SpaceX To Practise Emergency Crew Capsule Escape

California’s SpaceX company will practise what to do in the event that one of its rockets carrying a human crew fails shortly after lift-off.

If the test is completed successfully, it should clear the way for regular astronaut launches later this year.

The US has not launched from its own soil since the retirement of the space shuttles nine years ago. It has been riding the Russian Soyuz system instead.

Read more at: BBC

Power Loss Halves Eutelsat 5 West B Capacity, Hosted Payload Spared

A Eutelsat Communications satellite that launched in October will enter service this month with only 45% of its intended capacity due to an unusable solar array, Eutelsat said Jan. 17. 

Eutelsat said an investigation into the Eutelsat 5 West B satellite concluded that one of its two solar arrays was unusable, reducing power to support communications services. 

Eutelsat traced the power loss to a malfunctioning component called the solar array drive assembly, which is used to position the solar array, Eutelsat spokesperson Marie-Sophie Ecuer told SpaceNews

Read more at: Spacenews

Boeing’s Starliner ‘Calypso’ Returns to KSC Following Orbital Flight Test

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner crew capsule which recently flew the Orbital Flight Test mission for NASA is now back at its homeport at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where Boeing is now putting the spacecraft through an extensive post-flight analysis and processing.The company invited AmericaSpace and other media to visit the capsule and speak with program managers on Jan 15, outlining some of the work ahead as they and NASA work together to inspect and process the vehicle, mine data and determine the next step towards crewed flight.

Read more at: Americaspace

Sierra Nevada Eyes 2021 Launch Of Dream Chaser Space Plane

2021 could be a big year for Sierra Nevada Corp.

The Colorado-based spaceflight company is on track for a 2021 launch debut of its robotic Dream Chaser space plane, even as the firm shoots for the moon under NASA’s Artemis program, Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC) representatives said.Dream Chaser is set to become the next addition to the fleet of uncrewed cargo vehicles that ferry supplies to the International Space Station (ISS). (Four different freighters currently do the job: Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft, SpaceX’s Cargo Dragon, Russia’s Progress spacecraft and Japan’s HTV ship.)

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U.S. Segment Crew Continue Multi-Spacewalk Series To Replace Station Batteries

As has been the process since 2017, the U.S. segment crew aboard the International Space Station is working through a marathon series of five spacewalks to change out another subset of batteries aboard the Station’s Integrated Truss Structure. The first spacewalk (EVA-56) was completed on Sunday, even managing to work tasks dedicated to EVA-57. The second spacewalk – on Friday was equally successful. The third EVA was delayed until January 15 after the additional requirement of a Battery Charge/Discharge Unit (BCDU) replacement spacewalk – both of which were successful.

Read more at: NASA Spaceflight


NASA-Funded Space Radiation Studies Could Save Astronauts’ Lives

Physicists are teaming up with computer scientists in a NASA-funded study to help predict solar flares and radiation that can disable spacecraft and potentially kill astronauts.

NASA has awarded a $550,000 grant to the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne to begin the three-year machine learning project next month. Computer algorithms will analyze data and imagery from the sun and solar system radiation.

Read more at: Spacedaily

Active Asteroid Unveils Fireball Identity

At around 1 a.m. local standard time on April 29, 2017, a fireball flew over Kyoto, Japan. Compared to other fireballs spotted from Earth, it was relatively bright and slow. Now, scientists have determined not only what the fireball was, but also where it came from.

“We uncovered the fireball’s true identity,” says Toshihiro Kasuga, paper author and visiting scientist at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan and Kyoto Sangyo University. “It has a similar orbit to that of the near-Earth asteroid 2003 YT1, which is likely its parent body.”

2003 YT1, a binary asteroid first detected in 2003, appears to have been active in the past, meaning it fissured and released dust particles, such as the one responsible for the 2017 fireball.

Read more at: Spacedaily

Orbital Debris Mitigation Guidelines Still Useful, If Complied With

A long-standing guideline for deorbiting satellites within 25 years, criticized by many in the space industry for being too long, is still effective for reducing the growth of orbital debris so long as satellite operators abide by it, according to an orbital debris expert.

