SpaceX Starship Mk1 Fails During Cryogenic Loading Test

SpaceX’s first full-scale Starship prototype – Mk1 – has experienced a failure at its Boca Chica test site in southern Texas. The failure occurred late in the afternoon on Wednesday, midway through a test of the vehicle’s propellant tanks.

As of a few weeks ago, the Mk1 Starship – which was shown off to the world in September as part of SpaceX’s and Elon Musk’s presentation of the design changes to the Starship system – was to fly the first 20 km test flight of the program in the coming weeks.

The main event of today, the Mk1 Starship’s first cryogenic loading test, involved filling the methane and oxygen tanks with a cryogenic liquid.

Read more at: NASA spaceflight

Boeing’s Starliner Meets Its Rocket Ahead Of Space Station Mission

Boeing’s Starliner capsule is sitting on top of its rocket ready for a test mission to the International Space Station launching from Cape Canaveral next month. 

The uncrewed mission is a critical test for Boeing as it works to launch astronauts to the station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Boeing’s Starliner capsule packed only with cargo will hitch a ride into space on United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket. It will dock with the station for a few days then return back to Earth. The test mission is currently scheduled for December 17.

Read more at: wmfe

NASA/ESA Continue Challenging Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer Repair Spacewalks

NASA and ESA have concluded the second of four planned spacewalks to repair the Station’s Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer experiment.  NASA astronaut Drew Morgan and European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Luca Parmitano spent 6.5 hours working outside the Station today.

Never designed to be serviceable after it was installed outside the Station in May 2011, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) requires the creation of sharp edges and other hazards in order to bring it back to full operational capacity.

Read more at: NASA SPaceflight

New Details Emerge About Failed Lunar Landings

The Indian government has offered new details about what happened during its first attempt to land on the moon in September.

In a written response to questions Nov. 20 to the Lok Sabha, the lower house of India’s Parliament, Jitendra Singh, minister of state for the Department of Space, said that the Vikram lander “hard landed” on the moon Sept. 6 because of a problem with the lander’s braking thrusters.

“The first phase of descent was performed nominally from an altitude of 30 km to 7.4 km above the moon surface,” he wrote. The lander slowed from 1,683 meters per second to 146 meters per second during that time.

Read more at: Spacenews

Brazil Continues Efforts To Attract Launch Business

The government of Brazil is ready to move into the next phase of efforts to attract commercial launch business to the country with the ratification of an agreement with the United States.

Brazil’s Senate formally approved Nov. 12 a technology safeguards agreement that the country’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, signed in March during a visit to the United States that included a meeting with President Donald Trump. That agreement allows American spacecraft and launch vehicles to be exported to Brazil for launches there, ensuring compliance with export control and nonproliferation policies.

Read more at: Spacenews

China Now Launches More Rockets Than Anyone In The World

In recent weeks, China’s space program has made news by revealing some of its long-term ambitions for spaceflight. These include establishing an Earth-Moon space economic zone by 2050, which, if successful, could allow the country to begin to dictate the rules of behavior for future space exploration.

Some have questioned whether China, which has flown six human spaceflights in the last 16 years, can really build a large low-Earth space station, send taikonauts to the Moon, return samples from Mars, and more in the coming decade or two. But what seems clear is that the country’s authoritarian government has long-term plans and is taking steps toward becoming a global leader in space exploration.

Read more at: Arstechnica

Indian Astronauts To Start Training At Russia’s Gagarin Center In 2020

Indian astronauts will start their training sessions at Russia’s Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in 2020, Head of Glavkosmos (part of the Roscosmos space agency) Dmitry Loskutov told TASS at the Dubai Airshow 2019 on Monday.

“The education and training of gaganauts [one of the versions for the name of Indian astronauts] at the Cosmonaut Training Center are planned to start as soon as next year but this largely depends on the results of the selection by health parameters and the timeframe for the Indian side to decide whom they finally select and send to Russia for training,” the Glavkosmos chief said.

Read more at: TASS

Boeing Faced Only ‘Limited’ Safety Review From NASA, While SpaceX Got A Full Examination

When NASA confirmed last year that it would conduct a safety review of SpaceX and Boeing, the two companies it had hired to fly astronauts to the International Space Station, a top agency official said it would be “pretty invasive,” involving hundreds of interviews with employees at every level of the companies at multiple locations.

