October 19, 2017

China Expanding Rocket Fleet, Including Super Heavy Lift (Source: GB Times)
Chinese engineers are developing a new series of Long March rockets, including one comparable to the Saturn 5. At a conference earlier this month, the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology said it will soon formally begin development of the Long March 9, a rocket nearly 100 meters tall and 10 meters in diameter, with a payload capacity similar to the Saturn 5. China plans to use that rocket to support future human expeditions to the moon and other exploration missions. In the near-term, China plans to develop the Long March 5B, a variant of the Long March 5 for missions to low Earth orbit; and the Long March 8, a new medium-class rocket. (10/19)

Sprouting the Seed of Georgia's Space Community (Source: Astralytical)
Georgia Space Alliance is state-wide, not just focused on Atlanta. It’s an alliance of the existing groups, companies, organizations, and individuals. It’s not meant to replace or compete with any existing space-related effort. Its goal is to unify, to bring people together, to encourage communication and collaboration, to promote what is already happening and what is to come. Even the word “space” is meaningful. Georgia already has a very strong aerospace industry and aerospace community, aerospace primarily meaning aviation. The focus of Georgia Space Alliance is not aerospace – it’s space –the much smaller but growing branch of aerospace in the state. Click here. (10/18)

Scientists Just Found the Perfect Spot to Build an Underground Colony on the Moon (Source: Gizmodo)
For years, scientists have wondered if dark, crater-like features on the lunar surface might be entrances to giant caverns carved long ago by flowing lava. Researchers from Japan and the United States have uncovered new evidence to prove that these features actually exist—which is good news for future lunar colonists looking for a convenient and safe place to live.

New research published in Geophysical Research Letters shows that several pits located near the Marius Hill region of the Moon are large open lava tubes, and that these ancient caverns have the potential to offer, in the words of the researchers, a “pristine environment to conduct scientific examination of the Moon’s composition and potentially serve as secure shelters for humans and instruments.” The team, which included scientists from NASA and Japan’s space agency, JAXA, combined radar and gravity data to make the finding.

No doubt, these caverns would be perfect for aspiring lunar colonists. Inside these large holes, humans would be protected from the Sun’s dangerous rays, and other hazards. The Moon has no atmosphere to speak of, so these “instant” shelters would be extremely advantageous. (10/18)

What the New Gravitational Waves Discovery Means for the Future of Astronomy (Source: Washington Post)
In August, for the first time ever, scientists witnessed the electromagnetic lightning and gravitational gusts from the stormy collision of two neutron stars in a distant galaxy. The cosmic cataclysm created a “kilonova” — a phenomenon that had never been seen before — and the observations by both traditional telescopes and gravitational wave detectors heralded a new era for science. In the years to come, astrophysicists will use two “messengers” to understand the universe: electromagnetism and gravity.

Those discoveries are just the beginning: “This is opening a new brand of research and science,” Eleonora Troja, an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and the University of Maryland, said Tuesday. Here are just two of the ways the kilonova's detection will likely shift the course of astronomy. Click here. (10/18)

Lego’s Official ‘Women of NASA’ Set Goes On Sale November 1 (Source: TechCrunch)
Lego has a new set that originated by a member of its Lego Ideas fan-sourced creation platform: The Women of NASA, a package that includes NASA pioneers Nancy Grace Roman, Margeret Hamilton, Sally Ride and Mae Jamison, as well as a space shuttle model, the Hubble telescope and display stands for all. The Lego set was originally proposed by MIT News deputy editor Maia Weinstock on the Ideas platform last year, and quickly made its way to the 10,000 mark needed for official project approval by Lego. (10/18)

Spacecom Returns to SpaceX for One, Possibly Two Launches (Source: Space News)
Israeli satellite operator Spacecom has agreed to launch its next satellite on a Falcon 9 rocket from SpaceX in 2019, and will likely launch a second satellite on another Falcon 9 in 2020. Spacecom said it “will use full credits from AMOS-6’s unfulfilled September 2016 launch to fully cover AMOS-17’s launch fees.” Another statement, given to the Israeli stock exchange the same day, said the 2019 mission could launch on a previously flown Falcon 9 rocket.

Amos-6 was destroyed when its Falcon 9 launcher exploded during preparation for a static fire test two days before liftoff. Spacecom agreed to have the satellite atop the rocket to save time between testing and launch. Amos-17, an Africa-focused telecommunications satellite being built by Boeing Satellite Systems International to last 19 years, is a replacement for a different satellite — Amos-5. Spacecom lost the ISS-Reshetnev-built Amos-5 satellite in 2015 to a power glitch  just four years into its mission. (10/18)

How Fit Will Astronauts Be After Years in Space? (Source: Space.com)
After spending months or years in space during future long-term missions, returning to Earth can be challenging for astronauts — and one set of researchers is finding out just how challenging using a life-size spacecraft model. Using a mock-up of NASA's Orion spacecraft, scientists monitored the health and fitness levels of "astronauts" as they performed emergency escape maneuvers, simulating what crews undergo during their return to Earth.

NASA’s Orion spacecraft is designed to take astronauts to asteroids, Mars and other faraway space destinations. However, living in the microgravity environment of space can cause muscle loss and dramatically decrease an astronaut's overall fitness. And when crews return to Earth, they need to be able to climb out of the space capsule that has landed in the ocean and is being tossed around by waves.

"Our goal is to provide information on how fit an astronaut needs to be when they leave so that when they get to the destination or when they return to earth, they will be strong enough to perform mission tasks, even after several months in a zero-gravity environment," Thomas Barstow, professor of exercise physiology at Kansas State, said in the statement. (10/18)

U.S. Detector Flaw Will Delay Europe’s Euclid Telescope (Sources: Aviation Week, Space News)
The launch of Europe’s Euclid telescope, designed to explore the universe’s accelerating rate of expansion, will be delayed due to a newly found flaw in U.S.-built detectors. “The detector systems that we had been developing for delivery for ESA has been failing in their characterization testing before delivery,” Paul Hertz said at a meeting of the Astrophysics Advisory Committee. The problem, he said, is with an electronics package that malfunctions at the cold temperatures it will operate at on the mission. That problem did not appear in earlier qualification tests of the system. (10/18)

No Plans to Turn Kapustin Yar Testing Range Into Space Center (Source: Tass)
Russia has no plans to turn its Kapustin Yar training range into a space launch center, the facility's chief Maj. Gen. Oleg Kislov has said. Kislov said the project will require time and money, and appears unfeasible as Russia already has the Vostochny space center in the Far East, the Plesetsk space center in Northern Russia and the Baikonur space center it leases from Kazakhstan.

"Earlier, tasks similar to those of a space launch center, were indeed carried out at the testing range, but still it was designed with a purpose to test missiles and military equipment. The testing range can be used as a launch center, but it would require financial expenditures to create the required infrastructure, and, of course, it will take time," he said. (10/18)

Moon Express Hires Government Affairs VP (Source: Moon Express)
Moon Express has hired Ben Roberts as its Vice President of Government Affairs. Roberts will oversee legal, policy, regulatory, and compliance functions for the company. He brings over nine years of experience working for the Executive Office of the President, including roles at the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Roberts was most recently the Assistant Director, Civil and Commercial Space, for OSTP, where he led the design and implementation of civil and commercial space policies and initiatives on behalf of the Executive Office of the President. (10/18)

October 18, 2017

Investors Say Orbital Withheld Info On $9.2B Northrop Deal (Source: Law360)
Stockholders of aerospace and defense contractor Orbital ATK Inc. filed a putative class action Monday in Virginia federal court to stop a proposed $9.2 billion sale of the company to Northrop Grumman, saying shareholders have been left in the dark regarding key aspects of the sale. (10/17)

Bigelow and ULA Plan Lunar Orbit Habitat (Source: Space News)
Bigelow Aerospace and United Launch Alliance said Tuesday they have an agreement to jointly develop a habitat around the moon, provided NASA is willing to help pay for it. The companies said their "lunar depot" would use a Bigelow B330 module launched on a ULA Vulcan rocket and placed into a low orbit around the moon by an ACES upper stage as soon as 2022. Bigelow Aerospace President Robert Bigelow said the companies could develop it in partnership with NASA, with the agency providing $2.3 billion in addition to the "hundreds of millions" already being spent on the companies to develop their technologies. Bigelow said the companies had briefed several "key" government officials about the concept and have received a good reaction. (10/17)

Soyuz Suffered Partial Pressure Loss During Crew Re-entry (Source: Space News)
A Soyuz capsule returning to Earth earlier this year suffered a partial loss of pressurization during descent, although not endangering the crew. The incident took place during the deployment of the main parachute on the Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft in April, when a buckle in the parachute system struck a welding seam on the spacecraft. Thomas Stafford, chairman of NASA's ISS Advisory Committee, said at a committee meeting this week that while some air escaped the capsule as a result, the crew was in pressure suits and not threatened by the incident. (10/17)

Satellite Access Needs Policy Attention Too (Source: Space News)
The president of a rideshare company says that U.S. policy needs to support not just the launch industry but the satellite industry as well. In an interview, Curt Blake, president of Spaceflight, said that policy debates have to avoid protecting the U.S. launch industry at the expense of the U.S. small satellite industry, which has often struggled to find rides to orbit. These debates involve access to India's PSLV rocket, which has become a major player in the smallsat secondary payload market, but for which U.S. companies need a regulatory waiver. The company says that the development of dedicated smallsat launchers will be good in the long run, providing additional options for its customers. (10/17)

Culberson Wary of China's Military Space Goals (Source: Huntsville Times)
A key congressman warns that China is building an "unfriendly navy" in space. In a speech earlier this month, Rep. John Culberson (R-TX), chairman of the House appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA, warned against cooperating with China in space. "The Chinese are aggressively building a navy in space, and we need to be aware that it's not friendly," he said. Another congressman at the same event, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), agreed, and also warned of cooperating further with Russia in space. (10/17)

Relativity Space Opens Up on 3-D Printed Rocket Plans (Source: Bloomberg)
A secretive launch startup has offered a first look inside its factory where it plans to make rockets with 3-D printers. Relativity Space is developing large 3-D printers that it claims will be able to built entire launch vehicles at lower costs, and with far fewer moving costs, than existing rockets. The company is planning its first launch of a rocket capable of placing nearly a ton into orbit in 2021. The 14-person company has raised $10 million to date from several investors, including billionaire Mark Cuban. (10/17)

Discovery Plans Space Documentary for NASA Anniversary (Source: RealScreen)
A member of the Kennedy family is producing a documentary about NASA in time for the agency's 60th anniversary. Rory Kennedy, daughter of Ethel and Robert Kennedy, will produce and also narrate Above & Beyond: NASA's Journey to Tomorrow, a documentary looking at both the history of NASA and its future plans. Kennedy, whose previous work includes the Oscar-nominated Last Days of Vietnam, said this film is "more of a personal essay, which allows me and thereby the viewer to jump around some of the extraordinary highlights of NASA." Discovery plans to air the film next June. (10/17)

Here’s Bigelow Plans to Build an Orbiting Space Station for the Moon (Source: Washington Post)
The moon — that cold, gray outpost that NASA last visited 45 years ago — is hot again. The vice president says so. So do Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. And as the Trump administration sets its sights on the lunar surface, a growing number of companies say they are ready for the challenge. The latest is Bigelow Aerospace, the Las Vegas-based maker of inflatable space habitats. 

