Ceres’ bright spots significantly younger than crater they inhabit – SpaceFlight Insider

Laurel Kornfeld

March 9th, 2017

The bright spots of Occator Crater are shown in enhanced color in this view from NASAs Dawn spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/PSI/LPI

Researchers who studied images of Ceres Occator Crater captured by the Dawn spacecrafts scientific imaging system have determined that its bright spots, composed largely of carbonate salts, are significantly younger than the crater in which they sit.

The bright spots are also evidence that Ceres has experienced cryovolcanic outbursts over long periods of time, making Ceres the closest world to the Sun to have experienced cryovolcanism.

A science team at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS), which operates Dawns imaging instruments, analyzed images taken by the spacecraft between December 2015 and September 2016, the time period when it orbited just 233 miles (375 kilometers) above the dwarf planets surface.

Occator Crater, home of Ceres intriguing brightest areas, is prominently featured in this image from NASAs Dawn spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

At that close orbit, Dawns cameras were able to capture images with a resolution of just 115 feet (35 meters) per pixel. Detailed photos of Occator Crater, first observed when Dawn entered Ceres orbit in March 2015, show complex geological structures such as fractures, avalanches, and smaller craters within the large one.

Led by Andreas Nathues, Dawn Framing Camera lead investigator, researchers also studied measurements of the area taken by Dawns infrared VIR spectrometer.

Using the data, they determined the bright spots are approximately 4 million years old, making them 30 million years younger than Occator Crater.

The most reflective materials on Ceres surface, the bright spots initially puzzled astronomers who were uncertain about their composition.

With a diameter of 57 miles (92 kilometers), Occator Crater, located in Ceres northern hemisphere, contains a seven-mile (11-kilometer) wide pit in its center as well as steep slopes and jagged mountains at its edges that rise as high as 2,461 feet (750 meters).

A bright dome-shaped structure within the central pit rises 1,312 feet (400 meters). Fractures are visible along the structure of the 1.87-mile (three-km) wide dome.

In these data, the origin and evolution of the crater as it presents itself today can be read more clearly than ever before, Nathues said.

Based on the presence of the pit and the jagged ridges, researchers believe Occator Crater was created when an asteroid or comet impacted Ceres 34 million years ago.

The impact produced a central mountain within the crater that later collapsed and triggered cryovolcanic activity. Disruption caused by the impact allowed water as well as other dissolved gases, including methane and carbon dioxide, to form a vent system.

Surface fractures were created by eruptions of briny liquids through the vents, bringing with them the carbonate-rich materials that eventually formed the dome.

Scientists believe the dome formed over a long period of time and not as the result of a single event.

The deposits in Occator Crater are composed of carbonate-rich salts. In contrast, other bright spots scattered around the craters edges, thinner and less bright, are a mixture of carbonates and other, darker materials.

By counting and measuring the smaller craters within Occator Crater produced by later impacts scientists were able to determine the ages of both the bright spots and of Occator.

The age and the appearance of the material surrounding the bright dome indicate that Cerealia Facula (the bright spots) was formed by a recurring, eruptive process, which also hurled material into more outward regions of the central pit, Nathues said, noting that similar dome structures have been found on Jupiters moons Ganymede and Callisto.

The surface of the dome was likely created in the most recent eruptions within the crater.

Cryovolcanic activity may still be occurring in Occator Crater, though at a far less intense level than in the past. Images of the crater taken at specific angles reveal a haze scientists view as coming from the sublimation of water.

Earlier images captured by Dawn from higher orbits show regular changes in the craters brightness.

The nature of the light scattering at the bottom of Occator differs fundamentally from that at other parts of the Ceres surface, said MPS scientist Guneshwar Singh Thangjam.The most likely explanation is that near the crater floor, an optically thin, semi-transparent haze is formed.

Researchers think the haze formed by water coming from fractures in the crater floor sublimating in the presence of sunlight.

Dawn is now headed to a different orbital plane and a higher altitude of 12,400 miles (20,000 kilometers).

Video courtesy of JPL

Tagged: Ceres cryovolcanism Dawn Occator Crater The Range

Laurel Kornfeld is an amateur astronomer and freelance writer from Highland Park, NJ, who enjoys writing about astronomy and planetary science. She studied journalism at Douglass College, Rutgers University, and earned a Graduate Certificate of Science from Swinburne Universitys Astronomy Online program. Her writings have been published online in The Atlantic, Astronomy magazines guest blog section, the UK Space Conference, the 2009 IAU General Assembly newspaper, The Space Reporter, and newsletters of various astronomy clubs. She is a member of the Cranford, NJ-based Amateur Astronomers, Inc. Especially interested in the outer solar system, Laurel gave a brief presentation at the 2008 Great Planet Debate held at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, MD.

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Ceres’ bright spots significantly younger than crater they inhabit – SpaceFlight Insider

OneWeb becomes second customer for Blue Origin’s New Glenn booster – SpaceFlight Insider

Jose Flores

March 8th, 2017

Greg Wyler of OneWeb and Jeff Bezos of Blue Origin. Photo Credit: Jeff Bezos / Blue Origin

On Wednesday, March 8, 2017, Blue Origin owner Jeff Bezos announced on Twitter that OneWeb, an organization committed to making the Internet available and affordableto everyone by 2027, has reached an initial agreement for five launches on Blue Origins New Glennrocket.

Greg Wyler, chairman of OneWeb, also tweeted shortly thereafter to confirm the agreement and state that they will be hard at work creating jobs and satellites at their facility in Exploration Park, Florida, which is across the street from Blue Origins new facility currently under construction.

First BE-4 engine fully assembled. (Click to enlarge) Photo Credit: Jeff Bezos / Blue Origin

This news comes on the heels of yesterdays announcementwhen French-based satellite provider Eutelsat Communications,became the first company to sign a contract with Blue Origin for a launch on the New Glenn rocket.

Frank DiBello, President and CEO of Space Florida, also lauded the announcement which comes during the week of the annual Florida Space Day in Tallahassee. Florida Space Day is when the aerospace industry meets with the Florida Legislature and Governors Office to thank the state of Florida for their continued support.

That support is not unappreciated, and with their continued support, Florida will remain the global leader in enabling space commerce, said Dibello.Space Florida congratulates both Blue Origin and the OneWeb Airbus Satellite partnership on their announcement. Space Florida and its partners are proud to be a part of this transformation.

The New Glennwill be a 23-feet (7-meter) diameter, two-stage orbital launch vehicle with a reusable first stage and an optional third stage.The rockets first stage will be powered by seven BE-4 engines, also being developed and manufactured by Blue Origin.

The BE-4 engine is an oxidizer-rich staged-combustion engine, being developed to end U.S. reliance on Russian-made RD-180 rocket engines. It will be ableto produce 550,000 pounds (249,476 kilograms) of thrust, and a vacuum-optimized variant of the engine, developed for the second stage of the New Glennrocket, will include a longer nozzle.

In addition to powering the New Glenn rocket, United Launch Alliance is also considering theuse of the BE-4 on their next generation Vulcan launcher. Establishing independence from the Russian engineis becoming increasingly important as relations between the two countriesremain strained.

On Monday, March 6, Jeff Bezos unveiled the first fully assembled BE-4 engine on Twitter.

The New Glenn launch vehicles will be manufactured in Florida at a facility currentlyunder constructionin Exploration Park on Kennedy Space Center property. Blue Origin has leased Launch Complex 36 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to conduct orbital launches of New Glenn,which are slated to begin in 2020.

Tagged: BE-4 Blue Origin Jeff Bezos New Glenn OneWeb The Range

College student and long time space enthusiast, Jose has been a constant visitor to Cape Canaveral since he moved to central Florida. He joined the SFI team in the hopes of becoming more involved in the coverage of spaceflight and space exploration.

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OneWeb becomes second customer for Blue Origin’s New Glenn booster – SpaceFlight Insider

NASA authorization bill passes Congress – SpaceFlight Insider

Derek Richardson

March 8th, 2017

Photo Credit: Jason Rhian / SpaceFlight Insider

The first NASA authorization act in more than six years has cleared Congress and is on its way to President Donald Trumps desk for his signature. The NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on March 7, 2017.

