Space Station Crew will Experience New Year’s Eve 16 Times
As the astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) orbit Earth once every 90 minutes, they will experience New Year’s Eve 16 times, NASA pointed out. That is 16 sunrise and sunsets 402.3 km above Earth, the US space agency said in a blog post on Thursday.
The six astronauts and cosmonauts will go into the last weekend of 2017 with light duty and family conferences before taking the New Year’s Day off. The current six crew members on the orbital laboratory comprise three US astronauts, two Russian cosmonauts and a Japanese astronaut.
Ahead of the New Year, the astronauts are conducting life science studies to help mission doctors keep astronauts healthier and stronger while living in outer space.
Read more at: Zeenews
Op-ed | Next Stop: the Moon
The International Space Station has been a tremendous political and technical success. However, the ISS program is coming to an end in the next few years, although government players such as the NASA, ESA, Roscosmos, China and others will continue their activities. Major new business ventures are planned in low Earth orbit (LEO) assuring a constant utilization of the opportunities offered there to provide a range of new services. We have now to look to our next stop beyond LEO.
In many countries, both governments and companies have plans to go to the moon to expand scientific knowledge and to assess the extent to which the moon’s natural resources may generate new wealth for humanity. Much has been written about the advantages of the moon as a technical and programmatic proving ground for humanity to expand toward Mars and beyond.
The only real question left to answer is this: how we shall go to the moon in a coordinated manner?
Read more at: Space News
NASA in 2017: The Space Year in Review in Videos
The year 2017 was a big one for NASA. From astronaut Peggy Whitson’s record-shattering spaceflight to the daring death-dive of Cassini into Saturn and a pledge to return astronauts to the moon, take a look back at the year that was in these NASA videos.
Above is NASA’s main 2017 year-in-review video, showcasing major events like the agency’s new goal of returning astronauts to the moon set by President Donald Trump and the reinstated National Space Council led by Vice President Mike Pence.
Read more at: Space.com
The Biggest Spaceflight Stories of 2017
It’s been a busy, exciting and bittersweet year in spaceflight.
The private spaceflight industry made some big leaps, the Trump administration announced a familiar destination for U.S. astronauts, and a venerable NASA spacecraft that fundamentally altered our understanding of habitable worlds met its fiery end.
Let’s just jump right in, because this is going to be a long one: Here are Space.com’s picks for the top spaceflight stories of 2017.
Read more at: Space.com
A Triumphant Year for SpaceX
The year 2017 has turned out to be a good one for rocket science in the United States.
American companies made 29 successful rocket launches into orbit, the highest figure since 1999, which saw 31 launches, according to a comprehensive database maintained by Gunter Krebs, a spaceflight historian in Germany. The final launch of the year, by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying a cache of commercial communications satellites, took place Friday night at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
Read more at: Atlantic
Drivers were Watching the SpaceX Rocket. They Should Have Been Watching the Road, Video Shows
The SpaceX rocket launch last Friday captivated a huge, wide-eyed audience on earth, whether viewers caught the sight on the ground in California or by watching on social media.
But at least a few rocket viewers — these ones driving on the 10 Freeway in Banning, Calif., during the launch — should have been paying more attention to the road than to the out-of-this-world spectacle. One car’s dash cam footage captured a three-car accident the launch appears to have caused on the evening of Dec. 22 on that stretch of road east of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Read more at: Idaho statesman
Year In Review, 2017 (Part 1): Sun and Moon Illuminate Science Returns
Like most years, 2017 saw numerous scientific advancements and discoveries throughout the solar system and beyond, most of which passed public attention with little fanfare for these discoveries that are helping to shape and build not only our knowledge of our solar system but also how to navigate the space around Earth in the safest way possible for our astronauts and spacecraft.
At the center of these discoveries was the Sun, with scientists making numerous advancements in space weather forecasting – something that will greatly aid astronauts living aboard the International Space Station as well as future crewed missions beyond Low Earth Orbit to the Moon, asteroids, and to Mars.
