Major Rocket Scientist: NASA Should Abandon ‘Safety First’

NASA needs a cultural change to focus more on its mission and less on safety if it wants to finally put humans on Mars, a scientist involved in plans to visit the Red Planet told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Dr. Robert Zubrin, who helped design plans for NASA’s manned mission to Mars and wrote the “The Case For Mars,” thinks that the space agency is being held back by too much focus on safety to the detriment of its other goals.

“The highest priority of the space agency needs to be mission success, the achievement of which requires the right balance between daring and caution,” Zubrin told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “A program which never flies is a failed program, and if fixation on safety as the highest priority causes such an outcome, then such a fixation on safety is a cause of mission failure.”

Read more at: Daily Caller

Orbital ATK Launches 43rd Pegasus with Fleet of CYGNSS Hurricane Satellites off Florida

This morning, 126 miles off the coast of Daytona Beach, Fla., Orbital ATK’s modified L-1011 aircraft, nicknamed Stargazer, successfully deployed their air-launched Pegasus XL rocket with a fleet of eight microsatellites to low-Earth orbit for NASA’s Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) mission. Departing the “Skid Strip” runway at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the world’s only still operational L-1011 flew to the drop zone and deployed the three-stage Pegasus, the world’s first commercial rocket, from 39,000 feet at 8:37 a.m. EST.

Payload deployment occurred at 8:52 a.m. EST. 

“I am proud of the entire professional team on the Space Coast who worked together flawlessly to make our twenty-second major launch operation of the year a success,” said Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith, 45th Space Wing commander and mission Launch Decision Authority. “It’s been 13 years since we last supported a Pegasus launch and our collective team for this unique mission didn’t miss a beat.”

A first launch attempt Dec. 12 was called off when an issue with flight parameter data used by spacecraft software was discovered, preventing the launch vehicle release system from a safe Pegasus deployment.

Read more at: AmericaSpace

Space Age: ISRO’s Very Human Test

It’s not often that Indian space scientists chuck out precious cargo from their rockets, but will try their hand at it soon, albeit in the name of safety. Safety? Certainly, of the crew, when the space agency gets a formal go-ahead from the government for the departure of two Indians on a journey into Space onboard an Indian rocket. An upcoming test will demonstrate how the crew could bailout safely in case a snag threatens to spell a disastrous end, just minutes after the rocket zooms from the Sriharikota range — the country’s spaceport near Chennai. “We are getting ready for the pad abort test. It will happen soon,” says A.S. Kiran Kumar, Chairman, Isro. Simply put, the test flight will show how fast the crew could punch out from the rocket in the event of an emergency, thus avoiding a repetition of the disaster which wrecked US space shuttle Columbia, and resulted in the death of seven crew members including mission specialist Kalpana Chawla.

Read more at: Deccan Chronicle

China Launches its First Fully Owned Overseas Satellite Ground Station Near North Pole

China launched its first fully owned overseas satellite ground station near the North Pole on Thursday. This could be prove just as politically significant to Beijing as the facility’s technological benefits, space experts said.

The facility, located in Sweden about 200km north of the Arctic Circle, would allow China to collect satellite data anywhere on Earth at speeds that were more than twice as fast as before, said the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the academic governing body that built and runs the station.

Construction of the China Remote Sensing Satellite North Pole Ground Station, as it is formally known, started two years ago at at Kiruna’s Esrange Space Centre, the world’s largest civil ground station for satellites. Sweden is one the few European Union nations not to have joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation – an intergovernmental military alliance – so is not so closely politically and militarily allied with the United States.

Read more at: SCMP

America’s Future in LEO? The Possibilities and Challenges Facing Commercial Space Stations

Against this backdrop—time running down on ISS and uncertainty about a lifetime extension, a continuing rationale for a LEO presence, consensus on a commercial LEO future, and questions about CASIS’s effectiveness—the pressure to find a sustainable business case that generates demand for private stations is increasing. Right now, in the eyes of Andrew Rush, president and CEO of Made in Space, a company doing additive manufacturing work aboard ISS, “is an inflection point for continued development of commercial activity in space.”

