SpaceX Finally Knows What Caused its Falcon 9 Rocket to Explode

After SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket exploded while being fueled for a test fire in September, the company said it would be launching again by November. It appears the skeptics were right: It’s now November, and SpaceX rockets still aren’t flying—though the company is making progress. CEO Elon Musk says the company has identified the cause of the September explosion, and the Falcon 9 could be fixed and flying by mid-December.

Yesterday Musk explained to CNBC why it took so long to get to the bottom of the explosion: “It was a really surprising problem. It’s never been encountered before in the history of rocketry.” The problem has to do with some super-cold oxygen reacting with the carbon fiber composites within the fuel tank.

Read more at: Popsci

NASA, FEMA Hold Asteroid Emergency Planning Exercise

What would we do if we discovered a large asteroid on course to impact Earth? While highly unlikely, that was the high-consequence scenario discussed by attendees at an Oct. 25 NASA-FEMA tabletop exercise in El Segundo, California.

The third in a series of exercises hosted jointly by NASA and FEMA — the Federal Emergency Management Agency — the simulation was designed to strengthen the collaboration between the two agencies, which have Administration direction to lead the U.S. response. “It’s not a matter of if — but when — we will deal with such a situation,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “But unlike any other time in our history, we now have the ability to respond to an impact threat through continued observations, predictions, response planning and mitigation.”

The exercise provided a forum for the planetary science community to show how it would collect, analyze and share data about a hypothetical asteroid predicted to impact Earth. Emergency managers discussed how that data would be used to consider some of the unique challenges an asteroid impact would present-for preparedness, response and public warning.

Read more at: JPL

Airbus Safran Launchers and ESA sign Confirmation of Ariane 6 Program

The European Space Agency and Airbus Safran Launchers, industrial prime contractor of the Ariane 6 launcher, have today signed the amendment to the agreement of 12 August 2015 committing the entire €2.4 billion planned for the development, production and operation of the two versions of the Ariane 6 launcher, Ariane 62 and 64.

The agreement of 12 August 2015 included a firm commitment of approximately €680 million to carry out the initial development (phases A and B) through to the preliminary design review (PDR) in mid-2016. The amendment signed today allows ESA to notify Airbus Safran Launchers of the commitment of the €1.7 billion required to continue development, and then production and operation. The amendment to the agreement signed today follows the success of the in-depth review carried out in June, first by the industry (Maturity Gate 5) and then by the ESA Member States, which carefully examined the work done by Airbus Safran Launchers and its partners.

Read more at: Airbus Safran

ExoMars: ESA’s Mars Lander Crashed and Destroyed on the Red Planet

The European Space Agency has said that the missing European space probe on Mars fell to the surface of the Red Planet from a height of two to four kilometres and was destroyed on impact. The ESA’s assessment comes from an analysis of images taken by a NASA Mars orbiter.

The disc-shaped 577-kg Schiaparelli probe was sent as part of the programme to search for evidence of life. Contact was lost around 50 seconds before the expected landing time. It led to uncertainty as to whether the lander had made it to the surface in good working conditions.

“Somehow the parachute has been released a bit too early and after that the engines, the main engines for the controller functions, but only for a few seconds which is also too little. So basically Schiaparelli has reached the ground with a velocity which was much higher than it should, so several hundreds of kilometres per hour and is unfortunately then of course being, well, destroyed by the impact,” said ExoMars Flight Operations Director, Michel Denis.

Read more at: Euro News

As Trump Takes Over, NASA Considers Alternatives to its Orion Spacecraft

NASA has initiated a process that raises questions about the future of its Orion spacecraft. So far, this procedural effort has flown largely under the radar, because it came in the form of a subtle Request for Information (RFI) that nominally seeks to extend NASA’s contract to acquire future Orion vehicles after Exploration Mission-2, which likely will fly sometime between 2021 and 2023.

Nevertheless, three sources familiar with the RFI, who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity, told Ars there is more to the request than a simple extension for Orion’s primary contractor, Lockheed Martin. Perhaps most radically, the RFI may even open the way for a competitor, such as Boeing or SpaceX, to substitute its own upgraded capsule for Orion in the mid-2020s.