Read more at: NASA spaceflight
A New Space Race?
On December 11, Donald Trump signed a new space policy directive which instructs NASA to focus on sending humans to the moon. The last time the United States sent its astronauts to the moon was way back in December 1972 during the Apollo 17 mission. After a gap of forty-five years, the United States is looking forward to a manned lunar mission.
Speaking at the signing ceremony of this this new space policy directive, President Trump said that this policy was the first step taken “to restore American leadership in space.”
While reflecting how long it has been since a U.S. astronaut has been on the moon, Trump thanked his guest Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, one of the last Americans to be on the moon, and announced that he will not be the last one to be there.
Read more at: National interest
The New Space Race is Postponed Until 2018
Aboard the International Space Station, an A4-size flag of the United States hangs next to a 1:100 model of a space shuttle. The memento, placed there by the last crew to fly on shuttle Atlantis, is meant to be retrieved by the next batch of astronauts that launches on a US spacecraft. NASA had hoped to reach that goal in 2017 after awardingBoeing and SpaceX billion-dollar contracts under the Commercial Crew Program (CCP). However, the road back to manned missions is paved with thorns and technical challenges. We certainly won’t see any astronauts ferried to Low Earth Orbit before the year ends, but both companies believe that 2018 is the year that flag will be returned to Earth.
By awarding two companies contracts under the same program, NASA kicked off a new kind of space race. In one corner, we have the SpaceX Crew Dragon, a successor to the original Dragon capsule it’s been using to deliver supplies to the ISS.
Read more at: Engadget
Failed Satellite Programmed with ‘Wrong Co-ordinates’
The loss of a multi-million pound weather satellite in November was due to programming errors, the Russian deputy prime minister has said. Dmitry Rogozin said Meteor-M had been programmed for lift-off from a different launch site.
Speaking to Russian state TV, he blamed “human error”. “The rocket was programmed as if it was taking off from Baikonur,” he told the Rossyia 24 TV channel. In fact, the rocket was actually taking off from new base Vostochny, in the east of the country.
It contained eighteen smaller satellites belonging to research and commercial companies from Russia, Norway, Sweden, the US, Canada, Germany and Japan.
Read more at: BBC
Read more at: Arizona daily independent
World View to Help Affected Residents and Businesses After Balloon-explosion
World View is coordinating with impacted businesses and residents after a balloon-rupture incident.
The start up space tourism company conducted a successful high-altitude balloon fill test at Spaceport Tucson on Tuesday. A mechanism failure resulted in the balloon exploding, causing minimal damage to the Raytheon facilities including damage reported by residents and businesses. No injuries were reported.
“We are initiating an in-depth formal investigation of the incident to determine the specific failure mechanism and root cause so that we can make necessary adjustments to procedures, standards and oversight to ensure that this cannot happen again on our site,” said Andrew Antonio, World View director of marketing and communications. “We expect to have final results, recommendations and corrective actions, if necessary, in about 45 Days.”
Read more at: kvoa
ISRO to Launch 31 Satellites in a Single Mission Onboard PSLV
ISRO today announced that it would launch 31 satellites, including India’s Cartosat-2 series earth observation space craft, in a single mission onboard its Polar rocket on January 10.
The mission will be the first Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) mission after the unsuccessful launch of navigation satellite IRNSS-1H in August. “The launch is tentatively scheduled for January 10,” a senior Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) official told PTI. The mission’s main payload would be India’s Cartosat-2 series earth observation satellite.
Read more at: Zeenews
Russian Space Agency Denies Programming Error Bungled Rocket Launch
A failed rocket launch from Russia’s new spaceport at Vostochny last month was not in fact caused by an elementary programming error, as recent reports have indicated — or at least that’s what Roscosmos, the country’s space agency, has claimed, contradicting earlier statements made by Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin.
The November 28 launch was a big one for Russia, with a $45 million weather satellite of its own (Meteor-M No. 2-1) on board, as well as 18 smaller satellites, including U.S. ones, hitching a ride into orbit; SpaceNews lists them here. It was the second launch from the newly built Vostochny launchpad, the last more than a year and a half earlier.
