October 15, 2018
There’s a New Report on SLS Rocket Management, and it’s Pretty Brutal (Source: Ars Technica)
Boeing has been building the core stage of NASA's Space Launch System rocket for the better part of this decade, and the process has not always gone smoothly, with significant overruns and multiyear delays. A new report from NASA's inspector general makes clear just how bad the development process has gone, laying the blame mostly at the feet of Boeing.
"We found Boeing’s poor performance is the main reason for the significant cost increases and schedule delays to developing the SLS core stage," the report, signed by NASA Inspector General Paul Martin, states. "Specifically, the project’s cost and schedule issues stem primarily from management, technical, and infrastructure issues directly related to Boeing’s performance."
As of August 2018, the report says, NASA has spent a total of $11.9 billion on the SLS. Even so, the rocket's critical core stage will be delivered more than three years later than initially planned—at double the anticipated cost. Overall, there are a number of top-line findings in this report, which cast a mostly if not completely negative light on Boeing and, to a lesser extent, NASA and its most expensive spaceflight project. Click here. (10/10)
Boeing Slammed in NASA Report for SLS Problems (Source: Space News)
A report by NASA's inspector general sharply criticized Boeing and NASA for SLS delays and cost overruns. The report released Wednesday concluded that the cost of the SLS core stage, for which Boeing is the prime contractor, has doubled, and that it is likely there will be further delays in the first flight of the SLS that is currently scheduled for mid-2020. The report also found that NASA did not do a good job in overseeing Boeing's work on SLS. Boeing said in a statement that it had already made changes in how it manages its SLS work. (10/10)
Boeing Plans Changes to SLS Upper Stages (Source: Space News)
With NASA’s decision to continue using an interim upper stage for additional flights of the Space Launch System, Boeing is working on changes to both that stage and a more powerful upper stage. In an Oct. 3 call with reporters, John Shannon, vice president and program manager for the Space Launch System at Boeing, said NASA has asked Boeing to look at changes to the Exploration Upper Stage (EUS) to improve its performance.
Those changes were prompted by the decision NASA made earlier this year to delay the introduction of the EUS. That stage was originally planned to enter use with the second SLS mission, Exploration Mission (EM) 2. Instead, the first flight of what’s known as the Block 1B configuration of SLS has been delayed to the fourth SLS launch, likely no earlier than 2024. (10/5)
Soyuz Crew Makes an Emergency Landing After Rocket Fails in Kazakhstan Launch (Source: Ars Technica)
On Thursday in Kazakhstan, at 4:40 a.m. US Eastern time, a Soyuz rocket took off carrying NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin toward the International Space Station. The ascent proceeded normally until the separation of one of the rocket's booster stages. Because the Soyuz spacecraft did not reach orbit at the point of this booster failure, the crew was forced to make a rapid ballistic descent likely under high g-forces.
After about 20 minutes of uncertainty, Russian officials confirmed the crew were OK, and had landed about 20km east of Dzhezkazgan, a city in central Kazakhstan. As rescue crews arrived, Hague and Ovchinin were reported in "good condition" and found out of the capsule. A Russian commission has been established to study the accident.
This failure raises serious questions about the future of the International Space Station, as since the space shuttle's retirement in 2011 the Soyuz spacecraft and rocket were the only means by which crews have had to reach it. With the failed launch, just three people remain on the station, an American astronaut, Serena Auñón-Chancellor, the German Commander Alexander Gerst, and Russian Sergey Prokopyev. (10/11)
Russia Launches Criminal Probe of ISS Rocket Failure (Source: Space Daily)
Russian investigators have launched a probe into why a Soyuz rocket failed shortly after blast-off, in a major setback for Russia's beleaguered space industry. Russian officials said they were launching a criminal investigation into the accident, the first such incident on a manned flight in the country's post-Soviet history. The Russian space industry has suffered a series of problems in recent years, including the loss of a number of satellites and spacecraft. Officials said they would suspend manned launches in light of the latest accident. (10/12)
NASA: Impact Of Soyuz Launch Abort On ISS Unclear (Source: Aviation Week)
While endorsing the integrity of a Russian investigation into the Soyuz MS-10 launch abort that brought first-time NASA astronaut Nick Hague and veteran cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin safely back to Earth after a steep descent early Oct. 11, NASA intends to conduct its own inquiry into the incident, the impact of which on the future of the International Space Station (ISS) is unclear.
The incident leaves the ISS, normally staffed with six to seven men and women from five different space agencies, with just three—NASA’s Serena Aunon-Chancellor, Russia’s Sergey Prokopyev and the European Space Agency’s Alexander Gerst—until their scheduled return in mid-December and possibly longer.
The three-person Soyuz capsule has been the only means of transporting astronauts to and from the ISS since the retirement of NASA’s fleet of seven-person space shuttles in 2011. Cost and technical issues have slowed efforts by NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to resume U.S. crew launches through partnerships with Boeing and SpaceX from 2015 until 2019 at the earliest. (10/12)
Station Crew Has Enough Supplies for At Least Six Months (Source: Reuters)
The crew aboard the International Space Station (ISS) has enough fuel, oxygen, water, and food to last at least six months, said Vladimir Solovyov, flight director of the Russian segment of the ISS. Russia has temporarily suspended all manned space launches. The three astronauts currently aboard the space station - a German, a Russian and an American - were due to return to Earth in December, but may now be stuck there longer. The Russian Space Agency said it still planned to go ahead with the next manned flight in December although the plans could change depending on the results of a commission set up to probe the incident. (10/14)
NASA to Continue Russian Crew Launches, With Spring Flight Flying Aborted Crew (Source: AFP)
NASA chief Jim Bridenstine on Friday praised the Russian space program and said he expected a new crew to go to the International Space Station in December despite a rocket failure. "I fully anticipate that we will fly again on a Soyuz rocket and I have no reason to believe at this point that it will not be on schedule," he told reporters. Russian cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin and US astronaut Nick Hague are likely to go into space in the spring after their flight was suddenly aborted last week. (10/12)
Russia’s Big Space Fail Exposes Putin Era’s Soviet Reflexes (Source: Daily Beast)
Over nearly two decades, Kremlin officials have learned one lesson well: the boss hates embarrassing failures in front of important foreign eyes. But the hundredth anniversary of the aerospace company Energia will be remembered as a nightmare in the history of Russian space. And also as a symbol of the Kremlin’s failing management, over-blown self-confidence, and constant efforts to hide the truth from its citizens.
To mark the jubilee, important guests including NASA's administrator Jim Bridenstine and the head of the Russian space agency, Dmitry Rogozin, arrived at Baikonur Cosmodrome. Back in Moscow space authorities felt embarrassed and puzzled, discussing various versions of the accident’s cause, including sabotage. The mission was supposed to include an investigation into a mysterious hole drilled in the Russian module of the International Space Station. In case if Ovchinin found evidence proving that the hole had been drilled on the ground, the shadow of guilt would have fallen on Energia. Alas, there will be no investigation any time soon.
