December 18, 2017

NASA Planning to Purchase Earth Science Data From Commercial Smallsat Systems (Source: Space News)
NASA expects to purchase Earth science data from constellations of commercial satellites early next year to see how useful they are in meeting the agency’s research needs. NASA issued a request for information (RFI) Dec. 5 seeking details from companies that have such constellations and are interested in selling data to the agency. The deadline for responses is Dec. 22.

“What we are recognizing is that many of you in the private sector have fielded constellations of small satellites for your own business reasons,” said Michael Freilich, director of NASA’s Earth science division, in a Dec. 12 town hall discussion about the data purchase effort at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union here. Those systems, he said, may also be collecting data of interest to NASA. “The question that we’re asking in NASA is what value do the data products that come from your small satellite constellations have to the government to advance our research, science and applications interests.” (12/15)

Earthlings, Unite: Let’s Go to Mars (Source: New York Times)
It’s an insane proposal, of course, and I don’t believe the president really means it any more than he means to build his wall — he has probably forgotten saying it already and will deny it if asked. I don’t even think going back to the moon is a good idea, per se; there’s not much there, unless there are any Easter-egg monoliths waiting for us. It doesn’t make much sense as a jumping-off point for Mars or a training ground for deep-space travel, and to quote President Barack Obama: “I just have to say pretty bluntly here: We’ve been there before.” No offense to the moon, but it’s boring; it doesn’t inspire anymore.

I also don’t subscribe to Stephen Hawking’s notion that we need to get off this planet and establish a viable human population elsewhere lest we go extinct. I tend to side with Kim Stanley Robinson, author of a trilogy about the colonization of Mars, who in his more recent book “Aurora” portrays the dream of extraterrestrial colonization as a dangerous escapist fantasy — dangerous because it lets us imagine that we have an out, that we can just ditch this planet after we’ve ruined it instead of grappling with the imminent, serious, possibly terminal problems here, the only homeworld we’re ever going to get.

I don’t support going to Mars for practical reasons at all. I think we should plan to go to Mars because it would be a healthy sign that we, as a civilization, are still planning for a future — that we intend to live. Because right now, frankly, we’re not acting as though we do. We’re acting more the way a friend of mine did in the last year of his life: letting the mail pile up unopened, heaping garbage in the house, littering the floor with detritus, no longer bothering to turn over the calendar pages. He’d clearly decided, on some level, to die. (12/17)

December 17, 2017

XCOR Update: Bankruptcy Court Now Recognizes the MDC as a Secured Creditor [Along With Space Florida] (Source: Midland Reporter-Telegram)
The MDC voted at its meeting Tuesday to amend its agreement with bankrupt aerospace company XCOR to pursue becoming a secured creditor. In 2012, the MDC paid XCOR $10 million to relocate its headquarters to Midland from Mojave, California. The original contract did not have the MDC as a collateralized secured creditor.

Tuesday’s action was a retroactive approval, as Chairman Brent Hilliard had filed uniform commercial code (UCC) financing statements with the Texas, California and Florida secretaries of state on Nov. 8, the day XCOR filed for bankruptcy in California. The bankruptcy court now recognizes the MDC as a secured creditor, according to court documents. XCOR’s debt to the economic development group is the full $10 million.

In the same document, it is stated that XCOR has $1,106,624.21 in assets — all of it personal property — and $27,460,550.15 in total liabilities. Of its liabilities, $13,860,756.59 is for creditors who have secured claims. Space Florida is another major creditor with a secured claim. Space Florida, a state-backed economic development group, enticed XCOR with a $5.7 million deal. XCOR agreed to manufacture and fly the Lynx from Kennedy Space Center. (12/17)

Soyuz MS-07 Crew Begins Two-Day Trek Toward ISS (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Just three days after one trio left the International Space Station, another launched toward it. A Soyuz rocket lofted Soyuz MS-07 into orbit where it and its U.S., Russian and Japanese crew members will spend some two days catching up with the outpost. The Soyuz will utilize the longer, 34-orbit rendezvous profile to reach the space station. The spacecraft was originally targeting Dec. 27, but NASA asked for the launch to be moved forward to avoid having personnel at Baikonur or in transit over the holidays. As such, the spacecraft was not able to employ the much faster six-hour, 4-orbit rendezvous profile. (12/17)

Boeing Wants to Put its DNA Into UAE’s Space Efforts (Source: Zawya)
Both the UAE Space Agency and commercial aerospace giant Boeing are looking to a new golden age of space exploration — a sector of the space industry that has been eclipsed for decades by the commercial space sector’s emphasis on satellites. Now the UAE Space Agency (UAESA) and NASA are looking outward once more, their eyes fixed on the red planet. Mars beckons.

UAESA has several Mars projects on the pipeline. First up is its Mars probe, Hope, which completed its critical design review this year and is on track to launch in 2020 and reach Mars in 2021. Its mission is to study the Martian atmosphere and climate. Boeing's Peter McGrath, who was inspired to become an engineer when he watched moonshots as a four year old, said the firm had been involved with the UAE’s space exploration projects since UAESA was founded, notably with the competitive Genes in Space program, designed to test the effects of microgravity on DNA. (12/17)

Air Force's First GPS III Satellite Receives Commands From Next-Generation OCX Ground Control Segment (Source: Lockheed Martin)
The first advanced GPS III satellite successfully established remote connectivity and communicated with the Next Generation Operational Control System (OCX), further validating the U.S. Air Force's modernized Global Positioning System (GPS) is ready to launch its first satellite.

On November 2, 2017, GPS III Space Vehicle 01 (GPS III SV01), the first of 10 GPS III satellites designed by Lockheed Martin, and OCX, being developed by Raytheon, successfully completed Factory Mission Readiness Testing (FMRT). The FMRT validated the command and control interaction between GPS III and the OCX's Launch and Checkout System (LCS) through a simulated full launch and early orbit mission event sequence. (12/13)

Head of Pentagon’s Secret ‘UFO’ Office Sought to Make Evidence Public (Source: Washington Post)
Just before leaving his Defense Department job two months ago, intelligence officer Luis Elizondo quietly arranged to secure the release of three of the most unusual videos in the Pentagon’s secret vaults: raw footage from encounters between fighter jets and “anomalous aerial vehicles” — military jargon for UFOs. The videos, all taken from cockpit cameras, show pilots struggling to lock their radars on oval-shaped vessels that, on screen, look vaguely like giant flying Tic Tacs.

The first public revelations of the program came in a video conference aired in October by To the Stars Academy of Arts and Sciences, the firm Elizondo joined as a consultant after retiring from his Pentagon job. The New York Times and Politico reported the existence of the program on their websites Saturday. The Washington Post conducted several confidential interviews over two months with Elizondo and Christopher Mellon, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for intelligence who also is an officer of the private firm.

Documents provided by the former officials included letters of support by former Senate majority leader Harry M. Reid (D-NV), a key backer of the initiative who helped secure funding for the program and sought to ensure a high degree of secrecy. Elizondo said knowledge of the program was limited, even within the Pentagon itself. He said the program had multiple enemies at senior levels of the department, from officials who were either skeptical or ideologically opposed to AATIP’s mission. Click here. (12/16)

Bigelow a Recipient of DOD UFO Money (Sources: New York Times, Newsweek)
Most of the money went to an aerospace research company run by a billionaire entrepreneur and longtime friend of Mr. Reid’s, Robert Bigelow, a wealthy Las Vegas-based businessman who is currently working with NASA to produce expandable craft for humans to use in space.

In order to investigate reports of UFO sightings, a building in Las Vegas was modified to house any materials that were suspected to have come from an unidentified flying object. This reportedly included metal alloys and plastics, while a section of the facility was also used to study people who claimed to have had contact with the objects that resulted in physical and physiological changes. The Las Vegas-based facility also described sightings of flying objects that remained airborne despite no visible signs of propulsion or lift. (12/16)

NORAD Readies to Track Santa (Source: NORAD)
For 60 years, NORAD and its predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) have tracked Santa’s flight. The tradition began in 1955 after a Colorado Springs-based Sears Roebuck & Co. advertisement misprinted the telephone number for children to call Santa. Instead of reaching Santa, the phone number put kids through to the CONAD Commander-in-Chief's operations "hotline." The Director of Operations at the time, Colonel Harry Shoup, had his staff check the radar for indications of Santa making his way south from the North Pole.

Children who called were given updates on his location, and a tradition was born. In 1958, the governments of Canada and the United States created a bi-national air defense command for North America called the North American Aerospace Defense Command, also known as NORAD, which then took on the tradition of tracking Santa. Click here. (12/16)

USF Installs Sensors at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, Using Rocket Rumbles to Study Volcanoes (Source: BBC)
Scientists have installed sensors at the Kennedy Space Center that would normally be used to monitor volcanoes. Glenn Thompson and Steve McNutt from the University of South Florida in Tampa are behind the work. They told our science correspondent Jonathan Amos why they were doing it. Click here. (12/16)

Space Isn't a Place to Go - It's a Place to Do (Source: LinkedIn)
There's a lot of talk out there about going to space. But space isn't just a place to go. It's a place to do. To do amazing things that make a difference in people's lives. And the reality is, after decades of progress, the barriers to getting into orbit really are coming down. As a result, space is becoming more accessible to everyone. These days, not just countries but also companies are leaving the Earth. And pretty soon, everyday people will join them. That's pretty amazing to think about.

We're not far from the day when the first person steps foot on the surface of Mars, or when a booming space economy is part of our everyday lives. And space itself is changing, becoming increasingly crucial to global security and also increasingly congested, contested and competitive.

