January 24, 2017

Elon Musk and Mars - Looking for a Snowball Effect (Source: Room)
Elon Musk, speaking to a wildly enthusiastic audience at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Mexico on 27 September 2016, has finally revealed his vision for setting up a self-sustaining human colony on the planet Mars. His starting point was the perceived need to make humanity a multi-planetary species in order to secure our long-term future.

This strategic goal is widely shared in the astronautical community. But one problem with it was raised in 2011 by Jeff Greason, then president of XCOR Aerospace. In his own inspirational address to the International Space Development Conference, Greason said: “It is actually the national policy of the United States that we should settle space. But everybody’s kind of afraid to say it because they’re not sure we can do it.”

Elon Musk believes that it can be done, given a suitable Earth-Mars transport system, which his company, SpaceX, is planning to provide. As a result, his presentation was heavy on rockets and spacecraft, light on other key factors which would be necessary for success. Click here. (1/23)

The Outer Space Treaty at 50 (Source: Space Review)
Fifty years ago this week, the Outer Space Treaty was formally opened for signature. Christopher Johnson discusses how the treaty took shape despite the US and USSR having sharply differing views on issues, like the role private actors should play in space. Click here. (1/23)
 
Satellite Breakups and Related Events: a Quick Analysis (Source: Space Review)
Certain families of spacecraft in sun-synchronous orbit appear susceptible to in-orbit breakups. Charles D. Phillips examines the record of those groups of spacecraft and what could be causing those problems. Click here. (1/23)
 
Asteroid Discovery (Source: Space Review)
When NASA announced its selections of the next Discovery missions earlier this month, many were surprised that the agency chose two asteroid missions. Jeff Foust reports on the missions that were selected and what NASA is saying about why it chose those missions. Click here. (1/23)
 
An Engineer’s View of What Low-Cost, Reusable, Commercial Passenger Space Transportation Means (Source: Space Review)
While companies like Blue Origin and SpaceX are making steps towards low-cost reusable launch vehicles, they fall short of what’s been done in other modes of transportation, such as aviation. Mike Snead describes what space transportation attributes should be pursued in federal policy to make society truly spacefaring. Click here. (1/23)
 
Why the Space Resources Section of Federal Law is Invalid (Source: Space Review)
A controversial provision of the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, passed in 2015, gives US companies rights to resources they extract from asteroids and other celestial bodies. Justin Rostoff argues that the law, as written, is in violation of international treaty. Click here. (1/23)

New Study Predicts 31 U.S. Orbital Launches in 2017 (Source: Astralytical)
Georgia-based Astralytical predicts that 31 orbital launches will be conducted in the U.S. in 2017. That total includes 23 from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport and eight from California and Virginia. Their analysis is contained in a report available here. (1/23)

Russia to Construct Glonass Satellite Navigation Station in Nicaragua (Source: Sputnik)
Experts from the Russian Central Research Institute of Machine Building (TsNIIMash) will construct a ground Glonass satellite navigation tracking station in Nicaragua. Glonass is the Russian version of the GPS, a global navigation satellite system meant to fix the location and speed of surface, sea and air objects to within an accuracy of one meter. (1/23)

China's Hi-Res SAR Imaging Satellite Put Into Use (Source: Xinhua)
China's first high-resolution Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellite has passed all its in-orbit tests and is now operational, according to the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense on Monday. The Gaofen-3 satellite, which is accurate to one meter in distance, was launched in August 2016. (1/23)

China to Attempt Moon Sample Return Mission in November (Source: GB Times)
China has announced that its Chang'e-5 automated Moon surface sampling and return mission will launch in late November 2017. The 8.2-tonne probe will launch on a Long March 5 rocket from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Centre on Hainan island, and attempt the first lunar sample return since the Soviet Union's Luna 24 mission in 1976.

The mission will be complex, with some of the key technologies and techniques involved will also be applicable for a Chinese Mars sample return mission, planned for around 2030, as well as future crewed journeys to the lunar surface. Having soft-landed on the Moon and drilled for and collected samples, an ascent module will perform an automated docking with an orbiter in a lunar orbit 380,000 km away from Earth. (1/23)

Amy Schumer Rocks an Orange NASA Uniform at the Women's March (Source: Inverse)
On Saturday, Americans took to the streets all over the country to protest Friday’s presidential inauguration of Donald J. Trump. In stark contrast to the dearth of relevant celebrities at the president’s inauguration concert, the Women’s March packed some serious star power. Among the celebrities who came out to march in Washington, D.C. was comedian and vocal feminist Amy Schumer. Never one to arrive quietly, Schumer showed up in an orange NASA jumpsuit. (1/23)

January 23, 2017

UK Govt Accused of Covering Up Failed Nuclear Missile Test (Source: Space Daily)
The British government was accused on Sunday of covering up a failed test of its nuclear weapons deterrent last year, just weeks before lawmakers voted to renew the system. Prime Minister Theresa May refused to say whether she knew about the reported malfunction of an unarmed missile when she urged MPs to support updating the Trident nuclear system.

The cause of the failure is top secret but the source suggested the missile may have veered off in the wrong direction towards the United States. "There was a major panic at the highest level of government and the military after the first test of our nuclear deterrent in four years ended in disastrous failure," the source told the paper. "Ultimately Downing Street decided to cover up the failed test. If the information was made public, they knew how damaging it would be to the credibility of our nuclear deterrent."

Editor's Note: If this did in fact happen with a missile launched off the coast of Cape Canaveral, it highlights a function of the Eastern Range that gets little public attention during the slow-moving discussion of modernizing and cutting costs of the range. An Air Force-managed range (with some capabilities that aren't needed for commercial launches) allows the kind of secrecy required to keep news of such incidents from reaching our nuclear adversaries. The question is, can a bare-bones commercially focused (FAA?) range operate at the Cape alongside (or as a subset of) the larger and more expensive Eastern Range? (1/23)

Astronauts Seek the Right Vibe in Tests of Some Orion Technology (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Astronaut Mike Hopkins lay on his back with hips and knees at a 90-degree angle. Strapped into a seat in launch position, he stared at two screens displaying altitude, direction and other critical spacecraft information. His seat began vibrating, and then he set to work. Hopkins read text on the displays. He used the hand controller to resolve caution and warning messages. All the while, his seat continued to vibrate. The feeling, described as riding in a truck down a bumpy road, simulated different portions of Orion's eight-minute trip into space.

It was the first time an astronaut tested the visibility of the Orion spacecraft display screens under the vibration of a simulated launch. "It's important for us to make sure, for that phase of flight, they are able to get the information that they need and respond appropriately," said Jennifer Boyer, the Orion human engineering system manager for NASA. Click here. (1/22)

Washington Insider: Florida's Defense Future Mixed (Source: WFSU)
Military spending in Florida hovers around $70 billion and the Florida Defense Support Task Force is expecting that to continue, if not grow, under Commander in Chief Donald Trump. Military spending increases are already in the pipeline, Principi says. However, Principi also noted that Marine General James "Mad Dog" Mattis, Trump’s pick for defense secretary, has been deliberately vague about base closures.

“We believe that General Mattis is keeping his powder dry. That his answer was intended not to make any headlines.” Regardless, Principi says his sources are telling him to expect another round of base closings in fiscal year 20-21. Republican Representative Clay Ingram of Pensacola chairs the task force, an arm of the public-private business development group, Enterprise Florida. (1/19)

Tech Startups, Space Take Off on Hopeful Year for Central Florida (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
A tech startup scene that has a new leader and a space industry with new facilities set to open this year will mean Central Florida's tech landscape should be significantly changed by year's end. As more industries take their shot at virtual reality, it'll mean new opportunities for some of Metro Orlando's companies working in military simulation and video gaming to lead the way.

Florida's space ecosystem continues to be a strength and officials hope 2017 can be as successful as 2016 when it comes to recruiting companies here. Private commercial companies ULA and SpaceX will continue their competition and launch military and commercial satellites into space from the region. If the region is to continue its expansion, Ketcham said it's important to compete with other states and their space business communities.

The industry has been growing and that means there is more business out there for areas that can support that growth. "We don't want to be complacent because we're not perfect," he said. "The competition is fierce and getting more so every day." Editor's Note: As I wrote in this op-ed last year, Florida could become a victim of its own success if more attention is not given to developing and attracting a skilled workforce to fill the tech-oriented hiring requirements of the companies choosing to relocate and expand here. (1/23)

Asteroid Mining Sounds Hard, Right? You Don’t Know the Half of It (Source: WIRED)
The commercial space industry pushes a particular brand of optimism. Its urge to inspire manifests as soaring soundtracks to three-minute mission-promo videos, press releases with words like “humanity,” and slick graphics of spacecraft that don’t exist yet but could any day now. In the particular case of asteroid mining, business leaders are selling a future in which materials plucked from space rocks make up for Earth’s shortfalls and support a thriving civilization. Everyone is rich, all are happy, and no one wants for anything. O pioneers! We are them! Click here. (1/23)

Boom Completes Wind Tunnel Testing, Paving the Way for Supersonic Airplane Construction (Source: Tech Crunch)
Supersonic airplane startup Boom has just completed a key step on the way to building a production supersonic passenger jet; the startup finished its wind tunnel testing, verifying its first two years of aerodynamic design work and setting the stage for building the airframe that will eventually become the basis of it first flight-ready aircraft.

