January 17, 2019

Air Force Grants 3D Rocket Printer Relativity Space a Launch Pad at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: CNBC)
Relativity Space, a three-year-old start-up that aims to build rockets using 3D printers, announced a contract Thursday with the U.S. Air Force to build and operate a launch facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. "Cape Canaveral is the premier launch site in the U.S.," Relativity CEO Tim Ellis told CNBC.

The five-year "multi-user" agreement means Relativity can begin operating out of Launch Complex 16, or LC-16, the historic location of hundreds of American space launches. There is no monetary exchange or lease payment to the Air Force for this contract. The agreement includes an option to extend for an exclusive 20-year term. "We have a very clear path toward having this be an exclusive use site for us in the future," Ellis said. Click here. (1/17)

NewSpace Must Be Regulated (Source: Space News)
Move fast and break things, the mantra of Silicon Valley startups, has created a scapegoat for tech founders who do just that: break things. And it’s not just with Facebook breaking democracy — the contagion of dismissing regulation has now spread to the space sector with Swarm Technologies going as far as breaking the law.

Swarm Technologies, the Silicon Valley creator of “SpaceBee” pico satellites, has found itself in hot water with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the regulatory body of international communications by radio, wire and satellites. Swarm disregarded a decision by the FCC which refused a license to launch its satellites because pico satellites, being much smaller than nanosatellites, could not be safely detected and hence tracked in space. Swarm launched the satellites anyway aboard an Indian polar satellite launch vehicle.

This has sparked debate in the space law community. Space lawyer Daniel Porras, a Space Security Fellow for the U.N. Institute for Disarmament Research, stated on Twitter “So, the big question remains, who is the ‘responsible’ State for the bees if they weren’t authorized? India denied responsibility, even if liable. [The] US can say they never authorized [the launch] and they never should have flown.” So why is it that the tech darlings of Silicon Valley are being allowed to self-regulate in an environment where abuse of power against the public good is so rampant? (1/16)

New Video Rendering of Blue Origin Launch Operations at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Blue Origin's New Glenn rocket will serve commercial, civil and national security customers from around the world. It will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Launch Complex 36 with the first launch targeted for 2021. Click here. (1/17)

Sources: Firefly Aerospace is Behind Florida Rocket Project (Source: Reuters)
Firefly Aerospace Inc, a resurgent rocket company founded by a former SpaceX engineer, plans to build a factory and launch site at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Spaceport in a $52 million deal, people familiar with the project said. The Firefly project is strategically important for the Texas-based startup as it competes with several other new entrants vying to cash in on a big jump in the number of small satellites expected in the coming years.

Companies like Firefly, Virgin Orbit, and Rocket Lab are among the most promising companies designing miniaturized launch systems to link a broader swath of the economy to space at lower cost. Firefly and Space Florida, the state’s spaceport authority, declined to comment, citing confidentiality agreements. A Florida project code-named “Maricopa” was publicly disclosed in November by Space Florida, but officials have been tight-lipped on specifics. Two people familiar with the project said Firefly is the company involved, though one of the people said the deal had not been finalized.

Beginning around 2020, around 800 small satellites are expected to launch annually, more than double the annual average over the past decade, according to Teal Group analyst Marco Caceres. Firefly aims for a first flight in December of its Alpha rocket, which is capable of carrying around 2,200 pounds (1,000 kg) into low-Earth orbit at a cost of about $15 million per flight. (1/16)

Drone Aviation Expands Manufacturing Capacity in Jacksonville (Source: Jacksonville Business Journal)
Jacksonville-based Drone Aviation Holding Corp. is expanding its capacity to manufacture tethered drones and aerostats to meet demand. The company has partnered with an unnamed manufacturer with access to a 100,000-sq. ft. facility equipped with flight testing facilities in order to fulfill a $3.8 million contract signed earlier this month. Drone Aviation will continue to conduct proprietary manufacturing, software and electronics design, final assembly and systems integration from its Jacksonville headquarters. (1/15)

Vulcan Rocket Design 'Nearly Fully Mature' (Source: Reuters)
United Launch Alliance will conduct the final design review for its new flagship Vulcan rocket within months, it said on Wednesday, as the aerospace company heads for a showdown with Elon Musk’s SpaceX and others in the launch services market. The final design review is a crucial milestone as the company tries to move into full production ahead of a first flight in spring 2021 after slipping from its initial 2019 timetable. (1/16)

US Missile Ddefense Review Endorses Space Sensor Layer (Source: Washington Post)
A missile defense review scheduled for release today is expected to call for development of new space-based sensors and possibly interceptor systems. The review, to be released at a Pentagon event today featuring President Trump, will recommend the deployment of a new constellation of satellites to track missiles. Some Defense Department officials have previously supported such a system, particularly to track hypersonic missiles. The report may also call for the study of space-based weapons to intercept missiles. (1/16)

Report: China Making Progress in Military Space (Source: Space News)
A new report by the Defense Intelligence Agency concludes that China is making progress in improving its military space capabilities. The unclassified report did not identify any new advances in Chinese space technologies, but found that the country is becoming increasingly adept at militarizing commercial space technologies. The report suggests China is building up space capabilities as a way to deter the United States or others from intervening in military conflicts in the Asia-Pacific region. (1/17)

British Rocketeers in the New Space Age (Source: E&T)
The UK is the only country in history to have developed a launch capability only to throw it away. A new generation of rocket builders has now picked up the baton hoping to secure the UK’s spot in the still rather exclusive club of spacefaring nations. When the UK government announced plans to have rocket launches conducted from British soil as early as 2020, many questioned the feasibility of such a vision – especially the ambitious timeline.

The spaceport itself might not be a problem. One important element, however, is missing – a functional small-satellite launcher. The UK doesn’t aim to fly those Falcons, Arianes or Soyuzes that lift massive satellites to all sorts of orbits from established spaceports in the USA, Russia or French Guiana. It aims to target the small satellite market – quite understandably, since the country is among the global leaders in the development and manufacture of small satellites with masses below 500kg.

The UK’s aspiring spaceport operators hope to capitalize on the presence of established manufacturers of small satellites, such as Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL), or relative newcomers, such as Glasgow-based cubesat maker Clyde Space. Customers of these companies could benefit from being able to launch from the north of Scotland or Cornwall, rather than having to transport their spacecraft to the other side of the world. (1/17)

SpaceX Build Starship Prototypes at Texas Site, Abandons Los Angeles Port Plan (Source: Space News)
SpaceX will shift work on prototypes of its Starship vehicle to Texas as the company appears to abandon plans for a new manufacturing facility at the Port of Los Angeles. The company said in a statement Wednesday that it would build and test Starship prototypes at its South Texas launch site to "streamline operations." The first such vehicle is expected to begin low-altitude test flights there in the next month or two.

The company hasn't disclosed plans for later production of its next-generation launch system, but local officials said SpaceX has backed out of an agreement announced last year to lease property at the Port of Los Angeles where SpaceX was to build a facility for producing those vehicles. Editor's Note: Elon Musk tweeted that some reporting of this news was in error, and that SpaceX will assemble only the prototype Starship items at the Texas site. Final production would be in California. (1/17)

Maxar Faces Stock-Drop Suit Over Inflated Assets, Tech Lies (Source: Law360)
Maxar Technologies Inc. has been slapped with a proposed shareholder class action accusing the Colorado space technology company of using its $2.4 billion acquisition of a space imaging business to inflate its assets and hiding problems with one of the vendor’s satellites, causing dramatic stock plunges when the truth came out. (1/16)

Aireon Takes Loan to Pay Iridium (Source: Space News)
Aireon has taken out a $200 million loan to allow the aircraft-tracking company to make hosting payments to Iridium. Aireon said it signed the credit facility with a Deutsche Bank-led group of investor funds Dec. 21, and that it used the new funds to pay satellite operator Iridium $35 million before the end of 2018 for hosting its sensor payloads on the Iridium Next constellation. Aireon fell behind on making the $200 million in hosting payments it owes Iridium, in part because Iridium Next delays also hamstrung deployment of Aireon's revenue-generating sensor network. (1/17)

Myers Renominated by Trump for NOAA Position (Source: Space News)
The White House has renominated a controversial figure to serve as NOAA administrator. The White House announced Wednesday that it was resubmitting the nomination of Barry Myers to lead NOAA after the Senate failed to take up the nomination before the end of the previous Congress. Myers earlier faced opposition from Senate Democrats about conflict of interest issues since he served as CEO of AccuWeather. Myers has since left AccuWeather and sold his interest in the company. The White House also renominated four people to serve on the board of the Ex-Im Bank that the Senate failed to take up last year. The board currently lacks a quorum, preventing it from approving large deals, like satellite and launch contracts. (1/17)
 
Boeing Invests in Flat-Panel Venture (Source: GeekWire)
Boeing is investing in a company that makes flat-panel satellite antennas. Boeing HorizonX Ventures led the $14 million Series A round in London-based Isotropic Systems, a company developing antennas that use optical beam steering. HorizonX Ventures has now invested in several space-related startups, including Internet-of-Things satellite venture Myriota, propulsion developer Accion Systems and optical communications company BridgeSat. (1/17)

Mark Kelly Urged to Seek Senate Seat (Source: Roll Call)
An advocacy group is seeking to draft former astronaut Mark Kelly to run for a Senate seat in 2020. The 314 Action group, which backs candidates for political office that have scientific backgrounds, is planning a "six-figure" ad campaign to build up support for a potential run in 2020 by Kelly, a Democrat, for the seat currently held by Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.). McSally was appointed to fill the seat once held by the late John McCain, but will have to run for election in 2020 to fill the remainder of McCain's final term, which runs through 2022. Many observers consider Kelly, married to former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, as one of the strongest potential candidates for the seat. (1/17)

Why SpaceX is Ramping Up its Florida Staff While Cutting Hundreds of Workers in California (Source: Orlando Business Journal)
It's no secret that SpaceX has a lot of irons in the fire as it continues to innovate the space industry, but the rocket business is not only hard — it's also expensive. That's why the company is laying off 10 percent of its staff in California. However, it's still hiring in Florida. Bloomberg confirmed that many of those job cuts will be at SpaceX's California headquarters and the cut jobs include production managers, avionics technicians, machinists, inventory specialists and propulsion technicians.

The layoff announcement didn't surprise Laura Forczyk at Astralytical. She said SpaceX had to hire a lot of talent initially to handle the development of the new vehicles and its Starlink satellite service. However, since the company is far enough along on those plans, it decided now was the time to cut back. "Payroll is often company’s largest expense. SpaceX needs to cut costs wherever it can to remain competitive in the marketplace to gain customers and to pay for its expensive projects before those projects become profitable," Forczyk said.

