China’s Long March 5 Fails on Second Orbital Mission, Innovative Shijian-18 Satellite Lost

China’s most powerful rocket suffered a major setback on Sunday when it failed to send the Shijian-18 experimental communications satellite into orbit to test drive a new ultra-high-performance satellite platform. China’s official Xinhua news agency confirmed the mission ended in failure and said an investigation was being convened, though details on the circumstances of the mishap are not yet clear.

Conducting its second launch, Long March 5 lifted off from a picturesque tropical launch site on Hainan Island at sunset on Sunday, rising into sunlight shortly after blastoff before disappearing in the night on its second orbital mission. The 57-meter tall Long March 5 lifted off from Launch Complex 101 at the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center at 11:23 UTC, 7:23 p.m. local time – rising under the power of twin cryogenic engines and four Kerosene-fueled rocket boosters to begin a half-hour climb into a high-energy orbit.

Read more at: Spaceflight 101

Commercial Crew Providers Making “Significant Progress” Toward First Flights

As the mid-way point of 2017 arrives, both of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program service providers are making significant progress toward the first uncrewed test flights of their Dragon and Starliner capsules.  At their second quarter 2017 meeting, the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel noted this progress while also discussing outstanding concerns regarding the program and vehicles as well as the positive steps being taken to address these matters.

During last month’s NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) second quarter meeting in Huntsville, Alabama, the panel noted the “significant progress” both Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) providers are making toward their first uncrewed demo flights

Read more at: NASA Spaceflight

White House Hails Emerging Commercial Satellite Networks Led by OneWeb

A new generation of commercial space satellites fitted with the most cutting-edge communications technologies has been cleared by the White House to take to the skies, just as President Donald Trump expresses strong support for the emerging commercial space sector.

On Friday, Trump re-established the National Space Council, with Vice President Mike Pence at the helm. The body was disbanded in the early 1990s, after the space shuttle Challenger disaster traumatized the nation and slowed space exploration plans.

With current top leadership vacancies at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the council is poised to set key policy guiding the most explosive emergence of space infrastructure ever.

Read more at: Daily Breeze

NASA to Test Fission Power for Future Mars Colony

As NASA makes plans to one day send humans to Mars, one of the key technical gaps the agency is working to fill is how to provide enough power on the Red Planet’s surface for fuel production, habitats and other equipment. One option: small nuclear fission reactors, which work by splitting uranium atoms to generate heat, which is then converted into electric power.

NASA’s technology development branch has been funding a project called Kilopower for three years, with the aim of demonstrating the system at the Nevada National Security Site near Las Vegas. Testing is due to start in September and end in January 2018.

Read more at: Space.com

NASA Unveils Plan to Test Asteroid Defense Technique

Humanity could face one less doomsday scenario if NASA has its way. On Friday, the space agency announced plans to redirect the course of a small asteroid approaching Earth, as part of the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), according to a NASA press release. The release notes that asteroids hit Earth nearly every day, but most are small enough to burn up in the atmosphere.

But the DART project — a joint effort between NASA and the John Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland — is for the asteroids that are too big to break up — those that could have severe consequences for the Earth if they hit. “DART would be NASA’s first mission to demonstrate what’s known as the kinetic impactor technique — striking the asteroid to shift its orbit — to defend against a potential future asteroid impact,” said Lindley Johnson, NASA’s planetary defense officer in Washington, in the press release.

Read more at: CNN

MDA Restarts Satellite Servicing Business with SES as First Customer

After scrapping an attempt at a satellite servicing business six years ago, MDA Corp. launched a new venture June 28 to repair and refuel satellites in orbit using a spacecraft it is building for the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Fleet operator SES of Luxembourg has agreed to be the first customer for the venture, called Space Infrastructure Services (SIS) — the same name MDA used in 2011.

Steve Oldham, senior vice president of business development for Space Systems Loral, the U.S. satellite manufacturer MDA bought in 2012, is returning to lead the SIS business that he guided in the early 2010s. In a June 28 interview with SpaceNews, Oldham said MDA canceled its previous in-orbit servicing venture out of a concern that as a Canadian company it would be unable to compete with similar programs underway at NASA and DARPA.

Read more at: Space News

The Tiny Satellites Ushering in the New Space Revolution

A good rocket launch site has a few important characteristics. An unpopulated patch of land near an ocean is preferable, so no one gets showered with wayward bits of flaming metal. It’s also nice if it’s on the equator—like all spheres rotating on an axis, the Earth spins fastest in the middle, which provides rocket boosters with extra oomph. In other words, the best sites tend to be in remote, tropical locations. That such places are also often among the world’s poorest gives many launches a counterintuitive feel: billions of dollars in futuristic machinery rising up over rainforests and shantytowns.

