Virgin Orbit Partners to Use Japanese Airport for Launches

Virgin Orbit’s Cosmic Girl 747 taxis down runway 12-30 at the Mojave Air and Space Port with the LauncherOne booster under its wing. Northrop Grumman’s Stargazer L-1011 aircraft, which also air launches the Pegasus XL rocket, can be seen in the background. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

OITA, Japan/LONG BEACH, Calif., April 2, 2020 (Virgin Orbit PR) — Virgin Orbit, the California-based small satellite launch company, has announced a new partnership with Oita Prefecture to bring horizontal launch to Japan.

With the support of regional partners ANA Holdings Inc. and the Space Port Japan Association, Virgin Orbit has identified Oita Airport as its preferred pilot launch site — yet another addition to the company’s growing global network of horizontal launch sites — in pursuit of a mission to space from Japan as early as 2022. 

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SNC Leverages VORTEX Engine Technology for DARPA’s OpFires Program

VORTEX hot fire. (Credit: Combat Capabilities Development Command, Aviation and Missile Center)

SPARKS, Nev. (April 2, 2020) – Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), the global aerospace and national security leader owned by Eren and Fatih Ozmen, reached a major milestone in the advancement of hypersonic propulsion with its patented VORTEX engine, advancing to the next phase of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Operational Fires (OpFires) program.

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SpaceX Starship SN3 Collapses During Cryo Test

Video Caption: Starship SN3 collapsed during a cryogenic proof test designed to validate the vehicle ahead of a planned static fire and 150-meter hop. SpaceX will now have to instead focus on future Starship builds.

Footage via Mary (@BocaChicaGal) for NSF and edited by Jack Beyer (thejackbeyer)

Video Caption: Another very disappointing end to the week with SpaceX SN3 Starship Destroyed. Looks like the Liquid Oxygen Tank Crumpled. This is quite disappointing as we had huge hopes for the SN 3 because it looked just so much more robust. The welds were looking really beautiful.

The SN 4 is already being built so we can look forward to that which is going come up rapidly much quicker than most people would realize.

A huge thank you to Boca Chica girl with NASAspaceflight and also LabPadre links to both of those incredibly awesome channels below.

Editor’s Note: It’s disconcerting that work on this project is continuing during the coronavirus pandemic. I reviewed the video above that shows the stacking of the the Starship prototype that collapsed on the test stand this morning.

Credits: BocaChicaGal, NASASpaceflight.com & Marcus House

The above screenshot taken at 4:54 into the video shows employees working closely together without observing the six feet social distancing guidelines or wearing protective masks to guard against infecting each other with the deadlly COVID-19 virus.

Any one of these workers could have the virus for a week without showing any symptoms. During that time, an infected worker could unknowingly pass COVID-19 onto his co-workers. The result of that could be severe illness or death. Even young, seemingly healthy individuals have died when their respiratory systems collapsed.

SpaceX is legally exempt from closing its doors because it is classified as an essential business. That is due to the fact that Elon Musk’s company is a government contractor that performs vital, time critical work for NASA and the Department of Defense.

Starship, however, does not appear to be either vital or time critical. It’s a long-term development project that SpaceX is funding on its own. Neither NASA nor DOD is going to use Starship at any time in the near future. Their launch needs are satisfied by SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy as well as the nation’s fleet of expendable boosters.

SpaceX’s goal of preserving humanity by making it a multi-planetary species is noble enough. It doesn’t need to place the humans making that possible at unnecessary risk in the midst of a deadly global pandemic.

NASA Outlines Lunar Surface Sustainability Concept

Astronauts on a future lunar walk. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — When NASA sends astronauts to the surface of the Moon in 2024, it will be the first time outside of watching historical footage most people witness humans walking on another planetary body. Building on these footsteps, future robotic and human explorers will put in place infrastructure for a long-term sustainable presence on the Moon.

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US Space Force Awards Contract to L3Harris to Improve Object Tracking in Space

  • Estimated contract value is $1.2 billion over 10 years
  • Addresses growing threat to critical space assets by enhancing current and introducing new capabilities
  • Continues 17-year collaboration with U.S. Space Force Space and Missile Systems Center

MELBOURNE, Fla. (L3Harris PR) — L3Harris Technologies (NYSE:LHX) has been awarded a $23 million contract to modernize and sustain critical space infrastructure used by the military to keep track of activities and objects in space. The current  estimated contract value with the U.S. Space Force Space and Missile Systems Center is $1.2 billion over 10 years.

