China Resumes Launch Campaigns After String of Failures, Delays Lunar Mission

The launch of three experimental remote sensing satellites last week signaled the resumption of Chinese space launches following multiple rocket failures since late last year, but a senior Chinese space official has confirmed the Chang’e 5 mission to return samples from the moon remains grounded.

China last week conducted its first satellite launch attempt since July 2, successfully deploying three satellites into orbit around 370 miles (600 kilometers) above Earth.

Launch crews are preparing another Long March rocket for liftoff Oct. 9 with a Chinese-built Earth-imaging satellite for the government of Venezuela, but China’s medium-class Long March 3-series boosters and the heavy-lift Long March 5 rocket have not resumed launches in the wake of mishaps in June and July.

Read more at: Spaceflight Now

Spacewalk Concludes With Successful Robot Arm Repair

Two astronauts ventured outside the International Space Station early Thursday and performed what amounted to hand transplant surgery on the lab’s Canadian-built robot arm, removing a crippled grapple fixture on one end of the space crane and replacing it with an on-board spare.

Floating in the Quest airlock, station commander Randy Bresnik and flight engineer Mark Vande Hei switched their spacesuits to battery power at 8:05 a.m. EDT (GMT-4) to officially kick off U.S. EVA-44, the first of three excursions planned over the next two weeks to service the Canadarm 2 space crane and carry out a variety of maintenance work.

Read more at: Spaceflight Now

GAO Report Addresses Challenges for Fueling Future Deep Space Missions

U.S. House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today announced the release of a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on U.S. production of plutonium 238 (Pu-238), a critical component of certain spacecraft power systems. GAO recommended that the Department of Energy (DOE), which oversees production of Pu-238, undertake steps to ensure production meets NASA’s needs for future missions.

Read more at: Committee on Space, Science and Technology

‘The Enemy Within’: Mars Crews Could be at Risk from Onboard Microbes – Study

Of the many potential hazards astronauts might ponder on a trip to Mars, radiation poisoning, weightlessness and the foibles of crewmates might top the list. But according to scientists, there’s another potential problem. Researchers examining a mocked-up spacecraft inhabited for 17 months by a six-man crew say parts of the capsule were rife with microbial life.

With previous research suggesting that the space environment could leave humans more susceptible to infection and make microbes more virulent and less responsive to antibiotics, researchers say the latest study highlights the importance of monitoring the bugs on board.

Read more at: Guardian

‘Considerable Concern’: Russia Dumping Tonnes of Toxic Space Fuel in Canada’s Arctic Waters

The Canadian Arctic might be getting showered with trace amounts of poison thanks to Russian space launches which still employ a highly toxic fuel that most of the world has already phased out.

The fuel, known as UDMH, has already caused devastating pollution in areas close to former Soviet spaceports. And every time the Russian Federation launches a “Rokot” space vehicle, several tonnes of it might be getting dumped into Canadian waters.

“This dropping of the rocket stages is of considerable concern to the Inuit of Canada and Greenland, who only learned about the practice in 2016,” reads a recent report by University of British Columbia Arctic scholar Michael Byers in the journal Polar Record.

Read more at: National Post

NASA May Extend BEAM’s Time on the International Space Station

NASA is exploring options with Bigelow Aerospace to extend the life of the privately owned Bigelow Expandable Activity Module. Known as BEAM, the module is attached to the International Space Station and continues to perform well during its technology demonstration mission. NASA has issued a synopsis of an intended contract action to partner with Bigelow Aerospace to extend the life of the expandable habitat and use it for long-term in-orbit storage. This step continues NASA’s commitment to expand private-public partnerships, scientific research and commercial applications aboard station to maximize the benefits from humanity’s premiere laboratory in microgravity.

NASA’s use of BEAM as part of a human-rated system will allow Bigelow Aerospace to demonstrate its technology for future commercial applications in low-Earth Orbit. Initial studies have shown that soft materials can perform as well as rigid materials for habitation volumes in space and that BEAM has performed as designed in resistance to space debris.

