October 27, 2017

NASA Headquarters Building Bought By South Korean Firm (Source: Pulse)
A South Korean realty company is set to become NASA's new landlord. KTB Asset Management is in negotiations to purchase the Washington building that hosts NASA Headquarters from Piedmont Office Realty Trust, which put the building on the market last month. A deal to buy the building for an estimated $394 million could close by early next year. NASA has a long-term lease on the building that runs until 2029. (10/26)

Philippines Considers Space Agency (Source: GMA)
Legislators in the Philippines have introduced bills to create a national space agency. The legislation, simultaneously introduced in the Senate and House of Representatives, would create a Philippines Space Agency responsible for developing space policies and programs in the country. The bills' sponsors say the initial response to the legislation from their colleagues has been positive. (10/26)

Government Needs to Rethink How it Works with Private Space Ventures (Source: Space News)
A top Defense Department official says regulatory reforms are needed to improve how the government works with companies. At a panel session this week, Doug Loverro, deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy, said the regulatory framework for space companies has lagged developments in the industry, with effects on areas ranging from commercial remote sensing to space traffic management. Loverro and other panelists at the CSIS event called for less restrictive regulations in areas like remote sensing, as well as new ways for the government to more effectively make use of commercial capabilities. (10/26)

SpaceX Expert Tells Jury Harassment Accuser Mentally Ill (Source: Law360)
SpaceX on Wednesday called a forensic psychiatrist to testify in the California jury trial on a woman's claims that she was sexually harassed while welding at the aerospace company, with the expert saying the woman has textbook signs of borderline personality disorder, including "telling stories." (10/26)

NASA's Popular, But That Only Goes So Far in Washington (Source: Huntsville Times)
NASA may be Washington's most popular "brand," but its future success won't flow from popularity, but from its service to America's international and domestic needs. "Space policy derives from national security, foreign policy, economic and other political issues," said Scott Pace, a former government official and current director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University. "We are the nation's humble servant, supposed to serve those interests."

Pace told an audience at the 9th Wernher von Braun Space Symposium that America is living in "incredibly ... increasingly dangerous times," an allusion in part to recent cyber conflict with Russia. "It demands partnerships with friends and allies, and we want to give them a stake in what we do," Pace said. "That means finding projects we can do together so they will support us (on other issues)." (10/26)

Eight Embarrassing Failures of the Space Age (Source: New Atlas)
Space is difficult and dangerous. Many men and women have lost their lives both in flight and on the ground in many different countries in opening up the final frontier. There's no discounting the tales of tragedy and heroism that marked the Space Race and beyond, but there are other stories as well – ones that are funny, or at least show that even the boldest Captain Kirk type can end up doing a face palm now and again. And that fact goes back to the very beginning. Click here. (10/26)

Clinton Wants Balanced NASA Program With Climate Research, Exploration Partnerships (Source: Space Policy Online)
While Kohlenberger does not say that Clinton would reestablish a White House National Space Council, as Walker and Navarro said Trump would do, he states that she "will elevate executive branch coordination of federal space agency initiatives." He does not specify the mechanism for accomplishing that goal.

The need for NASA and NOAA to engage in climate change research is specifically called out.  Kohlenberger criticizes Trump's opinion that climate change is "a hoax," stating that it is not just "shortsighted," but endangers space exploration since launch sites in Florida and Virginia are vulnerable to rising sea levels.  Clinton "knows that climate change is an urgent threat" and NASA and NOAA programs to study it are "invaluable." Click here. (10/25)

Major Raytheon Expansion Could Bring Nearly 2,000 Jobs to Tucson (Source: Arizona Daily Star)
The region and county’s largest private employer, Raytheon Missile Systems, is planning a major local expansion that could bring nearly 2,000 jobs at high average salaries. One official the expansion is due to the county’s $6 million purchase of 382 acres of land near Raytheon in 2012 to provide a buffer for the company. “The buffer makes the deal possible,” the official said. (10/27)

US, China Silent on Space Talks, Except to Say There Will Be More (Source: VOA)
The United States and China appear to be keeping an unusually low profile as they push for more dialogue and cooperation on space exploration. The State Department hosted a new round of space cooperation talks in Washington last week with a delegation led by China’s National Space Administration (CNSA), but U.S. officials didn’t publicly announce the meeting until Monday, via a tersely worded press release that said a third round of civil space dialogue would be held in China next year. (10/25)

Air Force Sponsors Tests of Generation Orbit Air-Launch System (Source: GO)
Generation Orbit Launch Services has won an SBIR Phase II Extension from the Air Force Research Laboratory to enable wind tunnel and integrated hot fire testing of the GO1 hypersonic testbed. These efforts will further the development of the vehicle by validating aerodynamic models and demonstrating the functionality of the fully integrated GO1 rocket vehicle system. Wind tunnel testing will be accomplished at an AFRL facility in Ohio. Integrated hot fire testing will be conducted at AFRL's facilities in California. (10/27)

'Alien Megastructure' Star Targeted by $100 Million SETI Search (Source: Space.com)
If intelligent aliens actually do live around Tabby's star, astronomers are determined to find them. The Breakthrough Listen initiative, which will spend $100 million over the next 10 years to hunt for signals possibly produced by alien civilizations, is set to begin studying Tabby's star with the 330-foot-wide (100 meters) Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia, project team members announced.

"The Green Bank Telescope is the largest fully steerable radio telescope on the planet, and it's the largest, most sensitive telescope that's capable of looking at Tabby's star given its position in the sky," Breakthrough Listen co-director Andrew Siemion, who also directs the Berkeley SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley, said in a statement. (10/25)

Hillary Will Expand Our Space Potential (Source: Space News)
We are fortunate to be entering a dynamic new era in space – one that will enable us to explore new worlds, expand our scientific knowledge, push the frontiers of technological innovation, and achieve our boldest aspirations in space. This forward trajectory has been fueled by pragmatic policies that have brought together our brightest minds, and newest technologies, to forge new frontiers. As president, Secretary Clinton will not only build on our progress in space, but will advance inspirational, achievable, and affordable space initiatives.

While her opponent compares the world’s most capable space program to that of a “third world nation,” Secretary Clinton knows better. She will advance American ideals with a program that balances space science, technology, and exploration; protects our security through Earth systems monitoring; and maximizes the impact of our space program by promoting stronger coordination across federal agencies, cooperation with industry, and collaboration with the international community.

Secretary Clinton understands that to ensure continued U.S leadership in space, it is critical that NASA have the resources and predictable funding necessary to achieve its goals and missions. As president, she will support the key public investments that help drive advances in science and technology, both in space science and in Earth science, and deepen support for strong public-private partnerships that create jobs and improve lives throughout our country and around the world. Click here. (10/25)

Why Schiaparelli Probe's 'Crash Land" is No Failure (Source: Newsweek)
Let’s remember that Schiaparelli was primarily meant to test European landing technologies, with science as a secondary objective. Recording the data during the descent has already achieved a lot of the mission’s goals. The 600 megabytes of data that Schiaparelli sent us before it lost contact contains within it clues to how ESA can improve its Entry, Descent and Landing (EDL) systems for next time.

This data matters because of several major technical roadblocks for future attempts to put humans on Mars, all of which can be overcome with enough investment in space technologies. Chief among those is the need for EDL technology to put ten-to-20 metric tons on the surface of Mars at once. (10/24)

European Mars Lander Software May Have Led to Crash (Source: Nature)
A computer glitch may have caused the crash of Europe's Schiaparelli Mars lander. The spacecraft likely plummeted the last two to four kilometers to the planet's surface, exploding on impact, when its thrusters shut down prematurely during a landing attempt last week. An ESA official said a computer problem may have led the spacecraft to think it was lower in altitude than it actually was, to the point of turning on instruments intended for use after landing while still descending. That software was among the elements ESA planned to demonstrate on Schiaparelli for use on the ExoMars 2020 lander mission. (10/25)

FAA: Taking Space Management From Air Force Won't Break Bank (Source: Space News)
The FAA believes it can take over space situational awareness work from the Air Force for "well under" $100 million. At an industry day Tuesday, FAA officials said they are still studying a wide range of options for providing collision warnings for non-military spacecraft, with varying degrees of reliance on data and other resources provided by the Air Force. The FAA, though, thinks it can establish its program for less than $100 million, and "on the order" of $20 million a year thereafter, once it receives authority to do so. Both the FAA and the Defense Department support such a shift in space situational awareness work. (10/25)

Europe Seeks to Promote Space Startups (Source: Space News)
A new European Union space strategy promotes the development of space startup companies. The strategy, unveiled Wednesday by the EU's executive commission, says Europe needs more entrepreneurial space activity to "stay ahead of the curve" in space, and promotes the use of the Investment Plan for Europe and the upcoming Venture Capital Fund of Funds to support European space ventures. The strategy also calls for the development of a "comprehensive" European space situational awareness program and for a European military communications satellite effort. (10/25)

Insanely Fuel Efficient Engine Could Go To Mars And Back On One Tank Of Fuel (Source: IFL Science)
An ion engine that smashes the fuel efficiency record has been registered for an innovation patent. Inventor Patrick Neumann told University of Sydney student newspaper Honi Soit the drive could go to “Mars and back on a tank of fuel”, but its first application may be shunting networks of small satellites around in Earth orbit.

Neumann says the idea for the ion engine came to him as a third year student assisting a postdoc as part of a program to connect undergrads with real research. Neumann measured the speed of titanium ions released by a pulsed electric arc, similar to an arc welder. “The titanium was coming out at 20 kilometers per second [12.4 miles per second] and I thought 'you could use that for thrust',” he told IFLScience. In subsequent work Neumann proved his hunch right, eventually testing the suitability of 11 materials.

