December 8, 2016

Alaska Aerospace Joins in Space Forum (Source: Your Alaska)
The Eisenhower Center for Space and Defense Studies held the 10th annual Space Forum at the United State Air Force Academy. Alaska Aerospace Corporation was invited to participate on the Spaceports panel to highlight the capabilities offered to both government and commercial customers at the Pacific Spaceport Complex - Alaska.

The Space Forum facilitated discussions by Federal, State, and commercial companies to advance U.S. space capabilities. A special focus of this year's forum centered on public-private partnerships, private spaceflight, and state government and industry partnerships. (12/8)

Mars One Puts Back Planned Colonization of Red Planet (Source: Space Daily)
A British-Dutch company planning to install a community of humans on Mars admitted on Wednesday that it's project will be delayed by several years. The Mars One consortium said its first manned mission to the Red Planet would now not happen until 2031, having previously targeted 2026. Its first unmanned mission has also been delayed by four years to 2022.

The delays are due to a "new financial strategy" linked to Mars One's sale to Swiss financial services company InFin Innovative Finance AG, which was announced last week. Currently, Mars One consists of two entities: British public limited company Mars One Ventures and the Dutch not-for-profit Mars One Foundation. Mars One's controversial project aims to send pioneering colonisers on one-way trips to the Red Planet to set up a permanent human settlement. (12/7)

Dark Matter May Be More Smoothly Distributed Throughout Cosmos (Source: Space Daily)
New analysis of a phenomenon known as cosmic shear suggests dark matter is less dense and more evenly -- or smoothly -- distributed throughout space. The revelation was detailed this week in a new paper published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Cosmic shear is a type of gravitational lensing, the subtle warping of light waves emitted by distant galaxies as they travel past, around and through large clumps of cosmic matter, like galaxy clusters. Cosmic shear, specifically, isn't the warping effect caused by specific galactic clusters, but the distortions caused by large-scale cosmic structures. (12/7)

Marijuana is Legal on the Moon (Source: Marijuana)
So if people are really going to leave the planet and go elsewhere, plans need to be made. What we know from recorded history is that where humans go so does cannabis. That’s why Marijuana.com spoke with Naveen Jain, the Founder and Executive Chairman of Moon Express, to see how people will get their pot in space.

“Our goal really is one day for humans to be able to live away from Planet Earth,” said Jain. “If someday we were to get hit by an asteroid, we would all [end up like]the dinosaurs.” Jain went on to add that these colonization goals are long-term. In the short-term, they are looking at tourism, which means food, drinks, and of course pot, will be a must.

At first, all vegetation would more than likely need to be shipped from Earth. But eventually, the moon will need to produce its own sustainable crop of Skywalker OG (and of course fruits and vegetables). So how is that done? “Even on our first mission, our goal is to take a small plant and feed and grow it on the moon in a small biosphere,” which Jain explains is basically a makeshift greenhouse. (12/7)

SpaceX Loses Inmarsat Launch to Arianespace Due to Delays (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Inmarsat has signed a contract with Arianespace to launch its S-band satellite for the European Aviation Network (EAN) on an Ariane 5 heavy lift launch vehicle. The EAN payload is part of a ‘condosat’ constructed by Thales Alenia Space, which incorporates a second payload for Hellas-Sat. The condosat is scheduled to be launched from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana in mid-2017.

The condosat was originally scheduled for launch with SpaceX. However, following the delay in SpaceX’s launch schedule, Inmarsat and Hellas-Sat took the decision to move the condosat to an Arianespace launch. Inmarsat will launch Inmarsat-5 F4, a Global Xpress (GX) satellite, with SpaceX. This launch is planned for H1 2017 and Inmarsat is looking forward to continuing to work with SpaceX going forward. (12/8)

SpaceX Says It’s Ready for Liftoff Again. The FAA Begs to Differ (Source: WIRED)
SpaceX announced it expects to begin launching again in early January—just four months after one of its Falcon 9 rockets burst into flames on a Florida launchpad. But the company is still missing one important thing before it leaves Earth: a license from the FAA. “They have not completed their investigation and therefore they do not have an (FAA launch) license,” said an FAA spokesperson.

The FAA said the time it would take to grant a license to SpaceX depends on how big a fix they propose to address the cause of the fire; SpaceX has previously said they believe the problem lies with helium in the liquid oxygen propellant tank. The accident occurred two days before the flight’s scheduled liftoff. Before granting a launch license, the FAA “needs inspectors in place, we have to have air traffic control aware, we have to review payload,” the spokesperson said. “It could take a little while.” (12/7)

Trump Administration's Space Approach Coming Into Focus (Source: Space News)
The Trump campaign's space policy adviser believes Vice President-elect Mike Pence will play a major role in space policy. Speaking at a space law event Wednesday, Robert Walker said that Pence "expressed absolute excitement" about chairing a reconstituted National Space Council in the incoming administration. The council, Walker said, would help identify overlaps in space activities, citing development of multiple heavy-lift rockets by government and businesses as one example. Walker also defended plans to shift Earth science research out of NASA, saying that reports that the Trump administration wanted to end climate science research altogether were incorrect. (12/8)

John Glenn Hospitalized (Source: CNN)
Legendary former astronaut and senator John Glenn has been hospitalized in Ohio. A spokesman for the John Glenn College of Public Affairs at Ohio State University said Wednesday that Glenn had been admitted to the James Cancer Hospital at the university more than a week ago, but did not have information on the reason or Glenn's current condition. The 95-year-old Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962 and flew on the space shuttle in 1998, and also served 24 years in the Senate. (12/7)

Walker Reveals Details on TrumpSpace (Source: Space Policy Online)
Meeting at the Cosmos Club, attendees at the 11th Eilene M. Galloway Symposium on Critical Issues in Space Law heard from a number of speakers including former Congressman Bob Walker, who is advising the Trump Transition Team, and Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) who has been conducting a behind the scenes effort to become the next administrator of NASA.

Walker spoke first and said that the Trump space policy came together rather quickly at the end of then campaign and that he was asked to come up with one and deliver it - the next day. He cautioned the audience that just because he wrote some things this is not indicative of where the Transition Team - and the incoming NASA leadership - would necessarily go. That said, Walker said that there is an intent that the National Space Council be re-instituted so as to guide all space activities. civilian, military, and commercial. Walker went on to say that the Trump team is looking for a space policy that is "disruptive, resilient, and enduring".

For one thing, Walker said that they are looking for a much longer life for the ISS - and that it will need to be refurbished and upgraded. He speculated that it would need to be handed over to an organization or consortium eventually. They are also looking for opportunities to have the commercial sector backfill for NASA so that NASA can focus on deep space exploration. Walker was very clear on this point noting that there was an awareness of many government programs that "take a decade to do with technology that ends up being out of date". (12/8)

Reports of Spacecom Sale are Premature (Source: Space News)
Spacecom said that reports of a deal with the Chinese company seeking to acquire it are premature. Israeli media reported last week that Spacecom has reached a deal to be acquired by Beijing Xinwei Technology Group for $190 million, two-thirds the price of the original deal announced in August prior to the loss of the Amos-6 satellite. Spacecom said in a statement this week that it has yet to reach a renegotiated deal with Beijing Xinwei, with no guarantee the sale could be salvaged. (12/8)

China's Busy Space Year Still Includes Four Launches (Source: GB Times)
China is planning a busy end of the year in space, including at least four more launches. The launches expected to take place by the end of the month include those for a weather satellite, Earth science satellite, two imaging satellites and a video satellite. China is also expected to release an updated space policy white paper, with plans for the next five years, by the end of the month. (12/8)

Planet Opens Seattle Office to Lure Software Engineers (Source: GeekWire)
Earth observation company Planet has opened a new office in Seattle. The San Francisco-based company, with more than 360 employees in several offices around the world, plans to have 10 software engineers working in its new Seattle office by the end of the year. Karthik Govindhasamy, Planet's chief technology officer and a former Microsoft executive, leads the new Seattle office that will work on new applications of the images Planet's constellation of cubesats provides. (12/8)

House Bill Would Proide Special Healthcare for Former Astronauts (Source: House Science Committee)
The House passed an astronaut healthcare bill on a unanimous vote Wednesday. The To Research, Evaluate, Assess, and Treat (TREAT) Astronauts Act, which would provide extended medical screening of former astronauts, passed on a 413-0 vote after a brief debate on the House floor. The bill is a modified version of one approved by the House Science Committee earlier this year after discussions with the Senate. Passage of the bill in the Senate is uncertain, though, because of disputes on other issues that are hindering the process of passing bills there by unanimous consent. (12/4)

Outer Space: The Filthy Frontier (Source: Daily Maverick)
Has anybody heard about Don Kessler, the creator of the said-to-be-famous “Kessler Syndrome” theory? In the late 70s, Kessler, a now retired NASA scientist, penned a seminal paper called: “Collision Frequency of Artificial Satellites: The Creation of a Debris Belt”. In it he wrote: “As the number of artificial satellites in earth orbit increases, the probability of collisions between satellites also increases. Satellite collisions would produce orbiting fragments, each of which would increase the probability of further collisions, leading to the growth of a belt of debris around the earth."

