TOP NEWS

China Suffers Its Second Launch Failure In Less Than A Month

The Long March 3B rocket is one of China’s oldest active and most reliable boosters, with more than five dozen successful launches. On Thursday, however, the rocket failed when it attempted to launch an Indonesian telecommunications satellite, Nusantara Dua, from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center.

Although ground-based observations showed the first and second stages of the rocket performing nominally, apparently something went wrong with the final stage needed for a boost into geostationary transfer orbit. Chinese media reports indicate that the third stage failed due to unspecified reasons and that the 5.5-ton satellite fell back into Earth’s atmosphere.

Read more at: Arstechnica

Parachutes Guide China’s Rocket Debris Safely To Earth

China has been testing high-tech parachutes to control rocket debris and make space launches safer, according to the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT).

During the March 9 launch of a Long March-3B rocket carrying a satellite of the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System, a booster was equipped with parachutes and control devices.

After the booster separated from the rocket, the parachutes opened in a sequence to control its attitude and direction, and data of the fall trajectory and landing site were sent to ground control in Xichang, southwest China’s Sichuan Province.

It shows China has achieved a breakthrough in the technology of precise positioning of rocket debris, said CALT.

Read more at: Xinhuanet

Boeing Will Redo Bungled Test Flight Of Its Starliner Spacecraft

Boeing said it will repeat a test flight of its Starliner spacecraft after several major issues plagued its first attempt. The decision casts more uncertainty on when Starliner can be used to begin carrying NASA astronauts into orbit — a milestone that’s already years overdue.

The company said in a statement Monday that it will repeat the uncrewed test flight so that it can complete “all flight test objectives” and fully evaluate Starliner’s design. The news was first reported by the Washington Post.
 

Read more at: CNN

Russia Suspends Soyuz Rocket Production Amid Coronavirus

The manufacturer of Russia’s workhorse Soyuz-2 rocket said it has paused production to keep factory workers safe during the coronavirus pandemic. 

In a transcript released by the Kremlin April 10, Dmitry Baranov, general director of the Samara Space Center, said the company has 52 Soyuz rockets already built — 40 in storage and 12 at spaceports awaiting missions. 

Russia uses Soyuz-2 rockets to launch crews and cargo to the International Space Station and to put up government satellites. European launch provider Arianespace also uses the Russian-built Soyuz-2 for satellite launches. 

Read more at: Spacenews

Astronauts Brace For Return To Earth – And Coronavirus: “It Is Quite Surreal For Us”

Nearly seven months aboard the International Space Station may be an extreme case of social distancing and isolation, but astronaut Jessica Meir says she expects to feel more isolated than ever when she returns next week to a planet in the grip of the coronavirus.

“It is quite surreal for us to see this whole situation unfolding on the planet below,” Meir told CBS News during an orbital news conference Friday. “The Earth still looks just as stunning as always from up here, so it’s difficult to believe all the changes that have taken place.

Read more at: CBSnews

Russia Conducts First Soyuz 2.1a Human Launch; MS-16 Crew Arrives At Station

For the first time since 2002, humans departed for the International Space Station from Kazakhstan on a rocket other than the veteran Soyuz-FG, which was retired last year.  Now, the Soyuz 2.1a rocket took up crew launch duties for the Russian element of crew support for the Station. 

The Soyuz MS-16 three-person crew lifted off from Site No. 31/6 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, on 9 April 2020 at 08:05:06 UTC (04:05:06 EDT) to begin a four orbit, six hour rendezvous with the Station that resulted in the vehicle docking with the ISS at 14:15 UTC (10:15 EDT).

Read more at: NASA Spaceflight

3 Proton-M Rockets Sent Back to Manufacturer Over Quality Control Issues – Space Industry Source

Three Proton-M heavy-lift launch vehicles designated for launching satellites from the Baikonur Cosmodrome will be returned to the Khrunichev rocket manufacturer in Moscow so that low-quality parts can be replaced, a source in the space and rocket industry has told Sputnik.