The results were dramatic. One measure of thruster efficiency is specific impulse, commonly called “bounce per ounce,” and is measured in seconds. The existing record is NASA's High Power Electric Propulsion (HiPeP) with 9,600 seconds, but fueled by magnesium Neumann's drive managed an estimated 14,600 seconds of specific impulse. He says “Other metals have lower efficiency, but higher thrust. So you would need more fuel to get to Mars, but could get there faster.” (9/21)

Let's Talk Space (Source: Space KSC)
For whatever reason, both the Trump and Clinton campaigns finally are talking more about U.S. space policy. Click here. (10/26)

Tiny Satellite Beams Back Photos of China's Tiangong-2 Space Lab (Source: Space.com)
A tiny satellite has provided the first good look at China's orbiting Tiangong-2 space lab. Tiangong-2 launched on Sept. 15, and two astronauts aboard a spacecraft called Shenzhou-11 docked with the vehicle last week. On Sunday these two crewmembers, Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong, deployed a 104-lb. satellite from the orbiting complex. Known as Banxing-2, it has now beamed home hundreds of up-close images of the two linked-up spacecraft. (10/26)

Florida to Help SpaceX Ready KSC Pad for Crew Launches (Source: Florida Today)
SpaceX's preparations to launch astronauts from Kennedy Space Center received a $5 million boost from the state on Wednesday. During a special meeting, Space Florida's board of directors agreed to provide the money to help SpaceX install an access arm at historic pad 39A that astronauts will use to board Dragon capsules bound for the International Space Station, possibly in 2018.

Officials said SpaceX, which must at least double the state's contribution, planned to invest $25 million in the project, creating 130 construction jobs. Obviously an important project, and moving to Commercial Crew is both exciting and an important part of the future of the spaceport," said William Dymond, chairman of Space Florida's board. (10/26)

Six Contractors Have Begun Work on NASA’s Gateway to Deep Space (Source: Ars Technica)
NASA has a problem. It has a big rocket under development. It has a shiny new spacecraft to fly into deep space. And it has a cadre of brilliant astronauts waiting in a long line to fly beyond low-Earth orbit. But the SLS rocket, Orion spacecraft and crew members have nowhere to go—there is no Moon lander, and asteroids and Mars are too far away for now.

NASA plans to address its problem by parking a “deep space” habitat in a location near the Moon, which astronauts could visit and use to become acclimated to life beyond low-Earth orbit. President Obama mentioned deep space habitats earlier this month, when he reiterated his call for NASA to send humans to Mars.

Before the president's mention, this NextSTEP program had received surprisingly little attention given its significance—it might be the most important contract NASA awards for next decade. NASA has welcomed a broad range of companies into the competition for building a deep space habitat. The six finalists are Bigelow Aerospace, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Orbital ATK, Sierra Nevada Corporation, and NanoRacks. (10/26)

SpaceX’s Mysterious Rocket Explosion Gets a Little Bit Clearer (Source: WIRED)
SpaceX has been fairly mum with details on what went wrong last month on Launch Complex 40. The investigation is a collaborative effort between SpaceX, the FAA, NASA, the US Air Force, and industry experts. Together, they are looking at over 3,000 channels of engineering data, along with video, audio and imagery, the company said.

The investigation itself might inevitably hit a wall of conjecture. “They are looking at some of the charred remains to see what part failed and was there a manufacturing problem,” says Marco Caceres, a space industry analyst at the Vienna, VA, based Teal Group. “Or was it just a one of those freak accidents? I’m not sure they are every going to know exactly.”

For his contribution to the speculation, Caceres noted that a fueling failure could occur from a small piece of brittle metal that begins vibrating, breaks apart, lodges into a fuel line and causes combustion. SpaceX is testing this sort of malfunction at its McGregor, TX, facility. (10/25)

Trump Promises Space, Tech Jobs for Central Florida (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Donald Trump promised to bring space and technology jobs to Central Florida at an outdoor rally Tuesday in Sanford, mixing policy with bitter invective against his opponent and Washington. “I will free NASA from the restriction of serving primarily as a logistical agency for low Earth-orbit activities,” he told thousands of supporters. “We will instead refocus on space exploration. Under a Trump administration, Florida and America will lead the way into the stars.” (10/25)

Juno Seems to Be Doing Fine 594 Million Miles from Home (Source: Inverse)
NASA’s Juno Mission has run into some problems on its voyage to orbit Jupiter and study the gas giant. On October 18, the probe went into safe mode, meaning it turned off all non-essential processes while it pondered how to deal with an unexpected threat, or change in environment. It could’ve been much worse, but NASA announced on Tuesday that Juno had exited safe mode and appears to be doing fine. (10/25)

October 26, 2016

Contract Negotiations Start for New SLS Upper Stage (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA and Boeing kicked off negotiations this week on a contract for the Exploration Upper Stage (EUS), a four-engine upgrade designed to take the heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS) from a 70-ton lift capability to 105 tons on its second flight. (10/25)

The Second Meeting of the U.S.-China Space Dialogue (Source: US Dept. of State)
Pursuant to their shared goal of advancing civil space cooperation, as agreed upon in the Strategic Track of the U.S. - China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in June 2015 and reaffirmed in June 2016, the United States and China convened their second Civil Space Dialogue on October 20, 2016, in Washington, DC.

This ongoing Civil Space Dialogue enhances cooperation between the two countries, promotes responsible behavior in space, and encourages greater transparency and openness on a variety of space-related issues. The Department of State led the meeting for the United States and the China National Space Administration represented China. Also supporting this meeting were U.S. Government representatives from NASA, including Administrator Charles Bolden, NOAA, the U.S. Geological Survey, the FAA, and the Department of Defense. (10/24)

Lockheed Martin's Revenue Rises 14.8 Percent (Source: Reuters)
Lockheed Martin, the Pentagon's No. 1 weapons supplier, reported a 14.8 percent rise in quarterly sales, helped by the acquisition of helicopter maker Sikorsky Aircraft. The company's net income from continuing operations rose to $1.09 billion in the third quarter, from $756 million a year earlier. Net sales rose to $11.55 billion from $10.06 billion a year earlier. (10/25)

Trump: "I Will Free NASA" From Being Just a LEO Space Logistics Agency (Source: Space Policy Online)
Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump vowed today to "free NASA" from serving "primarily" as a logistics agency for low Earth orbit operations. He also supported more public private partnerships and asserted that if he wins "America and Florida will lead the way into the stars." Trump spoke at the Orlando Sanford International Airport. Click here. (10/25)

Roscosmos Says Galileo, Other European Programs Could Suffer From Payment Dispute (Source: Space News)
The Russian space agency, Roscosmos, on Oct. 21 gave written warning to the French government that it would take France to court in six months unless France’s Arianespace launch-service company frees up about 300 million euros ($330 million) in long-overdue payments.

In what appears to be an attempt to force France’s European neighbors to apply pressure to Paris, Roscosmos hinted that multiple cooperative space efforts between Russian and the European Union, and with the European Space Agency (ESA), could suffer if the payments are not freed. (10/25)

Long-Term Space Flight Gives Astronauts Extra Inches - and Back Problems (Source: Guardian)
Astronauts gain a couple of inches in height during long-term space flight, but lose vital muscle mass, according some of the most detailed observations yet of how the body is altered by living in low gravity. Growing taller might sound like an attractive bonus of space travel. In reality, changes to the spine during space flight are often accompanied by severe back pain and injuries that could blight a future long distance space mission to Mars, NASA scientists said. (10/25)

Some Alien Worlds Could Have 'Too Much' Water for Life (Source: Seeker)
As with everything in life, too much of a good thing can be bad — and that logic now seems to apply to alien life, too. For 90% of the exoplanets simulated, their total mass consisted of over 10% water. Considering Earth is only 0.02% water, the simulated red dwarf exoplanets are veritable ocean planets! At first glance, this might seem like an incredible opportunity for advanced life forms to evolve on planets in red dwarf systems.

In previous studies, water-dominated worlds were found to have unstable climates that may work against the evolution of life, perhaps stymieing these planets' potential for producing complex life forms. If this is the case, super-advanced alien civilizations stand little chance of becoming a reality. Add this to the fact that any habitable zone exoplanets around red dwarfs will be so close to their stars that they are constantly bathed in huge doses of radiation. Perhaps the only possible life on these worlds will be basic aquatic life and have to exist deep under protective layers of icy crust. (10/25)

October 25, 2016

Closing In on a Giant Ghost Planet (Source: Scientific American)
Far beyond the eight planets of the solar system, beyond even Pluto and the diminutive dwarf planets, may lurk a major new world called “Planet Nine.” Few if any discoveries can be as sensational as finding another planet orbiting our sun, making the feat a Holy Grail for astronomers, who have managed to pull it off only a few times over the centuries.

No one yet knows exactly where this ephemeral world might be—or even if it really exists at all. But in the race to find it researchers are now narrowing down its location through its influence on the rest of the solar system, roughly halving the amount of space they thought they had to search only a few months ago. Click here. (10/25)

Why Doesn’t Air Force Use Cheap, Reusable Rockets? (Source: DOD Buzz)
The Pentagon is more focused on the supremacy of U.S. satellite technology than how the spacecraft are vaulted into space, at least for now, an official said. That’s one of the reasons military hasn’t yet bought into reusable rocket technology that some experts say could save the department significant cash. Click here. (10/24)

GAO Denies Protest Over Navy Satellite Facility In Italy (Source: Law360)
The U.S. Government Accountability Office rejected a bid dispute from an Italian company that missed out on a $7.7 million U.S. Navy contract to design and build a new satellite communications facility, according to an opinion released by the GAO on Friday. (10/24)

Ex-SpaceX Welder Details Sex Harassment In California Trial (Source: Law360)
A woman who worked for SpaceX as a welder took the stand Monday in the Los Angeles trial on her claims that the company turned a blind eye to sexual harassment, testifying that a male welder made graphic sexual comments and gestures toward her. (10/24)

COMSTAC Supports the Kick Off Commercial Spaceflight Consensus Standards Effort (Source: SPACErePORT)
Oscar Garcia of Miami-based InterFlight Global Corporation chairs the Standards Committee of the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC), which advises the Secretary of Transportation on spaceflight policy issues. On Monday, Garcia supported ASTM International in setting up a new Commercial Spaceflight Committee, to develop voluntary standards for the commercial spaceflight industry. Over 20 participants are involved, representing companies like Boeing, Blue Origin, SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, Starfighters Aerospace, Space Florida, the Commercial Spaceflight Federation and many other stakeholders.

