Orion’s Ogive Creates a Safe Escape for Astronauts

Engineers are currently testing a critical component of NASA’s Orion spacecraft at the Reverberant Acoustic Test Facility at NASA Glenn Research Center’s Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio. The ogive panels protect the crew module during ascent as well as from the harsh acoustic and vibration environments experienced during launch. They are part of the spacecraft’s launch abort system, which is designed to protect astronauts if an emergency arises during launch or ascent by pulling the crew module away from the rocket. Plum Brook Station facilities are uniquely equipped to replicate, at full scale, the acoustics and vibrations Orion will experience during its missions in space.

Read more at: NASA

Orion STA Undergoing Pre-mission Testing in Denver

With all the structural test articles (STA) of the Orion spacecraft at prime contractor Lockheed Martin’s Space Systems facility in the Denver area, work is underway to qualify the elements for the Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) and Exploration Mission-2 (EM-2) missions to the Moon.  Testing of different combinations of spacecraft hardware in support of EM-1 and EM-2 will continue into 2019.

This phase of testing will help characterize the dynamic response of the structures and verify that the design meets the required factor of safety.

The Crew Module STA is currently set up in a loads testing fixture in the Structural Test Lab at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Waterton facility in Littleton, Colorado.  It was shipped from the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida on NASA’s Super Guppy cargo aircraft in late April to Buckley Air Force Base near Denver.

Read more at: NASA Spaceflight

How to View the 2017 Solar Eclipse Safely

A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon blocks any part of the Sun. On Monday, August 21, 2017, a solar eclipse will be visible (weather permitting) across all of North America. The whole continent will experience a partial eclipse lasting 2 to 3 hours. Halfway through the event, anyone within a roughly 70-mile-wide path from Oregon to South Carolina (http://bit.ly/1xuYxSu) will experience a brief total eclipse, when the Moon completely blocks the Sun’s bright face for up to 2 minutes 40 seconds, turning day into night and making visible the otherwise hidden solar corona — the Sun’s outer atmosphere — one of nature’s most awesome sights. Bright stars and planets will become visible as well.

Read more at: NASA

China to Select Third Group of Astronauts this Year

China will select its third group of astronauts this year, Yang Liwei, deputy director of China Manned Space Engineering Office said Wednesday.

The first and second astronaut groups were all previously airforce pilots. However, the selection of the third group will also include engineers who will be responsible for maintenance, assembly and other tasks, Yang, China’s first astronaut, said at the opening ceremony of the country’s inaugural astronaut photography exhibition.

Photos taken by astronauts from different periods reflect the development of China’s space exploration, he said. “When I was on the spacecraft, I took photos through two windows. Astronauts on the Tiangong space lab had more perspectives for photography. They had a better working environment and living space than before,” he said.

Read more at: China Daily

Three Up, Three Down – NASA Tests RS-25 Flight Controller

In the heart of baseball season, NASA completed its equivalent of a clean inning, successfully testing the third RS-25 flight controller for use on the new Space Launch System (SLS) deep space rocket. Engineers conducted a 500-second test of RS-25 Engine Controller Unit No. 5 on the A-1 Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, July 25, 2017. The test involved installing the controller unit on an RS-25 development engine and firing it in the same manner, and for the same length of time, as needed during launch. With this latest test, NASA continues to set the stage for deep-space exploration missions, achieving another milestone toward launch of the first integrated flight of SLS and the Orion spacecraft, known as Exploration Mission-1. SLS will be powered at launch by four RS-25 engines, firing simultaneously to provide 2 million pounds of thrust and working in conjunction with a pair of solid rocket boosters to produce up to 8 million pounds of thrust.

Read more at: NASA

Opinon: Is there Inconsistency in How NASA Treats its Private Partners?

A recent post appearing on the blog Parabolic Arc noted NASA will not be releasing a public report on the findings of the SpaceX Falcon 9 CRS-7 explosion that resulted in the loss of the launch vehicle, the Dragon spacecraft, and the roughly $118 million in supplies and hardware the spacecraft was carrying. The post also notes that the Orb-3 accident was handled differently by NASA, but were the two accidents so distinct as to warrant two totally dissimilar approaches?

