Blue Origin Gearing Up For Next New Shepard Test Flight

Blue Origin plans to conduct the next test flight of its New Shepard suborbital vehicle no earlier than Dec. 21 as the company moves closer to flying people into space.

In a statement Dec. 17, the company said the next New Shepard flight, designated NS-10, will take place Dec. 18 at 9:30 a.m. Eastern from its West Texas test site that has hosted all previous New Shepard tests. The flight, like several past flights, will be webcast. The statement came after the publication by the Federal Aviation Administration of restricted airspace around the company’s launch site for a three-day period starting Dec. 18.

However, the company announced less than an hour before the scheduled launch that it was scrubbing the launch because of a “ground infrastructure issue.” The company said late Dec. 18 that, because of additional work needed on that issue, as well as weather, it has rescheduled the launch for no earlier than Dec. 21.

Read more at: Spacenews

Flight To Mars To Cut Cosmonauts’ Lifespan By 2.5 Years, Says Report

The space radiation effect during an inter-planetary flight to the Red Planet will reduce the cosmonauts’ lifespan by 2.5 years, according to the materials released at the 17th conference on space biology and medicine in Moscow on Monday.

“For a two-year length of the expedition’s flight to Mars and back, the aggregate radiation risk during the cosmonauts’ lifespan irrespective of their age under the RR [radiation risk] protection of 20 g/sq. cm will measure 7.5%, while the average upcoming lifespan will decrease by 2.5 years,” the report says.

Read more at: TASS

Northrop Grumman Successfully Tests Orion Spacecraft’s Launch Abort Motor

Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) along with NASA and Lockheed Martin successfully performed a ground firing test of the abort motor for NASA’s Orion spacecraft Launch Abort System (LAS) at Northrop Grumman’s facility in Promontory, Utah. The abort motor is a major part of the LAS, which provides an enhancement in spaceflight safety for astronauts. The completion of this milestone brings Orion one step closer to its first flight atop NASA’s Space Launch System and to enabling humans to explore the moon, Mars and other deep space destinations beyond low-Earth orbit.

“Our astronauts’ safety is our top priority,” said Steve Sara, director, launch abort motor program, Northrop Grumman. “We never expect the launch abort motor to be used, but just like an ejection seat in a fighter pilot’s aircraft, if they need it, it needs to work every time.”

Read more at: Northrop Grumman

Russian Cosmonauts Spend Nearly Eight Hours Cutting Into Their Spacecraft

On Tuesday, over the course of nearly eight hours, Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Sergei Prokopyev performed an unprecedented spacewalk outside the International Space Station.

The two Russians spent about three hours moving across the station, setting up a workstation from which they could stabilize themselves and cut into a Soyuz spacecraft attached to the station. Then, with an assortment of tools including a knife and pair of scissors, they tore through a wide swath of insulation protecting the orbital module of the spacecraft.

The entire procedure was absolutely riveting, as it is not every day that one sees a person in space slicing through several centimeters of insulation with a knife. As the cosmonauts took turns working away at the insulation, bits of Mylar and other shredded materials floated away from the work site like a dirty snowstorm. (As the station is at a relatively low altitude, these materials with low mass and a high drag area should get pulled down into Earth’s atmosphere and burn up, posing no threat to spaceflight activities).

Read more at: Arstechnica

FSB Lab To Examine Samples Taken From Hole In Soyuz MS-09 Spacecraft’s Hull

The samples from a hole and the meteorite shield in the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft will be transferred on December 20 to the laboratory of the Federal Security Service (FSB) for analysis, a source in the security agencies told TASS on Thursday.

“On December 20, after the Soyuz MS-09 returns to Earth, the container with the material evidence will be transferred to the FSB laboratory for a chemical analysis,” the source said.

The Russian space industry “has no laboratories with the sufficient competences and technical equipment for carrying out such examinations,” the source said.

Read more at: TASS

No Drill Traces Detected on Photos of Damaged Soyuz Protection Plates – Source

Specialists who are carrying out investigation into the August’s incident when a hole was discovered in the hull of the Russian Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft have found no drill traces on the photos of the meteoroid protection plates that were cut off from the spacecraft, a source in the space and rocket industry told Sputnik on Thursday.

Russian space agency Roscosmos has not provided any comment.

