March 28, 2016

Japanese Astronomical Satellite Fails, Debris Reported (Source: Parabolic Arc)
It looks as if Japan may have lost an astronomical satellite after only five weeks in orbit. JAXA reported that communication with the X-ray Astronomy Satellite “Hitomi” (ASTRO-H), launched on Feb. 17, failed from the start of its operation originally scheduled on March 26. Up to now, JAXA has not been able to figure out the state of health of the satellite.

While the cause of communication failure is under investigation, JAXA received short signal from the satellite, and is working for recovery. The U.S. Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC) reported a breakup of the satellite via its Twitter account. The center is tracking five pieces of debris. (3/27)

US Intelligence Community Monitoring of the Soviet Lunar Program After Apollo (Source: Space Review)
Even after Apollo 11 successfully landed men on the Moon, ending the Moon race, the Soviet Union continued to develop its N-1 rocket for several years. Dwayne Day examines how the US monitored those activities using a new generation of reconnaissance satellites. Click here. (3/28)
InSight’s Second Chance (Source: Space Review)
A NASA mission to land on Mars was supposed to launch this month, but problems with an instrument cancelled those plans. Jeff Foust reports on plans to fix the problem and launch the mission in 2018, although with cost impacts that could affect other missions. Click here. (3/28)
ExoMars: a Long Awaited Reboot of the Russian Planetary Program (Source: Space Review)
Earlier this month, a Russian Proton rocket launched the ExoMars mission, a joint venture with Europe. Svetoslav Alexandrov discusses how ExoMars is revitalizing Russia’s Mars exploration plans, although not in a way all Russian space enthusiasts support. Click here. (3/28)
Improving South Asian Space Cooperation (Source: Space Review)
Pakistan recently rejected a proposal by India to provide a communications satellite to help a group of South Asian nations. Vidya Sagar Reddy examines what India should do to better promote space cooperation among its neighbors in the region. Click here. (3/28)

US May Start Lagging Behind Russia, China in Space Exploration (Source: Sputnik)
Currently, only two nations are capable of putting humans into space and the United States is not one of them, former NASA astronaut Leroy Chiao and Elliot Pulham, CEO of the Space Foundation, noted, adding that the US leadership in space exploration "has eroded" and Washington does not seem to be too concerned with it.

Figures and policies back their assertions. For instance, the US produces less than 20 percent of all satellites in the world. Fifteen years ago America's share of the global satellite manufacturing amounted to 75 percent. Chiao and Pulham are particularly concerned with lunar exploration. The US, they say, has only a "vague idea" of sending piloted missions to Mars in the coming decades, while "China, Russia and Europe are planning, with firm schedules, to send their astronauts to the Moon in the next decade." (3/27)

Tyson to Elon Musk: SpaceX Is "Delusional" About Mars (Source: Motley Fool)
"The delusion is thinking that SpaceX is going to lead the space frontier. That's just not going to happen..." Tyson said in an interview with The Verge. Tyson laid out his arguments for why fans of a solo SpaceX trip to Mars suffer from a "delusion." According to Tyson, there are three main reasons SpaceX cannot go to Mars on its own. Click here. (3/28)

OIG Points to Problems with KSC-Developed Spaceport Command & Control System (Source: NASA Watch)
"The SCCS development effort has significantly exceeded initial cost and schedule estimates. Compared to fiscal year 2012 projections, development costs have increased approximately 77 percent to $207.4 million and the release of a fully operational version has slipped by 14 months from July 2016 to September 2017.

"In addition, several planned capabilities have been deferred because of cost and timing pressures, including the ability to automatically detect the root cause of specific equipment and system failures. Although NASA officials believe the SCCS will operate safely without these capabilities, they acknowledge the reduced capability could affect the ability to react to unexpected issues during launch operations and potentially impact the launch schedule for the combined SLS-Orion system."

Typical NASA double talk. They design a system to do a bunch of things. They claim that all of the program's requirements are necessary for safety and reliability and worth the large cost. And oh yes, NASA can do it much better in-house rather than use existing commercial solutions since NASA's requirements are one of a kind. Then the costs dramatically increase and implementation delays move to the right. Then the OIG steps in an points out the problems. (3/28)

Neil deGrasse Tyson to Speak in Orlando (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson will share his views on the cosmos when he speaks at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Orlando on Nov. 15. The one-night-only event is described as "an engaging conversation on science, exploration and the world as we know it." Click here. (3/28)

Watch How NASA's Inflatable Space Habitat will Inflate (Source: Popular Science)
In just a few days on April 8th, SpaceX will attempt to launch its first re-supply mission to the International Space Station since an explosion destroyed one of its rockets last summer. Among the various supplies and cargo set to ride along on SpaceX's uncrewed Dragon capsule is the first-ever inflatable space habitat designed to attach to the station — the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM. Click here. (3/28)

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