International Space Station’s US Segment Leaked Dozens of Kilograms of Methane

The RRM-3 module of the American section of the International Space Station (ISS) has leaked several dozens of kilograms of methane into space, a source in the space industry told Sputnik. The incident reportedly took place after the section’s electric equipment malfunctioned and the cryogenic freezing system, which keeps the methane in liquid form thereby allowing it to more easily be contained, stopped working.

There was no immediate threat those on board the ISS, as the module is located outside of the station’s crew quarters. The station side-light shutters were temporarily closed to avoid contamination.

Read more at: Sputnik news

How Israel’s Probe Crashed Into The Moon Thursday

Israeli officials released information on Friday about what caused the tiny nation’s space probe to crash into the moon, thwarting their dreams of becoming the fourth country to land on the lunar surface.

Read more at: Houston chronicle

World’s Biggest Airplane Takes Flight For The First Time Ever

The world’s largest airplane took flight for the first time ever on Saturday morning. Built by rocket launch company Stratolaunch, the 500,000-pound plane with a 385-foot wingspan lifted off shortly after 10AM ET from Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, California. It was a critical first test flight for the aircraft, designed to launch rockets into orbit from the air. The inaugural flight lasted for 150 minutes, according to the company, after which the plane safely landed.

The dual-fuselage Stratolaunch is designed to fly to an altitude of 35,000 feet, where it can drop rockets that ignite their engines and boost themselves into orbit around the planet. There is no rocket on this particular flight. But the company has already signed at least one customer, Northrop Grumman, which plans to use Stratolaunch to send its Pegasus XL rocket into space.

Read more at: Verge

Falcon Heavy’s First Commercial Flight Is ‘Huge’ As ‘An Inflection Point’ For Spacex, Banker Says

Even though it wasn’t the rocket’s debut, “there’s been a lot of anticipation” for the massive Falcon Heavy rocket’s first commercial launch, said Ann Kim, a managing director at Silicon Valley Bank.

SpaceX flew Falcon Heavy flawlessly on Thursday, putting into orbit a large Saudi Arabian communications satellite. But to Kim, while the launch’s execution may have been as dazzling as its maiden flight last year, the classification of Falcon Heavy’s second flight made it far more important.

“To actually classify a launch as commercial, not as a test, is huge,” Ann Kim, managing director of the bank’s frontier technology group, told CNBC. Silicon Valley Bank is a California-based technology-focused bank, with $57 billion in assets as of the end of 2018.

Read more at: CNBC

NASA’s Twins Study Shows How The Body Changes In Space

Scientists have sent hundreds of humans (and several animals) into space. Most of these missions have been relatively short—the longest space flight ever was around 15 months, conducted by Russian cosmonaut Valery Polyakov over two decades ago. As a result, scientists don’t have a lot of data on the physiological changes that happen to the body after extended periods of time in space.

On April 11, a team of scientists reported some of the most comprehensive data on the physical changes that occur when the body stays in space for about a year. The work concluded that indeed, human physiology adapts to the new environment, and largely re-conforms to life on Earth once it returns.

Read more at: QZ

Lockheed Martin Offers Architecture For 2024 Human Lunar Landing

Lockheed Martin says it has developed an approach to achieving the goal of landing humans on the south pole of the moon by 2024, but warns that construction of essential hardware would have to start soon to meet that deadline.

In a briefing at the 35th Space Symposium here April 10, company officials said they can make extensive use of existing hardware to develop components like a scaled-down version of the lunar Gateway and a two-stage lunar lander on an accelerated schedule.

While many details have yet to be worked out, the basic elements of the plan, Lockheed argues, demonstrates that the ability to meet the 2024 deadline established March 26 by Vice President Mike Pence in a National Space Council speech is at least technically feasible, if challenging.

Read more at: Spacenews

Spacex Lands All 3 Boosters Of The World’s Most Powerful Rocket

THE FALCON HEAVY rocket is many things, but “timely” is not one of them. Delay after delay have plagued its development. And this week, the same fate befell its launch schedule. Originally slated to lift off last Sunday, the Falcon Heavy’s first commercial launch was thrice delayed due to unfavorable weather conditions before it finally left launchpad 39-A at Kennedy Space Center today.

