September 20, 2018

Baikonur Facilities to Undergo Overhaul Before OneWeb Satellites Launch (Source: Sputnik)
The assembly and testing facility of the Baikonur cosmodrome which will be used for the launch of OneWeb satellites atop Russian rockets will go through a reconstruction ahead of the beginning of the launches, said a source at the cosmodrome. "In the central hall of the assembly and testing facility floor is being replaced... The floor replacement will help to improve considerably the air quality in the hall," the source said.

Besides, the facility's ventilation system and electricity are being examined by the specialists, according to the source. The source recalled that the first launch of the OneWeb satellites from the Baikonur cosmodrome will take place six months after a qualification launch from the Guiana Space Center, which, according to the existing schedule, will be held in mid-February 2019. (9/17)

China Lofts Pair of Beidou Navigation Satellites with 25th Space Launch of 2018 (Source: GB Times)
China successfully launched a pair of Beidou navigation and positioning satellites into medium Earth orbits on Wednesday, marking the country's 25th launch of a record-setting 2018. A Long March 3B rocket with a Yuanzheng-1 upper stage lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in southwest China at 14:07 UTC (10:07 EDT).

The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) declared the mission a success just over four hours later, following direct insertion of the Beidou-3 satellites into their intended medium Earth orbits (MEO). Wednesday's mission saw the 37th and 38th satellites of the Beidou system put into orbit, following the launch of the first in 2000. (9/19)

AFA Suggests "Aerospace Force" Name Change for Air Force (Source: Space Policy Online)
The Air Force Association (AFA) has issued a position paper rejecting the idea of creating a new U.S. Department of the Space Force as demanded by President Trump, at least for now. Instead, it calls for renaming the Air Force as the Aerospace Force to highlight that air and space are “indivisible,” as pointed out at the beginning of the Space Age by then Air Force Chief of Staff Thomas White. (9/18)

September 19, 2018

Look Inside a Deep Space Habitat for NASA to Take Astronauts to Mars (Source: CNBC)
A first round of prototypes for deep space habitats to one day carry humans to Mars will be delivered by a group of contractors to NASA for testing in 2019. The renderings of the deep space habitats are fascinating. NASA released its own rendering in 2016, when it announced the selection of a handful of private space companies — Bigelow Aerospace, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems (formerly Orbital ATK), Sierra Nevada Corporation's Space Systems and NanoRacks — that would come up with the prototypes for deep space habitats.

The partnership between the public companies and NASA is called NextSTEP and aims to support "commercial development of deep space exploration capabilities to support more extensive human spaceflight missions in and beyond cislunar space —the space near Earth that extends just beyond the Moon," NASA says. One of the specific projects for NextSTEP is habitation systems, which "provide a safe place for humans to live as we move beyond Earth on our Journey to Mars," NASA says. Click here. (9/19)

How NASA Plans to Use Lunar Dust to Build Structures on the Moon (Source: The Verge)
Scientists have been thinking of ways that we could potentially use the lunar soil, known as regolith, as a kind of building material. We visited NASA’s Swamp Works in Kennedy Space Center, where engineers have figured out ways to turn simulated lunar regolith into a type of feedstock for 3D printing. So rather than launch all the supplies needed for a lunar base from Earth, NASA could send up excavation robots, mining facilities, and 3D printers, all of which could be used to construct the hardware that astronauts will need to live. That includes things like tools, furniture, and even full-scale habitats.

There’s still a long way to go before all of this becomes a reality, but NASA has long been thinking about how to become the pioneers of space. Check out the efforts of Swamp Works in this video. (9/18)

Consortium of Luxembourg Companies to Test an Innovative Approach for Satellite-Based IOT in Space (Source: LSA)
A consortium of three Luxembourg-based companies lead by OQ TECHNOLOGY will develop, build and perform a demonstration in orbit of an innovative approach for satellite-based Internet-of-Things (IoT). Based on the In-Orbit Demonstration of a single satellite to perform experiments using the new technology in space, OQ TECHNOLOGY aims to build a global satellite constellation dedicated to IoT communication by leveraging innovative wireless technology and using low cost connectivity solutions based on nanosatellites.

The project is targeting specifically the oil and gas, maritime, industry 4.0 and transport segments particularly for the management and tracking of assets in remote areas, as well as providing high-value data analytics. Managed by the European Space Agency (ESA), the funding provided for this activity under LuxIMPULSE, the Grand Duchy’s national space program, amounts to a total maximum envelope of 6 million EUR. (9/17)

Coast Guard Invites Public Comment on Proposed Safety Zones Downrange of Georgia Spaceport (Source: SPACErePORT)
The Coast Guard is seeking comments from interested persons regarding a proposal to establish safety zones on the navigable waterways in the vicinity of the proposed Spaceport Camden, near Woodbine, Georgia during rocket tests, launches, and landing operations. The proposed safety zones would be necessary to protect personnel, vessels, and the marine environment from potential hazards created by rocket launches and landings, and by various rocket tests. Click here. (9/18)

China Appears to be Accelerating Development of a Super-Heavy Lift Rocket (Source: Ars Technica)
As part of its long-term planning, Chinese rocket officials have talked for some time about a super-heavy lift rocket that will enable a human lunar program. For this rocket, called the Long March 9, officials have generally cited the 2030 time frame for its maiden launch. However, at the at the World Conference on Science Literacy 2018 this week, an engineer with the China National Space Administration, Li Guoping, said the country planned to launch the Long March 9 booster in 2028.

The Long March 9 is an extremely ambitious booster, with a diameter of 10 meters, length of 90 meters, and a proposed lift capacity of 140 tons to low-Earth orbit. Those numbers are on par with the Saturn V rocket that NASA designed and built during the 1960s to carry out the Apollo lunar landing program. It would be roughly equivalent, in terms of capability, to SpaceX's proposed Big Falcon Rocket, although there has been no word from China on whether any part of the Long March 9 might be reusable.

NASA is further along in its development of its own big booster, the large Space Launch System rocket, which could make its maiden flight in 2020 or 2021. This version of the SLS rocket will have a launch capability of up to 95 tons to low-Earth orbit, according to a recent NASA update. Eventually, the space agency plans to upgrade the SLS rocket into a Block 2 configuration with a more powerful second stage as well as advanced side boosters, and this rocket would have an estimated capability of 130 tons to low-Earth orbit. (9/19)

Senate Passes $855B Spending Bill Including Defense, CR (Source: Space News)
The Senate has passed an $855 billion spending bill, including $674 billion in defense appropriations, keeping Congress on track to deliver federal spending bills on time and avoid a government shutdown. "After subjecting America's all-volunteer armed forces to years of belt tightening, this legislation will build on our recent progress in rebuilding the readiness of our military and investing more in the men and women who wear the uniform," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said. The bill also includes a continuing resolution for the rest of the government, keeping agencies open through Dec. 7. The bill must now pass the House and be signed by President Donald Trump. (9/18)

Boeing, SpaceX Confident of Meeting Safety Requirements for Commercial Crew (Source: Space News)
The two companies developing commercial crew vehicles believe their spacecraft can now meet a key NASA safety threshold. During a panel discussion at the AIAA Space Forum Tuesday, Boeing and SpaceX officials said they now think their vehicles can meet standards like a 1-in-270 loss-of-crew requirement NASA established for the program. NASA's commercial crew program manager said the agency was still reviewing the companies' analyses. The companies are gearing up for uncrewed test flights planned for late this year or early next year, followed by crewed test flights in the spring and summer of 2019. (9/18)

Air Force Eyes Commercial Options to Gain Intelligence on Space Threats (Source: Space News)
The Air Force is turning to the private sector for fresh sources of intelligence about orbital activities. Space operators also are looking at technologies like artificial intelligence to analyze data so they can anticipate potential hazards, predict space weather and satellite anomalies. In both commercial and military space operations, everyone wants “predictive” intelligence to be able to make timely decisions to prevent collisions or respond to threatening behavior, said Melanie Stricklan, chief technology officer and co-founder of Slingshot Aerospace, in Manhattan Beach, California.

Slingshot is one of many companies that see a growing business in the burgeoning field of “space battle management.” The Air Force is trying to pivot from the traditional “space situational awareness,” or SSA, that focuses on tracking and identifying objects to “intelligence-driven” space operations, Stricklan said. Stricklan said the holy grail is “tactical SSA” that draws from the “unimaginable amount of data from sources such as the Air Force’s Space Fence and newer commercial sensor networks.”

