Congress’ Budget Deal to Fully Fund Commercial Crew

NASA might be able to start sending astronauts to the International Space Station from U.S. soil by 2017 after all.

A massive spending bill expected to pass Congress later this week includes the full $1.24 billion the Obama administration requested this year for the Commercial Crew Program, NASA’s effort to replace the space shuttle with private rockets. The $1.1 trillion spending bill will give NASA a total $19.3 billion for the remainder of fiscal 2016, or about $1.3 billion more than the agency received in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.

The 2,009-page bill, negotiated over several weeks and released Wednesday morning, will pair with legislation to extend dozens of expiring tax breaks worth hundreds of billions of dollars to corporations and individuals.Full funding of Commercial Crew should allow NASA to meet its ambitious goal of sending astronauts to the space station within two years

Read more at: Florida Today

Dream Chaser® Spacecraft on Track to Supply Cargo to ISS

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) has passed the second Integration Certification Milestone under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS-2) contract. NASA assessed and fully approved SNC’s detailed approach for getting the Dream Chaser Cargo System to the International Space Station (ISS). SNC’s approved strategy demonstrates a thorough understanding of design requirements and available resources on both a system and subsystem level.  Dream Chaser will provide a minimum of six cargo delivery missions to and from the ISS between 2019 and 2024.  The first milestone was passed several weeks ago and outlined technical, logistic and schedule procedures for the program.

“Successful completion of the second Integration Certification Milestone within six weeks of the first major milestone demonstrates that the Dream Chaser team is moving at full-speed to meet NASA’s cargo delivery needs,” said Steve Lindsey, senior director of programs for SNC’s Space Systems business area and Dream Chaser co-program manager.

Read more at: Sierra Nevada Corp

Balloons to Supersede Rockets for Space Tourism by 2017

Scientists have relied on rockets to send astronauts into space for decades. A new type of space tourism is on the horizon which will enable laymen to view the horizon in an unprecedented way.

World View Enterprises, a local Tucson company dedicated to making space tourism a reality, is designing high altitude balloons capable of carrying people into the stratosphere where they will be able to look down onto the planet from the heights of space. The company hopes to have the giant balloons ready by 2017 at $75,000 per seat.

“I hear a lot of people say this: ‘I don’t want to have lived my entire life on this planet and never really seen it,’” World View chief technology officer Taber MacCallum told sources.

Read more at: Space.News

NASA Books Nuclear-certified Atlas 5 Rocket for Mars 2020 Rover Launch

America’s next Mars rover, a $2.1 billion nuclear-powered vehicle to search for evidence that life once existed there, will be launched to the Red Planet in the summer of 2020 by a powerful Atlas 5 rocket.

Jim Green, planetary science division director, revealed the selection of the United Launch Alliance vehicle at the NASA Advisory Council meeting in Cleveland this afternoon. “It will be the Atlas 5 carrying Mars 2020 to Mars,” Green said.

ULA’s Atlas 5 and Delta 4-Heavy and SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy were studied as possible launch vehicles for the intermediate-to-heavy classed payload. It was not immediately known if SpaceX submitted a bid for this launch contract. But, currently, Atlas 5 is the only launch vehicle that holds a NASA certification for launching the nuclear batteries made of plutonium that will power the 2,000-pound rover. The six-wheeled robot will use by a Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator, enabling surface operations day and night by converting heat into electricity.

Read more at: Spaceflight Now

Active Tracking of Astronaut Rad-exposures Targeted

Radiation is an invisible hazard of spaceflight, but a new monitoring system for ESA astronauts gives a realtime snapshot of their exposure. The results will guide researchers preparing for deep-space missions to come. A key element of the new system launched to orbit with Monday’s Falcon 9 launch to the International Space Station, ensuring it is in place for ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet’s November mission to the Station.

As a general rule, radiation exposure increases with altitude – people living on mountains receive more than those at sea level, while airline crews receive a small but noticeable additional dose.  Astronauts in orbit receive still more radiation – they are officially classed as radiation workers. The individual dose for the whole flight is carefully measured by keeping a dosimeter on their body, to keep their career exposure within safe limits.

