June 19, 2016

Blue Origin Vehicle Makes Fourth Flight (Source: SPACErePORT)
Blue Origin successfully launched and landed its New Shepard rocket and unmanned capsule for the fourth time at the company's west Texas launch site on Sunday. The capsule reached an apogee of 331,501 feet before intentionally deploying only two of its usual three parachutes for (a potentially rough) landing, a test of the capsule's safety. Meanwhile, the launch system's first stage made another on-target vertical landing. The New Shepard is designed to carry passengers (space tourists and researchers) and experiments for long-duration microgravity exposure in suborbital space. (6/19)

Bezos Ready to Beat Branson in the Billionaire Space Race (Source: Daily Beast)
“Space tourism” was supposed to arrive years ago, but its chief apostle, Richard Branson, is yet to deliver and suddenly faces a formidable challenger. Jeff Bezos' once secretive program to take paying passengers to the edge of space now appears to be set to overtake Branson’s Virgin Galactic project to inaugurate space tourism.

With a fourth test flight of Bezos’s New Shepard space vehicle due Sunday his very different approach to achieving reliable suborbital flight gives his company, Blue Origin, what seems like a competitive edge. Bezos provides a ride in a capsule atop a rocket, Branson has bet on a ride inside what resembles the cabin of a small business jet, albeit punched aloft by a rocket and returning to earth in a long glide.

Bezos and Branson are both selling basically the same thing: a hot ride to just beyond 62 miles above earth where the boundary of space officially begins, followed by a few minutes of weightlessness and mind-blowing views on the way back to earth. (6/19)

China Opens Space Station to Rest of the World with United Nations Agreement (Source: GB Times)
China has signed an agreement with the United Nations to open its future space station to spacecraft, science experiments and even astronauts from countries around the world. The agreement was laid out by Ms Wu Ping, Deputy of China's Manned Space Agency (CMSA), in a presentation at the UN’s Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) annual session in Vienna on Tuesday.

The move is aimed at boosting international cooperation in space and spreading the benefits of on-orbit research and opportunities provided by the Chinese Space Station, the core module of which will launch in 2018. (6/19)

US Firms Stall Indian Satellite Launch Deal (Source: Asian Age)
Repeated efforts since 2010 to firm up an agreement to facilitate the launch of US commercial satellites from India have failed to reach a conclusion as, according to highly placed sources, American companies have been stalling the negotiations fearing competition from ISRO. “The chief concern among American space companies is that since ISRO subsidizes commercial launches, these companies cannot compete with India at such low prices,” a highly placed source aware of the developments said.

Incidentally, both nations had finalized the Technology Safeguards Agreement (TSA) in July 2009 to facilitate the launch of US-licensed non-commercial satellites from India. This agreement was renewed in 2014 and non-commercial satellites having American components are being regularly launched from India. In April 2016, four American satellites were launched from India.

However, despite several rounds of meetings between the India-US Joint Working Group since 2011, no unanimity has emerged between the two nations on firming up the launch agreement. Sources vehemently deny that there are any political reasons behind the deadlock over agreement, and claim that reasons behind it are purely driven by business concerns. (6/19)

The First American Woman In Space Shattered A Major Glass Ceiling 33 Years Ago (Source: Bustle)
"To boldly go where no man has gone before." That's how space travel is described in the brief monologue that preceded nearly every episode of Star Trek I watched as a kid. I was 9 years old when Janeway became the show's first central female captain, and space still seemed a man's domain.

Back on Earth, however, one woman had worked hard to shatter the cosmos' highest glass ceiling for American women. Thirty-three years ago today, with the launch of the space shuttle Challenger, Sally Ride became the first American woman in space. Click here. (6/19)

Aerojet's AR1 Engine Undergoes Testing at NASA Stennis (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Aerojet Rocketdyne achieved full-power during a critical preburner test series at NASA’s Stennis Space Center earlier this month. The test series successfully verified key preburner injector design parameters for the company’s AR1 engine that is being designed to end U.S. reliance on Russian engines for national security space launches.