Traditional tracking of space objects is not enough to combat increasingly complex threats in space, she said. The Air Force is trying to move beyond catalog maintenance and is searching for new tools to probe what is happening in outer space. (9/18)

Orbital Insight Acquires FeatureX (Source: Space News)
Geospatial analytics company Orbital Insight has acquired FeatureX, a startup specializing in computer vision for satellite imagery. Orbital Insight said the acquisition will give the company access to new technologies to apply artificial intelligence for improved analysis of satellite images. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. Orbital Insight has raised $78.7 million to date, including a $50 million Series C round last year. (9/18)

Space Council Plans November Meeting (Source: Space News)
The advisory committee for the National Space Council expects to meet again in November. During "listening sessions" at the AIAA Space Forum this week, several members of the Users' Advisory Group, incuding chairman James Ellis, took input from conference attendees on various topics. Ellis said that, since the group's first meeting in June, it has been working on organizational issues for the main committee and its six subcommittees. A second meeting is tentatively scheduled for some time in November, with a formal notice expected in the next week or two. (9/18)

RemoveDebris Captures Cubesat with Net (Source: BBC)
A British satellite has successfully demonstrated the use of a net to capture space debris. The RemoveDebris satellite first deployed a cubesat and then fired a net, developed by Airbus, at the cubesat. The net wrapped up the cubesat in a test that the Surrey Space Centre, which developed the spacecraft, called a success. RemoveDebris was deployed from the International Space Station to test orbital debris capture technologies, which include a harpoon as well. (9/18)

Spacewalk Planned to Inspect ISS Leak Hole (Source: TASS)
An upcoming International Space Station spacewalk will inspect a hole found in a Soyuz spacecraft docked there. Roscosmos said cosmonauts will inspect the hole during a Nov. 15 spacewalk, one of several tasks planned during that EVA. Roscosmos is continuing the investigation into the cause of the hole, and expects that work to wrap up by the end of November. (9/18)

Stratolaunch Gets New Livery (Source: GeekWire)
Stratolaunch's giant aircraft is sporting new logos. Images released by the company show a large Stratolaunch logo on the side of the plane, along with a smaller Scaled Composites logo on the tail. The aircraft was outside recently, apparently in preparation for more taxi tests as the schedule for the plane's first flight slips from this summer to at least this fall. (9/18)

Dream Chaser Toy Available From Matchbox (Source: CollectSpace)
Sierra Nevada Corporation's Dream Chaser will soon be available for purchase — in Matchbox form. The company announced this week that Mattel will be producing a version of the spaceplane as part of its "Sky Busters" line of toy airplanes and spacecraft. The Matchbox Dream Chaser, modeled after the design Sierra Nevada developed for the commercial crew program, will be available in stores this month. (9/18)

September 18, 2018

Scientists to Study New Propulsion Idea for Spacecraft (Source: Space Daily)
Spacecraft and satellites could in future be launched into space without the need for fuel, thanks to a revolutionary new theory. Dr. Mike McCulloch, from the University of Plymouth, first put forward the idea of quantized inertia (QI) - through which he believes light can be converted into thrust - in 2007.

He has now received $1.3 million from the United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for a four-year study which aims to make the concept a reality. The QI theory predicts that objects can be pushed by differences in the intensity of so-called Unruh radiation in space, similar to the way in which a ship can be pushed towards a dock because there are more waves hitting it from the seaward side. (9/18)

The Rise Of New Navigation Satellites (Source: Aviation Week)
Positioning, navigation and timing satellite systems have come a long way since the U.S. military launched the first Navigation System with Timing and Ranging spacecraft in 1978. GPS alone now supports more than $70 billion in services. China and the EU are close to completing their own constellations, and the UK is considering an independent system as it prepares to leave the EU. NASA, meanwhile, is taking an otherworldly approach—making plans for a navigation system on the Moon and another to track objects in deep space. Click here. (9/12)

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson's Space Force Proposal has People Buzzing (Source: Space News)
Last week, Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan asked SECAF Heather Wilson and DOD Undersecretary Mike Griffin to recommend concepts for a Space Development Agency (SDA). But Wilson came back with a full-on proposal not just for the SDA but for the Department of the Space Force, laying out in detail how the force should be organized and what its missions should be. Wilson strongly opposes the notion of an SDA as a Pentagon think tank with no direct connection to the military services that organize train, equip and “have the organizational strengths” to bring technologies to fruition.

Her concept “contrasts sharply with an OSD-level technology policy organization that is far removed from operational needs, fielding and sustainment issues.” Wilson now says DoD should put forth a proposal to Congress to stand up a Space Force “the right way,” and not with “half-measures.” Wilson put forward a cost estimate: $13 billion over five years, and a force size of 13,000 personnel. Notably, Wilson articulates a strategic vision for the Space Force and explains what it would do, something that had been missing from the debate since Trump thrust the Space Force into the spotlight six months ago.

One expert speculated that Wilson had purposely piled on so many layers and features into her proposal to make it less likely that Congress will want to embark on a politically fraught effort. “It sounds to me like it's a poison pill,” the expert observed. “A classic case of saying you're supporting something while actively working to undermine it.” (9/17)

USAF Secretary Wants to Grow Ssquadron Numbers by 24% (Source: Flight Global)
Secretary of the US Air Force Heather Wilson says she wants to increase the service’s number of operational squadrons by 24% to 386 by 2025 to 2030. Citing several studies, as well as feedback from service personnel, the USAF is too small to fulfil its mission as outlined in the Department of Defense’s National Defense Strategy, Wilson says.

“We know now from analysis what everyone in this room knows from experience: The Air Force is too small for what the nation expects of us. 312 operational squadrons is not enough,” she says. “The air force we need to implement the National Defense Strategy has 386 operational squadrons.” The USAF’s number of aircraft has fallen from 401 operational squadrons at the end of the Cold War, according to Wilson. Depending on its mission, a squadron can have between 12 to 24 aircraft.

Wilson says she believes the USAF needs five more bomber squadrons, seven more space squadrons, 14 more air tanker squadrons, seven more special operations squadrons, nine more combat search and rescue squadrons, 22 more squadrons of command and control intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft, seven fighter squadrons, two remotely piloted aircraft squadrons, and one more airman squadron. (9/17)

AFA Opposes Space Force (Source: Space News)
The Air Force Association (AFA) spoke out against the creation of a separate Space Force. The group, a professional military and aerospace nonprofit association hosting its annual conference this week, argued that air and space were "indivisible" and that splitting off space into its own service "would result in more harm than good." The association didn't rule out the eventual creation of a separate Space Force, but concluded doing so now is premature: "The question of standing up a new armed service for space is not 'if,' but 'when,' and the when is the time all the conditions for creating a separate armed force for space are met." (9/17)

SpaceX Okay with Launching Space Weapons, for Defense (Source: Space News)
SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said she would not be opposed to using the company's rockets for launching defensive weapons. Shotwell, speaking at the AFA's conference, said she had not been asked that question before. "If it's for the defense of this country, yes, I think we would," she responded, to applause from the audience. Shotwell said SpaceX, who several years ago sued the Air Force to win the right to launch military payloads, now was in a "good position" with the service. "We're competing. We're wining some, and losing some." (9/17)

Agencies Increasingly Interested in Rideshare (Source: Space News)
Government agencies are increasingly interested in rideshare launch opportunities for its satellites. While the Air Force announced plans a decade ago to include a secondary payload adapter called ESPA on all future launches with excess capacity, those adapters have flown only a handful of times and were rarely full. Surging interest in smallsats, though, has caused agencies to revisit their use of rideshare accommodations, including an announcement by NASA last month that it will fly an ESPA ring with secondary payloads on all future science missions. (9/17)

Flying Under The Radar: Vermont's Aerospace Industry (Source: VPR)
It's out there, Vermont's combined aerospace manufacturing and civil aviation industry accounts for $2 billion a year in economic output each year. Vermont's aerospace industry creates 9,500 jobs in commercial aviation and around 3,600 manufacturing positions. (9/17)

