November 13, 2018

ArianeGroup to Cut 2,200 Jobs (Source: AFP)
ArianeGroup plans to cut 2,200 jobs over the next four years as it phases out the Ariane 5. The company, which currently employs 9,000, said Monday that it plans to cut the jobs through attrition rather than layoffs as it completes development of the Ariane 6, the successor to the Ariane 5. The Ariane 6, intended to cost 40 percent less than the Ariane 5, is scheduled to enter service in 2020, with the Ariane 5 phased out a few years later. [AFP]

FCC Considers New Orbital Debris Rule (Source: Space News)
The FCC will take up a proposed rule this week modifying its orbital debris mitigation guidelines. The commission is expected to approve the notice of proposed rulemaking at its meeting Thursday, beginning a public comment period on the revised regulations. Among those proposed rules under consideration by the FCC is a requirement that low Earth orbit satellites that plan to operate at altitudes above 650 kilometers first undergo checkouts at a lower altitude to avoid situations where spacecraft failures leave them stranded in higher, longer-lived orbits. The FCC will also take up authorizations for several satellite constellations and approval of the use of Galileo navigation signals by nonfederal devices. [SpaceNews]

Italy's Space Agency Chief Dismissed (Source: Space News)
The head of the Italian Space Agency (ASI) was dismissed last week for reasons that remain unclear. Roberto Battiston had been president of ASI since 2014 and started a second four-year term earlier this year when Marco Bussetti, the country's education, university and research minister, removed Battiston from his post Nov. 6. Battiston said that his dismissal was evidence of the patronage system being applied to public research agencies in the country for the first time. The ministry hasn't formally commented on Battiston's dismissal. A petition seeking to either return Battiston to his job or otherwise reduce the effects of his departure has garnered more than 15,000 signatures. [SpaceNews]

NASA Hopes Canada Will Support Gateway with Robotic Arm (Source: CTV)
NASA is hoping that Canada will contribute an advanced robotic arm system to its proposed lunar Gateway. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine is scheduled to meet this week with Canadian officials in discussions that will include Canadian contributions to the Gateway. NASA has asked Canada to contribute robotic arms, making use of artificial intelligence, for the Gateway, but the Canadian government has yet to make a commitment for a system that could cost more than $1 billion over 20 years. [CTV]

Suyuz Rocket Passes Test Ahead of Next Crewed Launch (Source: TASS)
The Soyuz spacecraft to be used on the next mission to the International Space Station has passed a key test. Russian officials said the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft passed a vacuum test, with no signs of leaks. The Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft, currently docked to the ISS, suffered a leak in August, the cause of which remains under investigation but could be linked to workmanship and handling issues during prelaunch preparations. [TASS]

Multiple Pilots Report UFO Sighting (Source: Huffington Post)
Several commercials airline pilots reported a series of fast-moving unidentified objects in the skies off the west coast of Ireland last week in an incident now under investigation. One pilot said the object or objects were traveling at “astronomical” speeds of at least Mach 2, or twice the speed of sound. The incident began when a British Airways pilot flying from Montreal to London’s Heathrow Airport contacted Shannon Air Traffic Control in Ireland to ask if there were any military aircraft in the vicinity. When told there was no such aircraft, the pilot said something had moved “so fast” past the aircraft.

“Errr... alongside you?” the air traffic controller asked.  The pilot replied that two objects had approached on the left and then “rapidly” veered toward the north. “We saw a bright light and it just disappeared at a very high speed,” she said. A Virgin Airlines flight from Orlando to Manchester, UK, then reported “two bright lights” that “seemed to bank over to the right and then climb away at speed.”

The pilot described “a meteor or another object making some kind of reentry, appears to be multiple objects following the same sort of trajectory, very bright from where we were.” Then, a third pilot chimed in. “Glad it wasn’t just me,” the Norwegian Air pilot flying from Stewart Airport in New York to Shannon, Ireland said. (11/13)

Finland Probe: Russia Disrupting GPS During NATO Drill (Source: DW)
Pilots in Finland and Norway lost GPS navigation signals during recent NATO's  large-scale Trident Juncture exercise near Russia's western border. Speaking to Finland's public broadcaster Yle on Sunday, Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipila said that Moscow was likely to blame for the jamming. "Technology-wise, it's relatively easy to disturb a radio signal, and it's possible that Russia was behind it," he was quoted as saying. "This is not a joke, it threatened the air security of ordinary people." Sipila, who is also an experienced pilot, said that the incident would be treated as a breach of Finnish airspace. The goal of the alleged Russian interference was "to demonstrate the capabilities for such actions," he said. (11/11)

Why a Space Force Can Wait (Source: Aerospace Security)
I do not disagree with the contention that the current organizational structure of national security space is problematic. Most experts have noted that space capabilities are spread unevenly throughout DoD and Intelligence Community, without much interoperability and communication, and space authority and coordination is fragmented. As a result, there is no true military space career path and Air Force officers with no space background are often shifted into space work.

Additionally, the Air Force tends to decrease space-related funding in order to support aircraft when balancing priorities. These are serious issues that need to be resolved; however, the solution is not to jump to create a new military department. DoD needs to slow down and take a deep breath, evaluate the issues that are causing our national security space enterprise to falter, and develop a strategic plan to fix them. Throwing more money and even more bureaucracy at the issue is not going to help, and holding to unrealistic timelines will not allow for thorough progress reviews of incremental steps, such as establishing a space combatant command or a dedicated space acquisition and development agency. (10/3)

The End of an Era in the Exploration of Europa (Source: Space Review)
Last week’s midterm elections saw the defeat of Rep. John Culberson, a major advocate for missions to Jupiter’s moon Europa. Jason Callahan explains what that means for NASA missions under development, and why some scientists might not be that surprised. Click here. (11/12)
A Different Trajectory for Funding Space Science Missions (Source: Space Review)
The budget increases that NASA’s planetary science program has enjoyed for the last several years may soon come to an end, even while there’s no shortage of compelling mission concepts. Jeff Foust reports on two alternative approaches under study for doing planetary exploration, involving philanthropy and coalitions. Click here. (11/12)
Spaceplanes: the Triumph of Hope Over Experience (Source: Space Review)
For decades, engineers have tried to develop spaceplanes that can operate like aircraft, only to suffer technical shortfalls. John Hollaway argues that the failed efforts to develop such vehicles mark the limits of the space launch industry. Click here. (11/12)

November 12, 2018

Muscle Cells of 8 Central Floridians Will Go to Space for a First-of-its-Kind Experiment (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The muscle cells of eight Central Floridians will be launched into space this month for a first-of-its-kind experiment. The tiny cells will travel in chips smaller than business cards, inside a lab about the size of a small box, to their cosmic destination: The International Space Station. There, the cells will spend seven days orbiting their owners on Earth.

When the cells return home, scientists will analyze how the stay in microgravity affected them. How does the weightlessness of space contribute to muscle loss? Why do astronauts come home so weak? And how could that information help us understand the kind of muscle loss that happens as we age?

It’ll be the first time that scientists will test muscle cells individually in space, said Dr. Paul Coen, a researcher at Florida Hospital’s Translational Research Institute for Metabolism & Diabetes, which conducted the study that obtained the muscle cells. Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute and microgravity experiment company Micro-gRx, both in Lake Nona, developed the “lab on a chip” in partnership with research and development company SpacePharma. (11/12)

Rocket Lab’s Modest Launch Is Giant Leap for Small Rocket Business (Source: New York Times)
A small rocket from a little-known company lifted off Sunday from the east coast of New Zealand, carrying a clutch of tiny satellites. That modest event — the first commercial launch by a U.S.-New Zealand company known as Rocket Lab — could mark the beginning of a new era in the space business, where countless small rockets pop off from spaceports around the world. This miniaturization of rockets and spacecraft places outer space within reach of a broader swath of the economy.

The rocket, called the Electron, is a mere sliver compared to the giant rockets that Elon Musk, of SpaceX, and Jeffrey P. Bezos, of Blue Origin, envisage using to send people into the solar system. It is just 56 feet tall and can carry only 500 pounds into space. But Rocket Lab is aiming for markets closer to home. Behind Rocket Lab, a host of start-up companies are also jockeying to provide transportation to space for a growing number of small satellites.

Space Angels, a space-business investment firm, is tracking 150 small launch companies. Chad Anderson, Space Angel’s chief executive, said that although the vast majority of these companies will fail, a small group possess the financing and engineering wherewithal to get off the ground. Their rockets are shrinking, because satellites are shrinking. Advances in technology and computer chips have enabled smaller satellites to perform the same tasks as their predecessors. And constellations of hundreds or thousands of small satellites, orbiting at lower altitudes that are easier to reach, can mimic the capabilities once possible only from a fixed geosynchronous position. (11/12)

Satellite Images Show North Korea ‘Continuing Missile Program at 16 Secret Sites’ (Source: Daily Beast)
North Korea is carrying on with its ballistic missile program at 16 secret facilities, new satellite images have revealed, undermining President Donald Trump’s boasts that he persuaded the hermit kingdom to abandon its weapons production and work toward denuclearization. The images, reported by The New York Times, show North Korea is continuing to make improvements at more than a dozen launching sites. The development suggests North Korea’s promise to shut down one major test site was an attempted deception.