But it was worth the wait. The minute the launch window opened on Thursday, the rocket boosted its payload, a Saudi Arabian telecommunications satellite, toward geostationary orbit. Even from across several miles of water, the power of 5 million pounds of thrust was enough to rattle your ribcage.

Read more at: Wired

NASA Researchers Catalogue All Microbes And Fungi On The International Space Station

A comprehensive catalogue of the bacteria and fungi found on surfaces inside the International Space Station (ISS) is being presented in a study published in the open access journal Microbiome. Knowledge of the composition of the microbial and fungal communities on the ISS can be used to develop safety measures for NASA for long-term space travel or living in space.

Dr Kasthuri Venkateswaran, at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the corresponding author said: “Specific microbes in indoor spaces on Earth have been shown to impact human health. This is even more important for astronauts during spaceflight, as they have altered immunity and do not have access to the sophisticated medical interventions available on Earth. “

Read more at: Euerkalert

Astronauts Venture Outside For More Battery Work, Cable Installations

Two astronauts floated outside the International Space Station Monday for NASA’s third spacewalk in less than three weeks, this one to help replace a faulty solar array battery that was installed during the first excursion, to route ethernet cabling to extend wireless connectivity and to install backup power lines for the lab’s robot arm.

Floating in the Quest airlock, NASA flight engineer Anne McClain, call sign EV-1, and Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques, EV-2, switched their spacesuits to battery power at 7:31 a.m. EDT, officially kicking off what turned out to be a six-hour 29-minute excursion, the 216th since station assembly began in 1998.

The spacewalkers accomplished all of their primary objectives without any major problems. McClain had a bit of trouble clearly hearing mission control toward the end of the excursion and reported moisture on her helmet visor after returning to the airlock. But she said there were no signs of an actual water leak that might pose a safety threat.

Read more at: Spaceflight Now

Rocket Breakup Provides Rare Chance to Test Debris Formation

The discarded ‘upper stage’ from a rocket launched almost ten years ago has recently crumbled to pieces.

“Leaving a trail of debris in its wake, this fragmentation event provides space debris experts with a rare opportunity to test their understanding of such hugely important processes”, explains Tim Flohrer, ESA’s Senior Space Debris Monitoring Expert.

Fragmentation events like this one – either break ups or collisions – are the primary source of debris objects in space in the range of a few millimetres to tens of centimetres in size. Travelling at vast speeds, these bits of technological trash pose a threat to crucial space infrastructure, such as satellites providing weather and navigation services, and even astronauts on the ISS.

Read more at: ESA

New Model Accurately Predicts Harmful Space Weather

A new, first-of-its-kind space weather model reliably predicts space storms of high-energy particles that are harmful to many satellites and spacecraft orbiting in the Earth’s outer radiation belt. A paper recently published in the journal Space Weather details how the model can accurately give a one-day warning prior to a space storm of ultra-high-speed electrons, often referred to as “killer” electrons because of the damage they can do to spacecraft such as navigation, communications, and weather monitoring satellites. This is the first time researchers have successfully predicted those killer electrons across the whole outer belt region.

“Society’s growing reliance on modern-technology infrastructures makes us especially vulnerable to space weather threats,” said Yue Chen, a space scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and lead author of the study

Read more at: Lanl

India ASAT Debris Spotted Above 2,200 Kilometers, Will Remain A Year Or More In Orbit

At least a dozen fragments from India’s March 27 anti-satellite test reached altitudes above 1,000 kilometers, meaning some debris will stay in orbit much longer than estimated by India, according to research from Analytical Graphics Inc. (AGI).

One fragment was spotted at 2,222 kilometers, nearly eight times higher than where India intercepted one of its own satellites with a ground-launched missile, Dan Oltrogge, a senior research astrodynamicist at AGI, said.

That fragment, and others orbiting at high altitudes in low Earth orbit, will remain in space much longer than the 45 days recently projected by India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation, Oltrogge said.

Read more at: Spacenews

India’s ASAT Test And Changing Perceptions Of Space Warfare

India’s reasons for deciding to perform their direct-ascent anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon test, Mission Shakti, no doubt include a desire to send a strong signal to both Beijing and Islamabad that Delhi is not to be trifled with. There is also the Indian need to have a seat at the table when international space governance decisions are being made. Moreover, this is an election year in India and demonstrating national strength in a technologically demanding area won’t hurt the government’s case for remaining in power.

