Series on Spaceport America Looks on the Bright Side

Sunset at the “Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space” terminal hangar facility at Spaceport America. (Credit: Bill Gutman/Spaceport America)

NMPolitics.net began a five-part series on Spaceport America today. Is Spaceport America taking flight? is the first installment.

The piece is fairly optimistic on the financial front, perhaps too much so. It examines positive financial impact on the local economy to date and projects forward to when Virgin Galactic begins flying commercially from the facility, possibly next year.
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Go Inside ISS With Google Street View

Video Caption: The International Space Station is a marvel of modern science and engineering. Astronauts have occupied the pressurized modules for over 16 years, and now you can explore their work and living spaces in Google Street View. From the research, to the “orbital outhouse” to the inspirational views back down to Earth from the cupola, take a look at the images here: google.com/streetview

NASA Protects Its Astronauts From Space Weather

NASA’s Human Research Program aims to mitigate the harmful effects of the space radiation environment on astronaut health outside of the relative protection of the Earth’s magnetosphere. (Credits: NASA / SOHO)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — It’s not a bird or a plane but it might be a solar storm. We like to think of astronauts as our superheroes, but the reality is astronauts are not built like Superman who gains strength from the sun. In fact, much of the energy radiating from the sun is harmful to us mere mortals.

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Space Rodents Help NASA Plan for Deep Space Missions

NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson collects images of the back of the eye during a routine check into astronaut eyesight. Crew members’ bodies change in a variety of ways during space flight, and some experience impaired vision. (Credits: NASA)
MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s future deep space exploration – including to Mars – is an unprecedented venture in spaceflight, requiring us to tackle challenges we’ve never faced before. For instance, we know the human body changes significantly while in space, and we’ll need to find ways to address those effects. NASA is conducting research to learn more about the long-term impact of extended human spaceflight. One experiment that just launched, Rodent Research-9, is contributing to this goal by sending rodents to the International Space Station, to study how a lack of gravity in space affects blood vessels, eyes and joints.

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And the New NASA Administrator is Probably….Wait for it….

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

This guy.

Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK).

That’s what a couple of websites (here and here) are reporting this evening, with the caveat that — this being “Trump world” — anything could happen between now and the formal announcement planned for September or perhaps earlier.

Surprised?

You shouldn’t be.

During his three terms Congress, Bridenstine has made himself an expert in space policy, with a particular focus on promoting commercial space. He’s also been campaigning for the job since Trump was elected (and probably before). Bridenstine will also be in need of a new job soon. He promised voters he would serve a maximum of six years in the House, which means he won’t be standing for re-election next November.

The Trump Administration has also settled on a deputy administrator. That guy’s name is…

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RSC Energia Begins Work on New Soyuz-5 Booster

MOSCOW (RSC Energia PR) — Work is performed in compliance with the Order of the Government of the Russian Federation where RSC Energia is identified as the prime contractor of space rocket complex (SRC).

The following enterprises of State Corporation ROSCOSMOS: RSC Progress, FSUE TsENKI, etc. are the work co-executors.

Flight tests of new Russian launch vehicle (LV) Soyuz-5 are planned to be conducted for 2022 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

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ESA Sends Astronauts to China for Spaceflight Training

Samantha Cristoforetti is a European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut of Italian nationality. Between November 2014 and June 2015 she spent 199 days on board the International Space Station as a Flight Engineer for Expedition 42 and 43. During ASI’s Futura Mission, Samantha conducted experiments in the Station’s laboratories. Samantha is a Captain in the Italian Air Force.

Matthias Maurer is ESA’s newest recruit for the Agency’s astronaut corps. From Germany, Matthias was among the 10 finalists in the 2009 selection and is now undergoing basic training at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany.

Video: Elon Musk Describes Vision for a Human Civilization


Video Caption:
Elon Musk has never been one to keep his long-term plans to himself. Beyond the development of reusable rockets, electric cars, and revolutionizing solar power, he has also been quite vocal about establishing a colony on Mars within his lifetime. The goal here is nothing less than ensuring the survival of the human race by creating a “backup location”, and calls for some serious planning and architecture.

These and other aspects of Musk’s proposed mission to Mars were outlined in an essay titled “Making Humans a Multi-Planetary Species“, which was published in the June 2017 issue of the journal New Space. The paper is a summary of the presentation he made at the 67th Annual Meeting of the International Astronautical Congress, which took place from September 26th–30th, 2016, in Guadalajara, Mexico.

