This Week on The Space Show


This week on The Space Show with Dr. David Livingston:

1 Monday, Jan. 21, 2019; 2-3:30 PM PST (4-5:30 PM CST, 5-6:30 PM EST): No show today due to Martin Luther King National Holiday.

2. January 22, 2019: 7-8:30 PM PST (9-10:30 pm CST; 10-11:30 PM EST): We welcome back DR. JEFF BELL re the Russian space program and much more.

3. Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019: Hotel Mars. See Upcoming Show Menu and the website newsletter for details. Hotel Mars is pre-recorded by John Batchelor. It is archived on The Space Show site after John posts it on his website.

4. Friday, Jan. 25, 2019; 9:30-11 AM PST; 11:30 AM-1 PM CST; 12:30-2 PM EST. We welcome back DR. PAUL DAVIES of Arizona State for interstellar news, advance propulsion, searching for ET artifacts.

5. The Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019 12-1:30 PM PST, (3-4:30 PM EST, 2-3:30 PM CST): We welcome back ROB GODWIN for his book “Outpost In Orbit: A Pictoral & Verbal History of the ISS.”

Suborbital Flights Stopped Being So Humdrum in 2018

Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo’s first flight above 50 miles on Dec. 13, 2018. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

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by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Throughout the Space Age, suborbital flight has been the least exciting segment of the launch market. Operating in the shadow of their much larger orbital cousins, sounding rockets carrying scientific instruments, microgravity experiments and technology demonstrations have flown to the fringes of space with little fanfare or media attention.

The suborbital sector has become much more dynamic in recent years now that billionaires have started spending money in it. Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic both made significant progress last year in testing New Shepard and SpaceShipTwo, respectively. Their achievements have raised the real possibility of suborbital space tourism flights in 2019. (I know. Promises, promises…. But, this year they might finally really do it. I think.)

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Avio Signs Contract for 10 Million Euros in Financing from European Investment Bank

ROME (Avio PR) — Avio S.p.A., Italian company leader in the space propulsion sector, informs that today it has signed the contract for the financing of additional Euro 10 Million with the European Investment Bank (EIB).

Such financing adds up to the first Euro 40 Million loan issued by the EIB to Avio S.p.A. in October 2017, with the same economic conditions.

Leveraging the above indicated financing, Avio S.p.A. intends to support the development of space propulsion technologies for the new Vega C and Ariane 6 launchers and expand the industrial capacity of the Colleferro plant in order to meet the production volumes expected for the coming years.

“We are pleased to continue our collaboration with the European Investment Bank – Giulio Ranzo, Avio CEO, stated. This agreement further reinforces our trust in the achievement of our medium and long term growth targets, ensuring additional financial soundness to our Company”.

Airbus & Partner OneWeb Win DARPA Contract to Support Blackjack Program

HERNDON, Va., USA, 14 January 2019 – Airbus Defense and Space Inc. has been awarded a contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop a satellite bus in support of the Blackjack program.

DARPA describes the Blackjack program as an architecture demonstration intending to show the military utility of global low-earth orbit constellations and mesh networks of lower size, weight and cost. DARPA wants to buy commercial satellite buses and pair them with military sensors and payloads. The bus drives each satellite by generating power, controlling attitude, providing propulsion, transmitting spacecraft telemetry, and providing general payload accommodation including mounting locations for the military sensors.

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UrtheCast Closes Aquisition of Geosys Technology Holding

VANCOUVER (UrtheCast PR) – UrtheCast Corp. (TSX: UR) (“UrtheCast” or the “Company”) is pleased to provide an update with respect to closing the acquisition of Geosys Technology Holding LLC, securing a US$12 million term loan and other corporate updates.

Closing of Geosys Acquisition

UrtheCast is pleased to announce the acquisition (the “Geosys Acquisition”) of Geosys Technology Holding LLC (“Geosys”) from Land O’ Lakes, Inc. (“Land O’Lakes”). The total purchase price for the Geosys Acquisition is US$20 million payable in three installments. The first installment of US$5 million was paid to Land O’Lakes on the closing of the Geosys Acquisition today, US$5 million is payable on October 14, 2019 and the balance of US$10 million is payable upon the transfer of certain intellectual property from Land O’Lakes prior to April 13, 2021. As part of the first closing, UrtheCast entered into a new 13-year agreement to provide Land O’Lakes with certain services currently provided by Geosys to Land O’Lakes with total annual fees payable to UrtheCast in excess of US$10 million per year, and an increased rate at such time as the UrtheDaily Constellation is operational.
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Blue Origin Postpones Flight From Monday

UPDATE: Blue Origin has pushed the launch to Wednesday due to expected high winds on Tuesday.

