December 29, 2014

New 'Brain' for NASA's RS-25 Engine (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The engine controller unit on the RS-25 — formerly known as the space shuttle main engine — helped propel all of the space shuttle missions to space. It allows communication between the vehicle and the engine, relaying commands to the engine and transmitting data back to the vehicle. The controller also provides closed-loop management of the engine by regulating the thrust and fuel mixture ratio while monitoring the engine’s health and status.

Just like the ever-evolving computer, the engine controller unit needed a “refresh” to provide the capability necessary for four RS-25 engines to power the core stage of NASA’s new rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS ), to deep space missions. The core stage, towering more than 200 feet tall with a diameter of 27.6 feet, will store cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen that will feed the vehicle’s RS-25 engines. (12/28)

Mars Mission Boost Welcomed by Scientists (Source: Space Daily)
University of Leicester scientists, who are closely involved in the European mission to Mars -- ExoMars -- have welcomed support from the Government for the project. Following the Chancellor's Autumn statement, the UK will play a lead role in Europe's ExoMars mission to the Red Planet. The ExoMars mission is one of the key missions under the remit of the UK Space Agency.

The Government's new commitment to the ExoMars programme amounts to 47.7m pounds, alongside a similar amount for the International Space Station (ISS). This more than triples the sum offered as a "one-off" payment to the ISS two years ago. (12/29)

Innovative Use of Pressurant Extends Messenger's Mission (Source: Space Daily)
The MESSENGER spacecraft will soon run literally on fumes. After more than 10 years traveling in space, nearly four of those orbiting Mercury, the spacecraft has expended most of its propellant and was on course to impact the planet's surface at the end of March 2015. But engineers on the team have devised a way to use the pressurization gas in the spacecraft's propulsion system to propel MESSENGER for as long as another month, allowing scientists to collect even more data about the planet closest to the Sun. (12/29)

Lopota: International Space Station Could Operate Until 2028 (Source: Itar-Tass)
The International Space Station (ISS) has a service life allowing operations until 2028, said the former head of Russia’s Energia Space Corporation, Vitaly Lopota. “The program of using the ISS has been agreed up to 2020, and now the issue of using it until 2024 is being discussed, and the time limit for using the station will be until 2028, if political events allow (it),” Lopota said.

Re-entry Capsule of Russia’s New Generation Spacecraft To Be Used Ten Times (Source: Itar-Tass)
The re-entry capsule of Russia’s new generation manned spacecraft will have a life cycle of ten missions, while the engine section will be disposable, the former chief of the space rocket corporation Energiya, the ex-chief of the firm commissioned to design and make the new space technology, Vitaly Lopota, told the media, adding that the costs of the project were estimated at $105 million.

“The spacecraft will be reusable. Its lower part — the engine section — will be disposable, while the re-entry module will be used ten times,” Lopota said. It is expected that the new spacecraft will be launched from the Vostochny spaceport. A future spacecraft will replace the current workhorse — the Soyuz. It is expected to take a crew of six into near-earth orbits and a crew of four to the Moon. (12/29)

Rogozin Notes Considerable Progress in Vostochny Spaceport Construction (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin believes that the past month saw a qualitative breakthrough in building the Vostochny spaceport. “Over the time we have been away, the construction site saw some really important changes. I have seen them for myself, it is hard not to see them,” Rogozin said. (12/29)

What’s Ahead for Commercial Crew in 2015 (Source: America Space)
With the new year nearly upon us, America’s future human spaceflight programs have swung into high gear to restore our capability to indigenously launch American astronauts back to the High Frontier. AmericaSpace recently spoke one-on-one to Phil McAlister, one of the architects of NASA’s Commercial Crew effort for an inside look at the current program status and what lies ahead in 2015 and beyond. Click here. (12/29)

Russia Needs Super-Heavy Rocket as Northern Country (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia, as a northern country, needs super-heavy rocket carriers, former chief of aerospace corporation Energia, Vitaly Lopota said. He gave the following example to reporters that a rocket needed around 175 kilograms in launch weight to deliver a kilogram of payload to the geostationary orbit from the equator. This figure rises to 700 kilograms in a launch from Russian northern space center Plesetsk. (12/29)

Planet Hunters Plot Course for Inhabited Worlds (Source: Nature)
Scott Gaudi is tired of the fighting. An astronomer at Ohio State University in Columbus, he specializes in the notoriously fractious field of exoplanet research, in which battles have included bitter fights over data access and epic rifts between teams searching for planets outside our Solar System.

On 4 January in Seattle, Washington, Gaudi will take a tentative first step towards corralling this rowdy bunch. As chair of NASA’s Exoplanet Exploration Program Analysis Group, he will try to nudge a roomful of US exoplanet scientists into generating a coherent, specific vision for where the field should go. (12/29)

SpaceX Selected for Launch of Qatari Satellite (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
A communications satellite owned by the Qatari government will launch from Cape Canaveral on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in late 2016, according to Qatar’s state-owned satellite company. The Es’hail 2 satellite — under construction at Japan’s Mitsubishi Electric Corp. — will broadcast television programming across the Middle East and Africa for Es’hailSat, a company founded in 2010 by the government of Qatar. (12/29)

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