August 13, 2015

Weather Forecast Delays Japanese Supply Mission to ISS (Source: JAXA)
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) decided to postpone the launch of the H-IIB Launch Vehicle No. 5 with the H-II Transfer Vehicle “KOUNOTORI5” (HTV5) onboard from the Tanegashima Space Center, which was originally scheduled for August 16, 2015 (Japan Standard Time), as unfavorable weather is forecasted. The new launch date is set for August 17. Please note that the launch date may be delayed further due to weather conditions. (8/14)

Russian Collaboration to Boost ISRO’s Semicryogenic Launcher Plan (Source: The Hindu)
India's space program looks set to ride on a new thaw in the 40-year-old Indo Russian Space ties, as indicated by the just unveiled memorandum of understanding between the Indian Space Research Organization and Russian Federal Space Agency. The MoU covering wide-ranging areas and which was firmed up in June is “just the beginning”. The development of the new, higher-power semi-cryogenic engine could be an immediate beneficiary, according to A.S. Kiran Kumar. (8/14)

Air Force Launch Process Called into Question by Government Watchdog (Source: Denver Post)
The process the Air Force uses to contract rocket launches of military satellites and other national-security missions lacks critical insight into the operations of commercial launch providers, according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office. The government's watchdog office recommends the Air Force take a slower, incremental approach to awarding the next round of Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle, or EELV, contracts. (8/13)

DARPA Spaceplane Concepts Get Fresh Funding (Source: Popular Science)
DARPA, the Pentagon's far-looking research wing, wants to set an ambitious goal for companies to create a vessel that can go into space 10 times in 10 days, with each flight costing less than $5 million. Ambitious as it is, DARPA is so confident in this program that they've funded the second stage in their design competition.

If the dream of a reusable space plane sounds familiar, it's because the XS-1 is planned as the workhorse successor to the beloved and now retired Space Shuttle fleet. The costs and science challenges are many. Private space flight companies Virgin Galactic and SpaceX have both suffered recent setbacks to their reusable launch vehicles. The Air Force has the reusable X-37B unmanned space plane, which can glide to a landing from orbit but still has to catch a ride on a rocket to get to space. (8/14)

Tomorrow's Battlefield Will be Much Broader Than Today's (Source: Popular Science)
More than 1,200 active satellites circle the globe; the lifeblood of modern military operations flows through many of them. In May, the U.S. Air Force announced a $5 billion budget to develop space-based offensive and defensive weapons. Other countries too are building capabilities on high. To win the next war, any great power will need to hold the ultimate in commanding heights. Click here. (8/14)

SF Startup Wants To Blast Your Loved One’s Ashes To The Moon (Source: CBS)
A Bay Area company is teaming up with a lunar logistics company to honor departed family members by sending their ashes to the moon. Founded in 2013, San Francisco-based Elysium Space describes itself as “a unique team of space and funeral experts, combining experience from major NASA space missions and deep-rooted funeral profession knowledge.”

The first Lunar Memorial, as it’s called, will be for the mother of Steven Jenks, a US Army Infantry Soldier from Tennessee, who when deployed in Iraq, would receive letters from her signed, “I love you to the Moon and back.” Following her death from lung cancer, Jenks approached Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic Technology with the request to send her ashes to the moon as a unique way for keeping her memory alive.

The service costs $11,950, or $9,950 for the first 50 participants, and consists of placing a family member’s remains into personalized capsules. It will then be delivered to the moon’s surface by Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic’s Griffin lander, which will hitch a ride on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. (8/14)

America’s Next Best Weather Satellite? Japan Already Has It (Source: WIRED)
Japan's new weather satellite, named Himawari-8, is an upstart among the geostationary fleet of geriatric weather satellites. Compared to its orbital associates, Himawari-8 will deliver meteorological data with double the resolution, three times the speed, and multiple scales. This satellite caught imagery of the Tianjin explosion late Wednesday night, and you can see the difference when you compare its imagery to that of the two other Japanese satellites it joined in orbit.