“While sophisticated, these dosimeters are passive,” explains Ulrich Straube, radiologist and flight surgeon at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany. “To gain a clearer picture of astronauts’ radiation environment, we have developed an electronic dosimeter that can provide almost instantaneous information to its wearer, on their current radiation exposure and dynamics of their immediate environment.”

Read more at: ESA

Houston, We Have Lift Off! NASA Calls for Businesses to Use ISS

It seems that NASA is changing the script on how the International Space Station (ISS) is being used. At present it is a place where government space agencies join forces to work together, however it could also be used as a business hub as well.

NASA has put out a call that could see the commercial use of the ISS expanded to private outfits, who may wish to take advantage of its unique capabilities. One example is to use the low-Earth orbit (LEO) facility’s underused attachment ports.

Companies have been soliciting ideas about this since the start of July and they have until the end of the month to get all of their ideas in. The agency put a call out to private firms that may which to use the facilities for commercial purposes. This move is an opportunity for commercial space technology service companies. It is not every day that NASA welcomes commercial space groups to use the ISS, strategically located in space to accommodate other companies. Currently, there are about 300 active experiments being conducted on board and NASA thinks the ISS can handle more activities involving commercial use.

Read more at: Sputnik News

NASA Thinks it can Send Humans to Martian Orbit by 2033

At the NASA Advisory Council Human Exploration and Operations Committee Meeting on Monday, Bill Gerstenmaier, the associate administrator for HEO at the agency, said he believes we could have astronauts make it to Martian orbit — or conduct a short-distance flyby of the red planet — by 2033.

According to current budgets and plans, the projection could be realized, Gerstenmaier said. The larger goal of getting human boots on Mars’ surface, however, would require a much more extensive advancement of technology, and would likely occur closer to the end of the 2030s.

“This is an amazing period of time in human spaceflight,” he told reporters and NASA internal personnel. Gerstenmaier credits the development of the deep space capsule Orion, the brand-new Space Launch System, and the progress made in commercial crew vehicles that will help forge a bigger and more sustained orbital and cis-lunar presence to making a journey to Mars a more tangible and achievable goal than ever before.

Read more at: Inverse

NASA’s New Institute to Explore Ways to Protect Astronauts

The US space agency has established a new institute charged with researching and developing innovative approaches to reduce risks to humans on long-duration exploration missions, including NASA’s “Journey to Mars”. The NASA Translational Research Institute (NTRI) will implement a “bench-to-spaceflight” model, moving results or methods from laboratory experiments or clinical trials to point-of-care astronaut health and performance applications, the US space agency said in a statement.

The goal of the research is to produce promising new approaches, treatments, countermeasures or technologies that have practical application to spaceflight. “It’s fitting on the 47th anniversary of humanity’s first moon landing that we’re announcing a new human spaceflight research institute that will help reduce risks for our astronauts on the next giant leap – our Journey to Mars,” said Marshall Porterfield, NASA’s Director of Space Life and Physical Sciences Research and Applications.

Set up under the Translational Research Institute Cooperative Agreement, overseen by NASA’s Human Research Programme, the new institute is lated to begin functioning from October 1.

Read more at: Zee News

Vibrating Boots Could Help Astronauts Stay on their Feet

Walking on the surface of Mars, where the gravity is one-third of Earth’s, won’t be easy. If you dumped a wheelbarrow of rocks into a bounce-house, then jumped in with shoeboxes tied to your feet and a fishbowl on your head, you’d be getting close to how astronauts might feel exploring the Red Planet’s surface.

A pratfall on Mars wouldn’t just be good, geeky comedy. Best case, the astronaut wastes time and oxygen trying to stand back up. At worst, a tear in a pressurized suit can mean a quick death.

Researchers from MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AeroAstro) and the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, are working on a haptic-response space boot that can warn wearers of nearby obstacles when they can’t see their own feet. The boot has motors at the toe, heel and outer front — locations chosen based on feedback studies of 500 different stimuli around the foot. Varying intensities and pulses of vibrations could cue how high to step over an object, or how to step around an obstacle. They see this technology as valuable not only for space walks, but for firefighters, the elderly, or those with compromised sensory systems.

