July 29, 2016

Orion is Over Budget and May Need Seven More Years Before Flying Crews (Source: Ars Technica)
At the request of Congress, the nonpartisan US Government Accountability Office reviews the finances and management of federal programs, and this week it released a study critical of NASA’s crew capsule, Orion. Most worryingly, the 56-page report (PDF) regularly draws parallels between the Orion program and another large overbudget NASA project, the James Webb Space Telescope.

Although Orion has not yet experienced such dramatic increases in costs, the spacecraft is now into its second decade of development. NASA estimates that it will spend a total of $16 billion (£12 billion) to ready Orion for its first crewed flight in April 2023. However, the GAO review, signed by Director of Acquisition and Sourcing Management Cristina T. Chaplain, did not find these numbers to be reliable.

Some of the major Orion concerns cited by the GAO study are well-known, such as delays by NASA’s partner, the European Space Agency, in building the service module that will help power Orion in space. Less widely known, however, are significant cost overruns with Orion’s primary contractor, Lockheed Martin. The GAO’s analysis of contractor data found that the Orion program faces potential cost overruns of up to $707 million by 2020. (7/28)

NROL-61 Marks Sixth Flight of 421 Configuration of ULA Atlas V (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
United Launch Alliance (ULA) successfully sent the sixth of the 421 configuration of the company’s Atlas V launch vehicle into the morning skies. The payload for Thursday’s flight was a classified satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). As was a classified mission for the NRO, the upper stage burned for an unknown amount of time to send the satellite into an undisclosed orbit. (7/28)

Genovation's GXE Breaks All-Electric Land Speed Record – Reaches 205.6 mph (Source: Genovation)
Genovation today announced that it has made history by breaking the land speed record for a street legal all-electric vehicle with the Genovation Extreme Electric car (GXE). The GXE reached the record breaking speed of 205.6 mph during supervised tests with Johnny Bohmer Racing at Space Florida’s Shuttle Landing Facility at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The record was certified by the International Mile Racing Association (IMRA). The previous record, which also was held by Genovation, stood at 186.8 mph. (7/28)

Space Radiation May Cause Heart Disease (Source: Air & Space)
Of all the risks facing astronauts on a trip to Mars, radiation generally tops the worry list. It’s long been known that venturing outside Earth’s protective magnetic field—to the moon or Mars—exposes astronauts to a steady bombardment from heavy cosmic rays that can damage DNA and increase long-term cancer risk. And that’s not even considering the acute risk of radiation sickness if space travelers were caught in a strong solar storm without some kind of shielding.

In the past, the effects of radiation on astronauts’ cardiovascular health hasn’t gotten as much attention as the risk from cancer. That’s why a study published today in Scientific Reports by Michael Delp of Florida State University and his colleagues is troubling: Apollo astronauts—the only humans ever to venture into deep space—have died from cardiovascular disease at a rate four to five times higher than other astronauts. This is the first time anyone has looked at mortality of the Apollo astronauts as a separate group. (7/28)

Dream Chaser Spacecraft to Begin Phase Two Flight Testing (Source: SNC)
Sierra Nevada Corp.’s Dream Chaser full-scale, flight test vehicle is ready for transportation to NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center (AFRC) in California where Phase Two flight tests will be conducted in coordination with Edwards Air Force Base (AFB). Dream Chaser program upgrades and initial hardware testing were completed at the Louisville, Colorado spacecraft assembly facility, and within the next several weeks the same Dream Chaser vehicle that conducted Phase One flight testing will arrive at NASA’s AFRC.

Upon arrival, SNC will begin a series of pre-flight ground evaluations to verify and validate the vehicle’s system and subsystem designs. After successful completion of all ground testing, Dream Chaser will begin its Phase Two free-flight testing. These activities are being conducted through a Space Act Agreement with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP). (7/28)

NASA Awards Protective Services Contract at Kennedy Space Center (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA has selected Chenega Infinity to provide protective services at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This firm-fixed-price contract, resulting from a small business set-aside competition, will begin Oct. 1. The contract has a possible total performance period of five years and a maximum potential value of $146.3 million.

Chenega Infinity, LLC will provide physical security operations, personnel security, secure access procedures, 911 dispatch, firefighting, fire prevention and protection engineering, aircraft rescue, advance life support ambulance services, emergency management and protective services training. (7/28)

Comet Lander Philae Says Goodbye as Communications Are Cut (Source: Engadget)
Farewell Philae, it was a short but wild ride. In February, mission controllers said goodbye to the comet lander, but kept comms open with mother ship Rosetta on the slight chance it might wake up. "It's cold & dark on #67P ... but I won't give up just yet," Philae tweeted hopefully. However, controllers elected to cut Rosetta's "ESS" lander radio at 5AM ET today to preserve its precious remaining power.

At nearly 520 million km (323 million miles) from the Sun, the probe is losing power at the rate of 4 watts a day and needs to keep working for another two months. On September 30th it'll crash into the surface of the comet, but take numerous final photos and measurements on the way down. (7/28)

India to Appeal Against Hague Tribunal’s Verdict on Antrix-Devas Deal (Source: Hindustan Times)
India will appeal against the verdict of the Hague tribunal in Antrix-Devas deal case, in which the international court had declared the annulling of the contract as “unfair” and “inequitable” and asked it to pay a huge amount as compensation. “We will appeal against the verdict at Hague (tribunal),” said AS Kirankumar, secretary, Department of Space. He, however, declined to comment any further on the issue.

India lost the arbitration case in a Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) tribunal based in the Hague over its space marketing PSU Antrix Corp, annulling a contract with Bengaluru-based private multimedia firm Devas. The tribunal ruled that the Indian government had acted “unfairly” and “inequitably” in cancelling the contract involving use of two satellites and spectrum. (7/28)

Say Hello to Earth's Space Weather-Fighting Robot (Source: Inverse)
Today was the first day on the job for a 1,200-pound satellite dubbed the Deep Space Climate Observatory’s — DSCOVR for short — that took over as the primary space tech that helps protect our planet from hostile space weather. NOAA’s space weather forecasts shifted to being exclusively supported by DSCOVR data instead of using data primarily from the 19-year-old Advanced Composition Explorer.

Why is this such a big deal? Space weather means a lot for the world’s electrical grids, mostly. For the uninitiated, the term refers to the movement and behavior of solar winds; coronal mass ejections from the sun; varying conditions in the magnetosphere and ionosphere; and other strange cosmic bits hurtling through the vacuum of space. It’s basically how high-energy events interface with the electrical and magnetic parts of Earth’s atmosphere. (7/28)

One of NASA's Biggest Concerns Comes to Light in Cleveland (Source: Inverse)
One of the biggest concerns for NASA is that it won’t be able to send U.S. astronauts into space after 2018. On Thursday, the NASA Advisory Council held a public meeting to deliver a series of reports about the status of the agency, and offered an update on Human Exploration and Operations. Basically, time is running out for the space agency to find another way to get American astronauts to space.

America needs to let the Russians know if it’s hitching a ride aboard the Soyuz spacecraft before the year is out, or else we may see a temporary — or worst case scenario, permanent — end of a U.S. presence aboard the International Space Station. The solution? Presently, it’s to work with commercial spaceflight companies like SpaceX and Boeing after 2018, while NASA continues development of the Space Launch System, which should have its first launch in November 2018. (7/28)

Western U.S. Saw An Amazing Light Show Last Night, Courtesy Of China (Source: NPR)
Maybe it was a meteor? Or space junk? People on the West Coast weren't sure what the bright object was that streaked across the sky Wednesday night, but they knew it was spectacular. Now comes word that the object — which separated into bright fragments — was a stage of China's large new rocket. Americans who spotted the flaring object Wednesday night could be forgiven for not knowing that.

The light show appeared in skies over the western U.S. around 9:30 p.m. PT, sparking a flood of reports to meteor-monitoring groups, a flurry of tweets and a number of striking videos. While first-person accounts on Meteorite News differed, some details were constant: The string of objects moved from west to east, with alternating colors and a bright trail.

The object was the second stage of China's Chang Zheng 7 rocket that was launched on June 25, according to astronomer Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who cites confirmation from the Space-Track organization and the Joint Space Operations Center. This was the first CZ-7 launched, McDowell says, adding that it's rare for objects of more than 5 tons to re-enter Earth's atmosphere. (7/28)

Apollo Astronauts Dying of Heart Disease at 4-5X the Rate of Counterparts (Source: Ars Technica)
Deep-space travel takes a toll on the body—and it’s apparently something you can’t moon-walk off. Apollo astronauts who have ventured out of the protective magnetosphere of mother Earth appear to be dying of cardiovascular disease at a far higher rate than their counterparts—both those that have stayed grounded and those that only flew in the shielding embrace of low-Earth orbit.

Though the data is slim—based on only 77 astronauts total—researchers speculate that potent ionizing radiation in deep space may be to blame. That hypothesis was backed up in follow-up mouse studies that provided evidence that similar radiation exposure led to long-lasting damage to the rodents’ blood vessels. The study, while not definitive, may add an extra note of caution to the potential hazards of future attempts to fly to Mars and elsewhere in the cosmos. (7/28)

July 28, 2016

China's Agreement with UN to Help Developing Countries Get Access to Space (Source: Space Daily)
Last month, China has signed an agreement with the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) to open the country's future space station for science experiments and astronauts from UN member states. According to a spokesperson from the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA), this cooperation heralds better accessibility to space for developing countries.

"The agreement will provide exciting opportunities to further build the space capacity of developing countries and increase awareness of the benefits human space technology can bring to humankind, and thus to promote the achievement of the sustainable development goals," Aimin Niu, CMSA spokesperson, told Astrowatch.net.

In particular, this agreement means that UNOOSA and CMSA will work together to give UN member states an opportunity to conduct space experiments onboard China's future space station, as well as to provide flight opportunities for astronauts and payload engineers. (7/28)

China to Expand International Astronauts Exchange (Source: Space Daily)
China will expand international exchange in the training of astronauts in a bid to push it closer to becoming a space power, an official said Wednesday. Li Xinke of the Astronaut Center of China made the remarks while briefing an international training mission for astronauts. Chinese astronaut Ye Guangfu participated in the mission.

