May 28, 2016

Russia Ahead of U.S. in Space Rocket Engine Technology (Source: Interfax-Ukraine)
Russia is ahead of the United States in the field of space rocket engine technology, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said. "We are ahead of them in some areas, for instance in space rocket engine technology," Rogozin wrote. He also said that the press had misquoted his statement on Russia lagging behind the United States in space exploration. (5/27)

Russian Space Industry Nine Times Behind U.S. Says Rogozin (Source: Moscow Times)
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin has been left red-faced after telling reporters that “Russia will never catch up to the United States in the space race,” the Interfax news agency reported. “Our space industry has fallen behind the Americans ninefold. All of our ambitious projects require us to up productivity 150 percent – and even if we manage that, we will still never catch up with them,” Rogozin originally said to Interfax Friday. (5/27)

Commercialization Of Space: Three Cheers For The Mundane (Source: Forbes)
If commercial space travel is going to be a Thing, there needs to be a way to actually make money at it, and selling joyrides to celebrities doesn’t seem particularly viable.

There’s a sense, then, in which it’s essential that the field become really, really boring. That is, if launching stuff into orbit (or beyond) is going to exist and expand, it needs to get to a place where the primary concern is not some grand vision of future generations of humanity colonizing the stars, but turning a profit in the here and now. (5/27)

Small Satellites Are Back, with Down-to-Earth Expectations (Source: LA Times)
Suddenly, everyone from the U.S. government, commercial satellite companies, universities and even high school students needs to have a small satellite. And that is fueling another boom, in Southern California and across the West, in companies dedicated to giving the satellites a ride to space.

By one estimate, 210 satellites weighing less than 110 pounds will be launched this year, to do such things as map the Earth, expand broadband access and track packages on shipping vessels. That's up from just 25 launches in 2010. The number is expected to double again in five years.

In the last six months, at least half a dozen new launch vehicle firms aimed at the small satellite market have cropped up, said Marco Caceres, senior space analyst for the Teal Group, an aerospace and defense analysis company. Click here. (5/27)

Movie Filmed at Spaceport America to Premiere This Summer (Source: KRQE)
 A new movie filmed at Spaceport America is scheduled to premiere later this summer. “The Space Between Us” is about a group of astronauts traveling to Mars to help colonize it. One astronaut dies giving birth. At 16 the boy searches for clues about his family and the planet Earth. The production employed hundreds of New Mexicans. (5/27)

Americans to Keep Flying to Space on Russian Engines Even After 2018 (Source: Sputnik)
Even though NASA will not sign a new contract for the delivery of US and European astronauts to the International Space Station by Russia’s Soyuz carrier rockets when the current contract runs out in 2018, it will still rely on Russian engines to man the space outpost.

The Russians are “very, very good at” creating alloys that allow the engine to withstand certain temperatures and pressures, Senator Bill Nelson said at a 2014 hearing on Capitol Hill. While NASA is working hard to develop its new space boosters, it still can’t afford to stop using Russia’s RD-1280 engines. In 2014 Washington banned their imports on,ly to start buying them again after realizing the lack of any working analogues anywhere else.

NASA is currently modernizing its Antares booster rocker as an alternative to the Atlas V for the Cygnus Orbital Science cargo ship using Russia’s RD-181 engine. The first launch of the upgraded Antares rocket is scheduled for July 2016. (5/28)

Rosetta spacecraft Finds Key Building Blocks for Life in a Comet (Source: Reuters)
Scientists for the first time have directly detected key organic compounds in a comet, bolstering the notion that these celestial objects delivered such chemical building blocks for life long ago to Earth and throughout the solar system.

The European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft made several detections of the amino acid glycine, used by living organisms to make proteins, in the cloud of gas and dust surrounding Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, scientists said on Friday.

Glycine previously was indirectly detected in samples returned to Earth in 2006 from another comet, Wild 2. But there were contamination issues with the samples, which landed in the Utah desert, that complicated the scientific analysis. "Having found glycine in more than one comet shows that neither Wild 2 nor 67P are exceptions," said Rosetta scientist Kathrin Altwegg. (5/27)

XCOR Shifting Focus From Spaceplane to Revenue-Producing Engine Work (Source: Parabolic Arc)
From what I’m hearing, XCOR's layoffs are part of a retrenchment to focus on projects that are bringing in revenue, such as the upper stage engine XCOR is developing for ULA. It appears that many people working on the Lynx suborbital space plane were laid off.

The company’s burn rate — what it was spending every month — was just too high, especially as it is maintaining facilities in Mojave, Calif., and Midland, Texas. It’s also been a while since XCOR has made any announcements about new fundraising rounds.

Work on the Lynx — which has been under construction for about four years — is being suspended. The last update on its progress from XCOR, provided at the Space Access 2016 Conference in April, indicated that one wing had been built by the manufacturer and funds were required to construct the second wing. (5/28)

Spacepower in the Middle East (Source: SpaceWatch)
The unique, open geography of the Middle East combined with the rapid dissemination of technologies such as high-resolution Earth observation satellites, unmanned aerial vehicles, mobile devices such as smart phones, social media, and the emergency of big data and artificial intelligence are causing a dramatic change in the character of war and diplomacy.

This change offers Middle East governments and others in and out of the region opportunities to enhance their national security, but at the same time can also restrict their ability to act in secrecy, or at least it will change expectations of how long such actions will remain secret. Click here. (5/27)

China and Arab States Agree to Promote Beidou Use in Middle East (Source: SpaceWatch)
China and the League of Arab States (LAS) agreed to promote the use of China’s BeiDou global navigation satellite system (GNSS) at the 7th Ministerial Meeting of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum held in Doha, Qatar, on 16 May 2016.

The BeiDou system is a rival to the US Global Positioning System (GPS), Russia’s GLONASS, and Europe’s Galileo. At present BeiDou consists of 20 satellites in both medium-earth and geostationary orbits, and aims to have a total of 30 satellites providing global GNSS coverage by 2020.

The priority for Chinese policy makers and satellite engineers is to make the current constellation available to countries involved in China’s ambitious ‘One Road, One Belt’ initiative that aims to revive the ancient land and maritime trade routes that connected Europe and the Middle East with China, known as the Silk Road. (5/27)

Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, XCOR Aerospace Battle for DARPA Space Contract (Source: Inverse)
Three groups are vying to lead the designs behind DARPA's XS-1 Program, which aims to make a craft that can go to space and launch satellites 10 times in 10 days. On Monday the agency set the deadline for July 22, at which point it will pick between the designs of three groups, Northrop Grumman, partnered with Virgin Galactic; Boeing, partnered with Blue Origin; and Masten Space Systems, partnered with XCOR Aerospace.

The winner of the public-private partnership with be awarded $140 million in DARPA funding to build the submitted designs for the reusable rocket. Click here. (5/27)

SpaceX Delivers Thaicom GEO Satellite, Sticks Fourth Landing (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
A Falcon 9 rocket took off from Cape Canaveral and climbed into space Friday, propelling a Thai television relay satellite into orbit and achieving its third dramatic ocean landing in a row, adding to SpaceX’s growing inventory of recovered rocket boosters.

The Falcon 9’s first stage landing in the Atlantic Ocean gives SpaceX four previously-flown boosters in its inventory. One of the returned rocket bodies, which made the first successful landing on land in December, will be put on display at SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California. The Falcon 9 stage that made the first-ever landing on the offshore barge, or drone ship, in April is the vehicle SpaceX wants to launch again. (5/27)

Russia Flight Tests Anti-Satellite Missile (Source: Washington Free Beacon)
Russia conducted a successful flight test of a developmental anti-satellite missile on Wednesday that is capable of destroying satellites in orbit, American defense officials said. The Nudol direct ascent anti-satellite missile was launched from the Plesetsk test launch facility, located 500 miles north of Moscow, said officials familiar with the situation.

The missile was monitored by U.S. intelligence satellites and the test appeared to be successful. The launch marks another major milestone for Moscow’s efforts to develop weapons capable of destroying U.S. navigation, communications, and intelligence satellites, a key strategic advantage. (5/27)

Russia's Energia Corp. Estimates Space Tourism Market at $1 Billion (Source: RBTH)
The space tourism market is estimated at $1 billion, Energia Rocket and Space Corporation Vice-President Alexander Derechin said. He also said the market for commercial manned flights was worth $1 billion overall, including multi-entry systems (commercial winged spacecraft) - $500 million, manned flights to low near-Earth orbits - $300 million, suborbital flights - $100 million and deep space flights - $100 million.

"This is our idea of space market fragments," Derechin said in comments on the presented data. Seven tourists have visited outer space, and one of them did that twice. All the tourists traveled aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft built by Energia Corporation.

Space Adventures was the operator of those flights. The company said it was ready to organize a tour around the Moon onboard a Soyuz spaceship for a fee of $150 million per person. The latest tours to the near-Earth orbit cost about $40 million. (5/27)

SpaceX Scheduled to Nearly Triple Launches This Year (Source: LA Business Journal)
SpaceX has officially scheduled 17 launches for 2016, nearly tripling the company's six rocket launches last year, Spaceflight Now reports. The company plans to continue the trend by launching its fifth rocket of the year and attempt its third sea-based landing tonight at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport.

The firm’s ability to keep pace with its own schedule will be tested this summer as it starts launching multiple rockets per month. Several rocket launches scheduled this year were delayed from their original mission dates in 2015. (5/26)

STEM Attention Needed for U.S. to Lead in New Space Race (Source: Press-Telegram)
In the U.S., to maintain our place as a leader in space exploration and the development of technology and capability, we must continue to invest in our most valuable resource — today’s elementary, high school and college students. They are tomorrow’s space designers and travelers.

