Tropical Storm Forces Minimum 48 Hour Delay for ULA Atlas Launch (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The flight of a United Launch Alliance (ULA ) Atlas V 551 rocket and its payload of the fourth satellite of the Mobile User Objective System – has been delayed due to what is currently Tropical Storm Erica. At present, the mission is not expected to take to the skies any earlier than Sept. 2.

The announcement, made late in the day on Friday, Aug. 28, came just hours after a teleconference held with the key organizations involved with the planned flight. During the hour-long exchange mission managers noted that they were closely following the conditions down in the Caribbean. (8/28)

NASA Seeks Proposals To Harness Deep Space Solar Energy (Source: Law360)
A NASA program asked for proposals Wednesday for a contract worth up to $3.65 million to develop technology that could harness solar energy from more remote corners of the solar system, saying missions in the near future will require such technology. (8/28)

RSC Energia Holds Contest to Name Soyuz Spacecraft Successor (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Energia announces creativity competition for the best name of the new-generation crew transportation spacecraft, which is planned to be used for missions to the Moon. The competition time frame: August 30 through November 2, 2015. Its results will be announced on January 15, 2016. (8/28)

EU Provides $77 Million for SABRE Engine R&D (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The European Commission has found that a £50 million (around €71 million) grant that the UK authorities intend to provide for designing a SABRE space launcher engine is in line with EU state aid rules. SABRE is a research and development (R&D) project carried out by UK company Reaction Engines Limited (REL). The project aims to develop an engine that would power a reusable airframe to launch satellites into low Earth orbit, significantly reducing the costs of such space missions.

The Commission found that the measure fosters aerospace R&D in Europe while limiting distortions of competition in the Single Market. The new engine would enable a vehicle to reach orbital velocity and altitude from the Earth’s surface without jettisoning any hardware. The objective is to render the technology less risky by significantly improving each of SABRE’s numerous components and subsystems.(8/27)

New NASA Launch Command Center Planned at Wallops Island Spaceport (Source: NASA)
NASA has awarded a contract to Harkins Contracting Inc. of Salisbury, Maryland, for the construction of a new Mission Launch Command Center (MLCC) at the agency’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Virginia. The new 14,174 square-foot facility will serve as the hub for interfacing with and controlling rockets, their payloads and associated launch pad support systems during flight operations at Wallops.

Recent operations underscoring the need for the new command center include commercial cargo resupply flights to the International Space Station, Department of Defense missions, and NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE), the first lunar mission to launch from Wallops. This award is a firm-fixed price contract with a value of $5.6 million. (8/28)

13 Great Canadian Space Ideas (Source: MacLean's)
Some of the most exciting new space technologies are coming out from right here in Canada. Here’s a look at some of the best ideas that our country has contributed to better understanding and harnessing space. Click here. (8/28)

NASA Selects New Horizons’ Next Destination After Pluto (Source: The Verge)
After flying by Pluto on July 14th, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has a new destination. The mission team has selected another object in the Kuiper Belt — the region of icy bodies that orbits the edge of the Solar System — for the probe to explore next.

The spacecraft's new potential target is called 2014 MU69; it's a much smaller object than Pluto and orbits the Sun nearly 1 billion miles beyond the dwarf planet. 2014 MU69 is an ideal candidate for further exploration, because it will cost less fuel to reach than other Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs), said New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern.

Using less fuel to get to the object means more will be available to power the probe’s data-gathering instruments. The images and information gathered by New Horizons will give scientists a much better understanding of the worlds at the fringes of our Solar System. (8/28)

Asteroids Loom as the New Klondike for Seattle Region’s Space Industry (Source: Geek Wire)
Seattle could profit from the rush for resources in outer space much as it did during the Klondike Gold Rush of the 1890s: by selling goods and services to the fortune-seekers. At least that’s the vision laid out by entrepreneurs who are laying the groundwork in Seattle — and in space — for what they hope will be a multitrillion-dollar asteroid mining industry. (8/28)

Congress, Don’t Make Us Hitch Rides With Russia. Love, NASA (Source: WIRED)
Grounding human spaceflights was always supposed to be temporary as we made the necessary transition to a new generation of spacecraft, operated by American commercial carriers. Likewise, paying for seats on Russian spacecraft to send our astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) was always intended to be a stopgap.

Had Congress adequately funded President Obama’s Commercial Crew proposal, we could have been making final preparations this year to once again launch American astronauts to space from American soil aboard American spacecraft. Instead we are faced with uncertainty—and we will continue to be so long as Congress resists fully investing in Commercial Crew. (8/28)

NASA Mars Isolation Experiment Starting in Hawaii (Source: The Telegraph)
Six people are about to shut themselves inside a dome in Hawaii for a year, in the longest US isolation experiment yet aimed at helping NASA prepare for a pioneering journey to Mars. The crew includes a French astrobiologist, a German physicist and four Americans - a pilot, an architect, a doctor/journalist and a soil scientist. They are based on a barren, northern slope of Mauna Loa, living inside a dome that is 36 feet in diameter and 20 feet tall. (8/28)

Ice Sheet Bigger Than Texas, California Found on Mars (Source: CBS)
Ali Bramson knew she was onto something when she spotted a "crazy looking crater" on the face of Mars. Trying to explain the crater's strange shape, Bramson, a graduate student at the University of Arizona, and her colleagues zeroed in on the fact it was terraced, rather than bowl-shaped like most craters of this size. Terraces can form when there are layers of different materials in the planet's subsurface, such as dirt, ice or rock.

In this area of Mars (Arcadia Planitia), there are a lot of terraced craters," he said. "The craters may have formed at different times, but they all have terraces, which indicates something weird is going on in the subsurface."

In this case, there was ice - and lots of it. Beneath the surface, they discovered an enormous slab of water ice, measuring 130 feet thick and covering an area equivalent to that of California and Texas combined. The ice was the result, the authors wrote, of snowfall "which can most easily explain the thickness and widespread nature of the excess ice observed." (8/28)

NASA Tech Aims for Precise Landings on Mars (Source: Space.com)
Getting a robotic spacecraft to nail a pinpoint landing is still just a dream for engineers, but a new technology could make it easier to reach distant destinations with better precision. The new Mars landing technology, which is being co-developed by scientists at JPL and the University of Texas, compares pictures of the ground below to images already stored in the spacecraft's computer, to figure out how close to get to the landing site. (8/28)

Terminator-Style ‘Skin’ Quickly Repairs Itself After a Gunshot (Source: New Scientist)
It’s only a speeding bullet. The novel material in the video above can handle being pierced by a gunshot and instantly repairs the damage. Developed by Timothy Scott from the University of Michigan and his team, the self-healing “skin” contains a reactive liquid sandwiched between two polymer sheets. When punctured, a chemical called tributylborane in the liquid reacts with oxygen to make it harden, sealing the hole within seconds.

Other self-healing plastics exist, but they take much longer to repair themselves. The ability to instantly plug holes could be especially useful to protect structures in space, where flying objects can puncture spacecraft or orbiting habitats. The plastic could be incorporated into their walls, creating a seal if the atmosphere inside a vessel starts to leak out, putting astronauts at risk.

Other fabrics take a different approach: stopping projectiles altogether. A futuristic tissue combining human skin cells with spider silk can cushion a gunshot when fired at half speed. Pure graphene, which is made up of layers of carbon one-atom thick, is being investigated for use in bulletproof armour because it can handle blows better than steel. (8/28)

How to Find 'Strange Life' on Alien Planets (Source: Space.com)
Detecting signs of life very different from that of Earth in the atmospheres of alien planets may be difficult, but it is possible, researchers say. A team of scientists examined models of "super-Earths" — exoplanets slightly larger than Earth — to determine how easily signs of life could be spotted. They determined that such biosignatures could be identified more easily on planets orbiting stars producing relatively low amounts of radiation — but even then only if everything worked out just right. (8/28)

Science and Religion Fight Over Hawaii's Highest Point (Source: CNN)
Rising more than 6 miles from the seabed floor, Mauna Kea is the tallest summit in the world. To native Hawaiians, the dormant volcano is the most sacred land in the entire Pacific. It is the point where the sky and earth meet. They believe it is the site of the genesis of their people, and it is the burial ground for their most revered ancestors. Considered a temple and a house of worship, native Hawaiians believed the gods created Mauna Kea for them to ascend to the heavens.

To scientists, the mountaintop is the best location in the world to observe the stars and study the origins of our universe. "The summit of Mauna Kea may, in fact, be the darkest site anywhere in the world ... which of course means you can see deeper into space," said Doug Simons, executive director at the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope. (8/28)

Huntsville City Leaders Want Country's First Commercial Spaceport (Source: WAFF)
The Rocket City is readying itself for another space boom. Huntsville leaders are working with private space companies to test whether a commercial space craft can land at Huntsville International Airport. It could mean more jobs, major money, and North Alabama leading the way yet again into the cosmos.

Apollo 11 landed on the moon in 1969 and the rest is history. Fast forward nearly 50 years and the next chapter of American space travel is evolving into the commercial sector and with it new history could be written right here at Huntsville International Airport. Huntsville leaders want to know if a commercial space craft, specifically Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser, can land on the runway next to airplanes and make us the first in the country with that capability.

"Being able to land that craft that just comes out of low earth orbit and being able to land it right here in Huntsville gives us unlimited potential,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. Huntsville leaders are currently paying for a two-prong study looking at logistics and performance. (8/28)

August 28, 2015

NASA’s 3D-Printed Rocket Parts Actually Work (Source: TechCrunch)
Today, NASA tested a 3D-printed turbopump, one that was put together with 45 percent fewer parts than pumps made any other way. This obviously saves time and money, but come on…NASA is slowly 3D printing an entire freaking rocket. That’s cool.

