September 26, 2016

Different Paths to Mars (Source: Space Review)
Elon Musk will unveil his plans for human missions to Mars this week, but he’s not the only person talking about Mars exploration. Jeff Foust reports there’s a new emphasis on Mars mission planning, as other companies and organizations propose alternative approaches for getting humans to the Red Planet. Click here. (9/26)

Further Steps Toward the Frontier: Recent Policy Efforts on Space Settlement (Source: Space Review)
Getting space settlement put into law as a goal for US space policy has been a long-running goal of space advocates. Cody Knipfer argues that there are encouraging signs of progress. Click here. (9/26)
 
Unpopular Truths About Space Settlement (Source: Space Review)
Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, among others are developing the technical capabilities to establish private enterprise space settlements. Alan Wasser points out that actually establishing space settlements would be infinitely easier to fund if they could be as potentially profitable as their other businesses. Click here. (9/26)

Why India's Commercial Space Program is Thriving (Source: BBC)
India's ability to launch multiple satellites in a single mission has put it on firm footing in the global market. Many private companies are developing satellites that they need for their operations, but most cannot afford to launch these independently. So they need to piggyback on missions from agencies like Isro that have launch facilities.

"The need for launches is growing exponentially worldwide, primarily because of new companies that are planning to launch entire commercial constellations [groups] of satellites," says Susmita Mohanty, chief executive of Earth2Orbit, a company that has been helping negotiate launch deals between India's space agency and private firms.

Another thing that could be making India an attractive proposition is the frequency of its launches and its ability to meet deadlines. "So far we have been able to meet the time requirements of the customers," says Mr Kumar. India now plans to have as many as 12 launches a year, a pace that's more than doubled since 2015.
Still, getting foreign satellites on board is not simple. (9/26)

Hubble Spots Possible Water Plumes Erupting on Jupiter's Moon Europa (Source: NASA)
Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have imaged what may be water vapor plumes erupting off the surface of Jupiter's moon Europa. This finding bolsters other Hubble observations suggesting the icy moon erupts with high altitude water vapor plumes. The observation increases the possibility that missions to Europa may be able to sample Europa’s ocean without having to drill through miles of ice.

“Europa’s ocean is considered to be one of the most promising places that could potentially harbor life in the solar system,” said Geoff Yoder, acting associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “These plumes, if they do indeed exist, may provide another way to sample Europa’s subsurface.”

The plumes are estimated to rise about 125 miles (200 kilometers) before, presumably, raining material back down onto Europa's surface. Europa has a huge global ocean containing twice as much water as Earth’s oceans, but it is protected by a layer of extremely cold and hard ice of unknown thickness. The plumes provide a tantalizing opportunity to gather samples originating from under the surface without having to land or drill through the ice. (9/26)

NASA: Odds Favor Successful SpaceX Mars Mission (Source: Space.com)
Before NASA decided to help SpaceX on its journey to Mars, details of which company chief Elon Musk plans to unveil on Tuesday, the U.S. space agency reviewed the plan for SpaceX's first mission, slated to launch in 2018, and decided it has a reasonably good chance of success.

For NASA, a successful mission means that SpaceX's Mars vehicle, called Red Dragon, flies through the Martian atmosphere with its thrusters firing in the direction of travel, a technology known as supersonic retrograde propulsion. The feather in the cap would be a propulsive landing on the Martian surface.

"This is a critical, critical technology for us," said Phil McAlister, director of NASA's Commercial Spaceflight Division. "This is flight data that would not be available to us by any other means." NASA is working toward sending astronauts to Mars in the mid-2030s. Musk aims to beat that by a decade. (9/26)

SpaceX Test-Fires Raptor Engines (Source: The Verge)
SpaceX has conducted its first firing test of its Raptor engine, the powerful propulsion system that the company aims to use to take humans to Mars. SpaceX boss Elon Musk tweeted pictures of the tests late last night, sharing one image that showed a steady stream of flame emanating from the engine, and another showing "Mach diamonds" — patterns formed in the exhaust plumes of supersonic craft.

Musk has been has been fairly vague on Raptor specifications so far, but tweeted a few extra details after last night's tests, confirming production goals and chamber pressure. Previously he indicated that Raptor engines will deliver about 500,000 pounds of liftoff thrust — about as much as the Space Shuttle's main engines — and will use liquid methane rather than kerosene. Full-scale Raptor engines first arrived at SpaceX's testing facility in Texas earlier this year. (9/26)

Gary Johnson Calls for Space Colonization, Vows to Stay in Race (Source: WTOP)
Gary Johnson, the Libertarian presidential candidate and former governor of New Mexico, said that the future of the human race will depend upon learning to inhabit other planets. “We do have to inhabit other planets. The future of the human race is space exploration,” Johnson said in offering a response on how to address the challenges posed by climate change. (9/26)

India Launches PSLV C-35 with Eight Satellites (Source: The Wire)
A PSLV C-35 rocket, carrying India’s SCATSAT-1 meant for ocean and weather studies and seven other satellites including from US and Canada, today lifted off from the spaceport in Sriharikota. Besides SCATSAT-1, the 44.4 m tall ISRO’s workhorse PSLV rocket is carrying two Indian university satellites, three from Algeria and one each from US and Canada. For the first time in its mission, the PSLV will launch its payloads in two different orbits. There will be two Fourth Stage Engine restarting for this purpose. (9/26)

Man in India Carrying Fake NASA ID with Obama Signature Held (Source: Hindustan Times)
A college student in Dewas was arrested on Saturday on charge of extorting money using a fake identity card of NASA bearing the signature of US President Barack Obama. The police said 20-year-old Ansar, a resident of Kamlapur, placed a few antennas and gadgets on the roof of his house to mislead villagers that these help NASA get a picture of the area.

Ansar also told people that he was selected for a NASA project and got annual package of `1.85 crore. He was even felicitated by Kamlapur Government Higher Secondary School on August 15 for his “outstanding work”, and met some including politicians and bureaucrats. But he had his luck run out when he met district superintendent of police Shashikant Shukla. As Ansar wore the identity card during the meeting, Shukla raised doubt on the signature. As he left the office, Shukla called Bagli police station in-charge BS Gore and asked him to keep a watch on Ansar. (9/26)

Going to Mars Could Mess Up the Hunt for Alien Life (Source: National Geographic)
Twenty years ago, America celebrated its Independence Day by landing several thousand invaders on the surface of Mars. On July 4, 1997, the Pathfinder spacecraft touched down in a northern lowland called Chryse Planitia carrying a small rover named Sojourner—as well as a large amount of stowaways in the form of earthly microbes.

Did any of these microbes survive and reproduce, establishing themselves as Earth’s first colonists on a distant world? Highly unlikely, NASA assured us at the time, noting that scientists believed “it would be difficult to sustain and cultivate life on Mars.” But, as Jurassic Park famously pointed out, life often finds a way. Biologists have been discovering all kinds of organisms on Earth capable of thriving in extreme environments. (9/26)

Apollo 1 Memorial Proposed at Arlington Cemetery (Source: CollectSpace)
Legislation introduced last week would establish an Apollo 1 memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. The bill, introduced by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), directs the Secretary of the Army, working with NASA, to establish a "memorial marker" for the Apollo 1 crew at the cemetery. Similar memorials are there for the astronauts lost on the Challenger and Columbia shuttle accidents. (9/26)

Major Reform Sought for National Security Space (Source: Space News)
The head of a key House subcommittee said he wants to carry out "major reform" to national security space. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee's strategic forces subcommittee, said last week he will seek those reforms in a fiscal year 2018 defense authorization act, warning that the military is not "organized and prepared to fight and win a war in space." His subcommittee is holding a hearing on the issue Tuesday. (9/26)

Boeing Distributes $6 Million in Education Grants, Says It Will Be In Washington for Decades (Source: Puget Sound Business Journal)
Boeing showered $6 million in grants on more than 50 educational institutions and nonprofits across Washington state Wednesday, seeking to dispel fears that it plans to shift jobs overseas. “Boeing will be a significant jobs provider in Washington for decades to come," Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Ray Conner said in a news release announcing the grants. "Our hope and goal is that those future jobs will continue to be filled by kids who grow up right here in the state.” (9/23)

Boeing CEO Rips Donald Trump Over China Remarks (Source: Puget Sound Business Journal)
The chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes and a former U.S. ambassador to China have taken turns criticizing Donald Trump, saying the Republican presidential nominee is misrepresenting U.S. trade with China and Boeing's dealings in China in particular. Trump has made the aircraft manufacturer's China activities an election issue, alleging Boeing will move U.S jobs to China if he's not elected to stop major corporations from shifting jobs offshore. (9/20)

How NASA Plans To Discover Other Earths With The Help Of Starshade (Source: Fossbytes)
Every star like our very own star, the sun, have at least one planet orbiting around it. Astronomers can currently detect planets outside our solar system through indirect methods like observing the changes in light from the distant stars when its planet passes across it. They have been doing this for more than 15 years, but unfortunately have not documented clear pictures of any exoplanets.

Firstly, even the closest star is several light years away. So when the astronomers observe these stars from an astronomical distance, their orbiting planets appear very close to the star. That defect disables the telescope from detecting them.

Secondly, the stars are billion times brighter than their planets, which makes viewing these planets nearly impossible. We reach for our sunglasses when the blinding sunlight shines into our eyes and that is exactly what NASA is doing. They are designing a huge pair of sunglasses for its telescope which will help them in capturing pictures of exoplanets. (9/25)

September 25, 2016

World's Largest Radio Telescope Begins Operations in China (Source: Telegraph)
The world's largest radio telescope will be completed in China and start operation on Sunday, according to state broadcaster CCTV. The five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope, or FAST, is the world's largest radio telescope, CCTV said. The project was started in 2011 and technicians began assembling the telescope last July. The telescope is placed deep in the mountains of southwest China's Guizhou Province. (9/24)

September 24, 2016

Harris-Built Aireon System Targets 2018 Space-Based Air Traffic Surveillance (Source: Runway Girl)
Aireon still expects to begin offering space-based ADS-B air traffic management surveillance data feeds to all its air navigation service provider (ANSP) customers on or near its previously planned February 2018 service-launch date.

