Starliner Lands In New Mexico

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft landed safely in New Mexico in the early morning hours Dec. 22, wrapping up an uncrewed test flight cut short by a timer glitch.

Starliner landed at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico at 7:58 a.m. Eastern, 35 minutes after performing a deorbit burn using its thrusters. The spacecraft “hit the bullseye” at the landing site, Boeing and NASA reported on a NASA TV broadcast of the landing.

The spacecraft’s reentry and landing appeared to go as planned, including the deployment of the spacecraft’s drogue and main parachutes.

Read more at: Spacenews

OFT: What Went Wrong?

Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft was launched on its “Orbital Flight Test” to the International Space on Friday, Dec. 20. One day later, NASA held a teleconference to help provide a better understanding of what went wrong.

Per NASA: The main objective of Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test is to dock with the International Space Station and prove its autonomous mission capability. The mission will demonstrate on-orbit operation of Starliner’s systems, including avionics, docking system, communications/telemetry systems, environmental control systems, solar arrays and electrical power systems, and the propulsion system. These mission objectives are intended to demonstrate all of Starliner’s systems and capabilities, except for those requiring a human onboard to test.

Read more at: Spaceflight insider

Boeing’s Starliner Misfire A Blessing?

Could Boeing’s latest failure, the botched launch of its Starliner space vehicle, be what the company needs to finally head in the right direction? At the least, Boeing should take it as a lesson – imperfect as it may be – in how to respond to a crisis.

Boeing’s newest problem came Friday, following a perfect liftoff of the spacecraft. An error in setting an internal clock caused the Starliner to mistime a subsequent engine firing. Instead of a rendezvous and docking with the International Space Station, the unmanned craft became stuck in an unplanned orbit.

Read more at: Forbes

Starliner Test Flight To Use Special Atlas 5 Configuration, Unusual Launch Trajectory

The 81st flight of a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket, set for liftoff Friday from Cape Canaveral, will come with its share of firsts when it sends Boeing’s Starliner crew capsule toward the International Space Station on an unpiloted test flight.

The launcher will fly without a payload shroud, which typically envelopes satellites during liftoff, and it will debut an uprated dual-engine Centaur upper stage that will power the Starliner on a unique suborbital trajectory optimized for astronaut comfort.

Read more at: Spaceflight Now

The Stars Did Not Align Well For Starliner, It Seems

Yesterday’s Boeing CST-100 Starliner Orbital Flight Test was a true nailbiter. This blogpost briefly reitterates what happened, and what could have happened had they not been able to eventually raise the orbit.

Launched atop an Atlas V rocket, this uncrewed inaugural test flight of the new Boeing Starliner crew transport vehicle should have gone on its way to a docking at the ISS today, followed by undocking and landing at the White Sands Missile Range a week from now. The map above which I prepared pre-launch from information in the Starliner Press Kit and Starliner Notebook, shows what should have been the launch track and some keypoints on that track. As we now know, it went wrong at one of these keypoints.

Read more at: sattrackcam

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon In-Flight Abort Test Will Now Launch No Earlier Than Jan. 11

SpaceX will now launch a major in-flight abort system test of its Crew Dragon spacecraft for astronauts no earlier than Jan. 11, a week later than previously announced.

The uncrewed test flight, called an In-Flight Abort Test, will test a vital safety system designed to protect astronauts during a launch emergency. It was initially expected to liftoff sometime this month, but NASA announced last week that the mission would launch no earlier than Jan. 4. That target has since slipped another week.

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SpaceX Poised To Accelerate Launch Cadence With Series Of Starlink Missions

SpaceX teams across the United States are readying for what the company’s chief operating officer predicts will be a record number of launches in 2020.

Before the end of January, SpaceX aims to perform four Falcon 9 launches from Florida’s Space Coast — three for the company’s Starlink broadband network, and a crucial in-flight abort test for the Crew Dragon spacecraft no earlier than Jan. 11.

