January 28, 2017

Model of Giant SLS Rocket Gets Wind Tunnel-Tested by NASA Langley (Source: Daily Press)
Late next year, the most powerful rocket ever built is set to launch from U.S. soil, boosting an unmanned space capsule farther than humans have gone since the Apollo program — off to circle the moon and back home again. But before that super-rocket — called the Space Launch System, or SLS — can attempt that milestone, it must first pass muster with NASA.

So for the past several months, scientists and engineers from NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton have been putting a 10-foot model of the 364-foot SLS through its paces in the Transonic Dynamics Tunnel, a NASA wind tunnel located at Langley Air Force Base. The slim, silver rocket model has been pitched and rolled, blasted with chilly refrigerant at speeds up to 900 miles an hour, all to mimic the extreme shuddering and buffeting the real thing will endure as it breaknecks up through the atmosphere. (1/28)

Japanese Cargo Craft Departs Space Station (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Japan’s sixth HTV supply ship departed the International Space Station on Friday and headed for a destructive re-entry over the South Pacific with trash and disused batteries from the research lab, but engineers will first use the spacecraft for a pioneering experiment to investigate a new way to remove space junk from orbit. The 30-foot-long (9-meter) spaceship will stay in orbit until Feb. 5 conducting an experiment that could lay the foundation for a mechanism to remove space junk from orbit.

The spaceship will unreel a nearly half-mile-long (700-meter) tether, made of strands of thin aluminum and stainless steel wire, once at a safe distance from the space station, and scientists will monitor the device’s deployment and behavior for about seven days.

Space debris experts say electrodynamic tethers like the one carried on Kounotori 6, which has a thin coating of lubricant to encourage electric conductivity, could offer a way to de-orbit derelict rocket stages and aging satellites without expending precious propellants. (1/28)

German-Built Spanish Satellite Launched on Russian Rocket from French Guiana for South American Services (Source: DW)
The first telecommunications satellite developed in Germany in over 25 years reached geostationary orbit 36,000 kilometers (21,500 miles) above Earth on Friday night. A Russian-built Soyuz-2 ST-B rocket launched from the Guiana Space Center in French Guiana at 10:03 p.m. local time, carrying into orbit the Hispasat 36W-1 satellite. The Spanish satellite will supply South America and Europe, including the Canary Islands, with a wide range of telecommunications services such as improved bandwidth for multimedia. (1/28)

UK Spaceport Plans Delayed by Brexit (Source: BBC)
Plans for legislation to enable the development of the UK's first commercial spaceports have been delayed by Brexit, BBC Scotland understands. The UK government announced in the Queen's Speech in May last year that it would bring forward a bill. Two Scottish sites have announced plans to bid for the spaceport licences - Prestwick airport and Machrihanish. However, the government said there was currently no timetable for the introduction of the bill. (1/27)

Missile Defense Agency Considers More Launches at Alaska Spaceport (Source: KTOO)
Kodiak residents could see military missiles launch from Narrow Cape at an unprecedented rate, starting as early as late summer, according to an article published Wednesday, Jan. 25, in the trade publication Inside Defense. Kodiak Island has not seen a missile launch attempt since an Army rocket exploded on liftoff in 2014.

On Jan. 13, the Missile Defense Agency published a proposed Environmental Impact Statement with a finding that no significant impacts are expected from as many as two flight tests per year for the next decade of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, missile. (1/27)

SpaceX Adds a Big New Lab to its Satellite Development Operation in Seattle Area (Source: GeekWire)
SpaceX has taken on a 40,625-square-foot facility in Redmond, Wash., that will become a research and development lab for its ambitious satellite operation. The warehouse-style space in the Redmond Ridge Corporate Center, owned by M&T Partners, is slated for a $2.1 million interior remodeling job, according to a permit application filed last month with King County. SpaceX is already using a 30,000-square-foot office building that’s about a 10-minute drive away in Redmond.

