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It Sounds Like ESA’s Mars Lander Crashed Into the Surface

The ESA ExoMars science team was unable to reestablish contact with the Schiaparelli Mars lander this morning, and it seems likely that the spacecraft is not functional. Preliminary analysis of new data suggests the landing thrusters fired, but cut out sooner than planned, and that the ejection of the back heat shield and parachute occurred earlier than expected.

However, telemetry data from the Schiaparelli lander was collected by the Trace Gas Orbiter, the primary spacecraft of the first ExoMars mission, and relayed to Earth—which should give the science team some new information regarding the velocity and altitude of the lander at given times, helping them figure out what happened.

 “Schiaparelli’s primary role was to test European landing technologies,” said Jan Wörner, ESA’s Director General, in a press release. “Recording the data during the descent was part of that, and it is important we can learn what happened, in order to prepare for the future.”

Read more at: Popular Mechanics

What Went Wrong with Europe’s Mars lander? Signs Point to Parachute

The European Space Agency’s Schiaparelli lander apparently crashed after its parachute was ejected too early and its thrusters switched off too soon, according to data relayed back from its orbiting mothership.

“We have data coming back that allow us to fully understand the steps that did occur, and why the soft landing did not occur,” David Parker, ESA’s director of human spaceflight and robotic exploration, said today in a news release.

However, ESA emphasized that the analysis was still continuing, and the conclusions were only preliminary. The good news is that the saucer-shaped lander’s mothership, the Trace Gas Orbiter, entered its intended orbit around Mars on Wednesday and is in good health.

Read more at: Geekwire

Long History of Failure for Missions to Mars

Landing a robot spacecraft on Mars is notoriously difficult and there is a long history of failed missions. To date, only the American space agency Nasa has succeeded in getting a handful of functioning probes and rovers onto the Martian surface.

Mars is tricky because of its thin, yet dynamic, atmosphere. It makes for a fast and bumpy ride that can have an unexpected outcome. Open University space scientist Dr Manish Patel, a lead investigator with the ExoMars mission, explained: “If you have a thick atmosphere, it naturally slows you down, and if there’s no atmosphere, it’s easy.

“But Mars has a very thin atmosphere that slows you down a bit, but can still cause a lot of problems. It varies a lot; you get waves and ripples which are unpredictable.” Dust thrown up from the Martian surface is another hazard.

Read more at: BT

How Even a Failed Mars Landing Humanizes Us All

Nothing can break your heart like a Mars ship that goes bad. You spend hundreds of millions of dollars, fly tens of millions of miles, get your lander to within a few thousand feet of the surface of the planet and then…nothing. A crash or a blackout or some kind of malfunction and everything is lost.

That was the sudden sorrow experienced by the thousands of engineers, designers and builders of the joint European-Russian ExoMars probe today, when the orbital portion of the two-part spacecraft successfully arrived at Mars and began its two-year mission to sample the planet’s atmosphere, but controllers lost contact with the Schiaparelli lander—named after Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli—on the way down.

Read more at: TIME

NASA Spacecraft Loses Computer Before Close Encounter with Jupiter

NASA’s Juno spacecraft lost its main computer and science instruments shortly before it was due to make an orbital pass near Jupiter on Wednesday, scuttling highly anticipated close-up observations of the largest planet in the solar system.

The U.S. space agency said the glitch followed an unrelated problem last week that prompted it to skip firing Juno’s braking engine, to steer the probe into a tighter regular orbit around Jupiter. Juno’s computer restarted after Wednesday’s shutdown and the spacecraft was “healthy,” NASA said in a statement.

Juno reached Jupiter in July for a 20-month study to learn how and where the giant, gas planet formed, setting the stage for the evolution and development of Earth and the rest of the planets in the solar system.

During Wednesday’s flyby, scientists had planned to begin using Juno’s instruments to peer beneath Jupiter’s thick clouds and map its gargantuan magnetic fields. But the loss of the ship’s main computer, 13 hours before the close encounter, put the observation plans on hold until at least Dec. 11,  when the spacecraft makes its next close pass by Jupiter, NASA said.