When it comes to space, Lockheed Martin is a company that doesn't just think big thoughts -- we get big things done. From the earliest days of the space program, we've been on the forefront of space technology. Lockheed Martin and its heritage companies built the United States' first reconnaissance satellite, its first Mars lander, and its first GPS ground system. (12/15)

Talks Underway About Second Rocket Landing Site at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Florida Today)
In the future, the rockets may target a second local landing site: a proposed pad at Kennedy Space Center that is the subject of early discussions between the Air Force, NASA and Space Florida. The goal would be to lessen the burden landings impose on the Cape’s nearby industrial area, which workers must evacuate for hours during some missions.

As outlined in KSC’s master plan, the new landing pad could be built near the northern end of the spaceport’s secure perimeter — north of pad 39B and south of State Road 402 leading to Canaveral National Seashore's Playalinda Beach. "We have land further to the north that’s not populated like the industrial area of the Cape is, and that might make for a really good location for a new landing zone for an increased landing rate,” said Nancy Bray, KSC’s director of spaceport integration and services.

The notional landing site now consists of wetlands that would need to be filled, adding to the time and cost needed to permit and complete such a project. Who is leading the initiative and who would pay for it were not immediately clear: SpaceX said Tuesday it has no plans to build a KSC landing zone. It was also unknown if the site, if built, would be exclusive to SpaceX — the only company currently landing large rockets — or available for other uses. Blue Origin also intends to recover and reuse its New Glenn orbital rocket boosters, but so far has only revealed plans for landings at sea. (12/14)

Orion Parachute Tests Prove Out Complex System for Human Deep Space Missions (Source: NASA)
When NASA’s Orion spacecraft hurtles toward Earth’s surface during its return from deep-space, the capsule’s 11 parachutes will slow the spacecraft from 300 mph to a relatively gentle 20 mph for splashdown in the Pacific in the span of about 10 minutes. As the astronauts inside descend toward the water, their lives will be hanging by a series of threads that have been thoroughly ruggedized, tested and validated.

Through a series of tests in the Arizona desert, the engineers refining Orion’s parachutes have made the road to certifying them for flights with astronauts look easy, including a successful qualification test Dec. 13 that evaluated a failure case in which only two of the systems three orange and white main parachutes deploy after several other parachutes in the system used to slow and stabilize Orion endure high aerodynamic stresses. (12/15)

December 16, 2017

Space Tourism to Launch in 2018 at Spaceport America? (Source: El Defensor Chieftain)
The first commercial space tourism flight is still on the schedule to go up from Spaceport America at some point next year. Virgin Galactic Director of Operational Services Nick Kaczmarek told the Middle Rio Grande Economic Development Association board last week in Truth or Consequences that the first flight is expected in 2018. The flight would include Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson.

“We’re very quickly getting ready for commercial operations,” Kaczmarek said. He said test flights of the vehicles taking the tourists to space are also expected to be conducted at the site before the commercial tourism flights take place. He said Virgin Galactic has developed a new ship called Unity that was built after the fatal SpaceShipTwo test in 2014. Kaczmarek said testing is now moving from glide flights to powered-flight testing.

“I think that’s where you’re going to see a lot more of an increase in media activity,” Kaczmarek said. “As of today, there have been 560 people who have flown into space,” Kaczmarek added. “We have more than 600 future astronauts who have paid for tickets. As of right now we have more people waiting than who have actually gone up.” The passengers have paid $250,000 each for the flights. They come from all over the globe, Kaczmarek said. (12/16)

Glowing Auras and ‘Black Money’: The Pentagon’s Mysterious U.F.O. Program (Source: New York Times)
In the $600 billion annual Defense Department budgets, the $22 million spent on the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program was almost impossible to find. Which was how the Pentagon wanted it.

For years, the program investigated reports of unidentified flying objects, according to Defense Department officials, interviews with program participants and records obtained by The New York Times. It was run by a military intelligence official, Luis Elizondo, on the fifth floor of the Pentagon’s C Ring, deep within the building’s maze.

The Defense Department has never before acknowledged the existence of the program, which it says it shut down in 2012. But its backers say that, while the Pentagon ended funding for the effort at that time, the program remains in existence. Click here. (12/16)

Rocket Lab Postpones Electron Launch to Early 2018 (Source: Space News)
Stymied by poor weather and technical glitches, including one that aborted a launch just two seconds before liftoff, Rocket Lab said Dec. 16 it will delay its next Electron launch attempt until early 2018. In a statement, the company said it had corrected the latest problem to postpone the launch, a power fault that scrubbed a launch attempt Dec. 14 (U.S. time) from the company’s launch site on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula.

However, it said, “with only one day remaining in the launch window Rocket Lab has made the decision to delay an attempt until the new year.” The company’s original 10-day launch window was scheduled to end Dec. 16, U.S. time, although the company said earlier in the week it had considered working with local authorities to extending that window by several days. (12/16)

Apple Orders Space Drama Series (Source: Deadline Hollywood)
Apple has given a straight-to-series order to a space drama from the Battlestar Galactica developer. The untitled project hails from Sony Pictures Television and Moore’s studio-based Tall Ship Productions. The untitled series  explores what would have happened if the global space race had never ended. This is is the third original scripted series ordered by Apple via its recently formed worldwide video programming division. (12/15)

CBS Developing Space Travel Comedy (Source: Variety)
Titled “Spaced Out,” the series is described as a multi-camera workplace ensemble set in the world of commercial space travel. Lawrence will write and executive produce with Jeff Ingold also executive producing. The project was previously developed as a single cam at NBC. The NBC version was written by Adam Sztykiel and executive produced by Lawrence and Ingold. It went to pilot at the network but was ultimately not picked up. (12/15)

Space Photos of the Week: Where Stars Go to Live and Die (Source: WIRED)
We’ll start with a bang at Cassiopeia A, a remnant of a supernova. Next up, we’ll travel to a star-forming region called Sharpless 29. This nebula contains a very young star, only a budding 2 million years old. Finally, we will zoom back to our own solar system. Click here. (12/16)

Spaceport America Welcomes Back Visitors Through Public Tour (Source: Spaceport America)
 Spaceport America, the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport located in southern New Mexico in the USA, announced today the relaunch of the Spaceport America Experience Tour. In partnership with Final Frontier Tours, space enthusiasts and visitors can now have a hands-on, fun experience inside a real commercial space launch facility.

After arriving at the secure Spaceport America site and ascending the gentle rise of the Astronaut Walk, visitors enter the Gateway Gallery where their journey through commercial space continues with numerous interactive exhibits and kiosks. Some visitors choose to experience the G-Shock simulator, which subjects the would-be astronaut to rapid acceleration comparable to what an actual astronaut might feel in flight.

Later, visitors venture into the Spaceport Operations Center (SOC) and interact with Spaceport America crewmembers and the state-of-the-art fire station before stopping in front of the iconic URS/ Foster + Partners structure, Gateway to Space terminal/hangar for a photo opportunity. The Spaceport America Experience journey lasts approximately 4 hours. (12/15)

Investing in Space Exploration, Canada Supports More Than 175 Jobs (Source: CSA)
The federal government is advancing Canada's future space exploration and supporting more than 175 well-paying jobs for Canadians by investing in domestically developed space technology. The Honorable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, announced investments of $54 million as part of the Government of Canada's long-term commitment to the International Space Station (ISS) and to prepare for the next steps in deep-space exploration. (12/15)

UK Hopes New $132 Million Satellite Testing Plant Will Assuage Brexit Concerns for Space Industry (Source: Space News)
A 99 million pound ($132 million) satellite test facility to be built at the U.K.’s Harwell Campus should bring more business to the space hub here and ensure Britain’s satellite manufacturers can carry on without disruption post-Brexit, according to Chris Mutlow, director of RAL Space, the space division of the U.K. state-run Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.

The RAL Space-operated National Satellite Test Facility, once it opens three years from now, will be able to test satellites as large as 7 metric tons, and aims to attract commercial clients, Mutlow said. The facility will provide a package of services including vibration and acoustic testing, electromagnetic compatibility and center of gravity testing, pyroshock simulations and an antenna test range. (12/15)

Living on the Moon: A Chinese Conceptual Lunar Base (Source: GB Times)
Researchers at a major Chinese space technology institute are working on a conceptual design for a habitable lunar base ahead of expected human missions to the Moon in the 2030s. The idea of a Chinese human exploration mission to the Moon has long appeared in the media and is to a large extent expected to take place in the future by the global space community. Such a venture is unlikely, however, to be a repeat of the Apollo ‘flags and footprints’ approach to lunar exploration and will take a long-term approach. Click here.

Editor's Note: Will China build a lunar surface base while the U.S. focuses on a cislunar orbiting space station 'gateway' or tries to put boots on Mars in an unsustainable Apollo-style push? (12/15)

Beijing to Launch Constant Satellite Surveillance Over Disputed South China Sea (Source: Sputnik)
The strategic South China Sea is becoming so important to the Chinese government that Beijing plans to launch as many as 10 satellites into space over the next three years to maintain non-stop surveillance on the waterway. The satellites, to be launched from the island of Hainan, will provide Beijing with the capability to analyze every object in the South China Sea around the clock, according to the Hainan Daily, citing Li Xiaoming of the Sanya Institute of Remote Sensing. (12/15)

Why Don't We Have a 'Star Wars' Hyperdrive Yet? (Source: Space.com)
With "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" you're going to see at least one ship using hyperspace drive to travel faster than the speed of light. It's a staple of the "Star Wars" universe. But is this hyperspace drive really a thing? Can you go faster than the speed of light? Like anything else in physics, the answer is complicated. The bottom line is maybe – but only if we can figure out how to get around some technological obstacles.

