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Parts of Falcon 9 Launcher Wash Ashore In England 13

RockDoctor writes with news as reported by the BBC that parts of a Falcon 9 launcher have washed ashore on the Scilly Islands off the SW coast of Britain. Early impressions are that the pieces are from the failed Falcon 9 ISS launch which exploded after take-off in June. That's not the only possibility, though; according to the article, However Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said many experts believed, due to the size and markings which have now been revealed, it was from a different mission. "All the geeks have been getting together and looking at fine details, and we're pretty sure it's a launch from September 2014 that successfully sent a cargo mission to the space station. "It didn't look like an exploded rocket to me, it looked like a fairly normal piece of space junk when the lower stage of a rocket falls from a hundred miles up and hits the ocean. Large sections can remain in tact and it's really quite normal," he said.

NASA Contracting Development of New Ion/Nuclear Engines (nasaspaceflight.com) 70

schwit1 writes: NASA has awarded three different companies contracts to develop advanced ion and nuclear propulsion systems for future interplanetary missions, both manned and unmanned. These are development contacts, all below $10 million. However, they all appeared structured like NASA's cargo and crew contracts for ISS, where the contractor does all of the development and design, with NASA only supplying some support and periodic payments when the contractor achieves agreed-upon milestones. Because of this, the contractors will own the engines they develop, and will be able to sell them to other customers after development, thereby increasing the competition and innovation in the field.

NASA Orders SpaceX Crew Mission To International Space Station (nasa.gov) 69

An anonymous reader writes: NASA has placed its first mission order for SpaceX to launch astronauts to the International Space Station from U.S. soil. SpaceX is now in a race with Boeing, who received a similar order in May, to see which private space company can deliver astronauts to the ISS first. NASA said, "Commercial crew missions to the space station, on the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, will restore America's human spaceflight capabilities and increase the amount of time dedicated to scientific research aboard the orbiting laboratory." They anticipate dramatic reductions in cost for launching astronauts to orbit compared to similar missions aboard Russian rockets. "Each company also must successfully complete a certification process before NASA will give the final approval for flight. Each contract includes a minimum of two and a maximum potential of six missions. A standard commercial crew mission to the station will carry up to four NASA or NASA-sponsored crew members and about 220 pounds of pressurized cargo. The spacecraft will remain at the station for up to 210 days, available as an emergency lifeboat during that time."

The International Space Station Turns 15 (time.com) 69

An anonymous reader writes: Today marks the 15th birthday of the International Space Station (ISS). Since Nov. 2, 2000 the ISS has hosted more than 220 people from more than a dozen countries. Time reports: "The ISS was little more than three pressurized modules, some supplies and a couple of solar wings to help keep it powered on the day the first crew climbed aboard. Today, the station is a flying piece of cosmic infrastructure the size of a football field, containing 15 pressurized modules, which afford the astronauts as much habitable space as a six-bedroom home. It weighs 1 million pounds (454,000 kg), runs on 3.3 million lines of software code and required 115 launches just to carry all of its components up to orbit."

The International Space Station Is Home To Potentially Dangerous Bacteria (sciencemag.org) 112

sciencehabit writes: There's a little known, dirty story about the International Space Station (ISS): It's filled with bacteria and fungi. A new study has found compelling evidence that microorganisms from human skin are present throughout the station, and some of the bugs could cause serious harm to astronauts.The most concerning finding was from the "high-efficiency particulate arrestance" (HEPA) air filter used in the ISS: 99.65% of the viable sequences they retrieved came from Actinobacteria. The Actinobacteria phylum includes Corynebacterium and Propionibacterium; each genus was found in the ISS samples at a high level, which is "problematic," say the researchers, because they both have species that are opportunistic pathogens. Astronauts who live in microgravity for prolonged periods also can have compromised immune systems.

Space-Time: Scott Kelly Breaks Time-Aloft Record For US Astronauts (usatoday.com) 35

NASA astronaut -- and Commander of the International Space Station -- Scott Kelly on Friday broke the record for time in space -- for U.S. astronauts, at least; the overall longest flight of 437.7 days belongs to Valeri Polyakov, and the Washington Post points out that Russia’s Gennady Padalka has spent a total of 879 days aloft. Kelly brings a unique asset to the long-term study of health for spacefarers, because his twin brother Mark, here on Earth, serves as close to a perfect control subject as NASA could hope to have. Kelly is a prolific tweeter about the progress of his year-long mission aboard the ISS; on the occasion of beating the time-aloft record, his modest acknowledgement read only, "Records are meant to be broken. Look fwd to one of my colleagues surpassing my end 500+ days on our #JourneyToMars!"

