July 18, 2018

Bridenstine Continues European Outreach for Exploration (Source: Space News)
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said he's had good conversations with other space agencies about cooperation on NASA's exploration plans. Bridenstine, attending the Farnborough International Airshow this week, said meetings with the head of ESA and other national space agencies, as well as with American and European companies, showed "a lot of support" for NASA's plans for returning humans to the moon. He said more details about those plans could be unveiled as soon as September. (7/18)

Lockheed Martin Undecided on UK Rocket (Source: Space News)
Lockheed Martin has yet to formally select the rocket it plans to fly from a new spaceport in the United Kingdom. The company, which received $31 million from the U.K. Space Agency Monday to establish launch operations at the spaceport in northern Scotland, did not disclose the identity of that small launch vehicle in its announcement or at a briefing at Farnborough Tuesday. There's widespread belief that the vehicle is the Electron from Rocket Lab, a company Lockheed made a strategic investment in, but Lockheed executives said only that that vehicle is where they're focusing their attention at the moment. In a separate statement, Rocket Lab said it's "excited" about the possibility of launching from Scotland, but added it's still reviewing the opportunity. (7/18)

UK Military Eyes On-Demand Space Launch from New Spaceport (Source: Defense News)
The creation of a new spaceport in Scotland has the British military eyeing the ability to get national security payloads into space in as little as 72 hours. The Malness spaceport is scheduled to have its first launch in 2023, with a Lockheed Martin-led team delivering six cubesats into orbit focused on a weather-monitoring project. But if Air Vice-Marshal Simon Rochelle, chief of staff for capability and force development with the Royal Air Force, has his way, military launches will start soon after.

“It may be beneficial to have as smallsat, a cube or something to be launched over a humanitarian disaster area, and you just happen to have one good to go and you can put it in the right place,” Rochelle said. “Then in a time of contested [activities], what you want to have is resilience. ... It just might need to be replacing a few as things happen and occur. It’s that ability. We think it’s important to be responsive.” (7/18)

UK Spaceport Could Support "Responsive" Military Launches (Source: Space News)
Officials from the United States and the United Kindgom see opportunities for cooperation in responsive space. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force, said at Farnborough Tuesday that he planned to visit the U.K. military's rapid capabilities office this week, with space being one potential area of partnership. The British military is considering using the country's new spaceport in Scotland to support responsive launch activities, such as launching small satellites on 72 hours' notice, and is interested in cooperating with the U.S. and other close allies on such efforts. Lockheed Martin's Rick Ambrose said the two countries have "very similar strategies" for faster and cheaper access to space. (7/18)

Russia Plans Angara Production by 2023 (Source: TASS)
Russia is preparing to ramp up production of its Angara rocket. Dmitry Rogozin, new head of the Russian state space corporation Roscosmos, said that "serial production" of the rocket should begin by 2022 or 2023 at a factory in the city of Omsk. Rogozin said that he expected the Proton launch vehicle to end service by 2025, citing "restrictions" posed on the use of one of the toxic propellants used by that rocket. (7/18)

Russian ISS Modules Could Orbit Moon with Gateway (Source: Sputnik)
Russia is considering repurposing modules intended to be added to the International Space Station for NASA's Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway. A Russian space industry source said modules still on the ground that Russia had planned to the ISS may instead become part of the Gateway, citing an expectation that ISS operations will end in the mid-2020s. The modules in question include a docking node and a science and power module. (7/18)

China Focuses on Moon Base While NASA Stays in Orbit (Source: Ars Technica)
A Chinese official reportedly took a dim view of NASA's Gateway plans. Pei Zhaoyu, deputy director of the Lunar Exploration and Space Program Center of the China National Space Administration, spoke this week at a workshop in Amsterdam on cooperation between China and Europe on lunar science missions. According to one attendee's account of his talk, Pei said that the Gateway would likely have "low cost-effectivness" and that while NASA and its partners focused on the Gateway, China planned to devote its attention to a "scientific research station" on the lunar surface. (7/18)

Access Roadway Nearing Completion at Spaceport America (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
A long-awaited upgrade for a road to New Mexico's Spaceport America is finally nearly complete. Local officials said the "southern road" linking the spaceport to Interstate 25 to the south has been paved, and final work on the road should be completed in August. The highway was previously a dirt road that was impassable for many cars, particularly after rains. The paved road will reduce travel times to the spaceport from southern New Mexico cities like Las Cruces by about 45 minutes. (7/18)

Ten New Moons Found Orbiting Jupiter (Source: Science)
Astronomers announced Tuesday the discovery of 10 more moons orbiting Jupiter. The moons, all just a few kilometers in diameter, were found using an upgraded telescope in Chile as part of a search for a hypothetical planet in the outer solar system. One of the new moons, dubbed Valetudo, stood out because it is orbiting in the opposite direction of other nearby moons and is likely to collide with one of those other moons at some point in the future. The discovery brings the total number of moons known to orbit Jupiter to 79. (7/18)

Rocket Launches Cost Airlines Money and Travelers Precious Time (Source: CNN)
When temporary no-fly zones appear above US rocket launch sites, airlines end up paying huge fuel costs to fly around them, while passengers have to spend more of their precious time in the air. In fact, a new study by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University calculates that all the extra fuel required to avoid restricted airspace during rocket launches costs airlines cumulatively between $10,000 and $30,000 per liftoff.

One launch can create a ripple affecting thousands of airline passengers. Last February's SpaceX launch of its Falcon Heavy rocket delayed 563 airline flights resulting in 62 extra miles added to flights across the southeastern United States, according to a report by the Air Line Pilots Association. Each flight was delayed an average of eight minutes. (7/18)

New Space Companies Confident About Future of Small Satellites (Source: Space News)
Executives around the “spacezone” section of the Farnborough Airshow reacted enthusiastically to the news on Monday that the United Kingdom will invest in domestic spaceports where commercial rockets and aircraft will be able to lift small satellites into orbit.

The start of what U.K. officials call a “new space age” is especially good news for the burgeoning global industry that makes tiny satellites and can quickly deliver data services. More launch sites and more vehicle choices means it will be possible to set up new constellations in months, not years, said Borge Witthoft, chief commercial officer of GomSpace, a Danish company  that manufactures small satellites. (7/17)

Colorado Space Startup Races To Make Its Mark Ahead Of NASA Moon Missions (Source: KUNC)
Bradley Cheetham runs a company called Advanced Space. He started it with three friends in 2011 as a graduate student at the University of Colorado Boulder. The company’s first headquarters was the upstairs loft of his apartment at the time. Since then, it has grown into a promising force within Colorado’s booming aerospace industry.

A team of 15 employees works at the company’s modern office in Boulder, building and selling its space mission services. They range from launch targeting to program development and navigation design. Right now, he’s focused on touting the company’s new spacecraft navigation technology, the cislunar autonomous positioning system, or CAPS. Think of it as the GPS on your phone or car, but for rockets and satellites to talk to each other.

Today’s spacecraft depend exclusively on communication with contacts on Earth to move through the galaxy safely. These systems are tightly scheduled and in high demand, Cheetham said. (7/17)

What NASA Did Next: From ‘Space Force’ to the Moon and Mars (Source: TechRadar)
President Trump's recent promise to create a 'space force' as the sixth branch of the United States Armed Forces comes at a time when NASA is already having to rethink its space exploration priorities. Does Trump care about space? “Right now, we have bigger problems … we’ve got to fix our potholes,” said Trump during the presidential campaign in 2016.

However, he also promised to “free NASA from the restriction of serving primarily as a logistics agency for low-Earth orbit activity,” which suggests he wants NASA to leave the International Space Station to companies like SpaceX, Orbital ATK and Boeing, and focus on the Moon and Mars. There are others who think he has no clue about space exploration. In April 2017, during a phone call with a US astronaut on the ISS, Trump declared that NASA should get humans to Mars during his first term. NASA thinks 10-15 years is more realistic.

