NSS Phoenix Space News

Posts Tagged ‘Planetary Resources’

May 2012

Posted by drdave on May 1, 2012

31 May

  • Dragon splashed down at 1542 UTC. Recovery is in process at 1610 UTC.
  • Dragon has demated from the ISS and is scheduled to make its deorbit burn at 7:51 Phoenix time (1451 UTC).

30 May

  • Astronomer Jason Kalirai of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, has created a new method to measure the ages of individual halo stars. His technique exploits a basic concept of stellar evolution: The heavier a star is, the faster it dies. Halo stars die by becoming red giants and then white dwarfs—dense stars little larger than Earth. White dwarfs have no nuclear activity, so as they age, they cool and fade. Thus, the hottest and brightest of these burnt-out stars entered the white-dwarf stage most recently.
  • Preparations for the second landing of the X-37B, the Air Force’s unmanned, reusable space plane, are underway at Vandenberg Air Force Base. While the exact landing date and time will depend on technical and weather considerations, it is expected to occur during the early- to mid-June timeframe. Space professionals from the 30th Space Wing will monitor the de-orbit and landing of the Air Force’s X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle mission, called OTV-2.

29 May

  • Excalibur Almaz has detailed its plans to launch spacecraft to space stations in orbit around the moon, the first time the secretive company has done so publically. The British company will use legacy Russian hardware, capsules from the Soviet Soyuz space programme and space stations from Salyut, to launch people into orbit around the moon. Both capsules and stations will undergo upgrades, but the basic hardware has flown in space up to nine times, and is described by Excalibur CEO Art Dula as have a technical readiness level of nine, the highest possible.
  • Intelsat, the world’s leading provider of satellite services, and Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), the world’s fastest growing space launch company, announced the first commercial contract for the Falcon Heavy rocket.
  • A Chinese Long March 4C has launched with a military payload, understood to be the Yaogan 15 military satellite, from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center. Launch was recorded at 0731 UTC, catching out most observers, with the only news of the launch on Tuesday leaking out on the internet, prior to official media reports of a successful ride to orbit.

28 May

  • With Dragon now installed and ingressed on the International Space Station (ISS), Canada’s Dextre robot took an opportunity to greet the new spacecraft on Sunday. The SPDM (Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator) was translated to the SpaceX vehicle to practice the removal of cargo from the trunk, a key element of future Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) missions.

27 May

  • China launched a satellite late Saturday for civil and possibly military communications. The Long March 3B rocket lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 8:56 AM Phoenix time (1556 UTC) Saturday and placed the 5,200-kilogram Chinasat 2A satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit.

26 May

  • The hatch on the Dragon spacecraft has been successfully opened, and the ISS crew is beginning to unload the 1014 lbs of cargo brought up on the spacecraft. 1367 lbs of cargo is scheduled to return on Dragon on 31 May.
  • A giant distributed radio telescope will be split over sites in South Africa and Australia, astronomers announced Friday. The Square Kilometer Array (SKA) Organization said Friday that dishes for the radio telescope will be built on sites in South Africa and Australia, with the majority of the telescopes being placed in South Africa.

25 May

  • Dragon is berthed to the International Space Station.
  • The Dragon spacecraft has passed all of the Approach tests and is proceeding toward Capture.
  • Boeing successfully completed the software Preliminary Design Review (PDR) for its Commercial Crew Development (CCDev-2) initiative on May 18. CCDev-2 is part of NASA’s Space Act Agreement. Software competency is essential to all operational aspects of Boeing’s Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 spacecraft, including launch, orbital maneuvering, docking with and separating from the International Space Station, re-entry and landing. The PDR team analyzed the system’s flight software, including details regarding safety, testing, overall redundancy management, avionics hardware and ground systems.
  • XCOR announced today that it has achieved a key technical milestone with its flight weight rocket piston pump hardware. XCOR engineers have successfully and repeatedly pumped liquid oxygen (LOX) at flow rates required to supply the Lynx suborbital vehicle main engines.

24 May

  • SpaceX and Dragon completed today’s fly-under successfully.