Such an in-depth probe of the corporate cultures would be time-consuming and expensive, requiring modifications to the contracts awarded to the companies. Ultimately, NASA agreed to pay SpaceX $5 million for its review, and it proceeded.

Read more at: Washingtonpost


ESA Director General Calls For Aggressive Action On Space Debris

Rather than waiting for international consensus on new measures to prevent space debris, space agencies and companies should take immediate action, Jan Woerner, European Space Agency director general, said Nov. 19 at the Space Tech Expo Europe here.

“We need to act immediately and when I say ‘we’ I mean each and every one without looking to the others and saying, ‘Before there is regulation, I will not do anything,’” Woerner said.

Read more at: Spacenews

How To Better Manage Space Traffic: Aeolus/Starlink Encounter Shows Emails And Late-Night Phone Calls No Longer Cut It

It was less a wake-up call than a reminder of the hazards of spaceflight that satellite operators are already acquainted with.

On Sept. 2, the European Space Agency announced it maneuvered its Aeolus satellite to avoid a close approach with a SpaceX Starlink satellite. The encounter attracted headlines in part because of reports — inaccurate, as they turned out — that SpaceX “refused” to move its satellite, forcing ESA to move Aeolus.

Read more at: Spacenews

ESA Setting Aside Funds For Vega Launcher Return To Flight

The European Space Agency is preparing to allocate a few million euros to ensure Vega doesn’t have any repeats of its July launch failure, an agency official said Nov. 20. 

Thilo Kranz, head of ESA’s space transportation technology coordination office, said in an interview at Space Tech Expo Europe here that the agency is planning a “small set aside” for Vega to be approved at the ministerial conference one week from today. 

Read more at: Spacenews

A New Model Will Help Predict Several Solar Phenomena

Plasma β is an important quantity to investigate the interchanging roles of plasma and magnetic pressure in the solar atmosphere. It relates to both the solar magnetic field and driving solar phenomena such as solar wind, coronal mass ejections, and flares; these phenomena affect space weather directly.

Dr. Jenny Rodriguez, a scientist from the Space Center of Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Russia), her colleagues from Leibniz Institut für Sonnenphysik (Germany) and Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (Brazil) have developed a model to estimate how plasma β changes in the solar atmosphere.

Read more at: Skoltech

NASA Partners With UCF To Tackle Potentially Dangerous Moon Dust Problems

As NASA gets ready to head back to the moon, the space agency still has to figure out a few key things before returning the next man and first woman to touch down on the lunar surface.

Forget about developing the heavy-lift rocket needed to transport astronauts there or the capsule that would carry the astronauts onboard. We’re not even talking about the lunar orbiting gateway where the astronauts would stay when they’re not walking on the moon or even the lunar landers that would transport the astronauts down to the surface of the moon.

Read more at: Florida today

An Alarming Discovery in an Astronaut’s Bloodstream

Astronauts are more than cosmic travelers. They’re also research subjects in the careful study of what exactly outer space does to the human body. On the ground, researchers measure vitals, draw blood, swab cheeks, and more. In orbit around the Earth, the astronauts do the work themselves.

That’s how they found the blood clot.

An astronaut was carrying out an ultrasound on their own body as part of a new study, guided in real time by a specialist on the ground. A similar test before the astronaut launched to space had come back normal. But now the scan showed a clump of blood.

Read more at: Atlantic

Shimmering Skies Signal Space Weather

The Aurora, seen here dancing above Svalbard in Norway, is the most beautiful result of space weather on Earth.

The lights, most commonly found at polar regions, are totally benign, but they signify something serious happening at Earth.

Space weather describes the ever-changing conditions in space, caused by intense radiation and colossal amounts of energetic material that the Sun blasts in every direction.

Read more at: ESA

This Week We’re Under The Space Weather

Life next to a raging star is full of uncertainty and poses a threat to the technologies on which we are becoming increasingly dependent.

For this reason, scientists, engineers, satellite operators, power grid technicians, communication and navigation specialists, people working in aviation and more, are now meeting to discuss solar activity, its influence on Earth, and what we can do about it.

Read more at: ESA


Advanced Technology, Investment Clearing Way For Spaceliners

Development of spaceplanes for suborbital tourism, satellite launches and point-to-point terrestrial transportation are benefiting from advanced technology, panelists said at the Space Tech Expo Europe here.

