—were reloaded and confirmed, onboard logs and counters were reset and a new command sequence was created, tested and uploaded to account for the late start of the campaign.  The spacecraft is now ready for science operations, officially starting K2’s new gravitational microlensing campaign, known as Campaign 9 or C9.

Read more at: Technology.org

Space Weather Bill Introduced in U.S. Senate

A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation April 20 to improve space weather forecasting and preparedness efforts in parallel with a space weather strategy released by the White House last year.

The Space Weather Research and Forecasting Act is intended to codify into law the responsibilities various government agencies have for forecasting and studying space weather, as well as assessing the vulnerability of the electrical grid and other critical infrastructure to geomagnetic storms.

“We must ensure that we have the tools and resources to research and predict these events, and protect our nation’s infrastructure so we can avoid an economic catastrophe in the event of severe space weather,” said Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), the lead sponsor of the bill, in a statement. Cosponsoring the bill are Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.).

Read more at: Space News

Watching a Spacecraft Wreck Tumble Through Space

On a clear night sky, you might spot an occasional shooting star or even glimpse the fast-moving International Space Station as it circles the Earth. But there are a lot of other objects up there too, including a massive new Japanese x-ray telescope called Hitomi that broke up a few weeks ago, and hundreds of tiny four-inch cube-shaped satellites (“cubesats”) that are filling an ever more crowded orbital playground.

Now a group of astrophysical researchers say they can track bits of broken satellites and space junk using regular optical telescopes to record flashes of sunlight that reflect off these wandering probes. This week, they have been watching several big chunks of Hitomi as they tumble uncontrollably through space.

Read more at: Discovery News

OneWeb Satellites Completes its Industrial Organisation

OneWeb Satellites, a joint venture between Airbus Defence and Space and OneWeb, has chosen Florida in the United States as the site for its final assembly line, completing the last step in its industrial organisation. This facility, located at Florida’s Exploration Park, near the Kennedy Space Center, will carry out the series production of nearly 900 satellites for the OneWeb constellation.

“In June 2015, we started from scratch to create a new satellite design and manufacturing company,” stated François Auque, Head of Space Systems. “In both Florida and Europe, we are now embarking on the next stage of an unprecedented venture in the space industry: a site that can mass-produce dozens of satellites every month. All this, of course, without affecting the levels of quality and technology that are essential when it comes to spacecraft – complex machines that need to operate for several years in space.”

Read more at: Airbus Defense & Space

Re-Entry: Long March 2D Rocket Body

A Long March 2D rocket stage re-entered the atmosphere on April 18, 2016 after only 14 days in orbit following the launch of the Shijian-10 recoverable research satellite that spent nearly two weeks in Low Earth Orbit to conduct microgravity science experiments and return samples to Earth for laboratory analysis.

Read more at: Spaceflight 101

Recovered SpaceX Falcon 9 Booster Moves Back to KSC for Eventual Reflight

The recovered SpaceX Falcon 9 first stage booster that successfully carried out history’s first upright touchdown from a just flown rocket onto a droneship at sea, has just been moved back to the firms processing hanger at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) for testing and eventual reflight.

Space photographers and some lucky tourists coincidentally touring through Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in the right place at the right time on a tour bus, managed to capture exquisite up close images and videos (shown above and below) of the rockets ground transport on Tuesday, April 19, along the route from its initial staging point at Port Canaveral to a secure area on KSC.

It was quite a sight to the delight of all who experienced this remarkable moment in space history – that could one day revolutionize space flight by radically slashing launch costs via recycled rockets. The boosters nine first stage Merlin 1 D engines were wrapped in a protective sheath during the move as seen in the up close imagery.

Read more at: Universe Today

First Direct Evidence of Ancient Mars’s Oxygen-rich Atmosphere

Rocks on the surface of Mars have yielded the best clue yet that the planet once had an atmosphere rich in oxygen.

Mars owes its sobriquet “the Red Planet” to the abundance of iron oxide, otherwise known as rust, on its surface. But in addition to all that iron, NASA’s Curiosity rover has now found substantial amounts of manganese oxide in rocks in Mars’s Gale crater.

“We found 3 per cent of rocks have high manganese oxide content,” Agnès Cousin of the Research Institute in Astrophysics and Planetology in Toulouse, France, told the European Geophysical Union meeting in Vienna, Austria, earlier this week. “That requires abundant water and strongly oxidising conditions, so the atmosphere may have contained much more oxygen than we thought.”

Mars’s current atmosphere is 95 per cent carbon dioxide and contains only trace amounts of oxygen. Nevertheless, many researchers have argued that Mars must once have been rich in atmospheric oxygen. This is the most direct evidence to date, the Curiosity team claim.