Guidelines for mitigating orbital debris, including one at the international level published in 2007 by the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee, recommend that satellites in low Earth orbit be deorbited no more than 25 years after the end of operations to minimize the risk of collisions that would create debris. That 25-year guideline was maintained in an update to U.S. government orbital debris standard practices released in December.

Read more at: Spacenews

Violent Solar Storms Are Happening Closer To Earth Than Anyone Thought Was Possible

The spectacular solar storms that paint the polar skies in beautiful greens and pinks have a darker side: They have the power to wreak havoc on our electrical grid, communication systems and satellites. Now, a new study suggests that the source of these solar storms is much closer to our planet than previously thought.

Earth is shielded by a protective bubble known as the magnetosphere which blocks harmful solar radiation. But when the sun occasionally emits high-speed streams of radiation — and, with it, intense magnetic field lines — they can strongly interact with our planet’s own magnetic field.

Read more at:

The FCC’s Approval of SpaceX’s Starlink Mega Constellation May Have Been Unlawful

A battle for the sky is raging, and the heavens are losing. Upcoming mega constellations of satellites, designed to blanket Earth orbit in spacecraft beaming high-speed Internet around the world, risk filling the firmament with tens of thousands of moving points of light, forever changing our view of the cosmos. Astronomers who rely on unsullied skies for their profession and members of the general public who enjoy the natural beauty of what lies above stand to lose out. The arrival of such a large number of satellites “has the potential to change our relationship, and our connection, with the universe,” says Ruskin Hartley, executive director of the nonprofit International Dark-Sky Association. But with no binding international laws or regulations in place to protect the night sky, anyone opposing the advancement of mega constellations is surely fighting a losing battle. Right?

Read more at: Scientific American


SpaceX Conducts SuccessfulCrewDragon In-Flight Abort Test

SpaceX successfully launched a unique Falcon 9 rocket at LC-39A for the in-flight abort test of their Crew Dragon spacecraft. The uncrewed test flight saw the spacecraft demonstrate its ability to escape a failing rocket mid-flight. Sunday’s launch occurred at 10:30 AM Eastern, with a successful test resulting in the safe splashdown of the Dragon vehicle.

The In-Flight Abort (IFA) was the last major test of Crew Dragon before Demo Mission 2 (DM-2) – when astronauts will fly on Dragon for the first time. SpaceX performed the first abort test in May 2015- a Pad Abort Test from SLC-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Read more at: NASA Spaceflight

NASA, FCC Approve Cygnus NG-12 Post-Station Mission Extension

Coming two weeks before the NG-12 Cygnus is scheduled to depart the International Space Station on 31 January 2020, NASA’s Johnson Space Center officially requested, and the Federal Communications Commission approved, a post-Station mission extension for the craft. 

For this mission, Cygnus had a pre-flight approval to perform two weeks of solo flight operations after leaving the Station before destructively re-entering.  That solo flight operation has now been extended to 31 days in large part due to the planned 9 February launch of the NG-13 Cygnus from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Virginia.

Read more at: NASA Spaceflight


ESA Opens Oxygen Plant – Making Air Out Of Moondust

A prototype oxygen plant has been set up in the Materials and Electrical Components Laboratory of the European Space Research and Technology Centre, ESTEC, based in Noordwijk in the Netherlands.

“Having our own facility allows us to focus on oxygen production, measuring it with a mass spectrometer as it is extracted from the regolith simulant,” comments Beth Lomax of the University of Glasgow, whose PhD work is being supported through ESA’s Networking and Partnering Initiative, harnessing advanced academic research for space applications.

Read more at: ESA

Asteroid Impact, Not Volcanic Eruptions, Killed The Dinosaurs

Two planetary-scale disturbances occurred within less than a million years of one another, leading scientists to question the role each played in driving the mass extinction event: An asteroid more than 10 km in diameter collided with the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico creating the 200 km wide Chicxulub impact crater and around the same time about 500,000 km3 of lava flooded across much of India and into the deep sea forming the Deccan Traps, one of the largest volcanic features on Earth.

