August 17, 2017

Station Managers Push Back Next Cygnus Cargo Flight to November (Source: Spaceflight Now)
NASA and Orbital ATK have agreed to schedule the launch of the next Cygnus supply ship for Nov. 10 from Wallops Island on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, a delay of a month from the mission’s earlier target launch date to allow the flight to carry more cargo to the International Space Station. The new launch date also will allow time for station astronauts to complete three spacewalks in late October and early November to swap out a latching end effector on the station’s Canadian-built robotic arm and complete other maintenance tasks, according to Dan Hartman, NASA’s deputy space station program manager. (8/16)

ASRC Federal Takes $319M NASA KSC IT Contract (Source: Washington Technology)
ASRC Federal has won a potential five-year, $319 million contract to help run the IT infrastructure, applications and communications environment of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. NASA competed the Kennedy Infrastructure, Applications and Communication contract for 8(a) small businesses only. KIAC covers two base years followed by one two-year option and an additional option year.

This award unseats incumbent Abacus Technology Corp., which was awarded the predecessor contract in 2008 for a potential seven-year, $944 million value. NASA has to-date spent approximately $673 million on the KSC Information Management and Communication Support contract, which Deltek says expires on Sept. 30. (8/16)

Proton-M Launches Russian Defense Satellite from Baikonur (Source: Tass)
A Proton-M carrier rocket with a military satellite has been launched from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan.The rocket was launched under control of commander of the space troops and deputy commander-in-chief of the Russian aerospace forces, Colonel General Alexander Golovko. (8/17)

New Mexico Company to Provide Internet for Space Tourists (Source: KRQE)
At a small workshop in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Solstar Space CEO M. Brian Barnett and VP Gary Ebersole hover over an empty microwave sized black carbon-fiber box. On top of the box is an electronics assembly, an assortment of electrical components and wires that make up the prototype of the Solstar Space Communicator. They need to install the communicator in the box so it can be bolted inside a space capsule for a journey 70 miles above the earth.

“We want to provide commercial internet services to people and experiments that are flying into space,” said Barnett. The former NASA scientist, now entrepreneur, has already successfully sent the first text messages to a spacecraft during a launch of an Up Aerospace rocket from New Mexico’s Spaceport America.

Now, he and Ebersole are ready to test their prototype space communicator designed to provide full WiFi and internet service wherever needed above the planet. The first Blue Origin spacecraft will blast-off soon from a site near Van Horn in West Texas, on a mission to test the capsule’s escape system. Solstar’s internet device will ride along. “We’ll be testing that our WiFi connections and internet connection is going well for future astronauts and experimenters in space,” said Barnett. (8/16)

Google Lunar XPRIZE Extends Deadline, Offers In-Space Milestone Awards (Source: Business Wire)
XPRIZE and Google announce that $4.75M in additional Milestone Prize money will be available to Google Lunar XPRIZE finalist teams for achieving technological milestones along the way to the Moon. Teams can compete for one or both of the following prizes:

A $1.75M Lunar Arrival Milestone Prize requires the spacecraft to complete one orbit around the Moon or enter a direct descent approach to the lunar surface. A $3M Soft Landing Milestone Prize requires the spacecraft to transmit data proving it soft-landed on the lunar surface. The Milestone Prize purses will be evenly distributed between all teams who have achieved each milestone by March 31, 2018.

Earlier this year, XPRIZE announced the five finalist teams with verified launch contracts: SpaceIL (Israel), Moon Express (USA), Synergy Moon (International), TeamIndus (India) and HAKUTO (Japan). Additionally, XPRIZE established a mission completion deadline of March 31, 2018, regardless of the initiation date, in order for teams to win the Grand or Second-Place Prizes. (8/17)

The Algae That Terraformed Earth (Source: BBC)
A planetary takeover by ocean-dwelling algae 650 million years ago was the kick that transformed life on Earth. That's what geochemists argue in Nature this week, on the basis of invisibly small traces of biomolecules dug up from beneath the Australian desert. The molecules mark an explosion in the quantity of algae in the oceans.

This in turn fueled a change in the food web that allowed the first microscopic animals to evolve, the authors suggest. "This is one the most profound ecological and evolutionary transitions in Earth's history," lead researcher Jochen Brocks told the BBC's Science in Action program.

The events took place a hundred million years before the so-called Cambrian Explosion, an eruption of complex life recorded in fossils around the world that puzzled Darwin and always hinted at some kind of biological prehistory.
Scattered traces of those precursor multi-celled organisms have since been recognized, but the evolutionary driver that led to their rise has been much argued over. (8/17)

NASA's Ambitious Plan to Save the Earth From a Supervolcano (Source: BBC)
Lying beneath the tranquil settings of Yellowstone National Park in the US lies an enormous magma chamber. It’s responsible for the geysers and hot springs that define the area, but for scientists at Nasa, it’s also one of the greatest natural threats to human civilization as we know it: a potential supervolcano.

Following an article we published about supervolcanoes last month, a group of NASA researchers got in touch to share a report previously unseen outside the space agency about the threat – and what could be done about it. Click here. (8/17)

Ruins of UK Space Program - We Could Have Led World But We Gave it Away (Source: Express)
The immutable sandstone launch blocks, where scores of massively powerful rocket engines were tested and perfected, stand as a shaming monument to political short-sightedness, scientific penny-pinching and the decline of British standing in the world. In the immediate post-war period Britain was a serious player in three-horse race with Russia and the USA in the battle to perfect rocket technology.

The driver of course was not pure science. The world had just witnessed the terrible power of nuclear bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the imperative military goal was to team a thermonuclear device with a dependable targetable, rocket. The Americans had sneaked arch-Nazi and architect of the V2 bomb Werner von Braun to the US and the Russians had collected what was left of his missile team. But Britain still had the home-grown brains and technological clout to punch above its weight in the race to space. Click here. (8/14)

How Three Recent Launches Signaled New Leaps in North Korea’s Missile Capabilities (Source: Washington Post)
The missile tested in May was an intermediate-range projectile that on a more horizontal trajectory could probably reach Guam, according to physicist David Wright, co-director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Global Security Program. The missiles tested in July were the ones the world had been dreading: two-stage Hwasong-14 ICBMs that appeared quite capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. A two-stage rocket has a second fuel supply that takes over when the first burns out, allowing it to fly farther than a single-stage rocket.

Wright calculated that, depending on fuel, the weight of a warhead and the rotation of Earth, the first ICBM would have been able to reach Alaska. Much of the continental United States would be in range of the second one, he said, including New York and Boston. Washington, D.C., probably would be just outside it. Click here. (8/10)

Outward Bound: Colonizing Mars (Source: Science & Futurism)
We begin the new Outward Bound series by discussing the Colonization of Mars, and survey all the colonizing and terraforming options from the early settlement days to the far future and a Green Mars. We will also look at alternatives to terraforming which might make more sense for Mars, like bioforming the people to the environment, rather than terraforming it to our environment. Click here. (8/17)

Public-Private Space Ventures Need Oversight (Source: Daily News)
Public-private partnerships in space travel hold much promise, and greater cost-efficiency, but government should be transparent about the risks and inevitable failures. Public-private partnerships can be nerve-wracking for taxpayers.

In June 2015, a SpaceX Falcon 9 preparing to resupply the space station exploded on the launch pad during fueling for a pre-flight engine test. Last month, NASA announced that it would not publicly release the results of its investigation into the failure.

That was a reversal for NASA, which had earlier promised to release a summary of its investigation. Now the agency says it was “not required to complete a formal final report or public summary” because the flight was under the FAA’s jurisdiction. Click here. (8/15)

GAO Study Updates Government Position on Using ICBM Assets for Commercial Launches (Source: GAO)
The DOD could use several methods to set the sale prices of surplus ICBM rocket motors that could be converted and used in vehicles for commercial launch if current rules prohibiting such sales were changed. One method would be to determine a breakeven price. Below this price, DOD would not recuperate its costs, and, above this price, DOD would potentially save. GAO estimated that DOD could sell three Peacekeeper motors—the number required for one launch, or, a “motor set”—at a breakeven price of about $8.36 million and two Minuteman II motors for about $3.96 million.

Editor's Note: Orbital ATK is under contract to the US military to put these ICBM rocket motors to use in their Minotaur rockets for launching Government payloads. Changes to law and policy would be required to allow them to be used for commercial launches. Orbital ATK is rumored to be seeking such changes to allow Minotaur rockets to launch commercial microsatellites.

The decades-old argument that releasing these ICBM assets into the commercial marketplace would negatively impact commercial launch vehicle development seems to have been bourne out. Without the 'subsidized' Minotaurs serving the microsatellite launch market, a growing number of small launch vehicles is being developed by purely commercial competitors. Click here. (8/15)

Winnipeg Woman Puts $20K Toward Commercial Space Flight (Source: CBC News)
Judy Anderson has always wanted to be out of this world. Now the University of Manitoba biological sciences professor is on her way, after putting a $20,000 down payment on a flight with Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic commercial space flights. The total cost of the trip will be $200,000.

"I always wanted to float in space, and see a pebble float, and see black space, and watch the Earth curve, and you know, watch the weather and the whole deal." Anderson said she heard about the trips in 2010 and decided to try. She said she's hopeful she will get to go. (8/15)

SoCal Aerospace Company Cuts Nearly 100 Jobs, SpaceX Spinoff Could Bring 300 Jobs (Source: Daily Breeze)
One longtime Torrance defense contractor is shedding almost 100 jobs, while a SpaceX spin-off that could create up to 300 jobs within three years is in talks to move to the South Bay’s largest city, company and municipal officials have confirmed.

Chemring Energetic Devices, which makes missile components, radar detection systems and other defense-related products, has notified the state Employment Development Department as required by law of its plans to lay off 93 of its workers as manufacturing winds down there by mid-2018. However, in a move demonstrating the cyclical nature of the aerospace industry, a SpaceX startup officials would not name was in discussions to move to Torrance and hire as many as 200 employees within three years.

Torrance is benefiting from a tighter commercial office market and higher lease costs in cities like El Segundo. Indeed, a trio of small aerospace companies— including Microcosm Inc., and Scorpius Space Launch Co. — recently relocated to Torrance from Hawthorne, bringing about 25 jobs, Fulton said. They were displaced from a building soon to be occupied by the headquarters of Urth Caffe. (8/15)

Welcome to the Second Space Race (Source: The National)
We are living in the second great age of space exploration. The first was born from the ashes of the Second World War and was fuelled by the fight for supremacy between capitalism and communism, the defining struggle of the last century. It ended with American footprints on the Moon and the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union, unable to keep up the pace, both economically and technologically.

This second space race, like our world today, is more complex and multifaceted than the first. It is driven by many factors and many, many more players. Some are familiar faces. NASA, the United States government agency behind both the Apollo Moon missions and the space shuttle, still explores our solar system, but its budget is a fraction of the glory days of the 1960s and it is currently unable to send a human into orbit.

