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JAXA’s ASTRO-H Satellite: It’s Dead, Jim

ASTRO-H satellite (Credit: JAXA)

ASTRO-H satellite (Credit: JAXA)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) established the emergency headquarters led by President Okumura and has been doing its utmost to understand the anomaly of the X-ray Astronomy Satellite ASTRO-H (“Hitomi”). We have made every effort to confirm the status of ASTRO-H and to regain its functions. Unfortunately, based on our rigorous technical investigation, we had to conclude as follows.

(1) Most of our analyses including simulations on the mechanisms of object separation, it is highly likely that both solar array paddles had broken off at their bases where they are vulnerable to rotation.

(2) Originally, we had some hopes to restore communication with ASTRO-H since we thought we received signals from ASTRO-H three times after object separation. However, we had to conclude that the received signals were not from ASTRO-H due to the differences in frequencies as a consequence of technological study.

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Russia Inaugurates New Spaceport With Soyuz Launch


With President Vladimir Putin looking on, a Soyuz-2.1a rocket lifted off from Russia’s new Vostochny Cosmodrome and successfully orbited three satellites.

It was the inaugural launch for the multi-billion dollar spaceport, which has been four years and numerous arrests in the making. The launch complex, which is designed to reduce Russian dependence on the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, has been plagued by reports of corruption and unpaid workers. One manager was arrested driving a diamond encrusted Mercedes.

The Soyuz rocket’s main payload was the Mikhailo Lomonosov satellite, which carries instruments to study high-energy cosmic rays, gamma rays and the Earth’s atmosphere. It also carried two smaller secondary payloads named Aist 2 and SamSat 218. Media reports indicate all three spacecraft were deployed successfully.

The launch was delayed a day due to a technical problem with the rocket.

Simulators Give Astronauts Glimpse of Future Flights

Astronauts Suni WIlliams and Eric Boe evaluate part-task trainers for Boeing's CST-100 Starliner at the company's St. Louis facility. (Credit: NASA/Dmitri Gerondidakis)

Astronauts Suni WIlliams and Eric Boe evaluate part-task trainers for Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner at the company’s St. Louis facility. (Credit: NASA/Dmitri Gerondidakis)

By Stephanie Martin and Steven Siceloff
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida

NASA’s commercial crew astronauts Suni Williams and Eric Boe tried out a new generation of training simulators at the Boeing facility in St. Louis Tuesday that will prepare them for launch, flight and returns aboard the company’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft. The training also brought recollections of earlier eras when NASA’s Mercury and Gemini spacecraft were built in St. Louis and astronauts routinely travelled to the city for simulator time.

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Masten Selected for SBIR Contract for Mars LOX/Methane Ascent Engine

The ADAPT test system can help a spacecraft divert its course and make a smooth, pinpoint landing. The system is built on Masten's XA-0.1B "Xombie" vertical-launch, vertical-landing reusable rocket. (Credit: NASA Photo/Tom Tschida)

The ADAPT test system can help a spacecraft divert its course and make a smooth, pinpoint landing. The system is built on Masten’s XA-0.1B “Xombie” vertical-launch, vertical-landing reusable rocket. (Credit: NASA Photo/Tom Tschida)be

NASA has selected Masten Space Systems for a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I award to begin work on a25 klb thrust liquid oxygen/methane Mars ascent engine.

“Woohoo! We get to build a 25klb thrust LOX/CH4 engine for !” founder Dave Masten wrote on Twitter. “Or at least selected for a Phase I SBIR.”

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China Aims to Land Rover on Mars


China plans to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party in 2021 by sending an orbiter and rover to Mars, officials said last week.

“Such a big plan to achieve orbiting, landing and the deployment of a rover in one mission will make history,” said Zhang Rongqiao, chief designer of the mission. “Only by completing this Mars probe mission can China say it has embarked on the exploration of deep space in the true sense.”

The China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) is developing the orbiter and rover, which will be launched by the Long March-5 rocket. The new booster will make its inaugural flight later this year.

It will be China’s second attempt to send a mission to Mars. The Chinese Yinghuo-1 orbiter was a sub-satellite aboard Russia’s Phobos-Grunt mission launched in November 2011. However, the mission never left Earth orbit due to a rocket engine failure.

Officials said pressure mounted on China to launch a Mars mission after rival India successfully placed a spacecraft in orbit around the Red Planet in 2014.


China Unveils Ambitious Plans to Explore the Universe:

China Headlines: China hopes to reach Mars in 2021:

The sky is not the limit: China’s Mars plan:

Air Force Awards GPS III Launch Services Contract to SpaceX

Falcon 9 launch (Credit: SpaceX)

Falcon 9 launch (Credit: SpaceX)

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, El Segundo, Calif., April 27, 2016 (USAF PR) – The Air Force announced today the award of the first competitively sourced National Security Space (NSS) launch services contract in more than a decade. Space Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) was awarded a contract for Global Positioning System (GPS) III Launch Services. This is a firm-fixed price, standalone contract with a total value of $82,700,000. SpaceX will provide the Government with a total launch solution for the GPS-III satellite, which includes launch vehicle production, mission integration, and launch operations and spaceflight certification. The launch will be the second GPS III launch and is scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. in May 2018.

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NASA Selects 399 Research Projects for Funding Under SBIR, STTR Programs


NASA LOGOWASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA has selected 399 research and technology proposals from 259 American small businesses and 42 research institutions that will enable NASA’s future missions into deep space, while also benefiting the U.S. economy. The awards have a total value of approximately $49.7 million.

