SpaceX Launches 2nd Crew, Regular Station Crew Flights Begin

SpaceX launched four astronauts to the International Space Station on Sunday on the first full-fledged taxi flight for NASA by a private company.

Read more at: ABC news

SpaceX Crew Dragon Capsule Docks At Space Station With Its 1st Crew Of 4

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule has successfully delivered a crew of four astronauts to the International Space Station for the first time.


After a 27-hour orbital chase, the Crew-1 mission arrived at the space station Monday night (Nov. 16) with four Expedition 64 crewmembers — NASA astronauts Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins and Shannon Walker, and Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA. Also on board was a small “Baby Yoda” plush, which serves as a “zero-g indicator” during the ride.

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Air Leakage From Russian Module Of ISS Remains

The crack in the previously isolated intermediate chamber of the module Zvezda remains, cosmonaut Sergei Ryzhikov told the Mission Control.

Earlier, the crew locked the hatches into the intermediate chamber. The Mission Control asked whether the crew had measured the pressure before the hatch into that chamber was opened. The crew reported that the pressure went down considerably in the smaller part of the compartment while it remained isolated from the rest of the station by an airtight hatch.

Read more at: TASS

Human Error Blamed For Vega Launch Failure

Arianespace executives said Nov. 17 that the failure of a Vega launch the previous day was caused when the rocket’s upper stage tumbled out of control due to incorrectly installed cables in a control system.

In a call with reporters, Roland Lagier, chief technical officer of Arianespace, said the first three stages of the Vega rocket performed normally after liftoff from Kourou, French Guiana, at 8:52 p.m. Eastern Nov. 16. The Avum upper stage then separated and ignited its engine.

Read more at: Spacenews


Commerce Department Drafting Space Traffic Management Concepts As It Awaits Funding

The transfer of space traffic management responsibilities from the military to a civilian agency in the Commerce Department is moving ahead even though Congress has yet to provide funding and authorities. A “memorandum of understanding” between Commerce and DoD could be signed soon, said Mark Daley, deputy for operations at the Department of Commerce Office of Space Commerce.

“We developed an initial concept on what the architectural layout would actually be, with inputs from DoD and NASA,” Daley said Nov. 17 at a virtual conference hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Read more at: Spacenews

Senate Committee Approves SPACE Act, But Without a Bureau of Space Commerce

The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee approved the Space Preservation and Conjunction Emergency (SPACE) Act today, but with significant changes from the version introduced last month. Chief among them is the omission of language elevating NOAA’s Office of Space Commerce to a new Bureau of Space Commerce reporting directly to the Secretary of Commerce.

Read more at: Spacepolicy online

Okapi:Orbits Releases Its First Collision Avoidance Product

Since Germany startup Okapi:Orbits released its first space traffic management product for satellite operators, the response has been overwhelming, Kristina Nikolaus, Okapi:Orbits co-founder and managing director told SpaceNews.

In late October, Okapi began offering publicly an automated collision avoidance service that relies on artificial intelligence to help satellite operators evaluate the risk of collisions and maneuver to avoid other satellites and debris.

Read more at: Spacenews

Astroscale Announces March 2021 Launch Date for Debris Removal Demonstration

Astroscale Holdings Inc. (“Astroscale”), the market-leader in securing long-term orbital sustainability, has announced that its End-of-Life Services by Astroscale-demonstration (ELSA-d) mission will launch on a Soyuz rocket operated by GK Launch Services from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, in March 2021.

“We now have the launch in our sights,” says Seita Iizuka, ELSA-d Project Manager. “Publicly announcing this significant milestone is possible thanks to years of teamwork. The ELSA-d program demonstrates complex and innovative capabilities that will support satellite operators in realizing options for their post-mission disposal strategies and establish Astroscale as a global leader in the on-orbit servicing market.”

Read more at: Spacedaily

MDA Receives Commercial Contracts For On-Orbit Servicing Technologies

The OSAM-1 mission, formerly known as Restore-L, will demonstrate robotic servicing technologies in orbit, including satellite refueling, assembly and in-space manufacturing. The SPIDER payload’s lightweight 16-foot (5-metre) robotic arm will assemble multiple antenna reflector elements to form a single, functional 9-foot (3-metre) communications Ka-band antenna.

MDA has announced that it has signed multiple contracts with Maxar Technologies to provide advanced space robotics technologies for the Space Infrastructure Dexterous Robot (SPIDER), a technology demonstration on NASA’s On-orbit Servicing, Assembly, and Manufacturing 1 (OSAM-1) mission.

Read more at: Spacedaily


Virgin Galactic Delays SpaceshiptTwo Test Flight Because Of Pandemic

Virgin Galactic is postponing a test flight of its SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicle that was scheduled for this week after the state of New Mexico reinstated a stay-at-home order in response to a surge of COVID-19 cases.

