Astra Suffers “Anomaly” During Pre-Launch Test In Alaska

A small satellite launcher built by Astra “experienced an anomaly” Monday on a launch pad at Kodiak Island, Alaska, forcing the cancellation of a planned orbital launch attempt this week, according to the company’s co-founder and CEO.

The incident at the Pacific Spaceport Complex on Kodiak Island occurred during a pre-launch countdown dress rehearsal, and was first reported by KMXT, a local public radio station.

“I can confirm that the vehicle experienced an anomaly after an otherwise very successful day of testing in preparation for the launch,” said Chris Kemp, Astra’s co-founder and CEO, in an emailed statement late Monday.

Read more at: Spaceflight Now

SpaceX Encounters Problem Just Before Crew Dragon Parachute Test

SpaceX just experienced a hiccup in the lead-up to its first crewed flight.  

The California-based company hauled a test article of its Crew Dragon capsule skyward with a helicopter on Tuesday (March 24), to help prove out the vehicle’s parachute system ahead of the historic Demo-2 mission. 

Demo-2, which is currently scheduled to launch in mid- to late May, will carry NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station (ISS). It will be the first crewed orbital flight to launch from U.S. soil since NASA’s space shuttle fleet retired in July 2011.

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NASA, U.S. Military Reviewing Spacex Engine Malfunction

NASA and U.S. military officials are reviewing a malfunction that triggered a premature engine shutdown during a flight of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket earlier this month, a cautionary step before upcoming launches with a GPS navigation satellite and astronauts on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft.

A NASA spokesperson said Tuesday that SpaceX requested participation in the engine investigation from the agency’s Commercial Crew Program and Launch Services Program. SpaceX is leading the inquiry, but representatives from both NASA programs will join the investigation.

One of nine first stage Merlin 1D engines shut down prematurely during a Falcon 9 launch March 18 from Cape Canaveral. The launcher overcame the engine malfunction by firing its other engines a little longer, and the Falcon 9 was able to deploy 60 satellites for SpaceX’s Starlink Internet network into the mission’s targeted orbit.

Read more at: Spaceflight Now

SpaceX Quarantines A Few Employees After First Coronavirus Cases Confirmed At HQ

U.S. launches remain a top priority during the coronavirus pandemic. But that doesn’t mean that launch providers are not feeling its effects. SpaceX and United Launch Alliance are progressing full steam ahead, tackling its respective launch manifests as if everything were status quo.

However, SpaceX has begun to feel the effects of the virus. First, its upcoming SAOCOM 1B launch, which was originally slated to liftoff later this month, has been put on indefinite hold. That’s because the payload is an Argentinian satellite, and Argentina has put strict travel restrictions in place until further notice.

Read more at: Teslarati

Coronavirus Pandemic Puts Pressure On Time-Sensitive Space Missions

Lucy is in pieces: solar arrays, a telescope structure and various other components of the Jupiter-bound spacecraft are being built across the U.S. It’s a stage of development particularly susceptible to disruption — and right now, the novel coronavirus has disrupted the entire country.

Had COVID-19 appeared in the fall of 2020, all of Lucy’s pieces would be in the hands of Lockheed Martin. Ready for assembly and integration. But with parts spread throughout the supply chain, Hal Levison, principal investigator for the Lucy mission, is keeping a close eye on the spacecraft.

Read more at: Houston chronicle

Citing Coronavirus Concerns, Rocket Lab Pauses Launch Operations

Rocket Lab says it has paused launch operations after the government of New Zealand this week ordered most businesses closed and urged people to stay at home in an effort to combat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

The company, which is headquartered in Southern California and launches rockets from New Zealand, said Tuesday that it has paused launch preparations for its next mission, which was previously scheduled for liftoff March 30.

Officials made the decision “to protect the health and safety of Rocket Lab team members, our families, and the wider community” amid the coronavirus pandemic, the company said in a statement.

Read more at: Spaceflight Now

Avio, Exempt From Italy’s Coronavirus Lockdown, Seeks Reopening Of French Guiana Spaceport

The Italian government declared aerospace companies exempt from the nationwide lockdown aimed at halting the spread of the coronavirus, enabling Avio to continue production of rockets, Avio CEO Giulio Ranzo said Thursday. 

Since 60% of Avio’s revenue comes from manufacturing, the French government’s March 16 decision to suspend launches from the Guiana Space Center shouldn’t impact revenues as long as Europe’s South American spaceport reopens within two to three months, Ranzo said. 

