How NASA Certifies New Spacecraft Safe Enough for Humans

Earlier this month, SpaceX engineers completed the 27th and final test of the parachute system that will soon be responsible for carrying astronauts back to Earth. When the four parachute canopies successfully unfurled over the Mojave Desert, it indicated that the company was finally ready to start sending humans to space after nearly a decade of relentless testing and dramatic setbacks. Now SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule is on the cusp of becoming only the fifth American spacecraft to ever be certified by NASA for human spaceflight. But before that happens, the company has to pass a final high-stakes test: sending a pair of astronauts into orbit and bringing them safely back home.

Read more at: Wired

Dragon Solar Array Concerns Driving Duration Of First Crewed Test Flight

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will be geared up for the long haul when they launch from the Kennedy Space Center on a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft later this month, but they won’t know exactly how long they will be in orbit until they are already aboard the International Space Station.

The Dragon astronauts, both veterans of two space shuttle missions, could live and work on the space station for one to four months, according to NASA officials. The duration will primarily hinge on how well the Crew Dragon’s solar panels hold up in the harsh environment of space.

Read more at: Spaceflight Now

Space Force Troops Preparing For Possibility Of Having To Rescue NASA Astronauts

As NASA and SpaceX prepare for a May 27 mission to fly astronauts to the International Space Station from the Kennedy Space Center, a unit of the U.S. Space Force will be on alert should anything go wrong.

The unit known as 45th Operations Group Detachment 3, based at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, is responsible to rescue astronauts on land or at sea if they have to abort the mission. Det 3 has been around since the Apollo program days and the upcoming NASA mission would be the first time the unit will deploy since NASA stopped flying the space shuttle in 2011.

Read more at: Spacenews

Coronavirus Pandemic Delays Key Tests Of NASA’s New SLS Megarocket

A crucial NASA center is slowly reopening amid the lingering pandemic, but delays caused by coronavirus measures have ensured the first flight in NASA’s Artemis program won’t launch until late 2021.

NASA officials provided an update on the Artemis 1 mission, which will also be the first flight of the agency’s massive Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, during a meeting this week of an agency advisory committee on human exploration and operations.

NASA had been targeting mid-to-late 2021 for Artemis 1, which will launch the agency’s Orion capsule on an uncrewed journey around the moon. But the coronavirus pandemic has pretty much taken the earlier part of that window out of consideration, agency officials said.

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NASA Advisors Worry Agency is Spinning Its Wheels on Artemis

A much anticipated meeting of a NASA committee that advises the agency on its human spaceflight program today left many questions about how the agency is moving forward to meet the Trump Administration’s goal of landing astronauts on the Moon in 2024.  A credible architecture for the Artemis program still seems elusive with only four-and-a-half years to go.

NASA’s human spaceflight head, Doug Loverro, and his team briefed the NASA Advisory Council’s Human Exploration and Operations Committee (NAC/HEO) on the first day of a two-day meeting that was rescheduled twice.  The briefings covered more than the Artemis program, but that clearly was foremost on everyone’s minds.

Read more at: Spacepolicy online

NASA Refines Plans For Launching Gateway And Other Artemis Elements

NASA is making several changes to its plans to return humans to the surface of the moon by 2024, including launching the first two elements of the lunar Gateway together and adding a critical demonstration to the first crewed Orion flight.

In presentations at a meeting of the NASA Advisory Council’s Human Explorations and Operations Committee May 13, Doug Loverro, NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations, said the agency had either decided on, or was strongly considering, adopting changes to the initial phase of the Artemis program in order to reduce both cost and risk.

Read more at: Spacenews

MSFC Bringing Long-Term Experience To The Return Of US Crewed Spaceflight

One of NASA’s biggest facilities, the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), is bringing its vast experience into play for the long-awaited return of US domestic crew launch capability. The center’s Huntsville Operations Support Center (HOSC) has been conducting reviews and running sims associated with the Demo-2 (DM-2) mission that is scheduled to launch at the end of this month.

