Water Leak Forces NASA to Scale Down 200th Spacewalk, But Job 1 Gets Done

A small water leak cropped up in one of the hoses designed to keep NASA astronaut Jack Fischer’s spacesuit cool while he waited to begin today’s 200th spacewalk on the International Space Station. That had a domino effect on the preparations, drawing down battery power and forcing NASA to trim back the time allotted to the outing from six and a half hours to a little more than four hours.

The schedule still gave Fischer and NASA’s Peggy Whitson enough time to accomplish the spacewalk’s primary task: replacing the ExPRESS Carrier Avionics box, which provides electricity and data connections to science experiments and spare parts mounted on the space station’s exterior. The spacewalkers also installed a data connector for the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, the station’s cosmic particle detector. It was the first spacewalk for Fischer, the ninth for Whitson (America’s most experienced astronaut), and the 200th for the station since 1998.

Read more at: Geekwire

Russia May Deliver Research Module to Space Station in 2018

Russia’s Nauka multi-functional lab module plagued by the contamination problem in its fuel tanks will be delivered to the International Space Station no sooner than August next year, a source in the rocket and space industry told TASS on Friday.

“Today, specialists of the Khrunichev Space Center and the Energiya Rocket and Space Corporation will hold a meeting to approve a new schedule for eliminating faults and preparing the module for the launch. According to the most optimistic forecasts, the module can be launched no sooner than August next year,” the source said.

However, late 2018 – 2019 is the real timeframe for the launch, he added.

Read more at: TASS

Test Tank for NASA Heavy-Lift Rocket Damaged in Louisiana

A Space Launch System (SLS) fuel tank needed for structural tests in advance of the debut flight of NASA’s heavy-lift booster was damaged on May 3, the space agency said today (May 11). The accident at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans is under investigation, said agency spokeswoman Kim Henry.

NASA has not yet determined if the damage will affect the schedule of the maiden SLS flight, whose November 2018 launch date was already in doubt, the agency said. “Initial assessments indicate damage to the rear (aft) dome of a liquid-oxygen tank, which is part of the rocket’s 212-foot [65 meters] core stage,” NASA said in a statement. “Assessments are underway to determine the extent of the damage.”

Read more at: Space.com

Astronauts Experience Decrease in Blood Vessel Function During Spaceflight, Study Finds

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station have decreased physical fitness because of a decrease in the way oxygen moves through the body, according to a Kansas State University kinesiology study.

Carl Ade, assistant professor of exercise physiology, and collaborators partnered with the Johnson Space Center to find that astronauts’ exercise capacity decreases between 30 and 50 percent in long-duration spaceflight because the heart and small blood vessels are not as effective at transporting oxygen to the working muscle.

“It is a dramatic decrease,” Ade said. “When your cardiovascular function decreases, your aerobic exercise capacity goes down. You can’t perform physically challenging activities anymore. While earlier studies suggest that this happens because of changes in heart function, our data suggests that there are some things happening at the level of the heart, but also at the level of the microcirculation within capillaries.”

Read more at: k-state.edu

Prolonged Space Travel Affects Astronauts Eyes

Magnetic resonance imaging shows evidence of changes in the orbital and ventricular fluid volumes among astronauts who participated in prolonged missions on the International Space Station (ISS), according to a study published in the journal Radiology.

Researchers from the University of Miami in Florida performed a retrospective study to determine the respective roles of vascular and cerebrospinal fluids in spaceflight-induced vision impairment in astronauts, known as the visual impairment and intracranial pressure (VIIP) syndrome.

Sixteen astronauts participated in the study, nine who flew on the space shuttle for a mean of 14.1 days and seven who flew on the ISS for a mean of 188 days. Their mean age during their mission was 46.1 years.

Read more at: Diagnosticimaging

Seeking Solutions to a Down-to-earth Problem for Space Travelers—How to Keep Their Clothes Clean

Astronaut Don Pettit, a University of Arizona College of Engineering alumnus, wore the same pair of shorts for months at a time while living on the International Space Station. Doing laundry was not an option. When clothes got too dirty, he and his crewmates stored them onboard until they could be thrown out—launched with other debris on a spacecraft and incinerated upon entering Earth’s atmosphere.

Christina Morrison, soon to become another UA Engineering graduate, wants to make life more comfortable for astronauts like Pettit by making clothes stay cleaner for longer in space.

