China Just Set New National Launch Record While Putting Up Two More Beidou Navigation Satellite

China’s launch of a pair of Beidou navigation satellites late Friday saw the country set a new annual launch record as its space activities ramp up.

A Long March 3B with a Yuanzheng-1 upper stage lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China at 7:52 p.m. Eastern Friday (11:52 UTC) sending two Beidou satellites directly into medium Earth orbits at around 22,000 kilometers altitude.

Success of the launch was confirmed by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), the main contractor for the space program, around four hours after launch, following direct insertion of the satellites into preset orbits.

Read more at: Spacenews

We Might Be Able to Contact NASA’s Opportunity Rover Soon

NASA’s Opportunity rover has been exploring the surface of Mars for more than a decade, but the past few months have presented its greatest challenge yet.

Since early June, a dust storm has been blocking out the sun around Opportunity, which is particularly challenging for a solar-powered rover. Since then, the dust storm has grown to encompass the entire planet, and almost three months later it’s finally showing the first signs of slowing down.

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been monitoring the dust storm since it began from MRO’s vantage point in orbit, and for the first time the spacecraft has detected signs that the storm is slowing down. According to the data, more dust is falling out of the sky than is getting pulled up by winds. With luck, the storm will begin to dissipate within the next few weeks.

Read more at: Popular mechanics

Blue Origin Continues Spacex-Competitive Rocket R&D With Hot-Fire Engine Tests

Prospective SpaceX-competitor Blue Origin is continuing research and development work in earnest in an effort to push its first orbital-class rocket, known as New Glenn, closer to the massive vehicle’s launch debut.

In early August, the company shared a video showing a small segment of a long-duration hot-fire test of the rocket engine that will power New Glenn’s second stage, the upper segment of the rocket tasked with placing payloads (typically satellites) into their final orbit(s).

Blue Origin recently announced an intriguing decision to change the upper stage engine its New Glenn rocket will use, moving from a vacuum version of the booster’s massive BE-4 engine (BE-4U) to two updated and modified BE-3 engines, the same propulsion system that powers the company’s much smaller New Shepard suborbital rocket.

Read more at: Teslarati

Cargo Spacecraft Progress MS-08 Leaves ISS, Deorbiting Due August 30

Cargo spacecraft Progress MS-08 has been undocked from the International Space Station (ISS) Thursday morning. Its deorbiting is due on August 30, the rocket and spacecraft scientific center TsNIIMash said.

Progress MS-08 has been at the ISS since February 11, 2018.

“In accordance with the ISS flight program the cargo spacecraft Progress MS-08 was undocked from the Russian segment on August 23, 2018,” the statement runs. At 05:16 Moscow time the spacecraft left the docking port of the Russian service module Zvezda. At 05:19 the spacecraft’s engine was turned on to take Progress MS-08 to a safe distance.

Read more at: TASS

NASA Chief Wants to Send Humans to the Moon — ‘To Stay’

Jim Bridenstine wants to make sure that there is never another day when humans are not in space.

“In fact,” the NASA administrator said, “we want lots of humans in space.”

Bridenstine, who became the space agency’s chief in April, recently sat down with Space.com and other reporters during a visit to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, during which he shared what he saw as his priority for NASA going forward.

“When you look back at history, look back at the end of the Apollo program, 1972 when we didn’t go back to the moon… you look back and there was a period of time there after Apollo and before the space shuttles when we had a gap of human spaceflight capability,” Bridenstine said. “And then you go forward and look at the retirement of the space shuttles in 2011, and now we’re getting to the point where we’re ready to fly commercial crew. We’ve got a gap of about eight years in our ability to fly crew into space.

Read more at: Space.com

Acoustic Testing Begins On AA-2 Orion Capsule At NASA Plum Brook Station

The Orion crew capsule test article for the upcoming Abort Ascent-2 (AA-2) test has arrived at NASA’s Plum Brook Station testing facility in Sandusky, Ohio. The test article is being readied – to be blasted with sound.

A series of acoustic tests are part of the preparation for Orion’s AA-2 test, scheduled at Cape Canaveral in April of 2019. Engineers at Plum Brook have placed the Orion test article in Plum Brook’s Reverberant Acoustic Test Facility, where it will generate an important set of data as it undergoes a range of acoustic stress tests over the next two to three weeks.

Read more at: Spaceflight Insider

Heat Shield Install Brings Orion Spacecraft Closer to Space

During Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), an uncrewed Orion spacecraft will launch atop NASA’s Space Launch System rocket and begin a three-week voyage in space, taking it about 40,000 miles beyond the Moon and back to Earth.