However, new ideas for utilizing ISS in support of commercialization are concurrently beginning to materialize. Beyond using the National Lab for research, some see value in ISS being a platform to test and experiment with commercial station hardware. Bigelow, at the ISS Research and Development Conference in July 2016, suggested this while saying, “starting with the purpose going forward for the ISS, I couldn’t think of a better metaphor than as an incubator.”

Read more at: Space Review

NOAA Sees Smallsats as Good Gap Fillers for Weather System

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is interested in using miniature satellites to gather data it can feed into the agency’s weather prediction models to augment data provided by its fleet of large spacecraft.

“The idea is that for much less money and much less time, we will be able to get data that are good enough to help mitigate gaps,” said Margaret Caulfield, division chief in NOAA National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service’s office of projects, planning and analysis.

NOAA officials are particularly concerned that the agency will experience a gap in polar satellite data if the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) spacecraft fails before its successor, the first Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS-1) spacecraft begins providing data. NOAA polar-orbiting satellites, NOAA-15 and NOAA-18, have drifted out of their afternoon orbits. Meanwhile, the NPP satellite, launched in October 2011, has exceeded its five-year design life and JPSS-1 is scheduled to launch in March on a United Launch Alliance Delta 2 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

“To mitigate that gap, we need to get new observations and we propose to do that with small satellites,” Caulfield said. “Small satellites are particularly suited to this because they are an affordable source of mitigation data with short, responsive call-up times.”

Read more at: Space News

Swiss Space Firm Declared Bankrupt

Swiss Space Systems (S3), a space technology firm whose CEO was violently attacked earlier this year, has been declared bankrupt by a court in the canton of Vaud. S3, based in Payerne in northern Vaud, aims to make space more accessible by creating low-cost, reusable satellite launchers, a development not welcomed by all in the industry. It also intended to offer zero-gravity flights to the general public in 2017.

But lately the company has been beset by financial difficulties, and on Wednesday the civil court of Broye and North Vaud declared it bankrupt, reported news agency ATS.

Read more at: Local.ch

Orion Service Module Engine Shipped to Europe

The Orion main engine is a repurposed Space Shuttle Orbital Maneuvering System (OMS) thruster. The bipropellant (monomethylhydrazine/nitrogen tetroxide) engine produces up to 6,000 pounds (26.7 kilonewtons) of thrust and swivels in pitch and yaw directions. It will provide primary propulsion during lunar orbit insertion and trans-Earth injection for Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1), the first Space Launch System (SLS)/Orion test flight, scheduled for 2018.

The specific engine sent to ESA has flown in space 19 times aboard Space Shuttles Challenger, Discovery, and Atlantis. It underwent vibration testing at Johnson Space Center in June prior to shipping. Airbus Space & Defence is responsible for integrating the engine into the ATV-based service module, which provides propulsion, electrical power, water, and thermal control as well as the oxygen and nitrogen atmosphere for the crew

Read more at: Spaceflight Insider

Europe’s Bold Plan for a Moon Base is Coming Together

Imagine an international research station on the moon, where astronauts and cosmonauts and taikonauts and any other-nauts from around the world conduct science experiments, gather resources, build infrastructure, study our home planet from afar, and erect a new radio telescope to probe the mysteries of the ancient cosmos. This is the vision of Jan Woerner, the German civil engineer who serves as the Director General of the European Space Agency. He calls it “Moon Village.”

Moon Village isn’t so much a literal village as it is a vision of worldwide cooperation in space. It is part of Woerner’s larger concept of “Space 4.0.” Woerner, you see, breaks down the history of space exploration into four periods. All of ancient and classical astronomy is lumped into Space 1.0, the space race from Sputnik to Apollo is Space 2.0, and the establishment of the International Space Station defines the period of Space 3.0.

Read more at: Popular Mechanics

Japan is Going to Mine the Moon

The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced Friday that it will begin working with a private lunar robotics exploration company to mine for resources on the moon. The Tokyo-based ispace Inc. should help facilitate Japan’s (somewhat late) entry into the rapidly growing and potentially lucrative field of space mining.

