June 18, 2017

Researchers Discover Shortcut to Satellite-Based Quantum Encryption Network (Source: Space Daily)
In a new study, researchers demonstrate ground-based measurements of quantum states sent by a laser aboard a satellite 38,000 kilometers above Earth. This is the first time that quantum states have been measured so carefully from so far away. "We were quite surprised by how well the quantum states survived traveling through the atmospheric turbulence to a ground station," said Christoph Marquardt from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light, Germany. (6/16)

Russian Institute to Start Long-Haul Mars Mission Simulations in November (Source: Sputnik)
The first among a series of psychological experiments designed to look into problems that might arise in a mixed crew on its way to Mars will start in November at the Institute of Biomedical Problems (IBMP) of the Russian Academy of Science, a statement released by the Institute said Thursday.

"The IBMP will conduct the SIRIUS (Scientific International Research In Unique Terrestrial Station) project, which will include modeling conditions of long-term interplanetary flight of a mixed crew in completely autonomous conditions ... Within the project, a series of experiments with duration from 14 days to a year is set to be conducted. The first 14-day long experiment is planned to be carried out in November 2017," the statement reads.

The experiment should demonstrate how a crew of six people from different countries, including two women, would interact among themselves while being almost completely stripped of contact with the Earth. Leadership dynamics, inter-gender interaction, personal space issues, biochemistry and immune system issues are to be studied during the test. (6/16)

GSLV MK III Lifts Less Luggage Than Lighter Rockets (Source: NDTV)
The "Baahubali" or "fat boy" of Indian rockets -- GSLV Mk III -- weighs several tonnes more than some of the other expendable rockets in the world but its carrying capacity is far less, say experts. The rocket powered by its own cryogenic engine at the upper stage, placed communication satellite GSAT-19 weighing 3,136 kg or 3.1 tonne.

"The GSLV Mk III rocket weighs 640 tonne with a capacity to carry four tonne satellite. But when one compares the ratio of the GSLV Mk III's weight to its carrying capacity to geo transfer orbit (GTO - where communication satellites will be placed) with rockets of other countries, the former ranks low," an industry expert told IANS on the condition of anonymity.

For instance, Japan's H-IIB rocket weighs 531 tonne but can place an eight tonne rocket in GTO. Similarly, Soyuz, Russia (312 tonne, payload to GTO 3.2 tonne); Falcon, USA (549 tonne, payload to GTO 8.3 tonne) and Proton, Russia (693 tonne, payload to GTO 6.3 tonne); Long March, China (weight 879 tonne, payload to GTO 14 tonne) and Ariane 5, Europe (777 tonne, payload 10.9 tonne). (6/17)

ARCA to Perform First Flight of Aerospike Engine at Spaceport America (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
ARCA Space Corporation has announced the first test-launch of its Demonstrator 3 space vehicle at Spaceport America in August. This will mark the first space flight of an aerospike rocket engine. Aerospike rocket engines are described as significantly more fuel efficient than the current engines and could make launches attempting to bring satellite payloads to space more affordable.

Demonstrator 3 will perform a suborbital space flight up to an altitude of 100 kilometers above the New Mexico desert. In March, ARCA introduced the Haas 2CA, a single-stage-to-orbit rocket equipped with the Executor Aerospike linear rocket engine. The rocket was developed in ARCA’s Las Cruces facility. (6/16)

Air Force Rethinks Military Space Plan After Bezos Rocket Component Blows Up (Source: Forbes)
The U.S. probably depends on satellites more than any other country. Without a GPS constellation to tell us where we are, orbital sensors that make weather forecasts possible, communications satellites linking us to distant locations, and early warning spacecraft capable of detecting aggression quickly, America would be in a world of hurt. Many of the overhead systems that deliver these benefits are operated by the Air Force, the lead service for military space missions.

But if the Air Force sticks with its current plan to rely on "commercial" providers for future launch services, it will soon be testing the outer limits of what market forces can really deliver.

The risk has become more apparent over the last couple of years as both Musk's and Bezos' firms suffered major setbacks due to what appear to be design problems in their technology. SpaceX lost one payload shortly after launch, another while it was being tested on the ground. Both events were catastrophic. More recently, Blue Origin saw a major component on its new BE-4 rocket engine called a powerpack blow up on the test stand. (6/16)

Why Aren't The Van Allen Belts A Barrier To Spaceflight? (Source: Forbes)
Objects which encounter our atmosphere from space are generally travelling much faster than any winds we’d encounter during a storm here on Earth (thank goodness), and so the air resistance they hit is significant; the atmosphere, if hit directly, is almost as solid a barrier as encountering rock. Crew-carrying spacecraft will never plunge straight down into the atmosphere, but encounter it at a shallow angle, which allows the craft to encounter the atmosphere’s resistance less abruptly.