Ye is the first Chinese to receives CAVES (Cooperative Adventure for Valuing and Exercising human behavior and performance Skills) training, an advanced training course for astronauts, organized by the European Space Agency (ESA). The training took place in the Sa Grutta underground caves, Sardinia, Italy. Prospective astronauts from Japan, Russia, Spain and the United States also took part in the training. (7/28)

Can Intelsat be Both Jedi Knight and Defender of the Empire? (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator Intelsat on July 27 positioned itself on both sides of the barricades of the satellite services business — a company storming the entrenched widebeam satellite pricing structure with its Epic high-throughput spacecraft (HTS) while at the same time maintaining a strong vested interest in that structure with the rest of its fleet. (7/28)

GAO: NASA Odds Slip for 2021 Crewed Orion Flight (Source: Space News)
NASA has less than a 50 percent chance of having Orion ready for its first crewed mission in 2021, according to a GAO report. NASA is working to an internal goal of August 2021 for that mission, although a joint confidence level analysis done last year set a goal of April 2023 at a confidence level of 70 percent. A GAO report on Orion released Wednesday said that 2021 date is only at the 40 percent confidence level, making it "aggressive beyond agency policy."

The GAO also concluded that NASA was asking for Orion funding that would only achieve the 2023 date, counting on Congress to provide additional money to keep 2021 feasible. A second GAO report released Wednesday raised cost and schedule concerns about SLS and ground systems in advance of its 2018 first launch. (7/27)

Trump: NASA is Wonderful (Sources: Ars Technica, Space News)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump called NASA "wonderful" in an online question-and-answer session. Trump, answering a question during an "ask me anything" discussion on Reddit about the role NASA should play in his campaign's theme to "make America great again," responded, "Honestly I think NASA is wonderful! America has always led the world in space exploration." That is a different theme than one offered at last week's Republican National Convention, when former astronaut Eileen Collins called for "leadership that will make America’s space program first again." (7/27)

Kelly Speaks at Democratic Convention (Source: Space News)
Former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, speaking Wednesday night at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. "From orbit, I saw our planet as a perfect blue marble, just floating there in the blackness of space. But I also saw receding glaciers and shrinking rain forests. At war, and in space, I saw the awesome extent of American power and capability. But it was so frustrating to return home and see how we struggle to address some of our greatest challenges." (7/28)

How Jupiter's Red Spot Makes Things High Above It Hot, Hot, Hot (Source: NPR)
Jupiter's Great Red Spot is such a crazy, turbulent storm that it creates sound waves that travel hundreds of miles up and actually heat the planet's upper atmosphere. That's the conclusion of scientists who found a striking hotspot right above the Great Red Spot. The Great Red Spot is a vast storm about 10,000 miles wide — around 1.5 times the size of Earth. "It's the largest storm in the solar system," says James O'Donoghue.

Recently, O'Donoghue realized that the Great Red Spot could help explain a mystery about gas giant planets: Why are their upper atmospheres so darn hot? "Essentially all of the gas giants' upper atmospheres are measured to be several hundred degrees warmer than they should be, based on simulations of heating from the sun," he explains. To try to understand why, he and some colleagues decided to map out the temperatures across the upper atmosphere of Jupiter. And, lo and behold, they discovered a spike in temperature directly above the Great Red Spot. (7/27)

GAO Reports: SLS and Orion Cost and Risk Estimates Are Still Unreliable (Source: NASA Watch)
"GAO found that the Orion program's cost and schedule estimates are not reliable based on best practices for producing high-quality estimates. Cost and schedule estimates play an important role in addressing technical risks. ... For example, the cost estimate lacked necessary support and the schedule estimate did not include the level of detail required for high-quality estimates."

"... the SLS program has not positioned itself well to provide accurate assessments of core stage progress - including forecasting impending schedule delays, cost overruns, and anticipated costs at completion - because at the time of our review it did not anticipate having the baseline to support full reporting on the core stage contract until summer 2016 - some 4.5 years after NASA awarded the contract." (7/27)

Boeing Reports 2Q Loss (Source: AP)
Boeing reported a second-quarter loss of $234 million, after reporting a profit in the same period a year earlier. The results exceeded Wall Street expectations. The airplane builder posted revenue of $24.76 billion in the period, also exceeding Street forecasts. Three analysts surveyed by Zacks expected $24.45 billion. (7/27)

OneWeb Announces Appointment of Eric Beranger (Source: OneWeb)
OneWeb which is building a new global communications system to create affordable broadband services for all, announces the appointment of Eric Beranger as Chief Executive Officer. At Airbus Defence & Space, Eric has led the technical and operational relationship with OneWeb, overseeing the formation of and presiding on the Board of the satellite manufacturing joint venture.

The joint venture, named OneWeb Satellites, is building the world’s purpose built first high volume satellite manufacturing facility and producing 900 satellites as the basis of the OneWeb constellation. OneWeb Satellites will also be producing similar sized production satellites for third party operators. (7/26)

NASA Developing Plans for Commercially-Built Mars Orbiter (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
NASA is advancing a plan to send a robotic orbiter to Mars in the early 2020s, developing designs with five U.S. satellite makers for a mission to extend high-resolution mapping capabilities, telecommunications relay functions, and potentially act as a waypoint for Martian soil samples destined for return to Earth. The orbiter could launch as soon as late 2022, when Mars and Earth are in the correct positions to make a direct journey possible. Mars launch opportunities come every 26 months. (7/27)

Old Planets Always Get Too Hot or Cold for Life in the End (Source: New Scientist)
Age matters. Searching for alien life on planets orbiting older stars may be fruitless because they always become prohibitively hot or cold. The search for life on other worlds has focused on planets in what’s known as the habitable zone – the ring around stars where it’s the right temperature for liquid water. That has led some to target planets orbiting red dwarf stars, as their smaller size and cooler temperatures mean planets in the habitable zone are closer in, and so easier to spot.

But we should also look for planets whose stars are the right age, regardless of their size, say Shintaro Kadoya and Eiichi Tajika at the University of Tokyo, Japan. Because stars grow brighter with age, planets at the inner edge of the habitable zone enter a “runaway greenhouse mode”, in which their oceans boil away. Meanwhile, planets at the outer edge lose heat-trapping gases from their atmospheres as volcanic activity decreases, so they enter an ice-covered “snowball state”. (7/27)

Exotic White Dwarf Brutalizes its Red Dwarf Partner (Source: Seeker)
Comprised of a tiny white dwarf and red dwarf that orbit one another every 3.6 hours, the AR Scorpii system was misidentified in the 1970s as a single variable star that fluctuated in brightness. But in 2015, amateur astronomers stumbled upon the star and made a note of its strange behavior. In followup observations, culminating in observing time with the Hubble Space Telescope, AR Scorpii's binary nature was revealed.

Binary stars are common in our galaxy, but this particular system has an exotic side that that is causing some confusion. Every 1 minute and 58 seconds, the white dwarf blasts its red dwarf binary partner with an incredibly powerful beam of radiation. This pulse of radiation causes the whole system to brighten and dim like clockwork and includes radiation over a broad range of frequencies, including radio waves. And herein lies the puzzle. (7/27)

Mars Samples May Be Left Exposed On Surface (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA plans to leave rock-core and soil-sample packages exposed on the surface behind its Mars 2020 rover as it moves from site to site, instead of storing them inside the rover for a single pickup. Science planners believe that would increase the chances another surface vehicle eventually will be able to recover them for analysis on Earth, regardless of who sends it to Mars. “The samples are about the size of a piece of chalk,” says NASA's Jim Green. (7/28)

July 27, 2016

NASA Gives Estimate of SpaceX Mars Mission Investment (Source: Space News)
SpaceX will spend about $300 million of its own money on its Red Dragon Mars mission, NASA estimates. In a presentation to a NASA Advisory Council committee meeting Tuesday, an agency official said that NASA will spend about $30 million to support its contributions to a Space Act Agreement with SpaceX, providing advice and other support in a variety of areas.

NASA estimates SpaceX is matching on a 10-to-1 basis, putting SpaceX's costs for the mission on the order of $300 million. Red Dragon will land a Dragon spacecraft on the surface of Mars, with launch on a Falcon Heavy scheduled for May 2018, a schedule NASA considers "extremely aggressive." (7/27)

Telesat Reports Growth in Latest Quarter (Source: Space News)
Telesat reported an increase in revenue and gross profit in its latest quarter. The Canadian satellite operator said Tuesday reported revenue of US$178.4 million in the quarter ending June 30, an increase of 1 percent over the same quarter of 2015 after accounting for the increase in value of the U.S. dollar over the Canadian dollar. The company said it recently won a major contract to provide Ku-band capacity on its upcoming Telstar 19V satellite for a Brazilian customer. (7/27)

India Earned Rs 230 Crore Through Satellite Launch Services in FY16 (Source: Space Daily)
India earned around Rs.230 crore last in fiscal through commercial launch satellite services, parliament was told on Thursday. The Indian Space Research Organization through Antrix Corp. offers satellite launch capacity on a commercial basis.

Citing published reports available in the public domain on the international satellite market, Singh said the average annual revenue over the last three years, is approximately $200 billion (Rs 13 lakh crore), which includes the launch services market (Rs 0.37 lakh crore), satellite manufacturing (Rs 1.07 lakh crore), ground equipment (Rs 3.85 lakh crore) and satellite services (Rs 8.17 lakh crore). (7/26)

Bezos, Tyson Join Pentagon’s Innovation Advisory Board (Source: Space News)
Jeff Bezos, the founder of commercial space company Blue Origin, and celebrity astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson are joining the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Advisory Board to help transfer Silicon Valley culture and technologies to the U.S. Defense Department. Defense Secretary Ash Carter made the announcement July 26 at the new Defense Innovation Unit Experimental office in Boston. The addition of Bezos and Tyson gives the 15-person board at least two members with strong space backgrounds. (7/26)

The Lunar Rover Was Almost as Badass as the Astronauts Who Drove It (Source: Gizmodo)
The crew of the Apollo 15 moon landing were a distinctive group, working patriotic colours into everything from their personal vehicles to the stylized birds on their mission patch. The US Air Force astronauts Jim Irwin, Dave Scott, and Al Worden were clearly proud of their country by their coordinated color set of red, white, and (dark) blue corvettes (which were apparently the sensible alternative to NASA renting vehicles for them to use around Cape Canaveral), but their true pride and joy was the lunar rover.

