Roscosmos Says First Russian Nuclear Space Tug Set For Launch In 2030

A space tug, equipped with a megawatt class nuclear engine is scheduled to be launched in 2030, according to a presentation by Roscosmos First Deputy Director General Yuri Urlichich, displayed at the 44th Korolev Academic Space Conference.

“The launch of a nuclear-powered spacecraft, and flight tests (2030),” the presentation reads. After 2030, the nuclear-propelled space vehicle must enter serial production and commercial use, it says.

Read more at: TASS

Are We Due For Another Human Spaceflight Accident?

Last summer’s Apollo 11 celebrations reflected and ignited enthusiasm for the promise of today’s spaceflight and its future: new private entrants like SpaceX and Blue Origin, a bevy of exciting startups representing the optimism of a new generation, and leadership committed to a return to the moon in four years.

In a few months we will mark the fiftieth anniversary of Apollo 13, NASA’s successful failure. Despite mechanical catastrophe, the team brought three astronauts home safely from the moon. We should recognize Apollo 13 with equal fervor and attention as Apollo 11, for failure may be more instructive for NASA’s future than success. Not that its future endeavors are bound to fail, but failure is certainly possible if the agency repeats past mistakes.

Read more at: Forbes

Upper Stage Of Soyuz Rocket To Be Replaced After Cancelled Launch – Source

The upper stage of the Soyuz-2.1a carrier rocket, whose January 24 launch was postponed due to a technical malfunction, will be replaced, a space industry source told TASS on Saturday.

Earlier reports said that the Soyuz carrier rocket was scheduled to deliver the Meridian satellite to the orbit on January 24, but the launch was postponed before the rocket was fuelled. A rocket and space industry source identified the problem as a short circuit in a cabel in one of the third stage’s systems.

Read more at: TASS

Cygnus Cargo Ship Leaves International Space Station, Begins New Mission In Orbit

Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus NG-12 cargo spacecraft departed the International Space Station today (Jan. 31), nearly three months after it arrived at the orbiting laboratory with about 4 tons of supplies and science experiments for the Expedition 61 crew.

The cargo vessel, named the S.S. Alan Bean after the Apollo 12 astronaut, began its journey back to Earth after ground controllers in Houston used the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm to release it in orbit. Before the spacecraft meets its fiery demise in Earth’s atmosphere, it will spend about a month in orbit deploying various scientific payloads. 

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Space Executive Says The Industry Needs Help To Understand Cyber Threats

Satellites and their ground infrastructure have become targets for hackers and other cyber criminals, experts warn. But many emerging companies in the space industry lack cybersecurity expertise and may be ill prepared to prevent or respond to attacks, warned Richard Leshner, vice president of government and regulatory affairs at Planet Federal.

Planet Federal is a subsidiary of Planet, an Earth observation company that operates about 150 imaging satellites.

Read more at: Spacenews

Indian Astronauts To Arrive In Russia For Training In February

A group of Indian astronauts will arrive in Russia in February to undergo training, Chief of Russia’s Cosmonaut Training Center Pavel Vlasov announced on Thursday.

“They are arriving in February and the program is intended for one year and a half,” Vlasov said.

The Indian astronauts will be training in ‘the spacecraft commander’ and ‘spacecraft flight engineer’ specialties. They will undergo training on Russian Soyuz spaceships.

Read more at: TASS


Likelihood Of Space Super-Storms Estimated From Longest Period Of Magnetic Field Observations

A ‘great’ space weather super-storm large enough to cause significant disruption to our electronic and networked systems occurred on average once in every 25 years according to a new joint study by the University of Warwick and the British Antarctic Survey.

By analysing magnetic field records at opposite ends of the Earth (UK and Australia), scientists have been able to detect super-storms going back over the last 150 years.

This result was made possible by a new way of analysing historical data, pioneered by the University of Warwick, from the last 14 solar cycles, way before the space age began in 1957, instead of the last five solar cycles currently used.

