August 19, 2019

Musk Concerned We Have 'No Defense' Against Potential Killer Asteroid (Source: Fox News)
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said that a large asteroid will eventually hit Earth and his concern is that "we currently have no defense" for it. Responding to a tweet from podcaster Joe Rogan, Musk said Sunday he would not worry about the asteroid Apophis, which is expected to fly past Earth in 2029. However, a "big rock" will eventually hit Earth and as of right now, there's nothing we can do about it. (8/19)

SpaceX’s West Coast Drone Ship Begins Panama Canal Transit on Journey to Florida (or Texas) (Source: Teslarati)
After traveling more than 3500 miles (5600 km), SpaceX autonomous spaceport drone ship (ASDS) Just Read The Instructions (JRTI) began its eastbound transit of the Panama Canal on August 18th, placing the vessel roughly two-thirds of the way to its unknown destination. JRTI’s move came as a bit of a surprise and it’s still anyone’s bet if the SpaceX recovery vessel heads for Texas or Florida immediately after exiting the Panama Canal. Nevertheless, JRTI’s presence at either (or, more likely, both) possible destinations arguably centers around the imminent demands of a planned ramp-up of SpaceX’s Starlink satellite constellation launch cadence, as well as an equally imminent need for recovery assets to support the first suborbital Starship test flights. (8/19)

Newt Gingrich Trying to Sell Trump on a Cheap Moon Plan (Source: Politico)
Newt Gingrich and an eclectic band of NASA skeptics are trying sell President Donald Trump on a reality show-style plan to jump-start the return of humans to the moon — at a fraction of the space agency’s estimated price tag. The proposal, whose other proponents range from a three-star Air Force general to the former publicist for pop stars Michael Jackson and Prince, envisions creating a $2 billion sweepstakes pitting billionaires Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and other space pioneers to see who can establish and run the first lunar base.

That’s far less taxpayer money than NASA’s anticipated lunar plan, which relies on traditional space contractors such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin and is projected to cost $50 billion or more. Backers of the novel approach have briefed administration officials serving on the White House National Space Council, several members of the group confirmed, though they declined to provide specifics of the internal conversations.

Trump has yet to weigh in on the idea, at least publicly. But the proposal, designed to offer a big incentive for private players who are already planning their own moon missions, comes while the president has expressed skepticism that NASA can achieve his goal of returning American astronauts to the moon by 2024 without bold departures from the status quo. Gingrich maintains that space entrepreneurs like Musk and Bezos can rise to the challenge. And some of the companies told POLITICO they are intrigued by the idea of such a competition. (8/19)

Rocket Lab Electron Launches Four Smallsats (Source: Space News)
Rocket Lab launched four small satellites Aug. 19 on a mission that also brings the company one step closer to reusing the first stage of its Electron rockets. The Electron rocket lifted off from the company’s launch site on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula at 8:12 a.m. Eastern, three days after high winds scrubbed a previous launch attempt. The four satellites carried on the rocket’s Curie kick stage deployed successfully about 53 minutes after liftoff into a circular orbit 540 kilometers high at an inclination of 45 degrees.

Rocket Lab launched four small satellites Aug. 19 on a mission that also brings the company one step closer to reusing the first stage of its Electron rockets. The Electron rocket lifted off from the company’s launch site on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula at 8:12 a.m. Eastern, three days after high winds scrubbed a previous launch attempt. The four satellites carried on the rocket’s Curie kick stage deployed successfully about 53 minutes after liftoff into a circular orbit 540 kilometers high at an inclination of 45 degrees. (8/19)

NASA Robots Rove Through Caves for Underground DARPA Competition (Source: Space.com)
Robots from all over the world are about to go on a subterranean adventure, competing against each other in mining tunnels to determine which ones can best navigate and find objects underground and do so autonomously. DARPA is hosting the Subterranean Challenge Systems Competition on Aug. 15-22 as a way to develop technology for the military and first responders to map and search subterranean areas. A team led by NASA JPL will be one of 11 teams taking part in the competition with wheeled rovers, drones and climbing robots that can rise on pinball-flipper-shaped treads to scale obstacles. (8/18)

NASA Asks American Companies to Deliver Supplies for Artemis Moon Missions (Source: NASA KSC)
In another major step toward landing American astronauts on the lunar surface by 2024, NASA is asking industry to respond to a Request for Proposals to deliver cargo, science experiments and supplies to the Gateway to support Artemis missions to the lunar surface. Commercial supply services will support the agency’s Artemis lunar exploration program which includes sending the first woman and the next man to surface of the Moon within five years, and preparing for human exploration of Mars.

The agency is seeking capabilities from American companies to deliver a logistics spacecraft with pressurized and unpressurized cargo to the Gateway for six months of docked operations followed by automatic disposal. The logistics spacecraft must launch on a commercial rocket. “We chose to minimize spacecraft requirements on industry to allow for commercial innovation, but we are asking industry to propose their best solutions for delivering cargo and enabling our deep space supply chain,” said Mark Wiese, NASA’s Gateway logistics element manager at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (8/19)

Northrop to Assemble OmegA Rocket at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: GovCon Wire)
Northrop Grumman has selected a building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to serve as the assembly and testing site for its OmegA rocket. A NASA blog post published Friday says Northrop and the space agency signed a Reimbursable Space Act Agreement to pave the way for the use of the vehicle assembly building’s High Bay 2 to build the intermediate/heavy-class rocket under a launch services agreement with the U.S. Air Force.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Friday at High Bay 2 led by Kent Rominger, vice presdent and OmegA capture lead at Northrop; Bob Cabana, director of the Kennedy Space Center; and Col. Thomas Ste. Marie, vice commander of the Air Force’s 45th space wing. It was also attended by spaceport employees and lawmakers. Northrop has begun modification work on mobile launcher platform-3 to facilitate the assembly and launch of the rocket. (8/19)

Canceled SpaceX Projects: Falcon Heavy Propellant Crossfeed (Source: Elonx)
One of the announced and abandoned SpaceX projects was crossfeed funcionality for Falcon Heavy. It is a unique way of fuel transfer between the side boosters and the rocket’s center core. The idea is that each side booster would, in addition to its own engines, supply fuel and oxidizer to three of the nine center core engines. Therefore, only the remaining three center core engines would be supplied from the center core tanks. Using this method (which has never been used in practice), the center core would have consumed only about 15% of the propellant in its tanks by the time the side boosters separated. This results in a more efficient use of propellant which leads to higher payload capacity.

First, let’s look at the history of the concept of propellant transfer between rocket stages. In 1947, Mikhail Tichonravov came up with the idea of parallel stages. In his scheme, three parallel boosters were used, but the engines in the central stage were fueled from the side boosters until they were depleted and discarded. This approach is more efficient than traditional sequential staging because the engine in the second stage is never just dead weight. Later, the Soviets conducted engineering studies comparing rockets with sequential and parallel stages, with and without fuel transfer between stages. The result of this study was the R-7 Semyorka rocket. It became the basis of today’s Soyuz rocket, but it doesn’t actually use fuel transfer between stages.

Transferring propellant across stages during flight is a hard engineering problem which might not be worth solving when it results in a 10% increase of an already-high payload capacity. On top of that, Falcon Heavy’s payload capacity has increased by 17% since 2011, even without crossfeed technology. It’s possible that if SpaceX wasn’t focusing on Starship, they might have eventually developed crossfeed for Falcon Heavy. But because there is no need for this type of technology for Starship, which will eventually replace Falcon Heavy anyway, crossfeed seems to be a dead end and was therefore canceled or postponed indefinitely. (8/16)

China's Small Launcher Places Satellites in Orbit (Source: Xinhua)
A Chinese small launch vehicle had a successful first launch Saturday. The Jielong-1, or Smart Dragon-1, rocket lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center at 12:11 a.m. Eastern and placed three small satellites into low Earth orbit. The solid-fueled rocket, developed by Chinarocket Co., Ltd., a subsidiary of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, is capable of placing 200 kilograms into a sun-synchronous orbit. Chinarocket is planning five more launches of the rocket through next year. (8/19)

OneWeb Shares Valuation Drops With New Funding Round (Source: The Telegraph)
OneWeb's largest investor has written down the value of its stake in the broadband satellite company. SoftBank took an impairment loss of £380 million ($460 million) on its stake in OneWeb earlier this year, according to a source, while others investors reportedly have lost up to half the value of their stakes in the company. A company spokesperson acknowledged that a $1.25 billion funding round earlier this year diluted the stakes of existing investors, but that "the enterprise value continues to increase." (8/19)

APT Gets Insurance Payout From Satellite Failure (Source: Space News)
APT Satellite has received an insurance payment for the partial failure of one of its satellites last year. The $21 million payment covers a loss of performance from the 14-year-old Apstar-6 satellite from a partial failure of its solar panels. The company moved Apstar-6 into an inclined orbit after the power issue, and accelerated commissioning of the Apstar-6C satellite to fill the gap. APT Satellite's next spacecraft is Apstar-6D, but its delivery has been delayed from later this year to next year for undisclosed reasons. (8/19)

India to Outsource PSLV Production to India (Source: The Hindu)
India's space agency ISRO is planning to outsource construction of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicles. ISRO's commercial arm, NewSpace India Ltd., announced it is seeking "expressions of interest" from companies able to produce five PSLV rockets initially, with a long-term goal of producing 12 such rockets a year. The effort is intended to reduce ISRO's own manufacturing burden and meet growing demand for the rocket. (8/19)

UC Berkeley Plans Development on NASA Ames Center (Source: Daily Californian)
The University of California Berkeley is in talks with NASA's Ames Research Center about a new development project on the center's property. The project would redevelop 36.2 acres of property at Moffett Field for research, education and housing. The project would be separate from the agreement NASA has with Google, which leases the airfield and other property with plans to develop offices and housing. University officials said its proposed project would require third-party financing from industry partners. (8/19)

Here’s the Stupid Reason Elon Musk Wants to Nuke Mars (Source: The Next Web)
Elon Musk is on social media yapping about nuking Mars again. He’s not trolling; he’s not acting as a provocateur; he really wants to bombard the surface of our planetary neighbor with actual nuclear weapons. Here’s why: he thinks it’ll kick-start the planet and make it habitable by releasing trapped carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. He’s been pushing this theory since at least 2015 when he told Stephen Colbert that Mars was a “fixer-upper” and that we could fix it by nuking it. According to scientists, he’s mostly wrong.