Read more at: Reuters

FAA and Pentagon Foresee Gradual Transition of Space Traffic Management Activities

Should the federal government decide to shift responsibility for at least some space traffic management activities from the Defense Department to the Federal Aviation Administration, officials with both agencies expect a gradual transition, starting with a pilot program.

In presentations Oct. 12 at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight (ISPCS) in Las Cruces, New Mexico, the head of the FAA’s commercial space transportation office and a U.S. Strategic Command general both endorsed a “crawl, walk, run” approach to handing over responsibility for providing safety-related space situational awareness data, like warnings of potential collisions between satellites and other objects in orbit, to non-military satellite operators.

A report prepared by the Department of Transportation and submitted to Congress in September concluded that the FAA could take on that responsibility, provided it was given formal authority to do so and resources to carry out that work. The report also said the FAA would need the same immunity from lawsuits that the Defense Department currently has for providing warnings of potential collisions.

Read more at: Spacenews

Earth Enjoying Orionid Meteor Shower, But You Might have a Hard Time Seeing It

Remember that amazing supermoon over the weekend? Well that Hunter’s Moon from Sunday isn’t far enough in memory to make this month’s Orionid meteor shower something easily seen.

The moon is in its waning gibbous phase, meaning it’s more than half lit up, and that means your chances of catching the fireballs of the Orionid meteor shower are pretty weak, although if you go out before dawn Saturday morning or in the next few days when the moon has set, you might be able to see some.

The Orionids last from Oct. 2 to Nov. 7 with the peak on Oct. 21 into Oct. 22. It’s the Earth passing through the debris field of Halley’s comet, which last passed by our place in space in 1985 and won’t return until 2061. Look to the east after midnight.

Read more at: Orlando Sentinel

Chinese Manned Space Mission Docks with Space Station

China`s Shenzhou 11 manned spacecraft has successfully docked with China`s Tiangong 2 space lab, and two astronauts have entered the lab, China`s official news agency Xinhua said Wednesday. China is the third country after the United States and Russia to complete space rendezvous and docking procedures, Xinhua said.

According to the mission schedule, the astronauts will remain in the space station for 30 days and spend a total of 33 days in space, making the mission the longest in space so far for China.

In a manned space mission in 2013, three Chinese astronauts spent 15 days in orbit and docked with a space laboratory, the Tiangong 1. Advancing China`s space programme is a priority for Beijing, with President Xi Jinping calling for the country to establish itself as a space power.

Read more at: Zee News

Soyuz Rocket Blasts Off for International Space Station

A Soyuz rocket carrying two Russians and an American has blasted off for the International Space Station.

The crew of Roscosmos Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko and NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough lifted off as scheduled from the Russian-operated Baikonur launch facility in the steppes of Kazakhstan at 2:05 p.m. local time (0805 GMT) Wednesday. Their Soyuz MS-02 space capsule is set to dock at the space outpost two days later.

The launch was originally set for Sept. 23, but it was postponed because of a technical issue with the Soyuz spacecraft that was eventually fixed.

Read more at: Fox News

What Would a Mars Colony Actually Look Like?

Traveling to Mars has been on many a mind lately since Elon Musk explained SpaceX’s vision for getting there. But Musk has always cautioned that he would provide the ride—not the means to set up a colony. What would living on the Red Planet actually look like?

Any shelter on Mars would probably feature hydroponically grown plants, be powered by giant solar arrays, and be under a thick roof of rock or ice. Anyone hoping to watch the Martian sky all day might be in for a disappointment, as a transparent roof allows more deadly radiation to get through.

Read more at: Popular Mechanics

Re-Engined Antares Rocket Aces Return to Flight Mission, Lifts Cygnus Cargo Craft to Orbit

Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket made a triumphant return on Monday, rumbling into the night skies over Wallops Island to lift the Cygnus OA-5 cargo spacecraft into orbit to deliver supplies to the International Space Station.