Read more at: Spacenews

Russia’s Roscosmos Sees No Need To Postpone ISS Crew’s Return To Earth Over Coronavirus

Russia’s State Space Corporation Roscosmos considers it inexpedient to postpone the return of the crew of the International Space Station (ISS) to Earth over the coronavirus and the quarantine imposed by Kazakhstan, the Roscosmos press office told TASS on Thursday.

“Roscosmos does not consider it expedient to postpone the return of the crew of the long-term ISS expedition 62 to Earth,” Roscosmos said.

“Indeed, some restrictions imposed by Kazakhstan due to quarantine measures are currently in place. But Roscosmos is interacting with partners and considering options of solving the problem,” the press office said.

Read more at: TASS

Russian Scientists to Study If Space Suits Can Bring Microbes Into ISS From Exterior

Russian scientists intend to study whether cosmonauts during a space walk could pick up microorganisms on their space suits and bring them into the International Space Station (ISS), a department head of the Institute for Biological and Medical Issues of the Russian Academy of Sciences said in an interview.

“We are currently planning to conduct an experiment on the ISS dubbed ‘Lovushka’ [‘trap’] to research what particles and microorganisms ‘stick’ to the surface of the station; as well as an experiment ‘Episcaph’ to explore the possibility of cosmonauts picking up such microorganisms on their space suits and bringing them inside the station upon returning from a spacewalk”, Vyacheslav Ilyin said.

Read more at: Sputnik news


Heads Up! Chinese Rocket Debris Crashes Back To Earth After Recent Launch

Rocket debris has been discovered downrange from a recent rocket launch from Xichang in southwest China.

China successfully launched a Long March 3B rocket on March 9, sending a Beidou navigation satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit around Earth.However, while the launch sent the satellite into orbit without a hitch, a side-booster from the three-stage rocket landed downrange from the Xichang launch site. The 7.4-foot (2.25-meter) diameter rocket segment appeared to be sticking up out of the ground, according to social media footage.

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USSF Announces Initial Operational Capability And Operational Acceptance Of Space Fence

United States Space Force officials formally declared initial operational capability and operational acceptance of the Space Fence radar system, located on Kwajalein Island in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, March 27, 2020.

Space Fence provides significantly improved space surveillance capabilities to detect and track orbiting objects such as commercial and military satellites, depleted rocket boosters and space debris in low, medium, and geosynchronous Earth orbit regimes.

“Space Fence is revolutionizing the way we view space by providing timely, precise orbital data on objects that threaten both manned and unmanned military and commercial space assets,” said Gen. Jay Raymond, Chief of Space Operations, USSF and Commander, U.S. Space Command. “Our space capabilities are critical to our national defense and way of life, which is why Space Fence is so important to enhance our ability to identify, characterize and track threats to those systems.”

Read more at: Spaceforce

U.S. Government Aims For Better Coordination In Space Weather Campaign

After decades of fighting to be taken seriously, meteorologists say space weather is beginning to get the attention it deserves.

The Trump administration continued the Space Weather Operations, Research and Mitigation (SWORM) working group established by the Obama Administration. SWORM is an interagency panel focused on coordination of federal work aimed at building resilience to the effects of space weather. In addition, space weather legislation is pending in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

Read more at: Spacenews

Venezuela’s Flagship Communications Satellite Out Of Service And Tumbling

Venezuela’s first and only state-owned communications satellite has been out of service since March 13 when a series of maneuvers left it tumbling in an unusable orbit.

The VeneSat-1 satellite, built by China Great Wall Industry Corp. and launched in late 2008 on a 15-year mission to provide television and broadband services to Venezuela, has been stuck for 10 days in an elliptical orbit above the geostationary arc, according to telescopic observations from two U.S. companies that track satellites.

Read more at: Spacenews

Oneweb Increases Mega-Constellation To 74 Satellites

The London-based start-up OneWeb launched another big batch of satellites on Saturday.

A Soyuz rocket lifted off from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, carrying 34 more spacecraft into orbit to continue the build-up of the firm’s broadband internet constellation.

The mission took place despite the coronavirus pandemic, which has limited much space activity elsewhere.

It also comes amid rumours the firm may consider seeking bankruptcy protection.