SpaceX is booked to launch from Vandenberg AFB in California the 66 Iridium NEXT low-earth orbit satellites that will carry Aireon’s space-based ADS-B receiver payloads. Aireon CEO Don Thoma concedes the service-launch target depends on whether SpaceX can resume orbital-payload launches soon following the 1 September explosion of a Falcon 9X launcher. (9/23)

SpaceX: Analysis Points to Cryo Helium Breach in Explosion (Source: LA Times)
Early analysis of debris and data from SpaceX’s launch pad explosion suggests that a “large breach” took place in the cryogenic helium system of the rocket’s second-stage liquid oxygen tank, the space company said. The company said it still has not determined the root of the incident and that all “plausible causes” are being investigated.

“We will work to resume our manifest as quickly as responsible once the cause of the anomaly has been identified by the Accident Investigation Team,” SpaceX said in a statement on its website. “Pending the results of the investigation, we anticipate returning to flight as early as the November timeframe.”

SpaceX said it has ruled out any connection between the explosion three weeks ago and the June 2015 disintegration of a rocket laden with supplies for the International Space Station, an incident that was blamed on a failed strut assembly in the Falcon 9’s second stage that was holding down a helium tank. (9/23)

New Mexico's Solar Telescope Gets Funding (Source: KUNM)
More than $1 million from the National Science Foundation will help support efforts to transition the operation of New Mexico's solar telescope to a consortium led by New Mexico State University. Members of New Mexico's congressional delegation announced the funding Thursday.

The Richard B. Dunn Solar Telescope specializes in high resolution imaging and spectroscopy used by astronomers for a better understanding of the sun and how space weather affects the planet. The National Solar Observatory currently operates the telescope. It expects to open a new telescope by 2018 in Hawaii. This opened the door for the consortium to take over and keep the New Mexico scope open. (9/23)

Are Cubesats a Nuisance to Space Situational Awareness? (Source: Space News)
Small satellites and cubesats should not be viewed as a major contributor to congestion or in creating space debris in low earth orbit, at least based on recent history, a panel of experts here said Sept. 23. “We need to change our attitude about cubesats. They are not a nuisance,” said Bhavya Lal. “[They are] a very important part of our satellite ecosystem.”

Lal said all but one cubesat has been tracked by the Air Force, which issues collision warning messages. Because of that tracking, the Air Force has been able to ensure cubesats do not crash into other satellites and create unwanted debris. Air Force data show cubesats have forced other satellites to maneuver and avoid a collision three times this year, twice in 2015 and three times in 2014. For perspective, U.S. Strategic Command has said all operators performed a total 121 maneuvers in 2014 to avoid potential collisions.

The panel marked one of the first large-scale discussions between two pockets of the space community that often have little overlap: the space situational awareness crowd and the small satellite proponents. Cubesats have been derisively – and commonly – referred to as “debris sats” by some operators in the space community. Those operators view cubesats as a danger because many of them are so small they do not have propulsion systems and depend on atmospheric drag to pull them toward re-entry within 25 years, which is the government standard. (9/23)

Sea Launch Could Be Coming Back (Source: Parabolic Arc)
It looks as if the moribound Sea Launch company could have a new lease on life. Majority owner Energia has scheduled a press conference with the S7 Group on Tuesday during the International Astronautical Conference in Guadalajara, Mexico. The invitation promises a major announcement about the future of the long troubled venture. S7 is reported to be a Russian airline company with 66 aircraft total that is based out of Novosibirsk, Russia. (9/24)

Commercial Space Bill Will Benefit Mojave Spaceport (Source: Space News)
Commercial flights into space took a small step forward and large leap with the advancement of a piece of legislation in the House of Representatives Wednesday night. House Resolution 6007, sponsored by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, passed unanimously before the House. The law would give the Secretary of Transportation authority to conduct aeronautical studies at spaceports like Mojave, thus allowing the FAA to study the potential impact of structures on spacecraft arriving or departing from a licensed launch site.

The bill required rulemaking to implement this requirement within 18 months of enactment. According to McCarthy’s office, most spaceports are located at existing airports like Mojave, which is classified as a general aviation airport. Because of this, the FAA is limited to guidelines prescribed “for studying potential structural obstructions to general aviation airports and aircraft, and is unable to take into account the unique trajectories of suborbital vehicles.”

“Similar to airports, for our spaceports to function we need to prioritize safety and minimize the risk of structures interfering with the flight path of spacecraft on launch or reentry,” McCarthy said from the House floor. The legislation I introduced that we are voting on today gives the FAA the authority they now lack to examine whether structures being built near spaceports will obstruct spaceflight. With this, those leading our journey into space can remain confident that nothing back on earth will be slowing them down.” (9/23)

Daily Alert for Asteroid Flybys (Source: Sky & Telescope)
Asteroids buzz Earth all the time. Most you never hear about. But for those folks itching with curiosity — or who want a level-headed take on whatever object has blazed its way into the news — the Minor Planet Center’s new initiative is for you.

It’s called the Daily Minor Planet. (No, it’s not staffed by mini versions of Clark Kent.) The Daily Minor Planet is an alert service that sends an e-mail once a day to your inbox with information about any passing near-Earth objects. It includes the object’s name, time of closest approach (in Universal Time), speed, size, distance (compared with the Moon), and an orbit diagram. Click here. (9/22)

China Sends Vines Into Space in Quest for Perfect Wine (Source: Guardian)
In its bid to produce a world-beating wine, China has looked to the lush foothills of the Tibetan plateau, the sun-scorched Gobi desert, and the rocky slopes of Ningxia province. Now, Chinese vintners have a new destination in their sights: outer space. When China’s newest space lab, Tiangong-2, blasted off last week its cargo reportedly included a selection of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and pinot noir vines. (9/21)

It’s Official: We’re Going to Mars (Source: Futurism)
It looks like Republican and Democratic senators alike are keen on safeguarding America’s space programs. With the potential chaos of a new president on the horizon, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation passed a bipartisan bill giving NASA $19.5 billion to continue working on a mission to Mars. It also includes support for the continuation of the program to send astronauts on private rockets to the International Space Station (ISS) from American soil no later than 2018. (9/23)

NASA Seeks Concepts for Asteroid Redirection (Source: Federal Times)
NASA is soliciting concept studies for potential robotic and crewed missions to explore and redirect asteroids. In a broad agency announcement titled “Asteroid Redirect Mission Umbrella for Partnerships,” NASA covered all aspects of applied research and technology collaborations for the mission, including investigation teams and studies to help determine potential mission payloads and experimentation opportunities.

These missions are intended to provide proving grounds for further deep space human exploration. Scientists, engineers, technologists, and other qualified and interested individuals are invited to apply for the teams investigating science, planetary defense, asteroidal resources and others discovered during exploration (in-situ resource utilization).

The investigation teams will work with NASA and Jet Propulsion Laboratory management and technical personnel to plan craft and crew requirements to rendezvous with, capture, explore and transfer asteroid materials. The teams are open to U.S. government agencies, NASA, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, U.S. national laboratories, federally funded research and development centers, non-government U.S. institutions (companies, universities, nonprofit organizations), and international organizations, as long as proposals comply with NASA policies regarding research with non-U.S. organizations. (9/23)

September 23, 2016

Senate Panel Authorizes $19.5B for NASA Mission to Mars (Source: WCFL)
A U.S. Senate panel on Wednesday unanimously approved a one-year spending plan to continue funding NASA's efforts to send astronauts to Mars. The NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2016, as the bill is titled, explicitly lists the "Journey to Mars" as a long-term priority for NASA. It enumerates funding for research into propulsion technologies that would make the journey shorter, as well as projects related to the overall goal. The bill authorizes $19.5 billion for NASA in 2017.

Senator Bill Nelson introduced the bill in Congress along with five other senators, including Republicans Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. The bill also funds continued development of an American-made rocket to once again send American astronauts to and from the International Space Station without having to rely on Russia. (9/21)

Hubble Helps Find Light-Bending World With Two Suns (Source: Colorado Space News)
A distant planet orbiting two stars, found by its warping of spacetime, has been confirmed using observations from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The planet’s mass caused what is known as a microlensing event, where light is bent by an object’s gravitational field. The event was observed in 2007, making this the first circumbinary planet to be confirmed following detection of a microlensing event.

The majority of exoplanets detected so far orbit single stars. Only a few circumbinary planets — planets orbiting two stars — have been discovered to date. Most of these circumbinaries have been detected by NASA’s Kepler mission, which uses the transit method for detection.

This newly discovered planet, however, is very unusual. “The exoplanet was observed as a microlensing event in 2007. A detailed analysis revealed a third lensing body in addition to the star and planet that were quite obvious from the data,” says David Bennett from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, USA, lead author of the study. Click here. (9/21)

Why Are Pulsar Planets Rare? (Source: Cornell University)
Pulsar timing observations have revealed planets around only a few pulsars. We suggest that the rarity of these planets is due mainly to two effects. First, we show that the most likely formation mechanism requires the destruction of a companion star. Only pulsars with a suitable companion (with an extreme mass ratio) are able to form planets.

