ULA And Its Launch Industry Competitors In Pitched Fight Over Regulations
United Launch Alliance on July 19 posted on the Federal Aviation Administration’s website a detailed comment in support of the agency’s proposed revisions of commercial launch and re-entry rules. Shortly after the company’s comments went public, ULA CEO Tory Bruno tweeted: “FAA did a superb job increasing flexibility while maintaining public safety.”
ULA, and its parent companies Boeing and Lockheed Martin, have stood virtually alone in their support of the FAA’s rules revision. In the past week, Northrop Grumman, Airlines for America, Alaska Aerospace, Astra Space and CDSE have aligned with ULA.
SpaceX’s Crewed Dragon Launch Debut Likely To Slip Into 2020 As NASA Pursues “Realistic” Dates
In a recent blog post, NASA made it clear that changes happening to leadership within the agency – specifically within the Human Exploration and Operations Directorate – are impacting the timelines to return astronauts to the International Space Station(ISS) from US soil. Agency conflicts are just the latest of several setbacks that have impacted the schedule of SpaceX’s crewed Crew Dragon launch debut.
Initially, the SpaceX Demo-2 mission set to carry NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the ISS was slated to occur in the summer of 2019.
NASA Releases Report On Weather Satellite Failure
A NASA board assigned to investigate the April 2018 failure of an infrared-detecting instrument on board a next-generation weather satellite has released its report. The malfunction has been attributed to a pipe blockage that prevented the flow of needed coolant.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration‘s (NOAA) Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-17 (GOES-17), was launched on March 1, 2018, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The satellite is one of a series of new-generation weather satellites that conduct atmospheric measurements and take advanced imagery, enabling scientists to track storms, wildfires, coastal fog, and other potentially hazardous weather conditions in the western US in real time. It is positioned in a geostationary orbit 22,300 miles (35,888 km) above the Earth’s surface.
Space Insurer Swiss Re Leaves Market
Swiss Re, the world’s second largest reinsurance company, informed clients and brokers July 31 that it has stopped insuring satellites and launches.
Jan Schmidt, the head of Swiss Re’s space underwriting division, said in an email obtained by SpaceNews that the decision to “cease Space underwriting with immediate effect” was driven by “bad results of recent years and unsustainable premium rates.”
Schmidt emailed clients and brokers the same day Swiss Re board member Andreas Berger told Reutersthe company is reducing its space exposure as part of a broader effort to stem losses in its corporate insurance divisions.
NASA Agrees To Work With Spacex On Orbital Refueling Technology
On Tuesday afternoon, NASA announced 19 new partnerships with 10 US companies to help bring more cutting-edge technologies closer to production use in spaceflight. There were a lot of useful engineering ideas here, such as precision landing systems and robotic plant farms, but perhaps the most intriguing one involved the rocket company SpaceX and two of NASA’s field centers—the Glenn Research Center in Ohio and the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama.
“SpaceX will work with Glenn and Marshall to advance technology needed to transfer propellant in orbit, an important step in the development of the company’s Starship space vehicle,” the NASA news release states. This is a significant announcement for reasons both technical and political.
Progress Cargo Freighter Lifts Off, Reaches Space Station Hours Later
A Russian Progress cargo freighter lifted off Wednesday from Kazakhstan on top of a Soyuz-2.1a booster and completed a record-breaking 3-hour, 19-minute pursuit of the International Space Station with an automated docking to deliver 2.7 tons of food, fuel, water and other supplies.
The Soyuz-2.1a rocket lifted off from Launch Pad No. 31 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 1210:46 GMT (8:10:46 a.m. EDT; 5:10:46 p.m. Baikonur time) Wednesday, roughly the moment the Earth’s rotation brings the launch site under the space station’s orbital plane.
Investigators Conclude External Forces Killed An Intelsat Satellite In April
Investigators probing the sudden failure of the Boeing-built Intelsat 29e geostationary relay station in April have concluded an electrostatic discharge, aggravated by a harness flaw on the spacecraft, or a micrometeoroid strike prematurely ended the satellite’s mission, resulting in a $382 million hit to Intelsat’s quarterly financial report.
Intelsat said Tuesday that officials investigating the April 7 anomaly with Intelsat 29e have narrowed the cause of the failure to one of two possibilities.
Boeing 737 Max Likely Grounded Until The End Of The Year After New Problem Emerges
Boeing’s 737 Max could stay on the ground until late this year after a new problem emerged with the plane’s in-flight control chip.
This latest holdup in the plane’s troubled recertification process has to do with a chip failure that can cause uncommanded movement of a panel on the aircraft’s tail, pointing the plane’s nose downward, a Boeing official said. Subsequent emergency tests to fix the issue showed it took pilots longer than expected to solve the problem, according to The Wall Street Journal.
