FCC Approves SpaceX Plan for 4,425-Satellite Broadband Network

SpaceX has a green light from the FCC to launch a network of thousands of satellites blanketing the globe with broadband. And you won’t have too long to wait — on a cosmic scale, anyway. Part of the agreement is that SpaceX launch half of its proposed satellites within six years.

The approval of SpaceX’s application was not seriously in doubt after last month’s memo from FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who was excited at the prospect of the first U.S.-based company being authorized to launch a constellation like this. “I have asked my colleagues to join me in supporting this application and moving to unleash the power of satellite constellations to provide high-speed Internet to rural Americans,” he wrote at the time. He really is pushing that “digital divide” thing.

Read more at: Tech Crunch

Companies Test Spacecraft Parachutes as First Commercial Crew Flights Near

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which will employ private contractors to transport astronauts to the International Space Station, has taken a step closer to crewed flights as the two prime contractors conduct the latest round of tests of their spacecraft parachute systems.

The two prime contractors are The Boeing Company with its CST-100 Starliner, and Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (better known as SpaceX) with its Crew Dragon capsule. Both hope to send astronauts into space as early as 2019, but their first uncrewed tests could happen before the end of 2018.

The latest round of Boeing’s Starliner parachute tests occurred in February 2018 when a Boeing C-17 Globemaster III aircraft carried a dart-shaped test bed module and released it over Yuma, Arizona, testing the flight drogue and main parachute system. Two more tests are planned with the dart module

Read more at: Spaceflight Insider

The Chinese Space Station Narrowly Missed Landing in the World’s Largest ‘Spacecraft Cemetery’

If you were asked to choose the ideal spot for an out-of-control, disintegrating space station to crash-land on Earth, you might wisely suggest “the most remote place on the planet.”

That place is Point Nemo — also known as the “Oceanic Pole of Inaccessibility.” Named for Jules Verne’s deep-sea-diving captain of “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” fame, Point Nemo is nestled in the middle of the southern Pacific Ocean, farther from land (and humanity) than any other point on Earth. It is located, literally, in the middle of nowhere. But it isnꞌt empty.

About 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) below the ocean’s surface, Point Nemo houses the largest “Spacecraft Cemetery” on Earth, concealing the ripped-up remains of hundreds of defunct spacecraft that were guided there in controlled re-entries dating back to the 1970s. Last night (April 1), China’s out-of-control Tiangong-1 space station almost landed there by sheer cosmic coincidence.

Read more at: Space.com

Virgin Orbit Aims to Offer Responsive Launch and Constellation Maintenance Services

Virgin Orbit plans to offer customers a variety of services including responsive launch, maintenance of large satellite constellations and potentially debris removal, Dan Hart, Virgin Orbit president and chief executive, said April 4 at the Space 2.0 conference here.

In 2018, Virgin Orbit plans to conduct the first test launch and initial commercial flight of LauncherOne, its air-launched rocket designed to send payloads weighing 300 kilograms into sun synchronous orbit and 500 kilograms into low inclination orbits. Some customers will fill LauncherOne’s fairing with a single satellite while other customers will launch multiple satellites on the rocket, Hart said.

As Virgin Orbit meets with potential commercial and government customers, the company is beginning to define what it calls “concierge service to orbit,” Hart said.

Read more at: Spacenews

After Tiangong-1, What are the Next Big Pieces of Space Junk to Crash to Earth?

The Chinese experimental space station Tiangong-1 fell to Earth on Sunday (April 1), with a whimper rather than a bang: Most of it burned up over the southern Pacific ocean. But hundreds of thousands of pieces of space junk still circle Earth, and Tiangong-1 won’t be the last to take an uncontrolled plunge into our skies, experts say.

“There are a few large things up there in low orbit that you want to keep an eye on,” Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told Space.com. Of particular note is part of an Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket that delivered a remote sensing satellite into space in April 2012, said McDowell, who tracks the launches, orbits and deaths of spacecraft and details this information in the email-distributed newsletter Jonathan’s Space Report.