The small fracture on the hull of the Soyuz spacecraft was found after an air leak occurred on the ISS in late August. The cosmonauts subsequently patched the hole, while Roscosmos and the spacecraft manufacturer Energia have launched probes to determine how the hole appeared.

Read more at: Sputnik news

NASA Doesn’t Have Enough Nuclear Fuel For Its Deep Space Missions

As 2018 comes to a close, NASA scientists are celebrating a milestone: for only the second time in human history, an operational spacecraft is leaving the Solar System. Voyager 2 joins its twin, Voyager 1, as the only two human-made objects to pass beyond the heliopause and enter what’s commonly defined as interstellar space. Despite being over 40 years old, and despite being farther away than any other spacecraft ever, we are still receiving signals from these deep space missions.

Why is that? Because the Voyager spacecraft, like the overwhelming majority of our successful missions that have traveled to the outer Solar System, are powered by a particular radioactive source. We produced it in great abundance from the 1940s through the 1980s, but barely produce any of it anymore. As a result, NASA’s deep space mission plans are severely hamstrung. Here’s the problem, and what we can do about it.

Read more at: Forbes

Anti-Radiation Food Developed For Russia’s Crewed Lunar Expedition

An anti-radiation food ration has been developed for cosmonauts of the future Russian lunar expedition, Head of the ISS [International Space Station) Crew Nutrition Department at the Institute of Medical and Biological Studies Alexander Agureyev told TASS on Friday.

“The cosmonauts’ food ration for the lunar program has already been developed. These are foodstuffs with the enhanced biological activity and radio-protective properties,” the researcher said.

As Doctor of Biological Sciences, Head of the Experimental Biology and Medicine Department at the Institute of Medical and Biological Problems Andrei Shtemberg told TASS on Wednesday, as soon as a spacecraft leaves the boundaries of the Earth’s magnetosphere, it starts to be exposed to solar cosmic rays and galactic cosmic rays.

Read more at: TASS

Air Force Open To Reusable Rockets, But Spacex Must First Demonstrate Performance

SpaceX in its first national security launch for the U.S. Air Force will not attempt to land the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket. The Block 5 version of the vehicle scheduled to lift a GPS 3 satellite on Dec. 18 is an expendable rocket with no legs or grid fins.

The Air Force decided that only an expendable rocket could meet “mission performance requirements,” said Walter Lauderdale, mission director of the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center’s Launch Enterprise Systems Directorate.

A number of factors led to this decision, including the mission trajectory and payload weight. “There simply was not performance reserved to meet our requirements and allow them, for this mission, to bring the first stage back,” Lauderdale said Dec. 14 in a conference call with reporters.

Read more at: Spacenews

Super-Fast 3-Hour Manned Flights to ISS to Begin in 18 Months

Manned flights to the International Space Station (ISS) under an ultra-fast three-hour scheme involving circling the Earth twice, will begin in a year and a half, Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russian state space corporation Roscosmos, said on Sunday.

“We are planning to repeat the launch of the Progress cargo spacecraft in an ultra-short two-rotation scheme next March. The flight time is three hours. In a year and a half, we will deliver cosmonauts and space tourists to the ISS faster than a flight from Moscow to Brussels,” Rogozin wrote on Twitter.

Rogozin also confirmed information, provided earlier to Sputnik by a source, that the next cargo spacecraft would be launched on March 28 under an ultra-fast scheme.

Read more at: Sputnik news

“Plan D For Outer Space” — NASA Updates EM-2 Mission Baseline

Coming off this year’s manifest changes to the early missions in NASA’s Exploration campaign, the outline and major parameters for the first crewed Orion flight were formally updated to reflect those big picture updates. Exploration Mission-2 is still a test flight to check out Orion with crew system upgrades and circumnavigate the Moon, but the early part of the mission was reworked to take into account the change in configuration of the Space Launch System (SLS) launch vehicle.

The SLS Boosters and Core Stage will leave its upper stage with Orion attached in a higher insertion orbit on EM-2. After a revised post-insertion sequence, the upper stage will take Orion and crew to an even higher and more elliptical orbit than earlier plans. Following separation from the upper stage, Orion will spend almost a day longer in Earth orbit than previously planned at the start of the mission before leaving Earth for a Lunar flyby.

Read more at: NASA Spaceflight

Brightest Comet Of 2018 To Pass The Closest To Earth In December

Stargazers have something extra to look forward to this holiday season: The brightest comet of 2018 will pass closest to Earth on Dec. 16.

