Astro Digital Announces First Cubesats Launched on Soyuz Failed

Astro Digital, an Earth imaging and analysis company, has confirmed that two satellites it launched as secondary payloads on a Soyuz rocket in July have failed, joining several other satellites that mysteriously failed on that mission.

In a Sept. 8 blog post, the company declared that the two Landmapper cubesats it launched July 14 on a Russian Soyuz 2.1a rocket are “officially unresponsive” and that the firm will “direct all our team’s energy towards our launch next month.” Soon after the July 14 launch, Bronwyn Agrios, Astro Digital product head, said the firm was commissioning the Landmapper cubesats. The new blog post reveals, however, that the firm has spent six weeks “trying to resuscitate the satellites, whose ability to transmit data back to Earth was compromised since deployment.”

Read more at: Spacenews

Orion Parachutes Measure Up in High Pressure Test

Orion’s three main orange and white parachutes descended through the skies over the U.S. Army Proving Ground in Yuma, Arizona, on Wednesday, September 13. The parachutes carried a representative model of the Orion spacecraft in the latest of a series of eight tests designed to qualify Orion’s parachutes for missions with astronauts.

When Orion returns to Earth from deep space missions beyond the moon, the system will customarily deploy 11 parachutes in a precise sequence to help slow the crew module down from high speeds for a relatively slow splashdown in the Pacific Ocean. But the parachutes must also be capable of sending the crew module to safety if it were to be jettisoned off a failing rocket without time for the full deployment sequence to occur.

Read more at: Colorado space news

NASA’s One-Year Mission Investigates How Space Affects Astronauts’ Functional Performance

Adapting to the microgravity environment of space changes the way your brain interprets sensory signals, decreases muscle strength and alters cardiovascular function. Astronauts will need to overcome these changes to perform critical mission tasks on a journey to Mars. Simple tasks on Earth such as exiting a vehicle becomes more crucial when stepping foot in an unfamiliar world. Maintaining balance control will be key to a successful mission.

NASA’s Human Research Program wants to understand how spaceflight affects human physiological systems and functional performance to help identify the best countermeasures for astronauts in support of future deep space missions. Jacob Bloomberg, Ph.D., senior scientist at the Johnson Space Center, is investigating functional performance and physiological systems to determine how these changes can impact astronauts.

Read more at: NASA

Why Bacteria ‘Shapeshift’ in Space

Bacterial cells treated with a common antibiotic in the near-weightlessness of the International Space Station (ISS) responded with some clever shapeshifting that likely helped them survive, findings with implications for both astronauts and people on Earth.

Researchers from CU Boulder’s BioServe Space Technologies designed an experiment to culture the common E. coli bacteria on ISS and treat it with several different concentrations of the antibiotic gentamicin sulfate, a drug that kills them on Earth. The response of the cultured bacteria included a 13-fold increase in cell numbers and a 73 percent reduction in cell volume size compared to an Earth control group, said BioServe Research Associate Luis Zea, lead study author.

Read more at: Colorado

Virgin Orbit Inks Launch Contract with Firm that Aims to Store Data on Satellites

Cloud Constellation Corp., a company that recently obtained a U.S. patent for a communications system enabling users to store data on satellites, signed a contract with Long Beach-based Virgin Orbitto send 12 satellites into space.

Virgin Orbit is in the process of developing a spacecraft called LauncherOne. The rocket is designed to be attached below the wing of a 747 jumbo jet. The idea is for Virgin Orbit pilots to take off from places like Mojave Air & Space Port near Edwards Air Force Base in order to execute mid-air launches.

Cosmic Girl, the former Boeing 747-400 passenger jet the Virgin Orbit engineers modified for this task made its public debut in late July at Long Beach Airport. The jet already had its space-appropriate name while previously in service with Virgin Atlantic.

Read more at: Presstelegram

China’s Tiangong-2 Space Lab Marks One Year in Orbit After Achieving Major Objectives

While the Cassini probe makes its mission-ending dive into the upper atmosphere of Saturn, much closer to home China’s Tiangong-2 space lab is marking a year in orbit.

Since Tiangong-2 was launched late on September 15, 2016, it has hosted China’s longest crewed mission so far, performed a range of science experiments, been the target for the country’s first orbital refuellings and docking tests with the Tianzhou-1 cargo ship, and is soon set to continue orbiting alone.

Tiangong-2 was designed and launched in order to test and verify technologies for larger space station modules.