The first problem with a hyperspace drive is anything with mass – a starship, people, Wookiees – cannot go faster than the speed of light without fancy physics. That's a rule from Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity. Simply put, the problem is your Millennium Falcon would acquire an infinite mass when it approaches lightspeed. That would mean you'd need an infinite amount of energy to move it. (12/15)

NAS Urges Stronger Focus On Long-Term Space Health Risks (Source: Aviation Week)
Faced with the currently projected end of International Space Station operations in 2024, NASA must do better at focusing its research assets and funding on the health risks astronauts will face if they are to live, work and explore beyond low Earth orbit for months to years at a time, according to an assessment from the National Academies of Sciences. (12/15)

Photographing Powerful Rocket Launches (Source: WMFE)
When you see a rocket streaking through the central Florida sky, you can bet Michael Seely was at the launch pad, hours before liftoff, wading through clouds of mosquitoes and early morning dew to capture the few seconds of a rocket launching into the sky. By day, Seeley is a healthcare executive, but his passion for space gets him up early mornings to set up launch shots that have graced the pages of National Geographic and Smithsonian Magazine. Click here. (12/15) http://www.wmfe.org/intersection-photographing-powerful-rocket-launches/81376

NASA Robotic Mining Competition Returning to KSC on May 14-18 (Source: NASA)
This competition is for university-level students to design and build a mining robot that can traverse the challenging simulated chaotic off-world terrain. The mining robot must then excavate the ice simulant (gravel) and return the excavated mass for deposit into the collector bin to simulate an off-world, in situ resource mining mission. The complexities of the challenge include the abrasive characteristics of the regolith simulant, the weight and size limitations of the mining robot and the ability to tele-operate it from a remote Mission Control Center. Click here. (12/16)

Boeing Tapped to Sustain Space-Based Space Surveillance System (Source: Space Daily)
Boeing has been awarded a modified contract from the U.S. Air Force for sustainment of the space-based space surveillance Block 10 satellite. The deal is worth more than $21.9 million. The Space Based Space Surveillance, or SBSS, Block 10 satellite operates 24-hours a day, 7-days a week with a clear and unobstructed view of objects orbiting Earth. (12/15)

No Alien 'Signals' From Cigar-Shaped Asteroid (Source: Space Daily)
No alien signals have been detected from an interstellar, cigar-shaped space rock discovered travelling through our Solar System in October, researchers listening for evidence of extraterrestrial technology said Thursday. The object, dubbed Oumuamua, was spotted by several Earthly telescopes two months ago.

Given its weird trajectory, surprised researchers immediately concluded it was from beyond our planetary system -- the first interstellar object ever identified in our midst. The rock is thought to be about 400 metres (1,300 feet) long, and thin -- only about 40 m wide, a never-before-seen shape for an asteroid. (12/14)

RS-25 Engine Test is Giant Step for 3-D Printing (Source: Space Daily)
Aerojet Rocketdyne, a subsidiary of Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings, Inc., and NASA completed hot-fire testing of an RS-25 rocket engine containing its largest additively manufactured component to date. Additive manufacturing, commonly known as 3-D printing, will help lower the cost of future missions of NASA's powerful Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket.

"This test demonstrates the viability of using additive manufacturing to produce even the most complex components in one of the world's most reliable rocket engines," said Eileen Drake, CEO and president of Aerojet Rocketdyne. "We expect this technology to dramatically lower the cost of access to space." (12/15)

NASA Funds Flight for Space Medical Technology on Blue Origin (Source: Space Daily)
Blue Origin successfully launched its New Shepard reusable space vehicle on Dec. 12 carrying a medical technology that could potentially treat chest trauma in a space environment.

The New Shepard reusable vertical takeoff and vertical landing space vehicle was launched with the experimental technology from Blue Origin's West Texas launch site. In addition to NASA funding non-government researchers to fly payloads, Blue Origin is a Flight Opportunities program launch provider for government payloads. The Flight Opportunities program, is managed under NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD). (12/15)

December 15, 2017

Final​ ​Frontier​ ​Design​ ​and​ ​Starfighters​ ​Aerospace​ Advance​ ​Space Suit Testing (Source: FFD)
Starfighters Aerospace and Final Frontier Design (FFD) have completed a System Definition Review for integration of a space suit into the Starfighters F-104 aircraft. The review marks the first physical fitting of the FFD space suit in the F-104, along with a baseline definition of all systems required for flight. The review took place at Starfighter’s hangar at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport.

FFD’s space suit is a full pressure Intra Vehicular Activity (IVA) safety garment designed for wearer protection in case of a high-altitude emergencies. The suit used for the review was built in 2017 and included customized and unique interfaces designed to utilize vehicle life support equipment, including breathing oxygen, ventilation gas, parachute interfaces, and communications. The review included suit integration with the F-104 ejection seat, along with pilot assessment of vehicle control under pressurized conditions.

The legendary F-104 supersonic jet, based on NASA D-3380 documents, can achieve up to 90 seconds of microgravity, speeds up to Mach 2.2, and altitudes above 85,000 ft. Starfighters currently owns and operates eight F-104s at the Shuttle Landing Facility. “FFD’s space suit feels ready to fly!" said Starfighters Director of Flight Operations Piercarlo Ciacchi. "We are looking forward to using it in our missions.” Click here for photos. (12/15)

SpaceX Launches ISS Cargo, Sticks Landing at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: SPACErePORT)
SpaceX resumed launch operations at Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport with Friday's launch of 4,800 pounds of cargo to the International Space Station. In a first for the company and the industry, both the Falcon rocket and Dragon capsule were used on previous missions. The rocket's first stage was successfully recovered (the 20th so far) with an on-target landing at the spaceport, and the Dragon capsule will ultimately return to Earth with hardware and experiments from the space station. (12/15)

Israeli Team Must Raise Cash to Remain in Google Moon Race (Source: Space News)
The Israeli team competing in the Google Lunar X Prize competition says it needs to raise $7.5 million by next week to stay in the race. SpaceIL has lined up $22.5 million in pledges, but needs $7.5 million by Dec. 20 in order to maintain its launch contract and complete assembly and testing of its lander. Even with full funding, SpaceIL's CEO said it will be difficult to launch the spacecraft before the competition's end-of-March deadline. With other teams in similar situations, SpaceIL is hoping the prize deadline is extended by several months. (12/15)

National Space Council: Bringing American Values to Space (Source: Space Policy Online)
The executive secretary of the National Space Council said the administration's approach to space policy will be one of "bringing American values to space." In a luncheon speech this week, Scott Pace said there are seven core elements of that policy approach, ranging from supporting private sector activities to conducting activities that advance U.S. interests internationally. Pace, asked about the potential of increased cooperation with China, said there are possibilities in some areas, but that it would depend on the broader geopolitical relationship between the two countries. (12/15)

Thales Supports Deep Space Hab Projects (Source: Space News)
Thales Alenia Space is working with three U.S. companies being paid by NASA to study deep space habitation modules. Thales said Thursday that in addition to working with Lockheed Martin and Orbital ATK, it also is working with Boeing on its NextSTEP-2 study. A Thales executive said the company's work with Orbital ATK is focused on applications of the Cygnus cargo spacecraft, for which Thales provides the pressurized cargo module. The Boeing and Lockheed work is for those companies' own, separate concepts for habitation modules that could be used on the Deep Space Gateway. (12/15)

Arizona Court Rules in Favor in World View Lease Incentive Controversy (Source: Inside Tucson Business)
Pima County’s deal with space balloon company World View Enterprises can move forward after the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the lease agreement, overturning the lower court’s February ruling. The Phoenix-based Goldwater Institute, a conservative think tank, sued the county in April, saying the deal with World View didn’t follow the competitive bidding process required when leasing property.

Pima signed a 20-year lease with World View in April 2016, which included the county promising a $15 million investment on a launch pad and 135,000 square-foot facility on county-owned land. World View would repay the county over the life of the lease. The company would pursue “space tourism” and also launch “stratollites” into space, high-altitude balloons that double as satellites for a cheaper price. They also agreed to bring with them a number of well-paying jobs.

The court’s unanimous ruling cited a statute that says the county doesn’t have to follow a competitive bidding process when lease agreements relate to economic development purposes. County Administrator Chuck Huckleberry said such lease agreements are what companies look for when relocating or expanding. He said the county will use the same statute when making deals with other major employers, such as Vector Space. (12/15)  

Vector Signs Launch Agreement (Source: Vector Space)
Vector announced Thursday it has signed an agreement with Astro Digital to launch one of that company's satellites. Vector said it will launch an Astro Digital Landmapper-HD Earth-imaging cubesat on its Vector-R small launch vehicle in 2018. Astro Digital's first two satellites malfunctioned after deployment as secondary payloads on a Soyuz launch in July, and two more were lost on a Soyuz launch failure last month. Vector plans to conduct the first orbital launch of its Vector-R next year. (12/15)  

UAE Sees Strong Interest in Astronaut Recruitment (Source: Arabian Business)
The UAE's first astronaut recruitment effort has already attracted more than 1,000 applicants. The government announced earlier this month it was seeking applications from young Emiratis to be part of the country's new astronaut corps, with plans to select four astronauts next year. The government says those people will later fly to the International Space Station, but did not disclose when that would take place, or with which ISS partner. (12/15)

Updating US Weapons to GPS III to Surpass Budget (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
The Defense Department will likely spend billions more than the $2.5 billion allocated for upgrading weapons systems to take advantage of new GPS III technology, according to a Government Accountability Office report. The cost stems from schedule pressure and technical problems relating to the new satellites. (12/14)

MyRadar Lets You Explore Mars on Your Mobile Phone (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
If you have ever wanted to explore Mars on your mobile phone – without the pesky dangers of the Red Planet’s 95-percent carbon dioxide atmosphere – a company with employees in Orlando has made that a reality. ACME AtronOmatic, which developed the popular MyRadar weather application, has also recently teamed up with a video game company Star Citizen to use its data visualizations to explore virtual moons in its highly anticipated upcoming game.

