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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Photos: Vega rocket vaults off launch pad – Spaceflight Now

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?

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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

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

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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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

Atlas V sends classified NROL-79 payload to space – SpaceFlight Insider

Derek Richardson

March 1st, 2017

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) lifts off from Space Launch Complex-3. Designated NROL-79, the mission is in support of national defense. Photo & Caption Credit: ULA

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket roared out of Vandenberg Air Force Base in California with a classified payload for the National Reconnaissance Office. The NROL-79 mission lifted off at 9:49 a.m. PST (12:49 p.m. EST / 17:49 GMT) March 1, 2017, from Space Launch Complex 3E.

Laura Maginnis, vice president, Government Satellite Launch, said: I am so impressed by the incredible teamwork between the NRO, U.S. Air Force our industry partners and the ULA team that resulted in todays successful launch. The integrated mission team overcame many challenges this flow including delays associated with the Vandenberg Canyon Fire last year.

Tragically, Ventura County firefighter Ryan Osler lost his life en route to assist in fighting the fire. We are honored to dedicate todays mission to Ryan and his family. Thank you to all of the men and women who worked to deliver this critical asset for our nations security.

Atlas V / NROL-79 launch. Photo Credit: ULA

The weather for the launch was almost perfect. In fact, some six hours before launch, the probability of weather violation at the time of liftoff decreased to zero percent.

Col. Chris Moss, 30th Space Wing commander, the launch decision authority, said: This successful launch is the result of outstanding teamwork between members of the 30th Space Wing and our partners at the National Reconnaissance Office and United Launch Alliance. The combined team delivered an important capability for the nation today. It was an exceptional effort.

Using an Atlas V in the 401 configuration 4-meter fairing, zero solid rocket motors and a single engine Centaur upper stage the vehicle lifted off from the launch pad and began to turn toward the south.

The first stage, an Atlas common booster core, was powered by a single Russian-made RD-180 engine. Consuming rocket grade kerosene (RP-1) and liquid oxygen, it produced about 860,000 pounds (3,827 kilonewtons) of thrust. That increased to 933,000 pounds (4,152 kilonewtons) as the vehicle climbed out of Earths atmosphere and into the vacuum of space.

About 1 minute, 21 seconds into the flight, as the vehicle surpassed the speed of sound, the Atlas V began to push through the region of maximum stress on the rocket known as max Q.

About two-and-a-half minutes later, some four minutes into theflight, the Atlas common booster core was depleted of fuel and the RD-180 cut out as planned.

At 4 minutes, 9 seconds, the Atlas common booster core separated with the Centaur upper stage. Ten seconds later, its RL10C-1 engine ignited.

Consuming liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, the RL10C-1 engine provided about 22,890 pounds (101.8 kilonewtons) of thrust.

It being a classified mission, at 4 minutes, 27 seconds, once the payload fairing was jettisoned to reveal the payload to space, ULAs coverage of the mission concluded at the request of the NRO.

A launch like this requires thousands of hours of activity and practice to execute successfully, said Lt. Col. Eric Zarybnisky, 4th Space Launch Squadron commander. Engineers and technicians from my squadron work with members of the United Launch Alliance to ensure a successful launch like this one.

Not much is known about the classified payload or what orbit it was being placed in. There has been information suggesting the rocket was carrying a pair of Naval Ocean Surveillance Satellite (NOSS) spacecraft. This would be similar to those that were deployed on NROL-36 and NROL-55, the latter occurring in October 2015.

These spacecraft are also known by their code name of INTRUDER. Together, the pair weighs about 14,330 pounds (6,500 kilograms) and provide intelligence to the NRO and U.S. Navy.

This was the 70th flight of an Atlas V rocketand the 35 in the base 401 configuration since the first launch in 2002. It was the second West Coast launch of the year and ULAs second flight of 2017.

