Space Matter: The Trouble with Spacesuits

Every aspect of space travel is difficult, but perhaps the hardest is the act of walking in space. When astronauts exit the International Space Station, they’re exposed to the vacuum of space. The only thing that’s protecting them is a pressurized suit, known as an EMU (Extravehicular Mobility Unit). And now, it appears as though we’re running out of them.

We’ve been using spacesuits since Mercury (the first American spacewalk occurred on Gemini 4), but the current spacesuit was designed and built for the Space Shuttle program. Of course they’ve been upgraded, modified, and refurbished since then, but the fact remains: These suits were originally designed to last fifteen years. Almost forty years later, they’re wearing out.

Read more at: paste magazine

Air Force Moving Forward After Blue Origin ‘Setback’

The Air Force said Monday it is working to “figure out how to progress forward” after a setback in the development of a U.S.-made rocket engine.

Blue Origin, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ space company, tweeted May 14 that it lost a “set of powerpack test hardware on one of its BE-4” engine tests. The powerpack pumps the propellant, liquid oxygen and methane, through the engine. The company said it would resume testing “soon.” Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, military deputy in Air Force acquisition, pointed out that the Air Force has agreements with both Blue Origin and Aerojet Rocketdyne to build a replacement for the Russian-made RD-180 engine.

“We are working with Space and Missile Center to figure out how to progress forward,” Bunch told reporters at an Air Force Association breakfast Monday. “We are aware of the Blue Origin setback and we are in dialogue on how to more forward. It is one we are watching because we know the commitment we made to get off of the 180 as quickly as possible.”

Read more at: investors.com

Enthusiasts Warn Planetary Protection May Stop Humans From Going to Mars

More than just about anything, Robert Zubrin would like to see humans visit and then settle on Mars during his lifetime. The aerospace engineer has made a living of identifying technologies needed to get astronauts to the Red Planet and trying to build a public consensus that Mars is humanity’s next great leap.

Zubrin also likes to knock down hurdles and roadblocks that he sees standing between humans and Mars. Concerned about radiation? Don’t be, Zubrin says, because the in-flight dose won’t be appreciably greater than some US and Russian astronauts have accumulated during long-duration missions to the International Space Station. And what about the cost? If NASA were to buy services directly from industry and bypass the cost-plus method of contracting, humans could walk on Mars for tens of billions of dollars, he says.

Read more at: Arstechnica

Study: Collateral Damage from Cosmic Rays Increases Cancer Risk for Mars Astronauts

The cancer risk for a human mission to Mars has effectively doubled following a UNLV study predicting a dramatic increase in the disease for astronauts traveling to the red planet or on long-term missions outside the protection of Earth’s magnetic field.

The findings appeared in the May issue of Scientific Reports and were presented by UNLV scientist Francis Cucinotta, a leading scholar on radiation and space physics.

Previous studies have shown the health risks from galactic cosmic ray exposure to astronauts include cancer, central nervous system effects, cataracts, circulatory diseases and acute radiation syndromes. Cosmic rays, such as iron and titanium atoms, heavily damage the cells they traverse because of their very high rates of ionization.

Read more at: unlv

China Prepares First Manned Mission to the Moon

China is making “preliminary” preparations to send a man to the moon, state media cited a senior space official as saying, the latest goal in China’s ambitious lunar exploration programme.

China in 2003 became the third country to put a man in space with its own rocket after the former Soviet Union and the United States. It has touted its plans for moon exploration and in late 2013 completed the first lunar “soft landing” since 1976 with the Chang’e-3 craft and its Jade Rabbit rover. The country also plans to land the first probe ever on the dark side of the moon in 2018, another milestone.

Read more at: Independent

Russia Accelerates Work on Developing Hydrogen Engine for Super-heavy Carrier Rocket

Russia has started developing a hydrogen engine for the Angara-A5V carrier rocket with the increased lift capacity and also for a super-heavy launcher, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin told TASS on Thursday.