Second, while a dead zone (a region of low turbulence) in the disk is generally thought to be essential for planet formation, it is most probably rare in disks around pulsars because of the irradiation from the pulsar. The irradiation strongly heats the inner parts of the disk pushing the inner boundary of the dead zone out. We suggest that the rarity of pulsar planets can be explained by the low probability for these two requirements - a very low-mass companion and a dead zone - to be satisfied. (9/21)

Another Call to Sell Spaceport America (Source: KRWG)
When you’re in a hole, stop digging. It’s about as wise an aphorism as you’re likely to hear, but when it comes to “Spaceport America” it never seems to apply. A construction contract could be signed as soon as February for a new access road. Approval has already been granted for $14 million worth of severance-tax bonds to pay for the 24-mile route. The southern road is essential for the spaceport, because it “is not only a center for innovation, it’s a destination too. We need access, and easy access.”

If Lopez has any evidence that the hundreds of millions of dollars New Mexico’s taxpayers have “invested” in the spaceport have produced any innovation, the Foundation would love to see it. Other than a smattering of launches by UP Aerospace’s sounding rockets, next to nothing has happened at the facility. No payloads have been sent into orbit. Not a single tourist has made a suborbital jaunt.

Rather than double down on the boondoggle-in-the-desert, the state should embrace the proposal floated by Sen. George Munoz (D-Gallup) in 2015: Require the spaceport authority and the general services department, “in consultation with the New Mexico finance authority … [to] develop and put into place … a marketing plan that will advertise and promote the sale of Spaceport America to potential national and international buyers.” (9/21)

Spaceport America Names Daniel Hicks as New Chief Executive Officer (Source: Spaceport America)
Spaceport America, the world's first purpose-built commercial spaceport located in southern New Mexico in the USA, today announced that the New Mexico Spaceport Authority Board of Directors has selected Daniel Hicks as the new Chief Executive Officer. The announcement follows a search by the New Mexico Spaceport Authority Board's Search Committee to identify a new CEO, following the retirement of Christine Anderson, who previously held the position since 2011.

Mr. Hicks began his 34-year career with the U.S. Army White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) in 1982 as a Test Conductor within the Materiel Test Directorate. At present, Mr. Hicks is responsible for the direct oversight of the command planning functions for the range where he has just completed "WSMR 2046," a 30 year strategic plan, and maintains oversight for all external relationships; congressional and state legislatures; federal, state, and local agencies; and other community and business stakeholders. (9/22)

Meet TeamIndus, India’s Moonwalkers (Source: Live Mint)
From the outside, there’s hardly anything about Bengaluru-based Axiom Research Labs Pvt. Ltd to indicate that this is India’s only private company to have set its eyes on landing a spacecraft on the moon before the end of next year. Click here. (9/22)

NASA's Figuring Out How to Get 'Orion' Out of the Ocean (Source: Inverse)
Everyone makes a big fuss about how to launch rockets up into space, but it’s important to remember that we also need to know how to recover them once they come back down to Earth. That’s why NASA is rehearsing how to best get its Orion spacecraft out of the ocean post-splashdown.

Orion — the space agency’s first new human spacecraft in a decade — might one day take mankind to Mars. It’s one of NASA’s biggest projects alongside the massive Space Launch System that will rocket it into space. Orion’s first flight on the SLS, Exploration Mission-1, won’t boast human passengers, but the testing process is extremely thorough. Hence, water.

Orion was placed in NASA’s massive testing pool — the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory — at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. A group of U.S. Navy divers, Air Force pararescuemen, and Coast Guard rescue swimmers came out to the floating craft to practice recovering the capsule, connecting cable lines that, in the real word, would tie to a Navy ship. (9/22)

NASA Investigating Microbes Aboard ISS (Source: Popular Science)
There may soon be a field guide to the microbes of the International Space Station. NASA announced on September 21 that it is seeking research proposals to investigate tiny creatures ferried from Earth on the bodies of the more than 200 astronauts who have visited the space station. The scientists will pore over samples collected over a decade to examine how the microbes have adapted and evolved aboard the ISS.

This will allow NASA to “better understand how to control the microbial environment in future human exploration spacecraft,” David Tomko, space biology program scientist at the agency, said in a statement. (9/22)

Beames Leaves Stratolaunch (Source: GeekWire)
Chuck Beames is leaving Paul Allen's Vulcan Aerospace, developer of the Stratolaunch air-launch system. In an internal email, Allen said that Beames, who had been president of Vulcan Aerospace since 2014, "decided that now is the right time" to leave the company. Jean Floyd, the CEO of Vulcan-owned Stratolaunch Systems and a longtime Orbital ATK employee, will take over as interim executive director of Vulcan Aerospace. V

Vulcan's major project is Stratolaunch, featuring a giant aircraft that will carry an as-yet unannounced launch vehicle for launching satellites. Editor's Note: Stratolaunch seems to have gone through multiple rocket design concepts and partners and has been criticized for the limited market it would serve. The huge carrier aircraft might only be able to support orbital launches of Delta-2 class payloads. And while its selling point is freedom from ground-based spaceport limitations, the Stratolaunch system would suffer from its own unique set of operational limitations. (9/22)

U.S. and Chinese Diplomats Will Discuss Space (Source: Space News)
American and Chinese diplomats will meet later this year to discuss orbital debris and other military space issues. Frank Rose, the assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification and compliance, said at the AMOS conference Thursday that orbital debris would be among the topics of an upcoming meeting, following a "very frank discussion" between officials in May. While China's 2007 ASAT test, which created thousands of pieces of debris, remains a contentious issue between the countries, Rose said there has been recent progress in discussions to limit the growth of debris and avoid collisions. (9/22)

'Dangerous' Repair Needed for Soyuz Before Next Crew Launch (Source: Russian Space Web)
Russian technicians will attempt "dangerous" repairs to a Soyuz spacecraft whose launch may be delayed until November. Engineers have traced a short circuit discovered during launch preparations to an improperly bent wire behind the seats in the spacecraft's descent module. The repair is straightforward, but could violate safety procedures since the spacecraft has already been loaded with pressurized gases and toxic fuels that can't easily be removed. Those repairs may delay the launch of the spacecraft, carrying a new three-person crew for the International Space Station, until the beginning of November. (9/22)

Intelsat Thruster Problem Will Slightly Decrease Satellite's Lifetime (Source: Space News)
A thruster problem on a new Intelsat spacecraft will only slightly decrease its operational life. The IS-33e spacecraft, launched last month, suffered a thruster problem as it traveled to geostationary orbit. That problem will delay its entry into service by several weeks, and will shorten its lifetime by about 18 months. Intelsat may be eligible to file an insurance claim for 10 percent loss of service, valued at about $40 million. (9/22)

Vandenberg Wildefire Delays WorldView Launch to October (Source: Pacific Coast Business Times)
The launch of DigitalGlobe's WorldView-4 spacecraft is now delayed until early October because of a wildfire at the launch site. DigitalGlobe and United Launch Alliance said late Thursday they are now examining early October dates for the Atlas 5 launch of the spacecraft. A fire on land at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California that broke out over the weekend had delayed the launch until no earlier than Sept. 26. Both the spacecraft and launch vehicle are in good condition, and firefighters are gaining the upper hand in their efforts to contain the fire. (9/22)

Expect More Collission Warnings with Space Tracking Upgrades (Source: Space News)
The Air Force may rethink how it issues collision warnings to satellite operators when a new space tracking system comes online. The Space Track radar system will be able to track objects as small as five centimeters across, and perhaps as small as one centimeter across. That will allow it to see smaller, and thus more, objects than existing systems. Doug Loverro, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy, said that could result in a much larger number of warnings of potential collisions that could overwhelm satellite operators. He said that improvements in tracking accuracy could allow them to decrease the close approach distance threshold that triggers a warning to counter that trend. (9/22)

SES Explores Balloons as Satellite Alternative (Source: Space News)
SES is getting into the balloon business. The satellite operator's SES Government unit is commercializing a low-altitude aerostat that, flying at altitudes of just a few hundred meters, could provide images and broadband communications in a nearby area. The new product is a sign that satellite operators, facing flat or declining prices for conventional satellite services, are looking to broaden their product portfolios. (9/22)

US Astronaut May Vote From Space (Source: AP)
An astronaut on the ISS may have to vote from space if her return trip is delayed. Kate Rubins was scheduled to return to Earth in late October, in time to vote in the Nov. 8 general election. The delay in the launch of a Soyuz spacecraft may now keep her in orbit until after the election. Rubins said she prepared to vote by absentee ballot prior to her launch just in case her return was delayed. (9/22)

Kickstarter Effort Would Reissue Voyager's "Golden Record" on Vinyl (Source: New York Times)
A classic space album is being reissued on vinyl. A Kickstarter campaign that started this week seeks to reissue the "Golden Record" included on the Voyager spacecraft as a message from Earth to any aliens that might come across the spacecraft in interstellar space. The album is a mix of various kinds of music, sounds and greetings. A set of three vinyl LPs will cost $98 plus shipping, but there's also a $25 digital music version for those who long ago got rid of their turntables. (9/22)

September 22, 2016

Senate Commerce and House SS&T Committees Approve Space Bills (Source: Space Policy Online)
The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee and the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee each held markups of space-related legislation. The Senate committee approved the 2016 NASA Transition Authorization Act and the INSPIRE Women Act. The House committee approved the TREAT Astronauts Act. Congress is only scheduled to be in session for a few more weeks in 2016, but if all parties are sufficiently motivated to reach compromise, there is more than enough time to get the bills to the President's desk before the end of the 114th Congress. Click here. (9/21)

Good (Space) Fences Make for Good (Orbital) Neighbors (Source: Space News)
The Space Fence Integration Test Bed that Lockheed Martin opened earlier this year in New Jersey has already tracked its first satellites, giving the Air Force a taste of what the full-scale system will be able to do. Now in the home stretch of its decade-long development, the conversation about Space Fence has shifted from the nuts and bolts of the radar’s cost and schedule to how the Air Force will take advantage of the more powerful system to help predict and prevent space-based collisions.