The crew of Apollo 15 had the first moon buggy, the first vehicle to be sent off-planet in a quest to give astronauts greater range while exploring the moon. Apollo 15 was the first lunar landing mission to use a rover, allowing astronauts Jim Irwin and Dave Scott to explore farther from their landing site while still having time to conduct scientific research. Al Worden stayed in orbit, photographing a quarter of the moon’s surface during his three solitary days in a spacecraft in July 30 to August 2, 1971. Click here. (7/26)

Triple Sonic Booms From Falcon Boosters (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
One of the iconic sounds of the Space Shuttle era has returned to the Space Coast—the sonic boom. The returning Shuttle orbiter produced a signature double-sonic boom on its approach to Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility. Similar sounds were heard again in the early morning hours of July 18 as SpaceX's Falcon 9 first stage returned to the Cape Canaveral Spaceport's Landing Zone 1 (LZ-1), formerly Launch Complex 13, creating a triple-sonic boom.

“[The] first boom is from the aft end (engines),” said John Taylor, SpaceX’s Communications Director, “[The] second boom is from the landing legs at the widest point going up the side of the rocket. [The] third boom is from the fins near the forward end.” As the pace of SpaceX launches, and subsequent landings, are expected to pick up over the next several years, Space Coast residents will here a lot more of these periodic booms.

Additionally, SpaceX expects to begin the launch, and landing, of its Falcon Heavy rockets by the end of the year. The Falcon Heavy will consist of three Falcon 9 first stages, strapped together, and could result in all three stages landing back at CCAFS. The two side boosters will land almost simultaneously. Each will produce three sonic booms, for a total of as many as nine. (7/27)

Boeing Mentors Small Business During Commercial Crew Development (Source: WMFE)
Boeing announced a new mentor-protégée program with one if its subcontractors working on the next capsule that will send U.S. astronauts to space. Bastion Technologies works with Boeing by manufacturing training mock-ups of the next crewed spacecraft, the CST-100 or Starliner. Bastion is a small business based out of Houston, Texas, that worked with Boeing in the past on computer aided modeling. Now, under the mentor-protégée agreement announced Tuesady, for the next 18 months Boeing will provide resources like best practices and marketing guidance to help the small business grow. (7/26)

Why We Are Not Ready For Mars (Source: Huffington Post)
After weeks of witnessing disturbing events that exemplify how angry, vindictive and dangerous humanity can be when it turns on itself, Mars — as an escapist adventure situated enticingly in our near futures — looks great in comparison.

Human exploration and eventual habitation of Mars is often described as the ultimate do-over, the proverbial slate wiped clean, a place where we can make a fresh start. When we get there, we will experience the unblemished purism of a new world and will have unprecedented opportunities to pursue science, increase our knowledge of the universe, extend our species beyond our native planet, perhaps even to preserve the human race if something untoward happens to our home planet Earth. Click here. (7/26)

Israel vs. USA: Google's Competition to Go to the Moon (Source: CNN)
The Google Lunar XPRIZE launched in 2007 as a way to reignite space exploration. It challenged teams to land a spacecraft on the moon, have it move 500 meters in any direction, and feed back high-definition video. The first team to complete the mission would be awarded $20 million. The second team would be awarded $5 million, with $5 million more in prizes along the way.

Moon Express's MX-1 craft is designed to be the "iPhone of space," said Moon Express CEO Bob Richards when it unveiled the craft three years ago. MX-1 is supposed to be a flexible tool to explore the lunar surface, which the Moon Express team calls the "Eighth Continent." Moon Express won two X Prize Milestone Prizes totaling $1.25 million for the spacecraft's landing hardware and camera. SpaceIL designed a spacecraft where every part is multifunctional. (7/26)

Aircraft Search Delays India Scramjet Rocket Test (Source: The Hindu)
The search for the IAF transport aircraft An-32 has delayed by some days the launch of the RH-560 rocket equipped with a supersonic combustion ramjet (scramjet) engine for conducting an air-breathing propulsion test. The two-stage sounding rocket was to be fired by the Indian Space Research Organisation from Sriharikota in the Bay of Bengal in the next few days.

However, sources said, permission had not been given for the launch because several IAF aircraft were flying over the Bay in search of the missing An-32 plane. The naval vessels are also engaged in the search over a big area. (7/27)

APT and Chinese Ppartners Plan Global Mobile Broadband Network (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator APT Satellite Holdings of Hong Kong has created a joint venture with mainland Chinese institutions to launch a global mobile broadband satellite network aimed principally at the aeronautical and maritime markets, APT said July 23.

The network, if launched as planned, would catapult APT from its current position as a midsize regional satellite operator into a global player. Other companies with similar global-mobility ambitions include fleet operators ViaSat Inc., Intelsat, SES and Inmarsat. (7/27)

Sky and Space Global Details Vision for 200 Satellite Narrowband Network (Source: Satellite Today)
Small satellite company Sky and Space Global is planning a network of nanosatellites for narrowband communications that it expects will cost $160 million or less to complete in total. The company, located in the U.K., Israel and Australia, has fully funded the first three satellites to precede an initial constellation of 200 nanosatellites. (7/26)

Kazakhstan to Launch Two Satellites in 2017 (Source: Kazakh TV)
In 2017, Kazakhstan will launch two satellites into space. One of them (STSat) will be equipped with a system of remote sensing. The satellite is ready and being run for the necessary tests. The satellite will be delivered into orbit by a carrier rocket ‘Dnepr’ from Yasniy spaceport. STSat is the first national satellite assembled by the Kazakh specialists. The onboard computer and software have been fully developed by Kazakh engineers. (7/26)

Future ICBM: Industry Predicts ‘Low Risk’ Development (Source: National Defense)
The nation’s top defense contractors are drafting bids in anticipation of an Air Force request for proposals to develop the next generation of nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles. Based on preliminary guidance given to potential bidders, industry officials said, the Air Force is avoiding the pitfalls of past development programs and has written the requirements for the new missiles with the intent to avoid technological show stoppers. (7/26)

Market Doesn’t Justify Reusable Launchers, Expendable Rocket Makers Argue (Source: Ars Technica)
The US government and some of its major aerospace contractors have tried to tackle the problem of reusable rockets and spacecraft for several decades. Even after spending hundreds of billions of dollars, neither the government nor its traditional aerospace contractors have mastered the art of reusability. During the last half year, however, both SpaceX and Blue Origin have begun to demonstrate these capabilities.

Orbital ATK's Ben Goldberg expressed the most skepticism about the business case for reusable rockets. Goldberg said Orbital ATK had studied the potential for reusability and found only a limited benefit to developing these systems and using them for missions to low-Earth orbit, geostationary transfer orbit, and exploration into deep space. “We ran a study, and a whole bunch of interesting things jumped out of this study,” he said. "One really interesting thing is the best you’re going to get is suborbital.”

Goldberg was much more dubious about the potential cost savings for orbital and deep-space missions. He took issue with claims made by SpaceX founder Elon Musk, who has said that because fuel costs account for just a fraction of one percent of launch costs, the potential exists to reduce launch costs by a factor of 100. At most, according to Goldberg, missions to low-Earth orbit can expect a 30-percent cost savings, with less for even higher-energy launches. (7/26)

Power Failure Blamed for Loss of USAF Weather Satellite (Source: Space News)
A power failure caused the loss of a U.S. Air Force weather satellite earlier this year. In a statement Monday, the Air Force said the DMSP-F19 satellite suffered a power failure in its command and control system, preventing commands sent from the ground from reaching the spacecraft's main computer system. The Air Force said the failure cannot be repaired or otherwise worked around. The spacecraft stopped responding to commands in February, although it does continue to return some weather data. Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor for the satellite, said it was responsible for the subsystem that failed. (7/26)

First SLS Launch On Schedule for 2018 (Source: Space News)
NASA says the first launch of its Space Launch System is on schedule for the fall of 2018 despite issues with one element of the Orion spacecraft. Agency officials told a meeting a NASA Advisory Council committee Monday that they are adjusting the schedule for work leading up to the Exploration Mission 1 launch to account for a delay of at least three months in the delivery of Orion's service module, being built in Europe. Those changes could include doing a wet dress rehearsal of the SLS on the pad without Orion attached. That mission is scheduled for launch between September and November of 2018. (7/26)

ISRO Loses Big in Arbitration Over Antrix-Devas Controversy (Source: The Wire)
An international tribunal has ruled against India's space agency in a dispute with an Indian company. The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled that Antrix, the commercial arm of the Indian space agency ISRO, acted unfairly in annuling a contract for satellite capacity it had with Devas Multimedia. The court also ruled India failed to provide fair and equitable treatment to Devas' foreign investors. The ruling is the second victory for Devas on the international stage, after the International Court of Arbitration ruled in favor of the company last year and said it was owed more than $650 million. (7/26)

Japan’s H-3 Rocket to be More Powerful, Cost-Effective Than Predecessor (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Japan is working on its newest launch vehicle, known as the H-3, which will be more powerful and cost-efficient than the H-2A booster currently in service. On July 20, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced it has completed the basic design of the rocket, scheduled to be ready for its maiden flight in 2020.