23 May

  • The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) announced Monday that Iran is set to launch a satellite called Fajr (or “Dawn”) atop a Safir 1B rocket on a mission to demonstrate the country’s first use of a maneuverable spacecraft in orbit.
  • The SpaceX Dragon capsule has completed Flight Day 1 objectives (under final review by NASA and SpaceX), and will spend Flight Day 2 raising its orbit as it approaches the International Space Station. If all objectives are met, grappling is set for 1206 UTC Friday.

22 May

  • SpaceX successfully launched their Falcon 9 rocket and placed the Dragon capsule on a rendezvous path to the International Space Station (ISS). If all tests are successful, grappling and connecting to the ISS will occur on Friday morning.
  • When SpaceX’s Dragon capsule launches in spring 2012, a very special payload will be on board: 15 student experiments from the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program. The big deal is that those experiments from “SSEP Mission 1 to ISS” will be part of space history. Dragon will become the first commercial vehicle to dock to the International Space Station, and these student experiments have the distinction of being the only payload on board.

21 May

20 May

19 May

  • The SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle aborted following engine start. Engine 5 recorded high pressure. The launch will be rescheduled for 22 May (NET).
  • From SpaceX on Facebook: “Engineers replacing failed valve on engine #5 following today’s abort. Data review Sunday, if all looks good next attempt is Tues. May 22 at 3:44 AM ET”.

18 May

  • NASA and SpaceX held a pre-launch briefing this afternoon at Kennedy Space Center. View the briefing here.
  • A Japanese H-2A rocket launched four satellites on Friday, including a Japanese earth sciences spacecraft and a South Korean remote sensing satellite. The H-2A 202 lifted off from the Tanegashima Space Center at 9:39 pm Phoenix time Thursday (1639 UTC) and placed four satellites into Sun-synchronous orbits.
  • A Proton rocket launched a Canadian commercial communications satellite early Friday. The Proton-M rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 12:12 pm Phoenix time Thursday (1912 UTC Thursday) carrying the Nimiq 6 satellite. The Proton’s Breeze-M upper stage released the spacecraft into geosynchronous transfer orbit a little over nine hours later. Nimiq 6 was built by Space Systems/Loral and weighed about 4,500 kilograms at launch, carrying 32 Ku-band transponders.

17 May

  • A Soyuz spacecraft carrying three new ISS crew members docked with the orbiting outpost early Thursday. The Soyuz TMA-04M docked with the Poisk module of the ISS at 12:36 am EDT (0436 GMT) Thursday, two days after launch from Kazakhstan, and hatches opened at 4:10 am EDT (0810 GMT). On board the Soyuz were Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin and American astronaut Joseph Acaba, who brought the station’s crew complement back to six.

16 May

  • An Ariane 5 rocket successfully launched a pair of Lockheed Martin-built communications satellites for Japan and Vietnam on Tuesday evening. The Ariane 5 ECA lifted off from Kourou, French Guiana, at 6:13 pm EDT (2213 GMT) Tuesday and placed the JCSAT-13 and Vinasat-2 communications satellites into geosynchronous transfer orbit about a half-hour later.
  • The Soyuz TMA-04M spacecraft with the new crew for the International Space Station (ISS), launched from the Baikonur Space Center in Kazakhstan on Tuesday, will dock with the ISS on Thursday morning in an automatic mode. The spacecraft will dock with the Poisk research module of the ISS Russian segment at 1:38 AM Phoenix time (0438 UTC).

15 May

  • A Soyuz FG rocket launched the Soyuz TMA-04M (RSC Energia) spacecraft carrying three new International Space Station crew members on Tuesday. The Soyuz rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 8:01 pm Phoenix time Monday (0301 UTC Tuesday) and placed the Soyuz TMA-04M spacecraft into orbit. On board the Soyuz are Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin and American astronaut Joseph Acaba. The Soyuz will dock with the ISS at 11:39 pm EDT Wednesday (0339 GMT Thursday).
  • The Atlantic has an extensive by Ross Andersen with Sara Seager, a Professor of Planetary Science at MIT, on the plans of Planetary Resources to mine asteroids.
  • LightSquared, the company that ran into regulatory difficulties trying to establish a hybrid satellite-terrestrial broadband network in the US, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Monday.