The comet 46P/Wirtanen, which passes Earth every 5.4 years, was one of three comets discovered by Carl Wirtanen in 1948 at the Lick Observatory in California. This orbit will be one of the closest comet orbits to Earth since the 1950s, according to

Comets are “loosely bound masses of ice, dust and rock.” The central core of the structure is often only a few miles across. These cosmic phenoms usually have tails that are a result of the dust and gases that are spewed when comets heat up as they near the sun. Currently, NASA reports that there are 3,535 known comets.

Read more at: NBC news

Oneweb Scales Back Baseline Constellation By 300 Satellites

Satellite broadband startup OneWeb, now three months from the launch of its first satellites, is reducing the size of its initial low Earth orbit constellation by a third.

Greg Wyler, OneWeb’s founder, said the company will need only 600 satellites or so instead of 900 after ground tests of the first satellites demonstrated better than expected performance.

“What it does is it lowers the cost structure to reach that first phase of global coverage,” Wyler said in a Dec. 13 interview. “Rarely do you see costs go down, so it’s a pretty big deal.”

OneWeb had been under increased scrutiny within the satellite industry amid speculation that its satellite costs had grown well beyond their initial $500,000 target. Wyler confirmed the satellites had passed $500,000 a unit, but said the exceedance was minimal.

Read more at: Spacenews

Fireball That Exploded Over Greenland Shook Earth, Triggering Seismic Sensors

When a blazing fireball from space exploded over Earth on July 25, scientists captured the first-ever seismic recordings of a meteor impact on ice in Greenland.

At approximately 8 p.m. local time on that day, residents of the town of Qaanaaq on Greenland’s northwestern coast reported seeing a bright light in the sky and feeling the ground shake as a meteor combusted over the nearby Thule Air Base.

But the fleeting event was detected by more than just human observers, according to unpublished research presented Dec. 12 here at the annual conference of the American Geophysical Union (AGU).

Read more at:

Gridlock in the Sky

The launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket this year was a triumph of engineering and another celebrated coup for Elon Musk’s space company.

The airline industry says it was also a headache.

To accommodate the launch, and the possibility that the rocket could explode, the Federal Aviation Administration had to shut down a large swath of airspace for more than three hours, stretching from the Florida coast about 1,300 miles east over the Atlantic. That meant flights up and down the busy Eastern Seaboard had to go around the safety zone, causing delays and forcing planes to burn additional fuel.

Read more at: Washington post

To Clean Up Space Junk, Some People Grabbed A Net And Harpoon

CLYDE TOMBAUGH SPENT much of his life peering at telescope data. He discovered Pluto in 1930, and he spent years poking around the outer solar system. But as the scientific community began to dream about launching a vehicle into the great beyond, he focused his gaze much closer to home.

At the time, the smaller stuff in our immediate space environment remained largely a mystery. People like Tombaugh worried whether orbiting gunk would make spaceflight that much harder. If they ever built a spaceship, would space litter pummel it irreparably?

Read more at: Wired

ULA Chief Tory Bruno On Competing With Blue Origin, Spacex Rocket Landings

In part one of our interview with United Launch Alliance Chief Executive Tory Bruno, we talked about the company’s efforts to develop the Vulcan rocket, its Centaur upper stage, and other projects at the Colorado-based rocket builder. In part two, below, we asked Bruno about the company’s collaboration with new space company Blue Origin and its ongoing rivalry with SpaceX.

Read more at: Arstechnica

Will Virgin Galactic Flights Launch from UAE Soon?

With Virgin Galactic’s recent successful test flight to space, UAE’s commercial space sector could see a significant boost once the firm agrees to start operating their space tourism flights from a UAE spaceport.

In fact, the UAE is now in “advance talks” with Virgin Galactic to use UAE as one of their main take-off and landing destinations once more tickets are sold, the director-general of the UAE Space Agency, Dr Mohammed Al Ahbabi, told Khaleej Times in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of the launch of the Winter Space and Rocketry Academy Camp being held by Compass International.

Richard Branson is the owner of Virgin Galactic, however, UAE’s Aabar Investments owns nearly a third of the company.

Read more at: Khaleeji times

What’s Next For Commercial Spaceflight? Passengers Will Soon Get Their Turn

The first suborbital space passenger is less likely to be a billionaire like Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson or Blue Origin’s Jeff Bezos, and more likely to be an as-yet-unnamed employee at one of their companies.

