Soyuz MS-15 Lands Safely With US, Russian Crew From Space Station

A NASA astronaut who launched to the International Space Station 50 years to the day after the first astronauts landed on the moon has safely returned to Earth on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 13 splashdown.

Andrew Morgan completed an extended 272-day mission on Friday (April 17), touching down on Russia’s Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft with NASA astronaut Jessica Meir and Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka, who each logged 205 days on the space station. Descending under a parachute to the steppe of Kazakhstan, the capsule touched down on its side at 1:16:43 a.m. EDT (0516 GMT or 11:16 a.m. local Kazakh time), southeast of the town of Dzhezkazgan.

Read more at: Collectspace

Launch Date Set for First SpaceX Crewed Mission to ISS

NASA and SpaceX have agreed to launch Demo-2 to the International Space Station on May 27.  Demo-2 is the crewed flight test of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon carrying NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, the first launch of astronauts to the ISS from American soil since the space shuttle program was terminated in 2011.  If successful, Demo-2 will open the door for operational flights of Crew Dragon.

SpaceX and Boeing are developing crew space transportation systems through public-private partnerships with NASA.  They own the spacecraft.  NASA just buys services, but the companies must meet contractual requirements to demonstrate the systems are safe to transport NASA astronauts.

Read more at: Spacepolicy online

Long Space Flights Can Increase The Volume Of Astronauts’ Brains

Astronauts’ brains increase in volume after long space flights, causing pressure to build up inside their heads. This may explain why some astronauts experience worsened vision after prolonged periods in space.

“This raises additional concerns for long-duration interplanetary travel, such as the future mission to Mars,” says Larry Kramer at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, who led the study.

Kramer and his colleagues scanned the brains of 11 astronauts before they spent about six months on the International Space Station, and at six points over the year after they returned to Earth. They found that all the astronauts had increased brain volume – including white matter, grey matter and cerebrospinal fluid around the brain – after returning from space.

Read more at: New scientist

Russia’s Soyuz Rocket Production On Hold Due To Coronavirus

Spaceflight, like every sector, is feeling effects from the spreading coronavirus pandemic, and that holds true in Russia as well, where manufacturing of its workhorse Soyuz rocket has halted, officials said.

One of those rockets, a Soyuz 2.1a booster, most recently flew on April 9 to carry three astronauts to the International Space Station in a launch that was essentially unaffected by the pandemic. The news of the pandemic’s impact on its production comes from an English-language transcript released on April 10 by Russia’s government of a call held by President Vladimir Putin and a group of space center leaders.

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Newfound Asteroid The Size Of A House Will Fly Safely By Earth Wednesday

A newly discovered asteroid about the size of a house will zip safely by Earth on Wednesday (April 15), passing just inside the orbit of the moon. 

The asteroid 2020 GH2 will pass Earth at a range of about 223,000 miles (359,000 kilometers). The average distance from the Earth to the moon is about 239,000 miles (385,000 km). 

Asteroid 2020 GH2 is about between 43 and 70 feet (13-70 meters) wide, or about the size of a detached house, according to data from the Center for Near Earth Object Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the agency’s Asteroid Watch Twitter account.

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For The First Time, A Spacecraft Has Returned An Aging Satellite To Service

In a triumph for the nascent industry of “satellite servicing,” an aging communications satellite has returned to service in geostationary orbit.

Northrop Grumman announced Friday that its Mission Extension Vehicle-1, or MEV-1, has restored the Intelsat 901 satellite and relocated it into a position to resume operations.

“We see increased demand for our connectivity services around the world, and preserving our customers’ experience using innovative technology such as MEV-1 is helping us meet that need,” Intelsat Chief Services Officer Mike DeMarco said in a news release.

Read more at: Arstechnica


Virgin Orbit Aces Final Test Flight Before First Launch (Photos)

The runway is now clear for Virgin Orbit’s first-ever launch.

On Sunday (April 12), the company completed the final test of its development program, sending its carrier plane, Cosmic Girl, aloft over the Southern California desert with an orbital rocket beneath its wing.

The captive-carry trial was “a complete, end-to-end launch rehearsal that exercises all of our ground operations; our mission control; all of our communications systems and protocols; all of our range assets; and our carrier aircraft’s takeoff, flyout, pull-up maneuver and return-to-base operations,” Virgin Orbit representatives wrote in a blog post Friday (April 10) that described the test.

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Why The Coronavirus Slowed China’s Plan To Take On Elon Musk’s Internet Satellites

The coronavirus pandemic has shown just how essential the internet has become to modern life. Many people confined at home have relied on it to work, socialize and order the things they need for daily life. But it’s also something that only half of the world’s population has access to.