“A decision has been made to accelerate work on a super-heavy-class rocket. In this regard, R&D work has already been launched and work will begin on the RD-0150 hydrogen engine,” Rogozin said.

According to Rogozin, this engine as part of the third stage increases the lift capacity of the Angara-A5 carrier rocket in its Angara-A5V modification to 37 tonnes and the engine will be subsequently used in the third stage of a super-heavy carrier rocket.

Read more at: TASS

How will SpaceX Train its Wealthy Moon Tourists?

In the entire history of human space travel—nearly sixty years—only 559 people have ever strapped into a spacecraft and flown off the planet. Today, NASA will announce its next batch of candidates that will potentially join their ranks, a handful selected from tens of thousands of applicants.

But over the next decade, the number to date will likely become a distant benchmark. With rapid advancement in aerospace technology and the proliferation of commercial investment, we could very well be witnessing the birth of not only a new era, but also a new type of space traveler altogether: the pure passenger.

Read more at: Popular Mechanics

Could NASA and SpaceX Cooperation Turn into Competition?

Vice President Mike Pence introduced the newest class of American astronauts Wednesday at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. They will train for two years before qualifying for space travel, which could include missions aboard commercially-built spacecraft from private companies like SpaceX.

NASA is counting on SpaceX to bring cargo, and eventually astronauts to the International Space Station, while SpaceX relies on NASA contracts and its launch pad. Complete with a Hollywood soundtrack, for years, NASA has promoted plans to send humans into deep space. But its “Space Launch System” won’t be ready to bring humans around the moon until at least 2021, reports CBS News’ Manuel Bojorquez.

So, it came as a surprise to NASA when SpaceX founder Elon Musk held a conference call in February announcing plans to use a powerful rocket that hasn’t yet flown to sling private tourists around the moon next year

Read more at: CBS News

SpaceX Wants to Launch Thousands of Satellites. What on Earth for?

SpaceX has always had colony-in-the-sky dreams, founded as it was with the “ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets.” But the company also intends to better life on Earth by launching 11,943 satellites that will give fast internet access to the globe.

According to details in November 2016 and March 2017filings with the FCC, SpaceX’s idea is to use those satellites to make a truly World Wide Web, by beaming internet access to everyone, including the 57 percent of the global population that doesn’t access the online world.

That sounds nice, as does an interplanetary society. But Elon Musk—while he may care about humanity’s future and this planet and also other planets—is not running a charity. He’s running a business. And given the riskiness of the space-web market, something beyond a global internet service might help him turn a profit on these things.

Read more at: Wired

SpaceX to Launch Fifth X-37B Mission in August

The Air Force has selected SpaceX to launch in August the fifth mission of the classified X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle — a payload that will test the performance of experimental electronics in the space environment.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson confirmed the August launch during a June 6 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. The Boeing-built spacecraft used a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket for its first four missions; the new mission will use SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launcher.

The X-37B is managed by the Air Force’s Rapid Capabilities Office, and its mission is largely classified. In a June 6 press release, RCO director Randy Walden said the spaceplane’s fifth mission will build on the fourth, which returned May 7 after 718 days on orbit. Walden said the decision to use a SpaceX vehicle opens up new opportunities for “flexible and responsive launch.”

Read more at: Inside Defense

Can China’s Spaceplane Give it the Edge Against US in Space Race?

China has made “significant ­progress” in building a spacecraft that can take off and land using an airstrip the way planes do, a development that one expert says could narrow the space technology gap with the United States.

The spaceplane is being developed by the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (Casic) as part of Beijing’s space programme. The aim is for it to carry both astronauts and cargo to and from space missions, Liu Shiquan, vice-president of Casic, a key defence contractor, said.

Liu revealed the plan at the Global Space Exploration Conference in Beijing on Monday. A key feature of the spaceplane would be horizontal take-off, ­instead of vertical like traditional spacecraft, Liu told the official ­Science and Technology Daily.

