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MDA Eyes Kodiak Launch Complex for Missile Defense Flight Tests

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Credit: Alaska Aerospace Corp.

Pacific Spaceport Complex Alaska (Credit: Alaska Aerospace Corp.)

There was some good news last week for the Alaska Aerospace Corporation (AAC), which has struggled to find users for the Pacific Spaceport Complex Alaska (PSCA) on Kodiak Island.

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) announced that it would award AAC a contract to support flight tests for the Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) at the spaceport. The contract has a five-year base with a single one-year option.

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Thales Alenia Space Launches Stratobus Program

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Stratobus vehicle (Credit: Thales Alenia Space)

Stratobus vehicle (Credit: Thales Alenia Space)

CANNES, April 26, 2016 (Thales Alenia Space PR) –  Thales Alenia Space announced today the official kickoff of its Stratobus research & development project. Stratobus is an autonomous stratospheric airship that was just approved by the French government’s “investment in the future” program, with funding of 17 million euros. These funds cover a 24-month development phase for key enabling technologies, culminating in the construction of a demonstrator. Since the project has also won support from four different French regions, additional funding of about 3 million euros is expected.
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House Armed Services Committee Wants AR-1 Engine in Atlas V

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Artist's conception of Vulcan rocket. (Credit; ULA)

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

The House Armed Services Committee appears determined to require United Launch Alliance (ULA) to re-engineer its Atlas V booster with a new Aerojet Rocketdyne engine in its first stage even though the launch provider doesn’t really want the motor.

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China Plans Space Station, Crew Launches for Later This Year

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Model of the Tiangong-2 space station

Model of the Tiangong-2 space station

China will end a three-year hiatus in human spaceflight late this year with the launch of the two-person Shenzhou-11 spacecraft to the new Tiangong-2 space station, Chinese officials say. The crew will carry out a 30-day mission aboard the space station before returning to Earth.

Tiangong-2, which is set for launch sometime during the third quarter, is larger and more capable than the Tiangong-1 space station launched in 2011. The first station was visited by two three-person crews on missions lasting 12 and 15 days. The second crew landed in June 2013.

“We have specifically modified the interior of the new space lab to make it more livable for mid-term stays for our astronauts,” said Wang Zhongyang, a spokesman for the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST).

“Unlike Tiangong-1, Tiangong-2 will be our first genuine space lab,” he added.

Tiangong-2 is similar in design and size to the Soviet Salyut 6 and Salyut 7 space stations flown in the 1970’s and 1980’s. The new Chinese station has docking ports at both ends to allow for resupply missions.

China plans to send up its new Tianzhou-1 supply ship during the first half of 2017 to verify propellant transfer and other key technologies. The cargo vehicle will be launched by the new medium-lift Long March-7 rocket, which is scheduled to make its inaugural flight later this year.

Chinese officials are not discussing follow-on missions to Tiangong-2. However, some reports say that a second human mission and an additional cargo ship would be launched to the space station in 2018.

Officials also announced plans to launch the core of the permanent Tianhe-1 space station around 2018. The permanent facility will have multiple docking ports to allow for the docking of additional modules. Assembly of the space station is expected to be completed around 2022.

SpaceX Founding Team Launches Vector Space Systems to Redefine Space Commerce

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Credit: Vector Space Systems

Credit: Vector Space Systems

TUSCON, Ariz., April 26, 2016 (Vector Space Systems PR) — Vector Space Systems, a Micro Satellite space launch enterprise comprised of new-space industry veterans from SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, McDonnell Douglas and Sea Launch, today announced it has secured more than $1M in angel funding at Space 2.0 in Silicon Valley. Vector Space Systems, which sports a roster of technology and aerospace giants to provide industry insight, expertise and leadership, was formed to fundamentally change the dynamics and economics of the space launch industry.

More than just another satellite launch company, Vector Space Systems connects space startups with affordable and reliable launch-enabling platforms and vehicles at a cost point never before possible for accessing space.  Featuring the only launch system dedicated to serving the rapidly growing Micro satellite market, Vector Space Systems aims to foster innovation throughout the market segment to spark space commerce growth through reliable and frequent launch opportunities.  In addition, Vector Space Systems is developing a platform approach to broaden the access of space technology to non-experts, extending the traditional launch vehicle only model to include space systems that permit anyone to innovate and create space applications without the need for hiring an entirely new satellite development team.

