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 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:
For information about all of NASA’s small satellite projects, visit:
Last Updated: Nov. 4, 2016
Editor: Karen Northon
Posted in News


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
For more on science on Earth, in Earth’s orbit, and beyond visit
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Oct. 28, 2016
NASA Uses Tunnel Approach to Study How Heat Affects SLS Rocket
NASA’s new rocket, the Space Launch System, will hit high temperatures as it reaches speeds of more than 17,000 mph in just 8.5 minutes. So, how does heat affect the world’s most powerful rocket for human missions to deep space, including the journey to Mars? The answer just may be found in a special type of wind tunnel.
9 1/2-foot model of the Block 1 SLS rocket
A 9 1/2-foot (3-percent scale) full model of the Block 1 SLS rocket goes into a shock tunnel for testing at CUBRC Inc. in Buffalo, New York. NASA engineers have teamed with CUBRC to better understand and analyze how the SLS is heated as it ascends into space.
Credits: CUBRC Inc.
NASA engineers have teamed with CUBRC Inc. of Buffalo, New York, to better understand and analyze how the SLS is heated as it ascends into space. A 9 1/2-foot (3-percent scale) full model of the initial configuration of the SLS rocket was designed and built for the first phase of aerodynamic heating tests in CUBRC’s Large Energy National Shock Tunnel (LENS-II). The initial SLS configuration will be used for the first, uncrewed flight of the SLS and Orion spacecraft in 2018, called Exploration Mission-1.
Schlieren imaging
Schlieren imaging — an optical technique for visualizing supersonic flow around objects — is used during the aerodynamic heating tests. This image shows flow over Orion launch abort system at a 15-degree angle of attack.
Credits: CUBRC Inc.
Aerodynamic heating is caused by the friction between the air and the vehicle surface as it accelerates through the atmosphere. Typically, aerodynamic heating is most significant for the SLS vehicle during the second minute of flight, a time period in which the vehicle accelerates from approximately Mach 1 to Mach 4.5. The shock tunnel generates airflow at both supersonic and hypersonic flight conditions, matching what the rocket’s environment will be like during ascent — including temperature, pressure and velocity.
The tests, lasting about 40 milliseconds each, reach speeds of Mach 3.5-5. Test measurements are made in three different ways. First, pressure and aerodynamic heating are measured at nearly 200 individual sensor locations on the test model. Schlieren imaging, which is an optical technique for visualizing supersonic flow around objects, also is used during the tests. Finally, temperature-sensitive paint is applied to critical regions of the test model, and is imaged during the tests to provide additional insight into the heating distribution.
Schlieren image of flow over the SLS solid rocket booster nose cone
This Schlieren image shows flow over the SLS solid rocket booster nose cone and forward attach region to the core stage.
Credits: CUBRC Inc.
The SLS rocket configuration, with boosters attached, is tested at zero and 5 degree angles of attack. In the wind tunnel, the angle of attack is the angle between the model and the oncoming airflow. At a zero degree angle of attack, the airflow is coming exactly parallel to the vehicle. The boosters are removed from the model and the remaining core stage is tested again at higher angles of attack of 15-20 degrees — an orientation observed following booster separation in nominal flight.
“Our primary objective for the test series is to gather conclusive aerodynamic heating model validation data, both before and after booster separation,” said Chris Morris, aerothermodynamics team lead at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The SLS Program is managed by Marshall. “These tests give us a lot of insight into how well our engineering and computer models do at predicting aerodynamic heating on the vehicle. The data is very important for certifying that the thermal protection system on the rocket will be sufficient to protect the rocket’s structure and vital systems inside it.”
A total of 21 tests were completed in early September for the first series. “These are impressive test models, as we have sought to capture geometric details of the vehicle’s external surface – some as small as 0.03 inches in model scale,” said Marshall’s Jason Mishtawy, test engineer on the project. “This level of resolution is necessary to properly simulate aerodynamic heating on many of the smaller features on the rocket.”
A second phase of tests will begin later this fall and use 10 1/2-foot models of the next evolution of the SLS rocket. “Both the crew and cargo configurations of the rocket will be tested, and the results will provide valuable insight into aerodynamic heating on these future versions of SLS,” Mishtawy said.
CUBRC also collaborated with NASA for SLS base heating tests, which used 2 percent scale models of the rocket and propulsion systems to gather data on the heating environments that the base of the rocket will experience upon ascent for both planned and unplanned flight conditions.
The initial SLS configuration will have a minimum 70-metric-ton (77-ton) lift capability and be powered by twin solid rocket boosters and four RS-25 engines. The next planned upgrade of SLS will use a powerful exploration upper stage for more ambitious missions with a 105-metric-ton (115-ton) lift capacity.
Last Updated: Oct. 28, 2016
Editor: Jennifer Harbaugh
Posted in News


