Rocket Engine Test In Cocoa Sends Debris Flying, Starts Fire

Rocket engine company Rocket Crafters was conducting an engine test Thursday that resulted in a mishap sending debris flying and starting small brush fires, company officials confirmed to News 6.

The private space company was conducting a rocket engine test fire at its facility around noon on Cidco Road in Cocoa when an “over-pressurization anomaly occurred,” company spokesman Sean Mirsky said in an email.

“Per standard procedure, individuals were cleared from the test bay before the test, and no one on-site was injured during the incident,” Mirsky said.

Read more at: Clickorlando

Boeing’s Starliner Under Extra Scrutiny In Wake Of 737 Max Crashes, Deaths

Would you fly in a Boeing spacecraft?

In the wake of Boeing’s 737 Max fiasco and resulting 346 deaths, the company’s Starliner crew capsule is coming under extra scrutiny.

The spacecraft failed to reach the International Space Station during a pivotal test flight in December. The company said a software glitch caused some of Starliner’s thrusters to fire at the wrong time.

Software issues were behind the crashes of two 737 Max aircraft as well. The plane has been grounded since March while Boeing works to correct the problems.

Read more at: Florida today

NASA Will Only Tolerate So Much Danger

A lot went right during a recent attempt to reach the International Space Station. A lot went wrong too.

The rocket launched just before sunrise on a cool, late December day, cutting a streak of gold across the sky in Florida’s Cape Canaveral. The capsule it carried, which was designed and built for NASA by Boeing, was smoothly delivered past the edge of space. If the test had gone off without a hitch, the next time this spacecraft flew, it would have had astronauts inside. The capsule was supposed to stay in space for a week and dock to the ISS. But two days later, the capsule was back on Earth with its parachutes strewed across the New Mexico desert. It was healthy and in one piece, but its cargo was undelivered, and its mission cut short.

Read more at: Atlantic

NASA Reaches For The Stars With Nuclear-Propelled Spacecraft

Nasa is hoping to build a nuclear propulsion system which would allow a spacecraft to travel to the nearest star.

While humanity has explored large parts of our own Solar System, the distances to another star system are, literally, astronomical.

Nasa’s Voyager 1 became the first spacecraft to venture into interstellar space in 2012.

But even if the 10-miles-per-second probe were heading in the right direction, it would take it 70,000 years to reach our closest star Alpha Centauri, which is 4.37 light years away, or 25 trillion miles.

Read more at: Telegraph

Third Time’s The Charm: Cygnus Cargo Ship Finally Gets Launched To The Space Station

Northrop Grumman’s robotic Cygnus cargo spacecraft is on its way to the International Space Station after two launch postponements.

The Cygnus lifted from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia at 3:21 p.m. ET (12:21 p.m. PT) today atop Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket. The launch was delayed twice: The first attempt was scrubbed six days ago due to an issue with ground support equipment, and a second attempt scheduled for Friday was called off due to excessively high upper-level winds.

Read more at: Geekwire

SpaceX Delays Launch Of 60 Starlink Satellites Due To Rocket Valve Checks

SpaceX has postponed the launch of its next batch of Starlink satellites due to an issue with a valve component on the rocket’s second stage. 

The next attempt will be on Monday (Feb. 17), the company said.

The California-based spaceflight company was scheduled to launch 60 of its internet-beaming satellites on previously flown Falcon 9 rocket at 10:25 a.m. EST (1525 GMT) Sunday from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. However, an issue with the rocket caused the company to delay the launch for 24 hours.

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State Commission Decides To Launch Soyuz-2.1a From Plesetsk On February 20 – Source

Russia’s State Commission has set a preliminary date of February 20 for the launch from Plesetsk of the Soyuz-2.1a rocket with a military satellite atop, which was previously canceled, a source in the rocket and space industry told TASS on Saturday.

“The State Commission decided on Saturday to preliminarily fix the launch of Soyuz-2.1a with Meridian satellite atop for February 20,” said the source

Read more at: TASS

Spacex’s Crew Dragon Delivered To Cape Canaveral For First Flight With Astronauts

SpaceX’s next Crew Dragon capsule was delivered to Cape Canaveral this week from a California factory for a liftoff as soon as this spring with veteran NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken on a test flight to the International Space Station, officials announced Friday.

The human-rated spaceship arrived at a test and processing facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Thursday following a cross-country trip from SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California.