Who Will Pay For a Commercial Space Station After the End of the ISS? 211

MarkWhittington writes: While NASA is planning its road to Mars, a number of commercial interests and place policy experts are discussing what happens after the International Space Station ends its operational life. Currently, the international partners have committed to operating ISS through 2024. Some have suggested that the space station, conceived by President Ronald Reagan in 1984, could last as long as 2028. But, after that, there will still be a need for a space station of some sort, either in low Earth orbit, or at one of the Lagrange points where the gravity of the moon and Earth cancel one another out.

NASA Launching 4K TV Channel 41

An anonymous reader writes: NASA has announced that it's partnering with Harmonic to launch a new TV channel that delivers video at 4k resolution (4096x2160). The channel is called NASA TV UHD, and it'll go live on November 1. Content will be generated by cameras at the International Space Station and on other NASA missions, as well as any 4K content they can remaster from old footage.

Whisky Aged On NASA's International Space Station Tastes "Different" 210

MarkWhittington writes: Back in October 2011 Ardbeg Distillery on Islay, the southernmost island of the Inner Hebrides of Scotland, sent a vial of whisky to the International Space Station courtesy of Houston based Nanoracks. The idea was the see if microgravity affects the way that whisky ages, particularly the way terpenes that are the building blocks of food and liquors behave. A similar vial was kept on Earth as a comparison. The BBC reported that the contents of the two vials were sampled and compared. As it turns out, pronounced differences were noted.

Commercial Space Crew Supporters Posit a Conspiracy Theory Involving Funding Shortages 62

MarkWhittington writes: The Space Access Society, a group that advocates for government funded, commercially operated spacecraft, examined the annual fight between supporters of the heavy lift Space Launch System and supporters of the commercial crew program in a recent communique. In the view of the SAS and other commercial crew supporters, Congress, on the behalf of the big rocket supporters, has been shorting funding for the commercial crew spacecraft in favor of the SLS. On the surface there seems to be no reason for this, as the two undertake different missions. The Space Access Society posits a conspiracy theory so immense that at first glance would seem to be in the same class as the Apollo moonlanding hoax, The SAS accuses Space Launch System supporters of trying to arrange the premature end of the International Space Station to free up funding for the big rocket and related projects.

Soyuz Heads To Space Station With New Crew 36

An anonymous reader writes: Last night, a Soyuz rocket blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to deliver three astronauts to the International Space Station. Russia's Sergey Volkov, Denmark's Andreas Mogensen, and Kazakhstan's Aidyn Aimbetov reached orbit without incident, and they'll dock with the ISS in the wee hours of Friday morning. Mogensen and Aimbetov will only stay until 11 September, at which point they and Expedition 44 commander Gennady Padalka will undock and return to Earth. (Here's a neat time-lapse of changing a Soyuz craft's parking space at the ISS.) Padalka was in charge for the current expedition, but he'll be passing command of Expedition 45 to NASA's Scott Kelly. Kelly and Oleg Kornienko will soon reach the halfway point of their one-year mission at the space station. It's worth noting that this was the 500th rocket launch from the Gagarin launchpad at Baikonur.

JAXA Prepares To Try Making Whiskey In Space 67

schwit1 writes: An experiment to test how whiskey ages in weightlessness is about to begin on ISS: "H-II Transfer Vehicle No. 5, commonly known as "Kounotori5" or HTV5, was launched on Wednesday from JAXA's Tanegashima Space Center carrying alcohol beverages produced by Suntory to the Japanese Experiment Module aboard the International Space Station, where experiments on the "development of mellowness" will be conducted for a period of about one year in Group 1 and for two or more years (undecided) in Group 2." Don't worry, the astronauts on ISS won't be getting drunk. After the test period is complete the samples will then returned to Earth, untasted, where they will then be compared with control samples.

HTV-5 On Its Way To the ISS 87

nojayuk writes: There's another launcher delivering cargo to the ISS apart from US and Russian vehicles, and it's Japanese. The fifth Koutonori (White Stork) cargo vehicle was successfully launched today at from pad 2 of the Yoshinobu Launch Complex at Tanegashima south of Tokyo at 11:50:49 UTC, carrying over 5 tonnes of food, spare parts and scientific equipment to the ISS in a pressurised cabin and an external racking system. This is the fifth successful launch in a row for the Japanese H2B launcher. The Koutonoris have carried over 20 tonnes of cargo in total to the ISS, more than double the amount of SpaceX's six successful CRS resupply flights.

