September 24, 2017

NASA, Space Council, Shelby Get Shout-Outs From Trump in Alabama (Source: Space Policy Online)
President Trump gave shout-outs to NASA and the National Space Council during a political speech in Huntsville, AL last night, and credited Sen. Richard Shelby (R) for bringing billions of NASA dollars to the city. In a lengthy speech whose main purpose was to build support for Sen. Luther Strange (R) in a run-off election that will take place on Tuesday, Trump covered a lot of ground.

The space program got only a few seconds of attention, but the fact that it was mentioned at all is a sign of the importance that it has in Huntsville, home to the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC).  The speech was held in the city’s Von Braun Center named after legendary rocket engineer and visionary Wernher Von Braun who was the first director of MSFC (1960-1970). (9/23)

Musk May Have Bigger Plans for Boca Chica (Source: Rio Grande Guardian)
Eduardo A. Campirano, port director and CEO of the Port of Brownsville, says he would not be surprised to see Elon Musk announce even bigger plans for SpaceX’s rocket-launching site at Boca Chica. Campirano was asked to give an update on SpaceX’s plans for Boca Chica when chairing a Rio South Texas Economic Council meeting earlier this week.

“I know Elon Musk is expected to speak on the 29th and everyone holds their breath to see what he says. I think he has made some indications that there may be some bigger plans for Boca Chica than initially anticipated,” Campirano said, in response to a question from Mike Willis on the South Texas Manufacturers Association. (9/24)

'To Donald Trump,' by Leland Melvin, Former NASA Astronaut and NFL Player (Source:  Boing Boing)
I served my country not in the military, but as 1 of 362 American Astronauts that have explored the universe to help advance our civilization. Not just Americans, but all humans. I also was briefly in the NFL and stood for the National Anthem with my hand over my heart. What makes us great is our differences and respecting that we are all created equally even if not always treated that way.

Donald Trump, I listened to your Alabama rally rant and could not believe how easily you say what you say. We have become numb to your outlandish acts, tweets and recent retweet of you knocking down Hillary Clinton with a golf ball. Donald Trump, your boorish and disgusting actions are not funny. They actually promote violence when your followers act out what you say.

Today, you called Colin Kaepernick “a son-of-a-bitch.” You said he should be fired. You are calling his white mother a bitch. The strong contrast in [your] language for a black man and a Nazi is very telling. Do you have any sense of decency or shame in what you say to the American people? ...you are supposed to be a unifier and a compassionate and empathetic leader. Click here. (9/23)

An Accident On The Moon, Young Lawyers To The Rescue (Source: NPR)
When Alexia Boggs was applying to law school, she initially considered all the big specialties, but none of them seemed quite right. "I was looking for a field of law where none of my family could ever seek my help," she says, sarcastic but also not really joking.

She found what she was looking for in space law, and enrolled at the University of Mississippi School of Law, one of the two big space and aeronautical law programs in the U.S. This year's intercollegiate competition case is, in the broadest terms, about a traffic accident on the moon.

In the case, "there are two countries, Perovsk and Titan," says Boggs. "They're bordering countries. They share a common language and a common history." Both have space programs — in fact, they helped each other get to space, developing complimentary expertise in much the same way Russia and the U.S. work together to put astronauts in orbit. Click here. (9/22)

A New Way of Propelling Spacecraft May Open Up the Asteroid Belt (Source: The Economist)
In a paper presented to the European Planetary Science Congress on Sep. 19, they proposed that spacecraft equipped with their new propulsion system could make a round trip to the asteroid belt in little more than three years. A fleet of 50 such craft, weighing about 5kg each and thus capable of being launched by a single rocket, could visit 300 asteroids, survey them and return to Earth for a thrifty €60m ($72m) or so, including the cost of launch. Click here. (9/22)

Classified US Spy Satellite Launched from California by ULA (Source: Washington Post)
A spy satellite for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office has been launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket carrying the classified NROL-42 satellite lifted off at 10:49 p.m. PDT Saturday. All systems were going well when the launch webcast concluded about three minutes into the flight. (9/24)

Scientists Urge Europe to Stick With "Armageddon"-style Asteroid Mission (Source: Universe Today)
For decades, scientists have known that in near-Earth space there are thousands of comets and asteroids that periodically cross Earth’s orbit. These Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) are routinely tracked by NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) to make sure that none pose a risk of collision with our planet. Various programs and missions have also been proposed to divert or destroy any asteroids that might pass too closely to Earth in the future.

One such mission is the Asteroid Impact & Deflection Assessment (AIDA), a collaborative effort between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA). Recently, the ESA announced that it would be withdrawing from this mission due to budget constraints. But this past Wednesday (Sep. 20), during the European Planetary Science Conference in Riga, a group of international scientists urged them to reconsider. (9/23)

Broward College a Frequent Flyer in NASA Space Program (Source: Sun Sentinel)
Broward College regularly cooks up experiments that are out of this world — literally. Students will spend this semester preparing equipment for rocket mission sponsored by NASA, continuing what has become two decades of tradition for the college.

“Twenty years ago they told us there was no way that a community college would get something on the space shuttle and we didn’t believe them,” said Professor Rolando Branly. “We worked hard and we did it.” The college’s projects take flight about every two years, paid for by NASA as a way to advance space exploration and stoke the private market for rocket-powered vessels and spacecraft. (9/22)

National Space Club Honors Florida Space Industry Workers (Source: Florida Today)
The National Space Club Florida Committee this week recognized the efforts of local and state workers during its monthly luncheon held in Cape Canaveral. Three "Lifetime Achievement" awards, or recognition of longtime Florida residents who have made significant contributions to the space industry, were distributed. One "Rising Star" award was given to the above-and-beyond accomplishments of a young achiever. Click here. (9/23)

Dreams of 'Moon Village' Shape Up at Riga Meeting (Source: The Japan Times)
By 2040, 100 people will live on the moon, melting ice for water, 3-D printing homes and tools, eating plants grown in lunar soil, and competing in low-gravity “flying” sports. To those who mock such talk as science fiction, experts such as Bernard Foing, ambassador of the European Space Agency-driven “Moon Village” project, reply the goal is not only reasonable but feasible too.

At a European Planetary Science Congress in Riga this week, Foing spelled out how humanity could gain a permanent foothold on Earth’s satellite, and then expand. He likened it to the growth of the railways, when villages grew around train stations, followed by businesses.

By 2030, there could be an initial lunar settlement of six to 10 pioneers — scientists, technicians and engineers — which could grow to 100 by 2040, he predicted. Mere decades from now, “there may be the possibility to have children born on the moon,” he enthused. (9/23)

Boeing May Follow Northrop Grumman in Consolidation Space Race (Source: Bloomberg)
The Orbital acquisition, which would launch Northrop ahead of Lockheed Martin Corp. as the third-biggest NASA contractor, may have a ripple effect in the space, rocket and missile markets. Northrop’s purchase would add Orbital’s $1 billion in prime contracts at NASA and about $13.7 million in subcontracts. Boeing is the second-biggest NASA contractor, winning $2.1 billion in orders last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg Government.

Caret didn’t say which companies Boeing might be interested in acquiring. Shares of Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings Inc., a rocket propulsion systems provider, rose 5.2 percent on Sept. 18, the day of Northrop’s announcement, their biggest move since Aug. 4. They increased by 3.1 percent yesterday to $31.75 in New York.

Aerojet, NASA’s 11th-biggest contractor, had $257 million in contracts with NASA and $180 million with DOD in fiscal 2016. The company could be an attractive target for acquisition because of some of the products and services it sells. (9/22)

Boeing Sees More ‘Excitement About Space’ Now Than in the Last Few Decades (Source: CNBC)
Boeing Defense, Space and Security division CEO Leanne Caret told CNBC that the aerospace giant is putting a new emphasis on space investment because of the rapidly changing landscape of the industry. Caret called the company's satellite business and space exploration two "key" opportunities to generate more growth.

Caret says Boeing's satellite business is getting more exciting, though she has not yet divulged details about how that part of her business is evolving. Boeing has long developed satellites about the size of a school bus, but the industry's push to downsize is putting new pressure on traditional manufacturers. Microsatellites, as small as a shoebox, are an integral part of commercial and military operators' recent push to cut the cost and size of satellites. (9/22)

Asteroid Mining Could Support Space Economies, Colonies (Source: CBC)
Why do we need to mine asteroids? Quite simply because the current economics of space flight are untenable. It costs approximately $10,000 US per kilogram every time we want to send something up to the International Space Station. Imagine $10,000 for a litre of water. Elon Musk and Space X are trying to cut those costs down by having reusable rockets, but still, the price is exorbitant. Click here. (9/23)

September 22, 2017

Nanosatellite Beams Smartphone Voice Call for First Time (Source: Space.com)
For the first time, a voice call has been made via a nanosatellite using a regular smartphone. The voice call lasted more than a minute and went off without a hitch, said Meir Moalem, CEO of the United Kingdom-based startup Sky and Space Global.

During the testing, Sky and Space Global engineers also sent text messages, images and voice recordings via the company's three nanosatellites, dubbed the 3 Diamonds. The satellites, launched on June 23, circle the Earth in a sun-synchronous orbit at the altitude of 500 kilometers (310 miles). (9/22)

Space Travel Debris Clutters Earth’s Orbit, Putting Innovation at Risk (Source: The Hill)
Even as space-based services like weather forecasting and GPS become an intimate, inseparable part of our daily lives, we risk the sustainability of the space environment through sloppy practices that could make near-Earth space into a perilous demolition derby.
 
