James Webb Space Telescope Launch Slips into 2021, Cost Overruns

Artist’s impression of James Webb Space Telescope. (Credit; NASA)

Costs Rise from $8.8 Billion to $9.66 Billion

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — The Independent Review Board (IRB) established by NASA to assess progress on its James Webb Space Telescope has unanimously recommended that development on the world’s premier science observatory should continue; NASA has established a new launch date for Webb of March 30, 2021.

A report issued by the review board addresses a range of factors influencing Webb’s schedule and performance, including the technical challenges and tasks remaining by primary contractor Northrop Grumman before launch.

(more…)

Earth’s First Mission to Binary Asteroid to Further Planetary Defense

NASA’s DART spacecraft is due to collide with the smaller body of the Didymos binary asteroid system in October 2022. ESA’s Hera mission will survey ‘Didymoon’ post-impact and assess how its orbit has been changed by the collision, to turn this one-off experiment into a workable planetary defence technique. (Credit: ESA–ScienceOffice.org)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Planning for humankind’s first mission to a binary asteroid system has entered its next engineering phase. ESA’s proposed Hera mission would also be Europe’s contribution to an ambitious planetary defence experiment.

Named for the Greek goddess of marriage, Hera would fly to the Didymos pair of Near-Earth asteroids: the 780 m-diameter mountain-sized main body is orbited by a 160 m moon, informally called ‘Didymoon’, about the same size as the Great Pyramid of Giza.

(more…)

ESA Council Backs Lunar Gateway & Exploration, Mars Sample Return

The space station formerly known as the Deep Space Gateway (Credit: NASA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Over the past 18 months, ESA and its Member States have gathered in a series of space exploration workshops culminating in a discussion in the ESA Council held in Paris on 13 June 2018.

The Council discussed Europe’s ambition to play a leading role in the global exploration of space based on its European Exploration Envelope Programme, (known as E3P) that was created by ESA’s ministers when they met in December 2016 in Lucerne, Switzerland.

(more…)

ESA Council Approves Completion of Ariane 6, Transition from Ariane 5

Ariane 6 variants (Credit: ESA–David Ducros,)

PARIS — 14 June 2018 (ESA PR) — The ESA Council met today in Paris to discuss the path towards the future exploitation of Ariane 6.

In view of the progress made in the Ariane 6 programme, Participating States have decided on the completion of the development up to full operational capability and agreed to fund industrial incentives associated with the development of Ariane 6 and P120C solid rocket motor.

Participating States also committed to start with the first step of the Ariane 6 and P120C Transition Programme. This programme supports the evolution from Europe’s Ariane 5 to full operational capability of Ariane 6.

Ariane 6 is Europe’s new-generation launcher, designed to secure guaranteed access to space for Europe at an affordable price for European institutional users. It will operate in two configurations: Ariane 62 is fitted with two P120C strap-on boosters while Ariane 64 has four. Ariane 6’s maiden flight is planned for mid-2020.

P120C is the largest carbon-fibre solid propellant booster ever built in one segment at almost 13.5 m long and about 3.4 m in diameter. Two boosters will be used on Ariane 6’s maiden flight in 2020.

A Refreshing Increase in Access to the Orbiting Lab

Preparation of the experiment cubes for the International Commercial Experiment, or ICE Cubes Service. (Credit: Space Applications Services)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — A new, simple and cost-effective way to conduct experiments and test technology aboard the International Space Station offers another option to make space more accessible for out-of-this-world research.

(more…)

AI, Cancer Therapy & Chemical Gardens Aboard SpaceX Dragon ISS Resupply Mission

Mobile Companion artificial intelligence robot inside ISS mockup. (Credit: NASA)

A new batch of science is headed to the International Space Station aboard the SpaceX Dragon on the company’s 15th mission for commercial resupply services. The spacecraft will deliver science that studies the use of artificial intelligence, plant water use all over the planet, gut health in space, more efficient drug development and the formation of inorganic structures without the influence of Earth’s gravity.

(more…)

Parabolic Flight Campaign – Three ‘Firsts’ in Partial Gravity

A-310 ZERO-G at Bordeaux-Merignac Airport. (Credit: DLR, CC-BY 3.0)

BORDEAUX, France (DLR PR) — When the parabolic flight aircraft, the Airbus A310 ZERO-G, takes off from Bordeaux-Mérignac Airport on 5 June 2018, it will be a ‘first’ in several respects: for the first time, only life science experiments will be exposed to three very different gravity conditions during a joint campaign by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR), the European Space Agency (ESA) and French space agency CNES (Centre national d’études spatiales; CNES).