NASA referred to the rocket turbopump as “one of the most complex, 3D-printed rocket engine parts ever made.” It went through about 15 different tests to simulate the kind of force and environment 35,000 of rocket thrust would cause. Its turbine generates 2,000 horsepower, roughly twice the horsepower of a NASCAR engine. (8/28)

Aldrin Developing a 'Master Plan' to Colonize Mars Within 25 Years (Source: Guardian)
Buzz Aldrin is teaming up with Florida Institute of Technology to develop “a master plan” for colonizing Mars within 25 years. The second man to walk on the moon took part in a signing ceremony on Thursday at the university, less than an hour’s drive from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The Buzz Aldrin Space Institute is set to open this fall.

The 85-year-old Aldrin, who followed Neil Armstrong on to the moon’s surface on 20 July 1969, will serve as a research professor of aeronautics as well as a senior faculty adviser for the institute. He said he hopes his “master plan” is accepted by NASA and the country, with international input. NASA is already working on the spacecraft and rockets to get astronauts to Mars by the mid-2030s. (8/27)

Proton Lifts Off on 15-hour Return to Flight Mission (Source: Space News)
A Proton M rocket launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome Aug. 28 on its first mission since a failed launch in May. International Launch Services reported that the rocket successfully completed the early phases of its mission, including the separation of its first three stages and the first of five scheduled burns of its Breeze M upper stage.

Any declaration of mission success, however, will have to wait until the Breeze M releases its payload, the Inmarsat-5 F3 satellite, into a super-synchronous transfer orbit. Spacecraft separation is scheduled for 15 hours and 31 minutes after the rocket's 7:44 a.m. Eastern liftoff. The launch is the first for the Proton since the May 16 failure of a Proton rocket carrying Mexico’s Centenario satellite. (8/28)

Made-in-India Upper Stage Delivers in GSLV Launch (Source: Space News)
India’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) rocket on Aug. 27 placed India’s GSAT-6 telecommunications satellite into geostationary transfer orbit in the second consecutive success for the vehicle’s domestically built cryogenic upper stage, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) said. The launch follows the rocket’s January 2014 inaugural success, which came after a 2010 failure and an aborted launch. (8/28)

$2 Billion-Plus Invested in Space Firms Since 2012 (Source: Space News)
Emerging companies in the space industry, ranging from launch vehicle developers to satellite services providers, have raised more than $2 billion from investors since 2012, although the vast majority of that funding came from just two deals earlier this year.

A report released Aug. 28 by CB Insights, a New York-based financial intelligence firm, concluded that investments in space companies since the beginning of 2012 totaled $2.16 billion, including $1.75 billion in the first half of 2015 alone.

Most of that funding, though, came in just two deals. In January, SpaceX raised $1 billion from Google and Fidelity in exchange for just under 10 percent of the company. In June, OneWeb raised $500 million from several companies, from satellite operator Intelsat to Coca-Cola, to start development of its low Earth orbit broadband satellite constellation. (8/28)

A Wildly Detailed 100-Year Plan for Getting Humans to Mars (Source: WIRED)
For as long Ron Jones could remember, he had spent his free time pondering the trajectory of space travel five, 30, 50, even 100 years down the cosmic road. To him, space travel was a cosmic Rube Goldberg machine. To reach the end goal—which he considered to be large-scale habitation of Mars—a thousand little things had to happen first. Things like creating reliable in-orbit transportation vehicles, mining asteroids for materials, and building a thriving community on the moon.

After Jones finished the first iteration of the Integrated Space Plan chart in 1989, Rockwell adopted it as a marketing tool and began sending it around the space community. “During the heyday of the first ISP, you’d go into NASA field centers and see it on the wall,” Jay Wittner says. Jones updated the ISP in 1997, that was the last time it was revised. Jones and Wittner led a Kickstarter campaign last year to finance remaking the plan. They raised $32,000, and New York design firm 212 Box signed on for the redesign. Click here. (8/28)

Chinese Rocket Engine Falls on House (Source: Space News)
China’s launch of its Yaogan Weixing-27 satellite almost had tragic consequences for a man in Hongjun Village in Shaanxi Province, about 430 miles downrange from the launch site. Around ten minutes after Thursday’s launch of the remote sensing satellite from the Taiyuan satellite launch center in Shanxi province, what appears to be an engine from the first stage of the Long March 4C rocket smashed through the roof of a home. Click here. (8/28)

Young Hopefuls in Race to be First Black African in Space (Source: Space Daily)
In half a century of space travel more than 500 people have glimpsed the Earth from the unique vantage point of the cosmos, yet no black African has been among them. Now a Nigerian and two South Africans are in a race to become the first after being shortlisted in a global talent search to send a "young icon of the future" into the heavens.

The winner will undergo intense training, experiencing extreme G-forces and weightlessness before taking off in American developer XCOR's Lynx spacecraft, on a voyage loosely envisaged for next year. Among the three is Freeman Osonuga, who is competing with 30 hopefuls shortlisted for the Rising Star Program run by talent agency Kruger Cowne and the One Young World charity, both based in London. (8/27)

Rising Sea Levels More Dangerous Than Thought (Source: Scientific American)
The consequences of global sea level rise could be even scarier than the worst-case scenarios predicted by the dominant climate models, which don't fully account for the fast breakup of ice sheets and glaciers, NASA scientists said today (Aug. 26) at a press briefing. What's more, sea level rise is already occurring. The open question, NASA scientists say, is just how quickly the seas will rise in the future.

The current warming of the seas and the associated expansion of their waters account for about one-third of sea level rise around the world. "When heat goes under the ocean, it expands just like mercury in a thermometer," Steve Nerem, lead scientist for NASA's Sea Level Change Team at the University of Colorado in Boulder, said. The remaining two-thirds of sea level rise is occurring as a result of melting from ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica and mountain glaciers, Nerem said. (8/26)

India Successfully Launches New Rocket (Source: ISRO)
An Indian rocket successfully launched a communications satellite Thursday morning. The GSLV lifted off from the Satish Dhawan Space Center at 7:22 a.m. Eastern time carrying the GSAT-6 communications satellite. Initial word from the Indian space agency ISRO was that the launch was a success, placing the satellite into a geostationary transfer orbit.

Editor's Note: This marks India's formal entry into the highly competitive geosynchronous satellite launch market, and it looks like India will be able to offer launch services at rates that might make Russian, European and U.S. providers nervous. (8/27)

Meet the 28-Year-Old Female Engineer Making Space Exploration Cool Again (Source: NextShark)
Earlier this month, an internet firestorm was set off after Isis Wenger, a 22-year-old San Francisco-based engineer, was criticized online for being too pretty, and thus an unrealistic choice, to portray an engineer in an ad campaign for tech startup OneLogin. The only problem: Wenger is actually an engineer at the company. Click here. (8/26)

1,400 Satellites Projected to Launch Over Next Decade (Source: Via Satellite)
An average of 140 satellites with launch masses greater than 50 kg will enter orbit by 2024, according to Euroconsult’s new “Satellites to be Built & Launched by 2024,” report. Of the 1,400 satellites over the next decade, the research firm expects governments from 60 countries will be responsible for 75 percent of the $255 billion in revenues from manufacture and launch. In comparison with last year’s forecast, the number of satellites is due to grow more than the market value over the decade.

Euroconsult expects nearly 90 percent of the government market will remain concentrated in the 10 countries with an established space industry: the U.S., Russia, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, China, Japan and India. The other 50 countries engaged in space activities will launch twice the number of satellites that they did in the past 10 years, i.e. about 200 satellites. More than half of these spacecraft will be procured from foreign manufacturers as domestic industry capabilities mature. (8/26)

China Launches Earth Observation Satellite (Source: Xinhua)
China launched an Earth observation satellite Thursday. A Long March-4C rocket lifted off from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center Thursday morning and placed the Yaogan-27 satellite into orbit in a launch not previously announced. The spacecraft's mission, according to official Chinese media, is for civil remote sensing applications, but the Yaogan series is widely believed to be used for military applications as well. (8/27)

Russia and Europe Continue Mars Collaboration (Source: Tass)
Roscosmos and ESA have agreed to continue cooperation on their joint ExoMars program. The heads of the two agencies signed an agreement in Moscow Wednesday regarding the program, although details of the agreement were not disclosed. The first ExoMars mission, an orbiter, is scheduled for launch next year, followed by a lander and rover in 2018. The two agencies also agreed to cooperate in lunar exploration. (8/27)

Virgin Galactic Adds Italian Pilot (Source: Satellite Today)
An Italian test pilot is Virgin Galactic's newest pilot. The company announced Thursday it has hired Nicola Pecile, who served for 20 years in the Italian Air Force before joining the National Test Pilot School, located next door to Virgin Galactic's facilities in Mojave, California, four years ago. Pecile joins a group of Virgin Galactic pilots that includes former military pilots and a former NASA astronaut. (8/26)

Mars: A Crappy Planet (Source: MacLean's)
"I’d love to explore Mars, but, ultimately, it’s kind of a crappy planet," said Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen. "The thing is, [Mars One people would] never go outside without a spacesuit ever again. You’re going to live in a tin can. Space stations are noisy; it’s like living inside a computer with the fan on all the time. You’re never going to smell grass or trees. It’s just never going to be anything like Earth. You’re never going to swim. You’re giving up so much."

