June 25, 2017

SpaceX Builds Above-Ground Walkway to Rocket Factory After Pedestrian Injuries (Source: Daily Breeze)
Six months after a pair of traffic collisions injured SpaceX workers in a crosswalk from the company’s headquarters to its parking garage, a prefabricated pedestrian bridge has been installed linking the two structures. (7/25)

Russian Super-Heavy Booster to Launch 70-Ton Payloads (Source: Tass)
The new Russian super-heavy booster vehicle will have a capability to bring payloads of more than 70 tons to the low-earth orbit, the Russian state space corporation Roscosmos said in a bidding documentation uploaded at the web site of governmental procurements. The super-heavy booster vehicle will have a universal launch pad suitable for liftoffs of the vehicles of various load-carrying capacity. Also, it will give an opportunity for ballistic testing of the central block and the third-stage block of the super-heavy booster vehicle with the diameter of 7.7 meters.

Roscosmos is ready to pay 3.4 million rubles (about $57,500) to a company that will do a technical assessment of the project, which it plans to implement at the Vostochny Space Center in Russia’s Far East. The launch pad at Vostochny will have the same principles at launch pad No. 250 at the Baikonur Space Center in Kazakhstan that was built for the Energiya booster vehicle. This will be a universal liftoff stand for the medium-class Soyuz-5 booster vehicles and for cluster of two, three or five boosters of the kind. (7/25)

NASA Turns to Tupperware to Help Grow Space Veggies (Source: New Atlas)
Growing fresh vegetables aboard the International Space Station (ISS) may be a morale booster, but it does take up a lot of the crew's schedule. In an effort to make space gardening less time consuming, NASA is teaming up with Tupperware Brands and the technology company Techshot to improve the current experimental hydroponics system used aboard the station.

First flown to the ISS in 2014, the Vegetable Production System, (aka the "Veggie" facility), is an experiment for growing plants in zero gravity in a plastic greenhouse. It consists of a collapsible plastic tent with a controllable atmosphere lit by red, blue, and green LED lamps to promote growth. Since dirt and space travel don't mix, the seeds are embedded in rooting "pillows" that take the place of soil to retain water and give the roots somewhere to grow. (7/24)

Embry-Riddle Course Prepares Students for Space Tourism Business (Source: ERAU)
With space tourism becoming a reality, Embry-Riddle Worldwide’s College of Business recently launched a Space Tourism course to help introduce students to the emerging business of space tourism and how it will impact the future of commercial space operations. Click here. (7/24)

Australia's Speedcast Buying UltiSat, Seeks Foothold in US Defense Market (Source: Space News)
Speedcast is buying an American satellite network operator to enter the defense market. Australia-based Speedcast said it is acquiring UltiSat, a Maryland company that operates a teleport in Denmark, for at least $65 million. Speedcast said that the acquisition would allow it to enter the U.S. government market for satellite communications, noting that UltiSat's customers include the Defense Information Systems Agency. (7/25)

Russia's Post-ISS Space Station Plans Uncertain (Source: Space News)
Russia's plans for a space station after the end of the International Space Station remain uncertain. Igor Komarov, head of Roscosmos, said earlier this year that Russia would separate its modules from the ISS in 2024 to form its own space station, then said a short time later that Russia was open to an extension of the ISS to 2028. More recently, Russia and China have expressed interest in space cooperation that could include a Russian role in China's proposed space station, although there are technical hurdles to any such effort. (7/25)

Luxembourg Attracts UK In-Space Manufacturer (Source: Luxemburger Wort)
Luxembourg's space resources initiative has signed up another company. The government of Luxembourg announced Monday a memorandum of understanding with Kleos Space, a new company that plans to use in-space manufacturing techniques to develop composite antenna booms for use in commercial signals-intelligence satellites. The five-person company, wholly owned by British company Magna Parva, will operate from Luxembourg and plans to grow to 60 people in the next five years. (7/25)

XCOR Co-Founder Joins Deep Space Industries (Source: DSI)
A co-founder of XCOR Aerospace has joined Deep Space Industries. Doug Jones, formerly chief test engineer at XCOR, will be the director of propulsion systems at Deep Space Industries, a company developing small satellites and other technologies needed for asteroid mining. Jones was one of four co-founders of XCOR, and the last to leave the company. XCOR laid off all of its employees at the end of June, retaining a handful as contractors. (7/25)

Senators Sending Lofty Space Corps Hopes Down to Earth (Source: Defense News)
Rep. Mike Rogers, the House Strategic Forces Subcommittee chairman and Congress’ chief advocate for a new branch of the military focused on space, issued a dire warning to fellow lawmakers. The United States faces very real threats from Russia and China, he said, and “war-fighting has become absolutely dependent on space.” Satellites make up the American military’s nervous system, providing communications, intelligence, navigation. Its adversaries have wisely begun developing anti-satellite capabilities, like rockets, kamikaze satellites and directed energy weapons to take them out — which would cripple the U.S. in a war.

Proponents of a space force say only a new service, removed from the Air Force’s organizational and management structure, would have the leeway to shore up America’s eroding advantage in space. And the proposal sparked headlines that made the whole thing seem like it was all but accomplished. But several key lawmakers on the Senate Armed Services Committee would at best need serious convincing — a bad sign for the proposal becoming reality.

Ultimately, lawmakers in the two chambers must reconcile their versions of the annual defense policy bill known as the National Defense Authorization Act. Tellingly, Rogers’ counterpart in the Senate — Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb. — said she was “not sold on the idea,” even after a visit with Rogers. Florida Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson a former astronaut, was dismissive: “It’s not going anywhere.” (7/22)

Is Space Warfare’s Final Frontier? (Source: Space News)
It’s one thing to prepare for the eventuality of warfare in space. It’s another to assert that space warfare is inevitable. Many have predicted this since the launch of Sputnik, and all have been proven wrong—so far. The task before us isn’t just to acquire capabilities to fight, if necessary, but also to prevent warfare from occurring. Success involves deterrence as well as reassurance in the form of diplomatic engagement. Click here. (7/24)

Giant Radio Telescope Scaled Back to Contain Costs (Source: Nature)
Designs for the world’s largest radio telescope have been scaled back to save money — a decision that astronomers say could affect its ability to peer deep into the Universe’s past. The Square Kilometer Array (SKA), a telescope 50 times more sensitive than current instruments, is expected to cost billions of dollars. Its final design calls for around two thousand radio dishes in Africa, together with up to a million antennas in Australia, that will have a total light-collecting area of roughly a square kilometre — hence the project's name.

But the first phase of construction, called SKA1, is a more modest affair. Already slimmed down from a larger design proposed in 2013, it now comprises 194 dishes in South Africa and around 130,000 antenna in Australia. In March, the SKA's board said that the project would have to find further cuts of around 20% so that it could be built within a $785 million cap imposed by the project’s ten funders — Australia, Canada, China, India, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden, the Netherlands and the UK. And at a meeting in the Netherlands the board decided to make the savings by, among other measures, scaling back SKA1’s computing power and crowding its antennas and radio dishes closer together. (7/24)

Scientists Spy New Evidence of Water in the Moon's Interior (Source: Phys.org)
A new study of satellite data finds that numerous volcanic deposits distributed across the surface of the Moon contain unusually high amounts of trapped water compared with surrounding terrains. The finding of water in these ancient deposits, which are believed to consist of glass beads formed by the explosive eruption of magma coming from the deep lunar interior, bolsters the idea that the lunar mantle is surprisingly water-rich.

Scientists had assumed for years that the interior of the Moon had been largely depleted of water and other volatile compounds. That began to change in 2008, when a research team detected trace amounts of water in some of the volcanic glass beads brought back to Earth from the Apollo 15 and 17 missions to the Moon. In 2011, further study of tiny crystalline formations within those beads revealed that they actually contain similar amounts of water as some basalts on Earth. That suggests that the Moon's mantle—parts of it, at least—contain as much water as Earth's. (7/24)

Court Dismisses Orbital ATK Suit Against DARPA (Source: Defense News)
A Virginia court has dismissed Orbital ATK's complaint against a government robotic satellite-servicing program on Thursday, according to a court memo. Orbital ATK filed a suit in February against the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites program, alleging it violates National Space Policy. The policy, issued by then-President Barack Obama in 2010, states that the government should not subsidize space-related activities in which private entities are willing to invest on their own. (7/24)

Deep Space Habitat Prototype Planned at KSC (Source: Engadget)
NASA has given Lockheed Martin the go-ahead to build a full-scale prototype of the deep space habitat it proposed for the NextSTEP program. That means in around 18 months' time, it might start testing new space travel technologies for the agency. No, not in orbit, but right inside a facility at Kennedy Space Center. To meet the agency's affordability goals, the aerospace corporation won't be building the habitat from scratch -- instead, it will refurbish an old container space shuttles used to transfer cargo to the ISS. Plus, it will rely on a mixture of virtual and augmented reality to design the prototype. (7/24)

Russian First 3D Printed Satellite to Go Into Space (Source: Tass)
The Russian crew of the International Space Station (ISS) on August 17 will launch into the open space the first 3D printed Russian satellite. The Tomsk-TPU-120 satellite has been at ISS since spring, 2016, awaiting going into the space, press service of the Tomsk Polytechnic University said on Monday.