This RFI process, which originated in the Washington, DC-based office of the manager of NASA’s human spaceflight operations, Bill Gerstenmaier, appears to be an effort to keep the agency’s options open during a presidential transition

Read more at: ArsTechnica

China Focus: President Xi Talks With Astronauts in Space

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday talked with the two astronauts in the space lab Tiangong-2, at the command center of China’s manned space program in Beijing. The two astronauts, Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong, embarked on their 33-day journey, the longest mission in the country’s manned space program to date, onboard the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft on Oct. 17. They entered Tiangong-2 on Oct. 19.

Xi expressed his sincere greetings to the two astronauts on behalf of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, the State Council, the Central Military Commission, and people of all ethnic groups in the country. “You have lived in space for more than half a month, and this is the third manned space mission Comrade Haipeng has undertaken and the first time for Comrade Chen Dong to enter space,” Xi said during the video call. “All the Chinese people care about you very much.”

Responding to Xi’s inquiries about their work, health and living conditions, Jing, commander of the crew, said they felt very well and were working as scheduled. Jing told the president that they could even watch the China Central Television (CCTV) evening news bulletin, or “Xinwen Lianbo,” in space.

Read more at: Xinhuanet

‘Large Metal Mystery Object Falls From Sky’ in Myanmar

A large metal object thought to be from a rocket fell from the sky onto a jade mine in Myanmar. Nearby villagers said their houses “shook” as the cylindrical object crashed and skidded over the ground. Measuring 4.5 metres long by 1.2 metres wide, it was found on Thursday in the northern Kachin state.

The incident has been linked to the launch of a Chinese satellite from a rocket at the Juiquan Satellite Launch Centre the day before. A second piece of metal with Chinese writing on it broke through the roof of a nearby house at the same time, although nobody was reported injured. Local residents told of a loud bang as the object landed and bounced a reported 50 metres. Villager Ko Maung Myo told the Myanmar Times: “We were all afraid of that explosion. Initially, we thought it was a battle. The explosion made our houses shake. We saw the smoke from our village.”

Read more at: Standard

Re-Entry: Antares Upper Stage

The Castor 30XL Upper Stage of the inaugural mission of the Antares 230 launch vehicle re-entered the atmosphere on November 6, 2016 after only three weeks in orbit following the successful launch of the Cygnus OA-5 cargo craft to resupply the International Space Station. It was the first Castor 30XL solid-fueled upper stage to reach orbit and delivered a flawless performance during flight, actually sending Cygnus into a slightly higher orbit than predicted.

Read more at: Spaceflight 101

ISS-50/51 Crews Raised Flags at Baikonur

Baikonur launchsite saw traditional flag-raising ceremony taking place at the pad #17 in front of Cosmonaut hotel.

Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Novitsky and Fyodor Yurchikhin raised the flag of the Russian Federation, NASA astronauts Peggy Witson and Jack Fisher – the US flag, ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet – the flag of France and ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli – the flag of Kazakhstan. Roscosmos corporation representatives, Baikonur city authorities and Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre specialists attended the ceremony. On the same date following long-standing tradition ISS-50/51 mission back-up crew members went on tour around the city of Baikonur. During this tour the cosmonauts learned more about the history of the city and Kazakh national traditions.

Read more at: Russian Space News

Next Job for X-37B Military Space Plane: Astronaut Ambulance?

The United States Air Force’s mysterious X-37B space plane would make a nice medical-evacuation vehicle for the International Space Station (ISS), some researchers say.

The orbiting lab hasn’t had a suitable astronaut ambulance since the retirement of NASA’s space shuttle fleet back in 2011, said former astronaut Stephen Robinson, who flew on four shuttle missions and currently chairs the mechanical and aerospace engineering department at the University of California, Davis.

For the past five years, Russian Soyuz spacecraft have been crewmembers’ only means of getting to and from the ISS. The Soyuz — which launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and makes parachute-aided landings on the remote steppes of that Central Asian nation — is a dependable astronaut taxi, but it’s far from ideal for transporting seriously sick or injured crewmembers back to Earth, Robinson said.

Read more at: Space.com

FAA: Too Early to Write Commercial Space Flight Regulations

Congress has directed the FAA to put off creating those regulations now, instead encouraging the agency to develop standards with industry, FAA commercial space transportation associate administrator George Nield told a commercial space industry audience in Washington on Monday. “If we start too early and say this is how you have to do everything, you’re going to get it wrong,” Nield says.