Bigelow is hoping to send one of its space stations, the B330, to lunar orbit by 2022 in partnership with ULA. If NASA goes for it, the $2.3 billion mission would go something like this: The habitat would launch on ULA’s Vulcan rocket into low Earth orbit, where it would stay for a period of months, receiving supplies and cargo, while it underwent testing to make sure everything was working properly.

Then a space tug would ferry it from Earth orbit to lunar orbit, where it would essentially become a space station for the moon. The Trump administration is looking for a first-term coup, and, Bigelow said, this “can actually be done within one administration.” NASA also needs a destination for the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft it has been developing for years and at great expense, he said. (10/17)

Scott Kelly: Don't Doubt Elon Musk (Source: CNBC)
Elon Musk is racing to land SpaceX on Mars in five years, a vision he unveiled late last month at the 2017 International Astronautical Congress. One man not among Musk's critics is Scott Kelly, a retired astronaut who set the record in 2015 for total accumulated days in space, during the single longest mission by an American.

"When Elon Musk said he was going to launch his rocket and then land the first stage on a barge, I thought he was crazy," Kelly told "Squawk Box" on Tuesday. "And then he did it. I'm not going to ever doubt what he says, ever again." (10/17)

Delivery by Rocket Could Change the Game for UPS, FedEx (Source: CNBC)
Airplanes and Panamax cargo ships redefined the parcel service in the 20th century, but those days may be fading quickly. Morgan Stanley believes the SpaceX plan for the Big Falcon Rocket as a reusable mode of Earth transportation could change the game for United Parcel Services and FedEx.

"The freight transportation business — especially parcel delivery — is on the cusp of transformation from multiple new transportation modalities," a team of Morgan Stanley analysts wrote in a note Thursday. "Elon Musk recently announced a new option that could potentially have the biggest impact of all — rockets."

The booster system BFR is a 42-engine rocketcapable of holding around 100 people – and yes, the code name connotes more than just "Falcon" to those inside SpaceX. With a payload capacity of 150 tons, BFR would be nearly 10 times the capacity of the flight-proven Falcon 9 rocket and five times that of the soon-to-be-tested Falcon Heavy rocket. (10/13)

First SLS Flight in Late 2019 (Source: Aviation Week)
The first flight of NASA’s heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, which is slated to put an unmanned Orion capsule into orbit around the Moon for Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1), is now targeted for launch in late 2019, according to a Lockheed Martin program director. (10/17)

Filling the Early Universe with Knots Can Explain Why the World is Three-Dimensional (Source: Space Daily)
The next time you come across a knotted jumble of rope or wire or yarn, ponder this: The natural tendency for things to tangle may help explain the three-dimensional nature of the universe and how it formed. An international team of physicists has developed an out-of-the-box theory which proposes that shortly after it popped into existence 13.8 billion years ago the universe was filled with knots formed from flexible strands of energy called flux tubes that link elementary particles together. (10/17)

Why We Go to the Moon (Source: Air & Space)
First we must consider the activities encompassed by a human return to the Moon, beginning with a transportation system that permits access to and from the Moon for people and cargo. Once on the Moon, we must protect ourselves from the hostile environment with such a degree of utility and comfort as to permit the performance of useful work. This protection includes life support, shielding from radiation, habitation, mobility, maintenance and continuous, daily operations. Finally, we must identify a series of activities that yield long-term societal value and contribute to the enhancement and furtherance of our spacefaring capabilities.

I suggest that all of these activities are summarized in the following mission statement: We go to the Moon to learn how to live and work productively on another world. It is not enough to simply get there—once on the Moon, we must accomplish some significant goals. It is not enough to simply live on the Moon—we must learn the skills and acquire the technologies necessary to support human life indefinitely, making use of local resources to support this effort. Click here. (10/17) 

Will General Dynamics Buy Harris? (Source: Space News)
Speculation has swirled around the industry for a while. General Dynamics has a lot of cash and Harris Corp. is one of the few remaining mid-cap, pure-play defense companies focused on defense electronics and space. Strategically it does make some sense. But financially it doesn’t, at least not now. Harris at this moment is too expensive. GD executives have publicly commented about “not doing dumb deals.” Things could change if Harris’ price drops. (10/17)

GPS Satellites Will Be Prized Targets (Source: Space News)
Dean Cheng predicts GPS satellites will come increasingly under threat. Their billion-dollar price tags and their value to modern society make them attractive targets. The U.S. needs to consider alternatives, he says. “It might be worth looking into this.” For instance, a team of researchers at the University of California has developed a navigation system that exploits signals such as cellular and Wi-Fi, rather than GPS. The technology can be used as a standalone alternative to GPS, or complement current GPS-based systems. (10/17)

October 17, 2017

No, Human Space Exploration is Not a Dead End (Source: Washington Post)
For Post columnist David Von Drehle, NASA’s renewed focus on human space exploration is “unnecessary” and “a dead end.” I fundamentally disagree with this assessment. I was excited to see President Trump ensure that the United States remains the leader in space by reestablishing the National Space Council. Under the leadership of Vice President Pence, the council held a meeting last week for the first time in nearly 25 years, announcing a distinct objective: promote a clear U.S. space policy and enact the reforms necessary to strengthen American leadership in space.

Von Drehle’s argument against human space exploration boils down to three main questions, and I’d like to address each of them. First, why send humans into space when we can just send robots? The second question: Is space exploration worth the risk and cost? This gets at a more fundamental question: Why bother sending people to explore space at all? Click here. (10/13)

Neutron Star Merger: a New Way to Make a Black Hole (Source: PSU)
For the first time, scientists worldwide have detected both gravitational waves and light shooting toward our planet from one massively powerful event in space — the birth of a new black hole created by the merger of two neutron stars. All the previous gravitational-wave detections since the first in September 2015 had been the result of two merging black holes – objects much more massive than a neutron star — which have left only gravitational waves as fleeting clues of their merger.

"The evidence that these new gravitational waves are from merging neutron stars has been captured, for the first time, by observatories on Earth and in orbit that detect electromagnetic radiation, including visible light and other wavelengths," said Chad Hanna. NASA's Swift, Hubble, Chandra and Spitzer missions, along with dozens of ground-based observatories, later captured the fading glow of the blast's expanding debris. (10/16)

Cyberattack Prevents Neutron Star Event Observation (Source: ABC)
Astrophysicists at WA's Zadko telescope had just learned about the detection of a monumental deep space event involving two neutron stars colliding — which they had been hoping to find for years — when they came under sustained cyber attack. At the critical and fleeting moment, they could not move their telescope to track the gigantic explosion 130 million light years away. (10/16)

Chinese Space Module Will Fall to Earth Within Months (Source: Guardian)
A defunct Chinese lab module will reenter some time in the next several months. The Tiangong-1 module, launched in 2011, is no longer active and is headed for an uncontrolled reentry some time in the next six months, according to the Chinese government. Most of the spacecraft will burn up on reentry, although pieces as large as 100 kilograms could make it to the ground. The odds that any debris would cause injury or damage remain remote, however. (10/17)

Air Force Open to Using Flight-Proven (Re-Used) Rockets (Source: Bloomberg)
An Air Force general said he is open to using reused rockets like those already being flown by SpaceX. Gen. Jay Raymond, head of Air Force Space Command, said in an interview that "we'd be dumb not to" take advantage of reusable rockets given market trends. That will require the development of a certification process for reused boosters, which he suggested is already in development. SpaceX has launched three commercial missions using previously flown first stages, including a communications satellite for SES and EchoStar last week. (10/16)

Post-Brexit UK Hopes to Remain Engaged with European Satellite Program (Source: Space News)
Britain hopes to stay involved in the European Copernicus program of Earth science satellites even after it exits the European Union. Jo Johnson, the British minister whose portfolio includes space, said at an event last week for the launch of the Sentinel-5P satellite that the British government is working to demonstrate the value of continued collaboration on the program even after the country leaves the EU. That will depend on the outcome of negotiations between the British government and the EU about the terms of its exit, which has left some British space companies concerned about their ability to participate in programs like Copernicus. (10/17)

Commercial Lunar Companies Seek NASA Roles (Source: Space News)
Companies developing commercial lunar capabilities are looking for roles in NASA's plans for a return to the moon. At meetings last week, four companies with plans for commercial lunar landers expressed interest in doing business with NASA, either through the use of public-private partnerships to develop those capabilities or flying payloads through arrangements similar to launch services contracts. Some, though, caution that Congress may be reticent to put commercial providers on the "critical path" for a human lunar return. (10/16)

Former 45th Space Wing Commander Supporting Georgia Spaceport Effort (Source: Spaceport Camden)
A proposed Georgia spaceport has added a retired Air Force general to its steering committee. Spaceport Camden announced Monday that Maj. Gen. Robert Dickman will join the committee, providing advice to the spaceport near the Atlantic coast that is seeking an FAA spaceport license. Dickman's career included service as head of the 45th Space Wing and Eastern Range at Cape Canaveral, overseeing 20 launches there. He also served in military space leadership positions at the Pentagon and, later, was executive director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He now lives in Camden County, Georgia. (10/16)

NASA Plans Cooperation with Russia on Simulated Space Mission (Source: Tass)
NASA and a Russian institute will cooperate on a simulated space mission later this year. NASA and the Institute of Biomedical Problems have approved plans for a 17-day simulated mission in a Moscow facility, with a crew of Russian and German participants. The simulated flight, designed to test biomedical and psychological issues of long-duration spaceflight, is the first in a series that will build up to a year-long simulated mission in 2020. (10/16)

ARCA's Revolutionary Aerospike Engine Completed and Ready for Testing (Source: New Atlas)
ARCA Space Corporation has announced its linear aerospike engine is ready to start ground tests as the company moves towards installing the engine in its Demonstrator 3 rocket. Designed to power the world's first operational Single-Stage-To-Orbit (SSTO) satellite launcher, the engine took only 60 days to complete from when fabrication began.

