CSExtra – Top Space News for Friday, May 15, 2015

May 15th, 2015

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Today’s CSExtra offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from across the globe. Orbital ATK’s Mar. 11 solid rocket booster ground test firing advances development of NASA’s new Space Launch System exploration rocket. A NASA backed research effort advances a futuristic laser propulsion system. Studies with a NASA space gamma ray observatory hint at an explanation for an anti-matter mystery. Methane on Mars: Where did it come from? Aging NASA Mercury astronaut John Glenn discloses recent health issues. Thursday marked the 42nd anniversary of the first U.S. space station launch. Russia struggles to pinpoint the cause of the failed April 28 Progress resupply mission launch to the International Space Station. In the U.S., the Pentagon warns of emerging anti-satellite threats. An early 2015 U.S. satellite explosion could pose an orbital debris concern for decades. Donors back a Dutch strategy to prevent an asteroid strike. Efforts to establish U.S. commercial launch services for the transportation of astronauts to the International Space Station could face a setback under a U.S. House appropriations measure that provides $1 billion for NASA led development in 2016, rather than the requested $1.25 billion.

Human Deep Space Exploration

With success of QM-1, Orbital ATK moves on next phase of testing in lead up to first SLS flight

Space Flight Insider (5/14): Test fired on the ground on Mar. 11 in Promontory, Utah, Orbital ATK’s five segment, space shuttle heritage solid rocket booster performed successfully. The success helps to pave the way for the first test flight of NASA’s Space Launch System heavy lift rocket in 2018, with two of the “strap on” boosters. The launch is to start an uncrewed Orion crew exploration capsule on a loop around the moon.

Futuristic laser space engine passes its first test: someday it could get us to the moon within hours and Mars within days

Popular Mechanics (5/14): A researcher funded by NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts program reports success with a demonstration of Photonic Laser Thrust. The technology depends on the force generated by an external laser to increase the momentum of a spacecraft.

Unmanned Deep Space Exploration

Strange signal from space may solve one of science’s greatest mysteries (5/13): NASA’s Fermi gamma ray space telescope finds evidence of a magnetic field in force just after the big bang that could possibly explain the difficulty in detecting anti-matter. The big bang should have generated equal amounts of normal matter and anti-matter, according to theorists.

Mystery methane on Mars: the saga continues

Astrobiology Magazine (5/14): NASA’s Curiosity rover perpetuates a long running mystery over methane detection on Mars. Its presence could signal past, perhaps even current subsurface microbial activity.

Low Earth Orbit

Astronaut John Glenn, 93, weathers health difficulties

Associated Press via ABC News (5/14): NASA Mercury astronaut John Glenn, who became the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962, disclosed health issues during a public appearance in his native Ohio. Glenn, a former U.S. Senator, returned to space in 1998 at the age of 77 aboard the space shuttle Discovery. “We are hoping things pickup,” said Glenn, with wife Annie at his side.

Our spaceflight heritage: Skylab 1, America’s first Space Station 

Spaceflight Insider (5/14): Thursday marked the 42nd anniversary of the launching of the first U.S. Space Station. Skylab orbited the Earth for six years, serving as home to three NASA astronaut crews.

Space agency probe lacks data to say what caused loss of Russian cargo vehicle

TASS, or Russia (5/14): Russian experts remain challenged to pinpoint the cause of the April 28 loss of the Progress 59 resupply mission spacecraft en-route to the International Space Station, according to the report. The focus of the investigation is on the Soyuz launcher’s third stage and the separation of the cargo capsule following the climb to orbit. Investigators say they will fill in what they can by May 22, though additional investigation may be necessary.

Pentagon says 2013 Chinese launch may have tested anti-satellite technology 

Space News (5/14): In a report on Chinese space activity, the U.S. Department of Defense suggests a May 2013 launch by Beijing was a test of anti-satellite technologies directed at spacecraft in geosynchronous orbit.

Time to get serious about space threats

The Hill (5/14): U.S. satellites face a threat from emerging Chinese and Russian anti-satellite capabilities, according to U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, a member of the House Armed Services Committee. “If we want to keep space safe and secure for all responsible parties, we must be prepared to defend our space systems and defeat any efforts to attack them,” Lamborn writes in an op-ed.

DMSP satellite debris expected to remain in orbit for decades (5.14): Debris from the in orbit explosion earlier this year of a U.S. Pentagon weather satellite could remain in orbit for decades, according to the report. The Defense Meteorological Support Program spacecraft detonated on Feb. 13. The spacecraft is in a polar orbit.

Crowdfunding launched to nuke threatening asteroid

SEN (5/14): Backers turn to crowdfunding to mount an emergency planetary defense against an asteroid strike, the Hypervelocity Asteroid Impact Vehicle. The Danish strategy combines a high speed impact with a nuclear explosion to fend off a deadly collision with only a few days warning.

Commercial to Low Earth Orbit

Space Station launches would face further delays under House spending plan

USA Today (5/15): NASA’s 2017 target for the start of U.S. commercial crew launches to the International Space Station could be jeopardized under spending levels approved by a U.S. House appropriations panel with jurisdiction over the agency. On Thursday, the panel approved an $18.5 billion NASA budget for 2016, with $1 billion for the Commercial Crew Program, $250 million less than the White House request but more than the $805 appropriated for 2015. NASA has cautioned that anything lower than the request could delay the initiative.

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