Russia retains its ageing Soyuz rockets as a kind of flying taxi service to the International Space Station, due to celebrate its 30th birthday next year. Its grander visions of rockets carrying the red star to other worlds decay and rust in corners of the cosmodromes in far-flung former satellite states of the USSR. Other nations still see space exploration as an expression of national pride and ambition. Click here. (8/15)

Space Exploration Will Send Our Economy Into Orbit (Source: The National)
The UAE’s space programme drew sceptical responses from some quarters in the beginning. To others, space exploration has always seemed like a waste of resources. This is a profoundly misplaced view. It is a catalyst for technological innovations; in addition to making hugely important discoveries in space, it gives rise to unexpected inventions on earth that benefit us all. John F Kennedy understood this; as, in our own day, does Sheikh Mohammed.

The computer microchip, the CAT scanner, the satellite television and the smoke detector – these are all among the dozens of technologies we now take for granted but which would not be available to us were it not for space research. As Dr Ahmad Belhoul, the UAE’s Minister of State for Higher Education and the Chairman of the UAE Space Agency, wrote last month, “space exploration is a necessity not only because of its tangible benefits to our everyday lives, but because of its potential to inspire and uplift mankind in ways we can only imagine”. It will, in short, drive the knowledge economy and ensure that our post-oil economy receives a necessary boost of rocket fuel. (8/15)

Zenit Could Fly Again on Sea Launch Platform (Source: Space Daily)
Russia's S7 Space Transportation Systems company plans to start launching Zenit-3SL rockets from the Sea Launch floating platform and continue until 2023. "Work is underway to end the conservation of the complex and to restore launch activities with the use of Zenit carrier rockets in the current configuration until 2023," the company said.

Sea Launch was formed in 1995 as a consortium of four companies from Norway, Russia, Ukraine and the U.S., and was initially managed by Boeing. The company was purchased by Russia's S7 Group in September 2016. The only rocket that could be launched from the pad is Zenit-3SL, manufactured by the Ukrainian Yuzhmash construction bureau and using Russian RD-171 engines produced by the NPO Energomash manufacturer. The last Zenit launch from the Sea Launch was carried out in 2014. In April, Yuzhmash and S7 Sea Launch Limited signed a deal on supply of 12 Zenit-3 SL rockets. (8/15)

Yuzhnoye Denies Link to North Korean ICBM Engines (Source: Space News)
Ukrainian rocket designer Yuzhnoye issued a strongly worded rebuttal to claims that North Korea had furthered its missile program by gaining rocket technology through Ukraine. In an Aug. 15 post on the company website, Yuzhnoye said the engines depicted in the New York Times Aug. 14 article "North Korea’s Missile Success Is Linked to Ukrainian Plant, Investigators Say" are not the RD-250, nor does Yuzhnoye have the production means to produce them today. (8/16)

August 16, 2017

Iran Threatens To Quit Nuke Deal Unless US Sanctions Stop (Sources: Law 360, DW)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani threatened Tuesday to pull out of a 2015 agreement to halt Iran's nuclear program in exchange for the easing of certain international sanctions, if the U.S. does not stop imposing new sanctions on Iran. Each side has accused the other of violating the spirit the 2015 deal, which saw the world's leading power agree to lift sanctions against Iran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program and caps on its uranium enrichment levels.

US President Donald Trump has repeatedly lambasted the nature of the deal, once describing it as the "worst deal ever." Iran, meanwhile, has carried out a series of ballistic tests in recent weeks, prompting the US to respond by imposing sanctions against individuals and companies alleged to be supporting Iran's missile program. That, in turn, has only spurred the Iranian regime to ratchet up military spending by more than half a billion dollars to fight Washington's "adventurism." Rouhani admitted that he would prefer to stick to the nuclear agreement, but warned that this was not the "only option." (8/15)

AI Likely to Guide Future Space Probes (Source: Space News)
Artificial intelligence will play a greater role in future space missions as their complexity grows. NASA's next Mars rover, Mars 2020, will implement AI to allow it to be more autonomous, making better use of limited communications with Earth. The same will be true for more distant missions, like the Europa Clipper mission to Jupiter's icy moon Europa, and even for commercial crew vehicles under development, reducing the time astronauts have to spend training to fly them. (8/15)

Air Force Should Improve Nuclear Command and Control (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force needs to do more to improve nuclear command and control issues, according to a new report. The Government Accountability Office, in a report issued Tuesday, said that the service's nuclear command, control, and communications systems, which include satellites as well as terrestrial assets, face both short- and long-term issues. The Air Force, the GAO concluded, has not had the resources to focus on those long-term issues, including modernization of elements of the overall system. (8/15)

Brooks Loses Bid for Alabama Senate Seat (Source: Politico)
An Alabama congressman active on space issues missed out in his bid to become a senator. Rep. Mo Brooks finished third in the Republican primary for the special election to fill the seat formerly held by Sen. Jeff Sessions, who resigned to become U.S. attorney general. Former state supreme court judge Roy Moore and Luther Strange, appointed to fill the seat on an interim basis, finished first and second and will go on to a runoff next month. Brooks, whose district includes NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, serves as vice chair of the House space subcommittee. (8/16)

Dragon Arrives at ISS (Source: NASA)
A Dragon cargo spacecraft arrived at the International Space Station early Wednesday. Astronauts used the station's robotic arm to grapple the Dragon spacecraft at 6:52 a.m. Eastern, and will berth it to the station later this morning. The Dragon, launched Monday, is carrying more than 2,900 kilograms of scientific investigations and cargo for the station. (8/16)

UrtheCast Delays Constellation Plans for Standalone Satellite (Source: Space News)
UrtheCast will build a standalone radar satellite for an unnamed customer, pushing back a planned constellation. UrtheCast said this week that the unidentified customer signed a contract valued at more than $78 million for a single synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite. A second customer is in negotiations with UrtheCast for a similar deal. If the second deal is concluded, the two SAR satellites would launch together in 2021. That would delay the company's OptiSAR constellation of eight high-resolution optical-imaging satellites and eight SAR satellites by at least a year, to 2023, but also reduce technical and financial risks for that system. (8/15)

NASA Contracts Energy Firm to Refine Nuclear Thermal Propulsion Concepts (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
As the U.S. government continues to pursue plans for a crewed mission to Mars, NASA has contracted with BWXT Nuclear Energy Inc. of Lynchburg, Virginia, to advance concepts in Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP), which could drastically reduce travel times to Mars. This is part of NASA’s Game Changing Development Program, which takes ideas from academia and industry as well as NASA and other government programs, to advance new approaches to space technologies to accommodate the changing needs of U.S. space efforts.

NTP is not a new concept, but it was abandoned in 1972 when plans for a Mars mission were shelved. NASA conducted ground tests since 1955 to determine the viability of NTP and has occasionally been revisited as a conceptual part of Mars mission feasibility studies. (8/14)

NASA May Finally be Getting a Leader—Oklahoma Pilot Jim Bridenstine (Source: Ars Technica)
NASA may finally be close to getting some clarity about its leadership during the Trump administration. On Tuesday, NASA Watch reported that the President will nominate US Representative Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) as administrator and Aerojet Rocketdyne Vice President John Schumacher as deputy administrator. Both men have been rumored to be nominated for these posts in recent weeks, but there have been no official confirmations as yet.

Two sources familiar with Washington, DC, space politics confirmed the choices to Ars, but one of them offered a caveat. "I have heard same from multiple sources, but this is Trump world," one DC-based source said. A formal announcement has been in the works for September, but a date and location have not yet been set. "To the best of my knowledge, there have been no White House announcements on this subject matter at this time," NASA's associate administrator for communications, Jen Rae Wang, told Ars on Tuesday evening. (8/15)

Orbital ATK Prepping Minotaur for Cape Canaveral Spaceport Debut (Source: Aviation Week)
Orbital ATK is preparing for its first Minotaur launch from Florida, aiming to put a gap-filler space surveillance satellite into orbit for the U.S. Air Force’s Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) office. Comprising three rocket motors from decommissioned Peacekeeper ICBMs and a pair of Orion 38 second stages, the Minotaur IV is scheduled to lift off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Complex 46 (LC46) during a 4-hr. launch window that opens at 11:15 p.m. EDT Aug. 25. (8/16)

Smallsat Developers Propose Self-Regulation to Address Orbital Debris Concerns (Source: Space News)
As the number of cubesats and other small satellites grows, experts advise that some degree of industry self-regulation will be needed to avoid collisions that could lead to more restrictive government regulations. Representatives from across the smallsat community said that while the odds of a collision involving a smallsat remained low, such an event could trigger an overreaction of government regulations if the community isn’t prepared. (8/15)

Could Georgia Become the Next Launchpad for Space Startups? (Source: Hypepotamus)
Camden County is located close to the Florida border in the southeastern corner of Georgia. Its population is a little over 50,000, about twice the size of the Georgia Tech student population.

Vector is just one of hundreds of startups capitalizing on the growth of the private space industry. The global space economy is already over $300 billion. The federal government left a gap with NASA’s exit from the shuttle launch business; all cargo going to and from the Space Station is outsourced to private companies. Space tourism is becoming an attainable prospect. All this opens up opportunity for private space startups. Click here. (8/15)

Cosmic Magnifying Lens Reveals Inner Jets of Black Holes (Source: Caltech)
Astronomers using Caltech's Owens Valley Radio Observatory (OVRO) have found evidence for a bizarre lensing system in space, in which a large assemblage of stars is magnifying a much more distant galaxy containing a jet-spewing supermassive black hole. The discovery provides the best view yet of blobs of hot gas that shoot out from supermassive black holes. (8/15)

NASA Science-Enabling Relay Satellite Poised for Launch Atop Atlas 5 (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Resembling a cocooned insect with antennas and appendages tucked snuggly to its body for launch, NASA’s latest communications relay hub will be shot into space Friday to blossom in geosynchronous orbit for routing signals to and from the International Space Station, the Hubble Space Telescope and three dozen science observatories.

The $408 million Tracking and Data Relay Satellite-M, or TDRS-M, will be sent aloft aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket. Liftoff from Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral is scheduled for 8:03 a.m. EDT. “The spacecraft continues our ability to provide a data path for communications and tracking services from all of the different users out there in orbit today from human spaceflight component of NASA to robotic missions,” said Dave Littmann, NASA’s TDRS project manager. (8/15)

North Korea Puts Spotlight on U.S. Space-Based Missile Defense (Source: Space News)
North Korea’s threat to strike Guam with a salvo of ballistic missiles has raised the stakes for a U.S. missile shield some see as compromised by potentially exploitable seams in its all-important space layer. Years of program changes, delays and cancellations have created gaps in parts of the space-based layer of the missile defense shield meant to protect the United States and some allies from ballistic missile attacks, say military space analysts, although U.S. missile defense officials dispute such claims.

“The biggest deficiency in current U.S. missile defense plans is the absence of a satellite constellation for reliably tracking ballistic threats during the midcourse of their trajectory,” said Loren Thompson, chief operating officer and space analyst for the Lexington Institute think tank based in Washington. “Once boosters burn out and warheads are coasting through space, their signatures become difficult to detect — especially if an attacker is using penetration aids like decoys to confuse defenders,” he said.