Having originated in the Senate, S.442 was passed there on Feb. 17, 2017. Once it made it to the House floor, there was some discussion, but nobody spoke out against it and it was passed by a voice vote.

The NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 directs the space agency to, among other things, study the possibility of using Orion as a means to send astronauts to the International Space Station should the Commercial Crew Program incur delays beyond 2019. Image Credit: James Vaughan / SpaceFlight Insider

S.442 was sponsored by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and had seven cosponsors in the Senate from six states, including the two Florida senators, Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, a Democrat and Republican, respectively.

Once signed by the president, it recommends (not authorizes) $19.5 billion in spending for the U.S. space agency for thefiscal year 2017. Currently, NASA is operating under a continuing resolution that sets its 2017 funding at 2016 levels, which was $19.2 billion.

Additionally, the authorization act sets policy directing NASAs activities. This includes creating a detailed plan for long-term human space exploration, such as the agencys Journey to Mars, and language directing a study to use Orion as a crew transfer vehicle for the International Space Station should the Commercial Crew Program incur delays beyond 2019.

Dr. Mary Lynne Dittmar, the Coalition for Deep Space Explorations Executive Director, said in a March 7 statement: Todays approval of the NASA Transition Authorization Act by Congress sends a clear message to the American people and our international partners that our nation remains committed to NASAs space exploration program.

Since the 2010 Authorization Act, NASA and its industry partners have made significant progress towards returning American astronauts to deep space and deploying the next generation of space telescopes and planetary spacecraft to reaffirm U.S. leadership in space.

Dittmar also said that the new authorization will provide the framework for continued progress toward these national commitments.

We appreciate the hard work of both the House Science, Space and Technology Committee and the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee over the last two years that have led to approval of this bipartisan legislation, Dittmar said.

The NASA Authorization act of 2010 passed in September 2010, some two months after the Senates version. Since then, a number of authorization bills have made their way through the House. None passed the Senate, however.

According to Space News, congressional sources say S.442 has the support of the White House.

While the 2018 funding level for NASA has not been announced, there have been some worries regarding whether the space agencys budget will increase or decrease as it was leaked that the budget for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was due to be slashed by 17 percent.

The president announced recently that the department of defense would be seeing an increase of $54 billion while discretionary spending, which includes NASA, would decrease by the same amount.

Despite this, according to Space Policy Online, NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot remains confident in NASA support. He released a memo titled Update on Budget Process in which he explained that the process of formulating the 2018 budget is later than usual because of the presidential transition.

Once the president submits his 2018 budget request, it will then be up to Congress to decide how much money NASA and other discretionary items actually get.

Tagged: Congress FY 2017 FY 2018 Lead Stories NASA NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 Orion S. 442

Derek Richardson is a student studying mass media with an emphasis in contemporary journalism at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. He is currently the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also writes a blog, called Orbital Velocity, about the space station. His passion for space ignited when he watched space shuttle Discovery leap to space on Oct. 29, 1998. He saw his first in-person launch on July 8, 2011 when the space shuttle launched for the final time. Today, this fervor has accelerated toward orbit and shows no signs of slowing down. After dabbling in math and engineering courses in college, he soon realized that his true calling was communicating to others about space exploration and spreading that passion.

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NASA authorization bill passes Congress – SpaceFlight Insider

Lightning mapper beams back first views from space – Spaceflight Now

A sensitive infrared camera mounted on NOAAs new GOES-16 weather satellite has captured its first astounding images of lightning flashes from a perch more than 22,000 miles (nearly 36,000 kilometers) out in space.

The first-of-its-kind imager can detect in-cloud, cloud-to-cloud and cloud-to-ground lightning strikes, giving weather forecasters an inventory of the location, frequency and intensity of lightning activity that could help warn the public of severe storms.

A video released Monday by NOAA shows a 30-second view of lightning activity in a severe storm complex Feb. 14 over southeast Texas. The green cross indicates the location of Houston, and the green lines illustrate the Gulf Coast.

The lightning flashes are overlaid on an image from GOES-16s primary camera, the Advanced Baseline Imager, which produces high-resolution infrared and visible pictures of cloud movements, storm tracks, tropical cyclones and smoke plumes.

GOES-16 is the first geostationary weather satellite to carry such an instrument, which is sensitive to lightning flashes day and night. Research satellites in lower orbits have flown with lightning cameras, and a lightning sensor launched to the International Space Station last month, but those detectors do not have the wide coverage of a high-altitude geostationary observatory.

NOAA says the lightning mapper on GOES-16, and aboard follow-on GOES satellites, will deliver data to weather forecasters within 20 seconds, offering near real-time snapshots of severe storm activity, often outpacing the availability of conventional satellite and radar imagery. The lightning instrument collects observations at 500 frames per second,distinguishing the location, intensity and horizontal propagation of individual strokes within each lightning flash, according to NOAA.

Lightning data currently incorporated into weather imagery and forecasts usually comes from ground-based detection networks.

GOES-16 launched on Nov. 19 from Cape Canaveral on-board a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket. Lockheed Martin manufactured the weather satellite the first in a new generation of NOAA weather sentinels and the Geostationary Lightning Mapper.

NOAA says GOES-16 will enter service by November after completing calibration and commissioning. The weather agency will announce in May whether GOES-16 will be stationed over the Pacific Ocean or the Atlantic Ocean.

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Environmental sentinel launched from French Guiana – Spaceflight Now

The Vega rocket took off from the Guiana Space Center at 10:49 p.m. French Guiana time Monday. Credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace Photo Optique Video du CSG G. Barbaste

A European environmental satellite rode a solid-fueled Vega launcher from a tropical spaceport at the edge of the Amazon jungle into polar orbit Monday night, adding a new eye in the sky to check on the health of crops and forests from space.

The Sentinel 2B Earth observation spacecraft, packaged inside the nose cone of the 98-foot-tall (30-meter) Vega booster, blasted off at 0149:24 GMT Tuesday (8:49:24 p.m. EST Monday) from the Guiana Space Center on the northern shore of South America.

Moments after clearing the launch pads four lightning towers, the Vegas first stage motor swiveled to steer the rocket on a trajectory north from the European-run space base, soaring over the Atlantic Ocean and passing east of the Lesser Antilles as its three Italian-made lower stages fired in quick succession.

A liquid-fueled fourth stage engine built in Ukraine fired two times to maneuver the 2,491-pound (1,130-kilogram) Sentinel 2B satellite into an on-target orbit around 488 miles (786 kilometers) above Earth.

The Vega rockets navigation computer aimed for a ground track tilted at approximately 98.5 degrees to the equator, a sun-synchronous orbit that will allow Sentinel 2B to image strips of territory at the same time each day.

Sentinel 2B separated from the Vega rockets upper stage around 58 minutes after liftoff.

Arianespace, the French company which manages Vega launch operations, declared the launch a success, making the Vega rocket nine-for-nine since its debut flight in February 2012.

Controllers at the European Space Operations Center in Darmstadt, Germany, established communications with Sentinel 2B as planned through a series of ground antennas in Australia, Antarctica and Alaska. The ground team verified the satellites health, and confirmed the crafts power-generating solar panel unfurled and began tracking the sun, a key step in stabilizing the observatory and readying it for tests and commissioning.

Built by Airbus Defense and Space, Sentinel 2B joins an identical twin satellite launched in June 2015 for the European Commissions Copernicus program, a multibillion-dollar network that will eventually consist of at least 15 spacecraft scanning the planet with radar, optical, infrared, microwave and laser instruments.

The comprehensive satellite fleet, coupled with sophisticated data processing equipment on the ground, will keep track of changes in Earths land surfaces, oceans, ice sheets and atmosphere.

The Sentinel 2 satellites provide the Copernicus programs optical component, specializing in mapping land surfaces, monitoring crops and forests, and detecting pollution in lakes, streams and coastal waters. Sentinel 2A and 2B are roughly analogous to the U.S. governments Landsat satellite series, but with the ability to image the entire planet at faster tempos, a characteristic known as revisit time.

Sentinel 2 is very unique, said Philippe Goudy, head of Earth observation projects at the European Space Agency. As we are changing the environment, we need to have more and more data about these changes we are putting on the environment. There is no similar mission that would give us the revisit, the coverage and the precision that Sentinel 2 will give us.