But although the launch appeared to proceed nominally, a few hours later Roscosmos issued a notice that it had not been able to contact Meteor-M “due to its absence in the target orbit.” Later the upper stage of the rocket and its payloads were confirmed to have fallen into the Atlantic.
Read more at: Techcrunch
Russia Re-establishes Contact with Angola’s Telecoms Satellite
Russia said on Friday it had re-established contact with Angola’s first national telecoms satellite AngoSat-1.
The connection had been lost after the satellite launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome on Tuesday. “Telemetry information received from the satellite shows that all the parameters of onboard systems are working normally,” Russia’s space corporation Energiya said in statement.
Read more at: Reuters
Who Gets to Own Outer Space?
Of all the great American industrial undertakings of the 20th century, the most high-minded and romantic was the Apollo project. Americans first flew in space in May 1961, and, just over eight years later, they stood on the surface of another celestial body — a mind-boggling achievement.
The American public was introduced to space as a tangible thing when astronauts were walking on the moon every few months, or NASA was captivating the imagination with the space shuttle, which promised to usher in an era of routine space exploration. Americans went to space in vehicles called Eagle, Discovery, and Endeavour, and talked about coming in peace for all mankind. Heady stuff.
Read more at: Ringer
Military Launch Quality Issues Flagged by DoD Watchdog
An evaluation of military space launch services revealed lapses in quality control that could compromise the schedule and performance of future missions, the Defense Department inspector general reported last week.
The IG specifically called out the main contractors that support the evolved expendable launch vehicle program, or EELV, for failing to comply with standards required by AS9100 — a widely adopted quality management system for the aviation and space industries.
Prime contractors United Launch Alliance (ULA) and SpaceX, and ULA subcontractor Aerojet Rocketdyne “did not perform adequate quality assurance management of the EELV program,” said the Dec. 20 report signed by Randolph Stone, deputy inspector general for policy and oversight.
Read more at: Spacenews
Failed Space Launches Haunt Russia
Russia’s latest rocket launch failures have prompted authorities to take a closer look into the nation’s struggling space industry, the Kremlin revealed yesterday.
A 2.6 billion rouble ($A58 million) Russian weather satellite and nearly 20 micro-satellites from other nations were lost following a failed launch of the Meteor-M from Russia’s new cosmodrome in the far east on November 28. And in another blow to the Russian space industry, communications with a Russian-built communications satellite for Angola, the African nation’s first space vehicle, were lost following its launch on Tuesday.
Asked about the failures, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that a thorough analysis of the situation in the space industry was warranted.
Read more at: AU News
New Satellite Tracking of In-flight Aircraft to Improve Safety
At any given time, there are approximately 59,000 aircraft in flight worldwide. The ability to effectively track, monitor and report these aircraft is paramount to ensuring the safety of passengers and crew, as well as that of communities on the ground.
The United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies – the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) – which establishes worldwide standards that foster seamless interconnection of a vast range of communications systems, has now adopted the main technical principals of enhanced aircraft automatic dependent surveillance via satellite, to track in-flight aircraft worldwide.
Read more at: GPS Daily
NASA Willing to Consider Flying Researchers on Commercial Suborbital Vehicles
As commercial suborbital vehicles capable of carrying both payloads and people prepare to enter service, NASA officials say they’re willing to consider allowing agency-funded researchers to fly on those vehicles.
In an interview after a speech at the Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference here Dec. 19, Steve Jurczyk, NASA associate administrator for space technology, said the agency would be open to allowing researchers funded by NASA’s Flight Opportunities program to fly on suborbital spacecraft to carry out their experiments.
“As principal investigators propose, both internal to NASA and external, we’ll do the same kind of process that we do with Zero G,” he said, referring to the company that performs parabolic aircraft flights. Zero G flies investigations as part of the Flight Opportunities program, with researchers flying on the aircraft with their experiments.