Of mounting concern, said John Pike, military analyst for GlobalSecurity.com, is the possibility that  North Korea or Iran will  “get more serious” about their submarine-launched ballistic missiles. If that happens, he said, “the whole thing will require a complete rethink.” (8/15)

August 15, 2017

Made In Space Tests Space Printer (Source: Space.com)
A California startup has achieved a milestone in the development of robotic space assembly technology. Made In Space said it successfully tested a 3-D printer in conditions that mimicked the temperature extremes and vacuum of space. The printer is part of Archinaut, a concept the company is developing to use 3-D printers and robotic arms to assemble large structures in space. (8/15)

Russia Seeks Increased Launch Rate at New Spaceport (Source: Tass)
Russia wants to double the number of launches from the new Vostochny Cosmodrome in 2018. The new spaceport in Russia's Far East has not hosted a launch yet this year, but two Soyuz launches are planned there in December. Roscosmos head Igor Komarov said he would like to see four or five launches from Vostochny in 2018, and later growing to 10 launches a year. Komarov said four to six launches a year are required to maintain normal spaceport operations. (8/15)

26 Years Ago, Florida Launched a Rocket at a Total Eclipse (Source: SPACErePORT)
The solar eclipse of July 11, 1991 featured a point of maximum totality in Nayarit, Mexico, just south of Mazatlan. At high noon, at the moment of perfect eclipse, the Spaceport Florida Authority (now known as Space Florida) launched a Super Loki Viper suborbital rocket toward the sun. It was an eerie sight to behold as the bright daylight turned to night and a lightning-fast column of flame shot skyward.

The rocket carried an 'imaging radiometer' developed by a researcher at the Florida Institute of Technology. As the rocket's non-propulsive payload stage approached its ~200,000 foot apogee, a small charge ignited to push two staves forward on either side of the radiometer instrument. The staves sheared two pins and pushed the nosecone away, exposing the radiometer instrument to the sun's glowing corona.

The Nayarit launch site became an adjunct facility for Florida's Spaceport Authority, hosting one other launch as the state agency tried to work through a large inventory of surplus Super Loki rockets with other launches at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, Cape San Blas on Florida's Gulf Coast, and at Sheboygan, Wisconsin. (8/15)

A New Way to Measure the Invisible Substances That Dominate the Universe (Source: The Atlantic)
In a much-anticipated analysis of its first year of data, the Dark Energy Survey (DES) telescope experiment has gauged the amount of dark energy and dark matter in the universe by measuring the clumpiness of galaxies—a rich and, so far, barely tapped source of information that many see as the future of cosmology.

The analysis, posted on DES’s last week and based on observations of 26 million galaxies in a large swath of the southern sky, tweaks estimates only a little. It draws the pie chart of the universe as 74 percent dark energy and 21 percent dark matter, with galaxies and all other visible matter—everything currently known to physicists—filling the remaining 5-percent sliver. (8/8)

Key Things to Watch for During the Total Solar Eclipse (Source: Mashable)
As the moon passes in front of the sun on August 21, bringing the first total solar eclipse to the contiguous United States since 1979, people around the country are going to be treated to one of the biggest scientific moments of the year. And everybody can take part. Click here. (8/15)

NASA Astronaut Jack Fischer Gets Attacked by Fruit Punch (Source: CNET)
Liquids behave very differently in microgravity than they do down on Earth. NASA astronaut Jack Fischer demonstrated a particularly odd and entertaining property of tropical punch in a video showing how to make a wet mess while floating around the International Space Station. Click here. (8/15)

Time for NASA to Stop Playing Favorites with Elon Musk's SpaceX (Source: The Hill)
In the Trump era, one of the few things that both sides of the aisle can agree on is distaste for cronyism, especially when it is the government picking winners and losers. Ironically, one of the biggest offenders is NASA, a bipartisan agency that is generally loved by Americans. One big beneficiary of the agency is Elon Musk, founder and CEO of SpaceX.

In June 2015, SpaceX cost taxpayers $110 million when one of its Falcon 9 rockets exploded on a mission to resupply the International Space Station. The company received all but 20 percent of the payment it would have received for completing the mission successfully. Though two years have since passed, the cause of the rocket’s failure remains unclear.

NASA assured the public that the agency would release a public summary of the results from its investigation by this summer. But just weeks ago, NASA announced that it will no longer to do so. “NASA is not required to complete a formal final report or public summary since it was an FAA licensed flight,” a spokesman claimed. Yet for some reason, the agency has been known to treat other companies differently. Click here. (8/14)

Air Force Space Command Initiative Destroys Barriers to Bolster Airmen Innovation (Source: AFSPC)
In a move to encourage Airmen to come forward with innovative thinking, a new decision panel will allow Airmen at all levels within Air Force Space Command to present ideas that could enhance the mission, save time, increase customer satisfaction, save the Air Force money, or anything that can improve the way things are done within the Air Force.

The new AFSPC Shark Tank-like panel is a rapid process method used to review ideas from Airmen at command staff and wing levels. “Our Airmen are the experts; this gives us an opportunity to hear directly from them,” said Gen. Jay Raymond, AFSPC commander.

Any Airman wishing to present an idea should prepare a simple bullet background paper that includes the proposal title, summary of improvements and an actionable decision for AFSPC leadership to review. When the proposal receives a wing commander or equivalent endorsement, AFSPC will provide an opportunity to the Airmen to bring their proposals directly to AFSPC leadership. (8/15)

Next-Generation Space Suits Could Allow Astronauts to Explore Mars (Source: The Verge)
Space suits are crucial for keeping crew members alive, and shielding them from the harsh vacuum of space during trips outside the International Space Station. And when we travel beyond lower Earth orbit — perhaps to the Moon or to Mars someday — suits will be a necessary tool. In the season premiere of Space Craft, we dove into the world of space suit design to find out what it takes to make an interplanetary ensemble. Click here. (8/15) https://www.theverge.com/2017/8/15/16145260/nasa-spacesuit-design-mars-moon-astronaut-space-craft

A GIF of Every Successful — and Failed — SpaceX Falcon 9 Landing Attempt (Source: The Verge)
SpaceX has been successfully landing its Falcon 9 rockets for more than a year now. It’s a goal that CEO Elon Musk has talked about since founding the company 15 years ago, and yet it still feels like SpaceX achieved it at lightning speed. The company even relaunched a landed rocket for the first time ever in March, paving the way to real rocket reusability. Here’s a GIF recap of all the successes and failures. (8/15)

Did Ukrainian Rocket Engines Power North Korean ICBMs? (Source: New York Times)
North Korea’s success in testing an intercontinental ballistic missile that appears able to reach the United States was made possible by black-market purchases of powerful rocket engines probably from a Ukrainian factory with historical ties to Russia’s missile program, according to an expert analysis being published Monday and classified assessments by American intelligence agencies. Analysts who studied photographs of the new rocket motors concluded that they derive from designs that once powered the Soviet Union’s missile fleet. The engines were so powerful that a single missile could hurl 10 thermonuclear warheads between continents.

But since Ukraine’s pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, was removed from power in 2014, the state-owned factory, known as Yuzhmash, has fallen on hard times. The Russians canceled upgrades of their nuclear fleet. The factory is underused, awash in unpaid bills and low morale. Experts believe it is the most likely source of the engines that in July powered the two ICBM tests, which were the first to suggest that North Korea has the range, if not necessarily the accuracy or warhead technology, to threaten American cities.

“It’s likely that these engines came from Ukraine — probably illicitly,” Mr. Elleman said in an interview. “The big question is how many they have and whether the Ukrainians are helping them now. I’m very worried.” Editor's Note: Yuzhmash developed the Zenit rockets formerly used by Sea Launch, is marketing the Cyclone-4 for use at a proposed Canadian spaceport, and first-stage portions of Orbital ATK's Antares rocket. I suggested last year that the U.S. should embrace Ukraine and Yuzhmash/Yuzhnoye as a manufacturer of rocket engines to rival the Russian RD-180. Instead, with Russia having cut off most of its legitimate business, it appears Yuzhmash engines might be heading to North Korea. (8/14)

Thrift Shop Bargain Hunters Find Rare NASA Flight Suits (Source: News6 Orlando)
Talia Rappa and Skyer Ashworth turned summer bargain shopping at a Titusville Thrift store closeout into the stuff of NASA collectors' legend when the central Florida college students paid 20 cents each for five rare NASA flight suits that experts say could be valued at $5,000 each or more. “They were kind of in a weird corner," Rappa told News 6. “He (Skylar) pulled them all out at first, then brought the whole handful over to me.”

The five blue NASA flight suits, along with a white “control suit,” were in the bottom of a plastic bin tucked under some forgotten winter sweaters. According to experts at the American Space Museum, the astronauts' names and flight dates on the white labels seem to match the time astronauts George “Pinky” Nelson, Robert A. Parker, and Charles D. Walker. They flew shuttle missions between 1983 and 1985.

Rappa, a junior at UCF studying astrophysics, told News 6 she has always been fascinated with space travel and would love to be part of the MARS mission. When the 20-year-old looked at the suits close up, she admits her “jaw dropped.” Ashworth, 24, who was recently accepted into a college aerospace program at Eastern Florida State College, told News 6 the space program is in his family DNA. (8/15)

August 14, 2017

Asteroid to Shave Past Earth on Oct 12 (Source: Space Daily)
A house-sized asteroid will shave past our planet on October 12, far inside the Moon's orbit but without posing any threat, astronomers said Thursday. The space rock will zoom by harmlessly at a distance of about 44,000 kilometers (27,300 miles) - an eighth of the distance from the Earth to the Moon. (8/14)

3-D Printing for Satellites? Harris Has a Plan (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The business of building satellites could get cheaper as companies turn to 3-D printing for their components. In Melbourne, Harris Corporation researchers say using that technology could cut the cost of producing small satellites — a specific and growing segment of the space industry — by up to $400,000 per satellite. Harris will for the first time research a new use for 3-D printers: creating circuit boards for satellites.

The firm plans to send 3-D-printed parts into space sometime during the next five years, an effort to demonstrate the technology’s viability to potential customers, officials with the defense and aerospace giant said.

The Harris project will be paid for through the Space Florida-Israel Innovation Partnership program, a 4-year-old effort meant to pay for joint space-related research that comes from the U.S. and Israel. The $250,000 Space Florida grant will be allocated over two years and matched by Harris, Israeli company Nano Dimensions and the agency that governs Israel’s space program. That will bring the total funding for the project to $1 million. (8/14)

SpaceX Lands Another One of its Falcon 9 Rockets on Solid Ground (Source: The Verge)
SpaceX has landed yet another one of its Falcon 9 rockets after launching the vehicle into space this afternoon. The rocket took off from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport at 12:31PM ET, bound for the International Space Station. Around eight minutes after takeoff, the majority of the vehicle landed back on solid ground at the spaceport. It marks the 14th successful rocket landing for SpaceX, and the sixth time a Falcon 9 has successfully landed on solid ground post-launch.