Read more at: BBC


Bigelow Aerospace Lays Off Entire Workforce

Bigelow Aerospace, the company founded more than two decades ago to develop commercial space habitats, laid off all its employees March 23 in a move caused at least in part by the coronavirus pandemic.

According to sources familiar with the company’s activities, Bigelow Aerospace’s 68 employees were informed that they were being laid off, effective immediately. An additional 20 employees were laid off the previous week.

Those sources said that the company, based in North Las Vegas, Nevada, was halting operations because of what one person described as a “perfect storm of problems” that included the coronavirus pandemic. On March 20, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak signed an emergency directive ordering all “nonessential” businesses to close.

Read more at: Spacenews

Oneweb Files For Bankruptcy Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

OneWeb — a company that planned to bring high-speed internet to unconnected people around the world — filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Friday.

Why it matters: OneWeb was a frontrunner in the increasingly competitive race to beam back high-speed broadband from space using large constellations of small satellites in low orbits.

Details: The company is planning to use the bankruptcy to pursue a sale, a statement from OneWeb reads.

Read more at: Axios

SpaceX’s Most Powerful Rocket Will Send NASA Cargo To The Moon’s Orbit To Supply Astronauts

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration on Friday picked SpaceX as the first supplier to bring cargo to the agency’s Gateway station in orbit around the moon, a big contract win for Elon Musk’s space company.

SpaceX said it will use a new variation of its cargo spacecraft, called Dragon XL, to carry “more than 5 metric tons of cargo to Gateway in lunar orbit.” The company will lift the spacecraft using its Falcon Heavy rocket, the most powerful rocket in the world.

Read more at: CNBC

Firefly Targets Summer Launch, Unveils Plans For Lunar Delivery Service

NASA’s Artemis plan to return humans to the surface of the Moon has gotten the lion’s share of public attention over the last year, but the space agency’s innovative program to deliver material to the surface of the Moon has arguably spurred more commercial activity.

The Commercial Lunar Services Program (or CLPS, which rhymes with chips) has put $2.8 billion on the table for delivery services. Over the next decade, a pool of more than a dozen companies is eligible to bid for contracts to deliver scientific instruments to the surface of the Moon. As an added benefit, NASA is helping to stimulate a cislunar economy.

Read more at: Arstechnica


China’s Experimental Manned Spaceship Undergoes Tests

A trial version of China’s new-generation manned spaceship is being tested at the Wenchang Space Launch Center on the coast of south China’s island province of Hainan, according to the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA).

The experimental spacecraft is scheduled to launch with no crew in mid to late April on the maiden flight of the Long March-5B carrier rocket, a variant of the Long March-5, China’s largest carrier rocket.

The development team is pulling out all the stops for the mission amid the coronavirus pandemic, said the CMSA.

Read more at: Spacedaily

Welders Wanted: SpaceX Is Hiring To Ramp Up Production Of Stainless Steel Starship

The coronavirus pandemic isn’t shrinking every part of the job market.

For example, SpaceX is looking to hire lots of folks to help ramp up production and testing of its ambitious Starship Mars-colonizing architecture over the coming months — and the company recently issued a public recruiting pitch.

“The design goal for Starship is three flights per day on average [per ship], which equates to roughly 1,000 flights per year at greater than 100 tons per flight. This means every 10 ships would yield 1 megaton per year to orbit,” Jessica Anderson, a lead manufacturing engineer at SpaceX, said last week during the launch webcast for the company’s latest batch of Starlink internet satellites.

Read more at:

Here’s Where and How We Think China Will Land on Mars

China aims to become only the second country to land and operate a spacecraft on the surface of Mars (NASA was first with a pair of Viking landers in 1976 if you don’t count the former Soviet Union’s 1971 Mars 3 mission). With just a few months before launch, China is still keeping key mission details quiet. But we can discern a few points about where and how it will attempt a landing on the Red Planet from recent presentations and interviews.

Read more at: IEEE

Moon Thrusters Withstand Over 60 Hot-Fire Tests

Future Artemis lunar landers could use next-generation thrusters, the small rocket engines used to make alterations in a spacecraft’s flight path or altitude, to enter lunar orbit and descend to the surface. Before the engines make the trip to the Moon, helping deliver new science instruments and technology demonstrations, they’re being tested here on Earth.

NASA and Frontier Aerospace of Simi Valley, California, performed roughly 60 hot-fire tests on two thruster prototypes over the course of 10 days. The tests concluded March 16 and took place in a vacuum chamber that simulates the environment of space at Moog-ISP in Niagara Falls, New York.