Read more at: Warwick

Space Traffic Is Surging, And Critics Worry There Could Be A Crash

A rocket from the commercial company SpaceX lifted off on Wednesday morning with some 60 satellites aboard. Once they reached low Earth orbit, the satellites were released and began to fan out like a deck of cards.

They follow predictable paths around the Earth, but along the way those paths can cross with other things in orbit — satellites from other companies, old rocket stages, loose bits of metal — and cause a catastrophic collision.

Some satellite operations experts say that all too often, only one thing stands in the way of disaster: an automated email alert sent to the inboxes of operators on the ground.

Read more at: NPR

No Satellite Crash: 2 Pieces Of Space Junk Whiz Safely By Each Other Over Pittsburgh

Satellite operators, and everyone else who wants a safe and sustainable space environment, dodged a bullet Wednesday evening (Jan. 29). 

Two defunct satellites — the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) and the Gravity Gradient Stabilization Experiment (GGSE-4) — cruised safely past each other high in the skies above Pittsburgh.

The near miss of space junk, which occurred at 6:39 p.m. EST (2339 GMT), was expected; various analyses over the past few days by California-based tracking company LeoLabs had pegged the chance of a collision at just 0.1% to 5%. NASA officials told that the U.S. military’s 18th Space Control Squadron, which tracks space debris and satellites, estimated just a 0.07% chance of a collision.

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Can We Get To Space Without Damaging The Earth Through Huge Carbon Emissions?

When a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket blasts off on a plume of white smoke, hot gases shoot out of its 27 engines, creating a thrust equal to 18 Boeing 747 aircraft.

Upon reaching orbit, the world’s heaviest operational rocket will have burned about 400 metric tons of kerosene and emitted more carbon dioxide in a few minutes than an average car would in more than two centuries.

Read more at: LA Times

Commerce Department Moves Ahead On Space Traffic Management Work Despite Limited Budget

The head of the Commerce Department office with the mandate, but not the money, for civil space traffic management says he hopes the recent near-miss involving two satellites will help provide more attention to the issue.

In an on-stage interview at the 23rd Annual Commercial Space Transportation Conference here Jan. 30, Kevin O’Connell, director of the Office of Space Commerce, says he will press ahead with planning to eventually take over the civil space traffic management (STM) responsibilities currently held by the Defense Department despite receiving only a fraction of his requested budget in fiscal year 2020.

Read more at: Spacenews

A New Form Of Northern Lights Discovered In Finland – By Amateur Sky Watchers

People in northern climes have long gazed at the wonder that is the aurora borealis: the northern lights.

Those celestial streaks of light and color are often seen on clear nights in Finland, where they’re so admired that a Finnish-language Facebook group dedicated to finding and photographing them has more than 11,000 members.

There aurora aficionados gather to discuss subjects like space weather forecasts and the best equipment to capture the northern lights.

Read more at: NPR

Space Force Decommissions 26-Year-Old GPS Satellite To Make Way For GPSIII Constellation

The 2nd Space Operations Squadron decommissioned Satellite Vehicle Number-36, the second to last Block IIA satellite, Jan. 27.Capt. Collin Dart, 2nd SOPS assistant flight commander of GPS mission engineering, said the disposal of SVN-36 will allow for newer vehicles to take it’s place.“The main reason it was decommissioned was because, at this time, we’re accepting a lot of the new generation GPS IIIs,” he said. “We’re trying to open up the constellation to accept more of those new vehicles.”Initially launched March 10, 1994, the satellite exceeded its estimated design life of around seven years, serving operationally for nearly 26 years.

Read more at: Spaceforce

Mega-Constellation Firms Meet European Astronomers

Leading satellite mega-constellation companies SpaceX and OneWeb have met with astronomers in Europe to discuss the impact their operations could have on observations of the Universe.

There’s concern that the size and brightness of the firms’ planned fleets could interfere with the work of professional telescopes.

The parties discussed the issues in a private meeting at the Royal Astronomical Society in London, UK. The talks were described “as positive”.

Read more at: BBC

Oneweb, U.S. Senator, Urge FCC To Act On 2018 Request For 1,260 More Satellites

As OneWeb prepares to begin monthly launches for its broadband constellation next month, the company and a U.S. senator are pushing the FCC to act on an application filed nearly two years ago for 1,260 more satellites.

