Videos: “Space to Ground” ISS report – April.26.2019

A new episode of NASA’s weekly Space to Ground report on activities related to the International Space Station:

** The CRS-17 science and technology payloads set to go to the ISS next week aboard a SpaceX Cargo Dragon:

** Living and Working in Space: Microbes

As we search beyond Earth, microbes play a key role in the space environment. Researchers analyze single celled organisms like bacteria and fungi to help uncover important facts that will support deep-space missions. Along with understanding how microbes adapt and react on the International Space Station, scientist stress the importance of planetary protection. The goal of protecting Earth from potentially harmful microbes are important to human survival and the universe at large.

** Expedition 59 Inteviews with Army News Service KCTS and KUOW Radio April 24, 2019:


Space policy roundup – April.26.2019

A sampling of links to recent space policy, politics, and government (US and international) related space news and resource items that I found of interest:


** China in Space: A Strategic Competition? | U.S.-CHINA – Senate hearing on April 25, 22019:

Unable to see this video? Click here.

** The Space Show – Mon, 04/22/2019Daniel Suarez discussed his new science fiction novel, Delta-v, and “deep space mining, space economics, commercial space, policy and regulations, government space activities, risk taking, lunar return, Mars and much much more”.

** The Space Show – Tue, 04/23/2019Jeffrey Smith talked about his two recent booster series articles on The Space Review (Part 1 and Part 2) and “also talked rocket and booster history, returning to the Moon and more”.

** Constellations, a New Space and Satellite Innovation Podcast: 48 – Explosion in VC Funding, The Year of Commercial Space Travel and Earth Observation for Everyone

Investment in the satellite and space industry has evolved from traditional government sources to backing by a couple of billionaire Unicorn investors, and now to an explosion in venture capital and angel investors driving the industry. This new wave of funding has taken the industry from a dozen or so privately funded space companies globally in 2009 to 435 today, that have received over $20 billion in investment. Chad Anderson, CEO of Space Angels discusses many of the exciting trends occurring in the space industry including where investment funding is going, and more importantly why. He talks about his prediction that 2018 would be the year of SmallSat and that 2019 will be the year of Commercial Space Travel. Chad also discusses the potential for earth observation to follow the path of GPS and become tightly intertwined in our everyday lives.

** April 23, 2019 Zimmerman/Batchelor podcast | Behind The Black



Outpost in Orbit: A Pictorial & Verbal History of the Space Station

Space transport roundup – April.25.2019

A sampling of recent articles, videos, and images dealing with space transport:

** The Chinese launch startup ‘Space Transportation’ tests a winged reusable rocket, built in partnership with a team at Xiamen University: “Tianxing I-1” first horizontal recovery technology verified the success of the rocket test flight – (Google Translation).

…Aerospace Academy successfully launched the “Jia Geng No. 1” winged rocket – Xiamen University

** NASA documentary on Rocket Lab Electron launch of 10 student built CubeSats sponsored by the agency:

In December 2018, a Rocket Lab Electron rocket launched from remote Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand carrying a NASA payload of 10 small satellites called Educational Launch of Nanosatellites-19 (ELaNa-19). The Electron is one of two vehicles NASA selected for its Venture Class Launch Service, in which small satellites, called CubeSats, fly on rockets designed especially for their needs. In this documentary, learn how the first launch of the Venture Class era demonstrates how the right ride into space can enable the designers of small satellites—from high schools and universities to NASA field centers—to dream big. To launch with ELaNa, visit

>>> Rocket Lab’s next launch is set for no earlier than May 4th and has a 2 week long window.

The satellites on board this mission will represent Rocket Lab’s heaviest launch to date, with the total payload weighing in at more than 180 kg. There are three research and development experiments on board for the U.S. Air Force, including: 

    • The Space Plug and Play Architecture Research CubeSat-1 (SPARC-1) mission, sponsored by the Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate (AFRL/RV), is a joint Swedish-United States experiment to explore technology developments in avionics miniaturization, software defined radio systems, and space situational awareness (SSA).
    • The Falcon Orbital Debris Experiment (Falcon ODE), sponsored by the United States Air Force Academy, will evaluate ground-based tracking of space objects, such as space junk. 
    • The Harbinger research payload is a commercial small satellite built by York Space Systems that will demonstrate the ability of an experimental commercial system to meet government space capability requirements.