The paper was produced by Scott Hubbard, a consulting professor at Stanford University and the Editor-in-Chief of NewSpace, and includes all the material and slides from Musk’s original presentation. Contained within are Musk’s thoughts on how the colonization of Mars could be accomplished in this century and what issues would need to be addressed.

Update on Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser

Dream Chaser berthed at space station. (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

The slide below is from a recent NASA update on the space agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

Although Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser was eliminated from the final round of the program nearly three years ago, the company has continued to develop the vehicle for both crew and cargo flights to the International Space Station. NASA has awarded a contract for cargo flights under the Commercial Resupply Services 2 program.

A full-scale engineering article is set to conduct an approach and landing test at NASA’s Armstrong Flight and Research Center in California this fall. The flight is one of the unfinished milestones from Sierra Nevada’s Commercial Crew Integrated Capabilities contract.

The test will come about four years the last Dream Chaser approach and landing test in October 2013. The glide portion of the flight went as planned, but a failure of part of the landing gear resulted in a crash on the runway.

The company is continuing to develop Dream Chaser for crew flights under an unfunded Space Act Agreement (SAA) with NASA. A total of eight milestones are included under the agreement, which has been extended to August 2022.

Under an unfunded SAA, each side pays covers its own costs for any work performed.

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Boeing Commercial Crew Progress & Schedule

Boeing’s CST-100 Structural Test Article ready for shipment from C3PF to Boeing’s facility in Huntington Beach, California. (Credit: Boeing)

The following slides are from a recent NASA update on Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner commercial crew effort. The company is currently schedule to fly an automated flight to the International Space Station next June followed by a test flight with crew two months later.
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SpaceX Commercial Crew Progress & Schedule

Dragon 2 weldment and heat shield. (Credit: SpaceX)

The following slides are from a recent NASA update on SpaceX’s Dragon 2 commercial crew effort. The company is currently schedule to fly an automated Dragon 2 flight to the International Space Station in February followed by a test flight with crew four months later.
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A Look Inside Bigelow’s BEAM Module on the ISS

BEAM module interior (Credit; NASA)

NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik looks through the hatch of the International Space Station’s Bigelow Expandable Aerospace Module (BEAM) on July 31, 2017. He shared this photo on social media on August 2, commenting, “Ever wonder how you look when you enter a new part of a spacecraft? Well, this is it.  First time inside the expandable BEAM module.”

The BEAM is an experimental expandable module launched to the station aboard SpaceX’s eighth commercial resupply mission on April 8, 2016, and fully expanded and pressurized on May 28.  Expandable modules weigh less and take up less room on a rocket than a traditional module, while allowing additional space for living and working. They provide protection from solar and cosmic radiation, space debris, and other contaminants. Crews traveling to the moon, Mars, asteroids, or other destinations may be able to use them as habitable structures.

The BEAM is just over halfway into its planned two-year demonstration on the space station. NASA and Bigelow are currently focusing on measuring radiation dosage inside the BEAM. Using two active Radiation Environment Monitors (REM) inside the module, researchers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston are able to take real-time measurements of radiation levels.

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Russia & China to Increase Space Cooperation

Tass reports that Russia and China plan to sign a cooperative agreement in the fall outlining increased cooperation across a range of space areas. Russia and China are also working to deepen cooperation with the BRICS nations, which include Brazil, India and South Africa.

As Glavkosmos explained, cooperation with Chinese partners envisages the following areas: the exploration of the Moon and outer space, space vehicles and ground infrastructure, hardware components and materials, the Earth’s remote sensing data.

Glavkosmos is also working with Chinese commercial partners on the issue of holding experiments aboard the International Space Station and providing the data of the Earth’s remote sensing from Russian satellites, the company said….

Specifically, Glavkosmos is holding preparations in Brazil for a tender for the delivery of space images to that country.

It was reported earlier that China was interested in buying the world’s most powerful Russian-made RD rocket engines produced by Energomash while Russian Space Systems showed interest in Chinese electronic components.

Russia and China are also working on making their GLONASS and BeiDou navigation satellite systems mutually complement each other and on installing adjusting ground-based stations on the territory of each other.

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