SpaceX Engine Issue On Last Starlink Mission Caused By Cleaning Fluid According To Elon Musk

SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Musk said on Twitter on Wednesday that the cause of the failure of a single Merlin engine during the most recent Starlink launch (which didn’t prevent the launch from ultimately succeeding at its mission) was the result of an undetected, “small amount” of a cleaning fluid that ignited during the flight.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 vehicle uses nine Merlin engines on its first-stage, and can still operate successfully in case one stops working. One did stop working during the ascent phase of the Starlink mission that took place on March 18.

Read more at: Techcrunch

Russian Space Official Tests Positive For Coronavirus After Attending Soyuz Crew Launch To Space Station

A Russian space official has tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, but it’s “impossible” that any contamination has spread to the International Space Station, Russia’s space agency told 

On April 15, the Russian news agency TASS confirmed that Evegeny Mikrin, the deputy CEO and chief designer at RSC Energia, tested positive for coronavirus. 

“Mikrin has passed two tests for the coronavirus and both are positive. He has been included in the list of 30 persons officially declared as infected in Roscosmos (Russia’s space agency),” a source told TASS.

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NASA Safety Panel Agrees Demo-2 Launch Date Feasible, NASA Wants Public to Stay Away

NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) said today they consider the May 27 launch date for SpaceX’s first crewed launch to the International Space Station (ISS) to be “feasible.”  Also today, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine encouraged everyone to watch the launch virtually, not travel to Kennedy Space Center even though this is the first launch of astronauts to the ISS from the United States in nine years.

ASAP meets quarterly, but panel chair Patricia Sanders explained they were not able to interact with NASA officials as usual because of COVID-19. In particular, they had no meetings with the Commercial Crew Program, but expect to in early May during a “part 2” of this quarter’s review.

Read more at: Spacepolicyonline

Safety Panel Urges Longer-Term ISS Contingency Planning

Encouraged by progress in the Commercial Crew program, NASA should expand planning for long-term staffing of the International Space Station (ISS) to provide options, NASA’s safety oversight panel said April 23.

“The ISS program continues to take care of business, managing risk while juggling the still-difficult business of maintaining human presence in space with the new complication of the COVID-19 virus on the ground,” Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) member Paul Hill, a former NASA flight director, said during a teleconference meeting.

Read more at: Aviation week

Soyuz “Victory Rocket” Launches Progress MS-14, Followed By Docking To The ISS

For the second time this month, the Russian federal space agency, Roscosmos, launched one of their crafts to the International Space Station.Liftoff of the Progress MS-14 uncrewed cargo resupply mission to the orbital outpost launched from Site No. 31/6 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Friday, 24 April at 21:51:41 EDT — which was 01:51:41 UTC on Saturday, 25 April.The mission performed a super fast-track rendezvous with the Station culminating in an automated docking just 3 hours 21 minutes after liftoff.Unusually, Roscosmos has taken the rare step of giving this Soyuz rocket a name: “Victory Rocket”.

Read more at: NASA spaceflight

ISRO Invites Technology Proposals For Human Space Flight Missions

The Directorate of Human Space Programme of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has invited proposals to develop indigenous technologies for its future human space flight missions.

The concepts can range from food and medicine eaten by astronauts during low-earth space trips; to anti-radiation and thermal protection technologies for the spacecraft, life support systems for astronauts, and inflatable habitats to robotic interfaces during more complex missions.

Read more at: Hindu


Archivists Uncover Earliest Evidence Of A Person Being Killed By A Meteorite

Tales of people being killed by meteorite impacts date back to biblical times. But few deaths, if any, have been documented. Now, Turkish researchers have uncovered the earliest evidence that a meteorite killed one man and paralyzed another when it slammed into a hilltop in what is now Iraq in August 1888.