In fact, SpaceX has yet to lose a rocket during a ground landing. The company has lost a few vehicles during ocean landings, when the rockets attempted to touch down on autonomous drone ships at sea. But all six Falcon 9s that have landed on solid ground have touched down just fine at SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1 — a ground-based landing site at Cape Canaveral. (8/14)

China Denies It's Searching for a Foreigner to Run its Giant Alien-Hunting Telescope (Source: Shanghaiist)
Aspiring astronomers looking for a well-paid gig, we have some bad news. Despite media reports that China is desperately looking for a qualified foreigner to run its world's largest radio telescope, completed in the hilly hinterlands of Guizhou province last year, the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) has denied that there is any such job search ongoing. (8/14)

International Lunar Observatory to Offer a New Astrophysical Perspective (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Scheduled to be sent to the south pole of the Moon sometime in 2019, the International Lunar Observatory is expected to conduct the first astrophysical observations from the lunar surface. The mission managers hope that it will offer a brand new astrophysical perspective for scientists worldwide.

The International Lunar Observatory Association (ILOA) and Moon Express have recently inked a deal for the landing of the first International Lunar Observatory on the Moon. Under this contract, the mission named ILO-1 would land on the Malapert Mountain – a 3.1-mile tall peak in the Aitken Basin region that is bathed in sunshine most of the time and has an uninterrupted direct line of sight to Earth.

ILOA states that the main goal of the mission is to “expand human understanding of the Galaxy and Cosmos through observation and communication from [the] Moon”. To achieve this, ILO-1 will be equipped with a set of instruments for radio and optical astronomy purposes. (8/12)

This German Startup Wants to Put a Mobile Phone Tower on The Moon (Source: Science Alert)
It's been a while since anyone standing on the Moon needed to communicate with Earth - the last crewed mission took place in 1971. But recently we've had renewed interest in lunar missions, especially since the Moon is viewed by many as a stepping stone on our way to Mars. And one German startup aiming for our rocky satellite has announced they will set up a kind of cell tower once they get there.

PTScientists, one of the companies that originally signed up for the Google Lunar X Prize competition, is planning to deliver two rovers to the Moon, using their ALINA (Autonomous Landing and Navigation) module.

The rovers, developed in partnership with Audi, will have four-wheel electrical drive chains, rechargeable batteries, solar panels, and HD cameras. And they'll also need a way to transmit their data back to Earth. (8/11)

Starship Enterprise: The Extended Mission (Source: Air & Space)
Fred C. Durant, a former rocket engineer and U.S. Navy test pilot who served as an assistant director at the Museum until 1980, corresponded with Roddenberry throughout the 1970s. Durant pointed out that rocket pioneers Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, Robert H. Goddard, and Hermann Oberth all acknowledged the 19th century science fiction author Jules Verne as an influence on their work.

“The Star Trek series represents the same kind of invitation to imaginative thinking,” Durant wrote in a 1975 letter. To prove it, Air & Space asked a panel of scientists, astronauts, and influencers what it is that has made Star Trek live long...and prosper. Click here. (8/13)

August 13, 2017

A New Ceramic Could Help Hypersonic Planes Take Off (Source: The Economist)
Their novel substance is a ceramic. That is no surprise. Ceramics have strong bonds between their atoms—unlike metals, in which the electrons in those bonds have more freedom to move around. This gives ceramics high melting points, permitting them to be deployed in hot circumstances. But it also makes them brittle. That fragility became notorious when ceramic tiles were chosen as the re-entry heat shields for America’s space shuttles.

Each of those craft was fitted with more than 24,000 tiles made from high-grade silica sand. The tiles were indeed heat-resistant. They were also, however, so brittle that they had to be glued to the spacecraft, rather than drilled and bolted on. Moreover, many needed replacing after each mission. This arrangement proved so fragile that, when some of the tiles on a shuttle called Columbia were damaged by a piece of foam that broke free during an ascent into space in 2003, the heat shield failed on re-entry, and the vehicle and its crew were lost. Click here. (8/13)

Japan's H-2A Rocket Grounded by Problem in Propulsion System (Source: Spaceflight Now)
A Japanese launch crew filled an H-2A rocket with cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellants in time for a planned liftoff Saturday with a geostationary navigation satellite, but a problem inside the launcher’s propulsion system prompted officials to postpone the mission.

Officials announced a hold less than two hours before the 174-foot-tall H-2A rocket was set to blast off. The H-2A launch team called off the launch attempt several hours later, after the opening of an unusually-long launch window stretching nearly nine hours long. JAXA said the launch was scrubbed to ensure the readiness of the H-2A rocket’s propulsion systems. Officials said in a press conference Saturday that engineers were studying possible leak in the rocket’s helium pressurization system. (8/13)

NASA 'Cribs': Tour an Astronaut Habitat for Mock Space Missions (Source: Space.com)
Ever wonder how astronauts will live on other worlds? Welcome to the Human Exploration Research Analog, or HERA, a habitat at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston built to simulate the isolation of missions to deep space. You can take a tour of the HERA habitat with NASA interns in this new video in the style of the MTV series "Cribs."

"HERA is a unique three-story habitat designed to serve as an analog for isolation, confinement, and remote conditions in exploration scenarios," NASA officials explained in a video description. "This video gives a tour of where crew members live, work, sleep, and eat during the analog missions."

Currently, the HERA program is in the midst of the HERA Campiagn 4 series of four 45-day missions that run between May 2017 and March 2018. The current increment, HERA Campaign 4 Mission XIV, began on Aug. 5 and will end on Sept. 18. You can learn more about the HERA program at NASA's website here, and about the current HERA mission here. (8/13)

Disney Relaunches Mission: SPACE Ride at Epcot with Revised NASA Cameos (Source: CollectSpace)
NASA's next-generation spacecraft have new cameos in Disney's re-launched Mission: SPACE ride in Florida, but the upgraded attraction jettisons a previous reference to the space agency itself.

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope and Orion capsule, slated to lift off in 2018 and 2019, respectively, make quick new appearances in Mission: SPACE, which re-opened on Sunday (Aug. 13) after undergoing its first major revision since premiering at the Walt Disney World Resort's Epcot theme park in August 2003. Designed around a centrifuge ride system to simulate a launch to Mars, Mission: SPACE now features a second, less-intense experience that takes guests on simulated flight into Earth orbit. (8/13)

Joint Venture Launches 4 Japanese Companies Into Minirocket Market (Source: Nikkei)
Four Japanese companies have formed a joint venture to tap into the growing global demand for small rockets used to send satellites into space. Canon Electronics, IHI Aerospace, Shimizu and Development Bank of Japan -- all major contributors to Japan's space program -- launched New Generation Small Rocket Development Planning (NGSRDP) on Wednesday.

The new company plans to develop next-generation, solid-fuel minirockets capable of carrying 100kg payloads. The new company is led by President Shinichiro Ota, a former industry ministry bureaucrat and once the head of the Japan Patent Office. NGSRDP will initially be based at Canon Electronics' headquarters, studying technologies and costs with the hope of starting commercial operations as early as this year.

The joint venture has set a price point of 1 billion yen ($9.1 million) or less per launch -- an amount seen as competitive against overseas rivals. At present, plans call for a rocket smaller than the Epsilon rocket currently under development by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, but larger than JAXA's SS-520 minirocket. Click here. (8/13)

The Billionaires Backing Projects in a New Space Race (Source: The National)
While government investment in the space race has dwindled as they tackle matters closer to home, a group of super-rich enthusiasts, many of whom are household names, are backing companies that each have grand plans for space exploration. Click here. (8/13)

Space Standoff: Uncertainty in Militarized Space (Source: Harvard Political Review)
Space is dangerous and expensive. It’s also a mission-critical asset to a modern military force where precedence and collaboration between rivals is scant. National space programs are immensely expensive investments of capital and manpower. For all the private benefits a space program provides, military interest and nationalism have driven extraterrestrial innovation.

Defense budgets are initially allocated staggering funds to begin space projects, and the major difference between a rocket being a peaceful mission or a weapon is whether the payload is a crew capsule or a nuclear warhead. In the Cold War, the capabilities and interests of the Soviet Union and the United States were mutually understood to be rough military parity and no desire to initiate conflict.

However, evolving national interests in the 21st century have blurred the line between civil and military space and have made our mutual understandings of the field much murkier. Click here. (8/13)

1st Men on Moon Kept Out of Each Other’s Orbit (Source: Toledo Blade)
The oft-forgotten Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins — who orbited the moon as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first men to set foot on its surface — has on several occasions called the three members of the historic crew “amiable strangers.”

When asked by historian James Hansen to characterize the relationship between Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Aldrin, Mr. Collins revised his description. “Neutral strangers,” he replied. There was always a distance between the two astronauts, said Mr. Hansen, who wrote the seminal biography of Mr. Armstrong. Their relationship was dotted with tension and disagreement — over the difficulty level of training simulations to prepare for Apollo 11, over who would take the first step on the lunar surface, and over the proper amount of public engagement for the first men on the moon. Click here. (8/13)

August 12, 2017

Korea Delays Lunar Orbiter Launch to 2020 (Source: Korea Times)
Korea postponed the launch of its lunar orbiter to 2020 instead of next year, according to the government, Thursday. The Ministry of Science and ICT said it held a national space development committee meeting a day earlier and decided to give the lunar orbiter development project two more years.

The ministry has conducted a thorough inspection on the progress, risk, and schedule of the orbiter development project earlier this year and concluded that it will be difficult to complete the project by 2018 as originally planned. (8/12)

President Trump Needs to Go to the Moon (Source: Foreign Policy)
In just two years, the United States will celebrate the anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, an event that perhaps more than any other represents the American will and capacity to achieve the seemingly impossible. This year, however, we will celebrate a less auspicious anniversary — in December it will have been 45 years since the last man set foot on the Moon, ushering in a long era of diminished American ambitions in space. In recent years, presidential administrations have debated whether Americans should return to the Moon or set their sights on Mars.

But as President Donald Trump devises his strategy for space exploration — which he has described as “essential to our character as a nation…our economy, and our great nation’s security” — he should reject this choice as a false one. To sustainably reinvigorate our human spaceflight program, we should use the Moon as a stepping stone to Mars and beyond, while spreading costs and spurring innovation by maximizing opportunities for commercial and international involvement.

While most U.S. government activities in space, and the lion’s share of the space budget, are focused on military programs, human spaceflight remains the program’s lodestone. Every president in recent memory has sought to stir the popular imagination and — hoping to channel JFK — associate himself with big, bold thinking by announcing ambitious goals for manned spaceflight. (8/11)

Mini-Fridge-Size Satellite Could Help Troops Get a Real-Time Battlefield View (Source: LA Times)
A network of tiny satellites as small as a dorm-room refrigerator could one day give military troops on the ground a real-time look at what’s lurking over the next hill. The first of these satellites, known as Kestrel Eye, will be launched Monday morning aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket loaded with NASA supplies for the International Space Station.