Over the past 60 years, space launches have become pretty routine. The first stage ignites, the rocket lifts slowly and majestically from the launch pad before picking up speed and vanishing into the blue. Minutes later, the first stage shuts down and separates from the upper stages, which ignite and burn in turn until the payload is delivered into orbit. Click here. (9/21)

Google Maps Out Moons and Planets Across the Solar System (Source: New Atlas)
Google Maps is both amazing and a little terrifying at times. Starting from your own front porch, close enough to read the numbers on the letterbox, you can then zoom right out to see your neighborhood, then the suburb, city, state, country, and eventually the entire planet with a quick scroll of a mouse wheel. Not content to just map out almost every corner of the Earth, Google has now added the ability to explore 12 other worlds in our little corner of the galaxy.

Google Maps has already allowed us to explore the Moon, Mars, and the Universe for a few years, but now the list has been extended to a range of other planets and moons in our Solar System. That includes the planets Mercury and Venus; dwarf planets Ceres and Pluto; Jupiter's moons Io, Europa and Ganymede; and Saturn's moons Mimas, Enceladus, Dione, Rhea, Titan and Iapetus. Along with those worlds, curious Earthlings can now take a tour of the International Space Station as well. (10/16)

The New Space Race: NASA, Private Companies, and The Fight to Settle Mars (Source: Wesleyan Argus)
It is perhaps no surprise that there are various individuals and organizations working on ways to leave this planet and find something more. One of the major players in this arena is, of course, NASA, but they’re not alone. In the United States, there are a number of private companies—SpaceX, Bigelow Aerospace, and Virgin Galactic, to name a few—dedicated to the exploration of space. And as such, a significant amount of tension exists between NASA and various American private companies when it comes to impending plans for missions into space, and more specifically, to Mars. The relationship is an intricate and murky one. Click here. (10/16)

Want To Go To Mars? The Risks May Not Be Worth It, Says UNLV Prof (Source: KNPR)
Elon Musk says that's where he wants to go next, planning to send astronauts to the red planet in the coming years. He's even said he wants to die on Mars. But, new research from UNLV suggests … that could come sooner than Musk may like. Frank Cucinotta is a professor at UNLV and co-author of a new study about the health effects of a trip to Mars. Click here. (10/13)

Confession Of A Planetary Scientist: 'I Do Not Want To Live On Mars' (Source: NHPR)
I am a planetary scientist and once astronaut candidate finalist (read: space nerd). But I have something to confess: I do not want to live on Mars. While certainly interesting scientifically (e.g., seasonally-varying polar caps; transient methane plumes; permafrost), Mars is not particularly compelling as a long-term human destination. But there is another place in our solar system where conditions are right for a self-sustaining, long-term human settlement: Saturn's moon Titan. Why Titan?

To start with, let's make clear that Titan is a moon that, in many ways, acts more like a planet. It has a thick atmosphere, with about 1.5 times the surface pressure of Earth's atmosphere. None of the 177 other moons in the solar system has such an atmosphere. Plus, Titan is the only place in the solar system, other than Earth, with stable surface liquids: Titan has lakes and seas on its surface. So Titan is a remarkable, and very Earth-like, world.

Titan's thick atmosphere is beneficial, because it means that you don't have to wear a bulky pressure suit while you're out and about on Titan. But the main reason I like it is simple: Titan's atmosphere will help us stay alive. Out in space, radiation is deadly. Energetic particles from the sun, and especially galactic cosmic rays (GCRs), penetrate human tissue, causing cancer and cognitive disorders. Click here. (10/16)

The Interplanetary Political Football of Space Exploration (Source: Scientific American)
In light of the NSC's checkered history, it's perhaps not surprising that the messaging during its inaugural meeting was so mixed. Pence’s first (leading) question to the civilian space industry panel asserted that the US lags behind in space, essentially putting the panel members in the position of contradicting the Vice President if they were to answer directly. The panelists, along with those of the second civilian panel, parried this assertion in turn like synchronized swimmers, with Gwynne Shotwell of SpaceX even countering that "there is a Renaissance underway in space.”

On the tails of their optimism came the defense panel. Here the message was dark, and fear-driven: we are vulnerable to our enemies, and coordinated efforts to be fearsome are the only way to prevent having to defend ourselves from both state or non-state actors moving against us. Much like the NSC's relationship to policy makers, the historical interface between the military and the NSC is a curious one—defense uses of space are typically the purview of the National Security Council, which carries out its own, independent agenda, unperturbed by the opinions of the National Space Council.

From the broader perspective of the current administration's priorities, the Moon makes a lot of sense: not because the Moon holds great scientific potential, but because of its potential as a strategic outpost for national security, or as a place to obtain material resources (e.g. via mining operations). It's straightforward to see those priorities reflected in the makeup of the two panels: one on national security, two from private industry. It is telling (but not surprising) that the discussion didn't include science except in the broadest of brushstrokes—science is not a priority for this administration. (10/16)

NASA To Test Fission Reactor For Space Missions (Source: Aviation Week)
For the first time since the SNAP (Space Nuclear Auxiliary Power) program of the 1960s, NASA will test an atom-splitting fission reactor, a potential power generator for planetary surface missions and spacecraft. The test, scheduled to begin on Nov. 6 at the Nevada National Security Site, is the culmination of a three-year technology development project, known as Kilopower, which has the goal of demonstrating a full-scale nuclear-fission power system capable of producing 1 kW of electricity. (10/17)

China Great Wall Industry Corp.: A ‘Bumpy’ Year for Satellite Launches (Source: Space Intel Report)
China’s Long March rocket series has suffered three at least partial failures in the past 10 months on three different rockets — the small Long March 2D, the commercial-geostationary satellite Long March 3B and the new heavy-lift Long March 5. (10/16)

National Space Council: What's Next? (Source: The Avion)
After the initial speech, the council meet-up continued with expositions from the rest of the members. At the end of the event, the Vice President’s closing remarks included setting a specific 45-day timespan to work out the recommendations to officially deliver to the president. Whether his words were just part of the game of politics or an actual prelude to significant changes in NASA’s human space exploration focus, we will find out very soon. (10/15)

OneWeb and Blue Origin on the Hunt for Space Coast Workers (Source: Orlando Business Journal)
OneWeb LLC, whose new $85 million, 100,000-square-foot manufacturing plant is under construction at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport's Exploration Park, isn't waiting for the building to be finished in March 2018 to start hiring. OneWeb has four types of jobs available for its work on Florida's Space Coast: civil engineers, antenna engineers, RF design engineers and manufacturing associates.

OneWeb first announced its plans to build a facility on the Space Coast in April 2016. The satellite manufacturing plant will create at least 250 jobs by 2025 paying an average annual salary of $65,579. Blue Origin will provide a rocket and launch services for OneWeb when it is ready to send its satellites to space. Blue Origin also is hiring for its center in Exploration Park. The company is looking for a launch vehicle stage integration manager, instrumentation and controls engineer, subsystem integration manager and tank production manager. (10/16)

Florida Republican Candidate Believes Aliens Abducted Her at 7 Years Old, and Still Talk to Her (Source: Newsweek)
A Republican congressional candidate in Florida claimed in a 2009 interview she was abducted by aliens who revealed to her stunning secrets about Earth and still communicate with her telepathically. The candidate, Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera, is aiming to follow Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who is retiring, in representing Florida’s 27th congressional district. As has been the case with other politicians, some of her past words and actions are coming under scrutiny.

She said she encountered three aliens who resembled the famous Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro. They told her that a cave in the country of Malta contained 30,000 skulls that were not human and that the world’s “energy center” lies in Africa. Rodriguez Aguilera is now attempting to dispel potential damage to her campaign by saying former leaders and highly intelligent people have made similar claims. (10/16)

October 16, 2017

SpaceX Adds Mystery “Zuma” Mission, Iridium-4 Aims for Vandenberg Landing (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
In what has already been a busy year for SpaceX, the commercial launch provider is adding one more mission to its jammed-packed end-of-year schedule. A mysterious mission codenamed “Zuma” will launch No-Earlier-Than Nov. 10 from LC-39A. Meanwhile, CRS-13 is slipping at least one week, and the Iridium NEXT-4 mission from Vandenberg has received permission to debut RTLS landing of the Falcon 9 booster back at SLC-4W.

Northrop Grumman is the payload provider for Zuma through a commercial launch contract with SpaceX for a LEO satellite with a mission type labeled as “government” and a needed launch date range of 1-30 November 2017. Zuma represents a likely rapid launch response from SpaceX for the satellite’s operator.