Read more at: scmp

China to Open Space Station to Scientists Worldwide

China will open its space station to scientists worldwide after the station is completed around 2022, according to a Chinese space expert.

Wei Chuanfeng, a researcher at the Institute of Manned Space System Engineering under the China Academy of Space Technology, said the China Manned Space Engineering Office has drafted a strategic framework with United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs to offer opportunities on the application of Chinese space station to members of United Nations. Wei made the remarks on Thursday at the 2017 Global Space Exploration Conference, which was held in Beijing.

Under the framework, China will open its experimental resources on the Chinese space station to serve payloads from other countries. UN members, especially developing countries, could conduct scientific and technological experiment on Chinese space station, Wei said.

China’s first astronaut Yang Liwei, who is also deputy director of China Manned Space Engineering Office, said the nation would launch the first core module of the space station in 2019, followed by two experiment modules. The space station will enable astronauts to stay in space for up to six months.

Read more at: Xinhuanet

Return of ILS and Proton Brings Stability to Jittery Commercial Launch Market

The three launch vehicles that carry the vast majority of the world’s commercial satellites into orbit are now all back in business with International Launch Services’s successful launch of the EchoStar-21 satellite.

The June 8 launch placed the 6,900-kilogram EchoStar-21 into a transfer orbit after a more than nine-hour flight. Satellite manufacturer Space Systems Loral said EchoStar 21 was healthy and sending signals.

Assuming at least a four-month in-orbit checkout, EchoStar-21 will arrive ready for service some nine months after a deadline set by the European Commission. EchoStar Corp.’s EchoStar Mobile Ltd. of Ireland won a commission license to provide S-band mobile satellite services in the 28-nation European Union on condition of having the service ready by December 2016.

Read more at: spaceintel report

India is in a Higher Orbit with the Launch of GSLV Mk III

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) had successfully launched its new and heaviest rocket. The Geosynchronous Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV Mk III) validated a new and powerful cryogenic engine designed indigenously. The launch is certainly a major mark on India’s space programme, offering an appropriate closing to a tumultuous period in ISRO’s history. Reaching this milestone is significant for realising next generation engines and launch vehicles, scaling up the launch capacity of India for various missions.

The GSLV Mk III draws its inspiration from ISRO’s vision to make India self-reliant in launch vehicles. Even as design and development work on the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) for meeting remote sensing requirements was going on, the ISRO leadership initiated the GSLV programme for independently reaching the geostationary orbit from Indian soil.

Read more at: DNA India

Russia to Continue its Focus on Quality of Proton Carrier Rocket Engines

The Russian space industry will continue paying enhanced attention to the quality of products manufactured by the Voronezh Mechanical Plant, despite the successful launch of a Proton carrier rocket, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin told TASS on Thursday.

“Roscosmos [State Space Corporation] did not conceal the problems exposed at one of the sector’s enterprises, at the Voronezh Mechanical Plant where second-and third-stage engines for the carrier rocket had to be recalled over gross violations,” the vice-premier said.

“The reliability was confirmed by the actual launch of the space vehicle but this does not mean that attention to the work of the Voronezh facility of rocket engine-making will be lowered now,” Rogozin said.

Read more at: TASS

Window to a Watery Past on Mars

This 70 km-wide crater and its surrounds offer a window into the watery past of the Red Planet. The scene, captured by ESA’s Mars Express, is a composite of two images taken in March 2007 and February 2017. It focuses on a large crater in the Margaritifer Terra region in the southern hemisphere of Mars, and includes a portion of Erythraeum Chaos to the north (right in the main colour image below).

The region is located at the northern edge of Noachis Terra, which at 3.7–4 billion years old, represents some of the oldest and most heavily cratered terrain on Mars.

Remnants of valley networks across the scene indicate that water once flowed through this region, shaping the features seen today. Indeed, as shown by the context image, Parana Valles lies to the east, while Loire Valles lies to the northwest.

