Boeing’s First Crewed Test Flight Gains Extension

Missions are often altered as they are readied for flight. The first crewed launch for Boeing’s CST-100 “Starliner” spacecraft appears to be no exception. NASA has posted that the first time astronauts fly aboard the spacecraft would be different than previously envisioned.

NASA announced Wednesday, April 3, that the space agency, along with Boeing, decided to extend the amount of time the Boeing Crew Flight Test (Boe-CFT) CST-100 Starliner would spend docked to the International Space Station.

How much longer the Boe-CFT Starliner will be docked to the space station has yet to be announced. In its April 3, 2019, post the space agency stated: “The extended duration test flight offers NASA the opportunity to complete additional microgravity research, maintenance, and other activities while the company’s Starliner is docked to station.”

Read more at: Spaceflight insider

Amazon Joins Spacex, Oneweb And Facebook In The Race To Create Space-Based Internet Services

Amazon is officially joining the race to create a network of satellites in low Earth orbit that will provide high-speed terrestrial internet services.

The company has filed its first papers with the U.S. government for approval to launch a network of 3,236 satellites through a subsidiary called Kuiper Systems LLC, according to a report in GeekWire.

“Project Kuiper is a new initiative to launch a constellation of Low Earth Orbit satellites that will provide low-latency, high-speed broadband connectivity to unserved and underserved communities around the world,” Amazon confirmed in a statement.

Read more at: Techcrunch

Progress Cargo Freighter Docks With Space Station After Fast-Track Rendezvous

A Russian Progress resupply and refueling freighter launched Thursday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on top of a Soyuz booster. The cargo craft completed the fastest rendezvous in the history of the International Space Station program with a successful docking less than three-and-a-half hours later.

The Progress MS-11 supply ship delivered more than 3.7 tons (3.4 metric tons) of propellant, food, hardware, water and breathing air for the space station and its six-person crew, according to a cargo manifest provided by NASA.

Mounted on top of a Soyuz-2.1a rocket, the Progress supply ship lifted off at 1101:35 GMT (7:01:35 a.m. EDT) Thursday from Launch Pad No. 31 at Baikonur. The launch was timed for just 38 seconds before the space station passed over Baikonur, allowing the Progress spacecraft to rapidly catch up to the orbiting complex during two orbits around Earth, arriving within a few hours after separation from the Soyuz third stage.

Read more at: Spaceflight now

Mars Has Methane—But Does It Have Life?

We may be one step closer to cracking the Mars methane mystery.

NASA’s Curiosity rover mission recently determined that background levels of methane in Mars’ atmosphere cycle seasonally, peaking in the northern summer. The six-wheeled robot has also detected two surges to date of the gas inside the Red Planet’s 96-mile-wide (154 kilometers) Gale Crater—once in June 2013, and then again in late 2013 through early 2014.

These finds have intrigued astrobiologists, because methane is a possible biosignature. Though the gas can be produced by a variety of geological processes, the vast majority of methane in Earth’s air is pumped out by microbes and other living creatures.

Read more at: Scientific American

Russia Builds New Co-Orbital Satellite: SWF, CSIS Say

Russia has been working since 2011 to develop a next-generation on-orbit anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon, according to two new studies by U.S. nongovernmental organizations.

The Secure World Foundation’s “Global Counterspace Report,”  finds that the Russian work on a space-based ASAT codenamed “Burevestnik” (also known as Project 14K168) is being undertaken in tandem with a larger effort to develop a space-based space situational awareness (SSA) capability. The SWF report, and one by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) were released today and based on open source information.

Read more at: Breaking defense

Mission Shakti Caused Ripples All The Way To NASA. Here’s All You Need To Know About The Saga

After ‘Mission Shakti’, India-created space debris has come under international scrutiny. NASA has criticised India for the anti-satellite missile test because it caused more debris floating in the Earth’s atmosphere.

On Monday, April 1, NASA described Mission Shakti as a “terrible, terrible” experiment that threatened the safety of the International Space Station (ISS). The destroyed satellite has also launched close to 400 pieces of debris that are in orbit.

Read more at: Qrius

India ASAT Test Debris Poses Danger To International Space Station, NASA Says

During a meeting with NASA employees on April 1, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine delivered sharply critical remarks about India’s March 27 anti-satellite weapons (ASAT) test. Bridenstine said that some of the larger debris from the collision of the ground-launched missile and the Microsat-R satellite had been thrown into orbits that could pose a danger to the International Space Station (ISS).

The “Mission Shakti” ASAT shot hit the Microsat-R Earth observation satellite at an altitude of about 300 kilometers—an altitude Indian officials said would pose little risk to other spacecraft. But Bridenstine said that some of the debris created by the test had been thrown into orbits with a much higher apogee. In some cases, he said, those orbits could cross the track of the ISS, which orbits at an altitude of 410 kilometers.