Read more at: NASA

World View Completes Five-day Test Flight for ‘Stratollite’ High-altitude Balloon

World View Enterprises has executed its longest stratospheric balloon flight ever, steering a solar-powered payload through five days’ worth of testing at altitudes in excess of 55,000 feet.

The high-altitude outing marked the Arizona-based company’s first launch from Spaceport Tucson, and a significant milestone in its plan to fly commercial “Stratollite” missions.

“This is an enormous leap in our development program, and we are certain the Stratollite is going to forge a new path in how we observe, react to and collect data about our planet,” World View co-founder and CEO Jane Poynter said in a news release.

Read more at: Geekwire

What’s in a Name? SpaceX’s ‘BFR’ Mars Rocket Acronym Explained

You don’t have to lie when talking to your kids about SpaceX’s BFR Mars-colonization architecture.

Yes, BFR stands for “Big F—ing Rocket.” But there’s also a family-friendly variant of the acronym, and it’s coming into wider and wider use — as evidenced by SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell’s remarks Thursday (Oct. 5) at the first meeting of the newly resurrected National Space Council.

“Last week, Elon announced — or, basically, gave an update on — the Big Falcon Rocket program, Big Falcon Rocket and Big Falcon Spaceship,” Shotwell said, referring to SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk’s Sept. 29 presentation at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Adelaide, Australia.

Read more at: space.com

Elon Musk’s Ludicrous New Idea: Launching ICBMs Full of People

True to style, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk recently announced plans to go to the Moon, build a Martian city, and fly from New York to London in 29 minutes. He plans to do all this using a single rocket, colorfully referred to as the BFR.

The crux of Musk’s plan for building the BFR is scaling the technology. He wants to use this rocket for every launch, be it sending a legion of tiny research satellites into low Earth orbit or intrepid astronauts to Mars. Musk himself acknowledges that his plan is aspirational. But some elements of it are, honestly, rather ludicrous. Chief among them is the idea of using rockets to fly between cities.

Read more at: Fortune

18th Space Control Squadron: Keeping Watch Up Above

While the everyday activities of life continue down below, what is taking place overhead doesn’t usually warrant a thought.

The 18th Space Control Squadron located at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, is a geographically separated unit of the 21st Space Wing, Peterson AFB, Colorado. The squadron provides situational awareness on thousands of items filling the skies while life moves along for those on Earth’s surface.

“We have crews of eight people,” said 1st Lt. Jonathan Diaz, an 18th SPCS mission commander. “We have Orbital Safety Analysts who are direct liaisons to National Aeronautics and Space Administration whose main concern is the (International Space Station) and astronauts. We have people supporting conjunction assessment who notify the satellite owner if anything approaches their (satellite), or is going to fly close by, so they can move it if they want. Others keep the Satellite Catalog up to date.”

Read more at: AF Military

NASA Launching Up to 72 Smallsats with Spaceflight for $5.5 Million

NASA signed its first contract with small satellite rideshare company Spaceflight to launch as many as 72 cubesats between now and 2020 for a total price of up to $5.5 million.

Specifically, the contract enables the launch of 72 “units,” which typically measure 10 centimeters in length, width and height, and have a mass of around 1.33 kilograms. These units are often assembled in groups to form larger cubesats, such as the 3U cubesats Spire and Planet use, or the 6U Arkyd satellites of Planetary Resources.

Seattle-based Spaceflight provides rideshare opportunities on U.S. rockets from SpaceX, Orbital ATK and Rocket Lab, as well as India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, Russia’s Soyuz and the Russian-Ukrainian Dnepr. NASA’s launch policy, however, will restrict the 72U to ride solely on American rockets.

Read more at: Space News

Sierra Nevada Corporation Signs Memorandum of Understanding with Canadian Space Agency

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) to explore possibilities of using the Dream Chaser® spacecraft for future CSA missions and to facilitate the exchange of information between SNC and Canada. The agreement is a significant step toward greater collaboration to develop Dream Chaser technologies and applications that are mutually beneficial for SNC, the Canadian space industry and academia.