Right now, more than 500,000 pieces of space debris (ranging in size from that of a marble to a school bus) closely orbit the Earth. This space junk — such as defunct satellites or rocket parts left over from past launch missions — can whip around uncontrollably at 17,500 miles per hour. In space, a fleck of paint can bring about more damage than can a speeding bullet on Earth. (9/22)

New Mexico Delegation Tries to Lure New XS-1 Spaceplane to WSMR, Spaceport America (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
All five members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation have written a letter to company officials at Boeing asking that they include Spaceport America and White Sands Missile Range in the development of a new reusable space aircraft named the Phantom Express.

Boeing recently was awarded the contract by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency for development of a reusable spacecraft that can deploy a medium payload at a lower cost.

The Phantom Express will “reinvent space missions for commercial and government customers by providing rapid, aircraft-like access to space,” according to information on Boeing’s website. “Within minutes, the autonomous, reusable spaceplane would launch its upper stage to deploy small satellites into low Earth orbit. It would then land on a runway to be prepared for its next flight.” (9/22)

ULA Atlas-5 Launch Delayed at California Spaceport (Source: Noozhawk)
A technical issue postponed Thursday night's schedule launch of an Atlas 5 from California. United Launch Alliance announced several hours before the scheduled 1:38 a.m. Eastern Friday launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base that a faulty battery on the rocket would postpone the launch until at least Saturday night. The rocket is carrying a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office on a mission designated NROL-42. (9/22)

Soyuz Launches Russian NavSat (Source: NASASpaceFlight.com)
A Soyuz rocket lauched a Glonass navigation satellite Thursday night. The Soyuz-2.1b lifted off from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia at 8:02 p.m. spacecraft. The rocket's payload was a Glonass-M navigation satellite that will replace a retired satellite in the global navigation system. (9/22)

Russia May Support US Deep Space Gateway (Source: Popular Mechanics)
Russia is reportedly set to agree to cooperate with NASA on the proposed Deep Space Gateway. The head of Roscosmos, Igor Komarov, could announce a partnership with NASA on the project next week at the International Astronautical Congress in Australia, perhaps by offering to develop a lunar lander that could be used for sending crews from the gateway to the lunar surface. NASA unveiled the Deep Space Gateway, located in cislunar space, earlier this year, but has not formally committed to developing it. (9/22)

New Mexico Congressional Delgation Wants to Host DARPA XS-1 Spaceplane Program (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
New Mexico is seeking to be the host for DARPA's XS-1 experimental spaceplane program. The state's five-person congressional delegation wrote a letter to Boeing, the XS-1 prime contractor, asking it to consider using White Sands Missile Range and Spaceport America for future test flights of the vehicle, known as Phantom Express.

Boeing won a contract earlier this year from DARPA to develop XS-1, a reusable suborbital vehicle capable of carrying an expendable upper stage, including a series of test flights. Boeing hasn't decided where those XS-1 test flights, involving vertical launches and horizontal runway landings, will take place. (9/22)

China Plans High-End Camera for Mars Orbiter (Source: GB Times)
China's upcoming Mars orbiter will carry a camera comparable to that on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). The instrument will be able to take images with a resolution of 50 centimeters, nearly as good as the high-resolution camera on MRO, which can take images as sharp as 25 centimeters a pixel. The Chinese camera, though, will have a wider swath than MRO's camera. (9/22)

ISRO Working on Substitute Navigation Satellite (Source: The Hindu)
A team from an industry consortium is being trained to assemble the IRNSS-1I. Work has begun in Bengaluru to assemble a substitute navigation spacecraft, which became essential after the main backup was lost in a failed launch on August 31, 2017.

IRNSS-1I was earlier approved as a ground spare, to be sent to space in an emergency. The Indian Space Research Organisation has been training a team from an industry consortium to assemble this spacecraft and its lost fellow satellite, IRNSS-1H. (9/22)

FCC Can’t Verify Satellite Constellations’ Interference Threat, Passes Buck to ITU (Source: Space Intel Report)
Current and prospective satellite fleet operators are asking the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reverse a proposed rule that would allow operators of low-orbiting constellations to self-certify that their networks won’t interfere with satellites in geostationary orbit. The FCC’s decision represents a 180-degree switch from its earlier position. (9/21)

Vitamin Super Cocktail to Combat 60 Days of Bedrest (Source: ESA)
This week will see the second ESA bedrest study investigating a mix of antioxidants and vitamins that could help astronauts to combat the side effects of living in space. Ten volunteers will lie in beds with the head end tilted down 6ยบ for 60 days, keeping at least one shoulder on their bed at all times.

Intense bedrest such as this is no fun: muscles and bones waste away, and the tilted beds makes blood and fluids move to the head – similar to the changes astronauts endure in space. As all animals on Earth, humans have evolved to live in gravity so finding ways to stay healthy in weightlessness is important for further exploration of our Solar System.

To test new exercise regimes, diets and understand what happens to astronauts, ESA conducts regular bedrest studies that simulate the effects of weightlessness on the human body. (9/21)

'Not One Insult': Briton Tells of Eight Months in Simulated Mars Base (Source: Guardian)
Losing internet access was a bigger problem than personality clashes for six “astronauts” confined for eight months on a remote simulated Mars base, a British member of the team has said. Not a single personal insult was uttered by any member of the crew during the whole of the “mission”, which ended on 17 September, claimed the astrobiologist Sam Payler, 28, a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh. (9/22)

How NASA is Trying to Save Earthquake and Hurricane Victims (Source: Fox News)
What if you are still alive, but buried beneath rubble and with limited time left? Maybe you are at work when an earthquake like the one that just hit Mexico City strikes. Currently, search and rescue teams use methods like dogs, video cameras and listening devices to try to find trapped victims who are still alive. But NASA has worked on a new technology that may supersede all of those methods.

FINDER (short for Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response) takes advances for space exploration and is using them to save lives here on Earth. This revolutionary technology can help rescue someone, whether they are conscious or not, using the person's heartbeat. Click here. (9/22)

Our Closest Star System May be Home to a Stolen Star and Planet (Source: New Scientist)
Proxima Centauri may be an interloper from far away. The stellar system closest to Earth consists of three stars: the closely orbiting pair of Alpha Centauri A and B, and an outlier called Proxima Centauri. A new analysis finds that Proxima, along with its planet Proxima b, may not have been born alongside its stellar siblings. If so, the planet could have a better chance at harboring life. (9/22)

Arecibo Battered by Hurricane Maria (Source: Washington Post)
All staff at Puerto Rico's Arecibo Observatory are safe after Hurricane Maria roared over the island Wednesday, but the iconic radio telescope suffered some damage during the storm.

SRI International, which helps manage the huge telescope, said Thursday night that they were able to make communication with the small team who weathered the storm there. There had been radio silence from the observatory since early Wednesday morning, hours before the eye of the storm passed over Arecibo, in Puerto Rico's northwest. (9/22)

Boeing Says Large Constellations Cannot Meet US Regulator's Satellite Launch Deadline (Source: Space Intel Report)
The global launch-service market is incapable of placing even half of a large constellation of satellites into orbit within six years of the network’s receipt of a license, which is the requirement recently proposed by U.S. regulators, Boeing said. Boeing proposes that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) relax its rules to allow constellations more time for complete deployment (9/22)

New Evidence That Highest Energy Cosmic Rays Come From Beyond Our Galaxy (Source: Science)
When it comes to the highest energy cosmic rays—subatomic particles raining in from space—the sky is lopsided: More come from one direction than the other, according to a new study. And because most come from a direction that points away from our galaxy, the observation bolsters the idea that the cosmic rays originate far beyond the Milky Way. However, the result falls short of astrophysicists’ goal of pinpointing the ultimate sources of such cosmic rays. (9/22)

Trump Pick for NASA Lays Out Agenda for Space Program (Source: USA Today)
Rep. Jim Bridenstine, President Trump’s pick to run NASA, wants to expand the role of new commercial space companies, end dependence on Russian rockets now carrying astronauts to the International Space Station, and establish a “consensus agenda” on future missions that can outlast the whims of changing administrations.

In other words, not unlike the broad goals pushed by his predecessor, Charles F. Bolden Jr. Sean O’Keefe, NASA administrator during George W. Bush’s first term, applauded Bridenstine’s objectives. Click here. (9/22)

September 21, 2017

NASA Calls for Ideas to Enhance Future Space Exploration with Next iTech Challenge (Source: NASA)
A new cycle of the NASA iTech initiative kicks off today with a call for technical solutions to fill gaps in areas identified as having a critical impact on future space exploration.

The request for a five-page white paper is the first phase of NASA iTech Cycle 3, part of a collaborative initiative to find and foster innovative solutions from small and large businesses, universities, non-profits, U.S. government organizations outside of NASA and undiscovered inventors. Inventors and entrepreneurs can enter NASA iTech Cycle 3 at the NASA iTech website through Oct. 20, 2017. (9/15)

Air Force Plans New Launch System Procurement (Source: Space News)
A long-awaited U.S. Air Force solicitation for future launch systems will soon be released. Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, head of Air Force procurement, said at the Air, Space and Cyber conference this week that the Launch Services Agreement request for proposals will be released "soon," with plans to select either two or three vehicles for prototype development.

