Russia Expresses Lunar Gateway Doubts, Ponders Joint Lunar Surface Base with China

The space station formerly known as the Deep Space Gateway (Credit: NASA)

Russian officials are expressing doubts about the American-led Lunar Gateway — which would orbit the moon — while deepening cooperation with China on deep-space exploration projects that could include a crewed base on the surface of Earth’s closest neighbor.

SpaceNews reports that Dmitri Loskutov, head of Roscosmos’ international cooperation department, laid out a series of concerns during a panel discussion last week at the International Astronautical Congress in Bremen, Germany.

“For the moment, it looks like it is an American program with international participation,” he said. “How will this cooperation be managed? Will there be some sort of international administrative body? Will its principles remain those that are now valid for the International Space Station, in terms of consensus in decision-making?”

“For the moment, all the decisions are made by NASA. It seems U.S. standards will be imposed,” he said. “For Roscosmos and the Russian Federation, limited participation is not that interesting.”

Loskutov’s boss, Roscosmos CEO Dmitry Rogozin, was in China the week before for joint discussions on a range of cooperative projects.

“As a result of the meeting, a Protocol was signed, according to which the Parties will take further steps to bring their positions closer within the framework of implementing joint projects on launch vehicles and rocket engines, on exploration of the Moon and deep space, remote sensing of the Earth, satellite navigation, creation of an electronic component base for space purposes, low-orbit mobile communication system and space debris monitoring,” according to a Roscosmos press release.

Tass quoted Rogozin as saying the project could include a base on the lunar surface.

“China is a serious partner. I don’t rule out that as soon as we agree the outlines of our lunar program with the Americans, it is our manned lunar program, the formation of a research station on Moon’s surface is likely to be carried out with our Chinese partners. They can be equal partners already in the coming years,” he told Russia’s TV Channel One.

NASA, UAE Space Agency Sign Historic Agreement for Cooperation in Human Spaceflight

BREMEN, Germany (NASA PR) — NASA and the UAE Space Agency (UAESA) signed an Implementing Arrangement (IA) Monday, Oct. 1, that outlines cooperation across a range of areas related to space exploration and human spaceflight. The document was signed by H.E. Dr. Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi, Minister of State for Higher Education and Advanced Skills, and Chairman of the UAE Space Agency, and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine during a ceremony at the 69th International Astronautical Congress, being held in Bremen, Germany Oct. 1-5.

The IA falls under the overarching Framework Agreement signed between the UAESA and NASA in June 2016, which established a framework for areas of cooperation in ground-based research; sub-orbital research; research and flight activities in low-Earth orbit (LEO); and human and robotic exploration in the vicinity of the moon, on the lunar surface, and beyond.

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Commercial Crew Flights Slip into 2019

NASA assigned nine astronauts to crew the first test flight and mission of both Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon. The astronauts are, from left to right: Sunita Williams, Josh Cassada, Eric Boe, Nicole Mann, Christopher Ferguson, Douglas Hurley, Robert Behnken, Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover. (Credits: NASA)

NASA announced on Thursday that no Commercial Crew Program flight tests to the International Space Station will be conducted this year. The new schedule is:

  • SpaceX Demo-1 (uncrewed): January 2019
  • Boeing Orbital Flight Test (uncrewed): March 2019
  • SpaceX Demo-2 (crewed): June 2019
  • Boeing Crew Flight Test (crewed): August 2019

On August 2, NASA released the following schedule:

  • SpaceX Crew Dragon Demo-1 (uncrewed): November 2018
  • Boeing CST-100 Starliner Orbital Flight Test (uncrewed): late 2018/early 2019
  • SpaceX Crew Dragon Demo-2 (crewed): April 2019
  • Boeing CST-100 Starliner Crew Flight Test (crewed): mid-2019.

Basically, the flights have slipped two months in the last two months. Further delays are possible.

 

Space Station Crew Returns Safely to Earth

Three members of the Expedition 56 crew, NASA astronauts Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold, and cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, returned to Earth after months abroad the International Space Station and landed safely at 7:44 a.m. EDT (5:44 p.m. in Kazakhstan) southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan. (Credits: NASA)

DZHEZKAZGAN, Kazakhstan. (NASA PR) — Three members of the Expedition 56 crew returned safely to Earth Thursday from the International Space Station, where they spent months providing hands-on support for scientific research in low-Earth orbit, working to keep the orbiting laboratory fully operational, and performing three spacewalks.

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NASA TV to Air Live Coverage of International Space Station Crew Landing

Expedition 56 Commander Drew Feustel (right) and Flight Engineer Ricky Arnold (left) of NASA, along with Flight Engineer and Soyuz Commander Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos (center) will return to Earth on Oct. 4, after 197 days in space.
(Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Three of the astronauts aboard the International Space Station, including two NASA astronauts, are scheduled to return to Earth on Thursday, Oct. 4. NASA Television and the agency’s website will provide complete coverage of their departure from the station and landing back on Earth.

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NASA Statement on International Space Station Leak Investigation

International Space Station (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Below is NASA’s statement about the International Space Station Leak Investigation:

On Aug. 29, 2018 a small hole was discovered on the International Space Station. This resulted in a pressure leak. The hole has been identified and fixed by space station crew.

Russian media recently reported that General Director Rogozin said the hole was not a manufacturing defect. Ruling out a manufacturing defect indicates that this is an isolated issue which does not categorically affect future production.

This conclusion does not necessarily mean the hole was created intentionally or with mal-intent. NASA and Roscosmos are both investigating the incident to determine the cause. The International Space Station Program is tentatively planning a spacewalk in November to gather more information.