Russian cosmonauts Fyodor Yurchikhin and Sergei Ryazansky will perform the launch. The satellite will remain in the open space for the term of four to six months. It will report to the Earth the temperatures on board, on plates and batteries, and parameters of electronic components. Thus, scientists would be able watch states of materials to understand whether they could be used further in construction of space apparatuses. (7/24)

NASA May Give Keys to Spitzer Telescope to Private User (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
NASA is open to handing over operations of its Spitzer Space Telescope to a private organization. At a meeting last week, Paul Hertz, director of NASA's astrophysics division, said NASA would "welcome" proposals to take over operations of the space telescope once NASA funding for it ends in 2019. Spitzer launched in 2003 as the last of NASA's four "Great Observatories" and, while aging and drifting farther from Earth, may still be able of doing worthwhile science after NASA funding for it ends. (7/24)

Australia Considers Funding For Spaceport (Source: NT News)
An Australian agency is considering providing financial backing for a launch site for a little-known company. The NT Industry Development Fund, in Australia's Northern Territory, is considering using some of its initial fund of $160 million to back a proposal by Equatorial Launch Australia for a launch site in the territory. The spaceport would support suborbital and orbital launches, but it was not clear which vehicles would use the facility if built. The proposal is said to be in the top 25 percent of 20 proposals under consideration by the fund. (7/24)

Moon Express Plans Lunar South Pole Observatory (Source: Moon Express)
Moon Express has signed a technology development contract for a lunar south pole observatory. The contract, with the International Lunar Observatory Association, covers advanced landing technologies needed for Moon Express' lander. Moon Express said it plans to land a small observatory, called International Lunar Observatory 1, in an area near the south pole of the moon that is in near-constant sunlight. That mission is scheduled for launch in 2019, and will be the second mission for the company, after its initial lunar lander mission that seeks to win the Google Lunar X Prize. (7/24)

Where is the Frontier Between Earth and Space? (Source: Daily Liberal)
Where does space begin? Believe it or not, this seemingly simple question does not have an easy answer. There is no physical place where Earth’s atmosphere stops and space begins. The air just gets thinner and thinner and eventually fades away. On his 108-minute flight in 1961, the Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first human being in space, went into orbit around the Earth. By all accounts, he crossed the mysterious border between the Earth and space. Or did he? Click here. (7/24)

Watch a Bunch of Satellites Launch Into Space... From Space (Source: Mashable)
Watching things launch into space is awesome. Watching things launch into space from space is even more awesome. The company Planet, which launches satellites into the Earth's orbit in order to take photographs of the planet, pointed one of its Dove satellite constellations — which is several satellites operating in a cluster — at a launch pad in Kazakhstan, capturing one of its rockets launching into the sky. The rocket was carrying 48 more satellites, which it successfully deployed into the Earth's orbit. Click here. (7/24)

CubeCab To Launch 1,000 Satellites For ThumbSat (Source: Cision)
In the largest single agreement to date, educational satellite company ThumbSat has agreed to launch 1,000 of its satellites on CubeCab's Cab-3A rocket family. "We couldn't be more excited to work with CubeCab," said Patricia Mayes, Education Outreach Manager for ThumbSat. "NASA is championing 'the world's lightest satellite' to test concepts in a suborbital environment. At ThumbSat we created an affordable opportunity for innovators and students to prove basic concepts in low-earth orbit."

The small satellite marketplace has expanded dramatically in recent years. Launch services have not kept pace. CubeCab's target is to launch a rocket every business day, dropping lead time for satellite operators from 1-2 years into the realm of 30 days or less.

"CubeCab's dedicated launch capabilities allow virtually any kind of satellite – research, maneuvering, communications, or imaging – to reach orbit quickly and efficiently," said Prael. "We're very pleased that ThumbSat selected the Cab-3A family of launchers, and believe it is the right vehicle to usher in a new era of low cost, reliable space launch." (7/24)

July 24, 2017

Supersonic Research at Kennedy Space Center to Produce Sonic Booms (Source: Florida Today)
A NASA aircraft darting over the edge of the Space Coast at supersonic speeds in August is expected to create window-rattling sonic booms for aeronautical research, according to the agency. Teams from NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center in California and Langley Research Center in Virginia are expected to converge on Kennedy Space Center to better understand how low-altitude atmospheric turbulence affects sonic booms.

Beginning August 21, a NASA-operated F/A-18 Hornet will take off from KSC's Shuttle Landing Facility and vault to an altitude of 32,000 feet just off the coast of Cape Canaveral before racing to Mach 1, the speed of sound, to produce sonic booms. (7/24)

Zero-G Blood and the Many Horrors of Space Surgery (Source: WIRED)
o astronaut has ever had a major injury or needed surgery in space. If humans ever again venture past low Earth orbit and outward toward, say, Mars, someone is going to get hurt. A 2002 ESA report put the chances of a bad medical problem on a space mission at 0.06 per person-year. As Komorowski wrote in a journal article last year, for a crew of six on a 900-day mission to Mars, that’s pretty much one major emergency all but guaranteed.

Worst case: Someone goes outside the spacecraft to fix something heavy and it gets away from them, crushing an arm or a leg. The astronaut gets exposed to vacuum, but makes it back inside the vehicle—dehydrated, partially frozen, bleeding heavily, in shock. What happens next will depend on whether the crew is in orbit around Earth, or in interplanetary space—and on what kind of gear is on board. Click here. (7/24) 

The Moon is a Harsh Milestone (Source: Space Review)
There has been growing interest in carrying out human lunar missions prior to going to Mars, thinking that will be an easier near-term step. Jeff Foust reports that, despite these discussions, governments and companies alike have found it difficult just getting robotic missions there. Click here. (7/24)
 
A Summer Update on the COPUOS Long-Term Sustainability Guidelines (Source: Space Review)
An ongoing topic of discussion and debate at the international level regarding space is its long-term sustainability. Christopher D. Johnson and Victoria Samson provide an update on those discussions that have played out at United Nations meetings in recent months. Click here. (7/24)
 
Blue “Hubble”: The Manned Orbiting Laboratory as a Planetary Telescope (Source: Space Review)
Could the Manned Orbiting Laboratory, intended to be a crewed reconnaissance satellite, have also played a role in spacebased astronomy? Joseph T. Page II finds some hints of such an alternative mission in declassified documents. Click here. (7/24)
 
Another View on the Problems Facing NASA’s Mars Exploration Program (Source: Space Review)
Advocates of the robotic exploration of Mars have warned of limited funding and plans for later missions needed to carry out Mars sample return. Louis Friedman argues that the focus on sample return, at the expense of other science, has also hurt the program. Click here. (7/24)

NASA Is Uploading Decades of Archival Footage to YouTube (Source: Motherboard)
Videos unearthed from another time in flight engineering are endlessly fascinating. Until now, footage from NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center, has been tucked away in a forgotten corner of the Internet. AFRC is in the process of uploading it legacy video database to YouTube. So far, they've posted around 300 of the approximately 500 videos that were deemed good candidates for migration. Click here. (7/19)

'Eyes in Space' and More Powerful Lasers Will Soon Enhance the Army's Arsenal (Source: US Army)
It's been a "dynamic year" for Army space and missile defense, with a multi-domain task force being formed, a new nanosatellite set to launch soon, and more powerful laser weapons in the works, said Lt. Gen. James H. Dickinson. Kestrel Eye, or KE, is an electro-optical nanosatellite being developed by the command. It will improve mission command on the move for a brigade combat team to allow tactical leaders to synchronize action, seize the initiative and maintain near-real-time situational awareness, Dickinson said.

KE is an improvement over older methods because it will provide satellite imagery without the need for U.S.-based relays, he noted. The nanosatellite is due to launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, "very soon" as part of the International Space Station cargo resupply mission, he said. Once aboard the ISS, the crew will deploy this small satellite into its orbit. When it is a safe distance from the ISS, the satellite will automatically power up and be ready to receive signals. (7/21)

Is There Inconsistency in How NASA Treats its Private Partners? (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
A recent post appearing on the blog Parabolic Arc noted NASA will not be releasing a public report on the findings of the SpaceX Falcon 9 CRS-7 explosion that resulted in the loss of the launch vehicle, the Dragon spacecraft, and the roughly $118 million in supplies and hardware the spacecraft was carrying. The post also notes that the Orb-3 accident was handled differently by NASA, but were the two accidents so distinct as to warrant two totally dissimilar approaches?

The premise of the Parabolic Arc report was somewhat inaccurate. NASA didn’t refuse to issue a public report; the truth is, no public report was ever produced. NASA officials noted on Wednesday, July 19, that, as the agency was not required to create such a report, one was not generated. (7/23)

The Shuttle Replacement That Never Was (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
When the Space Shuttle was first proposed it was meant to be “all things to all users,” a replacement for all U.S. launch vehicles. All the expendable launchers, Atlas, Titan, and Delta would retire and the shuttle would be responsible for all U.S. launches from its three pads, LC-39A / B at Kennedy Space Center, and SLC-6 at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

The shuttle’s launch rate was expected to be 100 launches a year. Enormous amounts of money would be saved through the Shuttle’s reusability. Unfortunately, this plan fell apart. The shuttle never came close to its predicted launch rate. Officials in the Air Force doubted that a human-rated system would ever save money. (7/23)

Hawaii Aerospace Agency to Share $119K NASA Grant (Source: Big Island Now)
A Hawaii state aerospace agency based in Hilo is a joint recipient of the $118,690 NASA Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grant to research and develop space construction technology. The Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES) and New York-based Honeybee Robotics, Ltd. will use the STTR funding to develop an In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) technology that could enable the future of space settlement. (7/22)

For 10 Years NASA Has Been Photoshopping its Astronauts Into Posters (Source: Business Insider)
Astronauts tend to be a straight-laced bunch. It makes sense, given the extreme discipline required of their job. But they like to lighten things up now and then just like anyone else, and that's on full display in the elaborately nerdy posters for International Space Station (ISS) missions.

Since the first ISS expedition in 2000, NASA has been making expedition posters featuring the crew, first through its Office of Communications and then is Space Flight Awareness team. In 2007, NASA thought it would be fun to switch from standard group photos to something more fun — heavily Photoshopped posters based on some of the crew's shared favorite pieces of pop culture. Over the past 10 years, this has included references to "Star Wars," The Beatles, and "Reservoir Dogs." Click here. (7/23) 

One Giant Leap For Music: NASA's Sonic History Inspires This Duo (Source: NPR)
You probably have a mental image of what NASA's space missions look like — rockets blasting off into the sky, fiery clouds of exhaust after liftoff — but what do they sound like? That's what inspired Wilco keyboardist Mikael Jorgensen and art historian James Merle Thomas to form the duo Quindar, named after the signal tones used in radio communication during NASA's Apollo space missions. The duo's new album, Hip Mobility, incorporates archival sound recordings from the Apollo and Skylab eras. Click here. (7/23)

Why We Should Be Wary Of Moon Tourism (Source: NPR)
Forty-eight years ago Friday, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin packed up the moon rocks they'd gathered and blasted off for their trip back to Earth. Should the stuff they left behind be protected? Moon tourism could be a reality someday. O'Leary thinks we should be wary of what might happen to artifacts like those left behind by Apollo 11. She points to other places that once were largely inaccessible but now cater to tourists.

For example, in Antarctica, there's been quite a bit of looting because tourism has increased. So I think as we realize we're losing important, significant places, then people step in and say we should do something about it. (7/21)

Georgia Gov. Candidate Endorses Spaceport (Source: Brunswick News)
Another high-profile candidate for governor has thrown his support behind a proposed spaceport in Camden County. Current Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle joins fellow Republican, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, in expressing support for the project.