** Interstellar Technologies targeting April 30th for the suborbital MOMO launch attempt. There will be a live webcast. Check their Twitter page for latest info and links. Here is a video of a recent full duration test firing of the MOMO engine. Last year the engine on a MOMO rocket shut off shortly after liftoff and the rocket fell back to the pad and exploded.

** LinkSpace’s recent test (see previous roundup) is briefly described in this item: China’s LinkSpace successfully launches reusable rocket to a new height –

** An update on the SNC Dream Chaser cargo vehicle program:

>> SNC also continues to pursue a crew version of the Dream Chaser: Dream Chaser progress ahead of CRS2 as SNC keeps crew version alive –

** The design of the Turbo Rocket, an oxygen breathing vertical launch rocket, was presented by John Bucknell at the recent Space Access 2019 conference: Turbo Rocket –

Here is a video of presentation Bucknell gave in 2018:

** Stratolaunch looks for secure launch work following the successful first flight of the company’s giant aircraft: OPINION: Stratolaunch hopes to avoid Spruce Goose’s fate – Flight Global

Stratolaunch, usurper of Spruce Goose’s biggest-ever title, might seem equally ridiculous. Composite construction, two fuselages, six engines and other bits hacked together from old 747s, lots and lots of wheels and bogeys… But it flies, and apparently flies very well.

What we do not know is whether Stratolaunch has an economically viable future. Built to heft huge rockets to 35,000ft for air-launch, it is expected to start commercial life in 2020 launching Pegasus rockets, whose payload capacity is less than 400kg – a load easily orbited by any number of existing launchers. Moreover, Pegasus – normally air-launched from a modified Lockheed L-1011 – has flown only 35 times. Not a lot of demand there.

** Blue Origin grows its facilities in Washington state: Blue Origin will expand HQ and R&D in Kent – iLoveKent

Blue Origin is “going vertical” with its new headquarters and research and development facility in Kent, as they are expanding their world-class team, and will be building a new 250,000-square-foot facility that will support their new growth.

This means more rocket building, more hiring of rocket scientists, and a continued connection to space for the home of the original Lunar Rovers – Kent!

“I am so thrilled to see the progress on their new facility and love the energy they are putting into the business and that their employees will bring to the community,” Mayor Dana Ralph said. “We are proud they call the Kent Valley home.”

** The SpaceShip Company is buiding additional SpaceShipTwo rocket vehicles for Virgin Galactic:

** More about Boeing Starliner sea recovery tests carried out with NASA: DoD practices Starliner at sea recovery for first time –

In a critical first for Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner capsule, the crew transportation vehicle is putting DoD and Air Force rescue teams through their paces as they seek to understand and refine what will be needed to rescue a Starliner crew from the capsule should an off-nominal landing in the water occur.

** Scott Manley: The Expander Cycle Rocket Engines – Using Waste Heat To Drive Your Rocket:

Another installment of ‘Things Kerbal Space Program Doesn’t Teach’ – explaining the expander cycle rocket engines in more detail. Expander cycles use the waste heat from the combustion chamber and nozzles to boil liquid hydrogen and power the turbines. The main advantages are cooler, less chemically active turbine environments, but if used in a closed cycle design the total thrust is limited.

** Relativity Space gets another launch contract. The company known for 3D printing its rockets, follows the multi-launch contract with Telesat with a contract with mu Space of Thailand: Relativity’s 3D Printed Terran 1 Rocket to Launch mu Space’s Low Earth Orbit (LEO) Satellite | Business Wire

Relativity, the world’s first autonomous rocket factory and launch services leader for satellite constellations, today announced a partnership with mu Space, the innovative Thai satellite and space technology company, to launch a satellite to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) on Relativity’s Terran 1 rocket, the world’s first and only 3D printed rocket.