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Gene Analysis System Could Accelerate Pace of Research on Space Station

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NASA astronaut and Expedition 47 Flight Engineer Jeff Williams works with the WetLab-2 system aboard the International Space Station. WetLab-2 is a research platform for conducting real-time quantitative PCR for gene expression analysis aboard the ISS. The system enables spaceflight genomic studies involving a wide variety of biospecimen types in the unique microgravity environment of space. (Credit: NASA)

NASA astronaut and Expedition 47 Flight Engineer Jeff Williams works with the WetLab-2 system aboard the International Space Station. WetLab-2 is a research platform for conducting real-time quantitative PCR for gene expression analysis aboard the ISS. The system enables spaceflight genomic studies involving a wide variety of biospecimen types in the unique microgravity environment of space. (Credit: NASA)

by Sandy Dueck and Gianine Figliozzi
Space Biosciences Division
NASA’s Ames Research Center

Biologists around the world routinely perform gene expression analysis to better understand living systems. Gene expression analysis examines the types and amounts of molecules produced by genes in living cells, telling us which genes are active and which are inactive at a given point in time. This reveals valuable information about the highly dynamic internal states of cells in living systems. NASA’s WetLab-2 hardware system is bringing to the International Space Station the technology to measure gene expression of biological specimens in space, and to transmit the results to researchers on Earth at the speed of light.

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China Working on Reusable Launch Vehicles & Spacecraft

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shenzhou1

Shenzhou capsule

Spurred on by developments in the United States, China says it is working on reusable human spacecraft and launch vehicles.

China is studying how to retrieve and reuse manned spacecraft in its future missions, the chief engineer of the nation’s manned space program said on Sunday.

“It’s our next goal to reuse manned spacecraft. We want to make our space exploration cost-effective,” Zhou Jianping said, as China marks Space Day, newly designated by the government to commemorate China’s first satellite launch on April 24, 1970….

Chinese’s official Xinhau news agency also reported that engineers are working on reusable launch vehicles.

Chinese experts have already built a prototype model to test theories on the reusable rocket booster’s landing subsystems. They have completed “experimental verifications” using “multiple parachutes” supposedly attached to the booster, a source with China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technologies (CALT), developer of China’s Long March rocket series, said.

“The experiment has laid solid foundation for the realization of reusable rockets in the country,” the source said.

Ma Zhibin, deputy director of CALT’s aerospace department also confirmed to Xinhua Thursday in a separate interview that Chinese scientists are working on reusable rockets, although the technologies they employ may differ from those of SpaceX.

“There is of course more than one way to do this … I believe we could see some serious results during the 13th Five-Year Plan period,” he said, referring to the five years between 2016 and 2020.

This Week on The Space Show

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space_show_logo
This week on The Space Show with David Livingston:

1. Monday, April 25, 2016: 2-3:30 PM PDT (5-6:30 PM EDT, 4-5:30 PM CDT): No show due to last minute guest cancellation due to family illness.

SPECIAL DAY: 2. .MONDAY, April 25, 2016: 7-8:30 PM PDT (10-11:30 PM EDT, 9-10:30 PM CDT): We welcome back BOB ZIMMERMAN for updates and news regarding the space industry.

3. Friday, April 29, 2016: 2016; 9:30-11AM PDT; (12:30-2 PM EDT; 11:30AM – 1 PM CDT. We welcome back DR. STUART ROBBINS for another stimulating space science discussion with him.

4. Sunday, May 1, 2016: 12-1:30 PM PDT (3-4:30 PM EDT, 2-3:30 PM CDT): We welcome back DR. PAUL SPUDIS who will be discussing many of his recent blog posts and other lunar space news and developments.

Bridenstine’s Bill Would Radically Restructure NASA

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NASA LOGOBy Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA would be given a mandate to pioneer the development and settlement of space and a commission dominated by Congressional appointees to oversee those efforts under a bill proposed by Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK).

The measure’s basic premise is that NASA’s problems stem from unstable presidential commitments to space exploration as opposed to Congress’ tendency to support expensive programs that bring funding into particular states and districts.

“Over the past twenty years, 27 NASA programs have been cancelled at a cost of over $20 billion to the taxpayer,” according to a statement on a website devoted to the measure. “Many of these have come as a result of changes in presidential administrations.

