June 13, 2017

How to Keep Tabs on Atlantic Hurricanes (Source: The Economist)
America’s suite of hurricane sensors has grown since 1961. The current Atlantic hurricane season, which began on June 1st, sees the country running a stack of instruments that reach from orbit to a kilometer beneath the ocean. TIROS-3’s successors keep a constant watch on storms’ tracks and sizes. Gulfstream jets fly over and around storms, dropping sensors into them to measure wind speeds. Propeller-driven planes fly right into storms, measuring their properties with radar and its modern, laser-based cousin, lidar. Unmanned drones fly in even deeper. And floats, buoys and aquatic drones survey storms from below.

All of the data these machines gather are transmitted directly to computer models which are used to forecast two things. The first is what track a hurricane will follow, and thus whether, where and when it will make landfall. The second is how much energy it will dump on North America if it does indeed cross the coast—a value known as its intensity.

This season will be the first in which a constellation of microsatellites called CYGNSS (Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System) watches storms as they roll in towards the east coast. The eight-satellite swarm, which was launched in December, listens for radio signals that come from GPS satellites directly above it in space, and for the same signals when they have been reflected from the ocean’s surface beneath the hurricane being studied. Differences between the reflected signal and the original are a consequence of the state of that surface, and CYGNSS can use them to infer wind conditions there. (6/8)

Orbital ATK Plans Resumption of Antares ISS Missions Soon (Source: Space News)
Orbital ATK said Monday it plans to resume using its Antares rocket to launch Cygnus cargo spacecraft later this summer. The company said the next Cygnus launch will be on an Antares currently scheduled for September, but could take place as soon as late July depending on NASA's needs. The company had used Atlas 5 rockets for three of the last four Cygnus missions, but said it expects to use the Antares for the four remaining missions on its current NASA cargo contract and the six missions on a follow-on contract awarded last year. The improved performance of the upgraded Antares will allow those missions to carry more cargo. (6/13)

Weather, Range Issues Continue to Foil NASA Suborbital Launch at Virginia Spaceport (Source: DelMarVaNow)
A sounding rocket launch from Wallops was scrubbed again last night, this time because of weather. NASA said cloud conditions at two observing sites forced them to delay the launch until tonight. The Terrier-Improved Malemute will release particles in the upper atmopshere, creating artificial clouds visible along much of the Mid-Atlantic coast. Weather and range issues have postponed launch attempts for nearly two weeks. (6/13)

SpaceX Shift Back to LC-40 to Allow Heavy-Lift Upgrade at LC-39A (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
SpaceX hopes to resume launches from a Cape Canaveral launch pad later this summer. Space Launch Complex 40 was damaged last  September when a Falcon 9 exploded during preparations for a static fire test. Repairs to the pad are in progress, with Space Florida contributing $5 million to pay for upgrades that will allow for a higher launch rate. Once the repairs are complete, SpaceX will shift Falcon 9 launches back to the pad from Launch Complex 39A, allowing workers to complete work there needed to support the first Falcon Heavy launch later this year. (6/13)

Nammo Acquiring Moog Space Propulsion Unit (Source: Nammo)
Norwegian defense company Nammo is acquiring the European in-space propulsion business of Moog. Nammo said it is purchasing the U.K. and Ireland businesses of Moog for an undisclosed sum. Those units make liquid-fuel engines and related components for use on spacecraft. About 60 employees will join Nammo as a part of the deal. (6/13)

India Plans GSLV Engine Upgrade (Source: New Indian Express)
India plans to have a new rocket engine ready by 2021 to upgrade its GSLV rocket. The Indian space agency ISRO is developing an engine that uses kerosene and liquid oxygen propellants that would replace the existing liquid-fuel engine used on the core stage of the GSLV Mark III, further increasing its payload performance. The engine should be ready for tests by 2019, with a first flight planned for 2021. (6/13)

More Calls for an Australian Space Agency (The Australian)
Executives of two companies are urging the Australian government to do more to support the country's space sector. The CEO of Speedcast and founder of startup Fleet said the government should create a national space agency that could support space initiatives. They note that Australia is one of only two of the 35-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) members without a space agency, which they argue makes the country far less competitive in the global space industry than the United States or Europe. (6/13)

Russian Rockot Rocket Retirement Next Year (Source: Sputnik)
Khrunichev plans to retire the Rockot small launch vehicle after a final launch early next year. The company said the small rocket, a converted SS-19 ICBM, will launch the Sentinel-3B satellite for Europe's Copernicus Earth-observation program in the first quarter of 2018, after the launch in September of the Sentinel-5P satellite. The announcement came on the 20th anniversary of the government decree to convert the missiles into launch vehicles. (6/13)

Study Ongoing to Convert Centaur Into ISS Module (Source: NanoRacks)
NanoRacks has started work on a NASA study to examine converting a Centaur upper stage into a space station module. NanoRacks said Monday that it has formally signed the contract with NASA for the study, announced last summer as one of six awards in the latest phase of the agency's NextSTEP program. The NanoRacks concept, called Ixion, would involve refitting a Centaur upper stage left in orbit after a launch into a module that is docked to the ISS. NanoRacks' partners on Ixion include Space Systems Loral and United Launch Alliance. (6/13)

Cassini Makes Another Ring Dive at Saturn (Source: Space.com)
Cassini made its eighth dive into the gap between Saturn and its rings Saturday as the mission approaches its end. The spacecraft passed closer to the planet than in two previous orbits, which reduced the risk of a collision with particles from the ring. Cassini is in the "Grand Finale" phase of its mission that will conclude with a plunge into the planet itself in mid-September. (6/13)

Jupiter is Likely Older Than Other Planets in Our System (Source: New Scientist)
Jupiter is not only the biggest planet in the solar system, but also the oldest. A new study published Monday concluded that the core of the giant planet likely formed within the first million years of the solar system, based on the comparison of isotopic ratios in two classes of meteorites traced to asteroids that formed either inside or outside the orbit of the planet. The finding also supports one model of the formation of the solar system, called the "Grand Tack," where Jupiter formed first and drifted towards the sun until Saturn formed and pulled Jupiter back. (6/13)

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