New House Space Subcommittee Chair Plans To Address Commercial Space Issues

The new chair of the House space subcommittee says she’s looking forward to working with the commercial space industry on a number of issues, including oversight of non-traditional space activities.

In a Feb. 13 speech at the Commercial Space Transportation Conference here, Rep. Kendra Horn (D-Okla.) said she wants to take on a number of issues that affect the industry as the new chair of the House Science Committee’s space subcommittee.

“I am incredibly encouraged and excited to be able to have the gavel with the space subcommittee,” she said in brief remarks at the conference. “It’s just a lot of fun.”

Read more at: Spacenews

NASA Sets Launch Date for Orion Spacecraft Abort System Test

NASA will test the launch abort system of its new crewed Orion capsule on June 12, marking the second escape system test for the agency’s next crewed spaceship.

“The test will show Orion’s Launch Abort System can carry a crew to safety in case of an emergency during launch,” NASA officials wrote in a Twitter updateWednesday (Feb. 20).

Called Ascent Abort-2, the upcoming uncrewed test will launch from a pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and last less than 3 minutes. Once Orion reaches an altitude of 31,000 feet (9,448 meters) about 55 seconds after liftoff, the tower-mounted abort rocket motor will rip the Orion space capsule from its booster to simulate a launch emergency escape.

Read more at:

Crew From Aborted Soyuz MS-10 Mission Received Psychological Support

Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin and NASA astronaut Nick Hague of the failed Soyuz MS-10 mission consulted with psychologists prior to their upcoming ISS mission scheduled for March 14, the crewmembers told reporters on Thursday at a pre-flight press conference in Zvezdny Gorodok.

“After the most recent launch that wasn’t very successful we have talked to psychologists. We had some chat sessions and as far as I understand, all of us were relieved that we were fine. I believe this time we’ll succeed,” Ovchinin said.

That being said, Nick Hague stressed that psychological support is part of the crew’s general training. “We have a great team of psychologists. After that failed launch, some work was undertaken. There were no consequences for my family or me. We just quietly began prepping for our next launch,” the astronaut added.

Read more at: TASS

Emergency at Egyptian Satellite Launch Caused by Human Factor – Source

The emergency situation during the recent launch of the Egyptian earth observation satellite Egyptsat-A was caused by incorrect calibration of fuel sensors on the Soyuz carrier rocket prior to launch, a Russian space industry source told Sputnik.

Roscosmos said Thursday that EgyptSat-A had been successfully delivered to the designated orbit and was operating in nominal regime. However, Russian space industry sources told Sputnik that the third stage of the Soyuz rocket failed to bring the Egyptian satellite to a target orbit, and the Fregat booster was used to compensate for the orbiting error.

Read more at: Sputnik news

Exclusive: SpaceX, Boeing Design Risks Threaten New Delays For U.S. Space Program

NASA has warned SpaceX and Boeing Co of design and safety concerns for their competing astronaut launch systems, according to industry sources and a new government report, threatening the U.S. bid to revive its human spaceflight program later this year.

NASA is paying SpaceX $2.6 billion and Boeing $4.2 billion to build rocket and capsule launch systems to return astronauts to the International Space Station from U.S. soil for the first time since America’s Space Shuttle program went dark in 2011.

Just ahead of the first scheduled un-manned test flight slated for March 2 under NASA’s multibillion-dollar Commercial Crew Program, NASA’s safety advisory panel cited four “key risk items” in its 2018 annual report earlier this month.

Read more at: reuters

NASA Says SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Is Ready to Fly to Space Station

Billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX is ready to fly its first commercially-built spacecraft designed for humans to the International Space Station, NASA said Friday after a high-level agency review of the project in the final week before the flight.

The unmanned SpaceX Demo-1 launch is set for 2:48 a.m. U.S. Eastern time on March 2 from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The 27-foot long Crew Dragon will dock with the space station at 5:55 a.m. the following day. It will carry some cargo, radiation monitors and a full-scale “dummy” to replicate an astronaut.

Read more at: Bloomberg

Design Changes May Delay ISRO’s Manned Space Mission

Even as the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is pushing for completion of the human space programme by the end of 2021, design changes required for the project might delay it further, say scientists at Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

DRDO is involved in developing a few products for ISRO for the programme. “While the initial proposal for India’s programme involved only two astronauts, the recent announcement indicates that three people will be involved in the programme. In order to accommodate one more person, several design adjustments will have to be made to ensure the success of the programme,” a DRDO scientist, under the condition of anonymity, said.