"This process parallels certain theories concerning the growth of the asteroid belt. The debris flux in such an earth-orbiting belt could exceed the natural meteoroid flux, affecting future spacecraft designs.” Kessler used a mathematical model to project the rate at which the asteroid belt he described in his paper would form, and came to the conclusion that, given the right conditions, the debris-filled belt could form as early as this century. (12/8)

UAE Policy Aims to Build Sustainable Space Sector (Source: Gulf News)
The national space sector policy announced on Tuesday aims to build a strong and sustainable space sector in the UAE that supports and protects national interests and related vital industries, according to the UAE Space Agency. The document was approved on September 4 by the Council of Ministers, headed by His Highness Shaikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. (12/6)

John Glenn, American Hero, Aviation Icon and Former U.S. Senator, Dies at 95 (Source: Columbus Dispatch)
Former Sen. John Glenn died this afternoon surrounded by family at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus after a remarkably healthy life spent almost from the cradle with Annie, his beloved wife of 73 years, who survives. He, along with fellow aviators Orville and Wilbur Wright and moon-walker Neil Armstrong, truly made Ohio first in flight.

“John Glenn is, and always will be, Ohio’s ultimate hometown hero, and his passing today is an occasion for all of us to grieve," said Ohio Gov. John R. Kasich. "As we bow our heads and share our grief with his beloved wife, Annie, we must also turn to the skies, to salute his remarkable journeys and his long years of service to our state and nation.

Glenn’s body will lie in state at the Ohio Statehouse for a day, and a public memorial service will be held at Ohio State University’s Mershon Auditorium. He will be buried near Washington, D.C., at Arlington National Cemetery in a private service. Dates and times for the public events will be announced soon. (12/8)

Orbital ATK Chooses Florida Over Virginia for Next Space Station Supply Mission (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
An unmanned Antares 230 rocket nailed its launch from Wallops Island on Oct. 17, signaling Virginia's return as a site for commercial resupply missions to the International Space Station. But it appears the next ISS mission for rocket-maker Orbital ATK won't be from here, but from Florida. Orbital says it will skip the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on the Eastern Shore and head south to Cape Canaveral in the spring, where it'll use an Atlas V rocket to deliver crew supplies for NASA.

It's an eyebrow-raising decision given that Orbital had only just returned to MARS after an earlier version of its rocket, the Antares 130, exploded just after lift-off in October 2014, wrecking the state-owned launch pad and spurring the company to replace the Russian-made first-stage engines behind the mishap. (12/7)

ULA Successfully Launches WGS-8 Mission on Delta-4 From the Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: ULA)
A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket carrying the eighth installment of the Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) satellite for the United States Air Force lifted off from Space Launch Complex-37 Dec. 7 at 6:53 p.m. EST. This is ULA’s 11th launch in 2016 and the 114th successful launch since the company was formed in December 2006. (12/7)

Space Club Accepting Debus Award Nominations (Source: NSCFL)
The National Space Club Florida Committee (NSCFL) presents its premier award, the Dr. Kurt H. Debus Award, for significant contributions to the advancement, awareness, and improvement of aerospace in Florida. This award will be presented at our annual Debus Dinner, scheduled for April 22, 2017, at the Debus Conference Center at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

Whether as an NSCFL member or friend of the aerospace community, we encourage you to submit nominations for the 2017 Debus Award. Nominations must be made via an online form available at www.nscfl.org. The deadline for submitting nominations is January 20, 2017.

The nominee must have made significant contributions to the space industry in Florida through either technical achievement, education, or the management of aerospace related activities. The nominee must have been either actively engaged in their working career or have retired from it since the most recently conferred Debus Award. The nominee must be recognized for having been actively engaged in community service as an advocate and supporter of space. Click here. (12/7)

SpaceX Targets Early January for Launch From California (Source: Florida Today)
SpaceX confirmed that its return to flight has slipped to early January while it finishes up its investigation into the Sep. 1 launch pad explosion. "This allows for additional time to close-out vehicle preparations and complete extended testing to help ensure the highest possible level of mission assurance prior to launch," the company said in a statement.

SpaceX had hoped to conduct this launch on Dec. 16 at Vandenberg AFB in California. Iridium Communications, which would launch its first 10 Iridium NEXT communications satellites on the Falcon 9, is the customer. (12/7)

To Mars with Standards (Source: ASTM)
NASA’s unmanned Space Launch System is scheduled to lift off in 2018 on its first step to a subsequent manned mission to Mars in the 2030s. A recent milestone in the Mission to Mars is the completed welding on the SLS’s core stage liquid hydrogen tank. The tank stands more than 40 metres tall, and according to NASA, is the largest cryogenic fuel tank for a rocket in the world.

The system’s hydrogen tank, together with another tank for liquid oxygen, will hold a total of 2,770 cubic metres of the fuel, and send the advanced launch vehicle into deep space. And, as has been true for many missions, SLS and its Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle will burst from the Earth’s atmosphere and enter deep space with the support of countless engineering standards, including those from ASTM. Click here. (12/7)

Nordic Entrepreneurial Spirit Boosted by Space (Source: Space Daily)
More than 17 000 people converged on Helsinki in Finland this week to create businesses - and ESA was there to add its space expertise. The 'Slush' event helps the next generation of companies by promoting a worldwide start-up community.

"Having already fostered more than 430 new companies at our 16 business incubators in 13 countries to recycle space technology and satellite data to everyday use down here on Earth,we can support entrepreneurs to turn their ideas into successful new European companies," noted ESA's Frank Salzgeber at the event.

One stage was dedicated to pitches by young entrepreneurs, while others were filled with tech experts sharing their stories and sparking discussions on the future. Norway's Crown Prince Haakon added,"It was really interesting to learn about ESA and the fascinating and innovative ways how space technology and data acquired from space can benefit us." (12/6)

Space Has Potholes Too! (Source: Space Daily)
Recently, when President-elect Donald Trump was asked about his plans for NASA he reportedly said "space is terrific, but we've got to fix our potholes too." Well, this may be a revelation, but space and the space program have potholes. These are not simple terrestrial potholes. They are potentially big showstoppers, the kind that can really mess up our economy and national security. Space potholes are like highway potholes, but turned inside out.

Near-earth space is quickly getting filled up with these inverted obstructions. We called them orbiting debris objects, i.e., objects that are in orbit around the Earth as the result of space initiatives that no longer serve any function. Examples of such debris include expired spacecraft, upper stages of launch vehicles, debris released during spacecraft separation from its launch vehicle or during mission operations, debris created as a result of (spacecraft or upper stage) explosions or collisions, solid rocket motor effluents, paint flecks and thermal blankets. (12/6)

Could Dark Matter Be Powering The EMdrive? (Source: Forbes)
For every action, there's an equal and opposite reaction. This formulation of Newton's third law has two very important modern consequences: one, that there's a physical quantity that's always conserved in the Universe (momentum), and two, that the laws of physics are the same irrespective of your position in space. This has a huge slew of implications, including that if you want to power a device to change its motion, you need to push against something. This could be exhaust from a rocket, tires pushing against a road, train wheels on a rail-line or even photons reflected off a sail.

The one thing that's forbidden is a reactionless drive: an action without a reaction. That's exactly what the EMdrive -- the "impossible" space engine just verified by a NASA test -- claims to be. If it truly works as advertised, it violates the laws of physics. But there's a possible loophole: perhaps there is a reaction, and we just don't detect it. Perhaps the reaction occurs, but it's occurring due to dark matter. Click here. (11/30)

December 7, 2016

Eyes in the Sky (Source: Space Daily)
Donald Trump's election is generating much speculation about how his administration may or may not reshape the federal government. On space issues, a senior Trump advisor, former Pennsylvania Rep. Bob Walker, has called for ending NASA earth science research, including work related to climate change. Walker contends that NASA's proper role is deep-space research and exploration, not "politically correct environmental monitoring."

This proposal has caused deep concern for many in the climate science community, including people who work directly for NASA and others who rely heavily on NASA-produced data for their research. Elections have consequences, and it is an executive branch prerogative to set priorities and propose budgets for federal agencies. However, President-elect Trump and his team should think very carefully before they recommend canceling or defunding any of NASA's current Earth-observing missions. Click here. (12/2)

China's Space Exploration Plans Unveiled (Source: Space Daily)
The Chinese Academy of Sciences' National Space Science Center has officially unveiled five space exploration plans to be accomplished during the 13th Five Year Plan period (2016-20). Click here. (12/2)

3D-Print Your Laugh and Launch It Into Space (Source: Seeker)
Are you a chortler? What about guffaws, giggles or hyena laughs? If you have the best laugh, whatever the joyful sound, it could end up getting turned into a 3D-printed sculpture sent into space. Israeli artist and computer programmer Eyal Gever is leading this collaborative project called #Laugh. Six years ago the 3-D manufacturing company Made In Space offered Gever the opportunity to become the first artist to create a piece in outer space.