Sentinel 2Bs orbit is positioned 180 degrees away from Sentinel 2A, and the satellites together will see every point on the planet at least once every five days. The revisit time will be cut to around three days at Europes latitude, and as short as one day in parts of Scandinavia and Canada, according to Bianca Hoersch, ESAs Sentinel 2 mission manager.

The Sentinel 2B mission valued at more than $150 million when combining the cost of the satellite and the launch is the fifth Copernicus satellite to launch since deployments began in 2014.

With this launch we are taking another step toward advancing the Copernicus program, which is the most sophisticated Earth observation system in the world, said Jan Woerner, ESAs director general. And we are planning to add two more satellites to the constellation in the next months: with Sentinel 5P and Sentinel 3B.

Sentinel 2B will be fully operational in three or four months, according to ESA, which manages the Copernicus satellites for the European Commission, the European Unions executive body.

The observatorys camera can see in 13 colors, giving it the sensitivity to distinguish between plant types, vegetation health, leaf area and chlorophyl and water content. During each orbit, the camera will take images in swaths 180 miles (290 kilometers) wide, resolving blocks of land as small as around 30 feet (10 meters).

The main motivation behind this, obviously, is to keep track of how the landscape changes over time on a continental scale, said Mtys Rada, a scientist at the European Environment Information and Observation Network, part of the European Environment Agency, based in Budapest, Hungary. For example, urban sprawl at the expense of agricultural land, deforestation, things like that.

Thanks to the Sentinel missions, now we have the capacity to build entirely on European data inputs, and these maps can drive policies, function as a policy feedback, help spatial planning and decision-making, Rada said.

Like other Sentinel satellites, Sentinel 2B carries a high-speed laser communications terminal to link up with relay satellites in geostationary orbit, hastening the delivery of data to end users.

Anne Schucknecht, a scientist at the European Commissions Joint Research Center in Ispra, Italy, uses Sentinel satellite data in her work.

We monitor agriculture resources with satellite data aiming for early warning of droughts and crop failure, so that the responsible authorities can take action to prevent potential famine, Shucknecht said in an ESA interview. Just as were talking here, there is a severe drought ongoing in Somalia, and the most recent drought was just four years ago and cost the lives of 2,500 people. We use the satellite data to see where the cropland is, how the vegetation is developing, and then compare it to the long-term average so we can see if this season is going well or are there some problems.

For Somalia, we saw the first signs of the drought in October, and now as the season is finished, we know that there was crop failure in many parts of the country, she said. At the moment, we use moderate resolution data, so we can have a regional assessment, but if you wanted more higher-resolution data or information, you can use the Sentinel 2 data to even have field information.

We provide the maps and outlook for the future, and then the governments or other authorites can take action, Shucknecht said. With this timely information, in the end, lots of lives can be saved.

Next up for the Copernicus program is the launch of the Sentinel 5P satellite designed to monitor air quality and the ozone layer. It is currently scheduled to take off in June aboard a Russian Rockot vehicle.

More satellites will launch in the coming years to fill out the Copernicus constellation, and officials have already ordered replacements for some of the first-generation Sentinel observatories. For example, the Sentinel 2C and 2D satellites to take the place of Sentinel 2A and 2B will launch starting in 2021.

This goes far beyond admiring technological prowess because, after all, its not just art for arts sake, said Philippe Brunet, director of space policy, Copernicus and defense at the European Commission. Its not just to put stuff out into orbit, its in order to allow society to enjoy benefits, and if we take a look at the different challenges facing Europe climate change, security challenges, and perhaps in the future border monitoring issues I think that programs such as Copernicus will provide far more than just technical prowess.

Monday nights launch of Sentinel 2B was the third of up to 12 Arianespace missions planned this year.

Arianespaces next flight is scheduled for March 21, when a heavy-lift Ariane 5 rocket will loft a Brazilian government communications satellite and the Koreasat 7 video and television broadcasting station.

The next Vega launch is set for no earlier than August with a French-Israeli vegetation mapping satellite and an Israeli-built surveillance craft for the Italian military.

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Environmental sentinel launched from French Guiana – Spaceflight Now

To your brain, spaceflight seems to be a lot like bed rest | Ars Technica – Ars Technica

Enlarge / The top row shows brain changes with long duration bed rest, the bottom row shows changes with spaceflight. Orange shows regions of increase, blue a decrease.

When it comes to human health and spaceflight, there are a lotof concerns as NASA casts its eye toward deep space. Among the more familiar problems are muscle and bone mass loss due to the lack of gravity. But more recently, scientists have grown increasingly concerned about astronauts returning to Earth withblurred vision, flattened eyeballs, and inflamed optic nerves after long-duration missions.

The eyesight problems appear to be caused by changes incerebrospinal fluid, a clear fluid that helps cushion the brain from pressure changes during bodily movements. Now scientists are probing what other kinds of health issues might be caused by a redistribution of this spinal fluid, and this has led to studying the changes in brain size during spaceflight.

A new study in Nature Microgravity provides some of the first data on the changes in brain structure during spaceflight. Led by University of Michigan researcherRachael Seidler, the study reviewedMRI scans from27 astronauts, 13 of whom flew space shuttle missions and 14 who had flown approximately six month increments on board the International Space Station. The data wasobtained fromthe NASA Lifetime Surveillance of Astronaut Health.

In their analysis, the scientists found “extensive” decreases in some gray matter areas, includingthecovering of the temporal and frontal poles and around the orbits. The effect was more pronounced for astronauts who had spent more time in space, and it’s likely these changes were caused partially by shifting cerebrospinal fluid. The study also found increases in gray matter volume for regions of the brain that control leg movement. It’s possible that these areas of the brain grew as the brain “worked” to learn how to move in microgravity.

These findings are preliminary and from a relatively small sample sizeas is often the case with astronaut studies. But there is enough data here for some basic conclusions. First of all, the brain clearly retains itsplasticity in space, learning and adapting to new motor skills in microgravity. Second, the space-based brain reaction is similar to patients observed ina long-term bed rest study intended to mimic microgravity, in which volunteers spent up to three months in downward tilted position.

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Blue Origin details new rocket’s capabilities, signs first orbital customer – Spaceflight Now

Artists concept of the New Glenn rocket. Credit: Blue Origin

Amazon.coms Jeff Bezos revealed new details of his space companys reusable orbital-class booster Tuesday, releasing an animation illustrating the rockets liftoff from Cape Canaveral and announcing a contract with Eutelsat to put a commercial communications satellite on one of the launchers first missions.

Speaking at the Satellite 2017 industry conference in Washington, Bezos said Blue Origins towering New Glenn rocket, named for pioneering astronaut John Glenn, could launch by 2020 and be reused up to 100 times.

Paris-based Eutelsat, one of the largest satellite telecom operators in the world, has signed up as the first paying customer for a New Glenn launch in 2021 or 2022.

Eutelsat is one of the worlds most experienced and innovative satellite operators, and we are honored that they chose Blue Origin and ourNew Glennorbital launch vehicle, Bezos said in a statement.

Eutelsat has launched satellites on many new vehicles and shares both our methodical approach to engineering and our passion for driving down the cost of access to space, Bezos said. Welcome to the launch manifest, Eutelsat, cant wait to fly together.

The New Glenns primary base will be at Cape Canaveral, where Blue Origin is constructing a cavernous rocket factory just outside the gates of NASAs Kennedy Space Center. Blue Origin has started preliminary earthmoving work for a launch pad at Complex 36, a former Atlas rocket facility at nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and plans to install an engine test stand at neighboring Complex 11.

The animation released by Blue Origin on Tuesday shows the New Glenn rocket taking off from Complex 36 on the power of seven BE-4 main engines, burning a mixture of liquefied natural gas and liquid oxygen. The engines each produce about 550,000 pounds of thrust at full throttle, combining to generate 3.85 million pounds of thrust at liftoff.

The first stage engines will give way to a single modified BE-4 engine on the New Glenns second stage to deliver satellites, and eventually crews, into orbit, while the booster flips around and reignites to slow its descent toward a barge positioned offshore in the Atlantic Ocean, according to Blue Origin.

The New Glenn first stage will have aerodynamic fins, or strakes, for improved steering and extend six landing legs just before touchdown.

The recovery maneuver is familiar to industry officials and space enthusiasts, bearing similarity to the landings pioneered by rival SpaceX.

