It is About Time Russia Should End International Space Station

The 20th century was rich for events in the field of space exploration. First manned space flight of Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin‘s and US astronaut Neil Armstrong’s landing on the Moon became one of he biggest achievements of mankind in conquering space. What can humans achieve in space exploration in the 21st century? Pravda.Ru conducted an interview on the subject with correspondent member of the Russian Academy of Cosmonautics named after Tsiolkovsky, Andrei Ionin. “Do you think that such projects as Russia’s Vostochny spaceport can interest foreign investors from Asian countries?” “Of course. Most countries of the world are very interested in the space industry. Space is a medal that anyone wants to decorate themselves with, in spite of everything. If a country develops its own space industry, it means that this country is a technologically advanced state with a developed national economy. Although, with all due respect to the space industry, it is no longer the case. Space industry is not the most advanced sector of national economy. The world has not seen any innovations in the industry for about 40 years already.  “Yet, it is still considered very prestigious. Space industry is a serious motivator for science and young people. People are very attracted to ideas of the future. Space industry is all about future. Therefore, many countries want to develop their own space programs, while other countries want to participate in other countries’ space programs. “However, a year ago, Dmitry Rogozin put forward a reasonable suggestion to close the International Space Station project. Russia has been developing the project for 20 years already. It started during the 1990s in cooperation with the USA, the EU, Canada and Japan. “Russia’s role in the project was different from the start. During the 1990s, it was having very hard times, and the money that was invested in the ISS project rescued the Russian space industry. The United States and the European Union participated in the project because they did not have the technology of long-term stay in space. The USSR and then Russia had the technology that the USA and the EU wanted to have as well. “Today, it is clear for Russia that our current partners on the ISS project will not be our partners in the future.

Source: Pravda

European Space Agencies Step Up Space Surveillance and Tracking

Five European countries have agreed to do more to monitor and track space objects and detect their uncontrolled re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. The Space Surveillance and Tracking (SST) Consortium Agreement, signed by France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom, will see its members cooperating to provide an EU-wide Space Surveillance and Tracking Framework to help protect European space infrastructure, facilities and services which are essential for the safety and security of the economies and citizens of Europe. The Consortium will exploit existing national infrastructures and sensors to provide a service to monitor and track space objects and debris; support and help spacecraft operators and users by providing a service for collision avoidance; create surveys for fragmentation detection; and monitor uncontrolled re-entry of space objects into Earth’s atmosphere. Beside the information provided by the US, such a service will give more autonomy to Europe in this crucial field. The consortium agreement is in response to the decision 541/2014/EU of the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union taken on 16 April 2014. The 5 European Union member states will cooperate with the European Union Satellite Centre (SATCEN), established by the Council Joint Action, to implement the provision of the SST services. Inside the member states, the national space agencies will collaborate closely with their ministries of defence, both having a vested interest in the monitoring of the space environment. The European Commission has foreseen some budget in the period 2015-2020 for space surveillance and tracking services, upgrading of the existing European infrastructure and sensors, as well as the development of new assets.

Source: UK Government

Launch of CRS-7 Slips to Next Sunday, June 28

The launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket and its payload of a Dragon automated cargo vessel on the seventh operational flight under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract will have to wait a couple more days before launch. This slip was apparently caused in order to accomplish the work required to get the booster and spacecraft ready for flight. This report came from Florida Today’s James Dean via Twitter. The launch had been scheduled to launch on June 26, but has been pushed back to no-earlier-than (NET) Sunday, June 28, at 10:21 a.m. EST (14:21 GMT). The $1.6 billion Commercial Resupply Services contract that SpaceX has with NASA requires that the Hawthorne, California-based company conduct some 14 flights to the International Space Station carrying cargo, oxygen, and crew supplies. After the CRS-7 mission, SpaceX will have reached the “halfway” mark in terms of the number of flights that it has to conduct under the first CRS contract.