Read more at: Popsci

Astronauts are Diving Deep under the Ocean to Prepare for Life in Space

Some 62 feet under the seas of the Florida Keys, a band of astronauts — nay, aquanauts — are busy preparing themselves for life in space by living the life aquatic. The NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO)’s 21st mission began last week, and the 16-day mission seems to be going swimmingly.

NEEMO (which has to be one of NASA’s best overreaching acronyms) is designed to provide an Earthbound analogue to the experience of living on the International Space Station. Astronauts, scientists and engineers from space agencies around the world settle down for a few days in the Aquarius undersea habitat, where they conduct experiments and even go on “spacewalk” simulating dives. They can even adjust their buoyancy to simulate the gravity of Mars.

Read more at: Washington Post

Space Team Scouts UAE Sands for Lander Tests

One of the 16 remaining teams in a Google competition that will reward the first privately funded missions to the Moon has landed in the UAE to reconnoitre testing locations for its lunar vehicle. The country’s hot, dry conditions and sandy, rocky terrain are ideal for putting a lunar rover through some of the rigours that will be encountered on the Moon, said Robert Boehme of the Part Time Scientists.

“We came to the emirates looking for areas that were as dry and as hot as possible as our mission will encounter extreme day-time temperatures as high as 160° Celsius,” said the founder and chief executive of the Berlin-based company.

The vehicle, which cost in the region of US$750,000 (Dh2.75 million)to build, will need to traverse at least half a kilometre of the Moon’s surface to qualify for the Google Lunar X Prize, a competition that encourages private space ventures by offering $30m in prize money.

Read more at: National

Russian and US Engineers Plan Manned Moon Mission

Engineers in Russia and the US are completing a plan for a collaborative space program. The initiative would preserve the multinational alliance developed when the International Space Station (ISS) was initiated in 1993. Both American and Russian organizations are considering ways to return to space together, as long as the political relationship between the two nations doesn’t deteriorate. The countries had been preparing to part ways after the ISS ceases operation in 2024.

NASA is developing its Orion spacecraft and the Space Launch System (SLS), a super-heavy rocket to be used for manned missions into space, possibly as far as Mars. NASA is also giving funds to companies like SpaceX to make excursions into orbit with reusable rockets.

A few years ago, the European Space Agency, (ESA) joined with NASA in a maintenance agreement to service the Orion propulsion module. But Russia, the second largest contributor to ISS, hasn’t made any commitments beyond the time when its current obligations to the station are complete.

Read more at: Space-travel

WorldView-2 Satellite Involved in Debris Causing Event

A commercial Earth observation satellite was involved in a “debris causing event” yesterday, according to the Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC), the part of the United States Defense Department that tracks space objects. The satellite in question, WorldView-2, is owned and operated by DigitalGlobe.

JSpOC announced the event in a tweet and added the satellite has been confirmed as operational and maneuverable. However, eight pieces of debris were tracked. It is unclear exactly when the event occurred or how many of the pieces, if any, are part of WorldView-2.

“Earlier today JSpOC issued a ‘debris causing event’ notification related to DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-2 satellite,” DigitalGlobe tweeted. “WorldView-2 is currently operational and is performing standard maneuvering and imaging tasks.” Likely in an effort to show that their satellite was still functioning, the company released via twitter an image of downtown Oakland, California. The company noted the image was collected at 2:34 p.m. PDT (21:34 GMT) July 19.

Read more at: Spaceflight Insider

What NASA Could Teach Tesla About Autopilot’s Limits

Tesla Motors says the Autopilot system for its Model S sedan “relieves drivers of the most tedious and potentially dangerous aspects of road travel.” The second part of that promise was put in doubt by the fatal crash of a Model S earlier this year, when its Autopilot system failed to recognize a tractor-trailer turning in front of the vehicle. Tesla says the driver, Joshua Brown, also failed to notice the trailer in time to prevent a collision. The result? In Tesla’s own words, “the brake was not applied”—and the car plowed under the trailer at full speed, killing Brown.

Since news of Brown’s death broke in June, the public has been debating where the fault lies: with the driver, the company or the automation technology itself. But NASA has been studying the psychological effects of automation in cockpits for decades—and this body of research suggests that a combination of all three factors may be responsible. “If you think about the functionality of a cockpit, that could mean in an airplane, a space shuttle or a car,” says Danette Allen, director of NASA Langley Research Center’s Autonomy Incubator. “NASA, perhaps more than any other organization, has been thinking about autonomy and automation for a long time.”