Improved space situational awareness is a pillar of the Air Force’s vision for protecting its satellites from orbital debris strikes and deliberate attacks, especially as the Pentagon expects increased threats to national security satellites. The Space Fence, once operational, is expected to be able to track an estimated 200,000 objects, including debris as small as 5 centimeters. (9/19)

New Airliner Flight Tracking Tool Will Provide One-Minute Updates (Source: Aviation Week)
Nascent space–based surveillance company Aireon has joined forces with flight tracking specialist FlightAware to offer airlines a Web-based aircraft tracking tool, which will provide updates every 1 min. The companies said their new GlobalBeacon system will satisfy the normal mode and distress mode tracking standards adopted by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The two modes will be implemented in 2018 and 2021, respectively, and are part of the organization’s Global Aeronautical Distress and Safety System (GADSS).

With GlobalBeacon, Aireon and FlightAware will offer continuous 1 min. tracking all at times using surveillance data from Aireon’s space-based ADS-B network and FlightAware’s existing flight tracking feeds and assets. FlightAware CEO Daniel Baker said airline customers will use the system through a Web-based, real-time aircraft tracking dashboard. It will feature configurable alerts, providing an airline customer with immediate notification of abnormal events. (9/21)

Aerojet Contends That AR1 is Lower-Risk Option for Vulcan, Could Serve SLS Too (Source: Space Policy Online)
Aerojet Rocketdyne argues that its AR1 engine remains the lower risk option for ULA's new Vulcan rocket. Company executives said this week that the engine's conservative design and use of kerosene, rather than methane, fuel makes it a better option for Vulcan. ULA, though, has baselined the use of Blue Origin's BE-4 engine for Vulcan, and expects to make a final decision by next spring. If ULA goes ahead with the BE-4, Aerojet said the AR1 could be used on other vehicles, including advanced boosters planned for an upgraded Block 2 version of NASA's Space Launch System. (9/22)

'Passengers' Almost Gets Deep Space Hibernation Pods Right (Source: Inverse)
In the new trailer for Passengers, Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt are on a deep space journey that’s cut short when their hibernation pods malfunction and they’re woken up, 90 years too soon. It’s a common trope — and tragedy — in science fiction, but it’s also not that unrealistic.

Hibernation pods were dreamed up because deep space destinations are so profoundly far away; science fiction needed a way to explain away the problems that come with decades-long space voyages, like aging, resource consumption, and the mental strain of living in a confined space for long periods of time. Using hibernation pods, which show up in movies from Alien to Avatar, provides a neat solution to those problems. (9/20)

Musk to Give the Speech of His Life on Mars Plan (Source: Ars Technica)
Elon Musk will deliver this year’s most anticipated aerospace speech on Tuesday at the International Astronautical Conference in Mexico. The talk, “Making Humans a Multiplanetary Species,” marks a singular moment for the man who has upended the global launch industry during the last five years and will now finally peel away some of the layers of his grand vision to colonize Mars—and possibly other places in the Solar System.

It was mooted in some aerospace circles that Musk might change the focus of his much-advertised speech at the IAC meeting after the loss of a Falcon 9 rocket earlier this month (the second), the cause of which remains unknown to the public. And while Ars has learned that substantial changes have been made to Musk’s speech, its central theme will remain how to address the challenges of creating a self-sustaining colony on Mars. Click here. (9/22)

NASA Scores High In Workplace Survey (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA ranks second among the largest U.S. federal agencies on two workforce fronts, engagement and global job satisfaction. (9/21)

World Space Week Kicks Off With Cape Canaveral Party (Source: BRPH)
The EDC of Florida’s Space Coast in partnership with BRPH and Space Florida is hosting World Space Week Kick-Off Party, Monday October 3 at the Florida Beer Company in Cape Canaveral from 5:00pm-8:00pm. World Space Week is an opportunity for organizations across the world to come together and collectively inspire and stimulate interests in space, space sciences and education. No one in the state of Florida has a registered event, until now. Click here. (9/21)

Missile, Space and Range Pioneers Plan 50th Anniversary Dinner on Oct. 21 (Source: MSRP)
Kennedy Space Center Director and former shuttle astronaut, Bob Cabana, and Apollo 13 Lunar Module Pilot, Fred Haise, will be panelists at an event celebrating the Golden Anniversary of the Missile, Space and Range Pioneers (MSRP). A special award will also be presented to Brigadier General Wayne R. Monteith commander of the 45th Space Wing for the Air Force’s 50 years of support of MSRP.

The MSRP 50 th anniversary banquet is October 21 at the Courtyard by Marriott in Cocoa Beach and is open to the public. The banquet includes a sit-down dinner and a cash bar. Social starts at 5:30 pm, with dinner served at 7:00 pm. Tickets are limited and are $45 for MSRP members, $60 for non-members, and $35 for students and active military. VIP Corporate tables for eight participants are available for $500. Click here. (9/21)

Georgia Spaceport Steering Committee Adds Member (Source: Spaceport Camden)
he Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the appointment of Stephen Fleming to the Spaceport Camden Steering Committee upon the recommendation of County Administrator, Steve Howard. Fleming is a highly successful senior executive with leadership experience in startups, multinationals, private equity, and university-based economic development. (9/21)

NASA to Have Limited Role in SpaceX’s Planned Mars Campaign (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Expertise, input and advice from seasoned NASA engineers will improve SpaceX’s chances of nailing the first commercial landing on Mars as soon as late 2018, a senior space agency official said Wednesday, but Elon Musk’s space transport company will likely seek more independence from U.S. government support on later expeditions to the red planet.

While considered high risk by NASA standards, the Red Dragon Mars mission revealed by SpaceX in April has a “reasonable likelihood” of success, according to Phil McAlister, NASA’s director of commercial spaceflight development. McAlister said NASA will act as a consultant to SpaceX on the Red Dragon project, the first of a series of Mars landers planned by SpaceX. NASA’s participation will diminish in later missions, he said.

SpaceX plans multiple robotic Mars missions over the next decade leading up to a human expedition. It is all part of Elon Musk’s long-term vision to colonize Mars, a topic the business mogul plans to discuss in detail during a presentation at the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, next week. The company’s first Mars mission — Red Dragon — is slated to launch from Cape Canaveral as soon as May 2018 aboard a Falcon Heavy rocket. (9/21)

Infant Found Dead in Parked Car at Marshall Space Flight Center (Source: Huntsville Times)
A 7-month old child died at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., today after being left in a parked vehicle during the work day, a NASA spokesperson said. The child, who was not immediately identified, was found at 4:42 p.m. "Early reports indicate that the parent intended to drop the child off at the childcare center and instead went straight to work," NASA spokeswoman Jennifer Stanfield said in a statement. (9/21)

Time for U.S. Military to Let Go of Civil Space Situational Awareness Mission (Source: Space News)
Four years ago, I wrote an in-depth report called “Going Blind” on how the United States was in danger of losing its ability to “see” in space, a capability known as space situational awareness (SSA). “Going blind” would have detrimental effects on the entire world’s ability to use space in a safe, secure, and sustainable manner. While there have been some efforts since to improve the situation, the situation is still dire. The core issues have not been addressed, and the challenges are only increasing.

The time has come for the U.S. military to let go of the spaceflight safety mission, and allow a civil entity — likely with help from the private sector, academia, and international partners — to create its own public, high-accuracy catalog of space objects, and provide safety of spaceflight services to satellite operators. At the same time, the U.S. military should refocus its own efforts on developing SSA capabilities that are critical to protecting U.S national security space capabilities from potential threats. (9/21)

NASA Spots a Seemingly Impossible Cloud on Titan — For the Second Time (Source: Washington Post)
Saturn's moon Titan has been called the most Earthlike world found to date. It's the only other place in the solar system where stable liquid sits on the surface — seas of liquid methane flow into channels that have created magnificent canyons — and scientists have suggested that the icy world might be able to support some kind of alien life. Now researchers think they can add yet another "Earthlike" quality to Titan's extensive list: a seemingly impossible cloud on Titan may be created by weather processes we've seen before at home.

The unlikely cloud type was first spotted decades ago by NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft. It was made of a carbon- and nitrogen-based compound called dicyanoacetylene (C4N2). C4N2 is part of the chemical cocktail that cloaks Titan in an orange-colored haze. But high up in the stratosphere where this particular cloud sat, the compound was scarce. Scientists could find just 1 percent of the amount of C4N2 that should have been needed to create the cloud. NASA's Cassini mission recently spotted a second example of this crazy kind of cloud. (9/21)

Congress Gets Report on Giving FAA Space Traffic Role (Source: Space News)
The FAA is willing to take on the task of informing commercial, civil and foreign satellite operators of possible on-orbit collisions, while leaving the Defense Department in charge of supporting military space missions. “We think that makes a lot of sense,” said George Nield, FAA associate administrator for commercial space transportation. “We are ready to roll up our sleeves, partner with the Defense Department and other stakeholders to see if we can make that work.”

That view is backed up by the Department of Transportation’s Report on Processing and Releasing Safety-Related Space Situational Awareness Data, sent to Congress Sept. 6. Under a provision of the 2015 U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, Congress directed the Secretary of Transportation to consult with leaders of other federal agencies and to determine whether the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation could take over a portion of the space situational awareness role currently performed by the Defense Department.

The report concludes the FAA could perform the role, but says Congress would need to give the agency new legislative authority because both the U.S. National Space Policy of 2010 and the U.S. National Security Space Strategy of 2011 assign responsibility for space situational awareness to the Defense Secretary and National Intelligence Director. (9/21)

ULA Raises SpaceX Explosion in Fight Over Pentagon Contract (Source: Washington Post)
The recent explosion of a SpaceX rocket should raise concerns about going with the lowest bidder on sensitive national security launch contracts, the chief executive of the United Launch Alliance wrote in a letter to top Pentagon officials earlier this month. Tory Bruno, ULA’s chief executive, urged the Air Force to postpone the deadline for bids, saying it should take time to explore the impact of SpaceX’s rocket failure while also taking into account both companies’ experience and past performance.