Dawn Spots Signs of Ice Volcanoes on Ceres (Source: Science News)
Images from a NASA spacecraft show that the dwarf planet Ceres has hosted dozens of "ice volcanoes" over its history. Scientists found one cryocolvano, which erupts water ice rather than molten rock, in images from the Dawn spacecraft. A closer analysis of images of the surface, though, turned up faint traces of the remnants of past cryovolcanoes that have since slumped and spread out. Those volcanoes should release about 10,000 cubic meters of water ice a year, thousands of times less than the amount of molten rock released by Earth's volcanoes. (9/17)

'Vulcan' Star Has a Planet (Source: Sky & Telescope)
The star that in the Star Trek universe is home to Vulcan has at least one planet in real life. The star, 40 Eridani, is about 16 light-years away from the Earth, and Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, consulting with several astronomers, decided decades ago to make it the home star of Vulcan based on its location and characteristics. An exoplanet survey project has discovered there is at least one planet orbiting the star: a "super-Earth" about twice the diameter and eight to nine times the mass of Earth. The planet is within the star's habitable zone where temperatures would allow the existence of liquid water, but there's no evidence yet of life there, logical or otherwise. (9/17)

NASA Will Pay Anyone $15,700 to Stay in Bed for 70 Days (Source: Space Daily)
NASA scientists will use the results of the "bed rest" study of how the human body adapts to weightlessness to develop countermeasures that will help astronauts on their space missions. If you feel that you're not getting enough sleep, this job may be a dream-come-true: NASA is offering $15,700 to anyone who will stay in bed for 70 days... all in the name of science. The American space agency is recruiting volunteers for a "bed rest" study, which envisages constant monitoring of the human test subjects during their sleep. (9/18)

SpaceX Signs Up Japanese Billionaire for Circumlunar BFR Flight (Source: Space News)
A Japanese billionaire will be paying an undisclosed but significant sum to buy a flight of SpaceX’s next-generation rocket for a flight around the moon carrying a group of artists. Elon Musk announced the first private customer for its Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) system will be Yusaku Maezawa, a 42-year-old former musician who founded Zozotown, a Japanese online fashion retail site.

In the proposed mission, scheduled for 2023, a BFR will launch and fly around the moon before returning to Earth, a flight lasting four to five days. On board will be Maezawa and six to eight artists he will select through a process yet to be determined. Neither Maezawa nor Musk would disclose the price of the flight, but Musk said that Maezawa — who had been a customer for SpaceX’s now-shelved plans for a circumlunar flight on a Dragon announced nearly 18 months ago — had already made a down payment.

“It will have a material effect on paying for the cost of the development of BFR,” Musk said. Musk said the estimated cost of the overall BFR development was about $5 billion. “I don’t think it’s more than 10 [billion dollars], and I don’t think it’s less than two” billion dollars, he said. Musk also used the announcement to announce some changes to the BFR design, focused on the upper stage, or spaceship, portion. The interior cabin volume has been increased to at least 1,000 cubic meters, and up to 1,100. (9/17)

BFR Lunar Mission Starts With Hops From Texas, and TBD Site for Orbital Launches (Sources: Space News, Florida Today)
An initial series of “hopper” test flights of the BFR spaceship are still planned to take place next year at SpaceX’s South Texas launch site under development. That would be followed by high-altitude, high-velocity flights in 2020, along with tests of the booster stage. “If things go well, we could be doing the first orbital flights in about two to three years,” he said, with “many” such test flights planned with crews before humans fly on the vehicle.

Although a graphic of the lunar mission profile showed Florida as the launch and landing point for the lunar mission, Musk said during the event that the launch site is undecided, and potentially could be aboard a floating platform. This is a development that will likely be under close watch by the Space Coast and those hoping for a liftoff from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. (9/18)

Bridenstine Doubles Down on NASA's mission: 'It's Time We Go Back to the Moon.' (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Facing down its 60th anniversary next month, NASA is reaffirming its vision for the next several years of spaceflight. “It’s time we go back to the moon, friends,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told members of the space industry Monday morning at the annual AIAA Space Forum, held in Orlando. Bridenstine, an appointee of President Donald Trump who took over as head of NASA in April, reaffirmed Trump’s 2017 policy directive to return astronauts to the moon — but further described what achieving that mission might look like.

During a keynote address highlighting the history of NASA, Bridenstine outlined the agency’s plans to return to the pace of exploration it set in the 1960s, when, 11 years after the agency’s inception, it put men on the moon. Now, NASA plans to leverage the robust private space industry to create a more sustainable and long-term presence in space. “We are doing it in a way that’s never been done before,” Bridenstine said. “There is only one country on the planet that is going to build an architecture for sustainability so we can go back and forth to the moon.” (9/17)

Astronomers Have Found the Universe's Missing Matter (Source: WIRED)
Astronomers have finally found the last of the missing universe. It’s been hiding since the mid-1990s, when researchers decided to inventory all the “ordinary” matter in the cosmos—stars and planets and gas, anything made out of atomic parts. (This isn’t “dark matter,” which remains a wholly separate enigma.) They had a pretty good idea of how much should be out there. So they added up all the matter they could see—stars and gas clouds and the like, all the so-called baryons. They were able to account for only about 10% of what there should be.

And when they considered that ordinary matter makes up only 15% of all matter in the universe—-dark matter makes up the rest-—they had only inventoried a mere 1.5% of all matter in the universe. Now, astronomers have identified the final chunks of all the ordinary matter in the universe. (They are still deeply perplexed as to what makes up dark matter.) And the researchers spotted it right where they had expected it to be all along: in extensive tendrils of hot gas that span the otherwise empty chasms between galaxies, more properly known as the warm-hot intergalactic medium, or WHIM.

Early indications that there might be extensive spans of effectively invisible gas between galaxies came from computer simulations done in 1998. “We wanted to see what was happening to all the gas in the universe,” said Jeremiah Ostriker, a cosmologist at Princeton University who constructed one of those simulations along with his colleague Renyue Cen. The two ran simulations of gas movements in the universe acted on by gravity, light, supernova explosions and all the forces that move matter in space. “We concluded that the gas will accumulate in filaments that should be detectable,” he said. (9/17)

SpaceX Secondary Payload Delivery Will Send Israeli Lander to Moon in 2019 (Source: Next Big Future)
Space Systems Loral has a Payload Orbital Delivery System (PODS) which is a cost-effective system for sending small satellites to orbit. It carries small spacecraft to orbit attached to large satellites, and then dispenses them as free-flyers near GEO. Satellite rideshare organizer Spaceflight Industries and SpaceX will have first functionally dedicated rideshare mission to a relatively high-energy geostationary transfer orbit.

In 2019, Israel-based company SpaceIL’s lunar lander spacecraft will be launched using rocket ridesharing. There will be rideshare opportunities to Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) approximately every 12-18 months, or as customer demand requires. The first mission will launch the Cape Canaveral Spaceport aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 which was procured by SSL, a Maxar Technologies company. It will represent the two companies’ first combined launch and Spaceflight’s first mission beyond Lower Earth Orbit (LEO). (9/13)

UAE Space Agency, Krypto Labs Sign Funding Deal (Source: Trade Arabia)
The UAE Space Agency has signed an agreement of funding with Krypto Labs, the Abu Dhabi-based innovation hub and incubator, to facilitate the development and implementation of the GeoTech Innovation Program. The UAE Space Agency has signed an agreement of funding with Krypto Labs, the Abu Dhabi-based innovation hub and incubator.

As part of the agreement, the UAE Space Agency will facilitate the development and implementation of the GeoTech Innovation Program, which aims to accelerate the growth of three start-ups, enabling them to transform their innovative ideas into commercially viable and scalable market-ready products. (9/17)

America First, In Space (Source: The Interpreter)
Over the past few months, US President Donald Trump has seemed infatuated with outer space. He and Vice President Mike Pence have made grandiose announcements about US space policy, foremost among them, the controversial plan to set up an “American Space Force” as a sixth branch of the US military. Trump even invited his supporters to vote on a possible logo for the proposed space force.

At first sight, it appears that the Trump administration has been consistently and vigorously engaged in the area of outer space. But a closer look reveals a sense of lack of detail and cohesion. Like its terrestrial foreign policy, the actions of the Trump administration in space are framed by an “America First” approach. The administration aspires to promote US interests in space largely through unilateral actions and the interruption of existing cooperative scientific work considered not sufficiently beneficial to the US. (9/17)

What the Reorganization of Special Operations Forces Can Teach Us About Space Force (Source: War on the Rocks)
Sadly, the Star Trek and Star Wars dreams of millions of Americans are not being realized in the Trump administration’s recent decree to create a space force, but the administration has paved a vague path to establishing several new national security space organizations within the Department of Defense. The announcement has raised a number of questions among policymakers and experts: Why a whole new force? Why now?

