Commercial Crew Capsules Still Beset By Parachute Problems

A malfunction during a drop test over Nevada last month for SpaceX’s Crew Dragon program has engineers re-examining the crew capsule’s parachutes, and Boeing has also encountered parachute failures during testing for its commercial crew capsule, a senior NASA official confirmed Wednesday.

The SpaceX parachute test failure occurred the same month as the explosion of a Crew Dragon spacecraft during a ground test at Cape Canaveral. The parachute drop test over Delamar Dry Lake in Nevada last month did not involve a Crew Dragon capsule, but used a simple metal test sled.

“It failed,” said Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator of NASA’s human exploration and operations directorate. “The parachutes did not work as designed.”

Read more at: Spaceflightnow

‘It Failed’: NASA Says Spacex And Boeing’s Recent Spaceship-Parachute Tests Did Not Go Well

NASA is speeding toward a future in which private companies like SpaceX and Boeing ferry its astronauts to and from orbit.

But first, it has the earthly issue of parachutes to solve.

Over the past decade or so, the space agency has partnered with two companies — SpaceX and Boeing — as part of a roughly $8 billion initiative called the Commercial Crew Program. Its goal: create safe and reliable spacecraft to taxi NASA’s finest to the International Space Station.

Read more at: Business insider

Russia, US Extend Agreement On Astronauts’ Travels To Space Station On Board Of Soyuz

Russia and the United States have agreed on two additional places on board of Soyuz carrier rockets for journeys of NASA astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS), Roscosmos Executive Director for Manned Programs Sergei Krikalyov told TASS.

“The documents have been approved,” Krikalyov said adding that it the procedure to sign the papers took place before a recently reported incident with Crew Dragon spacecraft.

According to Krikalyov, there was no new draft of the document as it was “Simply an update to the previously signed contract, everything was in work order and there was no solemn ceremony to mark the signing of the documents.”

“We have agreed on all details, extended the term of the previous contract and this was all about it,” he added.

Read more at: TASS

NASA’s Kilopower Nuclear Reactor Would Be A Space Exploration Game Changer

Last year, NASA conducted a successful test of a new nuclear power generator called Kilopower under a program called Kilowatt Using Stirling Technology or KRUSTY for short. The generator ran a series of tests between November 2017 and March 2018, ending in a full-power trial that proved its effectiveness and safety. Since then the space agency has been examining a flight test of the technology.

One of the limiting factors for any space mission has been the amount of electric power a spacecraft can generate. Solar panels are most often used because they are relatively cheap, and sunlight is plentiful in the inner solar system. A type of nuclear battery called the radioisotope thermoelectric generator is the preferred power source for the outer solar system, i.e. Jupiter and beyond, where the sun’s light is dim.

Read more at: Hill

Spacex Postpones Starlink Launch To Update Satellite Software

For the second consecutive day, SpaceX called off a Falcon 9 launch attempt at Cape Canaveral on Thursday evening, this time to complete a software update on the first 60 satellites for the company’s Starlink network to provide high-speed Internet service from orbit.

SpaceX cancelled Thursday night’s launch attempt, which was set for 10:30 p.m. EDT (0230 GMT Friday), around three hours before the opening of the launch window.

In a tweet, the company said it was “standing down to update satellite software and triple-check everything again.”

Read more at: Spaceflight Now

U.S. Moon Plans Are Causing Concern for the International Partners Including Canada

This week NASA released its budget amendment to account for the Trump administration’s desire to accelerate the country’s plan to land humans on the moon in 2024 instead of 2018. The new plan has created problems for NASA’s international partners who are scrambling to see what it means for them. Canada is no exception.

The problem for Canada, as we reported on Tuesday, is that NASA is descoping elements of the Lunar Gateway. In other words, the Gateway is getting smaller. The plan is to eventually increase its size. But anything that is not critical to effort to land astronauts on the moon is being removed from the architecture, for now.

Read more at: SpaceQ

Scientists Are Grappling With Our Biggest Limitation In Spaceflight: Our Own Bodies

The human body has evolved, for hundreds of thousands of years, to thrive on the surface of the Earth. But what happens when you take such an earthbound body and put it in the weightlessness of space? Things get weird.