“Canada continues to be a world leader in technology for space missions and this agreement allows us to take advantage of that expertise. SNC is grateful to CSA President Sylvain Laporte for his leadership and vision,” said Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president of SNC’s Space Systems business area.

Read more at: SNCorp

Sierra Nevada Corporation Announces Expansion Of German Aerospace Center Partnership

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) announced the execution of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) today, expanding its relationship with the German Aerospace Center (DLR) for further collaboration on space initiatives.

The MOU provides a framework for the two organizations to cooperate in space-related technologies and transportation utilizing the Dream Chaser spacecraft and space habitats.

“SNC has greatly appreciated and benefited from our existing relationship with DLR, and this MOU underscores how much we value their technology, innovation and contributions to space,” said Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president of SNC’s Space Systems business area.

Read more at: Coloroda spacenews

Tungsten Offers Nano-interconnects a Path of Least Resistance

As microchips become ever smaller and therefore faster, the shrinking size of their copper interconnects leads to increased electrical resistivity at the nanoscale. Finding a solution to this impending technical bottleneck is a major problem for the semiconductor industry.

One promising possibility involves reducing the resistivity size effect by altering the crystalline orientation of interconnect materials. A pair of researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute conducted electron transport measurements in epitaxial single-crystal layers of tungsten (W) as one such potential interconnect solution.

Read more at: Nano Daily

Blue Origin Engineer Talks Next Steps for New Shepard, New Glenn

Earlier this month, at the Dragon Con science-fiction and fantasy convention, a representative from the private spaceflight company Blue Originspoke to a crowd about the company’s progress on its two launch vehicles: New Shepard and New Glenn.

“Our vision is to get billions of people living and working in space,” A.C. Charania, Blue Origin’s manager of advanced programs, said during his talk. “It’s a very exciting time in the space industry.”  Dragon Con brings thousands of science-fiction and fantasy fans to Atlanta every year. In addition to popular culture panels, the conference features space-related talks with scientists, engineers and astronauts.

Read more at: Space.com

Sierra Nevada Corporation Selected Rendezvous and Docking Sensor Technology from Jena

The unmanned spacecraft will provide cargo – such as food, water and scientific instruments – to the International Space Station (ISS) under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS2) program. Jena-Optronik’s RVS3000 rendezvous and docking sensor will support the autonomous approach of the Dream Chaser to the ISS making it the fourth ISS supply spacecraft to use the sensor technology from Jena. The selection follows consultations between Sierra Nevada Corporation and Jena-Optronik which started thanks to the DLR sponsored US-German Aerospace Roundtables (UGART).

Read more at: Spaceref

NASA’s Predawn Rocket Launch will Test a Supersonic Parachute

NASA will launch a small rocket from Virginia’s Eastern Shore early Wednesday (Oct. 4) to test a supersonic parachute system for future spacecraft bound for Mars. The launch may be visible to observers along the U.S. East Coast, weather permitting. The sounding rocket will launch from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility at Wallops Island, Virginia at 6:45 a.m. EDT (1045 GMT). You can watch it live online at NASA’s Wallops Ustream site here, beginning at 6:15 a.m. EDT (1015 GMT).

The suborbital rocket will carry the Advanced Supersonic Parachute Inflation Research Experiment (ASPIRE), designed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. JPL engineers developed the parachute system to withstand the high speeds and thin atmosphere spacecraft encounter during the decent to the Martian surface. Wednesday’s launch aims to test the system in the low density of Earth’s upper atmosphere.

Read more at: Space.com

These Microbes May Hitch a Ride with Humans to Mars: Why That Matters

When humans finally journey to Mars, they won’t be the only living things on board the spacecraft; millions upon millions of microbes that live on and in these pioneering astronauts’ bodies will also be along for the ride.

Understanding how these microbes can grow, spread and adapt in the spacecraft’s confined conditions is important for ensuring the health of the astronauts who participate in such future long-term space missions. And a new study offers insight into how these bacteria might behave in such an environment.

Read more at: Space.com

New Mexicans Consider Including Spaceport in Plan to Lure Amazon

While the state grapples with the question of whether to throw more money at the Spaceport, ordinary citizens in southern New Mexico believe they have an out-of-this-world idea that could revive the struggling space travel hub. And it involves luring another, already-booming company to the Land of Enchantment.

