It Seems Like Humans Really Are Going To Launch Into Orbit From America Again
Officials from NASA and SpaceX spoke at a series of briefings on Friday to preview the upcoming flight of a Crew Dragon spacecraft from Kennedy Space Center.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the discussions was, after nine years since the space shuttle’s retirement, how very close astronauts really are to launching from Florida again into orbit. So far, everything remains on track for a May 27 launch to the International Space Station on a Falcon 9 rocket.
As the briefings were taking place, in fact, SpaceX conducted its 27th and final test of Crew Dragon’s Mark 3 parachute system. This successful test essentially closes out the last major technical hurdle standing between the spacecraft and launch.
Read more at: Arstechnica
SpaceX Aces Final Parachute Test Ahead Of Historic May 27 Crew Launch
SpaceX’s path toward its first-ever crew launch now appears clear.
The company had two big boxes to check off ahead of the planned May 27 liftoff of Demo-2, a test flight that will send NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule.
One was a 27th and final drop test of Crew Dragon’s newly redesigned parachute system, known as the Mark 3. That test occurred today (May 1), and all went well, SpaceX representatives said.
Read more at: Space.com
Starship Passes Key Pressurization Test
A prototype of SpaceX’s Starship next-generation launch vehicle passed a pressurization test April 27, one that had destroyed three of its predecessors.
The Starship SN4 vehicle, on a pad at SpaceX’s facility in Boca Chica, Texas, was loaded with liquid nitrogen, a test designed to confirm its ability to hold cryogenic propellants at pressure. That test came a day after a pressurization test where the tanks were filled with gaseous nitrogen at ambient temperatures.
SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk confirmed the cryogenic pressurization test was a success. “SN4 passed cryo proof!” he tweeted.
Read more at: Spacenews
Competition and Coronavirus Batter Russia’s Space Program
Among the Russian Federation’s most important industrial enterprises with Soviet antecedents, its space program evokes both national pride and the aura of profitability. A series of recent setbacks however, among them COVID-19 infections of key personnel and growing international competition, threaten the future of Roscosmos, Russia’s state-run space agency.
As a result, on April 10, a day after a successful Roscosmos launch from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome to the International Space Station (ISS), Russian President Vladimir Putin convened the leadership of Russia’s space program for a video conference progress report.
Read more at: jamestown
Arianespace Set The Dates For Its Return To Action
Arianespace has announced that the launch campaigns at the Guiana Space Center will resume soon. This comes after a month-long suspension of all launch campaigns that began on March 16th.
Beginning May 11th, the launch campaigns for the VV16/SSMS and the VA253 will resume. The launch campaigns were halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic on March 18th.
After the launch campaigns reactivate, the workforce will adhere to strict compliance with health rules published by the Prefect of French Guiana, the CNES, and the Guiana Space Center. The objective is to preserve the health of the workers, the space center, and the local population, but allow the security and safety condition required for the preparation of the planned launches.
Read more at: NASA Spaceflight
Death From Above: Scientists Find Earliest Evidence Of Person Killed By Meteorite
Researchers have uncovered the earliest evidence of a person being hit and killed by a meteorite falling to Earth.
A group of Turkish researchers made the discovery while searching through Turkish state archives and they found that the event, which killed one person and injured another, occurred in what is now Sulaymaniyah, Iraq, on Aug. 22, 1888.
There have long been claims and stories of people being hit by meteorites. However, many of these stories are not substantiated by sufficient evidence, be it a written report or some other historical marker.
Read more at: Space.com
Asteroid Grazes Path Of Satellites In Geostationary Ring
A reasonably small 4-8 m asteroid recently flew by Earth, passing close to satellites orbiting in the geostationary ring at a distance of about 42 735 km from Earth’s centre and only about 1200 km from the nearest satellite.
After the initial discovery, observers around the world rapidly set their eyes on the ‘new’ space rock, determining it would safely pass our planet in one of the closest flybys ever recorded.
Read more at: ESA
Debris or Not Debris
Space Debris is the dry catchall term describing the space shrapnel adrift far above our heads – I say far, it’s as heavenly as the distance between Paris and Amsterdam, about one vertical Eurostar trip away. With us currently tracking 26,000 pieces larger than cricket balls orbiting our little rock and another half million the size of Creme Eggs keeping them company, space really does struggle to fit our popular conception of a vast and empty wilderness. That’s before you reach the sobering footnote: a hundred million more pieces as big as M&Ms are shooting past at twice the speed of a bullet.