Read more at: Spaceflightnow

SpaceX Crew Dragon Spacecraft Nears Last Parachute Tests Before Astronaut Launch Debut

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is likely just a few weeks away from its last few parachute drop tests, the successful completion of which should give NASA all the technical data it needs to okay its astronaut launch debut.

After facing several major failures during intentionally challenging drop tests both last year and the year before, SpaceX and supplier Airborne have been working relentlessly to better understand the complex physics behind parachutes and then design and build better ones with that information.

Read more at: Teslarati

Four Indian Astronauts To Start Training At Russia’s Star City

Four representatives of India are beginning their training program at Russia’s Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in the Star City on February 10, the Center said in a statement on Monday.

“As part of international cooperation, four representatives of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) are beginning their training at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center on February 10, 2020 as candidates for a space flight,” the statement says.

All the candidates have served as fighter aircraft pilots in the Indian Air Force. They have been selected by India’s national space agency after serious tests, according to the statement.

Read more at: TASS


Astroscale Wins First Half Of JAXA Debris-Removal Mission

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has selected Astroscale to send a spacecraft into orbit to inspect a discarded Japanese rocket upper stage, a step that would pave the way for a debris-removal  mission. 

The contract gives Tokyo-based Astroscale until March 31, 2023 to complete the inspection mission. 

If Astroscale is awarded a follow-on contract under JAXA’s Commercial Removal of Debris Demonstration 2 (CRD2) program, the company would be given until March 31, 2026 — the end of Japan’s fiscal year — to deorbit the spent upper stage. 

Read more at: Spacenews

Scientists Just Watched A Newfound Asteroid Zoom By Earth. Then They Saw Its Moon.

One of Earth’s premier instruments for studying nearby asteroids is back to work after being rattled by earthquakes, and its first new observations show that a newly discovered space rock is actually two separate asteroids.

The instrument is the planetary radar system at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. The observatory was closed for most of January, after a series of earthquakes hit the island beginning on Dec. 28, 2019. The observatory reopened on Jan. 29. Meanwhile, on Jan. 27, scientists using a telescope on Mauna Loa in Hawaii spotted an asteroid that astronomers hadn’t seen before. The team dubbed the newfound space rock 2020 BX12 based on a formula recognizing its discovery date. 

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Devastating Solar Storms Could Be Far More Common Than We Thought

The sun constantly bombards Earth with wispy belches of plasma called solar wind. Normally, the planet’s magnetic shield soaks up the brunt of these electric particles, producing stunning auroras as they surge toward Earth’s magnetic poles. But every so often, there comes a solar sneeze powerful enough to body-slam our atmosphere.

These severe space weather events — known as solar storms — compress Earth’s magnetic shield, releasing enough power to blind satellites, disrupt radio signals and plunge entire cities into electrical blackouts. According to a study published Jan. 22 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, they may be much more common than previously thought.

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Satellite Crashes, Asteroid Impacts And Space Weather Pose Big Risks, US Lawmakers Say

One of the most pressing problems when it comes to keeping our planet safe from space threats is data, which sounds so simple to address.

It’s not. That’s why the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation spent a 90-minute hearing on Wednesday (Feb. 12) asking experts what the priorities should be when it comes to threats like space weather, rogue asteroids and space debris.

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Directv’s Defunct Spaceway-1 Reaches High Graveyard Orbit In One Piece

DirecTV’s Spaceway-1 satellite has been retired to a graveyard orbit 500 kilometers above the geostationary arc, eliminating the risk of the malfunctioning satellite exploding in an orbit populated by active satellites. 

Ground-based observations from ExoAnalytic Solutions’ network of space surveillance telescopes show that Spaceway-1 has been moved out of harm’s way and deactivated. 

Read more at: Spacenews

Satellite Megaconstellations Prompt New Warning From Astronomy Group About Impact On Science

The more astronomers consider the advent of satellite megaconstellations, the more anxious they get.

Now, the International Astronomical Union (IAU), a premier group of astronomers, has spoken out again, voicing scientists’ concerns about how the satellites that make up OneWeb and SpaceX’s Starlink will interfere with observations of the night sky. The statement accompanies the publication of a new page designed for the public about satellite constellations and optical astronomy.

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Satellite ‘License Plates’ And Re-Igniting Rocket Fuel Could Head Off Space Junk Crashes

Two defunct satellites nearly collided on Jan. 29, and their close call (the objects missed each other by an estimated 154 feet, or 47 meters) renewed attention for a growing problem far above Earth: a cloud of space junk. 