Space mining sounds like a fun but made-up occupation set in the dystopian future, sort of like space archaeologist (real) or space cowboy (less real). But this is far from so — space mining is quickly becoming a ring into which multiple nations and space entities are tossing their respective hats. Luxembourg, for instance, has a head start on Japan here, and the United States already introduced “finders-keepers” legislation for resources recovered from space mining more than a year ago.

Read more at: Inverse

OneWeb Announces Key Funding from SoftBank Group and Other Investors

OneWeb reports it has secured $1.2 billion in funded capital from SoftBank and existing investors, of which $1 billion will come from SoftBank. The $1.2 billion fundraising round announced will support OneWeb’s revolutionary technological development and the construction of the world’s first and only high volume satellite production facility.

The new facility, based in Exploration Park, Florida will be capable of producing 15 satellites per week at a fraction of the cost of what any satellite manufacturing facility in the world can produce today, and expediting construction, launch and operations of its communications network. The investment is expected to create nearly 3,000 new engineering, manufacturing and supporting jobs in the U.S. over the next four years.

Read more at: Space Daily

Will 2017 Finally be the Year of the Small Launcher?

In an interview in the exhibit hall of the 33rd Space Symposium in Colorado Springs in April, Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck was discussing the company’s latest test of elements of its Electron small launch vehicle. The vehicle, he said at the time, should be ready for its first test flight later in the summer.

But wait: Rocket Lab, while headquartered in the United States, has most of its technical operations, as well as its own launch site, in New Zealand. Did he mean summer here in the Northern Hemisphere, or in the Southern Hemisphere? Northern, he clarified.

Maybe he meant Southern Hemisphere after all. Summer has come and gone without a flight of the Electron. The company announced earlier this month that it has completed flight qualification and acceptance testing of the rocket’s first stage, after wrapping up second stage testing in April. Rocket Lab now says that it’s ready to being flight tests: “Rocket Lab plans to begin full vehicle testing in early 2017 once international launch licensing is complete,” it said in a statement. That, of course, will be late summer in New Zealand.

Read more at: Space Review

Seven Ways Astronauts Improve Sleep May Help You Snooze Better on Earth

The hazards of lost sleep can range from on-the-job errors to chronic disease. People all around the world experience disruptions in circadian rhythm, or the body’s natural regulator for sleep and wake cycles based on a 24-hour schedule, every day. This instinctual process can be disrupted by abnormal work schedules, extensive traveling between time zones, and by daily life for International Space Station crew members, who could experience 16 sunrises a day.

Circadian misalignment and sleep deficiency occur during both short- and long-duration spaceflight, and can lead to significant, fatigue-induced errors and long-term sleep loss. In addition to spaceflight, employees working in Mission Control, where shift work and abnormal hours are common, often experience the effects of circadian misalignment. Chronic sleep deprivation and circadian desynchronization are associated with health complications such as metabolic disorders, cardiovascular diseases, gastrointestinal diseases and some types of cancers.

Read more at: Technology.org

SpaceX Crew Dragon Test Flights Delayed

In a revised schedule released by NASA on Dec. 12, 2016, it was revealed that SpaceX has delayed test flights for its Crew Dragon spacecraft by a number of months. According to Space News, this is, at least in part, due to the Sept. 1 Falcon 9 pad explosion. The NASA statement gave no reason for the delays other than it reflected a “fourth quarter update” from both SpaceX as well as the Boeing dates that were revised in October 2016. Before the release, SpaceX was still targeting a May 2017 uncrewed test flight and a crewed flight the following August (2017). However, that has been pushed to November 2017 and May 2018, respectively.

SpaceX is still investigating the exact cause of the September 1 explosion. During the lead up to the prerequisite static test fire for the the $195 million Amos 6 satellite, the rocket and satellite were lost in the resulting fireball.

The company was hoping to return to flight as early as this week; however, last week, it was revealed the company needed more time to finalize their findings. Currently, the first flight is scheduled for early January of 2017. That flight is expected to send 10 Iridium NEXT satellites into orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Read more at: Spaceflight Insider

SpaceX won’t Launch Astronauts Until 2018

It’s official: SpaceX is not going to meet its 2017 deadline to carry its first astronauts into space. The first crewed flight of the Dragon capsule has been pushed back from August 2017 to May 2018.

