Lunar Rescue: Astronauts Can Move Fallen Comrades with New Tool

Space is a harsh, unforgiving environment, so there’s a good chance of an astronaut being injured at some point while exploring the formidable landscapes on the moon or Mars. To help cope with this type of potential disaster, NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) recently tested a new device to bring astronauts safely back to base if they are incapacitated during a moonwalk or Mars expedition.

Last week, ESA astronaut Pedro Duque and NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren spent 10 days in the Aquarius habitat 65 feet (20 meters) under the ocean off the coast of the Florida Keys as part of NASA’s 22nd Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO-22) mission. With the aim of simulating space exploration to test new equipment, procedures and operations, the two astronauts made multiple “waterwalks,” adjusting their buoyancy to simulate the gravity of the moon and Mars.

Read more at: Space.com

Soyuz Set to Launch 72 Smallsats

A Soyuz launch scheduled for July 14 will carry more than 70 small satellites, including spacecraft for four separate commercial remote sensing and weather constellations.

The 72 smallsats flying on the Soyuz launch scheduled for the morning of July 14 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan will fly as secondary payloads, with the Kanopus-V-IK remote sensing satellite serving as the primary payload.

The satellites have all been integrated with the Fregat’s upper stage, and launch preparations remain on track. “Everything looks good,” said Vsevolod Kryukovskiy, launch program director at Glavkosmos, in a July 7 interview. “We’ve finalized everything and are on schedule.”

Read more at: Spacenews

A Quick Note for the Vice President on the Space Hardware He Violated

Mr. Vice President,

Some enjoyed your highly publicized visit to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida yesterday to call for a “renewal” in America’s space leadership. But your visit stirred some controversy when you were caught touching a piece of space hardware that was clearly marked “DO NOT TOUCH.” That’s a no-no especially for a part that is supposed to ensure astronaut safety on NASA’s only human space exploration vehicle.

Since you’ve been appointed the head of the re-established National Space Council after President Trump signed an executive order last Friday,  we put together a cheat sheet for you to avoid any future confusion and mishaps. Also, your speech in the Vehicle Assembly Building shows some gaps in your knowledge on how exactly NASA plans to move forward with human space exploration.

Read more at: Observer

Europe’s Galileo Satnav Identifies Problems Behind Failing Clocks

Investigators have uncovered the problems behind the failure of atomic clocks onboard satellites belonging to the beleaguered Galileo satnav system, the European Commission said Monday.

For months, the European Space Agency — which runs the programme — has been investigating the reasons behind failing clocks onboard some of the 18 navigation satellites it has launched for Galileo, Europe’s alternative to America’s GPS system.

Each Galileo satellite has four ultra-accurate atomic timekeepers, two that use rubidium and two hydrogen maser. But a satellite needs just one working clock for the satnav to work — the rest are spares.

Read more at: GPS Daily

Satellite is Spiralling Out of Control Above Earth

Spacecraft construction company SES says it lost control of its satellite on June 17 and is now struggling locate it. SES’s AMC-9 satellite, which was 36,000 kilometres above the Earth’s surface, began spiralling out of control following a “significant anomaly”.

The company, which bills itself as a provider of “reliable and secure satellite and ground communications solutions”, said the satellite began breaking apart in the last few days.

Read more at: Express

Close Encounters of the Classified Kind

The first days of June 2017 were a busy period at the International Space Station (ISS). The SpaceX Dragon CRS-11 cargo ship arrived and berthed, and the Orbital ATK Cygnus OA-7 “S.S. John Glenn” cargo ship unberthed and departed.

There was also another spacecraft sneaking up for a close approach, one that was classified and not supposed to be noticed. On June 3, the US military satellite USA 276 approached the ISS to a nominal distance of 6.4 kilometers and effectively circled the ISS in both the cross-track and along-track directions.

On May 1, at 7:15 am EDT (1115 GMT), SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket with a classified payload from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A in Florida. The launch was designated NROL-76, and it carried a payload into low Earth obit for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). The launch had been postponed twice: first from April 16 to April 30, and then (due to a sensor issue on the Falcon 9 booster) to May 1.

