May 3, 2016

Harris Continues USAF Work on Space Fence Radar at Eglin AFB (Source: DOD)
Melbourne-based Harris Corp. has been awarded a $9,202,986 contract modification for System Engineering and Sustainment Integrator (SENSOR) work on a phased array radar which provides space situational awareness data for tracking space objects. The radar is located at Eglin Air Force Base in northwest Florida. (4/28)

NASA, NSBRI Projects to Support Astronaut Health for Long-Duration Missions (Source: NSBRI)
NASA’s Human Research Program and the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) will fund 27 proposals to help answer questions about astronaut health and performance during future long duration missions beyond low Earth orbit. 

The selected proposals will investigate the impact of the space environment on various aspects of astronaut health, including visual impairment, behavioral health and performance, bone and muscle loss, cardiovascular alterations, human factors and performance, sensorimotor adaptation and the development and application of smart medical systems and technologies. Click here. (4/29)

Generation Orbit Teams With NASA Armstrong for GOLauncher Flight Tests (Source: GO)
Generation Orbit Launch Services has signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center (AFRC) to pursue the flight test and envelope clearance for the GOLauncher 1 air launched rocket vehicle. Utilizing AFRC's experience and capabilities in flight test engineering for air launch rocket systems, the two year program will demonstrate integration of the GOLauncher 1 Inert Test Article (GO1-ITA) with NASA's Gulfstream III research aircraft, captive carry flight testing, and release testing.

Further, NASA AFRC will continue the development of its store separation analysis capability, eventually validating the toolset through release flight testing of the GO1-ITA. The program will break new ground in demonstrating GO's unique launch vehicle release maneuver from a business jet aircraft, paving the way for test flights of the GOLauncher 1 hypersonic testbed. (5/3)

Couture in Orbit (Source: ESA)
ESA is in partnership with top European fashion schools to harness next-generation technology and explore the future of fashion. The Couture in Orbit project is bringing space back to Earth through designs from some of Europe’s brightest fashion minds – tasked to develop desirable and practical clothing, incorporating technology to make life better.

Fashion schools in Paris, London, Milan, Copenhagen and Berlin are each assigned a theme linked to ESA’s ethos of sustainability, climate protection and recycling. These themes include technology, environment, innovation, health and sport. At the same time, all designs must be practical for daily use. (5/2)

'Rocket Girls' Blasts Off in Washington DC (Source: Space.com)
"Rise of the Rocket Girls" follows the women —as many as 200 —who worked as "computers" in the 1940s and 1950s. These female mathematicians computed with a pen, pencil and slide rule to calculate trajectories and designs for early rockets. But despite their vital role in space history, these women's contributions to putting America in space were ignored for more than half a century, Holt said. Click here. (5/3)

Will SpaceX Get People to Mars Before NASA? (Source: Discovery)
Billionaire tech entrepreneur Elon Musk, never one to rest on his laurels, recently laid out the opening move in his long-term quest to land people (himself included) on Mars. The plan begins with a Dragon capsule, similar to one of the cargo ships now parked at the International Space Station, blasting off for Mars aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket as early as 2018.

The Falcon Heavy, which will have 27 first-stage engines, compared to the nine aboard SpaceX’s current Falcon rocket, is scheduled for its first flight before the end of this year. Falcon Heavy will be the most powerful U.S. rocket to fly since NASA’s Saturn 5 moon rockets of the 1970s. Click here. (5/2)

May 2, 2016

Critics: Georgia County Under-representing Spaceport Risks (Source: SpaceportFacts)
Georgia spaceport supporters last week claimed their Camden site (just north of Jacksonville, Florida) has the nation's best geography for spaceflight. The folks at SpaceportFacts beg to differ. They point to a variety of safety and operational barriers that they claim are being ignored or whitewashed by county officials (no funding is being provided by the state) who are focused on jobs above all else. They worry the county is wasting millions on a project doomed to fail.

They also worry that by providing misleading information for the spaceport's environmental/public safety analysis, the county is endangering residents downrange from the launch site. They say the Camden site is much farther inland (8 miles) than other orbital vertical launch sites, causing hazards to more homes and properties downrange than the county acknowledges. This SpaceportFacts graphic shows how the county has shaved property from a downrange hazard map.

Meanwhile, they point to a very limited orbital azimuth possible from Camden, a potentially illegal requirement for the government to "take" downrange property, and federal "Wilderness Act" problems with flying over the Cumberland Island Wilderness Area. Then there are the impacts on boating downrange, potential air traffic corridor interruptions, over-optimistic jobs and wages forecasts, and impacts on the Navy's operations at King's Bay, with nuclear submarines encroaching the downrange safety zone in secrecy. Click here. (5/2)

Vanishing Arctic Ice Shifts Jet Stream, Which Melts Greenland Glaciers (Source: Washington Post)
Investigating the factors affecting ice melt in Greenland — one of the most rapidly changing places on Earth — is a major priority for climate scientists. And new research is revealing that there are a more complex set of variables affecting the ice sheet than experts had imagined. New research proposes a critical connection between sharp declines in Arctic sea ice and changes in the atmosphere, which they say are not only affecting ice melt in Greenland, but also weather patterns all over the North Atlantic.

The new studies center on an atmospheric phenomenon known as “blocking” — this is when high pressure systems remain stationary in one place for long periods of time (days or even weeks), causing weather conditions to stay relatively stable for as long as the block remains in place. They can occur when there’s a change or disturbance in the jet stream, causing the flow of air in the atmosphere to form a kind of eddy. (5/2)

Space Florida Hosting “Water Quality Research in Florida” Workshop (Source: Space Florida)
Florida Research Parks Network (FRPN) with support from the Florida Dept. of Agriculture for Consumer Services (FDOACS), is sponsoring a workshop entitled “Water Quality Research in Florida” at Space Florida’s Space Life Sciences Lab in Exploration Park on the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The event will be held on May 26, with opening remarks by Dr. Lisa Conti, Deputy Commissioner FDOACS. Invited speakers will be from the academic and research world. Due to limited capacity, it's invitation only. Contact tgannon@spaceflorida.gov for details. (5/2)

UCF Update on Space Research at Space Club Meeting (Source: NSCFL)
University of Central Florida’s (UCF) Florida Space Institute Director Ray Lugo will be the featured speaker at the National Space Club Florida Committee’s (NSCFL) monthly luncheon on Tuesday, May 10. His presentation is entitled “University of Central Florida Space Research Update.” The luncheon event begins at 11:30 am and will be held at the Radisson at the Port Convention Center, Cape Canaveral. (5/2)

NASA Astronauts Train on Boeing Spacecraft Simulators (Source: Space.com)
NASA astronauts are training to fly Boeing's new commercial spacecraft on one of two CST-100 Starliner Crew Part Task Trainers at the company's facility in Missouri. "Testing new airplanes and equipment is great, but testing new spaceships -- well, we here in the United States haven't tested a new manned vehicle for 30 years, so it's a real honor to get the chance," says astronaut Eric Boe. The first piloted test of the Starliner is slated for next year. (4/28)

Sierra Nevada Headed to Mars for 13th Time (Source: SNC)
NASA has awarded Sierra Nevada Corp. multiple contracts to supply critical hardware for the Mars 2020 mission. A robotic science rover will investigate key questions about the habitability of Mars and assess natural resources and hazards in preparation for future human expeditions. SNC will design and manufacture the descent brake, as well as actuators for robotic arm and sample caching system. The instruments will enable scientists to identify and select a collection of rock and soil samples for potential return to Earth. (5/2)

SpaceX: Falcon Rockets are More Powerful Than We Thought (Source: Engadget)
If you thought SpaceX was already making a fuss over the capabilities of both its existing Falcon 9 rocket and the upcoming Falcon Heavy, you haven't seen anything yet. The company has posted updated specs showing that both vehicles are more powerful than previously thought.

A Falcon 9 is now known to be capable of hauling 50,265lbs to low Earth orbit, up from just shy of 29,000 pounds. The Falcon Heavy, meanwhile, will carry 119,930lbs instead of the previously promised 116,845lbs. Elon Musk chalks up the improved figures to more thorough testing -- SpaceX hasn't upgraded the hardware, at least not yet.

However, the private space firm is also raising expectations across the board. Musk plans to increase the Falcon 9's rated liftoff thrust to 1.71 million (up from 1.3 million), and the Falcon Heavy will now put out 5.1 million pounds on liftoff instead of the earlier 4.5 million. That's twice the thrust of any other rocket in service, the exec claims. (5/2)

Exploring an Asteroid Without Leaving Earth (Source: NASA)
One building at JSC houses a spacecraft that will bring its 10th crew face-to-face with an asteroid on May 2. HERA – the Human Exploration Research Analog – is one of several analogs used by the Human Research Program to research ways to help NASA move from Lower Earth Orbit to deep space explorations. An analog is a situation on Earth that produces physical and mental affects on the body similar to those experienced in space.

From ingress to splashdown the HERA crew goes through all the motions of a real deep space mission without ever actually leaving the building. The habitat used for the HERA analog study, located in Building 220, is a three-story research laboratory containing an airlock, medical station, work area, flight deck, four bunks, a kitchen, and a bathroom. It is a generic design not meant to replicate any particular spacecraft. (4/25)

Space Tourism to Bring New Health Concerns (Source: Brisbane Times)
The groundbreaking push toward space tourism is throwing up new challenges for those charged with keeping people safe as they break free of Earth's gravity. Beyond the obvious dangers of hurtling into space at roughly three-and-a-half times the speed of sound, endeavours such as Virgin Galactic raise many questions the industry needs to prepare to deal with, according to one of Australia's most respected researchers in the field. Click here. (5/2)

How to Bump an Asteroid Off Course (Source: Guardian)
Roughly every other week a one-metre-wide asteroid impacts on Earth’s atmosphere and creates a spectacular fireball. Meanwhile, every few decades a lump of rock the size of a double-decker bus comes our way, creating a small crater on the ground like the Russian Chelyabinsk event on 15 February 2013.

