August 1, 2015

Race to Offer Jetson Style Holidays by 2020 (Source:
Holidaying in space is a rapidly developing reality for earthlings, thanks to fierce competition to offer commercial space travel. At least a dozen companies based in the US are working hard to make space a playground for the rich, rather than just the mega-rich. Virgin Galactic might be the best known contender but others include “travel agency” Space Adventures, which hopes to offer opportunities for space flight and space tourism within the next ten years. Click here. (8/1)

How Asteroids Could Fuel 'Gas Stations' In Outer Space (Source: Forbes)
Preparing a mission for outer space is a little bit like getting ready to go camping. If you don’t pack enough provisions for the whole trip, it’s going to be tough to make it back home. But geologist Leslie Gertsch is hoping to change all that. She’s starting a lab at Missouri University of Science and Technology this summer that will test space rocks for gases—if she finds enough gas, there could be a future for rocket gas stations in space.

“If you can stop at a gas station, a gas asteroid, it would make [space travel] more efficient,” Gertsch says. “You wouldn’t have to carry all your fuel.” What’s the magic gas ingredient inside the space rocks? Gertsch will have to bake the meteorites to find out exactly what kinds of gases they give off, and how much, but research suggests some of the rocks have as much as 22 percent water in them, and gases like carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, or carbon monoxide, that could all be processed to fill up the tank in space.

To process the fuel, the rocks would need to be bagged and baked. The hot gases coming off the meteorites, trapped inside the bag, could be sent to space refineries, or siphoned directly into fuel tanks designed to be meteorite-gas-compatible. (8/1)

School of Mines Gets $750,000 Grant from NASA Program (Source: Miami Herald)
The South Dakota School of Mines and Technology has been awarded a $750,000 grant from NASA to develop materials to be used in future exploration of other planets. The funding comes from the space agency's Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (ESPCoR).  The school will use the money to development printable spacecraft materials and electronic and electromagnetic devices to use in future exploration. (8/1)

SLS Can Do More Than Human Missions, Could be "Transformative for Science" (Source: Space Alabama)
"My view is that the Space Launch System will be transformative for science," said John Grunsfeld, NASA's Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate. NASA has tasked the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama to develop the next super-heavy lift rocket, the Space Launch System or SLS, to return humans to deep-space exploration.  NASA has been very public about their "Journey to Mars," which seeks to put humans on the Red Planet in the 2030s, and the SLS would be the enabler for those missions.

But the less talked about uses for it involve sending bigger, faster and maybe even more robotic probes into the even more distant reaches of the solar system. At a hearing of the House of Representatives' Science, Space and Technology Committee, Grunsfeld and other scientists testified on the importance of solar system exploration during a presentation titled "Exploration of the Solar System: From Mercury to Pluto and Beyond." (8/1)

Former FAA Consultant Claims Agency Failed to Act on SpaceShip Two Warnings (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Federal Aviation Administration officials repeatedly failed to act on safety warnings about an experimental rocket ship backed by billionaire British entrepreneur Richard Branson that crashed in 2014, according to a former agency consultant. Terry Hardy, who was assigned to the project as a consultant for more than three years beginning in 2011, said in an interview Friday that he had told FAA managers that certain features of SpaceShip Two—along with risk analyses prepared by its designers—were inadequate. (7/31)

Two Companies End Commercial Partnerships with NASA at KSC (Source: Florida Today)
Two years ago, BRS Aerospace planned to create more than 30 jobs and invest more than $7 million in a former space shuttle facility it leased from NASA at Kennedy Space Center. But less than a year later the Miami-based company was gone, and KSC’s Parachute Refurbishment Facility is now slated for demolition.

Minnesota-based PaR Systems similarly abandoned another former shuttle facility in April, a year after NASA had touted their partnership as a symbol of KSC’s transformation into a multi-user spaceport embracing new ways of doing business. The two companies’ departures are hiccups in that transformation, showing that outside companies won’t necessarily stick around if business and economic conditions don’t meet expectations.