Once regulations are formulated, they still won’t be as stringent as commercial aviation rules. Such strict requirements would prevent commercial space operations from getting off the ground, according to Nield. Both the FAA and industry also don’t want to certify commercial space vehicles the same way the agency certifies aircraft. While the “un-involved public” on the ground will be protected from the risks of commercial space flight, Congress has told the FAA to inform passengers of the potentially fatal risks of a rocket trip.

Read more at: Flight Global

TIFR to Launch 10 Balloon Flights from Hyderabad With Help from ISRO for Scientific Reasons

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Department of Atomic Energy are lending their support to the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) for the launch of 10 balloon flights. The balloon flights will carry scientific instruments for research at high altitudes and will be launched from Hyderabad for scientific purposes from November 15 to April 30, 2017.

In a statement, TIFR’s scientist-in-charge B Suneel Kumar said that the balloons are expected to reach heights between 30 km and 42 km depending upon the experiments being undertaken. The balloons are made of twin (Polyethylene) plastic films, ranging in diameters from 50 metres to 85 metres and normally launched between 2000 hrs and 0630 hours.

The instruments will be kept at these heights for periods ranging from a few to 10 hours and then they will be released from the balloon. After release, the instruments will come down to ground on large coloured parachutes.

Read more at: Zee News

How NASA Will Choose Astronauts for its Incredible Journey to Mars

Christine Corbett Moran was in Antarctica when she got the news: NASA wanted to interview her, in person, for the next class of astronauts. Moran is a coder and theoretical astrophysicist, and she’d been holed up in the southernmost part of the world for 10 months, studying the echoes of the Big Bang. She was scheduled to leave the coldest continent in November anyway, so four days after NASA rang, on October 18, she booked the five flights necessary to get to Houston and sell her qualifications to space-agency officials.

Moran—who has worked in propulsion at SpaceX , co-led creation of the iOS version of the encrypted communication app Signal, and minored in philosophy—probably wouldn’t have been as attractive an astronaut candidate historically as she is today. But NASA’s missions have evolved. When the agency put out its latest application call, it specified that the lucky few might fly in Orion, a deep-space vessel meant to make the #journeytomars. And that kind of long, tight, potentially science-centric job lends itself to a different resume than astronaut calls past. Say, someone who knows science and software and can stay sane at the South Pole.

Read more at: Wired

Why NASA May Ferry the First Cosmonaut to the Moon

Half a century after the US and the USSR raced to the Moon, a Russian cosmonaut might make it to the moon on American hardware. She might find herself looking down at the lunar surface a few hundred miles below through the window of NASA’s Orion spacecraft. Such an unexpected development could result from recent negotiations between NASA officials and their partners in the International Space Station.

During the past couple of years, American, Russian, European, Japanese, and Canadian officials quietly discussed a possible joint human space flight program after the retirement of the ISS. Although these five space agencies might not be on the same page as far as whether to go to the moon first or head straight to Mars, they’re getting closer to an agreement that a human outpost in lunar orbit would be the necessary first step either way.

Read more at: Popular Mechanics

Pathway to the Heavens Goes Through Texas Airport

Fly into Midland International Air and Space Port and it’s evident what runs the economy, even before the plane lands. Look out the window as the pilot makes the final descent and next to the flight control radar is a pump jack. The big blue water tower next to the airport proudly reads “Midland, Feel The Energy.” The “L” in “Midland” is an oil rig.

But as veteran oil men get off the plane from Houston, Oklahoma or Casper, Wyoming, something might hit them. They just flew into Midland’s Air and Spaceport. On a drive along the tarmac on a gloomy Thursday afternoon, three things were clearly visible: an active oil rig exploring for oil and gas less than a quarter mile away, a Southwest flight pulling in, and a massive 40 thousand square foot office and hangar with a big XCOR sign conspicuously displayed for all to see. City leaders are trying to diversify the economy so it doesn’t continue to go with the booms and busts of the oil industry. To do that, they’re bringing in the space industry.

Read more at: Fox News

A Look at Long March Rocket Family

The Long March-5 is part of China’s next generation rockets, and represents a landmark in the country’s space program. Let’s take a brief look at some of the other rockets, and what they are capable of.

The Long March-2F rocket is specially designed for China’s manned space missions. Last month, it carried the country’s space lab, Tiangong-2, into orbit. Improvements were made through the years. The most recent one is the installation of the domestically-developed Beidou Navigation Satellite System.