If we don’t invest and drive change, the consequences could be severe. According to DoD, in the next 10 years, roughly 30 percent of its civilian engineering workforce will become eligible for retirement, taking with them decades of experience. Outside the DoD, research presented in the 2014 Business Roundtable report found a similar trend — more than half of the CEOs surveyed cited a lack of STEM skills in the workforce as a “significant problem” for their companies. (5/27)

Gohmert: NASA Wouldn't Send Gay Couples to Colonize in Space (Source: Raw Story)
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) argued on the House floor Thursday that the strive for LGBT rights is a mistake because NASA would never send a gay couple into space (except for Sally Ride). Gohmert created a fantasy scenario: if we had 40 people to choose from for a spacecraft that would save humanity, how many of them would be homosexuals? Though, Gohmert didn’t seem to consider how many of them would be botanists like Damon’s character.

“You’re wanting to save humankind for posterity, basically a modern-day Noah, you have that ability to be a modern day Noah, you can preserve life,” he continued. “How many same-sex couples would you take from the animal kingdom and from humans to put on a spacecraft to perpetuate humanity and the wildlife kingdom?” (5/27)

Annual Output of China's Satellite Industry Tops 200 Billion Yuan (Source: Xinhua)
The annual output value of the Chinese satellite industry has exceeded 200 billion yuan ($30 billion), according to China's top aerospace administration. Satellite technology has been widely used in various domains in China, covering agriculture and forestry, water conservancy, housing construction, environmental protection and disaster relief, among others, said Tian Yulong, chief engineer of State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense.

China has been making steady progress on commercial remote sensing satellites and will complete the building of a national aerospace infrastructure system for civil use in the next five years, Tian said. China will launch nearly 100 new satellites for remote sensing, communication, broadcasting and navigation from 2016 to 2020, Tian said. Tian also said China has signed more than 100 cooperative agreements with more than 30 countries on aerospace technology, and exported production overseas. (5/27)

Bezos Praises Progress Made on Blue Origin's BE-4 Rocket Engine (Source: Inverse)
Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin is making significant progress in its quest to invent an American-made alternative to the Russian rocket engine it currently uses. In an update Wednesday, Bezos writes that Blue Origin has commissioned the first of two new test cells that will support further risk reduction testing for the BE-4 engine. (5/27)

'Made In Space' Likely To Expand In Jacksonville (Source: WJCT)
Made In Space CEO Andrew Rush and head of product strategy, Spencer Pittman, were in Jacksonville last week, where they were visiting from the company’s headquarters in Mountainview, California. The two met in Jacksonville three years ago while they were both checking out the city’s start-up scene. Rush has a physics degree from the University of North Florida and had just graduated from Stetson University law school.

The company, under a NASA contract, has built and operated a 3D printer on the International Space Station, making basic replacement parts for the station and satellites. The challenge of sending up already-assembled parts is they must be engineered to withstand the intense shaking and gravitational forces of rocket liftoff, which last about 10 minutes. But if parts can be built in space, raw materials can be sent up far more cheaply and quickly to be used in the onboard printer.

Right now, the company has about 20 people working in its main engineering office in California and seven employees in its Jacksonville operations and business-development office in Mandarin. They expect to add about 20 employees over the next year. They are on the lookout for people with expertise in robotics; electrical, mechanical and software engineering; and business development. (5/27)

Layoffs at XCOR Aerospace (Source: Parabolic Arc)
I’m getting reports about layoffs at XCOR this morning at their operations in Mojave and Midland. I don’t have a precise number, but it seems to have been a significant staff reduction. Some of the folks working on Lynx were let go. Another employee posted on Facebook that this was his last day because he was going to work for SpaceX in Florida. I don’t know what this means for the company or for the Lynx space plane project. I will provide some more details when I know them.

Editor's Note: Such layoffs call into question whether the Midland TX spaceport can thrive with a weakened anchor tenant. Orbital Outfitters and Agile Aero are other tenants at the spaceport and both are tied to XCOR. Midland recently announced plans to pursue a vertical launch capability, though it seems a far-fetched idea for an inland spaceport. Meanwhile, elsewhere in Texas, launch startup Firefly Space says they will hire over 60 new workers before year's end. (5/27)

May 27, 2016

NRO Delays ULA's Upcoming Delta-4 Heavy Mission (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The flight of United Launch Alliance’s next Delta IV Heavy, with a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) has been delayed. Originally scheduled for June 4, ULA delayed the launched per the request of the customer. No other reason was specified, but the spacecraft and booster are reported to be secure on the pad.

The last time a Delta IV Heavy launched was in December 2014 when Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) sent the first spacecraft designed for humans, Orion, beyond low-Earth orbit (LEO) on a test mission. (5/27)

SES to Acquire All of 03b (Source: Space News)
SES will acquire the half of O3b Networks it does not already own. The satellite operator plans to raise $710 million to increase its stake in O3b from 50.5 percent to 100 percent. SES had recently announced it was paying $20 million to increase its ownership from 49.1 to 50.5 percent and thus have a controlling interest in the broadband satellite company. SES expects that O3b, which is forecast to generate $100 million in revenue this year, will grow to $680 million by 2023. (5/27)

Senate Cuts GPS Ground System, Launches (Source: Space News)
Senate appropriators cut funding for a GPS ground system and two planned launches. The defense appropriations bill, approved by the full Senate Appropriations Committee Thursday, cut more than $600 million from the Air Force's proposed budget for 2017. That included a cut of more than $200 million for OCX, the next-generation GPS ground system that has suffered delays and cost overruns. The bill also cut funding for two of five planned launches in 2017, arguing that, because of the OCX delays, the Air Force does not need to launch GPS 3 satellites as quickly as planned. (5/27)

ViaSat Accelerates New Satellite Work at Arizona Facility (Source: Space News)
ViaSat plans to accelerate work on its ViaSat-3 system. The company said it recently opened a manufacturing facility in Arizona that allows it to build two ViaSat-3 satellite payloads at a time, allowing it to develop the satellites "as fast as we reasonably can." ViaSat said it is increasing R&D spending on payload development in 2017 to support that work. (5/26)

SLS to Give More Small Satellite Rides on First Mission (Source: NASA)
NASA's Space Launch System will fly even more small satellites on its inaugural mission. NASA said Thursday that three cubesats from Japan and Italy will join 10 others from U.S. organizations on the EM-1 mission, scheduled for launch in late 2018. The two Japanese satellites with perform space science and lunar observations, while the Italian satellite will rendezvous with and take images of the SLS's upper stage. (5/26)

NASA Seeks Community College Scholars (Source: NASA)
NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS) gives community college STEM students an authentic NASA experience and encourages them to finish a 2-year degree or transfer to a 4-year university to pursue a NASA-related field or career. The application for the Spring 2016 session is now open. Click here. (5/26)

Blue Origin’s Next Spaceflight Will Test Parachute Failure (Source: GeekWire)
Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos predicts there’ll be a problem with a parachute the next time his Blue Origin venture flies its uncrewed New Shepard spaceship. He’ll make sure of it. Flying with a bad parachute is part of Blue Origin’s plan to test the suborbital craft under stressful conditions, in preparation for flying passengers to the edge of outer space in as little as two years.

The demonstration won’t necessarily end in a crash. Three independent parachutes are used to ease the crew capsule’s descent. If one fails, the other two should still hold up. There’s also a retro-thrust system that’s designed to cushion the landing. Bezos didn’t say when the next test flight would occur [from their west Texas launch site]. Last time, he provided only a day’s advance notice via Twitter. (5/25)

Life on Ceres? Mysterious Changes in the Bright Spots Still Baffle Scientists (Source: Space.com)
Scientists studied the bright spots on Ceres in July and August 2015, using the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS), and detected unexpected changes in the mysterious spots. However, at the beginning they thought that it was an instrumental problem. But after double checking, they had to conclude that the radial velocity anomalies were likely real. Then the team noticed that they were connected to periods of time when the bright spots in the Occator crater were visible from the Earth. So the scientists made an association between them.

However, these detected variations still continue to perplex the astronomers as they haven't found a plausible explanation for their occurrence. One of the proposed hypotheses is that the observed changes could be triggered by the presence of volatile substances that evaporate due to solar radiation. When the spots are on the side illuminated by the sun they form plumes that reflect sunlight very effectively. The scientists suggest that these plumes then evaporate quickly, lose reflectivity and produce the observed changes.