“By investing in Camden County to create the first commercial spaceport in Georgia — the only exclusively vertical, non-federal range on the East Coast — we are making a significant investment in our future,” Cagle said in a statement. “Georgia is ready to lead the nation and the world in building a workforce and an economy that is second to none.” (7/22)

Could Space Pay for a Universal Basic Income? (Source: Boston Globe)
The idea of a universal basic income is gaining traction, in think tanks and in Silicon Valley, as a response to the rise of outsourced and automated labor. If everyone were guaranteed a minimum salary to meet the basic needs of food and shelter, so the argument goes, then people would be free to allocate their time according to their own preferences. A universal basic income could alleviate poverty, reward traditionally unpaid labor, and encourage entrepreneurial risk-taking.

But who would pay for such an expensive social experiment? Taxes on the wealthy and cuts to military spending are oft-cited solutions that seem unlikely to gain political momentum. Perhaps we should look at the looming space economy. The resources of space are plentiful, which international treaties say are for the benefit of all — but, for better or worse, could end up conveying their greatest benefits upon the wealthiest. If space is really the domain of all people and nations, then perhaps the wealth of space should be shared in the hands of everyone.

Why not plan for that, aligning the forces creating inequality with a solution to inequality? The emerging industries of space mining and tourism could potentially sustain a basic income for everyone. The demand by wealthy patrons for pleasure flights into zero gravity has shifted from publicity stunts fueled by Russian rocketry to full-fledged commercial spacelines. The pains of birthing new technology have kept contenders like Virgin Galactic from delivering their initial launch schedule, but the eventual departure of this flight and others like it is only a matter of time. Click here. (7/23)

Florida-Based ZGSI Focuses on Space Tech for Agriculture (Source: ZGSI)
Boca Raton-based Zero Gravity Solutions, Inc., an agricultural biotechnology public company commercializing its technology derived from and designed for Space with significant applications for agriculture on Earth, announced the addition of Rik Miller, a 31-year veteran of the DuPont Company (DuPont) to its senior advisory group.

Mr. Miller worked at DuPont from 1984 to 2015, where he held numerous successive senior leadership and management roles in sales and marketing in DuPont’s agricultural chemicals business. As president of DuPont Crop Protection, Mr. Miller developed and executed strategic growth plans, directed the global research and development investment and coordinated introduction of innovative technologies and products on a global scale. (7/19)

Canadian Spaceport Project Getting Mixed Reviews (Source: Chronicle Herald)
Guysborough officials have given the green light to a rocket launcher project near Canso. Some are keen to see a future beyond fish and tourism; others are concerned about public safety and the environmental impact the project could have. A local school principal would like proponents to come in and talk to kids about the plan to turn a piece of coast into the country’s first commercial spaceport.

Others have reservations about a project which failed after a decade-long struggle to get off the ground in Brazil. Brazil pulled out of the venture, which was to use the Ukrainian-built Cyclone 4M rocket, in 2015. That April, the deputy chief of the Brazilian Space Agency said a government review found too many open questions about its cost and future market success.

The economic challenge is compounded by the fact that the launch site is only a couple of kilometers from the tiny communities of Hazel Hill and Little Dover. The infrastructure component of the spaceport is budgeted at US$100 million and Steve Matier expects its construction will provide “several hundred jobs” with 30-50 full-time jobs to run the facility. (7/21)

Congress Shouldn’t Mix Planets and Politics (Source: Dayton Daily News)
In a 2009 panel on all-things science, noted self-proclaimed nerd Neil deGrasse Tyson shocked his audience in his answer to a politically loaded question. When asked which political party was better for science, Tyson remarked that Republicans were in fact more reliable providers of science funding.

While many on the right cheered this response, his answer relies on the false presumption that being “pro-science” means heavy government support and intervention into all things geeky. And, as the latest budget negotiations over NASA show, congressional Republicans are not immune from this faulty logic.

The $19.8 billion proposed by appropriators for NASA funding represents a $200 million increase from the year before. This is happening in the midst of large spending cuts to virtually all other federal programs and agencies. By constraining NASA’s mission and opening the door to private space exploration, lawmakers can be truly “pro-science” without bilking taxpayers. (7/22)

NASA to Use 11 Different Spacecraft to Measure the Sun During Solar Eclipse (Source: Global News)
As thousands in the United States (and Canada) get ready to view the Aug. 21 solar eclipse through their special glasses, NASA will be using 11 different spacecraft to study the sun’s outer atmosphere during the duration of the eclipse, NASA scientist Dr. Michelle Thaller said. “The moon is blocking out the main bright disk of the sun. So you can actually see what those levels of solar atmosphere are doing. It’s called the corona. It’s spectacular. And actually the way the corona works is still fairly mysterious,” Thaller said on Friday.

NASA will also fly high-altitude research balloons and airplanes for solar physics and other experiments. During the eclipse, the moon will pass between the sun and Earth, blocking the face of the sun and leaving only its outer atmosphere, or corona, visible in the sky. (7/21)

Those Weird Radio Waves That Were Puzzling Astronomers Have a New Explanation (Source: The Verge)
Last week, astronomers at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico announced they had picked up some strange radio signals coming from a small red dwarf star, and they couldn’t quite figure out what was causing them. Now, it seems they have an answer: it turns out these bizarre radio signals most likely came from the transmissions of a couple of satellites.

The radio signals initially perplexed the astronomers. A solar flare from the star could have caused the signals, but the waves weren’t at the right frequency. The astronomers said it was possible that the waves came from nearby satellites, but the structure of the signal made it seem like the waves had traveled a long way through space to reach Earth. No explanation perfectly fit the observation.

Fortunately, the Arecibo team did further observations of the star on Sunday. The astronomers analyzed the results, along with other research institutions and scientists, and they came to the conclusion that the signal didn’t come from deep space but from one or more satellites orbiting high in geostationary orbit. This explains the weird frequency and why it seemed like the waves were coming from the star. (7/21)

Hypersonic Weapons Pushing Back the Prospect of Nuclear Armageddon (Source: Sputnik)
The Russian military will start getting hypersonic weapons in just a few years. Washington is worried about this even though hypersonic weapons are pushing back the prospect of a nuclear Armageddon. Russia is now testing the Zircon-3M22 hypersonic sea-launched missile, which is slated to go in serial production shortly. Feeling it is being left behind, the US is beginning to worry and the Pentagon is in a state of mild panic.

US military experts call Zircon a quantum leap in the development of asymmetrical defense against a nuclear attack. According to news reports, the Zircon-3M22 flies six times the speed of sound and is virtually immune to currently existing missile defense systems. However, the Zircon’s maker, the Tactical Missile Weapons Corporation, plans to bring the missile’s speed up to about 13 times the speed of sound. With its stated range of 250 miles, the missile needs just three minutes between launch and targeted impact. (7/23)

July 23, 2017

What NASA Could Do with US Military's Budget (Source: Business Insider)
The US spends more on space exploration than any other country in the world. A big chunk of this investment goes to NASA, the country's leading agency for space exploration. But that’s still a pittance compared to the overall US Federal budget. Since NASA landed the first man on the Moon in 1969, its budget has plummeted from 4.5% of  the Federal budget to less than 0.5%.

But what if NASA’s budget hadn’t shrunk? What if, instead, its funding was comparable to the US military’s? How close would we be to actually colonizing Mars or visiting another star system? It’s impossible to know for sure, but here’s a look at how NASA’s budget compared to the US military’s in 2016. Click here. (7/7)

NanoRacks Airlock Moving Toward 2019 Installation on the ISS (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Five months ago,  NanoRacks, LLC announced it would partner with Boeing to build the first private airlock for the International Space Station. That initiative is progressing and recently achieved a design milestone with the successful test of a NASA-built, full-scale mockup at the Johnson Space Center in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL).

Recent tests involving the airlock confirmed that spacewalking astronauts will be able to successfully maneuver around the structure and mounted external payloads. Astronauts will be able to do this with the assistance of handrails, which will be strategically placed by the NanoRacks design team. NanoRacks’ airlock will be the solution to the constraints associated with the station’s only airlock system used for deploying CubeSats and other items into space.

That current airlock, located on the Japanese Kibo module, can only be opened 10 times per year, with only five of those allocated to NASA and commercial companies. The other five go to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, which owns the airlock. Demand by both NASA and commercial companies now far exceeds that capacity. The NanoRacks airlock, to be located on the port side of the Tranquility module, will measure roughly 6.6 feet (2 meters) in diameter and 5.9 feet (1.8 meters) long. It will be much larger than the existing Japanese airlock. (7/21)

July 22, 2017

NASA Continues X-57 Development with Second Fuselage (Source: Aerospace Daily)
NASA is continuing development of the X-57 Maxwell electric aircraft with the delivery of a second Tecnam fuselage. "This second fuselage is not a flight article; it's being used as [a] fit check unit so that we can continue building the NASA experimental high-aspect-ratio wing while we are integrating and flight testing the electric propulsion system on the actual flight unit," said NASA's Sean Clarke. (7/19)

Musk: Math Education Should Be Project-Based (Source: CNN)
SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk says math education in US schools should focus on project-based lessons where students are solving problems and getting hands-on experience in math and science. Speaking this week at the ISSR&D Conference in Washington, D.C., Musk said such projects excite students and encourage them to master a subject. (7/20)

NASA and Companies Express Growing Confidence in Commercial Crew Schedules (Source: Space News)
Both NASA and the two companies developing commercial crew vehicles say those efforts remain on schedule for test flights that are in some cases less than a year away. NASA published July 20 what it called “the most recent publicly-releasable dates” of the test flights of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon vehicles. Each company, under terms of Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts awarded in September 2014, are required to first fly an uncrewed test flight of their spacecraft, followed by one with astronauts on board.

The latest SpaceX schedule calls for an uncrewed test flight in February 2018, followed by a crewed test flight in June 2018. Boeing’s schedule anticipates an uncrewed test flight in June 2018 and a crewed test flight in August 2018. Those scheduled have slipped considerably from the original CCtCap announcement. At that time, NASA expected both vehicles to have completed their test flights and be certified for regular crew transportation missions to the International Space Station by the end of 2017. (7/21)

UK Sidelined as Europe Looks Beyond Brexit in Aerospace (Source: Reuters)
Britain risks losing clout in the aerospace industry, one of its largest skilled employers, due to concerns over its departure from the European Union, a corporate overhaul at Airbus and a new Franco-German push on defense, industry insiders say. Initiatives from a new continental combat jet to a decision by Airbus to downgrade its UK representation, as well as the redeployment of some research projects, have left the $90-billion UK sector feeling increasingly sidelined.