Asteroids that cause significant damage (football-field-sized rocks) slam into us every 5,000 years or so, and the real biggies – capable of causing global disaster – arrive every few million years. So what can we do when Earth ends up in the crosshairs of the next big one? One idea is to bump it off its course. And in 2022 scientists plan to test this idea, when the Didymos asteroid and its mini-satellite known as “Didymoon” will be passing relatively close to Earth. Click here. (5/2)

Time for Fresh Thinking About Collaboration in Space (Source: Space Review)
The International Space Station has demonstrated how the US and Russia can cooperate in space even when terrestrial relations are strained. Ajey Lele argues that this can serve as a model for cooperation in space between China and India. Click here. (5/2)

A New Chapter for a Commercial Space Pioneer (Source: Space Review)
Jeff Greason and two other co-founders of XCOR Aerospace have left the company in recent months and started a new venture, Agile Aero. Jeff Foust reports on Agile’s vision for the future of space vehicle development, as well as where XCOR stands on its Lynx suborbital spaceplane. Click here. (5/2)

Another Overview of the American Space Renaissance Act (Source: Space Review)
In the second part of his comprehensive review of a new space policy bill, Michael Listner examines the civil space portion of the act, including changes to how a NASA administrator is chosen. Click here. (5/2)

The US Should Challenge the EU to Lead Lunar Development (Source: Space Review)
As ESA seeks to drum up support for its “Moon Village” concept, the US appears content to focus instead on missions to Mars. Vid Beldavs, in an open letter to the president, argues that the US should push Europe to take the lead on lunar development and take on a supporting role that can help support its own Mars ambitions. Click here. (5/2)

DOJ Floats Cape Canaveral Launch Site Cleanup Settlement (Source: Law360)
The U.S. Department of Justice and a defunct government contractor have reached a tentative $331,566 settlement in Florida federal court over decades-old contamination at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport site where Titan missiles were first launched. Wednesday’s consent decree, between the United States on behalf of the U.S. Air Force and EG&G Florida Inc., would help fund the cleanup at Space Launch Complex 15, where rockets that boosted the Gemini missions, the Voyager deep space probes and the intercontinental ballistic missile programs were first launched. (4/29)

Europe and Rusia Postpone ExoMars Mission Launch to 2020 (Source: ESA)
ESA and Roscosmos have decided to postpone the launch of the ExoMars lander mission from 2018 to 2020. The agencies said in a joint statement early Monday that, after a "Tiger Team" review of schedule delays in the mission's development, they would push back the launch to July 2020. The scheduled 2018 launch of the mission, featuring a lander and rover, had been in question for months because of development delays. The first phase of ExoMars, an orbiter, launched in March and is in good condition en route to Mars. (5/2)

ISS Crew Rotation Delayed (Source: ESA)
Three members of the International Space Station's crew will get more time on the station. NASA astronaut Tim Kopra, Roscosmos cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko and British astronaut Tim Peake will now return from the station on June 18, 13 days later than originally planned. The ISS partners decided to delay their return to allow them to continue work and maximize the research performed on the station. Their replacements, originally scheduled to launch on a Soyuz June 21, are now set to fly June 24. (5/2)

SpaceX Releases Updated Performance and Price Details for Falcon Fleet (Source: Space News)
A new chart released by SpaceX shows that reusability comes at a price. The updated chart of price and performance for both the Falcon 9 and upcoming Falcon Heavy show that the Falcon 9 can launch payloads weighing up to 8,300 kilograms to geostationary transfer orbit, but only if the rocket is expended. The reusable Falcon 9 is limited to 5,500 kilograms to the same orbit in order to preserve propellant needed for landing. A Falcon 9 launch is currently priced at $62 million, but SpaceX executives have suggested it will cut prices for reusable launches by about 30 percent. (5/2)

OneWeb Submits Application for Space-Based Internet (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
OneWeb LLC recently submitted its application for satellite-based Internet operations to the Federal Communications Commission. The application seeks access to the U.S. market for the company's planned low-Earth orbit satellite constellation. (5/2)

OSTP Recommends Giving Expanded Space Authority for FAA (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has recommended to Congress that the Secretary of Transportation be given the power to provide mission authorizations for such non-traditional space activities as asteroid mining and private space stations, an FAA official revealed last week.

George Nield, FAA associate administrator for Commercial Space Transportation, said an authorization would stipulate that a mission is in compliance with U.S. space policy, foreign and national security considerations, and international treaty obligations. The  government currently lacks a single authority with responsibility for mission approvals, Nield said. The FAA licenses commercial launches and re-entries, the FCC licenses radio broadcasts, and NOAA oversees remote-sensing activities.

The State Department has said the current regulatory framework makes it difficult to determine whether proposed activities comply with the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, of which the U.S. is a signatory, Nield added.
The uncertainty has left companies pursuing private space stations, lunar bases, asteroid mining, and other non-traditional activities in limbo, he said. They can proceed with their efforts and raise money, but the lack of a clear regulatory process makes it more difficult. (5/2)

How NASA's Next Big Telescope Could Take Pictures of Another Earth (Source: Scientific American)
Can NASA’s next big space telescope take a picture of an alien Earth-like planet orbiting another star? Astronomers have long dreamed of such pictures, which would allow them to study worlds beyond our solar system for signs of habitability and life.

But for as long as astronomers have dreamed, the technology to make those dreams a reality has seemed decades away. Now, however, a growing number of experts believe NASA’s Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) could take snapshots of “other Earths”—and soon. The agency formally started work on WFIRST in February of this year and plans to launch the observatory in 2025.

WFIRST was conceived in 2010 as the top-ranked priority of the National Academy of Sciences’ Decadal Survey, a report from U.S. astronomers that proposes a wish list of future missions for NASA and other federal science agencies. The telescope’s heart is a 2.4-meter mirror that, although the same size and quality as the Hubble Space Telescope’s, promises panoramic views of the heavens a hundred times larger than anything Hubble could manage. (5/2)

Three Potentially Habitable Worlds Found Around Nearby Ultracool Dwarf Star (Source: ESO)
Astronomers using the TRAPPIST telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory have discovered three planets orbiting an ultracool dwarf star just 40 light-years from Earth. These worlds have sizes and temperatures similar to those of Venus and Earth and are the best targets found so far for the search for life outside the Solar System. They are the first planets ever discovered around such a tiny and dim star.

TRAPPIST-1 is an ultracool dwarf star — it is much cooler and redder than the Sun and barely larger than Jupiter. Such stars are both very common in the Milky Way and very long-lived, but this is the first time that planets have been found around one of them. Despite being so close to the Earth, this star is too dim and too red to be seen with the naked eye or even visually with a large amateur telescope. It lies in the constellation of Aquarius (The Water Carrier). (5/2)

Study Finds FAA Could Take Over Space Situational Awareness from Air Force (Source: Parabolic Arc)
A Department of Transportation (DOT) review has found that it would be possible for it to take over responsibility for space situational awareness from the U.S. Air Force. George Nield, FAA associate administrator for Commercial Space Transportation (AST), told a meeting of the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) that the DOT review supports developing an implementation plan as soon as possible.

The Air Force currently handles space situational awareness, which involves tracking objects in orbit and determining whether collisions are likely. Air Force officials have said they want the service to get out of the business of being an orbital traffic cop so it can focus on national security issues. The U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act passed last year ordered the DOT to study whether the department would be capable of taking over the duties. (5/2)

SpaceX Will Send Your Stuff to Mars Starting at $62 Million (Source: Motherboard)
Looking to chuck some of your belongings over to Mars? SpaceX has you covered, provided you have the dough. This weekend, the company updated its standard price options to include specs for journeys to the Red Planet. The damage shakes out to $62 million for a Falcon 9 rocket launch with a payload of 4,020 kilograms (8,860 pounds) and $90 million for a ride on the much-anticipated Falcon Heavy rocket, which can ferry 13,600 kilograms (29,980 pounds) to Mars. (5/2)

Former Moonwalker Pushes Colonization of Mars From Florida Tech (Source: Chronicle of Higher Ed)
Although renowned for long-ago exploits, Buzz Aldrin, at 86, seems as focused on shaping the future as on celebrating his past. The second man to walk on the moon, in 1969, Mr. Aldrin was the first astronaut with a doctorate in astronautics, or anything else, when he was selected by NASA, in 1963. For decades, he has pressed federal aerospace officials and corporations to plan a permanent settlement on Mars.

To advance that mission, last summer he and the Florida Institute of Technology said they would set up the Buzz Aldrin Space Institute there. Mr. Aldrin became a research professor of aeronautics at Florida Tech and senior faculty adviser to the institute. At the same time, the university said its John H. Evans Library would establish the Buzz Aldrin Special Collection and Archives. (5/2)

May 1, 2016

Orbiter Lands at KSC Runway (Source: Florida Today)
Nearly five years after NASA's shuttle program declared "wheels stop" on the final mission, a space shuttle orbiter appeared to grace Kennedy Space Center's runway again last week. Named Inspiration, the orbiter is a full-size mockup familiar to many on the Space Coast: It was displayed for more than 20 years outside the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in Titusville.