14 May

  • Jeff Foust, at The Space Review, discusses “A test flight for SpaceX may also be a test for commercial crew”.
  • NSS Urges Congress to Ease Export Control Restrictions on Satellites and Space-Related Items
  • Scientists analyzing data from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft orbiting the large asteroid Vesta have concluded that the body has some of the key characteristics of a planet, suggesting it is a protoplanet left over from the solar system’s formation. Observations of the asteroid show that it is a differentiated body, featuring an iron core with a radius of 110 kilometers as well as a mantle and crust.

13 May

  • The Indian Space Research Organization on Saturday successfully tested the indigenous cryogenic engine at the Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC) at Mahendragiri for 200 seconds. The engine will undergo another two more tests, including endurance test of 1,000 seconds and vacuum ignition test. The engine is scheduled to propel GSLV D-5 in September or October.
  • John Kelly heaps scorn on the Congressional move to force NASA to prematurely select a single manned spacecraft contractor, “History shows going with one contractor results in years of delays and billions of dollars in cost overruns. Every past space transportation system development effort has become a cost and schedule boondoggle, often made worse by cost-plus contracting.”

12 May

  • One of the key pre-launch requirements for SpaceX’s upcoming Dragon mission to the ISS, the completion of software validation tasks for the spacecraft’s approach and berthing with the orbital outpost, has been passed, pending the expected completion of “action items”. The milestone means the latest launch date target of May 19 now holds a large amount of confidence.
  • Scientists are on an epic treasure hunt for meteorite fragments from a spectacular fireball that lit up the daytime sky over California last month. The space rocks came from a minivan-size asteroid that plunged through Earth’s atmosphere and exploded into a dazzling daytime fireball over California and parts of Nevada on April 22. Meteorite fragments were scattered around Sutter’s Mill, an old sawmill in Coloma, California.

11 May

  • The Sun moves much more slowly relative to nearby interstellar space than was previously thought, according to scientists working on NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) mission. Their study casts doubt on the existence of an abrupt “bow shock” where the edge of the solar system meets the interstellar medium – instead suggesting that the boundary between the two regions is much gentler.
  • Virgin Galactic expects to resume flight tests of its SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicle as early as June from manufacturer Scaled Composites’ facility in Mojave, California. SpaceShipTwo has not flown since its 16th glide flight in September, 2011, when it entered a tail stall upon release from its WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft.
  • Envisat, an enormous Earth-observing satellite that was officially declared dead in space Wednesday (May 9) may stay in orbit for the next 150 years, posing a threat to other spacecraft zipping around our planet.

10 May

  • NASA’s Juno Spacecraft Images Big Dipper
  • NASA’s Dawn spacecraft won’t end its 13-month-long visit to Vesta, the Solar System’s second biggest asteroid, until August, but researchers have now solidified the rock’s reputation as an archetype for understanding planetary evolution. In six reports in the 11 May edition of Science, Dawn mission scientists have confirmed several long-held assumptions about Vesta and detailed some puzzles about the roughly 520-kilometer-diameter body.

9 May

  • Four days after the launch of Tianhui-1B mapping satellite, China has launched a new optical remote sensing satellite on May 10, 2012 from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center. Launch of Yaogan Weixing-14 (YG-14) satellite took place at 07:06UTC using a Long March 4B (Chang Zheng-4B) launch vehicle from the LC9 launch complex.
  • OpenMarket.org has a screed about “Republican Space Socialism Update”, taking House Appropriations Chairman Frank Wolf (R-Virginia) to task for decrying the wastefulness of competition in the Commercial Crew Development program.

8 May

  • Unionized workers at United Launch Alliance (ULA), the Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture that makes the Atlas and Delta launch vehicles, ratified a new contract by default on Sunday when a strike vote fell just short of passage. Members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) voted Sunday to reject a three-year contract offered by ULA, but a subsequent vote on whether to strike fell just short of the two-thirds majority needed to authorize a strike. Because the strike vote failed, the new contract went into force at midnight Monday.
  • Commercial remote sensing company DigitalGlobe has rejected a offer by rival GeoEye to acquire the company, saying it will wait until the end of the federal budget cycle to make a decision on whether to make its own bid to acquire GeoEye. DigitalGlobe said in a statement Sunday that the $17-per-share offer by GeoEye “substantially undervalues” the company.