Millions of objects make up this orbiting junkyard, where hurtling fragments can reach speeds of nearly 18,000 mph (19,000 km/h), around seven times faster than the speed of a bullet, according to NASA. About 500,000 pieces of debris are at least marble size, and approximately 20,000 objects are the size of a softball or bigger, NASA reported in 2013. 

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Virgin Galactic’s Record-Breaking Week Doesn’t Stop Short-Sellers

Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc. may close at another record on Friday after hitting new highs every day this week, but bearish bets are climbing too.

The space-tourism company told investors last night that the spaceship VSS Unity successfully completed another test flight during its relocation to New Mexico and was on track for the final stages of its test-flight program. The New Mexico-based company is gaining for the sixth day and has climbed about 45 per cent during this latest rally.

Read more at: bnnbloomberg

The Space Industry’s B.S. Problem

At a meteorology conference, a space industry consultant asked if I’d heard the news. He claimed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration canceled plans to buy commercial weather satellite data. Since I hadn’t heard, I checked with NOAA officials who confirmed my suspicion. It wasn’t true.

Journalists have always looked for sources to trust and clues to help separate fact from fiction, but it’s never been more daunting than in this period of rapid change for the space industry. Startups make bold claims about their current technology, on-orbit performance and future prospects. Industry veterans, meanwhile, patiently explain why the claims are unrealistic or physically impossible. Neither side has a monopoly on candor.

Read more at: Spacenews

SpaceX Hires Former NASA Human-Spaceflight Chief

SpaceX is tapping into a deep vein of NASA experience as the company prepares to launch agency astronauts to orbit in the next few months.

SpaceX has hired former NASA human-spaceflight chief Bill Gerstenmaier, CNBC reported yesterday (Feb. 11). Gerst, as he is known within the spaceflight community, will work as a consultant for SpaceX’s reliability team, company representatives confirmed to

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Exclusive: Space Internet Startup Astranis Raises $90 million

Astranis, a satellite Internet startup focused on bringing overlooked parts of the world online, raised $90 million in new funding. 

The deal includes $40 million in equity venture capital led by Venrock, the company tells Fortune. Andreessen Horowitz, which led Astranis’s 2018 fundraising, also participated, marking that firm’s only space investment. The deal also includes $50 million of debt financing.

The new funding will help Astranis deploy its first satellite, already contracted to provide Internet service in Alaska, as well as funding further growth, CEO John Gedmark tells Fortune.

Read more at: Fortune


JAXA Tests H3 Rocket’s Three Main Engines

Japan’s space agency has tested the simultaneous firing of three main engines for the country’s new mainstay rocket.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, is developing the H3 rocket to replace the H2A. The H3 is due to be launched in fiscal 2020. It is capable of carrying two or three main engines.

Media were invited to view the engine test on Thursday at a site in Odate in Akita Prefecture.

Read more at: NHK

Electric Solid Propellant — Can It Take The Heat?

Electric solid propellants are being explored as a safer option for pyrotechnics, mining, and in-space propulsion because they only ignite with an electric current. But because all of these applications require high heat, it’s important to understand how the high temperatures change the propellants’ chemistry. Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Missouri University of Science and Technology, and NASA used a computer model that simulates the thermochemical properties of high temperature materials to predict the thermochemistry of a new high-performance electric solid propellant.

Read more at: Eurekalert

How Doctors on Earth Treated a Blood Clot on the ISS

Of all the unfortunate places to be when you discover you have a blood clot, the worst has got to be 250 miles up in the sky, zooming around the world at 17,000 miles per hour aboard the International Space Station.

But in a study published last month in The New England Journal of Medicine, doctors detailed how they treated one such unlucky case. The astronaut was participating in a study on vascular flow in space and did a routine ultrasound scan on their neck. From the ground, doctors who saw the images noticed that there didn’t appear to be any blood flow in the astronaut’s left jugular vein.

Read more at: Wired

Whip It Good! Amazon Patents A Launch System For Snapping Payloads Into The Air — Or Even Into Orbit

Never let it be said that Amazon Prime Air VP Gur Kimchi thinks small: His latest patent lays out a plan for a launch system that could theoretically send payloads into space on the end of a miles-long whip, guided by a phalanx of drones attached to the lash.

The patent application — co-written with veteran Amazon inventor Louis LeRoi LeGrand III, filed in 2017 and published on Tuesday — lays out an unusually detailed description of the system, right down to how the gear teeth in the mechanism could be arranged.