NASA research indicates that dropping nuclear weapons on Mars will release some carbon dioxide, but not enough to alter conditions so they’re remotely close to what we have on Earth. A 2018 study indicates that there simply isn’t enough carbon dioxide on the planet to make that big a difference. Currently, Mars‘ has an atmospheric carbon dioxide content of about 0.6 percent of the Earth‘s. If we let Elon Musk fire off nukes at it, scientists believe that’ll raise it to a mere 7 percent of the Earth‘s content. (8/17)

Catch Rockets With a Helicopter? Yep, That's the Plan (Source: WIRED)
In the span of just four years, reusable rockets have gone from never-been-done to almost routine, at least at SpaceX. Blue Origin was the first to land a rocket booster, in 2015, after a suborbital flight to space. The following month, SpaceX landed the first-stage booster of a Falcon 9 rocket that had gone into orbit. Since then, SpaceX has landed boosters on drone ships in the ocean, and earlier this year it landed all three boosters from its Falcon Heavy rocket for the first time. If any other rocket maker hopes to compete, it has to figure out how to recover its own rockets too.

While midair recovery of rockets sounds complicated, its proponents argue that it’s actually less complex and less expensive than guiding a rocket back to a landing pad. In many ways, it’s the same problem faced by an outfielder trying to catch a fly ball in baseball. But in this case the ball weighs thousands of pounds and is traveling several times the speed of sound. Oh yeah, and the outfield is over 100 square miles of open ocean. Easy enough.

In Rocket Lab’s design, its Electron rocket jettisons its payload and then begins to fall back toward Earth. According to Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck, this is the toughest moment. As the booster sheds kinetic energy due to air resistance, it heats up the atmosphere around it, creating a blistering pocket of air. At the same time, a high-pressure area at the leading end of the booster generates intense shockwaves. (8/15)

How NASA is Becoming More Business Friendly (Source: Phys.org)
A new case study demonstrates the steps being taken by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA) to make it easier for small businesses and entrepreneurs to understand its needs and do business with it. The detailed case study, which provides insights on the design, results, and lessons learned from these efforts, is published in New Space: The Journal of Space Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Jennifer Gustetic, NASA Headquarters, and colleagues from NASA Ames , REI Systems, and the US Department of Energy coauthored the article entitled "Making NASA More Business Friendly: A Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer Case Study."

They describe the three core initiatives of the effort to make NASA more open to collaboration with small businesses. These included developing an annual Request for Information (RFI), which offered an opportunity for businesses to provide input and submit ideas. A second initiative was the establishment of Industry Day, an annual small business-NASA event that provided a forum in which small business customers and NASA subject matter experts could convene, to increase the likelihood for commercialization of innovations and successful uptake of new technologies by NASA.

Lastly, NASA prioritized the modernization of its Electronic Handbook, an IT system used to manage the solicitation of proposals and awards process. The authors discuss the results of these efforts, draw conclusions, and suggest future steps that can be taken to further improve collaboration between NASA and the small business community. (8/19)

Turning a Corner on Mars (Source: Space Review)
For decades, scientists have sought to bring back samples from Mars for study in terrestrial labs. Van Kane and Pat Nealon describe how those efforts are now picking up momentum with a series of missions that could return Martian samples within a little more than a decade. Click here. (8/19)
 
Macron’s Space Force: Why Now? (Source: Space Review)
Last month, French government officials, including President Emmanuel Macron, outlined plans to take a more active military space role, including its own space force. Taylor Dinerman examines why France is taking the lead on such efforts among its European allies. Click here. (8/19)
 
An “Operationally Ready” Spaceport (Source: Space Review)
Virgin Galactic took another step closer to commercial operations last week not with another test flight of SpaceShipTwo but instead updates to Spaceport America in New Mexico. Jeff Foust reports on the significance of what might seem to be a trivial milestone. Click here. (8/19)
 
The Future of Commercial Space Transportation (Source: Space Review)
Today, the term “commercial space transportation” usually refers to rockets for placing payloads into orbit. Dallas Bienhoff describes how that will soon expand to in-space transportation services, either in orbit around the Earth or for missions to the Moon. Click here. (8/19) 

August 17, 2019

NASA Marshall to Lead Artemis Program’s Human Lunar Lander Development (Source: NASA)
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine was joined Friday by U.S. Representatives Mo Brooks and Robert Aderholt of Alabama and Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee at the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, to announce the center’s new role leading the agency’s Human Landing System Program for its return to the Moon by 2024.

“Marshall Space Flight Center is the birthplace of America’s space program. It was Marshall scientists and engineers who designed, built, tested, and helped launch the giant Saturn V rocket that carried astronauts on the Apollo missions to the Moon,” Brooks said. “Marshall has unique capabilities and expertise not found at other NASA centers. I’m pleased NASA has chosen Marshall to spearhead a key component of America’s return to the Moon and usher in the Artemis era. Thanks to Administrator Bridenstine for travelling here to share the great news in person.” (8/16)

Northrop Grumman Becomes First Commercial Partner to Use VAB (Source: NASA)
After spending more than 50 years supporting NASA’s human spaceflight programs, the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), a landmark at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is getting its first commercial tenant. Northrop Grumman will assemble and test its new OmegA rocket inside the massive facility’s High Bay 2, one of four high bays in the building. Officials with NASA, Northrop Grumman and the U.S. Air Force gathered in High Bay 2 on Aug. 16 to celebrate the partnership with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by legislative representatives and spaceport employees. (8/16)

SpaceX’s First Super-Heavy Hardware is Already Being Built at Florida Starship Campus (Source: Teslarati)
Based on some basic analysis of recent photos of SpaceX’s East Coast Starship facility, situated in Cocoa, Florida, SpaceX has almost certainly begun fabricating and staging hardware that will eventually become part of the company’s first Super Heavy booster prototype. This is by no means surprising but it does confirm the reasonable assumption that SpaceX is already working hard to ensure that the first Super Heavy booster(s) can be assembled as quickly as possible.

Additionally, SpaceX appears to have started clearing brush in the process of preparing to transport the Florida orbital Starship prototype (“Mk2”) to SpaceX’s Pad 39A launch facilities, dozens of miles away. In August alone, Cocoa has effectively doubled the height of the barrel section of its Mk2 orbital Starship prototype, jumping from 7-8 to 15 steel rings. The barrel section is now ~28m (90 ft) tall and Starship Mk2’s pointed nose section is still approximately 20-22m (65-70 ft) tall, adding up to a stacked height of 48-50m, approximately 10% shy of its final 55m (180 ft) height.

Assuming that SpaceX hasn’t stretched Starship further since CEO Elon Musk’s September 2018 update, this leaves Starship Mk2 around 2-4 rings and a small nose cap shy of its full height (excluding legs). Musk says Super Heavy will likely perform its first flight tests with approximately 20 Raptor engines, eventually arriving at a full 31-37 engines depending on the configuration. Musk also believes that Starship could be ready for its first orbital flight tests as early as December 2019. (8/16)

Why Stowaway Creatures on the Moon Confound International Space Law (Source: The Verge)
The recent Israeli moonship crash that left tardigrades on the lunar surface raises many questions about the protocols surrounding how space-bound payloads are approved. Technically, international guidelines on interplanetary contamination don’t prohibit sending biological matter and organisms to the lunar surface, since most living creatures can’t survive there. But no governing body had a say in the tardigrade matter at all. The tardigrades were added to the lander by a US nonprofit called the Arch Mission Foundation, whose goal is to create a digital and biological “backup of planet Earth” out in space.

The team had approval to add a digital library on the lander, but they didn’t inform Israel or the United States about the added water bears. “We didn’t tell them we were putting life in this thing,” Nova Spivack, co-founder of the Arch Mission Foundation, tells Mashable. “Space agencies don’t like last-minute changes. So we just decided to take the risk.” Spivack did not want to give further comment to The Verge.

Now, some are wondering if new international guidelines should be put in place to prevent copycat missions in the future. “It sets a dangerous precedent that it’s in some way acceptable to do this without a broader scientific consultation,” Christopher Newman, a professor of space law and policy at Northumbria University in the United Kingdom, tells The Verge. While the Arch Mission Foundation didn’t violate any official international regulations for space contamination, the nonprofit may have put Israel and the US in a vulnerable position by not explicitly asking for permission first. (8/16)

NASA Chief Alienates Senators Needed to Fund the Moon Program (Source: Ars Technica)
By handing Alabama's Marshall Space Flight Center leadership of the lander program as well as oversight of its "transfer" and "descent" elements. Houston-based Johnson Space Center, which managed the lunar lander during the Apollo Program and historically has designed human spacecraft for NASA, would lead development of the "ascent" part of the lander and report to Marshall. It appears that neither Bridenstine nor his staff bothered to tell the US Senators from Texas—Republicans John Cornyn and Ted Cruz—about this decision.

Although the Texas lawmakers asked Bridenstine to delay his announcement, the administrator pressed on Friday regardless. During an event at Marshall, Bridenstine announced the division of work between the Marshall and Johnson centers. "This is not a decision that was made lightly," he said. According to NASA's news release, Babin had been scheduled to appear at the event alongside several Alabama lawmakers. However, Babin decided not to attend. “I am disappointed by the decision from NASA to not place the lunar lander program management at the Johnson Space Center," he later said in a statement. (8/16)

August 16, 2019

Air Force Invites Proposals for Small and Medium Class Launch Services (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force is soliciting bids for small and medium-class launch services. Proposals are due Aug. 29 for the Orbital Services Program 4 (OSP-4) contract, designed for payloads weighing at least 180 kilograms, with the Air Force anticipating 20 missions over nine years. Lockheed Martin, Orbital Sciences (now Northrop Grumman) and SpaceX received contracts for the previous OSP-3 program in 2012, with Northrop and SpaceX ultimately awarded six missions. (8/16)

Next Week's Delta Launch From Florida Will Be The Last of Its Kind (Source: Florida Today)
The final launch of the "single stick" version of the Delta 4 is on track for next week. A Delta 4 Medium-Plus (4,2) rocket is scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral Thursday morning carrying the second GPS 3 satellite. The launch will be the last for the single-core version of the Delta 4, which United Launch Alliance is retiring to focus on the Atlas 5 and the upcoming Vulcan, both of which are more cost-competitive. The triple-core Delta 4 Heavy will remain in service at least to the mid-2020s. (8/16)

Philippines Creates Space Agency (Source: Rappler)
The Philippines is the latest country to establish a space agency. President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law this month a bill passed by the country's Congress authorizing the creation of a Philippine Space Agency. The agency will be responsible for issues of space science, technology and applications in the country. The government hasn't announced when the agency will start operations. (8/16)

China's LinkSpace Reusable Rocket Prototype Makes Its Highest Flight Yet (And Lands, Too!) (Source: Space.com)
The Chinese company LinkSpace successfully flew a rocket prototype on its highest flight yet, then nailed the landing as the firm pursues reusable spaceflight technology. The LinkSpace Aerospace Technology Group launched its Reusable Launch Vehicle T5 vehicle on Aug. 10 at the company's Mangai test site in China's Qinghai province. The brief flight, the third for this booster, lasted less than a minute and reached an altitude of just over 984 feet. (8/14)

Starhopper Flight Needs More Analysis for FAA Go-Ahead (Source: Teslarati)
According to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, the company’s next major Starhopper flight test is still awaiting FAA approval due to a need for more hazard analysis, presumably required because Starhopper will be traveling much higher than before. On Aug. 9, SpaceX completed a routine wet dress rehearsal (WDR) with Starhopper, loading the vehicle with propellant and fluids and replicating a launch countdown up to the point of Raptor ignition.

