US Air Force to Introduce Space Based Surveillance System in 2021

The United States Air Force plans to launch a next-generation Space-Based Space Surveillance system in 2021. The Space Based Space Surveillance System (SBSS) will be used to track space objects, primarily satellites, in geosynchronous orbit. Located some 36,000 kilometers above the equator, the area is densely-populated, with fierce competition for satellite placement.

This competition for orbital proximity, rooted in the numerous advantages of having a satellite at a specific orbital distance from the Earth’s surface and hanging above a specific point, has led some US and government officials to feel threatened by Russian and Chinese devices, and has placed a high priority on the SBSS program.

Read more at: Space Daily

Re-entering Chinese Rocket Stage Streaks Across Western U.S.

A flaming fragment of space junk from China’s newest satellite launcher blazed through Earth’s atmosphere over the Western United States late Wednesday.

Darting across the skies of California, Nevada, Utah, Idaho and Colorado, the object disintegrated into numerous chunks before disappearing. The relatively slow speed of the fireball — it took nearly a minute to cross the sky — ruled out a natural origin, experts said.

The source of the unexpected sky show around 9:40 p.m. PDT Wednesday (12:40 a.m. EDT; 0440 GMT Thursday) was the second stage from China’s Long March 7 rocket, which took off June 25 on its maiden test flight, according to Jonathan McDowell, a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who tracks global satellite and launch activity.

Read more at: Spaceflight Now

Humanity in Dire Need of Global System to Prevent In-Space Collisions

The president of the Satellite Industry Association, Tom Stroup, tells Radio Sputnik that it’s time to consider the creation of a set of international guidelines to regulate orbital space traffic.

According to a recent analysis piece in the Washington Post, the number of satellites orbiting the Earth has increased 40% in the past five years, currently standing at almost 1,400 known devices. Tech companies struggling to cope with the soaring demands of the communications industry are regularly sending new satellites into space, Stroup said.

One Web, for example, intends to build and launch a “constellation” of some 650 small satellites by 2019 to “be able to provide broadband communication services” worldwide.

Read more at: Space Daily

Troubled Japanese Space Agency Seeks Fresh Start

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is on a quest for redemption. In March, a software error caused the agency’s Hitomi X-ray astronomy satellite to break up in space, cutting short a planned three-year mission after only one month.

Now JAXA is considering whether to rebuild and relaunch a copy of the spacecraft’s key instrument—a US-built X-ray spectrometer—with help from NASA. On August 5, representatives of the two space agencies will meet to discuss the possibility of resurrecting the instrument that was the heart of Hitomi’s science. But whether JAXA can regain the confidence of the Japanese nation, and of its international partners, remains to be seen.

Space experts note that JAXA has pulled off stunning recoveries before. It coaxed its crippled Hayabusa spacecraft to bring back dust from an asteroid, and nudged its Akatsuki probe into orbit around Venus 5 years after an engine failure seemed to render the spacecraft useless.

Read more at: Scientific American

Observatory Captures Huge Solar Eruption

The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, known as SOHO, has captured an image of as giant loop of hot gas bursting from the surface of the sun. The plume of ionised helium at a temperature of about 70,000 °C extends about 35 times the diameter of Earth out into space.

The sun is predominantly made of plasma – an electrically charged gas in which the ions react to magnetic fields. When the magnetic field loops out from the surface, huge streams of plasma are guided along the field. These “prominences” occur a few times a year and can last months.

When they collapse the gas usually returns to the sun along the magnetic field lines. But they can also fling plasma out from the sun in a phenomenon known as a coronal mass ejection.

Read more at: Cosmos magazine

No, Asteroid Bennu Won’t Destroy Earth

NASA’s new asteroid-sampling mission will do a lot of interesting things, but helping prepare humanity for Earth’s imminent destruction is not among them. There is indeed a chance that the 1,650-foot-wide (500 meters) asteroid Bennu — the target of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, which is scheduled to launch next month — could hit Earth late in the 22nd century.