ULAs next launch is expected to occur on March 8, 2017, when it launches the Wideband Global SATCOM, or WGS 9, spacecraft from Cape Canaveral Air Force Stations Space Launch Complex 37.

The satellite being launched is a communications spacecraft that will serve the U.S. military. The rocket that will be employed for this flight will be a Delta 4 Medium+ (5,4) with a five-meter fairing and four solid rocket motors.

A National Reconnaissance Office payload on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket launches from Space Launch Complex-3, March 1, 2017, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Photo & Caption Credit: Senior Airman Ian Dudley / U.S. Air Force

Video Courtesy of SpaceFlight Insider

Tagged: Lead Stories National Reconnaissance Office NROL-79 Space Launch Complex 3E United Launch Alliance Urgent Vandenberg Air Force Base

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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Atlas V sends classified NROL-79 payload to space – SpaceFlight Insider

China readying Kaituozhe-2A rocket for launch with experimental payload – SpaceFlight Insider

Curt Godwin

March 2nd, 2017

Image Credit: Peoples Republic of China

There are indications that the China National Space Administration (CNSA) is preparing to launch its Kaituozhe-2A (KT-2A) rocket on a mission to deliver an experimental satellite into orbit. The rocket maylift off as soon as March 3, 2017.

Scale model of the Chinese Kaituozhe-2A (KT-2A) launch vehicle. Photo credit: Gunters Space Page

Not much is known about the 114-foot (35-meter) tall launch vehicle. The vehicle is reportedly capable of lofting 4,409pounds (2,000 kilograms) to a 310-mile (500-kilometer) orbit.

Based on Chinas Dong Feng 31 (DF-31) intercontinental ballistic missile, the KT-2A sports a central core consisting of three stages along with two strap-onboosters. All stages, as well as the boosters, are solid fueled.

The launch, when it occurs, will be the first for this variant of the KT-2 family.

The intermediate-class rocket is set to launch on its maiden flight from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, located in far northwestern China, near Mongolia. This was the site of Chinas first successful domestic satellite launch, DFH-1, in 1970.

The launch center is well-positioned for high-inclination launches, such as those bound for sun-synchronous orbits. Pad 603 at the facility will likely play host for this mission, which may be the launch of an experimental satellite called Tiankong-1.

Jiuquanwas Chinas first spaceport. More Chinese launches have occurred here than anywhere else in the country. Additionally, all of Chinas crewed missions took off from this location as well as its two space stations, Tiangong 1 and 2.

Pad 603 is one of two atLaunch Area 4, also known as the South Launch Site. The other is called Pad 921. They became operational in 2003 and 1999 respectively.

Pad 921 has been used to launch the countrys crewed Shenzhou spacecraft and space station modules while Pad 603 has been used for most of the uncrewed launches from Jiuquan.

While rockets bound for Pad 921 are built in a vehicle assembly building and rolled out, rockets using Pad 603 are assembled vertically on the pad with a crane.

If KT-2A flies on March 3, it will be Chinas third mission of the year.A Long March 3B and Kuaizhou 1A were launched Jan. 5 and Jan. 9, 2017, respectively.

Another Chinese rocket is expected to fly by the end of March. It will be a Long March 2D and carry two communications satellites for CNSA.

Tagged: China Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center Kaituozhe-2A Lead Stories Tiankong-1

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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China readying Kaituozhe-2A rocket for launch with experimental payload – SpaceFlight Insider

OneWeb to break ground on Florida factory, merge with Intelsat – Spaceflight Now

Artists concept of the OneWeb factory at Exploration Park, Florida. Credit: OneWeb

Days before breaking ground on a new spacecraft assembly line near Cape Canaveral, OneWeb and Intelsat announced a proposed merger Tuesday that would couple a planned fleet of 900 broadband Internet satellites with a high-power communications network in geostationary orbit.

