May 27, 2017

Is Intelligent Extraterrestrial Life Out There? (Source: Daily Nonpareil)
I have no idea as to how long the question regarding the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence has been going, but it’s been a very, very long time, as you might imagine. The question will probably continue to be asked: “Do they exist?” There has never been a direct answer — only supposition.

Imagine the TV news, newspapers, internet and all other forms of mass communication pouring out stories and comments about these newly discovered “beings.” A question that immediately comes to mind is: do we really want to see an extraterrestrial life form?

It might be devastating, for instance, to see a creature completely different from a human being but 100 times more intelligent.You have to remember that our bodies are built and suited to no other planet but Earth, and it is only because of our atmosphere and environmental circumstances that we exist by breathing oxygen, hydrogen and other gases in this atmosphere. These factors may not be the same elsewhere. (5/26)

Our Next World War Might Be Fought in Outer Space (Source: New Republic)
There’s plenty to criticize about Donald Trump’s plans to massively expand the U.S. military. His requested $54 billion increase in defense spending, combined with his bellicose rhetoric, seems tailor-made to lead America into more violent conflicts. And aside from Trump’s obsession with owning “the best” of everything, it’s not clear that the U.S. needs to boost military spending by 10 percent—particularly when Trump campaigned on a pledge to avoid foreign entanglements.

Yet there’s one area of national security where America might benefit from more spending: outer space. In recent years, China has demonstrated its ability to shoot down satellites that the U.S. relies on for everything from processing credit card transactions and balancing the power grid to collecting intelligence and directing troops on the battlefield.

China is not the only country that poses a threat. Russia has launched satellites that intentionally bumped into their own rocket stages—demonstrating that seemingly benign pieces of scientific equipment can be turned into weapons, sent to crash into enemy targets. North Korea, meanwhile, has developed technology to jam GPS signals. Sophisticated ground-based lasers can now blind satellite cameras and fry electronics, while malicious viruses can wreak havoc on satellite systems. (5/26)

The Future of Zero-Gravity Living Is Here (Source: Smithsonian)
If the new-wave space entrepreneurs manage to radically change the economics of space travel as they promise to do, kids in high school today could spend a slice of their careers working in space, not as astronauts but the way a young diplomat or banker today might take a posting in London or Hong Kong. By 2030, it’s possible that many dozens of people at a time will be working and living in space. (These days, typically, there are six people.)

The zero gravity era will mark the moment when you no longer have to be special to go to space. You might be a scientist or an engineer or a technician (or a journalist); you might be going for a one-time, two-week research effort or rotating in for your usual six-week posting. But in the zero gravity era, going to space will be no more dramatic than helicoptering out to an offshore oil rig. Exotic, specialized and more dangerous than staffing a cubicle—but not rare or restricted.

A constellation of commercial outposts will be serviced by a fleet of reusable spaceships. A rocket could go to orbit every day, compared with just 85 launches worldwide in 2016. Those rockets could carry dozens of people, and head to laboratories, factories and tourist resorts a few hundred miles up in low-Earth orbit, or they could be stationed farther out, between the Earth and the Moon. Eventually, they will service outposts on the Moon itself (a three-day trip) and possibly Mars. (5/25)

Star Wars Turns 40 and it Still Inspires Our Real Life Space Junkies (Source: The Conversation)
When I took spacecraft design courses at university in the late 1980s (as part of my undergraduate degree), I did not dream that fellow Star Wars fans might one day be influential enough to actually design real spacecraft. We were taught that bringing a rocket back to Earth from space was impossible. I now realise that my lecturers were probably not Star Wars fans.

The billionaire inventor and entrepreneur Elon Musk is one of those millions of mega Star Wars fans. He says that Star Wars was the first movie that he ever saw, and from that he has had an obsession with space travel and for turning humans from a single planet species into a multi-planet civilization. (5/26)

Fort Hood claims responsibility for loud booms heard Wednesday (Source: KVUE)
The loud booms heard in Central Texas Wednesday night were from Fort Hood, according to a spokesperson. Late Wednesday night, Temple Police confirmed officers were alerted to exercises at both Fort Hood and SpaceX, fueling the confusion about the root cause of the loud noise. (5/26)

Aerojet Wins Part of Spaceplane Project (Source: San Fernando Valley Business Journal)
Aerojet Rocketdyne has been chosen to supply the main propulsion system for an experimental spaceplane being developed by Boeing Co. and the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Engineering work on the engines for the XS-1 program will be done at Aerojet’s facility in Chatsworth.

The main propulsion for the reusable spacecraft is based on the main engines of the Space Shuttle and will be assembled from parts that remained in both Aerojet Rocketdyne and NASA inventories from early versions of the shuttle engine.

The shuttle main engines were developed and manufactured in the San Fernando Valley when Rocketdyne was under different ownership. The aerospace company was acquired by Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings Inc. in 2013. (5/24)

Trump Budget Eliminates NASA Space Grant, Education Programs (Source: NPR)
A program to prepare university students across the country for science and tech careers would be eliminated under President Donald Trump’s proposed budget. NASA sponsors the program, called Space Grant. Acting agency administrator Robert Lightfoot told employees the agency will continue to "work with the next generation" despite eliminating its education activities.

Editor's Note: The Florida Space Grant Consortium, based at UCF, sponsors an annual research grant program with Space Florida that funds student and faculty space experiments statewide. FSGC also sponsors fellowships and internships that build the state's space industry workforce and diversifies the industry. (5/24)

Space Junk Blocks Our Way to the Stars (Source: Bloomberg)
Danger lurks in Earth’s orbit as thousands of rogue objects speed around the planet—and you can’t exactly call a guy with a truck to come sweep it all up. These aren’t stray pebbles—they’re bits and pieces of all the junk we’ve shot up there in the 60 years since Sputnik, from tiny specks of metal to larger, conversation-enders—all traveling thousands of miles per hour.

As government-sponsored space exploration slowly gives way to private industry, the business of tracking what’s already up there has gone commercial, too. Now, there are some companies contemplating ways to start clearing out our big garage in the sky.

Everyone who has thought about this problem for a few minutes agrees it’s atrociously expensive to launch satellites merely to intercept and nab junk. This nascent field of inquiry has at least two cardinal rules: Create no further debris and mind the budget. Most prefer to make the Earth’s atmosphere part of the solution by nudging space garbage into a fiery demise. Here are a few of the approaches to junk removal being studied. Click here. (5/25)

Who Will Build the World’s First Commercial Space Station? (Source: Scientific American)
Michael Suffredini has big business plans for low Earth orbit. After a decade as NASA’s program manager for the International Space Station (ISS) he retired from the agency in September 2015 to pursue opportunities in the private sector, convinced that a golden age of commercial spaceflight was dawning. Partnering with Kam Ghaffarian, CEO of SGT, the company that operates the ISS for NASA and also trains America’s astronauts, Suffredini co-founded Axiom Space in early 2016.

As Axiom’s president, Suffredini’s goal is simple: to build and fly the world’s first private space station, using the ISS as a springboard. The company is in talks with NASA to install a new commercial module on the ISS’s sole available unused docking port as early as 2020 or 2021, and is presently planning the module’s construction and flight with aerospace manufacturers and launch providers. Axiom’s module would be the foundation for a full-blown private space station that would debut after the ISS’s retirement, which is tentatively slated for 2024.

Detached before the ISS is deorbited to burn up in Earth’s atmosphere, Axiom’s module would remain in orbit to serve as the private station’s first section. Axiom, however, is not alone in its bid for private piggybacking on the ISS. Another company, Bigelow Aerospace, is already occupying an ISS port with its bedroom-size Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, a test facility for its own line of proprietary “inflatable” commercial space stations. (5/26)

Rocket Lab ‘Well Ahead’ After Initial Launch Test (Source: Aviation Week)
Rocket Lab says that despite not reaching its intended orbit of between 300 and 500 km on its first test launch on May 25, the Electron vehicle performed nominally throughout most of the mission and successfully executed the majority of the test goals.

The company, which is developing the Electron for high-frequency launches tailored at cutting the cost of access to space for the small satellite market, is reviewing data from the flight which Rocket Lab CEO and founder Peter Beck estimates to have reached an apogee of around “250 km or more.”

Although the first test did not achieve orbit, Rocket Lab still expects to be able to clear the vehicle for the start of commercial operations by year’s end with two more test shots. “We are well ahead of where we need to be,” says Beck, who said the company’s ground operations, launch site and tracking station, based on Chatham Island, all performed to plan. (5/25)

May 26, 2017

Workforce Crunch Threatens Central Florida Aerospace/Defense Growth (Source: SPACErePORT)
Space Florida and CareerSource Brevard sponsored a workforce workshop last week, bringing together industry, academia and government officials concerned with the region's tightening aerospace workforce. Companies are increasingly frustrated that area universities and colleges are not producing enough workers to fill the Space Coast's growing number of high-skill defense, aviation and space job openings. The companies are increasingly poaching workers from their local competitors, causing a rise in labor costs in a region that historically has been praised for its low costs for business.

Plans are slowly emerging for improved academic degree, training and certificate programs. Apprenticeship programs also seem to be a popular solution, but fitting these into an academic framework, with credits and certifications, is a challenge. Unfortunately, funding for addressing the problem has been drying up in Tallahassee and Washington as conservative legislatures give more attention to cutting government expenditures. One thing is clear: if the state's historic aerospace/defense growth trend is to continue, universities, community colleges, and industry must collaborate and urge the state to pay increased attention to the workforce challenge. (5/26)

NASA's Delay of Megarocket Launch Puts Competition in Spotlight (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
NASA’s delay in ferrying astronauts to the moon comes as competition has heated up, with SpaceX and Boeing aiming to build passenger capsules and heavy-lift craft — and launch them from Florida — by the end of next year. “You can make a strong argument that NASA is in a space race with SpaceX right now,” said Ray Lugo, director of UCF’s Space Institute. “The commercial guys have a much more streamlined process.”

NASA recently announced that a maiden voyage of its behemoth Space Launch System would be pushed back from November 2018 into at least 2019, with human flight on SLS waiting until a second mission aimed at 2021. The delay followed a report from the Government Accountability Office that called the optimistic timeline “likely unachievable.” The delay “is unfortunate, but not surprising,” said Phil Larson, who previously worked with SpaceX and who was former space policy adviser to President Obama.