Setting up the lab, and hiring the engineers who will work there, marks a significant ramp-up for SpaceX’s presence in the Seattle area’s Eastside region. The California-based company’s billionaire founder, Elon Musk, established the Redmond operation in 2015 to develop satellites that would provide global internet access. (1/27)

Technical Troubles Likely to Delay Commercial Crew Flights Until 2019 (Source: Ars Technica)
This week Boeing made a public splash by debuting a new blue spacesuit for astronauts to wear aboard its Starliner spacecraft. What the company did not dwell on as it rolled out “Boeing Blue,” however, was when the lighter, more modern-looking flight suits might be put into action with crewed flights into orbit.

That is because much work remains to integrate all of Starliner’s various systems, including qualifying them for flight, ensuring their compatibility, and writing and testing software that will make for smooth flying. And Boeing is not alone; its “commercial crew” competitor SpaceX also faces similar technical hurdles with the Dragon V2 spacecraft and the Falcon 9 rocket that will launch it into space.

Boeing has set a “no earlier than” date of August 2018 for its first crewed test flight, and SpaceX has targeted May 2018. But those dates seem optimistic. Ars spoke to a handful of sources familiar with the commercial crew program this week, and all expressed pessimism about the public timelines the companies have for reaching the launch pad. According to this unofficial analysis, even a single crewed test flight in 2018 by either company now appears unlikely, as teams from both Boeing and SpaceX continue to work through significant technical issues. (1/27)

Are China and the US Set for a Showdown in Space? (Source: The Diplomat)
China’s space program is clearly of interest to U.S. policymakers and strategists. Academics have invested significant effort in researching China’s civil and military capabilities as well as its space goals. Much of this analysis mirrors the U.S. understanding of space as fitting into categories of espionage, military use, and scientific exploration.

Analysis which starts from China’s own conceptual framework is less developed, and Chinese views on space resources are particularly under-studied. Space resources deserve to be studied because of the potentially vast economic value and potential to cause inter-state conflict. China’s conceptual framework is important because China conceptualizes space activity principally within the context of economic development, which has important implications for space resources and property. Click here. (1/28)

This Space Radio Could Change How Flights Are Tracked Worldwide (Source: NASA)
Under a new space-based tracking system, no plane would ever have to be off the grid, thanks in part to a reconfigurable radio developed for NASA. NASA’s powerful radio communications network allows us to receive data such as pictures of cryovolcanoes on Pluto — or tweets from astronauts aboard the International Space Station. But to send larger quantities of data back and forth faster, NASA engineers wanted higher-frequency radios that can be reprogrammed from a distance using software updates. (1/27)

Could Scotland Really Have a Spaceport? (Source: BBC)
Two Scottish sites are fighting hard to be the UK's first designated spaceport but is the idea pie in the sky or will there actually be lift-off? Prestwick Airport in South Ayrshire and Machrihanish, near Campbeltown on the Kintyre peninsula, have recently stepped up their attempts to move into the space age. They have been liaising with the UK government and the UK Space Agency over the possibility of licences being issued to break out of commercial airspace into orbit.
They are now waiting for the government to bring forward a bill setting out the requirements. (1/28)

How an International Treaty Signed 50 Years Ago Became the Backbone for Space Law (Source: The Verge)
Fifty years ago today, the United States, the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom opened a treaty for signature that would become the backbone for international space law. It was a United Nations-approved agreement called the Outer Space Treaty, and 104 nations have become parties to the document since it was signed and enacted in 1967. Since then, the treaty has helped ensure the peaceful exploration of space, as well as provide a lasting framework for how nations are supposed to behave in Earth orbit and beyond. Click here. (1/28)

How NASA Satellites Are Helping To Protect Endangered Chimpanzees (Source: Huffington Post)
“NASA satellite data helps us understand what it means to be a chimp by overlaying distribution of the habitat with the chimpanzee behavior and ranging data,” Lilian Pintea, vice president of conservation science at the Jane Goodall institute, said in a statement. Click here. (1/27)