SpaceX has performed its final launch of 2019, finishing the year with 13 missions — 11 using the “single-stick” Falcon 9 and two employing the Falcon Heavy with three booster core connected together. All 13 of the missions were successful.

Read more at: Spaceflight Now

Is Any­thing Go­ing To Hit Earth? A Neat Ap­proach To Make Quicker And More Ex­act Ana­lyses Of Fire­ball Ob­ser­va­tions

There is not enough time for more close study of all fireballs observed in the sky. The observation of a bright phenomenon reveals that a meteoroid has entered the atmosphere from space, but does any part of it end up on Earth? Only those with the survived terminal mass will reach the earth, but unfortunately many of them remain undiscovered.

At the same time as we are equipping expensive space missions, we have valuable extraterrestrial specimens arriving on Earth with information about the solar system’s objects. University Researcher Maria Gritsevich from the University of Helsinki and the Finnish Geospatial Research Institute compares the situation to the idea that  humanity does not bother to empty its letterbox.

Read more at: Helsinki

Asteroid Collisions Trigger Cascading Formation Of Subfamilies, Study Concludes

Billions of years ago, asteroid collisions resulted in the ejection of fragments hundreds of kilometers across and sharing similar orbits. The resulting groups are known as asteroid families.

Other asteroid groups formed as a result of rotational fission, which happens when a rapidly spinning body reaches critical rotation speed and splits into relatively small fragments only a few kilometers across.

Scientists have always thought about fission clusters as entirely distinct from collisional families.

Read more at: Eurekalert


China Creates Commercial Space Alliance, Expands Launch Complex

A group of space industry entities have formed a China commercial space alliance to help promote and regulate the country’s burgeoning private space sector. 

The China Commercial Space Alliance was launched at a Dec. 11 ceremony in Beijing. The alliance was created by six groups including units under the state-owned defense and space contractors the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) and China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC). The China Space Foundation and the Chinese Academy of Sciences are also involved.

Read more at: Spacenews

The Private Spaceflight Decade: How Commercial Space Truly Soared in the 2010s

Historians may look back at the 2010s as the decade in which commercial spaceflight really started taking off.

Private companies are doing a lot more in the final frontier today than they were 10 years ago, including ferrying supplies to the International Space Station (ISS), landing and reflying rockets, and manufacturing products off Earth.

Since 2010, and especially since 2013 or 2014, “it has been an enormous change — a sea change, almost,” said Eric Stallmer, president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, a nonprofit trade association. “It’s mind-boggling.”

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Giant Surveillance Balloons Are Lurking at the Edge of Space

It’s a brisk December morning at Spaceport Tucson, America’s premiere (only?) dedicated launch pad for stratospheric balloons, and a small army of technicians in reflective vests is milling around on the concrete and thawing out after a long, cold night. Nearby, a white metal tripod the size of a smart car is tethered to two dozen solar panels and hundreds of feet of clear plastic that stretches across the pad.

This alien-looking contraption is referred to as a “stratollite,” a portmanteau of “stratospheric satellite,” operated by a company called World View Enterprises.

Read more at: Wired

Satellogic Raises $50 Million To Build Out Imaging Constellation

Commercial Earth imaging company Satellogic announced Dec. 19 that it has raised $50 million to help it scale up its satellite constellation.

The company, headquartered in Buenos Aires, said it raised the new funding round from a mix of new and existing investors. Two existing investors, Chinese company Tencent and Brazilian fund Pitanga, contributed about 40% of the funding. The rest came from new investors, including IDB Lab, the “innovation laboratory” of the Inter-American Development Bank.

Read more at: Spacenews

Amid Competing Priorities, Boeing Redesigns NASA SLS Exploration Upper Stage

After its debut was postponed and production plans suspended, NASA gave its OK in June to a set of design changes proposed by prime contractor Boeing for the Exploration Upper Stage (EUS). EUS was planned to become the upper stage for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket on its second launch, but last year the space agency requested a study of possible changes after Congress decided to fly more SLS launches with its current interim upper stage.