It’s the first in the next generation of meteorological orbiters, a glimpse of what’s to come in weather monitoring. And the best part: The US is launching its own version next year. These satellites are so important that the newest of the new replace the oldest of the old about every five to eight years. Retirement for weather satellites is place cheerily known as a “graveyard orbit.”

Compared to Himawari-8, the cameras on these older satellites are glaucomic. Its star sensor is the Advanced Himawari Imager, with sixteen wavelength bands to capture everything from volcanic ash to particle pollutants; from vegetation health to full color freak storms. The Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies1 put together this awesome page if you want to explore what each band “sees.” Click here. (8/14)

House Science Chairman Bucks At Special Treatment for SpaceX (Source: Space News)
In an Aug. 4 letter to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) asked why the space agency formed an independent review team to investigate the Oct. 28 failure of Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket during a Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) mission, but did not do the same following the June 28 failure of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket on a similar mission.

“The discrepancy between the approaches taken by NASA in response to these two similar events raises questions about not only the equity and fairness of NASA’s process for initiating independent accident investigations, but also the fidelity of the investigations themselves,” Smith wrote. (8/14)

Secret X-37B Space Plane Mission Nears 3-Month Mark (Source:
The United States Air Force's X-37B space plane has now been in orbit for nearly three months on its fourth mystery mission. The X-37B spacecraft launched aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on May 20, kicking off a mission dubbed OTV-4 (short for Orbital Test Vehicle-4). During its nearly 100-day trek in orbit, the X-37B has been spotted by amateur astronomers on Earth as it carries out is secret mission. (8/13)

Unique Antenna's Radar gives NASA a Headache (Source: Guardian)
NASA engineers are wrestling with a $915m satellite that began to malfunction just six months after launch. The Soil Moisture Active Passive (Smap) spacecraft was launched on 31 January into a polar orbit with an altitude of 685km. It is designed to measure the water content of the top 5cm of soil everywhere on Earth.

This topsoil is where our food grows, and Smap was going to map changes in this layer over a three-year period. However, on 7 July the spacecraft’s radar abruptly stopped working. The radar’s 6-metre antenna is unique, having been packed for launch and then deployed in space. The radar is one of the mission’s two main science instruments. Representing the “active” part, it uses a high-power amplifier to bounce radar waves off Earth’s surface.

A team of engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, believe that the fault can be traced to a low-voltage power unit. However, several attempts to bring the radar back online have been unsuccessful, and the team are continuing their analysis. The next restoration attempt could be made towards the end of August. (8/14)

Mars Colony Project Inspires Sportswear Line (Source:
A private Mars colonization effort has inspired a new sportswear collection. The Björn Borg fashion brand's upcoming Spring/Summer 2016 (SS16) show is a tribute to Mars One, a privately funded project that aims to land four people on the Red Planet in 2027 as the vanguard of a permanent colony.

The "SS16 show finds its inspiration in the love of mankind. Inspired by the project Mars One, we are making a tribute to the courage and the faith that these people show by going out to the unknown for the evolution of mankind," James Lee, head of design at Björn Borg, said in a statement. (8/13)

Satellite Communications Initiative Set to Transform Lives in Emerging Markets (Source: SpaceRef)
A project that will revolutionize e-commerce and maternity services in remote communities across Nigeria and Kenya through the delivery of reliable, space-based internet connectivity services has completed its installation stage and is ready to be rolled out.

Titled Digital Frontiers, the initiative forms part of the UK Space Agency’s £32 million, two-year International Partnership Space Program. Inmarsat was awarded funding for projects in key East and West African growth hubs, where for many, basic digital services such as a resilient data communication infrastructure or local mapping, are not available due to a blend of economic and geographic factors. (8/13)

Spy Satellite Secrets in Hillary Clinton's Emails
(Source: Daily Beast)
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has little choice but to hand over her server to authorities since it now appears increasingly likely that someone on her staff violated federal laws regarding the handling of classified materials. On August 11, after extensive investigation, the intelligence community’s inspector general reported to Congress that it had found several violations of security policy in Clinton’s personal emails.

