Fourth Starlink flight launched this week

60 satellites of the Starlink communications constellation are carried from Cape Canaveral on a Falcon 9 rocket on 29 January 2020 at 1406 UT. (SpaceX)

Orbital News
25 Jan 2020 – ISS EVA 227 (Parmitano, Morgan) fixes Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer
29 Jan 2020 1406 UT – Canaveral Falcon 9 Starlink 4
29 Jan 2020 2339 UT – Satellite collision avoided by just 47 meters
30 Jan 2020 – Spitzer Space Telescope end of mission

Regional News
24 Jan 2020 – Calgary Airport hit hard by MAX 8 ground stop due to Air Canada, WestJet fleets
27 Jan 2020 – Ellsworth AFB officer dies in E-11A crash
27 Jan 2020 – Jon Christopherson and Shankar Ramaseri of USGS EROS lecture at U North Dakota (Video)
27 Jan 2020 – Benjamin Fitzgerald (U Wisconsin – Whitewater) featured by Wisconsin Space Grant

Further news
24 Jan 2020 – Prototype spacecraft arrives at Wenchang ahead of CZ-5B demo launch
29 Jan 2020 – Boeing will pay to redo Starliner uncrewed test

New ISS batteries top a suborbital week

ISS EVA 226 wrapped up after astronauts attached the last of the uninstalled Nickel-Hydrogen batteries to an inactive storage site on the exterior of the International Space Station, 20 January 2020. (NASA TV)

Orbital and Suborbital News
19 Jan 2020 – Canaveral Falcon 9 Crew Dragon Launch Escape System test
20 Jan 2020 – ISS EVA 226 (Koch, Meir) completes battery replacements

Regional News
17 Jan 2020 – Rachel Senft (U Wisconsin – La Crosse) featured by Wisconsin Space Grant
17 Jan 2020 – 2 hurt in Cessna 172 N96145 at Big Timber MT
17 Jan 2020 – None hurt in Delta A319 runway slide in Kansas City
18 Jan 2020 – Shawna Pandya of Edmonton returns to Mars Desert Research Station
19 Jan 2020 – None hurt in Fairchild Metro III runway slide in Shamattawa MB
19 Jan 2020 – Shamattawa residents decry airline monopoly, CAD 900 ticket price
20 Jan 2020 – Labs in Winnipeg and Saskatoon ready to fight 2019-nCoV Wuhan coronavirus
20 Jan 2020 – U of North Dakota will make oil safety report system inspired by aviation standards
20 Jan 2020 – CGAS Traverse City explains “low-vis” flight campaign
21 Jan 2020 – Amy Reines (Montana State U) announces results of black hole research
21 Jan 2020 – Mae Jemison speaks at U Wisconsin – Madison
21 Jan 2020 – Amazon Prime Air takes over Pinnacle Logistics base at Rockford airport
21 Jan 2020 – Rocket-powered sled will try to break speed record at Bear Lake WI, 16 Feb 2020
23 Jan 2020 – Montana pilot killed in C-130 crash amid Australian wildfires
23 Jan 2020 – Fire at Churchill MB airport destroys warehouse leased to Calm Air

Further News
17 Jan 2020 – Canso NS spaceport breaks ground soon, signs research deal with St. Francis Xavier U
20 Jan 2020 – Diplomats negotiating first NASA-CNSA summit since 2017
21 Jan 2020 – Tethers Unlimited deorbit ribbons working well in orbital tests
23 Jan 2020 – Firefly Aerospace puts out fire on test stand for Alpha rocket
23 Jan 2020 – JAXA continues EOS work with UN FAO, signs agreement focused on forestry

Late News
16 Jan 2020 ~ Historian William E. Dubois retro-flies between Omaha, Cheyenne, and Salt Lake City
17 Jan 2020 ~ Dunn Mountain crash killed support group
17 Jan 2020 ~ Details of 2018 location shoot for Lost in Space in the Drumheller badlands
23 Jan 2020 ~ JPL features 2018 work at Palomar by North Dakotan Michelle Creech-Eakman

Successful Crew Dragon safety test, US crewed spaceflight to return Spring 2020

It’s almost all-clear for Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to fly to the International Space Station in a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule. On 19 Jan 2020, SpaceX and NASA successfully completed a flight test of the Crew Dragon Launch Escape System.

