April 23, 2014

Future of Space Medical Devices: Robotics, Cold Plasma and Compact MRI (Source: Space Safety)
Manned solar system exploration will need more than powerful rockets and spaceships capable of sustaining human life for a long period. The on-going evolution of medical technology and accurate risk analyses continually raises the bar for the medical devices needed for a long-duration mission. In order for humans to travel and live outside “the cradle,” it is necessary to develop technology able to provide early diagnosis and effective treatment of health conditions.

Current space medical technologies are still far from having the same effectiveness of ground medical equipment. Zero-gravity, power requirements, and size are the most important limits preventing the direct transfer of medical technology from ground applications to orbit. However, these same restrictions create incentives to find innovative solutions. Click here. (4/23)

How Apollo 12 Helped Solve the Skydiver Meteorite Mystery (Source: Planetary Society)
The news went viral a couple of weeks ago. A team in Norway announced that a skydiver was almost struck by a meteorite in flight. The event was actually two years ago. Since then, a team performed an impressive amount of analysis to measure the falling rock and predict where it had fallen. If confirmed as a meteorite, this would be the first time one had ever been filmed after the fireball when it has gone cold and is falling at terminal velocity.

When they compared it to a typical meteorite falling at terminal velocity, it seemed most likely that it was 4.6 meters away from the skydiver, making it 12 by 16 centimeters in size, and an estimated 4.6 kilograms in mass. The shape, albedo, texture, and other details of the rock also reasonably agreed with common meteorites. Our analysis suggests the rock was either quite close – about a meter away and only a few centimeters in diameter – or else quite far – about 13 meters away and very large in diameter. Thus, it was either a very, very large meteorite, or it was just a small piece of gravel.

A meteor at the larger size would have made a brilliant fireball in the sky and would have been much easier to find on the ground. This leads to the idea that the smaller sized rock was more likely the correct solution, so it might have been just a stowaway piece of gravel that had fallen out of the parachute pack. It was also suspicious that the rock flew by the camera so near the time the parachute was released. Click here. (4/23)

NASA’s Extended Science Missions in Peril (Source: Air & Space)
The community of planetary scientists is abuzz over the upcoming “Senior Review” of the Science Mission Directorate (SMD), as managers at NASA decide which ongoing robotic science missions will receive necessary funding to continue their extended missions.  Up on the chopping block are missions that cover a wide range of targets and levels of effort.  

Some, like the MESSENGER mission currently orbiting Mercury, are nearing the end of their useful lifetime (MESSENGER is running low on propellant to maintain a stable orbit). Others, such as the Cassini spacecraft currently orbiting Saturn, have momentum by virtue of their stability; it has little need for propulsive maneuvers and runs on a long-lived (nuclear) power source. Click here. (4/22)

Spacewalkers Swap Out Failed Computer on Space Station (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Steve Swanson replaced a failed computer on the International Space Station's power truss Wednesday, efficiently racing through a short spacewalk to restore full functionality to a critical control network. (4/23)

Northrop Grumman Reports First-Quarter Results (Source: SpaceRef)
Northrop Grumman reported first quarter 2014 net earnings increased 18 percent to $579 million, compared to $489 million in the first quarter of 2013. (4/23)

Pentagon Undecided on Future Path for Space Systems (Source: National Defense)
Defense officials agree that the military must change the way it buys satellites and space services. They just can’t settle on exactly how it should be done. The debate over the future of military space programs has dragged on for years. There is consensus within the Defense Department and space agencies that military satellites are too complex, and expensive to buy and maintain.

And everyone agrees that satellites will become increasingly vulnerable to anti-satellite weapons, jamming and cyber attacks. There is also widespread agreement that the market offers attractive alternatives to the status quo. Companies are designing smaller, cheaper satellites that can do most of the functions now performed by military spacecraft. Satellites that already are being built for civilian users could host military payloads.

But parties remain split over how the Defense Department should go about transitioning to a less expensive, more secure future in space. Despite concerns about spending cuts across the military, the Pentagon still has a considerable budget of $17 billion a year for space systems. Some officials have argued the military should continue to develop its own systems because commercial technology is not as trustworthy. Click here. (4/23)

Musk and Gass Go Toe-to-Toe in Q&A (Source: Space News)
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk called out rival United Launch Alliance for its $1 billion in annual U.S. Air Force support funding, while ULA CEO Michael Gass questioned SpaceX’s ability to launch the full slate of government missions at its advertised prices in a written exchange recently submitted to the U.S. Senate. Click here for ULA's questions to SpaceX, and here for SpaceX's questions to ULA. (4/23)

NASA’s Lofty Mars Goal Doesn’t Match Budget Reality (Source: Washington Post)
Budget realities require a modest approach to human space exploration and not an Apollo-style moonshot. Yet NASA officials admit humans won’t reach Mars at current funding levels, and it’s difficult to see where extra money will come from in an age of shrinking budgets. Rather than attempting to send people to Mars on the cheap, there’s a compelling argument that we could accomplish more with a less expensive strategy of unmanned exploration.

The Congressional Budget Office said last fall that eliminating NASA’s human space exploration program (but leaving robotic exploration intact) would save $73 billion over a decade. The CBO noted that “increased capabilities in electronics and information technology have generally reduced the need for humans to fly space missions. The scientific instruments used to gather knowledge in space rely much less (or not at all) on nearby humans to operate them.”

I asked Bolden about the CBO report. He said that robots can’t “reason and make logical decisions about alternative courses” the way humans can, and he pointed out that “if the ultimate goal is to make humans multi-planet species, then you’ve got to do it at some point.” That’s true. But our current trajectory won’t get us there anyway. Click here. (4/23)

Bitcoins in Space One Step Closer - BitSat Design Study Announced (Source: SpaceRef)
Bitcoins took one small step towards space today with the announcement of a preliminary design contract between Jeff Garzik's Dunvegan Space Systems and Deep Space Industries Inc. as part of a drive to develop an orbital system for the not-for-profit BitSat project. The BitSats will comprise an orbital node for the bitcoin network now on Earth with a constellation of tiny BitSats continuously broadcasting the latest bitcoin block from orbit, enhancing the resiliency of bitcoin in the event of disruptions or outages to the terrestrial bitcoin P2P mesh network. (4/23)

Space Operations Degree Featured at Speaker Series Event (Source: ERAU)
At Embry-Riddle's Daytona Beach Campus, two faculty members — Dr. Lance Erickson, Commercial Space Operations program coordinator and author of Space Flight: History, Technology, and Operations, and Diane Howard, assistant professor of Commercial Space Operations — will spoke on Wednesday, April 23. This event is an offering of the President’s Speaker Series, sponsored by Embry-Riddle President Dr. John Johnson. (4/23)

The Hackers Who Recovered NASA’s Lost Lunar Photos (Source: WIRED)
Sitting incongruously among the hangars and laboratories of NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley is the squat facade of an old McDonald’s. Its cash registers and soft-serve machines have given way to old tape drives and modern computers run by a team of hacker engineers who’ve rechristened the place McMoon’s. These self-described techno-archaeologists have been on a mission to recover and digitize forgotten photos taken in the ‘60s by a quintet of scuttled lunar satellites.

The Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project has since 2007 brought some 2,000 pictures back from 1,500 analog data tapes. They contain the first high-resolution photographs ever taken from behind the lunar horizon, including the first photo of an earthrise (first slide above). Thanks to the technical savvy and DIY engineering of the team at LOIRP, it’s being seen at a higher resolution than was ever previously possible. (4/23)

First, Lasso an Asteroid. NASA Reveals Plan for Man on Mars (Source: The Times)
A manned mission to Mars is “feasible, affordable and necessary” if the human race is to survive, NASA chiefs insisted yesterday as they set out a path to land on the Red Planet soon after 2030. Charles Bolden plotted a series of “stepping stones” to Mars that included “lassoing” an asteroid; using 3D printers for on-board repairs; cultivating plants in space in advance of a three-year return trip to the planet’s surface and — essentially — more cash from Congress. (4/22)

A Mars Mission for Budget Travelers (Source: National Geographic)
Sending astronauts to Mars could be done at a small fraction of the cost of developing and flying the F-35 fighter jet, according to a rough estimate put forward by a panel of NASA, industry, and academic experts. While a two-decade campaign to prepare a manned mission to Mars would certainly be expensive, it would cost nothing close to the $1 trillion figure that has sometimes been cited, the panel concluded.

Instead the mission could be funded out of the current NASA budget, with allowances for inflation, along with contributions from other countries. "It's feasible, it's affordable, and it can be done without impacting the federal budget or the NASA budget," he said. "This message is getting across, and there's more support now in Congress and the public for [sending] humans to Mars than ever before." (4/22)

NASA's Confused Mission Apparent (Source: Bloomberg)
NASA’s long-confused mission was evident today -- Earth Day 2014 -- when Administrator Charles Bolden keynoted a conference about Mars, the red planet, before zipping across downtown Washington to give a speech about the blue-green one. The search for NASA's singular post cold-war or even post-Nixon identity has been op-ed fodder for years -- be it "black hole budgets" (2008), post-Moon wins (1998) or skewed priorities in (1981), to name just three.

NASA's official vision in the 21st century should be to explore life's origin and its future. Full stop. Manned exploration of the Solar System was a dream for baby boomers when they were kids. Our kids deserve something no less inspirational and even more practical. Charity starts at home, not Mars. In his Mars speech, Bolden made the case for why the history of Mars is important for understanding the history of Earth.

