Press Clips Week 36-2016


China Launches Tiangong-2 Space Laboratory Into Orbit

On Thursday, Sept. 15, China successfully launched a Long March 2F rocket carrying the country’s second space lab – Tiangong-2 (meaning “Heavenly Palace” in Chinese). Liftoff took place at 10:04 p.m. local time (14:04 GMT; 10:04 a.m. EDT) from Launch Area 4 at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, located in China’s Gansu Province.

The launch, originally targeted for 2014, was delayed several times. More recently, the mission was set for Sept. 13; however, it was postponed one more time, most likely due to the Aug. 31, 2016, suspected launch failure of Long March 4C with the Gaofen-10 satellite. Finally, the liftoff was rescheduled to Sept. 15 with a launch window extending until Sept. 20.

Thursday’s flight concludes a three-month long launch campaign, which commenced on July 9 with the arrival of Tiangong-2 at Jiuquan. The booster was shipped to the center nearly one month later, starting a busy month of pre-launch tests and checkouts. The fully assembled launch vehicle, with the space laboratory atop of it, encapsulated in the payload fairing, was rolled out to the launch site on Sept. 9.

Read more at: Spaceflight Insider

China’s Space Progress in Recent Years

China has been developing aerospace technologies for decades. Yet in recent years, China has made significant progress in aerospace activities, including satellite deployment, manned space flights, and deep space exploration.

China now has a complete satellite system, ranging from scientific experiment to practical applications satellites.

For high-resolution earth observation, six satellites named “Gaofen” have been launched since 2013. They are equipped with optical and radar sensors, which can work in all-weather conditions. China’s Beidou Navigation Satellite system is expected to have worldwide service by 2020. Also, it is set to consist of 35 satellites, with the 23rd having been launched in June of this year.

Read more at: Space Daily

China to Share Space Development Benefits With All: Official

China will share the benefits of the development in its manned space program with all countries, especially developing countries, a space program official said Wednesday.

China will also expand international cooperation on equipment research and development, space application, astronaut training, joint flight and aerospace medical care, said Wu Ping, deputy director of the manned space engineering office, at a press conference.

China has signed multiple cooperation agreements with countries such as Russia, Germany and France, and organizations including the European Space Agency (ESA) and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, according to Wu. “We have always insisted on conducting international exchanges and cooperation on the basis of mutual respect, equality, mutual benefit and transparency, jointly promoting the progress and development of space technology,” she said.

Read more at: Global Times

SpaceX to Shift Florida Launches to New Pad After Explosion

SpaceX said on Friday it would shift Florida flights to a nearly completed second site after damage to its launch pad on Thursday from the explosion of a rocket belonging to the space services company run by Elon Musk.

The Federal Aviation Administration has sent seven people to Florida to supervise investigation of the disaster, said FAA spokesman Hank Price. The agency, which oversees U.S. commercial rocket launches, requires that SpaceX’s flights be suspended pending results of the probe.

Any sign of rocket malfunction could require changes throughout the SpaceX fleet. After a SpaceX rocket exploded in June 2015, the program was paused for six months while defective brackets were replaced in Falcon 9 launch vehicles.

Damage to SpaceX’s Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is still being assessed. “The pad clearly incurred damage, but the scope has yet to be fully determined,” SpaceX said in a statement late Friday.

Read more at: Yahoo

Commercial Crew Companies Emphasize Safety Over Schedule

In the wake of a launch accident and a critical report, the two companies with NASA commercial crew contracts say they’re committed to maintaining their development schedules, but not at the expense of safety.

During a panel session at the AIAA Space 2016 conference here Sept. 14, officials with Boeing, SpaceX and NASA went to great lengths to emphasize they would not rush the development and test flights of crewed vehicles despite a desire to have at least one company’s system ready to start ferrying astronauts to and from the ISS before the end of 2018.

Prior to the Sept. 1 pad accident that destroyed a Falcon 9 rocket and its satellite payload, SpaceX had planned to perform a demonstration mission of its Crew Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station without a crew as soon as May 2017, with a crewed demo mission to follow later in the year. But at the conference, Benji Reed, director of crew mission management at SpaceX, declined to give estimated dates for those missions. “Our focus is getting able to fly again soon from our overall fleet perspective,” he said of returning the Falcon 9 to flight.

Read more at: Space News

See How Blue Origin’s Next Spaceflight Test will Work

The private spaceflight company Blue Origin plans to launch a crucial abort test of its New Shepard suborbital vehicle next month, and you can get a sneak peek at the action in a new video animation.