Relativity’s groundbreaking, patented 3D printing technology platform together with Terran 1’s unique and flexible architecture provides mu Space a faster and more reliable launch at a lower total mission cost than any other launch services company in the world. With this launch partnership, two of the most visionary and innovative aerospace startups are sharing expertise, resources, and capabilities to transform the satellite launch and services industry across the U.S. and Asia-Pacific regions.

Relativity is developing the first and only aerospace platform to integrate machine learning, software, and robotics with metal 3D printing technology to build and launch rockets in days instead of years, disrupting 60 years of global aerospace manufacturing. The company expects to build its Terran 1 rocket from raw material to launch-ready in less than 60 days. As an innovator in the Asia-Pacific and international arenas, mu Space is developing both Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO) satellite and space technologies that will accelerate the adoption of Internet of Things (IoT) devices in smart cities, and encourage new space investments in the Asia-Pacific region. mu Space’s LEO satellite will be a primary, dedicated payload on Relativity’s Terran 1 rocket, launching in 2022.

** Momentus Space offers space tug services for satellites aiming to go from one orbit to another: Momentus seeks up to $25 million as it inks deals to transport cargo beyond low Earth orbit | TechCrunch

The service can deliver 300 kilograms or 400 kilograms within low Earth orbit and up to 100 kilograms to a lunar orbit, according to Kokorich — for a cost of around $4.8 million.

That’s radically cheaper than solutions that are currently on offer. Momentus uses rockets from any of the big private vendors to get its vessels into space and from there its own propulsion technologies and spacecrafts will haul a small cargo (roughly the size of a kitchen table) anywhere else it needs to go, [CEO Mikhail] Kokorich says.

** SpaceX:

>> Crew Dragon explosion investigation continues with little info released to the public so far:

>> Cargo Dragon mission remains targeted for an April 30th launch from Cape Canaveral: NASA moves ahead with cargo Dragon launch after Crew Dragon anomaly –

>> Video of the bottom half of the Falcon Heavy core booster at Port Canaveral. The booster landed successfully but later fell over onto the landing platform during heavy seas. A hold-down system for securing a core booster to prevent such toppling was not ready in time for this latest FH launch. Video via

>> Starship related activity continues at SpaceX’s Boca Chica Beach facilities but no sign yet of the Raptor engine, which was removed from the Starhopper after a short hop a couple of weeks ago.

The last few weeks of SpaceX’s work on Starship and Starhopper prototypes has been marked by less visible progress relative to the past few months. The changes that are visible, however, confirm that its Boca Chica engineers are working around the clock to complete the first orbital Starship prototype.

At the same time, it appears that SpaceX’s South Texas facilities are preparing for a rapid period of expansion and build-up. New work around the ad-hoc Starhopper pad has recently begun, while construction of a second concrete jig for concurrent prototype fabrication and what will likely be a more permanent hangar and control facility are also ramping up. Things have been quiet news-wise for SpaceX’s McGregor and Hawthorne facilities but there is reason to believe that Raptor production and testing is going smoothly.

Today there was a lot of pad work underway:


Space 2.0: How Private Spaceflight, a Resurgent NASA, and International Partners are Creating a New Space Age

Videos: TMRO Orbit 12.14 – “How we see more of the Universe”

The latest episode of the Space webcast program:

This week we bring on Dr. Jielai Zhang to talk about Dragonfly Telephoto Array, its unique capabilities, why it was needed and what they have found or hope to find out so far. We also cover the role of astronomy as a gateway field to STEM and the West African International Summer School for Young Astronomers program.

TMRO’s latest space news report:


Galaxy Girls: 50 Amazing Stories of Women in Space.

Space sciences roundup – April.24.2019

A sampling of recent articles, videos, and images from space-related science news items:

** The InSight Mars Lander detects its first Marsquake using the seismometer set on the ground next to the spacecraft:

From NASA:

NASA’s Mars InSight lander has measured and recorded for the first time ever a likely “marsquake.”

The faint seismic signal, detected by the lander’s Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument, was recorded on April 6, the lander’s 128th Martian day, or sol. This is the first recorded trembling that appears to have come from inside the planet, as opposed to being caused by forces above the surface, such as wind. Scientists still are examining the data to determine the exact cause of the signal.

