June 25, 2016

New Chinese Spaceport Prepares for First Launch (Source: Air & Space)
Sometime in the next few days (the launch window opens tomorrow), China’s Long March 7 rocket is expected to make its debut from the new Wenchang launch center on Hainan Island off the southern coast of China. Not only will Wenchang be the main site for launches to the next-generation Tiangong space station, it’s intended to be a destination for tourism, with a space theme park and a new Hilton hotel. (6/24)

China’s Powerful New Rocket Makes a Successful Debut Launch (Source: Ars Technica)
China's developing space program took another major step forward on Saturday with the launch of its Long March 7 rocket, a new class of booster capable of lifting up to 13.5 metric tons to low-Earth orbit (LEO). The primary payload of the flight was a dummy version of its next-generation crew capsule and some CubeSats.

The launch highlighted several key advances for the rapidly modernizing Chinese rocket program. It marked the first launch from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center, located on Hainan Island, the country's southernmost point.

This allows better access to geostationary orbit for Chinese satellites. The Long March 7 also operates with kerosene and liquid oxygen fuels, rather than more environmentally dangerous hypergolic fuels used to power earlier launchers that were based on 1970s technology. (6/25)

China to Launch Second Space Lab Tiangong-2 in September (Source: Xinhua)
China will send its second orbiting space lab Tiangong-2 into space in mid September, said a senior official with the country's manned space program on Saturday. The Shenzhou-11 manned spacecraft will be launched in mid October and its reentry module will return in November, said Wu Ping, deputy director of the manned space engineering office. (6/25)

China Plans Mega Rocket for Manned Lunar Missions (Source: Xinhua)
China is planning to start using a huge carrier rocket powerful enough for manned lunar missions before 2031. The new rocket will measure over a hundred meters in length and nearly 10 meters in diameter under the current design, according to a statement issued on Friday by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technologies (CALT), developer of the country's Long March rocket series.

It will have a maximum payload capacity more than five times as high as the current Long March series rockets, the CALT said, without offering specific figures. At present, the Chinese rocket capable of carrying most weight is the Long March-5, which is scheduled to debut in the latter half of this year. It is expected that the large thrust rocket, with a diameter of five meters, will boast a payload capacity of 25 tonnes to low Earth orbit (LEO), or 14 tonnes to geostationary transfer orbit. (6/24)

The Most Powerful Variant of the World’s Most Reliable Rocket Just Launched (Source: Ars Technica)
The Atlas V rocket is not the world's most powerful rocket, but it can credibly claim to be the most reliable. Before Friday morning, it had flown 62 times into space, completing its primary mission each time. That 100 percent mission success rate is unparalleled in the history of orbital rockets over so many flights. Accordingly, it's a source of pride for its manufacturer, United Launch Alliance. (6/25)

Will We Ever Be Able to Vacation in Space? (Seeker)
Space travel is only 55 years old, but soon tourists may be able to take a vacation among the stars. So how can you become a space tourist? How long will it be before vacation packages include a quick trip to the orbital spa? Maybe not so long. The concept of genuine space tourism is no longer science fiction -- in fact, several space tourists have already been up in orbit.

But it's an expensive proposition. The private space flight company Space Adventures, in collaboration with the Russian Space Agency, has flown seven tourists to the International Space Station since 2001. Tourists were taken along on regularly scheduled missions via the Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Each trip cost the customer between $20 million and $40 million and lasted around 10 days. (6/24)

SpaceX Rivals Said to Win EU Nod for Arianespace Rocket Deal (Source: Bloomberg)
Rocket maker Airbus Safran Launchers SAS is set to win European Union approval as soon as next month to take over launch-service provider Arianespace SA, countering the rising threat of Elon Musk’s SpaceX, according to two people familiar with the matter. The European Commission’s approval is conditional on strict separation between Airbus Group SE and ASL to ensure the businesses are run independently. (6/23)

Britain’s Quitting the EU, Will it Be Forced Out of EU Space Programs? (Source: Space News)
The British vote June 23 to leave the European Union is likely to occur gradually over two years, but it raises multiple immediate questions about the consequences for Europe’s space programs and Britain’s role in them. Click here. (6/24)

Branson Injects Cash Into Galactic Space Race (Source: Sky News)
Sir Richard Branson is to invest hundreds of millions of dollars more in his quest to build the world's first commercial space tourism venture. Sky News has learnt that Virgin Galactic is in the early stages of raising up to $300m from its existing shareholders, led by Sir Richard's Virgin Group. The latest injection of capital is aimed at accelerating the development of Galactic's commercial satellite venture and expanding production capacity at the company's headquarters. (6/24)

Atlas V Launches Navy Satellite at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
United Launch Alliance launched their Atlas V rocket with the fifth Mobile User Objective System (MUOS-5), the final spacecraft in a five-satellite communications system for the U.S. military. The launch took place on June 24 from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. This mission utilized the largest and most powerful version of the Atlas V, with a tall five meter fairing and five solid rocket boosters. (6/24)