Read more at: New Indian Express

After a Reset, Curiosity Is Operating Normally

NASA’s Curiosity rover is busy making new discoveries on Mars. The rover has been climbing Mount Sharp since 2014 and recently reached a clay region that may offer new clues about the ancient Martian environment’s potential to support life.

Curiosity encountered a hurdle last Friday, when a hiccup during boot-up interrupted its planned activities and triggered a protective safe mode. The rover was brought out of this mode on Tuesday, Feb. 19, and is otherwise operating normally, having successfully booted up over 30 times without further issues.

Throughout the weekend, Curiosity was sending and receiving technical data, communicating with the team in order to help them pinpoint the cause of the issue.

Read more at: NASA

Planned Spaceport Near Brunswick Subject Of Second Lawsuit Seeking Public Records

Camden County and two private companies leading the effort to build a planned commercial spaceport on Georgia’s coast have kept information secret and are in violation of Georgia’s Open Records Act for failing to release the information, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Camden County Superior Court.

One Hundred Miles, a Brunswick-based nonprofit environmental organization, filed the lawsuit. The defendants include Camden County and its private partners – Nelson Aerospace Consulting Associates, founded by Andrew Nelson, formerly of XCOR Aerospace; and The Aerospace Corp.

The two companies do not appear to be incorporated in Georgia, according to records maintained by the Georgia Secretary of State.

Read more at: saportareport

Boeing Reaches Milestone Of Firsts With Forward Join Of NASA’s Inaugural SLS Core Stage

The top half of the first NASA Space Launch System (SLS) Core Stage now stands assembled in a vertical stacking cell at the Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) in New Orleans. Prime contractor Boeing bolted the three elements, the forward skirt, the liquid oxygen (LOX) tank, and the intertank together in January at Michoud.

After connecting the elements, Boeing is working to button up the “forward join” and get the assembly ready to connect to the rest of the stage later in the year. Technicians are working in Cell D at MAF to install the remaining major hardware pieces inside the join, plug cabling together, and cover the bolted connections with insulating foam.

Read more at: NASA spaceflight

A Brilliant Daytime Meteor Exploded Over Cuba This Month. Here’s Where It Came From

Astronomers just got the goods on the meteor that flared up over Cuba earlier this month.

The daytime sky show dazzled thousands of people across western Cuba on Feb. 1. Many of those folks captured footage of the meteor or the trail of debris it left behind when it burned up, permitting the reconstruction of the space rock’s path.

“We were very lucky that at least three relatively reliable videos, including one with an incredible quality, could be available on the internet in such a short time,” Jorge Zuluaga, a professor at the Institute of Physics (IoP) at the University of Antioquia in Colombia, said in a statement.

Read more at:

Russia Says It Will Launch 2 Tourists Into Orbit for Space Adventures in 2021

Russia’s space agency Roscosmos has inked a deal with the U.S. space tourism company Space Adventures to fly two passengers to the International Space Station in 2021. And unlike past space tourists, these two passengers will fly together.

Roscosmos officials said Tuesday (Feb. 19) that their agency signed a contract with Space Adventures to fly a pair of tourists (dubbed “spaceflight participants”) on a single Soyuz spacecraft for a short-duration trip to space station. A veteran cosmonaut would presumably fill the third seat in the three-person Soyuz, though Roscosmos officials did not make that clear.

Read more at:

Virgin Galactic Completes New Test Flight With Third Crew Member

Virgin Galactic completed its fifth supersonic test flight on Friday, marking a key milestone by putting a third employee on the spacecraft.

Beth Moses, Virgin’s chief astronaut instructor, flew with two pilots to begin human cabin testing, CEO George Whitesides wrote on Twitter. Virgin Galactic said the test flight reached an altitude of 55.9 miles and a speed of Mach 3.0 during its ascent.

Moses is a former NASA engineer who worked on the International Space Station program. Her work at Virgin involves helping customers prepare for the rigors of spaceflight and micro-gravity. The company, which plans to take well-heeled tourists to space, says those who fly will complete a two-day preparatory course at its New Mexico campus.

Read more at: Bloomberg

Bezos Emphasizes Altitude Advantage Of New Shepard Over Spaceshiptwo

As Blue Origin prepares to start flying people on its New Shepard suborbital vehicle, the company’s founder says the altitude the vehicle can reach will put it at an advantage over Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo.

