Russia could be preparing to resume Nuclear-powered Cruise Missile Testing


Satellite images are indicating that Russia is in preparation for resuming the nuclear-powered cruise missile test flights. That’s as far as experts who have analyzed the new satellite images. The testing area is the Pankovo launch site around the Arctic Circle that it dismantled before.

In September, Planet Labs captured the images. They showed a lot of activities happening on the site. The concern is that it was once the test site for the nuclear-powered cruise missile by the name Burevestnik. The findings are from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies researchers Michael Duitsman and Jeffrey Lewis.

According to the pair, the missile testing pause that Russia took in 2018 seems to have ended. They base the argument on the various activities, including new construction, including the launch pad’s rebuilding. Equally important, there has been a probable missile checkout building and many shipping containers in a pair of support areas.

According to the duo, Russia carried out a similar test flight from the same launch site in November 2017. After that, it carried out an array of similar tests for months. However, it did not register any successful test.

Claims about new construction are based on a video that Russian President Vladimir Putin released in March 2018. It was about a nuclear-powered cruise missile test, and comparing it with the new satellite images; there is a noticeable change.

Two U.S. officials commented on that, saying they are aware that in efforts to improve its advanced weapons program, Russia is preparing to resume nuclear-powered Cruise Missile Testing. Steps on the same include the Oniks cruise missile launch from Arctic’s military base and the White Sea’s test of a hypersonic cruise missile. Russian Ministry of Defense is yet to comment on the new findings.

At the moment, both Moscow and Washington are considering the extension of a key arms control agreement. The START treaty will expire in less than a year. The stagnation of the talk was evident from Marshall Billingslea’s, the top U.S. negotiator, tweet. However, hope was restored when Russia’s Foreign Ministry said the country is willing to pause its nuclear arsenals if that’s the only requirement that U.S. will table for the New START extension. The U.S. is also coming forward through the State Department spokesperson to say that the country is ready to meet and finalize the same as soon as possible under the new Russia’s condition.

According to reliable sources, Trump is eager to close a nuclear deal with Russia not later than the November election. His wish was to involve China, but that seems impossible as China keeps rejecting such talks.

Lewis says that the extension of the New START treaty is crucial to some extent. As much as it might not stop the nuclear-powered cruise missile testing since it is not part of the agreement, its absence would see the two countries begin an arms race.


SLS Core Stage Hot-fire Test scheduled for November

According to NASA, a hot-fire test of the Space Launch System’s core stage has been set for mid-November. If developments stay on course, NASA says, the agency will have its inaugural launch late next year. In a conference held on October 13th, NASA, Aerojet Rocketdyne, and Boeing revealed that they are making good progress on testing the core stage, currently being done at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. To complete the tests, there will be a full-during firing of the core’s four engines. 

John Shannon, SLS program manager, and Boeing vice president, said in the interview that they haven’t had any hitches so far and are ready to proceed to the next two steps. On October 5th, technicians had performed a practice countdown, the sixth out of eight scheduled tests. 

One of the remaining tests is a wet dress rehearsal, which involves filling liquid oxygen and hydrogen propellants to examine the fuel system and related systems. The other is the actual hot-fire test. According to Shannon, the wet dress rehearsal will be held on October 3rd, while the hot-fire test will be held on November 14th if no problems arise during the wet dress rehearsal.      

After this test is completed, technicians will renovate the central stage, remove it from the test stand, and deliver it to the Kennedy space center. The aim is to ship the core stage to the space center by January 14th, in time to commence preparations for the Artemis 1 launch planned for November 2021. The core stage is among the final components required to be ready on the Artemis mission, as the rest of the parts of the SLS, the Orion Spacecraft included, already at the KSC.  This is according to NASA SLS Program Manager John Honeycutt.  This implies that any hitches in completing the tests will impact the planned timeline of events of the Artemis 1 launch. 

Therefore, John says that it has been imperative for the team to keep within the schedule, adding a margin of 20-25 days for the shipping of the core stage from the proposed date, January 14th. So far, the two challenges that have threatened the schedule are the COVID-19 pandemic, which paused work for two months, and the active hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico. The hurricanes have stopped work five times before, and the current program assumes that another storm would not shut down work, Shannon said. 


Contact between OSIRIS-REx and asteroid Bennu happened as expected

On October 20, OSIRIS-REx touched down on Bennu. However, the project scientists will only know the sample amount that the spacecraft collected from the asteroid after several days. The mission went as planned in all ways. For instance, it touched down on the intended location, which is the Nightingale. The sampling arm also extended as expected and touched the asteroid’s crater. Equally important, OSIRIS-REx retracted a soon as the Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) contacted Bennu for several seconds. It was a touch-and-go (TAG) mission, no doubt. The exact time the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft touched down on the Bennu asteroid was 6:12 p.m. Eastern.

Dante Lauretta, who works at the University of Arizona as OSIRIS-REx’s principal investigator, confirmed the mission’s success. His words while speaking on NASA TV were that the operation was perfect and flawless.