LVX System, a developer of LED lighting technology that was given the mockup by the KSC Visitor Complex, plans to spend at least a year and roughly $5 million refurbishing the Inspiration at the former Shuttle Landing Facility, near the runway's control tower. CEO John Pederson said a lease subsequently worked out with Space Florida allowed the refurbishment to be done at KSC. (4/30)

Debus to DiBello (Source: Florida Today)
The National Space Club Florida Committee on Saturday bestowed its top annual honor, the Debus Award, to Space Florida President and CEO Frank DiBello. DiBello is being honored for his role in helping the Space Coast rebound from the 2011 retirement of NASA's space shuttle program and its transition to more commercial space operations. During his tenure, companies such as Boeing, Blue Origin, OneWeb Satellites, Embraer and Northrop Grumman have announced plans to establish or expand operations in the area. (4/30)

Orion Under Pressure at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Florida Today)
The pressure vessel forming the core of the Orion crew capsule slated to blast off on from Kennedy Space Center in late 2018 on an unmanned test flight is undergoing pressure tests to ensure its structural integrity. KSC teams recently moved the pressure vessel to a stand and then a proof pressure cell for the tests inside the Armstrong Operations and Checkout building.

Also recently, the underlying structure for the mission's service module, which is being provided by European Space Agency, was shipped from Italy to a German facility for integration. The service module, which will provide power and propulsion for the mission, is expected to move to KSC early next year. (4/30)

Astronomers Discover Bizarre Asteroid-Like Tailless Comet (Source: CSMonitor)
Is it an asteroid-like comet? A comet-like asteroid? A space rock with a bit of a split personality, born near Earth, has found its way back home, according to a new study published on Friday in the journal Science Advances.

“If you’d shown me the spectrum, I would have just said this is another stupid asteroid,” said paper co-author Olivier Hainaut to Gizmodo. “If you showed me the orbit, I’d say yeah, it’s a standard long-period comet. But you don’t at all expect to find a rocky asteroid on an Oort cloud orbit. That’s wrong.” (4/30)

ULA Pushes Launches Back to 'Early Summer' to Address RD-180 Anomaly (Source: Florida Politics)
Still dealing with concerns from an early engine cutoff that did not affect the success of a March 22 rocket launch, United Launch Alliance is now looking at launching its next Atlas V rocket no earlier than early summer, the company announced today. But a critically timed NASA asteroid mission should still blast off as planned in September, the company stated.

The company is getting to the bottom of an unexpected glitch that occurred in its latest Atlas V launch, when the rocket carried an Orbital ATK Cygnus capsule into space. ULA was scheduled to launch a military MUOS-5 satellite atop an Atlas V on March 29, and initially delayed that to May 12. Now that’s being pushed back to “early summer,” though no specific date has been set. (4/30)

Bezos Explains How Blue Origin Will Prevent Rocket Engines From Melting (Source: Popular Science)
The BE-4, a rocket engine that Blue Origin is developing, uses a preburner to set up a big combustion reaction that generates all those flames and propulsive gases. Basically what the preburner does is it burns a small amount of fuel, and uses the steam from that to drive some pumps that move the fuel—methane and oxygen—into the combustion chamber.

The problem is, that preburner reaction can get very hot. Like 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to melt a lot of rocket parts. Blue Origin plans to cool down the steam coming from the pre-burner to about 700 degrees Fahrenheit, otherwise it might melt the turbines that power the pumps that dump fuel into the combustion chamber. To cool it, they mix unburned oxygen gas into the steam. To make sure the oxygen mixes thoroughly without hotspots, they use a fancy computer modeling system.

"To date, we’ve completed several million core hours of CFD modeling of BE-4 combustion processes. Modeling of the preburner shows good mixing and temperature uniformity upstream of the turbine. The combustion and temperature data we’ve gathered in our subscale testing correlate with our CFD predictions." The company is hoping to fire up the rocket in stationary tests later this year. (4/30)

Turkey and Ukraine to Cooperate on Building Satellites (Source: SpaceWatch)
In a clear reaction to collapsed relations with the Russian Federation, both Turkey and Ukraine have announced their intention to cooperate with each other in the development and manufacture of satellites, as well as collaboration on other strategic technologies.

The announcement has come as a surprise to analysts, many of whom claim that apart from an obvious geopolitical agenda to counter Russian strategic dominance and influence in the Black Sea and Caucasus, there seems little industrial and technological foundations for the proposed relationship to succeed. (4/30)

Iran’s Future Spy Satellites: What Can Be Done? (Source: SpaceWatch)
Recent media reports have suggested that Iran and Russian Space Monitoring Systems, Information & Control and Electromechanical Complexes (VNIIEM) could sign a contract for a high-resolution remote sensing satellite in the coming weeks. If this deal goes ahead, the Iranian satellite would be launched in 2018, and will be based on VNIIEM’s Kanopus-V remote sensing satellite, a version of which has already been built and launched for Belarus.

With the Iranian sanctions regime steadily coming apart, it is only a matter of time before Iran acquires – or even develops on its own – a high-resolution imaging satellite that will revolutionize its military and civil remote-sensing capabilities. Such a development is of particular concern to a number of countries in the Arabian Gulf and also for Israel. What are the implications of Iran gaining such a capability, and what, if anything, can other countries in the Middle East do to mitigate any military advantage Iran might gain from using a high-resolution imaging satellite? Click here. (4/30)

The Great Pluto Debate (Source: Guardian)
As the consequence of the findings of an ambitious planetary astronomer, the elite group of nine planets has overnight shrunk to eight, and your mission is now heading towards a “dwarf planet”, just another piece of ice and rock in the vast Kuiper belt, the band of mostly small bodies that forms the perimeter, the unglamorous outer suburbs, of the solar system. That’s exactly what happened to Alan Stern a decade ago.

Shift forward nine years, and New Horizons has just stunned the world with the clarity and drama of the images of Pluto sent back from its flyby. Hundreds of millions of people go online to look at them. Stern is the subject of international attention, feted, apparently vindicated, a man who appears to have answered his critics about the relevance of Pluto.

But then, out of the blue, the same astronomer whose original research prompted the demotion of Pluto announces that he’s discovered evidence of Planet Nine, a major planet somewhere between the size of Earth and Neptune, that could take the place of Pluto – the original ninth planet – in the known planetary system. That is exactly what Mike Brown did. Click here. (5/1)

2D Spacecraft, Reprogrammable Microbes & More: NASA Eyes Wild Space Tech Ideas (Source: Space.com)
Get ready for two-dimensional spacecraft and microorganisms that can recycle Mars dirt into working electronics. While both may sound like science fiction, they could soon be a reality, thanks to the latest round of space technology funding from NASA.

These are just two of the 13 exciting new concepts to win Phase 1 funding this year from the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts(NIAC) program, which aims to encourage and invest in groundbreaking research that could transform how NASA does space exploration. Click here. (5/1)

Little Astronaut Discovers Our World in Touching Father/Son Photo Project (Source: PetaPixel)
There was a time when what you consider your “day-to-day,” with all its errands and monotony, was new and fresh. A time when each trip outside was a foray into the great unknown. That’s the feeling that photographer dad Aaron Sheldon and his 4-year-old son capture in their photo project Small Steps Are Giant Leaps. Click here. (4/27)

Some Damage to Soyuz Launch Pad After Inaugural Vostochny Launch (Source: Russian Space Web)
A preliminary post-launch inspection at Vostochny revealed that the protective shield on the lower service platform below the launch pad was torn off by the loads during the liftoff. In addition, NPO Avtomatiki shipped back to its facility the cable, which was suspected as a culprit in the failed launch attempt on April 27. The cable was expected to arrive to the lab after May Day holidays for the analysis of its soldering joints, which could be faulty.

Industry sources also said that, specialists were editing footage obtained by external cameras on the Soyuz rocket before it could be released to the general public. Even though the images were beamed to the launch control room in real time during the ascent, officials were apparently scrutinizing the video, so it would not be "misinterpreted" by the press. Obviously, any evidence of damage to the launch pad or to the rocket itself would be prime candidates to be edited out. (4/30)

Why Landing a Flying, Fire-Breathing Red Dragon on Mars is Huge (Source: Ars Technica)
Is this really a big deal? Oh, heavens, yes. No private company has ever launched a significant, independently financed expedition into deep space, let alone all the way to Mars. In fact, only two world powers have ever softly landed spacecraft on Mars. The U.S. has done so half a dozen times, and the Soviet Union did it once with Mars 3 in 1971—although the vehicle failed after sending back just 15 seconds of data.

And all previous soft landings have been relatively small and light; SpaceX is talking about landing a Dragon weighing about 6,000kg on the surface of Mars. The previous landing heavyweight was Curiosity, at 900kg. Soft-landing a 6,000kg object on Mars would be a stunning achievement for NASA or any government-backed space agency. For a private company, it's unheard of. Click here. (4/29)

Russian Director Responsible for Vostochny Gets Prison Sentence (Source: Moscow Times)
Igor Nesterenko, the former director of the construction company involved in building the Vostochny Cosmodrome - was sentenced to three years and three months in a labor camp on charges of fraud, the RBC newspaper reported Friday.

While working as director of the Pacific Ocean bridge-building company (TNK), Nesterenko embezzled over 100 million rubles ($1.6 million) via a scheme run by an associate, Sergei Yudin. He was arrested in the far eastern Primorye region in April following complaints from TNK workers over unpaid wages, RBC reported, citing the regional Investigative Committee statement. (4/29)

Why NASA Is Building An $18 Billion Rocket To Nowhere (Source: BuzzFeed)
Space adventure fans might enjoy NASA’s latest saga, the story of a rocket to nowhere that Congress wants, very badly, built in Alabama. Or they might be really pissed off. In its 2017 budget request, NASA asked Congress for $1.3 billion to build its next jumbo rocket. Last week, despite years of fighting with the Obama Administration over its plans to explore an asteroid with the rocket, the Senate Appropriations Committee not only granted the request, but gave the space agency an extra $995 million to build it. Click here. (4/30)

LauncherOne to Start Test Missions in 2017 (Source: Via Satellite)
Virgin Galactic is planning a test campaign for its LauncherOne small satellite launch vehicle next year consisting of multiple trial-launches to pave the way for commercial missions. The air-launched vehicle, first announced in 2012, has undergone some significant evolutions since inception, including a doubling of its payload performance, improved engines and switching carrier aircrafts from WhiteKnightTwo to a Boeing 747-400 nicknamed Cosmic Girl.