Blue Origin held a patent on its plans to land rocket boosters on ships in the ocean using rocket thrust to slow the vehicles down for landing, but SpaceX disputed the validity of the patent claims by pointing to academic papers and proposals dating back decades outlining concepts to recover rockets on ocean-going vessels for refurbishment and reuse.

Blue Origin in 2015 canceled the claims disputed by SpaceX, which achieved its first rocket landing at sea in April 2016.

The two-stage New Glenn variant, shown in the animation, will stand270 feet (82 meters) tall and haul nearly 29,000 pounds, or 13 metric tons, to geostationary transfer orbit, the drop-off point for most communications satellites, like the platforms owned and operated by Eutelsat. The rockets payload capacity to low Earth orbit, a few hundred miles in altitude, will be nearly 100,000 pounds, or 45 metric tons, Bezos said.

With the addition of an optional third stage for deep space missions, the New Glenns height will increase to 313 feet (95 meters).

Blue Origins BE-4 engine in development to power the New Glenn rocket is scheduled to perform its full-scale hotfire test later this year at the companys remote West Texas test site.

Bezos tweeted two pictures of the first fully-assembled BE-4 engine Monday, adding that the second and third copies are following close behind.

United Launch Alliance has tapped the BE-4 engine as its preferred powerplant for the next-generation Vulcan rocket scheduled for a maiden launch in 2019. ULA is paying Aerojet Rocketdyne, a traditional engine-builder, to continue developing its kerosene-fueled AR1 engine as a backup option.

We are very close to selecting, said Tory Bruno, president and CEO of ULA, in a Feb. 16 presentation at the University of Texas at El Paso. And if the testing that happens in the next couple of months is successful, well probably end up on that Blue Origin (engine).

The BE-4 and AR1 will employ astaged combustion cycle, a more efficient engine cycle than currently available on other U.S. liquid hydrocarbon rocket engines. Staged combustion engines currently flying include the Russian RD-180 on ULAs Atlas 5, which the Vulcan will replace.

Itll be very exciting because itll bring that advanced Russian engine cycle technology to America, and it will make it much much better because this engine will be additively manufactured, Bruno said. It will be much more produceable. It will be much lighter, and it will be much much more affordable.

Blue Origins first production engine, the BE-3, burns liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen and flies on the companys suborbital New Shepard rocket. The New Shepard has launched successfully six times, including five straight vertical liftoffs and landings with the same reusable single-stage booster in 2015 and 2016.

Eutelsat has taken chances on new rockets before, placing its satellites on the inaugural launches of the Atlas 3, Atlas 5, Delta 4 and Ariane 5 ECA boosters in the early 2000s.

In a statement Tuesday, Eutelsat said the contract with Blue Origin reflects Eutelsats longstanding strategy to source launch services from multiple agencies in order to secure access to space.

Eutelsat said the New Glenn launcher will be compatible with virtually all of its satellites, allowing the company to assign a spacecraft to the mission 12 months ahead of time.

Blue Origin has been forthcoming with Eutelsat on its strategy and convinced us they have the right mindset to compete in the launch service industry, said Rodolphe Belmer, CEO of Eutelsat. Their solid engineering approach, and their policy to develop technologies that will form the base of a broad generation of launchers, corresponds to what we expect from our industrial partners.

In includingNew Glennin our manifest, we are pursuing our longstanding strategy of innovation that drives down the cost of access to space and drives up performance, Belmer said in a statement. This can only be good news for the profitability and sustainability of our industry.

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Blue Origin details new rocket’s capabilities, signs first orbital customer – Spaceflight Now

Live coverage: SpaceX readies rocket to loft TV broadcast satellite – Spaceflight Now

March 6, 2017 Stephen Clark

Live coverage of SpaceXs preparations for the second Falcon 9 rocket launch from pad 39A at NASAs Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The mission will launch the EchoStar 23 television broadcast satellite. Text updates will appear automatically below;there is no need to reload the page. Follow us onTwitter.

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Photos: Vega rocket vaults off launch pad – Spaceflight Now

Firing off the launch pad with more than a half-million pounds of thrust, a Vega rocket soared into space Monday night from French Guiana with Europes Sentinel 2B environmental satellite.

The 98-foot-tall (30-meter), four-stage rocket, powered by Italian and Ukrainian propulsion, took off at 10:49:24 p.m. local time in French Guiana (0149:24 GMT; 8:49:24 p.m. EST). Less than an hour later, the Vega launcher released Sentinel 2B into its planned orbit nearly 500 miles (800 kilometers) above Earth.

Read our full story for details on the Vega rockets ninth mission.

The images of posted below show the Vega rocket on the launch pad during retraction of the mobile gantry a few hours before flight, followed by the boosters late-night blastoff.

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At Goddard Space Flight Center, Scouts get a look at the future of NASA – Scouting Magazine (blog)

Also at Goddard, the delegates participated in some get-to-know-you games a surefire way to strengthen a team.

At NASA, the future is all about looking deeper into the past.

On the first day of the BSAs Report to the Nation trip, the delegates got a behind-the-scenes tour ofNASAs Goddard Space Flight Center, where astronomers are perfecting a new telescope thatll let them look back deeper into the history of the universe than ever before.

It isthe 25th year that Goddard has hosted thedelegates with NASA scientists volunteeringa Saturdayafternoon and eveningto entertain and educate some very gratefulScouts and Venturers.

The massive Goddard complex is probably best known for giving us the Hubble Space Telescope. But Hubble has nothing on the James Webb Space Telescope, which is set to launch in 2018. Astronomers at Goddard arehard at work replacing the 27-year-old Hubblewith the James Webb, which will be 100 times more powerful. (You can watch the construction progress live on NASAs Webb Cam.)

The Scouts tour guide wasRay Ohl, whose night jobis Cub Scout volunteerandday jobis optical physicist for NASA.

When meeting some of the BSAs best and brightest, he did what anyone would do. He put on his recruiting hat.

There arent that many Americans interesting in engineering, so go back to your packs and troops and tell them to become engineers, Ohl said. I wish I was your age right now, because thiswould be the exciting time to start a career at NASA.

Hannah Wheaton, a delegate from Virginia, asked Ohl about the new telescopes purpose.

The James Webb Space Telescope is going to focus on that BigBang question, Ohl said.

He explained that NASA doesnt have the technology to see what happened in that window after the Big Bang but before the creation of planets. The James Webbs ability to see in the infrared will unlock a window into those early days of theuniverse.

Ohl explained that the JamesWebbalso will further investigate the seven earth-sized planets whose discoverymadeheadlines last month.

Next, Ohl and two of his NASA colleagues showed the Scouts the clean room the largest of its kind in the world where the James Webb is being built.The clean room keeps dust and debris away from the James Webb, where even a speck could harmthe telescopessensitiveopticsand sensors.

Then the groupvisitedsome equipment used to test a payloadbefore itssent into orbit. The Scouts marveled at an acoustic testing room where behind doors a foot thick scientists blast sound waves at a payload using six-foot speakers. There was also a giant vacuum chamber, a centrifugethat can produce up to 30 Gs and a big table that just shakes everything around for a while.

It was remarkable, but myfavorite moment of the visit was when Ohl asked if anyone had any technical questions or is anyone interested in a career in engineering?

Now I am, said Gilberto, a delegate from Rhode Island.

Thats a great answer, Ohl said.

Find more coverage here, and follow me on Twitter: @bryanonscouting.

Photos by Michael Roytek and Randy Piland. See more photos here.

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At Goddard Space Flight Center, Scouts get a look at the future of NASA – Scouting Magazine (blog)

NASA spacecraft steers clear of Martian moon Phobos – Spaceflight Now

ESAs Mars Express spacecraft took this image of Phobos backdropped by the limb of Mars. Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum)

NASAs MAVEN spacecraft in orbit around Mars maneuvered out of the path of Phobos earlier this week after navigators predicted the spacecraft could run into the Martian moon in the near future, highlighting the challenge of tracking an international fleet of Mars probes set to double in size by 2021.

The MAVEN orbiter, in its third year studying the Martian atmosphere, performed a minor rocket burn Feb. 28 to change its speed by less than 1 mph (0.4 meters per second), NASA said, tweaking its trajectory enough to dodge a projected collision with Phobos a week later.

