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SpaceX Rocket Parts Rain Down Over Indonesia

Large rocket parts rained down over a pair of small Indonesian islands on Monday when the second stage of a Falcon 9 rocket launched earlier this year fell from orbit and, at least to some extent, survived its fiery re-entry over the island of Java.

At least two sizeable tanks were reported falling from the sky around 10 Western Indonesian Time in the Sumenep Regency on the eastern end of Madura Island located north-east of Java. The tanks landed on the small islands of Giliraja and Giligenting, causing damage to an animal enclosure but luckily leaving the animals and all locals in the area unharmed.

The timing and location of the debris sighting is consistent with the uncontrolled re-entry of the second stage of a Falcon 9 rocket launched in August of this year.

Read more at: Spaceflight101

Panic in Srinagar as Falling Meteorite Confused for Missile Attack

Panic struck the people of Srinagar as a falling meteorite was confused for a missile, hours after India confirmed conducting surgical strikes along the border in Pakistan. Onlookers in the Jammu and Kashmir capital took the ‘missile’ as a retaliation in the aftermath of the border tension.

The Indian Army on Thursday organised surgical strikes targeting seven terror launch pads across the LoC overnight in which heliborne and ground forces were used. Addressing a press conference, DGMO Lt Gen Ranbir Singh said India inflicted “significant casualties” on terrorists and those who are trying to support them.

Read more at: Indian Express

Spokane Photographer Captures Incredible Photo of Meteor

Wednesday night around 11pm FOX 28 received several reports of a bright light flashing across the sky and “loud boom.” Multiple calls came into the newsroom and messages came in on our Facebook page with everyone who saw or heard it asking the same question: “What was that?”

Call it pure luck or call it talent but one Spokane photographer happened to catch the “bright flash across the sky” in a beautiful photograph. Tiffany Hansen says she loves shooting night scenes. Wednesday night,  trying to photograph the aurora lights, which were happening that night as well, she stationed herself just north of Post Falls, ID but wasn’t having any luck seeing them.

“I took one last shot and that’s when the meteor happened. It was big, very bright and moving super slow across the sky. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. I feel extremely lucky to have caught it on my camera,” Hansen said.

Read more at: Myfox spokane

Falcon 9 Rocket Explosion Traced to Upper Stage Helium System

The investigation into a dramatic Falcon 9 rocket explosion earlier this month at Cape Canaveral has determined a “large breach” in the launcher’s upper stage helium pressurization system led to the destruction of the booster and its $200 million satellite payload, SpaceX said Friday.

Officials said returning to flight “safely and reliably” with the Falcon 9 rocket, a critical vehicle for NASA’s commercial crew and cargo program for the International Space Station, is SpaceX’s top priority.

The inquiry, led by SpaceX with assistance from government and industry experts, is still looking into the cause of the breach, which may be only a symptom and not the root of the Sept. 1 mishap. The spectacular explosion occurred as the 23-story rocket was being fueled for a preflight engine firing at Cape Canaveral’s Complex 40 launch pad.

In an update posted to SpaceX’s website Friday, the company said only 93 milliseconds passed from the first signs of an anomaly to the loss of data. The Accident Investigation Team, composed of representatives from SpaceX, the Federal Aviation Administration, NASA, the U.S. Air Force and industry experts, is analyzing approximately 3,000 channels of engineering data, along with video, audio and imagery, the company said.

Read more at: Spaceflight Now

Space Traffic Management May Soon be Here

Over the past few years there has been a dramatic increase in low orbital activities. The government is increasingly concerned with the congestion within these orbits and the growing problem of orbital debris. In order to operate safely in near-Earth orbits, operators must know where their satellites are located, and whether any of these systems may approach other satellites or debris objects.

Today, there are well over 20,000 tracked objects including active satellites and large debris objects. Various agencies and private sector organizations do collect and disseminate space situation awareness data for operators who may be able to plan maneuvers that will mitigate collision threats.

Read more at: Space Daily

Big Win For NASA: Congress Mandates a Mission to Mars

The US Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee has passed a bipartisan bill that authorizes spending for a manned mission to Mars, but there’s a caveat: NASA must launch said mission within the next 25 years, the first time such a trip has been mandated by law.

