Author: Doug Messier

North Korea Launches Rocket


UPDATE: It appears that the Unha launch vehicle successfully placed the Kwangmyongsong-4 satellite into a 494.6 x 500 km polar orbit inclined 97.4°.

Four words you never want to see in one sentence: North Korea, rocket and launch.

It’s not clear whether the launch succeeded. U.S. Strategic Command has issued the following statement:

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. – U.S. Strategic Command systems detected and tracked what we assess was a North Korean missile launch into space at 6:29 p.m. CST.

The missile was tracked on a southerly launch over the Yellow Sea.

NORAD determined that at no time was the missile a threat to North America. The men and women of USSTRATCOM, NORAD AND USNORTHCOM, AND USPACOM remain vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations and are fully committed to working closely with our Republic of Korea and Japanese allies to maintain security.

Russians Doubt Reusable Boosters, Look to Phase Out Rockot Launches

Falcon 9 launch and landing. (Credit: SpaceX)

Falcon 9 launch and landing. (Credit: SpaceX)

Russia doesn’t seem overly impressed by the recent progress by SpaceX and Blue Origin in developing reusable launch vehicles. At according to TsNIIMash, which is the company’s main research institute.

“The economic feasibility of reusable launch systems is not obvious. First and foremost it will depend on how often launches will be made. At the moment it is hard to forecast which way the market of launch services will go when reusable space rockets become available. The designers are still to demonstrate the real costs of production and of making reusable stages for re-launching,” a TsNIIMash spokesman said.

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Italian-made 3D Printer Undergoes Testing on International Space Station

Credit: ASI

Credit: ASI

ROME (ASI PR) –A 3D printer made in Italy on the International Space Station has been activated and is functioned nominally. Astronaut Scott Kelly triggered the Portable 3D Printer on board, which aims to create spare parts and tools in orbit.

During the experiment, which lasted an hour, everything performed in nominal mode.  The printer is designed to use PLA , a biodegradable and biocompatible plastic that, once expelled, permits the creation of 3D shapes. The entire session was filmed through the printer’s transparent window, allowing visual monitoring from the ground. The manufactured object will be compared with another similar printed to the ground, in order to consolidate the structural diversity.

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Russia’s KBKhA Completes Test Series on Ion Engine


VORONEZH, Russia (Roscosmos PR) — The Chemical Automatics Design Bureau (KBKhA) in Voronezh has successfully completed the first series of test firings of an ion electric propulsion motor. This engine was jointly developed by KBKhA and the Moscow Aviation Institute (MAI). Tests were carried out successfully on a special vacuum stand and confirmed compliance with parameters of the engine characteristics laid out in the specifications.

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New Video of Blue Origin’s New Shepard Flight


SpaceX Tests Technology at Pad 39A

Credit: SpaceX

Credit: SpaceX

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — A critical piece of large equipment is being tested at Launch Complex 39A this week as SpaceX raises and lowers the transporter erector that will be used to move the Crew Dragon spacecraft atop a Falcon 9 rocket to the launch pad for missions. Standing 212 feet high – more than 20 stories – the TE, as SpaceX calls the machine, will move launch-ready rockets and spacecraft from the processing hangar at the base of the pad up to the pad surface and into a vertical position over the flame trench.

The lift and lowering of the transporter erector are part of routine tests conducted on the pad to ensure all ground systems are prepared to launch astronauts to the International Space Station. The TE is a much larger and stronger version of the erector the company uses at Space Launch Complex 40, as it will also be used for processing and launching future Falcon Heavy rockets.

Escape Dynamics Shuts Down


escape_dynamics_logoEscape Dynamics, which focused on sending cargo to space on a wave of beamed propulsion, shut down five weeks ago. The following message is now on its website:

After years of research and several technology demonstrations which advanced the state-of-the-art in external propulsion, we concluded that, while microwave propulsion is feasible and is capable of efficiency and performance surpassing chemical rockets, the cost of completing the R&D all the way through operations makes the concept economically unattractive for our team at this time. We also concluded that at current stage technical risks and uncertainty about the cost and timeline are still very high and are not attractive to private investors. Therefore, we decided to discontinue the operation of Escape Dynamics and stopped the R&D effort at the end of 2015.

Through our work we demonstrated end-to-end operation of a prototype thruster where energy was coming from the electric grid, converted into microwave beam via a high power microwave source, and beamed to a thermal thruster which generated efficient thrust. This and other developments represent a step forward towards novel propulsion systems which in the future could enable reusable single-stage-to-orbit flight and reduce the cost of space access beyond what is possible with chemical rockets.

As we are winding down the effort we would like to express our deep gratitude to our visionary advisers, supporters and partners who inspired our team to pursue a moonshot solution to a remarkable challenge of space access. Although we are now discontinuing our external propulsion efforts we are excited about the future of the space industry and about the disruptive innovations that are bound to come.

ULA Launches GPS Satellite

Atlas V launch of GPS IIF-12 (Credit: ULA)

Atlas V launch of GPS IIF-12 (Credit: ULA)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla., Feb. 5, 2016 (ULA PR) – United Launch Alliance (ULA) successfully launched its first mission of the year with an Atlas V rocket carrying the Global Positioning System (GPS) IIF-12 satellite for the U.S. Air Force. The rocket lifted off from Space Launch Complex-41 on Feb. 5 at 8:38 a.m. EST.

