NASA Safety Advisors Voice Concerns Over Boeing’s Starliner, SpaceX’s Starship

Members of NASA’s independent safety advisory panel on Thursday cautioned the space agency not to rush toward a crew test flight of Boeing’s troubled Starliner spacecraft, and voiced concerns about final certification of the capsule’s parachutes and Boeing staffing levels on the program.

The safety advisors also said there are “obvious safety concerns” about SpaceX’s plan to launch the giant Starship rocket from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, the same facility used for crew missions to the International Space Station.

Boeing plans to launch a redo of a problem-plagued test flight of its Starliner crew capsule next week. The mission — called Orbital Flight Test-2, or OFT-2 — will not carry astronauts. But if it goes well, the OFT-2 mission will pave the way for the next Starliner launch to ferry a crew to the space station for a final demonstration mission — called the Crew Flight Test, or CFT — before NASA and Boeing declare the new commercial vehicle ready for operations.

Read more at: Spaceflight Now

Launch Of China’s Commercial Carrier Rocket Fails

The launch of the fourth SQX-1 commercial carrier rocket on Friday was unsuccessful.

Abnormal performance was identified during the flight of the rocket, which lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China at 3:09 p.m. (Beijing Time).

The cause of the failure is under investigation, the launch center said in a statement.

Read more at: English news CN

Boeing’s Starliner To Fly Crucial OFT-2 Test Flight To Space Station This Week At Long Last

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SpaceX Launches Starlink 4-15 Mission, Expands Booster Fleet

SpaceX has launched its twentieth Falcon 9 rocket of the year with a batch of Starlink satellites to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) on the Starlink Group 4-15 mission. Liftoff occurred on Saturday, May 14 at 4:40:50pm EDT (20:40:50 UTC) from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station (CCSFS) in Florida.

The Falcon 9 for this mission was of special interest as it uses a new booster, B1073-1, something not seen until now on a Starlink mission.

Read more at: NASA spaceflight

Coast Guard Fast-Tracks Changes After Cruise Ship Scrubs SpaceX Launch

The U.S. Coast Guard modified its procedures in the wake of a cruise ship’s intrusion into a SpaceX launch zone earlier this year, a high-profile incident that highlighted the need for continued conversations on how to handle the confluence of space and maritime traffic.

Among the changes in the works are updated “exclusion zones” for launches and new, modernized ways of disseminating launch updates to ship captains.

Read more at: Floridatoday

UK Joins Space Race With Shoebox-Sized Cubesat Satellites

Two shoebox-sized satellites will be launched into space from Spaceport Cornwall in Newquay this summer, as the UK takes its first steps into the space race.

As part of the Prometheus-2 defence mission, two Cubesats will provide a test platform for monitoring radio signals, including GPS and sophisticated imaging, paving the way for a more collaborative and connected space communication system with allies, according to a ministry of defence statement.

Read more at: National news

China Focus: China Launches Cargo Craft For Space Station Supplies

China launched cargo spacecraft Tianzhou-4 on Tuesday to deliver supplies for its space station, which is scheduled to wrap up construction this year.

The Long March-7 Y5 rocket, carrying Tianzhou-4, blasted off at 1:56 a.m. Beijing Time from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in the southern island province of Hainan, according to the China Manned Space Agency.

Read more at: English news CN

Winter Is Coming For NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter

The end could potentially be near for NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter as Martian winter and dust storms wreak havoc on the drone’s vital systems.

The Mars-fairing helicopter relies on communication relays between itself and the Perseverance rover in order for its onboard systems to be actively monitored by flight controllers on Earth. On May 5, 2022, for the first time since the helicopter’s operation began just over a year ago, Ingenuity missed a planned communication check-in with the rover.

Read more at: Spaceflight insider


SpaceX Passes 2,500 Satellites Launched For Starlink Internet Network

SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket Friday afternoon from California’s Central Coast with another batch 53 Starlink internet satellites, pushing the total number of spacecraft launched in the network above 2,500, including testbeds and prototypes already cycled out of the fleet.

