Atlas V and H-IIB fly this week

Orbital News
17 May 2020 1314 – Atlas V X-37B US Military
20 May 2020 1731 – Tanegashima H-IIB Kounotori-9 ISS Cargo

Regional News
15 May 2020 – Airdrie AB students contact ISS by ham radio
15 May 2020 – None hurt in plane crash 75km from Fort Frances
15 May 2020 – MB seeks businesses to deploy Internet to the North
16 May 2020 – Air Canada lays off 20000, over half the workforce
16 May 2020 – National Microbiology Lab chief takes UK job, cites family
17 May 2020 – Safe pilot, bent wing in Bloodvein MB mishap
18 May 2020 – Medicine Hat air ambulance pleads for funds
18 May 2020 – Wildfires near Dauphin MB
19 May 2020 – Delta will fill planes to 60% for social distance
19 May 2020 – York Space Systems opens new facility in Denver
20 May 2020 – SK wildfire grows to 375 km2
21 May 2020 – Iowa SU features NASA work of Sara Mayne
21 May 2020 – MN astronaut Karen Nyberg talks with Ars Technica
21 May 2020 – U Wisconsin develops nanostructured PVDF spacecraft shield

Further news
15 May 2020 – Artemis Accords would enshrine Space Law concepts in a Treaty
15 May 2020 – China adds satellite internet to space infrastructure priorities
15 May 2020 – NASA Stennis partial reopen
15 May 2020 – Tokyo2021 loses another event – meteor shower satellite fails in orbit
17 May 2020 – Bill Norrie of Calgary sailed across the Pacific
17 May 2020 – Snowbird dead, another injured in Kamloops BC crash
18 May 2020 – NASA Michoud partial reopen
19 May 2020 – Annie Glenn dies in Minnesota, age 100
19 May 2020 – Head rolls at NASA after Artemis procurement probe
20 May 2020 – Skyrora completes Skylark-L rocket engine test
20 May 2020 – WFIRST now called the Roman Space Telescope
21 May 2020 – NASA takes extra time for DM-2 Flight Readiness Review
21 May 2020 – NSF feature on Crew Dragon abort modes

COVID-19 matters
15 May 2020 – COVID patients that need ventilators have 50 to 75% survival rate
15 May 2020 – FDA notice issued on inaccurate Abbott COVID test
15 May 2020 – SaskTel retirees fix donated computers to help keep communities connected
15 May 2020 – SK closes 12 rural ERs on two days’ notice
15 May 2020 – Sudbury library opens phone line for folks that want to chat about books
15 May 2020 – The Forks Market reopens in Winnipeg
15 May 2020 – U Alberta will conduct fall semester online
16 May 2020 – COVID causes blood clots in serious cases
17 May 2020 – Fire contained at Winnipeg hospital
18 May 2020 – Fuse33 Makerspace in Calgary fabs 12000 faceshields
19 May 2020 – Canada-US border closure extended to 21 June 2020
19 May 2020 – Civic honour planned for SD food workers
19 May 2020 – U Wisconsin creates COVID Crush video game
21 May 2020 – 2020 Grey Cup in Regina cancelled due to COVID
21 May 2020 – Privacy problem with ND/SD Care19 phone app
21 May 2020 – Rigid US medical supply chain ignored new test labs

Late News
13 May 2020 – JournoDrone shot down in Butterfield MN

KZ-1A orbits two tech testbeds this week

A KZ-1A rocket carries two Xingyun-2 satellites to SSO from Jiuquan, 12 May 2020, 0116 UT. (Weibo)

Orbital news
08 May 2020 0549 UT – CNSA next-generation crew capsule lands after deorbit
08 May 2020 – Fregat from 2011 continues disintegration in high orbit
11 May 2020 1533 UT – CZ-5B first stage falls into Atlantic by luck alone
11 May 2020 1608 UT – Cygnus NG-13 departs ISS
12 May 2020 0116 UT – Jiuquan KZ-1A 2x Xingyun-2 EOS/Comm/Demo

Regional news
09 May 2020 – Statement by Winnipeg Airport rebuffed by Transport Canada
11 May 2020 – WestJet cancels flights into July
12 May 2020 – Snowbirds fly over Manitoba
12 May 2020 – MB 150 digital book collection holds hidden gems in aerospace history
12 May 2020 – Vincent Ledvina (U North Dakota) works on Aurora camera
13 May 2020 – Alberta wildfire still burns one year later
13 May 2020 – Budget cut means more layoffs at U Manitoba
13 May 2020 – Dr. Carl Isaacson featured by Minnesota Space Grant
13 May 2020 – U Minnesota Balloon Team featured by Minnesota Space Grant
13 May 2020 – Delta Airlines stops service to Saskatoon
14 May 2020 – Snowbirds fly over Saskatoon and Regina
14 May 2020 – Iowa Space Grant asks colleges for project proposals