Orbital ATK, SpaceX and ULA are all expected to compete. Bunch added that the Air Force has no plans to ask Congress to purchase additional RD-180 engines that power the Atlas 5. Editor's Note: Don't forget Blue Origin. And this could be the opportunity Orbital ATK (with Northrop Grumman) is waiting for to develop the Liberty-like vehicle -- based on the SLS solid rocket motor -- that would launch from LC-39B. (9/21)

With SpaceX Launches, Landings, and Automated Flight Safety, USAF Revises Mindset at Eastern Range (Source: Space News)
SpaceX has forced the Air Force to revisit how it manages launch operations. Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith, commander of the 45th Space Wing at Cape Canaveral, said that the company launches "on readiness" rather than on a fixed schedule. This has forced the Eastern Range to become more efficient and more affordable, he said, allowing it to accommodate more launches. An autonomous flight safety system SpaceX developed with the Air Force will allow the Eastern Range to handle up to 48 launches a year. Click here. (9/21) 

Why Russian Billionaire Yuri Milner Is Spending $100 Million On A Mission With Slim Odds Of Success (Source: Forbes)
Billionaire tech investor Yuri Milner wants to use a giant laser to blast small silicon chips deep into space. He’s trying “to answer one of the most existential questions,” he said at an annual Forbes 400 Summit on Philanthropy. “Are we alone in the universe?”

Last year Milner funded a $100 million “Breakthrough Starshot” project to test the feasibility of the light-sail approach. He brought on Stephen Hawking and Mark Zuckerberg as board members. It’s an unusual cause to take on, even for a Silicon Valley mogul, and the potential payoff would be decades away. “Philanthropy is a very broad space. 99% of it should focus on what people need today,” he said. “At the same time, there should be a relatively small amount — less than 1% — that would explore more outward kinds of things.”

Breakthrough Starshot aims to send small, 1.4 by 1.4-inch devices containing cameras and transmitters to the closest star system to Earth, Alpha Centauri. It’s four light years — or 25 trillion miles — away. To get there, Milner wants to use a laser that would need to be an astonishing one kilometer by one kilometer in size. (9/21)

Monteith: SpaceX Has Flipped the Cape's Launch Paragigm (Source: IBD)
Monteith said 13 years ago the Air Force had one commercial space launch and seven military launches. Next year, it plans to have 35 launches, with 28 of them commercial. "The paradigm has completely shifted. We have to adopt commercial business practices. We have to be innovative. We have to be affordable and accessible." (9/21)

Musk Has an Update on His Mars Colony Plans (Source: CNet)
Musk announced his scheme, which focused largely on the rockets and spacecraft that could transport people to Mars rather than the Martian colony itself, at the IAC event last year. Then, over the summer, Musk revealed that the plan has "evolved quite a bit." Specifically, he said in an interview that the size of the vehicles that may ferry Mars pioneers has been decreased somewhat to make it less expensive.

The revised design could be capable of performing missions for Earth orbit as well as Mars. "Maybe we can pay for it by using it for Earth orbit activity. That's one of the key elements of the new architecture," he said. He later explained via Twitter that reducing the diameter of the vehicles would also allow them to fit in current SpaceX factories.

Musk held off on publishing the revised plan and design in order to present it in person at this year's IAC gathering in Australia on the last day of the conference, Sep. 29. The IAC meeting is also set to include the latest on Lockheed Martin's vision for a Mars Base Camp designed to support NASA's plans to send astronauts to the fourth planet using the upcoming Space Launch System and Orion capsule. (9/21)

Chinese-Owned New Zealand Dairy Farm Space Program Attracts Scrutiny (Source: Stuff)
The choice of an Ashburton farm for a Chinese space program has been highlighted in a research paper by Anne-Marie Brady, Canterbury University specialist in Chinese affairs. Brady said New Zealand was useful to China's near-space exploration research "as it expands its long range precision missiles, as well as having civilian applications".

Chinese company KuangChi Science used one of Shanghai Pengxin's farms near Ashburton for the launch of China's first near-space commercial program called Traveler in June 2015. The launch of the near-space balloon was described in a Stuff article at the time as a test to deliver broadband.

Brady's research paper outlined China's policy of "soft influence" and political and business relationships including former Prime Minister John Key's Parnell house sale in September to a Chinese buyer. "The property was sold for $20 million, well above market rates for the area, to an undisclosed Chinese buyer," Brady said. (9/21)

Houston NASA Chief: If Trump Wants 'We're Very Well Set Up' to Go to the Moon (Source: Houston Chronicle)
At a recent Rice University event in Houston, one of NASA's top chiefs was asked about the potential pivot from Mars to moon. "If we do see an administration that decides to make a little bit of a turn and focus a little bit more on the moon, I think we're very well set up to do it," said Ellen Ochoa, NASA's Johnson Space Center director, according to Berger.

"It's not at all incompatible with what we're doing," she said. Ochoa said NASA has left a lot of options open and that a variety of missions are possible, including a return to the moon. (9/21)

Aussie Astronaut Calls for Establishment of National Space Agency (Source: Xinhua)
The second Australian to ever venture into space has called for the country to establish its own space agency. Andrew Thomas, an Australian-born National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) astronaut, told the 68th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Adelaide that Australia should look to play a leading role in space tourism.

"I hope Australia will seize the opportunity and start participating deeply," Thomas, who went on four NASA trips to space between 1996 and 2005, told the congress on Wednesday night. "We need to make a very sound business case for it." "The space sector worldwide is worth something like (320 billion U.S. dollars) and it's growing at 8 percent a year," Thomas said. (9/21)

Aussie State Govt Launches its Own Space Industry Center (Source: InDaily)
Launched today, the South Australian Space Industry Centre is an expansion of Defence SA’s Space Industry Office and aims to drive space industry innovation, research and entrepreneurial development.

Earlier this week Cabinet created an expanded portfolio of Defense and Space Industries for minister Martin Hamilton-Smith. The space center will support South Australia’s emerging space industry by providing grant funding of up to $1 million each year to space entrepreneurs, along with new and existing space startups. (9/21)

Sean Penn to Star in Hulu's Upcoming Mars Drama (Source: Mashable)
Sean Penn is making the move to streaming. The Academy Award winning actor is set to star in Hulu's upcoming original drama series, The First, which will follow the first human mission to Mars. The series — by House of Cards creator Beau Willimon — will depict the challenges a group of astronauts face while trying to achieve interplanetary colonization, while following the lives of their loved ones on Earth and the ground team overseeing the mission. (9/21)

Space Radiation is Risky Business for the Human Body (Source: NASA)
While people protect their eyes from the sun's radiation during a solar eclipse, NASA's Human Research Program (HRP) is working to protect the whole human body from radiation in space. Space radiation is dangerous and one of the primary health risks for astronauts.

"Determining astronaut health consequences following radiation exposure involve very complex processes," said Tony Slaba, Ph.D., NASA research physicist. "It's difficult to quantify exactly how radiation is interacting with tissues and cells -- and more complicated to quantify and determine what long-term outcomes are going to be in terms of the potential diseases and biological system effects."

Virtually any cell in the body is susceptible to radiation damage. The HRP is concerned with long-term health consequences of radiation exposure such as cancer, as well as adverse effects to the central nervous and cardiovascular systems. (9/21)

Hubble Observes Unusual Asteroid Pair with Comet-Like Coma and Tail (Source: Hobby Space)
With the help of the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, a German-led group of astronomers have observed the intriguing characteristics of an unusual type of object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter: two asteroids orbiting each other and exhibiting comet-like features, including a bright coma and a long tail. This is the first known binary asteroid also classified as a comet. (9/21)

Tougher, Shinier Mirrors Boost Telescope Power (Source: Cosmos)
The world’s big astronomical telescopes could soon all get a performance upgrade without the need for installing bigger mirrors, thanks to a collaboration between materials scientists and astronomers at the University of California, Santa Cruz. One key property of the mirrors used in astronomical telescopes is, of course, reflectiveness. Another, however, is durability – and the intersection of the two represents a trade-off.

Most big telescopes use mirrors coated in aluminium, which is a comparatively tough material that can survive the sometimes harsh environments in which observatories are situated, as well as being able to withstand the potentially damaging effects of being manhandled. Silver makes for a much more efficient mirror because it is much more reflective. However, it is also fragile, and prone to damage and corrosion.

Tackling this problem after a conversation with a despairing astronomer, the researchers formulated a tough but ultra-thin coating that can keep silver protected without reducing or distorting its reflective properties. The team formulated several new alloys, using various combinations of fluoride, magnesium and aluminium oxides. These were then deposited on a silver surface, using an electron beam, in a molecule-by-molecule process called atomic layer deposition. (9/21)

Work on China's Mission to Mars 'Well Underway' (Source: Yahoo7 News)
China's program to launch a mission to Mars in 2020 is "well underway", its top planner said Wednesday as the country moves forward with its ambitious space program. The probe will carry 13 types of payload including six rovers. "The payloads will be used to collect data on the environment, morphology, surface structure and atmosphere of Mars."