On its new path, MAVEN will miss the irregularly-shaped moon by around two-and-a-half minutes. The rocket burn was MAVENs first collision avoidance maneuver to move out of the way of Phobos, NASA said.

Phobos is located around 3,700 miles (6,000 kilometers) above Mars, higher than the altitude of NASAs other operational orbiters Mars Odyssey and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. But MAVEN is positioned in an elliptical orbit, carrying it as high as 3,800 miles (about 6,100 kilometers) on each lap around the planet before skimming the Martian atmosphere at the orbits lowest point.

The elliptical paths of MAVEN, Indias Mars Orbiter Mission and the European Space Agencys Mars Express spacecraft make them often cross paths with Phobos and other probes. ESAs ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter is also flying in an oval-shaped perch, but ground controllers plan to begin maneuvering it into a lower circular orbit later this month.

Given Phoboss size the lumpy moon measures nearly 17 miles (27 kilometers) across on its longest axis NASA said MAVEN had a high probability of colliding with Phobos on Monday, March 6, without the avoidance burn. The two were predicted to arrive at their orbit crossing point within seven seconds of each other.

Adding to the conservatism of NASAs estimate, navigators at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory model Phoboss size and shape as an 18-mile (30-kilometer) sphere when scanning for collision threats.

Kudos to the JPL navigation and tracking teams for watching out for possible collisions every day of the year, and to the MAVEN spacecraft team for carrying out the maneuver flawlessly, Bruce Jakosky, MAVENs principal investigator at the University of Colorado in Boulder, said in a statement.

NASA announced in 2015 the creation of a formal collision avoidance framework called theMulti-Mission Automated Deep-Space Conjunction Assessment Process, in which experts at JPL will inform spacecraft operators around the world of possible close calls and impacts.

There are six operational orbiters currently around Mars from NASA, ESA and the Indian space agency. All of them rely, to some extent, on tracking and communications services from NASAs Deep Space Network, a group of antennas located in Calif0rnia, Spain and Australia.

NASA tracks the orbits of each spacecraft, along with the approximate location of NASAs defunct Mars Global Surveyor orbiter, to predict when they might get too close for comfort.

The Deep Space Network antennas also support NASAs Opportunity and Curiosity rovers on the Martian surface, but links with the landers are usually relayed through one of the orbiters.

The international fleet of eight active spacecraft at Mars could double by 2021.

NASA is preparing to launch its InSight lander to the red planet in May 2018, with its arrival scheduled for November of that year.

There are up to six robotic missions set for departure to Mars in mid-2020.

NASAs Mars 2020 rover, the joint European-Russian ExoMars rover, Chinas first Mars mission, Indias second Mars orbiter, the United Arab Emirates Hope orbiter, and SpaceXs commercial Red Dragon lander are all scheduled to launch in 2020 and arrive at the red planet around February 2021.

The Chinese mission includes two parts an orbiter and a rover making the total tally of spacecraft taking aim at Mars in 2021 at seven.

Fuk Li, director of JPLs Mars exploration directorate, said Feb. 22 that NASA is already planning for the numerous arrivals, and evaluating what each mission will require from the Deep Space Network.

Those missions are going in, and I believe all of them would like to have coverage as they go into the Martian system to allow them to see whats going on, Li said.

That is a non-trivial request, given the types of missions and orbiters that we have, because theyre all coming in, time-wise, close to each other, Li said in a meeting of the Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group.

The planning will likely include maneuvers to place existing orbiters on paths to fly over rover landing sites to relay signals between Earth and the Martian surface, while ensuring the spacecraft keep a safe distance from one another, according to Li.

All these missions, potentially, will also require very detailed tracking in order to do the precision navigation to make sure they are entering orbit the right way, Li said.The month of February (2021), and a few weeks before that, will be extremely hectic, but we look forward to such things because of the science that will come after that.

Each DSN antenna can track multiple spacecraft, Li said, and NASA is looking into activating all of the networks antennas for the Mars arrivals.

ESA has its own global tracking network, but with smaller antennas than NASA. The first Chinese deep space tracking station outside of China is scheduled to open in Argentina this year, and Indias only interplanetary communications facility is on its own territory, meaning some of its deep space signals will have to be routed through NASA or ESA networks.

SpaceX and the UAE have agreements with NASA to use the agencys Deep Space Network.

Its not really a data link issue, Li said. Its a navigational tracking issue that comes up.

NASA will also plan for emergencies and need to balance the extensive Mars mission requirements in early 2021 with the communications and tracking needs of probes transiting other parts of the solar system.

If you have some some problem with some Mars spacecraft as it goes into orbit, with all of these other things coming into Mars, Li said. Lets say MRO (Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter) has a problem has a safe mode what would we do? How would we react? And do we get priority over all the other missions?

Email the author.

Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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NASA spacecraft steers clear of Martian moon Phobos – Spaceflight Now

Launch of Delta IV with WGS-9 delayed – SpaceFlight Insider – SpaceFlight Insider

Jason Rhian

March 4th, 2017

The Delta IV Medium+ (5,4) carrying the WGS-8 satellite clears the tower on its way to orbit. The flight of WGS-9 was delayed to no earlier than March 14, 2017. Photo Credit: Mike Deep / SpaceFlight Insider

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. Colorado-based United Launch Alliance (ULA) uncovered an issue with the Delta IV Medium+ (5,4) rocket tasked with sending the ninth Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS-9) satellite to orbit. This has caused the flight to be delayed.

An issue with the Delta IVs first stage Common Booster Core was found during standard prelaunch inspections. As such, on Saturday, March 4, 2017, the company announced the mission will now launch no earlier than March 14.

The ULA statement noted the extra time was required to ensure the rocket would operate nominally. The company will issue a new launch date after the problem has been resolved.

The Delta IV will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Stations Space Launch Complex 37. ULA is working to send the WGS-9 satellite aloft on behalf of the U.S. Air Force.

Tagged: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 37 The Range U.S. Air Force United Launch Alliance WGS-9 Wideband Global SATCOM

Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.

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Launch of Delta IV with WGS-9 delayed – SpaceFlight Insider – SpaceFlight Insider

Sentinel-2B satellite set for launch atop European Vega rocket – SpaceFlight Insider

Curt Godwin

March 5th, 2017

Arianespace is preparing to launch the Sentinel-2B Earth-observation satellite atop aVega rocket. Image Credit: Arianespace / ESA

Arianespace, aFrance-based multinational commercial launchprovider, is in the final stages of readying its Vega rocket to send the Sentinel-2B Earth-observation satellite into a Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO).

The smallest member of Europes stable of launch vehicles is set to take flight at 8:49 p.m. EST March 6, (01:49 GMT March 7), 2017, from the Guiana Space Center in the South American country of French Guiana.

Vying for its first launch of 2017, and its ninth overall since its 2012 debut, Arianespaces Vega rocket has been tapped to deliver the 2,491-pound (1,130-kilogram) Sentinel-2B satellite to orbit. Unlike its larger Soyuz and Ariane 5 siblings, Vega is optimized to carry relatively small payloads to low-Earth orbitand has no stated capability to deliver apayload to geostationary transfer orbit.

Vega is unique among its European launch family in that all of its propulsion elements are solid-fueled. All three of its stages use the same hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene (HTPB) 1912 mixture.

Although significantly less efficient than liquid propellant, solid fuels greatly simplify propulsion elements and can be stored for long periods of time.

Photo Credit: Jacques van Oene / SpaceFlight Insider

Vegas first stage is the P80 solid rocket motor (SRM). At almost 10 feet (3 meters), it has the same diameter as the solid-fueled boosters used on the Ariane 5 and nearly the same length of a singlesegment of that booster. The first stage provides 677,799 pounds (3,015 kilonewtons) of thrust at liftoff and burns for nearly two minutes.

Both the second and third stages use variants of the same 6.23-foot (1.9-meter) diameter Zefiro SRM. Vegas second stage, the Zefiro 23, consumes 52,500 pounds (23,814 kilograms) of solid fuel during its 78-second burn time and provides up to 251,786 pounds (1,120 kilonewtons) of vacuum thrust.

Vegas third and final stage is the Zefiro 9 SRM. Although smaller than its first and second stage cousins, it burns longer and provides 71,264 pounds (317 kilonewtons) of thrust for its two minutes of operation.

