Thursday, June 21, 2018

Russia to deliver US new rocket engines

The US government is slated to receive one of two batches of Russian-made rocket engines in the second quarter of 2018, according to a leading Russian rocket designer, at nearly the same point when the newly created US Space Force is being established as a new branch of the US armed forces. The engines are used for delivering heavy payloads to space aboard the Atlas V launch vehicle - which will now presumptively fall under US Space Force, a sixth branch of the US armed forces announced by US President Donald Trump on Monday. "We have the Air Force and we're going to have the Space Force. Separate but equal." The US military's space command was formerly designated under the US Air Force's area of responsibility. "Currently, the production of commercial engines at Energomash is proceeding in compliance with the contracts signed," said Pyotor Lyvochkin, Chief Developer of Energomash Scientific and Production Association, Zero Hedge reported Sunday. "The dispatch of the first batch of RD-180 and RD-181 engines to the United States is planned for the second quarter of 2018," Lyvochkin noted.


The US space program relies on the RD-180 engine to power the first stage of the Atlas V rocket, the only American vehicle now capable of sending heavy payloads into space.

Trump boasted Monday "We don't want China and Russia and other countries leading us... We're going to be the leader by far." But when it comes to rocket engines, US personnel use the Russian-made engines. Similarly, US astronauts can only transit to the International Space Station aboard Russia's Soyuz spacecraft, meaning they have to go to Russia's leased facility in Kazakhstan, the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

In 2014, US lawmakers passed a measure requiring that the United States phase out its reliance on Russian-made rocket engines. However, since US firms have not been able to produce an engine with sufficient capabilities to match the RD-180, US military leaders say that they will be able to buy feasible US-made engines by the early 2020s.

"Right now we are on track... to complete the transition period [and] come out the back end with two domestic service providers," US Air Force Chief of Staff David Goldfein said in a congressional testimony last month when asked for an update on transitioning away from the RD-180 rocket engine.

Billionaire Jeff Bezos' space firm, Blue Origin, has been working on a replacement for the RD-180 for some seven years now.

As Sputnik News reported, United Launch Alliance acquires RD-180 engines through RD Amross, a US-Russian joint venture that includes Russian firm Energomash, which is responsible for manufacturing the engines.

RD Amross chief executive officer Michael Baker told Sputnik News in April that collaboration between Russia and the US was a "shining example" of US-Russian teamwork.

"Our joint cooperative programs between Russia and the US over the last 20 years have been a shining example of how our two countries can work to together to accomplish great things," Baker said.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Arianegroup tests innovative technology for next generation upper stage rocket engine

A full-scale demonstrator of the thrust chamber for an upper-stage rocket engine incorporating the newest propulsion technologies has successfully passed first hot firing tests at the DLR German Aerospace Center P3.2 test facility in Lampoldshausen. The Expander-cycle Technology Integrated Demonstrator, ETID, will help to prove innovative technologies, materials and manufacturing techniques. It is tested in the frame of ESA's Future Launchers Preparatory Programme, aiming to increase the future competitiveness of European launchers by creating ready-made technical solutions, which can be transferred for quick development projects with minimal cost, effort and risk. Different technologies and methods of manufacture have been tested, such as additive manufacturing, laser ignition and cost-efficient materials. In addition, components will be tested to lay the foundations for a future 'smart' engine. Upper-stage engines operate in specific conditions such as vacuum and weightlessness that are difficult to reproduce on the ground, and involve significant development risks that have to be mitigated.


By the end of the year, ETID will have been hot fired up to 20 times, each test run lasting 120 seconds, in conditions similar to those in space, with a near-vacuum provided by the test stand.

Next to ArianeGroup in Germany, the prime contractor of this programme, other European partners like GKN Aerospace in Sweden, APP in the Netherlands, Safran Aero Boosters in Belgium and Carinthian Tech Research in Austria have, all provided hardware components for these demonstrator tests.

Monday, June 18, 2018

ESA Council commits to Ariane 6 and transition from Ariane 5

The ESA Council met in Paris this past weeek to discuss the path towards the future exploitation of Ariane 6. In view of the progress made in the Ariane 6 programme, Participating States have decided on the completion of the development up to full operational capability and agreed to fund industrial incentives associated with the development of Ariane 6 and P120C solid rocket motor. Participating States also committed to start with the first step of the Ariane 6 and P120C Transition Programme. This programme supports the evolution from Europe's Ariane 5 to full operational capability of Ariane 6. Ariane 6 is Europe's new-generation launcher, designed to secure guaranteed access to space for Europe at an affordable price for European institutional users. It will operate in two configurations: Ariane 62 is fitted with two P120C strap-on boosters while Ariane 64 has four. Ariane 6's maiden flight is planned for mid-2020.