Players can also explore those virtual moons on the MyRadar app. The company has about 10 employees in a 4,200-square-foot office along Orange Avenue near Lake Ivanhoe. ACME, which started operating in Orlando in 2012, partnered with the creators of Star Citizen, a massive-multiplayer game that has players traveling through space on trading missions, to create the virtual planets. (12/14)

NASA Finds Solar System Filled With as Many Planets as Our Own (Source: Independent)
Nasa has found an entire solar system with as many planets as our own. The discovery of a new planet around the Kepler-90 star, which looks like our own sun, means the distant solar system has a total of eight known planets. And those planets look like those in our own neighbourhood: rocky planets orbit close to the star, with gas giants further away.

The star and its family of planets were already known about, having been detected by the Kepler space telescope. But the breakthrough came when astronomers found the new world, which was done using Google’s artificial intelligence technology. A computer was trained to look through the data from the Kepler space telescope, and look for signals that might belong to planets. And it found new planets within existing systems, by spotting signals that seemed to indicate something of interest but were too weak to have been spotted by humans. (12/14)

NanoRacks Integrates Largest New Shepard Payload Manifest to Date (Source: NanoRacks)
NanoRacks is pleased to have taken part in yet another successful Blue Origin New Shepard space vehicle mission. This morning marked New Shepard’s 7th flight, and the third flight in which NanoRacks has managed customer payload integration.

As a part of the NanoRacks teaming agreement with Blue Origin, the Company partakes in both business development and payload integration. Payload integration begins with customer service through the NanoRacks Mission Management team, and ends with final on-site integration with the customer at Blue Origin’s West Texas Launch Site (WTLS). Payloads range from small student NanoLabs flying in the NanoRacks Feather Frame to larger professional-grade payload lockers. (12/14)

Two Embry-Riddle Research Payloads Traveled to Suborbital Space on Blue Origin’s New Shepard Rocket (Source: ERAU)
For less than four minutes at the edge of space, T-cells from mice in an Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University experiment in partnership with the University of Texas Health Science Center and the Medical University of South Carolina were exposed to microgravity onboard a successful Blue Origin launch in the hope of one day finding new treatments for cancer.

The payload from Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach Campus flew Dec. 12 on Blue Origin’s New Shepard space vehicle to assess how microgravity impacts the cellular processes of T-cells or T-lymphocytes, which develop from stem cells in the bone marrow and are key to the immune system. The suborbital rocket, launched from Blue Origin’s West Texas Launch Site, traveled about 62 miles or close to 330,000 feet above Earth carrying two payloads that Embry-Riddle students, faculty and alumni had a big hand in designing and building.

The second Embry-Riddle payload is studying how microgravity affects genes that play a role in tumor growth. Embry-Riddle’s two experiments were part of 12 commercial, research and educational payloads onboard the first flight of Crew Capsule 2.0, which according to Blue Origin had the largest windows in space.  Known as Mission 7 (M7), the mission also featured the next-generation booster. (12/13)

Snazzy Videos of Blue Origin's Flight (Source: SPACErePORT)
Click here to see the interior of the Blue Origin space capsule during its recent flight, including Mannequin Skywalker, a dummy strapped into the capsule's seat. And click here to see the external video of the countdown, launch, first-stage vertical landing, and capsule landing. (12/14)

Blue Origin Subcontractor Barge Fire Caused by Fuel Spill (Source: Florida Today)
A fuel spill aboard a barge for a Blue Origin subcontractor caused a small fire Thursday morning. The fire happened about 9:30 a.m. and was put out. No one was injured and there were no serious damages, Blue Origin officials said. The barge was parked at a part of Port Canaveral run by Patrick Air Force Base, according to Canaveral Port Authority.

Blue Origin officials said the fire broke out while work was being done to cut a weld holding one of Blue Origin's propellant tanks onto a barge at Port Canaveral. The work was being performed by Hansa-Meyer, who is under subcontract to Chart Industries, which is providing the tanks to Blue Origin, the company said. (12/14)

These 90 Private Companies are Reshaping the Space Industry (Source: CNBC)
Morgan Stanley is further backing its prediction the space industry will triple in size, announcing Wednesday the launch of a new "space disruptor series." The firm identified 90 private companies "on the forefront of space disruption," writing in a note to investors. Headlined by Elon Musk's SpaceX, Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin and telecom satellite startup OneWeb, the report says that "the universe of private space companies is likely much broader" than even this list.

"While public investors may find it challenging to invest in space exploration, the private side is a different story. As we expand our knowledge of the private side, we expect to offer more valuable insights to public investors," Morgan Stanley said.

Morgan Stanley divvies up the space sector into 11 sub-industries: satellite launch, satellite internet, deep space exploration, lunar landing, earth observation, asteroid mining, space debris, space tourism, space research, manufacturing and other. Click here. (12/14)

Germany and Japan Sign Collaboration on Climate Research (Source: DLR)
On 12 December 2017, the German Aerospace Center (DLR), the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the Japanese National Institute for Environmental Studies (NIES) signed a collaboration agreement regarding remote sensing of greenhouse gases. Remote sensing of greenhouse gases is important, not only to globally monitor the 'input' of carbon and methane into the atmosphere, but also to determine the average rise in atmospheric temperature and draw conclusions regarding climate change.

JAXA's further agreements with ESA, CNES and NASA on 12 December 2017 in Paris, will unite the world’s leading space agencies in an international network – the ‘Global Carbon Observatory’. (12/12)

Black Holes in the Proposed UK Space Legislation (Source: Jurist)
The global space market was valued at $329 billion in 2016 and private sub-orbital flights and launches of small satellites alone are anticipated to be worth £25 billion pounds over the next 20 years. It is therefore unsurprising that the UK seeks to become a major player in the private commercial space industry. To facilitate its ambition to launch the very first spaceflight from UK territory by 2020, the government has proposed the Space Industry Bill which is currently before parliament.

If passed, it will significantly reduce, if not eliminate, the UK's reliance on foreign launch services, facilitate innovative research, create hundreds of jobs and contribute to the growth of the country's NewSpace sector. Some provisions of the Bill could be viewed as counterproductive to efforts intended to establish the UK as an attractive business environment for commercial space activities. For example, the Bill does not limit space operators' liability for damage to property or injury to persons but only grants discretion to the regulator to do so. Whilst this might be considered useful in discouraging risky business practices, it is also likely to put off investors. Click here. (12/11)

RUAG Space Lands Contract Extension to Develop Crucial Parts for Galileo Satellites (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
OHB System AG, the prime contractor for Europe’s Galileo navigation satellites, has extended its contract with RUAG Space to produce 12 additional Control and Data Units for these spacecraft. The Control and Data Unit is an onboard computer that controls and monitors the navigation payload and numerous other subsystems of the spacecraft. Under the newly extended contract, RUAG Space was obligated to deliver the parts between November 2018 and December 2019. (12/14)

ArianeGroup Signs Contract with ESA for Future Prometheus Engine (Source: ArianeGroup)
Prometheus is a European demonstrator for a very low cost reusable engine, running on liquid oxygen (LOx) and methane. It is the precursor for future European launcher engines as of 2030. The aim is to be able to build future liquid propellant engines with a unit cost of about 1 million euros, or 10 times less than the cost of producing existing engines such as the Vulcain2.

The success of this type of technological challenge demands an entirely new approach  and the use of innovative design and production methods and tools. Apart from switching from the traditional Ariane propellant (transition from the liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen combination to a combination of liquid oxygen and methane), the demonstrator will entail major developments, including digitilization of engine control and diagnostics, and manufacturing  using 3D printing in a connected factory environment. (12/13)

December 14, 2017

Legal Questions About Blue Origin Financial Incentive From County (Source: Florida Today)
Brevard County's previously approved $8 million incentive to rocket maker Blue Origin will be coming due in April. But there now is a dispute among Brevard officials over whether the county can legally borrow the money so it can make its payment to Blue Origin.

The company has pledged to create 330 jobs by the end of 2026 at its nearly completed facility and at its related operations. The Blue Origin facility is at Space Florida's Exploration Park complex at Kennedy Space Center. An orbital launch complex that includes development and construction of a launch pad and associated facilities also is part of Blue Origin's overall project.

Brevard County Clerk of Courts Scott Ellis — who would among those to have to sign the paperwork for the deal — said he questions the legality of the county borrowing money to pay the incentive to Blue Origin. Ellis plans to challenge the plan in court. "It is unlawful for a government in Florida to issue bonds for operational expenses," Ellis said. "The 'grant' is clearly not a capital expense. The county has no property interest in the Blue Origin facility." (12/14)

A-P-T Wins NASA Contract for Safety, Mission Assurance Support (Source: NASA)
NASA has awarded the Safety and Mission Assurance Support Services III (SMASS III) contract to A-P-T Research, Inc. of Huntsville, Alabama, for a broad range of services at the agency’s Headquarters in Washington, Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and various sites supported by Kennedy’s programs and projects.