Documents chronicling the event were found in Turkish state archives, the team reports online today in Meteoritics & Planetary Science. According to one of three letters written by local authorities in the region shortly after the event, the killer meteorite was one of several that fell during a 10-minute interval. Reports of a fireball seen in a city nearby suggest the object approached the area from the southeast before it blew up high in the atmosphere

Read more at: Sciencemag

SpaceX Successfully Launches Latest Batch Of 60 Internet-Beaming Satellites To Orbit

On Wednesday afternoon, SpaceX is pressing ahead with its internet-from-space initiative, launching another batch of 60 broadband-beaming satellites into orbit from Florida. This is the company’s seventh launch for its ambitious internet project, known as Starlink, and if successful, SpaceX will have put more than 420 of the nearly 12,000 planned satellites into orbit.

With such a massive constellation in orbit, SpaceX hopes to eventually provide global internet coverage from space. Once enough satellites have been launched, the company plans to sell user terminals to customers that will allow them to patch into the satellite network.

Read more at: Verge

FCC Moves Cautiously In Plan To Prevent Space Debris And Satellite Collisions

The Federal Communications Commission today unanimously approved new rules for preventing orbital debris and collisions in space, but only after revising the plan to address criticism that the commission was moving too fast and imposing requirements that could conflict with NASA recommendations.

The new rules, the first update to the FCC’s orbital-debris policies in 15 years, are being imposed as plans by SpaceX and other companies to launch thousands of broadband satellites raise concerns about collisions in space. While the FCC delayed action on several parts of the order, it still imposed these new requirements:

Read more at: Arstechnica

Massive Asteroid Flying Past Earth Next Week Looks Like It’s Wearing A Face Mask

If you’re planning to visit Earth in the year 2020, it’s important to be wearing a face mask to protect yourself from the coronavirus. And apparently the rule doesn’t only apply to humans — an asteroid speeding toward Earth appears to know about the pandemic and is sporting a face mask of its own.

An asteroid called 52768 (1998 OR2) will zoom past Earth next week. Astronomers at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico are tracking the asteroid, and couldn’t help but notice a familiar silhouette after capturing a new radar view of the object.

Read more at: CBSnews

Viasat Gets FCC Approval for MEO Constellation

California-based satellite operator Viasat received a green light from the Federal Communications Commission April 23 to provide connectivity service in the U.S. with a medium-Earth-orbit constellation licensed in the Netherlands. 

Viasat originally proposed a 24-satellite broadband constellation in 2016, but reduced it to 20 satellites in 2018, saying the lower number would reduce the risk of unwanted signal interference. The satellites would operate at 8,200 kilometers using Ka-band and higher frequency V-band spectrum for uplinks and downlinks. 

Read more at: Spacenews


FAA Commercial Space Office Completes Reorganization

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) office responsible for licensing commercial launches and reentries has completed a reorganization announced nearly a year ago intended to improve its efficiency.

In an April 3 memo, Wayne Monteith, associate administrator for commercial space transportation at the FAA, said the reorganization of the Office of Commercial Space Transportation, or AST, had just been completed as it also works to finalize streamlined launch regulations intended to accommodate a growing number of commercial launches.

Read more at: Spacenews

Dream Chaser Receives Her Wings Ahead Of Flying To The ISS

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) has announced its Louisville, Colorado production facility has received the first delivery of the Dream Chaser’s wings. The integration of the wings will provide a major milestone on Dream Chaser’s path to launching her first cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station under the CRS2 contract.

The arrival of the wings allows the integration of the complex Wing Deployment System (WDS) as the Dream Chaser continues assembly and integration.

Read more at: NASA spaceflight

NASA Adjusting Its Strategy For LEO Commercialization

Less than a year after rolling out a broad strategy for supporting commercial activity in low Earth orbit, NASA is working to revise that strategy while restructuring its management of commercial initiatives.

In June 2019, NASA published its plans for supporting commercial activity on the International Space Station and, ultimately, commercial facilities in LEO. That strategy had five elements, ranging from setting up commercial use and pricing policies for the ISS to supporting development of commercial modules and stimulating demand for those facilities.

Read more at: Spacenews

NASA Astronauts May Train On Private Suborbital Spaceships

NASA astronauts may start hitching commercial rides to suborbital space in the near future. 