Starhopper remains untethered in a sign that SpaceX doesn’t have plans for a static fire test before the low-fidelity rocket prototype’s next flight milestone. Originally scheduled for Aug. 12, that milestone – a 200 meter hop test – has been indefinitely delayed as SpaceX awaits an updated permit from the FAA. The oddity of the apparent difficulty SpaceX is having with the FAA’s experimental permit process is deepened by the fact that Starhopper is already permitted by the FAA and demonstrated its first successful flight just a few weeks ago. (8/15)

Rockets, Risks, Rewards: A Look At The Economics Of Building Spaceport Camden (Source: WABE)
Camden County, on the Georgia coast, is known as the home of Cumberland Island and a naval submarine base, Kings Bay. But the government wants to be known for something else, too: launching rockets. Camden has spent about $6.7 million and about seven years on a plan for a spaceport. But the county is taking a big economic development bet on this vision of space jobs in coastal Georgia, despite little proof their proposed business model will work.

They’re awaiting an FAA decision on the idea, due by December. “Our vision is a big vision. It’s a bold vision,” Steve Howard, Camden’s county administrator, said to the Georgia House Science and Technology Committee in 2016. “To develop a successful, world-class spaceport through a public, private partnership that establishes Camden County as a commercial space center of the United States.”

The spaceport idea isn’t new. There are already 12 in the U.S. And they’re all chasing a piece of the big-dollar success expected of the commercial space industry. Camden has spent at least $6.7 million and about seven years on a plan for a spaceport. In addition, the county included a line item for $720,000 in its 2020 budget titled “SP Purchase Option,” but declined to confirm whether or not the “SP” stands for spaceport, and whether or not the money had actually been spent. But that amount is just a fraction of what other spaceports have ultimately cost. And the county hasn’t paid for the land yet. Click here. (8/15) 

NASA Unveils New Megarocket to be Launched From Space Coast (Source: WESH)
It’s the world’s largest, and it’s coming to Central Florida to be launched past the moon. The core stage of the new SLS rocket is more than 20 stories tall, bigger by itself than the Falcon 9 and Atlas rockets now launching from the Cape. The SLS will add a second stage and spacecraft to reach 32 stories tall for launch. The SLS will be the only rocket capable of carrying an Orion spacecraft, astronauts and supplies to the moon on one launch, but the moon is only the first step.

"The moon is the proving ground. How do we use the technology and resources and then go on to Mars," NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said. The rocket is still under construction in a Louisiana factory where space shuttle fuel tanks were built. At the bottom of the rocket, there are four openings where fuel will flow into four engines to produce 2 million pounds of thrust. The next job for workers at the build site is to add those engines. The rocket’s first launch from the Kennedy Space Center is tentatively set for late next year. Click here. (8/15)

How Many Planets Like Earth Are In the Universe? (Source: Independent)
Scientists have worked out just how many planets like our own might be waiting out in the universe. The new study gives the best estimate yet of how many Earth-like planets are orbiting around Sun-like stars. The discovery will help guide astronomers as they search those planets for signs of alien life, by trying to understand more about the planets.

NASA's Kepler Space Telescope helped find that there are thousands of planets waiting outside of our solar system, orbiting around their own suns. Over the nearly ten years it scanned the sky, it was watching out for transit events – the slight dips in light that happen when a planet moves in front of a star, which can be used to understand those planets' size and characteristics. But scientists want to know how many of those alien worlds are like ours, sitting close enough to their star that they get enough light to provide energy for life.

The researchers found that there are probably planets like our own – between three-quarters and one-and-a-half times as big as our planet, and similar length years – waiting to be found around roughly one in four stars. But they also worked out how accurate that estimate could be. The potential uncertainty means that missions should plan to find such worlds as often as every two stars, they suggest. (8/15)

Virgin Galactic's Spaceport America is No Longer an Empty Hangar (Source: Engadget)
Virgin Galactic has officially opened Spaceport America's "Gateway to Space" building few months after it started moving its staff and spacecraft to the New Mexico facility. In addition, the VMS Eve has arrived at the spaceport this week, which Chief Pilot Dave Mackay says brings "Virgin Galactic closer to starting commercial service." VMS Eve is the aerospace company's launch vehicle, in charge of carrying its spacecraft to the skies before dropping it mid-air.

The Earth-themed first floor, with its elevated and interactive digital walkway, will serve as the point of departure and return for spacecraft launching from the port. Meanwhile, the sky-themed second floor has a dedicated space for mission control, as well as a briefing room. The company will use VMS Eve to fly simulated spaceship launch missions from the spaceport in the coming days. Later this year, it'll go back to Mojave to pick up Virgin's VSS Unity suborbital vehicle, so their flight tests can be conducted from New Mexico where commercial flights will take place. (8/15)

How Lockheed Martin is Using Augmented Reality in Aerospace Manufacturing (Source: Engineering.com)
Lockheed Martin is making use of innovative augmented reality technology in their manufacturing process and across entire product lifecycles. Lockheed Martin’s AR project began in the Space Systems division, for example in assembly and quality processes for NASA’s Orion Spacecraft, but has been so successful that the company has deployed the Microsoft Hololens hardware and Scope AR software in other divisions, namely Aeronautics, Missiles and Fire Control, and Rotary and Mission Systems. The company may even send Hololens to space on crewed missions to support training and maintenance tasks. (8/13)

DOJ Antitrust Unit Wants More Info On UTC, Raytheon Merger (Source: Reuters)
United Technologies UX.N and Raytheon Co (RTN.N) have received requests for additional information from the antitrust division of the U.S. Department of Justice related to their $120 billion merger, according to a regulatory filing on Thursday. The two companies last month were also asked to provide documentary material, the filing showed. On June 10, United Technologies and Raytheon announced a deal that would intensify the pace of consolidation in the aerospace and defense industry. The merger is expected to be completed in the first half of next year. (8/15)

I Am Paying $200,000 for Five Minutes in Space (Source: Popular Mechanics)
In 2010 I gave Virgin Galactic a five-figure downpayment. Vrgin's spacecraft crashed in the desert in 2014, killing one of its test pilots. I'm not worried. I'm still training. On a blindingly bright January afternoon in 2010, I went to my bank to get a cashier's check for $20,000. It was my birthday, and I was buying myself the present I'd been waiting for my entire life: a trip to space.

This fat chunk of cash would become a 10 percent downpayment for a ticket aboard Virgin Galactic, billionaire Richard Branson's bold plan to hurl ordinary humans into space. To do this, Branson plans to use rocket planes that can carry space tourists 62 miles up and travel at three times the speed of sound. Ninety days before my trip, I'd need to pay the remaining $180,000. That's $200,000 for a five-minute sojourn beyond Earth's stratosphere. It's been almost seven years since I bought my ticket—No. 610. But I'm not just idly waiting for my space ride. I'm preparing. (12/2016)

NASA Giving Away Apollo-Era Saturn Rocket to Anyone Who Can Carry it Out (Source: Vintage News)
Ever wanted your own Saturn 1 rocket? For anyone with the means to transport it, it can be yours. Live or work in one place for a long enough time, and you being to accumulate a growing stockpile of, well… stuff. That’s true for the average person’s home, but it’s equally true for organizations, even NASA. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) in Alabama has ‘excessed’ a Saturn 1 Block 1 Booster, which is part of the Saturn rocket, and the space organization is looking to find it a good home.

The booster itself is the bottom-most stage of the Saturn 1 rockets. Even though NASA will ‘re-home’ it for free, there is one catch.  Whomever takes the rocket has to pay the whopping $250,000 cost to have it shipped.  The cost for transporting the behemoth certainly puts most individuals out of the running for getting it, but shouldn’t be a problem for many museums or educational institutions. (8/14)

Greenland's Ice is Melting at the Rate Scientists Thought Would Be Our Worst-Case Scenario in 2070 (Source: Business Insider)
Greenland is known for its glaciers, but in the past month, the island has shed ice and taken on fire. Scientists didn't expect to see Greenland melt at this rate for another 50 years: By the last week of July, the melting had reached levels that climate models projected for 2070 in the most pessimistic scenario.

On August 1, Greenland's ice sheet lost 12.5 billions tons of ice, more than any day since researchers started recording ice loss in 1950, The Washington Post reported. The dramatic melt suggests that Greenland's ice sheet is approaching a tipping point that could set it on an irreversible course towards disappearing entirely. (8/15)

SpaceTEC and Space Coast Apprenticeship Program Heading to Germany (Source: SpaceTEC)
SpaceTEC, the Space Coast Consortium Apprenticeship Program (SCCAP), Kamm Consulting Group (KCG), and Wichita State University were awarded a $120,000 grant to arrange US College tours to Germany so instructors, students, and apprentices at selected colleges can learn about Industry 4.0 advanced manufacturing apprenticeship programs and also establish apprenticeship exchange programs between the US and Germany. (8/15)

How SpaceX's Starship Will Help Establish a Mars Base (Source: Space.com)
As NASA works toward its long-term goal of establishing a human settlement on Mars, SpaceX is fleshing out its plans to help NASA make that dream a reality. The private spaceflight company, which regularly launches cargo to the International Space Station with the Falcon 9 rocket and will soon launch astronauts up there, is currently building an interplanetary spacecraft for Mars. Known as Starship, the rocket-spacecraft combo will be able to launch 100 passengers and large amounts of cargo to and from the Red Planet.

