Firefly Aerospace Rocket Engine Test Ends In Fire (Video)

Firefly Aerospace is opening up about a fire that broke out during a recent rocket engine test, releasing video of the event as the company investigates the failure’s cause.

The fire occurred Wednesday (Jan. 22) during a “hot-fire” test of Firefly’s Alpha rocket, a booster designed for small satellite launches. The exercise at Firefly’s proving grounds in Briggs, Texas was designed to test the Alpha’s four first-stage Reaver engines with a short 5-second firing.

Firefly Aerospace’s video of the hot-fire, which it released on Twitter Thursday (Jan. 23), shows a fire erupting from the left of the view as the engine test began.

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SpaceX Releases Preliminary Results From Crew Dragon Abort Test

Data from the Jan. 19 in-flight launch escape demonstration of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft indicate the performance of the capsule’s SuperDraco abort engines was “flawless” as the thrusters boosted the ship away from the top of a Falcon 9 rocket with a peak acceleration of about 3.3Gs, officials said Thursday.

The Jan. 19 test demonstrated the Crew Dragon’s ability to safely carry astronauts away from a launch emergency, such as a rocket failure, and return the crew to a parachute-assisted splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean.

Read more at: Spaceflight Now

Soyuz Rocket’s Malfunction Will Be Eliminated In One Or Two Weeks – Sources

The launch of Soyuz 2.1a rocket with Meridian-M military satellite from Plesetsk, northern Russia, was cancelled over a malfunction of the booster’s electrical equipment, two sources in the rocket and space sector told TASS on Sunday.

“The launch was cancelled over a problem with the booster’s electrical equipment,” one of the sources said.

Another source confirmed the electrical equipment’s malfunction, noting that the rocket has been taken off the launch pad and it is expected that an effort to eliminate the malfunction will take “one or two weeks.”

Read more at: TASS

NASA/ESA Complete Challenging Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer Repair

NASA and ESA have concluded a series of four spacewalks to repair the Station’s Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer experiment.  NASA astronaut Drew Morgan and European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Luca Parmitano completed the series with the AMS deemed to be in good health.

Never designed to be serviceable after it was installed outside the Station in May 2011, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) required some unique thinking in order to bring it back to full operational capacity.

Read more at: NASA Spaceflight

Spacewalkers Fix Unexpected Leak During Final Work To Repair $2 Billion Cosmic Ray Detector

During a fourth spacewalk Saturday to wrap up repairs of the coolant system in a $2 billion cosmic ray detector, Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano and Drew Morgan discovered a leak in one of eight coolant lines that were spliced into a new pump module during three earlier excursions.

Tightening up the suspect connector did not solve the problem. So Parmitano tried one more time before returning to the International Space Station’s airlock to retrieve a jumper and the tools needed to splice in a bypass if necessary, throwing a wrench into the crew’s carefully scripted spacewalk timeline.

Read more at: CBS news

Prototypes For New Chinese Crew Capsule And Space Station Arrive At Launch Site

The next flight of China’s heavy-lift Long March 5 rocket will debut a new configuration designed to launch modules for a Chinese space station. But a demonstration launch of the Long March 5B booster scheduled as soon as April will instead carry a prototype of China’s next-generation deep space crew capsule into orbit on an unpiloted test flight.

The crew capsule prototype has arrived at the Wenchang launch base, located on Hainan Island in southern China, the China Manned Space Engineering Office announced Jan. 20. A test unit for the core module of China’s planned space station also arrived via ship at the Wenchang space base to undergo rehearsals before the core module flight unit launches on a Long March 5B rocket in 2021, officials said.

Read more at: Spaceflight Now

NASA Prepares To Launch Rocket From Alaska’s Poker Flat Range

In cold, dry, subarctic air, a rocket taller than a house tilts northward, awaiting the moment when a person inside a nearby concrete building pushes a button.

The ink-black Chatanika River valley will then flash white, and erupt with a clap of thunder. A slender NASA vehicle will shoot skyward, carrying a sensitive instrument in an arc 160 miles above northern Alaska.

The detector will lock on a distant star, and determine what the gases in our atmosphere are filtering out. This will tell scientists something about nitric oxide, which sometimes penetrates lower levels of Earth’s atmosphere, destroying ozone molecules.