The Pentagon should have particular reservations, Bruno wrote, given that two of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets have blown up, which he said “serve as a reminder of the complexity and hazards intrinsic to space launch services.” “This strategy defies both law and logic and puts hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars and Warfighter mission needs unnecessarily at risk,” he wrote. (9/21)

Lockheed Martin to Build Two More GPS 3 Satellites for U.S. Air Force (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force exercised a $395 million contract option for Lockheed Martin to build the ninth and tenth satellites in the next-generation of position, navigation and timing satellites, the Defense Department announced Sept. 21. Under a roughly $3.6 billion contract awarded in 2008, Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Denver is the prime contractor on the GPS 3 program and was under contract to build eight next-generation satellites. (9/21)

China's Race to Space Domination (Source: Popular Science)
“China sees space capability as an indication of global-leadership status,” says John ­Logsdon, founder of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University. “It gives China legitimacy in an area that is associated with great power.” Click here. (9/21)

Embry-Riddle Payload to Fly on Blue Origin Rocket (Source: The Avion)
Embry-Riddle is an environment that fosters the growth of many exciting research projects. One of the newest, and most interesting, is that of the Spacecraft Payloads class, which is developing a payload to be launched in early 2017. The course is taught by the Coordinator of the Commercial Space Operations program, Dr. Justin Karl. The class, officially titled “CSO 395 – Spacecraft Payloads,” will develop and build a payload that will fly on the first commercial flight of Blue Origin’s New Shepard launch vehicle. (9/21)

September 21, 2016

North Korea Claims Successful Test of Rocket Engine (Source: CNN)
North Korea claims to have successfully conducted a ground test of a new type of high powered rocket engine, the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported Tuesday. KCNA said North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visited the Sohae Space Center to guide the test of "a new type high-power engine of a carrier rocket for the geo-stationary satellite." KCNA said the engine would boost North Korea's capability to launch "various kinds of satellites including earth observation satellite at a world level." (9/19)

Satellite Operators Unconcerned About Competition From UAVs (Source: Space News)
Operators of commercial remote sensing satellites are not concerned about competition from UAVs. At a recent conference, representatives of several commercial imaging companies said that while UAVs can complement satellites, aerial systems have limitations in terms of the areas they can cover and the time it takes to field them. Satellite imaging companies also said that while they're seeing growth in value-added services, their single largest business continues to be selling imagery to military customers. (9/20)

Need to Get Going on Road to Spaceport America (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
We welcome the news that work will finally begin soon on the much-needed southern road to provide access to Spaceport America from Las Cruces. Last week the New Mexico Spaceport Authority board of directors voted to authorize Chairman Richard Holdridge to sign a memorandum of agreement with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to allow the right-of-way access needed for the 24-mile road from Upham to the spaceport.

The BLM is expected to sign off on the agreement in October, with approval for access in November, it is hoped. If all goes well, requests for proposals on construction could go out in December, with work beginning next year. It can’t start soon enough. The need for a southern road has always been a top priority for southern New Mexico to ensure that spaceport visitors stay here, in counties where our tax dollars are supporting the facility. (9/19)

Central Florida's Harris Corp. Works on New Weather Prediction System (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
A new high-tech satellite scheduled to head into space from Florida is designed to help residents get more advanced warnings when powerful storm systems threaten a region. It's the latest in the series of weather satellites that provide pictures and data that help create the forecasts we see on the nightly news and websites like Accuweather or Weather.com.

The satellite, complete with new high-tech tools and gadgets, has a seat on a United Launch Alliance rocket set for Nov. 4. Harris Corp., which is based on the Space Coast, is building cameras and ground-based systems for the new satellites. (9/20)

Apocalyptic Asteroid with Power of 3 Billion Nukes May Be Headed for Earth (Source: AOL)
It might be time to stock up on emergency supplies and finally invest in that fallout shelter you've been talking about building -- not that it would really do you too much good in this scenario. Experts are saying a huge meteor is rocketing close to Earth with the power of three billion atomic bombs.

China's Purple Mountain Laboratory discovered the massive asteroid using Asia's largest telescope, determining the meteor was passing our planet with a range of 18.8 times the distance between the Earth and the moon -- aka, WAY too close for comfort. (9/16)

Chinese Spaceplane Effort Would Feature Combined-Cycle Propulsion (Source: China Daily)
Chinese engineers are interested in developing a spaceplane with advanced propulsion. A meeting this week organized by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology endorsed the development of a spaceplane powered by combined-cycle engines that can operate in a wide range of environments. It's unclear if the proposed spaceplane project has the support, and funding, of the government. (9/20)

Wildfire at California Spaceport Threatens Launch Sites (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Firefighters are making progress in efforts to contain a wildfire threatening launch sites at California's Vandenberg Air Force Base. The "Canyon Fire" has consumed 12,000 acres and is 45 percent contained as of late Tuesday night. The fire is near several launch sites at Vandenberg, but does not pose an immediate threat to any of them.

United Launch Alliance CEO Tory Bruno said Tuesday that employees were able to access Space Launch Complex 3, the site that has an Atlas 5 rocket waiting to launch WorldView-4, for several hours to install a backup generator and other support equipment. SpaceX says it's taken precautions to protect Space Launch Complex 4, where 10 Iridium satellites are awaiting a Falcon 9 launch. (9/20)

Strategic Command Nominee: Be Prepared for Space-Based Warfare (Source: Space News)
The nominee to become the next head of U.S. Strategic Command told senators the U.S. must be prepared to fight in space. At a confirmation hearing by the Senate Armed Services Committee, U.S. Air Force Gen. John Hyten said that space control efforts, and a battle management command and control system, should be among the Defense Department's top space priorities.

Committee chairman Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said he found it "deeply disturbing" China and Russia were developing systems designed to "cripple" U.S. satellites. The hearing also covered several other space issues, from problems with the next-generation GPS ground system to plans to phase out the Delta 4 launch vehicle. (9/20)

This Company Wants to Shoot Satellites Into Space -- Via Fighter Jet (Source: Fox Business)
Sixty yearsyoung today, Lockheed Martin's F-104 Starfighter won't be eligible for early retirement for two more years (although in fact, the last F-104 was retired from service in 2004). Designed to intercept and shoot down Warsaw Pact fighters in the 1950s, the Starfighter was built for one thing: speed. "Sharp as the blade of a dagger," Lockheed called it, with "thin seven-foot wings" that didn't produce much drag, the F-104 was the first fighter to hit Mach 2.

Yet today, the Starfighter is getting a new lease on life. The fighter jet that resembled a rocketship when it was invented 60 years ago is being reborn -- as a rocketship in its own right. CubeCab has a plan to revive the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter as a launch vehicle for transporting tiny "CubeSat" microsatellites into space. The plan works like this:

In cooperation with Florida-based Starfighters Inc., which owns a fleet of F-104s, CubeCab will pack customers' CubeSats into rockets, attached to one of the Starfighter's wing-mounted weapons pylons. A Starfighter so equipped will then launch from the ground and fly a sortie anywhere from 60,000 to north of 100,000 feet above ground. At the apex, the Starfighter will fire its rocket, providing the added oomph needed to boost its satellite payload to orbital velocity. Click here. (9/20)

United Launch Alliance Announces CubeSat STEM Education Program Winners (Source: Parabolic Arc)
United Launch Alliance has selected four proposals from university students to receive free CubeSat launch slots on future Atlas V missions through the company’s new innovative rideshare program. Dubbed CubeCorp, the program encourages hands-on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) experience to motivate, educate and develop the next generation of rocket scientists and space entrepreneurs.

“ULA is passionate about educating and developing future leaders in the space industry,” said Tory Bruno, ULA CEO and president. “We’ve established a very low-cost approach to CubeSat design and launch to accommodate our commitment to STEM and innovative commercial CubeSat entrepreneurs.”

This year’s first place winner of the CubeSat STEM education program was the University of Texas at El Paso, with the University of Louisiana at Lafayette coming in second. Other winners are: Purdue University and University of Michigan. A team of reviewers from across ULA and Tyvak, ULA’s primary auxiliary payload integrator, thoroughly evaluated each proposal. Selection criteria included mission objective, educational outreach and ability to meet technical requirements. (9/20)

China Confirms Its Space Station Is Falling Back to Earth (Source: Popular Mechanics)
Chinese officials appear to have confirmed what many observers have long suspected: that China is no longer in control of its space station. China's Tiangong-1 space station has been orbiting the planet for about 5 years now, but recently it was decommissioned and the Chinese astronauts returned to the surface. In a press conference last week, China announced that the space station would be falling back to earth at some point in late 2017.

Normally, a decommissioned satellite or space station would be retired by forcing it to burn up in the atmosphere. This type of burn is controlled, and most satellite re-entries are scheduled to burn up over the ocean to avoid endangering people. However, it seems that China's space agency is not sure exactly when Tiangong-1 will re-enter the atmosphere, which implies that the station has been damaged somehow and China is no longer able to control it. (9/20)

Cancer Research Aided by NASA's Space Exploration (Source: Space.com)
Advanced cancer research is calling on techniques used by NASA scientists who analyze satellite imagery to find commonalities among stars, planets and galaxies in space. Scientists from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory use complex machine learning algorithms to identify similarities among galaxies that may otherwise be overlooked, NASA officials said in a statement. Using similar techniques, medical professionals are able to analyze a lung sample for common cancer biomarkers.