Read more at: New Scientist

Chinese Space Baby Research Lands in Mongolia

We’ve solved many of the problems associated with space travel. Humans can spend months in the zero-gravity of space, they can perform zero-gravity space-walks and repair spacecraft, they can walk on the surface of the Moon, and they can even manage, ahem, personal hygiene in space. We’re even making progress in understanding how to grow food in space. But one thing remains uncertain: can we make baby humans in space?

According to a recent successful Chinese experiment, the answer is a tentative yes. Sort of.

The Chinese performed a 96-hour experiment to test the viability of mammal embryos in space. They placed 6,000 mouse embryos in a micro-wave sized chamber aboard a satellite, to see if they would develop into blastocysts. The development of embryos into blastocysts is a crucial step in reproduction. Once the blastocysts have developed, they attach themselves to the wall of the uterus. Cameras on the inside of the chamber allowed Chinese scientists on Earth to monitor the experiment.

Read more at: Universe Today

Mammal Embryos can Grow Normally in Space

Chinese scientists have announced that they have been able to develop mice embryos within a microgravity satellite, the first time mammalian embryos have ever been developed in space.

The satellite was launched on April 6, carrying with it 6,000 embryos. These were placed in a self-sufficient containment unit which CC-TV, China’s state news television network, describes as “the size of a microwave oven.” The embryos were in very early stages of development, and 600 of those embryos were placed under a high-resolution camera, which would take photos every four hours for four days of their growth. Duan Enkui, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told CC-TV scientists noticed the cells had entered blastocyst, the stage where noticeable cell differentiation occurs, about 72 hours after the satellite’s launch. That’s the same the timeline embryonic development takes on Earth.

Read more at: Popular Mechanics

Mice Flown in Space Show Nascent Liver Damage, Researcher Says

In a discovery with implications for long-term spaceflight and future missions to Mars, a researcher at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus has found that mice flown aboard the space shuttle Atlantis returned to Earth with early signs of liver disease.

“Prior to this study we really didn’t have much information on the impact of spaceflight on the liver,” said the study’s lead author Karen Jonscher, PhD, an associate professor of anesthesiology and a physicist at CU Anschutz. “We knew that astronauts often returned with diabetes-like symptoms but they usually resolved quickly.”

But the prospect of liver damage raises new concerns.

The mice studied spent 13.5 days aboard the space shuttle. When they returned, Jonscher and her colleagues were able to collect liver samples. They found that spaceflight appeared to activate specialized liver cells that may go on to induce scarring and cause long-term damage to the organ.

Read more at: Phys.org

Space Agency Reveals Plans to Land on Mars by 2020

China’s top space official confirmed on Friday that an unmanned probe to Mars will besent to orbit and land on the Red Planet in 2020.

Xu Dazhe, head of the China National Space Administration, said the central governmentapproved the Mars mission on Jan 11, and 2020 was chosen because it will be a timespecifically suitable for a probe to land.

The favorable launch window appears every 26 months, so Chinese scientists are carefullyplanning the mission to make sure the window won’t be missed, he said.

The probe will conduct scientific research on the Martian soil, environment, atmosphereand water, opening a new chapter in the country’s deep-space exploration program, theofficial said.

Read more at: People.cn

Re-Entry: Molniya 1-93 Military Communications Satellite

The final Molniya 1 Military Communications Satellite re-entered the atmosphere on April 16, 2016 after over 12 years in orbit. Launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in February 2004 atop a Molniya rocket, the 1,600-Kilogram satellite operated from a highly elliptical orbit with its high point over the northern hemisphere to deliver secure communications to the Russian military and government users.

Read more at: Spaceflight 101

How do Women Deal with Having a Period … in Space?

Sally Ride’s tampons might be the most-discussed tampons in the world. Before Ride became the first American woman in space, scientists pondered her tampons, weighed them, and NASA’s professional sniffer smelled them—better to take deodorized or non-deodorized?—to make sure they wouldn’t smell too strongly in a confined space capsule. Engineers considered exactly how many she might need for a week in space. (Is 100 the right number?, they famously asked her. No, Ride said. That is not the right number.)

The engineers were trying to be thoughtful, though; reportedly they packed the tampons with their strings connected so that they wouldn’t float away. I imagine Sally Ride’s tampons hovering like sausage links in the space shuttle, and wonder if the male astronauts ever came across them and, embarrassed, tried to float quickly away.

Read more at: National Geographic

Five European Satellites Ready for Soyuz Flight to Custom Orbits

The term “direct flight” will go to new heights Friday with a four-hour flight by a Soyuz rocket and its Fregat upper stage to deliver five satellites to three distinct orbital destinations hundreds of miles above Earth.

The Russian Soyuz booster — crowned by a Fregat upper stage — is set for liftoff at 2102:13 GMT (5:02:13 p.m. EDT) Friday from the Guiana Space Center, a European-run spaceport on the northern shore of South America.