Since then Virgin Galactic has also built and furnished a LauncherOne manufacturing plant in Long Beach Calif., and signed a massive contract with OneWeb for 39 launches. George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic, said the company’s goal for 2016 is to finish the development program for LauncherOne, and start building the test launch vehicles, which will basically be identical to the operational version. He added that Virgin Galactic is creating a test plan with partner L-3, which is augmenting the Cosmic Girl aircraft to support the launch vehicle.

Whitesides said engine development is proceeding very well with the Newton 3 main stage and Newton 4 upper stage engines. Virgin Galactic replaced the Newton 1 and Newton 2 engines, which were pressure-fed, with the newer pump-fed versions. Will Pomerantz, VP of special projects at Virgin Galactic, told Via Satellite the Newton 1 and Newton 2 were pathfinder engines used as part of LauncherOne’s development process. Whitesides said that the structural development program is also very well advanced, paving the way for the test campaign next year. (4/27)

The Best New Geography for Spaceflight is in Georgia (Source: LinkedIn)
Did you know the State of Georgia now has THE BEST geography on Planet Earth from which to launch rockets into orbit? See http://spaceportcamden.us/why.php. People are always surprised, but according to NASA's history, recently declassified reports show that only because of a "can-do" General along with an adjoining Air Force infrastructure, Cape Canaveral won the mid twenty century site to house the nation's spaceflight infrastructure.

The geography of Georgia (and Cape Canaveral) is important because there is almost a 400 meters per second speed bump from the Earth's rotation. Also rockets get to orbit by traveling over the Atlantic Ocean. In addition, there other very positive attributes for the Georgia location. Not only does Georgia have one of the planets best geographies for spaceflight, it is also home to one of the world's best program for turning out space flight engineers. (4/30)

Haskell to Design-Build New Orbital Rocket Manufacturing Facility (Source: Haskell)
Jacksonille-based Haskell, a leading integrated design, engineering and construction firm, has been selected to design-build a new orbital rocket manufacturing facility for Blue Origin. The facility will be built within Exploration Park at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport – the hub of U.S. space exploration. This is Haskell’s second engagement for the private spaceflight company. Haskell previously performed design-build services on a 20,000 SF launch site complex in Texas that was completed in September of 2006. (4/29)

April 30, 2016

Iridium Satellites Good to Go for July SpaceX Launch (Source: Space News)
Iridium Communications said the contracting team for its second-generation Iridium Next constellation had put past delays behind it and would be ready for a first launch of 10 satellites in late July aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Iridium said the launch date could slip by a few weeks, depending on SpaceX’s management of its busy manifest, but the 10 satellites will ready for the July rendezvous.

As of March 31, Iridium had paid SpaceX $315.3 million for the seven launches. Iridium a refundable $3 million deposit for future launches. In effect, Iridium pays SpaceX $6.7 million per satellite launched (7 Falcon 9s x 10 satellites each) while paying Kosmotras $25.9 million per satellite launched (1 launch with two satellites). (4/29)

Mikulski and Bolden to Tour Virginia Spaceport (Source: NASA)
NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia will host Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland and agency Administrator Charles Bolden on Tuesday, May 3, for an employee town hall and tour. The tour will include a stop at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Pad 0A, where preparations are underway to conduct a hot fire test of Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket in preparation for returning the rocket to flight operations this summer. (4/29)

Johns Hopkins Researchers Aim for Safer, More Efficient Rocket Engines (Source: Space Daily)
The U.S. Air Force has awarded two contracts totaling $1.48 million to the Energetics Research Group, based within Johns Hopkins University's Whiting School of Engineering, to help set the stage for the next generation of U.S.-made rocket engines.

The funding will be used to reduce risks associated with new technologies that may replace the Russian-made RD-180 engine. Johns Hopkins is the only university to receive funding from the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center's recent program, which granted ten awards totaling $34.6 million. (4/29)

ULA Determines Cause of March 22 Atlas Launch Anomaly (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
ULA engineers have determined that an anomaly with the RD-180 Mixture Ratio Control Valve (MRCV) assembly caused a reduction in fuel flow during the March 22, 2016 flight of an Atlas V 401 rocket carrying the OA-6 Cygnus to the International Space Station. This led to the boost phase being approximately 5.5 seconds shorter than had been planned.

With an understanding as to why the in-flight anomaly occurred in hand, the firm is now carrying out an inspection of its supply of RD-180 rocket engines. So far, the anomaly has only impacted the launch of the fifth, and final, Mobile User Objective System satellite (MUOS-5).

While ULA has stated previously that the March 22 event and the subsequent investigation had only impacted the MUOS-5 mission, today’s statement adjusted that by saying: The impact to the remainder of the Atlas V manifest is in review with new launch dates being coordinated with our customers. (4/29)

SpaceX's 360 Video Puts You On the Drone Ship as Rocket Lands (Source: Mashable)
An incredible new 360 video from Elon Musk's SpaceX puts you right on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean as the company's Falcon 9 rocket came in for its successful landing on April 8. The new video shows everything from the rocking of the ship as the rocket comes down to the deployment of its landing legs just before touchdown. Click here. (4/29)

FAA Advisory Committee Recommends No Changes to ICBM Policy (Source: Space News)
A U.S. Federal Aviation Administration advisory panel approved a recommendation April 28 calling for no change in current policy that restricts the use of excess intercontinental ballistic missile motors for commercial launch vehicles.

The FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) approved the recommendation during a meeting here after hearing a request from the company most interested in using those motors that it defer action on the recommendation. (4/29)

Russian Rocket Engine Maker Not Commenting on US Launcher’s Anomaly (Source: Sputnik)
The maker of Russia’s RD-180 rocket engines created a special commission to investigate the premature shutdown of its booster during last month’s launch and reserves comments until clarifying the circumstances surrounding it, the Energomash space and rocket engine company official said Friday.

The United Launch Alliance (ULA) determined earlier on Friday that an anomaly with the RD-180’s device regulating the fuel-to-oxidizer ratio entering the rocket’s thrust chamber, or the Mixture Ratio Control Valve (MRCV), was behind the March 22 early shutdown of the Atas-5 booster. (4/29)

Universe Likely Has Many Extinct Civilizations (Source: Discovery)
Is there life in the universe? If there is, can it communicate — and does it want to talk to us? If such a civilization is out there, how long could it survive? These are some of the fundamental questions astronomers regularly consider when they think about aliens.

Suffice it to say the answers are not as easy as Star Trek or Star Wars would make you believe. The most famous answer took place in 1961, when astronomer Frank Drake proposed what is now known as the Drake equation. You can read it on the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) website here in full, but understand that it outlines the variables needed for a technological civilization to communicate with us.

A new paper in Astrobiology suggests there could be a way to simplify the equation, based on the observations of exoplanets that we have made since the first one was discovered in the 1990s. While the result is depressing — life was plentiful, but is likely extinct — it does have applications to help us extend our own civilization, the researchers said. (4/29)

Why There's an Astronaut On Your Cruise (Source: Conde Nast Traveler)
When it comes to cruise ship amenities and programming, forget outside the box—how about out of this world? Yes, even the sky is no longer the limit for the cruise industry, as they increasingly turn an eye toward outer space with a series of "cosmic cruises," touting onboard programming and lectures on astronomy and space travel, and with guest speakers ranging from astronomers to astrophysicists to—yep—actual astronauts. Click here.

Editor's Note: Not mentioned in this article is former Kennedy Space Center Director Jim Kennedy, who has been lecturing on cruises for several years now. Port Canaveral, on the south end of the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, is a very popular cruise port. (4/28)

3 Reasons Why 2018 Will Be the Make-Or-Break Year for SpaceX (Source: Popular Mechanics)
This has been a monumental week for SpaceX. And we mean that in the "build-a-statue-for-the-owner" sense. Elon Musk entered the space launch market with the intent of fundamentally changing the industry. Now it seems like 2018 will be the year we know if he succeeded. Here's what's on the docket. (4/29)

April 29, 2016

NASA’s Challenge: Making Meals That Can Last Five Years (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA is taking a hard look, sometimes in unconventional ways, at what astronauts consume, as part of the agency’s plans to undertake human deep-space voyages that will separate human explorers from their normal food choices and health care services for months to years.

Over time, nutrition could become as essential to mission success as robust life support and propulsion systems. Ensuring the right balance between calories and nutrients vital to the health of astronauts—who are already fighting bone and muscle loss due to the absence of gravity, deteriorating immune systems and even changes to their eyesight—could lead to a reevaluation of the whole culinary experience due to the limited storage volume of the modest space habitats NASA envisions.

There is also the uncertain resupply chain. “For a Mars mission, we will probably have to send that food 2-2.5 years ahead of the time the crew actually starts to consume it. What they eat on the return trip is probably going to be 5-7 years old,” says Vickie Kloeris, who manages NASA’s Space Food Systems Laboratory (SFSL), of the logistics challenge that will mean prestaging many supplies on the red planet ahead of the first human explorers. Click here. (4/27)

Heavy Metal Tribute Band Honors Elon Musk (Source: The Verge)
What sort of music do you imagine Elon Musk listens to when he's looking over SpaceX rocket designs at home? Smooth jazz, perhaps? Some country, or show tunes? No. When Musk is hanging out in his secret lair with his secret robot butlers he turns to one genre: power metal. Only power metal's ceaseless rhythms and symphonic splendor can match Musk's soaring ambition, and now, one band has had the courage to try and capture this spirit in musical form.