All three SRMs are manufactured from a carbon filament and epoxy casing, greatly lesseningthe mass of the rocket.

Sitting atop the 98.1-foot (29.9-meter) tall Vega is the Sentinel-2B (S2B) satellite.

Built on the Airbus Defense and SpaceAstroBus-L spacecraft bus, S2B is an Earth-observation satellite that will monitor land masses and coastal areas. It will have a particular focus on collecting vegetation and pollution data.

The spacecraft tips the scales at 2,513 pounds (1,140 kilograms)and is designed to have an on-orbit lifetime of at least seven years.

It will orbit at an altitude of 488 miles (786 kilometers) in SSO and will be inclined 98.57 degrees to the equator. In this orbit, the satellite will pass over the same spot on Earthssurface at the same local solar time, providing consistent lighting angles for observation.

The satellite will have a resolution of 32.8, 65.6, and 196.9 feet (10, 20, and 60 meters) in 180-mile (290-kilometer) wide swathes with imagery covering13 different spectral bands.

The Sentinel series of satellites ispart of Europes Copernicus environmental monitoring program. S2B will be the fourth in the family and will join its Sentinel-2A sibling, orbiting 180 degrees apart, toprovide full Earth coverage every five days.

With two highly sophisticated satellites the Sentinel-2 mission will reach its full capability, said Nicolas Chamussy, Head of Space Systems at Airbus, in a release issued by the company.

ESAs Sentinel 2B spacecraft in the clean room being prepped for launch. Photo Credit: Jacques van Oene / SpaceFlight Insider

Tagged: ArianeSpace Guiana Space Centre Lead Stories Sentinel 2B Vega VV09

Curt Godwin has been a fan of space exploration for as long as he can remember, keeping his eyes to the skies from an early age. Initially majoring in Nuclear Engineering, Curt later decided that computers would be a more interesting – and safer – career field. He’s worked in education technology for more than 20 years, and has been published in industry and peer journals, and is a respected authority on wireless network engineering. Throughout this period of his life, he maintained his love for all things space and has written about his experiences at a variety of NASA events, both on his personal blog and as a freelance media representative.

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Sentinel-2B satellite set for launch atop European Vega rocket – SpaceFlight Insider

SpaceX delays force Spaceflight to find alternative launches – SpaceNews

Spaceflight says it has found new rides for nearly 90 satellites originally scheduled to launch on its Sherpa tug because of Falcon 9 schedule delays. Credit: Spaceflight Industries

WASHINGTON Delays in SpaceXs launch schedule have led an aggregator of secondary payloads to find alternative rides for dozens of satellites it planned to fly on a Falcon 9.

In a March 2 message, Curt Blake, president of Seattle-based Spaceflight, said that significant delays in the planned launch of the Formosat-5 mission on a Falcon 9 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California forced the company to find alternative rides for nearly 90 satellites that were to launch as secondary payloads on a payload adapter called Sherpa.

We learned our launch would occur potentially much later than expected, Blake wrote, not giving a specific launch date. While delays are inevitable in the launch business, we made the decision to rebook all our customers slated to launch on the FormoSat-5 mission.

Formosat-5 and Sherpa were scheduled to launch on a Falcon 9 last year but were delayed, in part because of the Sept. 1 pad explosion of a Falcon 9 during preparations for a static-fire test at Cape Canaveral. That halted all Falcon 9 launches for four and a half months.

Brown, in an October 2016 interview, said Spaceflight was waiting on the Falcon 9 return to flight before getting a new launch date, and at the time didnt expect a launch before early 2017. The company had told the owners of the satellites not to ship them to Spaceflight for integration onto the Sherpa adapter until it got a confirmed launch date from SpaceX.

SpaceX has not disclosed a launch date for Formosat-5, or many other upcoming launches from Vandenberg. SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell, speaking at a Feb. 17 press conference at NASAs Kennedy Space Center, said the company had delayed the next Falcon 9 launch of Iridium satellites, from Vandenberg, from mid-April to mid-June to fill in the queue of folks that have been waiting for a flight since we were down last September. The company hasnt identified those customers.

Blake said that, given the extended delays, the company decided to find other rides for the satellites that were to fly on Sherpa. It took a huge effort, but within two weeks, the team hustled to have all customers who wanted to be rebooked confirmed on other launches! he wrote.

Spaceflight spokeswoman Jodi Sorensen said March 2 that most of the satellites that had been flying on Sherpa will be rebooked on one of two launches. One is on the companys own dedicated Falcon 9 mission, dubbed SSO-A, scheduled to launch from Vandenberg later this year. The other is an unspecified international launch scheduled for this summer or fall.

Spaceflight has brokered launches of small satellites as secondary payloads on a number of different vehicles. That included nine cubesats that launched on an Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) Feb. 14. Eight of the nine satellites were from Spire, a company deploying a constellation of cubesats for ship tracking and weather data. The ninth satellite was a cubesat from an Israeli university.

Blake, in a recent commentary, defended the use of PSLV, which developers of small satellite launchers in the U.S. have criticized for undercutting the market. Contrary to popular belief, foreign launches are not less expensive than domestic ones in part because of regulatory costs, he wrote in the SatMagazine op-ed.

In comments directed at President Trump, Blake called on the administration to avoid any making policy changes that would make it harder to launch on Indian or other non-U.S. rockets while the capacity in the domestic market grows. We ask the current administration to allow these international launch options that are critical to the smallsat industry and to support the efforts and policies that expand not restrict access to space, he wrote.

As for Sherpa itself, Sorensen said it could fly on the SSO-A mission or another launch with a different set of satellite payloads. Its completely flight ready, so if we can, well definitely use it, she said.

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SpaceX delays force Spaceflight to find alternative launches – SpaceNews

Citing schedule slips, Spaceflight rebooks 89 satellites on SpaceX’s launch list – GeekWire

Spaceflights SHERPA carrier is designed to deploy scores of satellites. (Spaceflight Illustration)

For more than a year, Seattle-based Spaceflight has been waiting to launch an array of 89 miniaturized satellites aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and deploy them in orbit from its innovative SHERPA carrier.

Now the launch logistics companyisnt waiting any longer.

All 89 satellites have been rebooked due to schedule concerns, Spaceflights president, Curt Blake, reported today in a blog posting.

We found each of our customers an alternative launch that was within the same time frame, Blake wrote. It took a huge effort, but within two weeks, the team hustled to have all customers who wanted to be rebooked confirmed on other launches!

The SHERPA carrier had been slated as a secondary payload on the launch of Taiwans Formosat-5 satellite. It was puton SpaceXs manifest since 2015, but the launch has been repeatedly delayed, in part due to the Falcon 9 rocket mishaps that occurred in mid-2015 and last September.

Spaceflight was anticipating that the launch would finally take place around May or June, but Blake said SpaceX recently communicated their 2017 manifest, and the impact on the Formosat-5 mission is significant.

Welearned our launch would occur potentially much later than expected, he said. By some accounts, the Formosat-5 mission has been shifted into 2018. Thats what led Spaceflight to look at alternatives.

Neither Blake nor Jodi Sorensen, a spokeswoman for Spaceflight Industries, laid out the details of the schedule shifts. Sorensen told GeekWire that the arrangements with SpaceX were still being worked out.

The payloads that had been scheduled for deployment from the SHERPA carrier includePlanetary Resources Arkyd 6 satellite, which is designed to test a midwave-infrared imagingsystem; and the Pathfinder-2 satellite, an Earth-observing spacecraft that serves as a prototype for Spaceflight Industries BlackSky constellation.

Spaceflights dedicated-rideshare launch on a different Falcon 9 is unaffected by the SHERPA shift.

SpaceX isnt the only launch provider that Spaceflight works with. In the past, the company has facilitated the placement ofpayloads on Indias PSLV rockets, Orbital Sciences Antares rocket and Cygnus capsule, and Russian rockets as well.

This week, Blake called on the Trump administration to refrain from limiting the ability to book U.S. payloads onto foreign launch vehicles.

Quite simply, there are not enough U.S. launches to meet the demands of the ever-growing number of smallsat companies, Blake wrote in an op-ed column for SatMagazine.

