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This week in The Space Review…
NASA has started to disclose more details about how the Space Launch System and Orion can be used in the 2020s to develop a “gateway” in cislunar space to support operations of a transport vehicle for missions eventually to Mars. Ari Allyn-Feuer explains some issues with that architecture and proposes an alternative, and potentially more effective, approach.
An updated version of a recent book about the first shuttle mission provides new details about efforts to collect images of the shuttle in orbit by a reconnaissance satellite. Dwayne Day examines those revelations as part of a broader effort to use spysats to spy on other satellites.
There’s been considerable speculation about Russia’s plans for the future of the ISS as well as potential participation in missions to the Moon and Mars. Jeff Foust reports on what the head of Roscosmos recently said about those issues in a rare press conference with Western reporters.
As the Trump Administration continues to show interest in reestablishing the National Space Council, many wonder what such an entity can achieve. Roger Handberg argues that it will depend if the council is preceded by an overarching vision for the country’s space policy.
Those who worked in Mission Control have never received the same amount of fame as the astronauts whose missions they supervised. Jeff Foust reviews a new documentary that puts those who worked there at the height of the Space Race into the limelight.
While the US Air Force provides the most detailed satellite catalog officially available, some objects are either missing or not updated. Charles Phillips discusses why that catalog should be made more complete, and how it could be done.
The highlight of last week’s Space Symposium conference in Colorado was arguably the display of Blue Origin’s New Shepard vehicle and an appearance by company founder Jeff Bezos. Jeff Foust reports on the status update Bezos provided on the company’s plans to send people on suborbital spaceflights, perhaps in 2018.
At a media event last week about Blue Origin’s plans, Jeff Bezos suggested the company could get into the small launch vehicle business as well. A.J. Mackenzie argues that if that happens, it spells trouble for the various other small launcher ventures out there today.
SpaceX is talking about not only increasing their flight rates, but attempting to recover the Falcon 9 payload fairing and second stage as well. Dick Eagleson examines how efforts to prove out second stage and payload fairing recovery might proceed and looks at related logistic challenges for SpaceX as it moves to greatly increase its launch cadence.
The threat of asteroid impacts is real, but often overhyped. Jeff Foust reviews a book that offers a thoughtful examination of asteroid impact risks and how astronomers are keeping tabs on the skies.
SpaceX achieved a major milestone last week with it successfully launched a satellite using a Falcon 9 first stage that had previously flown. Jeff Foust discusses how the question is now not whether such reusability is technically feasible, but rather if it can make economic sense.
Even recent efforts to make reusable launch vehicles have often resulted in vehicles that don’t look that dissimilar to rockets developed decades ago. John Hollaway argued that has created a tunnel vision that ignores alternative approaches to reducing the cost of space access.
As NASA presses ahead with a mission to study Jupiter’s potentially habitable moon Europa from orbit, it’s also beginning planning for a follow-up lander mission. Jeff Foust reports on the state of both proposed missions, and the fiscal hurdles now facing the lander.
As the space community changes, should NASA also change? Zach Miller starts a three-part series by looking at the origins and fiscal constrains of the agency.
NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory has been in orbit since 1999, but is far less well known than other space telescopes like Hubble. Jeff Foust reviews a book that offers a review of the science that Chandra has achieved by observing the universe at x-ray wavelengths.
As the new administration weighs its options for NASA’s human space exploration program, NASA is moving ahead with plans to develop an outpost in cislunar space to support its current Journey to Mars. Jeff Foust reports on recent developments, and how a return to the Moon might affect those plans.
The legal subcommittee of the UN’s Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space is meeting this week, with space resources one of the issues on the agenda. Anne-Sophie Martin examines the current state of efforts to establish space resource legal regimes at national and international levels.
One launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California has been preserved, turning it into a time capsule from the early days of the Space Age. Joseph T. Page II pays a visit to Space Launch Complex Ten.
If settlements are to survive and thrive beyond Earth, they will have to operate very differently from terrestrial cities. Babak Shakouri Hassanabadi argues that the consumerism found in modern-day society is inconsistent with the philosophy required for future settlements.
Quantum mechanics can seem baffling to many, but it’s essential to our understanding of the universe. Jeff Foust reviews a book that attempts to demystify the physics of the subatomic realm.
If NASA and other space agencies press ahead with plans for a cislunar gateway outpost, how would it be most effectively developed? John Strickland proposes a design that emphasizes cargo and propellant storage that can support, and be supported by, a lunar base.
In the White House budget proposal released last week, the Trump Administration mentioned in passing that NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission would be cancelled. Jeff Foust reports on what’s known about those plans, and the limbo that statement puts ARM into.
The concept of salvaging spacecraft in outer space has long been a part of science fiction, but faces legal challenges if attempted in real life. Michael Listner discusses how salvage could be applied to satellites or other space assets.
The movie The Space Between Us, about a teenager returning to Earth from Mars, flopped at the box office earlier this year. Dwayne Day examines what went wrong with the film and if it indicates popular interest in Mars is waning.
