Independent Inquiry Ordered Into Failed Launch Of Rocket Carrying UAE Satellite

An independent inquiry commission has been appointed to assess what caused the failure of a rocket launch carrying a UAE satellite on Thursday.

The European Space Agency and Arianespace, the launch provider, appointed the commission immediately after the failure, the company said in a statement.

This commission is tasked with analysing the reasons for the failure and identifying the measures needed to resume Vega flights while fulfilling all safety and security conditions. The commission is co-chaired by the Inspector General of the ESA and the Senior Vice President of Technical and Quality at Arianespace.

Read more at: National

Munich Re Among Insurers For Vega Rocket, UAE Satellite

Munich Re is one of the insurers for the European Vega rocket which failed after take-off on Thursday, destroying a military observation satellite about to be placed in orbit for the United Arab Emirates, a Munich Re spokesman said.

The combined insurance policy for the rocket and satellite totalled 369 million euros ($415.57 million) and is the largest ever space insurance loss, said David Todd, head of space content at satellite analysis firm Seradata

Read more at: Reuters

Anomaly Pushes Atlas Launch Back Again

The launch of a ULA Atlas V rocket with the fifth AEHF satellite will have to wait a little longer before its flight.

The AEHF-5 spacecraft had been scheduled to launch on June 27, but a battery failure issue caused the flight to be delayed to July 17. It now appears the mission’s lift off will be pushed back even further – to August 8 (at the earliest). Since the target date is no-earlier-than Aug. 8, there isn’t an exact time as to when the launch window will open.

Built by Lockheed Martin, the AEHF-5 spacecraft is designed to provide highly-secure communications to the Department of Defense.

Read more at: Spaceflight insider

Spacex Can’t Keep Mistakes A Secret [Editorial]

The shroud of secrecy following an explosion destroyed an astronaut capsule being tested by SpaceX was a disappointing reminder that government contractors may try to ignore the public’s right to answers even when taxpayer dollars are spent.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has promised that the space agency will make sure there is no repeat of the 10 days of silence that occurred after the unoccupied Crew Dragon capsule burst into flames April 20 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Read more at: Houston chronicle

Remembering Apollo And Looking To The Future

In the 1960s, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center engineered a path to the Moon with the Saturn V rocket. Today, we are developing America’s next deep space rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), that will return astronauts to the Moon for the first time since Apollo. The Apollo 11 mission represents one of humanity’s greatest engineering and scientific achievements and we are proud to celebrate next week with events throughout Huntsville.

Fifty years ago, Apollo 11 captured the world’s attention and demonstrated the power of America’s vision and technology to inspire generations of great achievements, exploration and scientific discovery. As we try to channel the wonder of that unprecedented event that brought America together as one nation, we do so standing on the shoulders of giants who paved the way for this new era of human deep space exploration.

Read more at: Al

As America Celebrates Apollo, A New Moon Race Is Underway

On Dec. 14, 1972, a capsule carrying Apollo 17 astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt lifted off from the lunar surface.

It was the day that humans left the moon.

For a long while, they didn’t come back, but that’s changing. China, India and even smaller nations like Israel and South Korea are all pursuing robotic moon missions. Their lunar ambitions are being driven both by a desire to flex their technological muscles and by the rise of global nationalism.

Read more at: NPR

NASA Leadership Shakeup Comes As Space Agency Pushes To Meet Trump’s Moon Mission Deadline

The head of NASA’s human exploration program was abruptly demoted from his job as the space agency faces a deadline from the Trump administration to send Americans to the moon by 2024.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine informed agency employees in a memo Wednesday night that NASA veteran Bill Gerstenmaier would no longer be leading the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. Instead, Bridenstine said, Gerstenmaier will serve as special assistant to NASA’s Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard.

Read more at: CNN

NASA Shake-Up Leaves Space Program In Confusion

The NASA executive in charge of human space exploration has been ousted over disagreements on the space agency’s plans to land an astronaut on the moon by 2024.