Two years after its previous mission ended in a dramatic failure, Antares lit its new engines at 23:45 UTC and rose from its re-built launch pad on a nine-minute climb to orbit carrying the 6,200-Kilogram Cygnus resupply vessel into Low Earth Orbit.

Orbital ATK confirmed the orbital delivery of Cygnus was by the book and the craft entered an extended rendezvous with ISS to give way to a crewed Soyuz capsule inbound to the orbiting complex on Friday and will be followed by Cygnus on Sunday to mark the delivery of 2,350 Kilograms of hardware, supplies and science experiments.

Read more at: Spaceflight 101

Aeroskirt Added to Atlas V Configuration for CST-100 Starliner

United Launch Alliance (ULA) and Boeing unveiled an add-on aeroskirt to the Atlas V rocket that will launch Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner capsule for NASA. It was developed after engineers encountered difficulties with aerodynamic stability and loads resulting from the difference in width between the capsule and the rocket.

The Starliner capsule is wider than the Atlas V launch vehicle on which it would sit atop. During the ascent phase, this would cause an aerodynamic dead zone just behind the spacecraft, generating drag and dangerous differences in pressure.

The aeroskirt would attach aft of the spacecraft, extending the Starliner Service Module’s cylindrical surface to smooth out the air flow over the integrated capsule/rocket and bring load margins back to acceptable flight levels.

“Through incredible coordination and continued innovative thinking, the collective team of NASA, Boeing and United Launch Alliance completed three wind tunnel tests in six months to investigate the aerodynamic stability of various configurations and to anchor our analytical predictions,” Gary Wentz, ULA vice president of Human and Commercial Services, said in a news release. “Based on that information, we updated the configuration for the Atlas V Starliner integrated vehicle stack.”

Read more at: Spaceflight Insider

Orion Heat Shield Leaves NASA Langley for Florida

The heat shield from Orion’s first flight in space is embarking on another journey along the East Coast, beginning at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia and making its way to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida where it will be assessed for future needs.

Before its departure from Langley, the heat shield was used in a series of drop tests to better understand what the spacecraft and astronauts may experience when landing in the Pacific Ocean after deep-space missions. A high-fidelity capsule, coupled with the heat shield, was hoisted into the air and vertically dropped into Langley’s 20-foot-deep Hydro Impact Basin. Crash test dummies secured inside the spacecraft were instrumented to provide data that will help engineers design future capsules. Each of the nine drop tests in the series simulated a different scenario for Orion’s parachute-assisted landings, wind conditions, velocities and wave heights the spacecraft may experience when landing in the ocean.

Read more at: Colorado Spacenews

SpaceX’s Musk Says Sabotage Unlikely Cause of Sept. 1 Explosion, But Still a Worry

Statements attributed to SpaceX founder Elon Musk suggest he remains concerned that Falcon 9 rocket operations are vulnerable to attack by “a long list” of SpaceX adversaries even if it’s unlikely that such an event was behind the Sept. 1 explosion during preparations of a static fire test.

In comments leaked just hours after a Musk presentation Oct. 13 to the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), Musk also said “a leading theory” for the Sept. 1 failure is the formation of solid oxygen on the carbon composite overwrapped pressure vessel (COPV) — the helium reservoir that is immersed in the liquid oxygen tank on the Falcon 9’s second stage.

Read more at: SpaceNews

Scientists Simulate a Space Mission in Mars-analogue Utah Desert

A barren, rocky desert landscape and not a single soul around – to come as close as possible to the inhospitable conditions on the Red Planet, scientists of the Robotics Innovation Center of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) will test the cooperation of various robot systems in the semi-desert of the American state of Utah from 24 October to 18 November 2016. The robots SherpaTT and Coyote III of the transfer project TransTerrA went on a journey already at the beginning of September.

The recognition that Utah’s semi-desert is particularly well-suited as a test area for Mars missions is not new: since 2011, the Mars Society operates the Mars Desert Research Station in the south of the state near the small town Hanksville; a research station with space habitat, regularly used to simulate manned Mars stays.

Read more at: Mars Daily

DARPA Hands Over High-Tech Space Telescope to Air Force

The Air Force on Tuesday took control of a super-powerful space telescope developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, but operational use won’t begin until around 2020, after the system is moved to Australia, a DARPA official said.