Clothes add a lot of weight to spacecraft, and water is too precious to be used for cleaning them. So Morrison’s goal is to find a way for astronauts to do laundry in space without using water. The research is funded by a NASA Space Grant and is the only NASA-sponsored university research project on this problem.

Read more at: Phys.org

Planetary Protection: Contamination Debate Still Simmers

On Sept. 15, 2017, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will take a suicide plunge into Saturn to avoid contaminating the ringed planet’s potentially habitable moons, Titan and Enceladus.

Cassini’s fate is tied to the issue of planetary protection, which refers to the measures scientists and engineers take to minimize that chances that life-forms from Earth make it to other worlds. And with NASA’s Mars 2020 rover planning to cache samples to one day return to Earth’s labs, planetary protection also means making sure that our own world is safe from contamination by possible alien life.

Planetary protection was the first item on the agenda at the Astrobiology Science Conference, which was held last week in Mesa, Arizona. Chemists, biologists, planetary scientists, astronomers and other researchers all vigorously discussed the issue at the meeting’s first session on Monday morning (April 24).

Read more at: Space.com

GAO Requested to Study Restoring FAA Commercial Space Office to Secretary’s Level

Three members of the House have sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) requesting a study on the feasibility of elevating the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA’s) Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA/AST) to the Secretary of Transportation’s office. Advocates believe that would facilitate getting needed financial and personnel resources to allow the office to fulfill its duties as the commercial space launch business expands.

Reps. Derek Kilmer (D-Washington), Jim Bridenstine (R-Oklahoma) and Ami Bera (D-California) sent a letter to GAO on May 8 asking that it examine the following questions:

– the feasibility of moving AST back into the Secretary’s office and what would be required to accomplish it;
– the advantages and disadvantages of doing so in terms of AST’s ability to coordinate and communicate with the FAA on airspace issues; and
– the key practices identified by GAO in other reorganizations that would be instructive for a successful transition of this nature.

Read more at: Spacepolicy online

Static Fire Test Brings Falcon Heavy One Step Closer to Debut

SpaceX said May 9 that it has successfully test-fired the center core stage of its first Falcon Heavy rocket, a key step towards its long-delayed first launch later this year.

In a tweet, the company said that it completed the first static fire of the core stage of the rocket at the company’s McGregor, Texas, test site last week. The company did not disclose the precise date of the test or its duration. The company included in the tweet a video showing about 15 seconds of the test.

The Falcon Heavy uses three Falcon 9 first stages, or cores, along with an upper stage, an approach similar to United Launch Alliance’s Delta 4 Heavy. The two side booster cores for the first launch will be previously-flown Falcon 9 first stages, but the center core will be a new stage, modified to accommodate the side boosters.

Read more at: Space News

China Simulates Extended Moon Stays Amid Space Drive

China is testing the ability for future astronauts to stay on the moon for extended periods, as Beijing accelerates its space program and looks to put people on the surface of the moon within the next two decades.

The official Xinhua news agency said volunteers would live in a “simulated space cabin” for between 60-200 days over the next year helping scientists understand what will be needed for humans to “remain on the moon in the medium and long terms”.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for China to become a global power in space exploration, with plans to send a probe to the dark side of the moon by 2018, the first ever such trip, and to put astronauts on the moon by 2036.

Read more at: Reuters

First SLS/Orion Launch Slips to 2019, No Crew

NASA announced today that its feasibility study of adding a crew to the first launch of the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion crew capsule might be technically feasible, but, all things considered, it is better to stick to the original plan of launching it without a crew.  Even then, that flight, Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), will slip from November 2018 to sometime in 2019, with cascading effects for the next flight, EM-2.

Acting NASA Administrator Robert LIghtfoot and Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations Bill Gerstenmaier announced the results of the study during a mid-afternoon media teleconference.  Lightfoot was effusive in his praise of the Trump White House for giving NASA the opportunity to look at the possibility of adding crew to EM-1, as well as its support of NASA’s programs overall.  He said the decision to stay with the existing “baseline” plan for launching EM-1 without a crew was made jointly by the White House and NASA.

Read more at: Spacepolicy online

Opening the “Final Frontier”

Astronauts have been, and remain, among our most enduring heroes. And one day surprisingly soon — provided you have at least a few hundred thousand dollars to spare — you too may be able to join the rarified company of the more than 500 men and women who have journeyed beyond the confines of earth’s atmosphere.