SMASS III is a cost-plus-fixed-fee contract with a two-year base period and three one-year options. The total potential value of the contract is approximately $52 million. The services to be performed include safety and mission assurance risk assessments, inspections, investigations, engineering analyses, and evaluations of work performed by other government contractors and NASA organizations. SMASS III customers include NASA’s Commercial Crew, Launch Services and International Space Station programs. (12/13)

SpaceX Double Re-Use With Falcon/Dragon Combo (Source: SFGate)
SpaceX doubles down on the concept of recycling spacecraft that the company has flown and landed back on Earth. In the year's final mission for NASA, SpaceX reuses both a rocket and a capsule that it’s fired off before. Making space missions work more like commercial airline flights dramatically reduces costs — less money gets wasted discarding rockets and spacecraft after single launches. SpaceX’s success in this pursuit has made it one of the world’s most richly valued private companies. It’s also won over customers including NASA. (12/13)

ISS Crewmembers Return to Earth (Source: CBS)
A Soyuz spacecraft landed in Kazakhstan early this morning with three space station crewmembers on board. The Soyuz MS-05 spacecraft landed at 3:37 a.m. Eastern, nearly three and a half hours after undocking from the station. The Soyuz returned to Earth the American astronaut Randy Bresnik, Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli and Russian cosmonaut Sergey Ryazanskiy. Three new ISS crewmembers will launch on another Soyuz spacecraft early Sunday. (12/14)

NOAA Administrator Nominee Advances Despite Democrats' Concerns (Source: Space News)
A Senate committee advanced the nomination of Barry Myers to be NOAA administrator on a party-line vote. The Senate Commerce Committee voted 14-13 Wednesday to send Myers' nomination to the full Senate. Democrats on the committee, led by ranking member Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, said they were still concerned about conflicts of interest Myers might have from running AccuWeather, a private weather-forecasting company owned by family members. Nelson, though, acknowledged that it is likely that Myers will be confirmed by the full Senate. (12/14)

Spending Bill Funds Full-Year DOD Funds, Partial-Year for Other Agencies (Source: House Approps)
House appropriators released late Wednesday a new spending bill that includes full-year funding for the Defense Department. The bill would serve as a continuing resolution (CR) for most of the federal government through Jan. 19, but fund national defense programs for the rest of 2018 fiscal year to address concerns about the effects an extended CR would have on defense programs. The government is currently operating on a CR that expires Dec. 22. (12/14)

Brooks Reveals Cancer Diagnosis, May Miss Votes (Source: Roll Call)
Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), a key House member on space issues, said he will undergo surgery for prostate cancer. Brooks said Wednesday he was diagnosed with "high-risk" prostate cancer in October and scheduled the surgery for Friday, the day after the House originally planned to adjourn for the year. Brooks said he made the announcement to explain why he will miss votes scheduled for next week when the House schedule was later changed. Brooks, whose district includes the Marshall Space Flight Center, is the vice chair of the House space subcommittee. (12/14)

Lockheed Martin and Japan's NEC to Bring AI Capabilities to Space Data (Source: Space News)
Lockheed Martin has signed an agreement with Japanese company NEC for artificial intelligence software to analyze space data. The software, called system invariant analysis technology, collects data to learn the behavior of systems and identify inconsistencies. Lockheed said it sees a number of uses of of the software, including monitoring satellite performance and changes in the environment. (12/14)

Another Rocket Engine Test For 3-D Print Component (Source: NASASpaceFlight.com)
An RS-25 test Wednesday demonstrated a 3D-printed engine component. The test of the engine at the Stennis Space Center was declared a success even though the engine shut down 70 seconds early because of a "facility issue" and not a problem with the engine itself. The test demonstrated a 3D-printed vibration dampening device, known as a pogo accumulator assembly. The use of 3D printing sharply reduces the number of welds needed to manufacture the component, reducing its overall fabrication time. (12/14)

Dawn's Final Ceres Flybys (Source: Space News)
NASA's Dawn spacecraft will wrap up its mission next year by flying closer than ever to the dwarf planet Ceres. The spacecraft will move into an elliptical orbit around Ceres in the spring, taking it to altitudes as low as 30 kilometers above the surface. Scientists will use those close passes to collect high-resolution images of selected areas of the surface as well as collect more accurate chemical composition data. In that orbit, the spacecraft will likely exhaust its remaining supply of hydrazine propellant, used for attitude control, in three or four months. (12/14)

Scientists: Be Careful Labeling Exoplanets as "Earth-Like" (Source: Space.com)
Scientists should be more careful about talking about "Earth-like" planets, one researcher warns. At a conference last month, Elizabeth Tasker said use of terms like "Earth-like" and "most habitable planet" could actually undermine future searches by suggesting scientists know more about the actual habitability of those exoplanets than they actually do. Many other factors, such as radiation levels, magnetic fields and chemical composition, are critical to habitability but can't yet be measured for exoplanets. (12/14)

Post Office Releasing Sally Ride Stamp (Source: CollectSpace)
The U.S. Postal Service will release a Sally Ride stamp next year. A preliminary design of the stamp unveiled Wednesday features a painting of Ride, the first American woman in space, with a shuttle launching in the background. The post office will also issue a four-stamp set next year for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, with engineering representing by a diagram of an Apollo spacecraft. (12/14)

Blue Origin Begins Moving into Massive Rocket Factory at KSC (Source: Florida Today)
Blue Origin has begun the process of moving into its massive rocket factory at Kennedy Space Center's Exploration Park, according to a NASA official's comments during a conference at Port Canaveral this week. The private rocketry company bankrolled by Amazon founder and billionaire Jeff Bezos was granted a temporary certificate of occupancy for a portion of its massive facility on Space Commerce Way Monday morning and began moving in by Tuesday.

"If you haven’t been on Space Commerce Way to see their beautiful, ginormous – that’s the only way to describe it – facility where they’re going to be manufacturing a rocket ... incredible facility, and they are moving in there today," said Nancy Bray, director of spaceport integration and services at Kennedy Space Center, during a Tuesday transportation conference at Port Canaveral.

Full occupancy of the 750,000-square-foot factory just south of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex will be granted by Space Florida, which manages KSC's Exploration Park, at a later date. "This is an important step in what continues to be a long journey for the full development of Exploration Park and all that it means to the area and state," said Dale Ketcham, chief of strategic alliances at Space Florida. (12/12)

Why Boeing Can Make a Brash Prediction About Beating Elon Musk to Mars (Source: Chicago Tribune)
Chicago-based Boeing has reason to be brash. Aside from being an important supplier to NASA, the Chicago-based company’s current run of upbeat financial and business fortunes makes it a favorite to win the space race to Mars. More than bragging rights, a successful Mars initiative will boost the company’s stature and business prospects and create more jobs.

Boeing is building NASA’s Space Launch System, a design that Muilenburg touted in an October speech as the “largest and most powerful rocket ever built.” A test flight is expected in 2019, according to Boeing. The rocket project’s ultimate mission is to propel a capsule, designed for deep space and carrying American astronauts, farther than ever before. One scenario has astronauts rocketing to a lunar space docking system and then going to Mars before returning to Earth. (12/12)

Designing Future Human Space Exploration on Hawaii's Lava Fields (Source: Space Daily)
On the lava fields of Hawaii's Kilauea volcano, a team of NASA researchers and partners have been busy doing science in a most unusual way. They were studying the biology and geology of this remarkable terrain while simulating a realistic mission to the surface of Mars. The conditions were so real that many of the expected challenges of otherworldly exploration were recreated, including a communications delay of several minutes, and limited bandwidth for transmitting data.

"Our project is a unique integration of science, operations and technology research in service of future human spaceflight," said Darlene Lim, a scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley, and principal investigator of the Biologic Analog Science Associated with Lava Terrains project, called BASALT. "Our goal is to design the exploration of the future, and when you add science to the mix, that changes everything!" (12/13)

Trump Policy Promises Moon, Mars, and Beyond - Will This Time be Different? (Source: Space Policy Online)
President Trump signed his Space Policy Directive 1. Surrounded by administration officials, commercial space industry representatives, and current and former astronauts, Trump promised to return astronauts to the Moon and go on to Mars and beyond. The words echo those of his two Republican predecessors, who did not achieve those goals.  The question is whether the third time will be the charm.

During a brief White House ceremony this afternoon, Trump said the directive “will refocus America’s space program on human exploration and discovery. It marks an important step in returning American astronauts to the moon for the first time since 1972 for long-term exploration and use. This time we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprint, we will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars. And perhaps, someday, to many worlds beyond.”

Trump did not set a timeline for returning to the Moon or reaching Mars or mention cost. Completing those programs and building new capabilities needed for human trips to the lunar surface will cost a lot of money.  That has been the downfall of previous efforts. Time will tell if the Trump Administration requests the requisite funding and if Congress appropriates it. The President’s FY2019 budget request, due to Congress the first Monday in February, will hold important clues. (12/13)

Long-Range Space Exploration Possible Only Via International Cooperation (Source: Belta)
Long-range flights to explore outer space will be possible only thanks to international cooperation, says Vladimir Aksenov, a USSR pilot cosmonaut, President of the Academy of Sciences and Arts of the Sergei Korolev Union, during the second congress of Belarusian scientists in Minsk on 12 December. Cooperation of several countries is needed. Long-range flights represent the next stage in space exploration. They are impossible without joint efforts and the implementation of joint programs.”  (12/12)

Trump's Proposed Budget Cuts NASA Funding Close to an All-Time Low (Source: Business Insider)
The idea of putting people on the moon is a bit of a shift for the space agency. In 2010, President Obama said he wanted NASA to be orbiting Mars by the 2030s, and to send humans to an asteroid by 2025, with crews charting destinations "beyond the moon." Simply getting back to the moon presents less of a logistical challenge for NASA, as they already sent 12 men to the lunar surface in the late 60s and early 70s.

