Soyuz Thruster Misfire Aboard Space Station
A thruster misfire occurred on Tuesday June 9 involving the Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft docked to the International Space Station, the Russian Space Agency confirmed in a press release. According to Roscosmos, the off-nominal situation arose around 15:32 UTC during a standard test of the radio communications system of the Soyuz spacecraft. The Space Station has since been stabilized and there has never been any danger to the six crew members aboard the complex who are preparing to part ways this week with the undocking and landing of Soyuz TMA-15M scheduled for Thursday. According to communications between Mission Control Moscow and the crew aboard ISS, the thruster misfire had a duration of approximately 30 seconds. As a result, ISS body rates increased and the USOS Guidance, Navigation and Control System requested a desaturation of the Control Moment Gyros. The Station was quickly transferred to control by the Russian Thruster System to stabilize the spacecraft, orbiting the Earth at 399 by 404 Kilometers. Mission Control Houston took the necessary precautions to thruster activities – locking the Solar Alpha Rotary Joints and instructing the crew to close all USOS window shutters to protect the windows from contamination by thruster exhaust.
USAF Commercial Integration Cell Pilot Program Underway
U.S. Strategic Command’s Joint Functional Component Command for Space (JFCC Space) initiated a six-month pilot program incorporating commercial operators into its Joint Space Operations Center June 1. This Commercial Integration Cell (CIC) pilot program establishes a research and development environment within the Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC) to explore the operational, technical and legal aspects of a partnership between the Defense Department and industry, leveraging mutual capabilities and information sets to enhance Space Domain Awareness and improve the JFCC Space Commander’s Space Operational Command and Control. For the initial pilot program, attendees of the semiannual JFCC Space Commercial Operator Talks, all signatories of STRATCOM Space Situational Awareness (SSA) Sharing Agreements, agreed that a smaller pool of participants would support the research and development intent. Six operators were then chosen based on the scope of their contributions to DOD operations: Intelsat, SES Government Solutions, Inmarsat, Eutelsat, DigitalGlobe and Iridium Communications Inc. It is anticipated that these operators will, within proprietary constraints, reach out to other commercial operators as needed by JSpOC personnel. After the conclusion of the pilot program, JFCC Space will conduct the necessary operational reviews to assess the long-term viability of the program and establish a framework for moving forward.
NASA Fuming After SpaceX, Boeing Rocket Launches Delayed for 2 years due to Budget Cuts
Americans astronauts will continue to fly Russian-made rockets from Earth to the International Space Station if Congress agrees to slash more than $300 million from NASA’s budget. The federal space agency will be too broke to fulfill contracts with SpaceX and Boeing and have no choice to continue paying the Russian government $70 million for every flight to and from the ISS. NASA, to put it mildly, is furious. Russia is poised to take an early lead in the renewed space race after the U.S. Senate Appropriations subcommittee voted to cut over $300 million from NASA’s wallet. This comes after NASA entered agreements with Boeing and SpaceX to build rockets capable of bringing U.S. astronauts to the ISS starting in 2017.
French Divestment will put Arianespace in Airbus Safran’s Hands
The French government on June 10 confirmed that the Arianespace launch-service consortium ultimately would be controlled by Airbus-Safran Launchers following the sale of the French government’s share in Arianespace. In a statement following a meeting of the French ministers for research, defense and industry – the first two having direct control of the French space agency, CNES – the office of French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said negotiations on the conditions of the equity transfer “will continue on this basis [that Airbus Safran Launches will end up with the shares] while respecting the usual procedures.” The “usual procedures” include an evaluation by a French government organization overseeing French government stakes in private companies of how to value Evry, France-based Arianespace. “These discussions will be conducted in close collaboration with our European partners and with other French and European space industry actors, with the goal of writing a new page in the history of Europe’s space sector,” the statement said. Airbus-Safran Launchers, created earlier this year, is Arianespace’s largest shareholder, with a 39-percent stake in the company. CNES has a nearly 35-percent stake.
China Launches Space Junk Monitoring Center
China has launched a space junk monitoring center to protect its spacecraft in orbit. The new center, to be managed by the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence (SASTIND) and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), will track and monitor near-earth objects and space debris. It will also be used to develop emergency response plans, take measures in case of emergencies, and share data with international counterparts. Xu Dazhe, head of SASTIND said the center will utilize existing observatory facilities in China while taking advantage of surveillance data from both home and abroad to set up its own monitoring network for space debris.
ISS Dodges Minotaur Debris via PDAM
The International Space Station (ISS) conducted a Pre-Determined Debris Avoidance Maneuver (PDAM) on Monday June 8, dodging part of a spent Minotaur rocket body. The space shove was provided by the engines on the docked Progress M-26M spacecraft, with the burn lasting over five minutes – in turn providing some light entertainment to the Station’s crew. The requirement of moving the Station out of the path of a potential debris threat is not uncommon. The huge structure of the ISS, racing around the planet at 17,500 mph, is routinely threatened by what are called conjunction threats, usually from items. The larger pieces of debris – usually originating from expended satellite and rocket hardware – are tracked by Space Command/NORAD, allowing for any threats to spacecraft to be known in advance, providing them a heads up to move into a different path and thus avoid a collision. This was the situation for Monday’s PDAM requirement, after tracking showed debris relating to an expended rocket stage from an old Minotaur launch was threatening to enter a corridor that could have resulted in a very small chance of an impact. The Minotaur debris in question was, according to NASA, from a 2013 launch, meaning it was either the ORS-3 mission for the US military, which utilized a Minotaur I rocket with a 29 satellite haul, or the Minotaur V launch with the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE).
NASA New Systems Critical Milestones
By September 30, 2015, NASA will complete the Space Launch System, Orion, and Exploration Ground Systems Critical Design Reviews (CDRs), allowing the programs to continue to progress toward Exploration Mission (EM)-1 and EM-2 missions. NASA is developing the nation’s first human deep-space exploration capability in the form of the Space Launch System (SLS) and the Orion crew vehicle. With the supporting Exploration Ground Systems (EGS), the SLS and Orion will carry humans farther into space than ever before, and are essential for exploration of deep space, including future human exploration of Mars. Human space exploration inspires the nation to seek knowledge through scientific discovery, advancing our understanding of the universe. As the foundation of the human exploration endeavor which will drive the Space Economy, these programs are fueling the creation of new industries, job growth, and the demand for a highly skilled workforce.
Soyuz-2.1a to be Launched in November Instead of July
Next Progress cargo vehicle will be launched with Soyuz-U booster instead Soyuz-2.1a that failed to launch Progress M-27M on April 28. This will enable to improve Soyuz-2.1a third stage that was the cause of April accident. Institute for Space Politics Director Ivan Moiseyev said yesterday, on June 9.
SpaceX Completes Qualification Testing of Superdraco Thruster
Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) announced today that it has completed qualification testing for the SuperDraco thruster, an engine that will power the Dragon spacecraft’s launch escape system and enable the vehicle to land propulsively on Earth or another planet with pinpoint accuracy. The qualification testing program took place over the last month at SpaceX’s Rocket Development Facility in McGregor, Texas. The program included testing across a variety of conditions including multiple starts, extended firing durations and extreme off-nominal propellant flow and temperatures. The SuperDraco is an advanced version of the Draco engines currently used by SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft to maneuver in orbit and during re-entry. SuperDracos will be used on the crew version of the Dragon spacecraft as part of the vehicle’s launch escape system; they will also enable propulsive landing on land. Each SuperDraco produces 16,000 pounds of thrust and can be restarted multiple times if necessary. In addition, the engines have the ability to deep throttle, providing astronauts with precise control and enormous power.
Air Force to Boost Budget to Prepare for Conflicts in Space
A potential conflict on Earth that escalates into space has prompted the Air Force to find an extra $5 billion to spend on offensive and defensive systems to protect national security satellites. “We need to get our heads around the fact that space might not always be a peaceful sanctuary,” Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Space systems are facing “advanced demonstrated and evolving threats,” she said. There is a potential for “hostile actors” in the domain and the service must “have a new mindset when it comes to space,” she added. The two primary space rivals mentioned most often by officials are China and Russia. Threats may come in the form of GPS or satellite communications jamming, cyber attacks on ground infrastructure or, even more alarming to the military, kinetic weapons such as anti-satellite missiles or killer spacecraft. “The Chinese have continued to test [anti-satellite weapons] since the year 2007,” James said in a speech. That was when it destroyed one of its own defunct spacecraft with an anti-satellite missile and left a debris field with some 3,000 pieces that will remain in orbit for years to come. Gen. John E. Hyten, Space Command commander, said Chinese anti-satellite weapons are still under development but “close to fruition.” James said: “There have been additional tests that didn’t destroy a satellite since that time. The testing has continued, so that is an ongoing concern, something that we are watching.”
Source: National Defense Magazine