Can a novel about a human mission to Mars be more than just a science-fiction epic? Jeff Foust review a “literary fiction” approach to a novel about a crew preparing for the first human mission to the Red Planet.
Last month, NASA issued a request for ideas of payloads that could fly on a mysterious satellite the agency was getting from elsewhere in the government. Dwayne Day traces that satellite back to a National Reconnaissance Office program that briefly exited the black world nearly two decades ago.
By some accounts, this week marks the 15th anniversary of the founding of SpaceX. Jeff Foust examines the company’s legacy to date in shaking up the space industry, for better or for worse.
Military space programs have suffered from the perception they are considered less important by the US Air Force than aircraft. M.V. “Coyote” Smith argues that, to elevate the importance of space, it needs its own independent service within the military.
All eyes are on Washington to see what the Trump Administration might propose for NASA’s budget in 2018 and what new initiatives it might offer. Roger Handberg says that history suggests we should treat such proposals skeptically.
The site of a classified military space facility known as the “Blue Cube” is now home to a college and a government building. Joseph T. Page II visits the former Blue Cube site to see how its legacy has been preserved there.
As discoveries of exoplanets mount, both the variety of known worlds and the prospects that some could harbor life continue to mount. Jeff Foust reviews a book by two scientists that examines what some of these worlds might be like and how hospitable they may be to life in one form or another.
Last week, SpaceX announced plans for a commercial human mission around the Moon, while Blue Origin said it’s working on a lunar cargo lander concept. Jeff Foust reports on these developments, and examines if these developments are shaped by, or instead are shaping, space policy.
Gerald Black revisits last week’s commentary about human lunar missions with a call for NASA and SpaceX to work together on their proposed circumlunar missions, rather than compete with one another.
In the final part of his examination of Russian human spaceflight efforts, Bart Hendrickx discusses efforts by Russia, in cooperation with other space agencies, to develop a cislunar outpost that could support future exploration.
For decades, space advocates have been trying to recreate the factors that allowed the dramatic success of Apollo. Jack Kiraly identifies the key factors in the “formula” that enabled Apollo and why they may be a product of that era.
While new commercial space ventures have gotten a lot of attention recently, the business is still dominated by traditional satellite communications and related companies. Jeff Foust reviews a book that examines the current state of the industry and how it can transition to a new state of growth.
In the second part of his comprehensive assessment of the state of Russia’s human spaceflight program, Bart Hendrickx explores efforts in recent years by Russia to develop new crewed spacecraft and launch vehicles to support missions beyond Earth orbit.
NASA announced earlier this month it is studying the possibility of putting astronauts on the first SLS/Orion mission, which currently is set to fly without a crew. Jeff Foust reports on the details of the study and some of the issues NASA will likely to encounter.
If sending people back to the Moon is a good idea, should it be done with SLS and Orion? Gerald Black argues that it makes more sense to send humans back to the Moon using commercial vehicles arguably further along in their development.
The promise of space settlements has remained just that because of the extremely high costs of establishing these outposts beyond Earth orbit. Al Globus offers an alternative approach that he believes could be much more feasible by sticking closer to home.
As the debate continues about whether NASA should redirect its human space exploration program back to the Moon, another question is how to carry out such missions. Ajay Kothari says that such missions make sense provided they involve reusable launch vehicles.
Changing programs and restricted budgets often force NASA to make tough decisions about what older historic launch pads and other buildings it should maintain. Jeff Foust reviews a book that examines some of the issues associated with “space archeology” of NASA facilities, on Earth or on the Moon.
On Sunday, a Falcon 9 lifted off from Kennedy Space Center’s Pad 39A, the first launch from the historic pad since the end of the shuttle program. Jeff Foust reports on the significance of the launch both for SpaceX’s near- and long-term plans, and for KSC’s efforts to work with industry.
Russia’s human spaceflight program is suffering from the country’s broader economic downturn. In the first part of a series, Bart Hendrickx examines the effects those problems are having on Russia’s participation on the ISS and plans for a future space station.
In the concluding part of his examination of presidential leadership in space policy, Matt Chessen uses the lessons of history to examine whether a Trump Administration could provide strong leadership for space, and whether such leadership is even desirable.
Satellite operators seek to extend the lives of their spacecraft as long as possible, but run the risk of failures that could lead to in-orbit breakups. Charles Phillips offers a couple of case studies where operators face tough decisions about when to shut down their satellites.
An Indian rocket last week launched more than 100 satellites, the vast majority of which came from US companies. Ajey Lele warns that, despite the technical success of that mission, policy changes could make it harder for India to maintain its position in the smallsat launch market.
Fifty years ago, aerospace engineer Max Hunter published a book about the technical issues with launching spacecraft into Earth orbit and beyond. Jeff Foust reviews a reissue of that book to see how those assessments have stood the test of time.
Black ops and the shuttle (part 1): On-orbit servicing and recovery of the HEXAGON reconnaissance satellite
During the development of the space shuttle in the 1970s, the National Reconnaissance Office examined how it could use the shuttle to do more than simply launch its satellites. Dwayne Day examines what is known about proposals to adapt the HEXAGON satellites for the shuttle, including servicing.
