SpaceX Dragon Returns to Earth as Crew Revs Up Station Science

The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is back on Earth after splashing down in the Pacific Ocean Sunday night loaded with critical space research and International Space Station hardware. Four spaceships remain parked at the orbital lab including Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus resupply ship from the United States.

Today, the three-member Expedition 58 crew is exploring a wide array of microgravity science to improve life for humans on Earth and in space. The orbital residents also worked on life support systems and upgraded computer hardware.

NASA astronaut Anne McClain set up a specialized microscope in the morning for the Biophysics-5 study to research the production of protein crystals. Afterward, she deactivated Dragon communications gear then swapped out hard drives on several laptop computers.

Flight Engineer David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency opened up the Combustion Integrated Rack and replaced optics gear inside the flame and soot research device. He later swapped a hydrogen sensor inside the Oxygen Generation System before inspecting and cleaning some of its parts.

A pair of tiny internal satellites, better known as SPHERES, were set up by Commander Oleg Kononenko today inside the Kibo laboratory module. High school students write algorithms and submit them in a competition to control the SPHERES to demonstrate spacecraft maneuvers and formation-flying for future space missions.

ISS U.S. National Laboratory 2018 Annual Report Showcases Demand Acceleration and Impact

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER (FL), January 10, 2019 – The International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory is proud to release its 2018 Annual Report. The report is intended to educate stakeholders and the general public on highlights and accomplishments from the 2018 fiscal year (October 1, 2017 through September 30, 2018). The report includes an updated look at the ISS National Lab research and development portfolio, in-orbit activities onboard the space station, new and enhanced partnerships, success stories, and expanding engagement and outreach.

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Russia’s Spekt-R Space Telescope Not Responding to Commands

TASS reports that Russia’s Spektr-R space radio telescope is not responding to commands from the ground.

“Today’s program of an effort to try to contact with the spacecraft has ended. Now a meeting of the operational and technical leadership is underway on the outcome,” Bloshenko said.

The effort to establish contact with Spektr-R will continue after 7 p.m. on Monday when it will be seen by both earth stations, Medvezhji Ozera and Ussuriysk. “We are planning to repeat today’s program of work,” he said.

Spektr-R was launched in 2011 and the warranty period of its active operation expired back in 2014. Before this year, the radio telescope continued tackling targeted tasks, Roscosmos said.

SpaceX to Lay Off 10 Percent of Employees

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

The Los Angeles Times reports that SpaceX will lay off 10 percent of its roughly 6,000 employees in an effort to become leaner.

“To continue delivering for our customers and to succeed in developing interplanetary spacecraft and a global space-based internet, SpaceX must become a leaner company,” the Hawthorne-based company said in a statement. “Either of these developments, even when attempted separately, have bankrupted other organizations. This means we must part ways with some talented and hardworking members of our team.”

Even with SpaceX’s ramp-up of satellite launches — 21 in 2018, up from 18 the year before, and on Friday the first one of this year — it has occasionally cut its workforce. Last summer, the company fired some senior managers at the company’s Redmond, Wash., office because of disagreements over the pacing of the development and testing of its Starlink satellite program.

SpaceX makes most of its money from commercial and national security satellite launches, as well as two NASA contracts, one a multibillion-dollar deal to deliver cargo to the International Space Station and the other up to $2.6 billion to develop a capsule that will deliver astronauts to the space station. The first launch of that capsule, without a crew, is planned for February.

The Elon Musk-led company has even more ambitious — and expensive — plans. Musk has said SpaceX will conduct a “hopper test” of its Mars spaceship prototype as early as next month. The production version of that spaceship and its rocket system is expected to cost billions.

Earlier this month, privately held SpaceX said it raised about $273 million in equity and other securities in an offering that sought to raise about $500 million, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company is worth $31 billion, according to Equidate, which tracks private-company valuations.

SpaceX Dragon Departs Space Station

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — To take advantage of calmer sea states in a different location in the Pacific Ocean, SpaceX and the International Space Station Program agreed to move the departure of the SpaceX-CRS-16 Dragon cargo craft from the station from early Sunday morning to late Sunday afternoon, setting up the first night splashdown and recovery of a Dragon vehicle.

Dragon’s hatch will be closed Sunday morning, and the spacecraft will be detached from the Harmony module around 3 p.m. EST Sunday.

Ground controllers will now release Dragon from the Canadarm2 robotic arm at 6:30 p.m. Sunday. NASA TV coverage of the operation without commentary will begin at 6:15 p.m. NASA Flight Engineer Anne McClain will monitor the release from the station’s cupola.

Dragon’s deorbit burn to begin its descent back to Earth is now scheduled at approximately 11:19 p.m. with splashdown scheduled at around 12:10 a.m. Monday (9:10 p.m. Pacific time) just west of Baja California.

Steam-Powered Asteroid Hoppers Developed through UCF Collaboration

By using steam rather than fuel, the World Is Not Enough (WINE) spacecraft prototype can theoretically explore “forever,” as long as water and sufficiently low gravity is present. (Credit: UCF)

By using steam rather than fuel, the microwave-size spacecraft prototype
can theoretically explore celestial objects “forever.”

By Zenaida Gonzalez Kotala
University of Central Florida News

Using steam to propel a spacecraft from asteroid to asteroid is now possible, thanks to a collaboration between a private space company and the University of Central Florida.

