Lockheed Martin Reveals Plans for Sending Humans to Mars

A commercial effort to get humans into orbit around Mars in the late 2020s now includes a sleek vehicle to send astronauts down to the surface of the Red Planet.

The aerospace company Lockheed Martin late Thursday (Sept. 28) revealed new details for its Mars Base Camp plan, an architecture aimed at building a crewed space station in orbit around the Red Planet that would support long-term exploration at Mars by astronautson 1,000-day missions. Among the updates unveiled was a tantalizing design for a reusable, single-stage surface lander called the Mars Ascent/Descent Vehicle (MADV).

Read more at: Scientific American

‘Son of Concorde’ Moves Closer to Reality as NASA Tests Supersonic Prototype that could Cut Travel Time from London to New York in Half

NASA has revealed the latest tests on a radical supersonic plane that could revolutionise air travel. The space agency is using a model of its Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST) Preliminary Design in windtunnel tests at NASA’s Langley Research Center. The space agency says it is ready to begin taking bids for construction of a demonstration plane in a project worth $390 million over five years, according to Bloomberg.

The QueSST Preliminary Design is the initial design stage of NASA’s planned Low-Boom Flight Demonstration experimental airplane, otherwise known as an X-plane. The radical new craft could cut the six-hour flight time from New York to Los Angeles in half – and reduce the sonic boom so it can fly over populated areas. 

Read more at: Dailymail

How El Segundo’s Aerospace Corp. is Working to Prevent ‘Space Junk’ Collisions

When blackened tanks from a Hawthorne-made SpaceX Falcon 9 second-stage rocket accidentally rained down onto an Indonesian island last year, the nation got a palpable encounter with a problem known as “space junk.”

Luckily, the rocket-propellant tanks that survived the white-hot burn of the Earth’s outer atmosphere didn’t hit any people or animals, even though one landed on a farm. But the incident highlighted an increasingly worrying issue in the aerospace community: There is no global agreement to prevent and clean up debris left behind in orbit.

The Aerospace Corp., a nonprofit research-and-development firm in El Segundo, urged White House officials to seek an international data-sharing agreement to monitor orbiting human trash, during a Thursday Capitol Hill briefing the firm led on the matter in Washington, D.C.

Read more at: Dailybreeze

China Returns to Action with Long March 2C Launch of Yaogan-30 01

After two launch mishaps that casted a shadow on the launch plans for 2017, China conducted a secretive launch from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center, Sichuan province on Friday. An unidentified payload – later revealed to be Yaogan-30 01 – was launched by the Long March-2C (Y29) at 04:20 UTC from the LC3 Launch Complex.

The launch comes after the loss of the communications satellite Shijian-18 on the second launch of the heavy Long March-5 rocket on July 2, along with the underperformance of the third stage of the Long March-3B/G2 launch vehicle that left the Zhongxing-9A (Chinasat-9A) in a wrong orbit.

Eventually, after utilizing its own propulsion system, the Chinasat-9A managed to reach its operational geostationary orbit.

Read more at: NASA Spaceflight

Large Solar Storm Sparks Global Aurora and Doubles Radiation Levels on the Martian Surface

An unexpectedly strong blast from the Sun hit Mars this month, observed by NASA missions in orbit and on the surface.”NASA’s distributed set of science missions is in the right place to detect activity on the Sun and examine the effects of such solar events at Mars as never possible before,” said MAVEN Program Scientist Elsayed Talaat, program scientist at NASA Headquarters, Washington, for NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, or MAVEN, mission.

The solar event on Sept. 11, 2017 sparked a global aurora at Mars more than 25 times brighter than any previously seen by the MAVEN orbiter, which has been studying the Martian atmosphere’s interaction with the solar wind since 2014. It produced radiation levels on the surface more than double any previously measured by the Curiosity rover’s Radiation Assessment Detector, or RAD, since that mission’s landing in 2012. The high readings lasted more than two days.

Read more at: NASA

How Crazy is Elon Musk’s Hypersonic Space Rocket Airline?