The premise of the Parabolic Arc report was somewhat inaccurate. NASA didn’t refuse to issue a public report; the truth is, no public report was ever produced. NASA officials noted on Wednesday, July 19, that, as the agency was not required to create such a report, one was not generated.

Read more at: Spaceflight Insider

Russian-U.S.-Italian Crew Trio Arrives at ISS After Express Soyuz Rendezvous

A Russian Commander and Flight Engineers from the U.S. and Italy lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at sunset on Friday, riding a Soyuz FG rocket into orbit to embark on an express rendezvous with the International Space Station that took them to their orbital destination just over six hours after launch.

Soyuz FG, carrying the Soyuz MS-05 spacecraft flying under the call sign Borei, blasted off from the historic Site 1/5 launch pad at 15:41:12 UTC on Friday, thundering into clear twilight skies under the power of its four liquid-fueled boosters and powerful core stage.

The 49.5-meter tall rocket provided a spectacular sight as it dropped its four boosters two minutes into the flight followed not long after by the protective launch shroud that enclosed the spacecraft while flying through the atmosphere – falling away from the rocket to the backdrop of the expanding exhaust cloud from the core stage.

Read more at: Spaceflight 101

Sierra Nevada Confirms ULA will Launch First Two Dream Chaser Cargo Missions

Sierra Nevada and United Launch Alliance have announced the most powerful version of the Atlas 5 rocket, with five strap-on boosters and a twin-engine upper stage, will send the first two Dream Chaser cargo missions to the International Space Station from Cape Canaveral in 2020 and 2021, a schedule that still must be confirmed by NASA.

The lifting body spaceship, designed to lift off on top of a conventional rocket and land in a runway like the space shuttle, can deliver around 12,000 pounds (5,500 kilograms) of scientific experiments, hardware and crew supplies to the space station on each unpiloted mission.

The Dream Chaser will will max out at approximately 20 tons when fully fueled at launch, requiring the lift capability of ULA’s biggest Atlas 5 version. The Atlas 5’s modified Centaur upper stage will have two RL10 engines instead of one, a configuration flown on previous Atlas rockets that will debut on the Atlas 5 next year on crewed flights of Boeing’s CST-100 capsule.

Read more at: Spaceflight Now

Zero-G Blood and the Many Horrors of Space Surgery

Matthieu Komorowski wanted to be an astronaut. Still does. The French-born anesthesiologist, currently getting a PhD at Imperial College London, applied to the European Space Agency in 2008. But he knows his chances are limited. “Being basically a medical resident I didn’t get very far in the selection,” Komorowski says. “But I’ve been working on building up my skills.”

Among those skills: administering anesthesia for surgery. And as Komorowski found when he started looking at the literature on space medicine, that might be more helpful than it sounds. Of all the concerns about astronaut safety and health, traumatic injury is the one that worries people the most. It has the biggest potential impact on a mission and, worse, it’s the one people know least about.

Read more at: WIRED

Astronauts Gear Up for Space with Tough Russian Training

Wearing helmets weighing 100 kilos, spinning in a centrifuge and exercising while weightless: Russian cosmonauts and astronauts from abroad have to undergo a gruelling training process before blasting off into space.

Helped by an instructor at the famed Star City outside Moscow, cosmonaut Sergei Ryazansky slowly puts on his helmet as he hangs from the ceiling suspended by a thick metal cord and practises opening a lock while wearing a thick spacesuit.

The 42-year-old cosmonaut is no novice. He has already spent five months aboard the International Space Station (ISS) in 2013 and 2014 and will return for another mission on July 28, teamed up with US astronaut Randy Bresnik and Italian Paolo Nespoli.