UCF planetary research scientist Phil Metzger worked with Honeybee Robotics of Pasadena, California, which developed the World Is Not Enough spacecraft prototype that extracts water from asteroids or other planetary bodies to generate steam and propel itself to its next mining target.

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Retired Orbital ATK CEO David W. Thompson to Receive 2019 National Space Trophy

David Thompson (Credit: Orbital ATK)

HOUSTON (Rotary The Rotary National Award for Space Achievement (RNASA) Foundation has selected Mr. David W. Thompson, Retired President and CEO of Orbital ATK, to receive the 2019 National Space Trophy. The banquet honoring Mr. Thompson will be held on April 26, 2019, at the Houston Hyatt Regency in Houston, Texas.

Rodolfo González, President of the RNASA Foundation said, “The RNASA Foundation is extremely excited about recognizing Mr. Thompson as the guest of honor at the 2019 RNASA Space Award Gala.”

Mr. Thompson was nominated for the award by Captain Frank Culbertson (U.S. Navy, ret.), of Northrop Grumman Corporation. In recommending Thompson, Culbertson cited his “four decades of outstanding leadership and pioneering innovations in the development and operation of launch vehicles and satellite systems, which have transformed scientific, exploratory, commercial and defense applications of space.”

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China Completes First Launch of 2019

China completed the first orbital launch of 2019 on Thursday as a Long March 3B booster orbited the Zhongxing-2D communications satellite from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwestern China.

Bezos to Divorce as Blue Origin Official Promises Human Spaceflight Early this Year

Jeff Bezos

Fox Business News asks the question that’s been on everybody’s mind in the space community this week: how will Jeff Bezos’ divorce affect his plans to liquidate $1 billion in Amazon stock annually to fund Blue Origin?

Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie, did not address the financial terms of their divorce when announcing their split in a joint statement on Wednesday. TMZ reported that the couple does not have a prenuptial agreement, meaning that Bezos’ assets, including 78.8 million shares of Amazon stock worth $130 billion, could be evenly divided between the pair.

It’s unclear how the potential division of assets would impact Bezos’ plans for Blue Origin or the stock sale pledge. Amazon and Blue Origin representatives did not return requests for comment.

Meanwhile, the answer to when Blue Origin will begin flying people aboard New Shepard suborbital flights isn’t much clearer, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Ariane Cornell, the head of astronaut strategy and sales at Blue Origin, spoke on a panel on Jan. 8 at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics SciTech Forum in San Diego.

“So we are aiming to fly people early in 2019, but let’s be very clear, we’ve also said this before, only when we’re ready,” she said. “Believe me if I could I would jump on top of that rocket tomorrow.”

She said that tickets are not yet available, nor has the company set a price yet.

“We haven’t determined when we’re going to sell tickets,” she said. “We are so focused right now on testing New Shepard through and through. We do have another launch coming up relatively soon, which will be a another test in terms of proving out New Shepard before we put people on board. So we’re getting there.”

SpaceX Falcon 9 Launches Final Set of Iridium NEXT Satellites

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (SpaceX PR) — On Friday, January 11 at 7:31 a.m. PST, 15:31 UTC, SpaceX successfully launched the eighth and final set of satellites in a series of 75 total satellites for Iridium’s next generation global satellite constellation, Iridium NEXT.

Falcon 9’s first stage for the Iridium-8 mission previously supported the Telstar 18 VANTAGE mission in September 2018. Following stage separation, SpaceX landed Falcon 9’s first stage on the “Just Read the Instructions” droneship, which will be stationed in the Pacific Ocean.

For this eighth and final planned Iridium mission, 10 Iridium® NEXT satellites will be launched as part of the company’s campaign to replace the world’s largest commercial communication satellite network. Including the seven previous launches, all with SpaceX, Iridium is deploying 75 new satellites to orbit. In total, 81 satellites are being built, with 66 in the operational constellation, nine serving as on-orbit spares and six as ground spares.

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Mars Express Celebrates 15 Years Imaging the Red Planet

Video Caption: On 25 December 2003, ESA’s Mars Express entered orbit around the Red Planet. The spacecraft began returning the first images from orbit using its High Resolution Stereo Camera just a couple of weeks later, and over the course of its fifteen year history has captured thousands of images covering the globe.

This video compilation highlights some of the stunning scenes revealed by this long-lived mission. From breathtaking horizon-to-horizon views to the close-up details of ice- and dune-filled craters, and from the polar ice caps and water-carved valleys to ancient volcanoes and plunging canyons, Mars Express has traced billions of years of geological history and evolution.

For regular news and image releases from Mars Express see http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Spa…

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SpaceX Crew Dragon Demo 1 Flight Slips to February

Crew Dragon for DM-1 mission with Falcon 9 booster. (Credit: SpaceX)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA and SpaceX are continuing to work on the activities leading toward the Demo-1, uncrewed flight test to the International Space Station. NASA and SpaceX are now targeting no earlier than February for the launch of Demo-1 to complete hardware testing and joint reviews. NASA and SpaceX will confirm a new target date after coordination with the Eastern Range and the International Space Station Program.

LuxSpace Entering Next Phase with Triton-X Microsat

Betzdorf, Luxembourg, January 9, 2019 (OHB PR) — LuxSpace, a subsidiary of the space and technology group OHB SE, is taking its Triton-X microsatellite platform to the next level. Over the last 12 months it has been designing the architecture for Triton-X, a next generation multi-mission microsatellite designed to enable affordable regional and global LEO constellations. Now work on the hardware is beginning in conjunction with three partner companies.

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