However, SpaceX's Florida staff isn't feeling the burn of the layoffs. In fact, the company has nearly 40 job openings in Cape Canaveral, including openings for various engineers in its launch engineering section, technician and trade skill workers, security and supply chain management. Forczyk said the reason for this is because Florida's SpaceX workforce caters to the company launch services — an area that especially will need more workers in the time ahead. (1/16)

Spin Launch Chooses New Mexico for Something (Source: Spaceport America)
In a Jan. 14 tweet, Spaceport America announced they are "pleased to announce a new space company coming to New  Mexico--  SpinLaunch. An addition of 20 new jobs will be added locally, as well as investment by SpinLaunch of $7M in construction capital and $1M in local infrastructure development for the company." Editor's Note: I could find no other news about this announcement, neither on the Spaceport America website nor Spin Launch's. (1/17)

Don’t Blame the Government Shutdown for SpaceX Delays (Source: The Atlantic)
Last week, as the impasse between President Donald Trump and congressional lawmakers calcified, NASA announced that the first significant test of the year, an uncrewed SpaceX launch, would be pushed from late January to no earlier than February. Several news reports suggested the shutdown had contributed to yet another delay.

It hasn’t—at least not yet. NASA and SpaceX tell The Atlantic that, despite speculation, the government shutdown hasn’t affected their work. NASA says the astronaut program, known as Commercial Crew, is part of a small group of NASA activities that are exempt from the government closure, including International Space Station operations, the agency says. (1/16)

Astranis Wins Contract for Alaska Broadband Satellite (Source: Space News)
Astranis is building its first small geostationary satellite, with a focus on Alaska. Pacific Dataport signed a contract for capacity on the satellite worth "tens of millions of dollars." The 300-kilogram satellite is planned for launch in the second half of 2020, and will bring 7.5 gigabits per second of Ka-band capacity to Alaska. The Astranis satellite, which is not yet named, is the third small geostationary satellite ordered across the industry in the past five months, following Hong Kong-based GapSat's September purchase of GapSat-1 from Terran Orbital, and Swedish startup Ovzon’s December purchase of Ovzon-3 from SSL. (1/16)

Italy's Avio Borrows Euros for Propulsion Tech Development (Source: Avio)
Italian rocket builder Avio is borrowing 10 million euros from the European Investment Bank. The funds will support new space propulsion technologies for Europe’s next-generation Vega C and Ariane 6 launchers, the company said. Avio is the prime contractor for Vega C, which will have the same first-stage booster as the Ariane 6 strap-on side boosters. Avio said the new loan will help the company expand its industrial capacity at its plant in Colleferro, Italy, to meet anticipated production volumes. The financing follows a 40-million-euro loan Avio received from the European Investment Bank in 2017, and has the same conditions, Avio said. (1/16)

NanoAvionics Expands Support for British Space Sector with New UK Sales and Technical Support Office (Source: NanoAvionics)
Smallsat bus and propulsion supplier NanoAvionics of Lithuania and Florida is opening a sales office in the United Kingdom. The company appointed Tariq Sami as its U.K. sales director for the new office, located in the Harwell Space Cluster in Oxfordshire. More than 950 people across 89 organizations work at the space cluster. Harwell Campus partner and director Angus Horner said he was confident the new office “will be a catalyst for even stronger collaboration between NanoAvionics and the leading research facilities and space companies located at Harwell.” (1/16)

Harris Wins $75 Million for MUOS Terminals (Source: Harris)
Harris Corp. received a $75 million order from the U.S. Marine Corps to upgrade user terminals for compatibility with the Navy’s Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) satellite constellation. The Marine Corps placed the order though a five-year Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity contract from 2017. Under the new contract award, Harris will upgrade the Marine Corps Falcon 3 AN/PRC-117G manpack radio fleet so that Marines can use the radios to talk and share data more easily around the world using the MUOS constellation. Harris said it will also provide ancillary devices such as antennas that make radios capable of supporting satcom-on-the-move while connected to MUOS. (1/16)

Gogo Satellite Broadband for Aircraft Sees Subscriber Growth (Source: Gogo)
In-flight connectivity provider Gogo said more than 1,000 aircraft are now online with the company’s 2Ku satellite antennas, and that it has installed satellite connectivity systems on approximately 1,300 commercial aircraft. Gogo said it completed 477 aircraft in-flight connectivity system installations in 2018, marking the second consecutive year where installs topped 450 aircraft. As of Dec. 31, around 1,000 more aircraft were in backlog awaiting 2Ku installations, the company said. (1/16)

Steve Carell Creating Netflix Comedy on Space Force (Source: Netflix)
SteveCarell will star in a new workplace comedy series he co-created with The Office’s Greg Daniels about the people tasked with creating a sixth branch of the armed services: the Space Force! Click here. (1/16)

January 16, 2019

NASA May Decide This Year to Land a Drone on Saturn's Moon Titan (Source: Space.com)
The spacecraft that have peered through the yellowish haze surrounding Saturn's moon Titan discovered a strange, yet strangely familiar world where life could theoretically take root. Now, scientists want to return — this time buoyed by Earth's fascination with drone technology.

That's precisely what a team of scientists working on a proposed mission called Dragonfly want to do: combine terrestrial drone technology and instruments honed by Mars exploration to investigate the complex chemical reactions taking place on Saturn's largest moon. Later this year, NASA will need to decide between that mission and another finalist proposal, which would collect a sample from a comet. (1/16)

How the U.S. Is Quietly Winning the Hypersonic Arms Race (Source: Daily Beast)
In the test, the destroyer USS Dewey fired 20 of the hypervelocity projectiles from its standard, five-inch-diameter gunpowder cannon, officials told the website of the U.S. Naval Institute. The new projectile is more aerodynamic than old-style shells and features tiny fins and a radar guidance system that helps it to hone in on a target at speeds as fast as seven times the speed of sound. That’s roughly three times the velocity a normal naval shell can achieve.

Far-flying and accurate, the shells in theory can target ships, ground targets, aircraft and even incoming missiles. At first glance, the American test might appear to be the least remarkable of the three countries' 2018 hypersonics trials. It didn't involve a new gun or missile, just a new, super-aerodynamic shell. The shell is non-nuclear. The Pentagon didn't formally announce the test or circulate any photos.

But the U.S. test arguably is the most likely to result in the widespread deployment of a truly transformational new weapon. And it underlines the Pentagon's advantage over the Russian and Chinese militaries in the hypersonics race. While Russia, China and the United States all are developing a wide array of new hypersonic weapons, it’s telling which systems each country has prioritized. (1/16)

Satellites are Ending the Age of the Missing Airplane (Source: Quartz)
In 2010, the FAA mandated that all US aircraft would need to use a system called ADS-B, which means “Automatic Dependent Surveillance—Broadcast.” Essentially, by 2020, aircraft are required to broadcast their location, derived from GPS, each second. A network of ground stations across the country collects this information and feeds it to air traffic controllers, who now use it to gain real-time knowledge of where planes are flying. If you’ve used the service FlightAware, you’ve seen ADS-B data.

However, ground receivers need to be within about 172 miles (277 km) of the aircraft to collect ADS-B signals. Out over the ocean, there’s still a knowledge gap between the planes and the air traffic controllers they can’t reach. The solution Thoma had in mind when Aireon was founded in 2011: more satellites.

Specifically, Aireon has installed payloads on 75 Iridium satellites that have been launched over the past two years, with the final installment reaching orbit in a SpaceX rocket on Jan. 11. These payloads are designed to detect ADS-B signals wherever they are broadcast, whether over the open ocean or a mountain range, finally providing continuous tracking of aircraft anywhere on Earth. The satellites are already processing more than 13 billion ADS-B messages each month. (1/12)

NASA Engineers Restoring Hubble Camera Functions (Source: NASA)
A malfunctioning camera on the Hubble Space Telescope is nearly ready to resume operations. NASA said Tuesday that engineers were able to restore operations of the Wide Field Camera 3 after resetting some electronics in the instrument that were reporting erroneous values. The camera is expected to resume normal science operations by the end of the week. The instrument, installed on the telescope nearly a decade ago, was taken offline Jan. 8 after reporting out-of-range voltage levels. (1/16)

Cruz Pledges Another Commercial Space Reform Bill (Source: Space News)
A key senator said he'll make a second effort this year to pass a commercial space regulatory reform bill. The Space Frontier Act passed the Senate last month by unanimous consent but died in the House when it did not get the two-thirds majority needed for passage under suspension of the rules. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who chairs the Senate's space subcommittee, said Tuesday he'll seek to pass the bill again this year, along with a new NASA authorization bill. Either bill will include a provision extending ISS operations to 2030. Cruz said that he hopes space will continue to enjoy bipartisan support in Congress despite the "intense partisan discord" there on other issues. (1/16)

Shutdown Could Bring NASA JPL Furloughs (Source: Space News)
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory may have to start furloughing people in the next few weeks if the partial government shutdown continues. The lab, operated by Caltech for NASA, remains open because its contracts were funded in advance, unlike NASA field centers. However, Caltech President Thomas Rosenbaum said Tuesday that JPL "may have to adjust staffing levels" should the shutdown extend into next month. An extended shutdown could jeopardize progress on missions under development at JPL, like the Mars 2020 rover: "The window for Mars 2020 is not going to wait," said one employee. (1/16)

Arianespace Plans 12 Launches in 2019 (Source: Space News)
Arianespace is planning to carry out at least a dozen launches in 2019, including a record number of Vega missions. The launch services provider has scheduled four Vega launches in 2019, as well as the inaugural flight of the new Vega C rocket. Arianespace expects to carry out three to four Vega launches a year in the future given small satellite demand.

Also on the company's manifest are five Ariane 5 missions and at least three Soyuz launches, including one carrying the first 10 OneWeb satellites. Additional Soyuz launches of OneWeb satellites, from Baikonur rather than French Guiana, could also take place later in the year depending on satellite readiness. (1/16)

China Hopes for International Lunar Cooperation (Source: Space News)
China is emphasizing international cooperation in its future lunar plans. At a press conference earlier this week about the status of the Chang'e-4 lander, officials said they expect to work with Russia's future Luna 26 lunar orbiter mission, which in turn will support future Chinese lander missions. Wu Yanhua, vice administrator of the China National Space Administration, said China and other countries have discussed "whether we need to establish a research station on the moon for 3D printing and for other technologies" that could be enabled by those future Chinese missions, still in their conceptual design stage. (1/16)

The Fall and Rise of Florida's Space Coast (Source: Super Cluster)
As the space shuttle touched down from its final mission in 2011, Gerry Mulberry hoped a rebound was around the corner. ​"This area got hit bad,” said Mulberry, a former shuttle engineer. He said he remembers thinking at the time "you know, maybe over the long run it will turn out ok." ​Mulberry was one of roughly 8,000 NASA and civilian employees laid off in 2011 when NASA ended the shuttle program, the United States' fourth human spaceflight program that employed a significant percentage of Florida's space coast workforce.

