Mysteries Surrounding July 14 Soyuz Flight Solved? Not Quite

For the first time since a Russian Soyuz rocket launched 73 satellites in July 2017, Glavkosmos, a subsidiary of Russian state space corporation Roscosmos, is confirming a problem with the Fregat upper stage. “According to the telemetry, an anomaly was detected in one of the Fregat’s low-thrust engines,” Glavkosmos told the Russian internet newspaper,, according to a March 12 article.

For months, satellite and insurance executives have tried to determine why a group of cubesats launched into the same orbit failed, while other spacecraft on the Soyuz flight worked. Roscosmos claimed consistently that none of the cubist failures were caused by rocket problems. The new Glavkosmos statement solves the mystery surrounding the loss of cubesats sent into 601-kilometer orbit but leads to other questions.

Read more at: Spacenews

NASA Investigation Linked 2015 Falcon 9 Failure to Design Error

A NASA investigation into a 2015 SpaceX launch failure concluded a design flaw, rather than a manufacturing defect, likely initiated the chain of events that destroyed the vehicle.

NASA released March 12 a public summary of the report by an independent review team convened by NASA after the June 2015 accident during the launch of a Dragon cargo spacecraft bound for the International Space Station, a mission known as CRS-7. That investigation was performed by NASA’s Launch Services Program at the request of the agency’s associate administrator for human exploration and operations, Bill Gerstenmaier, in parallel with SpaceX’s own investigation into the failure.

Read more at: Spacenews

UH Optometrist Investigates Changes in Eye Structure in Astronauts

Astronauts who spend time aboard the International Space Station return to Earth with changes to the structure of their eyes which could impact their vision. NASA has studied the phenomenon, known as space flight-associated neuro-ocular syndrome (SANS), for several years, and now a University of Houston optometrist has quantified some of the changes using optical coherence tomography imaging, reporting his findings in JAMA Ophthalmology.

“We studied pre-flight and post-flight data from 15 astronauts who had spent time aboard the space station and detected changes in morphology of the eyes,” said Nimesh Patel, assistant professor. All of them had good vision before and after the flight, but many of them had a change in structures of their eyes.

Read more at: University of Houston

Orbital ATK Unveils New Version of Satellite Servicing Vehicle

Orbital ATK announced March 13 it is developing a new version of a satellite life extension vehicle intended to provide more flexibility to customers while also moving the company closer to more advanced in-space servicing.

During a presentation at the Satellite 2018 conference here, company executives announced plans to develop the Mission Robotic Vehicle and Mission Extension Pods, which would handle stationkeeping for geostationary satellites that are running out of fuel.

The new systems are based on the Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV), a satellite life extension vehicle that Orbital ATK currently offers. The MEV docks with a satellite and takes over maneuvering of that satellite, including stationkeeping as well as relocation and disposal into graveyard orbits.

Read more at: Spacenews

ISS Orbit Raised by 400 Meters Before Manned Spaceflight Launch

The Russian Mission Control Center has raised the International Space Station’s flight orbit before manned spaceflight takeoffs from Baikonur launch pad in Kazakhstan.

“At 00:25, Moscow time, the ISS orbit was adjusted as scheduled to create ballistic conditions before the flight of manned transport spacecraft under the program of the Russian segment of the ISS,” the Mission Control Center in the Moscow suburbs said.

The orbit was raised with the help of the engines of the Progress MS-08 cargo craft docked to the station. Its engines worked for 108 seconds. An average height of the ISS’s flight orbit increased by 400 meters to about 404.5 kilometers, the Mission Control Center said.

Read more at: TASS

Cislunar Station Gets Thumbs Up, New Name in President’s Budget Request

The Trump Administration is proposing to formally start a cislunar space station program and begin assembly early in the next decade with launch of the first element.  The Power and Propulsion Element (PPE) is the core module of the station, now named the “Lunar Orbital Platform – Gateway” (LOP-G).