France and Germany last week announced plans for a joint fighter, catching many in Britain off guard. Though chiefly designed to rejuvenate the Paris-Berlin axis, the move has highlighted questions over Britain's place in the European powerhouse after Brexit and left its biggest defense firm BAE Systems maneuvering for a place. (7/21)

Lockheed Martin to Build Full-Scale Prototype of NASA Cislunar Habitat (Source: Space Daily)
Refurbishing a shuttle-era cargo container used to transfer cargo to the International Space Station, Lockheed Martin is prototyping a deep space habitat for NASA at Kennedy Space Center. This prototype will integrate evolving technologies to keep astronauts safe while onboard and operate the spacecraft autonomously when unoccupied.

Under a public-private partnership, NASA recently awarded Lockheed Martin a Phase II contract for the Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) habitat study contract. As part of Phase II, the team will continue to refine the design concept developed in Phase I and work with NASA to identify key system requirements for the Deep Space Gateway. (7/21)

NASA Reviewing TRDS Mishap, Could Delay Launch (Source: Space News)
NASA is continuing to study a spacecraft processing mishap that could delay next month's launch of a communications satellite. NASA said Thursday it was working with spacecraft manufacturer Boeing on a plan to replace an S-band omnidirectional antenna on the TDRS-M satellite, which was apparently damaged during final closeout work late last week. The satellite is scheduled to launch Aug. 3 on an Atlas 5, and NASA said that date remains under review. TDRS-M is the third in the latest series of satellites that provide communications for the International Space Station and other low Earth orbit spacecraft. (7/21)

To Own or Lease - Gogo Considers Satellite Options for Airline Connectivity (Source: Space News)
Gogo and two satellite operators are in a heated debate about whether it's better to lease satellite capacity or own it. Gogo, which provides airline inflight connectivity services, has argued that its approach, where it leases capacity on satellites from companies such as Intelsat and SES, gives it access to more satellites and more capacity than Inmarsat and ViaSat, who own the satellites that provide competing services. Executives with Inmarsat and ViaSat take issue with those claims, stating that their systems have more than enough capacity to support inflight services as well as other customers. (7/21)

UK Wants to Retain Copernicus Role After Brexit (Source: BBC)
Britain wants to remain a part of the European Union's Copernicus Earth observation satellite program even after the country exits the EU. Greg Clark, business secretary in the British government, said this week that "we want our companies and universities to continue participating in key EU space programs" such as Copernicus. Such participation would have to be negotiated as part of the U.K.'s Brexit talks with the EU. The comments came at an event to mark the completion of the latest Copernicus satellite, Sentinel-5P, at an Airbus factory in the U.K. (7/21)

Apartment Complex Near SpaceX California Factory Could Impede Company Expansion (Source: Daily Breeze)
Plans for an apartment building near SpaceX's headquarters in Hawthorne, California, have come under criticism from the company. The Hawthorne Planning Commission approved plans this week for the six-story apartment building with 300 units that will be built on industrial land adjacent to SpaceX's headquarters and factory. The head of the city's chamber of commerce said more than 700 company employees have expressed an interest in leasing apartments there. However, SpaceX executives are opposed to the building, citing growth of its "industrial manufacturing footprint" around the factory. The Hawthorne City Council will vote on the proposal next month. (7/21)

Jupiter Has Two New Moons, and Five Lost Ones are Found Again (Source: Astronomy)
As if the gas giant wasn’t impressive enough, Jupiter’s already long list of moons has just grown by two. While on the hunt for Planet X, DTM staff scientist Scott Sheppard, along with David Tholen from the University of Hawaii and Chadwick Trujillo from Northern Arizona University, decided to point their telescopes toward Jupiter. From there, the team could study Jupiter in the foreground while continuing their search for Planet X in the background.

While making those observations, they discovered many “lost” moons in addition to two new, mile-wide moons they’re calling S/2016 J 1 and S/2017 J 1. The new moons lie about 13 million miles (21 million kilometers) and 15 million miles (24 million kilometers) from Jupiter. (7/21)

Target, CASIS Team For Sustainable Cotton Research on ISS (Source: Florida Today)
A natural resource rooted in the fabric of civilizations since antiquity is about to hitch a futuristic ride to the International Space Station. Cotton will be the focus of research for future residents of the ISS thanks to Target and CASIS. Both organizations announced their intentions to help research into cotton sustainability on Wednesday at the International Space Station Research and Development Conference in Washington.

The Target-sponsored challenge will allow researchers and scientists to propose solutions for improving production of the water-intensive cash crop on Earth. The U.S. National Laboratory on the ISS will play host to the research, which may include investigating the plant's biology, water advancements or remote sensing technologies. The challenge will begin September 1 and run through November 1, according to CASIS. Researchers with winning proposals will receive up to $1 million in funding and support to send their work to the orbiting laboratory. (7/21)

Yes, Ancient Civilizations on Mars Sounds Crazy. And Yet… (Source: Ars Technica)
It is true that some scientists have considered the possibility that a technological species could have existed in the Solar System prior to humanity's rise on Earth. For example, last year, Penn State astronomer Jason T. Wright authored a paper that discussed possible origins and locations for "technosignatures" of such a civilization. Other astronomers have suggested looking for lights on Kuiper Belt Objects that "may serve as a lamppost which signals the existence of extraterrestrial technologies and thus civilizations."

"The most obvious answer [to why a previous civilization may have perished] is a cataclysm, whether a natural event, such as an extinction-level asteroid impact, or self-inflicted, such as a global climate catastrophe," Wright asserts. "In the case of a prior space-faring species that had settled the Solar System, such an event would only permanently extinguish the species if there were many cataclysms across the Solar System closely spaced in time (a swarm of comets, or interplanetary warfare perhaps), or if the settlements were not completely self-sufficient. Alternatively, an unexpected nearby gamma ray burst or supernova might produce a Solar-System-wide cataclysm." (7/21)

Smallsat Launch Outpacing Market Forecasts (Source: Space Angels)
This past Friday, a Soyuz rocket blasted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome with 72 small satellites aboard. With these latest satellites successfully delivered to orbit, the space industry is on the cusp of exceeding even the most optimistic expectations for this year’s nano- and microsatellite launch numbers.

However, continued growth within the miniature satellite market is contingent on a few crucial factors. To date commercial companies hoping to launch smallsats to orbit have relied upon a “secondary payload” launch format, meaning their core products are “hitching a ride,” in a sense, to space. While secondary payload deliveries have proven effective—indeed, the majority of today’s smallsats have been deployed in orbit in this manner—a number of dedicated smallsat launch services are on the horizon. While the commercial space industry waits to see which small launch vehicle will be first to market, smallsat operators will continue to turn to alternative launch options in order to deploy their technologies in orbit.

The pace of nano- and microsatellite launch this year is incredibly promising. A market forecast prepared by SpaceWorks Enterprises, Inc. (SEI) projected that 182 nano- and microsatellites would launch in 2017. This conservative estimate was, perhaps, a reflection of a disappointing 2016—a year which saw multiple launch delays and cancellations, and created a huge backlog of satellites looking to get to orbit. After Friday’s successful Soyuz launch, SEI’s projection has been eclipsed: Thus far this year, 254 satellites have been deployed in orbit. Even the most optimistic estimates put 2017’s total smallsat numbers at 255 launches by year’s end, a number which now seems entirely within reach. (7/21)

DLR to Fly Suborbital Experiments with Blue Origin, Wanted DragonLab Too (Source: Space News)
The German Aerospace Center, Germany’s space agency (aka DLR), will fly two experiments on a suborbital flight by Blue Origin’s New Shepard vehicle later this year as part of an effort to diversify its microgravity research efforts. Thomas Driebe of DLR said that the center planned to fly the physical sciences experiments under a commercial deal with Blue Origin.

Driebe said one of the experiments will test a phenomenon known as photophoresis, the movement of particles suspended in a gas triggered by light. In astrophysics, photophoresis plays a role in the formation of planets in protoplanetary disks. The other experiment, he said, will test granular matter dynamics in microgravity.

Driebe said later that he had discussions several years ago with SpaceX about flying payloads on DragonLab, a version of the company’s cargo spacecraft that would carry experiments on orbital flights lasting a few weeks. SpaceX announced plans in 2008 to launch two DragonLab missions in 2010 and 2011, but those missions have yet to fly and are no longer listed in the company’s manifest of missions on its website. “I can easily think of experiments to fill a DragonLab,” he said. “It’s just a matter of budget.” (7/21)

July 21, 2017

SwampWatch: Raytheon Lobbying VP Nominated as Army Secretary (Source: Law360)
President Donald Trump on Wednesday nominated the Raytheon Co. government relations vice president to serve as U.S. Army secretary, his third nominee for the role after his first two nominees withdrew from consideration amid business conflicts and pressure over their political positions, respectively. Editor's Note: I heard the delay in appointing new NASA leadership is due to powerful members of the Senate wanting to ensure the new Administrator is someone who will commit to keeping the Space Launch System moving forward. (7/21)

Climate Change is Here. Time to Talk About Geoengineering (Source: WIRED)
If you add up all the emissions cuts every country promised in their Paris pledges, it still wouldn't keep the planet's temperature from rising beyond the agreement's goals—to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2˚ C higher than they were before the Industrial Revolution, and as close to 1.5˚ C as possible. If Earthlings want to avoid a heat-soaked, tide-swamped, and war-clouded future, they need to do more. This raises the specter of geoengineering: things like seeding the stratosphere with sulfur, or using ice crystals to dissolve heat-trapping clouds.

But geoengineering is a dirty word many climate scientists and climate policy experts avoid, because humans meddling with nature doesn't have the best track record. Which is why they say world leaders need to come up with some rules about geoengineering ASAP, before desperation over the coming climate catastrophe forces humanity to do something it might well regret. Geoengineering strategies generally fall into two categories: removing carbon dioxide and reducing heat. The former problem has vexed researchers for years. Sure, they can do it on small scales—carbon scrubbers are essential life support aboard closed systems like the International Space Station and submarines. But installing systems large enough make a dent in all those parts per million is functionally impossible.