Boom CEO and co-founder Blake Scholl explained that this was a key turning point because it meant being able to move on to building large-scale hardware for testing with human pilots, but he also explained that even just a few years ago, this kind of milestone would’ve involved repeated wind tunnel trials through multiple physical model iterations over a drawn-out period of time. (1/23)

NASA's Moonwalking Apollo Astronauts: Where Are They Now? (Source: Space.com)
Only a handful of men have stood on the moon and looked up at Earth. NASA landed six missions and 12 astronauts on the moon during the Apollo program. Six others remained in lunar orbit aboard their Apollo spacecraft command modules. One mission, Apollo 13, was aborted in mid-flight. Here is a snapshot of NASA's six successful moon-landing crews and where they are now. (1/16)

You Could Soon be Traveling Across the World on Rockets, Not Planes (Source: CNBC)
People could be traveling from country to country by rockets connected by "spaceports" in the future, the chief executive of Virgin Galactic told CNBC. Virgin Galactic is the space travel company founded by Richard Branson with the aim of taking satellites into space, as well allowing passengers to take suborbital flights above the Earth for $250,000. But the company also is developing plans for spacecraft to transport people across the Earth. (1/18)

Airbus Safran Promotes Launch Record Ahead of Ariane 6 Entering Production (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
Airbus Safran Launchers, which now owns the majority stake in Arianespace, has issued a statement of intent, promoting Ariane 5’s track record as it prepares to enter the production phase of its next-generation launcher, the Ariane 6. The new rocket is set to become operational in 2020. Click here. (1/23)

Industry Eager for Trump Administration to Cut ITAR Export Restrictions (Source: Defense News)
The defense industry is counting on President Donald Trump's administration to continue culling the list of items controlled by the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, an effort started by the Obama administration. "The administration was very clear to try to lessen, or even eliminate if possible, the burden on supplier companies that were having to try to navigate ITAR-level restrictions on essentially commercial technology, simply because of definitions," said Remy Nathan of the Aerospace Industries Association. (1/20)

Trump Administration Confirms Commitment to Invest in Air Force (Source: Air Force Times)
An issue paper by President Donald Trump's administration points out that "our Air Force is roughly one-third smaller than in 1991" and confirms Trump's commitment to grow the Air Force. (1/20)

India, US Must Collaborate More on Space Research, says NASA Scientist (Source: Indian Express)
India and the US should collaborate more on space research programs, a prominent scientist from the US space agency NASA stressed here as he felicitated two young Indian astronomers who created history by discovering asteroids in 2010 that are now recognized by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in the US.

Amanjot Singh and Sahil Wadhwa, former students of Ryan International School in Rohini, were part of the All India Asteroid Search Campaign (AIASC) conducted by New Delhi-based Science Popularization Association of Communicators and Educators (SPACE) organisation in collaboration with the International Astronomical Search Collaboration, where they discovered the main belt asteroid numbered as 2010 PO24. (1/22)

BrahMos Developing Hypersonic Reusable Missiles (Source: Russia & India Report)
BrahMos Aerospace is working to develop hypersonic reusable missiles, The Tribune quoted Sudhir Kumar Mishra, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of BrahMos as saying on Jan. 19. The boomerang missile would have a capacity to deliver the warhead, assess the destruction of target, come back and get ready to go again at a speed of more than Mach 10.

Mishra called the project highly challenging, but Indian scientists are capable of doing the job, he said. BrahMos Aerospace, which is co-owned by the Indian and Russian governments, manufactures the supersonic cruise missile that is named after the Brahmaputra and the Moskva rivers. (1/20)

Florida's Bill Nelson in Last Line of Defense for Democrats (Source: Tallahassee Democrat)
Democrat Bill Nelson insists he’s not worried. Donald Trump now occupies the White House. Republicans control both chambers of Congress. And key priorities of former President Obama that Nelson fought for are in peril. But only a couple of hours after watching Trump take the oath of office, the Florida senator sat in his Capitol Hill office calmly explaining why he thinks the dramatic steps Trump emphatically promised to take on the campaign trail — and during his inaugural speech — won’t be so easy to accomplish.

Nelson’s perch on key panels means he’ll be at the negotiating table when Republicans decide they need Democratic help to pass bills. He’s the senior Democrat on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee which will help craft the infrastructure bill Trump wants and which oversees the agencies that measure the effects of climate change on the planet. He’s a top senator on the Armed Services Committee that will help set the nation’s military policies. And he was just named to a subcommittee that will examine cyber security in the wake of Russia’s interference in U.S. elections. (1/21)

India Defers Much-Awaited Heaviest Rocket Launch (Source: Space Daily)
Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has decided to postpone the launch of its heaviest rocket GSLV Mk-III by a few months as it did not complete the necessary tests on time. The Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) was scheduled for launch on January 20.

"Subsequently, some more tests are planned for the vehicle and the stage level tests also got delayed. Now, these tests will be conducted this month. If any issues arise during the tests we will correct them," said K Sivan. The launch campaign for the first developmental flight of GSLV Mk-III began on September 29, 2016, at Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC), Sriharikota. The rocket will deploy an indigenous communication satellite GSAT-19, weighing 3.3 tons and carrying Ka/ Ku band payloads. (1/23)

January 22, 2017

Renewed Hope of a Mission to Mars (Source: The Hill)
Speculation regarding potential shifts in domestic and international policy as a result of the recent election has been running rampant lately, and U.S. space exploration policy is no exception. Space professionals and policy makers alike are hypothesizing and prognosticating about what they believe the future will bring in space, but in reality, these are all, at best, just educated guesses. Click here. (1/21)

A Vehicle for Ferrying Space Tourists on Missions to the Moon (Source: Globe & Mail)
Last summer, Imaginactive released the Solar Express space train concept, which reduced travel time between Earth and Mars. Creating a space train is not a new idea. In fact, Dr. Buzz Aldrin is working on a similar concept that would help us colonize the solar system in different stages.

Our Cycler concept finds its inspiration from the Aldrin Mars Cycler project. We tried to imagine how a spacecraft like this would look if it were built with technology being developed today. Therefore the Cycler pictures technology from Bigelow Aerospace, Masten Space Systems, and SpaceX, among others.

The Cycler’s largest part would be Bigelow Aerospace’s inflatable B330 modules, which would be linked together to form a series of three space wagons. These modules would be attached together by an interface modules (IM) that would each include lateral ‘Jefferies’ tubes connectors. Each Cycler would be manned by four astronauts and would each be capable of transporting up to 12 passengers, most of whom would probably be space tourists going on the six-day trip around the moon. Click here. (1/22)

If Justin Trudeau  Wants "Moon Shots," He Should Go For It! (Source: Commercial Space Blog)
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is looking for " Moon Shots." The Federal government's website on  Canada's Innovation Agenda, Innovation for a Better Canada, What you Told Us ," provides some context for this. It states:  "In a previous generation, the United States was inspired to put a man on the moon. That mission launched breakthroughs and inventions that went well beyond the space program and fueled decades of innovation driven by science and technology. Canadians yearn for a similar kind of vision and leadership. Many called for government to take a proactive role in sponsoring "moon shots" that would keep Canada at the forefront of science and technology." (1/20)

SpaceX May Be About to Launch One of its Final Expendable Rockets (Source: Ars Technica)
After successfully returning to flight on Jan. 14th, SpaceX will make its next launch from Cape Canaveral no earlier than Jan. 30th. With this mission from a new pad at Launch Complex 39A, SpaceX will loft the EchoStar 23 communications satellite. This is a heavy satellite, weighing 5.5 metric tons, and getting it out to about 40,000km from the surface of the Earth will require pretty much all of the lift capacity of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket.

This would leave almost no propellant for the Falcon 9 rocket to fire its engines to slow down, make a controlled descent through the Earth's atmosphere, and attempt a difficult landing on a drone ship. Elon Musk confirmed that the rocket will therefore indeed be expendable. "Future flights will go on Falcon Heavy or the upgraded Falcon 9," he added.