The secret missile bases were identified in a study to be published Monday by the Beyond Parallel program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank. The disclosure is another blow for negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea. Nuclear talks between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and a high-ranking North Korean official were called off last week as the two sides hit an impasse. The U.S. believes North Korea’s progress on nuclear disarmament has been too slow, while Kim Jong Un wants the U.S. to ease up its sanctions against his country. (11/12)

Japan Recovers Experiment Capsule From ISS (Source: Asahi Shimbun)
Japan's space agency recovered a capsule Saturday that survived the reentry of a cargo spacecraft. JAXA said that ships were able to recover an experimental capsule from the Pacific Ocean containing about one kilogram of experiment specimens. The capsule separated from the HTV cargo spacecraft as it reentered over the Pacific, with the main cargo spacecraft burning up as expected. The capsule could provide another means of returning cargo from the station, something only possible today with SpaceX's Dragon and the Soyuz crewed vehicle. (11/12)

India Preps GSLV Launch as Cyclone Approaches (Source: UNI)
India is preparing for a GSLV launch this week despite an approaching cyclone. A GSLV Mark 3 rocket is scheduled to launch the GSAT-29 communications satellite Wednesday from the country's spaceport at Sriharikota. The Indian space agency ISRO said that while rains associated with an approaching cyclone will reach the spaceport by Wednesday, it should be able to get the launch off since the cyclone itself won't arrive until Thursday. (11/12)

Changes Soon for Astrobiology Institute (Source: Space News)
NASA plans to phase out its virtual institute devoted to astrobiology in favor of an alternative approach to coordinating research. The NASA Astrobiology Institute, established 20 years ago, will be shut down by the end of next year, replaced with five "research coordination networks." NASA argues that the institute, and its overhead expenses, are no longer needed given the maturity of the field, but some scientists are worried about what this means for the agency's support, and funding, of astrobiology research. Agency officials say that they will continue to fund astrobiology research, and that the new networks will provide more flexibility in how it supports that work. (11/12)

European Scientists Select ExoMars Rover Landing Site (Source: BBC)
European scientists have selected their preferred landing site for the ExoMars 2020 rover. Those scientists, meeting in the U.K. last week, chose the Oxia Planum region near the Martian equator. That area contains clays and other minerals formed from interaction with water earlier in the planet's history, and scientists think could be an ideal location to look for evidence of any past life there. The landing site decision will have to be formally approved later by ESA and Roscosmos, with a final decision expected in mid-2019. (11/12)

Scottish Landowners Approve Spaceport Bid (Source: Aberdeen Press and Journal)
Scottish landowners have approved a proposal to build a spaceport on their property. Members of Melness Crofters Estate voted to back the proposed launch site in northern Scotland, allowing the project to move ahead into the next stage of planning, including environmental studies. Nearly 60 percent of landowners voted in favor of the proposal, but opponents claim not all the ballots were properly registered. (11/12)

Russia's RD-180 Could Lift New Heavy Rocket (Source: TASS)
Russian RD-180 engines could find new life on a proposed heavy-lift rocket. Energomash CEO Igor Arbuzov said the RD-180 engine built by his company could be used on the second stage of a future heavy-lift rocket, one unlikely to fly before the late 2020s. The engine could also be considered for a "modernized" version of the Soyuz-2 rocket. The RD-180 is currently used by United Launch Alliance's Atlas 5, but that vehicle will be phased out during the first half of the 2020s as the company introduces its Vulcan rocket, powered by Blue Origin's BE-4 engine. (11/12)

The Mars Society's Robert Zubrin Has a 'Moon Direct' Plan to Drive a Lunar Economy (Source:
The Moon Direct plan, which Zubrin laid out in today's edition (Oct. 31) of the journal The New Atlantis, aims to send astronauts directly to the moon, rather than making a pit stop at NASA's planned Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway. That space station would orbit the moon and serve as an outpost for crewed missions to the moon, Mars and deep space. Zubrin argued that the Gateway is unnecessary and instead suggested building a moon base. This idea, Zubrin argued, would reduce mission propulsion requirements, as well as other costs associated with building and maintaining a lunar gateway. (11/1)

November 11, 2018

Trump Ally Dana Rohrabacher Loses to Democratic Challenger Harley Rouda (Source: Washington Examiner)
The Associated Press has declared Democrat Harley Rouda to be the winner in his House race against Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., a few hours after Rouda declared victory. In its announcement Saturday evening, the AP said the updated vote count showed Rousa with 52 percent of the vote and around a 8,500-vote lead over Rohrabacher. Rohrabacher, a 30-year incumbent and staunch Trump ally, has yet to concede the race. Hours earlier, Rouda claimed the race after breaking away with the lead. (11/10)

Rocket Lab Aces First Commercial Launch (Source:
The spaceflight startup's Electron rocket aced its first commercial flight tonight (Nov. 10), lofting six small satellites and a technology demonstrator to low-Earth orbit, about 310 miles (500 kilometers) above our planet. The mission, which Rocket Lab called "It's Business Time," lifted off from the company's New Zealand launch site. The two-stage Electron first delivered its payloads to an elliptical parking orbit; a "kick stage" that separated from the rocket's upper stage then circularized the orbits of the satellites, which were deployed about 54 minutes after liftoff, Rocket Lab representatives said. (11/10)

Cape Canaveral Can Now Launch Commercial Spaceplanes (Source: Popular Mechanics)
Cape Canaveral Spaceport is made of more than launchpads. The famed space coast site also has a 15,000-foot runway, a veteran of more than 130 Space Shuttle landings. Those landings came to an end in 2011, though, but now, seven years later, that runway is open for commercial business. Yesterday, Florida's spaceport authority reported that the FAA issued a launch license for operations at the site.

The runway, for now still called the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF), is a symbol of where spaceflight has been—now it's becoming a key hub of the future. Since 2015 the runway, tower, and other pieces have been operated by Space Florida, the state's spaceport development authority. Space Florida has been working on this license since December 2015 and just submitted the more than 120-page application in February. On Thursday the FAA approved the paperwork, which allows the Cape Canaveral Spaceport to support operations of aircraft that carry air-launched rockets.

SLF Airfield Manager James Mofitt said that direct-to-orbit spaceplanes—those that take off from a runway and cruise directly into suborbital space without using a carrier—are covered by the license. The best-known company offering this type of spacecraft was XCOR, which folded earlier this year, but the spaceport wants to be ready for future developments. The license cost “a couple million dollars” but that amount includes work being done to credential a secondary site. Spaceports are often accused of a build-it-and-they-will-come strategy, but Mofitt points to the plethora of space launch companies that are coming online. “Did we get this license on spec? Sure. But it’s safe to say this will pay off,” he says. (11/9)

If Everyone Left the International Space Station (Source: The Atlantic)
It’s important to note that the ISS doesn’t depend on the presence of a crew to fly. Mission controllers on the ground can operate the station as it coasts through space, traveling at an average speed of 17,500 miles an hour. ISS systems are built to be redundant; a failure of one of several identical systems doesn’t signal a major catastrophe. If necessary, Russia can also deliver uncrewed Progress capsules to dock to the ISS and, as has been done in the past, fire their thrusters to elevate the station, keeping it in its usual orbit.

After the Soyuz launch failure, NASA spent several weeks preparing for the possibility of leaving the ISS unoccupied. The space agency has a “de-crew” document for this scenario, which instructs the departing astronauts to make sure systems are running fine, install backups, and top off science experiments. But NASA’s protocols don’t specify exactly how long the ISS could theoretically operate without a crew. Although the station can be operated remotely, there’s no substitute for having people on board. Astronauts conduct repairs inside and outside the station, replace aging hardware, and perform regular checks of life-support systems. (11/9)

NASA’s Europa Lander in Jeopardy After Midterms -- and Some are Fine Seeing it Go (Source: The Verge)
Now that Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) is about to leave public office, the Europa lander will no longer have its champion, making its future at NASA uncertain. NASA never formally requested a lander for Europa, and the president’s latest budget request noted that the administration had no intention of funding such a program. No other lawmaker seems to be as passionate about the project, nor in the same position to keep the program alive.