The op-ed was motivated by concern that President Donald Trumps America First economic policies might restrict the options forlaunching small satellites. As it is, U.S. commercial payload providers have to get waivers from the federal governmentto have their satellites launched on Indian rockets.

We ask the current administration to allow these international launch options that are critical to the smallsat industry and to support the efforts and policies that expand not restrict access to space, Blake wrote. Limiting launch options will only hinder or halt the economic growth of this burgeoning American industry.

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Citing schedule slips, Spaceflight rebooks 89 satellites on SpaceX’s launch list – GeekWire

Small experimental satellite launched by new Chinese rocket – Spaceflight Now

China debuted a new solid-fueled booster Thursday in an unannounced flight that put a small satellite into polar orbit, adding another rocket to the countrys growing fleet of lightweight launchers.

The KT-2 rocket lifted off at 2353 GMT (6:53 p.m. EST) Thursday from the Jiuquan space center, a military-run base in northwestern Chinas Gobi Desert, according to a report from the government-owned Xinhua news agency.

The secretive launch occurred at 7:53 a.m. Beijing time Friday without an official announcement ahead of time, other than a notice to pilots published two days before the mission warning of drop zones for the KT-2s spent motor casings.

Little is known about the KT-2 rockets design. The multi-stage booster could be based on technology developed for the Chinese militarys road-mobile DF-31 ballistic missile, with the addition of an upper stage to place an object into orbit.

Chinese social media accounts shared several photos appearing to show the KT-2 launch around sunrise at Jiuquan.

Xinhua reported the rocket was developed by China Aerospace Science & Industry Corp., or CASIC, with the intention of eventually launching commercial satellites.

The KT-2 rocket is one of the five carrier systems in the CASIC commercial space plan, Xinhua reported. It features high carrying efficiency and adaptability, according to the CASIC.

China has developed several new small satellite launchers in recent years. The Long March 11 rocket, managed by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, another state-owned space contractor, debuted in 2015. The Kuaizhou 1 booster, another CASIC product, has launched satellites three times since 2013 with two different variants.

The payload aboard the KT-2 launch wasa small satellite named TK-1, the first spacecraft independently developed by CASIC, Xinhua reported. The TK-1 satellite will be used for remote sensing, telecommunications and experiments in minisatellite-based technologies, the news agency said.

The U.S. militarys satellite tracking network detected two objects from the launch. One of the objects, likely the payload, is in a near-circular orbit ranging in altitude from 236 miles (381 kilometers) to 250 miles (403 kilometers) with an inclination of 96.9 degrees to the equator.

Another object, believed to be the KT-2s upper stage, was found in a lower orbit, positioned to expedite its re-entry into Earths atmosphere, a common tactic to minimize space debris.

The KT-2s inaugural mission was the third Chinese space launch of the year, and the second from Jiuquan.

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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Small experimental satellite launched by new Chinese rocket – Spaceflight Now

Live coverage: Atlas 5 countdown and launch journal – Spaceflight Now

February 27, 2017 Spaceflight Now

Live coverage of the United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket flight to deploy the NROL-79 payload for the National Reconnaissance Office. Text updates will appear automatically below; there is no need to reload the page. Follow us on Twitter. (Launch webcast begins at 9:30 a.m. local / 12:30 p.m. EST / 1730 GMT)

Entries below listed as EST (subtract 3 hours for local time; add 5 hours for GMT)

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Live coverage: Atlas 5 countdown and launch journal – Spaceflight Now

MAVEN avoids crashing into Mars’ moon Phobos – SpaceFlight Insider

Derek Richardson

March 3rd, 2017

An artists illustration of NASAs MAVEN spacecraft in orbit above the Red Planet. Image Credit: NASA

NASAs Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN, or MAVEN, spacecraft just avoided colliding with Phobos, one of Mars two moons. An avoidance maneuver was performed on Feb. 28, 2017, to safely alter the trajectory of the orbiter.

MAVENsengines fired to change the velocity of the spacecraft by less than 1 mph (about 0.4 meters per second). This ensured the spacecraft would miss Phobos by about 2.5 minutes on its March 6, 2017, closest approach.

Phobos is one of two moons of Mars the other is Deimos. PhotoCredit: NASA/ JPL-Caltech / University of Arizona

Before the maneuver, the two objects would have crossed paths within 7 seconds of each other. However, with Phobos being nearly 19 miles (30 kilometers) long at its widest, that was too close for comfort for NASA as it had a very high likelihood of collision.

This was MAVENs first collision avoidance maneuver since it began circling Mars in 2013. The spacecrafts elliptical orbit around the planetcrosses other spacecrafts orbits as well as Phobos many times over the duration of a year. As the pathsof all of these objects are well known and monitored by NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory, these events are usually known well in advance.

Kudos to the JPL navigation and tracking teams for watching out for possible collisions every day of the year, and to the MAVEN spacecraft team for carrying out the maneuver flawlessly, said MAVEN Principal Investigator Bruce Jakosky in a news release.

Currently, there are six spacecraft orbiting the planet. The most recent spacecraft, the European Space Agencys (ESA) ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, arrived in Fall 2016. ESA also has the Mars Express spacecraft, which has been orbiting the Red Planet since 2003.

In addition to MAVEN, the United States spacecraft circling Mars include the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Odyssey orbiting since 2005 and 2001, respectively.

India also has a spacecraft orbiting the Red Planet. Its Mars Orbiter Mission, also called Mangalyaan, has been circling Mars since 2014.

On the surface, there are two NASA rovers: Opportunity, which landed in 2004, and Curiosity, which landed in 2012.

Since 2014, there has been a record number of active missions on or around the Red Planet: seven from 2014 to 2015, and eight from 2016 to 2017.

A graphical representation of the orbits of five of the current six spacecraft circling Mars. ESAs Trace Gas Orbiter arrived after this graphic was created. It resides in a circular low-Mars orbit of 250 miles (400 kilometers) inclined by 74 degrees. Image Credit: NASA

Tagged: Jet Propulsion Laboratory Lead Stories Mars MAVEN Phobos

Derek Richardson is a student studying mass media with an emphasis in contemporary journalism at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. He is currently the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also writes a blog, called Orbital Velocity, about the space station. His passion for space ignited when he watched space shuttle Discovery leap to space on Oct. 29, 1998. He saw his first in-person launch on July 8, 2011 when the space shuttle launched for the final time. Today, this fervor has accelerated toward orbit and shows no signs of slowing down. After dabbling in math and engineering courses in college, he soon realized that his true calling was communicating to others about space exploration and spreading that passion.

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MAVEN avoids crashing into Mars’ moon Phobos – SpaceFlight Insider

James Webb Space Telescope will search TRAPPIST-1 planets for signs of life – SpaceFlight Insider

Laurel Kornfeld

March 3rd, 2017

This artists concept shows what the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system may look like, based on available data about the planets diameters, masses, and distances from the host star. Image & Caption Credit: NASA-JPL/Caltech

The seven Earth-sized planets discovered last month orbiting the star TRAPPIST-1 will be ideal targets for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), scheduled for launch next year, to probe in a search for signs of life.

Viewed as the Hubble Space Telescopes scientific successor, JWST, a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Canadian Space Agency, will observe in the infrared and use spectroscopy to identify the chemical contents of exoplanets atmospheres.

Artists rendering of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) in space. Image Credit: Northrop Grumman

Spectroscopy separates light into individual wavelengths. Every chemical has its own unique wavelength signature, so the technique is capable of identifying individual atmospheric components.

This means JWST will be able to search the atmospheres of all seven TRAPPIST-1 planets assuming all have atmospheres for chemicals produced by biological processes, known as chemical biomarkers.

Two such chemicals are ozone and methane. On Earth, ozone forms mostly through interaction between oxygen produced by plant life during photosynthesis and sunlight. Atmospheric ozone also protects life on Earth from harmful solar radiation.

Finding methane could be a first step toward locating a biological source of the oxygen that goes into the formation of ozone.

If these planets have atmospheres, the James Webb Space Telescope will be the key to unlocking their secrets. In the meantime, NASAs missions like Spitzer, Hubble, and Kepler are following up on these planets, said NASA Exoplanet Program scientist Doug Hudgins.