It is unclear how long it will take the Kremlin to investigate the accident, how soon Soyuz will bring three people remaining on board of the International Space Station back home. In Moscow observers and space experts referred to the accident, as “shocking” and “shameful.” Olga Bychkova, deputy chief editor at Echo of Moscow was not surprised. “For years both Russian and international space experts and scientists warned about some disaster coming, since Russian industry demonstrated a mess at all levels, from production to testing to launching spacecraft,“ Bychkova said. (10/12)
Safety Panel Fears Soyuz Failure Could Exacerbate Commercial Crew Safety Concerns (Source: Space News)
Members of an independent NASA safety panel said they were worried that the Oct. 11 Soyuz launch failure could make safety concerns with the agency’s commercial crew program even worse. The Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP), in a previously scheduled meeting at the Johnson Space Center Oct. 11 only hours after the Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft suffered a launch vehicle failure and had to make an emergency landing, said the incident only deepened concerns about the ability of Boeing and SpaceX to adhere to their schedules without jeopardizing safety.
“The panel believes that an overconstrained schedule, driven by any real or perceived gap in astronaut transport to the International Space Station and possibly exacerbated by this morning’s events, poses a danger that sound engineering design solutions could be superseded, critical program content could be delayed or deleted, and decisions of ‘good enough to proceed’ could be made on insufficient data,” she argued. (10/12)
Failures Continue to Haunt the Russian Space Program (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The Soviet & Russian space programs have traditionally had a high launch rate, which also resulted in a fair number of partial and complete failures. For the past 30 years, the program has experienced 61 incidents or an average of about two per year. The current string of annual failures stretches back to 2004.
This chart chronicles the partial and complete failures experienced over the last three decades. (Note: Some of the incidents involve Zenit boosters produced by former Soviet factories in Ukraine. These rockets usually fly with Russian-produced upper stages. Dnepr was also a joint program with Ukraine.) (10/11)
Soyuz Failure Could Impact Arianespace Launches of Russian Rocket (Source: Space News)
The Soyuz failure could also affect the version of the rocket used by Arianespace for launching satellites. The launch provider said Thursday that it's assessing the links between the version of the Soyuz used in Thursday's failure and the one used by Arianespace for satellites. The company said preparations for its next Soyuz mission from French Guiana, scheduled for Nov. 7, remain on track. That launch will place the Metop-C weather satellite into orbit for Eumetsat. (10/12)
|How Will Private Space Travel Transform NASA's Next 60 Years? (Source: Space.com)
NASA's next 60 years will probably be very different than its first six decades. When the agency opened for business in 1958, private spaceflight was just a sci-fi dream. But companies such as Elon Musk's SpaceX and Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin are working to make that dream a reality and open the space frontier to huge numbers of people for the first time.
What role will NASA play in the private sector's liftoff? Space.com recently talked to three commercial-spaceflight experts to get some ideas. First, people should understand that about 75 percent of the worldwide space enterprise is already commercial, said Scott Hubbard. Click here. (10/12)
Space Provisions in Recent FAA Authorization Bill (Source: Space News)
The bill authorizes a significant increase in spending for the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation, from the $22.6 million it received in FY-2018 to a little more than $33 million in 2019, growing to nearly $76 million in 2023. Appropriators, though, have not matched that authorized increase for 2019, with House and Senate versions of spending bills funding the FAA offering just under $25 million for AST.
The reauthorization bill includes several policy provisions associated with commercial spaceflight as well. One would require the FAA to designate an official within its air traffic organization to serve as the single point of contact for working with the head of AST on airspace issues associated with commercial launch activity.
Another provision establishes an “Office of Spaceports” within AST intended to support commercial licensing of launch sites and develop policies to promote infrastructure improvements at such facilities. It also requires AST to develop a report within one year of the bill’s enactment on spaceport policies, including recommendations on government actions to “support, encourage, promote, and facilitate greater investments in infrastructure at spaceports.” It directs the GAO to prepare a separate report on ways to provide federal support for spaceports. (9/23)
Space Support Vehicles Enabled by FAA Bill (Source: Space News)
The bill [signed by President Trump on Oct. 5] creates a category of commercial spaceflight vehicles known as “space support vehicles” that cover parts of launch vehicles systems flying for other purposes, such as training or testing. Such vehicles would include the aircraft used by air-launch systems. The bill allows commercial flights of space support vehicles without the need for a full-fledged airworthiness certificate from the FAA. (9/23)
FAA Plans Evaluation Of Space-Based ADS-B (Source: Aviation Week)
The FAA next year will begin an evaluation of satellite-aided surveillance of aircraft flying in the Caribbean region, including use of the Aireon space-based automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) system. The agency expects several airlines will participate in the appraisal, which eventually could lead to reduced aircraft separations in FAA-controlled oceanic airspace. (10/12)
What Are the Space Planes of the Future? (Source: Nanalyze)
There is no hard definition of a space plane, but as the name implies, it is a plane capable of flying through outer space or maybe achieving a low-Earth orbit. It combines the features of an ordinary aircraft – meaning the ability to land like an airplane – with the sort of bells and whistles required of a spaceship that operates in the hostile vacuum of space.
Bigger brains than are required for an MBA have been developing and building space planes since at least the 1930s, beginning with an Austrian engineer (and, ahem, Nazi) named Eugen Sänger whose work on rocket technology indirectly led to the creation of the American X-15. The X-15 was the first aircraft that passed the so-called Kármán line, the theoretical boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space, pegged at 62 miles above the planet’s surface. Click here. (10/8)
New Competitors to Bring Volatility in Launch Prices (Source: Space News)
Companies in the space industry are expecting volatility in launch prices in the next few years. Industry officials speaking at the Satellite Innovation 2018 conference Tuesday said they expect potentially wild swings in launch prices given changing demand for launch services and the large number of new small launch vehicle entrants. Dan Hart, president and CEO of Virgin Orbit, reiterated past comments predicting a shakeout in the small launch vehicle market in the next few years, after which he predicted prices would stabilize. (10/9)
Debating Reusability (Source: Space Review)
The landing and reuse of Falcon 9 first stages has become increasing routine, but that does not mean everyone is convinced reusable rockets always make sense. Jeff Foust reports on some objections to reusability, as well as a defense of reusability by a key SpaceX executive. Click here. (10/9)
SpaceX Launches Argentine Satellite, Posts First Ground-Landing on West Coast (Source: Space News)
SpaceX conducted its seventeenth launch of the year Oct. 7, sending an Argentine radar satellite into low-Earth orbit on a Falcon 9 rocket. The mission was also SpaceX’s first to include a successful land recovery of the rocket’s booster stage at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. All previous recoveries in California used a drone ship to land boosters out at sea.