Read more at: Astrobotic

Astronaut Urine To Build Moon Bases

The modules that the major space agencies plan to erect on the Moon could incorporate an element contributed by the human colonizers themselves: the urea in their pee. European researchers have found that it could be used as a plasticizer in the concrete of the structures.

NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and its Chinese counterpart plan to build moon bases in the coming decades, as part of a broader space exploration plan that will take humans to more distant destinations, such as Mars.

However, the colonization of the Moon poses problems such as high levels of radiation, extreme temperatures, meteorite bombardment and a logistical issue: how to get construction materials there, although it may not be necessary.

Read more at: Eurekalert

Hunting Out Water on the Moon

A map of possible water beneath the surface of the Moon’s South Pole, based on temperature data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. ESA is preparing a surface sampling payload that will prospect for lunar water among other resources. It is due to be flown to the Moon aboard Russia’s Luna-27 lander in 2025.

Researcher Hannah Sargeant of the UK’s Open University has made Forbes Magazine’s 30 Under 30 Europe 2020 Innovation list for her work developing an improved method of extracting lunar water in support of the project.

Read more at: ESA

PIPES Researchers Demonstrate Optical Interconnects To Improve Performance Of Digital Microelectronics

Under DARPA’s Photonics in the Package for Extreme Scalability (PIPES) program, researchers from Intel and Ayar Labs have demonstrated early progress towards improving chip connectivity with photons – or light. Signaling over optical fibers enables the internet today and optical transceivers are ubiquitous in data centers, yet digital systems still rely upon the movement of electrons over metal wires to push data between integrated circuits (ICs) on a board.

Increasingly, the limitations of electrical signaling from the chip package restrict overall bandwidth and signaling efficiency, throttling the performance of advanced systems. The PIPES program is exploring ways to expand the use of optical components to address these constraints and enable digital microelectronics with new levels of performance.

Read more at: Spacedaily


Trump’s NASA Budget Request Could Spell Big Changes For Mars Missions

If President Donald Trump’s budget request becomes reality, NASA may need to shuffle some Red Planet missions, including developing a new Mars Ice Mapper.

Trump and his administration sent Congress a budget request for the 2021 fiscal year in February. In its fine print, the Trump administration’s 2021 budget request included a few major potential changes to NASA’s Mars robotic exploration program. It suggests reducing funding for the 2001 Mars Odyssey and Curiosity programs so drastically that these missions would essentially end, and it introduces a new Mars Ice Mapper orbital mission for the agency to consider.

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Private-Sector Manned Launch Will Start New American Space Age

SpaceX is getting set to fly two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station in the next few months. This presages the start of a new American Space Age — this time, with the private sector taking the lead.

Visionary billionaire Elon Musk, the ­SpaceX chief, isn’t the only player: Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and several others are also in the game. But it looks like Musk will win the prize for first to deliver humans into a prolonged mission in Earth orbit.

When (OK, if) SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket manages this mission, it will also mark the first such American launch in nearly a decade, since NASA shelved its space shuttles.

Read more at: NYpost


Space Force Boss Outlines Steps To Keep Crews Working Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

Space Force troops are keeping their distance from each other and leaders have postponed a string a events — including renaming ceremonies for two Colorado Springs bases — but America’s satellite service remains on the job despite coronavirus fears.

The service’s chief, Gen. Jay Raymond, spoke Friday from a Pentagon teleconference that marked 100 days since the Space Force was signed into existence by President Donald Trump. Raymond said various steps, including keeping separate crews ready for satellite systems, are being used so a single case of the virus won’t reduce American capabilities.

Read more at: Gazette

These Airmen Train to Rescue Astronauts. But Do They Belong in the Space Force?

In 2018, a group of military personnel on Florida’s Space Coast received an alarming phone call. The International Space Station was leaking air after apparently being struck by a micrometeorite, and its astronauts needed to come home. Now.

It was up to the search-and-rescue specialists of the 45th Operations Group’s Detachment 3 to make sure they returned safely.

“We were all sitting around the office on a Friday afternoon … and we got a call from NASA,” Maj. Chris Hearne, the detachment’s mission support division chief, said in a recent interview. “Can you guys prepare for the astronauts to abandon and come back in the Soyuz all over the planet?’”