Editor's Note: What if China's Mars plans are being hyped only to convince the U.S. that NASA should invest billions to beat China to Mars, while China's real goal is to dominate lunar exploration and development? (9/21)

747 Adapted in Texas to Launch Satellites is Now Flying (Source: Dallas Observer)
A unique airplane called the Cosmic Girl landed at Texas State Technical College's airport in Waco earlier this year and parked inside one of the big hangars there. When it rolled out months later, the airplane was ready to launch a space rocket from under one wing while flying at high altitudes. Richard Branson's company, Virgin Orbit, delivered the 747-400 to defense contractor L-3 for conversion into a flying launch pad for small satellites. (9/21)

Experts Set to Meet in Kenya on Space Science (Source: Xinhua)
More than 200 scientists from across the world are set to attend a three-day international conference on space science in Nairobi next week. The Sept. 27-29 conference, organized by the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD), is expected to offer opportunity for countries in fast tracking decision making in their application of earth observation and geo-spatial technologies in developing their decision making policy briefs. (9/21)

Six Firm Launch Contracts Booked with Arianespace (Source: Spaceflight Now)
Arianespace has received its first two confirmed launch contracts for Europe’s new Ariane 6 rocket, and the company recently announced four more launch bookings to loft communications and weather satellites into orbit aboard Ariane 5 and Soyuz boosters from French Guiana.

Two Ariane 6 rockets will launch pairs of Galileo navigation satellites between the end of 2020 and mid-2021, Arianespace said. The launch contractor signed the Galileo launch deal with the European Space Agency, which serves as a technical agent and developer for Europe’s navigation network on behalf of the European Commission. (9/21)

USAF Chief Bullish on Space, Smallsats, Cheap Launchers (Source: Space News)
The commanding general of the U.S. Air Force sees benefits from smallsats and low-cost launch. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said Tuesday that the combination of those two developments will make it easier to deploy more sensors of the right type, networked together, to help forces on the ground. Goldfein also reiterated the Air Force's belief that it is the lead service for space activities. "We own space," he said. "It is who we are. It is based on the obligation we have." (9/20)

Lockheed Introduces New Satellite Products (Source: Space News)
Lockheed Martin announced a new line of satellite buses Tuesday that range from cubesats to large spacecraft. The buses, despite their wide range in size, use common components designed to reduce cost and speed production time. At the small end is the LM 50, a nanosatellite bus developed in partnership with Terran Orbital, a cubesat developer that Lockheed Martin took a stake in earlier this year. At the large end is the LM 2100, an updated version of its A2100 bus used primarily for large GEO satellites. (9/20)

Bridenstine Wins Shelby's Support (Source: Sen. Shelby)
The nominee to be NASA administrator has won the support of a key senator. In a tweet Tuesday, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said he met with Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), nominated earlier this month to lead the space agency. "I look forward to supporting him throughout this process," Shelby said. Shelby chairs the Senate appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA. (9/20)

Finnish Firm Markets Astronaut Training (Source: Space News)
A Finnish startup developing an online astronaut training program has signed on a marketing firm led by a former Apple executive. West, a San Francisco-based "venture studio," will help Space Nation with its rollout next year of its Astronaut Program, a smartphone app that will lead users through a series of challenges with the prospect of participating in full-fledged training and even suborbital spaceflight. West was founded by Allison Johnson, Apple's former vice president for marketing and communications. (9/20)

DOD Chief Supports New ICBM Development (Source: Space News)
The development of a new ICBM has the support of Secretary of Defense James Mattis. Maj. Gen. Anthony Cotton, commander of the 20th Air Force at Global Strike Command, said this week that Mattis sees the need for a new missile to replace the 50-year-old Minuteman, despite being skeptical about that need in the past. Global Strike Commander Gen. Robin Rand said "real problems" caused by North Korea's provocations and concerns about deterring Russia are helping build the case for what is known as the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent program. (9/20)

Air Force Exploring Ways to Protect Satellite Networks from Cyberattacks (Source: Space News)
A future war in space is less likely to be fought with missiles than with electronic signals and malware. Such a prospect has unnerved Air Force leaders at a time when the military is growing increasingly dependent on space systems for essential missions.

The military is confident that its own spacecraft are tightly encrypted and unlikely to be taken down by hackers. It worries, however, about the vulnerability of commercial satellites that host military payloads. The Air Force is eyeing a possible fix: Adding encryption devices to payloads to protect them from tampering or hacking even if the satellite that hosts them comes under attack. (9/20)

Mattis Sees Need for New Space Programs (Source: Space News)
DOD Secretary James Mattis said he’s open to funding new  space programs if Congress delivers on the military spending hike the White House has sought. “In space, we need new starts in order to take advantage of what industry can deliver if we are willing to invest there,” Mattis said Sept. 20 during a keynote speech at the annual Air Force Association Air Space Cyber conference here.

Space is becoming a more dangerous military region, Mattis noted. “In outer space,” he said, “we used to consider it a sanctuary.” But now, he said, adversaries are challenging the U.S. in that domain as they are in others. “It is contested.” One particular area that relies heavily on space-related systems is national nuclear deterrence and Mattis spoke of the need to maintain the robust capability. (9/20)

Space Industry Awaits Air Force Decisions on Future Launch Services (Source: Space News)
A long-awaited solicitation for industry bids on future space launch services will be out “soon,” said Air Force procurement chief Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch. Much is at stake for the space industry in how the Air Force proceeds with a “launch services agreement” that has been in the works for months.

Bidders already have commented on an earlier draft request for proposals and are now awaiting the final RFP. “We want to get the real RFP out to industry,” Bunch told reporters Tuesday at the Air Force Association’s Air Space Cyber conference. (9/20)

Air Force Reserve Grooming Space Warriors (Source: Space News)
Air Force leaders generally agree that the service will need more skills in three key areas: space, cyber and intelligence. Where that talent will come from is still a matter of debate. Lt. Gen. Maryanne Miller, chief of Air Force Reserve, says many of the specialized space and cyber operators the Air Force hopes to add to its ranks are likely to be part-time reservists.

Miller recently sat down with Gen. John Raymond, commander of Air Force Space Command, to discuss this very topic. The command is leading a long-term project to sharpen space warfare skills in the Air Force and prepare for future wars against peer competitors.

A central challenge that Raymond faces, said Miller, is “How do you take the space domain and convert it into a war fighting environment?” There is no simple answer to that question, Miller said. (9/20)

Water Disputes Suggest Need for Australian Space Agency (Source: The Conversation)
An independent report into allegations of water theft and corruption in the Murray-Darling Basin has recommended fundamental reforms to the system. Solutions suggested in the report focus on the state of New South Wales, and involve metered pumps and public access to information.

Others have proposed a space-based solution: wide application of “random audits” of water meters by an independent monitoring system: satellites. But what if we went further. Forget the random audits – why not use satellites to monitor everywhere in the Murray-Darling Basin, all the time? It’s another argument supporting Australia’s need of a space agency. (9/20)

September 20, 2017

SSL Selected to Help U.S. Air Force Test and Validate Scenarios for Hosting Payloads (Source: SSL)
SSL was selected by Innoflight, Inc., a veteran-owned business specializing in electronics systems for Defense & Aerospace, to provide a high fidelity simulation environment for testing the security of hosted payloads on commercial satellites.  The capability, which is being developed for the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) as part of its Secure IP Payload Accommodation Demonstration Project, will enable SMC to demonstrate cybersecure payload hosting scenarios, concepts of operation, and cybersecurity controls.

The capability will also demonstrate advanced, secure internet protocol connections between a government payload operations center and the hosted payload using the existing satellite operator’s networking infrastructure, eliminating the high cost of specialized space to ground communication systems. (9/20)

NASA Needs Better Leadership (Source: Daily Texan)
Back on the campaign trail, then-candidate Donald Trump bemoaned the state of the American space program: “Look what’s happened with our whole history of space and leadership,” he told a crowd in Florida. “Look what’s going on folks. We’re like a third-world nation.”

This was back in August 2016, when the odds of a Trump victory still seemed, well, astronomical. But a funny thing happened on the way to a permanent Democratic majority and now, one year later, President Donald Trump has the chance to make NASA great again.

To that end, after nine months in office, Trump has nominated Oklahoma Congressman Jim Bridenstine to serve as NASA administrator, pending confirmation by the Senate. But if Trump wants to improve the agency and restore American leadership in outer space, Bridenstine is the wrong choice. (9/20)

A Swimming Pool For Spacefarers (Source: Air & Space)
John Vickers spent his childhood dreaming about both undersea life and outer space. If he can execute his vision, Blue Abyss will open in 2019 in Bedfordshire, England, on the grounds of Royal Air Force Henlow station, which last year was listed for closure in 2020. Most of the base will be transformed into housing, but the Bedfordshire city council wants part of it earmarked for a science and technology park and hopes Blue Abyss will fill that space.

The multi-level facility will house the world’s largest and deepest pool—at 11 million gallons, it will be the equivalent of about 16 Olympic-size swimming pools. The natatorium will be devoted to both recreation and research and training for space and deep-sea missions.

UKSpace, a trade association representing most of the country’s space industry, announced its intention earlier this year to capture 10 percent of the global space market by 2030. Vickers sees Blue Abyss as an essential component of this goal. Although the company does not yet have formal agreements with ESA or NASA, Simon Evetts of Blue Abyss says they’ve recruited NASA astronaut Scott Parazynski to get the facility certified at the level that government agencies require to conduct neutral buoyancy training. (9/19)

White House Nominates Additional Directors for Ex-Im Bank (Source: Space News)
The White House has nominated three additional people to serve as directors of the Export-Import Bank, including one with experience in the satellite industry. The White House announced the nominations of Kimberly Reed to serve as first vice president of the bank, as well as Claudia Slacik and Judith Delzoppo Pryor to serve as members of the board. They join Spencer Bachus and Scott Garrett, two former members of Congress, who were nominated to the board earlier this year.

