Agreement Signed for Airbus Safran Launchers

Airbus Group SE and Safran have signed an agreement for the second and final phase of their 50/50 joint venture, Airbus Safran Launchers.

Both companies will contribute to the current joint program with industrial assets dealing with civil space launchers and military launchers. Closing of the deal is expected in the second quarter of 2016 after completion of the remaining corporate and other formalities. Financial details of the transaction will be communicated at closing.

Read more at: Space Daily

White House Report Endorses FAA Oversight of Commercial Space Missions

The White House has endorsed a proposal where the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration would provide oversight of “non-traditional” commercial space activities, eliminating a policy barrier for proposed missions beyond Earth orbit.

In a report submitted to Congress last month by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), the administration said a “mission authorization” regime, with a minimal degree of government oversight, would ensure the U.S. upholds its obligations under the Outer Space Treaty of 1967.

“The economic vitality of the American space industry is best served with a clear and predictable oversight process that ensures access to space and imposes minimal burdens on the industry,” states the report. “The Administration supports a narrowly tailored authorization process for newly contemplated commercial space activities.”

Read more at: Space News

Second SLS Qualification Booster Test Fire Scheduled for June 28

The solid rocket booster that will propel NASA’s skyscraper-size, 300-plus-foot-tall Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and its Orion spacecraft in the coming years marked off a significant development milestone in March 2015, unleashing its fury on a barren mountainside at Orbital ATK’s test stand in Promontory, Utah, for the Qualification Motor-1 test fire (QM-1). The 154-foot-long booster, the largest of its kind in the world, ignited to verify its performance at 90 degrees, the highest end of the booster’s accepted propellant temperature range and the temperature the SLS can expect to encounter at its Florida launch site on Kennedy Space Center (KSC) Launch Complex 39B.

Detailed inspections of the now disassembled booster took place over the course of 2015, with all the data collected confirming the QM-1 test as a resounding success. More than 500 instrumentation channels were used to help evaluate over 100 defined test objectives, and now work is underway at the test stand preparing the second booster for another test fire, Qualification Motor-2 (QM-2), which is scheduled to take place June 28, 2016.

Read more at: America Space

SpaceX Racks Up Another Sea Landing

For the second time in less than a month, SpaceX has landed the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on a ship at sea.

The booster settled softly onto the deck of SpaceX’s robotic “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship at 1:30 a.m. EDT (0530 GMT) on Friday (May 6), nine minutes after launching from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on a successful mission to carry the Japanese communications satellite JCSAT-14 to orbit.

Chants of “USA! USA! USA!” erupted at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California as the Falcon 9 stuck its landing on the ship, which was stationed about 200 miles (320 kilometers) offshore in the Atlantic Ocean.

Read more at: Scientific American

It Took SpaceX These 6 Times to Perfect a Droneship Landing

n the very early hours of Friday morning, a high-velocity Falcon 9 rocket landed successfully on a SpaceX droneship in the Atlantic, making history as the first such mission to do so. It was a huge moment and a signal that droneship landings may become routine. And even as this was the second time a Falcon 9 stuck the landing on a droneship, it was more impressive than the the first time, which saw a slower descent with a lower risk of failure.

First, a note on why rocket landings on droneships at sea are beneficial: They use less fuel because rockets can land closer to where they launched (and thereby more fuel can be used to go further into space, which is key for more advanced missions).

How did we get to this historic moment, though? Here are each the attempts to land on a droneship — either Of Course I Still Love You or Just Read the Instructions — in reverse-chronological order.

Read more at: Inverse

SpaceX’s New Price Chart Illustrates Performance Cost of Reusability

Launch-service provider SpaceX’s new price chart shows the performance cost incurred when making the Falcon 9 Full Thrust and Falcon Heavy rockets partially reusable.

The corresponding cost and price benefit, which SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell has said could give customers around a 30 percent discount over expendable versions, is not yet listed in the price chart. Prices are shown as $62 million for the Falcon 9 Full Thrust and $90 million for the Falcon Heavy.