In an on-stage interview with SpaceNews during a Wings Club luncheon here Feb. 20, Jeff Bezos reiterated statements made by other Blue Origin executives that the company expects to start flying people on New Shepard later this year.

“This is the first time that I’ve ever been saying ‘this year,’” he said of those plans. “For a few years I’ve been saying ‘next year.’”

Read more at: Spacenews

Ariane 6 Rocket Sees First Commercial Deals In Race With Spacex

Ariane 6, Europe’s next-generation space rocket, is expected to win its first two commercial launch orders in coming weeks, company officials said, a key milestone as the European launcher vies for orders against Elon Musk’s U.S. competitor SpaceX.

Operator Arianespace faces increased competition from SpaceX and Blue Origin, owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. Japan and India also pose a growing challenge.

Ariane 6 has three institutional orders in hand from the European Commission and France and is close to signing deals with two commercial customers, said Mathias Spude, spokesman for ArianeGroup, a joint venture of Airbus and Safran, that is the majority stakeholder in Arianespace.

Read more at: Reuters

Exclusive: SpaceX Accuses Europe’s Ariane Of Unfair Competition

In a less tense geopolitical and commercial context between the US and Europe, the situation might generate a hearty laugh. SpaceX, the rocket manufacturer revolutionizing the space sector with its partially reusable rockets, is complaining to Washington about unfair competition from the longstanding European program Arianespace. SpaceX submitted a letter dated in December to a top U.S. trade official, of copy of which was recently obtained by Les Echos, denouncing subsidies from the EU and the French government, which it says artificially reduce the price of Arianespace’s launch services on the international market.

While Europeans are busy worrying that Ariane 6 rockets will lose out against SpaceX’s products, the company founded by Elon Musk has taken aim at the financial aid allocated by the European Spatial Agency (ESA).

Read more at: World crunch

Elon Musk Gets a ‘Non’ From France on Space-Tech Talks With EU

Elon Musk’s push to include space technology in U.S. trade talks with the European Union is running into French resistance.

The “non” by Paris is the latest obstacle to emerge before negotiations begin, adding to a list of industries that France considers off-limits, such as agriculture. On the U.S. side, President Donald Trump is threatening tariffs on imported cars and auto parts if talks fail.

Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. asked the office of the U.S. Trade Representative in December to use the planned talks to expand market access and ensure that European competitor ArianeGroup doesn’t get preferential treatment in Europe. That’s a non-starter, French space agency head Jean-Yves Le Gall said after French newspaper Les Echos reported on SpaceX’s request.

Read more at: Bloomberg

Camden County Approves Spaceport Authority; Opposition Continues

Camden County, Georgia, has spent millions toward a hopeful commercial spaceport project. The county has applied to the Federal Aviation Administration for a launch operator’s license and now is asking the state government to create an authority.

The county commission voted unanimously to do so Tuesday evening, despite much public comment in opposition. It’s now up to the county’s local delegation to approve and carry the legislation through the General Assembly.

An authority is basically a quasi-governmental structure that can sign contracts, do business and issue revenue bonds without a referendum.

Read more at: Wabe

World View Jobs Falling Hundreds Short Of Lofty Predictions

Although Pima County taxpayers invested $15 million in a facility for a high-altitude balloon company, the number of workers at the firm isn’t taking off as officials forecast — or even as World View’s lease requires.

But a new CEO is signaling a more grounded approach to earning revenues, observers indicated.

Far from a projected 400 workers, the company had fewer than the 100 employees it should now have under its deal with the county, even before a recent layoff of 10 employees. Although the county could void the lease with World View, its prospects for recourse are limited and pushing a firm with growth potential out and leaving a vacant building instead isn’t on the table, officials said.

Read more at: Tucson sentinel

Rocket-tunity: Can Private Firms Turn a Profit in Space?

As entrepreneurial rocket companies come closer to shooting the first space tourist into the void, perhaps even this year, another reality is dawning: The business of space is no different than new industries everywhere else. It’s tough to launch.

Up until now, companies competing in the commercial space race have been blessed somewhat by the glamour of it all. Investors enthusiastically, maybe too much so, backed a host of startups including those headed by superstar names like Sir Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos, and Elon Musk. Rich adventurers are lining up with wallets out to be among the first star men and women. Better yet, companies such as SpaceX and Orbital ATK (now a division of Northrup Grumman) have actually proven their launch vehicles by delivering satellites or payloads to extraterrestrial destinations.