“With shuttle, we had the dual whammies. The bad economy kicked in at the same time,” said ​Jim Tully, a 24-year veteran engineer of the shuttle program and mayor of Titusville from 2008 to 2016. Tully was at the helm of the city when a large portion of its 46,000 residents worked on the other side of the Indian River, at Kennedy Space Center.

In the Apollo days they had even more people out there, and when that program ended... there were just an amazing number of layoffs and the housing market just completely collapsed." “You would’ve thought that we would’ve learned our lesson locally from that incident, but we didn’t,” reflected Tully, alluding to when President Richard Nixon ended the Apollo program in 1972 after putting 12 U.S. astronauts on the moon. Click here. (1/8)

SpaceX Gearing Up for Starship Tests at Boca Chica (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
At the southern tip of Texas, SpaceX is preparing to begin testing their interplanetary spacecraft. The first Starship test vehicle, dubbed Starhopper, is in advanced stages of construction, and SpaceX facilities at Boca Chica and McGregor are preparing to support a flight test program beginning this year. SpaceX has suggested both Boca Chica and Cape Canaveral as launch sites for operational, orbital Starship missions that would utilize the Super Heavy booster.

The new South Texas Launch Site was originally intended to be a third launch facility for SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy vehicles, in addition to Cape Canaveral and Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. While current plans now focus on the Starship and Super Heavy vehicles, the layout of the launch site appears to be largely unchanged. A building permit reading “operational hopper pad for rocket launches” is posted at the location of the originally proposed launch pad.

After years of minimal changes to the Boca Chica landscape, with SpaceX’s workforce focusing on the Falcon Heavy and Commercial Crew programs, a significant workforce has arrived to begin preparations for Starship. Construction crews have flattened a hill into a causeway, with a ramp at the east end for the pad site. Concrete trucks have most recently been seen at the pad site itself, as well as hardware for pad infrastructure including trusses, pipes, and electrical conduit. The pad will initially support atmospheric “hop” tests of the Starship test vehicle that is under construction nearby. (1/14)

SpaceX Nears Falcon 9 Lunar Rideshare Launch as Main Satellite Arrives in Florida (Source: Teslarati)
SpaceX and customers Pasifik Satelit Nusantara (PSN), SpaceIL, and Spaceflight Industries are reportedly one month away from the NET February 18th launch of Indonesian communications satellite PSN VI (since renamed Nusantara Satu), commercial moon lander Beresheet, and additional unspecified smallsats.

In an encouraging sign that the mission’s launch date might hold, the PSN VI communications satellite – manufactured and delivered by Space Systems Loral (SSL) – arrived at SpaceX’s Cape Canaveral, Florida payload processing facilities in late December 2018 and is likely to be joined by SpaceIL’s Beresheet spacecraft in the next few weeks. (1/15)

UF Collaborates with NASA to Launch Small GPS Satellite (Source: Independent Florida Alligator)
Tyler Ritz doesn’t just want to be an astronaut. He also wants to leave a piece of his work in space. Ritz, a 24-year-old UF aerospace engineering doctoral student, was one of more than two dozen UF students who, over five-and-a-half years, built the smallest satellite able to operate an atomic clock, which uses the most accurate time and frequency standards. The satellite made its way to space on Dec. 16.

“It’s kind of bittersweet,” Ritz said. “You sit there with it 24/7, and it’s weird because that’s the last time anyone would ever get to see this thing because it’s getting launched 500 km in the air.”

Rocket Lab launched the UF-built satellite and 12 other research cube satellites — a small standard-shaped satellite that does one job — as part of NASA’s Educational Launch of Nanosatellites, an initiative that was created to attract and retain students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, Ritz said. The UF satellite will work to provide more accurate location and timing for GPS services. (1/14)

The Small Ways NASA Still Cooperates with China’s Space Program, Despite a Ban (Source: Quartz)
The US banned the space agency from working with China and its state-owned companies out of concerns regarding national security and technology transfers. As a result, China was locked out of the International Space Station because NASA is one of the participating bodies. More recently, scientists from other countries such as Germany and Sweden who were helping China with its exploration of the far side of the Moon were cautious of not falling afoul of US export controls on sensitive technology.

China’s space agency, however, announced that the two countries had shared data on its exploration of the far side of the Moon. “Cooperation is the joint will of scientists,” said Wu Yanhua, deputy director of China’s National Space Agency in a press conference yesterday (Jan. 14). He also noted that both organizations have met “frequently.”

According to Wu, NASA had proposed to use its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), which orbits the Moon, to observe the landing of the Chang’e-4 spacecraft on the lunar far side. Wu said that China had told NASA the exact landing time and position of the spacecraft, but the LRO wasn’t in the right position to do so as it wasn’t able to adjust its orbit with what little fuel it had left. Before the touchdown on Jan. 3, the LRO managed to capture pictures of the landing site. (1/15)

The 4 Things That Could Hobble the Commercial Space Revolution (Source: Popular Mechanics)
The private space industry will have a lot to celebrate in 2019. Virgin Galactic will launch its suborbital space tourism business. NASA astronauts will again fly to the International Space Station from U.S. soil, and on hardware owned by private companies. Small satellites will enjoy their own dedicated launches, no longer relegated to being secondary payloads on expensive flights. And NASA has begun to turn to the private sector for its lunar plans.

Yet the Grateful Dead said it best: When life seems like easy street, there is danger at your door. It’s a melodic warning to be on guard, one that is particularly appropriate to the commercial space industry as it roars into an epic 2019. Not content to be optimistic, Popular Mechanics reached out to some experts to find what headwinds the private space revolution might face this year. Click here. (1/15)

This Russian Start-Up Wants to Put Billboards in Space. Astronomers Aren’t Pleased (Source: Discover)
Imagine this: you’ve just fled from the city to your nearest national park to gaze deeply into the infinite abyss of space and contemplate how your own existence fits into the curtain of the universe. Then, out of the corner of your eye, you see bright white letters spelling “KFC” spring across the horizon in a long arc. A few minutes later, it’s gone.

That’s the idea behind Orbital Display, a Russian startup’s effort to bring billboard advertisements to low-earth orbit using a grid of tissue box-sized satellites called “CubeSats.” Orbiting approximately 280 miles above ground, these tiny satellites will unfurl Mylar sails some 30 feet in diameter to catch and reflect sunlight, creating a pixelated matrix. The company, StartRocket, has proposed using this tech to display a knockoff of the Coca-Cola logo and other brand emblems, as well as allow governments to flash urgent notifications during emergencies. (1/14)

UAE Space Investments Exceed AED 22 Billion (Source: The National)
The UAE Space Agency (UAESA) has reportedly launched a National Plan for the Promotion of Space Investment aiming to increase domestic and foreign investment in the UAE space sector. The initiative promises to transform the nation into a regional hub for commercial space activities and advanced research and development.

It also aims to encourage local investment vehicles to consider funding opportunities in the space sector, both domestically and globally. The strategy also contributes to the UAE’s Science, Technology & Innovation Policy, as well as the UAE Strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. It envisions a competitive national economy based on knowledge, innovation, and future technological applications that integrate the latest physical and digital technologies, while also encouraging small and medium enterprises.

The investment plan is based on the National Space Policy issued in 2016, which called for a comprehensive approach to attracting and promoting investment in the space industry, encouraging and facilitating commercial space activity, and establishing the UAE as a major regional and global hub for space activities and advanced research and development. (1/15)

Russia to Complete Military Satellite Constellation Blagovest in April (Source: Sputnik)
The launch of the fourth and last military communications satellite of Russia’s Blagovest constellation is tentatively planned for April, a source in the space industry told Sputnik. The communications satellites will be spread out evenly to provide seamless global coverage. They are equipped with modern Ka and Q-band transponders and support high-speed Internet, telephony and other broadcasting services.

The Russian Defense Ministry has successfully deployed three satellites to the geostationary orbit since 2017. The system is expected to operate for 15 years. "The satellite will be delivered to the Baikonur space port in late February and will be ready for launch atop a Proton-M rocket in the first half of April," the source said. (1/16)

Macron's 'Space Force' Coming? (Source: Sputnik)
The development of space industry has become France's priority, CNES President Jean-Yves Le Gall said, commenting on the government's effort to increase investment in the sector. However, the agency has not received any specific orders regarding the formation of full-fledged "space forces" so far, he said. The National Center for Space Studies (CNES), the French government space agency, is waiting for French President Emmanuel Macron to make strategic decision on forming the country's "space force", said Jean-Yves Le Gall, emphasising that CNES has long been involved in the development of military satellites. (1/15)

UCF's Steam-Powered Spaceship Could Cruise the Cosmos Indefinitely Without Running Out of Gas (Source: NBC)
Come one, come all and behold the future of space travel: steam power! No, seriously; half a century after the world's first manned space mission, it seems that interplanetary travel has finally entered the steam age. Scientists at UCF in Florida have teamed up with Honeybee Robotics, a private space and mining tech company based in California, to develop a small, steam-powered spacecraft capable of sucking its fuel right out of the asteroids, planets and moons it's exploring.

By continuously turning extraterrestrial water into steam, this microwave-sized lander could, theoretically, power itself on an indefinite number of planet-hopping missions across the galaxy — so long as it always lands somewhere with H20 for the taking. "We could potentially use this technology to hop on the moon, Ceres, Europa, Titan, Pluto, the poles of Mercury, asteroids — anywhere there is water and sufficiently low gravity," Phil Metzger, a UCF space scientist and one of the chief minds behind the steampunk starship, said. Metzger added that such a self-sufficient spacecraft could explore the cosmos "forever." (1/15)

In 2019 Let’s Address the ‘Real Problems’ in National Security Space (Source: Space News)
For all of the talk about the establishment of a Space Force, much remains unclear and uncertain. The Trump administration continues to drive towards an end goal in which a Space Force in some form or fashion is established. What that entity looks like, does or fixes by its creation has yet to be answered. Indeed, The Center for Naval Analyses (CNA), which was tasked with developing a plan for the establishment of a Space Force warned in an unclassified executive summary that “we cannot definitively know before it is implemented that any design will produce the expected benefits.”