Read more at: Spacenews
DARPA and NASA Team Up to Design Refueling Satellites
The Department of Defense’s research and development arm is teaming up with NASA to create a new generation of satellites whose job will be to maintain existing ones. The new satellites, called “service stations in orbit” by The Washington Post, could extend the lives of billion-dollar satellites and fix minor maintenance issues, problems that are currently not possible. Such “service stations” however could also interfere with the satellites of adversaries.
Satellites are a multi-billion dollar industry, and it’s no exaggeration to say that everything from the military to ordinary civilians rely on them. From GPS navigation to farming to satellite television, humans rely on satellites to make our lives better.
Read more at: Popular Mechanics
Read more at: Washington Post
China to Build Mars Village in Qinghai Province
China is building a village simulating the environmental conditions on Mars, in northwest China’s Qinghai Province.
The project, as part of China’s Mars exploration preparation, was approved by experts in Beijing Thursday.
The village will be constructed in the red rock area of the Qaidam basin in western Qinghai, which has been dubbed “the most Martian place on Earth.” Covering 702 hectares, the “Mars Village” will consist of a tourism center, a Mars community, a simulation base and other facilities. Total investment is estimated at 850 million yuan (about 130 million U.S. dollars).
Read more at: Xinhuanet
Deputy PM Blames Russian Space Agency’s Management for Systemic Mistakes
Management of the state-run space corporation Roscosmos have made systemic mistakes, Russian Deputy Prime Minister said in a televised interview with Rossiya’24 channel on Wednesday.
“The state-run corporation [Roscosmos] has been facing systemic mistakes in both management and among the executives,” he said. “We had pinned great hopes on the fact we were doing without incidents for years. However, there was an incident at the end of last year. This year, there have been 20 successful launches and an abortive one,” Rogozin said.
“If earlier we had had inadmissible manufacturing defects [behind the abortive launches] urging the enterprises to improve discipline afterwards, in this case the space port operated perfectly, the launch vehicle worked ideally as well as the proper booster unit and working payload,” the deputy prime minister said.
Read more at: TASS
Avio Expanding Vega Launch Abilities, Mulls “Light” Mini-variant
Designers of Europe’s light-lift Vega rocket are creating a slew of new products intended to lure prospective customers away from India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle and to fend off the coming wave of launch startups that are developing dedicated rockets for cubesats and other small satellites.
Avio’s product mix includes a suite of advanced offerings meant to challenge PSLV on grounds other than price — a factor both Avio and the European Space Agency admit plays to India’s advantage — as well as a possible “mini-launcher” variant, to perform dedicated missions for cubesats and larger but still low-mass satellites.
Read more at: Spacenews
How is SpaceX Doing on its Deep Space Ambitions?
2017 should have ended with SpaceX’s most dramatic launch yet: the long-awaited demo flight of its Falcon Heavy triple-booster rocket. It’s the vehicle that’s supposed to get the company into deep space someday, the cornerstone of Elon Musk’s “get us out of here” plan for saving the human race. Musk first targeted November for the test flight, following years of almost-here promises. But like so many landmark SpaceX missions, it was delayed yet again—this time, at least until January.
Just because SpaceX missed its self-imposed deadline, though, doesn’t mean the company didn’t make progress toward its far-out goals in 2017.
Read more at: Wired
Elon Musk Reveals Photos of Tesla Roadster Launching on Falcon Heavy Rocket
Elon Musk is really sending his Tesla Roadster to Mars.
On Friday (Dec. 22), Musk, the CEO and chief technology officer of SpaceX, posted photos to his Instagram account revealing the “midnight cherry” electric sports car being prepared for launch on the company’s first Falcon Heavy rocket.
“Test flights of new rockets usually contain mass simulators in the form of concrete or steel blocks. That seemed extremely boring,” Musk wrote on the photo sharing website. “Of course, anything boring is terrible, especially companies, so we decided to send something unusual, something that made us feel.”