As a part of commercial space industry initiatives for human exploration, the Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 NASA budget request submitted by the President to Congress in February also proposed an accelerated, dedicated commercial launch of the PPE in 2022.

The PPE was previously scheduled to launch as a secondary payload on Exploration Mission-2 (EM-2), which is currently planned to be the first crewed Orion spacecraft mission launch on NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.  With the PPE no longer on the EM-2 manifest, NASA is evaluating changes to that mission, including aspirations of flying the Habitation module on a more ambitious flight for Orion’s first crew.

Read more at: NASA Spaceflight

Controversy Over US Nanosats Launched by ISRO in January

There is controversy over four US nanosats launched by ISRO on January 12 withreports coming that the tiny satellites launched on the PSLV C-40 mission could have been exported without proper license.

SpaceBee-1, 2, 3, and 4 — described as “two-way satellite communications and data relay” devices from the United States in the ISRO launch document — were developed by Silicon Valley startup Swarm Technologies which it turns out didn’t have permission to launch. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the federal agency to regulate commercial satellites in the United States, had rejected its application for launch in early December because they were too small be tracked and therefore unsafe to put into orbit, according to documents available with IEEE Spectrum.

Read more at: Geospatial world

This Giant Harpoon was Built to Clean Up Space Junk

Space junk is a huge problem. In fact, if we don’t do something about the more than 20,000 objects—from defunct satellites to paint chips—that are orbiting Earth, we may one day be unable to leave the planet at all.

Luckily, scientists are on the case. In the UK, a team at Airbus is developing a charmingly lo-fi method of removing large pieces of junk from orbit: a giant harpoon. The harpoon, which is about a meter long, would be attached via a strong tether to a spacecraft which would follow it as it punctured space trash. The spacecraft would then tow the junk back down to Earth, where it would burn up in the atmosphere.

Read more at: Popular Mechanics

Re-Entry: GRACE 1

The first spacecraft of the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) – run jointly by NASA and the German Aerospace Center – re-entered the atmosphere on March 10, 2018, over four months after ending a science mission of over 15 years. The two identical GRACE spacecraft, each weighing in at 487kg and measuring 3.1 meters in length, launched atop a Rockot Booster in 2002 to set out on a mission dedicated to a detailed measurement of Earth’s gravitational field anomalies.

GRACE employed two spacecraft – nicknamed Tom & Jerry – outfitted with a precise K-Band microwave ranging link between them for fine distance measurements by comparing frequency shift of the link.

Read more at: Spaceflight101

Tiangong-1: ESA Reentry Window Estimate Narrows to March 30-April 6

European Space Agency scientists tracking the orbit of China’s Tiangong-1 space lab have released a new estimate for atmospheric reentry of between March 30 and April 6. The estimate from ESA’s Space Debris Office for March 15 states that the window is highly variable, due to the complexities of modelling the atmosphere, the dynamics of the reentering object and limitations in observing the spacecraft.

China’s 8-metric-tonne Tiangong-1 space lab was launched in 2011 and used to test docking technology with the uncrewed Shenzhou-8 spacecraft shortly after.

Read more at: GB Times

Five Things to Know About China’s Falling Space Station

Sometime around April 3—give or take about a week—China’s 9.5-ton Tiangong-1 space station will fall out of orbit and enter Earth’s atmosphere. While media reports for the last few months have hyped the “uncontrolled” de-orbit as a potential threat, you probably don’t have to worry.

As Laura Geggel at LiveScience reports, though scientists aren’t sure exactly where the space station would impact, the most recent analysis suggests that the majority of the craft will likely burn up in orbit. And the chances of getting struck by any debris that makes is through are beyond miniscule.

Read more at: Smithsonian

SpaceX: We’ll Fly Life Support on Uncrewed Dragon Test Flight

It sounded risky: NASA had given SpaceX a waiver allowing it not to fly life support on the first, uncrewed test of its Dragon 2 astronaut capsule, U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks asserted during a recent budget hearing.