As the uncrewed DM-1 mission proved the Crew Dragon is capable of docking at and returning from the ISS, there are few remaining items on the checklist. SpaceX Chief Engineer Elon Musk said that final delivery and inspection of the flight hardware can be expected in mid-February to early March. NASA and SpaceX will also collaborate on two further tests of the ‘Mark 3’ parachute system, using all four chutes. The largest question, which has the potential to delay the flight far into the spring, is that NASA will also now decide whether personnel levels on the ISS are a sufficient concern that the DM-2 mission should be extended from its previously planned 8-day visit, to a multi-month operational flight. If so, the astronauts will require additional training for further flight tasks, including spacewalks.

To reach this point, SpaceX has overcome a number of technical challenges, including changes to the Crew Dragon landing system, as previous ‘Mark 2’ parachutes had inconsistent results. SuperDraco’s fuel lines had to be redesigned after a catastrophic failure in April 2019, when a plumbing fault allowed nitrogen tetroxide oxidizer to explode on contact with a chemically incompatible valve.

At T+84 seconds, the nine engines of the rocket cut off, then the Crew Dragon capsule visibly separated from the Falcon 9 around T+86 seconds. Without a fairing on top, internal structure of Falcon 9 became directly exposed to supersonic airflow, overstressing the walls and propellant tanks, which were filled with liquid oxygen and kerosene, just like they would be in a real launch. By T+97 seconds, the veteran first stage and dummy second stage dissolved in midair, replaced by an orange-white fireball. As its remains fell from the sky, recovery ships were on standby, ready to pick up any debris for further analysis.

All this, however, was a dramatic sideshow for the main event – the Launch Escape System test. After separation, the Crew Dragon capsule successfully completed a burn of its eight SuperDraco engines, and had few problems dumping its ‘trunk’ service module on the way as it coasted to an apogee of 40 km. After reaching peak altitude, Crew Dragon kept itself upright, ready to deploy its two drogues, followed at lower altitude by its four ‘Mark 3’ main parachutes. Crew Dragon landed safely in the Atlantic Ocean, and managed it all about half a minute ahead of schedule.

Capsule recovery was expected to take a couple hours, with SpaceX, NASA, and US Air Force participating. As Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley were supervising recovery operations, astronauts Mike Hopkins and Vic Glover, who will fly on the second SpaceX Crew Dragon mission, were on hand to answer questions at the post-launch conference, alongside Jim Bridenstein and Kathy Lueders from NASA, and Elon Musk from SpaceX. Though the results will still need to be checked, it was mainly smiles and effusive thanks, after the “picture perfect” test.

Post-flight news conference for the Crew Dragon LES test, 19 Jan 2020 (NASA TV)

Ariane 5 ends the week

Orbital news
15 Jan 2020 0253 UT – Taiyuan CZ-2D ÑuSat x2 Jilin-1 Tianqi-5
15 Jan 2020 – ISS EVA225 (Koch, Meir) fixes battery system
16 Jan 2020 0302 UT – Jiuquan KZ-1A Yinhe-1
16 Jan 2020 2105 UT – Kourou Ariane 5 KONNECT GSAT-30

Regional news
10 Jan 2020 – Lucas Bauer (U Wisconsin-Madison) featured by Wisconsin Space Grant
10 Jan 2020 – Space Force commander visits U North Dakota, Cavalier AFS
12 Jan 2020 – Cessna TR182 N736YU crashes near Dunn Mountain, MT, 4 dead
13 Jan 2020 – USGS EROS “Eyes on Earth” Podcast 14 released
13 Jan 2020 – Safe emergency landing in Calmar, AB
14 Jan 2020 – Bismarck Career Academy to buy its own plane
14 Jan 2020 – Allegiant announces seasonal flights
14 Jan 2020 – Iran crash casualites revised, investigators now cooperating
16 Jan 2020 – Joseph B. Habeck (U Minnesota-Twin Cities) featured by Minnesota Space Grant

