A Detailed Account of Pete Siebold’s Survival in the SpaceShipTwo Crash

The National Transportation Safety Board has released a summary of an interview it conducted with Scaled Composites pilot Pete Siebold, who was in command of SpaceShipTwo when it broke up over the Mojave Desert last Oct. 31 during a flight test. Siebold was thrown clear of the ship and managed to parachute to safety, but not before passing out and struggling to activate his oxygen system. Co-pilot Mike Alsbury was not as lucky; he died in the crash. The following excerpt describes Siebold’s descent and landing from about 10 miles up, the extent of his injuries, and his treatment by medical personnel in the desert and at Antelope Valley Hospital. Because he considered this a “high-risk” flight he stated that he took extra precautions and took time to think through scenarios that might happen and how he would rapidly respond in an emergency and activate his parachute and oxygen cylinder. About 10-15 minutes prior to release there was a period of low workload when he was able to physically feel for the parachute D-ring rip cord, oxygen activation pud, and the dual-lever seatbelts to improve his “muscle memory” in the event of an emergency. This was not a written procedure, but something he personally did on some flights.

Read more at: Parabolicarc

Lockheed Martin and StemRad Studying First-Responder Radiation Shield for Potential Deep-Space Application

StemRad, Ltd. and Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT) have initiated a joint research and development effort to determine if StemRad’s radiation shielding technology – originally designed for first-responders – could help to keep astronauts safe on deep-space exploration missions. This collaboration is part of Lockheed Martin’s ongoing effort to establish international partnerships for human exploration of deep-space. As designed now, the StemRad 360 Gamma  is a wearable vest that protects first-responders and emergency rescue workers from dangerous gamma radiation. The design provides optimal protection of the wearer’s bone marrow stem cells, which is crucial in preventing harmful complications that can arise from radiation exposure. Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor building Orion, NASA’s next-generation spacecraft designed to transport humans to destinations beyond low Earth orbit and bring them safely home. By providing radiation protection for long-duration missions in deep-space, a successful adaptation of the commercial StemRad 360 Gamma could be a key component for ensuring astronaut health and safety. The joint project won the support of a bilateral research committee and will be supported by grants from Space Florida, the aerospace economic development agency of Florida and MATIMOP, the executive agency of the Office of the Chief Scientist of the Ministry of Economy of Israel. “We’re going to take our extensive knowledge of human spaceflight, apply our nano-materials engineering expertise, and working closely with StemRad, evaluate the viability for this type of radiation shielding in deep-space,” said Randy Sweet, Lockheed Martin business development director for the civil space line of business. “The Lockheed Martin team believes this could result in an innovative solution to enhance crew safety on the journey to Mars.” Dr. Oren Milstein, co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of StemRad commented: “We are excited to be collaborating with Lockheed Martin on this important project. Our team possesses advanced capabilities in the areas of radiation biology and innovative shielding strategies, and we will now be applying those skills to the unique challenges in human space exploration.”

Read more at: Lockheed-Martin Company

Engineers Begin Testing Elements for Orion Service Module

Engineers at NASA’s Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio, began the first of a series of modal tests on a structural representation of the crew module adapter (CMA) for Orion. The CMA will connect the capsule to the ESA (European Space Agency)-provided service module for the spacecraft’s next mission, Exploration Mission-1. The service module is designed to be the powerhouse that fuels and propels Orion in space. The tests at Plum Brook Station shake structural elements at various frequencies to simulate how launch vibrations and acoustics will affect the spacecraft during its trip to space atop NASA’s Space Launch System rocket. They are being conducted ahead of the arrival of a structural representation of the ESA service module to the facility this fall for additional testing. Engineers are using a “building block” approach to testing in which they evaluate each piece as the elements composing the service module are stacked atop each other to validate it before flight hardware begins arriving in 2017.