In other words, in the future such heavy payloads will either be launched on the more powerful Falcon Heavy (consisting of three Falcon 9 cores, designed for return), or a slightly more powerful variant of the Falcon 9 rocket. Although SpaceX may launch one or two more expendable rockets, Musk is saying the plan here onward is to try and launch everything on reusable boosters. (1/22)

Who Launches What, Carrying How Much From Where. (Source: SPACErePORT)
The SPACErePORT's chart of international orbital launch vehicles has been updated and now includes 58 rockets that are operational, in development, or proposed, operating from spaceports around the globe. The chart also gives payload capacities to low Earth orbit. Click here. (1/23)

NASA Installs SLS Platforms in VAB (Source: Florida Today)
Kennedy Space Center recently completed a significant milestone in its preparations to work on the Space Launch System exploration rocket. The last of 20 platforms — paired to form 10 levels — that will give workers access to the 322-foot rocket and Orion crew capsules was installed in High Bay 3 of the Vehicle Assembly Building. NASA and contractor employees signed the last platform half before hoisting it into position on the uppermost level earlier this month. The space agency is targeting a late 2018 test flight of the SLS and an unmanned Orion from launch pad 39B. (1/22)

NASA to Host Melbourne Tech Business Leaders for KSC Tour/Briefing (Source: SPACErePORT)
About 30 members of the Space Coast Tech Council, mostly representing tech companies in the community south of the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, will tour Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday to learn about NASA's evolving programs and priorities. (1/23)

Proposed Georgia Spaceport is a Serious Threat to the Cumberland Island National Seashore (Source: Savannah Morning News)
If the proposed spaceport becomes a reality, launches would result in large portions (and potentially all) of the National Seashore being closed and evacuated to clear the Launch Hazard Areas established by the FAA for each launch. These closures could last for days in situations where a launch is scrubbed one or more times, which is very frequently the case. The National Park Service has expressed concern that such closures would result in citizens being denied the use and enjoyment of the National Seashore.

In addition to the impact of park closures, there is substantial risk of damage and destruction to the National Seashore from an exploding rocket. Unlike other vertical launch spaceports around the United States, the site for the proposed spaceport in Camden County is not yards from the coastline. The site for the proposed spaceport is approximately 6 miles inland, and rockets launched from the proposed spaceport would have to travel over the National Seashore on their way “up and out.” (1/21)

NASA Absent From Inaugural Parade (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
When President Barack Obama had his first Inaugural Parade on Jan. 20, 2009, NASA was placed dead last in the procession (even behind the “World Famous” Lawn Rangers). However, for the Inaugural Parade of Donald J. Trump, held on Jan. 20 of this year (2017), NASA was not represented at all. When he was re-elected in 2012, Obama’s second Inaugural Parade saw the U.S. Space Agency jumped to the first half of the parade, featuring the agency’s Orion crew vehicle and Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity. (1/21)

Another Earth Just 14 Light Years Away? Maybe Not, Says New Study (Source: CSM)
In December 2015, a research team at Australia’s University of New South Wales announced the discovery of three rocky planets orbiting the star Wolf 1061. One of these planets, dubbed Wolf 1061c, fell within the circumstellar habitable zone. Discoveries of these “Earth-like” worlds have stirred hopes of discovering life beyond our solar system. But after taking a closer look at Wolf 1061c, Stephen Kane has his doubts about whether we’ll find it there. “It’s close enough to Wolf 1061 where it’s looking suspiciously like a runaway greenhouse,” said Professor Kane. (1/21)

Scientists Enter Hawaii Dome in Eight-Month Mars Space Mission Study (Source: Reuters)
Six scientists have entered a dome perched atop a remote volcano in Hawaii where they will spend the next eight months in isolation to simulate life for astronauts traveling to Mars, the University of Hawaii said. The study is designed to help NASA better understand human behavior and performance during long space missions as the U.S. space agency explores plans for a manned mission to the Red Planet.

The crew will perform geological field work and basic daily tasks in the 1,200-square-foot (365 m) dome, located in an abandoned quarry 8,000 feet (2.5 km) above sea level on the Mauna Loa volcano on Hawaii's Big Island. There is little vegetation and the scientists will have no contact with the outside world, said the university, which operates the dome. Communications with a mission control team will be time-delayed to match the 20-minute travel time of radio waves passing between Earth and Mars. (1/20)

Did a British Trident Missile Launched Off Cape Canaveral Veer Toward the U.S.? (Source: Independent)
The wayward Trident missile was reportedly unarmed at the time of the malfunction, which occurred shortly after it was launched by the submarine HMS Vengeance off the coast of Florida last June. The Commons voted to renew the nuclear deterrent in July. It was intended to be fired 5,600 miles to a sea target off the west coast of Africa but may have veered off towards America instead. A source told the Sunday Times: "There was a major panic at the highest level of government and the military after the first test of our nuclear deterrent in four years ended in disastrous failure." Click here. (1/22)

ULA Sends SBIRS Satellite to Space From Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The Atlas V rocket successfully lifted off from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport at 7:42 p.m. The rescheduled rocket launch sent a satellite into space for the U.S. Air Force, marking the return to launches for Cape Canaveral. The payload, a Space-Based Infrared System satellite, will improve capabilities in four military-defense arenas. (1/20)

SpaceX's Next Big Hurdle: Reusing a Rocket (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Reusing a rocket that has already delivered a payload into space is the next big thing for commercial space pioneer SpaceX. There's little doubt the company can do it; the technology exists. But many observers in the industry and at research institutions are waiting to see just how much reusability will cost. On one hand, reusing rockets could dramatically cut launch costs. That would be great for the commercial space industry, space exploration and Florida's Space Coast.

But skeptics say retooling costs — not to mention possible added risk — may cancel out any benefits. The proof will come as SpaceX gets closer to reusing seven Falcon 9 boosters that have successfully landed after delivering a payload into orbit. The company plans to relaunch a rocket for the first time near the end of February, from Florida. (1/20)

SpaceX Leads Space Exploration Renaissance, and Jobs, in South Texas (Source: San Antonio Express-News)
It’s hard to imagine that the pile of sand and earth being compacted near the southernmost tip of Texas will soon launch Elon Musk’s dreams one rocket at a time into space. That is where SpaceX is building the company’s first [fully] commercial launch pad — the SpaceX South Texas Launch Site — near Boca Chica Beach just a few miles north of the Mexican border in the Rio Grande Valley.

The company remains on track to open for commercial rocket launching as early as next year. Musk’s new launch pad, along with other companies in the race to commercialize space, are feeding a growing workforce and research hub exploring the universe that’s emerging in the Rio Grande Valley. United Launch Alliance — Musk’s main competitor — has about 160 employees tucked inside a nondescript hangar at Harlingen’s Valley International Airport about 47 miles northwest of the SpaceX launch site where ULA quietly has been assembling nose cones for Atlas V rockets over the past 30 years.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said that in May 2015, people working in the Brownsville-Harlingen metropolitan area made a mean hourly wage of $16.21 an hour — or a little more than $33,000 a year. Residents also talked about reversing the “brain drain” that occurs on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. Alma Guerrero-Miller of UT Rio Grande Valley, said that states on both sides complain that “their most talented people … will not stay on the border.” “Our best people were leaving,” she said. "... Now there is something to pursue down here, there is something I can see.”  (1/20)

Incentives Helped Bring SpaceX to South Texas (Source: San Antonio Express-News)
The launch pad was brought to Boca Chica about two years ago with at least $13 million in incentives from the Texas Spaceport Trust Fund to the Cameron County Spaceport Development Corp. to build the infrastructure, according to Sam Taylor, deputy press secretary for the Texas governor’s office.

Another $2.3 million was provided through a grant from the Texas Enterprise Fund. SpaceX has committed to eventually hire 300 employees in the local area, and expects the Boca Chica launch site to be finished in 2017 for launches in 2018, said SpaceX spokesman John Taylor. (1/20)

Why Hasn't a Female Astronaut Been to the Moon? (Source: Newsweek)
By the standards used in the rest of the industry, the entire program was a test program. Certainly, every flight up the the landing was. And that meant NASA needed test pilots. Not just any test pilots, but the very best of those seasoned by America’s military jet and rocket aircraft, and those with exemplary backgrounds in engineering.

This was just good sense, but it also precluded women. There were very few female engineers in 1961, and none were high-performance test pilots. Women were never considered, and at that time and under those circumstances, should not have been considered. It’s a sad commentary on our society, however, that no female candidates were available.  (1/21)

Winners and Potential Losers of the Obama and Trump Administrations (Source: Room)
As President Obama steps down today and gives way to the new political powerhouse of the 45th President of the United States of America, Donald Trump, what did Obama see as success in regards to space-related activities and what is on the agenda for Trump’s new Administration?

In the weeks leading up to todays inauguration President Obama directed all of his Cabinet-level appointees to prepare "exit memos" on progress made during his Administration and what needs to come next. NASA was not able to prepare one directly as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration is not a cabinet-level agency, however the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) did prepare a list of accomplishments that NASA and other government science and technology organizations have achieved.  Click here. (1/20)

Trump Vows to "Unlock the Mysteries of Space," Whatever That Means (Source: Inverse)
Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President. His speech, not unexpectedly, was slim on specifics about for what he envisioned to do over the next four, possibly eight years. Even less expected was any talk about space, but Trump managed to make a quick, vague reference to U.S. investigations regarding space exploration: “We stand at the birth of a new millennium ready to unlock the mysteries of space, to free the earth from the miseries of disease and to harness the energies, industries and technologies of tomorrow."