Read more at: Scientific American

Tonnes of Cargo Transported to ISS by Progress and Dragon

Progress 64, with over three tonnes of cargo on board, including fuel, docked with the Russian Pirs module on Monday after chasing behind the ISS for two days.

The Dragon cargo ship, containing almost 2.5 tonnes of cargo, was captured by the space station’s robotic arm on Wednesday and docked to the Harmony module. The capsule was transporting equipment for the dozens of experiments to be conducted on board the space station over the coming months, including the first device for sequencing DNA in space. It was also carrying an international adapter for docking spacecraft (IDA or International Docking Adapter). This will provide a standardised connecting point that can be used by all spacecraft, including Boeing’s Starliner CST-100 and the future Dragon passenger transport vehicle by SpaceX. The IDA will be equipped with a guidance system that will enable spacecraft arriving at the ISS to perform automatic docking manoeuvres, without intervention from the crew

Read more at: Cite-espace

Airbus Defence and Space Makes Key Contribution to NASA’s Mission to Fly People Beyond the Moon

In the first major European contribution to a NASA space mission, Airbus Defence and Space is building the European Service Module (ESM) that will power the Orion spacecraft.

NASA wants to use Orion to transport people to the Moon and beyond – and bring them safely back to the Earth. The ESM is an essential part of the spacecraft that will power, propel, and cool Orion in deep space as well as provide air and water for crew members.

NASA wouldn’t be able to go ahead with its ambitious plans without reaction control and auxiliary thrusters, known as the Reaction Control System (RCS), manufactured by Airbus Defence and Space. A total of 24 thrusters arranged in six clusters will ensure Orion has no trouble adjusting its trajectory or entering and leaving orbit around planets and other celestial bodies. Each of them delivers some 200 N of thrust. Measuring 100 mm in diameter and 300 mm in length, the thrusters are fitted with a multitude of sensors and form part of the ESM.

Read more at: Airbus defence and space

Blue Origin Flies Reusable Suborbital Rocket for Fourth Time

Blue Origin’s suborbital space transport system made another test flight Sunday, launching and landing at the company’s West Texas test facility to prove out the crew capsule’s resiliency to a parachute failure.

The test flight also marked a change in public relations for the once-secretive company. It was the first time Blue Origin has webcast once of its launches live. The hydrogen-fueled New Shepard rocket, named for Mercury astronaut Alan Shepard, took off at 10:36 a.m. EDT (1436 GMT; 9:36 a.m. CDT) from Blue Origin’s test site in rural Culberson County, Texas.

After holding on the ground a few seconds to verify the rocket’s BE-3 engine was ready for takeoff, hold-down posts released and the stubby suborbital rocket quickly climbed into a clear West Texas sky after an approximately 20-minute delay caused by hot temperatures at the barren test site owned by Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos.

Generating 110,000 pounds of thrust, the BE-3 engine on the single-stage rocket burned for about 2 minutes, 18 seconds, shutting down after accelerating the rocket to more than 2,000 mph. A few moments later, an unpiloted crew capsule released from the top of the booster, and the vehicles soared to the edge of space. Blue Origin said the rocket reached a peak altitude of 331,504 feet, or about 101 kilometers, about four minutes into the mission.

Read more at: Spaceflight Now

NASA’s Weird Asteroid Redirect Mission is Actually Making Progress

In case you weren’t already aware, one of the things NASA plans to do in the 2020s is to send a robotic spacecraft to a near-Earth asteroid, pick up a stray boulder off the surface, tug it back to the moon and drop it off in lunar orbit for astronauts to later study.

Yes, the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) is equal parts ambitious and strange, and there has been no shortage of questions as to whether this project makes a whole lot of sense. NASA’s official line has been to tout that it’s an essential stepping stone, and at the NASA Advisory Council Human Exploration and Operations Committee Meeting on Monday, Ron Ticker, the deputy program director for ARM, quelled doubts the agency was pushing along a fringe project with no real purpose.

ARM, Ticker argued, is a “demonstration mission” that will test new spaceflight technologies relevant to uncrewed and crewed deep space travel, and validate a lot of systems that will play a pivotal role in the overall goal to send humans to Mars.

