July 4, 2017

North Korea Says It Has Successfully Tested an ICBM (Source: New York Times)
North Korea said on Tuesday that it had successfully conducted its first test of an intercontinental ballistic missile, claiming a milestone in its efforts to build nuclear weapons capable of hitting the mainland United States.

The announcement came hours after a launch that the United States military said sent the missile aloft for 37 minutes. That duration, analysts said, suggested a significant improvement in the range of the North’s missiles, and it might allow one to travel as far as 4,000 miles and hit Alaska.

In an initial statement, the United States Pacific Command described the weapon as an intermediate-range missile rather than an intercontinental ballistic missile. But South Korean and Japanese officials said they were studying the data to determine if it was an ICBM. (7/3)

China's Launch Failure Provides Opportunity to India (Source: ABC)
With two mishaps coming so close together, Chinese space officials may decide to take a pause to re-evaluate manufacturing quality or other aspects of the program, said Stephen Clark of Spaceflight Now. That may include launching another Long March 5 test flight before attempting the Chang'e 5 mission, Clark said.

Both Clark and Joan Johnson-Freese said they hope the failure doesn't deter Chinese officials in their pursuit of greater transparency and international participation in the country's space program. Rivals, primarily India, may see the setback as an opportunity to steal a march on China, whose geostrategic influence has benefited significantly from its role as a technology leader in space, said Johnson-Freese.

India's Mars Orbiter Mission, called Mangalyaan, is already orbiting the red planet, years before China is ready to launch such a mission, and it won acclaim and a place in the record books earlier this year by placing 104 nano satellites in orbit from a single rocket. "The failure of the Long March 5 may provide a window of opportunity for India," said Johnson-Freese. (7/3)

SpaceX Acquires 2 More Acres at Port Canaveral (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Last week, the Canaveral Port Authority authorized the leasing and development of an additional 2.17 acres (8,780 square meters) to expand SpaceX’s current property along State Road 401 and Payne Way. The company currently has property through a long-term lease option in Port Canaveral. This new property, which lies adjacent to the first, will allow for the construction of a large hangar for booster processing and refurbishment strategically located near the launch facilities. (7/4)

SpaceX Explains Why it Lost an Air Force Space Bid to ULA (Source:  Business Journals)
Details of the bids are kept confidential, but Elon Musk’s company said in an email Monday that the Air Force STP-3 mission's performance requirements led SpaceX to propose using a Falcon Heavy rocket, a large launch vehicle that SpaceX not yet test flown. As a result, ULA’s winning bid was to launch the Air Force’s mission on an Altas V rocket at a cost of $191 million.

“We did submit a bid, but with the knowledge that our first Falcon Heavy flight might occur after the time of the award,” said John Taylor, spokesman for Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX. “Given we have not flown Falcon Heavy, we did not anticipate winning this mission.” The STP-3 mission is slated to launch atop one of ULA’s Atlas V rockets from Cape Canaveral, Florida, between late June and August of 2019. (7/3)

Europe's Galileo Satnav Identifies Problems Behind Failing Clocks (Source: Space Daily)
Investigators have uncovered the problems behind the failure of atomic clocks onboard satellites belonging to the beleaguered Galileo satnav system, the European Commission said Monday. For months, the European Space Agency -- which runs the program -- has been investigating the reasons behind failing clocks onboard some of the 18 navigation satellites it has launched for Galileo, Europe's alternative to America's GPS system.

Each Galileo satellite has four ultra-accurate atomic timekeepers, two that use rubidium and two hydrogen maser. But a satellite needs just one working clock for the satnav to work -- the rest are spares. Three rubidium and six hydrogen maser clocks were not working, with one satellite sporting two failed timekeepers. "The main causes of the malfunctions have been identified and measures have been put in place to reduce the possibility of further malfunctions of the satellites already in space," commission spokeswoman Lucia Caudet said. (7/4)

Satellite Image Project That Helps Spot and Stop Slavery Sites From Space (Source: Space Daily)
A crowdsourcing project at the University of Nottingham, England which aims to - via satellite imagery - identify notorious sites that could be involved in modern slavery globally, has attracted a number of online volunteers. "Slavery is at the root of much of the natural world's destruction."

This is an extract taken from the book, Blood and Earth, by Professor Kevin Bales, author and lead of the Contemporary Slavery Department at Nottingham University, UK. Professor Bales is leading a project, that aims to identify South Asian brick kilns - frequently the site of forced labor - in satellite images. (6/28)

What Does China's Launch Failure Mean for the Country's Space Plans? (Source: The Verge)
the launch of a Chinese communications satellite ended in failure when the rocket carrying the probe somehow malfunctioned during flight. It’s a significant loss for China since the vehicle that failed — the Long March 5 — is the country’s premier heavy-lift rocket. And its failure could have a significant impact on the future of China’s ambitions in space.

It’s still unclear exactly what happened. Shortly after the flight, China’s official press agency, Xinhua, simply reported that “an anomaly occurred” during launch and that there would be an investigation into the problem. But some clues seem to indicate the issue may have started in the main core of the rocket. A plume of gas was seen around the main engines of the vehicle about six minutes into flight.

China has big plans for this vehicle: the Long March 5 is one of the most powerful rockets in the world, nearly matching the capability of the US’s Delta-IV Heavy. The next flight of the Long March 5 is meant to go to the Moon, sending two modules to the lunar surface — one to collect samples and another to return those samples to Earth. This mission was tentatively scheduled for November of this year, but yesterday’s failure makes that timeline uncertain. (7/3)

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