This image, taken March 19, 2019 by a camera on NASA’s Mars InSight lander, shows the rover’s domed Wind and Thermal Shield, which covers its seismometer, the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure, and the Martian surface in the background. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The seismometer signals can be converted to audio:

This video and audio illustrates a seismic event detected by NASA’s Mars InSight rover on April 6, 2019, the 128th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. Three distinct kinds of sounds can be heard, all of them detected as ground vibrations by the spacecraft’s seismometer, called the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS): noise from Martian wind, the seismic event itself, and the spacecraft’s robotic arm as it moves to take pictures. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/CNES/IPGP/Imperial College London.

The new seismic event was too small to provide solid data on the Martian interior, which is one of InSight’s main objectives. The Martian surface is extremely quiet, allowing SEIS, InSight’s specially designed seismometer, to pick up faint rumbles. In contrast, Earth’s surface is quivering constantly from seismic noise created by oceans and weather. An event of this size in Southern California would be lost among dozens of tiny crackles that occur every day.

“The Martian Sol 128 event is exciting because its size and longer duration fit the profile of moonquakes detected on the lunar surface during the Apollo missions,” said Lori Glaze, Planetary Science Division director at NASA Headquarters.

Note that the signals’ frequencies “have been sped up by a factor of 60” since otherwise the vibrations would not be audible to the human ear.

** More quakes in the Cosmos are being detected more quickly with newly upgraded gravity wave observatories in the US and Italy. The sensitivities of the detectors have been increased to a level such that signals picked up at the LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) installations in Louisiana, and Washington plus the European Virgo detector in Italy will result in roughly one gravity wave detection per week. A new public alert system will let everyone know when a detection occurs:

From PSU:

Two new probable gravitational waves — ripples in the fabric of spacetime caused by cataclysmic cosmic events and first predicted by Albert Einstein over 100 years ago — have been detected by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) and the Virgo observatory in Italy in the first weeks after the detectors were updated. The source of both waves is believed to be the merging of a pair of black holes.

LIGO announced the discovery of the first new gravitational wave in its first-ever open public alert on April 8, and quickly followed up with a second announcement on April 12. LIGO detected the first-ever gravitational wave in September 2015, and announced the discovery in February 2016. Ten more gravitational waves were detected over the following three years, but with updates to LIGO and Virgo, scientists expect to see as many as one per week, which so far has proven true.

Updates to LIGO and Virgo have combined to increase its sensitivity by about 40 percent over its last run. Additionally, with this third observing run, LIGO and Virgo transitioned to a system whereby they alert the astronomy community almost immediately of a potential gravitational wave detection. This allows electromagnetic telescopes (X-ray, UV, optical, radio) to search for and hopefully find an electromagnetic signal from the same source, which can be key to understanding the dynamics of the event.

“The region of sky believed to contain the source of the gravitational wave detected on April 8, 2019. The area spans 387 square degrees, equivalent to nearly 2000 full-Moons, roughly meandering through the constellations Cassiopeia, Lacerta, Andromeda, and Cepheus in the northern hemisphere. IMAGE: LIGO/Caltech/MIT”

… The source of both gravitational waves is suspected to be compact binary mergers — the collision of two massive and incredibly dense cosmic objects into one another. Compact binary mergers can occur between two neutron stars, two black holes, or a neutron star and a black hole. Each of these different types of mergers create gravitational waves with strikingly different signals, so the LIGO team can identify the type of event that created the gravitational waves.

** Huge gallery of Rosetta mission images of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is now available on line at the OSIRIS Image Archive:

The ESA release says the image shown below

… was taken on 6 October 2014 from a distance of 18.6 km to the comet. This is just one of almost 70 000 images taken with Rosetta’s high-resolution imaging system OSIRIS that are now available via a new online and mobile-friendly ‘comet viewer’ created in a joint project with the Department of Information and Communication at Flensburg University of Applied Sciences, and the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, who lead the OSIRIS team.