According to USA Today and the Daily Mail, the budget allots $19.5 billion for the 2017 fiscal year to cover the costs of preparing for a crewed mission to the Red Planet, including continued development of Commercial Crew Program spacecraft designed to launch from US soil and the creation of an advanced space suit designed to better protect Mars mission personnel.

The bill also sets forth the goal of having an uncrewed SLS mission by 2018 and a crewed one by 2021. It would also support the full use of the International Space Station through 2024 (and possibly through 2028); require NASA to improve the monitoring, diagnosis, and treatment of adverse health effects related to space travel, and require the agency to provide regular updates on the progress of its asteroid relocation and sample collection mission.

“Fifty-five years after President Kennedy challenged the nation to put a man on the moon, the Senate is challenging NASA to put humans on Mars,” said Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, the ranking Democrat on the Committee. “The priorities that we’ve laid out for NASA in this bill mark the beginning of a new era of American spaceflight.”

Read more at: Red Orbit

Russian Airline Owner to Challenge Musk, Bezos in Space

A Russian airline entrepreneur wants to join the space race, challenging Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin LLC with a plan to launch commercial rockets.

S7 Group, the owner of Russia’s S7 Airlines, agreed to buy the floating rocket platform Sea Launch from a group of investors and aims to restore its operations after a more than two-year hiatus, the family-owned company said. S7 Group co-founder Vladislav Filev described the deal as an “admission ticket” into the aerospace industry.

“Why are we doing it? Just because it’s beautiful,” Filev said in an interview in Moscow before heading to Guadalajara, Mexico, to sign the deal.

Read more at: Bloomberg

Soyuz MS-02 Launch Now Targeted For October 19

Russia has re-scheduled the launch of the Soyuz MS-02 mission to the International Space Station (ISS), setting Oct. 19 as the new launch date. The spacecraft assigned to transport the three Expedition 49 crew members to the orbiting lab are scheduled to lift off atop a Soyuz-FG launcher, at 4:03 a.m. EDT (8:03 GMT), from Site 1/5 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. “It is planned that the primary and backup crews depart for the launch site on October 7. The launch is scheduled for October 19, 11:03 Moscow time (08:03 GMT),” a source in the Russian rocket and space industry told TASS.

The start of the Soyuz MS-02 mission was initially targeted for Sept. 23 but was delayed due to a technical malfunction – a burned cable inside the spacecraft. Last week, the Roscosmos State Corporation announced that the launch would be rescheduled for Nov. 1. It was decided to send the crew back to the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center near Moscow to continue training until the new launch date gets closer.

Soyuz MS-02 will be the second mission of the upgraded Soyuz-MS spacecraft. The crew for this mission consists of NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrei Borisenko.

Read more at: Spaceflight Insider

Race to Near Space: Superfast Flight

Chinese aerospace researchers are pushing the limits in a new sphere – near space – which promises superfast vehicles for passengers, business and military use.

Nearly half of the 24 entries in the final round of the Third National Design Contest on Future Aircraft and Space Planes, held in Beijing on Monday, had to do with flight in near space. A total of 284 entries from space institutes, universities and military research establishments across the country, took part in the competition jointly organized by the Chinese Society of Astronautics and the general design department of the Third Academy of China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp.

Near space refers to the region of Earth’s atmosphere that lies between 20 and 100 kilometers above sea level, encompassing the stratosphere, mesosphere and lower thermosphere – altitudes above the upper limit for commercial airliners but below orbiting satellites.

Read more at: Space Daily

Boeing’s Starliner Crew Trainers Installed in Historic NASA Simulator Facility

For the past 50 years, the Mission Simulator and Training Facility at Johnson Space Center in Houston has been used to prepare astronauts and Mission Control support teams to fly NASA spacecraft to orbit and beyond.

Now, after being home to Gemini, Apollo and space shuttle simulators, the building is again ready to support the next generation of spacecraft. But this time, the vehicles do not belong to NASA.