Read more at: NASA Blogs

China Launches Two Satellites as it Builds GPS Rival

China launched two new satellites into space Saturday, July 25, state media reported, as it builds a homegrown satellite navigation system to rival the US’s Global Positioning System. The satellites were launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwestern Sichuan province at 8:29 pm (1229 GMT), the official Xinhua news agency said. The satellites are the 18th and 19th launched by China as it develops its domestic navigation system Beidou, or Compass. They take the total number launched this year to three. Beidou is currently centred on the Asia Pacific region but is slated to cover the whole world by 2020. “The successful launch marks another solid step in building Beidou into a navigation system with global coverage,” the satellite launch centre was quoted by Xinhua as saying. Beidou—named after the Chinese term for the plough or Big Dipper constellation—was announced in 2012, joining the US’s GPS, Russia’s GLONASS and European Union’s Galileo. It is already used by several Asian countries including Laos, Pakistan and Thailand. The new satellites will be deployed in “testing a new type of navigation signalling and inter-satellite links” as well as providing navigation services, Xinhua said. The Beidou system is currently used for civilian services such as navigation and messaging, as well as in the transportation and weather forecasting sectors. It also has military applications.

Read more at: Phys.org

US Military Satellite Explosion Caused by Battery-Charger Problem

The explosion of a 20-year-old military weather satellite earlier this year was likely caused by a failure of the spacecraft’s battery-charging system, investigators have concluded. The U.S. Air Force’s Defense Meteorological Satellite Program Flight 13 satellite, or DMSP-F13 for short, which launched in March 1995, blew apart on Feb. 3, spawning a new cloud of space junk that includes at least 147 objects as large as, or larger than, a baseball. Early indications pointed to a problem with the satellite’s power system, and those suspicions have now been borne out by the full investigation.

Read more at: Space.com

Dartmouth-NASA Collaboration Reveals New X-Ray Actions

Potentially destructive high-energy electrons streak into Earth’s atmosphere from space, not as Shakespeare’s “gentle rain from heaven,” but at velocities approaching the speed of light. This particle onslaught can lead to ozone depletion and damage to the orbital satellites that provide us with the navigation, communication, weather, and military-recognizance information upon which we have become increasingly dependent.
Dartmouth’s Robyn Millan and colleagues do research via instruments carried aloft by balloons launched from Antarctica that rise as high as 125,000 feet. The satellites fly through the Van Allen radiation belts—giant concentric layers of charged particles held in place by the Earth’s magnetic field. An increase in particle density and charge brought about by solar activity can raise the level of threat to the satellites. Dartmouth physicist Robyn Millan and colleagues have engaged in a study of this electronic bombardment, for the first time employing two distinctly different and distant vantage points high above the Earth. Their findings appeared in the July 9 issue of the journal Nature. “This is exciting for us because we are integrating data collected by our instruments with the data from NASA’s Van Allen Probes,” says Millan, an associate professor of physics and astronomy. “These are the most direct measurements that have ever been made that link what’s going on at the equator to what’s coming into the atmosphere in the southern polar region. We are measuring particles that are getting scattered into Earth’s atmosphere at the same time as the spacecraft are measuring what’s going on in space.”

Read more at: Dartmouth.edu

NASA Awards Contract to Support Agency’s Human Spaceflight Programs

NASA has selected Wyle Laboratories Inc., of El Segundo, California, to provide biomedical, medical and health services in support of all human spaceflight programs at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. The work supports ongoing research aboard the International Space Station and helps enable the journey to Mars. The Human Health and Performance contract begins Oct. 1 and has a maximum potential value of $1.44 billion, including a five-year base period followed by one three-year option and one two-year option. This contract directly supports NASA’s Human Health and Performance Directorate at Johnson, which is charged with ensuring crew health, safety and performance; providing occupational health services at Johnson and NASA’s White Sands Test Facility in Las Cruces, New Mexico; and conducting research and developing technologies to help mitigate risks to the health, safety and performance of future spaceflight crews. Wyle will provide support services in the areas of fundamental and applied biomedical research; operational space medicine; occupational health and medicine; management of clinical, biomedical, space food and environmental laboratories; behavioral sciences; human factors engineering; spacecraft environment monitoring and management; biomedical engineering; biomedical flight hardware requirements, design, fabrication, testing and operation; and payload and hardware integration with the International Space Station and other spaceflight platforms.