Companies in the US and China have been racing to change that by using low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites to drench the world in internet coverage. The hope is to reach areas that land-based cables can’t cover.

Read more at: Abacusnews

World View Delays Plans And Furloughs Staff Because Of Pandemic

World View, the stratospheric ballooning company, has put on hold new business initiatives and furloughed some staff because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The company, which has developed a high-altitude balloon platform called Stratollite intended to provide remote sensing and other services traditionally provided by spacecraft, announced in March it would start flying a series of its balloons in an “orbit” or “racetrack” over parts of North and Central America. The company envisioned a series of Stratollites flying in that orbit, providing imagery with a resolution as sharp as 5 centimeters, far better than satellites can offer.

Read more at: spacenews

NewSpace Philosophies: Who, How, What?

The world is enthusiastically watching the development of the space industry. Alpha launches from Firefly Aerospace and Orion are in the works, as well as Crew Dragon lift-offs with space tourists.

Max Polyakov, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk are constantly investing money and resources into space exploration. They each espouse a different ideology and purpose – from the colonization of the Moon and space tourism to the salvation of all humanity.

Who, namely, are the main drivers in today’s space exploration race? Who among them has been lionized in books? Which of them is exploring Space?

Read more at: Spacedaily


Researchers Uncover New Clues To Predict The Risks Astronauts Will Face From Space Radiation On Long Duration Missions

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA, aims to send human missions to Mars in the 2030s. But scientists are still trying to learn more about the potential cancer risks for astronauts due to radiation exposure. Cancer risk from galactic cosmic radiation exposure is considered a potential “showstopper” for a manned mission to Mars.

A team led by researchers at Colorado State University used a novel approach to test assumptions in a model used by NASA to predict these health risks. Based on the NASA model, the team found that astronauts will have more than a three percent risk of dying of cancer from the radiation exposures they will receive on a Mars mission. That level of risk exceeds what is considered acceptable.

Read more at: cvmbs

NASA Funds Proposal To Build A Telescope On The Far Side Of The Moon

NASA is funding an early-stage proposal to build a meshed telescope inside a crater on the far side of the moon, according to Vice.

This “dark side” is the face of the moon that is permanently positioned away from Earth, and as such it offers a rare view of the dark cosmos, unhindered by radio interference from humans and our by our planet’s thick atmosphere. 

The ultra-long-wavelength radio telescope, would be called the “Lunar Crater Radio Telescope” and would have “tremendous” advantages compared to telescopes on our planet, the idea’s founder Saptarshi Bandyopadhyay, a robotics technologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory wrote in a proposal. 

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Ozone Hole Three Times The Size Of Greenland Opens Over The North Pole

Scientists have detected what may be the largest hole in the ozone layer ever recorded over the North Pole.

The ozone hole covers an area roughly three times the size of Greenland, scientists from the European Space Agency (ESA) said in a statement, and could expose people living at far northern latitudes to high levels of ultraviolet radiation if it grows much larger. Fortunately, the hole looks likely to close on its own in the next few weeks, the ESA researchers said.

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NIAC Award: A Pulsed Plasma Rocket for Fast Human Transits to Mars

Development of a space faring civilization will depend on the ability to move cargo efficiently and humans rapidly. Due to the large distances involved in space travel, the ships must reach a high velocity for reasonable mission transit times. Thus, propulsion systems with high specific impulse (Isp) AND high thrust are required.

Possessing both attributes has eluded the current state of technology. Howe Industries is investigating a system that may produce 20,000 lbsf of thrust with an Isp of 5,000 s. The system is derived from the Pulsed Fission Fusion [1] concept but the Pulsed Plasma Rocket (PPR) is smaller, less complex, and more affordable.

Read more at: Parabolic arc

Carbon-Fiber Heat Sink Makes Batteries Safer for Electric Cars, Bikes, and More

Batteries have come a long way in recent years. Lithium-ion batteries in particular are more powerful, longer-lasting, and smaller—and they are powering ever more devices, from smart watches and phones to electric cars, and even electric-powered aircraft.

However, one of the biggest challenges of these highly energy-dense batteries is heat management, and in particular avoiding a short that explodes.

Read more at: Technology

When the Moon Dust Settles, It Won’t Settle in VIPER’s Wheels

Moon dust is a formidable adversary – the grains are as fine as powder and as sharp as tiny shards of glass. During the Apollo 17 mission to the Moon, the astronauts lamented how the dust found its way into everything, coating their spacesuits and jamming the shoulder joints, getting inside their lunar habitat and even causing symptoms of a temporary “lunar dust hay fever” in astronaut Harrison Schmitt. Those symptoms fortunately went away quickly – but the problem of Moon dust remains for future missions.