For whatever reason, some of the world’s smartest and most eccentric people tend to be drawn toward airlines. Elon Musk is the latest, but with a twist—rockets.

Tacked onto a detailed explanation Friday of how SpaceX intends to land cargo on Mars five years from now—a farcical schedule that Musk conceded was “aspirational”—the space, car, solar, and battery entrepreneur segued into an audacious proposal to harness the speed of space-travel for faster earthly flights. In essence, Musk wants to fly you even when you’re going merely to London, not Mars.

Flying at a maximum speed of 27,000 km/hr (17,000 mph), a hypersonic trip from New York to Shanghai in Musk’s proposed craft would take 39 minutes, down from the current nonstop time of about 15 hours. Los Angles to Toronto would take just 24 minutes. London to Dubai in a mere 29 minutes. Traveling between any two points on the globe would take less than an hour.

Read more at: Bloomberg

Are We Really Headed to the Moon?

Although the plan hatched by NASA and its Russian counterpart to build a space station near the moon seems like a solid launching pad for further human space exploration, it’s a message that’s been heard before. On Wednesday, the U.S. agency and Roscosmos announced they are working on a partnership to build the station, called the Deep Space Gateway.

The statement, made at the 2017 International Astronautical Congress in Sydney, Australia, is the next step in a space program that’s largely been on hold for the Americans. The last time humans were on the moon was in 1972. Aside from the International Space Station, there haven’t been any solid plans of further human space exploration.

Read more at: CBC

Russia May Help UAE Create its Own Astronaut Team

Roscosmos and the space agency of the United Arab Emirates have signed an agreement of intent at the International Astronautical Congress under which Russia may help the UAE create its own cosmonaut team, Roscosmos Executive Director for Manned Space Flight Programs Sergey Krikalev told reporters.

“An agreement of intent has been signed today with the UAE space agency, which implies wide-ranging cooperation. The partnership may involve manned programs, and, as far as I understand, it is not about a tourist flight. The Arab side is interested in creating its own cosmonaut team,” Krikalev said.

Russia and the UAE may also collaborate in space equipment production and science experiments at the ISS, he said. “We explained to our partners that this is the easiest and most evident thing we should start with. This is an international platform for formulating technologies. We are ready to include their list of experiments in a number [of experiments] held on board the ISS,” the Roscosmos executive director for manned space flight programs specified.

Read more at: TASS

Moon Village the First Stop to Mars: ESA

Setting up a permanent village on the moon is the first step towards exploring Mars, the European Space Agency said Thursday as plans to reach and colonise the Red Planet gathered pace.

At an annual gathering of 4,000 global space experts in Adelaide, the ESA said the Moon was the “right place to be” as humans expand economic activities beyond low-Earth orbit, even while Mars remained the “ultimate destination”. “We have been living in low-Earth orbit for the last 17 years on board a space station and we are on our journey to Mars for the first human mission,” ESA’s Piero Messina told AFP at the congress. “In between, we believe that there is an opportunity to create a permanent… sustainable presence on the surface of the Moon.”

Reaching and colonising Mars has been viewed by private and public interests as the next stage in exploring the final frontier, and has been a key part of this year’s International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide.

Read more at: Phys.org

Long March 5 Failure to Postpone China’s Lunar Exploration Program

A leading official of China’s space program confirmed Sept. 25 that the July failure of the country’s largest launch vehicle will lead to delays to upcoming lunar missions, including one to return samples.

Tian Yulong, secretary general of the China National Space Administration, said at a press conference during the 68th International Astronautical Congress here that the investigation into the July 2 failure of the Long March 5 on its second mission was ongoing, with no updates on the cause of the failure. “The Long March 5 is a bigger challenge for China’s space agency,” he said. “In the future, maybe the end of the year, we will have a clear understanding of the problem.”