7 May

  • Preparations for Orion’s first journey into space are accelerating, as flight controllers at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) fire up the former Shuttle Flight Control Room (FCR) for mission simulations, while Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) engineers finalize the vehicle’s baseline construction, ahead of shipping Orion to the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) for outfitting.
  • In a study published online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, astronomers analyzing 63 hot Jupiters (depicted above) detected by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft have found no planets comparable in size to Earth orbiting nearby. In contrast, many hot Neptunes—close-in giant worlds with roughly 5% of Jupiter’s mass—do have planetary neighbors. The findings may mean that hot Jupiters assume their peculiar orbits after far-off giant planets kick them close to their suns. As the hot Jupiter dashes inward, its gravity ejects any smaller planets near the star, both explaining the absence of close planetary neighbors and suggesting that solar systems with hot Jupiters are unlikely to host life-bearing worlds resembling Earth.

6 May

  • China launched the second TH-1 Tianhui-1 satellite – Tianhui-1B – on Sunday, using a Long March 2D (Chang Zheng-2D) launch vehicle from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. Launch took place at 07:10UTC from the 603 launch pad from the LC-43 launch complex. Tianhui-1B will conduct Earth-mapping using stereo-topographic techniques.

5 May

  • Supermoon: “We will have moon closest to the Earth at the exact moment, or within a minute or two of when it becomes full,” says Andrew Fraknoi at Foothill College in Los Altos, Calif., and senior educator at the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. “And this has no cosmic danger or significance but it means the moon will be a little bit brighter and a little bit bigger in our sky.”
  • NASA issued the following statement from William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at the agency’s Headquarters in Washington: “After additional reviews and discussions between the SpaceX and NASA teams, we are in a position to proceed toward this important launch. The teamwork provided by these teams is phenomenal. There are a few remaining open items but we are ready to support SpaceX for its new launch date of May 19.”

4 May

  • SpaceX and NASA are nearing completion of the software assurance process, and SpaceX is submitting a request to the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for a May 19th launch target with a backup on May 22nd.

3 May

  • The European Space Agency (ESA) announced Wednesday that it has chosen a mission to several of Jupiter’s largest moons as its next large mission, confirming a choice made last month by an agency panel. The JUpiter ICy moon Explorer, or Juice, is planned for launch in 2022 and arrive at Jupiter in 2030. The spacecraft would fly by the Galilean moons of Callisto and Europa before entering orbit around Ganymede, the solar system’s largest moon.
  • ULA: “The launch of an Atlas V carrying the United States Air Force’s Advanced Extremely High Frequency-2 (AEHF-2) payload was scrubbed today due to lack of helium flow from the ground support equipment to the Interstage Adapter compartment on the launch vehicle. The Atlas V vehicle and AEHF-2 are safe and secure at this time. The launch is rescheduled for Friday, May 4 from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. The opening of the launch window is 2:42 p.m. EDT and extends until 4:42 p.m. The forecast for May 4 shows an 80 percent chance of favorable weather conditions for the launch tomorrow. “
  • The first flight of the Antares rocket will likely be in August.

2 May

  • SpaceX said Wednesday it is “unlikely” that Monday’s scheduled launch of a Dragon spacecraft on a Falcon 9 rocket will proceed because of additional testing being done on the spacecraft. The company said in a brief statement Wednesday afternoon that the Monday morning launch was unlikely to take place as scheduled to allow the company more time to work on software assurance issues regarding the Dragon spacecraft with NASA. No official launch delay had yet been announced, although some NASA documents has already pushed the launch back to the backup date of May 10.