Can’t the existing military services continue to manage missions in space? Won’t change be too disruptive? Will it rob from one essential mission set to pay for another? For those of us who study Defense Department organizational reform, both the proposals and the debates have a familiar ring to them. In 1987, Congress passed legislation that created U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, and a low-intensity conflict board at the National Security Council.

In the years preceding passage of that law, the Pentagon and Capitol Hill wrangled over the best ways to organize and resource the nation’s special operations forces. Some voices in the House called for a separate special operations military service, and even a whole separate agency, while most in the Pentagon argued for modest adjustments in policy oversight. Click here. (9/17)

The Art of Lawfare and the Real War in Outer Space (Source: Space Review)
Last month’s meeting of the Conference on Disarmament saw a debate on space weaponization. Michael Listner argues this was an example of efforts by China and Russia to attempt to use legal means to gain an advantage on the United States militarily in space. Click here. (9/17)
 
May the Satellite Industry Live in Interesting Times (Source: Space Review)
The mainstream satellite industry has fallen on hard times of sorts in recent years as the number of GEO satellite orders has drastically declined. Jeff Foust reports on the implications for manufacturers and launchers of those satellites amid uncertainty about the future effects of low Earth orbit constellations. Click here. (9/17)
 
Six-Pack for Mars: A Railroad to the Moon and Mars (Source: Space Review)
In-space refueling of upper stages can enable mission architectures like landings on the Moon and Mars without the need for massive launch vehicles. Ajay Kothari describes how this approach can create a “railroad” for frequent, inexpensive access beyond Earth. Click here. (9/17)

September 17, 2018

NASA’s New Space Taxis (Source: Air & Space)
As early as next year, the world’s first private, crewed spaceship will take off from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport and head for the International Space Station. But independence from Russian launch schedules is not the only thing Americans will have to celebrate. With the first launch in its Commercial Crew Program, NASA is trying something new: opening space exploration to private corporations and astronauts.

As long as their spaceships meet NASA requirements, the companies have had free rein to design and manufacture them however they want, within a fixed government budget. Critically, Boeing and SpaceX will own and operate their spacecraft themselves, free to sell flights to other countries, companies, and even individuals. Although the spacecraft will fly on proven rockets—a United Launch Alliance Atlas V for Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and an in-house Falcon 9 for SpaceX’s Crew Dragon—virtually everything else about the two capsules is brand new. Click here. (9/17)

IAI Sees Multiple Missions for Google Lunar Lander (Source: Space News)
The Israeli company building a lunar lander for a former Google Lunar X Prize team sees opportunities for doing similar spacecraft in the future. IAI is wrapping up work on the SpaceIL lunar lander, scheduled to launch around the end of this year as a secondary payload on a Falcon 9. The lander was originally intended as a one-off mission as part of an effort to stimulate interest in science and engineering in Israel. However, IAI says it now sees "some business in going to the moon" using versions of that lander for other, unidentified customers. (9/17)

French Space Agency Offers Venture Capital (Source: Space News)
The French space agency CNES is setting up its own venture fund. CNES plans to raise up to $116 million for its CosmiCapital fund to invest in companies working in space and related applications in France. CNES says more than 150 companies have already applied for CosmiCapital funding, and plans to invest in four to five companies a year. (9/17)

Spike in Commsat Demand Anticipated (Source: Space News)
Satellite communications providers are planning for a spike in demand. Those efforts include forming partnerships, making acquisitions and developing new business models in anticipation that LEO broadband constellations will result in increased demand for services. "We are speeding towards the day where we see billions of people, 30 billion devices and 50 billion machines connected," said Kevin Steen, CEO of iDirect Technologies, at the World Satellite Business Week conference. (9/17)

GRACE Satellites Offline Due to Instrument Problem (Source: NASA)
Two Earth observation satellites have been offline since July because of a technical issue on one of the satellites. The twin Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO) satellites, launched in May, have not acquired science data since mid-July because a problem with the microwave instrument in one of the two satellites. Engineers plan to switch to a backup system in that instrument as an investigation into the anomaly wraps up. The satellites, jointly developed by NASA and the German Research Center for Geosciences, continue the mission of the original GRACE satellites to track changes in global water distribution through precise maps of the Earth's gravitational field. (9/17)

New Mexico Observatory Closure Involved Threat to Employees (Source: AURA)
A solar observatory closed in New Mexico under mysterious circumstances earlier this month will reopen today. The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), which operates the Sunspot Solar Observatory, announced Sunday that the observatory will reopen Monday, but with increased security in expectation of "an unusual number of visitors" expected to visit the site now. AURA previously said only a "security issue" caused it and the National Science Foundation to close the observatory Sept. 6. AURA said it was cooperating with an ongoing law enforcement investigation into criminal activity that occurred at Sacramento Peak, where the observatory is located, and was a concerned a suspect there posed a threat to its employees and visitors. It said it disclosed few details at the time out of concerns sharing more information might impede the investigation. (9/17)

Canadian Space Tourist Owes Tax for Visit to ISS (Source: Canadian Press)
A Canadian space tourist owes the government taxes on what a judge concluded was a "taxable benefit." Guy Laliberte, founder of Cirque du Soleil, flew to the ISS in 2009 on a flight he originally paid for, but was later reimbursed by Cirque du Soleil. A judge concluded that the $32.1 million cost of the flight was considered a taxable benefit provided by the company to Laliberte since the "motivating, essential and overwhelmingly primary purpose of the travel was personal" rather than a business trip benefiting Cirque du Soleil. A spokesperson for Laliberte said he already paid the taxes several years ago, but will consider options for an appeal. (9/17)

Spaceport Camden Landing First Tenant (Source: Atlanta Business Chronicle)
Los Angeles-based aerospace startup ABL Space Systems have agreed with city and county officials at Georgia’s first commercial spaceport for a rocket manufacturing and launch operation. ABL Space Systems will explore launch operations at Spaceport Camden, a 400-acre proposed spaceport in Southeast Georgia. The small satellite launch provider, started by former SpaceX engineers, has developed a rocket designed to place 900 kilograms into low earth orbit, or 650 kilograms into sun synchronous orbit. ABL, which has targeted 2020 for its first commercial launch, is interested in locating engineering, manufacturing and research and development in Camden County in addition to launch activities from Spaceport Camden. (9/14)

September 16, 2018

'The First' Is a Dazzling, Portentous Space Drama (Source: The Atlantic)
It’s no secret at this point that Beau Willimon is preoccupied with ambition. After working on Howard Dean’s abortive 2004 presidential campaign, Willimon turned his experiences into a play, Farragut North, about toxic political aspiration. Then he created Netflix’s House of Cards, an almost comically bleak excavation of power and the rotten, sociopathic people who crave it.

Willimon’s The First, released in its entirety Friday on Hulu, is different. Its characters are defined by the earnestness of their dreams, not their Machiavellian drive toward self-advancement. They deliver stirring monologues about heroism and the human race that, if you squint a little, seem almost Sorkinian. In early episodes, Commander Tom Hagerty (Sean Penn) emphasizes over and over that his family’s needs supersede his career ambitions. Make no mistake, though: He’s lying.

Because the astronauts of The First, compelled to sacrifice all to be the first humans to set foot on Mars, are no less driven than the Franks and the Claires of the fictional D.C. power matrix. It’s just a different kind of ambition. The show is called The First for a reason—it’s interested primarily with what compels people to make history, even when the cost is everything else you care about. (9/16)

Why on Earth Would a Company Offer Insurance for Space Travel? (Source: CNN)
Drivers need insurance before they get on the road. And space companies need it before they hurtle metal projectiles into the sky. Offering insurance for space flight might seem like an insane business decision. The pool of customers is tiny, and the risk is, well, astronomical.