Read more at: Arstechnica

The Implications Of India’s ASAT Test

On March 27, India conducted Mission Shakti, an anti-satellite missile test. This was a technological mission carried out by the Defence Research and Development (DRDO). During this test, India targeted one of its own satellites with a ground-based missile. With this successful demonstration, India becomes the fourth country to test an ASAT after China, Russia, and the United States.

The satellite used in the mission was one of India’s existing satellites, Microsat-R, operating in a low orbit about 300 kilometers high. Such tests require an extremely high degree of precision and technical capability and, with the success of the test, India has demonstrated such capabilities. This test also demonstrates the maturation of India’s missile defense program.

Read more at: Spacereview

House Committee Presses Bridenstine For Details On Moon Plan

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine faced criticism from some House members at an April 2 hearing who questioned the urgency of the administration’s plans to accelerate a human return to the moon and sought details about how much it will cost.

A hearing by the House Science Committee on NASA’s fiscal year 2020 budget request focused in large part on plans not included in the original request to move up landings of astronauts on the moon from 2028 to 2024. Vice President Mike Pence announced the new goal during the March 26 meeting of the National Space Council in Huntsville, Alabama.

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), chairwoman of the committee, noted that Bridenstine’s prepared statement made no mention of that goal, referring instead only to earlier plans to land humans on the moon “within a decade.”

Read mroe at: Spacenews

Congress Must Push DoD To LEO, Former Reps Say

Congress should change laws to ensure that the Defense Department fully commits to creating a “large, updatable, and resilient national security constellation” in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). That’s the conclusion of  a new study chaired by two former lawmakers, Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Mike Rogers, and Democratic congressman Glenn Nye, once a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

This includes amending current law on the national security space launch strategy (Title 10, Sec. 2273) to “include a requirement for the rapid reconstitution of critical national security space assets” in case of attack and to ensure that “critical commercial assets or elements of existing constellations” are part of any reconstitution plan.

Read more at: Breaking defense

Foust Forward | Commercial Space Reform Still A Work In Progress

Last spring saw a surge in activity by the administration regarding commercial space policy. Space Policy Directive (SPD) 2, signed by President Trump in May, directed a number of actions to reform launch, remote sensing and other regulations associated with commercial space. Less than a month later, he signed SPD-3, intended to give the Commerce Department new responsibilities in space traffic management.

Around that time, the Commerce Department also appointed Kevin O’Connell as director of the Office of Space Commerce, an office that dates back to Reagan administration but has been neglected for much of recent history. O’Connell told an audience at a Washington Space Business Roundtable breakfast March 6 that he is the first permanent director for the office in about a decade.

Read more at: Spacenews

Record-Breaking Satellite Advances NASA’s Exploration of High-Altitude GPS

The four Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) spacecraft recently broke the world record for navigating with GPS signals farther from Earth than ever before. MMS’ success indicates that NASA spacecraft may soon be able to navigate via GPS as far away as the Moon, which will prove important to the Gateway, a planned space station in lunar orbit.

After navigation maneuvers conducted this February, MMS now reaches over 116,300 miles from Earth at the highest point of its orbit, or about halfway to the Moon. At this altitude, MMS continued to receive strong enough GPS signals to determine its position, shattering previous records it set first in October 2016 and again in February 2017. This demonstrates that GPS signals extend farther than expected and that future missions can reliably use GPS at extreme altitudes.

Read more at: GPSdaily

GPS Glitch Threatens Thousands Of Scientific Instruments

Researchers worldwide are racing to get ahead of a bug in the US Global Positioning System (GPS) that could cause data loggers, including thousands of scientific instruments, to malfunction starting on 6 April. The glitch, known as the ‘week number rollover’, could trigger GPS receivers — which enable devices used throughout research to keep highly accurate time — to reset their clocks and spit out corrupted data.

Scientists in fields from seismology to particle physics are checking whether their instruments — which might be portable, or anchored in bedrock or polar ice — are susceptible. For those that are, researchers are updating them to pre-empt the issue, using instructions from manufacturers.

Read more at: Nature

Rocket Fuel That’s Cleaner, Safer And Still Full Of Energy

Research published this week in Science Advances shows that it may be possible to create rocket fuel that is much cleaner and safer than the hypergolic fuels that are commonly used today. And still just as effective. The new fuels use simple chemical “triggers” to unlock the energy of one of the hottest new materials, a class of porous solids known as metal-organic frameworks, or MOFs. MOFs are made up of clusters of metal ions and an organic molecule called a linker.