Read more at: Geekwire


FAA Commercial Space Office Seeks Budget Increase To Keep Up With Industry Growth

The Federal Aviation Administration’s commercial space office is seeking a modest budget increase in fiscal year 2021 as it also works on a reorganization and revision of commercial launch regulations.

The FAA, in its fiscal year 2021 budget proposal released Feb. 10, requested $27.555 million for the Office of Commercial Space Transportation, or AST. That is a nearly 6% increase from the $26.04 million AST received for fiscal year 2020.

Read more at: Spacenews

Commerce Department Seeks Big Funding Boost For Office Of Space Commerce

The Commerce Department is once again requesting a large budget increase for its Office of Space Commerce in order to work on space traffic management activities after Congress rejected a similar request last year.

Parts of the department’s fiscal year 2021 budget proposal were not released with the rest of the White House’s budget request Feb. 10. However, the section for “Departmental Management,” which covers the Office of Space Commerce, was released by Feb. 14.

Read more at: Spacenews

Finland Needs Its Own Space Research Centre, Gov’t Report Says

Finland must increase its investments in the business and technologies of space, according to a report commissioned by the Prime Minister’s Office.

The report recommended setting up a “Space Situation Centre” so that authorities could monitor data on satellite systems observing Finnish territories as well as study the effects of space weather.

The rapid global expansion of the space industry is making it less expensive to launch tech into Earth’s orbit. This is a development the scientific working group found affects Finland’s national security and economic interests.

Read more at: yle

National Space Council Expands Membership

The White House has added the Secretary of Energy and two other officials to the roster of members of the National Space Council.

In a statement issued late Feb. 13, the White House announced that the Secretary of Energy, Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy had been added to the membership of the council. President Trump signed an executive order amending the 2017 order that formally reestablished the council to add them as official members.

Read more at: Spacenews

Japan Offers Malaysia New Frontier In Space Exploration

Japan is ready to take Malaysia to a new frontier in space exploration and technology, via collaborative initiatives.

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) international relations and research department director Yoshikazu Shoji said Malaysia already has a head start by having its first astronaut flown to the International Space Station (ISS); its involvement in the Malaysia East Asia Satellite (Measat) and micro-satellite programme; and aviation and aerospace industries.

Read more at: nst


Exclusive: Strange Russian Spacecraft Shadowing U.S. Spy Satellite, General Says

A pair of Russian satellites are tailing a multibillion-dollar U.S. spy satellite hundreds of miles above the Earth’s surface, a top U.S. military commander tells TIME, underscoring a growing threat to America’s dominance in space-based espionage and a potentially costly new chapter in Washington’s decades-long competition with Moscow.

Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, commander of the newly minted U.S. Space Force, says the Russian spacecraft began maneuvering toward the American satellite shortly after being launched into orbit in November, at times creeping within 100 miles of it.

Read more at: Time

Fifth Anti-Jamming Satellite Available To War Fighters

The fifth Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite was officially transferred to Space Operations Command Feb. 3, marking its final milestone

“This was very much a team effort from our industry partners and dedicated Government professionals, with their focus on mission success this major milestone was accomplished,” said Col John Dukes, senior materiel leader for the Space Production Corps’ Geosynchronous Orbit Division, in a statement.

Read more at: c4isrnet

Results of Starliner Review Expected in February

An independent review team investigating the first in-space test of Boeing’s Starliner astronaut capsule should have its review wrapped up by the end of February.

Boeing and NASA are conducting the review jointly. They already plan to recheck all 1 million lines of Starliner’s software code after the capsule, flying crewless for the test, failed to reach the International Space Station and dock there, a requirement for NASA’s human spaceflight certification. A future flight test with a three-person crew, expected to include retired Air Force Col. Edward Michael Fincke, is also part of the plan for human certification.

Read more at: Airforcemag

Space Force: What Will The New Military Branch Actually Do?

The Trump administration established the Space Force as a separate military branch in December 2019. 

Since then, America’s Space Force has gotten its own official “Star Trek”-esque seal, with a logo being developed. Recently unveiled was a traditional camouflage uniform adorned with a blue “U.S. Space Force” nameplate on the chest and a full-color flag on the left arm. 

Furthermore, the first official “space guy” has been formally sworn in. Gen. John “Jay” Raymond is the Space Force’s first chief of space operations and has said that the new branch will be a “technology-focused service.”