Make no mistake, hitting a target moving at something like 28,000 kilometers an hour 300 kilometers above the Earth’s surface is no easy thing. Theoretically it should be within the capability of any power with the ability to put satellites into orbit, but actually doing the job is quite a feat. Also significant is the way that India tested its ASAT weapon, limiting the amount of long-lived debris.

Read more at: Spacereview

Indian Anti-Satellite Test Proves Early Test For Space Fence

Still in testing mode, the U.S. Air Force Space Fence on Kwajalein Atoll detected India’s March 27 anti-satellite test and issued a break-up alert.

“We happened to be up during an endurance test and we were very excited to see that the system performed nominally,” Matthew Hughes, Lockheed Martin Space Fence and Space Surveillance programs business development manager, told SpaceNews. “Space fence is all about the ability to identify break ups, maneuvers, closely spaced objects, proximity operations, new foreign launches.”

Lockheed Martin completed construction of Space Fence and is conducting testing and evaluation of its capabilities. The Air Force is scheduled to begin initial operation of the ground-based radar, which sends out a curtain of radio frequency energy wider than the continental United States, in the fourth quarter of this year.

Read more at: Spacenews

Guam Selected As Virgin Orbit’s Launch Site

Guam has been selected as a launch site for Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne Service. A first launch from the island could occur in as little as a year’s time.

“This is a rare opportunity for our island to be front and center of a groundbreaking space industry,” said Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero. “Guam has always been a rare gem known for great weather, a beautiful landscape and warm people, and now we can add space transportation to that list.”

Leon Guerrero and Lt. Gov. Joshua Tenorio, along with Virgin Orbit, Sir Richard Branson’s small satellite launch company, made the announcement yesterday.

Tenorio met with Richard DalBello, vice president of Business Development and Government Affairs of Virgin Galactic; and Mandy Vaughn, president of VOX Space LLC, sister company of Virgin Orbit, last month to discuss the possibilities of using Guam as a hub for launching small satellites.

Read more at: Saipantribune

Space Tourism – A Launch Australia Can’t Afford To Miss

In late 2018, Sir Richard Branson claimed his Virgin Galactic service would be taking passengers into space by the end of 2019 – that is, a few months from now.

Whether or not the flamboyant entrepreneur meets that deadline, most experts agree it is only a matter of time before commercial space travel becomes a reality and there are growing indications Australia could play a key role in the emerging space tourism industry.

Branson has made it clear he thinks Australia is an extremely attractive location for a spaceport, telling the ABC earlier this year, “We would love one day to set up an operation in Australia and to work with the Australian government in making that possible”.

Read more at: Camden advertiser

Branson: DoD ‘Very Excited’ By Virgin’s Launch System

Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, says Virgin’s LauncherOne can be a key contributor to US and allied space resiliency providing rapid launch and replenishment of satellites stricken in a conflict.

“I’ve just come from discussions with a number of  [US military] people who are very excited that we can take off within 24 hours … and can fly 6,000 miles in any direction, and using our 747 capability to launch a satellite.”  Branson said. “So, imagine there is a conflict and a number of US satellites are taken out — and in any conflict there also is the possibility that US launch sites are taken out,” he explained, ” we could end up having the need to rapidly replenish those satellites.”

Read more at: Breaking defense

Martian Soil Detox Could Lead to New Medicines

Bacterial resistance to antibiotics is one of humankind’s major long-term health challenges. Now research into helping humans live on Mars could help address this looming problem.

Dennis Claessen, associate professor at the Institute of Biology in Leiden University, the Netherlands works in synthetic biology, in which bacteria are engineered to solve problems that cannot be tackled – or are not tackled well – by ‘wild’ bacteria. A team of his students entered the iGEM International Genetically Engineered Machine competition with a solution to the problem of growing non-toxic plants on Mars, but needed ‘Martian’ gravity to test their ideas.