The rocket will take three laps around the planet before its job is complete to place in orbit Europe’s Sentinel 1B environmental monitoring spacecraft, France’s Microscope physics experiment and three student-built CubeSats from universities in Belgium, Italy and Denmark.

Read more at: Spaceflight Now

NASA Successfully has Launched the First Test Rocket for the Expedition to Mars

NASA successfully tested the first RS-25 rocket engine for 500 seconds on March 10th. The incident was a major milestone for the future of space exploration. The RS-25 rocket will be used as part of the Space Launch System (SLS), which is designed to send astronauts to unexplored territories, including asteroids and Mars.

“What a great moment for NASA and Stennis,” said Rick Gilbrech, director of NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. “We have exciting days ahead with a return to deep space and a journey to Mars, and this test is a very big step in that direction.”

According to a press release made by NASA, “The next time rocket engine No. 2059 fires for that length of time, it will be carrying humans on their first deep-space mission in more than 45 years.”

Read more at: Space.News

Watch Out SpaceX: China’s Space Start Up Industry Takes Flight

While SpaceX is leading the charge of private space companies in the United States, a new generation of Chinese start ups are entering the space race, backed by universities and hedge funds. The key difference is that these firms are starting small, focusing mostly on the goal of launching microsatellites.

First up is Onespace, founded in June 2015, with support from the National Defense Science and Industry Bureau. Their flagship rocket is a 59 ton space launch vehicle with a launch date of 2018. It is designed to place a 500kg payload in low Earth orbit. Onespace hopes to launch microsatellites at a cost of 100,000 yuan per kilogram (or $6,500 per pound). They plan on displaying a rocket model in the Zhuhai 2016 Airshow, and completing a prototype by late 2017. Onespace also has ambitions eventually to build a manned space capsule.

Read more at: Popsci

Scientists Explain Astronauts’ Feeling of Awe

Scientists have analyzed the statements that astronauts have made when they see Earth from above, and landed on a common, powerful theme: a sense of awe and transcendence.

David Yaden, a research scientist at the University of Pennsylvania, examined the quotations from astronauts that appeared in places like interviews or books.

The awe the scientists detected “seems to be triggered by viewing Earth from orbit,” Yaden told FoxNews.com. “It seemed to be this unique context for triggering this very overwhelming experience.” While feelings of awe and transcendence— a connection to something much bigger— are frequently associated with religion, what’s interesting about awe in spaceflight, Yaden said, is that it occurs in a scientific, secular context.

Read more at: FoxNews

Can India Overtake US in Commercial Space Launch Industry?

Claiming that India subsidizes its space launch industry is a protectionist step by US-based launch companies that see the competitive advantages of its challenge, says Dr. Sreeram Chaulia, professor at the Jindal School of International Affairs.

The US private space industry has expressed its concern over the use of low cost Indian-made launch vehicles for putting American satellites into orbits. Manufacturers suspect India’s government of subsidizing its launchers and fear that US-made launchers will be priced out of the market.

Read more at: RT.com

15 Years of Europe on the International Space Station

On 23 April 2001, Italian ESA Umberto Guidoni made history as the first European astronaut to board the International Space Station.

Guidoni had been launched on four days earlier, on 19 April, on Space Shuttle Endeavour as part of its seven-strong STS-100 crew from Kennedy Space Centre, with a liftoff at 20:41 CEST.

The 11-day STS-100 mission was the ninth Shuttle visit to the Space Station and would feature two space walks. The Shuttle docked with the International Space Station some 260 km above Earth on 21 April. The hatches between Endeavour and the Space Station were opened another two days later, on 23 April, allowing the Shuttle crew and Station occupants to greet one another for the first time.

Read more at: Spaceref

EGNOS – the Lifesaving Potential of More Accurate GPS

At the Danish Air Ambulance base in Billund, satellite navigation is a true lifesaver in the sky.

The air ambulance service, operated by the Norwegian Air Ambulance in Denmark, is among the first to use a new European satellite system, EGNOS, that makes it safer to fly in low visibility.

Johannes Traberg Christiansen, a project manager at Danish Air Ambulance, says: “Bad weather is a big issue. We have a lot of rainy days, a lot of days of fog, and mists, and low cloud ceiling.”

Before the service started using EGNOS, around 10 percent of missions had to be cancelled due to bad weather – 300 incidents a year in Denmark alone. “If we didn’t have a satellite signal, we weren’t able to bring a patient to the hospital, and therefore the patient wouldn’t get the best treatment. For the person who gets the pre-hospital care and is flown to the hospital, it’s a matter of life and death,” says Christiansen.

Read more at: EuroNews

Enormous Meteor Fireball Seen Across US Midwest, 15 April 2016

A meteor streaked across the St. Louis area on Friday at about 10:16pm. We received many reports from viewers about the shooting star. Sightings of the streak of greenish-blue light were reported in four states, Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, and Tennessee.