The most concerning issue in this Space Force discussion is that it doesn’t actually seem to be about space. The U.S. government is about to spend — and will spend — an enormous amount of energy and taxpayer dollars on the wrong issues: What do we do about China’s new killer satellite? Sorry, we’re too busy designing new logos. SpaceX’s future mega constellation seems to offer greater capabilities for our soldiers and Marines in the field. Maybe, but we really need to get these uniforms right. Russia’s satellites seem to be getting really close to ours, shouldn’t we do something? Probably, but we need to get the bases sorted out first. (1/13)

Shutdown Impacting NASA SLS Program (Source: Politico)
The government shutdown is impacting NASA's Space Launch System (SLS). Qualification testing on the SLS’s intertank and hydrogen tank has stopped at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. “The intertank was undergoing testing when the government shut down, so that’s been interrupted,” according to John Shannon, the SLS program manager at Boeing. It also means testing can’t even begin on the hydrogen tank, which arrived at Marshall last week. The testing to ensure rocket components can withstand harsh launch conditions has already been completed for the engine.

The furlough also means NASA and Boeing employees have halted modifications to the stand at Stennis Space Center, Miss., that will hold the rocket during a test-fire of all four engines. “That test stand is owned by NASA,” said Shannon, who worked for space agency for 25 years before joining Boeing in 2015. “[So] that work has come to a halt during the shutdown.” Boeing thinks it will be able to catch up and deliver the first completed rocket to NASA as planned in the late fall. (1/14)

January 15, 2019

Iranian Launch Fails to Deliver Satellite (Source: AP)
An Iranian satellite launch ended in failure early Tuesday. The Simorgh rocket lifted off from the Imam Khomeini Space Center carrying a small satellite called Payam. However, the Iranian government said a problem with the rocket's third stage prevented the payload from reaching orbit. The launch was the first of two that Iran was planning to carry out. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo previously warned Iran from performing the launches, which he argued were a cover for a ballistic missile development program. Many outside observers, though, see few links between the satellite launches and missile development. (1/15)

Maxar Replaces CEO (Source: Space News)
Maxar Technologies replaced its chief executive Monday. The company announced that Howard Lance was leaving the positions of president and CEO, and would be replaced by Daniel Jablonsky, who had been president of DigitalGlobe, a division of Maxar. Lance led Maxar for less than three years during a time that it was shifting from a Canadian to an American company, a process that included the acquisition of DigitalGlobe. Maxar has suffered from a number of recent problems, including soft demand for geostationary orbit satellites that led the company to consider divesting Space Systems Loral, as well as the failure earlier this month of the WorldView-4 satellite. (1/15)

Bridenstine and Rogozin Discuss US/Russia Cooperation (Source: Space News)
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine spoke with his Russian counterpart by phone Monday. The Russian state space corporation Roscosmos said that Dmitry Rogozin talked with Bridenstine, with the two emphasizing cooperation on the International Space Station and other projects. The call came 10 days after NASA announced that a visit to the U.S. by Rogozin had been indefinitely postponed after congressional criticism. NASA confirmed the call took place but referred media to the Roscosmos statement, citing the ongoing U.S. government shutdown. (1/15)

General Atomics Acquistions Bring Focus on Space Business (Source: Space News)
General Atomics is winning business in the smallsat market after the acquisition of two manufacturers. General Atomics acquired Miltec and the U.S. subsidiary of Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd., using them to form the basis of a smallsat business unit that is offering a satellite bus called Orbital Test Bed. The company recently won three government contracts from the Air Force and NASA for payloads using that bus, in part using hosted payloads approaches. (1/15)

Satellogic Plans to Launch Remote Sensing Constellation From China (Source: Space News)
Satellogic announced Tuesday that it will launch a constellation of remote sensing satellites on Chinese rockets. The Buenos Aires-based company said it plans to launch 90 satellites on as many as six Long March 6 rockets, starting in the fall of 2019 and continuing through 2020. The constellation will enable the company to collect multispectral imagery of the entire planet with weekly revisit times. The satellites also carry a hyperspectral payload, which the company says is primarily experimental for now. (1/15)

JSC Workers Protest Shutdown (Source: KPRC)
Furloughed NASA employees are planning to hold a rally today outside the gates of the Johnson Space Center. The protest against the ongoing partial government shutdown, now in its 25th day, is being organized by the local chapter of the American Federation of Government Employees. Those employees are increasingly worried about how they will make ends meet as the shutdown continues with no end in sight. (1/15)

Giant Leaf for Mankind? China Germinates First Seed on Moon (Source: Guardian)
A small green shoot is growing on the moon after a cotton seed germinated onboard a Chinese lunar lander, scientists said. The sprout has emerged from a lattice-like structure inside a canister after the Chang’e 4 lander touched down earlier this month, according to a series of photos released by the Advanced Technology Research Institute at Chongqing University.

“This is the first time humans have done biological growth experiments on the lunar surface,” said Xie Gengxin, who led the design of the experiment, on Tuesday. Plants have been grown previously on the International Space Station, but this is the first time a seed has sprouted on the moon. The ability to grow plants in space is seen as crucial for long-term space missions and establishing human outposts elsewhere in the solar system, such as Mars. (1/15)

Repairing, and Building, Future Space Telescopes (Source: Space Review)
While the James Webb Space Telescope is not designed to be serviced after launch, large space telescope missions that follow likely will. Jeff Foust reports that some astronomers and engineers are looking beyond merely servicing telescopes in space but rather assembling them there. Click here. (1/15) 
 
Why the Chang’e-4 Moon Landing is Unique (Source: Space Review)
Earlier this month China landed its second spacecraft on the Moon, and became the first country to land on the lunar farside. Namrata Goswami warns that, despite these achievements, the West continues to underestimate China’s space program. Click here. (1/15)
 
Bulgarians Still Dream About Space Four Decades After Their First Crewed Mission (Source: Space Review)
Besides being the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, 2019 marks the 40th anniversary of the first Bulgarian in space. Svetoslav Alexandrov recaps that country’s history in spaceflight and how, after a hiatus, it is trying to become more active in space again. Click here. (1/15)
 
Small Thrusters for Small Satellites: Trends and Challenges (Source: Space Review)
As interest in smallsats grows, so does the need for propulsion systems that can make such spacecraft more capable. Researchers from Singapore and Australia examine the current state of research in smallsat propulsion technologies. Click here. (1/15)

Antarctica Ice Melt Has Accelerated by 280% in the Last 4 Decades (Source: CNN)
A pair of new studies released on Monday share a same ominous message -- that our planet's ice is melting at an alarming rate, which is bad news for global sea levels. Antarctica's crucial ice sheet has been melting for at least a 39 year period. Ice is disappearing faster in each successive decade. Ice loss in Antarctica has increased from 40 gigatons (a gigaton is one billion tons) per year from 1979-90 all the way up to 252 gigatons per year from 2009-17, a 6-fold increase.

And that melt-rate has been accelerating in the most recent decades, up 280% in the second half of the nearly 40 years compared to the first half. Understanding Antarctica and the delicate balance of ice melt draining into the Southern Ocean, and the replenishing snowfall over the continent's interior, is critically important when estimating how much seas will rise around the globe as a result of global warming. The continent holds a majority of the planet's ice and if melted, would cause the average sea level to rise 188 feet (57.2 meters).

One study looked at 176 different basins around Antarctica where ice drains into the ocean and found that the rate of melting is increasing, especially in areas where warm, salty water intrudes on edges of the ice sheets. The study did not find a corresponding increase in the long-term trend of snowfall accumulation in the interior of Antarctica, which had been previously believed to counter the ice loss and minimize sea level rise. The imbalance between melting ice and replenishing snowfall means the continent is out of balance and thus increasing sea levels as the excess meltwater flows into the ocean. (1/14)

New Technique More Precisely Determines the Ages of Stars (Source: ERAU)
How old are each of the stars in our roughly 13-billion-year-old galaxy? A new technique for understanding the star-forming history of the Milky Way in unprecedented detail makes it possible to determine the ages of stars at least two times more precisely than conventional methods, Embry-Riddle researchers reported this week at the American Astronomical Society (AAS) meeting.

Current star-dating techniques, based on assessments of stars in the prime or main sequence of their lives that have begun to die after exhausting their hydrogen, offer a 20-percent, or at best a 10-percent margin of error, explained Embry-Riddle Physics and Astronomy Professor Dr. Ted von Hippel. Embry-Riddle’s approach, leveraging burnt-out remnants called white dwarf stars, reduces the margin of error to 5 percent or even 3 percent, he said. (1/10)

Air Force Turns to Nontraditional Contracting for Space Technology Projects (Source: Space News)
The Air Force just over a year ago formed a Space Enterprise Consortium to expedite the development and prototyping of satellites, ground systems, space sensors and other technologies that U.S. adversaries are advancing at a rapid pace.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson hailed the SpPEC as a successful business model that cuts red tape considerably compared to traditional defense contracting. The consortium so far has started 34 projects worth about $110 million and has been authorized to fund nearly $400 million in additional projects over the next four years. (12/31)

UAE Space Agency Adopts National Plan for the Promotion of Space Investment (Source: Satellite Pro Me)
The UAE Space Agency (UAESA) has launched a National Plan for the Promotion of Space Investment. Aiming to increase domestic and foreign investment in the UAE space sector and encourage local investment vehicles to consider funding opportunities in the space sector, both domestically and globally, the initiative promises to transform the nation into a regional hub for commercial space activities and advanced research and development. (1/14)

NASA's Deep-Space Nuclear-Power Crisis May Soon End, Thanks to a Clever New Robot in Tennessee (Source: Business Insider)
The US government says a new robot is poised to help it create a reliable, long-term supply chain of plutonium-238, a radioactive material NASA requires to explore deep space. NASA uses Pu-238 to power its most epic space missions— among them New Horizons (now beyond Pluto), the Voyagers (now in interstellar space), and Cassini (now part of Saturn).

As Pu-238 radioactively decays and generates heat, devices called radioisotope power sources convert some of that energy into electricity. Because Pu-238 takes centuries to cool down, the contraptions can keep a robot humming for decades. But Pu-238 is human-made and one of the rarest and most valuable materials on Earth. In fact, the last time anyone manufactured it in earnest was during Cold War-era nuclear-weapons production. Today, NASA has perhaps three missions' worth of the stuff left before the supply runs out. (1/14)

SpaceX Layoffs Include 577 Positions at California Headquarters (Source: Bloomberg)
SpaceX is taking the ax to its headquarters in California. Hours after launching its first rocket of the new year on Friday morning, the Elon Musk-led company told employees that roughly 10 percent of SpaceX’s workforce would be laid off. Stunned workers were sent home early to await notification to their private email addresses about their fate.