The real-time information could tell them whether their plans need to be adjusted — if a previously empty field is now filled with vehicles, for instance. Kestrel Eye images won’t be as high-quality as those from a larger military satellite, which can capture specific details such as faces or vehicle license plate numbers. With Kestrel Eye, troops will be able to see large vehicles like tanks or cars. But for fighters on the ground, speed can trump detail. (8/12)

SpaceX Rocket to Fire Hewlett Packard Supercomputer Into Orbit (Source: Bloomberg)
Space Exploration Technologies Corp. will carry a Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. computing system that is designed to last longer and may help pave the way for extended periods of space travel, such as the journey to Mars. SpaceX will take the system, a box that can process data from experiments, on its Dragon Spacecraft that will be launched from Cape Canaveral on Aug. 14 to the International Space Station.

Other computing systems used in space have to be replaced frequently because the difficult conditions caused them to degrade, a spokesman for Hewlett Packard said. Its Spaceborne Computer is designed to last for a year, which it says is roughly the amount of time it would take to travel to Mars. NASA aims to send humans to Mars in the 2030s. (8/11)

Genes in Space Winner in Florida to Witness Her Idea Take Off (Source: The National)
She wants to be the first Emirati in space and to plant the UAE flag on the surface of Mars. And on Monday, 15-year-old Alia Al Mansoori will get her first taste of what that involves when a Falcon 9 rockets blasts off from the world-famous Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Alia will not be on board but her work will be. The Dragon capsule on the SpaceX ship carries her winning experiment from The National’s Genes in Space competition. (8/12)

India Aims for Venus (Source: Bangalore Mirror)
India’s Venus mission, which is being planned for launch by the end of this decade, is making a slow but steady progress as a study team has submitted its inputs addressing various options and opportunities for the mission.

The study team’s inputs will be reviewed by the Advisory Committee for Space Sciences (ADCOS) for further consideration. Meanwhile, the call for scientific proposals, through an Announcement of Opportunity (AO) to conduct space-based experiments has been made to Indian scientists. "After the selection process is over, the definition of mission and its budget will be worked out,” said Jatinder Singh, Minister of State, PMO. (8/12)

Spat Over Design of New Chinese Telescope Goes Public (Source: Science)
A deep division among Chinese astronomers over the design of a proposed 12-meter telescope broke into public view this week as statements from competing camps went viral on social media.

The dispute centers on whether to adopt a technically ambitious four-mirror design proposed by optical engineers or a conventional three-mirror option favored by astronomers. The stakes are high. It will be China’s largest optical telescope and serve as the workhorse observational facility for several generations. (8/12)

Russian Scientists Developing Tech for Military Satellites to See Through Clouds (Source: Sputnik)
Russian scientists are developing technologies that will enable military satellites to see through clouds and conduct subsurface sensing. Existing technologies have a number of shortcomings, including the limitations while operating in cloudy weather, when the Earth becomes closed to observation from satellites.

"FPI supports research on radio-optical active phased antenna arrays (ROFAR), which in comparison with widely-used technology have increased performance, energy efficiency, high noise immunity, resistance to electromagnetic pulses. All this together makes ROFAR the most advanced radar of the future," Vakshtein said. (8/12)

NASA Awards Contract to RS&H for Modification of Mobile Launcher (Source: NASA)
NASA has awarded a contract to RS&H Inc. of Merritt Island, Florida, for architectural engineering and design services for the modification of the mobile launcher at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The value of this fixed price, indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract is not to exceed $30 million. The performance period is five years.

RS&H will provide architectural engineering and design services necessary to modify and develop structural, mechanical and electrical systems to renovate the mobile launcher. Modifications will include facility infrastructure, ground support systems and ground support equipment. (8/11)

Russia’s Energiya Space Corporation Picked as Chief Developer of Soyuz-5 Rocket (Source: Tass)
Russia’s Energiya Rocket and Space Corpo. has been chosen as the chief developer of the new Russian Soyuz-5 medium-class rocket. The basic elements and technologies of the Soyuz-5 carrier rocket can be eventually used for developing a super-heavy launcher.

The first launch of the new Russian Soyuz-5 carrier rocket is scheduled for 2022 from the Baikonur space center. The rocket is expected to be subsequently maximally adapted for launches from the Sea Launch floating platform and then from the Vostochny spaceport in the Russian Far East. In 2024, the carrier rocket is planned to orbit a manned Federatsiya spacecraft with a crew on its board.

Editor's Note: This new Soyuz initiative seems redundant to the Angara family of rockets, which has been 'under development' for decades now. Angara was considered to be Russia's answer to the US EELV program, with modular rockets serving medium, large, and super heavy payloads. (8/12)

Science and Technology to Get Boost From CRS-12 Mission (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The cargo aboard NASA’s scheduled Aug. 14, 2017, commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) could help more people than just the six astronauts and cosmonauts currently living there. With more than three tons of experiments and materials being ferried, SpaceX's Dragon capsule promises to benefit people ranging from those suffering from Parkinson's disease, to those seeking bio-engineered organs, to soldiers on the battlefield. (8/13)

Jacobs Engineers Battle Extraterrestrial Challenges From Houston Area (Source: Houston Chronicle)
NASA's acting chief technologist Douglas Terrier was in the Clear Lake area Thursday to learn about devices that can detect space debris, extract drinking water from urine and test the role a sock can play in reducing vibrations caused by exercise equipment aboard the International Space Station.

"The pace of technology refresh is so fast, you've got to work pretty hard to keep up," Terrier said. So he spent the afternoon touring the Jacobs Engineering Development Facility near the intersection of Bay Area and Space Center boulevards.

Jacobs partners with large businesses and more than 2,500 small business suppliers, including 750 in Texas, to provide NASA with a host of products. The company's Clear Lake Group is working on more than 100 projects at Johnson Space Center. The Engineering Development Facility allows Jacobs to quickly create prototypes and concepts for NASA. The facility is also used to develop new technologies. (8/10)

Teledyne Brown Offers ISS Platform for Testing Spacecraft Parts in Orbit Before Flying Them For Real (Source: Space News)
Teledyne Brown Engineering plans to install a hyperspectral imager built by the German Aerospace Center, DLR, in the firm’s International Space Station observatory in March. DLR’s Earth Sensing Imaging Spectrometer will be the first payload tested on the Multi-User System for Earth Sensing (MUSES), Teledyne Brown’s external Earth-facing platform that traveled to the space station in June inside a SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule.

Teledyne Brown helped DLR fund the hyperspectral sensor in exchange for rights to the data. “The DLR owns all the scientific data and we own all the commercial data,” said Chris Crumbly, Teledyne Brown vice president for civil and commercial space business development. Companies seeking spaceflight heritage for new sensors or other systems can test them in MUSES “instead of putting them on a billion dollar satellite,” Crumbly said. (8/11)

Robots Are Cutting Down on the Need for Space Doctors (Source: Bloomberg)
NASA has largely computerized routine tasks such as orbital rendezvous, docking, and trajectory mapping; it’s also been developing “robonauts” since the late 1990s, including medical systems that can perform tests and procedures while controlled remotely by a doctor—-or, in some cases, handle things without any human involvement. Click here. (8/11)

Aerospace Combat Command Instead of Space Force? (Source: Breaking Defense)
Over the past two years, America’s near-peer competitors have reorganized and integrated their air, deterrent, missile defense, cyber and space forces to make them more effective. But U.S. competitors aren’t just reorganizing; they are building and fielding capabilities that create new vulnerabilities for the U.S. in space. As Gen. Jay Raymond, head of Air Force Space Command said in recent testimony: “In the not too distant future, near-peer competitors will have the ability to hold every U.S. space asset in every orbital regime at risk.”

Dissatisfied with the speed of the Air Force’s response to these challenges, House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee Chair Mike Rogers and Ranking Member Jim Cooper have proposed (and the full House has adopted) a semi-independent Space Force within the Air Force Department in the House version of the fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act.

In a joint statement, Chairman Rogers and Rep. Cooper say: “There is bipartisan acknowledgement that the strategic advantages we derive from our national security space systems are eroding… We are convinced that the Department of Defense is unable to take the measures necessary to address these challenges effectively and decisively, or even recognize the nature and scale of its problems.” (8/10)

Why Massive Galaxies Don’t Dance in Crowds (Source: UNSW)
Scientists have discovered why heavyweight galaxies living in a dense crowd of galaxies tend to spin more slowly than their lighter neighbors. “Contrary to earlier thinking, the spin rate of the galaxy is determined by its mass, rather than how crowded its neighborhood is,” says Professor Sarah Brough.

The finding, based on a detailed study of more than 300 galaxies, is published in The Astrophysical Journal. To measure how fast their galaxies rotated, the researchers used an instrument called the Sydney-AAO Multi-object Integral field spectrograph (SAMI) on the 4-meter Anglo-Australian Telescope in eastern Australia. SAMI ‘dissects’ galaxies, obtaining optical spectra from 61 points across the face of each galaxy, 13 galaxies at a time. (8/10)

No, Quantum Teleportation Won’t Let Us Send Instant Messages to Alpha Centauri (Source: Air & Space)
In what sounds like a “Beam me up, Scotty” moment, Chinese scientists recently teleported the first photons to orbit. But unlike the glowing transporter in Star Trek, teleportation experiments in 2017 still have to follow the laws of physics, which means that instant travel to—or even communication with—nearby stars won’t happen.

The Chinese experiment began last year, when a satellite called Micius (named after an ancient Chinese philosopher) blasted off on top of a Long March rocket. Equipped with a photon receiver, Micius passes over ground stations at the same time every day, during which times scientists can beam up a stream of photons.

“Beaming,” in this case, doesn’t mean the instantaneous transfer of photons from one location to another. Like anything else, these elementary particles can travel no faster than the speed of light. Their ability to carry information relies on a principle called quantum entanglement, which happens when tiny particles (including photons) form at the same time and place. In the weird world of quantum physics, this means the two objects share the same existence (or more technically, have the same wave function). (8/10)

Billions to Be Spent on Missile Defense, Trump Pledges (Source: Defense News)
President Donald Trump has vowed to spend billions on missile defense. "We are going to be increasing our budget by many billions of dollars because of North Korea, and other reasons having to do with the anti-missile," he told reporters in New Jersey on Thursday. (8/10)

NASA'S Smartest Satellite is Gone. Can Private Space Replace It? (Source: WIRED)
Scientists love pointing hyperspectral cameras at the Earth to analyze things like crop health, or the mineral content of exposed soil. But there aren't many spectroscopic satellites in orbit: The US decommissioned one of the best, called Hyperion, earlier this year. So a private company called Satellogic wants to give scientists its data for free—the company plans to have 300 spectroscopic satellites in orbit by the early 2020s.