The Falcon 9 lifted off at 3:07:50 p.m. PDT (6:07:50 p.m. EDT: 2207:50 GMT) Friday from Vandenberg Space Force Base, a military spaceport between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Read more at: Spaceflight Now

Elon Musk Says Russia Is Ramping Up Cyberattacks On SpaceX’s Starlink Systems In Ukraine

SpaceX’s Starlink internet communications systems in Ukraine are experiencing increasing cyberattack from Russia, the company’s founder Elon Musk said this week. SpaceX, with the help of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), has sent at least 5,000 Starlink terminals to the country, whose cities have been besieged by Russian forces since February. But Musk says it’s been a difficult environment. “Starlink has resisted Russian cyberwar jamming & hacking attempts so far, but they’re ramping up their efforts,” he wrote on Twitter Tuesday (May 10).

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Canada Joins U.S. in ASAT Testing Ban

The Canadian government announced May 9 that it is joining the United States in banning tests of destructive direct-ascent antisatellite weapons as a step toward norms of responsible behavior in space.

In a tweet, the Permanent Mission of Canada to the United Nations in Geneva announced that Canada would abide by the non-binding ban on such ASAT tests announced by Vice President Kamala Harris April 18. Such tests, Harris said at the time, create dangerous amounts of debris in orbit, and she called on other nations to join the United States in the ban.

Read more at: Spacenews


Why is FAA Approval For SpaceX Starship Orbital Launches Taking So Long?

An old joke is going around social media that if the Apollo program had to pass modern environmental regulations, America would never have landed astronauts on the moon. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) seems bent on proving the premise of that joke: It recently delayed its environmental review of SpaceX Starship orbital launches from that company’s facility in Boca Chica, Texas for a fourth time.

Read more at: Hill

Pace Of Work Put Strain On Private Astronaut Mission To ISS

The private astronauts who spent two weeks on the International Space Station in April said they tried to pack too much into their schedules while on the station, putting a strain on both themselves and the professional astronauts there.

At a May 13 news conference, the four people who flew on Axiom Space’s Ax-1 mission to the station said that while they had a good trip to the station, they overestimated how much work they could get done after their arrival at the ISS April 9 for what was originally scheduled to be an eight-day stay.

Read more at: Spacenews

FAA Issues Commercial Space Reentry Site Operator License for Huntsville International Airport

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is issuing a license to the Huntsville-Madison Airport Authority in Alabama to operate the Huntsville International Airport (HSV) as a commercial space reentry site.

The license permits the airport to offer its site for Sierra Space Dream Chaser vehicles returning to Earth from future NASA resupply missions to the International Space Station. The Reentry Site Operator License is valid for five years. 

Read more at: FAA

Blue Origin’s 5th Human Flight Set To Lift Off May 20

Blue Origin revealed its latest launch date and mission patch for NS-21.

Liftoff from Launch Site One is set for Friday, May 20.

A comment from Astronaut Even Dick inspired the mission patch. This will be Dick’s second flight on New Shepard. After his first, Dick said reaching space in the crew capsule on NS-19 felt like climbing above the ocean’s surface after a lifetime of living below the surface.

Read more at: kvia

Astra’s Playing the Long Game

In a time when every rocket launch is livestreamed on YouTube, millions of people get a front row seat to a space company’s successes and failures. Astra, a rocket startup-turned-public company, has had a few of both. But according to CEO Chris Kemp, perfection is not the point.

“The expectation I think that a lot of people have is every launch has to be perfect,” he told TechCrunch. “I think what Astra has to do, really, is we have to have so many launches nobody thinks about it anymore.”

Read more at: Techcrunch

Redwire Warns Of Volatility In Commercial Space Markets

Space technology company Redwire said that while it still sees the commercial sector as its biggest prospect for long-term growth, volatility among its customers may cause delays.

Redwire, which went public through a SPAC merger last year, reported revenue of $32.9 million in its first-quarter earnings release May 12. The company had a net loss of $17.3 million and an adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) loss of $4.7 million in the quarter.

Read more at: Spacenews

Too Poor For Space? Ballooning To The Stratosphere Is The Next Best Thing

Since the Apollo days, astronauts have experienced an existential overwhelm through their reframed view of Earth as a fragile planet against the harshness of space and the vessel of all humanity.

It’s an event so profound that it’s come to be known as the overview effect, a term coined in 1987 by author and space philosopher Frank White. For civilians, it’s reserved for a rarified few who can shell out $450,000 to $55 million for several weightless minutes at the edge of space to several days in orbit aboard the International Space Station.

Read more at: fastcompany

Virgin Orbit Announces Next Launch, Fleet Expansion

Cosmic Girl is slated to take to the skies once again next month for Virgin Orbit’s fourth launch, which aims to deliver numerous satellites into orbit for various government agencies, including the United States Space Force.