But, mission officials stressed, that chance is slim, and the space rock is not nearly big enough to pose an existential threat to the planet, despite what some media reports claimed over the weekend.”We’re not talking about an asteroid that could destroy the Earth,” OSIRIS-REx principal investigator Dante Lauretta, of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona, told Space.com. “We’re not anywhere near that kind of energy for an impact.”

Read more at: Space.com

Chelyabinsk Meteor: Wake-Up Call for Earth

A small asteroid broke up over the city of Chelyabinsk, Russia, on Feb. 15, 2013. The shock wave it generated shattered glass and injured about 1,200 people. Some scientists think the meteor may have briefly outshone the sun. The blast was stronger than a nuclear explosion, triggering detections from monitoring stations as far away as Antarctica.

The incident was another reminder to space agencies about the importance of monitoring small bodies in space that could pose a threat to Earth. The same day Chelyabinsk happened, the U.S. House of Representative’s Science, Space, and Technology Committee said it would hold a hearing to discuss asteroid threats to Earth, and how to mitigate them on top of NASA’s current efforts.

Read more at: Space.com

Two Years After Deadly Crash, Virgin Galactic Gets License to Fly Spaceplane Again

Virgin Galactic says it has received an operating license for its space tourism rocket from the Federal Aviation Administration. Virgin Galactic says the operating license awarded by the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation will ultimately permit commercial operations. The company said Monday the licensing process involved a review of the system’s design, safety analysis and flight trajectory analysis.

Virgin Galatic’s first spaceship broke apart in 2014 during its fourth rocket-powered test flight when the co-pilot prematurely unlocked a key system. The second version of the company’s SpaceShipTwo was unveiled in February.

Read more at: Popular Mechanics

Mojave Update: August Heat & Virgin Flights

With the month of August upon us and no sign of relief from the oppressive desert heat, Mojave has at least one thing to look forward to: the first SpaceShipTwo flights in nearly two years.

Virgin Galactic officials have said they expect to begin flight tests of its second SpaceShipTwo vehicle sometime this month. The test program will begin with captive carry flights aboard the WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft followed by glide flights. Powered tests are expected in 2017.

Five months and 14 days since Richard Branson rolled out the second SpaceShipTwo inside the Virgin Galactic hangar here in Mojave on Feb. 19. That might sound like a long gap, but it’s pretty normal for this program. The first SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo were rolled out many months before they took to the skies.

Read more at: Parabolic Arc

The Space Wait Continues for Oklahoma Town

When Bill Khourie stands on the concrete under the midday sun and squints toward the end of the runway three miles to the south, invisible behind the curving earth and dancing mirages, he believes he’s looking at the future.

Khourie is the director of the Oklahoma Space Industry Development Authority, which has been trying since 1999 to lure space companies to Oklahoma. For years, the authority’s leadership has preached patience, saying the future will come. Now, Khourie believes the future is so close he can almost see it.

The commercial space industry is showing signs of growth as companies like SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin and United Launch Alliance have successfully blasted their spacecraft into the sky in recent months.

Read more at: News Ok

Orbital Outfitters is Ready for Business

Orbital Outfitters’ business is good to go. That’s the message that CEO Jeff Feige gave to Midland Development Corp. during the organization’s monthly meeting Monday at City Hall.

“Building stuff always takes longer than it should,” Feige told the Reporter-Telegram after the meeting, but Orbital is ready to kick off more than the spacesuit side of its business at Midland International Air & Space Port. The Midland Altitude Chamber Complex (MACC), which Orbital will operate, is fully operational and ready for customers.

Feige said he is negotiating with four or five customers that want to conduct altitude chamber testing at the MACC, a critical step before sending anything — or anyone — out into space. The chamber could see its first commercial use next month, but scheduling is the toughest part.