“We recently had this light bulb go off saying let’s work with Amazon and Mr. [Jeff] Bezos, who runs Amazon, and talk about the Spaceport as an enticement to bring him here to take over the Spaceport payments. Because it’s very costly for the taxpayers of New Mexico,” said Sophia Peron of Truth or Consequences.

Read more at: kob

Astronaut Scott Kelly on the Devastating Effects of a Year in Space

I’m sitting at the head of my dining room table at home in Houston, Texas, finishing dinner with my family: my longtime girlfriend Amiko, my twin brother Mark, his wife, former US congresswoman Gabby Giffords, his daughter Claudia, our father Richie and my daughters Samantha and Charlotte. It’s a simple thing, sit ting at a table and eating a meal with those you love, and many people do it every day without giving it much thought. For me, it’s something I’ve been dreaming of for almost a year.

I contemplated what it would be like to eat this meal so many times. Now that I’m finally here, it doesn’t seem entirely real. The faces of the people I love that I haven’t seen for so long, the chatter of many people talking together, the clink of silverware, the swish of wine in a glass – these are all unfamiliar. Even the sensation of gravity holding me in my chair feels strange, and every time I put a glass or fork down on the table there’s a part of my mind that is looking for a dot of Velcro or a strip of duct tape to hold it in place.

Read more at: Brisbane Times

To the Moon and Beyond

On Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence visited the National Air and Space Museum in Chantilly, Virginia. The purpose of the meeting at Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center was to convene the National Space Council for the first time in 25 years. The Vice President, who served on the NASA subcommittee in his first year in Congress, will chair the new council. “[I]t is my great honor — in fact, it’s very humbling for me — to have the opportunity to serve as its chair at the first meeting in nearly a quarter-century,” the Vice President stated.

The conference, “Leading the Next Frontier: An Event with the National Space Council,” brought members from all aspects and sectors of the space community together to discuss the future of space exploration. Following the Vice President’s opening remarks, testimonials were given by experts in the space industry who represent the Civil Space, Commercial Space, and National Security Space sectors.

Read more at: White House

The Soviets Taught the Americans How to Use Science for Propaganda

There are two versions of the Sputnik story. The one you likely know is that the US was caught by surprise when it found the Soviets had succeeded at launching an artificial satellite on Oct. 4, 1957. Within months, Americans made a series of investments, including the creation of NASA, to catch up and eventually beat the Soviets in the space race. The upshot: even though Soviets breached space first, a little more than 10 years later, it was Americans who were the first (and still only) humans on the moon.

The other story is more complicated. The US government’s reaction to Sputnik’s launch was subdued. Its spy planes had been monitoring Soviet developments, and it’s likely they knew a launch was imminent. “So far as the satellite itself is concerned, that does not raise my apprehensions—not one iota,” declared Dwight Eisenhower, US president at the time.

Read more at: Quartz

Private Companies are Launching a New Space Race – Here’s What to Expect

The space race between the USA and Russia started with a beep from the Sputnik satellite exactly 60 years ago (October 4, 1957) and ended with a handshake in space just 18 years later. The handshake was the start of many decades of international collaboration in space. But over the past decade there has been a huge change.

The space environment is no longer the sole preserve of government agencies. Private companies have entered the exploration domain and are propelling the sector forward more vigorously and swiftly than would be the case if left to governments alone.

Read more at: Conversation

Cleveland-Marshall College of Law Launches Space Law Center

The demand for space lawyers is rocketing, and Cleveland State University Cleveland-Marshall College of Law wants to make sure its students are ready for lift off.

The law school recently announced the launch of its new Global Space Law Center to expand its space policy initiatives. It is the first law school research center in the U.S. dedicated exclusively to the study of the law of outer space.  “We are excited to offer our students a one-of-a-kind educational experience designed to meet the demand of this emerging field,” said Cleveland-Marshall Law Dean Lee Fisher.