Read more at: Airforcemag

North Korea Seen Expanding Rocket Launch Facility It Once Promised To Dismantle

North Korea appears to be expanding a key rocket launch facility it once pledged to dismantle, according to new satellite imagery shared exclusively with NPR.

The imagery, taken by commercial company Planet and shared via the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, shows new roads under construction at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station.

Read more at: NPR

MDAs Future Debated As Space Force Rises

Senior DoD officials and top military leaders currently are pondering how to organize future missile defense acquisition, including the possible break up of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) by transferring its authorities to the Army, Air Force, Navy and Space Force, insiders say.

MDA’s fate is under the microscope as DoD and military leaders struggle to consolidate space acquisition since the creation of the Space Force. While no final decisions regarding missile defense acquisition have been made, DoD officials and experts say that fundamental questions about the ‘who, what and why’ of missile defense need to be resolved.

Read more at: Breaking defense


Astronaut Terry Virts Shares Tips on Coping with Isolation

When now-retired NASA astronaut Col. Terry Virts used to go into space, isolation was an occupational hazard. The nature of space travel—being confined to tight areas with a select group of others—doesn’t really present any other options.

During one of Virts’ two spaceflights, however, this idea was taken to an extreme, when complications on the ground at a Russian space station—where a replacement crew was to take off—delayed his scheduled return home.

“We were just a few weeks away from getting to come back to Earth after having been in space for five months, and all of a sudden we’re stuck,” says Virts, a Baltimore native who grew up in Columbia. “It really kind of hit home that in space, I was faced with this sudden isolation.”

Read more at: Baltimore magazine

Virgin Galactic Stock Soars Because Covid-19 Can’t Hurt Companies With No Sales

Stock in space-tourism firm Virgin Galactic Holdings has fallen back to earth because of the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak. Shares were down more than 70% from their February 2020 peak.That’s far enough for at least one analyst on Wall Street. Morgan Stanley’s Adam Jonas upgraded shares Tuesday to the equivalent of Buy. Even so, he cut his target price for shares to $24 from $30.

“The world has changed in the past month,” wrote Jonas in a Tuesday research report. “However, the story and the balance sheet remain intact.” Even with the market turmoil, he saw 90% upside in shares, catalyzing his ratings action.

Read more at: Barrons

SpaceX Childcare Workers Said They Might Have Been Exposed To The Coronavirus. Elon Musk Is Making Them Work Anyways.

Workers at a child daycare and school for the Elon Musk–led rocket manufacturer SpaceX say their health and safety are being placed at risk by a company that is still asking its employees to come to the office despite the coronavirus pandemic.

While the governor of California ordered all nonessential businesses to close and advised residents to stay home, Hawthorne, California–based SpaceX has remained open for more than 5,000 employees, citing its role as a government contractor. Because of this, the services supporting SpaceX’s campus, including on-campus preschool Xplor Education, have stayed in operation, leading some of its teachers and staff to worry that they’re being unnecessarily exposed to possible infection.

Read more at: Buzzfeed news

SpaceX Is Aiding In Efforts To Mitigate Crucial Medical Supply Shortages

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, medical staff across the United States lack enough crucial supplies necessary to protect themselves against infection. Earlier this week, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk delivered a batch of much-needed face masks and ventilators to hospitals facing a shortage.

Now he wants to expand those efforts to other aspects of personal protective equipment, or PPE. According to an internal SpaceX memo, obtained by CNBC, Musk has directed his employees to start producing face masks, and hand sanitizer. The supplies will be donated to organizations in need.

Read more at: Teslarati

To Live Like Russians: Remembering America’s Long Mission to Mir, 25 Years On (Part 1)

In March 2020, it seems inconceivable to think of U.S. astronauts being totally unaccustomed to long-duration spaceflight. Over the past quarter-century, no fewer than 67 Americans—from civilian medical doctors to biochemists and engineers to physicists, and from Army and Coast Guard officers to Air Force test pilots and Naval aviators—have embarked on flights to Russia’s Mir space station or the International Space Station (ISS), which approached or exceeded the magical 100 days in space.

Six have flown two long-duration flights, whilst a couple have chalked up three marathon missions. Four years ago this very month, Scott Kelly secured a record for the longest singular spaceflight by an American male, at 340 days, whilst only last month Christina Koch logged 328 days to set a similar history-making benchmark for American (and all) females.

Read more at: Americaspace

11th IAASS conference