Coronavirus information

This is a list of official websites with information on COVID-19 coronavirus in the region.

If you need general information not specific to your area, Ars Technica has published an excellent series.

Continue reading “Coronavirus information”

CNSA flight tests two next-gen spacecraft this week

A Long March 5B rocket carries the Next Generation Crew Vehicle from Wenchang, 5 May 2020. (Weibo)

Orbital news
20200505 1000 UT – Wenchang CZ-5B NextGen Crew Test Flight
20200507 – CNSA ‘umbrella’ cargo reentry test failed; crew capsule healthy

Regional news
04 May 2020 – Laser strikes Saskatoon plane
04 May 2020 – WY firm Frontier Astronautics gets NASA funds for hybrid rocket pump
07 May 2020 – U Colorado-Boulder gets funds for GLEE LunaSat

Further news
01 May 2020 – Telesat LEO schedule slips, satellite supplier not even settled
01 May 2020 – Astronauts ready to fly Crew Dragon DM-2
03 May 2020 – Crew Dragon succeeds at final parachute test
05 May 2020 – Tom Cruise, SpaceX plan a film on the ISS
05 May 2020 – Virgin Galactic deal will study suborbital passenger flights
05 May 2020 – NASA, Space Force to take asteroid defence measures
06 May 2020 – Failed LAN firewall on ISS replaced
06 May 2020 – Starship SN4 fires engine at Boca China test stand

COVID-19 matters
01 May 2020 – Outbreak at Calgary Amazon warehouse
01 May 2020 – Manitoba Museum lays off 40, closes
01 May 2020 – NIH slashes COVID research funding
02 May 2020 – U Minnesota epidemiologist says pandemic COVID may last 2 years
04 May 2020 – Canadian provinces relax COVID restrictions
04 May 2020 – Meat plants partially reopen
04 May 2020 – ND fab plants enhance COVID measures after LM outbreak
04 May 2020 – U Manitoba researcher talks hospital website privacy risks
05 May 2020 – Alberta meat inspectors demand another plant close
05 May 2020 – U Manitoba med student makes soft, reusable silicone facemasks
06 May 2020 – Massive compost effort in Worthington as food waste piles up
06 May 2020 – North Dakota SU students process COVID tests
06 May 2020 – Outbreak at Saskatoon milk plant
06 May 2020 – Outbreak at Calgary grocery store
07 May 2020 – COVID closes La Loche SK grocer
07 May 2020 – Buried CDC reopen guide sees light of day

Earthquake disrupts Salt Lake City airport

On 18 March 2020 at 13:09:31 UT, an earthquake damaged Salt Lake City International Airport, and threw air traffic in the Mountain States into further disarray. The 5.7 magnitude wobbler and its aftershocks made the Delta Airlines hub temporarily unusable, though the airport resumed limited operations after several hours.

Most airports in South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming that rely on the Salt Lake City hub still have a flight to another Delta hub. Casper and Cody don’t, but are also served by United out of Denver. Butte’s only scheduled passenger flights are to Salt Lake City.

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

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

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.

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

KZ-1A flew twice in less than a week

A KZ-1A rocket lifts off from Jiuquan with two commsats from German company KLEO Connect, 1000 UT 17 Nov 2019. (Weibo)

Orbital News
17 Nov 2019 ~1000 UT – KZ-1A KL-Alpha x2

Regional News
Recently – Lance Nichols (Montana State University) featured by Montana Space Grant
11 Nov 2019 – Mary Claire Mancl (University of Wisconsin-Madison) featured by Wisconsin Space Grant
13 Nov 2019 – Kelsey Mueller (Iowa State University) named Iowa EPSCoR coordinator
15 Nov 2019 – Jack Stutler (University of Minnesota-Twin Cities) featured by Minnesota Space Grant
15 Nov 2019 – Omaha NOAA WSR-88D Weather Radar refurbished
18 Nov 2019 – Nicholas Hennigan (Milwaukee School of Engineering) featured by Wisconsin Space Grant
19 Nov 2019 – South Dakota Space Grant awardee Brad Goff (Lake Area Technical Institute) featured by KELO-TV
21 Nov 2019 – Skies features Natalie Esser, Albertan kit-plane builder and sport-flyer

Further News
15 Nov 2019 – Structural failure caused SARGE crash
19 Nov 2019 – SNC fêtes ‘Shooting Star’ external cargo module for Dream Chaser
20 Nov 2019 2126 UT – Starship Mk 1 suffers BLEVE during Liquid Nitrogen fill, SpaceX will move on to Mk 3 model

Late News
11 Nov 2019 1456 UT – CCAFS F9 Starlink
13 Nov 2019 0105 UT – Hayabusa2 departs from asteroid Ryugu
13 Nov 2019 0340 UT – Jiuquan KZ-1A Jilin-1 Gaofen-02A
13 Nov 2019 0635 UT – Taiyuan CZ-6 Ningxia-1 x5

Cygnus NG-12 carries regional cubesats to orbit

An Antares rocket carries Cygnus NG-12, SS Alan Bean, on a mission to the International Space Station, 2 Nov 2019 1359 UT (NASA TV)

Apart from 3729 kg of cargo bound for the International Space Station, CRS 12 was also the launch platform for ELaNa 25A, the latest in NASA’s ongoing university space access program, including missions from Montana and Minnesota: RADSAT-U and SOCRATES.