"Trump doesn't have space as his highest priority, but no US president has ever set space as their highest priority, not even John F. Kennedy," says Laura Forczyk, space consultant at Astralytical. "He doesn’t seem to care about space, but he does pay attention to his Vice President Mike Pence, who is chairman of the National Space Council (NSpC).” (7/17)

The Military is Building a Space Plane. Now it Looks to Have an Engine Up To the Task (Source: LA Times)
As nations develop technology to disable or shoot down satellites, the U.S. military has started to look at ways to rapidly and cheaply launch smaller crafts into space. One option: a reusable space plane that could launch small satellites 10 times in 10 days, spearheaded by a Pentagon research agency and aerospace giant Boeing Co.

The vehicle’s first test flight is set for 2021, which hints at the Defense Department’s growing interest in reusable rocket technology, particularly its potential to drive down launch costs and speed up turnaround time. In recent weeks, the space plane’s rocket engine, known as the AR-22, completed 10 test fires in 240 hours without need for refurbishments or major repairs. (7/16)

See Sean Penn Take to the Skies in Hulu’s Astronaut Drama, The First (Source: Vanity Fair)
After a strong showing at the 2018 Emmy nominations, Hulu is back with its next high-profile project after The Handmaid’s Tale and The Looming Tower: The First, a straight-to-series drama that will debut September 14. In it, Natascha McElhone channels an Elon Musk/Jeff Bezos captain-of-industry type as Laz Ingram, the C.E.O. of space-travel company Vista who’s on a mission to send a team of astronauts to colonize Mars.

She’ll star opposite two-time Oscar winner Sean Penn, in his first major TV role after funny guest spots on comedies including Friends, The Larry Sanders Show, and Two and a Half Men. Penn plays key astronaut Tom Haggerty, the one who helps get Laz funding for the ambitious mission. The series’s creator and show-runner, Beau Willimon (House of Cards), avoided the traps of the powerful-woman archetype—rather than being perfectly poised, Laz is awkward and off-center, and a far cry from someone like Cards’ icy Claire Underwood. (7/16)

Harris Corp. to Provide Astronaut Audio System for NASA’s First Human Deep-Space Exploration Mission (Source: Harris)
Harris Corp. will provide the crucial audio communication system for NASA’s first human deep-space exploration mission, scheduled to launch in 2022 onboard the Orion spacecraft. Orion is NASA’s first spacecraft designed for long-duration, deep-space exploration by humans. Harris was selected by Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor for Orion, to deliver the audio system for Exploration Mission-2, the first crewed flight for the Orion spacecraft.

The system, which will enable astronauts to communicate with each other and NASA, will feature audio control units (ACU), audio interface units (AIU) and a speaker unit (SPU). The ACU provides central audio control and signal processing; the AIU is the push to talk interface clipped to the spacesuit or shirt sleeve; and the SPU transmits voice communications, as well as caution and warning alarm tones, in the cabin. (7/17)

July 17, 2018

UK Investment Inspires Smallsat Developers (Source: Space News)
Companies developing small satellites see the British government's decision to develop a spaceport as another endorsement for the burgeoning field. Smallsat developers at the Farnborough International Airshow said that access to space remains a major hurdle for developing constellations of such spacecraft, and that additional launch sites and launch providers will provide both more routine access and lower prices. "We will have choices and prices will come down," said an executive with Gomspace, a Danish smallsat company that announced a contract Monday to provide 10 satellites to a Spanish firm. (7/16)

Maxar to Acquire Neptec (Source: Space News)
Maxar announced Monday it will acquire Canadian space technology company Neptec Design Group Ltd. for $32 million. Neptec makes sensors and electro-mechanical systems for various space applications, including the International Space Station and ESA's upcoming ExoMars rover. Maxar said it sees applications for Neptec's technology for its on-orbit servicing plans as well as NASA's proposed Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway. Neptec will be folded into Maxar's Canadian-based MDA business. (7/16)

Virgin Orbit Signs Deal for UK Launches (Source: Space News)
Virgin Orbit said it signed an agreement for launches from the U.K. to both serve customer needs and bolster the country's space industry. Virgin Orbit formally signed an agreement Monday with officials from Cornwall to study performing LauncherOne missions from Spaceport Cornwall, aka Cornwall Airport Newquay. Patrick McCall, managing director of Virgin Group and chairman of the board of Virgin Orbit, said the company was attracted to the Cornwall site because of customer demand, but also because of a desire to help encourage growth in the U.K. space industry. The company said that it needs to first obtain export control approvals from the U.S. government before beginning detailed discussions with U.K. regulators. (7/16)

Passed-Over UK Site to Continue Spaceport Quest (Source: Shetland News)
A site passed over for a British spaceport said it's pressing ahead with its plans. Unst, in the Shetland Islands, failed to win funding from the British government in its announcements earlier this week. The director of the Shetland Space Centre said there is a "tremendous amount of interest" in developing a vertical launch site in Unst, citing an upcoming visit from an unnamed "global aerospace and defense company." (7/16)

SLS Core Stage Making Progress (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
Development of the first core stage of the Space Launch System is making progress, albeit more slowly than previously planned. Boeing, the core-stage prime contractor, recently completed the liquid-oxygen tank of the stage and will be joined with other elements that make up the upper part of the stage. Work on the core stage suffered a setback earlier this year because of paraffin wax contamination in tubing in the stage's engine section, and Boeing has been working to inspect and either clean or replace affected tubing. One recent estimate said that the core stage is about five months behind the current schedule that calls for it to be completed this December. (7/16)

Huntsville Plans Year-Long 50th Anniversary Celebration for Apollo 11 (Source: WHNT)
The 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission is still a year away, but one city is already preparing celebrations of it. Huntsville, Alabama, is planning a year-long commemoration of the anniversary, with the highlight being events around July 16, the date of the launch of the mission on the Saturn 5 rocket developed at the city's Marshall Space Flight Center. The U.S. Space and Rocket Center in the city has a goal of hosting one million visitors next year, in part because of the anniversary. (7/16)

Self-Defense in Space: Protecting Russian Spacecraft from ASAT Attacks (Source: Space Review)
Not only did the Soviet Union develop anti-satellite weapons during the Cold War, it investigated ways to protect its own satellites from ASAT attacks. Bart Hendrickx describes that work and new Russian efforts to develop similar technologies. Click here. (7/16)
 
When Will Commercial Crew Launch? (Source: Space Review)
It’s a simple question, but one seemingly difficult to answer: when will Boeing and SpaceX launch their commercial crew vehicles on their planned test flights? Jeff Foust reports that, as scheduled dates for the first test flights approaches, more delays are expected, although then those new dates will be announced is as uncertain as what that new schedule will be. Click here. (7/16)
 
An Alternative Proposal for a Revolution in Hypersonics and Space (Source: Space Review)
In a recent Aviation Week op-ed, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich called on renewed focus on hypersonics for space and other applications. In the first of a two-part response, Mike Snead argues that Gingrich’s solution suffers from a number of problems. Click here. (7/16)
 
NASA’s Dilemma: Governments Don’t Do Innovation (Source: Space Review)
Critics of NASA’s Space Launch System note that SpaceX developed the Falcon 9 far more rapidly and at a far lower cost. John Hollaway turns to a couple of books, including one historical account, to offer other lessons about the differences between government and private-sector innovation. Click here. (7/16)

July 16, 2018

Florida Tech’s Perez Awarded $750,000 for Solar Research (Source: Florida Tech)
Jean Carlos Perez, an assistant professor of physics and space sciences, has been awarded a five-year, nearly $750,000 grant from the National Science Foundation’s prestigious CAREER program. The NSF initiative, known fully as the Faculty Early Career Development Program, is among the agency’s most competitive awards. It is given annually to just a handful of early-career faculty “who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization,” according to the NSF.