Astronauts commonly report diminished eyesight upon their return home, possibly because the eyeball changes shape in space and tissues surrounding the optic nerves become swollen. Without the constant tug of gravity, bones become more brittle and muscles atrophy.

Now there’s momentum to send humans into space farther and longer than we’ve ever been before, subjecting our bodies to even more of this strange environment. The White House has tasked NASA with the (hasty) mission of returning to the moon by the year 2024. The plan involves a permanent “lunar gateway,” a space station to orbit the moon. Those efforts could lay the groundwork for an eventual crewed mission to Mars, which would place astronauts in space and on the red planet for years.

Read more at: Vox

Creating a Space Sustainability Rating

 Space is becoming increasingly congested, even as our societal dependence on space technology is greater than ever before.

With over 20,000 pieces of debris larger than 10 centimeters, including inactive satellites and discarded rocket parts hurtling around in Earth’s orbit, the risk of damaging collisions is increasing every year.

In a bid to address this issue, and to foster global standards in waste mitigation, the World Economic Forum has chosen a team led by the Space Enabled research group at the MIT Media Lab, together with a team from the European Space Agency (ESA), to launch the Space Sustainability Rating (SSR), a concept developed by the Forum’s Global Future Council on Space Technologies.

Read more at: MIT Media

Clearing a Path for Commercial Space Operations

Commercial space launch and reentry operations are becoming increasingly common in the National Airspace System (NAS). This trend is challenging the Federal Aviation Administration to find more efficient methods to integrate these operations into the NAS while ensuring the safety and efficiency of more traditional users—such as airlines, the military, and private aircraft operators. MITRE researchers have created a modeling and simulation capability to help the FAA assess the safety of these more efficient methods.

Traditionally, the FAA has cordoned off large segments of airspace—called Aircraft Hazard Areas (AHAs)—during launch and reentry operations. But this requires other NAS users to reroute around these areas to safely segregate the operations. That often lengthens their flight times and increases their fuel consumption.

Read more at: Mitre

Will FAA Or Commerce Track Civil Satellites? Congress Must Decide – And Soon

With space increasingly crowded with civilian satellites, who should provide traffic control? While the Air Force has long tracked objects in space for military purposes, Congress must soon decide on which agency to give authority over civil space situational awareness (SSA), current and former space officials told the Senate space subcommittee yesterday.

The White House wants to give the job to the Commerce Department, but a number of prominent Democrats on both sides of Capitol Hill prefer the FAA.

Resolving the issue of who provides SSA data about potential on-orbit collisions — and who, eventually, will make new  space traffic management (STM) rules —  is critical to national security and the US economy, the high-powered panel of witnesses concurred.

Read more at: Breaking Defense

FCC Debates Space Debris Rules

The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) decision to approve a secretive company’s license for 120 Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellites has reignited an internal debate over its power to demand space debris mitigation plans from commercial operators.

At issue is the FCC’s on-going review of whether it needs to develop more stringent rules for small satellites operating in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), or back away from rule-making on the issue at all in favor of other US agencies. The FCC issues licenses to commercial satellite firms for use of radio-frequency spectrum.

Read more at: Breaking Defense

22nd State Of The Satellite Industry Report

The Satellite Industry Association (SIA) released the 2019 State of the Satellite Industry Report at an industry briefing as part of the SIA-organized Government and Military Forum at the SATELLITE 2019 conference and exhibition in Washington, DC.  SIA’s 22nd annual industry report, produced by Bryce Space and Technology, LLC, is derived from proprietary surveys of satellite companies, in-depth public information, and independent analysis which are combined to assess the performance of key satellite industry sectors including satellite services, manufacturing, ground equipment and launch services.