ISRO To Build Centre To Protect High Value Space Assets
The Indian space agency on Saturday said that the foundation stone for a centre to monitor and protect high value space assets from space debris has been laid.
K Sivan, Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro), laid the foundation stone for the Space Situational Awareness Control Centre in Peenya, Bengaluru, on Friday.
“Space Situational Awareness & Management (SSAM) has become an internationally significant area due to the ever growing manmade space debris population and the increased collision threat with operational spacecraft,” Isro said in a statement.
Asteroid’s Surprise Close Approach Illustrates Need for More Eyes on the Sky
On 25 July, an asteroid the size of a football field flew by Earth, coming within 65 000 km of our planet’s surface during its closest approach – about one fifth of the distance to the Moon.
The 100 m-wide asteroid dubbed ‘2019 OK’ was detected just days before it passed Earth, although archival records from sky surveys show it had previously been observed but wasn’t recognised as a near-Earth asteroid.
While 2019 OK illustrates the need for even more eyes on the sky, it also provides an opportunity to improve the asteroid recognising abilities of current and future telescopes, including ESA’s upcoming ‘Flyeye’.
A Russian Space Cargo Ship Just Fell to Earth. See Its Fiery Demise!
So long, Progress 72, and thanks for all the stuff. The Russian-built Progress cargo ship went down in flames (on purpose) on Monday (July 29) and a space station astronaut made sure to capture its fiery doom on camera.
“Said goodbye to Progress 72 today to make room for 73P showing up on Wednesday. Caught this shot of it during reentry,” NASA astronaut Nick Hague wrote on Twitter Monday. “It looked like a big firework that lasted minutes — flickering, sparking, and pulsing with brightness before it faded into the darkness.”
Football-Size Meteorite May Have Landed in an Indian Rice Field
A small meteorite may have crashed into a rice field in eastern India on Monday (July 22).
The strange rock, which weighed nearly 29 pounds (14 kilograms) and was the size of a football, created an imprint in the muddy waters of the rice paddy in Mahadeva village in Bihar, according to CNN.
It’s currently being held at the Bihar Museum but will soon be moved to the Srikrishna Science Center in Bihar, so that experts can figure out whether it’s an actual meteorite or just a plain old rock, according to a statement from the Chief Minister of Bihar’s office.
Toyota is Building a Pressurized Lunar Rover for Japan
JAXA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, is teaming up with the nation’s largest company to build a lunar rover. Toyota, the second largest automobile company in the world (only Volkswagen makes more cars) has signed a development deal with JAXA that will last three years. The goal? To design, build, test and evaluate prototypes for a pressurized, crewed lunar vehicle that runs on fuel-cells.
NASA Seeks “Industrialization” Of Low Earth Orbit With ISS Commercialization Strategy
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine says he believes the agency’s new strategy for increasing commercial use of the International Space Station will lead to an “industrialization” of low Earth orbit, although experts warn it may take time for those markets to emerge.
In a July 31 speech at the ISS Research and Development Conference here, Bridenstine argued it was essential to build up commercial activities on the ISS and elsewhere in LEO to support not just the space industry, but also the overall national economy.
How Federal Agencies Are Increasingly Using The Space Station
More federal agencies are lining up to conduct experiments on the International Space Station, according to a top official for the orbiting habitat’s laboratory, signaling the government is likely to play a major role even after NASA funding is set to dry up and the station seeks private support.
The National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation and Department of Defense are already conducting experiments ranging from space medicine to treating post-traumatic stress disorder, says Michael Roberts, the deputy chief scientist for the International Space Station’s national laboratory.
China Successfully Tests Accurate Landing Of Rocket Debris
China has successfully tested the technology that can accurately control the landing site of falling rocket parts, making progress toward reusable launch vehicles in the future, China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) said on Sunday.
The CASC said that the test was carried out following a Long March-2C rocket launched on Friday, and focused on grid fins which are like “wings” on rocket core part to increase precision in control of its landing location.
Report Outlines Spacex’s Plans For Starship Launches From KSC
SpaceX plans to build facilities at the Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A for launches and, eventually, landings of its next-generation launch vehicle, according to a newly released report.
An environment assessment prepared by SpaceX, and released by NASA Aug. 1, discusses plans to develop additional facilities at LC-39A, which currently hosts Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launches, for use by the company’s Starship vehicle and its Super Heavy booster.
Space Station Cell Study Seeks Causes Of Major Diseases
High above the Earth, researchers are conducting a first-of-its-kind study to help patients with Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis on the planet below. The International Space Station experiment is looking for what triggers these diseases by studying how nerve and immune brain cells interact.
The experiment, carried to the space station aboard the SpaceX CRS-18 cargo flight, will look at what is causing damage to the nervous system that is common in both illnesses and reveal how living in space affects similar cells in healthy astronauts.