Plus, there are some in the science community who wouldn’t be upset to see the mission go. In fact, a few experts are concerned that sending a lander to Europa right now is premature, as we don’t know enough about the moon’s surface to successfully touch down on it. And there’s frustration over the fact that the lander was born from a politician rather than scientific consensus. “The Europa lander was always Culberson’s,” Emily Lakdawalla, the senior editor at The Planetary Society, tells The Verge. “It’s a mission that came out of Congress as opposed to a mission that came out of the [science community].” (11/10)

NASA and Yuri Milner Working Together on Life-Hunting Mission to Enceladus (Source: Gizmodo)
It looks like NASA will offer billionaire entrepreneur and physicist Yuri Milner help on the first private deep-space mission: a journey designed to detect life, if it exists, on Saturn’s moon Enceladus, according to documents acquired by New Scientist. New Scientist’s Mark Harris reports:

"Agreements signed by NASA and Milner’s non-profit Breakthrough Starshot Foundation in September show that the organisations are working on scientific, technical and financial plans for the ambitious mission. NASA has committed over $70,000 to help produce a concept study for a flyby mission. The funds won’t be paid to Breakthrough but represent the agency’s own staffing costs on the project." (11/8)

Camden Spaceport Won't Live Up to Expectations (Source: Brunswick News)
Not only was Nov. 6 Election Day, but it was the ignoble third anniversary of the announcement in the Federal Register that Camden County was going to spend a rocket-load of money on its spaceport odyssey. Six million dollars and three years later, the spaceport Environmental Impact Statement is now officially paused. Camden Commission chair Jimmy Starline says it’s the FAA “process,” but the FAA states it’s due to “project sponsor factors.” Whatever.

The public’s input and participation has temporarily stopped this ill-advised project that would have severe consequences for Camden and Glynn. We were promised by Camden’s spaceport consultant that rockets were 99.01 percent safe. But the Draft EIS had to admit a failure rate of up to 6 percent, which the FAA figures up to 93 percent for new rockets. That’s one launch failure every 17 months. Shockingly, the EIS failed to study the consequence of a rocket crash on Cumberland, Jekyll, or St. Andrews Sound although the National Environmental Protection Act requires it.

Meanwhile, Vector Space, the company that launched an amateur rocket from Camden in 2017 and promised us a rocket factory, hasn’t launched anything since. But Vector promised Virginia and Alaska rocket launches to orbit in 2018. The first won’t happen until next year, if then. Neither will the promised Florida rocket factory. We just re-elected the politicians that continue to waste money on the spaceport that will never launch a rocket. Are they tell us they don’t have better uses for our taxes? (11/10)

Two More Mysterious Rogue Planets Found (Source: Popular Mechanics)
Rogue planets wander through space without orbiting a star, and now scientists have found two more of these free-floating worlds. For centuries, the very existence of rogue planets was hypothetical. Because they're not close to a star that lights them up, they're tremendously difficult to spot. Then a technique known as gravitational microlensing came around.

Using gravitational microlensing, scientists find planets by noting when a rogue planet interrupts a star's light from our point of view. The planet suddenly acts as a lens for the star's light, curving it as it would be seen from Earth. The bigger the planet, the bigger the interruption. While humanity has proven great at finding exoplanets attached to stars, scientists have only identified a dozen or so rogues. That's what makes adding two more to the pile such a big deal. The planets are officially called OGLE-2017-BLG-0560 and OGLE-2012-BLG-1323, respectively, and there's a lot we don't know about them. (11/9)

SpaceX Wants to Fly Some Internet Satellites Closer to Earth to Cut Down on Space Trash (Source: The Verge)
SpaceX is revising its satellite internet initiative, Starlink, and it now hopes to operate some of its spacecraft at a lower altitude than originally planned. In a new filing to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), SpaceX is asking the agency to modify its license so that more than 1,500 Starlink satellites can operate at an altitude 600 kilometers lower than the company originally requested.

SpaceX argues that this change will make the space environment safer, as it will be easier to get rid of these satellites at this new altitude when they run low on fuel or can no longer function properly in orbit. This update could also explain the unexpected behavior of two of SpaceX’s test satellites for Starlink, which have remained in lower orbits than expected.

Back in March, the FCC approved SpaceX’s license for the first phase of its ambitious Starlink initiative — the company’s long-term plan to launch nearly 12,000 satellites into orbit to beam internet coverage down to Earth. Initially, SpaceX asked the FCC for permission to launch 4,425 satellites into orbits ranging between 1,110 to 1,325 kilometers high. But with this new filing, SpaceX is requesting that 1,584 of those satellites, which were supposed to operate at 1,110 kilometers, be allowed to operate at 550 kilometers instead. (11/9)

November 10, 2018

Moon Express Pays Intuitive Machines (Source: Space News)
Commercial lunar transportation firm Moon Express delivered 590,710 shares of stock worth an estimated $2.25 million to Intuitive Machines LLC, a firm with autonomous systems expertise, as ordered Oct. 15 by a federal judge in Delaware. “I recently received the shares per the judge’s order,” Steve Altemus, Intuitive Machines president, said. The dispute between the two companies is not settled, though. Moon Express is preparing to appeal the judgment. Intuitive is asking the Delaware court to convert the Moon Express equity awarded into cash. (11/9)

Rocket Lab's Third Launch Could Be The Start Of Something Big (Source: Forbes)
The US-based company Rocket Lab is gearing up for its third-ever launch tomorrow, its first fully commercial flight and a key milestone as it aims to prove the viability of smaller rockets. Their Electron rocket, given the nickname “It’s Business Time”, is set to lift off from Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 1 on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island this weekend.

The rocket has a nine-day launch window, with the first launch opportunity coming on Saturday 10 November at 10pm Eastern time. On board will be seven payloads, including a demonstration drag sail to practice de-orbiting space junk and a student-led experiment. If all goes to plan, the rocket will place these payloads into an orbit 500 kilometers (310 miles) above Earth. (11/9)

Australia’s Space Future: Where To Next on the Final Frontier? (Source: ASPI)
With the establishment of the Australian Space Agency on 1 July this year and the growth of Australia’s space industry, the future has arrived for many Australian space advocates. A critical mass of participants, initiatives and developments are riding a wave of government enthusiasm and private-sector support. It’s a good time to be involved in space in this country. It’s also a good time to look forward, and consider where we might head over the next decade in space.

The starting point has to be with the Australian Space Agency, which released its charter setting out its purpose, values, roles, responsibilities, approach to governance, and reporting arrangements at the end of October. The agency’s purpose is to ‘transform and grow a globally respected Australian space industry that lifts the broader economy, inspires and improves the lives of Australians—underpinned by strong international and national engagement’. Click here. (11/9)

Mars Demands Component, Packaging and Design Trifecta (Source: EE Times)
Tried and true is the battle cry of military and aerospace organizations determined to study Mars. Although emerging technologies could facilitate the journey, heritage devices with a proven track record remain the best path forward for systems that can withstand unexpected events, intense radiation, and the harsh conditions of the Red Planet. Click here. (11/8)

SpaceX Targeting Next Week for Falcon 9 Mission; First Daytime Launch in 6 Months (Source: Florida Today)
If schedules hold, SpaceX next week will vault a Falcon 9 rocket from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport into the day's last light, signaling a break from the Space Coast's streak of late-night launches. Teams next Thursday have a launch window at pad 39A that opens in the afternoon and closes around sunset. It will also mark SpaceX's first launch from the historic Apollo and space shuttle-era pad since May.

The rocket's first stage is expected to perform an automated descent toward the Of Course I Still Love You drone ship shortly after liftoff, so Space Coast residents and visitors should not anticipate the usual triple sonic booms that are heard when the booster returns. It should sail into Port Canaveral before the end of the weekend. On board: Es'hail-2, a Qatari communications satellite for operator Es'hailSat that will cover the Middle East and North Africa region from a geostationary orbit.

SpaceX's following launch is also scheduled for a daytime liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Dec. 4. That mission, the company's 16th resupply of the International Space Station, has an instantaneous 1:38 p.m. launch window and will ferry thousands of pounds of cargo, science experiments and supplies. (11/10)

Antares Rocket to Launch from Virginia Thursday (Source: Virginian-Pilot)
Stardust, protein crystals, virtual reality, cement, recycled plastics – these are key components of a few of the science experiments set to launch from Virginia’s spaceport to the International Space Station next Thursday. The idea behind these experiments is to advance our understanding of how the universe formed from stardust, the pathology of Parkinson’s disease, making and using concrete on celestial bodies, and the sustainable fabrication and repair of plastic materials on lengthy space missions.

The rocket is set to lift off at 4:49 a.m. on Nov. 15 from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA Wallops Flight Facility. It will boost an unmanned Cygnus cargo craft bearing 7,500 pounds of groceries, hardware and research to space station crew. Weather permitting, Antares launches are visible throughout the mid-Atlantic, with Hampton Roads residents treated to front-row seats. (11/8)

The Republican Space Fans Exiting the House (Source: The Atlantic)
After eight years in power, Republicans in the House of Representatives will soon hand over the gavel to Democrats. When the new Congress convenes in January, the chamber will contain dozens fewer Republicans—and fewer Republican supporters of space exploration. The outcome of Tuesday’s elections will sweep several longtime champions of NASA out of the House. Some have held office for many years, and their interest in space exploration has led to hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for ambitious projects. Plenty of ardent NASA advocates remain in the chamber, but the departure of these well-known faces could lead to a shift in legislative priorities.

