Trump Eyes Half Billion Dollar Cut in NASA’s Budget

President Donald Trump would cut $561 million from NASA’s budget for fiscal year 2018 under a spending plan set for release next week, according to a leaked budget document.

NASA would see its budget reduced from $19.6 billion this year to just below $19.1 billion. The space agency received just under $19.3 billion in fiscal year 2016.

The total budget is close to the $19.1 billion contained in a budget blueprint the Trump Administration released in March. The blue print provided guidance for the formal budget proposal to be released next week.

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Virgin Galactic’s Attenborough Promises Greater Safety on SpaceShipTwo

SpaceShipTwo glides to a landing at Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Virgin Galactic Commercial Director Stephen Attenborough was in Australia where he made a presentation in which he promised a greater level of safety for the company’s shrunken base of customers.

“We are a better and safer company as a result of that incident. One of the outcomes of testing is failure. We live in a risk averse world and it can come as a shock when something like that happens,’’ Mr Attenborough told the State Library audience, which included ANZ chief executive Shayne Elliott.

“We have (since) looked at every element of the vehicle and every element of the operation.’’

Virgin Galactic is locked in a race with the likes of private firms Blue Origin and billionaire Tesla founder Elon Musk’s Space X to be the first private company to successfully send commercial passengers into space….

Already 650 people have bought tickets to fly, including celebrities such as Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio. But if you bought a ticket today, you would get to the front of the queue by around 2021, according to Mr Attenborough.

Virgin Galactic officials had previously stated the number of ticket holders to be around 700. The company had cancellations after the first SpaceShipTwo was destroyed in a test flight on Halloween 2014.

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RSC Energia Chief Questions Schedule for Elon Musk’s Moon Plan

SpaceX Crew Dragon Weldment Structure (Credit: SpaceX)

The head of Russia’s most prominent spaceflight company questioned whether Elon Musk’s SpaceX will be able to launch people around the moon next year and said Russia plans to revive tourism flights to the International Space Station (ISS) by 2020.

“As for the state of affairs specifically at Elon Musk’s company, it would be difficult to carry out such a mission in 2018, and even in 2020,” Vladimir Solntsev, general director of RSC Energia, the primary contractor for Russia’s human spaceflight program, said in a wide-ranging Q&A with the Russian news agency TASS.

Read the rest of my Space.com story here.

GAO: Boeing & SpaceX Face Potential Further Delays in Commercial Crew Certification

Astronaut Eric Boe evaluates Boeing Starliner spacesuit in mockup of spacecraft cockpit. (Credit: Boeing)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report says NASA’s commercial crew contractors face potential further delays into 2019 for certifying their vehicles to carry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) on a commercial basis.

“Boeing has proposed moving its certification review out to the fourth quarter of 2018—at least 14 months later than initially planned,” the report states. “SpaceX has moved its certification review to the third quarter of 2018—at least 15 months later than initially planned.
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Explore Mars Issues Report with Findings & Recommendations

The Humans to Mars Report 2017

Explore Mars, Inc.
Full Report (PDF)

Findings

  • The wide range of architectures for the exploration of Mars and the credibility of the institutions and companies producing them demonstrate both the wide interest in Mars exploration and the positive opinions of the viability of current technology to achieve it.
  • Mars exploration architectures must consider and address affordability, including how the architecture will return appropriate value to its stakeholders, as a fundamental requirement for credibility.
  • Sustainability is also a fundamental requirement and will be driven by, besides affordability, international and commercial partnerships. To effectively engage these partners, clear consideration of their contributions and objectives must be made.
  • A well-defined set of accepted scientific objectives will anchor coordination between the human spaceflight and science communities and ensure the widest possible support for human exploration of Mars.
  • Timely identification of strategic knowledge gaps and a robust technology demonstration program is needed to mature systems for Mars explorations. Testing systems at the International Space Station and in cislunar space would provide valuable operations experience for Mars systems.
  • Robotic reconnaissance of Mars from orbit and on the surface is needed to finalize selection of landing sites and inform technology development and system design.
  • The ongoing discussion and development of systems and architectures for deep space exploration is valuable with each idea contributing new perspectives and possibilities. Architecture choices must be rational and transparent to maximize participation. Open and wide ranging discussion will produce the strongest possible Mars architecture.
  • Mars is achievable.

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NASA Will Not Fly Crew on First SLS/Orion Mission

An expanded view of the next configuration of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket, including the four RL10 engines. (Credit: NASA)

NASA officials announced on Friday the first combined flight of the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft, known as Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1), will be conducted without a crew as originally planned. They also said the flight test will slip from 2018 to 2019.

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Preventing Collisions Between Debris and Spacecraft


JAXA has published the following Q&A interview with  Mayumi Matsuura, the space agency’s space situation awareness (SSA) system project manager.

— What is the current state of space debris monitoring in Japan?

