April 25, 2015

Russia to Reduce Launches of Progress Spacecraft to Three a Year as of 2016 (Source: Itar-Tass)
The annual number of launches of cargo spacecraft Progress will be reduced to three a year from four as of 2016, the new draft of the federal space program for 2016-2025 says. In 2018 and 2019 one Progress spacecraft will be launched not from Baikonur, in Kazakhstan, but from the new spaceport Vostochny, currently under construction.

Under the new program the dates for re-equipping the orbital cluster of socio-economic and research satellites of a new generation are postponed by two to five years. (4/24)

Russia's New Orbital Station to Have Five Modules (Source: Itar-Tass)
A new Russian orbital station, which will likely replace the International Space Station and which is expected to consist of three modules in the initial phases of the project, will be augmented with convertible and energy modules by 2016, says a revised draft of the Federal Space Program slanted for the years 2016 through to 2015.

Earlier reports said an agreement on extending the operational life of the International Space Station through to 2024 had been reached. In 2017, Russia will augment its segment at the ISS with a laboratory module. Other appendages to the ISS will come in the form of an orbital node in 2018 and a research energy unit in 2019. No decisions on the destiny of the ISS after 2024 have been taken so far and the Russian side does not rule out it will separate its three new modules from the orbital complex to set up a national orbital station on their basis. (4/23)

Russia May Propose New Space Station in Alliance With BRICS Nations (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia is ready to propose to the BRICS group member states (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) the creation of a joint orbital station, Roscosmos official Yuri Koptev said. The joint orbital station development may be started if the International Space Station (ISS) operation is stopped due to political disagreements between the current ISS partners. (4/22)

Russia Offers to Take Ukraine’s Place at Brazilian Alcantara Spaceport (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia has offered to take Ukraine’s at the Alcantara Launch Center, which has been practically severed through Kiev’s fault, Russian Vice-Premier Dmitry Rogozin said. "Brazil is trying to develop its own spaceport. Unfortunately, due to the fact that Ukraine has practically lost its engineering potential, the Brazilian-Ukrainian project on the use of the Tsyklon rockets on the cosmodrome on Brazil’s northern Atlantic coast has been practically curtailed," Rogozin said.

"But Russia has offered its own options," he added. "Rogozin recalled that Russia had already deployed several GLONASS stations to Brazil. "And we have ideas how to help Brazil in terms of developing space ports," the vice-premier noted. (4/24)

Russia Plans Search for Alien Life (Source: Moscow Times)
Russia plans to include astrobiology in its space program plans for the next decade. The Russian space agency Roscosmos will launch "several devices designed to search for alien life" over the next decade, without offering more specifics about those missions. That plan for the period 2016–2025 also includes Earth science missions and plans to look for potentially hazardous near Earth objects. (4/24)

What Would Happen if There Were a War in Space (Source: Vice)
DOD officials announced that the Pentagon is looking for $5.5 billion to build up its space defense systems by 2020, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James straight up admitted that, looking at the layout of modern space exploration, the US now believes it's facing new and evolving threats to everything it owns above earth. This isn't just bluster from one corner of the government.

This year, Congress urged the Secretary of Defense and Director of National Intelligence to start studying offensive space weapons in addition to defensive systems. The US and Soviets saw that putting a nuclear weapon in orbit would be hugely destabilizing. There was a nuclear test called Starfish Prime [in 1962] that set off a 1.2 megaton nuclear warhead in low-earth orbit and it killed like a third of the satellites in orbit at the time, including a couple of American satellites.

So everyone quickly realized that setting off nuclear detonations in orbit was not going to be a good idea.... The next level up would be the kinetic attacks, where you're trying to destroy or damage the object. Some of those might not have a big effect. If you had a laser that was powerful enough to burn a hole through a critical part of a satellite to render it inoperable, the satellite itself wouldn't be useful, but it wouldn't explode into a whole bunch of debris. Click here. (4/24)

Former Shuttle Manager to Lead Boeing's SLS Work (Source: Boeing)
Former shuttle program manager John Shannon will take over Boeing's work on the Space Launch System. Boeing named Shannon Thursday to the position of vice president and program manager for SLS, replacing the retiring Virginia Barnes. Shannon was at NASA for 25 years, serving as shuttle program manager for the final 14 missions, then served as deputy associate administrator for exploration planning. (4/24)

Clouds in the Forecast for Monday’s Falcon 9 Launch (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Forecasters will be watching clouds and rain showers during the countdown before Monday’s launch of a Falcon 9 rocket carrying Turkmenistan’s first communications satellite. The 22-story rocket is set to lift off from Cape Canaveral during a 90-minute launch window opening at 6:14 p.m. EDT. (4/25)