A feature of  Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko: “Seen from afar, the comet is usually likened to a duck in shape, but in this enchanting close-up view its profile resembles that of a cat’s face seen side-on. The two ‘ears’ of the cat make up the twin peaks either side of the ‘C. Alexander Gate’ – named for US Rosetta Project Scientist Claudia Alexander who passed away in July 2015. These impressive cliffs lie at the border between the Serqet and Anuket regions on the comet’s head.”

The image viewer hosts the full archive, but also has subsections organising image sets into themes: for example, images showing towering cliffs and bizarre cracks on the comet surface, or those focusing on spectacular dust fountains as the comet launched gas and dust jets into space as its surface ices were warmed as it came closer to the Sun on its orbit.

The collection of OSIRIS images captured the farewell of lander Philae as it dropped towards the surface of the comet, and later, towards the end of the mission, the feverish search for the hidden robot.

Within the new comet viewer, each of the nearly 70 000 images is supplemented with the date on which it was taken, the distance to the comet, and a short accompanying text briefly describing what is seen in the image. The images can be downloaded in full resolution and can also be directly shared to Twitter and Facebook.

** The Southern Crab Nebula shines in a new Hubble image marking 29 years in orbit for the space telescope: Hubble Celebrates its 29th Birthday with Unrivaled View of the Southern Crab Nebula | ESA/Hubble

This incredible image of the hourglass-shaped Southern Crab Nebula was taken to mark the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope’s 29th anniversary in space. The nebula, created by a binary star system, is one of the many objects that Hubble has demystified throughout its productive life. This new image adds to our understanding of the nebula and demonstrates the telescope’s continued capabilities.

The Southern Crab Nebula — Hubble’s 29th anniversary image.

On 24 April 1990, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope was launched on the space shuttle Discovery. It has since revolutionised how astronomers and the general public see the Universe. The images it provides are spectacular from both a scientific and a purely aesthetic point of view.

Each year the telescope dedicates a small portion of its precious observing time to take a special anniversary image, focused on capturing particularly beautiful and meaningful objects. This year’s image is the Southern Crab Nebula, and it is no exception [1].

This peculiar nebula, which exhibits nested hourglass-shaped structures, has been created by the interaction between a pair of stars at its centre. The unequal pair consists of a red giant and a white dwarf. The red giant is shedding its outer layers in the last phase of its life before it too lives out its final years as a white dwarf. Some of the red giant’s ejected material is attracted by the gravity of its companion.

More highlights from Hubble’s 29 years in orbit:

** Latest Mars updates from Bob Zimmerman:

Comparison of an area near Olympus Mars before (left) and after (right) the global dust storm of 2018. Credits: Bob Zimmerman & HiRISE camera on NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO)
White streaks atop avalanche debris on this Mars slope appear to be water frost. Credits: Bob Zimmerman + HiRISE camera on NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO)

Check out a new MRO avalanche image released today by NASA: Landslides in Mars’ Cerberus Fossae | NASA.

The Mast Camera, or Mastcam, on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover captured this image after “it drilled a rock nicknamed “Aberlady,” on Saturday, April 6, 2019 (the 2,370th Martian day, or sol, of the mission). The rock and others nearby appear to have moved when the drill was retracted. This was the first time Curiosity has drilled in the long-awaited “clay-bearing unit.” See also a GIF animation showing before and after the drilling. Credits: NASA JPL
  • How fast do things change on Mars? – A comparison of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter images of a dune-like feature on Mars taken 12 years apart show some differences. “Overall, however, not much is different. Though dunes definitely change on Mars, they do so much more slowly than on Earth. And in some cases what look like dunes are not really dunes at all, but a form of cemented sandstone, exhibiting even fewer changes over long time spans.”

** Some space sciences webcasts:

>> Weekly Space Hangout: Apr 17, 2019 – Dr. Dorothy Oehler Talks “Is there Methane on Mars?”

>> SETI Institute: Tiny Neptune Moon Spotted by Hubble May Have Broken from Larger Moon

>> SETI Institute: Mars Exploration Rovers: Spirit and Opportunity with Nathalie Cabrol

>> SETI Institute: Turkish Meteorite Traced to Impact Crater on Asteroid Vesta


Archaeology from Space: How the Future Shapes Our Past