Most seriously, the inspector general assessed that Clinton’s emails included information that was highly classified—yet mislabeled as unclassified. Worse, the information in question should have been classified up to the level of “TOP SECRET//SI//TK//NOFORN,” according to the inspector general’s report. TK refers to Talent Keyhole, which is an intelligence community caveat indicating that the classified material was obtained via satellite. (8/13)

Scramjet-Based Project Looks to Blast Australia Into Space (Source: Gizmag)
The list of spacefaring nations remains small, but thanks to continuing advances in technology that promise to reduce the financial and logistical hurdles involved, the numbers are set to increase. One country that could be joining the club, if the University of Queensland (UQ) and Heliaq Advanced Engineering get their way, is Australia. The two are teaming up on a project intended to deliver payloads weighing from 50 to 500 kg (110 to 1,102 lb) into orbit.

Called Spartan, the planned three-stage project is aimed at riding the surge of interest in the small satellite market. The first stage consists of a reusable rocket booster called the Austral Launch Vehicle (ALV). This would launch vertically carrying the upper stages of a rocket to scramjet take-over speed of Mach five before releasing them at an altitude of around 25 km (15 mi). (8/9)

Canadian Firm Patents Inflatable Space Elevator (Source: Gizmag)
In space travel, the first step is always the most expensive, but why blast-off in a rocket if you can catch a ride on a space elevator? Canadian space firm Thoth Technology has received a US patent for an elevator to take spacecraft and astronauts at least part way into space. If it's ever built, the 20 km (12.4 mi) high Thothx inflatable space tower holds the promise of reducing launch costs by 30 percent in terms of fuel, and may even replace some classes of satellites.

Space travel is a field that is rich in paradoxes. Even though the cosmos stretches out tens of billions of light years away from us, it's covering the first 100 km (62 mi) that mark the official boundary of space that presents the most difficult and expensive challenge for current technology.

Today, getting any higher than 50 km (31 mi) requires rocketry, but rockets are incredibly inefficient. Not only do they need to carry enough fuel to get a payload into orbit, but they also need fuel to carry the fuel to carry the fuel. Then, of course, there's the problem of atmospheric drag which means expending even more fuel. (8/12)

UCF Space Research Project is Finalist for R&D Award (Source: FSGC)
A research project led by Dr. Jayan Thomas at the University of Central Florida titled “Energy transmitting and storing cables” has been selected by an independent judging panel and the editors of R&D Magazine as a finalist for a 2015 R&D 100 Award in the Mechanical Devices/Materials category. This project was partially funded by the NASA Florida Space Grant Consortium and Space Florida through the Florida Space Research Program. An R&D 100 Award recognizes the 100 most technologically significant products introduced in the past year. (8/13)

Ariane 6 and Vega C Begin Development (Source: Space Daily)
ESA has signed contracts for the development of the Ariane 6 new-generation launcher, its launch base and the Vega C evolution of the current small launcher. The contracts, signed at ESA's Paris Head Office with Airbus Safran Launchers (ASL), France's CNES space agency and ELV, respectively, cover all development work on Ariane 6 and its launch base for a maiden flight in 2020, and on Vega C for its 2018 debut. (8/13)

6 Scientists Are About To Spend A Year On 'Mars' in Hawaii (Source: Huffington Post)
The longest space travel simulation ever conducted on U.S. soil is about to begin on Hawaii's Big Island. On Aug. 28, the fourth Hawaii Space Exploration and Analog and Simulation mission will begin, with six scientists spending a full year inside an isolated, solar-powered dome atop the Mauna Loa volcano. Their goal: Prepare humans for life on Mars. (8/12)

SpaceX has Secretly Been Sending Manned Dragons to ISS... Sort Of (Source: WIRED)
SpaceX has been launching test flights to and from the International Space Station in secret -- and they've all been a success to date. Unfortunately for impatient space travel fans, they are all taking place entirely in Hawthorne, California. The Crew Dragon simulation involves detailed checks of the cargo delivery spacecraft's avionics systems, including the hardware and software.

