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Europe's Mars Lander Crashed

By Keith Cowing on October 21, 2016 1:20 PM.

Schiaparelli Crash Site Located From Orbit

"NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has identified new markings on the surface of the Red Planet that are believed to be related to ESA's ExoMars Schiaparelli entry, descent and landing technology demonstrator module. Estimates are that Schiaparelli dropped from a height of between 2 and 4 kilometres, therefore impacting at a considerable speed, greater than 300 km/h. The relatively large size of the feature would then arise from disturbed surface material. It is also possible that the lander exploded on impact, as its thruster propellant tanks were likely still full. These preliminary interpretations will be refined following further analysis."

Continue reading: Europe's Mars Lander Crashed.


SLS Flight Software Safety Issues at MSFC (Update)

By Keith Cowing on October 21, 2016 12:17 PM.

Keith's 21 October update: According to sources an internal assessment of SLS software safety activities at QD34 has been conducted at NASA MSFC. The main outcome is an admission that communication between NASA and its safety contractor - and within NASA itself - was not happening. Upper management had no idea what their employees were actually doing - or not doing. In some cases contractor employees were told by NASA not to work on things that they were supposed to be working on. The assessment also found that the use of contractor employees by NASA for what amounts to personal services activities has gotten out of control. As a result of this assessment reassignment of NASA civil servants is being planned. Also, as a direct result of this mess, the current support contractor is likely to be eliminated from future contract consideration.

SLS Flight Software Safety Issues at MSFC (Update), earlier post

Continue reading: SLS Flight Software Safety Issues at MSFC (Update).

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Trump Plans KSC Visit

By Keith Cowing on October 20, 2016 10:24 PM.

Donald Trump to meet with Florida space officials Monday, Orlando Sentinel

"Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has accepted an invitation to tour Kennedy Space Center and other locations on the Space Coast before sitting in on a roundtable of space industry leaders on Monday, Oct. 24. Trump will follow what has quickly become a regular stop for presidential campaigns, as economic officials and space industry leaders in the region have been reaching out to candidates since 2008. So far, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has not accepted invitations to tour the region. Lynda Weatherman, president and CEO of the economic development commission of Florida's Space Coast, said she hopes Trump's visit encourages Clinton to follow suit."

Donald Trump to tour KSC next week, Florida Today

"The schedule, whose details are still being worked out, anticipates Trump flying into KSC's former space shuttle runway ..."


Trump Space Advisors Omit Support of SLS, Orion, ARM, #JourneytoMars

By Keith Cowing on October 19, 2016 5:31 PM.

Trump's space policy reaches for Mars and the stars, Op Ed, Space News

"A 21st century space policy requires a bold combination of public missions, commercial solutions and the agility to address real threats and real opportunities. To craft such a policy, government must recognize that space is no longer the province of governments alone. Ronald Reagan anticipated this revolution long ago when he signed the 1984 Commercial Space Launch Act. ... Creating the technologies necessary to meet these goals would push us into the forefront of technological development and benefit our economy for decades to come. However, NASA cannot be expected to do this kind of 21st century Apollo-like mission if it is forced to accept outdated operational structures, contracting procedures, and bureaucracies created in the last century."

Keith's note: Former congresman, veteran space consultant, and Trump advisor Robert Walker is one of the two authors of this op ed. No mention is made of SLS, Orion, or ARM - yet a list of specific commercial companies and their capabilities - Orbital ATK, SpaceX, Blue Origin, Boeing, Paragon, Sierra Nevada, United Launch Alliance, Virgin Galactic and XCOR Aerospace is included. Moreover a warning against Apollo-like missions (#JourneyToMars) is made.


Juno Experiences Engine and Computer Problems

By Keith Cowing on October 19, 2016 4:42 PM.

Juno Enters Safe Mode And Then Regains Normal Operations

"NASA's Juno spacecraft entered safe mode Tuesday, Oct. 18 at about 10:47 p.m. PDT (Oct. 19 at 1:47 a.m. EDT). Early indications are a software performance monitor induced a reboot of the spacecraft's onboard computer. The spacecraft acted as expected during the transition into safe mode, restarted successfully and is healthy. High-rate data has been restored and the spacecraft is conducting flight software diagnostics. All instruments are off and the planned science data collection for today's close flyby of Jupiter (perijove 2), did not occur."

