Coronavirus Isn’t Stopping China From Launching Rockets

China resumed satellite launches Wednesday (Feb. 19) amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, lofting a Long March 2D rocket in the country’s first launch since the Chinese New Year.

The Long March 2D rocket lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in the country’s Sichuan province at 4:07 p.m. EST (2107 GMT, 5:07 a.m. local time), and the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CASC) confirmed the launch roughly 40 minutes after the rocket left Earth, SpaceNews reported.

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Rock On: SpaceX Completes Acoustic Testing Of New Human Space Capsule

A spacecraft designed to launch humans to the International Space Station completed its latest round of testing — using sound. 

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule completed acoustic testing in Florida ahead of its first crewed launch later this year.

Acoustic testing pelts spacecraft with sound waves, simulating the aerodynamic stresses exerted on a spacecraft as it makes its way into space.

Read more at: wmfe

ISRO To Validate Design, Engineering Of Rocket Carrying India’s First Manned Mission ‘Gaganyaan’: K Sivan

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will carry out a series of tests to validate the design and engineering of the rocket and orbital module system for the country’s prestigious human space flight programme-Gaganyaan.

K Sivan, Chairman, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said, “The design and engineering of the launch vehicle and orbital module system for India’s human space flight has been completed. A series of tests have to be competed to validate the design and engineering of the systems in 2020.”

Indian space agency would also soon build its own astronaut training facility and launch its first small satellite launch vehicle (SSLV) or small rocket in couple of months time, according to Sivan.

Read more at: Statesman

Roscosmos Replaces Russian Crew of Next Soyuz Mission

Russia’s space state corporation Roscosmos announced today that the two cosmonauts in training for the next Soyuz mission to the International Space Station (ISS) will be replaced by their backups.  They and NASA’s Chris Cassidy are scheduled to launch to ISS on April 9.  The swap reportedly is due to an injury suffered by one of the cosmonauts.

Roscosmos tweeted the news today and posted this statement on its website [translated by Google].

“The Russian members of the main crew of the Soyuz MS-16 manned spacecraft, Roscosmos cosmonauts Nikolai Tikhonov and Andrei Babkin, will be replaced by backups for medical reasons.

Read more at: Spacepolicy online

Construction Of China’s Space Station About To Start

The maiden flight of the Long March-5B rocket carrying a trial version of China’s new-generation manned spaceship is expected to take place in April, indicating the imminent start of construction of China’s space station.

The rocket, the prototype core capsule of the space station and the experimental manned spaceship are undergoing tests at the Wenchang Space Launch Center on the coast of south China’s island province of Hainan.

During the flight in mid to late April, the experimental manned spaceship will be sent into space with no crew. The prototype of the core capsule of the space station will not be launched.

Read more at: Xinhuanet

SpaceX Loses Falcon 9 Booster At Sea After Successful Starlink Launch

SpaceX successfully launched a new batch of its Starlink satellites on Monday morning, but the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket that put them in orbit missed its landing on a floating platform at sea. It’s the first time that’s happened in almost four years; the last time Falcon 9 booster failed to land on one of SpaceX’s drone ships was in June 2016.

To be sure, SpaceX has lost a few rocket boosters since then. The company has lost the center core of the three-core Falcon Heavy two out of three times in that rocket’s first few launches.

Read more at: Verge


Editorial: NASA Should Step Up Earth’s Defense Against Asteroids

Last Saturday, a kilometer-wide rock whizzed by at 34,000 mph, causing a momentary media sensation. It missed us by about 3.6 million miles, about 15 times the distance between Earth and the moon.

A small change in direction, however, would have sent it hurtling our way with the potential for damage so catastrophic that a British expert said it would have put us “back into the Middle Ages.”

Space is full of these rocks, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has tracked them for decades. It has found more that 22,000 orbiting the sun between Earth and Mars alone, including 9,000 big enough to create major damage and 1,000 that could actually threaten life on Earth. One such rock hit here 66 million years ago, an event that scientists believe led to the extinction of most dinosaurs.