The Boeing Company on Wednesday (Sep. 28) debuted to the media the installation of its first two simulators that will support training astronauts for flights on board its CST-100 Starliner commercial crew spacecraft. “It’s a big responsibility for Boeing to train astronauts,” said Chris Ferguson, Boeing commercial crew program deputy manager and director of crew and mission operations, who previously trained in the same facility as a NASA astronaut and commander of the final space shuttle mission in 2011.

Read more at: Collect Space

India’s Space Agency Hits New Milestone With Satellite Launch

India’s space agency on Monday put eight satellites into two separate orbits in a single flight, a first for the agency as it hit another milestone in its low-cost space mission.

The Indian Space Research Organization’s rocket–which took off at just after 9 a.m. local time–first released a weather forecasting satellite of the agency. Soon after, it put seven satellites—three from Algeria, one each from Canada and the U.S., and two from Indian educational institutions—into another orbit.

It was the 37th flight for ISRO’s rocket, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, which blasted off from Sriharikota in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.

Read more at: WSJ

Orbital ATK Prepares for Final Casting of SLS EM-1 Flight SRBs

Following the highly successful test firing of the Qualification Motor 2 (QM-2) at their proving grounds near Promontory, Utah, Orbital ATK is preparing for the second half of casting operations for the Solid Rocket Booster segments that will power the SLS EM-1 mission through the first two minutes of flight – while at the same time working through a minor issue that is not expected to affect SLS SRB production timelines.

QM-2 was the second in a two part qualification firing program for the new five-segment SRBs to validate the final configurations, manufacturing processes, propellant design, and operational temperature range for the propulsion element that will provide 86.74% of SLS’s thrust at liftoff.

Read more at: NASA Spaceflight

Dream Chaser Space Plane to Fly United Nations Mission in 2021

A private space plane is set to fly the United Nations’ first-ever space mission five years from now.

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) are teaming up to launch a two-week robotic mission to low-Earth orbit in 2021 using the company’s Dream Chaser spacecraft, representatives of both organizations announced Tuesday (Sept. 27).

“One of UNOOSA’s core responsibilities is to promote international cooperation in the peaceful use of outer space,” UNOOSA Director Simonetta Di Pippo said in a statement. “I am proud to say that one of the ways UNOOSA will achieve this, in cooperation with our partner SNC, is by dedicating an entire microgravity mission to United Nations member states, many of which do not have the infrastructure or financial backing to have a stand-alone space program,” she added.

Read more at: Space.com

Orbital ATK Details Plans for Space Station Near the Moon

Not so fast there SpaceX, Orbital ATK wants to keep in the conversation when it comes to Mars.

While SpaceX made a splash with Elon Musk’s vision to send 1 million people on Mars this week, Orbital ATK released video that shows something that’s perhaps more of a pie-on-the-ground vision, a cislunar module to help test out technology needed before making the jump to Martian colonization.

Cislunar is the space between Earth and the moon. Orbital, which has flown five successful resupply missions using its Cygnus module to the International Space Station, wants to use that same module to create a space station near the moon. The company announced plans for this back in May, but the video is new this week.

The company was one of six that are part of NASA’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP-2) program, in an effort to have private companies invest in deep-space endeavors that could ultimately assist in missions to Mars and beyond.

Read more at: Orlando Sentinel

ULA, Air Force Agree on Vulcan Rocket Certification Process

United Launch Alliance and the U.S. Air Force signed an agreement Sept. 27 that will guide the military’s certification of the Vulcan rocket ULA is developing as the successor to its Atlas 5 and Delta 4 launchers.

The Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center said in a statement that it intends to sign similar Cooperative Research and Development Agreements soon with SpaceX for certification of the Hawthorne, California, company’s Falcon Heavy and Dulles, Virginia-based Orbital ATK for certification of their proposed Next Generation Launcher.

Currently, only ULA’s Atlas 5 and Delta 4 and SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets are certified by the Air Force for launching U.S. national security payloads. NASA has its own internal process for deciding which rockets are qualified to launch U.S. science satellites. – See more at: http://spacenews.com/ula-and-air-force-agree-on-certification-process-for-vulcan-rocket/#sthash.g419Mx7C.dpuf

Read more at: Space News

Russian Space Station Crews to be Smaller Next Year

Russia’s space agency has decided to cut the size of its crew complement on the International Space Station beginning in March 2017 to reduce operating costs until a new Russian science lab is activated on the complex in early 2018, officials confirmed this week.