The effort will result in the road mapping and development of industry-adopted consensus standards, established at a time when the FAA has been prohibited by Congress from developing new regulations aimed at occupant safety within the emerging commercial spaceflight industry. ASTM International is the entity selected by industry to support the effort. (10/24)

There’s No ‘Mars Curse’ – It’s Just Very Hard to Land There (Source: The Conversation)
This was ESA’s first attempt to land on Mars, and its failure has perhaps predictably prompted fresh references to the supposed “Mars curse”.

Over the decades we’ve been exploring the Red Planet, several missions have gone astray, starting with the very first landing attempt by the Soviet Mars 2 mission in 1971. More recently, NASA’s Climate Orbiter missed its orbit insertion in 1998, and the UK’s plucky Beagle 2 lander failed to send back a signal to Earth on Christmas day 2003. Click here. (10/25)

Space Firm Aims for Satellite Base in US as Profits Rocket (Source: Herald Scotland)
Clyde Space has seen pre-tax profits grow by 120 percent to £450,000 as it increases its focus on the US and eyes funding from President Obama’s office of science and technology. The Glasgow-based developer of mini-satellites doubled revenue to £5.6m in the year to April 30 thanks in part to contract wins with US broadcast company Outernet and a UK Government-backed demonstration initiative with the International Space Station.

Founder and chief executive Craig Clark revealed the company was currently looking at sites on the east and west coasts of the US, where he plans to spend up to 40 per cent of his time. A sales office is being established in Northern California, while a manufacturing center will open on the east coast, to complement the six satellites a month being delivered from its 85-strong team in Glasgow. Editor's Note: "Manufacuring center...on the east coast" may man another opportunity for Florida. (10/24)

Chinese Satellite to Improve Weather Forecasts (Source: China Daily)
China will launch its latest independently developed weather satellite at the end of this year, which is said to be technically comparable to similar satellites being built in Europe and the United States. The FY 4 satellite, the country's second generation of weather satellites and also the newest member of its Fengyun series, will be launched into geostationary orbit 36,000 km above Earth. (10/25)

Another U.S. Air Force Weather Satellite Just Broke Up in Orbit (Source: Space News)
A third U.S. Air Force weather satellite that launched more than 20 years ago has broken up in orbit. Air Force officials confirmed the breakup of the long-retired Defense Meteorological Satellite Program Flight 12 satellite (DMSP F-12) after the Joint Space Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, detected an additional object orbiting alongside the 22-year-old satellite.

DMSP F-12, which the Air Force retired from service in 2008, had the same battery assembly that was implicated in the February 2015 breakup of DMSP F-13. While both satellites were built by Lockheed Martin and launched less than a year apart, DMSP F-13 was still in service when it suffered its breakup, producing nearly 150 pieces of debris. (10/24)

Space Foundation CEO Resigns Amid Criticism (Source: Space News)
Elliot Pulham, the longtime chief executive of the Space Foundation, has resigned effective immediately, the organization announced Oct. 24. In a brief statement, the Space Foundation said that Pulham was stepping down and that a search for a permanent replacement was underway. The statement gave no reason for his resignation, and Space Foundation spokeswoman Carol Hively said the organization was not disclosing additional details. (10/24)

Dark Energy May Not Exist, New Supernova Analysis Says (Source: Cosmos)
One of the most baffling results in modern physics was the discovery that the universe is tearing itself apart. In the late 1990s, astronomers realised the universe was expanding at an ever accelerating rate. This led to the idea that the universe is dominated by mysterious “dark energy”, making up 68% of the universe.

Now, new research says that this idea, which has become a pillar of modern physics, may be built on shaky foundations. An analysis of 740 exploding stars has concluded the expansion of the universe may be constant after all. (10/25)

NASA Wants to Fold Airplane Wings ... While They're Flying (Source: New Atlas)
When a hawk folds its wings, it plummets to the earth in a controlled high-speed dive. Not exactly the kind of scenario we'd imagine being ideal for modern aircraft. But in flight wing folding can have advantages and NASA wants to make it happen.

The idea here isn't to create controlled dives, of course, but to increase the efficiency and capabilities of aircraft. The space agency calls this the Spanwise Adaptive Wing (SAW). So far, articulating wings on airplanes have largely been for parking purposes, to allow planes to take up less space on an aircraft carrier's decks or fit into smaller hangars. A few very large aircraft have articulating wings to allow them to taxi between infrastructure at an airport. What NASA is working on is very different from all of this. (10/22)

NASA Awards $30,000 to Top 5 Teams in Third Round of Cube Quest Challenge (Source: NASA)
NASA has awarded $30,000 to each of the five top-scoring teams in Ground Tournament-3 of the agency’s small satellite Cube Quest Challenge. Cube Quest consists of a series of four Ground Tournaments, the in-space Lunar Derby and the Deep Space Derby.  The Ground Tournaments serve as progress checks leading to an opportunity to be selected as one of three allocated slots on NASA's Orion capsule's first unmanned lunar flyby, Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), planned for launch in 2018.

Editor's Note: Among the winners is Tampa-based Team Miles – Fluid & Reason. The team placed first in GT-1 and fifth in GT-2. Click here. (10/15)

Spaceport America Relay Race Planned (Source: Spaceport America)
Spaceport America, the world's first purpose-built commercial spaceport located in southern New Mexico in the USA, today announced that, in collaboration with relay racing specialists MH Enterprises LLC, the Spaceport America Crew will host and support a two-day, 200 mile, relay race event. (10/24)

Bezos Explains Blue Origin’s Motto, Logo … and the Boots (Source: GeekWire)
You can’t buy stuff from billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture on Amazon just yet, but just wait: Sixteen years after its founding, Blue Origin offers enough symbols, mottos and mascots to keep the folks who make caps, shirts, coffee mugs – and yes, even cowboy boots – busy for years. The symbolism adds a sense of tradition to Blue Origin’s 21st-century mission of getting millions of people living and working in space. Click here. (10/24)

Why ESA’s Schiaparelli Mars Can Still be Considered an Overall Success (Source: Space Review)
Last week, ESA’s Schiaparelli spacecraft attempted to land on the surface of Mars and, based on the available evidence, crashed. Svetoslav Alexandrov argues that, despite the failure of the landing itself, the overall mission can still be considered a success in preparing for future Mars missions. Click here. (10/24)

Rosetta and Philae: It’s All About the Feels! (Source: Space Review)
One reason that ESA’s recently-concluded Rosetta comet mission got so much public attention was a carefully crafted outreach effort. Chris Petty examines how ESA used cartoons and social media to explain a complex comet mission. Click here. (10/24)

New Approaches for Managing Space Traffic (Source: Space Review)
While the US Air Force has long shouldered the role of issuing warnings of potential satellite collisions in orbit, there are efforts to hand over at least some of that work to the FAA. Jeff Foust reports on those efforts and the issues they raise, including what exactly “space traffic management” should mean. Click here. (10/24)

Financing the Purchase of a New Interplanetary Spaceship (Source: Space Review)
Elon Musk announced last month an Interplanetary Spaceship that he aims to produce for $200 million each in the 2040s. Sam Dinkin considers what the financing options are. Click here. (10/24)

In Space, International Cooperation Counts (Source: Aviation Week)
Missions tend to fare better when countries share information and technology. That certainly appeared to be the case during this busy week in space—from Russia's Soyuz launch to the International Space Station, to China's Shenzou mission, Antares's return to flight and the European Space Agency's rocky landing on Mars. Click here. (10/21)

China Plans Lunar Sample Return Mission (Source: Xinhua)
A Chinese official says the country is ready to fly its first lunar sample return mission next year. Ouyang Ziyuan, chief scientist of China's lunar exploration program, said China is "well prepared" to fly the Chang'e-5 mission in 2017 to collect lunar samples and return them to Earth. He also said the Chang'e-4 mission, originally built as a back up to the Chang'e-3 lander, will fly in 2018 to attempt the first landing on the far side of the moon. (10/24)

Why Florida is So Perfect for Space Launches (Source: Seeker)
For about 60 years, the U.S. has launched its rockets into space from Cape Canaveral. What makes Florida so perfect for space launches? The site of the launch facility on Cape Canaveral wasn't chosen lightly, and it turns out that Florida has a number of geographical benefits for flinging things off the planet. Issues including weather and even specific latitude coordinates come into play, as well. Click here. (10/24)

Forget Schiaparelli. 2020 Is the Real Mars Party (Source: Inverse)
ExoMars was supposed to be for Mars what Lewis and Clark were to the exploration of the wild American western frontier: a mission to understand the biological mysteries of the Red Planet. The mission — a joint collaboration by the European Space Agency and Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos — was set to make its first major splash on Wednesday when the Schiaparelli lander was supposed to barrel through the Martian atmosphere and land on the planet.

But that ExoMars rover mission is just one of three Martian rover missions taking place next year, arguably making 2020 a banner year for an explosion of Martian knowledge. NASA is revving up preparations to launch an ExoMars-like mission called Mars 2020, the successor to the Curiosity rover. Its primary scientific objective is, like ExoMars, to search for evidence of extant or current Martian organisms, and to assess the historical and present potential for habitability on the Red Planet.