SpaceX has said it needs to thoroughly examine several Falcon 9 first stages on their return to the drone ships or ground landing pads before settling on a pricing structure. Final prices will also depend on SpaceX’s ability to ramp up its launch rhythm.

Read more at: Space News

Expandable Habitats May Take Us to Mars

In sci-fi movies, space habitats are huge structures with labyrinth layouts. But Hollywood doesn’t have to deal with the issues real aerospace engineers face when contemplating future space homes — such as gravity and financial constraints.

“Gravity … is a really serious problem,” Bigelow Aerospace founder Robert Bigelow says. He’s not kidding. NASA estimates the International Space Station cost upward of $100 billion to build in the 1990s and required more than 115 space flights to construct. At about 250 miles above Earth, it’s in what’s known as low-Earth orbit. In space terms, that’s relatively close. What happens when we want to live on Mars?

Jason Crusan, NASA’s director for Advanced Exploration Systems Division, says if we were to build the space station again today, it would be “significantly smaller.” Because in the space world, smaller often means cheaper — at least to launch. That’s why scientists are working to develop expandable space habitats. Instead of building rigid metal structures, they are building flexible buildings that can be sent into space when they’re deflated. Bigelow says the reduced weight and volume of these types of habitats would make them easier and cheaper to launch.

Read more at: CNN

Russia Loses Contact with Nanosatellite Launched From Vostochny

The tiny nanosatellite SamSat-218, which was launched from the Vostochny Cosmodrome on April 28, has failed to establish radio contact with mission control, several Russian media outlets are reporting. According to Interfax news agency, although the spacecraft was placed into orbit as planned, it is sending only fragmentary signals to Earth.

“Currently, fragmentary Morse code signals are being heard coming from the nanosatellite, against the background of the noise during the satellite’s pass over the receiving station,” Interfax said in a press release.

SamSat-218, built by the Samara State Aerospace University (SSAU), is a two-unit CubeSat with a mass of only 8.8 pounds (4 kilograms) and an additional empty one-unit compartment for aerodynamic stabilization. The tiny spacecraft was designed to demonstrate attitude stabilization by using aerodynamic forces. It was expected to develop algorithms necessary for nanosatellite orientation control.

Read more at: Spaceflight Insider

Vostochny Launch was a Success, But Turmoil Continues

Last week’s launch of a Soyuz 2.1a rocket from Russia’s new Vostochny Cosmodrome may have been a success, but turmoil over the spaceport’s construction and the cause of a one-day launch delay continue.  A criminal trial for four officials accused of embezzlement began today.  It follows by one day the resignation of the head of a company that supplied a cable thought to be have been responsible for the scrub and reprimands for the head of Russia’s space agency and the Deputy Prime Minister who oversees the aerospace sector.

Russia announced plans to build a launch site at Vostochny (Eastern) in Siberia in October 2007, but construction did not begin until 2011 and was plagued by delays amid charges of corruption.  Four men have been charged with embezzlement

Read more at: Space Policy Online

First Flight of Orbital ATK’s Updated Antares Rocket Scheduled for July

The first flight of the newly updated Antares rocket — the premiere vehicle of private spaceflight company Orbital ATK — will take place sometime in July, the company announced today according to Space News. The flight will send cargo and supplies to the International Space Station, as part of Orbital’s commercial partnership with NASA. It also marks the first launch of the Antares after a previous version of the vehicle exploded during a space station resupply mission in October 2014.

Since the accident, Orbital has spent nearly two years redesigning the Antares. The biggest change has been replacing the engines in the rocket. Originally, the Antares flew on two AJ26 engines, refurbished Soviet-era engines manufactured by US company Aerojet Rocketdyne. But Orbital claims the engines were responsible for the accident and decided to replace them. An investigation by Orbital found that a defect in the turbopumps of one of the AJ26 engines caused an explosion that ultimately destroyed the rocket. That puts the blame on Aerojet for not making the engines correctly.

Read more at: Verge

‘Huge Hunk’ of NASA’s Fallen Skylab Space Station Lands at Auction

A massive chunk of the United States’ first space station is about to land at auction.