Perhaps the most significant loss occurred in Texas’s Seventh Congressional District, home to thousands of the employees at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. A political newcomer, Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, defeated the incumbent John Culberson, who has served in the House since 2001. Culberson, an attorney, doesn’t have a science background. Culberson has fiercely supported one mission in particular: a journey to one of Jupiter’s moons, the icy Europa. (11/8)

NASA Awards $7 Million to University to Search for Extraterrestrial Life (Source: The Hoya)
NASA awarded a $7 million grant to Georgetown University biology professor Sarah Johnson and a team of researchers to work on a project in search of extraterrestrial life. The Laboratory for Agnostic Biosignatures led by Johnson and her team is working to pioneer a new way of approaching the search for life outside of planet Earth, focusing on Mars and on the moons of Jupiter and Saturn. The NASA funding is set to continue for the next five years. LAB is a collaborative effort of 15 members from universities and scientific research institutions from around the world. (11/9)

Trump's Space Force Faces an Uncertain Fate (Source: The Atlantic)
For the past several months, Donald Trump’s administration has explored the creation of a new military branch to protect national interests in outer space. Perhaps no one is as excited about this effort as President Trump, who came up with the idea. “He only asks me about the Space Force every week,” Mike Pence joked at a meeting of the National Space Council last month, where members formulated plans to bring the Space Force to life.

But the outcome of the midterm elections has derailed their efforts. The Trump administration cannot establish the Space Force on its own. It needs Congress. It needs individual lawmakers to support the proposal, and then translate that support into legislation that provides funding and empowers government officials. And, in an ideal world, those lawmakers would be in the majority. (11/9)

McClain Ready for Flight to ISS Next Month (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Two major mishaps in the Russian space program have made the last three months tumultuous for NASA astronaut Anne McClain, raising questions about whether her planned December flight to the International Space Station would ever take off. First, a hole that caused an air leak was discovered in August in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft attached to the space station, but was later patched. Then last month, the launch of a different Soyuz headed to the space station was aborted because of a rocket booster failure, grounding American astronauts who depend on Russia to ferry them into space until the cause was determined.

But on Friday -- with her launch date moved up to Dec. 3 and her training regimen adjusted -- McClain said she is more confident than ever to strap into a Soyuz and rocket out of Earth's atmosphere. This will be McClain's first spaceflight since being selected as an astronaut in 2013. She, along with Russia's Oleg Kononenko and Canadian Space Agency's David Saint-Jacques initially were supposed to launch from Kazakhstan on Dec. 20. (11/9)

UCF Researcher Will Use Blue Origin Rocket to Study Dust Clouds in Low-Gravity Environment (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
A UCF researcher’s experiment will hitch a ride into areas of space with low gravity on a Blue Origin rocket. Julie Brisset, an associate scientist at the school’s Florida Space Institute, recently landed a $250,000 NASA grant to study how microgravity affects dust clouds. The research could eventually help scientists learn more about the birth of stars or research smog in major cities. (11/6)

We Need to Change the Way We Talk About Space Exploration (Source: National Geographic)
To ensure that humanity’s future off-world is less harmful and open to all, many of the people involved are revising the problematic ways in which space exploration is framed. Numerous conversations are taking place about the importance of using inclusive language, with scholars focusing on decolonizing humanity’s next journeys into space, as well as science in general. “Language matters, and it’s so important to be inclusive,” NASA astronaut Leland Melvin said recently during a talk at the University of Virginia.

The language we use automatically frames how we envision the things we talk about. So, with space exploration, we have to consider how we are using that language, and what it carries from the history of exploration on Earth. Even if words like “colonization” have a different context off-world, on somewhere like Mars, it’s still not OK to use those narratives, because it erases the history of colonization here on our own planet. There’s this dual effect where it both frames our future and, in some sense, edits the past. (11/9)

November 9, 2018

Air Force Tests a Minuteman III Missile with Vandenberg Launch (Source: Ars Technica)
The weapon, with a mock warhead, blasted out of its underground silo at Vandenberg Air Force Base at 11:01pm Tuesday. For the test, the military sought to track the mock re-entry vehicle as it traveled to a predetermined target site. "Though the reentry vehicle reached its intended target, the test and analysis data is not releasable to the public," Joe Thomas, a spokesman for Louisiana-based Global Strike Command, told Noozhawk.

The military would provide no further details of the test. The Air Force conducts about four Minuteman III missile tests annually from Vandenberg to gather information about the weapon system’s accuracy and reliability. The last test, on July 31, ended prematurely with Vandenberg personnel sending a self-destruct command due to some unspecific anomaly spotted during the flight. (11/9)

Azores Spaceport Idea Draws Interest from Launchers (Source: Ars Technica)
A proposed Azores spaceport appears to be popular. A spaceport concept in the southernmost-island in the Azores, Santa Maria, received 14 formal proposals from international space consortiums, the Portuguese news site Expresso reports. Contracts for development of the site may be let in 2019, with the first launch tentatively scheduled for 2021. Among those reportedly interested are industry heavyweights such as ArianeGroup and Roscosmos, as well as some emerging US commercial space companies like Sierra Nevada and Virgin Orbit. The Portuguese government had only expected four respondents. (11/9)

Space Command to Oversee Purchase of DOD Satellite Services (Source: Space News)
The Air Force Space Command is taking over the responsibility of buying satellite communications services for the Pentagon, per congressional order. "Our team is looking forward to an unprecedented window of opportunity to transform how we acquire commercial satcom," says Clare Grason, division chief for satellite communications at the Defense Information Systems Agency, who will begin reporting to the Air Force in late December. (11/8)

NASA Certifies SpaceX Falcon 9 for High Value Science Mission (Source: Space News)
NASA has certified SpaceX's Falcon 9 to launch the agency's most valuable science missions. SpaceX said Thursday it received the Category 3 certification from NASA's Launch Services Program, which makes the Falcon 9 available to launch high-value science missions, from flagship-class missions down to planetary science missions in the Discovery program. SpaceX had previously launched lower-priority science missions on the Falcon 9 that did not require Category 3 certification, and its commercial cargo and crew missions are handled separately. (11/9)

Canadian Military Seeks MUOS Access (Source: Space News)
The Canadian military is seeking to become part of the U.S. military's MUOS satellite system. Col. Cameron Stoltz, director general of space for the Canadian Armed Forces, said Thursday that Canada is seeking to become a partner in MUOS, paying "hundreds of millions of dollars" for assured access to the system. MUOS, the Mobile User Objective System, features five satellites to provide mobile communications services worldwide. Canada is already a partner on two other military communications systems, the Wideband Global Satcom and Advanced Extremely High Frequency constellations. (11/9)

Spaceflight Arranges Launch of 12 Satellites Aboard India's PSLV C43 (Source: Space Daily)
Spaceflight, the leading satellite rideshare and mission management provider, reports it will launch 12 spacecraft in November from India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). Payloads aboard the mission include Fleet Space Technologies' Centauri I, Harris Corporation's HSAT, Spire's LEMUR satellites, and BlackSky's Global-1 microsatellite. (11/9)

India Plans Venus Mission, Seeks Partners (Source: Hindustan Times)
India is seeking partners for a Venus mission under devleopment. The Indian space agency ISRO said it is working on a Venus orbiter mission it expects to launch in 2023 that will carry a dozen instruments. ISRO released an announcement of opportunity this week for the mission, soliciting proposals from space agencies and other organizations outside India for instruments that could be included on the spacecraft. (11/9)

China Shows Off Space Hardware (Source: GB Times)
A variety of space hardware was on display at a Chinese airshow. Exhibits at the Zhuhai Airshow in southern China this week included a full-size model of the core module of China's space station, as well as a model of the Chang'e-4 lunar lander set to attempt the first landing on the far side of the moon next month. A variety of launch vehicles were also on display, from the planned Long March 9 heavy-lift rocket to Smart Dragon 1, a vehicle capable of placing 150 kilograms into orbit. (11/9)

NASA Looks to University Researchers for Innovative Space Tech Solutions (Source: Space Daily)
University-led research could transform the future of space exploration, from small spacecraft to "smart" systems for the Moon, Mars and beyond. NASA has selected 14 proposals for the study of innovative, early stage technologies that address high-priority needs of America's space program. The universities will work on their proposed research and development projects for up to three years and will receive as much as $500,000 each in Early Stage Innovations grant funding from NASA's Space Technology Research Grants program. Click here. (11/9)

Northrop Grumman Eyes Synergy Between OmegA and SLS Solid Rocket Boosters (Source:
With an Air Force development contract secured for the OmegA rocket, Northrop Grumman has provided an update on their primarily solid rocket fueled medium- and heavy-lift rocket that is expected to begin a four flight test program from the LC-39B at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport in 2021. Northrop Grumman received $792 million in Air Force funding to continue development of their OmegA launcher family – though a vast majority of the groundwork was first funded by Orbital ATK.