NASA has grappled with the risks associated with human spaceflight for decades. Jeff Foust reports on how one top NASA official wants to reexamine how NASA calculates and communicates risk for crewed spacecraft.
For a while, it appeared that engineers had found all the ways a launch vehicle could fail. But, as Wayne Eleazer explains, new vehicles have created new failure modes, and even new categories of launch failures.
Space advocates continue to look back at President Kennedy as a model of presidential leadership in space policy. In the first of a two-part essay, Matt Chessen discusses what factors made Kennedy effective, and how they translated—or didn’t translate—to later administrations.
President Trump’s preferred method of communication seems to be Twitter. Sam Dinkin provides ten tweet-sized recommendations on how to make space great again.
It’s been a year since scientists announced the first direct detection of gravitational waves, opening a new window on the universe. Jeff Foust reviews a book that provides a look behind the scenes as the LIGO team works to interpret the discovery and make the historic announcement.
Last month, Eugene Cernan, the last human to date to walk on the Moon, passed away. Anthony Young recounts Cernan’s spaceflight career, including the missions leading up to Apollo 17.
Space advocates often talk about opening the space frontier, but is NASA really working to do so? Steve Hoeser argues that US space policy should be revamped to emphasize not just exploration of space, but establishing a growing economic presence there.
North Korea’s space program, interconnected to its missile development efforts,remains cloaked in secrecy. Jim Oberg, one of the few Westerners to get a glimpse of that effort, warns that the US should be cautious of any future satellite launch attempts.
In a little more than six months, a total solar eclipse will stretch across the United States, from Oregon to South Carolina. Jeff Foust reports on some of the planning to deal with the logistical issues of such an event, as well as the science some hope to get out of the eclipse.
The actions of the Trump administration led some to wonder if the US will turn away from international partnerships, in space and elsewhere. Vidvuds Beldavs suggests that space cooperation be a topic for this summer’s G20 summit.
Decades of spaceflight have created plenty of headlines in the history books, but also many other lesser-known tales. Jeff Foust reviews a book that offers a grab bag of those more obscure, but still interesting, stories.
In the 1970s, the National Reconnaissance Office considered developing an imaging payload that would fly on space shuttle missions. Dwayne Day reveals what is known about that effort thanks to newly-declassified documents.
The first week of the Trump Administration has been hectic, and a cause for concern among many scientists. Jeff Foust reports on the changes that have been made, what’s stayed the same, and the underlying concerns about science in the new administration.
Sometimes space history research can involve tracking down a long-forgotten object. John Charles describes his quest to find a piece of hardware from the Manned Orbiting Laboratory program.
How should the Trump Administration develop a space policy that can effectively deal with China? Michael Listner offers three principles that he believes should guide the new administration’s space policy.
Relations between the US and Russia have been contentious in recent years, although space has been mostly free of those tensions. Al Anzaldua and Dave Dunlop argue that a means of improving relations between the countries, and solving a key space-related problem, is to cooperate in space debris cleanup.
Fifty years ago this week, the Outer Space Treaty was formally opened for signature. Christopher Johnson discusses how the treaty took shape despite the US and USSR having sharply differing views on issues, like the role private actors should play in space.
Certain families of spacecraft in sun-synchronous orbit appear susceptible to in-orbit breakups. Charles D. Phillips examines the record of those groups of spacecraft and what could be causing those problems.
When NASA announced its selections of the next Discovery missions earlier this month, many were surprised that the agency chose two asteroid missions. Jeff Foust reports on the missions that were selected and what NASA is saying about why it chose those missions.
While companies like Blue Origin and SpaceX are making steps towards low-cost reusable launch vehicles, they fall short of what’s been done in other modes of transportation, such as aviation. Mike Snead describes what space transportation attributes should be pursued in federal policy to make society truly spacefaring.
A controversial provision of the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, passed in 2015, gives US companies rights to resources they extract from asteroids and other celestial bodies. Justin Rostoff argues that the law, as written, is in violation of international treaty.
Richard Garriott is known to the space community as the private citizen who flew to the ISS in 2008, but to computer gamers he is a legendary pioneer. Jeff Foust reviews his memoir that touches on both aspects of his life, including details of his long effort to get to space.
Four and a half months after a pad explosion, SpaceX returned the Falcon 9 to flight with the successful launch of a batch of Iridium satellites Saturday. Jeff Foust reports on the effort to resume Falcon 9 launches, and the other issues and upcoming milestones for SpaceX in the coming year.
The success of the National Geographic Channel series about Mars exploration has been enough to warrant a second season. Dwayne Day takes another look at that series and the overall interest in the Red Planet, in both fact and fiction.
There’s no shortage of advice about what the incoming Trump administration should do about space policy. A white paper from a space advocacy group argues that it should closely tie human spaceflight to commercial efforts.
US law grants rights to commercial asteroid miners for the resources they harvest, but how can that law be enforced? Thomas Simmons examines one issue with the law, dealing with the fact that such mining is likely to be done by robots, not humans.
Should be space exploration efforts be driven by a quest for science, or the expansion of humanity beyond Earth? Shalina Chatlani warns of the consequences of overlooking “scientific reality” in favor of realizing human visions.