Read more at: Inverse

12 Cosmonauts and Astronauts Passed Water Survival Trainings in GCTC

Roscosmos cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov, Ivan Wagner, Sergey Ryazansky, Oleg Artemyev, Sergey Prokopiev, Alexander Samokutyayev, NASA astronauts Scott Tingle, Randolph Bresnik, Andrew Feustel, Janet Epps, ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst and JAXA astronaut Norishige Kanai preparing to go to space in 2017 and 2018 passed water survival trainings in GCTC.

First the crews practiced escape from the descent capsule ashore also changing Sokol rescue spacesuits into flight suits, thermal protection suits and Forel waterproofsuits. Then they repeated same actions in water.

According to the conditions of the third training program after the landing the crew discovered leak in the capsule and had to escape it within the period of 8 – 9 minutes wearing Sokol spacesuits.

Read more at: Russian Space News

Boeing, Bastion Collaborate Under NASA Small Business Development Program

Boeing and Houston-based Bastion Technologies, Inc., a Boeing supplier for almost 20 years, have signed an agreement under a NASA program to help grow Bastion’s expertise and opportunities in the aerospace market.

Bastion was chosen because of its quality work history on Boeing programs and its ongoing growth potential as both a Boeing supplier and a standalone NASA contractor. Called the Mentor-Protégé Program, the initiative encourages NASA prime contractors (mentors) to help small businesses (protégés) develop expertise needed to perform NASA work, growing and diversifying the agency’s supplier base.

During the next 18 months, Boeing and Bastion Technologies will share best practices in areas such as manufacturing, quality, marketing and business development. “Bastion is an excellent example of how Boeing and small businesses can collaborate and grow as teammates and as individual companies,” said John Mulholland, vice president and program manager, Boeing Commercial Programs. “Through Mentor-Protégé, we’ll accelerate our common support of NASA’s critical work advancing human spaceflight capabilities.”

Read more at: Spaceref

Re-Entry of Soyuz Rocket Stage Surprises New Zealanders

The fiery demise of a Soyuz rocket stage surprised observers in New Zealand Tuesday night, sparking dozens of reports of a bright meteor over the South Island.

Videos and photos quickly emerged on Social Media and showed the typical appearance of a re-entering piece of man-made space debris with the timing of the event being consistent with the re-entry of the Block I third stage of the Soyuz rocket that sent an unpiloted Progress freighter to the International Space Station Saturday night.

Read more at: Spaceflight 101

Copenhagen Suborbitals Nexø I Rocket Launches with Mixed Results

Yesterday Copenhagen Suborbitals launched their rocket Nexø I, their most advanced vehicle yet, from a floating platform in the Baltic Sea. (See earlier posting). The good news is that the rocket lifted off successfully with its liquid-fueled engine (Ethanol and Liquid Oxygen) and active guidance system and was successfully recovered. The bad news is that it failed to reach its planned altitude and the parachute system failed to open.

“A tentative speculation on root cause would be simple LOX [Liquid Oxygen] overload. In other words a problem with measuring the correct amount of LOX in the tank, which we have encountered previously, and worked on solving via several methods. We will look into this.”

Read more at: Hobbyspace

New Prototype Parachute for Space Landings Unveiled at Russian Trade Fair

A new kind of parachute, especially designed for space landings, has been presented at the Innoprom International Industrial Trade Fair in Ekaterinburg by Technodinamika, a Russian aviation company. Russian engineers have come up with a new type of parachute for astronauts returning from space, the aviation company Technodinamika, a subsidiary of the Russian state corporation Rostec, announced on Monday.

Alexander Litvonov, head of Technodinamika’s innovation department, told RIA Novosti that the US, Russia and China are the only three countries to have developed such a system. “However, all the systems are really unique, because apart from the differences in mass and type of spaceship, they also have differences in the speed and type of landing,” he said.

Read more at: Space Daily

Q&A: China Lunar Chief Plots Voyage to Far Side of Moon

As chief designer for the China National Space Administration’s (CNSA’s) Chang’e lunar exploration program, Wu Weiren oversaw the Chang’e-3 mission that in late 2013 landed and released a rover on the moon’s surface—the first soft touchdown on Earth’s satellite since a Soviet mission in 1976.