Kamisaibara Spaceguard Center (Credit: JAXA)

Space debris is monitored at the Kamisaibara Spaceguard Center and the Bisei Spaceguard Center, both in Okayama Prefecture. At Kamisaibara, we use radar to monitor debris in low Earth orbit (LEO) up to an altitude of approximately 2,000 km. Although the size of debris that can be monitored depends on its altitude, we can simultaneously track a total of 10 targets 1 meter or more in diameter. At Bisei, we use an optical telescope, which allows us to monitor debris in geostationary Earth orbit (GEO) at an altitude of 36,000 km.

JAXA analyzes data from these facilities to pinpoint debris orbit and position, and when this data and other inputs show that there is a possibility of debris colliding with satellites, a warning is issued to the satellite team. This is the role of the Space Tracking and Communications Center (STCC), where I work. To avoid being hit by debris, all you need to do is change your orbit, so the center prepares detailed proposals on when and how to do this. In some cases, debris is expected not to burn up on reentry into the atmosphere, but to fall back to Earth. In these situations, my job is to predict where it will reenter the atmosphere.
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Has NASA Decided to Put Crew on First SLS Flight?

If this is true, it will be only the second time in history that a crew has flown on on the first flight of a launch vehicle.

The only other time was the space shuttle — and they had to do it. There was no way to fly the space shuttle without a crew. As the book “Into the Black” shows, that mission came close to disaster during launch due to a shock wave that bounced off the pad and damaged the forward connector between the shuttle and the external tank. The force also nearly damaged the tail flap.

Yes, the Orion spacecraft will have an abort system. But still, it is very risky to put a crew on the very first flight of a brand new booster. Other human launch vehicles were tested separately and with spacecraft before any crews were placed on board.

Another concern is the Orion spacecraft, whose only flight test lacked crucial equipment such as the service module and life support.

The flight might come off just fine. But, I fear that NASA’s concern about keeping the program funded, and Donald Trump’s desire for some space spectacular to boost his re-election chances, could combine to produce something very unfortunate.

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California Considers Tax on Launches Within the State

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the WorldView-4 spacecraft lifts off from Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base. (Credit: ULA)

California’s Franchise Tax Board is seeking public comment on a proposed new tax that would fall upon ULA, SpaceX, Virgin Galactic and other companies launching spacecraft from within the state.

The levy would apply to companies “that generates more than 50 percent of its gross receipts from the provision of space transportation activity for compensation in a taxable year,” the proposal states. Space is defined as 62 statute miles (100 km) or more above Earth.
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Not Many Cosmonaut Applications So Far

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko marked their 300th consecutive day aboard the International Space Station on Jan. 21, 2016. The pair will land March 1 after spending a total of 340 days in space. (Credits: NASA)

Russia’s open call for prospective cosmonauts has produced only 200 applications since the process began on March 14, Tass reports.

Russia’s state corporation Roscosmos and the cosmonauts training center declared a contest for admission to the team of space explorers on March 14. Each applicant is expected to present a voluminous package of documents, including questionnaires, identification papers, a copy of the work record booklet, a certificate of good conduct confirming there is no history of a criminal record, a security clearance certificate allowing access to state secrets and a pile of medical certificates.

Given the volume of documents required, officials expect many of the applications will be filed during the last month of the call. The deadline for applications is July 14. Six to eight new cosmonauts will be selected.

Last year, NASA received more than 18,300 applications in its call for astronaut candidates. Canada received 3,772 applications for its selection process.

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Printing Bricks From Moon Dust Using Solar Heat

Brick 3D printed from moondust using focused sunlight. (Credit: ESA–G. Porter)

COLOGNE, Germany (ESA PR) — Bricks have been 3D printed out of simulated moondust using concentrated sunlight – proving in principle that future lunar colonists could one day use the same approach to build settlements on the Moon.

“We took simulated lunar material and cooked it in a solar furnace,” explains materials engineer Advenit Makaya, overseeing the project for ESA.

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Commercial Crew Spacecraft Will Offer a Quick Escape from Station


By Steven Siceloff,
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida

New, American-made spacecraft flying to the International Space Station will play a big role in bringing resident crews back home to Earth, but their missions also include the ability to provide the orbiting laboratory with a temporary shelter in case of an emergency in space, or even a safe ride back to Earth with short notice.

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Orbital ATK Tests Orion Escape Motor

DULLES, Va. (Orbital ATK PR) — Orbital ATK (NYSE: OA), a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies, announced today that it has completed another milestone in the development of the Attitude Control Motor (ACM) for NASA’s Orion spacecraft Launch Abort System (LAS). Members of the NASA and Lockheed Martin team were on hand to witness the successful ACM test, which demonstrated the motor’s power to steer the LAS during a mission-abort scenario.

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Altius Space Machines DogTags Project Selected for NASA Funding

We’ve all heard of dogtags for dogs and for soldiers. But, for space robots?

That’s what Jonathan Goff’s Altius Space Machines will begin developing with NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I funding. The contract is worth $125,000 over six months.

Altius’s dogtags are lightweight, passive robotic interfaces that could be attached to habitat structures and objects. Examples of structures include human-tended deep space habitats and commercial manufacturing facilities in Easrth orbit that wouldn’t be permanently staffed.

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