CSExtra – Top Space News for Monday, May 18, 2015

May 18th, 2015

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Today’s CSExtra offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from across the globe. NASA kicked off the critical design review phase for the Space Launch System exploration rocket last week. Science fiction writers say the colonization of Mars could help solve problems on Earth.  NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft scans distant Pluto for undiscovered moons and rings. NASA’s Dawn, Pluto missions move into position to unravel minor planet mysteries. Thrusters on a Russian Progress docked to the International Space Station fire late Sunday to adjust the station’s altitude for a delayed June landing by three of the six astronauts. Celebrities and astronauts join a Houston gala to raise funds for the NASA 905 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft display. The next decade of U.S. commercial spaceflight promises strong growth.  A Russian Proton rocket launch failed on Saturday, destroying a Mexican communications satellite and extending concerns over Russia’s space sector. Virginia’s Wallops Island launch complex struggles to fund repairs from an October launch accident. NASA initiates efforts to develop commercial launch services dedicated to CubeSats. A look at major space related activities planned for the week ahead.

Human Deep Space Exploration

NASA undertakes design review of most powerful rocket to date

Houston Chronicle (5/15): Last week, NASA initiated a key critical design review for the Space Launch System exploration rocket at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. The review of all major systems and their readiness for a first ever unpiloted test flight of the launch vehicle in 2018 will continue into July.  The SLS is the propulsion source intended to start human explorers on future mission of deep space exploration.

Why colonize Mars? Sci-Fi authors weigh in (5/15): The human exploration of Mars offers a means of escaping and alleviating the difficulties the Earth is facing, according to a panel of science fiction writers who participated in the recent Humans to Mars Summit in Washington.

Unmanned Deep Space Exploration

NASA Pluto probe begins search for new moons, rings (5/15): NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is on the lookout for undiscovered moons and rings as it closes in on the first ever flyby of distant Pluto on July 14. Pluto has five known moons.  The long range hazard observations will last through July 1.

NASA craft could clear up Ceres, Pluto riddles

Arizona Daily Star (5/17): NASA’s Dawn and New Horizons spacecraft promise to make 2015 the year of the minor planet. As Dawn gradually lowers its orbit around Ceres, scientists expect to solve the mystery of the bright spots on the large asteroid’s cratered surface. New Horizons is on a course to carry out the first every flyby of Pluto on July 14.

Low Earth Orbit

ISS orbit adjustment maneuver conducted successfully

TASS, or Russia (5/18): The engines on a Russian Progress re-supply craft docked to the International Space Station’s fired for 23 minutes late Sunday to raise the altitude of the space station.  The engines failed to ignite Friday night, when the maneuver was originally scheduled. The higher altitude will set up a landing in Kazakhstan for three of the station’s six astronauts in June. Their landing last week was postponed by the April 28 launch failure of a newer Progress re-supply mission.

Chuck Norris delivers punch of support for Space Shuttle exhibit at Houston gala (5/17): The actor joined a Space Center Houston gala on Friday that included Apollo 17 commander Gene Cernan. The official visitor’s center for the Johnson Space Center hosted a successful fundraiser for Independence Plaza, a display for NASA 905, the modified Boeing 747 that served as a Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. The display includes a shuttle orbiter mockup positioned atop the aircraft.

Commercial to Low Earth Orbit

Eric Stallmer: Commercial space crawling now, soon will walk, run

Orlando Sentinel (5/17): Within a decade, an increasingly robust U.S. commercial space industry will account for 10 times the number of jobs it does today, while providing routine access to space, predicts Eric Stallmer, president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation.

Proton crash deals another blow to Russian space sector (5/16): Russia’s latest commercial Proton launch experiences a third stage failure, following a lift off Saturday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The failure claimed a Mexican communications satellite. The loss follows the failed April 28 launching of Russia’s Progress M-27M re-supply mission to the six person International Space Station.

ILS proton failure destroys Centenario satellite, leaves inmarsat in lurch 

Space News (5/16): Russia’s latest Proton launch goes awry with a Mexican communications satellite. The loss adds new uncertainty to ILS launch plans to place Inmarsat’s Global Xpress Ka-band service satellites in orbit.

Medvedev orders to set up commission for identifying responsible for Proton failure

TASS, of Russia (5/15): Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev initiated an investigation into the latest Proton loss.

With $2 million left on Wallops repair bill, NASA and Virginia look to Orbital ATK to dig deeper

Space News (5/15): Additional funding is needed to repair the damages from a late October launch mishap at Wallops Island, Va., involving an Antares/Cygnus resupply mission to the International Space Station, according to the state of Virginia, NASA and Orbital ATK, the commercial launch services company. All three would like the repairs complete by October to clear the way for a March launch.

NASA seeks launchers for smallest satellites

Florida Today (5/16): NASA’s Kennedy Space Center based Launch Services Program calls on commercial providers to propose new launch vehicles dedicated to CubeSat missions. Currently, CubeSats are riding larger rockets as secondary payloads.

Major Space Related Activities for the Week

Major space related activities for the week of May 18-24, 2015 (5/17): The U.S. House and Senate are in session. Toronto will host the International Space Development Conference.

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