As a result, critical systems providing oxygen, carbon dioxide absorbers and heating and cooling would not be shaken out in orbit before astronauts strapped in for the next test flight.

“What is NASA’s reasoning for skipping this stage?” Brooks, an Alabama Republican, asked NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot during the March 7 hearing. “And that’s assuming the information I have is correct. First, is the information I have correct?”

Not exactly.

Read more at: Florida Today

Space Situational Awareness Experts Urge Russia to Join Orbital Neighborhood Watch

To prevent collisions in space, nations with advanced orbital monitoring abilities need to share data with each other. Russia, being skilled in space situational awareness (SSA), should be part of the global effort to protect the space environment, experts said March 15 at the Satellite 2018 conference here.

“When we tend to talk about international SSA, we tend to focus on ‘friends and family’ type of people,” said Victoria Samson, Washington office director for the Secure World Foundation, a U.S. nonprofit focused on space sustainability. “The Russians have an excellent SSA network, and the question is: is there any way we can access that sort of capability?”

Read more at: Spacenews

Space Industry Bill Set to Unlock Exciting Space Era for UK

The Space Industry Bill, set to get Royal Assent today, will enable the first commercial space launch from UK soil in history, creating the potential for hundreds of highly-skilled jobs and bringing in billions of pounds for the economy.

The passing of the Bill, the most modern piece of space industry legislation anywhere in the world, means British businesses will soon be able to compete in the commercial space race using UK spaceports.

This will not only ensure Britain is capable of launching small satellites and scientific experiments from its own soil, but also to take advantage of future developments like hypersonic flight and high-speed point to point transport.

Read more at: Eureka magazine

FAA Study Recommends to Allow Launches at Spaceport Camden

Camden County may soon become Georgia’s space coast. The preferred alternative in the Federal Aviation Administration’s environmental impact statement released Thursday afternoon is to allow as many as 12 launches a year from Spaceport Camden.

State Rep. Jason Spencer described the recommendation as “a major milestone” in Camden County’s efforts to establish a commercial spaceport. “Georgia has now officially entered into an elite group of space states,” he said. “Commercial space companies will see this as a major development and will start heavily considering Georgia’s aerospace assets and create high paying jobs for our citizens. This is just the beginning of a great and new economic development legacy for Georgia.”

Read more at: Brunswick news

New Talent Hard to Come by for Space Companies

The space industry’s struggle to draw young professionals is causing its workforce to lose members faster than they are gained, according to research from Deloitte Consulting.

“We’ve done a bunch of studies internally looking at the median age across the R&D portfolios for the U.S. government space programs as well as the commercial space market, and the average age of a worker is only getting older,” Jeff Matthews, a space industry veteran who works at Deloitte as a consultant, said March 12 at the Satellite 2018 conference here. “With attrition and other causes that drag people out of the industry, we are not backfilling it fast enough to really fill the voids that we are creating.”

Workforce woes are becoming a “huge pain point,” made worse by increased competition from tech giants like Facebook, Apple and Google, Matthews said.

Read more at: Spacenews

With Retirement of Acting Chief, NASA Finds Itself in Leadership Limbo

After operating for more than a year with a temporary chief, NASA faces an unprecedented leadership bind as its acting Administrator announced this week that he would retire at the end of April, with no hint that the Senate will vote by then on President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the space agency.

“It has been a long process but we are optimistic that the vote will come soon,” said Sheryl Kaufman, the Communications Director for Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK).

“We hope that happens soon,” said Rep. Bruce Babin (R-TX), as House Republicans and Vice President Mike Pence pressed the Senate for action on Bridenstine.

Read more at: jamiedupree

Ten of the top aeronautics and astronomy experts in the country presented a bleak outlook for an industry worth £14bn when they were quizzed by the House of Lords EU Internal Market Sub-Committee. They said that even if the UK stays in the European Space Agency (ESA), which is not an EU organisation, the loss of freedom of movement for scientists and equipment could still impact heavily on the industry.

