SpaceX Launch of Secret Zuma Mission on Hold Until After Thanksgiving

SpaceX’s launch of a secret U.S. government mission from Kennedy Space Center won’t happen until after Thanksgiving. Beyond that, the mystery surrounding the mission called Zuma, which was postponed last week, is only deepening.

SpaceX’s only statement, issued last Thursday, said it had put the launch on hold so teams could review an issue uncovered during tests of Falcon rocket nose cones, or payload fairings, that were performed recently for another customer. “We will take the time we need to complete the data review and will then confirm a new launch date,” the statement said.

Read more at: Florida Today

Agreement With NASA Hints Stratolaunch May Develop its Own Rocket Engine

In May, Stratolaunch Systems revealed the largest aircraft in the world by wingspan, 385 feet from tip to tip. The gargantuan twin-fuselage, six-engine aircraft built by Scaled Composites is designed to carry rockets up into the atmosphere and drop them so the rockets can launch payloads to space using less fuel. Ground and engine testing is currently underway, and the six Pratt & Whitney turbofan engines were all fired up for the first time in September.

The company hopes to conduct the first launch test from Stratolaunch in 2019, but exactly what type of rocket the megaplane will carry is still unclear. Currently, Stratolaunch plans to use Orbital ATK Pegasus XL rockets for the first launch tests, with the aircraft carrying as many as three at a time. The Pegasus XL is an old and expensive launch vehicle, however. First launched in 1996, the rocket has only flown five times in the last 10 years.

Read more at: Popular Mechanics

NASA Expects First Space Launch System Flight to Slip into 2020

The maiden unpiloted flight of NASA’s Space Launch System, a heavy-lift human-rated rocket and one of the agency’s core programs, will likely not be ready for takeoff until 2020, officials said recently.

NASA officials until earlier this year aimed to launch the first SLS test flight in late 2018, but the space agency acknowledged in April that the huge super-booster’s first flight would be delayed until at least 2019.

After a multi-month assessment of the program’s recent progress, managers set a best-case launch target in December 2019. But engineers expect more development delays to materialize over the next couple of years during full-scale assembly and testing of the rocket’s core stage and the Orion spacecraft slated to ride it on a round-trip flight to lunar orbit and back to Earth.

Read more at: Spaceflight Now

UK to Clear the Way for US Space Rocket Launches in Britain

Britain could soon launch US rockets into space as trade negotiators are striking regulatory deals to remove barriers to trade, even before the UK leaves the EU.

A full free trade deal cannot be negotiated before Brexit, but regulatory barriers to trade can be tweaked or removed more quickly and the Department for International Trade is working on identifying these impediments.

In the space industry’s case, that means making sure US technology matches UK safety and environmental standards, while also reassuring the Americans that technology developed in the US will be used securely in Britain.

Read more at: Telegraph

SpaceX Expects Government Support for Development of BFR Launch System

The president of SpaceX said she expects the company would receive additional funding from the U.S. government to support the development of its large reusable launch system.

Speaking at the NewSpace Europe conference here Nov. 16, Gwynne Shotwell noted that SpaceX is already receiving funding from the U.S. Air Force supporting the development of Raptor, the engine that will power the vehicle known as BFR, or Big Falcon Rocket, and the reusable spacecraft known as BFS or Big Falcon Spaceship.

“I do anticipate that there is residual capability of that system that the government will be interested in,” she said. “I do see that we would likely get some funding from the government for BFR and BFS.” She added, though, that work on the vehicles was not contingent on receiving government funding.

Read more at: Spacenews

China Sets Out Long-term Space Transportation Roadmap Including a Nuclear Space Shuttle

The main contractor for the Chinese space programme has set out a space transportation roadmap which could massively boost capabilities and reduce costs for access to space.

The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) roadmap sets out a string of ambitious targets related to space technology, space science and space applications from 2017 to 2045.

By 2020 CASC will have a wide range of launch capabilities through its expendable Long March rocket families, with the low-cost Long March 8rocket to be in action by this time, adding to the new capabilities of the Long March 5 and 7.

Read more at: Gbtimes

Russian Project to Build Moon Orbiter Estimated at Over $33.5 Million

The project to build the Luna-Resurs lunar orbiter, to be implemented by 2020, is estimated at almost 2 billion rubles (over $33.5 million at the current exchange rate), according to information published by the official government procurement website.

