CSExtra – Top Space News for Thursday, May 28, 2015

May 28th, 2015

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Today’s CSExtra offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from across the globe. An upcoming NASA high altitude flight test in Hawaii could ease future Mars landings. A rodent study suggests skin and hair problems experienced by astronauts may be linked to genetic and immune system responses to weightlessness. Pluto comes into focus for NASA’s New Horizons mission. The Planetary Society’s forward looking LightSail mission is interrupted by a communications loss. NASA’s Mission Control moves an International Space Station storage module early Wednesday to help pave the way for U.S. commercial crew vehicle dockings. The cause of an April International Space Station Russian Progress re-supply mission loss remains elusive. NASA orders its first commercial crew launch to the International Space Station from Boeing. In Florida, officials take a look at budget issues before signing an agreement for Space Florida to manage the former space shuttle runway at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. A European Ariane 5 places DIRECTV and Sky Mexico satellites in orbit.

Human Deep Space Exploration

NASA sets launch window for flying saucer test

Orlando Sentinel (5/27): On June 2, NASA intends to launch its Low-Density Space Decelerator from Hawaii. The LDSD combines an inflatable heat shield technology with the look of a flying saucer as a solution to landing high mass payloads on planetary surfaces, including humans and supplies on Mars. The initial test flight last year experienced difficulties with the parachute, following a high altitude balloon and rocket ride into the Earth’s upper atmosphere. The 2014 test prompted changes to the parachute.

Space travel linked to skin and hair issues, mice show (5/27): Skin and hair issues experienced by International Space Station astronauts may be linked to gene and immune system changes in response to weightlessness, recent research using rodents as stand-ins for human subjects suggests. The findings were reported in a new British journal, Microgravity published by Nature.

Unmanned Deep Space Exploration

New spacecraft photos hint at a rich and complex Pluto (5/28): As NASA’s New Horizons mission spacecraft races towards the first ever flyby of distant Pluto on July 14, the pictures transmitted back to Earth by the spacecraft keep getting better. The small complex world is beginning to reveal itself, according to the report.

LightSail solar sail test flight stalled by software glitch (5/27): Launched May 20 as a secondary CubeSat payload aboard an Atlas 5 rocket, the Planetary Society’s LightSail deployment demonstration mission encounters a communications loss. The satellite’s ills require a reboot, and it appears only a charged particle strike will do the trick. The LightSail demonstration is linked to the use of sunlight as a propulsion source for future interplanetary missions.

Low Earth Orbit

NASA moves PMM to make room for CCP spacecraft

Spaceflight Insider (5/27):  Responding to remote commands from NASA’s Mission Control, a robot arm early Wednesday moved a 22-foot long U.S. storage module from one berthing port to another outside the International Space Station. The transfer is the latest move in a complex reconfiguration of the six person Space Station planned for this year. The changes feature the addition of two docking ports for use by U.S. commercial crew transport spacecraft.

Cause of Russian Progress failure still TBD

CBS News (5/27): The events leading to the failed April 28 launching of Russia’s Progress M-27M/59 re-supply mission to the International Space Station remain elusive. In Russia, investigators are looking at both the third stage of the Soyuz launch vehicle as well as the Progress capsule. The cargo capsule re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere on May 8 carrying more than three tons of undelivered ISS propellant, crew supplies and research equipment. The loss has prompted delays in ISS crew departures and launches.

Commercial to Orbit

NASA orders first commercial crew flight

Aviation Week & Space Technology (5/27): NASA’s first order for the commercial transportation of astronauts to and from the International Space Station goes to Boeing and the CST-100. The first flight is expected by late 2017, though NASA warns the timing depends on Congressional funding decisions.

State budget uncertainty delays KSC runway deal

Florida Today (5/27): Space Florida, the state’s aerospace agency, postponed a scheduled vote on a deal to take over the management of NASA’s former Kennedy Space Center shuttle runway for multiple users. The delay will allow the state of Florida to assess budget issues, including $5 million in runway upgrades planned by Space Florida over the next two years.

DIRECTV satellites blast off on Ariane 5 rocket ((5/27): From Kourou in French Guiana, a European Ariane 5 lifts off Wednesday pl Sky Mexico broadcast television satellites.

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