NASA Statement on Soyuz MS-10 Launch Failure


Astronaut Nick Hague (left) and Roscosmos General Director Dmitry Rogozin. (Credit: Roscosmos)

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has shared the following statement on Twitter @JimBridenstine.

NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin are in good condition following today’s aborted launch. I’m grateful that everyone is safe. A thorough investigation into the cause of the incident will be conducted. Full statement below:

The Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to the International Space Station at 4:40 a.m. EDT Thursday, October 11 (2:40 p.m. in Baikonur) carrying American astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin. Shortly after launch, there was an anomaly with the booster and the launch ascent was aborted, resulting in a ballistic landing of the spacecraft.

Search and rescue teams were deployed to the landing site. Hague and Ovchinin are out of the capsule and are reported to be in good condition. They will be transported to the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia outside of Moscow.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and the NASA team are monitoring the situation carefully. NASA is working closely with Roscosmos to ensure the safe return of the crew. Safety of the crew is the utmost priority for NASA. A thorough investigation into the cause of the incident will be conducted.

418th FLTS Completes 10-year Support of NASA Orion Parachute Tests

An Orion test capsule with its three main parachutes touches down in the Arizona desert Sept. 12. (Credit: NASA)

By Kenji Thuloweit,
412th Test Wing Public Affairs

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (USAF PR) — For a decade the 418th Flight Test Squadron has supported NASA by supplying C-17 Globemaster IIIs and personnel to assist with the testing and qualifying of the Orion spacecraft’s parachute system. That support ended Sept. 12 with the success of the final parachute system test over the U.S. Army’s Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona.

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Study: Europa Could Be a Very Tricky Place to Land

The green oval highlights the plumes Hubble observed on Europa. The area also corresponds to a warm region on Europa’s surface. The map is based on observations by the Galileo spacecraft (Credits: NASA/ESA/STScI/USGS)

CARDIFF, UK (Cardiff University PR) — A location often earmarked as a potential habitat for extra-terrestrial life could prove to be a tricky place for spacecraft to land, new research has revealed.

A team led by scientists from Cardiff University has predicted that fields of sharp ice growing to almost 15 metres [49 feet] tall could be scattered across the equatorial regions of Jupiter’s moon, Europa.

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Northrop Grumman Awarded $792 Million Launch Services Agreement by U.S. Air Force

OmegA rocket (Credit: Orbital ATK)

OmegA rocket on schedule to provide first launch in 2021

DULLES, Va. – Oct 10, 2018 – Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) received a Launch Services Agreement (LSA) worth approximately $792 million of government investment from the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center to continue development of its OmegATM rocket for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program. The agreement runs through 2024 and includes certification flights of OmegA’s intermediate variant in 2021 and its heavy variant in 2024.

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U.S. Air Force Awards Launcher Development Contracts to ULA, Blue Origin & Northrop Grumman

Artist’s conception of Vulcan rocket. (Credit: ULA)

The U.S. Air Force has awarded contracts worth more than $2.2 billion for launch vehicle development to United Launch Alliance (ULA), Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman.

ULA of Centennial, Colo., will receive $967 million for the development of a launch system prototype of the Vulcan-Centaur booster. 

The agreement includes shared cost investment by ULA. The work is expected to be completed by March 31, 2025. 

OmegA rocket (Credit: Orbital ATK)

Northrop Gumman was awarded a contract worth $791,601,015 for development of the OmegA launch system. The company expects to to complete the work by Dec. 31, 2024. 

New Glenn is a reusable, vertical-landing booster with 3.85 million pounds of thrust, (Credit: Blue Origin)

Blue Origin has been awarded a $500 million contract for the development of the New Glenn launch system. The booster will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.  The work is expected to be completed by July 31, 2024.

NASA OIG Forecasts Further Delays, Large Cost Overruns for SLS

Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft on Pad 39B. (Credit: NASA)

A new audit by the NASA Inspector General criticizes Boeing for its management of the stages of the Space Launch System (SLS) while forecasting further delays and large cost overruns for the beleaguered program that is designed to send astronauts to deep space.

“As of August 2018, NASA has spent $11.9 billion on the SLS, but will require significant additional funding to complete the first Core Stage—more than 3 years later than initially planned and at double the anticipated cost,” the audit concluded.

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Boeing Invests in Accion Systems

CHICAGO, Oct. 10, 2018 (Boeing PR) — Boeing [NYSE: BA] today announced its investment in Accion Systems Inc., a Boston, Mass.,-based startup pioneering scalable electric propulsion technology to transform satellite capabilities in and beyond Earth’s orbit.

Accion’s new Tiled Ionic Liquid Electrospray (TILE) in-space propulsion system aims to increase the lifespan and maneuverability of satellites and other vehicles in space. Leveraging a non-toxic, ionic liquid propellant and postage stamp-size thrusters, the TILE system is smaller, lighter and more cost-effective than traditional ion engines.

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Draper Laboratory Unveils Team for NASA’s Next Moonshot

CAMBRIDGE, MA—Draper, a company with a heritage in space exploration dating to the Apollo moon landings, announced today its team for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) contract. Under the proposal, the team will support NASA in the delivery of small rovers and instruments to meet lunar science and exploration needs, advance development of lunar landers for human missions and conduct more research on the moon’s surface ahead of a human return.

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NASA Seeks Partnerships with U.S. Companies to Advance Exploration Space Tech

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA partnerships are crucial for expanding capabilities and opportunities in space. The agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) is seeking new partnerships with U.S. companies through an Announcement of Collaboration Opportunity (ACO) solicitation.