“The Beidou system will improve the accuracy of calculation during orbiting. Cause now there is one more information source,” said Zhang Zhi, Chief Designer of Long March-2F. Development of the Long March-3 was completed in 1984. It is the exclusive carrier of China’s moon exploration spacecraft, and is well received by the international market. The Long March-7 carrier rocket is a medium-sized rocket. It uses liquid propellant, and can carry a load of up to 13.5 tonnes to low Earth orbit, a significant improvement from the past.

Read more at: CCTV

Tech Warning: Solar storm on Way to Earth Which Could Wreak Havoc on Mobile Phones and TVs

A solar storm was expected to hit Earth on November 8, but researchers believe that the particles from the Sun are moving slower than expected and it is likely to hit tonight. Solar storm’s bring the potential risk that technology, particularly in communications, could be dragged into meltdown as the raining particles from the Sun batter the planet’s outer atmosphere. Solar storms affect Earth’s technology as radiation is thrown at the planet from the Sun.

While humans are protected from the radiation by the atmosphere, the rays can heat the outer atmosphere, causing it to expand which can affect satellites in orbit. That could lead to a lack of GPS navigation, mobile phone signal and satellite TV such as Sky.

Additionally, a surge of particles can lead to high currents in Earth’s magnetic field, the magnetosphere, which can lead to higher than normal electricity in power lines, resulting in electrical transformers and power stations blow outs and a loss of power.

Read more at: Express

Martian Samples Risk Earth Contamination in Search for Life

NASA’s upcoming Mars 2020 rover is designed not only to hunt for signs of life on the Red Planet, but also to collect samples that might one day get returned to Earth. However, researchers say they face major challenges in ensuring that the six-wheeled robot does not contaminate these samples with molecules from Earth that might be mistaken for signs of Martian life.

In many ways, the rover of the Mars 2020 mission — so named for its planned launch in 2020 — is built much like the Curiosity rover that landed on the Red Planet in 2012.

However, whereas Curiosity sought to find out how habitable Mars once was — that is, how capable it was of supporting life as it is known on Earth — “the motivating aspect of the Mars 2020 mission is astrobiology: to look for biosignatures, the signatures of life,” according to Kenneth Farley, a project scientist for the Mars 2020 rover mission at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

Read more at: Space.com

China, Russia to Develop Cooperation in Technology, Space Sector

According to the communique published on the official website of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, the parties intend to continue making concerted efforts, determine the potential for bilateral cooperation, trigger ongoing development of the trade and economic cooperation.

The communique added, that the parties agreed to broaden long-term space cooperation through implementing the Russian-Chinese space cooperation program for 2013-2017. Besides, China and Russia agreed to foster infrastructure construction at the border checkpoints and to expand their capacity.

Read more at: Sputnik News

Should we be Worried About SpaceX’s Plan to Fuel the Falcon 9 With Astronauts on Board?

On September 1, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket exploded while it was being fueled up for a test fire, engulfing the launch pad, the rocket, and its payload in flames. The disaster has raised some serious concerns about the company’s plan to have future travelers to the International Space Station climb aboard the rocket before it’s fueled and wait there while its tanks are being filled.

Thomas Stafford, a former astronaut and current chairman of NASA’s International Space Station Advisory Committee, originally expressed concerns over the boarding procedure last December. “There is a unanimous, and strong, feeling by the committee that scheduling the crew to be on board the Dragon spacecraft prior to loading oxidizer into the rocket is contrary to booster safety criteria that have been in place for over 50 years, both in this country and internationally,” he wrote.

So why would SpaceX want to board astronauts it this way, what are the risks, and is there any way to mitigate those risks?

Read more at: Popsci

US Revives Hypersonic Aerospace Research

A forum covering aeronautics in the US, at the Mojave Air and Space Port, points to the development of hypersonic aviation. Following the grounding of the supersonic Concorde passenger aircraft in 2003, supersonic air travel was banned in the US due to sonic booms, the loud noise caused by an object exceeding the speed of sound at sea level.

NASA appears to be determined to change the status quo, though, as indicated during the forum, sponsored by the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, and attended by two Washington lawmakers, acting as chairman and member of the committee.

“There was a period where engine technology had just sort of stagnated – a point where all materials technology was going along at about the same pace,” Curtis M. Bedke, retired US Air Force Major General and senior non-resident fellow at Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, said. “There just wasn’t much happening. But suddenly, in all sorts of areas that apply to aerospace, things are happening.”

