June 28, 2015

Debris Warning Along Northern Florida Coastline (Source: USAF)
After a successful liftoff from the Eastern Range, 45th Space Wing, Space X and NASA officials experienced an anomaly of the Falcon 9 CRS-7 mission June 28 at approximately 148 seconds into flight over the Atlantic Ocean. Range officials are currently evaluating the data to determine the exact cause of the anomaly and additional information will be released as it becomes available.

The anomaly occurred over the Atlantic Ocean and as a result of tide movement over the next several hours, debris may begin washing ashore. If you spot debris in the water or see it washed up anywhere along the Eastern Florida shore report it to either NASA's debris reporting hotline at 321-867-2121 or Patrick Air Force Base at 321-494-7001 or contact your nearest local law enforcement official. (6/28)

U.S. Reliance on Russia for ISS Ops Grows With Falcon 9 Loss (Source: Aviation Week)
This much was clear as investigators began to probe the loss of the SpaceX Falcon 9/Dragon resupply mission loss: The U.S. is at least temporarily without a means of launching astronauts and cargo to the six-person International Space Station, placing a growing burden on Russia to do what it can to keep the outpost minimally equipped and staffed.

So far, tensions between Washington and Moscow over Russia's intrusion into Ukraine have not seeped into the deceptively tenuous U.S.-led day-to-day operations of the 15-nation station program. However, Russia, too, is recovering from the failed April 28 launch of its Progress M-27M/59 ISS cargo mission. That compounded the re-supply difficulties triggered by the Oct. 28 launch explosion of Orbital ATK's third Antares/Cygnus mission as it lifted off from Wallops Island with 4,800 pounds of supplies and science experiments.

Editor's Note: Some of the experiments lost on this Falcon/Dragon flight were duplicates of those lost in October's Antares/Cygnus explosion. What a sad situation for the scientists and students who have watched their projects blow up before they could get to the Space Station. (6/28)

Falcon Could Be Grounded for Months (Source SEN)
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket failed minutes after liftoff Sunday, claiming a Dragon capsule loaded with cargo for the International Space Station. After a trouble-free countdown, the rocket blasted off from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport at 10:21 a.m. and soared out over the Atlantic Ocean heading toward space. But SpaceX ground controllers lost contact with the rocket two minutes and 19 seconds later, just before the rocket's first stage was slated to separate and make a landing attempt on a platform in the ocean. 

The rocket exploded in the sky, victim to what appeared to be an overpressurized oxygen tank in its upper stage, SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk said later on Twitter. SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell said she expects Falcon 9 to be grounded for "a number of months, or so" while an accident investigation is under way.  "We must find the cause of the failure. We must fix it and we obviously are goig to get back to flight," Shotwell said.

How the accident will impact SpaceX's ambitious launch schedule is unknown. The company was making its seventh flight of the year -- surpassing its six-flight 2014 schedule -- when the accident occurred. It also recently won certification of the Falcon 9 to fly military payloads. (6/28)

Southern Road to Spaceport America Hits Snag (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Though a key step toward improving a roughly 24-mile-long southern road to the $218.5 million Spaceport America was set to wrap up this summer, Doña Ana County staff said last week the start of construction will be delayed because of an error in plans. A problem cropped up because surveying work for the proposed construction didn't align with a corridor that was studied as part of a key environmental review — one pending before the U.S. Bureau of Land Management — of the route.

"It's unclear why. I can't tell you that," he said during a staff input session at a county commission meeting. "The final design was done; we want to make that clear. But we're having to redesign the roadway to match the corridor." The BLM's Environmental Assessment is a critical step for the county to get a permit for upgrading the road from its current dirt state to a quasi-paved surface. That entails various reviews of resources on public lands — such as historical artifacts — that could be affected by an improved road. (6/27)

ISS Logistics Not Halted with Dragon Mishap (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
NASA worked to assuage concerns that the station might be running low on supplies by noting that Russia is scheduled to launch the Progress M-28M spacecraft on July 3 and that a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) HTV spacecraft is scheduled to launch later this summer. (6/28)

SpaceX Loses Falcon, Dragon in Launch Anomaly (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Although it’s not clear what happened, the rocket blew up 2 minutes and 19 seconds into its launch this morning. No humans were on board but the spacecraft carried 4,000 pounds worth of supplies to the International Space Station. Moreover, that’s the third cargo ship bound for NASA’s International Space Station with supplies lost in the last eight months: Orbital’s Antares rocket, Russia’s Progress spacecraft and now SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.