At present the UK is a European leader in space science research and development, the scientists said.

Professor John Zarnecki, president of the Royal Astronomical Society and emeritus professor of space science at the Open University, said: “In the UK, we have been incredibly successful in exploiting these opportunities – whether it’s landing on a comet, as in Rosetta… there are many examples of great success.

Read more at: Sky news

How the International Space Station could Operate Commercially

Boeing envisions commercial developments in the biotech and fiber-optic industries helping fund the International Space Station after government funding runs out for the orbiting laboratory.

Operating costs for the ISS have been estimated at $3 billion-$4 billion a year, with the bulk coming from the U.S. government. Boeing has a contract with NASA to operate and maintain the ISS, which is also used by more than a dozen other countries.

But under President Trump’s 2019 budget request announced last month, federal ISS outlays will end in 2025 as the administration pushes NASA to shift resources toward a moon base and deep-space exploration missions to Mars and beyond.

Read more at: Investors

Donald Trump Said America is Going to Mars. Here’s Why That Won’t Happen Any Time Soon

History has no record of the first drafts of the speeches President Kennedy delivered in 1961 and 1962, when he set America on a path to space. Still, it’s a safe bet they didn’t include the lines: “Space is a warfighting domain. We may have a Space Force. Develop another one. Space Force.”

He also probably didn’t consider saying, “You see what’s happening? You see the rockets going up left and right… Very soon we are going to the moon.” And he almost surely didn’t think about saying, “You wouldn’t have been going to the moon if my opponent won, that I can tell you. ”

Read more at: TIME

Why the Outer Space Treaty Remains Valid and Relevant in the Modern World

Presently, humanity is releasing a rapidly progressing technological wave, and commercial “NewSpace” ventures seem to be riding the crest. In September 2017, SpaceX presented a design for its BFR vehicle, upon which it plans to launch cargo and eventually crewed missions to Mars with the goal of building a civilization on the Red Planet.1 Two United States-based companies are planning future asteroid resource mining operations: Planetary Resources, founded in 2008, will attempt to scout potential harvesting sites for water,2 while Deep Space Industries, founded in 2013, has similar plans.3 Blue Origin4 and Virgin Galactic5 are looking to bring passengers to outer space as tourists, and Bigelow Aerospace6 hopes to build expandable space modules for commercial and governmental use.

Read more at: Spacereview

Scientists Design Conceptual Asteroid Deflector and Evaluate it Against Massive Potential Threat

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) scientists are part of a national planetary defense team that designed a conceptual spacecraft to deflect Earth-bound asteroids and evaluated whether it would be able to nudge a massive asteroid – which has a remote chance to hitting Earth in 2135 – off course. The design and case study are outlined in a paper published recently in Acta Astronautica.

The 9 meter-tall, 8.8-ton spacecraft – dubbed HAMMER (Hypervelocity Asteroid Mitigation Mission for Emergency Response vehicle) – features a modular design that would enable it to serve as either a kinetic impactor, essentially a battering ram, or as a transport vehicle for a nuclear device. Its possible mission: Deflect 101955 Bennu, a massive asteroid around 500 meters (more than 5 football fields) in diameter, weighing around 79 billion kilograms (1,664 times as heavy as the Titanic), circling the sun at around 63,000 mph.

Read more at:

Ukraine is Building a Spaceplane for…Saudi Arabia?

In a presentation earlier this year, Ukrainian space company KB Yuzhnoye made a splash by unexpectedly revealing an exotic shuttle-like space vehicle. The presentation shows a bullet-shaped design that looks more like a plane than a traditional rocket—and unlike anything seen from the famous Ukrainian rocket makers before.

Of course, these images could be just a hypothetical picture on a computer screen, but the same presentation also shows active work at Ukrainian test facilities and even some experimental hardware, which was clearly related to the unusual space plane. This mysterious spacecraft is much more than just a simple brainstorming exercise.