Mars 2020 will be very, very similar to the Curiosity rover and use a very similar entry-descent-landing system — it’s a tried-and-true method that’s worked for NASA in the past, so why mess with a good thing? The biggest difference between those two little buggers, however, is that Mars 2020 will be specifically fitted with instruments relevant to astrobiology. (10/23)

The Army's 1st Space Battalion Activates New Company (Source: Army Times)
The Army's 1st Space Battalion, 1st Space Brigade added another company to its stable of active duty and reserve units in an Oct. 16 ceremony, according to an Army release. Newly minted commander Maj. Jack Bierce, a veteran of the company's parent Space and Missile Defense Command, received the 8th Space Company's new guidon, then passed it to the company's first sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Wade Parker, the release said.

"This is a historic moment that highlights the growth of space in the Army," battalion commander Lt. Col. Bryan Shrank said. "We knew over a year ago who the command team needed to be for this organization." The 1st Space Battalion first stood up in 1999, and since has steadily added active duty and reserve companies to its ranks. The organization is spread out at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, and within the 76th Operational Response Command in Salt Lake City, Utah. (10/21)

CST-100 Starliner Manufacturing at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: NASA)
The work is being performed inside the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The STA is built to endure harsh tests mimicking conditions of spaceflight to prove the design and its manufacturing techniques will work for space-bound Starliners.

The Starliner is one of two spacecraft in development in partnership with NASA's Commercial Crew Program that will enable astronauts to fly to the International Space Station on a new generation of spacecraft made in America and launching from Florida's Space Coast. (10/24)

Donald Trump’s “Peace Through Strength” Space Doctrine (Source: Space News)
Trump policy advisers Robert Walker and Peter Navarro return with a second op-ed detailing the approach a Trump administration would take on national-security space matters... "America’s space program is suffering from significant under-investment — both the weak Obama-Clinton economy and a lack of strategic vision are major causes. Meanwhile, China and Russia continue to move briskly forward with military-focused space initiatives." Click here. (10/24)

October 24, 2016

Blue Origin Buys Warehouse Facility in Washington (Source: Puget Sound Business Journal)
Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos' outer space company, has paid just over $12.4 million for a big warehouse in Kent. Built in 1974, the 120,000-square foot building is across the street from the company's headquarters. Blue Origin officials declined Thursday to comment on why the company bought the building. Blue Origin is also expanding in Florida, where it recently filed a permit to operate two more orbital launch sites at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. (10/20)

Elon Musk Provides More Details About How First Mars Colonists Will Live (Source: Ars Technica)
When he delivered his Mars colonization presentation at the International Astronautical Conference in September, SpaceX founder Elon Musk spent a lot of time discussing the Interplanetary Transport System rocket and spacecraft, But he offered precious little information about what the firsts visitors' life on Mars would look like.

During an AMA on Reddit Sunday afternoon, he filled in a few of those details. After a user named El-Psy-Kangaroo asked about initial missions to Mars, Musk replied that the first "Red Dragon" spacecraft sent to Mars, possibly in 2018 but more likely 2020, would prove the company could land propulsively on the red planet, and then experiment with chemical reactions to find the best way to derive methane and water from the Martian atmosphere. The resulting propellant would, eventually, be used for return missions from Mars. Click here. (10/24)

Musk Offers More Details About Mars Mission Architecture (Source: Space News)
SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk provided some additional details Oct. 23 about a Mars transportation system he unveiled last month, including plans to test in the near future one of its key technologies. Musk answered more than a dozen questions posed by Reddit users about the Interplanetary Transport System.

That system consists of a large reusable booster that will use 42 of the company’s Raptor engines currently under development, along with a reusable spacecraft designed to carry 100 people to the surface of Mars and return to Earth. Development of the Raptor engine, which completed its first test firing shortly before his speech, was one of the key technologies for the system that he announced.

Another was a large propellant tank made of carbon composite materials, far larger than any tank of those materials produced to date. “This is really the hardest part of the spaceship. The other pieces we have a pretty good handle on, but this is the trickiest one, so we wanted to tackle it first,” he said in that speech, showing a full-sized tank the company had just completed. Click here. (10/23)

Astronaut Mark Kelly: The Anti-Trump (Source: Politico)
Mark Kelly is not averse to risk – his go-to Gulf War maneuver for dodging Iraqi SAMs was to flip, cockpit-down, in his A-6 Intruder and let the missile zip on past. Yet even this former Space Shuttle pilot feels an icy waft of danger when he approaches the glowering gun rights advocates who show up to protest his firearms control speeches.

After all, his wife, former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords, was shot through her head five-plus years ago for chatting up her constituents outside a Tucson Safeway, and the couple has been the subject of numerous death threats over the years for their activism. But Kelly, a former astronaut and military pilot, is also a Jersey guy, and he believes deeply in the idea of talking it out with people who want him to shut the hell up, or worse. Click here. (10/24)

The Inside Story Behind Jeff Bezos’ Alien Cameo on ‘Star Trek Beyond’ (Source: GeekWire)
When “Star Trek Beyond” comes out on DVD next week, you can freeze-frame on the big-name cameo appearance that zipped past so quickly in the theaters: Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ moment as an alien Starfleet official. If you missed recognizing him, don’t feel bad. Even Bezos acknowledges that it was a quickie, and the fact that he’s loaded up with face prosthetics doesn’t help.

The “Star Trek” cameo was Bezos’ idea, all the way. He’s been a fan since childhood, and has told interviewers that Amazon’s Alexa AI assistant was inspired by the patient, know-it-all computer on the Starship Enterprise. A movie-prop Enterprise holds a prominent place at the Kent headquarters for Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture. Click here. (10/24)

No, the Universe Is Not Expanding at an Accelerated Rate, Physicists Say (Source: Futurism)
A new study out of Oxford University is questioning the accelerated expansion theory that says dark energy is driving the expansion of the universe. According to the study, accelerated expansion theories are based on an unobserved model, opening up the possibilities to new theories on our expanding universe. (10/23)

The Truth is Out There: Astronomers Capture 234 Signals From Space (Source: Russia Today)
Astronomers have recorded mysterious signals from 234 stars that they believe could indicate the presence of extraterrestrial intelligence - a notion that’s sure to excite alien truthers and beyond. Astronomers Ermanno Borra and Eric Trottier from Laval University in Canada analyzed 2.5 million stars from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) project.

In their resulting study published in Solar and Stellar Astrophysics journal, the pair conclude that the peculiar signals they recorded could be from aliens trying to make contact with Earth. The researchers came to this potential explanation based on a previous study by Borra which predicted the shape of an extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI) signal. The 234 signals identified match this shape exactly. The fact that only a small fraction - 234 out of 2.5 million - of the stars in our sun’s spectrum emitted this signal also matches the previous ETI hypothesis. (10/23)

Unmanned Federation Spacecraft to be Launched from Vostochny Spaceport in 2021 (Source: Tass)
The Federation spacecraft will be launched for the first time from the Vostochny spaceport in the Russian Far East in 2021 in an unmanned version with Android equipment onboard, head of Roscosmos state space corporation Igor Komarov said on Monday. "The first launch of an unmanned version is planned in 2021," Komarov told a meeting devoted to the construction of the Vostochny spaceport.

According to the Roscosmos vice-president, 238 bln rubles ($3.8 bln) will be earmarked for the construction of the 2nd stage of the Vostochny spaceport. "The sum of 238 bln rubles includes 137 bln (rubles) from Roscosmos state corporation, 95 bln (rubles) from Spetsstroy (Federal Agency for Special Construction - TASS) and 6 bln (rubles) from FMBA," Alexander Ivanov said. (10/24)

October 23, 2016

Uranus May Have Two Undiscovered Moons (Source: NASA JPL)
NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft flew by Uranus 30 years ago, but researchers are still making discoveries from the data it gathered then. A new study led by University of Idaho researchers suggests there could be two tiny, previously undiscovered moonlets orbiting near two of the planet's rings. (10/23)

Study Suggests Investment in Swedish Spaceport (Source: SSC)
On Oct. 17 the results of a Swedish Governmental Offices analysis regarding development of the potential capacity at Esrange towards launching of small satellites was briefed to the Space Minister of Sweden. Mr Jan Nygren, who is responsible for the analysis, recommended the Government to further work on realization of the opportunities. He commented the report by saying that Esrange current capability provide good basic prerequisites that could be further developed in a cost effective way to establish a facitlity for launching small satellites. (10/18)

Why Iran and NASA Will Not Be Cooperating Anytime Soon (Source: SpaceWatch)
Recent press reports quote the head of the Iranian Space Agency, Mohsen Bahrami, as saying that he would like to see Iran cooperate with the American space agency, NASA. Occasionally, the media can take a well-meaning phrase or quote from a mid-level official and blow it all out of proportion and context. Before too long, the uttered words have gone viral and what started as an innocuous remark somehow morphs into an official position or even policy in the eyes of the public.

Such was the case when Mohsen Bahrami said “Many in the world look at NASA’s programs…we are interested in having cooperation, naturally. When you are in orbit, there is no country and race.” And with these words the global press went into a frenzy, with one newspaper, the Mexico Star, running the following breathless headline: “Iran and the US: New partners in space.” No rhetorical question mark; no sense of doubt or skepticism…it’s a done deal, apparently.

The reality of space cooperation between countries like the United States and the Soviet Union, or in this case the U.S. and Iran, is that diplomatic dialogue and resolution of key differences creates the positive conditions for space cooperation. For many space cooperation advocates this reality is counterintuitive because their narrative is that it is space cooperation that creates the conditions for the diplomatic dialogue that can resolve underlying political differences between countries. Click here. (10/22)

Canada Plans New Health Technology in Space (Source: CSA)
The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is awarding a new contract to Carré Technologies of Montreal to continue advancing technology on Astroskin, an innovative bio-monitoring system for use aboard the International Space Station. Consisting of a "smart shirt" and related software, Astroskin will collect valuable scientific data on astronauts' vital signs, sleep quality and activity levels during their missions. Canadian Space Agency Astronaut David Saint-Jacques will test Astroskin during his six-month mission aboard the ISS in 2018-19. (10/21)

Tardigrades Can Survive Almost Anything, And Now We Know How (Source: Second Nexus)
Tardigrades, or water bears, are tough little creatures. They’re only half a millimeter long fully-grown, but they can live through almost anything: temperatures as low as -458 degrees Fahrenheit or as high as 300 degrees, pressures six times greater than those in the deepest ocean trenches, extraordinary amounts of radiation, even the vacuum of space. Last month, researchers in Japan published an analysis of the entire genome of one of the most resilient tardigrade species.