NASA relies heavily on a federal budget that fluctuates from year to year. The testing phase for its vehicles can take more time while dealing with layers of governmental approval. Private companies, like early-stage startup firms, can work directly with private financial backers or billionaire CEOs when making adjustments. That can include NASA as a client. (5/26)

University Students Innovate at KSC-Based NASA’s Robotic Mining Competition (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Students from dozens of universities across the United States gathered at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex for NASA’s 2017 Robotic Mining Competition (NRMC). Students showcased and competed with their robotic concepts, which could potentially be used by NASA on actual future off-Earth mining. The competition challenges university teams to build a mining robot that can traverse simulated Martian chaotic terrain, excavate regolith, and deposit it into a collector bin within 10 minutes.

Designed to engage students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, NASA said that it will directly benefit from the competition by encouraging students’ development of innovative and clever concepts for future In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU). ISRU is the idea that spacecraft can utilize resources at a particular off-Earth landing site to create fuel and consumables rather than hauling everything out of Earth’s gravity well. This saves fuel and weight. Editor's Note: This event also featured a Women in STEM mentoring event. I hope our local aerospace contractors had a strong recruiting presence at the competition. (5/26)

Posey Introduces Legislation to Allow Passengers on Experimental Aircraft (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL) has introduced legislation that would authorize experimental aircraft such as WhiteKnightTwo to carry spaceflight participants and crew for training and research purposes. The measure, which is co-sponsored by Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), would enable Virgin Galactic and other operators to avoid the time consuming and expensive process of having their aircraft undergo FAA certification.

In addition to WhiteKnightTwo, H.R.2571 could open the door for passengers to train aboard retired military jet fighters. The legislation has been on the wish list of Virgin Galactic and the commercial spaceflight industry for a number of years. (5/26)

Engineering KSC's Transformation (Source: NASA)
NASA's Kennedy Space Center has transformed from a government-focused center into a spaceport open to many different users with their own unique needs and goals. Making the transformation ultimately successful is now in the hands of spaceflight specialists at Kennedy including the center's corps of professional engineers.

Having historically solved a slew of launch system, spacecraft and ground support equipment issues, Kennedy's engineering team now supports private companies just starting out in space, offers guidance to established aerospace companies and designs and builds the massive ground machinery that will launch NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft.

"What we really bring to the table is extremely competent engineers who know how to pull together complex projects," said Scott Colloredo, deputy director of the center's Engineering Directorate. Colloredo was instrumental in laying out an approach for the multi-user spaceport in the wake of the Space Shuttle Program's retirement. "We essentially re-architected the space center from shuttle to this multi-user spaceport. In Engineering, we're now executing what we set out to do and that's mainly through supporting the programs." Click here. (5/25)

Boeing's Phantom Express Could Launch, Land at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Florida Today)
Asked where the flight activity would occur, a DARPA spokesman responded in an email, “The Cape.” Air Force maps have identified Launch Complexes 16 and 20 as sites the XS-1 program could potentially use. Landings presumably would target Kennedy Space Center’s former shuttle runway, now operated by Space Florida. (5/25)

Posey, Bridenstine Sponsor STAR Act (Source: SPACErePORT)
Congressmen Bill Posey (R-FL) and Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) have introduced HR-2571, the Spaceflight Training and Astronaut Reform (STAR) Act during the 1st Session of the 115th Congress in Washington DC. The bill would authorize the operation of Space Support Vehicles (aircraft operating at FAA-licensed spaceports to simulate spaceflight conditions for pilot, crew and participant training, and for spaceflight hardware testing).

The vehicles would operate under FAA experimental permits along with a FAA-issued Letter of Deviation Authority (LODA). The Government Accountability Office (GAO) last year produced a Congressionally mandated study of Space Support Vehicles and whether they should be regulated as a separate category by the FAA. Examples include Virgin Galactic's White Knight Two, ZERO-G Corp.'s G-Force One, and Starfighters Aerospace's fleet of F-104 supersonic jets. The bill would establish a new regulatory framework allowing these vehicles to perform astronaut training flights. (5/26)

Why New Zealand's Tiny Rocket Launch is Such a Big Deal (Source: Tech Radar)
This isn't competition for SpaceX. The rocket, named 'It's a Test', was just 17 meters tall – substantially shorter than SpaceX's 70-meter Falcon 9, or NASA's 110-meter Saturn V that took men to the Moon. The design is made entirely of carbon composite, comes with a partially 3D-printed engine, and is not reusable.

It carried no cargo, but has now proved that it's capable of hefting about 150 kg into orbit. That's not a lot – a high-end Earth observation or telecoms satellite weighs tons. But Rocket Lab's Electron launcher is perfect for companies that only need something simple in orbit.

That means it can be cheaper. A NASA launch can easily cost more than $100 million, whereas a lift into orbit from Rocket Lab costs just $5 million. If you don't mind sharing space with other satellites, a small cubesat that can perform basic experiments or take pictures of the Earth can be put into space for just $77,000. (5/25)

May 25, 2017

Rocket Lab Reaches Space, But Not Orbit, on First Electron Launch (Source: Space News)
Rocket Lab, a U.S.-New Zealand company developing the Electron small launch vehicle, declared success on its first launch May 25, although the rocket failed to reach orbit. In a statement, the company said the Electron lifted off from its private launch complex on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula at 12:20 a.m. Eastern (4:20 p.m. local time.) The rocket reached space on an apparent suborbital trajectory three minutes later.

“It was a great flight. We had a great first stage burn, stage separation, second stage ignition and fairing separation,” Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck said. “We didn’t quite reach orbit and we’ll be investigating why, however reaching space in our first test puts us in an incredibly strong position to accelerate the commercial phase of our program, deliver our customers to orbit and make space open for business.” (5/25)

Schiaparelli Mars Landing Investigation Completed (Source: Space Daily)
The inquiry into the crash-landing of the ExoMars Schiaparelli module has concluded that conflicting information in the onboard computer caused the descent sequence to end prematurely. Around three minutes after atmospheric entry the parachute deployed, but the module experienced unexpected high rotation rates. This resulted in a brief 'saturation' - where the expected measurement range is exceeded - of the Inertial Measurement Unit, which measures the lander's rotation rate.

The saturation resulted in a large attitude estimation error by the guidance, navigation and control system software. The incorrect attitude estimate, when combined with the later radar measurements, resulted in the computer calculating that it was below ground level. This resulted in the early release of the parachute and back-shell, a brief firing of the thrusters for only 3 sec instead of 30 sec, and the activation of the on-ground system as if Schiaparelli had landed. The surface science package returned one housekeeping data packet before the signal was lost.

In reality, the module was in free-fall from an altitude of about 3.7 km, resulting in an estimated impact speed of 540 km/h. (5/25)

Russia Launches Military Satellite on Soyuz (Source: Tass)
A Soyuz rocket launched a Russian military satellite Thursday. The Soyuz-2.1b rocket lifted off from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia at 2:34 a.m. Eastern time. Russian media described the rocket's payload as a "new generation military spacecraft," which had previously been identified as an EKS missile-warning satellite. (5/25)

NASA Re-Embraces the Worm (Source: CollectSpace)
The "worm" is back in at NASA — sort of. Twenty-five years after the space agency unceremoniously retired the worm, its simple but iconic logotype, in favor of returning to its original 1958 graphic insignia, the retro logo has fallen back into NASA's good graces, at least when it comes to its use on merchandise. The agency quietly started approving designers' requests in 2016, but it was not until last month that it amended its published merchandising regulations to include the worm. Before then, NASA restricted products to using its first and current insignia, dubbed the "meatball" for its ball shape. (5/25)

Boom CEO Sees Market for 1,000 Supersonic Passenger Jets by 2035 (Source: ATW)
Denver-based Boom Technology founder and CEO Blake Scholl believes the company’s first supersonic passenger aircraft can enter commercial service as soon as 2023 and there is a market for as many as 1,000 supersonic airliners to be delivered by 2035.

Speaking at the IATA Wings of Change conference in Miami, Scholl said $33 million in funding secured in late March—bringing Boom’s total financing to $41 million—removes monetary obstacles for the company, enabling it to build and flight test the “Baby Boom” prototype that will be a precursor to the full-size Boom aircraft. The full-size aircraft will be able to seat up to 55 passengers in an all-business class configuration, according to Scholl.

The Baby Boom’s first flight is targeted for 2018, and the full-size Boom aircraft’s first flight is targeted for 2020 with a 2023 FAA certification goal. The Baby Boom, which is being built now, will be a third of the size of the planned full-size Boom aircraft. (5/3)

Six Spaceport Infrastructure Projects Included in Space Coast Transportation Plan (Source: SPACErePORT)
Florida's Space Coast Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) has released a draft of their FY-2017-2022 five-year planning document for regional transportation infrastructure spending. The TPO has opened a 30-day public comment period for the plan, which includes six spaceport infrastructure projects representing over $288 million in state, federal and private sector investment, past and planned.

The document offers only general descriptions of the six projects, avoiding the identification of specifics that might reveal which companies or launch programs might be the beneficiaries. The six projects are listed as: Horizontal Launch Cargo Processing ($17.2M), Launch Complex Improvements ($102M), Processing & Range Facility Improvements ($67.8M), Common Use Infrastructure ($28M), Launch Complex Improvements & Passenger/Cargo ($34M), and Horizontal Launch/Landing Facilities ($47.8M). Click here to view the document. (5/24)

500 New Space Startups by 2025? The Foundation Institute Wants to Make That Happen. (Source: Space News)
The Founder Institute plans to attract would-be space entrepreneurs to its worldwide network of incubators with generous financial incentives and mentorship from industry veterans. “This is an international call for anyone working in space or passionate about space to launch a company,” said Adeo Ressi, co-founder and chief executive of the Founder Institute, a business incubator based in Palo Alto, California. “Our goal, which admittedly might be a bit of a stretch goal, is to have 500 new space and space-exploration companies launched by 2025.”

Since it was founded in 2009, Founder Institute has established operations in 180 cities and become one of the world’s largest incubators for technology startups, helping to establish nearly 3,000 companies. How many have been space-related? “Zero,” Ressi told SpaceNews.  “There is definitely a pipeline problem in space entrepreneurship today. We want to fix it with these incentives.” (5/24)

U.S. Air Force Seeks $1.3 Billion Increase for Space Programs (Source: Space News)
The White House is asking Congress to provide $7.75 billion for military space systems in 2018, a $1.3 billion increase over what the Pentagon sought for 2017. The space portion of the Defense Department’s 2018 budget request includes $4.33 billion for research, development, testing, and evaluation, and $3.42 billion for procurement, according to Air Force officials.