The number of operational satellites on orbit grew by over 20 percent to 2100 with over 300 satellites being launched in 2018.  Remote sensing satellites made up 39 percent of the total while commercial communications satellites made up 22 percent.  In 2018, overall global satellite industry revenue grew by three percent compared with the previous year, led by satellite manufacturing revenues which increased by 26 percent over 2017 and launch services revenues which increased by 34 percent over the previous year.  Satellite consumer broadband revenues also increased by 12 percent over the previous 12 months.

Read more at: Sia

Oklahoma’s Space Port: Town Still Holding Onto Hope Launched 20 Years Ago

If you want to get a small town talking, turn it into the gateway to space. At least, that was the plan in Burns Flat, Oklahoma. “We thought it was a really big deal,” Linda Seglem told KOCO. “It never happened.” Burns Flat was pitched as a full-fledged tourist attraction, complete with a theme park. But13 years after the space port became licensed, no space vehicle has launched from the former naval air station. One company, Rocket Plane, opened offices in Oklahoma City, with facilities in Burns Flat. They even began selling tickets to space tourists. Oklahoma was so excited about its future as a space hub, a mural in Bricktown, called Oklahoma’s Tomorrow, features a space shuttle and rocket, among other things. But tomorrow never happened for Rocket Plane or any other space company in Oklahoma.

Read more at: koco

As Commercial Spaceflight Takes Off, The Aviation Industry Gets Protective Of Airspace

For decades, airplanes and rockets have shared the skies in peace — but recently, satellite launches have started to irk the aviation industry. Whenever a rocket soars to space, it must pass through the airspace that thousands of pilots fly through every day, sometimes causing planes to reroute to avoid a spacecraft zooming into the sky. Now, the aviation industry wants to make some changes, ones that commercial space advocates say could fundamentally change the launch industry.

The cadence of orbital launches has grown in recent years, which means the airspace is being closed more frequently for spaceflight, causing more pilots to divert from their pre-approved routes and take less efficient paths to their destinations. And with the advent of reusable rockets, pilots now have to make way for spaceflight reentries, too — when a rocket comes back from space after launch and lands on the ground. Experts from both industries are trying to figure out how to coexist without too much disruption. But they’re at odds on how to move forward.

Read more at: Verge

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon is Having Trouble – and that’s Okay

We may be poised on the precipice of a new era of spaceflight, but leaping prematurely off it would be a costly mistake — which is why the delays and failures of SpaceX’s  Crew Dragon, the new spacecraft that will likely be soonest to take humans to space, are a matter for concern but not worry. In space, you expect the unexpected.

The sudden explosion of a Crew Dragon test capsule is frightening and frankly embarrassing to a company so heavily focused on an image of futurity and reliability. And a failed parachute deployment doesn’t inspire confidence either. But any historian of the space industry will tell you it’s rare that something with rockets on it doesn’t blow up at some point during development.

Read more at: Techcrunch

Hermeus Announces Plan To Build The Fastest Aircraft In The World

A new aerospace company has entered the race to provide supersonic commercial air travel. On Monday, a US-based company named Hermeus announced plans to develop an aircraft that will travel at speeds of up to Mach 5. Such an aircraft would cut travel time from New York to Paris from more than 7 hours to 1.5 hours.

Hermeus said it has raised an initial round of funding led by Khosla Ventures, but it declined to specify the amount. This funding will allow Hermeus to develop a propulsion demonstrator and other initial technologies needed to make its supersonic aircraft a reality, Skyler Shuford, the company’s chief operating officer, told Ars.

Read more at: Arstechnica

How The Trump Administration Is Helping Some Space Spy Tech Go Commercial

More space technologies that were long only available in the defense and intelligence communities are beginning to break into the commercial market — in part because of the Trump administration’s willingness to consider such transfers, according to Melanie Corcoran-Freelander, the chief technology officer at Ursa Space Systems, which uses synthetic aperture radar to provide companies intelligence on things like ship movements or oil pipelines.

“In the last three years, [the administration has considered] things that they previously would have rejected flat out,” Corcoran-Freelander says.

Ursa gets its images in part from foreign synthetic aperture radar satellites because the U.S. has no commercial satellites with this capability. That, however, is about to change. Corcoran-Freelander said there are at least five domestic companies preparing to launch SAR satellites.