He doesn’t successfully make the case that sending humans is a more effective way to study it than sending, say, mass spectrometers. An "explore life's past and future" vision statement would cover a lot of ground. It’s vague, and a little confounding, which is important because bureaucracies always seem to like their statements vague and a little confounding. It also constrains NASA’s work in a way that celebrates life and avoids the costs and risks of sending humans to other orbs. (4/22)

NASA Chief Tells the Critics of Exploration Plan: 'Get Over It' (Source: NBC News)
For years, critics have been taking shots at NASA's plans to corral a near-Earth asteroid before moving on to Mars — and now NASA's chief has a message for those critics: "Get over it, to be blunt." NASA Administrator Charles Bolden defended the space agency's 20-year timeline for sending astronauts to the Red Planet on Tuesday. That timeline calls for NASA to develop a new Orion crew capsule and a heavy-lift rocket called the Space Launch System while continuing research on the International Space Station.

By the mid-2020s, astronauts would travel to a near-Earth asteroid that was brought to the vicinity of the moon. That'd set the stage for trips to Mars and its moons sometime in the 2030s. Some members of Congress want NASA to forget about the asteroid and go directly to Mars or the moon's surface instead. But Bolden said NASA needed the asteroid mission as a "proving ground" for the farther-out missions to Mars. "We don't think we can just go," the former astronaut and Marine general said. (4/22)

Russia’s GLONASS Fully Restored After System Failure (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia's Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS) has resumed normal operations after suffering an outage earlier this month caused by a malfunctioning satellite, the leading research institute of the Russian Space Agency said Tuesday. “The GLONASS orbital group is now fully operational,” the Central Research Institute of Machine Building (TsNIIMash) said in a statement. (4/22)

China Considers Russian Satellite-Based Emergency Response System (Source: RIA Novosti)
Chinese officials have expressed interest in participating in a Russian emergency response system, said the CEO of Russia’s Navigation Information Systems. The system, called ERA-GLONASS, provides data from Russia’s Global Navigation Satellite System to emergency responders. Based on the European eCall/E112 standard, ERA-GLONASS allows emergency services to immediately pinpoint the location of car accidents or similar critical situations. (4/22)

Planets’ Wacky Orbits Solved (Source: Sky & Telescope)
By combining nearly 1,500 observations with sophisticated computer models, astronomers have shed light on a nearby planetary system, proving that the planets' bizarre orbits will actually remain stable for the next 100 million years. Click here. (4/22)

Exploding Meteors Still Surprise (Source: Space Safety)
Last year about this time, the faces of politicians everywhere were turned to the skies, fearfully wondering “Will we be next?” A natural response to the spectacular (no, it’s not possible to avoid the adjective, I’ve tried) bolide that exploded above the Russian city of Chelyabinsk, the question was welcomed by Near Earth Object (NEO) experts the world round, thankful that someone was finally paying attention to this very real threat – and that no one had to actually die to make it happen. Click here. (4/22)

Risk of Asteroid Hitting Earth Higher Than Thought (Source: Reuters)
The chance of a city-killing asteroid striking Earth is higher than scientists previously believed, a non-profit group building an asteroid-hunting telescope said. A global network that listens for nuclear weapons detonations detected 26 asteroids that exploded in Earth's atmosphere from 2000 to 2013, data collected by the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization shows.

The explosions include the Feb. 2013, impact over Chelyabinsk, Russia, which left more than 1,000 people injured by flying glass and debris. Asteroids as small as about 131 feet -- less than half the size of an American football field - have the potential to level a city, Ed Lu said. Editor's Note: The Air Force Technical Applications Center (AFTAC) at Patrick AFB on Florida's Space Coast manages part of the monitoring network for worldwide nuclear detonations. (4/22)

Space Conferences, Engine Claims and Silly Putty (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Over the years, I’ve heard many speakers at various space conferences and events say all sorts of things that I felt…oh, comment on dit?…stretched the truth like Silly Putty. Yes, that’s a polite way to put it. After a while, I’ve become quite numb to it all — the hype, promises, publicity stunts, optimistic schedules that get blown away like fallen leaves on a windy Mojave day.

But, sometimes I hear something that stretches the rhetorical Silly Putty beyond the breaking point. I had just such an experience three weeks ago at the Space Tech Expo. The speaker was Dream Chaser Co-program Director John Curry, who was giving an update on Dream Chaser that caught my attention. It was when Curry veered off into describing Sierra Nevada’s work on a hybrid motor for Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo suborbital space plane that I really saw the Silly Putty begin to break. Click here. (4/22)

Radiation Standards Might be Relaxed for Mars Trip (Source: Florida Today)
One of many factors complicating a trip to Mars is the space radiation that would bombard astronauts during the approximately two years they would spend getting to the planet, exploring it and returning home. NASA is already working to develop more radiation-resistant space suits and stronger magnetic shields for the spacecraft. Agency officials also are exploring a new tack: relaxing NASA's health standards for astronauts so it would be easier to meet them.

Getting to Mars -- and living there -- will take a lot more than a big rocket, an inexhaustible fuel supply and a crew of gritty astronauts. It also will require attention to myriad details, including oxygen systems, communication networks, power generation and, yes, health concerns. NASA is aiming for a landing in the early 2030s. Even with two decades to prepare, such a journey to a planet millions of miles away requires hundreds of steps every day.

One such step involves calculating an acceptable level of radiation for astronauts, a question NASA took to the Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academies. The institute says medical standards for radiation exposure should remain in effect, though exceptions could be granted "in rare circumstances." If an exception were permitted, NASA would be ethically bound to provide astronauts with health care beyond the end of their missions, the committee said. (4/22)

Sara Seager’s Tenacious Drive to Discover Another Earth (Source: Smithsonian)
Two months shy of turning 40, MIT astronomer Sara Seager decided to throw herself an unconventional birthday party. She rented an auditorium in the university’s Media Lab. She invited a few dozen colleagues, including an influential former astronaut and the director of the Space Telescope Science Institute. In lieu of presents, she asked 14 of her guests to respond to a challenge: help her plot a winning strategy to find another Earth, and do it within her lifetime. Click here. (4/22)

SI Organization to Acquire QinetiQ North America (Source: The SI)
The SI Organization, Inc. has signed a definitive agreement to acquire QinetiQ North America, a provider of differentiated, engineering services and solutions to the U.S. Government. This transaction will create a geographically dispersed organization of 4,800 employees with revenue of approximately $1.3 billion from across a broad spectrum of government customers.

The SI is paying $165 million for QNA’s Services and Solutions Group includes everything except for the Cyveillance, a cybersecurity firm QNA acquired in 2009. The company will pay an additional $50 million as part of an earnout based on performance as of March 2015. Editor's Note: QinetiQ serves as the prime contractor for Kennedy Space Center's engineering services contract. (4/22)

Lockheed Profit Rises, but Revenue Falls (Source: Reuters)
Lockheed Martin, the Pentagon's largest supplier, reported a 23 percent jump in net profit in the first quarter and raised its earnings per share outlook. But Lockheed said U.S. government budget cuts continued to depress revenue this year, with sales to the U.S. military likely to drop by 6.0 percent in 2014 after a 4.0 percent drop in 2013. The company reported net earnings of $933 million for the quarter, up from $761 million in the first quarter of 2013. (4/22)

Costa Rica’s First Satellite to be Launched Into Space in 2016 (Source: Tico Times)
The Central American Aeronautics and Space Administration (ACAE) on Monday officially announced that the first Central American satellite, built in Costa Rica, will be launched into space in 2016. The satellite will collect and relay daily data on carbon dioxide to evaluate the effects of climate change. That data will be sent to monitoring bases in tropical forests at the Santa Rosa National Park in Costa Rica’s northwestern province of Guanacaste. (4/22)

How to Go Viral From Space (Source: National Journal)
Chris Hadfield knows all about spacewalking, piloting a fighter jet, and living on the ocean floor. The mustachioed Canadian might also be the Internet's most unlikely music-video superstar. But of course, when you can film your performance in zero gravity, why wouldn't you expect to get 22 million hits?

But Hadfield's world-famous rendition of "Space Oddity" isn't his proudest achievement. For him, it's the fact that millions of people who have watched his YouTube videos have become interested in science and space. Most gratifying, he says, is "seeing people change their mind and do something more challenging and productive with their life as a result of seeing me as an example." (4/22)

April 22, 2014

Rockets that Return Home – SpaceX Pushing the Boundaries (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
SpaceX is continuing to advance the technology that is aimed at creating a fully – and rapidly – reusable launch system, with the recent addition of two key milestones towards that goal. While the F9-R Dev-1 rocket enjoyed a debut hop at the McGregor Test Facility in Texas, the first stage of the Falcon 9 v1.1 – that successfully lofted the CRS-3 Dragon en route to the ISS – achieved a soft splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean.

The ambitious plans for creating an advanced flyback booster-style vehicle were unveiled by SpaceX founder Elon Musk back in September 2011, featuring first and second stages that would fly back to the launch site under their own power – something no other aerospace company has achieved. Industry sources believed the concept had potential to work, but cautioned that SpaceX would lose so much performance in their payload-to-orbit capability, the plan wouldn’t be financially viable.

Elon Musk tweeted about last week's attempt: “Data upload from tracking plane shows landing in Atlantic was good! Flight computers continued transmitting for 8 seconds after reaching the water. Stopped when booster went horizontal,” added the SpaceX boss. This information pointed to a successful landing burn, which involved the relighting of the center engine to stabilize the stage and reduce the vehicle’s velocity prior to contact with the water. (4/22)

We’re the Asteroid: Elizabeth Kolbert on Species Extinction, Climate Change (Source: The Nation)
The last wave of extinctions came when an asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs and their world. What’s different about the species extinction that threatens now? Scientists say now we’re the asteroid. This extinction event is unique because it’s being caused by a living thing. Click here. (4/22)

B612 Foundation Explains Asteroid Impacts in New Video (Source: B612)
The B612 Foundation is proposing a Sentinel Mission to monitor near-Earth asteroid traffic and provide an early warning capability for Earth impacts. They produced this video to explain the frequency and magnitude of recent impacts. (4/19)

Arizona Senate To Review Spaceport Measure (Source: KJZZ)
The Arizona Senate is to take up legislation today to pave the way for a spaceport in the state. Tucson-based Paragon Space Development wants to send a helium balloon with a capsule attached, containing two crew members and six passengers, up about 20 miles above the Earth, where they would float for a couple hours.