Read more at: Gbtimes

Major Solar Flare

The sun erupted with an X8 solar flare, one of the largest of the current solar cycle (Sept. 10, 2017). Its source was the same sunspot region that produced an X9 flare last week. We show this in two wavelengths of extreme ultraviolet light at the same time and each reveals different features. Both are colorized to identify in which wavelength they were observed. The coils of loops after the flare are the magnetic field lines reorganizing themselves after the eruption. The video clip covers about six hours.

Read more at: GSFC NASA

Re-Entry: Start-1 Upper Stage

The upper stage of a Russian Start-1 booster re-entered the atmosphere on September 3rd, 2017 – spending over a decade in orbit after dispatching the EROS A Earth-observation spacecraft in 2006. Start-1 is a four-stage, all-solid orbital launch vehicle based on Russia’s Topol missile, converted to launch satellite of up to 530 Kilograms into Low Earth Orbit. Weighing in at 240kg, EROS A is an Israeli imaging satellite under commercial operation by ImageSat International.

Read more at: Spaceflight 101

U.S. Astronauts are Climbing Back into Space Capsules. Here’s How they’ve Improved Over the Past 50 Years

In 1961, an American astronaut reached space for the first time and soared through the heavens in a gumdrop-shaped capsule.

Since then, people have flown to the moon, created space planes and designed rockets that return to Earth for precision landings. But when astronauts lift off next year from U.S. soil for the first time in six years, their vehicle of choice will be another capsule. Boeing Co. and SpaceX are relying on the tried-and-true design as the two companies each develop spacecraft under NASA contracts to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station.

Despite the sleek spaceships of sci-fi imaginings or the familiar winged body of the shuttle, engineers have returned to the seemingly clunky capsule again and again for a simple reason — it works.

Read more at: LA Times

Mars Research Subjects to Emerge After 8 Months of Isolation

After eight months of living in isolation on a remote Hawaii volcano, six NASA-backed research subjects will emerge from their Mars-like habitat on Sunday and return to civilization.Their first order of business after subsisting on mostly freeze-dried and canned food: Feast on fresh-picked pineapple, papaya, mango, locally grown vegetables and a fluffy, homemade egg strata cooked by their project’s lead scientist.

The crew of four men and two women were quarantined on a vast plain below the summit of the world’s largest active volcano in January. All of their communications with the outside world were subjected to a 20-minute delay — the time it takes for signals to get from Mars to Earth. They are part of a study designed to better understand the psychological effects that a long-term manned mission to space would have on astronauts. The data they gathered will help NASA better pick crews that have certain traits and a better chance of doing well during a two-to-three year Mars expedition.

Read more at: Federal news radio

Diet Tracker in Space

Whether you are on a diet or just want to be healthier, you might be one of those millions of people around the planet who use a mobile app to track everything you eat. The trend has arrived in space: European astronauts are now logging their meals on a tablet to make sure they are getting the right amount of nutrients.

An optimal diet, paired with constant exercise, is essential to counteract the effects of spaceflight on the human body. Bone loss, muscle atrophy and depleted nutrient stores such as protein, fat and vitamin D are among the negatives of space travel.

Read more at: ESA

Two New Satellites Now Operational, Expand U.S. Space Situational Awareness

The 1st Space Operations Squadron at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, accepted two new satellites into operation Sept. 12 to expand their Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program’s ability to characterize and track objects in space to support a neighborhood watch out in orbit.

GSSAP provides enhanced space-based space situational awareness to improve the ability to rapidly detect, warn, characterize and attribute disturbances to space systems in the geosynchronous environment. This assists in the protection of the assets in space that affect many facets of daily life such as navigation and communication. GSSAP supports U.S. Strategic Command’s ability to collect data on man-made orbiting objects.

GSSAP became operational in September 2015, when the first two GSSAP satellites reached their Initial Operational Capability. The two newest satellites to the program, GSSAP 3 and 4, were launched into orbit Aug. 19, 2016, and have now finished their testing phase.

Read more at: AFSPC

Cosmonaut and Two US Astronauts Launch to Space Station on Soyuz MS-06

A Russian cosmonaut and two American astronauts have left Earth for a five month stay on the International Space Station, lifting off from the same launch pad where the Space Age began almost 60 years ago.

Alexander Misurkin of Russia’s space agency Roscosmos and his NASA crewmates Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba lifted off aboard the Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft atop a Soyuz FG rocket from Site 1 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, the same pad used to launch Sputnik, the world’s first artificial satellite, on Oct. 4, 1957. “Sixty years ago, we [all] became a space man instead of a homo sapien,” said Misurkin, at a preflight press briefing, adding that his crew’s “zero-g indicator” is a small model of the Sputnik satellite.