Blue Origin, which is run by billionaire Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, plans to see how the New Shepard system would respond to a launch emergency during the uncrewed test, which Bezos said should happen in the first half of October. The new Blue Origin abort video shows viewers how that abort system works.

“A solid rocket motor fires for 2 seconds, quickly separating the crew capsule away from the booster,” the video’s narrator says. “Once away, the capsule enters a standard descent profile, deploying drogue and main parachutes before coasting down to a landing.” The New Shepard suborbital spaceflight systemconsists of a rocket and capsule, both of which are reusable. Indeed, the same New Shepard booster has launched and landed during uncrewed test flights four times since November 2015.

Read more at: Space.com

Europe’s Vega Rocket Cleared for Launch with Earth Imaging Satellites for Peru & Google

Europe’s Vega rocket has been cleared for a nighttime liftoff from the Guiana Space Center Thursday night, carrying into orbit the first high-resolution Earth-imaging satellite for Peru plus four small-sized Earth observation satellites operated by Google subsidiary Terra Bella.

The light-lifter in Europe’s rocket family operated from French Guiana is set for liftoff at precisely 1:43:35 UTC on Friday, 10:43 p.m. local time at the spaceport.

Employing three powerful solid rocket motors and re-startable upper stage, Vega will reach orbit 14 minutes after liftoff, but the orbital ballet required to deliver the five satellites to their precisely planned orbits will take another hour and a half.

Read more at: Spaceflight 101

Meet New Glenn, the Blue Origin Rocket that May Someday Take You to Space

Blue Origin, the secretive space company created by Jeffrey P. Bezos, offered a look at its newest rocket design on Monday — and, by extension, its ambitions to make space travel more frequent and inexpensive. Both the rocket and the ambitions appear to be big.

The rockets, named New Glenn after John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, are almost as large as the Saturn V rocket that NASA used from 1966 to 1973, before rockets started being built smaller. The two-stage version that could venture to low-Earth orbit will be 270 feet tall, and the three-stage version, which could fly outside Earth’s orbit, will be 313 feet tall. Both will be 23 feet in diameter, packing seven BE-4 engines, which are developed by Blue Origin, and lifting off with 3.85 million pounds of thrust.

Blue Origin plans to first launch the rocket from Launch Complex 36 at Cape Canaveral, Fla., before the end of the decade.

Read more at: NY Times

ILS to Expand Proton Rocket Family in Response to Changing Launch Market

International Launch Services and rocket-builder Khrunichev presented designs of modified versions of their Proton launch vehicle on Tuesday, designed to reduce the cost for launching medium- and small-class commercial communications satellites into Geostationary Transfer Orbit.

Known as ‘Proton Variants,’ the two launch vehicle modifications are based on downsizing the existing 3+1-stage Proton-M design to a 2+1-stage architecture. ILS said the Proton Medium will be available for flight in 2018 followed one year later by the Proton Light.

ILS is extending its product line to expand the addressable GTO market for cost effective launch opportunities in the small and medium-class range.

Read more at: Spaceflight 101

Air Force Tests First Full-scale Component of Hydrocarbon Boost Program

The United States is one step closer to eliminating its reliance on Russian technology to launch its military satellites. The Hydrocarbon Boost Technology Demonstrator, a U.S. Air Force technology effort focused on development of Oxygen Rich Staged Combustion rocket engine technology, has recently completed its first full-scale component test at 100-percent power.

The development of Oxygen Rich Staged Combustion technology has been deemed a critical technology for the nation to help eliminate the United States’ reliance on foreign rocket propulsion technology.

The testing was performed by Aerojet Rocketdyne under contract to the Air Force Research Laboratory Rocket Propulsion Division, nicknamed the AFRL Rocket Lab. The HBTD’s kick pump is the first full-scale component to commence testing.

Read more at: Space Daily

Space Storms Could Crash Upper Midwest’s Power Grid

When the lights go out, the cause is often regional: Ice storms in the northeastern United States or hurricanes in the southeast. Now, a new study shows that the upper Midwest can have its own special sort of grid-destroying storm—space weather. The study finds that this region is at greatest risk of damage from storms of charged particles from the sun, which crash into Earth and send electrical currents surging along power lines, melting transformers and triggering blackouts. According to the study, those surges could be up to 100 times more powerful in northern Minnesota and Wisconsin than in other parts of the United States.

