Preview: Cygnus Ship Sending Abundance of Science to ISS

Carrying more science research gear to the International Space Station than ever launched before by U.S. commercial logistics vehicles, the next Orbital ATK Cygnus freighter takes flight Tuesday.

The cargo ship, ceremonially dubbed the S.S. John Glenn, will be boosted into orbit atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral at 11:11 a.m. EDT (1511 GMT).

A 30-minute launch window, spanning 15 minutes before and 15 minutes after the exact moment the station’s orbital plane passes over the Complex 41 launch pad, allows flexibility for the Atlas 5 to wait out unfavorable weather or seek resolution to a technical issue that could crop up in the countdown. Liftoff will be possible during any of five specific opportunities — at every 7-minute 30-second interval — that simplified the analytical work for mission control. The rocket’s in-flight steering capabilities will be employed during ascent to guide Cygnus into the station’s orbital plane

Read more at: Spaceflight Now

Commercial Crew Flight Assignments Could Come this Summer

One of the NASA astronauts training to fly on test flights of commercial crew vehicles said he expects the agency to make flight assignments for those missions as soon as this summer.

In a discussion with reporters here April 6 outside a simulator of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner commercial crew vehicle, Robert Behnken said those upcoming crew assignments will allow astronauts who have been training on both the Starliner and SpaceX’s Dragon v2 to specialize on one vehicle. “I think it’ll be about a year or so from flight,” he said when asked when he expected crew assignments to be made. “If the schedules hold, I think that it’s possible this summer we would see people identified for the flights.”

Both companies are currently planning to perform test flights by the middle of 2018. SpaceX’s schedule calls for a crewed flight test to the International Space Station in May 2018, six months after an uncrewed test flight of the Dragon v2. Boeing expects to do a crewed test flight to the ISS in August 2018, two months after an uncrewed Starliner flight.

Read more at: Space News

People Totally Freaked Out About this Fireball in the Sky

Residents across Southern California can breathe a sigh of relief: what you saw last night really was a meteor, not a plane crashing. The meteor was spotted in the night sky across the southern portion of the state, including Los Angeles and San Diego, and even some reports from as far east as Phoenix.

There were concerns in Hesperia, California, a town about 70 miles northeast of Los Angeles, that the streak may have been a crashing plane, but those worries were put to rest. Meteors are small pieces of dust, rock and ice that slam into Earth’s atmosphere. Because of the intense friction produced during those collisions, the meteor leaves a streak of light in its wake.

Read more at: Mashable

Humans to Mars Official NASA Goal, But What About Radiation?

Human exploration of Mars is now an official goal of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Last month, U.S. President Donald Trump signed a bill to increase NASA’s budget. The law sets spending at $19.5 billion for the 12-month period starting on October 1, 2017. Congress will need to approve the money. And for the first time, the NASA budget adds human exploration of Mars as an official goal for the agency.

The president spoke at the signing ceremony. Trump said he was happy to sign the spending plan into law. He added that for almost 60 years NASA has inspired millions of Americans to imagine distant worlds and a better future on earth. “It’s been a long time since a bill like this has been signed, reaffirming our national commitment to the core mission of NASA: human space exploration, space science and technology.”

Read more at: voanews

Two Launches from Russia’s New Vostochny Space Center Due this Year — Roscosmos

Russia plans to hold two launches from its newest Vostochny space center in the Far East this December, the head of the Roscosmos space corporation told the Rossiiskaya Gazeta government daily.

“Everything goes according to the schedule. We plan Souyz-2 launches in December under the state program to orbit the Canopus-V and the Meteor-M remote sensing satellites,” Igor Komarov said in an interview to be published on the Cosmonautics Day, marked on April 12.

Chief engineers of the Vostochny project earlier announced that the space facility was ready for two launches that may take place in late 2017, but gave no further details.  The state corporation expects that up to ten launches, including commercial ones, will be held annually at Vostochny, which is still under construction.

Read more at: TASS

Space Station Crew Returns to Earth Safely on Soyuz Capsule

Three space fliers have safely touched down on Earth after almost six months aboard the International Space Station.

NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko all arrived at the station together for Expedition 49/50 mission in October 2016, and they reached solid ground this morning (April 10) at 7:20 a.m. EDT (1120 GMT) in Kazakhstan. They spent 173 days in space during their flight.

“It was a textbook touchdown,” NASA spokesperson Rob Navias said during live NASA TV commentary after the landing. “The Soyuz was pulled by its main parachute onto its side, but the crew was quickly extracted and are in good shape.”