Taber McCallum of Paragon says a steerable parachute would then be used to glide back to Earth, but he says where they would land is a little unpredictable. “It varies with the time of year,” McCallum said. “Sometimes you have lots of high winds and sometimes you don't. There could be days when we come right back to where we started, and there certainly could be days when we're 300 miles away.”

Paragon wants passengers to sign a waiver absolving the company of all liability should something go wrong. It wants lawmakers to vote to make that waiver enforceable. The cost of the flights would be about $65,000, with the first launch expected in 2016. (4/21)

The Coolest Destination for Exchange Students: Mars (Source: US Dept. of State)
The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) is launching a new type of exchange with a virtual field trip to Mars. ECA’s newest initiative, The Collaboratory, in partnership with NASA’s Digital Learning Network, Google’s Connected Classrooms Program, and the U.S. Embassies in Buenos Aires and Managua, will engage middle school students from classes in Argentina, Nicaragua, as well as those in New Jersey, Texas, and Washington, D.C. in collaborative science activities.

The program will take place at the USA Science and Engineering Festival (USASEF) in celebration of National Science Week, in an effort to attract youth around the world to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. During the festival on April 25 the students will connect via Google+ Hangouts to explore the Red Planet and hear from Mars subject matter experts. NASA will use current photos from Mars Curiosity and its Mars Yard to simulate the field trip. (4/21)

The Only Watch That NASA Astronauts Trust With Their Lives (Source: WIRED)
Back in the 1960s, NASA had a problem: To keep track of time while bagging moon rocks, astronauts needed a wristwatch with otherworldly ruggedness. Many high-grade chronographs were auditioned. One lost its crystal under extreme decompression; the hands on another warped in the test oven. But the Omega Speedmaster—and its particularly robust movement—had the right stuff.

The watch has since been strapped to every astronaut’s wrist from Gemini and Apollo to Skylab and the shuttle. Its movement, now known as the Calibre 1861, has seen a few changes over the years to improve its precision, but it’s been requalified by NASA for each new mission, and it remains the most strenuously tested movement in history.

It’s even performed a few tasks those neurotic engineers couldn’t have foreseen: After shutting down their computers to save power, the troubled Apollo 13 crew navigated back to Earth using their hand-wound Speedmasters. (4/22)

Russia Mulls Over Huge 60 m Telescope (Source: Physics World)
The rector of Moscow State University, Viktor Sadovnichy, has unveiled plans for a massive 60 m optical telescope on the Canary Islands. If built, the telescope would be the world's largest and would hunt for Earth-like planets around other stars, says Sadovnichy. But the plans have divided researchers, with some Russian astronomers saying the country should not build its own facility but join the European Southern Observatory (ESO) instead. (4/22)

Orbital Sciences Corp. Surged Despite Weak Earnings (Source: Motley Fool)
Orbital Sciences Corp. missed estimates by $0.02 on Thursday, hardly the kind of news you'd expect to spark a 5.2% rally in its stock -- yet that's exactly what shareholders were treated to last week. Despite reporting a $0.23 per share profit when analysts expected $0.25, Orbital Sciences shares surged Thursday. Why? Click here. (4/22)

Space Command Leader Calls for Innovation Amid Budget Cuts (Source: AFSPC)
Innovation and cost-saving ideas will help ensure the Air Force keeps its warfighting readiness despite significant, ongoing budget cuts, the commander of Air Force Space Command General William L. Shelton said. "If there ever was a time for innovation, this is it," General Shelton said. "That's the only way we're going to get through these next few years of declining budgets. We have to think our way through this. "There's that famous old saying - we've run out of money and now we have to think. That's where we're at." (4/22)

Stennis Cuts Ribbon on SpaceX Raptor Rocket Testing Facility (Source: Gulf Live)
The engines which propelled Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins to the moon on Apollo XI were tested at Stennis Space Center in Hancock County. One day, Stennis may also test the engines which take man to Mars. At least that's the hope of Stennis, SpaceX and other officials who gathered to cut the ribbon Monday afternoon on the SpaceX rocket testing program at the NASA facility.

SpaceX will conduct initial testing of its Raptor methane rocket at Stennis. Calling space an "unforgiving business," Stennis Director Rick Gilbrech said SpaceX was a welcome addition to NASA's growing commercial spaceflight contracts. (4/22)

Editorial: Tough Balancing Act for Arianespace (Source: Space News)
Launch services provider Arianespace routinely juggles a complicated manifest involving three rockets, the largest of which is designed to carry two satellites at a time — typically for different customers. This task is made immeasurably more difficult by late-arriving satellites, which force the company to constantly rearrange schedules and delay launches, sometimes at the expense of a customer that delivered its satellite on time.

On rare occasions, this process can lead to situations where Arianespace must choose between two late-arriving customers vying for the same backup launch slot. The company faced that uncomfortable prospect recently with two key customers: the European Union, owner of the Galileo satellite navigation system, and O3b Networks, the broadband services startup whose majority shareholder is SES, the world’s second-largest satellite operator by revenue. (4/22)

Google's Project Tango & NASA's SPHERES (Source: Space News)
Google Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) Project Tango team is collaborating with NASA Ames Research Center's Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient Experimental Satellites (SPHERES) program. Project Tango is developing 3-D tracking and sensing technology within its Google Android phones. The phone senses its motion as its being handled while also mapping its environment. SPHERES consists of three free-flying satellites onboard the international space station used to test various hardware and software. Click here. (4/22)

Sky's Not the Limit for Ireland's Space Tech Sector (Source: Silicon Republic)
The date 3 April marked an important day for Europe’s space endeavours, as the first of six Sentinel Earth-observation satellites, Sentinel-1A, launched from the European Space Agency’s (ESA) spaceport near Kourou, French Guiana. The purpose of the satellites is to give European organisations and businesses a treasure trove of scientific data for the foreseeable future.

Ireland's own space-technology sector is behind the technology that sends astronauts and satellites into space. Workers in the sector have been busy sending almost all the ESA's space projects into orbit, whether it be the launcher rockets that take them up there, or the software that manages life-support systems on the International Space Station. (4/22)

SpaceX Revs Up Reusable Rocket Testing (Source: PC)
"The F9R testing program is the next step towards reusability following completion of the Grasshopper program last year," SpaceX said. "Future testing, including that in New Mexico, will be conducted using the first stage of a F9R... which is essentially a Falcon 9 v1.1 first stage with legs. F9R test flights in New Mexico will allow us to test at higher altitudes than we are permitted for at our test site in Texas, to do more with unpowered guidance and to prove out landing cases that are more-flight like." (4/22)

Most Americans Doubt Big Bang Theory (Source: Space.com)
A majority of adults in the US are not convinced that the universe began with the Big Bang, according to a new poll. he poll found that 51 percent of respondents question the validity of the Big Bang theory, the AP reports. Although many scientists think that the Big Bang is the best explanation for how the universe became what it is today, only about 21 percent of the 1,012 adults surveyed were "extremely confident" or "very confident" that universe started with the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago. (4/22)

What Makes an Alien Intelligent? (Source: New Yorker)
Even as the Kepler mission gets closer to finding a mirror image of our own planet, many scientists have ceased believing that we should be looking for ourselves in space. There are other ways for a planet to support life, they argue—and there are other ways for life to be intelligent. Click here. (4/22)

Official Warns of 10- to 16-month Weather Satellite Gap (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Commerce Department’s inspector general is projecting a 10- to 16-month gap in weather satellite coverage that would limit the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s ability to forecast three to seven days out. In written testimony submitted in advance of an April 10 hearing of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on commerce, justice, science and related agencies, Todd Zinser cited cost overruns, schedule delays and the age of NOAA’s current satellites as likely causes. (4/21)

Space Coast Project Could Destroy Bird Habitat (Source: Brevard Times)
Although Florida and Brevard County taxpayers have spent more than $48 million to preserve natural lands in Brevard County to protect threatened and endangered species, the North Brevard Economic Development Zone (NBEDZ) is proposing that taxpayer money be used for a project that could destroy the habitat of the threatened Florida Scrub Jay and gopher tortoise.

On the agenda for an April 22 Titusville City Council meeting is a request from NBEDZ for $50,000 for an engineering study to further develop Spaceport Commerce Park in an effort to attract more businesses to that site. According to the January 2014 NBEDZ meeting minutes, an environmental consultant told the NBEDZ Board that the 178-acre Spaceport Commerce Park is comprised of 19 acres of occupied Scrub Jay habit.  Additionally, 43 gopher tortoises were identified on site in a recent survey.   

The environmental consultant estimated that it would cost $1,200 to permit and relocate a gopher tortoise plus $59,000 per acre to offset Scrub Jay habitat, and $85,000 per acre to offset wetland impacts. (4/21)

Launch Unlocks Manifest for Orbcomm, AsiaSat (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Friday's liftoff of a Falcon-9 rocket cleared a bottleneck in SpaceX's Florida launch schedule that forced two commercial customers, Orbcomm and AsiaSat, to keep their completed satellites at their factories to wait out launch delays. SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk said Friday the company still expected to launch 10 Falcon-9 rockets this year despite the delays.