In coming up with #Laugh, Gever had to come up with art that would have universal appeal, literally. The final piece couldn't be specific to any particular country or culture. His friend, the British spoken word poet Suli Breaks, suggested laughter. Gever is using crowdsourcing to gather laughter submissions and identify the most popular audio, which he'll turn into a file transmitted to Made In Space's 3-D printer aboard the ISS. The resulting sculpture will get released into space. (12/5)

Potential Problems with Curiosity's Drill on Mars (Source: NASA JPL)
Engineers are studying a problem with the drill on the Curiosity Mars rover. Project officials said Monday that the drill did not carry out a set of commands last week to collect samples from a rock, which could be linked to a problem with a drill feed mechanism on the rover. For the time being, the rover is stationary and using other instruments to collect data while engineers diagnose the problem with the drill. (12/5)

SS/Loral to Build NASA Satellite Servicing Spacecraft (Source: NASA)
Space Systems/Loral has won a contract to build a NASA satellite servicing spacecraft. The agency announced Monday that SSL will build the bus for the Restore-L spacecraft and related services under a contract with a maximum value of $125 million. Restore-L, set for launch in 2020, will test the ability to refuel a satellite in low Earth orbit. (12/5)

Spire Plans ADS-B Cubesats to Track Aircraft (Source: Space News)
Spire is planning to enter the aviation-tracking market with its cubesat constellation. The company announced Monday it planned to add Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) payloads to its cubesats starting next year, with plans to launch 75 such spacecraft by the end of 2018. The ADS-B payloads will allow Spire to track aircraft and provide updates on their positions every 15 minutes. It puts Spire in competition with Aireon, a subsidiary of Iridium, who is planning to provide real-time aircraft tracking with ADS-B payloads on Iridium Next satellites. (12/5)

Soyuz on Display in London (Source: BBC)
The Soyuz spacecraft that returned British astronaut Tim Peake from the space station will go on display in a London museum. The Science Museum will host the Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft starting early next year after acquiring it from Russian manufacturer Energia. The spacecraft, refurbished but still "slightly singed" from its reentry, will join several other space artifacts in the museum. (12/5)

College Teams to Vie for Rocketry Prize at Spaceport America Cup (Source: Spaceport America)
Spaceport America will host more than 110 colleges at a rocketry competition in June 2017. The New Mexico spaceport will be the site for the inaugural Spaceport America Cup, the new home of the Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition. The five-day event will include three days of launch competitions at the spaceport and other events there and in the city of Las Cruces. (12/5)

XCOR Loses Co-Founder Aleta Jackson (Source: Parabolic Arc)
XCOR lost one of its four founders on Sunday. Loretta “Aleta” Jackson DeLong passed away in Midland, Texas, after a losing a battle with ovarian cancer. She was 68. Aleta had founded XCOR in 1999 with Jeff Greason, Doug Jones and her partner and future husband Dan DeLong. The four had been laid off from Rotary Rocket and decided to found XCOR. I got to know Aleta during my interactions with XCOR. She was an extraordinary person. I will miss her spirit. (12/6)

Germany Provides Approximately 2 Billion Euros to ESA Space Projects (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The highest decision-making body of the European Space Agency (ESA) met this year on 1 and 2 December at the Culture and Convention Centre (KKL) in Lucerne, Switzerland, to set the financial and programme-based course for European space travel for the coming years. Ministers in charge of space in Europe last came together exactly two years ago on 2 December 2014 in Luxembourg.

The German Federal Government was represented by Brigitte Zypries, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi). Brigitte Zypries, who is also aerospace coordinator, was supported by Pascale Ehrenfreund, Chair of the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) Executive Board and Gerd Gruppe, Member of the DLR Executive Board responsible for the Space Administration, which, in close collaboration with the BMWi, prepared the German position for the ESA Council meeting at ministerial level. (12/6)

Did the Apollo 1 Fire Have to Happen? (Source: Air & Space)
Throughout NASA, shock gave way to grief. NASA life-support engineer Dick Johnston likened the deaths of the Apollo 1 crew to the loss of a father or brother, and called it “the worst tragedy I’ve ever been through.” Astronaut Deke Slayton, who considered Grissom his best friend among the astronauts, later called that day the “worst I ever had.” Said Flight Director Chris Kraft, “I don’t know how I survived it.”

For weeks, as the review board went about its grim task, engineers at NASA and its contractors silently prayed that the fault wouldn’t be with them. “I hate to say that, but you really thanked God it wasn’t your system, that it was somebody else’s, and you could breathe easy again,” Cioffoletti later confessed

In the end, the board never determined the exact cause—at the fire’s likely starting point, temperatures high enough to melt aluminum had destroyed key evidence—but the investigators did conclude that no one system was responsible. Instead, in terse, dispassionate language, their report called attention to “many deficiencies in design and engineering, manufacture and quality control,” including the command module’s exposed electrical wiring, some of which may have become damaged by repeated opening and closing of a sharp-edged access door during the months before the fire. (11/30)

Boeing to Acquire Liquid Robotics to Enhance Autonomous Seabed-to-Space Info Services (Source: Spaceref)
Boeing has entered into an agreement to acquire Liquid Robotics, a market leader in autonomous maritime systems and developer of the Wave Glider ocean surface robot, to grow its seabed-to-space autonomous capabilities.

“With Liquid Robotics’ innovative technology and Boeing’s leading intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance solutions, we are helping our customers address maritime challenges in ways that make existing platforms smarter, missions safer and operations more efficient,” said Leanne Caret, president and CEO of Boeing Defense, Space & Security. (12/6)

Virgin Galactic Working to Make Supersonic Aircraft Go Boom (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Yesterday in Denver, The Spaceship Company’s chairman Doug Shane spoke at Boom’s unveil of its XB-1 Supersonic Demonstrator, a subscale prototype of the Boom supersonic passenger airliner. The Spaceship Company is a proud partner of Boom Supersonic and will provide engineering and manufacturing services, along with flight test support and operations. Doug introduced a congratulatory message from Sir Richard Branson. Click here. (12/6)

Houston Spaceport Partners with U.K. Spaceport (Source: Houston Chronicle)
The Houston Spaceport has signed a memorandum of understanding with a counterpoint in the U.K. to share relevant policies, processes and other information relating to commercial spaceport licensing and operations. On Tuesday, the Glasgow Prestwick Airport welcomed a delegation from Houston Spaceport and Rice Space Institute to meet with representatives from the Scottish space industry and local politicians.

"We couldn't wish for a more experienced partner than Houston," Richard Jenner, Glasgow Prestwick Airport Spaceport Director, said in a news release. "They have a long history of facilitating government funded launches and it is exciting to be embarking on the move to commercial space launches alongside them. This partnership will hopefully expedite the establishment of a spaceport at Prestwick." (12/6)

Blue Origin Rocket Factory Takes Shape at Florida Spaceport (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
In a recent e-mail, Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos shared pictures of the company’s 750,000-square-foot (69,677-square-meter) facility, which is being built at Exploration Park on Kennedy Space Center property. Blue Origin will use the factory to manufacture the two-stage super-heavy-lift New Glenn launch vehicle. The New Glenn vehicles are expected to build on the reusability technologies that the company has been testing on its New Shepard suborbital vehicle in Texas.

Bezos proudly declared, “The team has made extraordinary progress—as you can see here, the first steel is now going up.” Bezos expects the rocket factory to be completed by the end of 2017. See the photos here. (12/6)

China Develops Non-Toxic Propellant for Orbiting Satellites (Source: Xinhua)
A non-toxic propulsion system developed by Chinese scientists will enable satellites to carry more payload and save on satellite launching costs, the system's developer said Tuesday. The ammonium dinitramide (ADN) technology used in the system proved successful when it was tested in the Shijian-17 satellite sent into space last month, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation said in a statement.

Shijian-17 is tasked with verifying technology for observation of space debris, new electric sources and electric propulsion. According to scientists, the propulsion system is meant to help an orbiting satellite sustain its altitude as atmospheric drag and gravity can lead to gradual descent in orbit. (12/6)

India Launches Imaging Satellite (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
India has launched its Resourcesat-2A imaging satellite on Wednesday morning via its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket. The ISRO launch, from the Satish Dhawan Space Center, was India’s seventh and final of 2016, caps what was already the country’s busiest year for space launches. (12/6)

Allegations Rocket Engine Failure Behind Progress Spacecraft Crash Incorrect (Source: Sputnik)
Information alleging that the Russian Progress MS-04 cargo spacecraft crashed after an emergency stop of an engine of the third stage of the Soyuz-U carrier rocket is based on outdated and incorrect cyclogram data, the Russian Mission Control Center said Wednesday. ”Any version which are now being voiced by the media have nothing to do with reality, including the incorrect cyclogram data. The results of the commission’s work will be announced no earlier than December 20,” a spokesperson said. (12/7)

Russian Astronomers Fail to Detect Meteorite’s Crash in Siberia (Source: Tass)
The meteor seen on Tuesday night in the city of Sayanogorsk, in Russia’s Siberian Republic of Khakassia, went undetected by ground telescopes as there are not enough astronomical observatories in Siberia, the Novosibirsk Planetarium’s Director, Sergei Maslikov, told TASS on Wednesday. "No one carries out astronomic research in that area, unfortunately. Krasnoyarsk is the closest city but there is neither a planetarium, nor an observatory there," he said. (12/7)

Israel Turns to India for Space Technology (Source: Times of India)
It's not just India that seeks technologies from Israel. This time, it's Israel that's come knocking on the doors of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) for collaborations in key technologies. Avi Blasberger, director, Israel Space Agency (ISA) told TOI after a meeting with the space agency on Tuesday: "We have specific areas in which we'd like to collaborate with ISRO. I'm hopeful that something serious will emerge after more meetings."