The numbers reflect the scope of defense space operations, with most programs under the purview of the Air Force, but includes outlays for other national security agencies including the National Reconnaissance Office. Here’s how some of the major Air Force space programs fared in the budget request. (5/24)

High Fashion Meets Vintage NASA in New 'Coach Space' Collection (Source:
NASA is having a fashion moment. Or, perhaps more accurately, fashion is having a NASA moment. Hot on the heels of Chanel's interstellar-themed fashion show and mock rocket launch in March, Coach is showcasing a cosmically inspired collection of its own. An ode to "American dreamers and explorers who believe that anything is possible," the luxury brand's pre-fall "Coach Space" capsule collection features an array of purses, accessories and ready-to-wear clothing plastered with retro-futuristic iconography, including NASA's old "worm" insignia and space shuttles — lots of space shuttles. (5/24)

Mars Rover 2020: Here's What NASA's New Red-Planet Car Will Look Like (Source:
NASA has unveiled some cool new concept art for its next Red Planet robot, the Mars 2020 rover, and it looks awesome. If the Mars 2020 rover concept art, which NASA released yesterday (May 23), looks familiar, don't worry; you're not seeing things. The rover's basic design was influenced by NASA's nuclear-powered Curiosity rover, which has been exploring Mars since 2012. Click here. (5/24)

Cool Spacewalk, Right? Get Ready for More—ISS Will Need Fixin’ (Source: WIRED)
When astronaut Peggy Whitson pushed out of the International Space Station’s airlock on Tuesday morning, she was floating into history. Stipulated, Whitson was already a badass. But this extra-vehicular activity—an EVA, NASAspeak for a spacewalk—was Whitson’s 10th. That ties her for the American record. A PhD biochemist before she became an astronaut, Whitson has now spent more time in space outside a spacecraft than all but two other human beings.

Whitson was also floating into the future, though, and it seems sure to be filled with more urgent repairs like this one. The spacewalk was a “contingency EVA,” which—NASAspeak again, etymologically derived from Testpilot High Laconic and Scientific Detach-ese—means “serious emergency.” No one knows yet why a box full of computer boards called a Multiplexer-Demultiplexer failed, but NASA started building the ISS in 1998. The station is entering its third decade of life in orbit. More and more pieces are going to start breaking. (5/24)

May 24, 2017

Got a Ticket to Space? You’ll Have to Train First (Source: Air & Space)
After signing up, I completed a stack of medical and psychological questionnaires. I was given a standard physical and a heart exam. Finally, I was approved for participation. Now, with a mixture of mild apprehension and almost giggly exhilaration, I’m climbing into the centrifuge gondola. Rebecca Blue, a doctor with the research team, shows me how to fasten and unfasten the straps of the five-point harness, which are twice as wide as my car’s seatbelt. She pulls the straps snug and adjusts my lumbar support, head support, and foot rests. Click here. (5/24)

Boeing Wins DARPA Space Plane Bid (Source:
The U.S. military's new XS-1 space plane will be built by Boeing, and it's called the Phantom Express. DARPA has selected Boeing for the next phase of its XS-1 project, known as the Experimental Spaceplane, after an intense competition among aerospace companies. The XS-1 is aimed to be a completely reusable military space plane capable of launching 3,000-lb. (1,360 kilograms) satellites into orbit 10 times in 10 days. The spacecraft could dramatically reduce the cost of launches to $5 million per flight, DARPA officials said.

"The XS-1 would be neither a traditional airplane nor a conventional launch vehicle but rather a combination of the two, with the goal of lowering launch costs by a factor of ten and replacing today's frustratingly long wait time with launch on demand," DARPA program manager Jess Sponable said. The first test launches will begin with Phase 3, which aims to launch the XS-1 between 12 and 15 times in 2020.

Editor's Note: The launch site is not identified, but Florida seems likely with Boeing's X-37B already at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. (5/24)

New UK Facility to Test Sabre Engines (Source: Daily Mail)
A revolutionary engine that could be used in a spaceplane to take passengers into space in just 15 minutes has taken a major step forwards, with a new testing facility in Westcott, Buckinghamshire. Reaction Engines has begun constructing the test facility where it plans to undertake the first ground-based demonstration of its Sabre air-breathing rocket engine. The firm hopes that the new test site will allow it to test the Sabre engine core as early as 2020. (5/8)

Scientists Propose Synestia, a New Type of Planetary Object (Source: Space Daily)
Rocky planets are thought to form from giant impacts between planet-size bodies. Impacts with high energy and high angular momentum could form a synestia, a rotating mass of vaporized rock, where outer layers of the vaporized planet are in orbit around the rest of the body. Synestias give new insights into how planets and moons form. These collisions were so violent that the resulting bodies melted and partially vaporized, eventually cooling and solidifying to the (nearly) spherical planets we know today. (5/22)

President Trump’s Budget Plan Gets a Bad Review from the Science Community (Source: Yahoo)
President Donald Trump sent his budget request for the next fiscal year to Congress today, giving the science community a glimpse of what may be to come – and many don’t like what they see. The budget proposal cuts funding for most research and development programs in favor of defense and homeland security spending. The National Institute of Health’s budget would be reduced 22 percent, from $34.6 billion to $25.9 billion. The budget for the Environmental Protection Agency would drop 31 percent, from $8.2 billion to $5.7 billion, and reduce the agency’s employee count by 3,200.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science estimates that total research funding would be cut by 16.8 percent, or $12.6 billion, in the 2018 fiscal year. “No administration appears to have proposed cuts to research this large in over 40 years,” the AAAS said in its analysis. Even some Republicans voiced disapproval of the cuts. Representative Tom Cole, R-OK, who oversees NIH’s budget, feared that research grant cuts could “potentially discourage promising young scientists” from researching advancements in biomedicine. (5/24)

Air Force Budget Plan Boosts R&D by $5B in 2018 (Source: Defense News)
The 2018 budget request for the Air Force totals $183 billion, with research and development gaining $5 billion to reach $25.4 billion. Overall, the Air Force’s budget jumped from about $171 billion to $183 billion. Procurement slightly increased from $23.9 billion to $24.7 billion, while the operations and maintenance account lifted from $47.9 billion to $49.2 billion. However, it was research, development, testing and evaluation that made the biggest leap — up $5 billion from $20.2 billion to $25.4 billion. (5/24)

Africa and Europe Seek Joint Space Initiatives (Source: Xinhua)
The African Union (AU) and the European Union (EU) on Tuesday launched the call for proposals for the space-based initiative dubbed the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security in Africa (GMES & Africa) Grants.

At a ceremony held in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, the two institutions said it is an open invitation for eligible institutions across Africa to apply for the 30-million-euro program, co-funded by the EU (29.5 million euros) and the AU (0.5 million euros). The two institutions said the initiative is an Earth Observation system designed to respond to global needs to manage the environment, understand and mitigate the effects of climate change and ensure civil security. (5/24)

SA Space Agency Zooms in on African Development (Source: Business Day)
South Africa’s space agency has its eyes on Africa and a new memorandum of understanding with the AU’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad) paves the way for it to expand its footprint. But it takes more than data to create evidence-based policy.

The agreement, signed in April, will see the South African National Space Agency (Sansa) provide Earth observation products and services to Nepad. Africa is the second-largest continent and its size and paucity of infrastructure makes it difficult efficiently and cost-effectively to detect changes in natural resources and land usage. Governments, business and landowners can use satellites to identify these changes and to compile data that they can use to guide their decision-making and policies. (5/24)

Astronauts Replace ISS Computer During Spacewalk (Source: CBS)
Astronauts successfully replaced a faulty computer outside the International Space Station during a spacewalk Tuesday. Jack Fischer and Peggy Whitson spent 2 hours and 46 minutes outside the station during the "contingency" spacewalk, replacing the multiplexer-demultiplexer electronics box on the station's truss that had failed Saturday. The cause of the failure isn't known, and the box showed no signs of external damage. Astronauts also installed wireless communications antennas on the Destiny module during the spacewalk, a task postponed from a spacewalk earlier this month. (5/24)

California Woman Arrested for Smuggling Satellite Technology to China (Source: Reuters)
A California woman has been arrested in charges of smuggling sensitive space technology to China. Si Chen, also known as Cathy Chen, was arrested Tuesday after a grand jury indicted her of shipping devices used in space communications to China, falsifying export paperwork to inidcate their value was just $500 versus more than $100,000. Chen faces up to 150 years in prison if found guilty of all charges in the case. (5/24)

India Plans 2018 Lunar Mission (Source: Business Standard)
India's space agency is planning to launch its next lunar mission in the first quarter of 2018. The Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft would include an orbiter and a lander, with that lander carrying a rover. The mission will launch on a GSLV Mark 2 rocket. The mission will come after a private Indian venture, Team Indus, expects to launch its own lunar lander and rover at the end of this year to compete for the Google Lunar X Prize. (5/24)

SpaceX on Trial for Alleged Unjustified Firing (Source: Bloomberg)
The trial has started in a lawsuit filed by a former SpaceX employee against the company. Jason Blasdell, a former technician, alleges that the company fired him for complaining about the failure of the company to follow its testing and safety protocols for developing its Falcon 9 rockets. Opening statements took place Tuesday, with the trial expected to take two weeks. The judge in the case ruled that jurors will not judge the technical merits of Blasdell's arguments but instead whether his firing was unjustified. (5/24)

Juno Spacecraft Makes Fifth Science Pass of Jupiter (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
NASA's Juno spacecraft made a close flyby of the planet Jupiter on May 19, successfully completing the probe's fifth science mission orbit of the gas giant. JunoCam and all of the spacecraft's science instruments were operating during the flyby. Juno's next close flyby, which will take it over Jupiter's Great Red Spot, will take place on July 11, 2017. (5/24)

A Better Ion Drive for more Efficient Space Travel (Source: Cosmos)
Plasma propulsion – or an ion drive – is common in science fiction, where it can represent a clean, futuristic alternative to the mess and blast of crudely burning rocket fuel. Though it is the most efficient space propulsion method yet devised, it is still rare in reality, where ion drives are weighed down by the bulky engineering currently required to manage the ionised gas propellant.