On its return, the spacecraft’s heat shield will need to withstand temperatures of nearing 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit during its fiery re-entry through the Earth’s atmosphere before it splashes down in the Pacific Ocean.

Technicians at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida recently secured the heat shield to the bottom of the crew module, using 68 bolts. Designed and manufactured by Orion prime contractor, Lockheed Martin, the heat shield is like an intricate puzzle with pieces that all have to fit together perfectly. Before the final installation, a fit check was performed to ensure all of the bolt fittings lined up.

Read more at: Spacedaily

Astronauts Could Stay At This Space ‘Motel’ On The Way To Mars

NASA’s first crewed mission to Mars may still be years away, but already we’re getting a glimpse of the sort of habitat that astronauts could use as a staging point for a multimonth voyage to the red planet, an asteroid or another deep-space destination.

Aerospace giant Lockheed Martin unveiled an early prototype of its deep-space habitat last week at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The cylindrical module — a reworked cargo container from the space shuttle era — is about 22 feet long and 16.5 feet wide. That’s much bigger than the Russian Soyuz capsules that take astronauts to and from the International Space Station but tiny compared to the space station itself, which is made up of 16 pressurized modules that collectively cover an area bigger than a football field.

Read more at: NBC news

Don’t Ignore Ethical Aspects of Planetary Protection, Scientists Say

In the coming decades, as we gear up for a more in-depth search for life on Mars, as well as visits to potentially habitable ocean moons in the outer solar system, should scientists start addressing the ethical concerns of accidentally contaminating these worlds with Earthly microbes, as well as the scientific implications?

That’s the question posed by a trio of scientists who are arguing for a shake-up in how we think about planetary protection.

Read more at: Space.com

A ‘Fireball’ 40 Times Brighter Than the Moon Shoots Across Alabama Skies

This past weekend, a fiery meteor about 40 times brighter than the full moon streamed across the skies over Alabama during the early hours of Friday (Aug. 17).

The event took place at 12:19 a.m. local time, according to NASA Meteor Watch, which captured video of the event and shared the footage to Facebook, dubbing the meteor the “Alabama Fireball.”

Six NASA cameras in the region captured the blazing object — a small asteroid measuring approximately 6 feet (2 meters) in diameter, a NASA representative wrote in the Facebook post. The fireball was big enough and bright enough to be easily seen by the naked eye, even through clouds, and it triggered “every camera and sensor operated by the Meteoroid Environment Office in the region,” according to NASA.

Read more at: Space.com

Solving the Challenges of Active Space Debris

The European Space Agency (ESA) reveals that over the last 60 years, more than 5,250 launches have resulted in some 42,000 tracked objects in orbit, of which about 23,000 remain in space and are regularly tracked by the US Space Surveillance Network and maintained in their catalogue, which covers objects larger than about 5-10 cm in low-Earth orbit (LEO) and 30 cm to 1m at geostationary (GEO) altitudes. Only a small fraction – about 1200 – are intact, operational satellites today, meaning much of the rest is active space debris. The current LEO environment contains about 3,200 intact objects

Read more at: Scitech europa

USSTRATCOM, Brazil Sign Agreement To Share Space Services, Data

U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) signed an agreement with the Brazilian Ministry of Defense to share Space Situational Awareness (SSA) services and information.

Rear Adm. Richard A. Correll, director of plans and policy for USSTRATCOM, signed the agreement as part of a larger effort to build a closer defense partnership with Brazil that will enhance each nation’s awareness within the space domain increasing the safety of their spaceflight operations.

“Cooperation and partnerships such as these is vital for the United States and our allies to maintain effective space situational awareness and for everyone to continue to benefit from the critical domain that is space,” said Correll. “These agreements build our relationships and provide insights to allow us to be more effective in space.”

Read more at: afspc

Get an Up-Close Look at Boeing’s New CST-100 Starliner Spaceship

Tucked inside a former space shuttle parking garage is Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner capsule. It’s one of two new private space taxis that NASA has commissioned to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS).

On Aug. 9, Boeing invited members of the media into the company’s facilities here at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center for a behind-the-scenes tour and a chance to meet the astronauts who will be flying the spacecraft as early as next year.

NASA announced those “Commercial Crew Nine” astronauts on Aug. 3, during a ceremony at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Read more at: Space.com

Spaceport Colorado Lands FAA License, Moving Closer To Space Tourism Flights Near Denver

All systems are go for a small airport east of Denver to become Spaceport Colorado, a take-off spot for tourists catching rides to space.