“The initial (maximum) price of the contract is 1.995 billion rubles,” reads a federal procurement document.

According to the website, the project will be financed from the federal government. The main contractor, the NPO Lavochkin aerospace company, will receive an advance payment of almost 1.6 billion rubles, or 80% of the contract’s total value. The orbiter is to be manufactured until February 29, 2020. Its weight should not exceed 2,200 kilograms.

Read more at: TASS

Long Beach-based Virgin Orbit Scores Department of Defense Deal

Virgin Orbit’s new security-focused subsidiary has a deal to launch a rocket carrying technology demonstration satellites into space for the Defense Department, the Long Beach company announced Thursday.

The launch may take place in January 2019 or later. Virgin Orbit’s subsidiary, VOX Space, has offices in Manhattan Beach and promotes its ability to launch small satellites into low-earth orbit for national security missions benefiting the United States and allied nations.

Vox Space’s missions will be reliant upon LauncherOne, Virgin Orbit’s two-stage rocket. Earlier this month, Virgin Orbit announced sending its first LauncherOne vehicle, missing only its fins and fairing, from the company’s Long Beach assembly plant to Mojave for tests.

Read more at: Press Telegram

Shenzhou-12: China Preparing Upgrades for First Human Spaceflight Mission to Space Station

A team belonging to the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) is preparing upgrades for China’s next human spaceflight mission, Shenzhou-12, which will be the first to the Chinese Space Station.

The Beijing Institute of Control Engineering (BICE), a CAST subsidiary, is working on an upgraded Guidance, Navigation and Control (GNC) system for the spacecraft.

GNC technology controls areas including spacecraft attitude and trajectory and orientation of solar panels, much as a brain controls an animal’s limbs. Specifically, according to Li Mingming of BICE, the challenge will be migrating the GNC used for China’s automated Tianzhou cargo vessel to the crewed Shenzhou-12 spacecraft.

Read more at: Gbtimes

On-orbit Satellite Servicing: The Next Big Thing in Space?

A team of researchers and Pentagon contractors was recently selected to organize a space industry consortium that will consider new “rules of the road” for commercial on-orbit activities like repairing and refueling satellites.

The effort, led by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is being touted as a major step in the transition of on-orbit services from experiment to reality, and ultimate commercial success.

The project is significant, analysts said, because safety standards and other norms need to be in place to fuel investments and research in space applications, and open up new markets in robotic and human exploration.

Read more at: Spacenews

Solar Minimum Surprisingly Constant

Using more than half a century of observations, Japanese astronomers have discovered that the microwaves coming from the Sun at the minimums of the past five solar cycles have been the same each time, despite large differences in the maximums of the cycles.

In Japan, continuous four-frequency solar microwave observations (1, 2, 3.75 and 9.4 GHz) began in 1957 at the Toyokawa Branch of the Research Institute of Atmospherics, Nagoya University. In 1994 the telescopes were relocated to NAOJ Nobeyama Campus, where they have continued observations up to the present.

Read more at: Eurekalert

SSL Selected to Conduct Power and Propulsion Study for NASA’s Deep Space Gateway Concept

 SSL, a business unit of Maxar Technologies (formerly MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd.) (NYSE: MAXR; TSX: MAXR) and a leading provider of innovative satellites and spacecraft systems, announced today it was selected by NASA to conduct a four-month study for a module that will provide power and control for NASA’s deep space gateway concept. The contract award is a tangible demonstration of SSL leadership, experience, and commitment to space innovation.

The gateway will be a human crew-tended spaceport in lunar orbit that functions as an access point to the Moon and deep space. The power propulsion element (PPE), which will be the first gateway module launched, will serve as a building block to provide all power, maneuvering, attitude control, communications systems, and initial docking capabilities for the gateway.

Read more at: sslmda

Re-Entry: Falcon 9 Second Stage

A Falcon 9 second stage re-entered the atmosphere on November 2, 2017 after spending four and a half months slowly spiraling down toward the atmosphere from a Geostationary Transfer Orbit. The vehicle carried the 3,669-Kilogram BulgariaSat 1 into orbit as part of SpaceX’s 15th Geotransfer Mission utilizing the Falcon 9 vehicle, also marking the second re-flight mission of a previously used first stage booster.

