NASA’s JPL Seeking Applicants for First Space Accelerator

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s first aerospace accelerator program, co-sponsored by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, will select 10 startup companies to take part in a three-month pilot program to develop new technologies for space. Applications will be accepted through April 7.

Organized by Techstars with support from Starburst Aerospace, the pilot program will enable the selected companies to collaborate with engineers and subject matter experts from JPL and from co-sponsors Lockheed Martin, the U.S. Air Force, Maxar Technologies, SAIC and Israel Aerospace Industries North America.

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Super Low Altitude Tsubame Satellite Transitions to Orbit Keeping Operations

The Super Low Altitude Test Satellite. (Credit: JAXA)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — National Research and Exploration Agency Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched Tsubame (*1), The Super Low Altitude Test Satellite, on December 23, 2017. The Tsubame satellite completed its orbit transfer phase and will transition on April 2 to the orbit keeping phase, powered by the ion engines.

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Flying to the Moon Without Taking Off – SIRIUS-19 Isolation Experiment Begins in Moscow

On 19 March at 14:00 local time in Moscow, the SIRIUS crew started their journey towards the orbital lunar station. From left to right: Reinhold Povilaitis (USA), Daria Zhidova (Russia), Commander Yevgeny Tarelkin (Russia), Anastasia Stepanova (Russia), Allen Miradkyrov (USA) and Stephania Fedeye (Russia). (Credit: IBMP)
  • 19 March 2019 marked the start of the SIRIUS-19 isolation study with three female and three male ‘cosmonauts’ in the habitat at the Institute for Biomedical Problems in Moscow.
  • For 122 days, they will simulate a mission to an orbital lunar station, during which they will conduct six German-developed experiments, and even land on a simulated lunar surface.
  • Focus: Spaceflight, health, robotics, social benefits

MOSCOW (DLR PR) — A special experiment will begin at the Institute of Biomedical Problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IBMP RAS) in Moscow on 19 March 2019 at 14:00 local time. Just four months before the celebrations for the fiftieth anniversary of the first Moon landing by the Apollo 11 astronauts, three female and three male ‘cosmonauts’ will embark on a simulated journey to our terrestrial neighbour. Closed off from the outside world, they will live, work and research in conditions of complete isolation in the Moscow NEK Habitat.

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Rocket Lab Scrubs Electron Launch

Watch Natalie Portman Goes Astro Crazy in “Lucy in the Sky”

Video Caption: In LUCY IN THE SKY, Natalie Portman plays astronaut Lucy Cola, who returns to Earth after a transcendent experience during a mission to space – and begins to lose touch with reality in a world that now seems too small.

Editor’s Note: This appears to be (very loosely) based on the Lisa Nowak story. Hence, the unofficial monkier, “Lucy in the Sky with Diapers.”

Sorry, I couldn’t resist….

UK Scientists Get $9.25 Million to Study Space Weather

LONDON (UKSA PR) — New national space funding worth £7 million [$9.25 million] will ensure UK scientists play a leading role in a new space weather mission, the Science Minister Chris Skidmore announced on the first day of British Science Week (8 March).

The Solar wind Magnetosphere Ionosphere Link Explorer (SMILE) mission will study how the solar wind interacts with the Earth’s magnetosphere, which can impact on satellites, power grids and communications networks integral to our modern lives.

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Testing the Value of Artificial Gravity for Astronaut Health

Control room of DLR’s short-arm centrifuge (Credit: ESA)

COLOGNE, Germany, 21 March 2019 (EXSA PR) — Test subjects in Cologne, Germany will take to their beds for 60 days from 25 March as part of a groundbreaking study, funded by European Space Agency ESA and US space agency NASA, into how artificial gravity could help astronauts stay healthy in space.

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SLS Engine Section Approaches Finish Line for First Flight

SLS core stage engine section. (Credit: NASA/Jude Guidry)

NEW ORLEANS (NASA PR) — NASA and Boeing have completed the majority of outfitting for the core stage engine section for the first flight of the agency’s new Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. The engine section, located at the bottom of the 212-foot-tall core stage, is one of the most complex parts of the rocket. Technicians at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans have installed more than 500 sensors, 18 miles of cables, and numerous other critical systems for mounting, controlling and delivering fuel to the rocket’s four RS-25 engines.

The core stage tanks hold cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen that are combusted by the engines to produce 2 million pounds of thrust to help send SLS to space for missions to the Moon. On the exterior of the engine section, technicians attached cork insulation for thermal protection and painted it white as well as finishing up other systems including fittings where solid rocket boosters attach.