They are eager to see the results from the Dawn spacecraft in the next months. If the team's theory is confirmed, Ceres would seem to be internally active. While this dwarf planet is known to be rich in water, it is unclear whether this is related to the bright spots. It is also still debated if Ceres due to its vast reservoir of water, could be a suitable place to host microbial life. (5/26)

Russia Helps Guatemalan Man Become His Country's First Cosmonaut (Source: Space Daily)
Vinicio Montoya de Leon, a 49-year old native of Guatemala, is set to become the first Central American astronaut in history by late 2018 - early 2019. The chain of events that led an ordinary Guatemalan dentist to become a successful candidate for a space flight is nothing short of remarkable. "My life used to be pretty erratic, but after getting into a traffic accident I reexamined my priorities. I realized that there's one thing in the world that money can't buy - life. So I decided to live it to the fullest," Montoya told Sputnik. (5/26)

ISS Astronauts Enjoy Dish Cooked Up by Students from Hampton, Virginia (Source: Space Daily)
Astronauts aboard the International Space Station recently feasted on a spicy Jamaican rice and beans with coconut milk entree cooked up by a team of culinary students from Phoebus High School in Hampton, Virginia. The Phoebus team's dish won the 2015 High School Students United with NASA to Create Hardware, or HUNCH, Culinary Challenge. They had to compete against six other high school culinary teams last year during a visit to the Space Food Systems Laboratory at NASA's Johnson Space Center. (5/27)

Space Wing Shuts Down Another Eastern Range Asset (Source: City of Cocoa Beach)
The Air Force's 45th Space Wing will be demolishing the “tracking station” at 3570 Ocean Beach Blvd. in Cocoa Beach. This is located across Ocean Beach Blvd. from the Wakulla Motel. The engineer for the project says the demo will take about 90 days. They intend to start in early June. The property will be disposed of following the established Federal procedures. (5/27)

Boeing Urges FCC To Plan Satellite Spectrum-Sharing With 5G (Source: Law360)
Boeing representatives met with Federal Communications Commission staff this week to press for more spectrum bands intended for 5G technology to be shared with “next generation” broadband satellite communications systems currently being developed by the company, according to an ex parte filing Wednesday. (5/27)

With Shuttles Gone, Private Ventures Give Florida's Space Coast a Lift (Source: WMFE)
It has been five years since NASA retired the space shuttle, ending a federal program that employed some 10,000 people around Cape Canaveral. The loss of those jobs was a blow to Florida’s Space Coast, an area closely identified with NASA and the nation’s space program. But the region’s economy is bouncing back and attracting companies that are in a new space race.

In fact, it might be more accurate now to call it the Aerospace Coast. In 2009, the Brazilian jet maker Embraer gave this region a boost when it broke ground on its plant in Melbourne, Florida. And after years of depending on government contracts, the region is now beginning to tap the commercial space industry’s potential. Click here. (5/27)

May 26, 2016

Aerospace Industry Braces for Worker Shortfall as Boomers Retire (Source: Aurora Sentinel)
A wave of retiring baby boomers is poised to leave the aerospace industry with a shortage of skilled workers, prompting leading aerospace corporations to boost efforts to interest young people in science and math. "We can’t wait for somebody else to solve this," said AIA workforce specialist Susan Lavrakas. (5/26)

Redistricting in Florida Shifts Spaceport Representation (Source: SPACErePORT)
State Senator Dorothy Hukill has represented much of Volusia County for several years as a member of the Florida Legislature and she has been a steadfast supporter of aerospace initiatives there, including projects led by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. With the state's redrawing of district boundaries this year, Hukill is running for re-election in a new district that includes not only southern Volusia County but also northern Brevard County, with the Cape Canaveral Spaceport within it.

During the 44th Space Congress this week in Cape Canaveral, Hukill discussed her plans for making Florida more competitive for aerospace business in upcoming legislative sessions in Tallahassee. (5/26)

Space Congress is Back, With Support From NASA, Space Florida, EDC (Source: SPACErePORT)
Space Congress used to be an international must-attend event for the space industry, filling three Cocoa Beach hotels. After a multi-year hiatus, its main sponsor -- the Canaveral Council of Technical Society (CCTS) -- attempted three years ago to resurrect the conference with a one-day event, and then again last year with a slightly larger 43rd Space Congress.

This year's 44th Space Congress was a sold-out event, with three days of hot-topic panel sessions, exhibits, receptions and keynotes. And it succeeded despite being scheduled concurrent with two other major space conferences, in California and Puerto Rico. The key was having agencies like NASA KSC, Space Florida, and the Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast agree that this event can fill a void for local engagement in the national conversation on space.

One of the event's sponsors is Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, which has digitized and archived the papers and proceedings from the 44 Space Congress events dating back to 1962. The archive has enabled over 51,000 downloads of technical papers, many from the historic early years of the space program. Click here to access the archive. (5/26)

Deep Space Industries and SFL to Provide Satellites for HawkEye 360’s Pathfinder (Source: DSI)
Deep Space Industries has been selected by HawkEye 360 as the satellite provider for its Pathfinder small satellite mini-constellation. This is the first step towards the launch of the full commercial constellation of HawkEye 360’s space-based radio frequency mapping and analytics system.

Deep Space Industries (DSI) is the prime contractor for the development and manufacturing of the satellites that will host HawkEye 360’s proprietary data processing technology. The system will use space-based detection of radio signals to locate and characterize wireless spectrum information from Earth. Deep Space Industries has partnered with the UTIAS Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) in Toronto as its platform provider. (5/26)

XS-1: The Government’s Last Shot at Reusable Launch Vehicles (Source: Space News)
For decades, U.S. government agencies, both civil and military, have sought to develop a reusable launch vehicle (RLV), seeing it as a critical tool for lowering the cost of space access. The space shuttle is the best known such effort, but it’s hardly the only one: the National Aerospace Plane, Delta Clipper, X-33, X-34 and Space Launch Initiative all tried to develop reusable launchers — and all failed.

And unlike those earlier programs, XS-1 is still alive and well. With an initial phase of study contracts awarded in 2014 wrapping up, DARPA plans to release a solicitation for the next phase of the program in May. At stake is about $140 million for the development of a prototype and a flight test program that will emphasize the ability to fly, and fly often.

“We want to push the industry to the point where we can fly a lot more often,” Jess Sponable said. A goal from the beginning of the program to demonstrate that capability is to fly XS-1 10 times in 10 days, demonstrating its reliability and low-cost operations. (5/9)

Air Force Considers Ariane 5 for Launching U.S. Military Satellites (Source: Wall Street Journal)
The Air Force is studying the option of launching some military satellites on Europe's Ariane 5. Speaking at a conference this week, the Air Force's launch enterprise director, Claire Leon, said the Pentagon has started a study to determine the feasibility of using the Ariane 5 for national security payloads. That analysis is ongoing, but additional meetings between Arianespace and the Air Force are planned. Use of the Ariane 5 could provide a stopgap as United Launch Alliance transitions from the Atlas 5 to the Vulcan and new providers enter the market, but would require significant changes in national space policy. (5/25)

Senate Wants More Oversight of NRO (Source: Space News)
The Senate is seeking increased oversight of the National Reconnaissance Office. The Senate's version of the National Defense Authorization Act would require the Pentagon's Comptroller General to provide annual assessments of NRO programs, arguing that the Government Accountability Office doesn't have sufficient access to study potential cost overruns or schedule delays. Betty Sapp, director of the NRO, said last year that 11 of 12 major NRO programs were on budget, with the 12th running 6 percent over budget. (5/9)

Antares Test at Virginia Spaceport a Step Toward October Return to Flight (Source: NASA)
The static fire test of an Antares first stage is scheduled for next week. NASA said Wednesday that static fire test, from a launch pad on Wallops Island, Virginia, is planned for May 31 between 5:00 and 8:15 p.m. Eastern. The 30-second test will test the performance of the stage and its new RD-181 engines. A successful test would clear the way for the first Antares launch since an October 2014 failure, most likely in early July. (5/25)

India's Next RLV Test Aims for Landing (Source: Hindu Business Line)
India's next step in the development of a reusable launch vehicle will be to have the vehicle make a runway landing — once it builds a runway. On Monday's test of India's Reusable Launch Vehicle Technology Demonstrator, the winged vehicle flew to an altitude of 65 kilometers before it glided to landing at sea, where it was not recovered. On the next flight, India's space agency ISRO wants to fly a vehicle back to a runway landing, but must first build a runway five kilometers long at its spaceport. ISRO officials didn't estimate when that runway would be ready for that RLV test. (5/25)

‘Space Selfie’ Project Canceled: Planetary Resources Offers Kickstarter Refunds (Source: GeekWire)
Three years ago, Planetary Resources raised more than $1.5 million on Kickstarter to build a space telescope that would let users snap selfies from orbit. Today, the company says it can’t follow through on the project – and is offering full refunds to its 17,614 backers.

“It’s a decision that we make with a heavy heart,” Chris Lewicki, president and CEO of Planetary Resources, told GeekWire during a visit to the company’s Redmond headquarters. Lewicki said the support received during the Kickstarter campaign exceeded their wildest expectations, but it wasn’t enough to fund everything that needed to be done to turn the promised system into reality. (5/26)

California Legislator Seeks Extension of Tax Credit Incentive to Meet Delayed Bomber Timeline (Source: SVC News)
Assemblyman Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, motioned a proposal in Budget Sub-4 committee to adjust the Advanced Strategic Aircraft Tax Credit by one year in order to bring the tax credit years in line with the start date of the federal contract for the Long Range Strike Bomber. Due to the complex federal procurement process, the Long Range Strike Bomber contract that was supposed to be awarded on Oct. 27, 2015 didn’t get awarded until February 16, 2016. (5/25)

Planetary Resources Raises $21.1M; Unveils Advanced Earth Observation Capability (Source: Planetary Resources)
Planetary Resources, the asteroid mining company, has secured $21.1 million in Series A funding. The capital will be used to deploy and operate Ceres, an advanced Earth observation business that features the first commercial infrared and hyperspectral sensor platform to better understand and manage humanity’s natural resources.

The funding was led by Bryan Johnson and the OS FUND; and joined by Idea Bulb Ventures; Tencent; Vast Ventures; Grishin Robotics; Conversion Capital; The Seraph Group; Space Angels Network, a syndication of investors from Angel.co; and Larry Page. Earth observation will be another aspect of Planetary Resources’ operations in addition to prospecting and mining asteroids. (5/26)

Looking for Life on Other Planets? Go Deep. (Source: Air & Space)
In a muggy hotel room off I-40 in Grants, New Mexico, two roboticists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory are bent over a mass of electronics, the open body of a robot called LEMUR, short for Limbed Excursion Mechanical Utility Robot. LEMUR is designed to climb the porous walls of a cave 150 million miles away, on Mars. At the moment, though, its four multi-jointed limbs are piled in a heap in the closet, beside the complimentary ironing board.