The share-to-share merger, if finalized, will be followed by a $1.7 billion investment in the combined company by Japans SoftBank. The merger and investment will reduce Intelsats debt by up to $3.6 billion, officials said, revitalizing Intelsat as it struggles with falling prices for broadband capacity and reduced business from the U.S. government.

Meanwhile, OneWeb is about take another step toward deploying the largest satellite fleet in history with the start of construction of the companys factory in Exploration Park, Florida, just outside the gates of NASAs Kennedy Space Center.

A groundbreaking ceremony was set for Friday, but officials said the event was postponed due to scheduling conflicts. The first satellites should be completed at the facility next year.

The merger of Intelsat and OneWeb is contingent on bondholder and regulatory approvals, officials said.

Assuming we can close this transaction, we think the Intelsat and OneWeb future advances the objectives of both companies, said Stephen Spengler, CEO of Intelsat, with headquarters in Luxembourg and McLean, Virginia. First, we create a global leader with the ability to provide consistent highly reliable broadband anywhere in the world, from a crowded city to the middle of the rainforest.

Spengler added the OneWeb fleet, which will consist of 900 satellites in low Earth orbit at an altitude of 745 miles (1,200 kilometers), will operate as a fully-integrated hybrid network with Intelsats 50-plus relay craft positioned in geostationary orbit more than 22,000 miles (36,000 kilometers) above the equator.

The OneWeb constellation will begin launching next year, building out a space network the company says will offer high-speed Internet with connection speeds comparable to ground-based service providers.

Greg Wyler, executive chairman and founding chairman of OneWeb, said the merger of large satellite fleets in low Earth orbit and geosynchronous orbit is a unique combination to support wide-scale broadband services.

OneWebs fleet in low orbit is 30 times closer to the Earth than geostationary satellites, cutting the systems latency, or the time it takes signals to travel between each spacecraft and the ground.

First of all, theres broadband with low-latency with a terrestrial quality, which is what were getting out of the OneWeb system, and then (were) adding a lot of other features that the GEO (geostationary satellites) offer for wide-scale video distribution, wide-scale upload of software, Wyler said Tuesday in a conference call announcing the merger. So the combination of the two companies gives us a really nice set of features that we can offer our customers not just stuff that people get today, but stuff that will be needed in the future.

Based in Arlington, Virginia, OneWeb aims to beam wifi and mobile data service to customers as soon as next year, reaching homes, businesses, hospitals, schools, oil rigs, ships, airplanes and trains. It works by broadcasting a signal to a hotspot that customers can install on their roofs.

Spengler said Intelsat and OneWeb envision developing fully interoperable ground terminals that can access both satellite fleets.

Were still going to be serving mobile operators and helping them with small cell expansion into remote rural areas, but well also have the ability to go direct to schools and into government offices, Spengler said Tuesday.

Intelsat was already an investor in OneWeb, planning to take charge of day-to-day operations for OneWebs satellites in orbit.

OneWeb plans to launch 648 satellites in the first phase of the constellation. The rest of the spacecraft will be spares pre-positioned in orbit or on the ground.

Wyler said OneWeb has raised $1.7 billion to date to fund the first phase of the program, with $1.2 billion coming from SoftBank under a previous fundraising agreement announced in December.

Airbus, Qualcomm, New Delhi-based Bharti Enterprises, Hughes Network Systems a subsidiary of EchoStar Corp. Coca-Cola and Totalplay, a company owned by Mexican billionaire Ricardo Salinas Pliego, are also behind OneWeb.

The satellite fabrication plant on Floridas Space Coast will produce up to three 330-pound (150-kilogram) spacecraft per day in an assembly line fashion. Airbus Defense and Space is prime contractor for OneWebs satellite constellation, applying mass production techniques such as automation and robotics used in the companys airplane business to spacecraft.

The OneWeb factory will cover more than 100,000 square feet (more than 9,000 square meters), officials said.

This will be the worlds first fully-automated high-volume satellite assembly plant, Wyler said.