Engine Problems Delay Juno Engine Burn at Jupiter, SpaceRef

"Telemetry indicates that two helium check valves that play an important role in the firing of the spacecraft's main engine did not operate as expected during a command sequence that was initiated yesterday," said Rick Nybakken, Juno project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "The valves should have opened in a few seconds, but it took several minutes. We need to better understand this issue before moving forward with a burn of the main engine."

NASA's Juno Team to Discuss Jupiter Mission Status, Latest Science Results, NASA

"Team members of NASA's Juno mission to Jupiter will discuss the latest science results, an amateur imaging processing campaign, and the recent decision to postpone a scheduled burn of its main engine, during a media briefing at 4 p.m. EDT Wednesday, Oct. 19."


How NSF Is Walking Away From Iconic Radio Telescopes

By Keith Cowing on October 19, 2016 3:06 PM.

Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement and Initiate Section 106 Consultation for Proposed Changes to Green Bank Observatory Operations, Green Bank, West Virginia and Notice of Public Scoping Meetings and Comment Period, NSF

"The NSF Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences, Division of Astronomical Sciences, through a series of academic community-based reviews, has identified the need to divest several facilities from its portfolio. This would allow NSF to retain the balance of capabilities needed to deliver the best performance on emerging and key science technology of the present decade and beyond. In 2012, NSF's Division of Astronomical Sciences' (AST's) portfolio review committee recommended divestment of the Green Bank Telescope (GBT) from the AST portfolio."

Green Bank Observatory Inaugurated

"Formerly a cornerstone of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), the Green Bank Observatory [] is now a fully-fledged, independent astronomical and educational facility of the National Science Foundation (NSF), operated under a cooperative agreement with Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI)."

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Soyuz Launches Crew to the ISS

By Marc Boucher on October 19, 2016 8:09 AM.

After Month Long Delay Soyuz Rocket Launches Astronauts to the International Space Station [With video]

"Three crew members representing the United States and Russia are on their way to the International Space Station after launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 4:05 a.m. EDT Wednesday (2:05 p.m. Baikonur time). The Soyuz spacecraft carrying astronaut Shane Kimbrough of NASA, and cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, is scheduled to dock to the Poisk module of the space station at 5:59 a.m. Friday, Oct. 21. NASA Television coverage of docking will begin at 5:15 a.m. Hatches are scheduled to open about 8:35 a.m., with NASA TV coverage starting at 8 a.m."

- ISS Crew Could be Short Staffed for Another Month and a Half, earlier post


One Mars Robot Watches For Another At Wharton Ridge

By Keith Cowing on October 18, 2016 8:16 PM.

Looking for Schiaparelli At Wharton Ridge

"On Wednesday 19 October the ExoMars Schiaparelli module will land on Mars at 10:48 am EDT. There is a chance that Opportunity may see it on the horizon as it descends. The name of this location on the rim of Endeavour crater was initially announced a week or so ago. "Wharton Ridge" is named after Robert A. Wharton."

Taking In The View From Wharton Ridge, earlier post


Earth Has Two Occupied Space Stations Again

By Keith Cowing on October 18, 2016 3:43 PM.

Shenzhou-11 Docks With Tiangong-2, SpaceRef

"China's Shenzhou-11 has docked with the Tiangong-2 Space Station. After completing a series of systems checks astronauts, Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong will enter Tiangong-2 to begin their one month mission. Next spring an automated cargo vehicle will resupply Tiangong-2 in advance of future astronaut visits."


Obama Is In Space Legacy Mode

By Keith Cowing on October 18, 2016 3:11 PM.

Blue Planet/Red Planet Politics: Obama's Giant Leap for Legacy, Scientific American

"Yet whether Mars will truly be part of the president's space legacy remains to be seen, says Marcia Smith, founder and editor of "I think Obama's civil space legacy will be his embrace of commercial partnerships, not humans to Mars," she says. Ultimately Obama's legacy depends in large part on what the next administration does, Smith says. If it continues the Mars exploration program he set up, Obama will likely receive kudos, whether or not it is deserved, she says."

- Obama Takes A Space Policy Victory Lap, earlier post
- That Time Obama Killed A Return To The Moon, earlier post
- President Obama Has Some Ideas About Mars, earlier post


Successful Launch for Antares

By Keith Cowing on October 17, 2016 8:31 PM.