The grant will fund Perez’s work on the theoretical understanding of solar wind turbulence near the Sun, a topic that will be in the spotlight soon with the Parker Solar Probe mission to be launched from Kennedy Space Center in August. His work involves understanding the role plasma turbulence has in the heating of the solar corona, which is the 12,000-mile-high ring of superhot plasma that comprises the upper solar atmosphere. (7/16)

Solid Rocket Motor Test Proves New Component for Vega and Ariane-6 Rockets (Source: ESA)
Today's hot firing of the P120C solid-propellant motor at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana proves its flight-worthiness for use on Vega-C next year and on Ariane 6 from 2020. This marks an important milestone in the development schedule of Europe’s new-generation launchers, designed to boost our autonomy in the space arena, and maintain Europe’s global competitiveness.

The test lasted 135 seconds simulating the complete burn time from liftoff and through the first phase of flight. No anomalies were seen and the performance met expectations, though full analysis will take several months. The P120C is 13.5 m long and 3.4 m in diameter and is made using a carbon composite material and built in one segment. It will replace the current P80 as the first stage motor of Vega-C. Two or four P120Cs will be strapped onto Ariane 6 as boosters for liftoff. (7/16)

Airbus Partners with DB Schenker for Alabama Aircraft Assembly Logistics (Source: Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor)
Airbus and DB Schenker have partnered to develop a logistics plan to use waterways to transport components to the Airbus A320 final assembly line in Mobile, Ala. The plan reduces the use of roads for transport. Using a new roll-on/roll-off terminal, its barge, and a newly-dredged section of river, Airbus can use larger vessels to transfer components by water. Larger ocean going vessels are now being used for the international transport of four complete “ship sets” per month. The new logistics plan includes a refurbished pier at the production plant and construction of a new hangar. Airbus first used the new logistics setup for a shipment in May. Editor's Note: This Mobile-based Airbus operation is supported by workers and suppliers in nearby northwest Florida. (7/14)

Hawaii Telescopes Help Unravel Long-Standing Cosmic Mystery (Source: Space Daily)
Astronomers and physicists around the world, including in Hawaii, have begun to unravel a long-standing cosmic mystery. Using a vast array of telescopes in space and on Earth, they have identified a source of cosmic rays--highly energetic particles that continuously rain down on Earth from space.

In a paper published this week in the journal Science, scientists have, for the first time, provided evidence for a known blazar, designated TXS 0506+056, as a source of high-energy neutrinos. At 8:54 p.m. on September 22, 2017, the National Science Foundation-supported IceCube neutrino observatory at the South Pole detected a high energy neutrino from a direction near the constellation Orion. Just 44 seconds later an alert went out to the entire astronomical community. (7/16)

Scotland Site Picked for UK Spaceport (Source: Space News)
The British government announced plans Sunday to develop a new launch site in northern Scotland. The U.K. Space Agency said it will provide $3.3 million to Highlands and Islands Enterprise to begin development of a vertical launch site in Sutherland, on the northern coast of Scotland. That spaceport could start hosting launches in the early 2020s. The agency also announced it will create a separate fund to support development of horizontal launch sites that had previously been the focus of Britain's spaceport efforts. One of those sites, Cornwall Airport Newquay, announced an agreement with Virgin Orbit that could lead to LauncherOne flights from that airport as soon as 2021. (7/15)

Launch Vehicle Funded for UK Spaceport (Source: Space News)
Lockheed Martin and Orbex have received funding from the U.K. to use the Scotland spaceport. The U.K. Space Agency announced Monday morning that Lockheed will receive $31 million to establish launch operations from the spaceport and to develop a British-manufactured upper stage for it. That launch vehicle is believed to be the Electron from Rocket Lab, a company Lockheed Martin made a strategic investment in three years ago. Orbex, a British-based startup working on a small launch vehicle called Prime, received $7 million to support plans to launch from the spaceport. Orbex separately announced a $40 million funding round Monday, which includes the space agency and other government funding as well as from two European venture capital funds. (7/15)

Farnborough Focuses on Space (Source: Space News)
The economics benefits of space will be one of the major themes of this week's Farnborough International Airshow. The event, best known for aviation activities, features a "SpaceZone" with government and company exhibitors, as both British and European governments emphasize the economic benefits of space. At the same time, the British government and British companies will be addressing the impacts that Brexit will have on the country's space industry, while emphasizing new commercial opportunities with the U.S. Editor's Note: Florida once again is sponsoring a large pavilion at Farnborough, featuring Florida aerospace companies and products. (7/15)

Gogo May Split (Source: Space News)
In-flight connectivity provider Gogo is weighing splitting the company. Gogo, struggling to make money, could split its successful business aviation unit from its more troubled commercial aviation unit, company CEO Oakleigh Thorne said Friday, citing "a number of strategic inquiries from financial and strategic acquirers." The company is laying off 55 people and seeks to cut its workforce by 30 percent by 2020. Gogo is a major customer of satellite capacity, leasing from Intelsat and SES among other operators, but company officials said they were confident that downward trends in satellite pricing would continue. (7/15)

Cygnus Departs Space Station (Source: Spaceflight Now)
A Cygnus cargo spacecraft departed from the International Space Station early Sunday. The Cygnus was unberthed by the station's robotic arm and released at 8:37 a.m. Eastern, more than a month and a half after its arrival. The spacecraft will remain in orbit until July 30, releasing several cubesats and performing additional tests before its destructive reentry. The next launch of a Cygnus spacecraft by Northrop Grumman is planned for late this year. (7/15)

U.S. Considers Quantum Comm Tech for Defense Satellites (Source: Space News)
The Pentagon is studying space-related applications for quantum computing. The Air Force Research Laboratory said that quantum computing could be a "very disruptive technology," enabling unhackable satellite communications as well as inertial navigation in areas where GPS is not available. Officials also expressed concern that the U.S. could be faling behind other nations, notably China, in space-related quantum computing applications. (7/15)

India Updates Engine for PSLV (Source: PTI)
India has successfully tested an updated version of an engine used on its launch vehicles. The "high-thrust" version of the Vikas engine performed a 195-second static fire test Sunday at a field center of the Indian space agency ISRO. The Vikas is used on the second stage of of PSLV rocket, the second stage and strap-on boosters of the GSLV, and the core stage of the GSLV Mark 3. ISRO didn't quantify the performance increase the new version of the Vikas would provide those vehicles, or when it would enter service. (7/15)

Blue Origin Denies Price is Set for Suborbital Rides (Source: GeekWire)
Contrary to a recent report, Blue Origin says it has not "seriously discussed" ticket prices for New Shepard suborbital flights. A report by Reuters last week claimed that Blue Origin was planning to charge between $200,000 and $300,000 a ticket for those flights, but a company spokesman said the company has made no specific plans for what it will charge for those flights. The company has yet to start selling tickets, and the spokesman said that will happen "sometime after our first human flights." A company executive said last month that ticket sales would begin next year. (7/15)

July 15, 2018

Parker Solar Probe Preview Postponed Due to Tubing Leak, NASA Says (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
A news media preview of an upcoming NASA launch was abruptly postponed Friday after a team preparing the Parker Solar Probe for the viewing discovered a “minor tubing leak” in ground support equipment. “NASA will make every effort to provide updated imagery of the spacecraft prior to encapsulation,” the agency said on its website. The statement said the spacecraft, which will launch from Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Base on Aug. 4, remains fine.

Reporters were to visit Astrotech Space Operations to see the Parker Solar Probe, a spacecraft on a mission to bring it closer to the Sun than any craft has ever been. The Helios B probe, which launched from Cape Canaveral on Jan. 15, 1976, came within 27 million miles on April 17, 1976. The Parker Probe, named after astrophysicist Eugene Parker, 91, who in the mid-1950s first developed a theory of solar winds, is expected to come within 3.8 million miles. (7/13)

Astronauts Explain Why Nobody Has Visited the Moon in More Than 45 Years (Source: Business Insider)
Landing 14 people on the moon remains one of NASA's greatest achievements, if not the greatest. Astronauts collected rocks, took photos, performed experiments, planted some flags, and then came home. But those week-long stays during the Apollo program didn't establish a lasting human presence on the moon. More than 45 years after the most recent crewed moon landing — Apollo 17 in December 1972 — there are plenty of reasons to return people to Earth's giant, dusty satellite and stay there.