One of the firm’s LauncherOne rockets arrived at the Mojave Air and Space Port after departing the Long Beach production facility on April 28. The rocket will undergo flight prep before being attached under the wing of the modified Boeing 747 known as Cosmic Girl.

The launch window for the mission is expected to open June 29 at 8 p.m. local time.

Read more at: lbbusinessjournal


Vega C Prepped For Maiden Flight In June

Europe’s new Vega C launcher is on track for its inaugural flight from the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, during the second half of June, according to officials managing final phases of integration.

Stefano Bianchi, the European Space Agency’s head of flight programs, told Spaceflight Now: “A ground qualification review was finalized March 30 and a Flight Readiness Review took place mid-April. With the transfer of the first stage and second stage integration complete, the maiden flight launch campaign is well underway.”

Read more at: Spaceflight now

Smarter Satellites: ESA Discovery Accelerates AI In Space

Could we capitalise on the Earth-based digital revolution to make our satellites smarter?

ESA Discovery is funding 12 projects that will explore the potential of applying the latest developments in artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced computing paradigms to make satellites more reactive, agile and autonomous. This could generate new practical applications that support life on Earth and our exploration of other planets.

Read more at: ESA

Boeing Considers Redesigning Problematic Valve That Has Kept Starliner From Flying NASA Astronauts

Boeing is examining whether to redesign the propulsion valves on its Starliner crew capsule, a crucial system that has kept the company from flying astronauts for NASA — and competing with Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

Starliner is the spacecraft that Boeing has been developing under NASA’s Commercial Crew program, having won nearly $5 billion in contracts to build the capsule. But Starliner’s development has run into several obstacles.

Read more at: CNBC

ISRO Successfully Tests Solid Rocket Booster For Gaganyaan Programme

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has successfully carried out the static test of the HS200 solid rocket booster, taking the space agency one more step closer to the keenly awaited Gaganyaan human spaceflight mission.

The test was held at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, on Friday morning. Designed and developed by the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) in Thiruvananthapuram over two years, the HS200 booster is rocket boosters used on the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk-III (GSLV Mk-III), also called the LVM3.

Read more at: Hindu

China Says SpaceX Could Give U.S. Military Head-Start on Battlefield

A Chinese military news outlet has expressed concern over SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet network because of alleged strategic benefits it could provide to the U.S. military.

The concerns were outlined in an article published last week by China Military Online, the official English-language news website of the Chinese Armed Forces.

The article states that SpaceX has an ambition to use the Starlink satellite internet service “for military purposes” and that this should “put the international community on high alert.”

Read more at: Newsweek

Plants Grown In Moon Soil From Apollo Missions

If you’re like me and struggle to keep an indoor plant alive, the thought of growing plants in moon soil seems out of this world.

A team of scientists from the University of Florida have shown it can be done, by successfully growing the plant Arabidopsis thaliana in soil samples collected during the Apollo 11, 12 and 17 lunar missions. Arabidopsis thaliana, also known as thale cress, is a small flowering plant belonging to the Brassicaceae family (which includes mustard, cabbage and radish), and is a valuable plant used in numerous plant experiments.

Read more at: Cosmos magazine


Delegates at the United Nations Have Begun Forging New Rules for Space

Vice president Kamala Harris, who leads the US National Space Council, announced in April that the United States will no longer conduct destructive anti-satellite missile tests, a change that was effective immediately. The United States, China, India, and, most recently, Russia, have all conducted such tests, which blow up defunct satellites, in the process spreading thousands of bits of shrapnel throughout low Earth orbit, which can threaten spacecraft for decades.

Read more at: Wired

ISS Partnership Feeling Some Effects Of Sanctions On Russia

While operations of the International Space Station continue without “serious interruptions,” sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine are starting to have an effect on some activities, NASA’s safety advisers said.

At a May 12 meeting of the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP), members reiterated past comments by agency officials that the day-to-day operations of the ISS have continued despite Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February and subsequent sanctions imposed on Russia by the other countries in the ISS partnership.

Read more at: Spacenews

Colombia Signs The Artemis Accords For Peaceful Space Exploration

Colombia has joined NASA’s quickly growing Artemis Accords program, becoming the 19th nation to sign on, after recent pacts with Bahrain, Singapore and Romania.

Although Colombia has not yet disclosed its specific contributions to NASA’s moon-bound Artemis program, Marta Lucía Ramírez, the country’s vice president and foreign minister, said Colombia is looking forward to developing its space work rapidly.