1 May

  • Senior scientists and heads of the five International Space Station partners will present ground-breaking research and discuss future projects in Berlin on 2–4 May. Follow the first International Space Station symposium live on the web through its dedicated website. Visit www.isssymposium2012.com to follow the conference in real time.
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April 2012

Posted by drdave on April 1, 2012

30 April

  • The hot fire test of the Falcon 9 was successful, although an hour and 15 minutes later than scheduled due to a hold to correct an out of limit parameter (Overly restrictive redline on second stage engine position).
  • SpaceX plans to carry out a “hot fire” test of its Falcon 9 rocket on the launch pad today, one of the final tests leading up to next Monday’s scheduled launch of a Dragon spacecraft on a test flight to the International Space Station. SpaceX has scheduled the test, where the Falcon 9′s nine first-stage engines are briefly ignited, for 3:00 PM Phoenix time (1900 UTC) today. The test will be webcast on the SpaceX web site starting at 11:30 AM Phoenix time (1830 UTC).
  • A Long March 3B rocket lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 1:50 PM Phoenix time Sunday (2050 GMT Sunday, 4:50 am Beijing time Monday) and placed two Beidou-2 satellites into medium Earth orbits. The satellites will be used as part of China’s Beidou satellite navigation system

29 April

  • A European weather satellite that was scheduled for launch in May will be delayed until at least July because of a dispute between Kazakhstan and Russia regarding the drop zones for the rocket’s stages. ESA had hoped to launch its MetOp-B polar-orbiting weather satellite on May 23 from Baikonur on a Soyuz-2.1a rocket. However, Kazakhstan protested those launch plans, which require the booster stages of the Soyuz to fall on Kazakh territory north of Baikonur, a different area than the customary drop zone for Soyuz launches to lower-inclination orbits.

28 April

  • Discovery Magazine reports that “Of all the hurdles facing Planetary Resources, a startup firm that this week unveiled its plan to survey and mine asteroids for water, precious metals and other resources, legal jurisdiction is not at the top of the list. ‘We as a U.S. company certainly have the right to go an asteroid and make use of its resources,’ Planetary Resources co-founder Eric Anderson told Discovery News.”…But?…
  • On Monday, April 30, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) will take the final step on the road to orbit before launching one of the company’s Falcon 9 rockets May 7. The NewSpace firm will conduct what is known as a static test fire of the rocket’s nine Merlin engines. During this test, the engines will be ignited in a final test before the upcoming launch. The Falcon 9 will essentially go through everything that the rocket will need to do on launch day – except conduct liftoff. For those wanting to view the static test fire, they need only visit http://www.spacex.com on April 30. SpaceX will kick things off at 2:30 PM EDT (11:30 AM Phoenix time). The test fire itself is slated to take place at 3 p.m. EDT (12 p.m. EDT). SpaceX will also webcast the launch live at http://www.spacex.com.

27 April

  • A Soyuz spacecraft carrying three ISS crewmembers landed safely on the steppes of Kazakhstan on Friday. The Soyuz TMA-22 spacecraft touched down near Arkalyk, Kazakhstan, at 7:45 am EDT (1145 GMT), three and a half hours after undocking from the space station.
  • NASA flew the space shuttle Enterprise from Washington, DC, to New York on Friday, where it will be displayed at a museum there starting later this year. The 747 carrying Enterprise took off from Dulles International Airport outside Washington at 9:39 am EDT (1339 GMT) and landed at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York at 11:22 am EDT (1522 GMT). Once arriving in the New York area, the 747 and Enterprise made an aerial tour of the city, allowing people to view the orbiter as it flew up along the Hudson River and over various city landmarks.

26 April

  • The Hubble Space Telescope was launched on 24 April 1990, 22 years ago. See the latest composite image: The Tarantula star forming region.
  • Weighing 1,858 kilograms, Risat-1 was launched by an enhanced variant of India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) during the early morning hours from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota Island
  • NASA managers, in consultation with Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum officials, have selected Friday, April 27, to ferry space shuttle Enterprise from Washington Dulles International Airport to John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport in New York.

25 April

  • The Senate and House budgets for NASA may kill Commercial Crew Development. At the east, cripple the effort to escape having Russia ferry our astronauts.
  • Asteroid Mining for Fun and Profit. A recently formed company called Planetary Resources has announced ambitious plans to extract billions of dollars’ worth of water and precious metals from near-Earth asteroids.
  • U.S forces on the ground, air and sea routinely enter into coalitions with allies. It is time for similar cooperation to exist in space.