Beyond that SpaceX had planned to use the Falcon 9 rocket to carry an upgraded version of its Dragon spacecraft with astronauts aboard into space by 2017. SpaceX has had a remarkable track record of success with its Falcon 9 rocket up until now, and it has captured about 50 percent of the global launch business because of the lower cost service it provides. Because of its expanding business it has announced plans to build a spaceport in southern Texas.

All of that will now come into question for the company. And as for NASA, it will face some hard questions about keeping its astronauts on board the space station fully supplied. (6/27)

'Forever Remembered' Memorial Opens at KSC Visitor Complex (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
They were two of the most traumatic experiences of a program that lasted 30 years. The names “Challenger” and “Columbia” will forever be tied to the 14 astronauts who lost their lives on STS-51L and STS-107 – and they will also be forever memorialized by a new exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

Kept secret, even from many employees at the Visitor Complex, the “Forever Remembered” exhibit was presented to the world on the morning of June 27. The event was opened by two officials within NASA – NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana – each of whom has deep ties to those who were lost as they, too, were shuttle astronauts. Family members of the crews were present at the small opening ceremony.

The families of the crews of STS-51L and STS-107 collaborated with NASA to create a memorial to remember and honor the astronauts, the lost orbiters, and the importance of learning from the past. The new exhibit covers nearly 2,000 square feet, with personal items from the flight crews as well as recovered hardware from Challenger and Columbia. (6/27)

Air Force: RD-180 Replacement Timeline Could Limit Competition (Source: Defense News)
​Pentagon and Air Force officials warned lawmakers that a congressional push to limit the use of a Russian-made rocket engine, and the development of a U.S.-made alternative, is likely to extend beyond the 2019 deadline. It might eventually push the United Launch Alliance out of national security space missions altogether.

Representatives from possible entrants into the selection for the new engine – ULA, SpaceX, Orbital ATK, Aerojet Rocketdyne and Blue Origin – told the committee they could get their rockets ready by the 2019 deadline. However, Hyten warned, those rockets would still need to be certified, and launch systems would need to be adjusted to work with the new rockets, adding years until a new launch system would be ready.

Editor's Note: SpaceX's launch failure will add fuel to the Air Force's argument that there is too much risk in having only one qualified launch provider available. Also, what vehicle is Orbital ATK offering? Their Antares also uses Russian engines. Maybe they are planning to replace it with whatever new engine is developed by the Air Force and/or Aerojet Rocketdyne. (6/28)

Kauai to Host Hawaii's 1st Space Launch (Source: TGI)
Hawaii's first space launch — aimed at testing a low-cost launch system for small satellites — will blast off from Kauai's military base on Oct. 29. The ORS-4 mission, sponsored by the Operationally Responsive Space Office in collaboration with the University of Hawaii and the Pacific Missile Range Facility, sets to test the rail-launched rocket Super Strypi, which will deploy a UH student-made satellite.

"Ideally, this launch will be a gateway to a future of space-type applications, developed from the colleges and perhaps even branching off commercial-type development companies from this," said Marcus Yamaguchi, lead student at the Kauai Community College ground tracking station at the Daniel K. Inouye Technology Center.

"The overall goal is to try and develop something that can help bring high-tech business to the islands to help establish something for us here that's specific and kind of a niche to our islands because of our access to the missile facility at PMRF," he added. (6/27)

Wallops Celebrates 70 Years (Source: WMDT)
Wallops NASA celebrated it's 70th birthday today and opened its doors to let the public peek inside. NASA officials say that over Wallops long and decorated history, the base has become one of the best in the agency. Last week the flight operations program was recognized as the best of all the federal aviation programs.   

Today, despite the cloudy weather, tons of people still showed up to see the sights that are normally blocked off from the public. Wallops opens its door every five years to the public, so if you missed it the next time you'll be able to see the base won't be until. (6/27)

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