Read more at: NASA

Space Debris Provides Convenient Cover For Japan’s Military Space Ambitions

Discarded boosters, defunct satellites, and other little things whizzing around can seriously harm human missions and space assets. So, orbital debris gets a lot of policy attention. There is a bigger problem than just the lethal environment, however. The orbital debris discourse is a convenient cover for ambitious military space powers worldwide. It allows them to develop technologies that, as it turns out, can also serve military purposes. This includes countries like Japan, which studiously avoided any military association for its space ventures for most of the postwar period. What is different from the past is that Japan’s military moves in space are now officially sanctioned. They are likely to become even more entrenched as Japan shifts the tenor of its security trajectories under the country’s new legislation. One focal point for solutions in Japan has been something called the Orbital Maintenance Systems (OMS). Simply put, this involves de-orbiting, refueling, and repairing old or defunct spacecraft. But when you focus on reduction or removal as potential mitigation strategies for orbital debris, you also speak to capabilities that can render your rivals’ space assets blind, deaf, or plain dead. Japan has played a pioneering role in developing indigenous co-orbital technologies that can do just that. Its ETS-VII demonstrations from the late 1990s showed its capabilities to view, reposition, and drag orbital debris and, by logical extension, the space assets of others. Japan’s official paradigm-shifting moves toward small satellites in 2002, starting with µLabsat 1 (Micro LabSat 1), showed also its steady determination to continue down the course of testing OMS technologies. One of the experiments installed on it was the Micro OMS Light Inspection Vehicle (Micro-OLIVe) to test on-orbit remote-controlled inspection technologies.

Read more at: Forbes

Russia Vetoes Draft UN resolution on Setting Up Tribunal for Crashed Malaysian Plane MH17

Russia on Wednesday vetoed a draft UN Security Council resolution on the establishment of an international tribunal to investigate the downing of a Malaysian airliner last year. Eleven of the Council’s 15 members voted in favor, one against and three others abstained. “We have repeatedly stated that we do not back the idea of the creation of a tribunal under the chapter 7 of the UN. There are no grounds for this,” said Vitaly Churkin, Russian permanent representative to the UN, after the vote. A Malaysia Airlines plane was brought down on July 17, 2014 when it was flying over the war zone in east Ukraine while en route from Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, killing all 298 people on board, 196 of whom were Dutch. A preliminary report published last September said the plane “broke up in the air probably as the result of structural damage caused by a large number of high-energy objects that penetrated the aircraft from outside.”  The draft resolution by Malaysia has proposed that a tribunal be established to investigate the downing of MH17, with judges and prosecutor being appointed by the UN Secretary-General.

Read more at: New China

Debris is Thought to Come From Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

American investigators have concluded that a large object that washed up Wednesday on the shore of Réunion, a French island in the Indian Ocean, came from a Boeing 777, making it likely that it was debris from Flight 370, the Malaysia Airlines jetliner that disappeared in March 2014.A person with knowledge of the inquiry into what happened to the plane said that American government officials and experts from Boeing based their conclusion on photographs and videos. The investigators noted that no other Boeing 777 was known to be missing, suggesting that the piece was part of the missing aircraft. The person added that the Americans were waiting for French aviation experts to examine the object, and determine if it contained a serial number matching that of the Malaysia Airlines jet. A French official with knowledge of the investigation said that the object appeared to be a wing flap. The official said that the object was about 9 feet long and 3 feet wide, and that it appeared to have been in the water for a very long time.

Read more at: New York Times