The vast majority of Space Exploration Technologies Corp.’s more than 6,000 employees are employed at its headquarters and rocket factory in Hawthorne, California, and hundreds of others are based in Seattle, Florida, Washington, D.C. and Texas. Some 577 positions will be cut in Hawthorne, according to Jan Vogel, executive director of the South Bay Workforce Investment Board. Those cut include production managers, avionics technicians, machinists, inventory specialists and propulsion technicians. (1/13)

Experts Worry Government Shutdowns Will Drive NASA Employees to the Private Sector (Source: Houston Chronicle)
NASA employees have endured three government shutdowns in the past year, each time halting their groundbreaking work as political skirmishes in Washington, D.C., are hashed out. The first two came in the beginning months of 2018, but they were short: more of an annoyance, really.

But the current closure — which started Dec. 22 and has no end in sight — has been beyond frustrating for many, not just because of money lost but because of work delays. It’s been enough of a hindrance that some experts worry it could drive NASA engineers to the fast-growing space projects in the private sector. (1/14)

Iran Is Preparing a Launch. But Is It For a Space Rocket Or a Missile? (Source: NPR)
"We're seeing all kinds of activity," says Jeffrey Lewis, a scholar at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, who is analyzing the images as they come in. In recent days, he has noticed cars and trucks moving around the site. "We saw a large number of fuel trucks show up, suggesting that there is fuel being moved to the site," Lewis says. "We can also just see all kinds of activity at both launch pads."

Iran has said publicly that its motives are peaceful. It soon intends to launch several satellites for communications and remote-sensing as part of the nation's long-running space program. But in a statement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently called the planned launches "provocative." He said these launches, if they happen, are really about developing intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). The technology used by Iran, he said, is "virtually identical" to what's needed for an ICBM. So which is it? (1/14)

China Ready to Cooperate with Russia in Operating its Future Orbital Station (Source: TASS)
China is ready to cooperate with Russia in operating its yet-to-be created orbital station and to let some other countries participate in similar projects, the secretary-general of the China National Space Administration, Li Guoping, told a news conference on Monday. "Russia is one of China’s main partners in space cooperation," he said adding that the two countries held annual meetings devoted to cooperation in space exploration. Both countries, he said, were pushing ahead with joint aerospace projects in accordance with China’s program for 2018-2022. (1/14)

Scottish Skyrora's Rocket Launch Bid Moves Closer to Lift-Off (Source: The National)
In a major development in what has been dubbed the new space race, a groundbreaking 3D-printed rocket engine is nearing completion thanks to a partnership between Edinburgh-headquartered Skyrora and Hampshire-based Frazer-Nash Manufacturing. The engine will be tested in the coming weeks at Spaceport Cornwall. It will be the first advanced liquid-fuel engine tests by a British small-satellite launcher to take place in the UK since the legendary Black Arrow program in the 1960s.

Frazer-Nash has used innovative techniques to create the nickel alloy “upper stage” rocket engine components that will eventually power and manoeuvre Skyrora rockets and payloads once they reach orbit. Additive manufacturing (AM), also referred to as 3D printing, is a process of creating a three-dimensional part layer by layer. It works by adding material to create the desired shape, instead of having to remove material through methods such as machining. (1/12)

Chinese Use Space Radiation to Mutate Food Crops (Source: Space Safety)
Exposure to radiation is one of the well-studied hazards of spaceflight. But what if you could turn that hazard to advantage? That’s what China has attempted to do by sending plant seeds to space, then cultivating the resultant mutations. In early experiments begun in 1987 Jiang Xingcun, a scientist with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, discovered that spaceflight can increase mutation rates by hundreds of times that experienced on Earth. 12% of seeds sent to space in satellites manifested mutations of some kind in such experiments.

Since that time, China has sent more than 400 plant seed species to space. The method has produced giant eggplants, half-meter long cucumbers, and peppers with improved yields and reduced seeds, among other products. Of course, not all mutations produce favorable results. “It’s not like that after traveling in space for a few days, the seeds will turn out with all the desired traits we want,” said Liu Min, a scientist who specializes in seed technology and consults for the China Academy of Space Technology. Scientists must isolate desired genes from the well-travelled seeds via a breeding program.

The drive for advancing seed mutation is rooted in the need to feed China’s growing population. Currently, more than half of vegetable seeds planted by Chinese farmers are imported. Chinese agronomists are anxious to provide domestic alternatives. Scientists have also investigated Cobalt-60 induced mutations, but the radioactive material is hazardous and hard to come by. (1/14)

Dark Matter Hunters Are Looking Inside Rocks for New Clues (Source: WIRED)
A subterranean paleo-detector would work in a manner similar to current direct-detection methods, according to Freese and her colleagues. Instead out outfitting a lab with a large volume of liquid or metal to observe WIMP recoils in real time, they would look for fossil traces of WIMPs banging into atomic nuclei. As nuclei recoil, they would leave damage tracks in some classes of minerals.

If the nucleus recoils with enough vigor, and if the atoms that are perturbed are then buried deep in the earth (to shield the sample from cosmic rays that can muddy the data), then the recoil track could be preserved. If so, researchers may be able to dig the rock up, peel away layers of time, and explore the long-ago event using sophisticated nano-imaging techniques like atomic force microscopy. The end result would be a fossil track: the dark matter counterpart to finding a sauropod’s footprint as it fled a predator. (1/14)

Space Startups' New Mission: Entertaining Earthlings (Source: Nikkei)
Want to check crowd sizes at Disneyland, find out the best time to view cherry blossoms or, perhaps, arrange a romantic night watching shooting stars? Japanese space startups say they will soon have the answers. These young companies are diversifying beyond specialties like weather forecasting and astronomical observation, recognizing their technology can be used for other practical -- and sometimes not so practical -- pursuits.

"Isn't it helpful if Google Maps update every 10 minutes?" asked Shunsuke Onishi, CEO of Fukuoka venture iQPS. The small company -- it has a team of 11 people and 100 million yen ($910,000) in capitalization -- aims to place 36 mini radar satellites into Earth's orbit as early as 2024 and create a virtually real-time map. "We want to create a world where people can check how crowded Tokyo Disneyland is before going there, for instance," Onishi said. (1/14)

Japan Space Agency to Monitor Deterioration of Infrastructure Via Satellite (Source: Yomiuri Shimbun)
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has developed a system to efficiently monitor the deterioration of infrastructure — such as river embankments, airports and harbors — using the Advanced Land Observing Satellite Daichi-2. According to JAXA, it can monitor a wide area at once, which is expected to significantly reduce the amount of labor needed for inspections. The system will be available for a fee to the central government, local governments and private companies, to improve their disaster prevention measures

The Daichi-2 sends radio waves to the ground and measures reflected waves. The features of the reflected waves change according to the shape of the land, allowing the detection of shifts in the ground. JAXA applied this function to develop a system that can detect the sinking and collapse of embankments, airports and harbors. It began an experiment to verify the technology in cooperation with companies in fiscal 2014. (1/13)

January 14, 2019

When Wallops Flight Facility Shuts Down, it Hurts Science — and Potentially Wallops Itself (Source: DelMarVa Now)
As the partial government shutdown began, federal departments and agencies began to close. On the Eastern Shore of Virginia, non-essential employees at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility went home. Halfway across the country, in Iowa, Phil Kaaret began to worry. Kaaret is a professor at the University of Iowa and the principal investigator on an experiment known as HaloSat, a small satellite that orbits the planet and studies the halo of the Milky Way galaxy. He relies on people at Wallops to be able to communicate with his satellite.

Without them, it was possible the scientist was going to miss out on important information. The employees he worked with were declared essential, which means they were able to continue doing their jobs (albeit without pay), after just a few days. If it had been much longer, however, Kaaret would have been concerned. "If I were to be going three weeks without it, I would start worrying not only about the science but also if the satellite itself is OK," Kaaret said.

There is no way to know for sure how many employees are furloughed right now, but many Wallops employees work with people around the world on scientific expeditions. When the government shuts down and they're not able to do their work, it can hurt scientific experimentation. It can also hurt Wallops itself. The facility may miss out on the potential for collaboration with other researchers or groups. Scientists may also opt to go elsewhere, including private companies, to meet their needs when it comes to getting to or studying space. (1/12)

Airbus Wins DARPA Contract to Develop Small Constellation Satellite Bus for Blackjack Program (Source: Airbus)
Airbus Defense and Space Inc. has been awarded a contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop a satellite bus in support of the Blackjack program.

DARPA describes the Blackjack program as an architecture demonstration intending to show the military utility of global low-earth orbit constellations and mesh networks of lower size, weight and cost. DARPA wants to buy commercial satellite buses and pair them with military sensors and payloads. The bus drives each satellite by generating power, controlling attitude, providing propulsion, transmitting spacecraft telemetry, and providing general payload accommodation including mounting locations for the military sensors. (1/14)

Dragon Cargo Capsule Leaves ISS, Splashes Down Off California Coast (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
A Dragon cargo spacecraft departed from the International Space Station Sunday night and splashed down in the Pacific several hours later. The Dragon spacecraft, flying the CRS-16 cargo mission, was released by the station's robotic arm at 6:33 p.m. Eastern and, after a deorbit burn, splashed down off the Baja California coast at 12:12 a.m. Eastern Monday. The Dragon, launched last month, returned to Earth with science payloads and unneeded station hardware. (1/14)

China Plans More Lunar Missions (Source: Xinhua)
China announced plans for a new series of lunar missions Monday. The missions will follow Chang'e-5, a lunar sample return mission planned for launch late this year. Chang'e-6 will attempt to return samples from the south pole of the moon, Chang'e-7 will perform "comprehensive surveys" at the south pole and Chang'e-8 will test technologies for a future crewed research base.

The Chinese space agency CNSA did not announce a schedule for those missions. Chinese officials also said Monday that it exchanged data with NASA about its Chang'e-4 mission that landed on the far side of the moon, with China providing data on the time and place of the landing so that NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter could image the site afterward. (1/14)

Chinese Company's Boeing Satellite Deal Under Investigation (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Two U.S. government agencies are investigating a satellite deal involving a company backed by a Chinese fund. The Securities and Exchange Commission notified Global IP that it should retain all documents about its work with Boeing for a communications satellite as well as documents involving China Orient Asset Management Co., a Chinese state-owned firm that invested in Global IP.