The few actions one could reasonably expect are: 1) Vice President Mike Pence will probably be directing space policy for the administration; 2) The new administration may be looking into an extensive push to strengthen military assets in space and create a concerted push to further militarize Earth’s orbit; 3) NASA’s budget might be downsized in an effort to boost to allow the commercial sector to take over low Earth orbit operations and research; 4) NASA’s Earth science programs — essential for studying climate change — will probably be shred to pieces. Click here. (1/20)

Japan's Space Industry Gets Some New Life (Source: Nikkei)
Japan's space industry is set to take off in 2017, thanks to a growing number of private enterprises moving toward the launch pad. The state-run Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, as well as heavy machinery makers Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and IHI have so far been key engines of Japan's aerospace industry. Now other companies aspire to break in.

In November 2016, Japan's parliament enacted two important bills, making it easier for private companies to go to space. One of them, the space activity law, specifically allows companies to launch artificial satellites if they meet certain criteria. Among the new market entrants are Interstellar Technologies, Astroscale, PD Aerospace and Canon Electronics. Click here. (1/21)

The Jokes About This Rocket Leaving Trump's America Write Themselves (Source: Mashable)
The day Donald Trump was sworn in as president, this rocket was busy ditching Earth. The rose gold-hued Atlas V lifted off from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport in Florida on Friday. The rocket's payload — the Air Force's Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) GEO Flight 3 satellite — is designed to help detect missile launches worldwide. While the ULA launch and the presidential inauguration weren't related, it didn't stop people (including this reporter) from making jokes about the timing of the two events.  (1/21)

What’s Next for Science and Tech? Key Posts are in Limbo as Trump Takes Charge (Source: GeekWire)
Although President Donald Trump says he’s ready to delve into the mysteries of space, he still has to make key appointments at NASA and other agencies dealing with science and technology policy. And some of the picks he’s already made pose challenges. For example, his nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency has in the past filed lawsuits against the EPA. And his nominee for energy secretary, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, once sought to have that Cabinet department eliminated. Click here. (1/21)

Would You Give Up Perfect Vision for a Trip to Space? (Source: Atlantic)
The experience of weightlessness is confusing for human bodies. The eyes tell you you're gently bobbing up and down, while your inner ear screams that you're tumbling about, making you nauseous. The fluids in your body, freed from gravity, float upward, causing head congestion. Bones, suddenly useless in holding you up and moving you around, start thinning out. And something strange can happen to your eyeballs: They get squashed, blurring your vision.

About two-thirds of astronauts on the International Space Station report changes in their vision after they come back. Scans show that the backs of their eyeballs somehow get flattened, their retinas wrinkle, and their optic nerves swell after spending a prolonged period of time in microgravity, causing farsightedness. The leading explanation suggests that when bodily fluids rise and pool in astronauts' torsos and heads, they put pressure on the brain and the back of the eye, causing changes in its shape. (1/21)

Trump Names Former Climate Scientist to NASA Advisory Role (Source: WIRED)
Greg Autry and Erik Noble have been named as presidential liaisons at NASA. Both have backgrounds in the field, and Noble has even done some climate science. Trump named Autry his White House liaison and Noble his White House senior advisor at NASA. They’ll probably work together to maintain open lines of communication between the space agency and the Oval Office.

Autry, in addition to serving on Trump’s NASA-specific transition team, has been a professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business focusing on commercial spaceflight. He’s also the coauthor of Death by China, an alarmist look at Sino-American trade relations. That suggests pro-Elon, anti-taikonaut views.

Noble is a veteran of the Trump campaign, in which he served as a data analyst. Before that, he was an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Center, doing climate and weather prediction modeling. Such a background would not seem to square with Trump’s climate change denialism and clear disdain for government-funded climate research. “Having someone in this position with such a strong background in atmospheric science is a good thing,” says Marco Tedesco. (1/21)

Rumous Swirl About Trump's Science Adviser Pick (Source: Nature)
President Donald Trump has met with two rumoured front-runners for the role of White House science adviser. Trump met with David Gelernter — a computer scientist at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, and a critic of liberal academia — on 16 January. And on 13 January, Trump met with William Happer, a physicist at Princeton University who rejects the notion that carbon dioxide emissions from human activities will cause dangerous levels of global warming. Several media reports have identified the two men as contenders for the science-adviser job. (1/20)

Elon Musk's Surprising Secret Weapon: Trump? (Source: CNN)
Just days before Donald Trump won the election, Elon Musk expressed a common sentiment in Silicon Valley: "He is not the right guy." But it turns out Trump may be the right guy for Musk and his businesses. In recent weeks, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO has been named to Trump's team of business advisers and visited Trump Tower twice. The first time he was part of a big meeting with tech CEOs; the second came earlier this month for a private meeting with Trump's top aides.

That Musk could profit more under Trump than President Obama may come as a shock to most. At first blush, Musk and Trump couldn't seem more at odds in their priorities. One has taken an adversarial stance on immigration and climate change; the other came to the U.S. from South Africa (by way of Canada) and built a roughly $40 billion business to help the environment.

"They're both grandmaster-level salespeople and these very much larger-than-life figures," said Peter Thiel, who cofounded PayPal with Musk and serves on Trump's transition team. Some take issue with the comparison, however. "At his core, Trump is a consummate salesman working in real estate, which is very, very different than what Elon is: a visionary engineer who is reinventing manufacturing, transportation and space travel," says Calacanis. (1/20)

These Threats From Outer Space Could End Life on Earth (Source: Newsweek)
If you ask yourself what the biggest threat to human existence is you’d probably think of nuclear war, global warming or a large-scale pandemic disease. But assuming we can overcome such challenges, are we really safe? Living on our blue little planet seems safe until you are aware of what lurks in space. The following cosmic disasters are just a few ways humanity could be severely endangered or even wiped out. Happy reading! Click here. (1/20)

January 21, 2017

ESA Gets 9.5% Budget Increase in 2017, Led by Navigation (Source: Space Intel Report)
The 22-nation European Space Agency's 2017 budget shows a 9.5 percent increase over 2016 and reflects some of the decisions made at the meeting of ESA's governments in December, such as approval of new money for the ExoMars exploration project with Russia. This year's budget shows the continued heavy investment in Earth observation programs, which remains ESA's largest single investment line. The total budget of 5.75 billion euros ($6.1 billion) is composed of 3.78 billion euros from ESA's member governments, plus nearly 1.7 billion euros from the 28-nation European Union and about 183 million euros from Europe's meteorological satellite organization, Eumetsat. (1/19)

From School to Space: Satellite Built by Brazilian Students Launched in Orbit (Source: Space Daily)
A satellite built by students of a Brazilian middle school was launched into space from aboard the International Space Station on Monday, January 16. The Tancredo-1 satellite, developed by the students of Tancredo de Almeida Neves Municipal School in the city of Ubatuba, measures only 13 centimeters in diameter and weighs about 700 grams. (1/20)

McCain Unhappy With DOD Space R&D Cuts (Source: Space News)
The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee is criticizing the Defense Department for cuts in space-related R&D. A report issued this week by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) noted that while threats to space assets are growing "with alarming speed," the Defense Department has cut research and development spending on space systems from $5 billion a year to less than $1 billion from 2009 to 2016. McCain, in a report that broadly addressed requirements for defense spending, said that "space must be a priority for additional funding" in the years to come to counter those emerging threats. (1/19)

OHB Speeds Production of Smaller GEO Satellites (Source: Space News)
OHB System is working to speed up production of its line of small geostationary satellites. The first SmallGEO satellite, Hispasat 36W-1, is scheduled to launch next week, seven years after it was ordered. OHB said technical challenges stretched out the production time of that satellite, and expects to build future satellites in about three years. (1/19)

Trump Considering Human Mars Mission? (Source: Washington Post)
Some speculate that incoming President Donald Trump is considering supporting a revamped humans-to-Mars program. Trump reportedly talked about Mars exploration and public-private partnerships with Elon Musk during a meeting. Trump also talked with historian Douglas Brinkley about the Apollo program and how it brought the country together in the 1960s. (1/19)

Trump Planning Significant Budget Cuts (Source: The Hill)
The Trump administration, though, is reportedly planning significant budget cuts. Plans being developed by his advisers call for "dramatic" cuts to non-defense programs, including major changes in various cabinet-level agencies. The report did not specifically address potential cuts to NASA programs, or space-related programs at other agencies, like NOAA. (1/19)

Earth Microbes Could Survive on Mars (Source: Space.com)
Terrestrial microbes could survive in the tenuous atmosphere of Mars, according to a new study. Scientists studied several types of microbes known as methanogens, which do not require oxygen and could live just below the surface of Mars. They tested the microbes by exposing them to atmospheric conditions like those found on Mars. The microbes survived in that environment during experiments lasting up to three weeks. Future tests plan to study how the microbes handle both Martian atmospheric conditions and low temperatures. (1/19)

We Are Growing Crops in Space But What About Animal Protein? (Source: 21st Century Tech)
NASA is experimenting with growing edible plants in space. The first vegetables have already been harvested from the Veggie Plant Growth System on the International Space Station (ISS). Lettuce plants grown in 2010 were picked and frozen to return to Earth to see if space provided a safe environment for food production. Space farming is seen as a necessary technological advancement if humans are to travel to Deep Space destinations like near-Earth asteroids or inhabit the surface of Mars.