Read more at: Space Daily

Re-Entry: Rocket Bodies from Long March 3A and 3B

A Long March 3A rocket stage re-entered the atmosphere on July 18, 2017 after over one decade in orbit, making a very slow decay from a Medium Earth Transfer Orbit. The Long March 3A rocket launched the first Beidou Medium Earth Orbit Satellite, an in-orbit validation craft that paved the way for the inauguration of the MEO Segment of the Beidou-2 navigation system – delivering services over China and the Asia-Pacific Region

A Long March 3B rocket stage re-entered the atmosphere on July 21, 2017 after close to a year in orbit, making a slow decay from a highly elliptical Geostationary Transfer Orbit. The Long March 3B rocket launched the Tiantong 1-1 mobile communications satellite operating in the S- and UHF communications bands, likely with military use.

Read more at: Spaceflight 101 (1) Spaceflight 101 (2)

Elon Musk Names Yet Another Launch Date for SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy Rocket

Late Thursday night, Elon Musk tweeted that SpaceX’s next big rocket — the Falcon Heavy — will make its inaugural flight this November. It’s a new launch date for a vehicle that has had many tentative launch dates before, none of which have actually panned out just yet. But perhaps this time, the vehicle may finally fly when Musk says it will.

The Falcon Heavy is a larger variant of SpaceX’s current Falcon 9 rocket. It consists of three Falcon 9 cores strapped together, and will be capable of lofting around 140,000 pounds of cargo into lower Earth orbit. That will make it one of the most powerful rockets in history once it launches. And just like the Falcon 9, the Falcon Heavy will be partially reusable.

Read more at: Verge

Virgin Orbit will Land its Flying Launchpad – ‘Cosmic Girl’ – in Long Beach Monday

Cosmic Girl, the specially modified aircraft that Virgin Orbit engineers designed to essentially function as a flying launchpad, is scheduled to make its first landing at Long Beach Airport on Monday.

The aircraft is a former Virgin Atlantic 747-400 passenger jet with modifications enabling it to fire a rocket that Virgin Orbit calls LauncherOne. The idea is for Cosmic Girl to be able to carry LauncherOne under one if its wings and fire the rocket spaceward like a giant missile.

Cosmic Girl underwent its modifications in Texas. Virgin Orbit has more than 300 people attached to its LauncherOne project working in Long Beach. Although Virgin Orbit Vice President of Special Projects Will Pomerantz kept details about Monday’s event and the project’s future close to the vest, he said: “The whole timing of this event is more about an emotional milestone as much as a technical milestone.”

Read more at: press telegram

Japan Venture Ends Rocket Launch After Communications Glitch

The launch of a rocket by a private Japanese venture was cut short after liftoff Sunday due to a communications failure. Hundreds of spectators gathered to watch, applauding as the rocket took off from a launching pad on Japan’s northern main island of Hokkaido.

The rocket’s developers, Interstellar Technologies, said they aborted the launch after about 80 seconds and it landed about 8 kilometers (5 miles) offshore. The aim had been to launch the rocket, called “Momo,” to an altitude of 100 kilometers (62 miles), but it only traveled about 30-40 kilometers (19-25 miles).

Japanese government-funded projects have launched more than 30 rockets. Former Livedoor Co. President and founder of Interstellar Technologies Takafumi Horie said he believed data from the test launch would prove useful.

Read more at: Sanluisobispo

Russian Super-heavy Booster Vehicle to Bring Payloads of 70 tns to Orbit

The new Russian super-heavy booster vehicle will have a capability to bring payloads of more than 70 tons to the low-earth orbit, the Russian state space corporation Roscosmos said in a bidding documentation uploaded at the web site of governmental procurements.

“The launching complex will have a launch pad that will make it possible to prepare booster vehicles for launches and to launch the booster vehicles of medium class and super-heavy class, the latter with a capacity to take payloads of more than 70 tonnes to the low-earth orbit,” the documents said.

The super-heavy booster vehicle will have a universal launch pad suitable for liftoffs of the vehicles of various load-carrying capacity. Also, it will give an opportunity for ballistic testing of the central block and the third-stage block of the super-heavy booster vehicle with the diameter of 7.7 meters.

Read more at: TASS

NASA Awards Safety, Mission Assurance Services II Contract

NASA has awarded a contract to Millennium Engineering and Integration Company of Arlington, Virginia, for Safety and Mission Assurance Services (SMAS) II for NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

This is a cost-plus fixed-fee, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract with a maximum ordering value of $185 million. The effective ordering period is from Sept. 1 through Aug. 31, 2022.