The Commerce Department is also investigating the deal as it involved export licenses it oversees. Boeing canceled Global IP's contract for a satellite after reports last month that the company was controlled by Chinese investors, raising concerns about transfer of sensitive technologies. (1/14)

Russian Astronomy Spacecraft Unresponsive in Orbit (Source: TASS)
A Russian radio telescope in orbit has malfunctioned. Spektr-R did not respond to commands from spacecraft controllers over the weekend, and efforts to restore contact with the spacecraft will continue today. The spacecraft, launched in 2011, is in a highly elliptical orbit around the Earth with a 10-meter antenna for radio astronomy observations. (1/14)

Government Shutdown Blamed for Space Company's Layoffs (Source: GeekWire)
The ongoing government shutdown has forced one space technology company to lay off 20 percent of its workers. Tethers Unlimited said the company laid off 12 engineers because government employees processing invoices for projects it is doing for NASA and DARPA have been furloughed. The remaining staff are supported by commercial projects, the company said. The partial government shutdown is now in its fourth week, a record for the longest shutdown ever, with no sign of a near-term resolution. (1/14)

Virgin Orbit Confirms Interest in Guam Launches (Source: Guam Daily Post)
Virgin Orbit executives confirm they're interested in performing launches from Guam. The company, developing the LauncherOne vehicle that is air-launched from a Boeing 747, said they believe the island's international airport is "the best first place to go" as it expands launch operations. Virgin Orbit foresees carrying out a campaign of launches from the island over a month of two, rather than basing the system on the island permanently. Those launches would require the airport to have an FAA spaceport license, and the airport authority doesn't expect to submit a license application until March. The first LauncherOne orbital mission, flying from California, is expected to take place early this year. (1/14)

China Offers Elon Musk Permanent Residency (Source: Space Daily)
Tesla boss Elon Musk has been offered a "green card", China said Thursday, a privilege enjoyed by an elite group of foreigners, including several Nobel laureates and a former NBA star. Musk was in China for the ground-breaking of Tesla's first overseas factory, which will allow it to sell vehicles directly in the world's largest market for electric vehicles.

The high-profile entrepreneur met with Premier Li Keqiang on Wednesday in Beijing, where they discussed Tesla's China ambitions, said the State Council -- the country's cabinet. "I hope to build Tesla's Shanghai factory into a global example," Musk told Li, according to a readout. "I really love China, I'm willing to visit here more often." (1/10)

Soyuz Spacecraft Assembly to be Fully Monitored by Video Cameras (Source: Space Daily)
Russia's Rocket and Space Corporation Energia has introduced video surveillance at all stages of the construction of Soyuz spacecraft after a drilled hole in the household compartment of the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft was found. "There was a video recording system that monitored the main assembly sites. Now, it has been installed in three more assembly areas where operations were carried out without video surveillance," the source said. (1/14)

January 12, 2019

It Looks Like Dark Matter Can be Heated Up and Moved Around (Source: Phys.org)
Recently a team of astronomers studied several populations of dwarf galaxies, where the link between dark and normal matter could most easily be examined. They used these samples to hunt for any relationships between star formation and central density. In this scenario, if a galaxy experienced a lot of recent star formation, triggering explosive supernova winds and other temperamental outbursts, then that would drive lots of normal matter out of the core, and gravity would do its thing and pull some of the dark matter along with the normal stuff.

The study found an intriguing result: Dwarf galaxies with a lot of recent star formation ("recent" being within the past six billion years) had smoother central densities, while their less active siblings were much more cuspy in their centers, favoring this hypothesis that normal matter can indeed influence the dark. While this doesn't completely solve the riddle of the nature of dark matter, it is a substantial step forward. (1/12)

Spaceports Represent Latest NewSpace Building Boom (Source: Nanalyze)
Build it and they will come. This paraphrased prediction – famously uttered from a cinematic cornfield, a place notorious for where creepy killer kids tend to congregate – has both metaphorical and literal connotations. One could apply the maxim in everything from ballfields to a Dwarf Empire theme park in Kunming, China. In our case, we’re interested in the sudden boom in commercial spaceports, which cities and local governments are banking on will attract investment and economic growth.

Spaceports are also symbolic of the fledgling industry’s greater ambitions to morph into a trillion-dollar industry. Spaceports are like airports, except they cater more to spaceships and aliens, rather than as another place for a Starbucks location.

Commercial spaceports are part of that growing NewSpace commercial ecosystem. That was especially apparent at the SpaceCom 2018 Expo in Houston last month, which we were invited to attend. You could be forgiven for assuming that most of the rockets launched today are from government facilities at Cape Canaveral in Florida, where magical genies with a thing for men in uniform live in nearby Cocoa Beach. In fact, less than a third of the 90 orbital launches that took place last year even originated in the United States. Click here. (12/5)

Vector Announces Dedicated Launch of Hiber Nanosat This Year from Alaska Spaceport (Source: Vector)
Vector, a space access company serving the over $300 billion space market, today announced it will conduct a dedicated launch of a nanosatellite for Hiber later this year from the Pacific Spaceport Complex – Alaska in Kodiak. Hiber, a Dutch company with two nanosatellites already in orbit, plans to utilize the Vector-R dedicated small satellite launch system to deploy its nanosatellite. (1/11)

Meet the Inspiring 1st Female Head of the National Air and Space Museum (Source: Today)
As the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum prepares to undergo a massive, seven-year renovation, supermodel and entrepreneur Karlie Kloss talks to the museum’s director, Dr. Ellen Stofan, about her trailblazing journey and their mutual love of science. Click here. (1/10)

Aerospace Needs To Make New Friends with Deep Pockets (Source: Aviation Week)
A new year’s prediction: 2019 will see “big money” finally buy in on aerospace—or decide to leave it for another generation. The chances are 50-50. No less than U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross hopes the money comes. The former banker has become one of Washington’s leading proponents of private-sector-led commercial space. To tempt some of his former business cohorts to the outer space sector, he is hosting a series of summits near the White House for the well-heeled.

“Ventures in space launch, space manufacturing, satellite servicing, space tourism and asteroid mining are on the verge of potentially explosive growth,” Ross says. “But while venture capital continues to support these new endeavors, more traditional financial service participants—big banks and lending institutions—have not been as active. We need to change that.”

The Commerce Department will try to hone metrics and improve financial reporting related to the space sector, including market values and workforce statistics. Wall Street loves data, and Ross and his staff know that the government must provide more and higher-quality data to attract high-powered private investment. Ross points to SpaceX, which The Wall Street Journal reports is raising $500 million, thanks to a fresh $30.5 billion valuation. (1/10)

SpaceX To Lay Off 10 Percent Of Its Workforce (Source: NPR)
SpaceX, the pioneering space technology company led by Elon Musk, will lay off about 10 percent of its more than 6,000 employees. In a statement, a company spokesman confirmed the layoff without specifying how many employees will be released. A company source says SpaceX remains financially strong and can continue to "manufacture and launch at a reliable cadence in the years ahead."

"To continue delivering for our customers and to succeed in developing interplanetary spacecraft and a global space-based Internet, SpaceX must become a leaner company," said the statement. "This means we must part ways with some talented and hardworking members of our team. ... This action is taken only due to the extraordinarily difficult challenges ahead and would not otherwise be necessary." (1/11)

Workers at NASA's Johnson Space Center Brace for Missing Paycheck Friday (Source: Houston Chronicle)
NASA engineer Holly Griffith can hardly stomach the thought of borrowing money as she braces for a missed paycheck Friday courtesy of the government shutdown -- but what's even worse is the thought of borrowing money from her mom, who supports President Trump. "I'm 40 and I've been working since I was 22 or 23 [years old] full time, and so it's just weird because I'm used to always being able to take care of myself," said Griffith, a safety engineer for life support systems on Orion. "I really don't want to take a loan from [my mom] but its free money. You do what you've got to do."

It's a mantra likely on repeat in the minds of many at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. The shutdown, which started Dec. 22 and shows no signs of ending, has put 94 percent of the 3,055 federal employees out of work as Trump holds firm on his demand that Congress fund a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. And those workers will undoubtedly miss their first paycheck Friday. (1/10)

China Welcomes World's Scientists to Collaborate in Lunar Exploration (Source: Space Daily)
The Chang'e-4 mission, which accomplished the first-ever soft landing on the far side of the moon, embodies China's hope to combine human wisdom in future space exploration. Chang'e-4 is carrying four payloads developed by the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden and the Saudi Arabia. "International cooperation is the future of lunar exploration. The participating countries would share the costs, risks and achievements, and learn from each other. We hope to have more international cooperation," said Wu Weiren, chief designer of China's lunar exploration program. (1/11)

Roscosmos Introduces $15 Billion Cap on Building Yenisei Super-Heavy Rocket (Source: Space Daily)
The leadership of Russian space agency Roscosmos has introduced a limit of 1 trillion rubles (approximately $15 billion) for the project of building the first specimen of the super-heavy Yenisei rocket. In December, a source told Sputnik that the project might require up to 1.5 trillion rubles in funding. Another source said that the specific cost had not yet been agreed upon. (1/11)

US Asks Russia's Roscosmos to Build Lunar Modification of Soyuz MS (Source: Space Daily)
The head of Russia's Roscosmos space corporation, Dmitry Rogozin, said on Thursday that the United States had requested the Russian side to create a version of the Soyuz MS spacecraft that could take space missions to the Moon. "Today, the United States is asking us to continue Soyuz flights with US astronauts... and even asking us to develop a version of Soyuz that could fly to the Moon and back in order to create a backup space transport system," the official said. Addressing the issue of the probe into a hole in Soyuz spacecraft, earlier reports stated citing Rogozin as saying that the results of the investigation will be communicated to the Russian leadership in the coming weeks. (1/11)

Steam-Powered Asteroid Hoppers Developed Through UCF Collaboration (Source: Space Daily)
Using steam to propel a spacecraft from asteroid to asteroid is now possible, thanks to a collaboration between a private space company and the University of Central Florida. UCF planetary research scientist Phil Metzger worked with Honeybee Robotics of Pasadena, California, which developed the World Is Not Enough spacecraft prototype that extracts water from asteroids or other planetary bodies to generate steam and propel itself to its next mining target.

UCF provided the simulated asteroid material and Metzger did the computer modeling and simulation necessary before Honeybee created the prototype and tried out the idea in its facility Dec. 31. The team also partnered with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida, to develop initial prototypes of steam-based rocket thrusters. (1/11)

January 11, 2019

The Canadian Space Agency is Setting the Stage for Deep Space Medical Contributions (Source: SpaceQ)
It doesn’t matter what the name of any particular program is that will eventually see humans once again explore beyond low earth orbit, the stage is being set now as to who will be the leaders, and Canada is trying to define its role. One of the roles Canada is aspiring to be the leader in, is the area of space health and biomedicine.

In the fall of 2017 the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) held a National Forum on Space, Health and Innovation which followed regional information sessions held in Montreal, Toronto, Halifax, Calgary, and Vancouver. One of the key outcomes was the creation of an Expert Group on the Potential Canadian Healthcare and Biomedical Roles for Deep Space Human Spaceflight. (1/8)

Ball and SSL Win Study Contracts for Methane Emission Tracking Satellite (Source: Space News)
The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has awarded contracts to Ball Aerospace and Space Systems Loral to develop designs for a privately funded satellite to track methane emissions. EDF announced Jan. 10 that the two companies had received study contracts, with an overall value of $1.5 million, to advance concepts for MethaneSAT, a spacecraft designed to monitor human-generated methane emissions worldwide.