Grants is the perfect place to field test a climbing robot. It’s surrounded by an ancient volcanic lava flow spread across the landscape like a jagged sea of Oreo cookie crumbs. In one corner of the flow, located in nearby El Malpais National Monument, is a network of subterranean corridors known as lava tubes: long, winding caves big enough to drive a subway train through. There are tubes just like them on Mars, only bigger, due to that planet’s weaker gravity. They may be some of the best places in the solar system to look for extraterrestrial life. (5/26)

Russia to Test Humanoid Robot at International Space Station in 2020 (Source: Sputnik)
Russian scientists plan to test their first humanoid robot capable of performing outer space missions at the International Space Station (ISS) in four years, a deputy chief of the space agency Roscosmos said Tuesday. A human-like robot can take on dangerous missions by being remotely-controlled by an operator inside the ISS. (5/25)

Next Generation of Carbon-Monitoring Satellites Faces Daunting Hurdles (Source: Nature)
Today just two satellites monitor Earth’s greenhouse-gas emissions from space. But if the world’s leading space agencies have their way, a flotilla of such probes could be launched beginning in 2030. The ambitious effort would help climate scientists to improve their forecasts — and it could also help to verify whether countries are upholding their commitments to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

But researchers will need to clear a daunting array of political and technical hurdles if they are to get the system — estimated to cost several billion dollars — off the ground. Competition for satellite launch slots is stiff: last year, for instance, the European Space Agency shelved plans for an advanced carbon-dioxide-monitoring probe in favour of a mission to measure plant growth. And scientists must still prove that satellite measurements of gases such as CO2 and methane can match the accuracy of data from observatories on Earth. (5/25)

NASA Chief: Congress Should Revise US-China Space Cooperation Law (Source: Voice of America)
NASA says the U.S. can someday cooperate with China as it did with the Soviet Union on the Apollo-Soyuz joint project in 1975. Responding to questions Monday at an event hosted by the Mitchell Institute on Capitol Hill, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said the U.S. should pursue such a relationship with China in human space exploration.

"We were in an incredible Cold War with the Soviets at the time we flew Apollo-Soyuz; it was because leaders in both nations felt it was time," he said. "That represented a great use of soft power, if you will. Look where we are today. I think we will get there [with China]. And I think it is necessary."

Current law prohibits NASA from engaging with its Chinese counterparts on such projects. But Bolden, who will travel to Beijing later this year, says Congress should consider revising the law. (5/25)

Interstellar Space Travel Won't Be Successful Without a Better Braking System (Source: Inverse)
One of the very important keys to making interstellar travel possible in space is to build something that can go fast — very fast. Another thing that’s not so obvious? Efficiently hitting the brakes. Click here. (5/20)

SpaceX Lines Up for Upcoming Missions (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
SpaceX is working a conveyor belt of Falcon 9 rockets for what it hopes will be a record year of missions and achievements. SpaceX is preparing to conduct its next launch just over three weeks since successfully lofting the JCSAT-14 communications satellite. This increasing launch cadence is being achieved via just its SLC-40 pad at Cape Canaveral, providing a glimpse into the company’s launch rate potential once it has four active pads at its disposal. (5/24)

Billionaire's Newest Moonshot Venture Aims to Change the World (Source: CNBC)
Most iconic entrepreneurs don't build billion-dollar empires by chasing riches. Instead, they're in hot pursuit of fulfilling a dream that can change the world. It's that imaginative spirit that drives innovation. Take serial entrepreneur and philanthropist Naveen Jain, who's founded the World Innovation Institute and five companies over the past 20 years, including InfoSpace, Intelius and Moon Express.

The former Microsoft executive believes technology is key to solving global societal issues — from curing disease to harnessing resources to sustain the exploding human population. He's now busy building his latest brainchild: BlueDot, a start-up that aims to form agriculture, health-care and energy businesses from federal research. Already, Jain has assembled a top-flight management team — which includes co-founder CTO Dr. Scott Parazynski, a NASA astronaut — and raised $8.3 million in start-up capital to fund the venture's innovation factory.

The company now has a $60 million post-money valuation. We are not an incubator or an accelerator, but an entirely new asset class. Our model is to buy the license to a technology developed at a research center that has a proof of concept and then put together a management team to create a company around it. The lab will receive a royalty stream that is a return on the government's investment. (4/18)

Building a Supermassive Black Hole? Skip the Star (Source: Ars Technica)
It seems that nearly every galaxy has a supermassive black hole at its core. Based on the presence of extremely bright objects early in the Universe's history, it seems that this relationship goes back to the galaxy's very start—galaxies seem to have been built around these monstrous black holes.

But this presents a bit of a problem. There's a limit to how fast black holes can grow, and they shouldn't have gotten to the supermassive stage anywhere near this quickly. There have been a few models to suggest how they might grow fast enough, but it's hard to get any data on what's going on that early in the Universe's history. Now, however, a team is announcing some of the first observational support for one model: the direct collapse of gas into a black hole without bothering to form a star first.

It's technically possible for a stellar mass black hole to grow to that size by drawing in surrounding matter, but the process takes time. Part of that is just getting that much mass into the vicinity of the black hole in the first place. But black holes are also messy eaters. As material spirals in, it heats up and emits radiation, which can push back against any further matter that's falling in. This process sets a limit—called the Eddington limit—on how fast material can enter the black hole. (5/25)

Report Endorses Greater Use of Cubesats for Science Missions (Source: Space News)
A National Academies report recommends that NASA and the National Science Foundation make greater use of cubesats for science missions, while also centralizing the management of NASA’s diverse cubesat efforts. The report, prepared by a committee under the auspices of the National Academies’ Space Studies Board and released May 23, argued that cubesats represent a “disruptive innovation” whose capabilities continue to grow while remaining faster to develop and less expensive than more conventional spacecraft. (5/25)

NASA Fires Back at Nathan Myhrvold in Spat Over Asteroid Mission’s Data (Source: GeekWire)
NASA issued a statement disputing Seattle tech icon Nathan Myhrvold’s critique of asteroid data analysis from the space agency’s NEOWISE mission. Myhrvold had said NEOWISE’s analysis relied on flawed statistical calculations, which resulted in incorrect or highly uncertain measurements for thousands of asteroids.

When GeekWire showed Myhrvold’s critique to scientists associated with NEOWISE and the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, they identified what they said were serious errors – including misinterpretations of NEOWISE’s methods and an apparent confusion between radius and diameter in one key equation. GeekWire’s report on Monday referred to those problems, as well as Myhrvold’s acknowledgment of mistakes. (5/25)

SpaceX Running More Than One Year Behind Schedule on Commercial Crew (Source: Parabolic Arc)
SpaceX’s commercial crew program is running more than a year behind schedule on the Commercial Crew program it is performing for NASA. Garrett Reisman, SpaceX’s Director of Crew Operations, said on Tuesday that an automated flight test of the Crew Dragon vehicle to the International Space Station (ISS) has slipped into the second quarter of 2017. (Spaceflight Now has the mission listed for May 2017.) It was scheduled to occur in March 2016 under the contract NASA awarded to SpaceX in September 2014. (5/25)

Russia to Create New Powerful Plasma Rocket Engine (Source: Sputnik)
A Russian rocket engine company, with the assistance of a major research and development institute, will work on a project to create a powerful electrodeless plasma rocket engine, Russia’s Roscosmos space corporation said Wednesday. The project will be developed by the Kurchatov Institute, Russia's leading research and development institution in the field of nuclear energy, and the Chemical Automatics Design Bureau (CADB). (5/26)

Could Black Holes be the Dark Matter Everyone Has Been Looking For? (Source: Washington Post)
"We are still finishing up the analyses of the second set of LIGO data from our first observing run, and [will] be reporting results from those analyses sometime in the near future, hopefully in June," LIGO's David Reitze, of Caltech, told us by email.

In the meantime, one maverick theory has entered the conversation. Two different papers have been published recently suggesting that LIGO may have stumbled upon the solution to the enduring mystery of dark matter. Maybe black holes are the dark matter, these papers say. Click here. (5/25)

Lasers Could Blast Astronauts to Mars, Protect Earth from Asteroids (Source: Space.com)
The same laser system being developed to blast tiny "Breakthrough Starshot" spacecraft between the stars could also launch human missions to Mars, protect Earth from dangerous asteroids and help get rid of space junk, project leaders say. Such technology could be used for much more than just interstellar flight, Lubin said. "You build one [system], and then you have, suddenly, a radically transformative tool on your hands," he said earlier this month during a presentation with NASA's Future In-Space Operations (FISO) working group. (5/25)

May 25, 2016

The House Makes its Counteroffer on NASA’s Budget (Source: Planetary Society)
Commerce, Justice, and Science—the House of Representatives’ subcommittee that oversees NASA spending—just released details on how they would fund the space agency in 2017. Overall, the news for the space program is very good: NASA’s topline would rise to $19.5 billion—$200 million more than the Senate’s proposal and $500 million more than the President requested. Should this pass into law, NASA would have its best top-line budget (adjusted for inflation) in six years.

