April 10, 2016

Dragon Joins Record-Breaking Fleet of Craft Docked/Berthed with Space Station (Source: Space.com)
The Dragon's arrival marked the first time that two U.S. commercial spacecraft were berthed to the space station simultaneously. Orbital ATK's "S.S. Rick Husband" Cygnus cargo carrier launched to the station on March 22 and was attached to the Earth-facing port on the Unity module four days later.

In between the two U.S. arrivals, Russia launched its own Progress resupply ship on March 31. It docked at the rear port of the Zvezda service module on April 2. As such, there are now a total of six visiting vehicles at the space station, including the Dragon, the Cygnus, two Progress and two Russian Soyuz spacecraft. (4/10)

How the "Space Fence" Will Help Keep Orbital Junk from Killing Satellites (Source Popular Mechanics)
When the Air Force turns on its new "Space Fence" radar system in 2018, it will be able to detect far more objects in orbit than the 17,000 currently tracked by the 1960s-vintage Space Surveillance System. But just how much junk is up there?

A lot. Several million objects are currently in orbit. In 2015 the International Space Station crew had to make at least 25 avoidance maneuvers to dodge them. Variously-sized bits and pieces traveling at speeds of nearly eight miles per second passed the station four times last year. And while the Space Fence won't block orbital collisions or "conjunctions" as the U.S.A.F. likes to call them, it will help prevent them. (4/6)

Michigan Senator Leads Call for Mars Mission Funding (Source: SpaceRef)
U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) led a bipartisan group of 16 Senators (including Bill Nelson, D-FL) to call for strong funding for NASA’s Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System (SLS) in a letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies. The Orion spacecraft and SLS rocket are the cornerstone programs of NASA’s ongoing human space exploration efforts. (4/8)

Falcon-9 Launches With New Abort Option (Source: Popular Science)
Last summer, just two minutes after liftoff, SpaceX's seemingly routine delivery to the station went up in flames, destroying the Dragon capsule and the several thousand pounds of supplies and science experiments. SpaceX has since fixed the problem that caused the explosion—a faulty support strut was to blame. But if last week's launch were to fail, some of the cargo might have been saved because SpaceX added an abort option that's designed to carry the capsule to safety.

Elon Musk said at the time of the disaster that the Dragon could have survived the explosion, if only it had known to deploy its parachutes. This Dragon and all subsequent ISS missions will carry the new software that will make sure it does next time around, so that the Dragon and its contents can drop down softly into the ocean. (4/8)

Russia to Develop New Fenix Rocket by 2025 (Source: Tass)
Russia’s Roscosmos plans to expedite the development of a new medium-class rocket called Fenix to make it ready by 2025. "The timeframe is until 2025. During this year [2016], we’ll again analyze, on which basis the rocket will be made. We have the intentions to make it until 2025. We see that the market and life require expediting this project," Komarov said.

The development of the medium-class rocket Fenix (Phoenix) is the beginning of "the thorny path towards the creation of a super-heavy class launch vehicle," the Roscosmos head said. He said earlier on Wednesday that Fenix will be used as the super-heavy rocket’s first stage.

Roscosmos is expected to spend about 30 billion rubles ($440 million) on the Fenix development. According to preliminary data, the carrier rocket should be a single-block space vehicle capable of delivering at least 9 tons of payloads into the low near-Earth orbit. The Feniks carrier rocket will fire liquefied natural gas. It was reported earlier that the R&D work on the new carrier rocket could start in 2017 or 2018. (3/30)

Space Tourism Could Be Bad For Your Health (Source: Travel and Leisure)
Astronaut Scott Kelly, who just spent almost a year on the International Space Station, shared the physical toll being in space took on his body. “I lost bone mass, my muscles atrophied, and my blood redistributed itself in my body, which strained my heart,” he said.

