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SpaceX Identifies Possible Cause in Pad Explosion

By Marc Boucher on September 23, 2016 2:35 PM.

SpaceX AMOS-6 Anomaly Update 23 September 2016, SpaceX

"At this stage of the investigation, preliminary review of the data and debris suggests that a large breach in the cryogenic helium system of the second stage liquid oxygen tank took place. All plausible causes are being tracked in an extensive fault tree and carefully investigated. Through the fault tree and data review process, we have exonerated any connection with last year's CRS-7 mishap."

"... Pending the results of the investigation, we anticipate returning to flight as early as the November timeframe."

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Dialogue to Continue with China on Space Debris

By Marc Boucher on September 23, 2016 12:00 PM.

U.S., China will meet this year to talk space debris, SpaceNews

"In a keynote speech here Sept. 22 at the AMOS conference, Frank Rose, the assistant secretary of State for arms control, verification and compliance, said that the upcoming discussion would likely include talk of space debris.

While representatives from the U.S. and China have met previously to talk about civil uses of space, the two sides met for a separate discussion of military space topics for the first time in May. Space debris has been a divisive issue between the countries for nearly a decade."

Related: More satellite collision warnings to come with Space Fence data, SpaceNews

"A senior Pentagon official said the U.S. Air Force will need to rethink how it issues satellite collision warnings when a new space object tracking system goes online or risk overwhelming satellite operators and hardware systems with overly cautious alerts."

Marc's note: This isn't an issue that's going to go away. All nations must eventually sit down and deal with space debris. And its going to come at a cost. A safe, secure space environment is in everyone's best interest.

Next Thursday, September 29th at 2:30 pm ET, SpaceRef will broadcast live the International Astronautical Congress plenary session "Projection and Stability of the Orbital Debris Environment in the Light of Planned Mega-Constellation Deployments" which deals with space debris.

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NASA Launches iTech Innovation Program for the Journey to Mars and Beyond

By Marc Boucher on September 22, 2016 5:09 PM.

NASA iTech Fosters Technology Needed for Journey to Mars


"NASA is seeking innovative technology for the agency's future exploration missions in the solar system and beyond, including the Journey to Mars, from other U.S. government agencies, academia, the aerospace industry and the public through the new iTech initiative."

"NASA's iTech initiative is a yearlong effort to find innovative ideas through a call for white papers that address challenges that will fill gaps in five critical areas identified by NASA as having a potential impact on future exploration. The technology areas are: radiation protection; life support systems in space; astronaut crew health; in-space propulsion; and the ability to achieve very high-resolution measurements of key greenhouse gases."

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As SpaceX Heads to Mars with its Red Dragon Program, NASA Tags Along, A Win-Win for Both

By Marc Boucher on September 22, 2016 12:16 PM.

NASA FISO Presentation: NASA Collaboration with SpaceX's Red Dragon Mission

"Now available is the September 21, 2016 NASA Future In-Space Operations (FISO) telecon material. The speakers was Philip McAlister (NASA HQ) who discussed "NASA Collaboration with SpaceX's Red Dragon Mission".

Note: The audio file and presentation are online and available to download.

NASA to have limited role in SpaceX's planned Mars campaign, Spaceflight Now

"Expertise, input and advice from seasoned NASA engineers will improve SpaceX's chances of nailing the first commercial landing on Mars as soon as late 2018, a senior space agency official said Wednesday, but Elon Musk's space transport company will likely seek more independence from U.S. government support on later expeditions to the red planet."

Programming note: SpaceRef will broadcast live Elon Musk's presentation, Making Humans a Multiplanetary Species, from the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara next week on Tuesday, September 27 at 2:30 pm ET.

Marc's note: We certainly live in a new age of exploration when a private space company is embarking on a mission that no government has yet to undertake.

That mission, to send an uncrewed technology demonstration human spacecraft mission to land on Mars has never been attempted. And make no mistake this is not the spacecraft that SpaceX would send to Mars with humans. It's a technology demonstration. The data collected by this mission will be invaluable to future manned missions to Mars and elsewhere.

Continue reading: As SpaceX Heads to Mars with its Red Dragon Program, NASA Tags Along, A Win-Win for Both.

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Will Congress Get the 2016 NASA Transition Authorization Act and Other Bills Approved?

By Marc Boucher on September 22, 2016 8:20 AM.

Senate Commerce and House SS&T Committees Approve Space Bills, Space Policy Online

"The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee and the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee each held markups today of space-related legislation. The Senate committee approved the 2016 NASA Transition Authorization Act and the INSPIRE Women Act. The House committee approved the TREAT Astronauts Act. Congress is only scheduled to be in session for a few more weeks in 2016, but if all parties are sufficiently motivated to reach compromise, there is more than enough time to get the bills to the President's desk before the end of the 114th Congress."