“These proposals represent the entrepreneurial spirit of small businesses that fuel our economy and create jobs on Main Street,” said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “The dollar value of these innovation projects represents an investment in the American economy.”

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SpaceX Working With NASA on Sending Dragon Spacecraft to Mars

Red Dragon landing on Mars (Credit: SpaceX)

Red Dragon landing on Mars (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX announced today that it would be sending a modified robotic Dragon spacecraft to Mars as early as 2018. The company has been working with NASA on key elements of the mission under a non-reimbursable Space Act Agreement signed in December 2014 as part of the space agency’s Collaborations for Commercial Space Capabilities (CCSC) program.

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Hyten Clarifies Remarks on Use of Excess ICBM Motors

Gen. John E. Hyten

Gen. John E. Hyten

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, COLO. (USAF PR) — At the 32nd Space Symposium I was asked whether I supported the US government making decommissioned ICBM motors available to the commercial space industry. I want to clearly state that I believe this decision is a matter of national policy and law which rests with Congress. We look forward to working with Congress as this matter is considered.

I stated that I believe it’s appropriate to consider leveraging the considerable investment that the American taxpayer has made in developing, manufacturing and maintaining these motors. However, in doing so, we must not put the small launch market at risk. We should study the issue carefully to determine if the engines could be sold to commercial industry at a reasonable price, and in reasonable numbers that do not provide an unfair competitive advantage. Doing so would recoup some of the investment that the taxpayers have made, rather than waiting until the motors become unusable and have to be destroyed.

I absolutely understand and value the health of our launch industrial base, and I’m encouraged by the innovation and investment I see from the industry. We want to encourage this vibrant market, and will do the analysis to make sure that any policy proposal to make the ICBM engines available takes the long term health of the small launch segment into account.

Video: SpaceX’s Red Dragon Mission to Mars


Abstract: One of Ames’ long standing science interests has been to robotically drill deeply into Mars’ subsurface environment (2 meters, or more) to investigate the habitability of that zone for past or extant life. Large, capable Mars landers would ease the problem of landing and operating deep robotic drills. In 2010, an Ames scientist realized that the crew-carrying version of the SpaceX Dragon capsule would possess all the subsystems necessary to perform a soft landing on Earth, and raised the question of whether it could also soft land on Mars. If it could, it might be a candidate platform for a Discovery or Mars Scout class deep drilling mission, for example.

After approximately 3 years studying the engineering problem we have concluded that a minimally modified Dragon capsule (which we call the “Red Dragon”) could successfully perform an all-propulsive Entry, Descent, and Landing (EDL). We present and discuss the analysis that supports this conclusion. At the upper limits of its capability, a Red Dragon could land approximately 2 metric tons of useful payload, or approximately twice the mass that the MSL Skycrane demonstrated with a useful volume 3 or 4 times as great. This combination of features led us to speculate that it might be possible to land enough mass and volume with a Red Dragon to enable a Mars Sample Return mission in which Mars Orbit Rendezvous is avoided, and the return vehicle comes directly back to Earth. This potentially lowers the risk and cost of a sample return mission. We conclude that such an Earth-Direct sample return architecture is feasible if the Earth Return Vehicle is constructed as a small spacecraft. Larry Lemke will present and discuss the analysis that supports this conclusion.


SpaceX Announces Plans to Send Dragon to Mars


Defense Bill Includes Commercial Weather Pilot Program

Stormy winter weather (Credit: Douglas Messier)

Stormy winter weather (Credit: Douglas Messier)

On Wednesday, the Senate Armed Services Committee will take up legislation to fund the Defense Department that includes provisions for a pilot program to determine how commercial weather data could be used to support military operations.

“The [Defense] Secretary would have 1 year and up to $3.0 million to carry out the pilot program by purchasing and evaluating commercial weather data that meets the standards and specifications set by the Department of Defense,” according to a summary of the provisions. “The Secretary would be required to provide interim and final briefings on the utility, cost, and other considerations regarding the purchase of commercial satellite weather data to support the requirements of the Department of Defense.”

Earlier this month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a schedule for its Commercial Weather Data Pilot program, which also will last one year.

The American Space Renaissance Act, which Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) proposed earlier in April, calls for the incorporation of commercial weather data into NOAA and defense forecasts.

Fly Your Satellite! CubeSats Phone Home

CubeSats (Credit: ESA/Medialab)

CubeSats (Credit: ESA/Medialab)

PARIS (ESA PR) — All three satellites of ESA’s Education Office Fly Your Satellite! programme have established their first contact with the ground.
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China Plans Launch of Permanent Space Station Around 2018

Artist's conception of China's Tianhe-1 space station. (Credit: China Manned Space Engineering)

Artist’s conception of China’s Tianhe-1 space station. (Credit: China Manned Space Engineering)

China plans to launch the core of its permanent Tianhe-1 space station around 2018, with full assembling of the multi-module facility due to be complete about four years later, officials said last week.

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AIA Commercial Space Competitiveness Strategy for the 21st Century


Commercial Space Competitiveness Strategy for the 21st Century
Aerospace Industries Association

The United States was the leader in space for much of the early Space Age after initial Soviet successes. From the development of the Saturn V rocket and the Apollo Lunar landing program, to development of the first communications satellites and the Global Positioning System, the U.S. has been the primary driver of both the exploration and commercial utilization of space.

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