Read more at: UCL

Chinese Chang’e 4 Engineer Explains How To Garden On The Moon

China’s Chang’e 4 lunar lander captivated global attention when a cotton seed on board became the first plant ever to germinate on another world – and now the engineer behind this moon garden has revealed just how it was done.

Cotton, Arabidopsis, potato and rape seeds, as well as yeast and fruit fly eggs, were all inside a 2.6-kilogram mini biosphere when Chang’e 4 landed on the far side of the moon in January 2019.

Read more at: Newscientist

Earth Bacteria May Have Colonised Other Solar Systems

Could the Earth be a life-exporting planet? That’s the curious question examined in a recent paper written by Harvard University astronomers Amir Siraj and Abraham Loeb.

The researchers take a novel twist on the controversial notion of panspermia – the idea, propelled into the mainstream in the early 1970s by astronomers Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe, that life might have started on Earth through microbes arriving from space.

The theory is generally discounted, although eminent astrophysicists such as Stephen Hawking conceded it was at least possible, and a major paper published in 2018 revived the topic big-time.

Read more at: Cosmos magazine

French Military Taps Thales To Study ISR Sensor Options For ‘Stratobus’ Airship

Thales Alenia Space and Thales signed a contract this week with the DGA, France’s defense procurement agency, to study if intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance sensors could work from an airship.

The aim of the project is to see if stratospheric platforms of this type, operating from an altitude of 20 kilometers (65,600 feet), where the winds are moderate and the air density sufficient to carry them, could be useful to the French armed forces.

Read more at: Defense news


ESA Seeks New Cooperative Agreement With EU

With its funding secured for the next three years, the head of the European Space Agency is now focused on implementing those key programs while establishing a new cooperative agreement with the European Union.

At a press briefing Jan. 15 at ESA’s Paris headquarters, ESA Director General Jan Woerner reviewed the outcome of the agency’s Space19+ ministerial meeting in November in Seville, Spain, where the agency’s 22 member states largely endorsed ESA’s plans for the next three years in topics from science to space transportation to safety and security.

Read more at: Spacenews

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


Russian Space Agency Develops Efficient Countermeasures Against Orbital Surveillance

Researchers from the Russian Space Agency Roscosmos found a way to hide sensitive activity on Russian soil from the vigilant eyes of foreign surveillance satellites. The new method suggests shutting down orbital spying in the early stages of the vehicle’s approach toward Russian territory, according to the agency.

“During certain periods of time, when the protected area falls within the observation scope of a spacecraft, it is necessary to ensure that the receiving equipment of the space vehicle is in the direct radio visibility zone for blocking…”, according to Russian Space Systems Corporation, a subsidiary entity within Roscosmos.

Read more at: Spacedaily

Pence Swears In First Chief of Space Operations at White House Event

Vice President Mike Pence swore in Air Force Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond as the highest-ranking military leader of the newly created U.S. Space Force in a ceremony that recognized the arrival of the nation’s newest military branch.

Raymond was formally designated the first chief of space operations in a formal ceremony sponsored by the White House and held at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. It came less than a month after the Space Force, by law, became the sixth independent branch of the U.S. military, marking the first time since 1947 that a new military branch had been created.

Read more at: Defense

Space Force is Here

The idea of a new military space organization had barely entered public consciousness when Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” arrived in South Carolina to ask about the Space Force. President Donald J. Trump was touting the prospect of a sixth service, and a “Daily Show” correspondent attended a Trump rally to see how attendees felt about the proposal.

One man thought it had to do with cloud computing. A woman said she expected a new venture into space exploration. Someone else acknowledged the need for space regulations. “I think ISIS could get to space,” another woman suggested.

Read more at: Airforce mag

Space Force Flies Through Twitter Flak After Unveiling Camo Uniforms In Earthy Tones

The newly minted U.S. Space Force unveiled its uniform on Friday — and defended its fashion statement against Twitter criticism that the camouflage color scheme should have been more spacey.