Many astronauts and other experts suggest the biggest impediments to crewed moon missions over the last four-plus decades have been banal if not depressing. A tried-and-true hurdle for any spaceflight program, especially for missions that involve people, is the steep cost. A law signed in March 2017 by President Donald Trump gives NASA an annual budget of about $19.5 billion, and it may rise to $19.9 billion in 2019. A 2005 report by NASA estimated that returning to the moon would cost about $104 billion (which is $133 billion today, with inflation) over about 13 years. The Apollo program cost about $120 billion in today's dollars.

Either amount sounds like a windfall — until you consider that the total gets split among all of the agency's divisions and ambitious projects: the James Webb Space Telescope, the giant rocket project called Space Launch System, and far-flung missions to the sun, Jupiter, Mars, the Asteroid Belt, the Kuiper Belt, and the edge of the solar system. "Unless the country, which is Congress here, decided to put more money in it, this is just talk that we're doing here," said Apollo astronaut Walt Cunningham during a 2015 congressional hearing. (7/14)

SpaceX Targeting Next Weekend for Early Morning Launch from Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Florida Today)
The Space Coast should see yet another early morning launch next weekend when a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station with a commercial communications satellite. According to the latest Air Force schedules, teams will have between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m. on Sunday, July 22, to boost the Telstar 19 VANTAGE satellite for Canada-based Telesat from Launch Complex 40, though a precise liftoff time has not yet been released by SpaceX.

Telstar 19V will mark the second launch of a Block 5 version of Falcon 9, which includes improved reusability and performance compared to older Block 4 variants, the last of which flew late last month on a mission to resupply the International Space Station. The booster will attempt to land on SpaceX's Of Course I Still Love You drone ship shortly after liftoff and return to Port Canaveral several days later, kicking off the first of at least 10 re-flights with minimal refurbishment, according to CEO Elon Musk. (7/13)

July 14, 2018

Billionaire Peter Hargreaves' Cash Injection Boosts The UK Space Race (Source: Forbes)
Billionaire Peter Hargreaves' cash injection boosts the UK's space race. This isn't a sentence you'd expect to find the name Peter Hargreaves in. Hargreaves the man who made his name and his billions from the financial services firm Hargreaves Lansdown, which he founded with Stephen Lansdown.

But following the lead of US super-rich Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, Hargreaves has just invested £24 million in the satellite communications facility and space gateway Goonhilly Earth Station, based on the Lizard Peninsula of England's Cornish coast. The funding came about after Goonhilly's chairman Kenn Herskind was put in touch with Hargreaves, explains Ian Jones, Goonhilly's CEO. (7/13)

Meet The Unknown Immigrant Billionaire Betting Her Fortune To Take On Musk In Space (Source: Forbes)
Even in the bloated-budget world of aerospace, $650 million is a lot of money. It's the amount of money NASA and the Sierra Nevada Corp. spent developing the Dream Chaser, a reusable spacecraft designed to take astronauts into orbit. Sierra Nevada, 100% owned by Eren and Fatih Ozmen, put in $300 million; NASA ponied up the other $350 million. In 2014, NASA passed on Sierra Nevada's space plane and instead awarded the multibillion-dollar contracts to Boeing and SpaceX.

The original Dream Chaser, which looks like a mini space shuttle with upturned wings, now serves as an extremely expensive lobby decoration for Sierra Nevada's outpost in Colorado. But the nine-figure failure barely put a dent in the Ozmens' dream of joining the space race. Within months of the snub, the company bid on another NASA contract, to carry cargo, including food, water and science experiments, to and from the International Space Station. This time it won. Sierra Nevada and its competitors Orbital ATK and SpaceX will split a contract worth up to $14 billion.

The Ozmens, who are worth $1.3 billion each, are part of a growing wave of the uber-rich who are racing into space, filling the void left by NASA when it abandoned the space shuttle in the wake of the 2003 Columbia disaster. Elon Musk's SpaceX and Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic are the best-known ventures, but everyone from Larry Page (Planetary Resources) and Mark Cuban (Relativity Space) to Jeff Bezos (Blue Origin) and Paul Allen (Stratolaunch) is in the game. Most are passion projects, but the money is potentially good, too. Editor's Note: These articles keep overlooking Naveen Jain (Moon Express). (7/13)

Moon Shot Changed Local Landscape, Lives (Source: Florida Today)
Joan Van Scyoc doesn't remember the color of the swimsuit she wore in the second annual Moonwalk Festival Parade, or the names of those who rode in the convertible with her. But she does remember the intensity of the excitement along the Space Coast, as plentiful as sunshine and sand. She remembers the adulation showered on those who had suited up and headed for space and those who had anything to do with getting them there.

And the pride. She can still feel the pride. "It's part of the fabric of who I am," Scyoc said. As the 49th anniversary of the first moon landing approaches, Van Scyoc said that pivotal moment in American history is important to her "to this day." And she still feels its impact on this sliver of Florida where the space race was won. Countless other Brevard residents who lived through that special period of Space Coast life share her sentiments. (7/12)

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine Wants to Boost Collaboration with Israel (Source: Houston Chronicle)
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine on Thursday said he wants to increase the space agency's collaboration with Israel -- a statement that quickly followed the unveiling of Israel's spacecraft that will rocket to the moon in December. "We're trying to figure out what all [Israel's] capabilities are and how those capabilities might fit into [NASA's] architecture," Bridenstine said in a video posted Thursday to Twitter, highlighting the country's ability to miniaturize electronics and build small satellites. (7/13)

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Capsule Arrives in Florida to Get Set for Uncrewed Test Flight (Source: GeekWire)
After months of testing, a SpaceX Dragon capsule that’s designed to carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station has arrived in Florida, marking a significant step toward this summer’s scheduled test launch. Even though the vehicle is called a “Crew Dragon,” this Dragon won’t carry crew on its first flight. Instead, it’s due to make an uncrewed practice run to the space station during what’s known as Demonstration Mission 1, or DM-1.

NASA’s current schedule calls for SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket to launch the DM-1 mission next month from Kennedy Space Center. However, that schedule is dependent not only on the pace of preparations, but also on the timetable for station arrivals and departures. After several weeks, the Crew Dragon would unhook from the station and descend back down to Earth, still uncrewed, for a Pacific splashdown and recovery. (7/13)

July 13, 2018

Blue Origin Suborbital Tickets at Least $200,000 (Source: CNBC)
Jeff Bezos' rocket company plans to charge passengers about $200,000 to $300,000 for its first trips into space next year, two people familiar with its plans told Reuters. Potential customers and the aerospace industry have been eager to learn the cost of a ticket on Blue Origin's New Shepard space vehicle, to find out if it is affordable and whether the company can generate enough demand to make a profit on space tourism. One Blue Origin employee with first-hand knowledge of the pricing plan said the company will start selling tickets in the range of about $200,000 to $300,000. That price would be similar to what Virgin Galactic charges for seats on SpaceShipTwo suborbital flights. (7/12)

First Space Tourist Flights Could Come in 2019 (Source: Space Daily)
The two companies leading the pack in the pursuit of space tourism say they are just months away from their first out-of-this-world passenger flights -- though neither has set a firm date. Virgin Galactic, founded by British billionaire Richard Branson, and Blue Origin, by Amazon creator Jeff Bezos, are racing to be the first to finish their tests -- with both companies using radically different technology. (7/13)

DARPA Invites Payload Ideas for Launch Program (Source: Space Daily)
To maximize use of launch vehicle performance during its 2019 Launch Challenge, DARPA has released a request for information (RFI) seeking payload ideas from the space community. It is anticipated that Launch Challenge competitors will have a wide range of low Earth orbit (LEO) mass delivery capabilities, from roughly 10 to 500 kilograms. (7/13)

