What Elon Musk Should Learn From the Thailand Cave Rescue

Silicon Valley moguls seem to believe they can fix most anything, and they appear befuddled when their attempts to do so aren’t met with unbridled enthusiasm.

The tech billionaire Elon Musk was among the millions of people captivated by the plight of the 12 boys and their soccer coach recently trapped in a cave in Thailand. But Mr. Musk didn’t just follow the story on the news and social media; he has vast resources, so he also tried to help.

He directed his engineers to build a miniature “submarine” (basically a sophisticated metal cylinder) that he hoped could be used for the rescue. He shared videos of the submarine with his 22 million followers on Twitter. And he received widespread media coverage and encouragement from his many fans.

Read more at: NYTimes

GAO Report on Commercial Crew Suggests: ‘The Hell they will Launch (Operational Crew) Before 2019’

Predictions by SpaceX’s president, Gwynn Shotwell, that the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft would fly with astronauts by 2018 appear to be inaccurate. Similarly Boeing’s entry in NASA’s Commercial Crew Program are not expected to able to achieve key certification objectives this year either, according to a government report. This assessment is based on a recent report submitted on July 11, 2018, by the Government Accountability Office. It notes that SpaceX’s average certification date is now estimated to be January of 2020, with Boeing predicted to reach its certification milestone by December of 2019.

While the Report’s findings are important, they are not definitive statements that crew will not be launched in 2018. In fact, NASA’s blog regarding the Commercial Crew Program denotes the following in terms of the testing regimen of both spacecraft: Targeted Test Flight Dates: Boeing Orbital Flight Test (uncrewed): August 2018, Boeing Crew Flight Test (crewed): November 2018, SpaceX Demonstration Mission 1 (uncrewed): August 2018, SpaceX Demonstration Mission 2 (crewed): December 2018. It is not clear at this point if issues raised in the Report will impact the above testing schedule at this time.

GAO report:

Read more at Spaceflight Insider

NASA’s Big Astronaut Trash Problem

As we explore and reach farther out into the cosmos, what will we do with all of our trash?

For astronauts aboard the International Space Station, storage space is extremely valuable and limited — but even astronauts have garbage. In addition to taking up precious space, this garbage creates potential physical and biological health and safety hazards for the astronauts. On the space station, astronauts currently squeeze their garbage into trash bags and, for temporary periods of time, store up to 2 metric tons of trash on board. They then send the trash out on commercial supply vehicles, which either reach Earth or burn up in reentry.

But what will happen to these tons of trash when astronauts are much farther from Earth? The farther we travel into the solar system, the more complicated it will be to effectively manage and dispose of trash. NASA thinks that the key to this big space-trash problem could be addressed with technology that compacts and processes trash, according to a new statement from the agency.

Read more at: Space.com

‘Toxic’ Rocket Propellant Poses Danger at Proposed Canso Spaceport, Prof Says

The company behind a proposed spaceport has made its pitch to the environment minister for approval, but a professor at the University of British Columbia is raising concerns about an “exceedingly toxic” rocket propellant that will be used at the Canso, N.S., operation.

Maritime Launch Services filed its environmental assessment study with the province on July 4.

The document, which totals 362 pages including appendices, was prepared by Strum Consulting and outlines environmental risks and consequences of the project on everything from air, water and soil to butterflies and moose.

The project will see a private, commercial rocket launch site constructed just outside Canso. The rockets won’t be used to send humans into space, but rather satellites for use in near-earth imaging, communications or scientific experiments.

Read more at: CBC

Orion Jettison Motor Ready for Crew Escape System Test

Aerojet Rocketdyne recently passed a key milestone in preparation for the Ascent Abort Test (AA-2) next year with the successful casting of the Jettison Motor for the Lockheed Martin-built Orion spacecraft’s Launch Abort System (LAS).