First, however, the companies hoping to make civilian space travel a frequent reality must develop standards to ensure the safety of their crew and passengers. Efforts to do so have been under way for several years.

Industry stakeholders, including the Commercial Spaceflight Federation and the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee, have been working in tandem over the last few years to identify areas where industry consensus standards will be needed. After talking with ASTM International and other standards development organizations, they concluded that the best way forward would be to work through a recognized standards development organization.

Read more at: astm

Risky Business: At Mars Conference, Experts Discuss Threats to Space Travelers

Space will never be a risk-free environment, but there are ways to reduce the risk for crew who travel on future deep-space missions, experts noted at the Human to Mars Summit in Washington, D.C., yesterday (May 9).

For example, NASA could help to prepare crewmembers for the challenges they might face on longer missions by first doing missions closer to home, according to the experts on the panel, which was moderated by Space.com columnist Leonard David.

Indeed, NASA is already using the International Space Station (ISS) as an environment for learning how to reduce the risks associated with a potential human mission to Mars, John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate and a former astronaut, said during the discussion

Read more at: Space.com

How a Helicopter Drone Could Fly on Mars

We’ve gotten pretty smart at telling rovers what to do when they’re working on Mars. NASA has more than a decade’s experience in directing these machines on the Red Planet, asking them to image rocks, drill into the surface, or drive over varying surfaces. The Curiosity rover is so smart that in some cases, it can identify targets by itself to analyze.

But rovers have a big limitation: They stay on the ground. Aerial imaging is only available through satellites that orbit several miles above a rover. While this can provide a large overview of the site, it makes it difficult to anticipate what’s just over the next hill or crater.

Read more at: Seeker

Communications-satellite Revolution Gets off the Ground at SpaceX, Boeing in South Bay

Inside SpaceX’s secretive white-walled manufacturing and engineering headquarters in Hawthorne, workers are designing the technological foundation of an intelligent global communications system.

The mission of truly worldwide communications coverage is unprecedented. If successful, the company will craft a constellation of smart-satellites focusing digital eyes on each point of the Earth’s surface within a decade.

The pioneering private rocket builder first proposed its plan to the federal government five months ago but had been brainstorming for years. Its goal became much more real this month when SpaceX Vice President of Satellite Government Affairs Patricia Cooper mapped out a timetable for the plan at a congressional hearing.

Read more at: Daily Breeze

Testing Prepares NASA’s Space Launch System for Liftoff

The world’s most powerful rocket – NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) – may experience ground wind gusts of up to 70 mph as it sits on the launch pad before and during lift off for future missions. Understanding how environmental factors affect the rocket will help NASA maintain a safe and reliable distance away from the launch tower during launch.

SLS model testing in NASA Langley Research Center’s 14×22-Foot Subsonic Wind Tunnel in Hampton, Virginia, is designed to simulate wind conditions.

According to Langley research aerospace engineer Dave Chan, wind tunnel tests are a cost effective and efficient way to simulate situations where cross winds and ground winds affect different parts of the rocket.

Read more at: Space Daily

Space Weather Model Simulates Solar Storms from Nowhere

Our ever-changing sun continuously shoots solar material into space. The grandest such events are massive clouds that erupt from the sun, called coronal mass ejections, or CMEs. These solar storms often come first with some kind of warning – the bright flash of a flare, a burst of heat or a flurry of solar energetic particles.

But another kind of storm has puzzled scientists for its lack of typical warning signs: They seem to come from nowhere, and scientists call them stealth CMEs.

Now, an international team of scientists, led by the Space Sciences Laboratory at University of California, Berkeley, and funded in part by NASA, has developed a model that simulates the evolution of these stealthy solar storms.

Read more at: Space Daily

Meteorite Lands on Wellington Couple’s Property

A Wellington couple’s Wainuiomata property is believed to have become a meteorite landing site. Joyce Lockyer and husband Graeme found a dark grey rock in the garden last week after returning from holiday. It had landed with enough force to leave a small crater and scorch marks.

“It’s obviously landed from a great height,” Lockyer told Fairfax. “Fortunately we weren’t home and it didn’t land on somebody’s head, which might have been a bit nasty.” The rock, weighed about 2.4kg and was about 7 or 8 inches across, looked “pumice-y but it is extremely heavy”, Lockyer said. She wondered if it was an “object from outer space”. The rock appeared in their back yard before bright lights were seen across New Zealand on Friday night.