Senate Staffer Nominated as NASA's Deputy Administrator (Source: Space Daily)
The White House has nominated a Senate staffer with little space experience to be NASA deputy administrator. James Morhard, deputy sergeant at arms for the Senate, was nominated Thursday for the position, which requires Senate confirmation. Morhard has spent much of his career in the Senate, including service as chief of staff of the appropriations committee and staff director of the subcommittee whose jurisdiction includes NASA. However, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine had previously advocated for a space professional with extensive scientific and technical expertise to be his deputy. Bridenstine, in a statement, said, "I look forward to working with Mr. Morhard upon his confirmation." (7/13)

Northrop Grumman Announces Leadership Changes (Source: Bloomberg)
The chief executive of Northrop Grumman will step down at the end of this year. The company announced late Thursday that Wes Bush will resign from the CEO post effective Jan. 1, but remain as chairman until July 1, 2019. Kathy Warden, the current president and chief operating officer of the company, will take over as CEO. The company didn't announce the reason for Bush's departure. (7/13)

Dual Manifesting Planned by Blue Origin (Source: Space Daily)
Blue Origin plans to offer dual satellite launches on future flights of its New Glenn vehicle. Ted McFarland, Blue Origin’s commercial director of Asia-Pacific business, said the company will offer a dual-manifesting capability, similar to that provided by the Ariane 5, starting with the sixth New Glenn launch. The first five, he said, are missions dedicated to a single customer as the company demonstrates the performance of the vehicle and ability to reuse the first stage. He acknowledged that most customers prefer a dedicated launch, but that with the vehicle's large payload fairing and performance, it could easily accommodate two or even more GEO satellites on a single launch. (7/13)

NASA Open to Another Israeli Astronaut (Source: JTA)
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the agency would be open to flying another Israeli astronaut. Bridenstine, meeting with Israeli officials Thursday on his first foreign trip since becoming administrator, said he would consider a request from Ofir Akunis, Israel's science and technology minister, to fly an Israeli astronaut on an unspecified future mission. Israel's first astronaut, Ilan Ramon, was part of the crew of the STS-107 shuttle mission lost when Columbia broke up during reentry in 2003. (7/13)

Launch Complex 17 Demolished, Paving Way for Moon Express (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
A piece of the Cape's launch history came to an end with the demolition of Canaveral's Space Launch Complex 17. The site where NASA's Mars Exploration Rovers began their epic voyage to the Red Planet have been reduced to rubble. SLC-17 won’t stay dormant for long, Moon Express has already laid claim to the site with plans to use it for tests of a lunar vehicle to provide services to NASA and other potential clients. “Operations at SLC-17 will now move from Delta to Moon Express, it’s part of history which is what we’re doing every single day out here on the Range and we’re doing it with our partners from NASA, from the NRO, our commercial partners and our contracting partners,” USAF Gen. Wayne Monteith said. (7/12)

Trump’s Space Force Will Guard the U.S. From Above, NASA Chief Says (Source: Bloomberg)
NASA’s administrator is a strong defender of President Donald Trump’s proposals for space -- including an armed force and a permanent presence on the moon -- and says he wants Americans to realize how much their well-being depends on what happens far above Earth. “Every banking transaction requires a GPS signal for timing,” Jim Bridenstine said in an interview. “You lose the GPS signal and guess what you lose? You lose banking.”

“If you look at what space is, it’s not that much different than the ocean,” added Bridenstine, who made 333 aircraft-carrier landings as a Navy pilot. “It’s an international domain that has commerce that needs to be protected.” How to establish U.S. security in space has been debated for at least two decades. An independent commission -- led by Donald Rumsfeld before he became defense secretary -- reported in 2001 that "in the longer term it may be met by a military department for space." (7/12)

Astronomers' Long Hunt for Source of Extragalactic "Ghost Particles" Pays Off (Source: Scientific American)
Ever since the 1950s, when physicists first dreamed up the idea of doing astronomy with neutrinos, the holy grail has been to observe the first object outside our solar system that emits these ghostly particles. IceCube, a strange telescope made of deep glacial ice at the South Pole, has detected neutrinos from a distant, luminous galaxy. IceCube consists of a billion tons of diamond-clear Antarctic ice about two kilometers deep, monitored by more than 5,000 light detectors.

The neutrino is nearly massless and flies through space at almost the speed of light. Its nickname, “ghost particle,” points to the fact it rarely interacts with any form of matter and is therefore devilishly difficult to detect. IceCube can tell the direction of some neutrinos to better than a quarter of a degree. This past September IceCube detected a neutrino carrying about 20 times the energy of any particle that could possibly be created by the most powerful man-made accelerators. The instrument broadcast an automated alert.

Several days after IceCube’s alert, astronomer Yasuyuki Tanaka realized the neutrino was pointing within two tenths of a degree of a known blazar named TXS 0506+056. Blazars are giant elliptical galaxies with rapidly spinning, supermassive black holes at their cores that gobble up nearby stars and other material in a sort of continuous cosmic earthquake and send out laserlike jets of light and other particles from their north and south poles. The various models for neutrino emission from blazars, developed in blissful theoretical isolation, have now had their first encounter with real data, and theorist Eli Waxman believes the models “will require a complete modification.” (7/12)

Never Prebook Your Return Flight From a Rocket Launch (Source: WIRED)
Anyone who travels to rocket launches regularly knows three things: Bring snacks, wear sunscreen, and don't book your flight home for the night after the scheduled takeoff. Chances are, you'll either miss the launch or your plane. A company called Rocket Lab provides no exception. The commercial space organization hopes to send up rockets just the right size for smaller satellites. But of three total launch attempts, it has delayed or scrubbed all of them.

That chronological stuttering can feel like a contradiction. Rocket Lab cultivates a persona of quickness: Its engineers 3-D-print the engines, it aims to launch one rocket a month, it's agile, an upstart. But despite its marketed image, Rocket Lab has been cautious about actually lobbing rockets. On June 22, Rocket Lab started the countdown for its first real launch, in operational and not experimental mode. But they were the only things that would go up that day: The launch was called off at T-minus-23-minutes when a tracking dish, an antenna that communicates with and pinpoints the rocket, acted up.

On June 26, the Electron stood up to try again. But minutes after the launch window opened, the company said there was "an issue" with the motor controller, which manages commands sent to and from hardware and software on the rocket. Rocket Lab had already delayed this inaugural commercial launch by two months, for a similar motor-controller problem. (7/6)

Love Navigated by Beidou (Source: Space Daily)
They provide positioning and navigation to vehicles, ships, shared bicycles and drones, as well as tracking wild animals, and China's Beidou satellites have also guided a young couple to love. Ten years ago, Cui Bo, a designer for the Beidou power system, wrote a poem lauding those dedicated to space exploration to mark the 40th anniversary of the founding of the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST). He met his colleague Wang Lu, who recited his poem at the anniversary ceremony.

Wang, a designer for the Beidou payloads, was just like the people in his poem: dedicating all her knowledge and efforts to the development of China's own satellites. They fell in love. They had, in fact, both graduated from Beihang University, which specializes in aeronautical and astronautical education and research, but they hadn't known each other then. (7/12)

July 12, 2018

Rocket Company Eyes Cape Canaveral Spaceport for Launch Pad (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The first U.S.-based rocket launch by a relative newcomer in the space industry could come from Florida’s Space Coast, as early as next year. Rocket Lab has listed Cape Canaveral as one of four potential locations for a launchpad that would send into orbit its lightweight, two-stage Electron rocket in the second quarter of 2019. The Huntington Beach, Calif.,-based company also listed the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, Pacific Spaceport Complex in Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California as finalists.

Pad construction cost, regulatory hurdles and anticipated operational costs are among the factors the company will consider as it determines where to build the pad, which will be dubbed Launch Complex 2. The site will be announced in August, company officials said. Construction is expected to begin immediately after site selection with the first launch expected in the second quarter of next year. The Electron is a 56-foot-long, 23,000-pound two-stage expendable rocket that first launched an unsuccessful test flight May 25, 2017. Its second launch, the first to successfully deploy satellites, was Jan. 21.