Editor's Note: So, when it comes to picking the right location for a sustained human presence, what makes Mars better than the Moon? At least on the Moon you're only a few days away from Earth. (8/26)

Air Force to Award Integration Studies to SpaceX (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force disclosed plans to award SpaceX a contract worth about $1 million to study the ins and outs of mating national security satellites to the company’s Falcon 9 rocket. According to a justification and approval document posted to the Federal Business Opportunities website Aug. 26, the $962,000 contract would cover 10 studies as the service prepares to enter a new era of competitively awarded launch missions. (8/27)

Scientists Send Kombucha to Space (Source: Space.com)
Kombucha, a fizzy, fermented tea and trendy new favorite of hipsters and health nuts everywhere, has reached stellar heights as part of an experiment on the International Space Station. Scientists at the European Space Agency (ESA) have placed the same bacteria and yeasts used to make Kombucha tea on the outside of the orbiting laboratory to see how the organisms fare in the unprotected environment of space.

The Kombucha experiment is one in a series of "Expose" studies run by ESA to find out if multicellular biofilms — a community of microorganisms that can stick together on a surface — can survive  in the unshielded environment above Earth's atmosphere. (8/27)

NASA versus Katrina: August 29, 2005 (Source: Ars Technica)
Katrina stands as the most devastating Atlantic storm to ever hit the US. Yet one day before Katrina, Malcolm Wood had to go into work. This task was daunting—“We knew from the weather station it was going to be worse than previous storms,” Wood says.

“It looked like the perfect storm”—but the stakes were literally out of this world. So Wood traveled the roughly 40 miles down to tiny Michoud, Louisiana, and prepared to spend the night at Building 320. The unassuming office space sits toward the back of NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility, where the organization's fuel tanks have been made since the 1960s. It’d be the first night of roughly 30 straight that Wood and company would spend on the Michoud grounds. Click here. (8/27)

Could Alien Life Spread 'Like a Virus' to the Stars? (Source: Discovery)
As astronomical techniques become more advanced, a team of astrophysicists think they will be able to not only detect the signatures of alien life in exoplanetary atmospheres, but also track its relentless spread throughout the galaxy. The research assumes that this feat may be possible in a generation or so and that the hypothesis of panspermia may act as the delivery system for alien biology to hop from one star system to another. Click here. (8/27)

Frenemies In Space; China Needs To Protect Its Assets, Too (Source: Forbes)
It is common to equate Space Situational Awareness (SSA) only with U.S. national security. One reason for this is the omnipresence of the United States military, which has been central to our way of thinking about the concept in outer space security. In theory, the SSA mechanics are simple: how do you figure out where something is, where it is going, and what it might do to your stuff out there.

In practice at this stage, no one does SSA better than the U.S. military, primarily through its Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC). The U.S. military is already pretty formidable in terms of its capabilities relative to the rest of the world. Now it is also working on coalitions to make itself even more indispensable to governing SSA realities worldwide. Click here. (8/26)

Who Is the 2016 Presidential Race's Space Candidate? (Source: Inverse)
America’s next president will have the opportunity to capitalize on a lively interest in space exploration and colonization — and face the solemn task of not screwing it up. Click here to find how the field stands on the question of space exploration. If space is your final frontier, who do you want win? (8/27)

How a University Went Into Space: ASU's Story (Source: ASU)
Only 30 institutions in the United States can build spacecraft. Only seven build interplanetary spacecraft that leave Earth’s orbit. Arizona State University is one of them. ASU’s space program is in elite company. And this week’s CubeSat mission announcement adds to the university’s stellar resume: It will be the first time ASU will lead an interplanetary science expedition. It’s not the university’s first outing by a long shot, however. Click here. (8/26)

Why the Race to Mars Requires Astronauts to Become Onion Farmers (Source: Atlas Obscura)
When NASA astronauts tweeted this month that they had harvested a batch of red romaine lettuce aboard the International Space Station, in the microgravity of space, it was seen as an important step in the journey to travel to Mars. But it wasn’t the first time that homegrown food appeared in space. In fact, that lettuce was nearly half-a-century in the making. Click here. (8/27)

The Moon Landing Was a Giant Leap. The Next Leap is Staying There. (Source: MacLean's)
When Apollo 17, the last manned mission to the Moon, left the lunar surface in December 1972, people on Earth seemed to check it off the cosmic to-do list. Been there, done that. The grey orb was dry and deadly, with freezing 14-day nights that dipped to –270° C and equally long days that reached a blood-boiling 100° C. Mars, meanwhile, was calling. Humanity’s interplanetary ambitions wandered elsewhere.

Then, in late 2009, scientists confirmed the existence of water and found evidence of water at the Moon’s southern pole. “Finding that stuff was a big deal,” says Paul Spudis, a Houston-based lunar scientist who has worked with NASA and the White House. “It showed us that a permanent habitation of the Moon was possible.” Click here. (8/26)

August 27, 2015

All Eyes on India's Cryo Engine as GSLV Rocket Readies for Liftoff (Source: Times of India)
All eyes at the Sriharikota spaceport will be on the indigenous cryogenic engine which forms the third and upper stage of the GSLV-D6 rocket that will lift off at 4.52pm on Thursday with GSAT-6, a 2,117kg communication satellite. This will be the ninth flight of the Geostationary Satellite Launch Vehicle and the third development flight using a cryogenic engine. The success-failure score of the development flights has been 1-1. (8/26)

Orion Parachute System Withstands Failure Test (Source: NASA)
NASA successfully completed a dramatic test of the Orion spacecraft’s parachute system and its ability to perform in the event of a partial deployment on re-entry. On Wednesday, Aug. 26, a test version of Orion touched down in the Arizona desert after engineers intentionally failed two different parachutes used in the sequence that stabilizes and slows the spacecraft for landing. (8/26)

U.S. Air Force Eyes Blast Detection Satellite (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force hopes to build an experimental satellite that would detect nuclear explosions and monitor the space environment from geosynchronous orbit, the service said in an Aug. 24 announcement. The Space Test Program Satellite (STPSat) -6 would be the latest in a series of spacecraft developed under a Defense Department program to field space capabilities quickly in response to emerging military needs. (8/26)

DoE to Crank Out New Plutonium-238 in 2019 (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Department of Energy will start producing new plutonium-238 for deep space missions around 2019, but production will ramp up slowly, and NASA still has not committed to setting aside any of the isotope for small missions.

Early next year, the refinery at DoE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee will restart for the first time in 27 years to produce a test-batch of the isotope, which powers nuclear batteries needed for space missions that cannot rely on solar arrays. (8/26)

More Than 100 Billion Billion Earth-Like Planets Might Exist (Source: New Scientist)
Your existence is unbelievably unlikely. Think of everything that happened for you to be born: your parents met, a particular sperm fertilised a particular egg, ultimately giving rise to the specific sequence of genes that is you. But if it hadn’t happened that way, someone else would be reading this in your place.  We’re unique, but that doesn’t make us special: there are 7 billion other humans on the planet. Now, thanks to a glut of data on planets in other star systems, astronomers are starting to realize the same is true of Earth itself. (8/26)

How Kubrick and Clarke Designed the Future (Source: New Scientist)
Half a century ago, Stanley Kubrick wrote to Arthur C. Clarke about a movie idea. Clarke was enthusiastic: “The ‘really good’ science-fiction movie is a great many years overdue.” So began their collaboration on Journey Beyond the Stars.

The film acquired several nicknames (“How the Solar System was Won” was a favourite), before its release in 1968 as 2001: A Space Odyssey. As a vision of the future it stands the test of time: a tribute to a writer who dreamed up communications satellites long before a satellite was launched, and a director who, even as Sputnik circled the Earth, was working through reels of Japanese sci-fi to find the effects he would need to imagine his way into space. Click here. (8/26)

Why Scott Kelly Will Be Taking Russian Spacecraft for a Spin (Source: ABC)
American astronaut Scott Kelly is spending one year in space but he'll get to briefly leave the International Space Station this week when he takes a short ride in the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, which is being moved to make room for the arrival of additional crew members.

The ride will take about 25 minutes, beginning when the Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft undocks from the Poisjk module on Friday at 3:12 a.m. and moves to the station's Zvezda port, freeing up room for three new crew members to park their spacecraft when they're set to arrive at the station on Sept. 2, NASA officials said. (8/26)

Space Club Invites Kolcum Award Nominations (Source: NSCFL)
The National Space Club Florida Committee each year recognizes area representatives of the news media and other communications professionals for excellence in telling the space story along Florida's Space Coast and throughout the world with a Harry Kolcum Memorial News & Communications Award.

The award is named in honor of Harry Kolcum, the former managing editor of Aviation Week & Space Technology, who was Cape bureau chief from 1980 to 1993, prior to his death in 1994. Kolcum was a founding member of the National Space Club Florida Committee. Nominations for this year’s honorees will be accepted through Friday, Sept. 18. Click here. (8/26)

Buzz Aldrin, Florida Tech to Establish Space Institute (Source: Florida Today)
Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin on Thursday will visit the Florida Institute of Technology for a ceremony formally establishing a space institute in the astronaut's name. The Buzz Aldrin Space Institute at Florida Tech, to open this fall, will focus on Mars settlement through Aldrin's concept of "Cycling Pathways to Occupy Mars," according to a media advisory.