The defective parts, believed to have been manufactured between 2015 and 2016, were said to have been discovered last month due to checks under a new quality control system introduced by Roscosmos.

Read more at: Sputniknews

SPACE HAZARDS

FCC Risks Political Fire With Draft Space Junk Rules

New draft FCC rules designed to prevent satellite collisions and creation of dangerous space debris have sparked strong backlash from a number of commercial firms — in contrast to past advocacy by some within DoD for even more cautious operational practices.

Industry sources say that top execs from a number of companies are already planning to take their concerns to the National Space Council, and to senior officials at the Commerce Department in hopes of garnering political backing for their concerns.

Read more at: Breakingdefense

Numerica Expands Space Surveillance Services Aimed At Satellite Operators

Numerica, a space data provider that operates a network of deep space telescopes, is launching a new service aimed at government and commercial satellite operators, the company announced April 9.

Numerica’s space data services have evolved from basic object tracking to provide a “broader space neighborhood watch and real-time information to help inform decision makers,” Jeff Aristoff, Numerica’s vice president of space systems, said in a statement to SpaceNews.

Read more at: Spacenews

Senators Ask GAO To Review FCC Oversight Of Satellite Constellations

Two senators have asked the U.S. Government Accountability Office to review the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to exempt satellite constellations like SpaceX’s Starlink from an environmental review, given those satellites’ effect on the night sky.

In an April 2 letter to Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) asked the GAO to examine the FCC’s decision, made decades ago, to not subject satellite systems seeking FCC licenses from environmental assessments.

“Although we are enthusiastic about the increased broadband access these satellite constellations might enable, astronomers are concerned that launching thousands of bright satellites into space, as the FCC has approved doing, will interfere with their scientific research,” Duckworth and Schatz state in their letter, obtained by SpaceNews.

Read more at: Spacenews

NEW SPACE

U.S. Space Force To Launch Three Smallsat Missions On Launcherone

VOX Space, the Virgin Orbit subsidiary which provides responsive and affordable launch services for the U.S. national security community, has been selected to launch three dedicated missions for the U.S. Space Force (USSF), delivering multiple spacecraft to orbit for the Department of Defense (DoD) Space Test Program-S28 (STP-S28). This launch service contract — awarded by the USSF Rocket Systems Launch Program (RSLP) Office in Albuquerque, NM — is the first task order under the Orbital Services Program-4 (OSP-4) Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract. 

OSP-4 allows the U.S. government to rapidly acquire flexible, resilient and affordable launch services, unlocking the ability to launch missions to space within 12 to 24 months of the task order award. This responsiveness is a critical capability in today’s contested space domain.   

Read more at: Voxspace

Rocket Lab Catches Falling Electron Booster With Helicopter In Reusability Test (Video)

Rocket Lab just took a dramatic step toward booster reuse.The spaceflight company announced last year that it wants to start recovering and reflying the first stages of its two-stage Electron rocket, which gives small satellites dedicated rides to orbit.Rocket Lab’s recovery vision doesn’t involve SpaceX-style vertical booster landings; the 57-foot-tall (17 meters) Electron just isn’t built for that, company officials have said. So, the plan is to pluck falling Electron first stages out of the sky using a helicopter.

Read more at: Space.com

Russia Will Cut Space Launch Prices By 30 Percent In Response To SpaceX Predatory Pricing

According to Roscosmos chief, the market price of a SpaceX launch is about $60 million but NASA pays between 1.5 and 4 times more for it.

Russia will slash the price of its space launch services by 30 percent to counter what it sees as dumping by Elon Musk’s SpaceX company, the head of Russia’s state space agency Roscosmos said Friday.

“Our pricing policy is our response to the dumping policy of US companies that are funded from the budget,” Rogozin said in his report to President Putin.