If all are confirmed by the Senate, they would fill out the five-member board, which currently has only two positions filled. Of the newest nominees, Pryor is the most familiar with the space industry. Most recently a vice president at the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, she previously worked as senior vice president for corporate affairs at Worldspace, a company that offered a satellite radio service in parts of Asia and Africa. (9/19)

Stratolaunch Fires Up Its Engines – All Six of ’Em (Source: Geekwire)
The world’s biggest airplane hit another milestone this week with the completion of the first phase of engine testing at California’s Mojave Air and Space Port, according to Stratolaunch, the space venture backed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

Stratolaunch’s CEO, Jean Floyd, reported today that all six of the plane’s Pratt & Whitney turbofan engines were started up for the first time. “Our aircraft is one step closer to providing convenient, reliable and routine access to low Earth orbit,” Floyd said. (9/19)

SpaceX Files 'Starlink' Trademark for Satellite Internet Constellation, Revealing Details (Source: Florida Today)
SpaceX's plans to enter the communications industry through an internet-beaming satellite constellation could finally have a name, according to recent trademark filings that also reveal more about its capabilities, including Earth observation and remote sensing.

Representatives filed documents with the US Patent and Trademark Office for "Starlink," a potential name for its proposed network of nearly 12,000 satellites that would transmit high-speed internet connectivity to users on the ground as soon as 2024.

SpaceX filed two trademarks for Starlink on the same day – one with a focus on satellite communications and research into the field, and the other on hardware related to the undertaking. The filings lack full statements and descriptors, but lists of products, such as "satellite communication and transmission services; wireless broadband communication services; transmission of data, voice and video via satellite," are included in the documents. (9/19)

Cubesats Removed From Florida Minotaur Launch Amid Policy Confusion (Source: Space News)
The Air Force and other government agencies are considering policy changes after several commercial cubesats were removed from a Minotaur launch last month. Eight cubesats from Spire were originally planned to fly as secondary payloads on the Minotaur 4 launch, conducted by Orbital ATK for the Air Force, but were removed because of interagency policy disputes linked to the use of excess ICBM assets.

An Air Force spokesperson said the service is working with other agencies "to ensure there is clear guidance for other potential commercial rideshare opportunities should they arise." Spire argued that the launch was not competing with other commercial vehicles given the unusual low-inclination orbit for the Minotaur launch that is otherwise not available on commercial missions. (9/19)

Air Force Plans Yearlong S&T Review (Source: Space News)
The Air Force is planning a year-long review of its science and technology research, including space. Secretary Heather Wilson announced the review Monday, which will be lead by the Air Force Research Laboratory. Wilson said a "rethink" of Air Force research is needed so that the service can back the work needed "to retain American dominance in air and space power." (9/19)

Poll Finds Mixed Interest in Commercial Human Spaceflight (Source: Morning Consult)
A poll finds that nearly half of Americans would not be interested in flying in space even if they could afford it. The poll, carried out earlier this month, found that 48 percent of Americans said they were not too likely, or likely at all, to fly in space, versus 41 percent who were very or somewhat likely.

Among those with incomes of more than $100,000 a year, the difference was greater: 40 percent were very or somewhat likely, but 55 percent were not likely to go. The poll question didn't specify what kind of "space travel" experience, or what price, would be offered, and the question was just one of a much larger questionnaire on broader policy issues. (9/19)

September 19, 2017

Iran Plans to Join 2 APSCO Projects (Source: Financial Tribune)
I ran is set to expand collaboration with the Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organization and join two of its existing projects. The Minister of Communications and Information Technology Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi said, "Iran is ready to join two major APSCO projects namely, APOSOS and DSSP," the official website of the ministry reported.

He made the remarks in a meeting with the Secretary General of APSCO Li Xinjun in Tehran over the weekend. APOSOS (Asia-Pacific ground-based Optical Space Observation),which is based in China started its space activities in 2008 focusing on educating and training human resources, executing joint programs in space and outer space and using satellites.

APSCO’s DSSP (Data Sharing Service Platform) is another project proposed to member states in 2005. The aim of the project is to build a data sharing platform and provide full service of the space applications and space technology to maximize the level of spatial information application techniques to support  demands like geological support. (9/18)

Prestwick Spaceport Dream is 'Closer Than Ever' (Source: Daily Record)
The dream to launch rockets from Prestwick is “closer than ever,” airport bosses this week insisted. As talks progress to secure key funding for the visionary project, officials insist they are better placed than at any point to put craft into space.

And they say their plans could now be brought “to fruition” within the next year. Prestwick has become favourite to land Europe’s first ever Spaceport licence, with orbiting craft set for take-off as early as 2020. Airport chiefs admit the plans have been viewed with scepticism by some – but say the time to believe is now. (9/18)

Vietnam, Japan Seal Satellite Data Exchange Deal (Source: Vietnam Plus)
The Vietnam National Space Centre under the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology (VAST) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) signed an agreement on satellite data exchange in Hanoi on September 18.

The pact aims to assist the DataCube programme in Vietnam, which is an earth-observation-satellite database used for the development of other applications to monitor paddies, forests and water quality. The JAXA will provide its ScanSAR ALOS-2 images capturing the Vietnamese territory and research projects. (9/18)

Mercury 13 Women Were Ready for Space, But NASA Never Gave Them a Chance (Source: Houston Press)
At age 12, Geraldyn “Jerrie” Cobb persuaded her father to teach her to fly, zipping over Wichita Falls, Texas, in a two-seater made of cloth and aluminum poles. At 18 she held a commercial pilot’s license. By the time she was 29 she was a flight instructor, had ferried dozens of army surplus planes to Europe and South America, had amassed more than 10,000 hours of flying time and had broken three world records for flight.

When she was 14, Sarah Ratley stole her older sister’s birth certificate to convince her flight instructor she was old enough to fly solo. She fell in love with it because the first flight she ever took, she looked down and saw her Kansas high school, her town, and it all looked so small. When she was in a plane, it didn’t matter that she was good at math and didn’t fit in at school.

These women, some of the top female pilots in the United States, were not anomalies. The pool was a small one compared to the number of men who flew planes, but when Dr. Randolph Lovelace, a pioneer in aeromedicine, decided to select female pilots to undergo the physical testing to become astronaut candidates, he still had more than 700 to choose from. Click here. (9/19)

Northrop Bulks Up Missile Business on $7.8 Billion Orbital Deal (Source: Bloomberg)
Northrop Grumman Corp.’s $7.8 billion purchase of Orbital ATK Inc. will expand its space and missile businesses just as the U.S. steps up efforts to defend against a possible strike by North Korea and threats in the Middle East. The deal cements a turnaround for Northrop, which had been the target of breakup speculation before it scored an upset win in 2015 to build the next U.S. stealth bomber.

The transaction, the largest in the defense industry in two years, adds rocket propulsion, missile-defense and satellite expertise to Northrop’s capabilities as a major U.S. weapons maker. Buying Orbital would make Northrop the fourth-largest Pentagon contractor, displacing Raytheon. Editor's Note: So how much is it? $7.8 billion, $8 billion, or $9.2 billion? (9/19)

Why Defense Giant Northrop Just Paid $8 Billion For Space Company Orbital ATK (Source: Popular Mechanics)
There is more at stake here than a business takeover story. Northrop is trying to capitalize on global trends that run the gamut from inspiring to disconcerting. To unpack this deal, you have to start with the players. Orbital ATK has a current contract to supply the International Space Station with cargo by launching its Antares rocket and Cygnus capsule from Wallops Island, VA.

The firm also has a comfortable niche making rockets and missiles for the Pentagon. Meanwhile, Northrop Grumman's idea of a niche is building a new stealth bomber to replace the B-2—it won the B-21 bomber program last year. They play big, and they often win. But the big defense contractor is not that strong in the thing that Orbital has: space rockets and missile motors.

So, as Grumman's chief executive pointed out on an investor call on Monday, there "is not a lot of overlap" between the two companies. Like two puzzle pieces, they fit together—which is all fine and good. But that alone doesn't mean motivate a company to plunk down $8 billion to buy a firm. Northrop wanted Orbitals proven expertise, and wanted it now. But why? Click here. (9/19)

Aussie Start-Up Develops 'Petrie Dish' for Space (Source: In Daily)
South Australian start-up Research Sat has developed a prototype of its 3D-printed titanium box, associated quartz glass slides and microchips to transmit data that fits neatly into a miniature satellite. The commercial off-the-shelf product, which is effectively a space petrie dish, is suitable for microbiology, physics and chemistry research and could dramatically reduce the cost of conducting experiments in microgravity environments. (9/19)

NASA Needs To Better Oversee Drone Inventory, OIG Says (Source: Law 360)
NASA has made significant contributions to the development of a framework to allow the operation of unmanned aircraft systems, or drones, in U.S. airspace, but its oversight of its own UAS inventory is patchy and needs work, a watchdog said in a Monday report. (9/18)

US Still Fighting Boeing Subsidy Ruling At WTO (Source: Law 360)
Despite scoring a near-total win in the European Union’s World Trade Organization challenge of subsidies and tax breaks given to aircraft titan Boeing, the U.S. government has nevertheless lodged an appeal looking to undo adverse portions of the decision, according to WTO documents circulated Monday. (9/18)

Canada Won't Do Business with Boeing While It's 'Busy Trying to Sue Us,' Trudeau Says (Source: CBC)
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dropped the gloves Monday in his fight with Boeing, saying the government won't do business with a company that he's accusing of attacking Canadian industry and trying to put aerospace employees out of work.