But where the agency will get the cash to return remains an open question. The roughly $18-19 billion federal dollars the agency gets every year is less than half of one percent of all federal money. Trump's proposed 2018 budget calls for that total to decrease by roughly $200 million, while Congress has agreed to give the space agency $19.5 billion next year.

Despite being banned from inclusion on the International Space Station, China has an ambitious plan to send people to the moon by 2036. The Indian space program is also planning its own unmanned mission to the moon in the first quarter of 2018, on a very skinny budget. Trump said landing on the moon again will inch Americans closer to the ultimate goal of Martian exploration. He added that such a mission would be good for jobs and military research, too. But another country could easily beat the US space agency at its own game. (12/13)

Galileo Navigation Network Nears Completion (Source: ESA)
Europe has four more Galileo navigation satellites in the sky following their launch on an Ariane 5 rocket. After today’s success, only one more launch remains before the Galileo constellation is complete and delivering global coverage. This week's mission brings the Galileo system to 22 satellites. Next year’s launch of another quartet will bring the 24‑satellite Galileo constellation to the point of completion, plus two orbital spares. (12/13)

Arctic Warmth is the New Normal (Source: NOAA)
The Arctic shows no sign of returning to the reliably frozen region of recent past decades. Despite relatively cool summer temperatures, observations in 2017 continue to indicate that the Arctic environmental system has reached a 'new normal', characterized by long-term losses in the extent and thickness of the sea ice cover, the extent and duration of the winter snow cover and the mass of ice in the Greenland Ice Sheet and Arctic glaciers, and warming sea surface and permafrost temperatures. (12/13)

Bright Areas on Ceres Suggest Geologic Activity (Source: HobbySpace)
“The mysterious bright spots on Ceres, which have captivated both the Dawn science team and the public, reveal evidence of Ceres’ past subsurface ocean, and indicate that, far from being a dead world, Ceres is surprisingly active. Geological processes created these bright areas and may still be changing the face of Ceres today,” (12/12)

Return to the Moon (Source: NeuroLogica)
We should only set our sights on Mars after we have a stable moon base. There are several reasons for this. First, colonizing the moon is much easier than Mars. The moon is three days away from Earth, while Mars is 9 or more months. We don’t even have the technology at this point to protect martian astronauts from the radiation they would be exposed to on the trip. Going to Mars is a logistical and technological problem perhaps an order of magnitude more difficult than going to the Moon.

Being close to Earth also means that resupply and rescue missions would be much more feasible. If something goes awry on Mars, good luck to you. Don’t expect help anytime soon. For a moon base, however, we could theoretically have a rocket on standby, something that could launch within a week, and be on the moon in another three days.

All of the main issues we would confront on a Mars colony would also exist on a moon colony, and so once we developed the knowledge and technology to have a self-sustaining base on the moon, we could use that knowledge to then build bases and colonies on Mars. A moon base would need proper shielding, an energy source, and sources of food, water, and oxygen. (12/12)

December 13, 2017

Space Coast Experiencing Incredible Economic Turnaround (Source: WESH)
Less than a decade after the loss of the shuttle program an incredible economic turnaround is being seen across Brevard County. Right now, Brevard County and the Space Coast are thriving. jobs, people, and opportunity are all showing up in droves, but just six years ago it was the exact opposite. When we all said goodbye to NASA's Space Shuttle program, the Space Coast faced a bleak reality. (12/13)

Space Florida, Made In Space Forge Financing Agreement (Source: Parabolic Arc)
In 2017, Space Florida forged a first-of-its-kind financing agreement with innovative in-space manufacturing company, Made In Space (MIS), Inc. With operations in Jacksonville, Florida and in Silicon Valley, MIS is a market leader in the growing segment of in-space manufacturing. MIS products are utilized both in space and on Earth, and the company was the first to manufacture hardware off the planet.

Under the agreement, Space Florida provided debt financing to MIS in support of the company’s entrance into the fiber optics manufacturing market. Provided as security for the loan are space-based or space-bound hardware utilized to manufacture fiber optics in the microgravity environment of the International Space Station. The agreement breaks new ground in how space assets can be financed and collateralized by lenders, as well as paves the way for expanded commercial financing in the segment. (12/12)

Trump’s Sinister Plan for NASA (Source: Salon)
Two news items this week — the story of a weird asteroid dipping through our solar system, and the tale of Trump’s literal moonshot plan for NASA — weren’t merely items of space news floating through the newsiverse. These two space stories are connected in a way that prophesies something profound about America’s future in space.

First, some background: Oumuamua, a rogue asteroid likely to have originated from outside our solar system which swung around our sun in October, was found to have physical properties that were so bizarre that it prompted some scientists to focus radio telescopes on the rapidly departing rock to see if it might have been an artificial object constructed by an alien civilization. The other story was yesterday’s big reveal from President Trump that he wanted to refocus NASA’s budget to “reach for the moon,” and, ultimately, Mars.

Together, these two tales tell a story about what the GOP wants NASA to be. While billionaires were funding the astronomy to probe deeper into the mystery of Oumuamua, Trump and his administration were working behind the scenes to make NASA into a science-free organization. It’s hard to ask a question like, “why does Trump want to the moon?” in this manner without sounding conspiratorial. (12/12)

Huntsville Area Voters Pick Jones for U.S. Senate (Source: New York Times)
Voters in Alabama’s cities and most affluent suburbs overwhelmingly rejected Mr. Moore’s candidacy, an ominous sign for Republicans on the ballot next year in upscale districts. In Jefferson County, which includes Birmingham and some of the state’s wealthiest enclaves, Mr. Jones, the Democratic candidate, captured more than 68 percent of the vote. And in Madison County, home to Huntsville and a large NASA facility, Mr. Jones won 57 percent of the vote. (12/13)

Blue Origin Carried Experiments in Upgraded Crew Capsule (Source: Space News)
Blue Origin launched its New Shepard suborbital vehicle Tuesday, the first test flight in more than a year. The vehicle lifted off from the company's West Texas test site at 11:59 a.m. Eastern, with the propulsion module making a powered landing and the crew capsule parachuting back to Earth, as planned. The company called the flight "a tremendous success" that tested both a new propulsion module and a "Crew Capsule 2.0" outfitted with large windows and carrying a payload of experiments. The company did not confirm the launch took place until about 11 hours after the flight. (12/13)

Ariane 5 Launches Galileo Satellites (Source: Space News)
An Ariane 5 launched four Galileo satellites Tuesday, bringing the navigation system closer to completion. The Ariane 5 launched at 1:36 p.m. Eastern from Kourou, French Guiana, and released the four satellites into medium Earth orbits several hours later. With the launch, there are now 22 Galileo satellites in orbit, although four are not currently in use. The launch was also the 11th and final mission of 2017 for Arianespace. (12/13)

Japan's ispace Raises $90M for Lunar Landers (Source: Space News)
A Japanese company has raised $90.2 million to fund development of commercial lunar landers. Tokyo-based ispace raised the Series A round from a group of Japanese funds and companies. The company will use the funds for two demonstration missions: a lunar orbiter launching in late 2019 and a lunar lander in 2020. It hopes to then fly a regular series of commercial lunar lander missions carrying payloads for customers. The company is also responsible for Team Hakuto, one of the finalists in the Google Lunar X Prize. It has completed a rover that will fly to the moon on the lander being developed by Team Indus. (12/13)

Rocket Lab Launch Abort Likely Caused by LOX Temp (Source: New Zealand Herald)
Rocket Lab said rising liquid oxygen temperatures in one of its engines caused the Electron launch abort Monday night. The company said increasing temperatures, likely caused by the warm weather conditions at the launch site, triggered the abort. The company plans to make its next attempt to launch its second Electron rocket in a four-hour window that opens at 8:30 p.m. Eastern on Dec. 13. (12/13)

Russian Launch Failure Blamed on Programming Error (Source: AFP)
Russian officials said a programming error is to blame for last month's failed Soyuz launch. The Nov. 28 launch failed when the rocket's upper stage apparently fired in the wrong direction, causing it and its satellite payload to reenter over the North Atlantic Ocean. A Roscosmos statement said that "a hidden problem in the algorithm" caused the failure, which had gone undetected in past flights of the Fregat stage. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin criticized the report for not assigning blame for the failure. (12/13)

Orbital ATK Satellite-Servicer Gets Preliminary Approval (Source: Space News)
Orbital ATK has received preliminary approvals from the FCC for its first satellite life extension mission. The FCC last week gave approval for Orbital ATK's Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV) to perform "rendezvous, proximity operations, and docking" with the Intelsat-901 satellite in geostationary orbit. The company still needs approvals from the FCC to relocate Intelsat-901 and then undock from it. The FCC's approvals involved the use of frequencies for telemetry, tracking and command of the MEV. (12/13)

Earth Science Community Setting Priorities (Source: Space News)
The new Earth science decadal survey is now expected to be rolled out early next month. NASA and others in the research community had hoped the report, which will provide priorities for Earth science research for the next decade, would be ready in time for release at this week's Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union. However, at a NASA town hall meeting, Michael Freilich, director of NASA's Earth science division, said the report will instead likely come out at the American Meteorological Society conference next month. (12/13)