OneWeb and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) contacted the U.S. Federal Communications Commission about the application, which if approved would allow OneWeb to provide internet access in the United States with a total of 1,980 satellites. The company is currently authorized for service with 720 satellites, of which six are in orbit and the next 34 launch Feb. 7. 

Read more at: Spacenews


GAO Worries About Commercial Crew Contingency Plans as Boeing Takes Pre-Tax Charge for Potential OFT Reflight

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued its latest review of NASA’s commercial crew program today.  As it has in the past, it urged NASA to develop a contingency plan for keeping U.S. astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) if the commercial crew systems are further delayed.  Meanwhile, Boeing told investors today it is taking a $410 million pre-tax charge in case NASA requires a second uncrewed Starliner Orbital Flight Test (OFT).

NASA has not been able to launch astronauts to the ISS since the space shuttle was terminated in 2011.  It pays Russia for crew transportation services. 

Read more at: Spacepolicy online

AFRL, Blue Origin Partner For Lunar Lander Engine Development

Capital improvements, funded by Blue Origin, will allow BE-7 testing in a simulated space-like environment. Planned work includes adding liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellant capabilities, along with other facility upgrades.

Read more at: Dayton dailynews

#SpaceWatchGL Interviews: Dr. Michaelyn Thomas Of Virgin Orbit

2020 is expected to be a landmark year for Virgin Orbit as its LauncherOne rocket will have its maiden launch from the Cosmic Girl modified Boeing 747. During the 2019 Dubai Airshow in November, SpaceWatch.Global’s Anna Hazlett met with Dr. Michaelyn Thomas, Head of Affordability at Virgin Orbit, to learn more about their exciting projects, their big year ahead, and Michaelyn’s role in empowering women in the space sector.

Read more at: Spacewatch

In a Space Industry First, NASA Grants KBR the Right to Train Private Astronauts at NASA Facilities

KBR (NYSE: KBR), a leading solutions provider to the civil, military and commercial space industry, will become the first company to train private astronauts at NASA facilities. The company recently signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA Johnson Space Center allowing it to provide human spaceflight operation services to commercial companies. KBR currently holds the only agreement with NASA to provide these services using the agency’s facilities and capabilities.

Through this agreement, KBR will be able to train private astronauts in a wide variety of spaceflight tasks including operating onboard International Space Station (ISS) systems, integrating into the existing ISS crew, performing routine operational tasks, maintaining health and performance, and responding to emergencies. KBR will also provide medical operations and services prior to, during, and after spaceflights.

Read more at: KBR

Bartolomeo Starts Its Journey To The International Space Station

The Bartolomeo research platform, developed by Airbus for the International Space Station (ISS), has been delivered to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA. The move marks a further step towards something never before seen in space: with its planned launch in March, the European-built Bartolomeo is set to become the first commercial research platform to be attached to the ISS.

Bartolomeo is funded by Airbus and will be operated with the support of the European Space Agency (ESA). The platform can host up to 12 different payload slots, also providing them with a power supply and data transmission back to Earth.

Read more at: Airbus

Alaska Launch Facility Prepares For Commercial Space Boom

Far from the Florida space coast, a remote island in Alaska is making a big play for the burgeoning commercial space launch industry.

The Pacific Spaceport Complex – Alaska, located on Kodiak Island in the Gulf of Alaska, has traditionally launched one or two military and NASA payloads per year. But its manifest of a handful of commercial missions is expected to more than double this year as the market for smaller launchers takes off, according to Mark Lester, president of Alaska Aerospace, which owns and operates the spaceport.

Read more at: Politico

ISRO Readying Low-Cost Launch Vehicles

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on Friday announced that it is preparing low-cost satellite launch vehicles costing around Rs 30-35 crores each, which can put into orbit satellites weighing 500 kgs. “This capability will give ISRO a big commercial boost as it will be able to cater to micro, mini and medium segments of the market,” said Haridas T V, Deputy Director, VSSC taking part in the panel discussions at EDGE 2020, two-day space conclave.