JAXA hopes the fact that H-3 will be equipped with simpler systems and that it will use commercially available components will allow it to be launched more frequently. It is hoped these factors will also reduce the cost of putting payloads into orbit. The agency expects the time needed for the assembly of the booster and payload encapsulation in the launch vehicle will be shortened. (7/26)

Space Team Scouts UAE Sands for Lander Tests (Source: The National)
One of the 16 remaining teams in a Google competition that will reward the first privately funded missions to the Moon has landed in the UAE to reconnoitre testing locations for its lunar vehicle. The country’s hot, dry conditions and sandy, rocky terrain are ideal for putting a lunar rover through some of the rigours that will be encountered on the Moon, said Robert Boehme of the Part Time Scientists.

The vehicle, which cost in the region of US$750,000 (Dh2.75 million)to build, will need to traverse at least half a kilometre of the Moon’s surface to qualify for the Google Lunar X Prize, a competition that encourages private space ventures by offering $30m in prize money.

Made largely of aluminium, the 35 kilogram rover has a top speed of 3.6 kilometres an hour and has already been tested in ice caves in the Austrian Alps and on volcanic terrain on the Greek island of Crete but is yet to be tested on soft sand inclines such as those of the Empty Quarter. (7/25)

Anderson Guided Spaceport America in Tough Time (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
When Christine Anderson was hired as executive director of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority in 2011, her job was to oversee construction of Spaceport America and make sure anchor tenant Virgin Galactic had all it needed to begin a successful new venture blasting high-paying space-tourism adventurers into sub-orbit.

The construction process went even better than expected, with the project being completed under budget, said Richard Holdridge, chairman of the Spaceport Authority board of directors. He said the state was able to take advantage of a downturn in the economy that led to a low demand and high supply for construction work. As it turned out, building the spaceport was the easy part. (7/25)

Jack White Launches Bid to Play First Vinyl Record in Space (Source: Guardian)
Details of Jack White’s cosmic world record attempt have been confirmed: on 30 July, Third Man Records will bid to play the first vinyl record in space.

Following rumours of White’s astral ambitions, on Monday Third Man published a blog outlining plans to celebrate its seventh anniversary by playing a gold-plated 12-inch master of Carl Sagan’s A Glorious Dawn in orbit. The selection is described as “a moving arrangement of Sagan’s sagacious words, culled from his magnificent Cosmos series, previously pressed and distributed as a 7-inch in [Third Man’s] first year of operation, 2009”, and was chosen because it was the label’s three millionth record pressed.

It will be played via The Icarus Craft, a custom-built “space-proof” turntable attached to a high-altitude balloon designed by Kevin Carrico, who is responsible for assisting in the restoration of many of Third Man’s machines. Non-profit programme Satins – Students and Teachers in Near Space – will also assist with the mission. (7/26)

US Plan to Diversify Expendable Space Launch Vehicles Being Questioned (Source: Sputnik)
The US Air Force strategy to encourage different companies to provide competing first stage rocket boosters for launching satellites into orbit is being questioned as potentially unsustainable, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report said on Friday. "[Q]uestions have been raised about whether competition among US launch providers is sustainable given market conditions, both domestically and internationally," the report noted.

In 2015, there were 86 global launches of which only 22 were considered commercial launches, the GAO pointed out. The US Department of Defense "is gathering and analyzing information on predicted launch demand. However, history has proven that it is difficult to reliably predict the demand for launch services," the report warned. (7/26)

Alien Solar System Boasts Tightly Spaced Planets, Unusual Orbits (Source: Space Daily)
Tightly spaced planets inside an alien solar system known as Kepler-80 boast a rare orbital configuration. The study was led by Mariah MacDonald as an undergraduate with Darin Ragozzine, an assistant professor of physics and space sciences, both at Florida Institute of Technology.

The unusual planetary array highlighted in the study deepens the ongoing examination of similar systems known as STIPs - Systems with Tightly-spaced Inner Planets - and contributes to the understanding of how Earth formed. Analysis by MacDonald and her collaborators revealed that the outer four planets had masses about four- to six-times that of Earth, though they shared Earth's rocky composition. (7/26)

NASA Floats Contractor Property Reporting Rule (Source: Law 360)
NASA contractors may soon have to keep better track of the agency’s property, as the space agency proposed a rule Monday to require monthly reporting of NASA assets. Contractors holding at least $10 million of NASA’s property, plant or equipment would have to provide detailed accounting monthly under the new rule, to “ensure that [the assets] are being presented fairly in the agency’s financial statements,” a statement said. The rule is set to be published in Tuesday’s Federal Register. (7/25)

Congress Concerned with Lack of Oversight as Satellite Use Increases (Source: Washington Post)
Congress is voicing concern over the lack of oversight and the amount of traffic caused by the nearly 1,400 operational satellites in orbit, a figure that is expected to more than double in the next five years. Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla., has introduced legislation that would allow the Federal Aviation Administration to monitor satellites and provide warnings when satellites are too close to one another. (7/26)

New Space Startup Audacy Shoots for the Moon (Source: Space.com)
A new company aims to provide the communications capacity required for the ongoing private spaceflight revolution. California-based Audacy plans to close a Series A fundraising round of at least $15 million to begin creating three satellites and two Earth stations. The goal is to raise four major rounds of funding, build the ground stations and get the satellites launched by 2019. All told, the plan will cost about $750 million — $250 million in funding and $500 million more in government-backed debt, Audacy representatives said.

The three satellites could support perhaps 2,000 tiny cubesats, all working at the same time, anywhere in Earth orbit. Alternatively, Audacy could have up to 12 high-capacity customers and perhaps 1,000 smaller ones sharing the bandwidth simultaneously. If all goes well, the company hopes to break even in 2023. In the future, if the demand is there, Audacy's infrastructure could also support some moon missions, because the ground stations could reach that far. (7/26)

Chinese Mega-Telescope Obtains Data on 7 Million Stars (Source: Xinhua)
A Chinese telescope has collected data on over 7 million stars, exceeding the sum of all existing spectroscopic data on stars and making it the world's largest database in the field. The Guo Shoujing telescope, named after a 13th-century Chinese astronomer, is operated by the National Astronomical Observatories under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which recently released the findings. (7/26)

Something is Wiping Away All of the Craters on Dwarf Planet Ceres (Source: The Verge)
Ever since NASA’s Dawn spacecraft started snapping pictures of the dwarf planet Ceres in the Asteroid Belt in 2015, scientists have been perplexed by the space rock’s relatively smooth surface; the object should have way more impact craters than it does now. To get to the bottom of this mystery, scientists have used computer simulations to model how Ceres most likely evolved over time, showing just how many different types of craters the dwarf planet should have on its surface.

Many of the craters predicted in the models have seemingly been erased, meaning that some kind of major geological activity has wiped them away. According to the computer simulations, Ceres should have at least 40 craters that are larger than 62 miles wide, and somewhere between 10 and 15 craters that are larger than 250 miles across. But that’s not what the surface of Ceres shows.

It’s possible that salty ice underneath Ceres’ surface has weakened the crust, causing it to smooth out over time. Plus, there are signs of cryovolcanoes — volcanoes that spew molten ice instead of hot lava. These may help spread ice on to the surface of Ceres, slightly covering up older impact craters. Though scientists aren’t exactly sure the root cause of the craters’ disappearance, they may get answers soon enough. NASA recently extended the Dawn mission, so the spacecraft will remain in orbit around Ceres. (7/26)

Should We Be Protecting Historic Sites in Space? (Source: PRI)
Nearly 47 years ago, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin emerged from Apollo 11 and became the first humans to set foot on the moon. In addition to leaving their iconic footprints, the crew left equipment and memorabilia scattered on the lunar surface. Archaeologist Beth O’Leary says that the landing area constitutes an archaeology site that should be preserved. Click here. (7/24)

Why Scientists Say Some Unusual Mars Rocks are Hints of Life (Source: CS Monitor)
There are a lot of rocks on Mars, and most of them wouldn’t raise an eyebrow. But one in particular has revealed new insights about the ancient Martian atmosphere. In 2013, Mars rover Curiosity identified large amounts of the element manganese in a piece of rock – which, by all accounts, shouldn’t have been there. Now, analysts say the discovery could be proof of a once-oxygenated Martian atmosphere.

Most planetary crusts are composed of basalt, a type of rock that forms when lava is cooled near a planet’s surface. Mars is no exception, so researchers expected that Curiosity would find plenty of basalt on the red planet. But on the formation dubbed “Caribou,” the rover found something unusual: manganese. This element can be found in basalt, but only in trace amounts.

The manganese would have to be concentrated significantly to reach the levels found on Caribou. Researchers say that condensed manganese could only form on Mars if, somehow, basalt rock was dissolved in oxygenated water. It is widely accepted that Mars was once abundant in surface water. But until recently, few would have guessed that the planet was ever oxygen-rich. (7/26)

Rural Broadband Access Innovator to Speak at Space Club Meeting (Source: NSCFL)
Greg Wyler, Founder & Chairman of OneWeb will be the featured speaker at the National Space Club Florida Committee’s (NSCFL) monthly luncheon on Tuesday, August 9. His presentation is entitled “Enabling Rural Broadband Access.”  The luncheon event begins at 11:30 am and will be held at the Radisson at the Port Convention Center, Cape Canaveral. NSCFL will also acknowledge the successes of the Florida space worker with its annual Space Worker Hall of Fame recognition. Fourteen individuals were chosen for the 2016 Hall of Fame class. (7/26)

Boeing Shows off Starliner Factory at Florida Spaceport (Source: Florida Today)
A notch at the top of high bay doors that allowed an orbiter's tail fin to pass through is the only obvious sign that a Kennedy Space Center hangar once housed a space shuttle. After renovations to the former Orbiter Processing Facility-3, levels of access platforms that surrounded the orbiter Discovery have all been removed.