Scientists have been trying to predict geoelectric storms for decades, but have been hampered by a lack of data. Now, researchers have created the first “geoelectric hazard” map for large parts of the continental United States. Rather than providing local recommendations for making a power grid safe or short-term warnings of big storms, this new map aims to predict where large geoelectric storms can be most severe. The map, published last week in Geophysical Review Letters, draws on data about the two biggest factors in the strength of these storms—the likely interactions of space weather with Earth’s magnetic field and the conductivity of Earth’s crust.

Read more at: Sciencemag

The Success of Commercial Space Hinges on Making a Profit

Although companies like SpaceX, Boeing, and Blue Origin have been stringing together a series of successes over the last few years, the commercial space industry is perhaps not in the healthiest state — mainly because it’s not yet profitable.

“You have to be able to make a profit through space,” said Michael Griffin, chairman and CEO of the technology company Schafer Corporation. At a panel discussion about the free market space industry hosted by the American Institute Of Aeronautics And Astronautics’s annual Explore SPACE Forum on Tuesday, Griffin and other private spaceflight experts debated what the role of government should be in helping private companies take a bigger role in low Earth orbit (LEO) space operations.

NASA’s long-term goals include handing off LEO to the commercial sector so that it can focus on deep space missions like the journey to Mars. In order to speed this process up, the government has been actively partnering with the private industry to develop cheaper launch and spacecraft technology. But there’s disagreement as to whether or not the government is getting the most out of its investments.

Read more at: Inverse

Did Meteorites Bring Life’s Phosphorus to Earth?

Meteorites that crashed onto Earth billions of years ago may have provided the phosphorous essential to the biological systems of terrestrial life. The meteorites are believed to have contained a phosphorus-bearing mineral called schreibersite, and scientists have recently developed a synthetic version that reacts chemically with organic molecules, showing its potential as a nutrient for life.

Phosphorus is one of life’s most vital components, but often goes unheralded. It helps form the backbone of the long chains of nucleotides that create RNA and DNA; it is part of the phospholipids in cell membranes; and is a building block of the coenzyme used as an energy carrier in cells, adenosine triphosphate (ATP).

Yet the majority of phosphorus on Earth is found in the form of inert phosphates that are insoluble in water and are generally unable to react with organic molecules. This appears at odds with phosphorus’ ubiquity in biochemistry, so how did phosphorus end up being critical to life?

Read more at: Terra Daily

Team Uncovers Massive 30 Ton Meteorite in Argentina

Last week, researchers uncovered a meteorite weighing over 30 tons in northern Argentina. The meteorite was found more than 670 miles north of Buenos Aires and it is thought to be the second largest ever discovered.

“While we hoped for weights above what had been registered, we did not expect it to exceed 30 tons,” said Mario Vesconi, president of the Astronomy Association of Chaco. He added that “the size and weight surprised us,” according to the Xinhua news agency.

“It was in Campo del Cielo, where a shower of metallic meteorites fell around 4,000 years ago,” the researchers behind the discovery said. The researchers said the meteorite will be weighed again to confirm its mass.

Read more at: Red Orbit

$250 Billion to Supply and Launch 1,450 Satellites Over 10 Years

According to the 19th edition of the report Satellites to be Built and Launched (over the next ten years), due to be published later in September, Euroconsult anticipates that 145 satellites with launch mass over 50kg will be launched on average each year by 2025 for government agencies and commercial organizations worldwide.

When including satellites smaller than 50kg and the two mega constellations of OneWeb and SpaceX, the total would grow precipitously to 9,000 units (vs. 1,480 launched in the past ten years). “Huge growth in satellite count does not automatically translate to a large market,” said Rachel Villain, Principal Advisor at Euroconsult and editor of the report.

“As the price of the 7,550 future additional satellites is intrinsically low, the very reason for their existence, their market significance is small; they should represent no more than 8% of the $270 billion to be spent building and launching the total of 9,000 satellites.”

Read more at: Space Daily

RapidScat Team Investigating Power System Anomaly

Mission managers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama, are assessing two power system-related anomalies affecting the operation of NASA’s ISS-RapidScat instrument aboard the International Space Station. RapidScat measures surface wind speeds and directions over the ocean.

RapidScat is currently deactivated and in a stable configuration. A RapidScat project anomaly response team has been formed, working in conjunction with the space station anomaly response team. RapidScat will remain deactivated as the investigation continues.