"The bill authorizes $19.508 billion for NASA for FY2017. It does not address funding beyond that one year, which begins October 1. The total is the same as approved by the House Appropriations Committee in its version of the FY2017 Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill, which has not been considered by the House yet. It is $202 million more than the Senate Appropriations Committee approved. The money is allocated to NASA's budget accounts in line with the Senate Appropriations CJS bill except that the extra $202 million is added to the Exploration account, which pays for SLS and Orion."

Marc's note: While Marcia almost sounds optimistic, there isn't much time left to get these bills passed. As usual, leaving bills to the last minute is par for the course. We'll see what jockeying occurs in the next few weeks.

Related:

- Commerce Approves NASA Transition Act, BOTS Act, and 3 Other Bills
- Chairman John Thune - Majority Statement - NASA Transition Act, 4 Other Bills
- Senator Bill Nelson - Minority Statement - NASA Transition Act, 4 Other Bills
- Bipartisan Astronaut Health Bill Passes Out of Committee
- The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration Congratulates Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee on Approval of NASA Transition Authorization Act
- CompTIA Supports NASA Authorization Bill

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Has China Lost Control of Tiangong-1?

By Marc Boucher on September 21, 2016 8:55 PM.

China's Tiangong-1 space station 'out of control' and will crash to Earth, The Guardian

"China's first space station is expected to come crashing down to Earth next year, fuelling concerns that Chinese space authorities have lost control of the 8.5-tonne module."

"Based on our calculation and analysis, most parts of the space lab will burn up during falling," the deputy director of China's manned space engineering office, Wu Ping, was quoted as saying by official news agency Xinhua."

"Jonathan McDowell, renowned Harvard astrophysicist and space industry enthusiast, said the announcement suggested China had lost control of the station and that it would re-enter the Earth's atmosphere "naturally."


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Jack Garman one of the Wonder Boys of the Apollo 11 Flight Control Team Passes Away

By Marc Boucher on September 21, 2016 9:09 AM.

Jack Garman, NASA engineer who 'saved' Apollo 11 from alarms, dies at 72, CollectSpace

"John "Jack" Garman, a NASA engineer whose knowledge of the computer aboard Apollo 11 saved the historic first lunar landing from a last-minute abort, died on Tuesday (Sept. 20). He was 72."

"Garman's death came after a several year battle with bone marrow cancer, according to an email by his wife that was forwarded to the Johnson Space Center retiree community and then shared with collectSPACE."

Steve Bales and Jack Garman: Wonder Boys of the Apollo 11 Flight Control Team By Craig Collins, NASA (In the NASA's Innovators and Unsung Heroes Series)

Americans who know a bit about the Apollo Space Program may recall that the first manned lunar landing - during the Apollo 11 mission - was a split-second away from being aborted. Twenty-six-year-old guidance officer Steve Bales was a key flight control team member who kept his cool while the onboard computer in the lunar module sent out a series of alarms.

Continue reading: Jack Garman one of the Wonder Boys of the Apollo 11 Flight Control Team Passes Away.

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ISS Crew Could be Short Staffed for Another Month and a Half

By Marc Boucher on September 21, 2016 9:00 AM.

Manned flights to ISS to be rescheduled -- Roscosmos, TASS

"The schedule of manned flights to the International Space Station (ISS) will be changed after the launch of Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft was postponed due to technical malfunction, the press service of Russian space agency Roscosmos told reporters on Tuesday."

Marc's note: Originally scheduled for this Friday, the launch of the Soyuz MS-02 has been delayed until November 1 though it has also been reported by Interfax that October 12th was also considered.

There is an unspecified issue with the Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft. Plans for a November 16th launch of the follow-on Soyuz MS-03 are proceeding as planned with no issues. So is this a one-off issue? Or could the issue crop up on Soyuz MS-03?

Marc's update: According to RIA Novosti and other media reports from Russia the issue with the Soyuz MS-02, a short circuit, has been traced to a faulty part that will be replaced.

Marc's September 22nd Update update:

Soyuz MS- 02 Team Faces Dangerous Repairs of Improperly Bent Electric Cable., Russian Space Web

"Replacing the damaged cable is relatively straight forward, but it now has to be conducted on the vehicle fully loaded with toxic propellants and pressurized gases. Such an attempt would violate usual safety rules, but draining the spacecraft off its propellants and gases would likely be even more unprecedented and require lengthy repairs."

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NASA Future In-Space Operations: Low-Latency Teleoperations for the Evolvable Mars Campaign

By Marc Boucher on September 20, 2016 2:41 PM.