Billed as the “largest existing piece of Skylab wreckage in private hands,” Regency-Superior Auctioneers of St. Louis is offering the 300-pound (136-kilogram) artifact as part of its online space memorabilia sale scheduled for May 12.

The semi-circular relic has a minimum bid of $30,000 and is estimated to be worth between $45,000 and $55,000 — shipping from Utah not included. “Fragment is not terribly attractive (it was, after all, part of a re-entry crash!), but is extremely historically significant,” the auctioneers wrote. “A huge hunk of space history!”

Read more at: Collect Space

Select Proposals to Support Astronaut Health on Long Missions

NASA’s Human Research Program and the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) will fund 27 proposals to help answer questions about astronaut health and performance during future long duration missions beyond low Earth orbit.

The selected proposals will investigate the impact of the space environment on various aspects of astronaut health, including visual impairment, behavioral health and performance, bone and muscle loss, cardiovascular alterations, human factors and performance, sensorimotor adaptation and the development and application of smart medical systems and technologies. All of the selected projects will contribute towards NASA’s long-term plans, such as those planned for the journey to Mars.

Read more at: Space Daily

Studying Cardiovascular Health in Microgravity

The human cardiovascular system evolved to meet the challenges of upright posture in the Earth’s gravitational environment. Daily exposures to gravitational forces, and frequent periods of physical activity that cause the heart to beat rapidly and strongly, are vital to the health of the cardiovascular system.

Gravity exerts a force on the body that sets up a hydrostatic gradient, effectively lowering blood pressure when blood is pumped up to the head when sitting or standing, but increasing blood pressure with distance below the heart. At the level of the eyes or the middle of the brain, blood pressure is reduced about 30 mmHg from what it was as it left the heart. So, if someone’s blood pressure was 120/80 at the heart, it would be 90/50 at the brain. When we lie in bed at night, or when an astronaut goes into space, gravity’s effect is removed and blood pressures remain closer to 120/80 throughout the arterial system.

Read more at: Spaceref

NASA’s Marshall Center Simulates the Solar and Space Environment to Further Exploration

Inside inconspicuous Building 4605 at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, Todd Schneider is preparing to switch on the sun.

He moves surely in a laboratory crowded by computers and instruments, along short alleys of racks and gear that surround the High Intensity Solar Environment Test system, or HISET. The heavy steel door on the HISET chamber is a doorway to space: This is the only place on Earth where spacecraft systems and materials can, at the same time, be subjected to the vacuum, temperatures, solar photons and to the electrons and protons of solar winds like they will encounter in space.

“Space doesn’t just throw one thing at you at a time and let you deal with it,” says Schneider, a physicist in the Environmental Effects Branch of Marshall’s Materials and Processes laboratory. “Space throws heat, it throws cold, it throws radiation, UV, plasma and more, all at one time. And there are synergistic effects.”

Read more at: Spaceref

Mars’ Recurring Slope Lineae Maybe Formed by Boiling Water

Recurring slope lineae appear in several locations on Mars when temperatures are above minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 23 degrees Celsius), and disappear at colder times. These features often have been described as possibly related to liquid water.

“On Mars, where the atmosphere is much thinner than on Earth, water can boil at temperatures as low as 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius),” said study co-author Dr. Manish Patel, a scientist at the Open University, and his colleagues from the United States, France and the UK.

“During the Martian summer, when the subsurface water ice begins to melt and emerge at the surface, where the mean temperature reaches 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius), it immediately starts to boil.” “And it’s this sudden boiling during the flow of the water which is the key process that could be causing these channels on the Martian surface,” Dr. Patel said.

The scientists used their unique Mars simulation chamber to conduct experiments of water flowing down a slope of Martian surface material, under Martian atmospheric temperatures and pressures.

Read more at: Sci-news

Scientists Detect Atomic Oxygen in Martian Atmosphere

For the first time since the last observation 40 years ago, atomic oxygen has been detected by the scientits in the Martian atmosphere. Atomic oxygen is an elemental form of oxygen that does not exist in our planet’s atmosphere. It affects how other gases escape the red planet and therefore has a significant impact on the planet’s atmosphere.