That’s despite Branson’s promise, reiterated in the wake of Thursday’s successful test flight past the 50-mile altitude mark, that he’d be the first commercial passengeron Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity within the next few months.

The word “passenger” is key: We’re not talking about the people who are actually flying the spacecraft, such as the two test pilots who were at Unity’s controls this week. Rather, we’re talking about folks who will be seated in Virgin Galactic’s Unity rocket plane, behind the pilots, or in Blue Origin’s New Shepard crew capsule.

Read more at: Geekwire

Astronaut Andy Thomas labels Sir Richard Branson’s space technology as ‘dead-end’

Australia’s most prominent astronaut, Andy Thomas, has criticised Sir Richard Branson’s plan to send paying travellers into space, describing it as, “go nowhere, dead-endtechnology”.

Last week, Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic tourism spaceship climbed more than 80 kilometres above California’s Mojave Desert in a test flight.

It was the first time it reached what the company considers the boundary of space.

The English billionaire has also said he would love to establish a third spaceport in Australia, and his team plans to talk to the newly-formed Australian Space Agency about the possibility.

Read more at: ABC

Why Wannabe Astronauts Shouldn’t Get Too Excited About Virgin Galactic’s Flight to ‘Space’

For the first time in a very long time, Sir Richard Branson has some good news to report from the spaceport he built in the Mojave desert: at 7:11 a.m. Pacific time Thursday, his Virgin Galactic company at last succeeded in launching honest-to-goodness astronauts into honest-to-goodness space. Sort of. Maybe. If you’re grading on a really, really generous curve. But that’s not the breathless way the news is being framed.

The bare facts of the flight are not in dispute—and indeed amount to a nifty bit of engineering and flying. Virgin Galactic’s eight-seat VSS Unity spacecraft, with pilots Mark “Forger” Stucky and C.J. Sturckow aboard, was carried aloft by the WhiteKnightTwo mother ship. At an altitude of 43,000 feet, the mothership released the Unity, the pilots fired their engines and accelerated to Mach 2.9, or nearly three times the speed of sound. The ship climbed to a maximum altitude of 51.4 miles and performed a graceful backflip in near-zero gravity before returning safely home.

Read more at: TIME

Branson Predictions Have Not Been Helpful For Spaceport

Sometimes it is hard to hold on to the holiday spirit when your mailbox is crammed with flyers and letters asking for money and your phone rings almost constantly with someone soliciting donations. It can make you feel like Scrooge or the Grinch.

Indeed, there are many nonprofit organizations worldwide mailing appeal letters this time of year. There are basically two reasons the ‘season of giving’ is so popular for fundraising mail campaigns. First, it is the season of giving. People are thinking about their families, friends and their communities and are touched by the needs of others; it is a good time to ask for support.

Read more at: lcsun

The Virgin Galactic Hype Totally Misses the Point

Everyone loves a successful space launch. They are long shots: expensive, complicated, dangerous feats of engineering that seem to symbolize everything ambitious and daring about humanity. And so the world felt a twinge of pride when Virgin Galactic succeeded today, reaching the lower edge of suborbital space with SpaceShipTwo.

It was vindication for founder Richard Branson, and not just because of the company’s long road and tragic struggles, including a 2014 crash that killed a test pilot. The media has treated the event as Branson winning a space race, beating Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk at sending a human to suborbital space in a privately built spacecraft.

Read more at: Popular Mecahnics

Rocket Lab Launches First Satellites For NASA In ‘Perfect’ Third Mission This Year

Rocket Lab launched its third Electron rocket this year early Sunday morning, in the company’s first mission for NASA.

The mission sent 13 spacecraft to orbit in an operation known as Educational Launch of Nanosatellites 19 (ELaNA-19). Rocket Lab is the first company to fly under NASA’s Venture Class Launch Services (VCLS) program. Under the intiative, the government hopes to push the boundaries of cheap, reliable launches with the budding market of new small rocket services.

“All payloads deployed,” Rocket Lab’s CEO said in a tweet. “Perfect mission.”

Read more at: CNBC

First Commercial Launch Of Japan’s H3 Rocket Set For 2022

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has said development and testing of its H3 rocket is progressing steadily after communications satellite company Inmarsat committed to be the first user of the launch vehicle.