KSC says that’s to be expected and there’s nothing it could have done differently to keep the two companies from leaving. In April of last year, a PaR Systems executive talked about “extremely exciting” opportunities at Hangar N, a more than 50-year-old NASA facility where it inspected materials for flaws using non-destructive technology. By this April, PaR had terminated its lease, two years into it. The company did work for NASA’s Orion exploration capsule program, but there apparently was not enough other business to justify the old hangar’s cost. (8/1)

July 31, 2015

NASA Studying Flying-Wing Mars Aircraft (Source: Aviation Week)
A small unmanned aircraft that would deploy from a cubesat released by a Mars lander as it enters the planet’s atmosphere is being studied by NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center. The flying-wing UAV could reconnoiter for future landing sites as it descends to the Martian surface. The Prandtl-M unmanned aircraft is a new direction for research into an old configuration at NASA Armstrong. (7/27)

Solar Weather Reports Key to Safe Space Travel (Source: Space Daily)
Researchers in England are looking ahead to a world where solar and space weather forecasting is nearly as important as weather patterns and predictions on Earth's surface. Better predicting how the sun's electromagnetic behavior influences space weather will become more important, scientists say, as activities like space tourism, asteroid mining and manned space travel become more common.

In the United States, scientists at the Space Weather Prediction Center, run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, do their best to forecast solar winds and storms. NASA and the International Space Station rely heavily on these reports to keep their instruments and astronauts safe from dangerous radiation. But scientists at Northumbria University suggest more predictive, less reactive solar forecasting is necessary for the future of safe space travel. (7/30)

Congress Calls SpaceX Falcon 9 Launch Certification Into Question (Source: Denver Post)
The June 28 explosion of a Falcon 9 rocket carrying supplies to the International Space Station has members of Congress asking NASA and the  Air Force for assurance that SpaceX is qualified to carry military payloads to space. A bipartisan group of 14 U.S. representatives sent a letter saying they have "serious reservations" about SpaceX's internal investigation process and question whether the "engineering rigor applied will be sufficient to prevent future military launch mishaps." Click here. (7/30)

World's Best Whiskey to be Sent to Space (Source: Daily Beast)
Suntory, the whiskey advertised by Bill Murray in Lost In Translation and recently crowned world's best by the 2015 World Whisky Bible, is being sent into space. The Japanese brewing company announced that it would be spending its award-winning whiskey to the International Space Station for scientific research. The research will help understand the “development of mellowness in alcoholic beverage through the use of a microgravity environment.” Suntory will send five types of its whiskey for the study. (7/31)

ULA to Stay in Harlingen Texas (Source: KRGV)
For nearly three decades, people in Harlingen have been building rockets and sending satellites into space. At the corner of Loop 499, next to Valley International Airport, United Launch Alliance has quietly hand-built nearly 100 rockets. “We're launching satellites that go to Mars, Pluto and the Moon,” Tim Pillar said.

Tim Pillar is the leader of the Harlingen operation. He said the company has chosen to keep a low profile for the past 28 years. A direct competitor to ULA is coming to the Valley. “The biggest difference is we've been in the business for 50 years… SpaceX has been doing this for eight to ten years,” Pillar said. Pillar said the private sector for rocket launches is growing, creating room for new companies like SpaceX to also find a home in south Texas.

United Launch Alliance’s rockets are built in Harlingen and Alabama, and then they are sent to Florida and California for lift-off. Each rocket is topped with a signature cone called a pay-load fairing. “Every one of them is hand painted, one at a time,” Pillar said. United Launch Alliance is growing. “These products… in this factory will have astronauts launching to the International Space Station in 2017,” Pillar said. (7/30)

Lockheed Martin Tests Orion Spacecraft’s Separation System (Source: Silicon Valley Business Journal)
On Wednesday morning, Lockheed Martin engineers successfully completed testing design changes made to a part of NASA’s Orion spacecraft. Lockheed Martin tested Orion’s fairing separation system. A finished Orion spacecraft has three fairings, or panels, that protect the service module radiators and solar arrays from heat, wind and acoustics during ascent into space.

NASA’s Orion spacecraft is built to take humans farther than they’ve ever gone before. Orion will serve as the exploration vehicle that will carry the crew to space, provide emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during the space travel, and provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities, according to a NASA website. Orion will launch on NASA’s new heavy-lift rocket, the Space Launch System. (7/30)

Branson: 'Just Keep Going' (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
Sir Richard Branson, the billionaire behind the aspiring Virgin Galactic spaceline, recently shared his 91-year-old mother’s motto on social media: “Just keep going,” he tweeted. It’s advice the serial entrepreneur whose Virgin brand encompasses an airline, a bank, mobile phones, hot-air balloons and fitness centers – among other ventures – appears to be heeding at Virgin Galactic, the anchor tenant in absentia at New Mexico’s Spaceport America. (7/31)

NASA: Tracking CubeSats is Easy, but Many Stay in Orbit Too Long (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
U.S. military radars have little trouble tracking the flux of CubeSats filling orbital traffic lanes, diminishing worries that new commercial CubeSat constellations could generate collision hazards in space, according to a report issued by NASA. But 46 of the 231 CubeSats successfully launched from 2000 through the end of 2014 — about one in five — will remain in orbit more than a quarter-century.