AA-2 is a full-stress test of NASA’s Orion LAS, which includes the Jettison Motor built by Aerojet Rocketdyne. The Orion Jettison Motor is used to separate the LAS from Orion as it makes its way to space and is the only motor on the escape system to activate in all mission scenarios.

In the unlikely event of an emergency on the launch pad or during ascent, the LAS would activate within milliseconds to whisk Orion and its astronaut crew to safety. Once Orion reaches a safe distance from the rocket, the Orion Jettison Motor would ignite to separate the LAS structure from the spacecraft, which could then deploy its parachutes for a safe landing.

Read more at: Spaceref

Internally, NASA Believes Boeing Ahead of SpaceX in Commercial Crew

One of the biggest rivalries in the modern aerospace industry is between Boeing and SpaceX. Despite their radically different cultures, the aerospace giant and the smaller upstart compete for many different kinds of contracts, and perhaps nowhere has the competition been more keen than for NASA funds.

In 2014, both Boeing and SpaceX received multibillion awards (Boeing asked for, and got, 50 percent more funding for the same task) to finalize development of spacecraft to carry astronauts to the International Space Station as part of the commercial crew program. Since then, both companies have been locked in a race to the launchpad, not just to free NASA from its reliance on Russia to reach space but also for the considerable esteem that will accompany becoming the first private company in the world to fly humans into orbit.

Read more at: Arstechnica

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Capsule Arrives in Florida to Get Set for Uncrewed Test Flight

After months of testing, a SpaceX Dragon capsule that’s designed to carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station has arrived in Florida, marking a significant step toward this summer’s scheduled test launch.

Even though the vehicle is called a “Crew Dragon,” this Dragon won’t carry crew on its first flight. Instead, it’s due to make an uncrewed practice run to the space station during what’s known as Demonstration Mission 1, or DM-1.

Before this week’s shipment to Florida, the Dragon underwent thermal vacuum tests as well as acoustic tests at NASA’s Plum Brook Station in Ohio. Today SpaceX showed off a picture of the Crew Dragon, which is a redesigned, beefed-up version of its robotic cargo-carrying Dragon, via Twitter and Instagram.

Read more at: Geekwire

Historic Dual Pads of Launch Complex 17 Demolished, After 300+ Launches Over 50 Years of Service

After first echoing to the roar of rocket engines in 1957—before the Space Age even began—historic Space Launch Complex (SLC)-17 near the southern end of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., breathed its last earlier today (Thursday, 12 July), when shortly after 7:00 a.m. EDT its two nearly 200-foot-tall gantries were remotely destroyed. Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith, commander of the Air Force’s 45th Space Wing, initiated detonations of 68 pounds of explosives which brought SLC-17A and SLC 17B to the ground after a combined 325 launches in more than five decades of active service. During their storied careers, the two pads hosted the first successful low-orbiting weather satellite, Britain’s maiden satellite, the world’s earliest communications satellites, GPS satellites, as well as NASA space telescopes and Mars Rovers.

Built at a reported cost of $3.5 million per complex, SLC-17 arose in April 1956, with an intention that they would support the Air Force’s PGM-17 Thor ballistic missile.

Read more at: America Space

SpaceX Mars Rocket Test Site Receives First Huge Rocket Propellant Storage Tank

SpaceX has delivered one of the first undeniably rocketry-related pieces of hardware to its prospective Boca Chica test and launch facility in South Texas, this time in the form of a massive 100,000-gallon liquid oxygen tank now stationed adjacent to the company’s ~600 kW Tesla solar and battery array.

In a statement provided to local paper Valley Morning Star, SpaceX spokesperson Sean Pitt filled in a few of the details and confirmed that the LOX tank had been delivered to Boca Chica as part of an ongoing effort to ready the site for initial testing – and eventually launches – of an unspecified “vehicle”

Read more at: Teslarati

Space Tourism Flights with Virgin and Blue Origin are Mere Months from Lift-off. Their Journeys will be Worlds Apart

The two companies leading the pack in the pursuit of space tourism say they are just months away from their first passenger flights, though neither has set a firm date.