With the Air Force contract secured and funding for Phase 1 of the contract guaranteed, work will soon begin in earnest at the Kennedy Space Center on needed infrastructure, stacking, and launch hardware builds and needs. As of August 2018, former Space Shuttle MLP (Mobile Launch Platform) #2 had been driven into VAB in preparation for its reconfiguration efforts for OmegA. Northrop will contract significant modifications to MLP-2 to account for the different thrust and blast profiles the platform will experience during an OmegA liftoff.

The new tower will also contain all of the fueling lines and systems for OmegA’s cryogenic third stage as well as the necessary height differentials (the Heavy variant is significantly taller than the Intermediate) for those systems to serve both the Intermediate and Heavy configurations, which will both launch from the same MLP and be serviced from the same OmegA tower. High Bay #2 of the VAB will also require reconfigurations to allow workers access to the OmegA tower and rocket during stacking operations. (11/5)

House Science Committee May Soon Become Pro-Science (Source: WIRED)
For the past eight years, climate science has been under a sort of spell in the House of Representatives. Instead of trying to understand it better or even acknowledging some of the field’s current uncertainties, House Science Committee Chairman Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) used his position to harass federal climate scientists with subpoenas while holding hearings on “Making the EPA Great Again” or whether “global warming theories are alarmist” and researchers are pursuing a “personal agenda.”

But Smith retired this year and Democrats won control of the House on Tuesday. Now some on Capitol Hill say that the anti-climate science spell may be broken. “Hopefully we will no longer see the science committee used as a messaging tool for the fossil fuel industry,” says Rep. Bill Foster, an Illinois Democrat and science committee member.

Foster, who was a particle physicist before being elected to Congress in 2008, said he also wants to see more appearances from cabinet members like Energy Secretary Rick Perry or EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to explain both their budget and their rulemaking on environmental and science issues. Neither agency head was called before Smith’s committee during his tenure, Foster says. (11/7)

The Space Launch Legend Who's Backing a Startup (Source: Popular Mechanics)
Jim Cantrell, a quiet force behind the new U.S. space industry, is on the verge of an orbital launch with his small satellite launch company, Vector. Here he delves into the past and future of the space industry, as only a veteran who has Forest Gump-ed his way through aerospace history can do.

During a four-decade career as a mechanical engineer and entrepreneur, Cantrell has been there for the founding of SpaceX, designed the Planetary Society’s LightSail solar sail program, and formed the Moon Express lunar landing company that competed in the Lunar X Prize and recently received a venture cash infusion to finish building its lunar lander. Now the venerable engineer is the man behind Vector, a startup growing into a major player in the boom business of launching small satellites. Click here. (11/8)

November 8, 2018

Space Coast Aerospace Industry Apprenticeships Event Planned Nov. 13 (Source: SCAC)
As part of National Apprenticeship Week, the Space Coast Apprenticeship Consortium will be hosting a Space Coast Consortium Open House and Networking Event on Nov. 13. The event will take place at the Knight’s Armament Function Hall in Titusville, Florida. Community stakeholders, local dignitaries, and the press are invited to attend this open house event. Due to the event logistics and over 90 attendees already scheduled to attend the event, this event will be by invitation only. (11/8)

Johns Hopkins Scientist Finds Elusive Star with Origins Close to Big Bang (Source: Space Daily)
Astronomers have found what could be one of the universe's oldest stars, a body almost entirely made of materials spewed from the Big Bang. The discovery of this approximately 13.5 billion-year-old tiny star means more stars with very low mass and very low metal content are likely out there - perhaps even some of the universe's very first stars.

The star is part of the Milky Way's "thin disk" - the part of the galaxy in which our own sun resides. And because this star is so old, researchers say it's possible that our galactic neighborhood is at least 3 billion years older than previously thought. The newly discovered star's extremely low metallicity indicates that, in a cosmic family tree, it could be as little as one generation removed from the Big Bang. It is the new record holder for the star with the smallest complement of heavy elements --it has about the same heavy element content as the planet Mercury. In contrast, our sun is thousands of generations down that line and has a heavy element content equal to 14 Jupiters. (11/6)

Space Florida Gets FAA Spaceport License for Shuttle Landing Facility (Source: Space Florida)
The FAA issued Space Florida a Launch Site Operator License (LSOL) for operations at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF). This landmark license, which is required by any site with multiple users, expands the capabilities of the Cape to multiple horizontal launch and landing customers. The license allows the Cape Canaveral Spaceport to support operations of aircraft that carry an air-launched vehicle such as the Northrup Grumman Pegasus, Vulcan Systems’ Stratolaunch, Virgin Orbit Launcher One, Virgin Galactic Spaceship 2, Starfighters F-104-based missions, potential new national security programs and others.

The issuance of LSOL culminates a multi-year effort as Space Florida and the FAA completed significant policy, safety, and environmental planning and assessment. Submitted in February 2018, the 120+ page Space Florida application was reviewed, assessed and ultimately approved by the FAA for compliance with Federal statute. For the Environmental Assessment, Space Florida and the FAA reviewed over 400 comments from various agencies including NASA, the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service.

The Landing Facility license is a key part in transforming the Cape Canaveral Spaceport into the world's premier spaceport. With “space” as a mode of transportation in Florida, a vital partnership with the Florida Department of Transportation and its Spaceport Improvement Program, enabled this important capacity improvement to the Florida Spaceport System. (11/8)

Embry-Riddle and Florida Tech Collaborate on Spaceflight Research (Source: ERAU)
With the common goal of improving human performance inside spacecraft, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Florida Institute of Technology have announced a year-long collaboration on research involving spaceflight. The joint effort involves Embry-Riddle’s S.U.I.T. (Spacesuit Utilization of Innovative Technology) Lab at Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach Campus and principal investigator Dr. Ryan Kobrick, assistant professor of Spaceflight Operations, along with Florida Tech’s Human Spaceflight or HSF Lab, directed by Assistant Professor Dr. Ondrej Doule.

Both labs were founded in 2017 to support their human spaceflight programs and both are directly involved in the rapidly evolving space industry. Embry-Riddle’s S.U.I.T. Lab is geared toward spacesuit development, performance assessment, human physiology, spacesuit systems design and related operations, while Florida Tech’s HSF Lab is focused on spaceship cabin and flight deck system architecture, human system integration, planetary outpost architecture and related simulators design. (11/7)

Nelson, Rohrabacher Await Ballot Recounts (Sources: Orlando Sentinel, LA Times)
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) says he's seeking a recount in his race to win another Senate term. Nelson was trailing Scott by fewer than 22,000 votes, out of more than 8.1 million cast, in the latest tally, within the 0.5 percent margin needed for a recount under state law. Nelson, the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee and leading figure in space policy, declined to concede Wednesday, saying his campaign would request a recount.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), trailing in his reelection race against Harley Rouda, also had not conceded pending the counting of thousands of absentee ballots. However, Rep. Steve Knight (R-CA), a member of the House Science Committee with an interest in aeronautics, did formally concede to his Democratic challenger, Katie Hill, on Wednesday. (11/7)

SpaceX Plans Mini-BFR Vehicle to Test as Falcon 9 Upper Stage (Source: Space News)
Elon Musk said Wednesday that SpaceX will modify a Falcon 9 upper stage to test technologies for its Big Falcon Rocket. In a series of tweets, Musk said that an upper stage would be modified into a "mini-BFR Ship" in order to test heat shield and control surfaces systems during re-entry from orbital velocities. That test, he said, would take place by June, but neither he nor SpaceX provided additional details on the test, including whether it would be a one-off experiment. SpaceX has for years talked about making the Falcon 9 upper stage reusable, but has not made any attempts to recover an upper stage to date. (11/7)

Blue Origin Loses Meyerson (Source: GeekWire)
The former president of Blue Origin has left the company. Rob Meyerson said he left the company last Friday and is taking time off "to determine my next steps." Meyerson joined the company as one of its first employees in 2003 and served as president for many years. He moved to the new position of senior vice president for advance development programs early this year after the company hired Bob Smith as CEO. (11/8)

ISS Computer Repaired (Source: TASS)
Russian controllers have repaired a malfunctioning computer on the ISS. The head of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, announced early Thursday that the computer, one of three on the Russian segment of the station, had been reset and was now working properly. The computer failed earlier this week and, while not posing an immediate concern to station activities, controllers wanted to repair it before next week's Progress mission to the station. (11/78)

Japan's ISS Cargo Craft Departs ISS (Source:
A Japanese cargo ship departed from the ISS Wednesday. The spacecraft was unberthed by the station's robotic arm and released around midday Wednesday. The spacecraft will reenter on Saturday, deploying after the deorbit burn an experimental reentry capsule intended to survive the spacecraft's destructive reentry over the South Pacific. (11/8)

ICON Launch Delayed for Pegasus Problems (Source: Florida Today)
A NASA space science spacecraft will likely remain on the ground through the middle of the month because of launch vehicle problems. The launch of the Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) spacecraft was scrubbed early Wednesday because of technical issues with the rocket, and the agency didn't make another attempt early Thursday. The Eastern Range is now reserved for other operations, including a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch scheduled for no earlier than Nov. 14. NASA has not announced a new date for the launch and has provided few details about the specific problem that scrubbed the latest launch attempt. (11/7)