The contract, a small business set-aside, will support Goddard projects in the implementation of agency and center policy in the areas of occupational safety and health, systems safety, reliability and risk assessment, mission software and ground systems assurance, quality engineering, systems review, management systems and mission assurance, both on-site and at supplier facilities.

Read more at: NASA

How Prepared are we for an Asteroid Impact? NASA is Conducting a Test to Find Out

In the event of an impending asteroid impact, just how prepared are the inhabitants of Earth? NASA hopes to find out in an upcoming exercise using an actual space rock.

The asteroid 2012 TC4 will pass close to Earth as it hurls through the great beyond. As this is astronomy, which deals in light years and universes, close means about 4,200 miles from the planet’s surface, at best.

Dozens of observatories, universities and labs around the world will participate in the preparatory exercise on Oct. 12, which is intended to uncover the “strengths and limitations of our planetary defense capabilities,” said Vishnu Reddy, a University of Arizona professor and coordinator of the upcoming campaign, in a press release.

Read more at: Sfgate

NASA Selects Proposals to Study Sun, Space Environment

NASA has selected nine proposals under its Explorers Program that will return transformational science about the Sun and space environment and fill science gaps between the agency’s larger missions; eight for focused scientific investigations and one for technological development of instrumentation.

The broad scope of the investigations illustrates the many vital and specialized research areas that must be explored simultaneously in the area of heliophysics, which is the study of how the Sun affects space and the space environment of planets.

“The Explorers Program seeks innovative ideas for small and cost-constrained missions that can help unravel the mysteries of the Universe,” said Paul Hertz, director of NASA’s Astrophysics Division and the selection official. “These missions absolutely meet that standard with proposals to solve mysteries about the Sun’s corona, the Earth’s atmosphere and magnetosphere, and the solar wind.”

Read more at: NASA

China Breakthroughs: Mission to Mars Prepares for Liftoff in 2020

When science-fiction literature exploded in popularity during the first half of the 20th Century, Mars was routinely featured. Sci-fi authors composed tales of so-called Martian aliens invading Earth to colonize humans.

Yet, Mars is a desolate planet, devoid of living creatures, which are capable of creating spaceships that can journey into outer space. Nonetheless, scientists remain mesmerized with the red planet.

The United States and Russia were the first two countries to enter the space race and have endeavored in recent decades to launch satellites and rover missions that have already reached Mars. The China National Space Administration (CNSA) announced a goal for its team to launch a Mars Rover by 2020 with an expected landing date to the planet by 2021.

Read more at: CCTV

Ariane 6 & Vega C Rockets will Secure Independent Space Access for Europe (Video)

Launch facilities for Europe’s next major rocket, the Ariane 6 rocket, are under construction in Kourou, French Guiana and the Vega rocket is getting an upgrade. This will increase the capabilities of the the space agency and European launch industry. Launch provider Arianespace is building the Ariane 6.

Take a look at how the European Space Agency and Arianespace are preparing the Ariane 6 rocket and Vega C booster variant in the new video above.

Read more at: Space.com

After a Year in Space, the Air hasn’t Gone Out of NASA’s Inflated Module

A prototype of what could be the next generation of space stations is currently in orbit around the Earth. The prototype is unusual. Instead of arriving in space fully assembled, it was folded up and then expanded to its full size once in orbit. The module is called BEAM, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, and it has been attached to the International Space Station since April last year.

Expandable modules allow NASA to pack a large volume into a smaller space for launch. They’re not made of metal, but instead use tough materials like the Kevlar found in bulletproof vests.

The station crew used air pressure to unfold and expand the BEAM, but it’s wrong to think about BEAM as expanding like a balloon that could go “pop” if something punctured it. NASA’s Jason Crusan says there is a better analogy: “It’s much like the tire of your car.” Even with no air in it, a tire retains its tirelike shape.