Aldrin will join the Melbourne university's faculty as a Research Professor of Aeronautics and serve as a senior faculty adviser for the institute. Florida Tech President and CEO Anthony Catanese and Aldrin will host the 2 p.m. signing ceremony and a media briefing about the institute. (8/26)

August 26, 2015

NASA Eyes Uranus, Neptune for New Missions (Source: Space News)
NASA plans to start studying missions to Uranus and Neptune. Jim Green, head of NASA's Planetary Science Division, said this week that he has instructed JPL to start work on a study of mission concepts to the two "ice giant" planets in the outer solar system, visited only by the Voyager 2 mission in the 1980s. Any mission to either planet is unlikely to fly before the late 2020s, pending funding and endorsement by planetary researchers that such a mission would be a scientific priority. (8/25)

NASA Funds Plasma Rocket Technology for Superfast Space Travel (Source: Space Daily)
Superfast journeys to Mars may be one big step closer for humanity, as NASA has sponsored a private company to develop a high-tech, plasma engine. Ad Astra Rocket Company, specializing in the development of plasma rocket propulsion technology, has finished contract negotiations with NASA.

As part of the Next Space Technology Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) award, the space agency will cover half of Ad Astra's testing expenses over the next three years. Known as the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket, or VASIMR, the engine uses plasma technology to accelerate rockets to previously unattainable speeds. To create plasma, the proposed engines will heat pressurized gas to extremely high temperatures with radio waves. The resulting plasma is kept under control with magnetic fields. (8/26)

NASA Aircraft to Begin NOAA Hurricane Mission (Source: Space Daily)
NASA's remotely piloted Global Hawk aircraft will begin flights this week in support of a NOAA-led mission to improve hurricane track and intensity forecasts. Operating from the aircraft ground control station located at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Virginia, NOAA will work with NASA scientists on the mission called Sensing Hazards with Operational Unmanned Technology, or SHOUT.

The mission builds on earlier collaborative storm research led by NASA and will move the Global Hawk closer to being put into operational use as a weather forecast observations tool. From now until the end of September, pilots and scientists will direct a series of flights out over the Atlantic Ocean basin to collect data on temperature, moisture, wind speed and direction. The real time data will go into National Weather Service forecast models at the National Hurricane Center. (8/25)

Billionaires Wanted to Fund Private Mars Colony (Source: Space.com)
Could the first Mars colony be called Buffettville, or Zuckerburgh? The Netherlands-based nonprofit Mars One aims to establish a permanent settlement on the Red Planet, beginning with the touchdown of the first four pioneers in 2027. The biggest challenges facing the project are financial rather than technical, so a big donation from a deep-pocketed person concerned about his or her legacy could make a huge difference, Mars One representatives said. (8/25)

U.S. and Russia Can't Even Agree on How to Handle Astronaut Pee (Source: Bloomberg)
Both of the failed U.S. resupply vessels carried water-processing equipment needed on the station. Their failures raised the stakes for the Aug. 19 launch of an unmanned Japanese cargo craft, the Kounotori 5, or White Stork, which successfully docked on Monday. Among the cargo losses on both U.S. launch failures were a pair of multifiltration beds for the water processor and filters for the urine-processing system, which recycles astronauts’ waste into a drinking supply.

When the space shuttle program began in 1981, its astronauts’ water relied on iodine, a common biocide for water that had long served as a staple for U.S. troops operating in areas with suspect water supplies. Those standard practices carried over to the American side of the space station, which was launched in 1998. It’s an effective but inefficient way to clean the water supply, because it has to be filtered out before crew members can drink it. Too much iodine can cause the thyroid gland to become enlarged.

The Russians, however, rely on a different go-to: silver, which in its ionic form is a powerful antimicrobial agent. Its use dates back to the Soviet Mir space station, which was launched in 1986. Unlike iodine, silver doesn’t have to be filtered out of the water. Epsom salts are added to improve its taste. NASA has decided to switch to silver-ionized water on future missions. The U.S. water recycling system produces about 3.6 gallons per day, for an average of three NASA crew on the ISS, slightly more than the Russians yield from processing just condensate and shower water into a potable supply. The reason? NASA takes Russian urine, too. (8/25)

Eyeing the Stars: Ethiopia's Space Program (Source: Space Daily)
High above the crowded streets of Addis Ababa, among fields where farmers lead oxen dragging wooden ploughs, sits Ethiopia's space program. Perched on the top of the 3,200-meter (10,500-foot) high Mount Entoto, two metal domes house telescopes, each a meter in diameter.

Operational for only a few months, the specialized equipment -- the first in eastern Africa -- has propelled Ethiopia into an elite club of African countries to have embarked on a space program. For Ethiopia, Africa's second most populous nation, the programme is aimed to give it a technological boost to aid the country's already rapid development. (8/25)

How a Nazi Rocket Could Have Put Britain Into Space (Source: BBC)
In the summer of 1945, with the war in Europe over, Allied forces rushed to unravel the secrets of Nazi V2 rockets. These terror weapons, built by slave laborers, did little to affect the outcome of the war – but they had the potential to change the world. “There was an unseemly scramble to get hold of V2 missile technology,” says John Becklake, former head of engineering at London’s Science Museum. “The Americans, the Russians, the French and us.”

The leader of Hitler’s Vengeance weapon program, Wernher von Braun, surrendered to American forces in May 1945 and was quietly spirited away to the United States. In the same month the Russians captured Von Braun’s research and test facilities at Peenemunde on the Baltic coast. The French, meanwhile, gathered some 40 German rocket scientists and engineers and the British assembled rockets for a series of test flights.

Known as Operation Backfire, the British program involved firing V2 rockets from the Netherlands to the edge of space before they splashed down in the North Sea. The experiment proved successful, with the missiles reportedly descending within three miles of their targets – more accurately than the Germans managed during the war. Click here. (8/25)

NASA Science Zeros in on Ocean Rise: How Much? How Soon? (Source: NASA)
Seas around the world have risen an average of nearly 3 inches since 1992, with some locations rising more than 9 inches due to natural variation, according to the latest satellite measurements from NASA and its partners. An intensive research effort now underway, aided by NASA observations and analysis, points to an unavoidable rise of several feet in the future.

“Given what we know now about how the ocean expands as it warms and how ice sheets and glaciers are adding water to the seas, it’s pretty certain we are locked into at least 3 feet of sea level rise, and probably more,” said Steve Nerem of the University of Colorado, Boulder, and lead of the Sea Level Change Team. “But we don't know whether it will happen within a century or somewhat longer.” Click here. (8/26)

NASA Says No Special Treatment for SpaceX in Falcon 9 Investigation (Source: Space News)
Responding to congressional criticism that suggested NASA was giving SpaceX special treatment, Administrator Charles Bolden said NASA is conducting an independent review of the company’s June launch failure. In an Aug. 24 letter to House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), Bolden said the appearance of special treatment accorded to SpaceX over Orbital ATK was a “misunderstanding” because NASA is taking a different approach to reviews of the two companies’ launch failures.

“First and foremost, I want to assure you that NASA is performing an independent analysis” of the June 28 Falcon 9 launch failure on SpaceX’s seventh cargo mission to the International Space Station under its Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract with NASA, Bolden wrote.

Bolden noted that immediately after last October’s failure of Orbital’s Antares launch vehicle, also on a cargo mission to the ISS under a CRS contract, the agency decided to establish a formal independent review team. While NASA was formally part of Orbital’s own accident investigation board, Bolden said the independent review was intended to “inform and amplify the learning for the NASA team.” (8/26)

NASA Crashes Cessna 172 to Test Improved ELT Technology (Source: Daily Press)
In an effort to improve emergency locator transmitter technology for commercial and general aviation, NASA is performing a series of test crashes of Cessna 172 aircraft to simulate various crash scenarios. The third of three tests is expected to be performed this week and will involve dropping the airplane tail-down from 100 feet. (8/23)

5 Space Leaders Making a Difference (Source: Space News)
Making a difference can be measured in any number of ways: triumph, budget, policy, inspiration, influence or vision. Unlike some previous years, no villains are represented, but bad behavior makes its presence felt, if only indirectly. As always, our criteria are subjective, and our selections represent but a small slice of the people and activities that make up the global space enterprise. Click here. (8/25)

Edwards: No Progress on Reconciling Commercial Launch Bills (Source: Space News)
Despite individually passing legislation that would extend key provisions of commercial launch law, the House and Senate have yet to start efforts to reconcile their separate bills, a leading House Democrat said. Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD), ranking member of the House Science space subcommittee, said she was unaware of any effort in Congress to establish a conference committee to resolve differences between a commercial space transportation bill the House passed in May and one the Senate approved Aug. 4.

“I’m a little concerned about that. I haven’t heard anything yet about a prospective conference,” she said in response to a question about the status of the legislation. “I would be on the conference, so I would know that.”

Both the House bill, H.R. 2262, and the Senate bill, S. 1297, would extend the current restriction on the ability of the Federal Aviation Administration to regulate the safety of participants of commercial spaceflights except in the case of accidents. This grace period, frequently called the “learning period” by industry, is scheduled to expire Oct. 1. The Senate bill extends the learning period by five years, while the House bill extends it by ten. (8/25)

Private Space Stations Could Be a Reality by 2025 (Source: Space.com)
There are strong prospects that commercial space stations will become a reality within the next 10 years if entrepreneurs and NASA can properly manage the tricky transition from the government-run International Space Station to privately built and operated facilities, experts say.

"This is an exciting moment," said Alex MacDonald, program executive for NASA's Emerging Space Office. "We are going to have a legitimate opportunity to run that great experiment of privately owned facilities, if you guys are able to raise the money to do it. And that's really the exciting part."