The Federal Aviation Administration on Friday approved a commercial spaceport license for Front Range Airport in Adams County, six miles south of Denver International Airport, the county said. They’ve pushed to see the airfield near Watkins authorized to host space flightsthat take off horizontally from its runways and help establish an industry taking travelers to edge of space.

Read more at: Bizjournals

New Office Of Space Commerce Director To Focus On Advocacy And Regulatory Issues

The new director of the Office of Space Commerce, a long-neglected entity set to gain more influence under the Trump administration’s space policy reforms, says his initial priorities are on engaging with and advocating for industry and dealing with regulatory issues.

In an Aug. 20 speech at a space conference at Arizona State University, Kevin O’Connell, who started as director of the office six weeks earlier, outlined a four-pronged strategy for the small office as its influence under the administration’s space policy grows.

“Our initial strategy for the Office of Space Commerce involves four basic elements: advocacy, moving regulatory barriers, industry engagement and improving our understanding” of the space industry’s benefits, he said.

Read more at: Spacenews

Chinese Private Space Company To Launch First Carrier Rocket

China will launch its first solid-propellant carrier rocket developed by a Chinese private company late this year. The ZQ-1 rocket was developed by Landspace, a Beijing-based rocket-maker. Its technicians are former state-owned aerospace industry workers. Carrying a small satellite, the rocket will be launched at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China, the company said Thursday. “If the launch mission can go well, the ZQ-1 will become China’s first private carrier rocket that can send satellites into space,” said Zhang Changwu, CEO of Landspace.

The 19-meter-long rocket has a 1.35-meter diameter, a takeoff weight of 27 tonnes and thrust of 45 tonnes. It is flexible, cost-efficient and has been designed with mature technology and fast response ability.

Read more at: Xinhuanet

This Group of NASA Veterans Wants to Build Their Own Space Station

As a NASA astronaut for 20 years, Michael Lopez-Alegria conducted 10 spacewalks and set a U.S. record for total spacewalking time (67 hours and 40 minutes) that still stands. Now he heads business development for Houston-based Axiom Space, which aims to send private “spaceflight participants” up to the space station (for $55 million a seat), then to attach its own commercial module to the International Space Station, followed eventually by a free-flying commercial station of its own.

Read more at: Air and space

NASA’s New Space Taxis

Space travel is about to change. Ever since Yuri Gagarin’s pioneering flight in 1961, only spacecraft built by nation states have carried humans into orbit. But sometime soon, as early as next year, the world’s first private, crewed spaceship will take off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida and head for the International Space Station.

For many, the most important aspect of that first flight will be the long-awaited resumption of human spaceflight from U.S. soil. It will mark the end of a painful hiatus since the last space shuttle mission in 2011, during which American astronauts have had to hitch rides aboard Russian spacecraft. But independence from Russian launch schedules is not the only thing Americans will have to celebrate. With the first launch in its Commercial Crew Program, NASA is trying something new: opening space exploration to private corporations and astronauts.

Read more at: Air and space

Boeing’s Ferguson On Starliner – No Touch Screens, But Far Simpler Than Shuttle

Chris Ferguson, Director of Crew and Mission Operations for Boeing and a former NASA astronaut, has outlined Starliner’s design and what Boeing and NASA have planned for the uncrewed and crewed test flights. The former Shuttle commander also spoke about how much simpler Starliner’s displays will be in comparison to the orbiters.

Working on a slightly different production timeline than SpaceX, Boeing’s Starliner team’s primary focus right now is on the vehicle that will fly second on the Crew Flight Test (CFT) mission No Earlier Than mid-2019.

The second priority is the vehicle that will actually fly first on the uncrewed Orbital Flight Test (OFT) mission.

Read more at: NASA spaceflight

Does Stratolaunch Have a Top Secret Purpose?

Seven years ago, Microsoft founder Paul Allen started a company with a bold idea: build one of the biggest aircraft ever to fly, and then use it to launch satellites into orbit. Now just months before the airplane flies the first time, some are wondering where the customers are for such an aircraft. Could the airplane end up flying secret missions for the military and intelligence community?

Built by aviation firm Scaled Composites, Stratolaunch is the largest aircraft in the world by wingspan. The giant plane’s wings stretch a jaw-dropping 385 feet, 25 feet longer than a football field. The aircraft features two identical fuselages, six enormous turbofan engines, and what amounts to three wings—one in the center. The flying leviathan is designed to carry rockets, including eventually a crewed spacecraft, to the edge of space and launch them.