Read more at: MRT

4 Aerospace Startups that will Take You ‘To Infinity And Beyond’

Elon Musk’s SpaceX has set a new horizon of expectations for the space industry since its inception in 2010. The young billionaire wants to make space available to everyone, and send people to Mars and moon. The new space race has been taken over by the startup world led by entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos.

India gained much attention globally with the launch of ISRO’s Mars mission called Mangalyaan costing Rs 450 crore, one-tenth of how much NASA spent on its 2013 Maven explorer that it sent to the planet. This has been a major source of inspiration for entrepreneurs to finally have a little space of their own and get a little closer to the mystery that lies beyond Earth. To study the many stars, planets and moons in galaxies beyond the Milky Way. It’s a collective effort from and for humanity to understand our roots a little better.

Read more at: Entrepreneur

Fire Breaks Out in Battery Room at SpaceX Headquarters

A fire broke out Monday night in a battery room at SpaceX in Hawthorne, but no one was injured.

The fire was reported just before 8 p.m. at the Elon Musk-founded aerospace manufacturer and space transport services company at 1 Rocket Road, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department. The fire was knocked down at 8:15 p.m., a dispatch supervisor said.

Read more at: Patch

Making it in Space

There’s growing momentum for the development of commercial space stations, starting, perhaps, with a commercial module on the International Space Station. Two companies have expressed interest in doing a commercial module as a precursor to an independent station, and NASA has extended the deadline for a request for information about using a docking port on the station until August 12.

But, as interest in commercial facilities grows, a key question remains: who will use them? NASA and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the nonprofit that runs the portion of the station designated a US national laboratory, have been working to stimulate interest from a wide range of commercial users in recent years, beyond the long-running standbys of space tourism and “sovereign customers,” or national governments.

Read more at: Space Review

Investigation into Upper Stage Glitch Delays Next Proton Launch

The launch of an EchoStar communications satellite to cover Europe has been delayed to October to allow Russian engineers to complete an inquiry into a glitch discovered during a Proton rocket flight in June, industry officials said.

The commercial EchoStar 21 satellite, fitted with an S-band communications payload to support mobile Internet and telephone service in Europe, was supposed to blast off aboard a Proton rocket Aug. 29 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

But Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, announced last week that the mission would be grounded until Oct. 10. Russian authorities did not cite a reason for the delay in the launch, which was previously scheduled earlier this year.

Read more at: Spaceflight Now

China Begins Developing Hybrid Spacecraft

China has launched a program to develop hybrid spacecraft. The vehicle is expected to make space travel much cheaper if it proves successful.

According to China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, the new vehicle will be powered by multiple engines in different phases of the flight into orbit. These engines include turbine, ramjet and rocket. The core technique is using the air’s oxygen as an oxidiser to create power. Researchers say the hybrid launch vehicle will be mainly used for expeditions of between dozens to hundreds of kilometers from the earth.

Read more at: CCTV

Apollo Astronauts Experiencing Higher Rates of Cardiovascular-related Deaths

Members of the successful Apollo space program are experiencing higher rates of cardiovascular problems that are thought to be caused by their exposure to deep space radiation, according to a Florida State University researcher.

In a new paper in Scientific Reports, FSU Dean of the College of Human Sciences and Professor Michael Delp explains that the men who traveled into deep space as part of the lunar missions were exposed to levels of galactic cosmic radiation that have not been experienced by any other astronauts or cosmonauts. That exposure is now manifesting itself as cardiovascular problems.

“We know very little about the effects of deep space radiation on human health, particularly on the cardiovascular system,” Delp said. “This gives us the first glimpse into its adverse effects on humans.”

Read more at: Space Daily

Researchers Measure, Monitor and Mitigate Potential Health Risks of Long Duration Spaceflight

NASA closely monitors astronaut health during missions and throughout their lifetime. These medical monitoring programs, as well as prospective studies and medical research, help understand potential health risks related to long duration spaceflight, including the agency’s Journey to Mars.