Space Florida, a state agency charged with luring commercial aerospace business to the Sunshine State, helped arrange $20 million in government incentives to bring the OneWeb factory to the Space Coast.

The factory will create around 250 direct jobs at Exploration Park, officials said.

OneWebs facility will be located across the street from Blue Origins rocket factory. Blue Origin aims to launch its first New Glenn rocket from Cape Canaveral by the end of the decade.

The bulk of the initial OneWeb constellation totaling up to 700 satellites will be launched by Russian Soyuz rockets under a contract signed in 2015 between OneWeb and Arianespace.

OneWeb ordered 21 Soyuz launches from up to four spaceports the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Vostochny and Plesetsk in Russia, and the European-run Guiana Space Center in South America to send up between 32 and 36 satellites at a time.

Airbus is building the first 10 OneWeb satellites at its facility in Toulouse, France. Those spacecraft will be launched to test their performance and functionality in early 2018, Wyler said.

Were starting with our first launch at the end of March of 2018, Wyler said. And then, several months after maybe five months after once we test out those satellites, we will be launching every 21 days, which sounds like a lot, but were using multiple launch pads to do that.

They are really a very high-volume launcher, even one time they launched twice in one day, Wyler said of the Soyuz. So they really have their act together, and we feel very confident about their capabilities.

Arianespace also secured optional orders from OneWeb for five more Soyuz launches and three flights of the next-generation Ariane 6 rocket.

Virgin Galactics air-launched LauncherOne vehicle, which is still in development and could fly by the end of 2017, was also awarded 39 launches by OneWeb to replenish the companys satellite fleet as old satellites stop working. LauncherOne will haul up one satellite at a time after dropping from a modified Boeing 747 carrier jet.

Wyler said OneWeb is set to start initial service by the end of 2019, with full global coverage available 12 to 18 months later.

As many as 2,000 more OneWeb satellites could be added to the network with sufficient demand, Wyler said.

Email the author.

Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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OneWeb to break ground on Florida factory, merge with Intelsat – Spaceflight Now

Kasturirangan for collaborative approach to human spaceflight – Outlook India

hyderabad, Mar 2 Veteran space scientist K Kasturirangan has favoured India to pursue a collaborative model in its proposed human spaceflight venture to undertake the mission early in a cost-effective manner by leveraging proven capabilities in the field internationally.

The former Chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation noted that there is a programme to look at whats the model that would be applicable at this phase of the programme, both globally and nationally in the case of human spaceflight.

“So, they (ISRO) need to really work out multiple strategies by which the goal can be achieved, and in those strategies how much of it should be ourselves, how much we should do with international collaboration component, and whats the optimum way in which we can reach the goal as early as possible with minimal investment because these are all investment-intensive and also they take their own time,” he told PTI.

Not just funds, resources in terms of human and infrastructure, quite a lot of investment is needed if India is to do the venture alone, pointed out the former Secretary in the Department of Space and ex-Chairman of Space Commission.

“But the world has already moved there in that direction (human spaceflight) and therefore in the world today we have got quite a lot of capabilities available across globally. Our political relations are quite good with many of these countries (having such space capabilities) and so I think we should be able to develop models where we can optimally design a system by which we can move fast into the human spaceflight,” Kasturirangan said.

Asked if India should have an ambition to establish a space station, he said the country can now have any ambition because economically its getting stronger.

“Technologically and scientifically its capable; there is a will among the public to support this programme and so I see no reason why India will hesitate. I am sure these things are very much in the minds of planners and political system of the country,” Kasturirangan added.

Hyderabad, Mar 2 Veteran space scientist K Kasturirangan has favoured India to pursue a collaborative model in its proposed human spaceflight venture to undertake the mission early in a cost-effective manner by leveraging proven capabilities in the field internationally.

The former Chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation noted that there is a programme to look at what is the model that would be applicable at this phase of the programme, both globally and nationally in the case of human spaceflight.