However, researchers from the University of York in the UK and the École Polytechnique in Paris have taken a major step towards solving the problem. Existing systems use an electric current to ionize propellant gas and turn it into plasma. The charged ions and electrons are then forced through an exhaust beam, creating thrust. Click here. (5/24)

Trump Budget Would Shift Air Traffic Control to Contractor, With Deficit (Source: USA Today)
Shifting air-traffic control from the FAA to a private corporation would raise the deficit $46 billion over the next decade, under President Trump’s budget proposal released Tuesday. The budget acknowledged the $46 billion because of projected growth at the agency, but argued that the actual spending difference would be smaller, at about $20 billion over 10 years, based on historical trends. Wherever the figures end up, the budget said changing the governance and structure of air traffic control is key to accommodate projected growth in air traffic. (5/24)

LA Air Force Base in El Segundo Hopes to Stay Open (Source: MyNews LA)
Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo is the “anchor for thousands of jobs” in the aerospace industry and a critical contributor to national security, a county official said Tuesday, hoping to keep the base off any list of upcoming closures. Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn said the base in the South Bay “is unlike any other. Not only is it the anchor for thousands of jobs in the Southern California aerospace industry — it is the brain trust behind our country’s national security system.”

The Trump administration’s just-released proposed federal budget recommends a round of base realignments and closures in 2021. Hahn said she fought and won a similar battle in 2003. “As Congress considers the administration’s base closure proposal, I will be the loudest defender of our LA Air Force Base,” she said. “It is and will continue to be a pillar of the El Segundo community and the Southern California economy.” Hahn said the base had also spurred development by Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and SpaceX. (5/24)

Trump's Budget Calls for New Base Closing Round in 2021 (Source: Military Times)
Defense Department leaders will seek a new military base closing round in fiscal 2021 under the budget proposal for next year released by the White House on Tuesday. The recommendation is sure to spark a contentious debate on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers have been reluctant to even discuss the idea of shuttering military facilities across the country. But military leaders have pushed for another base realignment and closure (BRAC) process since 2013, arguing that their current domestic footprint is too large given reductions in force size and equipment modernization in recent years. (5/24)

Budget Proposal Puts NASA Satellite Servicing Mission in Doubt (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
NASA plans to shelve a robotic demonstration mission to refuel an aging Landsat Earth-imaging observatory and join forces with the private sector and a U.S. military research and development agency in a public-private partnership to commercialize satellite servicing technologies, according to language in the White House’s budget request released Tuesday.

A blueprint of the White House proposed budget in March indicated the Restore-L satellite refueling mission would be “restructured,” calling the effort duplicative to commercial satellite servicing projects and another government-managed in-orbit refueling and repair initiative from DARPA. (5/24)

NASA Moves Up Launch of Psyche Mission to a Metal Asteroid (Source: NASA JPL)
Psyche, NASA's Discovery Mission to a unique metal asteroid, has been moved up one year with launch in the summer of 2022, and with a planned arrival at the main belt asteroid in 2026 -- four years earlier than the original timeline. "We challenged the mission design team to explore if an earlier launch date could provide a more efficient trajectory to the asteroid Psyche, and they came through in a big way," said Jim Green. "This will enable us to fulfill our science objectives sooner and at a reduced cost."

The Discovery program announcement of opportunity had directed teams to propose missions for launch in either 2021 or 2023. The Lucy mission was selected for the first launch opportunity in 2021, and Psyche was to follow in 2023. Shortly after selection in January, NASA gave the direction to the Psyche team to research earlier opportunities. (5/24)

I’m Looking Forward to Getting Pregnant in Space (Source: The Cut)
Knocking myself up with freeze-dried space sperm will surely be a breeze, because I can only assume that in space, our ovaries and eggs stop aging (and I will no longer be subjected to the “Your time is running out!” warnings on fertility ads that pop up all over my Instagram). I will enjoy my space life, take my time working on my space tan, and get pregnant when I’m actually ready to be a mom. Then, after an easy pregnancy (because I’ve decided that morning sickness does not exist in space), I will give birth to a healthy, human space child. (5/24)

NASA Center Boss Says 'it's Great to See' White House Backing (Source: Huntsville Times)
President Trump is showing signs of loving NASA's deep space dreams more than his predecessor, and NASA is loving Trump right back. Speaking to reporters the day the White House released a fiscal year 2018 budget proposal that largely leaves NASA spending levels intact, the leader of the space agency's Huntsville center made his feelings clear.

"Our congressional support for five or six years has been unwavering," Marshall Space Flight Center Director Todd May said, "and it's great to see the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue come out and speak highly of NASA and the things we do and, in particular, about human spaceflight exploration." (5/24)

The Winners and Losers in NASA's New Budget Proposal (Source: Popular Mechanics)
The Europa orbiter mission will get a boost of $150 million. The the highly-anticipated spacecraft to visit Jupiter's moon and search for signs of life was funded to the tune of $275 million in 2017, while the new budget proposal would boost it to $425 million for 2018. It's no surprise—the Europa mission is a pet project of Republican congressman John Culberson, whose district includes NASA facilities in Texas. The budget does not include any funds for a Europa lander, however.

Missions to Mars will continue for the most part. The budget puts the 2018 InSight lander back on track and keeps the Mars 2020 rover about the same, but it doesn't add a follow-up spacecraft to the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, currently the communications hub for all of NASA's Mars missions. The MRO has been in orbit since 2005 and won't last forever, so eventually a new orbiter will be needed to support future missions to Mars. Click here. (5/23)

China to Invest $23.3 Million to Develop Space Science Satellites (Source: Xinhua)
A fund of 160 million yuan (23.3 million U.S. dollars) was set up Tuesday to help the development of four space science satellites, as well as advanced scientific research. Jointly set up by the National Natural Science Foundation of China and Chinese Academy of Sciences, with each side sponsoring half of the investment, the fund will last from 2017 to 2020.

The four satellites are the Dark Matter Particle Explorer Satellite, retrievable scientific research satellite SJ-10, a quantum communication satellite and a hard X-ray modulation telescope satellite. The fund will support experiments such as exploration of dark matter particles, microgravity science and space life science, satellite-ground quantum communication experiments, and observation of compact objects including black holes and neutron stars. (5/23)

China Plans Global Positioning Navsat System Completion by 2020 (Source: Xinhua)
China will launch some 18 Beidou navigation satellites by 2018, a leading navigation satellite expert said Tuesday. Six to eight Beidou satellites will be sent into orbit in the second half of this year, said Wang Li, chairman of China Satellite Navigation System Committee, while addressing the eighth China satellite navigation academic annual meeting.

The Beidou satellite navigation system will be able to provide services for countries participating in the Belt and Road Initiative by 2018, Wang said. By 2020, the Beidou satellites will form a complete global satellite navigation system, Wang added. (5/23)

Eutelsat Adding Two More Quantum Satellites to Fleet (Source: Space News)
Global fleet operator Eutelsat is planning to order at least two more Quantum-class satellites in order to achieve global coverage with satellites that can move capacity around in customizable beams. Paris-based Eutelsat has one Quantum satellite under construction from Airbus Defence and Space UK, purchased in 2015 for 180 million euros ($198 million).

Speaking at Milsatcom Asia-Pacific in Singapore May 16, Willy Guilleux, Eutelsat’s senior vice president of global government services, said the operator has already pre-sold half of the capacity on the first satellite, and now has confidence to expand Quantum into a new fleet. “The idea is to expand the fleet as a minimum to three satellites to make sure we put complete coverage of the Earth,” he said. (5/23)

Proposed NASA Budget Boosts KSC Ground Systems (Source: Florida Today)
Kennedy Space Center would receive more money to prepare for a 2019 launch of a new deep space rocket and crew capsule under the Trump administration’s proposed $19.1 billion NASA budget for next year. The Exploration Ground Systems program would receive $460.4 million, an increase of $31.4 million, to continue readying spaceport infrastructure including a Vehicle Assembly Building high bay, launch pad 39B and a mobile launch tower.

Meanwhile, funding for larger programs developing the 322-foot Space Launch System rocket and Orion crew capsule would drop slightly. NASA's KSC-based Launch Services Program, which manages launches of the agency's robotic science missions, would receive similar funding of $86.2 million. (5/23)

NASA Spins Asteroid Robotics Out To Industry (Source: Aviation Week)
President Donald Trump’s first budget request drives a stake through the heart of his predecessor’s signature space project, but the robotic technology left behind by the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) is finding its way rapidly into existing and developing spaceflight industries. (5/23)

How Much Each Company Will Charge to Take You to Space (Source: Popular Mechanics)
The first issue of Airbnbmag, which hits newsstands today, will help you find a place to stay off-planet, too. Here are the companies competing to take us to the heavens, and how much we'll have to pay (and how long we'll have to wait) for the ride of a lifetime.

Worldview Express: $75,000 - Float 100,000 feet to the edge of the atmosphere via a helium-balloon-powered space capsule. There's no training required for the four- to six-hour World View Voyager trip. XCOR Future Astronaut Program: $150,000 - You'll experience six minutes of weightlessness and get your astronaut wings after summiting 62 miles above the Earth— aka outer space—in a rocket-engine-powered XCOR Lynx Mark II two-seater.

Virgin Galactic: $250,000 - After a 47,000-foot climb powered by the WhiteKnightTwo "mothership," the SpaceShipTwo will detach and launch past the atmosphere to a height of 68 miles and then glide back to Earth. Space Adventures: $50 million - Eight space tourists, with great resources and bravery, have taken the Virginia-based company's two-day flight to spend a week and a half on the International Space Station, 249 miles above the Earth. Click here. (5/23)

Small Rockets a Boon to Burgeoning Microsatellite Market (Source: Space Angels)
For many of our readers, it will come as no surprise to hear that microsatellites are a rapidly-growing segment of the commercial space market. After all, we’ve covered the rise of small satellites in previous articles (and have a vested interest in several savvy satellite startups). Today’s tiny satellites are increasingly capable and affordable—and over the past three years, hundreds of microsatellites have been deployed in low-Earth orbit.

However, one reality continues to limit the growth of commercial microsatellite constellations: The current launch industry has developed to cater to a much larger class of satellite. In order to deploy their technologies in orbit, microsatellite companies have historically needed to book passage as a “secondary payload” on larger rocket launches. This “piggybacking” approach—while cost-effective—is also highly inconvenient to the microsatellite operator, as launch delays and predetermined trajectories impede the company’s ability to execute on their business objectives. Click here. (5/23)

May 23, 2017

White House Proposes $19.1 Billion NASA Budget, Cuts Earth Science and Education (Source: Space News)
The White House’s fiscal year 2018 budget proposal seeks to cancel five NASA Earth science projects and confirms plans to shut down the agency’s education office as part of more than $560 million in cuts from 2017. The proposal, released May 23, offers $19.092 billion for NASA, $561 million less than what the agency received in a fiscal year 2017 omnibus spending bill enacted earlier this month. That amount matches values in a leaked spreadsheet last week, indicating cuts to NASA science, exploration, space operations and other major accounts.