Further news
10 Jan 2020 – Graduation of NASA Astronaut Group 22, “The Turtles”
12 Jan 2020 – Maesawa puts gameshow in critical path for moon flight
12 Jan 2020 – SLS test article reaches Stennis Space Center

Late news
06 Jan 2020 – 44th Air Race Classic will fly between Grand Forks and Terre Haute June 2020

Canada will aid PS752 investigation

Fallout is ongoing in the wake of the recent Tehran flight disaster. Among a very limited amount of positive development, officials have agreed to somewhat more cooperation between Canada and Iran during the investigation and recovery efforts.

Canadian investigators will be permitted significant levels of access to the investigation, including observing data transfer from the plane’s black boxes. The RCMP is also cooperating with a request to collect DNA to assist with identifying bodies.

In the meantime, Canadian officials have revised the official Canadian casualty count to 57, and Iran has admitted its military fired the surface-to-air missile that destroyed the plane. Though that solves one mystery, a great deal of work remains to be done.

Allegiant plans 2020 summer flight season

Allegiant Air has issued a press release for its 2020 summer routes. Several Midwest cities are getting extra destinations, specifically:

Nashville to Fargo, Sioux Falls, Bozeman, and Peoria;
Boston and Los Angeles to Grand Rapids;
Chicago-Midway and Memphis to Des Moines;
Austin to Des Moines and Grand Rapids; and
St. Louis-MidAmerica to Savannah.

The seasonal flights start between mid-May and early June and will run through the summer.

Turtles on the Moon

Amid great levity, Astronaut Group 22, known as “The Turtles”, gathered on stage at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas to celebrate their graduation from training.

The class, which included two Albertans – Jenni Sidey-Gibbons and Josh Kutryk, two Coloradans – Matthew Dominick and Jessica Watkins, and one Iowan – Raja Chari, swapped stories about their two years together as each of them took to the stage for their hard-earned silver astronaut pins.

Being an astronaut is still a rare opportunity – the 14 members of the 2017 class were selected from 18,300 applications. Even then, it’s not for everyone: Alaska’s Robb Kulin left training in 2018 (and is now at Firefly Aerospace).

Apart from regular stints on the International Space Station, many of the graduates will serve on the Artemis program. Its goal of a lunar 2024 is a mighty and perhaps even improbable proposition, but with the Moon literally centre stage at the event, the landing is clearly just a matter of time, not will.

Starlink’s third launch tops the week

Orbital News
06 Jan 2020 – SOLAR (ISS) instruments removed, will deorbit with Cygnus NG-12
07 Jan 2020 0219 UT – Canaveral F9 Starlink-3
07 Jan 2020 1540 UT – SpaceX Dragon CRS-19 splashdown
07 Jan 2020 1513 UT – Xichang CZ-3B TJSW-5

Regional News
03 Jan 2020 – Delta employees take toxic uniforms case to Wisconsin court
04 Jan 2020 – Cedar Rapids pilots plan circumnavigation to fight polio
06 Jan 2020 ~ Saskatoon museum adds Avro Arrow design documents to exhibit
07 Jan 2020 – Jordan Bartlett (U Minnesota-Twin Cities) featured by MN Space Grant
07 Jan 2020 – Lethbridge races to preserve Fokker F28 used by Time Air
08 Jan 2020 – PS752 crashes after takeoff, 63 Canadians killed
08 Jan 2020 – Pilots in Casper say VOR shutdowns are risky
09 Jan 2020 – Wisconsin-designed DarkAero 1 kitplane featured by Flying

Further News
04 Jan 2020 – AAS: Cubesats proven useful in astrophysics
05 Jan 2020 – AAS: Astronomers must ask to use JWST before 1 May 2020
07 Jan 2020 – NASA and Boeing will study Starliner failure, no extra test planned
08 Jan 2020 – ESA, KTH announce improved 30 GHz waveguide antenna
08 Jan 2020 – SLS rocket rolls out of Michoud, will move to Stennis for tests
08 Jan 2020 – SpaceX wants to help astronomers, but low-vis coating still in tests
08 Jan 2020 – Virgin Galactic second hull can now stand on its own wheels

Alberta and Manitoba mourn dozens lost in Tehran plane crash

An aviation disaster has claimed the lives of 63 Canadians, including 30 from Edmonton and five Winnipeggers.

