SpaceX Demo-2 Flight Test Ends With Crew Splashdown

SpaceX ended its first crewed spaceflight—a two-month test run to the International Space Station (ISS)—on Aug. 2 with a successful parachute splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida.

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, flying as test pilots for the SpaceX Demonstration Mission-2 (Demo-2), landed in flat seas and 2 mph winds at 2:48 p.m. EDT, capping NASA’s six-year effort to restore U.S. human orbital flight capability after the space shuttles’ retirement in 2011.

Read more at: Aviation Week

NASA Is On An Epic Roll. But Can It Keep The Momentum Going?

After years in which NASA seemed like an afterthought in the national consciousness and was at the back of the line when the federal budget was allocated, the space agency appears to be on a roll.

It’s basking in the successful completion Sunday of the first crewed space mission launched from U.S. soil in nearly a decade and the launch last week of a new rover to Mars. It’s already planning its next astronaut launch, perhaps as soon as next month.

The question now is: Can it maintain its mojo?

Read more at: Washington Post

SpaceX’s Starship SN5 Prototype Soars On 1st Test Flight! ‘Mars Is Looking Real,’ Elon Musk Says

SpaceX just flew a full-size prototype of its Starship Mars-colonizing spacecraft for the first time ever. The Starship SN5 test vehicle took to the skies for about 40 seconds this afternoon (Aug. 4) at SpaceX’s facilities near the South Texas village of Boca Chica, performing a small hop that could end up being a big step toward human exploration of the Red Planet.”Mars is looking real,” Musk tweeted shortly after today’s test flight.

SN5 prototype soars on 1st test flight! ‘Mars is looking real,’ Elon Musk says

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Space Weather Bill Clears Senate, Creates Pilot Program at NOAA

The Senate passed the PROSWIFT space weather bill on July 27, another step along what has been a long path for the legislation. It is a compromise with a version adopted by the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee in January that includes a provision calling for NOAA to create a commercial space weather data pilot program akin to its commercial weather data program. All that is needed now is passage by the House and a signature from the President, which would mark the end of a five-year effort.

Read more at: Spacepolicyonline

General Atomics To Design Space Force Weather Satellite Prototype

General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems announced an agreement Aug. 4 to design a prototype for the U.S. Space Force Electro-Optical Infrared Weather System, known as EWS.

“EWS will demonstrate new technologies and lead to optimized future capabilities for effective weather prediction,” Nick Bucci, General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems Missile Defense and Space Systems vice president, said in a statement. “Combining [General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems’] proven expertise in satellite design and manufacturing will lead to production of a cost-effective future high-performance weather satellite constellation.”

Read more at: Spacenews

First Laser Detection Of Space Debris In Daylight

For some time, lasers could only be used to measure the distance to space debris during the few twilight hours in which the ‘laser ranging’ station on Earth is in darkness, but debris objects high above are still bathing in the last of the Sun’s rays.

In the same way that the Moon is brightest when it is glistening in sunlight while it is night on Earth, space debris is easier to spot when reflecting the Sun’s light as seen from a dark vantage point.

Because debris objects are so much closer to Earth, however, there is only a small window in which they are lit up but observers on Earth are not.

Read more at: ESA

Maps Of The Sun’s Corona Could Help Us Predict Dangerous Solar Storms

The outermost layer of the sun, called the corona, is extraordinarily difficult to study, but now researchers have made the first map of its magnetic field. This will help us predict solar flares that potentially threaten Earth.

The plasma – a hot, ionised state of matter – that makes up the corona is incredibly tenuous, which is why it isn’t visible with the naked eye except during a total solar eclipse. That tenuousness, along with the brightness of the disk of the sun, also makes it tough to measure.

Read more at: Newscientist


IN-SPACe Mandate Creates Flutter In Scientific Community

The decisions of the newly set-up Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe), the single-window nodal agency, on the launch dates of satellites and rockets and use of facilities of the Department of Space’s assets also by private players will be binding on all stakeholders including the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro).

The Department of Space published the roles and responsibilities of IN-SPACe, formed after the department decided to open up the assets for all with an aim to boost the private sector’s participation in the space activities in the country, on the Isro’s website.

Read more at: New Indian Express

Momentus To Fly Hosted Payloads In 2021

In-space transportation startup Momentus announced plans Aug. 3 to begin flying hosted payloads for customers in 2021.