Boeing provided NASA with choices to optimize the stage for lunar payloads at the end of 2018, but the future of the stage came into question at the beginning of this year. With the delay in its first launch, funding was first cut in half in the last fiscal year and then the White House proposed completely defunding it this year.

Read more at: NASA Spaceflight

Elbit Systems Launches Nanosatellite For Commercial Communications

Israeli defense electronics firm Elbit Systems said on Wednesday its nanosatellite, called Nanova, was successfully launched into space. Nanova was developed in collaboration with an unnamed U.S. company and is planned to be a part of a nanosatellite constellation for commercial purposes. 

Nanova will be operated from a ground control station set up in Haifa, Israel. It was launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in the south of India, onboard the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle.

Read more at: Reuters


SpaceX Is Lobbying Against Amazon’s Internet-Beaming Satellites

When Amazon confirmed it was planning to launch 3,236 broadband internet-beaming satellites into low-Earth orbit, much of the media reported it as if it were a done deal—the latest, inevitable step in the corporation’s quest to conquer commerce, the cloud, and beyond.

Amazon officials said the massive satellite constellation, called Project Kuiper, would one day provide low-latency, high-speed broadband to tens of millions of underserved people around the world, no doubt also connecting them to the wide world of Amazon offerings.

Read more at: Vice

The Sky Is No Longer The Limit For Scientific Research

Hundreds of spaceflight research experts, biological scientists, entrepreneurs and enthusiasts gathered in September at Arizona State University to add fuel to the exploding market of space life sciences research.

“Developing the Commercial Spaceflight Research Marketplace: Challenges, Solutions and Benefits,” held this fall and sponsored by ASU’s Biodesign Institute and NewSpace Initiative, drew not only a cross section of Arizona’s university-based space life sciences and technology researchers, but also business partners and members of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, including Blue Origin, Boeing, Techshot, Space Tango and the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory, as well as representatives from the government sector including NASA.

Read more at: ASU

Apple Is Reportedly Developing Satellite Technology To Support Its Devices

A new report from Bloomberg claims Apple is working on satellite technology to beam data to users’ devices, and could launch a new initiative using the tech within five years.

There are a lot of unknowns and caveats, though. The project is “still early and could be abandoned,” says Bloomberg, and it’s not clear what Apple’s end goal is. It’s also not known if the company wants to develop its own satellites or simply utilize others’ satellite data.

Read more at: Verge


Trump Signs FY2020 Appropriations Into Law

Late this evening, President Trump signed the FY2020 appropriations bills into law, averting a government shutdown and funding DOD, NASA, NOAA and other government agencies in the discretionary portion of the federal budget through September 30, 2020. He also signed the FY2020 National Defense Autorization Act (NDAA) which, among other things, creates a U.S. Space Force as part of the Air Force.

Read more at: Spacepolicy online

FAA Commercial Space Activities Get Mixed News in Final FY2020 Appropriations

The final version of the FY2020 Transportation-Housing and Urban Development (THUD) appropriations bill has mixed news for FAA’s commercial space transportation activities.  The FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) got a slight increase over the request, but the two other components of the FAA’s commercial space portfolio received substantial cuts from requested levels.  All in all, instead of the $64.6 million requested, Congress approved $51.54 million. [UPDATE: The bill passed the House on December 17 and the Senate on December 19.]

Read more at: Spacepolicy online

Spending Bill Highlights Ongoing Debate On Commerce Department’s Role In Space Traffic Management

Language in a fiscal year 2020 spending bill suggests that Congress is unlikely to act soon on the future of the Office of Space Commerce or the Commerce Department’s proposed role in handing civil space traffic management.