“It was completely different 30 years ago,” said Koichi Yonemoto, co-founder and chief technical officer of Space Walker, a Japanese startup developing a suborbital spaceplane to launch satellites and, later, carry tourists. “At that time, everyone wanted to do single stage to orbit. To do that, you need a very efficient air-breathing engine. We did not have such an engine.”

Read more at: Spacenews

Sierra Nevada Unveils ‘Shooting Star’ Cargo Module for Dream Chaser Space Plane

A shooting star has landed here at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC). 

Ahead of the first planned launch of its Dream Chaser spacecraft (scheduled for sometime in fall 2021) Sierra Nevada Corp. — the company behind the small, space shuttle-like vessel — recently delivered a test article of its cargo module, dubbed Shooting Star, to KSC.

The Shooting Star is a 15-foot (4.6 meters) module that will attach to the aft (or back) portion of the Dream Chaser and provide room for an additional 10,000 lbs. (4,500 kilograms) of cargo — both pressurized and unpressurized. 

Read more at:

Op-Ed | Growth Is Great But Innovation Is The Real Investment

Nearly a decade ago, the space community was at a crossroads. With the end of the space shuttle era came the end of jobs and careers built upon U.S. access to space. Communities along Florida’s Space Coast, as well as Houston, Huntsville, and others long linked to the success of America’s space program, found themselves in a downturn of economic growth and opportunity. An industry where aspirations literally lifted you into the heavens found itself in the gray fog of unknown when looking for its future.

Read more at: Spacenews

OHB Defends Self-Funded Launcher Effort

OHB Chief Executive Marco Fuchs says people wrongly classify his company as a satellite manufacturer. 

“We believe that our industry is the space industry at large,” Fuchs said Nov. 19. “We are not just satellites.”

OHB is best known for building Europe’s Galileo navigation satellites, but the company also supplies many of the structures and tanks for the Ariane 5 and upcoming Ariane 6 rockets. 

This year OHB revealed plans to develop its own rocket, targeting the small satellite market around the range Rocket Lab’s Electron addresses today. 

Read more at: Spacenews

Could Amazon Founder Launch Space Tourists Next Year?

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ rocket will likely delay launching tourists until at least 2020, according to reports.

This confirms rumors that Blue Origin was planning to delay on its 2019 launch date, which it was holding to as late as May. “By the end of the year, we are going to be flying humans on top of this rocket,” Ariane Cornell, director of astronaut and orbital Sales for Blue Origin, said in a livestream that month.

Read more at: Forbes

SpaceX Offering Starship To NASA For Lunar Landing Missions

SpaceX is eligible to propose using its next-generation Starship vehicle to carry NASA robotic science payloads to the lunar surface, the U.S. space agency announced Monday, on missions that could precede future Starship flights with people on-board.

SpaceX is one of five companies NASA selected Monday to join a roster of commercial transportation providers to deliver scientific instruments and technology demonstration packages to the moon through the Commercial Lunar Payload Services, or CLPS, program.

Read more at: Spaceflight Now

European Spaceport Boom Could Benefit Industry

At least a half a dozen spaceports are under consideration across Europe, something European industrial giants ArianeGroup and OHB say bodes well for the future of launch.

Sweden, Germany, Italy, Scotland, Portugal and Norway are discussing establishing spaceports, OHB CEO Marco Fuchs said Nov. 19 at Space Tech Expo Europe here.

“Everybody talks about spaceports,” he said. “I guess it is a sign of excitement.”

Read more at: Spacenews

Virgin Galactic Unveils Fire Retardant Space Suits

Virgin Galactic unveiled space suits at the show that it will give to private astronauts travelling aboard its SpaceShipTwo.

The blue spacesuits are made of fire retardant Nomex which has been treated by design partner Under Armour to provide more flexibility than standard flight suits, says Virgin Galactic’s chief space suit designer and creative director, Tom Westray. The suits weigh about 2.5kg (5.5lb).

Read more at: FLightglobal


NASA Discovered Sugar Molecules In Meteorites That Crashed To Earth 30 Years Ago

Talk about sweet: It looks like NASA has discovered something very intriguing in samples of meteorites that crashed into Earth billions of years ago. A team of researchers managed to find what they referred to as “bio-essential” sugars in the meteorites, according to an official statement via press release. In short, these meteorites were found to contain some of the most important building blocks of life, likely created via chemical reactions within the asteroids themselves.