Source: Spaceflight Insider

Agencies, Hoping to Deflect Comets and Asteroids, Step Up Earth Defense

In grappling with the threat of doomsday rocks from outer space, Hollywood has always been far ahead of the federal government, cranking out thrillers full of swashbuckling heroes, rockets and nuclear blasts that save the planet. Now Washington is catching up. On Wednesday, June 17, the nation’s agencies that build civilian rockets and nuclear arms sealed an agreement to start working together on planetary defense. The goal is to learn how to better deflect comets and asteroids that might endanger cities and, in the case of very large intruders, the planet as a whole. “Often, these agencies focus on their own pieces of the puzzle, so anything that brings them together is a good thing,” said Bruce Betts, director of science and technology at the Planetary Society, a nonprofit group that promotes space exploration. Comets and asteroids are part of the cosmic rubble left over from the birth of the solar system. Comets, made of dirty ice, visit Earth’s neighborhood only when knocked loose from their home orbits beyond Pluto. That makes their movement somewhat unpredictable. Asteroids, made of rock, fly mostly in a belt between Mars and Jupiter. Their orbits can be calculated with great precision if astronomers can spot the dim objects. Rocky debris rains down steadily on Earth, mostly as dust grains and tiny pebbles. But every once in a while a tumbling giant, miles wide, such as the one thought to have done in the dinosaurs, zooms past the planet. In 2013, this extraterrestrial threat gained new credibility after a 7,000-ton rock — roughly 60 feet wide and technically a meteoroid, smaller than an asteroid — exploded over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk, injuring 1,500 people, mainly as shards flew from shattered windows. The dazzling light from the rocky intruder blinded eyes and burned skin even though the temperature that day was far below freezing. The two agencies — NASA and the National Nuclear Security Administration — have long studied such threats on their own. They have surveyed the cosmic debris, designed rocket interceptors and run supercomputer simulations to see if a nuclear blast could nudge a large asteroid off course. In interviews, federal officials and private experts said the new interagency agreement would deepen the levels of expert cooperation and governmental planning, ultimately increasing the chances of a successful deflection. “It’s a big step forward,” said Kevin Greenaugh, a senior official at the nuclear security agency. “Whenever you have multiple agencies coming together for the common defense, that’s news.”But scientists who favor nonnuclear means of asteroid interception said the atomic method would become suitable only if a large threat materialized too quickly for countermeasures that were less powerful.“I’d like to see it as a last-ditch option,” said H. Jay Melosh, a geophysicist at Purdue University who served on a national panel in 2010 that evaluated the extraterrestrial threats.

Source: New York Times

Space Based Space Surveillance: Follow on Needed

The Space Based Space Surveillance Block 10 program benefited from a $11.5 million contract with Boeing on Thursday, June 18, with this to provide sustainment and development work. The SBSS program needs a follow-on to the existing satellites in orbit, with the Air Force arranging an industry day in January in order to present its acquisition strategy. Principally this involves the planned procurement of three new satellites , with a rough schedule of these entering service before 2021.
In January 2001, a commission headed by then US Defense Secretary-designate Donald Rumsfeld warned about a possible “space Pearl Harbor” in which a potential enemy would launch a surprise attack against US-based military space assets, disabling them. These assets include communications satellites and the GPS system, which is crucial for precision attack missiles and a host of military systems.“The US is more dependent on space than any other nation. Yet the threat to the US and its allies in and from space does not command the attention it merits,” the commission warned. One of the systems that grew out of the commission’s report was the Space Based Space Surveillance (SBSS) project, which is developing a constellation of satellites to provide the US military with space situational awareness using visible sensors. After a slow start, SBSS Block 10 reached a significant milestone in August 2012 with its Initial Operational Capability, followed by full operational capability less than a year later. But lack of funding casts as shadow on whether this capability will be maintained beyond 2017. By 2014/15 the Air Force worked on a stopgap project as well as an effort to obtain proper funding for follow on satellites to be launched at the start of next decade. The SBSS system is intended to detect and track space objects, such as satellites, anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons, and orbital debris, providing information to the US Department of Defense as well as NASA. The SBSS is a stepping stone toward a functional space-based space surveillance constellation.