An instrument onboard the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) – a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center – helped detect these atoms in the upper layers of the Martian atmosphere known as the mesosphere, NASA said in a statement.

Pamela Marcum SOFIA project scientist said that atomic oxygen in the Martian atmosphere is notoriously difficult to measure. Marcum added that to observe the far-infrared wavelengths needed to detect atomic oxygen, researchers must be above the majority of Earth’s atmosphere and use highly sensitive instruments, in this case a spectrometer. SOFIA provides both capabilities.

Read more at: Zee News

Microbes Make Tubular Microtunnels on Earth and Perhaps on Mars

Tubular microtunnels believed to be the trace fossils formed by microbes inhabiting volcanic rock interiors have only been reported in oceanic and subglacial settings. This is the first observation of such features in basaltic volcanic glass erupted in a continental lake environment, the Fort Rock volcanic field.

As a result, the record of subsurface microbial activity in the form of endolithic microborings is prospectively expanded. Our understanding of the range of environments and conditions that microtunnels can form in is enhanced along with our knowledge of potentially habitable environments on Earth and beyond.

The Fort Rock volcanic field has analogous characteristics to locations found on Mars such as Gale and Gusev crater. The presence of these features in this new geologic setting may suggest that subsurface microbes or evidence thereof, if present on Mars, could exist nearer to the surface than previously thought.

Read more at: Science Daily

Lunar Shelter: Moon Caves could Protect Astronauts

Moon caves could provide shelter for astronauts exploring Earth’s nearest neighbor, researchers say.

A new analysis of data gathered by NASA’s twin Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) spacecraft, which mapped the moon’s gravitational field in unprecedented detail, turned up a number of new candidates for lava tubes — cave-like structures that could be large enough to house supplies and astronauts.

Space is a harsh environment. Radiation from the sun, galactic cosmic rays and constantly falling micrometeorites all present a threat to human explorers.” A lava tube provides a safe haven from all these hazardous environmental conditions,” study team member Rohan Sood, a graduate student at Purdue University in Indiana, told Space.com.

Read more at: Space.com

Expedition 47 Return Extended to 18 June to Support ‘Heavy Scientific Research Work’

The incumbent Expedition 47 core crew of the International Space Station (ISS)—Commander Tim Kopra of NASA, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, and Britain’s first “official” astronaut, Tim Peake—will remain aboard the orbiting laboratory for longer than planned.

On Friday, 29 April, the European Space Agency (ESA) announced that the trio will return to Earth aboard their Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft on 18 June, almost two weeks later than the original 5 June target. It was noted by ESA that the extension will help to “keep the space station operating at full capacity with six astronauts,” whilst NASA’s Rob Navias added that it allows the International Partners (IPs) to “create efficiencies during a period of heavy scientific research work.” The launch of the next crew, aboard the maiden Soyuz-MS spacecraft, has correspondingly moved from 21 to 24 June.

The increment of Kopra, Malenchenko, and Peake has been longer than most. At the time of their launch from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, last 15/16 December, they were targeted to spend close to six months in space. The inaugural mission of Russia’s fourth-generation Soyuz-MS spacecraft should have flown in March, carrying the second half of the Expedition 47 crew—NASA astronaut Jeff Williams and Russian cosmonauts Alexei Ovchinin and Oleg Skripochka—but due to technical issues with the new vehicle it was switched with the last mission of the older-specification Soyuz TMA-M.

Read more at: America Space

Time for Fresh Thinking about Collaboration in Space

Russia celebrates April 12, the day Yuri Gagarin orbited the Earth in 1961, as Cosmonautics Day. This year, on the 55th anniversary of Gagarin’s flight, Russian president Vladimir Putin spoke via video link with astronauts from the US and Russia aboard the International Space Station (ISS). He highlighted the ability of both nations to cooperate closely in space despite various differences on Earth. It’s really amazing that both Russia and the US have successfully developed an “orbital cooperation” in spite of having ongoing terrestrial confrontation.