Biomedical research that aims to prevent heart disease is an important part of the NASA Human Research Program. One example is the Cardio Ox study, which uses the unique microgravity environment of the International Space Station to understand changes to the cardiovascular system in astronauts living and working in low-Earth orbit.

Radiation is another top health concern for astronauts. Crew members who travel beyond low-Earth orbit will be exposed to more and different types of radiation because they will not be protected by Earth’s magnetosphere. The National Space Biomedical Research Institute, a non-governmental organization with funding from NASA’s Human Research Program, supported a recent study published in Scientific Reports that looked at the rate of cardiovascular disease among Apollo astronauts.

Read more at: Space Daily

NASA Orders Second SpaceX Crew Mission to International Space Station

NASA took another important step Friday in returning U.S. astronaut launches from U.S. soil with the order of a second post-certification mission from commercial provider SpaceX in Hawthorne, California. Commercial crew flights from Florida’s Space Coast to theInternational Space Station will restore America’s human spaceflight launch capability and increase the time U.S. crews can dedicate to scientific research, which is helping prepare astronauts for deep space missions, including the Journey to Mars.

“The order of a second crew rotation mission from SpaceX, paired with the two ordered from Boeing will help ensure reliable access to the station on American spacecraft and rockets,” said Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. “These systems will ensure reliable U.S. crew rotation services to the station, and will serve as a lifeboat for the space station for up to seven months.”

Read more at: Parabolic Arc

Five Years After Shuttle, NASA Awaits Commercial Crew Capsules

Five years after Atlantis completed the space shuttle program’s final voyage, NASA is still at least a year away from launching its astronauts from U.S. soil. When Atlantis returned to Earth on July 21, 2011, everyone knew there would be a lengthy gap. But the pilots who guided Atlantis to one last “wheels stop” are doing all they can to hurry up the future, albeit from different teams.

One works for Boeing on the company’s Starliner crew capsule under development. The other is one of four NASA astronauts training for the initial test flights. This unprecedented switch from government to commercial rocketships promises to usher in a whole new era, according to Atlantis’ commander Christopher Ferguson. Think space tourists, orbiting factories, lunar camps, private Mars labs and more.

Read more at: Phys.org

China to Expand International Astronauts Exchange

China will expand international exchange in the training of astronauts in a bid to push it closer to becoming a space power, an official said Wednesday.

Li Xinke of the Astronaut Center of China made the remarks while briefing an international training mission for astronauts. Chinese astronaut Ye Guangfu participated in the mission. Ye is the first Chinese to receives CAVES (Cooperative Adventure for Valuing and Exercising human behavior and performance Skills) training, an advanced training course for astronauts, organized by the European Space Agency (ESA).

The training took place in the Sa Grutta underground caves, Sardinia, Italy. Prospective astronauts from Japan, Russia, Spain and the United States also took part in the training. “In the future, China will strengthen international communication in astronaut training while also relying on our own efforts,” Li said. It is not clear whether further Chinese astronauts will be selected for CAVES training, added Li.

Read more at: Xinhuanet

Commercial Crew Delays Could Lead to Gap in ISS Access, NASA Advisors Warn

Although Boeing and SpaceX remain on schedule to have their commercial crew vehicles completed by 2018, an advisory group is worried about a potential gap in access to the International Space Station should they experience delays.

At a July 28 meeting of the NASA Advisory Council in Cleveland, members discussed the possibility NASA may have no means to send crews to the station should both companies fail to have their vehicles certified by the end of 2018, when NASA’s current agreement with Russia for seats on Soyuz spacecraft expires.

Wayne Hale, interim chairman of the council’s human exploration and operations committee, told the council that while both companies’ current schedules have their vehicles ready by 2018 to carry NASA astronauts, “there is very little margin” in those schedules. “Human spaceflight development programs invariably suffer schedules slips due to their technical complexity, and integration of commercial providers into government service adds further obstacles,” he said. “It’s therefore prudent to assume delays in the post-certification missions from the schedule.”