Read more at: Politico

India’s Space Program: The Commercial Domain

In the beginning of March this year, the Indian Cabinet cleared the establishment of a private institution, the Newspace India Limited (NSIL), under the Department of Space. While the development may not have received as much international attention as some of the other space- and defense-focused developments in India, it bears careful watching as it is in line with New Delhi’s ongoing efforts to build out the commercial aspect of its space program.

India’s focus on the commercial aspect of its space program in general and moves such as the establishment of NSIL are not entirely new or surprising. This follows from the Narendra Modi government’s plan to make space a major industry focus under the government’s Vision 2030 announced in this year’s interim budget.  The 10-point agenda in Vision 2030 included making India “the launchpad of the world and placing an Indian astronaut in space by 2022.”

Read more at: Diplomat

NASA Is Using The Same Spacesuits Astronauts Wore 30 Years Ago. Experts Say That Needs To Change.

When astronauts Story Musgrave and Donald Peterson conducted the space shuttle program’s first spacewalk in 1983, they probably wouldn’t have imagined their spacesuits would still be in use on the International Space Station some 36 years later.

Not only are they still in use but the suits, intended to last 15 years, are currently the only ones available for astronauts whizzing around Earth at thousands of miles per hour.

Now, as NASA prepares to head back to the moon, the agency must scramble to develop a next-generation suit or the next American astronauts will be forced to don some hand-me-down, 1980s equipment.

Sure, the suits get updated after six years in orbit or 25 spacewalks, but with outdated technology and only a limited quantity available, the fact of the matter is the nearly 40-year-old suits NASA employs will not serve the needs of future moonwalkers.

Read more at: Florida today

Russia To Test World’s Most Powerful Liquid-Propellant Rocket Engine RD-171MV This Year – Roscosmos

The world’s most powerful liquid propellant engine, RD-171MV, is to be tested at the NPO Energomash facilities in 2019, Roscosmos said.

“The enterprise has been set serious tasks, and the first priority is to successfully test the RD-171MV engine created by NPO Energomash for the prospective carrier rocket Irtysh (Soyuz-5), as early as this year,” the state corporation said in a statement.

Energomash is Russia’s leading designer of liquid-propellant rocket engines for various classes of carrier rocket. The engines designed by its companies are installed on all Russian carrier rockets: Soyuz, Proton and Angara, on the American Atlas V and Antares launch vehicles, and on Russian spaceships, orbital stations and various satellites.

Read more at: Interfax

Tug-of-War Drives Magnetic North Sprint

As far as we know, Earth’s magnetic north has always wandered, but it has recently gained new momentum and is making a dash towards Siberia at a pace not seen before. While this has some practical implications, scientists believe that this sprint is being caused by tussling magnetic blobs deep below our feet.

Unlike our geographic North Pole, which is in a fixed location, magnetic north wanders. This has been known since it was first measured in 1831, and subsequently mapped drifting slowly from the Canadian Arctic towards Siberia.

One of the practical consequences of this is that the World Magnetic Model has to be updated periodically with the pole’s current location. The model is vital for many navigation systems used by ships, Google maps and smartphones, for example.

Read more at: ESA

New Water Cycle Discovered On Mars

Water vapour in the Martian atmosphere continues to escape into space, prolonging the process by which, planetary scientists suspect, the planet lost the mighty ocean and river systems that flowed across it billions of years ago.

The current water vapour loss, a team of researchers led by Dmitry Shaposhnikov of the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, Russia, has discovered, happens through a mechanism unknown in the Earth’s meteorological system.

The findings are contained in a paper published in the journal, Geophysical Research Letters.

Read more at: Cosmos magazine

BAE Systems Radiation-hardened Electronics in Orbit a Total of 10,000 Years

BAE Systems’ radiation-hardened electronics recently reached an unprecedented milestone marking 10,000 cumulative years in orbit. The company’s technology has powered satellites and spacecraft for almost 30 years, delivering long-lasting computing in extreme environments.