Survivor Astronauts May Not Fly on Next Soyuz (Source: Interfax)
The two people on the aborted Soyuz MS-10 mission to the ISS last month may not get a second chance to go to the station any time soon. A Russian space industry source said that Nick Hague and Alexey Ovchinin are not currently on the list of crews scheduled to fly to the station next year. Their mission to the ISS was aborted two minutes after liftoff Oct. 11 when their Soyuz rocket malfunctioned, and Russian officials had suggested shortly after the landing that they would be reassigned to a flight in the near future. (11/78)

New Report Details Security Concerns in Outer Space (Source: Space Daily)
Key findings of a new report point to deteriorating security conditions in outer space in the absence of renewed governance efforts. Space Security Index 2018 tracks developments under 18 indicators related to four aspects of the security of outer space: environmental sustainability, access to and use of space, technologies for space security, and space governance. Click here. (11/7)

November 7, 2018

DARPA Selects Spaceports for Responsive Launch Competition (Source: Space News)
DARPA has identified eight sites in the U.S. that it plans to use for a commercial launch competition, a selection that addresses one of the major concerns of potential competitors. DARPA selected locations from Alaska to Florida that will serve as potential launch sites for its DARPA Launch Challenge, a competition the agency announced earlier this year to promote the development of responsive launch systems. The sites feature locations that can support horizontally or vertically launched vehicles.

The vertical launch sites include the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Virginia, Vandenberg AFB in California, Pacific Spaceport Complex-Alaska, and a Navy site on San Nicolas Island off the California coast. The horizontal launch sites include Cecil Spaceport in Florida, the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, Spaceport America in New Mexico and Mojave Air and Space Port in California. All eight locations already have spaceport licenses from the FAA with the exception of San Nicolas Island, a U.S. Navy facility used for missile testing.

The competition requires companies to perform two launches from two separate sites weeks apart, with the specific launch site and payload for each launch provided on short notice. Teams that complete the first launch will each receive $2 million, with prizes of $10 million, $9 million and $8 million going to the top three teams that also complete the second launch. Factors that include mass to orbit, time to orbit and orbit accuracy will be used to rank the top three teams. (11/7)

Arianespace Soyuz Mission Completes Two Constellations (Source: CLS)
Last night’s Soyuz launch completed not one, but two constellations. The Arianespace launch of Eumetsat’s Metop-C satellite completed the agency’s polar fleet of three satellites and carried a ship-tracking sensor for Collecte Localisation Satellites (CLS), a subsidiary of the French space agency CNES. CLS now has seven Argos payloads in orbit. The company will transfer Argos operations next year to Kineis, a CNES-backed startup preparing a constellation of 20 nanosatellites for Internet of Things connectivity. Kineis’ low-Earth-orbit constellation is expected to start service in 2021. (11/7)

S7 Hopes to Convert Sea Launch's Floating Platform for Reusable Rocket (Source: TASS)
S7 Group wants to retrofit Sea Launch’s Odyssey floating launch base to support a reusable launch vehicle. After completing the purchase of Sea Launch in April, S7 Group now views expendable rockets as uncompetitive. “It is not even funny to compete with reusable and cheap offers entering the market with a non-reusable carrier," S7 Space CEO Sergei Sopov said in an interview. S7 Space is planning a reusable variant of Russia’s future Soyuz 5 rocket called the Soyuz 7 Sea Launch, or Soyuz 7SL. Sopov said S7 Space has not determined how it would recover the rocket’s first-stage booster. (11/7)

How Elon Musk’s Space Internet Could Work (Source: New Scientist)
Mark Handley at University College London has created a detailed simulation of what Starlink might look like, which he will present at a conference next week. Although Musk has said he wants more than half of all internet traffic to go through Starlink – Handley’s simulation suggests that the project will be most appealing to high-frequency traders at big banks, who might be willing to fork out large sums for dedicated, faster connections.

To create the simulation, Handley took what information he could from SpaceX’s public FCC filings and combined this with his knowledge of computer networks. Initially, Starlink will consist of 4425 satellites orbiting between 1100 and 1300 kilometres up, a greater number of active satellites than are currently in orbit. There is only one way to arrange this many in a configuration that minimises collisions, says Handley. So he is confident that his simulation reflects what SpaceX is going for. Click here. (11/7)

Stakes Raised for NASA’s Planned Supersonic X-Plane (Source: Aerospace America)
A sometimes-misunderstood reality of NASA’s X-59 supersonic demonstrator, the first parts of which are about to be produced, is that the U.S. aviation industry is mainly interested in the plane for the regulatory ground it could break, a point backed by my interviews with executives of companies targeting the supersonic market.

At the moment, passenger and cargo aircraft are barred from flying supersonically overland in the U.S., while abroad, noise regulations make supersonic flights impossible with current technology. “In the near term,” explained NASA’s Peter Coen, manager of the Commercial Supersonics Technology Project, the X-59’s biggest role will be to help the FAA and the International Civil Aviation Organization “establish standards for acceptable supersonic overland flight noise.”

In a series of flights from 2022 through 2025, a pilot will fly the X-59 to Mach 1.5 over U.S. communities yet to be selected. The plane’s long nose, swept wing and engine nacelle should space out shockwaves enough to create a “sonic thump,” as NASA calls it. If all goes as hoped, residents will find this noise acceptable compared to a sonic boom. The X-59 flights will provide necessary data for that noise limit. So far, however, no company has stepped forward to say it is interested in adapting the X-59 technologies. (11/6)

Kazakhstan Chooses SpaceX Over a Russian Rocket for Satellite Launch (Source: Ars Technica)
The first satellite launched into orbit, Sputnik, launched from a spaceport in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. The Central Asian country was then a Soviet republic. Later, the first human to fly into space, Yuri Gagarin, also launched from Kazakhstan. Today, despite its independence, this spaceport remains the primary launch site for the Russian space program. However, when Kazakhstan wanted to get a small scientific satellite named KazSaySat and a technology satellite called KazistiSat into space, the country didn't select a Russian rocket. Instead, it chose the US-based launch company SpaceX to reach orbit. (11/6)

Russia Says One of its Space Station Computers Failed but Two Others are A-OK (Source: GeekWire)
One of the three computers on the Russian side of the International Space Station has crashed, but orbital operations are unaffected because the two other systems are in working order, Russia’s space agency reported. “To restore the computer to work, it is necessary to restart it,” Roscosmos said. That will happen on Thursday. The two other computer systems are sufficient for safe operation of the station indefinitely, but it wants the third one back online “to ensure the reliability” of next week’s scheduled docking with an uncrewed Russian Progress cargo spacecraft. (11/7)

‘Off-Nominal Data’ Prompts Postponement of ICON Launch Aboard Pegasus From Florida (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The flight of NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) was scrubbed less than 30 minutes before its planned launch via Northrop Grumman’s air-dropped Pegasus XL rocket due to off-nominal data observed on the Pegasus XL rocket. The L-1011 carrier aircraft took off from the Skid Strip runway at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport in the early-morning hours of Nov. 7 and began its trek toward the drop zone just east of Daytona Beach for a 3:05 a.m. EST launch. Soon after, an issue was discovered and the aircraft returned to the Skid Strip. (11/7)

Why the Midterms Could Kill Trump's Space Force (Source: Fiscal Times)
The fate of President Trump’s new military branch could depend on the outcomes of the midterm elections, says Joe Gould of Defense News. The Pentagon is working on a plan to create the Space Force, which Trump called for back in June, but there’s still a long way to go before that plan becomes reality. Perhaps most importantly, the creation of a new branch of the military requires an act of Congress, and a Democratically-controlled House may not have much interest in granting Trump’s wish. (11/6)

Russian Space Leader Issues Decree Against Trash, “Sloppy” Work Attitudes (Source: Ars Technica)
Dmitry Rogozin is not having the best year. Earlier, he was essentially demoted from his position as deputy prime minister over defense and space to a position managing Roscosmos, the Russian space corporation. And since then he has had to grapple with a number of embarrassing spaceflight problems, including an errant drill hole in a Soyuz spacecraft and an emergency landing of another one after a rocket exploded mid-flight.

The Kommersant newspaper obtained a copy of a directive that Rogozin has issued to the leaders of companies and facilities that serve Roscosmos. Rogozin asserts that some of these problems are caused by shabbily maintained facilities. “The grounds have not been cleaned up for years—in many places there is construction trash and roads are torn up,” his letter states. “Employees at such companies have become accustomed to such conditions as normal, and this creates a habit of poor manufacturing culture and a sloppy attitude toward work."