That was so, at least, this February in Sriharikota, an island off India’s southeast coast, a couple of hours north of Chennai. To reach Sriharikota, which on maps looks like a 17-mile-long snake feasting on a 5-mile-wide goat, you cruise along a chaotic highway where semis vie for right of way with women carrying water buckets on their heads. Eventually you reach a causeway that, during the dry season, is flanked by marshlands, salt ponds, and mud. At the end of this road is the Satish Dhawan Space Centre.

Read more at: Bloomberg

A Satellite May be Falling Apart in Geostationary Orbit

In the early hours of 1st July, the SES Satellite Control reestablished contact to AMC-9. SES and the satellite manufacturer Thales are working around the clock to evaluate the status and define the next steps.

Tracking information received on 29 June had suggested that at least two separate objects were located in the vicinity of AMC-9. Their source has still to be determined. The new piece of information was included by Thales and SES in their investigations.

All relevant operators and agencies are being kept informed and will receive regular updates from SES. The current assessment is that there is no risk of a collision with other active satellites. AMC-9 and its status continue to being tracked by SES and agencies, including the Joint Space Operations Centre (JSpOC) and ExoAnalytic, a private firm and tracking service provider.

Read more at: Ars Technica

Prototype Solar Array Jettisoned as Dragon Capsule Prepares for Trip Home

An experimental solar wing sent to the International Space Station earlier this month was jettisoned from the orbiting lab’s robotic arm after engineers were unable to fully retract the array. The disposal followed an otherwise successful test of the power panel’s novel roll-out deployment technique, which engineers say could help future spacecraft generate more electricity and still fit inside the fairings of existing rockets.

Carried to the space station inside a SpaceX Dragon supply ship, the Roll-Out Solar Array — ROSA — is an experiment sponsored by the U.S. Air Force to measure its performance in space for the first time. Rolled up in a spool fastened inside the Dragon capsule’s unpressurized trunk, ROSA was extracted with the station’s Canadian-built robotic arm and extended to a length of more than 15 feet (4.5 meters).

The solar array unfurled June 18, extending like a party favor with tensioning booms on both sides of the 5.5-foot-wide (1.6-meter-wide) wing.

Read more at: Spaceflight Now

Sticky ‘Space Velcro’ Developed by NASA to Clear Up Junk in Orbit

Sticky ‘space Velcro’ modelled on how geckos stick to walls has been developed to help clear dangerous space junk from Earth’s orbit.

There are currently around 500,000 pieces of human-made debris hurtling around the planet, at speeds of up to 17,500 mph and experts predict that if the problem is not addressed soon it could prevent future launches. The refuse made up of defunct satellites, bits of spacecraft, and spent rockets already poses a threat to communications systems, space vehicles and astronauts.

However catching the junk is tricky in space because suction cups do not work in vacuum and traditional sticky substances like tape and glue cannot handle the freezing temperatures. Now Stanford University and Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) have designed a new kind of robotic sticky to grab and dispose of the debris.

Read more at: Telegraph

Re-Entry: Block-L Upper Stage

A spent rocket body from a 1974 Molniya launch re-entered the atmosphere on May 31, 2017 after over four decades in orbit. The launch delivered into orbit a Molniya-2 satellite into a highly elliptical orbit from where it could provide coverage over the Soviet Union.

Read more at: Spaceflight 101

Dragon Spacecraft’s Historic Second Return to Earth: How to Watch Live

On Monday (July 3), the crew of the International Space Station will bid farewell to a Dragon cargo spacecraft, which will head back to Earth with more than 4,100 lbs. (1,900 kilograms) of returning cargo in tow. It’s this specific spacecraft’s second splashdown: It brought cargo to the space station and safely returned to Earth in 2014 as well.

When the cargo craft launched to the space station in June on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 spacecraft, it was the first-ever relaunch of a previously used Dragon. Departure coverage will begin at 2 a.m. EDT (0600 GMT). Flight controllers will detach the spacecraft using Canadarm2, the space station’s robotic arm, and then NASA astronauts Jack Fischer and Peggy Whitson will command the arm to let go, NASA officials said in a statement.

Read more at: Space.com

Ariane Group Starts Production of First Flight Model for Vinci Engine Combustion Chamber

Airbus Safran Launchers, which will be known as ArianeGroup on July 1, 2017, has begun construction of the combustion chamber of the first flight model of the VINCI® engine at its Ottobrun site near Munich.