Read more at: Space Daily

Hypersonic Flight is Coming: Will the US Lead the Way?

The world is at the start of a renaissance in supersonic and hypersonic flight that will transform aviation, but the effort will need steady commitment and funding if the United States wants to lead the way, congressional leaders and industry officials said at a forum late last month.

“What’s exciting about aerospace today is that we are in a point here where suddenly, things are happening all across the board in areas that just haven’t been happening for quite a while,” said former U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Curtis M. Bedke. “There was a period where engine technology had just sort of stagnated — a point where all materials technology was going along at about the same pace,” Bedke added. “There just wasn’t much happening. But suddenly, in all sorts of areas that apply to aerospace, things are happening.”

Read more at: Space.com

China Launches X-ray Pulsar Navigation Satellite

China launched an X-ray pulsar navigation satellite on Thursday morning, according to the China Satellite Navigation Office. The XPNAV-1, developed by the China Academy of Space Technology, was sent skyward at 7:42 am atop a Long March 11 solid-fueled rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern China, the office said in a press release.

The satellite operates in a Sun-synchronous orbit and will conduct in-orbit experiments using pulsar detectors to demonstrate new technologies, said the press release. It weighs more than 200 kilograms and carries two detectors, according to China Academy of Space Technology. Shuai Ping, chief designer of the satellite at the academy, said that X-ray pulsar navigation is an innovative navigation technology in which periodic X-ray signals emitted from pulsars are used to determine the location of a spacecraft in deep space.

Read more at: China Daily

Luxembourg’s New Space Law Guarantees Private Companies the Right to Resources Harvested in Outer Space in Accordance with International Law

The Luxembourg Government has just adopted a draft law ensuring that private operators working in space can be confident about their rights to the resources they extract in outer space. The legal and regulatory framework is a key action of an overall strategy to be implemented progressively within the SpaceResources.lu initiative for the exploration and commercial use of resources from Near Earth Objects (NEOs), such as asteroids.

Article 1 of the draft law provides that space resources are capable of being appropriated in accordance with international law. Luxembourg is thus the first European country to provide legal certainty as to the ownership of minerals, water and other space resources identified in particular on asteroids. The law is based on the findings of a study on legal and regulatory aspects for the utilization of space resources conducted by the University of Luxembourg under the overall direction of Prof. Dr. Mahulena Hofmann, in cooperation with renowned space law experts in the fields of national and international space law and policy, such as Prof. Dr. Frans G. von der Dunk, Prof. Dr. Fabio Tronchetti and Prof. Dr. André Prüm.

Read more at: Spaceref

Our SpaceFlight Heritage: 50 years Since Gemini XII

50 years ago – the final flight of NASA’s historic Project Gemini lifted off from Launch Complex 19 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Commander Jim Lovell and pilot Buzz Aldrin spent three days pushing the program farther than it had ever been before and conducted the one of the first completely successful EVAs (extra-vehicular activity).

The Gemini program followed NASA’s Project Mercury and served as a testing ground for the development of techniques of space navigation, rendezvous and docking, spacewalking, and many other things that would be needed for the upcoming Project Apollo flights.

“I have given a great deal of thought recently to the subject of how best to simulate and train for extravehicular activities,” said Dr. Robert Gilruth, the director of the Manned Spacecraft Center (which has since been renamed Johnson Space Center) in a memo to Deke Slayton, the director of Flight Crew Operations. “Both zero ‘g’ trajectories in the KC-135 and underwater simulations should have a definite place in our training programs.”

The Gemini spacecraft was of a similar shape and approximate size of the Mercury capsule, but was an entirely different spacecraft. It had a retrograde section containing maneuvering thrusters, drinking water, oxygen, fuel tanks, as well as electrical power and communications systems.

Read more at: Spaceflight Insider

Finally, a Prudent Space Access Architecture Perspective

I was finally able to get down into my electronic “to-read” files and read Charles Miller’s proposed Ultra-Low Cost Access to Space (ULCATS) Act published by the Alliance for Space Development for ProSpace’s March Storm 2016. In short, prudent space access architecture perspectives are finally coming into the light.