P120C is the largest carbon-fibre solid propellant booster ever built in one segment at almost 13.5 m long and about 3.4 m in diameter. Two boosters will be used on Ariane 6's maiden flight in 2020.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Spaceflight to launch smallsats for Canon Electronics and BlackSky

Spaceflight has partnered with Rocket Lab for three upcoming launches. The first Electron mission, scheduled for the end of 2018, will launch a BlackSky microsat along with several rideshare customers. The second mission will launch satellites from commercial and government organizations in early 2019, and the third mission, also scheduled for early 2019, will launch a spacecraft from Canon Electronics. All three missions will lift off from the Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand and dispense the customer spacecraft into Lower Earth Orbit. Spaceflight has procured the launch capacity on behalf of its customers and will provide mission campaign integration services. Rocket Lab will assist with satellite to launch vehicle integration and will provide the launch service to orbit using the Electron. Following on the success of Canon Electronics' experimental Earth observing micro satellite CE-SAT-I which was launched in 2017, the company secured launch services with Spaceflight via Rocket Lab's Electron rocket. "This launch is very critical for Canon Electronics as we are launching two satellites built with all components made by Canon Electronics.


CE-SAT-I Mark II is our first mass-production model, and CE-SAT-II is a model equipped with two cameras with different resolutions," said Dr. Nobutada Sako, group executive, Satellite Systems Lab, Canon Electronics Inc.

"Just as Canon provides world premium technologies, sales, and services, we believe Spaceflight and Rocket Lab offer the same premium services to their clients and look forward to a long-term partnership with them."

This deal cements Spaceflight's first missions aboard the Electron rocket and signifies the company's continual expansion of dedicated rideshare missions to small launchers. "Adding the Electron to our portfolio of small launch vehicles fulfills a need for customers to access space with shorter lead times," said Melissa Wuerl, Spaceflight's vice president of business development.

"In addition to providing rideshare services on other organizations' missions, we are pleased to offer first-class integration services and dedicated launches for our customers on the Electron rocket."

"Rapid and repeatable access to space is crucial for the development of vital infrastructure on orbit," added Rocket Lab founder and CEO, Peter Beck. "In partnering with Spaceflight, Rocket Lab delivers streamlined launches and enables innovative missions like those of Canon Electronics and BlackSky."

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Nanodiamonds explain mysterious source of Milky Way microwaves

Astronomers have discovered microscopic gemstones surrounding three infant star systems in the Milky Way. Researchers believe tiny diamonds account for the shimmer of cosmic microwave light that has puzzled astronomers for 20 years. The shimmer is known as anomalous microwave emission, or AME. For decades, scientists have struggled to explain why the odd glow emanates from several of the galaxy's protoplanetary disks. Until now, scientists thought the most likely culprit was a type of carbon-based molecule called a polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon, or PAH. The interstellar particles yield a faint infrared signature. Another possible culprit, hydrogenated nanodiamonds, produce a similar but slightly different infrared pattern.Using the National Science Foundation's Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia and the Australia Telescope Compact Array, astronomers were able to observe AME surrounding three young stars, V892 Tau, HD 97048 and MWC 297. Scientists found the AME emissions most directly matched the infrared pattern produced by nanodiamonds. "This is the first clear detection of anomalous microwave emission coming from protoplanetary disks," Green Bank astronomer David Frayer said in a news release.


Previous observations have shown other star systems produce the signature made by PAHs but show no signs of AME, suggesting nanodiamonds alone account for the faint shimmer.

Studies have previously suggested the presence of nanodiamonds, tiny particles of crystalline carbon, in the protoplanetary disks surrounding distant stars, but the latest findings -- published this week in the journal Nature Astronomy -- are the first to link the particles with AME.

Scientists believe cosmic nanodiamonds are formed when vaporized carbon atoms become superheated by young stars.

Nanodiamonds produce what's called a "dipole moment," yielding an electromagnetic radiation when they spin. Because they're so small, they can spin at tremendous speeds, emitting electromagnetic radiation in the microwave range.

"This is a cool and unexpected resolution to the puzzle of anomalous microwave radiation," said Jane Greaves, an astronomer at Cardiff University in Wales. "It's even more interesting that it was obtained by looking at protoplanetary disks, shedding light on the chemical features of early solar systems, including our own."