In the course of their research, geneticist Takekazu Kunieda and his colleagues from the University of Tokyo found some of the lucky genetic tricks that tardigrades have evolved to keep them safe in extreme environments. Because it is easier to study the processes happening in tardigrade cells when the genes are housed within mammalian cells, the researchers cultured human cells to produce bits of the tardigrade genome. Then, they could manipulate the cells to figure out which genes give the tiny animals their impressive resistance.

In living creatures, dehydration can wreak havoc among cells, even ripping apart DNA. Tardigrades, though, have a protein called Dsup which holds the DNA together under the stress of drying out. When Kunieda and his team discovered this protein in the tardigrade genome, they also found that it protects the DNA from radiation, particularly X-rays. “Tolerance against X-ray is thought to be a side-product of [the] animal’s adaption to severe dehydration,” said Kunieda. (10/17)

Trump Cancels KSC Tour (Source: Florida Today)
Donald Trump's campaign has scrubbed plans to tour Kennedy Space Center and talk about the space program in Brevard County next week. Instead of coming to the Space Coast on Tuesday, the Republican presidential nominee will host a rally at Orlando Sanford International Airport. The switch was made because there is no indoor venue near KSC suitable for a rally that would draw thousands of supporters, and outdoor venues present security concerns. (10/22)

High-Speed Space Rocks Found to Impact the Moon More Often Than Expected (Source: Space Answers)
Meteoroids are striking the Moon much more often than expected, says a team of Arizona State University planetary scientists. But no need to worry – at least until people go back there to explore. The Moon’s surface is being “gardened” – churned by small impacts – more than 100 times faster than scientists previously thought. It also means that any structures placed on the Moon as part of human expeditions will need better protection. (10/17)

Iridium's Stalled Attempt to Blanket the World with Internet Connectivity (Source: Fortune)
Iridium was gearing up to launch the first of a new generation of satellites when the news came in from Cape Canaveral. A rocket—the very same type expected to carry Iridium’s new satellites into orbit—had exploded, mere months before Iridium’s own launch was scheduled. An investigation into the mishap would set back future launches indefinitely. The roll-out of Iridium’s new $5 billion satellite constellation, the backbone of its entire business model, was off to an inauspicious start.

All of this happened in 1997, when Iridium first set out to blanket the globe with satellite-based connectivity. (The rocket, a Lockheed Martin Delta II carrying an Air Force GPS satellite, exploded shortly after liftoff in January of that year.) Almost two decades later, it’s not unreasonable for Iridium CEO Matt Desch to feel déja vu. His company was preparing to launch a new, much-improved constellation of communications satellites—that is, until the explosion of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on the launchpad last month put those plans on hold.

The company’s new constellation—dubbed Iridium Next—will beam data to and from any point on the planet. It will also pack technology capable of tracking every commercial airliner on the planet in real time, including over the oceans. Iridium’s new constellation could change the art of the possible for global satellite communications, Desch says. But once again, the company’s satellites are stuck on the ground. (10/22)

The Next President Will Take Power with Significant Space Decisions Looming (Source: Ars Technica)
At the upper edge of the atmosphere, where the sky kisses outer space, a few molecules of nitrogen and oxygen bounce around. If we consider the presidential election as playing out at the surface of the Earth, amid a thick atmosphere of invective and accusation, it is not a stretch to say the relative importance of space policy lies somewhere near the edge of space, bouncing around inconsequentially, like these stray molecules.

Even so, the next president of the United States will have the ability, if not the desire, to shape the future of America’s civil space programs—especially with major decision points on the horizon, including the privatization of spaceflight and the details of where humans should go beyond low-Earth orbit. For this reason, we’re going to look at what changes a new president might make and what attitudes each candidate has had toward space. Click here. (10/22)

Russia’s space Program is Great at Launching Rockets, But Not Much Else (Source: Quartz)
This week the ExoMars team placed a satellite in orbit around the red planet but failed to land the accompanying spacecraft. Scientifically the mission was largely a success: the satellite will soon start sniffing the Martian atmosphere for signs of present or past life. But the lander’s failure is symbolic of the fortunes of Russia’s Roscosmos, which is an equal partner with the European Space Agency (ESA) on ExoMars.

Russia is one of two nations (the other is China) currently capable of putting humans into space, and at that job it’s been spectacularly reliable. Without Russia’s Soyuz rockets, there would be no US astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS). But on other fronts the once mighty Russian (previously Soviet) space program has floundered. Its last successful interplanetary mission was to Venus in 1984. With Mars, it’s had a string of almost unmitigated failures since its first attempted flyby in 1960. (10/22)

October 22, 2016

NASA Establishes the Small Spacecraft Systems Virtual Institute (Source: NASA)
NASA announces the addition of its newest virtual institute to advance the field of small spacecraft systems. The Small Spacecraft Systems Virtual Institute (S3VI), hosted at NASA’s Ames Research Center, will leverage the growing small spacecraft community, promote innovation, identify emerging technology opportunities, and provide an efficient channel for communication about small spacecraft systems with industry, academia, and other government agencies. (10/21)

Donald Trump May Tour KSC on Tuesday, If At All (Source: Florida Today)
Kennedy Space Center is now preparing for a potential Tuesday, Oct. 25, visit by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, but the campaign is still working out its schedule. Trump's tour of KSC, which had previously been targeted for Monday, would be followed by a roundtable discussion with local aerospace industry representatives and possibly a rally.

The schedule, whose details are still being worked out, anticipates Trump flying into KSC's former space shuttle runway, touring the spaceport and talking with industry representatives in a roundtable discussion hosted by the Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast and Space Florida, the EDC confirmed. (10/21)

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

Previous service at bases’ Internet cafes had “stringent security measures,” Hunter wrote to Army Lt. Gen. Alan Lynn, the head of the Defense Information Systems Agency. But he said he was worried the “contracting arrangement creates unnecessary security risks, given that our deployed warfighters could be exposed to transmitting their personal information over unprotected networks that are controlled by foreign and potentially hostile entities.” (10/21)

FAA to Conduct GPS Testing Over 2 States (Source: Disciples of Flight)
According to a set of flight advisories posted this week, the Federal Aviation Administration is conducting GPS interference testing at facilities in Alaska and Nevada. The FAA has requested that pilots report unreliable or unavailable GPS signals only if they need assistance from air traffic control. (10/19)

Astronomers Unveil Incredibly Detailed New Milky Way Map (Source: CNN)
Scientists have used two of the world's largest telescopes to produce a new, super-detailed map of our galaxy. Astronomers in Germany and Australia charted hydrogen -- the most abundant element in space and the main component of stars and galaxies -- to give an unprecedented view of the Milky Way. The map shows the concentration of stars and dwarf galaxies across the skies. Click here. (10/19)

HERA Campaign 3 Ends with Return of Mission XII Crew (Source: NASA)
The HERA Mission XII crew successfully “splashed-down” on Wednesday, Oct. 19, at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston. This 30-day, on-Earth, simulation paves the way for future human research in the Human Exploration Research Analog (HERA). A spaceflight analog is a situation on Earth that mimics physical and mental effects on the body experienced in space. HERA is one of several research analogs used by the Human Research Program (HRP) to prepare NASA astronauts for deep space missions, such as missions to an asteroid or Mars.

The returning HERA crew members are Ulyana Horodyskyj, Mark Kerr, Jonna Ocampo and Todd Huhn. This highly skilled crew includes an Air Force flight surgeon, a Fulbright scholar, a US Army Corps of Engineers project engineer, and a Team USA powerlifting competitor.

HRP required that the crew conduct the same experiments as the three previous HERA missions this year. This enables researchers to identify patterns and variances in the research data. Experiments included testing hardware prototypes, creating equipment with a 3-D printer, testing out a new concept for space food, flying a simulated exploration vehicle, and the virtual EVA on an asteroid. (10/20)

DOD Uncertain that Smallsats can Handle Big Missions (Source: Via Satellite)
The U.S. government is still waiting to close the business case on widespread use of small satellites and hosted payloads, U.S. Air Force (USAF) Assistant Deputy Under-Secretary David Hardy said. The USAF has requested a $5.5 billion budget for space investment in 2017, and while Hardy noted the enormous progress industry has made in the smallsat space within the last 10 years — particularly when it comes to reducing the cost of entry into space — very little of the proposed budget will go toward this technology until the Department of Defense (DOD) can be convinced they can fulfill the missions necessary for U.S. defense.

"When it comes to small satellites, the answer [for what their progress means for DOD] is still uncertain,” said Hardy. “Yes, it is true there have been tremendous capabilities in being able to make the satellite bus smaller and make the sensors smaller, however, this has been accompanied with the increase in requirements we need from our space. (10/21)

Obama Hosts Twin Astronauts Scott and Mark Kelly (Source: Virginian-Pilot)
President Obama hosted twin brothers and former astronauts Scott and Mark Kelly at the White House on Friday, lauding both men for their contributions to U.S. space travel. Click here. (10/21)

Pool Global Resources for Space Exploration (Source: South China Morning Post)
It says something about humankind’s appetite for new frontiers and curiosity about what lies beyond that China’s latest leap forward in manned space conquest continues to excite such swelling pride at home and interest abroad among the scientific community and people in the street alike.

Apart from Chinese characteristics, there is not much that is groundbreaking about it. But the historic significance of China’s longest space mission, begun with the launch of the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft carrying two astronauts who have docked with an orbiting space laboratory for a 30-day stay, will be enduring.