Being Earth-sized is not the only factor that makes the TRAPPIST-1 planets perfect targets for JWST. At 40 light-years away, the system is relatively nearby. Three of them orbit in their stars habitable zone, where temperatures allow liquid water to exist on their surfaces.

With the red dwarf TRAPPIST-1 star being so small and dim, signals from the planets will be large enough and strong enough for scientists to isolate their individual atmospheric components.

A planets ability to support life depends not just on its atmosphere containing chemicals such as oxygen, ozone, methane, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and water, but also on the proportions of these chemicals within the atmosphere.

JWSTs infrared capability will identify the contents of the TRAPPIST-1 planets atmospheres while its spectroscopy will determine the proportions of these biosignatures.

Observations will especially focus on the three planets in the stars habitable zone, TRAPPIST-1 e, f, and g. With the right atmospheric composition, one or more could have an environment capable of supporting liquid water.

Because the seven planets are so close to one another, scientists will be able to study all of them with JWST and compare them with one another in terms of composition and processes.

This is the first and only system to have seven Earth-sized planets, where three are in the habitable zone of the star, noted Hannah Wakeford, a postdoctoral fellow at NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

It is also the first system bright enough, and small enough to make it possible for us to look at each of these planets atmospheres. [] With all seven planets Earth-sized, we can look at the different characteristics that make each of them unique and determine critical connections between a planets conditions and origins, she added.

The most powerful space telescope ever built, JWST is scheduled to launch in October 2018, so the discovery of the TRAPPIST-1 system is ideal timing, and scientists are eager to aim the telescope at these seven worlds.

Currently, JWST, which has a 6.5-meter (21 feet) primary mirror, is at Goddard undergoing testing by engineers and scientists.

In addition to teasing out the atmospheres of exoplanets, the telescope will also observe the universes earliest galaxies and use its infrared capability to look into dusty clouds to view the formation of stars and planetary systems.

This diagram compares the sizes of the newly-discovered planets around the faint red star TRAPPIST-1 with the Galilean moons of Jupiter and the inner Solar System. All the planets found around TRAPPIST-1 are of similar size to the Earth. Image Credit: O. Furtak / ESO

Tagged: James Webb Space Telescope NASA The Range TRAPPIST-1

Laurel Kornfeld is an amateur astronomer and freelance writer from Highland Park, NJ, who enjoys writing about astronomy and planetary science. She studied journalism at Douglass College, Rutgers University, and earned a Graduate Certificate of Science from Swinburne Universitys Astronomy Online program. Her writings have been published online in The Atlantic, Astronomy magazines guest blog section, the UK Space Conference, the 2009 IAU General Assembly newspaper, The Space Reporter, and newsletters of various astronomy clubs. She is a member of the Cranford, NJ-based Amateur Astronomers, Inc. Especially interested in the outer solar system, Laurel gave a brief presentation at the 2008 Great Planet Debate held at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, MD.

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James Webb Space Telescope will search TRAPPIST-1 planets for signs of life – SpaceFlight Insider

Automated flight safety improving space access – SpaceFlight Insider

Bart Leahy

March 2nd, 2017

SpaceXs Falcon 9 touches down at 9:47 a.m. EST (14:47 GMT) Feb. 19, 2017, at Cape Canaveral Air Force Stations Landing Zone 1. With more rocket launches, and now rocket landings, the Eastern Range is working to automate flight safety systems in order to handle the growing demand of space access. Photo Credit: Mike Deep / SpaceFlight Insider

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. After supporting over 3,500 launches in the past 70 years, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) faces a busy 2017. With a scheduled flight manifest of some 30 launches, the Eastern Range is changing the way it handles flight safety to satisfy awider array of customers.

Every rocket launched has a feature onboard that can commanded the vehicle to self-destruct: a flight termination system. Until 2017, however, the actual command to destroy a rocket came manually from the Range Safety Officer on the ground.

SpaceXs CRS-10 Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft lift off from historic Launch Complex 39A at NASAs Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Liftoff occurred at 9:38 a.m. EST (14:38 GMT). Photo Credit: Mike Deep / SpaceFlight Insider

Now, however, a new device, the Autonomous Flight Safety System or AFSS, puts the control in the hands of a computer onboard the rocket.

AFSS was first demonstrated as a primary system on an operational flight during SpaceXs Feb. 19, 2017, CRS-10 launch from Kennedy Space Centers Launch Complex 39A.

Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceXs President and Chief Operating Officer, explained that the company has been using autonomous flight safety systems for a while in shadow mode with the manual system being the primary.

The AFSS is a self-contained, independent system mounted to a launch vehicle. The systems computer determines if the launch vehicle poses an unacceptable hazard to people or property by using pre-established, programmed mission rules developed by range safety flight analysts. If the computer determines the rocket is a danger to public safety, it activates a series of controlled explosions to immediately stop the vehicles forward progress.

Up to now, these public safety decisions were made by individual human controllers on the ground. Kennedy Space Center Director and former astronaut Bob Cabana said the automated system is the wave of the future and it is where the range is going.

Cabanas reasoning for this is that, in some cases, human beings are more cautious than the computers and might initiate the flight safety system unnecessarily.

If done right, an autonomous system is safer than having a human in the loop, Cabana said.

The AFSS is configurable and uses software-based rules that rely on redundant flight processors usingdata from GPSand onboard sensors. The system also reduces the amount of customized hardware CCAFS must have on the ground to activateflight termination systems. This allows the range to improve its turnaround times usingtougher safety standards and fewer people on console while still reducing launch costs.

The end result is the automated system can ensure the Eastern Range can increase the number of customersseeking space access.

CCAFSs customer base has been steadily increasing, from NASA and the Air Force to United Launch Alliance (ULA) and SpaceX.

In the next few years, CCAFS will also support launches and landings by Blue Origin, crewed launches to the International Space Station by SpaceX, Boeing, and Sierra Nevada Corporation, as well as small launcher operations from KSCs Launch Complex 39C.

On Jan. 23, 2017, an Atlas V with SBIRS GEO-3 arcs out of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station toward its designated orbit. Photo Credit: Michael Howard / SpaceFlight Insider

With more stakeholders requiringaccess to space, the Air Forces Eastern Range (the ocean east of CCAFS) and the Western Range (the area south of Vandenberg Air Force Base in California) have had to develop innovative solutions to launch rockets without compromising public safety. They are also coping with aging infrastructure and constrained resourcesin the face of increased flight rates.

In a recent media release, General Jay Raymond, Air Force Space Command commander, said the Air Force Space Command partners with industry in order to advance its space capabilities.

AFSS allows us to increase the pace of launch, reduce costly infrastructure and more rapidly build a resilient space enterprise, Raymond said. These benefits will be felt globally.

While reducing the number of controllers on the ground, AFSS also provides greater flight termination control further downrange than would be possible by activating the system remotely.

Because the controls are aboard the rocket, a flight termination command can also be issued more quickly. The onboard capability also means AFSS can operate over the horizon, so flight termination is no longer limited by ground equipment sending signals by line of sight.

Additionally, AFSS can support multiple objects in simultaneous flight, which is crucial for companies like SpaceX, which plans to land multiple first stage cores for its Falcon Heavy vehicle at nearly the same time.

Our role to ensure public safety during launches using this system is unchanged, said 45th Space Wing Chief Engineer Howard Schindzielorz. Our Flight Termination System requirements still apply for design, test, operational performance and reliability. We still develop the mission rules to provide public safety, but the system works with mission rule data files loaded into the on-board AFSS units. This essentially shifts the workload to the front-end of the launch process.

AFSS increases launch availability by reducing the amount of hardware needed on the ground. This includes eliminating the cost of hardware needed for non-AFSS launches, such as Uninterruptible Power Supplies, ground-system software, Independent Validation & Verification, and testing equipment.

The 45th Space Wing is pushing its systems to support a launch manifest of up to 48 launches per year early one per week by 2020.

Tagged: 45th Space Wing automated flight safety system Cape Canaveral Air Force Station CRS-10 Eastern Range Falcon 9 flight termination system SpaceX The Range

Bart Leahy is a freelance technical writer living in Orlando, Florida. Leahy’s diverse career has included work for The Walt Disney Company, NASA, the Department of Defense, Nissan, a number of commercial space companies, small businesses, nonprofits, as well as the Science Cheerleaders.

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Automated flight safety improving space access – SpaceFlight Insider