Crew Operations Aboard Space Station Return to Normal

This image shows the planned configuration of six iROSA solar arrays intended to augment power on the International Space Station. The roll-up arrays arrive on the SpaceX-22 resupply mission. (Credits: NASA/Johnson Space Center/Boeing)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA and U.S. Space Command continue to monitor the debris cloud created by a recent Russian anti-satellite test. The International Space Station and crew members are safe and have resumed normal operations. The largest risk from the debris was in the first 24 hours and telemetry from the space station indicates no issues during that time. About 1:20 a.m. EST today, radial hatches extending from the space station’s center, including Kibo, Columbus, the Permanent Multipurpose Module, Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, and Quest Joint Airlock, were reopened.

Following the incident, crew members were awoken, notified of the debris and asked to close specific hatches based on the space station’s safe haven procedures. Hatches between the U.S. and Russian segments also were closed initially, but were later opened when the higher risk period passed. Crew members’ daily tasks were adjusted during this time to accommodate the hatch closure. After closing the hatches, the crew then entered their Soyuz and Crew Dragon spacecraft for approximately two hours, from 2 a.m. – 4 a.m. EST. No debris avoidance maneuver was performed.

Space debris is tracked by Space Command and conjunction analysis is performed by NASA, with mitigations available for debris clouds and individual conjunction threats (such as debris avoidance maneuvers). If orbital debris were to strike the station and cause an air leak, the crew would close hatches to the affected module. If crew members do not have time to close the affected module, they would enter their respective spacecraft and, if necessary, undock from the space station to return to Earth.

This debris cloud that was just created has increased the risk to the station. The cataloging of the total number of identifiable pieces of debris is ongoing. Once the debris cloud is dispersed and items are tracked and catalogued, NASA will receive notifications of potential conjunction threats to the station and perform maneuvers as necessary. In addition, NASA will continue to perform visual inspections and review telemetry data to ensure vehicle health.

Teams are assessing the risk levels to conduct various mission activities. Any changes to launches, spacewalks, and other events will be updated as needed.

USSPACECOM: Russian Direct-ascent Anti-satellite Missile Test Creates Significant, Long-lasting Space Debris

PETERSON SPACE FORCE BASE, Colo.  (U.S. Space Command PR) –  Russia tested a direct-ascent anti-satellite (DA-ASAT) missile on Nov. 15, 2021, Moscow Standard Time, that struck a Russian satellite [COSMOS 1408] and created a debris field in low-Earth orbit. The test so far has generated more than 1,500 pieces of trackable orbital debris and will likely generate hundreds of thousands of pieces of smaller orbital debris.

“Russia has demonstrated a deliberate disregard for the security, safety, stability, and long-term sustainability of the space domain for all nations,” said U.S. Army Gen. James Dickinson, U.S. Space Command commander. “The debris created by Russia’s DA-ASAT will continue to pose a threat to activities in outer space for years to come, putting satellites and space missions at risk, as well as forcing more collision avoidance maneuvers. Space activities underpin our way of life and this kind of behavior is simply irresponsible.”

USSPACECOM’s initial assessment is that the debris will remain in orbit for years and potentially for decades, posing a significant risk to the crew on the International Space Station and other human spaceflight activities, as well as multiple countries’ satellites. USSPACECOM continues to monitor the trajectory of the debris and will work to ensure all space-faring nations have the information necessary to safeguard their on-orbit activities if impacted by the debris cloud, a service the United States provides to the world, to include Russia and China.

“Russia is developing and deploying capabilities to actively deny access to and use of  space by the United States and its allies and partners,” Dickinson added. “Russia’s tests of direct-ascent anti-satellite weapons clearly demonstrate that Russia continues to pursue counterspace weapon systems that undermine strategic stability and pose a threat to all nations.”

Russia ASAT Test Destroys Old Satellite; ISS Crew Shelter in Return Capsules as Station Flies Near Orbital Debris

The scales of the space debris problem (Credit: ESA)

Updated on Nov. 15 at 4:35 PST with comments by NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The United States has condemned a Russian anti-satellite test that destroyed a non-functioning 39-Soviet-era satellite that added more dangerous debris to Earth orbit.

“Earlier today, the Russian Federation recklessly conducted a destructive satellite test of a direct-ascent anti-satellite missile against one of its own satellites,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said. “The test has so far generated over 1,500 pieces of trackable orbital debris and hundreds of thousands of pieces of smaller orbital debris that now threaten the interests of all nations.

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U.S. Navy Establishes Maritime Space Officer Designator for Joint Warfighting Effort

PETERSON SPACE FORCE BASE, Colo.  (U.S. Space Command PR) – U.S. Space Command is focused on building the command to compete and win, as it heads into its third year as America’s 11th Combatant Command. A huge part of that focus is to ensure space warfighters from each service have the technical knowledge and tactical acumen to integrate into the full range of joint space capabilities.

Each service brings unique talents to the Joint Force, and most recently, the U.S. Navy announced the establishment of the Maritime Space Officer designator.

“These sailors will integrate into our operations to help deter, compete and win against our nation’s most formidable competitors in space,” said U.S. Army Gen. Jim Dickinson, USSPACECOM commander. “All joint partnerships across the Department of Defense are pertinent to continue projecting global power with space capabilities.”

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South Korea to Boost Military and Civil Space Spending, Transfer Satellite and Launch Vehicle Technology to Private Sector

Test model of the Nuri (KSLV-II) booster. (Credit: Ministry of Science and ICT)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

South Korea plans to invest more than $14.25 billion over the next decade to improve its military and civil space capabilities. The Republic of Korea will transfer satellite and launch vehicle technology to the private sector to boost the nation’s domestic capabilities and improve its international competitiveness. The nation is also deepening defense and civil space cooperation with the United States.

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Feinstein, Padilla & Carbajal Urge Air Force to Consider Vandenberg as Permanent Base for STARCOM

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

WASHINGTON (Dianne Feinstein PR)—Senators Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla and Representative Salud Carbajal (all D-Calif.) today expressed support for making Vandenberg Space Force Base the permanent location for the Space Training and Readiness Command (STARCOM) amid reports that the previous U.S. Space Command basing decision was based on politics, not merit.

“As you know, Vandenberg Space Force Base already plays an important role in space training and operations. Vandenberg trains space operators at the Air Education and Training Command’s 381st Training Group; manages missile testing; and launches satellites into polar orbit,” the members wrote in a letter to Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall. “Further, Vandenberg’s proximity to California’s world-renowned aerospace industry, universities, and research institutions makes it well-suited to support the permanent establishment of STARCOM.”

Full text of the letter is available here and below:

September 10, 2021

Mr. Frank Kendall
Secretary of the Air Force
1670 Air Force
Washington, D.C. 20330-1670 

Dear Secretary Kendall:

We write to express support for Vandenberg Space Force Base as the permanent location of the Space Training and Readiness Command (STARCOM) and to ask that you ensure the selection process is based on a rigorous and objective evaluation of each proposed site.  We are concerned about reports that the previous Administration’s decision to establish U.S. Space Command at Redstone Arsenal was based on politics instead of the merits, and ask you to ensure this does not happen in future basing decisions. 

We are also concerned about the decision to temporarily base STARCOM at Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  As you know, Vandenberg Space Force Base already plays an important role in space training and operations.  Vandenberg trains space operators at the Air Education and Training Command’s 381st Training Group; manages missile testing; and launches satellites into polar orbit.  Further, Vandenberg’s proximity to California’s world-renowned aerospace industry, universities, and research institutions makes it well-suited to support the permanent establishment of STARCOM.

We trust that under your leadership, future basing decisions will be carried out in an impartial manner and will follow established processes.  We look forward to working with you and your staff on behalf of Airmen, Guardians, and their families.  Thank you for your consideration, and please do not hesitate to reach out to us with any questions.  

Sincerely,

Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

Salud Carbajal
Member of Congress 

Alex Padilla
United States Senator 

Trump Claims to have “Single-handedly” Moved U.S. Space Command From Colorado to Alabama

  • Controversial decision announced one week before Trump left office
  • Colorado’s leaders says comments confirm that political factors, not merit, led to decision
  • Two separate government investigations continue into move

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Former president Donald Trump claimed on Friday to have “single-handedly” moved the U.S. Space Command from Colorado to Alabama, adding fuel to the political firestorm that erupted over the controversial decision earlier this year.

“Space Force — I sent to Alabama,” Trump said. “I hope you know that. (They) said they were looking for a home and I single-handedly said, ‘Let’s go to Alabama.’ They wanted it. I said, ‘Let’s go to Alabama. I love Alabama,” Trump told the Alabama-based Rick & Bubba radio program.

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USSPACECOM Signs 100th Commercial Agreement to Share Space Data, Service

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo.  –  U.S. Space Command signed the 100th Commercial Space Situational Awareness Data Sharing Agreement in the history of the command with Libre Space Foundation, a non-profit entity, to initiate the two-way flow of SSA services and information.

The memorandum, signed July 1 by U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Michael Bernacchi, USSPACECOM director of Plans, Strategy and Policy, will enhance the nation’s awareness within the space domain and increase the safety of global spaceflight operations.

“Our space systems underpin a wide range of services, providing vital national, military, civil, scientific and economic benefits to the global community,” said U.S. Army Gen. James Dickinson, commander of USSPACECOM. “Space situational awareness, which requires these types of cooperative agreements in order to achieve efficiency and effectiveness, is one of many approaches used to ensure all responsible space-faring nations continue benefitting from this critical domain.”