The Space Surveillance Telescope, or SST, will be operated by Air Force Space Command in cooperation with the Royal Australian Air Force to track debris floating around space about 36,000 kilometers from Earth, said Lindsay Millard, DARPA’s program manager.

“SST has about an order of magnitude better performance than the existing space surveillance network,” the Ground-based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance (GEODSS), she told reporters in an Oct. 18 conference call.

Read more at: Defensenews

Inmarsat Aviation and SITAONAIR to Jointly Invest in the Future of Aviation Cockpit Communications

Inmarsat (ISAT.L), the world’s leading provider of global mobile satellite communications, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to appoint SITAONAIR as a distribution partner for its next generation SwiftBroadband-Safety aviation service.

A pre-agreement between the two companies has outlined the intention for SITAONAIR to supply commercial airlines and business aviation operators with SwiftBroadband-Safety, an advanced new service from Inmarsat that will transform cockpit and aircraft operations.

SwiftBroadband-Safety represents a paradigm shift in the advancement of aviation safety services by utilising secure IP-based broadband connectivity that far exceeds the capabilities of other alternatives in the market. The ‘always on and always secure’ solution enables a range of breakthrough aviation applications, including flight data streaming (‘Black Box in the Cloud’) and real-time Electronic Flight Bag applications, such as networked graphical weather.

Read more at: Spaceref

Executive Order – Coordinating Efforts to Prepare the Nation for Space Weather Events

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and to prepare the Nation for space weather events, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Policy. Space weather events, in the form of solar flares, solar energetic particles, and geomagnetic disturbances, occur regularly, some with measurable effects on critical infrastructure systems and technologies, such as the Global Positioning System (GPS), satellite operations and communication, aviation, and the electrical power grid. Extreme space weather events — those that could significantly degrade critical infrastructure — could disable large portions of the electrical power grid, resulting in cascading failures that would affect key services such as water supply, healthcare, and transportation. Space weather has the potential to simultaneously affect and disrupt health and safety across entire continents. Successfully preparing for space weather events is an all-of-nation endeavor that requires partnerships across governments, emergency managers, academia, the media, the insurance industry, non-profits, and the private sector.

Read more at: WhiteHouse

‘Exquisite’ Fireball Brightens Ottawa’s Early Morning Sky

A bright fireball astronomers say was very likely a meteor streaked across the early morning sky over Ottawa Monday, captivating those awake early enough to witness it.

Mary Dallimore was driving north along the Airport Parkway just before 6 a.m. after dropping her husband off at the airport when she saw it. “There were no cars in front of me, no cars coming at me, no cars behind me and I had a clear view of the sky. It wasn’t there and then it was there. It happened so fast. I saw this bright, bright, bright light go in an arc over the city, and then it just disappeared as fast as it came,” Dallimore said by phone later Monday morning. “I’ve never seen anything like it. It was brilliant and I hope to see something like that again.”

Researchers from Western University’s Southern Ontario Meteor Network captured the image of the fireball streaking past one of its telescope cameras at 5:49 a.m. EST.

Read more at: CBC

SpaceX to Reuse Dragon Capsules on Cargo Missions

SpaceX plans to reuse a Dragon cargo spacecraft for the first time next year, allowing the company to focus on production of the next generation of that spacecraft for crew and cargo missions.

In a presentation at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight (ISPCS) here Oct. 13, Benjamin Reed, director of commercial crew mission management at SpaceX, said the company was planning to fly a used Dragon spacecraft on its eleventh Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) cargo mission to the station in early 2017. “We will be reflying our first Dragon capsule on CRS-11,” he said, using the company’s designation for that cargo mission, known as SpX-11 by NASA.

While SpaceX designed Dragon to be reusable, the company’s CRS contract with NASA required the use of a new Dragon spacecraft for each cargo mission. Reed said SpaceX has been working with NASA to demonstrate that the spacecraft can be safely reused for additional cargo flights.