Delta IV Heavy Launches Reconnaissance Satellite From Vandenberg

Delta IV Heavy carrying the NROL-71 satellite lifts off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. (Credit: ULA)

Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., (Jan. 19, 2019) – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy rocket carrying a critical payload for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) denoted NROL-71 lifted off from Space Launch Complex-6 on Jan. 19 at 11:10 a.m. PST. The mission is in support of our country’s national defense.

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SLS Liquid Hydrogen Tank Test Article Loaded into Test Stand

SLS liquid hydrogen tank (Credit: NASA/Tyler Martin)

The largest piece of structural test hardware for America’s new deep space rocket, the Space Launch System, was loaded into Test Stand 4693 at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama Jan. 14, 2019. The liquid hydrogen tank is part of the rocket’s core stage that is more than 200 feet tall with a diameter of 27.6 feet, and stores cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen that will feed the vehicle’s RS-25 engines. The liquid hydrogen tank test article is structurally identical to the flight version of the tank that will comprise two-thirds of the core stage and hold 537,000 gallons of supercooled liquid hydrogen at minus 423 degrees Fahrenheit. Dozens of hydraulic cylinders in the 215-foot-tall test stand will push and pull the tank, subjecting it to the same stresses and loads it will endure during liftoff and flight.

How Much Do European Citizens Know About Space?

This graphic from the Harris Interactive survey report on public perceptions of issues related to space activities shows that on average, 83% of the Europeans interviewed (in UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain) had heard of ESA (even though only 37% knew precisely what it is), and the variation of that average by country. (Credit: ESA/Harris Interactive)
PARIS (ESA PR) — Europeans are undeniably interested in space activities, and the idea of pooling resources between European countries is considered important unanimously by European citizens: just two of the fascinating findings from a recent survey of public perceptions of issues related to space.

Carried out on behalf of ESA by Harris Interactive in December 2018, the survey questioned over 5000 people aged 18 or older and representative of the public in Europe’s five most populous countries, Germany, UK, France, Spain and Italy.

The survey found that, almost unanimously, Europeans identified three main uses for space: better understanding the Universe, observing our own planet, for example the effects of climate change, and they recognised the ability to make life on Earth easier, for example in transportation or communications.

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Stratolaunch Scales Back Booster Plans, Lays Off Employees

Air-launched boosters (Credit: Stratolaunch)

Alan Boyle reports that Stratolaunch is laying off about 50 employees and has dumped plans for development of a series of new air-launched boosters (seen in picture above). The decision comes three months after the death of Paul Allen, who is funding a project being led by Northrop Grumman’s Scaled Composites.

The company said it would continue work on the world’s largest airplane, which is designed to serve as a flying launch pad for rockets. Last week, Stratolaunch put its 385-foot-wide, twin-fuselage plane through a high-speed taxi test that many saw as a precursor for its first test flight at Mojave Air and Space Port.

“Stratolaunch is ending the development of their family of launch vehicles and rocket engine. We are streamlining operations, focusing on the aircraft and our ability to support a demonstration launch of the Northrop Grumman Pegasus XL air-launch vehicle,” the company said in an emailed statement. “We are immensely proud of what we have accomplished and look forward to first flight in 2019.”

Employees were told today that more than 50 people were being laid off as a result of the streamlining strategy, according to two sources who aren’t employed by Stratolaunch but are familiar with the operation. The sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, told GeekWire that about 20 employees were staying on to work on the plane and prepare for the flight test.

The Pegasus XL is a small satellite booster capable of carrying 443 kg (977 lb) to orbit. The rocket often carries government payloads and flies infrequently; it has flown only five times in the last 11 years.Pegasus XL is currently launched by a modfied L-1011 aircraft that is parked just down the taxiway from where the Stratolaunch plane is housed at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.