Read more at: Space Review

As Space Debris Concerns Grow, AMC-9 Satellite Appears to be Adding to the Problem

Ever since the start of the Space Age in 1957 with the launch of Sputnik, humanity has left an ever-increasing amount of debris in orbit. The fact that, until recently, almost all launch vehicles were completely disposable. Even the satellites and probes sent aloft by those rockets end up adding even more high-tech garbage to endlessly conduct orbits around our world. However, not all of this debris harmlessly retraces arcs above Earth – as the AMC-9 satellite is currently demonstrating.

Luxembourg-based SES stated that it had regained communications with the satellite in a release issued by the company on June 29. According to SES, services provided by the satellite were restored under a restoration capacity plan designed to minimize the impact felt by customers on the ground just a day after they were lost on Saturday, June 17.

Read more at: Spaceflight Insider

Spacecraft Clean Rooms Have Some Dirty Little Secrets

Just how clean are spacecraft clean rooms? Turns out, they have some dirty little secrets. As multiple nations lob spacecraft to Mars, there’s always the concern that Red Planet-bound vehicles might provide a free ride to organic material and microbes. That material could pollute a place that is otherwise thought to be biologically immaculate.

Moreover, unintentional inoculation of Mars with Earthly microorganisms or other contaminants could imperil the scientific validity of spotting a true Martian biosignature, because scientists would have to distinguish it from an organism that was transported from Earth. [5 Bold Claims of Alien Life]

While special care is given to probes headed to Mars — or other destinations with the potential to host past or present life — it turns out that spacecraft clean rooms are due for increased scrutiny.

Read more at: space.com

Report: XCOR to Lay Off Remaining Employees

Less than five years after taking part in a ceremony to announce the creation of XCOR’s new Commercial Space Research and Development Center headquarters in Midland, a report from the space industry blog parabolicarc.com indicates that XCOR has laid off its remaining employees in Midland and the aerospace community of Mojave, California.

“Due to adverse financial conditions XCOR had to terminate all employees as of 30 June 2017,” the company said in a statement as reported by parabolicarc.com on Wednesday. “XCOR management will retain critical employees on a contract basis to maintain the company’s intellectual property and is actively seeking other options that would allow it to resume full employment and activity.”

Read more at: mrt

After the Crash: Inside Richard Branson’s $600m Space Mission

Something wasn’t quite right. It was a little after 10am on 31 October 2014 and, in the skies high above the Mojave Desert, David Mackay had just launched Virgin Galactic’s spaceship VSS Enterprise from the underside of his aircraft. Now he was scanning the airspace for the distinctive plume of Enterprise’s rocket motor, which would mark the start of the spaceship’s fourth powered test flight. “I remember looking down and thinking, ‘Well that’s strange, the motor must be burning really clean,’ because I couldn’t see it at all,” recalls Mackay, Virgin Galactic’s chief pilot. “Then we immediately started to hear things [on the radio] that indicated something bad had happened.”

Out of Mackay’s line of sight, the spaceship had, in fact, ignited its rocket and accelerated into the sound barrier as planned. Four seconds later, however, it had exploded at 46,000 feet. Enterprise’s pilot Peter Siebold had been thrown from the spaceship; despite being injured and starved of oxygen he would remarkably manage to parachute to the ground. His copilot, Michael Alsbury, would later be found dead in the wreckage, his body still strapped into his seat.

Read more at: GQ

UK’s Orbital Access Wins ESA Two-stage-to-orbit Study Contract

Orbital Access Ltd. of Britain, which is designing a small-satellite launcher that would lift off from a horizontal runway under the belly of a modified jet airliner, has won a contract from the European Space Agency (ESA) to carry the project to system definition before a preliminary design review.

The four-month contract is valued at 200,000 British pounds ($257,000). Orbital Access estimates that carrying the program through to first flight would take about four years and cost some 500 million pounds. The contract comes as the British government debates how far it wants to go in promoting a domestic space-launch capability. 