Read more at: SpaceNews

First National Space Council Meeting Announced for October 5,2017

The White House announced today that the first meeting of the National Space Council will take place on October 5, 2017 at the National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy center outside Washington, D.C.  President Trump reestablished the Space Council in June and its first meeting has been much anticipated in the space community.

The Space Council is chaired by Vice President Mike Pence.  During a visit to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center yesterday, Pence said only that the meeting would take place “in a few short weeks.”   The White House issued a press release this afternoon with the date and location.

The meeting is entitled “Leading the Next Frontier: An Event with the National Space Council.” Experts from the civil, commercial and national security space sectors will speak, but a list of the participants has not yet been released.

Read more at: Spacepolicy online

International Partnerships to Address Orbital Debris in Absence of Broader Accord

International cooperation in dealing with the growing problem or orbital debris is essential, a panel of experts argued, but said not to expect a comprehensive accord on the issue for the foreseeable future.

At a discussion about international approaches to orbital debris, organized by the Aerospace Corporation here Sept. 21, panelists from the United States and several other nations emphasized bilateral and multilateral approaches over comprehensive international accords, like a proposed International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities. That proposed code, introduced by the European Union in 2008, included a number of provisions intended to reduce the chance of collisions and minimizing the creation of debris, either though accidental or deliberate actions.

Read more at: SpaceNews

The Outer Space Treaty at 50: An Enduring Basis for Cooperative Security

On October 10, 2017, the 50th anniversary of the entry into force of a foundational treaty will occur: that of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967.This treaty represents an apogee for international cooperation in a unique environment that has only grown in importance in the intervening years.

It might have been expected that the golden anniversary of such an achievement would have been hailed and celebrated with great fanfare by the global community that has benefited enormously from the regime it established. And yet this occasion is likely to come and go with barely an acknowledgment by the 105 states parties to the treaty, let alone the wider stakeholder community. This benign—or perhaps malign—neglect of the Outer Space Treaty should be of concern. It reflects serious negative trends in space security and casts a shadow over the prospects for future cooperative security arrangements.

Read more at: Space Review

Sierra Nevada Corporation Announces Expansion Of German Aerospace Center Partnership

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) announced the execution of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) today, expanding its relationship with the German Aerospace Center (DLR) for further collaboration on space initiatives.

The MOU provides a framework for the two organizations to cooperate in space-related technologies and transportation utilizing the Dream Chaser spacecraft and space habitats. “SNC has greatly appreciated and benefited from our existing relationship with DLR, and this MOU underscores how much we value their technology, innovation and contributions to space,” said Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president of SNC’s Space Systems business area.

Read more at: Colorado Spacenews

Fireball Spotted in Skies Above Netherlands

An exceptionally bright fireball was spotted in the skies all across the Netherlands on Thursday night. Dozens of people in the Netherlands as well as Belgium reported seeing the bright streak of light around 9:00 p.m. It was very likely a meteor, though that can not be said with absolute certainty yet, Felix Bettonvil of Leiden Observatory said to AD.

Dozens of people in Noord-Holland, Groningen, Noord-Brabant and Flevoland reported seeing the fireball. There were also dozens of reports in Belgium and to Noodweer Benelux, according to the newspaper. It’s quite rare for so many reports to come in about a meteor, Bettonvil said to AD.

Read more at: NLTimes

NASA is Teaming Up with Russia to Put a New Space Station Near the Moon. Here’s Why.

At the International Aeronautics Congress in Adelaide, Australia, representatives of NASA and the Russian space agency Roscosmos announced that they had signed an agreement to work together on venturing into deep space, with the first conceptual goal being a deep space gateway. In plain language, that means we’re building a space station somewhere near the moon.

Building on the success of the International Space Station, the plan is to build something that could act as a waypoint for trips to the lunar surface, or even to more distant locales like Mars. And the hope is that it could be built as soon as the 2020’s.

Read more at: Popsci

Euro-Chinese SMILE Mission Moves Forward

The European Space Agency (ESA) has awarded Thales Alenia Space and two other competitors design study contracts for the payload module on the SMILE (Solar Wind Magnetospheric Ionospheric Link Explorer) programme.