The idea was to check how the two systems would operate in conjunction during a crewed flight. "We can basically fly the Crew Dragon on the ground -- flip the switches, touch the screens, test the algorithms and the batteries -- all before testing the avionics system in flight. It's important to get the avionics right before putting it into the capsule." (8/12)

America's Space Program: 'Great Progress' or 'Food Fight'? (Source: Huntsville Times)
America's space program is making "great progress," "very good progress" and "significant progress," according to panelists discussing the "Resurgence of Human Spaceflight" Wednesday at the Space and Missile Defense Symposium in Huntsville.

Unfortunately, a Washington squabble over money is threatening to turn that progress into a "food fight," in the words of one expert listening to the discussion who asked not to be named. As it stands now, a planned budget boost for the Space Launch System or SLS - one of the programs discussed by the panel – could mean a funding cut and possible shutdown for commercial crew, the other program represented on the panel. How do you deal with budgetary uncertainty like that? Click here. (8/12)

The Future of Maunakea Rests in the Hands of Hawaii’s People (Source: Keck Observatory)
The international astronomical community has converged in Honolulu. The timing—in the midst of the controversy surrounding the construction of TMT on Maunakea—has motivated some who oppose TMT to engage these distinguished guests, hoping they will take a stand. Though well intended and keen to see a lasting, peaceful resolution, these visiting astronomers are not the solution to Hawaii’s longstanding issues.

They will leave just a few short days from now, returning to distant countries, yet our challenges will persist. It is our responsibility—those of us who call Hawaii home and care deeply about the future of Maunakea—to come together, listen to each other, and find a new path forward. (8/12)

How CubeSats are Revolutionizing Radio Science (Source: Space Daily)
Next time you tune in to public radio or the hottest Top 40 radio station, you'll be using some of the same tools NASA uses to unravel the mysteries of the universe. Courtney Duncan, an engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, says studying radio waves coming from a known source in space can reveal a great deal about objects in our solar system. Of course, there is nothing new in that.

Radio astronomers have been studying naturally occurring extraterrestrial radio waves since the 1930s. But the kind of radio science Duncan is interested in requires a well-understood transmitter - the kind that is built and tested by human beings before being rocketed into space as part of a mission of exploration.

Duncan is the principal investigator for a mission to put a dedicated radio science instrument into a low-cost CubeSat for launch into Earth orbit next year. Called the LMRST-Sat (short for Low Mass Radio Science Transponder-Satellite), the project is a collaboration between JPL and the Space and Systems Development Laboratory of Stanford University, Palo Alto, California. Packaging the mission in a CubeSat cuts costs dramatically while providing a great proving ground for more ambitious projects. (8/12)

5 Facts About Americans’ Views on Space Exploration (Source: Pew Research Center)
If all went according to plan, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft swept past Pluto this morning just before 8 a.m. Eastern time, offering scientists and the public a glimpse at the previously unexplored edge of the solar universe. New Horizons launched in 2006 and has traveled 3 billion miles to get to within 7,800 miles of the icy dwarf planet. The spacecraft is expected to check in with mission control later today and send back photos and information about Pluto.

This major milestone in space travel is a reminder of the special place that America’s space program has in the public imagination and in scientific circles. Here are five key takeaways from Pew Research Center and other surveys about Americans’ views toward space exploration. Click here. (7/14)

Space Mining Is Closer Than You Think, And The Prospects Are Great (Source: The Conversation)
Is space mining really plausible? What can we mine in space? And will it really deliver world peace, or just another realm for competition and conflict? Perhaps a look at the immediate past and near future may help us answer some of these questions. Click here. (8/6)