The Santa Clara, California, company plans to offer space for technology demonstrations, qualification missions and short-term demonstrations in its Vigoride transfer vehicle. The hosted payload experiments can be conducted in the Vigoride transfer vehicle after it finishes its primary job of moving customer payloads from the point in orbit where their rocket drops them off to their ultimate destination and prior to Vigoride re-entering Earth’s atmosphere.

Read more at: Spacenews

Virgin Galactic Delays Spaceshiptwo Commercial Flights To 2021

Virgin Galactic has pushed the beginning of commercial flights of its SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicle to no earlier than the first quarter of 2021 while announcing plans to sell additional stock to raise money.

The company, in its fiscal second quarter financial results released Aug. 3, said it expected to perform two more test flights of SpaceShipTwo from Spaceport America in New Mexico, both of which will be powered flights. The vehicle has made two glide flights since moving to the spaceport early this year.

Read more at: Spacenews

Edinburgh-Based Skyrora Successfully Completes Shetland’s First Rocket Launch

Edinburgh-based rocket firm Skyrora launched the two metre Skylark Nano rocket – which reached an altitude of six kilometres – from Fethaland Peninsula on the mainland of Shetland.

Skyrora, which hopes to operate from one of the three proposed spaceports in Scotland, carried out the suborbital launch on Saturday (June 13).

Launching commercial rockets from Shetland in the future is a potential option.

Read more at: Edinburgh news


Super Space Sunblock Made From Skin Pigment Could Shield Astronauts From Radiation

For astronauts preparing to spend a long summer vacation on Mars, hats and umbrellas might not be enough to protect them from the sun’s harsh rays.

And just like beachgoers slathering on sunscreen, explorers on the moon or Mars may one day shield themselves using creams containing a new bioengineered material called selenomelanin, created by enriching the natural pigment melanin with the metal selenium.

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Virgin Orbit To Launch 11 Satellites For NASA On Second Launch Demo

Virgin Orbit’s upcoming Launch Demo 2 mission on LauncherOne will carry 11 small satellites from NASA onboard, as part of NASA’s CubeSat Initiative (CSLI).

The mission is planned to occur before the end of the year, with Virgin Orbit’s carrier aircraft Cosmic Girl taking off from Mojave Air and Space Port in California. Once in orbit, the satellites will conduct a variety of scientific studies and demonstrate new spacecraft technology. By supporting NASA, university-led scientific research and orbital technology demonstrations, the mission strikes at the heart of Virgin Orbit’s purpose of opening access to space for good.

Read more at: Virgin

Cryosat Taken To New Heights For Ice Science

Ice plays a critical role in keeping Earth’s climate cool, but our rapidly warming world is taking its toll and ice is in general decline. For more than 10 years, ESA’s CryoSat has been returning critical information on how the height of our fragile ice fields is changing. Nevertheless, to gain even better insight, ESA has spent the last two weeks nudging CryoSat into a higher orbit to synchronise it with NASA’s ICESat-2 so that scientists can benefit from simultaneous measurements from different space sensors.

Read more at: ESA

China Is Moving Ahead With Lunar South Pole And Near-Earth Asteroid Missions

China is advancing the development of the Chang’e-7 lunar south pole mission and a complex campaign to study comets and return samples from a near-Earth asteroid with a single orbiter.

The China National Space Administration issued a call (Chinese) in late July to university, middle school and elementary school students for popular science experiments for the multiple-spacecraft Chang’e-7 lunar mission, and an asteroid and comet exploration project tentatively named ZhengHe. 

Read more at: Spacenews

The Canadian Space Agency Awards $7.15 Million In Technology Contracts

In just over the last month the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has awarded $20.6 million in contributions as part of the Space Technology Development Program (STDP) AO 6. The third, and most recent list of awards was posted to their website yesterday. The contributions went to 20 different companies with more than half going to small businesses, including several first time winners, and for some very interesting technologies.

Read more at: SpaceQ

Smallsat Reliability Increasing

The percentage of small satellites that successfully complete their missions has improved in recent years even as the number of such satellites has dramatically increased.

The Aerospace Corporation study, presented at the 34th Annual Small Satellite Conference, found that 87% of smallsats launched between 2009 and 2018 that had completed their missions had done so successfully. An earlier study that looked at those launched between 2009 and 2013 found that 76% of smallsats, defined as those weighing no more than 500 kilograms, were successful.

Read more at: Spacenews

China Seeks Payload Ideas For Mission To Moon, Asteroid

China is soliciting ideas for payloads aboard its proposed missions to the moon, an asteroid and a comet, according to the China National Space Administration.