While most fans of the space program are well aware of the key control centers such as Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Control Center (LCC) and the Flight Control Rooms at the Johnson Space Center’s Mission Control Center (MCC), Marshall’s role has a deep history that ranges back to Shuttle missions and continued with the continuous human presence on the International Space Station.

Read more at: NASA Spaceflight


Roscosmos Confirms Destruction Of Russian Fregat Upper Stage’s Tank In Space

The TsNIIMash rocket and spacecraft scientific center has confirmed the destruction in the earth’s orbit of tanks of the Russian Fregat-SB upper stage, the press service of Roscosmos space agency told TASS on Sunday.

It said the upper stage was used to place into orbit Spektr-P scientific satellite in 2011. Measurement data is being collected, the number and parameters of the orbits of detected fragments is being specified, Roscosmos said.

According to the space corporation, the breakup occurred on May 8 within the time interval of 8:00-9:00 DMT over the Indian Ocean.

Read more at: TASS

US Should Start Space Security Talks With Russia, China

Gen. Jay Raymond, commander of U.S. Space Command and chief of space operations for the Space Force, announced on April 15 that the United States was aware of and tracking a Russian direct-ascent antisatellite (DA-ASAT) test held that day.

But the facts suggest this was simply a flight test of Russia’s Nudol system, a ground-launched, mobile ballistic missile that has been in development since 2010. No intercept appears to have been attempted, according to the available facts. In order to truly understand the significance of this test, it is important to look at how it fits into Russia’s broader counterspace programs overall and how it compares to U.S. and Chinese counterspace capabilities in operation or development.

Read more at: Breaking defense

Leolabs Unveils Automated Collision Avoidance Service

Silicon Valley space mapping startup LeoLabs unveiled a service May 13 to help commercial and government satellite operators avoid collisions with debris and other satellites in low Earth orbit.

LeoLabs operates three ground-based phased array radars to track satellites and debris in low Earth orbit. Drawing on the radar data, LeoLabs created a suite of cloud-based services, called LeoLabs Collision Avoidance, to alert customers to conjunctions and help them assess the risk of collisions.

Read more at: Spacenews

Chinese Rocket Debris Passed Over NYC, LA As It Fell To Earth, Scientists Say

A 20-ton piece of a Chinese rocket passed over New York City and Los Angeles before it crashed to the Earth this week, scientists tracking its descent say.

The debris, which came from a rocket that was launched in early May, is the fifth-largest piece of space junk to plunge uncontrolled through Earth’s atmosphere, according to experts who track space debris and satellites. It’s the largest object in nearly three decades to plunge to Earth unexpectedly, demonstrating the potential danger of such large objects as they make uncontrolled re-entries from low-Earth orbit.

Read more at: NBCnews

An Out-Of-Control Chinese Rocket May Have Dumped Debris In Africa After Falling From Space

On Monday, a massive, out-of-control Chinese rocket fell out of the sky off the west coast of Africa, becoming one of the largest human-made objects ever to make an uncontrolled descent to Earth from space. At first, the rocket seemed to harmlessly slam into the Atlantic Ocean. But now it seems that some pieces of debris may have hit solid ground, according to local reports from Côte d’Ivoire describing metallic objects that apparently fell from the sky.

The rocket that just made a chaotic return to Earth was the core of China’s powerful Long March 5B rocket, which launched on May 5th. The mission marked the first time China had launched this particular rocket variant to space. Ultimately, the mission was a success, allowing China to test this massive new vehicle and put an experimental new spacecraft into orbit.

Read more at: Verge

Bridenstine Scolds China Over Long March Reentry Debris

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine took China to task today after debris from the reentry of the core stage of its Long March-5B rocket fell in Africa.  Calling it “really dangerous,” he used it as an example of why the Artemis Accords unveiled today are necessary to ensure safe operations on the Moon.  In a statement, he said space exploration should “inspire hope and wonder, not fear and danger.”