The H3 is a 63m (205ft) tall, two-stage liquid-propellant rocket that can accommodate up to four solid rocket boosters and two types of fairing. The H3 is intended to launch commercial satellites of up to 6,500kg (14,300 lb). Its maiden launch is planned for 2020.

The Japanese rocket has been in development since 2014 at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Tanegashima Space Center in the south-east of Japan. Testing of its LE-9 engine has been conducted there since April 2017.

Read more at: aerospace testing international

Waste Management That’s Out of This World: Collins Aerospace Developing Astronaut Trash Compaction System

For decades, the approach to managing astronaut trash has involved temporarily storing and ultimately disposing of the trash either by return to Earth or incineration during reentry in a disposable supply vehicle. As NASA pushes the boundaries of human space exploration through longer missions to the Moon and Mars, these proven approaches will no longer be feasible for several reasons. Returning trash to Earth will be impractical, jettisoning it during the mission may result in the loss of valuable recoverable resources and disposing of it locally may pose a planetary protection risk. To solve these challenges, Collins Aerospace, a unit of United Technologies Corp. (NYSE: UTX), has proposed an integrated Trash Compaction and Processing System designed to handle astronaut trash in situ.

Read more at: PR newswire

Spacecraft’s Anti-Radiation Electromagnetic Shield May Help Humans Fly To Mars

An artificial electromagnetic shield could reliably shield a crewed spacecraft from cosmic radiation during a flight to Mars, Doctor of Biological Sciences, Head of the Experimental Biology and Medicine Department at the Institute of Medical and Biological Problems Andrei Shtemberg told TASS on Wednesday.

As soon as a spacecraft leaves the boundaries of the Earth’s magnetosphere, it starts to be exposed to solar cosmic rays and galactic cosmic rays, the scientist said.

“You can get protection from solar rays but you can’t be shielded from galactic rays. Passive protection (installing aluminum screens, the intermediate water layer) is senseless. The sole variant is electromagnetic protection, i.e. creating an electromagnetic field around the spacecraft that will deflect particles. But this requires very enormous energies and, naturally, the spacecraft’s large weight,” the scientist noted.

Read more at: TASS

Cosmonauts Will Use Special Water During Long Space Missions

Drinking water possessing new functional properties will protect space crews from radiation during long space flights, including a mission to Mars, as follows from a report to the 17th Conference on Space Biology and Medicine, underway in Moscow on Monday.

“Drinking water with new functional properties will hold special place in the system of increasing cosmonauts’ resistibility to radiation. Of great interest is light isotope water and water with controlled and optimized mineral composition,” the conference’s report says.

Special attention must be paid to preventing water preservatives, including silver ions, from getting into the cosmonaut’s body. Silver is a heavy metal, and heavy metals increase the harmful effects of ionizing radiation.

Read more at: TASS

Russia’s Museum of Cosmonautics displays with rightful pride artifacts from its early years of storied achievements in space exploration: the first satellite, the first dog in space, the first man and, soon thereafter, the first toolbox.

Labeled in blocky Cyrillic writing a “panel with instruments for technical service and repair,” the toolbox held an array of handy items like pliers, two wooden-handled files and a hacksaw, spare blade included.

Russian space officials are trumpeting this history of grit and ingenuity in orbit as they hope to persuade Washington to continue joint piloted exploration in the next decade rather than split into separate paths. They face significant hurdles.

Read more at: NY times

Why Defining The Boundary Of Space May Be Crucial For The Future Of Spaceflight

On Thursday morning, just after 8AM PT, the two pilots on board Virgin Galactic’s spaceplane ignited the vehicle’s rocket engine high above the Mojave Desert for a total of 60 seconds, soaring to an altitude of 82.7 kilometers. When the vehicle reached its maximum height, the Virgin Galactic team celebrated: they had finally reached space — a new record for the company.

At least, Virgin Galactic argues it went to space. But for many, that’s not where space is.

At some point, the higher you travel through the sky, Earth’s dense atmosphere starts to thin, eventually giving way to the vacuum of space. But the exact height at which airspace ends and outer space begins has never been totally agreed upon, with many different groups offering up varying answers. Now, one international organization is considering changing its definition for where space “starts,” potentially bringing the world closer to a consensus on a complicated and surprisingly tense topic.

Read more at: Verge

Update from ESA Council, December 2018

The ESA Council held its 277th meeting at the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt on 12 and 13 December 2018.