Space Council Advisory Group Forming (Source: NASA)
An advisory group for the new National Space Council will soon be seeking nominations for members. NASA announced Tuesday that the charter for the Users' Advisory Group, which NASA will operate on behalf of the Council, had been approved. The group will consist of 15 to 30 people and include both representatives of non-federal aerospace organizations and subject matter experts. Nominations for the group will open later this month. (12/13)

Chinese Taunt Trump on Moon Plans (Source: Global Times)
Some in China took to social media to comment on, and even mock, President Trump's new policy directing NASA to return to the moon. Reactions included questions about if the announcement was an effort to goad China into a new space race, and if the funding for such missions would be available. Others jokingly wondered if the policy meant that Trump was "going to tweet from the moon." (12/13)

December 12, 2017

Rocket Lab Test Delayed in Dramatic Last-Minute Post-Ignition Scrub (Source: Space News)
Rocket Lab scrubbed a launch attempt for its Electron rocket Monday night after a last-second abort. The launch, from the company's New Zealand facility, was aborted just two seconds before the planned 10:50 p.m. Eastern liftoff, just as the rocket's first-stage engines ignited. The company did not disclose the cause of the abort, and said the next launch attempt would be no sooner than Wednesday because of weather. The launch will be the second for the Electron small rocket, after a partially successful inaugural test flight in May. (12/12)

SpaceX Pushes LC-40 Launch Back One Day (Source: Space.com)
SpaceX has delayed the Falcon 9 launch of a Dragon cargo spacecraft to Wednesday. The company said Monday night that the launch, previously scheduled for Tuesday, was delayed to allow for additional time for pre-launch ground system checks. Forecasts predict an 80 percent chance of acceptable weather for the launch at 11:24 a.m. Eastern. (12/12)

OneWeb Gets $500M More From SoftBank (Source: Wall Street Journal)
SoftBank will reportedly invest an additional $500 million in broadband satellite venture OneWeb. The new round will increase SoftBank's investment in OneWeb to $1.5 billion, but will be structured so that its stake in the satellite company remains less than 50 percent. OneWeb plans to start launching satellites for its initial constellation next year, with global service by the end of 2020. A second constellation, offering more bandwidth, is under development for the mid-2020s. (12/12)

Japan Endorses Deep Space Gateway (Source: Kyodo)
The Japanese government has formally endorsed plans to participate in NASA's proposed Deep Space Gateway. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday at a space policy meeting that the government will "accelerate discussions" of cooperation with the United States and others on space exploration. Japan seeks to be a part of the Deep Space Gateway as a means to eventually send Japanese astronauts on missions to the lunar surface. (12/12)

India Plans Small Launch Vehicle (Source: The Hindu)
The Indian space agency is planning to develop a small launch vehicle to serve the growing smallsat market. Preliminary work on the unnamed vehicle started three months ago, the director of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre said. The rocket, designed to place payloads weighing up to 500 to 600 kilograms into low Earth orbit, will utilize technology already in use on other vehicles, like the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle. A first test launch of the rocket could take place in as soon as a year. (12/12)

Canadian Spaceport Could Host Monthly Launches (Source: Canadian Press)
Supporters of a planned Canadian spaceport say the site could host up to 12 launches a year. Maritime Launch Services is seeking government approval to build the site in Nova Scotia to host launches of the Ukrainian Cyclone-4M rocket. The company says that, pending those approvals, it can start construction of the site as soon as next May, with launches there beginning in 2020. The site will initially host one to three launches a year, slowly ramping up to the long-term goal of a dozen per year. (12/12)

How NASA Innovations Make Money for America (Source: Cheddar)
The United States spends a lot of money on NASA. Tens of billions of dollars a year. Did you know that NASA is actually returning more in value to the American economy than we spend on it? The technologies NASA develops for space travel and exploration have been developed commercially with NASA's blessing by companies large and small. Click here. (12/11)

Robot Moon Base: Beijing's New Lunar Landing Program (Source: Space Daily)
Scientists are mulling a robot moon station, Chinese space experts said on Tuesday. The base can conduct bigger, more complicated research and experiments, according to space officials who announced the plan at an international symposium in Shanghai at the end of November. Such a station could slash the costs of returning rock samples to Earth, Jiao Weixin, a Peking University space science professor, told the Global Times on Tuesday. (12/12)

The Connected Car and Where Satellite Fits In (Source: Satellite Today)
Automotive telematics pioneers harking back 20 years to tinkerers at Volvo Cars saw a hybrid cellular-satellite connectivity proposition as the ideal connectivity solution. Volvo learned the hard way, at that time, that the satellite industry is a fickle partner and potentially expensive. Volvo’s partner at that time was Orbcomm, before its Chapter 11 bankruptcy — a filing that scotched Volvo’s plans.

The dream of hybrid sat-cell connectivity in moving vehicles lives on in the commercial vehicle space with satellite connections providing tracking and some communications capability and cellular providing dispatching and emergency coms. The applications for satellite connections have expanded as the variety of satellite players has grown and interest in the automotive market has increased.

Today, the key automotive applications for satellite connectivity include: tracking, location, emergency response, content delivery (entertainment), and over-the-air software updates. The players lining up include: Intelsat, Inmarsat, Ligado, SiriusXM, and Pivotal Commware. Click here. (12/12)

Pacific 'Baby Island' is Natural Lab to Study Mars (Source: BBC)
It is one of Earth's newest landforms and it could just tell us where to look for evidence of life on Mars. The tongue-twisting volcanic island of Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha'apai exploded out of the Pacific Ocean in 2015, and its shape has been evolving ever since as it has been lashed and bashed by waves.
Scientists are watching this slow erosion very closely.

They think they see the remnants of many such water-birthed islands on the Red Planet. If that is true, it is really intriguing. On Earth, we know that wherever you get submarine volcanic processes, you also very often get conditions that support microbial communities.

What the researchers see occurring at Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha'apai (HTHH) therefore may be a kind of template to help them understand better the water environment on early Mars and, by extension, whether the conditions might also have been favourable for the initiation of simple life. (12/12)

Embry-Riddle Wins $1 Million to Establish New Aviation and Engineering Research Center (Source: ERAU)
A new project at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Daytona Beach, Fla., campus, funded by a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce through its Economic Development Administration (EDA), is expected to create 387 new jobs and spur $1.6 million in private investment. The $1 million award to Embry-Riddle will be used to establish a new aviation and engineering research center in Florida. Specifically, the grant will “help build the Applied Aviation and Engineering Research Hangar in Volusia County,” the U.S.  Department of Commerce reported in an official news release.

The new facility will serve as the new home for Embry-Riddle’s Eagle Flight Research Center, a hub for engineering research and development. “The Eagle Flight Research Center will help to foster innovation in the state’s aeronautical cluster and increase its attractiveness to the private sector. This project was made possible by the regional planning efforts led by the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council." (12/11)

Why Boeing can make a brash prediction about beating Elon Musk to Mars (Source: Chicago Tribune)
Defense and aerospace giant Boeing is strongly signaling how crucial deep-space exploration is to its future. Muilenburg is boldly stating his intent to aggressively take on all competitors — including celebrity billionaire rivals like Musk and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who is bankrolling a space exploration company.

Chicago-based Boeing has reason to be brash. Aside from being an important supplier to NASA, the Chicago-based company’s current run of upbeat financial and business fortunes makes it a favorite to win the space race to Mars. More than bragging rights, a successful Mars initiative will boost the company’s stature and business prospects and create more jobs.

Last week, Fortune magazine’s tech site tweeted a story link about Muilenburg accompanied by this message, “Boeing CEO: We’re going to beat Elon Musk to Mars.” Within minutes of its posting, Musk retorted: “Do it.” Boeing’s Twitter response: “Game on!” Boeing is building NASA’s Space Launch System, a design that Muilenburg touted in an October speech as the “largest and most powerful rocket ever built.” A test flight is expected in 2019, according to Boeing. (12/12)

A Bridge to Venus (Source: Space Review)
Planetary scientists who study Venus were disappointed by the outcome of NASA’s latest Discovery competition, but are doing more than placing all their bets on the ongoing New Frontiers program. Jeff Foust reports on how smallsats may provide a new option for sending missions to the planet. Click here. (12/11)
 
“Do We Want to Get to the Moon or Not?” (Source: Space Review)
In the concluding portion of his history of the decision-making process to get humans to the Moon in the Apollo program, Carl Alessi examines how the debate on the various modes came to a head as John Houbolt lobbied for lunar orbit rendezvous. Click here. (12/11)
 
Liability for Space Debris Collisions and the Kessler Syndrome (Source: Space Review)
A growing concern for those who operate satellites is potential damage from space debris, and determining who, if anyone, can be held liable for it. In the first of a two-part paper, Scott Kerr examines some of the legal issues on this subject. Click here. (12/11)

Safety and Efficiency Went Hand-in-Hand in Rebuild of SLC-40 (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
SpaceX hosted a briefing to members of the media on Dec. 8 to provide an overview of work that has been done to return to service Cape Canaveral’s Launch Complex 40 (LC-40) after the 2016 explosion of a Falcon 9 rocket caused severe damage to the site. According to John Muratore, director of SLC-40, SpaceX tied safety and efficiency to improve the effectiveness of launch operations at SLC-40. Click here. (12/10)

Another 'Moon on the Way to Mars' Speech - What's Different This Time? (Source: Astralytical)
Today, President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence gave a joint speech on the signing of Space Policy Directive 1 to direct NASA to return astronauts to the Moon on the way to Mars and beyond. Space Policy Directive 1 is also very similar to the space policies promoted by President George H. W. Bush in 1989 known as the Space Exploration Initiative and President George W. Bush in 2004 known as the Vision for Space Exploration.