Read more at: crxss
Companies Release New Details On Human-Rated Lunar Lander Concepts
The next time astronauts land on the moon, they will ride to the lunar surface in a spacecraft that looks a lot different than the Apollo-era landing module last used in 1972. Lander concepts proposed by SpaceX, Blue Origin and Dynetics — which won a combined $967 million in NASA funding Thursday — take wildly different approaches to carrying crews to the moon.
SpaceX has offered a version of its giant Starship vehicle to land NASA astronauts on the moon, while Blue Origin and Dynetics lead industrial teams working on more conventional lander concepts. NASA is expected to pick one of the lander concepts to attempt a crewed mission to the lunar surface as soon as 2024, the first in series of moon expeditions planned during the space agency’s Artemis lunar program.
Read more at: Spaceflight Now
NASA Identifies Risks In SpaceX’s Starship Lunar Lander Proposal
SpaceX’s proposal to land astronauts on the moon using the company’s reusable Starship vehicle could be “game-changing” for space exploration, but comes with risks and complexity that “threaten the schedule viability” to achieve NASA’s goal of returning crews moon by the end of 2024, agency officials said.
NASA awarded SpaceX a $135 million contract Thursday to advance the design of the Starship transporter for potential use as a crewed lunar lander. The space agency also inked a $579 million agreement with Blue Origin and a $253 million deal with Dynetics for work on their own human-rated lunar lander concepts.
Read more at: Spaceflight Now
SNC’s “Dream Chaser Tenacity”: First Orbital Vehicle of Dream Chaser® Spaceplane Fleet Reflects National Mood
Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), the global aerospace and national security leader owned by Eren and Fatih Ozmen, marked National Space Day by announcing the name of its first orbital vehicle set to launch under contract with NASA: Dream Chaser Tenacity.
“Tenacity is in SNC’s DNA,” said SNC Chairwoman and President Eren Ozmen.
Read more at: sncorp
SpaceShipTwo Flies in New Mexico
Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo made its first free flight at its operational home in New Mexico Friday morning, marking a new milestone as the space line prepares to carry its first commercial passengers.
The spacecraft, dubbed “Unity,” successfully completed the unpowered glide flight, landing on the Spaceport America runway after being carried aloft by the WhiteKnightTwo mothership and released at about 50,000 feet altitude.
The test flight mimicked key elements of the regular flight profile and was the first time to test all the flight components together in a flight from a new home base and in different air space, Virgin Galactic officials said.
Read more at: avpress
Will The Small Launch Market Survive COVID-19? The Pentagon Has Concerns
Department of Defense leaders are warning that the domestic small launch market is particularly vulnerable to the ongoing financial difficulties caused by the COVID-19 situation, and the U.S. Space Force wants to know how it can support the burgeoning sector.
“Small launch is another area where we have a lot of concerns with the government’s steady demand via our small launch program,” said Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics and U.S. Space Force Service Acquisition Executive Will Roper at a media availability April 29.
Read more at: c4isrnet
Permanently Open Call For Commercial Space Transportation Services
ESA has set up an ‘open call’ for proposals from European commercial entities for new services in the domain of space transportation to space, in space, returning from space, or any combination of these.
This permanently open call is part of Boost! – ESA’s Commercial Space Transportation Services Element 1 to support European economic operators in developing and deploying new commercial space transportation services.
To be eligible, the economic operator should demonstrate that its space transportation service is a ‘complete offering’. This means that customers should not need to procure any additional essential service elements such as access to facilities, transport or logistics, to obtain the full service.
Read more at: ESA
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
Get Out Of The Way: The 1st Restartable Solid Rocket Fuel Could Help Reduce Space Junk (Op-Ed)
In the 2013 movie “Gravity,” space junk nearly killed Sandra Bullock. While that story was most definitely fiction (and sensational fiction at that), the threat of space junk is real — so real that NASA has a whole office devoted to tracking and mitigating it. And last year marked the first international conference focused entirely on orbital debris.
There’s good reason to be concerned. Currently, about 2,000 operational satellites orbit the Earth — not to mention another 3,000 non-operational ones — and that number is expected to skyrocket.
Read more at: space.com
Building the Space Range of the Future
Florida’s historic, 16,000-acre spaceport on the Eastern Seaboard is filling up with companies and partnerships as a new space age unfolds.
Launchpads that sat vacant for years are now stretched so thin that newcomers are referred to NASA’s neighboring Kennedy Space Center. While United Launch Alliance (ULA) assembles one of its Delta IV Heavy rockets at the Cape, Blue Origin’s growing facilities are under construction nearby. Cape Canaveral hosts five companies at its launch facilities, three more than it had a decade ago. Fifteen new companies have asked for launch property on the coast in the past year, compared to three in 2015 and zero in 2010. The Eastern Range in 2020 expects to hold more than three times the number of launches than it saw in 2010.