RADSAT-U internal structure (Montana State University)

How can you build a computer you can count on in deep space, where stray radiation can randomly crash the average PC? RADSAT-U, a 3U cubesat project from Montana State University, aims to demonstrate a radiation-tolerant computer hardware architecture that users can count on in space, an environment that’s never been kind to silicon wafers.

The final push to complete the computer experiment was lead by Chris Major, a computer engineer and Ph.D candidate in electrical engineering at Montana State, who picked up the effort from the previous student design team in the early months of 2019, running up to final completion and delivery for payload integration a few months before the launch.

In addition to the primary computing experiment, a second experiment aboard RADSAT-U studies how the effects of radiation environment affect solar cells. An additional solar cell of the same type used on the craft’s exterior is mounted inside the craft. Montana State undergraduates will study the experiment’s results.

Data from the craft will be relayed directly to the university in quarter-kilobyte packets transmitted over amateur radio frequencies. After Montana State’s SSEL calculates the pass time, a team member will be on hand to collect the data packets when the craft passes overhead.

Three members of the RADSAT-U team, including Major, attended the launch at Wallops Island, Virginia.

RADSAT-U is expected to be in orbit for up to two and a half years. The mission was student-built at Montana State University under the supervision of Dr. Brock LaMeres, with technical support from the university’s Space Science Engineering Laboratory and supplemental expertise from the Montana Space Grant Consortium.

Aside from its recent success in the ELaNa program, Montana State University is also one of 12 universities working with NASA to reach the surface of the moon along with one of the robotic landers in the Commercial Lunar Payload Services program.


SOCRATES internal structure (University of Minnesota / Kennedy Space Center)

SOCRATES is a project from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, a 3U cubesat that includes a gamma ray burst detector with a unique purpose.

How can spacecraft navigate without GPS in the far reaches of the solar system? SOCRATES, from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, is a 3U cubesat carrying an experiment to answer that question. At its heart are four bricks of Thallium-doped Caesium Iodide, which glow in the dark whenever a cosmic ray happens to pass.

Those flashes of light can become space-GPS by taking careful measurements and referencing the satellite’s highly accurate onboard clock, then exchanging information with other similar observatories. As members join the network, each spacecraft can determine its position relative to the others, based on the time each of them detected the gamma ray burst.

SOCRATES is expected to be in orbit for just over two years. A companion satellite, EXACT, is hoped to be launched while SOCRATES is still in space. Both are projects of the UMN Smallsat team supervised by Dr. Demoz Gebre-Egziabher and Dr. Lindsay Glesener at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics Department.

GPS glitch grounds airliners

Outage regions for the Global Positioning System, 8 June 2019. (Credit: FAA)

Passenger airline flights were affected Saturday and Sunday 8 and 9 June 2019, due to an expected minor signal outage, plus a glitch with a particular type of GPS receiver. The affected planes were mostly Bombardier CRJ-200 and CRJ-700s, but also included CRJ-900s, as well as Boeing 737 and 767s.

Reports on indicate particular concerns with GPS receivers supplied by Rockwell Collins. In case the airplane’s barometer were to fail, the onboard GPS receiver must be able to track altitude accurately enough to maintain normal operations in the Class A airspace above FL180. This requires a GPS vertical accuracy within 500 feet (152 meters), and that the GPS constellation be in fairly good alignment – which, every now and then, just doesn’t happen.

That’s what occurred this weekend over a region over the Great Lakes and extending out over much of North Dakota and Manitoba, such that certain areas can expect, in theory, up to 40 minutes of signal loss on Sunday. The FAA estimated still further regions in the US could be affected by the outage. As affected planes wait for a technical fix, they are flying below 18000 feet, or simply being replaced by unaffected aircraft.

Airliners with the strictest requirements for their their GPS accuracy had to rely on alternative navigation modes when operating in the red region. (Credit: FAA)

In addition to highlighting the performance of one supplier’s GPS solution in an edge case, the incident also serves to highlight an increasing dependence on GPS for airline operations. Aviators have expressed concern about the trend of airports turning off their ILS, VOR, and NDB navigation systems. Many of these decisions assume that GPS will always be available, which may well be more than 98% correct. It’s the last 2% that may lead to unexpected problems.