EDF said it selected the two companies from nearly two dozen firms that expressed an interest in the project. The companies will spend the next several months refining their designs for MethaneSAT. EDF plans to then choose one of the companies to build the spacecraft for launch in 2021, but didn’t specify when that downselect would take place. (1/10)

Shutdown Could Delay Fix for Camera on Hubble Telescope (Source: Space Daily)
The Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Camera 3 has been turned off due to hardware anomalies, according to an update from NASA. "Hubble is still conducting science observations with its other instruments (one camera and two spectrographs) -- more than enough to keep the observatory active for the near future," Cheryl Gundy, deputy news chief at the Space Telescope Science Institute told UPI in an email.

There are concerns, however, that "engineers are unlikely to be able to fix the aging telescope until the ongoing U.S. government shutdown ends -- whenever that might be," according to the science journal Nature. Like many of the space telescope's instruments, the Wide Field Camera features a level of electronic redundancy that could allow engineers to recover the instrument, even if the initial problem can't be repaired. (1/9)

China Launches First in 2019, with Long March 3B Carrying Military Satellite (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
China successfully launched a military communications satellite Thursday. The Long March 3B lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 12:05 p.m. Eastern and placed the ChinaSat-2D satellite into orbit. The spacecraft is believed to be the latest in a series of second-generation military communications satellites. The launch was the first orbital mission worldwide in 2019. (1/10)

China: Lunar Mission a Complete Success (Source: Xinhua)
Chinese officials said Friday that the Chang'e-4 lunar lander mission was a complete success. Project managers said the instruments on the lander and the Yutu 2 rover were working well and showed off images from the lander, including a 360-degree panorama of the lunar landscape. The rover restarted operations Thursday after a "nap" to avoid overheating at the peak of the lunar day. (1/10)

Russia's New ISS Lab Module Delayed to 2020 (Source: TASS)
Russia now says a lab module for the International Space Station won't launch until 2020. Dmitry Rogozin, head of Roscosmos, said the Multipurpose Laboratory Module, also known as Nauka, is slated to launch to the station in early 2020. The module, which has suffered years of delays, was previously expected to launch late this year. Two additional modules, a docking node and power module, will be added to the station's Russian segment in 2022. (1/10)

SpaceX Completes Iridium -Next Constellation with California Launch/Landing (Source: Space News)
SpaceX launched the final 10 Iridium Next satellites into orbit Jan. 11, completing its first mission of the year and the last in a multi-launch contract for its largest non-government customer, Iridium Communications. The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket took off at 10:31 a.m. Eastern from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Almost an hour later, Iridium’s new 860-kilogram satellites separated from the rocket one-by-one for 15 minutes. Iridium confirmed telemetry from all 10 satellites at 11:53 a.m. Eastern.

The launch completes the $3 billion Iridium Next constellation, which now numbers 75 satellites — 66 operational units and nine spares — in low Earth orbit. The second-generation satellites, built by Thales Alenia Space and integrated by Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, replace Iridium’s legacy fleet from Motorola and Lockheed Martin that launched about 20 years ago. SpaceX successfully landed the rocket's first stage on a drone ship downrange. (1/10)

Lockheed Martin Halts Work on GOES-T to Wait for Instrument Fix (Source: Space News)
Lockheed Martin, prime contractor for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES) R Series, has halted work on GOES-T, the next spacecraft scheduled to launch, and turned its attention to successor GOES-U as it waits for Harris Corp. to complete modification of the spacecraft’s primary instrument, the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI).

“It’s nice to have all the hardware for two vehicles,” Tim Gasparrini, GOES-R program manager for Lockheed Martin Space, told SpaceNews. “I can swap it out instead of waiting.” Lockheed Martin had finished assembling the GOES-T spacecraft last year and was preparing for environmental testing when NOAA directed the company to halt work due to problems with ABI on the GOES-17 satellite launched in March 2018. During on-orbit checkout, NOAA discovered ABI’s infrared channels were not working as designed because of cooling problems. (1/10)

A Wild 'Interstellar Probe' Mission Idea Is Gaining Momentum (Source: Space.com)
New ideas for a robotic interstellar mission are percolating. Ambitious science and strategic plans are being formulated for the fastest flight ever to interstellar space — almost six times faster than NASA's record-holding Voyager 1 spacecraft, which launched in 1977 and went interstellar in 2012.

With the goal of reaching 90 billion miles from the sun, the proposed robotic explorer would push the limits of engineering know-how and space technology, advocates say. Current thinking about going interstellar begins with an "interstellar precursor" mission — a spacecraft capable of traveling to perhaps 1,000 astronomical units (AU) using current and near-term technology. (One AU is the Earth-sun distance — about 93 million miles, or 150 million km).

This approach is a good one, both because of its potential science return and its impact on driving propulsion, communications and sensor technologies forward, said Paul Gilster. "We can't even think of missions to more distant targets without mapping the immediate terrain to learn about hazards that could affect equipment, disrupt communications or even destroy the spacecraft," Gilster said. (1/9)

International Space Station Telescope Makes Amazing Observation of Black Hole Eating Stuff (Source: Gizmodo)
A telescope on the International Space Station made an incredible high-resolution measurement of the x-rays resulting from a black hole sucking up matter that could have important implications for astronomers’ understanding of these mysterious objects.

Scientists know that black holes emit high-energy x-rays when they eat up matter, but how and from where has been a matter of discussion. The ISS’s Neutron star Interior Composition Explore, or NICER, has allowed scientists to observe these x-rays like never before. This observation could help scientists better understand not just black holes a few times the mass of the Sun like the one observed here, but perhaps the billion-solar-mass behemoths at galactic centers as well. (1/9)

Astronomers Announce First Exoplanets Discovered by NASA’s TESS Mission (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Six months into its mission scanning the sky for planets around other stars, NASA’s orbiting TESS observatory has found three previously-undiscovered worlds and hundreds candidates requiring follow-up observations, the first batch of a potential haul of up to 10,000 exoplanet detections over TESS’s planned two-year mission, astronomers announced this week.

NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite launched in April 2018 and started scientific observations in July. TESS is the space agency’s latest exoplanet-hunting space telescope, following the Kepler mission which ended its search for worlds around other stars when it ran out of fuel last year. (1/9)

Astronomers Just Detected a Mysterious Repeating Cosmic Radio Burst—Again (Source: Gizmodo)
Canadian scientists have detected 13 new fast radio bursts, those mysterious, split-second, high-energy pulses that reach us from unknown origins billions of light-years away. Intriguingly, one of these newly documented bursts is a repeater, becoming just the second-known repeating fast radio burst among the 60 documented so far. First detected in 2002, fast radio bursts (FRBs) continue to mystify astronomers, who have struggled to understand the sources of these powerful emissions.

FRBs last for just a few milliseconds, and their unpredictable displays make observations notoriously difficult. Incredibly, these radio waves originate from distant galaxies, traveling at high energies through the cosmos for literally billions of years. Popular explanations for FRBs include rapidly spinning neutron stars with strong magnetic fields (known as magnetars), mergers of highly dense objects, collapsed stars, supermassive black holes, and—much more speculatively—extraterrestrial civilizations. (1/9)

SSTL Making Progress on GEO Satellite (Source: Space News)
British smallsat manufacturer Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) has completed its first geostationary satellite platform. The company built the platform for Eutelsat Quantum, a telecom satellite that will carry a reconfigurable payload capable of changing coverage, bandwidth, power and frequency. SSTL said it will now transfer the platform from its facility in Guildford, U.K., to parent company Airbus, which will finish assembly and testing of the satellite in Toulouse, France.

Eutelsat Quantum features technology developed through the European Space Agency’s Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems program, with support from the U.K. Space Agency. SSTL Managing Director Sarah Parker said the satellite platform’s completion “represents our first venture into the global commercial telecoms satellite market.” (1/9)

A Star Fell Into a Black Hole, Revealing Its Super-Fast Spin (Source: Gizmodo)
Scientists have measured a fundamental property of a supermassive black hole—how fast it spins—by measuring a star slamming into it. It can be hard to measure black holes unless they actually do something, like when they slam together or spew jets of matter. But the scientists behind the new result were able to measure the mass and spin of a quite massive black hole, demonstrating that these brief star-eating events, called tidal disruption events, could offer another way to understand black holes.

“There have already been measurements of spins from black holes that are actively accreting,” or acquiring more matter under the influence of gravity, the study’s first author Dheeraj Pasham, Einstein Postdoctoral Fellow at the MIT Kavli Institute, told Gizmodo. “This measurement is different in the sense that we were able to measure the spin of a black hole that was dormant,” at least until the tidal disruption event occurred.

An automatic sky survey called the All-Sky Automated Survey for SuperNovae, or ASASSN, spotted the flash on November 22, 2014. The flash, called ASASSN-14li, looked just like your typical black-hole-gravity-shredding-a-star-to-bits event, happening near the center of a host galaxy. The scientists immediately searched for “quasi-periodic oscillations,” regularly repeating but changing patterns of x-rays that vary in their power and are thought to originate from very close to the black hole. They found what they were looking for in data from two x-ray space telescopes. (1/10)

January 10, 2019

Ocean Temps Spiking Upward, With Dire Implications for Climate Change (Source: New York Times)
Scientists say the warming of the world’s oceans is accelerating more quickly than previously thought, a finding with dire implications for climate change given that almost all of the heat trapped by greenhouse gases ends up stored there. A new analysis, published Thursday in the journal Science, found that the oceans are heating up 40 percent faster on average than a United Nations panel estimated five years ago. The researchers also concluded that ocean temperatures have broken records for several straight years.

“2018 is going to be the warmest year on record for the Earth’s oceans,” said Zeke Hausfather. “As 2017 was the warmest year, and 2016 was the warmest year.” As the planet has warmed, the oceans have provided a critical buffer, slowing the effects of climate change by absorbing 93 percent of the heat trapped by human greenhouse gas emissions. But the escalating water temperatures are already killing off marine ecosystems, raising sea levels and making hurricanes more destructive.

As the oceans continue to heat up, those effects will become more catastrophic. Coral reefs, whose fish provide key sources of protein to millions of people, will come under increasing stress; a fifth of them have already died in the last three years. More powerful storms like Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and Hurricane Florence in 2018 will become more common, and coastlines around the world will flood more frequently. (1/10)

Repeated Radio Signals Coming From Galaxy 1.5 Billion Light Years Away (Source: Independent)
Scientists have spotted repeated blasts of radio signals coming from deep in space. The breakthrough is only the second time scientists have seen such a repeating radio burst. It both deepens the mystery and offers a potential opportunity to finally understand what might be throwing out the burst from a galaxy billions of light years away.