In the now gleaming and wide-open bay, Boeing teams are assembling the first flight version of the company’s CST-100 Starliner commercial crew capsule, which is expected to fly astronauts to the International Space Station by 2018. As that work proceeds, the tail fin opening in the hangar doors remains a small but powerful symbol of the facility's decades of human spaceflight history. (7/26)

July 26, 2016

Dream Chaser Passes Second Milestone on Track to Supply Cargo to ISS (Source: SNC)
Sierra Nevada Corp. has passed the second Integration Certification Milestone under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS-2) contract. NASA assessed and fully approved SNC’s detailed approach for getting the Dream Chaser Cargo System to the International Space Station (ISS). SNC’s approved strategy demonstrates a thorough understanding of design requirements and available resources on both a system and subsystem level. 

Dream Chaser will provide a minimum of six cargo delivery missions to and from the ISS between 2019 and 2024. The first milestone was passed several weeks ago and outlined technical, logistic and schedule procedures for the program. (7/25)

A Stepping-Stone to Commercial Space Stations (Source: Space Review)
NASA hopes that, by the time it’s ready to retire the International Space Station in the 2020s, one or commercial space stations will be ready to support researchers and others using the ISS today. Jeff Foust reports that one step towards a commercial station may be a commercial module on the ISS. Click here. (7/25)
 
Re-Evaluating the Moon’s Role in Earth’s Past and Future (Source: Space Review)
A recent study suggests that the Moon has played a bigger role than previously thought in making the Earth habitable. Peter Kokh says this, plus the Moon’s role in our future, should influence what we consider to be “Earth-like” worlds. Click here. (7/25)

Commercial Spaceports (Source: LaunchSpace)
Just last year, the FAA gave Houston the "go-ahead" to build America's 10th commercial spaceport. Yes, the US already had nine spaceports designated for commercial operations. One must ask, "Why do we need 10 spaceports for so little commercial space activities?" This represents a great deal of investment and ongoing expense for an industry still in its infancy.

The reason for all this excitement among several states and entrepreneurs is space tourism, the so-called "killer" space application that has yet to become reality. Yes, the media continues to expend a great deal of energy and newsprint on the topic. So much so, that any person might think we are launching tourist spaceships every hour on the hour, to several orbiting hotels and resort complexes. In reality, that industry is still taking "baby" steps toward the future objective of populous orbiting resorts and theme parks. (7/25)

NASA’s Weird Asteroid Redirect Mission Is Actually Making Progress (Source: Inverse)
In case you weren’t already aware, one of the things NASA plans to do in the 2020s is to send a robotic spacecraft to a near-Earth asteroid, pick up a stray boulder off the surface, tug it back to the moon and drop it off in lunar orbit for astronauts to later study.

Yes, the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) is equal parts ambitious and strange, and there has been no shortage of questions as to whether this project makes a whole lot of sense. NASA’s official line has been to tout that it’s an essential stepping stone, and at the NASA Advisory Council Human Exploration and Operations Committee Meeting on Monday, Ron Ticker, the deputy program director for ARM, quelled doubts the agency was pushing along a fringe project with no real purpose.

There are three main phases to the mission: identifying candidate asteroids using ground-based equipment like the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico or the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explore in space and choosing a target for the mission; launching a solar-electric propulsion-based robotic spacecraft to the target asteroid and having it pluck a boulder off toward cislunar space; and sending a crew out there onboard the deep space Orion vehicle so they can study it. (7/25)

SPIDER Shrinks Telescopes with Far-Out Design (Source: Science News)
In the space business, weight and size are what run up the bills. So imagine the appeal of a telescope that’s a tenth to as little as a hundredth as heavy, bulky and power hungry as the conventional instruments that NASA and other government agencies now send into space. Especially alluring is the notion of marrying the time-tested technology called interferometry, used in traditional observatories, with the new industrial field of photonics and its almost unimaginably tiny optical circuits.

Say hello to SPIDER, or Segmented Planar Imaging Detector for Electro-optical Reconnaissance. Some doubt it will ever work. But its inventors believe that, once demonstrated at full-scale, SPIDER will replace standard telescopes and long-range cameras in settings where room is scarce, such as on planetary probes and reconnaissance satellites.

Researchers at the Lockheed Martin, with partners in a photonics lab at the University of California, have described work on SPIDER for several years at specialty conferences. Somewhat like a visible-light version of a vast field of radio telescopes, but at a radically smaller scale, a SPIDER scope’s surface would sparkle with hundreds to thousands of lenses about the size found on point-and-shoot cameras. The instrument might be a foot or two across and only as thick as a flat-screen TV. (7/25)

Aerojet Rocketdyne Tests RCS Engines for Boeing's Starliner (Source: Aerojet Rocketdyne)
Aerojet Rocketdyne has successfully completed a series of hot-fire development tests on three Reaction Control System (RCS) engines for Boeing's Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 Starliner service module propulsion system. Each RCS engine was tested up to 4,000 pulses and 1,600 seconds - the longest accumulated time ever conducted on a lightweight thruster with a composite chamber. The tests were performed at NASA's White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico. (7/25)

NASA Books Nuclear-Certified Atlas 5 for Mars 2020 Rover Launch (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
America’s next Mars rover, a $2.1 billion nuclear-powered vehicle to search for evidence that life once existed there, will be launched to the Red Planet in the summer of 2020 by a powerful Atlas 5 rocket. Jim Green, planetary science division director, revealed the selection of the United Launch Alliance vehicle at the NASA Advisory Council meeting in Cleveland this afternoon.

ULA’s Atlas 5 and Delta 4-Heavy and SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy were studied as possible launch vehicles for the intermediate-to-heavy classed payload. It was not immediately known if SpaceX submitted a bid for this launch contract. But, currently, Atlas 5 is the only launch vehicle that holds a NASA certification for launching the nuclear batteries made of plutonium that will power the 2,000-pound rover. (7/25)

Air Force’s Next Space Surveillance System on Target for 2021 (Source: Space News)
After telling Congress it needed $11.5 million less than it expected this year for an upcoming space surveillance mission, the U.S. Air Force said July 22 it still plans to launch the next Space Based Space Surveillance (SBSS) system in 2021. The current SBSS satellite, the Block 10 pathfinder, was launched in 2010 and is expected to last until about 2020, according to budget documents. (7/25)

NASA Thinks It Can Send Humans to Martian Orbit By 2033 (Source: Inverse)
At the NASA Advisory Council Human Exploration and Operations Committee Meeting on Monday, Bill Gerstenmaier, the associate administrator for HEO at the agency, said he believes we could have astronauts make it to Martian orbit — or conduct a short-distance flyby of the red planet — by 2033.

According to current budgets and plans, the projection could be realized, Gerstenmaier said. The larger goal of getting human boots on Mars’ surface, however, would require a much more extensive advancement of technology, and would likely occur closer to the end of the 2030s. (7/25)

Orbital ATK Teams with Europe's ECAPS for Green Satellite Propulsion (Source: Orbital ATK)
Orbital ATK has signed an agreement with leading European green propulsion technology firm ECAPS to fully develop, demonstrate and market a high performance green propulsion (HPGP) system. The HPGP system, which offers significant cost advantages and dramatically reduces the environmental risks associated with traditional monopropellants, is aimed at both attitude control and main propulsion.

Orbital ATK’s team will leverage exclusive use of ECAPS’ LMP-103S, a very-low toxicity monopropellant technology designed as a direct replacement for hydrazine-based systems. LMP-103S offers significantly higher specific impulse and density, meaning greater performance and lower volume. More importantly, it is a low-toxicity, environmentally-benign propellant, providing enhanced safety and health benefits over conventional hydrazine.

It offers the promise of propellant loading prior to satellite transport and considerably lower logistics cost. The partnership continues Orbital ATK’s commitment to HPGP technology, which includes scaling up the blending of LMP-103S, successful tests of 5 and 22 Newton thrusters, and supporting several Small Business Innovation Research programs. (7/25)

Facebook Demos Aircraft as Alternative to Satellites for Internet (Source: Space News)
Facebook on July 21 said the first flight of its full-scale Aquila solar-powered aircraft designed for regional internet connectivity was a success, lasting longer than expected despite an unspecified “structural failure” just before landing. The 96-minute flight, conducted in Yuma, Arizona, confirmed the validity of Aquila’s structural design and avionics, Facebook said. (7/25)

July 25, 2016

Florida Tech Experiment Gives Students a Shot at NASA Research (Source: Florida Tech)
Not many students get a chance to do research for NASA as undergrads, but it’s the type of opportunity that’s possible at Florida Tech. Aerospace Engineering professor Hamid Hefazi was recently awarded a grant that will allow students to test a wire repair system developed by NASA and Vencore Inc. The experiment will be conducted on sounding rocket launched from Wallope Island, Virginia some time in October 2016.

The patch material in question is a flexible and temperature-resistant polyimide film currently used for aircraft applications. The new technology is heated with a custom tool that cures the film so that its hermetically sealed. The end result is more flexible than repairs made using methods such as tape or shrink wrap.

The goal of the two-year NASA Undergraduate Student Instrument Project is to see if the patch could be used in a microgravity environment, such as a space vehicle or even the International Space Station—thus the need for the rocket to carry the experiment to sub-orbital space. (7/25)

India Plans Weather Satellite Launch (Source: IANS)
India is planning to launch a weather satellite next month. A.S. Kiran Kumar, chairman of the Indian space agency ISRO, said his weekend a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) is scheduled to launch the Insat-3DR satellite in August. An upgraded version of the GSLV, the GSLV Mark 3, is scheduled to launch at the end of this year to launch a communications satellite that, at 3.2 tons, will be the heaviest geostationary orbit satellite launched by India. (7/25)

Democrats Add Space Policy to Platform (Source: DNC)
Democrats have added a space policy plank to their 2016 platform. The updated platform, published Friday, includes one paragraph about NASA, with general support for the space agency and space exploration. "We will strengthen support for NASA and work in partnership with the international scientific community to launch new missions to space," it stated, without offering specifics. An earlier draft of the platform included no mention of NASA. The platform will be formally adopted this week at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. (7/25)

CASIS Recruits Marvel Characters for ISS Contest (Source: CollectSpace)
Another Rocket is heading to the International Space Station — along with Groot. At the San Diego Comic-Con Friday, Marvel Comics and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the nonprofit that manages the national lab portion of the ISS, unveiled a new patch for science payloads heading to the ISS this year. The patch features Rocket Raccoon and Groot, two characters from "The Guardians of the Galaxy" comics and movies. CASIS plans to use the patch, and the characters, for an educational flight contest later this year. (7/24)

NASA Wants More Private Uses of the International Space Station (Source: Engadget)
NASA doesn't just see the International Space Station as a place where government space agencies can work together in harmony -- it could be a business hub, too. The agency has put out a call for ideas that could increase commercial use of the ISS. Those private outfits have potential uses that researchers hadn't imagined, NASA says. They could likely take better advantage of the "unique capabilities" of the low-Earth orbit facility, such as hooking up to underused attachment ports.