Read more at: Space.com

Proton, Soyuz Engine Reinspections Complete, Roscosmos Says

A review of more than 70 Russian rocket engines manufactured at a factory that used the wrong solder is now complete, according to the Russian state corporation Roscosmos.

In a statement released April 2, Roscosmos said that workers at Khrunichev’s Voronezh Mechanical Plant verified 58 Proton engines as well as 16 Soyuz engines that were returned to the factory for revaluation last year. Roscosmos did not say how many affected engines were discovered from Voronezh, which builds upper stage engines for both Proton and Soyuz.

The late-2016 discovery of an incorrect solder used to bond engine parts for Proton’s second- and third-stage engines halted Proton launches for roughly six months last year while the rockets were dismantled for inspection.

Read more at: Spacenews

Virgin Galactic Fires Up Spaceship for the First Time Since Deadly 2014 Crash

Richard Branson’s spaceship fired up its rocket engine Thursday, marking the first powered test flight for the company since a fatal crash left it hamstrung in 2014.

Virgin Galactic said in tweets that the pilots brought the spaceship to speeds faster than the speed of sound before gliding to a landing in the Mojave Desert. It conducted a “planned partial duration burn,” which means the engine intentionally didn’t fire as long as it will on full missions.

Rather than aiming for space using a traditional vertically launched rocket, Virgin Galactic uses a massive plane, called a mothership, to hoist its reusable spaceship into the air before the craft ignites its own engine. The goal is to one day fly paying space tourists into the microgravity environment of space to enjoy stunning views of the Earth.

Read more at: CNN

World View Launches NASA Payload from Spaceport Tucson

World View Enterprises successfully launched one of its stratospheric balloon vehicles carrying a payload for NASA from Spaceport Tucson on Thursday morning. The company also announced a new investment round of $26.5 million led by a prominent Silicon Valley private-equity investment firm. Thursday’s high-altitude mission took off from the spaceport, adjacent to World View’s headquarters south of Tucson International Airport, at about 9:39 a.m., the company said in a news release.

The flight was commissioned by the NASA Flight Opportunities program office for two principal customers, the NASA Ames Research Center and Space Environment Technologies, both of which are studying radiation detection and its energy levels at different altitudes.

Read more at: Tucson

Anticipating the Dangers of Space

Alongside the well-known hazards of space – freezing temperatures, crushing pressures, isolation – astronauts also face risks from radiation, which can cause illness or injure organs.

Though not believed to be an imminent threat to current missions, astronauts may one day face radiation from solar winds and galactic cosmic rays. How much radiation, what kind, and what the anticipated health impacts of this exposure would be to astronauts are open questions among space agencies.

Jeffery Chancellor, a research scientist in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Texas A&M University and a PhD candidate in the applied physics program there, has spent more than a decade studying these questions as part of four NASA missions. Recently, collaborating with physician and astronaut Serena Aunon-Chancellor (NASA/University of Texas Medical Branch) and Associate Director of NASA’s Human Research Program for Exploration Research Planning John Charles (NASA), Chancellor examined the health implications of space radiation exposure in low-altitude polar orbits.

Read more at: U Texas

Could Mars Ever be a New Home for Humans?

The establishment of a colony on Mars has been a dream for decades, most recently championed by Robert Zubrin of the Mars Society and SpaceX’s Elon Musk. Musk has stated that he has concrete plans to start his own Mars colony using a spacecraft he is developing called the Big Falcon Rocket.

Inevitably some people have objected to the idea of colonizing Mars on both ideological and practical grounds. Some object to humans living on Mars because they would contaminate the planet, harming whatever bacterial lifeforms might be present. Others oppose Mars settlements because they disagree with the idea of using the Red Planet serve as a “backup” in case the Earth is destroyed.

Read more at: Hill

How to Keep a Crew of Humans Alive to Mars? Put them to Bed for Most of it

Journeying to Mars is seldom out of the news these days. From Elon Musk releasing plans for his new rocket to allow SpaceX to colonize Mars, to NASA announcing another rover as part of the Mars 2020 mission, both private and public organizations are racing to the red planet.