Construction has begun following more than 120 successful tests, using development models. This is a key step towards the success of the first Ariane 6 flight, scheduled for 2020. The new re-ignition engine will significantly increase the operational flexibility of the Ariane 6 launcher, which can fulfill a wide range of missions, including the launch of constellations.

Read more at: Ariane Group

Ariane 5 Launch Proves Reliability and Flies New Fairing

An Ariane 5 carrying two telecom satellites inside a new lighter fairing lifted off on the fourth mission from Europe’s Spaceport in two months. Liftoff came at 21:15 GMT (18:15 local time, 23:15 CEST) last night from Kourou, French Guiana on a mission lasting about 39 minutes to deliver Hellas Sat 3–Inmarsat S EAN and GSAT-17 into their planned orbits.

Hellas Sat 3–Inmarsat S European Aviation Network, with a mass of 5792 kg, was the first to be released after about 28 minutes. The 3477 kg GSAT-17 was released 13 minutes later.

Hellas Sat 3–Inmarsat S EAN, will provide direct-to-home and telecom services to Europe, the Near East and sub-Saharan African countries, and inflight broadband within Europe. The Indian Space Research Organization’s GSAT-17 will provide communications services, data relay, and search and rescue services.

Read more at: ESA

After Nine Launches in 2017, it’s Tough to be an Honest Critic of SpaceX

Elon Musk and SpaceX had one hell of a weekend. While much of the country celebrated the summer weekend at the beach or enjoying time with friends, SpaceX was hard at work launching two rockets for customers, one from the East Coast and one from the West Coast. One of those rockets had previously been flown. And despite dangerous returns due to high-energy missions and inclement weather, the company recovered both of the first stage boosters.

SpaceX garners a lot of acclaim for its achievements, and it has legions of admirers within the aerospace community and the public at large. But it also has critics, primarily competitors who look at SpaceX and see a company that gets a lot of hype but doesn’t always deliver. What is perhaps most striking about this weekend’s back-to-back launches is that the company’s successes drove a stake into some of the most credible criticisms that have been levied against SpaceX in recent years.

Read more at: Ars Technica

An Algorithm Helps Protect Mars Curiosity’s Wheels

There are no mechanics on Mars, so the next best thing for NASA’s Curiosity rover is careful driving.

A new algorithm is helping the rover do just that. The software, referred to as traction control, adjusts the speed of Curiosity’s wheels depending on the rocks it’s climbing. After 18 months of testing at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, the software was uploaded to the rover on Mars in March. Mars Science Laboratory’s mission management approved it for use on June 8, after extensive testing at JPL and multiple tests on Mars.

Even before 2013, when the wheels began to show signs of wear, JPL engineers had been studying how to reduce the effects of the rugged Martian surface. On level ground, all of the rover’s wheels turn at the same speed. But when a wheel goes over uneven terrain, the incline causes the wheels behind or in front of it to start slipping.

Read more at: NASA JPL

JAXA Reveals Plans to Put a Japanese on the Moon by 2030

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has ambitious plans to put an astronaut on the moon sometime around 2030, according to new proposals from the space agency. This is the first time JAXA has publicly explored sending astronauts anywhere beyond the International Space Station, a JAXA spokeswoman said Friday.

The idea is to first join a NASA-led mission in 2025 to build a space station in the moon’s orbit — part of a longer-term effort by NASA to reach Mars. Tokyo hopes that contributing to the multinational mission and sharing Japanese technology will land it a coveted spot at the station, from which it could eventually put an astronaut on the moon, the spokeswoman said.

The plan was presented to an education ministry panel on Wednesday and a more formal blueprint is expected next year.

Read more at: Japan Times

Solid Production – Booster Segments Readying for Opening SLS Launches

Orbital ATK recently provided a peek at current production of Space Launch System (SLS) booster segments at their Promontory Propulsion Systems facility in Northern Utah. Work on the segments for the first two SLS launches continues and is on track to ship hardware to the launch site when needed. The last segment for the first launch, Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), was recently loaded with solid fuel in mid-June and work on all the EM-1 segments should be complete by the beginning of November.

The Orbital ATK Promontory facility includes testing and production areas and prior to a qualification test of their abort motor for the Orion Launch Abort System (LAS) this month, a tour was provided of a couple of SLS booster production areas where hardware for the first two SLS launches was seen in different stages of production.