Though space tourists’ time will be limited, similar negative effects could still cause problems. According to Medical News Today, “gravity affects blood circulation and the musculoskeletal system, among other things” meaning “the effects of microgravity could prevent astronauts, and their bodies, from performing necessary functions in space.” It can also increase the risk of high blood pressure and cardiac arrhythmia and atrophy. (4/9)

Steam-Powered Spacecraft Could Help Humans Colonize the Moon (Source: The Telegraph)
It sounds like an idea dreamt up while flicking through the pages of an HG Wells novel, but steam-powered spacecraft could help humans colonize the Moon and beyond, scientists believe. ‘Mining’ water ice from asteroids and the lunar poles could provide cheap fuel for probes , allowing them to hop many miles across the surface searching for vital resources. It could even fuel space travel or help maneuver satellites.

Unlike steam power on Earth, where the build-up of pressure drives cylinders and pistons connected to a machine, the thrust in this case would come from steam being ejected into space, propelling the craft forward. Because gravity is so low on the lunar surface, and much less in space,  just a small push is needed to get a spacecraft going. The water would be heated using solar panels and vented through a nozzle. (4/10)

Presidential Candidates Must Commit on Space (Source: Florida Today)
In the run up to the presidential primary, Florida voters heard a lot of locker room insults and discussions of petty controversies. Unfortunately Floridians heard relatively little about the issues that really matter to our state. Now, as the apparent nominees emerge from pack, we deserved more of an explanation of where the presidential candidates stand on NASA and as well as firm commitment to adequately funding the next generation of space exploration.

Space carries a special historical resonance and economic importance in our state. And today, the space industry employs more than 30,000 Floridians at 500 companies. As Floridians know all too well, NASA often becomes a punching bag – or piggy bank – when administrations change, and that’s why space must be on the agenda during this presidential election.

Those seeking to be our next president should be asked to take a stand on these vital issues while they are campaigning in our state. Are they committed to America’s leadership in space? Do they believe we should have continuity in our long-term space program, or do they plan to rip up all these years of work – and the Florida jobs carrying it out – and start over once again? As president, will they invest in the programs that will allow Astronauts to travel to Mars and beyond? (4/10)

India Needs More Satellites (Source: The Hindu)
Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) chairman A.S. Kiran Kumar has said that the ISRO would have to increase its bouquet of satellites from the present 34 to at least 70 to 75 to meet the increasing demand in the field of communication and navigation in the country. The motto of ISRO is ‘space technology in the service of the humankind’. The ISRO has been working towards this goal ensuring societal application of space technology. (4/10)

Bigelow Aerospace and ULA to Announce New Partnership (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Expandable space habitat manufacturer Bigelow Aerospace and launch provider United launch Alliance (ULA) issued a press release stating that the two companies would announce a new partnership at a news conference on Monday, April 11, at 4 p.m. MDT, at the 32nd Space Symposium in Colorado Springs.

Both ULA CEO Tony Bruno and Bigelow Founder and President Robert Bigelow will be at the press conference which will be live-streamed on ULA’s website. The announcement comes just as a crucial on-orbit test of expandable habitat technology is about to begin. (4/10)

Next Atlas V Launch Now Delayed Indefinitely (Source: Space Policy Online)
The United Launch Alliance (ULA) said very late yesterday that the launch of the next Atlas V rocket is now delayed indefinitely. ULA is investigating what went wrong on the launch of Orbital ATK's OA-6 Cygnus spacecraft on March 22. This was the first problem for the Atlas V in 62 launches.

Orbital ATK's OA-6 cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS) was successful thanks to the Atlas V's Centaur upper stage, which was able to compensate for the under performance of the first stage. The first stage's RD-180 engine shut down 6 seconds early. The Centaur fired about one minute longer than planned to make up the difference in thrust needed to place Cygnus in the proper position for its ultimate rendezvous with ISS. (4/9)

NASA: Saturn Spacecraft Not Affected by Hypothetical Planet 9 (Source: NASA)
Contrary to recent reports, NASA's Cassini spacecraft is not experiencing unexplained deviations in its orbit around Saturn, according to mission managers and orbit determination experts at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Several recent news stories have reported that a mysterious anomaly in Cassini's orbit could potentially be explained by the gravitational tug of a theorized massive new planet in our solar system, lurking far beyond the orbit of Neptune. While the proposed planet's existence may eventually be confirmed by other means, mission navigators have observed no unexplained deviations in the spacecraft's orbit since its arrival there in 2004. (4/8)

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