The capacity of the TAGSAM is 2 kilograms. However, all the scientists wanted to collect was 60 grams. Nevertheless, whether they achieved that or not remains a mystery. After all, according to the mission, the spacecraft would return neither data nor images then. Not until there was a safe distance between it and the asteroid.

After the touch-down, TAGSAM, which resembled a car air filter hard to go unnoticed, fired a nitrogen gas’ burst. The impact kicked up small surface material. At the same time, the gadget trapped the materials.

Lauretta can’t wait to see the impact of the touch-down on the surface. He said that it would be possible to witness all that from a series of images. They will show how the spacecraft ascended towards the asteroid and experiences of both the contact and the nitrogen gas burst.

Speaking from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Mike Moreau, in charge of OSIRIS-REx as the deputy project manager, discussed some probabilities. He predicted a considerable sample collection if the TAG’s disturbance on the satellite’s surface was massive. That would also be if the surface were sandy since a nitrogen gas burst did the collection. It would disturb a sandy surface significantly.

By measuring the moment of inertia before and after sampling, the team will have a rough idea of the collected sample amount. The measurement will occur once experts have slowly span OSIRIS-REx. Fortunately, the spacecraft can carry out another sampling if the collection turns out to be unsuccessful, or the sample size isn’t at least 60 grams.

However, the mission didn’t lack surprises either. Earlier images showed that Bennu was sandy, but OSIRIS-REx found a relatively rocky surface. The spacecraft will leave Bennu environs in March 2021. However, the samples won’t reach Earth until September 2023, when a canister carrying the spaceship will land in the Utah desert. Then, scientists will study the samples.



 SpaceX’s Global Positioning System (GPS) Agreement Altered to Permit Remodel of Falcon 9 Boosters

According to an announcement by the United States on the 25th of September declared that a SpaceX Falcon 9 spacecraft for the first time the following year will begin a military GPS space station with a formerly flown primary booster. Furthermore, SMC stated that the firm reached a covenant at the beginning of the month with space plus Missile System Centre; therefore, SpaceX can start dual Global Positioning System space station the following year utilizing past flown boosters. Additionally, SMC mentioned that this would secure the government with more than 52 million dollars’ worth launching.

Nevertheless, SpaceX consistently makes progress and reuses rocket devices during commercial launches. However, the United States of America army has currently begun to permit SpaceX to retrieve boosters in Global Positioning System assignments. On the 30th of June, the organization started the 3rd vehicle of the GPS3 collection with a new Falcon 9 booster and retrieved it. The quarter GPS3 vehicle set to begin on the 29th of September from Cape Canaveral Air Force Place in Florida will hover on a first-hand Falcon9 that SpaceX will try to retrieve. However, for the fifth and the sixth GPS vehicles the following year, SpaceX will utilize the past flown boosters.

Also, Lt. Gen. John Thompson, the senior officer of the Space and Missile Systems Centre, stated that he was excited to invite SpaceX’s creative reuse into the Country Security Space launch plan. Furthermore, on the 25th of September, the Division President of SMC Falcon Systems and Operations Sir Walt Lauderdale sated in a call that the agreement changes for the future GPS3 task will save the nation 52.7 million USD dollars. Conversely, the Co-founder and COO of SpaceX, Gwynne Shotwell, mentioned that they are thankful for the United States space force’s hard work towards evaluating. Also, he was happy that they had experienced the advantages of technology.

SpaceX’s present agreement to start GPS3 space stations is put to an end when vehicle 6. Lockheed Martin is manufacturing four different space stations; nonetheless, the launches are yet to be endowed. Ideally, Lauderdale stated that those assignments would receive an award during the second phase of the National Security Space Launch Program. Likewise, the United Launch Alliance plus SpaceX will contest each other for all the second phase assignments. Nevertheless, SMC has arranged to launch flying payloads on past flown Falcon 9s in the second phase but then decided to catch a timely start with the present GPS covenant.


Russia and NASA may not be paying Russia for a seat to ISS after the Soyuz Launch

On October 14, there was a launch of a Soyuz spacecraft from the International Space Station. As much as it may not be the last time NASA is flying its astronauts, there are high chances that it will not pay Russia to do that in the same.

The Soyuz-2.1a ricked lifted off the Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. After its launch at 1:45 a.m. Eastern, the spacecraft was already into the orbit less than 10 minutes later. By 4:48 a.m. Eastern, it had already docked with the Rassvet module at the station. It achieved that by making a two-orbit approach, which was ultra-fast.

Its occupants included Kate Rubins, a NASA astronaut, and Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, Roscosmos cosmonauts. They will stay for six months. The ISS crew now has six members since there were already three before the recent trio’s arrival. Previous occupants are Chris Cassidy from NASA and Roscosmos’ Ivan Vagner and Anatoly Ivanishin. They will be onboard on Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft when returning to Earth on October 21.

Rubins’ seat cost NASA $90.25 million and the agency at the same time announced that it was the last Soyuz seat that it was buying from Roscosmos. That entirely contradicts the NASA officials’ statement that they would be purchasing a seat and even an extra one for an upcoming launch next year around spring.