President Donald Trump has asked the space agency to put humans back on the moon before the end of his potential second term in office, but neither the White House nor NASA has won congressional support for the plan. Now, the US space program will attempt to find a path forward without its most consistent figure.

Late yesterday, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine re-assigned associated administrator William Gerstenmaier and his deputy Bill Hill to “special advisor” positions, and replaced them with Ken Bowersox, a former astronaut, and Tom Whitmeyer, a long-time NASA employee. 

Read more at: QZ

Bridenstine: Concern About Cost & Schedule Realism Led To Gerstenmaier And Hill Reassignments

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in an interview today that his decision to reassign Bill Gerstenmaier and Bill Hill was not abrupt, but reflected a growing concern that cost and schedule estimates for the systems needed for the Artemis program are unrealistic. Repeatedly underscoring the need to meet the White House’s goal of returning astronauts to the Moon by 2024, what counts now is “realism” and he believes new leadership is required to reassess the programs and establish new baselines if necessary.

On Wednesday evening, Bridenstine announced that Gerstenmaier, the Associate Administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD), and Hill, Deputy Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Development, had been reassigned to senior advisor roles in the agency.

Read more at: Spacepolicy online

Top House Committee Democrats Seek Details Of Sudden Dismissal Of Gerstenmaier And Hill

The two top Democrats on the House Science, Space, and Technology (SS&T) Committee that oversee NASA expressed surprise at yesterday’s sudden dismissal of two NASA officials leading the Artemis program to return astronauts to the Moon by 2024, Bill Gerstenmaier and Bill Hill.  Expressing concern about the impact on the human spaceflight program of losing its engineering leadership at a critical time, they called on NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine to further explain his decision. Meanwhile, Bridenstine announced a nationwide search today to find their permanent replacements.

Committee chairwoman Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) said she is “baffled” why Bill Gerstenmaier and Bill Hill would be removed from their positions with no permanent successors identified.

Read more at: Spacepolicy online

India Seeks To Join Exclusive Company With Ambitious Moon Mission

India’s ambitious $142 million Chandrayaan 2 moon mission, comprising a orbiter, lander and rover, is set for liftoff Sunday to begin a nearly two-month transit culminating in a touchdown near the lunar south pole in September.

The robotic science mission is awaiting liftoff aboard India’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk.3, or GSLV Mk.3, rocket at 2121 GMT (5:21 p.m. EDT) Sunday from a spaceport on the Indian east coast.

If everything goes according to plan, the three-in-one spacecraft will arrive in orbit around the moon around Aug. 5, then detach the landing craft around Sept. 2 or 3 to begin lowering its altitude in preparation for a final descent to the lunar surface as soon as Sept. 6.

Read more at: Spaceflight now

Virgin Orbit ‘Drop Tests’ A Rocket From A 747 Aircraft 35,000 Feet In The Sky

People near the Mojave Desert may have caught a strange sight Wednesday morning: A 70-foot rocket plummeting from the sky.

It’s was part of a pre-planned test carried out by Virgin Orbit, the space startup backed by British entrepreneur Richard Branson. The company wants to fire satellites into orbit using rockets that launch mid-air from under the wing of a plane. Wednesday’s spectacle, during which a Virgin Orbit LauncherOne rocket was intentionally left to freefall back to the ground for a “drop test,” was the final step toward reaching that goal.

Read more at: CNN

Virgin Orbit Is But A Step Away From A Live Launch To Orbit, Having Completed A Successful Drop-Test From Its 747-400 Carrier Vehicle.

The 10 July sortie saw chief test pilot Kelly Latimer and Todd Ericson – both retired US Air Force flyers – take the modified aircraft, aptly named “Cosmic Girl”, from Mojave Air and Space Port to a drop zone 35,000ft over the Pacific Ocean.