Read more at: airforcemag
Research Reveals Possibly Active Tectonic System On The Moon
Researchers have discovered a system of ridges spread across the nearside of the Moon topped with freshly exposed boulders. The ridges could be evidence of active lunar tectonic processes, the researchers say, possibly the echo of a long-ago impact that nearly tore the Moon apart.
“There’s this assumption that the Moon is long dead, but we keep finding that that’s not the case,” said Peter Schultz, a professor in Brown University’s Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences and co-author of the research, which is published in the journal Geology.
Read more at: brown
SpaceX Starship Prototype Days Away From First Raptor Static Fire Test
SpaceX’s latest Starship appears to be just a few days away from becoming the first full-scale prototype to attempt a static fire test with a functional Raptor engine, potentially setting the rocket up for a hop test in the near future.
On April 26th, SpaceX teams successfully filled the fourth full-scale Starship prototype with ~1000 metric tons (~2.2 million lb) of liquid nitrogen, pressurized it to roughly 5 bar (70 psi), and exerted hundreds of tons of force on its “thrust puck” engine section with hydraulic rams. Every part of the test appears to have been completed without issue, making Starship SN4 the first to pass cryogenic proof testing and graduate to riskier tests.
Read more at: teslarati
Telemedicine on the Frontline in Spain
Space technology is in action in Barcelona, Spain, as emergency responders employ two ESA-supplied telemedicine devices to triage and treat urgent patients.
Offering ultrasound, laryngoscopy and electrocardiogram among other features, the Tempus Pro devices allow operators to quickly check a patient’s vital parameters such as heartrate, blood pressure, respiration rate and temperature, before transmitting these to medical colleagues elsewhere. This can be done via a secure satellite link or phone network such as 4G.
Read more at: ESA
Digging Up Regolith: Why Mining the Moon Seems More Possible Than Ever
Human beings set foot on the moon 50 years ago, but since then, no one has really figured out how best to utilize Earth’s closest celestial neighbor. Earlier this month, with an executive order allowing U.S. companies to mine the moon, the Trump administration opened the door to a possible commercial future on the lunar surface.
It was a moment many proponents of lunar commercialization never thought they’d see.
Read more at: Popular mechanics
Learning From Fish And Flags To Inform New Propulsion Strategies
From the vibrations of the rear-view mirror just as your car reaches precisely 70 miles per hour to a building that collapses when, in an earthquake, it begins to vibrate at a specific frequency, there is untapped energy that could be harnessed for propulsion.
In recent research, Andres J.Goza, found relationships between frequencies and the passive dynamics at play when vehicles move in air or water toward a better understanding of how to use these forces to enhance performance.
According to Goza, assistant professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, his work is an effort to seek new bio-inspired propulsion strategies.
Read more at: Spacedaily
Senate Armed Services Committee schedules hearing on FCC’s Ligado order
The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) announced the committee has scheduled a May 6 hearing on the impact on national security of the Federal Communications Commission’s approval of Ligado’s spectrum proposal.
Invited witnesses include Dana Deasy, the Pentagon’s chief information officer; Michael Griffin, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering; former Coast Guard commandant Thad Allen; and Gen. John Raymond, chief of space operations and commander of U.S. Space Command.
Read more at: Spacenews
Key House Democrats “Disappointed” with HLS Awards
The chairwomen of the House committee and subcommittee that oversee NASA expressed “disappointment” today with NASA’s decision to award contracts to build Human Landing Systems (HLS) for the Artemis program. The contracts are for public-private partnerships (PPPs) where the companies will own the systems and NASA will only purchase services. Bipartisan legislation already approved by the subcommittee would require that they be government-owned. The committee is also still awaiting a clear plan from NASA on how the Artemis program will be executed.
Read more at: Spacepolicy online
Space Agency Head Seeks Ukraine’s Revival
Volodymyr Usov, the head of Ukraine’s State Space Agency, keeps a bust of the 35th U. S. President John F. Kennedy at his former office in Odesa.
“I got it from the JFK museum in Dallas,” he says.
Read more at: kyivpost
GAO Warns Of Continued Cost Growth On NASA Exploration Programs
A new study found that costs on major NASA projects continued to grow in the last year, and warned some of the agency’s highest profile programs will likely face additional cost overruns and delays in the near future.
The annual assessment of NASA’s major projects by the Government Accountability Office, released April 29, found that, for the third year in a row, the average cost overrun on those projects had increased. Those projects, which include missions and other programs with a total cost of at least $250 million, have suffered an average cost increase of 30.9%, compared to 27.6% in last year’s report and 15.6% in 2017.