Orbital ATK Successfully Launches the Antares Rocket on its Return to Flight (with video), SpaceRef

"In a successful return to flight, Orbital ATK launched the upgraded Antares rocket with the Cygnus spacecraft on a resupply mission to the International Space Station. The launch scheduled for 7:40 pm EDT (2340 GMT) was delayed briefly due to a minor engine anomaly. Mission launch control cleared the rocket to launch which it did at 7:45 pm EDT, right as launch window was closing."

Keith's note: It has been 2 years since I tried to watch a launch from the street in front of my house in Reston, VA. Not an easy thing to do in a town that is certified as a 'tree city'. Luckily the notch in the trees in the direction of Wallops is still there. About 2 minutes after launch a steady red light appeared and I could see it for another minute or so.

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China Is Doing What NASA Used To Do

By Keith Cowing on October 16, 2016 7:30 PM.

Shenzhou-11 Is In Orbit, SpaceRef

"China placed the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft with two astronauts aboard into orbit today. The launch happened exactly on time at 7:30 am local time at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. Shenzhou-11 is in its planned orbit and will dock with China's second space station Tiangong-2 on Tuesday. The two astronauts will remain onboard Tiangong-2 for a month."

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Upcoming Space News

By Keith Cowing on October 16, 2016 5:25 PM.

China to launch manned space mission Shenzhou 11 on Monday

"China will launch a two-man space mission, Shenzhou 11, on Monday, officials with the space program said, taking the country closer to its ambition of setting up a permanent manned space station by 2022. After Monday's launch at 7:30 a.m. (2330 GMT) in the remote northwestern province of Gansu, the astronauts will dock with the Tiangong 2 space laboratory, where they will spend about a month."

Schiaparelli Released From Trace Gas Orbiter and Begins Its Descent to Mars

"Today, three days before gravity will ensure the arrival of ExoMars 2016 at Mars, the Schiaparelli Entry, Descent & landing demonstrator Module separated from the TGO orbiter and is now en route on a ballistic trajectory to reach the Red Planet, enter its atmosphere and land softly in an area close to the equator known as Meridiani Planum."

Antares OA-5 Launch Delayed to October 17, 2016

"Today's launch of Orbital ATK's Antares rocket is postponed 24 hours due to a ground support equipment (GSE) cable that did not perform as expected during the pre-launch check out. We have spares on hand and rework procedures are in process."

Keith's note: I will be on BBC World News live tonight at 8:00 pm and 9:00 pm 11:15 pm EDT to discuss these three mission events.

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Obama Takes A Space Policy Victory Lap

By Keith Cowing on October 13, 2016 3:35 PM.

Interplanetary Frontiers, OSTP: Harnessing the Possibilities of Science, Technology, and Innovation

"At the beginning of his Administration, President Obama set out anew vision for space exploration, harking back to the spirit of possibility and exploration that defined the space race of the 1960s, while building upon and advancing 21st century technologies and capabilities. In 2010, the Administration restructured the U.S. civil space program to look forward to bold new goals, not backwards to old ones; to collaborate with, rather than compete with, American entrepreneurs; and to broaden participation and take advantage of new technologies being created at NASA and in America's laboratories."

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More Problems For Arecibo

By Keith Cowing on October 13, 2016 10:00 AM.

Arecibo Observatory hit with discrimination lawsuit, Nature

"Two former researchers at the troubled Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico have filed a lawsuit claiming that illegal discrimination and retaliation led to their dismissal. James Richardson and Elizabeth Sternke are suing the Universities Space Research Association (USRA), which oversees radio astronomy and planetary science at Arecibo, and the observatory's deputy director, Joan Schmelz -- a prominent advocate for women in astronomy. ... The EEOC ultimately found evidence of discrimination and that Sternke and Richardson were terminated in retaliation for their complaints, according to documents provided by the researchers' lawyer. In their lawsuit, filed on 4 October in the US District Court in Puerto Rico, Richardson and Sternke are seeking more than US$20 million in back pay and damages."

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NASA International Space Station On-Orbit Status 20 October 2016

NASA International Space Station On-Orbit Status 20 October 2016 Video in Story

Astronauts Kate Rubins and Takuya Onishi are having a light day today ahead of the arrival of three new crewmates Friday morning. The duo also is waiting for Sunday morning's cargo delivery aboard the Cygnus resupply ship.

More updates...