Blasberger said that Israel was particularly keen on collaborating in technologies relating to earth observation, communication and rocket propulsion. "We are also looking at radar satellite," he added. ISRO is already working on a dual synthetic aperture radar project in collaboration with NASA, which TOI was the first to report about. (12/7)

"I Want to Be an Astronaut" Premiers in Space (Source: SpaceTEC)
Blair Mason has wanted to be an astronaut since he was three years old. Now, at 17, that dream has become a vision for "moving humanity beyond Earth." But what does it take to be an astronaut?  And, more importantly, what are we doing now as a nation to keep the dreams of young people like Blair within the realm of possibility?
 
"I want to be an Astronaut" examines the current state of America's space program: where we've been, where we are, and where we might be headed. The film is a powerful and emotional ride that explores the human side of space exploration, and the realities that need to be in place so that our nation has a program for the "Blair's" of the world to aspire to. Click here. (12/7)

Spending Bill Includes Funds to Repair Hurricane Damage at KSC (Source: Space News)
A bill introduced late Dec. 6 to fund the federal government through April 2017 includes nearly $75 million for NASA to cover repairs caused by Hurricane Matthew in October. The continuing resolution (CR), set to pass Congress this week to keep the federal government in operation through April 28, includes $4.1 billion in overall disaster relief, including $74.7 million for NASA for repairs at agency facilities damaged by Hurricane Matthew.

NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida suffered some damage when the powerful hurricane passed just off the coast Oct. 7. Damage was less than initially feared, though, as the storm did not make landfall, sparing the Vehicle Assembly Building and major launch facilities. The hurricane did cause damage to roofs and water intrusion at some buildings. The center did not release a specific estimate of the dollar value of the damage, but center leaders said in the days after the storm it was in the millions of dollars. (12/7)

Clock Ticking to Pass Space Bills Before Congress Adjourns (Source: Space News)
Multiple space bills seeking passage in Congress are running out of time. Congress is expected to adjourn after passing the CR at the end of this week. That gives only a few days for members to attempt to pass a NASA authorization bill that would authorize spending for the agency in 2017; the bill also includes a wide range of policy provisions. A bill that passed the House Monday authorizing commemorative coins for the Apollo 11 50th anniversary is also awaiting passage by the Senate. (12/7)

NASA Earth Science Payload to be Hosted on Commercial Satellite (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected an Earth science mission to fly as a hosted payload on a commercial satellite. The agency said Tuesday it would fly the Geostationary Carbon Cycle Observatory, or GeoCARB, as a hosted payload on an unnamed commercial communications satellite in geostationary orbit over the Americas. GeoCARB will measure greenhouse gases and monitor vegitation health. Total value of the mission, run under NASA's Earth Venture program, is $166 million. (12/6)

UAE Ready to Build Space Regulatory Structure (Source: Gulf News)
The United Arab Emirates is ready to start developing space laws, including those covering space tourism. Mohammad Nasser Al Ahbabi, director-general of the UAE Space Agency, said Tuesday that with a national space policy in place, he expected the government to issue laws within a few months on space issues, including regulations for space tourism activities. Al Ahbabi also said the country's Mars orbiter mission remains on schedule for a launch in 2020, but declined to give an estimate of the mission's cost. (12/6)

December 6, 2016

Red Planet Blues: Popular Entertainment and the Settlement of Mars (Source: Space Review)
A National Geographic Channel series currently airing offers a fictional look at a future Mars expedition, mixed with present-day documentary segments. Dwayne Day explores whether the series does much to make the case for the human settlement of the Red Planet. Click here. (12/5)
 
A Note on the Possible Impending Death of Human Space Exploration (Source: Space Review)
As NASA continues to efforts to eventually send humans to Mars, studies are showing a wide range of health issues that long-duration spaceflight poses to astronauts. Roger Handberg wonders of those issues, and the increasing capabilities of robotic spacecraft, may close the window on human spaceflight. Click here. (12/5)
 
The Engineer and the Imagineer (Source: Space Review)
Two of the recipients of awards from the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation last week were a space agency executive and a former Disney “imagineer.” Jeff Foust reports on a discussion between the two on innovation, risk taking, and a potential emerging “inflection point” for commercial space. Click here. (12/5)
 
Microbench Research (Source: Space Review)
The use of terms like “microgravity” and “zero gravity” can lead some to erroneously conclude that there is no gravity at all in orbit. Philip Backman proposes an alternative term to better understand that environment. Click here. (12/5)

Vega Launches Earth Observation Spacecraft for Turkey (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
Arianespace’s Vega rocket has launched Turkey’s first governmental satellite for Earth observation. The launch of the Göktürk-1A satellite occurred on Monday, lifting off from launch pad ELA-1 at Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana – ahead of a 57 minute ride to orbit. The four-stage launcher is tailored to carry the growing number of small scientific spacecraft and other lighter-weight payloads under development or planned worldwide. (12/5)

House Passes Rep. Posey's Bipartisan Bill for Apollo 11 Coin (Source: Rep. Posey)
Today the U.S. House of Representatives passed bipartisan legislation introduced by Representatives Bill Posey (R-FL), Frederica Wilson (D-FL) John Culberson (R-TX), Gene Green (D-TX) and Rod Blum (R-IA) to recognize and celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing with a Commemorative Coin. July 20, 2019 will mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission moon landing.

“The United States remains the only country to have ever landed humans on a celestial body off the Earth and brought them home safely,” said Representative Bill Posey (FL-08) who worked on the Apollo program as a young man. “Passage of this bill honors that great feat and recognizes astronauts Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins, who made the historic journey. I would like to thank all of our cosponsors who worked to make this possible.” (12/5)

December 5, 2016

Astronomers Find a Exoplanet Through a Never-Before-Used Method (Source: Astronomy)
Astronomers find most exoplanets from indirect signals, noticing changes in the light of the planet’s host star instead of by seeing the planet itself. But some stars’ light changes all on its own, making these methods tricky at best. KIC 7917485b is the first exoplanet identified around a main sequence A-type star from its orbital motion, and the first found near an A -typestar’s habitable zone.

A-type stars are bigger and hotter than most stars in the Kepler catalog and tend to be noisy, changing brightness at regular intervals. This dimming and brightening can be hard to untangle from, for instance, a planet transiting and dimming its light. As such, while there’s no reason for A-type stars not to have planets, it’s been difficult for astronomers to identify them. So far, the few exoplanets found around A-type stars are either from direct imaging (which can only, where the planets are very far from their star, or from transits where the planets are very close to the star, where the signal is strong.

But astronomers came up with a novel idea to use the variability of the star itself as a way to look for exoplanets. The star pulses because of helium changes in its lower layers. It puffs up, cools and dims, shrinks, heats and brightens, and then repeats the process multiple times in a day. In a Kepler light curve, this shows up as a periodic dimming and brightening, like clockwork. But this clock shows a delay. The pulsations appear a little early or late, and by calculating this delay, astronomers can measure that the star is actually moving in a back-and-forth, orbital motion. And this movement is due to the gravitational tug of a nearby planet. (12/4)

Pentagon Says Raytheon Making Progress on GPS Satellite Control System (Source: Reuters)
Raytheon Co is making progress on a long-delayed program for new ground control stations for next-generation GPS satellites, although it is lagging a remedial schedule agreed with military officials, the Pentagon's chief arms buyer said. "It's actually making progress," said Defense Undersecretary Frank Kendall. (12/4)

Delaware Suit Targets $6.4B B/E Aerospace-Rockwell Merger (Source: Law360)
B/E Aerospace Inc. stockholders on Thursday asked Delaware’s Chancery Court to block or order reversal of the company’s $6.4 billion merger with Rockwell Collins Inc., saying in a putative class claim that inadequate disclosures about finances and insider benefits hobbled efforts to judge the deal. (12/2)

If You're Looking For Alien Life, How Will You Know If You've Found It? (Source: NPR)
When a robotic probe finally lands on a watery world like Jupiter's moon Europa, what do scientists have to see to definitively say whether the place has any life? That's the question retired astronaut John Grunsfeld posed to some colleagues at NASA when he was in charge of the agency's science missions.

"We looked at him with blank faces," recalls Jim Green, head of NASA's planetary sciences division. "What do we need to build to really find life? What are the instruments, what are the techniques, what are the things that we should be looking for?" Click here. (12/5)

Why Tech’s Biggest Billionaires Want Their Place in Space (Source: Guardian)
a small band of billionaire technocrats have spent the past few years investing hundreds of millions of dollars into space ventures. Forget gilded mansions and super yachts; among the tech elite, space exploration is the ultimate status symbol. Click here. (12/5)

U.S. Posturing To Protect Space Presence (Source: Aviation Week)
Classified space wargames have been used to pit U.S. forces against what is called a “near-peer” competitor. But in the most recent Schriever Wargame, which looks out 10 years into the future, the exercise sees adversaries catching up. “We have realized that there could be peers,” says Jason Altchek, executive director of the exercise.

The endeavor bolsters a shift in how the military and intelligence community are organized and how they buy the assets they use to operate. To defend space assets, President Barack Obama’s administration is building “resilience” into future constellations through increased outreach with allies and the private sector. And the administration’s framework for resilience in space, grounded in deterrence theory, is likely to outlast this presidency, said Winston Beauchamp, the Pentagon’s principal space advisor, at a Defense One Summit in November.  (12/2)

How NASA and FEMA Will Deal with a Killer Asteroid (Source: Mashable)
In the NASA plan to deal with a killer asteroid destroying the world, the first people to learn about it likely find out via text message. Seriously. If a killer asteroid on a path to striking Earth were discovered, the first word of its existence would likely come in the form of a text or an email—preliminary information about the space rock, sent out to a group of less than 12 scientists.