The bill needs to be voted on by the full House, at which point it would need to be reconciled with a similar bill proposed in the Senate, which was released last month. Click here. (5/25)

Space Experts Say Sending Humans to Mars Worth the Risk (Source: Science News)
There’s a long-standing joke that NASA is always 20 years from putting astronauts on Mars. Mission details shared at a recent summit shows that the space agency is right on schedule. A to-do list from 2015 looks remarkably similar to one compiled in 1990. One difference: NASA is now building a rocket and test-driving technologies needed to get a crew to Mars. But the specifics for the longest road trip in history — and what astronauts will do once they arrive — remain an open question. Click here. (5/24)

How India is Quietly Becoming a Space Exploration Power House (Source: CSM)
India successfully launched a prototype space shuttle on May 23; a mini, unmanned space vehicle called the Reusable Launch Vehicle-Technology Demonstrator. The shuttle traveled to an altitude of about 40 miles above Earth's surface, short of the 62-mile barrier between Earth's atmosphere and outer space, before returning to Earth and into the Bay of Bengal.

"In this flight, critical technologies such as autonomous navigation, guidance and control, reusable thermal-protection system, and re-entry mission management have been successfully validated," officials from the country's space agency, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), reported in an announcement Monday.

The space vehicle launch officially entered the country into the global race to develop a low-cost, reusable space shuttle, a feat considered critical to the feasibility of future space exploration. It also marks yet another recent milestone of India's burgeoning space program, securing the south Asian country's spot among the world's space exploration superpowers. (5/24)

Embry-Riddle Receives $500,000 From NASA to Study Kite-Surfing in the Stratosphere (Source: ERAU)
A team led by professors in the College of Engineering at Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach Campus have received one of eight NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program Phase II grants for $500,000. The award will allow the faculty and student research team to continue developing a futuristic concept using unmanned aircraft to gather wind and solar power at 60,000 feet above the Earth that someday might lead to atmospheric satellites providing communications and surveillance capabilities, among other applications. (5/23)

Why NASA is Hitching a ride on Red Dragon (Source: Space News)
When NASA and SpaceX announced April 27 that they had modified an existing unfunded Space Act Agreement that involves the company’s “Red Dragon” Mars lander concept, it was, unsurprisingly, SpaceX that got all the attention. No company has ever flown a private Mars lander, and not even NASA has landed a spacecraft as large as SpaceX’s Dragon. Moreover, Red Dragon is the latest sign that SpaceX and its founder, Elon Musk, are serious about pursuing a long-term goal of Mars settlement.

But what’s in it for NASA? The answer might be summed up in two words: supersonic retropropulsion, a landing technology that the agency increasingly sees as critical to its own Mars goals. It’s necessary because other approaches — parachutes, airbags and even the “skycrane” system used by the Curiosity rover — can only land spacecraft weighing about a ton on Mars. A human Mars lander, by comparison, is likely to weigh up to several dozen tons. Click here. (5/23)

Boeing, SpaceX Progressing Toward Crew Launches (Source: Florida Today)
Boeing has joined two halves of a prototype Starliner crew capsule at Kennedy Space Center, where SpaceX continues to renovate a launch pad for launches of astronauts in Dragon capsules. Company representatives and NASA on Tuesday said they are making good progress toward launches of astronauts on test flights in late 2017 or early 2018 that aim to end U.S. reliance on Russia for rides to orbit.

“Astronauts will once again fly from the Space Coast,” said Lisa Colloredo, associate manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, during a panel kicking off the 44th Space Congress in Cape Canaveral. Company presentations included little detail on timelines, but SpaceX said it is on track to launch astronauts on a test flight to the International Space Station by late 2017. Boeing recently confirmed a slip of its crew test flight to February 2018. Click here. (5/25)

How Big is the Market for Small Launch Vehicles? (Source: Space News)
At first glance, the news looks good for a new wave of small launch vehicles under development. Several ventures are planning constellations of dozens or hundreds of small satellites for communications and remote sensing, all requiring launches in the next several years. Interest in cubesats, either for constellations or standalone missions, also seems to be growing by the year.

Less clear, though, is just how big that market is, and how much of it can be captured by small launch vehicles. Different assessments give widely varying forecasts for the number of smallsats to be launched in the next few years, depending how such satellites are defined.

Recent forecasts appear to be good news for small launch vehicle developers: there are hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of satellites available for them to launch in the next several years. However, those new launchers will have to compete with existing ways of launching smallsats, including flying them as secondary payloads or launching many of them at one time on a larger rocket. Click here. (4/11)

Space Florida Urges Florida Companies to Pursue NASA Tech Commercialization (Source: Space Florida)
Space Florida has partnered with NASA's Technology Transfer Office at KSC inviting commercial industry, as well as Early Stage & Growth Stage companies, to develop and utilize NASA technology and Intellectual Property (IP) in the marketplace. Following an application process, NASA patented technology may be licensed for commercial use.

Space Florida has a number of R&D incentive programs that can assist companies who license NASA technologies, including its ever-expanding capital accelerator program. The commercial opportunities are enormous and NASA currently has over 1,400 patents available to the U.S. public from its 10 centers nationwide. Early and growth-stage companies should ask, “is there a NASA technology that can be integrated into my current technologies and systems?” Click here. (5/23)

SpaceX Alums Eye Easier Way to Get Mini Satellites Into Orbit (Source: PC Magazine)
Several SpaceX alums are working on an easier way of getting micro satellites into orbit. Former SpaceX employees Jim Cantrell and John Garvey, alongside Virgin Galactic and Orbital Sciences vet Ken Sunshine and aerospace expert Dr. Eric Besnard have launched Vector Space, which will allow customers to launch mini satellites "when you want and to your choice of orbit."

Vector will use small rockets measuring just 40 feet from tail to tip, to bring mini satellites anywhere into orbit. The rockets will be capable of carrying up to 55 pounds to a 250-mile orbit, according to Popular Science, which earlier reported on the company's launch, or 100 pounds at 125 miles from Earth's surface. (5/25)

Senate Schism on Russian Rocket Engines Continues (Source: Space Policy Online)
The Senate Appropriations Committee's Defense Subcommittee approved its version of the FY2017 defense appropriations bill today. Few details have been released, but in at least one area -- Russian RD-180 rocket engines -- the schism between Senate appropriators and authorizers seems destined to continue. The full appropriations committee will mark up the bill on Thursday.

Senate appropriators and authorizers clashed last year over the number of Russian RD-180 rocket engines the United Launch Alliance (ULA) may obtain for its Atlas V rockets for launching national security satellites. The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), chaired by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), limited the number to an additional nine.

The Senate Appropriations Committee essentially lifted that limit in the FY2016 appropriations act at the urging of two of its most senior members -- Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL). ULA builds its rockets in Alabama. McCain vehemently opposes the appropriations action and SASC's FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) -- which is scheduled to be debated on the Senate floor this week -- would repeal that section of the law. (5/24)

Sanders Supports Space Exploration (Source: Orange County Register)
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said he supports space exploration. In an interview while campaigning in southern California, Sanders noted the pride created by achievements like the Apollo 11 moon landing, "and I would like to see that type of exploration to Mars and elsewhere continue." He did not provide any specific space policy details in the brief interview. Sanders continues to campaign for the Democratic nomination although he is far behind front-runner Hillary Clinton in the number of delegates. (5/25)

Four Wild Technologies Lawmakers Want NASA to Pursue (Source: Ars Technica)
John Culberson, a Texas Republican who represents one of the most conservative districts in the conservative state of Texas, is a proud member of the Tea Party and would like nothing more than to tear up Obamacare. But Culberson is also a science geek through and through, and while he’d like to cut the federal budget, he’d just as soon plough those savings into NASA to fuel new innovations.

“One of the biggest problems with NASA headquarters has been an absence of long-term goals,” Culberson told Ars. “I’ve done my best with this to give them some short-term and long-term goals based on the scientific decadal study and based on what the public has come to expect from NASA. I want to help NASA inspire the next generation.” Click here. (5/25)

Roscosmos Proposes International Team to Create Super-Heavy Carrier Rocket (Source: Space Daily)
The deputy head of Russia's space agency Roscosmos said that Russia offers its international partners to jointly create a new super-heavy-lift launch vehicle.

"The work on establishing the following means of the development of outer space - a joint creation of a super-heavy launch vehicle - may be organized within the framework of the international cooperation. We propose to our partners to create [the carrier rocket] together," Sergei Saveliev told reporters.

In April 2015, the Russian space agency abandoned plans to develop a super-heavy space launch vehicle after re-allocating funds and focusing on modifying a heavy Angara-A5 rocket to lift super-heavy loads. In late March, Roscosomos announced that Russia would show the design of a super-heavy space launch vehicle before the end of 2016. (5/25)

FAA AST Gets Modest Budget Increase From House (Source: Space News)
The FAA's commercial space office received a small but highly desired increase in its budget Tuesday. House appropriators approved an amendment to a transportation, housing, and urban development spending bill that transfers $1 million to the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation, bringing its overall budget up to $19.8 million. That is the amount both requested by the administration and provided in the Senate's version of the bill. The FAA and industry advocates argued the office needs the additional money to hire staff and avoid backlogs on license applications and other regulatory activities. (5/25)

U.S. Could Gain Access to Protected Galileo NavSat Signals (Source: Space News)
The U.S. and Norway are likely to gain access to Galileo's protected navigation signal at a meeting next month. Philippe Jean, head of the Galileo unit at the European Commission, said the European Council will likely approve access to the Public Regulated Service (PRS) signal during a June 7 meeting, although additional negotiations will be required to discuss terms of access. The announcement was tied to the launch of the two latest Galileo satellites early Tuesday. (5/25)

NASA Planetary Stamps Coming to a Post Office Near You (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
At the end of May you will be able to hold the eight planets of our solar system and Pluto between your letter-sending fingers. The Forever stamps will feature NASA science images of Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, according to a news release from NASA and the U.S. Postal Service. (5/25)

Senate Wants Review of Troubled GPS Ground System (Source: Space News)
A Senate bill would require a Nunn-McCurdy review of a troubled GPS ground system program. Language in the Senate's version of the National Defense Authorization Act, to be taken up this week by the full Senate, withholds $393 million from the Operational Control Segment (OCX) program until the Secretary of Defense conducts a Nunn-McCurdy certification of it.