Raptor Command are a self-described "heavy metal tribute to Elon Musk" and their first single is the no-nonsense "Elon: Champion for Humanity." The lyrics are vaguely focused around the idea of Musk flying a Falcon 9 rocket to Mars, but more broadly they're about his often-stated desire to see humanity become a multi-planetary species. (And maybe they want Musk to be, like, president of the world?) The chorus goes: "Elon, champion for humanity / He'll take the world beyond the stars  / Elon, one to lead us all / The champion for the future of humanity." Click here. (4/29)

World View Raises Investment for "Stratollite" Balloons (Source: Space News)
World View has raised $15 million to develop a new class of high-altitude balloons. The company plans to use the Series B round to work on "Stratollites," balloons that can operate in the stratosphere for extended period of time, remaining over the same location or traveling extended distances. The company anticipates using them for communications, remote sensing and weather applications traditionally performed by satellites or other aerial systems. The company is still developing its high-altitude passenger balloon system, which will use some of the technology being developed for its Stratollites. (4/29)

SpaceVR Raises Investment for Overview 1 Satellite (Source: Silicon Valley Business Journal)
A company developing space-related virtual reality applications has raised $1.25 million. SpaceVR raised the seed round to work on a small satellite, Overview 1, that will provide a virtual reality view of the Earth from space. The company is planning a technology demonstration satellite for launch in early 2017. (4/29)

House Bill Expands RD-180 Access, Focuses Spending on Replacement Engine (Source: Space News)
A House bill not only increases the number of RD-180 engines, but also focuses funding for work on a replacement engine. An amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act passed in a marathon markup session Wednesday instructs the Air Force to spend money for a next generation launcher almost entirely on development of a main engine for that vehicle. That amendment is good news for Aerojet Rocketdyne, which already received Air Force funding for work on its AR1, but may disrupt other Air Force contracts awarded to Orbital ATK, SpaceX, and ULA. (4/29)

SpaceX GPS Launch Bid Comes In Lower Than USAF Expected (Source: Florida Today)
The contract the Air Force awarded to SpaceX this week for a GPS satellite launch was 40 percent below its estimate. SpaceX bid $82.7 million for launching the satellite, winning the contract after United Launch Alliance declined to bid. Despite the lack of a ULA bid, Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, commander of the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, said the competition was still "very successful." Another competition for a GPS satellite launch is planned for May or June. (4/28)

SES Buys Controlling Stake in O3b (Source: Space News)
SES is buying a controlling stake in broadband constellation O3b Networks. SES announced Friday it was increasing its holding in O3b from 49.1 percent to 50.5 percent, giving it control over the company. SES is spending $20 million to acquire those additional shares, and has committed to buying the remaining 49.5 percent of the company for $710 million by October 2017 unless O3b decides to do an IPO.

O3b operates 12 satellites in medium Earth orbit to provide broadband services primarily between 45 degrees north and south of the Equator. The company has eight additional satellites on order for launches by 2019 and is also considering placing satellites in high-inclination orbits to serve higher latitudes. (4/29)

GAO Sides With NASA On $451M IT Contract
NASA adequately assessed potential risks in awarding a $451 million information technology contract to SAIC based on an “aggressive” approach to reducing staff, the Government Accountability Office said in a bid protest decision. NASA properly assigned SAIC's proposal only a non-fatal weakness based on the reduction plan — which didn't completely justify how those reductions would be achieved and was found to be unrealistic — the GAO said in denying a bid protest from competitor CACI. (4/28)

SpaceX's "Red Dragon" Mission Leverages NASA Support (Source: Space News)
The Red Dragon concept, using a relatively unmodified version of the Dragon spacecraft to land on Mars, is not new. Studies of the Red Dragon concept date back to early this decade, when SpaceX and a NASA team based primarily at the Ames Research Center jointly examined the idea of using a Dragon spacecraft to land on Mars and carry science equipment.

“Dragon launched on Falcon Heavy would be a cost effective option for future missions,” concluded an October 2011 report prepared by the NASA/SpaceX team on that initial Red Dragon study. It concluded that Dragon would be able to handle all aspects of entry, descent and landing (EDL) on Mars “with margin,” and deliver more than one metric ton of payload to the surface. That is more than the mass of the Curiosity rover NASA landed on Mars in 2012.

NASA Deputy Administrator Dava Newman briefly mentioned the revised agreement with SpaceX in an April 27 blog post that broadly discusses the agency’s commercial partnerships. “In exchange for Martian entry, descent, and landing data from SpaceX, NASA will offer technical support for the firm’s plan to attempt to land an uncrewed Dragon 2 spacecraft on Mars,” she wrote. (4/28)

NASA Releases its Zika Virus Forecast Map (Source: SpaceAim)
NASA has created a map to better target the future spread of the deadliest animal on the planet, the female Aedes aegypti mosquito. The map shows the likelihood the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes being present in a given city. It applies factors such as temperature, amount of rainfall, poverty levels and travel to the United States from Zika-affected areas of the world.

The cities in the study with the highest potential risk include Miami, Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville in Florida; Savannah, Georgia; Charleston, South Carolina; Mobile, Alabama; and New Orleans. (4/28)

Made In Space Taps Northrop Grumman as Subcontractor (Source: Via Satellite)
Northrop Grumman is serving as subcontractor to Made In Space, a nascent space company developing a product to enable additive manufacturing — or 3-D printing — aggregation and assembly of large and complex systems in space without astronaut Extra-Vehicular Activity (EVA). Made In Space achieved success in two previous or 3-D printing endeavors and applied lessons to Archinaut, its latest project, according to Jason Dunn, the company’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and co-founder.

Made In Space first developed a 3-D printing demonstrator before creating a commercially operated, more robust printer called Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF). Both projects are currently on the International Space Station (ISS) and Dunn said AMF, awaiting installation, is set to start printing within roughly one week. (4/26)

Why Arizona Can Win in the Next Frontier of Space (Source: Phoenix Business Journal)
While at the Space Symposium, I had a chance to meet with people charting direction for government space organizations. We also had the opportunity to listen to a handful of new space pioneers who may well drive the traditional company approaches to the sidelines.

For Arizona, changes in the space industry present an amazing opportunity. Although not generally known, we have a “space base” here in Arizona that has significant, real experience in commercial, civil and defense arenas. Not only do we have some of the industry giants in the state, but we have bold, nimble, smaller companies like KinetX Aerospace and Worldview, plus a very vibrant startup community. With expertise from both sides, Arizona is well-positioned to play a commanding role in the next phase of space exploration. (4/28)

Why Putting Something in Orbit is Getting So Much Cheaper (Source: Newsweek)
Rocket travel was supposed to zip us around the solar system like Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, but that future—with goofy space suits and ray guns—never materialized. In fact, for most of the past few decades, space travel has been pretty blah: No one has even walked on the moon since 1972, and Mars seems as far off as it was for Galileo.

Even the space shuttle is grounded.But there has been one huge leap in the past decade: The declining cost of putting something in orbit. That is opening up space to the private sector and making it possible to put all sorts of new things up there. The shuttle promised to be able to put stuff in low Earth orbit, where most satellites live, for $1,000 per pound. It never got close—NASA’s numbers led to a calculation of about $8,000 a pound, although others put the figure much higher.

In recent years, that math has been changing, in part due to private rocket companies. SpaceX tends to get the most attention, but Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are also getting into the business of space cargo. Cheaper rockets, according to SpaceNews senior staff writer Jeff Foust, have put pressure on the traditional players: France’s Arianespace; ULA, which handles mostly U.S. government contracts; and International Launch Services. (4/28)

Japan Looks Set to Dominate 'Newspace' in Asia; India, China in Play (Source: Forbes)
There is a lot of excitement about the concept of “newspace,” loosely meaning cutting-edge frontiers in commercial space development. Newer, smaller, and potentially transformative businesses from Blue Origin to Terra Bella are today bringing forth what can best be described as a revolution in space affairs (RSA). The Space Angels Network, which helps to discover, select, and invest in startups, projects that the global space economy will grow from over $300 billion today to $600 billion by 2030.

In Asia, where governments continue to be important shapers of space trajectories, the landscape is uneven. Perhaps no country is better poised to harness the new trends than Japan. It has significant advantages in the contemporary space realities – top-level government support of the private sector, the shift to a national security paradigm, and the elevation of space in the U.S.-Japan alliance that promises to grow in new ways.

Prime Minister Abe has made the support of space in the private sector one of his top priorities. Most people think that his administration’s policy pronouncements are only relevant for the usual big suspects in Japan’s space industry – MHI, IHI, Melco, NEC, for example. But there is an entirely different class of entrants worth noting, and for whom this prioritization also matters. Click here. (4/28)

BlackSky Inks Partnership with United Nations to Enhance Global Decision-Making (Source: Parabolic Arc)
BlackSky, a satellite-imaging-as-a-service company, today announced that it has established an official partnership with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR). UNITAR, created in 1965, is an autonomous body within the United Nations that was formed to develop capacities to enhance global decision-making and support country-level action for shaping a better future.

BlackSky officially announced its commercial entry into satellite imagery in June 2015, with initial operating capability in 2017 and plans for a 60-satellite constellation in the coming years. This will enable the company to provide cost-effective, high-resolution, rapid-revisit satellite imaging services, capturing all of the Earth’s populated area. (4/28)

April 28, 2016

A Second Life in Space for Cold War Missiles (Source: Bloomberg)
In the tradition of turning swords into plowshares, it’s an appealing idea: converting the U.S.’s ballistic missiles into rockets for civilian space transport. It’s also a sensible one -- and Congress should change the law to make it happen.