SMILE is a joint mission between ESA and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) to investigate the interaction between Earth’s protective shield – the magnetosphere – and the supersonic solar wind. It will be the first time that ESA and China jointly select, design, implement, launch and operate a space mission.

The SMILE satellite comprises a platform supplied by CAS and a completely independent payload module (PLM) supplied by ESA. The PLM contains four science instruments from Canada, the UK and China, along with the PLM control unit and mass storage, the power distribution unit (PDU) and the X-band communication system to transmit science data to the ground.

Read more at: Aircosmos International

UNOOSA Announces Call for Interest for Dream Chaser Spacecraft Mission Payloads

The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) announced today the opportunity to participate in a space mission using Sierra Nevada Corporation’s (SNC) Dream Chaser spacecraft. The low-Earth orbit space mission will take 20 to 30 powered experiments provided by organizations within the participating UN Member States, with a particular emphasis on developing and emerging countries.

“The benefits of a joint mission between government and private organizations on a level of this scale are incalculable,” said Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president of SNC’s Space Systems business area. A key aspect of the mission is to provide training and facilitate development of technology, in particular for developing countries. The access to space and application of this technology, along with the overall growth of industry, are a part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Read more at: Colorado Spacenews

Why Congress Must Act Quickly to Reform U.S. Space Law

While the world celebrated the return of the Apollo 11 astronauts in 1969, the crew was in clear violation of international law. The lunar rocks aboard the command module Columbia breached Section II of the Outer Space Treaty, which bans the national appropriation of the moon “by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.” Through some political maneuvers, the United States retained the rocks without defining its actions in terms of the treaty. Because countries can evade international space law with legal craftiness, most ‘violations,’ including an auction of Soviet moon rocks in 1993, have long gone unchecked.

But today, as private companies begin to pursue resources in space, international space law is becoming increasingly pertinent. Moon rover landings, ISS astronaut transport, and space tourism are among the many goals of the commercial space industry for the next five years. Living in space and extracting valuable resources from asteroids also lie on the horizon.

Read more at: Harvard politics

Lockheed Martin Unveils Fully Reusable Crewed Martian Lander

NASA’s goal to reach Mars is just over a decade away, and Lockheed Martin revealed Thursday how humans might soon walk upon the red planet’s surface. Lockheed Martin gave CNBC a first look at its new spacecraft prototype, which the company will unveil Thursday at this year’s International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, Australia.

“This is a single-stage, completely reusable lander which will be able to both descend and ascend,” said Lockheed Martin’s Robert Chambers. Chambers is a senior systems engineer at the aerospace and defense giant, helping to lead the Mars Base Camp project. The concept is Lockheed Martin’s vision for what may come after NASA’s Deep Space Gateway mission, which will begin in the early 2020s.

Read more at: CNBC

Fast-growing Cubesat Builder GomSpace to Build 100 Satellites for AISTech of Spain

Fast-growing small-satellite builder GomSpace of Denmark on Sept. 28 signed a contract with AISTech of Spain to provide 100 nanosatellite platforms for AISTech’s multifunctional constellation.The contract is valued at up to 12.5 million euros ($14.7 million), with first batch order valued at 500,000 euros for satellites to be delivered in early 2018.

GomSpace and AISTech said the deal includes GomSpace platforms of different sizes. AISTech’s order had been expected following the company’s 2016 contract for a single satellite from GomSpace. That satellite’s construction, performed under a 200,000-euro contract, is completed. GomSpace said testing should be completed in time for an early 2018 launch.

Read more at: Spaceintel report

Interview: UN official Commends China’s Role in Space Cooperation

 China is an active member of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and is impressive in opening its space missions to other countries, said Simonetta Di Pippo, Director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA).

Di Pippo made the remarks when having an interview with Xinhua on Wednesday during the 68th International Astronautical Congress (IAC), which opened on Monday in Adelaide, South Australia. Di Pippo said China as an active member of the Committee has been attending with very solid delegations and also in term of technological expertise, “presenting a lot of new initiatives and ideas.”