Ensuring that rocket and aircraft separate cleanly in the critical few seconds after release was the primary purpose of the exercise, along with observing the rocket’s freefall. The test followed captive carry tests in December, and included all aspects of flight except actual rocket ignition.

Read more at: Flight global

Maintaining Large-Scale Satellite Constellations Using Logistics Approach

Today, large-scale communication satellite constellations, also known as megaconstellations, have been more and more popular. OneWeb launched the first batch of satellites of an initial 650-satellite constellation in February 2019, and SpaceX also launched the first batch of its 12,000-satellite constellation in May 2019. On July 8, Amazon also filed an application with the FCC for its planned satellite constellation with 3,236 satellites. These satellite constellations are expected to be a game changer by realizing the worldwide satellite Internet service.

However, the unprecedently large scale of these megaconstellations also brings numerous challenges, some of which are hidden and not well-explored. Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign identified a critical hidden challenge about replacing the broken satellites in megaconstellations and proposed a unique solution with inventory control methods.

Read more at: Illinois aerospace

China’s Tiangong-2 Space Lab To Re-Enter Atmosphere Under Control

China’s Tiangong-2 space lab is planned to be controlled to leave orbit and re-enter the atmosphere on July 19 (Beijing time), China Manned Space Engineering Office (CMSEO) announced on Saturday.

Most of the spacecraft will be burnt up in the atmosphere, and a small amount of debris is expected to fall in the safe sea area in the South Pacific (160-90 degrees west longitude and 30-45 degrees south latitude), according to CMSEO.

Tiangong-2, an improved version of Tiangong-1, is China’s first space lab in real sense. Launched on September 15, 2016, the space lab has worked in orbit over 1,000 days, much longer than its 2-year designed life.

Read more at: Xinhuanet

Spaceflight To Launch Multiple Spacecraft From International Space Station Via Cygnus

Spaceflight today announced it is providing mission management and rideshare integration services on an upcoming launch from the International Space Station (ISS) and Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus launch vehicle. Spaceflight bought the capacity through an arrangement with Hypergiant SEOPS for a variety of customer spacecraft, including:

  • RFTSat from Northwest Nazarene University; selected for flight via NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative
  • NARSSCube-2 from NARSS-Egypt developed by researchers from NARSS-Egypt for technology demonstration and environmental study; launch was coordinated by Smart Integrators
  • An undisclosed 6U Cubesat

Read more at: Spaceflight

Fears Over Up To 40 Launches At Remote Spaceport

Up to 40 launches a year could take off from Britain’s first spaceport – more than seven times the number local people were originally led to believe.

In addition, the rockets could now be up to 30 metres (98.4ft) high – almost double previous estimates.

The revelations – in official documents put before planners – has left some residents of the Mhoine peninsula in Sutherland, proposed as the site for the spaceport, feeling they have been hoodwinked.

An environmental impact assessment (EIA) scoping report prepared by consultants for spaceport backer Highlands and Islands Enterprise has been placed before The Highland Council.

Read more at: Herald scotland

Scientists Have Learned A Lot About How Space Travel Affects Human Health. It’s Not A Pretty Picture.

Nearly 50 years have passed since Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the moon. Our special Apollo 50 anniversary coverage explores how the country came together to fulfill President John F. Kennedy’s goal of reaching the lunar surface by 1970, NASA’s bold missions – and crippling tragedies – since that historic day, and the future of space exploration and Houston as America’s “Space City.”

Read more at: Houston chronicle

Communicating From Deep Space — Then And Now

It’s a given that the technology to utilize space and explore the stars has been steadily advancing since the dawn of the space age. But there may be one big exception: the ability to communicate through the vast and harsh void of space.

“The fundamental technology hasn’t changed dramatically [or] what it takes to push a signal back and forth,” says Chris Brady, president of General Dynamics Mission Systems.

The defense giant, which is currently working on the Orion and Starliner spacecraft, has built the communications systems for countless military and intelligence satellites and NASA spacecraft. It was responsible for the components that tracked and controlled the Apollo moon landings and communicated with the famed pair of Voyager probes that reached the outer limits of our solar system.