For two decades, on national security grounds, Congress has barred the sales of parts of decommissioned intercontinental ballistic missiles such as the Minuteman III. Now, as part of a $355 billion refurbishment of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, these missiles will be destroyed and replaced with a next-generation ICBM.

As long as Congress maintains its ban on the very idea, we’ll never know. And if it turns out to be a sensible investment for the private sector, Virgin Galactic and other competitors are welcome to get in on the bidding. Besides, it’s not as if Virgin Galactic and similar firms -- SpaceX, Blue Origin and Vulcan Aerospace -- aren’t already getting government subsidies. (4/28)

Hubble Detects Small Moon Orbiting Dwarf Planet Makemake (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Dwarf planet Makemake, the second brightest object in the Kuiper Belt, is orbited by a small, dark moon. The satellite was discovered by a team of scientists using the Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) from observations conducted in April 2015. (4/28)

Russia Launches First Rocket From New Spaceport (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Roscosmos has successfully conducted the first launch from Russia's newly-built Vostochny Cosmodrome, located in the country’s Far East. A Soyuz-2.1a rocket, carrying a trio of Russian satellites, became the first vehicle to lift off from the just-opened spaceport.

The booster blasted off from the cosmodrome’s Site 1S on Wednesday, April 27, at 10:01 p.m. EDT after a 24-hour delay due to a computer-initiated abort 90 seconds from the originally planned liftoff. Roscosmos has yet to reveal what caused the initial delay. (4/28)

Putin Slams Russian Space Failures After Delayed Launch (Source: Space Daily)
President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday criticized Russia's large number of space failures after the first rocket launch from the country's new Vostochny cosmodrome was delayed minutes before blast-off. Putin scolded space chiefs after the unmanned launch from the far eastern cosmodrome was halted a minute and a half before lift-off and postponed at least 24 hours -- the latest embarrassing glitch for Russia's beleaguered space industry.

He said space officials had told him the latest glitch was due to the "rocket system," not the new cosmodrome. The Soyuz 2.1a rocket decked with a Russian flag and carrying three satellites failed to lift off at 02:01 GMT from the launchpad, around 5,600 kilometres (3,500 miles) east of Moscow. Russia's Roscosmos space agency said in a brief statement that an automated control system had halted the rocket.

"Of course, we remain in the lead despite all shortfalls, Russia is still leading in terms of the number of [successful] launches ... which is good, but the number of failures we've seen lately is a bad thing. There should be an urgent professional response," Putin said at a federal panel meeting. (4/27)

South China City Gears Up for Space Tourism (Source: Space Daily)
South China's Wenchang City in Hainan Province is preparing to welcome rocket-watching tourists to the country's fourth space launch center. The city has completed about 70 percent of tourism preparation work for the Wenchang satellite center's first launch, scheduled for June, including improving the transportation network, and building more parking lots and public toilets. (4/28)

China Can Meet Chile's Satellite Needs (Source: Space Daily)
Chile should consider China as a potential service provider as the South American country needs to replace its sole satellite, said Chilean ambassador to China Jorge Heine. China is a first-class space power with 110 functioning satellites in orbit, a global satellite navigation system, a high-resolution earth observation system and advanced rockets, Heine wrote in an article in Tuesday's La Tercera daily. (4/28)

India Launches its Final IRNSS Navigation Satellite (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has successfully launched the last spacecraft of its homegrown navigation satellite system. The satellite, designated IRNSS-1G, lifted off atop a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) on April 28 from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota. (4/28)

Committee Wants to Double Number of RD-180 Engines ULA Can Buy From Russia (Source: The Hill)
A House committee approved an amendment to a defense authorization bill to double the purchases of RD-180 engines. The House Armed Services Committee approved the amendment, offered by Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO), during markup of the National Defense Authorization Act in the early morning hours Thursday. The amendment allows United Launch Alliance to purchase 18 RD-180 engines for national security missions, up from nine. (4/27)

With New Plane, Swiss Space Systems Plans First Parabolic Flights in 2017 (Source: Country 600)
Good news for those looking forward to Zero Gravity flights in North Bay. There have been some recent developments in getting the program off the ground. After postponing the ZeroG flights campaign back in December, Swiss Space Systems (S3) recently announced the purchase of an Airbus A340-300 that will be used in the flights.

Now they’ve also signed a partnership with a Geneva-based travel agency to market the flights in destinations around the world, including Canada. Back in November 2014, S3 announced North Bay would be the Canadian location for the ZeroG flights. The ZeroG website says the Canadian flights are scheduled for August 2017. (4/21)

DigitalGlobe Sees Spike in Demand, Revenue (Source: Space News)
DigitalGlobe reported a sharp increase in revenue from non-U.S. governments in its latest financial filings. The company said revenue from its 10 Direct Access Partner (DAP) government customers rose 35 percent in the first quarter of 2016 compared to the same quarter of 2015. The company said it's seeing strong demand from its DAP customers, with some exceeding their imagery quotas. DigitalGlobe announced Wednesday that it signed up an 11th DAP customer, and expects to have more capacity for those customers after the launch of the WorldView-4 satellite later this year. (4/28)

NASA Launches Rules On Indirect Costs, Research Access (Source: Law 360)
NASA proposed a series of rule changes for its commercial contractors Wednesday, which would make more federally funded research publicly available as well as alter how the agency pays indirect costs. The proposed rule would not require commercial firms to make their indirect costs — facilities and administration — public, but it does impose additional hurdles for commercial firms to report to NASA when those costs change, to combat cases where the agency underpays or overpays negotiated overhead rates. (4/27)

Facebook Buying Satellite Capacity for Africa Internet Access (Source: Space News)
Facebook is buying capacity on three SES communications satellites to provide Internet access in Africa. The leases of Ku-band capacity on the Astra 2B, 2G and 4A satellites are intended to support Facebook's Internet.org effort to provide broadband services to poor rural areas. The leases are thought to be short-term deals until the launch later this year of the Amos-6 satellite, on which Eutelsat and Facebook are leasing capacity. The deal is somewhat surprising, though, since the Amos-6 deal involves Ka-band capacity, and thus would likely require different ground terminals. (4/27)

Senate Advances Space Weather Bill (Source: Space News)
The Senate Commerce Committee approved a space weather bill Wednesday. The committee favorably reported the Space Weather Research and Forecasting Act, making only minor changes to the bill during a markup session that also considered several other bills. Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) introduced the bill last week to put into law elements of a space weather plan the White House released last fall that assigns roles and responsibilities for space weather activities to various government agencies. (4/27)

Space Advocate Fattah Loses Democratic Primary (Source: Science)
A congressman who had been a strong supporter of NASA lost a primary election this week. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA) lost the Democratic primary for his Philadelphia-area district to state representative Dwight Evans. Fattah had been the ranking member of the House Appropriations commerce, justice and science subcommittee, but stepped down from that post in July after he was indicted on bribery and fraud charges. He was an advocate for NASA and other agencies' science programs. (4/28)

South Korea, US Sign Space Cooperation Agreement (Source: Space Daily)
South Korea and the United States on Wednesday signed an agreement on space cooperation to jointly explore and use outer space for peaceful purposes, Seoul's foreign ministry said. (4/28)

Air Force Awards GPS Launch Contract to SpaceX (Source: SpaceRef)
The Air Force has awarded its first competitively sourced National Security Space (NSS) launch services contract in more than a decade. SpaceX was awarded a contract for Global Positioning System (GPS) III Launch Services. This is a firm-fixed price, standalone contract with a total value of $82,700,000. SpaceX will provide the Government with a total launch solution for the GPS-III satellite, in May 2018 from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. (4/27)

Arizona Economic Development Policy Threatened by World View Case (Source: Arizona Daily Star)
Those who try to recruit companies to Arizona are choking on a bone these days — the Goldwater Institute’s lawsuit over Pima County’s deal with World View Enterprises. Locally, the questions are relatively clear: Did Pima County adhere to state law and Arizona’s constitution when passing the $20 million incentive package for this local near-space balloon company? That will be answered in court.

From a statewide perspective, the questions are bigger. Gov. Doug Ducey has made recruitment of companies to Arizona one of the highest priorities of his administration. Now, for the first time during his term in office, his putative allies at Goldwater are suing to stop an incentive deal.

“This lawsuit casts doubt on what can be done from an economic development standpoint,” said Steven Zylstra, president of the Arizona Tech Council. Space travel and research, he said, “seems to be an up and coming industry, and too often AZ seems to be left behind on these kind of things. Here we have an opportunity to be in the driver’s seat, and obstacles are put in the way.” (4/26)

Georgia Spaceport Team Adds Legal Expertise (Source: Spaceport Camden)
Spaceport Camden has partnered with Gerald L Pouncey Jr., Senior Partner with Morris, Manning & Martin and head of the Environmental, Infrastructure and Land Use Practice at the firm. His primary focus at the firm is the acquisition, disposition and/or the redevelopment of major properties (including state and federal superfund sites), mergers, investments and financing related to such properties and the development and implementation of green energy technologies and strategies. He lectures nationally on these topics. (4/27)

How to Land on Mars? Don’t Ask NASA—the Senate Just Cut its Test Program (Source: Ars Technica)
The US Senate talks a good game about sending humans to Mars. The group holds itself up as the protector of NASA and a champion for the space organization's grand exploration aims. For example, as part of this spring's appropriations process, the chairman of the Senate subcommittee with oversight of NASA's budget chided Charlie Bolden, the space agency's administrator, when his budget request didn't amply fund exploration.