But human spaceflight is an exponentially bigger task than sending robots and experiments beyond Earth. Not only do you have to get the engineering of the rocket, the calculations of the launch, the plans for zero-gravity travel, and the remotely operated Martian landing perfect, but you’d also have to keep a crew of humans alive for six months without any outside help.

There are questions around how to pack enough food and water to sustain the crew without making the rocket too heavy and around how much physical space would be left for the crew to live in. There are questions about what happens if someone gets dangerously ill and about what a claustrophobic half-year in these circumstances would do to the mental health of the Martian explorers.

Read more at: QZ

Why Getting Back to the Moon is so Damn Hard

Rovers owned by private citizens should be playing lunar golf by now. Instead, the moon sits quiet as the deadline for the Google Lunar X Prize quietly passed this weekend.

Over 10 years ago, Google and X Prize offered a $20 million prize for the first nongovernmental organization to complete a lunar mission as it defined one. After multiple extensions of the deadline from the original date in 2012, the competition was officially killed in January when it became clear no private company would make it to the moon by the final deadline: March 31, 2018.

Read more at: Technology Review

NASA, its Partners and China Set their Sights on Future Moon Missions

This December will mark the 50th anniversary of Apollo 8, which was the first crewed mission to the moon. Apollo 8 did not land but orbited the moon and safely returned to the Earth. Now, it seems Earth’s exploration of the moon looks poised to continue and expand.

At least that was the impression from the “Return to the Moon — A Partnership of Government, Academia and Industry” symposium Wednesday, sponsored by the Universities Space Research Association and George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute. The event featured a “who’s who” in lunar science and exploration from these groups.

Last December, the Trump administration issued Space Policy Directive 1, “a change in national space policy that provides for a U.S.-led, integrated program with private sector partners for a human return to the Moon, followed by missions to Mars and beyond,” according to a NASA statement.

Read more at: wtop

Astronauts have a Superhuman Ability to Manage Stress

In April 2001, astronaut Chris Hadfield had an extremely stressful experience. What made it worse was that he was absolutely alone, in space, unable to see, and not in communication with folks back on Earth.

Space travel certainly comes with its share of indescribably cool experiences—floating, seeing Earth in a way no one else can—but any one who’s seen even one space movie knows that stress is baked into the experience.

It’s physical as well as mental. Astronauts float weightlessly in a fully enclosed spacecraft 248 miles above the ground, orbiting the planet about 16 times a day. Microgravity, while a triumphantly rare and wonderful thing to experience, also wreaks havoc on bodies as every day passes, causing eyes to deteriorate, the heart and muscles to atrophy, and bones to shrink and become brittle—and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Read more at: Daily Beast

Why Use Lunar Propellant?

Controversy and confusion continue to swirl around the issue of a cislunar space base, no matter where it is proposed to be built, what it is named, or what it is supposed to be for. Assuming that one of the primary purposes of such a base should be to supply lunar-derived propellant to vehicles in or departing from cislunar space, there are several immediate problems.

First, there is a massive conflict in the potential schedule, since human missions to Mars that could be fueled from the Moon could take place about the time we find out if there is any actually accessible lunar ice available. We know that there are massive ice deposits on Mars, while most of the Moon is more than bone dry and the critical polar water deposit surface characteristics are still hidden from us.

Read more at: Space review

China Starts Comprehensive Training of Astronauts for Space Station

Comprehensive training for astronauts on China’s future space station missions is underway, according to the Astronaut Center of China (ACC) Friday.

The missions for the space station will feature long in-orbit stays, regular extra-vehicular activities, in-orbit assembling and repair of the station, which means more challenges for the selection and training of astronauts, the center said.

Currently, astronauts have begun the study of space station technology, mechanical arms and extra-vehicular activities. They have also gone through diving training for adaptation, and intensified their strength and stamina training, according to Huang Weifen, deputy chief designer at the ACC.