“Our radiation-hardened electronics are operating aboard more than 300 satellites today, and power key national space assets such as Juno and InSight, that are discovering previously unknown details of deep space,” said Ricardo Gonzalez, director of Space Systems at BAE Systems. “This milestone is a testament to the outstanding reliability of these advanced systems that are able to withstand the harsh conditions of space travel.”

Read more at: Business wire

Apollo-Era Tremors Reveal a Dynamic, Active Moon

On December 12, 1972, Gene Cernan parked his moon buggy in the southeastern edge of the Sea of Serenity, in a valley named Taurus-Littrow. A gray hill called the North Massif loomed in the distance. On its western side was a slumping escarpment, nicknamed the Lee-Lincoln scarp. It was a landslide, forming a low wall that seemed to cross the valley, like a shrug in a shoulder of the moon. Cernan and his seatmate, fellow astronaut Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, stared at it and snapped some pictures.

“Hey, look at how that scarp goes up the side there,” said Schmitt, a geologist. “There’s a distinct change in texture. Look over by Hanover [crater].”

Read more at: Scientific American

Commerce Dept. Remote Sensing Rules Reduce DoD Licensing Control

After a vigorous interagency debate, new rules have been drafted for licensing commercial remote sensing satellites proposed by the Commerce Department would reduce DoD control over decision-making. The proposed rules, designed to speed the licensing process, would overturn the current process of case-by-case review that require DoD and State Department input in favor of a two-tier license system, based primarily on the potential risk to national security.

“One of the primary benefits to industry from the proposed rule is in curtailing the interagency application review process,” the Commerce Department explains in its proposal. “Under the existing regulations, every applicant receives the same interagency review, with the potential for specialized license conditions of which the applicant had no prior notice. This interagency review process has sometimes resulted in prolonged delays to license issuance, and has imposed license conditions that the applicant could not have anticipated when developing their system.”

Read more at: Breaking Defense

United States And Luxembourg Sign Space Cooperation Agreement

The governments of the United States and Luxembourg, two of the biggest proponents of space commercialization, signed an agreement May 10 that could lead to greater cooperation between the two countries on a variety of space initiatives.

At a ceremony in Luxembourg, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Luxembourg Deputy Prime Minister Étienne Schneider signed a memorandum of understanding on space cooperation. That agreement, the Luxembourg government said in a statement, will “serve as a vehicle to establish a more formal dialogue, sharing of expertise and exchange of information” between the countries.

The agreement is intended to support cooperation on a wide range of topics, from space exploration and scientific research to space situational awareness and space commerce. “I don’t think there’s very much at all that’s been left out of this agreement,” Ross said.

Read more at: Spacenews

Air Force’s Space ‘Think Tank’ Studies Future of Conflict Beyond Earth

Within the Air Command and Staff College here resides a unique task force that has one core mission: to be America’s think tank for space.

Lt. Col. Peter Garretson is deputy director of the Schriever Scholars program, as well as the director of the Space Horizons Task Force at the college. sat down with Garretson while accompanying outgoing Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson on her visit to Maxwell on Tuesday.

Garretson teaches a number of space courses for the scholars program. The space horizons course specifically looks at the long-term strategic perspective of space and information policy, feeding into a broader, university-wide space research task force.

Read more at: Military

The New Frontier Of National Security And Exploration Is In The Heavens

Fifty years after man’s first steps on the moon, the future of human exploration in the final frontier is at a critical turning point. American leadership in space is more important than ever and, importantly, it remains one of the few issues that transcends the partisan divide. The Trump administration and lawmakers in both parties have shown a commitment to human exploration in space and the policies needed to maintain America’s advantage.

The Trump administration has prioritized an acceleration of America’s space exploration program, with the ambitious vision of returning astronauts to the moon’s South Pole by 2024 and establishing a sustainable human presence by 2028 using NASA’s new deep space exploration systems, the powerful Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion crew vehicle.

Read more at: Spacenews

The New Space Race

As Russia and China increasingly threaten U.S. interests on land and in orbit, the space race that so defined the Cold War is once again becoming a focus for the U.S. Defense Department.