With the Jan. 6 liftoff of the Thaicom 6 telecom satellite and Friday's launch of a Falcon-9 rocket with SpaceX's Dragon cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station, eight more missions are on the Falcon-9 manifest this year. Four of the launches are booked by New Jersey-based Orbcomm and AsiaSat of Hong Kong.

Not all of the delays leading up to Friday's launch were the fault of SpaceX, which found itself at the mercy of the U.S. Air Force's Eastern Range and the often-tricky scheduling of operations involving the International Space Station. SpaceX needs to achieve about one Falcon-9 launch per month to pull off 10 flights this year, replicating a one-month turnaround SpaceX demonstrated between two Falcon-9 missions in early December and early January with the SES 8 and Thaicom 6 television broadcasting satellites. (4/22)

Tricks Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos Use To Run Meetings (Source: Business Insider)
Musk has incredibly high standards. He has a reputation for firing people if they miss a deadline. So if you're meeting with him at Tesla or SpaceX, you have to be ready. As one anonymous Musk employee shares on Quora: "When we met with Elon, we were prepared," the commenter shared. "Because if you weren't, he'd let you know it. If he asked a reasonable follow up question and you weren't prepared with an answer, well, good luck."

Bezos likes to get people arguing. If you work at Amazon, you'd better be comfortable with conflict. Bezos is famous for hating "social cohesion," that tendency people have for finding consensus for no other reason than it feels good. "Leaders are obligated to respectfully challenge decisions when they disagree, even when doing so is uncomfortable or exhausting. Leaders have conviction and are tenacious. They do not compromise for the sake of social cohesion." (4/21)

Pentagon Protects Basic Research with R&D Budget (Source: Defense News)
The Pentagon plans to shift how it spends its research and development dollars, putting more emphasis on basic research and the creation of prototypes -- the kind of risk-taking investment that can pay off in new, cutting-edge technologies, experts say. "We're going to be asked to create more prototypes, but then not field them, to put them on a shelf," said Al Shaffer, acting assistant secretary of defense for research and engineering. (4/21)

Experts: Missing Jet Shows Satellite Coverage Gaps (Source: Defense News)
The hunt for the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 shows gaps in satellite coverage, said experts gathered at the Defense Services Asia exhibition in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur last week. "I think not only Malaysia but the whole world should relook at their defense needs, capacity and capabilities in the context of MH370," said Datuk Seri Hishammuddinis Hussein, defense minister for Malaysia. (4/19)

April 21, 2014

Secretive X-37B Space Plane Nears Day 500 in Orbit (Source: Space.com)
The U.S. Air Force's mysterious robotic X-37B space plane is sailing toward the 500-day mark in Earth orbit on a secret military mission. The X-37B space plane presently in orbit is carrying out the Orbital Test Vehicle 3 (OTV-3) mission, a classified spaceflight that marks the third long-duration flight for the unmanned Air Force spaceflight program. The miniature space shuttle launched on Dec. 11, 2012. (4/21)

NASA Selects Commercial Crew Program Manager (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected Kathy Lueders as program manager for the agency's Commercial Crew Program (CCP). Lueders, who has served as acting program manager since October 2013, will help keep the nation's space program on course to launch astronauts from American soil by 2017 aboard spacecraft built by American companies.

Lueders, who will be assigned to the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, previously served as the International Space Station Program's transportation integration manager, where she managed commercial cargo resupply services to the space station. Lueders also was responsible for NASA oversight of international partner spacecraft visiting the space station, including the European Space Agency's Automated Transfer Vehicle, the Japanese Space Agency's H-II Transfer Vehicle, and the Russian Federal Space Agency's Soyuz and Progress spacecraft. (4/21)

The Uncertain Road to Mars (Source: Space Review)
There's growing acceptance that NASA's space exploration program should have the long-term goal of landing humans on Mars, perhaps in the mid-2030s. However, Jeff Foust reports there's less information on exactly how NASA should go about achieving that goal, and whether any NASA strategy is affordable in the long run. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2497/1 to view the article. (4/21)

Humans and Robots to the Moon and Mars: a Unified, Integrated Strategy (Source: Space Review)
Too often debates about space exploration have focused on destinations, or whether robots or humans should be in the lead. John Strickland offers an integrated approach that maximizes the capabilities of both humans and robots to explore destinations throughout the solar system. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2496/1 to view the article. (4/21)

The Growth of Public-Private Partnerships in Commercial Space Ventures (Source: Space Review)
While the capabilities of commercial space ventures continue to grow, those efforts are increasingly being done in cooperation with governments. Anthony Young examines the rise of these public-private partnerships through several recent examples. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2495/1 to view the article. (4/21)

Everest, the Camps, and the Sherpas (Source: Space Review)
NASA first reached the Moon thanks to tremendous resources at its disposal during the Apollo era. Derek Webber argues that for NASA to explore in more fiscally constrained times, it must borrow a page from mountaineering and establish an infrastructure of "base camps" leading into the solar system. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2494/1 to view the article. (4/21)

Microlaunchers Seeking to Transform Launch Business (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The popular view of space flight is that it is dominated by such monster vehicles as the Saturn V and space shuttle. Since the first space launch in 1957, the image of a rocket has been of a lumbering, towering behemoth that costs millions of dollars. If a company wants to put a small payload into space, it must ride as a secondary payload. But now a Las Vegas company is aiming to make space flight affordable, as well as and small.

Microlaunchers LLC, is working on launch vehicles not much larger than a car or truck in order to send small payloads into orbit, which may allow for twice the missions to space at half the cost of a medium-class or heavy-class launch vehicle. CEO Charles Pooley founded Microlaunchers in 1995 after working on an amateur rocket design with the Pacific Rocket Society. He hopes the Microlaunchers model will serve as a starting point to a whole new kind of space industry and compares the new space age to the early days of the computer field—before microcomputers. Click here. (4/21)

A Star's Early Chemistry Shapes Life-Friendly Atmospheres (Source: Astrobiology)
Born in a disc of gas and rubble, planets eventually come together as larger and larger pieces of dust and rock stick together. They may be hundreds of light-years away from us, but astronomers can nevertheless watch these planets as they form. One major point of interest is the chemistry of the rubble that forms around a star before a planetary system is formed, known as the protoplanetary disc.

The gas molecules that float in the disc could eventually become part of the atmosphere of the planets. If these molecules contain oxygen or nitrogen, the odds increase of a life-friendly planet forming. "It's very interesting to think about the molecular composition (of these discs)," said Catherine Walsh, an astronomer at Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands. "The molecules that are in those discs will make up the molecules in planetary atmospheres, and planetesimals such as comets." (4/21)

From Mines to NASA (Source: Ore Digger)
Interested in aerospace? Ever wanted to know what living on the International Space Station is like? Penny Pettigrew, ISS Payload Communications Manager at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center and Colorado School of Mines graduate, will return to Mines this Friday, April 25 to talk to students about her career at NASA as well as her journey to NASA. This talk is geared toward anyone interested in learning more about what happens on the ISS. (4/21)

Elon Musk's Sacramento Pay Pals (Source: Wall Street Journal)
California Democrats carved out another tax break for SpaceX billionaire Elon Musk. The top 1% pay about half of California's income taxes. To maintain the cash flow of these VIPs amid rising tax rates, politicians in Sacramento are apparently offering concierge service. Behold the special tax treatment the legislature is lavishing on billionaire Elon Musk's SpaceX. Upon his request, Democrats who dominate the legislature are moving to exempt SpaceX and other space-travel companies from California's personal property tax. (4/20)

Canadian Space Agency Boss Insists Appointment Doesn't Spell Militarization (Source: Globe & Mail)
The head of the Canadian Space Agency, a former top general, insists his appointment as president last August does not signal the militarization of the federal department. “I have to support the mandate that the Government of Canada has given the space agency and that is the peaceful use of space and it doesn’t change whatsoever,” Walt Natynczyk said. (4/20)

The Most Earth-Like Planet is Only 500 Light Years Away (Source: Ars Technica)
Less than two months ago, NASA’s Kepler mission announced the confirmation of 700 new exoplanets, but its latest news of a single exosolar system may be a bit more exciting. Kepler has now found an Earth-like planet that may have liquid water on its surface, and the new discovery is located less than 500 light years away.

Since its launch in 2009, Kepler has been finding exoplanets with a deceptively simple technique. At any given time, it stares at thousands of stars, looking for a dip in the amount of light received from them. That dip can be caused by a planet passing in front of whatever star it is orbiting (from the perspective of Earth). By observing the time interval between these dips and the size of the dip, Kepler can calculate the planet’s orbit and radius. When this data is combined with other data from the star, astronomers can build a rough picture of what the planetary system looks like.

Although NASA can’t be sure about the mass of 186f, it can make an educated guess based on previous data from planets this size. Given that estimate and the planet's size, their guess is that 186f might be a rocky planet. The other planets in this planetary system are all smaller than 186f and orbit too close to the star to have any liquid water. Although the orbit of 186f is about 53 million kilometers from the star (Mercury's distance from the Sun), the star is much smaller. (4/20)

April 20, 2014

FAA Center of Excellence Meeting in Florida This Week (Source: SPACErePORT)
The FAA’s Center of Excellence for Commercial Space Transportation (COE-CST) will hold its annual administrative meeting this week at the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne. The COE-CST includes nine partner universities and multiple affiliate members (including Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University) that focus their research efforts on space traffic management and operations, space transportation operations and technologies, human spaceflight, and space transportation industry development. Click here. (4/20)

Holdren and Bolden: Tech Development Is Surest Path to Mars (Source: Space News)
In the latest salvo in an ongoing debate about the best road to Mars, two senior Obama administration officials stressed a path directed by technology development and again dismissed the idea of setting astronauts on a fast-track mission to the red planet, as some in Congress want NASA to do.