The Pegasus XL’s low production rate has driven up the cost of the booster. NASA is paying approximately $56.3 million for the launch of its Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) mission, which is scheduled for later this year. The price “includes the firm-fixed launch service costs, spacecraft processing, payload integration, tracking, data and telemetry and other launch support requirements,” the agency said in a press release.

It is not clear whether Stratolaunch will be contracting with any other companies to produce additional boosters for the aircraft. It previously pursued projects with SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corporation (now Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems). Neither of those efforts came to fruition.

Aging Faster in Space to Age Better on Earth

David Saint-Jacques, of the Canadian Space Agency, completes the Bone Densitometer calibration in support of the Rodent Research-8 investigation. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — A new investigation heading to the International Space Station will provide space-flown samples to scientists from academia, industry and government agencies, who have agreed to share their data and results in an online database that is open to the public. Rodent Research-8 (RR-8) examines the physiology of aging and the effect of age on disease progression using groups of young and old mice flown in space and kept on Earth.

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Blue Origin’s New Shepard Set to Fly on Monday

Editor’s Note: There is a daily notice to airmen (NOTAM) posted for Monday, Jan. 21 through Wednesday, Jan. 23 from 1330 to 2000 UTC (8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. EST/7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. CST).

ISS Crew Studies Space-Caused Eye Pressure and Cultural Differences

The official Expedition crew portrait with (from left) NASA astronaut Anne McClain, Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and astronaut David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency. (Credit: NASA)

January 17, 2018

The Expedition 58 crew focused again today on studying head and eye pressure changes astronauts experience while living in space. The crew then went on to more science hardware and life support maintenance aboard the International Space Station.

Flight Engineers Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques worked throughout Thursday morning researching the upward flow of fluids that occurs inside astronauts’ bodies. The duo conducted eye scans with a variety of devices to measure eye pressure changes caused by these fluid shifts in microgravity.

McClain then spent the afternoon connecting cables and installing parts on the Multi-Purpose Small Payload Rack (MSPR) that houses small experiments in the Kibo lab module. Saint-Jacques replaced electronics gear in the Kubik incubator that enables research on seeds, cells and small animals in the Columbus lab module.

Commander Oleg Kononenko ensured the upkeep of life support gear and other station systems in the Russian segment of the orbital lab. The veteran cosmonaut of three previous Expeditions ended the day exploring how station crew members from around the world interact and learn to live together in space.

JAXA Launches Innovative Satellite Technology Demonstration-1 Mission

RAPIS-1 satellite (Credit: JAXA)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — National Research and Development Agency Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched the Innovative Satellite Technology Demonstration-1* aboard the fourth Epsilon Launch Vehicle (Epsilon-4) from the JAXA Uchinoura Space Center. The launch proceeded on time at 9:50:20 a.m., (Japan Standard Time, JST) January 18, 2019.

The launch and flight of Epsilon-4 occurred nominally. All seven satellites separated from the launch vehicle successfully; the Rapid Innovative Payload Demonstration Satellite 1 (RAPIS-1) was jettisoned from the launch vehicle approximately 51 minutes 55 seconds into launch. Thereafter, other onboard satellites – MicroDragon, RISESAT, ALE-1, OrigamiSat-1, Aoba VELOX-IV and NEXUS – were respectively separated from Epsilon-4.

JAXA appreciates all for the support shown in behalf of the Epsilon-4 launch.

*Innovative Satellite Technology Demonstoration-1 is a suit of seven small satellite missions to demonstrate innovative new technological approaches;
– Rapid Innovative payload demonstration Satellite 1 (RAPIS-1), which JAXA developed with the assistance of startups
– Small satellites: MicroDragon, RISESAT and ALE-1
– CubeSats: OrigamiSat-1, Aoba VELOX-IV, NEXUS

NASA’s Campaign to Return to the Moon with Global Partners

Contrasted against the stark, crater-marked lunar surface, the Earth is seen rising above the moon on Dec. 24, 1968. As Apollo 8 orbited the moon, Earth is 240,000 miles away. The sunset terminator is seen crossing Africa. (Credits: NASA/Bill Anders)

The Moon is a fundamental part of Earth’s past and future – an off-world location that may hold valuable resources to support space activity and scientific treasures that may tell us more about our own planet. Americans first walked on its surface almost 50 years ago, but the next wave of lunar exploration will be fundamentally different.

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