Only two cosmonauts will occupy the Russian segment of the research lab at one time, down from three residents typically there today. The decision comes as Russian officials await the launch of a large bus-sized research segment named the Multipurpose Laboratory Module, or Nauka, which means “science” in Russian.

“We have delays of some modules that (are coming) to ISS, and we checked and understood that we could complete all our programs with two cosmonauts, and we decided to optimize our crew for next year,” said Igor Komarov, head of Roscosmos, the Russian space agency. The launch of MLM aboard a Proton rocket has been delayed several times, most recently from 2013 when engineers at RSC Energia, the prime contractor for Russia’s human spaceflight program, found flaws in the module’s propulsion system.

Read more at: Spaceflight Now

SpaceX Can’t Hire International Rocket Scientists Even if it Wants to

Elon Musk had his head in another world yesterday when he spoke to the 67th International Astronautical Congress in Mexico. His speech was meant to announce the hardware he wants to develop to get humans permanently settled on Mars. Amid the questions from the audience, which included self-promotional goofballs and awe-struck fanboys, a woman from Russia got applause by griping that SpaceX doesn’t hire people from outside the United States. “You are going interplanetary,” she said. “When will you go international?”

Musk explained that he’d like to bring in international talent, as he does at Tesla, but that U.S. laws restrict him from doing so. The answer shut up the questioner, but some were left puzzled. Why would a peaceful private space program face such security-minded restrictions?

The laws Musk is talking about are export laws called International Traffic in Arms Regulations, or ITAR. Depending who who ask, they are a drag on cooperation and efficiency or the bedrock of national security. Either way, these laws guarantee that Musk can only go for homegrown talent. Or, at least, talent that knows how to navigate these laws.

Read more at: Popular Mechanics

Space Florida CEO Expects Up to 200 Launches Per Year

A Space Florida official says the region could see as many as 200 launches a year as space firms like SpaceX, United Launch Alliance and OneWeb boost production and ramp up their launch manifests.

President and CEO Frank DiBello said that means the region’s space economy must be nimble enough to meet that demand. “We need to move from a paradigm of large federally funded infrastructure to one that is responsive to commercial markets,” he said at a Space Florida board meeting in Orlando on Wednesday.

The board also approved as much as $26 million during the next two fiscal years to go toward improvements on Launch Complex 36, which is being prepared for future launches by billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. Last month, permit applications filed by Blue Origin with the St. Johns River Water Management District revealed that the company planned to refurbish Launch Complex 36 and the adjacent 11, which has not seen a launch since 1964.

Read more at: Orlando Sentinel

Solar Impulse Team Plans Solar-powered Satellite

The team behind the record-breaking Solar Impulse 2 plane is looking to harness the aircraft’s technology for a new solar-powered satellite.

“One of the possible spinoffs is to produce an unmanned Solar Impulse to fly 20 kilometers [12.4 miles] high in the stratosphere,” Solar Impulse Chairman Bertrand Piccard told FoxNews.com during an interview in New York. “It’s to provide cheap satellite for Wi-Fi, GSM connections, observation for agriculture – our engineers are working on that now.”

Piccard was at the controls of Solar Impulse 2 when it reached Abu Dhabi in July, completing the final leg of the first solar-powered journey around the world. The plane, which set off from Abu Dhabi in March 2015, traveled 26,744 miles on its odyssey and racked up 558 hours of flight time.

The Solar Impulse chairman took turns with former Swiss military pilot Andre Borschberg to fly the single-seat plane around the world.

Read more at: Foxnews

Hicks a Good Choice to Lead Spaceport

We have previously expressed our concerns with the selection process taken by the Spaceport Authority board in naming the new leader for Spaceport America, but we have no argument with the final result.

Daniel Hicks, who for the past 34 years has filled a number of critical positions at White Sands Missile Range, brings both the technical and business skills Spaceport America will need in the critical years ahead.