Read more at: Politico

From Apollo to Mars: The Evolution of Spacesuits

Almost everyone on planet Earth has seen the famous images of astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin standing on the moon. But, often overshadowed by the weight of the historic achievement itself, the most obvious feature of these photographs is also one of the most critical pieces of equipment in crewed spaceflight missions —  their spacesuits.

About half a million individuals worked on NASA’s Apollo Project, taking an impossible idea and landing humans on the moon. During their journey, the astronauts relied on specialized spacesuits to protect themselves from the harsh conditions of space, and NASA has built on that legacy in its subsequent spacesuit design work.

Read more at:

Scientists Deepen Understanding Of The Magnetic Fields That Surround The Earth And Other Planets

Vast rings of electrically charged particles encircle the Earth and other planets. Now, a team of scientists has completed research into waves that travel through this magnetic, electrically charged environment, known as the magnetosphere, deepening understanding of the region and its interaction with our own planet, and opening up new ways to study other planets across the galaxy.

The scientists, led by Eun-Hwa Kim, physicist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), examined a type of wave that travels through the magnetosphere. These waves, called electromagnetic ion cyclotron (EMIC) waves, reveal the temperature and the density of the plasma particles within the magnetosphere, among other qualities.

Read more at: PPPL

Apollo in 50 Numbers: The Cost

25bn: Total cost of the Apollo programme, in US dollars

The president who pledged to land a man on the Moon by the end of the decade wasn’t enthusiastic about space exploration.

“I’m not that interested in space,” John F Kennedy told the head of Nasa, James Webb, in a private meeting at the White House in 1962. “I think it’s good, I think we ought to know about it, we’re ready to spend reasonable amounts of money but we’re talking about these fantastic expenditures which wreck our budget.”

The conversation, released by the John F Kennedy Presidential Library, reveals the President’s true motivations: to beat the Soviet Union.

Read more at: BBC

For First Time, Majority in U.S. Backs Human Mission to Mars

Americans’ views about landing an astronaut on Mars have shifted, with a majority now favoring the idea for the first time since 1969 and 1999, when majorities opposed the idea.

The latest figure comes as President Donald Trump has committed to a manned Mars mission. In his Fourth of July speech, the president said, “We’re going to be back on the moon … and, someday soon, we will plant the American flag on Mars.”

Gallup first asked Americans about attempting to land astronauts on Mars in 1969, shortly after the U.S. accomplished the same feat on the moon. At that time, just 39% were in favor and 53% opposed. A subsequent update on the 30th anniversary of the moon landing found public opinion had changed little, with 43% in favor and 54% opposed to going to Mars.

Read more at: Gallup

SIA Applauds FCC Chairman Pai’s Call To Empower Satellite Entrepreneurs And Streamline Smallsat Regulations

The Satellite Industry Association (SIA) today commended Federal Telecommunications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai for his commitment to streamline the regulatory processes to make it easier and cheaper to license small satellites and to empower satellite companies who are working to bridge the digital divide in America with broadband services. This follows remarks made by Chairman Pai at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Policy Roundtable on Small Satellite Integration held earlier today in Washington, D.C.

Read more at: SIA

Dazzling, Jamming And The International Race To Stake Out Space

When Neil Armstrong made his “giant leap for mankind” 50 years ago this month, it was the culmination of a power struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union that went back to the Sputnik satellite launch in 1957.

Instead of two rival nations in space, today there are around 70 with satellites in space. Instead of space being an eerily “empty” realm there is now a galactic garbage patch orbiting our planet at dangerously high speed – bits of blown-up satellite, defunct rocket parts, paint flecks, even an astronaut’s glove.

And we rely on space in ways most of us could never have imagined.

