Industry Concerned About Fast Pace Of Commercial Launch Regulatory Reform

Federal Aviation Administration officials said Oct. 31 that they’re on schedule to release a draft rule reforming commercial launch regulations, although some in industry are concerned that the work is going too quickly.

At a meeting of the FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) here, agency officials, as well as Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, said work on the regulatory reforms, mandated by Space Policy Directive 2 in May, was on schedule.

“This proposal has the potential to be a real game changer and also make American launching sites, and well as American launchers, more attractive to the global marketplace,” Chao said in brief remarks at the meeting.

Read more at: Spacenews

Competition For Rocket Lab As Virgin Tests ‘Airborne Launch Pad’

Southern California-based Virgin Orbit has reached a milestone in developing its airborne orbital launch system.

The company says this week it mated a LauncherOne rocket to a special Boeing 747 at Long Beach Airport and will soon begin a series of flights that will culminate with a drop test in which the booster will be released from beneath the jet’s left wing.

The system is intended to carry small satellites into orbit.

Virgin Orbit is a sister company of Virgin Galactic, which is developing an air-launched rocket plane for carrying tourists on suborbital flights into space.

Read more at: NZ Herald

Stratolaunch’s Rocket Carrier, the Biggest Airplane Ever Built, Aces Fastest Runway Test Yet

The biggest airplane ever built, which will tote a variety of satellite-launching rockets into the sky, just got a step closer to flight.

Stratolaunch Systems, which was established in 2011 by the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, got the giant plane up to 90 mph (145 km/h) during “medium-speed taxi testing” at California’s Mojave Air and Space Port earlier this month.

“Paul Allen’s vision for #Stratolaunch continues to take form,” company representatives said last week via Twitter, in a post that also shared video of the taxi test.

Stratolaunch’s dual-fuselage plane features a wingspan of 385 feet (117 meters) — greater than the length of a football field, including the two end zones. The vehicle is designed to haul satellite-carrying rockets up to an altitude of about 35,000 feet (10,700 m), at which point the launchers will drop away and power their payloads up to orbit.

Read more at: Space.com

Requiem for a Revolutionary Space Probe

When I was growing up, in the 1960s, astronomers and planetary scientists generally agreed that the Milky Way and the broader cosmos were probably teeming with planets. There was no evidence for this belief except for logic: our galaxy alone contains more stars than you could count in a lifetime, and the visible universe has billions upon billions of galaxies. It would be absurd to think that our own, otherwise unremarkable sun was the only place where planets had congealed into existence.

In the 1990s, we learned that this assumption was valid: astronomers discovered the first verified exoplanets—first (weirdly), orbiting the burned-out husk of a star that had long since exploded, and then around a reasonably sun-like star, 51 Pegasi. Dozens of similar discoveries followed, but it still wasn’t clear whether planets were rare and exotic, or as common as moths flitting around in the glow of streetlights.

Read more at: Scientific American

Airbus Delivers First European Service Module For NASA’s Orion Spacecraft

Airbus will deliver the first European Service Module (ESM) for NASA’s Orion spacecraft from its aerospace site in Bremen, Germany on 5 November 2018. An Antonov cargo aircraft will fly the ESM to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA. This is the result of four years of development and construction, and represents the achievement of a key milestone in the project. ESA selected Airbus as the prime contractor for the development and manufacturing of the first ESM in November 2014.

The ESM is a key element of Orion, the next-generation spacecraft that will transport astronauts beyond low Earth orbit for the first time since the end of the Apollo programme in the 1970s. The module provides propulsion, power and thermal control and will supply astronauts with water and oxygen on future missions. The ESM is installed underneath the crew module.

Read more at: Airbus

Sensor Damage Led To Soyuz Rocket Failure, Russian Investigator Says

Russian investigators probing the failed launch of a Soyuz rocket transporting a crew to the International Space Station last month said damage to a sensor during the rocket’s assembly led to the malfunction that forced an emergency landing.

Oleg Skorobogatov, the head of the commission probing the failure, announced the findings at a news conference Thursday in the Moscow region. He said the “abnormal separation” of the booster could be attributed to damage to the sensor. This caused the failure of a lid opening to an oxidizer tank’s nozzle cover.”The launch ended … due to the abnormal separation of one of the side blocks (block D) that hit the central block (block A ) in the fuel tank, which led to its depressurization and, consequently, to the loss of stabilization of the space rocket,” Skorobogatov told reporters.