China is fast drawing level in orbiting technology and research and even raising the bar in some respects, with plans for a full space station by 2022, ahead of deeper manned space probes. Space exploration is developing a critical mass of main space-faring nations – the United States, Russia and China – followed by India, Europe and Japan among others. (10/22)

October 21, 2016

What Went Wrong with Europe’s Mars Lander? Signs Point to Parachute (Source: GeekWire)
The European Space Agency’s Schiaparelli lander apparently crashed after its parachute was ejected too early and its thrusters switched off too soon, according to data relayed back from its orbiting mothership. “We have data coming back that allow us to fully understand the steps that did occur, and why the soft landing did not occur,” David Parker, ESA’s director of human spaceflight and robotic exploration, said.

The orbiter received telemetry from the lander during Wednesday’s descent through the Martian atmosphere and relayed it back early today via a network of radio antennas to ESA’s operations center in Darmstadt, Germany. The relayed readings show that Schiaparelli’s “six minutes of terror” proceeded according to plan until the probe ejected its back heat shield and its parachute. The ejection apparently occurred earlier than expected, ESA said. (10/20)

Georgia Should Pursue Space As It Has Pursued Film and Television Industry (Source: Southern Political Report)
Georgia does very poorly with the space side of the aerospace industry with less than 1/10 of 1 percent market share of a huge $330 billion space industry. Some legislators compare the space industry in Georgia to the film industry. The film industry was paid little attention by Georgia until we started to ask key industry players for their business and then they were all too eager to locate here to the point where Georgia is now realizing over $2 billion of annual revenue from the film industry.

Does Georgia want to concede the space transportation industry to other states? Transportation to low earth orbit is currently being driven by the telecommunications industry, earth monitoring satellites, and national defense. In the next 10 years space tourism, zero gravity manufacturing, and mining rare minerals will fuel more demand for Space launch transportation. Any logistics manager will tell you that hundreds of support companies flock to locate near new manufacturing plants and that is where the economic multiplier effect accelerates the initial plant investment.

When spaceport Camden is licensed by the FAA (currently in Environmental Impact Study phase) it will be a crown jewel for Georgia. The Camden site has been described by at least two launch companies (after they toured it) as the best potential spaceport site in the country. The Georgia strategy is “when a customer knocks on our door we answer the door.” This is not competitive with other states like Texas, Florida and Alabama. (10/20)

Georgia Senate Committee Hears Spaceport Arguments (Source: Golden Isles News)
A state Senate study committee met Thursday in Woodbine to discuss a proposed spaceport in Camden County. Like a similar meeting in September, the public was not allowed to express their opinions, but hand-picked representatives on both sides were allowed to make presentations.

The meeting was called to help state lawmakers determine proposed legislation to protect companies launching rockets in Georgia from nuisance claims. They are expected to vote on the issue during the 2017 General Assembly session. Meanwhile, FAA officials are considering 402 questions that were posed during the public comment period. Questions include the direction of launches, cargo, tourism, relocation of residents in the launch hazard zone, impacts to wildlife and the environment, noise, traffic and lighting concerns.

Other questions about safety reviews, launch and landing licenses, economic feasibility and off-site impacts were also asked, but they are beyond the scope of the environmental impact study, he said. Montague said it’s likely the site will be approved for launches, even if only one launch trajectory is approved. “They may disallow certain trajectories,” he said. (10/20)

New Chinese Company Set Up to Develop Space Economy (Source: Global Times)
The commercialization of rocket launches will boost the industry by bringing space tourism income and attracting private investment, experts said. ChinaRocket Co. Ltd, a subsidiary of China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, the country's largest developer of ballistic missiles and carrier rockets, was established on Wednesday, marking the commercialization of China's space industry.

"Chinese commercial space enterprises are lagging behind the global market due to lack of complete production chain in the commercial space industry and experience in commercial space activities like space tourism," Li Hong, president of the academy, said at a press conference on Wednesday. 

"Commercializing rocket launches will help develop the industry as many private companies will be interested in the sector," said Jiao Weixin, a professor at the School of Earth and Space Science of Peking University. Jiao said the establishment of the company signals that State-controlled space industry is stepping into ordinary people's daily life. (10/21)

Russia Launches Soyuz Rocket with New ISS Crew (Source: KazInform)
Russia's Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft has been launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan atop a Soyuz-FG rocket to carry three new International Space Station (ISS) crew members. Russian cosmonauts Sergei Ryzhikov and Andrei Borisenko, along with US Astronaut Shane Kimbrough, are expected to dock with the ISS' Poisk module at 10:00 GMT on October 21. (10/20)

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos Thinks Space Can Be the New Internet (Source: The Verge)
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos saw Neil Armstrong step on the Moon nearly 50 years ago and the moment changed his life. Now, as the head of one of the robust online retailers in the world, Bezos says that space is the next frontier, a new internet if you will, that is desperately lacking in infrastructure to support new entrepreneurs. Bezos said the sole purpose of his rocket venture Blue Origin is to build out the same kind of infrastructure for space that Amazon enjoyed in 1995 with the early internet.

"Two kids in their dorm room can reinvent an industry," Bezos said, referring to the strengths of the modern internet. "Two kids in their dorm room cannot do anything interesting in space." Bezos says rocket reusability needs to be improved, and both Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s SpaceX are working toward the goal of vastly reducing the cost of sending payloads to space. Bezos said there's also a number of restraints right now that prevent the kind of entrepreneurial spirit that helped create Amazon do the same for a next-generation space venture. "We need to be able to put big things in space at low cost." (10/20)

Mars Lander Lost Signal One Minute Before Landing (Source: Guardian)
It travelled half a billion kilometres across the solar system, deployed its parachute flawlessly and survived a scorching descent through the Martian atmosphere, but the European Space Agency (ESA) has confirmed that its ExoMars lander was lost just one minute before it touched down on the surface of the red planet.

The Schiaparelli Mars lander showed the first signs of a glitch as it released its parachute 1km from the surface and the signal went dead soon afterwards, ESA scientists said on Thursday, leaving them unsure of where the probe is and whether it crash-landed. (10/20)

SpaceX's Shotwell Defends Rocket Maker In Sex Harassment Trial (Source: Law360)
The president of SpaceX told a Los Angeles jury Wednesday that the company took complaints of sexual harassment seriously in an appearance on the stand to defend against claims the aerospace company ignored an employee's sexual harassment of a female welder and later retaliated against her. (10/19)

Juno Enters Safe Mode After Anomaly (Source: Space News)
NASA's Juno spacecraft went into safe mode early Wednesday hours before it made a close approach to Jupiter. Project officials said Wednesday afternoon they were still trying to determine what caused Juno to go into safe more than 13 hours before reaching the closest point in its elliptical orbit around Jupiter. The safe mode interrupted science observations planned during the flyby.

The safe mode comes days after a problem with the spacecraft's main engine postponed a maneuver originally scheduled for the flyby that would have reduce the spacecraft's orbit from 53 to 14 days. Juno could still carry out its mission to study the planet's interior in its current orbit, but would require more time to collect the data. (10/19)

Boeing Orders Space Qualified Lithium-Ion Batteries (Source: GYLP)
GS Yuasa Lithium Power, a US subsidiary of GS Yuasa Corporation, has received an order from Boeing for the procurement of LSE190 lithium-ion cells to be used in GEO satellite applications. This award follows on the recently announced Long Term Supply Agreement between Boeing and GYLP. The LSE190 cells will be used to power ViaSat's first two ViaSat-3 geostationary communications satellites. (10/18)

Virgin Galactic Files Trade Secrets Claims Against Firefly (Source: Crowell Moring)
Virgin Galactic filed suit last week against competing space flight company Firefly Systems and two of its officers, alleging that Firefly misappropriated its trade secrets and confidential information. The lawsuit is the latest salvo in an on-going battle between Galactic and the CEO of Firefly, Thomas Markusic, a former employee of Galactic who started the rival company in late 2013.

While the Company has pending claims in arbitration against Markusic, this new suit attacks both Firefly and Markusic’s business partners for knowingly using and benefitting from the alleged misappropriation. The arbitration has been marred by discovery disputes, allegations of spoliation, and a recent attempt (after 2 years of arbitration) by Markusic to challenge the arbitrability of the dispute.

According to the new Complaint, Galactic hired Markusic in 2011 as its VP of Propulsion. Markusic’s role gave him intimate knowledge of the Company’s research into liquid rocket propulsion, space vehicle architecture, “aerospike” technology, and other confidential projects. While still employed at Galactic, Markusic allegedly solicited business partners and founded Firefly based on concepts and data he obtained in the course of his work. (10/20)

Here's What It'll Be Like to Take a Ride on Blue Origin's Rocket (Source: Mashable)
According to newly updated information published on Blue Origin's website, a flight aboard the company's New Shepard space system will be quite the rocket ride. At launch from the company's site in Texas, people aboard the capsule will experience three times the force of gravity (3Gs) for about 2.5 minutes as the booster accelerates up to space. Click here for a video. (10/21)

Leonardo Finmeccanica to Double Stake in Avio to 28 Percent (Source: Reuters)
Italian defence group Leonardo Finmeccania said on Thursday it would double its stake in aerospace company Avio to 28 percent, paying a total price of 43 million euros ($47 million). The transaction, which will strengthen the core business of the state-controlled group in the space sector, envisages the exit of private equity firm Cinven from Avio and its merger with special purpose acquisition company Space2. (10/20)

China Wants the Moon. But First, It Has to Spend a Month in Space (Source: WIRED)
China's Tiangong-2 is like a baby International Space Station. Sure, it doesn’t have the ISS’s scale, technological sophistication, or multi-national backing. But it’s the technical testing ground for the grown up space station China plans to launch in the next couple of years. Which will more permanent, and about the size of Mir.