The Falcon 9 Block 5 lifted off at 10:21 p.m. Eastern during an instantaneous launch window. The satellite, Saocom-1A, separated from the launcher’s upper stage about 13 minutes later. SpaceX landed the rocket’s first stage at a newly built landing pad called LZ-4 that is located near Vandenberg’s SLC-4E launch pad where the rocket took off. The company views ground-based rocket landings as better for expediting reuse, since drone ship landings require time to return to port.
SpaceX used the same first stage for the Saocom-1A mission that launched 10 satellites for Iridium about 10-and-a-half weeks ago, also from Vandenberg. Saocom-1A is a 3,000-kilogram synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite for the Argentine space agency CONAE that was originally contracted in 2009 for a launch in 2012. (10/8)
ULA Atlas Set to Launch Air Force Satellite at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: ULA)
A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket is in final preparations to launch the fourth Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) communications satellite for the U.S. Air Force. The launch is planned for Oct. 17 from Space Launch Complex-41 at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The two-hour launch window opens at 12:15 a.m. EDT. To date ULA has a track record of 100% mission success with 130 successful launches. (10/12)
ULA, Blue Origin, Northrop Divide Air Force Launch Vehicle Development Contracts (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force announced on Wednesday it is awarding three contracts collectively worth about $2 billion to Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems and United Launch Alliance to develop launch system prototypes. The funding is for the development of competing launch system prototypes geared toward launching national security payloads. Each company will receive an initial award of $181 million, $109 million of which are fiscal year 2018 funds.
The Launch Service Agreements are for the development of Blue Origin’s New Glenn, Northrop Grumman’s Omega and ULA’s Vulcan Centaur rockets. The awards are part of cost-sharing arrangements — known as Other Transaction Agreements — that the Air Force is signing with the three companies to ensure it has multiple competitors. The Air Force has committed through 2024 a total of $500 million in OTA funds for Blue Origin, $792 million for Northrop Grumman and $967 million for ULA. SpaceX previously received an LSA award but did not make the cut this time. (10/10)
Air Force Launcher Development Contracts Don't Guarantee Launches (Source: Space News)
The selection of three companies by the Air Force to develop new launch vehicles doesn't mean they'll all get future launch business. Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman and United Launch Alliance, along with SpaceX, will have to compete for later contracts to launch military payloads, with only two companies expected to win business. Despite widespread surprise that SpaceX was not among the companies that won Launch Service Agreements to fund vehicle development, some analysts said the decision was not that unexpected, since SpaceX already has the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles. (10/12)
Blue Origin’s Anticlimactic Victory and Aerojet’s Plan B (Source: Space News)
ULA didn’t explain why it waited until now to select the BE-4. Some industry sources speculated that the announcement was delayed until the companies worked out final terms of the deal for the engines. However, Bruno said in April he already had a firm fixed-price deal for an initial set of engines that Blue Origin planned to produce at its headquarters in Kent, Washington.
Later sets of BE-4 engines will be assembled at a new factory Blue Origin plans to construct in Huntsville, Alabama, a site it announced in June 2017 but was pending a final decision on Vulcan. That choice not only allowed Blue Origin to tap into another pool of aerospace talent, but also secure additional political support. Aerojet's AR1 was long considered the underdog, in part because the engine was well behind the BE-4 in development.
Aerojet is now required to only “design, build and assemble” a single prototype engine by the end of 2019. Aerojet Rocketdyne spokesman Steve Warren said that the company was still interested in developing the AR1, arguing that the engine could instead be used to power medium-class launch vehicles. It’s unclear any such vehicles are actively being considered given the focus on both large vehicles like Vulcan and much smaller vehicles intended for smallsats. (10/5)
Blue Origin Delays New Glenn Launch Debut (Source: Geekwire)
Blue Origin has delayed the first launch of its New Glenn orbital vehicle to 2021. Company CEO Bob Smith said at a conference Wednesday that the vehicle's first launch, previously scheduled for before the end of 2020, was now planned for 2021, but didn't go into details for the delay. Smith also said that the company's New Shepard suborbital vehicle will start carrying people in the first half of next year. (10/10)
Rocket Lab’s Manifest Grows as it Preps for its 1st Fully-Commercial Flight (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
In spite of a few setbacks with its Electron launcher earlier this year, Rocket Lab has a lavish lineup planned for the rocket, beginning with a flight next month. Though the company has delivered satellites for customers before, Rocket Lab’s first fully-commercial mission, called “It’s Business Time,” is slated for early November. The mission’s original launch window, which opened in late April of this year, and its follow-up, which opened in June, both closed without a flight due to issues with a motor controller.
Though the company took what it called “corrective measures” after the issue appeared the first time, the same issue returned during the window in June, prompting a longer delay to completely handle the problem. “There’s only one measure that matters in the launch industry and that’s 100 percent mission success,” Peter Beck, founder and CEO of Rocket Lab, said at the time. “We’ll take some time to review the data and tweak whatever we need to ahead of a new launch window to make sure we achieve that.” (10/12)
York Space Systems Enters Memorandum of Understanding with Firefly Aerospace (Source: Firefly)
Firefly Aerospace has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with York Space Systems (York) for the development of integrated launch services and spacecraft mission solutions. “The performance of the Firefly Alpha allows for deployment of up to four York S-CLASS satellites in a single launch. Alpha’s industry leading small satellite launch vehicle performance will enable Firefly to provide York’s expanding customer base pre-configured launch solutions to greatly reduce historically long launch campaign timelines. We look forward to executing many successful missions together.” (10/10)
Stratolaunch Plane Gets Closer to First Flight with 80 Mph Taxi Test at Mojave Spaceport (Source: GeekWire)
Stratolaunch has performed its latest, and fastest, taxi test of its giant aircraft. The company announced the test late Thursday at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. The aircraft reached speeds of nearly 130 kilometers per hour in the test. Based on past comments, at least two more high-speed taxi tests, going as fast as 225 kilometers per hour, are expected before the company is ready for the plane to make its first flight. Stratolaunch is developing the plane as an air-launch platform for both the Pegasus XL and larger vehicles of its own design. (10/12)
CEO: Stratolaunch Meets All Test Objectives (Source: Antelope Valley Press)
Stratolaunch announced it reached milestones this week in the ground tests of its massive carrier aircraft, the largest ever built. The twin-hull airplane is under development by Scaled Composites at the Mojave Air and Space Port, where the behemoth was seen performing taxi tests on the runway this week.