Read more at: hbswk

Seeking The Future: The Fragility Of The Patron

Pushing out toward the final frontier is difficult both in the physical sense of building vehicles capable of carrying people out into the unknown as well as in the human sense. The former refers to the fact that simply reaching outer space safely and pushing outward from there is expensive, dangerous, and requires a long-term mindset. The lonely tinker working in their garage (e.g. the Wright Brothers) represented one path forward in the early days of human flight, albeit not spaceflight. Spaceflight requires significant resources, which traditionally has meant that the government or other organizations must be persuaded to provide that funding over relatively long periods of time. The Smithsonian, for example, supported Goddard’s early work leading to a liquid fueled launch vehicle albeit small in size.

Read more at: Spacereview

NASA Set to Demonstrate X-ray Communications in Space

A new experimental type of deep space communications technology is scheduled to be demonstrated on the International Space Station this spring.

Currently, NASA relies on radio waves to send information between spacecraft and Earth. Emerging laser communications technology offers higher data rates that let spacecraft transmit more data at a time. This demonstration involves X-ray communications, or XCOM, which offers even more advantages.

X-rays have much shorter wavelengths than both infrared and radio. This means that, in principle, XCOM can send more data for the same amount of transmission power. The X-rays can broadcast in tighter beams, thus using less energy when communicating over vast distances.

Read more at: NASA

NASA Scientists Show How Ingredients for Water Could Be Made on Surface of Moon, a ‘Chemical Factory’

When a stream of charged particles known as the solar wind careens onto the Moon’s surface at 450 kilometers per second (or nearly 1 million miles per hour), they enrich the Moon’s surface in ingredients that could make water, NASA scientists have found.

Using a computer program, scientists simulated the chemistry that unfolds when the solar wind pelts the Moon’s surface. As the Sun streams protons to the Moon, they found, those particles interact with electrons in the lunar surface, making hydrogen (H) atoms. These atoms then migrate through the surface and latch onto the abundant oxygen (O) atoms bound in the silica (SiO2) and other oxygen-bearing molecules that make up the lunar soil, or regolith. Together, hydrogen and oxygen make the molecule hydroxyl (OH), a component of water, or H2O.

“We think of water as this special, magical compound,” said William M. Farrell, a plasma physicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who helped develop the simulation. “But here’s what’s amazing: every rock has the potential to make water, especially after being irradiated by the solar wind.”

Read more at: NASA

Bird Poop And Dust Could Seriously Complicate Elon Musk And Spacex’s Latest Plan To Reach Mars

Over the past few months, Elon Musk has been revealing new details about SpaceX’s upcoming launch system, called Starship.

Musk has said the new launch vehicle, which he and engineers recently redesigned, will eventually replace all the company’s rockets. It will be fully reusable and extremely cheap to launch, the thinking goes – perhaps reducing the cost of access to space hundredfold. In time, Musk thinks such a system may lead to round-trip Mars tickets that cost less than $500,000 and “maybe even below $100k.”

But that assumes mundane debris like dust or even bird droppings don’t cause Starship’s giant spaceship, as it’s designed, to burn up when landing on Mars or returning to Earth.

Read more at: Business insider

Signs of Ancient Flowing Water on Mars

These images from ESA’s Mars Express satellite show a branching, desiccated system of trenches and valleys, signs of ancient water flow that hint at a warmer, wetter past for the Red Planet.

We see Mars as a cold, dry world, but plenty of evidence suggests that this was not always the case. Research in past years instead increasingly indicates that the planet once had a thicker, denser atmosphere that was able to lock in far greater amounts of warmth, and therefore facilitate and support the flow of liquid water on the surface below.

Read more at: ESA

Astronauts Struggle with Finishing Tasks on Mock Space Missions

Astronauts may struggle in solving problems and thinking creatively during long space missions, a preliminary study of an analog environment suggests. The results may be useful when humans run missions to Mars.

Researchers analyzed data from eight sets of crewmembers at an indoor NASA Johnson Space Center spacecraft simulator. In the study, the astronauts were able to finish the tasks being studied only between 20 percent and 60 percent of the time, according to a statement. The mock spacecraft, called Human Experimentation Research Analog (HERA), included sleep deprivation, sound effects, vibrations and communications delays similar to what would be encountered in a deep-space mission. Crews stay in HERA for up to 45 days at a time.