Senator Criticizes Cost And Schedule Issues With NASA Programs
The chairman of a key Senate committee said he’s “troubled” by cost and schedule growth on major NASA programs and is asking the agency for more information on their status.
Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said Aug. 1 he sent a two-page letter to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine July 30 expressing his concern about cost and schedule performance on a number of major programs, citing a report in May by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
NASA Gives SpaceX A Challenge With The Moon As A Prize
Recently, near the sleepy south Texas beachside town of Boca Chica, a stubby vehicle that looks like a water tank with legs, shining with its stainless-steel hull, rose 20 meters, wreathed in fire and smoke, before it descended back to the ground. The brief flight test of the Starhopper took a few seconds, though it started a grass fire that took a long time to put out. If Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, is right, the short hop is just the beginning of a journey that will take humankind back to the moon, on to Mars — and then beyond.
The Problem Billionaires Are Overlooking in Their Race to Space
When I was 9 years old, the New York Times published a picture of me looking at one of the moon rocks brought back by the astronauts. The year was 1969, and my father worked at the Museum of Natural History; the paper wanted a shot with a kid looking at a symbol of our future in space. So I got to see up close what everyone else had to view inside a large box (not that it looked different than an ordinary backyard rock).
Mike Griffin Alienating Friends & Enemies Alike, Firing Scientists at New Pentagon Job
Former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin has had a tumultuous time since taking over as undersecretary of defense for research and engineering in February.
In his role as the Defense Department’s chief technology officer, Griffin has been criticized for his efforts to overhaul the Pentagon’s costly and time-consuming development and procurement of new systems through the newly established Space Development Agency (SDA).
France Is Launching a ‘Space Force’ with Weaponized Satellites
Months after President Donald Trump announced the creation of the U.S. Space Force, France is beginning to lay the groundwork for its own version.
French President Emmanuel Macron announced last month that the nation’s air force will establish a space command for the purpose of national defense, particularly to protect French satellites.
Last week, French Minister of Defense Florence Parly detailed the nation’s plan for its new space force, which involves equipping satellites with machine guns and lasers, according to the French news weekly Le Point.
SASC Approves Hyten’s Nomination
The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) approved the nomination of Gen. John Hyten (USAF) to be Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff today. The 20-7 vote comes just one day after Hyten’s nomination hearing where he denied charges of sexual assault leveled by a former subordinate, Army Col. Kathyrn Spletstoser. She continues to make her case publicly that he assaulted her and should not be confirmed.
A SASC spokeswoman declined to say which Senators voted yes or no on the Hyten nomination. In a statement to SpacePolicyOnline.com, she said the information was “not publicly available.”
The U.S. Air Force’s Secret X-37B Space Plane: A War Machine?
A Dutch skywatcher achieved a rare feat in late June and early July 2019. Using a 10-inch-diameter telescope fitted with a camera, Ralf Vandebergh photographed the U.S. Air Force’s secretive X-37B space plane in mid-mission 210 miles over Earth’s surface.
“We can recognize a bit of the nose, payload bay and tail of this mini-shuttle, with even a sign of some smaller detail,” Vandebergh told Space.com.
Israel, US Successfully Test Ballistic Missile Interceptor
Israel and the United States have successfully carried out tests of a ballistic missile interceptor that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday provides protection against potential threats from Iran.
The tests of the Arrow-3 system were carried out in the US state of Alaska and it successfully intercepted targets above the atmosphere, Israel’s defence ministry said in a statement.
“The flight tests were conducted in Alaska in order to test capabilities that may not be tested in Israel,” the statement said.
North Korea Says New Missile A ‘Solemn Warning’ To South
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has said two missiles fired under his supervision were newly designed tactical weapons that sent a “solemn warning” to the South over plans to hold military drills with the United States.
Thursday’s missile tests were the first since Kim and US President Donald Trump agreed to resume nuclear talks during an impromptu meeting last month in the demilitarised zone between North and South Korea.
The Great NASA Bake-Off
The sight of a cookie had never made me grimace until this one showed up in my email inbox.
DoubleTree by Hilton, the hotel chain, was announcing that it would soon senda little oven and a batch of cookie dough to the International Space Station so that astronauts could, for the first time, bake chocolate-chip cookies in space. The cookies, which the hotel gives guests for free when they check in, are “the perfect food to make the cosmos a more welcoming place,” DoubleTree said.
Bridenstine Selects New Director Of Goddard Space Flight Center
Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) has been assigned a new acting director by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine as the previous head of the Center has opted to move on.
Effective Thursday, Aug. 1. George Morrow began his tenure as Goddard’s Director. He replaces Chris Scolese who served as the director for seven years. Scolese is leaving to become the director of the National Reconnaissance Office.