Reusable Launchers: CNES and ONERA Working Together

Scientific partners since the start of the space endeavour in France and Europe, CNES and ONERA, the French aeronautics, space and defence research laboratory, have decided to join forces to work on a reusable launcher first stage and begin looking at key technical aspects such as recovery, return and maintenance.

This decision is the subject of a letter of intent to establish closer cooperation signed by CNES and ONERA, under the terms of the framework agreement of 30 March 2015. The study will cover two aspects: first, analysis of the launch system during the first stage recovery phase; and second, numerical aerothermodynamics simulations. A preliminary study phase is already underway.

The study started by CNES and ONERA aims to propose engineering solutions for a first launcher stage capable of returning to its launch base. This study will call on CNES and ONERA’s expertise in designing launchers and hypersonic and subsonic vehicles.

ONERA’s benchmark CEDRE software simulation platform for energy and propulsion studies, funded partly by CNES, will be used extensively to evaluate heat flows and aerodynamic forces on the stage during its return phase. The joint study could become a programme of shared interest as provided for in the framework agreement between the two agencies. The aim is to propose that this collaboration be put on a formal footing during the course of next year.

On this occasion, ONERA Chairman & CEO Bruno Sainjon said: “This initiative, for which ONERA will be engaging its cross-cutting expertise alongside CNES to help define and evaluate the aerospace vehicles and systems of the future, embodies the closer ties that our two agencies are working to forge.” CNES President Jean-Yves Le Gall commented: “In these fiercely competitive times, CNES and ONERA have decided to combine their expertise and get maximum leverage from the cooperation between our two agencies to look at the feasibility of future reusable launchers.”

Source: Onera

Virgin Galactic’s $250,000 Tickets Haunt New Mexico Town

The craft broke up in the clear sky 45,000 feet over the Mojave desert. During a Virgin Galactic test flight on a still October morning, pilot Michael Alsbury accidentally pulled a lever, prematurely deploying SpaceShipTwo’s silver scissor wings. With a sound “like paper fluttering in the wind”, the drag tore apart the fuselage and its logos for Land Rover and Grey Goose.

What was left was a flowering of red fabric in the scraggly bushes, the chute marking the site where co-pilot Peter Siebold floated 10 miles to earth. Alsbury did not survive.

That was almost a year ago. Today, 600 miles away, the town of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, still waits anxiously for its space dreams to get back on track. Home to Virgin Galactic’s custom-built spaceport, the struggling community is banking on an influx of wealthy tourists eager to touch the edge of space.More than 700 people have bought $250,000 tickets for Virgin Galactic, which promises to take them on 2.5-hour journey 68 miles above the earth to experience a few minutes of weightlessness.

Virgin Galactic’s proposed launch site, Spaceport America, broke ground in southern New Mexico’s high desert in 2009 with almost a quarter of a billion dollars from taxpayers, $76m of which came from the two local counties that contain its 27 square miles.

Read more at: Guardian

Satellite Internet Gets a Fresh Look, Cash Infusion

The race for Internet service from space is on, again. After a series of failed satellite Internet projects over the past two decades, fresh investment is coming into the sector, and at least three high-profile projects are moving forward.

OneWeb, a London-based consortium backed by tycoon Richard Branson, announced in June it had raised $500 million from investors including Airbus, Qualcomm and Intelsat to advance its plan for satellite broadband to underserved parts of the world.

Also this year, US-based space exploration firm SpaceX secured a $1 billion investment that could help founder Elon Musk’s plan to build a satellite Internet network, with backing from Google and the financial firm Fidelity.

US-based LeoSat, backed by Europe’s Thales Alenia Space, is also working on a satellite broadband project aimed at business. And Samsung outlined plans in a research report this year “to make affordable Internet services available to everyone in the world via low-cost micro-satellites.”

The projects seek to launch hundreds of low-orbit satellites to beam the Internet from space. The initial costs could be high, but would avoid the expense of building ground-based systems for wired or .

Read more at: Phys.org

Search for Mars Life Stymied by Contamination Threat

A multi-billion-dollar robot dispatched to Mars to search for life must steer clear of promising “hot spots” for fear of spreading microbes from Earth, NASA project scientists said Thursday.