The industry collected $715 million in premiums and paid out $636 million in claims last year, according to an insurance industry expert. That's a slim profit, but margins are known to bloat or thin from year to year. Having a small pool of customers means dealing with volatility. Yet, it remains a consistently profitable business. A small group of insurance underwriters around the world have racked up expertise that helps the space industry assess risk and write policies. But a new era of space flight is ushering in drastic changes. Click here. (9/16)

Jerusalem, We Have a Problem: Why Israel's NASA Isn't Taking Off (Source: Haaretz)
Advanced research satellites, cooperation with foreign space agencies, support for Israeli research, educational activities. These are the flagship projects of the Israel Space Agency. The space agency represents Israel in the field, but suffers from budget issues and uses the help of external contractors. Is the Israeli NASA still soaring high despite these hurdles? Click here. (9/16)

South Korea to Test-Launch Rocket in October (Source: Yonhap)
South Korea plans to conduct the first test flight of its locally developed booster engine at the end of next month, the ICT ministry said Sunday, as part of a long-term effort to produce the Korea Space Launch Vehicle-2 (KSLV-2), a three-stage rocket.

The single-stage rocket, with a 75-ton thrust engine, developed by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) is set to be launched between Oct. 25 and Oct. 31 from the Naro Space Center in Goheung, South Jeolla Province. It said the launch date has been set after examining all variables and that related countries and agencies, such as the International Civil Aviation Organization and International Maritime Organization, will be notified in advance. (9/16)

Indian PSLV Launches Two British Satellites (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket has launched two British satellites into a 583 km Sun Synchronous Orbit on Sunday. The lofting of SSTL S1-4 and NovaSAR-1 took place from the First Launch Pad of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre with T-0 occurring at 16:37 UTC. ISRO’s return to action is set to mark an upturn in launch activity for the Indian space agency.

“We are going to conduct 19 missions, including 10 satellites and nine launch vehicles, between September and March,” noted ISRO chairman K Siva to the Times of India ahead of this launch. “For ISRO, this will be the highest density period for launches as never before we had launched two satellites within 30 days consecutively for months.” (9/16)

India, France Plan Satellites for Maritime Surveillance, says French Space Agency Chief (Source: Financial Express)
India and France have planned eight-10 satellites as part of a “constellation” for maritime surveillance, French space agency CNES chief Jean-Yves Le Gall has said. This will be India's largest space cooperation with any country, officials said.

The launch of eight-10 maritime surveillance satellites will focus on the Indian Ocean, a region that has been witnessing increasing Chinese presence. France will also share its expertise with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on inter-planetary missions to Mars and Venus, the Indian space agency’s two major missions, Gall said. (9/16)

Elon Musk Plans to Send Japanese Billionaire to Moon? (Source: International Business Times)
SpaceX, founded by South African billionaire Elon Musk is expected to announce the name of the space tourist who will orbit the moon in the BFR rocket on Sep. 17. As per reports, the cost of the flight will be $150 million, and as an initial step, only one passenger will fly around the moon. Even though the name of the tourist is being kept under the wraps by SpaceX, a recent tweet made by Elon Musk has made many believe that the space tourist will be a Japanese billionaire.

Recently, Taylor Harris, the Minecraft YouTuber who runs the channel 'Ant Venom' asked Musk regarding the details of the passenger who will fly around the moon as a space tourist. Surprisingly, Elon Musk did not reply anything verbally, instead, he tweeted a Japanese flag. There are only a few Japanese billionaires on a list published by Forbes, and interestingly, most of them are aged more than 60.

There are only less than fifteen Japanese billionaires who fall in the age suitable for space travel, and one among them is Yusaku Maezawa. Yusaku Maezawa, the 42-year-old billionaire is the founder of online fashion retail website Zozotown. As per Forbes, Maezawa is the 14th richest person in Japan with a net asset of $3.6 billion. Another probable candidate who may fly around the moon is Kenji Kasahara. Kasahara is 42-years-old and he is the founder of social networking site Mixi. (9/16)

The Canadian Space Agency Has its First Science Advisor (Source: SpaceQ)
Nearly six months after putting out a call for a Science Advisor to the president of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), the agency has selected Dr. Sarah Gallagher of Western University. (9/15)

ULA to Display Last Unused Delta II at KSC Visitor Complex (Source: ULA)
ULA's last Delta II rocket will join a lineup of historic rockets in the Rocket Garden on display at NASA's Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Delta II rockets have launched 154 successful missions, including several trips to Mars, launch of the Kepler planet hunter, the twon lunar-orbiting GRAIL spacecraft, 48 GPS satellites, and numerous commercial imaging and communications satellites. (9/15)

California Gov. Jerry Brown to Launch Satellite to Track Greenhouse Gas Emissions (Source: NBC)
“In California, with science under attack, in fact we’re under attack by a lot of people, including Donald Trump. But the climate threat still keeps growing,” Brown told delegates at Moscone Convention Center, near the city’s financial district. “With science still under attack, we’re going to launch our own satellite, our own damn satellite, to figure out where the pollution is.”

Brown’s office said the satellite — to be developed in conjunction with the San Francisco-based Earth-imaging company, Planet Labs, and launched by 2021 — will allow the state to track greenhouse gas emissions. It hasn’t yet been determined whether data from the satellite would be available to other governments or private organizations that want to track greenhouse gas emissions, said Stanley Young, a spokesman for the state Air Resources Control Board. (9/14)

Delta II Launches Final Mission, Including UCF Payload (Source: WESH)
It was the last time a Delta II rocket will dazzle its way across the sky Saturday. The Delta II's last liftoff happened from California, putting NASA's new ice satellite into space. It will track earth's ever-changing polar regions. Also on board the Delta II, and now in orbit, a satellite built by UCF students and their professor Adrienne Dove. UCF SurfSat is no bigger than a shoebox, but it packs in plenty of science. SurfSat's charge is to find ways to better protect electronics from the harsh effects of space. (9/15)

New Mexico Solar Observatory Denies Aliens Involved in ‘Security’ Closure (Source: The Hill)
A New Mexico solar observatory this week denied aliens were involved in a security-related closure that began last week and is still in place. “I can tell you it definitely wasn’t aliens,” a spokeswoman for the National Solar Observatory, part of the Sunspot Solar Observatory consortium, told The Washington Post.

It is still unclear what led to the evacuation and closure of the facility, which is typically open to the public. The Post reported that only the director and an assistant have been allowed into the building and even the security guards have reportedly been kept in the dark. (9/15)

September 15, 2018

Arizona Real Estate Firm Shoots for the Stars with Aerospace Branch (Source: Chamber Business News)
Scottsdale-based commercial real estate firm Keyser Co. recently implemented a new aerospace branch that will assist Arizona aerospace companies in finding optimal facilities. Because of Arizona’s status as the best state for aerospace manufacturing, this development will prove to be mutually beneficial for Keyser and aerospace firms across the valley.

PricewaterhouseCoopers listed Arizona as the number one state in their 2016 Aerospace Manufacturing Attractiveness ranking. By the end of the year, the state boasted 1,200 aerospace and defense companies, which employed over 52,000 people. In addition, Arizona ranked top 10 in both aviation/aerospace employment and aerospace government contracts.

Keyser aerospace broker Karyn MacVean explains why Arizona is the perfect location for aerospace manufacturing. “Tucson has a tech corridor near the airport. In Maricopa County, there’s a lot of interest in the East Valley in terms of industrial space that’s suitable for manufacturing and R&D,” MacVean says. Plus, Yuma will attract some pretty impressive companies because of their potential implementation of a space port.” (9/14)

JAXA Pushes Back HTV-7 Launch Again (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) have cancelled launch of the H-IIB Launch Vehicle No. 7(H-IIB F7) with aboard the H-II Transfer Vehicle “KOUNOTORI7” (HTV7), the cargo transporter to the International Space Station (ISS). The cancellation is because additional investigation became necessary of the H-IIB F7 propulsion system. The launch was scheduled for September 15, 2018, from the JAXA Tanegashima Space Center. (9/14)

Pentagon Hatching Space Force Legislative Plan (Source: Space News)
The Pentagon plans to develop a legislative proposal for establishing a Space Force this fall. In a Sept. 10 memo, Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan laid out roles and responsibilities for crafting proposed legislation that could be submitted to the White House for review as soon as Dec. 1. Shanahan is overseeing the entire effort but the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the undersecretary of defense for policy also having significant roles; the Air Force will have only a limited role.