Congress thinks “we can just go to Mars tomorrow by pouring some more money in ... but they don’t get that we won’t get there without investments in advanced technology,” John Holdren, science adviser to U.S. President Barack Obama, told members of the NASA Advisory Council April 16.

The Obama administration has made technology development a hallmark of its NASA policies, but according to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, who addressed the council alongside Holdren, “technology development is not a high priority in the Congress right now, unfortunately.” (4/17)

SpaceX Dragon Makes Easter Delivery at Space Station (Source: Space.com)
It's not exactly the Easter bunny, but a commercial Dragon cargo ship built by SpaceX made an Easter delivery to the International Space Station Sunday to deliver tons supplies, and possibly even some treats, for the astronauts on board. The robotic Dragon spacecraft arrived at space station Sunday morning, floating within reach of the orbiting laboratory's robotic arm. Station astronauts used the arm to capture the Dragon spacecraft.

The mission is SpaceX's fourth Dragon flight to the space station and third of 12 cargo delivery missions under a $1.6 billion deal with NASA. The Dragon spacecraft is carrying 5,000 lbs. (2,268 kilograms) of food, supplies and gear for 150 different experiments. A miniature lettuce farm, space robot legs and laser communications system are among the delivery's highlights. (4/20)

Another Meteorite Over Russia (Source: YouTube)
Overnight on April 18-19, a meteor-like object was observed streaking across the sky over Murmansk, Russia. It is possible that the object is part of the annual Lyrid meteor shower, which is nearing its peak. There were no reports of any emergency services being called, but it did put on quite a show. Check it out here. (4/19)

Russia Launches New ICBM From Plesetsk Spaceport (Source: Space Daily)
The Russian Strategic Missile Troops have successfully test fired an RS-24 Yars intercontinental ballistic missile with a multiple re-entry vehicle from the Plesetsk cosmodrome, a Russian Defence Ministry official said. The experimental warheads arrived in the designated area on the Kura test range in the Kamchatka Peninsula. The set goals of the launch have been fully met, Colonel Yegorov said, RIA news reports. (4/16)

Red Tape Hinders Study of Asteroid Impacts on Earth (Source: Space.com)
Red tape is making it tougher for researchers to study and characterize asteroid strikes on Earth, which are apparently more common than previously thought, experts say. The bureaucratic snafu affects the use of U.S. government space assets that help scientists study "airbursts" like the meteor that exploded without warning over Russia last year.

At issue is the ability to combine space data with outputs from a global network of seismic, infrasound and hydroacoustic sensors that have been deployed worldwide to provide treaty verification for a nuclear test ban. This network is the International Monitoring System (IMS) overseen by the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO).

Last year, the Air Force Space Command signed a memorandum of agreement with NASA's Science Mission Directorate. That document spelled out specifics for the public release of meteor data from sources such as high-flying, secretive U.S. government space sensors. However, multiple scientists noted that the JPL website had not been updated recently. "Because of budget and personnel reductions on our military partner, they ran into workforce issues to accomplish this task," said Lindley Johnson. (4/20)

Satellite Telecom Vulnerable to Hackers (Source: Space Daily)
Security flaws in many satellite telecommunications systems leave them open to hackers, raising potential risks for aviation, shipping, military and other sectors, security researchers said Thursday. A paper released by the security firm IOActive found "multiple high risk vulnerabilities" in all the satellite systems studied.

"These vulnerabilities have the potential to allow a malicious actor to intercept, manipulate, or block communications, and in some cases, to remotely take control of the physical device," the report said. (4/19)

How Close Are We Really to Finding Life in Outer Space? (Source: Policy Mic)
NASA's recent discovery of Kepler-186f, the first habitable Earth-sized planet is big news in humankind's long search for extraterrestrial life. Thanks to the Kepler Space Telescope, which was launched in 2009 to hunt planets across the universe, we've managed to find around 1800 exoplanets so far, many of which have been discovered in just the last year or so.

Kepler has had so much success because it's the first piece of space technology that is remarkably adept at detecting tiny changes in light coming from distant stars. The small, periodic dimming of a stars light is the classic smoking gun which scientists use to find exoplanets. The long-held Holy Grail for planet hunters has been to find a world which is the Earth's "twin" and therefore thought to be capable of supporting life.

Kepler has advanced this cause amazingly so far, managing to find many planets that are a similar size to our Earth. In fact, thanks to Kepler, we now know that the Earth-sized planets are actually quite common in our galaxy. The bad news? Most of the Earth-sized planets found so far are either too hot or too cold to support life. For instance Kepler-20e, the first Earth-sized planet discovered, has an extremely small 6-day orbit, making planet's surface temperature is an inhospitable 1,400 degrees. Click here. (4/20)

The Telescope Big Enough to Spot Signs of Alien Life (Source: Guardian)
Engineers are about to blast away the top of a Chilean mountain to create a site for the European Extremely Large Telescope. It will allow us, for the first time, to directly observe planets outside the solar system. Cerro Armazones is a crumbling dome of rock that dominates the parched peaks of the Chilean Coast Range north of Santiago. A couple of old concrete platforms and some rusty pipes, parts of the mountain's old weather station, are the only hints that humans have ever taken an interest in this forbidding, arid place.

Dramatic change is coming to Cerro Armazones, however – for in a few weeks, the 10,000ft mountain is going to have its top knocked off. "We are going to blast it with dynamite and then carry off the rubble," says engineer Gird Hudepohl. "We will take about 80ft off the top of the mountain to create a plateau – and when we have done that, we will build the world's biggest telescope there."

Given the peak's remote, inhospitable location that might sound an improbable claim – except for the fact that Hudepohl has done this sort of thing before. He is one of the European Southern Observatory's most experienced engineers and was involved in the decapitation of another nearby mountain, Cerro Paranal, on which his team then erected one of the planet's most sophisticated observatories. (4/20)

Flower-Shaped Starshade Might Help Detect Earth-Like Planets (Source: TED)
Astronomers believe that every star in the galaxy has a planet, one fifth of which might harbor life. Only we haven't seen any of them — yet. Jeremy Kasdin and his team are looking to change that with the design and engineering of an extraordinary piece of equipment: a flower petal-shaped "starshade" that allows a telescope to photograph planets from 50,000 kilometers away. It is, he says, the "coolest possible science." Click here. (4/20)

Egyptsat-2 a Step Towards Egyptian Space Agency (Source: All Africa)
Presidential Adviser for Scientific Affairs Essam Hegy said that new Egyptian Satellite (EgySat -2) is an essential step towards establishing the Egyptian Space Agency. Hegy said the photos captured by the satellite will help develop the agricultural and water resources as well as monitoring the environmental and urban changes in Egypt. He said that the satellite is the first scientific project in Egypt's modern history and lays the foundation of building a modern and strong State. (4/18)

Emirati to Win Place on Virgin Galactic Space Flight (Source: Arabian Business)
An Emirati will win the chance to travel into space on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo as part of a nationwide competition announced on Sunday by Abu Dhabi-based Aabar Investments. The company, which has a 37.8 percent stake in Virgin Galactic, which is owned by British billionaire Richard Branson, said in a statement that the prize winner would be given a place onboard SpaceShipTwo when it begins running commercial trips into space. (4/20)

April 19, 2014

Five Cubesats and 104 Sprites Launched on Falcon-9 (Source: SEN)
2014 is turning out to be the year of the CubeSat. Almost 100 of the pint-sized satellites were added to launch manifests last year, and we are already seeing close to half of that figure being launched just four months into 2014. February saw the largest deployment of CubeSats ever, with 33 units being deployed directly from the International Space Station. Click here. (4/19)

Officials Can See End of the Long Road to Export Reform (Source: National Defense)
For the past two years, federal officials have been methodically revising the lists of U.S. defense technologies that require special export licenses. The goal has been to remove goods or services that no longer pose a threat to U.S. forces if they should fall into the wrong hands, and to maintain safeguards for sensitive items that do.

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates proposed overhauling the system at the outset of the Obama administration. He eschewed the overly broad, catch-all system that was both failing to keep sensitive technologies from making their way to overseas rivals and putting restrictions on those that were no longer cutting edge, which in turn made U.S. industries less competitive. (4/19)

India to Overhaul Satellite Communications Policy (Source: Economic Times)
The Department of Space in consultations with the telecom department (DoT)_will shortly overhaul India's 17-year old satellite communications policy to pave the way for auctioning satellite bandwidth. It will also frame new rules for allocating and pricing satellite transponders and explore ways to deal with applications seeking use of foreign orbital slots, according to a finance ministry note. (4/19)

Low-Cost Launches May Boost Chances For Space Solar Power (Source: Aviation Week)
SpaceX's Falcon 9 launch drew close attention from solar power satellite (SPS) advocates, who know that low-cost reusable launch is one key to realizing their dream of providing abundant electric energy from space. While they are taking different approaches to developing SPS, the small but international group of participants at the SPS 2014 conference agreed that their goal continues to be an end to the increasingly dangerous struggle to meet the energy needs of a growing world population.

They see space solar power as an alternative to burning fossil fuel, and the military cost of securing supplies in unstable regions. Like SpaceX, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) researching reusable launch as a way to cut the cost of space launch drastically. Japan is the only nation that has made beaming solar power collected in space back to Earth a goal of its space policy, and JAXA engineers calculate reusable launch is one way to reduce the up-front investment needed to put gigawatt-class power stations in geostationary orbit.

Using a 2003 JAXA reference model with a 1-gigawatt station weighing 10,000 tons, Sasaki says power would cost a prohibitive $1.12/kwh at a launch cost to low Earth orbit (LEO) of $10,000 per kilogram. That is in the ballpark of what space launch costs today. Cut that to $1,000 a kilogram—in the ballpark for a reusable launch vehicle (RLV)—and electricity from space drops to 18 cents/kwh. (4/19)

Buzz Aldrin: Man on a Mission (Source: Arabian Business)
“Every five years I get invited to the White House,” Buzz Aldrin says. “Sometimes I get a hotdog, sometimes I get to say something.” The legendary US astronaut is in an expansive mood as he reflects on the upcoming 45th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 moon landing that made him and the man who walked one small step ahead of him on 20 July 1969 household names.