If this sounds familiar, Space Policy Directive 1 is the formal signing of a concept promoted by Vice President Pence during the inaugural reestablished National Space Council meeting on October 5, and rumored to be this Administration’s policy for months prior.

Lacking in President Trump and Vice President Pence’s speech were details regarding mission planning and architecture, space vehicles, dates, and budget requirements to request from Congress. It is likely these details have not yet been determined. Until those detailed are worked out, it is difficult for Space Policy Directive 1 to move forward. Click here. (12/11)

December 11, 2017

China Launches Algerian Satellite (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
China successfully launched a Long March 3B rocket on Sunday, December 10 with the first Algerian geostationary communications satellite, known as Alcomsat-1. Liftoff took place at 16:40 GMT (11:40 a.m. EST) from the Launch Complex 2 at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center (XSLC) in China’s Sichuan Province. (12/10)

Russia Says Satellite Could Have Caused Radioactive Pollution (Source: Space Daily)
Russian scientists on Friday said radioactive pollution detected in Europe in September was not linked to one of the country's nuclear facilities and speculated that a satellite could be the cause. Scientists at the Nuclear Safety Institute looked into the origin of "extremely high" readings of radioactive ruthenium reported in some parts of Russia by the meteorological service.

Results shown to journalists in Moscow on Friday did not pinpoint the source of the pollution, but scientists dismissed suggestions that Mayak, a facility in the Russian Urals that processes spent nuclear fuel, was the origin. "While we still cannot say with certainty what caused the release, we cannot rule out that a space object such as a satellite or a fragment of one containing Ruthenium-106 re-entering the atmosphere could have been such a source," a statement by the scientists said. (12/8)

UK Taking Steps to Boost Space Startups (Source: Space News)
The British government is taking steps to make the country a haven for space startups. At a conference last week, the U.K. Space Agency announced it would provide £200,000 ($268,000) to kickstart four new space technology business incubators. The new incubators will bring the total number of U.K. space startup clusters to 15. The largest, in Harwell, currently hosts 80 companies, with a goal of growing to 200 companies by 2030. (12/10)

Bacterial Community on ISS Resembles Homes (Source: UC Davis)
Microbiologists at the University of California, Davis who analyzed swabs taken by astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) and compared them with samples from homes on earth as well as the Human Microbiome Project found that the microbial community in this unique habitat was very diverse and more closely resembled that of homes than of humans. This study, titled "A microbial survey of the International Space Station (ISS)" was published today, Tuesday December 5th, in PeerJ, a peer-reviewed open access journal.

This work was part of a nationwide citizen science project called Project MERCCURI. The project is a collaboration between UC Davis and other organizations including Science Cheerleader, a group of current and former professional cheerleaders pursuing careers in science and math. (12/5)

This Company Has the Largest Fleet of Orbiting Satellites in Human History. Here's What It Plans to Do Next (Source: Inc.)
Having an eye in the sky can be helpful. Planet Labs has more than 200. The San Francisco-based startup was founded by three NASA employees in 2010. Their work hinged on a simple question: What if we launched phones into orbit? "We thought the cost of satellites had far too many zeros on the end," says Will Marshall, Planet Labs' co-founder and CEO.

"Smartphones have 90 percent of what you need to make a satellite. So our question was, could we make a smartphone work in space?" The newly formed Planet Labs team got to work creating a compact, pared-down satellite. The result isn't quite the size of a smartphone--but, at 10 inches long and four inches tall and wide, it's far smaller than many of the school bus-size ones currently in orbit. Click here. (12/8)

Fashion on the Final Frontier: The Story of the Spacesuit (Source: New Atlas)
Ever since NASA retired the silver lam̩ Mercury spacesuits of the early 1960s astronauts have fallen a little behind in the fashion department, but now a new generation of spacesuits is being developed for both the public and private sectors. Suiting up for the final frontier isn't just about looks of course, it's about surviving and working in one of the harshest environments possible Рan environment that will kill you in just 20 seconds without some high-tech protection. So what exactly is a spacesuit, and what will the spacefaring fashionistas of the future be wearing? Click here. (12/7)

Breaking the Glass Ceiling in Space (Source: The Hindu)
Naoko Yamazaki was always going to reach for the stars. As a little girl in the 1970s, Ms. Yamazaki used to sit on her living room couch in Japan’s Chiba prefecture, not far from Tokyo, and watch science fiction anime, dreaming about space. Over three decades later, on April 5, 2010, she donned an orange space suit and boarded the space shuttle Discovery. Eight and a half minutes later she had breached the “final frontier”, her childhood dream became a reality. Ms. Yamazaki became the second Japanese woman (and 54th woman globally) to have flown to space. To date, 60 women have accomplished this feat, some 10% of the total number of astronauts. (12/9)

China and US Quietly Hold Third Civil Space Dialogue (Source: GB Times)
Beijing quietly hosted the third China-US Civil Space Dialogue on November 30, with the two sides exchanging plans for human and robotic space exploration, and discussing engagement through multilateral mechanisms. The meeting was co-chaired by Tian Yulong, secretary-general of China National Space Administration (CNSA), and Jonathan Margolis, assistant secretary of state of the US Department of State. The dialogue is an initiative designed to facilitate exchanges between China and the United States on a range of space-related issues, working around and filling a void created by an effective US Congressional ban on NASA dealing with Chinese entities.

As Marcia S Smith observed upon the establishment of the dialogue, NASA and the and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy are prohibited from expending any funds to “develop, design, plan, promulgate, implement, or execute a bilateral policy, program, order, or contract of any kind to participate, collaborate, or coordinate bilaterally in any way with China or any Chinese-owned company.” The prohibition was inserted in 2011 by Rep. Frank Wolf, then Chairman of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, into the appropriations bills that fund NASA, and has since been retained.

China has been effectively barred from joining the International Space Station (ISS) project due to US objections, citing possible technology transfer to a Chinese space programme which is entwined with the country's military, as well as concerns over espionage and human rights abuses. At the same time, proponents of cooperation with China state the need for dialogue on issues including the long-term sustainability of the space environment as human reliance and use of outer space grows. (12/11)

Trump to Send Astronauts Back to the Moon -- and Eventually Mars (Source: CNN)
President Donald Trump wants to send astronauts where no man has gone before. During a signing ceremony in the Oval Office on Monday, Trump will authorize the acting NASA administrator Robert M. Lightfoot Jr. to "lead an innovative space exploration program to send American astronauts back to the moon, and eventually Mars."

"The President listened to the National Space Council's recommendations and he will change our nation's human spaceflight policy to help America become the driving force for the space industry, gain new knowledge from the cosmos, and spur incredible technology," deputy White House press secretary Hogan Gidley said Monday. (12/11)

Breakthrough Listen Will Check Interstellar Object to Make Sure it’s Not a Starship (Source: GeekWire)
Was that cigar-shaped, fast-moving interstellar object a spaceship? Almost certainly not, but Breakthrough Listen will check just to make sure. The Breakthrough Listen campaign, which checks celestial targets for radio signals from intelligent civilizations, will turn the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia toward the object, known as ‘Oumuamua, for 10 hours of observations starting Wednesday.

Scientists will check for emissions across four radio bands, during four key “epochs” based on ‘Oumuamua’s period of rotation. ”Oumuamua’s presence within our solar system affords Breakthrough Listen an opportunity to reach unprecedented sensitivities to possible artificial transmitters and demonstrate our ability to track nearby, fast-moving objects,” Andrew Siemion, director of the Berkeley SETI Research Center, said. “Whether this object turns out to be artificial or natural, it’s a great target for Listen.” (12/11)

UCF Researcher Works to Explain Mars Clay (Source: UCF)
“The basic recipe for making clay is you take rock and you add heat and water,” said Kevin Cannon, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Central Florida who led the research while completing his Ph.D. at Brown University. “This same material used for ceramics and pottery on Earth is also found on Mars, and now we think it may have formed beneath a thick steamy atmosphere just after the planet formed.” New research suggests the clays formed during the creation of the Martian crust itself, long before any water could have flowed on the planet. The scattering of the clay would be the result of impacts on the Red planet years after its initial formation.

Cannon and his co-authors, planetary scientists at Brown, said the scenario offers a means of creating widespread clay deposits that doesn’t require a warm and wet climate or a sustained hydrothermal system on early Mars. State-of-the-art climate models suggest an early Mars where the temperature rarely crept above freezing and where water flow on the surface was sporadic and isolated. (12/7)

Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser Space Plane Aces Free-Flight Drop Test (Source: Space.com)
Sierra Nevada Corporation's privately built Dream Chaser space plane aced a critical test Saturday (Nov. 11) during a successful free-flight over California's Mojave Desert. The uncrewed Dream Chaser made a smooth landing at Edwards Air Force Base during the free-flight test at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California, NASA officials said in a statement. Earlier this year, officials at the Armstrong center, where Dream Chaser is being tested, said the space plane would to be dropped from an altitude of 12,500 feet by a Columbia 234-UT helicopter for this test.

Sierra Nevada is developing Dream Chaser to deliver supplies to the space station for NASA under the agency's Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS-2) program. Under that agreement, Sierra Nevada will fly at least six cargo delivery missions for NASA by 2024, agency officials said in the Nov. 11 statement. Two other companies, SpaceX and Orbital ATK, will use their own spacecraft to fly delivery missions for NASA as part of the CRS-2 program. (12/11)