Read more at: Space.com
Opinion: How NASA Became a Ping-pong Ball
For three decades, NASA’s human space flight program was in a secure, albeit uninspiring, trajectory – low-Earth orbit. The loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia and her seven-member crew on Feb. 1, 2003, changed all that. The Shuttle era was set to end and the agency would discover there’s something even more dangerous than re-entering Earth’s atmosphere with damaged heat tiles – politicians.
After the loss of Columbia on mission STS-107, George W. Bush directed NASA to restore its ability to send astronauts to the Moon in 2004 so that they could develop the methods and technologies to send crews to Mars and then beyond. Moon, Mars, and Beyond would go on to become the mantra of the Vision for Space Exploration, the guiding plan for the agency’s Constellation Program which was initiated to fulfill Bush’s directive.
Bush’s 2005 Budget Request for the space agency saw an almost six percent increase in the agency’s budget. The space agency provided initial estimates that Constellation would cost approximately $230 billion. However, according to a report by the General Accounting Office, “unsolved technical and design challenges” made it impossible for the agency to provide a conclusive estimate. It turns out restoring abilities lost more than three decades earlier would require substantial investment. Who knew?
Read more at: Spaceflight Insider
7 Space Technologies That Changed the World
Read more at: Huffington Post
Senate Leaves Town with HHS, NASA Nominees in Limbo
The Senate left town for the year without acting on dozens of President Donald Trump’s nominees, including his picks to head the Health and Human Services Department and NASA.
The Senate’s lack of action returns the nominations to the White House, which will have to renominate them in January if Trump wants them installed. Among the nominees in limbo are former pharmaceutical company executive Alex Azar to run Health and Human Services, Oklahoma Rep. Jim Bridenstine to head NASA and Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback for an ambassador’s post.
The nomination of KT McFarland, a former deputy national security adviser nominated as U.S. ambassador to Singapore, is in doubt amid questions about her communications with ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Read more at: Denver Post
New Report Slams Idea of a Missile Defense Shield in Space
It’s one of those ideas that never really goes away: The deployment of missiles in space to intercept ballistic missiles aimed at the United States and its allies. With North Korea testing ever more advanced nuclear weapons and delivery systems, the push to place interceptors in space is back in the conversation.
Congress is asking the Pentagon to investigate the possibility. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 authorizes the development of a “space-based ballistic missile intercept layer, capable of providing boost-phase defense.”
Don’t do it, warns a new report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The think tank included space-based missile interceptors as part of its series titled “Bad Ideas in National Security.”
Read more at: Spacenews
Fourth SBIRS Missile Defense Satellite Begins Fueling for January Launch on Atlas-V
Teams at Cape Canaveral AFS in Florida have been given a GO to begin loading 430 pounds of fuel onboard the fourth U.S. Air Force Space Based Infrared System Geosynchronous Orbit (SBIRS GEO-4) spacecraft—a crucial war fighting satellite to detect and track missile launches worldwide—ahead of a scheduled January 2018 launch atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas-V rocket.
The $1.2 billion Lockheed Martin satellite is one of the U.S. military’s most expensive and high priority space assets, and was flown aboard a C-5 Galaxy aircraft from Moffett Federal Air Field in Sunnyvale, California to its Florida launch site on October 31.
“SBIRS provides our military with timely, reliable and accurate missile warning and infrared surveillance information,” said Tom McCormick, vice president of Lockheed Martin’s Overhead Persistent Infrared systems mission area. “We look forward to adding GEO Flight 4’s capabilities to the first line of defense in our nation’s missile defense strategy.”
Read more at: America Space
Read more at: Defense News
2018 a Big Year of Transition for Military Space
A controversial shakeup of the military space organization mandated by Congress will get underway in 2018. Details of how and when the changes will unfold are slowly emerging.
A laundry list of provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act will reshape the military space chain of command and oversight of programs. Pentagon and Air Force officials are still grappling with the full extent of the reforms, the most significant of which is the removal of the role of principal Defense Department space adviser from the secretary of the Air Force.
“A lot of people focused on the fact that Mike Rogers’ idea for a space corps didn’t happen, and they missed that a lot of reform did go into this bill,” Rep. Adam Smith, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee told SpaceNews in a recent interview.