NASA uses the International Space Station (ISS) for basic research and to reduce the human and technological risks of sending astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit (LEO). That need will not end even if the space station is retired in 2024, as currently planned, experts say. (8/25)

'Lonely Mountain' on Ceres Shines in New Photos (Source: Slate)
A "lonely mountain" stands unaccompanied on the icy gray surface of the dwarf planet Ceres, in amazing new photographs from NASA's Dawn spacecraft. The mountain, with an altitude of 21,120 feet (6,437 meters), is one of many gorgeous features captured in the new images, which Dawn took on Aug. 19. Click here. (8/25)

Can Stephen Hawking End a 40-Year Debate on a Black-Hole Mystery? (Source: CSM)
“If you feel you are in a black hole, don’t give up,” Stephen Hawking said to an audience at a public lecture in Stockholm, Sweden on Monday. “There’s a way out.” Mr. Hawking was speaking to a group of mostly lay-people, in which he teased the idea that he may have another theory about black holes to bring to a close a 40 year-old debate known as the "black hole information paradox." Click here. (8/25)

Russia to Develop Earth Remote-Sensing Satellite System for Iran (Source: Sputnik)
Two Russian space companies and Iranian Bonyan Danesh Shargh firm signed on Tuesday an agreement on joint development of an Earth remote-sensing satellite system for Iran, Russia's Federal Space Agency Roscosmos said. The pre-сontractual arrangement covers the development of an earth remote-sensing system based on an upgraded version of the Kanopus-V1 (Canopus-B) observation satellite. (8/25)

2nd Space Traffic Management Conference Planned Nov. 11-13 in Daytona (Source: ERAU)
The 2nd Annual Space Traffic Management Conference will be held 11 – 13 November 2015 at Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach Campus in Florida. This year's theme is “An Evolving Landscape.” This year’s objective is to explore the next steps for collaborative, responsible, sustainable coordination of space traffic with other modalities. Click here. (8/25)

August 25, 2015

There's Peace in Space. Will Earthly Conflicts End It? (Source: MaClean's)
“I suggest the U.S. delivers its astronauts to the ISS with a trampoline.” Rogozin was in no position to back up this rhetoric. The U.S., after all, has pumped billions into his country’s space program, including payments for Americans’ seats on the Soyuz. (A renowned bloviator, he’s left numerous threats unfulfilled.) And it’s not as if his space agency, Roscosmos, can operate the ISS without the U.S.

Still, those heated words from a Vladimir Putin confidant laid bare tensions straining the fabric of the Russia-U.S. space partnership. Can it survive as relations here on the surface deteriorate? Is mutual dependence enough to hold it together? What happens after the ISS agreement expires? If the two sides part ways, will each honour its long-standing commitment to use space for peaceful purposes? Click here. (8/24)

UAE, Belarus to Explore Mars Together (Source: BELTA)
 The United Arab Emirates considers Belarus as a partner in Mars exploration, BelTA learned from Mohammed Al Ahbabi, Director General of the UAE Space Agency, on 24 August. The UAE Space Agency head said: “We plan to launch a mission to Mars. It will be the first such launch in the region. We believe that joint work with Belarus in this field will be promising.” (8/25)

Blue Origin Deal to Launch More Florida Space Business (Source: Orlando Business Journal)
Central Florida's space industry is a sleeping giant that is just beginning to stir. It has the potential to open up a new economic engine in government and commercial space flights that also may include an element of space tourism — taking tourists to low orbit in rockets. It's also an opportunity for recruiting different research firms to build local offices that could result in billions of dollars in new development and even more jobs. (8/24)

Alaska Dedicates Launch Facility to Ed Allen (Source: Alaska Aerospace)
The Pacific Spaceport Complex - Alaska (PSCA) today dedicated the Launch Operations Control Center (LOCC) in honor of Ed Allen.  Mr. Allen started working at the Kodiak Launch Complex in 1998.  As part of the early development team for the launch facility, his leadership and over 50 years expertise in the rocket launch business proved critical in resolving challenging problems with building a complex rocket launch facility at Narrow Cape on Kodiak Island.  (8/24)

Editorial: Setting Arbitrary Cost, Schedule Will Never Get People to Mars (Source: Space News)
What is needed is a firm, long-term commitment to pursue the goal of humans exploring and eventually settling on Mars, not for a year or two or for a decade or two, but for as long as it takes. And don’t expect it to cost $5 billion or $30 billion or $50 billion, but plan on allocating a reasonable (and acceptable) fraction of the NASA annual budget every year. Mars isn’t going away, and the important fiscal constraint isn’t the total cost, but the annual cost; i.e., the budget. (8/24)

Editorial: The Price of Ideology (Source: Space News)
Congress’ Ex-Im Shutdown is Already Costing U.S. Companies. It’s not unusual for Congress to break for August recess with unfinished business on its plate, but allowing the U.S. Export-Import Bank to wither on the vine is something else altogether.

First, lawmakers deliberately allowed the Ex-Im’s authorization to expire July 1, making it impossible for the bank to enter into new financing arrangements. Then, they left Washington with no action on the matter, guaranteeing that the bank will remain dormant — it can only fulfill pre-existing agreements — at least until their return Sept. 8, but more likely well into October.

It should be of no surprise to anyone, therefore, that the space industry is beginning to pay the price for the bank’s authorization lapse. The most clear-cut example is Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems’ contract to provide an all-electric satellite to repeat customer ABS. That deal is valued at well over $100 million but contingent on Ex-Im backing. (8/24)

Is Dark Energy a Chameleon? (Source: Sky & Telescope)
Scientists have come up with a couple of ideas for the nature of dark energy. One camp supposes it’s the energy pent up in empty space itself, known as the cosmological constant. True to its name, it should stay constant from the Big Bang onward. But the theory has some problems — most notably it overpredicts the energy density of the cosmic vacuum by 120 orders of magnitude (yikes!).

Another camp instead suggests quintessence, a fifth fundamental force that doesn’t have to be constant — it could have arisen at some point in the early universe and might one day gradually fade away again. But so far scientists have failed to detect this fifth force in the lab. So in 2004 Justin Khoury and Amanda Weltman (both then at Columbia University) suggested a modified scenario: chameleons. Click here. (8/25)

Shiloh-Area Community Reaches Compromise on Land Use (Source: Daytona Beach News-Journal)
Oak Hill officials have reached a compromise with those who challenged a change to the city’s land-use plan initially aimed at landing a space manufacturing company (Blue Origin). In May, over the objections of state and local Audubon Society members, the City Commission unanimously approved a land-use change for 423 acres for a space industry manufacturing facility.

Clay Henderson, an attorney and longtime local environmental advocate, challenged the approval, filing a request for a state administrative hearing on behalf of nearby property owner David Hall. That triggered a series of discussions between Henderson and the city attorney and other officials that resulted in a compromise. Concessions from the city will require a 200-foot-wide buffer around any planned construction on the site, an adjusted maximum height of building allowed on the property from 100 feet to 75 feet. (8/25)

Entrepreneur Blasting Off Into Orbit (Source: CBS)
The daily business of outer space, long the exclusive province of NASA, has become a wide-open field for entrepreneurship. Millions of investment dollars are pushing commerce into orbit. A fleet of toaster-sized satellites hitch rides on any rocket headed into space.

"It's great," said Will Marshall, a former NASA scientist and CEO of Planet Labs. "We ask the astronauts to throw our satellites out the window and they do." The satellites, called "doves," cruise in low-Earth orbit, around 400 miles up. Their mission is ambitious: to take a picture of every place on earth every single day. "We have launches 87 satellites to date, which is the largest constellation in human history," said Marshall. Click here. (8/23)

Russian Institute Plans aAll-Female Simulated Moon Mission (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
Following from their Mars-500 “long duration” simulation in 2011-2012, the Institute of Biomedical Problems in Moscow, Russia, has announced plans to perform an all-female simulated eight-day lunar circumnavigation mission by the end of 2015. The test and flight simulation project is called “Moon-2015".

Currently scheduled for October-November 2015, the experiment will differ from the Mars-500 venture not just in duration but most notably in crew composition. For Moon-2015, all the participants will be women, drawn from the staff at IBMP itself. In their July announcement, IBMP named the ten volunteers from whom the actual crew will be chosen. (8/25)

CubeSats to Mars and Beyond (Source: Space Review)
As CubeSats take on an wider range of missions in Earth orbit, some are looking at how such small spacecraft could be used on interplanetary missions. Jeff Foust reports on those efforts discussed at a recent conference, from serving as a communications relay for a Mars lander mission to being Mars landers themselves. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2814/1 to view the article. (8/24)

Second Horizon (Source: Space Review)
Long before New Horizons lifted off on its mission to Pluto, the project team was proposing the development of a second, similar spacecraft. Dwayne Day discusses that proposal and what happened to it at NASA and in the halls of Congress. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2813/1 to view the article. (8/24)

Major Unfinished Business in the the US Space Program (Source: Space Review)
With less than 18 months left in the current Presidential administration, some argue there's little chance of major new space initiatives from the White House in that time. However, Vid Beldavs, in an open letter to the President, asks him to support a new emphasis on lunar exploration in cooperation with international and commercial partners. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2812/1 to view the article. (8/24)

The Risks of Mars (Source: Space Review)
Many people consider a human mission to Mars with trepidation given the risks involved, including the potential loss of life. Frank Stratford argues that humanity needs to accept and even embrace those risks, given the much greater benefits such missions offer. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2811/1 to view the article. (8/24)

Alcoholic Beverages Sent to ISS to Test Space's Effect on "Mellowness" (Source: Space.com)
An array of alcoholic beverages is on its way to the International Space Station, but the astronauts won't be imbibing. The five distilled spirits are part of an experiment by Suntory Global Innovation Center of Japan, which is planning to see how microgravity affects the spirits' "mellowness." The samples will be stored in the Kibo module -- some for a year, others for two years or longer -- and will be tested when they return to Earth. (8/20)

Construction Begins on CYGNSS Storm-watching Smallsats (Source: Space News)
Construction has started on the first of eight small satellites in the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) constellation. CYGNSS is NASA’s second principal investigator-led Earth Science Venture-class mission. The constellation is scheduled to launch in late 2016 on an Orbital ATK Pegasus XL rocket from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. Science operations would begin during the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season. (8/21)

World's Fastest-Melting Glacier Loses Massive Chunk (Source: Mashable)
One of the world's most rapidly flowing glaciers may have just set another record, and it's not one not that bodes well for low-lying coastal cities and nations around the world, which are vulnerable to sea level rise. During the past month, NASA and European satellites captured images showing a sudden loss of ice, also known as a calving event (or in this case, possibly multiple events) from Greenland's Jakobshavn Isbrae Glacier. It's unclear if this sudden ice loss set a record, according to NASA.