Formed by Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen in 2011, Stratolaunch intends to use the aircraft as an airborne launch platform to provide convenient, reliable access to low Earth orbit for payloads such as satellites. President and CEO Jean Floyd on Thursday tweeted the aircraft met “all test objectives” at speeds of 25, 40, 55 and 70 knots, or about 29, 46, 63 and 80 mph. (10/12)
Virgin Galactic Preparing for Next Phase of SpaceShipTwo Test Flight Program (Source: Space News)
Virgin Galactic’s chief executive says the company is approaching the “next phase” of the flight test program for the company’s SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicle as the company’s founder predicts the company reaching space in “weeks.”
Speaking at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight here Oct. 10, George Whitesides, chief executive of Virgin Galactic, said he expected at least one more powered flight test of the vehicle before the end of this year. “We’re entering into the next phase of our test flight program,” he said. “The next phase of flight will entail longer burns and higher duration, and that’s exciting for the team.” (10/13)
Branson: Virgin Galactic Spaceflight is Weeks Away (Source: CNBC)
Richard Branson says Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo will be in space in "weeks, not months." Branson, in an interview Tuesday in Singapore, said the suborbital spaceflight company is "more than tantalizingly close" to actually reaching space, adding that he expected to fly "in months and not years." He didn't offer a more specific timeline, other than to say that "we have got a very, very exciting couple of months ahead." SpaceShipTwo made its last powered flight test in July. (10/9)
Virgin's Branson Halts Talks on $1 Billion Saudi Investment in Space Ventures (Source: Reuters)
Sir Richard Branson said his Virgin Group would suspend its discussions with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund over a planned $1 billion investment in the group’s space ventures, in light of the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. “What has reportedly happened in Turkey around the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, if proved true, would clearly change the ability of any of us in the West to do business with the Saudi government,” Branson said.
Branson also said he would suspend his directorship in two Saudi tourism projects around the Red Sea, citing Khashoggi’s disappearance. Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Pressure has mounted on Saudi Arabia since Oct. 2 when Khashoggi, a prominent critic of Saudi policies and a Washington Post journalist, went missing. He was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. (10/11)
Georgia Spaceport Study Paused (Source: Spaceport Facts)
A Federal Permitting Dashboard website indicates that the Spaceport Camden Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) study effort is “PAUSED.” The Primary Reason for Pause Status: “Project Sponsor Factors.” The relevant factors are not described. Spaceport opponents suggest it is now impossible for the Spaceport Camden EIS to be completed by the scheduled date of December 31, 2018. (10/10)
Rocketry Conference Returns to Space Coast (Source: NAR)
The National Association of Rocketry (NAR) will hold its annual technical conference inon March 1-3, 2019, on Florida’s Space Coast, epic home of the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, where 50 years ago next summer the first lunar landing mission was launched into history. The golden anniversary of that milestone will echo throughout NARCON 2019 as we explore today’s newest developments in all levels of rocketry, while seeking inspiration from the first-hand experiences of those who worked on Project Apollo.
NARCON 2019 will begin with an opening reception Friday night at the KSC Visitor Complex, feature multiple technical tracks of informative presentations on Saturday, and wrap up Sunday with an opportunity to tour Cape Canaveral and see all that is old and new again. We might even be able to throw in an astronaut appearance or two. Plus, how does walking barefoot on the beach under sunshine with temperatures in the low 70s sound even as the winter chill lingers in the North? Click here. (10/9)
Lockheed, Arizona State Eye New Space Science Mission Business Model (Source: Aviation Week)
Taking a page from the ride-share industry, Lockheed Martin Space and Arizona State University have set up a nonprofit research collaborative to plan, build and fly condo-style space science missions beginning with a multispacecraft flyby of near-Earth asteroids and other objects. The intent of The Milo Space Science Institute is to spearhead cutting-edge research by universities, companies and startup space agencies that may not have the money or technical expertise to conduct space research. (10/8)
Arizona's World View is Working on a Technology to Make Space Satellites Obsolete (Source: Business Insider)
About 1,900 active satellites are orbiting Earth as you read this sentence. World View Enterprises in Tucson, Arizona, thinks satellite-like capabilities can be achieved at a fraction of the cost. Their big idea: use giant autonomous balloons that operate in a world between spacecraft and aircraft. The six-year-old company is developing and launching pyramid-shaped platforms called Stratollites that dangle from the end of high-altitude balloons.
These balloons soar to about 20 miles high and exploit high-altitude winds to stay put or move. Here's what it's like inside World View, and how the company is working to not only disrupt a big chunk of the satellite industry, but also give tourists a taste of what it's like in space. Click here. (10/6)
University of Nebraska Wins NASA Grant for Space Law Program (Source: Daily Nebraskan)
New expansions in space exploration demand not only more scientists, but also more legal professionals, and the University of Nebraska Law School is ready to provide that with a $250,000 grant from NASA to create a space law network. NASA put out a call for proposals to receive the grant, and Nebraska beat out a number of other schools that applied for the grant. What set Nebraska apart is its long track record of success within the space, cyber and telecommunications field. (10/9)
Babin Introduces Leading Human Spaceflight Act, Including a Focus on Protecting Houston’s Role (Source: SpacePolicyOnline.com)
Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX) introduced legislation today to ensure continuous U.S. human spaceflight presence in low Earth orbit (LEO) and Johnson Space Center’s “leadership role as the home of American human spaceflight.” Babin’s congressional district includes JSC and he chairs the Space Subcommittee of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.
Babin made the announcement at a subcommittee hearing where JSC Director Mark Geyer testified along with two other Center directors (Jody Singer from Marshall Space Flight Center and Bob Cabana from Kennedy Space Center) and Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA’s Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations.
Babin said the bill: a) reaffirms JSC’s leadership role in the human spaceflight program; b) recognizes JSC is the logical Center to serve a lead role in program management, systems engineering, program integration, and operations for NASA’s human spaceflight program; c) promotes policy to lead to a permanent and continuous U.S. human presence in LEO; d) authorizes NASA to operate the International Space Station until 2030 or until a sustainable lower cost alternative is demonstrated; and e) directs NASA to start work with the private sector in developing commercial capabilities to meet America’s future needs in LEO. (9/26)
To the Moon, Mars … and Beyond (Source: New York Post)
As it celebrated its 60th birthday last week, NASA unveiled its new master plan for a return to the moon and manned trips to Mars and beyond. The 21-page National Space Exploration Campaign is the agency’s response to President Trump’s Space Policy Directive-1, telling NASA to launch an “innovative and sustainable program ... to enable human expansion across the solar system,” first with missions beyond Low Earth Orbit, leading to manned missions to Luna and eventually Mars.