Read more at: scmp

Virgin Space Companies Sign New Agreements with Italy

Virgin Galactic and Virgin Orbit announced a set of agreements July 6 with Italian companies and the Italian Space Agency that could lead to suborbital and orbital launches from a proposed Italian spaceport.

Under one “framework agreement” signed by Virgin Galactic and Italian companies Altec and Sitael, the companies will continue planning for potential flights of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo from the Taranto-Grottaglie Airport in the southern part of Italy.

That agreement, if carried out as proposed, calls for The Spaceship Company, the sister company of Virgin Galactic, to build a “dedicated space system” that includes a WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft and SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicle that would operate out of the Taranto-Grottaglie Airport for tourism and research flights.

Read more at: Spacenews

NASA May Ask Russia for Additional Soyuz Seats Due to Delayed U.S. Ships’ Certification – Source

The United States may fail to certify its manned spaceships before August 2020, in which case NASA will need additional seats on Russian Soyuz ships, according to the United States Government Accountability Office.

“Additional delays could result in a gap in U.S. access to the space station as NASA has contracted for seats on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft only through November 2019,” the Office said.

“The earliest and latest possible completion dates for certification in NASA’s April 2018 schedule risk analysis indicate it is possible that neither contractor would be ready before August 2020, leaving a potential gap in access of at least 9 months,” it said.

Read more at: Interfax

Blue Origin to Offer Dual Launch with New Glenn After Fifth Mission

Blue Origin will begin flying two customers on the same New Glenn rocket after the launch vehicle has performed five missions with solo customers, according to Ted McFarland, Blue Origin’s commercial director of Asia-Pacific business.

“Our first five are all dedicated missions as we release margin and prove out our operational reusability concept,” McFarland said July 4 at the APSAT 2018 conference here. “But starting from launch six on, we will have a dual-manifesting capability. Coupled with a 13-metric-ton to GEO — to actual GEO insertion — capability at that point, it will be a fairly significant achievement.”

Read more at: Spacenews

China Readying for Space Station Era: Yang Liwei

China is accelerating its timetable for a space station, with the core capsule expected to be launched in 2020, says Yang Liwei, director of the China Manned Space Engineering Office and the country’s first astronaut.

Yang told Chinese media recently that the two experiment modules of the space station will be sent into space in 2021 and 2022. Three or four manned missions and several cargo spacecraft are planned in 2021 and 2022.

After construction of the main parts of the space station, a capsule holding a large optical telescope will be sent into the same orbit to fly with the station, Yang said.

Read more at: Xinhuanet

Commercial Space Travel and Us

There are people alive today who were born before the Wright brothers’ first flight in 1903 — the entire history of powered aviation and space flight has happened within a human lifespan. In that time air travel has transformed the world, and space travel will be next.

More than 100 billion people have lived on Earth but only 558 have been to space. Selection is highly competitive and astronauts must meet strict standards for fitness and health. All of this is about to change with the imminent dawn of commercial suborbital space flight.

Members of the public will soon be travelling beyond the threshold of space through companies such as Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic. They will fly a short up-and-down suborbital trajectory providing several minutes of weightlessness, as Alan Shepard did in 1961 when he became the first American in space and an instant national hero.

Read more at: Adelaide review

Method of Making Oxygen from Water in Zero Gravity Raises Hope for Long-Distance Space Travel

Space agencies and private companies already have advanced plans to send humans to Mars in the next few years – ultimately colonising it. And with a growing number of discoveries of Earth-like planets around nearby stars, long-distance space travel has never seemed more exciting.

However, it isn’t easy for humans to survive in space for sustained periods of time. One of the main challenges with long-distance space flight is transporting enough oxygen for astronauts to breathe and enough fuel to power complex electronics. Sadly, there’s only little oxygen available in space and the great distances make it hard to do quick refills.