Since NASA retired the space shuttle in 2011, American astronauts have been bumming rides from Russia to get to the International Space Station. Boeing and SpaceX are vying to bring those launches back to American soil, hopefully cutting costs in the process, and all while becoming the first private companies to launch astronauts into space.

Unfortunately, it appears NASA’s goal of launching those history-making missions may have been a bit too ambitious. Both companies had aimed to finish their uncrewed and crewed test flights before the end of 2017, but both companies have slipped the deadline. Boeing announced earlier this year that it wouldn’t be sending astronauts into orbit until 2018, due to some technical difficulties.

Read more at: Popsci

Russia’s Lunar Rover will Help Stake a Claim on the Moon

The new lunar rover to help Russia build a base on the Moon will be developed by the same companies that created one in Soviet times: RAS Space Research Institute; TsNIIMash (the Central Research Institute of Machine Building), which is Roscosmos’ lead scientific organization; NPO Lavochkin; and others.

“Scientists want to include lunar rovers in Russia’s Federal Space Program for the years, 2026-2035,” said Alexander Khokhlov, design engineer at the Central Scientific-Research and Experimental-Construction Institute of Robotics and Technical Cybernetics. “With the right financing our rover will appear on the Moon by 2031.”

Read more at: RBTH

NASA Satellite Servicing Office Becomes a Projects Division

Since 2009, the Satellite Servicing Capabilities Office (SSCO) has been building upon the heritage of satellite servicing and repair that began with NASA’s successful servicing of the Hubble Space Telescope. Recently, SSCO became the Satellite Servicing Projects Division (SSPD), continuing its growth from one office with multiple demonstrations to a division of three offices and two projects.

The creation of SSPD is more than a name change. “The growth of satellite servicing projects and demonstrations necessitated the evolution of the office into a division,” said Ben Reed, deputy division director for SSPD. SSCO was a vital bridge from human-based shuttle servicing to robotic-based multiple-orbit servicing. “It was the foundation that will allow us as a division to expand our technologies for multiple stakeholders – from on-orbit refueling to large aperture telescope assembly in space, and NASA’s Journey to Mars.”

Read more at: Colorado Spacenews

Japanese HTV-6 Resupply Craft Arrives at Space Station for Critical Cargo Delivery

Japan’s H-II Transfer Vehicle arrived at the International Space Station on Tuesday for an out-of-this-world cargo delivery to the orbiting laboratory including the first batch of new batteries that will overhaul the ISS power system for the Station’s next decade of operations.

Launched from Tanegashima Island on Friday, HTV-6 enjoyed a particular smooth flight to its destination in space, going through a series of maneuvers to arrive in the direct vicinity of ISS on Tuesday morning. Operations remained ahead of the timeline as HTV-6 worked its way up to the complex from directly below in order to arrive at a position within reach of the Space Station’s robotic arm.

Read more at: Spaceflight 101

Chinese Volunteers Complete 180-day Space Simulation

Chinese researchers have completed a 180-day “survival experiment” that simulated a deep space human trek. Since June 17, four Chinese volunteers — three men and one woman — lived inside a sealed space capsule situated in Shenzhen, south China’s Guangdong Province. They emerged from their off-world mock-up mission on December 14, local time. The six-month experiment involved volunteers Tang Yongkang, Luo Jie, Wu Shiyun and Tong Feizhou.

An objective of the space simulation was to test technologies that could support China’s deep-space exploration projects. The effort is evaluating how food, water, and oxygen can be used and recycled under controlled conditions. More than a dozen Chinese and overseas institutions are involved in the experiment, including the Astronaut Center of China, Harvard University and the German Aerospace Center.

Read more at: Space.com

Preparing for Air Traffic Control Via Satellite

ESA recently completed its first flight trials using satellites to help bring Europe closer to its goal of modernising air traffic control. The trials are part of the public–private partnership between ESA and UK satellite operator Inmarsat to deliver high-capacity secure digital data links via satellite for air–ground communications for cockpit crews over European airspace under ESA’s Iris Precursor programme.

