Muddling Through Space Traffic Management

“Space traffic management” is the cyber security of the space world. It is a hugely important public policy issue that underpins the successful future expansion of space activities, yet there is no agreement on its definition.

Experts continue to propose alternative terms that may be more technically precise, but consistently fail to catch on with policymakers or the public. And at its core, space traffic management is a “super wicked” public policy problem that involves balancing an indefinable set of technical, legal, and economic variables; conflicting interests and worldviews of many stakeholders; and a complex political environment with diffuse responsibilities and authorities. But with estimates of 16,000 or more satellites on the drawing board to be launched in the next decade, it is not a problem we can continue to kick down the road.

Read more at: Space News

Astronauts to Make Quickest Trip Ever to ISS in December

The first launch of a Soyuz spacecraft on a new two-orbit flight scheme in which it will orbit Earth two times en route to the ISS, is scheduled for December 2017, a source from the aerospace sector told TASS on Friday.

“A manned flight of a Soyuz craft on a two-orbit scheme is planned already for December of this year, when the crew of a new mission will fly to the ISS. The launch is scheduled for December 17,” the source said.

Prior to that, the new scheme will be tested on a Progress cargo craft, the source said. The Roscosmos Space Corporation said “the decision on the launch of a Soyuz manned spacecraft will be made only after the flight of a Progress under a shortened scheme has been analyzed”.

Read more at: TASS

After IRNSS-1H’s Failure, ISRO will Resume Satellite Launches by December

Nearly a month after its unsuccessful attempt at placing a navigation satellite into space, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is gearing up for its next PSLV mission in November-December. “We are planning the next PSLV launch in November- December,” ISRO chairman A S Kiran Kumar told reporters on the sidelines of the 68th National Conference of Aeronautical Society of India here today.

On the failed PSLV-C39 mission in August, he said a committee was looking into it and “it is in the final stages of their findings”. “It will also stipulate the exact problem. We are waiting for it,” the ISRO chief said. Kumar asserted there was no problem with the launch vehicle. “Only that particular separation of the heat shield was the problem,” he said. The ISRO chairman also maintained that there would not be any change in the control system of the launch vehicle.

Read more at: DNA India

Engine Test Latest Step for Stratolaunch’s Giant Aircraft

Stratolaunch announced Sept. 19 that the company has achieved another milestone in the development of a unique giant aircraft that will serve as a launch platform.

The company said that it successfully tested at its Mojave, California, facility the six Pratt & Whitney PW4056 turbofan jet engines that will power the aircraft. Each engine is capable of producing 56,750 pounds-force of thrust.

The engines came from two Boeing 747 jetliners that Stratolaunch acquired as part of the development of the one-of-its-kind plane. The engines, the company said in a statement, were put through a series of tests, including one where the engines were started one at a time and allowed to idle. “In these initial tests, each of the six engines operated as expected,” the company said.

Read more at: Space News

Space-Grown Bacteria Could Pose Major Problems for Astronauts

When astronauts head into space, they don’t go alone. Billions of bacteria are also along for the ride. Now, scientists have discovered that these microorganisms behave quite differently in zero gravity.

A recent study, published in Frontiers in Microbiology, found that E. coli bacteria grows differently in space compared to how it grows on Earth. Changes to this bacterium, which occurs naturally in the gastrointestinal tract of humans, could make it more difficult to treat with common antibiotics in space.

Read more at: Health line

China’s Tianzhou 1 Supply Vehicle Re-enters Atmosphere

The Chinese Tianzhou 1 resupply and refueling freighter re-entered Earth’s atmosphere Friday, burning up as designed after a five-month mission demonstrating servicing techniques for China’s future space station.

The nearly 35-foot-long (10.6-meter) robotic cargo carrier fired its thrusters two times to slow down and drop out of orbit, according to China’s state-run Xinhua news agency. The ground-commanded deorbit burns guided the Tianzhou 1 spacecraft into the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean at around 1000 GMT (6 a.m. EDT; 6 p.m. Beijing time) Friday, Chinese space officials said.

Tianzhou 1 is the first in a series of vessels designed to deliver cargo, food, clothing, water and fuel to crews on China’s future space station, an orbiting complex scheduled for completion by around 2022.

Read more at: Spaceflight Now

Dreams of ‘Moon Village’ Begins to Shape up at Riga Meeting

By 2040, 100 people will live on the moon, melting ice for water, 3-D printing homes and tools, eating plants grown in lunar soil, and competing in low-gravity “flying” sports.