The Council welcomed NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who presented NASA’s vision for future space exploration. Mr Bridenstine praised the long-standing cooperation between ESA and NASA over the past 40 years through more than 260 major agreements including the iconic Hubble Space Telescope.

He strongly advocated international cooperation with ESA regarding space science, Earth science, the extension of the International Space Station operations and recognised the leading role of ESA on space safety and protection of space assets.

Read more at: ESA

Committee Recommends Review Of Planetary Protection Policies

The NASA Advisory Council has recommended that NASA review its existing planetary protection guidelines to balance the needs of science and exploration, an effort that could set the stage for a similar revision at the international level.

The council, during a two-day meeting at NASA Headquarters Dec. 10–11, adopted a recommendation calling on NASA to establish an interdisciplinary committee of experts to review the agency’s current requirements for preventing contamination of other worlds by NASA spacecraft as well as any contamination of the Earth by materials brought back from those worlds.

“NASA should establish a multidisciplinary task force of experts from industry, the scientific community, and relevant government agencies, to develop U.S. policies that properly balance the legitimate need to protect against the harmful contamination of the Earth or other celestial bodies with the scientific, social, and economic benefits of public and private space missions,” the recommendation states.

Read more at: Spacenews

DARPA’s Next Project: Design A Space Development Agency

The head of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Tactical Technology Office has been tasked to help the Pentagon figure out how to organize a new agency focused on space technology development.

The task came from Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Mike Griffin, a staunch advocate of creating a Space Development Agency to spur innovation in military space programs and bring emerging technologies from the private sector into DoD. Griffin has been a vocal critic of the Pentagon’s traditional procurement process and has warned that adversaries like China and Russia are advancing space technology at a much more rapid pace than the United States.

Read more at: Spacenews

Government’s Leading Space Think Tank Has Busy Year Ahead

Big changes in space technology and policy have forced a leading government-backed think tank to kick into high gear.

The Aerospace Corporation’s Center for Space Policy and Strategy has ramped up its research on everything from how to better manage the electromagnetic spectrum to space traffic management.

That momentum will carry over into next year, when the center plans to release new papers focusing on topics such as acquisition reform and how intellectual property should be handled when the government and industry are working together.

Read more at: Politico

France’s CNES Lays Out Action Plan For Space Collaboration With China

President of French space agency CNES has presented a vision for future cooperation in space with China at a meeting in Beijing on Monday, which includes collaboration on astrophysics and planetary exploration missions.

Jean-Yves Le Gall addressed the preparatory meeting of the French-Chinese joint science and technology committee to present the current situation in collaboration, Le Gall then went on to lay out a nine-point action plan, according to a CNES press release.

Read more at: Gbtimes

No Measures Exist To Counter Russian, Chinese Hypersonic Weapons

No countermeasures or effective defence exists against the new generation of hypersonic weapons being developed by both Russia and China, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) said in a report.

“China and Russia are pursuing hypersonic weapons because their speed, altitude, and manoeuvrability may defeat most missile defence systems, and they may be used to improve long-range conventional and nuclear strike capabilities,” the report said on Thursday.

“There are no existing countermeasures.”

Read more at: Space daily

Is It Time for ‘Space Arms Control’?

There is no question that arms control helps our military strategy to counter nuclear and conventional threats. The question now is how to tailor arms control measures to counter the specific novel threats that will inevitably arise from robotic spacecraft. These threats will be with us by the early 2020s and forever thereafter.

China, Russia, the United States, European Union and other countries will deploy robotic servicing spacecraft to remove space debris or to refuel, repair or upgrade satellites already in orbit. These supposedly peaceful robotic spacecraft from China and Russia can be readily re-tasked in space to threaten and disable our critical satellites.

Read more at: National interest

Aerospace Corp. To Lay Out Strategy To ‘Outpace The Threat’ In Space

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson often reminds audiences that America is “the best in the world at space, and adversaries know it.” But nobody can predict how long that advantage will last. The Pentagon warned in the 2018 National Defense Strategy that “new threats to commercial and military uses of space are emerging” and the nation must “prioritize investments in resilience, reconstitution and operations to assure our space capabilities.”

