Bolden hopeful on  China cooperation — Security concerns evident at IAC — Science fiction vs. political fiction in “The Martian”

The head of NASA is hopeful the United States and China can cooperate in space in the future. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, speaking at the International Astronautical Congress in Jerusalem Monday, said he believed that current restrictions placed by Congress on cooperation between NASA and China are “temporary,” but didn’t estimate when those restrictions would be lifted. Bolden’s Chinese counterpart, Xu Dazhe, also said he hoped those restrictions were temporary, adding that China had no problems cooperating with other nations. [Reuters]

Security concerns are casting a pall on the IAC sessions. The European Space Agency allowed its employees to make their own decisions about whether to attend, with no penalties if they decided not to go. Organizers estimated about 2,500 people were attending this year’s event, “substantially fewer” than last year’s IAC in Toronto. The security concerns are linked to a rise in violence in Jerusalem. [SpaceNews]

Orbital ATK has shipped the service module for its next Cygnus mission to Florida. The service module, which includes key subsystems of the spacecraft, will be mated to the cargo module shipped there in August. The Cygnus will launch on an Atlas 5 on early December on the first Cygnus mission since an Antares launch failure nearly one year ago. [SpaceNews]

Russia is planning to sell rocket engines to China in exchange for electronics. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said Monday that Russia will sell the engines to China and purchase electronics for use on spacecraft under a deal to be concluded in December. Rogozin did not say what engines Russian would be selling. China has been developing a new series of engines domestically for use on its next-generation Long March rockets. [Moscow Times]

The president of South Korea will visit a NASA center this week in an effort to build up space partnerships with the U.S. President Park Geun-hye, on a four-day trip to the U.S., will visit the Goddard Space Flight Center on Thursday morning, a stop that will include a videoconference with astronauts on the International Space Station. Park plans to discuss potential cooperation between the U.S. and South Korea in spaceflight while at the center. [Korea Times]

Science Fiction vs. Political Fiction

“We have the technological skill to get to Mars right now if we wanted. The most unrealistic part of the movie is that it envisions we have the political will — i.e., a sustained commitment to funding space travel that hasn’t existed since the 1960s.”

– from an editorial in the Roanoke (Va.) Times about the movie The Martian.

United Launch Alliance plans to use existing Atlas launch pads for its new Vulcan rocket. A ULA official said last week that the company will fly the Vulcan from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral and Space Launch Complex 3E at Vandenberg Air Force Base, both currently used by the Atlas 5. Those pads will require “a moderate amount of modification” to accommodate the Vulcan, including support for liquefied natural gas fuel that the Vulcan’s first stage engine will use. [Spaceflight Now]

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) is developing a communications satellite with all-electric propulsion. The Amos-E spacecraft will weigh less than two tons thanks to its use of electric rather than chemical propulsion, and the company said the satellite is generating interest from a number of potential customers. IAI also announced Monday that it is starting construction of the Eros-C remote sensing satellite for ImageSat International, with a launch scheduled for 2018. [Defense News]

India has delayed the test of a reusable launch vehicle technology demonstrator until next year. Sources within the Indian space agency ISRO said that preparations for other missions with “direct societal applications,” including navigation satellites, has pushed back the suborbital test flight that was previously scheduled for this fall. The subscale spaceplane will fly to an altitude of 70 kilometers before returning to Earth. [The Times of India]

Researchers have tested tiny thrusters that could help propel cubesats. A group at MIT tested the electrospray thrusters in a vacuum chamber this summer, using magnetic levitation to allow the thrusters to spin up a cubesat. Researchers hope the thrusters, which fit comfortably inside even a single-unit cubesat, will provide attitude control, orbit maneuvering, and deorbiting capabilities for small spacecraft. [New Scientist]

Cold War, Hot Docs | Yuri Gagarin’s historic 1961 spaceflight had more problems than previously known. Documents found in a Soviet-era archive describe a number of technical issues with the brief orbital spaceflight, including with the spacecraft’s life support and communications systems. “Gagarin was an incredibly lucky man to have come out of this unhurt and alive,” writes historian Asif Siddiqi. Meanwhile, declassified briefings show that President Lyndon B. Johnson was regularly updated on the Soviet Union’s progress developing its N-1 rocket and launch site. Those developers were included in the daily intelligence briefings provided to the president, showing what the CIA knew about the development of the ill-fated N-1. [The Space Review]

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Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...