To those who mock such talk as science fiction, experts such as Bernard Foing, ambassador of the European Space Agency-driven “Moon Village” project, reply the goal is not only reasonable but feasible too. At a European Planetary Science Congress in Riga this week, Foing spelled out how humanity could gain a permanent foothold on Earth’s satellite, and then expand.

He likened it to the growth of the railways, when villages grew around train stations, followed by businesses. By 2030, there could be an initial lunar settlement of six to 10 pioneers — scientists, technicians and engineers — which could grow to 100 by 2040, he predicted.

Read more at: Japan Times

NASA Launches Competition to Help Astronauts Breathe on Long-Haul Space Flights

NASA has launched a $100,000 competition to design a small aerosol-detecting technology that can work in space.

The space agency says that particulate monitoring is a “gap in its technology roadmap to enable future long-term missions” and is turning to its open program of innovation to find an answer.

Aerosols are tiny airborne particles that here on Earth contribute to a wide variety of health problems, including respiratory diseases such as asthma. Aerosol sensors are used to monitor air quality and determine whether air is safely breathable or not.

Read more at: Forbes

An Airliner Adapted in Waco to Launch Satellites is Now Flying

A unique airplane called the Cosmic Girl landed at Texas State Technical College’s airport in Waco earlier this year and parked inside one of the big hangars there. When it rolled out months later, the airplane was ready to launch a space rocket from under one wing while flying at high altitudes.

Richard Branson’s company, Virgin Orbit, delivered the 747-400 to defense contractor L-3 for conversion into a flying launch pad for small satellites. The company, founded with a focus on space tourism, is also chasing future customers who want to launch satellites. Virgin Orbit says the airplane “will operate from a variety of locations independently of traditional launch ranges — which are often congested with traffic — and will have the ability to operate through or around weather conditions and other impediments that delay traditional launches.”

Read more at: Dallas Observer

‘Not One Insult’: Briton Tells of Eight Months in Simulated Mars Base

Losing internet access was a bigger problem than personality clashes for six “astronauts” confined for eight months on a remote simulated Mars base, a British member of the team has said.

Not a single personal insult was uttered by any member of the crew during the whole of the “mission”, which ended on 17 September, claimed the astrobiologist Sam Payler, 28, a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh. Being without the internet created more difficulty than social conflict, since it meant problems took days instead of minutes to solve.

Read more at: Guardian

FCC Says it Can’t Verify Satellite Constellations’ Interference Threat, Passes Buck to ITU

Current and prospective satellite fleet operators are asking the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reverse a proposed rule that would allow operators of low-orbiting constellations to self-certify that their networks won’t interfere with satellites in geostationary orbit. The FCC’s decision, which represents a 180-degree switch from its earlier position.

Read more at: Space intel report

The Most Energetic Cosmic Rays Pelting Earth are Coming from Outside Our Galaxy

Astronomers have finally solved a long-standing mystery about the origins of cosmic rays, the highly energetic particles that zoom throughout space. For half a century, scientists haven’t been able to pin down where the most energetic rays in our Universe come from. But thanks to more than a decade of detecting cosmic rays from South America, astronomers have confirmed that these super energetic particles are coming from outside our galaxy.

Space is filled with cosmic rays — tiny fragments of atoms — all with varying amounts of energies. Many of the low- or medium-energy ones are thought to originate from within our galaxy, likely from supernovae, or exploding stars, which hurl high-speed particles out into space when they die.

Read more at: Verge

NASA Nominee Promoting ‘Consensus’ Agenda for Space Program

Rep. Jim Bridenstine, President Trump’s pick to run NASA, wants to expand the role of new commercial space companies, end dependence on Russian rockets now carrying astronauts to the International Space Station, and establish a “consensus agenda” on future missions that can outlast the whims of changing administrations.

In other words, not unlike the broad goals pushed by his predecessor, Charles F. Bolden Jr.

Sean O’Keefe, NASA administrator during George W. Bush’s first term, applauded Bridenstine’s objectives. “I think he’s picked a pretty good selection of priorities to pursue that will establish cohesion, bring aboard folks to support it, all the kinds of cautionary things that are appropriate in pursuing this,” said O’Keefe, a professor of public administration at Syracuse University.

Read more at: USA Today

Russia will Team Up with NASA to Build a Lunar Space Station

In a major space policy decision, Russia will promise to join a NASA-led effort to build an international human outpost in the vicinity of the Moon. Russian industry sources told Popular Mechanics that the head of Roscosmos State Corporation, Igor Komarov, is expected to announce the news next week during a meeting with other space agencies at the 68th International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, Australia.