Fast radio bursts have been speculated to be the result of everything from exploding stars to transmissions from aliens. But they have remained entirely mysterious, with little evidence at all of where they might be coming from. The flashes only last for a milisecond but they are flung out with the same amount of energy the sun takes 12 months to produce.

Probably most exciting of the new bursts is one that scientists saw repeat six times, apparently from the same location. Of the more than 60 fast radio bursts detected so far, only one of them has ever repeated. (1/10)

Boom's XB-1 to Take Flight This Year (Source: Independent)
An aircraft worthy of the title “Son of Concorde” has moved one stage closer. Boom Supersonic has obtained funding of $100m (£79m) for the next stage of its project to create a commercial aircraft, known as Overture, planned to fly at more than twice the speed of sound, with a range of 5,180 miles. A half-size prototype, known as XB-1, is set to fly later in 2019.

The firm claims it is “history’s first independently developed supersonic jet and the fastest civil aircraft ever built”. The project to build a viable supersonic transport (SST) is aiming for a cabin barely half the size of Concorde: just 55 seats, compared with 100 on the Anglo-French jet. But the three-engine Boom aircraft will fly further, more economically and less noisily, with a sonic boom “at least 30 times quieter” than Concorde. (1/10)

India’s First Human Space fFlight Likely to Have Woman On Board (Source: Indian Express)
India’s first human space flight, scheduled to be launched sometime in the second half of 2021, will, most likely, have at least one woman astronaut on board. Chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) K Sivan told The Indian Express that women candidates would be actively considered, although he would not like to pre-judge the selection process which was still to start.

“We, of course, would like to have women also to be there (on the space flight). You would remember our Prime Minister had mentioned son or daughter while announcing the human space flight. It would be very good if a woman is part of the first flight. But these things are still to be discussed and finalised. The selection process (for choosing the astronauts) has not started yet,” Sivan said. (1/10)

Stratolaunch Airplane Nears First Flight (Source: Space News)
The latest taxi test of the giant aircraft being developed by Stratolaunch for its air-launch system is a sign the plane’s first flight may take place soon. The company announced Jan. 9 that its airplane, the largest in the world by wingspan, performed its fastest taxi test to date at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California, reaching a top speed of 219 kilometers per hour.

The test also featured a “rotation authority maneuver” that briefly lifted the plane’s nose gear off the ground. This was the latest in a series of taxi tests, where the airplane goes down the runway under its own power but does not take off. That test program started in late 2017, with subsequent tests at increasing speeds. (1/10)

NASA Employee Starts GoFundMe for Hurting Federal Workers (Source: Houston Chronicle)
A safety engineer at NASA's Johnson Space Center is raising money online for federal employees struggling to pay their bills ahead of their first missed paycheck Friday. Johanna Petrocelli, who has worked at the Houston center since 2014, started her GoFundMe page Monday. She had raised $1,302 as of Thursday morning, surpassing her goal of $1,000.

"I'm a federal employee in Houston, TX and I just want to help my fellow community," Petrocelli wrote. "So I set up this GoFundMe as a means to help anyone (affected) by the furlough pay specifically for medical/child care/animal care bills." Petrocelli's online fundraising comes as the federal government shutdown approaches the three-week mark. Just 200 of the 3,055 federal employees at Johnson are still working -- primarily to keep the three astronauts aboard the space station alive -- because of the shutdown that started Dec. 22. (1/10)

Flex Satellite Will Map Earth's Plant Glow (Source: BBC News)
The European Space Agency is going to build a spacecraft to map the red glow emitted by Earth's plants. Known as Flex, the mission was approved by member states on Thursday and will likely launch by 2022. The satellite will carry a spectrometer to catch the subtle but telltale fluorescence that organisms produce when they engage in photosynthesis. Scientists say this signal can be used to monitor the condition of croplands and forests. (1/10)

SpaceX Demo-1 Launch Shifts to February (Source: NASA)
NASA and SpaceX are continuing to work on the activities leading toward the Demo-1, uncrewed flight test to the International Space Station. NASA and SpaceX are now targeting no earlier than February for the launch of Demo-1 to complete hardware testing and joint reviews. NASA and SpaceX will confirm a new target date after coordination with the Eastern Range and the International Space Station Program. (1/10)

Government Shutdown Starting to Burn Aerospace Firms  -"A Self-Imposed Crisis" (Source: Washington Post)
The partial government shutdown, now in its 19th day, is already the longest in at least two decades. And its economic effect on greater Washington’s government-centric business community is starting to extend beyond the smallest, most vulnerable companies to include multibillion-dollar companies.

Executives from the government services giant Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) said the shutdown is costing the company tens of millions of dollars as it approaches the end of its fiscal year. And representatives from the Aerospace Industries Association trade group said it could hurt U.S. exporters by holding up already-cumbersome export control paperwork.

Eric Fanning, president and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association, is publicly pressing for an end to the partial government shutdown, now in its third week. In a statement to the press, Fanning characterizes the shutdown as a "self-imposed crisis," noting each day of the shutdown "the impacts grow and become more difficult and more expensive to fix." (1/10)

China Pulling Away From DOD in Space Arena, Officials Say (Source: UPI)
The US is playing catch-up with China when it comes to military space activities, top officials say. "China had 39 launches [in 2018], the US had 31, Russia had 20, Europe had eight, and [China] landed a robotic mission on the dark side of the moon -- a first," says Chris Shank, director of the Defense Department's Strategic Capabilities Office. (1/9)

Shutdown Could Make it Harder for Government to Attract Tech Workers (Source: Fifth Domain)
The long federal government partial shutdown is stoking concerns that agencies will be further challenged when it comes to recruiting tech talent. "How can we ever hope to recruit or maintain IT talent when hardworking government workers are told: 'Sorry, you aren't getting paid, but you still need to come to work' or 'Sorry, but no paycheck this week because of politics'?" Rep. Robin Kelly, D-IL., says. (1/9)

Space Council Considers 'Nexus' of Space Science and Human Exploration (Source: Space News)
The advisory group of the National Space Council is looking at how NASA's human space exploration plans can also support space science. During a session at an astronomy conference Wednesday, two members of the Users' Advisory Group said their committee has been asked by the council to "explore the nexus" between space science and human space exploration. One example of that is using the proposed lunar Gateway as a facility for assembling and repairing future space telescopes. The committee members also acknowledged that the group could benefit if it had more scientists. (1/10)

NASA Contractors Struggle Without Pay During Shutdown — and May Never See the Money (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
They filled nearly every seat in the room, a sea of union T-shirts, baseball caps and calloused hands. Where else were unionized Kennedy Space Center workers — the people who fixed the power grid or ran safety checks for launches — supposed to go on a Tuesday afternoon while a government shutdown persisted into its 18th day, keeping them from a paycheck and fraying their resistance?

Nearly 60 people had turned out for the meeting of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local 2061 in Cape Canaveral seeking answers about how to endure the stalemate between President Trump and Congress over a border wall with Mexico. About 1,200 employees at KSC whose jobs have been deemed “non-essential” — 600 of them represented by this union — have been at home since Dec. 22. To bridge the gap, many are using paid vacation days, burning through their savings accounts, cutting back on expenses and trying to get extensions on their home and auto payments.

“Our rent and our mortgages don’t stop, the electric doesn’t stop, our phones don’t stop. These are all putting people in a predicament that if they live week to week, it’s going to be catastrophic,” said Steve Ching, a high voltage electrician with engineering firm AECOM. “They are holding the employees hostage over this political debate.” (1/10)

Government MECO Delays RS-25 Testing Following Premature Shutdown (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
NASA is yet to release any information as to why the latest RS-25 test in December aborted just seconds into what was set to be a full duration firing. The lack of information partly relates to NASA employees being out of work during the current government shutdown, which has also impacted on the test schedule. However, prime contractor Aerojet Rocketdyne notes they can accommodate a “temporary” delay.

The RS-25 will be the main engine on NASA’s next flagship rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), which is using tried and tested heritage hardware from the Space Shuttle era. The engine involved with the latest test was the Development Engine 0525 (E0525). (1/10)

SOFIA Observatory Grounded by Shutdown (Source: Space News)
NASA's SOFIA airborne observatory is grounded because of the government  shutdown. SOFIA, a Boeing 747 with a telescope mounted in its fuselage, can't carry out flights during the shutdown, which project scientists said has resulted in lost opportunities for astronomers to carry out research programs. Once the shutdown ends it will take about a week to prepare the aircraft and instruments before flights can resume. SOFIA is also in the midst of two reviews, one focused on operations and the other on science, that NASA has requested in lieu of including the program in the next senior review of astrophysics missions. (1/10)

GPS-3 Ground System Delays Force Upgrades to Existing System (Source: Space News)
The Air Force is investing in upgrades to the current GPS ground control system because of delays in a next-generation system. The Air Force awarded a contract last month valued at $462 million to Lockheed Martin to continue the modernization of the GPS ground control system that the company has been maintaining since 2013. That modernization will allow the system to control new GPS 3 satellites through 2025. A new system, called OCX, is being developed for the GPS 3 satellites but is years behind schedule. (1/10)

Soyuz Leak Investigation Nearing Completion (Source: TASS)
The investigation regarding a hole found in a Soyuz spacecraft last August should be completed soon. Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin, in an interview published Thursday, said he expected the results of the investigation will be presented to Russian leadership "in the next few weeks." The hole, found in the orbital module of the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft docked to the station in August, was studied during a Russian spacewalk in December before the spacecraft returned to Earth later that month. (1/10)

CYGNSS Wind Monitoring Satelites Also Monitor Flooding (Source: Space News)
A constellation of smallsats launched to study hurricanes has also proved useful monitoring flooding. NASA's Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System, or CYGNSS, spacecraft were launched in 2016 to track winds at the core of tropical cyclones. Scientists say that the CYGNSS observations are also proving useful in measuring soil moisture and flooding, including providing data that was better than what another NASA mission devoted to soil moisture observations could do. (1/10)

Canadian Telescope Finds New Radio Burst Source (Source: GeekWire)
A new Canadian telescope has discovered a second unusual source of repeating radio bursts. The Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) radio observatory in British Columbia discovered a repeating fast radio burst during commissioning last summer. About 60 such bursts have been detected to date, but only two have been found to repeat. The cause of such bursts remains unknown, but some astronomers speculate they could be linked to rapidly spinning neutron stars with intense magnetic fields. (1/10)