ProSpace has been lobbying Congress for many years. They have been presenting initiatives meant in one way or another to open space to the average citizen. A key method they now advocate is the use of prize competitions to spur and motivate needed space innovations. This recent ULCATS Act proposes using a government cash prize to stimulate the development of fully-reusable launch vehicles (RLVs). Such transports can provide the kind of high flight rates and rapid turn-around times that yield cheap, safe, and reliable access to (and from) space that has been lacking. It correctly professes that such capabilities would be in the interest of US national security, civil space endeavors, and will allow US commercial RLV operators to establish the country as the undisputed world leader in space transportation. It is frankly one of the best-crafted systems-objective-based requirement sets I’ve seen since the ones put out by the Strategic Defense Initiative Office for their Single Stage To Orbit (SSTO) and the later successful Delta Clipper Experimental programs.

Read more at: Space Review

Russia to Start Developing International Center for Interplanetary Spaceflights in 2017

Russia will start developing an international center for interplanetary spaceflights project in 2017, with the experimental phase kicking off in fall, the head of Russia’s Institute for Biomedical Problems (RIBP) said Thursday.

“Work on the first experiment in this direction will be launched next year. The experimental phase will be held in autumn,” Oleg Orlov told journalists. Orlov noted that preparatory works on putting the facilities of the international center into operation were already underway.

Read more at: Sputnik News

What President Trump Means for NASA

What NASA programs will President-elect Donald Trump support, which will he potentially work to eliminate, and whom will he nominate for NASA’s top leadership position? Two space policy reporters offered their insight on these questions.

Brian Berger is editor in chief at SpaceNews, a trade publication for the spaceflight industry, and Jeff Foust is a senior writer there. In a webinar on Wednesday (Nov. 9), Berger and Foust discussed how the new presidential administration might affect NASA and other U.S. space-related activities. “There’s going to be a period of uncertainty as the new administration figures out what their priorities are in space and what NASA programs they might want to continue, which ones they might actually want to accelerate and which ones they might want to get rid of,” Foust said.

Foust published an article yesterday (Nov. 9) outlining the information that Trump’s campaign has provided about the president-elect’s space plan. Most of that information comes via Robert Walker — former chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology and former chairman of the Commission on the Future of the U.S. Aerospace Industry — who was brought in to serve as the campaign’s space policy advisor.

Read more at: Space.com

The Future of Space: Top Issues Facing President-elect Donald Trump

With the presidential election over, the focus in Washington, D.C., can finally turn back to policy and legislation. Most of the conversations between President-elect Trump and Congress will probably involve immigration, health care, the economy and other similarly high-profile issues. But the nation’s future path in space will also be under consideration — and it will probably generate some spirited debate.

One of the hottest topics will likely be the direction of NASA’s human-spaceflight program, said Brian Weeden, a technical adviser for the nonprofit Secure World Foundation. In his first term, President Barack Obama canceled George W. Bush’s moon-oriented Constellation program and instructed NASA to get astronauts to a near-Earth asteroid by 2025, then on to the vicinity of Mars by the mid-2030s.

To meet the first part of that directive, NASA devised the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), which will pluck a boulder off a near-Earth asteroid using a robotic probe. This spacecraft will then haul the boulder to lunar orbit, where it will be visited by astronauts.

Read more at: Fox News

Russia and China are Developing Some Very Powerful Weapons That Can ‘Kill’ Satellites

In an earlier article on the USAF X-37B space plane I noted that the Obama administration’s 2010 space policy sought to avoid space weaponization and ASATs. Washington’s current policy reinforces international norms against space warfare and relies on enhanced space resilience, as well as reconstitution of space capabilities.

In stark contrast, Russia and China now are actively developing ground-based, airborne and co-orbital ASATs. In May 2013, China launched a high altitude research rocket that reached Medium Earth Orbit, and demonstrated the means to attack satellites in Geosynchronous Orbit, thus bringing critical US communications and navigation satellites into range. Technologies like electronic warfare and microwave weapons open up the prospect of non-kinetic ASATs which can disable a target satellite by jamming or overloading its electronic systems, without physically destroying it.