Read more at: Space.com

‘Blue Origin’ Rocket Engine’s Future Rests on Upcoming Hot-fire Tests

United Launch Alliance is set to make a decision this year on whether a Blue Origin or Aerojet Rocketdyne engine should power its Vulcan launch system. The outcome hinges on a series of hot-fire tests that will prove whether Blue Origin’s BE4 works, ULA’s chief executive told Defense News on April 6.

“It’s a big decision, and you only get to make it once, and if you pick the wrong engine it’s very difficult to come back from that, so we’re going to be very, very careful,” Tory Bruno, ULA’s president and CEO, said.

ULA — a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing — is leaning toward the BE4 because much of the engine’s development has been self-funded and it will be certified as early as 2017, two years earlier than Aerojet’s AR1, Bruno said. However, the BE4 is the first rocket engine of its size to use methane as a propellant, which introduces the possibility of combustion instability. For that reason, ULA is waiting until after fire-testing to make its final down-select, he said.

Read more at: Defense News

The Small Launch Industry is About to be Amazoned

When Jeff Bezos appeared at the 33rd Space Symposium in Colorado Springs last week, most of the coverage talked about his comment that he sells $1 billion a year in Amazon.com stock to fund Blue Origin. Or they talked about his plans to send people into suborbital space on his New Shepard vehicle, perhaps next year.

He said something else, though, that is perhaps an even bigger deal, even though it didn’t get much attention at the time. Bezos said that the reusable New Shepard propulsion module, designed to launch the crew capsule for those suborbital space tourism flights, could be fitted with an upper stage instead. That upper stage, he said, could turn New Shepard into a smallsat launch vehicle.

“I’m thinking it might be interesting to build a small second stage for this New Shepard booster because we could use it to put smallsats into orbit,” he said, according to a SpaceNews article about the event. “It would be perfectly capable of being a first stage for a small orbital vehicle.” (See also “Blue Origin’s status update”, The Space Review, this issue.)

Read more at: Space Review

Note on Recent Decays

Space-Track.org – the public outlet of data from the Joint Space Operations Center – has been experiencing persistent issues including an interruption of Tracking and Impact Prediction (TIP) Messages that provide the most accurate re-entry estimates. Spaceflight101’s Re-Entry Pages will be updated as soon as information channels from JSpOC to Space-Track are restored.

Read more at: Spaceflight 101

Lockheed Martin Debuts System to Protect Space Assets

A growing number of satellite system owners and operators need new capabilities to protect their assets and missions in space.

To address this need, Lockheed Martin has introduced iSpace – intelligent Space – which provide defense, civil, commercial, and international customers with sensor data processing, space domain awareness, command and control, and battle management capabilities for the space domain.

“Space is an important and valuable domain that has changed from a safe environment to one that is congested and threatened,” said Dr. Rob Smith, vice president of C4ISR for Lockheed Martin.

Read more at: Space Daily

NASA Funds 22 Futuristic Ideas for Space Exploration

NASA has funded 22 technology concepts that could spur giant leaps in space science and exploration down the road.

The potentially transformative space-tech ideas — which received money from the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program—include creating a linear (as opposed to rotation-based) artificial-gravity system; bioengineering microbes to prepare Martian soil for farming; and harnessing temporary variations in objects’ masses to power interstellar spacecraft, without the need for any propellant.

“The NIAC program engages researchers and innovators in the scientific and engineering communities, including agency civil servants,” Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, said in a statement.

Read more at: Scientific American

NASA Auditors Give Wake Up Call on SLS and Mars Mission

Federal auditors delivered a loud wake up call today on NASA’s hopes of sending humans to Mars in the 2030s or early 2040s. The new analysis summarized below and in the included short video says the first two launches of the Space Launch System key to the plan “face multiple cost and technical challenges that likely will affect their planned launch dates.”

Read more at: al.com

Problems Continue to Plague Russian Space Program

Russia’s space program has encountered numerous problems in recent years that has put its reliability into question. Russia’s space program had been robust for decades until things started to decline during the past ten years.

The Proton-M rocket, used as a satellite launch workhorse for Roscosmos, has failed nine times since 2007, including a spectacular July 2, 2013, crash just 32 seconds after liftoff where the booster went out of control and flew back toward the ground and exploded just a short distance from the launch pad.