Under the recently realigned launch manifest, Koreasat-5A (on a brand new Falcon 9) is targeted to leave LC-39A NET Oct. 30. Meanwhile, nearby LC-40 will be “flight ready” by the end of November after extensive repairs and modifications. (10/16)  

Why Should We Go? Reevaluating the Rationales for Human Spaceflight (Source: Space Review)
A perennial struggle for space advocates has been developing rationales for human spaceflight that can be sustained over the long term. Cody Knipfer argues that now is the time to reexamine those arguments, particularly given the rise of commercial human spaceflight. Click here. (10/16)
Back to Back to the Moon (Source: Space Review)
With a statement by the vice president at the National Space Council meeting, NASA is back in the business of returning humans to the Moon. Jeff Foust reports on what that means for agency plans, including potentially greater roles for international and commercial partners. Click here. (10/16)

From Skylab to Shuttle to the Smithsonian (Source: Space Review)
When NASA transitioned from the Skylab program to the space shuttle, once piece of Skylab hardware almost found new life. Dwayne Day describes studies on adapting instrument hardware for the shuttle, and how that hardware made its way instead to the National Air and Space Museum. Click here. (10/16)
Some Commentary About the National Space Council’s Inaugural Meeting (Source: Space Review)
The first meeting of the National Space Council earlier this month is, to many, a good start for the administration’s focus on space policy. Mike Snead offers some recommendations for the council’s upcoming activities in the first of a two-part report. Click here. (10/16)

Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson, and Finding My Virginity (Source: Space Review)
It’s been 13 years since the last suborbital flight of SpaceShipOne, and Virgin Galactic is still at least months away from flying people into space on SpaceShipTwo. Jeff Foust examines what company founder Richard Branson had to say about the company’s progress and setbacks in his new autobiography. Click here. (10/16)

Astronomers Have Captured Images of "the Greatest Fireworks Show in the Universe" (Source: Washington Post)
This is the story of a gold rush in the sky. Astronomers have now seen and heard a pair of dead stars collide, giving them the first glimpse of what they call a “cosmic forge,” where the world’s jewels were minted billions of years ago.

The collision rattled space-time and sent a wave of fireworks across the universe, setting off sensors in space and on Earth on Aug. 17 as well as producing a long loud chirp in antennas designed to study the Einsteinian ripples in the cosmic fabric known as gravitational waves. It set off a stampede around the world as astronomers scrambled to turn their telescopes in search of a mysterious and long-sought kind of explosion called a kilonova.

After two months of underground and social media rumblings, the first wave of news is being reported Monday about one of the least studied of cosmic phenomena: the merger of dense remnants known as neutron stars, the shrunken cores of stars that have collapsed and burst. Click here. (10/16)

DOD Pushing Forward For Commercial Radar Satellite (Source: Space News)
A Defense Department unit plans to press ahead with supporting commercial radar satellite initiatives despite a funding setback. Congressional appropriators rejected a request to transfer $50 million to the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx) for support of commercial synthetic aperture radar efforts. DIUx has already provided funding to a "handful" of companies developing satellites or analysis tools for radar imagery. The Pentagon is examining other ways to continue to support the program. (10/16)

New Zealand Establishes Legal Framework for Launches (Source: Stuff.co.nz)
A new space law is set to go into effect in New Zealand later this year. The Outer Space and High-altitudes Activities Act, passed by the country's parliament in July, takes effect in December to provide a legal framework for space launches from the country. The law was prompted by Rocket Lab, which launches its Electron rockets from the country and is planning its second launch in the "next couple of months." (10/16)

Some Support at FCC for C-Band Sharing (Source: Space News)
An FCC commissioner has offered support for an industry proposal for sharing C-band spectrum between satellite and terrestrial users. At a conference Friday, Michael O'Rielly said the joint proposal by Intel and Intelsat was "very beneficial" and "provides one mechanism to look at closely." That proposal would allow satellite operators to clear out parts of C-band spectrum desired by terrestrial wireless companies for 5G services on a case-by-case basis, with the wireless providers compensating the satellite operators for moving customers to different bands. (10/16)

Satellite Data Show Largest CO2 Increase Comes From Earth’s Tropics (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Data collected by NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) satellite, launched in 2014 to measure changing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) worldwide, indicates that Earth's tropics have been the largest sources of recent CO2 emissions.

OCO-2 measured record CO2 increases in 2015 and 2016, which coincided with one of the largest ever El Niño events. El Niño is a cyclic phenomenon in which a band of warm ocean water develops in the central and eastern equatorial regions of the Pacific Ocean and impacts weather globally. (10/16)

Bringing Back Supersonic Flight, with Quieter Sonic Booms (Source: CBS)
This past weekend, at Edwards Air Force Base in California, the U.S. Air Force celebrated the 70th anniversary of Captain Chuck Yeager becoming the first pilot to fly faster than the speed of sound. Yeager, now 94, was there to commemorate the event.

The only commercial passenger plane that flew faster than sound on a regular basis was the now-retired Concorde back in the 1970s, '80s and '90s. But the Concorde was only allowed to go that fast over the ocean, because supersonic flight creates a disturbing side effect -- a loud explosion of energy called a sonic boom.

Today, NASA engineers are working to lower the boom, so airlines can quietly hit those speeds and cut travel times for everyone in half -- seven decades after Yeager's historic achievement. (10/16)

SpaceFab Plans Public Use Commercial Space Telescope (Source: Parabolic Arc)
SpaceFab.US is a new space startup company working on space telescope satellites, asteroid mining, and space manufacturing. The company, also known as SpaceFab, is designing and building its first space telescope, scheduled for launch in late 2019.

The satellite, called the Waypoint space telescope, will be available to the general public to take astronomical or Earth observation pictures, making it the world’s first dual purpose commercial space telescope. It can be used for astronomy when orbiting over the night side of Earth, and used for Earth observation when orbiting over the daylight side, about 40 to 50 minutes on each side. (10/16)

What NASA's Simulated Missions Tell Us About the Need for Martian Law (Source: Space Daily)
Space law has always supported the position that objects and stations placed on celestial bodies are to remain under national ownership, jurisdiction and control. Private companies or other entrepreneurs cannot therefore have legitimacy or mine these bodies for resources unless they exercise lawful control through a sovereign state.

Current rules say the establishment of a space station and the area required for its operation should be notified to the Secretary-General of the United Nations. These would then be under the exclusive jurisdiction of the state where the spacecraft is registered or the state bringing the component parts of the station.

In many ways, this makes sense - it is difficult to see how a permanent station on Mars may be maintained without some form of tenure of the ground. The same goes for tenure over areas around the station sufficient for its maintenance (such as creating fuel from nearby resources). In fact, the closest practical analogies to a future Mars station in current jurisdictional terms would be the Antarctic stations maintained by Antarctic claimant states. Click here. (10/16)

As Paris Climate Goals Recede, Geoengineering Looms Larger (Source: Space Daily)
90 percent of projections in the UN climate science panel's most recent report that would keep the planet under the 2 C threshold depend heavily on such "negative emissions". (The others assume greenhouse gas emissions peaked in 2010, when in fact they are still climbing.)

One of two broad categories under the geoengineering umbrella, carbon dioxide removal (CDR) schemes include "enhanced weathering" of rocks that soak up CO2; large-scale production of charcoal from organic waste; sequestering CO2 cast off from burning biofuel plants; and sucking carbon dioxide directly from the air with high-tech machines.

Even the massive planting of trees -- which store CO2 as they grow -- is seen as part of the "CDR" arsenal. The other, far more controversial approach to climate engineering, known as solar radiation management, would deflect enough sunlight back into space to cool the planet a degree or two. (10/16)

October 15, 2017

Atlas V Rocket Launches Another Secret US Spy Satellite, From Florida (Source: Space.com)
The United States has launched its second secret spy satellite in less than three weeks. The NROL-52 satellite soared into orbit on Oct. 15 atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket, which lifted off at 3:28 a.m. EDT from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport.The launch came after more than a week of delays due to weather and a suspect telemetry transmitter that had to be replaced. (10/15)

Regulatory Filings Suggest SpaceX Plans November Launch with Mystery Payload (Source: Spaceflight Now)
Information found in federal regulatory filings suggests SpaceX plans to conduct a Falcon 9 rocket launch as soon as mid-November with an unidentified payload that has so far escaped public disclosure.

It is unusual for such a mission to remain secret so close to launch, and there has been no public claim of ownership for the payload — codenamed Zuma — from any government or commercial institution. SpaceX did not respond to questions on the mission Saturday, but an application submitted by the launch company to the Federal Communications Commission says the flight will use a Falcon 9 booster launched from pad 39A at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. (10/15)

Donald Trump Should Stop Obsessing Over the Moon (Source: Slate)
Donald Trump wants to go to the moon. Since being elected president, both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have offered vague but repeated hints that the administration was interested in sending American astronauts back to it, and finally, at the inaugural meeting of the newly resurrected National Space Council on Oct. 5, they made this desire explicit.

You can’t say the devil is in the details, because there are no details. As Casey Dreier, the director of space policy at the Planetary Society, the nonprofit dedicated to advancing space exploration and research, put it: “At this point, I just have more questions than opinions, because there’s not much to form an opinion off of. My biggest question is, to what end are we going to the moon? What is the purpose?”

There’s no clear answer to that. Despite Pence’s stepping-stone comment, going back to the moon does very little to help strengthen the human journey to Mars and worlds beyond. It’s doubtful the government could properly fund such a venture. All of Trump and Pence’s moon talk may sound exciting, but they are sorely mistaken if they believe returning to the moon is easy. (10/13)

It's Time for America to Stop Staring at the Pavement and Aim for the Stars Again (Source: Richmond Times-Dispatch)
Since Apollo, human space flight has been limited to within Earth’s orbit. When the space shuttle program ended in 2011, so did America’s manned space flights. Nowadays our astronauts bum rides from Russia to get back and forth from the International Space Station.

So, it was exciting to hear Vice President Pence address a recently resurrected National Space Council. He told the gathered that the U.S. would regain its leadership role in space exploration by returning to the moon as early as next year and eventually sending a manned mission to Mars. With a sense of urgency, he warned of the advances China and Russia have made in space technology and said the U.S. needed to address these emerging threats.

We applaud the administration’s goals to return to space. Exploring the unknown is part of who we are as humans. And the advancements by China and Russia add a new sense of urgency to our renewed commitment to space research. Yes, there will always be ample reasons to spend money elsewhere. But no matter how much we spend, there will always be a need for more. Reaching for the stars with one hand is just as important as extending the other to help our fellow humans. (10/13)

Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop Taking the Long View to the Stars (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
While NASA and commercial operators plan to send human beings beyond low-Earth orbit, the participants of the Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop (TVIW) spent this past week contemplating something incomparably more ambitious: seeking practical ways to travel to the stars.

The TVIW Chairman Les Johnson is a NASA physicist by day and a science fiction writer and interstellar visionary in his free time. Given that the exploration of the Solar System will be the work of generations, if not centuries, might TVIW not be getting a little ahead of themselves? Johnson told Spaceflight Insider: “Not at all. We’re providing the long-term vision… Can we do it today? No. Can we begin developing the technologies needed? Yes. Can we think about flying precursor missions today? Yes.”