Some space advocates believe that the public would offer greater support for space exploration if they only knew more about what’s going on in space. Jeff Foust reviews a book that attempts to provide such an education, but is ultimately flawed.
After Apollo 11 went to the Moon, US spy satellites collected images of a failed Soviet launch of its N-1 rocket. Charles Vick and Dwayne Day describe how the US intelligence community knew about the failure even before those images were returned.
There’s a recent, renewed push for developing space infrastructure, including a recent commentary endorsed by Jeff Bezos. Mike Snead supports that idea, but doesn’t believe it should be the responsibility of NASA to do so.
The future of NASA’s human spaceflight program is one of the key concerns of the space community as Donald Trump prepares to take office. Roger Handberg describes why that future will likely require greater cooperation with other nations.
Construction of one of the world’s largest telescopes atop a Hawaiian mountain has been stalled by protests and legal disputes. Jeff Foust reports that the observatory’s partners may soon have to make a decision about staying in Hawaii or moving to an alternate site.
Mars is widely seen as the long-term destination for human spaceflight, but is it the best place for people to go? J. Morgan Qualls that there’s much more to be done in cislunar space and elsewhere before thinking about going to Mars.
NASA’s fleet of space science missions is familiar to many space enthusiasts, although the people who work on them often are not. Jeff Foust reviews a book that provides an overview of a number of those missions and profiles the people working on them.
The incoming Trump Administration is considering re-establishing the National Space Council, based on campaign statements. John Logsdon recounts the checkered history of the council and examines if it is the best mechanism for coordinating space policy
In February 1969, US analysts were expecting the Soviets to launch a circumlunar mission of some kind in a last-minute bid to beat the Americans to the moon. Charles Vick and Dwayne Day describe the intelligence that went into that assessment, and also what they missed.
What the incoming Trump Administration will do in space policy remains a topic of speculation in the space community. Andrew Gasser describes how the new administration should focus on public-private partnerships to create a more effective space program.
Last month, the Chinese navy seized a US Navy robotic submersible and held it for a brief time. David Chen argues that episode could provide a precedent for China to do something similar with a satellite.
A new Star Wars movie has attracted large audiences since its debut last month. Dwayne Day, though, suggests that it’s Star Trek that offer the stronger connections to spaceflight, and a much-needed optimistic philosophy about the future.
Among the Apollo-era astronauts, among the least well known is Donn Eisele, who flew only one mission and passed away before he could publish his memoirs. Jeff Foust reviews a book that pieces together at least a partial story about his life and flying on Apollo 7, based on drafts of a book he started decades ago.
Concerns about growing anti-satellite capabilities of countries like China and Russia have led some to suggest the US step up its offensive space capabilities. Edward Ferguson and John Klein make the case that a more defensive stance to those threats will be more effective in the long run.
In the 1960s, President Johnson received intelligence briefings about the development of what would be known as the N-1 rocket, but what did he actually see? Charles Vick and Dwayne Day discuss declassified images of the N-1 as presented in those briefings.
In the conclusion of an examination of the future of America’s presence in low Earth orbit, Cody Knipfer explores some of the initiatives NASA has underway to potentially add commercial modules to the ISS, and the need for a plan to transition from the ISS to commercial space stations.
Several companies continue to make progress on small launch vehicles even as other suffer setbacks. Jeff Foust examines whether the next year will see some of those efforts finally take flight, and whether smallsat developers are interested in using them.
The incoming administration may be interested in redirecting NASA back to the Moon, arguably to develop infrastructure needed for future Mars missions. Chris Carberry and Rick Zucker argue that such an approach would only delay, not support, the goal of sending humans to Mars.
Human activity is changing the Earth, even if those changes were not the intent of that activity. Jeff Foust reviews a book by a planetary scientist and astrobiologist who examines the need to make deliberate changes to Earth to offset the damage, drawing in part upon our knowledge drawn from studies of our solar system.
While all the ISS partners have now agreed to extend operations of the station through at least 2024, the station’s life is finite. In the first of a two-part essay, Cody Knipfer examines some of the issues associated with the future of the ISS and potential commercial successors.
At a meeting of ministers of its member nations earlier this month, ESA got most of what it asked for, with the exception of funding for an asteroid mission called AIM. Jeff Foust recounts what happened to AIM and why ESA’s leader is not yet giving up on the mission.
As various space agencies make plans for missions to the Moon, Mars, and outer solar system, Venus—once considered Earth’s twin—looks neglected by comparison. Jeff Foust reports on how there’s increased enthusiasm for more missions to Venus, including decisions that could be made within weeks.
Should space-based solar power be part of the Trump Administration’s space strategy? Mike Snead makes the argument that it’s essential for the next administration to start work on a technology that can assure long-term energy independence.
Long before rocket girls were calculating hidden figures for NASA, women were supporting the research of astronomers at Harvard Observatory. Jeff Foust reviews a book that brings new light to that work as both the field of astronomy, and women’s roles in it, evolved at the turn of the 20th century.