Read more at:

Nasa’s Space Shuttle Rises From The Dead To Power New Vehicles

In 2011, the storied space shuttle flew for the last time. Three spacecraft survive in retirement as specimens in museums around the country. But the program isn’t dead yet: Many of its parts are popping up as zombie components in spacecraft now in development.

Modified left-over shuttle engines will power NASA’s delayed Space Launch System (SLS), a giant launch vehicle intended for lunar missions and, eventually, Mars. An experimental autonomous Darpa spaceplane, called the Phantom Express, will also rely on a shuttle engine. This vehicle is designed to offer swift, aircraft-like access to space. Both projects are being built by Boeing.p-admin/post.php?post=29849&action=edit

Read more at: Wired

With The Best Air Pressure Sensor Ever On Mars, Scientists Find A Mystery

There’s a new meteorologist on Mars. Although NASA’s InSight spacecraft landed on the red planet late in 2018 to measure the planet’s geology—primarily by listening for Mars quakes—it also brought some sophisticated meteorology equipment with it.

The space agency has set up a website to share that information, which includes not only daily high and low temperatures but also unprecedented hourly data on wind speed, direction, and air pressure for InSight’s location near the equator in Elysium Planitia. “We thought it was something that people might have some fun with,” Cornell University’s Don Banfield, who leads InSight’s weather science, told Ars.

Read more at: Ars technica

Earth’s Atmosphere Stretches to the Moon and Beyond

The outermost part of our planet’s atmosphere extends well beyond the lunar orbit – almost twice the distance to the Moon.

A recent discovery based on observations by the ESA/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, SOHO, shows that the gaseous layer that wraps around Earth reaches up to 630 000 km away, or 50 times the diameter of our planet.

“The Moon flies through Earth’s atmosphere,” says Igor Baliukin of Russia’s Space Research Institute, lead author of the paper presenting the results.

“We were not aware of it until we dusted off observations made over two decades ago by the SOHO spacecraft.”

Read more at: ESA

Russia Completes Engine Tests of Soyuz Rocket’s 2nd Stage Using New Fuel – UEC

The engine for the second stage of the Soyuz-2 rocket using the new naphthyl rocket fuel instead of kerosene was successfully tested, a spokesperson for the United Engine Corporation told Sputnik on the sidelines of the Aero India exhibition in the Indian city of Bengaluru on Wednesday.

Naphthyl fuel was first used instead of kerosene during the launch of the third stage of the Soyuz-2 rocket from Vostochny Cosmodrome in November 2017. Tests for the engines of the first and the second stages of the carrier rocket have not been carried out before. The first launch of a Soyuz-2 with all engines using naphtyl is scheduled for 2019.

Read more at: Sputnik news

ISRO To Pick Crew For Gaganyaan Soon

An announcement will be made soon on the process for selection of Indian crew members for ‘Gaganyaan’ mission, the country’s first attempt to send a couple of Indians on a voyage in outer space by 2022, ISRO’s chairman Dr K Sivan announced on Monday.

The project, he said, would have a major impact on international cooperation as agreements have to be made between nations to complete the mission he said while addressing the inaugural of a two-day international seminar on “Emerging frontiers in aerospace technology,” organized on the eve of Aero India 2019. “The specialty of ‘Gaganyaan’ is that it has to be completed in 40 months. Many, even people from aerospace sector, are doubting whether we can achieve it. If Russia can send a man to space in just four years in 1957, why can’t we send now in 40 months?” he asked.

Read more at: Deccan chronicle

White House Science Adviser Outlines Vision

In his first major speech since being sworn in as director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) on 11 February, Kelvin Droegemeier said that the United States is entering a new “bold era” in science that recognizes the driving role of the private sector along with the federal government.

“There is literally no better time in the history of this planet, or any better place on Earth, to be engaged in the quest for scientific knowledge and understanding than right here, right now in America,” said Droegemeier, speaking at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington, D.C., on 15 February.

Read more at: EOS

S. Korea And India Agree To Step Up Cooperation In Military And Space Sectors

South Korean and Indian leaders agreed to push for joint lunar exploration and upgrade their strategic partnership in defense and space industries. South Korea, a newcomer in the space industry, has tried to find a new partner for technical cooperation.

The agreement came at a summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Seoul on Friday. The two leaders agreed to strengthen strategic exchanges and cooperation in the fields of military and defense industry. Moon urged India to allow South Korea’s participation in the construction of nuclear power plants.