To be clear, most meteorites are fragments of asteroids that broke apart while orbiting the sun. Asteroids are large, rocky objects near Earth, much larger than the pieces that break off into chunks and fall to the planet’s surface.

Read more at: mic

Four Technology Goals ESA Favors For Honing Europe’s Competitive Edge

Europe’s space industry won’t be able to keep its technological edge without government support, the European Space Agency concludes in a report released ahead of the Space19+ ministerial conference.

By ESA’s estimates, commercial and non-European sales generated 45% of Europe’s space industry revenue in 2015. Those revenues kept space companies healthy enough to support ESA’s science-driven missions, the agency says.

Read more at: Spacenews

Hibernating Astronauts Would Need Smaller Spacecraft

Human hibernation has been the subject of initial research within the Discovery element of ESA’s Basic Activities, then recommended as a key ‘enabling technology’ for space by the Agency’s Future Technology Advisory Panel, resulting in a dedicated ‘Topical Team’ on hibernation.

Now the Agency’s SciSpacE team has called in ESA’s Concurrent Design Facility – a multimedia facility enabling expert teams to perform initial evaluations of proposed future missions – to assess the advantages of human hibernation for a trip to a neighbouring planet, such as Mars.

Read more at: ESA


ESA Ministerial Preview: Building The Pillars For Europe’s Future In Space

In a conference room at the Washington Convention Center, site of the 70th International Astronautical Congress, Jan Woerner slouches a bit in his chair. As director general of the European Space Agency, IAC is one of the busiest weeks of the year, his schedule filled with appearances in conference sessions and meetings with other space agencies. The interview he’s sitting down for, at least, is in the home stretch of the conference, with the end of the week in sight.

Read more at: Spacenews

U.S. Space Command Eager To Hand Over Space Traffic Duties To Commerce Department

Military space operators at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, are working with the Department of Commerce to help ease the transfer of space traffic management responsibilities, Maj. Gen. Stephen Whiting said Nov. 15.

“We’re eager for that to happen,” Whiting said at a Mitchell Institute event on Capitol Hill.

Whiting is the commander of the 14th Air Force and the Combined Force Space Component Command under U.S. Space Command.

Read more at: Spacenews

The US Congress Needs Facts, Not Hyperbole, on China’s Space Program

A recent report from the United States Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC) contains alarming language about China’s space program. The first paragraph of the relevant section includes a sentence that demonstrates why no one, especially the U.S. Congress, should take the commission or its recommendations seriously.

In an effort to call attention to the rate of Chinese progress, the commission warns, ”If plans hold to launch its first long-term space station module in 2020, it [China] will have matched the United States’ nearly 40-year progression from first human spaceflight to first space station module in less than 20 years.”

Read more at: Diplomat


Full GAO Decision Explains Rulings on Blue Origin’s Protest of AF Launch RFP

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) today released the full text of its decision on Blue Origin’s protest of the Air Force’s procurement of launch services for contracts to be awarded beginning next year.  A letter summarizing the decision was released on Monday, but the full report goes into more detail about why GAO sustained one part of the protest, but denied others.

The Air Force issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) on May 3, 2019 for the Phase 2 Launch Service Procurement, part of its phased acquisition of launch services for the next decade.

Read more at: Spacepolicy online

Raymond Urges NATO Space Ops; Europeans Fear Offensive Missions

Gen. Jay Raymond, head of Space Command, is urging NATO allies to move beyond traditional information sharing to providing capabilities together with the United States for joint space operations.

“I really would like to get these partnership to be more than just data sharing partnerships and really move towards mission sharing,” Raymond told the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) today. “We’re stronger together,” he added.

Read more at: Breaking defense


Russia Cracks Down On Spaceport Mega-Project Mired In Corruption

The Kremlin has launched a crackdown over a spaceport project that was supposed to be the jewel of Russia’s space programme but has become mired in corruption costing more than $170m (£132m), with investigations alleging blatant theft and illegal enrichment by officials and contractors.

As state investigators have opened new criminal cases, the project has also become the target of Russia’s opposition, with the corruption whistleblower Alexei Navalny releasing an investigation into land and cars acquired by the head of Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency.

Read more at: Guardian

11th IAASS conference