By 2019, Iris Precursor will provide air–ground communications for initial ‘4D’ flight path control, pinpointing an aircraft in four dimensions: latitude, longitude, altitude and time. This will enable precise tracking of flights and more efficient management of traffic.

An aircraft from the Netherlands Aerospace Centre carried a prototype Iris terminal connected to Inmarsat’s next-generation SwiftBroadband-Safety satellite service as it took off from Amsterdam.

Read more at: ESA

How to Stop an Incoming Comet

If your death-from-above musings focus solely on asteroids , you need to broaden your worried mind. Comets can also deliver a heaping helping of calamity to Earth, and scientists and policymakers alike should start taking measures to combat the threat, said Joseph Nuth, a researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

“Comets have largely been ignored by people that are interested in defending the planet,” Nuth said during a news conference Monday (Dec. 12) here at the annual fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU). The main reason for this lack of attention is the perception that not much can be done about an incoming comet , because of the difficulties involved in spotting and tracking these icy bodies, Nuth said. But something can indeed be done, if we’re sufficiently prepared, he stressed.

Read more at: Scientific American

‘Anomalous Readings’ Detected During James Webb Space Telescope Tests

Earlier this month, on Dec. 3, accelerometers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) detected “anomalous readings” in a portion of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). These “readings” took place during vibration tests being conducted to simulate anticipated launch conditions. JWST is NASA’s (in partnership with the European and Canadian space agencies) next-generation space telescope and is intended as a successor to Hubble.

On Dec. 16, NASA provided the following update: Further tests to identify the source of the anomaly are underway. The engineering team investigating the vibe anomaly has made numerous detailed visual inspections of the Webb telescope and has found no visible signs of damage. They are continuing their analysis of accelerometer data to better determine the source of the anomaly. They have conducted a low-level vibration of the hardware to measure its responses, and are comparing the results with data obtained prior to the anomaly. Engineers are currently running diagnostics to determine the cause and to assess any potential impacts.

Read more at: Spaceflight Insider

Orbital ATK Takes NASA’s Scientific Balloon Program to Record New Heights

Orbital ATK, a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies, today announced a record total of five successful scientific balloon flight launches at this year’s NASA Antarctica Long Duration Balloon Flight Campaign. The launches occurred in Antarctica from November 28 through December 12. All five balloons remained airborne for six days through December 18 marking a new flight record for NASA’s scientific balloon team. The program is administered by the Goddard Space Flight Center’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Virginia and operated from the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility (CSBF) in Palestine, Texas. Orbital ATK manages NASA’s Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility and provides mission planning, engineering services, and field operations under NASA’s Balloon Operations Contract. The Columbia team has launched more than 1,700 scientific balloons from seven countries in the past 35 years.

“Our experienced and dedicated team is proud to support NASA in this record breaking achievement,” said John Pullen, Vice President and General Manager, Technical Services Division of Orbital ATK’s Space Systems Group. “Five successful balloon launches in the span of two weeks is an incredible accomplishment and demonstrates a steadfast commitment to providing unmatched reliability and performance on each mission for our customer. We congratulate NASA for this historic campaign which will help maintain the Wallops Flight Facility’s position as the world leader in scientific ballooning operations.”

Read more at: Spaceref

Miniature Satellite Deployed from Space Station for Orbital Tether Experiment

A small satellite was deployed from the International Space Station Monday morning for a technical demonstration of a tether extending system using a mother and daughter sub-satellite constellation.

The Japanese STARS-C satellite launched aboard the HTV-6 cargo spacecraft which arrived at the Station last week for a six-week stay facilitating a busy cargo-delivery mission. Among nearly six metric tons of cargo onboard the HTV are multiple CubeSat deployment systems, JAXA’s JSSOD-5 & 6 deployers holding a total of seven CubeSats and a commercial deployer from NanoRacks loaded with a university technology demonstration satellite and several CubeSats under commercial operation.