“So, they (ISRO) need to really work out multiple strategies by which the goal can be achieved, and in those strategies how much of it should be ourselves, how much we should do with international collaboration component, and what is the optimum way in which we can reach the goal as early as possible with minimal investment because these are all investment-intensive and also they take their own time,” he told PTI.

Not just funds, resources in terms of human and infrastructure, quite a lot of investment is needed if India is to do the venture alone, pointed out the former Secretary in the Department of Space and ex-Chairman of Space Commission.

“But the world has already moved there in that direction (human spaceflight) and therefore in the world today we have got quite a lot of capabilities available across globally. Our political relations are quite good with many of these countries (having such space capabilities) and so I think we should be able to develop models where we can optimally design a system by which we can move fast into the human spaceflight,” Kasturirangan said.

Asked if India should have an ambition to establish a space station, he said the country can now have any ambition because economically its getting stronger.

“Technologically and scientifically its capable; there is a will among the public to support this programme and so I see no reason why India will hesitate. I am sure these things are very much in the minds of planners and political system of the country,” Kasturirangan added.

hyderabad, Mar 2 Veteran space scientist K Kasturirangan has favoured India to pursue a collaborative model in its proposed human spaceflight venture to undertake the mission early in a cost-effective manner by leveraging proven capabilities in the field internationally.

The former Chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation noted that there is a programme to look at whats the model that would be applicable at this phase of the programme, both globally and nationally in the case of human spaceflight.

“So, they (ISRO) need to really work out multiple strategies by which the goal can be achieved, and in those strategies how much of it should be ourselves, how much we should do with international collaboration component, and whats the optimum way in which we can reach the goal as early as possible with minimal investment because these are all investment-intensive and also they take their own time,” he told PTI.

Not just funds, resources in terms of human and infrastructure, quite a lot of investment is needed if India is to do the venture alone, pointed out the former Secretary in the Department of Space and ex-Chairman of Space Commission.

“But the world has already moved there in that direction (human spaceflight) and therefore in the world today we have got quite a lot of capabilities available across globally. Our political relations are quite good with many of these countries (having such space capabilities) and so I think we should be able to develop models where we can optimally design a system by which we can move fast into the human spaceflight,” Kasturirangan said.

Asked if India should have an ambition to establish a space station, he said the country can now have any ambition because economically its getting stronger.

“Technologically and scientifically its capable; there is a will among the public to support this programme and so I see no reason why India will hesitate. I am sure these things are very much in the minds of planners and political system of the country,” Kasturirangan added.

Hyderabad, Mar 2 Veteran space scientist K Kasturirangan has favoured India to pursue a collaborative model in its proposed human spaceflight venture to undertake the mission early in a cost-effective manner by leveraging proven capabilities in the field internationally.

The former Chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation noted that there is a programme to look at what is the model that would be applicable at this phase of the programme, both globally and nationally in the case of human spaceflight.

“So, they (ISRO) need to really work out multiple strategies by which the goal can be achieved, and in those strategies how much of it should be ourselves, how much we should do with international collaboration component, and what is the optimum way in which we can reach the goal as early as possible with minimal investment because these are all investment-intensive and also they take their own time,” he told PTI.

Not just funds, resources in terms of human and infrastructure, quite a lot of investment is needed if India is to do the venture alone, pointed out the former Secretary in the Department of Space and ex-Chairman of Space Commission.

“But the world has already moved there in that direction (human spaceflight) and therefore in the world today we have got quite a lot of capabilities available across globally. Our political relations are quite good with many of these countries (having such space capabilities) and so I think we should be able to develop models where we can optimally design a system by which we can move fast into the human spaceflight,” Kasturirangan said.

Asked if India should have an ambition to establish a space station, he said the country can now have any ambition because economically its getting stronger.