Read more at: National Interest

How the Secret Black Female NASA Engineers are Finally Getting their Due

Superheroes have all kinds of special powers. Some can fly. Some have kinetic abilities. And others can send men into space with their brainpower. That’s right: From the 1940s through the 1980s, a group of as many as 80 African-American female mathematicians, engineers, and scientists at NASA (known as the “West Computers,” a reference to the segregated west side of the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory in Hampton, Virginia) pushed their cat-eye glasses back and looked up toward the cosmos, where their mathematical capacity—not to mention the quiet, steely determination to transcend institutional and social barriers around race and gender—carried a man into outer space, landed another on the moon for the first time, and saved three others aboard the Apollo 13 spacecraft from crashing onto the Earth’s surface, just to name a few of their superhuman accomplishments.

As Margot Lee Shetterly writes in her September New York Times best seller, Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race (William Morrow): “Their goal wasn’t to stand out because of their differences; it was to fit in because of their talent.”

Read more at: Marie Claire

How NASA’s Space Suits have Changed Through the Years

Like each of NASA’s endeavors, the space suits worn by astronauts have changed and evolved over time.

The first suit was the Mercury space suit, also called the Navy Mark IV. During the Mercury Program, the United State’s first human spaceflight program, the Mercury space suits were only worn inside the spacecraft. It was not until Project Gemini, NASA’s second human spaceflight program, that U.S. astronaut suits were tested against the rigorous conditions of space.

During the Apollo Moon missions, the space suits were again redesigned. According to NASA, “spacesuits for the Apollo program had to do things the Mercury and Gemini suits could not. They had to protect astronauts while they were walking on the moon. The Apollo suits had boots made to walk on rocky ground. Astronauts needed to walk away from the lunar lander. The Apollo suits had a life support system.”

Read more at: Chron

Grandson of Gandhi, a Former Top NASA Scientist, Dies in Poverty

Kanubhai Ramdas Gandhi was the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, the man revered as the “Father of the Nation” by many in India, but he died quietly on Monday in a small hospital in a small town where he couldn’t even afford to pay his medical bills.

It was an inglorious ending for a man who, in addition to carrying the most famous name in India, also lived richly for 25 years as a top scientist for NASA. Kanubhai Gandhi was the son of Mahatma Gandhi’s third son Ramdas. The only enduring image of Kanubhai for most Indians is one taken of him as a child, leading his grandfather and holding onto his walking stick for him during the historic Salt Satyagraha in Mumbai in 1930.

Read more at: CBS News

Protests Could Shift Giant Telescope to Other Side of World

Astronomers are looking forward to using the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) as a powerful new tool with which to explore the Universe. It was due to open on the summit of Mauna Kea, on Hawaii’s Big Island, in 2022. But the project, a collaboration between California, Canada, Japan, China and India, has been beset with problems, with native Hawaiian protestors unwilling to see another instrument on what they consider to be sacred land.

Though a permit for the giant telescope’s construction was given by the Hawaiian Board of Land and Natural Resources in 2013, demonstrators have repeatedly halted attempts to begin construction. Then, in December 2015, the permits were ruled invalid by Hawaii’s Supreme Court which decided that due process had not been followed.

Now the authorities behind the project have revealed that they are ready to consider alternative sites for the giant telescope, and leading contender as a replacement location is the island of La Palma, off the west African coast.

Read more at: Skymania

NATO Contracts for Satellite Services

GovSat, an affiliate of European satellite operator SES, is to support the operational phase of the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance program. Work under the NATO end-to-end service contract includes the delivery of satellite capacity in commercial Ku-band — largely coming from the SES fleet – and associated capacity management services to support command-and-control and sensor data communications required by NATO Global Hawk vehicles.

“The award of this contract confirms the unique capability of GovSat to address the secure communication requirements of a NATO defense program, including the handling of sensitive and classified material,” said Patrick Biewer, chief executive officer of GovSat. “GovSat is now de-facto operational, well ahead of the GovSat-1 satellite launch which is foreseen for next year.”

Read more at: SpaceDaily

China to Export CH-5 Drone

China has granted an export license for the CH-5 reconnaissance and combat drone, the state-run China Daily website reported this week. The report called the drone one of the most powerful in the world, twice as big as its predecessors with a 60-hour flight endurance capable of hitting heights of 6 miles. “Several foreign nations have expressed intentions to purchase the CH-5, and we are in talks with them,” Shi Wen, a chief designer at the China Academy Aerospace Aerodynamics, was quoted as saying.

Shi said the CH-5 can perform any operations undertaken by General Atomics’ MQ-9 Reaper. The CH-5 can also conduct a joint strike with its CH-3 and CH-4 predecessors because they have the same data link and control system.

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