But now a new study, published in Nature Communications, shows that it is possible to produce hydrogen (for fuel) and oxygen (for life) from water alone using a semiconductor material and sunlight (or star light) in zero gravity – making sustained space travel a real possibility.

Read more at: Conversation

NASA Needs Backup Plan to Maintain U.S. Presence at Space Station, Watchdog Says

A government watchdog agency wants NASA to come up with a contingency plan for getting American astronauts to the International Space Station.

The recommendation is one of the major takeaways in a 47-page report from the Government Accountability Office on what is known as the Commercial Crew Program.

Since the Space Shuttle was retired in 2011, NASA has been relying on Russia to carry American astronauts aboard its Soyuz capsule to the space station. The Associated Press says the U.S. has paid Moscow up to $82 million a seat for the ride into orbit. The GAO notes that the contract with Russia is set to end in late 2019.

Read more at: NPR

Rocket Report: Virgin Goes Italian, SpaceX’s Giant Net, a Nuclear Launcher

Virgin Galactic signs deal to launch from Italy. Virgin Galactic and a pair of Italian companies have signed a framework agreement aimed at bringing Virgin Galactic’s suborbital space tourism launcher to a future spaceport in Italy. The spaceplane would be based at Taranto-Grottaglie Airport, which Italian public-private partners aim to turn into a spaceport. The spaceport could become active as early as 2020, GeekWire reports.

Nammo on schedule for September suborbital launch. Norwegian aerospace company Nammo says that it has conducted a final successful ground test of its Nucleus rocket flight propulsion system and that the hybrid rocket technology is now ready to power the first launch of a Norwegian-built space rocket in September. The Nucleus is a sounding rocket, but the demonstration could lead to the development of a micro launcher, capable of placing small satellites up to 150kg into low-Earth orbit.

Read more at: Arstechnica

Enhancing Competitiveness of European Space Sector With Increased Investments

Today, ESA Director General Jan Wörner and Vice President of the European Investment Bank (EIB) Ambroise Fayolle signed a joint statement on enhancing the competitiveness of the European space sector by supporting investments in actors of the sector with promising short- or medium-term perspectives.

The joint statement puts forth the intention of the two organisations to cooperate on devising joint support mechanisms in order to help create a level-playing field for European companies to grow and compete globally.

In his introductory remarks, Ambroise Fayolle recalled that as the EIB has a mission to support sustainable investment projects that contribute to growth and employment in Europe, with a focus on innovation and skills; access to finance for smaller businesses; infrastructure; and climate change.

Read more at: ESA

To Infinity and Beyond: Space Diplomacy and the New Space Age

The Trump administration’s push “to boldly go where no man has gone before” has revamped the United States’ space industry. This renewed fervor simulating the likes of the U.S.-Russia Space Race has inspired cooperation between national space agencies and between government organizations and commercial enterprises. John Bridenstine, the director of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) confirmed this collaborative approach to modern space exploration while at a recent POLITICO event.  Recognizing the role of a robust commercial marketplace in the new space age, Bridenstine predicted that the combined efforts of NASA, commercial companies, and various national space agencies will launch mankind beyond its current limitations.

Read more at: Diplomaticourier

New NASA Director Chooses Israel for First Int’l Visit

The director of United States space agency (NASA) Jim Bridenstine arrived to Israel Thursday and signed new agreement with the Israel Space Agency (ISA) in his first international visit.

NASA and the ISA will expand their cooperation, according to an official joint statement issued on Thursday by Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis, NASA director Bridenstine and Israel Aerospace Agency Director Avi Blassberger. During the meeting, Akunis stated Israel’s desire to send another Israeli astronaut to space, in which Bridenstine declared that NASA also had an interest.

Read more at: jpost

NASA Administrator has been Lobbying for a Space Professional to be his Deputy. That’s Not Who the White House Nominated.