24 April

  • Just posted on Facebook by SpaceX: “May 7th, 9:38 AM ET launch target for the upcoming COTS 2 mission confirmed by NASA and the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station”.
  • SpaceX announced late Monday that it will push back the launch of its Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station by about a week to allow time for additional tests. SpaceX had been planning to launch the Dragon spacecraft on April 30. No new launch date has been announced, but will likely be after the launch of an Atlas 5 carrying a military satellite now planned for May 3.
  • A Proton rocket successfully launched a communications satellite for a Middle Eastern company on Tuesday. The Proton M lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 3:18 PM Phoenix time Monday (2218 UTC) carrying the Yahsat 1B (Y1B) satellite.

23 April

  • Fireball over Nevada and California: “I have been looking at the sky for 30 years, and I have never witnessed something so amazing and puzzling. It is an event that makes you glad to be alive,” said Matthew Neal of San Francisco. “The main body was bright green and the head was bright red and white.” Greg Giroux of June Lake, Calif., located along the eastern Sierra just west of Yosemite National Park, also was impressed. “This was by far the brightest fireball/shooting star I’ve ever seen, especially since it was in full sunlight,” he said. “After the flash, it broke up into pieces, then I lost sight of it as it went behind a mountain.”
  • The ISS crewmen opened the hatches between the International Space Station (ISS) and the freighter Progress M-15M, which docked successfully to the ISS in the automatic mode on Sunday.
  • Chris Kraft (former director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center and former director of JSC Mission Control) and Tom Moser (former director of JSC Engineering, and former director of NASA’s Space Station Program), take aim at the Space Launch System in an op-ed piece in the Houston Chronicle. “The current national human exploration strategy, which is based on development of the SLS, is economically unaffordable. The SLS-based strategy is unaffordable, by definition, since the costs of developing, let alone operating, the SLS within a fixed or declining budget has crowded out funding for critical elements needed for any real deep space human exploration program.”
  • India is preparing to launch the Radar Imaging Satellite (RISAT-1) from the spaceport at Sriharikota at 5.45 a.m. local time on Thursday (2345 UTC and 4:45 PM Phoenix time Wednesday). The four stages of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-XL) have been stacked up at the first launch-pad on the island of Sriharikota and the satellite has been mated to the vehicle.

22 April

  • Progress M-15M, carrying 2.8 tons of food, water, propellant, and other supplies, is successfully docked with the International Space Station at 7:39 AM Phoenix time (1439 UTC) Sunday.
  • Optical, radar and laser observations of the Envisat satellite show that it is still in a stable orbit. Efforts to regain contact with the satellite have been under way since 8 April, when it unexpectedly stopped sending data to Earth.

21 April

  • Boeing has signed an agreement with NASA’s Mission Operations Directorate (MOD) at Johnson Space Center to collaborate on mission planning, training and flight operations for the company’s Commercial Space Transportation (CST)-100 spacecraft.

20 April

  • Russia has successfully launched the Progress M-15M resupply spacecraft on course to the International Space Station. Docking is scheduled for Sunday at 8:40 AM Phoenix time (1500 UTC).
  • A spacecraft that would study three of Jupiter’s largest moons, including going into orbit around one of then, is the top choice of a committee selecting Europe’s next major space science mission. A European Space Agency (ESA) committee met this month and select the Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer, or Juice, as its preferred option for ESA’s Cosmic Vision competition for large-scale science missions. Juice would launch in 2022 on an Ariane 5 and arrive at Jupiter in 2030.
  • A new study sponsored by the Keck Institute for Space Studies (KISS) has concluded that it would be possible to return an asteroid weighing approximately 500 metric tons to high lunar orbit where it would be mined for resources by 2025. The Asteroid Retrieval Feasibility Study, published on April 2, was prepared for KISS, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

19 April

  • On April 24, Planetary Resources officials will announce details of their space exploration plans in a press conference at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington. Investors include Charles Simonyi and James Cameron.
  • Appropriations committees in the US House of Representative and Senate have drafted spending bills that would fund NASA at close to the administration’s request for 2013. A Senate appropriations subcommittee approved a spending bill Tuesday that would give NASA $19.4 billion in fiscal year 2013, but over $1.6 billion of that represents funding for weather satellite programs transferred from NOAA. Without the NOAA funding, the NASA budget is a little over $17.7 billion, and includes an additional $100 million for Mars science programs cut in the administration’s proposal.