Two even more ambitious missions are on the way as China continues its rapid ascent in space science. Next year, Chang’e-5 will land, scrape up surface soil and rocks, drill down 2 meters for samples, and return the haul to Earth, all within 2 weeks or so. In 2018, CNSA, which runs the lunar program, will attempt the first ever landing on the far side of the moon. Remote observations of the far side’s geology have convinced some planetary scientists that it is the most accessible location in the solar system to study planetary accretion, crust formation, and the effects of impacts. An engineer, Wu concedes that engineering has priority in China’s lunar program: Without solid engineering, he says, scientific objectives cannot be realized.

Read more at: Sciencemag

Uncertainty in the U.K.

Despite a late spring push from England’s Queen Elizabeth II and both houses of Parliament, how, where and when the U.K. will build its own commercial spaceports remain up for debate. In fact, it’s still far from certain the U.K. will ever host regular spaceflights, either involving spaceplanes or vertically launched rockets.

Consider: the U.S. has licensed 10 commercial spaceports to date, but only two — Cape Canaveral and Vandenberg Air Force Base — are heavily utilized and just two more, Kodiak and Wallops, have hosted orbital launches. And that’s in a country with an established launch industry.

Currently, only a handful of government-selected sites remain as potential British spaceports, including three airports in Scotland as well as Llanbedr Airfield in Wales and Newquay Cornwall Airport in England’s southwest. However, any spaceport’s first criteria is that they lie far from heavily populated areas, are in a coastal location, and not in the way of normal air traffic routes.

Unlike more desolate regions of the U.S. or Australia, if U.K. space planners want to profit from local spaceports, they are inherently constrained by the limited geography of the British Isles.

Read more at: Spacenews mag

Restore-L Refueling Mission

Disruptive technologies have often changed the course of history, breaking the status quo and unlocking possibilities that have yet to be imagined. Building on a history of upgrading and maintaining assets in space, NASA is developing a new capability while creating a paradigm-shift: robotic satellite servicing.

In May, NASA officially moved forward with plans to execute the ambitious, technology-rich Restore-L mission, an endeavor to launch a robotic spacecraft in 2020 to refuel a live satellite. The mission – the first of its kind in low-Earth orbit – will demonstrate that a carefully curated suite of satellite-servicing technologies are fully operational. The current candidate client for this venture is Landsat 7, a government-owned satellite in low-Earth orbit.

Beyond refueling, the Restore-L mission also carries another, weighty objective: to test other crosscutting technologies that have applications for several critical upcoming NASA missions. As the Restore-L servicer rendezvous with, grasps, refuels, and relocates a client spacecraft, NASA will be checking important items off of its technology checklist that puts humans closer to Mars exploration.

Read more at: Spaceref

The Only Animal that can Survive in Space has a Weird DNA

The tiny water-dwelling invertebrates are considered the most robust animals on Earth, as it turns out, they have the most foreign DNA of any species. According to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, tardigrades have genomes that are nearly one-sixth foreign, which means that they get a massive chunk of their DNA from other creatures other than the animal itself.

The tardigrade, also otherwise known as water bears, are  nearly indestructible, incredibly unique, eight-legged, microscopic worm-like animals that grow to just over 1mm on average and can be found almost anywhere on our planet. They can withstand temperatures of almost absolute zero, survive space radiation, extreme pressure and can live for more than 10 years without food or water.

Read more at:

SpaceX Sticks Reusable Rocket Landing for the Fifth Time

An overnight launch designed to deliver cargo and supplies to the International Space Station (ISS) crew has culminated in a fifth successful landing for SpaceX’s reusable two-stage Falcon 9 rocket, according to CBS News and reports published early Monday morning.

The Falcon 9 lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 12:45 am EDT on Monday, carrying a docking mechanism needed for new US crew capsules in development and nearly 5,000 pounds of equipment and supplies to the crew of the orbiting research facility.

The first stage of the rocket separated less than three minutes after launch and completed a series of engine burns to return to Cape Canaveral. At 12:53 am, it completed a soft landing only a few miles south of its launch pad while SpaceX’s Dragon capsule continued towards the ISS. This marks the fifth time that the California-based aerospace company founded and owned by Elon Musk has been able to successfully launch and land a reusable rocket.