According to NASA, it will be the commercial crew’s responsibility to take astronauts to and from ISS. The first crewed mission, Space-X Crew-1 mission, is scheduled to take off in November either early or mid. Onboard will be an astronaut from the Japanese space agency JAXA and three from NASA. The other one, Crew-2 mission, will launch in 2021’s spring. Occupants will comprise astronauts from the European Space Agency, JAXA, and NASA.

Boeing has experienced delays in the developments of its CTS-100 Starliner. Therefore, come June, or after that, it will fly a crewed test flight. Three NASA astronauts will be onboard. There will be a second test in December 2021 or January 2022. After that, it will start its routine astronaut transport missions.

As much as NASA is not willing to pay for a seat, it doesn’t necessarily mark the end of its astronauts using Soyuz spacecraft in the future. Instead, it is advocating for mixed crews. Therefore, NASA is looking forward to a time when Russia cosmonauts would use commercial crew missions too. Russia is yet to agree, stating that it cannot commit to that before NASA registers a successful U.S. commercial crew flight. NASA is advocating for a mixed crew to help both America and Russia to have teams in the International Space Station at all times.


The deployment of a satellite composed by a student put on hold

Students of the University of Georgia have completed their research satellite development and are waiting for the green light to deploy it to space. The institution conducted a trial launch of the Spectral Ocean Color (SPOC) satellite, which they called off a few minutes after takeoff.

The satellite will be part of the Antares rocket that will be departing from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. This satellite’s purpose is to observe the marine life on the US coastal line.  The satellite will be instrumental in the research by UGA and other marine agencies. The satellite’s optic system will enable it to magnify the aperture of the coastline and send alerts when something poisonous enters the ocean due to industrial and economic activities.

UGA’s Small Satellite Research Lab professor, Deepak Mishra, explained that this satellite is a product of the partnership between aggressive students and professional researchers at UGA. Mishra explained that the students utilized their skills for this project while the researchers handed them a scientific vision to pursue. 

Mishra explained that the students incorporated their skills and labor in the project throughout the past the coronavirus pandemic. She added that the researchers were there to give their prospects and guidance on research development.

The students explained that they sought for something challenging to pursue and give solutions from scratch. The UGA researchers facilitated this prospect by guiding through the production process and giving out pointers since they know about satellite development.

Mishra divulged that NASA saw their research had potential and decided to support the prospect by securing them a rideshare opportunity on one of the international rockets. The research lab developing the satellite has been expanding, with more students registering for classes and gaining practical skills in engineering and projectiles’ physics.

The program has graduated some of the students into space engineering and technology, with some of them pursuing internships at NASA’s research center in Silicon Valley. Nevertheless, the project has also encountered challenges ranging from malfunctions to postponement of test flights.

Additionally, the coronavirus outbreak put more operations on hold, considering that the engineers and students had to follow the measures proposed to curb the virus’s spread. Currently, operations have resumed, with few students being at the research centers and others observing and learning via zoom meetings.

To sum up, NASA stated that the UGA students have an opportunity to chip into their programs with their ideas, provided they are relevant. The agency also plans to display launch operations for students to learn more details and rectify where they view amendments will be tolerable.


World Space Week 2020 Celebration to be Held

 An international celebration run by the U.N to celebrate space science is expected to take place next week, and it will allow for public participation in the event. The celebration, referred to as the World Space Week, is held every year, running from 4th October to 10th October, and this year’s gala program will be mainly focused on satellites.

The week features events presented by space agencies involved, aerospace companies, museums, schools, and astronomy clubs. With the Covid19 pandemic, this year’s event is expected to be different though strict measures have been put in place to ensure there is no spread of the virus. 

During an interview with, Maruska Strah, the executive director of the World Space Week Association, this year’s theme will be the satellites’ comprehensive advantages as things that we do not usually have in our thoughts and take them for granted. He further stated that while the world is still connected even with the pandemic, it is thanks to the satellites. 

While speaking to, the World Space Week Association President, Dennis Stone, stated an ongoing revolution in the satellite sector with a heightened range of ease of access and uses. There is a need to view with open minds what’s taking place in the satellite sector. On giving his examples of the industry’s emerging trends, Dennis talked about the development of CubeSat and the LEO mega-constellations. He further stated that satellites over a broad array of applications, especially in global issues like animal migration and the spread of diseases.

According to Strah and Stone, the event organizers will be forced to cut on the number of events expected to take place during the expo due to public safety concerns, especially when the world is faced with the covid19 pandemic. Stone further added that though this is an obstacle, there are many ways in which science can be brought to the people at home and encouraged those taking place in celebrations to honor space and satellites to do so in a safe way. He gave an example of a simple task that was not putting anyone in danger like parents and their children coming out in their backyards at dusk and searching for satellites and trying to learn more about them and their capabilities.

Strah was also optimistic about the worldwide connection, which can be brought about by virtue events where digital gatherings can bring together people from different parts globally without having to travel.