Read more at: ADN

Boeing’s Phantom Express Vanishes into Thin Air

A couple of years ago, a friend made the surprising predication that DARPA’s Experimental Spaceplane Program (XSP) — a R&D effort designed to produce a rocket capable of being launched 10 times in 10 days — would never see any hardware built.

The reasoning went like this: the winning bidder, Boeing, really wasn’t interested in the technology. The company was actually interested in government funding and keeping other companies from developing the system.

Read more at: Parabolic arc

Russian Space Firm Offers Lunar Transportation System Independent Of US Orbital Platform

Russia’s Energia Space Rocket Corporation has come up with the project Ryvok-2 (Breakthrough-2) for a reusable spacecraft’s direct flight to the Moon without intermediate landing on the international lunar orbital station, according to a report by Energia specialist Rafail Murtazin published on Tuesday.

The report was released for the 44th readings on cosmonautics devoted to Soviet Space Rocket Designer Sergei Koroloyov.

Read more at: TASS


Directv Is Moving One Of Its Satellites To A Safer Orbit Over Fears Of Explosion

DirecTV fears that one of its satellites in orbit might blow up soon, and it’s gearing up to move it to safety. Due to a problem with the satellite’s batteries, the satellite might burst apart at the end of February. If it did explode while in its current orbit, there’s a chance it could damage active satellites nearby, which is why the company would like to get it out of the way.

The satellite on the verge of bursting is Spaceway-1, a vehicle built by Boeing launched in 2005, as first reported by Space News. Spaceway-1 has been orbiting along a path known as geostationary orbit, 22,000 miles above Earth. There, satellites match the orbit of the planet and appear to hover over the same patch of sky at all times. For most of its life, the satellite provided high-definition television coverage. But it has recently been used as a backup, so it hasn’t been providing any coverage for customers.

Read more at: Verge

Boeing Says Spaceway-1 Battery Failure Has Low Risk Of Repeating On Similar Satellites

The battery malfunction that put DirecTV’s Spaceway-1 satellite at risk of exploding has a “very low likelihood” of occuring on other satellites, according to the satellite’s manufacturer, Boeing. 

Spaceway-1 was the first of three virtually identical Spaceway satellites built by Boeing and launched between 2005 and 2007. AT&T subsidiary DirectTV owns Spaceway-1 and -2, which were launched to provide direct broadcast TV services over the Americas. Hughes Network Systems, which was spun off from DirecTV in 2005, owns Spaceway-3 and uses it to provide internet connectivity to customers in North America. 

Read more at: Spacenews

Astroscale Awarded Up To US $4.5 Million Grant From Tokyo Metropolitan Government To Commercialize Active Debris Removal Services

Astroscale Holdings Inc. (“Astroscale”), the market-leader in developing technology and services to remove space debris and secure long-term orbital sustainability, today announced it has been awarded a grant of up to US $4.5 million from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s “Innovation Tokyo Project” to build a roadmap for commercializing active debris removal (ADR) services.

The project, which was launched last year, aims to subsidize up to half of the expenses required for the commercialization and development of innovative services and products for venture companies and small and medium-sized enterprises.

Read more at: Astroscale

NASA Sounding Rocket Observing Nitric Oxide in Polar Night

Aurora, also known as the northern lights, are a sight to behold as they dance across the sky when solar winds collide with the Earth’s atmosphere.  

However, they also contribute to a process that has an adverse impact on the Earth’s ozone as nitric oxide is created during the auroral light show.

To better understand the abundance of nitric oxide in the polar atmosphere, NASA will launch the Polar Night Nitric Oxide or PolarNOx experiment from the Poker Flat Research Range operated by the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

Read more at: NASA

Euroconsult Forecasts Satellite Demand To Experience A Four-Fold Increase Over The Next 10 Years

In its latest analysis of satellite manufacturing and launch services, “Satellites to be Built and Launched by 2028″, Euroconsult projects that the satellite market will experience a radical transformation in the quantity, value and mass of the satellites to be built and launched with a four-fold increase in the number of satellites at a yearly average of 990 satellites to be launched, compared to a yearly average of 230 satellites in the previous decade. The market will reach $292 billion over the next decade. This reflects a 28 percent increase over the previous decade which totalled $228 billion in revenues.