The first such launch is expected to take place in the next four months from the country. “The biggest advantage is that ISRO now can manufacture these vehicles in a turnaround time of just three weeks’ time,” he added.

Read more at: aninews


AFRL, Partners Develop Innovative Tools To Accelerate Composites Certification

In partnership with industry, a team of Air Force Research Laboratory/Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source (CHESS) personnel are developing the capability to accelerate certification of advanced manufactured composite structures.

Creating a new materials characterization subfacility, known as the Materials Solutions Network, will drive composite manufacturing into a physics-based exact science that can be predicted and modeled in ways impossible until now, allowing faster implementation of low-cost, short-term and limited-life technologies.

Read more at: Spacedaily

Here’s How Robots Could Repair Or Dispose Of Broken Satellites In Orbit

These days, building and launching your own satellite means creating a sophisticated piece of technology — and then flinging it into space where you’ll never see it again. That means if anything breaks on the satellite, there’s not much you can do to fix it.

“Once you launch a mission, as soon as it leaves the pad, it’s never going to be touched again by human or robotic hands,” Jonathan Goff, president and CEO of Altius Space Machines, tells The Verge. “Which means that if anything goes wrong and you can’t fix it with a software update, you’re out of luck. There’s not much you can do.”

Read more at: Verge

Technology Used in Space Experiments Could Reveal Key Information about Human Health

In an article published recently in Microgravity, a Nature journal, researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute demonstrate a unique method for studying the mechanisms behind the formation of amyloid fibrils associated with diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

The concept, developed by Amir Hirsa, a professor of mechanical, aerospace, and nuclear engineering at Rensselaer, is known as the “ring-sheared drop” (RSD). It takes advantage of the microgravity environment provided by orbiting in space to study the effect of shear stress on a drop of protein fluid without interference from the walls of a petri dish that would traditionally be used to hold the drop on Earth.

Read more at: rpi

Historic Dual-Habitat Mock Mars Mission Begins In The Utah Desert

A new crew has arrived on “Mars,” at the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) in Utah, for a rare dual-habitat simulation to see how two different teams tackle emergencies together on the Red Planet. 

The MDRS is located in the harsh desert of southern Utah and is the world’s largest and longest-running Mars-analog program, which is used to simulate Mars missions for testing, training and educational outreach. The new, 12-member crew — designated Crew 220 — from Mars Academy USA (MAU) arrived at the station last week.  

Read more at:


House Subcommittee Clears NASA Authorization Bill, But It’s Just the Beginning

The theme of today’s markup of a new NASA authorization bill by a House subcommittee can best be described as “calm down.” The bill, introduced just days ago, provoked strong reactions from many quarters including NASA and industry. Key committee members spent the time this afternoon reassuring stakeholders that this is just a first step and there are opportunities to modify it. Only a few non-controversial amendments were adopted today, but bigger changes can be expected in two weeks when the full committee considers it.

Read more at: Spacepolicy online

NASA Authorization Bill Advances In House. Proposed Limits On Commercial Partners Spur Concern

NASA’s authorization bill will proceed further through the House of Representatives without, so far, any amendments addressing major concerns raised by the agency’s administrator about its effect on lunar exploration.

The House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics approved the bill’s passage — with minor amendments — to the full committee on Wednesday (Jan. 29). Subcommittee members agreed to postpone some of the amendment discussions about the moon until the bill moves further along the process.

Read more at:

NASA Keeps Falling Victim To Presidential Whims

NASA IS rocketing toward the country’s next moonshot — or is it Mars shot?

Vice President Pence did his best John F. Kennedy impression last spring when he asked the space agency to achieve the almost impossible: return humans to the lunar surface within five years “by any means necessary.” The mandate seemed unreasonably ambitious; for one thing, those necessary means aren’t nearly as available to NASA today as they were during the Cold War, when all aspects of government were committed to whatever-the-cost victory in the space race. The other problem: Not everyone seems to agree on the goal.

Read more at: Washington post

Could a Mars Fantasy Ruin NASA’s Space Exploration?