Virgin Galactic had planned to perform a powered test flight of SpaceShipTwo from Spaceport America in New Mexico between Nov. 19 and 23. The flight would have been the first powered test flight of the vehicle since February 2019 and the first ever from Spaceport America, where the company will commercially operate the vehicle.

Read more at: Spacenews

First Dream Chaser Mission Slips to 2022

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) says the first flight of its Dream Chaser spacecraft to the International Space Station is now planned for 2022 after development delays caused by the pandemic.

During a media briefing Nov. 17, SNC executives said that despite the near-term delays in assembly of the lifting-body cargo spacecraft, they were still focused on a long-term plan that includes using cargo and crew versions of Dream Chaser to support a commercial space station by the end of the decade.

Read more at: Spacenews

Will Small Rockets Finally Lift Off?

The boom in demand for placing small satellites into orbit has boosted interest in small rockets, but industry players do not think the niche will become a business segment of its own.

“This time last year, we were able to count over 120 startups for microlaunchers, small rockets that would carry a single small satellite. As we look today, there is a significantly smaller number of those,” said Tory Bruno, CEO of Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture United Launch Alliance (ULA), said at a recent industry gathering.

Read more at: Japan today

Rocket Lab Launches 30 Satellites, Recovers Booster In Reusability Milestone

Rocket Lab just delivered a passel of satellites to orbit and took a big step toward booster reusability.


Rocket Lab’s two-stage Electron booster lifted off from the company’s New Zealand launch site today (Nov. 19) at 9:20 p.m. EST (0220 GMT on Nov. 20), carrying 30 spacecraft to low Earth orbit on a mission called “Return to Sender.”

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Why NASA Wants To Put A Nuclear Power Plant On The Moon

NASA and the U.S. Department of Energy will seek proposals from industry to build a nuclear power plant on the moon and Mars to support its long-term exploration plans. The proposal is for a fission surface power system, and the goal is to have a flight system, lander and reactor ready to launch by 2026.

Anthony Calomino, NASA’s nuclear technology portfolio lead within the Space Technology Mission Directorate, said that the plan is to develop a 10-kilowatt class fission surface power system for demonstration on the moon by the late 2020s. The facility will be fully manufactured and assembled on Earth, then tested for safety and to make sure it operates correctly.

Read more at: CNBC

Getting To Orbit And The Rocket Equation

The Apollo 12 mission recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. Launching on November 14, 1969 and returning on November 24, it put humans on the Moon for the second time. I wrote about Apollo 11 (mostly about its guidance computer) earlier in the year in my post The First Computer on the Moon. Today’s post is about the rocket equation, and how challenging it is to get into orbit around the earth.

Read more at: semiengineering

SpaceX Made 6 Major Changes To Its Spaceship And Rocket To Be Ready To Launch Its First Full Crew Of NASA Astronauts

SpaceX is ready to send its first full astronaut crew into space for NASA, on a launch system newly certified for human spaceflight. The Falcon 9 rocket is upright on the launchpad, a Crew Dragon spaceship secured firmly to its nose. The engines have been test fired. Four astronauts are anxiously waiting for the countdown — launch is scheduled for Sunday at 7:27 p.m. ET.

Since SpaceX’s first human launch, a demonstration that rocketed NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station (ISS), the company has ironed out several wrinkles with its system.

Read more at: Business insider

Human Rating Of Rocket GSLV Mkiii Gets Underway

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) GSLV MkIII rocket has been identified as the vehicle to launch the Gaganyaan Mission and the process for its human rating is in progress.

GSLV MkIII is a three-stage heavy lift launch vehicle developed by ISRO. It has two solid strap-ons, a core liquid booster and a cryogenic upper stage. It is designed to carry four-tonne class of satellites into geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO) or about 10 tonnes to low earth orbit (LEO), which is about twice the capability of the GSLV Mk II.

Read more at: deccan chronicle

Solar Power Stations In Space Could Be The Answer To Our Energy Needs

It sounds like science fiction: giant solar power stations floating in space that beam down enormous amounts of energy to Earth. And for a long time, the concept – first developed by the Russian scientist, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, in the 1920s – was mainly an inspiration for writers.

A century later, however, scientists are making huge strides in turning the concept into reality. The European Space Agency has realised the potential of these efforts and is now looking to fund such projects, predicting that the first industrial resource we will get from space is “beamed power”.

Read more at: Conversation

‘Conscientiousness’ Key To Team Success During Space Missions

NASA is working towards sending humans to Mars by 2030. If all goes according to plan, the flight crew’s return trip to the red planet will take about two-and-half years. That’s a long time to spend, uninterrupted, with co-workers. Now, imagine if the astronauts don’t get along with each other?