Read more at: postandcourier

Howard: “Urgent Need” for SSA Funding at Department of Commerce

A Department of Commerce (DOC) official said today there is an “urgent need” for funding to enable the Office of Space Commerce (OSC) to move forward with Space Situational Awareness (SSA) efforts.  Congress appropriated only $2.3 million for OSC in FY2020, about 20 percent of the request.  The Trump Administration is asking for $15 million for FY2021.  In the meantime, OSC is doing all it can with available resources by working closely with other parts of DOC as well as with industry

SSA basically means knowing where objects are in space and where they are going in order to calculate “conjunction analyses” and warn satellite operators of potential collisions.  As more and more countries and companies launch satellites and the amount of space debris grows, SSA is taking on increasing importance.  Committees in the House and Senate held hearings on it just last week.

Read more at: Spacepolicy online

MIT Develops Plans To Deflect “Planet-Killer” Asteroids Bound For Earth

It’s not often the Earth is at risk of being hit by a giant speeding asteroid from outer space. But on the off chance one is heading our way, MIT scientists want us to be prepared.A team of researchers there recently developed a system to figure out the best method for avoiding a collision with what they call “planet-killer” asteroids — the largest objects that have the potential to strike Earth. By observing an asteroid’s mass and momentum, proximity to a “gravitational keyhole,” and the amount of warning time, they believe they can identify the most successful mission to avoid catastrophe.

Read more at: CBSnews

DMSP Satellite Decommissioned After 22 Years of Service, Weather Follow- on Program to Hold Critical Design Review in March

On Feb. 11, after more than 22 years of providing vital global weather data to the U.S. and its allies, Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) Flight 14 was decommissioned after completing 118, 052 orbits of the Earth. End of Life (EOL) procedures were accomplished by operators at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Satellite Operations Facility (NSOF) in Suitland, Maryland, under the direction of United States Space Force’s 50th Space Wing. Space and Missiles Systems Center technical experts worked in concert with the rest of the team to ensure the EOL procedures were effectively and efficiently executed.  

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Space Tourism Oddity: How Virgin Galactic Stock Surged 500% in Two Months

If you had bought $50,000 worth of Virgin Galactic shares three months ago, by now, you would have enough money to buy a seat ($250,000) on the very company’s spaceship for a trip to the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere.

That’s how much and how fast Virgin Galactic’s stock has been rising lately. As of Thursday, the space tourism company’s shares had skyrocketed more than 500% since its lowest point in December and nearly 400% since its IPO in October, valuing the startup at a whopping $5 billion.

Read more at: Observer

Daredevil ‘Mad Mike’ Hughes Dies While Attempting To Launch A Homemade Rocket

Daredevil “Mad Mike” Hughes died during an attempt to launch his homemade rocket Saturday.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Mike Hughes’ family and friends during this difficult time. It was always his dream to do this launch, and Science Channel was there to chronicle his journey,” the Science Channel said in a statement.
Hughes was scheduled to launch his homemade rocket for a new Science Channel series called “Homemade Astronauts,” according to the Discovery Channel website. Hughes and Waldo Stakes built a steam-powered rocket with the intent of launching Hughes 5,000 feet into the air, the website said.
Read more at: CNN

SpaceX And A New Partner Announce Space Tourism Launches On Dragon Starting As Early As 2021

SpaceX has a new partner for commercial private astronaut flights aboard its Dragon spacecraft: Space Adventures, a private space tourism company that has already launched private astronauts including Anousheh Ansari, Guy Laliberté and Mark Shuttleworth to space.

Space Adventures has worked with seven clients across eight separate missions to the International Space Station (ISS) for private paying commercial space missions, using paid seats on the Russian Soyuz rocket to get its clients to their destination.

Read more at: Techcrunch

Perth Makes Bid For Slice Of New Generation Space Race Pie

Perth will soon to be home to a national consortium aiming to capitalise on locally developed robotic technologies for space exploration, such as mining for water on the moon. The venture could inject $200 million per year into the local economy in five years’ time according to PwC’s estimates.

The not-for-profit consortium AROSE (Australian Remote Operations for Space and Earth) – being led by Woodside, Fugro, Nova Systems, Curtin University and the University of Western Australia – will use Perth as a global centre for remote operations in space, enabling Western Australian industry and universities to bid for space exploration projects.

Read more at: manmonthly

Michigan Wants To Become Next Site For Space Launch Facility

Could Michigan become the next Cape Canaveral?