Further news
09 May 2020 – USSF buys SpaceX data from other launches
10 May 2020 – Latest Starship SN4 cryotest reaches 750 kPa pressure
11 May 2020 – Virgin Galactic goes on sale to prop up sister airline
12 May 2020 – NASA signs deal for additional Soyuz seat
13 May 2020 – Falcon 9 test fires on pad ahead of ninth Starlink delivery
13 May 2020 – Crew Dragon DM-2 astronauts are in pre-launch medical isolation
14 May 2020 – EPA will not regulate water pollution from perchlorate, oxidizer for solid rockets
14 May 2020 – Intelsat goes bankrupt
14 May 2020 – Artemis program schedule slides into 2021

COVID-19 matters
08 May 2020 – FDA approves Rutgers easy but imperfect COVID spit test
08 May 2020 – Land-O-Lakes co-op opens up Wi-Fi for rural users
08 May 2020 – 3M to make 96 million N95 masks monthly at WI, SD factories
09 May 2020 – COVID spreads at Minnesota Amazon plant
09 May 2020 – Close quarters make COVID hard to fight at Iowa meat plant
09 May 2020 – FDA approves antigen test, faster than virus PCR
09 May 2020 – Lopinavir-ritonavir + ribavirin + interferon beta-1b drug triplet passes Phase II
11 May 2020 – COVID cases mount at Alberta food processors
12 May 2020 – Dr. Susan Kline (U Minnesota) tests drug cocktails against COVID
12 May 2020 – U Saskatchewan plans all-remote fall semester
12 May 2020 – Air Guard flyovers of Minnesota
12 May 2020 – Zyus Life Sciences of Saskatoon wants to print vaccine with plants
12 May 2020 – Rural SK lacks the broadband capacity for everyday needs
12 May 2020 – “MN Masks On” volunteers make masks for hospital visitors
13 May 2020 – Saskatchewan out 2.2 M$ for COVID tests now banned by Health Canada
13 May 2020 – Sask journo in UK takes a trial dose of U Oxford ChAdOx vaccine
14 May 2020 – Mayo and 5000 tests: Convalescent plasma doesn’t hurt COVID patients

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

Progress cargo launched to ISS this week

A Soyuz-2.1a rocket sends Progress MS-14 to the International Space Station from Baikonur, 25 Apr 2020. (Roscosmos)

Soyuz launched the uncrewed Progress cargo module to the ISS early Saturday, and NASA announced three winning bidders for commercial crew lunar landers Thursday.

COVID-19 science
27 Apr 2020 – CDC officially adds 6 more symptoms of COVID
30 Apr 2020 – Experts welcome news on Remdesivir with caution
30 Apr 2020 – High hopes for antigen tests

Orbital News
25 Apr 2020 0151 UT – Baikonur Soyuz Progress MS-14 ISS Cargo
29 Apr 2020 – ISS Kibo deploys Quetzal-1, Guatemalan cubesat

Regional News
25 Apr 2020 – Kit plane C-GTET survives emergency landing
28 Apr 2020 – JetBlue alters MSP service due to COVID
28 Apr 2020 – Layoffs at U Sask could start 4 May
28 Apr 2020 – VP visits Mayo without mask

Further News
24 Apr 2020 – ViaSat gets FCC approval for 20 MEO netsats
26 Apr 2020 – Al Amal, Emirati Mars orbiter, at Tanegashima for July launch
26 Apr 2020 – SN4 survives cryo test, first Starship to pass
28 Apr 2020 – SpaceX sunshield shadows shiny Starlink sats
29 Apr 2020 – An-225, world’s largest plane, will fly PPE to Québec
29 Apr 2020 – CZ-5B rolled to pad at Wenchang for ~5 May launch
29 Apr 2020 – Electron rocket goes vertical at Virginia spaceport, for tests
30 Apr 2020 – Blue Moon, Starship, and Alpaca selected for lunar lander awards
30 Apr 2020 – FDA approves NASA ventilator

COVID-19 response
24 Apr 2020 – Two SK meat plants close
25 Apr 2020 – Winnipeg seamstress donates facemasks
27 Apr 2020 – MB researcher studies difference in COVID outcomes in men and women
27 Apr 2020 – Sask experts caution against herd immunity strategies
28 Apr 2020 – Alberta pilots fly masks north
28 Apr 2020 – MN, SD meat plants ordered reopened
28 Apr 2020 – Winnipeg fair, Red River Ex, cancelled due to COVID
29 Apr 2020 – Alberta workers call for meat plant closures
29 Apr 2020 – Outbreak prevents Lloydminster from joining SK reopen plan
29 Apr 2020 – U Regina students sell facemasks
30 Apr 2020 – Duluth firms make PPE
30 Apr 2020 – North Dakota SU trains contract tracers
30 Apr 2020 – U North Dakota makes Viral Transport Media reagent

Blue Origin, Dynetics, SpaceX plans for Artemis HLS selected

The three commercial teams selected to advance in NASA’s Human Landing System program, 30 April 2020 (NASA/Dynetics/SpaceX/Blue Origin)

The Artemis program, with its goal to land a woman on the surface of Luna, is operating on a crash schedule. With delays from COVID piling on top of normal engineering problems, Artemis is now very likely to miss its target of landing by the end of 2024. But a mini-space race may allow competition to make up some of the lost time.