Read more at: NPR

Webster’s NanoRacks Expands its Role in Commercial Space

An airlock destined for the International Space Station sat near the bottom of a 40-foot pool as astronauts hoisted bulky suits around its curvatures. NASA was testing the station’s first complex fixture – an element that could one day be attached to a commercial space station – that is privately owned.

“If we’re going to see an economy develop in low-Earth orbit … the commercial sector has got to be able to provide and operate things like this,” said Mike Read, manager of the International Space Station’s commercial space utilization office.

 That’s the goal of Webster-based NanoRacks, which has evolved from getting experiments on the space station to developing an airlock that will help deploy satellites. Ultimately, NanoRacks hopes its roughly $12 million airlock will be detached from the government-owned space station and reattached to one that is commercially owned and operated.

Read more at: Houston Chronicle

Sierra Nevada Ground Tests Dream Chaser’s Steering, Brakes

On Monday, July 17, Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) put its full-scale Dream Chaser test vehicle through its paces on the ground at NASA’s Armstrong Research Center in California. According to a report by Spaceflight Now, the ground tests towed the vehicle fast enough to evaluate the performance of its brakes, steering, guidance, navigation, and control systems.

Dream Chaser’s ground testing is similar to pulling a wagon rapidly down the street and then letting it go to see how well the occupant can steer and stop it. In this case, the only occupants aboard Dream Chaser’s test vehicle are the onboard electronics, which are responsible for handling steering and braking on two rear wheels and a forward skid.

The testing also evaluated the craft’s guidance, navigation and control sensors, which will align the spaceplane for an actual landing.

Read more at: Spaceflight Insider

Smallest Spacecraft Ever Launched Make it to Low-earth Orbit

Working prototype versions of the smallest spacecraft ever conceived made it to orbit last month, hitching a ride aboard the Max Valier and Venta satellites operated by OHB System and launched into orbit by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).

The tiny ‘Sprite’ spacecraft, created by the Breakthrough Starshot program and funded through a 2011 Kickstarter campaign, measure just 3.5-by-3.5 centimeters, and weigh only four grams, but incorporate power source (solar panels), computing components, sensors and radios for transmission.

These itty bitty spaceborne Sprites are designed to help pave the way for even smaller single-chip spacecraft, and are currently performing well in systems tests that include beaming messages back and forth with California and New York ground-based communication stations, as well as with amateur radio buffs who can pick up the Sprites’ signals as they pass overhead.

Read more at: Tech Crunch

NASA, ESA Understand Major Setback Inevitable if Cooperation Stops – Roscosmos

“It’s very easy to make hasty decisions which would interrupt this cooperation. Both we and our partners understand that this will throw us back. Space agencies also understand that this cooperation needs to be maintained and continued,” Komarov told the Rossiya-24 broadcaster.

According to Komarov, the partners are committed to understanding that it is necessary to work together, despite many decisions of politicians, which could negatively affect cooperation. At the same time, he noted that not only sanctions are incentives for the development of cosmonautics both in Russia and in other countries.

Read more at: Sputnik News

UK Space Services Operator to Setup European HQ in Malta

A business based in the UK that deve­lops space launch facilities and systems plans to set up its European headquarters in Malta.

Orbital Access CEO Stuart McIntyre told The Sunday Times of Malta: “We are setting up our European headquarters here in Malta and we are currently financing that programme. We intend to establish Malta as our headquarters of our operations for Europe and the world.”

Mr McIntyre said the decision to set up a European base in Malta was based on two main considerations: Malta’s excellent location for the launching of satellites, and Brexit. “The UK is, of course, very good for launching satellites to the north, but is very bad for launching equatorially to the east. And so we came to Malta expressly to look at the development of a launch site at Luqa, for a spaceport, to be able to take our systems off to launch to the east.

Read more at: Times of Malta

Draconian Restrictions in New Outer Space Act

Anyone found guilty of photographing the remains of a crashed satellite in a “declared satellite debris recovery area” could face three months in prison as well as a $2000 fine. The same applies to anyone removing souvenirs from a crash site. They are just two of the penalties under the new Outer Space and High-altitude Activities Act.