Read more at: ESA

SABRE Hypersonic Jet/Rocket Hybrid Engine Passes Key Precooler Test

Reaction Engines’ hypersonic SABRE air-breathing rocket engine has taken a major step towards flight after a key component passed the first phase of high-temperature testing. Under conditions simulating supersonic flight, the engine’s precooler unit quenched a 420° C (788° F) intake airflow in less than 1/20th of a second.

The Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (SABRE) engine is a hypersonic hybrid design that draws in air like a conventional jet while accelerating to speeds of up to Mach 5 (3,704 mph, 5,961 km/h), then converts to a pure rocket engine burning hydrogen and liquid oxygen, making speeds of up to Mach 25 (17,521 mph, 29,808 km/h) possible.

Read more at: Newatlas

Getting Scott Kelly’s Blood Back To Earth Was A Logistical Nightmare

 explosions, time-sensitive blood draws, and ultrasound tutorials in the dead of night — the science behind the scenes of the NASA’s Twins Study released today was almost more exciting than the results it contained.

The study looked at the differences between identical twin astronauts Scott and Mark Kellyin the 25 months surrounding the year that Scott spent on the International Space Station. (Mark, who is now running for Senate, stayed on Earth the whole time.) The results, published today in the journal Science, report that many of the in-flight changes to Scott’s body snapped back to the way they were before he left the ground. But some — like damage to his DNA, and drops in his mental performance — didn’t.

Read more at: Verge

Astronauts on the Moon in 2024? US Can’t Do It Alone, NASA Chief Says

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine is confident that the agency will be able to land astronauts on the moon in 2024, but the U.S. won’t undertake the mission alone, he said during a speech here at the 35th Space Symposium on Tuesday (April 9).

“Putting humans on the moon in 2024 is not an America-alone effort,” Bridenstine told a jampacked room of space industry officials. “We need all of our international partners. In fact, none of us can do what we want to achieve alone.”

Last month, Vice President Mike Pence announced that President Donald Trump’s administration is directing NASA to speed up the timeline for its already-planned moon landing in 2028 to 2024 so that the United States can maintain its position as the leading space superpower of the world — a title that could be threatened by a blooming space race with China and Russia, Pence said at a meeting of the National Space Council on March 26.

Read more at:

New Opportunities Emerging For U.S.-China Space Cooperation

Despite the rhetoric of a space race between the United States and China, experts say there are opportunities for the countries to expand cooperation in space that could have broader benefits.

Civil space cooperation between NASA and Chinese organizations is sharply restricted by language commonly known as the Wolf Amendment, first placed in an appropriations bill in 2011 by then-U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) Similar language has been included in subsequent appropriations bills, including the fiscal year 2019 appropriations bill enacted in February.

Read more at: Spacenews

US to Move Fast on Hypersonic Weapons Like China, Russia – Stratcom Chief

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

The United States is moving quickly to develop hypersonic weapons just as Russia and China are doing, US Strategic Command Commander Gen. John Hyten told reporters on the sidelines of a space forum in Colorado on Tuesday.

“Russia and China are going really fast in hypersonics right now, we’re going to move fast to make sure we can do that,” Hyten said.

Read more at: Spacewar

STRATCOM’s Hyten Calls For Space Rules After India’s ASAT Test: Update

For the first time, the United States is sharing its space war plans, known as Olympic Defender, with a small number of allies, says the head of Strategic Command.

Gen. John Hyten told us in a Monday evening interview that a new version of the plan was published “last December,” he said. “Everything that is in that plan can be looked at by our allies.” (There are other space plans not included in Olympic Defender that aren’t being shared).

Hyten would not identify the countries that have requested and been granted access so far, but it’s a small group. A safe bet would be that it includes members of the so-called Five Eyes: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Read more at: Breaking defense

Space Force Proposal Hits Counterforce in Senate Hearing

United States military leaders supporting the White House plan for a proposed new space force ran into a strong counterforce at a Senate hearing on 11 April.

Republican and Democratic senators alike largely agreed that the United States needs to improve its military capabilities and defensive awareness in the face of a space domain that is increasingly contested by China, Russia, and others. However, a number of senators were skeptical about whether the administration’s plan to establish a dedicated space force as a new branch of the nation’s armed forces would be the best way to effectively meet the challenge. They also expressed concern about a top-heavy bureaucracy and the price tag for a space force.