The space cooperation between Moscow and Washington offers an example of how, despite major political differences, two nations can work together. Such approach is extremely remarkable since both the states have significant military dependence on their assets in space. These states also understand that superiority in space has wider strategic and global technology leadership connotations. Still they are keen to collaborate in space. It could be difficult to identify a specific reason for such collaboration. The reasons could be many from strategic to economic, including necessity. Also, such collaboration allows them to have a channel for negotiation open.

Read more at: Space Review

Amazing Video From a GoPro Attached to a Rocket

GoPro is at its best in extreme situations, and not much is more extreme than being strapped to a rocket. That’s what happened on November 5, 2015 when Aerospace, Inc. placed a handful of the action cameras at different points on one of their near-space rockets. You can see takeoff, return, and a beautiful shot of separation.

Read more at: Popsci

A New Chapter for a Commercial Space Pioneer

More than 15 years ago, a group of former employees of Rotary Rocket Company, led by Jeff Greason, established XCOR Aerospace. The company soon made a name for itself as a developer of rocket engines, rocket-powered aircraft, and a suborbital vehicle for tourism and research, Lynx, that remains in progress. Throughout that time, Greason was the public face of the company.

That, though, has changed in the last year. Last March, the company announced it had hired a new CEO, Jay Gibson, with Greason shifting to a role as chief technology officer. In November, Greason left the company along with two of the other co-founders, Dan Delong and Aleta Jackson, establishing a new company called Agile Aero. And, in late March, XCOR announced changes to its board of directors, with Greason among those leaving the board.

Read more at: Space Review

No More Space Race for US, Rivalry Gives Way to Collaboration

While many Americans celebrate May 5 as Cinco de Mayo, the anniversary of a Mexican military victory, science nerds recognize the date as a technological milestone: the day the United States first put a man into space.

In 1961, the year astronaut Alan Shepard Jr. made his milestone 15-minute flight, hysteria about the U.S.- Soviet Union space race was in full swing. Russia had already put a man in orbit and had launched the world’s first artificial satellite, the Sputnik 1, in 1957, igniting fears that the United States was losing its status as the dominant world power.

Read more at: Voa News

Boeing Borrows from Inventory to Speed Docking Adapter Delivery

Spare parts warehoused in the the United States and Russia will help Boeing finish assembly of a third space station docking port to receive arriving astronauts aboard Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsules, replacing a unit lost in a Falcon 9 launch failure last year.

Components left over from construction of the first two docking adapters will reduce the cost of fabricating an identical third unit, officials said.

NASA awarded Boeing a $9 million contract in March to assemble the third International Docking Adapter, or IDA 3, and deliver it to the space agency by March 2017.

IDA 3 replaces the first docking adapter lost in June 2015 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that broke apart about two minutes after liftoff from the Cape Canaveral, destroying a Dragon space station supply ship carrying the docking system in its unpressurized trunk.

Read more at: Spaceflight Now

Luxemborg Announces New Asteroid Mining Spacecraft: Prospector X

Asteroid mining company Deep Space Industries in partnership with the Luxembourg government’s asteroid mining initiative Space Resourcesannounced today that they would soon send a spacecraft into orbit to test some of the technology needed to extract resources like water or minerals from asteroids.

Prospector-X, as the spacecraft is known, will operate in low Earth orbit, testing navigation, propulsion, and avionics technologies for the next generation of spacecraft, which might actually scout out asteroids for valuable resources. The spacecraft has a similar mission to the Arkyd 3 Reflight spacecraft that another asteroid mining company, Planetary Resources, launched from the International Space Station last year.

Luxembourg is aiming to be a leader in asteroid mining in Europe, but they aren’t alone. Last November, President Obama signed the Space Act of 2015 giving mining companies the right to own resources they extract from asteroids, but not the asteroids themselves.