“Technologically and scientifically its capable; there is a will among the public to support this programme and so I see no reason why India will hesitate. I am sure these things are very much in the minds of planners and political system of the country,” Kasturirangan added.

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Kasturirangan for collaborative approach to human spaceflight – Outlook India

SpaceX to fly 2 people around Moon in 2018 – SpaceFlight Insider

Derek Richardson

February 27th, 2017

An artists rendering of a Crew Dragon in orbit. After SpaceX is certified to send acrew to the International Space Station, it will send two paying customers to fly around the Moon. This is expected to occur in late 2018. Image Credit: Nathan Koga / SpaceFlight Insider

SpaceX announcedon Feb. 27, 2017, that it will be sending two people on a free-return trajectory around the Moon in late 2018 using the companys yet-to-be-flown Crew Dragon spacecraft. The announcement came with less than 24 hours notice when the NewSpace companys CEO and founder Elon Musktweeted about it.

Click to enlarge. Image Credit: James Vaughan / SpaceFlight Insider

According to a news release from the company, SpaceX was approached by two private citizens for the trip sometime next year. The trajectory will be a long loop around the Moon, reaching about 400,000 miles (650,000 kilometers) from Earth with no landing on the surface. The two citizens will fly alone with no professional astronaut with them.

They have already paid a significant deposit to do a Moon mission, the announcement stated. Like the Apollo astronauts before them, these individuals will travel into space carrying the hopes and dreams of all humankind, driven by the universal human spirit of exploration.

SpaceX did not identify the individuals and said they will undergo health and fitness tests, as well as training, later this year. The company said other flight teams have expressed strong interest and it will release more information about them contingent upon their approval and confirmation of the health and fitness tests results.

In the press release, SpaceX thanked NASA, for, without the U.S. space agency, the company would not be as far along as they are now. The Commercial Crew Program provided most of the funding for the Crew Dragons development.

The mission will fly into space atop the also yet-to-be-flown Falcon Heavy rocket. Its debut mission is slated for sometime in Summer 2017. Once it launches successfully, it will be the most powerful vehicle to send payloads into space since the retirement of the Saturn V Moon rocket.

SpaceX stated Falcon Heavy will have 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, which is two-thirds the thrust of the Saturn V and over double that of the next largest launch vehicle currently in service.

If this mission flies on time in late 2018, it is entirely possible SpaceX may beat NASAs timeline of sending acrew to the Moon, even if a proposed acceleration of crewed flight is ultimately accepted. Musk, however, did not think it would be that big of a deal.

The famous Earthrise photo taken by Bill Anders on Apollo 8. Should the SpaceX mission occur as planned, the two paying customers will be the first humans to travel beyond low-Earth orbit since the end of the Apollo program. Photo Credit: NASA

I think what matters is really the advancement of space exploration and exceeding the high water mark that was set in 1969 by the Apollo program and just having a really exciting future, Musk said.

The first test flight of the companys Crew Dragon is expected to occur later this year. According to NASASpaceflight, the current plan calls for a two-week uncrewed demo flight from Nov. 11 to Nov. 25, 2017. During that period, the spacecraft will rendezvous and dock to the International Space Stations newly installed International Docking Adapter, which is located on the forward end of the Harmony module.

Following that mission, SpaceX will perform a launch abort test sometime in early 2018 before flying the second demo mission of the Crew Dragon. This time it will have astronauts aboard. The current schedule calls for the month-long flight to take place in May 2018.

Once operational Crew Dragon missions are underway for NASA, SpaceX will launch the private mission on a journey to circumnavigate the Moon and return to Earth, the press release stated.

The launch will take place from Kennedy Space Centers Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A). SpaceX signed a 20-year lease on the complex in 2014. It has since renovated the pad to be able to launch its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets. The first flight from the pad took place onFeb. 19, 2017, sending a cargo variant of the companys Dragon capsule to the space station.