Read more at: Euroconsult


Blue Origin Ramps Up Team For Blue Moon Lander As It Waits For Word From NASA

Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture has posted more than 50 job openings for its Blue Moon lunar lander program, which is currently under consideration for NASA funding.

The online listings put out the word about positions at Blue Origin’s home base in Kent, Wash., ranging from chief engineer to administrative assistant. Most of the positions focus on software engineering and systems development. For what it’s worth, a mockup of the Blue Moon lander is the centerpiece of the O’Neill Building, the company’s new headquarters in Kent.

Read more at: Geekwire

ESA And Airbus Sign Contract For Bartolomeo Platform On The International Space Station

The Bartolomeo platform from Airbus gives new opportunities for research on the International Space Station (ISS). The European Space Agency ESA has now firmly booked a payload slot for a Norwegian instrument to monitor plasma density in the Earth’s atmosphere.

The Bartolomeo platform – named after Christopher Columbus’ younger brother – is currently in the final stage of launch preparation at Airbus in Bremen and is scheduled for launch to the ISS in March 2020. Bartolomeo is developed on a commercial basis by Airbus using its own investment funds and will be operated in cooperation with ESA.

Read more at: Airbus

Relativity Space Could Change the Economics of Private Space Launches

The private launch market is an area of a lot of focus in the emerging space startup industry, not least because it unlocks the true potential of most of the rest of the market. But so far, we can count on one hand the number of new, private space launch companies that have actually transported payloads to orbit. Out of a number of firms racing to be the next to actually launch, LA-based Relativity Space is a prime contender, with a unique approach that could set it apart from the crowd.

I spoke to CEO Tim Ellis about what makes his company different and about what kind of capabilities it will bring to the launch market once it starts flying, something the company aims to do beginning next year.

Read more at: Techcrunch

Fancy A Ride On A Space Plane? Maybe Astroclipper Will Be What You’re Looking For.

Startup Exodus Space Corp. plans to build a space plane to ferry cargo around Earth. Eventually, that cargo could include people, if the spacecraft is deemed safe enough.

The spaceship — called AstroClipper — will take off from a runaway, make a flight into space and then land again, plane-style. A heft booster at the space plane’s back end will help it get into orbit by giving AstroClipper the speed it requires to break out of Earth’s atmosphere.

Exodus is new and still raising money, but its team includes deep experience across the space industry. Principals at the company have worked at SpaceX, Lockheed Martin and NASA, among others. 

Read more at:

Aiming For The Stars: How New Zealand’s Space Industry Is Causing Turbulence

Life on the Mahia peninsula on New Zealand’s North Island used to be quiet: surfing beaches, historical monuments, and good snapper fishing.

Then space came to town.

Four years ago Rocketlab’s Peter Beck was searching for somewhere for his launch pad. He wanted to privatise rocket launches, taking them out of the hands of behemoth governments in Russia, the US and China.

Read more at: Guardian

After Ownership Change, Stratolaunch Confirms That It’s Still Working On Hypersonic Vehicles

It’s been three months since ownership of the Stratolaunch space venture was transferred from the late Seattle billionaire Paul Allen’s estate to a private equity firm, but the new owners say they’re still pursuing one of the old owner’s dreams: hypersonic flight.

Stratolaunch’s plans to build and test hypersonic air vehicles were laid out 16 months ago at a Florida conference focusing on space planes and hypersonic systems.

Read more at: Geekwire

NASA Considering Extended Crew Dragon Test Flight To ISS

NASA will decide in the coming weeks whether to extend a crewed SpaceX test flight to the International Space Station, a move that could help alleviate a crew time crunch on the station.

A successful in-flight abort test of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft Jan. 19 makes it increasingly likely that that the spacecraft will be ready for a crewed test flight, known as Demo-2, this spring. At a post-test news conference, SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk said it was “probable” that the flight will take place in the second quarter of this year.