It would be expensive, energy-intensive, and also nobody really knows how to do it. Doing the same with reforestation would require covering nearly half of all world’s landmass with trees. Not likely to happen. And despite the hype, carbon capture and storage—sucking the stuff up before it leaves the smokestack and pumping it underground—is still in its infancy. Heat reduction is currently more practical. You can do it many ways, and all of them involve either blocking the sun's heat from coming into Earth’s atmosphere, or allowing more of Earth's heat to radiate into space. (7/21)

10 Reasons Why the Apollo 11 Moon Landing Was Awesome (Source: WIRED)
It was a comeback victory in the space race against the Soviets. I’d even say, we made the Soviets look like chumps. We won the space race by putting a man on the moon. Sure, the Soviets were there first, having bounced their Luna 2 spacecraft off the moon 10 years earlier, but we left our footprints there. Click here. (7/21)

NASA Needs More Than Money. It Needs a Vision. (Source: Daily Texan)
Since the last shuttle flew, NASA’s been awkwardly twiddling its thumbs while private players like SpaceX shoot for new highs. But NASA isn’t a dinosaur awaiting its inevitable death at the hands of meteors like SpaceX — the once highly-regarded agency is simply starved for cash and hamstrung by ineffective leadership. Saving NASA is not only possible, it’s a necessary step to making the next giant leap for mankind. Start by reinvigorating NASA with a long-range vision for space travel. NASA retired the space shuttle in 2011 and hasn’t launched a manned mission on an American spacecraft since. Instead, the agency’s been wracked by an endless series of costly delays and dilly-dallying. (7/21)

Beyond the Moon: The Planned Apollo Missions That Could Have Been (Source: Popular Mechanics)
Apollo 18, 19, and 20 were already in the planning stages when funding for the program was cut. The most likely landing sites would have been Copernicus crater, Hadley Rille, and Tycho crater. Harrison Schmitt, the second-to-last man on the moon, even tried to push NASA toward a far side of the moon landing, which the agency thought was too risky.

Early drafts of the Apollo missions included a plan to perform a figure eight around Venus, out to Mars, back to Venus, and finally back to Earth. All would have been flybys, using Apollo-era hardware. The mission would have deployed robotic landers on each planet during its year-and-a-half mission, which would have used a rare planetary alignment to do low-power transfers between each object.

Several other missions involving Apollo hardware were planned, including further iterations of Skylab, the United States' first space station. None would have left Earth orbit, however. Eventually, the agency turned their focus to Space Station Freedom, a space station concept that ultimately folded into the ISS. While the agency had a space-capable vessel in the Space Shuttle, it was never designed to go beyond low-Earth orbit. (7/21)

What's Next for the ISS? Hell if NASA Knows (Source: WIRED)
The ISS runs out of congressional money and authorization in 2024, and NASA policymakers are trying to figure out what comes next. Officials from the space agency are writing a final report on the station’s future, to deliver to Congress by December. Among the options: renovate the solar panels and keep it flying until 2028, turn the whole thing over to a private buyer, break it up into pieces and auction them off to various commercial firms, or let it slowly descend into the Earth’s atmosphere and leave a fiery trail in the sky. Click here. (7/21)

Future of the International Space Station May Depend on Commercial Investors (Source: R&D)
The future of the International Space Station (ISS) may lie in the hands of companies looking to invest in new opportunities in the lower Earth orbit. Al DeLuna, executive vice president of the American Astronautical Society and principal consultant of ATDL, said during a panel on commercial space at the ISS R&D Conference 2017 that additional help from the private industry is necessary for ISS to remain commercially viable.

“For ISS to remain commercially viable and for other lower orbit platforms like ISS to be viable we have to expand the use of the ISS,” DeLuna said during the July 20 panel.  “We’ve got folks trying to do this but in the past they’ve been generally on two ends of the spectrum—self-funded entrepreneurs and smaller players who are dependent on investments from venture capitalists and the government." Click here. (7/21)

Graduate Student Studies Female Musculature for Space Travel (Source: TUN)
A San Francisco State University student analyzed muscle biopsies from a previous study initiated at California State University, Long Beach and discovered unexpected results regarding female musculature. Marsh found that female astronaut musculature can manage a prolonged spaceflight better than male astronauts’ because their muscles might not be as affected during spaceflight.

Kaylie Marsh is a graduate student studying kinesiology at San Francisco State University, and her research may encourage the demand for women in space. “If we’re doing these spaceflights to Mars that last six months, maybe we should be targeting females and encouraging them more to go into space because it might not affect their musculature as much as men,” Marsh said in a statement. (7/21)

Space Settlers Will Face Many Challenges. Will the Worst be a Lack of Diversity? (Source: DW)
Evolution is a word on the tip of my own tongue, because I think it's one of those areas where there appears to be a dearth of research - how we will, or will have to, adapt to life in space. Try asking NASA or ESA for answers on research into biological evolution in space and the response is very mute. It's as if you're being laughed off the end of the phone. Even little things like sex in space, there's not much research. But for settlers, sex will be very important. Shouldn't we be researching things like evolutionary biology in space, how we can adapt and perhaps become different beings?

For example, if people start having children on Mars, where you only weigh slightly more than one-third as much as you do here the question is then, how will those young life forms grow up? Will they be physiologically different? That's a very important thing. Of course, we can't do that on Mars yet, because we don't have the colony there and in that sense we can't do all the things necessary to know beforehand, what it's going to be like. Click here. (7/21)

Surviving Parts of Deorbited Russian Cargo Craft Plunge Into Pacific (Source: Sputnik)
Components of a Russian cargo spacecraft that survived its reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere have plunged into the Pacific Ocean, the country’s mission control center said Friday. The unmanned craft undocked from the International Space Station late on Thursday after a five-month stay and put the brakes on to drop out of orbit. Most of it burned up in the atmosphere. (7/21)

Parkinson's Protein Blasting Off to Space (Source: Michael J. Fox Foundation)
The Michael J. Fox Foundation has partnered with CASIS to send key Parkinson's protein LRRK2 to the International Space Station for growth under microgravity conditions. Microgravity in space may allow bigger, more regular LRRK2 protein crystals to grow, which helps solve the protein's structure. That information could help scientists design optimized therapies against LRRK2, a key target in the pursuit of a Parkinson's cure.

LRRK2 protein will be sent to the International Space Station as part of the SpaceX CRS-12 cargo resupply mission scheduled for no earlier than August 10, 2017. As manager of the ISS U.S. National Laboratory, CASIS coordinates transfer of scientific materials to and from the ISS and work done in the laboratory. MJFF initiated this project and has supported work to ready the protein for growth in space. (7/20)

After Shuttle, KSC Preps for Deep Space Missions (Source: WMFE)
The entire Kennedy Space Center is transitioning from the shuttle days to what officials call a multi-user spaceport, supporting both public programs and private space companies. In fact, SpaceX leases the launch pad next to 39B, where it launches the Falcon 9 rocket. Like the SpaceX pad, NASA says 39B could also be used for commercial partners as well as the Vehicle Assembly Building.

Work is nearly complete on both of these projects at Kennedy Space Center. But as a whole, the transition from Shuttle to SLS hasn’t been as smooth. The program has evolved as the presidential administrations have changed, and while the current administration has set broad space exploration goals, the Trump White House has yet to name a permanent head of NASA. Budget constraints and technical issues have also pushed the first launch of the Space Launch System back until at least 2019. That mission will launch Orion capsule, without a crew, and sling-shot it around the moon. Click here. (7/20)

The Next Moon Landing Is Near—Thanks to These Pioneering Engineers (Source: NatGeo)
Nearly 50 years after the culmination of the first major race to the moon, in which the United States and the Soviet Union spent fantastic amounts of public money in a bid to land the first humans on the lunar surface, an intriguing new race to our nearest neighbor in space is unfolding—this one largely involving private capital and dramatically lower costs.

The most immediate reward, the $20 million Google Lunar XPrize (or GLXP) will be awarded to one of five finalist teams from around the world. They’re the first ever privately funded teams to attempt landing a traveling vehicle on the moon that can transmit high-quality imagery back to Earth. Click here. (7/20)

A Flameout in Mojave Shows How Hard it Can Be to Finance Rocket Start-Ups (Source: LA Times)
In 2008, a small, Mojave, Calif., aerospace start-up called XCOR Aerospace burst onto the commercial space scene with plans to develop a vehicle that would rocket tourists into suborbital space. XCOR won a few government and commercial contracts and, for a time, was seen as a rival to British billionaire Richard Branson’s space tourism venture, Virgin Galactic.

But then the financial reality of the space business — that it’s much more capital intensive than other start-up ventures, such as building a smartphone app — caught up. (7/20)

Earth's Tectonic Activity May Be Crucial for Life--and Rare in Our Galaxy (Source: Scientific American)
Our planet is in constant flux. Tectonic plates—the large slabs of rock that divide Earth’s crust so that it looks like a cracked eggshell—jostle about in fits and starts that continuously reshape our planet—and possibly foster life.

These plates ram into one another, building mountains. They slide apart, giving birth to new oceans that can grow for hundreds of millions of years. They skim past one another, triggering earth-shattering quakes. And they slip under one another in a process called subduction, sliding deep into the planet’s innards and producing volcanoes that spew gases into the atmosphere.

And not only is Earth alive, it is a vessel for life. Because it is the only known planet to host both plate tectonics—that ongoing shuffling of tectonic plates—and life, many scientists think the two might be related. In fact, some researchers argue that shifting plates, which have the ability to help regulate a planet’s temperature over billions of years, are a crucial ingredient for life. (7/20)

What NASA’s Chief Astronaut Learned from Near Disaster (Source: K@W)
NASA Chief Astronaut Chris Cassidy has lived for months on the International Space Station and has performed six spacewalks. “Imagine hanging out with a glass bubble on your head, one hand on a hunk of metal, Earth going beneath your feet at five miles a second, and the whole world listening to everything that comes out of your mouth on the microphone,” he said at a recent Wharton Leadership Conference. Click here. (7/20)

NASA to Crowdsource Origami Design for Shield (Source: Guardian)
In the search for ways to efficiently pack a radiation shield to protect manned spacecraft on deep space missions, NASA is looking to the public for help. The space agency is launching a challenge to crowdsource origami-inspired ideas for a foldable radiation shield to protect spacecraft and astronauts on voyages to deep space, such as missions to Mars. Click here. (7/20)

Space Center Houston Crowdfunding to Restore NASA's Mission Control (Source: KHOU)
You can help restore NASA's historic mission control. Space Center Houston launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign Thursday in an effort to "keep the history of the Apollo era alive and restore the treasured landmark for future generations," said the nonprofit. (7/20)

Google Street View lands on the International Space Station (Source: The Verge)
If you’ve always wanted to poke around inside a spaceship but don’t ever wish to leave the safety of Earth, Google Street View now lets you explore the International Space Station (ISS) right from your computer. Astronauts have been working and living on the ISS for the past 16 years, and Street View now allows you to explore everything from the sleeping quarters to where the space suits are kept.