For this purpose NASA’s Veggie uses a “cut-and-come-again” technique to repeatedly harvest leaves from edible plants while leaving the core intact. This allows for continuous regeneration of the plant and harvests every 10 days. But how much lettuce can a crew eat before the novelty and lack of vegetable and fruit varieties wears thin? What is in the works to introduce space-grown animal protein? We know that human bodies are affected by the micro gravity of space. Bones get thinner. Muscle mass is lost. Our circulatory systems get lazy and our heads swell. Would the same thing happen to animals we bring into space? Click here. (1/17) 

2017 Rocket Campaign Begins in Alaska (Source: Space Daily)
A NASA sounding rocket campaign during January through March 2017, at the Poker Flat Research Range in Alaska will support the effort to better understand the space that surrounds Earth - key situational awareness needed as humans seek to explore beyond our home planet. Three missions, including five separate launches, explore the Earth's magnetic environment and its impact on Earth's upper atmosphere and ionosphere.

Each of the three missions expands our understanding of near-Earth space, including new information about the composition of the atmosphere, as well as processes behind how the sun, solar winds, and Earth's magnetosphere affect auroras. Such research helps create a robust, detailed understanding of the dynamic low Earth orbit environment in which our spacecraft and astronauts travel. (1/20)

How Cheap Internet Access Could Be SpaceX’s Secret Weapon (Source: Fortune)
In November, SpaceX filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission to launch 4,425 satellites into orbits between 690 and 825 miles above the Earth. “Once fully deployed, the SpaceX System will pass over virtually all parts of the Earth’s surface and therefore, in principle, have the ability to provide ubiquitous global service,” SpaceX said in its application. “Every point on the Earth’s surface will see, at all times, a SpaceX satellite.”

To put this project’s ambitions into context, there are currently 4,256 satellites orbiting the planet. Only 1,419 of them are working. The rest are effectively space junk. So Musk wants to put three times as many satellites into the sky as there are in operation right now.

SpaceX will first deploy 1,600 satellites to offer Internet access in the U.S., and the rest to expand coverage around the world. It’s not clear whether SpaceX will offer access directly or through other companies like Google, which in 2015 participated in a $1 billion investment in SpaceX to help it build satellites. (1/18)

Obama’s NASA Made Strides on Commercial Space, but Stumbled on Exploration (Source: The Verge)
Under the Obama administration, NASA has had a dynamic eight years. The Mars Curiosity rover landed, intact, on the surface of the Red Planet, and the Kepler mission launched to find planets outside our Solar System. NASA’s Juno spacecraft put itself into orbit around Jupiter, while the New Horizons mission flew by Pluto, marking the first time the tiny world had ever been explored. All the while, the space agency has maintained a steady human presence in lower Earth orbit, and plans to extend operations of the International Space Station until 2024.

Many of those major events had been set in motion before Obama took office, though. Still the outgoing president has left a substantial footprint on the space agency over the past eight years. In the space community, Obama will undoubtedly be heralded for focusing on stronger partnerships with the private sector. And Obama has made a big commitment to NASA’s Earth Science programs, as well as the agency’s investments in technology development.

But not all of Obama’s decisions for NASA have been met with praise. The Space Shuttle program ended during his administration, and the US has had no way of sending people to space without cooperation from Russia (both set in motion before Obama). And NASA has gone through a pivotal transformation in recent years, as a result of Obama. The president shifted NASA’s focus from a return to the Moon to a human mission to Mars. Click here. (1/19)

6 Things to Know About Trump and NASA (Source: Space.com)
Ahead of Donald Trump's presidential inauguration today (Jan. 20), here are six things to know about the soon-to-be-president's actions and projected plans relating to NASA. The incoming president likely will have to make decisions regarding a few key NASA programs. Click here. (1/20)

President Trump's 'Mysteries of Space' Joins Inaugural Speech Tradition (Source: Space.com)
President Donald Trump took the oath of office in Washington, D.C., today (Jan. 20) and mentioned space exploration — if for one fleeting moment — as one of the paths forward to make America great again. "No challenge can match the heart and fight and spirit of America. We will not fail. Our country will thrive and prosper again," Trump said in his inaugural address. "We stand at the birth of a new millennium, ready to unlock the mysteries of space, to free the Earth from the miseries of disease and to harness the energies, industries and technologies of tomorrow." (1/20)

This Is How YOU Can Do Science During the Great American Eclipse (Source: Seeker)
The 2017 solar eclipse that sweeps across the United States this August — which is being called the Great American Eclipse — will be the science highlight of the year. Whether you are an amateur or professional astronomer or an occasional stargazer, NASA is on the hunt for people eager to contribute to science during the eclipse.

Tyler Nordgren is an astronomy professor at the University of Redlands in California, who will give a talk on citizen science during the solar eclipse at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference in Boston next month. To do some experimenting, you need little more than a pair of solar eclipse glasses and a smart phone. Click here. (1/20)

SpaceX to Reopen Legendary Kennedy Launch Site (Source: Florida Politics)
Kennedy Space Center is getting back in the rocket business, now that SpaceX is back in business. SpaceX is planning to launch its next rockets in the next few weeks from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A . They will be the first rockets to blast off from Kennedy Space Center since the space shuttle program was shut down more than five years ago.

NASA announced Thursday that the company will launch another cargo load to the International Space Station on a Falcon 9 rocket, sometime in February, from Launch Complex 39A. The exact date has not been set. But that won’t even be the first. SpaceX also is planning a private launch from the site before then, though the company has not announced any details on the exact date or customer. The company is in line to lift two different commercial satellite missions  into space this winter, for the Luxembourg SES-10 satellite, and for the Brazilian EchoStar satellite. (1/19)

Space Junk Mission Leads 2017 Rocket Launches (Source: CNN)
Space needs cleaning if costly catastrophic collisions are to be avoided, scientists warn. Several litter-picking ideas to remove space junk from Earth orbit, including a net, a harpoon and a sail are due to be tested later in 2017. Led by scientists from the Surrey Space Center in the UK and funded by the European Commission, the RemoveDEBRIS project aims to tackle the growing problem of orbiting garbage that threatens satellites vital for the Internet, cell phones and navigation. (1/20)

UAE to Launch Project Space Forum (Source: SpaceWatch Middle East)
Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, Chairman of MBRSC and general supervisor of all projects of the Center and its strategic and development plans, MBRSC is launching the first edition of “Project Space” Forum on the 24 and 25 January 2017 at Dubai World Trade Center.

As the first of its kind to be held in the region, the event aims to create a platform for young generation interested in science, exploration and innovation in the UAE to help them benefit from the knowledge and experiences of space scientists and experts. These inspirational figures will come from around the world to the UAE to share their discoveries and hopes for an industry that will surely define the future of humanity. (1/20)

Akatsuki Returns From the Dead (Source: Boulder Weekly)
It is Dec. 7, 2015. We’re in Sagamihara, Japan, a little southwest of Tokyo. On a clear day like today, you can just make out the silhouette of Mount Fuji in the distance. We are standing outside of the control room of the Japanese Aerospace eXploration Agency (JAXA), watching as a spacecraft named Akatsuki is preparing for its arrival at Venus.

Success here means the beginning of a promising collaboration between JAXA and NASA scientists — mostly between JAXA and Boulder scientists, since four of the eight scientists chosen by NASA to work with the Japanese on this ground-breaking mission are based in Boulder. The team includes myself, along with Mark Bullock, Kandis Lea Jessup and Eliot Young, all from the Southwest Research Institute. (1/19)

January 20, 2017

Canada Says Broadband is a Basic Right for All (Source: Satellite Today)
The Canadian government has pledged to provide high-speed internet access across the entire country, expanding connectivity via a $750 million investment. Some 90 rural communities in Canada currently receive telecommunications services via satellite. (1/18)

Student Rocketry Teams to Compete for FAR-MARS Prize (Source: Mars Society)
Student-built rockets will streak into the stratosphere in Spring 2018 as college and university engineering teams from around the world compete for $100,000 in prizes in a contest sponsored jointly by the Mars Society, headquartered in Lakewood, CO and the California-based Friends of Amateur Rocketry (FAR), officers announced today.
 