The spectre of a missed opportunity was thrown into sharp relief by smoking-gun evidence unveiled this week that liquid water, a prerequisite for life, existed not only in a distant Martian past, but is likely there today. “Curiosity isn’t designed to go to a place that can currently support microbial life,” said Michael Meyer, a scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program. “For that we need a higher level of cleanliness,” which is more complicated and costly to achieve, he told AFP.

This exasperating reality was the result of a fateful decision years ago to forego NASA’s most stringent microbe-removal standards for hardware visiting the moist environments in which Martian life — if it exists — will probably be found.

The danger of letting Curiosity investigate the newly-found sites is real, space scientists and astrobiologists agree. “We don’t want to be remembered as the species that went to another planet and wiped out whatever life was there,” explained Jorge Vago, a scientist with the European Space Agency’s (ESA) ExoMars Project, due to send it own Mars orbiter up in 2016 and put down a rover in 2018.

Read more at: Mars Daily

Progress-MS to be Launched November 21

The first launch of new cargo vehicle Progress-MS is scheduled for November 21, 2015, – spokesman for space industry reported. “According to preliminary data the first modernized Russian cargo vehicle Progress-MS will be launched on November 21, 2015 at 23.29, Moscow time, and dock with Pirs module on November 23”, – said the spokesman.

Besides there is a possibility of spacewalk to be performed in accordance with American program from Quest module by NASA astronauts Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren on October 28.

On November 19 Progress M-28M will undock from Pirs module. American cargo vehicle Cygnus will be launched on December 4 and if everything is all right will dock with the ISS on December 6.

Progress M-29M to be launched from Baikonur on October 1 will undock from the station on December 9. On December 11 Soyuz tMA-17M will be redocked fron Rassvet module to Zvezda service module and on December 15 Soyuz TMA-19m manned spacecraft with new ISS crew onboard will dock with the station.

Read more at: Russian Space News

Blue Origin Subjected Rocket Engine to Over 100 Rounds of Testing

Blue Origin joined forces with Boeing’s/Lockheed Martin’s United Launch Alliance to build its BE-4 rocket engine last year. Now, the American-made component hascompleted over 100 staged-combustion cycles, which “included a representative BE-4 preburner and regeneratively cooled thrust chamber using multiple full-scale injector elements.” Since we’re not all rocket scientists, it just means the Jeff Bezos-backed space corp put its parts through rigorous testing before it starts full-engine tests.

Thanks to the data gathered from the series, Blue Origin was able to refine the design of some of BE-4’s key elements ahead of the government’s Critical Design Review. The engine would have to pass that CDR before the companies can start manufacturing it for actual use.

Read more at: Engadget

Major Repairs on Wallops Island Spaceport Completed

The Virginia Commercial Spaceflight Authority says major repairs to a launch pad that was damaged when a rocket exploded shortly after liftoff last fall have been completed.

An unmanned commercial supply rocket bound for the International Space Station exploded moments after liftoff from Wallops Island on Oct. 28. The rocket explosion caused about $15 million in damage to the launch pad, which sits on a NASA facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.

Read more at: WBOC

ISS Successfully Avoided Space Debris

On Sunday ISS successfully accomplished debris avoidance maneuver, – Roscosmos reports.

“Dangerous approaching might have taken place on September 21, 14.41, Moscow time”, – Roscosmos reports.

Mission Control Centre specialists calculated orbit adjustment parameters and accomplished the maneuver in accordance with them. ISS orbit was adjusted with the help of four Progress M-28M cargo vehicle thrusters that have been operating for 299 seconds.

Read more at: Russian Space News

Spaceport America Holds Open House

Many got their first look at Spaceport America Saturday when the facility hosted its first open house. The event was free, but was limited to the first 100 cars to register.

As the visitors stepped out of shuttles, many headed immediately to the enormous hangar where an actual-size replica of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo was prominently displayed. Others wandered around to view the front of the Spaceport as small planes touched down on the runway approaching the building.

About 30 planes flew in from around the state, flown by invited members of the Las Cruces chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association and the New Mexico Pilots Association.

Christine Anderson, chief executive officer of Spaceport America, said it’s important that New Mexicans have the opportunity to visit the $218.5 million project located in an isolated area about 60 miles north of Las Cruces.

Read more at: Las Cruces Sun-News