In recent weeks, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine had come out publicly saying what he wanted in a deputy — someone with a technical background who understood space and the agency charged with exploring it. He even had a person in mind, Janet Kavandi, a former NASA astronaut who flew to space three times and now is the director of NASA’s Glenn Research Center.

But on Thursday, the White House went in a completely different direction, nominating James Morhard, a longtime senior staffer on Capitol Hill with little to no technical experience who critics said is getting the nod because of close ties in Washington. Morhard serves as the U.S. Senate deputy sergeant at arms and over a long government career was a staff director on the Senate Appropriations Committee and worked in the secretary of the Navy’s office.

Read more at: Washington Post

JWST Prime Contractor Northrop Grumman Announces Leadership Transition

Northrop Grumman (NG) announced today that its Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Wes Bush will step down in 2019.  He will be replaced by Kathy Warden, currently the company’s President and Chief Operating Officer (COO).  The move comes weeks after NG’s successful acquisition of Orbital ATK.  It also is a time when the company is under scrutiny for its implementation of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), however.  NASA has announced schedule delays and cost overruns for JWST because of “avoidable errors” at the company during JWST integration and testing.

Bush made his start as a systems engineer at TRW, which was acquired by NG in 2002.  He was NG’s COO from 2003-2006, Chief Financial Officer from 2005-2007, and became President in 2006. He was appointed chairman in 2011 and was Chairman, President and CEO in 2017.

Read more at: Spacepolicy online

Why Space Capitalism will Eat Itself

There is a seemingly minor administrative change in the new American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act. Passed unanimously by the US House of Representatives in April, and a key talking point at a recent Secure World Foundation conference on space sustainability held in Washington DC, the new Act gives the commerce department, and not the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), responsibility for space traffic management issues.

US vice president Mike Pence has reportedly said it is intended to relieve the defence department the burden of providing potential collision warnings to the growing number of satellite operators. Still why not let the FAA take care of it?

Read more at: Irish Times

Russia, China to Add Lunar Projects to Joint Space Cooperation Program

The program of Russian-Chinese cooperation in outer space for 2018-2022 will be supplemented with projects related to the Moon’s exploration, the press office of Russia’s State Space Corporation Roscosmos said on Wednesday.

This decision was made at a session of the joint working group of the two countries on cooperation in outer space, Roscosmos said.

“During the session, the Russian and Chinese sides discussed the implementation of bilateral cooperation in outer space for 2018-2022, as a result of which a joint decision was made to supplement this cooperation program with the projects related to the study and exploration of the Moon,” Roscosmos said.

Read more at: TASS

Meet the Unknown Immigrant Billionaire Betting her Fortune to Take on Musk in Space

Even in the bloated-budget world of aerospace, $650 million is a lot of money. It’s approximately the price of six of Boeing’s workhorse 737s or, for the more militarily inclined, about the cost of seven F-35 stealth fighter jets. It’s also the amount of money NASA and the Sierra Nevada Corp. spent developing the Dream Chaser, a reusable spacecraft designed to take astronauts into orbit. Sierra Nevada, which is based in Sparks, Nevada, and 100% owned by Eren Ozmen and her husband, Fatih, put in $300 million; NASA ponied up the other $350 million. The Dream Chaser’s first free flight was in October 2013 when it was dropped 12,500 feet from a helicopter. The landing gear malfunctioned, and the vehicle skidded off the runway upon landing. A year later, NASA passed on Sierra Nevada’s space plane and awarded the multibillion-dollar contracts to Boeing and SpaceX.

Read more at: Forbes

Rocket Engine Scores ‘Perfect 10’ in 10-day Test for Phantom Express Space Plane

A rocket engine built from spare space shuttle parts — and the team behind the engine — passed a grueling 10-day, 10-firing test that sets the stage for Boeing’s Phantom Express military space plane.

“We scored a perfect 10 last week,” Jeff Haynes, Aerojet Rocketdyne’s program manager for the AR-22 engine, told reporters today during a teleconference.