On Aug. 19, the RapidScat team was notified by the International Space Station payload operations center at Marshall that the station’s Columbus Module experienced an anomaly with one of the two units aboard the station that distribute electrical power to the module. The anomaly resulted in the loss of power to several payloads aboard the space station, including RapidScat.

Read more at: JPL

China Plans Global Satellite Network to Boost Internet

China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp, the nation’s largest missile developer, plans to build a space-based information network that will provide global coverage.

Liu Shiquan, deputy general manager of the State-owned space and defense giant, said on Monday the company will put 156 communications satellites into low Earth orbit, at an altitude of 160 to 2,000 km. Each satellite of the network will be able to transmit 500 mega-bytes of data per second.

“We will launch a satellite this year to demonstrate the technologies for the Hongyun Project. Before 2019, four satellites will have been put into space to conduct trial operations. The rest will follow in 2019 and 2020, ensuring that the whole network will be built before 2021,” he said at the Second China Commercial Aerospace Forumin Wuhan, Hubei province.

Read more at: Space Daily

Vega Launcher to Orbit Five Satellites on its Seventh Mission

Arianespace is gearing up for the seventh launch of the Vega rocket in its series, which will place into orbit PerúSAT-1 and four SkySat satellites. The launcher is scheduled to lift off from the Vega Launch Complex (SLV) in Kourou, French Guiana, at 10:43 p.m. local time on Sept. 15 (9:43 p.m. EDT; 1:43 GMT on Sept. 16).

The mission, designated VV07, will carry a total payload of approximately 1.23 metric tons. The flight, lasting approximately one hour and 43 minutes, will result in the insertion of the satellites into an elliptical low-Earth orbit (LEO).

The mission campaign started in June with the assembly of the Vega launcher. The teams were busy throughout the month to integrate all four stages of the rocket. After the assembly of the launch vehicle, the engineers conducted the synthesis control test.

Read more at: Spaceflight Insider

How We Can Finally Get to Mars

America is taking its sweet time about getting to Mars. In 1969, shortly after the Apollo 11 moon landing, the prediction was that we’d have boots on the Red Planet as early as 1975. So… how’d that work out?

The problem has been partly a lack of will, partly a lack of wallet and partly that getting to Mars is vastly, dauntingly harder than getting to the moon—largely because it’s so far away. At its absolute farthest, the moon is about 250,000 miles (402,000 km) from Earth. The corresponding figure for Mars is 250 million.

Still, NASA is hard at work on the problem. Astronauts are spending a year at a time aboard the International Space Station to study the impact of extended exposure to zero-gravity on the human body.

Read more at: TIME

Fighting Cancer with Space Research

Every day, NASA spacecraft beam down hundreds of petabytes of data, all of which has to be codified, stored and distributed to scientists across the globe. Increasingly, artificial intelligence is helping to “read” this data as well, highlighting similarities between datasets that scientists might miss.

For the past 15 years, the big data techniques pioneered by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, have been revolutionizing biomedical research. On Sept. 6, 2016, JPL and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health, renewed a research partnership through 2021, extending the development of data science that originated in space exploration and is now supporting new cancer discoveries.

The NCI-supported Early Detection Research Network (EDRN) is a consortium of biomedical investigators who share anonymized data on cancer biomarkers, chemical or genetic signatures related to specific cancers. Their goal is to pool all their research data into a single, searchable network, with the goal of translating their collective work into techniques for early diagnosis of cancer or cancer risk.

Read more at: JPL

Is Space Junk Creating Earth’s Own Ring?

Will Earth end up with a Saturnlike ring someday because of all of our space junk? Or is there one already? There is a big difference in materials and scale between the visible rings of Saturn and the smattering ofEarthborn items that have ended up in orbit, according toNASA. Some of the material that humans have sent into space can be visualized as a ring at a specific location, called the geostationary orbit. This is where weather and communications satellites orbit Earth at the same rate as the planet turns on its axis, so they always stay above a single spot on the surface. When these satellites have outlived their usefulness, they will be moved to another orbit.

Most of the rest of what is left in space is widely scattered in different orbits. Space scientists keep track of the larger debrisso they can maneuver to avoid collisions with useful spacecraft like the International Space Station and Earth-observation satellites. There is not likely to be enough space junk to form visible rings. Material in lower orbits often falls back to Earth after several years, though things in higher orbit may stay there for a century or more.