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Space Florida Thanks Governor, Legislature for Support


space_florida_logoKENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla., February 03, 2016 (Space Florida PR) – Today, when Florida Space Day participants visit the legislature as they have for well over 20 years, Space Florida would like to take the opportunity to thank the Governor and Florida legislature for their tremendous support of the industry through the power of Florida’s unique economic development toolkit.  The aerospace industry in Florida is thriving, with much more to come.
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SwRI CubeSat to Explore Deep Space


CuSP_LogoSAN ANTONIO, Texas, February 2, 2016 (SwRI PR) ─ NASA announced that a miniature solar particle research spacecraft to be built by Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI) will launch aboard NASA’s Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1) rocket in 2018.

The CubeSat to study Solar Particles (CuSP) is one of a dozen shoebox-size payloads, called CubeSats, that will hitchhike into interplanetary space aboard EM-1, the first unmanned test flight of NASA’s giant new Space Launch System (SLS). The SLS rocket is designed to eventually carry astronauts to the Moon and Mars aboard the Orion spacecraft.

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NASA Working on the Coolest Spacecraft/Rover Hybrids You’ve Ever Seen


Video Caption: What’s the best way to explore comets and asteroids? Spacecraft? Rovers?

The answer may be a bit both — a spacecraft/rover hybrid.

Exploring small bodies like comets and asteroids could shed light on the origin and evolution of the solar system and even the origin of life on our planet.

Watch as Marco Pavone, Stanford University, and Ben Hockman, student, Stanford University, discuss their NASA Innovative Advanced Concept (NIAC) for spacecraft/rover hybrids.

This video was developed from a live recording at the 2015 NIAC Fall Symposium in October, 2015. To watch the full original talk please visit:

To learn more about NIAC visit:

House Members Want NASA to Develop Human Space Exploration Roadmap

Artists concept of NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Robotic Mission capturing an asteroid boulder before redirecting it to an astronaut-accessible orbit around Earth's moon. (Credit: NASA)

Artists concept of NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Robotic Mission capturing an asteroid boulder before redirecting it to an astronaut-accessible orbit around Earth’s moon. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON, D.C. (House Science Committee PR) – On Wednesday, the House Subcommittee on Space held a hearing titled,Charting a Course: Expert Perspectives on NASA’s Human Exploration Proposals.” Witnesses shared their viewpoints on NASA’s human space exploration plans – including a human mission to Mars – and the challenge of keeping programs on track through changing presidential administrations.

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SpaceX Plans Higher Production, Launch Rates in 2016

Gwynne Shotwell

Gwynne Shotwell

SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said on Wednesday that the company plans to reach higher production and launch rates this year.

“Now we’re in this factory transformation to go from building six or eight a year to about 18 cores a year. By the end of this year we should be at over 30 cores per year,” she said. “So you see the factory start to morph.”

Shotwell, after her conference speech, said SpaceX plans to launch SES-9 “in the next couple of weeks.” The company then plans to maintain a high flight rate. “You should see us fly every two to three weeks,” she said.

While SpaceX plans to increase production of the Falcon 9, she suggested the company was still making changes to the vehicle. The Dec. 21 launch of 11 Orbcomm satellites was the first flight of an upgraded, or “full thrust,” version of the vehicle, and also the first time the company successfully landed the rocket’s first stage as part of its reusability efforts.

The latest changes, she said, came after a static fire test of the first stage Jan. 15 at Cape Canaveral. “We fired it up, and actually learned something about the rocket,” she said, without elaborating on what the company learned. “We’re going to make some mods based on what we saw on that stage landing and firing.”

SpaceX had earlier planned to reach the production of 40 cores annually by the end of 2015.

Read the full story.

Top Entries from NASA’s Cube Quest Challenge Get Ride to Deep Space

Credit: NASA

Credit: NASA

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — When the Space Launch System and the Orion spacecraft make their inaugural flight in 2018, called Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), three of the 13 small satellites that will be hitchhiking a ride to deep space destinations such as Earth’s moon and asteroids to gather data valuable to future exploration missions will be the top competitors of the Cube Quest Challenge.

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Registration Open for Space Access 16


Space Access ’16 Conference Registration Open

April 7th – 9th, 2016

at the Radisson Hotel Phoenix North

Conference Registration

Advance registration is now open for SA’16, Space Access Society’s next annual conference on the business, technology, and politics of radically cheaper access to space, this year with a strong sub-focus on Beyond Low Orbit: The Next Step Out. Our upcoming conference will (as usual) feature a cross-section of the growing cheap access community, talking about what’s going on now and what we should be doing next, in a fast-paced intensive informal atmosphere.

SA’16 registration remains at $120 in advance, $140 at the door, student rate $40 in advance and $50 at the door. Day rates Thu/Fri/Sat will be $60/$60/$60 and $20/$20/$20 student, and will be available at the door only. You can register in advance by mailing a check, along with your name, email, and desired organization name (if any) for your badge to Space Access ’16, PO Box 16034, Phoenix AZ 85011, or register online via Paypal or your credit card.
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