A New NASA Mission Could Make Asteroid Mining a Reality in the Future (Source: Mashable)
In 2030, a robotic emissary launched from Earth seven years earlier will lay eyes on a metal world never seen from close range. That NASA spacecraft, known as Psyche, will carry with it a number of instruments designed to spy on the the metallic world called 16 Psyche as it circles the sun. Click here. (1/27)

Trump is the Sole Reliable Source of Truth, Says Chair of House Science Committee (Source: Vox)
On Monday, Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, who has previously praised Trump’s “stamina” and “conviction,” gave a floor speech in the House in which lauded the president, celebrating his many accomplishments. According to Smith, you may not be familiar with those accomplishments, because the media won’t tell you. “Better to get your news directly from the president,” Smith said. “In fact, it might be the only way to get the unvarnished truth.” (1/27)

Major Milestone for Scotland in Space Race (Source: Aberdeen Journal)
A major milestone in the race to site the UK’s first spaceport in Argyll has been reached. And the huge potential for the Highlands and Islands for the creation of commercially viable spaceports has been highlighted. Leading UK Space science and technology firms QinetiQ and Telespazio VEGA UK have agreed Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) to work with Discover Space UK on investigating the potential for a horizontal launch spaceport at Campbeltown.

Editor's Note: These UK "build it and they will come" spaceport initiatives should take a hard look at the multiple U.S. horizontal-launch spaceports that are going unused after substantial public investments. (1/27)

Could This Be What a Home on the Moon Looks Like? (Source: Architectural Digest)
With the threat of planetary extinction feeling more palpable by the day, alternative dwellings have experienced a rise in popularity. The latest? Digital design destination Eleven Magazine has announced the results of its Moontopia competition, an invitation for architects, designers, academics, and other visionaries to share their ideas, plans, and wildest fantasies about space architecture and self-sustained lunar living.

The winning design, Testlab, develops the notion of easily expandable living quarters to accommodate a growing moon population. The design’s amorphous pods, modeled after Russian nesting dolls, are meant to be easily 3-D printed as the colony expands. Runners-up include Momentum Virium, which focuses on preserving the natural state of the moon, and Modulpia, a series of dodecahedral structures that can be reproduced and reorganized over time. The designs do not focus solely on exteriors but also imagine the many ways in which the interiors could be arranged. Click here. (1/27)

Russian Rocket Builder May Have Replaced Special Alloys with Cheap Metals (Source: Ars Technica)
In recent years, the Russian space program has had a series of problems with its flagship rockets, the heavy-lift Proton booster and the smaller Soyuz rocket used to launch crews and cargo to the International Space Station. The Proton rocket has been grounded since last summer, and the Soyuz has not flown since December, when its third stage engine failed and a Progress cargo spacecraft was lost.

Most of these problems have been traced to engines that power the second and third stages of the Proton and Soyuz rockets. The majority of these engines are built at the Voronezh Manufacturing Plant in southwestern Russia, near the Ukrainian border. Russian Space Web reports that Ivan Koptev, director general of the engine manufacturing facility, has resigned.

According to the news reports, the final straw may have come after recent tests of engines to be used by future second and third stages of the Proton rocket that resulted in more failures. "The failure of the engine was reportedly traced to illegal replacement of precious heat-resistant alloys within the engine's components with less expensive but failure-prone materials," Zak writes. (1/26)

US General Accuses Russia of Covertly Building Anti-Satellite Laser Weapons (Source: Tass)
A senior US military official has accused Russia of covertly running various programs to enhance its anti-satellite capabilities, including designing laser weapons to use in space, the Department of Defense press service said. Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten, who heads the U.S. Strategic Command, accused Russia and China of building weapons in the low earth orbit and in the geosynchronous orbit, as well as systems to manage them from the ground. (1/27)

Space Junk Could Take Out a European Satellite This Week (Source: CNet)
A European Space Agency satellite risks colliding with a piece of space debris about 15 centimeters (a half-foot) long this week, forcing ESA's flight control to plan a rare evasive maneuver. A piece of an old Russian satellite called Cosmos-375 is forecast to miss Swarm-B, one of ESA's three Swarm satellites that measure Earth's magnetic fields, by just over the length of a football field. But the margin of error for that forecast is around 1,000 meters (3,280 feet or more like three football fields).