On May 5, China launched a new version of its Long March-5 rocket, the LM-5B.  The LM-5 family is the largest in China’s fleet, roughly comparable to a U.S. Delta IV Heavy. Unlike its LM-5 cousin, the LM-5B does not have a second stage.  Instead, it has a much larger fairing to accommodate big payloads.

Read more at: Spacepolicy online

Takes a Lickin’ But Keeps on Tickin’: Russian Meteor-M Satellite Resumes Work After Meteoroid Strike

The Meteor series of weather observation satellites was first developed in the 1970s, and continuously upgraded and revamped in the decades since to monitor atmospheric and sea surface temperature, cloud and snow cover, sea ice conditions, humidity, radiation conditions in near space and the state of the ozone layer.

Russia’s Meteor-M No.2-2, which was struck by a micrometeoroid in December, has come back online and resumed its normal operations, a Roscosmos spokesman has confirmed to Sputnik.

Read more at: Sputniknews


OHB And IAI Plan Commercial Lunar Lander Mission In Late 2022

German space company OHB is moving ahead with plans to launch a commercial lunar lander mission in cooperation with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) in late 2022 as it looks for government and commercial customers.

OHB and IAI announced an agreement in January 2019 to cooperate on an initiative to deliver payloads to the lunar surface. Under that Lunar Surface Access Service (LSAS) program, OHB would serve as the prime contractor and handle payloads, while IAI provided a lander based on the design of SpaceIL’s Beresheet lander, which at time was approaching launch.

Read more at: Spacenews

Video From Space: Companies Sign Deal To Launch 1st ‘Earthtv’ Satellite In 2021

We now know how Sen’s first Earth-casting satellite will get to its orbital perch.

Sen, a British company that plans to provide ultra-high definition (UHD) video of Earth to the masses, has signed a deal with California-based Momentus to get its first “EarthTV” satellite aloft in the summer of 2021.

Under the contract, the little satellite will launch with Momentus’ Vigoride space tug atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The tug will haul the EarthTV craft from its dropoff orbit to its final destination, a sun-synchronous path that flies over our planet’s poles.

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Branson Looks to Unprofitable Virgin Galactic to Help Save Reeling Empire

For nearly 16 years, Richard Branson’s obsession with space travel has been massive money pit for the billionaire’s Virgin Group. Branson’s conglomerate has poured more than $1 billion into Virgin Galactic, Virgin Orbit and The Spaceship Company without launching a single tourist or satellite into space while generating minuscule revenues and not a single penny of profit.

And yet, by the strange workings of modern finances, this money losing effort will be helping to prop up the Virgin Group, which has been laid low financially by the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Read more at: Parabolicarc

Former Astronaut And SpaceX Consultant On Creating A New Crewed Spacecraft: ‘We Were Really The Underdogs’

For former NASA astronaut Garret Reisman, SpaceX’s May 27 launch of the company’s first human passengers to space is going to be a very personal moment. Reisman worked at SpaceX for years, helping the company win NASA contracts and overseeing operations of SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft — both the new crewed version, and its predecessor, which brought cargo to the International Space Station.

Reisman left SpaceX in 2018 to become a professor at the University of Southern California, but he’s maintained contact with the company as a consultant. Soon, he’ll be watching when his friends, NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, fly on the vehicle he helped develop at SpaceX. “When there’s somebody on there that I know — emotionally, psychologically it changes everything,” Reisman tells The Verge.

Read more at: Verge

Airbus and Xenesis Sign Payload Contract for New Bartolomeo Platform on the International Space Station

Airbus and Xenesis have signed a contract for a payload slot on the International Space Station (ISS) Bartolomeo platform for the demonstration of their Xen-Hub optical communication space terminal.

The Xen-Hub is a greater than 10 gigabyte per second optical communications terminal. The terminal was enabled with a technology transfer from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and is designed to increase satellite communications bandwidth.