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Does the Space Force Need a Guard component? The National Guard Says Yes.

National Guard leaders want the Pentagon to create a Space National Guard — and if it doesn’t, Guard officials may work independently with Congress to make it happen, top generals said Wednesday.

The Defense Department is set to submit a report to Congress this March laying out plans for how the Space Force will incorporate Reserve and National Guard forces. Currently, the Office of the Secretary of Defense is studying a range of options, including unique models that would divide the Space Force into full- and part-time positions, or having no reserve component at all, Maj. Gen. David Baldwin, the adjutant general from California, said during a media roundtable with reporters.

Read more at: Defensenews

U.S. Space Force Names Its First Senior Enlisted Advisor

Chief Master Sgt. Roger Towberman will serve as the first senior enlisted advisor of the U.S. Space Force, Chief of Space Operations Gen. John Raymond announced Feb. 13.

Towberman last year was named the senior enlisted leader of U.S. Space Command. He will be dual-hatted as the top enlisted advisor at both U.S. Space Command and the U.S. Space Force.

Towberman will advise the Space Force’s enlisted corps and will serve as a personal advisor to the Chief of Space Operations and the Secretary of the Air Force on issues like the welfare, readiness and morale of the force.

Read more at: Spacenews

Trump Directs U.S. Government Agencies To Protect Critical Infrastructure That Relies On GPS

President Trump signed an executive order that calls for a government-wide effort to improve the security and resilience of services that depend on the Global Positioning System for positioning, navigation and timing.

The executive order signed Feb. 12 is titled “Strengthening National Resilience Through Responsible Use of Positioning, Navigation and Timing Services.”

A senior White House official told reporters that the executive order “serves to highlight how important this utility has become to the functioning of the nation’s critical infrastructure.”

Read more at: Spacenews

Space And Missile Systems Center Awards Northrop Grumman $253.6 Million For Protected Tactical SATCOM Acquisition

The U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center Development Corps signed a $253.6 million payload development award with Northrop Grumman for the first of up to four separate payload development awards for the Protected Tactical SATCOM (PTS) acquisition, Feb. 12.

This effort, in alignment with SMC delivering warfighting capability at E.P.I.C. Speed (Enterprise, Partnership, Innovation, Culture and Speed), uses the FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Section 804 – “Middle Tier of Acquisition for Rapid Prototyping and Rapid Fielding,” and the FY 2016 NDAA Section 815 – “Amendments to Other Transaction Authority” to achieve an affordable, rapidly delivered, operational capability for tactical warfighters. 

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After Another Failed Launch, Iranian Minister Says “We’re UNSTOPPABLE!”

A pair of Iranian satellites failed to reach orbit on Sunday after their Simorgh launch vehicle failed to inject them with enough velocity.

“Stage-1 and stage-2 motors of the carrier functioned properly and the satellite was successfully detached from its carrier, but at the end of its path it did not reach the required speed for being put in the orbit,” Defense Ministry space program spokesman Ahmad Hosseini told state TV, per an AP report.

Read more at: Arstechnica

Japan Launches Spy Satellite To Keep Eye On North Korea

Japan has put a new spy satellite into orbit that is expected to help the government capture images of North Korean missile sites.

The spy satellite was lofted into orbit by an H-IIA rocket launched at 10:34 a.m. Sunday from Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture. The satellite entered orbit about 20 minutes later.

The satellite, which cost ¥34.3 billion to develop, is equipped with a super-telephoto digital camera.

Read more at: japantimes


With Eye On Moon, NASA To Seek New Astronaut Applicants In March

NASA is looking for more astronauts to launch to the space station, fly to the moon and maybe journey to Mars.

The space agency announced Tuesday (Feb. 11) that it will accept applications for its next class of astronaut candidates from March 2 through March 31. The new recruits, the 23rd group to be selected over the past 60 years, will become part of NASA’s Artemis program to move humanity beyond Earth orbit and build upon two decades of astronauts living and working in space.

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Space Startup’s Founders Linked To Shady Dating Website Ring

Two founders and board members of Texas space startup Firefly Aerospace appear to be involved in running a ring of sham dating websites, according to the results of a two-year investigation published by Snopes on Wednesday.

The investigation links the two men, Ukrainian businessman Max Polyakov and investor Mark Watt, to a handful of shell companies that appear to own and operate dozens of similar websites

Read more at: Verge

11th IAASS conference