Read more at: Technology


FCC Urged To Delay Vote On New Space Debris Regulations

The leaders of the House Science Committee are asking the Federal Communications Commission to delay an April 23 vote to introduce stricter space debris regulations opposed by the satellite industry.

“Regulatory action by the FCC at this time, without clear authority from Congress, will at the very least create confusion and undermine the [FCCs] work, and at worst undermine U.S. economic competitiveness and leadership in space,” the lawmakers wrote in an April 15 letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. The letter was signed by the House Science Committee’s chair and ranking member — Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) and Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) — and their counterparts on the space and aeronautics subcommittee.

Read more at: Spacenews

Russia, US Agree To Set Up Space Working Group – Diplomat

Moscow and Washington have agreed to establish a working group to discuss space issues, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in an interview with the Kommersant daily.

“The Russian side has handed in its proposals on the essence of this work to the US side and now expects the response,” he said.

Earlier, Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Non-Proliferation Christopher Ford, who Ryabkov held a meeting with this January, announced such an agreement.

Read more at: TASS

Russia Ready To Talk Hypersonic Weapons With US

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday that Moscow is open to holding talks with the United States on the development of advanced weapons, including hypersonic missiles.

He said any discussions on the matter would include talks about the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and on weapons in outer space.

“We are willing to engage in talks about new types of weapons, including hypersonic weapons, within the context of taking into account … all the factors that have a bearing upon strategic stability,” he said during a live stream briefing with the press.

Read more at: Spacewar


Russia Tests Anti-Satellite Missile And The US Space Force Is Not Happy

Russia just fired an anti-satellite missile in a test of technology that the U.S. Space Force considers a threat to American orbital assets. 

Yesterday (April 15), Russia conducted a test of its direct-ascent anti-satellite (DA-ASAT) missile system, which is designed to destroy satellites in low Earth orbit. 

This test followed the country’s on-orbit test maneuvers of two satellites that “exhibited characteristics of a space weapon,” COSMOS 2542 and COSMOS 2543, which the U.S. has been closely following, the U.S. Space Force said in a statement yesterday.

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U.S. Builds Ground-Based Arsenal to Jam Russia, China Satellites

The new U.S. Space Force is building an arsenal of as many as 48 ground-based weapons over the next seven years designed to temporarily jam Russian or Chinese communications satellite signals in the opening hours of a conflict.

The first system, made by L3Harris Technologies Inc., was declared operational last month after years of development, and the Space Force has taken delivery of 16 of them. The service is also developing a new system, known as Meadowland, that’s lighter-weight, capable of adding updated software and able to jam more frequencies.

Read more at: Bloomberg

JUST IN: Pentagon Bringing New Space Sensing Capabilities Online (UPDATED)

The Defense Department is onboarding new capabilities to increase its space situational awareness, as the military tries to protect its assets on orbit and keep an eye on adversaries’ systems.

“We just installed a new radar … called the Space Fence and it went active, and has gone through testing and it has now been accepted for use,” said Rear Adm. Marcus Hitchcock, director of strategy, plans and policy at U.S. Space Command. The organization is the military’s newest combatant command, which was stood up last year.

Read more at: National defense magazine

Defense Leaders In Congress Ask Trump To Stop Ligado Plan

Three leaders from congressional defense committees increased pressure on the Federal Communications Commission to deny a license that Pentagon leaders fear could harm the Global Positioning System and sent a letter April 15 asking President Donald Trump to prevent the agency from moving forward with the plan.

The letter, signed by Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, the committee’s ranking member, and Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, follows a recent report by C4ISRNET that the FCC appears poised to approve the application from Ligado Networks after years of delays.

Read more at: c4isrnet

Space Force Is Now Fighting Coronavirus. Here’s How

The newly formed U.S. Space Force is not staying on the sidelines for the fight against the novel coronavirus.

The months-old service is working to protect the missions of the Navy’s hospital ships Mercy and Comfort, now operating on the East and West coasts in support of the COVID-19 pandemic response, officials said.

Officials from the 50th Space Wing said in a release that the 4th Space Operations Squadron at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, is operating the Advanced Extremely High Frequency, or AEHF, satellite communications system and the Wideband Global SATCOM satellite communications system for the ships, which give personnel onboard 24-hour coverage to access data transmitted and processed through medical machines faster. The result is increased bandwidth and jam-resistant communications for medical staff and crew.