"Mr. Administrator, you have traveled around the country in recent months touting NASA’s strong support for the SLS and Orion missions, when in reality this budget will effectively delay any advancement in a NASA-led human mission to Mars, or anywhere at all," said Sen. Richard Shelby, a Republican from Alabama. Shelby was upset with Bolden because the president's budget request did not seek a stratospheric level of funding for the Space Launch System rocket.

In his efforts to rectify the budget, Shelby therefore increased the funding for NASA's heavy lift rocket by $840 million, a 60 percent bump. To help pay for this, his committee cut the space agency's technology budget request. The Low Density Supersonic Decelerator project would get only a small fraction of its originally planned budget of $20 million for 2016. The cut exemplifies the political hamstringing of NASA's exploration efforts. (4/27)

April 27, 2016

Georgia Spaceport Official Supports Space Entrepreneur Program (Source: CAI)
Spaceport Camden has partnered with Startup NASA’s SPACE RACE in order to launch the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs. Spaceport Camden Project Leader, Steve Howard, will serve as a judge in the SPACE RACE competition where student-based teams aim to commercialize promising NASA inventions through a startup challenge. Entries are being accepted until May 1st and judging will occur in early September.

The SPACE RACE allows college students to meet world-class mentors/advisors, win prize money, as well as launch a startup around a commercially viable NASA invention. Teams will also have an opportunity to earn seed funding and make a significant, sustainable impact on our region. (4/27)

Vector Space Seeks to Build Rockets in Tucson to Lift Tiny Satellites (Source: Tucson.com)
Space entrepreneur Jim Cantrell is planning to build small rockets in Tucson that will launch micro satellites into orbit at a fraction of the cost involved in full-scale launches.

Cantrell is CEO of newly formed Vector Space Systems, which announced Tuesday that it has secured “angel investment” of $1 million to continue building and testing prototype rockets already being developed by Garvey Spacecraft Corp., which is a partner in the new venture.

Cantrell, who has run a space investment and consulting business called StratSpace from Tucson since 2008, said the 35-foot-tall rockets will be manufactured here and launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, California and Alaska. The rockets will carry lightweight satellites into low-Earth orbit, from 200 to 800 miles up, Cantrell said. (4/27)

Schools-to-Space Visits Merritt Island Christian School in Florida (Source: SpaceTEC)
Schools-to-Space visited Merritt Island Christian School the latter part of April.  The award winning movie, “I Want to be an Astronaut,” which was originally premiered on the ISS, was screened for 35 students and staff. SpaceTEC® is a licensed screener for the movie which was produced and filmed by David Ruck.

“I Want to be an Astronaut” is the story of a young high school senior who is working to be admitted into the United States Naval Academy (which has graduated the largest number of astronauts), and continue to pursue his dream of becoming an astronaut.  Afterwards, a discussion was held with the students about potential STEM careers as an aerospace technician and the space program in general. (4/27)

Chinese Suborbital Launches (Source: Xinhua)
A Kunpeng-1B suborbital rocket was launched from Danzhou City in south China's Hainan Province, April 27, 2016. Kunpeng-1B was launched from Danzhou City at 2 a.m. by the National Space Science Center (NSSC). The rocket fulfilled its mission of taking measurements in the upper atmosphere that will help with research of rocket sounding, high-speed flight and space tourism, said the NSSC. (4/27)

Killing Russian Rocket Engines Too Soon Could Cripple U.S. Security (Source: Forbes)
A case in point is the eminently sensible idea to stop using Russian rocket engines on U.S. military launches. The Atlas V rocket relies on two powerful RD-180 engines for its first-stage propulsion. The engines are manufactured in Russia by a company whose executives have close ties to president Vladimir Putin. After Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014, pretty much everybody in Washington agreed the U.S. needed to develop its own engines and get rid of the Russian technology.

Sen. John McCain says it is foolhardy to depend on the Russians for national security launches, and in the process reward Putin’s cronies every time an Atlas lifts off. In principle, he is right. In practice, though, McCain’s efforts to ban imports of the Russian engines as soon as possible could cripple U.S. security. The reason why is that there is only one alternative rocket for launching many satellites called Delta IV, so if it fails and Atlas isn’t available, key satellites can’t reach orbit.

So the US must have assured access to space, which is defined as two dependable families of launch vehicles — either of which would still be available if the other was grounded. Up until recently, the two families were ULA's Atlas and Delta. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket was certified as a suitable launch provider last year, but only for four of the eight national-security orbits. (4/27)

Can Commercial Space Really Get Us Beyond Low-Earth Orbit? (Source: Forbes)
The entrepreneurial captains of the new commercial space frontier are sometimes brash, sometimes brazen, and often larger than life. But are they really going to get us beyond low-Earth orbit (LEO)? For those of us who grew up in an era when NASA budgets were tied to Cold War geopolitics, it’s understandable that we approach this new phase of private space funding with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. But are we Apollo-ites simply being too skeptical?

After all, Elon Musk’s SpaceX has proven that it can deliver goods to the International Space Station (ISS ) and is in the midst of testing reusable rockets. Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin has successfully tested its own reusable rocket. And Robert Bigelow’s Bigelow Aerospace has just made good on its inflatable habitat now attached to the ISS. Click here.

Editor's Note: I used to think that Earth orbit and maybe the Moon should become an "enterprise zone" for commercial development, while exploration beyond the Moon is more suited to government-led missions. I now believe NASA should work to actively facilitate U.S. commercial lunar programs (and maybe operate a lunar research outpost). And while I still think NASA should lead international exploration missions to Mars and beyond, I no longer think industry shouldn't pursue their own interests out there. (4/27)

SpaceX Planning to Send Spacecraft to Mars as Soon as 2018 (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
SpaceX is planning on sending one of the crew-rated Dragon spacecraft to Mars as early as 2018. The aptly named “Red Dragon” could be sent to the Red Planet in order to further develop the architecture the NewSpace firm needs in place to enable its planetary ambitions.

Today’s announcement is part of a larger story: Under an agreement the company has entered into with NASA, SpaceX would carryout this 2018 mission on behalf of NASA. It would send the Red Dragon on its debut flight to Mars filled with science instruments. The Washington Post has stated that SpaceX would be receiving technical (but not financial) support from NASA under this agreement. (4/27)

Five Human Spaceflight Missions to Look Forward to in the Next Decade (Source: The Conversation)
From astronauts breaking records for the longest amount of time spent in space to experiments growing food and keeping bacteria in orbit, the past decade of human spaceflight has been fascinating. There has also been an explosion of privately-funded spaceflight companies providing access to space, including delivering supplies to the International Space Station (ISS).

The next decade will see a remarkable mix of countries and companies getting involved. Plans include taking humans from low-Earth orbit back to the moon and even an asteroid in the 2020s – all designed to help prepare for the ultimate goal of a human mission to Mars in the 2030s. Click here. (4/27)

NASA Selects Small Business R&D Projects, Four in Florida (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected 399 research and technology proposals from 259 American small businesses and 42 research institutions that will enable NASA's future missions into deep space, while also benefiting the U.S. economy. The awards have a total value of approximately $49.7 million.

Selected proposals will support the development of technologies in the areas of aeronautics, science, human exploration and operations, and space technology. Click here for the complete list of winners. Four of the projects are by Florida small businesses, as described below.

Interdisciplinary Consulting Corp. of Gainesville for Low Profile, Low Frequency, Adaptively-Tuned Acoustic Liner; Mainstream Engineering Corp. of Rockledge for Bidirectional Dual Active Bridge Power Converter for Spacecraft Power Systems; Prioria Inc. of Gainesville for Distributed Sensing, Computing, and Actuation Architecture for Aeroservoelastic Control; and R Cubed Engineering of Palmetto for Avionic for Low Altitude High Density SUAS - Dynamic Configurable Dual ADS-B with Interrogation. (4/27)

First Launch From Vostochny Postponed for 24 Hours (Source: Russian Space Web)
Inaugurating the new Russian spaceport of Vostochny in the country's Far East, a Russian Soyuz-2 rocket will launch a trio of satellites into the Earth's orbit. The historic liftoff marks the beginning of a gradual shift of Russian space activities from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to the Russian territory. Unfortunately, on the first launch attempt on Wednesday morning, the automated sequence stopped at tank pressurization, shortly before the planned Soyuz liftoff.

Editor's Note: President Putin is reportedly at Vostochny to see the launch. As ruthless as Putin has been known to be, I imagine that the launch officials are very nervous about getting this one right. (4/27)

Say Hello to Our Future Mega-Space Telescope (Source: Discovery)
The JWST will be the most powerful space telescope ever to be launched. Looking at wavelengths “beyond” Hubble’s capabilities, the joint NASA, ESA, Canadian Space Agency and Space Telescope Science Institute mission will observe the universe in infrared light, opening a previously unseen look at the first galaxies to form at the beginning of time.