Trudeau's broadside represents the strongest Canadian rhetoric yet against the U.S. aerospace giant since Boeing launched a trade dispute with Montreal-based rival Bombardier earlier this year. It also leaves little doubt that the Liberals are serious about walking away from a controversial plan to purchase 18 so-called "interim" Super Hornet fighter jets from Boeing if the company doesn't stand down. (9/19)

'Bourne' Wannabe Gets 5 Years For Selling Satellite Secrets (Source: Law 360)
An ex-defense contractor employee with an affinity for Jason Bourne and other spy characters who tried to sell sensitive satellite information to a buyer he believed to be Russian was sentenced in California federal court Monday to five years in prison, prosecutors said. (9/18)

Seraphim Launches $95 Million Venture Capital Space Fund (Source: Space News)
UK-based venture fund manager Seraphim Capital has launched a dedicated 70 million British pounds  ($95 million) fund that will support innovative companies developing Earth-observation technologies and data-driven applications.

The Seraphim Space Fund will also support other technologies that generate “data from above” such as drones, said Mark Boggett, Seraphim Capital’s chief executive officer. (9/19)

Wargaming Tool Sharpens space Domain Focus (Source: Space News)
As the U.S. Air Force looks to hone its recently issued warfighting operational concepts for space, Lockheed Martin has developed a digital battle manager that promises to integrate the domain into overall planning to a much greater degree than before. Called the Multi-Domain Command and Control system, the manager can link various air, ground, sea and space systems for real-time analysis and action, Lockheed Martin officials say. (9/18)

Bridenstine Outlines Challenges He Foresees for NASA (Source: Space News)
The nominee to be the next administrator of NASA says that he believes the agency’s top challenges include maintaining “consistency and constancy of purpose” that can support long-term plans, while building up international and commercial relationships.

Those opinions were expressed by Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), formally nominated Sept. 5 to be NASA administrator, in a questionnaire he submitted to the Senate Commerce Committee. Click here. (9/18)

Arecibo Observatory Closes as Hurricane Maria Threatens Puerto Rico (Source: Space.com)
The Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico will cease observations today (Sep. 18) through Thursday (Sep. 21) and keep its visitor center closed through Sep. 28, due to the impending arrival of Hurricane Maria, officials said today on Twitter. (9/18)

World's Smallest Spacecraft Is Prelude to Enormous Voyage (Source: NBC News)
In pursuit of one of space exploration’s biggest dreams — sending a spacecraft to a nearby star system to look for evidence of alien life — Breakthrough Starshot is putting its faith in the very small. The $100-million R&D initiative recently launched into Earth orbit multiple copies of what it calls the world’s smallest fully functional space probe.

Called Sprites, the experimental space vehicles weigh only four grams and measure 3.5 by 3.5 centimeters. But despite the small package — each device is built on a single chip — the Sprites are equipped with solar panels, computers, sensors, and radios. And they’re seen as a big deal by leading astronomers. Click here. (9/18)

New Climate Change Calculations Could Buy the Earth Some Time — If They’re Right (Source: Washington Post)
A group of prominent scientists on Monday created a potential whiplash moment for climate policy, suggesting that humanity could have considerably more time than previously thought to avoid a “dangerous” level of global warming.

The upward revision to the planet’s influential “carbon budget” was published by a number of researchers who have been deeply involved in studying the concept, making it all the more unexpected. But other outside researchers raised questions about the work, leaving it unclear whether the new analysis — which, if correct, would have very large implications — will stick. (9/19)

Northrop Grumman to Acquire Orbital ATK (Source: Space News)
Northrop Grumman will acquire Orbital ATK in a $9.2 billion deal announced Monday morning. Northrop will pay $7.8 billion in cash and assume $1.4 billion in debt for Orbital ATK, which will become a separate division of Northrop. The companies emphasized the complementary nature of the deal, noting Orbital's strengths in launch vehicles, propulsion and smaller satellites compared to Northrop's capabilities with larger satellites, aircraft and other defense systems. The deal is expected to close in the first half of 2018 after regulatory and shareholder approvals. (9/18)

Mars Research Crew Emerges After 8 Months of Isolation (Source: Washington Post)
Six NASA-backed research subjects who have been cooped up in a Mars-like habitat on a remote Hawaii volcano since January emerged from isolation Sunday. They devoured fresh-picked tropical fruits and fluffy egg strata after eating mostly freeze-dried food while in isolation and some vegetables they grew during their mission.

The crew of four men and two women are part of a study designed to better understand the psychological impacts a long-term space mission would have on astronauts. The data they produced will help NASA select individuals and groups with the right mix of traits to best cope with the stress, isolation and danger of a two-to-three year trip to Mars. (9/17)

The World is About to End — Again — if You Believe This Biblical Doomsday Claim (Source: Washington Post)
A few years ago, NASA senior space scientist David Morrison debunked an apocalyptic claim as a hoax. No, there’s no such thing as a planet called Nibiru, he said. No, it’s not a brown dwarf surrounded by planets, as iterations of the claim suggest. No, it’s not on a collision course toward Earth. And yes, people should “get over it.”

But the claim has been getting renewed attention recently. Added to it is the precise date of the astronomical event leading to Earth’s destruction. And that, according to David Meade, is in six days — Sept. 23, 2017. Unsealed, an evangelical Christian publication, foretells the Rapture in a viral, four-minute YouTube video, complete with special effects and ominous doomsday soundtrack. It’s called “September 23, 2017: You Need to See This.”

Why Sept. 23, 2017? Meade’s prediction is based largely on verses and numerical codes in the Bible. He has homed in one number: 33. “Jesus lived for 33 years. The name Elohim, which is the name of God to the Jews, was mentioned 33 times [in the Bible],” Meade said. “It’s a very biblically significant, numerologically significant number. I’m talking astronomy. I’m talking the Bible … and merging the two.” And Sept. 23 is 33 days since the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse, which Meade believes is an omen. (9/17)

Curiosity Rover Captures Spectacular Images as It Climbs Toward a Mysterious Outcrop (Source: Gizmodo)
Over the past few days, NASA’s Curiosity rover has been making a steady climb towards a strange Martian ridge that’s captivated scientists since before the mission even started. Known as Vera Ridge after the pioneering astrophysicist Vera Rubin, the durable outcrop could shed new light on the environment and potential habitability of ancient Mars. Although the climb has proven a challenging one, Curiosity has managed to capture some spectacular photos along the way.

The Curiosity rover’s explorations have already shown that this region of Mars once hosted an ancient lake, which is seen as a potential sign of habitability, and a possible example of what Earth looked like in its primordial days. The iron-oxide-bearing Vera Ridge, which also contains clay and sulfate minerals, was named a “go-to target” by NASA before Curiosity made its landing on the Red Planet back in 2012. (9/17)

It Looks Like We Were Wrong About a Basic Property of Mars (Source: Gizmodo)
When you think about what makes a planet special, maybe you think about its size, its composition, how far it is from the Sun, and maybe how large its collection of apples is. You are probably not thinking about its density. But maybe you should be.

Scientists previously assumed, well, Mars is a big rocky planet, it’s probably kind of dense. But after a few calculations, one team of researchers in the United States made a new model of just how dense Mars’ crust is, with the hope that it could elucidate the makeup of the planet’s rocky surface. Turns out, it’s lighter than they assumed.

How light? The researchers estimated a density of around 2580 kilograms per meter cubed, or 2.58 grams per cubic centimeter. That’s even lighter than the Earth’s continental crust at 2.7 grams per cubic center. (9/17)

Dragon Departs ISS (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
A SpaceX Dragon spacecraft returned to Earth Sunday after a month at the International Space Station. The Dragon was unberthed from the station and released at 4:40 a.m. Eastern, splashing down in the Pacific Ocean southwest of Los Angeles about five and a half hours later. The Dragon, launched to the station in mid-August, brought back more than 1,700 kilograms of experiments and other cargo from the station. (9/17)

India Moving Toward PSLV Return to Flight (Source: The Hindu)
India is planning to resume launches of its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) by December after a launch failure last month. A.S. Kiran Kumar, chairman of the Indian space agency ISRO, said Friday that the agency would soon release the report on the Aug. 31 launch failure, where the PSLV's payload fairing failed to separate. That failure resulted in the loss of a navigation satellite. He said he expected PSLV launches to resume in November or December. (9/18)

Chinese Space Official Gets New Military Tech Post (Source: Reuters)
A Chinese space program official has been promoted to run a key department in the People's Liberation Army (PLA). China's defense ministry announced that Li Shangfu will be the new head of the PLA's Equipment Development Department, responsible for development of military technologies. Li was previously director of the Xichang Satellite Launch Center, one of China's major launch sites. (9/18)

September 18, 2017

Deterring Chinese and Russian Space Hybrid Warfare by Economic and Financial Means (Source: Space Review)
Some in the US and allied nations are increasingly concerned by apparent efforts by the Chinese and Russian governments to engage in provocative actions that could endanger space assets. Jana Robinson proposes a means by which the US deter those attacks without risking an escalation of space warfare. Click here. (9/18)
 