Read more at: Spaceflight 101

NASA’s Exo-Brake ‘Parachute’ to Enable Safe Return for Small Spacecraft

NASA’s “Exo-Brake” will demonstrate a critical technology leading to the potential return of science payloads to Earth from the International Space Station through the deployment of small spacecraft in early 2017.

An Exo-Brake is a tension-based, flexible braking device resembling a cross-parachute that deploys from the rear of a satellite to increase the drag. It is a de-orbit device that replaces the more complicated rocket-based systems that would normally be employed during the de-orbit phase of re-entry.

“The Exo-Brake’s current design uses a hybrid system of mechanical struts and flexible cord with a control system that ‘warps’ the Exo-Brake – much like how the Wright brothers used warping to control the flight behavior of their first wing design,” said Marcus Murbach, principal investigator and inventor of the Exobrake device.

Read more at: Technology.org

Senator Nelson Discusses Space Travel Future

Senator Bill Nelson was in Tallahassee Friday afternoon holding a bit of a press conference. Topics discussed ranged from Russia to Beach Restoration in Flagler County to the Future of the space Program. During the entire conference, Senator Nelson answered a number of questions that were burning holes in our heads. The future of space travel, a topic near and dear to his heart, was not asked about, but the senator made sure to mention it at the end.

You see, back in 1986, Senator Nelson spent six days orbiting the earth on space shuttle Columbia. After an experience like that, it’s no wonder why he feels so passionately about the future of NASA and the space program. The senator did say in the next 18 months or so, we’ll be putting Americans on American rockets going to and from the International Space Station.

The long term goal Senator Nelson and NASA are looking forward to is traveling to Mars. That’s right, the mission to the red planet is becoming less like science fiction and more of an attainable goal.

Read more at: WTXL

No Point in Sending Crew Into Space Just for the Sake of it: India’s First Cosmonaut

“I know we can do it. But I do not know whether we should do it,” was the instant response of India’s first cosmonaut Rakesh Sharmawhen asked whether the country should embark on a manned space flight mission. Sharma, who was part of the joint Indo-Soviet (former) manned space flight programme in April 1984, was speaking at IIT-B’s TechFest, whose theme this year is space.

The government is yet give an approval for a manned space flight programme, which is expected to cost about Rs 12,400 crore, though Isro has said it is is ready for the mission. He emphasized that India should undertake the programme only if there is a path-breaking technology. “Unless it is done in an efficient way, there is no point in merely sending crew up there just for the sake of it, and because somebody else has undertaken something like that,” he told a packed hall at the institute.

Read more at: Times of India

Jim Low Obituary

My father, Jim Low, who has died aged 88, was a rocket scientist. Not that he ever used the term himself. In his passport, he described himself always as a mathematician/physicist. But, as one of the early members of the European Launcher Development Organisation (Eldo) – the predecessor of the European Space Agency – that was indeed what he was, at least for much of his career.

He took a BSc in maths and physics at St Andrews University and graduated in 1951, opening the way for a career in the nascent British aerospace industry. He worked first at De Havilland Aircraft Company in Hatfield, Hertfordshire.

Read more at: Guardian

EmDrive: Chinese Space Agency to Put Controversial Tech Onto Satellites ‘as Soon as Possible’

China’s space agency has officially confirmed that it has been funding research into the controversial space propulsion technology EmDrive, and that it plans to add the technology to Chinese satellites imminently.

The China Academy of Space Technology (CAST), a subsidiary of the Chinese Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) and the manufacturer of the Dong Fang Hong satellites, has held a press conference in Beijing explaining the importance of the EmDrive research and summarising what China is doing to move the technology forward.

According to Science and Technology Daily, the official newspaper of China’s Ministry of Science and Technology, China has been carrying out “key technology research” for the last five years into the EmDrive in order to find possible “engineering applications”.

Read more at: IBTimes

The Future of War in Space is Defensive

The best defense is a good offense—or is it? The answer to this question, along with an understanding of the stronger form of warfare, is the single most important consideration in US space strategy and funding major space programs.

Satellites and other spacecraft have always been vulnerable targets for America’s adversaries. Today, attacking US on-orbit capabilities offers the potential to cripple US conventional power projection and impose significant costs, whether in dollars, lives or political capital.