“At $19.1 billion, we have a very positive budget that retains the same parameters we saw in March, and which reflects the president’s confidence in our direction and the importance of everything we’ve been achieving,” NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot said in a statement. The budget proposal includes $1.754 billion for NASA’s Earth science program, a cut of $167 million from what it received in 2017. Administration documents noted that included a savings of $191 million by cancelling five Earth science instruments and missions deemed low-priority.  (5/23)

Russia Set to Launch 2nd of 6 Early-Warning Satellites (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Russia looks to enhance its missile detection system with the launch of the second in a series of six early warning satellites. The EKS-2 satellite, alternately classed as a member of the 'Tundra' family of launch detection spacecraft, is designed to replace Russia's aging early-warning infrastructure and is targeting a launch on May 25, 2017, from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome. (5/23)

Rubio, TedCruz Team Up on Missile Defense (Source: Sunshine State News)
With North Korea continuing to test ballistic missiles, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-FL, has teamed up with senators from both parties to call for increased defenses. On Tuesday, Rubio teamed up with a host of senators--including Republicans Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Ted Cruz of Texas and Dan Sullivan of Alaska and Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Gary Peters of Michigan and Brian Schatz of Hawaii--to bring out the “Advancing America’s Missile Defense Act.”

The proposal would combine current efforts, harnessing Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense, Aegis Ashore, and Patriot Air and Missile Defense Systems together. It would also create 28 Ground-Based Interceptors (GBIs) and accelerate advanced interceptor technologies. Under the legislation, reports would be authorized to examine adding 100 GBIs across the nation. Speaking about why the legislation was needed, Rubio pointed to North Korea’s continued missile tests. (5/23)

Engineer at Boeing Admits Trying to Sell Space Secrets to Russians (Source: Ars Technica)
Gregory Allen Justice, a 49-year-old engineer living in California, has pleaded guilty to charges of attempted economic espionage and attempted violation of the Export Control Act. Justice, who according to his father worked for Boeing Satellite Systems in El Segundo, was arrested last July after selling technical documents about satellite systems to someone he believed to be a Russian intelligence agent. Instead, he sold the docs to an undercover FBI agent. The sting was part of a joint operation by the FBI and the US Air Force Office of Special Investigations.

The documents provided by Justice to the undercover agent included information on technology on the US Munitions List, meaning they were regulated by government International Trade in Arms regulations (ITAR). "In exchange for providing these materials during a series of meeting between February and July of 2016, Justice sought and received thousands of dollars in cash payments," a Justice Department spokesperson said in a statement. "During one meeting, Justice and the undercover agent discussed developing a relationship like one depicted on the television show 'The Americans.'" (5/23)

Detecting Life In Space: The Red Edge (Source: NPR)
Since we'll be staring hard at thousands of these worlds over the next few decades, each kind of life detection method is exciting in its own right. That's why today I want to introduce you to "The Red Edge" (which, also, just sounds pretty cool). The idea was, in part, Carl Sagan's. As Galileo passed by Earth, it trained its instruments on our planet and recorded the light it reflected from the sun. In this way, scientists could run an experiment to see if Earth's light "signal" could reveal the presence of life.

Of all the features the scientists found in the Earth-light, one of the most important came in the form of a sharp change in our planet's reflectance just past the wavelengths of red light. Reflectance means how much of the sunlight falling on the planet gets bounced back into space. Low reflectance means much of the light is being absorbed, while high reflectance means the opposite.

The Galileo data showed that Earth's reflectance depended strongly on the light's color (meaning its wavelength). Most of the light in the visible spectrum was strongly absorbed. But around the wavelength of red light (past a half of a millionth of meter) the reflectance shot up. This wall in the reflectance curve was known from remote sensing studies and was called The Red Edge. (5/23)

US Banned India's GSLV in 1992; Nnow NASA Revives It (Source: Domain-B)
has joined hands with the Indian Space Research Organisation for the NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar or NISAR satellite, a joint mission between the US space agency and the Indian space agency to develop the world's most expensive earth imaging satellite. Ironically, NISAR, scheduled to launch in 2021 from India, will be placed into the orbit using ISRO's Geo-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) - the same rocket for whose cryogenic engine technology the US put sanctions on India some 25 years back.

In 1992, the US under President George Bush had slapped sanctions on ISRO and prevented Russia from sharing cryogenic engine technology with the Indian space agency on the ground that India could use it to make missiles. Following the US sanctions, Russia backed out of the deal and ISRO started the Cryogenic Upper Stage Project in April 1994 and began developing its own cryogenic stage. (5/22)

Australia’s Military Including Commercial Capacity in its Satellite Plans (Source: Space News)
The Australian Defence Force (ADF) is planning to include commercial satellites as a necessary part of its communications architecture in the future, a defense official said May 15. Group Captain Patrick Del Guidice, the ADF’s Chief Information Office Group director for J6 Capability Coordination, said that long-term planning for commercial satcom has not traditionally been the case, but will be for the agency’s future satcom plans, which start in 2019.

Del Guidice said Australia has about 507 million Australian dollars ($337 million) budgeted under JP 2008 for defense satellite communications between 2016 and 2019. Despite its name, JP 2008 is an almost three-decade-old umbrella program for Australia’s military satellite communications. From 2019 on, a new program called JP 9102 takes over until 2029, with 2 to 3 billion Australian dollars. Del Guidice described ADF’s spending on commercial satellite communications, or comsatcom, as largely an afterthought in the past, but said that won’t be the case going forward. (5/23)

Contingency Spacewalk Required to Replace Failed Relay Box (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
A data relay box failure outside the International Space Station (ISS) has prompted mission managers to begin planning a contingency spacewalk. On Tuesday, May 23, 2017, NASA astronauts Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer will venture outside the Quest airlock to replace the failed component. (5/21)

This Technology Could Help Us Build Huge Structures in Space (Source: NBC News)
The nascent off-Earth manufacturing industry is getting set to take its next big steps. Made In Space, the California-based company that owns and operates the commercial 3-D printer aboard the International Space Station (ISS), is developing new technology, called Archinaut, that's designed to enable the assembly of large structures in the final frontier.

The Archinaut concept integrates a 3-D-printer and flexible robotic arms into a single spacecraft capable of manufacturing parts and putting them together in space. In addition to building structures anew, Archinaut could help repair or upgrade existing satellites, Rush said. Click here. (5/17)

Sperm Stored in Space Makes Healthy Baby Mice on Earth (Source: The Verge)
Lengthy stays on board the International Space Station don’t seem to hurt sperm fertility. In a new study, mice on Earth successfully gave birth to litters of pups after being fertilized with sperm that had been freeze-dried for nearly a year on the ISS. It’s potentially good news if, one day, animals and people will have to reproduce beyond Earth. But experts say there is still a lot more research that needs to be done to fully understand how the space environment affects reproduction.

The point of this study, published today in the journal PNAS, was to see if the sperm experienced extensive DNA damage while in orbit around Earth. On the ISS, people receive between 10 to 100 times more radiation than they do on our planet, and the parts of the body most sensitive to that exposure are the reproductive organs. (5/22)

Diving Deep Into the World of Emergent Gravity (Source: Ars Technica)
At the moment, we tend to think that dark matter is something missing from quantum mechanics, a particle that provides dark matter. Dark energy seems to be more gravity related. But it's possible the two are linked. Until we have an explanation for dark matter and dark energy, it will remain unsatisfying. Which is why, even though this general understanding of the Universe works so well, some people are skeptical that the data will continue to support it. Verlinde is clearly one of them.

Verlinde is ready offer an alternative, having made something of a name for himself for a seemingly quite different take on gravity. But the differences in Verlinde's views are exaggerated, according to Dr. Sabine Hossenfelder, a research fellow at the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies, "It’s not so far out there," she said. "It’s mostly his interpretation that seems to strike some people as a little odd." (5/22)

Russia to Operate 15 Earth Observation Satellites by 2020 (Source: Tass)
The number of Earth observation satellites is set to be no less than 15 by 2020, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a meeting on the space sector’s development on Monday. "As is known, in this sphere Russia has indisputable advantages and we need to maximally use them. First of all, the orbital remote sensing satellite grouping needs to be built up," the Russian president said. "By 2020, it should comprise no less than 15 satellites," Putin said. (5/22)

A Counterspace Awakening? (Source: Space Review)
National security space policy in the United States has quietly shifted in the last few years. Maximilian Betmann, in the first of a two-part article, examines the factors that have led to that change in approach to defending space assets. Click here. (5/22)
Is “Fast Space” Fast Enough? (Source: Space Review)
A recent Air University report recommends that the Air Force partner with industry to develop new, low-cost reusable launch vehicles. Jeff Foust reports on how effective such partnerships could be given the progress industry alone is making. Click here. (5/22)
Piecing the Puzzle by Piercing the Veil: The Declassification of KENNEN (Source: Space Review)
Is the National Reconnaissance Office preparing to declassify one of its biggest reconnaissance satellite programs? Joseph T. Page II discusses recent evidence that suggests major details may soon come about it. Click here. (5/22)
Redefining NASA (Source: Space Review)
In the second installment of his three-part series, Zach Miller describes how the Cold War origins of NASA influenced the nation’s space program to this day. Click here. (5/22)

Putin Sets Task of Accelerating work on Super-Heavy Rocket (Source: Tass)
Russian President Vladimir Putin has set a task of accelerating work on a super-heavy rocket, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin told journalists on Monday after a government meeting on the space industry development. "We looked at a serious perspective - a perspective of developing a super-heavy-class rocket," he said. "The president set a task for Roscosmos to accelerate work by means of developing the technologies presented by general designers."

According to Rogozin, the government has approved a plan of further use of the Baikonur spaceport, which will be discussed in Kazakhstan within days. "We plan to immediately start work on a medium-class rocket that would be competitive with the United States’ latest developments on the commercial services market," he said, adding that this rocket will have a carrying capacity of 17 tonnes.