A National Geographic Channel series currently airing offers a fictional look at a future Mars expedition, mixed with present-day documentary segments. Dwayne Day explores whether the series does much to make the case for the human settlement of the Red Planet.
As NASA continues to efforts to eventually send humans to Mars, studies are showing a wide range of health issues that long-duration spaceflight poses to astronauts. Roger Handberg wonders of those issues, and the increasing capabilities of robotic spacecraft, may close the window on human spaceflight.
Two of the recipients of awards from the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation last week were a space agency executive and a former Disney “imagineer.” Jeff Foust reports on a discussion between the two on innovation, risk taking, and a potential emerging “inflection point” for commercial space.
The use of terms like “microgravity” and “zero gravity” can lead some to erroneously conclude that there is no gravity at all in orbit. Philip Backman proposes an alternative term to better understand that environment.
Space advocates have for years lobbied for massive NASA budget increases, without success. Jeff Foust reviews a book that makes another case for a significant NASA funding increase to benefit the nation, but with few details about how it would be carried out.
A new wave of movies and television shows depicts humans exploring, and settling, Mars. In the first of a two-part essay, Dwayne Day examines one upcoming movie that mixes teen romance with Mars settlement.
Prior to the election, the National Space Society convened a group of experts to discuss what the next administration should do in space. That group provides here a set of five recommendations about how the government can bolster commercial space initiatives.
Since the election, much of the attention space policy has received has focused on the future of NASA programs and the agency’s leadership. Jeff Foust reports there are commercial space issues for the incoming administration to contend with as well.
A long-running challenge for advocates of human Mars exploration is building up and sustaining public interest in such missions. Joseph Smith argues that the best way to do that might be to go all-in on robotic Mars missions.
While mining of the Moon or asteroids may still be many years in the future, actions by the United States and, just recently, Luxembourg, are laying the regulatory framework to support such efforts. Jeff Foust reviews a book that examines the space mining field with a particular emphasis on its compliance with international accords.
In two years, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope should launch on a mission that could revolutionize astronomy. Jeff Foust reports that, after a near-death experience five years ago, work on the telescope remains on track to keep that launch on schedule.
The importance of artificial gravity research has generated some discussion of late, particularly after NASA officials downplayed its importance. Steve Hoeser why dismissing artificial gravity could be done at our peril.
In the early 1960s, John F. Kennedy helped lead America to the Moon by the end of the decade. Bryant Mishima-Baker argues that, instead of seeking support today for a long-term Mars initiative, we should attempt to accelerate the timetable as was done in the 1960s.
John Gresham, an author a range of military books who worked with Tom Clancy, among others, recently passed away. Dwayne Day recalls his life and his ties to space.
Most human spaceflight advocates believe that, ultimately, humans will go to and live on Mars. Jeff Foust reviews a book that argues that a better destination for humans beyond Earth lies much further out in the solar system.
To the surprise of many, Donald Trump won the presidential election last week, and is now ramping up his transition effort. Jeff Foust reports on what that means for space policy, including who could be the next NASA administrator.
Discussions of space settlement often focus on the technical issues to sustain a human presence beyond Earth. Babak Shakouri Hassanabadi notes that anthropological issues can’t be ignored if human settlements are to thrive.
While the efforts of Blue Origin and SpaceX to develop reusable launch vehicles are well known, they’re not the only RLV programs in the world. Antoine Meunier discusses projects in Europe and Asia to develop reusable launchers.
The recent Falcon 9 pad accident is a reminder that launch failures are still a part of the space business, and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Anirudh Rastogi and Kshetragya Nath Singh examine the contractual issues that take such failures into account.
National Geographic Channel is premiering a new series about Mars exploration that mixes fictional depictions of future missions with real accounts of present-day research. Jeff Foust reviews a book that is a companion to the series that sticks to fact over fiction.
As a long presidential campaign winds to a close, the major presidential candidates have finally offered some space policy details. Jeff Foust reports on what Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have said about space, and how their positions in some cases may not be as far apart as one might expect.
Regardless of the outcome of the election, it’s possible, and perhaps necessary, to develop a more visionary space policy. A group of Air Force officers propose their own policy that they believe is vital to American leadership in space in the 21st century.
A bill proposed as part of a space advocacy effort this year would promote the development of low-cost reusable launch vehicles with a prize. Steve Hoeser describes why he believes that concept would work far better than previous RLV initiatives.
As Orbital ATK returned its Antares rocket to flight last month, the company has also been working on new launch vehicle concepts. Jeffrey Smith examines what’s known about the company’s next-generation launch vehicle, and how it could serve markets beyond ISS resupply.
A Princeton University introductory astronomy course taught by three astronomers, including one quite famous one, has become the basis of a new book. Jeff Foust reviews the book to see what you can learn about astrophysics without stepping into an Ivy League classroom.
Satellite observers have been puzzled for years by the motions of one particular classified US satellite. Marco Langbroek explains how recently published revelations about the purpose of that satellite help explain its movements, and those of other classified spacecraft.