Companies have quietly been soliciting ideas since the start of July, and they'll have until the 29th to get their ideas in. This won't necessarily turn the ISS into a marketplace. However, you shouldn't be surprised if the station soon gets more of a private presence than the occasional SpaceX capsule. (7/25)

Sorry Donald Trump, It Doesn't Matter if the U.S. is 'First' in Space (Source: Mashable)
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump likes to say that he's going to make America's space program "first" again. The details of his plan to make that happen are pretty much non-existent and he hasn't actually explained why NASA isn't "first" these days. But honestly, who cares. The fact is, it shouldn't matter if America is "first" in space or not. In fact, a go-it-alone strategy on space exploration would be a huge mistake.

Talking about access to space as some kind of national rat race to the top is damaging for every nation hoping to extend its reach into the solar system in the increasingly globalized world we live in. The ability to launch satellites and people to space is not only a point of pride for nations, it's also quickly becoming an absolute necessity. The United States is increasingly reliant on space-based assets for navigation and imagery, and other countries need to have a part in that too, or they will be left behind. (7/24)

Senators Want Continuity for NASA's Exploration Program (Source: Space Policy Online)
A recent Senate committee hearing focused on how to ensure that the human spaceflight program avoids another dramatic change when a new President takes office next year as it did in 2009. While most of the hearing dealt with maintaining the status quo amid political change, one witness, Mike Gold of SSL, looked more to the future and the need for a synergistic relationship between government and private sector space activities.

The hearing before the Subcommittee on Space, Science and Competitiveness of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee on July 13 was chaired by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). This was only the third space hearing he had called since becoming subcommittee chairman last year.  SpacePolicyOnline.com summarized his February 24, 2015 hearing on human spaceflight and commercial space and his March 12, 2015 hearing on NASA's FY2016 budget request.

Joining him were the top Democrat on the subcommittee, Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI), the top Democrat on the full committee Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and subcommittee member Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), who introduced Gold, a Montana native. Peters and Nelson explicitly said they want to pass a new NASA authorization bill before the end of the Congress, and Cruz inferred it by saying that the subcommittee wants to provide NASA with security and stability and he would work with Peters to achieve that. Nelson made clear that he wants to extend the lifetime of the International Space Station (ISS) to the end of the decade, instead of the current U.S. commitment of 2024. (7/24)

NASA Establishes Institute to Explore New Ways to Protect Astronauts (Source: Space Daily)
NASA is joining with Baylor College of Medicine in Houston to operate a new institute charged with researching and developing innovative approaches to reduce risks to humans on long-duration exploration missions, including NASA's Journey to Mars. Work under the Translational Research Institute Cooperative Agreement, overseen by NASA's Human Research Program, begins Oct. 1.

Translational research is an interdisciplinary model of research that focuses on translating fundamental research concepts into practice, with appreciable health outcomes. The NASA Translational Research Institute (NTRI) will implement a "bench-to-spaceflight" model, moving results or methods from laboratory experiments or clinical trials to point-of-care astronaut health and performance applications. (7/25)

20 New Countries to Invest in Space Programs by 2025 (Source: Space Daily)
According to Euroconsult's latest report, Trends and Prospects for Emerging Space Programs, 24 countries are identified as emerging space programs (ESPs) in 2015 having launched a total of 69 satellites in the last 20 years. As satellite technology has become more accessible and affordable, the number of countries investing in their first satellite system has increased dramatically. 2015 set an all-time record with nine satellites launched, confirming the dynamism of this market.

By 2025, we estimate that the number of emerging space programs will increase to 47 countries around the world. This includes 23 newcomers who will have committed their first investment in space between 2016 and 2025. Over 130 satellites are forecast to be launched in the next 10 years, nearly double that of the last decade. The total value of these satellites should more than double at nearly $12 billion, versus more than $5 billion during 2006-2015. (7/22)

Sally Ride, Mae Jemison Among 'Women of NASA' Proposed as LEGO Minifigs (Source: Space.com)
They have been launched to the space station and journeyed on a probe to Jupiter, have honored moonwalkers and made spaceflight the stuff of child's play. Now, they are going where no man — or rather woman — LEGO minifigure has gone before: showcasing the role of female pioneers in the U.S. space program.

"Women of NASA," a proposed LEGO set by a science writer and fan of the iconic toy brick brand, features LEGO minifigures in the likeness of five women who made lasting contributions to the space agency's exploration efforts. The set, posted to the LEGO Ideas website, needs 10,000 supporting votes in order to be reviewed by the Danish toy company for possible production. (7/25)

Return to the Underwater Space Station (Source: Space Daily)
This year, NASA's underwater training mission for astronauts promises to be longer and better than ever. Starting on 21 July, space agencies will test technologies and research international crew behaviour for long-duration missions using a permanent underwater base off the coast of Florida. The 21st NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations, or NEEMO, sortie will enact a mission to Mars to test equipment for astronauts. The six 'aquanauts' will spend 16 days 20 m underwater in their habitat and perform 'waterwalks' - by adjusting their buoyancy, the aquanauts can simulate Mars gravity. (7/22)

NASA Seeks Picometer Accuracy For Webb Telescope (Source: Space Daily)
Finding and characterizing dozens of Earth-like planets will require a super-stable space telescope whose optical components move or distort no more than a few picometers - a measurement smaller than the size of an atom. It also will require next-generation tools with which to assure that level of stability.

With NASA funding, a team of scientists at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, has begun working with an Arizona-based company to develop a highly sophisticated laboratory tool - a high-speed interferometer - capable of assuring picometer-level stability, a feat not yet accomplished. (7/22)

Commercial Space Needs Regulatory Clarity (Source: Breaking Defense)
The past decade has been an exciting one for commercial space enthusiasts like myself. A plethora of space startups have entered the market and many incumbents have re-energized their commercial space businesses. While a few of the larger startups are backed by billionaire investors with a passion for space exploration, many are funded by venture capital investors looking for a return on investment. 

Many of us remember a similar period of space optimism in the 1990s with grand plans for hundreds of satellites blanketing the sky. That came to a crashing halt as cellular networks outpaced satellite communications constellations in coverage and price, leading to the bankruptcies of Iridium in 1999 and Globalstar in 2002. Will this time be different?  It’s too soon to tell, but one thing is certain: policy makers have an important role to play in helping these new commercial space ventures get off the ground.

I’m not talking about tax credits, investment incentives, or direct government funding, although I’m sure many companies would welcome this kind of help. What commercial space needs most today is something only the government can provide: regulatory clarity. Right now there are significant gaps in the U.S. government’s regulatory authority and licensing process for newly emerging commercial space ventures. Click here. (7/25)

PDL Space Receives Additional $1.1 Million From Spanish Government (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The European rocket company PLD Space has received another $1.1M contract to foster its liquid rocket engine propulsion program. This new economic support has been provided by the regional investment fund of the Aragón area, called SUMA Teruel. PLD Space had already received the $1.56M TEPREL contract in April 2016 to upgrade for flight its 25 KN Liquid Oxygen – Kerosene rocket engine.

PLD Space is the first European rocket company that made in 2015 the critical leap from Powerpoint and cool drawings to full-scale hardware and real tests.

The $1.1M investment will provide all the necessary economical resources to upgrade PLD Space’s current propulsion test stand and to develop 2 new benches at Teruel Airport, located in the desert area of Aragón (Spain). The activity of the company is growing at this location since 2014, when PLD Space began the construction of the first fully-private liquid propulsion test facility in Europe. In June 2015, PLD Space become the first European company to test a full-scale and full-power liquid rocket engine demonstrator for small satellites launcher. (7/25)

ULA and Ball Interns, Colorado Students Participate in Record-Setting Launch (Source: ULA)
A 50-foot-tall high-power sport rocket carried payloads thousands of feet above Fort Carson Army Post today at the Student Rocket Launch. Sponsored by United Launch Alliance, Ball Aerospace and the Space Foundation, the record-setting event marked the culmination of an experience designed to simulate a real-life launch campaign and inspire students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). (7/24)

July 24, 2016

India Ready for Air-Breathing Propulsion Experiment (Source: The Hindu)
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is looking forward to performing “an experiment” before July-end aboard its RH-560 rocket fitted with a supersonic combustion ramjet (scramjet) engine for demonstrating air-breathing propulsion technology. At three tonnes, the two-stage RH-560, christened Advanced Technology Vehicle (ATV), is the heaviest sounding rocket built by the ISRO. (7/24)

Aldrin, Takei Inspire Astronauts of Tomorrow at KSC (Source: Florida Today)
Neil Karl John Robert Eugene Wellman is going to grow up to be a heck of an astronaut, if his father has anything to say about it. Born on April 12, 2016 — the International Day of Human Flight — and named for five former astronauts, Neil slept soundly through the Apollo 11 Anniversary Gala on Saturday night. But of the 250 guests who came out to Kennedy Space Center, he was the only one.