Read more at: Spaceflight 101

Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser Conducts Critical Flight Test

Sierra Nevada conducted a successful glide and landing test flight with its Dream Chaser spaceplane on Saturday, November 11. The unmanned craft is designed to launch atop a rocket and shuttle cargo and supplies to the International Space Station, and then return to land on a runway with experiments and samples from the space station.

The spaceplane was carried to an altitude of 10,000 feet by a Boeing Vertol 234-UT heavy-lift helicopter, the civilian version of the Army’s CH-47 Chinook, and then dropped to glide to the ground and land on a runway at Edwards Air Force Base. The Dream Chaser used an onboard autonomous guidance computer to line up with the runway and land, deploying two main landing gear wheels and a front nose skid.

Read more at: Popular Mechanics

NASA Testing Energy Tech to ‘Empower’ Human Crews on Mars

NASA is about to start testing a key energy source that could “empower” human crews on the Mars surface, energising habitats and running on-the-spot processing equipment to transform the Red Planet resources into oxygen, water and fuel.

Testing of the Kilopower project is due to start in November and go through early next year, with NASA partnering with the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Nevada National Security Site to appraise fission power technologies, NASA said on Tuesday.

“The Kilopower test programme will give us confidence that this technology is ready for space flight development,” said Lee Mason from NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate.

Read more at: Zee news

Companies Agree FAA Best Agency to Regulate Non-traditional Space Activities

Representatives of four major companies agreed yesterday that the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA/AST) is the best federal agency to be placed in charge of regulating non-traditional space activities to ensure compliance with the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.  They also agreed that regulatory certainty is key to the success of their ventures, so although they want a “light hand” of regulation, they do want some.

Lockheed Martin, Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), Orbital ATK, and Astrobotics were represented on a panel organized by the Space Transportation Association (STA) that also included George Nield, the head of FAA/AST, and was chaired by Mike Gold of MAXAR Technologies.  MAXAR Technologies is the new name of MacDonald Dettwiler & Associates (MDA), which already owned Space Systems Loral and recently purchased DigitalGlobe.  Radiant Solutions is a fourth component of the newly branded company.

Read more at: Space policy online

Spaceport America to Seek Additional Funding to Prepare for Virgin Galactic Arrival

Additional funding to prepare for the arrival of Virgin Galactic’s spaceflights and a measure to increase confidentiality for tenants will be on Spaceport America’s wish list when the New Mexico Legislature convenes in January, 2018.

Dan Hicks, Spaceport America CEO, told attendees at the Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce 2017 Space Update Luncheon on Thursday that more spaceports are poised to enter the commercial space industry, with 10 other licensed spaceports operating and an additional nine applications pending with the Federal Aviation Administration

Read more at: lcsun

Promising Sensors for Submarines, Mines and Spacecraft

Researchers from the Physics Department of Moscow State University and their colleagues have discovered a mechanism that allows gas sensors, based on nanocrystalline metal oxides, to work at room temperature. This invention will raise the efficiency of environmental monitoring at nuclear power plants, on submarines and spacecrafts. The discovery was reported in Scientific Reports.

Scientists have proposed a new fundamental principle of operation of hydrogen sensors. Unlike most resistive gas detectors, it does not need to be heated and only requires visible light. This discovery will significantly reduce the energy consumption of the sensor and expand its scope.

Read more at: Nanodaily

Watch a Meteoroid Hit Earth From an Astronaut’s Point of View

Sure, you may have visited more countries than your friends, experienced more cultures than most, and eaten meals with names that you can’t even pronounce. But have you ever seen a meteor crash into Earth… from space?

European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli has, and he has the footage to prove it.

The ESA pieced together Nespoli’s footage taken while aboard the International Space Station and made it into a stunning timelapse video for all of us here on terra firma to enjoy. The minute and a half video shows the Earth from above as the Space Station flew over the southern Atlantic Ocean over to Kazakhstan.

Read more at: Travel and Leisure

How a Wild Rocket Misfire Created Cape Canaveral

In May 1947, the Pentagon attempted to launch a V-2 ballistic rocket, like the ones the Nazis used to bombard London in World War II, outside White Sands, New Mexico. The weapon rose from the pad in a roar of flame and smoke and leapt into the sky. Within moments, however, the testers knew something was wrong. The missile was heading south instead of north.