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STMD has five strategic thrust areas, representing the capabilities needed for robotic and human exploration of the Moon and Mars.

  1. Go – Enable safe and efficient transportation into and through space
  2. Land – Increase access to planetary surfaces
  3. Live – Enable humans to live and explore in space and on planetary surfaces
  4. Explore – Expand capabilities through robotic exploration and discovery
  5. Prosper – Accelerate the industrialization of space

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Top 10 iTech Finalists Announced, Will Present to NASA Chief Technologists


WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Innovators don’t always have space on their mind, but NASA iTech can help. The competition challenges entrepreneurs to consider how their biomedical, software and other technology ideas could be adapted and used for future space exploration missions.

NASA has selected 10 competition finalists to present their ideas at the iTech forum in Hartford, Connecticut, on Oct. 25-26, 2018. Chief technologists from various NASA centers, other federal agencies and industry will listen to presentations and meet with participants. NASA judges will ultimately determine three winners of the 2018 NASA iTech Cycle III competition.

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Branson Says SpaceShipTwo Will Reach Space Within Weeks

Richard Branson rolls out Virgin Galactic’s Spaceship Unity in Mojave. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Richard Branson is back in the headlines again talking schedules for SpaceShipTwo.

“We should be in space within weeks, not months. And then we will be in space with myself in months and not years,” the Virgin founder and CEO told CNBC’s Nancy’s Hungerford at the Barclays Asia Forum in Singapore Tuesday.

You can read the rest of the interview — in which he repeats the same things he’s been saying for the last 14 years — here.

What I think this means is that another flight test is coming soon. On the last one back in July, they fired the engine for 42 seconds. I would expect the upcoming flight will entail a full engine burn of about 60 seconds. This is a deduction on my part; there’s just not a lot of places to go in terms of burn length.

A full burn would get SpaceShipTwo to some definition of space. The international beginning of space — known as the Karman line — is 100 km (62.1 miles). The U.S. Air Force (USAF) awarded astronaut wings to X-15 pilots who flew to at least 50 miles (80.4 km) during the 1960’s.

Virgin Galactic’s agreement with its ticket holders uses the USAF standard as the minimum altitude promised. Since there are no mile markers up there, the view will be similar but the amount of time in microgravity will be slightly less than if the vehicle gets to the Karman line.

Several additional test flights are expected before Branson boards the first official commercial flight at Spaceport America in New Mexico. At this point, I’m guessing that will happen some time in 2019.

Former NASA Astronaut, XCOR Pilot Rick Searfoss Passes Away

Rick Searfoss

Retired NASA astronaut Rick Searfoss, who piloted the space shuttle three times and later flew rocket planes for XCOR Aerospace, has passed away. He was 62.

Searfoss, who retired from the U.S. Air Force as a colonel, died at his home in Bear Valley Springs, Calif., on Saturday, Sept. 29, according to the Tehachapi News.

A viewing will be held on Friday, Oct. 12 at 12:30 p.m., at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 600 Anita Drive, Tehachapi, CA. Funeral services will follow at 2 p.m. For condolences, please visit www.woodmortuary.net.

Born on June 5, 1956 in Michigan, Searfoss grew up in New Hampshire. In 1980, he graduated from Undergraduate Pilot Training at Williams Air Force Base in Arizona. He flew F-111 jets and eventually became a flight instructor and weapons officer.

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mu Space Founder Plans $100 Venture Fund

James Yenbamroong

Varayuth “James” Yenbamroong, founder of Thailand-based satellite startup mu Space, has announced plans to establish a venture fund next year to finance startups in space, AI and robotics, Space Tech Asia reports.

“We’ll generate $100 million as initial fund,” said the 34-year old, adding that more funds will be raised, if needed, to support promising startups and companies.

“We’re now scouting for innovative startups and early-stage businesses with a potential to disrupt the current market by developing products or services that are new to the world and can help improve the lives of people. These may include, for example, artificial intelligence, robotics, space research and deep space exploration.”

The venture unit will be based outside of Thailand, informed Yenbamroong. “It can be in any country that can offer a conducive business environment for the venture unit to grow and operate. But for now, the nearest prospect is Singapore.”

MASCOT Successfully Completes Exploration of Asteroid Ryugu

Figure 1c (Credit : JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu, AIST)
  • As planned, MASCOT was able to acquire data about the composition and texture of the asteroid at several locations.
  • Before the battery depleted, the lander sent all scientific data to the Hayabusa2 mothercraft.
  • New images from MASCOT’s landing on asteroid Ryugu were presented by DLR, JAXA and CNES today at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC).

COLOGNE, Germany (DLR PR) — It was a day full of exciting moments and a happy team of scientists and engineers: late in the afternoon of 3 October 2018, the German-French lander MASCOT completed its historic exploration of the surface of the asteroid Ryugu at 21:04 CEST, as its battery ran out.

On-asteroid operations were originally scheduled to last 16 hours after separation from the Japanese mothercraft Hayabusa2. But in the end, the battery lasted more than 17 hours.

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Construction of ESA’s Exoplanet Hunter Plato Begins

Searching for exo-planetary systems. (Credit: ESA–C. Carreau)

BREMEN, Germany (ESA PR) — The construction of ESA’s Plato mission to find and study planets beyond our Solar System will be led by Germany’s OHB System AG as prime contractor, marking the start of the full industrial phase of the project.

The announcement was made today at the 69th International Astronautical Congress in Bremen, Germany, where the contract was formally signed.

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