Read more at: Airbus


Cygnus Departs Space Station; 2 Weeks of SAFFIRE Experiments Planned

After 86 days in orbit, Northrop Grumman Corp.’s NG-13 Cygnus resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) entered its homestretch on Monday, 11 May, when ground controllers robotically detached the spacecraft from the Earth-facing (or “nadir”) port of the Unity node and released it into space. Launched last 15 February, the Cygnus—which is named in honor of Air Force Major Robert H. Lawrence, the first African-American selected for astronaut training—arrived at the ISS three days later and was robotically berthed at Unity nadir on 18 February. It delivered close to 8,000 pounds (3,600 kg) of experiments, payloads and supplies to the orbital outpost.

With today’s departure, Cygnus will continue in a free-flying autonomous state for the next couple of weeks, ahead of a destructive dive into the atmosphere on 29 May.

Read more at: Americaspace

The North Magnetic Pole Is Leaving Canada For Siberia. These ‘Blobs’ May Be The Reason Why.

The north magnetic pole is lurching away from its traditional home in the Canadian Arctic and toward Siberia because of a fierce tug-of-war battle being waged by two giant blobs hiding deep underground, at the core–mantle boundary, a new study finds.

These blobs, areas of negative magnetic flow under Canada and Siberia, are in a winners-take-all struggle. Already, as these blobs change shape and magnetic intensity, a victor has emerged; from 1999 to 2019, while the blob beneath Canada weakened, the blob under Siberia slightly intensified, the researchers found.

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Where Neutrinos Come From

Russian astrophysicists have come close to solving the mystery of where high-energy neutrinos come from in space. The team compared the data on the elusive particles gathered by the Antarctic neutrino observatory IceCube and on long electromagnetic waves measured by radio telescopes. Cosmic neutrinos turned out to be linked to flares at the centers of distant active galaxies, which are believed to host supermassive black holes. As matter falls toward the black hole, some of it is accelerated and ejected into space, giving rise to neutrinos that then coast along through the universe at nearly the speed of light.

Read more at: mipt


NASA Announces International Artemis Accords To Standardize How To Explore The Moon

Today, NASA announced the creation of the Artemis Accords, a new set of standards on how to explore the Moon. The agency hopes that other countries will agree to the terms, which lay out how humanity will act on the Moon, including how to mine resources from the lunar surface and ways to protect heritage Apollo sites.

The Artemis Accords, first reported by Reuters, are a reference to NASA’s Artemis program, an initiative to send the first woman and the next man to the Moon by 2024.

Read more at: Verge

NASA Lays Out The ‘Artemis Accords’ For International Cooperation On Moon Trips

NASA today unveiled a list of 10 principles for a set of bilateral international agreements for participation in the moon exploration program known as Artemis.

The Artemis Accords would apply to missions aimed at sending astronauts to the lunar surface beginning as early as 2024.

NASA has been discussing international participation in the Artemis moon program for months. During a conference last October, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said “we need all the international partners to go with us to the moon.”

Read more at: Geekwire

Reps. Posey & Crist Introduce Bipartisan Space Launch Legislation to Keep America First in Space

As we pass the 59th Anniversary of the first American human space flight launch that saw Alan Shepard pilot the famous Freedom 7 capsule as part of the Mercury program, U.S. Representatives Bill Posey (R-Florida) and Charlie Crist (D-Florida) introduced bipartisan legislation to build on that important legacy and keep America first in space. The American Space Commerce Act (H.R. 6783) supports American leadership in space by providing an incentive for American space firms to keep investing in America and launching from American soil.

“Our domestic space launch industry is in our national security interest and America is up against unfair trade practices from nations like China and Russia that heavily subsidize space launches,” said U.S. Rep. Bill Posey.

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Reports Of US Not Willing To Cooperate With Russia On Moon Incorrect — NASA

Media reports that the United States was not willing to include Russia into its draft agreement on Moon exploration were incorrect, Acting Associate Administrator for NASA’s Office of International and Interagency Relations Michael Gold told reporters.

“I think it’s unfortunate that there were a lot of media leaks that did not properly describe what the Artemis Accords were, so I’m not surprised for some of those reactions.

Read more at: TASS

White House Updates Membership Of Space Council Advisory Group

The White House has updated the membership of an advisory group for the National Space Council, replacing four original members of the committee with five people, including a former member of Congress.

In a May 15 statement, Vice President Mike Pence, who chairs the National Space Council, announced the revised roster of the National Space Council’s Users’ Advisory Group (UAG). The members serve as what Pence once called the “brain trust” for the council, providing insights and recommendations.

Read more at: Spacenews

Independent Process Needed For Setting Planetary Protection Policy

A new report from the National Academies calls on NASA to create a permanent, independent advisory body representing all stakeholders to advise the agency on planetary protection policies. The report reemphasizes how much has changed since international policies were last updated, with more and more countries, and companies, interested in robotic planetary exploration and human exploration of Mars. The international Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) is already looking at planetary protection in the context of human Mars missions and will hold a virtual workshop next week.

Read more at: Spacepolicy online

US-China Commission Study Urges Tougher Space Cooperation Restrictions

Congress should double down on legislative efforts to prevent the transfer of US tech and know-how to China’s space program, including ordering DoD to produce an annual, unclassified report on the PLA’s counterspace programs, says a report published by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

“Congress should enact new or enhance existing laws to prohibit U.S. government departments and agencies, national labs, universities, companies, fund managers, and individual investors from supporting China’s space program and activities that are inherently military in nature,” recommends the study, called “China’s Space and Counterspace Capabilities and Activities.”

Read more at: Breakingdefense


Space Force, Services Struggle To Define Mission Boundaries

The Space Force is negotiating with the Army and Navy to integrate many of their space-related personnel, functions and operations.

“Their primary interest and area of concern is they want to ensure that that we do not separate out and transfer those elements and functions that they consider vital and integrated into their missions and their roles … what they would consider, you know, an integrated combat element,” Lt. Gen. David Thompson, Space Force vice commander, said today.

Read more at: Breakingdefense

Hundreds Of Hackers Sign Up For Chance To Break Into A Dod Satellite

More than 900 hackers have registered for an upcoming cybersecurity competition where participants are challenged to find security bugs in a military satellite and ground system.

Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, said DoD has become a major supporter of the “Hack-A-Sat” event because it helps the military identify flaws in its systems and also is a venue to recruit talent.

Hackers help us “pinpoint vulnerabilities before they’re exposed in the battlefield,” Roper told reporters May 14 during a video chat.

Read more at: Spacenews

Hypersonic Weapons Report

The United States has actively pursued the development of hypersonic weapons— maneuvering weapons that fly at speeds of at least Mach 5—as a part of its conventional prompt global strike program since the early 2000s. In recent years, the United States has focused such efforts on developing hypersonic glide vehicles, which are launched from a rocket before gliding to a target, and hypersonic cruise missiles, which are powered by high-speed, air-breathing engines during flight.

Read more at: report

Space Force To Begin Specialized Warfare Training For New Officers

One of the goals of the U.S. Space Force is to fill its ranks with expert operators who can command and control satellites but also can protect them from anti-satellite weapons and cyber attacks.

The expertise that Space Force leaders call “space warfighting skills” will take years to build. The space service is being formed with U.S. Air Force officers and enlisted operators who will lateral over. At the same time, the Space Force plans to begin developing its own cadre of officers who will be steeped in the intricacies of orbital operations.

Read more at: Spacenews

Coronavirus Not Slowing Russian, Chinese Space Activities, US General Says

Russia and China continue to launch military rockets and test space weapons amid the coronavirus pandemic, a top U.S. general said Tuesday.

“Unfortunately in the case of the Russians, their increasing penchant for unsafe and what I would consider unacceptable behavior in space has not slowed down,” Lt. Gen. David Thompson, the U.S. Space Force vice commander, said at a Mitchell Institute event. “I can’t tell you what they’re doing with their crews and their individuals, but based on their macro-level activities, their cadence has certainly not slowed down.”