The idea of conducting a pure ‘life science campaign’ originated with the International Space Life Sciences Working Group (ISLSWG), an expert network at space agency level. This particular campaign includes a total of eight experiments – three of them from Germany – over three flight days. Also for the first time, a NASA life science experiment will be on board.
(more…)

New Crew Launches to ISS

The Soyuz MS-09 rocket is launched with Expedition 56 Soyuz Commander Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos, flight engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA, and flight engineer Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency), Wednesday, June 6, 2018 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Prokopyev, Auñón-Chancellor, and Gerst will spend the next six months living and working aboard the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

BAIKONUR COSMODROME, Kazakhstan (NASA PR) — Three crew members are on their way to the International Space Station after launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 7:12 a.m. EDT Wednesday (5:12 p.m. Baikonur time).

(more…)

Cruz, Nelson Criticize Plan to End Direct ISS Funding in 2025

International Space Station (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Sharply conflicting opinions about the future of the International Space Station (ISS) and America’s path forward in space were on view last week in a Senate hearing room turned boxing ring.

In one corner was NASA Associate Administrator Bill Gerstenamier, representing a Trump Administration that wants to end direct federal funding for ISS in 2025 in order to pursue an aggressive campaign of sending astronauts back to the moon. NASA would maintain a presence in Earth orbit, becoming one of multiple users aboard a privatized ISS or privately-owned stations.

(more…)

GAO: NASA Asteroid Impact Mission Faces Technical, Schedule Challenges

DART spacecraft (Credit: JHU APL)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA’s ambitious effort to redirect a small asteroid has run into challenges with its financing, technology and foreign partner that could delay its launch and reduce its scientific return, according to a new assessment by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) will impact the smaller of the binary near-Earth asteroid Didymos. Scientists will study how the asteroid is deflected to learn how similar systems might be used on potentially hazardous near-Earth objects.

(more…)

ESA Selects Three New Mission Concepts for Study

M5 mission themes (Credit: ESA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — A high-energy survey of the early Universe, an infrared observatory to study the formation of stars, planets and galaxies, and a Venus orbiter are to be considered for ESA’s fifth medium class mission in its Cosmic Vision science programme, with a planned launch date in 2032.

The three candidates, the Transient High Energy Sky and Early Universe Surveyor (Theseus), the SPace Infrared telescope for Cosmology and Astrophysics (Spica), and the EnVision mission to Venus were selected from 25 proposals put forward by the scientific community.

(more…)

GAO: Orion Program Plagued by Delays, Cost Overruns

NASA’s Orion with the European Service Module (Credit: ESA–D. Ducros)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Cost overruns and schedule delays continue to plague NASA’s Orion Multipurpose Crew Vehicle, according to a new assessment by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

NASA expects the Orion program to exceed its $11.28 billion baseline budget, which covers expenditures through the Exploration Mission-2 mission, the report stated. The space agency expects to complete a new cost estimate by June.

(more…)

ESA and NASA to Investigate Bringing Martian Soil to Earth

Martian soil (Credit: NASA)

BERLIN (ESA PR) — ESA and NASA signed a statement of intent today to explore concepts for missions to bring samples of martian soil to Earth.

Spacecraft in orbit and on Mars’s surface have made many exciting discoveries, transforming our understanding of the planet and unveiling clues to the formation of our Solar System, as well as helping us understand our home planet. The next step is to bring samples to Earth for detailed analysis in sophisticated laboratories where results can be verified independently and samples can be reanalysed as laboratory techniques continue to improve.
(more…)

HyperScout Successfully Captures First Images From Space

This first-light image from the miniature HyperScout instrument aboard ESA’s newly launched GomX-4B CubeSat, shows the southern coast of Cuba. (Credit: ESA/cosine Research)

WARMOND, The Netherlands (cosine PR) — HyperScout, the first miniaturized hyperspectral camera in space, has captured its first images. Developed by an international consortium led by cosine, HyperScout was launched into space on 2 February 2018. The images are the first Earth observation images of their kind captured by an instrument onboard a nanosatellite.

(more…)

GomSpace Successfully Commissions GOMX-4 Nanosats

ESA’s biggest small satellite yet: the GomX-4B six-unit CubeSat will demonstrate miniaturised technologies, preparing the way for future operational nanosatellite constellations. (Credit: GomSpace)

STOCKHOLM (GomSpace PR) — As part of a mission to demonstrate interlink communication on nanosatellite tandem formation flights and data retrieval, including surveillance of the Arctic area, the Danish nanosatellite specialist GomSpace launched two nanosatellites in February.

Twelve weeks later, GomSpace for the first time showed the possibility of live data capture from the two nanosatellites in space at a press conference held in Aalborg, Denmark. At the same time, the press conference marked the official transition to the so-called demonstration phase, following the mission’s test phase. The latter has thus been successfully completed, and the mission is now ready to carry out its scheduled tasks.

(more…)