Read more at: ESA

Crumb-free Bread will Mean ISS Astronauts Can Now Bake in Space

Astronauts could soon be waking up to the smell of freshly baked bread. A new dough mixture and oven specially designed for use on the International Space Station will be tested during a mission next year.

Ready-made space meals have improved over the years, but for long missions – especially ones far from home – it is impractical for astronauts to take all their food with them. So efforts are underway to produce a range of fresh food in space, including using bacteria to make sugars and growing vegetables.

Fresh food would also make life in space more pleasant, for astronauts and sightseers: “As space tourism takes off and people spend more time in space we need to allow bread to be made from scratch,” says Sebastian Marcu, founder of Bake In Space, the company behind the project, based in Bremen, Germany.

Read more at: NewScientist

Russia’s Aerospace Force takes Briz-M booster to Dump Orbit

The Titov Center of Russia’s Aerospace Force has taken the Briz booster from the designated orbit of the Echostar-21 satellite to a dump orbit, the Defense Ministry has told the media.

The US telecommunication satellite Echostar-21 was put in space on Thursday morning from the Baikonur space site in Kazakhstan with a Proton-M rocket, which blasted off at 06:45 Moscow time. The satellite entered the designated orbit nine hours and 13 minutes later.

“To remove the Briz-M booster from Echostar-21’s orbit the engines were turned on twice. The booster was pushed into an orbit of about 2,000 kilometers at perigee and about 35,000 kilometers at apogee,” the Defense Ministry said.

Read more at: TASS

New Astronauts, But No News from VP Pence

Vice President Mike Pence attended a NASA event at Johnson Space Center (JSC) today introducing the 12 new astronaut candidates NASA selected from a pool of approximately 18,300 applicants.  His remarks evoked patriotic images of American leadership in space, but provided no news about the reestablishment of a White House National Space Council, the nomination of a NASA Administrator, or detaiis of what the Trump Administration plans for NASA.

Pence joined Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot and JSC Director Ellen Ochoa at the event, along with Sen. Ted Cruz, Rep. Lamar Smith and Rep. Brian Babin.  Cruz, Smith and Babin are all members of the Texas congressional delegation.  Cruz chairs the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation space subcommittee.  Smith chairs the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee and Babin chairs its space subcommittee

Read more at: Spacepolicy Online

New Law and Space Agency to Support Luxembourg’s Space Resources Ambitions

The government of Luxembourg expects to soon have in place both a new national space law and a national space agency, two key steps in the small European country’s outsized contribution to the development of a space resources industry.

In presentations at an event here June 5, government officials said both the new law and the new agency are key elements of the country’s strategy to become a leading nation in asteroid mining.

“We found out that, in order to be successful, and in order to help businesses to develop in this sector, it needs several commitments,” said Etienne Schneider, deputy prime minister of Luxembourg and minister of finance, in remarks at the meeting. Those commitments, he said, include a “fully committed” government, a legal framework, research and development funding and access to venture capital. “I think that Luxembourg can offer all this,” he said.

Read more at: Space News

China Quietly Appoints New Space Agency Administrator

China has quietly appointed a new administrator of the China National Space Administration (CNSA), as the country looks to become an increasingly influential player in space.

Tang Dengjie is an economic engineer and formerly vice-mayor of Shanghai municipality, with no apparent aerospace background. He will be supported by established CNSA officials Wu Yanhua and Tian Yulong. The appointment of Tang came just ahead of the opening the Global Space Exploration Conference (GLEX 2017) held in Beijing.

Read more at: GB Times

Llanbedr Spaceport Bid at UK Space Conference

With the UK Space conference taking place in Manchester last week (30 May – 1 June 2017) officials at Snowdonia Aerospace Centre have reignited calls for Llanbedr to become one of the UK’s first commercial spaceports.