Probably not, but lawmakers and the Michigan aerospace industry are hoping that Wurtsmith Airport, a former military base in northern Michigan, could become a space launch facility where public and private industry could launch satellites — and tourists — into space.

The airport on the shores of Lake Huron in Oscoda was the pick of a task force from eight sites across the state. Those eight were narrowed to four that met the main criteria — a runway that was at least 8,000 feet long — and included airports in Alpena, Chippewa and Marquette counties, in the Upper Peninsula. 

Read more at: freep


How Better Propulsion Systems Can Help Improve Space Exploration

When most people think of space travel, they imagine rockets like the towering Saturn V that sent the Apollo astronauts to the moon.

Most of that enormous rocket consisted of the fuel it burned to launch a tiny, crew-carrying space capsule into orbit. There, free of Earth’s gravity, small bursts from fuel-burning thrusters guided the Apollo space capsule to the moon and back.

Since then, scientists have developed alternative thruster technologies that do not burn heavy fuels. Instead, these thrusters ionize stable gases like xenon and krypton, using electricity from solar cells to strip the electrons from the gas atoms to create a stream of positively charged ions, called a plasma. The spacecraft pushes this plasma out its exhaust to propel itself through the weightless void.

Read more at: stanford

What’s Up With That Rock? China’s Moon Rover Finds Something Strange On The Far Side.

China’s Yutu-2 lunar rover has discovered what appear to be relatively young rocks during its recent exploration activities on the lunar far side.

The Chang’e-4 mission’s rover imaged the scattered, apparently lighter-colored rocks during lunar day 13 of the mission, in December 2019, according to the Chinese-language ‘Our Space’ science outreach blog. 

The specimens, which are quite different from those already studied by the rover, could round out the team’s insights into the geologic history and evolution of the area, called Von Kármán crater.

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ISRO Aiming To “Split Up And Unite” A Satellite In Space As A Part Of Space Docking Experiment

The Indian Space Research Agency has a number of plans in its kitty this year. Other than the Chandrayaan mission, the space agency is also planning to split up a satellite and then reunite the pair in space. The Space Docking Experiment – also called SPADEX will play a major factor in advancing technologies for future human missions and the upcoming space station. The SPADEX model brings together mature technologies related to orbital rendezvous, docking, formation flying and remote robotic arm operations etc. The application will give ISRO the scope of application of the same in human spaceflight, in-space satellite servicing etc.

Read more at: timesnow news

Simple, Fuel-Efficient Rocket Engine Could Enable Cheaper, Lighter Spacecraft

It takes a lot of fuel to launch something into space. Sending NASA’s Space Shuttle into orbit required more than 3.5 million pounds of fuel, which is about 15 times heavier than a blue whale.

But a new type of engine — called a rotating detonation engine — promises to make rockets not only more fuel-efficient but also more lightweight and less complicated to construct. There’s just one problem: Right now this engine is too unpredictable to be used in an actual rocket.

Read more at: Washington

Raytheon Completes First Antenna Array For Anti-Hypersonic Sensor

Raytheon announced Friday that it finished building the first radar antenna array for the U.S. Army’s Lower Tier Air and Missile Defense Sensor, a next-generation radar intended to counter hypersonic weapons.

“Raytheon’s employees and partners are focused on delivering the first LTAMDS by the Army’s Urgent Material Release date because we know how important expanded battlespace coverage and other capabilities are to the men and women in uniform,” Tom Laliberty, vice president of Integrated Air and Missile Defense at Raytheon’s Integrated Defense Systems business, said in a press announcement.

Read more at: Spacewar


Avoiding Space Debris Might Require New Legal Framework, US Lawmakers Say

The ever-growing number of satellites and orbital debris in space prompted calls for change at a House hearing, although how this will be legislated is still under consideration.

At issue is the rise of privately owned satellite constellations by companies such as SpaceX and OneWeb. Satellites today are smaller and more affordable than the big machines of past decades, thanks to advancements in technology. But with fleets of small satellites comes other risks, such as more chances for them to slam into each other. And high-profile near misses are starting to become more common.

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Kazakhstan To Sign Deal On Upgrading ‘Gagarin Start’ Launch Pad At Baikonur Spaceport

Russia, Kazakhstan and the United Arab Emirates are planning to sign an agreement on upgrading launch site No. 1 at the Baikonur spaceport in the first half of this year, Chairman of the Aerospace Committee at Kazakhstan’s Digital Development, Innovations and Aerospace Industry Ministry Baubek Oralmagambetov told TASS on Wednesday.

“We are planning to sign the agreement in the first half of the year,” he said.

Read more at: TASS

Prime Minister Spruiks Australian Role In NASA’s Mars Plan At Launch Of Space Agency Base

The Australian Space Agency has officially opened its new Adelaide headquarters, with the Federal Government predicting activities at the site will help to triple the size of the nation’s space industry.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison opened the agency’s new home this morning, saying it will provide local companies with opportunities to capitalise on Australian involvement in NASA’s plans to launch human missions to Mars.

Head of the agency, Dr Megan Clark, said a small mission control centre inside the Australian Space Discovery Centre — which is based at the site — would open next year.

Read more at: ABC

National Research Council and the Canadian Space Agency Sign New Collaboration Agreement

The National Research Council of Canada and the Canadian Space Agency have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to expand their current collaborative efforts in support of Canada’s space program.

The agreement was signed on Monday, February 17 in Ottawa between Canadian Space Agency (CSA) President Sylvain Laporte and National Research Council (NRC) President Iain Stewart.

The new agreement covers the following areas; Space R&D, development and testing of applications, space technology and systems development, and scientific and technological expertise.

Read more at: SpaceQ

DARPA Doubles Dough For Nuclear-Powered Cislunar Rocket

DARPA has slated $158 million in its 2021 budget for space programs and technology, a basket of space-related programs that include its long-standing robotic servicing satellite effort and a new nuclear-fueled rocket for operations in deep space between Earth and the Moon.

DARPA’s 2021 funding request for space programs (PE 0603287E) is down $32 million from $190 million in 2020. This reflects the plan to wrap up the DARPA Launch Challenge competition to demonstrate a capability to rapidly launch small payloads to orbit, and the decision to terminate the Experimental Space Plane effort following the completion of the critical design review.

Read more at: Breaking defense


SpaceX To Play Bigger Role In This ‘Massive’ Live-Fire Air Force Exercise

SpaceX Starlink satellites will play a major role in an Air Force live-fire exercise in April, and a Virgin Galactic (SPCE) sister company is in talks to potentially join in as well.

In December, the Air Force tested its experimental Advanced Battle Management System that will connect air, sea, land and space assets. The exercise was deemed an overall success, with SpaceX Starlink satellites used to link to a Lockheed Martin (LMT) AC-130 gunship.

Read more at: Investors

Q&A: Nukes, Space Force, and Change

Barbara Barrett was sworn in as the 25th Secretary of the Air Force in October 2019, only two months before the official stand-up of the U.S. Space Force as a part of the Department of the Air Force. In her first interview as Secretary, she spoke with Air Force Magazine Editorial Director John A. Tirpak and Editor-in-Chief Tobias Naegele about the challenges ahead for the two services she now leads; the flattening defense budget; and affording nuclear modernization. The conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

Read more at: Airforcemag

Roeder: Trump’s Personal Decision On Basing U.S. Space Command Brings Political Intrigue

Amid a 98-minute speech in Colorado Springs on Thursday, President Donald Trump threw more confusion into the long-overdue decision of where the military will house U.S. Space Command. And he did it with the shortest pronoun in the English language.


With that word, Trump told the public that the basing decision has moved from Pentagon committees to his desk. It’s a rare move and one most presidents have avoided, instead relying on Pentagon leaders to make basing decisions in an ostensibly nonpartisan process.

Read more at: gazette

Rocket Glitch Fixed, Russia Launches Satellite To Enhance Military Communications

Russia successfully launched a military communications satellite into orbit Thursday (Feb. 20). The launch took place about one month later than planned due to a technical issue.

A Soyuz-2.1a rocket blasted off at 3:24 a.m. EST (0824 GMT or 11:24 a.m. Moscow time) from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia, according to Russian space agency Roscosmos.

“The launch of the launch vehicle, and the launch of the satellite into the calculated orbit, took place as usual,” Roscosmos said in a statement, which was translated into English using translation software. 