Read more at: Spacenews

NASA Selects First Commercial Destination Module For International Space Station

NASA has selected Axiom Space of Houston to provide at least one habitable commercial module to be attached to the International Space Station as the agency continues to open the station for commercial use.

“NASA has once again recognized the hard work, talent, and experience of Houstonians as we expand the International Space Station and promote commercial opportunities in space,” said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas. “I’m proud Axiom will continue to build upon Texas’ legacy of leading the nation in human space exploration.”

Read more at: Spacedaily

Science & Technology

SpaceX Surprises After Recovering Spacecraft ‘Trunk’ In One Piece

In a surprise twist, SpaceX has recovered an expendable ‘trunk’ that launched with Crew Dragon on its January 19th In-Flight Abort (IFA) test, in which the spacecraft successfully escaped from an exploding Falcon 9 rocket.

While recovering pieces of Dragon’s disposable trunk would not have been shocking, SpaceX has returned this particular Crew Dragon trunk to shore in a condition that can only be described as unscathed. The surprise came first on the evening of January 19th, when two separate SpaceX ships returned to Port Canaveral — first and foremost bringing Crew Dragon capsule C205 back to dry land for inspection and possible reuse.

Read more at: Teslarati

A Slingshot to Space

A private startup company called Spinlaunch could be the first to throw a payload into space rather than use a rocket for primary propulsion.

The company has said that it’s received millions of dollars in funding, and a prototype launch contract from the U.S. Department of Defence for its technology.

The company is apparently developing a kind of spinning slingshot that will hurl projectiles up from the ground at high velocity in an attempt to lower the cost of spaceflight.

Read more at: CBC

Space Policy & Regulations

U.S., China Set For Spring Civil Space Dialogue On Exploration, Science

U.S. and Chinese officials are working towards meeting for a bilateral Civil Space Dialogue around March in the first such discussion since 2017.

“The U.S. and China were not able to schedule a Civil Space Dialogue in 2019, but are in the planning stage for the U.S. to host the Dialogue during the first half of 2020,” a State Department official told SpaceNews. 

No reason for the inability to schedule the meeting, earlier reported as to be expected in fall 2019, was offered. The U.S. and China last week agreed a ‘phase 1’ trade deal after nearly two years of trade hostilities. 

Read more at: Spacenews

Bipartisan House NASA Authorizers Reject Artemis Moon-by-2024 Plan, Wants Focus on Mars Instead

The top Democrats and Republicans on the House committee that authorizes NASA activities introduced a bill today rejecting the White House’s plan to accelerate a human return to the Moon by 2024. The bill focuses on human exploration of Mars. The Moon is consigned to a limited role for precursor activities and astronauts back on the surface in 2028 as NASA originally planned, not the amped up 2024 schedule announced by Vice President Pence last year and later named the Artemis program.

Read more at: Spacepolicyonline

To Infinity and Beyond: Japan’s Rise as a Space Power

Japan has emerged as a leading space-faring nation over the past few decades. A renowned world leader in high technology, the country has drawn from its expertise in key areas such as robotics to mark its place among elite space-faring nations. Notably, unlike other major players like the United States, China, and Russia, Japan has achieved its status while staying within the bounds of what constitutes “peaceful uses of outer space” as per the Outer Space Treaty (OST) of 1967. Japan initially had three institutions handling aerospace activities – the Institute of Space and Astronautical Sciences (ISAS), the National Space Development Agency (NASDA) and the National Aerospace Laboratory of Japan (NAL). However, the consolidation of the three entities to form the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in 2003 was a landmark moment in the nation’s emergence as a major space power.

Read more at: Diplomat

Space Cybersecurity Information Sharing Group Moves Forward

Private sector and academic institutions involved in commercial space activities are moving forward in establishing a mechanism to share information about cybersecurity threats to satellites and their ground systems.  The founding members of the Space Information Sharing and Analysis Center (Space ISAC) are meeting this week in Washington, DC to finalize the mechanics of the organization and meet with government stakeholders.

Space ISAC is the newest addition to the more than two dozen ISACs created since 1999 to facilitate information sharing across the private sector and with the federal government on cyber and physical threats to critical infrastructure.