According to Roscosmos, the cause of that particular failure was three Blocks of Damper Gyroscopes (BDG) that were installed incorrectly. The BDGs were responsible for providing navigational information to the Proton’s flight control system. The BDGs in question were installed rotated 180 degrees from their correct position. The bad data they relayed to the flight control system caused the rocket to veer out of control and crash.

Read more at: Spaceflight Insider

Putin Expects Breakthroughs in Space Science

Russia will go on building up its potential in the space industry and ten years to come will see the emergence of quite a few breakthrough technologies, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a special ceremony on the occasion of Cosmonautics Day.

“Competitive breakthrough products are to emerge in the coming ten years – advanced materials, components, new types of rockets and a manned spacecraft,” he said. The Russian space program is expected to “move the country forward, to serve as a powerful incentive to the development of technologies and education and help expand knowledge about space and our planet.”

“To be able to meet these challenges it is necessary to build up our own potential,” he said. “Russia has gained independent access to space from its own territory by building the Vostochny spaceport. Next to it there will emerge a new city, called Tsiolkovsky, and a new technopark offering unique conditions for space research.

Read more at: TASS

Flexible Thermoelectric Fabric lets you Power Devices Using your Body Heat

While researchers tinker away at making us part cyborg — or otherwise enhanced humans — scientists at Purdue University are working to make sure that we efficiently recycle human energy. With a specially designed fabric that can be woven to harness body heat and provide energy to power Internet of things (IoT) devices, the technology could mark a the dawning of a new age in medicine.

Using the flexible thermoelectric generator technology they designed, Kazuaki Yazawa of Purdue’s Discovery Park’s Birck Nanotechnology Center was able to weave semiconductor strings into a fabric. The technology is so precise that it can take heat from any complex surface and converts it into electricity.

Although it’s only a small amount of usable energy, it’s an improvement on existing thermoelectric generators: unlike technology before it, Yazawa’s unique semiconductor strings are far more flexible and easier to manage.

Read more at: Futurism

Trump’s Transition Team Asked NASA About Surveying the Moon for Valuable Resources

President Donald Trump’s 2018 federal budget blueprint deeply cuts the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, and other science agencies. But it largely spares NASA.

Where Trump wants to reduce the EPA’s funding by a third, effectively gutting the agency, he’s proposing a mere $200-million reduction to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s current $19.3 billion budget. The cuts mostly target NASA programs monitoring climate change and the agency’s educational outreach efforts.

Thanks to internal communications between NASA and Trump’s space transition team Motherboard has obtained through a Freedom of Information request (FOIA) and is publishing for the first time publicly here, we have some clues as to why Trump seems determined to keep the space agency mostly intact. The administration seems to be very interested in NASA’s moneymaking potential.

Read more at: Motherboard Vice

No Bathrooms, No Barf Bags: What Blue Origin’s Space Tourists Can Expect

Blue Origin founder and CEO Jeff Bezos says people who buy a ticket to fly on his company’s space tourism vehicle New Shepard will need to use the bathroom before flight, and they’d better not get sick during the trip — the company has no plans to install systems to deal with human waste.

New Shepard is the reusable, suborbital vehicle produced by Bezos’ private spaceflight company Blue Origin. Bezos, who is also founder and CEO of Amazon.com, said that after years of test flights, he is hopeful that Blue Origin will fly customers in 2018. He emphasized, however, that the company will only start flying humans on New Shepard “when it’s ready.”

On Wednesday April 5, at the 33rd annual Space Symposium, Bezos and Blue Origin revealed new details about the experience that space tourists will have on New Shepard. Bezos also discussed the company’s efforts to anticipate customer demand for space tourism, and a possible lottery for anyone who can’t afford a trip aboard New Shepard.

Read more at: Space.com

New ERAU Degree Explores What Happens to Body in Space

Strange things happen to the body in space.

When astronaut Scott Kelly returned home after spending almost a year aboard the international space station, he was 2 inches taller. Kelly later reverted to his normal height, but not all the effects were benign. His muscles weakened, he had eye problems and no one knows how cosmic radiation will affect him in years to come.

“Astronauts come back down pre-diabetic, with higher blood pressure — basically aged,” said Karen Gaines, dean of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s College of Arts and Sciences. “The question is ‘Why?’ and we don’t have all the reasons why.”

A new aerospace physiology program at ERAU could one day better explain — or even prevent or cure — aliments caused from time in the final frontier. The program examines how being in space affects the body, melding physiology fundamentals with aerospace anomalies. ERAU is collaborating with Florida Hospital to provide students with hands-on experience in clinical settings.