Read more at: NASA Spaceflight

Russia Develops Space Monitoring System to Identify Asteroids Undetectable from Earth

Russia is developing an advanced space project to detect and identify the tracks of devastating asteroids and comets from directions that are indiscernible from the Earth, the Central Research Institute for Mechanical Engineering (part of the Roscosmos state corporation) told TASS.

“Research efforts must serve as a basis for future R&D work that must undergo obligatory competitive selection by the Council for Space of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Roscosmos state corporation,” the institute reported, explaining that the issue is being addressed together with other interested organizations. However, to date, this project is not part of the approved Federal Space Program for 2025 that is being implemented now.

As was earlier reported, Russian scientists recommended launching a telescope 1.5 mln kilometers away from the Earth to L1, the so-called Langrangian point (an area in which a space vehicle remains motionless regarding the Earth-Sun system) to monitor asteroids that fly to the Earth downsun

Read more at: TASS

The Sun is Changing Because of a Solar Minimum and Here’s How it Works

The sun is changing.

These changes aren’t visible to the naked eye, but after one good look under a properly filtered telescope, you’ll see it: The mini-magnetic explosions that occur continually on the star’s surface, known as sunspots, are diminishing. That’s because the sun is on the brink of a period known as a solar minimum, according to NASA, something that occurs every 11 years.

Although a reduction of sunspots means fewer flashes of X-rays and extreme ultraviolet radiation to the Earth’s atmosphere, the changes don’t necessarily mean that the sun is less active. While the sunspots are diminishing, another type of solar activity is starting to take form.

Read more at: NewsWeek

UK Gets World’s First Commercial Deep Sea and Space Research Centre to Prepare you for Space Travel

The world’s first commercial deep sea and space exploration centre, designed by one of the architects behind London’s Gherkin, will open on a soon-to-close RAF base in 2019.

Aptly named Blue Abyss, the £120 million facility will prepare the way for space tourism and is set to house the world’s largest 50m deep pool, an astronaut training centre and a “human performance centre” to help train the world’s best athletes. The centre will occupy the site of RAF Henlow in Bedfordshire and is being designed by Robin Partington, one of the masterminds behind the Gherkin skyscraper. It will also contain a 120-room hotel and a conference theatre.

Read more at: BT Home

SpaceX is Having a Very, Very Good Year… So Far

SpaceX is having a pretty great year. It’s only June and the Elon Musk-founded company has already launched nine missions to orbit, exceeding their previous annual launch total of eight. (Not to mention the fact that two of those launches occurred within 48 hours of one another last weekend.)

SpaceX is also consistently landing Falcon 9 rocket stages back on Earth after lofting those missions, an extraordinary feat considering that the company hadn’t successfully landed a booster back on Earth at all until December 2015. “Two years ago, they hadn’t landed any rockets, and in one weekend, they landed two rockets, and one was already reused,” Phil Larson, a former SpaceX employee, said in an interview. Larson is currently an assistant dean at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Read more at: Mashable

Mojave: The Once and Future Spaceport

At some point in the next six months, the Mojave Air and Space Port could experience something that not happened here in 13 long years: an actual spaceflight.

Richard Branson is predicting that Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Unity could reach space on a flight test from Mojave by December. For once, his prediction does not appear to be based on unrealistic hopes, the need to reassure customers about delays, or a complete misunderstanding of what is happening on the ground here.

In other words, it’s actually plausible. Whether it will happen on that schedule…that’s another question. Flight test is notoriously unpredictable and very tough on timetables. The current plan appears to be to conduct a sixth glide flight in August with the ship’s engine installed. SpaceShipTwo would then enter powered flight tests the following month and, if things go well, progress rapidly toward space.

Read more at: Parabolic Arc

Russia’s Future Orbital Station to Have No Service Life Limit

Russia’s orbiter that may replace the International Space Station (ISS) after 2024 won’t have any service life limits as it will comprise fully replaceable modules, Energiya Rocket and Space Corporation said in its annual report on Thursday.

“The station will operate continuously through the replacement of used-up modules,” the document says about the characteristics of the future orbiter. According to the document, the Russian orbital station is a near-Earth manned space station designed to maintain Russia’s presence in the near-Earth orbit after the ISS terminates its operation.

Currently, the world sole orbiter’s operation has been extended to 2024. The possibility of extending its service life to 2028 is currently being discussed.

Read more at: TASS

Aerospace Policy Paper Examines Outer Space Treaty

The Aerospace Corporation’s (Aerospace) Center for Space Policy and Strategy has announced the release of an analysis of the Outer Space Treaty, which marks its 50th anniversary this year.