Read more at: National Jurist

United Arab Emirates to Establish Human Spaceflight Program

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) plans to establish its own astronaut corps in the next year, seeking to fly its citizens into space on other nations’ vehicles starting in the early 2020s.

In a panel discussion at the 68th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) here Sept. 28, officials with the country’s new space agency said that the country sought to develop a “sustainable” human spaceflight program with scientific applications, rather than simply the prestige of flying humans in space. “This is an initiative from the UAE government to have a sustainable human spaceflight program,” said Salem Humaid Al Marri, assistant director general at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre.

Read more at: Space News

135 Years Ago Today, the Rocket Age Began

“Light this candle!” So astronaut Alan Shepard is credited with exclaiming after hours of sitting atop a Mercury-Redstone rocket waiting for the launch sequence that would propel him into history as the first American, and second human, in space in May 1961.

“Light those candles!” is what we at Cosmos exclaim to celebrate the birthday of Robert H. Goddard, revered as the father of modern rocket propulsion. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is named in his honour.

Born on 5 October, 1882, Goddard became fascinated by the possibilities of flight, and space, at a young age, inspired in part by H. G. Wells’ science-fiction novel The War of the Worlds. In 1907 he attracted attention after firing off a gunpowder-fuelled rocket in the basement of the physics building at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. By 1914 he had already registered and received two patents – one for a rocket powered by liquid fuel, the other for a multi-stage rocket (using solid fuel). Both ideas were significant steps to making space flight a reality.

Read more at: Cosmos Magazine

Experts Call for More Diplomacy, Less Militarization of Space

As Congress debates a contentious proposal to create a military “space corps,” some of Washington’s top experts say the U.S. government should promote more civility and less bellicosity in the cosmos.

Shifting the management of military space programs from the Air Force to a separate space corps is an idea that has long been talked about but never acted upon until this year, when the House Armed Services Committee inserted language in the House version of the 2018 defense policy bill.

The Senate did not include the provision in its version of the bill so the outcome of the space corps is still uncertain. Air Force leaders oppose it, claiming that such a drastic reorganization would be disruptive and counterproductive. Some space industry insiders worry that it will send the wrong message at a time when a war in space seems more likely than it has in decades.

Read more at: Space News

Florida Scientists Urge Senate to Oppose Donald Trump’s NASA Pick

Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson have already lobbed objections to Jim Bridenstine, President Donald Trump‘s pick to head NASA. Now, more than 30 Florida scientists signed a letter to the state’s U.S. senators, urging them to outright reject Bridenstine when he comes up for confirmation.

Among the criticisms that scientists around the nation have voiced about Bridenstine is that he has said that he doesn’t believe humans are causing climate change. “We find it troubling that Congressman Bridenstine has repeated misinformation in his quest to deny climate change, notably in 2013 when he suggested that global temperatures were not rising,” the scientists write to Rubio and Nelson. “Climate and weather are intertwined and while we know that Congressman Bridenstine has publicly expressed desire for better weather prediction capabilities, we cannot predict weather events if we ignore emerging trends.”

Read more at: Florida Politics

Military Space Needs Independent Voice, Says HASC Chairman Thornberry

The House legislation that spins off portions of the U.S. Air Force into a dedicated space corps may not survive upcoming negotiations with the Senate, which has not endorsed the move. Regardless, there is broad agreement in Congress that military space has not received proper attention from an aviation-focused service, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry  (R-Texas) told reporters Thursday.

“I think there is absolutely no disagreement among anybody, including the Air Force, that space is not going well,” said Thornberry. “The only question is what is the right answer?”

Read more at: Space News

Hyten: U.S. Strategic Command is Reorganizing for 21st Century Warfighting

The commander of U.S. Strategic Command is reorganizing to improve its warfighting structure. Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten told the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference recently that he recognized there was an organizational mismatch on Nov. 3, the day he took command.

He signed out the implementation order in June, and the new air component went live yesterday. “Even though we’re listed as a functional combatant command in the Unified Command Plan,” Hyten told the audience, “Stratcom is the ultimate warfighting command. It is our nation’s ultimate power. And it is a warfighting command from beginning to end.”

Read more at: Defense