Read more at: EOS

Remarks by Gen. Jay Raymond at the 35th Space Symposium, Colorado Springs, Colorado

Good morning. How’s everybody doing? General Shelton, thank you for your kind introduction. Thanks for your leadership and your continued mentorship.

To the Space Foundation – every year this gets bigger and better. Congratulations on your 35th anniversary.

Madam Secretary, Chief, distinguished visitors, ladies and gentlemen, it’s great – absolutely spectacular – to have the opportunity to address this Symposium, for the third time, as the Air Force Space Command Commander. And, as I stated last year, 35 years from now at the 70th anniversary, folks that are gathered at the Space Symposium will still be in awe at the advances that have been made over the last few years.

Last year, the theme of my talk was that we were in a 9-G turn toward space superiority.  I lied.  We’re sustaining an 11 or 12-G turn. There is no way in the 30 minutes that I’ve been allotted that I could do justice to all the things that have occurred over this past year. The advances that we have made collectively in the National Security Space mission area are remarkable, and this is absolutely the most exciting time to be in the National Security Space enterprise.  In fact, it’s the most exciting time.

Read more at: AFSPC

Air Force Chief Goldfein: To Win In Space, U.S. Must Work Closer With Allies

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein on Thursday hosted in Colorado Springs the first-ever conference of international air chiefs focused on space issues.

“A large part of our discussion was on how do we work together in space, because we’re far stronger together than we are individually,” Goldfein told SpaceNews on Friday aboard a military plane flying back from Colorado Springs.

The conference, held at an Aerospace Corporation’s classified facility, included the air chiefs of Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and the United Kingdom. Goldfein said the idea of a space-focused air chiefs meeting came up during last year’s Space Symposium in Colorado Springs and he expects it to become an annual event.

Read more at: Spacenews

Hyten: Hypersonic Missile Defense Satellites A Job For The Space Development Agency

Gen. John Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command and nominated to be the next vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, oversees operations involving some of the military’s most sensitive satellites that detect and track enemy missiles.

Hyten has been insistent that DoD needs a layer of satellites in lower orbits to track targets much closer to Earth than the existing missile warning constellation that operates from geostationary orbit. “That has to be a piece of the architecture,” Hyten told SpaceNews on Tuesday at the 35th Space Symposium.

Read more at: Spacenews

Why Apollo Had a Flammable Pure Oxygen Environment

Fire, as we know, needs three things: a source of heat, fuel and oxygen. Apollo lunar missions had all three in spades. There was plenty of electricity running through the spacecraft, lots of material that could be fuel and a 100 percent oxygen atmosphere under pressure. So why exactly did NASA design a spacecraft that was an explosion waiting to happen? (This is a question I get *a lot* so I hope this gives a full answer!)

Not long after President Kennedy famously challenged America to a manned lunar landing by the end of the 1960s, NASA started figuring out how it was going to complete this daring mission, and one of the first things it needed was a spacecraft. As it had done with the Mercury spacecraft, the space agency released a Call For Proposals to industry partners inviting them to bid on the contract to build that spacecraft. Of course, it wasn’t an open call.

Read more at: Discover magazine

The First Group of Female Cosmonauts Were Trained to Conquer the Final Frontier

They entered a heavily male-dominated industry in the early days of space exploration, still terra incognita for humankind. When one of these pioneers, Valentina Tereshkova, returned to Earth as the first woman in space, the whole world celebrated a milestone for both cosmonautics and feminism. But instead of taking the next step, Moscow shelved their female cosmonaut program for two decades.

This is the story of the first all-female Soviet space squad.

Read more at: Smithsonian

Former ISS National Lab Executive Indicted For Allegedly ‘Expensing’ Prostitutes

Federal prosecutors have charged a former executive of the Brevard County-based nonprofit that runs the International Space Station’s national laboratory for using government funds to pay for escort services, and for falsifying tax returns.

Charles Resnick, served as chief economist for the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, or CASIS, which is primarily funded by about $15 million annually from NASA. According to a 10-count indictment filed Thursday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Tampa, Resnick created phony receipts and other documents when filing expense reports that hid spending on prostitutes and escorts during trips to Europe and New York between 2011 and 2015.

Read more at: Florida today