Back to the Moon, This Time for Pay (Source: Space Review)
For the second time in two months, a company showed off a full-scale model of its commercial lunar lander in Washington last week. Jeff Foust reports this comes as companies, NASA, and politicians examine potential roles such efforts might play in a broader effort to return to the Moon and access its resources. Click here. (9/18)
 
Blue Origin Meets Apollo (Source: Space Review)
At this year’s EAA AirVenture show in Wisconsin, the past heroes of spaceflight met the future of space transportation. Eric Hedman describes the appear of Blue Origin’s New Shepard at a show that also features a reunion of Apollo astronauts. Click here. (9/18)
 
Applying Lessons from Apollo for a Smart Space Agenda at a Time of Increased International Tension (Source: Space Review)
The Space Race between the US and USSR provided a means for peaceful competition at a time when the Cold War threatened to turn hot. David Dunlop  argues that, today, increased international tensions call for greater cooperation among spacefaring nations. Click here. (9/18)

VAFB Commander Excited About Base's Future (Source: Lompoc Record)
Michael Hough, a colonel in the U.S. Air Force, took over command of the 30th Space Wing and Western Range at Vandenberg Air Force Base on June 9. The 24-year Air Force veteran has witnessed his first rocket launch at VAFB, and discussed some of the things that have him excited about the near future at the base, including a scheduled mission to Mars, a solar field that will change the way portions of the base receive energy, and a potential drone program that could bring more than 1,000 jobs to VAFB. (9/18)

Want a Job as a NASA Astronaut? Read This (Source: CNN)
The starting pay is pretty good, depending on experience. The jobs are hard to get, and a lot of people want them. It's the job of an NASA astronaut. America is gearing up for a new era of human spaceflight -- with plans to try to reach beyond the moon and perhaps to Mars. There's a thriving commercial sector driven by companies like Boeing and Space X. Click here. (9/18)

SpaceX Dragon Cargo Craft Splashes Down in Pacific Ocean With Experiments (Source: Space.com)
For the vessel's return trip, the crew loaded the Dragon with "science samples from human and animal research, biology and biotechnology studies, physical science investigations, and education activities," NASA officials said. This was the 12th contracted cargo resupply mission (CRS-12) for SpaceX. While this was a brand-new Dragon capsule at the time of launch, SpaceX officials said they plan to launch only used cargo spacecraft to the space station from now on. (9/18)

Analysts See Red Flags in Northrop’s Acquisition of Orbital (Source: Space News)
News of the $9.2 billion acquisition by Northrop Grumman of Orbital ATK has been met with mixed reactions on what it could mean for the Pentagon’s space business. Executives from both firms described the combination of both companies as a “complementary fit.”

Industry analysts see the merger as a natural consequence of constrained government spending and pressure on corporations to reduce costs. But they also are raising potential red flags such as the possibility that a larger, more vertically integrated company would leave the military with fewer choices in certain sectors of the market. (9/18)

New Gravity Map Suggests Mars Has a Porous Crust (Source: Space Daily)
NASA scientists have found evidence that Mars' crust is not as dense as previously thought, a clue that could help researchers better understand the Red Planet's interior structure and evolution. A lower density likely means that at least part of Mars' crust is relatively porous. At this point, however, the team cannot rule out the possibility of a different mineral composition or perhaps a thinner crust. (9/14)

Chinese Company Eyes Development of Reusable Rocket (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
A Chinese startup company appears to be following in the footsteps of SpaceX as it has recently laid out its own project of a reusable space launch system. Link Space, the country’s first private rocket company, has recently presented the design of its New Line 1 (also known as Xin Gan Xian 1) launch vehicle, which could compete with SpaceX’s Falcon 9 in the future.

Link Space uncovered the design and some basic technical parameters at a recent presentation. The images revealed to the public show that the first stage of the newly developed launcher could feature a similar landing system that is used in SpaceX’s flagship reusable Falcon 9 booster. Click here. (9/18)

'Moon Tree' Destroyed by Hurricane Irma at KSC (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
While Hurricane Irma only caused minor damage to facilities at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, the storm did destroy a unique plant: a Moon tree. Beginning as one of the hundreds of seeds that were taken to lunar orbit during the Apollo 14 mission in 1971, it was planted at the visitor complex during the United States Bicentennial.

The seeds were taken to the Moon by Apollo 14 Command Module Pilot Stuart Roosa. The mission launched on January 31, 1971, from KSC’s Launch Complex 39A located in Florida. In total, the mission lasted nine days – safely splashing down in the South Pacific on February 9, 1971. (9/16)

Huntsville’s Cimarron Makes Tanks That Go to Space (Source: WHNT)
Cimarron’s tanks on the Space X rocket are made of metal, wrapped with carbon fiber. The fiber, which comes from a company in Decatur makes the lightweight tanks strong enough to endure the stress of a rocket launch.  The space part of Cimarron actually grew out of the manufacture of larger plastic tanks which are used to transport natural gas.

The carbon fiber makes those tanks durable enough for the job, but those tanks still aren’t as tough as the tanks that fly on rockets. “Well, there’s similarities of technology. Both of them use high-grade carbon fiber. It’s just the aerospace work that needs things that are a little higher quality,” said Delay. (9/15)

The Sci-Fi Roots of the Far Right, From ‘Lucifer’s Hammer’ to Newt’s Moon Base to Donald’s Wall (Source: Daily Beast)
There is a tendency to see President Donald Trump as a radical break from the past. But conservative techno-futurist Newt Gingrich sees Trump as ushering in a revolution — with a subsequent utopian space-age.Gingrich has envisioned such a breakthrough, and hopes Trump will be an agent of it, for decades. Gingrich’s vision is one stop on a straight line that goes through his friend and legendary science-fiction novelist Jerry Pournelle’s Lucifer’s Hammer to Ronald Reagan’s Star Wars to Bill Clinton’s impeachment to Trump. Click here. (9/17)

Mars Mission Worth the Cost (Source: The Town Talk)
Space exploration is very costly. Unmanned missions cost billions, and a manned mission to Mars will cost hundreds of billions. Starting a colony on Mars will put the tab into the trillions. How can we justify that kind of expense when our country is facing record deficits?

Wouldn't that money be better spent on providing health care, improving our nation's infrastructure, subsidizing work programs -- something that would yield immediate benefits to citizens right now? If you are only interested in short-term benefits, then the answer is probably yes. But if you are interested in the long-term picture -- specifically survival of our species -- then we must move forward with efforts to find ways to exist beyond the earth.

The reality is, life and our planet are both incredibly fragile. Whether it is the risk of a collision with a giant asteroid, like the one believed to have impacted the earth wiping out the dinosaurs, or the risk of a global catastrophe such as a world-wide epidemic or nuclear annihilation, there are many ways human life as we know it could be wiped out. But if we have colonies beyond earth, whether it is on Mars or the moon or some other platform, the odds of human survival increase. (9/16)

Irma Destroyed Popular Launch Viewing Sites (Source: Universe Today)
As a direct result of Irma, the next Space Coast launches of a ULA Atlas V and SpaceX Falcon 9 have been postponed into October. “The storm did delay the next launches,” said Brig. Gen. Wayne R. Monteith, Commander, 45th Space Wing. “We think the next launch will be approximately the first week of October.”

However although there was damage to numerous buildings, both the spacecraft and rockets are safe and sound. The base and the visitor complex both lacked potable water service used for drinking, food preparation and cleaning. A number of popular public launch viewing locations were also severely damaged or destroyed as I witnessed personally driving in Titusville around just hours after Irma fled north. (9/17)

September 17, 2017

Gay Rights Groups Oppose Bridenstine for NASA (Source: Politico)
Gay rights groups are expressing their opposition to the nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) as NASA administrator. The groups say that Bridenstine's views on issues like same-sex marriage make him unsuited to lead the space agency. Some insiders, though, say Bridenstine's comments mentioned in the article were taken out of context and don't accurately reflect his views. Bridenstine's nomination continues to have strong support within the space community, across the political spectrum, citing his expertise on space issues. (9/15)

Russia Plans $6 Billion Spaceport Investment (Source: Tass)
Russia plans to spend nearly $6 billion through 2025 developing spaceport infrastructure. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Wednesday that current plans called for spending $5.9 billion from 2017 to 2025 on spaceport facilities. He did not elaborate on the spending plans other than to say that the investment will support "the entire range of rockets of the future." (9/15)

Idaho Wants to Create a 1,400-Square-Mile Reserve for the Stars (Source: The Week)
Idaho is moving forward with plans to establish the first International Dark Sky Reserve in the United States, a designation for a location so remote from light pollution that you can even see the "interstellar dust clouds" of the Milky Way in the night sky.

Proponents of the reserve plan to file an application this fall to designate 1,400 square miles of central Idaho as part of the dark sky territory. Locals, who would voluntarily take measures to reduce light pollution, are almost unanimously behind the decision in part because they enjoy the celestial splendor as well. (9/15)

September 16, 2017

Asteroid Mining is Our Best Hope for Colonizing Mars (Source: CNET)
For the first time since the 1960s, space exploration is truly exciting again. This is thanks in large part to the advent of New Space, the name given to the new generation of commercial space companies that are determined to open up the final frontier to all. At the forefront of the new space race is SpaceX, which in less than a decade has managed to turn the rocket industry on its head by pioneering reusable rockets and dramatically cutting the largest barrier to entry when it comes to space: the astronomical costs.