Apart from that, in his words, it is planned to use Baikonur’s launching pad for Zenit rockets. He said this work will be part of the plan for the development of a super-heavy-class rocket and stressed the importance of large-scale cooperation with Kazakhstan. (5/22)

Russia's Space Agency to Look into Developing ISS with BRICS Partners (Source: Tass)
Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin has instructed Roscosmos to look into the possibility of developing the International Space Station in cooperation with partners in the BRCIS group (Brazil, India, China and South Africa).
"Yes, I did give such an instruction to Roscosmos to look into the possibility," Rogozin said.

"For now we have agreed with the Americans to work on the ISS up to 2024, but it should be born in mind that starting from 2019 they will be launching space crews on their own, using their own vehicles. Also, we expect that the ISS will be increasingly commercialized...Nobody doubts Russia needs an operational orbiting station - either a new national space laboratory or an international project." Rogozin added that Russia’s existing ISS segment would be involved in that future project. "We are not going to dispose of it, for instance, drowning it, by any means. It is absolutely viable till 2024." (5/22)

May 22, 2017

Moon Express Chairman Believes his Team’s “Ready to Go for the End of This Year” (Source: Ars Technica)
The day before we talked with Moon Express co-founder and chairman Naveen Jain, he sat on the Collision Conference mainstage next to a HoloLens-clad Robert Scoble. The successful investor Jain and the enthusiastic tech-evangelist Scoble chatted about “Startups as a Superpower,” exploring what it means if a private business—and not another nation-state—becomes the fourth entity to reach the Moon. And while the challenge definitely carries an inherent amount of glory, Jain believes a startup will have the next Armstrong moment for one familiar reason.

“[Successful entrepreneurs] have to look at what problems we want to solve—tech is a means to an end, and profit is a motivator,” he said. “If I want to create a $10 billion business, I need to solve a problem that affects at least one billion people.” Maybe it doesn’t seem like it to everyone just yet, but Jain definitely sees the Moon as a perfect entrepreneurial opportunity. (5/22)

How Jeff Bezos’ Passion for Space is Inspiring the Next Generation (Source: GeekWire)
When Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos visited the Museum of Flight this weekend to answer questions from students, the kids did not hold back. “That’s one of the great things about kids,” Bezos said on Saturday. “There are always questions.” Scores of elementary-school and middle-school students came from the Seattle area as well as from Deer Park, a city just north of Spokane on the other side of the state, to cram into the museum’s “Apollo” exhibit and meet America’s second-richest person (after Bill Gates). Click here. (5/22)

How the Indian Space Agency Thrived Despite the Massive Poaching During the IT Boom (Source: Quartz)
The Mission Readiness Review (MRR) is in session. We are just a few days away from a major launch campaign. Each of the engineers responsible for a particular subsystem is getting ready to go on stage and present details of the tests carried out on it. Problems, solutions, tests, last-minute tweaks—everything is covered. The group is an amazing mix of veterans and greenhorns and everyone in between. Anyone who is part of the project and has something to say is there. I sit next to the chairman and senior center directors.

Retired pioneers like me who are experienced experts in certain fields form an integral part of the MRR. To the newest recruit attending an MRR for the first time it is a thrilling and challenging experience. As one of the senior engineers finishes his presentation, a voice from the last row raises an issue. It is a junior engineer. There is absolute silence as everyone in the room gives him a patient hearing. The engineer who is making the presentation takes notes and gives a detailed response.

It really does not matter that the questioner is quite junior in the hierarchy, for in that hall there is absolute technical democracy and no voice is stifled. Everyone knows that many an important issue has come to light at an MRR and at times major failures have been averted because someone raised a pertinent question. The MRR epitomizes the functioning of ISRO, where the work ethics had evolved over the years. (5/22)

ULS Wins $208 Million for Rocket Production (Source: Space Daily)
United Launch Services, on behalf of United Launch Alliance, won more than $208 million from the Air Force to provide production services for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV). The company will provide the launch vehicle configuration of an Atlas V 551, an additional solid rocket booster for an Atlas V 551 and transportation to the launch site. (5/22)

Delta 4 Replacement Ready by 2023 (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force expects a replacement for the Delta 4 Heavy rocket will be ready by 2023, with one of several vehicles under development able to take its place, Gen. Jay Raymond, head of Air Force Space Command, told a House committee May 19. Raymond said that the Air Force expects to have uninterrupted access to heavy launch for national security missions. Several companies have heavy-lift vehicles in development, including SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy and Blue Origin’s New Glenn, that could replace the Delta 4 Heavy built by United Launch Alliance.

The Air Force has purchased launches on seven more Delta 4 Heavy rockets, Raymond said, though one launch will be a NASA mission. The final launch is scheduled for 2023. “We’re comfortable that we will have a new capability online that will be able to support the requirements going forward,” Raymond said. The Air Force also has three more Delta 4 Medium rockets left, with the last launch scheduled for 2019.

ULA is currently searching for an engine for its Vulcan rocket, which is intended to succeed the Atlas 5 and Delta 4. The company has said the leading candidate is the BE-4 liquid methane engine under development by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. That engine will also be used on Blue Origin’s New Glenn heavy launch vehicle. (5/22)

Rocket Competition Planned at Spaceport America (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
New Mexico’s Spaceport America next month is hosting its first ever worldwide collegiate rocket competition featuring 110 teams from 12 countries who will launch solid, liquid, and hybrid rockets to target altitudes as high as 30,000 feet. Dubbed the Spaceport America Cup, the June 20-24 event is designed around the Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition for student rocketry. The event, now in its 12th year, “will be the competition’s biggest year yet,” according to Spaceport America Cup website. (5/22)

Nelson Seeks Increased KSC Funding for SLS/Orion Launch Preparation (Source: Sen. Nelson)
US Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) has written to President Trump urging his support for "increased funding for work at Kennedy Space Center to prepare for the launch of Orion and hte Space Launch System "monster rocket" as our triumphant return to deep space nears. We also need to sustain funding for the Commercial Crew Program that will end our reliance on Russia for access to space." Click here. (5/19)

Weird Energy Beam Seems to Travel Five Times the Speed of Light (Source: New Scientist)
We’ve known about the jet of plasma shooting from the core of M87 since 1918, when astronomer Heber Curtis saw a ray of light connected to the galaxy. To be visible from so far away, it had to be huge – about 6000 light years long. As modern astronomers now know, pretty much all galaxies have a central black hole that periodically draws in stars and gas clouds. When gas begins to swirl down the drain, it heats up and magnetic fields focus some of it into jets of hot plasma. These jets shoot out at velocities near to – but not faster than – the speed of light.

If you compare the first and second images from Earth’s perspective, it looks like the blob has just moved across the sky to the right. But because the second position is also closer to us, its light has had less far to travel than it appears. That means it seems to have arrived there faster than it actually did – as if the blob spent those 10 years travelling at ludicrous speed. Click here. (5/22)

NASA's CPEX Weather Research Takes to the Skies Over Florida (Source: Space Daily)
A NASA-funded field campaign getting underway in Florida on May 25 has a real shot at improving meteorologists' ability to answer some of the most fundamental questions about weather: Where will it rain? When? How much? Called the Convective Processes Experiment (CPEX), the campaign is using NASA's DC-8 airborne laboratory outfitted with five complementary research instruments designed and developed at NASA. The plane also will carry small sensors called dropsondes that are dropped from the plane and make measurements as they fall.

Working together, the instruments will collect detailed data on wind, temperature and humidity in the air below the plane during the birth, growth and decay of convective clouds - clouds formed by warm, moist air rising off the subtropical waters around Florida. (5/22)

Air Force Makes Case to Congress for Remaining Lead for Military Space (Source: Space News)
Separating space operations from the Air Force would hamper the service’s efforts to address threats in orbit, Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said May 17. Testifying before the Senate Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, Goldfein argued that setting up a separate “Space Corps” within the Air Force — similar to the Marine Corps within the Navy — would only cause confusion. (5/19)

Who’s in Charge of Outer Space? (Source: Wall Street Journal)
In space, no one can hear you scheme. But here on Earth, plans to go where few have gone before are getting louder by the minute. The final frontier is starting to look a lot like the Wild West. As more companies announce ambitious plans to do business beyond Earth, serious questions are emerging about the legality of off-planet activity.

Everything that happens in space falls under the purview of the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies. This international agreement, also known as the Outer Space Treaty, turned 50 years old in January. More than 100 countries, including the U.S., Russia and China, are parties to the treaty. Click here. (5/19)

Welcome To TrumpSpace (Its Really ObamaSpace) (Source: NASA Watch)
Despite promises of a new breath of commercial space thinking in the way NASA does things, the presence of Newt Gingrich and Bob Walker in the wings has not made any noticeable change in NASA priorities - at least not yet. That may come when Scott Pace shows up for work at the National Space Council. But any coordinated policy formulation at the Space Council is going to take a long time to be translated into guidance for Administration budget requests.

In the mean time NASA is going to have to send its envoys to Congress to say that the President's budget cuts are good while simultaneously explaining why it does not have the money for the things Congress has told NASA to do. This is going to happen across the Federal government. Congress already spurned the earlier FY 2017 budget request from the White House. Congress will almost certainly do the same thing with the request for FY 2018. When all is said and done NASA's portfolio under the Trump Administration is going to look exactly like the Obama Administration's portfolio: Strategically scattered, chronically inefficient, and woefully underfunded. (5/22)

Bulgaria in Space: One Disaster Mission, One Success and One Satellite (Source: Sofia Globe)
Now that Bulgaria is about to shoot a satellite into space, it is time to remember that it actually won’t. BulgariaSat-1, which is scheduled to blast off on aboard a Falcon 9 rocket in mid-June, is not a state-owned, but a private satellite. Its owner is BulgariaSat, a division of Bulsatcom, the country’s largest cable-TV provider.

Even while BulgariaSat-1 is still on Earth, its owner BulgariaSat just announced they might send a second satellite into space within five years, “if the launch (of the first one) goes well”. The company says the Romanians, the Greek, the Israelis, the Germans and others were interested. They presumably mean cable-TV and communication companies in those countries, which want their TV programs spread from space too. (5/22)

May 21, 2017

Astronauts May Wear Eight-Legged 'Spider' Spacesuits to Crawl Across the Moons of Mars (Source: Business Insider)
When the first astronauts reach Mars in the 2030s, they'll never set foot on the planet's surface. Instead, NASA wants its plucky human crew to orbit the desert world for about a year, then return home. But that doesn't mean astronauts couldn't explore Phobos or Deimos — two tiny and intriguing moons of Mars.