Read more at: Xinhuanet

India Should Not Shy Away Framing Rules for Space Sustainability

Observer Research Foundation organised the fourth edition of the ORF Kalpana Chawla Annual Space Policy Dialogue on 15-17 February. This Dialogue brought together all the different stakeholders to discuss security, governance, societal applications, industry and entrepreneurship aspects of outer space. The Dialogue is dedicated to the Indian-American astronaut Dr. Kalpana Chawla whose life and achievements continues to inspire all. The Dialogue happened in the context of the changing scope, nature and geopolitical underpinnings of India’s space programme.

This year’s Dialogue was inaugurated by Lt. Gen. Amit Sharma, former Commander-In-Chief, Strategic Forces Command, India. He said that outer space is being utilised for two main military purposes — missiles delivery and C4ISR functions. He cautioned that trends towards space weaponisation is increasing despite the international space treaties stressing peaceful uses of outer space.

Read more at: ORF Online

New UN Guidelines for Space Sustainability are a Big Deal

You probably don’t know it, but in early February 87 countries agreed to voluntary guidelines to enhance the long-term sustainability of the space domain, a significant achievement in space diplomacy. Given that it took eight years to reach this agreement on a set of non-legally binding measures that largely reaffirm existing practices, it is not surprising that it was not widely covered in the news. But it matters.

The agreement was reached during a meeting of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS). COPUOS was created in 1959 as the main UN body to govern the exploration and use of space, and was instrumental in the creation of the five major space treaties. It has been the main multilateral forum where countries meet to discuss space issues and share updates on national activities and practices. As of 2018, those eighty-seven countries are formal members of COPUOS, with Bahrain, Denmark and Norway being the most recent additions. There are also nearly 40 observer organizations, including the Secure World Foundation.

Read more at: Breaking defense

Rockets Over Cumberland? A Proposed Spaceport Endangers Cumberland Island National Seashore

Camden County, home of Cumberland Island National Seashore, has spent millions of dollars since 2016 in an effort to build a spaceport where private spaceflight companies could launch rockets.

That has raised a lot of concern with locals and environmentalists concerned that launching rockets over one of the East Coast’s last remaining pristine coastal wilderness areas, sensitive marshlands, and dozens of private properties could be problematic, or dangerous.

County officials have been dismissing questions of environmental concern for two years, saying everyone should wait for the release of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement by the Federal Aviation Authority, the governing body responsible for issuing the necessary launch operator licenses for spaceports.

Read more at: Blue ridge outdoors

What Does India’s Satellite Trouble Mean for its Space Ambitions? – Analysis

India’s space organization, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), launched its heaviest communication satellite, the GSAT 6A, on March 29. The satellite was carried on GSLV-F08 rocket from the second launch pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Center at Sriharikota in South India.

GSLV-F08 rocket itself was on its 12th mission, and the sixth using an indigenously developed cryogenic engine. Putting the satellite into the right orbit (a geosynchronous orbit above 36,000 kilometers) was to take place subsequently in what is called an “orbit raising operation.”  The first of the three such operations took place on March 30, and the second operation was successfully conducted on March 31.

But then the ISRO confirmed on April 1 that it had lost communication with the satellite, four minutes after the second orbit raising operation. Even several hours after losing the communication with the satellite, ISRO officials maintained that they may still be able to reconnect, saying that they know the “approximate location of the satellite in space by using other satellites and other resources.”

Read more at: Eurasia review

Launch Lessons: On ISRO’s Satellite Launch Problem

The loss of communication between the ground station and the Indian Space Research Organisation’s latest satellite after its launch on March 29 is deeply disappointing. ISRO’s mission aimed to place the communication satellite, GSAT-6A, in space. However, shortly after the second orbit-raising operation, the ground station lost track of the satellite on March 31, when it was on course for the final firing. Understanding why this happened is crucial.