Read more at: ajudaily

Putin Orders Government To Create National Space Center In Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin during his State of the Nation address to the Federal Assembly ordered the Moscow government and the Roscosmos State Space Corporation to create the National Space Center.

According to the president, the center should unite key organizations, design bureaus and production facilities and ensure carrying out scientific researches and training staff.

Putin stressed that for a true revolution in the sphere of communications, navigation and the creation of Earth’s remote sensing systems Russia’s satellites constellation needs to be significantly increased. “Russia has unique technologies for that, but such tasks demand fundamental upgrading of the entire space sector,” he said.

Read more at: TASS

Growing ASAT Threat Behind New Space Force

The growing threat to American satellites from Chinese and Russian anti-satellite weaponry was a key driver behind President Trump’s directive creating a new space military force.

Trump on Tuesday signed Space Policy Directive-4 ordering creation of a new U.S. Space Force to be a separate service within the Air Force —the military leader for national security space operations.

“America must be fully equipped to defend our vital interests,” Trump said in signing the directive. “Our adversaries are training forces and developing technology to undermine our security in space, and they’re working very hard at that.”

Read more at: freebeacon

Trump Signs Directive To Create The US Space Force

A Space Force as a new branch of the U.S. military is one step closer to becoming a reality with the signing of a new space policy directive calling for a formal proposal to be submitted to congress for approval.

Since March 2018, President Donald Trump has been talking about establishing the Space Force. That talk became action on Feb. 19, 2019, when he signed Space Policy Directive 4 (SPD-4), which begins the process of creating the new branch.

“America must be fully equipped to defend our vital interests,” Trump said during a Feb. 19, 2019, signing ceremony in the Oval Office of the White House. “Our adversaries are training forces and developing technology to undermine our security in space. That’s why my administration has recognized space as a warfighting domain and made the creation of the Space Force a national security priority.”

Read more at: Spaceflight Insider

Dod Space Force Proposal Seeks Special Authorities To Transfer People And Programs From Other Services

In a draft proposal to establish a United States Space Force inside the Department of the Air Force, the Pentagon would ask Congress to approve “special temporary authorities” for the secretary of defense to transfer personnel, programs and other resources from other services to the new branch.

The special authorities would extend over a five-year transition period, starting on the day the new branch is authorized by Congress, with an option to request an additional two-year extension, says a draft of the DoD proposal labeled “pre-decisional” that was reviewed by SpaceNews. The document has to be approved by the White House Office of Management and Budget before it is submitted to Congress.

Read more at: Spacenews

DoD Wants Help To Spot — & Kill — Mobile Missiles

Three weeks from today, defense contractors will submit proposals for spotting hidden missile launchers — so the US military can destroy them before they ever fire. The winning entries could go on to flight demonstrators in just two years, a meteoric pace for the Pentagon.

It’s the first concrete step towards implementing the much-debated Missile Defense Review released last month, which called for an ambitious and expensive array of high-tech countermeasures, not just to usual suspects Iran and North Korea, but to the much larger arsenals of Russia and China.

Outlined in a document blandly titled “Time-Sensitive Target Mission Payloads Demonstration” that was posted without fanfare on the federal government’s main contracting website Feb. 15, the plan describes acquiring a variety of satellites and surveillance assets to find and track often hard-to-find mobile missile launchers that can be hit before they pop off their first missile. The solicitation released to the defense industry invites US nationals (no foreigners allowed) to an industry day briefing March 1st, with initial proposals due March 15 and flight demonstrations by 2021.

Read more at: Breaking defense

STRATCOM Looking For Fresh Ideas On Nuclear Command And Control

The United States is spending billions developing new strategic missiles, submarines and bombers as part of the nuclear triad. The command authorities also have to be able to control these platforms, and need unhackable, jam-proof communications systems that are guaranteed to work under any circumstance.

That is the challenge facing U.S. Strategic Command: figuring out how to develop a modern nuclear command, control and communications system (NC3) that passes muster. STRATCOM said it will create an “NC3 Enterprise Center” to coordinate efforts.

Read more at: Spacenews

DARPA’s Fred Kennedy Tapped To Lead Space Development Agency

Fred Kennedy, head of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Tactical Technology Office, has been selected to serve as the director of the Defense Department’s new Space Development Agency.

In a memo to Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Mike Griffin designated Kennedy as his choice to become the first director of the Space Development Agency.