NASA and its partner agencies plan to begin the construction of the modular habitat known as the Deep-Space Gateway in orbit around the Moon in the early 2020s. It will become the main destination for astronauts for at least a decade, extending human presence beyond the Earth’s orbit for the first time since the end of the Apollo program in 1972. Launched on NASA’s giant SLS rocket and serviced by the crews of the Orion spacecraft, the outpost would pave the way to a mission to Mars in the 2030s.

Read more at: Popular Mechanics

The Air Force’s Skepticism on Reusable Rockets is Fading Quickly

The head of Air Force Space Command offered a bullish, albeit qualified, endorsement of the commercial space sector’s efforts to launch reusable rockets, continuing a rapid shift away from the military’s prior skepticism.

Current rockets for the Air Force are one and done, a practice that Tesla (TSLA) and SpaceX founder Elon Musk has likened to using a Boeing (BA) 747 once. But the space industry is looking for ways to make space travel affordable, and the Air Force is warming up to the idea of reusability.

“That’s the way industry is going. It’s cost effective,” Gen. John Raymond, commander of Air Force Space Command, told reporters at the Air Force Association’s annual Air Space & Cyber conference Wednesday. “But we need to do a review to make sure they are safe. Then I’m all in for using reusable rockets to launch our satellites.”

Read more at: Investors

Vitamin Super Cocktail to Combat 60 Days of Lying in Bed

This week will see the second ESA bedrest study investigating a mix of antioxidants and vitamins that could help astronauts to combat the side effects of living in space.

Ten volunteers will lie in beds with the head end tilted down 6º for 60 days, keeping at least one shoulder on their bed at all times. Intense bedrest such as this is no fun: muscles and bones waste away, and the tilted beds makes blood and fluids move to the head – similar to the changes astronauts endure in space.

Read more at: ESA

Observatory Detects Extragalactic Cosmic Rays Hitting the Earth

Fifty years ago, scientists discovered that the Earth is occasionally hit by cosmic rays of enormous energies. Since then, they have argued about the source of those ultra-high energy cosmic rays — whether they came from our galaxy or outside the Milky Way.

The answer is a galaxy or galaxies far, far away, according to a report published Sept. 22 in Science by the Pierre Auger Collaboration. The internationally run observatory in Argentina, co-founded by the late University of Chicago Nobel laureate James Cronin, has been collecting data on such cosmic rays for a more than a decade.

The collaboration found that the rate of such cosmic particles, whose energies are a million times greater than that of the protons accelerated in the Large Hadron Collider, is about six percent greater from one side of the sky than the other, in a direction where the distribution of galaxies is relatively high.

Read more at: Eureka Alert

Russian Scientists want to Carry Out Experiments at China’s Planned Space Station

Experts at Russia’s “science town” in Novosibirsk have submitted three applications to conduct experiments in the zero-gravity condition at China’s planned space station, Sputnik International reported yesterday.

The US and Russian scientists plan to start their minimum temperature creation experiments at the International Space Station, a joint US-Russian space project, at the end of this year, said the deputy director of the Joint Institute for High Temperatures (JIHT) of Russian Academy of Sciences. The idea is based on the assumption that the International Space Station is capable of creating the coldest environment in the entire universe, the Sputnik report added. At present, US and Russian labs have created an extremely low temperature that is higher than absolute zero by one billionth of a degree. Without gravity, they can create a temperature higher than absolute zero by one ten-billionth of a degree.

Read more at: yicai global

Nanosatellite Beams Smartphone Voice Call for First Time

For the first time, a voice call has been made via a nanosatellite using a regular smartphone.

The voice call lasted more than a minute and went off without a hitch, said Meir Moalem, CEO of the United Kingdom-based startup Sky and Space Global. “This was the first time that something like this was done via a nanosatellite,” Moalem told Space.com. “The quality of the call was very good, and we are very happy with the result that we got.”

During the testing, Sky and Space Global engineers also sent text messages, images and voice recordings via the company’s three nanosatellites, dubbed the 3 Diamonds. The satellites, launched on June 23, circle the Earth in a sun-synchronous orbit at the altitude of 500 kilometers (310 miles).

Read more at: Space.com

Positive, Negative or Neutral, it All Matters: NASA Explains Space Radiation

Charged particles may be small, but they matter to astronauts. NASA’s Human Research Program (HRP) is investigating these particles to solve one of its biggest challenges for a human journey to Mars: space radiation and its effects on the human body.