However, analyzing a biopsy specimen for biomarkers is not the only way in which JPL's complex machine learning algorithms can be used in the medical field. Cancer researchers can also use the space exploration tools to identify common chemical or genetic signatures related to specific cancers, which could revolutionize strategies for early cancer detection. (9/20)

NASA to Hold Media Call on Evidence of Surprising Activity on Europa (Source: NASA)
NASA will host a teleconference at 2 p.m. EDT Monday, Sept. 26, to present new findings from images captured by the agency’s Hubble Space Telescope of Jupiter’s icy moon, Europa. Astronomers will present results from a unique Europa observing campaign that resulted in surprising evidence of activity that may be related to the presence of a subsurface ocean on Europa. (9/20)

Antares Mission to ISS Between Oct. 9-13 at Virginia Spaceport (Source: Washington Post)
A space station supply mission by a Virginia company has been pushed back to October. NASA said Tuesday that Orbital ATK plans to launch sometime between Oct. 9 and Oct. 13. The mission is to return the company’s unmanned Antares rocket to flight after nearly two years. It also would be Orbital ATK’s first mission from Virginia since a launch failure in October 2014. (9/20)

Another Mystery Space Project Planned for Space Coast (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
There’s a new mystery project shaping up on the Space Coast in Titusville, to bring about 80 new high-paying jobs to the region. Space Florida is calling it “Project Swanson.” The agency says it is an existing company seeking a U.S. site for manufacturing. Space Florida’s board is preparing to vote on approving certain services to help the company locate in Central Florida, at the board’s next meeting on Monday.

The company currently makes small solid rocket motor propellant somewhere outside the U.S, according to Space Florida. “People keep asking us what’s next, and this is it. It may not be as flashy as some recent announcements like OneWeb and Blue Origin ...but it’s a welcome addition,” said Dale Ketcham.

According to Space Florida, the mystery company will invest about $4 million in its new facility at Space Coast Regional Airport in Titusville. Space Florida will help arrange financing and leases of land owned by the Titusville-Cocoa Airport Authority. The 80 jobs would have an average wage of $83,000. Space Florida is not considering approval of any incentive dollars for Project Swanson. (9/20)

Medical Company Considers Expansion Into Former USA Space Facility (Source: Florida Today)
A medical services and management company is considering expanding in Cape Canaveral, creating 150 jobs in the process and making a $4.5 million capital investment. The company — whose identity has not been disclosed — will come before the Brevard County Commission on Tuesday seeking initial support for a property tax break.

The tax break would depend on the company meeting its goals for creating 150 jobs paying an average of $66,000 a year by the end of 2019, as well as making the capital investment at its proposed expansion site at a former United Space Alliance complex at 8600 Astronaut Blvd. Even with the tax break, the company would pay $27,790 a year in new taxes, or a total of $277,900 over the 10-year period.

Documents filed with the county indicate that the company — which is going by the code name "Project Zeus" — has been in business since the 1970s. It opened its Florida office in the 1990s with three employees in a 500-square-foot office. Project Zeus would relocate the company's Virginia operations with a $4 million renovation to the former United Space Alliance building in Cape Canaveral, then adding $500,000 in office equipment. (9/20)

Reaction Engines Refines Hypersonic Engine Demonstrator Plan (Source: Aviation Week)
Freshly infused with government and industry funding, and riding a wave of interest in Europe and the U.S., Reaction Engines Ltd. is firming up plans to build a fighter engine-size ground demonstrator of its reusable hypersonic propulsion system. As that rarest of beasts, a powerplant concept combining the air-breathing efficiency of a jet engine with the power and vacuum operating capability of a rocket, the SABRE (Synergistic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine) cycle is a potential game changer. (9/21)

NASA's HQ, One of D.C.'s Largest Federal Leases, Offered for Sale (Source: Washington Business Journal)
Piedmont Office Realty Trust wants to shed one of the largest federally leased office properties in Greater Washington, NASA's Southwest Washington headquarters — another sign that investment sales activity is gaining momentum heading into the fall buying season. (9/20)

ULA Vulcan Engine Reuse Gains Ground (Source: Aviation Week)
While both Blue Origin and SpaceX have demonstrated the feasibility of recovering and reusing boosters as part of an industry-wide push to cut the cost of access to space, United Launch Alliance (ULA) is taking the first steps along an alternate path involving recovery of only the first-stage engines—the highest-value element of the booster.

ULA’s sensible modular autonomous return technology (SMART) reuse concept, first unveiled in 2015, is based on the premise that it is more economical to recover only the engines, rather than the entire first stage. The recovery concept includes the use of parachutes and aircraft to capture the Vulcan' engine pods before they fall into the ocean. (9/21)

ULA Competes with SpaceX for GPS Satellite Launch (Source: Florida Today)
SpaceX’s lower launch price may not be the best deal for taxpayers, ULA has warned the Air Force in a bid to launch a Global Positioning System satellite. The bid appears to set up the first head-to-head competition between the companies for a national security launch, nearly a year after ULA refused to pursue another GPS mission.

SpaceX did not confirm if it had submitted a bid by Monday’s deadline, and the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, which will award the contract, also did not comment immediately. ULA did submit a proposal this time, while repeating its reservations about price again being the competition's determining factor. (9/20)

September 20, 2016

Aerospace Workforce Group Needs Your Input (Source: SpaceTEC)
You participation will contribute valuable demographic information about your organization and your current role that helps characterize current conditions within the industries we support. Yours are opinions and judgments about the nation’s industries and the status of our certified technicians we can find nowhere else!  These allow us to identify trends, strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for improvement.

Please take a moment to select the survey most appropriate to you (or do all of them). Here are the surveys and their links: CertTEC 2016 Survey of Aviation/Aerospace Manufacturing/Service Industry Needs; CertTEC 2016 Certified Technician Survey; and SpaceTEC 2016 Certified Aerospace Technician Survey. Thanks! (9/20)

Scientists Know Climate Change is a Threat. Politicians Need to Realize It Too. (Source: Washington Post)
The climate is changing in dangerous ways, and we are responsible for most of these changes. This is not a matter of conjecture or political opinion — it is the conclusion of the overwhelming majority of climate scientists, based on solid evidence that mounts each year. Rising sea levels, extreme heat, increased incidence of floods and drought, ocean acidification and expansion of tropical diseases pose an unacceptable level of risk to our descendants. So do many other climate-related threats.

Efforts to reduce the risk to future generations are now being imperiled by a small yet vocal group that denies the validity of the evidence and of scientific expertise in general. Of special and immediate concern is the stated intent of the current Republican Party platform and presidential nominee Donald Trump to promote the extraction and use of the most carbon-intensive fossil fuels, to withdraw the United States from the Paris agreement and to rescind President Obama’s executive actions designed to reduce climate risk. (9/20)

Exploration Team Shoots for the Moon with Water-Propelled Satellite (Source: Space Daily)
Cislunar Explorers spacecraft separating from each other after each deployment. Image courtesy Cornell University. A satellite propelled by the Earth's most abundant natural resource? Yes, it's true. Cislunar Explorers, a team of Cornell University students guided by Mason Peck, a former senior official at NASA and associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, is attempting to boldly go where no CubeSat team has gone before: around the Moon.

Not only is Peck's group attempting to make a first-ever Moon orbit with a satellite no bigger than a cereal box, made entirely with off-the-shelf materials, it's doing so with propellant that you can obtain simply by turning on a faucet. "This has a very important goal, and that is to demonstrate that you can use water as a propellant," said Peck, who served as NASA's chief technologist in 2012-13. (9/19)

OSIRIS-REx Influences Space Video Game Builders at Orlando Event (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The recent launch of a mission to land and retrieve material from an asteroid seems to have had an effect on local video game developers. At least that’s what an organizer of a weekend-long video game-building competition says after several teams built games focused on mining or exploring asteroids.

Overall, more than 120 people built a total of 17 games over the course of two days. Winners of the competition – a fruit asteroid miner called Otter Space and the space-based resource-gathering game Robonauts – received $2,000 in prizes.

“This event again built more bridges between the game development industry of Orlando (and) the space industry,” Patel said. “It created new relationships between the attendees and more opportunities for games to reach a commercial platform.” Patel has been part of a group of video game makers in Orlando who have been trying to foster a greater connection between the industry and the space industry, building connections to the community. (9/20)

Russian Crew Reduction to Have Limited Effect on ISS Operations (Source: Space News)
An anticipated decision by Russia’s space agency to temporarily reduce the size of its crew on the International Space Station should not have a major effect on NASA’s operations there, an agency official said. Roscosmos plans to reduce the Russian crew complement on the ISS from three to two, starting in March 2017.

A final decision and formal announcement was expected this week, prior to the Sep. 23 launch of a new crew on a Soyuz spacecraft. The reduction in crew is intended to save money until the launch of a Multipurpose Laboratory Module, a long-delayed Russian element of the ISS now scheduled for launch in late 2017. A two-person Russian crew would allow Roscosmos to cut one of four Progress cargo resupply missions to the ISS planned for 2017.