“We remain laser focused on the delivery of an AR1 engine in 2019. We are convinced our AR1 engine is the fastest, lowest cost, lowest risk way for the United States to guarantee assured access to space, proof of which is our successful preburner test,” said Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO and President Eileen Drake. “The AR1 engine is the most advanced oxygen-rich, hydrocarbon engine in development in the United States.” (6/19)

Do We Really Need Humans to Explore Mars? (Source: Ars Technica)
NASA’s justification for sending humans to Mars has something to do with jump-starting the search for life while furthering research and exploration on the red planet. However, even under the space agency’s most wildly optimistic plans, humans will not reach the surface of Mars until the late 2030s. During his lifetime, Chris Kraft has watched the increasing sophistication of robots and artificial intelligence. He imagines that this progress will continue apace or even accelerate.

With these trends, the robots and rovers of the 2030s will certainly have some impressive capabilities. If so, why should NASA spend 20 to 40 times as much to send humans to Mars when robots could be almost as able, at a fraction of the cost? Click here. (6/20)

ULA’s UAW Employees Approve New Contract (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Members of the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers Of America (UAW) have accepted ULA's new three-year contract offer. The ratification vote came after UAW leadership recommended acceptance of the contract to its members, ending the 2016 contract negotiation process which began on June 8. The new contract covers 104 bargaining unit employees at ULA’s production operations in Harlingen, Texas. (6/16)

Canada Recruiting New Astronauts (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, and the Minister responsible for the CSA, has launched Canada’s fourth astronaut recruitment campaign. The CSA is seeking the next generation of space explorers to pave the way for potential future space missions. The Agency is accepting applications from June 17 to August 15, and expects to announce selected candidates in Summer 2017. This next class of Canadian astronaut candidates will start their training at NASA in August 2017. (6/17)

Boeing and NASA Simulate Starliner Commercial Crew Flight (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Commercial Crew Program astronauts Bob Behnken and Eric Boe joined flight director Richard Jones and his NASA/Boeing flight control team in the first Mission Control Center, Houston, on-console simulation of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner launch, climb to orbit and post-orbital insertion timeline.

The ascent simulation included a training team inserting problems remotely from a nearby building, which allowed the team to follow checklists and procedures to solve issues that could arise during a dynamic, real-flight situation. (6/17)

Historic Pad 39A Being Transformed for Falcon Launches (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Removing hundreds of thousands of pounds of steel and adding robust, new fixtures, SpaceX is steadily transforming Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for use as a launch pad for its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets. The launchers will lift numerous payloads into orbit, including the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft with astronauts aboard bound for the International Space Station. Click here. (6/18)

ISS Crewmembers Return to Earth (Source: ESA)
ESA astronaut Tim Peake, NASA astronaut Tim Kopra and Russian Soyuz commander Yuri Malenchenko landed safely today in the Kazakh steppe after a three-hour ride in their Soyuz spacecraft. They left the International Space Station at 05:52 GMT at the end of their six-month stay on the research complex. They leave behind three astronauts to look after the Station and run experiments. The next launch to complete the crew is scheduled for 7 July on an upgraded Soyuz. (6/18)

Why Blue Origin Plans to Crash-Land Its Reusable Rocket (Source: Motherboard)
Blue Origin is attempting the most daring test yet of its New Shepard reusable rocket, and for the first time, we can watch it live. The private spaceflight company, led by CEO Jeff Bezos, will send the vehicle to space and back with one deliberately failed parachute, in order to test the craft’s safety systems. With three safe landings under its belt, the company wants to test how the vehicle responds when the landing doesn’t go as planned.

“We’re planning to demonstrate the redundancies built into the capsule on this re-flight of the vehicle by intentionally failing one drogue [a smaller parachute that helps it slow down] and one main parachute during descent,” explained Bezos in a pre-test email announcement. “This should occur approximately 7 ½ minutes into the flight at an altitude of 24,000 feet.” Bezos boasted that the vehicle can handle this type of anomaly just fine and that any astronauts on board would be safe. (6/17)

Ariane 5 Launches EchoStar and BRIsat Satellites Into Orbit (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
After a delay of just over one week and two scrubbed attempts, Guiana Space Center‘s launch pad ELA-3 came to life for the third time in 2016 as an Ariane 5, carrying the EchoStar 18 and BRIsat communications satellites, raced into the late afternoon sky on June 18.

The launch was initially scheduled for June 8, but it was delayed until June 16 due to a problem with a fluid connector between the cryogenic upper stage and the launch table during the rollout to the launch pad. The second delay of 24 hours occurred because of an “umbilical connection-related anomaly” while the rocket was undergoing rollout operations. A further 24-hour delay was due to “unfavorable weather conditions” above the Spaceport in French Guiana. (6/18)

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