A 2014 study published in the open access journal Cryosphere found that the glacier was moving at average speeds of about half-a-mile per year, or more than 150 feet per day, during the summers of 2012 and 2013. "We are now seeing summer speeds more than four times what they were in the 1990s," said Ian Joughin. "This glacier alone could contribute more to sea level rise than any other single feature in the Northern Hemisphere," according to NASA. (8/23)

First Manned Launch From Russia's Vostochny Delayed Until 2025 (Source: Space Daily)
Russia's space agency Roscosmos is postponing the first manned space flight from the new Vostochny Space Center from 2018 until 2025. According to Roscosmos, there is no purpose in launching the older Soyuz ship in 2018. The first launch will be aboard a new Angara-A5B carrier rocket. The first test flight of the Angara-A5B is scheduled for 2023, with a first unmanned operational flight slated for 2024. Earlier statements claimed that the first launch of a new manned spacecraft on an Angara heavy rocket carrier would take place in 2023. (8/25)

Russia's Moon Landing Plan Hindered by Financial Distress (Source: Space Daily)
Russia's moon landing project among other space programs will face further budget cuts and even risk of closure following the government's austerity measures, a senior official of Russia's space industry said Monday. "We don't rule out that further space budget cuts would continue in the upcoming years," said Yuri Koptev, head of the scientific-technical Council of Roscosmos, the governing organ of Russia's space industry.

Russia's moon landing plan requires at least 2.4 trillion rubles (34 billion U.S. dollars) until 2025, according to Koptev. Roscosmos head Igor Komarov said in April that Roscosmos would keep implementing space exploration projects despite the economic difficulties and try to help Russian cosmonauts land on the moon no later than 2030. Russia's space strategy charted by Roscosmos until 2030 regards the moon missions as a step toward a manned flight to Mars. (8/25)

Boeing Plans Layoff in Satellite Division (Source: Reuters)
Boeing plans to lay off hundreds of employees in its satellite division. The company said in an internal communication that "multiple" commercial satellite orders have been delayed because of recent launch failures as well as the lapse in authorization of the Export-Import Bank of the U.S., forcing the layoffs. The total number of layoffs will be finalized later this year, a company spokesman said, and some employees could find work in other parts of the company. (8/25)

US Army Cancels SWORDS Microsatellite Launcher Program (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Army’s efforts to field a rocket for launching small, low-orbiting satellites on short notice continue to come up empty, even as several commercially oriented companies pursue similar capabilities, the service’s top space official said. Meanwhile, the service has shelved its Soldier-Warfighter Operationally Responsive Deployer for Space (SWORDS) program.

In March 2013, the Army awarded Quantum International, based here, a $19 million contract to develop the SWORDS vehicle, with an orbital test flight scheduled for summer 2014. KT Engineering and Teledyne Brown Engineering, both of Huntsville, were subcontractors on the program. But the test flight never happened, and the contract expired in October 2014. (8/24)

NASA Picks Planetary Science Cubesat Missions (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected two planetary science cubesat missions for development. The Lunar Polar Hydrogen Mapper is a 6U cubesat that will map hydrogen abundances near the lunar south pole, while the CubeSat Particle Aggregation and Collision Experiment is a 2U spacecraft that will study particle interactions in microgravity. The two were selected from 22 proposals submitted for the Small Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration, or SIMPLEx, competition earlier this year, for launch in 2018. NASA also selected three other proposals for further technology development. (8/25)

Stem Cells Survive Wild Ride on Prototype Space Capsule (Source: Space.com)
Despite a rough landing, stem cells riding in a prototype capsule survived a long fall back to Earth during a drop test — part of an initiative to research the cells in space. The RED-4U capsule was created by Terminal Velocity Aerospace to return science experiments to Earth and carried a cargo of adult stem cells, which can grow into any cell type.

The cells, provided by the Mayo Clinic, are thriving despite a parachute's deployment issue, the company's CEO said. The failure's cause is being investigated, but is not related to the parachute design. The capsule was raised and dropped by a balloon to test the system for future use on the International Space Station. The balloon flew to about 20 miles (32 kilometers) before descending on a similar trajectory to something returning from space. (8/25)

Stockholm Fashion Week Turns Island into Mars (Source: The Local)
More than 30 Nordic designers are showcasing the Spring/Summer collections they hope we will be wearing or be inspired by this time next year, with most of the catwalk events happening at Stockholm's Berns, a nineteenth century building that doubles up as a night club, hotel, restaurant and conference venue.
 
But sports brand Björn Borg instead took over Långholmen island in the Swedish capital on Monday evening, to create a Mars-themed environment complete with red rocks, dust and a giant crator underneath Västerbron bridge, for what is sure to be one of the most talked about catwalks of the entire week. (8/24)

Why We Don't Need Another Space Race (Source: Huffington Post)
We didn't finish the first one yet. We just abandoned it. "Nearly five decades ago we had the ability to extend ourselves into the solar system and beyond," Stephen Petranek says in his new TED book, How We'll Live on Mars. "We simply have not chosen to pursue the opportunity."

These days we talk about human missions to Mars as if a new type of space race has begun, one clearly distanced from the original space race by a good 40 or more years, a race we here in the US of A believe we won, because we sent astronauts to the moon. What if the original race never ended? Abandoning a race that continued without us is "winning" only as Charlie Sheen would see it: a blinders-on, super-subjective judgment with no basis in reality. Click here. (8/24)

August 24, 2015

Why NASA Still Can’t Put Humans in Space: Congress Is Starving It of Needed Funds (Source: Slate)
On Saturday, just a few days from now, it will have been 1,500 days that NASA has been relying on Russia to hitch a ride to the International Space Station. It was that long ago when the Space Shuttle Atlantis landed at Kennedy Space Center—the last Shuttle flight to the ISS, and in fact the last Shuttle flight of them all. That was the last time an American rocket carried humans into space.

As I have made clear many times, I do not begrudge President Bush for canceling the Shuttle program, nor President Obama for canceling its replacement, the Constellation program, which was running severely over budget and behind schedule. What I do begrudge is a Congress that has made this situation far worse by underfunding the Commercial Crew Development program, which was specifically designed to allow commercial companies to pick up the slack and get Americans back into space on board American crewed vehicles.

Every year, NASA works with the White House to create a budget. The amount the president has asked to fund Commercial Crew over time would have been enough to begin the first launches this year, 2015. But over the past five years, Congress has consistently underfunded Commercial Crew, usually by several hundred million dollars every year, as much as 25 percent of the requested funds. The total amount that’s been shorted is about $1 billion. (8/24)

Why NASA's Space Lettuce is a Game Changer (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
While a lot has been said about how NASA used the VEGGIE experiment on the International Space Station (ISS), the why of it has been discussed to a lesser extent. The fact is, this little experiment could be a game changer for space exploration. The most obvious way to highlight the importance of this is by asking a question: “What takes up less weight and volume on a spacecraft, prepared meals for crew members, or a packet of seeds?” Click here. (8/24)

Bezos to Visit Cape for 'Significant' Announcement on Sep. 15 (Source: Florida Today)
Jeff Bezos, the billionaire Amazon.com CEO and founder of private space company Blue Origin, will visit Cape Canaveral next month to make a "significant announcement regarding the commercial launch industry," according to a media invitation. The announcement is expected to confirm Blue Origin's intent to build rockets on the Space Coast and launch them from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The company has been negotiating a package with Space Florida and other agencies that would result in construction of a manufacturing facility in Exploration Park just south of Kennedy Space Center's secure area on Merritt Island, and eventual launches of orbital human spaceflight missions from Launch Complex 36.

Space Florida's board last week gave its approval for the state economic development agency to finalize the terms of an agreement, referring only to the deal's code name of "Project Panther." Space Florida CEO Frank DiBello then said he thought the deal would be made public within a month or so. Bezos' visit is scheduled for Sept. 15. (8/24)

Space Command Chief Wants Satellite Control Consolidation (Source: Space News)
The head of Air Force Space Command wants to revamp ground control systems for military spacecraft. Gen. John Hyten said the top-to-bottom review of satellite control infrastructure is driven by a desire to lower costs and reduce the number of personnel involved in routine spacecraft operations. Hyten previously said it was the "dumbest thing in the world" that five satellite systems each have their own, separate ground stations at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado. (8/24)

Elysium Signs Customer for Lunar Memorial Service (Source: TechCrunch)
A California company has signed up its first customer for a planned lunar memorial service. Elysium Space will fly remains in small cubes affixed to a lunar lander being developed by Astrobotic Technology. The first customer will be a Tennessee woman who passed away of cancer. The company is offering the memorial service at $9,950, a $2,000 discount over regular prices, for its first 50 customers. (8/23)

XCOR Juggles Work at Mojave, Midland. Flight Possible in 6-9 Months (Source: Midland Reporter-Telegram)
XCOR Aerospace has moved half of its staff to Midland, Texas as it attempts to juggle manufacturing demands back in Mojave, California. “There’s a lot going on in Mojave,” said XCOR mechanical engineer Mark Peck. “That’s one of the reasons for not moving everyone right now is because we just don’t want to take a month out of the build schedule.”