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Space Force General: Commercial Satellite Internet In Ukraine Showing Power Of Megaconstellations

During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing May 11, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) asked Space Force officials if any lessons could be drawn from the war in Ukraine about the role of commercial satellites in armed conflicts. 

One lesson is the resiliency provided by large proliferated constellations, said Gen. David Thompson, vice chief of space operations of the U.S. Space Force.

Russia in a cyberattack in February managed to disrupt satcom services provided by a Viasat satellite. But SpaceX’s broadband constellation Starlink has continued to provide internet services in Ukraine despite attempts to disrupt it. According to Elon Musk, the Starlink network “has resisted Russian cyberwar jamming and hacking attempts so far, but they’re ramping up their efforts.”

Read more at: Spacenews

NASA Should Lead Humanity’s Return To The Moon

It’s half a century since astronauts walked on the Moon, leaving boot prints in the lunar dust and capturing iconic views of Earth. If NASA has its way, it will soon be sending people back: its Artemis programme is scheduled to carry out its first test of a rocket capable of reaching the Moon this year, and to culminate in a human mission to the unexplored southern polar region in 2025. It will be the first time people have set foot on the Moon since NASA’s Apollo programme ended in 1972. Named after the twin sister of the Greek god Apollo, Artemis aims to rekindle the wonder of humans visiting other worlds.

Read more at: Nature

India, France Agree To Cooperate On Secure Access To Outer Space, Space-Based Challenges

India and France have agreed to cooperate to tackle “contemporary challenges that have arisen in space,” including secure access to outer space.

The pledge was part of a broader set of economic and security agreements reached between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron during their May 4 summit in Paris.

“In order to address the contemporary challenges that have arisen in space, in particular maintaining secure access to space for all, India and France have agreed on setting up a bilateral strategic dialogue on space issues,” the two leaders said in a joint statement.

Read more at: Spacenews

Op-ed | The Fundamentals of a Healthy Space Ecosystem

Despite the challenges many industries encountered during the COVID-19 pandemic, the past few years have been phenomenal for the global space sector. Three nations launched missions to Mars, U.S. astronauts returned to the International Space Station, and private space companies have taken all-civilian crews on their first space tourism launches.

Aerospace companies responded to the pandemic by delivering telemedicine, ventilators, modeling techniques, and personal protective gear.

Read more at: Spacenews


Vandenberg Space Force Base Celebrates First-Year Milestones

A year after becoming part of the Department of Defense’s newest branch, Vandenberg Space Force Base’s community paused to celebrate May 11, 2022.

During a ceremony held at the base’s Pacific Coast Club, both Col. Rob Long, commander, Space Launch Delta 30, and Chief Master Sgt. Jason DeLucy, command chief master sergeant, Space Launch Delta 30, showcased highlights from the past year.

“Today we celebrate a significant milestone at Vandenberg Space Force Base, one that gives us a great opportunity to celebrate our accomplishments and more importantly our team,” said Long. “A year ago, on May 14, the realignment of the 30th Space Wing and the renaming of Vandenberg Air Force Base was in some ways the formal transition of our organization and base into the United States Space Force … our birth into the Space Force.”

Read more at: Vandenberg

A Dozen Senators Introduce Legislation to Establish a Space National Guard

Twelve senators have backed legislation that would create a Space National Guard, reigniting a debate over how the Space Force will organize its part-time components.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) introduced the Space National Guard Establishment Act on May 10, with four Democrats and six Republicans joining them in co-sponsoring the legislation.

Read more at: Airforcemag

Question Of Space National Guard Heats Up Following Legislation, Hearings

With new legislation introduced to force the creation of a Space National Guard program, the question of the newest military service’s structure is once again in the spotlight.

On May 3, Gen. Jay Raymond, the Space Force head, told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that a Space Guard setup could be done two ways: “Either have a separate Space National Guard or take the capabilities from the Guard and move them into” a single component concept.

Read more at: Breaking defense

Pentagon May Rethink How It Determines Which Space Programs Are Classified

The U.S. Department of Defense may rewrite its guide for classifying space programs, a policy official told lawmakers this week.

Congress last year directed the Pentagon to review its classified space portfolio to determine whether programs are appropriately classified. The fiscal 2022 National Defense Authorization Act required the department to complete that effort by the end of April, submit a report to Congress in June and change the classification status of its programs, as necessary, by late July.