Oct. 4, 2016
 NASA Begins Tests to Qualify Orion Parachutes for Mission with Crew
NASA successfully kicked off a series of tests Sept. 30 to qualify Orion’s parachute system for flights with astronauts, a milestone that will help the agency safely return crew to Earth from deep-space missions.
An Orion test article descends under three main parachutes
An Orion test article descends under three main parachutes during the first evaluation to qualify the spacecraft’s parachute system for flights with astronauts.
In the skies above the Arizona desert, a C-17 aircraft dropped a dart-shaped test article out of its cargo bay from 35,000 feet, or more than 6.5 miles, in altitude over the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground in Yuma to examine how the parachute system performed when conditions provided the highest dynamic pressure the parachutes have endured before.
As the test article fell from the sky, three small programmer parachutes initially deployed to reach the desired test conditions and were cut away to begin the Orion parachute deployment sequence. Two forward bay cover parachutes deployed to collect key data, and within seconds those parachutes were cut away and two drogue parachutes were deployed to stabilize and slow down the test article. The sequence continued when three pilot parachutes deployed to pull out the system’s three orange and white main parachutes that are used to slow Orion to a safe landing speed.
The dart-shaped test article was used because it can get to a higher velocity than the capsule-shaped article typically used in testing. When returning from missions in space, the parachute sequence normally begins at an altitude of 24,000 feet with the main parachutes fully deployed at about 4,000 feet.
“The parachute system performed as we expected and getting to this new stage of qualification testing is a real landmark as we prepare for Orion missions with crew,” said CJ Johnson, project manager for Orion’s parachute system at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “We’ve had quite a few development tests up to this point to make sure we understand how the parachutes perform in various environments and potential failure scenarios, and this new series will give us confirmation of their performance for when the crew descends under the parachutes as they return from deep space destinations.”
Seventeen engineering development tests have already been completed. To qualify the parachute system for flights with crew, a total of eight tests, including this one, will be conducted over the course of about two and a half years. A capsule-like mockup will be used for six of the remaining tests, while a dart-shaped article will be used for one remaining test. NASA also is providing parachute test performance data to the agency’s Commercial Crew Program partners.
The next test of the parachute system is planned for October, when engineers will evaluate parachute performance when the capsule-shaped test article is dropped from 25,000 feet in altitude.
Orion will next venture into space during Exploration Mission-1 in 2018, an uncrewed mission atop NASA’s Space Launch System rocket, and will travel more than 40,000 miles beyond the moon. The parachute system will be delivered to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at the end of this year for integration into the crew module for that test flight and will help the spacecraft slow down to a relatively gentle splashdown speed of about 17 mph in the Pacific Ocean after enduring reentry speeds of up to 25,000 mph as the spacecraft makes its way through Earth’s atmosphere. The first mission with astronauts is currently targeted for as early as 2021.
Last Updated: Oct. 5, 2016
Editor: Mark Garcia
Posted in News


India delays launch of dedicated South Asia satellite amid tension with Pakistan

by Staff Writers
New Delhi (Sputnik) Oct 26, 2016

Islamabad was already against the launch of the satellite, as it wanted it to be brought under the purview of the SAARC, while India wanted to reserve certain rights. Afghanistan also has reservations regarding the satellite. All other member countries of SAARC have ratified the proposal to launch the satellite.

India’s launch of a satellite on behalf of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was announced two years ago by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the SAARC summit in Kathmandu. However, the launch date has been postponed indefinitely due to disagreements between India and its neighbor over ongoing violence in Kashmir.

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) says it won’t be possible for it to carry out the much-anticipated launch of the SAARC satellite as scheduled in December. Instead, it plans to launch its ambitious Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) Mark – III.

An ISRO official told Sputnik that it is certain that the launch of the South Asian satellite will be delayed by more than a month, although the exact date for the launch of GLSV Mark-III remains to be finalized.

The dedicated satellite was designed by India and will serve the needs of the eight SAARC countries, providing a range of public services. The two metric ton satellite has 12 Ku band transponders; each is dedicated to providing communication, education, telemedicine, disaster monitoring and other need-based services to one country in the region, according to ISRO.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had proposed offering the use of the exclusive satellite to other countries in the region; India is the only one among them which possesses the ability to build and launch satellites for communications, earth observations and space research.

Meanwhile, the postponement of the satellite launch also coincides with heightened tension between India and Pakistan, necessitating the cancellation of the group’s annual summit, which was to be hosted by Islamabad.

Islamabad was already against the launch of the satellite, as it wanted it to be brought under the purview of the SAARC, while India wanted to reserve certain rights. Afghanistan also has reservations regarding the satellite. All other member countries of SAARC have ratified the proposal to launch the satellite.

SAARC was formed in 1985: Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka were its seven original members but it was subsequently expanded to include Afghanistan.

Source: Sputnik News

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