The practical question Johnson and the other approximately 150 TVIW attendees asked was, “What can be done now?” They realize that launching even a tiny payload to the nearest star—Alpha Centauri, 4.3 light-years away—requires considerable development and expense. (10/13)

Time’s Up for Spaceport America (Source: NM Politics)
One of the cruelest manifestations of illogical thinking is the sunk-cost fallacy. The irrational belief that a bad investment will, one day, pay off, if we just hold on a little longer, has led to plenty of sorrow in the private sector. In the public sector, though, it’s taxpayers who are victimized when bureaucrats and elected officials refuse to walk away from failed projects once hailed as “economic development.” “Spaceport America” is probably New Mexico’s worst example of the sunk-cost fallacy.

The facility broke ground in June 2009 and “opened” in October 2011. Its “anchor tenant” is Virgin Galactic. Owned by U.K. mega-mogul Richard Branson (net worth, according to Forbes: $5.1 billion), the company aims to send tourists on brief, suborbital trips into space. Virgin Galactic once hoped to launch their first customers as soon as 2008. Almost a decade later, no tourists have soared into the wild black yonder from New Mexico. And despite regular promises that other firms will soon make use of the spaceport, activity there remains essentially nil.

The facility’s dismal performance is a bitter pill for the Land of Enchantment’s taxpayers. It was built with hundreds of millions of dollars in borrowing, made possible by the state’s severance tax and a special gross receipts tax imposed on Doña Ana and Sierra counties. Of nearly $12 million in expenses in the 2016 fiscal year, less than 19 percent was covered by rent and user fees. (10/14)

Elon Musk Explains How Big rocket’s Short Hops Will Lead to Giant Leaps (Source: GeekWire)
SpaceX CEO says he “chickened out” and made the design for the monster spaceship he’s planning to send to Mars a little less monstrous — in order to make the concept a lot more realistic. He also confirmed that testing for the BFR, euphemistically known as the “Big Falcon Rocket,” would begin with suborbital short-hop tests on Earth.

Musk says the BFR would be used not only to send settlers to Mars starting in the 2020s, but also to go on trips to the moon and other interplanetary destinations, deploy and retrieve satellites in Earth orbit, and take passengers on suborbital space trips anywhere on Earth in an hour or less. In short, for any space mission that SpaceX has in mind. Click here.

Editor's Note: SpaceX's emerging plan for BFR suborbital hops means more momentum for high-speed point-to-point transport industry, mixing a vertical launch/landing concept with the growing number of supersonic horizontal launch/landing craft now planned. There's a LinkedIn Group following this stuff here. (10/14)

SpaceX Seeks FCC Approval to Test Satellite Communications System in Seattle Area (Source: GeekWire)
SpaceX has filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission to begin ground testing of a satellite communications system between its facilities in Redmond, Wash., as early as this month.

Redmond is the base of operations for SpaceX’s multibillion-dollar effort to create a 4,425-satellite constellation in low Earth orbit for global broadband internet access and remote imaging. This week’s filing suggests that the company is getting closer to deploying its first prototype satellites. (10/15)

Virgin Galactic Could Still Be With Us By The End Of 2018 (Source: OneNews Page)
Branson, the multi-billionaire entrepreneur who has turned Virgin to just about everything over the years – air travel, cola, video games, credit cards, gambling sites – has always intended to bring space tourism to the masses, and it seems that his mooted Virgin Galactic plans are set to do just that. In fact, Branson himself plans to leave Earth through such technology sooner than many may have expected. Branson hopes to be up in the stratosphere and beyond within six months – and that Virgin Galactic itself is still on target to see launch by the end of 2018.

He’s remained hugely optimistic, advising that his ‘love of space’ is spurring the project on. Branson is confident about Virgin Galactic but an exact timeframe for launch will remain to be seen. A-List stars such as Brad Pitt who have signed up for the maiden voyage have reportedly paid somewhere in the region of $250,000 to go beyond Earth and into the stars themselves – but really – can you blame them? Stay tuned for more news on space tourism as we know it! (10/13)

Will SpaceX, Boeing See More Delays In ISS Launch Schedules? (Source: Nasdaq)
In 2014, NASA awarded contracts to Boeing and SpaceX to develop American vehicles for astronauts. NASA had originally envisioned both companies competing in test flights and being certificated for manned missions by the end of 2017. But the scheduled for unmanned and manned tests has slipped, and most recently Boeing's unmanned test was pushed back to August 2018 from June 2018, and its crewed test was delayed to November 2018 from August 2018.

SpaceX's uncrewed mission was delayed to April 2018 from February 2018 and its manned test from to August 2018 from June 2018. But even the delayed timeline is starting to look ambitious. "I think we have a shot at 2018" for the flights with crew, said NASA's Kathryn Lueders. "There's a lot of things that have to go exactly right. I think the big challenge is to make sure that we give them the time ... if everything doesn't go exactly right, to be able to fix any problems that we have." (10/13)

Canadian Spaceport Not ‘Pie in the Sky’ (Source: The Chronicle Herald)
“We’re doing the best we can,” Stephen Matier, president of Maritime Launch Services, said Thursday. “That’s all I can tell you.” Matier’s big dream is to build a spaceport just outside Canso from which Ukrainian-built rockets would carry satellites into orbit.

The March announcement took the entire country by surprise, as it would be Canada’s first spaceport since the Churchill Research Range closed in Manitoba in 1984. That site only launched suborbital rockets. Maritime Launch’s proposal would allow companies to put satellites into a desirable sun-synchronous orbit using Cyclone 4M rockets.

While northern Nova Scotia is well accustomed to sizing up the big plans of the oil and gas, pulp and paper and shipping industries, the business of launching satellites is beyond most people’s field of understanding. (10/13)

Richard Branson Won't Fly in Space in 6 Months, Virgin Galactic President Says (Source: Space.com)
Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson most likely won't be going to space in the next six months, despite his recent statement that he'd be "very disappointed" otherwise.

Mike Moses, president of Virgin Galactic, said yesterday (Oct. 12) that while the company plans to have one of its SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicles reach altitudes of more than 50 miles (80 kilometers) above Earth's surface within the next three months, it's unlikely that passengers — including Branson — will be on board in less than half a year. (10/13)

Space Radiation Won't Stop NASA's Human Exploration (Source: NASA JSC)
While it's true that space radiation is one of the biggest challenges for a human journey to Mars, it's also true that NASA is developing technologies and countermeasures to ensure a safe and successful journey to the red planet.

"Some people think that radiation will keep NASA from sending people to Mars, but that's not the current situation," said, Pat Troutman, NASA Human Exploration Strategic Analysis Lead. "When we add the various mitigation techniques up, we are optimistic it will lead to a successful Mars mission with a healthy crew that will live a very long and productive life after they return to Earth."

Space radiation is quite different and more dangerous than radiation on Earth. Even though the International Space Station sits just within Earth's protective magnetic field, astronauts receive over ten times the radiation than what's naturally occurring on Earth. Outside the magnetic field there are galactic cosmic rays (GCRs), solar particle events (SPEs) and the Van Allen Belts, which contain trapped space radiation. (10/13)

A Gamma Ray Burst Observed in Unprecedented Detail (Source: IAC)
Gamma ray bursts are among the most energetic and explosive events in the universe. They are so fleeting, lasting from a few milliseconds to about a minute that to observe them accurately has been, until now, a difficult task. Using several ground-based and satellite telescopes, among them the robotic telescope MASTER-IAC, researchers have observed one of these explosions with unprecedented detail.

The event, named GRB160625B, revealed key details about the initial phase of the gamma ray explosion and the evolution of the huge jets of matter and energy which form as a result of it. In a matter of seconds the burst can emit as much energy as the sun during its whole lifetime. For that reason we are very interested to know how these phenomena occur.

The observations revealed some of the unknown details about the process in which a gamma ray explosion evolves while a dying star collapses and turns into a black hole. In the first place the data suggest that the black hole produces a strong magnetic field, which at the beginning controls the jets in which energy is emitted. Then when the magnetic field decays the matter takes control and starts to dominate the jets. (10/13)

NASA Studying Potential Cooperation on Russian Lunar Science Mission (Source: Space News)
NASA is in discussions about potential roles it could play on an upcoming series of Russian robotic lunar missions, including landers and sample return spacecraft. Jim Green, director of NASA’s planetary science division, told attendees of the annual meeting of the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG) here Oct. 11 that he recently returned from a trip to Russia that included talks about cooperation on those future Russian lunar missions. (10/13)

Australia and America: A Partnership for the Space Age (Source: Space.com)
Exotic though it may be, and romanticized though it often is, Australia is more than a distant country and a faraway continent. It is in fact a land of technological innovation, international diversity and urban sophistication. It is as relevant, economically and culturally, to Asia as it is to America, with top research universities, distinguished doctors, professors and scientists, in addition to a nationwide interest in space-based research.

Today, all of Australia is aglow with interest in space-based research. Australians and Americans have an opportunity to go beyond symbolic (albeit powerful) gestures; together, we can enlighten the minds and expand the horizons of teachers and students from Adelaide to Austin, from Melbourne to Miami, from Sydney to San Francisco, from Perth to Portland, Oregon, and Portland, Maine. (10/13)

Russian Progress Cargo Ship Blasts Off on Regular-Speed Trip to ISS (Source: CBS)
A Russian Progress cargo ship blasted off from Kazakhstan Saturday and set off after the International Space Station (ISS) to deliver 2.9 tons of propellant, water and crew supplies. The launch was originally planned for Thursday, but a last-second glitch prevented main engine ignition and the flight was aborted pending a review. The problem was quickly corrected and the booster was cleared for a second try Saturday.

Because of the launch delay, plans to test an accelerated two-orbit rendezvous were put on hold, ruled out for Saturday's flight due to the changing position of the station in its orbit. (10/14)

Spaceflight Federation Welcomes New Board Leadership and Member Companies (Source: CSF)
The Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF) has elected new Officers for the 2017-2018 year and approved two new Associate member companies. Dr. Alan Stern of Southwest Research Institute was elected for a second term as the Chairman of the Board of Directors. George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company was elected as the board’s Vice-Chair, and Karina Drees, CEO and General Manager of Mojave Air & Space Port, was elected as the CSF Treasurer.