Read more at: c4isrnet

As U.S. Blames Russia For KA-SAT Hack, Starlink Sees Growing Threat

Elon Musk says Russian hackers are increasing efforts to take down SpaceX’s Starlink broadband service amid the war in Ukraine.

“Starlink has resisted Russian cyberwar jamming and hacking attempts so far, but they’re ramping up their efforts,” Musk tweeted May 10. 

Earlier that day, the United States formally blamed Russia for a late February cyberattack on Viasat’s KA-SAT satellite internet network.

Read more at: Spacenews


Russian Cosmonauts Hold Improvised Victory Parade Aboard Orbital Outpost

An improvised Victory Parade to commemorate the 77th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s Victory over Nazi Germany in the 1941-1945 Great Patriotic War was held aboard the International Space Station (ISS), TASS special reporter, cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev reported on Monday.

The improvised Victory Parade in the Russian Zvezda module involved a fly-past of mock-ups of a WWII Ilyushin Il-2 ground attack plane and a Soyuz MS manned spacecraft that is used to deliver cosmonauts to the orbital outpost.

Read more at: TASS

Russian Space Chief Dmitry Rogozin Apparently Threatens Elon Musk

Russian space chief Dmitry Rogozin has apparently threatened Elon Musk, but the SpaceX founder and CEO doesn’t seem too bothered. 

On Sunday (May 8), Musk posted on Twitter a note that he said Rogozin, the head of Russia’s federal space agency Roscosmos, had sent out to Russian media. The note claimed that equipment for SpaceX’s Starlink satellite-internet system had been delivered to Ukrainian marines and “militants of the Nazi Azov battalion” by the U.S. military.

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EXCLUSIVE Boeing Clashes With Key Supplier Ahead Of Starliner Spacecraft Launch

Boeing Co is feuding with Aerojet Rocketdyne, a key supplier for its Starliner spacecraft, as the U.S. aerospace giant races to test launch the uncrewed astronaut capsule and mend its reputation in the space sector, people familiar with the matter said.

The CST-100 Starliner is scheduled for a May 19 Florida launch atop an Atlas 5 rocket to the International Space Station, with Boeing aiming to show NASA that the spacecraft is safe to ferry astronauts to and from the orbiting outpost. Software failures cut short a similar 2019 uncrewed test flight.

Read more at: Reuters

Entrepreneurs Create A Space “Academy” As Commercial Space Flourishes

A group of astronauts, engineers, and business executives is betting on a vibrant space economy by launching a new initiative called “Star Harbor.” Among several planned activities, this spaceflight campus would train future astronauts and make facilities such as a neutral buoyancy laboratory and high-gravity centrifuge publicly available.

Star Harbor has already acquired 53 acres in Lone Tree, Colorado, for about $25 million, said Star Harbor founder and Chief Executive Maraia Tanner in an interview. The company plans to open the mixed-use development campus, just south of Denver, beginning in 2026.

Read more at: Arstechnica

Meet The Former Nazi Rocket Scientist Who All Too Accurately Saw The Future

I recently read (and greatly enjoyed) V2, Robert Harris’s absorbing second world war thriller about British attempts to locate and destroy the base in the Netherlands from which Hitler’s “Retaliation Weapon 2” – those devastating rocket-powered bombs aimed at London – were launched. Harris is famous for the meticulous research that underpins his plots and V2 is no exception. For me, a particularly interesting aspect of the novel was his portrayal of Wernher von Braun, the German aerospace engineer who was the leading figure in the development of Nazi rocketry and who was snaffled by the US (with a large number of his technical associates) to enjoy a splendid second career as the mastermind of the US space programme.

Read more at: Guardian

Space Foundation CEO To Retire After Next Year’s Symposium

Tom Zelibor, who has led the Space Foundation for five years through a major expansion and helped it survive the COVID-19 pandemic, will retire next spring after the 2023 Space Symposium. The Colorado Springs-based nonprofit last month extended his contract, which would have expired April 30, until the organization can complete a national search and find a replacement.

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NASA Astronaut Floats On The Space Station With Earth In The Background (Photo)

NASA astronaut Jessica Watkins floats above Earth in a gorgeous new photo from the International Space Station. 

Watkins launched to the orbiting lab on April 27 as part of SpaceX’s Crew-4 mission, making history as the first Black woman to embark on a long-duration spaceflight. She is currently serving as a mission specialist, aiming to observe and photograph geological features on Earth and conduct a variety of science experiments alongside her crewmates. 

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