At that stage, researchers wouldn't know much about the size and trajectory of the errant space rock, but that'd change quickly. They'd start hurriedly gathering observations of the object, likely first spotted by one of the large survey telescopes constantly looking out for this kind of thing. And then, they'd get to work. Click here. (12/4)

Netflix A.I. Could Help NASA Search for Exoplanets (Source: Inverse)
What do NASA and Netflix have in common? Probably more than you would think. Researchers have developed a technique that uses artificial intelligence to help them search for and identify stable planetary systems. The technique is based on learning algorithms used by the streaming giant to offer online recommendations. This new tool will be used in tandem with NASA’s fleet of planet-hunting telescopes to identify planets that could potentially support life.

“Machine learning offers a powerful way to tackle a problem in astrophysics, and that’s predicting whether planetary systems are stable,” Dan Tamayo, lead author of the research and a postdoctoral fellow in the Center for Planetary Science at the University of Toronto Scarborough, explained in a news release.

As a form of artificial intelligence, machine learning enables computers to learn on their own, without having to be constantly fed data or programmed for a specific task. These types of advanced systems are specifically designed to learn and adapt on their own when exposed to different data. Tamayo says the team’s technique is 1,000 times faster than traditional methods in predicting stability. (12/4)

Plans to Restore NASA Mission Control Room Remain in Limbo (Source: Waco Tribune)
Plans to restore the NASA mission control room that served as the nerve center for the Apollo missions, when man first reached the moon, have been discussed for more than 20 years, but its restoration and preservation remain in limbo with no set date for work to begin.

Officials at Johnson Space Center in Houston say the restoration of Mission Operation Control Room 2 is a priority, but note that NASA has other priorities, too — including the space flights managed in the large, active building where the control room is located. The room was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1985 and retired seven years later. (12/4)

Two More Fragments of Progress Cargo Spacecraft Found in Siberia (Source: Tass)
Two more fragments of the Progress MS-04 cargo spacecraft have been found in the Republic of Tyva in south Siberia, the republican government’s press office told TASS on Monday. "Another small fragment was found in the courtyard of a house in the village of Eilig-Khem," the press office quoted Tyva Head Sholban Kara-ool as saying.

According to him, another fragment was found in the same terrain near a shepherd station. The faulty spacecraft’s first fragment was found on Saturday 15 km from the village of Eilig-Khem in the area of Tos-Tevek of the Ulug-Khemsky district. (12/5)

December 4, 2016

Delta IV Prepped for Wednesday Launch From Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Florida Today)
A United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket is closing in on a Wednesday evening blastoff with a high-bandwidth Air Force communications satellite. Launch from Cape Canaveral Spaceport’s Launch Complex 37 is targeted for 6:53 p.m., at the opening of a window running to 7:42 p.m. The $425 million satellite, built by Boeing, is the eighth of at least 10 planned by the Wideband Global Satcom program, or WGS. (12/3)

Could Humans Actually Live on Mars? (Source: The Week)
For thousands of years, humans have looked up at the night sky and pondered their place in the cosmos. One little red dot in particular has long held our interest: Mars. Today, experts believe it's no longer a question of if we'll ever set foot on the Red Planet, but when. Recent technological advances mean this could happen within decades. While the dream of colonizing Mars is a fascinating one, is it a good idea? What will be the biggest challenges? And once we get there, could we even survive? Click here. (12/2)

Xinwei to Buy Spacecom Despite Amos Explosion (Source: Globes)
Spacecom Satellite Communications Ltd. (TASE:SCC) will be sold to Chinese communications corporation Xinwei for $190 million (about NIS 730 million), sources inform "Globes". That is 33% less than the parties agreed three months ago but 50% higher than the company's current market cap. In August, Spacecom closed a $285 million sale deal with Xinwei, only to have the Amos 6 satellite destroyed in the SpaceX launch pad explosion in Florida a week later, and share prices plummet more than 50%. (11/30)

Fragment of Russian Progress Cargo Spacecraft Found in Siberia (Source: Sputnik)
Russian Emergencies Ministry specialists have found a fragment of the Russian Progress MS-04 cargo spacecraft in Siberia. According to the Russian Emergencies Ministry, the Progress fragment was found about 120 kilometers (75 miles) from the city of Kyzyl.

Editor's Note: Just FYI, that's a debris field extending about 1450 miles downrange from the Baikonur launch site. For comparison, if this would have launched from the Boca Chica site in Texas (albeit on a non-ISS trajectory), the debris would have landed in the Bahamas. (12/3)

Moon Village Concept Attracts Worldwide Support (Source: Guardian)
Futuristic plans for a moon village proposed by the European Space Agency are winning support around the world. The idea is to set up a permanent human outpost on the moon as a base for science, business, mining and even tourism. The ESA director general said the moon village was discussed by member state ministers meeting in Lucerne, Switzerland, to decide space funding.

“We are joining forces. There are companies offering payloads. There are public entities going to the moon and offering payloads. Even NASA is part of this. So therefore the moon village was a part of our discussion at the very beginning.” He stressed that the village was no more than a concept and did not form part of any mission program. (12/2)

Second SpaceShipTwo Performs First Glide Flight (Source: Space Flight)
Virgin Galactic’s second SpaceShipTwo performed its first free flight Dec. 3, a glide test that begins the next phase in testing of the commercial suborbital spaceplane. SpaceShipTwo, named VSS Unity, and its carrier aircraft, WhiteKnightTwo, took off from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California at about 9:50 a.m. Eastern. The spaceplane separated from WhiteKnightTwo at 10:40 a.m. Eastern, gliding back to a runway landing in Mojave ten minutes later, according to updates provided by the company.

The flight is the first in a series of glide flights to test the aerodynamic performance of the vehicle before moving ahead into powered flights. Virgin Galactic President Mike Moses said the number of flights will depend on how long it takes to achieve a set of test objectives. “There’s 10 glide flights’ worth of targets,” he said. “We could do those in 8 flights, or might take 15, but we’re not going into the next phase before we clear those.” (12/3)

US Military Develops 'Multi-Object Kill Vehicle' to Blast Enemy Nukes (Source: Seeker)
Defensive weapons that can intercept and destroy enemy missiles before they can harm the United States or its allies have been a key part of military strategy for decades, but the rules of the game are changing. More countries have or are developing long-range missile technology, including systems that can carry multiple warheads, known as Multiple Independently Targetable Re-entry Vehicles (MIRVs) and/or decoys.

"Both China and Russia possess the MIRV capability for their ballistic missiles. In 2014, reports confirmed that Iran too had developed Multiple Re-entry Vehicles (MRVs) for their ballistic missiles. Cold War literature suggests that MIRVs are first strike weapons and could be strategically destabilizing," independent consultant Debalina Ghoshal wrote in a June 2016 report for the Federation of American Scientists. (12/1)

Trump Carrier Deal Might Have Implied Consequences for United Technologies (Source: Newsweek)
A top Indiana economic development official said the Carrier decision was based more on the firm’s fear that if it shifted the jobs out of the United States, Trump’s administration would punish Carrier’s parent company, aerospace/defense contractor United Technologies, by restricting its access to billions of dollars of federal government contracts. United Technologies annually gets roughly $5.6 billion in federal contracting largesse, according to the Indianapolis Star. (12/3)

Moon Express: £8,000 Lunar Flights on Target to Begin by 2026 (Source: The Telegraph)
So infectious is the enthusiasm of billionaire entrepreneur and philanthropist Naveen Jain that just a few minutes in his company is enough to convince you that anything is possible. That’s just as well because - were it explained by someone lacking his unwavering confidence – his latest endeavour would sound entirely outlandish.

Founded in 2010, his company Moon Express has become the only private enterprise to be granted permission to travel beyond Earth’s orbit and land on the Moon. In 2017, Moon Express will send an unmanned vessel into orbit in the first of a series of missions that will, says Jain, teach humanity “to stand outside our planetary system and to learn how to live somewhere else”.

The rocket to be used by Moon Express next year will cost about $5 million; Jain expects the same apparatus to cost $2 million within five years; within 10 years he predicts we will be able to buy passage to the Moon and back for about $10,000 (£7,925), with the journey no more strenuous (albeit longer) than taking a flight from San Francisco to Sydney today. (12/2)

December 3, 2016

Flashback 2008: Lane & Abbey Propose Consolidating Earth Science in Merged NOAA/USGS Agency (Source: SPACErePORT)
As a proposed gutting of NASA's earth science role gains steam in Washington, I remember a 2008 white paper by former [Bill] Clinton science advisor Neal Lane and former JSC director George Abbey titled "The U.S. Space Program: Restoring Preeminence in Space Science and Exploration." It recommended some substantial shuffling of programs to allow NASA to sharpen its focus on exploration missions.

One specific recommendation was that "Coordination between NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Geological Survey should be strengthened. Consideration also should be given to the suggestion that NOAA and USGS be combined to form a new Earth Systems Science Agency." Click here. (12/2)

How President Trump Can Avert A Crisis In U.S. Space Policy (Source: Forbes)
When George W. Bush took over the presidency from Bill Clinton in 2001, he inherited a space sector in disarray. The Bush Administration spent its entire tenure fixing the problems created by its predecessors. The good news is that it succeeded. By the time Bush left office, military satellite programs were back on track, a highly reliable family of new launch vehicles had been developed, and NASA had a plan for returning astronauts to the Moon.