LC-39A not only saw the start of dozens of Space Shuttle missionsbut also nearly all of the Apollo Moon missions as well. The last flight to go to Earths nearest neighbor occurred in December 1972. Since then no human has traveled further away from Earth than a few hundred miles.

This presents an opportunity for humans to return to deep space for the first time in 45 years and they will travel faster and further into the Solar System than any before them, the press release noted.

UPDATE NASA released a statement regarding todays SpaceX announcement:

NASA commends its industry partners for reaching higher.

We will work closely with SpaceX to ensure it safely meets the contractual obligations to return the launch of astronauts to U.S. soil and continue to successfully deliver supplies to the International Space Station.

For more than a decade, NASA has invested in private industry to develop capabilities for the American people and seed commercial innovation to advance humanitys future in space.

NASA is changing the way it does business through its commercial partnerships to help build a strong American space economy and free the agency to focus on developing the next-generation rocket, spacecraft and systems to go beyond the moon and sustain deep space exploration.

Animation of Falcon Heavy launching. Video courtesy of SpaceX

Tagged: Crew Dragon Elon Musk Falcon Heavy Lead Stories Moon SpaceX

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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SpaceX to fly 2 people around Moon in 2018 – SpaceFlight Insider

Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) to Develop Microsatellites for Greenhouse Gas Monitoring – Marketwired (press release)

TORONTO, ON–(Marketwired – March 02, 2017) – Space Flight Laboratory (SFL), a provider of complete microspace missions based at the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS), has been contracted by GHGSat Inc. of Montreal to develop the GHGSat-C1 and C2 greenhouse gas monitoring satellites. SFL will release details of the operational GHGSat microsatellite mission next week at the Satellite 2017 Conference in Washington, D.C.

“SFL is a world-class bus manufacturer with nearly two decades of experience developing and launching small satellites,” said Stephane Germain, President and CEO of GHGSat Inc. “Working with SFL was a natural fit because we share a common microspace philosophy and culture important to us as we get our satellites launched efficiently and quickly.”

Established in 1998, SFL specializes in implementing high-performance nano-, micro- and small-satellite missions at low cost on tight schedules. SFL served as prime integration contractor for the successful GHGSat-D demonstration satellite, known as CLAIRE, launched in June 2016. CLAIRE is a 15-kilogram, 20x30x40cm microsat based on SFL’s space-proven Next-generation Earth Monitoring and Observation (NEMO) platform.

“GHGSat-D demonstrated that greenhouse gas emissions from point sources, such as power plants and industrial sites, can be accurately targeted and measured from space,” said Dr. Robert E. Zee, SFL Director. “The precise attitude control and target tracking capability of our NEMO bus — rare among satellite platforms of this size — played a key role in the accurate pointing of the primary CLAIRE sensor.”

SFL has begun development of the GHGSat-C1 and C2 satellites at its Toronto facility with planned launches in late 2018 and early 2019, respectively. Serving as GHGSat’s first two commercially operating satellites, they will be identical to each other but contain incremental, yet significant, enhancements from the demonstration mission.

SFL’s NEMO platform has been used on several other missions, including the NORSAT-1 and NORSAT-2 built for Norway by SFL for science, advanced ship tracking, and ship communication. The NEMO bus is also utilized in the upcoming HawkEye360 Pathfinder missions under development by SFL and Deep Space Industries of California.

SFL will release additional details on GHGSat and other upcoming SFL launches in booth #130 at the 2017 Satellite Conference and Exhibition (#SatShow) being held March 6-9 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. For conference details, visit http://2017.satshow.com/.

About SFL (www.utias-sfl.net)

SFL builds big performance into smaller, lower cost satellites. Small satellites built by SFL consistently push the performance envelope and disrupt the traditional cost paradigm. Satellites are built with advanced power systems, stringent attitude control and high-volume data capacity that are striking relative to the budget. SFL arranges launches globally and maintains a mission control center accessing ground stations worldwide. The pioneering and barrier breaking work of SFL is a key enabler to tomorrow’s cost aggressive satellite constellations.