The memo states that space activities within the intelligence community will not be included in the Space Force proposal. The memo also indicates that a new U.S. Space Command should be operational by the end of the year, and directed plans to be developed this month for a Space Development Agency. (9/14)

Bridenstine to Meet Russian Counterpart (Source: Space News)
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine will meet his Russian counterpart in person next month. In a rare joint statement, NASA and Roscosmos confirmed earlier Russian statements that the two would meet at Baikonur during the launch of a Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station "on or around" Oct. 10. The statement also addressed the Russian investigation into a hole in a Soyuz spacecraft docked to the station found two weeks ago, and said the agencies would refrain from making "any preliminary conclusions and providing any explanations" until a Roscosmos-led investigation is complete. That statement comes amid rumors, primarily in Russian media, about who might have caused the hole in the spacecraft. (9/14)

Marshall Has a New Director (Source: Huntsville Times)
Jody Singer is the new director of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. NASA formally named Singer to the position permanently Thursday after she had been serving as director on an acting basis since the retirement of former director Todd May in July. Singer, the first woman to lead the center, started working at NASA in 1985 and became deputy director of Marshall in 2016. (9/14)

Brexit Could Limit UK Access to Space Debris Warnings (Source: Guardian)
Brexit could limit the warnings the British government receives about space debris. In a white paper, the government said that a "hard" Brexit would cut off the U.K. from access to the EU's space surveillance and tracking program, which has yet to become fully operational. The U.K. would no longer be part of that program after Brexit, and the government and British companies may not have access to warnings about potential collisions. The U.K., though, would continue to get warnings from the U.S. (9/14)

Florida's New Workforce Challenge: Top Secret Clearances (Source: Orlando Business Journal)
Three of the largest defense firms with divisions in Central Florida right now have a combined 869 job openings — mostly high-tech, high-wage careers. But don’t expect them to be filled anytime soon. That’s because all of those jobs require security clearances of some sort — a lengthy, expensive process that can make hiring new, experienced workers a challenge. “Right now, it takes at least two years and about $70,000 to get that security clearance, and that is ridiculously way too much money,” said Space Florida's Dale Ketcham.

Lockheed Martin currently has 515 job openings in Orlando listed as secret and top secret. Northrop Grumman has 109 job openings in Melbourne that require security clearance. And Melbourne's Harris Corp. has 179 job openings that require security clearance. A defense company’s best solution is to hire workers who already have security clearances, and that’s where these defense companies find themselves in a kind of Catch-22. Although Central Florida is a strong resource for those workers due to the growing commercial space industry, those very workers are sought after more than ever by companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin.

In the meantime, it’s an issue that Ketcham is keeping a close eye on — especially in light of the Space Coast’s success in luring in those high-tech jobs. “Even during the depths of the recession, there were major high-wage, high-tech jobs that were unfilled because there were not people skilled to meet those demands. That is a national problem, but because of the success we had here, it is that much more acute here.” (9/5)

We’ve Found a Pulsar Spinning So Slowly That it Shouldn’t Exist (Source: New Scientist)
A distant pulsar is taking it slow – so slow that it shouldn’t exist. Radio pulsars are rapidly-spinning neutron stars that emit a beam of powerful radio waves, and we’ve just found one rotating so slowly that its beam should have been snuffed out. Chia Min Tan at the University of Manchester and her colleagues found this sluggish star using the Low-Frequency Array (LOFAR), a set of radio telescopes based mostly in the Netherlands. This pulsar, called PSR J0250+5854, takes 23.5 seconds to complete a rotation. (9/14)

NASA Awards Fellowships to 12 Graduate Students (Source: NASA)
New fellowships have been awarded through NASA’s Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) and Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD) to 12 graduate students totaling $1.9 million to conduct research and contribute directly to NASA’s work and mission. NASA Fellowship Activities align with the Office of STEM Engagement’s goal to establish a well-trained science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce.

Editor's Note: Miami-based Florida International University is hosting students receiving fellowships for two projects, including: Frequency Independent Ultra-Wideband Millimeter-Wave Beamformer; and Synthesis and Characterization of Metal Matrix Composites of Boron Nitride Nanotubes and Lightweight Aerospace Grade Alloys for Use in Extreme Environments. (9/14)

September 14, 2018

Amazon's Rising Stock Gives Jeff Bezos 'Financial Muscle' in Outer Space Equal to Whole Countries (Source: CNBC)
Jeff Bezos is better known for building the e-commerce empire of Amazon than his entrepreneurial work at rocket-builder Blue Origin — but Morgan Stanley says that may change. "We believe investors may want to pay far more attention to another emerging force for the advancement of efforts in Space that has both the will and, increasingly, the financial muscle to put to work. That force is Jeff Bezos," Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas said.

Bezos pours about $1 billion of his Amazon stock into his space venture each year, with Blue Origin expected to begin competing directly with Elon Musk's SpaceX in 2020. Morgan Stanley estimated Bezos' Amazon shares are worth about $160 billion — in other words, "equal to around 16 years worth of NASA expenditures on Space exploration," the firm said. Morgan Stanley advised its clients to take note of that comparison as Bezos' wealth continues to grow.

"As the value of Jeff Bezos's Amazon stake approaches $200 billion, his ability to influence private, commercial, and even government efforts in space grows, potentially accelerating capabilities and capital formation," Jonas said. Bezos has said publicly that Blue Origin is "the most important work" he's doing, Morgan Stanley noted. He also has said there should be "a permanent human settlement on one of the poles of the moon" and thinks it's not just time for humans to return to the moon, it's "time to stay." (9/13)

UN Space Agency Ready to Support States Willing to Adopt Arms Control in Space (Source: Space Daily)
UN Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) is ready to provide its technical expertise to member states willing to adopt a multilateral treaty on space arms control similar to the one proposed by China and Russia, said Simonetta Di Pippo, the director of the organization. She noted that UNOOSA could bring a lot to the table if member states wanted to receive technical support.

In addition, UNOOSA was looking to Russia to provide additional voluntary funding to be able to make progress on confidence-building measures and transparency. "We would really love to have champions - countries which could on a voluntary basis provide funds to us... Russia could be one, if they have any intention of doing that, for sure," Di Pippo said. (9/12)

SpaceX Signs First Private Passenger for Lunar Mission on Futuristic BFR Launch Vehicle (Source: Florida Today)
The first human to fly around the moon since the storied astronauts of the Apollo era will get there on SpaceX's next-generation Big Falcon Rocket, the company said Thursday night, further teasing an event next week that will reveal details about the launch vehicle and passenger.

"SpaceX has signed the world's first private passenger to fly around the moon aboard our BFR launch vehicle," the California-based company said via Twitter, adding that it's "an important step toward enabling access for everyday people who dream of traveling to space." SpaceX will announce more details about BFR and the passenger on Monday at 9 p.m. ET. (9/13)

Arianespace CEO Urges Europe To Mull Human Spaceflights (Source: Aviation Week)
The imminent restart of manned spaceflights from U.S. soil raises questions for Europe, Arianespace CEO Stephane Israel said. “Manned flight is close to my heart; with their know-how, Europeans could do it,” he says. Israel refers to the European Space Agency’s (ESA) experience with the automated transfer vehicle (ATV), used to resupply the International Space Station. The ATV belongs to the reusable space capsule category, Israel said. He also emphasized Ariane’s reliability. “We have all the bricks,” he said. “We have a beautiful European space policy, with superb missions ... Manned flight is the only conquest we lack,” Israel tweeted.

Editor's Note: With its use of Soyuz rockets at the Kourou spaceport, I understand Arianespace designed the launch pad to accommodate crewed versions of the venerable Russian launcher. Of course that would require much closer collaboration with Russia. (9/12)

ULA Readies for Final Launch of 30-Year-Old Delta II Rocket (Source: Teslarati)
United Launch Alliance (ULA) is nearly ready for the final launch of Boeing’s Delta II family of rockets, culminating a nearly 30-year history mostly dominated by routine success. If completed without failure, the launch of NASA’s ICESat-2 satellite – built to track global ice-sheet variation with a huge space-based laser – will mark Delta II’s 100th consecutive success and the rocket’s 153rd fully successful launch overall, an immensely impressive and laudable achievement regardless of the vehicle’s lack of competitive advantage in the modern launch industry. (9/13)

New Coalition Aims to Pressure Canadian Focus on Space (Source: SpaceQ)
A new coalition of organizations looking to convince the government of the value of investing in Canada’s space program began what will be a major marketing campaign today. The campaign is called Don’t Let Go Canada. The campaign has a website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts and will include an advertising campaign. The organizations involved include some of the biggest names in Canadian space, along with industry and advocacy groups.