Read more at: Nz Herald

China and India’s Diplomatic Space Race

During the Cold War, achievements in outer space were viewed as demonstrations of power and ideological reputation. For instance, when the Soviet Union broadcast its technological competence by launching the first ever man-made satellite, Sputnik, in 1957, the world stood up and took notice. The United States followed suit with its Apollo program and achieved mankind’s first moon landing in 1969. Winning the race to be first somewhere in outer space mattered a great deal then.

Since then, however, dynamics have changed. Today, countries like India and China link their outer space programs not to achieving global “firsts” but to their advancing their economic development and wielding diplomatic influence here on Earth. For instance, Chinese President Xi Jinping believes that China’s investment in outer space will enhance scientific innovation, boost creative entrepreneurial success, and create long-term prosperity for the Chinese nation. With this in mind, China is encouraging private outer space start-ups like Landspace and Onespace to enter the lucrative commercial market of outer space launches.

Read more at: Diplomat

Revisiting America’s Future in Civil Space

There were two major reports about American civil spaceflight in 2009. The one that most people remember is the final report of the Review of US Human Spaceflight Plans Committee, better known as the Augustine Committee after its chairman, Norm Augustine. That report, chartered by the new Obama Administration, laid the groundwork for the administration’s later decision to cancel the Constellation program and set NASA on a “flexible path” that would take humans to Mars, which led to the Journey to Mars plan that NASA has been following in recent years.

The other report of note is “America’s Future in Space,” prepared by a committee established by the National Research Council and chaired by Les Lyles, a retired Air Force general. It sought to examine the purpose of a civil space program, including “top-level goals” and “the connection between those goals and broad national priorities” needed for a sustainable long-term program. That report identified six strategic goals for the space program, from Earth science and the search for life beyond Earth to inspiration for future generations and “global strategic leadership” for the country.

Read more at: Space Review

Former NASA Engineer’s Interesting Take on Women in Science

Not long after joining Virgin Galactic in 2014 as its chief astronaut instructor, former NASA aerospace engineer Beth Moses was asked to weigh in on the topic of gender.

The question was not out of left field (or outer space), given that women make up just 11 percent of aerospace engineers in the U.S., according to a 2013 study by the U.S. Census Bureau. But the request caught Moses off guard.

“I got an email one day asking me to write a blog about my issues with gender in the workplace,” said Moses, who grew up in Northbrook and is tasked with training customers of the world’s first commercial spaceline. “And I wrote an email back saying, ‘Well, I guess I’ve never had any.’”

Read more at: Chicago Tonight

The #SpaceWatchME Interviews: Claudia Kessler of HE Space – Die Astronautin

In the latest SpaceWatch Middle East interview, Helen Jameson talks to Claudia Kessler, CEO of HE Space and initiator behind Die Astronautin, about her vision for a German woman in space.

Congratulations on the huge success of the Die Astronautin initiative!

Thank you! We are now very busy starting to work on the training plan. We will then go on to parabolic flights in August at Star City. I’m excited to say that we are actually offering the opportunity for members of the public to go to experience a parabolic flight and a visit to Star City with our trainees.

Read more at: SpaceWatch ME

A High-flier Who Pursued a Dream and Defied Gravity

Life is composite of dreams. Some come true, many don’t. When Liu Yang was a child, she dreamed of becoming a bus conductor, a doctor or a teacher. Reality exceeded dreams. She became China’s first female astronaut. “Perseverance creates luck and sweat casts accomplishment,” she told students in a recent role-models symposium at Shanghai’s Fudan University.

Born in Zhengzhou, capital of Henan Province, Liu at 38 is slim and gentle, but appearances belie the steely grit that accompanied her when she was blasted into space aboard the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft in June 2012.

Read more at: Shanghai Daily

Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti on Tweeting From Space and Brewing the First Zero-g Espresso

Samantha Cristoforetti is an Italian astronaut with the European Space Agency. She currently holds a few spaceflight records — including being the first person ever to brew an espresso in space.

In 2014 and 2015, Cristoforetti spent 199 days aboard the International Space Station, where she performed a variety of scientific experiments. She studied generations of fruit flies to chart gene changes in relation to disease; she looked after Caenorhabditis elegans worms used in a Japanese-led experiment; and she tended to plants to study how they grow in microgravity.

Read more at: Verge

Senate Confirms Wilson as Air Force Secretary

Heather Wilson will be the next secretary of the Air Force, following her confirmation by the Senate May 8, 2017. Wilson, who is stepping down from her position as the president of the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology to take the post, is expected to be sworn in within a week.