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Former NASA Astronaut Bill Fisher on the Risks of Treating Coronavirus Victims

This is a really excellent thread by a doctor who could be happily retired but is risking his life to save others. It’s definitely worth a read.

Report: Geodetic Infrastructure Needs Enhancements, Continued Maintenance to Answer High-Priority Scientific Questions

WASHINGTON (National Academies PR) – A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine says that enhancements to the geodetic infrastructure are needed to answer important questions about sea level rise, water resources, geological hazards, and more over the next decade

The report, Evolving the Geodetic Infrastructure to Meet New Scientific Needs, compares the current capabilities of the geodetic infrastructure with the requirements of high-priority science questions for 2017-2027. Many of these questions can be supported by the existing geodetic infrastructure, as long as it is maintained. However, other science questions will require enhancements.

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NASA TV to Air U.S. Cargo Ship Departure from Space Station

SpaceX’s Dragon resupply ship slowly approaches the orbiting lab as both spacecraft were orbiting 258 miles above the Mediterranean Sea Dec. 9, 2019. Filled with more than 4,000 pounds of valuable scientific experiments and other cargo, Dragon is now set to leave the International Space Station Monday, April 6. (Credits: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Filled with more than 4,000 pounds of valuable scientific experiments and other cargo, a SpaceX Dragon resupply spacecraft is set to leave the International Space Station Monday, April 6. NASA Television and the agency’s website will broadcast its departure live beginning at 9:30 a.m. EDT.

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Using Augmented Reality to Prepare Orion Hardware for Artemis II Crewed Mission

Mary Lakaszcyck, a technician with ASRC Federal Data Solutions, a subcontractor to Orion manufacturer Lockheed Martin, demonstrates a pair of augmented reality (AR) goggles inside the high bay of the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building high bay at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Jan. 16, 2020. (Credits: NASA/Cory Huston)

By Linda Herridge
NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center

Augmented reality, also known as AR, is a powerful tool that engineers are using to enable NASA to send humans to the Moon under the agency’s Artemis  program. Lockheed Martin, lead contractor for NASA’s Orion spacecraft, is currently using AR to increase efficiency in building the spacecraft for Artemis II, the first crewed mission aboard Orion.

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A Message on COVID-19 Pandemic from Space Foundation CEO Tom Zelibor

Tom Zelibor (Credit: Space Foundation)

A Message from Our CEO

As a world and an industry, we are in the midst of a global health and economic crisis. While there may be uncertainty about how we will recover, there is no doubt that the same ingenuity, drive, and collaboration that serves our exploration and industrialization of space will lead us to a swift recovery.

In just the last weeks, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration cleared use of a new corona virus test that returns results four times faster than existing diagnostic machines. We’ve seen scientists from around the world share and integrate the genome sequences of dozens of corona virus strains to spur development of a vaccine — a result aided by the space and satellite technology that allows split-second global communication.

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NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope Full Mirror Deployment a Success

REDONDO BEACH, Calif. (NASA PR) — In a recent test, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope fully deployed its primary mirror into the same configuration it will have when in space.

As Webb progresses towards liftoff in 2021, technicians and engineers have been diligently checking off a long list of final tests the observatory will undergo before being packaged for delivery to French Guiana for launch.

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Space Foundation: 2019 Space Employment Hit 8-Year High, Launch Activity Grew 39% Over Past Decade

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., March 31, 2020 (Space Foundation PR) — Across multiple fronts, the space industry heading into 2020 was the strongest in years, with gains in space industry jobs, new nations entering space, and record-level research and investor activity through International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory programs.

Those are among the new findings in The Space Report 2020, Quarter One, released today.

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Space Force Identifies USAF Missions for Transfer to Newest Service

ARLINGTON, Va. (AFNS) — In a significant step that enhances the U.S. Space Force’s capabilities and development, the Department of the Air Force has identified 23 U.S. Air Force organizations whose space-related missions will soon transfer to the Space Force.

Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett, in conjunction with Chief of Space Operations Gen. John “Jay” Raymond and Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David Goldfein, directed the transfer which entails shifting space missions from Air Force organizations into the newest military branch.

Currently, Space Force is comprised primarily of units which previously fell under the former Air Force Space Command prior to the service’s establishment on Dec. 20, 2019.  

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