Space Florida, which promotes the space industry in Brevard County, has already begun wooing Rocket Labs. The agency will coordinate with the U.S. Air Force’s 45th Space Wing to put together a proposal. Editor's Note: The fast-track plan for this new launch pad means Space Florida's planned Shiloh launch site, several miles north of LC-39, would not be an option. (7/12)

Why Georgia's Spaceport Isn't on Rocket Lab's Shortlist (Source: Spaceport Facts)
Residents organized in opposition to Georgia's proposed spaceport offer their thoughts on why Rocket Lab did not include Spaceport Camden on their shortlist of potential U.S. launch sites. "Spaceport Camden has unique and expensive problems that will bear on the profitability of launch operators," they say. They point to the size of Rocket Lab's New Zealand launch hazard zone (12 miles wide, 35 miles downrange, directly over water and a "cooperating sheep farm") compared with the 5 mile wide, 3.5 mile downrange zone established in the Camden environmental impact report.

"Rocket Lab understands Camden will have much higher MPL insurance costs because rockets will launch over more than 100 private properties, at least 42 homes and their residents and visitors, plus campers and hikers in a National Seashore and Wilderness Area that lies just 3.5 to 10 miles downrange. The FAA cannot compel evacuation from private property and the NPS has called the Proposed Action a constructive taking. So, it is not unreasonable to expect that even if a site license is granted, launches will face T-1 day injunctions. Can startups take the chance?"

"There are also far higher costs associated with securing near-downrange real estate and managing people instead of a stray boat on the ocean. The FAA cannot require people to shelter like they do for downrange staff at Kwajalein or by agreement with Vandenberg’s offshore oil rigs. Will Boy Scouts and backcountry campers who made their reservations six months in advance be expected to shelter for hours in their tents? ….for several days in a row while delays are worked through? Most importantly, the launch provider cannot control or even know how many people will be in the near-downrange hazard area at T-0 making all MPL calculations irrelevant." (7/11)

Electric Satellite Propulsion Company Raises $10 Million (Source: Space News)
A Silicon Valley startup developing electric propulsion systems for satellites has raised $10 million and added the billionaire founder of LinkedIn to its board. Apollo Fusion announced the $10 million Series B round July 11, bringing the total the company has raised to date to more than $18 million. The round was led by venture fund Greylock Partners, with one of the fund’s partners, Reid Hoffman, joining the board. Apollo Fusion will use the funding to scale up manufacturing and testing facilities for its electric propulsion system, called the Apollo Constellation Engine (ACE). The company believes that ACE is well-suited to serve the growing demand for smallsats with onboard propulsion. (7/11)

Tariff War Threatens Aerospace Industry (Source: Space News)
The aerospace industry, a bright spot for U.S. trade, could be threatened by tariffs. A report Wednesday by the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) found that the industry, including both aviation and space, generated $143 billion in exports and a positive trade balance of $86 billion in 2017. While AIA said in its report that 2018 should be an even stronger year for the industry, it warned of unintended consequences as a result of trade wars, arguing that "having access to global markets and supply chains through trade allows U.S. manufacturers to stay competitive." (7/12)

China's Tariff War Advantage: Profit is a Secondary Concern for Some Aerospace Companies (Source: Space News)
A state-owned Chinese satellite operator is making investments in new systems motivated more by concerns about keeping up with other countries than those systems' business cases. China Satcom is considering ordering more high-throughput satellites and is part of a joint venture for a low Earth orbit constellation called Hongyan. A company executive said at a conference last week that those efforts are driven in large part by concerns that China will be left behind other nations rather than whether those systems make economic sense. "In our case, we need to do first, then we consider how to earn money," said Yao Fahai, vice president of China Satcom. (7/12)

Intelsat Goes With SpaceLogistics Approach to Satellite Servicing (Source: Space News)
Intelsat is taking a more conservative approach to satellite servicing. The operator has a contract with SpaceLogistics, a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems (formerly Orbital ATK) to use its Mission Extension Vehicle to attach to and extend the life of Intelsat-901. Intelsat said it saw the SpaceLogistics approach as a simpler and more conservative approach than other proposals to refuel satellites, but added it's open to more ambitious satellite servicing concepts in the future. (7/12)

Cygnus Boosts ISS Orbit (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
A Cygnus cargo spacecraft raised the space station's orbit slightly. The Cygnus spacecraft fired its main thruster for 50 seconds Tuesday, raising the station's orbit by about 90 meters. The reboost, the first performed by a commercial cargo vehicle, was a test of the ability of those spacecraft to adjust the station's orbit as an alternative to Progress spacecraft and the station's own thrusters. The Cygnus, which has been at the station since late May, is scheduled to depart on Sunday. (7/12)

Canadian Spaceport Projects Gets Environmental Assessment (Source: Canadian Press)
A company planning a Canadian spaceport has submitted an environmental assessment of the facility. The report by Maritime Launch Services addresses the environmental impacts of the proposed launch site near the community of Canso, Nova Scotia, that will be used for launches of Cyclone-4 rockets. A public comment period on the report runs until early August, and the provincial government is expected to make a decision by Aug. 23. (7/12)

SpaceX Begins Infrastructure Deliveries to Texas Launch Site (Source: Brownsville Herald)
Infrastructure for SpaceX's South Texas launch site is starting to arrive. A 360,000-liter liquid oxygen tank was delivered to the site Wednesday, which a company spokesperson said "represents the latest major piece of launch hardware to arrive at the site for installation." SpaceX broke ground on the site, at Boca Chica Beach on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, in 2014, but has spent much of the time since then working to prepare the site for construction. SpaceX plans to use the spaceport for tests of its Big Falcon Rocket as soon as next year. (7/12)

Giant Next-Generation Space Telescope That Could Launch on a SpaceX BFR (Source: Next Big Future)
NASA had funded a study that would examine SpaceX’s next-gen BFR rocket as an option for launching LUVOIR. The Large UV/Optical/IR Surveyor (LUVOIR) is a concept for a highly capable, multi-wavelength space observatory. On June 1, 2018, NASA HQ instructed the Decadal Mission studies (HabEx, LUVOIR, Lynx, and OST) to produce versions of their concepts that fit into the $3-5 billion cost box. LUVOIR was exempt from this instruction.

On June 14, 2018, NASA HQ withdrew the aforementioned June 1 memo and replaced it with new directions. The new memo acknowledges that all four studies are planning to design less costly second mission concepts, and notes that the LUVOIR-B architecture already under development has a roughly 50% size reduction compared to LUVOIR-A. HabEx, Lynx, and OST are given the goal of developing a second concept with an estimated cost less than about $5 billion.

The LUVOIR study team is considering two architectures, one with a 15-m mirror (Architecture A), and another with a ~8-m mirror (Architecture B). Architecture A is designed for launch on NASA’s planned Space Launch System (SLS), while Architecture B is being designed to launch on a heavy-lift launch vehicle with a 5-m diameter fairing, similar to those in use today. A third version for launch be the SpaceX BFR should be similar to the 15-meter mirror. The new under $5 billion cost directive could change the size and design. (7/9)

Commercial Crew Delays Threaten Access to ISS, GAO Warns (Source: Space News)
Amid growing concerns about commercial crew delays, a U.S. Government Accountability Office report recommended NASA share more schedule information with Congress and develop contingency plans to maintain access to the ISS. In a July report, the GAO said that Boeing and SpaceX could miss their current schedules for having their commercial crew vehicles certified by NASA by a year or more, creating a gap in access to the station when the agency’s use of Soyuz seats ends late next year.

Current public schedules call for Boeing and SpaceX to make uncrewed test flights in August, followed by crewed test flights by Boeing in November and SpaceX in December. On that schedule, Boeing would be certified by NASA to transport astronauts to the ISS in January 2019, followed by SpaceX in February. However, those dates are expected to slip, perhaps significantly, according to NASA’s own schedule risk analysis assessments.