Read more at: Popular mechanics

Ex-Spacex Engine Expert To Help Design Rockets Built For Launch On World’s Largest Jet

Stratolaunch, an aerospace company funded by Microsoft-made billionaire Paul Allen to build the world’s largest flightworthy aircraft, has announced a decision to build its own liquid-fueled rockets, to be air-launched from the aforementioned mega-plane.

Targeting an inaugural launch of the first version of the rocket – currently nicknamed “Kraken” – as early as 2022, Stratolaunch has chosen Jeff Thornburg, formerly SpaceX’s Vice President of Propulsion Engineering and the father of the company’s Mars-focused Raptor engine, to lead its foray into in-house rocket propulsion development and manufacturing.

Read more at: Teslarati

Microsoft Co-Founder’s Space Venture Plans To Create Three New Rockets, Including A Spaceplane

Today, aerospace venture Stratolaunch announced plans to develop a whole suite of rocketsthat will be able to launch from underneath the wings of the company’s massive six-engine plane. Three entirely new rockets are planned, including a reusable spaceplane that would bring cargo — and, eventually, people — to and from orbit. Stratolaunch says the plan is for the first of these new vehicles to launch in 2022.

Stratolaunch, created by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, has been developing a giant dual-fuselage plane to launch rockets into orbit. The vehicle is meant to act like a flying launchpad; it’s designed to carry rockets to a high altitude and then release them just before they ignite their engines and travel onward to space. It’s a launch architecture similar to that of Virgin Galactic and Virgin Orbit, which is also developing spaceplanes and rockets that launch from underneath the wings of carrier aircraft.

Read more at: Verge

Spaceflight Preps For First Launch Of Unique Orbiting Satellite Deployers

Engineers working for Spaceflight, a Seattle-based launch services company, are in the final steps of preparing for the first launch of new robotic free flyers carrying more than 70 small government and commercial satellites into polar orbit later this year aboard a dedicated flight of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

The company’s specialists earlier this month were finalizing avionics testing on two modules that will shepherd the microsatellites and nanosatellites into orbit, according to Jeff Roberts, Spaceflight’s mission director for the SSO-A “SmallSat Express” mission.

Spaceflight specializes in arranging launches of multiple small satellites on a single rocket, a rideshare concept that spreads the cost of a launch across many customers. The arrangement is particularly helpful for start-up companies and low-budget research institutions, which often can’t afford to pay for a dedicated ride into Earth orbit.

Read more at: Spaceflight now

Bricks from Moon Dust

Lunar masonry starts on Earth. European researchers are working with Moon dust simulants that could one day allow astronauts to build habitats on our natural satellite and pave the way for human space exploration.

The surface of the Moon is covered in grey, fine, rough dust. This powdery soil is everywhere – an indigenous source that could become the ideal material for brickwork. You can crush it, burn it and compress it.

“Moon bricks will be made of dust,” says Aidan Cowley, ESA’s science advisor with a wealth of experience in dealing with lunar soil. “You can create solid blocks out of it to build roads and launch pads, or habitats that protect your astronauts from the harsh lunar environment.”

Read more at: ESA

The Trump Administration Needs To Exercise Leadership In Space Security Diplomacy

The main theme of the Trump Administration’s space policy has been to restore American leadership in space. During the campaign, candidate Trump asserted that the United States had lost its leadership role in space, and since coming into office, every Space Policy Directive and announcement has emphasized restoring that leadership. Many of those decisions have continued efforts started during the Obama Administration, and the United States has consistently been a world leader in nearly all areas of space capabilities and activities. However, there is one area of space activity where the US leadership has waned and is not being addressed by the Trump Administration: multilateral diplomacy, particularly on space security issues.

Read more at: Spacereview

Trump Joins This Partisan Battle Threatening NASA Space Exploration

Space exploration has become America’s unlikely new partisan battleground as fights flare over where U.S. astronauts should take the Stars and Stripes next: a new moon mission or a trip to Mars.

Once a symbol of national unity and technological prowess, NASA has seen its space exploration priorities change not just in the Trump administration but under the prior two presidents. As the 2020 election looms (or possible impeachment), another change in space exploration goals could jeopardize a moon mission and travel to Mars. Failure to launch would ground billions of dollars for U.S. space companies. And a stalled space program could allow China, Russia and India to exploit potential fuel and mineral supplies first.

Read more at: investors

Russia Says Will Not Deploy Arms In Space First: Ifax

Russia does not plan to put weapons in space first and considers this to be an important signal that Washington should not ignore, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency on Monday.