Read more at: Spacepolicy online

Kazakhstan’s Parliament Ratifies Protocol To Agreement On Baiterek Space Project

Kazakhstan’s Senate (upper house of parliament) on Thursday ratified the protocol on amendments and supplements to the agreement between the governments of Kazakhstan and Russia on building the Baiterek space launch facility at the Baikonur space center signed on December 22, 2004, a TASS correspondent reported from the parliament’s press center.

The protocol signed in Moscow in August 2018 stipulates the basic conditions for the implementation of the project and its financing. Under this project, Russia is developing the Soyuz-5 carrier rocket scheduled to be launched from the Baiterek facility.

Read more at: TASS


Abe Says New Unit Will Defend Japan From Space Tech Threats

Japan’s prime minister said Monday that his country will form a space defense unit to protect itself from potential threats as rivals develop missiles and other technology and the new unit will work closely with its American counterpart recently launched by President Donald Trump.

The Space Domain Mission Unit will start in April as part of Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force, Prime Minister Shinzo Abesaid in a policy speech marking the start of the year’s parliamentary session.

Read more at: ABC news

Iran Makes Six Satellites To Put Into Orbit

Mohammad-Javad Azari-Jahromi made the remarks through a twitter message on the threshold of putting Zafar 1 and 2 satellites into orbit in coming days.

Speed of production has accelerated, so the speed of sending satellites into orbit should get faster, Azari-Jahromi wrote.

He then asked people to select a name for a geometric satellite with one-meter precision to start being built by Amir Kabir University scholars as of today.

Further, he described such a move as unique.

Read more at: irna

Space Development Agency To Start Building Its First Constellation Of Surveillance Satellites

The Pentagon’s Space Development Agency is soliciting pitches for technologies that will be used to build a network of satellites in low Earth orbit that would help the military find targets on the ground and track enemy missiles in flight.

By late 2022, the agency wants to have several dozen satellites in orbit “to show that we can operate a proliferated constellation and that the constellation can talk to weapon systems,” SDA Director Derek Tournear said Jan. 21 at a Pentagon news conference.

Read more at: Spacenews

Trump Just Revealed The Logo For The Space Force, And It Looks Like The ‘Star Trek’ Symbol

President Donald Trump’s Space Force logo has boldly gone where “Star Trek” has gone before.

The commander-in-chief on Friday revealed the logo for the new service branch in a tweet. And it looked a lot like the logo for the fictional Starfleet at the center of the iconic science fiction television and film franchise.

“After consultation with our Great Military Leaders, designers, and others, I am pleased to present the new logo for the United States Space Force, the Sixth Branch of our Magnificent Military,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

Read more at: CNBC

Updated: Shields up! DND Wants to Protect our Satellites as Part of IDEaS Program Third Call

The Department of National Defence (DND) last week released its competitive projects third call for proposal for the $1.6 billion Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security (IDEaS) program.

The competitive projects third call for proposal has eight theme with 15 challenges.

Enhancing C4ISR, Building Cyber Capabilities, Operating in Austere Environments, Protecting our Forces, Sustaining Operations, Defending Space Missions, Accelerating Next Generation Technologies, Putting our People First. Of particular interest to the space community is the Defending Space Missions theme which has three challenges

Read more at: SpaceQ


Space: Not The Final Frontier, But The New Wild West

Space is not just the final frontier; it’s also big business. The potential rewards of this soon to be trillion-dollar industry are huge — but only for those who are willing to fail.

Despite talk of a new “space race,” what is happening now resembles less a race than it does a new “Wild West” — similar to the early internet era of the 1990s.

The early years of space exploration were driven by a single goal and focus: to be the first to put a person on the moon. Private entities in the space industry worked largely as government contractors.

Read more at: Politico

Félicette Has Landed! Memorial For First Cat In Space Unveiled In France.

A new memorial for the first and only cat to go to space has arrived at its permanent home. 

A bronze statue of the space cat now stands at the International Space University (ISU) in Strasbourg, France, two years after Matthew Serge Guy, a creative director and space cat fan in London, launched a Kickstarter campaign and raised about $57,000 to fund the project.

The memorial honors a French feline named Félicette who launched on a brief suborbital spaceflight in 1963.

