NASA said its Ground Systems Development and Operations program has passed its critical design review, an independent assessment and a review by NASA’s Agency Program Management Council, clearing the way for full-scale development.
The program includes the ground systems needed at the Kennedy Space Center for SLS launches.
The announcement comes a day after NASA’s inspector general reported that the software used by those ground systems is behind schedule and over budget. [NASA]
A senior JAXA official remains hopeful that the Hitomi astronomy spacecraft can be recovered. Speaking in Washington Tuesday, Masaki Fujimoto said that JAXA had detected brief transmissions from the spacecraft after it suffered an anomaly several days ago that generated several pieces of debris. That, he argued, indicates that the spacecraft is likely mostly intact, raising hopes it can be recovered unless it is “severely” damaged. He said there was no sign of any problems with the spacecraft, launched last month, prior to the loss of communications with the spacecraft March 26. [SpaceNews]
The U.S. Air Force has found no evidence for an orbital debris strike as a cause of Hitomi’s problems. A spokesman for the 14th Air Force and Joint Functional Component Command for space said Tuesday that analysis of tracking data showed no evidence that a piece of orbital debris collided with the spacecraft. That makes it more likely that the spacecraft suffered some kind of technical problem that led it to lose attitude control. [SpaceNews]
China launched a Beidou navigation satellite Tuesday. The Long March 3A rocket lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 4:11 p.m. Eastern and placed the 22nd satellite in the Beidou satellite navigation system into a geosynchrous transfer orbit. The launch is part of Chinese efforts to expand the Beidou system to provide global coverage by 2020. [Spaceflight Now]
A government agency has backed industry concerns about launches of U.S. satellites on Indian rockets even as an ambassador endorses them. The FAA last month supported a finding by an advisory group that Indian launches “distort the conditions of competition” in the international launch market since those launches are controlled by the Indian government. The U.S. Trade Representative is reviewing current requirements for a waiver to launch U.S. satellites on Indian vehicles. The FAA’s decision comes shortly after the U.S. ambassador to India praised India’s launch capabilities as part of growing U.S.-India cooperation in space. [SpaceNews]
The ground systems that will support future SLS/Orion launches have passed a series of reviews, NASA announced Tuesday. NASA said its Ground Systems Development and Operations program has passed its critical design review, an independent assessment and a review by NASA’s Agency Program Management Council, clearing the way for full-scale development. The program includes the ground systems needed at the Kennedy Space Center for SLS launches. The announcement comes a day after NASA’s inspector general reported that the software used by those ground systems is behind schedule and over budget. [NASA]
A Progress cargo spacecraft is scheduled to undock from the International Space Station today. The Progress M-29M spacecraft will depart the station shortly after 10 a.m. Eastern. The spacecraft will remain in orbit for more than a week to perform experiments, with deorbiting scheduled for April 8. The undocking will open a port on the ISS for the next Progress cargo mission, scheduled for launch Thursday. [TASS]
NASA has selected a university team to develop an instrument for a groundbased telescope to detect exoplanets. The group, led by astronomers at Penn State University, will develop the NEID spectrometer, which promises to be more sensitive than existing instruments in detecting Doppler shifts caused by planets orbiting other stars. NEID will be installed on the 3.5-meter WIYN telescope on Kitt Peak in Arizona. NASA is funding the $10 million cost of the new instrument under a partnership with the National Science Foundation, which funds operations of the WIYN observatory. [Penn State Univ.]
An experiment on the Cygnus cargo spacecraft launched to the ISS last week will create the biggest fire ever in orbit. The Saffire experiment will be conducted on Cygnus after it leaves the station at the end of its mission to study how cloth samples, the size of a bath town, burn in microgravity. The experiment won’t be started until at least 24 hours after the Cygnus departs the station to avoid any risk to the ISS and its crew. Two more Saffire experiments will be flown on future Cygnus missions. [SpaceNews]
The board of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) plans to study a potential alternative site for the observatory in India. Officials plan a visit in the next two months to Mt. Saraswati, a mountain in the Himalayas that is home to the Indian Astronomical Observatory. India is one of the partners in the TMT project. The leadership of the TMT is examining a number of alternative sites for the observatory because of protests and legal issues surrounding its original location atop Hawaii’s Mauna Kea. [Hawaii Tribune-Herald]
Amateur astronomers may have witnessed the collision of a small asteroid or comet with Jupiter earlier this month. Astronomers in Austria and Ireland recorded a flash of light and an apparent plume of material on the limb of the planet March 17. That event may have been caused by an object colliding with the planet, although it left no mark in the planet’s atmosphere, unlike some past impacts. That suggests to astronomers that the object that collided was relatively small. [Sky & Telescope]
Drives Them Crazy
“We need to be reliable partners. We drive international partners berserk, because they know they can’t do anything unless we lead, and yet, they don’t want to get in line behind us if they don’t know if we’re going to lead in the same direction next year.”
– NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, speaking at a Space Transportation Association luncheon on Capitol Hill Tuesday, discussing the importance of stability for NASA in the upcoming presidential transition.