The Senate Armed Services Committee, which approved the bill earlier this month, argued that the Air Force was delaying a new cost baseline for the program that would have automatically triggered such a review. OCX's cost has already increased 22 percent, according to a Defense Department acquisition report issued earlier this year, and is expected to go even higher. (5/25)

Orbital Planning New Rocket to Compete for U.S. Military Launches (Source: Reuters)
Orbital ATK on Tuesday unveiled plans for a new rocket to compete against United Launch Alliance and Elon Musk's SpaceX for missions to launch U.S. military and commercial satellites. Orbital's Next Generation Launcher is based on the solid-rocket strap-on boosters that flew on NASA's space shuttles, Orbital Business Development Director John Steinmeyer said at the 2016 Space Congress conference in Cape Canaveral.

The company plans to buy the rocket's second stage from Jeff Bezos' space company, Blue Origin. Currently, ULA, a partnership of Lockheed Martin and Boeing, and Musk's SpaceX, are the only companies certified to launch U.S. military and national security satellites. "We're working cooperatively with the Air Force to make sure there's room for three players," Steinmeyer said in an interview with Reuters.

Orbital would launch the rocket from one of the space shuttle's old launchpads at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. If the Air Force maintained requirements for a West Coast launch site as well, Orbital could refurbish a pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, Steinmeyer said. Orbital in January won an Air Force contract worth up to $180 million to develop rocket propulsion technologies. Steinmeyer declined to say how much Orbital was investing in the project. (5/24)

Problems for KSC's New Small-Vehicle Launch Pad? (Source: SPACErePORT)
KSC's plan to develop a new bare-bones small-vehicle launch pad within the fenceline of Launch Complex 39B is apparently getting more complicated. Dubbed Launch Complex 39C, the pad would accommodate a variety of users, including Rocket Lab, Firefly, Vector Space, and others who have publicly announced their intent to operate at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. It would be available while nearby LC-39B is not being used by NASA's heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS), and maybe Orbital ATK's proposed new EELV-class rocket.

KSC Director Bob Cabana was asked during this week's Space Congress event about LC-39C and seemed to indicate that some issues are interfering with the project. It seems the evolving infrastructure requirements on the complex for SLS might be encroaching on its capability to accommodate the new small rocket pad. A presentation later in the day by Rocket Lab made no mention of LC-39C, but conveyed that the company is looking at alternative spaceports and is talking to the Air Force.

If NASA can't accommodate its small "Venture Class" launchers at LC-39C, where else might they fit on the Cape? LC-46 is one option. Another is LC-20. LC-20 has not recently been available because it is within the hazard area for Delta-4 launches from LC-37, but ULA intends eventually to abandon LC-37 and Delta-4 launches will become more rare until then as ULA shifts solely to the Delta-4-Heavy model. (5/24)

FAA and Air Force Seek to Harmonize Launch Safety Roles (Source: SPACErePORT)
At the 44th Space Congress, the FAA and the Air Force discussed ongoing (Congressionally directed) efforts to harmonize their responsibilities for range safety during commercial launches at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. For launches at other spaceports, the FAA has basically adopted the Air Force's safety rules and would impose those requirements on the spaceport operators, in lieu of developing a formal government range.

Removing the Air Force from the range safety process seems to be a popular idea during such discussions. But the Air Force described how a ship encroached the downrange launch hazard area for two separate launches from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, and that on the second instance they waived the safety rules and proceeded with the launch. This interesting tidbit illustrates an important, but little appreciated point: the Air Force can be more flexible than the FAA.

The FAA's adoption of the Air Force safety rules includes their promulgation into a rigid set of regulations carrying the weight of law, with a much more limited potential for waivers that reflect real-time, real-world situations. The Air Force, on the other hand, has a freer hand to allow such waivers. So, swapping Air Force oversight for FAA oversight may not be the best answer. (5/24)

Space Industry Lobbies to Blast Off Ahead of FAA Regulation (Source: Bloomberg)
A commercial spaceflight trade organization and 22 of its executive and associate member organizations spent more than $2.19 million lobbying the federal government in the first quarter, with much of the focus on fending off FAA safety regulations that the industry views as premature.

Overall lobbying expenditures by the Commercial Flight Federation and its current executive and associate members increased by 6.7 percent in the first quarter compared with the same period last year, reflecting the fledgling industry's steady growth. Two lobbyists working on commercial spaceflight issues said the industry's priority is to avoid “premature” regulation of spaceflight safety that could stifle growth in the burgeoning industry.

The industry scored a victory in November with enactment of the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, which extends through 2023 a commercial space “learning period” that restricts the FAA from imposing safety regulations for humans flying on commercial spacecraft. The grace period had been set to expire this year. (5/24)

Fijian National Charged With Selling Defense Tech To China (Source: Law360)
A Fijian national is facing a criminal indictment in Washington federal court for allegedly attempting to sell sensitive technology used in missile and spacecraft navigation systems to Chinese customers, U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced Friday.

In an unsealed indictment originally filed May 11, the CBP’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement alleges that William Ali, 37, traveled from his home in New Zealand to Seattle in order to acquire specialized accelerometers for eventual sale to China, a violation of the Arms Export Control Act. (5/245)

UAE 'Must Take Risks' in Space Ventures (Source: The National)
Taking risks and accepting failure are important points for the UAE’s fledgling space sector to note. Speaking on the sidelines of the UAE Space Agency’s advisory committees meeting in the capital on Monday, one of its members said it was important not to fear making mistakes when dealing with space exploration.

“When you push the limits, there is always a possibility of failure and that should be acceptable – that’s the only way you can advance," said Dr Charles Elachi, director of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and vice president of the California Institute of Technology. (5/24)

May 24, 2016

Soyuz Launches Galileo Satellites From Kourou Spaceport (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
A Soyuz rocket lifted off early this morning carrying two Galileo navigation satellites. The Soyuz rocket launched from French Guiana on schedule at 4:48 a.m. Eastern carrying the 13th and 14th Galileo spacecraft. The Fregat upper stage will deploy the satellites into their planned orbit nearly four hours after liftoff. The launch brings the number of Galileo spacecraft in orbit to 14. (5/24)

House Budget Increases Planetary Science, Cuts Earth Science (Source: Space News)
Planetary science wins, but Earth science and the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) lose in a House spending bill to be marked up today. The House Appropriations Committee released the draft report accompanying its commerce, justice and science spending bill that the committee will take up this morning. The report increases funding for planetary science by $327 million above NASA's request, including work on a Europa orbiter and lander as well as other programs, like Discovery missions. However, Earth science is cut by a similar amount, and the report provides no funds to support ARM. (5/24)

Bolden: International Collaboration Likely Despite Election Concerns (Source: Space News)
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden says other nations are still interested in cooperating with NASA despite uncertainty regarding the upcoming election. Bolden said current and potential partners are "concerned" about changes that could come when the next administration takes office, but added such concerns are common during transitions, and is not specific to the current presidential campaign. Bolden said he plans on making a number of trips this summer to support international cooperation, including a visit to China that may include an agreement on aeronautics, but not space, cooperation. (5/24)

SpaceX's July ISS Resupply Mission Will Attempt Falcon-9 Landing at Spaceport Pad (Source: The Verge)
A July launch of a space station cargo mission will be SpaceX's next opportunity to land a Falcon 9 on land. NASA announced Monday it is scheduling the next SpaceX Dragon cargo mission to the station for no earlier than July 16. SpaceX later confirmed that it will attempt to land the first stage back at Cape Canaveral on that mission, its first land landing attempt since the Orbcomm launch in December. Space station cargo missions have sufficient excess performance to enable land landings, unlike launches of geostationary satellites that require landings at sea. (5/24)

Solar Superflares May Have Made Earth Habitable (Source: Space.com)
Powerful "superflares" early in the sun's history could have helped life form on Earth. Analysis of data from NASA's Kepler mission suggests that young stars could generate as many as 10 superflares a day, versus the one a century the sun currently produces. Those flares could have helped warm the Earth enough to support life at a time when the sun itself was only about 70 percent as bright as it is today, overcoming what is known as the "faint young sun paradox." (5/24)

Ohio Airport May Be Renamed for John Glenn (Source: Columbus Dispatch)
The Columbus, Ohio, airport could soon be renamed for John Glenn, the former astronaut and U.S. senator. The Ohio Legislature is considering adding language to a license plate bill that would rename Port Columbus International Airport the John Glenn Columbus International Airport. The proposal has the support of both the speaker of the Ohio House and the mayor of Columbus. (5/24)

Could This ‘Mars Base Camp’ Really Send Astronauts to the Red Planet in 2028? (Source: Washington Post)
Lockheed’s vision of an orbital mission is somewhat pragmatic as humans-to-Mars concepts go. A Mars landing is exceedingly difficult, because the atmosphere is too thin to be of much help with aerobraking or parachutes, but it is thick enough to cause turbulence or burn up your spacecraft if you’re not careful.

The aerospace wizards have managed to land something as massive as a small car on Mars (the Curiosity rover), but to put humans on the surface they'd need to land something the size of a two-story house. So Lockheed’s vision starts with an orbital mission, with a landing sometime down the road — maybe 2033, Lockheed's chief technologist for exploration systems Tony Antonelli said. Click here. (5/24)

Arianespace to Supply Payload Dispenser Systems for OneWeb Constellation (Source: Space Daily)
Arianespace reports that it has signed a contract with the global satellite internet company OneWeb to design, qualify and supply 21 payload dispensers for the deployment of the OneWeb constellation, along with five more on option. RUAG Space AB (Linkoping, Sweden) will be the prime contractor, in charge of development and production of these dispenser systems.