One of the new initiatives is the Belt and Road Initiative, proposed by China in 2013, aiming to build trade and infrastructure networks connecting Asia with Europe and Africa on and beyond the ancient Silk Road routes. It comprises the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

Read more at: Xinhuanet

Cleveland State Launches Center on Space Law

Cleveland State University’s Cleveland-Marshall College of Law is aiming high with its newest offering.

The college is a creating a Global Space Law Center, with plans for the first course to be launched online this summer. A news release said growth in the private space industry has created a need for lawyers trained in space law and policy. The online course, “Space Law: A Global View,” will be available to Cleveland-Marshall students, as well as law students, practitioners and executives in the space industry, regardless of location, the release stated.

Read more at: Crains Cleveland

Airbus to Challenge SSL, Orbital ATK with New Space Tug business

European manufacturer Airbus Defence and Space said Sept. 27 that it is creating a satellite-servicing vehicle capable of refueling, repairing, and monitoring the health of spacecraft orbiting Earth. In a tweet Sept. 27, the company described the Airbus Space Tug as “an autonomous spacecraft whose main missions are maintenance, logistics and the cleaning up of Space debris.”

Airbus’ entrance into this market follows that of Orbital ATK, whose first Mission Extension Vehicle launches next year on an ILS Proton rocket, and Space Systems Loral, whose satellite servicer leverages work with the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). British-Israeli company Effective Space Solutions is also building servicer spacecraft based on small satellites.

Read more at: SpaceNews

New Zealand Opens First Rocket Launch Site

New Zealand Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce on Wednesday opened New Zealand’s first orbital launch site, Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1, on the Mahia Peninsula on the North Island’s east coast.

Joyce congratulated Rocket Lab’s chief executive and founder Peter Beck and his team “who have worked hard to achieve this,” saying in a statement that “it is their innovation and perseverance that has made this day possible.” Joyce said that he was “looking forward to the first launches from Mahia expected later this year, with more to come next year when Rocket Lab launches with commercial payloads.”

Read more at: Xinhuanet

Scientists Now Developing Ways to Turn Human Waste Into Plastic And Nutrients… Is This Really Our Future?

Researchers recently alluded that human waste such as urine and breath may one day make space travel more efficient for astronauts.

While the International Space Station has already started recycling human urine into clean drinking water for astronauts, lead researcher Mark Blenner stressed that space personnel should be able to produce nutrients and material they need during their long-term space travel. According to Blenner, current transportation models do not have all the space needed to carry all the essentials and that certain nutrients, drugs, and materials may degrade over a period of three or more years.

Read more at: Space.News

Lawmakers Express Concern About Spaceport’s Costs

A decade after New Mexico decided to invest in the private space race, state lawmakers held a hearing at Spaceport America to explore the future of the facility.

“We’re being told if we just invest some more money that this thing will be fully operational and more self-sustaining, but for a lot of us legislators we’re concerned about how much money and over what period of time,” said state Sen. Sander Rue, R-Albuquerque. The Legislative Finance Committee questioned the new CEO of Spaceport America, Dan Hicks, about the business plan for the facility, where Virgin Galactic is the anchor tenant.

Read more at: ABQ Journal

The Great Escape: With Mock Space Capsule, Researchers Partner with NASA to Study Astronaut Fitness

A mock space capsule has landed in Kansas State University’s Ice Hall. In this built-to-scale model of the Orion spacecraft, “astronauts” practice emergency escape maneuvers while a university kinesiology team studies their health and fitness levels.

It’s all part of NASA’s plan for further human exploration of the solar system, from a Mars mission to a deep space mission. The university research team — led by Carl Ade, assistant professor of exercise physiology, and Thomas Barstow, professor of exercise physiology — has partnered with the Johnson Space Center in Houston to tackle a major challenge for these long-duration space missions: the return to earth.

Read more at: K-State


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