SpaceX isn't content with schlepping research supplies to the ISS and satellites to low earth orbit, however. Its CEO has also made it abundantly clear that he sees his company as the stepping stone to turning humans into a multi-planetary species. At last year's International Astronautical Congress, Musk outlined his plans for getting humans to Mars. This plan involves a whole new generation of spaceships designed for transporting Martian colonists en masse, as well as the successful development of the Falcon Heavy, which will be the largest rocket ever made. Click here. (9/14)

Orlando to Bid on New Amazon Headquarters (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Retail and tech giant Amazon has invited Orlando-area leaders to bid for its second major U.S. headquarters, a project it has been shopping around that could create 50,000 jobs for its eventual home. Economic leaders say they plan to “aggressively pursue this project” and have started to review potential sites for the headquarters. (9/15)

The Spaceport Industry is Booming in Every Corner of the US, from Alaska to Virginia (Source: CNBC)
10 spaceports are quietly driving the commercial space industry, and the FAA says "another half-dozen locations are knocking on the door." The FAA is working to resolve the enduring conflict between aircraft and spacecraft, as the number of rocket launches increases exponentially. Spaceports are economic drivers. One CEO says "the money really is in the vehicle operators." Click here. (9/13)

Two NDAA Amendments Could Change Scope of Satellite-Servicing Robot Program (Source: C4ISRnet)
As the Senate takes up the defense bill this week, two proposed amendments could change the scope of a DARPA satellite-servicing program that a competing company says undercuts the commercial market.

Earlier this year, DARPA awarded a contract to Space Systems Loral for the Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites program. Through the RSGS program, DARPA and SSL hope to develop a robot capable of moving geosynchronous satellites in orbit about 20,000 miles from the Earth, making basic repairs and installing upgrades.

However, Orbital ATK contends that its own product, the Mission Extension Vehicle, or MEV, is being built for the same types of tasks, and that DARPA’s partnership with SSL violates National Space Policy because it subsidizes a vendor in a market space where companies are independently developing commercial technologies. (9/14)

Could Interstellar Ice Provide the Answer to Birth of DNA (Source: Space Daily)
The building blocks of DNA could have come from space Researchers at the University of York have shown that molecules brought to earth in meteorite strikes could potentially be converted into the building blocks of DNA. They found that organic compounds, called amino nitriles, the molecular precursors to amino acids, were able to use molecules present in interstellar ice to trigger the formation of the backbone molecule, 2-deoxy-D-ribose, of DNA.

It has long been assumed that amino acids were present on earth before DNA, and may have been responsible for the formation of one of the building blocks of DNA, but this new research throws fresh doubt on this theory.

Dr Paul Clarke, from the University of York's Department of Chemistry, said: "The origin of important biological molecules is one of the key fundamental questions in science. The molecules that form the building blocks of DNA had to come from somewhere; either they were present on Earth when it formed or they came from space, hitting earth in a meteor shower. (9/15)

Retired Boeing satellite exec to head EO startup Hera Systems (Source: Space News)
California startup Hera Systems has tapped a long-retired Boeing executive as CEO to to help realize the firm’s ambition to develop and launch a constellation of tens of Earth-observing micro-satellites. Roger Roberts ended an eight-year stint as the head of Boeing space and intelligence systems in 2005 as his unit’s marquee classified contract, the Future Imagery Architecture constellation of optical and radar reconnaissance satellites, was facing cancellation. (9/15)

Back to Saturn? Five Missions Proposed to Follow Cassini (Source: New York Times)
NASA currently has no plans to return to Saturn, but that could change. In the latest round in a scientific competition called New Frontiers, NASA specified categories of missions it would consider. Those include a probe to study Saturn’s atmosphere or a mission to go to Titan or Enceladus, two moons known to have oceans. Click here. (9/15)

After Cassini, NASA Plans More Missions to Find Life (Source: Newsweek)
Although NASA has been working toward the Europa Clipper mission for years, beginning before Cassini reached Saturn, Cassini helped shape the future mission’s strategy and determine which instruments will be put on the spacecraft. Here is a partial list of missions and events to look forward to. (9/15)

Turkey Denies Bail for Jailed NASA Scientist — Again (Source: Houston Press)
Before Serkan Golge left Old Dominion University in Virginia to start his job at the Johnson Space Center in 2013, he gave his friend and colleague Alicia Hofler a map of Turkey as a gift, with the names of the cities spelled out in Turkish. Golge had circled Antakya, his hometown, and written next to it that this is where he is from.

“He was always saying that if I wanted to come visit, he would tour me there. He's always been so proud of his country," Hofler says. “He loves Turkey but he has never been a political person. It was shocking to me when he got arrested, because that doesn't make sense for him to be involved in all of that.”

Now, Golge, a 38-year-old NASA scientist, has been held in a Turkish jail for more than a year on charges that the physicist was involved in an attempt to overthrow the Turkish government, an attempt that has ultimately amounted to being linked to a single U.S. dollar bill. On Thursday, at yet another hearing, Golge was once again denied bail. (9/15)

Pitch-Black Planet Orbits Alien Star More than 1,000 Light-Years Away (Source: Mashable)
A planet orbiting a star 1,400 light-years from Earth is darker than asphalt. New data from the Hubble Space Telescope shows that WASP-12b, which has a radius twice as large as Jupiter's, is an incredibly hot planet with a very low albedo—meaning that it's incredibly dark. WASP-12b is known as a "hot Jupiter" because it's about the size of our solar system's largest planet, yet orbits very close to its star. That close distance is also probably responsible for the alien world's pitch-black color. (9/15)

Spaceflight Industries Teams with Europe’s Thales Alenia and Telespazio for Satellites (Source: GeekWire)
Seattle-based Spaceflight Industries has forged a partnership with a French-Italian venture known as the Space Alliance, formed by Thales Alenia Space and Telespazio, to accelerate plans for a 60-satellite constellation of Earth-observing satellites.

The partnership involves a minority investment in Spaceflight Industries, the creation of an industrial joint venture between Thales Alenia and Spaceflight in the United States to produce satellites, and an agreement between Telespazio and Spaceflight’s BlackSky business line for marketing satellite data. (9/15)

Satellites Measuring Earth’s Melting Ice Sheets to Go Dark (Source: Science)
After running for a decade beyond its planned life, the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) is nearly out of fuel and will soon make its final science run. The tandem of satellites—called GRACE-1 and GRACE-2—measure minute shifts in Earth’s gravity to chart flows of mass across the planet, such as the unexpectedly rapid melt of polar ice sheets and the drawdown of underground water reservoirs.

Scientists had hoped GRACE would operate until its successor, the $550 million GRACE Follow-on (GRACE-FO) mission, reached orbit. But troubles securing a ride to space have delayed GRACE-FO’s launch until early 2018. Meanwhile, the battery in GRACE-2 used to store solar power has been deteriorating rapidly, forcing the satellite to burn through fuel. Engineers turned off an accelerometer last year to keep it running, but the satellite’s data have continued to degrade.

On 4 September, scientists lost contact with GRACE-2 after another of its battery cells stopped operating. Four days of feverish work followed, with scientists steeling themselves for the mission’s end. But finally, engineers bypassed the satellite’s flight software, successfully rebooting it. (9/15)

NASA Awards Contract for Ground Processing of Spaceflight Cargo (Source: NASA)
NASA has awarded a contract to Leidos Innovations Corporation in Houston to provide pressurized cargo packing and unpacking for the International Space Station Program.

The Cargo Mission Contract (CMC) 3 contract is a cost-plus-award-fee contract with an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity element. The contract’s phase-in period begins Jan. 2, 2018, followed by a two-year base period, one two-year option, one 18-month option, and one one-year option, all which may be exercised at NASA's discretion. The maximum potential value of the contract, including all options, is $159 million. (9/15)

How Space Capsules Have Improved Over the Past 50 Years (Source: LA Times)
In 1961, an American astronaut reached space for the first time and soared through the heavens in a gumdrop-shaped capsule. Since then, people have flown to the moon, created space planes and designed rockets that return to Earth for precision landings. But when astronauts lift off next year from U.S. soil for the first time in six years, their vehicle of choice will be another capsule.

Despite the sleek spaceships of sci-fi imaginings or the familiar winged body of the shuttle, engineers have returned to the seemingly clunky capsule again and again for a simple reason — it works. Boeing and SpaceX are relying on the tried-and-true design as the two companies each develop spacecraft under NASA contracts to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station. Click here. (9/15)

House Passes Spending Bill with Space Provisions Intact (Source: Space News)
The House of Representatives passed an omnibus appropriations bill for fiscal year 2018 Sept. 14 that keeps funding for NASA and NOAA programs unchanged from earlier bills.

The House passed by a 211–198 vote H.R. 3354, the Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act, which combined eight separate appropriations bills into a single omnibus bill. Among the original bills included in the omnibus is the commerce, justice and science (CJS) appropriations bill, which the House Appropriations Committee approved July 13.

That earlier bill offered $19.871 billion for NASA for 2018, compared to the administration’s request of less than $19.1 billion and the agency’s $19.65 billion budget for 2017. Those provisions were unchanged in the omnibus bill, and there were no amendments during floor debate of the omnibus to make significant changes to those sections. (9/14)