Most analysts attribute the agency's recent problems to the relatively low wages Russia pays in its aerospace industry and the difficulty this has engendered in attracting and retaining a qualified workforce, resulting in quality-control issues. The result is that the long-reliable Russian rockets and spacecraft have become increasingly less reliable. (11/7)

Electon Reshapes Space Policy Landscape (Source: Space News)
Tuesday's midterm congressional elections have reshaped the space policy landscape on Capitol Hill. Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas), chairman of the appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA, lost reelection to Democrat Lizzie Pannill Fletcher. Culberson had been a major advocate for NASA in general, including missions to Jupiter's moon Europa, something he was criticized for in a campaign ad. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, appeared to lose his bid to a fourth term to Republican Rick Scott.

Nelson has yet to formally concede the race, where he trails by fewer than 35,000 votes, but his campaign said he would make a statement later today. Republicans retained control of the Senate but Democrats won a majority in the House, with several Republican members of the House Science Committee losing their reelection bids, including Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA). (11/7)

UK Military Satellite Plans Stalled (Source: Space News)
The British military's plans for a next-generation communications satellite system is suffering from "paralysis by analysis." The U.K. Ministry of Defence (MoD)  plans to hold a meeting this week with satellite executives to discuss its plans for the Skynet 6 series, an estimated $8 billion effort to modernize the satellite constellation that provides telecommunications for the British military. Among the issues the MoD is grappling with is how to mix government satellites with commercial broadband systems, as well as how to introduce competition to the program. MoD awarded a sole-source contract to Airbus last year for Skynet 6A, a contract that has not been formally signed yet but which government officials said won't be reversed. (11/7)

France Beefing Up Space Fleet (Source: Space News)
France plans to add another satellite to its military satellite communications system. A French military official said Tuesday the government will buy a third Syracuse-4 series satellite for launch no later than 2030. The satellite will differ from the first two Syracuse 4 spacecraft in order to incorporate better support for airborne systems, including drones. France currently has four military communications satellites: the two fully owned Syracuse-3A and -3B satellites, and the Sicral-2 and Athena-Fidus satellites that are shared with Italy. (11/7)

Italy Considers Smaller Satellites to Fit Vega (Source: Space News)
The Italian government is considering smaller communications satellites that could be launched on the Vega rocket. The head of the Italian Ministry of Defence's Satcom Systems Section said Tuesday that he was looking at approaches to replace the Sicral-1B geostationary orbit satellite with two smaller satellites. That, he said, would allow them to be launched on the Italian-built Vega, which can place 2,300 kilograms into low Earth orbit. (11/7)

UK Sees Space as Military Domain (Source: Space News)
The British government is not planning to establish a Space Force, but does see space as a "warfighting domain." Gen. Sir Chris Deverell, commander of Joint Forces Command, said Tuesday that the British government is concerned about Chinese and Russian activities in space that could threaten British spacecraft. Deverell's command handles space, intelligence, information systems and cyber operations, and he said the growing threats to space activities have led the government to "expand our thinking" about defending space assets. U.K. space activities, he said, have to be made "resilient to challenges, be it jamming, cyber, direct attack, space weather, debris, Brexit or anything else." (11/7)

Stratolaunch Tests Rocket Engine (Source: Space News)
Stratolaunch has test-fired a key component of a rocket engine it is developing. The company said it fired the preburner of its PGA engine for the first time last week. The preburner serves as the smaller of two combustion chambers in a staged combustion engine. The company is developing the engine, which uses liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellants, for use on future air-launched rockets. The engine takes its name from the initials of Paul G. Allen, the founder of Stratolaunch who died last month. (11/7)

Orbit Fab Plans Fuel Depot Tech Test on ISS (Source: Space News)
A startup seeking to develop orbiting propellant depots will test some of its technology on the ISS. Orbit Fab said it will fly an experiment to the station on a Dragon cargo spacecraft next month intended to demonstrate technologies for transferring propellant in weightlessness. Orbit Fab, which raised its first round of funding in August, has proposed launching propellant tanks as soon as next year to support future satellite servicing efforts. (11/7)

Portugal and China Cooperate in Space (Source: Reuters)
Portugal plans to develop a satellite research center in cooperation with China. The government's science and technology minister said the lab will develop small satellites to collect data used in agriculture, fishery and oceanography. The cost of the lab, estimated to be 50 million euros, will be split between the two countries. Portugal is also pursuing development of a spaceport in the Azores, and the government said it has received 14 expressions of interest regarding the site from vehicle developers in Europe, Russia and the United States. (11/7)

Europe Launches Weather Satellite (Source: ESA)
The third MetOp satellite, MetOp-C, has been launched on a Soyuz rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana to continue the provision of data for weather forecasting from polar orbit. The MetOp satellites are developed by ESA under a cooperation agreement to form the space segment of the Eumetsat Polar System. This system is Europe’s contribution to a multi-orbit polar system shared with the US NOAA agency. (11/7)

November 6, 2018

Turkey Will Develop Smallsat Launcher Capability (Sources: Aviation Week, SpaceWatch)
The Turkish government has formally launched a program to develop an indigenous smallsat launch vehicle. Earlier this year, Roketsan, one of Turkey’s leading company’s in the aerospace industry, announced their plans going forward with the Turkish Satellite Launch System (SLS) project they signed with the Turkish government in 2013. Even though the SLV development is a fully private venture by Rocketsan, it will be Turkey’s own vehicle to use for government missions. (11/6)

Dynetics To Provide Smallsats For U.S. Army’s Gunsmoke Demo (Sources: Aviation Week, Dynetics)
Dynetics has been selected to develop small satellites for the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command (USASMDC/ARSTRAT) Technical Center program named Gunsmoke-L. Through the Design, Development, Demonstration and Integration (D3I), Domain 1 task order, the Gunsmoke-L contract is for two years, plus one option year valued at $8.3 million to develop, test, integrate and demonstrate two tactical space support vehicles (TSSVs) which will be used to enhance all phases of joint force operations.

The small satellite-based platforms will host the next generation of tactical space support payloads designed to operate in low earth orbit (LEO) for a minimum of two years. Dynetics will conduct hardware-in-the-loop testing and simulation in conjunction with the command's Payload Development Laboratory (PDL) facility in Huntsville to optimize TSSV performance and reliability. The TSSV will be developed and integrated at Dynetics' facilities in Huntsville, which include payload development labs, clean rooms and environmental test capabilities. At completion of the two-year base period, the two TSSVs will be qualified and ready for launch. (11/6)

No to a Cheap Lunar Gateway (Source: Space Review)
NASA is current planning development of the Gateway orbiting the Moon to support lunar exploration in the 2020s. Taylor Dinerman discusses why, if the Gateway is going to be built, it should be designed to last for decades. Click here. (11/6) 
Turning Space Policy Into Space Regulation (Source: Space Review)
A space policy directive earlier this year instructed various departments to engage in commercial space regulatory reform efforts. Jeff Foust reports that, as those policies become proposed rules, industry is keenly interested in their progress and concerned in some cases about the lack of details. Click here. (11/6)
Racing China to the High Frontier (Source: Space Review)
A half-century ago, the United States and the Soviet Union raced to the Moon. Mark Whittington argues that a new Moon race is shaping up between the United States and China, with stakes no less significant than in the 1960s. Click here. (11/6)

Giant Laser 'Porch Light' in Space Could Make it Easier for Aliens to Find Us (Source: Daily Mail)
A pair of MIT researchers has proposed a radical method for making our presence known in the universe. In a new feasibility study, the team says it could be possible to use laser technology as a beacon to attract the attention of alien astronomers, much like a planetary-scale porch light. Using a laser focused through a huge telescope, the researchers say this ‘porch light’ could be seen from as far as 20,000 light-years away.

Once picked up by extraterrestrials in a nearby system, we could also use this to transmit brief messages, the researchers say. ‘If we were to successfully close a handshake and start to communicate, we could flash a message, at a data rate of about a few hundred bits per second, which would get there in just a few years,’ says author James Clark. (11/5)

DARPA Efforts Aligned with Space Force Goals (Source: Space News)
The creation of a Space Force could raise the profile of space activities at DARPA. Speaking at a conference Monday, Fred Kennedy, director of DARPA's Tactical Technology Office, didn't directly address Space Force issues, but he suggested that DARPA's efforts to shake up the "space architecture" and invest in nontraditional technology are in line with the message that the military space business cannot be done the same old way. Among DARPA's space efforts is Blackjack, a prototype smallsat constellation to demonstrate the utility of such satellites for various military missions. A follow-on program, called Casino, will develop full-fledged constellations for specific military applications. (11/6)

DARPA Hopes for Active Debris Removal Soon (Source: Space News)
DARPA and others, meanwhile, are frustrated by the slow pace of efforts to deal with orbital debris. Fred Kennedy of DARPA said Monday that his agency has studied the problem for years and concluded that some active removal of debris is needed but the long-term answer is self-policing. Innovative technologies are being tested to clean up debris, such as the RemoveDebris satellite that is testing the use of nets and harpoons to capture objects. But, Kennedy said, "If I have to bring out a harpoon for every piece of debris, I'm not sure I've helped. I may be contributing to the problem." (11/6)