Read more at: Collect Space

ESA Astronaut Matthias Maurer on Sea Survival Training in China and Flying to the Chinese Space Station

Matthias Maurer is a European Space Agency astronaut who has a Ph.D. in material science engineering. He joined ESA in 2010 as part of crew support and was part of the first delegation sent to China to establish contact with Chinese colleagues. Matthias was selected in the 2009 ESA astronaut class and officially appointed an ESA astronaut in January 2017. In August, he participated in sea survival training in China with Chinese astronauts.

Matthias talked with us about the training, his Chinese colleagues, international cooperation, learning Chinese and the possibilities of flying to the future Chinese Space Station.

Read more at: GB Times

Astronauts don’t Develop Anemia During Spaceflight, NASA Study Suggests

Space flight anemia – the reduction of circulating red blood cells (RBCs) during time spent in space – is an established phenomenon, but it may not be a major concern during long-duration space missions, according to a study published in the open access journal BMC Hematology.

Dr Richard Simpson; associate professor at The University of Arizona and the University of Houston, co-author of the study said: “There is an idea of ‘space anemia’ that is associated with space flight. However, this is based on blood samples from astronauts collected after flight, which may be influenced by various factors, for example the stress of landing and re-adaptation to conditions on Earth.

Read more at: Eurekalert

Blue Origin Enlarges New Glenn’s Payload Fairing, Preparing to Debut Upgraded New Shepard

Blue Origin will likely launch the third iteration of its New Shepard suborbital launch vehicle by year’s end, paving the way for a human-rated version and ironing out the reusability plan for the orbital New Glenn rocket.

The company also revealed a large, 7-meter payload fairing for New Glenn, meant for launching more voluminous payloads than the original design. Clay Mowry, Blue Origin’s vice president of sales, marketing and customer experience, said Sept. 12 that the third New Shepard incorporates lessons learned from the previous model that launched and landed five times before retiring last October.

Read more at: Space News

Virgin Orbit Still Expects to Fly Twice a Month in 2020 Despite Delayed Test Campaign

Virgin Orbit says it will perform 24 missions with its LauncherOne small-satellite booster in 2020 despite pushing intitial test flights into 2018.

Virgin Orbit, before being spun off from human spaceflight-focused Virgin Galactic in March, had set out to complete around three test flights of LauncherOne before ramping up for commercial operations. Dan Hart, who was Virgin Orbit’s president in March and promoted to CEO in June, took responsibility for the delay.

“I came in about six months ago to the team and I did make a few changes in our test program to add a little more hardware, and that did push out the flight tests, but we will get into flight tests in the early part of 2018; we’ll get into production,” he said Sept. 12 during a panel discussion at Euroconsult’s World Satellite Business Week here. “That gives us plenty of ramp-up time to get to the 24-level in 2020.”

Read more at: Space News

There is Boron on Mars — Another Sign the Red Planet Could Have Hosted Life

NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has discovered boron in Gale Crater — new evidence that the Red Planet may have been able to support life on its surface in the ancient past.

Boron is a very interesting element to astrobiologists; on Earth, it’s thought to stabilize the sugary molecule ribose. Ribose is a key component of ribonucleic acid (RNA), a molecule that’s present in all living cells and drives metabolic processes. But ribose is notoriously unstable, and to form RNA, it is thought that boron is required to stabilize it. When dissolved in water, boron becomes borate, which, in turn, reacts with ribose, making RNA possible.

Read more at: Space.com

Tianzhou-1 Cargo Craft Re-Joins Tiangong-2 Space Lab After Express Rendezvous Demo

China’s Tianzhou-1 cargo resupply spacecraft completed an express link-up with the unoccupied Tiangong-2 space laboratory on Tuesday, continuing a shakedown mission to pave the way to an operational cargo architecture for the upcoming Chinese Space Station (CSS). Furthermore, Tuesday’s re-docking practiced a fast rendezvous scheme that could enable Chinese crews to reach their orbital destination within hours of launch once the CSS is up and running.

The 13-metric ton Tianzhou-1 ‘Heavenly Vessel’ has been in orbit since a flawless launch atop a Long March 7 rocket on April 20, beginning a planned five-month demonstration mission. Guided by a radio-and-laser navigation system, Tianzhou-1 arrived in the vicinity of the Tiangong-2 space lab two days after launch, completing a successful docking with the empty space laboratory that had hosted a crew of two for China’s longest human space flight to date in October & November of 2016.

Read more at: Spaceflight 101

SpaceX’s Internet Satellite Strategy Faces Possible Setback After FCC Decision

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) responded September 7th to requests for modification to existing satellite communications regulations and FCC practices from a number of prospective constellation operators, including OneWeb, Telesat, and SpaceX. The FCC ultimately decided to avoid one major rule change that could force SpaceX to completely reconsider its strategic approach to its proposed Low Earth Orbit broadband constellation.