Before Starship can launch to Mars, it will start off launching commercial satellites as early as 2021, followed by a crewed flight around the moon in 2023. Although SpaceX has not given a timeline for its first missions to Mars, SpaceX founder Elon Musk has said that the first Mars base could be up and running in 2028. And while Musk shared some eye-catching artist illustrations depicting what he called "Mars Base Alpha" as an intricate network of buildings and infrastructure, SpaceX's plans for the Red Planet are not quite that extensive. (8/15)

Bolton Says Russia 'Stole' US Hypersonic Technology (Source: Sputnik)
The senior White House official made the highly contentious claims while commenting on the recent explosion at a military facility in Russia's Arkhangelsk region involving the testing of an unspecified "new piece of armament," which the US has alleged was a new Russian nuclear-powered cruise missile. Russia's new hypersonic glide vehicle and hypersonic cruise missile systems are "largely" a rip-off of American technology, US National Security Advisor John Bolton has claimed. "We know more than I'm going to tell you," Bolton coyly added, referring to last Thursday's accident, which claimed at least eight lives, and left three scientists in hospital. (8/16)

Space Florida Chief to Serve on National Investment Advisory Council (Source: USDOC)
US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced the names of 25 international business and economic leaders who will advise the Secretary of Commerce on how government policies and programs affect the United States’ ability to attract and facilitate business investment. The Investment Advisory Council (IAC) was first chartered in 2016, and has made recommendations on issues including infrastructure investment priorities, improving U.S. workforce development initiatives, and creating/improving digital tools to support economic development.

Editor's Note: Among the members are two with explicit interests in space industry development, including Space Florida CEO Frank DiBello and Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart. (8/16)

August 15, 2019

California Officials Worry About Vandenberg's Future with Potential Polar Missions From Florida (Source: Paso Robles Daily News)
California officials are worried that Vandenberg Air Force Base could be losing business to other spaceports, threatening the state's space industry. A group of government and industry leaders met last week to discuss concerns that Vandenberg's historic advantage of being able to launch satellites into polar orbit could be eroding given the emergence of other launch sites and the possibility of being able to conduct polar launches from Cape Canaveral. The workshop concluded with several recommendations, including public-private collaboration on development of spaceport infrastructure and an "integrated master plan for commercial space opportunities" at Vandenberg. (8/15)

NASA Picks Two New Space Science Missions (Source: NASA)
NASA selected this week two space science mission proposals for further study. One, called Spatial/Spectral Imaging of Heliospheric Lyman Alpha, proposes to map the boundary between the sun's heliosphere and interstellar space. The other, Global Lyman-alpha Imagers of the Dynamic Exosphere, would study the variability in the uppermost layers of the Earth's atmosphere. NASA is funding nine-month concept studies of the proposed missions of opportunity, and will later select one to fly as a secondary payload on the Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe spacecraft in 2024. (8/15)

Large Collision in Jupiter's Past (Source: Science News)
Jupiter's "weird" core may be the result of a head-on collision in the early history of the solar system. Data from NASA's Juno mission revealed that the giant planet's core is bigger but less dense than expected from models of planetary formation. A new study argues that Jupiter's core can be explained if a protoplanet about 10 times the size of the Earth collided with Jupiter, breaking apart the planet's original core. Scientists say this scenario is plausible, but that internal processes could also explain Jupiter's diffuse core. (8/15)

July Was the Hottest Month Ever Recorded on Earth in 140 Years (Source: ABC News)
The average global temperature in July was 1.71 degrees above the 20th century average of 60.4 degrees, the hottest temperature that month since scientists began keeping track 140 years ago, according to meteorologists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The previous hottest month on record was July 2016.

The period from January through July was also the second-hottest year to date on record, tying with 2017. The global temperature during that time was 1.71 degrees above the recorded average of 56.9 degrees, according to NOAA. However, in some parts of the world, including North and South America, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and the southern half of Africa, it was the hottest year to date. (8/15)

Piezoelectric Tiles Light the Way for Kennedy Space Center Visitors (Source: Georgia Tech)
New technology that could be used in self-powered smart cities of the future will soon be demonstrated at the NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Visitor Complex at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Ilan Stern, a senior research scientist with the Georgia Tech Research Institute, and colleagues, are collaborating on a $2 million project supported by NASA contractor Delaware North Corporation to build a 40,000-square-foot lighted outdoor footpath demonstrating applications of piezoelectricity for renewable energy.   
 
A small electrical charge is generated when a piezoelectric material is compressed, flexed, or vibrated. Harnessing this technology at the visitor complex, the researchers are using a thin, ceramic disk of lead zirconate titanate, which has the strongest piezoelectric response of any known material. “Just as a sponge squeezes out water,” said Stern, “the piezo element under pressure squeezes out electricity that can be harvested and stored.”

For this unique project, the researchers designed floor cavities of very thin, ultra-high- performance concrete. To fit into each cavity, the Georgia Tech engineers designed a novel system of custom electronics: circuit boards, six mini solar panels, a battery, LEDs, a Bluetooth transmitter, a Wi-Fi transmitter, micro controllers, and the piezoelectric element—all of which are covered by a loadbearing glass tile top. (8/15)

Texas Politicians Want to Delay Shift of NASA Program Leadership to Alabama (Source: Sen. Ted Cruz)
In response to a news report that NASA will designate the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, to lead the development of the human-classed lunar lander for the Artemis program over the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas - which has served as NASA's lead center for human spaceflight for more than half a century - U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) along with Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX) today urged NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine to reconsider his decision and refrain from an official announcement until an official briefing is held. (8/15)

Virgin Galactic Opens Spaceport Flight Center (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
Virgin Galactic took one more step in the journey to commercial space travel Thursday when it showed off the operational capabilities of Spaceport America and mothership Eve took off from the iconic runway in front of media reps from around the world. “It’s a historic day,” said Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides as the company unveiled its new operations center. Among those in attendance was Lt. Gov. Howie Morales.

The futuristic, three-story building in southern New Mexico will house all of the company’s space flight activities when it begins commercial trips to space for paying passengers. That includes mission control, flight training facilities for customers, and a social area to accommodate future astronauts and their friends and family before, during and after rocket flights. (8/15)

SpaceX, Blue Origin, and ULA Make Major Progress in Commercial Megarocket Space Race (Source: Teslarati)
A new generation of space race is currently underway, but this time it’s not a race to determine which country will reach orbit first, but rather which spaceflight company will successfully reach orbit first with the world’s second generation of super-heavy launch vehicles (SHLVs). SpaceX, United Launch Alliance (ULA),  Blue Origin, and NASA all have plans to build and operate their own SHLV rockets. All entities are deep into design and development and are, for the most part, at various stages of assembly and integration of their first flight hardware, offering an excellent opportunity to compare and contrast the differing approaches at work. Click here. (8/15)

Eastern Range Updates ‘Drive to 48’ Launches Per Year Status (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
Just one week after launching a Falcon 9 and an Atlas V rocket in less than 35 hours of each other, the Air Force 45th Space Wing provided an update to their goal of supporting a significantly increased launch rate from the Florida spaceport – with a prime focus on how safety and support play key roles in this initiative. Part of this drive is the pending requirement that all launch vehicles have Autonomous Flight Termination Systems by 2023 – including NASA’s forthcoming SLS rocket.

The overall goal of supporting at least 48 launches a year was considered a stretch goal a few years back. Now, that capability is here, with the Range demonstrating last week how they can support rapid turnaround at the Florida spaceport. Col. Mark Shoemaker, Commander of the 45th Operations Group, related that “one a week is the average we’re aiming for." Asked about SpaceX’s goal of launching up to 100 times a year from Florida as put forth in their environmental assessment for Starship construction at LC-39A, Col. Shoemaker said, “I wouldn’t say we can’t support that."  

The Range’s ability to support an increased flight rate heavily relies on the new, upgraded computers, equipment, and software the Range bought. This is most strikingly seen in the Risk Analysis that must go into all launches. Prior to this equipment/software improvement, it would take 60 days to perform all the needed Risk Analyses for each mission – including blast danger determinations and air and sea space safety closure zones. Now, it takes his team just 30 days to perform those same assessments. The new software/equipment enables “standard packages” for each Range user – meaning that SpaceX has their standard packages and ULA has their own that are pre-determined and then applied to specific missions. (8/15)

August 14, 2019

Greenhouse Gases Reach Record Levels (Source: CNN)
The dominant greenhouse gases released into the Earth's atmosphere reached record levels in 2018, and their global warming power is now 43% stronger than in 1990, according to a new report by the American Meteorological Society. The State of the Climate in 2018 study also reported other key findings:
2018 was the fourth-warmest year on record. The three other warmest years were 2015, 2016 and 2017, with 2016 as the warmest year since records first began being kept in the mid-1800s. Sea levels rose to record levels for a seventh consecutive year. And glaciers continue to melt at a concerning rate for the 30th straight year. (8/14)

SNC Selects ULA for Dream Chaser Spacecraft Launches (Source: ULA)
Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), the global aerospace and national security leader owned by Chairwoman and President Eren Ozmen and CEO Fatih Ozmen, selected United Launch Alliance (ULA) as the launch vehicle provider for the Dream Chaser® spacecraft’s six NASA missions to the International Space Station.  The Dream Chaser will launch aboard ULA’s Vulcan Centaur rockets for its cargo resupply and return services to the space station, starting in 2021.

Under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS-2) contract, the Dream Chaser will deliver more than 12,000 pounds of pressurized and unpressurized cargo to the space station and remains attached for up to 75 days as an orbiting laboratory.  Once the mated mission is complete, the Dream Chaser disposes about 7,000 pounds of space station trash and returns large quantities of critical science, accessible within minutes after a gentle runway landing.

Editor's Note: The two companies announced in July 2017 that two Dream Chaser missions would fly atop Atlas 5 rockets in 2020 and 2021. This new announcement represents an additional commitment. Also, according to Parabolic Arc, "major elements of Vulcan Centaur (SRBs, fairing, etc.) will be flown on Atlas V before Vulcan Centaur flies. The Dream Chaser will launch on second Vulcan Centaur certification flight." (8/14)

Maritime Launch Services Pushes Back on Negative and Misleading Statements by Spaceport Opponents (Source: SpaceQ)
Steve Matier, CEO of Maritime Launch Services (MLS) is pushing back on negative and misleading statements by opponents. While there has been some opposition to MLS building a spaceport facility in the Canso region, there has also been widespread support for the project. One opponent is Michael Byers who told an audience about the dangers of Hydrazine, “‘the essential point is that this is an unproven rocket…You could have a lot of hydrazine spread around your community," he said.

If you wanted to sow fear into local residents, what Byers said is surely one way to do it. In his op-ed Matier counters saying “On June 4 of this year, the Nova Scotia Department of Environment approved the Canso Spaceport Project. In his letter to me, Minister Gordon Wilson wrote that he was satisfied ‘that any adverse effects or significant environmental effects of the undertaking can be adequately mitigated through compliance with the attached terms and conditions’.”