Todd Lindner of Jacksonville Aviation Authority, Tim Hughes of SpaceX, and Taber MacCallum of World View Enterprises were re-elected as Officers of the Board. Bob Richards of Moon Express was elected to serve as a new Officer on the Board. CSF also voted to accept two new Associate members: the University of Colorado Boulder Smead Aerospace, and OneWeb Corporation. (10/12)

NASA Fueling Tests Underway at KSC Ahead of Space Launch System Debut (Source: Florida Today)
Testing of two massive propellant storage spheres is underway at Kennedy Space Center ahead of the planned 2019 liftoff of the agency's Space Launch System rocket. Several trucks arrived at KSC in early October to offload liquid oxygen into a cryogenic sphere at pad 39B and chill it down in preparation of propellant storage. Over the next several months, trucks will continue to load about 40,000 gallons of liquid oxygen two days a week into the 900,000 gallon capacity sphere.

The nearby liquid hydrogen storage sphere, meanwhile, will play host to the same operations beginning in November. When both tanks are filled to the halfway mark, teams in the Launch Control Center, which is attached to the Vehicle Assembly Building, will perform pressurization tests. Fuels will remain in the tanks for additional testing in mid-2018. (10/13)

Out-of-This-World Halloween Party Coming to Kennedy Space Center (Source: Florida Today)
A spooky fusion of space themes and Halloween will take over a conference center at Kennedy Space Center next week. Guests can dress up in costumes, dance and enter into contests during the Saturday, Oct. 21 Celebrate Space party hosted by the National Space Club Florida Committee. Light snacks and a cash bar will be available for the 8 to 11 p.m. event at the Debus Conference Center and Rocket Garden, which is located on Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex property. Tickets are available for $20 per person. Click here. (10/13)

October 14, 2017

KSC Visitor Complex Game Filled with Errors (Source: The Verge)
A video game at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is designed to teach young people about space exploration, but it’s riddled with factual and typographical errors.

Cosmic Quest, developed by a gaming company called Creative Kingdoms, officially opened at the visitor complex in March 2016. The game costs $19.95, and allows players to “launch a rocket, redirect an asteroid, build a Martian habitat, and perform scientific experiments aboard the International Space Station.” But it doesn’t seem to have been properly vetted.

Cosmic Quest teaches players bad math about the size of solar arrays, and gives false instructions for an important process used to make fuel and water in space. It also screws up the name of a vital chemical element needed to power NASA spacecraft. Among the game’s typos are misspellings of the words “analyze” and “oxide,” and confusing the verb “affect” for the noun “effect.” (10/12)

Astronauts Film a Fidget Spinner Trick Video on the ISS (Source: The Verge)
The video features astronauts Mark T. Vande Hei, Joseph Acaba, Randy Bresnik, and Paolo Nespoli spinning a NASA-branded fidget spinner while also spinning themselves in the gravity-free environs of the ISS. There are probably valuable basic physics lessons about friction and Newton’s laws to be gleaned from what they’re doing, but I honestly can’t focus on them because my mind is too affected by the absolutely thumping royalty-free music NASA used for the video. Click here. (10/13)

NASA’s 1st Hispanic Female Flight Director Speaks at GiRL POWER Event (Source: Amarillo.com)
Ginger Kerrick, the first Hispanic female flight director at NASA and a Texas Tech University graduate, was the featured speaker at the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women’s Health Girl Power. The event is open to girls ages 10 to 13 and their mothers or the female adult in their life. 

“We want to empower, educate and prepare young girls for life’s challenges,” said Donna Fansler, executive associate of the Laura W. Bush Institute. GiRL POWER began in 2009 and usually attracts at least 300 girls and mentors. (10/11)

Space Coast-Based Rocket Crafters Adds Board Member (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Rocket Crafters announced that Dale Coxwell, CEO of Coastal Steel Manufacturing is joining its Board of Advisors. Coxwell is also the executive vice president and owner of Coastal Steel, on Florida's Space Coast.

Coxwell’s steel companies specialize in complex structures and components with a customer base that includes aerospace and defense. “Under Dale’s leadership, Coastal Steel Manufacturing has become a strategic partner in Rocket Crafters’ journey to change the way we access space. His team and facilities are at the center of our test stand and testing efforts. His advice will be important as we move forward,” said Sid Gutierrez, Rocket Crafters chairman and CEO. (10/10)

Satellite Imaging Startup Axelspace: Funding is No Problem For Us Now (Source: Space Intel Report)
Japanese geospatial imaging provider Axelspace, which plans a constellation of 50 100-kilogram medium-resolution optical imaging satellites, says access to capital beyond its successful $17-million first round of funding is not a problem. Yasunori Yamazaki said the company — whose downtown Tokyo offices include a full satellite production facility — has been successful in part because it is already generating revenue from two prototype satellites in orbit.

“We are well-funded, luckily,” Yamasaki said. “We have more [financing] in the pipeline,” Yamasaki said of a future funding round. Axelspace’s 50-satellite satellite constellation is intended to operate in a 600-kilometer orbit with a 2.5-meter ground sampling distance and a 60-kilometer swath width. (10/11)

Raytheon Moves Into Commercial Imaging Market with DigitalGlobe Camera Order (Source: Space News)
DigitalGlobe’s selection of Raytheon Space Systems to manufacture high-resolution imagers for the WorldView Legion constellation shows Raytheon is making headway in its effort to use expertise honed through decades of government work to attract commercial customers. (10/11)

SpaceX Flies its Third “Flight Proven” Rocket (Source: Ars Technica)
This was only the third time SpaceX has launched what it terms a "flight proven" booster. Luxembourg-based satellite operator SES has been one of SpaceX's most faithful customers, having previously employed a used booster. SES has repeatedly demonstrated confidence in the rocket company's ability to make reusable launch technology safe. And with three successful reuse flights, it will probably become easier for SpaceX to find customers for future "flight proven" rockets. (10/11)

Lying in Bed for the Sake of Science (Source: NASA JSC)
Twelve volunteers will arrive this week at the German Space Agency's (DLR) Institute of Aerospace Medicine's :envihab facility to lie in bed for a month in the name of science. NASA's Human Research Program, in partnership with DLR, is sponsoring investigations in this study to observe and analyze the effects of fluid pressure on astronauts' eyes and optic nerves.

This study, known as VaPER (VIIP and Psychological :envihab Research), is part of NASA's Flight Analogs Program. An analog environment is a situation on Earth that produces effects on the body similar to those experienced in space, both physical, mental and emotional. These studies are expected to help advance humans from lower-Earth orbit missions into deep space exploration. (10/10)

First Four Space Launch System Flight Engines Ready To Rumble (Source: NASA)
The flight preparations for the four engines that will power NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) on its first integrated flight with Orion are complete and the engines are assembled and ready to be joined to the deep space rocket’s core stage. All five structures that form the massive core stage for the rocket have been built including the engine section where the RS-25 engines will be attached. (10/11)

How Singapore Can Be a Space Power, with Small Satellites (Source: Channel NewsAsia)
In 1957, the first man-made satellite was launched into space by the Soviet Union. Since mankind’s first foray into space, we have not looked back.

Today, there are more than 6,000 satellites in space. In the earlier decades of satellite development, the key players were governments, especially those of large countries, whose use for satellites were primarily for weather monitoring, remote sensing of environmental conditions and surveillance.

In recent years, many commercial applications have emerged, such as the use of Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites for asset tracking, and the provision of satellite television programs, telecommunication services and internet services. With its many applications, the annual market revenue for the satellite industry stands around US$260 billion. (10/9)

USAF Searching for Hypersonic Vehicle Materials (Source: Flight Global)
The US Air Force Research Laboratory is searching for leading edge materials for reusable and expendable hypersonic vehicles to support its high speed strike weapon program.

Air Force Materiel Command will consider thermal performance as it selects the material, according to the $2.3 million contract award to Integration Innovation posted 27 September on the Federal Business Opportunities website. Based in Huntsville, Alabama, Integration Innovation Integration has previously worked with the Defense Department and NASA on thermal protection systems supporting hypersonic vehicles. (10/13)

Ion Thruster Prototype Breaks Records in Tests, Could Send Humans to Mars (Source: Space.com)
A thruster that's being developed for a future NASA mission to Mars broke several records during recent tests, suggesting that the technology is on track to take humans to the Red Planet within the next 20 years, project team members said.

The X3 thruster, which was designed by researchers at the University of Michigan in cooperation with NASA and the U.S. Air Force, is a Hall thruster — a system that propels spacecraft by accelerating a stream of electrically charged atoms, known as ions. In the recent demonstration conducted at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Ohio, the X3 broke records for the maximum power output, thrust and operating current achieved by a Hall thruster to date. (10/13)

To The Stars Academy of Arts & Science (Source: The Academy)
The public interest in the outer edges of science and the understanding of phenomena has always been suffocated by mainstream ideology and bureaucratic constraint. We believe there are transformative discoveries within our reach that will revolutionize the human experience, but they can only be accomplished through the unrestricted support of breakthrough research, discovery and innovation.

To The Stars Academy of Arts & Science has mobilized a team of the most experienced, connected and passionately curious minds from the US intelligence community, including the CIA and Department of Defense that have been operating under the shadows of top-secrecy for decades.   

The team members all share a common thread of frustration and determination to disrupt the status quo, wanting to use their expertise and credibility to bring transformative science and engineering out of the shadows and collaborate with global citizens to apply that knowledge in a way that benefits humanity. Click here. (10/13)

Chicago Companies Launch Plans for Business in Outer Space (Source: Chicago Tribune)
Picture people living in outer space, breathing inside helmets, going about their daily activities. What are they wearing? At a cosmic cocktail party, are they drinking champagne? Lee Anderson needed to know. The Chicago-based fashion designer keeps a sketch pad full of fashion astronauts, as she calls them, in which she explores the idea of what an average person would wear in an otherworldly atmosphere.