The GAO said that NASA needs to develop a contingency plan for continued ISS access should commercial crew certification slip to 2020. The risk analysis found "zero percent chance that either contractor would achieve its current proposed certification milestone." (7/11)

NASA Believes Boeing Ahead of SpaceX in Commercial Crew (Source: Ars Technica)
One of the biggest rivalries in the modern aerospace industry is between Boeing and SpaceX. Despite their radically different cultures, the aerospace giant and the smaller upstart compete for many different kinds of contracts, and perhaps nowhere has the competition been more keen than for NASA funds.

In 2014, both Boeing and SpaceX received multibillion awards (Boeing asked for, and got, 50 percent more funding for the same task) to finalize development of spacecraft to carry astronauts to the International Space Station as part of the commercial crew program. Since then, both companies have been locked in a race to the launchpad, not just to free NASA from its reliance on Russia to reach space but also for the considerable esteem that will accompany becoming the first private company in the world to fly humans into orbit. (

Blue Origin Plans to Start Selling Tickets in 2019 for Suborbital Spaceflights (Source: Space News)
Blue Origin expects to start flying people on its New Shepard suborbital vehicle “soon” and start selling tickets for commercial flights next year, a company executive said June 19. “We plan to start flying our first test passengers soon,” he said after showing a video of a previous New Shepard flight at the company’s West Texas test site. All of the New Shepard flights to date have been without people on board, but the company has said in the past it would fly its personnel on the vehicle in later tests. (7/11)

Rocky Planet Neighbor Looks Familiar, But is Not Earth's Twin (Source: Space Daily)
Last autumn, the world was excited by the discovery of an exoplanet called Ross 128 b, which is just 11 light years away from Earth. New work from a team led by Diogo Souto of Brazil's Observatorio Nacional and including Carnegie's Johanna Teske has for the first time determined detailed chemical abundances of the planet's host star, Ross 128. Understanding which elements are present in a star in what abundances can help researchers estimate the makeup of the exoplanets that orbit them, which can help predict how similar the planets are to the Earth. (

Like the exoplanet's host star Ross 128, about 70 percent of all stars in the Milky Way are red dwarfs, which are much cooler and smaller than our Sun. Based on the results from large planet-search surveys, astronomers estimate that many of these red dwarf stars host at least one exoplanet. Several planetary systems around red dwarfs have been newsmakers in recent years, including Proxima b, a planet which orbits the nearest star to our own Sun, Proxima Centauri, and the seven planets of TRAPPIST-1, which itself is not much larger in size than our Solar System's Jupiter. (7/11)

Here’s Why Space Engineers Come to Seattle … and Why Some of Them Leave (Source: GeekWire)
A new employment study indicates that roughly 3,000 people are directly employed by Washington state’s space industry, and roughly half of them are at Blue Origin, Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ space venture. Most of Blue Origin’s 1,500 employees work at the company’s headquarters and production facility in Kent, Wash. So Erika Wagner, Blue Origin’s payload sales director, has a good grasp on what draw space-savvy engineers to the Seattle area.

“When we ask our new employees why they’re coming … I’m going to guess that about half of them tell us that Seattle is part of the reason they say yes,” said Erika Wagner. Seattle’s blend of the great outdoors and a vibrant cultural scene adds to the region’s legacy in engineering, software and aerospace, fueled by Boeing, Microsoft and more recently Amazon.

Most of Blue Origin’s employees stick around: Wagner said the turnover rate amounts to less than 4 percent of the workforce annually. But what is it that motivates the ones who leave? There’s a bit of irony in Wagner’s answer to that question. “A significant percentage of them say the reason they leave is Seattle,” Wagner said. “It’s the rising cost of living, it’s the weather, it’s the traffic, it’s the whatever. It’s very much both one of our strongest assets, and one of our biggest challenges.” (7/11)

Giant Satellite Fuel Tank Sets New Record for 3-D Printed Space Parts (Source: Lockheed Martin)
Lockheed Martin has embraced a 3-D printed titanium dome for satellite fuel tanks so big you can't even put your arms around it. The 46-inch  diameter vessel completed final rounds of quality testing this month, ending a multi-year development program to create giant, high-pressure tanks that carry fuel on board satellites.

The titanium tank consists of three parts welded together: two 3-D printed domes that serve as caps, plus a variable-length, traditionally-manufactured titanium cylinder that forms the body. Satellite fuel tanks must be both strong and lightweight to withstand the rigors of launch and decade-long missions in the vacuum of space. That makes titanium an ideal material, but procuring 4-foot-diameter, 4-inch-thick titanium forgings can take a year or more, making them the most challenging and expensive parts of the tank. (7/11)

July 11, 2018

NASA Studying Larger Lunar Landers (Source: SpacePolicyOnline)
NASA is studying ways to accelerate the development of larger lunar landers. The "quick-look" study, expected to take one month, will examine alternatives to current plans to fund development of medium-sized and large lunar landers expected to start launching in the mid to late 2020s. That study could support planning for NASA's fiscal year 2020 budget request. NASA is already working with industry to buy payload space on smaller commercially developed landers, and it's not clear the role industry would have with larger landers. (7/10)

Demolition of LC-17 at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Florida Today)
Two historic launch towers at Cape Canaveral will be demolished this week. The twin towers at Launch Complex 17 will be brought down by controlled detonations Thursday morning. The complex, used for Delta 2 launches, last hosted a launch in 2011, and the site is currently used by Moon Express to develop and test, but not launch, its commercial lunar landers. (7/11)

Hispasat to Invest in LeoSat Broadband Constellation (Source: Space News)
Hispasat has agreed to invest in broadband satellite constellation startup LeoSat. Hispasat's investment in LeoSat matches the undisclosed amount another satellite operator, Sky Perfect JSAT, made in LeoSat last year. The company is still working to close a $100 million Series A round of funding, with the overall system projected to cost $3.6 billion. LeoSat also announced it's dropped plans to launch two demonstration satellites next year after concluding technology demonstration efforts on the ground were sufficient to prove out key subsystems, including intersatellite links. (7/11)

Kepler Communications Works With UK For Third Satellite (Source: Space News)
Canadian startup Kepler Communications will work with a British organization to build its third satellite. Kepler said it teamed up with the Satellite Applications Catapult, who will partially fund the satellite and help Kepler establish a U.K. office. That cubesat is planned for launch in mid-2019. Kepler currently has one cubesat-class satellite in orbit, demonstrating store-and-forward communications services, with a second one scheduled to launch later this year. (7/11)

The Race to Get Tourists to Suborbital Space is Heating Up (Source: WIRED)
Already, you can buy tickets for (as-yet-unscheduled) flights aboard SpaceShipTwo, the crew vehicle developed by Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. And at a NewSpace conference in Seattle last month, Blue Origin—helmed by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos—announced that it has plans to sell tickets to wannabe space tourists as early as next year. Both companies have solid plans to cash in on human space travel (and then, of course, there’s SpaceX, which will focus first on shuttling astronauts to and from the space station).

Branson has said that Virgin Galactic is in a race with itself, not other companies, to achieve safe human space flight. But with Blue Origin aiming to start selling tickets next year, both companies could be competing for business sooner rather than later. They’ll have to work hard to differentiate themselves: Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic plan to offer pretty much the same experience. Neither will take tourists into orbit; instead, they’ll touch of the edge of space, crossing an imaginary boundary known as the Kármán line 62 miles up.

The differences come down to propulsion. Virgin Galactic’s plan is to launch its two-winged SpaceShipTwo while it’s attached to a carrier vehicle, WhiteKnightTwo. Reminiscent of the X-planes that originally broke the sound barrier, the SpaceShipTwo will drop from its carrier, ignite its rocket engines, and then land on a runway like a commercial airliner. Blue Origin, meanwhile, will use a more traditional capsule and booster, both of which are designed to be reusable. (7/11)

NASA Spends 72 Cents of Every SLS Dollar on Overhead Costs (Source: Ars Technica)
According to a new report published by the nonpartisan think tank Center for a New American Security, NASA has spent $19 billion on rockets, first on Ares I and V, and now on the SLS. Additionally, the agency has spent $13.9 billion on the Orion spacecraft. The agency hopes to finally fly its first crewed mission with the new vehicles in 2021. If it does so, the report estimates the agency will have spent $43 billion before that first flight, essentially a reprise of the Apollo 8 mission around the Moon.