Read more at: Spacedaily

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

The World’s Largest Plane Will Soon Be Used To Launch Hypersonic Aircraft Capable Of Traveling 6 Times The Speed Of Sound

The world’s largest aircraft has a new mission, facilitating hypersonic travel.

Spaceflight-oriented aerospace company Stratolaunch Systems announced that its flagship aircraft, a six-engine carrier ship with two fuselages, will be a launch and test pad for the hypersonic vehicles of the future.

“Our hypersonic testbeds will serve as a catalyst in sparking a renaissance in hypersonic technologies for our government, the commercial sector, and academia,” said Jean Ford, Stratolaunch’s CEO, in a statement on the company’s website.

Read more at: Business insider

Private Companies Find Role In Developing Nuclear Power For Space Travel

Space is about to go nuclear — at least if private companies get their way.

At the 23rd annual Commercial Space Transportation Conference (CST) in Washington, D.C., in January, a panel of nuclear technology experts and leaders in the commercial space industry spoke about developments of the technology that could propel future spacecraft faster and more efficiently than current systems can.

Nuclear technology has powered spacecraft such as NASA’s Mars rovers, the Cassini mission and the two Voyagers that are currently exploring the outer reaches of our solar system. But those fuel sources rely on the passive decay of radioactive plutonium, converting heat from that process into electricity to power the spacecraft.

Read more at: Space.com

What Is The Origin Of Water On Earth?

While everybody agrees that our blue planet is rich in water, this observation is at odd, first, with the exploration of other rocky planets, genuinely lacking surface water, and second, with the idea of a giant impact between the proto-Earth and a planetary embryo the size of Mars that created the Moon. Such a catastrophic event should have vaporized any pre-existing water, leaving behind a dry Earth. After the giant impact catastrophe, we have thus two options to explain the presence of water on Earth : either water was brought back later, after the catastrophe, notably by icy or water-rich asteroids; or the giant impact was not big enough to vaporize all the water on Earth.

Read more at: Eurekalert

Trump Wants To Mine The Moon. This Is How NASA Will Do That Using ‘Roomba’-Sized Rovers

NASA wants to send astronauts back to the moon—and then mine it to create a self-sustaining moon base. We already knew that, but an executive order signed by President Donald Trump yesterday makes it clear that the U.S. will disregard any international treaty that attempts to limit that.

In 2024, the Artemis 3 mission will touchdown at the Moon’s South Pole. The one female and one male astronauts will become the first moonwalkers of the 21st century, 55 years after Apollo 17 blasted-off. 

Although Artemis 3 is planned to include only a brief visit to the lunar surface, NASA has grander plans for future Artemis missions in the late 2020s—“a sustained lunar presence,” in fact. 

Read more at: Forbes

How Blockchain Can Change The Space Industry

Cryptocurrency, blockchain and decentralized data are all buzzwords we’ve seen floating around in recent years, but the technology is so new that it’s hard to see direct applications to our lives, even in space exploration. But blockchain and space have more ties than you might expect.

What these concepts all describe is a different way of storing data, a way that is decentralized (meaning it uses a shared database), transparent (which allows users to see changes to the database) and secure. Within this type of system, users have copies of the data and, because data in a blockchain is stored with cryptographic algorithms, blockchain is hard to hack.

Read more at: Space.com

SPACE POLICY

New Executive Order Calls for International Agreements for Space Resource Rights, But No New Treaty

President Trump signed a new Executive Order today that clarifies the U.S. position on whether a new treaty should be negotiated to grant rights to space resources like water and minerals mined on the Moon.  The U.S. stance against new treaties is well known, but the Executive Order formalizes it.

The concept of mining the Moon, asteroids and other space objects for precious resources to be used in space or back on Earth has been around for decades.  Perhaps the best known advocate was the late Prof. Gerard O’Neill of Princeton University beginning in the 1970s.  Many others followed in his footsteps. 

Read more at: Spacepolicy online

Russian Space Agency Says Trump Paving Way To Seize Other Planets

The Russian space agency, Roscosmos, accused Donald Trump on Tuesday of creating a basis to take over other planets by signing an executive order outlining U.S. policy on commercial mining in space.