Read more at: Popular Mechanics

How Should the US Engage China in Space?

China is striving to become a space power that rivals or surpasses the United States, Russia, and Europe. In September 2006, China tested lasers against U.S. imagery satellites in a manner that could potentially blind or damage them in future conflict. For U.S. officials, this event and China’s subsequent destruction of its own weather satellite in 2007 signaled that space was a “contested domain.”

Subsequently, in 2011, U.S. lawmakers passed legislation that banned cooperation between the National Aeronautical Space Administration (NASA) and the China National Space Administration – largely in response to China’s history of espionage against U.S. technical industries.

Read more at: Diplomat

Air Force: GPS Satellites Vulnerable to Attack

Global Positioning System satellites that guide both precision guided weapons and car navigation systems are vulnerable to attack from Chinese and Russian lasers and missiles, Air Force officials told Congress this week.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said in House testimony on Wednesday that her service is working on developing jam-proof GPS satellites that currently can be disrupted by a variety of weapons.

“With respect to the threat that we face, I think it’s everything from jamming from the surface or a cyber attack, to direct-ascent satellite weapons, either from Russia [or] in 2007 the Chinese tested an anti-satellite weapon and spread debris all over orbit,” Wilson told a House Appropriations defense subcommittee hearing.

Read more at: Freebeacon

Expert: U.S. Military ‘Over a Decade’ Behind China, Russia on Space Defense

U.S. military satellites used to warn of a missile strike or to deploy nuclear weapons are vulnerable to attacks by the Chinese and Russian armed forces, which have eclipsed their American counterparts in developing some significant space warfighting capabilities, experts cautioned lawmakers.

Specifically, the United States is “over a decade” behind in developing a system to counteract the advancements made by China and Russia in the anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons domain, Douglas Loverro, the former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy, warned a House panel.

Read more at: Breitbart

My Alarming, Inspiring Encounter with the Late Stephen Hawking

In 1990, while on assignment for Scientific American, I had a close encounter with Stephen Hawking, who just died at the age of 76. I had bulled my way into a symposium, sponsored by the Nobel Foundation, on “The Birth and Early Evolution of Our Universe.” Thirty of the world’s top physicists and cosmologists, including Hawking, had gathered in a rustic, isolated resort in northern Sweden to ponder the riddle of the cosmos.

I arrived late on the first day of the meeting, just as everyone was heading outside for a cocktail party. Hawking, already paralyzed by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, led the procession in his motorized wheelchair.

Read more at: Scientific American

A NASA Astronaut Brought her 4-year-old Son to a Spacesuit Photo Shoot — and the Pictures will Melt Your Heart

Before NASA’s talented astronauts launch into space, they pose for an official photo shoot. Most astronauts play it safe. They hop inside of a spacesuit, smile for the camera, then get back to their rigorous training. Some, however, choose to bring family, friends, and even pets along for the fun.

During an August 2017 portrait session by NASA, Anne C. McClain — a member of the 21st astronaut class, a decorated US Army Major, an attack helicopter pilot, an aerospace engineer, and a mother — brought her young son.

“The hardest part about training for space is the 4 yr old I have to leave behind every time I walk out the door,” McClain tweeted on Sunday, responding to soccer player and fellow mom Abby Wambach, who was seeking support in maintaining a work-life balance.

Read more at: Business Insider

Quality Assurance for Space Projects

26 – 29 June 2018 – Athlone, Ireland

The course is designed to provide the participant with an understanding of basic principles of Quality Management, Quality Assurance and Quality Control, as they are usually applied to space projects. You will find the full description of the course in the IAASS Professional Training Courses Catalog (download from the right bar on this page). Please register for attendance at the course by sending a completed Space Quality Assurance June 2018 – Booking Form to Catherine Lenehan by e-mail:

Read more at: IAASS

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