Read more at: Space News
Restraint is Critical on Space Policy
Hidden deep inside the new National Security Strategy are a few paragraphs outlining the Trump administration’s aims in space. While the president’s announcement of a new push to put Americans back on the moon and eventually Mars was met with some fanfare, the National Security Strategy content on space has faced far less scrutiny.
There isn’t anything particularly objectionable to the three action items listed: putting Vice President Pence in charge of the National Space Council, making it easier for commercial companies to operate in space, and working with our allies to explore the solar system.
What is much less clear is how any of these will promote space security. Even worse, the stated intent of maintaining “freedom of action” in space is usually read in defense circles as code for developing weapons in space and weapons that affect space.
Read more at: Inside sources
North Korea Finishes Advanced Recon Satellite
South Korean newspapers have reported that their neighbor to the north has completed development of a new reconnaissance satellite, the first that will enable North Korea to transmit data to Earth.
JoongAng Ilbo, a Seoul daily newspaper and one of the nation’s largest, reported that an anonymous South Korean government source told them about the impending launch of the new satellite, which has the capability to deploy from a mobile launcher.
Read more at: Space daily
China Tests New Ballistic Missiles with Hypersonic Glide Vehicles
The People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force has conducted two flight tests of a new ballistic missile attached to a hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV), US officials confirmed in a recent intelligence assessment.
The two DF-17 ballistic missile tests occurred November 1 and November 15, respectively, a US official briefed on the intelligence assessment told the Diplomat on December 28. The November 1 test was the first ballistic missile test since the Communist Party of China’s 19th Congress in October, the report notes.
Read more at: Space Daily
Military Use of Space is Coming, Trump can Help America Prepare
President Donald Trump’s National Security Strategy set a new course by focusing on rebuilding the domestic economy as central to national security and its aim at “rival powers, Russia and China, that seek to challenge America influence, values, and wealth.” Critics observed that the White House seemed to reverse past presidents’ emphasis on advancing democracy and liberal values, reject both reducing global warming and spreading free trade as national security goals, and elevating American sovereignty over international cooperation.
Less noticed but perhaps equally revisionist, the National Security Strategy reverses the Obama administration’s lead-from-behind approach to outer space. As American military and civilian networks have increased their dependence on satellite networks, the Obama White House deferred to European efforts to develop a “Code of Conduct” that would reduce the chances of armed conflict in space.
Read more at: Hill
King Tut’s Dagger is Out of This World
Daggers, axes and jewelry made from rare iron during the Bronze Age are literally out of this world, according to new research finding that ancient artisans crafted these metal artifacts with iron from outer space carried to Earth by meteorites.
The finding upends the idea that a few artisans during the Bronze Age in the ancient Near East knew how to make iron by smelting it from Earth’s crust.
Instead, it appears that Bronze Age metalworkers sought out meteorites to make these treasures, said study author Albert Jambon, a French archaeo-metallurgist and a professor at the Pierre and Marie Curie University, in Paris.
Read more at: Scientific American
Untethered: Humanity’s First Free Flying Astronaut, Bruce McCandless, Passes Away Aged 80
The first person to conduct a free, untethered spacewalk, Bruce McCandless II, has passed away at the age of 80. McCandless was a naval aviator and the son of a U.S. Medal of Honor recipient who served as the CAPCOM when Neil Armstrong successfully placed humanity’s first footprints on the Moon and who helped redefine what it was believed astronauts can do.
The former U.S. Navy captain joined NASA’s Astronaut Corps in April of 1966 during the heady days of the space agency’s manned journey to the Moon. At 28, he was the youngest Group 5 astronaut tapped to train to fly to orbit. That group would come to be called the “Original Nineteen” by veteran astronaut and Moonwalker John W. Young.
His selection marked a turning point in terms of the types of individuals selected to be astronauts. Rather than have experience as test pilots, these new space flyers came from backgrounds pertaining to scientific research.
Read more at: Spaceflight Insider