NASA FISO Presentation: Low-Latency Teleoperations for the Evolvable Mars Campaign

"Now available is the September 7, 2016 NASA Future In-Space Operations (FISO) telecon material. The speakers were Mark Lupisella, Jack Bleacher and Michael Wright of NASA GSFC who discussed "Low-Latency Teleoperations for the Evolvable Mars Campaign".

Note: The audio file and presentation are online and available to download.

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David Weaver Is Leaving NASA

By Keith Cowing on September 20, 2016 12:27 PM.

Keith's note: Sources report that NASA Associate Administrator for the Office of Communications David Weaver is leaving the agency for a position at the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA).

David S. Weaver, NASA Associate Administrator for the Office of Communications

"David Weaver became NASA's associate administrator for the Office of Communications on July 18, 2010. Weaver is a senior public administration professional with 25 years of experience in government, politics, media relations and public policy."

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Posting Update

By Keith Cowing on September 19, 2016 6:35 PM.

Keith's note: I am heading off to the UK on Tuesday for the rest of the week - so Marc will be doing the bulk of the posting until next Monday.

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NASA Future In-Space Operations: Telerobotics from Mars Orbit

By Marc Boucher on September 19, 2016 3:08 PM.

NASA FISO Presentation: Telerobotics from Mars Orbit - Lessons from Robotic Exploration for Human Missions to Mars

"Now available is the August 31, 2016 NASA Future In-Space Operations (FISO) telecon material. The speaker was Jim Bell (ASU) who discussed "Telerobotics from Mars Orbit - Lessons from Robotic Exploration for Human Missions to Mars".

Note: The audio file and presentation are online and available to download.


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NASA's SpaceX Mars Mission Briefing That NASA Is Not Telling You About

By Keith Cowing on September 19, 2016 9:38 AM.

NASA FISO Telecon: NASA Collaboration with SpaceX's Red Dragon Mission

"The next Future In-Space Operations (FISO) colloquium will be Wednesday, September 21, when we will host Philip McAlister (NASA HQ), who will speak on "NASA Collaboration with SpaceX's Red Dragon Mission."

Keith's note: Elon Musk is getting ready for his big Mars colonization plan presentation at the IAC next week. The first step in this path to Mars is the Dragon mission that SpaceX is planning to send to Mars in 2018. You'd think that NASA would want people to know how it is involved in all of this. Indeed, NASA's Director of Commercial Spaceflight Development Phil McAlister is making a presentation at this week's NASA FISO telecon. Yet no mention is made of this presentation on NASA's calendar, Journey To Mars page, NASA's Commercial Space Transportation page, or anywhere else at NASA.gov.

Why is NASA hiding this briefing? Is NASA afraid to be seen supporting a competing plan for the #JourneyToMars ?

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Teasing Mars

By Keith Cowing on September 19, 2016 9:20 AM.

Elon Musk scales up his ambitions, considering going "well beyond" Mars, Ars Technica

"Musk dropped a surprise on Twitter. The workhorse spacecraft that will carry approximately 100 tons of cargo or 100 people to the surface of Mars, which until now has been popularly known as the Mars Colonial Transporter, can't be called that, Musk said. "Turns out MCT can go well beyond Mars, so will need a new name..." he tweeted on Friday evening. By Saturday evening he had a new name dubbing the spacecraft the "Interplanetary Transport System," or ITS."

Mars and beyond: Elon Musk teases his plans for interplanetary travel, Wired

"So far, Musk has only teased details of planned missions to Mars: both manned and unmanned. The first unmanned probe from SpaceX will be sent to the planet "as soon as 2018," it was said in June. Musk added that probes would be launched by SpaceX every two years, before humans are landed on the planet in 2025."

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Russia's Proton Is Adapting To Future Markets

By Keith Cowing on September 19, 2016 8:18 AM.

ILS Offers Proton Variants For Smaller Payloads, ILS

"International Launch Services (ILS) announces a product line extension of the Proton Breeze M commercial launch vehicle designed to expand the addressable GEO market for cost effective launch solutions in the small and medium satellite class range (3 to 5 metric tons). Designated as "Proton Variants," these two additional vehicles will be optimized 2-stage versions of the time tested and flight proven Proton Breeze M launch system for exclusive commercial use by ILS."

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NASA International Space Station On-Orbit Status 22 September 2016

NASA International Space Station On-Orbit Status 22 September 2016 Video in Story

Astronauts Kate Rubins and Takuya Onishi are continuing more eye checks today in the middle of day-long orbital plumbing work. Commander Anatoly Ivanishin packed trash in a resupply ship and researched a variety of Earth and space phenomena.

More updates...

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