The Act is mainly aimed at ensuring compliance with the international Outer Space Treaty which New Zealand has ratified, according to Christchurch Lane Neave law firm partner Maria Pozza who made submissions on it. Pozza who said the Act introduced a licensing regime to the sector and she predicted an increase in companies using New Zealand as a launch pad because orbits over other parts of the world were crowded.

Read more at: Stuff

A Century Before Bezos and Musk, Rich Men were Already Funding Space Exploration

If you think of space exploration and the United States, you probably imagine NASA’s Apollo moon rockets and “one giant leap for mankind.” But you shouldn’t be thinking about big government.

Instead, picture a billionaire who earned a fortune building the infrastructure for a booming California economy, searching for a legacy-making investment in technology to highlight his accomplishments. Or picture a science-fiction-loving engineer who tests his rockets through public-private partnerships with the US government and is obsessed with colonizing other planets to preserve the human species.

You doubtless thought of Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, whose companies Blue Origin and SpaceX are breaking aerospace barriers today. But that’s not who we’re talking about.

Read more at: QZ

Thieves Take Neil Armstrong’s Solid Gold Lunar Module Replica

Thieves made off with a solid gold replica of the first vehicle to land on the moon Friday. Police in Wapakoneta, Ohio, say they found the model of the 1969 Lunar Excursion Module missing from the Armstrong Air & Space Museum after they responded to an alarm that went off at the museum late Friday night.

The gold replica, given to famed astronaut Neil Armstrong, is one of only three made — one for each astronaut aboard Apollo 11. Police said in a statement that “the value of such an item cannot be determined.”

Readers of French newspaper Le Figaro gave the 18-karat gold models to Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins during a visit to Paris in October 1969, according to the website collectSPACE.

Read more at: NPR

U.S. Says Iran Rocket Test Breaches U.N. Resolution

Iran successfully tested a rocket that can deliver satellites into orbit, state television reported on Thursday, an action the United States said breaches a U.N. Security Council resolution because of its potential use in ballistic missile development.

Iranian state television showed footage of the firing of the rocket, mounted on a launchpad carrying pictures of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic, and Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The rocket launch violated United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on Thursday.

Read more at: Reuters

Space Center Critical to Pentagon’s Third Offset, Future of Warfare

If one thing is clear about the future of war, it is that operations and communications must be connected and integrated.

The military is going about this through a variety of efforts that include concepts such as multi-domain battle – which seeks to integrate operations and coordinate seamlessly across the five domains of war as opposed to the antiquated domain-specific approach to solving problems – and the so-called third offset– the brainchild of Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work, which seeks to offset adversarial gains through initiatives such as man-machine teaming and autonomy.

Read more at: c4isrnet

Review: Spaceflight in the Shuttle Era and Beyond

Last Friday marked the sixth anniversary of the landing of the shuttle Atlantis on mission STS-135, the final shuttle mission. That anniversary went largely unnoticed in the space community, let alone the general public. At the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, for example, Friday was Mars Day, celebrating the past and future exploration of the Red Planet. The event included an appearance by a very futuristic, but also very faux, concept for a future Mars rover, looking more like a Batmobile from the recent Batman movies than anything NASA might drive on Mars in the indefinite future.

To be fair, no one really known what NASA’s future Mars exploration missions will look like and what rovers they’ll feature; the agency has only started to sketch out on what those missions will look like. Tied to that is the question of why to go there in the first place: what is the rationale for sending humans to Mars, or elsewhere in space in general? There is no shortage of ideas, but also no consensus.

Read more at: Space Review

Russia Says N.Korea Missile appeared to be ‘Medium-range’

A missile fired by North Korea Friday appeared to be a “medium-range” weapon, the Russian military said, as the US asserted Pyongyang had launched a second ICBM.

In a statement cited by Russian agencies the defence ministry in Moscow said that according to flight parameters detected by its warning systems the “characteristics were those of a medium-range ballistic missile”. It reached an altitude of 681 kilometres (420 miles) and flew for 732 kilometres before crashing down into the Sea of Japan without posing any threat to Russia, the statement said.

Read more at: Spacewar