Enormous Red Sprites Seen From Space 30

astroengine writes: A gorgeous photo, captured from the International Space Station on the night of Aug. 10, 2015, shows an orbital view of thunderstorms over the city lights of southern Mexico as a recumbent Orion rises over Earth's limb. But wait, there's more: along the right edge of the picture a cluster of bright red and purple streamers can be seen rising above a blue-white flash of lightning: it's an enormous red sprite caught on camera! First photographed in 1989, red sprites are very brief flashes of optical activity that are associated with powerful lightning. So-called because of their elusive nature, sprites typically appear as branching red tendrils reaching up above the region of an exceptionally strong lightning flash. These electrical discharges can extend as high as 55 miles (90 kilometers) into the atmosphere, with the brightest region usually around altitudes of 40–45 miles (65–75 km). Sprites don't last very long — 3–10 milliseconds at most — and so to catch one (technically here it's a cluster of them) on camera is a real feat... or, in this case, a great surprise!

Growing Vegetables In Space, NASA Astronauts Tweet Their Lunch 39

An anonymous reader writes: Astronauts on the International Space Station got their first taste of space-grown lettuce today. It took the astronauts about an hour to harvest and prepare the lettuce both plain and with oil and vinegar. The Times reports: "The vegetable experiment had been a long-awaited harvest for the astronauts, who say that the ability to grow and sustain crops in space may someday aid travelers on long space trips. Cultivating crops is seen as a critical step in the path to traveling to Mars, for instance. Before the harvest, the astronauts did what any sensible Earthling with a Wi-Fi connection would do: They celebrated lunch in an exclusive locale by tweeting a picture of the goods."

Houston Firm NanoRacks To Take Chinese Experiment To International Space Station 21

MarkWhittington writes: The Houston Chronicle's Eric Berger reports that for the first time a Chinese experiment will fly on the International Space Station, thanks to an arrangement between a research group based at the Beijing Institute of Technology and a private firm in Houston called NanoRacks. The deal seems to have been designed to avoid the prohibition against space cooperation between the Chinese regime and NASA, since the space agency is not directly involved. The experiment, which involves the effects that space radiation has on DNA, will be carried to the ISS by another private firm, SpaceX. Presumably the experiment would be run by a non NASA crew member to avoid any direct involvement with the space agency.

Video Urthecast Brings You Earth Images and Videos from the ISS (Video) 16

Most of us probably won't ever visit the International Space Station (ISS) and look down at the Earth (motto: "The only planet we know has beer, so let's not ruin it"). Looking at pictures and videos made by cameras mounted on the ISS is about as close as we're going to get. There's already an ISS HD Earth Viewing Experiment on Ustream, but Urthecast is putting out higher-definition images than what you see on Ustream, and has plans to put out even clearer images and video before long. While Urthecast is likely to accumulate plenty of "oohs" and "aahhs" as it rolls along, according to CEO Scott Larson their real objective is to sell imagery -- and not necessarily just from the visible light band of the overall spectrum -- to industrial and government users. People like us are still invited to look at (and marvel at) lovely images of our planetary home.

NOTE: Today's video is about 4:30 long. If you want to watch and listen to more of Mr. Larson, we have a second "bonus" (Flash) video for you. Or you can read the transcript, which covers both videos.

Asteroid Mining Company's First Satellite Launches From Space Station 35

An anonymous reader writes: Planetary Resources, the company trying to jumpstart an asteroid-mining industry, has launched its first spacecraft. Its 90-day mission is to boldly... test avionics, control systems, and software. The Arkyd 3 Reflight craft was launched from the International Space Station after being delivered there in April. (They had intended to test earlier, but their first craft was lost in the Antares rocket explosion last October.) "The spacecraft is small, but mighty: At just 12 by 4 by 4 inches (30 by 10 by 10 centimeters), it will test key systems and control schemes that will allow later craft to land on asteroids to extract water and minerals. Eric Anderson, co-founder and co-chairman of Planetary Resources, said in the statement that the mining technologies could also help monitor and manage Earth's valuable resources. Later this year, once the satellite completes its 90-day mission, Planetary Resources will send up another satellite: the Arkyd-6, which will be twice as large and will test even more systems needed for the asteroid-mining process, representatives said."

Astronauts Forced To Take Shelter From Space Junk 55

An anonymous reader writes: Three astronauts living at the International Space Station were forced to scramble to safety Thursday after a "close pass" by flying Russian space debris. The men decamped into the Soyuz spacecraft, which is attached to the orbiting station, while a chunk of an old Russian weather satellite passed 1.5 miles away. Flight engineer Scott Kelly tweeted: "Happy there was no impact. Great coordination with international ground teams. Excellent training."