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."

NASA Names Its Astronauts For the First Dragon and CST-100 Flights 38

schwit1 writes with news that NASA has named the four government astronauts that will fly on the first manned demo flights to ISS of SpaceX's Dragon and Boeing's CST-100. From Florida Today's report: Bob Behnken, Eric Boe, Doug Hurley and Sunita Williams are veteran test pilots who have flown on the shuttle and the International Space Station. NASA said the four astronauts will train with both companies and have not yet been assigned to flights. Two-person crews will fly the first test flights by each capsule, after they have completed an orbital test flight without people on board. Company proposals anticipate an all-NASA crew flying SpaceX's Dragon test flight, with Boeing's CST-100 carrying a split NASA-Boeing crew. Boeing has not yet identified its astronaut.
United Kingdom

UK May Send More People Into Space 87

sciencehabit writes: A few months ahead of the first visit by a U.K. astronaut to the International Space Station (ISS), the U.K. Space Agency has published its first strategy on human spaceflight, promising greater involvement in crewed missions and perhaps even participation in a mission out into the solar system. Following a public consultation and lengthy discussions across government, the new strategy, published yesterday, concludes that continued involvement in the ISS and other programs is the best way to involve U.K. scientists and industry in human spaceflight. The document says the government will consider bilateral projects with other space agencies but fears always being the junior partner since the United Kingdom has no launchers or space stations. It does not think that the commercial launch industry is sufficiently mature for the United Kingdom to buy services commercially. The report also states: 'The Agency will also consider its role in human exploration missions beyond Earth orbit, especially where this complements science and technology goals for robotic exploration.'

Russian Progress Cargo Ship Docks With Space Station 47

An anonymous reader writes: An unmanned Russian cargo ship has successfully docked with the International Space Station. The successful launch, rendezvous and docking came after two resupply failures. A Progress launched in April spun out of control and a week ago, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket disintegrated, destroying a supply ship loaded with supplies and equipment. "Crew reports, 'feels like Christmas in July,'" the International Space Station tweeted.

Russian Cargo Ship Successfully Makes Orbit, Will Supply ISS 50

An anonymous reader writes: Early this morning, a Russian Soyuz rocket successfully launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The rocket carried a Progress capsule containing 2,700kg of supplies for the International Space Station. It's a much-needed victory after a series of launch failures that saw ISS resupply missions from Orbital ATK, Russia, and SpaceX end in failure. "The station, a joint project involving 15 nations which is staffed by a crew of six astronauts and cosmonauts, currently has a four-month supply of food and water, NASA said. The arrival of the Russian cargo ship, and the planned launch of a Japanese HTV freighter in August, should replenish the station's pantries through the end of the year, NASA said. Friday's successful launch clears the way for three new crew members to fly to the station later this month."

A Failure For SpaceX: Falcon 9 Explodes During Ascension 316

MouseR writes with bad news about this morning's SpaceX launch: About 2:19 into its flight, Falcon 9 exploded along stage 2 and the Dragon capsule, before even the stage 1 separation. Telemetry and videos are inconclusive, without further analysis as to what went wrong. Everything was green lights. This is a catastrophe for SpaceX, which enjoyed, until now, a perfect launch record. TechCrunch has coverage of the failure, which of course also means that today's planned stage one return attempt has failed before it could start; watch this space for more links. Update: 06/28 15:06 GMT by T : See also stories at NBC News, The Washington Post, and the Associated Press (via ABC News). According to the Washington Post, what was a catastrophe for this morning's launch is only a setback for the ISS and its crew, rather than a disaster: A NASA slide from an April presentation said that with current food levels, the space station would reach what NASA calls “reserve level” on July 24 and run out by Sept. 5, according to SpaceNews. [NASA spokeswoman Stephanie] Schierholz said, however, that the supplies would last until the fall, although she could not provide a precise date. Even if something were to go wrong with the SpaceX flight, she said, there are eight more scheduled this year, including several this summer, “so there are plenty of ways to ensure the station continues to be well-supplied.” Of note: One bit of cargo that was aboard the SpaceX craft was a Microsoft Hololens; hopefully another will make it onto one of the upcoming supply runs instead.

Elon Musk has posted a note on the company's Twitter channel: "Falcon 9 experienced a problem shortly before first stage shutdown. Will provide more info as soon as we review the data."

UrtheCast Releases Its First Commercial Videos of Earth 45

schwit1 writes: UrtheCast has released high resolution videos of three Earth cities taken from its camera on ISS. Take a look. The cameras are quite successful in capturing the motion of vehicles on highways and road, which is amazing considering the vibrations that ISS experiences merely from astronaut movements. Quartz reports: "The company plans to offer the imagery in several tiers, from a free video feed on its website to an API that will allow customers, including corporations, governments and individuals, to purchase imagery data from its database or make real-time requests for a look at a given spot on the earth. The cameras scan the ground under the ISS, which tracks the earth between about 51 degrees north and south latitude."