Inspiring kids, like Neil, to imagine the unimaginable and reach for the unreachable is the mission of Buzz Aldrin's ShareSpace Foundation, which hosted the evening. "The future has a great possibility of being great, but it's up to us," said Aldrin. Placing an emphasis on STEAM — science, technology, engineering, art and math — the ShareSpace Foundation aims to get kids hands-on experience in the classroom. Although the foundation has reached more than 50,000 students in two years, Aldrin says the education system has a long way to go. (7/24)

Lockheed Martin Space Systems Earnings Down Despite Big ULA Contribution (Source: Space News)
Lockheed Martin on July 20 reported lower revenue and operating profit at its Space Systems division for the six months ending June 26 despite a large profit contribution by launch-service provider United Launch Alliance (ULA). The company slightly raised is expected 2016 Space Systems revenue and profit forecast but said revenue and profit are likely to be down by about 5 percent each in 2016 compared to 2015.

For the six months ending June 26, Lockheed reported equity earnings – mainly from ULA – totaling $170 million, compared to $119 million for the same period a year ago. These earnings alone accounted for 29 percent of the operating profit of the Space Systems division. (7/21)

Emirati Women Reach for the Stars and Beyond (Source: The National)
But that is increasingly the case for a new generation as the UAE continues to work towards securing its post-oil future. At Strata Manufacturing, an advanced composite aerostructures manufacturing facility in Al Ain, part of Mubadala, 86 percent of the Emirati workforce are women.

"It is an unprecedented outcome that is unique to the entire global aerospace industry," said Badr Al Olama, Strata’s chief executive. "The aerospace industry is an integral part of the UAE’s vision of sustaining a diversified industrial and knowledge-based economy that embodies national capabilities at its core. (7/22)

5 Years After Space Shuttle, Obama’s NASA Still Can’t Put A Man Into Space (Source: Daily Caller)
The last Space Shuttle launched 5 years ago Thursday, but NASA still cannot put men into space without Russian cooperation due to President Obama’s cuts to the agency’s exploration and spaceflight capability. NASA plans to return to Earth’s orbit are entirely dependent on private companies, some of which are scheduled to launch by the end of next year.

NASA’s inability of America to send humans into space forces the U.S. to pay Russia tens of millions of dollars for access to the International Space Station. Russia has repeatedly threatened to block American access to the $150 billion International Space Station (ISS) in response to U.S. sanctions. The U.S. paid for 84 percent of the costs associated with building the ISS. Editor's Note: Not surprised to see this kind of slanted "reporting" coming from the Daily Caller. (7/23)

Southern California's Aerospace Industry, Long in Decline, Begins to Stir (Source: LA Times)
When Tim Buzza joined McDonnell Douglas in the late 1980s and worked on the C-17 cargo plane, lots were so jammed that workers often had to park as much as a mile from the Long Beach plant and take a shuttle bus. Last year, the C-17 production line shut down, ending the last large aircraft assembly operation in the region. Today, Buzza, 52, works on the old Douglas property, but for Virgin Galactic, billionaire Richard Branson’s space start-up.

Southern California is a long way from its aerospace glory years. Employment today is about one-third of what it was in 1990. But analysts and industry leaders believe that the sector is poised to grow again, behind a new generation of entrepreneurial private space companies like SpaceX in Hawthorne and Virgin Galactic, and defense projects such as the B-21 long-range strike bomber, which could bring thousands of jobs to the area. (7/22)

ULA Targeting Thursday Morning for Rocket Launch (Source: WKMG)
United Launch Alliance is targeting 8:37 a.m. Thursday, for the launch of an Atlas V rocket from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. News 6 partner Florida Today reported ULA will be launching the classified NROL-61 intelligence mission for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office. Launching for the 64th time, the Atlas is flying in a "421" configuration with two strap-on solid rocket boosters. (7/22)

Companies are Flooding Earth’s Orbit with Satellites, But No One’s Directing Traffic (Source: Washington Post)
Companies around the globe are launching an increasing number of satellites, crowding Earth’s orbit in an effort to satisfy the ravenous on-demand desire for more broadband, satellite television and communications. In the past five years, the number of operational satellites has jumped 40 percent, and nearly 1,400 now orbit the Earth.

Industry officials say that number could more than double in five years as a revolution in technology has made satellites smaller and more affordable. Entrepreneurs eye the ethereal real estate a couple of hundred miles up as a potentially lucrative new market. Companies such as OneWeb, Boeing and SpaceX plan to put up constellations of small satellites that could number in the hundreds, if not thousands, and beam the Internet to the billions of people not yet connected.

Just last month, Boeing filed an application with the FCC that would allow it to send up nearly 3,000 satellites for broadband services. But U.S. officials are concerned about all the traffic in space and the lack of oversight. Although the Pentagon tracks objects orbiting the globe and warns of close approaches, it does not have the power to order an operator to move a satellite out of the way to avoid a collision. Click here. (7/22)

Russia and China Envision Joint Space Exploration (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Russia and China are discussing broad cooperation in the field of space exploration. Both countries have said they are willing to collaborate in a wide range of areas, including joint missions to the Moon and Mars. According to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, both sides have the potential to implement impressive space projects as they trust each other at the political level as well as at the level of specialists.

Rogozin made his remarks on the possible Russia-China cooperation last week, during a meeting with the heads of Russian regions and Chinese provinces as well as the managers of companies from both countries. He noted that during his talks with the Vice Premier of China’s State Council, Wang Yang, cooperation on the issue of interaction between both space agencies was debated. The officials discussed large projects like the delivery of rocket engines and also collaboration in navigation systems. (7/23)

Running at 150,000 RPM, This Tiny Motor Could Help Satellites Keep On Course (Source: Tech Crunch)
The future is small in space: picture Cubesats the size of toasters and Femtosats an inch across crowding the skies. A newly invented motor that’s both tiny and powerful goes hand in hand with that vision, providing compact spacecraft with the ability to adjust their position without using a drop of fuel. First, though, a little engineering lesson. Here comes the science!

It’s not practical, especially in small, long-mission spacefaring units like satellites and probes, to use fuel for much of anything except critical accelerations and maneuvers. After all, you can’t exactly top off a New Horizons when it runs low on hydrazine. So in order to make small adjustments to a craft’s attitude, reaction wheels are often employed.

Basically, these things are flywheels mounted inside the satellite that spin at a constant speed — and varying that speed (say by slowing counterclockwise spin on the Y axis), results in a reactive force from the satellite. Every action has its reaction, remember? And in this case, the reaction is that the satellite rotates around its center of mass proportionally to how much the wheel’s speed is altered. (7/23)

July 23, 2016

EchoStar Unit Hughes Satellite Launches $1.5B Debt Offering (Source: Law360)
Satellite provider EchoStar Corp. said Wednesday that its subsidiary Hughes Satellite Systems Corp. has placed $1.5 billion in senior notes, which it plans to sell to qualified institutional buyers. Hughes Satellite placed an offering of $750 million in 5.25 perecent secured notes due in 2026, and $750 million in 6.625 percent unsecured notes also due in 2026, according to a statement about the offering from EchoStar. Proceeds from the debt issuance will be used for capital expenditures, working capital and for general corporate purposes. (7/22)

RocketCrafters Switches Gears From Spaceplane to Vertical Launchers (Source: SPACErePORT)
RocketCrafters, the small aerospace company that planned to develop a family of dual-propulsion spaceplanes for point-to-point spaceflight, has changed its business plan to focus on developing an "Intrepid" family of vertical-launch hybrid-fueled rockets to deliver small satellites to orbit.

The company relocated from Utah to Florida's Space Coast in 2012 to design and build its spaceplanes, with the potential for creating up to 1300 jobs and a manufacturing facility at Titusville's Space Coast Regional Airport, adjacent to the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The company's rockets would likely launch from Florida for many missions, but perhaps also from Puerto Rico where RocketCrafters is considering a site for high-inclination and polar-orbit launches. (7/23)

Active Tracking of Astronaut Rad-Exposures Targeted (Source: Space Daily)
Radiation is an invisible hazard of spaceflight, but a new monitoring system for ESA astronauts gives a realtime snapshot of their exposure. The results will guide researchers preparing for deep-space missions to come. A key element of the new system launched to orbit with Monday's Falcon 9 launch to the International Space Station, ensuring it is in place for ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet's November mission to the Station.

As a general rule, radiation exposure increases with altitude - people living on mountains receive more than those at sea level, while airline crews receive a small but noticeable additional dose. Astronauts in orbit receive still more radiation - they are officially classed as radiation workers. The individual dose for the whole flight is carefully measured by keeping a dosimeter on their body, to keep their career exposure within safe limits. (7/22)

Garvey Acquisition Brings 16 Years of Launch Vehicle Development to Vector (Source: Space Daily)
Vector Space Systems, a micro satellite space launch company comprised of new-space industry veterans from SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, McDonnell Douglas and Sea Launch, has finalized the acquisition of Garvey Spacecraft Corporation. As part of the acquisition, Garvey Spacecraft Corporation Founder and CEO John Garvey joins Vector Space Systems as Chief Technology Officer.