Bids for £10m funding to enable Llanbedr Airfield to commence Spaceport operations and develop spaceflight capabilities were submitted to the UK Space Agency 28 April. The decision is now on hold until after the election.

Held every two years, the UK Space Conference is the largest forum for the UK and international space community and is a must attend event for organisations looking to expand into this growing sector.

Read more at: Business news Wales

U.S. Government Should Reduce Impediments to Commercial Space Innovation

The U.S. government could bolster commercial space innovation by relaxing regulations and lowering some of the bureaucratic hurdles that discourage private firms from working with federal agencies, according to panelists at the 2017 GEOINT Symposium.

Remarkable things are happening in the commercial sector, including private investment in space industry startups, advances in imagery and new launch options. “It’s a dramatically changing time that requires help from a regulatory perspective,” said Steve Jacques, Jacques and Associates, a Washington consulting firm.

Without changes to the regulatory environment, some space industry startups eager to work with government customers are likely to give up.

Read more at: Space News

House Bill Seeks to Streamline Oversight of Commercial Space Activities

The House Science Committee is expected to approve a bill that seeks to improve regulation of commercial space activities, but not without criticism from some within the industry.

The American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act, H.R. 2809, was formally introduced June 7 by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the House Science Committee. The bill has eight other co-sponsors, including space subcommittee chairman Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) and Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.), a member active on space issues who remains a leading candidate to be named NASA administrator. The bill has bipartisan support and is expected to clear the committee during a June 8 markup and go to the full House.

The bill seeks to streamline the process of licensing for commercial remote sensing satellites, currently handled by an office within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Read more at: Space News, Bill text

Is ‘Space Law’ the Next Big Practice Area?

The niche business of space law may be poised to take off, according to one veteran space attorney, Del Smith, of Reed Smith, who will make the opening remarks at the American Bar Association symposium on the state of space law in Washington, D.C on Thursday.

Space law – a subspecialty of aviation law – blends traditional commercial legal skills with international relations and political savvy to broker projects as diverse as salvaging broken satellites and asteroid mining.

Smith, who has been in the Society of Satellite Professionals International Hall of Fame since 2007 and has written four books on space commercialization, said the number of lawyers getting into space is already on the rise. In the late 1990s, there were only about 10 lawyers working on space-related matters, he said. But by 2007, that total had grown to 25 or 30 space lawyers worldwide, which has since ballooned to currently “a couple hundred individuals with expertise in space law.”

Read more at: bol.bna

Is it Time to Update the Outer Space Treaty?

Some seem to think so. As the treaty marks its 50th anniversary this year (see “The Outer Space Treaty at 50”, The Space Review, January 23, 2017), a few in American industry and government think the accord, crafted at the height of the Cold War space race between the United States and the Soviet Union, needs to be updated in some way to reflect the current era of spaceflight, one where commercial entities are playing a much bigger role.

Leading the way has been Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), chairman of the space subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee. In an April hearing, he suggested it was time to examine if the treaty needed revisions. “It’s important that Congress evaluate how that treaty, enacted 50 years ago, will impact new and innovative activity within space,” he said in his opening remarks.

Read more at: Space Review

United States Revives Space-policy Council After 24-year Absence

The United States will revive the long-dormant National Space Council, a group meant to coordinate space policy among government agencies and departments. Vice-president Mike Pence, who will chair the council, announced its reinstatement on 7 June at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

First constituted in 1958, the space council — or some iteration of it — has been active sporadically, most recently between 1989 and 1993. Since then, space policy has been mainly run out of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and NASA.

Re-starting the council will better coordinate the country’s space endeavours, Pence said. “President Trump recognizes America needs a coherent and cohesive approach,” he added. The council “will make sure America never again loses our lead in space exploration, innovation and technology”.

Read more at: Nature

U.S. Defense Department Summarizes China’s 2016 Space Program

The unclassified version of the U.S. Defense Department’s annual report to the U.S. Congress on Chinese military power is an overview of publicly verifiable developments interlaced with speculation about what’s going on behind closed doors.

