September 24, 2016

Harris-Built Aireon System Targets 2018 Space-Based Air Traffic Surveillance (Source: Runway Girl)
Aireon still expects to begin offering space-based ADS-B air traffic management surveillance data feeds to all its air navigation service provider (ANSP) customers on or near its previously planned February 2018 service-launch date.

SpaceX is booked to launch from Vandenberg AFB in California the 66 Iridium NEXT low-earth orbit satellites that will carry Aireon’s space-based ADS-B receiver payloads. Aireon CEO Don Thoma concedes the service-launch target depends on whether SpaceX can resume orbital-payload launches soon following the 1 September explosion of a Falcon 9X launcher. (9/23)

SpaceX: Analysis Points to Cryo Helium Breach in Explosion (Source: LA Times)
Early analysis of debris and data from SpaceX’s launch pad explosion suggests that a “large breach” took place in the cryogenic helium system of the rocket’s second-stage liquid oxygen tank, the space company said. The company said it still has not determined the root of the incident and that all “plausible causes” are being investigated.

“We will work to resume our manifest as quickly as responsible once the cause of the anomaly has been identified by the Accident Investigation Team,” SpaceX said in a statement on its website. “Pending the results of the investigation, we anticipate returning to flight as early as the November timeframe.”

SpaceX said it has ruled out any connection between the explosion three weeks ago and the June 2015 disintegration of a rocket laden with supplies for the International Space Station, an incident that was blamed on a failed strut assembly in the Falcon 9’s second stage that was holding down a helium tank. (9/23)

New Mexico's Solar Telescope Gets Funding (Source: KUNM)
More than $1 million from the National Science Foundation will help support efforts to transition the operation of New Mexico's solar telescope to a consortium led by New Mexico State University. Members of New Mexico's congressional delegation announced the funding Thursday.

The Richard B. Dunn Solar Telescope specializes in high resolution imaging and spectroscopy used by astronomers for a better understanding of the sun and how space weather affects the planet. The National Solar Observatory currently operates the telescope. It expects to open a new telescope by 2018 in Hawaii. This opened the door for the consortium to take over and keep the New Mexico scope open. (9/23)

Are Cubesats a Nuisance to Space Situational Awareness? (Source: Space News)
Small satellites and cubesats should not be viewed as a major contributor to congestion or in creating space debris in low earth orbit, at least based on recent history, a panel of experts here said Sept. 23. “We need to change our attitude about cubesats. They are not a nuisance,” said Bhavya Lal. “[They are] a very important part of our satellite ecosystem.”

Lal said all but one cubesat has been tracked by the Air Force, which issues collision warning messages. Because of that tracking, the Air Force has been able to ensure cubesats do not crash into other satellites and create unwanted debris. Air Force data show cubesats have forced other satellites to maneuver and avoid a collision three times this year, twice in 2015 and three times in 2014. For perspective, U.S. Strategic Command has said all operators performed a total 121 maneuvers in 2014 to avoid potential collisions.

The panel marked one of the first large-scale discussions between two pockets of the space community that often have little overlap: the space situational awareness crowd and the small satellite proponents. Cubesats have been derisively – and commonly – referred to as “debris sats” by some operators in the space community. Those operators view cubesats as a danger because many of them are so small they do not have propulsion systems and depend on atmospheric drag to pull them toward re-entry within 25 years, which is the government standard. (9/23)

Sea Launch Could Be Coming Back (Source: Parabolic Arc)
It looks as if the moribound Sea Launch company could have a new lease on life. Majority owner Energia has scheduled a press conference with the S7 Group on Tuesday during the International Astronautical Conference in Guadalajara, Mexico. The invitation promises a major announcement about the future of the long troubled venture. S7 is reported to be a Russian airline company with 66 aircraft total that is based out of Novosibirsk, Russia. (9/24)

Commercial Space Bill Will Benefit Mojave Spaceport (Source: Space News)
Commercial flights into space took a small step forward and large leap with the advancement of a piece of legislation in the House of Representatives Wednesday night. House Resolution 6007, sponsored by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, passed unanimously before the House. The law would give the Secretary of Transportation authority to conduct aeronautical studies at spaceports like Mojave, thus allowing the FAA to study the potential impact of structures on spacecraft arriving or departing from a licensed launch site.

The bill required rulemaking to implement this requirement within 18 months of enactment. According to McCarthy’s office, most spaceports are located at existing airports like Mojave, which is classified as a general aviation airport. Because of this, the FAA is limited to guidelines prescribed “for studying potential structural obstructions to general aviation airports and aircraft, and is unable to take into account the unique trajectories of suborbital vehicles.”

“Similar to airports, for our spaceports to function we need to prioritize safety and minimize the risk of structures interfering with the flight path of spacecraft on launch or reentry,” McCarthy said from the House floor. The legislation I introduced that we are voting on today gives the FAA the authority they now lack to examine whether structures being built near spaceports will obstruct spaceflight. With this, those leading our journey into space can remain confident that nothing back on earth will be slowing them down.” (9/23)

Daily Alert for Asteroid Flybys (Source: Sky & Telescope)
Asteroids buzz Earth all the time. Most you never hear about. But for those folks itching with curiosity — or who want a level-headed take on whatever object has blazed its way into the news — the Minor Planet Center’s new initiative is for you.

It’s called the Daily Minor Planet. (No, it’s not staffed by mini versions of Clark Kent.) The Daily Minor Planet is an alert service that sends an e-mail once a day to your inbox with information about any passing near-Earth objects. It includes the object’s name, time of closest approach (in Universal Time), speed, size, distance (compared with the Moon), and an orbit diagram. Click here. (9/22)

China Sends Vines Into Space in Quest for Perfect Wine (Source: Guardian)
In its bid to produce a world-beating wine, China has looked to the lush foothills of the Tibetan plateau, the sun-scorched Gobi desert, and the rocky slopes of Ningxia province. Now, Chinese vintners have a new destination in their sights: outer space. When China’s newest space lab, Tiangong-2, blasted off last week its cargo reportedly included a selection of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and pinot noir vines. (9/21)

It’s Official: We’re Going to Mars (Source: Futurism)
It looks like Republican and Democratic senators alike are keen on safeguarding America’s space programs. With the potential chaos of a new president on the horizon, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation passed a bipartisan bill giving NASA $19.5 billion to continue working on a mission to Mars. It also includes support for the continuation of the program to send astronauts on private rockets to the International Space Station (ISS) from American soil no later than 2018. (9/23)

NASA Seeks Concepts for Asteroid Redirection (Source: Federal Times)
NASA is soliciting concept studies for potential robotic and crewed missions to explore and redirect asteroids. In a broad agency announcement titled “Asteroid Redirect Mission Umbrella for Partnerships,” NASA covered all aspects of applied research and technology collaborations for the mission, including investigation teams and studies to help determine potential mission payloads and experimentation opportunities.

These missions are intended to provide proving grounds for further deep space human exploration. Scientists, engineers, technologists, and other qualified and interested individuals are invited to apply for the teams investigating science, planetary defense, asteroidal resources and others discovered during exploration (in-situ resource utilization).

The investigation teams will work with NASA and Jet Propulsion Laboratory management and technical personnel to plan craft and crew requirements to rendezvous with, capture, explore and transfer asteroid materials. The teams are open to U.S. government agencies, NASA, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, U.S. national laboratories, federally funded research and development centers, non-government U.S. institutions (companies, universities, nonprofit organizations), and international organizations, as long as proposals comply with NASA policies regarding research with non-U.S. organizations. (9/23)

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