Dutch Crops Grown on 'Mars' Soil Found Safe to Eat (Source: Phys.org)
Dutch scientists said Thursday crops of four vegetables and cereals grown on soil similar to that on Mars have been found safe to eat, amid plans for the first manned mission to the planet. Abundant harvests of radishes, peas, rye and tomatoes all grown on the soil were found to contain "no dangerous levels" of heavy metals, said the team from Wageningen University in the Netherlands. (6/23)

What Trump Or Clinton Would Mean For Aerospace And Defense (Source: Aviation Week)
Meanwhile, high-profile investment advisors are beginning to weigh in on which presidential candidate would be better for the aerospace and defense industries. So far, opinions are mixed—and sometimes all in the same person’s assessment.

Take John Linehan, a vice president at T. Rowe Price and the portfolio manager of the investment company’s $22 billion Equity Income Fund. Of Trump, Linehan says: “I’m not really sure whether he’s better for defense companies or not. On the one hand, he says he wants to bomb [Islamic State], but on the other hand he seems to be an isolationist. I’m not really clear whether he’d be good or bad for defense.” Click here. (6/24)

Aviation Subcommittee Dips Toe Back Into Commercial Space Issues (Source: Space Policy Online)
For the first time in 7 years, the Aviation Subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee held a hearing on commercial space transportation issues on Wednesday. Several Members were in attendance, some of whom acknowledged constituent interests in these issues, but there was no special focus other than getting an update from government and industry experts.

Congress assigned the Department of Transportation (DOT) the dual roles of both facilitating and regulating the commercial space launch industry in the 1984  Commercial Space Launch Act (CSLA), which has been amended several times, most recently in 2004.  All the legislation originated in the House Science, Space, and Technology (SS&T) Committee (and its predecessors), not T&I. The SS&T website clearly states that it has jurisdiction over “commercial space activities relating to the Department of Transportation…”

For the first 10 years, commercial space launch activities were handled in the Office of the Secretary of Transportation, but in 1995 it was delegated to the FAA (part of DOT). FAA thereupon created the Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST). Click here. (6/24)

Virgin Seeks More Investment for LauncherOne (Source: Sky News)
Virgin Galactic is reportedly looking to raise an additional $300 million. The company would use the funding to support development of its LauncherOne small satellite launch system and to allow increased production of the booster once it enters service. The company raised $280 million in 2009 by selling about one third of the company to Abu Dhabi-based Aabar. (6/23)

Fattah Resigns (Source: The Hill)
The former ranking member of the House appropriations committee that funds NASA and NOAA has resigned. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.) submitted a letter of resignation Thursday, effectively immediately, after earlier suggesting he would stay in Congress through September. Fattah was convicted earlier this week on 29 charges, including money laundering and fraud, and had lost a party primary for reelection in April. Prior to his indictment last year, he had been the top Democrat on the commerce, justice and science appropriations subcommittee, and supported a number of NASA programs. (6/23)

ISS Getting Another 3-D Printer (Source: GeekWire)
The International Space Station will be getting another 3-D printer. Firmamentum, a division of Tethers Unlimited, has won a $750,000 contract from NASA to develop a combination printer and plastic recycler that will be ready to go to the station next year. The printer will test how frequently plastic material used in the 3-D printer can be recycled and printed again. (6/23)

NASA Approves Five More Years for Hubble (Source: New Scientist)
Hubble will soon start seeing double. NASA has announced plans to extend operations of the famous space telescope for another five years, through to June 2021. That means it will still be on the job when its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) launches in 2018, giving astronomers a dual view of the universe.

NASA launched Hubble in 1990 and it has been operating well ever since, barring a few difficult repairs by space shuttle crews. The last in-flight servicing took place in 2009, and the retirement of the shuttle in 2011 has left NASA with no way of fixing Hubble, but it says the telescope is still going strong. “Hubble is expected to continue to provide valuable data into the 2020s, securing its place in history as an outstanding general-purpose observatory in areas ranging from our solar system to the distant universe,” said a NASA statement. (6/24)

NASA Cancels All Staff Travel to COSPAR Meeting in Istanbul (Source: Space Policy Online)
NASA is denying all travel for NASA employees and contractors to the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) conference to be held in Istanbul, Turkey beginning just five weeks from now. The reason: security. COSPAR President Lennard Fisk worries not only about the impact on COSPAR, but the messages NASA is sending about its commitment to leadership in space science and its resolve to not let terrorism be rewarded by changing what we do.

In a June 21 memo, Al Condes, NASA Associate Administrator for International and Interagency Relations, advised NASA employees and contractors, including the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), that "the Administrator has determined that the Agency will not sponsor or process travel for the 2016 COSPAR conference." Condes added that "As Administrator Bolden has consistently stated, the safety of our NASA family is paramount." (6/24)

No comments: