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Old Rivals India, China Nurture New Rivalry in Satellite Launch Business
by Staff Writers
New Delhi (Sputnik) Nov 20, 2017
An India heavy lift vehicle.
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has said that it is working to bring down the cost of launching satellites to one-tenth of the current cost. The statement comes in the aftermath of the Chinese state-owned space agency, China Aerospace Science and Technological Corporation’s (CASC) claim that it was “ready to provide cheaper and faster low-earth orbit rocket launches” and “the price could be as low as $5,000 per kilogram and the pre-launch preparation would only need a week.” The comments came from CASC’s vice-president Yang Baohua during a conference in Beijing last week.
ISRO, which has recently made rapid strides in the cost-effective launching of satellites for other countries, including a record launch of 104 satellites at one go, is competing with the likes of CASC and others in creating a niche for itself on the global market.
“We are quite competitive. At this moment, India is quite competitive with regard to prevailing global launch costs. So far, India has launched 209 satellites of nano, micro, mini, and standard size for 28 countries. There is a global move to reduce the cost of access to space to the tune of one-tenth of the prevailing one. India is also working towards that.
“India is developing reusable launch vehicles. We have successfully tested a mission – RLV-TD and Scanjet -TD – in that direction, with TD standing for a technology demonstrator. Efforts are being made for the full-fledged development of such systems,” Deviprasad Karnik, spokesperson, ISRO was quoted as saying by the Hindustan Times.
The size of the global space launch industry is estimated to be worth $336 billion, with all major players eyeing a share in the pie. In recent years, ISRO’s cost-effective pricing and its high success rate, particularly in launching small satellites, has helped it build a rapport with foreign clients. ISRO reportedly charged an average $3 million per satellite between 2013 and 2015.
Arianespace’s rocket costs about $100 million after subsidies, while SpaceX reportedly charges $60 million. The United Launch Alliance – a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing that provides services to the US government – reportedly charges between $14,000 a kilogram to $20,000 a kilogram. SpaceX, however, plans to bring down the costs to about $2,500 a kilogram with its partially reusable rockets.
So far, ISRO has done launches for 28 countries, including Germany, Canada, the Netherlands and Israel. Experts say the cost-effectiveness of ISRO’s satellite launches has been appreciated across the globe.
“There is a high probability of overall costs coming down in the future with ISRO aiming to create an ecosystem where the bulk of supplies and parts will be provided by private players. Many of these technologies will be applied in other aspects and with the scale of production aimed at, better optimization of resources will happen.
“But, let’s be clear these will happen in other countries as well. So what is now working in ISRO’s favor currently is greater transparency and better communication with clients,” Group Captain Ajey Lele, (Retd.) and Senior Fellow, at the Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses told Sputnik.
While China’s space program is more advanced with six manned space missions, the country keeps tracking the commercial aspect of India’s space program.
“India’s successful launch of a record-breaking 104 satellites into orbit could serve as a wake-up call for China’s commercial space industry and there are a number of lessons for the country to learn,” China’s state-run Global Times wrote after ISRO broke the Russian record for launching the highest number of satellites at one go in February.
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NASA Opens $2 Million Third Phase of 3D-Printed Habitat Competition
by Staff Writers
Huntsville AL (SPX) Nov 08, 2017
The 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge is divided into phases. The Phase 1: Design Competition called on participants to develop state-of-the-art architectural concepts and was completed in 2015. The Phase 2: Structural Member Competition focused on manufacturing structural components and was completed in August 2017.
Future missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond will require innovative options to shelter our explorers, and we won’t be able to carry all of the materials with us from Earth. NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge, a Centennial Challenges competition, seeks ways to create or develop the technologies needed to create such habitats on-site, and challenges citizen inventors to lead the way. Today, NASA and challenge partner Bradley University of Peoria, Illinois, announce the opening of Phase 3 of the competition for team registration.
“The ideas and technologies this competition has already produced are encouraging, and we are excited to see what this next phase will bring,” said Monsi Roman, program manager of NASA’s Centennial Challenges. “The solutions we seek from our competitions are revolutionary, which by nature makes them extremely difficult. But this only fuels our teams to work harder to innovate and solve.”
The goal of the 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge is to foster the development of new technologies necessary to additively manufacture a habitat using local indigenous materials with, or without, recyclable materials. The vision is that autonomous machines will someday be deployed to the Moon, Mars or beyond to construct shelters for human habitation. On Earth, these same capabilities could be used to produce affordable housing wherever it is needed or where access to conventional building materials and skills are limited.
Bradley University President Gary Roberts said the school is honored to be the challenge partner once again. “Bradley prides itself on experiential learning and student engagement,” Roberts said. “This challenge isn’t something our students can learn about in a textbook or in a classroom.
This is a forward-thinking concept coming to life, and they have a chance to see it firsthand. They will meet the people making it happen and learn about the ideas that are fueling innovation. This could change the way they imagine the future and push their creative limits.”
The 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge is divided into phases. The Phase 1: Design Competition called on participants to develop state-of-the-art architectural concepts and was completed in 2015. The Phase 2: Structural Member Competition focused on manufacturing structural components and was completed in August 2017.
The now-open Phase 3: On-Site Habitat Competition challenges competitors to fabricate sub-scale habitats using indigenous materials with or without mission-generated recyclables, and offers a $2 million total prize purse. Phase 3 has five levels of competition. Interested teams may register through Feb. 15, 2018. Full details, schedule and rules can be found here.
In addition to NASA, Bradley University has partnered with sponsors Caterpillar Inc., Bechtel and Brick and Mortar Ventures to run the competition.
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Thruster for Mars mission breaks records
by Staff Writers
Ann Arbor NI (SPX) Oct 26, 2017
A side shot of the X3 firing at 50 kilowatts. Image credit: NASA
An advanced space engine in the running to propel humans to Mars has broken the records for operating current, power and thrust for a device of its kind, known as a Hall thruster.
The development of the thruster was led by Alec Gallimore, University of Michigan professor of aerospace engineering and the Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering.
Hall thrusters offer exceptionally efficient plasma-based spacecraft propulsion by accelerating small amounts of propellant very quickly using electric and magnetic fields. They can achieve top speeds with a tiny fraction of the fuel required in a chemical rocket.
“Mars missions are just on the horizon, and we already know that Hall thrusters work well in space,” Gallimore said. “They can be optimized either for carrying equipment with minimal energy and propellant over the course of a year or so, or for speed-carrying the crew to Mars much more quickly.”
The challenge is to make them larger and more powerful. The X3, a Hall thruster designed by researchers at U-M, NASA and the U.S. Air Force, shattered the previous thrust record set by a Hall thruster, coming in at 5.4 newtons of force compared with 3.3 newtons. The improvement in thrust is especially important for crewed mission-it means faster acceleration and shorter travel times. The X3 also more than doubled the operating current record (250 amperes vs. 112 amperes) and ran at a slightly higher power (102 kilowatts vs. 98 kilowatts).
The X3 is one of three prototype “Mars engines” to be turned into a full propulsion system with funding from NASA. Scott Hall, a doctoral student in aerospace engineering at U-M, carried out the tests at the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, along with Hani Kamhawi, a NASA Glenn research scientist who has been heavily involved in the development of the X3. The experiments were the culmination of more than five years of building, testing and improving the thruster.
NASA Glenn, which specializes in solar electric propulsion, is currently home to the only vacuum chamber in the U.S. that can handle the X3 thruster. The thruster produces so much exhaust that vacuum pumps at other chambers can’t keep up. Then, xenon that has been shot out the back of the engine can drift back into the plasma plume, muddying the results. But as of January 2018, an upgrade of the vacuum chamber in Gallimore’s lab will enable X3 testing right at U-M.
For now, the X3 team snagged a test window from late July through August this year, starting with four weeks to set up the thrust stand, mount the thruster and connect the thruster with xenon and electrical power supplies. Hall had built a custom thrust stand to bear the X3’s 500-pound weight and withstand its force, as existing stands would collapse under it. Throughout the process, Hall and Kamhawi were supported by NASA researchers, engineers and technicians.
“The big moment is when you close the door and pump down the chamber,” Hall said.
After the 20 hours of pumping to achieve a space-like vacuum, Hall and Kamhawi spent 12-hour days testing the X3.
Even small breakages feel like big problems when it takes days to gradually bring air back into the chamber, get in to make the repair and pump the air back out again. But in spite of the challenges, Hall and Kamhawi brought the X3 up to its record-breaking power, current and thrust over the 25 days of testing.
Looking ahead, the X3 will at last be integrated with the power supplies under development by Aerojet Rocketdyne, a rocket and missile propulsion manufacturer and lead on the propulsion system grant from NASA. In spring 2018, Hall expects to be back at NASA Glenn running a 100-hour test of the X3 with Aerojet Rocketdyne’s power processing system.
The project is funded through NASA’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnership, which supports not just propulsion systems but also habitat systems and in-space manufacturing.
Gallimore is also the Richard F. and Eleanor A. Towner Professor, an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and a professor of applied physics. Kamhawi is also Hall’s NASA mentor as part of the NASA Space Technology Research Fellowship. The $1 million upgrade of the test facility in Gallimore’s lab is funded in part by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, with additional support from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and U-M.
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Arianespace to launch Embratel Star One D2
by Staff Writers
Paris (SPX) Oct 31, 2017
Following the signature of the launch contract, Arianespace Chief Executive Officer Stephane Israel said: “We are very proud to announce the signature of the 12th contract with our long-time Brazilian customer Embratel Star One, which comes less than one year after our successful launch of Star One D1 with an Ariane 5.
Brazilian operator Embratel Star One and U.S. satellite manufacturer SSL (Space Systems Loral) have chosen Arianespace to launch the Embratel Star One D2 satellite.
Arianespace reports the signature of a launch contract for the Embratel Star One D2 satellite for Brazilian operator Embratel Star One, a subsidiary of Embratel. It will be launched in 2019 by an Ariane 5 rocket from the Guiana Space Center, Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana.
Embratel Star One D2 will be positioned in geostationary orbit at 70 deg. West. Equipped with Ku-, Ka-, C- and X-band transponders, the satellite will deliver telecommunications and direct-to-home TV broadcast services in South America and North America.
12th launch contract with Embratel Star One
Embratel Star One D2 marks the 12th time that an Embratel Star One satellite has been booked for an Ariane launch, following seven Brasilsat satellites as well as the Embratel Star One C1, C2, C3, C4 and Embratel Star One D1 spacecraft. Built by SSL in Palo Alto, California using an SSL 1300 platform, Embratel Star One D2 will weigh 6,200 kg. at launch.
Embratel Star One is the largest satellite operator for Brazil and Latin America.
This latest contract confirms Arianespace’s leadership in the Brazilian market and its position as the global benchmark in launch services. Eleven satellites already have been successfully launched for Embratel Star One. This 12th contract confirms the excellent relationship between Arianespace and Brazil.
Following the signature of the launch contract, Arianespace Chief Executive Officer Stephane Israel said: “We are very proud to announce the signature of the 12th contract with our long-time Brazilian customer Embratel Star One, which comes less than one year after our successful launch of Star One D1 with an Ariane 5.
“The trust of Embratel Star One, for which we have launched all satellites since 1985, is felt as a profound recognition of the reliability and the excellency of Arianespace’s heavy-weight launch service solutions, today with Ariane 5, and tomorrow with Ariane 6.”
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Deep Space Communications via Faraway Photons
by Staff Writers
Pasadena CA (JPL) Oct 20, 2017


In designing a simple, high-heritage spacecraft to do the exciting exploration of the metal world Psyche, “I find both the solar electric propulsion and the Deep Space Optical Communications to feel futuristic in the extreme. I’m proud of NASA and of our technical community for making this possible,” Elkins-Tanton concludes.

A spacecraft destined to explore a unique asteroid will also test new communication hardware that uses lasers instead of radio waves.

The Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) package aboard NASA’s Psyche mission utilizes photons – the fundamental particle of visible light – to transmit more data in a given amount of time. The DSOC goal is to increase spacecraft communications performance and efficiency by 10 to 100 times over conventional means, all without increasing the mission burden in mass, volume, power and/or spectrum.

Tapping the advantages offered by laser communications is expected to revolutionize future space endeavors – a major objective of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD).

The DSOC project is developing key technologies that are being integrated into a deep space-worthy Flight Laser Transceiver (FLT), high-tech work that will advance this mode of communications to Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 6. Reaching a TRL 6 level equates to having technology that is a fully functional prototype or representational model.

As a “game changing” technology demonstration, DSOC is exactly that. NASA STMD’s Game Changing Development Program funded the technology development phase of DSOC. The flight demonstration is jointly funded by STMD, the Technology Demonstration Mission (TDM) Program and NASA/ HEOMD/Space Communication and Navigation (SCaN).

Work on the laser package is based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

“Things are shaping up reasonably and we have a considerable amount of test activity going on,” says Abhijit Biswas, DSOC Project Technologist in Flight Communications Systems at JPL. Delivery of DSOC for integration within the Psyche mission is expected in 2021 with the spacecraft launch to occur in the summer of 2022, he explains.

“Think of the DSOC flight laser transceiver onboard Psyche as a telescope,” Biswas explains, able to receive and transmit laser light in precisely timed photon bursts.

DSOC architecture is based on transmitting a laser beacon from Earth to assist line of sight stabilization to make possible the pointing back of a downlink laser beam. The laser onboard the Psyche spacecraft, Biswas says, is based on a master-oscillator power amplifier that uses optical fibers.

The laser beacon to DSOC will be transmitted from JPL’s Table Mountain Facility located near the town of Wrightwood, California, in the Angeles National Forest. DSOC’s beaming of data from space will be received at a large aperture ground telescope at Palomar Mountain Observatory in California, near San Diego.

Biswas anticipates operating DSOC perhaps 60 days after launch, given checkout of the Psyche spacecraft post-liftoff. The test-runs of the laser equipment will occur over distances of 0.1 to 2.5 astronomical units (AU) on the outward-bound probe. One AU is approximately 150 million kilometers-or the distance between the Earth and Sun.

“I am very excited to be on the mission,” says Biswas, who has been working on the laser communications technology since the late 1990s. “It’s a unique privilege to be working on DSOC.”

The Psyche mission was selected for flight in early 2017 under NASA’s Discovery Program, a series of lower-cost, highly focused robotic space missions that are exploring the solar system.

The spacecraft will be launched in the summer of 2022 to 16 Psyche, a distinctive metal asteroid about three times farther away from the sun than Earth. The planned arrival of the probe at the main belt asteroid will take place in 2026.

Lindy Elkins-Tanton is Director of the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University in Tempe. She is the principal investigator for the Psyche mission.

“I am thrilled that Psyche is getting to fly the Deep Space Optical Communications package,” Elkins-Tanton says. “First of all, the technology is mind-blowing and it brings out all my inner geek. Who doesn’t want to communicate using lasers, and multiply the amount of data we can send back and forth?”

Elkins-Tanton adds that bringing robotic and human spaceflight closer together is critical for humankind’s space future. “Having our robotic mission test technology that we hope will help us eventually communicate with people in deep space is excellent integration of NASA missions and all of our goals,” she says.

In designing a simple, high-heritage spacecraft to do the exciting exploration of the metal world Psyche, “I find both the solar electric propulsion and the Deep Space Optical Communications to feel futuristic in the extreme. I’m proud of NASA and of our technical community for making this possible,” Elkins-Tanton concludes.

Biswas explains that DSOC is a pathfinder experiment. The future is indeed bright for the technology, he suggests, such as setting up capable telecommunications infrastructure around Mars.

“Doing so would allow the support of astronauts going to and eventually landing on Mars,” Biswas said. “Laser communications will augment that capability tremendously. The ability to send back from Mars to Earth lots of information, including the streaming of high definition imagery, is going to be very enabling.”

As a “game changing” technology demonstration, DSOC is exactly that. NASA STMD’s Game Changing Development program funded the technology development phase of DSOC. The flight demonstration is jointly funded by STMD, the Technology Demonstration Missions (TDM) program and NASA/ HEOMD/Space Communication and Navigation (SCaN). Work on the laser package is based at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

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Trump, Moon agree to boost S.Korean missile capabilities

by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Sept 2, 2017
Putin warns of ‘major conflict’ over N. Korea
Moscow (AFP) Sept 1, 2017 – Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Friday of a “major conflict” looming on the Korean Peninsula, calling for talks to alleviate the crisis after Pyongyang fired a missile over Japan this week.
“The problems in the region will only be solved via direct dialogue between all concerned parties, without preconditions,” Putin said.”Threats, pressure and insulting and militant rhetoric are a dead end,” a statement from his office said, adding that heaping additional pressure on North Korea in a bid to curb its nuclear programme was “wrong and futile.”
Tensions on the Korean Peninsula are at their highest point in years after a series of missile tests by Pyongyang.
Early on Tuesday, the reclusive state fired an intermediate-range Hwasong-12 over Japan, prompting US President Donald Trump to insist that “all options” were on the table in an implied threat of pre-emptive military action.
The UN Security Council denounced North Korea’s latest missile test, unanimously demanding that Pyongyang halt the programme.
US heavy bombers and stealth jet fighters took part in a joint live fire drill in South Korea on Thursday, intended as a show of force against the North, Seoul said.
Putin said he feared the peninsula was “on the verge of a major conflict” and called for all sides to sign up to a mediation programme drawn up by Moscow and Beijing.
He echoed comments by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov who in a Wednesday telephone call with US counterpart Rex Tillerson “underscored… the need to refrain from any military steps that could have unpredictable consequences.”
The Russia-China plan involves a mutual pause in missile tests by North Korea and joint South Korean-US military exercises by Seoul.
The United States and South Korea agreed Friday to strengthen Seoul’s defenses and Washington gave a nod to billions in arms sales to the country, the White House said, days after North Korea fired a missile over Japan and threatened further launches.
In Seoul, the presidential Blue House spokesman confirmed that US President Donald Trump and his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in agreed to enhance the country’s deterrence against North Korea by boosting its missile capabilities.
Pyongyang fired an intermediate-range Hwasong-12 over Japan early on Tuesday, which it said was a mere “curtain-raiser” for the North’s “resolute countermeasures” against ongoing US-South Korean military drills.
It came as US and South Korean forces were nearing the end of the 10-day annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian joint exercises, which the North regards as a rehearsal for invasion.
Trump has insisted that “all options” are on the table in an implied threat of pre-emptive military action, while on Thursday US heavy bombers and stealth jet fighters took part in a joint live fire drill in South Korea intended as a show of force.
Trump and Moon spoke on the phone Friday about North Korean’s “continued destabilizing and escalatory behavior,” the White House said in a statement.
“The two leaders agreed to strengthen our alliance through defense cooperation and to strengthen South Korea’s defense capabilities.
“President Trump provided his conceptual approval of planned purchases by South Korea of billions of dollars in American military equipment.”
Park Soo-hyun, the spokesman for Seoul’s presidential office, said the leaders had reached an agreement in principle to loosen — “to the extent hoped by the South Korean side” — limits on the South’s ballistic missile capability.
Under a bilateral agreement with the United States, Seoul is currently restricted to ballistic missiles with a maximum range of 800 kilometres (500 miles) and payload of 500 kilogrammes (1100 pounds).
The South wants the maximum warhead weight doubled to one tonne, and the Pentagon has said it was “actively” considering the revision.
Signed with the US in 2001 — the year South Korea joined the MissileTechnology Control Regime (MTCR) — the agreement initially limited Seoul to rockets with a range of just 300 kilometres, due to US concerns about triggering a regional arms race in Northeast Asia.
However, after a long-range rocket test by North Korea in 2012, Seoul managed to negotiate the near three-fold increase in the range limit to 800 kilometers, putting North Korean military facilities which were previously out of range within reach, as well as parts of China and Japan.
Tensions on the Korean Peninsula are at their highest point in years after a series of missile tests by Pyongyang.
Calls are also mounting in South Korea for Seoul to build nuclear weapons of its own to defend itself as nuclear-armed North Korea’s missile stand-off with the US escalates.
The South, which hosts 28,500 US troops to defend it, is banned from building its own nuclear weapons under a 1974 atomic energy deal it signed with Washington, which instead offers a “nuclear umbrella” against potential attacks.
Park said the two leaders reaffirmed the need to bring Pyongyang back to dialogue by applying maximum sanctions and pressure.
However, Trump said after the latest missile test that negotiations with Pyongyang were “not the answer.”
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Russia, China May Sign 5-Year Agreement on Joint Space Exploration


by Staff Writers
Moscow (Sputnik) Aug 29, 2017

Beijing and Moscow may sign an agreement this October on joint space exploration, to be carried out in 2018-2022, Chinese media reported.

The deal would cover five areas, including lunar and deep space exploration, satellite systems, space debris research and Earth remote sensing, CGTN broadcaster reported on Sunday.

Xu Yansong, the head of the International Cooperation Department of the China National Space Administration (CNSA, said in June that China and Russia were in talks on lunar exploration cooperation, because China’s Chang’e-4, Chang’e-5, Chang’e-6 missions were quite similar to Russia’s Luna-26, Luna-27, Luna-28.

Russia’s Lavochkin Research and Production Association said, also in June, that it was ready to work with China on designing lunar exploration missions, including orbital and re-entry ones.

Source: Sputnik News

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Aerojet Rocketdyne completes CST launch abort engine hot fire tests
by Staff Writers
Sacramento CA (SPX) Nov 02, 2016
Aerojet Rocketdyne has successfully completed a series of hot-fire tests on two Launch Abort Engines (LAE) featuring innovative new propellant valves for Boeing’s Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 Starliner service module propulsion system. The tests were conducted in the Mojave Desert in California, and confirmed the ability for the new valves to modulate propellant flow and control peak LAE thrust in the event of a launch abort.
The LAEs, designed by Aerojet Rocketdyne, include a fuel valve and oxidizer valve, which were developed and tested under the company’s Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) subcontract to Boeing. The Starliner will open a new era of spaceflight, carrying humans to the International Space Station once again from United States soil.
The LAEs, designed by Aerojet Rocketdyne, include a fuel valve and oxidizer valve, which were developed and tested under the company’s Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) subcontract to Boeing. The Starliner will open a new era of spaceflight, carrying humans to the International Space Station once again from United States soil.
“These innovative valves successfully enabled the engine to demonstrate precise timing, peak thrust control and steady-state thrust necessary during a mission abort. This testing culminates a year of dedicated hard work by the LAE Integrated Product Team at Aerojet Rocketdyne,” said Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO and President Eileen Drake. “This is another important step forward as our nation prepares to safely and reliably send humans back to the space station from American soil.”
Under the CCtCap subcontract to Boeing, Aerojet Rocketdyne will provide propulsion system hardware, which includes LAEs, Orbital Maneuvering and Attitude Control (OMAC) thrusters, Reaction Control System (RCS) thrusters, and more. Boeing will assemble propulsion hardware kits into the service module section of the Starliner spacecraft at its Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Aerojet Rocketdyne also provides hardware supporting service module hot-fire testing, which will take place at NASA’s White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico; the pad abort and system qualification testing, which will occur at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico; and the orbital flight test, which will be launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
The Starliner service module propulsion system provides launch abort capability on the pad and during ascent, along with propulsion needs during flight – from launch vehicle separation, docking to and undocking from the space station, to separation of the crew and service modules when the spacecraft begins to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere. At separation, crew module monopropellant thrusters, also provided by Aerojet Rocketdyne, support re-entry control.
The Starliner service module and launch abort propulsion system is designed to rapidly “push” a crew capsule to safety if an abort is necessary. If unused for an abort, the propellant is used to complete the spacecraft’s mission operations.
The Starliner service module propulsion system includes four 40,000-pound thrust launch abort engines used only in an abort; 1,500-pound thrust class OMAC thrusters that provide low-altitude launch abort attitude control; maneuvering and stage-separation functions along with high-altitude direct abort capability and large orbital maneuvers; and 100-pound thrust class RCS engines that provide high-altitude abort attitude control, on-orbit low delta-v maneuvering and space station re-boost capability.
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Nov. 2, 2016
NASA to Hold Media Call on New Small Satellite Missions to Study Earth
Small spacecraft and satellites are helping NASA advance scientific and human exploration.
Small spacecraft and satellites are helping NASA advance scientific and human exploration, reduce the cost of new space missions, and expand access to space.
Credits: NASA
NASA will host a teleconference at 2:30 p.m. EST Monday, Nov. 7, to preview several Earth science missions using small satellites heading into space, starting this year, to help us better understand our home planet.
NASA has embraced the revolution in small spacecraft and satellites, from CubeSats you can hold in your hand to microsatellites the size of a small washing machine. The technology helps advance scientific and human exploration, reduces the cost of new missions, and expands access to space. The briefing will discuss NASA’s overall program, technology development initiatives, and new Earth-observing missions that use individual and constellations of small satellites to study climate change, hurricanes and clouds.
Participants in the teleconference will be:
  • Ellen Stofan, chief scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington
  • Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters
  • Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator for Space Technology Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters
  • Michael Freilich, director of the Earth Science Division at NASA Headquarters
  • Aaron Ridley, mission constellation scientist for NASA’s Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor
  • Bill Swartz, CubeSat principal investigator for the Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) project at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland
  • William Blackwell, principal investigator for the Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats (TROPICS) mission at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington
To participate by phone, media must contact Sean Potter at 202-358-1536 or sean.potter@nasa.gov and provide their affiliation no later than 12 p.m. Monday. Media and the public may ask questions via social media with #askNASA.
Audio of the teleconference will stream live on NASA’s website at:
http://www.nasa.gov/live
For information about all of NASA’s small satellite projects, visit:
http://www.nasa.gov/smallsats
-end-
Last Updated: Nov. 4, 2016
Editor: Karen Northon
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Sequencing DNA in Space
Ever since the first strands of DNA were sequenced in the 1970s, researchers understood the profound significance of analyzing genetics for a wide range of medical and biological research.
DNA sequencing is used to identify forms of life; to study how different organisms are related and how they evolved; to pinpoint genetic diseases in individuals and to develop pharmaceutical treatments for maladies. It’s even used for crime-fighting.
Now, thanks to an experiment just delivered to the International Space Station, it may be possible to do all these things in space.
On July 20th, 2016, a SpaceX Dragon supply ship docked with the ISS carrying thousands of pounds of supplies. Among the items onboard was a hand-held DNA sequencer named “MinION.”
Developed by Oxford Nanopore Technologies, MinION works great on Earth. NASA’s Biomolecule Sequencer investigation will find out if it works just as well in microgravity.
Kristen John of NASA’s Johnson Space Center says, “The goal is to take a technique widely used here on Earth, and test it in the spaceflight environment of the ISS, so that one day it could possibly be used in crew health applications or even for the detection of life on Mars.”
DNA sequencing has never been done in space before and, if the Biomolecule Sequencer investigation is successful, it could be a big deal.
Sarah Castro-Wallace of the Johnson Space Center mentions just a few of its uses:
“In the past, we’ve had visible fungi growing on the ISS, and we want to identify that fungi without having to return a sample to Earth,”  she says. “Is it benign or something to be concerned about? Knowing what it is, the microbiologists can recommend how best to deal with the issue.”
As a self-contained spacecraft, the ISS slowly and inevitably collects microbes carried onboard by astronauts, on the surfaces of supplies, inside foodstuffs—it’s a bit of a microbial zoo. A DNA sequencer can help identify those microbes as well as testing the cleanliness of air and water.
Castro-Wallace says, “About 85% of the water on the station is recycled, from urine, condensate, sweat, everything. Is it being processed to where it’s microbially clean? We want to know in a more real-time way if that water processor working.”
Principal Investigator Aaron Burton of the Johnson Space Center notes that astronauts themselves could benefit from sequencing: “You can look at DNA for permanent changes, what spaceflight is doing to your DNA long-term, but also by looking at the RNA, you can see how the human body or other organisms are reacting in real-time.”
During the Biomolecule Sequencer investigation, crew members will sequence the DNA of bacteria, viruses, and rodents from samples prepared on Earth that have known genomic characteristics. Researchers on Earth will run parallel experiments on the ground to evaluate how well the hardware is working.
The USB-powered sequencer – about the size of a small candy bar – is tiny compared to the large microwave-sized sequencers used on Earth.
Castro-Wallace says, “Most sequencers in Earth-based labs involve optics, fluorescence, lasers and other vibration sensitive components that are not suited for spaceflight or microgravity. There is huge power consumption at play with those as well.”
MinION, on the other hand, has minimal moving parts and plugs directly into a laptop or tablet, which supplies power to the device and collects the sequencing data. Unlike terrestrial instruments whose sequencing process can take days, this device’s data is available in near real-time; analysis can begin within 10-15 minutes from the application of the sample.
Burton says, “The space station and Earth are [on opposite ends of a] gravity continuum, so if the device works on Earth and in microgravity, then it should work in any environment in between like an asteroid or Mars.”
Let the sequencing begin!
For updates from the International Space Station, visit www.nasa.gov/station
For more on science on Earth, in Earth’s orbit, and beyond visit science.nasa.gov
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