NASA Will Intentionally Start a Fire on a Cargo Ship in Space

NASA’s commercial partner Orbital ATK will launch its Cygnus cargo spacecraft, filled with supplies and science experiments, into lower Earth orbit on Tuesday. There, the spacecraft will dock with the ISS and replenish the crew with food, water, and other important inventory. But the spacecraft’s mission won’t be quite done once the astronauts unload all the supplies on board Cygnus. The capsule will be loaded up with trash from the station and separate from the ISS — and then NASA will light the capsule on fire.

It’s all part of a NASA experiment called Saffire. It involves igniting a flammable material inside the Cygnus spacecraft, to better understand how potential fires can spread across a vehicle in space.

Read more at: Verge

ISS Gets Communications Upgrade, New Crew Preps for Arrival

During the past week, the Expedition 47 crew of the International Space Station (ISS) performed a number of tasks upgrading the communication system of the orbiting outpost for the eventual arrival of commercial crew vehicles sometime next year.

ISS Commander Tim Kopra, with the help of British astronaut Tim Peake, started working on the Common Communications for Visiting Vehicles (C2V2) upgrade last week. Once finished, the equipment will form a communications link to the outpost specifically for Boeing’s CST-100 and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft.

C2V2 will operate in both an S-Band radio frequency as well as a hard-line connection. According to NASA, the system will be so secure, reliable communications with commercial crew and other visiting vehicles will be available for all phases of rendezvous, docking, and mated operations.

Read more at: Spaceflight insider

L-3 to Modify 747 Jet for Virgin Galactic in Waco

L-3 in Waco has won a high-profile contract to strengthen the wing of a Boeing 747-400 aircraft for Virgin Galactic, the company founded by Sir Richard Branson. The plane already has arrived at L-3’s facility at Texas State Technical College airport.

L-3, the largest industrial employer in Waco, has been performing engineering work with Virgin Galactic since last year to carry out modifications to the plane, dubbed Cosmic Girl, once used to fly Virgin Airlines passengers between the United States and Europe.

Read more at: Wacotrib

U.N. Aviation Arm on Mission to Craft Guidelines for Space Tourism

The aviation arm of the United Nations intends to set guidelines for space tourism and related commercial projects, the strongest sign yet that such budding ventures are gaining prominence world-wide.

The head of the International Civil Aviation Organization’s top policy-making group laid out the goal—and even set a 2019 deadline for proposals—during a speech on Tuesday to an aerospace symposium in Abu Dhabi.

Read more at: WSJ

Russian Space Corporation has No Plans to Postpone Launch of Rocket to ISS

The Roscosmos State Corporation has no plans to postpone the launch of the Soyuz-FG carrier rocket with the Soyuz manned spacecraft because of unfavorable weather conditions at Baikonur cosmodrome located in Kazakhstan, the corporation has said.

“The postponement of the launch scheduled for March 19, 2016, is not considered so far,” says a statement obtained by TASS on Wednesday.

The installation of the Soyuz-FG carrier rocket at the cosmodrome’s launch site was earlier postponed because of strong wind. “The time of this operation will be determined at a meeting of the technical management to be held at 14.00 Moscow Time, taking into account the actual situation and the meteorological situation in the launch site area,” the state corporation said.

Read more at: TASS

One Track, Two Stations: A Proposal for Cooperation on the ISS and the Chinese Space Station

During the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) last October in Jerusalem, there has been a little-noticed comment attributed to ESA Director General Johann-Dietrich Wörner as saying he wants China to give up its own space station in favor of joining the ISS. “I told China, we don’t need two space stations. How about ISS with China participation? Not sure how they’ll react.”

Prof. Wörner’s idea is indeed in the interests of humankind and is based in good intention. Undoubtedly a single station built by all spacefaring countries perfectly represents peace, harmony, and unification of the world and reflects on a long-held dream of humanity. However, there is a large gap between reality and that ideal.

Read more at: Space Review

Very Large Fireball Observed Over London, UK

A very large fireball was observed over London, UK at 03:16 UTC on March 17, 2016. The event was first observed by UKMON’s Church Crookham station, northeast Hampshire, England.

According to the United Kingdom Meteor Observation Network (UKMON), the fireball momentarily overloaded the camera with light. “Preliminary calculations estimate the brightens to be around -7 mag and explosion -14 mag. An estimated terminal altitude was just 30 – 34 km (18.6 – 21 miles),” UKMON’s Richard Kacerek said.

“With the second video we will be able to triangulate and calculate the orbit,” he added.

Read more at: Watchers

International Space Station to Study Meteors Hitting Atmosphere

Peering down at the Earth’s atmosphere from a research window aboard the International Space Station, a new science instrument launching Tuesday will compose unprecedented characterizations of the chemical makeup of shooting stars.

Called METEOR, the Meteor Composition Determination experiment will take high-resolution video and images of Earth and uses a software program to filter out bright spots, the telltale sign of a meteor plunging into the atmosphere below.

The device is among the 7,000 pounds of cargo launching inside an Orbital ATK commercial Cygnus supply ship to the International Space Station. Liftoff atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket is scheduled for Tuesday night from Cape Canaveral.