Matier further stated “In addition, MLS’s subcontractor, United Paradyne Corporation (UPC), will be managing all the propellant activities at the Canso facility. UPC is the current manager of the world’s largest rocket fuel storage facility in the world where they manage, deliver, and often times fuel all of America’s space-lift missions.” (8/14)

China's Quantum Comm Satellite a 'Sputnik Moment' for US Military (Nippon)
China’s launch of a quantum-encrypted communications satellite in 2016 should be viewed as a new “Sputnik moment,” according to a Japanese professor. The satellite, nicknamed Mozi, remains unrivaled, and shows China’s leadership in a technology that can securely transmit military and diplomatic information, Aoki Setsuko, a professor at the Keio University Law School, said. “With this achievement China has left America in the dust,” she said. “For the United States, this is comparable in seriousness to the Soviet success in the race to launch the first artificial satellite. And so it seems appropriate to call it the twenty-first century’s Sputnik moment.” (8/14)

India Orders Russian Equipment for First Manned Space Mission (Source: Space Daily)
India has ordered Russia's space equipment as it is preparing to send its first manned mission to orbit. India plans to send its first crewed mission, set to comprise three astronauts, to space by 2022, which will mark the 75th anniversary of its independence, with Russia set to assist it.

Indian Ambassador to Russia Bala Venkatesh Varma stated that Russia and India will start practically cooperating on the matter in 2019 already. The Indian government previously greenlighted the establishment of an ISRO Technical Liaison Unit (ITLU) in Moscow after the two countries signed an agreement to select and train astronauts for the Indian space program, which is expected to cost more than $1.31 billion. (8/14)

Researchers Study Largest Impact Crater in the US, Buried for 35 Million Years (Source: Phys.org)
About 35 million years ago, an asteroid hit the ocean off the East Coast of North America. Its impact formed a 25-mile diameter crater that now lies buried beneath the Chesapeake Bay, an estuary in Virginia and Maryland. From this impact, the nearby area experienced fires, earthquakes, falling molten glass droplets, an air blast and a devastating tsunami.

While the resulting "Chesapeake Bay impact crater" is now completely buried, it was discovered in the early 1990s by scientific drilling. It now ranks as the largest known impact crater in the U.S., and the 15th largest on Earth. A team of researchers has obtained drilling samples from the Ocean Drilling Project site 1073 and dated them with the "uranium-thorium-helium technique" for the first time. The team studied zircon crystals in particular because they preserve evidence of shock metamorphism, which is caused by shock pressures and high temperatures associated with impact events. (8/13)

Webb Space Telescope Could Begin Learning About TRAPPIST-1 Atmospheres in a Single Year (Source: Phys.org)
New research from astronomers at the University of Washington uses the intriguing TRAPPIST-1 planetary system as a kind of laboratory to model not the planets themselves, but how the coming James Webb Space Telescope might detect and study their atmospheres, on the path toward looking for life beyond Earth.

The study, led by Jacob Lustig-Yaeger, a UW doctoral student in astronomy, finds that the James Webb telescope, set to launch in 2021, might be able to learn key information about the atmospheres of the TRAPPIST-1 worlds even in its first year of operation, unless—as an old song goes—clouds get in the way. (8/13)

Space Wars Threaten Earthly Intelligence (Source: Slate)
Every corner of our modern lives depends on environmental data from Earth observation satellites. They provide more than 90 percent of the data used by weather prediction models. The availability of much of our most basic resources, especially agriculture and water, now largely relies on meteorological and environmental forecasts made using this information. Today, remote sensing satellites are able to offer scientists data that range from sea surface height to soil moisture content.

With this information, farmers can better plan for precipitation and temperature fluctuations, thereby increasing their yield. Businesses and regional planners can mitigate risks of flood zones. Ecologists can monitor the migration of invasive species. Now, as we enter a new era of space militarization, these environmental satellites are also at risk. They’re clear targets for militaries across the globe. (8/13)

Air Force Suppressed Space Force Debate; Lt. Gen. Kwast Spoke Truth To Power (Source: Breaking Defense)
After the House of Representatives passed legislation calling for a Space Corps, the head of the Air Force, Secretary Heather Wilson, and the service’s Chief of Staff, Gen. David Goldfein, rejected the idea. Completely. Then the Air Force placed a gag order — in government speak, Restrictive Public Affairs Guidance — which suppressed advocacy for a Space Force and stifled public debate. Only one Air Force officer,  Lt. Gen. Steve Kwast, spoke publicly in favor of it.

Air Force officers who hope to maintain our proud tradition of conscience over career owe him a debt of gratitude. The gag order worked – for more than a year, during the most important Air Force debate in a century — the majority of officers have held their tongue. While polls by Air Force Times suggest that a majority of Air Force officers favor a Space Corps, only one of them displayed the moral courage to speak truth to power.

When Congress asked for a Space Corps and the Trump Administration ordered a Space Force, did even one active-duty space professional senior leader speak out publicly in favor? No. Could it be that not one senior space professional thought space was important enough to justify its own service? No. Why were Air Force space professionals absent from the debate?  Why didn’t they offer dissenting best-military advice to the American people? The most direct answer is simple — they were told not to. (8/12)

Early Morning Wallops Rocket Launch Brightens Students' Day (Source: NASA)
A NASA Terrier-Improved Malemute sounding rocket lifts into the morning sky at 5:44 a.m., Monday, August 12, 2019, from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility. The launch was followed by cheers as the undergraduate students see the rocket rise through the sky carrying their experiments to an altitude of 96 miles.  The experiments descend from space via parachute into the Atlantic Ocean.  It has been recovered and early in the afternoon the students will have their experiments in hand to see how they performed. (8/12)

Will Small Satellites Help Stop Big Threats? (Source: C4ISRnet)
The Air Force’s primary early warning missile system could one day use small satellites to assist in the work. Col. Dennis Bythewood, program executive officer for space development at the Space and Missile Systems Center. said DATE that the service was considering using a setup comprised of hundreds of satellites for the Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared system.

OPIR will replace the Air Force’s current early warning missile system, the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS). Those satellites provide early warnings of ballistic missile attacks on the United States, its deployed forces, or its allies. The Air Force has awarded Lockheed Martin a $2.9 billion contract to build three geosynchronous OPIR satellites and has contracted with Northrop Grumman to build two satellites covering the polar regions.

Like it’s predecessor, OPIR will be comprised of a small number of large, expensive satellites operating in geosynchronous orbit. But according to Bythewood, Air Force leaders in Los Angeles are considering adopting a proliferated architecture for future OPIR capabilities. (8/13)

Space Club Invites Industry Support for Annual Space Week Educational Program (Source: NSCFL)
The National Space Club Florida Committee (NSCFL) has pledged a minimum of $25,000 from the aerospace community toward this year's Brevard Space Week: Destination Space. Last week's event was rousing success with more than 6,500 Brevard Public Schools sixth graders and their science teachers participating in a full day of organized and hands-on activities at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Funding also comes from the Brevard Schools Foundation, which seeks support from the community at large, and through grants that match funding from private industry.

Destination Space has proven to motivate our school administrators and teachers to increase emphasis on teaching math and science, as well as stimulating student interest in those subjects. Our classroom visits also will provide students with leadership and inspirational tools that will tie everything together. NSCFL is requesting our community’s financial help once again. All contributions to the NSCFL (a 501c3 entity) will go directly to Space Week. Click here. (8/13)

NASA Plans Independent Review of CASIS (Source: Space News)
NASA plans to conduct an independent review of the nonprofit organization that runs the part of the ISS designated a national lab. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced late Tuesday he was seeking the review of the ISS National Lab, formally known as the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), to ensure it is "on mission" and "appropriately resourced" to perform research. That review will be led by Elizabeth Cantwell of the University of Arizona and expected to take 12 weeks to complete. NASA, in a separate letter to CASIS, called for a "strategic pause" in its activities until after the the review is completed. (8/14)

BAE Wins Continued DARPA Funding for Space Machine Learning (Source: Space News)
BAE Systems has won a new phase of a DARPA contract to study the use of machine learning technologies for space operations. The second phase of the Hallmark Tools, Capabilities, and Evaluation Methodology (Hallmark-TCEM) contract focuses on the use of machine learning for space and situational awareness. The program is to help operators improve their understanding of space events and their ability to take actions in response to situations that might affect U.S. satellites in space. The company originally won the $12.8 million contract in November 2017. (8/14)

Spire to Support Insurance Analytics (Source: Space News)
Spire Global has signed an agreement to work with an insurance company to develop new products based on its satellite data. Spire will partner with Concirrus, a London-based insurance analytics company, primarily on products associated with maritime insurance. Spire's constellation of more than 70 cubesats collects a variety of data, including tracking ships with Automatic Identification System receivers. (8/14)

SpaceX Adds Boat for Full Fairing Recovery Off Florida's Coast (Source: Space.com)
SpaceX's efforts to recover payload fairings from Falcon 9 launches now involve a mix of mystery and mischief. The boat currently used to capture payload fairings in a large net, the GO Ms. Tree, has been joined in Florida by a second boat, GO Ms. Chief. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk confirmed on Twitter that the second boat will also be used to catch payload fairings, allowing both halves of the fairing to be retrieved. After many tests, SpaceX has started to successfully catch fairing sections with the net on GO Ms. Tree, including during last week's launch of the Amos-17 satellite. (8/14)

August 13, 2019

Scientists Have an Extreme Plan to Intercept Asteroid ‘the Size of a Skyscraper’ (Source: Metro)
Pete Worden, an adviser on space resources to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, recently said that the prevailing theory is that if any asteroids are big enough to threaten the planet ‘we’ll go move them.' NASA is planning to launch a mission in 2021 known as a Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) – essentially bumping a small asteroid to monitor how much they can move its trajectory.

Speaking about the DART, Mr Worden said: ‘The thing is, if you move something years in advance, you don’t have to move it very much. ‘This is a rock that’s the size of a skyscraper. ‘You would then hit it with a spacecraft kind of the size of a small car, and by impacting it, it impacts energy and momentum and will move it slightly off its orbit.’

Amazingly though, Worden revealed another possible plan to intercept an asteroid that doesn’t involve striking it. He claimed that spray-painting one side of the asteroid was being discussed by scientists as a way of changing orbit. The patch of rock with the paint on it would be heated differently by the sun, which would impact its movement through space. (8/13)

Volusia Wants to be in Middle of New Growth in Florida’s Space Industry (Source: Daytona Beach News Journal)
Volusia County leaders are bullish on chances to attract share of Florida’s growing space industry with help from Space Florida, Congressman Michael Waltz and others. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s MicaPlex incubator, developer Chad Hagle’s Space Square project in Daytona Beach also leading way. Eager to capitalize on the space race, Edgewater community leaders in the late 1950s/early ’60s put up a billboard touting the Southeast Volusia city as the “Gateway to the Moon,” just a short drive north of Cape Canaveral.