Many strategists and policymakers have concluded that because space-based systems are seen as exposed to attack—with little way to defend them—that the offense is the stronger form of warfare in space. This conclusion is incorrect and has led to an underdeveloped US space strategy. Time-tested theory and principles of war underscore that the defense is the stronger form of warfare in space

Read more at: Spacereview

I Am Paying $200,000 for Five Minutes in Space

On a blindingly bright January afternoon in 2010, I went to my bank to get a cashier’s check for $20,000. It was my birthday, and I was buying myself the present I’d been waiting for my entire life: a trip to space.

This fat chunk of cash would become a 10 percent downpayment for a ticket aboard Virgin Galactic, billionaire Richard Branson’s bold plan to hurl ordinary humans into space. To do this, Branson plans to use rocket planes that can carry space tourists 62 miles up and travel at three times the speed of sound. Ninety days before my trip, I’d need to pay the remaining $180,000. That’s $200,000 for a five-minute sojourn beyond Earth’s stratosphere.

Walking out of the bank, I tried not to think about the financial side of things—how I would need to decimate my savings account and my 401k to afford those few glorious minutes. It would be worth it, I reminded myself. That stomach-curdling arc would be the fulfillment of a dream I’ve carried with me since I was a boy watching Neil Armstrong take humanity’s first step on another world.

Read more at: Popular Mechanics

Is War in Space Inevitable? Maybe Not

The picture is one of chaos: highway traffic snarled, bank ATMs and the world’s stock exchanges slowed and disabled, smartphones rendered dumb, air traffic grounded, communications slowed or stopped, military capability turned back in time a half century. This is a scenario recently forecast in several places as representing one of the consequences of a war in space.

There would also be no more GPS, or its Russian equivalent (GLONASS), or that of China (BeiDou2) or Europe (Galileo). No more SATCOM or weather satellites. Nations emerging with the help of satellite capabilities returning to darkness. The war leaves the battlespace untenable for years, perhaps centuries, because of debris from destroyed satellites. Any trip to explore another planet would have to negotiate a debris minefield in space. It’s a scenario some say is inevitable as space becomes more congested and contested. But maybe not. “Everything is about not having a war extend to space,” said RAdm. Brian Brown, deputy commander of the Joint Functional Component Command for Space, part of the U.S. Strategic Command.

Read more at: Space War

Big Space Reorganization Coming, House Strategic Forces Chairman Mike Rogers Says

Space, for US House Strategic Forces Subcommittee Chairman Mike Rogers, is the next frontier. The Alabama Republican told Defense News he plans in 2017 to spearhead a major reorganization of the way the US government manages space capabilities — yielding changes that are “very disruptive” but ultimately positive.

“It will be very disruptive and that will make some people unhappy because they don’t like change,” Rogers said. “I wouldn’t fool with it if I was just moving the chairs around on the deck. We intend to have a substantial effort. That’s why we have been taking our time.”

For months, Rogers and the committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Jim Cooper, of Tennessee, have been discussing with experts a 2015 report by the Government Accountability Office that recommends a course correction on space, Rogers said.

Read more at: Defense News

Serious Dollars for AEGIS Ballistic Missile Defense

The AEGIS Ballistic Missile Defense System seamlessly integrates the SPY-1 radar, the MK 41 Vertical Launching System for missiles, the SM-3 Standard missile, and the ship’s command and control system, in order to give ships the ability to defend against enemy ballistic missiles. Like its less-capable AEGIS counterpart, AEGIS BMD can also work with other radars on land and sea via Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC). That lets it receive cues from other platforms and provide information to them, in order to create a more detailed battle picture than any one radar could produce alone.

AEGIS has become a widely-deployed top-tier air defense system, with customers in the USA, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Norway, and Spain. In a dawning age of rogue states and proliferation of mass-destruction weapons, the US Navy is being pushed toward a “shield of the nation” role as the USA’s most flexible and most numerous option for missile defense. AEGIS BMD modifications are the keystone of that effort – in the USA, and beyond.