The hydrogen-fueled AR-22 is largely based on the RS-25 engine that was used on the space shuttle and will be used on NASA’s heavy-lift Space Launch System. “We’ve upgraded the ‘brain’ for this derivative mission,” using an advanced controller, Haynes said.

Read more at: Geekwire

Trump’s Space Force will Guard the U.S. from Above, NASA Chief Says

NASA’s administrator is a strong defender of President Donald Trump’s proposals for space — including an armed force and a permanent presence on the moon — and says he wants Americans to realize how much their well-being depends on what happens far above Earth.

“Every banking transaction requires a GPS signal for timing,” Jim Bridenstine said in an interview. “You lose the GPS signal and guess what you lose? You lose banking. If you look at what space is, it’s not that much different than the ocean,” added Bridenstine, who made 333 aircraft-carrier landings as a Navy pilot. “It’s an international domain that has commerce that needs to be protected.”

Bridenstine was in his third term representing a congressional district in Oklahoma when Trump nominated him to lead the $21 billion space agency. He was confirmed in the spring despite criticism over his lack of scientific or engineering experience and his previous statements questioning climate change science — though he said in hearings that human activity was the chief cause of global warming.

Read more at: Bloomberg

Vandenberg Airforce Base Establishes Combined Space Operation Center

Vandenberg Airforce Base will expand its space mission capabilities on July 18 when the Joint Space Operations Center transitions to a Combines Space Operations Center (CSpOC).

AFB officials say the base will now have foreign partners involved in their space operations to improve space assurance, resilience, and mutual security, broaden military relationships by leveraging capabilities, maximize effectiveness across all mission areas, and expand international partnerships in support of combined objectives.

“Space is a warfighting domain, just like air, land, and sea,” said Airforce General John W. Raymond, Commander of JFSC and Air Force Space Command.

Read more at: keyt

Summer of the Shuttle: Remembering the Ill-Fated Summer of ’84

More than 30 summers ago, America’s shuttle program should have entered its prime. Touted for over a decade as capable of flying regularly and routinely, the early summer of 1984 was envisaged to see as many as three missions by Discovery and Challenger—two laden with scientific and technological payloads, the third a classified voyage on behalf of the Department of Defense—as the reusable fleet of orbiters transitioned from test-flights to full operations. In three years of shuttle operations, the ships had demonstrated their abilities to serve as scientific research platforms, satellite launching pads and could retrieve and repair damaged spacecraft. The future seemed bright.

That is, until the morning of 26 June 1984.

As outlined in a previous AmericaSpace history article, Discovery’s maiden mission, designated “41D”, was ready to fly. Laden with the U.S. Navy’s Syncom 4-1 communications satellite, a large-format imaging camera and the extendible OAST-1 solar array mast, provided by NASA’s Office of Aeronautics and Space Technology, the flight would run for seven days. Commanded by veteran astronaut Hank Hartsfield, the crew also included Mike Coats, Mike Mullane, Steve Hawley, Judy Resnik and the first industry representative ever to fly aboard the shuttle, McDonnell Douglas engineer Charlie Walker.

Read more at: America space

“Safe Passage to Mars” Design Challenge

“Safe Passage to Mars” is a design challenge for undergraduate students. Enabling safe space exploration of Moon, Mars and beyond requires the application of the concepts of Engineering Psychology to design and build hardware (tools, devices, or equipment) which can mitigate critical human performance issues associated with long-duration spaceflight.

Read more at: ISSF

10th IAASS Conference

15 – 17 May 2019 – Los Angeles, USA

The tenth IAASS Conference “Making Safety Happen” is an invitation to reflect and exchange information on a number of topics in space safety and sustainability of national and international interest. The conference is also a forum to promote mutual understanding, trust, and the widest possible international cooperation in such matters. The once exclusive “club” of nations with autonomous space access capabilities is becoming crowded with fresh, and ambitious new entrants. New commercial spaceports and near-spaceports are in operations and others are being built.

Read more at: IAASS Conference