Read more at: Defenseone

A Bankrupt Oneweb And Other Troubled Space Startups Could Get Some Help From The Defense Department

As the U.S. Space Force looks to expand the military’s communications capabilities in the far north, it is facing a problem. The global pandemic has hit space startups exponentially hard, and OneWeb, one of the companies aiming to provide internet to Arctic locations, filed for bankruptcy in March.

The Defense Department is considering taking action to help fortify OneWeb and other vulnerable space startups, said Lt. Gen. David Thompson, vice commander of Headquarters Space Force.

Read more at: Defensenews


US Space Force Flag Unveiled

The new Space Force flag was unveiled Friday at the White House, the nation’s first new military service flag in more than 70 years.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper called the unveiling a “historic moment” for the future of space defense.

“Our adversaries in the last several years have weaponized space. They’ve made it a warfighting domain,” Esper said. “The U.S. is now doing what it needs to do to protect our assets in space.”

Read more at: Voanews

New Head Of Russia’s Energia Space Firm To Focus On Orbital Station Concept

Newly-appointed acting Head of Russia’s Energia Space Rocket Corporation Igor Ozar will focus on developing the concept of a new orbital station, Roscosmos Chief Dmitry Rogozin said on Friday.

“I am confident that he will be able to cope with the tasks faced by Energia Space Rocket Corporation: the launch of the flight tests of the Oryol manned spacecraft in 2023, the work to manage cooperation in creating a super-heavy carrier rocket and its elements and also a whole range of other projects, including the development of the concept of a new orbital station,” Roscosmos quoted Rogozin as saying.

Read more at: TASS

UA Professor Arrested For Wire Fraud Of Grant Money From NASA

Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas David Clay Fowlkes, Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, and FBI Special Agent in Charge Diane Upchurch of the FBI Little Rock Field Office, announced Monday that University of Arkansas at Fayetteville professor Simon Saw-Teong Ang, 63, was arrested on Friday on charges related to wire fraud, said the press release from the agency.

The complaint affidavit was unsealed after Ang’s initial appearance in court, according to the release.

Ang had close ties with the Chinese government and Chinese companies, and failed to disclose those ties when required to do so in order to receive grant money from NASA, said the complaint.

Read more at: katv

‘A Truly Dark Night Sky Can Change Someone’s Life Forever’: Q&A With ‘The World At Night’ Photobook Author Babak Tafreshi

In the new photo book “The World at Night” (White Lion Publishing, 2019), which was released last November, astrophotographer and science journalist Babak Tafreshi takes readers on a curated tour of dazzling night-skies from across the world.

The night sky is like the roof above a house of worship, Tafreshi told in an email, and nightscape photography gradually developed this perspective, he added. The Iran native collaborated with other photographers and astronomy communicators to create the organization The World at Night over a decade ago. 

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Ed Harrison, Who Helped Shape How The World Saw Space Launches, Dies At 81

Ed Harrison, who helped shape how the world viewed the U.S. space program — literally — has died. He was 81.

A longtime public affairs officer at Kennedy Space Center, Harrison spent much of his time working with photographers and videographers to ensure they had access to capture launch photos and video that would run on front pages and lead TV news reports going back to the Mercury program in the early 1960s.

Read more at: Floridatoday

21st Space Wing Commander Found Dead In His Home

The commander of the 21st Space Wing, headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, has died. Colonel Thomas G. Falzarano was found at his home on Tuesday.

Col. Falzarano appears to have died of natural causes, though a thorough investigation is happening. There are no indications that there was a positive COVID-19 case.

“We are deeply saddened by this tragic loss for our Air and Space Force family,” Gen. Jay Raymond, Chief of Space Operations, said in a news release. “Tom was an incredible leader, mentor and friend who will be remembered for his warm personality and dedicated service to our nation. Our heartfelt condolences and prayers go out to his family, friends and all members of the 21st Space Wing.”

Read more at: cbslocal

11th IAASS Conference – Poster A2