Less than a month after the sixth branch of the U.S. armed forces came into existence, the Space Force showed off the utility uniform in a tweet, saying that the service’s nametape and U.S. Space Command patch have “touched down at the Pentagon.” The uniform will presumably be worn by thousands of Space Force personnel as they go about their duties, monitoring America’s space assets from ground-based installations around the world.

Read more at: Geekwire

Space-Superiority Exercise, Space Flag, Concluded Successfully On U.S. Space Force Birthday

Space Flag, the Department of Defense’s premier exercise for training space forces, successfully concluded its eighth exercise iteration (Space Flag 20-1) at the Boeing Virtual Warfare Center in St. Louis Dec. 20.

The two-week exercise started Dec. 9 under the auspices of the former Air Force Space Command, but finished on the very day the U.S. Space Force was established upon President Trump’s signing of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.

Read more at: Spaceforce

How Would The Space Force Wage War?

A recent article in Defense One suggests that while the United States Space Force knows how it will fight wars beyond the atmosphere, those plans are so highly classified that industry is not able to build the things that will make war in space possible. The article does provide a hint, however.

“In recent years, Pentagon officials have said future satellites need to be able to defend themselves and be more maneuverable. Most military satellites orbiting the Earth – collectively worth many billions of dollars – are unable to do that, which has prompted military officials to warn that China and Russia could easily shoot them down, jam their signals, or blind their cameras.”

Read more at: Hill

Former Fighter Pilot Picked To Lead British Military’s Space Command

It’s not exactly boldly going where no man’s gone before, but Britain has appointed its first space commander to lead the country’s developing military space campaign.

Air Vice Marshal Harvey Smyth will take up a new position next month, directing Britain’s military space effort at the Ministry of Defence, a spokesman confirmed. Smyth is moving over from his role as the commander of the Royal Air Force’s No. 1 Group, which oversees operations related to fast jets as well as aerial intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance.

Read more at: Defense news


Space Force Bible Blessing Spurs Protest

Washington National Cathedral on Sunday posted online a photograph of clergy, alongside the Air Force’s chief of chaplains, blessing a Bible for the newly created Space Force — and a firestorm of controversy soon followed.

In the tweet, the cathedral called it “the official Bible for the new” Space Force, and said it “will be used to swear in all commanders of America’s newest military branch.”

Read more at: Airforce times

Astronauts And Addiction: Ending The Stigma (Op-Ed)

Astronauts sometimes face the gravest threats after they return to Earth. Facing depression, alcoholism and substance abuse in general, astronauts are not immune from addiction. 

As Buzz Aldrin has explained in his memoirs and interviews, addiction among NASA astronauts is real, prevalent and serious. In an interview with The Telegraph, Aldrin talked about his “lost decade” in the 1970s, when he went through two marriages and worked as a car salesman at a Cadillac dealership in the years following his historic Apollo 11 moon landing. He said he was marginalized and shunned by NASA and the Air Force when he revealed his struggles with alcoholism and depression.

Read more at:

‘Ad Astra’ And ‘Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker’ Land Oscar Nominations

Some of 2019’s biggest sci-fi blockbusters have made it to the Oscars. 

While beloved space hits like “Apollo 11” have not been recognized in the upcoming 92nd annual Academy Award nominations, outer space and sci-fi has not gone unrepresented in this year’s picks.

“Ad Astra” and “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” have each snagged nominations. “Ad Astra” has been nominated within the Sound Mixing category while the latter “Star Wars” has been tapped for Music (Original Score), Sound Editing and Visual Effects.

Read more at:

New Footage Shows Iranian Missiles Hitting Ukraine Plane

New video footage has emerged showing two Iranian missiles tearing through the night sky and hitting a Ukrainian passenger plane, sending the aircraft down in flames and killing all 176 passengers and crew on board.

The projectiles were fired 30 seconds apart and explain why the plane’s transponder was not working as it hurtled to the ground — it was disabled by the first strike, before being hit by a second, said the New York Times, which published the verified security camera footage Tuesday.

Read more at: Spacewar

11th IAASS conference