The dispenser systems will first secure the satellites during their flight to low Earth orbit and then release them into space. They are designed to accommodate up to 32 spacecraft per launch, allowing Arianespace to deliver the lion's share of the OneWeb constellation over a period of 18 months, starting in 2018. (5/24)

KBR Acquiring NASA Contractor Wyle (Source: Space News)
NASA contractor Wyle is being acquired by Houston-based KBR Inc. KBR, a construction and engineering firm well known for its oil industry work, is paying $570 million for Wyle, a Top 25 NASA contractor that currently holds the agency’s $1.5 billion space medicine contract. Wyle also provides specialized engineering, scientific and technical services to the U.S. Department of Defense and other government agencies. (5/24)

Human Missions to Mars: Questions of Who and When (Source: Space Review)
NASA has general plans to send humans to Mars in the 2030s, but that schedule is not fast enough for some. Jeff Foust reports on a debate among Mars exploration advocates on the schedule of such missions, and the role the private sector can play. Click here. (5/23)
 
Comparing India’s Reusable Launch Vehicle with the Space Shuttle is Totally Out of Place (Source: Space Review)
On Monday, the Indian space agency ISRO flew its first reusable launch vehicle technology demonstrator vehicle on a brief suborbital flight. Kiran Krishnan Nair argues that while the flight is a step forwards towards an RLV, its importance has been overhyped, particularly in the Indian media. Click here. Editor's Note: Here's a photo comparison of the Indian RLV and the U.S. X-37 spaceplane. (5/23)

Creating a Mission Control for the Commercial Spaceflight Industry (Source: Space Review)
As more organizations get involved in human spaceflight, there will be a greater need for facilities to monitor and control those missions. Greg Anderson argues for the creation of a consolidated mission control organization to meet that need. Click here. (5/23)
 
How an ICBM-Based “Bridge to Nowhere” Can Help Start a Moon Village (Source: Space Review)
In recent months, the launch industry has debated whether to revise existing policy limiting the commercial use of retired ICBM motors. Michael Turner offers an alternative use for those missiles that could stimulate lunar development. Click here. (5/23)

Ex-NASA Man to Plant One Billion Trees a Year Using Drones (Source: Independent)
A drone start-up is going to counter industrial scale deforestation using industrial scale reforestation. BioCarbon Engineering wants to use drones for good, using the technology to seed up to one billion trees a year, all without having to set foot on the ground.

26 billion trees are currently being burned down every year while only 15 billion are replanted. If successful, the initiative could help address this shortfall in a big way. Drones should streamline reforestation considerably, with hand-planting being slow and expensive. "The only way we're going to take on these age-old problems is with techniques that weren't available to us before," CEO and former NASA-engineer Lauren Fletcher said. "By using this approach we can meet the scale of the problem out there." (4/7)

Forget the Asteroid Mission and Go to the Moon, Lawmakers Tell NASA (Source: Ars Technica)
On Tuesday, budget writers in the US House will make changes to a bill that funds federal commerce, justice, and science agencies—which includes NASA—for the coming fiscal year. But a draft of the full bill released Monday contains a blockbuster for the space agency: the House calls for a pivot away from NASA’s direct-to-Mars vision toward a pathway that includes lunar landings first.

Since a space policy speech in 2010 by President Obama, the space agency has been following a loosely defined plan to first send astronauts to visit a fragment of an asteroid near the Moon and then conduct other operations in the vicinity of the Moon before striking off for Mars some time in the 2030s.

However a number of independent reports, such as the National Research Council’s Pathways to Exploration, have questioned the viability and sustainability of a direct-to-Mars plan. That panel called for NASA and the White House to reconsider the Moon as an interim destination. Click here. (5/23)

Ancient Solar Superflare Suggests Risks for Mars Missions (Source: Space.com)
When a powerful "superflare" from the sun scoured the solar system more than 1,200 years ago, it apparently had little effect on Earth's inhabitants — but today's astronauts wouldn't be so lucky, scientists said. New research suggests that an event of that magnitude would greatly endanger current plans for space travel, with astronauts standing a good chance of receiving lethal doses of radiation.

Solar eruptions occur regularly, sometimes wreaking havoc on Earth. For instance, in 1989, a powerful explosion from the sun hit the Earth's magnetic field, triggering a geomagnetic storm that blacked out the entire Canadian province of Quebec within 90 seconds, leaving 6 million residents in the dark for 9 hours. (5/23)

Scientists Work on Plans to Defend Earth from Killer Asteroids (Source: CBS)
Disaster movies from "Deep Impact" to "Asteroid" to "Armageddon" have mined drama from the mortal threat humanity could face if a massive asteroid were speeding towards Earth. At Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, scientists are taking that disaster scenario seriously and working on a plan to prevent it.

To save mankind from a doomsday collision, planetary scientist Megan Bruck Syal is working with small meteorites -- space rocks formed at the dawn of the solar system that drifted through space for billions of years before crashing into Earth. "Nobody has really looked at meteorites in this way before, under these high-pressure conditions, so we're doing something new and it's difficult in a lot of ways when you do something new," Bruck said. (5/23)

Lawmaker Orders NASA to Plan Trip to Alpha Centauri by 100th Anniversary of Moon Landing (Source: Science)
It seems that the recently announced Breakthrough Starshot project—to send a privately funded fleet of tiny spacecraft to a nearby star—may have started a star rush. Today a senior U.S. lawmaker who helps write NASA’s budget called on the agency to begin developing its own interstellar probes, with the aim of launching a mission to Alpha Centauri, our nearest star system, in 2069—the centenary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Representative John Culberson (R–TX), a self-professed space fan who chairs the House of Representatives appropriations subpanel that oversees NASA, included the call for the ambitious voyage in a committee report released today. The report accompanies a bill setting NASA’s budget for the 2017 fiscal year, which begins 1 October; the full House appropriations panel is set to consider the bill on Tuesday.

In the report, Culberson’s panel “encourages NASA to study and develop propulsion concepts that could enable an interstellar scientific probe with the capability of achieving a cruise velocity of 0.1c [10% of the speed of light].” The report language doesn’t mandate any additional funding, but calls on NASA to draw up a technology assessment report and conceptual road map within 1 year. (5/23)

Billionaire Technologist Accuses NASA Asteroid Mission of Bad Statistics (Source: Science)
Nathan Myhrvold—ex–Microsoft billionaire, patent accumulator, dinosaur geek, and noted molecular gastronomist—has a new obsession: asteroids. The CEO of Bellevue, Washington–based Intellectual Ventures says that scientists using a prominent NASA space telescope have made fundamental mistakes in their assessment of the size of more than 157,000 asteroids they have observed. (5/23)

The Center of Earth is Younger Than the Outer Surface (Source: Science News)
Our home planet is young at heart. According to new calculations, Earth’s center is more than two years younger than its surface. In Einstein’s general theory of relativity, massive objects warp the fabric of spacetime, creating a gravitational pull and slowing time nearby. So a clock placed at Earth’s center will tick ever-so-slightly slower than a clock at its surface.

Such time shifts are determined by the gravitational potential, a measure of the amount of work it would take to move an object from one place to another. Since climbing up from Earth’s center would be a struggle against gravity, clocks down deep would run slow relative to surface timepieces. (5/23)

Banning Russian Rocket Engines Will Increase Costs And Risks (Source: Forbes)
How confusing is the legislative process on Capitol Hill? Try this: Last week the House of Representatives cut the President’s emergency funding request for fighting the Zika virus by two-thirds to save money; this week the Senate will debate whether to waste all the money that was saved by forcing the Pentagon to use over-priced rockets when it launches satellites.

Senator McCain, who is pushing a ban on the use of Russian engines in U.S. launch vehicles, says the government should rely on American technology.  But there’s a problem with that approach.  One of the U.S. launch providers — SpaceX — can’t reach half of the orbits the military needs to get to, and the other would cost 35-40% more per launch if it can’t use rockets with Russian engines.

The added cost for launches would be over $2 billion, which is more than the White House’s entire request to combat Zika virus.  And what would we get for spending the extra money?  Nothing good.  Here are four ways banning Russian engines would make life harder for warfighters and taxpayers. (5/23)

Iridium Launches Breakthrough Alternative Global Positioning Service (Source: Iridium)
Iridium Communications announced the official launch of Satellite Time and Location (STL), an alternative or companion to traditional location-based technologies, and declared it ready for use. For the first time, end users now have access to accurate and resilient position, navigation and timing (PNT) technology that works anywhere on the planet, even indoors.

Due to the unique architecture of its 66 cross-linked, low-earth orbit satellite constellation, Iridium is the only network that has the global coverage and reliability needed to deliver this highly unique, robust and cost-effective solution to the market.

STL can protect, toughen and augment traditional GPS technology by providing a position or timing source when GPS signals are degraded or unavailable. It can also provide an alternative source of time to check the integrity of a GPS signal.  This is essential for any kind of critical infrastructure that depends on GPS as a source of PNT information. (5/23)

NASA Extends Harris’ Space Communications Network Support Contract (Source: GovConWire)
NASA has exercised two one-year options on a previously awarded contract to Harris (NYSE: HRS) for communications, telemetry and tracking support to the International Space Station and various satellites in low-Earth orbit.