“We live in a remarkable country, protected by innovators and intrepid Airmen who take great risks on our behalf,” said Wilson. “I look forward to getting to work, focusing on readiness, modernization, development of leaders and research for the future.”

Wilson graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in the third class to include women. After graduating from USAFA in 1982, she earned masters and doctoral degrees as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University in England. She served as an Air Force officer in Europe during the Cold War and on the National Security Council Staff under President George H.W. Bush during the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the collapse of the Warsaw Pact. She has also worked as an advisor to several large defense and scientific organizations both before and after serving for a decade in the U.S. Congress.

Read more at: US Air Force

Museum Honors 11 Deaf Men Who Helped NASA Send Humans to Space

A new museum exhibit honors 11 men who made significant contributions to spaceflight in NASA’s early days.

In the late 1950s, NASA recruited 11 deaf men from Gallaudet College (now Gallaudet University) to study the long-term effects of weightlessness on the human body before the agency ultimately sent astronauts to space.

The group of men, also known as the “Gallaudet 11,” suffered from inner-ear problems. As a result, they did not experience the adverse effects of motion sickness, making them the perfect candidates for early spaceflight experiments, according to a statement from NASA.

Read more at: Space.com

Funding to Defend Space Systems Coming in Next Budget Proposal

The Department of Defense is poised to invest in new infrastructure that will make its space systems more resilient to enemy attacks, senior officials said May 9.

David A. Hardy, associate deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for space and deputy director of the principal DoD space advisor staff, said the service has completed all the major reviews it has undertaken for its space systems and will begin investing in technologies that will make them more immune to enemy attack.

“Our fundamental challenge is we have to deal with space as an increasingly challenged domain,” he said at a Washington Space Business Roundtable panel discussion in Arlington, Virginia, on national security space priorities in the Trump administration. The problem is that the current systems were not built to withstand attacks, he added.

Read more at: National Defense magazine

How Gorbachev Destroyed the USSR’s Military Space Program, & What It Cost Russia

In an article dedicated to the anniversary of Gorbachev’s decision for RIA Novosti, Khrolenko recalled that as the leader familiarized himself with some of the technology developed by Soviet scientists during his visit to the spaceport, he expressed regret at having made his commitment to Ronald Reagan in Reykjavik a year earlier to unilaterally close the USSR’s military space program. Washington, meanwhile, refused to halt work on its Strategic Defense Initiative missile defense shield, and would continue the project until 1993, after the Soviet Union itself had disappeared.

Still, having arrived at the garrison of the House of Officers on May 11, 1987, “the General Secretary reiterated his course toward the peaceful development of space,” an initiative he began toying with since his rise to power in 1985.

Read more at: Sputnik News

It’s Time for the US Air Force to Prepare for Preemption in Space

There are few strategic concepts as hotly debated as anticipatory self-defense, or preemption. This is particularly the case when considering military action in space. As Colin Gray observes above, preemption should not be considered controversial, because it is based upon hundreds of years of customary international law.

Despite this historic precedence, the United States still has much to do before preemption in space is, in fact, a viable means of protecting national interests. These discussions are especially needed as space grows more contested, degraded, and operationally limited. While being perhaps counterintuitive, developing the concepts of preemption well before conflict occurs enhances deterrence and promotes international peace and stability.

Specifically, America needs a better understanding of what is occurring in space, what constitutes a hostile action or intent, and a fully developed plan for discussing preemption with the international community to make preemption a viable strategic option.

Read more at: Space Review

ISS Payload Design & Operation Safety

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

The course is designed to provide the participant with an understanding of safety requirements, procedures and processes that are used for design and operations of payloads for the International Space Station. You will find the description of the course in the IAASS Professional Training Courses Catalog 2017 – Course Code 004. To register, download the Registration Form, fill in and return to:[email protected] not later than 15 May 2017.

Read more at: IAASS

Quality Assurance for Space Projects

26-29 June 2017 – Athlone, Ireland

The course is designed to provide the participant with an understanding of basic principles of Quality Management, Quality Assurance and Quality Control, as they are usually applied to space projects. You will find the description of the course in the IAASS Professional Training Courses Catalog 2017 – Course Code 006. To register, download the Registration Form from the website, fill in and return to: [email protected]

Read more at: IAASS