Read more at: Space.com

The Suborbital Space Non-race

The marketplace of companies developing commercial human spaceflight vehicles has shrunk significantly in recent years. At the peak of the original Ansari X PRIZE competition more than a decade ago, some two dozen teams claimed to be developing suborbital vehicles. Most faded away after Scaled Composites’ SpaceShipOne claimed the prize in 2004, but some of them, and others not part of the competition, continued on. However, Rocketplane Kistler filed for bankruptcy in 2011 and Armadillo Aerospace founder John Carmack said in 2013 his company was in “stasis.” Earlier this year, XCOR Aerospace announced it was putting development of its Lynx suborbital spaceplane on indefinite hold—laying off a significant fraction of its workforce in the process—to focus on engine development work.

That leaves Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic as the last two companies standing with a chance to field suborbital human vehicles, for tourism or research applications, in the next few years. Both companies are flying vehicles on test flights, and expect to be carrying people commercially within a couple of years. It’s tempting, then, to see the two companies as being in a race against each other to be the first to start flying people commercially. Yet neither company shows signs of being in a race with the other.

Read more at: Space Review

U.S. Private Sector Leads Space Exploration

In the 1960s, the United States put its national pride on the line by embarking on a mission to land on the moon. Now, half a century since the moon landing, the U.S. private sector has assumed a prominent role in the country’s research and development for space exploration. After the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration retired its space shuttle program (see below) in 2011, the private sector stepped in to perform many of NASA’s original duties. In addition, industries have begun to eye new business opportunities such as space hotels and space tourism.

The Wall Street Journal once wrote that Elon Musk, 45, chief executive officer of Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX, in the United States, would completely reshape the space industry upon entering it. Musk founded SpaceX in 2002 by investing the money he earned in his IT business. Since 2008, he also has occupied the top post at electric car manufacturer Tesla Motors Inc.

Read more at: japan-news

Materials Experiments on the International Space Station

When you need tools or parts for something you’re working on around the house, you head to the nearest hardware store.

Space travelers don’t have that luxury and may have to make their own tools and parts on long duration missions like the journey to Mars. Scientists and engineers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, are using data from International Space Station experiments to study liquids that may be used to help make valuable tools when exploring deep space.

For a decade, the Materials International Space Station Experiments (MISSE) were attached to the outside of the space station, where more than 4,000 materials were exposed to the harsh space environment. This included a special class of liquids, called ionic liquids, and a novel epoxy that scientists are studying to learn how these liquids tolerate the environment outside the orbiting laboratory. The members of this family of fluids have low melting points, and are not as flammable as many conventional chemicals. They also have extremely low vapor pressures, meaning they don’t easily evaporate and are easier to retain in the vacuum of space.

Read more at: Spaceref

N. Korea Fails Again with Powerful Musudan Missile Test

North Korea on Thursday conducted what was believed to be another failed test of a powerful medium-range missile capable of hitting US bases as far away as Guam, the South Korean military said.

It was the second failed launch in less than a week of the nuclear-armed North’s powerful Musudan missile, which some experts warn could become operational as early as next year. The last test on Saturday was denounced by the UN Security Council which is currently debating a fresh sanctions resolution against Pyongyang over its fifth nuclear test carried out last month.

Analysis by South Korean and US military monitors suggested Thursday’s missile had exploded shortly after take-off at around 6:30am Pyongyang time (2200 GMT Wednesday), the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.

Read more at: SpaceDaily

Space Program Advances in Heavens and on Earth

As two Chinese astronauts peered into the heavens from the Tiangong II space lab they docked with early Wednesday, Chinese rocket scientists on the ground said they are looking into ways to shape the future of the nation’s space market. When the astronauts left their “divine vessel”, Shen-zhou XI, and entered the newest high-tech “heavenly palace” floating above Earth early on Wednesday, it was one for the history books.

The docking with the Tiangong II space lab wasn’t the first such maneuver in the Chinese space program. But it was highly significant, with more experiments planned, a space stay twice as long as earlier missions and a space lab that’s a significant step toward the nation’s goal of having a permanent space station orbiting in just a few years.