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Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) to Develop Microsatellites for Greenhouse Gas Monitoring – Marketwired (press release)

Lasers to boost communication across space – SpaceFlight Insider

Paul Knightly

February 28th, 2017

Several upcoming NASA missions will use lasers to increase data transmission from space. Image & Caption Credit: NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center / Amber Jacobson, producer

The slow download speeds associated with dial-up Internet are a distant memory for many people;however, slow download speeds are still a reality for scientists and engineers operating spacecraft many millions of miles from the Earth. For the last 60 years, the only way to communicate with spacecraft has been via radio. That could be changing soon as NASA prepares to test out new technologies using lasers for communications that, if successful, would greatly expand the capabilities of spacecraft both near and far.

So-called optical communication, which would carry information over laser light, could yield an increase in data-carrying capacity as much as 10 to 100 times what is possible via radio communication. These higher data rates would allow for scientists to collect data faster and to study sudden events such as dust storms, cryovolcanoes, or spacecraft landings and even enable the broadcast of video from the surface of other planets.

An animated concept of Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) depicting a satellite using lasers to relay data from Mars to Earth. Credits: NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center

Laser technology is ideal for boosting downlink communications from deep space, said Abi Biswas, the supervisor of the Optical Communications Systems group at NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. It will eventually allow for applications like giving each astronaut his or her own video feed, or sending back higher-resolution, data-rich images faster.

Radio waves and lasers travel at the speed of light, but lasers travel in a higher-frequency bandwidth that enables them to carry more information. Having a means of sending more information across space in less time is an important advancement in lockstep with the increasing complexity of interplanetary missions.

NASAs Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), which by itself is set to eclipse the total amount of data returned by all other interplanetary missions combined later this year, transmits data at speeds up to 6 Mbps. Biswas estimates that MRO could transmit data up to 250 Mbps if it was equipped with a laser communications system.

That data rate might still seem slow, but it would represent a huge leap forward in deep space communications. NASA has planned two upcoming missions to test the technology in space for the first time.

In 2019, the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) will be launched to a geostationary orbit 25,000 miles (40,000 kilometers) from Earth and relay laser communications between two different ground stations in California. Among other things, it will seek to understand how atmospheric phenomenon, such as clouds and dust, can interfere with space-based laser communications.

The Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) experiment is scheduled to launch in 2023 as a part of the upcoming NASA Discovery mission to the asteroid Psyche. While also testing laser communications at a greater distance than with LCRD, it will have the added challenge of accounting for the Earths rotation as it sends information embedded in its laser beams across the Solar System. For all the challenges ahead, successfully demonstrating deep space laser communications would be a game changer for how researchers communicate with spacecraft in the decades ahead.

Video Courtesy of NASA.gov Video

Tagged: Deep Space Optical Communications Laser Communications Relay Demonstration NASA The Range

Paul is currently a graduate student in Space and Planetary Sciences at the University of Akransas in Fayetteville. He grew up in the Kansas City area and developed an interest in space at a young age at the start of the twin Mars Exploration Rover missions in 2003. He began his studies in aerospace engineering before switching over to geology at Wichita State University where he earned a Bachelor of Science in 2013. After working as an environmental geologist for a civil engineering firm, he began his graduate studies in 2016 and is actively working towards a PhD that will focus on the surficial processes of Mars. He also participated in a 2-week simluation at The Mars Society’s Mars Desert Research Station in 2014 and remains involved in analogue mission studies today. Paul has been interested in science outreach and communication over the years which in the past included maintaining a personal blog on space exploration from high school through his undergraduate career and in recent years he has given talks at schools and other organizations over the topics of geology and space. He is excited to bring his experience as a geologist and scientist to the Spaceflight Insider team writing primarily on space science topics.

Originally posted here:

Lasers to boost communication across space – SpaceFlight Insider