Read more at: NY Times

Germany Pushes Campaign for More ‘Girl Power’ in Space

The view of Earth from the depths of outer space has predominantly been seen through the eyes of male astronauts. Not surprising, when looking at reasons why not enough girls are choosing career paths that “boldly take them where not enough women have gone before,” but a recruitment campaign in Germany is looking to change this.

HE Space, is an aerospace recruiting company with offices in the Netherlands, Germany and the US and ironically, the name of which could do with the addition of an ‘S’ turning it to “(S)HE Space.” Gender equality is certainly something CEO of HE Space, Claudia Kessler is pushing with the current “Die Astronautin” recruitment campaign (which translates as “The Astronaut” in English). It is a focused strategy launched by Kessler to try and attract the next wave of female astronauts in Germany.

The part-sponsored, part-crowdfunded project that has already received a large number of applications, aims for the year 2020 to be the timeframe when all is ready for the mission to take place. If successful in its recruitment aims, Kessler could well shift the overall gender imbalances that exist in wider space exploration.

Read more at: Sputnik News

Gripping Details Emerge of 45th Space Wing’s Response to SpaceX Explosion

“There’s been an explosion on Pad 40.” Chilling words, but when the 45th Space Wing’s Fire Chief made the call over the safety net, the Incident Management Team (IMT) was ready. Having trained extensively for this scenario, the team was quick to respond and began implementing emergency operation procedures designed to protect the public, area personnel, and site infrastructure.

Benefiting from constant training and preparation, the IMT was rapidly mobilized and began stationing assets at strategic locations around Cape Canaveral Air Force Station after a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket exploded on the pad during a pre-test fueling operation.

This emergency response was chronicled in a recent post by Lt. Col. Greg Lindsey, 45th Mission Support Group commander Detachment 1, and sheds light on some of the activities of the day – and suggests the OSIRIS-REx mission at nearby SLC-41 was in greater danger than was initially reported.

Read more at: Spaceflight Insider

Chemical Study Confirms Theory of Moon Formation

In a new study published in the journal Nature, researchers have used state-of-the-art techniques to support the theory that the moon was formed by violent, high-energy impact rather than a mild, low-energy impact.

In the 1970s, two sets of astrophysicists independently came to the conclusion that the Moon was created by a glancing collision between a Mars-sized object and the still-forming Earth. The massive impact theory explained many things, like the large size of the Moon in relation to the Earth and the rotation rates of the Earth and Moon, and it gradually became the primary theory for the Moon’s formation.

In 2001, however, researchers reported the isotopic makeup of various elements in terrestrial and lunar rocks are almost identical. Studies of samples acquired by the Apollo missions in the 1970s indicated Moon rocks have the same amounts of the three stable isotopes of oxygen as Earth rocks.

Read more at: Red Orbit

Tenth United Nations Space Law Workshop Makes Recommendations for the Future of Space Security

The 10th United Nations Workshop on Space Law closed last week in Vienna after four days of deliberations about the future of international space law, space governance and space security. Organized by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) in cooperation with the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, and supported by the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research and the Secure World Foundation, the workshop brought together a broad range of experts in the fields of space law and policy, international security, and capacity-building, as well as representatives of the diplomatic community in Vienna.

Participants discussed the safety, security and sustainability of outer space activities, how to build the capacity of developing countries in space law, and the intersection of space law and security with other emerging topics, such as cyber security.

Read more at: Spaceref

Commercial Spaceflight Federation Welcomes New Board Leadership and Member Companies

The Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF) elected new officers and approved several new member companies at its bi-annual Executive Board of Directors meeting last week in Seattle, expanding its membership to 74 organizations.

Dr. Alan Stern of Southwest Research Institute was elected as the new Chairman of the CSF Board of Directors. Dr. Stern, who has been on the CSF board for 7 years and has played many roles in the commercial spaceflight industry, was recently named for the second time to Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the World. In the past, Dr. Stern served as NASA’s Associate Administrator for science and participated as a Principal Investigator on 9 NASA missions, including the historic New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt. Dr. Stern replaces outgoing chairman, Frank Dibello of Space Florida, who served two years as chairman

Read more at: Commercial Space flight

Tesla Says France Fire Caused by Badly Tightened Connection

Tesla says that a fire in one of its electric cars in France broke out because an electrical connection had not been tightened properly.

The company said in a statement to The Associated Press Wednesday that “usually, these electrical connections are installed by a robot, but for this car this connection was installed manually.” The three people aboard the Model S sedan escaped unharmed when it caught fire during a promotional tour last month in the resort city of Biarritz.

Read more at: Mynews 13