For the past year he has been WSMR director of plans, where he recently completed a 30-year strategic plan. In that role he was responsible for maintaining relationships with members of Congress, as well as state and local officials. His ability to convince skeptical legislators as to the potential of the spaceport and the wisdom of protecting and building on their investment of more than $200 million will be vital to the success of the spaceport.

Read more at: Lcsun-news

First Ever Private Spaceport Opens for New Zealand “Space Bus”

“Launch Complex 1”, which was completed in only nine months, is located on the Mahia Peninsula of New Zealand’s North Island.

Facilities at the complex include a hangar where the vehicle will be prepared for launch as well as a 50 tonne launch pad, which tilts to lift the rocket to a vertical position prior to launch. The company also built a 3.5km road to reach its chosen site. The site was chosen for its remoteness, which will minimise disruption from air and marine traffic.

Rocket Labs’ business is based on its two-stage Electron launch vehicle, which is powered by an innovative Rutherford engine. According to Rocket Labs, this “adopts an entirely new propulsion cycle, using electric motors to drive turbopumps, and is the first oxygen/hydrocarbon engine to use 3D printing for all primary components”.

Read more at: Global Construction Review

Ex-Lehigh Professor, Wife Sentenced for Defrauding NASA

A former Lehigh University professor and his wife have been sentenced to prison for defrauding NASA. Yujie Ding and his wife, Yuliya Zotova, must also pay fines and restitution for the scheme targeting the space agency’s Small Business Innovation Research Program.

U.S. District Court Judge Harvey Bartle III on Wednesday sentenced Ding to a year plus one day in prison, and ordered him to pay a $3,000 fine and $72,000 in restitution, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania said in a news release. Zotova was sentenced last week to three months in prison, in addition to a fine and restitution.

Read more at: Lehighvalley live

European Space Agency Accused of ‘Having a Problem With Promoting Women’

A leading space scientist has accused the European Space Agency of having a “problem with promoting women” that has led to men holding almost every top job at the agency.

Rita Schulz, who was the lead scientist on the Rosetta comet-chasing mission from 2007 to 2013, also told the Guardian that she had been “shafted” by management when she was dropped from the historic project six months before its culmination.

The German scientist, who was ESA’s first and only female project scientist at the time, said she felt compelled to highlight gender bias after seeing so few women rising up the ranks during the past two decades. “This is something that is not good at ESA,” she said. “Women are never promoted. I have to say I believe this is a problem.”

Schulz was hired as deputy project scientist on Rosetta in 1996 and said she expected many other women to follow. But by the time she was replaced as project scientist by Matt Taylor, in 2013, she remained ESA’s only woman in leadership on an active mission.

Read more at: Guardian

Controllers can Kill $7m NZ Rocket if it Goes Off Course

Rocket Lab can destroy its $6.7 million rockets if they stray off course after launch from Mahia Peninsula. The New Zealand-founded company is preparing to test the first of its 17-metre Electron rockets which are propelled into orbit by more than 10 tonnes of kerosene and liquid oxygen.

For test launches there will be an immediate public exclusion zone of three kilometres, in accordance with rules imposed by United States authorities.

Rocket Lab’s founder and chief executive Peter Beck said ground controllers could destroy the rocket until it went into orbit, thousands of kilometres away from the launch site, just more than 100km above earth’s surface and over the ocean. “All the safety systems are there to make sure that nobody’s going to get hurt,” Beck said. “There’s a flight termination system. If the vehicle doesn’t follow the trajectory that we want; it’s terminated.”

Typically these systems remotely command the vehicle to self-destruct to prevent it from travelling outside the safety zone. This allows unburned fuel to ignite at altitude, rather than when the vehicle hits the ground.

Read more at: Nz Herald

Missile Warning Satellite Launch Slips into 2017 due to Thruster Concerns

An Air Force missile detection spacecraft will, effectively, lose its position in the Atlas 5 rocket’s cramped manifest over the next few months after the flight-worthiness of a thruster on the satellite was called into question and delayed its Oct. 3 liftoff date.