Satellites and space stations that remain in orbit for a considerable amount of time rely on hypergols, fuels that are so energetic they will immediately ignite in the presence of an oxidizer (since there is no oxygen to support combustion beyond the Earth’s atmosphere). The hypergolic fuels that are currently mainly in use depend on hydrazine, a highly toxic and dangerously unstable chemical compound made up of a combination of nitrogen and hydrogen atoms.

Read more at: Mcgill

NASA Announces Trashy Award-Winning Ideas for Cleaning Space Station

NASA recently selected three winning ideas to compress trash in space with a minimum of fuss.

Because astronauts have limited space in their living quarters — and because nobody likes the danger that ejected space debris poses to spacecraft — dealing with trash is a constant issue for spaceflyers.

That’s why NASA, in partnership with the company NineSigma, created a Recycling in Space Challenge to encourage the public to think of ways of processing and feeding trash into a high-temperature reactor.

Read more at:

NASA Will Test 5 Habitat Designs for Its Lunar Gateway Space Station

NASA’s Lunar Gateway space station design process is beginning to take shape: The agency has announced five new prototypes that it plans to test on the ground.

These habitats aren’t actually designs to use at the moon, but are more for NASA to learn about the interfaces, requirements and design standards for a future habitat module for U.S. astronauts, the agency said. Gateway would provide an orbiting base around the moon from which astronauts could descend to the lunar surface or go farther into space.

“These tests were formulated so that we can do a side-by-side comparison of very different and innovative concepts from U.S. industry,” Marshall Smith, who leads human lunar exploration programs at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said in a NASA statement.

Read more at:

A Decade-long Quest to Build an Ecosystem in a Room

Yesterday the MELiSSA pilot plant at the University of Barcelona celebrated 10 years spent demonstrating the ideal technologies to recycle waste from space missions into air, water and food.

As astronauts explore farther into our Solar System, there will be a need to reduce the reliance on supplies brought from Earth. ESA is working with partners to create a contained system that will eventually and continuously convert carbon dioxide, urine and organic matter into fresh air, water and food – almost indefinitely. This system is known as MELiSSA.

Read more at: ESA

ESA Oversees Teaching of Europe’s Next Top Solderers

Satellites are among the most complex machines ever designed, but in key respects they are still hand-made. A set of ESA-approved training schools train and certify the best solderers in Europe, to ensure they have sufficient ability to work on electronic hardware for space missions.

More than a thousand operators and inspectors take the courses annually. The resulting highly-skilled personnel are often in high demand from terrestrial industry too – including in the past companies such as Ferrari and the McLaren Formula 1 team. Schools have also been run for customers beyond Europe, from Argentina to Malaysia, as well as the United States.

Read more at: ESA

Spacesuit Sizing Stymied a Historic NASA Moment, and It May Always Be Tricky

It’s spacewalk season this spring at the International Space Station, and that means astronauts are relying on highly engineered, difficult-to-fit suits to stay safe in the vacuum of space.

Spacesuits are intricately designed machines that have to stave off a host of potentially fatal space threats, which means it’s not really the sort of attire where you want to compromise on fit. The trickiness of those suits, formally known as Extravehicular Mobility Units, made headlines last month when NASA shuffled spacewalk assignments because of suit fit issues. But managing the persnickety protective garments isn’t a new problem for the space agency as it has sought to clothe a range of astronaut bodies.

Read more at:

House Committee Presses Bridenstine For Details On Moon Plan

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine faced criticism from some House members at an April 2 hearing who questioned the urgency of the administration’s plans to accelerate a human return to the moon and sought details about how much it will cost.

A hearing by the House Science Committee on NASA’s fiscal year 2020 budget request focused in large part on plans not included in the original request to move up landings of astronauts on the moon from 2028 to 2024. Vice President Mike Pence announced the new goal during the March 26 meeting of the National Space Council in Huntsville, Alabama.

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), chairwoman of the committee, noted that Bridenstine’s prepared statement made no mention of that goal, referring instead only to earlier plans to land humans on the moon “within a decade.”

Read more at: Spacenews

Eu Satellite Navigation System Centre In Prague To Grow

Believe it or not, but the Czechs were actually the third nation on planet Earth to send a man to space. His name was Vladimír Remek and he flew aboard the Soviet spacecraft Soyuz 28 on 2 March 1978. Just a few months later Czechoslovakia also sent to space its own satellite. In other words, space exploration has fairly deep roots in this country. And Czechia has taken an active part in the EU space programme since becoming a member of the alliance.

Since 2008, Prague has been the seat of GSA, the European Union agency responsible for the satellite navigation system Galileo and its use. Karel Dobeš is the Czech Government’s liaison officer for GSA. Perhaps it is significant that I spoke to him at Strakova Akademie, the Office of the Czech Government where he has his own desk:

Read more at: Radio

NASA’s Changing Culture

Like a white flag raised above bloody and battered troops, the 1975 handshake between the Soviet Union’s Alexey Leonov and the U.S.’s Thomas Stafford 135 miles above Earth brought the space race to a close, signifying friendship and a thawing of Cold War tensions.