To grossly oversimplify, SpaceX had requested that the FCC apply their non-interference rules for lower orbit communications satellites to internet constellations operating both inside and outside the physical United States. These rules require that communication satellites operating in non-geostationary orbits (NGSO) share the available wireless spectrum equally among themselves when two or more satellites pass within a certain distance of each other relative to ground stations.

Read more at: Teslarati

OneWeb Satellites to Keep Toulouse Factory Open for Other Customers

The OneWeb-Airbus joint venture tasked with building 900 satellites for OneWeb plans to keep its first production line in France running to build satellites for other operators.

OneWeb Satellites is building the first 10 small satellites for OneWeb’s low-Earth orbit broadband constellation in Toulouse, France, before shifting production of the majority of the constellation to a new $85 million factory in Exploration Park, Florida.

But rather than let the infrastructure in France lay idle, OneWeb Satellites wants to repurpose the factory to build more small satellites. “We always intended to maintain the line in Toulouse as long as we can,” Brian Holz, CEO of OneWeb Satellites, told SpaceNews. “Besides OneWeb, we are hoping to utilize the product in other markets. We will have the Florida lines up and running in the spring next year, and we will use Toulouse for some initial customers outside of OneWeb to begin selling those products.”

Read more at: Space news

Big Launch Companies Predict Doom for Upcoming Smallsat Launchers

Leading launch service providers say emerging companies developing a generation of dedicated small-satellite launchers will struggle to compete in the marketplace and will ultimately lose out to the bigger players.

Speaking at the World Satellite Business Week in Paris Sept. 12, top executives of the world’s five leading launch service providers agreed that the future small-satellite launch market will favor ridesharing and customized services on larger launch vehicles rather than tailored launches by the newcomers.

“At SpaceX, we started with a small launch vehicle,” said SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell, whose company has launched its Falcon 9 rocket 13 times since last September’s on-pad fueling accident destroyed a Spacecom’s Amos-6 satellite. “We really wanted to make a business of Falcon 1 … we just could not make it work.”

Read more at: Space news

Calgary Meteorite Hunter Needs Eyewitness Video to Track Down Space Rock

In the search for remnants of a meteorite, a University of Calgary professor is seeking more video of the fireball that was visible across parts of Western Canada when it entered the Earth’s atmosphere over the Labour Day long weekend.

The asteroid fragment is estimated to have weighed between one and five tonnes before it broke up, but surviving rocks have not yet been found.  Witnesses in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Montana and Washington reported seeing the fireball streak across the sky. It’s thought to have landed south of Kaslo, B.C. U of C professor Alan Hildebrand is now looking to gather more video of the meteorite

Read more at: CBC

House Clears FY2018 Approps Bundle Including NASA, NOAA, FAA Space Office

The House passed H.R. 3354 today, a bundle of eight of the 12 regular FY2018 appropriations bills.  It includes the Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) bill that funds NASA and NOAA, and the Transportation-HUD (T-HUD) bill that funds the FAA’s space office.  The House passed another bundle in July with the other four regular appropriations bills, including defense.  That means that for the first time in a long time, the House has passed all of the 12 regular appropriations bills before the beginning of the fiscal year.  It’s still a long way from completion, but a milestone nonetheless.

Read more at: Spacepolicy online

Mysterious X-37B Space Plane Explained: Boeing’s New Video

A new video lays out the basics of what the Air Force’s robotic X-37B space plane is doing on its latest mystery mission, which lifted off last week.

Most aspects of X-37B missions are classified, so the new video — which was produced by Boeing, the vehicle’s maker — doesn’t go into detail. But it does give a sense of why the Air Force values the reusable space plane so highly. “The X-37B testbed platform is unique because we can tailor our missions to specific user needs and return experiments back for post-flight inspection,” Ken Torok, director of experimental systems at Boeing, says in the video.

Read more at: Space.com

Senators Oppose Trump’s Pick to Head NASA

A bipartisan group of senators is opposing President Donald Trump’s pick to head NASA, arguing he is a political appointee who doesn’t have the necessary experience to run the agency.

Florida Sens. Marco Rubio, a Republican, and Bill Nelson, a Democrat and former astronaut, both oppose Trump’s nomination of Jim Bridenstine — a current GOP congressman from Oklahoma and former Navy aviator. “I just think it could be devastating for the space program. Obviously, being from Florida, I’m very sensitive to anything that slows up NASA and its mission,” Rubio told Politico.