Once the two vehicles docked, mission commander Jing Haipeng, 49, and Chen Dong, 37, extended greetings to all of the Chinese people and checked the status of the Shenzhou XI-Tiangong II combination to ensure equal pressurization. They will remain within the space lab for 30 days, making the longest space stay by Chinese astronauts. They will verify the life-support capability of the spacecraft-space lab combination and conduct scientific research and engineering experiments.

Read more at: Xinhuanet

Will NASA Ever Work With China?

It’s been a banner year for China’s spacefaring ambitions. The country launched satellites to test quantum communications and search for dark matter, built the world’s largest radio telescope, and launched a new space station into orbit (though its old one is about to come crashing back to Earth). It seems that the country is well on its way to becoming the “space giant” its president envisioned in a speech earlier this year.

Getting to this point has been a long time coming. After half a century of watching Russia and the US go from deadly space rivals to reluctant space partners, China saw its emergence as a global superpower written in the stars. Yet the last few decades have seen the Chinese cut out of major multinational orbital projects like the International Space Station.

Read more at: Popular Mechanics

Medvedev: Russia Must do Everything to Keep its Status of Space Power

Russia values its status of a space power and must do everything possible to keep it, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Wednesday.

The Russian premier made this statement at a meeting on preparations for building facilities of the 2nd stage of the Vostochny spaceport in the Far East. “This [the Vostochny spaceport construction] is, indeed, large-scale and complex work rather than simply the construction site of the most complex engineering hi-tech facility. For understandable reasons, this is a guarantee that Russia will keep the status of a leading space power in the coming years,” the premier said.

“We appreciate this status and would like to do everything to ensure that our country keeps this status,” Medvedev said.

Currently, work is nearing completion to put the facilities of the launch compound into operation at the Vostochny spaceport. These efforts allowed making the first launch of the Soyuz-2.1a carrier rocket with three satellites as a payload in April this year.

Read more at: TASS

Loverro: Defense is the Best Deterrent Against a War in Space

The U.S. must rely on defense rather than offense in deterring a space war, one of the Pentagon’s top space officials said Friday. Assuring space systems remain operational despite an attack will do more to deter adversaries than the direct threat of force, said Douglas Loverro, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy.

“We think that going down the approach of assurance and denying [an adversary] the benefit from his attack and making it politically difficult for him to attack…that’s a better way to deter attacks in space than depend all upon retaliatory strikes,” Loverro told a breakfast hosted by the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.

Part of the difficulty in relying on retaliatory attacks is determining when it’s an appropriate response to aggression in space.

Read more at: SpaceNews

Trump Would Reinstate White House Space Council

In an op-ed published in Space News on October 19, two advisers to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign laid out the broad strokes of what a Trump space policy would look like.  Trump himself reportedly had planned to visit NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida next week as the campaign enters its final phase.  Florida is one of the battleground states that each candidate especially wants to win.  Florida Today reported on October 22, however, that those plans have changed.

The op-ed was penned by former Congressman Bob Walker and University of California-Irvine professor Peter Navarro.   Walker was a Pennsylvania Congressman for 20 years and is now Executive Chairman of one of the top lobbying firms in Washington, Wexler|Walker.  Earlier he was advising Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s presidential campaign on space issues, writing an essay in response to questions posed by Aerospace America.

Read more at: Spacepolicy

Review: Spaceships

It’s long been clear there’s been a two-way, even synergistic, relationship between spaceflight and science fiction. Countless scientists and engineers have described being inspired by one form of science fiction or another, from the classic works of Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke to franchises like Star Trek and Star Wars. Meanwhile, the achievements of actual spaceflight, or counterfactual explorations of what could have been, have provided fodder for science fiction tales over the last several decades.

That combination of real and imaginary space travel is the focus of Spaceships by Ron Miller. The book offers a history of sorts of space efforts, intermingled with examinations of accounts of fictional spaceflight. While the book is lavishly illustrated, it falls short in both some of its discussions about real spaceflight, and could have done more to tie the two worlds together.

Read more at: Space Review

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