June 20, 2016

Landing Simulator Research To Help Space Missions (Source: Florida Tech Current)
Florida Tech astronomy and astrophysics undergraduate students, Ramanakumar Sankar and Timothy Drostare, created a landing simulator to model the surface properties of airless bodies, like the moon and asteroids, to find more reliable landing sites for space missions.

“Landing has been problematic in the past since scientists do not fully understand the physical surface properties of airless bodies,” Sankar said. Sankar and Drost were able to simulate the effects of solar radiation on different porous surface models to observe their spectra. Click here. (6/19)

Stratolaunch Lifts Veil on World’s Biggest Plane — a Giant Bet on a New Way to Space (Source: GeekWire)
“It’s jaw-dropping when you walk into that hangar,” said Chuck Beames, Stratolaunch’s executive director and president of Vulcan Aerospace, during a rare tour last week. The plane’s wing, taking shape inside a 103,000-square-foot hangar at the Mojave Air and Space Port, stands three stories off the ground and measures 385 feet from tip to tip.

It doesn’t take long for the numbers – and the view – to boggle the mind. But there’s another side to the Stratolaunch saga: What’s Paul Allen up to? Stratolaunch is designed to serve as a flying platform for sending satellites into orbit, but who will provide the air-launched rockets? What niche will Stratolaunch fill alongside SpaceX, ULA, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic and other space companies?

Beames said Stratolaunch’s plane could launch multiple satellites, and even multiple rockets, during a single flight. “You could go launch, go launch, go launch, turn around and fly home,” he said. When the project was announced, Stratolaunch said the plane would start flight tests in 2015 and start launching rockets in 2016. Today, Beames shies away from giving a schedule, other than to say that Allen wants to have Stratolaunch sending payloads to orbit by the end of the decade. Click here. (6/19)

Stratolaunch Seeks Multiple Launch Partners as Aircraft Nears Completion (Source: Space News)
As work on its giant aircraft nears completion, Stratolaunch Systems is still working to line up partners to provide launch vehicles to serve the growing small satellite market. Stratolaunch is still working with a number of unnamed companies on launch vehicles that would be flown from the plane, with plans to eventually work with multiple providers. Editor's Note: The huge air-launch system has been baselined for operations at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. (6/20)

Australian Group May Buy Sea Launch for Darwin-Based Operations (Source: Tass)
Russia is reportedly in talks with an unidentified Australian entity regarding Sea Launch. Roscosmos head Igor Komarov said Saturday he has had talks with various investors, including from Australia, about purchasing the commercial launch company. Officials in the government of Australia's Northern Territory said last week they have talked with an unnamed investor who is interested in buying Sea Launch and moving its assets, including a launch pad and command ship, to the territory's capital city of Darwin. (6/20)

Russia and China Moving Toward Putting RD-180 Engines on Chinese Rockets (Source: Tass)
Russia says a pending agreement will allow China to purchase RD-180 engines. Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit China later this month and, among other activities, sign an agreement to protect space-related intellectual property. That agreement, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said, would allow Russia to conclude a deal to sell RD-180s to China. It's unclear how China, which is developing a new generation of rocket engines, would use the RD-180 on its vehicles. (6/20)

Canada Will Hire Two New Astronauts (Source: CBC)
If you've ever dreamed of riding spaceships, floating weightless in space, and viewing the Earth from orbit, here's your chance. The federal government is about to hire two new astronauts, the minister of innovation, science and economic development has announced. The agency says it is looking for candidates with "an academic background in science or technology, excellent health, and a wide range of outstanding qualities and skills." (6/17)

A Burial Plot for the ISS (Source: LaunchSpace)
If the ISS were abandoned and left to naturally de-orbit, the 1,000,000 pound spacecraft would eventually reenter the atmosphere, break up and scatter hundreds of pieces of debris with masses ranging from a few pounds to 100,000 pounds possibly into any of the many highly populated regions of the Earth. Thus, a controlled de-orbit is a matter of international public safety.

The specific area is well-known as the "Spacecraft Cemetery." This area, about 2,400 miles southeast of Wellington, New Zealand, is the final resting place for many decommissioned satellites, including the Mir Space Station and many trash-filled Progress Cargo Modules.

There are no islands in the area of the "cemetery," and the nearest shores are thousands of miles away. This, combined with the fact that ship traffic is light in this region, make it an ideal place for spacecraft to plunge back to Earth. In fact, the cemetery is near Point Nemo, the location which is furthest from any land mass, at 48.4 degrees south latitude and 123.4 degrees west longitude. The nearest land is 1,600 miles south - Antarctica. (6/20)

Using The Stratosphere As Testing Ground For Space (Source: Aviation Week)
They don’t produce attention-getting fire and smoke like rockets, but high-altitude helium balloons are undergoing a quiet renaissance as scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs use them for relatively low-cost access to the doorstep of space.

As low Earth orbit (LEO) plays host to a new generation of spacecraft, from student-built cubesats to the sophisticated human outposts fielded by China and the International Space Station (ISS) partnership, balloons afford trips to an environment that is essentially space with gravity.

The stratosphere is high enough to generate valuable scientific observations and to evaluate candidate hardware for spaceflight under relatively realistic conditions, without the expense and launch loads of actually going to space. Click here. (6/15)

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