The third Space Based Infrared System Geosynchronous satellite, or SBIRS GEO Flight 3, was supposed to be the next Cape Canaveral mission for United Launch Alliance. But officials postponed the loading of hazardous maneuvering fuel into the Lockheed Martin-built satellite and deferred its launch in the wake of a parts issue that arose on two other spacecraft programs — the Navy’s Lockheed Martin-built MUOS 5 satellite and a private spacecraft believed to be the Boeing-made Intelsat 33e. Both satellites recently experienced thruster malfunctions during post-launch orbiting raising.

“The Air Force is working to understand the commonality between the two anomalous engines and the SBIRS design,” the service announced Sunday. A non-disclosure agreement in place between the commercial satellite program in question and the Air Force has prevented officials from publicly confirming the exact mission that delayed SBIRS GEO Flight 3.

Read more at: Spaceflight Now

Booz Allen Wins $33.9M Contract to Run NASA Incident Reporting Programs

Booz Allen Hamilton has won a $33.9 million with NASA to maintain and operate the agency’s incident reporting programs and conduct research and development to improve current and future systems.

Under the five-year contract, Booz Allen will help analyze incident and hazard reports and accumulated safety data provided and developed by the Aviation Safety Reporting System and Confidential Close Call Reporting System, the company said in a release.

Booz Allen will also assist to operate, maintain and manage the Aviation Safety Reporting System and Confidential Close Call Reporting System and will process incident or safety hazard reports while ensuring the information is confidential and secure.

Read more at: Washington Technology

U-2 Spy Plane Crash: Why ‘Cold War’ Aircraft are Still Relevant Today

A U-2 spy plane that crashed in northern California last Tuesday, killing one of the two pilots, focused attention on a normally clandestine aspect of the U.S. military. The U-2 plane has a long and storied history that stretches back to the late 1950s, but how is the reconnaissance aircraft used today?

U-2 planes have been flown by the United States and other nations for more than 60 years, as both a spy plane and an instrument of science. They key to the aircraft’s longevity is its robust and efficient design, said Richard Aboulafia, vice president of analysis at Teal Group Corp., which conducts research and analysis on the aerospace and defense industry. He added that Clarence “Kelly” Johnson, the man who designed the U-2, “got it right.”

“Those designers at the Lockheed Skunk Works deserve their legendary status,” Aboulafia told Live Science. What sets the U-2 apart is its ability to fly higher than any other aircraft for long periods, which is what makes it a good spy plane, he said

Read more at: Fox News

U.S. National Security Experts Warn of Threats to Military Space Systems

National security experts told a House oversight panel Tuesday that the United States is failing to adequately address serious threats to its military space systems and that the Defense Department need to make major changes in its policies and acquisition strategies.

“The threat has outpaced our creation of policy and strategy appropriate to the need,” said retired Navy Adm. James Ellis Jr., who led U.S. Strategic Command when it merged with the U.S. Air Force Space Command. “We are playing catch-up in a very real sense, but it is not just about hardware and technology. A lot of it is about policies.”

For example, the United States must establish policies that will reassure allies and deter adversaries by clearly communicating, “What we stand for and what we will not stand for,” Ellis said Sept. 27 during a hearing of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee.

Subcommittee chairman Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) called the hearing, “National Security Space: 21st Century Challenges, 20th Century Organization,” to address problems facing national security space and discuss recommendations for “major reform,” which he plans to include in the 2018 defense authorization bill. “This is the start of the focused oversight we will conduct,” Rogers said.

Read more at: Space News

Guess What Could be Totally Missing From the New U.S. President’s Intel Briefing

It is no secret that the last National Intelligence Council’s Global Trends 2030 spectacularly missed space. The question is — will this next Global Trends, due in December 2016, miss it again? It’d better not.

Global Trends is an important document that presents the U.S. president-elect with insight into the key trends in society, economy, energy, politics and technology and their implications for peace, security and prosperity for the next 20 years. In particular, it examines how technology may transform society and the relations between citizens and governments, is designed to stimulate thinking about possible global trajectories and discontinuities over the next two decades.

How such a widely coordinated future-focused document, which gets insights from government officials, scholars, business people, civil society representatives and think tanks could have missed space entirely is quite a mystery.

Read more at: Warisboring