Nearly 50 years after Neil Armstrong first walked the moon, mankind can’t go further out than LEO, where the International Space Station orbits. NASA aims to regain the ability to reach lunar orbit, first with the Orion craft being built jointly with the European Space Agency. Even as private companies develop the capability to carry all needed cargo and personnel as far as LEO, NASA will build the Space Launch System, “the most powerful rocket in history,” to send 140-ton payloads into deeper space.
That will allow it to start construction in 2022 of the moon-orbiting Gateway platform, which will host missions to the lunar surface and serve as a base for assembling craft to go beyond the moon. New technologies will be vital, including a way to power a manned interplanetary craft — almost certainly a nuclear drive supplemented by solar cells. Assuming engineers can solve such challenges, the agency aims to start sending crews to Mars orbit in the 2030s. (10/6)
Hubble Space Telescope is Limping After a Mechanical Failure (Source: Washington Post)
Two of NASA’s premier space telescopes, Hubble and Kepler, are currently out of commission — sad, if not entirely surprising, news for astronomers who depend on data from NASA’s aging fleet. The 28-year-old Hubble went into temporary safe mode on Friday after detecting a mechanical failure with one of its gyroscopes — the spinning instruments that keep the telescope pointed steadily toward its targets.
Meanwhile, Kepler, the powerhouse planet hunter that has detected some 4,000 new planets since it launched in 2009, has been in sleep mode since Sept. 26 to preserve dwindling fuel before its next data dump. Both telescopes are nearing the ends of storied careers in space. (10/9)
Another NASA Space Telescope - Chandra - Sidelined by Glitch (Source: Space.com)
Another NASA space telescope is out of commission, at least for the time being. The Chandra X-ray Observatory, which has been observing the universe in high-energy light since 1999, entered a protective "safe mode" on Oct. 10. "All systems functioned as expected and the scientific instruments are safe," agency officials wrote in an update today (Oct. 12). "The cause of the safe mode transition (possibly involving a gyroscope) is under investigation, and we will post more information when it becomes available." (10/12)
NASA Should Expand Search for Life in the Universe (Source: Space Daily)
To advance the search for life in the universe, NASA should support research on a broader range of biosignatures and environments, and incorporate the field of astrobiology into all stages of future exploratory missions, says a new congressionally mandated report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
Astrobiology, the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe, is a rapidly changing field, especially in the years since the publication of NASA's Astrobiology Strategy 2015. Recent scientific advances in the field now provide many opportunities to strengthen the role of astrobiology in NASA missions and to increase collaboration with other scientific fields and organizations. The report finds that these changes necessitate an updated science strategy for astrobiology. (10/11)
We May Not Have Found Aliens Yet Because We’ve Barely Begun Looking (Source: Science News)
With no luck so far in a six-decade search for signals from aliens, you’d be forgiven for thinking, “Where is everyone?” A new calculation shows that if space is an ocean, we’ve barely dipped in a toe. The volume of observable space combed so far for E.T. is comparable to searching the volume of a large hot tub for evidence of fish in Earth’s oceans, astronomer Jason Wright at Penn State and colleagues say in a paper posted online September 19 at arXiv.org.
“If you looked at a random hot tub’s worth of water in the ocean, you wouldn’t always expect a fish,” Wright says. Still, that’s far more space searched than calculated in 2010 for the 50th anniversary of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, or SETI. In that work, SETI pioneer Jill Tarter and colleagues imagined a “cosmic haystack” of naturally occurring radio waves she could sift through for the proverbial needle of an artificial, alien beacon. (9/30)
Climate Report: Scientists Urge Deep Rapid Change to Limit Warming (Source: BBC)
It's the final call, say scientists, the most extensive warning yet on the risks of rising global temperatures. Their dramatic report on keeping that rise under 1.5 degrees C states that the world is now completely off track, heading instead towards 3C. Keeping to the preferred target of 1.5C above pre-industrial levels will mean "rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society".
It will be hugely expensive - but the window of opportunity remains open. After three years of research and a week of haggling between scientists and government officials at a meeting in South Korea, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has issued a special report on the impact of global warming of 1.5C.
The researchers have used these facts and numbers to paint a picture of the world with a dangerous fever, caused by humans. We used to think if we could keep warming below 2 degrees this century then the changes we would experience would be manageable. Not any more. This new study says that going past 1.5C is dicing with the planet's liveability. And the 1.5C temperature "guard rail" could be exceeded in just 12 years in 2030. (10/8)
Higher Atmospheric CO2 Levels Could Keep Orbital Debris Aloft (Source: E&E News)
Increased carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere could affect the population of orbital debris. While an increase in carbon dioxide warms the lower atmosphere, it also cools the upper atmosphere, lowering its density. That reduces the amount of drag that objects in low Earth orbit experience, increasing their lifetimes. That helps operational satellites, but also means it takes longer for atmospheric drag to remove debris from those orbits. (10/8)
When Debris Overwhelms Space (Source: Space Daily)
We see more and more reports of debris concern among satellite operators and space observers. Add to this the many recent announcements of multiple broadband satellite constellations that are being funded and developed for launch in the next few years. Just focusing on low Earth orbits (LEO), there are an estimated 10,000 satellites in the works.
SpaceX alone plans on launching over 4,000 of these multi-hundred-kilogram spacecraft that are now being built in Redmond, Washington. Add all of the broadband satellites to the hundreds of planned CubeSats and we have a new satellite population that is at least an order of magnitude larger than what is now in LEO. This explosion in population will be accompanied by an explosion in LEO debris. The implications are extremely serious. (10/11)
Is Space Sensor Layer the Pentagon’s Next Major Space Program? (Source: Space News)
Defense officials have been sounding alarms about what they describe as a glaring national security vulnerability — a new class of ultrafast weapons being developed by China and Russia that would overpower U.S. missile defenses.
Detecting and tracking hypersonic missiles is a tough problem the Pentagon is trying to figure out how to tackle. A network of ground radars, satellites and interceptors defends the United States and allies from ballistic missiles from countries such as North Korea. But the system would be ineffective against non-ballistic weapons like hypersonic vehicles that fly at several times the speed of sound and maneuver in unpredictable directions.
The Missile Defense Agency believes the solution is a constellation of missile-tracking satellites in low and medium Earth orbits that would add a new set of eyes to the existing shield. MDA says sensors in space could track hypersonic threats from “birth to death” whereas ground-based radars could only detect such a threat once it comes over the horizon. (10/12)
Army Could Lose Some Programs to Space Force (Source: Space News)
The Secretary of the Army said Monday he doesn't know yet what parts of his service, if any, would be moved to a new Space Force. Mark Esper said there are "ongoing discussions" about the role Army units would play in the establishment of a Space Force, with no decisions yet made. At least two proposals for establishing a Space Force have called for moving some or all of Army Space and Missile Defense Command to the Space Force. Esper noted that the Army is a "big user of space" and that it's important that, in any reorganization, "it's critical that we get it right." (10/9)
Griffin Proposes New Space Agency That ‘Disrupts’ Traditional Procurement (Source: Space News)
Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Mike Griffin is recommending that the Pentagon create a Space Development Agency to take over next-generation space programs and transform how the military acquires space technologies. Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan had requested that Griffin and Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson submit separate proposals for how to create a Space Development Agency.