Some 60 years later, the county may finally start living up to that claim. Thanks to a new space race, this time led not by NASA but by private-sector ventures such as SpaceX and Blue Origin, Volusia County is gaining the attention of companies interested in taking part in the growing commercial space industry. Some of those companies are already here, noted Volusia County Councilwoman Deb Denys. (8/10)

USAF X-37b Military Space Plane's Mystery Mission Circling Earth Hits 700 Days (Source: Space Daily)
The robotic X-37B launched its fifth and latest mission, known as Orbital Test Vehicle 5 (OTV-5), hitting the 700-day mark, and is just a few weeks short of breaking the vehicle's spaceflight-duration record. The reusable spacecraft, which looks like a miniature version of NASA's space shuttle, is on a mission that has been a topic of speculation since its start on September 7, 2017, as the solar-powered spacecraft's missions, and most of its payloads, remain classified.

The US Air Force keeps stressing that the space plane tests technologies for future reusable spacecraft and takes experiments up to space and back. Air Force officials, however, have revealed that its payloads include the Advanced Structurally Embedded Thermal Spreader experiment (ASETS-II), which is measuring how oscillating heat pipes and certain electronics perform in the space environment. (8/8)

A Non-Biological Cause for Martian Methane Dismissed (Source: Space Daily)
Wind erosion has been ruled out as the primary cause of methane gas release on Mars, Newcastle University academics have shown. Methane can be produced over time through both geological and biological routes and since its first detection in the Martian atmosphere in 2003, there has been intense speculation about the source of the gas and the possibility that it could signal life on the planet.

Previous studies have suggested the methane may not be evenly distributed in the atmosphere around Mars, but instead appear in localised and very temporary pockets on the planet's surface. And the previous discovery of methane 'spikes' in the Martian atmosphere has further fuelled the debate. Now research led by Newcastle University, UK, and published in Scientific Reports, has ruled out the possibility that the levels of methane detected could be produced by the wind erosion of rocks, releasing trapped methane from fluid inclusions and fractures on the planets' surface. (8/13)

Dextre Begins RRM3 Tasks to Test Robotic Refueling of Spacecraft (Source: NASA)
Canada’s star space robot Dextre is busy working tasks aimed at finding solutions to enable the robotic refueling of spacecraft. Robotic Refueling Mission 3 (RRM3) follows on from the previous two test objectives that are evaluating techniques at advancing satellite servicing capabilities and enabling long-duration, deep space exploration.

RRM is an ISS payload developed by the Satellite Servicing Capabilities Office (SSCO) at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) – the same team that managed the highly intricate Hubble Space Telescope (HST) Servicing Missions via the Space Shuttle. It is designed to test procedures for refueling satellites in space, among other objectives. The RRM1 launched on STS-135 back in July 2011 and Dextre showed off its skills by using an array of tools to conduct objectives that are set to be employed on future missions. (8/13)

Spies, Lies, and Radioactivity: Russia’s Nuke Missile Mishap, Decoded (Source: Daily Beast)
When Vladimir Putin announced a brand new globe-spanning missile powered by a mini reactor last year, it was supposed to be a crown jewel for Moscow’s military. But as President Trump tweeted late Monday, it’s increasingly looking like one of those missiles exploded during testing. So whose bright idea was it to slap a nuclear reactor on the back of a nuclear missile, why is Russia making one, and just how viable is a nuke-powered missile?

Wait, there’s a nuclear reactor-powered missile? Kind of. The missile, dubbed the 9M730 Burevestnik (or “petrel” in English), is designed to carry a warhead—nuclear or conventional—around the globe and dodge American missile defenses. (NATO refers to the missile by a name more befitting its James Bond movie aura: Skyfall.) Putin hailed the weapon as a “a low-flying stealth missile carrying a nuclear warhead, with almost an unlimited range, unpredictable trajectory and ability to bypass interception boundaries.” (8/13)

'Interplanetary Shock' Spotted by NASA Spacecraft (Source: Space.com)
A team of four NASA spacecraft finally caught sight of a phenomenon scientists have been hunting for years: an interplanetary shock. The spacecraft comprise a NASA project called the Magnetospheric Multiscale mission, nicknamed MMS, which launched in 2015. The mission is focused on studying the magnetic environment surrounding Earth. To do so, it relies on four identical spacecraft that cooperate to map what's happening.

In new research, scientists dissect a particularly intriguing phenomenon that occurred in the magnetic field in January 2018. Because the individual satellites were deployed within just 12 miles of each other, they got a prime view of what was happening. The phenomenon was an interplanetary shock, which is an interaction between two different patches of the stream of charged particles constantly flowing off the sun, which scientists refer to as the solar wind. When a fast patch of solar wind overtakes a slower patch, scientists believe it transfers energy to that slower patch and creates a shock. (8/13)

NASA Plans to Send Robonaut Back to ISS (Source: Space News)
NASA's Robonaut is getting ready to return to the International Space Station. At a recent conference, a project official said the humanoid robot will likely be flown back to the station late this year on a cargo mission, then undergo checkouts. The robot flew to the station in 2011 but suffered technical problems a few years later that led NASA to ship the robot back to Earth last year. Engineers traced the problem to design flaws in the robot's electrical system that have been corrected. Roscosmos is planning to launch its own humanoid robot, FEDOR or Skybot F-850, to the station this month, but is expected to remain on the station only briefly. (8/13)

Aevum Wins Air Force SBIR Grant for Launcher Development (Source: Aevum)
The U.S. Air Force has awarded Aevum a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I contract for its fully autonomous launch and space logistics service. Aevum’s unique platform can launch small satellites with response times as low as 180-minutes, measured from mission conceptualization to orbital insertion to data downlink, to any low Earth orbit. The USAF awarded Aevum under a special USAF SBIR topic developed, in partnership with Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), National Security Innovation Network (NSIN) – formerly MD5, and USAF AFWERX, to increase the efficiency, effectiveness, and transition rate of the SBIR program.

Under this contract, Aevum will move quickly to find an Air Force transition partner for its autonomous launch system to provide strategic responsive launch capabilities to the USAF for global persistent awareness. Aevum has made rapid progress in bringing its autonomous launch architecture to full service. Autonomous launch is a brand-new type of access to space conceived by Aevum. It requires an advanced logistics network comprised of launch sites, launch support assets, ground stations, fully autonomous launch vehicles, cloud technologies, and software.

This global network is fully controlled and commanded by Aevum’s advanced mission management technology. The first in Aevum’s autonomous launch vehicle lineup is Ravn X. Ravn X is a reusable, three-stage launch vehicle – the only reusable, small launch vehicle poised to service small payloads. The first stage is a fully autonomous unmanned aerial system (UAS) powered by afterburning turbojet engines. The second and third stages are liquid rocket stages powered by staged-combustion liquid engines utilizing Jet A and liquid oxygen. (8/13)

Russia Says Small Nuclear Reactor Blew Up in Deadly Accident (Source: TIME)
The failed missile test that ended in an explosion killing five scientists last week on Russia’s White Sea involved a small nuclear reactor, according to a top official at the institute where they worked. The institute is working on small-scale power sources being tested for the SSC-X-9 Skyfall, known in Russia as the Burevestnik, a nuclear-powered cruise missile that President Vladimir Putin introduced to the world in a brief animated segment during his state-of-the-nation address last year.

The men, who will be buried Monday, were national heroes and the “elite of the Russian Federal Nuclear Center,” institute Director Valentin Kostyukov said in the video, which was also posted on an official website in Sarov, a high-security city devoted to nuclear research less than 250 miles east of Moscow. (8/12)

ESA Parachute Test for ExoMars Lander Fails Again (Source: Space News)
The European Space Agency said Monday that another parachute test for the ExoMars 2020 mission failed last week. ESA said in a statement that, in the high-altitude test last week in Sweden, a parachute 35 meters in diameter suffered damage prior to inflation, causing a test article mimicking the lander to descend under a smaller pilot chute alone. In late May, both that 35-meter parachute and a smaller one 15 meters across were damaged in a similar test. The parachutes are key elements of the entry, descent and landing system for the mission, scheduled to launch in less than a year. ESA said in the statement that the mission team is "working to understand and correct the flaw in order to launch next year." (8/13)

Chinese Launch Startups Keep Testing (Source: Space News)
As one Chinese startup tests reusable launch vehicle technology, another company is gearing up for a first orbital launch attempt. Chinarocket Co., Ltd. is set to test launch its Jielong-1 (Smart Dragon-1) small launch vehicle as soon as this weekend from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. The rocket is capable of putting 150 kilograms into a sun-synchronous orbit. Chinarocket is a subsidiary of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), the main contractor for China's space programs. Linkspace, which flew a reusable launch vehicle technology demonstrator to an altitude of 300 meters over the weekend and landed it successfully, is expected to perform a kilometer-level test before proceeding to a larger RLV-T6 tech demonstrator rocket. (8/13)

France's Mecano ID Develops Smallsat Launch Adapter (Source: Space News)
A French supplier of satellite components is developing a smallsat launch adapter. Mecano ID is developing a deployer with the assistance of the French space agency CNES. The Ejection Of Satellite (EOS) separation system is designed for smallsats between 20 and 60 kilograms, and should be qualified and ready for launch opportunities during the second half of 2020. Mecano ID is a 75-person company that counts on the space sector for 90% of its $10 million in annual revenue. (8/13)

NASA and DOE Developing Nuclear Reactor to Power Moon/Mars Bases (Source: Space.com)
A nuclear reactor that could support human missions to the moon and Mars should be ready for a flight demonstration in 2022. The Kilopower reactor, under development by NASA and the Department of Energy, is a fission reactor capable of producing one kilowatt of power but can be scaled up to 10 kilowatts. In a recent presentation, the project lead for Kilopower at Los Alamos National Lab said the reactor could be flown in space as soon as 2022, although NASA has yet to announce plans for such a test. (8/13)

NASA Picks Bennu Landing Sites for Asteroid Sample Collection (Source: NASA)
A NASA asteroid sample return mission has selected four potential sites on the asteroid Bennu to collect material. NASA said Monday that scientists identified four sites, named Nightingale, Kingfisher, Osprey and Sandpiper, where the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft could touch down briefly, collecting samples using a device at the end of a robotic arm. The spacecraft will now collect high-resolution images of the four sites so that scientists can select a primary and backup location by December. OSIRIS-REx will attempt to obtain the samples later in 2020 for return to Earth in 2024. (8/13)

Hawaii Observatories Reopen for Some Observations (Source: University of Hawaii)
Observatories on Hawaii's Mauna Kea reopened just in time to allow astronomers to rule out a potential impact by a near Earth asteroid. Several observatories on the mountain's summit reopened over the weekend after reaching an agreement with protestors who blocked access to stop construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope there. One observatory, the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, spent Saturday night observing 2006 QV89, an asteroid that carried a very small but non-zero chance of impacting the Earth in 2020. The observations have ruled out any potential future impact threat from the asteroid for the next century. (8/13)

August 12, 2019

Launching Into the Wilderness of Florida's Space Coast (Source: Lonely Planet)
Of all the state's nicknamed coasts (Emerald Coast, Forgotten Coast, Paradise Coast), you’d think Florida's Space Coast would be the most developed. Its name implies a certain amount of infrastructure – the massive man made apparatus (literally) fueled the American exploration of space – but it is, in fact, home to some of the largest tracts of pristine waterfront in a state that is well-known for its coastline.