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OneWeb Demonstrates Network Capabilities to U.S. Government

MELBOURNE, Fla. (OneWeb PR) — OneWeb, the global communications company, powered from Space successfully demonstrated its turnkey satellite-based communications system to the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) on March 2nd.

The event, which was conducted in front of service representatives from the US Space Command at OneWeb’s demonstration facility in Melbourne, Florida, represents the first time the solution has been demonstrated to the U.S. Government.

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DoD Inspector General to Investigate Decision to Locate US Space Command Headquarters n Huntsville

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The Pentagon’s Office of Inspector General has announced an investigation into the U.S. Air Force’s controversial decision to locate U.S. Space Command’s headquarters at the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala.

In a letter to the U.S. Air Force secretary, the office said it would investigate whether the decision process:

  • “complied with DoD and Air Force policies during the location selection process;
  • used objective and relevant scoring factors to rank the six candidate locations; and
  • calculated the cost and other scoring factors accurately and consistently among the six candidate locations.”
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2020 a Busy Year for Suborbital Launches

New Shepard landing on the pad in West Texas on October 13, 2020, with the NASA Lunar Landing Sensor Demo onboard. (Credit: Blue Origin)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Suborbital launch used to be a sleepy field that rarely attracted much public attention. Let’s face it, atmospheric research and student experiments are not front-page news. Sounding rockets don’t have the majesty and power of a Falcon 9 or Atlas V.

In recent years, exciting new entrants in the field and widespread streaming of launches have made suborbital flights exciting. Last year saw important suborbital flight tests by SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic and Skyrora that garnered worldwide interest.

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Colorado Congressional Delegation Wants Biden to Suspend U.S. Space Command Move to Huntsville

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Colorado’s nine-member Congressional delegation has asked President Joe Biden to suspend the move of the U.S. Space Command from Colorado Springs to Huntsville, Ala., until the administration conducts a full review of a decision made during the waning days of the Trump Administration.

“This move undermines our ability to respond to the threats in space and is disruptive to the current mission. Additionally, significant evidence exists that the process was neither fair nor impartial and that President [Donald] Trump’s political considerations influenced the final decision,” the delegation said in a Jan. 26 letter to the president.

The U.S. Air Force announced the move of the U.S. Space Command from Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs to the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville on Jan. 13, one week before Trump left office and a week after Congress certified the election of Democrat Joe Biden.

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U.S. Air Force Selects Huntsville as New Headquarters for U.S. Space Command

WASHINGTON (AFNS), Jan. 13, 2021 — The Secretary of the Air Force, on behalf of the Office of Secretary of Defense, selected Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, Alabama, as the preferred location for the U.S. Space Command Headquarters.

The Department of the Air Force conducted both virtual and on-site visits to assess which of six candidate locations would be best suited to host the U.S. Space Command Headquarters based on factors related to mission, infrastructure capacity, community support and costs to the Department of Defense.

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Space Florida Looks Back on a Busy Year

EXPLORATION PARK, Fla. (December 23, 2020) – Today, Space Florida shared the many accomplishments of Florida’s aerospace and commercial space industry in 2020. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Florida’s Cape Canaveral Spaceport kept launching rockets. In May, the world watched as American astronauts lifted off from Florida for the first time since 2011, marking a new era of human spaceflight and commercial space exploration. The aerospace industry represents a key part of the State’s strategy for post-pandemic economic recovery, and Space Florida has good reason to be enthusiastic about the future of aerospace.

“Despite the challenges that COVID-19 brought to the State, our industry and our organization, Space Florida is pleased to have had a successful year of growth within the aerospace industry here in the State of Florida, with support from Governor DeSantis as well as our Board Chair and Lieutenant Governor Nuñez,” said Space Florida President and CEO Frank DiBello. “Space Florida is working with other economic development partners to create an energized driving force in recruiting these companies to the Sunshine State. The future of this industry is very bright, representing an increasingly important segment of Florida’s economy.

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NASA Releases Best Practices Handbook to Help Improve Space Safety

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has released the first iteration of its Spacecraft Conjunction Assessment and Collision Avoidance Best Practices Handbook to share information on best practices for coordinating in-orbit activity in a safe and responsible manner. The agency aims for these best practices to bolster stability, reduce current and future operational risks, and contribute to a sustainable space environment for future public and private sector activities.

Emerging commercial ventures, such as satellite servicing, in-space manufacturing, and tourism, as well as new technologies enabling small satellites and large constellations of satellites, present serious challenges for safely and responsibly using space in a stable, sustainable manner. These challenges affect not only the United States, but also its allies and industry partners.

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