Up to now, the government has focused on relatively small feasibility studies for spaceport locales and launch-vehicle designs, and on clearing regulatory obstacles to a commercial space-launch business:

Read more at: spaceintel report

China Rocket Failure Likely to Set Back Next Space Missions

The failure of China’s Long March 5 rocket deals a rare setback to China’s highly successful space program that could delay plans to bring back moon samples and offer rival India a chance to move ahead in the space rankings.

Experts say the still unexplained mishap shows that for all its triumphs, China’s space program is not immune to the tremendous difficulties and risks involved in working with such cutting-edge technology.

“China’s approach has been slow and prudent, trying to avoid this kind of ‘failure,’ even though they knew it was going to occur sooner or later,” Joan Johnson-Freese, an expert on China’s space program at the US Naval War College, wrote in an email.

Read more at: ABC News

Chinese Satellite Zhongxing-9A Enters Preset Orbit

The communications satellite Zhongxing-9A has entered its preset orbit over two weeks after its launch on June 19.

Abnormal performance was identified during the third phase of the Long March-3B launch, which failed to deliver the satellite as planned. The satellite conducted 10 orbit adjustments with its onboard thrusters and Wednesday reached its preset orbit at 101.4 degrees east longitude over the equator, according to China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) Thursday.

Currently, the satellite’s systems are operational and the transponders are on, said the CASC, adding that a series of tests will be carried out.

Read more at: Xinhuanet

#SpaceWatchME Op’ed: Space Weather as a Sustainability Issue

Space weather may sound like an issue invented by Hollywood to threaten fictional space explorers, or at least something distant that would not affect your daily activities, but it’s a real natural phenomenon with potentially significant impacts on space sustainability and for everyday life. Space weather refers to a group of physical processes that begin as the Sun emits energy and ultimately end by affecting human activities on Earth and in space. NASA describes this process as:

“the Sun regularly releases a constant stream of magnetic solar material called the solar wind, along with occasional huge clouds of solar material called coronal mass ejections. This material interacts with Earth’s magnetic field, causing temporary changes. These changes produce effects that range from mild such as the aurora borealis to more extreme such as electric power grid blackouts.”

Read more at: Space Watch ME

Russia has a Plan to Compete with SpaceX, But it has a Flaw

For a long time, with its low production costs and efficient fleet of rockets, Russia has been the leading player in the global market for satellite launches. Some recent failures with its Soyuz and Proton boosters have not helped, but the biggest threat to Russia’s preeminence now clearly comes from SpaceX.

Publicly, at least, Russian officials were slow to acknowledge the threat from SpaceX. Even last year, the country’s space leaders dismissed SpaceX’s efforts to build reusable launch systems to lower overall costs. But that tone has started to shift in 2017, as SpaceX has begun to fly used boosters and demonstrate this emerging capability.

Read more at: Arstechnica

Russia Starts Designing Super-heavy Carrier Rocket

A decision on starting work on the conceptual design of a new Russian super-heavy carrier rocket may be taken in the coming weeks, a source in the rocket and space industry told TASS on Wednesday.

“State Space Corporation Roscosmos is expected to issue a resolution in the coming weeks on the conceptual designing of the super-heavy carrier rocket,” the source said. This work will last 18-24 months. Over this period, developers should determine the rocket’s design and its technical characteristics and outline the missions, for which it can be used. Roscosmos’s resolution will also define the parent organization and cooperation for the launcher’s development.

Read more at: TASS

Problems Aside, NASA Moves Toward SLS Structural Testing at Marshall

Moving beyond site selection controversy and production problems that caused headlines in May, NASA is working to complete a Space Launch System (SLS) structural test article at the Space Agency’s Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) in Louisiana.

Early in May, workers discovered that the forward liquid oxygen tank dome had been damaged during welding, raising concerns the item would be useless for structural tests planned at Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. However, engineers from NASA and prime contractor Boeing have now cleared the dome for use and completed repairs to the MAF’s specialized friction stir welding assembly.