Read more at: news-journalonline

Dutch Smallest Supercomputer

A team of Dutch scientists has built a supercomputer the size of four pizza boxes. The Little Green Machine II has the computing power of 10,000 PCs and will be used by researchers in oceanography, computer science, artificial intelligence, financial modeling and astronomy. The computer is based at Leiden University (the Netherlands) and developed with help from IBM.

The supercomputer has a computing power of more than 0.2 Petaflops. That’s 200,000,000,000,000 calculations per second. Thereby this supercomputer equals the computing power of more than 10,000 ordinary PCs.

The researchers constructed their supercomputer from four servers with four special graphics cards each. They connected the PCs via a high-speed network. Project leader Simon Portegies Zwart (Leiden University): “Our design is very compact. You could transport it with a carrier bicycle. Besides that we only use about 1% of the electricity of a similar large supercomputer.”

Read more at: Astronomie

Exciting Times Ahead as SpaceX Inspires UK to Join Space Race

It’s been quite a year for the space industry, thus far. In the same month SpaceX announced its plans to send a spacecraft around the moon next year, the Government announced plans to enable spaceflight from the UK by 2020. Privatised commercial space might finally be coming of age.

It’s in stark contrast to the space industry, generally, which has struggled to remain relevant in the fast-moving data-lead connected world of recent years. That’s not to say the space industry is contracting, far from it. The UK’s space industry alone continues to grow over 8% per year, with annual turnover in excess of £11 billion.

Read more at: Eureka Magazine

Space Traffic Expert Moriba Jah Joins UT Austin Engineering

Moriba Jah, an astrodynamicist, former NASA navigator and renowned thought leader in space situational awareness, has joined The University of Texas at Austin as an associate professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics in the Cockrell School of Engineering.

Jah, who starts at UT Austin on April 10, previously served as the director of the Space Object Behavioral Sciences Initiative at the University of Arizona and the head of the space situational awareness program at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Prior to those roles, he led research programs in space object behavior assessment and prediction for the Air Force Research Laboratory. He spent his early career as a spacecraft navigator for the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory from 1999 to 2006, where he charted courses for the Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Odyssey, Mars Exploration Rovers and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Read more at: University of Texas

Legendary Flight Director Praises SpaceX for “Taking Risks”

Former NASA Flight Director Gene Kranz is best known for his prominent role in bringing the crew of Apollo 13 safely back to Earth—and the now-famous saying “Failure is not an option.” But as NASA and the United States prepare to embark on human missions back into deep space, Kranz warned this week that the country can’t be too timid as it does so. It must embrace some risk if it wishes to go back to the Moon and beyond.

During a panel discussion with other Apollo flight directors in Houston, Kranz was asked how NASA accomplished so much so quickly in the 1960s and early 1970s but hasn’t been back to deep space since then. By some accounts, in the decades following the Moon landings, NASA has succumbed to a “mind-numbing” bureaucracy and a “paralyzing” cultural requirement for perfection, especially after two space shuttle accidents. Kranz said NASA benefited from a different culture in the 1960s.

Read more at: Ars Technica

If Jeff Bezos is Spending a Billion a Year on His Space Venture, He Just Started

“My business model right now … for Blue Origin is I sell about $1 billion of Amazon stock a year and I use it to invest in Blue Origin,” Jeff Bezos, the billionaire founder of Amazon and patron of Blue Origin, a promising new space enterprise, said last week.

But is that really the business model? Bezos, like any insider at a publicly traded company, needs to report major stock sales to the US Securities and Exchange Commission, a disclosure put in place after the Enron scandal at the beginning of this century. When Blue Origin declined to provide further details on Bezos’ claimed investment, Quartz pulled Bezos’ stock disclosures going back to 2004 to see how often he has really sold his stock. Answer: Not so often as implied.

Read more at: QZ

Space Warfare: ‘US Has Already Taken Out Satellite With Missile’

This week a meeting was held in the state of Colorado in the United States for space experts to come together and talk about the future of space exploration. Some military officials spoke about the possibilities of moving warfare into space.

Radio Sputnik discussed this matter with professor David Stupples, a cyber and electronic warfare expert at City University, London. Radio Sputnik discussed this matter with professor David Stupples, a cyber and electronic warfare expert at City University, London. “I think what you need to go back to, is the speech by President Putin in 2007, to say that information warfare is going to be a key part of future battles. If we understand the concept of that, we can turn and look at where the information warfare is going,” Stupples said.

He further said that what is going on in the cyberspace today was previously unheard of; such as the hacking of large corporations and attacks against organizations by penetrating into their data systems.