Read more at: CNN

Commercial Crew Completes Training And Prepares Flight Hardware

Teams from NASA, SpaceX, and the Department of Defense recently completed medical emergency training at Cape Canaveral. Launch pads are receiving final upgrades, and flight hardware is beginning to arrive, as both Commercial Crew providers progress towards returning crew launch capability to American soil.

On October 25, an emergency simulation was conducted at the Kennedy Space Center to prepare teams for the unlikely event of an emergency during launch operations.

Teams from NASA, SpaceX, and the Department of Defense’s Human Space Flight Support Office conducted a medical triage and evacuation (medevac) exercise at Launch Complex 39A the launch site for SpaceX’s Commercial Crew missions.

Read more at: NASA Spaceflight

Strong Ability To Detect And Perceive Motion May Prevent Pilot Disorientation

A new study led by researchers at Massachusetts Eye and Ear found that good performance on a piloting task was associated with lower vestibular thresholds, which represent stronger ability to sense and perceive information about motion, balance and spatial orientation.

Published online in the Journal of Neurophysiology, the findings suggest that astronauts or pilots with higher vestibular thresholds are more likely to become disoriented during flight, especially in situations when gravity is less than that on Earth – such as on the Moon.

“Even with all of the improvements in aviation safety, disorientation is still a cause of fatal accidents,” said senior author Faisal Karmali, PhD, Co-Director of the Jenks Vestibular Physiology Laboratory at Massachusetts Eye and Ear and an Instructor in Otolaryngology at Harvard Medical School.

Read more at: Space daily

Hanging Out in Space Deforms Brain Tissue, New Cosmonaut Study Suggests

Researchers are increasingly finding that spending extended periods in space has complicated effects on the human body. Exposure to space radiation is a big concern for long-term astronauts. Life in zero-G could lead to cardiovascular issues and bone loss. Living in enclosed spaces or habitats could also lead to weakened immune systems and the spread of disease. Space can even affect which genes are expressed. Now, reports Maya Wei-Haas at National Geographic, we can add another symptom to the list: deformed brain tissue.

In a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, an international team of researchers examined MRI images of the brains of 10 Russian cosmonauts before and after they spent extended periods on the International Space Station and then again seven months later for seven of the men. On average, the cosmonauts—all men in their mid-forties—each spent 189 days in the station, experiencing microgravity.

Read more at: Smithsonian

Orbital Debris Removal Company Astroscale Raises $50 Million

Astroscale, a company developing technologies to capture and deorbit space debris, announced Oct. 31 it raised a $50 millionSeries D round that brings its total to date to $102 million.

Astroscale, headquartered in Singapore but with its main research and development offices in Tokyo, said that its new round was led by Innovation Network Corporation of Japan (INCJ) with participation from several other Japanese investors, including SBI Investment Company Ltd. and Mitsubishi Estate Company Ltd. INCJ, in a separate statement, said it was contributing up to $35 million in new funding, with $25.5 million of that provided now.

Read more at: Space.com

This Hunk of Metal Fell From Space and Landed in California

A walnut farmer in central California found a strange metal object in his orchard on Oct. 13.

He called the local sheriff’s office, according to a KGET report. The sheriffs reached out to Vandenberg Air Force Base, and experts there reportedly said the burnt husk was likely a fuel tank from an Iridium communications satellite. Specifically, it came from Iridium 70, which according to the satellite tracking site n2yo.com fell out of its orbit three days earlier, on Oct. 10.

Iridium 70 was part of a constellation of communications satellites first launched in the late 1990s. This one, according to Astronautix.com, rode a Delta 7920-10C rocket into space on May 17, 1998 along with Iridiums 72, 73, 74 and 75. (Coincidentally, the launch site was Vandenberg Air Force Base.) Of those satellites, only Iridium 73 is still in orbit.

Read more at: Space.com

NASA Needs Help Shipping Cargo to Its Future Lunar Space Station

NASA is asking for help making shipments to a future lunar space station 240,000 miles (almost 400,000 kilometers) away. The agency opened a solicitation this week asking companies to consider what they’d need to deliver cargo; United States firms have until Nov. 2 to provide their input.

The agency is designing its Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway, a space station that is expected to orbit the moon and host astronauts beginning sometime in the mid-2020s. But the design work is starting now, to make sure the agency is ready and commercial partners are available.

Read more at: Space.com

One Of The Chinese Launch Startups You Haven’t Heard Of Just Tested A Rocket Engine

A low-key Chinese space startup named S-Motor tested a solid rocket engine on Thursday, giving a sense of the level of activity in China’s nascent commercial launch sector.