ESA has been working with data from the US armed forces' Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC), located at Vandenberg Air Force base in California, to plan a collision avoidance maneuver that would be uploaded to the satellite Wednesday. If the satellite is able to alter its orbit as planned, the piece of junk should pass 746 meters (2,448 feet) in front of Swarm-B and 56 meters (184 feet) below it. (1/24)

'Alien' Life Could Exist High in Earth's Atmosphere (Source: Space.com)
Life on Earth shows up in surprising places. It's been found in high-temperature vents deep undersea and high in the air. But we're still trying to learn more about these so-called "extremophiles." Researchers are now pondering how well can life reproduce in these environments. Also, could microbes of this type be found on other worlds?

In March, a group of University of Houston students — piggybacking on a payload with a prime mission to scope out auroras — will fly a high-altitude experiment from Alaska to see what microbes are in the high atmosphere, between 18 km and 50 km (11 miles and 31 miles) from the ground. The instrument, which looks almost like a small laundry hamper, pops open to collect what's in the atmosphere. Then, as the balloon descends, it shuts closed for researchers to analyze. (1/27)

Russian-Japanese Research Helps Understand the Effects of Microgravity on Bone Tissue (Source: Space Daily)
As is well-known, space flights bring with them a unique set of health hazards. That includes bone and muscle deterioration. Loss of bone density is currently one of the most serious problems for astronauts. It is similar in nature to osteoporosis, an ailment common for senior people. Understanding microgravity and its effects on living organisms can help find new clinical methods of coping with this issue.

Oleg Gusev explains, "Fishes are one of the test organisms that give an opportunity to outline space flight effects on one's health. Water stabilizes overloads and compensates microgravity. What we see in this research are the results of other factors, possibly space radiation or other sensitivities to gravity. Medaka fish also grows fast, so that's another benefit for the testing process. Their genome has been deciphered". (1/27)

Extraterrestrial Dust (Micrometeorites) Recovered From Rooftops (Source: Space Daily)
More than 100 billion micrometeorites (MMs) fall to Earth each year. Until now, scientists believed that these particles could only be found in the cleanest environments, such as the Antarctic. In their new paper for Geology, M.J. Genge and colleagues show that, contrary to that expectation, micrometeorites can be recovered from city rooftops (for this example, primarily in Norway) and that, unlike those from the Antarctic, they are the youngest collected to date.

This is not a new proposition. It has been a popular belief among amateur astronomers that such modern-day extraterrestrial dust can be collected on roofs in urban environments. Micrometeorites are thought to include materials derived from both asteroids and comets. Although some smaller dust particles survive atmospheric entry without significant heating, reports show that the majority of particles undergo melting during their passage through the atmosphere. (1/27)

Objective: To Deflect Asteroids, Thus Preventing Their Collision with Earth (Source: Space Daily)
An international project, led by Spain's National Research Council, (CSIC) provides information on the effects a projectile impact would have on an asteroid. The aim of the project is to work out how an asteroid might be deflected so as not to collide with the Earth. The research focuses on the study of the asteroid Chelyabinsk, which exploded over Russian skies in 2013 after passing through the atmosphere.

The probability that a kilometer-sized asteroid could have devastating consequences after impact with the Earth is statistically small. What is more frequent, and repeatedly discovered, is that objects a few tens of meters across reach the Earth's atmosphere.

The results of this study indicate that the composition, internal structure, density and other physical properties of the asteroid are "fundamental in determining the success of a mission in which a kinetic projectile would be launched to deflect the orbit of a dangerous asteroid." (1/27)

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