Read more at: Red Orbit

Proton-M Succeeds in a Cliff-hanger Mission

Sporting the latest round of modifications known as Phase IV, a Proton-M rocket boosted the exceptionally heavy Intelsat-31 communications satellite on June 9, during the third mission in 2016 for Russia’s commercial workhorse. The rocket’s Briz-M stage successfully completed the mission despite an apparent anomaly during the operation of the second stage.

According to a flight program, after a few seconds in vertical flight, the launch vehicle began heading east and slightly north to align with an orbital inclination of 51.5 degrees.

The rocket passed the maximum dynamic pressure of the atmosphere 62 seconds into the flight. The Proton’s first stage separated two minutes after the liftoff, but moments earlier, the second stage began to fire its engines through the lattice structure connecting the two boosters. The second stage continued firing until five minutes 26 seconds into the flight and then separated with the help of small solid motors firing against the direction of the flight. During the operation of the third stage, the payload fairing split in two halves and dropped away five minutes 46 seconds after the liftoff. The third stage completed its work and separated nine minutes and 41 seconds into the flight. At that point, the payload section, including the Briz-M upper stage and the satellite, was on a suborbital trajectory, just short of an orbital velocity.

Read more at: Russian spaceweb

Ukraine, US Plan to Launch Jointly-Developed Space Rocket in Coming Months

Ukraine and the United States are planning to launch a jointly-developed rocket in the coming months, as part of the two countries’ space cooperation, Ambassador of Ukraine to the United States Valeriy Chaly said Monday.

On May 30, head of the State Space Agency of Ukraine Lyubomyr Sabadosh said that Ukraine proposed to the United States joint development and production of rocket engines to replace Russia’s RD-180 that the US side buys for its space industry.

“I hope that this will not be such a sensation. We are planning to launch a jointly-developed rocket with the United States in the coming months. We have serious achievements in the cooperation on the launch,” Chaly said in an interview with the Ukrainian television channel 5 Kanal.

Read more at: Space Daily

Seven Soyuz Rockets to be Constructed for Russian Defense Ministry in 2016

A total of seven Soyuz carrier rockets are scheduled to be constructed for the Russian Defense Ministry by the end of the year, the general director of Russia’s Progress State Research and Production Space Centre, Alexander Kirilin, said Friday. He added that three rockets had already been constructed and delivered.

“The construction of seven Soyuz carrier rockets in 2016 is planned as part of the implementation of the state defense order,” Kirilin said during a ceremony to mark the state acceptance of military production.

“Four Soyuz-2.1b carrier rockets are at different stages of construction… The products will be delivered by November 2016 within the deadlines set in the state contracts,” Kirilin said.

Read more at: Space Daily

America Prepares for War in Space: U.S. Air Force Crews Begin Cosmic Conflict Training

America is bracing itself for war in space and has begun training U.S. air force personnel for science fiction-style cosmic conflicts, it has been revealed. Defence chiefs fear Russia and China are developing space weapons which would give them a potentially catastrophic edge over the U.S. in any future conflict. To counter this threat, the air force has launched a program called the “Space Mission Force” which is dedicated to “developing space warfighters for tomorrow”.

In a white paper, General John Hyten, commander of air force Space Command, wrote: “Despite world interest in avoiding militarisation of space, potential adversaries have identified the use of space as an advantage for U.S. military forces, and are actively fielding systems to deny our use of space in a conflict.

“This is not without precedence. Through the centuries, nations formed armies, navies and air forces to defend the right to use the global commons of land, sea and air. “Securing our right to use space is simply an extension of an age old principle to guarantee use of global commons.”

Read more at: AU News

Will Russia and China Build an SCO-Based Joint Missile Defense System

Russia and China may create a unified missile defense system for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. That’s the conclusion of experts speaking at a forum dedicated to the US deployment of the THAAD anti-ballistic missile system in South Korea. What would the Russian-Chinese system look like? Sputnik investigates.

On Monday, experts in Moscow and Beijing spoke via video conference on the implications for regional security of the US deployment of missile defense systems in South Korea. And while the forum focused mostly on political and military implications of the THAAD deployment, experts also intrigued observers by indicating that it was possible for Russia and China to join together to create a single missile defense shield over the entirety of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the political, economic and military organization involving much of eastern Eurasia.

Read more at: Space Daily

An Astronaut Spoke at the Republican Convention, and it was Far Odder than it Seemed

After Attorney General Pam Bondi of Florida spoke on the third night of the Republican convention, the room grew dark for a video presentation. Somewhat jarringly, given that it followed Bondi’s excoriation of Hillary Clinton, a voice gently told the story of America’s space exploration (pointedly noting where it overlapped with host-state Ohio’s history). It told the story of the Apollo 11 mission, which landed on the moon on July 20, 1969. It told of Eileen Collins, the first woman to command a space shuttle mission and it lamented how America’s explorations were in the past.

The lights came up. Collins walked out.

“From the moment the first Pilgrims arrived on our shores, Americans have been asking, ‘what’s next?,'” she said. She referred to the challenge issued by John F. Kennedy to travel to the moon, a spirit that she said had been lost. “[I]n 2011, the space shuttle program ended,” she said. “The last time the US launched our own astronauts from our own soil was over 5 years ago. We must do better than that!”

Read more at: Washington Post

Space is Now in The Democratic Party Platform

The revised version of the platform (as of 21 July) says:”Pushing beyond the boundaries of what we know is core to who we are as Americans. Democrats are immensely proud of all that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has done-through its achievements in science, technology and exploration-to better understand our place in the universe and inspire and educate generations of young people in this country to pursue careers in science. Space exploration is a reminder that our capacity for curiosity is limitless, and may be matched only by our ability to achieve great things if we work together. Democrats believe in continuing the spirit of discovery that has animated NASA’s exploration of space over the last half century. We will strengthen support for NASA and work in partnership with the international scientific community to launch new missions to space.”

Read more at: NASA Watch

Here’s Why John Glenn Still Matters at 95

If the Beatles had their McCartney and the 1927 Yankees had their Babe, the Original Seven astronauts had their John Glenn.

That wasn’t the way NASA planned it when the new space agency introduced the boyish, close-cropped, impossibly heroic astronaut team to the country. And it surely wasn’t the way the other six wanted it. It wasn’t even the way Glenn wanted it. A combat pilot and a Marine, he knew a thing or two about how much more powerful an organization can be when the identity of the individual is subsumed into that of the team.

But it couldn’t be helped. Glenn projected something—a pilot’s ruggedness, but a deacon’s decency, along with a charm that the deacon would find nearly sinful. He was part of a profession that not only tolerated bad-boy hijinks, but actually prized them, rewarded them. Men risking their lives, first in combat and later as military test pilots, deserved to play in the time they had to themselves, and play they did.

Read more at: TIME

Elsevier Announces the Launch of Journal: REACH – Reviews in Human Space Exploration

Elsevier, a world-leading provider of scientific, technical and medical information products and services, today announced the launch of REACH – Reviews in Human Space Exploration, a review journal that focuses on all aspects of human space exploration. The journal will cover comprehensive overviews of the science of human and robotic space exploration, life sciences research in space, and beneficial terrestrial applications that are derived from spaceflight. It is the official human space exploration review journal of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) and of the International Astronautical Federation (IAF). REACH will educate readers from academia, industry, and government. Furthermore, special emphasis will be put on summarizing the most important recent developments and challenges and making them legible for a non-specialist audience.

Read more at: Freshnews

Russia Introduces Soyuz-MS

After nearly half a century of orbital missions, Russia’s veteran transport spacecraft got another upgrade with the Soyuz-MS version (also know as Series 730). The first mission of the Soyuz MS spacecraft began on July 7, 2016. The spacecraft carried a crew of three to the International Space Station, ISS. Soyuz-MS will supercede the Soyuz-TMA-M variant (Series 700).

Even before the introduction of the Soyuz TMA-M variant in October 2010, Russian engineers had already had a long list of upgrades, which did not make it into then new version, but had to be implemented at a later date. Many of these improvements were dictated not so much by a desire to improve the spacecraft itself, but by the need to replace obsolete components which were going out of production or had to be imported from outside Russia, primarily from Ukraine.

Read more at: Russian Spaceweb

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