Ariane 5 Launch Scrubbed Due to Rocket Issue (Source: Space News)
The Arianespace launch consortium has canceled today’s planned launch of a heavy-lift Ariane 5 rocket due to an unexplained issue on the rocket that appears to be unrelated to the previous issue that scrubbed the planned April 15 launch. (4/24)

17 of Hubble's Greatest Photos (Source: BBC)
The Hubble space telescope is 25 years old. It has been inspiring and astounding us by capturing previously unseen secrets from far-away galaxies, stars and black holes. In its lifetime it has circled our own planet 137,000 times and given us a clearer insight into the majestic nature and age of our Universe. Hubble truly has brought us a "golden age" of astronomy. Click here. (4/25)

Buzz Aldrin Impressed by Purdue’s Plan for Mars (Source: JC Online)
A human colony on Mars could be just 25 years and several steps away. Fifty-one Purdue University students in a senior spacecraft design class this year compiled a 1,000-plus page report detailing the resources and actions necessary to colonize Mars by 2040.

The students used famed astronaut Buzz Aldrin’s book as a jumping off point. In “Mission to Mars: My Vision for Space Exploration,” Aldrin focuses on the small accomplishments needed to work toward a permanent colony, such as first establishing a base on the moon and on Phobos, one of two moons orbiting Mars.

“The class works as a single team to achieve a specified space mission goal, which in this past I have dictated as the customer,” professor James Longuski said. “This time was a little different. ... In this particular project, the students were given a unique opportunity to work with Buzz Aldrin and his concepts for colonizing Mars.” (4/23)

First Booz Allen Satellite Will Observe Air Force Laser (Source: Space News)
Booz Allen Hamilton, a management consulting firm better known for pushing paper than building hardware, is launching a tiny satellite from the International Space Station this summer that could help the U.S. Air Force clear the air about a laser the service uses to calibrate one of its ground-based telescopes.

Booz Allen’s Centennial-1, a single-unit cubesat, is the first spacecraft the 100-year-old company has ever built. Centennial-1’s Air Force-designed photon detector will track a sodium guide star laser beamed into space from Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico. (4/24)

NASA IG Scrutinizes Seldom-used Plum Brook Test Facilities (Source: Space News)
All but one of the five big test facilities at NASA’s Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio, have few or no customers, and the situation is unlikely to change any time soon, according to an April 23 report from NASA’s inspector general (IG).

A “majority of the test facilities are underutilized, with the level of use and funding for these facilities depending on NASA programs and external customers choosing to perform testing at Plum Brook rather than at other NASA or private facilities,” the IG wrote in the 28-page report, “Audit of NASA’s Requirements for Plum Brook Station.”

Some of the facilities, most of which date back to the 1960s, are so rundown they require millions of dollars in repairs — costs that must be borne by prospective customers who show no sign of materializing, the IG wrote. The inspector general recommended NASA create a long-term strategy for either maintaining or disposing of underutilized infrastructure at Plum Brook. (4/24)

Launch Date Set for 4th Flight of X-37B Spaceplane (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force says it will launch an unmanned X-37B spaceplane for a fourth mission no earlier than May 20. Built by Boeing, the X-37Bs are reusable unmanned orbital maneuvering vehicles that launch atop an expendable rocket and return to Earth much like NASA’s now-retired space shuttle and glides in for a runway landing. (4/24)

ULA Execs Spell Out Logic Behind Vulcan Design Choices (Source: Space News)
By the time ULA’s corporate parents, Boeing and Lockheed Martin, tapped Tory Bruno to take over the government launch services provider last July, the handwriting was on the wall: ULA was going to need a new rocket if it hoped to remain in business for the long haul. Click here. (4/24)

How China Joins Space Club? (Source: Xinhua)
In the autumn of 1958, Zhao Jiuzhang and other scientists were given a cold shoulder when they visited the Soviet Union to study space technology. China had to be self-reliant to develop a satellite. China lacked the technological industry support that was necessary for the research and development of satellites. Realizing this, the scientists decided to begin with a sounding rocket. Click here. (4/23)

Volusia County Leaders Hope to Lure Space-Related Industry (Source: WFTV)
central Florida's spaceport, but leaders in Volusia County want a piece of the action, and to do that, they want to make some big changes to a small city. Oak Hill could be one step closer to joining the high-tech industry of commercial space flight and exploration. Local leaders said they have cleared the way for that by approving land in southeast Volusia County that could be used as the site for a manufacturing plant.