The FAR-MARS Prize will grant $50,000 to the team whose bi-propellant liquid-fueled rocket comes closest to reaching 45,000 feet (13,716 meters). A second $50,000 prize will go to the team that comes nearest to hitting that same altitude with a rocket powered by liquid methane and liquid oxygen, announced Dr. Robert Zubrin, president of the Mars Society, and Mark Holthaus, director and treasurer of FAR. (1/19)

North Korean Media Hints Impending ICBM Test under Space Rocket Ruse (Source: KBS)
North Korea state media recently began highlighting the regime's aerospace development project. The North has been using its space program as a ruse to advance its intercontinental ballistic missile technologies. A North Korean media outlet on Friday carried an interview with an aerospace researcher, who claimed that a state space development program will begin in earnest.

The researcher was cited as saying that the state space agency will actively carry out its five-year aerospace development plan drawn up by the North Korean communist party. North Korean propaganda agencies have been discussing last February’s launch of the Kwangmyongsong-4 satellite, which was widely believed to be a satellite launch through which Pyongyang advanced its intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) technologies. (1/19)

How China Is Weaponizing Outer Space (Source: The Diplomat)
In the highly “informatized” and technologically advanced battles that characterize the 21st century, outer space will play a dominant role. Space assets direct military operations and help in making crucial battleground decisions. In this regard, attempts to weaponize space and command this sphere are to be expected from great powers. The United States and USSR started weaponizing space in the in the 1950s and 1960s respectively, and China is now following suit.

The weaponization of space includes placing weapons in outer space or on heavenly bodies as well as creating weapons that will transit outer space or simply travel from Earth to attack or destroy targets in space. Examples include the placing of orbital or suborbital satellites with the intention of attacking enemy satellites, using ground-based direct ascent missiles to attack space assets, jamming signals sent from enemy satellites, using lasers to incapacitate enemy satellites, plasma attacks, orbital ballistic missiles, and satellite attacks on Earth targets. (1/19)

Bigelow and NASA Consider Extended Use of BEAM Module (Source: Space News)
Bigelow Aerospace is in discussions with NASA about potential extended use of the company's experimental ISS module. The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) was installed on the station last year for a two-year test of its key technologies. Bigelow said the company and NASA "are in agreement to evolve BEAM into becoming an everyday asset aboard the ISS," although both NASA and Bigelow said later no agreement has been reached yet. (1/18)

Trump Considers Anti-Academic for Science Adviser (Source: Washington Post)
The incoming Trump administration is considering a controversial computer scientist as science adviser. David Gelernter met with President-elect Trump earlier this week in New York, and those involved in the transition say he is being considered for the science adviser post held in the Obama administration by John Holdren. Gelernter, a professor of computer science at Yale University, is described as a "vehement critic of modern academia."

Gelernter would be the first computer scientist to hold the position of science adviser, but also the first not to be a member of the National Academy of Sciences. In some ways, Gelernter is a characteristic Trump appointee. He shares the president-elect's bombastic rhetorical style and disdain for elites. In an October op-ed in the Wall Street Journal in which he reluctantly endorsed Trump, Gelernter compared President Obama to a “third-rate tyrant” and called Hillary Clinton a “phony.” (1/18)

UrtheCast Sells Satellites to Unnamed Government (Source: UrtheCast)
Canadian remote sensing company UrtheCast has sold two satellites of a planned constellation to an unnamed government. The company said this week that "a confidential government customer" has purchased the first two satellites of its OptiSAR system, an agreement valued at $180 million that includes shared operation of the entire constellation. UrtheCast is developing a constellation of 16 satellites that will provide high-resolution optical and synthetic aperture radar images. The company plans to launch the first eight satellites in late 2021. (1/18)

January 19, 2017

Who Will Lead NOAA Under President Trump? (Source: Washington Post)
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the parent organization of the National Weather Service, will introduce new leadership when President-elect Donald Trump assumes office. The agency is at a crossroads and faces many important challenges in the coming years. How these challenges are addressed will help define the next generation of weather and climate forecasts and observations, and also have key implications for the health of our oceans.

Three names mentioned repeatedly as candidates to head NOAA are: Scott Rayder, senior adviser for development and partnerships at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research; Barry Myers, chief executive of AccuWeather in State College, Pa.; and Jonathan White, president and chief executive of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership. (1/17)

ESA Plans to Cooperate With Russia on Three Moon Exploration Projects (Source: Sputnik)
The European Space Agency (ESA) plans to work with Russia on three moon exploration projects in addition to the joint ExoMars project, Head of ESA Moscow Office Rene Pischel said. Pischel told RIA Novosti that ESA ministers agreed in principle to cooperate with Russia on Luna-Glob (Luna 25), the first Luna-Resurs and the extension of the Luna-Resurs lander mission, at its December 2016 ministerial conference. (1/18)

Another Texas Airport Considers Spaceport Status (Source: Dallas Observer)
The Texas State Technical College airport's spaceport aspirations are the latest sign of the Lone Star State's faith in the commercial space industry. This increase in interest has been lucrative for Brian Gulliver, who leads the aerospace and spaceport practice at the firm Kimley-Horn. Gulliver is a former engineer with experience designing launchpad equipment for NASA and Air Force spaceports. These days he's one of a handful of consultants with any experience who can help transform airports into spaceports, as designated by the FAA.   

His latest client: The Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce and Texas State Technical College (TSTC), which hired the consultant for nearly $200,000 to analyze the possibility of creating a spaceport at the school's airport. In late December, a draft of the study found the airport's infrastructure could handle the operation of airplanes that launch space rockets or some spaceplanes that can use their own onboard engines to blast into space. The runway could also handle spaceplanes that launched elsewhere and need a place to land. (1/18)

Probable Cause and Potential Prevention of Vision Deterioration in Space Found (Source: Space Daily)
Vision deterioration in astronauts who spend a long time in space is likely due to the lack of a day-night cycle in intracranial pressure. But using a vacuum device to lower pressure for part of each day might prevent the problem, UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers said. Their study appears in the Journal of Physiology.

A change in vision is the No. 1 health risk for astronauts who spend extended periods of time on the International Space Station. The new research showed that intracranial pressure in zero-gravity conditions, such as exists in space, is higher than when people are standing or sitting on Earth, but lower than when people are sleeping on Earth. The researcher's finding suggests that the constancy of pressure on the back of the eye causes the vision problems astronauts experience over time. (1/18)

Reused Falcon-9 Moves Toward February Launch (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
The satellite that will be the first to launch on a reused Falcon 9 has arrived in Florida to begin launch preparations. The SES-10 satellite, shipped from its factory in Europe to Cape Canaveral over the weekend, is set to launch on a Falcon 9 in late February. That launch will use a Falcon 9 first stage that first launched a Dragon cargo spacecraft last April. SES and SpaceX announced the plan to fly SES-10 on a "flight-proven" Falcon 9 in August, shortly before a pad explosion put a halt to Falcon 9 launches. (1/17)

Nield: Don't Let Complexity Delay Start of Space Traffic Management (Source: Space News)
Government and industry shouldn't delay improved space traffic management capabilities despite a wide range of challenges facing the topic. A panel at a recent conference noted that improving the ability to monitor objects in Earth orbit and accurately predict potential collisions requires dealing with a number of issues, from data collection and analysis to regulatory issues. Nonetheless, the problem is important enough, they argued, to start work now rather than wait for a better solution later. "We need to avoid the temptation because it is a complex and challenging problem to try to get everything perfect before we start taking action," said the FAA's George Nield. (1/17)

Clocks 'Failed' Onboard Europe's Navigation Satellites (Source: AFP)
Europe's beleaguered Galileo satnav has suffered another setback, with clocks failing onboard a number of satellites in space, the European Space Agency said Wednesday. Designed to render Europe independent from America's GPS, the 10 billion-euro ($11 billion) project may experience further delays as the cause of the failure is investigated, ESA director general Jan Woerner said. Eighteen orbiters have been launched for the Galileo constellation to date, a number that will ultimately be boosted to 30 operational satellites and two spares. (1/18)

Enterprise Florida Offers Grants for Florida Companies to Participate in Trade Shows (Source: EFI)
Enterprise Florida is offering eligible small and medium-sized manufacturers and professional service providers Target Sector Trade Show Grants to help Florida companies grow export sales through overseas international trade shows. Target Sector Trade Show Grants are reimbursable grants that will help offset exhibition booth expenses for trade shows that Enterprise Florida participates in, as well as other approved trade shows in one of Florida's identified target sectors. The grant covers 50% of basic turnkey booth expenses, up to $6,000. Click here. (1/18)

NASA Moves to Secure Commercial Crew as Obama Administration Exits (Source: Parabolic Arc)
NASA had made a couple of major moves relating to human spaceflight this month as the Obama Administration would down toward its exit at noon on Friday. On Jan. 3, the space agency announced it had awarded four additional flights apiece to Boeing and SpaceX to carry crews to and from the International Space Station (ISS). Each company now has six flights for their Starliner and Crew Dragon vehicles, respectively.