A press release from the company yesterday (Chinese) announced a fully successful firing of a test dual-pulse solid booster, following on from reaction control system tests in July.

S-Motor is apparently in the process of developing an unnamed three-stage solid-propellant launch vehicle capable of delivering 160 kg of payload to a Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO) at an unspecified altitude, according to its web pages, with no tentative time frame for launch offered as yet.

Read more at: Gbtimes

Is SpaceX’s Satellite Internet Project In Trouble?

Reuters reported Wednesday that SpaceX CEO Elon Musk in June fired seven managers of the SpaceX team in its Redmond, Washington, office, which is focused on building out the company’s satellite internet project, dubbed Starlink. Those managers have since been replaced by other SpaceX employees, reportedly with an aim to stay on track to launch its first set of satellites by the middle of 2019 and begin operations in 2020.

A SpaceX spokesperson told Forbes that over the past summer, there was a reorganization over the course of two weeks, and that two employees left on their own accord. SpaceX spokesperson Eva Behrend further told Forbes in an email, “Given the success of our recent Starlink demonstration satellites, we have incorporated lessons learned and re-organized to allow for the next design iteration to be flown in short order,” she said.

Read more at: Forbes

Field Widens To Chair House Science Panel

Improving the nation’s ability to predict weather with space technology will be a top priority for Rep. Frank Lucas if he wins the gavel of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee in the next Congress.

Lucas, who has served on the committee for 16 years and is currently the vice chairman, said data collected in space must play a greater role in accurate weather prediction, which is critical to his constituents in Oklahoma who work in the weather and energy industries.

“One of the areas we need to focus our energy is in our ability to gather more data about short-term and long-term weather,” he told POLITICO. “Weather affects how we raise our crops…and for folks in the energy industry…the demand for their products are driven by weather patterns.”

Read more at: Politico

NASA Is Working On A Nuclear Fission System That Could Help Humans Reach Mars

On April 12, 1961, the cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to enter space. Upon seeing our planet from his spacecraft he is reported to have said, “I see Earth! It is so beautiful.”

More than 57 years on from that momentous flight, space travel continues to generate feelings of excitement, wonder and awe.

Today, the idea of sending humans to Mars is not such a far-fetched proposition. Elon Musk’s SpaceX, for example, says it has an “aspirational goal” to send a cargo mission to the Red Planet in 2022. A second mission, carrying both cargo and crew, is being targeted for 2024.

Read more at: CNBC

China Successfully Conducts Carrier Rocket’s Vertical Landing Flight Test

The Beijing Aerospace Institute of Automatic Control at the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation successfully carried out a flight verification test of a carrier rocket’s vertical landing system with guidance and control technology on Monday, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

The Space Intelligence Technology Innovation Center and a national key laboratory of aerospace intelligent control technology were responsible for the flight test and research.

The institute started the research and established a team for the project this year. The team designed and built a reusable small-sized test platform for vertical takeoff and landing to help carry out the tests.

Read more at: ECNS

‘Screw It, Just Do It’: Richard Branson Addresses Airmen, Pushes Space Cargo Operations

Virgin Orbit founder Richard Branson made a surprise appearance Saturday at the Airlift Tanker Association’s annual symposium outside Dallas, Texas, addressing members of the air mobility community and backing the idea of future cargo operations in space.

“We’ve certainly got a lot to learn with you,” Branson told the audience during a Q&A session with Gen. Maryanne Miller, the commander of Air Mobility Command.

Branson, the world-renowned entrepreneur and private space pioneer, was in attendance to discuss ways to increase innovation within the air mobility force.

Read more at: Defense news

Space Force Discussions Increasingly Blur The Line Between Military And Civilian Space

Vice President Mike Pence recently was asked by Washington Post reporter Robert Costa: “What will the Space Force do?”

In his response, Pence did not run down a list of duties that might be assigned to the new military branch. But he did comment extensively on why he and the president feel strongly that a Space Force should be established.

It all started on the campaign trail in 2016, Pence recalled. “The president and I had a conversation about his interests in really reviving American leadership in space, and particularly when it came to human space exploration. … And we both shared a concern that while America continues to be dominant in space, in terms of technology, in terms of our accomplishments, that we were losing momentum in recent years; that America had essentially been consigned to low-Earth orbit, and we actually off-lined our own platforms when we grounded the shuttle program,” said Pence. “The president saw all of that as intolerable.”