Read more at: Spacenews

RS-25 Engine Successfully Completes its Test for NASA’s Space Launch System

Again a proud moment for NASA! Recently NASA engineers along with Aerojet Rocketdyne and Syncom Space Services engineers and operators performed a successful developmental test of RS-25 engine at its Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.

For this successful test, 0528 engineers were torn on for 650 seconds. RS-25 engine, previously known as the Space Shuttle Main Engine, was designed by Aerojet Rocketdyne for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS). Being world’s most powerful engine, it holds a strong legacy of powering human space flights.

Read more at: Zee News

We Talked to Astronaut Scott Kelly About the Psychological Challenges of Going to Mars

Living in space is even more challenging than it seems. Microgravity affects your body in weird ways, the high-risk environment can create high-stress situations, and you don’t have the comforts of your daily life on Earth: no showers, no fresh food, no fresh air, and no loved ones to go back to at the end of your work day.

Astronauts usually endure all that for six months on the International Space Station (ISS). But a trip to Mars will last two to three years. How will humans fare that long in space? And what will be the psychological challenges that astronauts face on their way to the Red Planet, the furthest away any human being has ever been from home?

Read more at: Verge

How One Astronaut is Prepping for 6 Months in Space

Imagine watching the sun rise and set sixteen times in 24 hours. Imagine seeing the stars burn bright against the blackness, unimpeded by atmosphere. Imagine sleeping, eating, writing, conducting lab experiments, playing a guitar, or menstruating in microgravity. Imagine heading out into the void of space with only the shell of your pressurized suit protecting you from oblivion. Imagine looking out your window and seeing the great curve of Earth’s surface, the shimmering seas, the blinding ice caps, the sparkling lights of civilization sprinkled through the dark.

That’s a pretty normal day for astronauts who inhabit the International Space Station (ISS), which orbits the planet 250 miles from the Earth’s surface. Spanning the length of a football field and weighing almost one million pounds, the ISS is an aeronautical wonder, a collaborative floating laboratory that has allowed humans our longest continual presence in space. For fifteen years, this magnificent satellite has been crewed by a rotating cast of astronauts from all over the world. Two hundred and twenty humans from eighteen countries have visited the ISS; more than half of them have been Americans.

Read more at: Popular Mechanics

U.S. Army General Dies Two Days Before Taking New Command

U.S. Army Maj. Gen. John Rossi, who was scheduled to become the Army’s top space officer on Aug. 2, died July 31 at Redstone Arsenal in Alabama, the service said in a press release.

The cause of death was under investigation, the Army said. Rossi was expected to lead U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Maj. Gen. John G. Rossi’s family,” Lt. Gen. Larry Wyche, Army Materiel Command deputy commanding general and Redstone Arsenal senior commander, said in an Aug. 1 press release. “We share their grief during this time of loss. Our priority right now is to take care of the family, ensuring they have all the resources they need during this critical time.”

Read more at: Space News

Astronaut John Glenn’s Historic Flight Plan Sold for $67K

In-flight instructions used by astronaut John Glenn during his historic 1962 Mercury spaceflight have been sold at auction.

Nate D. Sanders Auctions said the instructions used by Glenn as he became the first American to orbit Earth sold Thursday in Los Angeles for $66,993. There were eight bids, beginning at $25,000. An auction house spokesman said it doesn’t disclose the identities of winning bidders.

The instructions included a flight plan for Glenn’s Friendship 7 spacecraft detailing the celestial bodies and geographical landmarks to use as guides during his nearly five-hour flight on Feb. 20, 1962. They also told Glenn at what points to take photos, change the film and color filter, put on his helmet and exercise. The document is scrolled around a bobbin that Glenn could maneuver with his thumb.

Glenn, now 95 and living in Columbus with his wife, Annie, had given the instructions to a frogman who helped recover NASA capsules from the ocean, as a thank-you for his work on the Mercury 6 project.