Read more at: Sputnik News

Rocket Science Pays Off as Musk Rival Avio Surges After Listing

Italian rocket manufacturer Avio SpA surged on its trading debut in Milan after becoming the first space-launcher specialist to go public in a sector crowded with newcomers including Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

Shares of Avio jumped 11 percent following the listing Monday, which came after a merger with investment vehicle Space2 SpA and marked the exit of private-equity funds led by Cinven Ltd., while doubling the stake held by Italian aerospace and defense group Leonardo SpA.

Chief Executive Giulio Ranzo said in an interview that Avio, maker of the Vega rocket, will now be able to tap capital in a more flexible way, something that’s crucial as the launcher industry is targeted by well-funded entrants such as SpaceX and Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin LLC.

Read more at: Bloomberg

Commentary: Risk, Reward, Regulation & Space Tourism

Writing at Quartz, Tim Fernholz notes that early space tourists “won’t benefit from the tight regulation we’ve come to expect in everything from air transport to private automobiles.” Although the Federal Aviation Administration enjoys approval authority over launches, the Commercial Space Act limits government interference in post-launch space flight.

That’s a good thing, for three reasons.

The first reason is that the United States is neither the only country in the world nor the only country capable of hosting launch facilities. If Blue Origin, SpaceX, Virgin Galactic and other companies can’t do the things they aim to do in America, they’ll do those things elsewhere, in countries where governments are happy to mind their own business in exchange for an economic boost and more tax revenues.

Read more at: Monitor

Bad Clocks, Brexit and What’s Happening at the European Space Policy Conference

Speakers at the 9th Annual Conference on European Space Policy wasted no time in addressing the somewhat worrying failure of several Galileo onboard clocks, as revealed by European Space Agency Director General Johan-Dietrich Woerner at a press briefing earlier in January in Paris. He made clear at the time that the clock failures, while indeed troubling, had had no effect on the operational integrity of the Galileo system.

Certain sources, however, seemed to want to jump on the clock story as another confirmation of a misguided and failed approach of the entire Galileo program, if not the entire European Union. Reactions from some quarters involved crying out, “There they go again, another gaffe for Galileo!”, and then watching as the relevant officials squirmed.

Read more at: Inside GNSS

SpaceX Doesn’t Scare Asia’s Space Players

The commercial space industry is dominated by Western heavyweights, such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. But players in Asia say they aren’t worried about that competition.

As corporate spending eclipses government activity throughout the global space sector, Japan’s PD Aerospace and China’s Kuang-Chi Science are among Asia’s homegrown private firms planning to offer spaceflight services to civilians.

Shuji Ogawa, CEO of PD Aerospace, acknowledges that it’s unlikely Asian companies can rival SpaceX, Virgin Galactic or Blue Origin, but he said there’s more than enough demand to go around. “When we have reached their present stage, they will have advanced further,” he said. “Space tourism is a universal dream, not only for Japanese but for all people. It is important for us to view the Earth from space.”

Read more at: CNBC

G-7 Foreign Ministers Call for Safe, Secure, Sustainable Space Environment

The foreign ministers of the G-7 countries issued a joint communique yesterday in which they recognized the importance of space activities and called for a safe, secure, sustainable and stable space environment, increased transparency, and strengthened norms of responsible behavior.  At the same time, the G-7 Nonproliferation Directors Group issued a statement on non-proliferation and disarmament that includes four paragraphs about space that goes further, urging, for example, that countries refrain from destruction of space objects — intentionally or unintentionally.

The G-7 is an informal group of industrialized countries — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States — that meets annually  Their foreign ministers met April 10-11 in Lucca, Italy in preparation for the upcoming heads-of-government summit next month.  Their 30-page joint communique following the meeting includes one paragraph about space.

Read more at: Spacepolicy Online

Congressman Jim Bridenstine Says He’s Still in Running to Lead NASA

Oklahoma First District Congressman Jim Bridenstine says he is still in the running to be the new head of NASA.

Bridenstine told News On 6 he was recently asked back for another interview by the Trump administration.  The Republican said, “I don’t know what the end result is, but I keep interviewing, which is an indicator that maybe I’m still in the mix for it.”

As a legislator, Bridenstine has proposed a bill that would broadly increase NASA’s activity in space exploration. Bridenstine flies E-2Cs in the U.S. Navy Reserve and was once the head of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum. He has represented the 1st District which includes Tulsa and Bartlesville since 2013.

Read more at: Newson6