Shanahan in January decided to put the SDA under Griffin’s portfolio. The designation of Kennedy to lead the SDA comes two months after Griffin enlisted Kennedy to lead a study of how the SDA should be organized. Shanahan asked Griffin to submit a plan by March 1 to establish the SDA as a separate defense agency.

Read more at: Spacenews

Rest in Peace, Oppy

Last Wednesday, over eight months after the golf-cart-sized robot went silent during a Martian dust storm, NASA declared that its Opportunity rover was dead. The rover, affectionately referred to by many as Oppy, survived for over 5000 sols (Martian days), well exceeding its life expectancy of 90 sols. During its near-15-year stay on the Red Planet, Opportunity transmitted over 220,000 images back to Earth, vastly increasing scientists’ understanding of Martian geology. Oppy’s death marks the end of an era, and marks an opportunity to check in on the status of U.S. space exploration and scientific inquiry at large.

Read more at: Chicago maroon

Firefly To Establish Factory And Launch Site In Florida

Firefly Aerospace announced agreements with state and federal agencies Feb. 22 to build a new factory for producing and launching its rockets from Florida’s Space Coast.

The Texas-based company said it had reached an agreement with Space Florida, the state’s space development agency, to help fund development of a launch site at Space Launch Complex (SLC) 20 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and a launch vehicle factory just outside the gates of the Kennedy Space Center. The company also received a “statement of capability” from the U.S. Air Force’s 45th Space Wing regarding use of SLC-20.

Read more at: Spacenews

‘Mission for Arizona:’ Retired NASA Astronaut Mark Kelly Launches Bid for U.S. Senate

Retired astronaut Mark Kelly kicked off a “mission for Arizona” Saturday as he launched his U.S. Senate campaign with a rally in Tucson, the city where his wife, Gabrielle Giffords, survived a shooting when she was a congresswoman. That attack in 2011 led Kelly to leave NASA and become a political activist, pushing for gun control.

Kelly, who has never held elected office, is the first Democrat to enter the 2020 race. The seat is now held by Republican Martha McSally, a former congresswoman and Air Force pilot who was appointed by Arizona’s GOP governor after longtime GOP Sen. John McCain died.

Read more at: Globalnews

Above Top Secret: The Last Flight Of The Big Bird

By the early 1980s, the HEXAGON reconnaissance satellite program was scheduled to end. Only a few more of the heavy, schoolbus-sized spacecraft were under construction. Efforts by senior Air Force officials within the Los Angeles office of the highly classified National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) to either build more spacecraft, or use the Space Shuttle to recover and relaunch one or more of the last satellites, had been rejected as impractical or too expensive. The NRO leadership in Washington instead chose to stretch out the remaining launches, keeping the satellites in orbit longer and taking more images. The HEXAGON had a powerful dual camera system also known as the KH-9 and capable of imaging almost the entire Soviet landmass in a single mission. Because of that, the 20th and last HEXAGON spacecraft, scheduled for launch in spring 1986, became very important to many members of the intelligence community.

Read more at: Space review

Building a Better Booster (part 2)

This isn’t the first time a Utah team managed to swipe a marquee rocket program out from under the nose of a California company. But the last time didn’t go so well.

In 1987, the US Air Force was in a bind, and they were looking for a way out. The previous year, the national security community had suffered two body blows in a row with the shuttle Challenger accident in January and, three months later, the loss of a Titan 34D. The Space Shuttle used the same solid rocket motor technology pioneered by the Titan a generation before to assemble large rocket motors like a wedding cake—one layer on top of another—rather than as a single gigantic piece that would be impossible to build or transport to the launch pad. Both of these incidents, though, were traced back to issues with the solid rocket motors. Clearly there were unresolved problems with the technology that had to be address immediately.

Read more at: Space review

The Tragic Tale Of How NASA’s X-34 Space Planes Ended Up Rotting In Someone’s Backyard

The X-34 program aimed to help break NASA and the Air Force into space far more frequently and inexpensively than ever before. In the end, a pair of rocket plane demonstrators were built, but they never were able to reach their full potential. Still, they were part of a wider family of initiatives that have resulted in the Air Force’s hugely successful X-37B mini-space plane that has remained in orbit near continuously for years. But after the shine on the program quickly faded around the turn of the Millennium, the unique craft found themselves in increasingly dire straits, stuffed in one dilapidated hangar or another, or weathering the harsh desert climate in the open.

Read more at: drive