Lockheed Martin, a company that's building NASA's Orion spaceship, recently put forth a tantalizing pitch for a sortie mission: Put astronauts inside an eight-legged, rocket-powered spacesuit that can crawl, walk, or hop across a Martian moon's surface. Cichan says the Spider Flyer concept came from the need to keep Lockheed's Mars mission proposal lean. By building a small spacesuit instead of a larger lander, the thinking goes, NASA could save thousands of pounds' worth of weight and millions of dollars — and come home with unprecedented samples of an alien world. (5/21)

North Korea Tests Mid-Range Ballistic Missile (Source: Daily Beast)
North Korea has fired a mid-range ballistic missile in its latest test launch, South Korean and U.S. authorities said Sunday. The missile was fired from Pukchang in the country’s South Phyongan Province and landed in the Sea of Japan, according to the U.S. Pacific Command. It flew about 310 miles, showing a shorter range than the missiles used in Pyongyang’s most recent test launches. “South Korea and the United States are closely analyzing the launch for further information.  (5/21)

That North Korean Missile Really Worked, Say U.S. Officials (Source: NBC)
Two U.S. defense officials confirm that North Korea's launch of a KN-17 missile last Sunday was successful and that the missile's re-entry vehicle did successfully re-enter the atmosphere. The re-entry was controlled and the vehicle did not burn up. It landed in the sea near Russia. The KN-17 is a liquid fuel single-stage missile. North Korea called it a "medium long-range" ballistic rocket that can carry a heavy nuclear warhead. U.S. officials characterized it as an advancement for the North Korean missile program. North Korea also launched one in mid-April, but it exploded seconds later. (5/19)

An Australian Space Agency is No Laughing Matter (Source: NewDaily)
The “giggle factor” may have once again derailed a concerted attempt to establish a national space agency in Australia, but experts argue the proposition is far from laughable. The federal government, which already spends more than $1 billion a year on space-related activities, neglected to allocate any funds for the development of a homegrown space agency in the recent budget, despite an urgent call for action from the Space Industry Association of Australia (SIAA).

Australia is one of only two developed countries without a domestic space agency, although it has world-class experts and facilities, including the Woomera test range. Australia spends more than a billion dollars each year on space services, such as satellite data, provided by other countries, particularly the US and Japan. “By providing our own satellite systems that allow for international cooperation, we gain a seat at the table and it gives us something to bargain with,” SIAA chairman Michael Davis said. (5/19)

Scientists Look to Skies to Improve Tsunami Detection (Source: NASA)
A team of scientists from Sapienza University in Rome, Italy, and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, has developed a new approach to assist in the ongoing development of timely tsunami detection systems, based upon measurements of how tsunamis disturb a part of Earth’s atmosphere.

The new approach, called Variometric Approach for Real-time Ionosphere Observation, or VARION, uses observations from GPS and other global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) to detect, in real time, disturbances in Earth’s ionosphere associated with a tsunami. The ionosphere is the layer of Earth’s atmosphere located from about 50 to 621 miles (80 to 1,000 kilometers) above Earth’s surface. It is ionized by solar and cosmic radiation and is best known for the aurora borealis (northern lights) and aurora australis (southern lights). (5/17)

A Ride to Space [From Oklahoma] May be Closer (and Less Regulated) Than You Think (Source: NewsOK)
Who has not dreamed of becoming an astronaut and flying into space? This experience of a lifetime may take off closer to home than you believe. Oklahoma is one of seven states to have a spaceport licensed by the FAA. Located in Burns Flat, at the site of the old Clinton-Sherman Airforce base, sits the Oklahoma Air and Spaceport. The facility boasts a 2,700-acre, public-use airport with one of the longest and the widest runways in North America, and the only FAA approved Space Flight Corridor in National Airspace System that is not within military airspace.

The spaceport is operated by the Oklahoma Space Industry Development Authority and is licensed, among other things, to oversee the takeoff and landing of suborbital reusable launch vehicles. There are several companies that will utilize spaceports similar to the Oklahoma Air and Spaceport to take the next step in space travel. (5/21)

Barnstorming in Space (Source: NewsOK)
Unlike the commercial aviation industry, the FAA does not create rules and regulations for the safety of spaceflight participants onboard the spacecraft and the government does not certify the delivery method or the launch vehicle as safe. Instead, the FAA requires a spaceflight operator to obtain informed consent from the spaceflight participant. This means that the operator must disclose in writing that there are known and unknown risks for this activity and provide extensive information on the safety record of the operator's space vehicles.

Additionally, the spaceflight operator is required to train the spaceflight participants to respond to emergency situations and be familiar with the safety features aboard the spacecraft. Under the Commercial Space Launch Competiveness Act of 2015, the FAA is required to refrain from creating rules and regulations relating to the onboard safety of spaceflight participants until October 1, 2023. The reason for this delay in rule making is to encourage these private companies to continue to make commercial spaceflight a reality without the burden of government regulations.

In the beginning, the pioneers of the aviation industry had its barnstorming days free from regulations. So it seems right that these companies who are the pioneers of commercial space tourism should have the same freedom. We live in a remarkable time where people are able to participate in the beginning of mankind's first sustained steps into space. (5/21)

Bulgaria in Space: One Disaster Mission, One Success and One Satellite (Source: Sofia Globe)
Now that Bulgaria is about to shoot a satellite into space, it is time to remember that it actually won’t. BulgariaSat-1, which is scheduled to blast off on aboard a Falcon 9 rocket in mid-June is not a state-owned, but a private satellite. Its owner is BulgariaSat, a division of Bulsatcom, the country’s largest cable-TV provider.

Even while BulgariaSat-1 is still on Earth, BulgariaSat just announced they might send a second satellite into space within five years, “if the launch goes well”. The company says the Romanians, the Greek, the Israelis, the Germans and others were interested. They presumably mean cable-TV and communication companies in those countries, who want their TV programs spread from space too.

Privately owned or not: This is not the first time the words Bulgaria and space met in one and the same sentence. This kind of talk started more than half a century ago in Moscow. On a warm evening in August of 1964, the commander-in-chief of the Bulgarian Air Force, Lt. Gen. Zahari Zahariev, was invited to a reception at the residence of Soviet Defence Minister Marshal Rodion Malinovskiy. (5/21)

New Zealand Space Launch Has Nation Reaching for the Stars (Source: ABC)
New Zealand has never had a space program but could soon be launching commercial rockets more often than the United States. That's if the plans of California-based company Rocket Lab work out. Founded by New Zealander Peter Beck, the company was last week given official approval to conduct three test launches from a remote peninsula in the South Pacific nation. Rocket Lab is planning the first launch of its Electron rocket sometime from Monday, depending on conditions. (5/20)

GSLV: Too Late for Changing Times (Source: The Hindu)
‘It may be ISRO’s short-lived rocket, not its primary satellite vehicle as planned’ The GSLV space vehicle’s quiet but laudable success earlier this month could be a small solace that has come too late for the Indian Space Research Organization. The late bloomer may even be a short-lived intermediate rocket instead of being ISRO’s primary satellite vehicle as it was planned, as a few ISRO old-timers and industry watchers privately suggest.

The GSLV was conceived in the early 1990s to launch Indian communication satellites of 2,000-kg class to an initial and later adjusted distance from Earth, called the ‘GTO’ (geosynchronous transfer orbit). This rocket took about 25 years and 11 flights to be fully realised. GSLV F-09 of May 5 was the fourth to click in a row.

The GSLV is caught in a glaring mismatch: it cannot lift India’s bigger satellites; and the size that it can lift is out of fashion and does not make economic sense. As to why the GSLV could not rise sooner to the occasion, the external geopolitical reasons beyond the agency are well known now. ISRO’s smaller PSLV rocket has made a niche in the world market for light lifts. For the GSLV, there may not be many commercial customers requiring its service. (5/20)

Bezos Lays Out His Vision for Building a City on the Moon, Complete with Robots (Source: GeekWire)
SpaceX billionaire Elon Musk may have his heart set on building a city on Mars, but Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ space vision looks closer to home. He’s gazing at the moon. “I think we should build a permanent human settlement on one of the poles of the moon,” Bezos said today during a Q&A with kids at Seattle’s Museum of Flight. “It’s time to go back to the moon, but this time to stay.” Click here. (5/20)

May 20, 2017

Startups Win Space Florida Cash at Venture Forum (Source: Space Florida)
The Florida Venture Forum and Space Florida are pleased to announce the three top winners of the 10th Annual 2017 Florida Early Stage Capital Conference and Space Florida’s Accelerating Innovation prize. 22 Florida companies from across the state and a variety of industry sectors were selected to present before an audience of investors, deal professionals and entrepreneurs. A panel of judges reviewed each selected company’s presentation and supporting materials. The top three cash prize winners were:

First Place $75,000 - SiteZeus, Tampa (, for a location intelligence venture, driven by exceptionally engineered big data systems and unparalleled data visualization technology. Second Place $50,000 -  Auxadyne, Keystone Heights ( for the design, manufacture and distribution of the first commercially available auxetic foam in a variety of medical device and protective equipment applications. Third Place $25,000 - Admiral, Gainesville ( for adblock analytics and automatic revenue recovery. (5/19)

Scientists, Policy Makers Push for Mars Exploration (Source: Eos)
Going to Mars won’t be easy, “even if we sent Matt Damon,” star of the 2015 film The Martian, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) quipped at a Tuesday forum about deep-space exploration held in Washington, D. C. But the venture is worth doing, helps unify and propel space exploration going forward, and is codified in the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 (S. 442) that President Donald Trump signed into law in March.

Cruz sponsored the legislation, which calls for a human exploration road map that includes “the long-term goal of human missions near or on the surface of Mars in the 2030s.” In an intensely partisan environment, Cruz said that there is bipartisan commitment to American leadership in space. “There are not many issues to which there is bipartisan commitment, but that’s one, and I think that’s very good for those of us who care about continuing to explore space.”

Ellen Stofan, former chief scientist for NASA, said at the forum that now is “a unique moment” for pushing on toward Mars. “We know where we want to go, we understand the path of technologies that we need to get there, we think there’s an affordable plan…and I think you’ve got broad public support.” (5/19)

Sotheby's to Auction Apollo 11 Moon Rock Bag Used for First Lunar Sample (Source: CollectSpace)
An Apollo 11 moon rock bag that was at the center of a legal dispute is now set for what could be a record-setting auction. The moon-dust stained, lunar sample return pouch will be offered as part of Sotheby's first space history-themed sale to be held in more than 20 years. The auction is scheduled for July 20, the 48th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission's historic first moon landing, in New York City.