“One of our biggest challenges on a mission to Mars is protecting astronauts from radiation,” said NASA Space Radiation Element Scientist Lisa Simonsen, Ph.D.. “You can’t see it; you can’t feel it. You don’t know you’re getting bombarded by radiation.” A common misconception of space radiation is that it’s similar to radiation on Earth. It’s actually quite different. On Earth, radiation coming from the sun and space is mainly absorbed and deflected by our atmosphere and magnetic field.

Read more at: Eurekalert

Trump’s Pick for NASA Lays Out Agenda and Answers Critics

Oklahoma Congressman Jim Bridenstine, who was nominated to become NASA’s next administrator by the Trump administration on September 1, may get a Senate confirmation hearing as early as next week. The choice of the 42-year-old Republican pilot has raised objections among some of his fellow members of Congress because of his lack of a technical background. Environmentalists have also objected to Bridenstine due to his views on climate change.

Read more at: Arstechnica

Commercial Space Travel Fails to Woo U.S. Voters, but Sector Aims Higher

Some Americans seem underwhelmed by the possibility of affordable private-sector space travel, even as the industry sets its sights on loftier goals than shepherding wealthy clients into outer space.

Forty-one percent of registered voters said they were likely to travel to space if they could afford it, according to a Sept. 7-11 Morning Consult/POLITICO poll. A 48-percent plurality said they were not too likely or not at all likely to do so, even if they had the means.

Eleven percent didn’t know or had no opinion, according to the national sample of 1,975 voters. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Read more at: Morning consult

Chinese Company Eyes Development of Reusable Launch Vehicle

One of Chinese startups appears to be following in the footsteps of SpaceX as it has lately laid out its own project of reusable space launch system. Link Space, the country’s first private rocket company, has recently presented the design of its New Line 1 (also known as Xin Gan Xian 1) launch vehicle, which could compete with SpaceX’s Falcon 9 in the future.

Link Space uncovered the design and some basic technical parameters at a recent presentation. The images revealed to the public show that the first stage of the newly developed launcher could feature similar landing system that is used in SpaceX’s flagship reusable Falcon 9 booster.

Read more at: Space Daily

Mattis Sees Need for New Space Programs

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said he’s open to funding new  space programs if Congress delivers on the military spending hike the White House has sought.

“In space, we need new starts in order to take advantage of what industry can deliver if we are willing to invest there,” Mattis said Sept. 20 during a keynote speech at the annual Air Force Association Air Space Cyber conference here. Space is becoming a more dangerous military region, Mattis noted. “In outer space,” he said, “we used to consider it a sanctuary.” But now, he said, adversaries are challenging the U.S. in that domain as they are in others. “It is contested.”

Read more at: Space News

To Shoot Down or Not? NKorea Launch Highlights Intercept Issues

North Korea’s latest missile launch over Japan set sirens blaring and triggered alerts telling people to seek shelter — yet neither Tokyo nor Washington tried to shoot the rocket down.

The test follows one in August that saw another rocket soar over Hokkaido. In that case too, much-vaunted Japanese and US missile-intercept capabilities were not used. Now some in the United States are wondering why all this sophisticated weaponry isn’t being used, especially as North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un accelerates toward his goal of building a nuclear missile capable of striking the United States.

Read more at: Space war

USAF Puts Space Warfighting Focus on Awareness

With the recent development of the first space warfighting concepts of operation, U.S. Air Force space leaders are focusing more on development on better space situational awareness.

“We have to keep track of every object in space,” Gen John “Jay” Raymond, commander, Air Force Space Command, said Sept. 20 during a media roundtable discussion at the annual Air Force Association Air Space Cyber conference here.

He took special notice of the Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program (GSSAP) to characterize and track objects in space, pointing out the service recently accepted two new operational satellites, which recently completed required tests, into the space awareness network.

Read more at: Space News

The Mercury 13 Women were Ready for Space, But NASA Never Gave Them a Chance

At age 12, Geraldyn “Jerrie” Cobb persuaded her father to teach her to fly, zipping over Wichita Falls, Texas, in a two-seater made of cloth and aluminum poles. At 18 she held a commercial pilot’s license. By the time she was 29 she was a flight instructor, had ferried dozens of army surplus planes to Europe and South America, had amassed more than 10,000 hours of flying time and had broken three world records for flight.

When she was 14, Sarah Ratley stole her older sister’s birth certificate to convince her flight instructor she was old enough to fly solo. She fell in love with it because the first flight she ever took, she looked down and saw her Kansas high school, her town, and it all looked so small. When she was in a plane, it didn’t matter that she was good at math and didn’t fit in at school.

Read more at: Houston Press