Concerns about the effect of weightlessness on astronauts flying extended missions could conceivably be mitigated simply with some form of artificial gravity. Yet, Jeff Foust reports that for a variety of reasons, neither NASA or space companies seem interested in developing spacecraft that provide at least partial gravity.
A passage in a recent book about the development of GPS mentions an early 1970s meeting over a holiday weekend at the Pentagon known as “Lonely Halls.” Richard Easton examines historical documents to study just how relevant that meeting was to what became GPS.
India recently revealed for the first time that it used intelligence from its satellites to carry out a “surgical strike” against an alleged terrorist camp. Vidya Sagar Reddy discusses how India’s views towards the military use of satellites has evolved over the history of its space program.
A long-running flight simulator for space missions recently got another update. Bruce Irving reviews the changes to Orbiter and how it stacks up against other options, like Kerbal Space Program.
Last week, ESA’s Schiaparelli spacecraft attempted to land on the surface of Mars and, based on the available evidence, crashed. Svetoslav Alexandrov argues that, despite the failure of the landing itself, the overall mission can still be considered a success in preparing for future Mars missions.
One reason that ESA’s recently-concluded Rosetta comet mission got so much public attention was a carefully crafted outreach effort. Chris Petty examines how ESA used cartoons and social media to explain a complex comet mission.
While the US Air Force has long shouldered the role of issuing warnings of potential satellite collisions in orbit, there are efforts to hand over at least some of that work to the FAA. Jeff Foust reports on those efforts and the issues they raise, including what exactly “space traffic management” should mean.
Elon Musk announced last month an Interplanetary Spaceship that he aims to produce for $200 million each in the 2040s. Sam Dinkin considers what the financing options are.
Mike Massimino is better known than many former astronauts thanks to his social media presence and sitcom cameos. Jeff Foust reviews his new book where he recounts his life before and after becoming an astronaut.
NASA’s current plans for human Mars missions don’t involve reusable spacecraft, but such systems may be essential to long-term exploration and settlement. John Strickland explains how one concept for a reusable Mars lander could make human Mars missions more sustainable.
As Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic make progress on their suborbital spacecraft, some wonder who will be the first to enter commercial service. Jeff Foust reports that neither company appears to be in a race with the either for that achievement.
Advances in technologies can have effects far beyond their original field. Steve Hoeser discusses how certain technologies can have great leverage, and explores one potential technology that could affect spaceflight.
Spaceflight has been the subject of episodes of several contemporary TV series, usually not coming off very well. Dwayne Day, though, examines one such episode that may be the worst of them all.
There’s been a strong link throughout history between real spaceships and those imagined in science fiction tales. Jeff Foust reviews a book that offers an illustrated history of both classes of vehicles.
SpaceX is the latest venture to propose sending humans to Mars as some kind of private effort. Chris Carberry and Rick Zucker explore if there is, in fact, a commercial case for human Mars missions.
One key element missing from Elon Musk’s announcement of his Mars settlement plans is how people will live once they get to the planet. Sam Dinkin looks at some options for those considering buying a ticket to the Red Planet.
Companies are proposing the deploy networks of hundreds or even thousands of satellites in the next several years. Jeff Foust reports that these systems pose new concerns about the growing orbital debris environment in low Earth orbit.
A technology called the blockchain promises to revolutionize electronic commerce on Earth. Vidvuds Beldavs describes how the blockchain and related technologies can advance the development of a true space economy.
Efforts to search for signals from extraterrestrial civilizations entered a new chapter last year with a $100-million private donation. Jeff Foust reviews a book that examines both the long, and sometimes difficult, history of SETI projects as well as the motivation for scanning the skies.
Last week, at long last, Elon Musk offered details about the rockets and spacecraft he sees SpaceX developing to send large numbers of people to Mars. Jeff Foust reports on the details of his plan, the spectacle of the speech itself, and questions yet to be answered about his proposed effort.
From time to time, someone proposes that the Pentagon and NASA more closely cooperate in various areas of spaceflight. Wayne Eleazer notes that this idea is hardly new, and had rarely resulted in any real savings for either military or civil space efforts.
The launch of an Indian PSLV rocket last week featured one twist from previous missions, by placing its payload of satellites into two different orbits. Ajey Lele argues this is another step in making India competitive in the global launch market.
The end of the Rosetta mission last week marked the beginning of something else: the release of a new album by composer Vangelis inspired by the comet mission. Dwayne Day examines the long-running links between Vangelis and other electronic music composers and spaceflight.
This week marks the 12th anniversary of the final flight of SpaceShipOne, capturing the $10-million Ansari X PRIZE. Jeff Foust reviews a book that examines the history of that effort, as seen by many of its key players, leading up to that final flight.
Elon Musk will unveil his plans for human missions to Mars this week, but he’s not the only person talking about Mars exploration. Jeff Foust reports there’s a new emphasis on Mars mission planning, as other companies and organizations propose alternative approaches for getting humans to the Red Planet.
Getting space settlement put into law as a goal for US space policy has been a long-running goal of space advocates. Cody Knipfer argues that there are encouraging signs of progress.
Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, among others are developing the technical capabilities to establish private enterprise space settlements. Alan Wasser points out that actually establishing space settlements would be infinitely easier to fund if they could be as potentially profitable as their other businesses.
An upcoming movie highlights the lives of African American women who worked as “computers” for NASA and its predecessor at the dawn of the Space Age. Jeff Foust reviews the book the movie is based on, which examines the many challenges these women faced and overcame.
In the conclusion to his series about the development of signals intelligence satellites by the US during the Cold War, Dwayne Day looks at one class of spacecraft that provided key data on Soviet activities for decades.
Last week, Blue Origin unveiled its planned orbital launch vehicle, New Glenn, that likely will be able to place payloads weighing dozens of metric tons into low Earth orbit. Jeff Foust notes it’s the latest development in heavy-lift vehicles that include programs by NASA and SpaceX.
The pad accident that destroyed a Falcon 9 rocket early this month during preparations for a static fire test was rare, but not unprecedented. Wayne Eleazer examines some of the previous pad mishaps in the history of the Space Age.
Last week marked the second anniversary of NASA’s award of commercial crew contracts to Boeing and SpaceX. Jeff Foust reports that, despite initial hopes that one or both vehicles would be ready by the end of 2017, delays until late 2018 are looking increasingly likely for both.
As SpaceX continued to investigate a mysterious pad accident that destroyed a Falcon 9, United Launch Alliance flawlessly launched another NASA mission last week. Jeff Foust reports on those developments and their implications for both companies.
Formerly the head of Arianespace, Jean-Yves Le Gall currently runs the French space agency CNES and soon will take over the presidency of the International Astronautical Federation. Théo Pirard interviews Le Gall about his priorities at both CNES and the IAF.
An aerospace flight demonstrator can help prove technologies and business cases for full-scale vehicles, if they’re selected properly. Steve Hoeser describes the various types of flight demonstrators and how they should best be used to further a vehicle development effort.
The search for life beyond Earth has attracted a lot of public interest, but where is the best place to look for such life? Jeff Foust reviews a book that offers an astrobiological survey of the solar system and beyond.
An explosion during a test last week destroyed a Falcon 9 rocket and its satellite payload, and damaged its launch pad. Jeff Foust examines the implications of the accident for SpaceX and other companies and organizations.
Much of the discussion about human missions to Mars has focused on the technical challenges of such missions. Joelle Renstrom argues that the various ethical considerations of such missions should not be ignored.
On Thursday, a NASA mission to collect samples from an asteroid is scheduled to lift off. Jeff Foust reports on goals of the OSIRIS-REx mission, which range from understanding the origins of the solar system to paving the way for future asteroid mining efforts.
There are no shortage of reasons why humans should travel to Mars. Eric Hedman describes how the effort needed for such an expedition could catalyze technological development and education, helping improve conditions for people around the world.
Even after the US won the race to the Moon, American intelligence monitored Soviet development of the N-1, and reported on it to President Nixon. Dwayne Day discusses what Nixon learned about the N-1 based on recently declassified intelligence briefings.
Christine Anderson originally signed on to run New Mexico’s Spaceport America for a year; she stepped down earlier this month after five and a half years on the job. Jeff Foust examines the state of the spaceport, including efforts she led to diversify the spaceport’s customer base.
While some planetary missions readily share the images they take with the public, others are more reticent to do so. Svetoslav Alexandrov argues that, in an era of instant access to information, all missions should be more open in releasing images.
A small museum in Albuquerque contains a collection of meteorites, including some from Mars. Joseph Page provides an overview of the museum and its exhibits.
NASA is trying to promote commercial activities in low Earth orbit to help build demand for commercial facilties once the ISS is retired. Jeff Foust reviews a free ebook published by the agency with papers examining the economic issues with that effort.
After the Pentagon cancelled the Manned Orbiting Laboratory program in 1969, it faced the question of what to do with the hardware already built for it. Dwayne Day examines what’s known from declassified documents about that effort, including the transfer of mirrors for use in an observatory.
Part of the effort by NASA to develop commercial crew transportation systems involves human-rating the Atlas V rocket that will launch Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner. Anthony Young discusses that effort to prepare both the rocket and the launch site for missions to fly astronauts to the space station.
There’s growing interest in using CubeSats for a variety of scientific, commercial, and other applications. However, Jeff Foust reports that CubeSat developers are grappling with the issue of reliability of such satellites, which suffer higher failure rates than larger spacecraft.
Some in the Middle East are concerned that Iran, now free of sanctions linked to nuclear weapons development, might become more aggressive in the region. Michael Listner argues that this should provide an impetus for other nations there to develop comprehensive, coherent space policies.
Europe has been a major partner on the International Space Station program, even though it’s the last to formally endorse an extension of station operations through 2024. Jeff Foust reviews a book that recaps the first decade of European expeditions to the ISS, with many details but few deeper insights about the overall effort.
As the number of smallsats under development grows, so does the number of options for getting those satellites into space. Jeff Foust reports on efforts to both develop dedicated small launch vehicles as well as make greater use of rideshares on larger rockets.
New technologies are allowing high altitude balloons to perform applications once reserved for satellites. Alan Stern describes the new capabilities such balloons offer and how they are augment or replace space capabilities.