Like everything China does, people consistently underestimate the nation’s space program. Common snubs include: It’s miles behind the curve; their gear is all Russian knockoffs; their launch schedules are hopelessly slapdash. Yeah, those have all been true at one point, but not an honest assessment of the program as it currently stands.

The notion that China is a burgeoning space superpower is harder to deny. “This is the pivot year in the Chinese space program,” McDowell says. “They’ve got lots of hardware coming through the pipeline, and are now preparing to switch over to a new generation of rockets.” A Long March 2F launched Monday’s spacecraft, but China expects to start test flying the Long March 5 in early November. (10/19)

Elon Musk's Empire (Source: The Economist)
Musk Inc has perhaps $8 billion of sales, and is set to burn $2.3 billion of cash during 2016. Its structure developed in a haphazard fashion. It includes both public and private firms, reflecting the fact that Tesla and SolarCity floated before the craze for so-called unicorns, or technology firms such as Uber that rely on private investors. Musk Inc also carries echoes of Asian and Italian business federations, which pool resources and people: SolarCity uses batteries made by Tesla, for example, and SpaceX has made loans to SolarCity.

Mr Musk dreams of populating Mars and of hyperloops that transport people in pods between Los Angeles and San Francisco in 35 minutes. But his financial objectives are probably identical to those of carpet or chewing-gum tycoons: to raise cash, to get a high valuation and to keep control.

Consider the ways in which Mr Musk drums up cash, first of all. He has raised an epic $6 billion of equity from investors, staff and even from Tesla’s competitors (for a while, Toyota and Daimler owned stakes in the carmaker). Musk Inc also owes about $6 billion of debt to bond investors and banks. But what sets it apart is the $7 billion of cash and revenue that it has squeezed from unconventional sources. (10/21)

Presidential Campaigns Talk Space Policy (Source: WMFE)
The Trump and Clinton campaigns have unveiled their plans for space policy if they take the White House.
Senior advisers to the Donald Trump campaign publish an op-ed, calling for a bold combination of public missions, commercial solutions and agility when it comes to planning future space policy. Outlined in the piece, the Trump campaign called for a greater public-private partnerships when it comes to space operations. NASA should focus on deep space exploration and leave low earth operations to private companies like SpaceX and Orbital ATK. Click here. (10/21)

Peace Underpins China's Space Endeavors (Source: Xinhua)
China's efforts to build the nation into a space power through its manned space program and space probe have been made in the spirit of peace. However, coverage by Western media of China's successful launch of the manned spacecraft Shenzhou-11 on Monday alluded to the project's military background.

Western media outlets were quick to comment on the mission's supposed military elements. Mentions of China's commitment to international cooperation and sharing lessons from its manned space program with other countries, especially developing countries, were absent in much of the coverage.

Driven by the principle of peaceful use of outer space, China has signed multiple cooperation agreements with over 30 countries and organizations including Russia, Kazakhstan, Germany, France, the European Space Agency and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs. (10/20)

Opponents to Take Aim at Giant Telescope at Hawaii Hearing (Source: ABC)
A $1.4 billion project to build one of the world's largest telescopes is up against intense protests by Native Hawaiians and others who say building it on the Big Island's Mauna Kea mountain will desecrate sacred land. Hearings for the project's construction permit began Thursday.

By the end of the day, the first witness was still being questioned by the numerous parties involved in the case. It's the second time the project has faced the proceedings. Dozens of witnesses plan to testify in the coming weeks, including a group of Native Hawaiians who support the telescope. It's not clear when a retired judge overseeing the hearings would rule. (10/20)

NASA's MRO Views Schiaparelli Crash/Landing Site (Source: ESA)
NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has identified new markings on the surface of the Red Planet that are believed to be related to ESA’s ExoMars Schiaparelli entry, descent and landing technology demonstrator module. Click here. (10/21)

Unsuccessful Attempts to Land on Mars (Source: Guardian)
The apparent failure of the European Space Agency’s Mars lander to touch down safely is just the latest of a series of setbacks for scientists eager to learn more about the red planet. Click here. (10/20)

NASA Learns More About How Mars is Losing Water (Source: Inverse)
One of the primary goals behind the MAVEN orbiter is to better characterize the atmosphere’s role in facilitating and propagating the loss of Martian water. Results from the nearly two year-long study (the length of a year on Mars) illustrates that the water escape rate peaked when Mars made its closest orbit to the sun, and was at its lowest when the planet was farthest from the sun. Loss at the maximum was 10 times higher than at the minimum.

Fluctuations of water loss were also observed over the course of the Martian year — although the leak steadily rose and declined as Mars moved closer and further from the sun, there were punctuated bursts in water loss observed. (10/21)

Smith, Babin Examine Policy Governing Indian Launch Vehicles (Source: U.S. House of Reps.)
Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Space Subcommittee Chairman Brian Babin (R-TX) yesterday sent letters to four senior officials following up on requests for information about the current U.S. policy governing the export of U.S. commercial satellites for launch on Indian launch vehicles.

On July 6 Chairmen Smith and Babin wrote Director of Office of Science and Technology Policy John Holdren, Secretary of State John Kerry, United States Trade Representative Michael Froman, and U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, seeking this information. (10/21)

October 20, 2016

Medvedev: Russia Must Do Everything to Keep its Status of Space Power (Source: Tass)
Russia values its status of a space power and must do everything possible to keep it, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Wednesday. The Russian premier made this statement at a meeting on preparations for building facilities of the 2nd stage of the Vostochny spaceport in the Far East. "We appreciate this status and would like to do everything to ensure that our country keeps this status," Medvedev said. (10/19)

Space Florida Seeks FDOT Approval to Help SpaceX (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Space Florida is looking to help SpaceX pay to update its launch pad. The agency will ask Florida Department of Transportation for $5 million to contribute to infrastructure improvements on Spaceport Launch Complex 39A, which SpaceX hopes will one day be the site of rocket launches that send humans to Mars. The move will be discussed during an online-only board meeting next Wednesday.

According to meeting documents, "project match funding" from FDOT would be used for "infrastructure improvements by SpaceX." The move would authorize Space Florida to enter into an agreement with SpaceX. (10/18)

Sea Level Rise Threatens Air Force Tracking Station (Source: AP)
Another Air Force space tracking system could be threatened by climate change. The Air Force is building the Space Fence radar at Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean. Scientists say the atoll is vulnerable to flooding as climate change causes sea levels to rise, and could be submerged by storms at least once a year within a few decades. The Air Force and Lockheed Martin, the Space Fence contractor, said that they do not believe rising sea levels pose a risk during the 25-year lifetime of the Space Fence, and that they can build seawalls if necessary to deal with any flooding risks. (10/18)

Clouds Above Pluto (Source: The Guardian)
Data from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft suggests Pluto's tenuous atmosphere may have clouds. Observations by the spacecraft during its 2015 flyby are "quite suggestive" of clouds at dusk and dawn on the planet, although scientists cautioned that the presence of the clouds can't be confirmed since they form close to the surface, beyond the resolution of the spacecraft's instruments. The last of the data collected during that July 2015 flyby will be transmitted back to Earth on Sunday. (10/18)

Opinion: How To Colonize Mars (Source: Aviation Week)
Within a month, the aspiration to send humans to Mars seems to have reached a new level of media exposure. First Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin disclosed its plan to build the New Glenn, a rocket with the potential to send humans into space. Then SpaceX CEO Elon Musk presented his vision of how we could shuttle to and from Mars within a couple of decades. And two weeks later, President Obama wrote an op-ed calling for America to set its sights on sending humans to Mars by the 2030s with the ambition of remaining there for an extended time.

While coming from different angles, both Musk and Obama emphasized the need for a public-private partnership to achieve these ambitious goals.

Musk’s main objective is to make the trip to Mars affordable for as many people as possible. His hypothesis is that if one can bring the cost down to the median cost of a house in the U.S.—$200,000—then there will be a critical mass of people who can afford and are willing to go. In order to reach that affordability threshold, he believes government money will be needed along the way, hence the need for a public-private partnership. Click here. (10/19)

Soyuz Launches to Space Station With New Crew (Source: Space.com)
A Soyuz spacecraft is on its way to the space station after a launch early this morning. A Soyuz rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 4:05 a.m. Eastern and placed the Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft into orbit. On board the spacecraft are Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko and American astronaut Shane Kimbrough. The Soyuz spacecraft will dock with the station early Friday. (10/18)

FAA and Pentagon Foresee Gradual Transition of Space Traffic Management (Source: Space News)
Should the federal government decide to shift responsibility for at least some space traffic management activities from the Defense Department to the Federal Aviation Administration, officials with both agencies expect a gradual transition, starting with a pilot program.

In presentations Oct. 12, the head of the FAA’s commercial space transportation office and a U.S. Strategic Command general both endorsed a “crawl, walk, run” approach to handing over responsibility for providing safety-related space situational awareness data, like warnings of potential collisions between satellites and other objects in orbit, to non-military satellite operators.

“It would be very feasible to do that,” said George Nield, FAA associate administrator for commercial space transportation, in his ISPCS speech. “We want to accomplish that transition as soon as possible, but to do that in a ‘crawl, walk, run’ manner so that all of the key stakeholders are comfortable with the approaches being used, the progress being made, and the products and services that are provided.” (10/18)

Space is Full of Gigantic Holes That are Bigger than We Expected (Source: New Scientist)
Since 1981, when astronomers found a vacant expanse called the Boötes void, we’ve also known that the universe has holes of cold, dark, lonely nothing that are larger than anyone expected. To truly understand the universe, we may have to gaze into the abyss.

This is no statistical accident. At very large scales, the universe is often described as a cosmic web, with strands of invisible dark matter undergirding the universe’s luminous structure. It might be better here to think of it as cosmic foam, like soap bubbles in a bathtub. Just as it’s sudsy where bubbles intersect, galaxy clusters concentrate in walls, filaments and intersections. In between is mostly void. (10/18)

Will NASA Ever Work With China? (Source: Popular Mechanics)
It's been a banner year for China's spacefaring ambitions. The country launched satellites to test quantum communications and search for dark matter, built the world's largest radio telescope, and launched a new space station into orbit (though its old one is about to come crashing back to Earth). It seems that the country is well on its way to becoming the "space giant" its president envisioned in a speech earlier this year.