As is true of many governments, it is difficult to determine what part of publicly available writing by Chinese specialists from academia or the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has made its way into policy and development programs, and what has not gone beyond the technical-paper stage.

Read more at: space intel report

Air Force Leaders Discuss the Future of Air and Space Power

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill June 6.

At the forefront were the efforts to restore readiness and increase the lethality of the force. Wilson said any objective evaluation of today’s Air Force reaches two conclusions: “The Air Force is too small for the missions demanded of it,” she said in advance of the hearing. “And adversaries are modernizing and innovating faster than we are, putting America’s technological advantage in air and space at risk.”

Read more at: US Air Force

China Willing to Cooperate with India in Space, Says Top Chinese Scientist

China is willing to cooperate with India in space programmes but this depends on the governments deciding the extent of collaboration, a top Chinese aerospace scientist has said, playing down the so-called “space race” between the two countries.

“We are very willing to cooperate with India in the field of aerospace,” said Sun Weigang, chief engineer of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC).

Sun spoke to Hindustan Times at the Global Space Exploration Conference (GLEX) 2017 in Beijing after delivering a keynote talk on “The Engineering Plan of China’s Lunar Exploration Program Phase III”.

Read more at: Hindustan Times

Questions Raised Over Brian Cox Documentary on Virgin Galactic & Commercial Space

Back in February, Professor Brian Cox traveled here to Mojave with his friends Richard and Sam Branson to watch the third glide flight of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Unity.

Bowled over by what he saw even before the suborbital tourism vehicle glided overhead, Cox gave what amounted to a rousing endorsement of Virgin Galactic and SpaceShipTwo to a gathering of company employees.

“People ask me a lot because I’m a space geek and I’m obviously an evangelist for space, ‘Would you fly to space?” Cox said with Richard Branson seated beside him. “And I’ve always said, ‘Well yes and no, because in some sense it’s a dangerous thing to do.’ However, the moment I walked in this hangar and saw that aircraft, I thought, I want to get on that aircraft. So the answer is now is 100 percent yes.”

Read more at: Parabolic Arc

To the Stars by Atom Bomb: The Incredible Tale of the Top Secret Orion Project

Imagine it’s July 20, 1969 and no one is paying much attention as Neil Armstrong sets foot on the Moon, because all eyes are on the first manned mission to reach Saturn. That may sound absurd, but while NASA was figuring out how to use rockets to reach the Moon, a super secret US government project was developing a gigantic reusable spaceship powered by atom bomb explosions that was designed to carry a crew of 20 to the outer Solar System by 1970 as a first step to the stars. New Atlas looks at the story behind the original Orion Project.

The most powerful rocket in NASA’s inventory is the Space Launch System. When completed, it will weigh 2,875 ton fully fueled, will measure 322 ft (98 m) tall and be able to lift 130 tons into low Earth orbit (LEO). It will be the largest booster ever built and is the key to NASA’s ambitions to send crews of up to seven astronauts to cislunar orbit and smaller crews to Mars.

Read more at: New Atlas

Jury Rejects Whistleblower Claim by Former SpaceX Employee

On June 7, 2017, a California jury returned a 9-3 verdict, dismissing whistleblower claims brought by a former Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (“SpaceX”) employee. Jason Blasdell v. Space Exploration Technologies Corp. et al., Case No. BC 615112 (Cal. Super., LA County).

Jason Blasdell, who was employed as an Avionics Test Technician by SpaceX, a space transport company whose clients include NASA, commenced a lawsuit in April 2016 in the Superior Court of the State of California, alleging that he was improperly fired after informing company officials, including CEO Elon Musk, that his managers pressured technicians to deviate from written test procedures and to sign off on testing that had not been performed on rocket parts as written protocols required.

Read more at: Lexology