Comet's Firework Display Ahead of Perihelion (Source: Space Daily)
In the approach to perihelion over the past few weeks, Rosetta has been witnessing growing activity from Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, with one dramatic outburst event proving so powerful that it even pushed away the incoming solar wind. The comet reaches perihelion on Thursday, the moment in its 6.5-year orbit when it is closest to the Sun. In recent months, the increasing solar energy has been warming the comet's frozen ices, turning them to gas, which pours out into space, dragging dust along with it. (8/12)

NASA Seeks Industry Ideas for Replacing Optical Launch Ascent Tracking (Source: NASA)
NASA Kennedy Space Center is issuing a Request for Information (RFI) seeking sources and soliciting information from private industry on obtaining Launch Ascent Imagery as a service on an as-needed basis for NASA launches. NASA's reduction in budget and reduced launch manifest has driven the agency toward a possible procurement of Launch Ascent Imagery as a service.

With only one launch per four years until 2021, KSC has no desire to maintain the capability currently provided within KSC. The goal would be to obtain this capability from commercial entities that are able to sustain a viable service by other means. This document is for information and planning purposes and to allow industry the opportunity to verify reasonableness and feasibility of the requirement, as well as promote competition. Click here. (8/10)

NASA Delays Award of Follow-On ISS Cargo Contracts (Source: Wall Street Journal)
NASA has again delayed the award of follow-on ISS commercial cargo contracts. NASA recently updated its procurement schedule for the Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS-2) competition, delaying the award of contracts from September to November in order to provide more time to evaluate final proposal revisions. Earlier this year, NASA delayed the awards from June to September. As recently as last week, companies that submitted CRS-2 proposals, covering the transportation of cargo to and from the space station, still expected NASA to make a decision by the end of September. (8/12)

Colorado Center Could Replace Vandenberg Facility for Military Space Traffic Management (Source: Space News)
A planned backup center to the Defense Department's space tracking center, likely in Colorado, could replace a Vandenberg-based facility as the primary center for military space traffic management. The Joint Interagency Coalition Space Operations Center, scheduled to be operational by the end of this year, will be more capable than the existing Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC) because it will make more use of capabilities from the intelligence community and allies. Meanwhile, the Air Force is investing $900 million to upgrade the current JSpOC at Vandenberg Air Force Base. (8/12)

RD-180 Replacement Saga Continues (Source: Breaking Defense)
A top Defense Department official says he is "open-minded" about how much the government will contribute to the development of an RD-180 replacement. Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, said the Pentagon's preferred approach is to help a company close their business case for providing launch services, and there is flexibility about how much it could contribute to do so. A bigger issue, he said, is schedule: 2021 or 2022 is "more realistic" than the 2019 date that Congress has mandated for ending reliance on the RD-180. (8/12)

Launch Failures Slow Growth of Small Satellites (Source: Space News)
Launch failures will slow the growth of small satellites this year. A 2014 study by SpaceWorks Engineering forecasted more than 200 satellites weighing 1-50 kilograms would launch this year, but fewer than 50 have launched so far. By comparison,158 satellites in that mass class launched in 2014. The failures of the Antares and Falcon 9 rockets, both of which have carried many small satellites as secondary payloads on cargo missions to the space station, are major reasons why smallsat numbers have declined this year, according to the company. (8/12)

Shuttle Era Engine Test for SLS (Source: NASA)
NASA will test a shuttle-era engine planned for the Space Launch System today. The 5 p.m. Eastern time test, at the Stennis Space Center is Mississippi, will fire an RS-25 engine for 535 seconds, the length of time it would operate on an SLS mission. Each SLS will use four RS-25 engines, modified versions of the shuttle's main engine, along with two five-segment solid rocket boosters. Today's test is the next to last in a series that started earlier this summer. (8/13)

Power Outage on ISS (Source: NASA, Sputnik)
The International Space Station suffered a brief power glitch Tuesday night. NASA said the station suffered a "temporary power loss," with backup systems keeping critical station components powered. NASA did not disclose the length of the power loss or its cause, but a Russian source said the outage lasted about two hours. (8/12)

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