Hyperspectral imagery lets scientists see the world for what it is: molecules. Every rock, every crop, every building, and every one of you is made out of them, and every molecule reflects a different brand of photons. Pick up the signals from enough different kinds of light—Satellogic's orbiting imagers use 30 kinds, with wavelengths from 450 to 850 nanometers—and you can get a pretty good idea of a landscape's molecular composition. Click here. (8/9)

Virgin Orbit Wins LauncherOne Contract for Italian Smallsat (Source: Space News)
Italian small satellite builder Sitael has signed Virgin Orbit to send a technology demonstration satellite into low-Earth orbit next year. Sitael’s µHETsat, a demonstrator for a new electric propulsion system built with the European and Italian space agencies, will fly on LauncherOne “mid-next year,” Dan Hart, Virgin Orbit Chief Executive, told SpaceNews Aug. 11.

Virgin Orbit is preparing to begin commercial services with LauncherOne, its air-launched small satellite orbital vehicle, in 2018. Other customers for the launch system, which can carry 500 kilograms to LEO, include NASA, OneWeb, and Sky and Space Global. (8/11)

SpaceX and Boeing in Home Stretch for Commercial Crew Readiness (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
With just one year to go until the scheduled completion of all uncrewed and crewed test flights for SpaceX and Boeing’s commercial crew transportation services, the NASA Advisory Council recently held a routine review of the technical, hardware, software, and training progress the two companies are making toward the goal of returning the capability to launch people into space from the United States. Click here. (8/11)

August 11, 2017

Lockheed Martin Will Build New Space Instrument Focused on Vegetation Health and Carbon Monitoring (Source: Space Daily)
Scientists will get a better understanding of our planet's carbon cycle and vegetation health through a first-of-a-kind NASA instrument built by Lockheed Martin. The Geostationary Carbon Cycle Observatory (GeoCARB) mission will use an advanced infrared spectrograph hosted on a commercial geosynchronous satellite. The project is led by Principal Investigator Dr. Berrien Moore at the University of Oklahoma.

"Lockheed Martin has the right skills to make GeoCARB a success, bringing together our deep expertise in infrared sensing and hosted payloads," said Gary Kushner, the Lockheed Martin instrument program manager. "Through our collaboration with the University of Oklahoma, NASA and Colorado State University, we can deliver better information about our planet's health to decision makers and scientists around the globe." (8/9)

New Theory on the Origin of Dark Matter (Source: Space Daily)
By far the largest part is invisible and consists of dark matter and dark energy. Very little is known about dark energy, but there are many theories and experiments on the existence of dark matter designed to find these as yet unknown particles. Only a small part of the universe consists of visible matter.

Scientists have now come up with a new theory on how dark matter may have been formed shortly after the origin of the universe. This new model proposes an alternative to the WIMP paradigm that is the subject of various experiments in current research. In the new dark matter model, the Higgs particle has different properties to those in the standard model of particle physics. (8/9)

Astronauts to Bring Asteroid Back into Lunar Orbit (Source: Space Daily)
Future space exploration aims to fly further from Earth than ever before. Now, Italian Space Agency scientists have expressed an interest in contributing to the development of robotic technologies to bring an asteroid from beyond lunar orbit back into closer reach in order to better study it.

In a paper published in EPJ Plus, Marco Tantardini and Enrico Flamini from the Italian Space Agency (ASI) make the case for taking part in the robotic phase of the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM). In addition to taking manned spaceflights deeper into space than ever before, the proposed mission would also bring some benefit for planetary science.

Further, the mission has potential implications for a field called planetary defence. The mission could even help to validate a concept known as enhanced gravity tractor. This involves relying on a spacecraft to deflect a potentially hazardous asteroid that might impact Earth, without physically contacting it. Instead, it uses its gravitational field to transmit the required impulse. (8/9)

Space Launch System Solid Rocket Boosters 'on Target' for First Flight (Source: Space Daily)
Production of the five-segment powerhouse motors for the Space Launch System (SLS) solid rocket boosters is on target at prime contractor Orbital ATK's facilities in Utah, with 10 motor segments cast with propellant and four of those segments complete. Following propellant casting, the finished segments were evaluated using non-destructive techniques, such as x-ray, to ensure they met quality standards. All motor segments will ultimately be shipped to Kennedy Space Center, where they will be integrated with forward and aft booster structures and then with the SLS core stage. (8/9)

August 10, 2017

NASA Antenna Maker Says Apple Copied Tech In IPhone (Source: Law360)
A Utah-based antenna maker who's licensed products to NASA and the U.S. Department of Defense sued Apple Inc. in federal court Wednesday, claiming the tech giant copied its patented antenna technology and uses it in its iPhone and other products. (8/9)

Congressman Raises Concern Over Potential Use of Russian Satellites for Troops’ Internet Service (Source: Washington Post)
In a letter to the Pentagon Friday, U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter said he was concerned a contract to provide Internet service to deployed soldiers could allow the use of Russian satellites, jeopardizing troops’ privacy and security.

Previous service at bases’ Internet cafes had “stringent security measures,” Hunter wrote to Army Lt. Gen. Alan Lynn, the head of the Defense Information Systems Agency. But he said he was worried the “contracting arrangement creates unnecessary security risks, given that our deployed warfighters could be exposed to transmitting their personal information over unprotected networks that are controlled by foreign and potentially hostile entities.”

Hunter, a California Republican who served three tours as Marine, said, “this is one of the dumbest things we could do. Why give the Russians the ability to basically spy on American military personnel when there are so many other options?” Federal law prevents using the satellites of many adversarial countries, such as North Korea and China, said Hunter, a member of the Armed Services Committee. But while there is no provision that specifically bars the use of Russian satellites. (10/21)

Investors Pour Billions Into Commercial Space Start-Ups as They Approach Exit Velocity (Source: CNBC)
Investment in space start-ups continues to soar, buoyed by the exploits of highly visible space concerns, like SpaceX and Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin. But it's the terabytes of data streaming to Earth daily from a new generation of smaller, less-expensive satellites — thousands of which are slated to join the roughly 1,500 satellites already in orbit over the next several years — that have piqued investors' interest in everything from satellites themselves to software used to analyze their data and new rockets designed to loft them into orbit.

Newly compiled data from space industry consulting shop Bryce Space and Technology released Wednesday demonstrates the trend.

In 2016 space start-ups received a record-setting $2.8 billion in investment, $400 million more than in the year prior. With roughly 25 venture deals already reported in 2017 — including a $351 million investment in Elon Musk's SpaceX that pushed that company's valuation to more than $20 billion last month — these so-called "new space" ventures are once again on pace to raise billions in seed, venture and private-equity cash. (8/9)

NanoRacks Ready to Help Customers Get Into Polar Orbit (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Webster-based space-industry company NanoRacks is helping customers launch satellites into polar orbits, meaning they pass almost directly over the Earth's north and south poles. This allows satellites to see virtually every part of Earth. And it's a new offering for NanoRacks, which has mostly hosted experiments or deployed satellites from the International Space Station.

"We'll be providing the same services we do for our customers on commercial resupply launches to the ISS (International Space Station)," said spokeswoman Abby Dickes in an email. "(We're) just now adding on another rocket destined for a different location as an option for the customer." The satellites destined for polar orbit will be launched from India. NanoRacks is working with Antrix, the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organization, to get satellites on the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle. (8/9)

Could EmDrive Save the Planet from a World-Ending Asteroid Strike? (Source: International Business Times)
Controversial space propulsion technology EmDrive, which has set the international scientific community alight, has officially reached the mainstream – it is currently playing a starring role in new US sci-fi suspense series Salvation. Salvation, which debuted in July on CBS, is about an Elon Musk-esque tech billionaire and an MIT graduate student. They team up on a top-secret government project to build an EmDrive, in order to prevent an imminent catastrophic, end-of-the-world asteroid strike.

Considering just how controversial the technology is, and the fact that many people still do not believe that it works – despite the release of a peer-reviewed paper by NASA's Eagleworks laboratory in November 2016 – it is surprising to see EmDrive make its way onto prime-time TV. But for Roger Shawyer, the British engineer who invented the EmDrive, its appearance in a major US show is a hugely positive sign, particularly since it appears that the EmDrive design featured on the show was inspired by a NASA Eagleworks technical drawing of the device. (8/9)

Russia's Mayak ‘Lighthouse in the Sky’ Fails to Deploy Solar Reflector (Source: SpaceFlight 101)
The Russian Mayak satellite failed to deploy its reflective sail that would have placed it among the brightest objects in the night sky, the project announced on its website and via Russian media outlets this week.

Mayak, Russian for ‘Lighthouse’ or ‘Beacon,’ launched on July 14 atop a Soyuz 2-1A rocket carrying a total of 73 satellites into three different orbits as part of a complex multi-orbit, multi-burn mission dispatching the Kanopus V-IK Earth-imaging satellite as the primary payload along with five microsatellites and 67 CubeSats. Mayak was one of 19 CubeSats deployed from the Fregat upper stage during a 17-minute sequence starting two hours and 33 minutes after launch, targeting an orbit of 585 by 605 Kilometers. (8/9)

Four Earth-Sized Planets Detected Orbiting the Nearest Sun-Like Star (Source: UCSC)
A new study by an international team of astronomers reveals that four Earth-sized planets orbit the nearest sun-like star, tau Ceti, which is about 12 light years away and visible to the naked eye. These planets have masses as low as 1.7 Earth mass, making them among the smallest planets ever detected around nearby sun-like stars. Two of them are super-Earths located in the habitable zone of the star, meaning they could support liquid surface water.

The planets were detected by observing the wobbles in the movement of tau Ceti. This required techniques sensitive enough to detect variations in the movement of the star as small as 30 centimeters per second. (8/8)

NASA’s Plasma Engine Making Progress Toward a 100-Hour Firing (Source: Ars Technica)
Almost everyone recognizes that if humans are truly to go deeper into the Solar System, we need faster and more efficient propulsion systems than conventional chemical rockets. Rocket engines powered by chemical propellants are great for breaking the chains of Earth's gravity, but they consume way too much fuel when used in space and don't offer optimal control of a spacecraft's thrust.

NASA recognizes this, too. So in 2015, the space agency awarded three different contracts for development of advanced propulsion systems. Of these, perhaps the most intriguing is a plasma-based rocket—which runs on Argon fuel, generates a plasma, excites it, and then pushes it out a nozzle at high speed. This solution has the potential to shorten the travel time between Earth and Mars to weeks, rather than months. (8/10)

Chinese Quantum Satellite Sends 'Unbreakable' Code (Source: Reuters)
China has sent an "unbreakable" code from a satellite to the Earth, marking the first time space-to-ground quantum key distribution technology has been realized, state media said on Thursday. China launched the world's first quantum satellite last August, to help establish "hack proof" communications, a development the Pentagon has called a "notable advance".