Read more at: Spaceflight Insider

SpaceX’s First-Ever Reused Dragon Capsule Successfully Returns to Earth From Mission

SpaceX’s first-ever reused Dragon capsule successfully returned from a supply mission to the International Space Station Monday, splashing safely down in the Pacific Ocean. After being released by the space station’s robotic arm, the capsule completed a 5½-hour journey back to Earth carrying 4,100 pounds of precious cargo. The Dragon hit the water off the California coast shortly after 5 a.m., according to the aerospace company based in Hawthorne.

The spaceship was launched into orbit in early June and spent 28 days docked to the International Space Station, delivering several thousand pounds of scientific experiments and equipment. The mission marked the first re-flight of a Dragon capsule that had already flown to space once before. The capsule previously flew a mission in September-October 2014.

Read more at: CBS Los Angeles

Japan’s Manned Space Development Pressed to Deal with Rapidly Changing Age

Space development is entering a time of rapid change worldwide. In this article, I look at the problems humankind faces in terms of manned and other space activities.

Space development began as a Cold War race between the United States and Soviet Union. This race ended with the Soviet collapse in 1991, after which Russia also came to participate in the International Space Station project carried out by the United States, Japan, and Europe. Thus, the age in which outer space was an area dominated by the US and Soviet superpowers gave way to an age of space as a frontier developed by four global players including Japan and Europe.

Read more at: Nippon

Re-opening the American Frontier: Recent Congressional Hearings on Space

The Senate, and in particular Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), are to be congratulated on the foresight to be considering “Reopening the American Frontier: Exploring How the Outer Space Treaty Will Impact American Commerce and Settlement in Space,” the title of a hearing by the Senate Commerce Committee’s space subcommittee, chaired by Cruz, in May.

These issues are precisely the focus being explored in Air University’s Space Horizons Research Group. It was clearly the consensus of the lawyers and representatives at the hearing that the Outer Space Treaty itself was not the most significant barrier, and that they favored continued US participation in the treaty and the predictability it offered compared to the uncertainty of the US withdrawal. They largely believed that the US interpretation was adequate to allow extractive industries, like space mining.

Read more at: Space Review

How NASA Uses Telemedicine to Care for Astronauts in Space

Since the Expedition One launch to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2001 — the first long-duration stay on the orbital construction site — NASA’s Human Health and Performance team has been developing expertise in the planning and provision of medical support to crews staying in our world’s most remote environment. Four times each year, we launch a new team of astronauts and cosmonauts to the ISS, where they will stay for six months to one year, performing engineering tasks, research, maintenance, and upgrades to prepare for future commercial vehicles. During this amount of time, access to medical care is crucial, as altered routines and microgravity have deconditioning effects on crew members’ bone and muscle, fluid distribution, and immune function.

Telemedicine is a key component of medical care on ISS. While doctors have always communicated with the crews of short missions, largely to guide them through acute spaceflight-specific health issues, today’s long-duration and exploration missions require space medicine to fulfill a much wider-ranging mandate and extend beyond minor illness and urgent care.

Read more at: HBR

Zero Gravity: Graphene for Space Applications

Researchers and students in the Graphene Flagship are preparing for two exciting experiments in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA) to test the viability of graphene for space applications. Both experiments will launch between 6-17th November 2017, testing graphene in zero-gravity conditions to determine its potential in space applications including light propulsion and thermal management.

The Graphene Flagship is a pan-European research initiative dedicated to developing new technologies based on graphene, the single-atom-thick allotrope of carbon with excellent electrical, mechanical, thermal and optical properties. A fundamental aspect of the Graphene Flagship is training students and young researchers. These ambitious space-related experiments are an excellent opportunity for Flagship students and researchers to gain new experiences in cutting-edge research.

Read more at: Eureka Alert

Space Crew Battle the Problems of Experiencing Life on Mars – But Not All is as it Seems

When the members of Crew 70 send an email, they have to wait 20 minutes because of a deliberate delay to simulate the communication problems between Mars and Earth. Yet they are not really on the Red Planet – they are really in a red rock desert in southern Utah, USA. The Mars Desert Research Station is often visited by teams for short periods to conduct scientific research that will help prepare humans to explore Mars in the coming years…

Read more at: Mirror

Missile Test-Launched by North Korea was an ICBM, US Officials Confirm

North Korea did indeed test-launch an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) yesterday, as the nuclear-armed nation claimed, U.S. officials said. “The United States strongly condemns North Korea’s launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile,” U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement yesterday (July 4). “Testing an ICBM represents a new escalation of the threat to the United States, our allies and partners, the region, and the world.”