But that peaceful greeting — part of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project — also sparked decades of outer space collaboration between the two countries, underscoring the importance of partnering internationally to explore the new frontier.

Nearly 50 years later, it’s hard to imagine a space endeavor that does not involve the best minds across the globe.

Read more at: Houston chronicle

National Security: An Industry Where Fair Markets Just Don’t Cut It

Everyone loves the feeling of sipping their fair-market coffee while having a breakfast of sustainably-grown toast, free-range chicken eggs and locally-sourced greens. We love that feeling because we know that somewhere, someone is having a better life because we are helping local businesses around the world become more competitive in the increasingly cutthroat global market.

This is the epitome of free trade supporting fair trade. We assist the small business owners because that is where we choose to spend our hard-earned money. But when the government begins to use this purchasing model, especially in the national defense industry, problems in the market start to arise. When it comes to protecting America’s homeland, we expect the highest standards and best quality services available — bar none. In the case of national security, “fair” markets just don’t cut it.

Read more at: Hill

US Satellites REVEALED to Have Secretly Approached Russian, Chinese Spacecraft

The Secure World Foundation has published a report revealing details on the activities of the secret Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program (GSSAP), launched by the US in 2014 with the declared mission to detect and track space objects in geosynchronous orbit.

According to the report, the US remains secretive about the activities of four operational GSSAP satellites, but by using the data from the ISON space surveillance network, operated by the Russian Academy of Sciences, the foundation has managed to reconstruct their movements since their launch in 2014. The SWF indicates that they have made approaches to Russian, Chinese, Pakistani, and Nigerian satellites, both civilian and military ones, using manoeuvring engines.

Read more at: Sputnik news

Anti-Satellite Laser Base Discovered in China’s Xinjiang Province

Recently released images, which were provided by retired Indian Army Col. Vinayak Bhat, a satellite imagery analyst who specializes on China, have revealed the presence of an anti-satellite laser base in the western Chinese province of Xinjiang.

According to the Washington Free Beacon, the base is located roughly 145 miles south of Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, and is situated near a lake.

“In terms of satellite tracking, Chinese technology has grown in leaps and bounds. There are now many space tracking stations dotted all over the country – like one in Ngari, Tibet – which provide accurate data about satellites to be targeted,” Bhat said in his report for Indian outlet The Print.

Read more at: Spacewar

US Planning Five Hypersonic Test Programs in Marshall Islands

The US armed forces are planning five test programs on hypersonic weapons systems in the Marshall Islands in the central Pacific Ocean, Army Space and Missile Command chief Lieutenant General James Dickinson said in congressional testimony on Wednesday.

“There are currently five active hypersonic test programs in various stages of planning at RTS [the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defence Test Site],” Dickinson told the House Armed Services Strategic Subcommittee.

The RTS is located at the US Army garrison on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

Read more at: Space daily

Music for Space

Music has long been known to affect people’s mood. A certain tune can lift you up or bring you to tears, make you focus, relax or even run faster. Now a study is investigating how the power of music may improve human performance in one of the most stressful and alien environments we know – space.

Music can help release a cocktail of hormones that have a positive effect on us: oxytocin, endorphin, serotonin and dopamine. Besides the pleasure we get from it, music can be used to prolong efficiency and reduce anxiety.

Stress factors in space can lead to disrupted sleep, impaired time perception and spatial orientation.

Read more at: ESA

NASA Awards Safety, Mission Assurance Engineering Contract

NASA has awarded the Safety and Mission Assurance Engineering Contract (SMAEC) II to Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) in Reston, Virginia.

SMAEC II is a single award, cost-plus-award-fee contract that includes core, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity, and level of effort elements. The contract begins June 1 with a two-year base period, followed by two two-year options. The total maximum value of the contract is approximately $292 million.

The contract will provide safety engineering, reliability engineering, quality engineering, quality assurance, and software assurance in support of NASA programs and projects at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston and White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico. These programs and projects include the International Space Station, Orion and Commercial Crew Programs, and the Extravehicular Activity Project Office.

Read more at: NASA

‘Overwork’ Behind Death Of Jaxa Space Agency Contractor, Authorities Say

Yukinobu Sato, aged 31 at the time, was working as a contractor on a satellite project for Jaxa and was under extreme stress, a review has said. He had been assigned unachievable targets and was working over 70 hours of unpaid overtime a month, it added.

Japan has introduced a law to try to end the culture of long working hours. The legislation, which came into force this week, limits overtime work to 45 hours a month and 360 hours a year in principle, the Kyodo news agency reports. Companies that violate the rules could face fines of up to 300,000 yen (£2,046).

Read more at: BBC