The satellite sent quantum keys to ground stations in China between 645 km (400 miles) and 1,200 km (745 miles) away at a transmission rate up to 20 orders of magnitude more efficient than an optical fiber, Xinhua cited Pan Jianwei, lead scientist on the experiment from the state-run Chinese Academy of Sciences, as saying. "That, for instance, can meet the demand of making an absolute safe phone call or transmitting a large amount of bank data," Pan said. (8/10)

Rogue Planets: Not as Plentiful As We Thought (Source: Sky & Telescope)
Astronomers know that there are rogue, Jupiter-sized planets roaming the galaxy on their own, without a star to call home. But how many dark and lonely planets are out there? Six years ago, a study found that they might be so abundant, they outnumbered the stars two to one. The result had implications not only for how these dark planets might form, but also for the general messiness of the early years of planet formation. Now, a new study using the exact same technique has contradicted that first result — turns out there aren't nearly as many of these dark, Jupiter-sized worlds as we once thought. (8/10)

NASA's Smartest Satellite Is Gone. Can Private Space Replace It? (Source: WIRED)
Look down on Buenos Aires from the sky, and you can learn a fair bit about the city. It's got a lot of concrete. Also a lot of trees. There's a bright green river delta to the north, which probably explains the ruddy-brown bay to the east. But with the right camera—a hyperspectral one—you can pick up a whole lot more. New colors emerge, hidden hues your eyes and mine aren't wired to see. And these colors reflect even more detail about the scene: the gases coming out of the city, the health of the plants surrounding it, the species of algae coloring the water offshore.

Scientists love pointing hyperspectral cameras at the Earth to analyze things like crop health, or the mineral content of exposed soil. But there aren't many spectroscopic satellites in orbit: The US decommissioned one of the best, called Hyperion, earlier this year. So a private company called Satellogic wants to give scientists its data for free—the company plans to have 300 spectroscopic satellites in orbit by the early 2020s. Click here. (8/10)

Mines School Plans Space Resources Graduate Program (Source: Colorado School of Mines)
Colorado School of Mines could soon be preparing the next generation of scientists and engineers to responsibly explore, extract and use resources not only on Earth but also on the Moon, Mars, asteroids and beyond. Mines is planning to launch a first-of-its-kind interdisciplinary graduate program in space resources in 2018. The first course, Space Resources Fundamentals, will be offered for the first time this fall, to be followed in the spring semester by a new space systems engineering course, design project class and seminar series, all focused on space resources.

“In recent years, there has been a growing interest by space agencies and the private sector in resources found beyond our planet, such as water, gases, minerals and metals, to be used in space, instead of launching them from Earth.  This often-called ‘living-off-the-land’ approach has been driven by an awareness that further development of space travel will be enabled through processing of materials and production of propellants in space for more affordable and flexible transportation, facilities construction and life support,” said Angel Abbud-Madrid, director of the Mines Center for Space Resources and research associate professor in mechanical engineering. (8/7)

EchoStar Orders Advanced Satellite From Loral (Source: Space News)
EchoStar has ordered an "ultra high density" broadband satellite from Space Systems Loral. The Jupiter-3/EchoStar-24 satellite, scheduled for launch in 2021, will provide 500 gigabits per second of capacity for broadband services in the Americas. EchoStar first mentioned plans for Jupiter-3 in February 2016, saying at the time that it expected to make an announcement about its plans for the satellite in a few months. SSL's parent company, MDA Corp., hinted at the order in a recent earnings call when it mentioned a pending order for a $400 million satellite. (8/10)

Cubesat Constellation Planned with Airbus Support (Source: Space News)
A Swiss company has closed a $3 million seed round to support early development of a smallsat constellation. Airbus Ventures led the round for ELSE, a company developing a satellite system called Astrocast that will support Internet of Things and machine-to-machine communications. ELSE is developing its first two satellites for launch next year, and later funding rounds will back the deployment of a constellation of 64 cubesats by 2021. (8/10)

Nelson: Space Coast "Coming Alive" (Source: Florida Today)
Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson knows his grandparents would have been amazed to see what became of their land on Merritt Island. The 160-acre parcel they obtained under Florida's Homestead Act of 1862 for working the land would later become the north end of NASA's Shuttle Landing Facility at Kennedy Space Center, giving Nelson, a former space shuttle astronaut, yet another personal link to the Space Coast.

During a visit to KSC's Exploration Park on Wednesday, however, the senator didn't spend long talking about the past – his discussion with reporters about the promising future of the area was held at Blue Origin's cutting-edge facility that will one day assemble the company's massive New Glenn rockets. "The Cape is coming alive," Nelson said on the transition from historic spaceflight to modern-day commercial advancements spearheaded by Blue Origin, SpaceX and United Launch Alliance, among others.

Editor's Note: Now running for re-election in what could be his final term in the Senate, expect to see and hear a lot more from Sen. Nelson over the next year, including on space policy. His likely challenger on the Republican ticket is current Governor Rick Scott, who is term-limited from running again for his Tallahassee job. (8/10)

Harris Pivots From Hosted Payloads to Small Satellite (Source: Space News)
Harris Corp. is pivoting. The company that played a leading role in promoting hosted payloads and sold excess space on Iridium Communications satellites, is turning its attention to small satellites “because that’s where the market is,” said Sid Stewart, manager of Harris Space and Intelligence Systems’ Satellite Solutions Group.

Harris is pairing commercially available small satellite buses with its own sensors to provide customers with complete missions. “We basically become a prime who does the satellite, the ground system and the data exploitation and dissemination,” Stewart said. Traditionally, Harris offered customers a variety of space sensors including large-aperture unfurlable mesh reflectors for communications satellites. With its 2015 acquisition of Exelis Inc., Harris expanded its role in the sensor market.

Now, Harris is seeking to draw on some of that expertise to trim the cost of sensors destined for small satellites. Harris already has attracted internal and external small satellite customers, although Lynch declined to name the commercial customers. Harris is developing small satellites to test electronics and other systems Harris plans to fly on larger spacecraft. Harris also is working with government and commercial customers to design satellites to fulfill their missions. (8/9)

China Eyes Manned Lunar Landing by 2036 (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Recent and rather bold statements made by Chinese officials suggest that the country is moving forward toward its goal of sending Taikonauts to the surface of the Moon. China is the third country (after the Soviet Union / Russia and the U.S.) that has independently sent humans into space. In October 2003, Yang Liwei flew on board the Shenzhou-5 spacecraft, becoming the first Chinese in orbit. He now serves as the deputy director general of China Manned Space Agency.

“China intends to realize its plan of a manned landing on the Moon by 2036, according to a state official who revealed this deadline last year. Wu Yansheng, the president of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), has also confirmed that the country is working on fulfilling the envisioned manned lunar landing program. He revealed that the proposed mission would consist of a crewed spaceship, a propulsion vehicle and a lunar lander. According to him, the manned spacecraft and the lunar lander will be sent into circumlunar orbit separately. (8/9)

Pentagon To Assess Tactical Smallsat Reconnaissance (Source: Aviation Week)
A U.S. Army initiative slated for launch aboard SpaceX’s 12th NASA-contracted resupply mission to the International Space Station will evaluate the performance of a low-altitude, electro-optical small satellite as a direct provider of overhead reconnaissance to soldiers deployed in tactical positions. (8/9)

Chasing Shadows for a Glimpse of a Tiny World Beyond Pluto (Source: New York Times)
This summer, scientists crisscrossed two oceans, braved wind and cold and deployed two dozen telescopes — all for five blinks of starlight that lasted a second or less. For the team working with NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, which made a spectacular flyby of Pluto two years ago, those smidgens of data provide intriguing hints about the spacecraft’s next destination, a distant frozen world that is believed to be a pristine, undisturbed fragment from the earliest days of the solar system.

New Horizons will fly past it on Jan. 1, 2019. But the object is so far away — a billion miles beyond Pluto — and so small — no more than 20 miles wide — that almost nothing was known about it. From the five blinks, obtained with exhausting effort, scientists now know that it has an odd shape. Instead of round like a ball it appears to be more like a long, skinny potato — or maybe two objects in close orbit around each other, possibly even touching. (8/9)

August 9, 2017

Virgin Orbit User Guide Suggests Possible Operating Locations in Florida, Hawaii, Puerto Rico (Source: SPACErePORT)
Virgin Orbit distributed a User Guide document at this week's Small Satellite Conference in Utah. The document includes a section on "Launch Locations" with Mojave in California as their primary spaceport. However, lower-latitude alternatives are also being pursued...

"Virgin Orbit has completed launch assessments for MHV and is assessing requirements for a variety of lower latitude operating locations, including the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, Kona International Airport (KOA) in Hawaii, and former Roosevelt Roads Naval Station in Puerto Rico. Virgin Orbit can also assess alternative launch locations and will pursue approvals to operate from these locations as necessary to support our customers’ needs." Click here to download the PDF. (8/9)

NSF, CASIS Select 3 Combustion & Thermal Transport Experiments for ISS (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) today announced three projects have been selected from a joint solicitation focused on leveraging the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory in the fields of combustion and thermal transport. In total, up to $900,000 will be awarded for these three investigations to support flight projects to the ISS National Laboratory.

Through this partnership, CASIS and NASA will facilitate hardware implementation and on-orbit access to the ISS National Laboratory. NSF will fund the selected projects to advance fundamental science and engineering knowledge. CASIS is the nonprofit organization responsible for managing and promoting research onboard the ISS National Laboratory. NSF supports transformative research to help drive the U.S. economy, enhance national security and maintain America’s position as a global leader in innovation. (8/9)

Smallsat Market Forecast to Exceed $30 Billion in Coming Decade (Space News)
French consultancy Euroconsult forecasts that significant expansion in terms of capabilities and demand is underway in the smallsat market. More than 6,200 smallsats are to be launched in the next 10 years, with the market value expected to reach up to $30.1 billion, compared with $8.9 billion in the previous decade, according to a report Euroconsult released last month.

“The smallsat market from 2017-2026 will be driven by the roll-out of multiple constellations accounting for more than 70 percent of this total, mainly for commercial operators,” the consultancy said. “Of the total $16.5 billion manufacturing market value from 2017 to 2026, $3.7 billion is absorbed internally by in-house manufacturing; the remaining $12.8 billion is considered part of the open market.” (8/9)

Houston Spaceport Moving Forward with First Phase After Losing Blue Origin Project (Source: Houston Business Journal)
The spaceport is looking for other opportunities with aerospace and aviation companies after Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos took its Blue Origin investment to Alabama. Click here. (8/9)

NGA Director Supports Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Reform (Source: Space News)
Facing increasing pressure from both industry and Congress, the head of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency said the federal government is taking steps to streamline the licensing process for commercial remote sensing satellites. NGA Director Robert Cardillo said he also expected the newly-reconstituted National Space Council to play a role in speeding up the license application review process as more companies and organizations propose small satellite systems for Earth imaging.

Cardillo shared the assessment of others in both industry and government that the sometimes lengthy delays in getting commercial remote sensing licenses from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is caused in large part by the surge in license applications, including from companies planning constellations of satellites or proposing other novel applications that required extended review. (8/8)

India's Soaring Space Ambitions (Source: The Diplomat)
On February 15, 2017, the world watched in awe as the Indian Space Research Organization successfully blasted off a record-breaking 104 nano-satellites, along with a 714-kg satellite for earth observation, into orbit from a single rocket. The entire operation took around 30 minutes.

