ICAO spreading its wings into commercial spaceflight

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The international organization that addresses aviation safety issues wants to expand its work to include commercial spaceflight.

The head of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) said Tuesday that the organization should draft guidelines for suborbital and orbital human spaceflight by 2019.

ICAO is holding a symposium in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates today through Thursday on emerging space activities. The agenda includes presentations by Virgin Galactic, Sierra Nevada Corp., and the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, among others.

ICAO does not have the direct ability to enforce any guidelines it develops, but its standards in aviation are widely adopted by national regulatory bodies around the world.


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ExoMars is on its way to Mars. The spacecraft, launched early Monday on a Proton rocket, separated from its Breeze-M upper stage more than 10 hours after liftoff. The spacecraft made contact with the Earth on schedule, confirming it is operating normally and on course to arrive at Mars this October. Left in doubt, though, is the schedule for the second ExoMars mission, a rover whose 2018 launch may be postponed to 2020 because a tight schedule and need for additional funding. [SpaceNews]

A former astronaut is the new head of NASA’s Glenn Research Center. NASA announced Monday that Janet Kavandi is the new director of the Cleveland center. A veteran of three shuttle missions, Kavandi had been the center’s deputy director since last February. She replaces Jim Free, who is moving to NASA Headquarters to become the deputy associate administrator for technical in NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations mission directorate. [Crain’s Cleveland Business]

A solar array on a newly launched Russian satellite has failed to deploy properly. Roscosmos said Monday that a solar panel on the Resurs P3 satellite, launched Sunday, only partially deployed after the spacecraft entered orbit. Despite the deployment problem, the panels are generating enough power for normal operation of the remote sensing spacecraft, according to Roscosmos. [TASS]

The next Cygnus spacecraft bound for the International Space Station is now installed on top of its launch vehicle. Workers installed the Cygnus spacecraft atop its Atlas 5 rocket on Monday in advance of a launch scheduled for the evening of March 22. The Cygnus, flying a mission designated OA-6, will deliver about 3,500 kilograms of cargo to the station. [Florida Today]

The Japanese spacecraft that finally entered orbit around Venus late last year is ready to start its scientific mission. The Akatsuki will start full-scale observations of Venus next month, about four months after it entered orbit around the planet. Akatsuki was originally scheduled to enter orbit in 2010, but a thruster problem kept the spacecraft in orbit around the sun for five years. The spacecraft’s current orbit around Venus is much more elliptical than originally planned, which will impair the spacecraft’s ability to monitor some phenomena, although the wider orbit will allow for longer periods of continuous observation. [Nikkei Asian Review]

NASA has selected four proposals for solar panel technology development work. The proposals, from the Applied Physics Laboratory, Boeing, JPL and Orbital ATK, will address technologies to improve the performance of solar arrays in low-temperature and high-radiation environments. Initial awards of $400,000 each for nine months of work will be followed by two or three contracts, valued at up to $1.25 million each, for additional hardware development and testing. [NASA]

A Chinese company plans to commercialize a new small launch vehicle. State media reported that the China Sanjiang Space Group Co. plans to offer the Kuaizhou-11 small launch vehicle. That rocket, under development by the Fourth Academy of China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp., is designed to place up to one metric ton into a sun-synchronous orbit, and is scheduled to make its first launch late this year or early next year. [Bloomberg]

There may be ways for the ISS and China’s planned space station to cooperate. While China is unlikely to abandon its station plans at this stage even if it was offered a role on the ISS, the new Chinese station could be built in a similar orbit to the ISS, enabling the two to cooperate. Such cooperation could range from mutual rescue capabilities to join experiments between the two facilities. [The Space Review]


Lunar Midlife Crisis

“He made the submission on the last day they were allowed to make the entry. We were all pulling him back, including myself, going ‘Hey buddy, you’re just having a midlife crisis.’ But I’m glad he stuck to his guns; I’m glad he’s stubborn as an ox.”

– Sergei Dobrianski, describing his father Alex’s decision to enter the Google Lunar X Prize competition. The father-and-son “Plan B” team, operating from a bedroom in Alex’s Vancouver condo, remains in the competition. [The Globe and Mail]