The 18 organizations involved are; MDA, Honeywell, Canadensys, Deltion innovations Ltd, SED, Magellan Aerospace, Xiphos Technologies, ABB, Menya Solutions, IMP Group, Neptec, SATCAN, Mission Control Space Services, the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute, the Planetary Society, the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, the Canadian Space Society, and the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada. The coalition hopes to add more members as the campaign progresses. (9/13)

New UCF-Led Study Rejects IAU Rationale for Demoting Pluto (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
A new study that has reviewed some 200 years of scientific literature regarding usage of the term “planet” calls into question the  planet definition adopted by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), which requires objects to “clear their orbits” to be considered planets. Philip Metzger of the Florida Space Institute and lead author of the paper published in the journal Icarus, noted he found just one scientific paper paper among two centuries of studies on planet classification that used orbit clearing as a defining criterion for planet status, and that was published in 1802.

“Since Galileo’s discovery of Jupiter’s four largest moons, these moons and other spherical satellites of planets have been referred to as planets in scientific literature,” Metzger noted. Even asteroids were considered a subclass of planets after their demotion in the mid-19th century. Only in the 1950s, after Gerard Kuiper published a paper arguing that asteroids and planets underwent different formation processes, were asteroids classified as non-planets.

“We now have a list of well over 100 recent examples of planetary scientists using the word planet in a way that violates the IAU definition, but they are doing so because it’s functionally useful,” he said. Metzger and study co-authors Mark Sykes of the Planetary Science Institute (PSI) in Tucson, Arizona, Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), and Kirby Runyon of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHUAPL) argue that planets should be defined by their intrinsic properties rather than by extrinsic properties, such as their orbital dynamics. (9/13)

New Mexico Observatory Closed by FBI Under Mysterious Circumstances (Source: Alamogordo News)
The Sunspot Observatory is temporarily closed due to a security issue at the facility that’s located 17 miles south of Cloudcroft in the Sacramento Mountains Friday, an Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) spokeswoman Shari Lifson said. “The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy who manages the facility is addressing a security issue at this time,” Lifson said. “We have decided to vacate the facility at this time as precautionary measure. It was our decision to evacuate the facility.”

She said she cannot comment on whether the FBI was involved in the situation. Otero County Sheriff Benny House said the Otero County Sheriff’s Office was asked to standby. “The FBI is refusing to tell us what’s going on,” House said. “We’ve got people up there (at Sunspot) that requested us to standby while they evacuate it. Nobody would really elaborate on any of the circumstances as to why. The FBI were up there. What their purpose was nobody will say.” He said he has a lot of unanswered question about what occurred at Sunspot. (9/7)

September 13, 2018

Space Florida's Launch Complex 20 Deal Could Ready Spaceport for Small Launchers (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Space Florida is one step closer to wooing small rocket companies into coming to the Space Coast. An agreement with the Air Force allows Space Florida to begin doing environmental assessments and other work at Launch Complex 20 (LC-20) in advance of any formal work that would be done once the agency secures a specific customer. Space Florida is eyeing Rocket Lab, Firefly Aerospace [and probably Vector Space] to use the pad. "I don’t know that we will get all three because there is a lot of competition, but I’d be disappointed if we don’t get at least one,” Ketcham said.

LC-20 was formerly the site of Titan rocket launches dating back to the late 1950s. While other locations may be able to support small rocket companies, Ketcham said LC-20 is particularly valuable because “it can be deployed quickly with less cost than any others.” Space Florida’s value proposition to the industry is that it will secure and develop the pad up front, help private companies invest on capital improvements and finance construction and equipment, ultimately lowering upfront costs and speeding up the process. The historic pad includes a 6,000 square foot hangar for horizontal launch vehicles two launch areas and a blockhouse for observing launches that is still operational.

Editor's Note: When I worked for Space Florida's predecessor agency, the Spaceport Florida Authority, we built the LC-20 horizontal processing facility and prepared the "flat pad" launch area for future small rocket users. The initial intended user was the Minotaur program, which uses repurposed ICBM stages to launch small military payloads. We also installed a borrowed 50K rail-launch system for notional microsatellite vehicles and suborbital missions. Together with LC-46, the proposed Shiloh launch area, and other sites identified by NASA at KSC, LC-20 makes the Cape ready for small launchers. (9/13)

Orion Parachute Test a Success (Source: Space.com)
NASA's Orion spacecraft passed a final test of its parachute system. During the test Wednesday at the Yuma Proving Ground, a Orion capsule model was released from a C-17 cargo aircraft at an altitude of nearly 10,000 meters, deploying its three parachutes to descend to a landing on the desert floor. Early review of the test indicates the parachutes performed as planned. This test was the last planned before the parachutes are approved for use on future crewed Orion missions. (9/13)

UP Aerospace Launches NASA Suborbital Experiment at Spaceport America (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
Up Aerospace launched a sounding rocket Wednesday from Spaceport America, carrying a NASA experiment. The company's SpaceLoft rocket lifted off from the New Mexico spaceport and reached a planned peak altitude of about 115 kilometers. The rocket carried the Adaptable Deployable Entry and Placement Technology (ADEPT), a NASA experiment to test deployable reentry heat shields. (9/13)

Technical Issue Delays Japanese Landing Practice Run at Ryugu Asteroid (Source: Mainichi)
Controllers scrapped a landing rehearsal for Japan's Hayabusa2 asteroid spacecraft because of technical problems. Controllers stopped the spacecraft from approaching the asteroid Ryugu when its lasers no longer provided accurate distance data as the spacecraft approached to within 600 meters of the surface. Engineers speculate that the "pitch black" surface of the asteroid hindered the laser, and are considering alternative procedures to collect altitude data. (9/13)

Former Stratolaunch Executivec to Lead SmallSat Alliance (Source: Space News)
A smallsat industry group has brought on a former Stratolaunch executive as its new president. Steve Nixon will run the SmallSat Alliance, which represents more than 40 companies in the industry who are interested in working with the federal government but don't have the resources for their own government relations efforts. Nixon was previously a vice president at Stratolaunch who also worked as a House staffer and in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. (9/13)

PlanetWatchers Plans Agricultural and Energy Focus (Source: Space News)
A geospatial analytics startup is planning to move into agricultural and energy businesses. PlanetWatchers was founded in 2016 by two Israeli entrepreneurs to use synthetic aperture radar data to help governments, corporations and nonprofits that depend on natural resources increase productivity and better manage their assets. The company started in forestry but is now expanding into sugarcane and energy markets as it works to raise a new round of $3–4 million. (9/13)

European Commission Skeptical of UK Navigation Satellite Plan (Source: Guardian)
The president of the European Commission expressed skepticism about Britain's satellite navigation plans. Jean-Claude Juncker noted that "no single member state" of the European Union could have developed the Galileo satellite navigation system on its own. The British government recently announced plans to study the development of its own system if it is unable to work out an agreement with the EU to continue to participate in Galileo post-Brexit. (9/13)

OneWeb Cost Concerns Grow (Source: Space News)
Concerns are growing about OneWeb amid personnel changes and potential cost growth. Speaking at World Satellite Business Week, Eric Béranger, president and COO of OneWeb, would no longer affirm that the company's satellites would cost $500,000 each, instead saying the satellites would cost less than $1 million. Other analysts project the satellites to cost $700,000 to $900,000 each once large-scale production gets underway. OneWeb, meanwhile, has assigned the CEO role that Béranger prevuously had to Adrian Steckel, making Steckel OneWeb's fourth CEO is as many years. (9/13)

Luxembourg Space Agency Formed (Source: Space News)
The government of Luxembourg formally opened its new space agency Wednesday to support the country's space industry. The Luxembourg Space Agency will be tasked with priorities ranging from funding for companies to education and workforce development. The government plans to soon establish a 100-million-euro fund as a public-private partnership to invest in startups. The agency also provides stability for Luxembourg's space initiatives ahead of a parliamentary election next month. (9/13)

GapSat Orders Small GEO Satellite (Source: Space News)
A company that resells excess satellite capacity is buying its own small GEO satellite. GapSat said it ordered the GapSat-1 satellite from smallsat developer Terran Orbital for launch in 2020. The satellite will carry payloads in several bands, but the company didn't specify where the satellite will operate in GEO or who will launch it. (9/13)

Are Investments in Space Programs a Waste of Money? (Source: Orbital Matters)
Calculating the Return on Investment (ROI) for any product and industry is tricky due to the number of moving parts. Doing so for space investments is no different, and might in fact be more difficult. Many companies and industries have benefited to varying degrees from space-related innovation, so determining which to include in the calculation is subject to debate. Consider that the global financial system is entirely dependent on GPS technology, as is modern transportation. Should we include the respective revenue from companies like Bank of America, Uber, and Google Maps in our ROI?