These costs can then be compared to the total cost of the entire Apollo program, which featured six separate human landings on the Moon. According to two separate estimates, the Apollo program cost between $100 billion and $110 billion in 2010 dollars. Thus just the development effort for SLS and Orion, which includes none of the expenses related to in-space activities or landing anywhere, are already nearly half that of the Apollo program.

The new report argues that, given these high costs, NASA should turn over the construction of rockets and spacecraft to the private sector. It buttresses this argument with a remarkable claim about the "overhead" costs associated with the NASA-led programs. For Orion, according to the report, approximately 56 percent of the program's cost, has gone to NASA instead of the main contractor, Lockheed Martin, and others. For the SLS rocket and its predecessors, the estimated fraction of NASA-related costs is higher—72 percent. (7/11)

Why China Wants A Super Rocket Like NASA's Space Launch System (Source: Forbes)
The principle mission of SLS, though, is not to get to Low Earth Orbit. It is designed to support deep space exploration, with an eye to one day visiting Mars -- the only other Earth-like planet in the solar system. However, China has announced no plans for going to Mars. So why does it want a rocket that can lift even more than SLS?

The official story is that China too wants to pursue deep space exploration, but here's another possibility. Like SLS, China's planned super-heavy-lift rocket will have a much bigger diameter than anything in the current Long March fleet. That means the payload fairing at the top will also be wider -- wide enough to accommodate novel spacecraft that today could only be orbited with great difficulty. Spacecraft that might give the Peoples Liberation Army significant new capabilities. (7/10)

NASA Funds Study on SpaceX BFR as Option for Massive Space Telescope Launch (Source: Teslarati)
Dr. Debra Fischer briefly revealed that NASA had funded a study that would examine SpaceX’s next-gen BFR rocket as an option for launching LUVOIR, a massive space telescope expected to take the reigns of exoplanet research in the 2030s.

Conceptualized to follow in the footsteps of NASA’s current space telescope expertise and (hopefully) to learn from the many various mistakes made by their contractors, the LUVOIR (shorthand for Large UV/Optical/IR Surveyor) concept is currently grouped into two different categories, A and B. A is a full-scale, uncompromised telescope with an unfathomably vast 15-meter primary mirror and a sunshade with an area anywhere from 5000 to 20000 square meters (1-4 acres).

B is a comparatively watered-down take on the broadband surveyor telescope, with a much smaller 8-meter primary mirror, likely accompanied by a similarly reduced sunshade (and price tag, presumably). Remember, this is a space telescope that would need to fit into the payload fairing of a rocket, survive the launch into orbit, and then journey nearly one million miles from Earth to its final operational destination, all before deploying a mirror and starshade as large or larger than Mr Steven’s SpaceX  fairing recovery net. (7/10)

NASA Adding More SLS Block 1 Launches to Manifest (Source: Space News)
With two more launches of the Block 1 version of the Space Launch System now planned, NASA is starting work to procure and human-rate additional upper stages.

NASA originally expected to fly the Block 1 version of the SLS only once before moving to the more powerful Block 1B version of the rocket. The Block 1 uses an upper stage known as the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS), based on the Delta 4 upper stage. The Block 1B will replace the ICPS with the Exploration Upper Stage, a larger upper stage under development.

However, with funding from Congress provided in the fiscal year 2018 omnibus appropriations bill to build a second mobile launch platform, NASA now expects to use the Block 1 version more than once. Those additional launches can take place using the existing mobile launch platform while the new one, designed for Block 1B, is built. That move is designed to reduce concerns about a long gap between SLS missions had NASA gone through with original plans to modify the mobile launch platform after the first SLS mission so it could be used for the Block 1B. (7/10)

Commercial Chinese Companies Set Sights on Methalox Rockets, First Orbital Launches (Source: Space News)
One of China’s emerging commercial launch companies says it has designed a methane- and liquid-oxygen-powered rocket it aims to test launch in 2020. Beijing-based Landspace is developing the Zhuque-2 (ZQ-2) rocket with the goal of completing ground testing in 2019 ahead of debuting the launch vehicle the following year.

The two-stage ZQ-2 was presented July 5 at a press conference in Beijing and will measure 48.8-meters tall with a diameter of 3.35 meters, giving it apparent similarities to the state’s established hypergolic Long March 2 series rockets. The company claims the launch vehicle will also be economical, capable of being mass produced and reusable, and plans to follow up with much larger ZQ-2A, B and C three-stage rockets in the future. (7/10)

Space Investment Quarterly: Q2 2018 (Source: Space Angels)
In our previous issue, we saw massive momentum in commercial launch from 2017 carry into the first quarter of 2018, leading us to predict 2018 to be the Year of Small Launch. So far, we are seeing this prediction hold true, as 62% of non-government equity investment year-to-date in the space industry has gone into Launch companies. While Launch has certainly carried strongly into 2018, we also saw a surge in Satellite investment in Q2: the number of Satellite deals has increased 25% in just three months. Click here. (7/10) 

Alaska Aerospace Launches Subsidiary Company to Reduce Costs (Source: The Eagle)
Alaska Aerospace has launched a subsidiary company that aims to save taxpayer money by reducing personnel costs, officials said. The state-owned corporation announced last week the opening of the Anchorage-based Aurora Launch Services, which will be the exclusive service provider at the spaceport complex on Kodiak Island. The corporation has struggled to break even over the last seven years, receiving at least $16 million in operating funds from the state and $3 million for a capital improvement project. (7/10)

Whoops! NASA Burned Best Evidence for Life on Mars 40 Years Ago (Source: New Scientist)
In 1976, NASA’s twin Viking landers conducted the first experiments that searched for organic matter on the Red Planet. Researchers had long known that all planets receive a steady rain of carbon-rich micrometeorites and dust from space, meaning that Mars should be smothered in organic molecules. But the Viking landers found nothing, leaving researchers dumbstruck.

“It was just completely unexpected and inconsistent with what we knew,” says Chris McKay at NASA’s Ames Research Centre in Mountain View, California. Haunted by Mars’s missing molecules, researchers proposed one explanation after another, but none seemed to fit – until yet another probe came into play. Click here. (7/10)

Hunt for Dark Matter Turns to Ancient Minerals (Source: Nature)
Minerals deep inside Earth might contain telltale traces of collisions with dark matter — the elusive stuff that researchers think makes up most of the matter in the Universe. Experiments designed to search for these traces could one day complement or even compete with ongoing efforts to detect dark matter directly.

Researchers using sophisticated detectors sunk deep underground have searched for signs of dark matter for decades. But now, Katherine Freese, a physicist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and her colleagues suggest that minerals such as halite (sodium chloride) and zabuyelite (lithium carbonate), can act as ready-made detectors.

Minerals such as halite and zabuyelite are already deep inside Earth and thus are shielded from cosmic rays. According to the team’s analysis, published last month on the preprint server arXiv, if a WIMP were to smash into the nucleus of an atom of, say, sodium or chlorine, the nucleus would recoil. This would etch a path anywhere from 1 to 1,000 nanometres long in the mineral. (7/10)

Rocket Lab Selects Four Finalists for U.S. Launch Site (Source: Space News)
Rocket Lab announced July 10 that it has selected four potential locations for an American launch site for its Electron rocket, with a final decision to come in August. In a statement, the company said it had shortlisted Cape Canaveral, Florida; Pacific Spaceport Complex – Alaska; Vandenberg Air Force Base, California; and Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia as the potential locations of what it calls Launch Complex 2.

Rocket Lab said it will select from among those four sites for the complex in August and start construction “immediately” thereafter. The company said it expected to have the site completed and ready to host its first launch in the second quarter of 2019. Editor's Note: I'm surprised to see that Georgia's proposed spaceport is not listed among the finalists. (7/10)