The zippered bag, which was used to protect the first-ever samples of lunar material collected by an astronaut on the surface of the moon, is expected to sell for $2 to $4 million — potentially more than any space exploration artifact has ever commanded at auction. (5/20)

Nancy Lee Carlson Bought a Piece of the Moon—NASA Really Wants It Back (Source: Wall Street Journal)
When Nancy Lee Carlson discovered an online auction two years ago for moon dust, she couldn’t believe her luck. A geology buff, she spent childhood summers scouring for rocks along Michigan’s Lake Superior, but wasn’t a serious collector. She figured the dust was genuine because it was being auctioned on behalf of the U.S. Marshals Service.

“Ooh boy, that’s something I’d love to have,” she recalls thinking, remembering the astronauts and spacewalks she watched growing up. The 62-year-old hadn’t bid on anything as high as its estimate—$995—but the white, zippered pouch containing the moon dust was bundled in a group with a launch key for the Soviet spacecraft Soyuz T-14 and a black padded headrest from an Apollo command module. She decided the pieces “had a story I could figure out,” so she clicked once and won.

After months of sleuthing that led to a legal showdown with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, she indeed figured it out: The U.S. government mistakenly sold her some of the first moon dust it had ever collected. When Ms. Carlson sent her bag to NASA for testing, scientists realized what she had bought and refused to give it back. So last December she sued the agency and won. Now, she’s planning to resell it for at least $2 million in Sotheby’s first space-exploration sale in New York on July 20. (5/19)

Ellington on the Cusp of a New Frontier (Source: Houston Chronicle)
The first planes at Ellington Field were little more than kites with motors. Yet in those Wild West days of aviation, just 14 years after the Wright brothers took their first flight, soldiers enthusiastically boarded the accident-prone Curtiss Jenny to train as pilots and bombardiers for World War I. One hundred years later, Ellington finds itself again at the edge of a new frontier, gearing up for the era of commercial space. And just like the early days of aviation, the future is far from certain.

The FAA has licensed Ellington and nine other commercial spaceports nationwide, but experts question whether that number will be viable in the foreseeable future. The Houston Spaceport's location in a bustling city also presents complications. It will not be able to host vertical rocket launches, an area where some of its peers are pulling ahead and finding success. Local spaceport officials counter that Houston has an edge in the brainpower of NASA's Johnson Space Center, the talent of its universities and its reputation as Space City. Once again, they say, Ellington is pushing the limitations of flight. (5/19)

UCF’s Dove Wins NASA Award for Space Research (Source: UCF)
Adrienne Dove, a University of Central Florida assistant professor in the physics department, recently was awarded NASA’s Susan Mahan Niebur Early Career Award for her research on microgravity and dusty plasmas, collisions and planet formation. Her work is helping scientists who have been puzzled for decades understand some mechanisms of dust charging and transport, which will be critical to sending spacecraft to other planets.

The Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute will present Dove with the award this summer. SSERVI is dedicated to addressing basic and applied scientific questions that are necessary to understanding the moon, near-Earth asteroids, the Martian moons Phobos and Deimos, and the space environments near them. (5/19)

How to Sequence DNA in Space (Source: The Atlantic)
Over the years, the station’s residents have grown zucchini, beheaded flatworms, maneuvered humanoid robots, tended to mouse embryos, watched the muscles of zebrafish atrophy, and drawn their own blood, using their own bodies as test subjects. Scrolling through NASA’s full list of experiments, one gets the sense that almost any experiment that can be done in a lab on Earth can be replicated in one floating 200 miles above.

So it shouldn’t be too surprising that humans have successfully sequenced DNA in space. Last summer, NASA dispatched Kate Rubins, a microbiologist with a doctorate in cancer biology, to try it for the first time. Rubins has spent her career studying infectious diseases and worked with the U.S. Army to develop therapies for the Ebola and Lassa viruses. She has sequenced the DNA of different organisms plenty of times on the ground, but the process was a little bit more nerve-wracking on the space station. Click here. (5/19)

The Arctic Doomsday Seed Vault Flooded. Thanks, Global Warming (Source: WIRED)
It was designed as an impregnable deep-freeze to protect the world’s most precious seeds from any global disaster and ensure humanity’s food supply forever. But the Global Seed Vault, buried in a mountain deep inside the Arctic circle, has been breached after global warming produced extraordinary temperatures over the winter, sending meltwater gushing into the entrance tunnel.

The vault is on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen and contains almost a million packets of seeds, each a variety of an important food crop. When it was opened in 2008, the deep permafrost through which the vault was sunk was expected to provide “failsafe” protection against “the challenge of natural or man-made disasters”.

But soaring temperatures in the Arctic at the end of the world’s hottest ever recorded year led to melting and heavy rain, when light snow should have been falling. “It was not in our plans to think that the permafrost would not be there and that it would experience extreme weather like that,” said Hege Njaa Aschim, from the Norwegian government, which owns the vault. (5/19)

Space Debris and the Price of Being a Pioneer (Source: DW)
Scientists will tell you, "Space debris is an urgent issue. We've got novel technology to deal with it. But we can't get the funding." It's a lot like climate change. But do we really want to wait until it's too late? Fortunately, the global space debris community is stacked with pioneers. The community knows and says the threat of space debris is real and "urgent," a word frequently misused like "love," but in this case is true. (5/19)

NASA's Foale, Ochoa Welcomed Into Astronaut Hall of Fame (Source: Florida Today)
The U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame on Friday inducted a pair of veteran astronauts praised for their calm under pressure, trailblazing missions and the examples they set for young people. Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic woman in space, and Michael Foale, the only American to live on Russia’s Mir station and the International Space Station, were honored in a ceremony beneath the retired shuttle Atlantis at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. (5/19)

UM Researchers Find new Way to Measure Hurricanes: ‘Gravity Waves’ (Source: Miami Herald)
Hurricane forecasters may have a new tool in solving the vexing problem of understanding storm intensity: gravity waves. Gravity waves are produced when air moving around the atmosphere gets pushed from one place to another. In a hurricane, those waves can come in quick, short bursts as powerful thunderstorms around the storm’s eye wall swish air up and down like a plunger in a toilet bowl.

Scientists have long known they exist, measuring them in the stratosphere about 20 or 30 miles above a storm. Now, for the first time, University of Miami scientists have ventured into the heart of the storm, measuring the waves where they start. And early indications suggest wave power relates directly to storm power. (5/19)

Space Florida Avoids State Budget Cuts (Source: Florida Today)
Space Florida escaped cuts in next year’s state budget despite House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s targeting of other economic development agencies for dispensing what he calls “corporate welfare.” Charged with growing aerospace business and managing spaceport infrastructure in the state, Space Florida received a total of $19.5 million for the budget year starting July 1, the same as this year.

Meanwhile, Enterprise Florida saw its operating budget cut by more than $7.5 million, to $16 million, and Visit Florida, dogged by a controversial deal with a rapper, had its budget slashed by more than $50 million, to $25 million. Scott has threatened to veto the $83 billion budget, which he had not signed as of Friday. Space Florida’s board of directors, which draws its members from Enterprise Florida’s board, considers itself fortunate.

Americans for Prosperity, the conservative Koch brothers-backed group that lobbied against Enterprise Florida and business recruitment incentives, said it would review Space Florida’s operations. "We will take a look at Space Florida in the future to ensure legislators are being good stewards of taxpayer dollars,"said Chris Hudson, the organization’s Florida director. "There's no doubt that Space Florida is something that I think we should continue to invest in, because it’s a very unique asset in the world, let alone in the country." (5/19)

2018 Budget Proposal to Spread Cuts Across NASA Programs (Source: Space News)
More than $560 million in budget cuts will be spread across many NASA programs, from science to human spaceflight, when the White House releases its complete fiscal year 2018 budget proposal next week. The White House is expected to release its full 2018 budget proposal May 23, more than two months after issuing a “budget blueprint” that provided highlights of the proposal.

Individual agencies, including NASA, will also provide greater details about the budget for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. However, on May 18 the policy think tank Third Wave published a spreadsheet that it said it received from an anonymous source, dated May 8, that provided details about the spending proposal. That includes requested funding for NASA down to the account level, although not in greater detail.

The overall funding for NASA included in the spreadsheet is $19.092 billion, essentially identical to the $19.1 billion listed in the budget blueprint released in March. The amount for aeronautics, $624 million, also matches the amount listed in that blueprint. The spreadsheet suggests that most major NASA accounts will see cuts compared to what Congress provided in the fiscal year 2017 omnibus spending bill enacted earlier this month. (5/19)

NASA's Education Office Survives in New Budget (Source: Space News)
The leaked spreadsheet included $37.3 million for education, even though the earlier budget blueprint stated that the administration would seek to close NASA’s Office of Education. The spreadsheet did not disclose how that money would be spent, but the amount could be allocated for science education activities that NASA bookkeeps in its science directorate. (5/19)

Chemical Found in NASA Wallops Site Wells That Supply Chincoteague (Source: WAVY)
NASA is providing extra drinking water for Chincoteague after chemicals used in firefighting foam were found in wells on the Wallops Flight Facility property that supply the town. Town manager Jim West says Chincoteague worked out the arrangement with NASA after testing over the past several weeks found per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in four of the town’s seven wells.

NASA says firefighters previously conducted training with a firefighting foam that contained the compounds, which were once used in a wide variety of consumer products but have mostly been phased out. The potential health effects of human exposure aren’t fully understood. (5/19)

'Alien Megastructure' Star Is at It Again with the Strange Dimming (Source:
The perplexing cosmic object known as "Tabby's star" is once again exhibiting a mysterious pattern of dimming and brightening that scientists have tried to explain with hypotheses ranging from swarms of comets to alien megastructures. Today (May 19), an urgent call went out to scientists around the world to turn as many telescopes as possible toward the star, to try and crack the mystery of its behavior.

These changes were first spotted in September 2015 using NASA's Kepler Space Telescope, which was built to observe these kinds of dips in a star's brightness, because they can be caused by a planet moving in front of the star as seen from Earth. But the brightness changes exhibited by the star don't show the kind of regularity that is typical of a planet's orbit around its star, and scientists can't see how the changes could be explained by a system of planets.

Scientists have hypothesized that the changes could be due to a swarm of comets passing in front of the star, that they're the result of strong magnetic activity, or that it's some massive structure built by aliens. But no leading hypothesis has emerged, so scientists have been eager to capture a highly detailed picture of the light coming from the star during one of these dimming periods. (5/19)