In addition to R&D, the space economy contributes to the world economy in many other ways. After all, every single dollar or other currency invested in space programs have been spent on Earth, providing wages to thousands of highly skilled and educated workers and contractors. Global government spending for example amounted to around $83 billion in 2016, funding over 70 space programs and their workforce.

Every sector of the global economy can utilize space assets to enhance or revolutionize itself. Many industries have been around for so long that they only experience incremental advances. The amount of milk a cow produces can be increased by so much. Space has more potential than any other industry not only because technology and science are its fundamental drivers, but also because it is still in its infancy. There is so much we don’t know or have yet to discover. Click here. (9/12)

Scientists Draw Up Plan to Colonize Mars (Source: Astronomy)
The idea of building a base to colonize Mars and become an interplanetary species has seen decades of talk and not a whole lot of action, but now at least there’s plan. On September 10, researchers from the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), a Switzerland university and research center, laid out a step-by-step guide to creating a sustainable research facility on Mars. Their specific plan outlines how we would get there, set up camp and create an environment that would be habitable in the long term.

By adopting this strategy, researchers could finally start planning humanity’s long-awaited trip to the Red Planet. The first step to building a colony, of course, is to figure out where you’ll have the best chance of survival. For Mars, the researchers set their sights on the planet’s poles. The base that they designed consists of three units: a central core, three surrounding capsules and a massive over-arching dome. The three capsules surrounding the central core would function as airlocks — passages that connect the core and the Martian surface and minimize changes in air pressure between the two.

An enormous polyethylene fiber dome, topped with 16 feet (5 m) of ice, would encapsulate the entire based. Once the robots have scoped out the site and created a safe place for humans, a six-person crew would start their journey to the Red Planet. This would ideally take place during the polar summer, when the crew could soak up 288 straight days of Martian sunlight. Click here. (9/12)

Champagne in Space: High-Tech Bottle Gets Test Flight (Source: BBC)
Future space tourists may be sipping champagne in orbit if a uniquely designed twin-chambered bottle with "egg cup" glasses proves a success. On Wednesday, a specially equipped aircraft will take off from the heart of the French champagne region to test the novel way of dispensing bubbly. The plane will make a series of steep climbs before plunging down to create 20-second intervals of weightlessness. The new bottle design was commissioned by the Mumm champagne house. (9/12)

Supply of Russian Rocket Engines to China Will Benefit Ties (Source: Sputnik)
The Chinese side has commented on Monday's statement by Russian space corporation Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin, saying that Russia was prepared to supply rocket engines to China. Russia will strengthen cooperation with China by supplying its rocket engines to the Asian country, Hu Bin, counselor of the Department of Treaty and Law at China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said.

The official went on speaking about the US participation in a multilateral treaty on space arms control. "Of course the United States should be in [the treaty], it would be better if the United States is in because the United States is a very powerful space-faring country. We need US participation, that is why China tries to accommodate the concerns [of other countries]," Hu said on the sidelines of the first UN Conference on Space Law and Policy, asked whether such an agreement would be effective without US participation. (9/12)

Fake Space News: Russia's Sputnik News Agency Spreads Innuendo About US Involvement in Soyuz Leak (Source: Sputnik)
The situation around a hole in the fabric of a Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft, docked to the International Space Station (ISS), is more complicated than it was expected, Dmitry Rogozin, the chief of the Russian space agency Roscosmos stated. Rogozin confirmed that a commission of Russia's Energia Rocket and Space Corporation had failed to determine the origin of the hole yet.

Rogozin refused to comment on media reports alleging that US astronauts could have been responsible for the emergence of the hole on Soyuz. A source told Sputnik on Thursday that an internal investigation, held by Energia, which is the spacecraft manufacturer, showed that the hole had been deliberately made by a drill bit. The company, however, failed to identify the perpetrators. (9/12)

Russian Theory That NASA Sabotaged the Soyuz Spreading Like Wildfire (Source: Ars Technica)
Multiple Russian publications are publishing an absurd new theory—that a NASA astronaut deliberately caused the leak on board the station in order to force the evacuation of a sick crew member. The story has spread like wildfire during the last 24 hours. One of the most prominent articles says Russian investigators are vigorously pursuing the claim that Americans may have damaged the Soyuz deliberately. Several sources from the space agency are leaking comments to the Russian media.

“Our Soyuz is next to the Rassvet (Dawn) module, right next to the hatch into the American segment of the station," one source told Kommersant. "Access to our ship is possible only with the permission of our commander, but we cannot exclude an unsanctioned access by the Americans." The working theory goes something like this: one of the American crew members got ill sometime in August. To leave the station would have required the departure of three astronauts and cosmonauts, because a Soyuz cannot depart without a full crew, as this would not leave enough seats for an emergency evacuation.

The motive for the sabotage seems to be that NASA did not want to pay the entire cost of a new Soyuz, probably about $85 million. Therefore, to force the evacuation but not have to pay for the cost of an additional Soyuz to fly to the station, a NASA astronaut drilled a hole in the orbital module of one of the Soyuz spacecraft. According to the reports, this "Version B" theory is now a priority investigation by a special commission set up by Roscosmos after the leak. The commission has reportedly sought American video recordings from on board the station. (9/12)

Report: Texas Ranks No. 2 for Aerospace Manufacturing Attractiveness [Florida Drops to 15] (Source: Houston Chronicle)
A strong economy and favorable tax policy helped Texas rank as the second-most attractive state for aerospace manufacturing, according to a report released Wednesday by PricewaterhouseCoopers. Seventeen of the world's 20 largest aerospace manufacturers have major operations in Texas, including Lockheed Martin's production of the F-35 fighter jet, and about 9 percent of all U.S. aerospace manufacturing jobs are in the state.

The report cited Washington, where Boeing's commercial aircraft business is based, as the most attractive state for aerospace manufacturing. Last year, Texas ranked No. 8. Texas has several projects contributing to its increase in manufacturing jobs. Bell, part of Textron, recently signed a deal with Uber to develop and build a flying taxi prototype. And Lockheed is ramping up production of its F-35 to fulfill growing orders. It's also hiring additional workers to help build up to 160 fighters a year by 2019.

Editor's Note: Florida ranked #6 in 2017, a few spots ahead of Texas. This year Florida dropped to #15. Relative to the other 49 states, Florida's biggest downward shifts were in the categories of cost (a 20 point drop) and infrastructure (a 23 point drop). Florida also lost ground in the categories of labor, and economy, while the state's rankings improved slightly for tax policy and industry.  (9/13)

Space Florida Signs Right of Entry for Space Launch Complex 20 (Source: Space Florida)
Space Florida’s Board of Directors has ratified a formal Right of Entry agreement between Space Florida and the United States Air Force for Space Launch Complex 20 (SLC-20) at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The Right of Entry agreement will allow Space Florida to fast-track site assessment in anticipation of entering a lease with the United States Air Force to enable redevelopment of the historic site for commercial small satellite launch.

Previously used for Titan launch operations, SLC-20 is positioned to support the emerging small satellite launch market with existing infrastructure that includes a 6,000 square-foot hangar for horizontal launch vehicle processing, two launch areas with lightning protection, and a blockhouse in operational condition. SLC-20 is centrally located at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, which offers the widest range of launch azimuths on the East Coast, and unparalleled launch support infrastructure and services as the most active spaceport in the world.

By securing and developing fallow assets such as SLC-20 and sub-leasing to industry, Space Florida can provide a variety of financial tools. This toolbox can be leveraged by industry for the development of spaceport infrastructure, including investment in capital improvements via the Florida Spaceport Improvement Program and financing of construction and equipment through Space Florida’s unique conduit financing structure. These tools are designed to lower upfront capital requirements and ongoing cost of operations for commercial companies, while encouraging private investment in the spaceport necessary to enable sustainable growth and certainty into the future. (9/12)