18 April

  • The space shuttle Discovery made its final trip on Tuesday, flown on its 747 carrier aircraft from the Kennedy Space Center to Washington to be put on display at the National Air and Space Museum. The 747 carrying Discovery took off from the Shuttle Landing Facility at KSC at around 7 am EDT (1100 GMT) and landed at Dulles International Airport in the Virginia suburbs of Washington four hours later.
  • Aviation Week reports that “The Pentagon has declared that the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) project has exceeded its original projected per-unit cost by 58.4%, triggering a rigorous review under the Nunn-McCurdy program oversight law.”

17 April

  • For the first time in history, NASA’s extensive Flight Readiness Review (FRR) process has concluded that a privately-owned spacecraft is tentatively cleared to visit the International Space Station (ISS). With a launch date still tracking April 30, the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft will lift off toward a space station that is now fully prepared to extend a robotic handshake to the commercial space industry, pending the closure of a few open items.
  • The Lyrid Meteor Shower peaks this week on 21-22 April.

16 April

15 April

  • Windy conditions at Cape Canaveral have delayed the lifting and mating of the shuttle Discovery to the 747. The shuttle will be delivered Tuesday, 17 April, to the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D. C. It will be on permanent display in the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center

14 April

  • The spacecraft Cassini will make a second pass today through the jets spraying from the south pole of Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons. Less than three weeks ago, Cassini made a similar pass through the jets (27 March). Combined with a previous pass on 1 October, these three passes should allow the ion and neutral mass spectrometer to determine the three dimensional structure of the jets and how they change over time.
  • NASA will partner with the US Air Force (USAF) to study next-generation upper stage propulsion, formalizing the agencies joint interests in a new upper stage engine to replace the venerable Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne RL-10. NASA hopes to find a less expensive RL-10-class engine for a third stage of the Space Launch System (SLS)

13 April

  • A huge embarrassment for Kim Jong Un and North Korea.
  • The European Space Agency (ESA) confirmed Thursday that it has lost contact with its Envisat earth observing satellite. ESA announced in a statement that contact with Envisat was unexpectedly lost on April 8, and has yet to be restored.

12 April

  • Yuri’s Night. Find a celebration near you and enjoy.

11 April

  • New Mexico-based Virgin Galactic, which now expects to fly its first paying customers in 2013, was told by the U.S. government that the company may fly non-U.S. citizens to the edge of space without first obtaining an export license from the State Department.

10 April

  • A regulatory filing released Monday is the latest evidence that SpaceX is pursuing plans for a new spaceport on the Gulf Coast of Texas. The notice by the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation states that the office is starting work on an environmental impact statement for a proposed spaceport in Cameron County, Texas, north of Brownsville, on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.
  • The United Launch Alliance (ULA), best known in recent years for their high end payload launch services, are continuing their transition back into Human Space Flight operations. With an early history in human launches stretching back to safely sending astronaut John Glenn into space, ULA’s Atlas V is the preferred launch vehicle for several Commercial Crew suitors.

9 April

  • Russia’s new Angara rocket family, which began development by Khrunichev after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, will finally fly next year after two decades of effort. Providing, of course, that work is completed in time on the rocket’s launch facility and other ground infrastructure at Plesetsk.
  • Given the delays launching the year’s first Atlas 5 rocket due to high-altitude winds and scheduling conflicts with a Navy submarine missile test off Cape Canaveral, the next Atlas mission is moving out a week or so as a result. The targeted April 27 Launch date will slide into early May.

8 April

  • The rocket for the planned satellite launch later this month by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has been installed on the launch pad, Xinhua correspondents saw at the launch site Sunday. We shall see.
  • Venus, a planet without its own magnetic field, may still be able to generate auroral activity, scientists reported this week. Data collected by Europe’s Venus Express spacecraft shows evidence of reconnection of magnetic fields in Venus’s magnetotail, a region on the opposite side of the planet from the Sun created by the solar wind’s interaction with the planet’s upper atmosphere. This reconnection, which converts magnetic energy to kinetic energy, creates auroral activity for planets with their own magnetic fields, like the Earth; scientists hypothesize this reconnection activity in Venus’s magnetotail could do the same. Similar phenomena could also take place on comets, scientists said, causing their tails to break off.