Read more at: Military

Eastern Range Cautiously Continuing Space Ops

Florida’s 45th Space Wing is aiming to keep as much regular order as possible as the coronavirus pandemic unfolds, reviewing launch plans and hoping the virus remains at bay.

Patrick Air Force Base and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aim to execute 49 military and commercial launches in 2020. While the Space Force is deciding whether to go forward with each event on a case-by-case basis, the Florida Space Coast has put eight rockets into orbit so far this year and expects it will stick to its overall plan for 49 launches, even if some launch dates shift.

Read more at: Airforcemag

Air Force Eyeing Technology To Monitor Space Traffic Near The Moon

Under a U.S. Air Force small business innovation contract, a team of space startups is working on a concept to collect and analyze information about objects and activities in cislunar space near the moon.

“This is a Phase 1 study to investigate intelligence gathering as it pertains to the lunar domain,” Nathan Parrott, director of Saber Astronautics USA, told SpaceNews.

The study is led by Rhea Space Activity, a startup based in Washington, D.C., which partnered with Saber Astronautics, a company headquartered in Australia with U.S.-based operations in Colorado. They will propose using a three-dimensional space situational awareness portal to track objects and analyze data. The companies announced on April 6 they won a $50,000 Air Force study contract to develop a concept for collecting and managing lunar intelligence.

Read more at: Spacenews


50 Years Ago, Apollo 13’s Jack Swigert Flew To The Moon, But Forgot Something Big. Taxes.

Fifty years ago, Apollo 13 astronaut Jack Swigert forgot to do his taxes. 


With this momentous anniversary, people around the world are celebrating the mission that has famously been remembered as a “successful failure.” But, as we recall the fast thinking from NASA Mission Control and the astronauts that ensured the Apollo 13 crewmembers returned home safely, we also think back to one of the less somber moments of the mission — the time when astronaut Jack Swigert realized he hadn’t filed his taxes in time for the April 15, 1970 cutoff.

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Amid Coronavirus Pandemic, Lockheed Martin Is Hiring 400 New Workers In Denver Area, Plans For More

Work at Lockheed Martin continues during the coronavirus outbreak — and so does hiring. The aerospace and defense giant recently hired 400 people in Colorado and has more than 500 additional positions to fill.

“These are challenging times and we’re fortunate to continue hiring great talent to advance our critical national security and defense missions,” Armando Castorena, vice president of human resources for Lockheed Martin Space, said in a statement Thursday.

Read more at: Denverpost

‘Spacefarers’ Predicts How Space Colonization Will Happen

By 20th century expectations, we are way behind schedule on colonizing the solar system. After the Apollo moon landings, some scientists and NASA officials envisioned launching astronauts to Mars in the 1980s and building cities in space to be habitable by the 2000s. But the only humans in space today are a few astronauts in a lone space station orbiting Earth.

That may soon change, says science writer Christopher Wanjek. China is preparing to send crewed missions to the moon by the 2030s. SpaceX founder Elon Musk hopes to take people to the Red Planet, while Bigelow Aerospace is drawing up plans for Earth-orbiting hotels.

Read more at: Sciencenews

‘Soviet Space Graphics’ Takes You Inside The Cosmic Visions Of The USSR

One new book transports readers back to the early days of Soviet spaceflight with an unbelievable collection of stunning, colorful and nostalgic images. 

“Soviet Space Graphics: Cosmic Visions from the USSR,” (Phaidon, 2020), released April 1, is a masterful compendium of images showcasing space design ideas from the then Soviet Union from the 1920s through the 1980s. It highlights the beauty of early space design in imaginative, colorful artworks. 

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Europe’s Air Pollution Drop Continues Amid Coronavirus Closures

As a new coronavirus continues to cause serious respiratory disease around the globe, countries have enacted strong measures to curtail the pandemic’s spread — and the effects on emissions remain visible from space.

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Copernicus network monitors compounds in the atmosphere that are important in understanding climate and human health. Among those compounds is nitrogen dioxide. According to recent analyses of Copernicus data, a side effect of coronavirus shutdown measures is the slashing of nitrogen dioxide emissions, with some countries even cutting them in half.

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Jean-Marie Luton, 1942-2020

Jean-Marie Luton was born on 4 August 1942, in Chamalières, near Clermont-Ferrand, France. After graduating in engineering from the Ecole Polytechnique in 1961, he joined the aeronomy department of the French national research institute, the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS). Here he worked in geophysics research and on an experiment for the NASA OGO-6 satellite.

He was appointed special research advisor at the French space agency CNES in 1971, founded a decade earlier, the same year he was seconded to the French Ministry of Industrial and Scientific Development.

Read more at: ESA

11th IAASS Conference – Poster A2