North Korean state-run media asserted that the newly tested ICBM will allow the nation — which has repeatedly threatened to destroy the United States, South Korea and Japan — to deliver nuclear weapons to targets anywhere in the world. But that claim is likely overblown, according to Western experts.

Read more at: Space.com

Ghana: 1st Sub-Saharan Country to Launch Satellite into Orbit

Ghana is the first Sub-Saharan African country to send a satellite into orbit around the earth, as the Ghanasat-1 was released from the International Space Station Friday, nearly a month after its launch from the Kennedy Space Center on Elon Musk’s SpaceX flight 11.

Approximately 400 people were reportedly on hand to witness the historic satellite being sent into orbit from the All Nations University in Koforidua by a Japan/KIBO Deployment system onboard.

The satellite, which was built by students at the school, is equipped with cameras and a device which will facilitate the broadcast of the country’s national anthem and other independence songs from space.

Read more at: Telesurtv

45th Space Wing Cuts into a New Era of Space Exploration

The recently renovated Human Spaceflight Support Operations Center (SOC) symbolizes America’s transition from a government operated space program to a blended mission with the addition of commercially-operated crewed spaceflight programs. The $485,000 yearlong project created a state-of-the-art communications hub used for the Department of Defense’s human spaceflight support missions from the SOC, which is an extension of the Joint Space Operations Center at Vandenberg AFB, Calif. It hosts a worldwide command and control capability for Department of Defense rescue forces through a combination of radio frequencies, specialized internet applications, texting, satellite and secure and unsecure voice through the SOC’s 10 workstations, 20 DOD circuits and 20 NASA specific circuits.

Read more at: US Airforce

Moon Rock on the Block: Sotheby’s Stages its First Space Exploration Auction

“Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” On July 20, 1969, these eight words crackled across the airwaves, holding the world entranced and altering forever the boundaries of what was considered possible.

The man speaking was Neil Armstrong, whose brevity marked the moment when the lunar module Eagle completed its perilous journey from Apollo 11 and touched down upon the surface of the Moon. The world waited on tenterhooks as hour after hour of checks were carried out. Finally, the hatch opened, and Armstrong descended the ladder to become the first human to set foot on the Moon, with the now immortal words: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

There cannot be many who have not, however briefly, glanced at the Moon and wondered what it must have been like for Armstrong to look back at the blue and green planet we call home. The landing may have happened almost five decades ago, but space exploration has not lost its allure. Even those of us who were not born when this momentous event unfolded are caught in its gravitational pull.

With this in mind, it seems only fitting that Sotheby’s New York has decided to host its first space exploration auction, featuring memorabilia from American-led space missions, exactly 48 years to the day after Apollo 11’s lunar landing.

Read more at: National

Russian Satellite Takes Picture of Putin’s Portrait on Italian Field

A Russian space vehicle has taken a picture of the portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin created by Italian artist Dario Gambarin on a field near the northern Italian city of Verona.

“We decided to check whether Putin can be seen from space. We are referring to the portrait created by the Italian artist and farmer,” the Roscosmos Space Corporation said on Tweeter where the portrait’s photo was posted. A source in the corporation explained in an interview with TASS that the picture had been taken by a Russian Earth observation satellite.

Read more at: TASS

There May Soon be a New US Military Service — for Space

American troops are currently serving in 177 countries around the world. But if some members of Congress get their way, US forces may soon be fighting in a brave new frontier: space. Yes, seriously.

A House Armed Services Committee proposal that’s making its way to the Senate calls for taking the Air Force’s current space missions and giving them to a brand-new branch of the US armed forces whose sole mission would be to focus on space.

Welcome to the Space Corps.

Read more at: Vox