A launch operation can be simplified into the initial three stages, during which the satellite is boosted to different heights by the launch vehicle and then placed in a geosynchronous transfer orbit. This is an elliptical orbit into which a satellite is placed initially before being transferred into a geosynchronous orbit where it maintains a position above a fixed longitude. During each of these stages, a part of the rocket completes its role and disengages from the bulk. Then the satellite moves towards its final and desired orbit.

Read more at: Hindu

Solid Rocket City: The Utah Space Center Fighting for its Life

This land northwest of Salt Lake City oscillates between steep-sloped mountains and long stretches of flatland. The terrain echoes the cycles of its history. Railroads, cattle, and Cold War weapons projects have all come in booms and gone in busts, bringing jobs and people to this sparsely populated expanse of Utah and then taking them away.

We’ve come to visit Promontory, a word that doesn’t describe a town or even a county. It refers to the mountain chain that extends like a finger of land into the Great Salt Lake. There’s been a rocket- and missile-manufacturing center at the knuckle of this finger since the 1950s. This is the place that built a generation of rocket motors for Minuteman and Poseidon nuclear missiles, as well the Space Shuttle’s solid rocket boosters

Read more at: Popular Mechanics

Astra Space Preparing for Suborbital Test Launch

A secretive California company is gearing up for a test flight of a small launch vehicle it has developed as soon as April 5, according to government notices.

A Federal Aviation Administration Notice to Airmen, or NOTAM published April 3 restricts flight activity in airspace downrange from the Pacific Spaceport Complex-Alaska on Kodiak Island, Alaska, from 4:00 to 10:00 p.m. Eastern (12:00 to 6:00 p.m. local time) April 5. The reason for the restriction is “Due to rocket launch act,” according to the NOTAM, which does not provide additional details.

The NOTAM comes after the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation issued a commercial launch license to Astra Space. The license, dated March 30 and published on the FAA’s website April 2, authorizes the company to perform a suborbital flight of a vehicle named “Rocket 1” from the Kodiak spaceport. The launch, according to the license, will carry an “inert upper stage without a payload.”

Read more at: Spacenews

Ariane 5’s Second Launch of 2018

An Ariane 5, operated by Arianespace, has delivered the DSN-1/Superbird-8 and Hylas-4 telecom satellites into their planned orbits.

Liftoff was announced at 21:34 GMT (23:34 CEST, 18:34 local time) yesterday from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The mission lasted about 33 minutes.

DSN-1/Superbird-8, with a launch mass of 5348 kg, was moved into position for release after about 25 minutes. The 4050 kg Hylas-4 was released 33 minutes after liftoff. DSN-1/Superbird-8, operated by Sky Perfect JSAT, will provide communications services for Japan. The satellite has a design life of more than 15 years.

Read more at: ESA

Startup Announces Plans for Low-cost Commercial Space Station

A startup claims it will be able to place a single-module commercial space station into orbit by 2022, although the company faces multiple and significant technical and financial hurdles.

Orion Span announced April 5 plans to develop what it calls the Aurora Station, a space station it says will be the “first luxury space hotel” in orbit. The company unveiled its plans at the Space 2.0 conference in San Jose, California.

In an interview, Frank Bunger, chief executive of Orion Span, said he believes there’s a strong demand for orbital space tourism. “We reckon with 18,000 NASA astronaut applicants per year, there is a market for people who want to feel what it’s like to be an astronaut,” he said. “We’re selling an authentic astronaut experience.”

Read more at: Spacenews

Astronauts could 3D Print Tools from their Own Processed Faeces

Waste not, want not. A new method for turning faeces into plastic could come in handy for people living on Mars.

Interplanetary travellers face two big challenges: how to transport all the tools and equipment they need from Earth, and what to do with all their waste. Mayi Arcellana-Panlilio at the University of Calgary and her colleagues wondered if they could find a simple solution to both.

Read more at: New Scientist

NASA May Add Astronaut to Boeing Starliner Test Flight

Astronauts’ first flight aboard Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner capsule is shaping up to look less like a test flight and more like a full-fledged mission.