According to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, agency astronauts may use private suborbital flights for training and research experiments once these commercial trips have been proven safe. Such jaunts could help pave the way for the next crewed mission to the surface of the moon, which NASA aims to do in 2024.

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Rocket Man: Don’t Waste The Crisis.

In the second of our video interviews with prominent New Zealanders, Belinda Henley asks Peter Beck for his thoughts on how New Zealand can rebuild after the current crisis.

Rocket Lab is now headquartered in Long Beach, California but its rockets carrying satellites into space are launched from the Mahia Peninsula, on the East Coast between Gisborne and Napier. “Usually, I am in the US every two weeks and my life is very fast. For me, it’s [lockdown] been a real privilege to spend much more time with the kids,” says Beck.

One lesson he’s taken from the enforced confinement in Auckland is that he doesn’t need to travel as much, he’s getting the work done via video link. “The day rolls from one Zoom meeting to the next Zoom meeting and you lose track of all time.”

Read more at: Newsroom

The US Government Is Helping Get Cash To Private Space Companies, Replacing Frozen Venture Capital

Investment in the fast-growing space industry was booming well into the first quarter of 2020 but private capital has largely frozen as the coronavirus pandemic strikes the U.S., leading both civil and military agencies to step up funding for corporate partners.

“We kicked into high gear as soon as it was apparent a lot of companies were not going to be able to conduct business as usual due to distancing requirements,” Mike Read, International Space Station business and economic development manager at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, told CNBC.

Read more at: CNBC


Scientists Use Apollo Data To Create The Best Geologic Moon Map Ever

A new map has provided the blueprints for the moon, revealing the true nature of Earth’s rocky companion. 

Scientists at the United States Geological Survey (USGS), in collaboration with NASA and the Lunar Planetary Institute, have created the first-ever comprehensive geologic map of the moon. In this new digital map, titled the “Unified Geologic Map of the Moon,” the entire lunar surface has been thoroughly charted and all of its features uniformly classified. 

Read more at:

Tiny, Levitating ‘Nanocardboard’ Aircraft Could Explore Mars One Day

Tiny, levitating “nanocardboard” flyers could one day explore the dusty red surface of Mars. 

This summer, NASA will launch its newest Mars rover, Perseverance, and a helicopter that will fly over the planet’s surface as part of a “high-risk, high-reward” experiment. But even before its launch, researchers are designing much more ambitious aircraft for Mars as well.

Of particular interest are flying aircraft that could, with less risk, more effectively observe and study Mars’ surface. In a new study, researchers have demonstrated the abilities of a unique fleet of aircraft that could thrive on Mars: tiny “nanocardboard” flying vehicles.

Read more at:

Why NASA Spacesuits Are So Expensive

This spacesuit, built in 1974, was reported to cost between $15 million and $22 million. Today, that would be about $150 million. Having not delivered any new mission-ready extravehicular suits since then, NASA is running out of spacesuits. In fact, NASA are down to just four flight-ready EVA suits.

Since 2009, NASA has invested more than $200 million in spacesuit development, recently unveiling the xEMU prototype. But NASA still does not have a new fleet of spacesuits.

So why has it taken so long for new spacesuits to be built? And what makes them so expensive?

Read more at: Business insider

Getting Down to Earth with CAVES in Space

NASA astronaut Jessica Meir rocks her CAVES shirt on board the International Space Station. Jessica was the first woman to participate in ESA’s underground astronaut training programme in 2016. It might not be obvious, but there are many similarities between working deep underground and in outer space.

Since 2011, ESA’s Cooperative Adventure for Valuing and Exercising human behaviour and performance Skills course has been taking astronauts below Earth’s surface and preparing them to work safely and effectively as representative spaceflight teams in an environment where risk, scientific operations and living conditions have many similarities to space .

Read more at: Spacedaily


House Science Committee Leaders Criticize FCC Action on Orbital Space Debris

House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Ranking Member Frank Lucas and Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnsonreleased a statement today on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) vote on new regulations for orbital space debris.