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Space Force Wants $5B For Anti-Jam Satcoms

With military space leaders increasingly worried about fighting through jamming during conflict, the Air Force’s 2021 budget request includes $205.2 million, an increase of $41.5 million from the $163.7 allocated by Congress in 2020, for development of a new, hard-to-jam satcom system for US and even allied troops on the battlefield.

Designed as a tactical alternative to the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellite network, the Protected Satellite Communications (PTS) program is budgeted at a whopping $2.4 billion through 2025.

Read more at: Breaking defense

Raymond OKs New Vision For Secure Battlefield Comms

Gen. Jay Raymond, double-hatted as head of the Space Force and Space Command, has signed the long-awaited Vision for Enterprise Satellite Communications (SATCOM) that may change how DoD buys and uses satellite communications.

The plan is designed to create a seamless network of military and commercial comsats in all orbits, accessible to troops, vehicles, ships and aircraft via ground terminals and mobile receivers that would automatically “hop” from one satellite network to another.

Read more at: Breaking defense


Airbus, Citing Weak Space Market, To Cut More Than 2,300 Jobs

Airbus Defence and Space plans to shed about 7% of its workforce because of  weak sales, Airbus Group said Feb. 19.  

The company said it will cut 2,362 positions, citing “lower performance in space”  and as a key reason for the layoffs.

Airbus Defence and Space builds satellites and rocket hardware, along with drones and military aircraft, but Airbus Group CEO Guillaume Faury singled out “lower performance in space” and “efforts to support sales” as key contributors to a 40% drop in the division’s adjusted earnings before interest and taxes. 

Read more at: Spacenews

NASA Contractor Laying Off Staff, But Workers Will Likely Have Soft Landing In Brook Park

Vantage Partners, a company contracted by the NASA Glenn Research Center, announced it will lay off its 216 employees by the end of March.

Vantage was contracted by NASA for technical and information services.

Bob Costanzo, owner of Grindstone Tap House down the street, said “it’s sad to see companies close around here.” He said Vantage employees, along with other business park employees frequent the restaurant regularly.

In fact, Grindstone does specials just for NASA and other local workers.

Read more at: cleveland19

The Real Reason SpaceX Hired Former Top NASA Official

Last summer it looked as if the long, celebrated career of Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator in charge of human spaceflight, had reached a somewhat ignominious end. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine had removed Gerstenmaier from his post because it was felt that the man who had guided the shuttle, the ISS, commercial crew, and both the previous and current attempts to send astronauts back to the moon was ill-suited for guiding NASA’s effort to send the first woman and next man to the lunar surface by 2024.

Read more at: hill

Former NASA Scientist, Nuclear Submarine Officer Faces Prison For Fatal High-Speed Drunken Driving Crash In Cleveland Height

A 35-year-old former nuclear submarine officer and NASA researcher pleaded guilty Tuesday to killing a man in a high-speed drunk-driving crash in Cleveland Heights.

Thomas “Hunt” Hawkins drank half-a-bottle of “the good kind” of whiskey, jumped behind the wheel of his Chevrolet pickup truck and sped his way to the VA hospital, according to police, court records and his attorney. Before he got there, Hawkins killed 65-year-old Eugene Rankin Jr., a retired laborer on his way home from working late.

Read more at: Cleveland

Former ISS Executive, Accused Of ‘Expensing’ Prostitutes, Pleads Guilty To Tax Fraud

A former economist employed by a Space Coast nonprofit that operates the International Space Station’s U.S. laboratory pleaded guilty to one tax fraud-related count in an indictment filed last year, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

Charles Resnick, once the chief economist for the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, or CASIS, was indicted in April by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Tampa on 10 counts. The charges alleged the creation of phony receipts when filing expense reports, as well as hidden spending of government funds on prostitutes and escorts during trips to Europe and New York between 2011 and 2015.

Read more at: Florida today

Sex In Space: Could Technology Meet Astronauts’ Intimate Needs?

The 2018 movie A.I. Rising explores how machines could fulfill desires and support humans during space travel. Lo and behold, it might contain the solution to problems related to space exploration.

Astronauts, despite their rigorous training, remain humans with needs. For space exploration and colonization to succeed, we need to overcome taboos, consider human needs and desires and provide concrete, realistic solutions based on science rather than conventional morality.

Read more at: Conversation

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