Read more at: Phys.org

What Space Imaging Means for Intelligence and the Asian Region

The expansion of commercial space imaging is a disruptive force for many governments. Given its security implications, Western players will not be the only ones to shape its spread and uses. Asian players too are already moving to harness the underlying technologies and trends.

Here is why they are all in the game: Sharper images of virtually any location around the world taken from space – deserts, oceans, remote villages, refugee camps, urban settings, and so on – change things. Such imagery, whether in still or video clips, can now be continuously updated and promises to become available on a routine commercial basis to big and small governments, private and corporate players, as well as non-state actors and global institutions. This changes things even more. If all these actors can see things wherever and whenever possible, the basis for their decision-making and interactions transforms across many domains.

Read more at: Forbes

China’s Launch of a Quantum-enabled Satellite Could Spark a New Global Space Race

China is on the brink of launching a groundbreaking new satellite capable of conducting quantum experiments in space, leading some to predict it will usher in the beginning of a new space race.

The world will be watching very closely after the Chinese-led satellite launches in August. If it proves successful in carrying out the quantum experiments, China is expected to follow it with many more in a bid to create a super secure network that uses an encryption technique based on the principles of quantum communication.

The reason world powers will be paying such close attention is that quantum-enabled spacecrafts are able to provide communication pathways that are completely unhackable. While the technology has been trialled on the ground over short distances, the capability to do so across the globe would be a huge game changer — it holds the promise of a world with completely secure digital communication.

Most of the encryption used over the internet for services such as online banking relies on mathematical functions that are very difficult to be reversed and that’s what makes the encryption effective. It’s easy to encrypt but very difficult for someone to find ways to decrypt it. However with advances in computing, that won’t always be the case.

Read more at: AU News

Missile Defense Agency Needs to Fund More Research into New Technologies, ex-Director Says

The Missile Defense Agency is facing a budget shortfall that could jeopardize research into next generation technology, a retired Air Force general said Friday.

The Defense Department agency is responsible for keeping Americans and allied nations safe from missile attacks — both nuclear and conventional — but a constrained fiscal environment is making it difficult to research ways to defend against threats from China and Russia, said Lt. Gen. Trey Obering (ret.) at a conference held by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

“Why is this budget squeeze at [research and development] a problem, frankly? One thing we have to realize is what we’re talking about is not today; we’re talking about the future,” said Obering, who served as director of the MDA from 2004 to 2008 and deputy director from 2003 to 2004.

Read more at: Defense News

Small Satellite Market by Type , by Application , by End-User, by Geography – Global Forecast to 2021

The small satellite market is expected to grow from USD 2.22 billion in 2016 to USD 5.32 billion by 2021, at a CAGR of 19.14% from 2016 to 2021. The market for small satellite is driven by factors, such as the increasing focus on reducing mission costs as well as increasing demand for earth observation-related applications of small satellite. Various growth opportunities for the small satellite market include the proposed development of satellite networks to provide internet access to areas without broadband connectivity.

Microsatellite segment based on class to witness the highest growth during the forecast period. The microsatellite segment is projected to be the fastest-growing segment in the small satellite market.

Read more at: Spacewar

Review: Mission Control

Earlier this month, when NASA’s Juno spacecraft arrived at Jupiter, spacecraft engineers and other officials monitored its orbit insertion burn from consoles at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. They carefully tracked the 35-minute engine burn required to place the billion-dollar spacecraft into its desired orbit. When telemetry transmitted by the spacecraft confirmed it was in orbit, there were cheers, much like nearly four years ago when the Curiosity rover successfully landed on Mars.

It’s tempting to say they were cheering in mission control, but at this phase of the mission, there was little for them to control. The one-way light travel time at Juno’s distance from the Earth was 48 minutes, meaning that Juno had actually completed the burn before telemetry indicating the burn had started arrived at JPL. Had something gone wrong, there was virtually nothing they could do: the spacecraft was programmed to deal with various contingencies, such as restarting the engine, without intervention from humans.

Read more at: Space Review