The standup of a Space Development Agency is one piece of a broader effort to form a new military service for space. Wilson submitted her plan in a Sep. 14 memo on how to organize a Space Force as a separate military department. Griffin’s proposal takes a very different approach. Wilson suggested the Space Development Agency should be organized under the existing Space Rapid Capabilities Office, geographically and organizationally connected to U.S. Space Command.
Griffin is proposing a new D.C.-based agency with a staff of 112 government personnel that would report to him initially, but eventually would shift to the control of a new assistant secretary of defense for space, an office that would first have to be approved by Congress. Griffin has been a frequent critic of the slow pace and high cost of military technology developments, and he contends that the Space Development Agency should lead a DoD-wide effort to accelerate innovation. (10/7)
|China Launches New Remote Sensing Satellites (Source: Space Daily)
Two remote sensing satellites were successfully sent into space Tuesday from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China. The satellites, both part of the Yaogan-32 family, were launched by a Long March-2C rocket with an attached upper stage at 10:43 a.m. Beijing time.
The satellites have entered their planned orbits and will be used for electromagnetic environment surveys and other related technology tests. This was the first flight of the upper stage named Yuanzheng-1S, or Expedition-1S. It cooperated well with the Long March-2C rocket and significantly improved the carrying capacity of the rocket, according to the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology. (10/12)
China to Launch Unmanned Test Flight of Next-Generation Crewed Spacecraft in 2019 (Source: Space News)
China will perform a first test flight of a full-scale 20-metric ton model of a successor to its Shenzhou spacecraft for human spaceflight next year, a senior official at the craft’s designer said last week. The next-generation crewed spacecraft will be the payload for the first flight of the Long March 5B launch vehicle, a variant of the Long March 5 and designed for lofting large modules of the planned Chinese Space Station (CSS) into low Earth orbit. In 2016, China use the first flight of the Long March 7 medium-lift rocket to launch a scale model of a new return module to test re-entry and landing profile for new spacecraft. (10/11)
Scotland in Space – Spaceports and Satellite Manufacturing (Source: Holyrood)
“If you want a spaceship engineer, you better make him a Scotsman,” Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry was told when auditioning for the role of the hardest working mechanic in the universe. Fifty years after Scotty threw his ‘haggis into the fire’ to give Captain Kirk more power than the starship Enterprise could handle, Roddenberry’s future gazing has proved remarkably prescient.
Scotland now manufactures more satellites than anywhere outside of the United States and it will soon be home to Europe’s first spaceport – a project that actually involves an Enterprise leader called Kirk. Roy Kirk, spaceport project director at Highlands and Islands Enterprise, is overseeing the construction of the £17m spaceport on the A’Mhoine peninsula in Sutherland, situated between Tongue and Durness.
The abundance of engineering and science talent in Scotland – descendants of the early telecoms pioneers like Maxwell, Bell and Baird, the component manufacturers of Silicon Glen and the physicists of Dounreay – is one of the reasons the UK Space Agency selected Sutherland out of 26 bids for the first UK spaceport. Scotland also specializes in building CubeSats. (10/8)
UAE Space Law ‘Will Spur Sector Investment’ (Source: Trade Arabia)
The new UAE space law is a giant step for the country because it will inspire the next generation of lawyers, engineers, and scientists to revolutionize an as yet unexplored sector, a legal expert said. STA Law Firm said the UAE Cabinet’s recent adoption of the new space law, an unprecedented development in the Middle East region, symbolizes a monumental triumph for the nation’s space sector. (10/9)
French Space Agency Opens New Office in the UAE (Source: Space Daily)
The French Ambassador to the UAE announced that the universe being the limit for the developing partnership between the two countries, i.e. the UAE and France. This statement was made, immediately after the inauguration of an office in Abu Dhabi by the French Space Agency. The Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES) became the first foreign space agency that introduced a representation office in the UAE. CNES President Jean-Yves Gall stated that this initiative marks a historic move. He made this statement while on his visit to the capital of the UAE.
The French Ambassador to the UAE, Ludovic Pouille stated that this achievement in the field of space coordination is a definite sign of the new status which was earned by the UAE on the international stage of space. He added that between France and the UAE, the sky would be the limit and now the universe would be the limit. (10/12)
Israel Space Agency Copying India's Model for Space Exploration? (Source: The EurAsian Times)
Is Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) trying to ape the model of ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization) to become the next deep space exploration superpower? Due to a private expedition to the moon, experts are wondering about the possibility of Israel joining the American NASA, Russian ROSCOSMOS, Chinese CNSA, Indian ISRO, and other space agencies in the exploration of space.
The SpaceIL lunar lander is a go for launch as a secondary payload on a SpaceX Falcon 9 toward the end of 2018. If all goes as planned, the robotic lander – Sparrow, will cruise towards the moon on a slow course that will progressively raise its orbit around the Earth before being captured by the moon’s gravity and landing on the lunar surface by February 2019.
As per secondary research by EurAsian Times, the Sparrow will capture images, videos and conduct measurements of the moon’s magnetic field. NASA has signed an agreement with the Israeli Space Agency to include a laser refractor on the SpaceIL Sparrow. The American space agency has also arranged for the mission to use the NASA’s Deep Space Network. (10/6)
Japan Delays Asteroid Sample Collection at Ryugu (Source: AFP)
The Japanese space agency JAXA has delayed an attempt to collect samples of the asteroid Ryugu by the Hayabusa2 spacecraft. Hayabusa2 was scheduled to perform a touch-and-go maneuver later this month to gather samples of the asteroid, but project scientists said they need more time to study the asteroid's surface, which is more rugged than expected. Officials now expect to attempt gathering samples no earlier than late January. (10/10)
Express Elevator to Hell: Missions to Explore the Sun’s Nearest Neighbor (Source: Space Review)
Later this month Europe will launch BepiColombo, the newest mission to the innermost planet, Mercury. Dwayne Day recounts some of the efforts after the Mariner 10 flybys in the 1970s to send followup missions to the planet, overcoming technical and other issues. Click here. (10/9)
Jupiter’s Moon Europa Has Jagged Blades of Ice (Source: The Verge)
Jupiter’s icy moon, Europa, is a prime candidate in the search for life elsewhere in our Solar System — but landing a spacecraft on the moon may be even more difficult than we thought. Certain patches of ice on Europa could be rough and jagged, resembling sharp blades, according to a new modeling. And that may make it hard for future probes to touch down gently on the surface.