Source:  Defense Industry Daily

China’s Space Program Could Completely Crush its Competition

NASA isn’t in serious trouble, but it has flat-lined. NASA’s leadership in space exploration is what makes it one of the most inspiring and beloved agencies, but some feel that NASA has gotten stuck. It’s budget isn’t declining, but it’s not growing either. And if we’re not careful, other space programs are going to step up and fill the role of space exploration leader. One up-and-coming contender is China. China’s space program is showing the same kind of explosive growth as its economy, said Chris Impey, an astronomy professor at the University of Arizona, during an interview with NPR’s Fresh Air host Terry Gross. That means it has grown roughly 10% a year for the past decade. While that amount is slipping a little and will likely slow down in the next few years, the bottom line is that China’s space program is expanding, and NASA’s is starting to flounder. It’s easy to forget about China when it comes to space exploration. It didn’t launch its first satellite until 1970, after the U.S. had already put several in orbit and even landed men on the moon. China didn’t even send a taikonaut (China’s word for astronaut) to space until 2003. And since the beginning of its space program, China benefited a great deal from Russian technologies, Impey wrote in his book “Beyond: Our Future in Space.” For example, China used to buy old Russian rockets and reverse-engineer them. That’s all changing quickly though. That’s all changing quickly though. “But now the Chinese are innovating and vaulting ahead,” Impey writes. “Their Long March rocket is original and has quickly eclipsed Russian rockets.” And innovation is one of the most important things China has going for it, Impey said. “And they’re actually — unlike the one of the stereotypes that they’re just sort of copying our technology — they’re actually innovating,” Impey says during NPR’s interview. “They have very young engineers in their space program — very keen, very well trained, very ambitious.”

Source: Business Insider

Orbiting ‘Rest Stops’ to Repair Crumbling Satellites?

More than 1,100 satellites are orbiting the Earth right now transmitting TV shows and phone calls, collecting rainforest data and spying on missile bases around the planet. Most are expensive, costing tens or hundreds of millions of dollars to build, launch and operate. Now NASA wants to build a satellite service station that can gas up and repair aging birds, giving them a few years more life before they fall into the Earth’s atmosphere and “Is there a way working with humans and robots together to extend the useful life of satellites, by fixing them and by not allowing fuel to spill out, but give it more propellant, close it up and send it on its way?,” said Benjamin Reed, deputy director of the Satellite Servicing Program Office at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “Yes, we have the technologies to be able to do it.”NASA astronauts have been practicing during two Robotic Refueling Missions on the International Space Station in 2011 and 2014, while engineers on the ground at Goddard have been developing new kinds of fuel nozzles, wire-cutters, drills and other robotic tools. They also built a shiny, gold-foil-covered, 20-foot tall mockup of the Landsat-7 satellite in order to practice docking maneuvers necessary for fueling up in space. Other technologies being developed include Raven, a laser-guided sensor that gives precise orbital trajectory of approaching objects. That will be key to any kind of in-orbit docking of two relatively small satellites that have to connect a fuel nozzle that can be just an inch or two wide. Reed sees a future where a NASA service vehicle hopscotches around low-Earth orbit, docking with satellites that need gas or a tune-up. Additional technologies for in-orbit refueling will also be used in parallel with the upcoming Asteroid Redirect Mission, in which NASA hopes to put a lander on an object, pick up a big boulder, and then bring the rock back to Earth. That mission is funded and scheduled to lift off in December 2020.

Source: Space.com

Hot Firing of World’s First 3-D Printed Platinum Thrusters Chamber

The world’s first spacecraft thruster with a platinum combustion chamber and nozzle made by 3D printing has passed its baptism of fire with a series of firings lasting more than an hour and 618 ignitions. “This is a world first,” explains Steffen Beyer of Airbus Defence & Space, managing the project. “The firings included a single burn of 32 minutes, during which a maximum throat temperature of 1253°C was attained. “It demonstrates that performance comparable to a conventional thruster can be obtained through 3D printing.” 3D printing involves building up an object in layers rather than conventionally cutting unwanted material from a solid block, meaning that much less material is needed to make a given item. The combustion chamber for the 10 N hydrazine thruster was printed in platinum–rhodium alloy using a laser beam applied to a metal powder bed. “The aim was to test this alternative manufacturing method as a way of reducing material costs,” says Laurent Pambaguian, overseeing the project on the ESA side. “At the start we were by no means certain it could be done, or even whether the metal powder could be prepared to the appropriate quality. “For production we ended up using a laser machine normally employed for making jewellery, which is the current industrial state-of-the-art for manufacturing with these metals.” “Considering that platinum currently costs €40 a gram, 3D printing offers considerable future savings,” added Dr Beyer. “We produce 150–200 thrusters in this class per year for different customers. 3D printing should allow shorter production cycles and a more flexible production flow, such as manufacturing on demand.” The prototype thruster was produced and tested at the Airbus Defence & Space facility in Lampoldshausen, Germany, through an ESA project called Additive Manufacturing Technologies for Advanced Satellite Thrust Chamber, AMTAC.

Source: ESA