NASA’s program to return to the moon requires three primary components: the Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket, the Orion crew and service modules, and the Human Landing System (HLS), equivalent to the Apollo Lunar Module. SLS and Orion were ongoing programs, left over from prior NASA strategies for the future of human spaceflight. Though delayed and often-changed, the major requirements and suppliers had been settled on years ago. Not so with the Human Landing System, whose call for bids was hardly open before or after October 2019. After a few months of review, the awards announcement was made on 30 April 2020.

The award does not answer the larger question of which company will get to the moon first in the planned “Artemis III” mission. NASA HLS program leads may decide this key detail by August 2020, and almost certainly by February 2021, as the awardees clear up their plans and development timelines. NASA will work in tandem with each supplier to ensure that each system will be able to be safely tested and delivered, setting broader goals and outcomes, with less emphasis on micromanagement.

Rather than going forward with just one or two of the four publicized submissions, NASA made awards to every team except Boeing (Boeing ‘s proposal did not even reach the last phase of consideration). However, each winner was cited as having potential for delay due to the need for development work on their propulsion systems, and SpaceX was also singled out for missing deadlines for Crew Dragon and other government launches.

It is perhaps bigger news than expected; NASA’s approach for lunar exploration exceeds the minimum requirements to perform a stunt landing on an accelerated schedule. Hiring three teams indicates a solid commitment to a longer-term effort and broad-based infrastructure. This could be the kickstart needed to get humans to permanently retain the ability to travel to other worlds.

Starlink ends surprising week

The International Space Station is down to three crew with the arrival of Soyuz MS-15 in Kazakhstan, Iran orbited a military satellite, and SpaceX launched another 60 Starlink commsats.

Starlink satellites float away from the Falcon 9 upper stage, 23 Apr 2020. (SpaceX)

Orbital News
17 Apr 2020 0516 – Soyuz MS-15 lands with Meir, Morgan, Skripochka
21 Apr 2020 – JAXA releases Bepi magnetometer data from Earth flyby
23 Apr 2020 1930 – Canveral Falcon 9 Starlink Commsats
23 Apr 2020 0359 – Shahrud Qased Noor Iran MilSat

Regional news
17 Apr 2020 – U Minnesota student Nibir Sarma wins on Jeopardy!
22 Apr 2020 – WestJet lays off 3000 employees

Further News
17 Apr 2020 0022 – 5.4 earthquake hits Kodiak, spaceport
17 Apr 2020 – Crew Dragon planned to fly Behnken, Hurley to ISS on 27 May 2020
17 Apr 2020 – PS752 families still want investigation
19 Apr 2020 – FAA AST space office reorganized
21 Apr 2020 – All initial Starlink satellites will move to 550km orbits
23 Apr 2020 – SpaceX will beta test Starlink at high latitudes
23 Apr 2020 – SN4 Starship prototype installed at Boca Chica test stand

COVID response
17 Apr 2020 – Winnipeg Mint makes hand sanitizer
17 Apr 2020 – Calgary grocers insist households send one person once a week
17 Apr 2020 – SafeCare Canada of Winnipeg sells COVID tests, pending approval
17 Apr 2020 – Cirrus Aircraft of Grand Forks and Duluth building powered respirators
17 Apr 2020 ~ Manitoba works on solutions to connect students to the Internet
18 Apr 2020 – Bioriginal in Saskatoon makes hand sanitizer
22 Apr 2020 – Pantyhose enhances homemade masks
23 Apr 2020 – Calgary Stampede cancelled due to COVID
23 Apr 2020 – Sudbury Theatre Company makes masks

Spring ISS launches to proceed on schedule

Even as recent developments have caused NASA and ESA to shutter a number of activities for developmental rockets and space probes, work that supports the crewed International Space Station remains essential, and those operations remain a continued priority.

Next up is the April 9 Soyuz mission to the ISS, which will carry three crew up and down from the ISS. Then in May, apart from the celebrated launch of the new Crew Dragon capsule, Japan hopes to send up the Kounotori 9 cargo module on 21 May 2020 at 1130 UT, with a launch window open as late as 30 June 2020.

The launches are marking a period of renewal in crewed spaceflight. While the landmark flight of Crew Dragon has been hotly anticipated, Kounotori 9 is also a significant moment, the planned last flight of the original HII Transfer Vehicle (HTV), as JAXA moves to an updated HTV-X capsule and H3 rocket, both larger and capable of supporting both the ISS and the proposed Lunar Gateway space station.

The recent SpaceX CRS-20 was likewise the last flight of the original Dragon cargo capsule, as future missions will use the updated Cargo Dragon design, which is roughly similar to the new Crew Dragon, just with much less seating, life support, and thruster capacity.

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)