At the age of 84, the man who spent 12 days, one hour and 52 minutes in space over his nine-year career with NASA is by no means ambivalent about the significance of the title afforded him almost five decades ago following the most famous of his two missions for the US space agency.

Accepting it is another matter. “No,” he says when asked if he is okay with his place in history behind Apollo crew mate Neil Armstrong. “But I can’t do anything about it. I was told by a very wise person: you can’t change history, you can’t change the way people label things, the way newspapers want big winners or big losers. (4/19)

SpaceX Launches, Wallops Launch Likely Delayed (Source: Daily Press)
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched at last from Cape Canaveral Friday afternoon to get badly needed cargo to the International Space Station, which means the May 6 Antares launch from Wallops Island will be delayed until June. Probably.

"Well, we don't know yet," Barron "Barry" Beneski, spokesman for Antares rocket-maker Orbital Sciences Corp., said in an interview from Dulles minutes after the Falcon blasted off at 3:25 p.m. Friday. "Once the SpaceX capsule berths with the station successfully, that's the point we know it will be in June," Beneski said. "It's looking more and more likely we'll be in June, but the mission's not complete until they arrive at the station." (4/19)

Kazakhstan’s Space Future (Source: Trend)
Kazakhstan has a great past in space development, and its future in this field is expected to be just as glorious. he Baikonur Cosmodrome is being leased by the Kazakh government to Russia until 2050 and is managed jointly by the Russian Federal Space Agency and the Russian Space Forces. Moreover Russia will likely work at Baikonur even after 2050, according to official statements from both countries.

In particular in early 2014 Kazakh Space Agency head Talgat Musabayev said that Kazakhstan wanted Russia to remain at Baikonur forever and expressed interest in implementation of joint strategic projects in space industry in the future. In fact, nowadays Kazakhstan has not enough specialists to develop the cosmodrome on its own. Moreover its maintenance requires huge investment and Kazakhstan needs partners to share this financial burden.

Earlier Russia's full control over the cosmodrome partially hindered its development. Russia was not sure about its future at Baikonur and did not want to invest a lot in new long-term projects outside its borders. Much was invested in the construction of Vostochniy Cosmodrome in Siberia instead. Kazakhstan in turn was not interested in spending money on projects run by Russia. Click here. (4/18)

Shotwell Leads SpaceX Into New Frontiers (Source: Easy Reader)
Last year, Gwynne Shotwell,  president and chief operating officer of aerospace giant SpaceX, spoke to a room of Chapman University students in Orange County as part of a TEDx program. Her address was titled “Engineering America” and discussed the rise and fall of the United States as the global leader in science and technology. “Let’s talk about an engineer who is actually known as an inventor, Thomas Edison,” said Shotwell. “The only reason he is known as an inventor and not an engineer is because engineers suck at marketing themselves.”

The comment was an aside and got laughs from the college crowd, as intended. But there was a kernel of absolute truth within it. Engineers are not known for gregariousness, and developing new technology does very little for a company if it doesn’t have a successful way to sell it. Selling high-tech space equipment, for example, requires a salesperson that not only understands the product intricately, but can relate to clients on a personal level and close the deal.

That’s where Shotwell comes in. She joined SpaceX in 2002 when it was a tiny startup with big money and even bigger dreams. The space transport company was founded by billionaire business magnate Elon Musk of Tesla and PayPal fame. Shotwell became his seventh employee and the vice president of business development. Eight years later, she closed the single biggest commercial rocket launch deal in history: a $492 million contract with Iridium. Click here. (4/18)

Company Wants to Offer Rides from Arizona to Space (Source: Yuma Sun)
 A Tucson firm is hoping to launch Arizonans toward the edge of space – or maybe somewhere close to that – from Southern Arizona. Now they need state lawmakers to clear the path. The plan by Paragon Space Development Corp. is to use a balloon to float passengers up 20 miles in a capsule, leave them there to ooh and aah at the view for about two hours and then parachute the whole mechanism back to earth. They could wind up 300 miles downrange but would be flown back to the launch site. (4/18)

Florida Space Budget Items Advance as Session Nears End (Source: SPACErePORT)
Florida legislators in the state's House and Senate have finalized their respective budget proposals and now plan to come together in conference committee to hash out a compromise budget before the annual Legislative Session ends on May 2. Tens of millions of dollars are included in both budget proposals for space-related projects. The Florida Space Development Council has tracked the progress of these items on this chart. (4/18)

Astronauts to Reveal Sobering Data on Asteroid Impacts (Source: Phys.org)
This Earth Day, Tuesday, April 22, three former NASA astronauts will present new evidence that our planet has experienced many more large-scale asteroid impacts over the past decade than previously thought… three to ten times more, in fact. A new visualization of data from a nuclear weapons warning network, to be unveiled by B612 Foundation CEO Ed Lu during the evening event at Seattle's Museum of Flight, shows that "the only thing preventing a catastrophe from a 'city-killer' sized asteroid is blind luck." (4/17)

SpaceX Optimistic on First-Stage Landing (Source: NBC News)
After the launch, Musk reported via Twitter that the first stage executed a good re-entry burn and was able to stabilize itself on the way down. However, the rough seas were a problem. "I wouldn't give high odds that the rocket was able to splash down successfully," he said.

Later updates were more positive: "Data upload from tracking plane shows landing in Atlantic was good! Several boats enroute through heavy seas," Musk tweeted. "Flight computers continued transmitting for 8 seconds after reaching the water. Stopped when booster went horizontal." Recovering and reusing rockets are key parts of Musk's strategy for reducing the cost of spaceflight and eventually sending colonists to Mars. (4/18)

Kourou a Lot Like Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Florida Today)
Cape Canaveral is suitable as a location for a spaceport because of two major geographical advantages over other sites in the continental United States: It is about as close to the equator as practical, and it has uninhabited territory (in this case, open sea) to the east, which allows the lower stages of rockets to safely splashdown and ensures that debris from launch failures won't land on anyone.

The Space Coast's counterpart for the French and European space programs is the spaceport near Kourou in French Guiana. Operational since 1968, it has similar geographical advantages. It is even closer to the equator and also has open sea to the east. Click here. (4/18)

April 18, 2014

SpaceX Launches 3rd Station Delivery Mission for NASA (Source: NASA)
After a series of delays, including one prompted by a glitch that forced the company to replace a faulty helium valve on the core stage of its Falcon 9 rocket, SpaceX. launched its third contracted cargo delivery mission to the international space station April 18. SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft, laden with more than 2 metric tons of cargo, is due to rendezvous with station April 20.

The mission is the third of 12 SpaceX owes NASA under a $1.6 billion Commercial Resupply Services contract signed in 2008. While Dragon is berthed with station, where it was slated to stay for about a month, astronauts will perform a spacewalk to replace an external computer — a so-called External-2 Multiplexer/Demultiplexer — that failed April 11. The spacewalk is scheduled for April 23. The failed computer controls, among other things, the positioning of the space station’s massive solar arrays. Those functions were passed to a backup computer after the April 11 failure. (4/18)

Boeing-Built Fighter Jets Could Launch US Military Satellites Into Space (Source: Space.com)
And you thought space launches couldn't get any cooler: The next generation of small satellites may blast into orbit from the belly of a fighter jet. DARPA gave Boeing a $30.6 million contract last month to develop a 24-foot (7.3-meter) launch vehicle that would attach to the bottom of an F-15E Strike Eagle.

The concept calls for the jet to drop this vehicle when it reaches an altitude of 40,000 feet (12,192 meters), at which point the craft's rocket engines would kick on, carrying onboard satellites into orbit. This launch system could slash the cost of launching small satellites — those weighing up to 100 pounds (45 kilograms) — by 66 percent if all goes well, Boeing officials said. (4/18)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concept Program Seeks Phase II Proposals (Source: NASA)
NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program is seeking proposals for technologies that could be used on future exploration missions. The new proposals will build on the most promising ideas developed in the program's first phase. The NIAC program funds cutting-edge concepts that have the potential to transform future missions, enable new capabilities, or significantly alter current approaches to launching, building, and operating aerospace systems.

NIAC's Phase II studies provide an opportunity to develop the most promising Phase I concepts. These are aerospace architecture, mission, or system concepts with transformative potential. They must continue to push into new frontiers, while remaining technically and programmatically credible. NIAC's current portfolio of diverse efforts advances aerospace technology in many areas, including construction, human systems, transportation, imaging, and robotic exploration. (4/18)

Last-Ditch Efforts to Salvage China's Stricken Jade Rabbit Lunar Rover (Source: South China Morning Post)
Engineers are desperately trying to revive China's crippled lunar rover Jade Rabbit as fears grow that its mission could be over. It broke down six weeks into its three-month mission in late January because of "mechanical control abnormalities". And it has been parked up on the moon's surface for more than two months after travelling just 20 meters. Engineers now say a blockage in the power circuitry is to blame and are looking to bypass it. (4/18)

UAE's Role in the New Space Race (Source: Arabian Business)
In November last year, the skies around the Yasny launch base in the Russian province of Orenburg lit up as a Dnepr-1 rocket lifted off. Included on that rocket’s payload was DubaiSat-2, an advanced electro-optical Earth observation satellite. Ever since the launch, the satellite has been quietly tested, and at some point last week, it became fully operational.