It’s possible that conditions in areas around Europa’s equator may be just right to form what are known as “penitentes.” These are unique ice formations found here on Earth in places like the Andes Mountains. Penitentes form on Earth when super-cold ice sits in direct sunlight for long periods of time, causing patches in the ice to turn directly from a solid to a gas. (10/9)
Will Pluto Be the Last Habitable World? (Source: Scientific American)
Astronomers often talk about our Sun’s future and how it will likely bring about the end of the Earth. Specifically: like all hydrogen-fusing stars, the Sun gets gradually brighter with time as it converts more and more hydrogen in its core into helium (changing its own composition and therefore central temperature). But it will also eventually get to a point where the central hydrogen runs out, the core contracts, and the rest of the star responds. In what's termed the Red-Giant-Branch (RGB) stage, the outer envelope of the Sun will begin to inflate – growing over 100 times in radius over less than 100 million years if it doesn’t lose too much material.
At this point it's bye-bye to Mercury and Venus (even if their orbits expand due to stellar mass loss). But eventually the Sun will shrink again. This happens when its core of helium starts fusing, once more altering the balance and flow of energy in the star. Later, just as the core hydrogen ran out, the helium in the core will also run out – resulting in a new inflation of the outer envelope. This time the Sun gets even bigger. As an Asymptotic-Giant-Branch (AGB) object its radius might crank up to nearly a thousand times the present solar dimensions. Now it’s a distinct possibility that Earth and Mars get engulfed.
Except some other stuff is also happening throughout these phases. Energy is still being generated by fusion in shell regions around the core and the Sun is in fact going to lose quite a lot of its mass – literally blowing material away in a strengthened solar wind. This may mute the physical diameter it reaches as an RGB and then AGB star, but not by a great deal. It could be enough to save the Earth and Mars though. Because as the Sun loses mass the orbits of the planets will actually expand in order to conserve angular momentum. Click here. (9/28)
Nuclear Thermal Space Propulsion Update (Source: Next Big Future)
Jim Reuter, NASA’s acting associate administrator of STMD, toured BWXT’s Advanced Technology Lab in Lynchburg, Virginia to learn more about BWXT’s progress on the program that could support a future crewed mission to Mars. Reuter watched demonstrations of three key technologies that BWXT has been developing to support the Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP) program. Click here. (10/12)
Shakeout Looming for Proposed Satellite Megaconstellations (Source: Space News)
Another shakeout is likely looming in the satellite market, as analysts project a demand for only two to three "megaconstellations." Those systems of hundreds to thousands of satellites will struggle to find sufficient financing to develop them, analysts predicted, citing the high costs that will make it difficult to raise money for any of them. Systems serving an existing customer base should find it easier to raise money, though, than those seeking to open new markets with their broadband communications services. (10/9)
LeoSat and Partners Hope to Shrink Satellites (Source: Space News)
With partners Hispasat of Spain and Sky Perfect Jsat of Japan, LeoSat Enterprises will look for ways to make its satellites “better, faster, cheaper and lighter,” said Mark Rigolle. Since Luxembourg-based LeoSat designed satellites for its planned low Earth orbit constellation two to three years ago, spacecraft technology has improved. In many cases, the cost of component technology has decreased, as well.
The price of laser optical heads, for example, which LeoSat needs for its inter-satellite links, have fallen dramatically, said Michael Abad-Santos, LeoSat senior vice president Americas. LeoSat’s plans to launch 78 operational satellites and six in-orbit spares to create a high-speed, secure data network linking sites of multinational corporations and government agencies. Under the current design, LeoSat can fit eight satellites on a SpaceX Falcon 9 or Arianespace Ariane 6 rocket. The goal is to reduce satellite mass to fit more satellites on each launch vehicle. (10/11)
Boeing Invests in Smallsat Propulsion (Source: Space News)
Boeing is investing in smallsat propulsion company Accion Systems. Boeing's venture capital unit, HorizonX Ventures, is leading a $3 million investment in Accion to support development of Accion's tiled ionic liquid electrospray, or TILE, propulsion system. That electric propulsion system is designed to provide maneuverability for very small satellites at lower costs than traditional systems. This investment in space technology comes on the heels of Boeing’s acquisition of satellite manufacturer Millennium Space Systems and a major investment in BridgeSat, a company that is developing an optical communications network to deliver data from low Earth orbit satellites. (10/10)
Google Subsidiary Offers Loon Software for Satellite Constellations (Source: Space News)
A Google subsidiary is offering developers of constellations software tools to improve network operations. Loon, which is experimenting with high-altitude balloons to provide broadband services, says its software tools for managing spot beams also have applications for satellite constellations. That could be useful, a Loon official said, for systems with inter-satellite links or other attributes whose configurations change rapidly. (10/10)
Maxar 'Advancing U.S. Domestication' (Source: Maxar)
Maxar Technologies is accelerating its work to become a fully American company. Maxar, whose divisions include DigitalGlobe, SSL, MDA and Radiant Solutions, said in a statement Wednesday that it is "advancing its domestication into the United States" and expects that to be complete by January. That effort will help the company become eligible for more U.S. government work, and said the process of becoming a U.S.-based company will not have an impact on its employees, customers or suppliers. (10/10)
GMV to Provide Galileo Ground System (Source: Space News)
GMV has won a contract with 250 million euros ($290 million) to provide the ground system for the Galileo satellite navigation system. GMV, a Spanish company, primarily supplies ground control infrastructure for telecommunications satellites and European missions. The new contract covers the maintenance and upgrading of the Galileo ground control system over the next three years. (10/10)
Spectrum Transfer for 5G Could Impact Satellite Plans (Source: Space News)
Intelsat says that it and other satellite operators may have to buy new satellites if they lose 200 megahertz or more of C-band spectrum in the United States. The operators have proposed a transfer of about 100 megahertz of capacity to terrestrial wireless providers, but some, including one FCC commissioner, have argued that 5G networks will require 200 to 300 megahertz of C-band capacity currently allocated to satellites. An Intelsat executive said last week that if that larger transfer goes through, it and other operators will likely have to build new satellites for operation at new orbital locations to make up for the lost capacity. (10/9)
Hypersat Raises $85 Million (Source: Space News)
A startup company planning to develop hyperspectral imaging satellites emerged from stealth mode recently with a large funding round. HyperSat LLC said it has raised $85 million to launch two hyperspectral satellites, each weighing 200 to 300 kilograms, in 2020. The company sees demand from defense agencies as well as the agriculture, energy and natural resources sectors. Several other companies have proposed developing hyperspectral satellite systems, although some of those efforts failed before getting satellites launched. (10/8)
Aerojet Rocketdyne Successfully Tests Hypersonic DMRJ Engine (Source: Space Daily)
Aerojet Rocketdyne successfully tested a new dual-mode ramjet/scramjet (DMRJ) engine. When combined with a gas turbine engine as part of a turbine-based combined cycle propulsion (TBCC) system, this engine may provide the capability to propel a vehicle from a standstill into the hypersonic flight regime of Mach 5 or higher and back again. (10/9)
Draper Bidding on NASA Lunar Lander Opportunity with Japanese Partner (Source: Space News)
Draper announced Wednesday it's bidding on NASA's commercial lunar lander competition with an industry team that includes a Japanese lunar lander company. Draper said it submitted a proposal for NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services competition Tuesday, the deadline for bids. The Draper team includes ispace, a Japanese company developing lunar landers who will serve as the "design agent" for the Draper team. Ispace can't compete directly for CLPS since the competition is restricted to U.S.-based companies. Other team members include General Atomics, who will manufacture the landers, and Spaceflight Industries, which will provide launch services. (10/9)
SAS Expands "Human Spaceflight Safety" Services (Source: SatNews)
Special Aerospace Services (SAS) has expanded their Spaceflight Safety products and pervices to now include support for deep space and lunar missions — SAS developed the expanded line of engineering services to cover the next phase of human spaceflight that will be initiated by inaugural test launches and first human launches in the coming year.