The preserved beaches and adjacent ecosystems of this natural playground are all the more impressive when one considers they sit smack within Central Florida, an area that is absolutely teeming with human activity. Put it this way: if you’re staring at Cinderella’s castle in Disney’s Magic Kingdom – the most iconic vista in a theme park that is an exemplar of a constructed, artificial environment – you are about a 90 minute drive from the pristine dunes of Merritt Island, gently eroding under the Atlantic’s salt breezes. (8/11)

Our Galaxy's Supermassive Black Hole Has Emitted a Mysteriously Bright Flare (Source: Science Alert)
The supermassive black hole at the heart of the Milky Way, Sagittarius A*, is relatively quiet. It's not an active nucleus, spewing light and heat into the space around it; most of the time, the black hole's activity is low key, with minimal fluctuations in its brightness. Most of the time. Recently, astronomers caught it going absolutely bananas, suddenly growing 75 times brighter before subsiding back to normal levels. That's the brightest we've ever seen Sgr A* in near-infrared wavelengths. (8/12)

ULA, SpaceX, Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman Submit Bids for National Security Launch Procurement (Source: Space News)
United Launch Alliance, SpaceX, Northrop Grumman and Blue Origin have submitted their proposals for the National Security Space Launch Phase 2 Launch Service Procurement. Bids were due Aug. 12. The stakes could not be higher for the field of competitors vying to be one of the two companies that the Air Force will select in 2020 to split 60/40 as many as 34 missions for military and intelligence community between 2022 and 2026.

ULA and SpaceX currently launch the bulk of U.S. national security satellites while Northrop Grumman and Blue Origin are looking to break in. All are developing brand-new rockets and upgrading existing vehicles for the competition. SpaceX’s Falcon is the only launch vehicle offered for Phase 2 that is flying today and has already achieved national security space certification. (8/12)

Blue Origin Files Protest Over ‘Flawed’ Air Force Launch Procurement (Source: Space News)
Blue Origin filed a protest with the U.S. Government Accountability Office on Monday challenging the Air Force’s plan to select two providers in the next procurement of launch services under the National Security Space Launch program. Blue Origin, a rocket manufacturer and suborbital spaceflight company founded by Jeff Bezos, filed what is known as a “pre-award” protest with the GAO, arguing that the rules set by the Air Force do not allow for a fair and open competition.

“The Air Force is pursuing a flawed acquisition strategy for the National Security Space Launch program,” states a Blue Origin fact sheet that outlines the reasons for the protest. The Air Force intends to select two winners for the National Security Space Launch Phase 2 Launch Service Procurement in 2020 to split 60/40 all national security missions from 2022 to 2026. Four companies — United Launch Alliance, Blue Origin, SpaceX and Northrop Grumman are expected to compete. Proposals were due Aug. 12, the same day Blue Origin filed the protest.

The RFP the Air Force released May 3 “includes evaluation criteria that are ambiguous and fail to comply with federal procurement statutes and regulations. This subjectivity of the criteria makes it impossible to accurately respond to the RFP,” the fact sheet states. Blue Origin argues that there is no clarity on what "best value" is, and claims that many of the government’s technical requirements are too vague to accurately price. It also discriminates against new competitors by asking bidders to offer a backup launch vehicle. Blue Origin argues that provision favors incumbents as new entrant companies would not have a backup option. (8/12)

SpaceX’s Next Falcon 9 Missions Likely Two Back-to-Back Starlink Satellite Launches (Source: Teslarati)
It appears that SpaceX’s next Falcon 9 launch is at least a month away and will likely be the company’s first operational Starlink mission, deemed “Starlink 1”. Barring a surprise mission in the interim, this means that SpaceX is going to have a gap of at least two months between customer launches, something the company has not experienced since mid-2015 – more than four years ago. As such, it’s an extremely happy coincidence that SpaceX may now have internal Starlink launches to fill lulls in its commercial launch manifest.

Starlink is a colossal ~11,800-satellite broadband internet constellation nominally designed, manufactured, launched, and operated by SpaceX. On May 23rd, after approximately one week of delays, a twice-flown Falcon 9 booster lifted off for the third time in support of SpaceX’s first dedicated Starlink launch, an unparalleled 60-satellite beta test known internally as “Starlink v0.9”.

Upsetting all expectations, SpaceX managed to fit en incredible 60 high-performance Starlink satellites into Falcon 9’s unchanged payload fairing – middle of the ground in terms of usable volume. Weighing anywhere from 16,000 kg to 18,500 kg (35,300-40,800 lb), SpaceX’s very first dedicated Starlink launch also crushed the company’s record for heaviest payload launched by several metric tons. (8/12)

Japanese Launch Companies Offering More Space Services (Source: Nikkei)
Japanese companies that currently build launch vehicles are looking to get into other parts of the space industry. Both IHI Corporation and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries are now providing satellite data services, such as weather forecasting and satellite imagery analysis, that they believe will provide lucrative new revenue streams. IHI, which builds the Epsilon small launcher, plans to offer launch and satellite data services as a package. (8/12)

5G and Megaconstellations Shift Ground Station Landscape (Source: Space News)
Ground stations are preparing for fundamental changes thanks to 5G and megaconstellations. The ground systems business has changed dramatically in recent years thanks to a massive increase in data volume, advanced technology and fresh competition. More change is coming as constellations in low Earth orbit multiply and individual satellites collect and transmit more data than ever before, while satellites and their ground segments will play important roles in 5G networks. Startups that once planned to develop their own ground networks instead rely on a growing roster of companies that specialize in handling data flowing between satellites and ground networks. (8/12)

China's LinkSpace Tests Reusable Booster Again (Source: Reuters)
A Chinese startup performed another takeoff and landing test of a future reusable launch vehicle. LinkSpace's RLV-T5 flew to an altitude of about 300 meters before landing vertically 50 seconds after takeoff Saturday. The test was the third for the technology demonstrator, and the highest flight to date. LinkSpace expects to fly a larger vehicle next year capable of flying to space as it seeks to enter the small launch vehicle market. (8/12)

NASA Planning to Keep BEAM Module on ISS for the Long Haul (Source: Space News)
An experimental module added to the International Space Station three years ago to test expandable module technologies has been cleared to remain on the station through the late 2020s. Nathan Wells, an instrumentation lead for the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) at NASA, said the module’s on-orbit performance had exceeded expectations and that it had been cleared to remain on the station to 2028. (8/12)

August 11, 2019

FPL Plans $100 Million Solar Plant at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (Source: Florida Today)
Florida Power & Light Co. has applied for a federal permit to fill in almost an acre of wetlands at Kennedy Space Center, to make way for a new $100 million solar power plant that will generate enough energy to power 15,000 homes, while preventing more than 100,000 tons of annual greenhouse gases. Construction on the so-called Discovery Solar Energy Center plant includes discharging 1,518 cubic yards of fill over 0.95 acre of wetlands and also would result in impacts to 7.64 acres of other surface waters, according to the public notice of FPL's permit application to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The new plant would go on 504 acres across from the KSC Visitor Complex, and FPL would lease 491 acres from NASA. The site includes a total of more than 40 acres of wetlands. The area of the proposed KSC plant across from the KSC Visitor Complex has dense stands of Brazilian pepper and sparse cabbage palm, with dead and dying trees throughout. Two small freshwater marshes on the project site have formed in a former citrus grove, likely resulting from irrigation modifications for farming, according to the public notice. (8/9)

No One Has Yet Been Killed by Re-Entering Space Junk (Source: The Economist)
Every day a tonne or two of defunct satellites, rocket parts and other man-made orbiting junk hurtles into the atmosphere. Four-fifths of it burns up to become harmless dust, but that still leaves a fair number of fragments large enough to be lethal. It is testament to how much of Earth’s surface is sea, and how sparsely populated the remainder remains, that the only recorded victims of this artificial hailstorm are five sailors aboard a Japanese vessel, who were injured in 1969, and a woman in Oklahoma who was grazed by a piece of falling rocket in 1997. But it is also testament to luck—and the odds of that luck holding are shortening.

Population growth means that the fraction of Earth’s surface which space debris can hit harmlessly is shrinking. At the same time, more spacecraft are going up (111 successful launches in 2018, compared with 66 a decade earlier, and with many launches carrying multiple payloads). And payloads themselves are increasingly designed so that equipment which has fulfilled its purpose falls out of orbit years or decades sooner than it otherwise would, lest it collide with functioning spacecraft. (8/10)

Rocket Engine for NASA's New Orion Spacecraft Just Aced a Critical Test (Source: Space.com)
The main rocket engine for NASA's Orion spacecraft, which the agency will launch around the moon in 2020 as part of the Artemis program, has just aced another milestone test. In a test on Aug. 5, the propulsion system for Orion's service module fired continuously for 12 minutes, which simulated engine activity during an abort-to-orbit scenario.

In this possible scenario, which would take place if Orion's interim cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS) didn't correctly put the craft on a path to the moon, the service module would separate early from the ICPS and fire its boosters to get to a temporary orbit. This would allow ground control to re-evaluate with the crew and craft and plan an alternate route to the moon. Even if Orion has to switch to an alternate mission plan, it may still be able to accomplish some of the goals of the mission. (8/11)

Vector 'Pauses' Operations (Source: Arizona Daily Star)
Vector Launch Inc., a Tucson-based small satellite launch startup, has announced that it has halted most operations due to a "significant change in financing." And in a management shakeup, co-founder Jim Cantrell, who had been Vector's chief executive officer, reportedly is no longer with the company and co-founder John Garvey was named CEO. The company's decision reportedly came after a major investor pulled it backing.