The challenge for the Air Force — or a Space Force if one is established in the future — is how to take concepts like “resilience” and “reconstitution” and apply them to actual programs as new systems are being developed. A game plan for how that might be done will be rolled out in the coming weeks by the Aerospace Corp. — a nonprofit federally funded think tank that provides technical advice to the U.S. Air Force and the National Reconnaissance Office on military space programs.

Read more at: Spacenews

Could The United Kingdom Really Build Its Own Global Satnav System?

The row over the the United Kingdom’s attempt to stay fully involved in the European Union’s global satellite-navigation (satnav) system, Galileo, after it departs the bloc, is back in the headlines after science minister Sam Gyimah cited it in his resignation statement last month.

Gyimah’s resignation came hours after UK Prime Minister Theresa May had said that the UK government would end talks with the EU on Galileo, and would instead consider building its own global satnav system for use after Brexit.

That idea was first floated by the government in May, but many experts have dismissed it as too expensive, unnecessary and even unfeasible — the lack of available space on the radio spectrum to run such a system could be a show-stopper.

Read more at: Nature

Will The Space Force Sit Under The Department Of The Air Force? The Pentagon Finally Has An Answer.

The question of whether the Space Force will be an entirely new military department or reside under the Department of the Air Force has been settled, the Pentagon’s No. 2 leader said Thursday.

But Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan isn’t ready to say which way Pentagon leaders are leaning.

“There were two primary options,” he told reporters Dec. 13. “We’re now down to one option. I’m really not in a position to disclose what that one option is, but I can tell you that the legislative proposal itself probably tomorrow will start to go through the [Pentagon] for coordination.”

Read more at: Defense news

Shanahan: Space Force Decision Made, But Not Ready To Reveal It

Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan told reporters today that a decision on whether the Space Force should be a separate military department or part of the Air Force has been made, but he is not ready to reveal the answer.  He also continued to hint that a U.S. Space Command announcement might be made by the end of this year and offered a progress report on other aspects of the Trump Administration’s plan to restructure how DOD manages and executes space activities. Meanwhile, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee reiterated his opposition to a Space Force.

Shanahan and Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Mike Griffin had a brief exchange with media at a conference today.  According to a DOD transcript,  Shanahan characterized the Space Force discussions as “on the final approach.”

Read more at: Space policy online

North Korea Warns On US Sanctions

Nuclear-armed North Korea condemned the United States over its latest sanctions measures, warning Washington’s approach could “block the path to denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula forever”.

After a rapid diplomatic rapprochement this year that culminated in the Singapore summit in June between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump, progress has stalled in talks on Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal.

In Singapore the two men signed a vaguely-worded statement on denuclearisation, but have since disagreed on what it means.

Read more at: Space daily

Blue Origin Gearing Up For Next New Shepard Test Flight

Blue Origin plans to conduct the next test flight of its New Shepard suborbital vehicle no earlier than Dec. 21 as the company moves closer to flying people into space.

In a statement Dec. 17, the company said the next New Shepard flight, designated NS-10, will take place Dec. 18 at 9:30 a.m. Eastern from its West Texas test site that has hosted all previous New Shepard tests. The flight, like several past flights, will be webcast. The statement came after the publication by the Federal Aviation Administration of restricted airspace around the company’s launch site for a three-day period starting Dec. 18.

Read more at: Spacenews

Congress And Commerce In The Final Frontier (Part 1)

Today, commercial actors are increasingly the predominant users of outer space, a stark contrast to the Cold War era of the “space race” characterized by near-total government control over funding and management of space activities. Far from its past use as an arena for superpowers competing for geopolitical supremacy, outer space is evolving to be a domain in which private actors, using private capital, cooperate and compete for business; and, from their headquarters and factories on Earth, either innovate and profit or fail.

The continuing commercialization of outer space may be ascribed to many factors, not least of which are advancements in technologies, reductions in costs, and emerging capabilities and opportunities (along with corresponding business plans). Standing at the fore of the growing and globalizing commercial space sector is the United States, where the industry is experiencing unprecedented growth through an influx of private investment and novel research and development. The industry’s maturation is being guided by the anticipation that new markets, both government and commercial, will soon be accessible and vibrant in the “final frontier.”

Read more at: Space review

Arthur C Clarke: The Satellite Man

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has been very successful in almost all of its space missions. Most recently, the heaviest and most-advanced high throughput communication satellite GSAT-11, developed by ISRO, was successfully launched from the Spaceport in French Guiana at 02:07 am (IST) on December 05, 2018. During the last one month, ISRO has successfully completed three satellite and two launch vehicle missions.