The latest front in the emerging scramble for dominance of the stars is the U.S. government’s attempt to develop a domestic source of rocket engines to boost military spy satellites and other sensitive payloads into space—an industry that even now still depends on Moscow.

For almost 20 years, the United States has relied on the Russian RD-180 engine to power national security space launches. But Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Crimea in 2014 and Moscow’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election brought an end to the tentative post-Cold War truce. The U.S. government now increasingly views Moscow as a source of instability worldwide and the U.S. military’s reliance on the RD-180 for access to space as a liability.

Read more at: Foreign policy

Securing The Space Cloud: It’s Really Hard

If you think it’s hard to secure your systems and data on the ground, think about adding the complications of doing it with satellites forming a space cloud. The answer is going to be complicated, but will rely heavily on resiliency rather than traditional cybersecurity.

Jeb Linton, chief technology officer at IBM Watson & Cloud Platform, said space can make it more difficult than the already highly complex problem DoD faces with network security on the ground. “Security in space is different than security on Earth,” he said. “If you lose command and control for even five minutes, your satellite could be completely shut down,” he explained, and “there is no reset button.”

Read more at: Breaking Defense

American Airlines Pilots Confronted Boeing About Safety Issues Before Ethiopia Crash

The American Airlines pilots union confronted Boeing over possible safety issues in the 737 Max prior to the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash in March, audio recordings from a November 2018 closed-door meeting between the pilots and Boeing executives reveal.

The airline’s pilots union urged Boeing officials to make a fix to the planes during a Nov. 27 meeting at the union’s headquarters, less than a month after a 737 Max 8 crashed off the coast of Indonesia, according to recordings obtained by the Dallas Morning News, the New York Times and CBS News.

Both crashes are believed to have been caused by a malfunctioning sensor that sent faulty data to the planes’ anti-stall systems, forcing them to go down. Boeing planes worldwide have been grounded following the deadly incidents. The company is currently in the process of updating its planes’ anti-stall system, known as MCAS.

Read more at: TIME

FAA Updates on Boeing 737 MAX

This week, the Joint Authorities Technical Review (JATR) team held its first meeting to review the FAA’s certification of the Boeing 737 MAX’s automated flight control system. Chaired by former NTSB Chairman Christopher A. Hart, the JATR is comprised of technical safety experts from 9 civil aviation authorities worldwide, including the FAA, as well as from NASA.

The team received extensive overviews and engaged in subsequent discussions about the design, certification, regulations, compliance, training, and Organization Designation Authorization program associated with the 737 MAX. Over the next few months, JATR participants will take a comprehensive look at the FAA’s certification of the aircraft’s automated flight control system. Each participant will individually provide the FAA with findings regarding the adequacy of the certification process and any recommendations to improve the process.

Read more at: FAA

Spacex Files Lawsuit Against The Federal Government — But Asks To Keep The Details Under Wraps

SpaceX today filed a lawsuit against the federal government, apparently protesting a contract bidding process — but asked the court to keep the proceedings under seal and covered by a protective order.

The California-based company said the details had to be kept out of the public eye because they include “confidential and proprietary information and source selection information not appropriate for release to the public.”

SpaceX’s lawyers told the U.S. Court of Federal Claims that the proceedings surrounding the company’s bid protest should be conducted confidentially, under the terms of a protective order, in order to safeguard the competitive process.

Read more at: Geekwire

Elon Musk’s Billionaire Moon Passenger Says He’s Broke

One of Japan’s richest men, and SpaceX’s first scheduled moon tourist, announced on Twitter yesterday (May 4) he will be selling several of his valuable artworks. When Yusaku Maezawa was asked online if it was because he was broke, he responded, “Yes, I never have any money because I always spend it.”

The statement, which was followed with a laughing emoji, is not likely true. However, his fortunes have indeed seen better days. Over the past year, the CEO of online fashion retailer Zozo lost $700 million, dropping his standing on Forbes’s list of Japan’s Richest from 18th to 22nd. His net worth is reportedly $2 billion.

Read more at: QZ