“The additional flights will allow the commercial partners to plan for all aspects of these missions while fulfilling space station transportation needs,” NASA said. “Awarding these missions now will provide greater stability for the future space station crew rotation schedule, as well as reduce schedule and financial uncertainty for our providers,” said Phil McAlister, director, NASA’s Commercial Spaceflight Development Division. “The ability to turn on missions as needed to meet the needs of the space station program is an important aspect of the Commercial Crew Program.” (1/18)

Boeing's Starliner STA Arrives in California for Testing (Source: NASA)
Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft will experience a variety of tremendous internal and external forces during missions to and from the International Space Station.  When the Starliner launches in 2018, it won’t be the first time the spacecraft has encountered these forces.

That is because Boeing built a Structural Test Article that will experience the rigors of spaceflight in a test facility in an effort to prove the design of the spacecraft. The module was built inside the company’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida before it was shipped it across the country to Huntington Beach, California, for testing. (1/18)

Isavia Signs Agreement to Deploy Space-Based ADS-B (Source: SpaceRef)
On the heels of a successful launch of the first ten Iridium NEXT satellites on Saturday, January 14th, Aireon announced today that it has signed a data services agreement with Isavia, the Icelandic Air Navigation Service Provider (ANSP). Isavia will deploy Aireon's space-based Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) service throughout the Reykjavik Oceanic Control Area (OCA). In addition to providing enhanced redundancy to existing terrestrial surveillance resources in the southern part of the airspace, the Aireon service will, for the first time ever, provide real-time surveillance and tracking in the region extending from 70 degrees north to the North Pole.

With control of more than 5.4 million square kilometers of airspace, Isavia is looking to improve safety, and efficiency (through reduced separation) of operations by expanding the ADS-B service area. Continuity of service will be enhanced through use of Aireon's technology in airspace where line-of-sight surveillance is already. (1/18)

NASA's Curiosity Finds New Water Evidence in Possible Cracked Mud (Source: Engadget)
NASA's four-year-old Curiosity rover spent 2016 discovering new clues to Mars' history, including veins potentially from evaporated lakes and mineral deposits suggesting the planet once had oxygen. The craft spent the beginning of 2017 examining a newly-discovered natural formation: Rock cross-cut with ridges, which are probably mud cracks. Assuming that interpretation holds up, it will be the first mud cracks (okay, "desiccation cracks") confirmed by the rover. Regardless, the cracked surface formed 3 billion years ago and was buried by layers of sediment, which all became stratified rock. (1/18)

For Third Straight Time, Earth Sets Hottest Year Record (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Earth sizzled to a third-straight record hot year in 2016, with scientists mostly blaming man-made global warming with help from a natural El Nino that's now gone. Two U.S. agencies and international weather groups reported Wednesday that last year was the warmest on record. They measure global temperatures in slightly different ways, and came up with a range of increases, from minuscule to what top American climate scientists described as substantial. (1/18)

McCain Proposes Dramatic Spending Boost for Defense, Including Space (Source: Space Policy Online)
Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) has released a blueprint for a dramatic boost in defense spending. His plan, Restoring American Power, calls for repealing the law that created sequestration and adding $430 billion for defense spending over 5 years above the amounts proposed by President Obama. He believes space programs "must be a priority" for some of that additional funding.

McCain's plan covers defense spending at the Department of Defense as well as nuclear weapons programs at the Department of Energy (DOE). He casts blame widely for inadequate defense budgets and "abuse" of the off-budget Overseas Contingency Operations account. Republicans and Democrats, the White House and Congress are all at fault for the current situation in his view. (1/17)

New Ideas on Gravity Would Vanquish Dark Matter (Source: Ars Technica)
His central idea is that gravity is a consequence of information. In particular, gravity is driven by entropy, and entropy is related to available configurations of quantum states and entanglement between particles. All of these ideas were derived in the context of black hole physics. The big struggle was (and still is) to understand how a black hole dealt with quantum states. Could they cross the event horizon without destroying information?

Verlinde's insight was to see that any particular point in the Universe also has a horizon, given by the distance at which the expansion of the Universe occurs at speeds faster than light's. That means that some of the same issues that apply to black holes apply anywhere in the Universe. Which means we can use some of the same tools used to examine quantum information and black holes on the Universe as a whole.

When that's done, gravity naturally emerges. From the perspective of someone outside of this horizon, the same physics applies. The heavy lifting is to figure out how the view from outside corresponds to the internal gravity. This is exactly what Verlinde has done. The consequence, Verlinde claims, is that there is extra gravity compared to the mass. What's more, these gravitational contributions naturally occur at just the right scales to explain many phenomena that we explain with dark matter at the moment. (1/18)

Extreme Space Weather-Induced Electricity Blackouts Could Cost U.S. More Than $40 Billion Daily (Source: AGU)
The daily U.S. economic cost from solar storm-induced electricity blackouts could be in the tens of billions of dollars, with more than half the loss from indirect costs outside the blackout zone, according to a new study. Previous studies have focused on direct economic costs within the blackout zone, failing to take into account indirect domestic and international supply chain loss from extreme space weather. (1/18)

China to Launch Electromagnetic Monitoring Satellite for Earthquake Study (Source: Xinhua)
China will launch a satellite this year to gather electromagnetic data that may be used in monitoring and forecasting earthquakes. According to China's earthquake administrative agencies on Tuesday, the satellite will be launched in the latter half of this year. Movements of the Earth's crust generate electromagnetic radiation which can be observed from space.

By collecting data on the Earth's electromagnetic field, ionosphere plasma and high-energy particles, the satellite will be used in real-time monitoring of earthquakes and possible seismic precursors in China and neighboring regions. The satellite will be China's first space-based platform for earthquake monitoring, providing a new approach for research. (1/17)

China's Quantum Science Satellite Begins 'Spooky' and 'Unhackable' Experiments (Source: GB Times)
The world's first quantum science and communications satellite has been handed over to Chinese scientists for the official start of experiments to test the phenomena of quantum entanglement and 'unhackable' quantum communication. The Quantum Experiments at Space Scale (QUESS) satellite was launched on August 15 last year and soon after began testing its payloads and space-to-ground links.

The mission includes an unprecedented experiment to see if quantum entanglement - a phenomenon described by Albert Einstein as "spooky action at a distance" - can operate over long distances by sending entangled photons from the satellite to ground stations in China and Austria which are separated by around 1,200 kilometers.

It will use quantum key distribution (QKD) to test the possibilities for 'unhackable' communications, by generating encrypted keys through entangling particles or photons at the quantum level. The premise is that, due to the principles of quantum mechanics, any attempt by third parties to observe the transmissions will result in a collapse of the entangled state of the photons, making it impossible to eavesdrop on the message. (1/18)

Dark Energy Emerges When Energy Conservation is Violated (Source: Physics World)
The latest work proposes that the cosmological constant is instead the running total of all the non-conserved energy in the history of the universe. The "constant" in fact would vary – increasing when energy flows out of the universe and decreasing when it returns. However, the constant would appear unchanging in our current (low-density) epoch because its rate of change would be proportional to the universe's mass density. In this scheme, vacuum energy does not contribute to the cosmological constant.

The researchers had to look beyond general relativity because, like Newtonian mechanics, it requires energy to be conserved. Strictly speaking, relativity requires the conservation of a multi-component "energy-momentum tensor". That conservation is manifest in the fact that, on very small scales, space–time is flat, even though Einstein's theory tells us that mass distorts the geometry of space–time. (1/18)

Billions of NASA Contract Dollars Going to Russian Government (Source: Bloomberg)
Amid rising tensions over alleged Russian hacking in the U.S., NASA continues to pay Roscosmos, that country’s space agency, hundreds of millions of dollars to send crews to the International Space Station. NASA has spent $897 million with state-controlled Roscosmos since fiscal 2015 and $2.1 billion since the U.S. retired its space shuttle fleet in 2011, Bloomberg Government data show.

Congressional budget cuts to NASA’s Commercial Crew Program forced the agency to extend its contract with Roscosmos to keep sending American astronauts to the ISS, according to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden’s August 2015 letter to Congress.

Putin consolidated the Russian space industry into Roscosmos in 2015, placing several close advisers in senior positions, according to Senator John McCain. Among them are Chairman Dmitry Rogozin and board member Sergei Chemezov, who are listed as Specially Designated Nationals on the U.S. Department of the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control SDN Sanctions List. (1/18)

You Could Soon be Traveling Across the World on Rockets, Not Planes (Source: CNBC)
People could be traveling from country to country by rockets connected by "spaceports" in the future, the chief executive of Virgin Galactic told CNBC on Wednesday. Virgin Galactic is the space travel company founded by Richard Branson with the aim of taking satellites into space, as well allowing passengers to take suborbital flights above the Earth for $250,000. But the company also is developing plans for spacecraft to transport people across the Earth.

"We have, actually, very exciting plans on the horizon in terms of high-speed point to point travel," George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic, revealed in an interview with CNBC at the World Economic Forum in Davos. "You basically jump in a spaceship and go around the planet."