It is asking for primary, middle school and university students across the country to provide ideas for payloads that would fly aboard the Chang’e-7 probe to the moon, and on another spacecraft to the asteroid 2016HO3 and the comet 133P.

The solicitation aims to arouse students’ interest in science and inspire them to explore the universe, said the administration.

Read more at: Xinhuanet


INSIGHT: Space Travel and Liability—The Next Frontier

Read more at: Bloomberglaw

South Korea Faces Hurdles With Space Projects

South Korea’s recent announcement of a deal on new missile guidelines with the United States lifted a decades-long restriction on South Korea’s use of solid fuels for its space launch vehicles. Expectations have since risen that South Korea will be able to launch its own low-Earth orbit military spy satellites atop rockets produced by domestic manufacturers.

The presidential office said the lift of the ban would help advance the South Korean military’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities by enabling launch of low-Earth orbit satellites atop solid propellants. It said such satellites would provide around-the-clock military surveillance, dubbed the “unblinking eye.”

Read more at: Koreatimes

NASA to Reexamine Nicknames for Cosmic Objects

Distant cosmic objects such as planets, galaxies, and nebulae are sometimes referred to by the scientific community with unofficial nicknames. As the scientific community works to identify and address systemic discrimination and inequality in all aspects of the field, it has become clear that certain cosmic nicknames are not only insensitive, but can be actively harmful. NASA is examining its use of unofficial terminology for cosmic objects as part of its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

As an initial step, NASA will no longer refer to planetary nebula NGC 2392, the glowing remains of a Sun-like star that is blowing off its outer layers at the end of its life, as the “Eskimo Nebula.”

Read more at: NASA


DoD Space Agency’s Programs Don’t Have To Be Perfect But Have To Be Fast

The Pentagon’s new space agency is working to develop a network of satellites in low Earth orbit to serve as the eyes and ears of military forces in the field. While typically it would take the Defense Department a decade to field such systems, the Space Development Agency plans to have satellites in orbit within two years.

Derek Tournear, director of the SDA, said the agency selected as its motto “semper citius” — Latin for “always faster” — to emphasize the idea that putting good-enough ca

Read more at: Spacenews

Air Force Research Laboratory Will Realign, Not Split

The new commander of the storied Air Force Research Laboratory will realign—not reorganize—the lab so it can ably support both the new U.S. Space Force and its traditional Air Force customers.

“We’ll be one AFRL serving two services: The Air Force and the Space Force,” said Brig. Gen. Heather L. Pringle, commander of AFRL, in an interview with Air Force Magazine. A new deputy technical executive officer will be “responsible for integrating our space [science and technology] portfolio,” Pringle said, and will report directly to her. The new executive will be “the single focal point for the U.S. Space Force,” she added.

Read more at: Airforcemag

The U.S. Is At Risk Of Attacks In Space

Other nations are catching up to U.S. capabilities in space, potentially putting American assets in orbit at risk.

Why it matters: From GPS to imagery satellites and others that can peer through clouds, space data is integral to American national security.

Those same assets make for appealing targets by bad actors, and experts are concerned weapons testing in orbit could lead to U.S. satellites being attacked in the future.

Read more at: Axios

U.S. Military Space Architecture To Bring In Commercial Systems, Small Satellites

Many of the satellites, ground infrastructure and information systems that the U.S. Space Force will buy in the future will be developed by the private sector, officials said Aug. 5.

Col. Russell Teehan, portfolio architect of the U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles, said commercially developed technologies will be part of the future capabilities of the U.S. Space Force.

Speaking on a SpaceNews online event, Teehan described a “notional operational architecture” for the systems and technologies that the U.S. Space Force envisions it will need in the future.

Read more at: Spacenews


Russia Starts Training Cosmonauts For Record Fast Flight To Orbital Outpost

Specialists of Russia’s Energia Space Rocket Corporation have started training cosmonauts for a record fast flight to the International Space Station (ISS) under an ultra-short scheme with a crewed spacecraft to reach the orbital outpost in three hours, a source in the domestic space industry told TASS on Monday.

Head of Russia’s federal space agency Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin “has instructed the Energia Space Rocket Corporation to prepare the first crew for a flight under a super-fast scheme to the ISS where the spacecraft makes just two orbits before docking with the station. The Corporation has already started the cosmonauts’ training,” the source said.

Read more at: TASS