Lunar X Prize Teams Still in Pursuit (Source: Space News)
Two former Google Lunar X Prize teams are pressing ahead with lunar landers that could launch as soon as late next year. PTScientists says its first lander could launch in late 2019 or 2020 to visit the Apollo 17 landing site. The company has grown considerably since the beginning of the year and has signed up several corporate partners, including Audi, Vodaphone and Red Bull. Team Indus says it's working on a much larger version of its original lander, which could place up to 500 kilograms of payload on the lunar surface. The company is also partnering with an unidentified organization so it can compete for NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services program. (11/6)

SpaceX Seeks Loan (Source: Bloomberg)
SpaceX is working with a different bank for a larger loan. The company is now partnered with Bank of America to secure a $750 million leveraged loan as soon as this week. SpaceX was reported last month to be working with Goldman Sachs for a $500 million loan. SpaceX has not disclosed what the loan would be used for, but the company does have projects, like its BFR rocket and Starlink constellation, that will require large amounts of capital. (11/6)

Taiwanese Startup Lured to Luxembourg (Source: Delano)
A Taiwanese startup is the latest company to set up operations in Luxembourg after winning a prize. Odysseus Space won the 500,000-euro Spaceresources challenge prize at an ESA conference last week. The company, established in 2016, works on innovative technologies and solutions for future deep space and swarm small satellite missions. (11/6)

Armstrong Artifacts Fetch $5.2M at Auction (Source: Collect Space)
An auction of Neil Armstrong artifacts brought in $5.2 million over the weekend. The auction sold items ranging from a bumper sticker at $250 to a lunar module spacecraft ID plate from Apollo 11 that fetched $468,500. The auction of the artifacts, arranged by Armstrong's sons Mark and Rick, was part of a larger three-day auction of space memorabilia by Heritage Auctions that brought in $7.4 million. Two more auctions of Armstrong memorabilia will take place next year. (11/6)

Mars InSight Landing Site Is Just Plain Perfect (Source: NASA JPL)
No doubt about it, NASA explores some of the most awe-inspiring locations in our solar system and beyond. Once seen, who can forget the majesty of astronaut Jim Irwin standing before the stark beauty of the Moon's Hadley Apennine mountain range, of the Hubble Space Telescope's gorgeous "Pillars of Creation" or Cassini's magnificent mosaic of Saturn?

Mars also plays a part in this visually compelling equation, with the high-definition imagery from the Curiosity rover of the ridges and rounded buttes at the base of Mount Sharp bringing to mind the majesty of the American Southwest. That said, Elysium Planitia - the site chosen for the Nov. 26 landing of NASA's InSight mission to Mars - will more than likely never be mentioned with those above because it is, well, plain. Yes, the landing site of NASA's next Mars mission may very well look like a stadium parking lot, but that is the way the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) project likes it. (11/5)

NASA Renovates, Dedicates Bermuda Tracking Station (Source: NASA)
Showcasing NASA's long-standing partnership with Bermuda in support of human spaceflight and space exploration, NASA formally dedicated its upgraded Bermuda Tracking Station Monday, Nov. 5, during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the station's site on Cooper's Island Nature Reserve. "Bermuda has long been a vital strategic partner to NASA going back to the earliest days of human spaceflight," said United States Consul General Constance Dierman.

"Today's dedication ceremony further strengthens that partnership in support of NASA's goals to take the next giant leap in exploration and discovery." The site, refurbished as part of a $5.3 million renovation and outfitting project, supports tracking, telemetry, command and control of launches from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia, and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Most notably, the tracking station, operated by NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, supports International Space Station cargo resupply missions and will support upcoming commercial crew launches to the orbital laboratory and NASA's upcoming integrated launches of the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft on missions to the Moon. Editor's Note: Funding to operate and maintain the Bermuda station has always been troublesome. It is rarely used, but occasionally supports NASA, military and commercial missions. No single agency has wanted responsibility for covering its costs. (11/6)

Spacecraft are About to Sample Two Asteroids Worth Over $83 Billion Combined (Source: Forbes)
Two different spacecraft from NASA and JAXA (the national space agency of Japan) are currently preparing to swipe a hunk of two different asteroids that they've been journeying toward for the past few years. The asteroids, named Bennu and Ryugu respectively, could also be among the most profitable to mine for resources at some point in the future.

NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission has spent the past two years traveling to Bennu, which is considered a potentially hazardous asteroid with a tiny chance of hitting earth late in the 22nd century. Meanwhile, JAXA's Hayabusa-2 mission has already arrived at Ryugu, where it has deployed a few mini robot probes to the surface for an initial look around.

A central objective of both missions is to take a small sample of each space rock that will then be returned to Earth for analysis in the 2020s.  Scientists hope that taking a close look at the composition of the asteroids could provide insights into the origins of the solar system, but they also contain plenty of valuable water, organics and precious metals. (11/6)

Google Has Enlisted NASA to Help Prove Quantum Supremacy Within Months (Source: MIT Technology Review)
Google wants NASA to help it prove quantum supremacy within a matter of months, according to a Space Act Agreement. Quantum supremacy is the idea, so far undemonstrated, that a sufficiently powerful quantum computer will be able to complete certain mathematical calculations that classical supercomputers cannot.

Proving it would be a big deal because it could kick-start a market for devices that might one day crack previously unbreakable codes, boost AI, improve weather forecasts, or model molecular interactions and financial systems in exquisite detail. The agreement, signed in July, calls on NASA to “analyze results from quantum circuits run on Google quantum processors, and ... provide comparisons with classical simulation to both support Google in validating its hardware and establish a baseline for quantum supremacy.”

The agreement covers Google's latest 72-qubit quantum chip, called Bristlecone. Where classical computers store information in binary bits that definitely represent either 1 or 0, quantum computers use qubits that exist in an undefined state between 1 and 0. For some problems, using qubits should quickly provide solutions that could take classical computers much longer to compute. (11/5)

The Apollo Astronaut who Became Sick from Inhaling Moondust (Source: Vintage News)
Astronaut Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, who also has a Ph.D. in geology from Harvard University, landed on the Moon along with Eugene A. Cernan on December 11, 1972, and began collecting rock samples. While other missions had collected rocks, no one had been familiar enough with geology to know what types were important. With an expert picking the specimens, more stories could be told of the Moon’s history.

During the mission, Schmitt unintentionally breathed in some lunar dust and for the rest of the day exhibited signs similar to hay fever or an allergy — sneezing and watery eyes. In 1972, the NASA doctors thought he was allergic to the Moon. The ground crew at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center were highly amused and, according to Mental Floss a member of mission control, Joseph Allen, remarked, “It’s funny they don’t check for that. Maybe that’s the trouble with the cheap noses, Jack.”

Moondust is composed of the remnants of micrometeorite impacts that remain sharp due to the lack of erosion because of no air or water movement on the Moon. Small bits of iron are also in the dust, giving it properties similar to a blanket with static cling; the dust is attracted to everything. (11/4)

Neil Armstrong's Apollo 11 Spacecraft ID Plate Sells for $468K in Auction (Source: Fox News)
Neil Armstrong’s personal collection of memorabilia has taken flight. Collectibles that belonged to the first man to set foot on the moon were sold in a recent auction held by the Dallas-based auction house Heritage Auctions. The company held its “Space Collection Signature Auction” from Thursday to Saturday, which included items from the Armstrong Family Collection. Heritage Auctions says his spacecraft ID plate from Apollo 11’s lunar module Eagle went for $468,500 -- making it the highest-selling item. (11/4)

Mystery Interstellar Asteroid Oumuamua 'Could be Gigantic Alien Solar Sail Sent to Look for Signs of Life' (Source: Evening Standard)
The first known interstellar object to travel through our solar system could be a gigantic alien solar sail sent to look for signs of life, according to a new study. The mysterious asteroid Oumuamua has been analysed by astronomers from the Harvard Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics (CfA) after it was found to be unexpectedly speeding up.

NASA​ said earlier this year observations from their Hubble Space Telescope confirmed the object had an “unexpected boost in speed and shift in trajectory as it passes through the inner solar system”. Scientists have now concluded that the asteroid “might be a lightsail of artificial origin” using solar radiation to propel itself forward.

The study said: “Considering an artificial origin, one possibility is that Oumuamua is a lightsail, floating in interstellar space as a debris from an advanced technological equipment. “Alternatively, a more exotic scenario is that Oumuamua may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth vicinity by an alien civilisation.” (11/4)

Microlauch Services Workshop in Paris This Week (Source: ESA)
New concepts from European industry on microlaunch services offer inspiring technical innovations and flexible services to meet the needs of the small satellites market. Five feasibility studies on launch services using microlaunchers in Europe, contracted within ESA’s Future Launchers Preparatory Program, have proposed solutions for economically viable and commercially self-sustaining microlaunch services.

In parallel to the five consortia process of raising funds to achieve the first commercial flight, their solutions are expected to benefit the whole European space transportation sector. ESA aims to accompany these industry-led microlaunch service initiatives through support in technology maturation to achieve the shortest time-to-market and highest competitiveness. (11/5)