Gerstenmaier said that an agency analysis concluded the effects on ISS operations of Russia reducing its crew to be minimal. “I don’t think it will be a big impact to us overall,” he said. “But we’re working through all the details.” He noted that two cosmonauts are enough to perform maintenance on the Russian segment of the station, and it won’t affect most research on the station. “We can work it out fine,” he said. “The research plan is still pretty strong.” (9/19)

The Wizard War in Orbit (Source: Space Review)
In the conclusion to his series about the development of signals intelligence satellites by the US during the Cold War, Dwayne Day looks at one class of spacecraft that provided key data on Soviet activities for decades. Click here. (9/19)
 
The New Era of Heavy Lift (Source: Space Review)
Last week, Blue Origin unveiled its planned orbital launch vehicle, New Glenn, that likely will be able to place payloads weighing dozens of metric tons into low Earth orbit. Jeff Foust notes it's the latest development in heavy-lift vehicles that include programs by NASA and SpaceX. Click here. (9/19)
 
Launch Failures: Non-Launch Mishaps (Source: Space Review)
The pad accident that destroyed a Falcon 9 rocket early this month during preparations for a static fire test was rare, but not unprecedented. Wayne Eleazer examines some of the previous pad mishaps in the history of the Space Age. Click here. (9/19)
 
Commercial Crew: Two Years After Contracts, Two Years Until Flights (Source: Space Review)
Last week marked the second anniversary of NASA's award of commercial crew contracts to Boeing and SpaceX. Jeff Foust reports that, despite initial hopes that one or both vehicles would be ready by the end of 2017, delays until late 2018 are looking increasingly likely for both. Click here. (9/19)

The Sun Will Destroy Earth a Lot Sooner Than You Might Think (Source: Business Insider)
There are plenty of ways Earth could go. It could smash into another planet, be swallowed by a black hole, or get pummeled to death by asteroids. There's really no way to tell which doomsday scenario will be the cause of our planet's demise. But one thing is for sure — even if Earth spends the rest of its eons escaping alien attacks, dodging space rocks, and avoiding a nuclear apocalypse, there will come a day when our own sun will eventually destroy us.

This process won't be pretty, and the day might come sooner than we think. All good things eventually come to an end. And one day, about 4 billion or 5 billion years from now, the sun will burn through its last gasp of hydrogen and start burning helium instead. "Once hydrogen has stopped burning in the core of the sun, the star has formally left the main sequence and can be considered a red giant," Scudder said. "It will then spend about a billion years expanding and burning helium in its core, with a shell around it where hydrogen is still able to fuse into helium."

As the sun sheds its outer layers, its mass will decrease, loosening its gravitational hold on all of the planets. So all of the planets orbiting the sun will drift a little farther away. When the sun becomes a full-blown red giant, Scudder said, its core will get extremely hot and dense while its outer layer expands ... a lot. Its atmosphere will stretch out to Mars' current orbit, swallowing Mercury and Venus. Earth, on the other hand, has two options — either escape the expanding sun or be consumed by it. But even if our planet slips out of the sun's reach, the intense temperatures will burn it to a sad, dead crisp. (9/18)

NBC is Developing a Space Comedy From Scrubs Creator Bill Lawrence (Source: AV Club)
Bill Lawrence has more or less mastered the workplace sitcom, having created Scrubs and co-created Spin City. Now Deadline reports that Lawrence and Undateable creator Adam Sztykiel are taking on the biggest workplace of all: outer space. The duo’s next show is Spaced Out, a sitcom in development at NBC set in the near-future world of commercial space travel. So it’ll probably be either a futuristic Wings, or a funnier The Expanse. They’ll have competition, though, as Seth MacFarlane has also entered the sitcom space race with a new Fox dramedy series set aboard a spaceship. (9/20)

New Senate Bill Could Protect Mars Program Funding (Source: Inverse)
NASA’s biggest fear isn’t failure, an alien invasion, or a black hole swallowing the sun — it’s budget cuts. Fortunately for the world’s premier space agency, the U.S. Senate was watching its back this time. This week, the Senate Commerce Committee will adopt a bipartisan-backed $19.5 billion authorization package for NASA that would safeguard the Mars mission program from any budget changes the next president might seek to make.

The new bill seeks to prevent future cuts to projects directly related to NASAs goal to send astronauts to the red planet before 2040. This would almost certainly include money allocated towards the development and testing of NASA’s new heavy duty Space Launch System, the deep space Orion crew capsule, and any other long-term habitation technologies designed to help humans establish a permanent outpost on Mars. (9/19)

Israel's Space Startups Show Resiliency (Source: Geektime)
The Israeli space industry will survive the loss of the Amos-6 satellite in a SpaceX Falcon 9 pad explosion earlier this month, startups there say. Those startups, working on small satellite projects, argue there is more to the country's space efforts than Spacecom's fleet of large communications satellites. They argue, though, that the country has the capabilities to do more in space. (9/19)

India Plans Debris Tracking (Source: Times of India )
India's space agency plans to use an observatory to track space debris. ISRO says it is developing a one-meter telescope with instruments to track objects in orbit. The report did not disclose when the observatory would be ready, or how ISRO planned to use the data it collects. (9/19)

Brexit Wond Disrupt UK Space Efforts (Source: E&T)
The former head of Britain's space agency is playing down concerns about the effects of the UK's exit from the European Union on the country's space industry. In an interview, David Parker, now head of human spaceflight and robotic exploration at ESA, noted that ESA is a far larger player in space in Europe than the EU, and the UK's plan to withdraw from the EU won't affect its participation in ESA. Parker argued that, in fact, Brexit is an opportunity for the British space community to "increase its efforts and its presence in ESA." (9/19)

NASA Extending IRIS Solar Mission (Source: Lockheed Martin)
NASA is extending the operations of a solar science spacecraft. Lockheed Martin said Monday it received a $19 million contract to extend operations of the Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph spacecraft through 2018. The extension will allow the spacecraft, launched in 2013, to continue its studies of the solar atmosphere and the formation of solar flares. (9/19)

Effort Planned to Etablish Commercial Spaceflight Standards (Source: ASTM)
A meeting next month will start the process of developing industry standards for commercial spaceflight. ASTM International is organizing the Oct. 24 meeting in Washington to discuss the potential creation of a committee that would help develop voluntary consensus standards for commercial human spaceflight. Such voluntary standards are an alternative to government-formulated standards, which federal law prevents the FAA from developing in the area of commercial human spaceflight until the 2020s. (9/19)

September 19, 2016

Surplus Shuttle Engines Key To Space Exploration (Source: Aviation Week)
The future of space exploration waits wrapped in plastic bags here, across Lake Pontchartrain from the historic old factory in New Orleans where NASA is beginning to assemble its next big launch vehicle. The heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS) won’t go anywhere without the 16 surviving space shuttle main engines (SSME) preserved in an Aerojet Rocketdyne warehouse against the day when NASA managers hope they will reignite mankind’s move into the Solar System.

Designated RS-25, the old cryogenic powerplant remains the state of the art in rocket technology. While the private sector has big plans for reusable human-rated launch vehicles, the surplus engines are the only ones that have actually been there and done that. Click here. (9/14)

The Possibility of a SpaceX Launch Failure (at Texas Spaceport) is Real (Source: El Rrun Rrun)
NASA's recent warnings about the SpaceX launch danger area at Cape Canaveral should make all those who have been cheerleading the coming of the SpaceX commercial vertical launch to Boca Chica Beach take a good hard look at their support for this project. SpaceX mogul Elon Musk has already been given $25 million in incentives to bring his rocket show to the lomas of Boca Chica.

And – as is his trademark for these projects – the flights he predicted would begin in 2013, have not materialized. Yet, the restrictions on local residents to use the beach have been passed into law. When and if the launches start, the company would virtually own the public beaches and even spectators would have to crane their necks from as far as 10 miles away to see the takeoffs. That would happen 12 times a year, or once a month. SpaceX would have full control of access to the beach days before and after the launch.

After the announcement, we took the liberty of measuring the distance from the Kennedy Space Center NASA press site and the Vehicle Assembly building. They are both approximately three miles from the launch site. Measuring the distance from the proposed SpaceX site to Koepernick Shores, it is just about a quarter of a mile. It is just a little over five miles to the nearest town, Port Isabel. Click here. (7/17)

Feds to Assess if SpaceX, South Texas LNG Plants will Make Good Neighbors (Source: San Antonio Business Journal)
Officials with two federal agencies are looking into whether or not SpaceX and three liquefied natural gas plants proposed for deep South Texas will make good neighbors. SpaceX has already started construction for a rocket launch site on Boca Chica Beach, just a few miles east of where Texas LNG, Rio Grande LNG and Annova LNG are seeking permission to build export terminals at the Port of Brownsville. (9/16)

Airbus Invests in 4 High-Resolution Optical Earth Observation Satellites — With No Government Net (Source: Space News)
Airbus Defence and Space on Sept. 15 said it would finance, apparently on its own, a constellation of four very-high-resolution optical Earth observation satellites to launch in 2020 and 2021. The program, which industry officials said likely represents a capital investment of more than 500 million euros ($550 million), was surprising to the extent that many Airbus officials regretted the company’s 2009 decision to invest 300 million euros into two medium-resolution optical satellites, called Spot 6 and Spot 7.

Then as now, Airbus was concerned about protecting its existing geospatial imagery business even if it meant making a commitment without any guarantee by the French government or any other anchor customer. But Airbus has said its geospatial-imagery business, which includes both optical and radar satellites, has improved in recent years. (9/16)

China Enraged After Obama Orders SpaceX Rocket Destroyed On Florida Launch Pad (Source: Maine Republic)
A new report circulating in the Kremlin today prepared by the Security Council (SC), with input from the Ministry of Defense (MoD), states that China became so “enraged” at President Obama’s ordering the destruction of a SpaceX rocket in Florida on, they refused to greet him as a visiting head-of-state upon his arrival, with one Chinese official accosting his top National Security Advisor, Susan Rice, and screaming at her “this is our country, our airport.”

According to this report, Spacecom is an Israeli communications satellite Operator in the Middle East, European Union, and North America, headquartered in the city of Ramat Gan, Israel, who agreed last month (24 August) to the sale of their company to the privately owned Chinese company Beijing Xinwei Technology Group.