The event was covered briefly in the local press, but in truth, the steady flow of satellite launches has become commonplace. Yet only five years ago the UAE was merely a blip on the global space radar. While quietly building up the industry with launches of Etisalat-backed satellite phone company, Thuraya, in 1997 and Yahsat by Abu Dhabi investment vehicle Mubadala 10 years later, the country’s endeavours have been on a slow, though steady, trajectory. (4/18)

A Galaxy Full of Earths? (Source: CNN)
The amazing discoveries from NASA's Kepler planet-hunting space telescope keep rolling in. The latest, announced this week by astronomers, is the discovery of a planet just 10% larger than the Earth orbiting in the so-called "habitable zone" of the star Kepler-186. In our solar system, Earth is the only planet in the habitable zone -- the distance from the sun where liquid water can exist on the surface without boiling away (like on Venus), or turning to ice (like on Mars).

Even if it doesn't turn out to be Earth-like, the number of actual Earth-like extrasolar planets out there appears to be staggering. During its four-year mission, Kepler observed just a tiny, random, average piece of the sky, one you would cover with your fist held at arm's length. More than 1,000 planets have been discovered so far from just the nearby stars in that tiny patch of the sky. (4/18)

Musk's Reusable Rocket Launches And Lands Itself In Texas (Source: Business Insider)
Elon Musk's private space company, SpaceX, has been experimenting with reusable rockets since last year. Because the cost of fuel is much less compared to the cost of building a rocket from scratch every time, Musk and his team are trying to master reusable rockets so they can get closer to their goal of making commercial space travel more affordable.

The company just posted an amazing video on YouTube of its Falcon 9 Reusable rocket lifting off, rising 250 meters, hovering, and landing on the ground right next to the launch pad. Even cooler, the video was shot by a drone. Click here. (4/18) 

Russian Tug: Supporting Submarines or Observing SpaceX Launch? (Source: Aviationist)
The Russian tug “Nikolay Chiker” is an ocean tug that has often deployed alongside Russian Navy’s high value assets. According to Information Dissemination, the ship accompanied Russia’s spy ship Viktor Leonov to Cuba last month, before moving off Florida, where it was parked on Mar. 15, ahead of the launch of Dragon spacecraft (Space Shuttle Orbiter replacement) on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket scheduled of Mar. 16 from the SLC-40 Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Editor's Note: So what would happen if a Russian vessel like this one purposefully loitered in the launch danger zone to violate launch safety constraints? (4/17)

Turn Your SatNav Ideas into Business (Source: ESA)
Propose a great satnav idea and win a prize with ESA support to create your own business. Previous winners are now running companies with systems for athlete tracking and indoor navigation, and many are supported by ESA’s Business Incubation Centers. Launched this week at the European Navigation Conference in Rotterdam, the annual European Satellite Navigation Competition (ESNC) recognises products, services and innovations designed to improve our daily lives with the help of satellite navigation. (4/17)

Orbital Evaluating Three Bids for Antares Engine (Source: Space News)
Orbital Sciences Corp. said it is evaluating three bids — two Russian, one U.S. — to produce main-stage engines for Orbital’s Antares rocket. The engines being offered include the Russian-built, U.S.-modified engine currently used for Antares. Orbital Chief Executive David W. Thompson said his company has a sufficient supply of the current Russian-built engines for three more years of Antares operations. Orbital has three Antares first-stage structures, built by a Ukrainian manufacturer, at an Orbital facility, with two more to be shipped soon. (4/18)

Orbital: Amazonas Glitch is Permanent (Source: Space News)
Satellite and rocket builder Orbital Sciences Corp. on April 17 said the electrical failure on the Orbital-built Amazonas 4A satellite launched in March appears likely to result in a permanent reduction in the satellite’s capacity but that there is no risk of similar failures on other satellites in orbit or in production. (4/18)

Urgent Spacewalk Must Dance Between Dragon and Progress Spacecraft (Source: Universe Today)
It’s a good thing that next week’s urgent spacewalk is pegged as a short one, because the coming days will be hectic for the Expedition 39 crew. Finding a spot for even a 2.5-hour excursion on the International Space Station was extremely challenging, NASA officials said, because crew time also is needed for two cargo spacecraft: the SpaceX Dragon launch scheduled for today and subsequent Progress undocking/redocking on station. (4/18)

Russia to Test Launch New Angara Rocket June 25 (Source: RIA Novosti)
The date of the maiden launch of Russia’s new Angara rocket has been set for June 25, an official with the Russian Space Agency told RIA Novosti Friday. “The launch is set for June 25, with the 26th as a backup date,” the official said.
He added the rocket would be fired without an orbital payload from the Plesetsk space center, located about 800 kilometers north of Moscow. The Angara family of rockets, in development since 1995, is planned to be built in light, semi-heavy and heavy versions to lift a variety of payloads between 2 and 40 metric tons into low earth orbit. (4/18)

Russia to Keep Working With Astronauts From US, Europe, Japan (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russian cosmonauts will continue to work with their colleagues from the US, Europe and Japan, despite a number of recent NASA statements about curtailing space cooperation, the head of the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center said. "I have been flying with these guys, with the Americans and the Europeans, my friends have been flying as well," Yuri Lonchakov, a former cosmonaut, said.

Lonchakov was appointed head of the cosmonaut training center earlier this month. He said he had accepted the offer by Roscosmos to focus on creating a new organization for the strategic development of Russian manned spaceflight, which would be established on the basis of the Central Research Institute of Machine Building, Roscosmos' leading spacecraft scientific center. (4/18)

Despite Sanctions, Russia is Getting a $457.9M Check from NASA (Source: Washington Post)
Despite ongoing sanctions, Russia is about to get a big infusion of cash from the U.S. government. NASA recently renewed a contract that allows Russia to ferry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station. The U.S. is, essentially, cutting Russia a $457.9 million check for its services -- six seats on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft, training and launch prep, landing and crew rescue and limited cargo delivery to and from the International Space Station. This contract also adds additional support at the Russian launch site. (4/18)

Russia, China Eye Cooperation of GLONASS and BeiDou Navigation Systems (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia and China see prospects of cooperation related with satellite navigation systems GLONASS and BeiDou in regional support and development of chipsets, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said. Rogozin was taking part in a meeting of co-chairs of Russian-Chinese committee for preparation of regular meetings between the countries’ prime ministers. (4/18)

Despite Crisis, Yuzhnoye Officials Say It’s Business as Usual (Source: Space News)
Ukraine’s Yuzhnoye Design Office is continuing to produce engines and other rocket components for customers in the United States, Brazil, Russia, Europe and elsewhere with no interruptions stemming from the crisis in Ukraine’s relations with Moscow, Yuzhnoye officials said April 10.

Addressing the Space Access conference here, the officials said Yuzhnoye, based in Dniepropetrovsk — in the eastern part of Ukraine that Russian President Vladimir Putin recently referred to as Novorossiya, or New Russia — has become accustomed to maintaining its operations regardless of political turmoil. “We have been able to survive all this, including the years after the breakup of the Soviet Union, because we operate with almost complete independence from the government. This is essential,” said Yuzhnoye’s Oleg Ventskovsky. (4/18)

German Study Finds Pros, Cons to Different Commercial Models for Station Resupply (Source: Space News)
It is a story of two companies with similar contracts from NASA to carry 20,000 kilograms of payload to the international space station. Both develop new rockets and capsules to do the work. Both are behind schedule but otherwise are delivering the goods. NASA is content and seems ready to buy more services from both. But the similarities between SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corp. end there.

A comparative analysis performed by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) is in the thick of the debate in Europe about how to adapt the Ariane rocket system to the changing commercial launch market while meeting the launch requirements of European governments. At the center of the discussion is whether the current Ariane 5 rocket production landscape of more than 100 contractors spread around Europe should be abandoned in favor of a much smaller supply chain located in a handful of nations.

In examining NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) work by SpaceX and Orbital, DLR wanted to determine whether the companies’ very different make-or-buy strategies have yielded a winner. Not yet, said DLR’s Alexander Weiss. “For commercial cargo supply under the NASA contract, both companies are competitive,” Weiss said. “There is no clear evidence that one approach is better.” (4/18)

Muratsuchi: Support California’s Aerospace Industry (Source: Daily Breeze)
As your Assembly member representing the South Bay, and as chair of the Assembly Select Committee on Aerospace, I introduced legislation to support and grow one of the most exciting new industries in California, commercial space flight. Private companies like Space X are building rocket ships and creating thousands of good paying manufacturing jobs right here in Southern California. We want these companies to invest and grow in our state.

That is why I am fighting for Assembly Bill 777, a bill that provides a property tax exemption for the commercial space flight industry. The California Chamber of Commerce has dubbed my bill a job creator. The California Legislature made a significant step forward last week when the Senate came together with a strong bipartisan vote for AB 777. The bill will come back to the Assembly for one more vote before it hopefully moves on to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk for his signature. (4/18)

Ancient Plants 'Frozen in Time' by Space Impacts (Source: BBC)
Ancient plant material has been preserved in the glass formed by asteroids hitting the Earth, scientists report. The "frozen in aspic" appearance of what are apparently fragments of grass is spectacular enough. But a team writing in Geology journal says that delicate organic chemicals have also been conserved inside. Incredibly, the searing heat generated by the impacts was responsible for the remarkable preservation. (4/18)

US Firm is Taking Space Tourism to Luxurious New Heights (Source: South China Morning Post)
The prize is the panoramic curvature of the earth against the starry scenery of space, but passengers on the HK$550,000-per-ticket World View Experience trip to the edge of space won't have to keep the privileged view to themselves. In-flight internet access is guaranteed for all "citizen space explorers" who make the gas balloon-powered trip, which from 2016 will take paying passengers on suborbital flights. Click here. (4/18)

Purdue Students Pitch Moon Colony Plan to NASA (Source: Lafayette Journal Carrier)
A Purdue University senior design class has a plan to colonize the moon. The catch? It would cost an estimated $550 billion — well above NASA’s annual $18 million budget. A 40-member team of aeronautics and astronautics students outlined its plan Thursday to a crowded room, including a few NASA administrators listening in via speakerphone from Houston.