“As we said in our letter to the FCC last week, regulatory action at this time, without consensus across federal agencies and clear authority from Congress, will at the very least create confusion and undermine the Commission’s work, and at worst undermine U.S. economic competitiveness and leadership in space,” Lucas and Johnson wrote. “Despite a host of concerns raised by this Committee, other federal agencies, and industry stakeholders, the FCC moved forward.

Read more at: Spaceref

NASA Request for Information (RFI) for Microgravity Flight Services

NASA Request for Information (RFI) for Microgravity Flight Services

NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center is interested in obtaining information to identify potential commercial capabilities for Microgravity Flight Services (MFS) to provide brief periods of near zero, partial gravity, and hyper-gravity conditions, collectively referred to here as microgravity, and associated capabilities for payload integration, safety, and airworthiness for various government research, technology development, and training missions.

Read more at: Spaceref


ULA Begins Stacking Rocket For Next Launch Of U.S. Military Spaceplane

United Launch Alliance technicians raised the first stage of the company’s next Atlas 5 rocket onto a mobile launch platform at Cape Canaveral Thursday, kicking off the launch vehicle’s build-up for a mission scheduled for liftoff May 16 with the U.S. military’s X-37B spaceplane.

The Atlas 5’s 107-foot-tall (32.6-meter) cylindrical bronze first stage was transferred to ULA’s Vertical Integration Facility early Thursday and hoisted upright by a crane. Fitted with a Russian-made RD-180 main engine, the rocket was moved over the mobile launch platform inside the vertical hangar, then lowered into position on the platform’s deck.

Read more at: Spaceflight now

Iran Claims It Has Successfully Launched A Military Satellite

Iran claims to have launched its first military satellite into orbit on Wednesday, according to The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. If true, the mission would be Iran’s first successful rocket launch in some time after repeated failed attempts to put a vehicle into space.

News of the launch comes somewhat out of the blue. In the past, Earth-imaging satellites have spotted the country’s launch preparations, but there was no public heads-up about this particular mission.

Read more at: Verge

Have Iran’s Space Ambitions Taken A Worrisome New Turn?

On 22 April, Iran successfully launched its first military satellite, Noor, using the new Qased Space Launch Vehicle (SLV). With the launch of the Qased, Iran has unveiled its parallel space program run by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard’s Corps (IRGC) for the first time. While fears about Iran’s previous space launches serving as cover for ICBM development have been vastly overblown, there are strong indications that Iran’s emerging IRGC track does indeed represent a hedging strategy aimed at acquiring long-range ballistic missile technology.

Read more at: European leadership network

Boeing Completes New Microsatellite Prototype For The Space Force

Millennium Space Systems has completed the design, production and integration of a new microsatellite prototype for the U.S. Space Force, the company announced April 21.

TETRA will be used for various prototype missions around geosynchronous orbit, according to a news release put out by Millennium, a Boeing subsidiary.

The satellite was the first prototype award issued under the Space Enterprise Consortium, an other transaction authority contract vehicle used by the Space and Missile Systems Center for rapid prototyping projects.

Read more at: C4isrnet

Emerging Lunar Intelligence Field to Shape Space Ops

The Space Force has ambitious plans to support American companies and astronauts as they try to return to—and set up shop on—the moon. But to succeed, the military first needs to understand more about what’s near Earth’s only natural satellite.

Rhea Space Activity, a Washington-based space technology and policy startup, will lead a project to create the field of “lunaspatial intelligence” (LUNINT), the collection of intelligence data on activity in cislunar orbit and on the moon’s surface, for the Department of the Air Force.

Read more at: Airforce mag

Undergraduate Space Training Evolves To Tackle Space Threats

The training of new military space operators is evolving to meet the challenges in the space domain. A revamped initial skills training course now gives new space warfighters an early advantage in being ready to meet the unique demands of operating satellites and other space systems in a contested, degraded and operationally limited space domain.

For more than 60 years, U.S. space systems were operated in a largely uncontested environment. Because potential adversaries have introduced man-made threats in, and extending to, an already complex and dynamic environment, United States Space Force partnered with Air Education and Training Command to overhaul Undergraduate Space Training.