Going back in time, India’s first endeavour into the interplanetary space, Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), has been exploring and observing Mars surface features, morphology, mineralogy and the Martian atmosphere. After completing an interplanetary journey of more than 10 months, covering a distance of 780 million km, the Mars Orbiter Mission — more aptly known as Mangalyaan — has entered orbit around Mars on September 24, 2014, at 8.15 am (IST).

Read more at: Hans India

How Apollo 8 ‘Saved 1968’

The Apollo 8 astronauts watched the desolate, crater-pocked surface of the moon pass beneath them. Then, something unexpectedly stunning happened. Rising above the horizon was a beautiful sphere, familiar and yet unfamiliar—a blue marble that beguilingly stole the space voyagers’ attention. What they saw was heart-stopping, heavenly, halcyon—home.

This image would capture the human imagination, and ironically, it could only be seen when Earthlings left home for the first time. The three men traveled hundreds of thousands of miles to look back and discover the jewel they had left behind. It was so far away that a raised thumb could hide this sapphire oasis in the void. “Everything you’ve ever known is behind your thumb,” said Apollo 8 astronaut Jim Lovell decades later. “All the world’s problems, everything. It kind of shows you how relative life is and how insignificant we all are here on Earth. Because we are all on a rather small spaceship here.”

Read more at: Smithsonian

‘Dying All Tensed-Up’: 30 Years Since the Troubled Secret Mission of STS-27

Thirty years ago, at 9:30 a.m. EST on 2 December 1988, Atlantis rocketed into crystal-blue Florida skies to begin the second shuttle mission in the wake of the Challenger tragedy. Two months earlier, her sister Discovery had brought the fleet back to active service and the task of the five STS-27 astronauts—Commander Robert “Hoot” Gibson, Pilot Guy Gardner and Mission Specialists Mike Mullane, Jerry Ross and Bill Shepherd—was to deploy a classified payload on behalf of the Department of Defense. Although that objective apparently proceeded without significant incident, the mysterious flight of STS-27 earned a place in the history books, when the hands of fate unexpectedly turned against the astronauts and brought them within a hair’s breadth of disaster.

Read more at: America Space

New Year’s In Space: ISS Crew To Celebrate With Caviar, But No Alcohol

The crew of the International Space Station (ISS) will celebrate the arrival of the New Year with tangerines, black caviar and apple juice, Head of the Nutrition Department of the ISS Institute of Biomedical Problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS), Alexander Agureev, told TASS on Thursday.

“As for fruit, apples, grapefruit and tangerines will be served. Also, the spacemen asked for sturgeon caviar on the occasion of New Year <…>,” he stated.

When it comes to drinks, the astronauts will be having juice or water. “Fizzy drinks and alcohol are prohibited on the ISS. Hence, there will only be apple and orange juice, or water,” Agureev added.

Read more at: TASS

Forces Of Darkness And Light

Peter Westwick, writing in a new book on space history, explores the links between both liberal and conservative activist groups and the initiation of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), the 1980s program to develop space-based defenses against ballistic missiles that was often referred to as the “Star Wars” program. Westwick’s thought-provoking essay, titled “From the Club of Rome to Star Wars: The Era of Limits, Space Colonization and the Origins of SDI,” appears in Limiting Outer Space: Astroculture After Apollo, edited by Alexander C.T. Geppert (see “Review: Limiting Outer Space”, The Space Review, July 30, 2018).

Read more at: Space review

Riccardo Giacconi, Visionary Director of the Space Telescope Science Institute

The worldwide astronomical community mourns the loss of Riccardo Giacconi, the first permanent director of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland.

Under his leadership from 1981 to 1993, STScI developed the expertise and capabilities to direct the science mission of the Hubble Space Telescope. A visionary, Giacconi defined how the space observatory would serve the astronomical community through meticulous planning, scheduling, and archiving of observations. To accomplish this, he hired many of the world’s top scientists. Under his guidance and inspiration, the STScI team built the infrastructure needed for engaging the astronomical community in the science operations of the first major telescope in space. Giacconi’s leadership, insights, and unwavering perseverance changed the way all present-day space astrophysics missions conduct science. These efforts, collectively, laid the groundwork for the soon-to-be launched James Webb Space Telescope, which will be controlled from STScI.

Read more at: Hubble site

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