To help ensure that doesn’t happen, a new study led by Western University tested team dynamics of five astronauts during an analog Mars mission staged by the Austrian Space Forum in 2018 in Oman, a country that shares borders with Yemen, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Read more at: marsdaily

Shape-Shifting Space Mirror Enables Previously Impossible Missions

This bendable space mirror can have its shape shifted to compensate for manufacturing or alignment errors within orbital telescopes or temperature-driven distortions.

Very large space telescopes are necessary to increase image resolution and sensitivity, whether for deep space exoplanet detection or sharpened views of the terrestrial environment. But large instruments will be harder to align and more sensitive to the absence of gravity and the environmental extremes of space. Being able to actively correct a telescope mirror’s shape offers a way forward.

Read more at: scitech daily


FAA: Commercial Space Launch Regulations ‘In Final Coordination’

The updated commercial space launch regulations released Oct. 15 by the Federal Aviation Administration are “in final coordination” and will be officially posted for public comment in the coming weeks, said Wayne Monteith, the FAA’s associate administrator for commercial space transportation.

“Part 450 is in the queue at the office of the Federal Register,” Monteith said Nov. 18 at the Ascend virtual conference hosted by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

“We expect it will be published in the next few weeks,” he said. The rules would take effect 90 days after that.

Read more at: Spacenews

Tenth EU/ESA Space Council

The 10th high-level EU/ESA Space Council took place on Friday 20 November 2020 with the topic ‘Orientations on the European contribution in establishing key principles for the global space economy’.

Following the meeting a news briefing was held with speakers Thomas Jarzombek, Government Coordinator of German Aerospace Policy; for the EU Commission, Pierre Delsaux, Deputy Director General, DG GROW; for the Portuguese and French ESA co-chairs, Manuel Heitor, Portuguese Minister for Science, Technology and Higher Education and Agnès Pannier-Runacher, French Minister delegate for Industry; and ESA Director General Jan Wörner.

Read more at: ESA

Senate Appropriators Evaluating Need to Change Law on Space Passenger Safety

The Senate Appropriations Committee said today it is evaluating the need to change existing law that prohibits the FAA from promulgating new regulations on the safety of commercial human spaceflight passengers until 2023.  It also wants the FAA to assess how its launch and reentry licensing process could be used to address risks from reentering space debris.

The committee released all 12 FY2021 appropriations bills today including Transportation-HUD which funds the Department of Transportation, of which FAA is part. The FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA/AST) regulates, facilitates and promotes the commercial space launch and reentry business.

Read more at: spacepolicy online


Space Force Ponders NSSL Revamp For New Missions

Space Force is eyeing a new R&D effort to explore launch tech for cutting-edge missions, such as debris removal and lunar orbit ops, for the multi-billion National Security Space Launch (NSSL) program’s next phase — instead of simply heading into a new contract competition.

“We’re trying to be careful that we don’t box ourselves in. We really want to take advantage of the opportunity to understand what we’re facing, and make sure that we have the right plan in place,” Col. Robert Bongiovi, director of the Space and Missile Systems Center’s (SMC) launch enterprise systems directorate, told the Mitchell Institute today.

Read more at: Breaking defense

New UK Space Command Set To Follow US With A Formal Space Domain Agency

The UK’s newly announced Space Command is likely to pick up a number of projects already begun with its creation in mind and to partner closely with the US Space Force as part of a larger military confrontation with Russia and China in space.

On Wednesday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the creation of the British Space Command as part of the commonwealth’s biggest defense expansion since the end of the Cold War. The news comes less than a year after the US established its own US Space Force (USSF) as a new branch of the US military, ostensibly in response to the growing space capabilities of Russia and China.

Read more at: Spacewar


NSF To Decommission Arecibo Radio Telescope

The National Science Foundation announced Nov. 19 it will perform a “controlled decommissioning” of the giant radio telescope at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, citing recent damage that made it unsafe to operate or even repair.

In a call with reporters, NSF officials said two broken cables used to support a 900-ton platform suspended over the telescope’s 305-meter main dish put the entire structure at risk of collapse. One cable slipped out of its socket in August, falling to the dish below and damaging it, while the second broke Nov. 6

Read more at: Spacenews

How Much Longer Will the International Space Station Stay in Orbit?

This isn’t the first time the world has been concerned about the possibility of an aging space station falling out of orbit.

I remember becoming aware of the possibility in 1997 thanks to season one of South Park. Kenny McCormick, the hoodie-wearing unfortunate who met his demise at least once every episode, was tragically squashed by Russian space station Mir while waiting for the school bus.

Read more at: thomasnet