Peck estimated that XCOR is six to nine months away from the Lynx 1’s first flight. The main structure is complete and the wing mounts are being made. Once the craft is put together, the team in Mojave will do ground testing at the Mojave Air & Space Port. Peck cited the longer runway at Mojave and the ability to do extensive testing there without shutting down a commercial airport as reasons for doing the test back in California. (8/23)

Despite Setback, SpaceX Still Shaking Up Market (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
After increasingly losing customers to SpaceX for satellite launches, Arianespace is planning to lower the cost per flight to about $96 million. This new price range could be implemented when the new Ariane 6 launcher is developed, which could deliver 11 metric tons to GTO, making Arianespace’s offer more affordable. The first flight of the Ariane 6 is currently slated to take place in 2020.

“Unless the other rocket makers improve their technology rapidly, they will lose significant market share to the Falcon 9,” said Elon Musk, SpaceX’s CEO and chief designer. SpaceX is also expanding its portfolio by developing a heavier version of the Falcon booster. The Falcon Heavy should allow the company to send a record-breaking payload of 53 metric tons to LEO and slightly more than 21 metric tons to GTO for some $90 million.

SpaceX and Arianespace aren’t the only players aspiring for their share of the launch market. International Launch Services (ILS), a U.S.-Russian joint venture, is planning to use the Angara booster being developed by Russia’s Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center to help them compete in this lucrative market. ILS already employs the Russian-built Proton booster, and has added the Angara as the newest addition to its commercial fleet. (8/24)

Editorial: Artificial Gravity Would Solve Most Space Problems (Source: Aviation Week)
The partial and ever-growing list of the harmful effects of weightlessness on the human body includes muscle atrophy, heart shrinkage, heart rhythm irregularities, reduction in blood volume and red cell production, bone mass loss, brain swelling, anemia, endothelial dysfunction, sleep deprivation, kidney stones, space sickness, weakening of the immune system and, most recently discovered, permanently impaired vision. (8/21)

Nicaragua to Host Russian Glonass Ground Stations (Source: Space Daily)
The Nicaraguan Institute for Telecommunications has signed an agreement with Russia on the construction of Russian Glonass satellite navigation network ground stations in Nicaragua. The stations are expected to become operational by July 2016. Initially, the work of the Glonass stations will be handled by Russian specialists and will then be gradually passed on to Nicaraguan workers as they finish their training. (8/24)

What's for Dinner? BioFood! (Source: Space Daily)
While Mars and other planets await the arrival of humans, the question of how to maintain astronauts' food supplies remains a major obstacle for such missions. NASA is granting $200,000 per year to find a way to turn human excrement into nourishment.

Building a closed-cycle food supply with the help of synthetic biology could be crucial for manned travel to Mars and other long-range missions to be conducted in the future. Grants awarded to Blenner's team, as well as seven others, "could transform space exploration," according to a NASA press release. (8/24)

Orbital ATK to Produce Satellite Propellant Tanks for Lockheed Martin (Source: SpaceRef)
Orbital ATK signed a contract with Lockheed Martin to produce propellant and pressurant tanks for Lockheed Martin’s updated A2100 satellite platform. The five-year contract continues a 20-year relationship between Orbital ATK and Lockheed Martin for satellite fuel tanks produced by the company’s Space Systems Group. (8/24)

Astronauts Found Something Troubling in Shots From Space (Source: Tech Insider)
Astronauts aboard the International Space Station are snapping photos of Earth to measure light pollution, and they've found something surprising: Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) — which are touted for their energy-saving properties — are actually making light pollution worse. And the change is so intense that ISS crew members can see it from space. Click here. (8/21)

Mars - The Only Known Planet Inhabited Solely by Robots (Source: Writing Chimp)
It struck me as a lonely life, if a robot could have such a feeling, but an industrious life all the same. Curiosity isn’t completely alone though, he has a few redundant friends such as Opportunity and Spirit, who also reside on Martian land, but there are no people, making Mars, as far as we know, the only planet to be inhabited solely by robots. Click here. (8/23)

Russia's Space Program in Crisis After Decades of Brain Drain, Neglect (Source: NBC)
It might be the only country that can rocket humans into space, but Russia's once-great space program is being dragged back to Earth by decades of brain drain and financial hardship. "The Russian space industry is in an obvious state of crisis," said Asif Siddiqi, a professor at Fordham University in New York and an expert on Russia's space program.

The latest sign that that the Kremlin's space program was creaking came on May 7, when a Progress M-27M unmanned spacecraft burned on re-entry over the Pacific. Russia has lost 15 spacecraft since 2010, with assembly mistakes blamed in most cases. It hasn't always been this way. Click here. (8/23)

Our Biggest Year in Space, Ever (Source: IEET)
We’re looking outward… toward the vast, vast majority of all there is. And after decades of doldrums, it seems we truly are regaining some momentum in space exploration.  Have any of you been keeping track on a scorecard? Click here. (8/21)

Oxford Space Systems Among UK Companies in US Trade Mission (Source: This Is Money)
Oxford Space Systems, a firm using origami as inspiration for its satellite components, has won a deal to supply a major provider to the International Space Station. Founder Mike Lawton was one of nine entrepreneurs taking part this month in a trade mission by Government agency Innovate UK to Utah, San Francisco and Los Angeles. A second is planned to take place in Houston this autumn. (8/22)

August 23, 2015

ISS Cargo Mission Boosts International Trust in Japanese Space Tech (Source: Japan News)
The unmanned resupply vehicle Kounotori 5 has been successfully launched on a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency H-2B rocket to deliver a cargo to the International Space Station crew. If the docking goes well, it will mark the fifth straight success since that of the first Kounotori cargo craft launched in 2009. Another success would further enhance international trust in Japan’s space technology.

Through the involvement in the ISS projects, Japan’s personnel skills and technology for space exploration have been steadily growing. This country’s ISS-related budget appropriations stand at ¥35 billion to ¥40 billion a year, ¥20 billion of which goes for manufacturing and operating Kounotori. More than 400 Japanese companies have been involved in the resupply vehicle’s development and production, and technologies nurtured in the process have been sold to U.S. firms and others, including those linked to space exploration projects. (8/23)

Virgin Galactic Passenger Numbers 'Almost Recovered’ (Source: Telegraph)
Virgin Galactic's “future astronaut” numbers have almost recovered after dropping in the wake of its fatal accident in the Mojave Desert last year, according to George Whitesides. Last year, the number of people signed up for a $250,000 (£160,000) seat aboard SpaceShipTwo, which offers a brief stint in sub-orbital space at an altitude of 62 miles, was estimated to be as many as 750.

Within weeks of the accident in October 2014, in which co-pilot Michael Alsbury lost his life during a test flight of the space craft, around 30 people had canceled their tickets. “We have only lost about 3pc now and we’re already making up those numbers,” Mr Whitesides told The Telegraph. “Our early customer group has been quite firm.” (8/22)

August 22, 2015

Virgin Galactic Focuses on Satellites, Future Astronauts Have to Wait (Source: Telegraph)
'That’s funny, I’ve never been asked that before,” quips Virgin Galactic boss George Whitesides. The question: when will Virgin Galactic fly its space tourists into space? The answer, remarkably, is the company has no idea. “It’ll be ready when it’s ready,” says Whitesides. “I’m hesitant to give specifics on a range of time.”

Before the crash in November last year, there were around 750 “future astronauts” signed up to Virgin Galactic’s space program, paying $250,000 (£160,000) a pop for a seat on a spacecraft – SpaceShipTwo – that can reach the edge of space at an altitude of 62 miles before returning to earth. Numbers have already fallen to 700. These steadfast customers, believed to include high-profile ticket holders Ashton Kutcher, Angelina Jolie, Kate Winslet and Stephen Hawking, represent $175m in revenue.

LauncherOne, a two-stage rocket that is fired at an altitude of 50,000 feet from White Knight Two – the same cargo plane that will be used to shuttle space tourists into near-space. For less than $10m, you can launch a single satellite or combination of satellites with varying payloads into orbit. Click here. (8/21)

China's Ling March 5 Rocket Stretches its Legs (Source: Popular Science)
On August 17th, China successfully test-fired the second stage of the Long March 5 space launch rocket. This was the last of pre- systems integration testing and thus a key milestone to ensure the LM-5's timely maiden flight in 2016.