The analysis by Dr. James Vedda, senior policy analyst at Aerospace, examines the treaty provisions that may affect space commerce and highlights both possibilities for updating the treaty as well as the risks in re-opening a longstanding international agreement.

Committees in the U.S. Congress are currently addressing the question of whether the nation should withdraw from or propose amendments to the Outer Space Treaty. The intended purpose of these actions would be to support more rapid development of space commerce.

Read more at: Space Daily

Space Travel Laws Need to Balance Competing Interests: Experts Weigh In

How does one establish proper policy and regulation without stymying innovation in the space travel industry? That’s a question scientists, legal experts and lawmakers from around the world have been working to answer since the 1960s.

The Outer Space Treaty, the primary source of international space law, was ratified two years before the Apollo 11 astronauts walked on the moon. It requires that countries be responsible for national space activities involving both governmental and non-governmental entities and holds them liable for any and all damage that results from those activities.

Read more at: Legal Newsline

Vice President Visits Front Range for Day with Space

Vice President Michael Pence made history by being the first vice president to send a payload command to a Global Positioning System satellite, Friday, June 23, at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado. The command is part of the care and feeding the 50th Space Wing space professionals provide on a daily basis to ensure GPS remains the world’s premiere space-based position, navigation and timing system.

Pence visited Schriever AFB and Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, along with Second Lady Karen Pence, Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson and Gen. Jay Raymond, Air Force Space Command commander, for a space orientation in support of the administration’s relaunch of the National Space Council.

Upon his arrival at Schriever, Pence met with base leadership for a discussion on the importance of space, and how it has become a warfighting domain. Then he met with more than 120 service members at The Satellite Dish, the base’s dining facility.

Read more at: US Airforce Space Command

How Former Astronaut Leroy Chiao Turned His Dream of Space into a Reality

Recently, NASA announced its newest class of astronauts: Twelve were chosen from a record-setting pool of over 18,000 applicants to form Group 22. As you would imagine, these 12 are quite accomplished and talented individuals, who are walking on air. It brought me back to my own selection as part of Group 13 back in 1990. What an exciting time!

I had wanted to be an astronaut from a young age. Growing up in the 1960s, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t fascinated by airplanes and rockets. I followed the early missions when I was old enough to understand space exploration, but it was the Apollo 11 moon landing that captured my imagination and started my dream of becoming an astronaut myself. I remember looking at the moon as an 8-year-old and marveling that there were two astronauts in a lander on the surface, getting ready to go out and actually walk. That settled it for me: I knew I was going to at least try to become an astronaut. I wanted to be like those guys.

Read more at: Space.com

Trump Reestablishes National Space Council

President Trump signed an Executive Order today reestablishing the White House National Space Council.  Created by law in 1988 and operational under the George H.W. Bush Administration, the Council has not been funded or staffed since the end of his administration in January 1993.  It was chaired during his Administration by Vice President Dan Quayle,  Now it will be chaired by Vice President Mike Pence.

Pence and Trump spoke at the White House during a signing ceremony for the Executive Order (EO) that sets out the Space Council’s membership and purpose.  It also creates a Users’ Advisory Group to obtain input from the private sector and other non-government interests.

Read more at: Space Policy Online

With “Space Security” Remarks, Trump Even Finds a Way to Ruin Space Exploration

From ignoring Pride Month to hating on the First Amendment to refusing to host the White House Eid dinner, Donald Trump is no stranger to ruining anything and everything decent in America. This time around, the target he’s chosen is…space travel. At the signing for an executive order that reinstates the National Space Council, Trump’s remarks were strange and small-minded, re-framing space exploration as a matter of Mike Pence’s personal interests, “space security,” and a popularity contest to see who’ll be chosen for the advisory board “everybody wants to be on.”

Read more at: Marysue

Outpost in the Sky: Skylab, the NASA Mission Reports

Eighteen years ago, Robert Godwin published Apollo 11: The NASA Mission Reports. Godwin’s company normally produced books about rock bands, but the Apollo 11 book sold remarkably well. In fact, it sold so well that he continued with many similar titles, covering all the Apollo missions as well as Gemini, Mercury, shuttle, and numerous other space-related subjects. (One of my favorites is probably one of the most obscure: a book on the lunar Surveyor missions.) Most recently Godwin’s company, Apogee Books, published Skylab 4: The NASA Mission Reports, part of a three-book series that focused on one of the more forgotten subjects of the early American space program. All three books were compiled and edited by Dwight Steven-Boniecki. The three books contain a wealth of detail on the program, which nearly ended before it began.

Read more at: Space Review