Russia Races to Replace British Singer Sarah Brightman as Space Tourist

Russia’s space officials are rushing to find a replacement for British singer Sarah Brightman after she pulled out as the next space tourist four months ahead of her planned trip. Speculation in Russia centered on whether Brightman pulled out because of safety fears after an unmanned supply ship to the ISS lost contact with mission control after its launch last month and fell back to Earth.

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/technology/sci-tech/russia-races-to-replace-british-singer-sarah-brightman-as-space-tourist-20150515-gh2i8f.html

House Science Committee Approves Four Commercial Space Bills

The bill’s central provisions included an extension of both third-party launch indemnification and the “learning period” that limits regulation of commercial human spaceflight safety through the end of 2023. The learning period is set to expire on Oct. 1, while launch indemnification runs through the end of 2016.

Source: http://www.space.com/29409-commercial-space-bills-house-approval.html

Imagining Pluto

Pluto is fantastically cold, at 43 degrees above absolute zero. For much of its orbit, the entire atmosphere freezes out. We may get to see that happening when NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft zooms by it this July. This is the last planet we’ll see up close for the first time—at least until we can send starships to other suns. We can expect, when New Horizons’ flies past Pluto, some confirmations of our many theoretical models. Far more important, we can expect surprises. First will come fresh pictures. Then will come streams of data about the fields and particles surrounding the planet. From that we can fashion a deeper understanding of this small, dim, world.

Source: http://www.airspacemag.com/daily-planet/imagining-pluto-180955232/

Soyuz 2-1A Caused Progress M-27M Failure and ISS Schedule Changes

The exact nature of the problem is yet to be revealed, with the Russian Space Agency, Roscosmos, still working through an investigation process. In the latest media release, Roscosmos confirmed the problem was with the third stage, which resulted in the launch profile entering the wrong orbital parameters, before a bad separation between the stage and the Progress resulted in the spacecraft spinning out of control. “The preliminary conclusion confirmed an abnormal separation, including two events associated with depressurization of the oxidizer and fuel tanks on the third stage,” noted the Agency.

Source: http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2015/05/soyuz-2-1a-third-stage-progress-m-27m-iss-changes/

Microbes Under Antarctica

A large reservoir of liquid water has been discovered by Jill Mikucki and her colleagues beneath Antarctica’s Taylor Valley. Since the only natural outlet of that reservoir, Blood Falls, contains a diverse population of microbes, the implication is that the whole reservoir may be teeming with life. That makes them a great analog to subsurface liquid reservoirs that have existed and may still exist on Mars.

Source: http://www.airspacemag.com/daily-planet/microbes-under-antarctica-180955189/

CubeSat Mission will Study Ionosphere

The project, called Scintillation Observations and Response of the Ionosphere to Electrodynamics (SORTIE), will involve the launch of a CubeSat to collect data to study the ionospheric F-region. Alonzo Vera, a scientist at COSMIAC and principal investigator for the project on the UNM side, said that the ionosphere affects radio signals including satellite communication and GPS, but that there are many aspects of it that are not understood.

Source: http://phys.org/news/2015-05-cosmiac-cubesat-mission-ionosphere.html

NASA Unveils Latest Technology Roadmaps for Future Agency Needs

NASA has released the agency’s 2015 technology roadmaps laying out the promising new technologies that will help NASA achieve its aeronautics, science and human exploration missions for the next 20 years, including the agency’s journey to Mars. The agency is seeking public comment on the draft roadmaps to increase awareness, generate innovative solutions for space exploration and scientific discovery, and inspire public involvement in America’s space program.

Source: http://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-unveils-latest-technology-roadmaps-for-future-agency-needs

Virgin Galactic’s New SpaceShipTwo is Taking Shape

Six months after Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo crashed during a test flight, a new version of the suborbital space plane is coming together in a hangar in the California desert. SpaceShipTwo, which was known as VSS Enterprise, broke apart in midair on Oct. 31, 2014, killing copilot Michael Alsbury and injuring pilot Peter Siebold. Virgin Galactic representatives vowed to press on despite the tragic accident, and another SpaceShipTwo is indeed taking shape.

Source: http://news.discovery.com/space/private-spaceflight/virgin-galactics-new-space-plane-is-taking-shape-150507.htm

Proton Crash Deals Another Blow to Russian Space Sector

Failure struck Russia’s troubled space program for the second time in three weeks Saturday, when a Proton rocket carrying a high-tech satellite for Mexico’s new $1.6 billion space-based communications network crashed shortly after liftoff.

Source: http://spaceflightnow.com/2015/05/16/proton-crash-deals-another-blow-to-russian-space-sector/

China’s Secret Space Weapons have the Pentagon Worried

The United States is concerned that the Chinese regime’s “continued development of destructive space technologies” is a “threat to all peaceful space-faring nations,” states the Pentagon’s 2015 annual report to Congress on the Chinese regime’s military and security developments. Such programs are of particular concern for the United States. A significant part of modern military power relies on satellites—from GPS and communications, to early warning systems.

Source: http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/1354392-chinas-secret-space-weapons-have-the-pentagon-worried/