Infrared light passes through even the most optically opaque molecular clouds, allowing us an incredibly high resolution and intimate look into star-forming regions. Though JWST won’t “replace” Hubble, as it won’t access the optical and ultraviolet wavelengths Hubble sees so well, it will see further back in time and give us a revolutionary view of the infrared cosmos. (4/26)

Edwards Fails in Senate Democratic Primary to Replace Mikulski (Source: Washington Post)
Chris Van Hollen was projected to win a Senate primary that exposed racial and gender divisions within the Maryland Democratic Party, as voters chose him over Rep. Donna Edwards to compete in November for a rare open seat being vacated by Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D) after 30 years. Edwards is the ranking Democratic member of the House Space Subcommittee. (4/26)

NASA Mars Lander Tech Effort Gets Budget Cut (Source: Space News)
A NASA Mars landing technology program will be substantially cut because of a budget crunch. NASA now plans to spend only about $3 million on its Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) project in 2016, down from $20 million previously planned. A NASA official said Tuesday the agency had to make cuts to LDSD and some other space technology projects in order to accommodate a satellite servicing project, RESTORE-L, that was moved into the space technology portfolio in the 2016 omnibus spending bill. (4/27)

Air Force Official Wants Studies on Fair Use of ICBMs for Space Launch (Source: USAF)
The head of U.S. Air Force Space Command clarified his views on the use of excess ICBM motors. Gen. John C. Hyten said that while he in favor of finding ways to put the motors to use, "we must not put the small launch market at risk." He recommended studies to see how many motors could be sold to industry, and at what prices, to avoid giving companies that use them an "unfair competitive advantage." Any decision on the commercial use of ICBM motors, he said, would require policy direction from Congress. (4/27)

South Florida Company Thrilled to Get NASA Job (Source: Palm Beach Post)
The thousands who go to the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex are seeing the work that comes out of a little shop in Jupiter. George Varga and his four full-time employees at Glasstech recently finished restoring metal at the 35-foot-tall fountain at the complex on Merritt Island. They also did entry panels at the Atlantis Shuttle Building.

This summer, Glasstech is planning its biggest job to date — restoring a 4-foot stainless steel fence around the Rocket Garden, an outdoor area that has replicas of rockets from the Mercury, Apollo, Gemini and Delta programs. About 1.5 million people annually visit the complex. (4/25)

Progress by Virgin Galactic Good News For New Mexico (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
The visit by WhiteKnight­Two last week to Spaceport America was an important reminder that even though much of the work is happening in another state, Virgin Galactic is still moving forward with plans to operate the world’s first and greatest space tourism venture from southern New Mexico.

WhiteKnightTwo, the carrier plane for the spacecraft, took off from the Spaceport America runway and climbed to an altitude of 35,000 feet. Pilots simulated the flight of a spaceship, and practiced “touch and go” landings during what all involved considered to be a successful practice run.

The need to diversify operations at the spaceport has become increasingly clear since the 2014 crash, and the new operating plan envisions several different sources of potential revenue. But the success of Spaceport America is still very much tied to Virgin Galactic. Every step it takes toward the start of commercial launches is a step forward for the spaceport. And so, the progress report from last Wednesday was good news. (4/25)

Embraer Delivers Its 1000th Private Jet (Source: Forbes)
Last Tuesday was a happy day in Melbourne, Florida. In a region of Florida that had been hammered by the 2008 recession and struggled with cutbacks at NASA, formerly a large employer providing high paying jobs, a Brazilian company that manufacturers private jets was at the center of attention on the Space Coast.

In an economy that may not be struggling for jobs, but certainly is struggling for decently paying jobs, employees on the line at its facility make between $50,000 and $80,000, according to executives. There was a certain irony, as private jets, foreign companies and governments, and international trade are often at the bully pulpit when politicians are trying to whip followers into a frenzy.

The facility in Melbourne represents 600 jobs that are new since 2011, with 500 more on the way. It’s part of the often, untold story about private aviation’s contribution to the U.S. economy. The General Aviation Manufacturer’s Association (GAMA) reports private aviation generates $219 billion in annual economic impact and supports over 1.1 million jobs. (4/24)

Senators, Finish the Job on Ex-Im (Source: Cincinnati.com)
Over the past year, dysfunction in Washington has put the aerospace industry at risk when some in Congress tried to shut down the U.S. Export-Import Bank. Ex-Im, as it is often called, is a small federal agency that helps American companies export goods by offering financing and insurance to help close deals when no commercial alternative is available.

A small group who believed that the government should have no role in helping American firms compete in the world markets aimed to kill Ex-Im. They made wild claims about the bank hurting taxpayers despite the fact that it doesn’t cost taxpayers one cent to run since companies pay interest and fees for its services. Ex-Im actually takes in more money than it costs to run, which then helps pay down our national deficit. (4/25)

Thales Alenia Wins Initial Funding for High-Altitude Platform, 2018 Demo (Source: Space News)
Space-hardware manufacturer Thales Alenia Space on April 26 contracted with the French state investment bank, Bpifrance, to build a prototype high-altitude platform for future telecommunications, Earth observation and surveillance missions.

The Stratobus project, which Thales Alenia Space has been designing for several years, has won 17 million euros ($19.2 million) in backing from France’s Investing in the Future public bond program to reduce technology risks over 24 months. (4/26)

Garver: Transition Fever (Source: Space News)
Every four years the space community gears up for potential changes in administration — assured this time around as President Obama finishes his last year — and the impact a White House transition will have on NASA. And it sure seems like there is a lot more talk among the civil space community this round than usual about the upcoming NASA transition. My phone has been lighting up nonstop and my “dance card” has been filling up from long-lost friends with requests lately, even though my day job has been managing an airline pilots union for the last two and a half years.

Everyone wants to re-hash what happened eight years ago, many with hopes to avoid a similar transition in the future. There have been congressional hearings, draft legislation and industry-led coalition pronouncements, all focused on ensuring that the next President doesn’t touch a hair on the head of the current path or programs at NASA. As you can imagine, I do have some thoughts on the matter. Click here. (4/26)

Space Coast Among Best Places for STEM Grads in 2016 (Source: NerdWallet)
According to the most recent data, the unemployment rate for STEM workers was 2.3% in June 2015, which compares with the 5.3% jobless rate nationwide among all industries in the same period, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS estimates growth in STEM jobs will top 9 million over the decade from 2012 to 2022. STEM employees are sought after and often earn more than workers in other industries. The average STEM salary was $85,570 in 2014, compared with $47,230 for all occupations, according to the BLS.

After an analysis of the nation's 330 largest metro areas, NerdWallet ranked the best places for STEM graduates in 2016. Huntsville Alamaba ranked number one. Florida's Space Coast was among the top 10, ranking #8 with an average salary of $84,594 and a ratio of 96.4 STEM employees per 1000 jobs in 2015. Florida's Emerald Coast also broke the top 100 at #82. Click here. (4/26)

New Small Launch Vehicles (Source: Space Daily)
Recent reports indicate there are roughly 20 launch vehicles that are either ready or under development around the world designed to serve the small satellite market for payloads weighing up to 1,000 kg. However, judging from history, not all of these will be successful. Nevertheless, the level of interest and financial commitment associated with creating new options for small satellite manufacturers and users is quite exciting.

One of the primary reasons for this level of activity is the recent array of announcements related to new constellations of small satellites each numbering in the dozens to hundreds of communications and remote sensing spacecraft. The competition is fierce, and all ventures will require access to launches in the next several years.

Add to this the interest in cubesats for both constellations and standalone missions, and you have an apparent extreme demand for space launch capacity. Although the size and strength of the market for small satellite services has yet to be measured, entrepreneurs are not to be deterred. An optimistic estimate of small satellite numbers that may be launched over the next four years ranges from several hundred to several thousand. Click here. (4/26)

Soyuz Demonstrates Arianespace Mission Flexibility (Source: Space Daily)
Arianespace's third flight of 2016 has demonstrated the versatility of its medium-lift Soyuz launcher, which deployed five European satellites of varying sizes into three different low Earth orbits during a mission lasting four hours.

Departing the Spaceport in French Guiana on April 25, Soyuz first released Sentinel-1B - a spacecraft for radar surveillance of the environment and for security issues - at 23 minutes into the mission. Three miniaturized CubeSats were then deployed at 2 hours, 48 minutes after liftoff, followed by the separation of the Microscope scientific satellite at 4 hours into the flight. (4/26)

Clean-Space Board Game Teaches the Environmental Costs of Space Missions (Source: Phys.Org)
It might not look like a training exercise: space engineers sitting around a meeting table, throwing down cards on a board game. But they are busily learning about the hidden environmental costs of space missions. ESA's Clean Space initiative – tasked with reducing the environmental footprints of the space industry both on Earth and in orbit – includes a dedicated 'ecodesign' element. As part of this effort, this new board game was created by the Quantis company.

Terrestrial industry uses the 'life cycle assessment' method to assess the environmental impacts across a product's entire life. Now it is being harnessed for space projects, too. "The aim was to find a more effective way of communicating the concept, as opposed to paper reports or online presentations," explains Rainer Zah of Quantis. (4/14)

Will Space X Be Your Next Ten Bagger? (Source: Seeking Alpha)
I am constantly on the lookout for ten baggers, stocks that have the potential to rise tenfold over the long term. Look at the great long-term track records compiled by the most outstanding money managers, and they always have a handful of these that account for the bulk of their outperformance, or alpha, as it is known in the industry.

I've found another live one for you. Elon Musk's Space X is so forcefully pushing forward rocket technology that he is setting up one of the great investment opportunities of the century. There is only one catch. Space X is not yet a public company, being owned by a handful of fortunate insiders and venture capital firms. But you should get a shot at the brass ring someday. (4/25)

House Armed Services Committee Wants AR-1 Engine in Atlas V (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The House Armed Services Committee appears determined to require ULA to re-engineer its Atlas V booster with a new Aerojet Rocketdyne engine in its first stage even though the launch provider doesn’t really want the motor. Instead of replacing the RD-180 engine, ULA is developing a brand new booster named Vulcan that would be powered by Blue Origin methane-fueled BE-4 engine and a re-engineered Centaur upper stage called ACES.

Aerojet Rocketdyne’s kerosene-fueled AR-1 is being funded as a backup option in case ULA drops plans for the Vulcan booster. The U.S. Air Force has provided funding for both the BE-4 and AR-1 engines. The service has also funded propulsion development by other companies such as SpaceX and Orbital ATK. A draft House measure that will be marked up on Wednesday would prohibit the U.S. Air Force from funding anything other than a replacement engine for the Atlas V. (4/26)