Read more at: CNN

A Pioneering NASA Administrator

While celebrated by many segments within the space community, the recent nomination by the White House of Congressman James Bridenstine (R-OK) to become the twelfth administrator of NASA also drew unexpected criticism. Now in his third term in the U.S. House of Representatives, Bridenstine has demonstrated an extraordinary interest in American space programs, both military and civilian. He is the author and sponsor of a bill called the American Space Renaissance Act, an ambitious re-imagining of America’s space program and a re-writing of the agency’s charter around the “Pioneering Doctrine.” This doctrine encompasses three principal objectives for the agency: 1) The expansion of the human sphere of influence throughout the Solar System; 2) To be among those who first arrive at a destination in space and to open it for subsequent use and development by others; and 3) To create and prepare infrastructure precursors in support of the future use and development of space by others. I will examine each objective in turn.

Read more at: Air and Space

Why Jim Bridenstine is Well Qualified to Head NASA

Perennial climate-change alarmist Dana Nuccitelli is upset—as always. This time, it’s because Donald Trump nominated Congressman Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to become the next administrator of NASA. What’s Nuccitelli’s beef? “Scientists and astronauts are usually chosen to lead NASA, for obvious reasons. Bridenstine is neither ….”

Likewise, ClimateHawksVote.com, led by 350.org founder and environmental activist Bill McKibben and self-described Communist and former Obama adviser Van Jones (neither a scientist), says, “NASA needs to be run by someone who respects science. Not climate denier Jim Bridenstine.”

Read more at: Townhall

Astronaut Frank Culbertson Reflects on Seeing 9/11 Attacks from Space

Former NASA astronaut Frank Culbertson has the distinction of being the only American not on the planet when the 9/11 terrorist attacks occurred 16 years ago.

Culbertson was about 250 miles (400 km) above Earth — inside the still-under-construction International Space Station with two Russian cosmonauts — when he saw the huge column of smoke streaming from Lower Manhattan where the Twin Towers fell. Culbertson captured video and photos of the 9/11 site from space for NASA, while satellites also tracked the attack site from orbit.

Read more at: Space.com

Forming an American Spacefaring Advisory Group to the National Space Council

Past US presidents, with the exception of John F. Kennedy, never expressed any serious interest in America as a true human spacefaring nation. When this is placed in contrast with President Washington and, especially, President Jefferson’s intense interests in opening America’s western frontier, the lack of interest in America becoming a human spacefaring nation is troubling. What would have happened if Jefferson had ignored the West—never bought the Louisiana Territory from France or sent Lewis and Clark west to explore it? Today, we need to ask where exactly America, as a great nation, is headed if it does not become a true commercial human spacefaring nation? It is now extremely important that pro-spacefaring Americans have their voices heard as the path forward for America in space is charted by the Trump Administration.

Read more at: Space Review

Iran to Send Man into Space by Next 8 Years

Iran sent two monkeys into the space back in 2013. The first monkey (Aftab or Sun) was sent in January to an altitude of about 120km (75 miles) in a Pishgam rocket for a sub-orbital flight before returning intact to the Earth. The second monkey (Fargam or Auspicious) was sent in December as part of a programme aimed for manned space flight.

Now, head of the Aviation Research Centre at Iran’s Ministry of Science, Research and Technology, Fat’hollah Ami, says Iran’s space programme is going on smoothly and efforts are underway to send a manned spaceship into space within the next eight years.

He said the Aviation Research Centre is now focused on its main goal to send man into the space by the next eight years. “We have had serious negotiations with Russian space centres and they are expected to give us their final reply,” he said.

Read more at: IFP news

North Korea Fires Missile Over Japan; With ‘Guam in Mind’

North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan and into the Pacific Friday, responding to new UN sanctions with what appeared to be its furthest-ever missile flight amid high tensions over its weapons programmes.

The launch, from near Pyongyang, came after the United Nations Security Council imposed an eighth set of measures on the isolated country following its sixth nuclear test earlier this month. It was by far its largest to date and Pyongyang said it was a hydrogen bomb small enough to fit onto a missile.

Read more at: Space daily

SpaceX Released a New Video that Shows ‘Epic Explosion Footage’ of its First Rocket Landings

SpaceX is currently the only space company to build an arsenal of reusable first stage orbital rockets. But, like every innovation in history, SpaceX’s first attempts weren’t exactly an outstanding success.

Now, the company has released a “blooper reel” of its many attempted landings that ended in spectacular style. While these explosions destroyed the first stage rocket — and since rocket landings were always considered a secondary mission — the overall missions these rockets flew were a success.

Read more at: Business Insider

Turkey Denies Bail for Jailed NASA Scientist — Again

Read more at: Houston Press