On October 11, American Astronaut Nick Hague and Russian Cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin will launch to the International Space Station on a Russian Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Administrator Bridenstine is scheduled to attend the launch and plans to meet with Mr. Rogozin. This will be their first in-person meeting. They had a telephone call on September 12 during which they discussed the International Space Station leak.

For more information about the ISS, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/station

Babin Introduces Bill to Keep Human Spaceflight Centered in Houston

Mission Control (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (Brian Babin PR) – U.S. Rep. Brian Babin (TX-36), Chairman of the House Space Subcommittee, has introduced H.R. 6910, the Leading Human Spaceflight Act. Babin unveiled the bill during a subcommittee hearing Wednesday titled 60 Years of NASA Leadership in Human Space Exploration: Past, Present, and Future.

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NASA Releases New Plan for Return to Moon & Trips to Mars

Credit: NASA

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In December of 2017, President Donald Trump signed Space Policy Directive-1, in which the president directed NASA “to lead an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and international partners to enable human expansion across the solar system and to bring back to Earth new knowledge and opportunities.”

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Russia, India Negotiate on Human Spaceflight Cooperation

Translated from Russian using Google Translate

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — On September 25, 2018, the delegation of the Roskosmos State Corporation headed by Dmitry Rogozin met with representatives of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).

The main topics of negotiations between the two space organizations were: joint work within the framework of manned space programs, where the Russian side is ready to offer its significant achievements and partnership, as well as possible joint initiatives in the areas of satellite navigation.

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Jacobs Supports NASA in Hitting Major Milestone at Kennedy Space Center

NASA’s modified mobile launcher (ML), sitting atop a refurbished Crawler Transporter (CT-2). (Credit: NASA)

Mobile launcher reaches launch pad,
paving the way for future deep space exploration

DALLAS, Sept. 25, 2018 (Jacobs Engineering PR) — Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. (NYSE :JEC ), and NASA, recently achieved a major milestone at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) as the modified mobile launcher (ML), sitting atop a refurbished Crawler Transporter (CT-2), took its maiden voyage to Launch Pad 39B and then to the Vehicle Assembly Building for fit checks and testing. The ML will support NASA’s new Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the Orion spacecraft during processing and launch.

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NASA: Landing Men & Women on the Moon Before the Next Decade is Out

Credit: NASA

NASA has released the National Space Exploration Campaign Report that had been mandated by Congress. It commits the United States to building a human-tended Lunar Gateway beginning in 2023 and returning humans to the moon’s surface by the end of the 2020’s.

The plan is to build a sustainable architecture for lunar exploration that is open to commercial and international partners. NASA would use the exploration campaign to test out technologies for sending astronauts to Mars.

Below are key excerpts from the report.

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Robotic Systems to Help Astronauts

Testing of Russian space robot. (Credit: Roscomos)

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — Interplanetary expeditions of the near future put forward new requirements to the safety and effectiveness of the participants in space flights. That is why the use of robotic systems (RTS) both on board spacecraft and when carrying out “on-plan” activity of crews is among the promising areas of manned programs.

Testing of Russian space robot. (Credit: Roscomos)

From 10 to 19 September 2018 on the basis of the scientific management of the Cosmonaut Training Center. Yu.A. Gagarin passed the acceptance tests of the universal computer stand (UCS) of robotic systems with the participation of specialists from the CPC and JSC “NPO” Androidnaya Tekhnika “.

UTS RTS, created on the basis of a single set of software and hardware tools for modeling and visualizing virtual interactive 3D robot models and their external environment, is successfully mastered by the Center’s specialists for further application in training cosmonauts. The stand will be used for carrying out ergonomic studies and working out the interaction of participants of long expeditions with various RTS space applications.

Testing of Russian space robot. (Credit: Roscomos)

In the implementation of promising interplanetary flight programs associated with the colonization of the Moon and Mars, anthropomorphic robotic systems will become reliable assistants to cosmonauts.

Orion’s First Service Module Integration Complete

Orion Service Module-1 radiator installation (Credit: ESA–A. Conigli)

BREMEN, Germany (ESA PR) — Last week at the Airbus integration hall in Bremen, Germany, technicians installed the last radiator on the European Service Module for NASA’s Orion spacecraft marking the module’s finished integration.

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NASA Names Holly Ridings New Chief Flight Director

Holly Ridings is at her Flight Director console in the space station flight control room in the Mission Control Center at NASA’s Johnson Space Center on Nov. 17, 2008, for day four of the space shuttle Endeavour’s STS-126 mission. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA has named Holly Ridings its new chief flight director, making her the first woman to lead the elite group that directs human spaceflight missions from the Mission Control Center at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

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Japanese Billionaire is Passenger on SpaceX BFR Moon Flight

Yusaku Maezawa at SpaceX headquarters. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

Japanese entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa was introduced on Monday as the customer for SpaceX’s planned circumlunar flight aboard the Big Falcon Rocket (BFR).

The 42-year old billionaire, who founded the clothing company Zozo (www.zozo.com) and collects high-priced art, said he plans to invited six to eight artists on the trip who would create works of art after returning home. The passengers could include painters, sculptors, film directors, architects, writers and fashion designers.

Musk praised Maezawa as brave to take the flight. “This is dangerous, let’s be clear,” Musk warned. “This is no walk in the park.”

Maezawa’s flight is tentatively scheduled to occur in 2023. SpaceX Founder Elon Musk admitted he was not sure of the date because BFR is still under development.

Musk said Maezawa made a significant deposit on the expensive voyage around the moon. The funds will help fund the development and testing of the reusable rocket/spacecraft, which Musk estimated will cost $5 billion.

Maezawa is calling his flight Dear Moon and has established a website, dearmoon.earth. The flight’s Twitter handle is @dearmoonmission.