It’s the intersection of fashion and space — something the founder of outerwear design company Starkweather has thought about a lot. As the space industry develops, Anderson wants her company to link the creative and scientific sides. Anderson’s not the only entrepreneur looking toward the stars. From one- to two-person startups to Fortune 500 companies, firms throughout the Chicago area are eyeing outer space as their next market. Click here. (10/13)

Russia May Adjust Space Program to Construct Super-Heavy Carrier Rocket (Source: Space Daily)
Russia may adjust its federal space program to facilitate funding of the construction of a super-heavy-lift launch vehicle (SHLLV), General Director of Russia's Rocket and Space Corporation Energia Vladimir Solntsev said on Tuesday. Solntsev said that Energia is jointly working with Roscosmos "on proposals to amend the federal space program" to get the necessary funding for the project.

"We are very hopeful that this will happen this year. Then, the next stage will be to strike a government contract with Roscosmos to develop a draft design of the super heavy-lift launch vehicle," Solntsev said.

According to Energia's head, the draft designing process will be underway between 2018 and 2019. So far, the experts have already made a preliminary estimate of the designing works, which are expected to be carried out jointly by several companies. (10/10)

October 13, 2017

Rare Last-Minute Scub for Russian Cargo Launch (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Less than a minute before it was to take to the skies to deliver the Progress MS-07 cargo freighter to the International Space Station, an unknown issue with the Soyuz 2.1a launch vehicle prompted a rare scrub for the Russian space agency’s workhorse rocket. Liftoff was expected at 5:32 a.m. EDT on Oct. 12 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. (10/13)

Morgan Stanley Predicts Space Industry will Triple in Size (Source: CNBC)
SpaceX launched its 15th rocket this year on Wednesday, the National Space Council met last week for the first time in nearly a quarter-century and satellites the size of shoeboxes are vaulting into orbit. The cost of space access is plummeting. Morgan Stanley estimates the space industry, worth about $350 billion today, will grow into an economy worth more than $1.1 trillion by 2040, a team of analysts wrote in a note Thursday. Click here. (10/12)

UCF Students Building Satellite Destined for Space (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
University of Central Florida researchers and their students have started to build a small satellite that will head into space next year to study the process that forms planets. In 2015, NASA funded the project, known as Q-PACE, or CubeSat Particle Aggregation and Collision Experiment. The cubesat will conduct more than 100 experiments while in orbit, with the work expected to be documented using a high-speed camera. The date and vehicle to be used for the launch has not been finalized yet. (10/12)

Russian Rockot Rocket Rockets Science Satellite to Space (Source: BBC)
A Russian rocket launched a European Earth sciences satellite early this morning. The Rockot lifted off from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia at 5:27 a.m. Eastern carrying the Sentinel-5P satellite. The spacecraft is designed to demonstrate the ability to monitor air quality for use on later Sentinel-5 satellites. The satellite is the latest in the overall Copernicus program of Earth-observation spacecraft by the European Space Agency and the European Union. (10/13)

ILS Hopes Smaller Proton Rocket Can Compete with Falcon 9 (Source: Space News)
International Launch Services hopes to compete directly with SpaceX's Falcon 9 using the new Proton Medium rocket. The company expects the Proton Medium, which lacks the third stage of the existing Proton and can place 5 to 5.7 metric tons into geostationary transfer orbit, to be price-competitive with the Falcon 9. ILS hopes that Proton Medium can serve the "sweet spot" of the commercial launch market, and help it win business. ILS has only one commercial Proton launch on its manifest for 2018. (10/13)

Electric Thrusters Slowly (But Efficiently) Deliver Eutelsat to Intended Orbit (Source: Space News)
The largest commercial satellite to rely exclusively on electric propulsion has made it to its final orbit in record time. Eutelsat-172b, built by Airbus Defence and Space for Eutelsat, arrived at its location in geostationary orbit this week, only about four months after its launch on an Ariane 5. The satellite weighed three and a half tons at launch, and used electric propulsion exclusively to go from its transfer orbit to geostationary orbit. Airbus says that if the spacecraft used conventional chemical propulsion it could have arrived in geostationary orbit in a week, but would have weighed nearly two tons more. (10/13)

Virgin Expects Powered Flight Tests This Year (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
The president of Virgin Galactic says the company expects to begin powered flight tests of SpaceShipTwo by the end of this year. Speaking at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight in New Mexico Thursday, Mike Moses said that "we hope to be in space by the end of this year" with powered test flights of the vehicle. The second SpaceShipTwo has been performing a series of glide flights leading up to the start of powered flights. Company founder Richard Branson recently said the company was "hopefully about three months" from reaching space, and "maybe six months" before Branson himself could fly. (10/13)

General Atomics Considers Railgun for Microsatellite Launches (Source: Space News)
One company thinks it has the solution to launching smallsats: a railgun. General Atomics, the company best known for building the Predator drone, is getting into the smallsat market through its acquisition of Huntsville-based Miltec last February. General Atomics is working on cubesats but hopes to scale up to larger smallsats, principally for defense customers. General Atomics is also looking at electromagnetic railgun technologies for launching smallsats, which could be far less expensive than rockets, but the company acknowledges there are many hurdles to developing such a system.

Editor's Note: This has long been considered a possibility, but the extreme stresses of near-instantaneous zero-to-orbital velocity, and the requirement to circularize the orbit (with moving parts operable after the launch stresses) have made this a difficult nut to crack. (10/13)

Can SpaceX Grow to a $50 Billion Enterprise? (Source: CNBC)
A new report predicts SpaceX could become a $50 billion company. The report by a team of Morgan Stanley analysts said that the growth in the company's value would come through the development of a satellite broadband system that could generate far more cash than its launch business. A recent funding round valued SpaceX at $21 billion. SpaceX has no plans for an initial public offering of stock, but the Morgan Stanley report concluded it is "reasonable" to consider the company doing so in the future to raise money for future projects. (10/13)

Asteroid Flyby Gives NASA Practice for Tracking (Source: Space.com)
A small asteroid made a close flyby of Earth Thursday, providing a test for telescopes designed to track such objects. Asteroid 2012 TC4 passed 42,000 kilometers from the Earth early Thursday. The asteroid, estimated to be 10 to 15 meters across, posed no impact threat to the Earth. The flyby, though, offered a test of various telescope systems used for tracking near Earth asteroids. (10/13)

October 12, 2017

When Going to Space Becomes Your Normal Commute (Source: CNET)
Astronaut training companies that specifically cater to commercial clients are beginning to crop up, heralding a shift in the demographics of human spaceflight. Only 554 astronauts have visited space as of October 2017, and the vast majority of them represent federal space agencies like NASA, Roscosmos, or the European Space Agency. They are selected based on their aptitude to complete the scientific and engineering objectives of those governmental organizations, and are also generally viewed as role models for their home countries.

Commercial astronauts may be graded on completely different criteria, and their lifestyles and duties in space could vary significantly from those of the crews on the International Space Station (ISS). Science fiction has already flirted with this distinction in films like "Alien," which takes place on the commercial space freighter "Nostromo," or "Moon," set on a helium-3 mining base on the lunar surface owned by a company with unorthodox employee contract terms.

The coming diversification of the astronaut population beyond governmental employees will no doubt alter the image and experience of the spacefaring profession. Once emerging commercial space industries like space tourism or interplanetary mining start to materialize, it might be more common to see people with backgrounds in hospitality or industrial labor take to the orbital lifestyle. (10/11)

Space Travel's Existential Question (Source: The Atlantic)
Have we become too squeamish about the inevitable human cost of exploration? After each fatal incident, the nation has responded with shock and grief. These explorers—our explorers, Earth’s explorers—paid for that exploration with their lives. Questions arose. Some—How did this happen?—are left to inspectors and investigators. But others—How big a cost are humans willing to bear to leave the planet?—lie in the public domain. The answers seem to have changed throughout the decades, as space travel seemed to evolve from something novel to something routine.

Americans may become more tolerant of the loss of astronaut life. If they don’t, the government and private industry might not be able to make the leap at all. We all know people probably will die on these new missions, especially if they become commonplace, as many hope. What no one knows is how we will all respond to those losses. (10/11)

Is Space Cool Again? (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
In their day, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong were hailed as heroes. The were rock stars. Kids dreamed about walking in their footsteps — literally. There is no doubt that space was cool in the 1950s and '60s, but has the renewed interest in space travel sparked imaginations today? Click here. (10/11)

DiBello: Space Jam Offers Hope for Technology's Future (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Space Florida is this state’s spaceport authority, not unlike the authority at Orlando International Airport or Port Canaveral. As CEO, it is my job to highlight those areas of Florida’s aerospace industrial and technical capacity to business decision-makers considering the establishment or relocation of new aerospace programs or research projects. Few efforts on behalf of Florida’s economic future are as encouraging as our engagement in an event that occurred in Orlando recently.

The Digital Animation & Visual Effects School at Universal Studios hosted the fourth annual Indie Galactic Space Jam. As in previous years, Space Florida was proud to participate. Well more than 100 of the most talented young people in the state, each pursuing difficult technical fields, gathered to have a blast, while at the same time helping to further consolidate this region’s stature as an IT hot spot.

Elon Musk has long identified game development as a critical competency he seeks in the evolution and maturation of SpaceX. Ideally, the growth and continued nurturing of this and other IT proficiencies are helping to transform the perception of the state of Florida and its ability to assure economic success to new and existing businesses well into this still-new century. (10/11)

Preserving Historic Sites on the Moon (Source: Air & Space)
Michelle Hanlon is the co-founder of For All Moonkind, a nonprofit established in June that seeks to preserve the six Apollo lunar landing sites—including Tranquility Base—by having them classified as world heritage sites. Click here. (10/10)

ULA Sets New Atlas Launch Date for NET Oct. 14 (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
A piece of hardware on a United Launch Alliance rocket has been replaced and tested, opening the door for an upcoming mission’s new launch time, possibly as early as Saturday. In an email, ULA officials said Wednesday morning that the launch of a top-secret spy satellite, originally planned for last week, will take off “no earlier than Saturday, Oct. 14.” (10/11)

It’s Time to Reevaluate Export Controls on Commercial Spacecraft (Source: Fair Observer)
As America’s commercial space sector blossoms, opportunities abound for private industry to secure a controlling lead in the growing and globalizing space market. However, the US government, wary of the “dual-use” civil-military nature of space systems, restricts the export of many space technologies through tightly-controlled export lists. As the commercialization of outer space continues, the way the government perceives and controls space technology will need to shift.