Read more at: Spacenews
Defense Market A Safe Haven For Space Companies During Pandemic
With the global economy in the grip of the coronavirus crisis, investments are grinding to a halt, creating deep uncertainty for a commercial space sector that has seen more than $25 billion in venture capital pour in over the last decade.
Since the pandemic hit, Pentagon contracts have been a lifeline for companies in the space industry, said Chris Quilty, president of Quilty Analytics. “The Department of Defense has gone out of its way to cultivate commercial relationships and to leverage the investment in talent that exists in the commercial domain,” he told SpaceNews.
Read more at: Spacenews
America Needs a Coalition to Win a Space War
In February, Gen. Jay Raymond, the new chief of space operations and the head of U.S. Space Command, publicly stated that two Russian spacecraft were tailing a U.S. satellite. He said that Russia’s behavior was “highly unusual and disturbing.” On April 15, U.S. Space Command announced that Russia tested an anti-satellite weapon. Russia and China both recognize that American high-precision warfighting is dependent on space systems. According to the U.S. director of national intelligence, both Russia and China are developing capabilities to destroy U.S. satellites in all orbital regimes — at all altitudes. But, unlike in the past, the United States is not on its own. It has allies and partners to turn to.
Read more at: warontherocks
Space Force General Trolls Iranian Military Satellite Launch — ‘Space Is Hard’
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard claimed last week to have put its first military satellite into orbit, revealing in the process a secret space program that fuels already-escalating tensions between the U.S. and Tehran.
The launch followed an April 15 incident in which nearly a dozen Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps vessels harassed six U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf, an action that prompted President Donald Trump to tweet instructions for the “United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea.”
Iranian state TV claimed the launch, which used a “Messenger” satellite carrier to put the device into space, was a resounding success, boasting that the satellite orbited the Earth within 90 minutes.
Read more at: Militarytimes
US Air Force’s X-37B Preparing For Next Space Flight
The US Air Force’s strange little space plane, the experimental X-37B, is preparing for its sixth mission. Dubbed the Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV), little is known about its mission, apart from that the Pentagon claims it exists to test new technology.
According to a rocket launch schedule, one of the Air Force’s two remotely piloted X-37Bs will blast off on its next mission atop an Atlas V rocket on May 16 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Florida’s Atlantic coast.
As for the details about its mission, your guess is as good as ours.
Read more at: Spacewar
Second Russian Doctor Falls From Hospital Window Amid Coronavirus
A second Russian doctor has fallen from a hospital building in a week as the country’s health system continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, with authorities ruling her death a tragic accident.
Natalia Lebedeva, the chief EMS officer at a cosmonaut training center outside Moscow, plunged to her death Friday from the window of a hospital room where she was placed with Covid-19 symptoms earlier last week.
Read more at: Moscow times
How Space Tourism And Rockets To Mars Became ‘Critical’ Business During The Pandemic
Vacant office buildings, factories and restaurants across the country serve as ghostly reminders of an economy shuttered by the Covid-19 pandemic. But the US space industry has remained open for business.
SpaceX, for example, continues to build and test early prototypes of its Starship spacecraft, which CEO Elon Musk has long billed as the vehicle that will one day carry the first humans to Mars. And the company continues to launch batches of satellites into orbit as part of its plan to debut a multibillion-dollar telecom business later this year.
Read more at: CNN
The Thorniest Subject at NASA Right Now
Like many employers around the country, NASA has kept most of its workforce home during the coronavirus pandemic. But the agency is still pressing ahead on future missions, including Artemis, the effort to return Americans to the moon for the first time since the Apollo program ended, and it held a press conference yesterday to announce the companies that had been chosen to design the systems that would land the astronauts on the lunar surface.
One of those companies, SpaceX, seems especially notable in this particular moment—not for its impressive history of rocket launches and landings, but for its chief executive officer’s recent behavior. For weeks now, Elon Musk has been railing against social-distancing measures that public-health officials believe are necessary to stem the transmission of the coronavirus.
Read more at: Atlantic
James Beggs, 94, Is Dead; NASA Chief Championed Space Shuttle
James M. Beggs, the NASA chief who oversaw more than 20 successful space shuttle launches and who was on leave during the fatal Challenger explosion in 1986, died on April 23 at his home in Bethesda, Md. He was 94.
The cause was congestive heart failure, his son Charles said.
Mr. Beggs was named administrator of NASA by President Ronald Reagan in 1981. He was on administrative leave — to defend himself against accusations, later declared baseless, of overcharging the government — when Challenger sundered 73 seconds after liftoff, killing seven crew members, including a high school teacher, Christa McAuliffe.
Read more at: NYTimes