In these turbulent times, can space exploration help unite society? Zach Miller argues that lessons from the Apollo era, combined with the growth of commercial space ventures, show what is possible.
Gus Grissom was the second American in space, but most people’s perceptions of him are shaped by the negative portrayal of him in The Right Stuff and his death on Apollo 1. Jeff Foust reviews a book that attempts to offer a more complete biography of the man and his contributions to NASA.
There is an ongoing debate about whether humans should first return to the Moon before setting out on expeditions to Mars. Chris Carberry and Rick Zucker argue that human lunar missions should stand or fall on their own merits, rather than be justified as Mars precursors.
Germany will hold the presidency for the G20 nations in 2017. In an open letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the International Lunar Decade Working Group suggests she include space development, including a “Moon Village,” on the agenda of issues the G20 will take up in 2017.
Regardless of who wins the election, the next administration is likely to take a close look at NASA’s major exploration programs. Jeff Foust reports that while NASA says those efforts are making good progress, GAO reports found potential cost and schedule issues with them.
An article a space website reprinted from a Russian news service appears to have extensively borrowed, without attribution, from another article. Dwayne Day examines this latest case of space plagiarism and why this is a serious problem.
Who will be the customers of commercial space stations that companies, and NASA, envision being developed within the next decade? Jeff Foust reports that there are a number of potential markets for them, including an interesting new effort in space manufacturing.
If you could get the presidential candidates to answer one question about their prospective space policies, what should it be? Jeff Foust argues that it might to get them to explain why they believe NASA should have a human spaceflight program.
Forty-five years ago this week, the Apollo 15 astronauts held a brief, private ceremony to memorialize the astronauts and cosmonauts who had died in the last decade. Jeff Foust reviews a book that examines the lives of those men and the circumstances of their deaths.
NASA hopes that, by the time it’s ready to retire the International Space Station in the 2020s, one or commercial space stations will be ready to support researchers and others using the ISS today. Jeff Foust reports that one step towards a commercial station may be a commercial module on the ISS.
In the second and final part of his examination of literature set in cislunar space, Ken Murphy reviews novels from the 1990s to the present, and looks at some overall trends in literature.
A recent study suggests that the Moon has played a bigger role than previously thought in making the Earth habitable. Peter Kokh says this, plus the Moon’s role in our future, should influence what we consider to be “Earth-like” worlds.
The concept of mission control is one that has been an essential part of spaceflight since the beginning of the Space Age, but not all mission controls are alike. Jeff Foust reviews a book that examines differences in mission controls based on country and types of missions.
Scott Kelly returned to Earth earlier this year after spending nearly a year on the International Space Station. Jeff Foust reports on what he said his experience there was like, and how a study involving his twin brother may provide new insights into the effects of long-duration spaceflight.
One of the fundamental questions of human spaceflight is why humans should go beyond Earth at all. Eric Hedman examines human spaceflight from the perspective of the survival imperative, and what research needs to be done to ensure that humans can, in fact, survive on other worlds.
Stories about activities in cislunar space have been staples of science fiction for decades. In the first of a two-part review, Ken Murphy examines some of the cislunar science-fiction novels in the first few decades of the Space Age.
The National Air and Space Museum reopened their Milestones of Flight gallery at the beginning of this month to mark the museum’s 40th anniversary. Jeff Foust explores what is new about the gallery, and what’s missing.
Two SLS to Jupiter: The motivations and ramifications of the Europa mission’s launch vehicle mandate
At the direction of Congress, NASA is not only working on a mission to send an orbiter and lander to Jupiter's moon Europa, it's also planning to launch them on the Space Launch System heavy-lift rockets. Cody Knipfer examines both the benefits and drawbacks to this approach.
Venture capital investment, once a rarity for entrepreneurial space companies, is becoming increasingly commonplace. Jeff Foust reports on some of trends that both investors and companies see in the market, and how long that surge of investment might last.
One year ago this week, the New Horizons spacecraft flew past Pluto, providing our first close-up views of that distant world. Dwayne Day examines what's changed, and what hasn't, in the year since the spacecraft encounter.
As Iridium prepares to launch its next-generation satellite system, it's worth remembering that, 16 years ago, the original satellite constellation was on the verge of being deorbited. Jeff Foust reviews a book that recounts how one retired businessman led the effort that eventually saved the system.
Seattle is working to make a name for itself as a hub for the entrepreneurial space industry. Jeff Foust reports on what companies and local officials think make the region stand out, and what obstacles it faces.
During the 1960s, the United States ramped up its development of signals intelligence satellites, and found new uses for them as well. Dwayne Day describes how satellites developed for identifying radars in the Soviet Union also played a role in the Vietnam War.
A new white paper by the Atlantic Council offers proposals to revise the current US national security space policy. Christopher Stone argues that the new proposal is in many ways similar to the current policy, and has the same flaws.
The International Space Station is an outpost for research and preparation for future exploration, but is it also an architectural landmark? Jeff Foust reviews a book that makes that argument as it provides a history of the station’s development.
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