A “minibus” spending bill released Dec. 16 that includes funding for the Commerce Department provides $2.3 million for the Office of Space Commerce and $1.8 million for the Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs (CRSRA) office. That is the same as what CRSRA received in fiscal year 2019, and a $500,000 increase for the Office of Space Commerce.

Read more at: Spacenews

Ethiopia Has Launched Its First Satellite Into Space With China’s Help

Ethiopia launched its first observatory satellite into space on Friday (Dec. 20), according to local reports.

The 70 kilogram remote sensing satellite is to be used for agricultural, climate, mining and environmental observations, allowing the Horn of Africa to collect data and improve its ability to plan for changing weather patterns for example. The satellite will operate from space around 700 kilometers above the surface of earth.

Read more at: QZ

New China-Brazil Earth Resource Satellite Sent Into Space

A new satellite, jointly developed by China and Brazil, was sent into space on Friday, pushing forward the aerospace cooperation between the two countries, according to the China National Space Administration (CNSA).

The China-Brazil Earth Resource Satellite-4A (CBERS-4A) was launched on a Long March-4B carrier rocket at 11:22 a.m. Friday Beijing Time from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in north China’s Shanxi Province.

Read more at: XInhuanet

Government Updates Rules On What Can Be Sent Into Space

Cabinet has agreed to updated rules around what can be launched into space from this country and banned payloads including those contributing to nuclear weapons programmes or any that support military operations ”contrary to Government policy”

Payloads that could destroy other spacecraft, or space systems on Earth, are also banned.

Economic development minister Phil Twyford said the new set of principles to strengthen the New Zealand’s Space Agency regulatory function and ensure decisions about payload permits are made in the national interest.

Read more at: NZHerald

The Dawn of the Age of ‘Astropolitics’?

Outer space and its starry skies have fascinated mankind since the dawn of time. In fact, astronomical observation arose in many different corners of the world because of its relevance for measuring time. It must be borne in mind that calendars are essential for countless activities related to the evolution of civilization, including agriculture, animal husbandry, business, statecraft, finance, and management.

Moreover, many works of science fiction –including novels, films and other cultural products– have speculated about the challenges, opportunities and discoveries waiting to be found in the vastness of the cosmos.

Read more at: Geopolitical monitor


U.S. Space Force is Now a Reality

With a signature tonight, President Trump created a sixth military service — the U.S. Space Force — the first new service since the Air Force was established in 1947.  Two years after a bipartisan duo on the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) began a campaign to reorganize DOD to raise the visibility of and attention to space activities as a critical element of U.S. military power, it is finally a reality.

In a ceremony at Joint Base Andrews in the Washington D.C. suburbs, Trump signed into law the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which creates the Space Force or USSF.  It is part of the Department of the Air Force, similar to the Marine Corps, which is part of the Department of the Navy.

Read more at: Spacepolicy online

16,000 AFSPC Head To Space Force; What About The Rest?

Some 16,000 people — civilians and airmen — will be shifted from Air Force Space Command to the Space Force upon its stand-up sometime early next year.

“It’s a lot of people,” said Kaitlyn Johnson, who has been tracking the Space Force concept at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, although about the number DoD has been projecting. She noted that AFSPC currently numbers 26,000 personnel from military to administrative staff, although the Congressional Budget Office estimates there are 23,000 full time personnel in all of the Defense Department, excluding the intelligence agencies.

Read more at: Breaking defense

Navy Concerned About Spaceport Camden Location, FAA Document Shows

The Department of Defense is concerned a proposed spaceport in Camden County, Georgia, might endanger American foreign policy or national security, according to a letter the Federal Aviation Administration sent to Camden on Monday.

The U.S. Navy operates Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, roughly 10 miles south of the proposed spaceport site. Kings Bay is the East Coast home of the military’s ballistic missile nuclear submarines.

Read more at: wabe

FAA Struggled To Get Safety Info On Camden Spaceport For Years, Emails Show

In its quest to open a vertical launch spaceport, South Georgia’s Camden County has for years failed to provide the Federal Aviation Administration with safety information needed for its application, according to internal agency emails reviewed by WABE.