Read more at: Popsci

SpaceX Taps Superhero Designer for its Spacesuits

Everything about SpaceX seems exciting right now. In April, SpaceXsuccessfully landed their reusable rocket, the Falcon 9, on a droneship at sea. Also in April, SpaceX announced that they intend to send a Dragon capsule toMars by 2018. Now, Elon Musk’s private space company has hired Jose Fernandez, superhero movie costume designer, to design spacesuits for his astronauts.

Fernandez, with his company Ironhead Studio, has quite a resume when it comes to costume design. He’s designed superhero costumes for movies likeBatman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice and Captain America: Civil War. He’s also designed costumes for X-Men movies, for Wonder Woman, Tron, and for The Penguin in Batman Returns.

Spacesuits have been slaves to function for a long time. The extreme environments in space have constrained their design to utilitarian forms, out of necessity. But now that Elon Musk has hired Fernandez, things could change. Considerably.

Read more at: Universe Today

The Future of Fashion with Couture in Orbit

ESA is in partnership with top European fashion schools to harness next-generation technology and explore the future of fashion. The Couture in Orbit project is bringing space back to Earth through designs from some of Europe’s brightest fashion minds – tasked to develop desirable and practical clothing, incorporating technology to make life better.

Fashion schools in Paris, London, Milan, Copenhagen and Berlin are each assigned a theme linked to ESA’s ethos of sustainability, climate protection and recycling. These themes include technology, environment, innovation, health and sport. At the same time, all designs must be practical for daily use

Read more at: Space Daily

NASA Names Facility for ‘Human Computer’ Who Calculated Astronaut Trajectories

Fifty-five years after she helped compute, by hand, the trajectory for the first American astronaut into space, NASA honored mathematician Katherine Johnson with the dedication of a new building at the research center where she worked.

“Millions of people from around the world watched [Alan] Shepard’s flight but what they don’t know — what they did not know at the time, was that the calculations that got him into space and safely home were done by today’s guest of honor,” said Clayton Turner, the deputy director of Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, during a dedication ceremony held on Thursday (May 5).

A trailblazer for women and African Americans in the early U.S. space program, Johnson’s name will grace Langley’s new Computational Research Facility.

Read more at: Collect Space

10 Questions for US Presidential Candidates

We decided to pose specific, written questions about aerospace to the presidential candidates in the belief that you live in a world of facts rather than campaign platitudes. Did the candidates rise to the challenge? Read on.

Read more at: Aerospace America

Defense Bill has Nuclear Facilities Fighting Drones

As US regulators grapple with the safety, privacy and national security concerns posed by a boom in the use of recreational drones, lawmakers worried about their use for malicious ends have advanced legislation aimed at letting Defense Department and Energy Department facilities defend themselves against them.

Two provisions contained in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act would extend broad new authorities to the agencies to stop unmanned aerial vehicles deemed a threat to their facilities dedicated to nuclear power and weaponry. The authorities would dovetail with DoE and DoD’s early efforts to develop technology that would discern small drones from birds and take them out.

“That is a very aggressive approach, and one we have yet to see in federal regulations,” energy and infrastructure attorney Roland Backhaus, with the firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, said of the bill.

Read more at: Defense News

Microsoft to Address UN on ‘Digital Terror’

Microsoft has accepted an invitation from the UN Security Council to address a special debate next week on counter-terrorism and confronting “digital terror”, UN diplomats said.

The ministerial-level debate on Wednesday is organized by Egypt, which holds this month’s presidency of the 15-member council. It will be the first time that a technology company will address the Security Council, which has been increasingly concerned by the use of the Internet and social media to spread violent extremism.

A spokesman for Microsoft confirmed that a representative of the software giant will take part in the special session, but declined to give details.

Read more at: Spacewar

Protecting India’s Navigation Satellite System

The deployment of the seventh satellite successfully completed the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), an independent regional navigation system providing position, navigation and timing services. It will revolutionise terrestrial navigation, disaster management, vehicle tracking, geographical information systems and a host of economic and developmental works.

It advances India’s diplomatic, economic, scientific and academic credentials. But concurrently, the threats to these systems are also advancing and therefore it would be wise to build redundancy into the system.

Read more at: DNA India