The bad news is that the Obama Administration turned out to be not much better than the Clinton Administration at thinking realistically about what works in space. So a new crisis in U.S. space policy could unfold during President Trump's time in office, thanks to the policies Obama put in place. The fundamental fallacy of the Obama approach is that the government can save lots of money by tapping the entrepreneurial spirit of the private sector rather than buying rockets the old way.

That's pretty much what Clinton tried to do, because his administration was more interested in spending money on welfare schemes than assuring access to space. However, in space you get what you pay for. If the government tries to save money by turning to upstart launch companies offering cut-rate prices, risks will rise even as launch costs fall. Click here. (12/2)

Spaceport America Chief Aims to Build Aerospace Economic Hub (Source: Beaumont Enterprise)
The new chief executive of Spaceport America says New Mexico is well positioned to use the futuristic facility as a jumping off point to build an aerospace economic hub. Daniel Hicks appeared Friday before an interim legislative committee to brief lawmakers on some of the initiatives planned at the taxpayer-financed spaceport.

Hicks said signature events such as the recent drone summit and next year's Spaceport America Cup rocket challenge are aimed at attracting future engineers and aerospace companies to the New Mexico desert where they can conduct research and development. He said the spaceport's location can benefit more than the fledging space tourism industry. (12/2)

Japanese Heavy-Hitters Invest Lightly in PD Aerospace’s Space Tourism Effort (Source: GeekWire)
PD Aerospace, a Japanese company that’s similar to Virgin Galactic in its commercial spaceflight aspirations, has picked up two high-profile investors: ANA Holdings and the H.I.S. travel agency. In a joint statement issued Thursday, the three Japanese companies said that they agreed in October to work together on space commercialization efforts, including space travel.

H.I.S. is investing about $264,000 (30 million yen) for a 10.3 percent share of the venture. ANA Holdings, the umbrella company for the ANA (All Nippon Airways) airline, is putting in about $180,000 (20.4 million yen) for a 7 percent share. The combined amount of investment wouldn’t be enough to buy two tickets on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo rocket plane. (12/2)

Spaceport America CEO Meets Skeptical Legislative Committee (Source: Santa Fe New Mexican)
The vision of “space tourism” — wealthy civilians spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to blast off into suborbital space — that was the original selling point for Spaceport America in Southern New Mexico that has yet to materialize. But the facility’s new chief executive officer told legislators Friday that new business and activity is growing, and the spaceport is becoming less dependent on state funding.

CEO Dan Hicks, who began his job two weeks ago, told members of the New Mexico Finance Authority Oversight Committee that Spaceport America took in $2.3 million in customer revenue in the most recent fiscal year. Hicks, a 34-year Army civilian employee at the nearby White Sands Missile Range, also said new business during that period grew by 135 percent. Spaceport America will fund more than 90 percent of its operating expenses this fiscal year, he said.

But Sen. Joe Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, the committee’s chairman, said the financial picture presented by Hicks is too rosy. He challenged Hicks’ claim that the spaceport’s operating and maintenance is almost self-sufficient. Much of the spaceport’s $5.6 million operating budget is paid for by revenues from a gross receipts tax in Doña Ana and Sierra counties, he argued. “When I buy a Big Mac in Las Cruces, I’m helping pay for the spaceport,” Cervantes said. But that source of revenue for Spaceport America will dry up in a few years because the tax in the two counties has a sunset clause. (12/2)

New DOD Space Policy Requires Mission Assurance in New Systems (Source: Inside Defense)
The Defense Department recently released an update to its space policy directive, revising language to emphasize the need to "deter aggression in, promote stability and responsible use of space, integrate space capabilities, and improve space mission assurance." The update to 2012 policy, obtained this week by Inside the Air Force , was made effective Nov. 4. (12/2)

NASA Announces Early Stage Innovation Space Technology Research Grants (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected 13 university-led proposals for the study of innovative, early stage technologies that address high priority needs of America's space program. The Early Stage Innovations (ESI) grants from NASA's Space Technology Research Grants Program are worth as much as $500,000 each. Universities have two to three years to work on their proposed research and development projects. Click here. Editor's Note: None of the proposals were from Florida institutions. (12/2)

House Passes Bill That Would Send Weather Satellites to NRO (Source: Space News)
The National Reconnaissance Office is set to take over some weather missions from the Air Force after the House of Representatives voted Thursday to give the agency “the acquisition programs necessary to meet the national security requirements for cloud characterization and theater weather imagery.”

The move had been expected since April, when, in a draft for the National Defense Authorization Act for 2017, the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee said they wanted the Air Force to start handing over responsibility for the weather missions. (12/2)

Embry-Riddle Students Join Project PoSSUM to Test Prototype Spacesuits in Zero-G (Source: Space Daily)
Two Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University students joined the Project PoSSUM suborbital research program team to evaluate a prototype commercial spacesuit in microgravity as part of the PoSSUM Bioastronautics Program. The tests were designed to evaluate a prototype seat along with the spacesuit/seat interface through a series of three microgravity flights conducted at the National Research Council in Ottawa, Ontario.

Project PoSSUM (Polar Suborbital Science in the Upper Mesosphere) is the exclusive citizen-science microgravity research partner of spacesuit maker Final Frontier Design of Brooklyn, New York. A specially modified Falcon-20 Zero-G aircraft to was used to simulate the interior cabin and cockpit environments of commercial space vehicles in order to test the prototype spacesuit.

Project PoSSUM is the only suborbital research and education program that teaches people from all walks of life to be scientist-astronauts. PoSSUM candidates are trained at Embry-Riddle's Daytona Beach Campus to fly PoSSUM suborbital noctilucent cloud tomography missions on commercial suborbital spacecraft. Graduates receive an Embry-Riddle certificate with continuing education credits in Suborbital Mission Operations. (11/25)

Orion to Perform Moon Fly-Around on First Crewed Mission (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA has decided to ease humans back to the Moon in a free-return flyaround trajectory on the first flight of the Orion crew capsule with astronauts on board, instead of going directly to the lunar orbit where it plans to test hardware for human missions to Mars. Exploration Mission-2 (EM-2), now targeted for 2021, will check out the Orion’s life support and other critical systems in elliptical Earth orbit before heading on to a lunar flyaround and returning to Earth, according to William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for human exploration and operations. (12/1)

ManTech Working Air Force Contract to Support Falcon-9 EELV Certification (Source: DOD)
ManTech SRS Technologies of Fairfax, Virginia, has been awarded a $27,322,108 contract modification for systems engineering and integration services to support the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Acquisitions Division for work including a Falcon 9 upgrade certification. The work is expected to be completed by March 22, 2020. (12/1)

Boeing CEO Urges Trump Support for Ex-Im Bank (Source: Puget Sound Business Journal)
Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg urged the new Republican administration of President-elect Donald Trump to preserve and reopen, not abolish the U.S. government's Export-Import Bank. Muilenburg said if Trump gets rid of the Ex-Im Bank, as he vowed to during the 2016 election campaign, Boeing will lose foreign customers — and big contracts — to rivals in other countries, including Airbus. (12/2)

Burn-Through in 3rd Stage Engine Chamber May Have Caused Soyuz Loss (Source: Tass)
Russia’s state commission blames the engine burn of the third stage for Thursday’s accident with the Soyuz-U rocket carrying the Progress MS-04 spacecraft, a space industry source said. "The key version is a burn-through of the combustor chamber of the third stage’s engine," the source said. This could have been caused by either foreign particles in the engine or an improper assembly of the engine, he explained. (12/2)

Causes of Progress Cargo Spacecraft’s Loss Unlikely to be Established (Source: Tass)
The causes of Thursday’s loss of the Progress cargo spacecraft are unlikely to be established, because neither telemetry data nor debris of the Soyuz-U rocket that was taking the cargo vehicle in orbit are available. "Telemetry transmission from the rocket was disrupted instantly, so it is practically impossible to establish the sequence of events to identify the causes of the emergency. As for material evidence, such as debris of the rocket’s third stage that might provide some clues, it is not available, either," the source said. (12/2)

New Movie 'Hidden Figures' has Space Coast Connection (Source: Florida Today)
A new space-themed movie has a Space Coast tie. Allison Schroeder, a 1997 graduate of Melbourne High, co-wrote the screenplay for "Hidden Figures." The film, set for release on Jan. 6, tells the story of three brilliant African-American women at NASA, who were the brains behind one of the program's first successful space missions: the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit.

Schroeder co-wrote the screenplay with director Theodore Melfi. Based on the book of the same name, written by Margot Lee Shetterly, the film stars Taraji P. Henson (Fox's "Empire"), Oscar winner Octavia Spencer ("The Help") and singer Janelle Monae. The all-star cast also includes Oscar winner Kevin Costner and Emmy winner Jim Parsons from TV's "Big Bang Theory." (12/2)

December Will Be a Busy Month for Launches (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
December is shaping up to be a very busy launch month for the U.S. On the East Coast, three different satellites are expected to take to the skies, providing improved services and weather monitoring. Additionally, on the West Coast, SpaceX hopes to fly their Falcon 9 after being grounded for over three months. Click here. (12/2)

The Top Five dangers of Space Travel (Source: Science)
Just lifting off the surface of Earth and landing on another planet is bad enough. But how intense are the dangers of actually traveling in space? Here are five of the most dangerous threats astronauts will face when traveling to Mars and beyond. (12/2)

December 2, 2016

Soyuz Launcher Suffers “Anomaly” During Progress Launch (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Launch of the ISS Progress 65 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan occurred at 9:51 a.m. EST (8:51 p.m. Baikonur time). An anomaly occurred sometime during the third stage operation. It appears the third stage may have cut out early, which would have put Progress in lower than planned orbit. There are unconfirmed social media reports from Russia of a large explosion in the sky, a large bang and falling debris, so Progress may have reentered the atmosphere.