This comes after news Monday that the licensing process will be delayed indefinitely. The FAA was expected to release a major environmental report on the proposal this week, but two days prior, Camden County decided to amend its launch site operator license application. It now wants to only fly small rockets.

Read more at: wabe

Space Startup Developing Technology To Detect Hypersonic Missiles

One of the teams that won an Air Force contract last month at a “Space Pitch Day” event claims to have the answer to one the Pentagon’s toughest problems: spotting and tracking advanced missiles that fly at high speeds in unpredictable trajectories.

Rhea Space Activity (RSA) and its partner Lunar Resources pitched to the Air Force a concept to deploy two spacecraft to manufacture a large mirror in space. The mirror would be installed, in orbit, into a telescope that would be used to detect hypersonic vehicles, said Shawn Usman, an astrophysicist and founder of RSA, a two-year old space startup that advises small businesses and recently decided to start developing its own projects for national security applications.

Read more at: Spacenews

Russia Replaces Orbital Missile Early Warning System With New Satellites

Russia has replaced its Oko-1 orbital missile early warning system with new Kupol satellites, according to the materials for a briefing by Chief of the Russian General Staff Army General Valery Gerasimov who spoke at a meeting with foreign military attaches on Tuesday.

In his presentation, the chief of Russia’s General Staff demonstrated slides that showed the structure of the country’s missile early warning system. Specifically, the slides showed a satellite with the caption: satellite of the Kupol integrated space system.

Read more at: TASS

Northrop Grumman Wins Competition To Build Future ICBM, By Default

The U.S. Air Force confirmed Dec. 13 that Northrop Grumman is the only bidder for the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent program to develop a new intercontinental ballistic missile.

The Air Force only received one proposal in response to a solicitation for “GBSD engineering and manufacturing development and early production and deployment,” Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said in a statement. “The Air Force will proceed with an aggressive and effective sole-source negotiation. We remain on track for a contract award in the fourth quarter of Fiscal Year 2020.”

Read more at: Spacenews


DARPA Director Steven Walker Stepping Down

Steven Walker, the 21st director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, announced his resignation Dec. 17, a DARPA spokesman said.

Walker’s resignation is effective January 10, 2020.

Walker was appointed director of DARPA in November 2017 after serving as the deputy director of the agency from October 2012 to December 2016, and as acting director from January 2017 through October 2017.

Read more at: Spacenews

Starliner Launch Team Driven By Challenges, Committed To Safety

When Boeing design engineer Melanie Weber watched the movie “Apollo 13” as a teenager something struck a chord.

“It was the triumph over challenges that’s so inspiring,” Weber said. Years later she turned that inspiration into a career helping design Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft.

“As an engineer I just love that. I like the challenges, the ‘Hey, this isn’t working. How am I going to make this work? This cannot be hopeless. There has to be a solution and I think I can find that solution.’ I love being pushed and that’s what drives me to come to work every day.”

Read more at: Florida today

The Women Who Sewed The Suits For The Space Race

Scientist. Engineer. Astronaut. These are the careers most often associated with space. But there’s another activity far older than the history of human spaceflight, yet equally vital to today’s missions: the humble craft of sewing.When Jeanne Wilson was seven, her mother taught her to sew. By age nine, Wilson was designing and making dolls’ clothes. Ten years later, in 1969, she was one of several seamstresses at ILC Dover who made Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s spacesuits for the Apollo 11 Moon landing.

Read more at: BBC

Vacancy for the Post of Director of Telecommunications

The European Space Agency is currently looking for a new Director of Telecommunications to join its executive board and support the Director General, with responsibility for relevant ESA programmes and overall objectives.

The position will be based at the European Centre for Satellite Applications & Telecommunications (ECSAT), near Oxford (UK).

Read more at: ESA

11th IAASS conference