Two of our web cameras caught a great view of the meteor, Eckert’s in Belleville, IL, and Mattress Direct in South St. Louis County . In the Belleville view, you’ll see the green object streak across the screen followed by a spider walking across the camera lens.

We are in the midst of the Lyrid meteor shower, which is active each year in mid to late April. In 2016, the peak of this shower is expected on the morning of April 22, so there could be more shooting stars.

Read more at: Sott.net

First Light F-35 Helmet Test a Success

The first test of a new, lightweight F-35 helmet was successful, according to the program office, a promising sign that the Pentagon can qualify and implement all three fixes to the jet’s escape system by the end of the year.

On March 31 at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 conducted the first test combining all three solutions designed to reduce the risk of neck injury to F-35 pilots during ejection, according to spokesman Joe DellaVedova. Once the full gamut of testing is completed, hopefully by the end of the summer, the JPO can begin implementing the two modifications to the ejection seat and issuing the new Generation III “light” helmet to the fleet, he said.

Read more at: Defense News

Suitsat Might be the Creepiest Satellite Ever

On February 3, 2006, commander Bill McArthur and flight engineer Valery Tokarev stepped outside the ISS for a spacewalk. Cameras gave audiences watching the live feed on NASA TV a view of the men working, half obscured by solar panels. Then the cameras showed a body floating off into space. Tokarev nonchalantly bid adieu to his untethered colleague with an unceremonious “Goodbye, Mr. Smith.” The figure might have looked like a man, but it wasn’t. It was Suitsat, which is perhaps the creepiest satellite of all time.

Read more at: Popsci

Some Meteorites are Million-Dollar Finds, Others are ‘Meteorwrongs’

This polished sphere was fashioned from a meteorite that crash-landed into a dry riverbed in Russia. On Wednesday it soared again, not through space but at an auction house, snagging $130,000 — nine times its asking price.

The meteorite was a part of a cosmic collection put up for sale at Christie’s in London. But it was one of only a few space rocks to take off. The meteorite encrusted in extraterrestrial gemstones, given a high valuation of $1.1 million, did not sell.

Neither did some of the other heavy hitters such as the $639,000Martian meteorite, a $426,600 chunk of the Chelyabinsk fireballthat exploded over Russia in 2013 nor the $355,500 rock that looks like a metallic screaming face.

Read more at: NY Times

N. Korea Tests Submarine-launched Missile: South

North Korea on Saturday tested what appeared to be a submarine-launched ballistic missile in the Sea of Japan, the South Korean defence ministry said.

“North Korea launched a projectile which was believed to be a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) around 6:30 pm (0930 GMT) in the East Sea (Sea of Japan) near the northeastern port of Sinpo”, a defence ministry spokesman said.

“We are keeping close tabs on the North Korean military and maintaining a full defence posture”, he said.

It was not immediately known whether the launch was a success, he added.

Read more at: SpaceDaily

China Defends Right to Carry Out ‘Normal’ Missile Tests

China said on Thursday it was “normal” to carry out ballistic missile launches, after a US media report accused Beijing of having test-fired an intercontinental weapon last week.

US media site Washington Free Beacon, citing unidentified Pentagon officials, reported that China had carried out a test of its DF-41 long-range missile on April 12. The report linked the tests to tensions between Washington and Beijing over the South China Sea, noting that it came three days before a visit by US Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter.

The DF-41 missile has a range of some 14,000 kilometres (8,700 miles) and could, according to some experts, carry up to 10 nuclear warheads.

In a brief response, China’s defence ministry did not deny a test had been carried out, but dismissed media reports of a specific location as “pure speculation”. “It is normal for us to carry out scientific research tests in our own territory, according to our plans, and they are not aimed at any specific nations or targets,” said a statement on its website.

Read more at: Space Daily

Buzz Aldrin Hates Being Called the Second Man on the Moon

Buzz Aldrin is a living legend: a bona fide American hero and tireless public servant. The Apollo 11 astronaut walked on the moon and took the first selfie in space. He’s even appeared on 30 RockThe Simpsons, and in a Norwegian music video. Everywhere he goes, people adore and admire him. But as he reveals in No Dream Is Too High: Life Lessons From a Man Who Walked on the Moon, published by National Geographic, his life has had its challenges and tragedy. His mother took her own life. He himself battled depression and alcoholism. But today, at the ripe old age of 86, he is still dreaming big.

Speaking from Philadelphia during a stop on his book tour, he explains why being called “the second man to walk on the moon” bothers him, how stories about him seeing a UFO on the way to the moon are groundless, and why he is convinced that the United States will land a man on Mars within two decades.

Read more at: National Geographic

Congested and Contested: Current Trends in Space Security

A presentation on Trends in space security from Secure World Foundation

Read more at: Secure World Foundation