Read more at: SMH

House Passes NDAA, Keeps HASC Chairman Smith’s Space Launch Reforms Alive

The House on Friday approved the National Defense Authorization Act in a party-line vote of 220-197 following three days of debate and uncertainty on whether Democratic leaders would get enough votes to pass it without any Republican support. Eight Democrats and all Republicans voted against the bill.

H.R. 2500, the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, approved $733 billion for national defense spending, $17 billion less than what the White House and the GOP wanted.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) hailed the passage of the NDAA for the 59th straight year but expressed disappointment that “following months of bipartisan collaboration … our Republican colleagues chose to abandon one of the last true bastions of bipartisanship.”

Read more at: Spacenews

Macron Announces Creation Of French Space Force

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Saturday he had approved the creation of a space command within the French air force to improve the country’s defence capabilities.

The declaration — made on the eve of France’s Bastille Day national celebrations that feature a military parade down Paris’s Champs-Elysees — mirrors an initiative in the US championed by President Donald Trump.

“To assure the development and the reinforcement of our capacities in space, a high command for space will be created in September,” Macron told military brass gathered for a traditional pre-Bastille Day reception.

He called the renewed military focus on space a “true national security issue”.

Read more at: France24

Live from the Moon: How Earth Saw the First Steps of Apollo 11

I was only knee-high when I witnessed Neil Armstrong’s historic first steps. I, along with 600 million others, took for granted the grainy black-and-white television images originating some 240,000 miles away. But those pictures were a triumph that almost never came about.

Initially, NASA mission planners saw no reason to televise the event at all. The command module was already carrying a camera for telecasts during the astronauts’ flight to the Moon and, due to weight and fuel restrictions, planners deemed a second, heavy TV camera on the lunar module unnecessary. Instead, they prioritized voice communication, vital systems data, and astronaut biomedical telemetry.

Read more at: Sky and telescope

Apollo Command Module Never Touched the Moon. But It Made the Landing Possible.

When an explosion rocked Apollo 13’s service module on April 13, 1970, the vehicle’s vital role, and that of the attached command module spacecraft, suddenly became crystal clear.

The astronauts lost one oxygen tank instantly, and the other was badly damaged. The vital engine that was supposed to bring the astronauts back home was knocked out of commission. The three crewmembers did make it home, but barely — and only by using the attached lunar module as a lifeboat.

Read more at:

Apollo 11 Flight Director Gene Kranz on Trump’s Handling of NASA: ‘It’s Great to Again Have the Inspiration’

Apollo 11 and Apollo 13 flight director Gene Kranz applauded the Trump administration’s handling of NASA, saying that “it’s great to again have the inspiration that we’re getting moving again in space.”

Trump has pledged to return Americans to the moon by 2024. In 2010, former President Barack Obama cancelled NASA’s plan to go back to the moon by 2020, which was established under former President George W. Bush. Kranz was asked if he is satisfied with the Trump administration when it comes to U.S. space exploration.

Read more at: PJMedia

NASA Addresses Controversy Over ‘Lost Tapes’ of Apollo 11 Moonwalk

As a former one-time NASA intern prepares to auction off videotapes that allegedly contain original recordings of the first moonwalk, NASA released a statement addressing claims that the agency lost the footage from the Apollo 11 mission.

The search for the “lost tapes” began in 2006, when reports began surfacing that NASA had erased some original footage from the first moon landing. The agency conducted an intensive search at the time, but could not find the tapes.

Read more at:

Milestones In Space Travel: An Illustrated Timeline

We’ve come a long, long way since the U.S. first launched fruit flies into space in 1947. Since then, we’ve sent astronauts to the moon, installed an International Space Station in orbit and landed spacecraft on Mars. In the past couple of decades, private corporations such as SpaceX and Blue Origin have joined the fray and will likely play instrumental roles in aerospace engineering and space exploration. Here’s a look at some major advancements we’ve made in spacecraft technology and space exploration milestones over the past seven decades.

Read more at: Seattle times