Our astronauts and the Russian cosmonauts are safe aboard the station. Consumables aboard the station are at good levels. An H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV)-6 from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is scheduled to launch to the space station on Friday, Dec. 9. (12/1)

Canadian Astronaut Will Test a New Bio-Monitor Shirt in Space (Source: Air & Space)
As more and more fitness buffs on Earth use wearable devices to track their performance, a “smart shirt” is getting ready to fly to the International Space Station. Called Astroskin, the shirt—already tested in space analog environments on the ground—monitors parameters such as skin temperature, blood pressure, breathing rate and blood oxygen levels.

Quebec’s Carré Technologies will develop Astroskin for the space station under a $2.4-million CDN ($1.79 million) contract with the Canadian Space Agency. Astronaut David Saint-Jacques will be the first to test it in orbit when he launches in late 2018 or early 2019 as part of the Expedition 58/59 crew. “It’s the only product out there that can monitor vital signs in a non-intrusive way, meaning there is nothing on your hands, nothing on your wrists, nothing on your head. It’s unique,” says Carré founder Pierre-Alexandre Fournier. (12/1)

$95-Million Contract Awarded for New Lab at NASA Langley (Source: SpaceRef)
A contract to build a laboratory at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, has been awarded to W.M. Jordan Co. in Newport News by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA). The $95.6-million agreement is for construction of the Measurement Systems Laboratory, which is scheduled for completion in late 2019.

The contract is the largest awarded for NASA Langley in recent history. The 175,000-square-foot lab will be the biggest of the new facilities built so far as part of NASA Langley’s 20-year revitalization plan. The plan calls for demolition of aging structures and construction of new, energy efficient facilities and the rehab of aging buildings. (12/1)

Iridium Announces SpaceX Launch Planned for Dec. 16, From California Spaceport (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Iridium Communications says SpaceX will launch the company's next-generation satellites into orbit before the end of the year. A Falcon 9 rocket will carry 10 satellites into space on Dec. 16, pending regulatory approval. (12/1)

New Enterprise Florida Chief's Big Challenge: Getting Incentive Funding From Legislature (Source: Sayfie Review)
Job one for the new head of Florida's business-recruitment agency is landing Gov. Rick Scott's request for $85 million in economic-incentive money. As the Enterprise Florida Board of Directors unanimously approved Chris Hart as its next president and CEO on Wednesday, Scott reaffirmed his desire to get incentive money for the public-private agency, something legislators rejected earlier this year.

But Hart, a former lawmaker who is the longtime head of CareerSource Florida, will have to convince House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a Land O' Lakes Republican who has called business recruitment incentives "corporate welfare" and "de facto socialism." Fred Piccolo, a Corcoran spokesman, said Wednesday the speaker had no comment on Hart's hiring and that "his position on incentives and corporate welfare has not changed." (11/30)

Alaska's Spaceport Hopes for 2017 Launches by DOD and Vector Space, 2018 Launch by Rocket Lab (Source: Juneau Empire)
Operators of the Pacific Spaceport Complex in Kodiak said the facility’s next launch won’t take place before the end of the year as previously reported. Alaska Aerospace Corp. CEO Craig Campbell said the next launch may take place sometime in the spring or summer of next year. Campbell said in August that a small vehicle test launch by Vector Space Systems could happen at the complex by the end of 2016.

But those plans have changed, and Campbell said the company will likely look outside the state to conduct its test launch. “What they wanted to do this winter was a test launch of a smaller vehicle than the one they want to use commercially,” Campbell said. “It probably will be easier for them to do that from another location, like back in the Mojave, than to do it in Alaska for logistics, (weather), and everything else.”

A Vector launch would involve a small payload of 300 pounds and would bring in about $3 million, Campbell told the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly in September. If those plans fall through, the complex’s next launch will likely be a Missile Defense Agency mission. Alaska Aerospace Corp. is working under contract to support Rocket Lab launches in New Zealand next year. The relationship with the aerospace company could bring the Kodiak complex four to six Rocket Lab launches in Alaska in 2018. (12/1)

India’s Space Program Makes Steady Gains (Source: Sputnik)
The Indian space program falters in the area of manned missions, but ISRO has made steady gains in unmanned missions and commercial launches of satellites, fueling keen interest by competitors like China. Click here. (12/1)

Trump Appointments Could Signal Closer NASA/DOD Ties (Source: Inverse)
Christopher Shank’s appointment to the NASA transition team seems to reinforce Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence’s calls for stepping up military assets in space and push for greater cross-collaboration between NASA and U.S. intelligence agencies.

Why is that? Shank, a former member of the U.S. Air Force, has experience helping the Pentagon work on space programs. He had a stint as a special assistant to former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin. In addition, since 2011, he’s served as deputy chief of staff for Representative Lamar Smith — the chairman of the House Science Committee for the last three years, and for which Shank has served as a staffer.

It’s not just Shank’s appointment that speaks to this notion. Mark Albrecht, space policy advisor under former president George H.W. Bush, has been assigned to work with the Department of Defense for the transition team. Albrecht was long pegged by industry insiders to be a shoe-in for the NASA transition team, so his new role at the Pentagon is a bit of a surprise. But Albrecht’s appointment may actually be a way for the Trump administration to increase the defense department’s influence over U.S. space policy. (11/30)

Aerospace Startups Use Seattle Accelerator to Get Investor Attention (Source: GeekWire)
Some aerospace ventures came to Starburst Accelerator’s shark tank in Seattle today to find investors. Others were looking for customers. But unlike the TV version of “Shark Tank,” none of them was sent away in defeat. "There are no winners or losers,” said Van Espahbodi, Starburst’s co-founder and chief operating officer. Instead, a dozen entrepreneurs got the chance to pitch their ideas at the Museum of Flight, in front of venture capitalists, aerospace executives and other industry types (plus a couple of journalists). (11/30)

Russia to Supply RD-180 Rocket Engines to US in 2017 (Source: Tass)
The Russian Research and Production Association Energomash plans to deliver 19 rocket engines to the United States next year. "During 2017, we plan the delivery of 11 RD-180 engines [for Atlas rockets] to United Launch Alliance (ULA) and eight RD-181 motors [for Antares rockets] to Orbital ATK," Arbuzov said. "As for RD-191 engines [for Russian Angara rockets], we’re now at the stage of discussions with the United Rocket and Space Corporation and the Khrunichev Center on the number of engines that will be ordered in 2017. (12/1)

First Signs of Weird Quantum Property of Empty Space? (Source: ESO)
By studying the light emitted from an extraordinarily dense and strongly magnetised neutron star using ESO’s Very Large Telescope, astronomers may have found the first observational indications of a strange quantum effect, first predicted in the 1930s. The polarisation of the observed light suggests that the empty space around the neutron star is subject to a quantum effect known as vacuum birefringence. (11/30)

Key Legislator Disses White House Science Office (Source: Science)
The White House science office hasn’t been very productive under President Barack Obama, says the chairman of a key congressional research spending panel. And Representative John Culberson (R–TX) says he’d like to see it downsized. “I’d be hard-pressed to identify any tangible, specific accomplishments or achievements by that office,” he said.

Culberson, whose House of Representatives subcommittee oversees the budgets for NASA, the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, has never been a fan of John Holdren, Obama’s science adviser. And his latest comments are likely to further heighten anxiety among scientific leaders about how the U.S. research enterprise will fare under President-elect Donald Trump.

The commerce, justice, and science (CJS) appropriations subcommittee that Culberson chairs also oversees the White House Office of Science and Technology (OSTP), which Congress created in 1976. The office has traditionally been led by the president’s science adviser, and Holdren also co-chairs the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), an eminent group of outsiders. (11/30)

Runaway Icing Piled Weight on Pluto's Icy Heart (Source: Cosmos)
Some think an asteroid punched a crater into Pluto’s crust, which then filled with ice from a slushy underground ocean or snow from above. The University of Maryland's Douglas Hamilton and his colleagues propose a different route. Their theory is based on the so-called runaway albedo effect. A patch of ice, brighter than its surrounds, reflects more sunlight.

This means the local area is chillier – and accumulates more ice. More ice means a bigger area reflects sunlight, cooling it further, and attracting even more ice. Editor's Note: This is not unlike the "cryopumping" phenomenon that may have been responsible for SpaceX's recent launch vehicle explosion. (12/1)

China-Made Satellites in High Demand (Source: China Daily)
China will construct and launch two remote sensing satellites for foreign countries in the coming two years, an industry insider said. China Great Wall Industry Corp, the nation's only authorized firm for international space collaboration, will launch Venezuela's second remote sensing satellite next year and Pakistan's first remote sensing satellite in 2018, said Fu Zhiheng, vice-president of Great Wall Industry. China has exported 11 such products to nine countries, including Bolivia, Nigeria and Laos. (11/26)

Elon Musk May Have a New Partner in His Mission to Colonize Mars (Source: CNBC)
Billionaire Elon Musk and SpaceX may have just found a new partner in their his planned mission to Mars. Naveen Jain, the founder of a space exploration company called Moon Express, told CNBC on Thursday that his start-up is willing to work with Musk. Moon Express is the first private company given permission by the U.S. government to explore the moon for resources. It is planning a mission to take a robotic rover to the moon in 2017.