With advanced space systems becoming more common in the commercial and international arenas, a reevaluation of space technology export controls is increasingly warranted. These lists should be gradually reformed to lift the constraints on export and overseas use of emerging systems such as commercial crewed spacecraft — with incorporation of careful exceptions that maintain governance over the proliferation of overtly weapon-related technologies.

Stringent export controls is a major point of contention for America’s commercial space sector. Restrictions on the sale and export of space technology enables emerging foreign competitors to develop, sell and capture a significant share of the space system market without American competition. The United States’ industrial competitiveness is weakened as a result, with only marginal national security or foreign policy benefit gained. Click here. (10/10)

The Final Frontier is Reachable (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Last week, in his first meeting with the space council, VP Pence proved he's taking the job seriously, bluntly describing how America had become lost in space. He broadly outlined a plan to reclaim the nation's place in the final frontier. In an era when commercial enterprises like SpaceX and Blue Origin are capturing headlines, Pence made it abundantly clear the U.S. government is serious about reclaiming the high ground. He called for the U.S. "to maintain a constant commercial, human presence in low-Earth orbit." And he called for a return to the moon as a foundation for sending Americans "to Mars and beyond."

That sounds great, but veterans of America's space program have good reason to be skeptical. Other administrations have spewed lofty rhetoric about flying to the moon and Mars, but their promises have turned out to be science fiction. President Obama even talked about landing on an asteroid, forcing the space agency to waste a lot of time and effort on a cockamamie idea that didn't have a prayer of getting off the ground.

Pence needs to seriously consider an idea backed by a member of Houston's congressional delegation that would help shield NASA from the shifting winds of presidential politics. U.S. Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston, suggests appointing its administrators to ten year terms, like FBI directors. The administrator and an independent board, Culberson proposes, also would submit budgets directly to Congress to insulate the agency from the whims of the executive branch. (10/11)

For a Successful National Space Council Revival, the Best Man Must Always Win (Source: TownHall.com)
If the first-in-a-quarter-century meeting last week of the National Space Council was indeed President Trump’s effort to ramp up our national space program and provide benefits for all, then good. But if it is as some perceived – a gauzy send-up to resume the practice of shoveling taxpayer dollars to Washington’s official Friends of the Industry – then we should have no part of it.

The idea of the National Space Council is a good one. A new generation of technology demands a new look at space and the benefits it can bring us. The idea of bringing together leaders in the civil, commercial and military space industries to discuss key issues and ways they might work together to advance U.S. interests in space and protect the country from the ever-increasing danger of cyber-attacks is sound. (10/10)

Investment for Spaceport in Cornwall to Lift Off? (Source: Pirate FM)
It looks like we could have lift-off for investment in a spaceport for Cornwall. A trade mission to North America has reported strong interest from potential investors. The delegation led by the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership, met with several last week. The group was also given the chance to visit spaceport facilities in California and New Mexico. The LEP is leading a bid to establish a spaceport at Cornwall Airport Newquay. It is in response to a Government drive to have a commercial launch facility in the UK by 2020.

The spaceport could offer horizontal take-off facilities for satellite launches, research missions and human space flight, with space tracking capabilities available from Goonhilly Earth Station. Sandra Rothwell, chief executive of the LEP, was part of the delegation and said: “We’ve got strong interest from potential spaceport operators and investors who view Cornwall as an ideal location to access the European commercial space market for horizontal satellite launch, spaceflight research and human spaceflight. (10/11)

Human Cost of Australia's Space Industry May be Indigenous Communities (Source: Crikey)
The Woomera rocket range was established in 1956 for the purpose of weapons testing, in partnership with Britain, creating jobs for the entire town of Woomera (indeed, creating the township itself) and for many in outback towns close by. It was the site of the nation's first satellite launch and, over many years, collaborations with NASA and other space agencies to observe space and launch rockets.

From the beginning, the Woomera Prohibited Area, as it is now known, has been run by the Australian military and used for the intertwined purposes of developing machines for space exploration and technologies for defence. It’s perhaps no accident that Woomera was also the site of an immigration detention center between 1999-2003, playing a visceral role in Australia’s secretive, punitive border protection policies that are still an international human rights scandal over 20 years later. (10/11)

SoftBank: OneWeb is 'Only the First Step' in Connectivity Play (Source: Space Intel Report)
SoftBank’s satellite director said his company’s $1 billion-plus investment in low-orbiting constellation startup OneWeb is just “the first step” in the company’s connectivity strategy. Tetsuji Katayama also said Softbank’s relationship with Intelsat remains strong despite Intelsat bondholders’ rejection of Softbank’s debt-repurchase offer. The bondholder decision did not affect Intelsat’s existing agreements with OneWeb and Softbank. Click here. (10/11)

Ancient Asteroid Impact Exposes the Moon’s Interior (Source: Purdue University)
Scientists have long assumed that all the planets in our solar system look the same beneath the surface, but a study published in Geology on Oct. 4 tells a different story. “The mantle of the earth is made mostly of a mineral called olivine, and the assumption is usually that all planets are like the Earth,” said Jay Melosh at Purdue University,. “But when we look at the spectral signature of rocks exposed deep below the moon’s surface, we don’t see olivine; we see orthopyroxene.”

Around 4 billion years ago, an asteroid collided with the moon and created the largest and deepest impact on the moon: the South Pole-Aitken basin. The collision exposed lunar mantle in the basin and splashed up material onto the far side of the moon.

Melosh’s group used remote sensing to identify what minerals compose the splashed-up material. When sunlight hits the moon, it interacts with materials on the surface; because different materials absorb different wavelengths of light, researchers can tell what materials are on the surface by looking at the reflected signal. (10/4)

Orbital ATK Eyes Investments in Advanced Rocket Motors (Source: Space News)
A new market for super high-speed weapons is fueling investments in rocket engine technologies as companies seek to gain an edge. The industry foresees a demand for advanced rocket engines, particularly if the U.S. military moves to acquire revolutionary missiles that fly at hypersonic speeds. The Pentagon expects to invest $2 billion over the next five years in high-speed weapons including lasers and hypersonic missiles that travel at five times the speed of sound.

The future of missiles and propulsion technology is about going “further and faster,” Pat Nolan, vice president of Orbital ATK, told SpaceNews at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference. Orbital ATK has a hot production line for rocket motors that power some of the military’s most widely used missiles like the Hellfire. (10/10)

Bizarre Dwarf Planet Haumea Has Rings (Source: Scientific American)
Scientists have discovered a ring system around the dwarf planet Haumea. Earlier this year, Haumea passed between Earth and a distant star, allowing planetary scientists to get a better idea of the dwarf planet's shape and size. Haumea is at least twice as long in one direction as it is in the other, which makes it look more like a river rock than a respectable planet. Scientists think Haumea's incredibly fast rotation may have spun it into this shape. A day on Haumea lasts only 4 hours, making it the fastest-spinning large object known to exist in the solar system.

Most surprisingly, the scientists learned that Haumea has rings. The night Haumea crossed in front of the distant star, Santos Sanz and team leader José Luis Ortiz, also of the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía, looked at the new data. "We started to see something weird in the light curve," Santos Sanz said. The light dimmed just before and after Haumea passed in front of the star, as if something else were obscuring it. (10/11)

Will Air Travel Get Faster? Future NASA Planes Could Cross Country in One Hour (Source: Newsweek)
A gram of boron nitride nanotubes material costs $1,000—but it could transport you across the country in under an hour. A team of engineers from NASA and Binghamton University are investigating the mechanical properties of a nanotube made of boron nitride, a combination of boron and nitrogen. In particular, the team wanted to investigate the ability of these structures to withstand heat.  

The study examined whether the properties of the material would change in a high-temperature environment. “We found that there is no change in mechanical properties with boron nitrate nanotubes,” says Changhong Ke, a mechanical engineer at Binghamton University and senior author on the study, published recently in Scientific Reports.

The work has a particular relevance to air travel. Currently, certain airplane structures use carbon nanotubes, a strong, lightweight structure that can withstand temperatures up to 450 degrees Celsius. But as this study showed, boron nitride nanotubes, which are similar in function, can withstand 900 degrees Celsius, temperatures that extremely fast airplanes need to be equipped to handle. (10/12)

Trump Nominates AccuWeather CEO to Lead Key Climate Agency (Source: Politico)
President Donald Trump has nominated the CEO of AccuWeather to run the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a key agency in conducting climate research and assessing climate change. Barry Myers has served since 2007 as CEO of AccuWeather, a media company in State College, Pennsylvania, that provides worldwide weather predictions. He graduated from Penn State with a degree in business and received a law degree from Boston University, but has no science training. (10/11)

New Congressional NASA Caucus to Include Floridians Bill Posey, Charlie Crist, Alcee Hastings (Source: Florida Politics)
Florida U.S. Reps. Bill Posey, Charlie Crist, and Alcee Hastings are joining a newly-formed, bipartisan Congressional NASA Caucus to promote the space agency’s agenda, research and budgetary needs.

The caucus, announced Wednesday, is distinctly different from the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, and its Subcommittee on Space, as Crist, a Democrat from St. Petersburg, and Posey, a Rockledge Republican, are members of both of those committees, while Hastings, a Miami Gardens Democrat, is not. Likewise, Republican U.S. Reps. Neal Dunn of Panama City and Dan Webster of Lake County are members of the full committee, and Webster of the subcommittee, but are not charter members of the caucus.

The caucus is being co-chaired U.S. Reps. Steve Knight, a California Republican, and Marcy Kaptur, an Ohio Democrat, indicative of NASA’s broad national reach with its facilities. The 23-member caucus also has members from Indiana, Mississippi, Michigan, Virginia, Alabama, Texas, Maryland and Colorado. “The NASA caucus will be instrumental in educating members of Congress about the importance of maintaining our leadership in space and shaping legislation affecting our nation’s space program,” Posey said. (10/11)

Small Businesses Hope Push to Mars Will Help Space Coast Economy (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
When the shuttle program came to a close, the Space Coast faced a bleak economic forecast. Now, as things heat up in Cape Canaveral, small business owners say they are waiting for the economy to takeoff. Click here. (10/11)