MoD analysts note that the US Navy nuclear powered supercarrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) reported last week that it was operating in these waters to test F-35C Lightning II fighter aircraft capabilities—but was instead conducting secret test flights of a Northrop Grumman X-47B (drone) that was equipped with a General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) high-energy laser type device the Pentagon had previously reported they wanted to have operational in 2017. Click here. (9/5)

Colliding Black Holes Tell New Story of Stars (Source: Quanta)
Already, the new gravitational-wave data has shaken up the field of astrophysics. In response, three dozen experts spent two weeks in August sorting through the implications at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics (KITP) in Santa Barbara. Click here. (9/6)

Wildfire at California Spaceport Burns Over 2,000 Acres (Source: Lompoc Record)
A wildfire that broke out Saturday evening at Vandenberg Air Force Base has scorched more than 2,200 acres as of Sunday evening. Firefighters from Vandenberg Air Force Base, assisted by crews from Santa Barbara County Fire Department, Cal Fire and the U.S. Forest Service, are battling the Canyon fire on the South Base.

More than 250 firefighters are working to control the blaze that is still zero percent contained, fire officials said. Engine crews are attacking spot fires directly, and Vandenberg and Santa Barbara County bulldozers are cutting new fire breaks, a base spokesman said. Air tankers from Santa Maria Public and Paso Robles airports made “aggressive” fire retardant drops until darkness fell. (9/18)

Professor Faces 120 Years in Prison for Defrauding NASA (Source: Brown and White)
A Lehigh professor is facing a statutory maximum of 120 years in prison for a $700,000 scheme to defraud NASA. His sentencing has been set for Sept. 28. Yujie Ding, 54, was previously an electrical and computer engineering professor. Ding and his wife, Yulija Zotova, 42, proposed a development project to NASA in 2010. The project was to be carried out by their company, ArkLight, according to The Morning Call. Ding pocketed $300,000 of the grant money while the majority of the work was done by a sole graduate student, identified only as D.L. in court papers.

Ding was arrested by NASA special agent Erik. J. Saracino in 2014 while attempting to flee to Reykjavik, Iceland, wrote Peter Hall, a reporter for The Morning Call. Ding was then freed on $50,000 bail. Zotova was not initially charged, but was identified as the sole owner of ArkLight. The couple said their research was aimed at creating a “single photon detector,” a device to detect trace levels of chemicals, such as carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere, according to The Morning Call. The project was eventually completed through the work of graduate students in Ding’s lab and delivered to NASA. (9/18)

FAA Poised to Take On Role as Traffic Cop for Space (Source: Wall Street Journal)
The FAA appears poised to take on a new role some agency officials have coveted for years: serving as traffic cops in space. Since at least 2013 there has been on-again, off-again debate in Washington about which civilian agency should take over the Defense Department’s responsibility to warn commercial-satellite operators about collision hazards from tens of thousands of man-made and natural objects circling the Earth. Some travel at speeds nearly 10 times faster than a bullet.

With roughly 1,400 commercial satellites currently flying and several thousand more expected to be launched into popular low-altitude orbits over the next 10 years, Pentagon brass are ready to hand over the painstaking task to civilian authorities. The shift would allow the Department of Defense to focus on its primary mission of protecting military spacecraft from potential jamming, threatening orbital maneuvers or other hostile acts by foreign governments. Click here. (9/18)

Space Traffic Management Conference Planned at Embry-Riddle in November (Source: ERAU)
The Commercial Space Operations Program and Applied Aviation Sciences Department of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s College of Aviation, are pleased to announce the 3rd Annual Space Traffic Management Conference “Emerging Dynamics”. The conference will be held in Daytona Beach, Florida 16 - 18 November 2016 at Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach campus. Click here. (9/18)

Space Art Makes Alien Worlds Feel Like Home (Source: Seeker)
As we push deeper into space, artists and planetary scientists often make these strange new worlds familiar to us, influencing our imagination and boosting our enthusiasm to explore. Anyone who watched Bugs Bunny cartoons or read Life Magazine in the 1950s could already imagine space, even though we hadn't visited it yet. Artists had nifty visualizations of planets near and far, based on observations we picked up on telescopes from the time. Click here. (9/18)

Moon-Walker Aldrin Hopes Florida Exhibit will Inspire Future on Mars (Source: Florida Today)
Apollo 11 moon-walker Buzz Aldrin says he hopes the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex's new "Destination: Mars" experience will be help inspire human exploration of the Red Planet. Aldrin was at the complex on Sunday at a media preview and ribbon-cutting for the attraction, which features a holographic image of Aldrin, as he guides visitors on a walk along the virtual Martian surface.

A proponent of colonization of Mars, Aldrin told reporters that he would like to see the next president make a bold statement shortly after taking office in January for accelerating the timeline for human spaceflight to Mars, so that we can one day "call two planets 'home.' " He said Congress — not technology — would be the big stumbling block for landing humans on Mars, alluding to the expense of doing so. (9/18)

Airbus Safran Launchers Aims For 2020 Ariane 6 First Flight (Source: Aviation Week)
Airbus Safran Launchers confirms that the Ariane 6 program is on schedule for a first flight in 2020, assuring Arianespace that it will remain competitive as a launch service provider in the midterm against ambitious entrants such as SpaceX and Blue Origin. At a time when the European Union believes it needs to reinvent itself, the confirmation also points to a textbook example of a successful Europe-wide project. (9/18)

China to Conduct Brain-Computer Interaction Experiments on Tiangong-2 (Source: People's Daily)
Tiangong-2, China’s first space lab in a real sense, was successfully launched into space on Sept. 15. A brain-computer interaction test system, developed by Tianjin University and installed in the lab, will conduct a series of experiments in space. Ming Dong, the leader of the research team in charge of the brain-computer test system, said that brain-computer interaction will eventually be the highest form of human-machine communication. China will conduct the first ever space brain-machine interaction experiments, ahead even of developed countries. (9/18)

Three Words: Chinese. Space. Station. (Source: Daily Beast)
China has just launched its second small Tiangong space station into orbit, more or less catching up to what the United States’ and Russia’s own space programs achieved starting in the 1970s. Riding atop a Long March rocket, the 34-foot-long, 10-ton Tiangong-2 blasted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China on Sept. 15, aiming for an orbit 240 miles over Earth’s surface.

While Beijing’s effort to establish a long-term human presence in orbit is impressive on a political level, on a technological level it’s decades behind the curve. In the United States and elsewhere, private companies are poised to establish a long-term presence in space that doesn’t depend on big, government-run orbital structures. (9/19)

Northrop Grumman Hit With $500M Chemical Exposure Suit (Source: Law 360)
A group of Long Island residents have filed a $500 million proposed class action in New York state supreme court against Northrop Grumman, alleging the defense contractor exposed the residents to toxic chemicals that came from its manufacturing operations. (9/19)

Despite SpaceX Setback, Wave of Southern California Rocket-Makers Capitalize on New Economy (Source: Daily Breeze)
SpaceX and a handful of other new-generation private spacecraft startups — including space tourism pioneer Virgin Galactic in Long Beach — are reviving a stalled aerospace industry and developing an economy aimed at making space travel as ubiquitous as airplane flight. Behind them, a fast-growing sector of suppliers and smaller rocket companies are quickly filling out the new economy.

Southern California jobs for workers making guided missiles, spacecraft and parts have increased 64 percent since 2004, according to the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. “We don’t have the outright number of jobs we used to have, but we’re well-positioned to build an industry,” said Mike Quindazzi, co-chair of LAEDC’s Southern California Aerospace Council.

“We have suppliers, people doing machine and engineering work, artificial intelligence, building autonomous systems, robotics parts, new drone solutions. We can build off the platforms already here.” The highly innovative new industrial sector incorporates emerging technologies and operates alongside — and increasingly hand in hand with — corporate aerospace giants and NASA. (9/17)

SpaceX’s Mars Colonial Transporter Can Go “Well Beyond” Mars (Source: Tech Crunch)
Elon Musk just teased that one of SpaceX’s more future-focused projects might be more ambitious than previously thought. On Twitter, the SpaceX CEO revealed that the company’s Mars Colonial Transporter (MCT) will need a new name, since in fact, it “can go well beyond Mars.”

The MCT is SpaceX’s personnel transport craft, designed to be used with the company’s large Raptor rocket engine to transport the first humans to Mars, with a pilot unmanned launch planned for 2022, and a first flight with people on board slated for 2024. Musk’s teaser is timely – we should find out more about the MCT and its mission at the International Astronautical Congress on September 27, where the Spacex CEO is a special keynote speaker, and will deliver an address called “Making Humans a Multiplanetary Species.” (9/17)

SpaceX Explosion is Causing Some to Question Elon Musk's Ambitious Plans (Source: Mashable)
When one of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rockets exploded on a launch pad just before a test on September 1, the spaceflight community collectively gasped. Private spaceflight's golden child had failed again, for the second time in about 15 months. SpaceX is still hunting for the root cause of the accident.

The company founded by Elon Musk is far from the first private spaceflight outfit to lose a rocket and destroy a payload, but the company's failures appear to be seen  as different from the rest of the industry, at least by the public-at-large. But what are the real ramifications of the unsolved incident for SpaceX and other spaceflight companies around the world?

SpaceX will have to put its particularly ambitious launch schedule on hold for at least a few months while engineers hunt for the root cause of the failure. But even standing down for just a short amount of time could mean major delays for companies relying on SpaceX to send their satellites to orbit. The company was expected to launch a total of 18 missions in 2016, according to industry analyst Chris Quilty, but because of the failure, it's unlikely that will happen. Click here. (9/17)

Great Lakes on Mars: Rewriting the Red Planet’s History (Source: CS Monitor)
Liquid water existed on the surface of Mars more recently than previously thought, according to a new study that found several lakes, some as large as the Great Lakes of North America, that were formed between 2 billion and 3 billion years ago. The new discovery not only suggests that water remained on Mars once it lost its magnetic field it started losing its atmosphere about 4 billion years ago, but also that the Red Planet was capable of sustaining microbial life much longer – and more recently – than previously thought.

"We discovered valleys that carried water into lake basins,” Sharon Wilson of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, and the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, said in a statement from NASA. "Several lake basins filled and overflowed, indicating there was a considerable amount of water on the landscape during this time." (9/17)