The options increase the ceiling value of the company’s Space Communications Network Services contract with NASA by about $384 million, Harris said Monday. Harris booked the additional contract funds in the third quarter of its 2016 fiscal year. The company has supported the communications network of the orbiting ISS, Hubble Space Telescope and Earth Observing System satellites through the SCNS program. (5/23)

Siberian Scientists Create Station Allowing Humans to Live on Mars (Source: Sputnik)
Siberian scientists create a revolutionary BIOS-3 system that is a self-sustaining ‘micro-Earth’ which may make it possible for humans to create oxygen, water and food in hostile environments, for example on Mars. The BIOS-3, or the Biological Support System, is an experiment which was started in the early 1960s.

In 1972-1973 two men and a woman participated in the experiment, they were an agronomist, an engineer and a doctor. They spent six months at the BIOS-3 saying that the system was able to provide 100 percent of the needed oxygen, and from 50 to 80 percent of the food at different stages of the experiment.

The BIOS-3 was completely self-sufficient as it was about 315 cubic meters, divided into four spaces linked by hermetically sealed doors. There was a common space with a kitchen and a bathroom where people could have some rest, talk to their colleagues, monitor how the system operates. The other two compartments had plants: wheat, oilseeds and vegetables, providing a balanced diet for the ‘bionauts’. (5/23)

Chinese Startups and Venture Capitalists Look to Space (Source: South China Morning Post)
Space is a frontier that could soon fall to privately funded Chinese start-ups looking for commercial opportunities created by the sky-high costs of the state-run space programme, which one expert describes as “probably the most expensive in the world”. Visitors to the simple but sleek website of Beijing-based One Space Technology are greeted with the slogan “We create space express”.

With its first commercial rocket launch scheduled for 2018, the private aerospace company has vowed to become China’s version of US rocket launch firm SpaceX, with a low-cost launch vehicle that would “make a space journey as convenient as hailing a cab”.

A key investor in One Space was Legend Holdings, the mother company of Lenovo, the world’s largest personal computer maker, which owns a substantial but unspecified share of the company through its venture capital fund Legend Star. (5/23)

Kona Spaceport Certification Still Being Pursued (Source: Hawaii Tribune-Herald)
For several years, a small office in the state’s Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism has been pursuing a spaceport certification for Kona International Airport, which would make it one of the few hubs for proposed commercial flights into suborbit.

While the idea still isn’t ready for launch, Jim Crisafulli, state Office of Aerospace Development director, said an environmental assessment required for the Federal Aviation Administration certification remains in the works. He estimates a public meeting regarding its findings could be held this summer, perhaps by late July or early August. Crisafulli previously estimated the review would be done around the start of the year, but additional questions from the FAA extended the time-frame.

“The FAA is trying to be as thorough as possible,” he said. “We’ve now been through eight drafts of this environmental assessment.” Space tourism itself remains an idea. But Hawaii’s position as a major tourist destination makes it a good candidate for this emerging industry, assuming it takes off, Crisafulli said. (5/23)

Dark Energy Might be the Reason Time Runs Forward (Source: Futurism)
A new study may have found a link between dark energy and the Second Law of Thermodynamics—suggesting that the very expansion of the universe may impart a direction to time. Click here. (5/23)

FAA AST Budget: A Million Here, A Million There (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The House Appropriations Committee has recommended $18.826 million for the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA AST) for FY 2017, which is $1 million below the Obama Administration’s budget request. The amount is $1 million above the enacted level for FY 2016. In a separate account, FAA AST would receive $2 million for research and development efforts into commercial space transportation safety. The Obama Administration has requested $2.953 million.

“The recommended funding level will allow the Office of Commercial Space Transportation to add operational personnel to support an increased level of activity in its licensing, permitting and safety inspection functions,” the committee said in draft bill to be marked up on Tuesday. “The Committee notes that the budget request includes a 20% growth in personnel in this office above the fiscal year 2016 personnel level. The Committee believes that the office should be able to judiciously hire critical operational staff within the amounts provided,” the measure states. (5/23)

ThumbSat Opens SmallSat Factory in Tijuana Mexico (Source: Via Satellite)
Experimental satellite manufacturer ThumbSat has opened a factory in Tijuana, Mexico for the production of small satellites and their associated components. The facility is fully operational and capable of producing circuit boards for satellites, electronic subsystems such as radio transmission boards, and customer specific payloads, including the new ThumbNet dongles, which will be one of the most advanced Software Defined Radio (SDR) receivers available anywhere in the world, according to the company.

The facility includes a clean room housing all of the equipment required to manufacture and assemble ThumbNet tracking stations and ThumbSat satellites as well as perform all of the required testing to ensure the satellites are ready for launch into space. Testing capabilities of the laboratory eventually will include hot and cold thermal cycling, three axis random and sine wave vibration, vacuum, and complete electrical and operational verification. (5/23)

May 23, 2016

India Just Launched an Adorable Mini Shuttle Into Space (Source: Gizmodo)
India is joining the reusable space race. Its space agency has today launched a 22-foot space shuttle, that will be used test the country’s plans for creating a spacecraft that can be used multiple times. The 1.75-tonne un-manned Reusable Launch Vehicle traveled 43 miles above the Earth’s surface then descended back to the planet. This particular shuttle wasn’t expected to survive the landing. Instead, it will gather data about the speed and intensity of re-entry, and test the craft’s autonomous landing capabilities. This mission is the result of five years of work and $14 million of investment. (5/23)

Global Space Academy Kicks Off Spaceflight Training at Cape Canaveral (Source: GSA)
Welcome to the Global Space Academy, Training for a New Frontier! South Korean Astronaut Dr. Soyeon Yi will join NASTAR's Brienna Henwood, Embry-Riddle's Dr. Diane Howard, and ISU's Kim Ellis for a co-operative program between international businesses to deliver up to date, relevant and dynamic training for spaceflight. The Global Space Academy (a sponsor of this week's 44th Space Congress at Cape Canaveral) will sponsor a July 13 event at Exploration Tower at Port Canaveral. Click here. (5/23)

Chinese Firm Plans Space Expedition in a Balloon (Source: The Hindu)
A Chinese firm, which has developed the country’s first space parachute suit, has hit on a novel business idea to send people into space using a high-tech balloon. They will return to earth using a parachute. JHY Space Technology Co Ltd (Space Vision), a Beijing-based company, has unveiled China’s first space parachuting suit. The trip will at a cost of $77,000.

In the next few months, the company will test equipment, and recruit volunteers for training, state-run China Daily reported. The first three adventurers to take up the challenge are an entrepreneur, a champion woman parachutist and an aircraft engineer, the company said. The adventurers will soar into the stratosphere in the balloon. The customised suit has a radar, space-ground communications system and an image transmission system. (5/21)

Middle School Team Wins National Rocket Competition (Source: Space.com)
A team of middle-school students from Washington state will represent the United States at an international rocketry contest in Europe, after taking home the top prize at the 2016 Team America Rocketry Challenge National Finals on May 16. Hailing from Bellevue, Washington, the Space Potatoes rocketry team from Odle Middle School beat out 789 other groups of students from all over the United States.

The winning team will share more than $20,000 in scholarships and funds for their school. Team Space Potatoes was one of 100 teams invited to Washington, D.C., to compete in the finals after an initial round of qualifying flights. The students will travel to London in July for the international competition. (5/23)

60 Years Ago, Patrick AFB Had its Only Missile Launch (Source: Florida Today)
Armed Forces Day attracted little notice Saturday , but 60 years ago the occasion drew throngs to Patrick Air Force Base. Cars lined State Road A1A before it was closed to traffic at 3:30 p.m. on May 20, 1956, as an estimated 25,000 people gathered to see something few ever had up close: a missile launch.

Officials briefed the crowd on the 29-foot-long "Florida Ranger" Matador surface-to-surface cruise missile before a late-afternoon countdown that culminated at “X minus zero,” when an officer pushed a button from a nearby control station shielded by sand bags. "I thought it was very fascinating; it was something I’d never seen.” And something no one has seen since: a launch from Patrick, rather than up the road on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, where the public has only ever gotten within miles of liftoffs by now much larger rockets. Click here. (5/23)

Visions of One of the Richest Men on Earth (Source: Florida Today)
“We’ll start out making simple things in space and then, sometime in the next few hundred years, there will be a big inversion and we will realize we shouldn’t be doing heavy industry on Earth for two reasons. One, it’s very polluting. And two, we just don’t have enough access to energy here to do it so it just won’t be practical.”

And then there is Mars, the only planet in our solar system that has all the elements needed for a fully-functional civilization, he said. People may dream about colonization and that’s good. But they shouldn’t romanticize it.

“All the people who think they want to live on Mars, they should first spend a few years living in Antarctica because Antarctica is a garden paradise compared to living on Mars. Living on Mars is going to be for the very hearty and very adventurous – people who don’t like trees, who don’t like parties, restaurants, movies,” Bezos said, before joking: “We’ll send them Amazon Prime memberships.” (5/21)

How a Japanese Company Seeks to Create Artificial Meteor Shower (Source: CSM)
A Japanese company is looking to combine atmospheric study and entertainment with its Sky Canvas Project, which it hopes can generate a satellite-based artificial meteor shower for the 2020 Summer Olympics, held in Tokyo. Star-ALE, the developer of the Sky Canvas light show proposed for the opening ceremonies of the Olympic games, hopes its artificial shooting stars will support future astronomical projects in Japan.

Star-ALE wants to create its Olympic show in more or less the same manner that natural showers occur. The Sky Canvas is designed around a satellite filled with hundreds of “source particles” that the company says will “become ingredients for a shooting star.” The particles would be launched around the world from the spacecraft before entering the atmosphere and beginning to burn at a height of around 40 to 50 miles. (5/22)