Last spring, Mike Pence called for NASA to return astronauts to the moon, pronto. NASA got to work. The program, eventually named Artemis after the twin sister of Apollo, aims to land the first woman and next man on the moon by 2024. While the timeline has been called fanciful, Artemis has gained momentum in the past year and secured funding and partnerships. For the first time since Apollo 17 in 1972, a lunar landing seemed within reach.

Read more at: Slate

Iran Preparing Another Satellite Launch Attempt After Recent Failures, Images Indicate

Iran appears to be preparing an attempt to launch a satellite into space after a string of failures and condemnation that its space program is a front for the regime’s ballistic weapons testing.

Satellite imagery taken Sunday shows increased activity around a launchpad at Imam Khomeini Spaceport in Iran’s Semnan province. The photos show large numbers of vehicles and shipping containers, indicators for a future launch, according to the Middlebury Institute of International Studies.

Read more at: Washington examiner


Spotlight: Space Experts Warn Against Militarization Of Space, Highlight Space Economy

In view of the challenges in space such as the increase of orbital debris, militarization of space will be “very bad,” Charles Frank Bolden, former administrator of NASA, told Xinhua at the sideline of an international space conference in Israel.

The 15th Ilan Ramon international conference was hosted on Tuesday by the Israel Space Agency, a governmental body affiliated with the country’s Ministry of Science and Technology, as part of the 2020 Israeli space week events.

Read more at: Xinhuanet

Pentagon Report: DoD Needs To Test How Satellites Would Perform Under Attack

The Defense Department’s director of operational test and evaluation warns in a new report that the military today is not able to assess the durability of its satellites if they came under attack.

DoD plans to invest at least $100 billion in space systems over the next decade, “and we are not alone,” writes DOT&E director Robert Behler in his just released annual report for fiscal year 2019.

“We therefore must thoroughly understand how our systems will perform in space, particularly when facing man-made threats,” says the report. “Yet, the DoD currently has no real means to assess adequately the operational effectiveness, suitability and survivability of space-based systems in a representative environment.

Read more at: Spacenews

Senior Space Force Official Named Among New Job Assignments

A career special operations pilot will become the second-highest officer at the Space Force’s Space Operations Command, according to a slew of promotions and job changes announced Jan. 30.

Col. Michael Conley, selected for promotion to brigadier general, comes to the Space Force after having run the 1st Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field, Fla., since 2018. He has flown several types of aircraft, including the UH-1N helicopter, the CV-22 tiltrotor, AC-130W gunship, and MC-130J refueling and airlift plane, and he has spent time in the Pentagon.

Read more at: Airforce mag

A Russian “Inspector” Spacecraft Now Appears To Be Shadowing An American Spy Satellite

Publicly available data suggests that a Russian inspector satellite has shifted its position in orbit to bring it relatively close to a U.S. KH-11 spy satellite. Russia has a number of what it calls “space apparatus inspectors” in orbit, which the U.S. government and others warn the Kremlin could use to gather intelligence on other satellites or function as “killer satellites,” using various means to damage, disable, or destroy those targets.

On Jan. 30, 2020, Michael Thompson, a graduate student at Purdue University focusing on astrodynamics, posted a detailed thread on Twitter about the Russian inspector satellite Cosmos 2542, also written Kosmos 2542, appearing to synchronize its orbit with a U.S. satellite known as USA 245, which is understood be one of the National Reconnaissance Office’s KH-11 image gathering spy satellites.

Read more at: drive


Even as Boeing inches closer to getting the 737 Max back in the air, new problems with the plane are emerging that go beyond the software that played a role in two deadly crashes.

As part of the work to return the Max to service, the company and regulators have scrutinized every aspect of the jet, uncovering new potential design flaws.

At the request of the Federal Aviation Administration, Boeing conducted an internal audit in December to determine whether it had accurately assessed the dangers of key systems given new assumptions about how long it might take pilots to respond to emergencies, according to a senior engineer at Boeing and three people familiar with the matter.

Read more at: nytimes

11th IAASS conference