Of the more than 100 smaller satellites, weighing under 10 kg each, three were Indian-owned, 96 were from U.S. companies, and the rest belonged to Israel, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the UAE. The milestone launch, from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in south India’s Sriharikota, overtook the 2014 Russian record of launching 37 satellites in a single burst. Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the accomplishment on Twitter as an “exceptional achievement.” (8/9)

Trump’s Space Leader Says SpaceX is Outstanding, But… (Source: Ars Technica)
Scott Pace, a well-known academic figure in the aerospace community, was named executive secretary of the National Space Council in July. As such, he was the first key appointee of the Trump administration on space policy in regard to the future of the military, civil, and commercial space enterprises. While it is not entirely clear how influential the new council will be, it is clear that Pace will have a strong voice in whatever direction it goes.

Although generally regarded as highly capable, thoughtful about space policy, and certainly a true believer in the value of robotic and human spaceflight, the director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University has in recent years made comments that have raised concern among commercial spaceflight advocates.

In particular, during both interviews and comments to Congress, Pace has expressed skepticism about both NASA's commercial crew program under President Obama and the abilities of Elon Musk and his rocket company, SpaceX. "It's kind of amazing to me that the Trump administration would line up against the commercial space industry like this," said one former White House official who helped NASA develop the commercial crew program under President Obama. (8/8)

NASA's ISS Could Become More Corporate (Source: Alabama Public Radio)
NASA is gathering stakeholders in the International Space Station to look at the future of the orbiting complex, and potential changes could impact the city of Huntsville. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville controls science work that’s done aboard the football field-sized space station. That could soon mean working for or with private industry on the complex.

Tomorrow’s International Space Station stakeholders’ conference may build on a similar meeting last month. That earlier conference focused on research and development. It also hinted how the future of the space station could hinge on commercial development aboard the complex. Click here. (8/8)

East Coast Launches to Resume Sunday, With Science-Heavy Dragon Mission to Space Station (Source: America Space)
For the first time, SpaceX will launch a third Dragon cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS) in a single calendar year, when the science-laden CRS-12 rockets away from Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) on Sunday, 13 August. Current plans call for the Dragon—mounted atop an Upgraded Falcon 9 booster—to launch no earlier than 12:56 p.m. EDT, kicking off a three-day chasedown of the orbiting laboratory. Assuming an on-time launch, Dragon will be robotically captured by the station’s 57.7-foot-long (17.6-meter) Canadarm2 robotic arm on Wednesday, 16 August. This will set the stage for a month-long stay at the ISS.

Earlier today (Tuesday), a group of researchers, scientists, principal investigators and program managers assembled for a teleconference to outline the payloads aboard CRS-12. All told, some 6,415 pounds (2,910 kg) of equipment, experiments and supplies will ride uphill aboard Dragon’s pressurized cargo module and its unpressurized “trunk”. This includes 485 pounds (220 kg) of crew supplies, 747 pounds (339 kg) of vehicle-related hardware, 66 pounds (33 kg) of Extravehicular Activity (EVA) gear and 117 pounds (53 kg) of computer resources. Topping the list will be 2,019 pounds (916 kg) of science investigations to support more than 250 research payloads across the ongoing Expedition 52 and upcoming Expedition 53 increments and beyond. (8/8)

Why Australia Should Follow the Canadian Space Agency’s Model (Source: Via Satellite)
Australia should model its proposed national space agency on the Canadian example, according to the Space Industry Association of Australia (SIAA). SIAA secretary Peter Nikoloff said a national space agency with clear space policies would allow Australia to find niche areas in the international arena.

“When people mention the space agency they think of NASA or the European Space Agency (ESA), where they are doing big rocket launches and spending billions of dollars on going to other planets; but from our perspective, that’s not practical in Australia to establish those sort of exploration projects,” he said. “The Canadians are a good example because their population and economy is not that much bigger than Australia’s but they have had a space agency for many years.” (8/8)

Secret History of the First Cat in Space (Source: Gizmodo)
On October 18th, 1963, the Centre national d’études in France was set to send a small cat named Félix into space. After lagging behind its Soviet and American competitors, France was eager to stake its claim in the space race—with cats, for some reason. But on launch day, the mischievous little beast went missing—and an accidental heroine stepped in to take his place. Her name was Félicette.

From the streets of Paris, this tuxedo kitty—nicknamed “Astrocat”—would reach heights never achieved by feline kind. On October 24th, 1963, Félicette jetted 130 miles above Earth on a liquid-fueled French Véronique AG1 rocket, soaring high above the Algerian Sahara Desert. She returned just fifteen minutes later, already a decorated heroine for her nation.

After her landing, French scientists at the Education Center of Aviation and Medical Research (CERMA) studied Félicette’s brain waves to see if she had changed at all since her voyage. While not much is known about their findings—or about Félicette’s eventual fate—the CERMA said she had made “a valuable contribution to research.” (1/26)

Nuclear Reactors on Rockets May Fuel Future Crewed Trips to Mars (Source: New Scientist)
NASA is working on a nuclear rocket. The space agency has signed an $18.8 million contract with BWX Technologies, based in Lynchburg, Virginia, to start developing a nuclear reactor that could power the rockets that some day shuttle people to Mars.

Nuclear thermal propulsion uses a nuclear reaction to heat fuel, generally liquid hydrogen, which expands and shoots out of a rocket nozzle to create thrust. The technology can enable rockets to attain more thrust per unit of fuel than standard rocket engines can. This means only about half as much fuel is required as used in the main engines for the space shuttle program – the gold standard of rocket engines for the past 40 years.

This high level of efficiency is particularly useful for long flights that would otherwise require lots of heavy fuel – and cutting out some of that fuel on a spacecraft to Mars would allow for more cargo. The high speed allowed by this nuclear technology would also reduce the journey time to the Red Planet from six months to four. (8/8)

Hunt for Other Worlds: 3,500 Exoplanets and Counting (Source: CSM)
Beyond the eight planets of our own solar system are another 3,500 planets that we know of, and probably millions or billions more yet to discover. The first exoplanet was spotted in 1989, but because the very existence of planets orbiting other stars was still a radical theory, its discoverer, David Latham, referred to it only as the “companion” of its star, HD 114762, and its planetary identity wasn't confirmed until 2012. Because of the delay in confirmation, most of the “first exoplanet” attention went to 51 Pegasi b, the first planet discovered around a main-sequence star, in 1995.

In the past few years, exoplanet discovery has become so common that between one and 10 planets are added to NASA's official Exoplanet Archive nearly every week, says Jessie Christiansen, an astronomer who has worked with the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute for 4 years. “Sometimes there will be a week with none, sometimes there will be a week with 12,” she adds. (8/8)

Eclipse Superstitions Are a Thing of the Past, and the Present (Source: Space.com)
All around the globe, ancient cultures and religions attempted to explain solar and lunar eclipses. Many of those stories involved gods, demons, dragons and other creatures that prowled through the sky and threatened to devour the sun or the moon. People prayed, made offerings or hurled things into the sky to chase off the invaders.

Today, as the U.S. prepares for the total solar eclipse of Aug. 21, 2017, when the moon will cover 100 percent of the sun's disk, areas that lie in the path of the total eclipse are planning festivals and multiday celebrations. In the modern age, scientists can predict when and where these cosmic events will occur, and skywatchers can appreciate their beauty rather than fear that the events might bring devastating consequences. It seems that humanity's perception of eclipses has changed over the centuries. Click here. (8/8)

Space Command Develops Operational Concepts for Waging War in Orbit (Source: Space News)
For the U.S. Air Force Space Command, the question is no longer if war is battle zone, but how to fight it. To that end, the command has developed a concept of operations (CONOPS) for fighting in that realm, Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, commander of Air Force Space Command, told attendees Aug. 8 at the annual Space and Missile Defense Symposium here.

“Space is a warfighting domain just like air, land and sea,” Raymond said. With the needs of the Air Force and broader intelligence community in mind, the command recent developed CONOPS for the domain battle. The CONOPS focus, Raymond said, is on command-and-control elements as well as integrated space awareness and warning. “It’s on paper,” he said. “Here’s how we plan to do this business.”

Along with the CONOPS, Space Command also has newly revived interest in strengthening partnerships. “We in the space community haven’t needed partnerships in the past,” Raymond said. “It was a benign domain. You launch something and as long as it survives the launch and survives the early obit” there was little to worry about. “That’s not the case anymore,” he said. “We are in a partnership with the intelligence community, with industry and with our allies.” (8/8)

NASA Wants to Hear From Smallsat Builders Interested in Hitching Rides on SLS (Source: Space News)
As NASA prepares to launch cubesats on the first Space Launch System flight, the space agency is asking satellite developers to share information on small spacecraft they would like to fly on subsequent missions. “We are seeking your input,” said Kimberly Robinson, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center’s SLS secondary payloads manager. “We want to make flexible options and accommodate the type of cubesats you want to fly in the future.”

NASA plans to fly 13 cubesats to gather data on the sun, moon, asteroids and Earth on the first SLS test flight slated for 2019. For the following SLS mission, a test flight of SLS with the Orion crew capsule known as Exploration Mission-2 scheduled to launch in 2022, NASA is redesigning the second stage to loft 105 metric tons into orbit. (8/8)

Judge Unlikely to Revive Wrongful Firing Suit Against SpaceX (Source: Law360)
A California judge said Tuesday he isn’t inclined to retry a former SpaceX avionics technician’s unsuccessful $6 million wrongful firing suit alleging the rocket-maker retaliated for blowing the whistle on falsified rocket-part testing data, as he didn’t see any error that would warrant a new trial. (8/8)

India Eyes Big Business with Africa in Space Exploration (Source: Sputnik)
Ghana recently launched its first ever satellite, GhanaSat-1, from NASA's International Space Station. A group of students at Ghana's All Nations University (ANU) built the satellite, which weighs about 1 kg and will orbit 400kms above the earth. Launched last month, it will help Ghana to monitor its coastline as well as help other activities to boost e-governance.

The ground station at the ANU's laboratory is awaiting first signals from the satellite. The $500,000 project that began in 2015 has the support of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. "The launch will help us train the upcoming generation on how to apply satellites in different activities around our region. For instance, [monitoring] illegal mining is one of the things we are looking to accomplish," the BBC quoted Richard Damoah, director of the Space Systems Technology Laboratory at the ANU, as saying. (8/8)

1-Inch Optical Device Will Shrink Space Telescopes by 90% (Source: IB Times)
Lockheed Martin is working on a space telescope with a one-inch wide sensor. The company claims its telescope called SPIDER (Segmented Planar Imaging Detector for Electro-Optical Reconnaissance) is able to take pictures with the same resolution that current space telescopes can. The SPIDER system, according to a release by the company, will cut down the weight and size of a traditional space telescope by 90%. Click here. (8/8)