Read more at: Spaceflight Now

Air Force Says DMSP-19 Weather Satellite is ‘About Dead’

The head of Air Force Space Command told lawmakers March 15 that a two-year-old weather satellite is “about dead” and that the Air Force does not expect the satellite to return to operations.

“It doesn’t look like we’re going to get it back,” Gen. John Hyten, commander of Air Force Space Command, told reporters.

NOAA satellite operators unexpectedly lost the ability to command the Air Force’s Defense Meteorological Satellite Program Flight 19 on Feb. 11. The satellite, built by Lockheed Martin, is used to help weather forecasters predict fog, thunderstorms and hurricanes that could impact military operations. Launched in April 2014, the spacecraft is the Air Force’s newest weather satellite on orbit and had a five-year design life.

Read more at:

Russian Earth Observation Satellite Suffers Partial Solar Array Deployment Failure

The Resurs-P No.3 Earth Observation satellite launched atop a Soyuz rocket on Sunday encountered problems during the critical deployment of its solar arrays, failing to deploy one of its two power-generating arrays. While the issue is not life-threatening to the satellite at this time, only one array will not permit the satellite to function at full capacity and work is underway to assess the problem.

Arriving in its target orbit, Resurs-P No.3 was tasked with establishing a stable orientation and deploying its two solar arrays in the minutes after separating from the rocket. According to a report by Interfax, the satellite was successful in opening one of its two power-generating solar arrays while the second did not open.

According to a source familiar with the mission, launch locks on both solar arrays were cut and both solar arrays showed signs of motion, however one failed to fully deploy.

Read more at: Spaceflight 101

On its Way to the ISS: the E-nose Gets a Trunk

The E-nose, an electronic device for detecting microbiological contamination due to bacteria or fungi on board the International Space Station, will in future be used even more ‘flexibly.’ When a Soyuz launcher (TMA-20M) launches from the spaceport in Baikonur (Kazakhstan) on 18 March, it will be carrying new instruments for the E-nose, which was developed by Airbus Defence and Space for the German Aerospace Centre (DLR). These include a 70-centimetre-long flexible gooseneck probe for taking samples.

The flexible probe can sniff for bacterial contamination behind racks and panels and other hard-to-reach places. This trunk is not simply an extension, but rather an exterior part of the instrument. The coaxial system (tube-in-tube principle) contains filters and moisture regulators and can adhere itself to the area being tested. The sampling heads are replaced after each use in order to prevent contamination from the previous measurement.

Read more at: Airbus Defence & Space

China’s First Woman in Space on Future Missions, the Moon and Earth

Liu Yang made history in 2012 when she became China’s first woman in space. She flew on Shenzhou-9, which performed the country’s first crewed orbital docking mission, marking early steps towards a Chinese space station.

While still actively training as an astronaut, Liu is also a deputy to the National People’s Congress (NPC), the top legislative body in China. On the sidelines of the just-concluded annual NPC session in Beijing, Ms Liu spared a few moments for questions on China’s human space activities and her own experiences.

Read more at: Gbtimes

An Israeli Moonshot

For a time it looked like the Google Lunar XPRIZE was a failure—another pie-in-the-sky space age dream never to materialize. When it was announced in 2007, the $30-million competition to land and operate a privately funded spacecraft on the moon was slated to conclude by 2012. Getting to the moon, its organizers thought, should not take more than five years. Instead, the contest has gone through multiple rule revisions and deadline extensions as its competing teams struggled to make progress. Now, after enduring several quiet years and waning public interest, the competition is at last reheating and reentering the spotlight. Nine of the 16 competing teams are featured in Moon Shot, a new Web series produced by the filmmaker J. J. Abrams, and several of them appear on track to reach the moon by the contest’s latest deadline, December 31, 2017.

But there’s one team arguably in the lead: SpaceIL, an Israeli nonprofit organization.

Read more at: Scientific American

Why Congress Actually Wants to Give NASA More Money

An unusual bipartisan coalition of House lawmakers are trying to boost NASA’s 2017 funding well above what the president called for in his budget request.

The president’s $19 billion budget for NASA cut the space’s agency funding by $300 million compared to its 2016 appropriation. When NASA Administrator Charles Bolden came before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on commerce on Tuesday to testify on the budget, both Democrats and Republicans pledged to override the president and fully fund the Space Launch System (SLS) and missions to Jupiter’s icy moon Europa.

Read more at: Inverse

Buzz Aldrin Eyes 2040 for Manned Mars Mission

Former astronaut Buzz Aldrin is eyeing 2040 for the first manned mission to Mars, noting that the red planet’s moon Phobos could play a vital role for astronauts.

“I think that’s a good target date,” the 86-year-old space legend told “We should be able to reach there with international crews.”

NASA’s goal is to send a manned mission to Mars by 2035, although Aldrin thinks that a slightly later date is more realistic.

“I’d like to have a few more years [to get to Mars],” he said. “A very attractive time for a president to make a commitment is on the 50th anniversary of America first landing on the Moon, and that’s 2019; if you look at two decades from there, you come up with about 2039, so I round that up to 2040.”