This is the first time Street View has ventured beyond planet Earth, and the first time the feature also comes with handy little dots you can click on to launch notes that explain what everything does. The notes detail things like where the astronauts work out to stay fit, the kinds of food they eat and where scientific experiments are conducted. (7/20)

Reebok Unveils Sleek New Space Boots for Future Astronauts (Source: Space.com)
Reebok is really stepping up its footwear game with these awesome new space boots. The athletic-apparel company — which until now has only made shoes for people on Earth — just unveiled a sporty new design for space boots that astronauts will wear during upcoming missions on Boeing's CST-100 Starliner, a spacecraft that will begin ferrying astronauts to and from the International Space Station by the end of next year.

These blue-and-white ombré boots nicely complement the blue spacesuits Boeing revealed in January. Both the boots and the suits are more lightweight, flexible and comfortable than the bulky, traditional spacesuits worn by astronauts today. Click here. (7/20)

Congress Gives NASA's Planetary Science Division Some Love (and a Mars Orbiter) (Source: Planetary Society)
A recent Gallup poll found only 21 percent of Americans approve of the way Congress is doing its job. You could be forgiven for thinking that minority might include a few folks from NASA's planetary science division.

Last week, the House of Representatives proposed NASA receive $19.9 billion for fiscal year 2018, with $2.1 billion marked specifically for the agency's planetary science division—an all-time high. Part of that money would be spent on development of a Europa lander and a Mars reconnaissance and telecommunications orbiter that would launch in 2022. (7/20)

Lockheed's Prototype Habitat Plans for NASA's Lunar Orbiting Deep Space Gateway (Source: AmericaSpace)
Last summer, NASA selected six companies to develop prototypes and concepts for deep space habitats for future crews flying missions on Orion. Lockheed Martin was one of them, and this week the company released some details on plans for their full-scale prototype, which they hope to complete over the next 18 months.

Lockheed is developing the prototype under a Phase II contract with NASA’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) program, as part of the space agency’s plans to build a crew tended spaceport in lunar orbit within the first few SLS / Orion missions known as the “Deep Space Gateway”. Click here. (7/20)

Mars Footprints or Planetary Defense? (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Senate should soon be tasked with confirming the next NASA administrator. Their decision has a very low priority on the list of the many issues facing our nation, but I believe that could be a deadly miscalculation. There are asteroids and comets that are passing dangerously close to our planet and today we have no defense from these deep space threats. On April 19, asteroid 2014 J025, over 2,000 feet in length and nicknamed The Rock, came within 1 million miles of Earth.

What is concerning is the increased frequency of these near misses and their discovery, in some cases has been just weeks before a possible Earth impact.  Why has NASA ignored these deep space threats when we have the technology to develop a planetary defense system that could discover, identify, and deter asteroid/comet impacts on Earth?

What NASA’s spaceflight management has done is to steadfastly refuse to recognize that we need a commercial space shuttle freighter which could provide low-cost space launches and rapid access to low Earth orbit…the required first step to a viable planetary defense system. (7/20)

Elon Musk’s Bad Historical Analogy (Source: Parabolic Arc)
During his appearance at the International Space Station R&D Conference on Wednesday, Elon Musk recited an old argument to support his plans to colonize Mars. Back in the day,California was an empty place where almost nobody lived. At least until some crazy visionaries built the Transcontinental Railroad to it even though everyone thought it was a completely crazy thing to do.

Jump ahead 150 years, and California is the place you want a be, a center of commerce, innovation and culture people migrate to when they want to be a movie star, have an idea for a new app or simply want a fresh start. All because some visionaries had a crazy idea. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Makes you want to sell the house and buy a ticket on Musk’s Mars Express, right?

That’s what Musk is hoping. There’s just one slight problem with this analogy: it’s not based on very much. Musk may be a genius at business and innovation, but he’s a terrible amateur historian. In fact, he gets the empty part of the Transcontinental Railroad project completely backwards. There is a kernel of truth in what Musk says. When a transcontinental railroad was first proposed in the United States in 1830, it was a crazy idea, but for perfectly sane reasons. (7/20)

Bezos Highlights Rocket Factory in His First Instagram Post (Source: GeekWire)
Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos posted his first video on Instagram today, but it wasn’t about the proceeds from Prime Day: Rather, it was about the Blue Origin rocket factory that’s taking shape in Florida. In his caption, Bezos said construction was “coming along nicely.” The factory is due for completion by early next year, and should be turning out hardware for orbital-class New Glenn rockets soon afterward.

Bezos set up his Blue Origin venture in 2000 to follow through on his childhood dream of spaceflight. The company is headquartered in Kent, Wash., but it has a suborbital rocket test facility in Texas and is planning a rocket engine factory in Alabama as well as the Florida factory and orbital launch site. Click here. (7/20)

Planet Wins Second NGA Satellite-Imagery Contract (Source: Space News)
Planet has won a second contract to provide satellite imagery to the U.S. National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA), beating out contenders UrtheCast, Orbital Insight and Sky Hawk Drone Services. The one-year, $14 million contract follows a seven-month, $20 million pilot contract that began in September to assess ways San Francisco-based Planet’s “persistence and global coverage capabilities could most effectively support the NGA mission.” (7/20)

SpaceX Appears to Have Pulled the Plug on its Red Dragon Plans (Source: Ars Technica)
In recent weeks, there have been rumors that SpaceX is no longer planning to send an uncrewed version of its Dragon spacecraft to Mars in 2020, or later. Now those rumors about the Red Dragon concept have been largely confirmed. The company had planned to use the propulsive landing capabilities on the Dragon 2 spacecraft—originally developed for the commercial crew variant to land on Earth—for Mars landings in 2018 or 2020.

Previously, it had signed an agreement with NASA to use some of its expertise for such a mission. Musk confirmed that the company is no longer working to land Dragon propulsively for commercial crew. (Although initially the company had moved to water landings, SpaceX had maintained that in future crew contracts with NASA, it would use Dragon's thrusters to land on land.)

But no longer. "Yeah, that was a tough decision," Musk acknowledged Wednesday with a sigh. It had to be a somewhat humbling one, too, after Musk bragged during the Dragon 2 reveal in 2014 that this vehicle showed how a 21st century spacecraft should land—not with parachutes in the water. (7/19)

Apollo 11 Moon Rock Bag Sells for $1.8M at Sotheby's Space Auction (Source: CollectSpace)
A cloth bag used to protect the first-ever moon rocks collected by an astronaut on the lunar surface 48 years ago Thursday (July 20) has made history again — this time by selling at auction for more than any other U.S. space program artifact to date. The sale fell short, however, of commanding the most ever paid for a space artifact overall, closing at a lower hammer price than its pre-auction estimate of $2 to $4 million.

The moon dust-stained "lunar sample return" pouch, which Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong used to store a small "contingency" cache of material from Tranquility Base, sold for $1,812,500 million at Sotheby's New York on Thursday (July 20), the 48th anniversary of the Apollo 11 first moon landing. The bag's sale was part of Sotheby's first auction to focus on artifacts from NASA's space missions. (7/20)

Aircraft Manufacturer Plans R&D Center at Embry-Riddle Research Park in Daytona (Source: ERAU)
International, award-winning light sport aircraft manufacturer Seamax will have their Research & Development operations join Embry-Riddle Research Park’s Customized Business Acceleration Program to build on its business, technological and research capabilities as it looks to establish itself in the United States.

“This partnership will allow us to integrate Seamax’s research and development into Embry-Riddle’s remarkable existing cluster to further accelerate our technological and business capabilities,” said Seamax CEO Gilberto Trivelato. “This will enable increased leverage for new features to aircraft and to introduce more reliable products to the aeronautical market.” (7/19)

Russia, China to Set Up Pilot Zone to Test National Navigation Systems (Source: Sputnik)
Russia and China are set to establish a pilot zone to test the Russian GLONASS and Chinese BeiDou satellite navigation systems on passenger and freight transportation routes going through Kraskino - Hunchun and Poltavka - Dongning checkpoints on the border in Russia's Primorsky Territory.

GLONASS, a global navigation system operated by the Russian Aerospace Forces, consists of 27 satellites, 24 of which are operational. The system allows real-time positioning and speed data for surface, sea and airborne objects around the world. BeiDou is composed of the space section, ground section and user section, with the space section containing five geostationary orbit satellites and 30 non-geostationary orbit satellites. (7/20)

July 20, 2017

Trump Nominates Climate Change Skeptic to Critical Agricultural Department Position (Source: Fusion)
In another totally unsurprising move, President Trump nominated a man who described climate science as “junk” to the Agriculture Department’s top science post. Sam Clovis, a former talk radio host and college professor, was nominated to be the Agricultural Department’s undersecretary for research. Clovis is not a scientist, nor does he possess a degree in anything related to agricultural or climate science. He was a tenured professor of business and public policy at Morningside College for 10 years.

Despite his experience, or lack thereof, Clovis is also a climate change skeptic and a popular one on talk radio. In 2014 he told Iowa Public Radio that he was “extremely skeptical” of climate science and rejected the general consensus that climate change is related to human activity. The position he could fill, pending a Senate confirmation, manages $3 billion in research funding; $2 billion is allotted to research and $1 billion to education. (7/20)

As Innovators Shoot for the Moon — How Will We Regulate Commerce? (source: The Hill)
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) held a hearing to examine whether the Outer Space Treaty, which turns 50 this year, needs to be updated to accommodate the growing commercial space sector. The consensus of two panels, one of legal experts and the other of business entrepreneurs, was that the treaty itself should not be changed. They believed that the the treaty's language is flexible enough to be interpreted so that conflicts involving commercial space entities could be handled.

However, the Outer Space Treaty is mostly silent where private property rights are concerned. Indeed, Article One of the treaty states, in part: “Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, shall be free for exploration and use by all States without discrimination of any kind, on a basis of equality and in accordance with international law, and there shall be free access to all areas of celestial bodies.”

The wording suggests that a company like Moon Express would have a hard time setting up a mining operation that would require excluding anyone else from its facility and surrounding environs. On the other hand, Article Seven states, “Each State Party to the Treaty that launches or procures the launching of an object into outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, and each State Party from whose territory or facility an object is launched, is internationally liable for damage to another State Party to the Treaty or to its natural or juridical persons by such object or its component parts on the Earth, in air space or in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies.” (7/20)

Cooke: Trump Administration is Making America a Leader in Space Again (Source: The Hill)
President Trump has shown encouraging support for America’s leadership in space, signing the bipartisan NASA Transition and Authorization Act of 2017 that provides for a healthy, balanced program, as well as the 2017 omnibus spending bill, providing needed funds to carry out existing programs. More recently, he signed an Executive Order reestablishing the National Space Council, and Vice President Pence visited the Kennedy Space Center just last week to emphasize the administration’s support for a robust American future in space.