Wednesday, 8 January 2020, Ukraine International flight PS752 crashed at 0249 UT, about eight minutes after leaving Imam Khomeini International Airport (OIIE). The burning wreckage of the Boeing 737-800NG was found less than 20 kilometers from the airport. The plane, which was only three and a half years old, had last been inspected on 6 January.

A number of doctors, researchers, and graduate students are in the casualty list, including Edmonton OB-GYN Dr. Shekoufeh Choupannejad, University of Alberta electrical engineering professors Pedram Mousavi and Mojgan Daneshmand, University of Alberta computer science graduate students Pouneh Gorji and Arash Pourzarabi, Winnipeg immunologist Forough Khadem, and at least 9 other academics with ties elsewhere in Canada.

Aviation safety authorities may not be allowed to effectively cooperate on the investigation as a result of recent tensions between Iran and the United States. Just hours before, 2230 UT on 7 January, between 15 and 22 Iranian theatre ballistic missiles (TBMs) targeted two bases in Iraq used by the United States military. Due to the ambiguous safety situation, EASA and the FAA have asked passenger airlines to avoid flying over Iraq and Iran.

Long March 5 success highlights the week

A Long March 5 rocket carried the SJ-20 saellite from Wenchang to orbit, 27 Dec 2019 1245 UT (Weibo)

Orbital News
27 Dec 2019 1245 UT – Wenchang CZ-5 SJ-20 commsat
29 Dec 2019 – Christina Koch sets an orbital endurance record

Regional News
27 Dec 2019 – 12 injured in LN2 breach at Beechcraft plant in Wichita
28 Dec 2019 –

Dr. Cheryl Rockman-Greenberg of Winnipeg named to the Order of Canada, for work on genetic disorders.
Also named, three from Ontario and B.C. for aviation matters, and
James Cameron of Saskatoon, for achievements in film.

29 Dec 2019 – Kauaʻi tourist flight crash killed two from Wisconsin
29 Dec 2019 – Starlink satellites spotted over Manitoba
30 Dec 2019 – Bismarck offers $4000 scholarships for new pilots
30 Dec 2019 – MDA splits off from Maxar in 1 G$ CAD deal
30 Dec 2019 – Sun Country Airlines may add Sioux Falls to express bus network
30 Dec 2019 – Honeywell cuts 90 aerospace jobs in Minnesota
31 Dec 2019 –

Colin O’Brady of Jackson Hole,
Andrew Towne of Grand Forks,
and 4 international adventurers,
reached Antarctica after rowing from South America

31 Dec 2019 – Billings adds flights to Dallas, Portland on American, Alaska
31 Dec 2019 – Colorado-based planes to track GHG emissions
02 Jan 2020 – United flight slides off runway at Bismarck Airport
02 Jan 2020 – Unidentified drones fly after sunset in Colorado and Nebraska

Further News
29 Dec 2019 – Boeing updates public on Starliner recovery and checkout
30 Dec 2019 – Iridium wonders aloud about how to deorbit 30 dead commsats
30 Dec 2019 – SLS test slips to perhaps April or later
02 Jan 2020 – Japanese Momo rocket test postponed

Late News
19 Dec 2019 – New (?) spaceport licence sought for the local airport near Cape Canaveral
22 Dec 2019 – Myrtle Cagle, pilot of Mercury 13 fame, dead at 94
23 Dec 2019 – Alaska Airlines upgrades Bozeman to mainline 21 May 2020
23 Dec 2019 – FAA ends untrained ATC quota, U of North Dakota pleased
25 Dec 2019 – Sioux Falls crash revisited one year later