The Van Allen belts, on the other hand, are not actually part of our atmosphere. They’re well beyond it, extending hundreds of miles outwards into space. There are two, both donut-shaped rings surrounding our planet, and are a consequence of our planet’s magnetic field.

The innermost Van Allen belt sits somewhere between 400 to 6,000 miles above the surface of our planet. Even if the innermost belt is at its closest, the ISS (and the space shuttle in its day) are more than 100 miles away from the Van Allen Belts. For near-Earth missions, the Van Allen belts are not a hazard to spacefarers. (6/16)

Air Force Leader Warns Contractors About Proposing Proprietary Space Systems (Source: National Defense)
Companies whose proprietary space-related technologies can’t plug into open system command-and-control architectures will not be able to win Defense Department contracts in the future, Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson said June 16.

Threats to U.S. military space systems are growing and space is now viewed as a warfighting domain, she said at a conference in Washington, D.C., which was hosted by FiscalTrak and the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies. In this strategic environment, command and control is a top priority.

“A lot of our space systems … were kind of one-offs or single constellations, and they had unique ground control and they weren’t integrated as part of the system,” she said. “In a very fast moving, dynamic environment you need to be able to have integrated command and control and not 12 or 13 independent systems with different people operating them.” (6/16)

Strange Acts in Senate to Protect Alabama Rocket Jobs (Source: Huntsville Times)
Freshman Alabama U.S. Sen. Luther Strange is winning praise for getting up to speed quickly on an Alabama priority and helping a Huntsville-area rocket manufacturer assure its supply of Russian engines. ULA President and CEO Tory Bruno praised Strange Friday for taking "strong action to protect Alabama jobs" by co-sponsoring an amendment to keep the Russian RD-180 engines coming.

ULA assembles rockets in Decatur that lift government and commercial satellites into orbit. "Without this amendment, ULA would not have had the ability to launch crucial science missions that both NOAA and NASA are depending on for their research," Bruno said.

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) introduced the amendment to a bill that would sanction Iran and Russia for Middle East actions the United States considers destabilizing. One company facing the sanctions,  NPO Energomash, supplies the RD-180 engine that powers ULA's Atlas 5 rocket and the RD-181 that lifts Orbital ATK's Antares rocket. (6/16)

Amendment May Keep Iran-Russia Sanctions Bill from Stopping ISS Launches from Wallops (Source: Daily Press)
An Iran-Russia sanctions bill threatened to torpedo Orbital ATK's commercial resupply missions for NASA from Virginia to the International Space Station until an amendment cleared the U.S. Senate Thursday to remove the bill's unintended consequences to civilian agencies.

The original bill would have sanctioned organizations that work with the Russian defense industry. Orbital, for instance, buys the first-stage engines for its Antares 230 rocket from the Russian manufacturer NPO Energomash, which also supplies engines for Russian military launches. "The fact is," Warner said from the Senate floor, "without this amendment, Orbital would be prevented from buying the Russian RD-181 engines for its rockets.

And that would do nothing to help America's space mission. The fact is, without those engines, Orbital would not be able to fulfill a $1.2 billion contract for launching from Wallops." In fact, Orbital is still in the midst of fulfilling its first $1.9 billion resupply contract with NASA, with four more missions due under that. (6/16)

Aldrin on Battling Depression, Alcoholism, and Why Mars is the Next Frontier (Source: The Telegraph)
Buzz, at 87, was still sprightly and pugnacious, white-haired with a scrubby beard, his skin stretched tautly across a sharp V of cheekbones. He wore a ‘Future Martian’ T-shirt, two Omega watches (neither of them the one he wore to the moon), along with a dozen bangles and charm bracelets.

Buzz was in the UK with his girlfriend, Michelle Sucillon, who’s not only very beautiful (and 30 years younger than him), but who treated him with touching solicitude. ‘You’ve got a long time with Alex,’ she said chidingly as she left us together. ‘But that doesn’t mean you can give him those rambling answers of yours.’

Buzz’s story is a salient and a sad one. In the days before we met, I read everything he’d written about his long life – the early memoir Return to Earth, then the more recent Magnificent Desolation and the upbeat No Dream Is Too High: Life Lessons From a Man Who Walked on the Moon. Click here. (6/16)

How Utah Is Contributing To Safer Space Travel (Source: UPR)
Utah facilities continue to play a role in creating components of Orion spacecraft’s launch abort system. Orbital ATK is producing the abort motor at its facility in Magna, and the composite case for the motor at its Clearfield facility. (6/16)

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