This welcome attention to space policy across NASA’s portfolio appears to continue policies that support ongoing operations in low Earth orbit while doubling down on those needed to explore beyond it. NASA will return to flying astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) for the first time in six years through service contracts with American companies. NASA will build and test the new Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion crew vehicle, enabling human missions to the Moon and Mars and other destinations, returning American to deep space for the first time in 45 years.

The administration’s budget request for 2018 makes some course corrections, but sustains essential developments in cargo and crew transportation to ISS and SLS/Orion/Ground Systems developments for deep space exploration, including a flat five year budget runout. Editor's Note: This op-ed speaks of very little that wasn't already happening at NASA before President Trump was elected. (7/20)

Trump’s Muddled Space Policy: He Sets Up a High-Level Panel but Urges Budget Cuts (Source: Sacramento Bee)
The Trump administration is sending mixed signals about its intentions for space. President Donald Trump’s budget would slash NASA funding dramatically. But last month he revived the long-dormant National Space Council.

Trump wants to cut NASA by $4.5 billion over the next four years, though he continues to claim his presidency “will once again make America first again” in space. Trump’s proposed NASA budget for fiscal 2018, which begins October 1, is $19.1 billion is a 2.9 percent reduction from its present funding, and would force the agency to eliminate its Office of Education.

Given the consistent bipartisan support for NASA, it is likely that the agency will receive closer to its current $19.6 billion from Congress. John Logsdon, a former NASA Advisory Council member, said in an email that he doesn’t think think re-vitalizing the (Space) Council “sends a signal about science one way or the other.” (7/19)

How Will the Space Council Affect NASA? (Source: Paste)
NASA’s been in a difficult position for most of its existence when it comes to budgets and changing administration and Congressional priorities. Programs are greenlit then canceled; lofty goals are outlined, but not fully funded. The organization is required to keep itself flexible in order to accommodate these changing moods, but that comes at a very high cost and has generally terrible results when it comes to forward progress. Having one organization deciding policy and spaceflight goals could temper some of this pressure. It wouldn’t insulate NASA completely, but it could provide clear and decisive direction that is currently lacking.

Additionally, Vice President Pence’s comments make him (and the Council as a consequence) seem more amenable to commercial space partnerships than Congress has been in the past. In the past, Congress has been reluctant to approve partnership with commercial space companies in order to explore space. Get us to the ISS? Sure. But space exploration has always been done by NASA; sure, NASA contracts with companies to build its vehicles (Boeing is constructing the Orion capsule, for example), but NASA bears the brunt of development costs.

NASA needs to be able to contract with commercial space companies that have developed and tested their own tech, without NASA funds supporting them. Yes, they can have contracts in place that ensure them business with NASA (indeed, that’s how SpaceX succeeded), but NASA wouldn’t be paying for the tech development. (7/20)

SpaceX Skipping Red Dragon for “Vastly Bigger Ships” on Mars, Musk Confirms (Source: Teslarati)
Elon Musk wrote on Twitter that SpaceX chose to cut development of propulsive landing for Dragon 2, and thus Red Dragon, in order to jump directly into propulsively landing “a vastly bigger ship” on Mars. Again, this matches closely with a handful of rumors that have been fermenting in SpaceX forums. Musk’s comment on Twitter now officially confirms that Red Dragon is no more.

SpaceX had previously delayed Red Dragon to 2020, which happens to be the same year a tentative schedule from the Guadalajara presentation pegged SpaceX’s first attempt at testing the Big Falcon Spaceship in orbit. With approximately 30 months between now and 2020, there is almost no chance SpaceX could mature Raptor and develop an entirely new, massive launch vehicle and spacecraft in time for the 2020 testing, but it is not impossible. (7/19)

Has Mars Man Musk Pivoted to the Moon? (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Partway through an appearance at the International Space Station R&D Conference on Wednesday, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk dropped a bombshell into a conference room at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC. “If you want to get the public real fired up, I think we’ve got to have a base on the moon,” he said. “That would be pretty cool. And then going beyond that, getting people to Mars.”

Whaaaat? For a billionaire who has been laser focused on establishing a new branch of humanity on Mars, the mere mention of a detour to the dusty old moon seemed almost sacrilegious somehow. What the hell has happened since Musk laid out his bold vision for transporting a million people to Mars at a space conference in Mexico only 10 months ago? The short answer: reality has set in. Click here. (7/19)

Musk: We Need Moon Base to Get People 'Fired Up' About Space Travel (Source: Sky News)
Elon Musk has said humans need to build a base on the moon to get the public "fired up" again about space exploration. Humans first landed there 48 years ago today [20 July], but nobody has stepped foot on the moon since the final mission of the Apollo program in 1972. Speaking at a conference in Washington about the International Space Station, the SpaceX founder complained that the public did not seem to grasp "how cool the ISS is".

Public interest and fascination with space travel exploded during the Apollo missions. The funding the US ploughed into the space race led to huge advances in the development of new technologies and inspired many people to pursue engineering and science careers. Elon Musk told the conference there were more technological advances and business opportunities to be grasped with greater space travel.

Editor's Note: Imagine if the resources and innovations of billionaires like Musk, Bezos, Bigelow, Jain, and other space resource mining and energy companies were aligned with NASA plans, ESA's 'Moon Village' concept, China's ambitions, and Russia's interests. Seems like a lot of leverage and momentum could be created for humankind's next big step beyond Low Earth Orbit. (7/20)

Musk Admits Flying to Mars Might Be Hard (Source: Vanity Fair)
Elon Musk’s space exploration company SpaceX—which has already revolutionized the spaceflight industry by launching and landing reusable rockets—has a bigger goal: to take people to the moon, and to eventually establish human colonies on Mars. Musk is known for his optimistic timelines for SpaceX projects, last year announcing that he planned to send an unmanned rocket to the Red Planet “as soon as 2018.” But during a talk at the International Space Station Research and Development Conference on Wednesday, Musk was uncharacteristically realistic about SpaceX’s inaugural trip into outer space.

Musk: Key to Opening Up Space Travel is 'Near Complete Reusability' of Spacecraft (Source: CNBC)
The key to opening up low-Earth orbit, and space travel in general, is building rockets and spacecraft that are almost entirely reusable, said Elon Musk. Spacecraft have to become as much like any terrestrial or sea-faring vehicle as possible — meaning they can be reused again and again —Musk said, speaking at the International Space Station Research and Design conference in Washington D.C. on Wednesday. (7/19)

Musk: First Heavy-Lift Falcon Launch Will Be Risky (Source: ABC)
SpaceX's chief said Wednesday that the first launch of its big new rocket is risky and stands "a real good chance" of failure. Elon Musk said he wants to set realistic expectations for the flight later this year from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The Falcon Heavy will have three boosters instead of one, and 27 engines instead of nine, all of which must ignite simultaneously. No one will be aboard the initial flights. When it comes time to add people, Musk said, "no question, whoever's on the first flight, brave."

SpaceX plans to fly two paying customers to the moon late next year, using a Falcon Heavy. He said in response to a question that he'd like to ride one of his smaller Falcon rockets to the International Space Station in maybe three or four years. (7/20)

SpaceX Targets 24-Hour First Stage Rocket Re-Use by 2018, Other Re-Use (Source: Tech Crunch)
SpaceX hopes to achieve its 24-hour turnaround window for used Falcon 9 rockets sometime next year, he said, and there is already “a technical path in place to achieving that.” Some of its reuse efforts aren’t immediately bearing fruit in terms of lowering costs, however – Musk revealed that refurbishing the Dragon capsule it flew for a second time during the most recent ISS resupply mission cost “almost as much – maybe more” than building a new one from scratch.

That should improve over time, however, as SpaceX gets better at refurbishing the cargo craft. Next time around, it should be able to shave a few percentage points off the cost of refurbishment, he said. Meanwhile, Musk said that SpaceX is getting closer to being able to recover the fairing, a nosecone that sits atop the rocket to protect the payload during launch. The company managed to land one of those earlier this year, and Musk said that they’re now “quite close” to being able to land it and recover the component as well. The fairing, including all of its integrated systems, is a $5 or $6 million piece of equipment, he noted. (7/20)

For Astronauts, Crazy Risks Come with the Job (Source: NBC)
In her two expeditions aboard the ISS, Sunita Williams has racked up more time on spacewalks than any other woman: more than two full days floating in the void. On her most recent extravehicular adventure, to fix a slow leak of toxic ammonia coolant from one of the station’s solar panels, Williams was tethered outside in her bulky space suit for six and a half hours straight as the Earth’s colorful orb spun below. She finished the job right on schedule, almost to the minute. Click here. (7/20)

Inner Strength for Outer Space (Source: NBC)
The glamorous parts of spaceflight — ascending skyward on a pillar of fire, floating gracefully against a backdrop of stars — are in some ways the easiest on the astronauts’ minds and bodies, as long as nothing goes wrong. As NASA eyes the long-term future of human space exploration and missions to Mars, medical and psychological challenges are among those that loom largest. Click here. (7/20)

Saving a Spaceman from Drowning (Source: NBC)
Karen Nyberg was on the space station in 2013 when crewmate Luca Parmitano, out on a spacewalk, called for help. His suit’s cooling system had sprung a leak, and water was filling his helmet. In the weightless freefall of orbit, water doesn’t pool — it forms floating blobs that stick to any surface they touch. Within minutes, water was covering Parmitano’s eyes and nose. He couldn’t see and could barely breathe. He had to get back on board fast before he drowned. But to do that, he needed help from his crewmates. Click here. (7/20)

NASA Seeks Industry Ideas for Deep Space Gateway (Source: Space News)
NASA is seeking information from industry on the design of a core element of its proposed Deep Space Gateway. A request for information released this week seeks technical and contractual details about the Power and Propulsion Element, which will produce electrical power for the gateway and carry both chemical thrusters and a solar electric propulsion system. NASA anticipates launching the module as a co-manifested payload on the first crewed SLS/Orion mission, likely in 2022. NASA is studying the gateway, operated in orbit around the moon, as a testbed for technologies needed for later human missions to Mars. (7/19)

Saft Hurting for More Satellite Battery Orders (Source: Space News)
A major supplier of spacecraft batteries is riding out a decline in orders for geostationary orbit communications satellites. Saft, which has facilities in the U.S. and Europe, says it is still working through a backlog of satellites orders so it has not yet felt the effects of a downturn in satellite orders in the last couple of years. The company is looking at other markets for its batteries, from reusable launch vehicles to constellations of low Earth orbit satellites. (7/19)