Things got really chilly between American and Chinese space operations in 1998, when a congressional commission led by Christopher Cox found that technical information American space companies had given to China for use in commercial satellites wound up in improved Chinese intercontinental ballistic missiles. This effectively led to an embargo on U.S.-Chinese cooperation in space throughout the 2000s, an isolationist program reaffirmed in 2010 when former congressman Frank Wolf sponsored a bill that prohibited any sort of cooperation between NASA or the U.S. Office of Science and Technology and Chinese nationals.

"NASA was banned from bilateral relations with China as though that was somehow going to thwart or slow down Chinese plans for space," said Johnson-Freese. "In fact, if anything, it has given them an impetus to work faster and more broadly." To Johnson-Freese, the U.S. missed a big opportunity here. "Working with China, I think we would have had an opportunity to shape their space agenda. But now China has developed a very aggressive, across-the-board space program on their own and we ended up with less control, not more control." (10/18)

The Low-Tech Way to Colonize Mars (Source: The Atlantic)
Philip Metzger has been playing with mud. Experimenting, you could say, as he’s a planetary scientist at the University of Central Florida and co-founder of NASA’s Swamp Works lab. In any case, his lab has been stuffing Martian clay into cupcake decorating bags and extruding it into what Metzger himself admits sometimes look like an “animal dropping.”

But one man’s cupcake decorating with mud is another man’s prototyping of 3D-printing on Mars. And 3D-printing could solve the single biggest hurdle to a crewed Mars expedition: the cost of transporting everything humans need to survive on the red planet.

It’s a mass problem. The more mass you have to take, the more expensive it is to escape Earth’s gravity and get to Mars. And some of the heaviest cargo will be material to shelter astronauts from the radiation zipping through Mars’ thin atmosphere. With 3D-printing, you don’t need to bring shelter. You build it out of dirt or ice already on Mars. Click here. (10/18)

Shenzhou-11 Astronauts Enter Tiangong-2 Space Lab (Source: Xinhua)
Two Chinese astronauts Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong have entered the space lab Tiangong-2. The two astronauts onboard the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft entered the space lab Tiangong-2 Wednesday morning. The two astronauts extended greetings to all the people of the nation in the space lab, and checked the status of the space complex formed by Shenzhou-11 and Tiangong-2.

Before entering the space lab, the two astronauts entered Shenzhou-11's orbital compartment and removed their intravehicular mobility unit spacesuits to change into blue jumpsuits. They will live in the space lab for 30 days before returning to Earth. Shenzhou-11 was launched on Monday morning from northwest China's Gobi Desert. (10/19)

DOD Has Potential For Private Partnerships, Officials Say (Source: Law360)
Building off of success with public private partnerships in military housing, defense experts and officials said Tuesday there are more opportunities for the U.S. Department of Defense to encourage private investment, even as policy decisions like housing allowance reductions or base closures form “clouds on the horizon."

Editor's Note: There is much potential for adjusting the Air Force's role at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, allowing a spaceport authority to play a more central role in land use allocations and planning while the Air Force (and Navy) become tenants. Space Florida is supporting an ongoing study of alternatives for management of the increasingly commercial spaceport. (10/18)

Air Force's GPS System Report Lacks Key Details, GAO Says (Source: Law360)
The U.S. Air Force's quarterly report on its GPS modernization programs, including the development of its next-generation satellite control system, provided "important information" on some program aspects but also included gaps and inconsistencies, according to a U.S. Government Accountability Office report issued Monday. (10/18)

SpaceX Welder Seeks $8M As Sex Harassment Trial Launches (Source: Law360)
The attorney for a former SpaceX welder who claims the company allowed a senior welder to repeatedly sexually harass her asked a California jury during Tuesday opening statements for $8 million in damages, while the aerospace company countered that the woman's story is a "fabrication." (10/18)

Air Force Launches Space Consortium That Puts Startups to Work On Prototypes (Source: Defense News)
The Air Force is looking for a company to lead a new space consortium formed to help broaden participation in space acquisition programs to startups and small businesses. During an Air Force Innovation Forum, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James on Monday announced that the service had issued a request for information for a not-for-profit manager of the Space Enterprise Consortium.

Companies that take part in the consortium will be eligible to compete for rapid prototyping projects and — if successful — spin them off into programs of record. Although both large and small businesses and traditional and nontraditional firms will be chosen for the group, the service especially wants to see increased participation from startups and other vendors that are pioneering innovative space capabilities but don’t necessarily work regularly with the Defense Department, James said. (10/18)

Is Planet Nine Tilting The Sun? (Source: SpaceRef)
Planet Nine, the undiscovered planet at the edge of the solar system that was predicted by the work of Caltech's Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown in January 2016, appears to be responsible for the unusual tilt of the Sun, according to a new study. The large and distant planet may be adding a wobble to the solar system, giving the appearance that the Sun is tilted slightly.

All of the planets orbit in a flat plane with respect to the Sun, roughly within a couple degrees of each other. That plane, however, rotates at a six-degree tilt with respect to the Sun -- giving the appearance that the Sun itself is cocked off at an angle. Until now, no one had found a compelling explanation to produce such an effect. "It's such a deep-rooted mystery and so difficult to explain that people just don't talk about it," says Brown, the Richard and Barbara Rosenberg Professor of Planetary Astronomy. (10/19)

Continued Space Investment Growth Not Guaranteed, Investors Caution (Source: Space News)
Despite an influx of money being invested in space companies in recent years, investors and analysts warned that there is no guarantee this growth will continue in the coming years. “We’re in a great spot right now in terms of the way investment dollars are flowing. I don’t think anybody I talk to in this sector takes that for granted,” said Will Porteous, general partner and chief operating officer of investment firm RRE Ventures, during a panel at the 32nd Space Symposium here April 13.

Porteous cautioned that the investment climate can change quickly depending on the overall economic picture as well as industry-specific events. He didn’t name any specific threats, but his comments come among recent concerns that there is a “bubble” of investment in technology firms in general that could soon burst. (10/19)

DARPA Hands Over Space Tracking Telescope to the Air Force (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has transferred operations of a telescope designed to track objects in Earth orbit to the U.S. Air Force, ahead of a move of that telescope to Australia. In a ceremony in New Mexico Oct. 18, DARPA formally handed over operations of the Space Surveillance Telescope (SST) to Air Force Space Command. The transfer comes after several years of testing and operations of the 3.5-meter telescope by DARPA on a mountaintop at the White Sands Missile Range.

DARPA developed the telescope to be able to scan large regions of the sky, particularly in the geostationary arc. “SST is focused on tracking and identifying debris and satellites about 36,000 kilometers the Earth,” said Lindsay Millard, the telescope’s program manager at DARPA, in a conference call with reporters. “It can survey its entire GEO belt in its field of view, which is about one-quarter of the sky above New Mexico, multiple times in one night.”

Millard said DARPA developed several key technologies for the telescope. They include the telescope itself, with a steeply curved primary mirror to enable a large field of view. DARPA also developed the first curved charge-coupled device detector for the telescope’s camera, enabling it to take images from the telescope without distortion. A high-speed shutter allows it to take thousands of images a night. Those capabilities allow SST to see more, and smaller, objects than existing systems, like the network of optical telescopes known as the Ground-based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance (GEODSS). (10/19)

Mars May Have Claimed Another Spacecraft (Source: Ars Technica)
As of the latest update from the ESA, there's no indication of any post-landing communication. Operators are planning on analyzing the signals they have to determine whether the lander was on the expected trajectory during descent, and expect to have more news tomorrow morning. The outlook is not terribly promising. Meanwhile, the in-space component of the ExoMars mission, the Trace Gas Orbiter, successfully reached orbit after a two-hour burn of its engine. This spacecraft will look for methane and other trace gases in the Martian atmosphere. (10/19)

Orbital ATK Looks Deeper Into Space Following Successful Launch (Source: Washington Business Journal)
Orbital ATK is no doubt celebrating — and breathing a sigh of relief — following its first successful launch of its Antares rocket since that same brand of rocket exploded seconds after takeoff two years ago. But Orbital ATK isn’t viewing this as moment of redemption, but rather as an opportunity to position its signature space vehicles for future deep-space missions.

Following these commercial cargo launches, Orbital ATK wants to sell NASA on its cislunar space habitats. These space habitats would essentially be modified Cygnus vehicles that go beyond its current mission of delivering cargo in low-earth orbit — about 250 miles out — to the International Space Station, all the way out into cislunar space — the region comprising the moon’s orbit. (10/19)

Trump’s Space Policy Reaches for Mars and the Stars (Source: Space News)
Despite its importance in our economic and security calculations, space policy is uncoordinated within the federal government. A Trump administration would end the lack of proper coordination by reinstituting a national space policy council headed by the vice president. The mission of this council would be to assure that each space sector is playing its proper role in advancing U.S. interests.

Key goals would be to would create lower costs through greater efficiencies. As just one example, a Trump administration will insist that space products developed for one sector, but applicable to another, be fully shared. It makes little sense for numerous launch vehicles to be developed at taxpayer cost, all with essentially the same technology and payload capacity. Coordinated policy would end such duplication of effort and quickly determine where there are private sector solutions that do not necessarily require government investment.

Public-private partnerships should be the foundation of our space efforts. Such partnerships offer not only the benefit of reduced costs, but the benefit of partners capable of thinking outside of bureaucratic structures and regulations. Click here. Editor's Note: So VP Pence would head a renewed National Space Council, like VP Dan Quayle did for President George H.W. Bush. President Obama had also pledged to do this when campaigning for his first term, but it didn't happen. (10/19)