Read more at: Spacewar


Astronauts, Robots And The History Of Fixing And Building Things In Space

A 30th birthday is a big milestone for anyone, and a spacecraft is no exception. Tomorrow, the Hubble Space Telescope celebrates its 30th year in space, but it didn’t get to this point without having to overcome its fair share of challenges. Over the years, it has not only been fixed, but continuously upgraded to make it the discovery-producing machine that it is today. Servicing (refueling, fixing and upgrading) spacecraft helps make spaceflight more sustainable, affordable and resilient. In honor of Hubble’s exciting milestone, here’s a look back at how human and robotic satellite servicing became a reality and a glimpse at where we’re headed.

Read more at: Spacedaily

The Hubble Space Telescope Launched 30 Years Ago—Then The Problems Began

Space Shuttle Discovery launched into orbit 30 years ago today with the Hubble Space Telescope in its payload bay.

Charlie Bolden, who served as pilot for the STS-31 shuttle mission, remembers the five-day spaceflight like it was yesterday. “What stands out most vividly in my mind is all the things that didn’t go right,” Bolden recalled in an interview.

It’s true. Although astronomers would not discover that the Hubble Space Telescope had a serious problem with its mirror until a few weeks after Discovery landed, the deployment mission was not without difficulties itself. The crew came within minutes of embarking on an emergency spacewalk and even had contingency plans to bring Hubble back to Earth if needed.

Read more at: Arstechnica

Long-Lost U.S. Military Satellite Found By Amateur Radio Operator

There are more than 2,000 active satellites orbiting Earth. At the end of their useful lives, many will simply burn up as they reenter the atmosphere. But some will continue circling as “zombie” satellites — neither alive nor quite dead.

“Most zombie satellites are satellites that are no longer under human control, or have failed to some degree,” says Scott Tilley.

Tilley, an amateur radio operator living in Canada, has a passion for hunting them down.

Read more at: NPR

COVID-19: Aeolus and Weather Forecasts

We are all too aware that COVID-19 is a serious threat to health, is putting huge pressure on healthcare systems and it could leave the global economy struggling for years to come. With lockdown measures in force across the globe, the pandemic is also affecting aspects of everyday life that may not be so obvious. The drop in commercial flights, for example, has led to fewer measurements for weather forecasts, but fortunately, ESA’s Aeolus satellite mission is helping to fill the gap.

Read more at: ESA

‘Astronaut’ Review: Richard Dreyfuss’ Masterful Turn Keeps This Sentimental Space Drama In Orbit

In writer-director Shelagh McLeod’s debut feature Astronaut, there’s a sort of reverse Charlie and the Chocolate Factory set-up. Angus Stewart (Jaws‘ Richard Dreyfuss) is a lonely widower who enters a competition to win a seat on the first commercial flight to space.

It’s a once in a lifetime golden ticket – one that seems wildly unlikely for Angus. He’s 10 years older than the allowed limit of 65 and has just been moved to a care home by his nervous daughter. But, after encouragement from his son to follow his dreams – and with no more than 45 seconds left before applications close, Angus hits “submit”.

Read more at: nme

Roselee Roberts (1942-2020)

Roselee Roberts, a treasured member of the Washington, D.C. space policy community for more than four decades, passed away on April 22 after a long illness. She would have celebrated her 78th birthday on April 24.

Roselee’s space career took her from Capitol Hill, to industry, then back to Capitol Hill, and ultimately to NASA before she retired and set up her own consulting practice, The Advocates Company, with her husband, Art.

Read more at: Spacepolicy online

Margaret Burbidge Obituary

The British-American astronomer Margaret Burbidge, who has died aged 100, was the principal author of a watershed scientific paper in 1957 that set out the evidence for chemical elements having been formed inside stars. In essence, the work of her and her collaborators proved that the iron in our blood, the oxygen in our lungs, the calcium in our bones, even the carbon in our DNA was made in the hearts of massive stars and then exploded back into space billions of years ago.

Read more at: Guardian

11th IAASS Conference – Poster A2