Read more at: Spacenews

After Consecutive Failures, Watch US Navy Intercept Test Missile With SM-3 Weapon

The Pentagon intercepted a test ballistic missile with the Standard Missile-3 Block IIA system, the second time that weapon has been successfully tested — a relief for the department following two consecutive test failures.

The SM-3 Block IIA is a co-development between the U.S. and Japan, and is expected to be equipped on both the U.S. Aegis Ashore stations in Romania and Poland and the future Aegis Ashore stations in Japan — making it a keystone to America’s short- and intermediate-range missile defense strategies.

The system can be launched from sea or land via the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system. The IIA variant comes with enlarged rocket motors and a bigger kinetic warhead, according to industry lead Raytheon.

Read more at: Defense news

US Air Force Explores Space-Based Cargo Operations, Confirms Talks With Spacex

The U.S. Air Force is exploring the logistics of space-based cargo operations under the purview of Air Mobility Command, even as the impact of a new Space Force on the mobility community remains to be seen.

“I don’t know how it will affect mobility, but most of you know space affects mobility every day,” Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Thursday at the 2018 Airlift/Tanker Symposium outside Dallas, Texas.

“Whatever the Space Force is or does, it has to protect our national interest in space,” he said, adding that GPS is critical to the air mobility community.

Read more at: Defense news

Next Angkasawan Should Go With China, Malaysia’s First Spaceman Tells Putrajaya

Datuk Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor Sheikh Mustapha, the first Malaysian to conquer space, hopes the government can send out the next angkasawan to the final frontier by 2030 with the help of China.

He added that it would be possible if Malaysia were to cooperate with China’s astronauts to develop a programme for that, Malay daily Sinar Harian reported on its website today.

“I suggest we go with China because China is now the next frontier in space. I feel we can work with China to send another astronaut,” he was quoted saying during a SinarLive session at Karangkraf Media Group in Shah Alam, Selangor yesterday.

Read more at: Malay mail

How Hibernators Could Help Humans Treat Illness, Conserve Energy and Get to Mars

Researchers will gather today to discuss the potential for hibernation and the related process, torpor, to aid human health in spaceflight at the American Physiological Society’s (APS) Comparative Physiology: Complexity and Integration conference in New Orleans.

To survive times when food is scarce and temperatures are low, some animals enter hibernation—a physiological process that reduces their normal metabolism to low levels for days or weeks at a time. These periods of low metabolism, known as torpor, allow the animal’s body temperature to fall to just above the surrounding air temperature, thus conserving energy. Humans do not naturally undergo torpor, but scientists are interested in the idea of producing states of “synthetic” torpor in certain situations, including spaceflight, explained Hannah Carey, PhD, from the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine and co-chair of the symposium “Harnessing naturally evolved torpor to benefit human spaceflight.” “Synthetic torpor could protect astronauts from space-related health hazards and simultaneously reduce demands on spacecraft mass, volume and power capacities,” said Matthew Regan, PhD, also from the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine and symposium co-chair.

Read more at: APS

Elon Musk: Is The Silicon Valley Billionaire On The Way Up Or Down?

Puffing on a joint is all anyone really remembers about Elon Musk’s chat with US comedian Joe Rogan on his popular live-streamed podcast last month.

But this line from Silicon Valley’s $US20 billion man was arguably the more compelling revelation: “I don’t think you’d necessarily want to be me … I don’t think people would like it that much.”

That extraordinary admission from one of the most feted innovators of our time was given more context when Rogan asked about Mr Musk’s feverish creative drive. “It’s very hard to turn it off,” Mr Musk said. “It might sound great if it’s turned on, but what if it doesn’t turn off?

“It’s like a never-ending explosion.”

Read more at: ABC

“Safe Passage to Mars” Design Challenge

“Safe Passage to Mars” is a design challenge for undergraduate students. Enabling safe space exploration of Moon, Mars and beyond requires the application of the concepts of Engineering Psychology to design and build hardware (tools, devices, or equipment) which can mitigate critical human performance issues associated with long-duration spaceflight.

Read more at: ISSF

10th IAASS Conference

15 – 17 May 2019 – Los Angeles, USA

The tenth IAASS Conference “Making Safety Happen” is an invitation to reflect and exchange information on a number of topics in space safety and sustainability of national and international interest. The conference is also a forum to promote mutual understanding, trust, and the widest possible international cooperation in such matters. The once exclusive “club” of nations with autonomous space access capabilities is becoming crowded with fresh, and ambitious new entrants. New commercial spaceports and near-spaceports are in operations and others are being built.

Read more at: IAASS Conference