A V-2 is a pretty simple rocket: a tank containing an alcohol-water mixture, another tank full of liquid oxygen, a small chamber with hydrogen peroxide, and some pipes to mix, ignite, and route it all through the engine. They are not known for their sophisticated guidance systems. (Just a couple of vanes on the fins.) The range of the V-2 can stretch hundreds of miles, and the Air Force was about to learn that the room they allotted to test them needed to increase.

Read more at: Popular Mechanics

NASA Heads to the Arctic to Design Drones that can Fly on Mars

Several private organizations and non-profits have announced a partnership with NASA towards the research and development of drones on Mars. Now, their headed to the Arctic to explore the unique engineering challenge of designing a copter for a planet such a thin atmosphere.

The Mars Institute, the SETI Institute, and FYBR Solutions Inc. will be working with NASA at one of the most Mars-like places on Earth, Devon Island in Canadian Arctic. The Haughton impact crater, formed on Devon Island around 39 million years ago, is widely seen as the best Mars analong on the planet, and the NASA Haughton Mars Project (HMP) will take advantage of the new partnerships to maximize their workloads.

Read more at: Popular Mechanics

North Korean ICBM Program Runs into Major Roadblock at Reentry

The South Korean foreign intelligence service has reported that North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) program has hit a snag, as the communist country has run into difficulty developing reliable atmospheric re-entry technology that would allow their missile to return from Earth’s orbit.

The report came from the National Intelligence Service (NIS), who met behind closed doors with the South Korean National Assembly’s Intelligence Committee on Thursday. According to an anonymous parliamentary source with Yonhap News, NIS claims that the DPRK will not have a functional ICBM until they can overcome this hurdle.

Read more at: Spacedaily

STRATCOM Chief Hyten: ‘I Will Not Support Buying Big Satellites that Make Juicy Targets’

Asked to rate the seriousness of threats to U.S. military spacecraft, Air Force Gen. John Hyten gave it a “five but moving to 10 quickly.”

As head of U.S. Strategic Command, Hyten is responsible for the global command and control of the nation’s nuclear forces, and the possibility that U.S. satellites could come under attack worries him considerably. Hyten was previously at the helm of U.S. Space Command and is one of the military’s most respected authorities on all matters related to national security and space.

“I watch what our adversaries do. I see them moving quickly into the space domain, they are moving very fast, and I see our country not moving fast, and that causes me concern,” Hyten said Nov. 18 at the Halifax International Security Forum.

Read more at: Spacenews

War in Space is Increasingly Possible. That Would be Terrible for Everyone

The world is at the cusp of a “New Space Age.” Led by dynamic private-sector entrepreneurs pioneering new technologies and pursuing exciting new opportunities, the number of satellites has increased over the past five years by almost 50 per cent. This growth trend is expected to accelerate over the next decade.

While many of the most active “New Space” companies are based in the United States, other countries too are in this amazing race. Space start-ups are booming in India. Singapore and Luxembourg are investing in future space capabilities such as orbital debris removal and space resource extraction.

Read more at: National post

US Scrambles to Assemble Space-Based Missile Defense System

The latest version of the US’ fiscal year 2018 appropriations bill designates more funding to a space-based ballistic missile defense (BMD) capability, according to a new report.

Lawmakers envision developing a space-based sensor layer to detect incoming intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) as well as an interceptor to neutralize threats, C4ISRNet reported November 16. The intercept layer needs to achieve operational capability “at the earliest practicable date,” the bill states.

The US Missile Defense Agency would be tasked with producing “a highly reliable and cost-effective” sensor architecture capable of “precision tracking of threat missiles,” discrimination of warheads” and “effective kill assessments,” the appropriations measure states. Actionable steps for the program plan would need to be delivered within 12 months of the bill’s enactment.

Read more at: Space war

Space Safety and Human Performance 1st Edition

Space Safety and Human Performance provides a comprehensive reference for engineers and technical managers within aerospace and high technology companies, space agencies, operators, and consulting firms. The book draws upon the expertise of the world’s leading experts in the field and focuses primarily on humans in spaceflight, but also covers operators of control centers on the ground and behavior aspects of complex organizations, thus addressing the entire spectrum of space actors.

During spaceflight, human performance can be deeply affected by physical, psychological and psychosocial stressors. Strict selection, intensive training and adequate operational rules are used to fight performance degradation and prepare individuals and teams to effectively manage systems failures and challenging emergencies. The book is endorsed by the International Association for the Advancement of Space Safety (IAASS).

Read more at: Elsevier

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