NASA is considering adding a third crew member to the Starliner’s “Crew Flight Test” and could extend its trip to the International Space Station from two weeks up to six months, the length of a typical ISS expedition.

The potential changes, outlined in a contract modification first proposed by Boeing, could help NASA maintain its presence on the International Space Station through 2019 and beyond. NASA’s last purchased ride aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft, upon which the U.S. has relied for access to the ISS since the shuttle’s retirement in 2011, is scheduled to launch in the fall of 2019.

Read more at: Florida Today

SpaceX’s Earth Views Need a License Now, Probably Thanks to the Tesla Stunt

Friday morning, SpaceX was prepping for what should have been an otherwise routine launch — sending 10 satellites into orbit for longtime customer Iridium — when the company made a strange announcement. During the live stream leading up to the mission, a SpaceX employee explained that the company would have to cut off footage from the Falcon 9 rocket once the vehicle reached orbit. And the host said restrictions from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration were to blame.

Viewers were immediately confused. SpaceX had cut off live streams early before, but only for national security reasons. Why was NOAA, an agency devoted to studying the Earth’s climate and oceans, getting involved in the launch of commercial communications satellites?

Read more at: Verge

NOAA Explains Restriction on SpaceX Launch Webcast

A cutoff of live video on a recent SpaceX launch reflects new awareness by regulators of the imaging capabilities of onboard cameras on launch vehicles and requirements for companies to adhere to laws that some in the industry believe are outdated.

During the March 30 launch of 10 Iridium Next satellites on a SpaceX Falcon 9, SpaceX cut off the live video from the rocket’s second stage nine minutes after liftoff. The company cited “restrictions” imposed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for terminating the live feed.

“Due to some restrictions from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA for short, SpaceX will be intentionally ending live video coverage of the second stage just prior to engine shutdown,” said Michael Hammersley, the SpaceX engineer who hosted the launch webcast. “We’re working with NOAA to address these restrictions in order to hopefully be able to bring you live views from orbit in the future.”

Read more at: http://spacenews.com/noaa-explains-restriction-on-spacex-launch-webcast /

NOAA Speeds Up Remote Sensing License Reviews Amid Broader Regulatory Changes

The small office that currently handles licensing of commercial remote sensing systems says it’s made major progress in processing license applications, even as the government moves ahead with broader reforms.

At an April 3 meeting of the Advisory Committee on Commercial Remote Sensing here, officials with the Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs (CRSRA) office, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said they have significantly decreased the average review time for license applications for commercial Earth imaging systems.

Samira Patel, an analyst with the Aerospace Corporation supporting CRSRA, said that in 2015 the average review time for a license application was 210 days, with only 1 of 15 applications completed within the 120-day time limit established in federal law. In 2016, that decreased to an average of 140 days, with 5 of 12 applications reviewed within 120 days.

Read more at: Spacenews

FCC Chair wants to Streamline Satellite Constellation Licensing

Private companies want to blanket the globe with thousands of tiny satellites to provide internet access to all. Federal regulators are keeping a watchful eye.

The goal is to launch multiple satellites all at once and place them in an orbit that covers the entire globe providing broadband internet access anywhere in the world. But it takes a lot of satellites to do that and a lot of red tape. Regulators like the Federal Communications Commission must give the green light before a satellite can broadcast from space.

Doing that for the hundreds if not thousands of individual satellites could logjam the system says FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

Read more at: wmfe

NASA’s First Senate Confirmed Trump Appointee Reports for Duty

Jeffrey DeWit has officially reported for duty as NASA’s new Chief Financial Officer (CFO).  He is the first Senate-confirmed Trump appointee at the agency, almost 15 months after the Trump Administration entered office.

DeWit was the COO and CFO of Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016 and State Treasurer of Arizona until last week.  NASA released a photograph of him meeting with Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot today. DeWit was nominated by President Trump on December 1, 2017.  His nomination was not controversial and was considered under expedited procedures in the Senate that do not require a hearing or vote by committee.  He was confirmed on March 14, 2018.