7 April

  • Engineers and astronomers are celebrating the much anticipated first light of the MOSFIRE instrument, now installed on the Keck I telescope at W. M. Keck Observatory. MOSFIRE (Multi-Object Spectrometer For Infra-Red Exploration) will vastly increase the data gathering power of what is already the world’s most productive ground-based observatory.

6 April

  • United Launch Alliance stated that a crew-carrying version of United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5 rocket, which is slated to loft the space taxis built by Boeing, Sierra Nevada and Blue Origin, requires about three more years of work. That means the rocket’s development is on track to help the companies start flying astronauts to the International Space Station by NASA’s desired 2017 start date.
  • Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle-3 (ATV-3) “Edoardo Amaldi” raised the International Space Station’s orbit by nearly four kilometers on Thursday evening, aiding the phasing requirements for its Russian cousins. ATV-3 continues to have its power loss issue evaluated, while one of its Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) channels apparently failed on Thursday.

5 April

  • A NASA panel has concluded the agency should extend the mission of Kepler, a space telescope searching for extrasolar planets, as well as a number of other current astronomy missions. NASA’s Senior Review examined the effectiveness of current astronomy missions seeking funding to extend their operations. For Kepler, the panel concluded spacecraft operations should continue through fiscal year 2016. Kepler was launched in March 2009 for a prime mission of 3.5 years. The panel also supported extending the mission of several other astronomy missions, including the Hubble Space Telescope.

4 April

  • A Delta 4 rocket placed a classified military satellite into orbit on Tuesday. The Delta 4 Medium-Plus (5,2) lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 7:12 pm EDT (2312 GMT) Tuesday on a mission designated NROL-25 for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). United Launch Alliance (ULA) declared the launch a success, but neither it nor NRO provided additional details about the mission.
  • NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) X-ray astrophysics observatory, grounded in March by concerns with its Pegasus XL rocket, will have an opportunity to launch in June. Engineering reviews of the air-launched Orbital Sciences Corp. Pegasus rocket continue, according to NASA, with officials focusing on software to be used by a new computer flying on the Pegasus for the first time.

3 April

  • NASASpaceFlight has a two part series (part 1 and part 2) on preliminary design work for the Deep Space Habitat (DSH) destined to house astronauts on missions to the Moon, asteroids, the moons of Mars and Mars itself.

2 April

  • A Chinese Long March rocket successfully launched a French-built communications satellite on Saturday. The Long March 3B rocket lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 6:27 am EDT (1027 GMT, 6:27 pm Beijing time) and released the Apstar-7 satellite into a geosynchrous transfer orbit 26 minutes later. Apstar-7 is a Spacebus 4000C2 model satellite built by French company Thales Alenia Space for Hong Kong-based satellite operator APT Satellite Holdings.
  • The launch of a Delta 4 rocket carrying a top-secret spy satellite has been delayed again due to the ongoing evaluation of the upper stage engine, moving the next liftoff attempt to Tuesday afternoon at 4:12 PM Phoenix time (2312 UTC) at the earliest.

1 April

  • Chances are not good for tomorrow’s launch of a Delta IV carrying the NROL-25 satellite. The weather outlook continues to remain the same for Monday, with a 70 percent chance the winds will be too strong for launch or a 30 percent chance of the Delta 4 blasting off as scheduled at 4:04 PM Phoenix time (2304 UTC). United Launch Alliance has completed its assessment of the RL10B-2 upper stage engine that prompted delay of this National Reconnaissance Office mission by a few days, clearing the way for the countdown to resume on Monday.
  • Europe’s ATV-3 unmanned resupply spacecraft, which docked with the ISS earlier this week, readjusted the space station’s orbit on Sunday. Two main engines of ATV-3 were switched on at 1:54 Moscow time on Sunday [21:54 GMT on Saturday] to raise the International Space Station (ISS) orbit by 1.7 km, to 389.8 km.

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