The United States last week voiced suspicion over Russia’s pursuit of new space weapons, including a mobile laser system to destroy satellites in space, and the launch of a new inspector satellite which was acting in an “abnormal” way.

Read more at: Reuters

US Air Force Zooms Ahead on 2 New Hypersonic Weapons Plans

The arms race is picking up considerable speed, and the United States doesn’t want to get left behind.

Over the past four months, the U.S. Air Force has awarded two contracts for hypersonic weapons worth a maximum of $1.4 billion to aerospace giant Lockheed Martin.

The first contract, announced in April, awards $928 million to develop something called the Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon (HCSW). And last week, the Air Force disclosed another deal, worth up to $480 million, to begin designing the Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW).

Read more at: Space.com

Senate Emerges As Obstacle To Trump’s ‘Space Force’

The Senate has emerged as a major impediment to President Trump’s hopes for a new “Space Force.”

While the House GOP has been largely supportive of the idea of creating a new military branch for space, skeptics in the Senate from both parties have raised concerns about its cost — and the potential for adding to bureaucratic overhead at the Pentagon.

There’s a recognition that players like China are increasingly turning to space, leaving a risk that the U.S. could be left behind. But there are also fears that it will turn into an expensive boondoggle.

Read more at: Hill

Don’t Make Space The Next Battlefield

This is an open letter to Hawaii’s senators and representatives in Congress: What kind of future do we want for the next generation?

Shall we “boldly go” into the final frontier in the model of the “Star Trek” universe? The starship Enterprise’s diverse crew represents multiple nationalities, races, religions, cultures, and even species, all working together in scientific collaboration and peaceful exploration.

Or will the U.S. choose the “global dominance” philosophy of the Star Wars empire? That future would be full of storm troopers, planet killing technology and the militarization of space.

Read more at: civilbeat

Pence Reaffirms Vision for ‘American Dominance in Space’

Vice President Mike Pence is in Houston, Texas, to reaffirm the Trump administration’s plans to establish an American Space Force by 2020, return Americans to the moon, and set its sight on Mars and beyond.

During a speech Thursday at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Pence said that recent Pentagon reports have shown that China is “aggressively weaponizing space” and that Russia is developing weapons to “counter America’s space capabilities.”

Pence said the Department of Defense is moving forward to “strengthen American security in space” and that the administration will work with Congress to secure funding and authorization to establish Space Force as a new and separate branch of the armed forces.

Read more at: voanews

DARPA Hopes For Budget Compromise On Satellite Servicing Mission

The launch of a robotic servicing spacecraft developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and satellite manufacturer SSL is at risk of being delayed amid congressional concerns that the Air Force is requesting funds to launch this mission earlier than needed.

Senate appropriators cut $209 million from the Air Force launch budget for fiscal year 2019 on grounds that the payload — DARPA’s Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites, or RSGS — will not be ready to fly to orbit as projected, by spring 2021. The Air Force said it would need to buy the launch during fiscal year 2019 to ensure RSGS can meet the schedule.

Read more at: Spacenews

Veteran Aerospace Executive Joins Relativity Space

Relativity Space, the startup developing a small launch vehicle making extensive use of 3D-printing technologies, has brought on board a former SpaceX and Virgin Orbit executive to help grow the company.

Relativity announced Aug. 20 that Tim Buzza was joining the company as an advisor, spending several days a week at the Los Angeles-based company to support its work in a wide range of areas, from technology to regulations.

“He is coming in multiple times a week and actively helping us develop our launch site plans,” Tim Ellis, chief executive and co-founder of Relativity, in an interview. “He’s actively working to help us on launch sites and launch operations. He’s also helping with developing the organization and structure: how to set up the teams for success.”

Read more at: Spacenews

Review: Space Capitalism

There’s long been a libertarian streak among many space entrepreneurs and commercial space advocates. Some sought to avoid as much government influence over and oversight of their space endeavors, often as part of broader political beliefs, while others worried for a time that NASA could be a competitor—an unfair one, of course—to their private ventures, particularly in launch.

Those views have moderated somewhat in recent years, as some of those businesses saw NASA less as a competitor and more as a partner, customer, and perhaps most importantly, a funder. As NASA’s interactions with the private sector grow, with increasing use of public-private partnerships, the roles of government and industry in spaceflight, and when and how they should work together, is a subject worthy of examination.

Read more at: Spacereview

FIA Underlines Importance Of Halo In Saving Leclerc’s Life

“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