Read more at: Defense Industry Daily

Dagger of the Mind

Soon after John F. Kennedy announced the plan to send humans to the Moon in the spring of 1961, the Central Intelligence Agency conducted an assessment of the Soviet ability to accomplish the same feat. The CIA had relatively limited intelligence data about Soviet space capabilities, but produced a report stating that there was then no evidence of a similar Soviet goal. The CIA also identified key steps that the Soviets would have to take in order to send cosmonauts to the Moon, and timeline ranges for these steps, thus establishing things that CIA analysts could watch for during the next several years. But until the second half of the 1960s, the data was ambiguous. It was not until 1967 that a US reconnaissance satellite overflew the sprawling Soviet missile and rocket launch facility at Baikonur in Kazakhstan and finally photographed a giant rocket pointing up in the air, like a thorn pointing at the Moon.

Every morning the President of the United States receives an intelligence briefing and a small newsletter known as the President’s Daily Brief (PDB). In early 1966, Lyndon Johnson received a PDB that included a short report on the construction of a big launch complex to support a powerful rocket. The facility had been designated “Complex J” by the CIA, a sequential system that had started with Complex A, the original Sputnik pad.

Read more at: Space Review

‘All Sorts of Planning Problems’: 50 Years Since Apollo Took Steps to the Moon

Fifty years ago, this week—just three days before Christmas 1966—NASA announced the names of a group of astronauts who would begin the final stages of America’s bold goal of planting bootprints on the Moon before the end of the decade. Crews were already deep in training for prime and backup positions on the Apollo-Saturn (AS)-204 mission, also known as “Apollo 1,” which would put the Command and Service Module (CSM) of the United States’ newest piloted spacecraft through its paces in low-Earth orbit in spring 1967. And with the announcements of the Apollo 2 and Apollo 3 prime and backup crews on 22 December 1966, NASA identified the men who might someday travel to lunar orbit and walk the Moon’s barren surface. Those crews, and the missions they would go on to perform later in their careers, would enjoy ringside seats for the most audacious exploration effort ever undertaken in human history.

Read more at: America Space

Man on a Mission

Launching a satellite into space on a rocket, to solve mankind’s problems. Not too long ago, this was the reserve of science fiction. When it came true, it was restricted to the first-world countries. It was incredibly foresighted of India’s statesmen to see the benefit of this infrastructure and empower our scientists to go down this path.

The results are there to see today. ISRO has changed the very perception of India in the world, and of Indians about themselves. With every success—launching record numbers of satellites, reaching the moon, landing on Mars, and creating ever more capable launch vehicles—we citizens feel we’ve arrived. The scientists responsible for these awe-inspiring advances are held in high esteem in India. Unfortunately, we have a tendency to hero-worship without a deep understanding of what goes into the hero.

Read more at: New Indian Express

Famed Astronomer Tycho Brahe Literally had Golden Hair, Study Says

Silence is golden, the saying goes. But so, evidently, was the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, according to a recent study.

Brahe, who was born in 1546 and died in 1601, was a keen observer of the heavens. But he also was exposed to enough gold while he was alive for it to show up in tests of his hair— in fact, researchers found about 20 to 100 times the amount of gold in hair samples from Brahe’s corpse than is normal today. The hair came from his eyebrows, beard, and scalp, and the scientists also found evidence in his bones that he’d been exposed to gold.

Read more at: Fox News

Is There a Dream of Chinese Spaceflight?

So there’s a curious thing about space-faring nations. In addition to the technological advancement, military strength, and economic prosperity needed to achieve human spaceflight, they have thus far all undergone a similar cultural transformation.

First, the general populace becomes fired up by the (admittedly rather exciting) prospect of sending people into space. And from this passion emerges a semi-mythical narrative; a framework to explain why exactly they want to place their citizens atop giant firecrackers and aim for the stars.

The first time this happened was in early Communist Russia, during the 1920s and 30s, when the post-revolutionary society became convinced that it would soon be delivering people to other planets. During this space craze, the Soviets tapped into a mystical homegrown philosophy known as Cosmism that predicted humanity would assert scientific control over irrational nature and achieve the perfection of society among the heavens.

Read more at: Now.space