Over the last 12 years, SAS has been amassing a database of system safety analysis and lessons learned from historical NASA human-certified spacecraft. Through the SAS suite of tools and team of experienced system safety and human spaceflight system engineers, the Colorado firm is now offering the following human spaceflight services customized for deep space and lunar missions: Certification of Flight Readiness (CoFR); Informed Consent Services; Independent Launch Readiness Review; and Expanded Systems Safety Review Services. (10/10)
A Mission for the Resurrected (Source: Air & Space)
To fly through the apex of a storm, NASA needed to raid the boneyard. The airplane is the last version of the B-57 bomber, with the ability to carry a heavier payload to higher altitudes than any other available research aircraft. “And it’s really hardy, so you can fly near convection—these big thunderstorms—which is a turbulent environment,” Jensen says. With the WB-57s, scientists can send instruments to directly sample the clouds. Click here. (10/12)
Japanese SpaceX Passenger Trusts in Musk (Source: AP)
The Japanese billionaire who announced last month plans to fly around the moon on a SpaceX vehicle said he trusts Elon Musk despite recent controversies. Yusaku Maezawa said at a press conference in Tokyo Tuesday that a lawsuit by the SEC, and subsequent settlement, over tweets by Musk about taking Tesla private had not shaken his confidence in Musk. "Twitter can get you into trouble," he said, describing SpaceX as "marvelous." Maezawa said last month he was buying a flight of SpaceX's Big Falcon Rocket under development for a trip around the moon that will carry several artists along with himself. (10/9)
Russian Scientists Start Research on Impact of Zero-Gravity on Humans (Source: Sputnik)
The Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of Biomedical Problems has initiated research on the influence of zero-G on the human body during flights to the Moon and back; around 20 people will engage in a two-year study, said Elena Tomilovskaya, Head of the Laboratory of Gravitational Physiology of Sensory-Motor Systems.
The experiment will include two stages. During the first stage, ten people being tested will be lying in baths for three weeks. Doctors will supervise their health condition during the two weeks before the start of the experiment and during the two weeks after its conclusion. The second stage will start in the fall of 2019. During [the study], a similar experiment will be conducted, along with a series of rotations on a short-radius centrifuge, designed in the Institute of Biomedical Problems. (10/8)
Kopra Departs Astronaut Corps (Source: NASA)
NASA astronaut Tim Kopra left the agency last week. Kopra, selected as an astronaut in 2000, spent 244 days in space on two International Space Station expeditions in 2009 and 2015–2016. Kopra, who retired from NASA Oct. 1, did not announce his future plans, but he is listed as a partner in Blue Bear Capital, which invests in companies in the energy industry. (10/8)
Astronaut Rick Searfoss Dies at 62 (Source: CollectSpace)
Rick Searfoss, a former NASA astronaut who launched on three space shuttle missions before serving as a test pilot for a commercial rocket plane, has died. He was 62. Searfoss died on Sunday, Sept. 29, at his home in Bear Valley Springs, California. The cause of death was not reported. An aspiring astronaut since his youth, Searfoss was serving as a flight instructor at the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in California when he was chosen with NASA's 13th group of candidates.
Searfoss was appointed the chief judge of the Ansari X PRIZE, presiding over the $10 million contest won in 2004 by Scaled Composites' SpaceShipOne for the first privately-funded, suborbital crewed vehicle to fly into space. He was also one of two test pilots to qualify to fly the now-former XCOR Aerospace's EZ-Rocket, an experimental rocket plane and predecessor to the planned Lynx suborbital space plane.
He served as an instructor pilot at the National Test Pilot School at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California, a consultant and motivational speaker. Searfoss also advised several Hollywood movies, including "The Core" in 2003 and "Oblivion" in 2013. He had a cameo appearance in the 2011 superhero movie "Green Lantern" starring Ryan Reynolds. (10/9)
Merger Planned for Harris Corp., L3 (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Harris Corp. and L3 Technologies Inc. are nearing an agreement to merge, a deal that would unite two big providers of defense communications and electronics with a combined market value of about $33.5 billion. The companies were in advanced discussions as of Friday to combine in a stock deal they were aiming to ink as soon as this weekend, according to people familiar with the matter. Exact terms being discussed couldn’t be learned but the companies were expected to market the transaction as a merger of equals. (10/13)
Embraer to Expand Business Jet Assembly on Space Coast (Source: Florida Today)
Embraer, yet again, is enlarging its footprint on the Space Coast. The Brazilian aircraft manufacturer on Sunday said it will begin assembling two new lines of business jets at the Orlando Melbourne International Airport. The midsize jets are called the Praetor 500 and Praetor 600, which the company says will "introduce unprecedented range into their categories."
The name Praetor — pronounced pree ter — was the title of a high official in ancient Rome. Embraer says the Praetor 500 will be the fastest midsize aircraft capable of reaching Europe from the west coast of the U.S. with a single stop. The Praetor 600, the company says, will be the farthest-flying super-midsize business jet, allowing nonstop flights between London and New York. (10/14)
What is this SPACErePORT?
The SPACErePORT is a free weekly e-newsletter distributed to over 1500 subscribers. It is supplemented by a daily-updated blog (here); a Twitter feed (here) with over 1900 followers; a spaceports-focused LinkedIn Group (here) with over 230 members; and the FastForward supersonic transport LinkedIn Group (here). If you enjoy receiving this stuff, donations are encouraged using the Tip Jar link here. Thanks!