Next, NASA and Boeing, the SLS prime contractor, will add the boat-tail to the bottom of the engine section and finish up some outfitting, integration and avionics functional testing. The boat-tail is an extension that fits on the end of the engine section. The engines are inserted through openings in the boat-tail, which acts much like a fairing to cover and protect most of engines’ critical systems.

The engines are mounted inside the engine section, and only the RS-25 engine nozzles extend outside the boat-tail. The team is using lessons learned building and outfitting the engine section for the first integrated flight of SLS to accelerate outfitting of the engine section for the second SLS mission. The primary structure of the core stage engine section for the second SLS flight has been built and covered with primer as it prepares for its outfitting and is visible in this image, just behind the first engine section.

Spacewalkers Complete Battery Swaps for Station Power Upgrades

NASA astronauts Nick Hague (top) and Anne McClain work to swap batteries in the Port-4 truss structure during today’s spacewalk. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Expedition 59 Flight Engineers Nick Hague and Anne McClain of NASA concluded their spacewalk at 2:40 p.m. EDT. During the six-hour, 39-minute spacewalk, the two NASA astronauts successfully replaced nickel-hydrogen batteries with newer, more powerful lithium-ion batteries for the power channel on one pair of the station’s solar arrays.

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Blue Origin Plans Major Expansion of Facilities in Florida

Brig. Gen. Steven Garland, 14th Air Force vice commander, left, provides remarks at a Blue Origin media event held at Space Launch Complex 36 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, Sept 15, 2015. (Credit: USAF/Matthew Jurgens)

Florida Today reports on plans by Blue Origin to expand its facilities in Florida:

Labeled as “South Campus” in water management district documents obtained by FLORIDA TODAY, the 90-acre expansion will connect to the factory at Exploration Park, which is a publicly accessible region just west of KSC’s main gate. The two-lane Space Commerce Way winds through the area, connecting other players like satellite company OneWeb, economic development agency Space Florida and the main entrance to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

The south campus will nearly double the size of land Blue Origin already leases from NASA, enabling the Jeff Bezos-led company to establish “programs complimentary to those constructed on the adjacent North Campus,” according to the documents. Blue will build 270- and 313-foot variants of New Glenn rockets in the massive blue-and-white factory on the north campus, which will launch no sooner than 2021.

Blue Origin’s media team did not respond to an inquiry about the land, which the company leased directly from NASA for 50 years. The total payments over that period will equal $20.3 million according to the final lease signed in December, which was also obtained by FLORIDA TODAY.

Building out a complex and finding a need for additional capacity isn’t uncommon in the spaceflight industry.

GAO Removes Weather Satellite Program From High-Risk List

This visible image on Oct. 6 at 1:00 p.m. EDT from NOAA’s GOES-East satellite shows Hurricane Matthew as it regained Category 4 Hurricane Status. (Credits: NASA/NOAA GOES Project)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has concluded that National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Department of Defense (DOD) have made “sufficient progress” in mitigating potential gaps in weather data that would have resulted “in less accurate and timely weather forecasts and warnings of extreme events—such as hurricanes and floods.”

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NASA Instruments Image Fireball over Bering Sea

This image sequence from the MISR instrument, aboard the Terra satellite, was taken a few minutes after a meteor exploded over the Bering Sea on Dec. 18. 2018. It shows the shadow of the meteor’s trail, and the orange-tinted cloud it left behind. (Credits: NASA/GSFC/LaRC/JPL-Caltech, MISR Team)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech PR) — On Dec. 18, 2018, a large “fireball” – the term used for exceptionally bright meteors that are visible over a wide area – exploded about 16 miles (26 kilometers) above the Bering Sea. The explosion unleashed an estimated 173 kilotons of energy, or more than 10 times the energy of the atomic bomb blast over Hiroshima during World War II.

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Space BD, JAXA Sign Agreement on Use of Kibo Exposed Platform

Japanese KIBO module

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — Space BD Inc., a space start-up company, and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), a national research and development agency, signed a basic agreement to promote utilization of EF utilization platform using the IVA-replaceable Small Exposed Experiment Platform (i-SEEP) and to be active as service providers capable of providing EF utilization platform services on Kibo of the International Space Station.

Space BD Inc. will start their business activity soon and will provide their on-orbit service with users around the world to perform on-orbit demonstration of material, EEE parts and components and earth observation mission etc. from early 2020.