Jain said he has spoken to Musk about working together without giving further details. Earlier this year, Musk laid out his vision to colonize Mars and take a manned mission to the Red Planet in the next ten years. While Moon Express is focused firstly on getting to the moon, Mars is seen as the next goal. "Mars is absolutely the right place to be ultimately. But (the) moon is the first training ground and the first stepping stone." (12/1)

Commercial Spaceflight Challenges for Emergency Medical Response (Source: JEMS)
The first emergency medical responder arrived at the Virgin Galactic crash site at 10:52 a.m. on Oct. 31, 2014, nearly an hour after the vehicle broke up. Despite being on standby, non-standard communications delayed his departure. The Mercy Air medical transport helicopter arrived at 11:16 a.m., and didn't transport the surviving pilot until 11:23 a.m. The pilot arrived at definitive medical care at 11:53 a.m., an hour and 46 minutes after the accident.

After several months of investigations and hearings, the NTSB issued an abstract of its report on July 28, 2015. In their recommendations to the Commercial Spaceflight Federation (the private spaceflight industry trade association), the NTSB advised that commercial operators should "work with local emergency response partners to revise emergency response procedures and planning …" To facilitate this cooperation, local emergency responders need to understand the unique challenges of commercial human spaceflight. Click here. (12/1)

Virginia Transportation Chief to Lead Virginia Space Board (Source: Daily Press)
Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne will soon lead the Virginia Space Board of Directors, which oversees the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority. Layne has been a member of the board since he was appointed transportation secretary in 2013. He has been a member of the Commonwealth Transportation Board since 2009, and is currently chairman.

Last month, Layne represented Virginia at the launch of the new Antares rocket from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island. It was the first successful launch there since the October 2014 explosion of an unmanned Antares rocket shortly after it left the launch pad.

"My objective as Chair of Virginia Space Board of Directors is to capitalize on this successful mission, work with our partners and legislators to promote a business plan of how we're going to use these magnificent assets, the two launch pads and the UAS Runway, as there is tremendous opportunity for economic growth here and Virginia is going to be a long-term committed partner," Layne said in the release. (11/29)

Virgin Galacti Conducts Captive Carry Flight (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
On Wednesday, Nov. 30, Virgin Galactic conducted the fourth test flight of its SpaceShipTwo rocket plane VSS Unity. The carrier aircraft, WhiteKnightTwo VMS Eve, took off with VSS Unity from the runway of Mojave Air and Spaceport. The two craft remained mated together for the entire flight. (12/1)

The Next War: Space (Source: The Hill)
Much international reporting is done these days about Mosul, Aleppo, the Turkish border, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Crimea and the South China Sea. No surprise, since these are places politicians talk about, where lives are lost, saved or left in distress.  Earthbound reporters can see these places, and so center their stories on them. But the real action – is arguably elsewhere. The next war will be decided, if not actually fought, in space. That is why Congress must immediately wake up, and start rethinking America’s national security policy in space. Click here. (12/1)

Canon Joins Japan's New Space Race (Source: Nikkei)
Canon is helping Japan build a low-cost "mini-rocket" for future satellite launches as private companies seek to give the country's lagging space industry greater thrust. Engineers from Canon Electronics, a unit of the Japanese imaging devices maker, have joined a team led by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, that is building what stands to be the world's smallest satellite launch vehicle -- about the size of a utility pole.

The company's experience designing and manufacturing devices such as digital cameras will help the team choose the best rocket parts as well as make key control instruments smaller and lighter. Systems for changing the rocket's orientation or separating stages once in space have already been developed. IHI unit IHI Aerospace is handling development of key engine parts such as fuel injectors. (12/2)

Aerospace Start-Up is Getting a PSLV From ISRO To Launch India's First Private Moon Mission (Source: Huffington Post)
In 2011, a bunch of astronomy enthusiasts came together to follow a common dream of sending a satellite to the moon. None of them had any professional aerospace experience, yet today, the Bengaluru-based company is the only Indian team in the race for the international $30 million Google Lunar XPrize. It is now one step closer to its mission by signing a verified commercial launch contract with the Indian Space Research Organization's commercial arm, Antrix Corporation.

This makes TeamIndus the first Indian company to contract an entire launch vehicle for a space mission from ISRO. The deal comes two years after TeamIndus first approached Antrix for the launch in 2014, with the government organisation doing its due investigation to ensure that the spacecraft met its specifications. The startup has paid Antrix the full commercial fees for the launch, though the team was not willing to reveal how much. (12/1)

Free Markets Are Needed in Space (Source: The Hoya)
Anyone who enjoys science fiction novels and movies has most likely fantasized about the possibility of space travel. While most people’s images of space travel have largely been inspired by franchises like “Star Trek” and “Star Wars,” companies like SpaceX and Arianspace are working to make commercial space travel a reality.

While space travel has always been a fascination for humanity, it was not until the space race in the 1960s that humankind began to make meaningful advances toward space exploration. At the time, the Soviet Union and the United Sates went head to head in the race to explore what was beyond Earth and ultimately put a man on the moon. Click here. (12/2)

Arizona Governor Announces Orbital ATK Expansion in Chandler (Source: Orbital ATK)
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, Chandler Mayor Jay Tibshraeny and Orbital ATK announced the expansion of the company’s Launch Vehicles Division operations into an additional facility in Chandler, Arizona. Subject to Chandler City Council approvals, Orbital ATK will expand in a city known for being home to leading edge companies focused on advanced business services, aerospace, life sciences, sustainable and high technology research and manufacturing. 

The building will add 46,000 square feet of office space to Orbital ATK’s Launch Vehicles campuses. With additional facilities in Chandler, Gilbert and Mesa, Arizona, Orbital ATK’s total footprint in the state is more than 840,000 square feet, supporting more than 2,000 high-tech and high-paying aerospace and defense jobs and a total payroll of more than $170 million in Arizona.
 
The additional Orbital ATK facility will help support a projected growth of up to 500 full-time, high-wage jobs over a five-year period. Orbital ATK’s launch vehicle business began in Chandler in the 1980s and has grown to more than 1,200 employees working in Chandler at two locations. The business provides launch vehicles for commercial, civil and government customers. The additional jobs complement Arizona’s robust aerospace and defense sector that contributes $38 billion annually to the Arizona economy and employs more than 52,000 workers. (12/1)

ANA Joins Japan's Space Tourism Push as Possible Rival to Virgin, Blue Origin (Source: Japan Times)
ANA Holdings Inc. has invested in PD Aerospace Ltd., a Japanese company developing a craft to take people into space as early as 2023 that aims to rival Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic Ltd.

The airline, Japan’s largest by sales, invested ¥20.4 million ($179,000) into PD Aerospace in October, while H.I.S. Co., the nation’s largest publicly listed travel agent by sales, invested ¥30 million at the same time, the companies said in a joint statement with PD Aerospace Thursday.

PD Aerospace, founded in 2007, is vying with billionaire Branson’s commercial space company Virgin Galactic and Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin to ferry individuals to the edge of space in reusable craft. The Japanese company is first developing a smaller unmanned craft and will then build a ship capable of carrying as many as eight people 100 kilometers above the Earth. (12/2)

ESA Ministers Fund ExoMars 2020 and Extend ISS Role to 2024 (Source: @pbdes)
European ministers have agreed to fund both ExoMars 2020 and an extension of the International Space Station to 2024. Initial word coming out of the meeting in Lucerne, Switzerland, indicates that both efforts, top priorities of the European Space Agency, did secure support from member nations. However, the proposed Asteroid Impact Mission appears to failed to win support. More details are expected at a press briefing later this morning. (12/1)

Florida Congressman's Bill Proposes Apollo 1 Memorial at Arlington (Source: Space Policy Online)
House members are seeking support for a bill to create an Apollo 1 memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. A "dear colleague" letter signed by Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Jeff Miller (R-FL) seek co-sponsors for a bill, HR 6147, that would establish the memorial for the three astronauts killed in the January 1967 fire. Memorials already exist at Arlington for the crews lost in the Challenger and Columbia accidents. (12/1)

Could There Be Life in Pluto's Ocean (Source: Space Daily)
Pluto is thought to possess a subsurface ocean, which is not so much a sign of water as it is a tremendous clue that other dwarf planets in deep space also may contain similarly exotic oceans, naturally leading to the question of life, said one co-investigator with NASA's New Horizon mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt. New studies suggest that beneath the heart-shaped region on Pluto known as Sputnik Planitia there lies an ocean laden with ammonia.

"It's no place for germs, much less fish or squid, or any life as we know it," he added. "But as with the methane seas on Titan - Saturn's main moon - it raises the question of whether some truly novel life forms could exist in these exotic, cold liquids." As humankind explores deeper into the Kuiper Belt and farther from Earth, this means to McKinnon the possible discovery of more such subsurface seas and more potential for exotic life. (12/2)