Founded in May 2016, Vector Space Systems was formed to connect space startups with affordable launch-enabling platforms and vehicles for accessing space at a cost and schedule never before possible. The acquisition allows Vector Space Systems to accelerate its mission of fostering innovation to spark growth in the space commerce industry through reliable and frequent launch opportunities. (7/22)

SSTL Expands LEO Platform Capability with VESTA Nanosatellite (Source: Space Daily)
Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) has signed a contract with Honeywell to supply the VESTA satellite platform, a technology demonstration mission that will test a new two-way VHF Data Exchange System (VDES) payload for the exactEarth advanced maritime satellite constellation. The contract was signed as part of an MOU between Honeywell Aerospace and the UK Space Agency. (7/22)

Dish Losing Subscribers During Wait for New Satellites (Source: Space News)
Dish Network says it is losing satellite broadband subscribers as it awaits the launch of new satellites. Dish said it lost 15,000 subscribers in the last quarter, a loss it blames on "stricter customer acquisition policies" as well as satellite capacity constraints. Dish sells broadband services provided by both Hughes and ViaSat, who are planning to launch new satellites that will provide additional capacity next year. (7/22)

SSL Wins DARPA Satellite Servicing Contract (Source: SSL)
Space Systems Loral has won a DARPA contract to provide robotic arms for a satellite servicing program. SSL said the contract, valued at $20.7 million, covers the design and development of robotic arm hardware for DARPA's Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites program. That effort seeks to develop a spacecraft that can capture satellites not designed for docking and repair them. (7/22)

Astronaut Mark Kelly to Speak at Democratic Convention (Source: DNC)
Former astronaut Mark Kelly will speak at next week's Democratic National Convention, although not necessarily about space. Kelly and his wife, former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, are among the speakers convention organizers said Thursday will appear at the convention in Philadelphia. Kelly, in a tweet, said he and Giffords will speak on July 27 to discuss why the Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, "will make our country safer." (7/22)

Houston to Host ASE Astronaut Convention in 2019 (Source: CollectSpace)
Houston will host a convention of astronauts in 2019. The Association of Space Explorers (ASE) announced this week that its annual Planetary Congress, a gathering of its members, will take place in Houston in October 2019. It will be the first time the ASE has held its annual conference in the U.S. since 2008 in Seattle. ASE, whose membership is open to people who have flown in space, has more than 400 members worldwide. (7/22)

Curiosity Upgrade Gives Laser System Autonomy (Source: Space.com)
The Curiosity Mars rover has an upgrade that allows it to fire its laser on its own. The new software for the rover now gives the rover the ability to target rocks for study by its ChemCam instrument, which fires a laser and studies the composition of the vaporized rock. That autonomy, project scientists say, gives them more flexibility when they don't have time to select targets themselves. (7/22)

Dark Matter Effort Finds No WIMPS (Source: Ars Technica)
The latest effort to detect dark matter has come up empty. The Large Underground Xenon (LUX) detector, based in a mine in South Dakota 1.5 kilometers underground, was designed to detect one possible dark matter candidate called weakly interacting massive particles, or WIMPs. However, while LUX turned out to be four times more sensitive than originally designed, scientists failed to detect any signatures of WIMPs colliding with xenon atoms in the detector. The failure to detect WIMPs doesn't rule out their existence, but does set limits on what they may be. (7/22)

Mentor-Protege Program Expanded By Final SBA Rule (Source: Law360)
The U.S. Small Business Administration on Friday released a final rule putting in place a long-awaited expansion to its mentor-protege program, expanding the program's eligibility to cover all small businesses. Under the new rule, set to go into effect in August, any small businesses can form a joint venture with a larger mentor business to help with advice and assistance, while still maintaining eligibility for federal small business set-aside contracts. In its current form, only businesses that participate in the SBA's 8(a) Business Development Program are eligible. (7/20)

Commercializing the Space Station (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA and other governments may have an end date for the International Space Station, but private companies are creating their own for commercial purposes. Senior Space Editor Frank Morring discusses plans for new commercial space modules from which other companies can launch small satellites, or use the advantages of microgravity for new ventures such as one with a plan to manufacture faster fiber optics. Click here. (7/23)

From STEM to Space: Let’s Launch More Careers in Flight! (Source: Aviation Week)
If you had told me when I graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1955 that my career would take me via the U.S. Air Force to the Empire Test Pilot School in Farnborough to the moon on Apollo 15 and back to Farnborough 52 years later – with so many extraordinary experiences and personal connections along the way – I certainly would have laughed it off with a big “No way!” There are probably a lot of you who, similarly, could not have guessed at the start of your careers that you would find such rewarding work in the most exciting industry in the world.

We can’t predict where our passions will take us, but we can all agree, no industry enables mankind to reach as far as aerospace. Consider that just over a century ago, the Wright brothers discovered controlled, powered flight, and today, we’re orbiting Jupiter! This industry is chock-full of such historic human accomplishments, achieved by millions of professionals, connected across the continuum of time by the four cornerstones of STEM – science, technology, engineering and math. (7/22)

China Could Legally Seize Moon's 'Peaks of Eternal Light' -- Will 1st Space War Start There? (Source: Daily Galaxy)
A 'research station' on the 'peaks of eternal light' would prevent anyone else from approaching. A Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics senior astrophysicist, Martin Elvis, has sounded the alarm of how an unfriendly power – the Chinese for example – could seize control of an important piece of lunar real estate. They could do it legally by exploiting provisions of the Outer Space Treaty, that bars any nation — and by extension, corporation — from owning property on a celestial body, but a loophole in the pact may amount to the same thing, warns Elvis.

The real estate in question are the so-called “peaks of eternal light” that lay around permanently shadowed craters at the Lunar South Pole. Unlike the Earth, which is tilted so the poles are in six months of darkness and six months of light, the moon is almost perfectly aligned with its orbit around the sun. Because of the way the moon tilts, these peaks are bathed in sunlight for most if not all of the time, which means you can have an almost continuous power supply, ideal for a photovoltaic power station. Click here. (7/13)

The Possibility of a SpaceX Launch Failure (at Texas Spaceport) is Real (Source: El Rrun Rrun)
After the announcement that the hazard zone for the last SpaceX launch at Cape Canaveral was expanded, we took the liberty of measuring the distance from the proposed SpaceX Texas site to Koepernick Shores, it is just about a quarter of a mile. It is just a little over five miles to the nearest town, Port Isabel. Now, would you feel safe if you lived in Port Isabel knowing that you are a mere five miles downwind? Mexico, to the south, is less than three miles away.

Also, the SpaceX launch site lies within the Las Palomas Wildlife Management Area, adjacent to the South Bay of the Laguna Madre, the spawning waters of gulf shrimp, redfish, and other aquatic species native to South Texas and of immense economic importance to tourism and commercial fishing. Now imagine that what happened to the Falcon rocket last June was to happen over this aquatic nursery and the toxic gases are carried by the traditional southeast trade winds over the South Bay, to Port Isabel and to the Laguna Madre.

Would Musk have enough money to pay for the ecological damage that would result from all those toxic gases and sludge falling into the water and over the people there? (7/17)

SpaceX Texas Site Jobs Still Haven't Come (Source: El Rrun Rrun)
Remember those 600 jobs with average wages of $55,000 that BEDC's Salinas was using to sell SpaceX? SpaceX promised the FAA in its Environmental Impact Statement that it would have 100 full-time workers at the site by 2015, and 200 local/transient workers. We're in the middle of 2016 and so far there is only a mound of dirt out on Boca Chica and none of the 100 full-time jobs and 200 part-time jobs Musk promised. (7/17)

What If the Moon Disappeared Tomorrow? (Source: Space.com)
Ah, yes, the moon. To it, over it, shooting for it. Blue, green. Pies, faces, shines, lighting. And I haven't even gotten to all the Luna-based concepts. Earth's moon plays a significant role in our culture, language and thoughts. But does it … you know … matter? If it disappeared in the blink of an eye tomorrow (and for discussion's sake let's assume it does so nonviolently), would we even notice? Would we even care? Click here. (7/22)

Vector Space Discussing Cape Canaveral Launch Site with Space Florida (Source: Space News)
Vector's new Garvey-designed engines are now moving into final development and qualification tests, Cantrell said, including a flight test of a second stage engine on a suborbital rocket planned for July 30 from an amateur rocket test site in California’s Mojave Desert.

Another test is planned for September from Pacific Spaceport Complex – Alaska, a launch site on Kodiak Island, Alaska. That test will also help the company understand how to work with launch ranges to minimize problems Cantrell said often delay launch vehicle development efforts. Ultimately, he said the company plans to launch from Alaska and is in discussions with Space Florida about a launch site at Cape Canaveral. (7/22)

No More Space Race Rhetoric: It’s Not Just About the US Any More (Source: New Scientist)
There has always been a note of nationalism to space exploration. We went to the moon “because it was hard”, as Kennedy said – but we also went because the Russians already had people in orbit around Earth. Every time a NASA spacecraft visits another world, the little American flags come out. NASA administrator Charles Bolden has justified the agency’s bid to create crewed craft for future missions as a way to “bring space launches back to America“.

We may now be seeing the logical conclusion of that focus. Former space shuttle commander Eileen Collins spoke at the Republican National Convention on the night of 20 July – the anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing – to call for “leadership that will make America’s space programme first again”. This is a clear reframing of Donald Trump’s intensely nationalistic “Make America Great Again” theme.

This is a step too far. The space community and the science community more broadly should not be co-opted in service of a political candidate who has called climate change a Chinese hoax. It’s time to reassess what we value in space. The best, most exciting, work has been done as part of international efforts; going it alone will not teach us more about the universe. (7/22)

Hunting for Mars-Like Life a Kilometer Below Earth’s Surface (Source: New Scientist)
“Some parts of Boulby mine are similar to environments we see on Mars, and so we’d like to use Boulby to work out where the best places are to look for signs of ancient life on Mars,” says Charles Cockell, an astrobiologist from Edinburgh University, who heads up the Mars Analogues for Space Exploration project. Click here. (7/22)

Debate Accelerates on Universe’s Expansion Speed (Source: Science News)
A puzzling mismatch is plaguing two methods for measuring how fast the universe is expanding. When the discrepancy arose a few years ago, scientists suspected it would fade away, a symptom of measurement errors. But the latest, more precise measurements of the expansion rate — a number known as the Hubble constant — have only deepened the mystery. (7/23)

What Would a Trump Presidency Mean for NASA’s Future? (Source: Inverse)
The thing is, if Trump is serious about getting the U.S. program to launch its astronauts with full independence, he should let NASA do its job with the money it asks for. The new Space Launch System, set for an inaugural launch in 2018, is the key providing the country with its own launch infrastructure once again. If Trump messes with NASA’s budget, it could hamper SLS development and push us into relying on Russian rockets for even longer.

It’s easy to see a businessman like Trump bet big on the free market to replace NASA. After all, a company like SpaceX is already dead-set on doing big things like getting to the red planet. If NASA’s operations were to b cut down, it’s likely the private sector would work fast to fill that void.

But that’s not exactly a great strategy. Private spaceflight companies are still training their space legs, so to speak, and cannot yet handle the type of insanely complex engineering and operational work NASA makes out to look like child’s play. NASA and the ISS are still way too important. (7/22)