The executive order, which Roscosmos said damaged the scope for international cooperation in space, was signed on Monday.

It said the United States would seek to negotiate “joint statements and bilateral and multilateral arrangements with foreign states regarding safe and sustainable operations for the public and private recovery and use of space resources”.

Read more at: Reuters

Finance Ministry Cut Off Budget of ISRO due to Corona Lockdown

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has also been hit by the coronavirus. One, the work on all the centers of ISRO has been reduced due to the lockdown. After this, Corona has also attacked ISRO’s budget. The government has made major cuts in the budget of the first quarter (April to June) of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) for the fiscal year 2020-21.

It is difficult to say how much will be affected by ISRO’s functioning due to this deduction. But due to lockdown and limited access to money, many projects of ISRO can be delayed. That is, many missions will be delayed this year. Or they can also be postponed till next year.

Read more at: Newstracklive

New Document Reveals Significant Fall From Grace For Boeing’s Space Program

Much has been made of Boeing’s difficulties in aviation, most notably with the 737 Max. This airplane has been grounded for a year after two crashes that killed 346 people between them, collectively making for the worst air disaster since September 11, 2001.

Then there are the issues with the company’s KC-46 Pegasus tanker program, which is $3 billion over budget, three years behind schedule, and beset by technical issues. Most recently, in March, the Air Force revealed that it had upgraded chronic leaks in the aircraft’s fuel system to a Category I deficiency. This is a problem for an aircraft that is supposed to perform aerial refueling.

Read more at: Arstechnica

Chairwomen Johnson and Horn Comment on Independent Review of Space Station National Laboratory R&D Management

Earlier this week, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) released the results of an evaluation of the not-for-profit entity that manages non-NASA research and development (R&D) on the International Space Station (ISS) National Laboratory, the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS). Along with it, NASA released their planned actions in response to the review. The report of was conducted by an independent review team (IRT).

“I appreciate the independent review team’s diligent work on this important review,” said Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX). “Congress has a long record of providing direction on the ISS National Laboratory to ensure it is effectively utilized. I will be closely reviewing the results of the report and NASA’s response to it, but the report findings suggest we have more work to do.” 

Read more at: House science

SPACE DEFENCE

Commercial Satellite Boom Poses NatSec Risks: IDA

The rapid proliferation of commercial satellites for communications and imagery pose a number of risks to US national security — along with the benefits of providing low-cost alternatives to expensive DoD birds, says a new study published today in National Defense University’s Joint Forces Quarterly.

These commercial market trends will “create new challenges as adversaries ranging from Great Power competitors to hostile nonstate actors gain cheap access to space capabilities and the emergence of space-based Internet reshapes the cyber battlespace,” the article states.

Read more at: Breakingdefense

Space Acquisition Council To Consider New Actions To Help Aerospace Industry Cope With Pandemic

A senior level group created by Congress to synchronize space procurements across the Defense Department will hold an emergency meeting to discuss possible measures to assist the aerospace industry, the Department of the Air Force’s top acquisition executive Will Roper said April 10.

The council plans to hold an “out of cycle” meeting within the next two weeks to focus on actions to shore up the aerospace industry and “identify how best to focus additional stimulus funding during COVID-19,” Roper said via a spokesperson in a statement to SpaceNews.

Read more at: Spacenews

Eastern Range Cautiously Continuing Space Ops

Florida’s 45th Space Wing is aiming to keep as much regular order as possible as the coronavirus pandemic unfolds, reviewing launch plans and hoping the virus remains at bay.

Patrick Air Force Base and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aim to execute 49 military and commercial launches in 2020. While the Space Force is deciding whether to go forward with each event on a case-by-case basis, the Florida Space Coast has put eight rockets into orbit so far this year and expects it will stick to its overall plan for 49 launches, even if some launch dates shift.