Virgin Galactic's only base right now is in New Mexico and called a "spaceport." But Whitesides said that the company has been approached by some countries to open spaceports in other locations. This could lead to a network of spaceports, just like airports nowadays. "That will form a network of spaceports that we could then use as the earliest form of point-to-point transportation. … It will take time, but what you'll see is a network of high-speed transportation networks, so we don't have to spend 10 to 15 hours crossing continents as we do today." (1/18)

What Was Up With That Puke-Filled, Space-Themed Date on 'The Bachelor'? (Source: Mashable)
The Bachelor got a little spacey on Monday night. Bachelor Nick Viall and contestant Vanessa Grimaldi, a special education teacher from Montreal, took a flight aboard a plane that designed to simulate the feeling of weightlessness you get in space. All in all, it's a pretty nerdy outing for a show that once sent a contestant on a Cinderella date. Clearly The Bachelor contains multitudes.

Viall and Grimaldi seemed to take to the weightlessness of the flight better than I did, however. The two reality TV stars bounced around, flipped and twirled like pros. That is, until Grimaldi learned first-hand why NASA's plane made for parabolic flights was nicknamed the "vomit comet" by members of the press. (1/17)

Teen is Raising Money to Send Girls to See 'Hidden Figures' (Source: Mashable)
Every once in a while Hollywood produces a movie so compelling that it almost becomes necessary viewing. For 13-year-old aspiring astronaut Taylor Richardson that was the case with Hidden Figures — a film that shines the spotlight on three brilliant black women at NASA who helped launch astronaut John Glenn into orbit. After having the opportunity to attend a Hidden Figures event at The White House in December and view a special screening of the film, Richardson decided to raise money to send other young girls to see it. (1/17)

January 18, 2017

China's First Cargo Spacecraft to Leave Factory (Source: Xinhua)
China's first cargo spacecraft will leave the factory, according to the website of China's manned space mission. A review meeting was convened last Thursday, during which officials and experts unanimously concluded that the Tianzhou-1 cargo spacecraft had met all the requirements to leave the factory. The take-off weight of Tianzhou-1 is 13 tonnes and it can ship material of up to six tonnes. The spacecraft, which is scheduled to be launched in April from the southern province of Hainan, will dock with the Tiangong-2 space lab and refuel it. (1/17)

Nine Prominent Early Astronauts Carrying on U.S. Space History (Source: OC Register)
Early U.S. space history is fading with the deaths of Gene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon, John Glenn, the last of the Mercury 7 astronauts, and Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. But others survive, veterans of a time when Americans were glued to their television sets to watch their heroics, from fiery Saturn V launches to ocean splashdowns.

More than half of the first 30 astronauts NASA hired have died. “There’s going to come a time and it’s probably going to be in the next decade or so when none of the moonwalkers are going to be left,” said National Air and Space Museum associate director Roger Launius. (1/16)

Prestwick Airport's Spaceport Hopes are Flight of Fancy (Source: Daily Record)
A leading aviation expert has branded transforming Prestwick into a spaceport as complete pie in the sky. Our airport is claimed to be the front runner to become the UK’s first base for firing satellites and tourists into orbit. But Laurie Price MBE suspects the space lure is now just a convenience – to allow the Scottish Government to continue ploughing millions of pounds of public money into it. He said firmly: “It will never happen and is just a fanciful notion.” (1/16)

NASA Considering Boeing Offer for Additional Soyuz Seats (Source: Space News)
NASA is proposing to purchase, through Boeing, additional Soyuz seats for International Space Station missions to both take advantage of Russian plans to decrease the size of its crew and as insurance against potential additional commercial crew delays.

In a “sources sought” procurement filing Jan. 17, NASA said it considering plans to acquire from Boeing two Soyuz seats on missions to the ISS in the fall of 2017 and the spring of 2018, and options for three additional Soyuz seats in 2019. Boeing, the filing stated, had obtained the rights to the seats from Soyuz manufacturer RSC Energia.

The two near-term seats take advantage of seats the Russians are vacating as a cost-saving measure. Roscosmos, the Russian state space corporation, announced in September it was reducing its crew on the ISS from three to two, starting in March and until the launch of a new laboratory module, expected some time in 2018. (1/17)

Boeing CEO Touts Contract Progress After Trump Meeting (Source: Law360)
Boeing's CEO Dennis Muilenburg said Tuesday he and President-elect Donald Trump had discussed driving down costs on the pending Air Force One replacement contract, as well as the possibility of the Pentagon buying Boeing’s F/A-18 instead of Lockheed Martin’s F-35, days after Trump held a similar meeting with Lockheed’s CEO. (1/17)

January 17, 2017

Eutelsat America’s All-Electric Satellite Enters Service After Seven-Month Journey (Source: Space News)
The second of two all-electric satellites fleet operator Eutelsat gained through its acquisition of Satmex began service Jan. 16 after finishing a seven-month journey to its orbital location, Eutelsat announced. Eutelsat 117 West B launched last June on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with ABS-2A, a similar all-electric satellite Boeing built for Bermuda-based ABS. Both satellites formed the second set in a four-satellite order paired with Falcon 9 dual launches. (1/16)

Global Sea Ice is at Lowest Level Ever Recorded (Source: New Scientist)
It’s a new low point. The area of the world’s oceans covered by floating sea ice is the smallest recorded since satellite monitoring began in the 1970s. That means it is also probably the lowest it has been for thousands of years. The latest observations from the US National Snow & Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado, show how the ice extent has fallen to a new low this year.

In the Arctic, the low in sea ice coverage is a result of both global warming and unusual weather events probably influenced by global warming. The extent of Arctic sea ice should be growing rapidly during the northern hemisphere winter. But not only has the Arctic been warming rapidly, this winter repeated incursions of warm air have pushed temperatures even further above average. (1/16)

Space Coast's Harris Corp. Hosted Payloads Fly With Iridium Satellites (Source: Space Daily)
Launched aboard an Iridium NEXT satellite on SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, these hosted maritime payloads are now being commissioned and are expected to be brought into service within the next four months.

The exactView RT system is the result of the agreement signed with Harris Corp. in June 2015 under which Harris deploys and operates the hosted payloads and exactEarth performs the ground-based data processing and has exclusive distribution rights for the data for all markets except the US Government. exactView RT will offer for the first time a continuous, global real-time ship tracking capability, providing an unprecedented view of the world's maritime domain to exactEarth customers. (1/17)

Russia to Swap Crewed Soyuz Spacecraft in Advance of March Launch (Source: Tass)
Russia is swapping the Soyuz spacecraft planned for the next crewed mission to the International Space Station. Roscosmos said Monday that the spacecraft that will be used for the Soyuz MS-04 mission to the ISS, scheduled for launch March 27, will be replaced with an identical version. Roscosmos said the swap was due to the "execution of contracts" involving ISS crew transportation and not a technical issue, but did not elaborate. (1/16)

ULA Postpones Atlas Launch From California Spaceport (Source: Noozhawk)
United Launch Alliance is postponing a launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base scheduled for next week because of a vehicle problem. ULA said Monday the launch of the NROL-79 mission on an Atlas 5, previously scheduled for Jan. 26, will be delayed because of an issue with the rocket's second stage uncovered in recent testing. A new launch date for the classified mission has not yet been announced. The delay does not affect Thursday's scheduled launch of another Atlas 5, carrying the SBIRS GEO-3 missile warning satellite, from Cape Canaveral. (1/16)

SpaceX’s Next Act Is A Critical One (Source: Baystreet)
For investors in the next generation of energy and in the emerging next-gen aerospace field, SpaceX’s story is a useful lesson. If SpaceX can return to form and complete a successful launch, questions about the firm will disappear – especially if the firm is able to re-land the rocket upon reentry. If SpaceX suffers more problems, doubts about the firm will grow exponentially though. (1/12)

Senator Targets Alaska Launch Site in Wasteful Spending Report (Source: Space News)
The company that operates an Alaska launch site is critical of the spaceport’s inclusion in a list of pork-barrel spending released last week by a senator. The 2017 edition of the “Wastebook” by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), a compendium of projects costing anywhere from tens of thousands to billions of dollars that the senator deemed a waste of taxpayer money, included the Pacific Spaceport Complex – Alaska (PSCA), previously known as the Kodiak Launch Complex, on Alaska’s Kodiak Island.

The report, released Jan. 10, is specifically critical of a contract worth up to $80.4 million awarded to Alaska Aerospace Corporation by the Missile Defense Agency in 2016. The six-year contract covers flight tests and other services planned for the spaceport. “DOD is sinking more than $80 million into a ‘spaceport’ in Alaska that is not even equipped for the rockets that the Pentagon is planning to launch there,” the report claims. “Derided as ‘space pork,’ Congress forced DOD to build the launch site as part of an illegal kick-back scheme over the objections of the military.”

Craig Campbell, chief executive of Alaska Aerospace Corp., took issue with the report’s focus on the spaceport’s development in the 1990s, including linking it to a scheme where two Army Space and Missile Defense Command employees collected $1.6 million in payments for directing $350 million in funds for various projects, including construction of the Kodiak launch site. (1/17)