India Earned $7 Million Carrying Secondary-Payload Microsatellites on June Launch (Source: PTI)
Flying nearly 30 small satellites last month earned India's space agency about $7 million. In a response to a question from India's parliament, the Indian Space Research Organisation said that the 29 foreign smallsats that flew as secondary payloads on a June PSLV launch generated 6.1 million euros ($7 million) in revenue. ISRO didn't disclose how much money it made on a February launch that carried more than 100 satellites. (7/20)

Russian Lunar Mission Delayed by Spaceport Bottleneck (Source: Tass)
A lack of spaceport infrastructure is delaying Russian lunar missions. Sergei Lemeshevsky, CEO of Lavochkin Research and Production Association, said a lunar orbiter mission scheduled for launch in 2020 has been delayed to 2021, pushing back a a lander mission from 2021 to 2022. Lemeshevsky said facilities at Baikonur can accommodate only one planetary mission at a time, with the ExoMars 2020 mission taking precedence over the moon missions. Russia's new Vostochny Cosmodrome also lacks facilities for supporting those missions, he said. (7/20)

Russia Plans Super-Heavy Energia-5 in 2028 (Source: Tass)
Russia hopes to launch its first "super-heavy" rocket in 2028. RSC Energia CEO Vladimir Solntsev said the first launch of the proposed Energia-5 rocket is planned for 2028 from Vostochny. Two versions of the rocket will each be able to place about 100 metric tons into low Earth orbit or 20.5 tons into lunar orbit, supporting human lunar missions there. The Russian state space corporation Roscosmos estimates it will cost $25 billion to develop the rocket and its launch facilities. (7/20)

The Case for Sending US Companies Back to the Moon, Explained in Cartoons (Source: Quartz)
Robert Bigelow wants to be the first commercial landlord in space. Bigelow said his company’s first two fully-fledged space habitats would be ready for launch by the end of 2020. He told a NASA conference audience all they need is a customer (hint, hint). The habitats could be used to augment or replace the space station in low earth orbit, but Bigelow’s hope is that NASA will send them to the moon.

“There’s no time to lose,” Bigelow said. Why? Because China aims to go to the moon, and Bigelow frets that it will get there first and thus be able to impose its own rules in what is still a legal (as well as literal) grey area.
It’s not the first time Bigelow has made this argument, but this is the first time he has used cartoons to drive it home. Click here. (7/20)

All About Space Junk (Source: Futurism)
Since humans started launching rockets and other objects into space in the 1950s, orbital space debris has been slowly accumulating above our atmosphere. It's a multinational problem that's only getting worse. Russian scientists warned that the rise in space junk could provoke armed conflict in the near future. Here's everything you need to know about our junkyard in the sky. (7/20)

What is Virgin Galactic and How Much Will it Cost to Travel to Space? (Source: The Telegraph)
Virgin Galactic is the world’s first commercial spaceline company - but when will its first spaceflight be and how much will it cost to travel to space? Virgin Galactic passengers will depart from Spaceport America, the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport. It was opened in New Mexico in 2011. WhiteKnightTwo, a jet-powered cargo aircraft, will climb to an altitude of 50,000 feet before releasing SpaceShipTwo, a spacecraft that will bring passengers on the final part of the journey.

SpaceShipTwo will travel at approximately three and a half times the speed of sound, propelling the vehicle and passengers to space. The whole experience is expected to last two hours. The spacecraft is expected to carry six passengers and two pilots. Once SpaceShip Two has reentered the earth’s atmosphere, the vehicle’s wings will be returned to their normal configuration, and the spaceship will glide back to the original runway.

A seat on a Virgin Galactic flight will cost you $250,000, which has to be paid up-front as a deposit. More than 700 people have signed up so far, including celebrities Brad Pitt, Ashton Kutcher, Angelina Jolie, Tom Hanks and Paris Hilton, reports say. (7/19)

Ancient, Massive Asteroid Impact Could Explain Martian Geological Mysteries (Source: Space Daily)
The origin and nature of Mars is mysterious. It has geologically distinct hemispheres, with smooth lowlands in the north and cratered, high-elevation terrain in the south. The red planet also has two small oddly-shaped oblong moons and a composition that sets it apart from that of the Earth.

New research outlines a likely cause for these mysterious features of Mars: a colossal impact with a large asteroid early in the planet's history. This asteroid - about the size of Ceres, one of the largest asteroids in the Solar System - smashed into Mars, ripped off a chunk of the northern hemisphere and left behind a legacy of metallic elements in the planet's interior. The crash also created a ring of rocky debris around Mars that may have later clumped together to form its moons, Phobos and Deimos. (7/20)

In Gulf of Mexico, NASA Evaluates How Crew Will Exit Orion (Source: Space Daily)
When astronauts return to Earth from destinations beyond the moon in NASA's Orion spacecraft and splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, they'll still need to safely get out of the spacecraft and back on dry land. Using the waters off the coast of Galveston, Texas, a NASA and Department of Defense team tested Orion exit procedures in a variety of scenarios July 10-14.

During the crew egress testing, a joint team from the Orion and Ground Systems Development and Operations programs, along with assistance from the U.S. Coast Guard, Navy and Air Force, evaluated how the crew will get out of the capsule with assistance and by themselves. (7/20)

Japan Inc's $2 Billion in Cash Begins Percolating Up Into Space (Source: Nikkei)
ANA Holdings is getting into the space business. It also might be signaling the beginning of a Japanese corporate investment trend. The parent of All Nippon Airways on Friday said it had invested 300 million yen ($2.66 million) in Astroscale, a venture out of Singapore. The deal could be a harbinger in a number of ways. For one thing, it could mark quite a change for Japan, where space exploration has always been the domain of government agencies.

And that change could prove attractive to Japanese companies having a hard time figuring out how to make good use of their growing cash reserves. Toyoyuki Nagamine, senior executive vice president at ANA Holdings, described the investment in Astroscale as a great opportunity to share the pool of expertise the carrier has accumulated through its airline operations. (7/19)

NASA is Working Out How to Create Rocket Fuel on Mars (Source: WIRED)
Sending humans to Mars involves deep space missions that could last months, but shipping material there is costly; the price of transporting 1kg on Earth increases by a factor of 100 on a Martian mission. If the ultimate goal is to establish a long-term base on Mars, we'll need make use of materials found on humanity's greatest ever voyage.

NASA has a target to send humans to Mars by the 2030s. Since 2012, the space agency has dedicated a branch of its research to what it calls In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU), with researchers working to find the best ways to produce one of the most crucial resources for space travel – rocket fuel. Click here. (7/18)

Just One Small Step for Australia’s Space Industry When a Giant Leap is Needed (Source: The Conversation)
An expert review of the Australian space industry’s capabilities to participate in a global market was announced last week by the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Arthur Sinodinos. He said the aim is to “develop a long-term plan to grow this important and exciting sector” and report in March 2018.

Interestingly, the words “space agency” do not appear in the announcement, but this was addressed later when the minister spoke to the media. The space community had been expecting an announcement of this sort for some time. Many expected one to be made for maximum impact at or near the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) to be held in Adelaide in September, when Australia’s space community will be on show to the world. (7/18)

Russia to Use Drones to Search for Fallen Rocket Fragments (Source: Tass)
Experts from the Center for Operation of Ground-Based Space Infrastructure Facilities have for the first time ever used fire control drones to track down the fragments of the Soyuz-2.1a launch vehicle, which lifted off from the Baikonur Space Center on July 14 with 73 satellites aboard, the press service of Russia’s state space corporation Roscosmos said on Tuesday.

Experts of the Russian space industry enterprises on Tuesday rounded up the works in the designated areas of the downfall of stage one and stage two fragments of the launch vehicle. "For the first time ever, the specialists of the Center for Operation of the Ground-Based Space Infrastructure Facilities used unmanned aircraft of the Grant family, which have the effective range of flight of up to 100 km, rise to the altitude of 800 meters, and register coordinate with the precision of up to 0.2 meters," a spokesman for Roscosmos said. (7/18)

Russia to Start Manufacturing New Soyuz-5 Medium-Class Rocket (Source: Tass)
Russia’s Progress Rocket and Space Center is ready to manufacture new Soyuz-5 medium-class rocket, Progress CEO Alexander Kirilin said. "We are ready for the production of this rocket," the chief executive said. Russia’s federal space program for 2016-2025 stipulates developing a new-generation medium-class space rocket complex (the Phoenix R&D work) from 2018 to 2025.

The Russian government is expected to allocate almost 30 billion rubles ($498 million) for the launcher’s development. The project’s budget financing will begin in 2018. There are plans to use the launch pad of the Zenit carrier rocket at the Baikonur cosmodrome, which Kazakhstan will modernize under the Baiterek program for the new Russian rocket. The Sea Launch compound is also expected to be used for rocket launches. The first launch of the Soyuz-5 carrier rocket from the Baikonur spaceport is scheduled for 2022. (7/18)

Rohrabacher: Was There a Civilization on Mars? (Source: LA Times)
Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of Costa Mesa is a member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology's subcommittee on space. On Tuesday, he begged some extra time from the subcommittee's chairman to ask a panel of NASA scientists a question: Was there once a civilization on Mars? Watch a scientist's answer here. (7/18)

Ancient, Massive Asteroid Impact Could Explain Martian Geological Mysteries (Source: UC Boulder)
The origin and nature of Mars are mysterious. The planet has geologically distinct hemispheres with smooth lowlands in the north and cratered, high-elevation terrain in the south. The red planet also has two small oddly-shaped oblong moons and a composition that sets it apart from that of the Earth.

New research by CU Boulder professor Stephen Mojzsis outlines a likely cause for these mysterious features of Mars: a colossal impact with a large asteroid early in the planet’s history. This asteroid—about the size of Ceres, one of the largest asteroids in the solar system—smashed into Mars, ripped off a chunk of the northern hemisphere and left behind a legacy of metallic elements in the planet’s interior. The crash also created a ring of rocky debris around Mars that may have later clumped together to form its moons, Phobos and Deimos. (7/18)

Advice for the National Space Council from Policy Insiders (Source: Space Policy Online)
Now that President Trump has announced his intent to appoint Scott Pace as Executive Director of the newly reconstituted National Space Council, advice is pouring in on what issues it should tackle and the challenges ahead.

Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX) and two panels of experts offered their views on the Space Council and other topics. The White House announcement came the evening before the seminar began. While Pace was widely rumored to be the top choice, the timing caught many by surprise. The seminar's topic, however, Ensuring U.S. Space Leadership, lent itself to the breaking development. Click here. (7/18)