Project Artemis is spelled out in a hefty 1,100-page final report. It’s the senior project for the AAE 450 capstone class and is designed to offer a possible steppingstone to eventual colonization of Mars. Mars colonization faces several challenges that NASA hasn’t yet addressed, said professor James Longuski, who has led the class since 2001. No one expects NASA to adopt the proposal in its entirety, considering the price tag. But there’s nothing stopping NASA from taking ideas or portions of the project. (4/17)

Marshall Prepares for Dynamic Year with Space Launch System (Source: WAAY)
The Marshall Space Flight Center says, over the next several years, it could break new ground, when it comes to all kinds of discoveries. As NASA and the Marshall Space Flight Center enter next year's budget year, they're poised to tackle more than ever before. The Marshall Space Flight Center, the area's third largest employer, has 6,000 employees, and has a two and half billion dollar impact on Madison County.

And they're growing, with more contracts with outside companies for the Space Launch System. "we attract the best from around the country to work on NASA missions, and people, from wherever they are, want to come to Huntsville, Alabama because they know we're embarking on some earth changing things from what we're doing on the rocket that will be the most powerful ever, getting us further into the oceans of space than we've ever been,” says Patrick Scheuermann, the Director at the Marshall Space Flight Center. (4/17)

Cyclone-4 Development Not Affected by Ukraine Turmoil (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The current events in Ukraine have not impacted the Cyclone-4 Project development. Currently, the Launch Vehicle development is progressing as scheduled, and it will be ready for delivery to Alcantara in the second half of 2015. A significant portion of the Launch Site civil construction activities has been completed as well. Most of Ground Support Equipment has been contracted, and some has already been received in Alcantara.

According to Azovmash, one of ACS’s main contractors responsible for development, manufacturing and delivery of many key systems required for the Cyclone-4 Launch Site operation, the major part of the Cyclone-4 systems under Azovmash’s responsibility has already been manufactured, and the other part is at the final stage of fabrication. All activities are on schedule. Click here. (4/17)

Solar Power Satellites: A Visual Introduction (Source: WIRED)
Of all the spaceflight concepts NASA has seriously studied, the most enormous was the Solar Power Satellite (SPS) fleet of the 1970s. Czech-born physicist/engineer Peter Glaser outlined the concept in a brief article in the esteemed journal Science in November 1968, and was awarded a patent for his invention on Christmas Day 1973. In October 1976, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and NASA began a three-phase, four-year joint study of the SPS concept. Total cost of the study was $19.6 million, of which DOE paid 60%. Click here. (4/18)

NASA's Moon-Orbiting Robot Crashes Down as Planned (Source: ABC News)
NASA's robotic moon explorer, LADEE, is no more. Flight controllers confirmed Friday that the orbiting spacecraft crashed into the back side of the moon as planned, just three days after surviving a full lunar eclipse, something it was never designed to do. Researchers believe LADEE likely vaporized when it hit because of its extreme orbiting speed of 3,600 mph, possibly smacking into a mountain or side of a crater. No debris would have been left behind. (4/18)

Editorial: SpaceX Could Soar in South Texas (Source: The Monitor)
On a spit of beach, 25 miles from downtown Brownsville sits a parcel of coastal land that SpaceX might one day develop into the nation’s first commercial space launch facility. At least that’s the hope.

Because the prospects of what this could mean for this region are mind boggling. Of course, given the undeveloped, unadulterated coastal landscape that presently exists there now and how vastly such a launch site could transform the region — economically and geographically — it’s understandable that this possibility is almost too much to comprehend.

But it’s worth imagining. It’s worth dreaming. It’s worth believing this into reality. Perhaps I’m overly optimistic. But that’s because for the past 11 years, I lived in McGregor, near Waco, which is home to SpaceX’s rocket-engine testing facility. I saw firsthand the economic and intellectual benefits and worldwide recognition that this private company brought to that Central Texas community. Click here. (4/18)

How the U.S. Is Vulnerable to Terrorism in Space (Source: National Journal)
Space terrorism is a growing threat to U.S. national security, according to a new report. And an attack on a U.S. satellite—or damage to one from another country's debris—could have astronomical effects on national security, says the report from the Council on Foreign Relations. The U.S. is more reliant on space than any other nation to carry out critical national security functions, such as precision attacks on suspected terrorists and image analysis of nuclear-weapons programs, according to the report.

But countries like China, North Korea, and Iran are developing their military space capabilities, increasing the risk of a dangerous situation for the U.S, says the report. For example, if one of these hostile countries acquires advanced space capabilities, they could feasibly attack a U.S. satellite to gain an upper hand in negotiations, hold off potential hostile acts, or as an act of defense, says Micah Zenko, the Douglas Dillon fellow in the Center for Preventive Action at the CFR and the report's author. But, according to Zenko's report, terrorists take a back seat to another space threat: accidents. Click here. (4/17)

Intel Community Willing to Allow Higher Resolution Commercial Imagery (Source: Space Politics)
For the last few years, commercial satellite remote sensing company DigitalGlobe (and, before its merger with DigitalGlobe, GeoEye) has been lobbying the government to allow it to sell sharper satellite imagery that it’s currently allowed. DigitalGlobe is currently restricted to selling imagery with resolution no sharper than 0.5 meters per pixel, but has been pushing to change that limit to 0.25 meters.

The company argued that companies in other nations, not subject to US regulations, are providing imagery that is starting to approach DigitalGlobe’s sharpness, and thus the company needs the ability to sell sharper images to compete. This week, government officials have the strongest indication to date that they’re willing to change the resolution limits. Speaking in Florida, James Clapper said that the intelligence community had reached “consensus” on supporting DigitalGlobe’s call for revised resolution regulations. (4/17)

A Space Prepper’s Guide to the End of the Earth (Source: Space Safety)
If Planet Earth was doomed and you escaped to space….could you survive? With this handy guide at the ready, you might just have a chance. Click here. (4/16)

Small Satellites and Space Junk (Source: Space Safety)
Small satellites seem to have so many advantages, but are there any downsides? Admittedly, there are so many missions and projects that cannot be scaled down to these small proportions. Big birds will always fill our skies. The only potential problem that one could suggest for the small satellite revolution is the potential for more space junk. But will this really be a serious problem?

Let’s consider the orbits. Most CubeSats fly at fairly low altitudes. They will not stay in orbit for decades. Furthermore, their trajectories can be controlled from launch, and they can be tracked fairly easily with radar. We know where they are, and where they are going.

Most small satellites contain no propellants or explosive components. They will remain intact until they reenter. Fragmentation due to impacts with other objects is unlikely due to their small size. In contrast to some other spacecraft, small satellites are normally deployed with a minimum of jetsam. They are often popped out of launch tubes with no other items released in the process. There will be fewer springs, bolts or rings to clutter nearby space. Click here. (4/16)

Test Running a Landing on Mars (Source: Space Safety)
In 2012, NASA made a big splash when it premiered a new landing system – Entry, Descent, and Landing (EDL)  to be precise – that successfully put Curiosity on Mars. It was a complicated, staged system, much more involved than the prior approach of crashing spacecraft with cushioning airbags. But that complexity allowed NASA to land a more massive rover than had ever been previously attempted. Click here. (4/17)

NASA Administrator and Senior Leaders to Outline NASA's "Path to Mars" (Source: NASA)
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden will outline NASA's human exploration path to Mars during a keynote address at the Humans to Mars Summit 2014 at 9 a.m. EDT on Apr. 22. The conference, sponsored by Explore Mars, will be held April 22-24. Other senior NASA officials speaking at the event include NASA Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations William Gerstenmaier, NASA Associate Administrator for Space Technology Michael Gazarik and NASA Ames Center Director S. Pete Worden. (4/17)

Florida DOT Officials Visit Spaceport (Source: SPACErePORT)
Officials from the Florida Department of Transportation will visit the Cape Canaveral Spaceport on Apr. 21-22 for meetings with Space Florida and NASA Kennedy Space Center. FDOT manages a multi-million dollar annual fund for spaceport infrastructure. The group will visit Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University on Apr. 23 to discuss the university's aviation and space transportation programs. (4/17)

Unexpected Teleconnections in Noctilucent Clouds (Source: Space Daily)
Earth's poles are separated by four oceans, six continents and more than 12,000 nautical miles. Turns out, that's not so far apart. New data from NASA's AIM spacecraft have revealed "teleconnections" in Earth's atmosphere that stretch all the way from the North Pole to the South Pole and back again, linking weather and climate more closely than simple geography would suggest. (4/17)

NASA Gears Up for Next Set of SLS Engine Tests at Stennis (Source: Space Daily)
The RS-25 engine that will power NASA's new rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), off the launch pad and on journeys to an asteroid and Mars is getting ready for the test stand. And it is packing a big punch. Engineers at NASA's Stennis Space Center are now focusing their attention on preparing the RS-25 engine after completing testing of the J-2X engine April 10. (4/17)

'Tilt-a-Worlds' Could Harbor Life (Source: Space Daily)
A fluctuating tilt in a planet's orbit does not preclude the possibility of life, according to new research by astronomers at the University of Washington, Utah's Weber State University and NASA. In fact, sometimes it helps. That's because such "tilt-a-worlds," as astronomers sometimes call them - turned from their orbital plane by the influence of companion planets - are less likely than fixed-spin planets to freeze over, as heat from their host star is more evenly distributed. (4/17)