"A core team is evaluating options on completing the development of the company’s Vector-R small launch vehicle, while also supporting the Air Force and other government agencies on programs such as the recent ASLON-45 award," the company said. The company said it plans to make more information available next week. (8/10)

Show-and-Tell Time Again for Virgin Galactic in New Mexico (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Nearly eight years after Richard Branson dedicated the Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space at Spaceport America before a crowd that included Titanic star Kate Winslet and British royal Princess Beatrice, his suborbital space tourism company is moving its WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft there. When Branson dedicated the gateway facility in October 2011, the giant building was largely empty. Virgin Galactic says it is now ready to show off what customers will experience inside the structure.

When Branson announced plans for SpaceShipTwo in September 2004, he predicted commercial flights would begin within three or four years. It’s now been 15 years. The company is expecting to fly 66 passengers to space next year using two spacecraft. The number would grow to 1,565 passengers in 2023 using five SpaceShipTwo vehicles. (8/10)

International Space Camp at Biosphere 2 Helping Humans Get to Mars (Source: KOLD)
Students from halfway across the world are learning what life could be like on a different world right here in southern Arizona. The University of Arizona has partnered with Kyoto University in Japan to host a Space Camp at Biosphere 2 this week. The camp involves 10 students, five from schools across Arizona, and five from Kyoto University. "We want to go to the moon by 2025," says John Adams, Deputy Director of Biosphere 2. "And soon enough we will be looking to send people to Mars. This program builds on the original foundation of Biosphere 2, which is to better understand closed systems for potential space exploration." (8/9)

In-Space Refueling vs Heavy Lift? NASA and SpaceX Choose Both (Source: The Hill)
Recently, NASA announced several technological development projects designed to advance the art and science of deep space travel. In one of these projects SpaceX will practice transferring fuel in space using the Starship deep space vehicle now being developed. The argument over whether to use heavy-lift or in-space refueling has raged across the space community since the Bush-era Constellation project to return to the moon. NASA’s traditional fueling method has been to use a big, heavy-lift rocket such as the Saturn V or the more modern Space Launch System.

However, an alternate architecture has been proposed, which uses smaller, commercial rockets with a refueling depot to send people and cargo back to the moon. Why is NASA jumping back into the in-space refueling game after nearly a decade? One factor is that the Trump administration, unlike President Obama’s, is quite serious about sending American astronauts back to the moon. Vice President Mike Pence has been pushing NASA to try innovative approaches to accomplish the goal of sending people back to the moon and on to Mars.

Also, while NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has sworn solemnly that the “first woman and the next man” will fly to the lunar surface using the Space Launch System, the expendable, heavy-lift launcher championed by Shelby, the powerful appropriations chairman is 85 years old and is not getting any younger. Shelby is up for reelection in 2022 and may not choose to run because of his advanced age. With Shelby gone, the main champion of the SLS also goes away. Thus, the era of the expendable launcher will come to an end, and reusable rockets such as the Starship will fly unimpeded. (8/9)

No One Has Yet Been Killed by Re-Entering Space Junk (Source: The Economist)
Every day a tonne or two of defunct satellites, rocket parts and other man-made orbiting junk hurtles into the atmosphere. Four-fifths of it burns up to become harmless dust, but that still leaves a fair number of fragments large enough to be lethal. It is testament to how much of Earth’s surface is sea, and how sparsely populated the remainder remains, that the only recorded victims of this artificial hailstorm are five sailors aboard a Japanese vessel, who were injured in 1969, and a woman in Oklahoma who was grazed by a piece of falling rocket in 1997.

But it is also testament to luck—and the odds of that luck holding are shortening. Population growth means that the fraction of Earth’s surface which space debris can hit harmlessly is shrinking. At the same time, more spacecraft are going up (111 successful launches in 2018, compared with 66 a decade earlier, and with many launches carrying multiple payloads). And payloads themselves are increasingly designed so that equipment which has fulfilled its purpose falls out of orbit years or decades sooner than it otherwise would, lest it collide with functioning spacecraft. (8/10)

SpaceX Demo-2 Astronauts Walkthrough Launch Day Operations (Source: NASA)
SpaceX recently held a training event at its facility in Hawthorne, California for prelaunch operations with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley and ground operators for the company’s Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The training provided an opportunity for the integrated team to dry run all of the activities, procedures and communication that will be exercised on launch day when a Crew Dragon spacecraft launches on a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A in Florida.

The astronauts performed suit-up procedures alongside the SpaceX ground closeout team and suit engineers using the same ground support equipment, such as the seats and suit leak check boxes, that will be used on launch day. Following crew suit-up, the teams performed a simulated launch countdown with the astronauts inside a Crew Dragon simulator and performed several emergency egress, or exit, scenarios. The training exercise is one of several that NASA astronauts have participated in with our commercial crew partners, Boeing and SpaceX, in preparation for crew flight tests. NASA’s Commercial Crew Program continues to place astronaut safety at the forefront of preparations for human spaceflight. (8/10)

Next-Gen Spacesuit Could Protect Astronauts on the Moon and Mars (Source: Space.com)
The same company that helped to design and supply spacesuits for NASA's Apollo program has unveiled a Next Generation Spacesuit system prototype nicknamed Astro. ILC Dover and Collins Aerospace, which has worked with ILC Dover to produce spacesuits currently in use aboard the International Space Station, revealed this next-gen spacesuit at a July 25 event on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. The event simultaneously celebrated the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing.

The new suit system consists of both an extravehicular activity (EVA) suit and a life-support backpack that regulates pressure and provides oxygen and cooling. Designed with future crewed missions in mind, the suit could serve NASA and commercial space partners as they continue to develop plans to return humans to the moon and launch crewed missions to Mars. ILC Dover developed the spacesuit, while Collins Aerospace provided the life-support backpack for the prototype demonstration. (8/8)

Russian Nuclear Rocket Mishap Causes Deaths, Radiation Spike (Source: New York Post)
The death toll from a rocket explosion at a Russian missile test range rose to five on Saturday, after initial reports listed two dead. Defense officials have nonetheless shut down fishing, swimming and shipping traffic in a portion of the White Sea. The explosion happened Thursday during tests on a liquid propellant rocket engine at an arctic naval range in Nyonska run by state nuclear company Rosatom. In addition to the five dead, three staffers suffered serious burns. A nearby kindergarten was also reportedly damaged, and more than 9,500 people were evacuated.

Officials in the nearby city of Severodvinsk reported a 40-minute spike in radiation levels to 2 microsieverts per hour. Normal levels are around 0.11 microsieverts/hour. While the levels were not high enough to cause sickness, according to the BBC, locals reportedly rushed to pharmacies for iodine, depleting stocks in Arkhangelsk and Severodvinsk. Rosatom engineers were working on an “isotope power source” for the rocket propulsion system at the time of the explosion, according to the BBC. (8/10)

Russian Weapon Depot Explodes in Siberia (Source: Business Insider)
A Russian military ammunition depot, believed to house tens of thousands of artillery shells, caught fire and exploded on Monday, killing one and injuring 13 others, as a result of "human error."  The depot, which Russian media said was home to tens of thousands of artillery shells, exploded Monday, setting off fires that continued to burn until the next day. One person was killed, more than a dozen were injured, and around 16,000 people living within 20 kilometers, or about 12 miles, of the blast were evacuated. People were able to return to their homes on Tuesday after the gunpowder charges had stopped detonating. (8/6)

Russian Weapon Depot Explodes Again Days After Massive Initial Blast (Source: UPI)
Two new explosions ripped through an ammunition depot at a Russian military facility in eastern Siberia on Friday, injuring eight people, according to state-run news agency TASS.  A fire also broke out at the storage depot, located near the city of Achinsk. TASS reported that the Russian Defense Ministry said lightning was the cause of the explosion and that the nearby village of Kamenka was being evacuated. The incident comes four days after deadly explosions and a subsequent fire swept through the same ammo facility, forcing thousands of nearby residents to evacuate. (8/8)

How One CEO is Trying to Get Space Companies to Talk to Each Other More (Source: Politico)
The space industry needs far greater collaboration if it's going to maximize the potential of an economic ecosystem in low-Earth orbit, says one CEO with a unique vantage point. “Right now we have a hub and spoke model. It’s companies working with NASA,” says Jeffrey Manber, the CEO of Nanoracks, which is currently launching cubesats from the International Space Station. "Most companies are in their silos.”

For example, a commercial spacecraft designed to bring goods manufactured in orbit to Earth will not reach its full potential, he says, if it can't transport different items made by other companies. But Manber says companies are not facilitating the necessary conversations to “bring everybody together." Low-Earth orbit extends from about 100 miles above Earth's surface to about 1,200 miles. It includes the International Space Station, more than half of all currently operating satellites, and is where many of the planned constellations of hundreds of satellites will orbit the Earth.

Manber, who previously sent tourists to the Russian space station as the CEO of MirCorp and also helped form the Office of Space Commerce at the Department of Commerce during the Reagan administration, believes Nanoracks is well-positioned to play matchmaker. (8/9)

Embry-Riddle Plans Expansion of Its Research Park through Partnership with Space Square (Source: ERAU)
With a goal to promote high-paying jobs, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University announced plans to expand its successful Research Park and advance innovation in Volusia County by establishing a presence within the new Space Square aerospace hub. The plan sprang from the highly collaborative economic development efforts of Embry-Riddle, Space Square, Team Volusia, Space Florida and the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce, said University President P. Barry Butler, Ph.D.

As the northern gateway to Florida’s Space Triangle, Volusia County is poised to become a major player in the $348 billion global space economy,” Butler said. “The expansion of Embry-Riddle’s Research Park and our partnership with Space Square are positive signs that Volusia is well on its way to becoming a strong strategic lever for economic development along the I-4 corridor.” Space Square’s mission is to “transform the entry point of Daytona’s iconic International Speedway Boulevard into the home for innovative private aerospace and technology research and development facilities,” Hagle said.

Located on 21.6 acres, Space Square offers 200,000 square feet of flex R&D space. Through the partnership with Embry-Riddle, the project offers Work Space @ Space Square, which is a collaborative co-working environment managed by ERAU and offering flexible custom workspaces of any size to early stage companies, along with preferred access to all of the resources offered by Embry-Riddle, including faculty-guided research, student interns, first class facilities, and state of the art equipment. (8/6)

OneWeb Secures Global Spectrum Further Enabling Global Connectivity Services (Source: OneWeb)
OneWeb, whose mission is to connect everyone everywhere, is pleased to announce it has succeeded in bringing into use its spectrum rights in the Ku- and Ka-band spectrum. To achieve this milestone, OneWeb’s satellites have been transmitting at the designated frequencies in the correct orbit for more than 90 days, enabling OneWeb to meet the requirements to secure spectrum bands over which it has priority rights under ITU rules and regulations.

These rights will now be confirmed as the UK administration, which has filed our satellite system with the ITU, will complete the required Notification and Registration process of the company’s LEO network. (8/7)