Category: spaceflight

June 10, 2019 Off

NASA details Deep Space Atomic Clock and other tests launching on SpaceX Falcon Heavy

By Jill T Frey

SpaceX’s next mission for its Falcon Heavy high-capacity rocket is set for June 24, when it’ll take off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida with 20 satellites on board that comprise the Department of Defense’s Space Test Program-2. That’s not all it’ll carry however: There also will be cargo pertaining to four NASA missions aboard the private launch vehicle, including materials that will support the Deep Space Atomic Clock, the Green Propellant Infusion Mission and two payloads that will serve scientific missions.

NASA detailed all of these missions in a press conference today, going into more detail about what each will involve and why NASA is even pursuing this research to begin with.

Deep Space Atomic Clock

NASA’s Deep Space Atomic Clock mission, run from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, will see a demonstration super-precise atomic clock into low Earth orbit, where it will act as a proof-of-concept for using … Read the rest

June 7, 2019 Off

NASA declares International Space Station ‘open for business,’ including private astronaut visits

By Jill T Frey

At an event on Friday, NASA laid out its plans for making the International Space Station a hub for commercial activity in low Earth orbit. The agency has long planned to make the ISS a key anchor point for helping private business operate in space.

“We’re here because the International Space Station is now open for business,” NASA lead spokesperson Stephanie Schierholz said at the conference outset. Twenty companies joined NASA officials onstage to launch this new commercial ability and discuss the opportunities and plan.

Part of the plan includes allowing private astronauts to visit and stay on the ISS, traveling on U.S. vehicles. It also includes allowing private business activities to take place on the ISS, including “in-space manufacturing,” marketing activities, healthcare research “and more,” NASA says.

NASA articulated a five-part plan that it says “doesn’t conflict” with government and public sector use of the ISS, but that stands … Read the rest

June 7, 2019 Off

NASA’s Mars Helicopter begins final testing phase before 2020 mission

By Jill T Frey

NASA’s Mars Helicopter will be a key experimental craft when it comes to shaping what humanity’s future exploring the Red Planet looks like — when it launches aboard NASA’s Mars 2020 mission, it’ll head to Mars with the aim of testing the viability of flying heavier-than-air vehicles through another world’s atmosphere. After passing its most recent volley of tests, it’s now moving into the final stages of preparation ahead of the target July 2020 Mars launch.

The four-pound, autonomous test helicopter will be carried above the Mars 2020 rover during the flight to the planet, and will be deployed once the rover sets down in Mars’ Jezero Crater, on the target date of February 18, 2021, after its multi-month trip from Earth. The helicopter has a camera on board, as well as a solar panel to provide power. This version doesn’t have any other kinds of sensors or scientific … Read the rest

June 4, 2019 Off

NASA research crew embarks on mock mission to Mars moon

By Jill T Frey

Space is hard on humans — it’s just not what we’re used to, because it’s very unlike this Earth most of us generally occupy for most of our lives. That’s why researchers do plenty of experimentation to figure out what it’s like for people to live and work in space, like a new experiment underway as of May 24 in which a crew of four will be isolated in a spacecraft for 45 days living and working together — but without ever leaving the confines of our planet.

In fact, the crew, which consists of Barret Schlegelmilch, Christian Clark, Ana Mosquera and Julie Mason, won’t even leave the confines of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. But that’s the point — confined living and working space, for a simulated mission to Phobos, one of Mars’ two moons. The experiment is what NASA calls a “Human Exploration Research Analog,” which is … Read the rest

June 4, 2019 Off

NASA’s Space Launch System passes key milestone for Moon mission

By Jill T Frey

NASA is celebrating a key step towards its mission to get people back to the Moon: The first large core rocket stage that will power the new Space Launch System being built by contractor Boeing is now four-fifths assembled. Wait – did I just say four-fifths? So like this stage isn’t even complete?

No, it’s not – but when it comes to building gigantic rocket cores that will propel the Orion crewed spacecraft all the way to the Moon in time for the Artemis program’s target date of 2024, you celebrate when you take any significant step forward.

Also, remember we’re talking about four-fifths of a rocket stage that when complete, will be over 200 feet long including engines and fuel tanks, which NASA helpfully points out is approximately the length of a dozen cars parked back-to-back. It’s the biggest rocket NASA will have built since the Saturn V … Read the rest

May 9, 2019 Off

Jeff Bezos aims Blue Origin at the Moon

By Jill T Frey

Today at a packed event blocks from the White House, Jeff Bezos took the stage in front of select members of the media, executives, government officials and a gaggle of middle schoolers to reveal new details of his plan to get to the Moon by 2024

Blue Origin is going to send humans to space on New Shepard later this year and has unveiled a lunar lander, called “Blue Moon,” to access the resource-rich lunar surface, Bezos said.

Setting the stage with Neil Armstrong’s famous words as the first man to walk on the moon, Bezos took to the stage to explain his vision of answering a very simple question. Given the finite resources available to humanity, “where would a trillion humans live?”

It’s a vision that Bezos has articulated before.

For Bezos, the only impediment to this space … Read the rest

May 2, 2019 Off

SpaceX confirms its Dragon crew capsule exploded in testing

By Jill T Frey

For the first time after a video of an exploding Dragon capsule leaked in late April, SpaceX confirmed the spacecraft’s destruction during testing. In statements made today, SpaceX’s vice president of mission assurance Hans Koenigsmann provided a little insight on the mysterious ground test gone wrong.

As CNBC reports, Koenigsmann said during a press event that it is “too early” to determine the cause but noted that the capsule exploded as its SuperDraco thruster system was being fired up:

At the test stand we powered up Dragon and it powered up as expected. We completed tests with the Draco thrusters – the Draco thrusters are the smaller thrusters that are also on Dragon 1, the Cargo Dragon. We fired them in two sets, each for five seconds, and that went very well. And just prior before we wanted to fire the SuperDraco there was an anomaly and the vehicle

Read the rest
April 23, 2019 Off

China is reportedly using US satellite technologies to bolster its surveillance capabilities

By Jill T Frey

The Chinese government has been using a private company jointly owned by a U.S. investment firm and its Chinese counterpart to expand its surveillance and telecommunications capabilities using American technology, The Wall Street Journal reports.

At the center of the Journal’s reporting is a company called Asia Satellite Telecommunications (AsiaSat). It’s a satellite operating company acquired back in 2015 by U.S. private equity firm The Carlyle Group and Chinese private equity firm CITIC Group. Both Carlyle and CITIC are known for their ties to government in their respective home nations.

While the U.S. government basically bans American companies from exporting satellite technology to foreign governments like China, there have been no controls put in place on how bandwidth from launched satellites is used once those satellites are in orbit.

Based in Hong Kong, AsiaSat isn’t subject to the same sort of export controls and regulations that the U.S. places … Read the rest