Read more at: Airforcemag

New DoD Policy To Ease Space Secrecy Near: Raymond

A new DoD policy to ease the high levels of classification surrounding all things space — from threat analyses to US capabilities to budgets — is nearing completion, says Gen. Jay Raymond.

“We are overly classified,” Raymond, who currently is double-hatted as head of both the Space Force and Space Command, told reporters this afternoon during a Mitchell Institute video conference.

He explained that too much secrecy is an obstacle to both deterring adversaries and working with allies. “To do that deterrence, you have to change the calculus of your opponent. And to do that, you have to be able to talk and you have to be able to message.”

Read more at: Breakingdefense

VARIOUS

NASA Langley Reports First Coronavirus Death

NASA Langley confirmed to News 3 Tuesday that one of their team members has passed away from complications from the coronavirus.

The agency reported Monday that this was their first positive coronavirus case.

A spokesperson said they will not release the team member’s name out of respect for their family. “The NASA family extends its deepest condolences to the family and friends of our lost team member,” the spokesperson said.

Read more at: wtkr

Three Employees At Blue Origin Test Positive For COVID-19 After Workers Voice Concern Over Test Launch

Three Blue Origin employees have now tested positive for COVID-19 in Washington, according to emails from the company seen by The Verge. The cases, first reported by CNBC and GeekWire, were just announced over the weekend, days after Blue Origin management pressured employees to conduct an upcoming test launch of the company’s New Shepard rocket during a meeting.

“Over the weekend, we unfortunately had two more Blue Origin employees test positive for the COVID-19 virus,” Mary Plunkett, the senior director of organizational development at Blue Origin, wrote in an email, referencing another employee who had been confirmed on Friday. The two new confirmed cases are a married couple who work at Blue Origin’s headquarters in Kent, Washington. One was last in the office as early as Friday, April 3rd, while the other had last been in the office on March 27th, according to an email sent to employees on Sunday.

Read more at: Verge

Failure Was Not An Option: NASA’s Apollo 13 Mission Of Survival In Pictures

On April 11, 1970, NASA launched three Apollo 13 astronauts to land on the moon. But disaster struck on the way to the moon, and the lunar landing was scrapped. See Apollo 13’s epic mission of survival from start to finish in this photo gallery.

Read more at: Space.com

50 Years After Apollo 13, We Can Now See The Moon As The Astronauts Did

This Saturday (April 11) will mark 50 years since NASA’s Apollo 13 mission launched on an unexpectedly tumultuous journey around the moon. Now, a modern lunar orbiter has reconstructed what the Apollo 13 astronauts would have seen of the lunar surface. 

Famously described as a “successful failure,” Apollo 13 did not go as planned: An oxygen tank exploded 56 hours into the mission. Thankfully, some fast-thinking teamwork between the astronauts and mission control back on Earth salvaged the mission and, after a trip around the moon, the astronauts safely returned to Earth. 

Read more at: Space.com

Chernobyl Forest Wildfire Seen From Space As Radiation Spikes (Photo)

The forest near the old Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant is burning, and the effects are visible from space.

The Suomi NPP satellite, a joint project of NASA and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), captured a photo Sunday (April 5) of the human-caused wildfire burning in Ukraine’s Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Radiation counts near the fire have registered 2.3 microsievert per hour, a spike from the typical 0.14 μSv/h, according to Live Science. 

Read more at: Space.com

Branson Shifts $1.1 Billion Galactic Holding Between Tax Havens

Richard Branson moved assets from the U.S. to the British Virgin Islands, highlighting his use of tax havens at a time one of his businesses sought a state bailout because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Filings show a Delaware-based company for his $1.1 billion stake in Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc. transferred shares in the space-travel firm on March 16 to the Caribbean territory where Branson, 69, lives. Residents in the BVI pay no income or capital-gains taxes while the U.S. state is known for preserving the privacy of its corporate owners.

Read more at: Bloomberg

11th IAASS Conference – Poster A2