Read more at: Spacepolicy Online

Unlicensed Swarms in Space

There is an old adage that bad news is released on Friday afternoons. While not a release intentionally relegated to Friday, the news that emerged near the end of the US workday on Friday, March 9th, 2018 that an American startup company had launched four satellites despite being denied the required Federal Communications Commission (FCC) experimental license certainly was not a positive development. It does, however, provide an occasion to step back and assess how to avoid the recurrence of incidents like this in the future.

Writing in IEEE Spectrum, Mark Harris reported the Swarm Technologies, a space startup based in California, had launched the four satellites (each approximately one-quarter the width of a 1U cubesat in size) on an Indian PSLV launch vehicle on January 12, 2018

Read more at: Space review

Chinese Space Program Insights Emerge from National People’s Congress

China’s legislature wrapped up its annual session in Beijing in mid-March after making headlines for lifting a two-term limit on the Chinese presidency, making Xi Jinping the People’s Republic’s most powerful leader since founder Mao Zedong.

But in the shadow of the major political stories, the involvement of dozens of space sector officials in the high-profile 18-day long rubber-stamp political gathering also provided a rare opportunity for updates on various aspects of China’s space program and an outline of its reliably nebulous scheduling.

The first big announcement was the return-to-flight for the Long March 5 — the new, heavy-lift rocket that is crucial to major near and medium-term Chinese space plans. The launcher debuted successfully in late 2016 but suffered an apparent first stage issue shortly after launch second time out, last July.

Read more at: Spacenews

First High Capacity Space-to-ground Laser Communications System for the New European External ISS Platform Bartolomeo

The first high capacity space-to-ground laser communication system is to be installed on the Bartolomeo platform of the International Space Station (ISS) as part of a collaboration between Airbus Defence and Space, the Institute of Communications and Navigation of DLR (German Aerospace Center) and Tesat-Spacecom GmbH & Co. KG. The system called OSIRIS will provide direct to earth (DTE) technology with a data rate of 10 Gbps over range of about 1.500 km.

Small size and lightweight, OSIRIS will directly link to several ground stations providing unparalleled data downlink capacity to Bartolomeo and its experimental payloads. The goal is to make OSIRIS an operational system embedded in the ISS infrastructure. This new European capability will enhance the utilization opportunities on the European Columbus module and make Bartolomeo the go-to platform for data-intensive payloads on the ISS.

Read more at: Airbus

Wilson: Space Programs can Move Faster, but Congress has to Tolerate Some Failures

Space has been a major topic in Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson’s recent public appearances. She has pushed several messages: The Air Force budget makes “bold moves” in space. The future is all about “defendable space.” And this means developing “more capable, more defendable satellites.”

Congress for the most part is in agreement with the Air Force agenda. Funding for space programs was bumped by 8 percent in the 2018 defense budget. Appropriators approved most of what the Air Force wanted, and then some.

But there is still underlying tension between the “go fast” philosophy embraced by Trump administration officials and military leaders, and skeptical lawmakers who would prefer a more cautious approach.

Read more at: Spacenews

Q&A: Air Force Gen. John Hyten Says U.S. Space Strategy, Budget Moving ‘Down the Right Path’

U.S. Air Force Gen. John Hyten is the nation’s top officer in charge of the nuclear arsenal. He’s also one of the most outspoken military leaders on the issue of national security space, and has called for changes in how the Pentagon trains and equips forces to defend space systems, pushing the Defense Department to “go faster.”

Hyten oversees nearly 184,000 military and civilian personnel as head of U.S. Strategic Command in Omaha, Nebraska. The command is responsible for strategic deterrence, nuclear modernization, missile defense, global strike and space operations.

The general visited SpaceNews earlier this month for a wide-ranging interview. He offered his take on the president’s budget, Pentagon acquisition reforms and the ongoing debate over how the military should be organized to fight in space.