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Alan Stern Named to TIME100 List of Influential People

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New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern of Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), Boulder, CO., left, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) Director Ralph Semmel, center, and New Horizons Co-Investigator Will Grundy Lowell Observatory hold a print of an U.S. stamp with their suggested update since the New Horizons spacecraft has explored Pluto, Tuesday, July 14, 2015 at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern of Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), Boulder, CO., left, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) Director Ralph Semmel, center, and New Horizons Co-Investigator Will Grundy Lowell Observatory hold a print of an U.S. stamp with their suggested update since the New Horizons spacecraft has explored Pluto, Tuesday, July 14, 2015 at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

SAN ANTONIO (SwRI PR) –TIME has named Dr. Alan Stern one of the 100 most influential people of the year. Stern, associate vice president of the Space Science and Engineering Division at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), serves as principal investigator of NASA’s New Horizons mission, which made headlines worldwide when the spacecraft returned remarkable imagery of the Pluto system in July 2015 — the first high-resolution images ever taken of the icy planet and its moons. Stern was previously named to the TIME100 in 2007 after taking over as administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

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15 Years of ESA on the International Space Station

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Astronaut Umberto Guidoni, STS-100 mission specialist representing the European Space Agency (ESA), records activity on the Zvezda Service Module following hatch opening and the reunion of STS-100 crew members with the three members of the Expedition Two crew. This image was taken with a digital still camera. (Credit: ESA)

Astronaut Umberto Guidoni, STS-100 mission specialist representing the European Space Agency (ESA), records activity on the Zvezda Service Module following hatch opening and the reunion of STS-100 crew members with the three members of the Expedition Two crew. This image was taken with a digital still camera. (Credit: ESA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — On 23 April 2001, Italian ESA Umberto Guidoni made history as the first European astronaut to board the International Space Station.

Guidoni had been launched on four days earlier, on 19 April, on Space Shuttle Endeavour as part of its seven-strong STS-100 crew from Kennedy Space Centre, with a liftoff at 20:41 CEST.

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Congressman Backs Space Renaissance Act, Death Ray Weapons

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Doug Lamborn

Doug Lamborn

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Doug Lamborn PR) — Congressman Doug Lamborn has partnered with Congressman Jim Bridenstine (OK-01) as an original cosponsor on the American Space Renaissance Act. This legislation will permanently secure the United States as the world’s preeminent space-faring nation. The comprehensive and bold reform bill covers national security, civil, and commercial space policies and programs.

Lamborn and Jim Langevin (RI-02) have partnered to introduce a House companion bill to legislation introduced in the Senate by Senators Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and James Inhofe (R-OK) designed to allow the military an accelerated process to acquire Directed Energy weapons.

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NIAC Focus: Mars Molniya Orbit Atmospheric Resource Mining

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Mars molniya orbit resource mining (Credit: NASA)

NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program recently selected 13 proposals for Phase I awards. Below is a proposal submitted by Robert Mueller of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

Mars Molniya Orbit Atmospheric Resource Mining

Robert Mueller
NASA Kennedy Space Center

Mars planetary surface access is one of NASA’s biggest technical challenges involving advanced entry, descent, and landing (EDL) technologies and methods. This NASA Innovative Advanced Concept (NIAC) project intends to solve one of the top challenges for landing large payloads and humans on Mars by using advanced atmospheric In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) methods that have never been tried or studied before. The proposed Mars Molniya Orbit Atmospheric Resource Mining concept mission architecture will make Mars travel routine and affordable for cargo and crew, therefore enabling the expansion of human civilization to Mars.

NASA Partners with IMAX & Jennifer Lawrence for ‘A Beautiful Planet’

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Former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, left, ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, second from left, Jennifer Lawrence, third from left, NASA astronaut Barry Wilmore, third from right, NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren, second from right, and NASA astronaut Terry Virts, right, post for a picture as they arrive for the world Premiere of the IMAX film "A Beautiful Planet" at AMC Lowes Lincoln Square theater on Saturday, April 16, 2016 in New York City. The film features footage of Earth captured by astronauts aboard the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

Former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, left, ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, second from left, Jennifer Lawrence, third from left, NASA astronaut Barry Wilmore, third from right, NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren, second from right, and NASA astronaut Terry Virts, right, post for a picture as they arrive for the world Premiere of the IMAX film “A Beautiful Planet” at AMC Lowes Lincoln Square theater on Saturday, April 16, 2016 in New York City. The film features footage of Earth captured by astronauts aboard the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — For crew members aboard the International Space Station, the view doesn’t get any better than looking at the Earth from the station’s Cupola. The dome-shaped module’s seven panoramic windows offers them a unique view of our magnificent blue planet. It was from the Cupola that NASA’s eighth collaboration with IMAX came to life.

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WhiteKnightTwo Flies at Spaceport America

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SPACEPORT AMERICA, NM (NMSA PR) — Virgin Galactic and Spaceport America Operations teams welcomed WhiteKnightTwo back to the clear blue skies of New Mexico on Monday.

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