Read more at:

Spacex Is Poised To Launch Astronauts Into Space This Spring. Here’s How Spacex And Boeing Became NASA’s Best Shot At Resurrecting American Spaceflight.

SpaceX launched one of its Falcon 9 rockets on Sunday, only to watch it erupt in a ball of fire.

But the explosion was intentional and went exactly as planned. It was the final step in a long process of testing the company’s Crew Dragon capsule ⁠— a spaceship designed to carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

Boeing has designed a similar spacecraft, and the two companies are racing to fly NASA astronauts on US-made spacecraft for the first time in nearly a decade.

Read more at: Business insider

Remembering The Fire, Project Apollo’s Worst Day

More than five decades ago, tonight, one of the worst tragedies in the history of U.S. space exploration unfolded with horrifying suddenness on Pad 34 at Cape Kennedy in Florida. “The Fire”—as it infamously became known—tore through the Command Module (CM) of the Apollo 1 spacecraft, during a “plugs-out” ground test on the evening of 27 January 1967, killing astronauts Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee.

It was a disaster that almost halted President John F. Kennedy’s pledge to land a man on the Moon before the decade’s end and, even today, the loss of Grissom and his men leaves a dark stain on the glory of the Apollo program.

Read more at: Americaspace

Remembering Shuttle Discovery’s Miracle Mission, 35 Years On (Part 1)

“Miracle” is a term often applied to many aspects of the space program: from Yuri Gagarin’s pioneering flight aboard Vostok 1 to the historic first manned lunar landing and from the triumph of Apollo 13 to the safe return of Alexei Ovchinin and Nick Hague after their abortive Soyuz MS-10 launch attempt. But the liftoff of shuttle Discovery on 24 January 1985—35 years ago, this coming week—marked a miracle of another kind. In a sense, it was literally miraculous that Discovery made it to space at all…both metaphorically and literally, as the Challenger accident investigation later revealed. For the cold-weather conditions at the time of Mission 51C’s launch proved so damaging to the O-ring seals in the twin Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) that the crew came within a hair’s breadth of disaster.

Read more at: Americaspace

Remembering Shuttle Discovery’s Miracle Mission 51C, 35 Years On (Part 2)

Thirty-five years ago, this week, the crew of shuttle Discovery—Apollo veteran Ken Mattingly, together with “rookie” astronauts Loren Shriver, Jim Buchli and Ellison Onizuka and Air Force Manned Spaceflight Engineer (MSE) Gary Payton—flew Mission 51C, the first wholly classified voyage of the Space Shuttle era. As outlined in last week’s AmericaSpace history article, it was conducted in near-total secrecy and even the precise launch time did not become clear to the general public until the countdown clock emerged from its pre-planned hold at T-9 minutes. Until then, spectators at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida beheld a blank face on the famous clock.

Then, at 2:41 p.m. EST on 24 January 1985, the blackout ended abruptly with a statement: “T-9 minutes and counting. The launch events are now being controlled by the ground launch sequencer…”

Read more at: Americaspace

He Paid Virgin Galactic $175K in 2007 to be on Spaceflight. Now 80, he’s tired of Waiting.

Shefket Chapadjiev is ready. He’s been ready for 12 years.

But the Elk Grove Village man has been wondering lately if he’ll get the chance to rocket into space before he dies.

“My health is so-so,” the 80-year-old native Bulgarian says. “At my age, I’m still fairly well. I’ve got high blood pressure and diabetes.”

He still believes in Virgin owner British billionaire Richard Branson’s dream of commercial space flight. That’s why he paid more than $175,000 in 2007 toward a $200,000 ticket to be one of the first passengers.

Read more at: Chicago suntimes

Space Security Is More Than Just Rocket Science

Books on space evoke a sense of adventure: delving into the lives of astronauts spending months in space or running experiments aboard a space station that might help solve issues on Earth. And when it comes to India, you expect to read more about a space-faring nation that is aiming to launch its first manned mission this year, having narrowly missed the chance to soft-land on the Moon’s surface.

But away from all this excitement lies a serious, more decisive, area of focus: space security. Having covered land, water and air in their quest for military superiority, superpowers are now busy covering every inch of space around the planet to expand their influence.

Read more at: Livemint

11th IAASS conference