Read more at: Fox News

Spaceport: Failure to Launch

The proposed Georgia Spaceflight Act will not reach the governor’s desk for approval this year. The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine, said once the bill crossed over from the House to the Senate, about 90 minutes was spent during two hearings.

Spencer said most of the discussion was spent on what he described as “subject matter not pertaining to the legislation.” He said the Senate Science and Technology Committee waited one week to hold a second hearing, which in effect delayed chances the bill would be passed this legislative session.

Spencer said he tried to move the bill to the Senate Judiciary Committee after he learned the bill would go to a study committee, meaning there is not enough time for the legislation to be completed.

“The bill will not pass this session,” he said. “Instead, I have decided to foster good will by not moving forward on the bill I maneuvered to amend. This is an important policy discussion, and the Senate wants more information.”

Read more at: Brunswick News

Cosmic Rays Fired at Earth – Now We Know Where From

Astronomers believe they may have identified the source of the stream of cosmic rays that rain down on Earth from outer space.

Cosmic rays are extremely high-energy particles such as protons and atomic nuclei. We have known for more than 100 years that they exist but their origins have been the subject of debate.

“The most plausible ‘engine’ for this cosmic ray acceleration is the super-massive black hole right at the heart of our galaxy,” says Gavin Rowell, from the University of Adelaide, who took part in the study published today inNature.

The research was based on observations by the High Energy Stereoscopic System (HESS) telescopes in Namibia, which revealed an exceptionally high energy gamma ray source.

Read more at: Cosmos Magazine

India Test-fires Agni-I Ballistic Missile

India today successfully test-fired its indigenously built nuclear-capable intermediate range Agni-I ballistic missile, capable of hitting a target 700 kms away, from a test range off Odisha coast as part of a user trial by the Army.

The surface-to-surface, single-stage missile, powered by solid propellants, was test-fired from a mobile launcher at 9.15 AM from launch pad-4 of the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Abdul Kalam Island (Wheeler Island), a defence official said.

The trial, which formed part of training exercise by the Strategic Forces Command of Indian Army, was fully successful, he said.The sophisticated missile covered 700 km distance within 9 minutes and 36 seconds, they said. “The launch was undertaken as a part of periodic training activity by SFC to further consolidate operational readiness,” the official said.

Read more at: Zee News

Lockheed’s Marillyn Hewson Touts Breakthroughs in Hypersonic Weapons

As the Pentagon telegraphs a new sense of urgency to fielding hypersonic weapons, top Lockheed Martin officials are touting recent breakthroughs in leveraging extreme speed to counter emerging threats.

“Lockheed Martin has a legacy of making fast aircraft,” Lockheed CEO Marillyn Hewson said March 15 during the company’s annual media day. “We are now producing a controllable, low-drag, aerodynamic configuration capable of stable operations from takeoff to subsonic, transonic, supersonic and hypersonic, to Mach 6.”

Read more at: Defense News

Is Iran Preparing for a Satellite Launch?

Iran may attempt to launch a satellite into space soon, recent imagery collected by a high-definition camera on the International Space Station suggests.

The imagery shows heightened activity at Iran’s Imam Khomeini launch facility, say representatives of Vancouver, Canada-based Urthecast, which owns the Iris camera that captured the footage from the exterior of the space station on March 2.

The Iris imagery “shows increased activity in the area, suggesting that a launch of the Simorgh SLV rocket — built to send satellites into space — is fast approaching,” Urthecast representatives wrote in a statement.

Iran has been ramping up its rocket and missile activities recently. Last week, the country conducted several missile tests; U.S. officials believe some of these trials may have violated a United Nations resolution against Iranian ballistic-missile activity.

Read more at:

North Korea Claims to have Technology for Missile Re-Entry From Space

Five days after North Korea fired two ballistic missiles in an apparent show of force, leader Kim Jong Un has ordered tests of missiles that can re-enter the atmosphere from space, Pyongyang’s state newspaper claimed Tuesday.

The government newspaper, Rodong Shinmun, ran pictures Tuesday of what it claimed was a successful simulated test, according to the South Korean news agency Yonhap.

Claims by the North Korean government about its military are usually dismissed as propaganda by Western observers, and South Korea’s Defense Ministry said it doesn’t buy Kim’s latest claim.

Read more at: NBC News

Panic Reaches New Heights:’Russia, China Planning Space Attacks on US’

In a new campaign of budget-bolstering and fear-mongering, the Pentagon has warned of impending attacks on US satellites by Russia and China.

“Adversaries are developing kinetic, directed-energy, and cyber tools to deny, degrade and destroy our space capabilities,” Air Force Gen. John Hyten, head of the Air Force Space Command, told the US House Armed Service strategic forces subcommittee on Tuesday.

“They understand our reliance on space, and they understand the competitive advantage we derive from space. The need for vigilance has never been greater,” he asserted.

Hyten has campaigned for a new Air Force project group, whose sole purpose would be to protect US space assets against foreign “aggression.” On Tuesday, he warned that US Global Positioning System satellites are vulnerable to attack.

Read more at: Space Daily

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