Read more at: Spacenews

Pentagon Eyes `Tiny’ Rockets for Small Reconnaissance Satellites

The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) released a draft request for proposal for the Rapid Acquisition of a Small Rocket, or RASR, program to boost “tiny” spy satellites into orbit.

The NRO, which ovesees designing, building, launching, and maintaining America’s intelligence satellites, is seeking vendors that can supply rockets with the ability to launch multiple “SmallSats” using commercial dispensers with a mass not to exceed 150 kilograms (331 pounds) to an altitude of 500 kilometers (311 miles), according to the March 9 draft RFP.

Read more at: bgov

SN Military.Space | DoD Elated by Budget Hike, but Good Times May Not Last

Pentagon elated by 2018 appropriations. Can the good times last? Military space among the budget winners

Only six months ago, everyone in the building was saying that lifting the Budget Control Act spending caps “would be extraordinarily difficult,” recalled Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan. “Pretty much the consensus was that it would not happen,” he said last week at the Center for a New American Security.

Read more at: Spacenews

Space War is Coming — and the U.S. is Not Ready

War is coming to outer space, and the Pentagon warns it is not yet ready, following years of underinvesting while the military focused on a host of threats on Earth.

Russia and China are years ahead of the United States in developing the means to destroy or disable satellites that the U.S. military depends on for everything from gathering intelligence to guiding precision bombs, missiles and drones.

Now the Pentagon is trying to catch up — pouring billions more dollars into hardening its defenses against anti-satellite weapons, training troops to operate in the event their space lifeline is cut, and honing ways to retaliate against a new form of combat that experts warn could affect millions of people, cause untold collateral damage and spread to battlefields on Earth.

Read more at: Politico

The Day the Saturn V Almost Failed: 50 Years Since Apollo 6

Throughout its stellar 13-flight career, between November 1967 and May 1973, the mighty Saturn V—which still retains a place as the largest and most powerful rocket ever to reach operational service—never once failed to complete its assigned mission. It boosted two unmanned and one manned Apollo spacecraft into low-Earth orbit, sent nine teams of explorers to the Moon and lofted America’s first space station, Skylab. None of those flights were entirely without incident, of course, with Skylab’s tortured ride to orbit leading to an all-out repair effort by its first crew and Apollo 13 suffering an engine-out situation during ascent. Yet one mission about which less is known was the unmanned Apollo 6 flight, launched 50 years ago this week, on 4 April 1968, whose difficult journey into space gave NASA pause to consider if the goal of landing a man on the Moon before the decade’s end was really achievable. Significantly, on the very same day in Memphis, Tenn., the acclaimed civil rights leader Martin Luther King was assassinated, casting a truly dark shadow across U.S. history.

Read more at: America space

‘Space Odyssey,’ by Michael Benson

As “2001” the movie was nearing completion, one of its creators, writer Arthur C. Clarke, told the other, Stanley Kubrick, “This is the last big space film that won’t be made on location.” There was reason for that giddy exhilaration: 15 months after the April 1968 opening of the movie, Apollo 11 made its trip to the moon. Flags were planted. Footprints were left in the dust. Rhetorical pronouncements were uttered. It could seem like a new human genre opening up. Then the guys came home, refusing to admit disappointment. We were still embryonic — or was it moronic?

In the decades since then, Ronald Reagan (always a movie believer) would enthrall himself with dreams of star wars fireworks as part of our defense strategy. Just the other day, Donald Trump enthused over space as a venue for war — and not just games. But truly NASA is one of those programs our leaders have squeezed dry.

Read more at: SFChronicle

Quality Assurance for Space Projects

26 – 29 June 2018 – Athlone, Ireland

The course is designed to provide the participant with an understanding of basic principles of Quality Management, Quality Assurance and Quality Control, as they are usually applied to space projects. You will find the full description of the course in the IAASS Professional Training Courses Catalog (download from the right bar on this page). Please register for attendance at the course by sending a completed Space Quality Assurance June 2018 – Booking Form to Catherine Lenehan by e-mail: catherine.lenehan@gltechnology.ie

Read more at: IAASS

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