It's the area county councilwoman Deb Denys represents. "It's not just about us. It's about the state of Florida competing for commercial aerospace," Denys said. quiet, undeveloped countryside, but county leaders said the area is crucial to having an aerospace industry in the county. Denys said a facility could bring 300 jobs paying an average of $75,000 a year.

which builds rockets and capsules to send humans to space, is just one company looking at sites in Florida. Some environmentalists oppose such a project being built a short distance from the Canaveral National Seashore. Others said they are skeptical, calling on leaders to be more transparent about the process of bringing manufacturing to the area. Click here. (4/24)

Russia Drops Plans to Create Nuclear Space Engine (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia’s space agency Roscosmos is planning to shut down works on developing a megawatt-class nuclear propulsion system for long-range manned spacecraft, a source in the rocket and space sector told TASS on Friday. "The new draft of the Federal Space Program for 2016-2025 envisages the closure of all the research and development works on creating high power nuclear propulsion systems," he said. (4/24)

Wanted in Space: A Better Drinking Experience (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
With the help of geometry scientists are hoping to give astronauts on the International Space Station a more Earth-like sipping experience. Last week the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft delivered supplies to the ISS including the ISSpresso and six specially designed cups for the Capillary Beverage experiment. Astronauts drink out of a bag with a straw now, like a Capri Sun.

The idea of zero-gravity coffee cups came about when Astronaut Don Pettit complained about drinking out of a bag all the time. Pettit created the first prototype on board the International Space Station and showed it’s possible to replace the feeling of gravity through container shape. The cups will be 3D printed and reusable, to help save on trash. Waste disposal in Space isn’t just a walk to the bottom of the driveway like on Earth. (4/23)

Vancouver Firm Will Take Your Picture from Space (Source: Star Phoenix)
A Vancouver company is promising a unique summer photo-op - a view from space of your backyard party or golf tournament. But its joint venture with NASA for high-resolution, nearreal time photo and video coverage of Earth from the orbiting International Space Station also offers less selfregarding activity.

"I've spoken with several astronauts and they all say going to space changes them - they see the planet without borders, how small it is in the universe - and we want to stream a little bit of that feeling out to the rest of the world," said Scott Larson, chief executive and founder of UrtheCast Corp. For the past four years, UrtheCast has been developing what it calls the world's first Ultra HD video feed of Earth, streamed from space in full color. (4/24)

Pentagon Looks Beyond Disaggregation in Space Asset Protection (Source: Jane's)
The Pentagon is devising new concepts for protecting its space assets from attacks, the US Air Force's outgoing military acquisition chief said. "We have to put some resources and some focus on protection capability," said USAF Lieutenant General Ellen Pawlikowski. However, she added that cultural change and updates of existing operational concepts will be just as important as funding.

"Now as we look out and look at the threat … we have to make these changes, much like we had to go from cavalry to tanks," she said. "Otherwise we'll be the Polish army greeting the Germans on our horses as they come in." Click here. (4/22)

NASA May Have Accidentally Created a Warp Field (Source: Mysterious Universe)
NASA and other space programs were working on prototypes of the EmDrive or RF resonant cavity thruster invented by British aerospace engineer Roger J. Shawyer. This propulsion device uses a magnetron to produce microwaves for thrust, has no moving parts and needs no reaction mass for fuel. In 2014, Johnson Space Center claimed to have developed its own low-power EmDrive.

Which brings us to today’s warp field buzz. NASA has a tool to measure variances in the path-time of light. When lasers were fired through the EmDrive’s resonance chamber, it measured significant variances and, more importantly, found that some of the beams appeared to travel faster than the speed of light. If that’s true, it would mean that the EmDrive is producing a warp field or bubble. Here’s a comment from a space forum following the tests. (4/24)

Can Nuclear Waste Help Humanity Reach for the Stars? (Source: Planetary Society)
The heat from the plutonium is able to keep essential systems warm and to also be converted to electricity using the thermoelectric Seebeck effect. With a half-life of 87.7 years, the plutonium has the potential to provide heat and electricity for well over a century. However, making plutonium-238 is expensive and difficult. You need a reactor with the right neutron flux and a supply of neptunium-237 feedstock to produce the plutonium.

You also need a small nuclear reprocessing plant to separate the plutonium chemically from the highly radioactive fuel. Over the years, plutonium-238 has been produced by a number of countries including the USA, Russia, and the UK. Historically, some material has even been used to provide the electrical power in heart pacemakers. In the case of plutonium for space applications, stocks of the material are now running low.

The USA is restarting production, but the current stocks and production rate in the near term are unlikely to be high enough to support the broad range of space missions that the US science community might wish to target. In Europe, without the neptunium-237 feedstock and necessary processing facilities, the production of plutonium-238 is considered too expensive. As a consequence, Europe has decided to focus on an accessible alternative material that could power future spacecraft: americium-241. (4/23)

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