The second stage of the LM-5 is vital for Chinese high orbit satellites and extraterrestial missions, such as lunar exploration. While the basic LM-5 doesn't have a second stage, the LM-5B will be able to use its second stage to place up to 14 tons into geosynchronous orbit (including military payloads like electronics and intelligence satellites), or to deliver a payload to the moon, like the Chang'e 5 lunar rover.
The LM-5's heavy low orbit and geosynchronous payload will firmly place China among the world's leading space powers in terms of technology, as well as serving as a stepping stone to even more powerful rockets, like the 130-ton payload Long March 9. (8/21)

A Brief History of Pop Stars in Space (Source: The Cut)
Who isn't obsessed with space? No one has paid more homage to the great beyond than pop music makers — perhaps because they are, after all, stars. (Sorry.) One Direction is far from the first group to explore interplanetary travel. Even before MTV started awarding music videos with its kicky little Moon Man statue,  space missions featured heavily in the format. Click here. (8/21)

On Mission to Mars, Stress Management is Key (Source: Boston Globe)
NASA has spent decades tracking the stress of its astronauts, as part of an effort to maximize productivity in space. Crew members who are bored, lonely, or fighting with their fellow travelers won’t be as effective.

There’s a lot more physical stress in zero gravity than on Earth, said Lauren B. Leveton, lead scientist for behavioral health and performance at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. The human body evolved to cope with gravity and doesn’t work as well without it. Space travel disrupts sleep, sinuses, and digestion. Movement feels different. Dinner floats.

And that doesn’t even begin to address the emotional burden of blasting off from Earth in an apartment-sized tin can, leaving behind nearly everyone and everything you’ve ever known. NASA is particularly concerned about astronaut stress as it begins plans to send a spacecraft to Mars in 2030, Leveton said. Click here. (8/21)

Boeing Loses Contract Over Ex-Im Bank Freeze (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Boeing is scrambling to renegotiate an about $85 million satellite contract that became the first big casualty of the U.S. Export-Import Bank’s loss of its operating charter due to congressional opposition. Asia Broadcast Satellite last month terminated its order for a Boeing 702SP satellite, although the two say they are continuing to discuss the project. (8/22)

The Search for ‘Dark Matter’ and ‘Dark Energy’ Just Got Interesting (Source: The Conversation)
Only about 5% of the universe consists of ordinary matter such as protons and electrons, with the rest being filled with mysterious substances known as dark matter and dark energy. So far, scientists have failed to detect these elusive materials, despite spending decades searching for them. But now, two new studies may be able to turn things around as they have narrowed down the search significantly.

Dark matter was first proposed more than 70 years ago to explain why the force of gravity in galaxy clusters is so much stronger than expected. If the clusters contained only the stars and gas we observe, their gravity should be much weaker, leading scientists to assume there is some sort of matter hidden there that we can’t see. Such dark matter would provide additional mass to these large structures, increasing their gravitational pull. The main contender for the substance is a type of hypothetical particle known as a “weakly interacting massive particle” (WIMP).

To probe the nature of dark matter, physicists look for evidence of its interactions beyond gravity. If the WIMP hypothesis is correct, dark matter particles could be detected through their scattering off atomic nuclei or electrons on Earth. In such “direct” detection experiments, a WIMP collision would cause these charged particles to recoil, producing light that we can observe. (8/21)

Russia Eyes Reviving its Reusable Space Shuttle Program (Source: Space Daily)
After a 25-year pause since the death of Russia's winged space shuttle program, known as Buran (Snowstorm) designed to serve as the Soviet counterpart to the US Space Shuttle, Russia is set to develop a new Reusable Space Rocket System, or MRKS in Russian.

The idea is to reduce the cost of launching satellites and other equipment into space. The system, which is being developed under the Federal Space Program, is set to cost not less than 12.5 billion rubles ($185 mln). The program is set to get financing from 2021 and last until 2025. In 2019, a mission requirement package is slated to be worked on. The program envisions a partially reusable launch vehicle equipped with a winged booster stage.

After lifting the second, expendable stage of the MRKS vehicle into the stratosphere, the reusable booster would separate and glide back to Earth to be prepared for its next mission. The launches will be operated from the Vostochny space launch center in the Russian Far East. The Rocket System is being developed by Khrunichev Space Center in close cooperation with other Russian aerospace heavyweightssuch as NPO Molniya, TsAGI, and others. (8/21)

Why 'The Martian' is NASA's Best Marketing Event in Years (Source: MNN)
If you want a vision of how NASA see its future playing out in 15 to 20 years, hit your local movie theater on Oct. 2 and purchase a ticket to see "The Martian." The Mars survival thriller by director Ridley Scott, based on the best-selling novel by Andy Weir, is science-fiction on the absolute cusp of reality. It's also the kind of entertainment billboard that NASA hopes not only inspires the next generation of astronauts and engineers, but also spurs interest - and most importantly - funding for future missions.

To celebrate the launch of the first full trailer for "The Martian," NASA yesterday hosted a screening of the film's first 50 minutes, as well as a Q&A; with Scott, Weir, the film's star Matt Damon, astronaut Drew Feustel and NASA Director of Planetary Sciences Jim Green. The space agency also gave journalists a tour of its Jet Propulsion Lab, as well as the technologies in development to make a human mission to Mars a reality. Click here. (8/21)

More Hawaiians Arrested at Telescope Site (Source: AP)
Police arrested eight people Thursday protesting the construction of a solar telescope in Hawaii. The protesters were attempting to stop a convoy of trucks heading to the summit of Haleakala on the island of Maui, where the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope is under construction. Protestors said they're inspired by a similar effort on Mauna Kea that has halted construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope. (8/21)

Despite Rocket Explosion, Orbital ATK's Profits are Soaring (Source: LA Times)
Ten months after a cargo ship bound for the International Space Station exploded seconds after liftoff, profits are soaring for the NASA contractor that built it. NASA is continuing to pay the Virginia aerospace firm millions of dollars for work on future cargo shipments under a contract that executives say has recently become more profitable.

The Oct. 8 explosion cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in lost cargo, damage to the launch pad and required payments to the firm for the failed mission. It also left NASA scrambling to get needed supplies to astronauts. By last September, just before the explosion, Orbital had already received $1.3 billion of what was then a $1.9-billion contract with NASA — even though it had completed just two of eight required missions. NASA has now extended the contract, buying additional cargo trips and increasing the price to as much as $3.1 billion. (8/21)

Lawmakers Question Rigor of Industry-Led Launch Failure Investigations (Source: LA Times)
Federal law allows commercial space companies to do their own investigations into accidents unless there are fatalities or significant damage to property beyond the launch site. The Senate voted this month to extend that law, which allows America's space industry to operate with little government oversight. The House earlier passed a bill allowing a similar extension. Final details of the bill must now be hammered out by representatives of both houses in a conference committee.

NASA recently received at least three letters from members of Congress questioning whether the companies should investigate their own accidents when millions of dollars in taxpayer money is at stake. In one of those letters, 14 representatives, including Rep. J. Randy Forbes, a Virginia Republican, wrote that they had "serious reservations" about the corporate-led probes. They questioned "whether the investigation and engineering rigor applied will be sufficient" to prevent future accidents. (8/21)

Pegasus Barge Completes Refits for SLS Transportation Role (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
NASA’s veteran Pegasus barge – used to transport Space Shuttle External Tanks from Louisiana to Florida – has completed refit operations in Louisiana for its critical role in transporting the massive core stage of the new SLS rocket from its production facility in Louisiana to various NASA locations throughout the southern United States. (8/21)

NASA Wants to Turn Human Waste into Plastic and Vitamins (Source: Quartz)
When tomorrow’s astronauts feel the call of nature, they may be engaging in an act of creation. NASA recently awarded roughly $200,000 to researchers at Clemson University to figure out how to turn human waste into usable products, including vitamins and plastics. Mark Blenner is genetically engineering yeast to produce things that astronauts might need aboard a spaceship, using urine and breathed-out carbon dioxide as the building blocks to create useful onboard items. Click here. (8/21)

'Wormhole' Created in Lab Makes Invisible Magnetic Field (Source: Space.com)
Ripped from the pages of a sci-fi novel, physicists have crafted a wormhole that tunnels a magnetic field through space. "This device can transmit the magnetic field from one point in space to another point, through a path that is magnetically invisible," said study co-author Jordi Prat-Camps. "From a magnetic point of view, this device acts like a wormhole, as if the magnetic field was transferred through an extra special dimension." (8/21)

The Extraterrestrial Commodities Market (Source: Air & Space)
Any scheme which is based on going into space to retrieve platinum-group metals and bring them back to Earth would be an economic flop. But—and here’s the big conditional—if we develop an industrial capability in space such that we’re processing large amounts of metals to make solar-powered satellites, for example, then as a byproduct, we would have very substantial quantities of platinum-group metals, which are extremely valuable. So if you have a market for the iron and the nickel in space, that would liberate the precious metals to be brought back to Earth. So the scheme is not based on the idea of retrieving platinum-group metals—that is simply gravy. Click here. (8/21)

The Future of Construction in Space (Source: Air & Space)
Steve Stich, director of exploration, integration and science at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, says inflatable habitats may someday be integrated with metal pressure vessels, but the agency needs to learn a lot more about how inflatables hold up against the hazards of space: radiation exposure, thermal cycling, debris impact. Click here. (8/21)

Preventing Armageddon: The Economic Hurdles Of Asteroid Defense (Source: NPR)
Some scientists say we should be doing more to protect the Earth from asteroids. The technical issues are relatively easy, but the economics of asteroid defense are much harder. Click here. (8/21)

Early Solar System Could Have Hosted a Fifth Giant Planet (Source: America Space)
In terms of its planetary population, our Solar System is one of the most crowded ones, as evidenced by the discoveries of thousands of exoplanetary systems during the last couple of decades. Yet, according to a series of theoretical studies conducted through the years, our planetary family was even more populous early on in its history. A new such study suggests that no less than five gas giant planets roamed the Solar System during the first hundred million years after it was formed, only to be expelled into interstellar space, thus helping to give rise to the planetary arrangement we know today. (8/21)