Space debris experts and most big international satellite operators have agreed to re-position spacecraft in low Earth orbit at low enough altitudes to naturally re-enter the atmosphere within 25 years at the end of their lives. Most CubeSats range between the size of a Rubik’s cube and a shoebox, and all of the small satellites based on the CubeSat design have been tracked and catalogued by the U.S. military’s Joint Space Operations Center, according to a report issued July 22 by NASA’s Orbital Debris Program Office.

Launches of large clusters of CubeSats in recent years, along with industry plans to deploy hundreds more, have raised concerns about the tiny satellites contributing to the orbital debris problem in low Earth orbit. U.S. Air Force officials say the military tracks approximately 23,000 objects in space, most of which are derelict rocket stages, decommissioned spacecraft, or smaller fragments. CubeSats are a small fraction of the objects orbiting Earth, but unlike older pieces of space junk, the pace of deployment of future CubeSats is expected to increase. (7/31)

NEEMO Undersea Crew Tests Space Tools and Techniques Off Florida Coast (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA astronaut Serena Aunon has been moving tools and equipment underwater during the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) 20 mission, which began on July 20, 2015. NEEMO 20 is a 14-day mission by an international crew to the Aquarius Reef Base, located 62 feet (19 meters) below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida.

NEEMO 20 is focusing on evaluating tools and techniques being tested for future spacewalks on a variety of surfaces and gravity levels ranging from asteroids to the moons of Mars and the Martian surface. The mission tests time delays in communications due to the distance of potential mission destinations. The crew also will assess hardware sponsored by the European Space Agency (ESA) that allows crew members to read the next step in a procedure without taking their hands or eyes away from the task using a tablet, a smartphone and a head-mounted interface. (7/31)

Iridium Delays Launch (Source: Space News)
Iridium is delaying the launch of its first next-generation satellites because of a satellite hardware issue. The company said the first two satellites, previously scheduled for launch on a Dnepr rocket in October, will now launch in December to correct an issue with the satellites' Ka-band feeder links. The two satellites are pathfinders for an eventual 72-satellite system that will be launched primarily on Falcon 9 rockets by the end of 2017. Iridium is also working with creditors on complex insurance requirements for the satellites and launches. (7/30)

Missile Defense Satellite Constellation Proposed (Source: Space News)
The Missile Defense Agency is proposing a constellation of satellites to perform missile tracking and space surveillance. An agency official said this week that there is "a desire" for several parts of the Defense Department to cooperate on a constellation of low Earth orbit satellites that would perform multiple missions. The agency also confirmed it has awarded a contract with an unnamed commercial satellite operator — thought to be Iridium — to host payloads for a system to confirm whether a missile had been successfully intercepted. (7/30)

Airbus Profit Rises (Source: Reuters)
Airbus Group surprised investors with a strong second-quarter rise in earnings, pushing its shares up as much as five percent as lucrative jetliner deliveries outshone more bad news for the A400M military transporter. Quarterly operating profit before one-off items jumped 15 percent to 1.23 billion euros, with gains of at least 20 percent in jetliner and helicopter profits masking a 159 million euro loss in defence and space. (7/31)

Money Laundering Alleged in Indian Antrix-Devas Deal (Source: The Hindu)
Based on the CBI case registered in March, it has instituted a fresh case under stringent provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. The Enforcement Directorate has registered a money laundering case in connection with the Antrix-Devas spectrum deal worth Rs.1,000 crore, which is also being probed by the CBI.

The Directorate has already been scrutinizing the 2005 agreement under the Foreign Exchange Management Act since 2012. Now, based on the CBI case registered in March, it has instituted a fresh case under stringent provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

According to the CBI, Mr. Murthi and others allegedly favored Devas Multimedia by giving the rights for delivery of video, multimedia and information services via S-band, causing wrongful gain of Rs.578 crore to the “ineligible” company. The company had allegedly submitted false information about its capability to deli. (7/31)

Boeing Might Shift Work Abroad if Ex-Im Bank Isn't Renewed (Source: MarketWatch)
Boeing is considering moving some operations overseas if Congress doesn't revive the Export-Import Bank, Chairman James McNerney said. "We love making and designing airplanes in the United States, but we are now forced to think about doing it differently," he told the Economic Club of Washington. (7/29)

Some Sky High on Georgia Spaceport Plan, but Others Want it Grounded (Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
The two-lane blacktop dead-ends at a tall fence and guard shack surrounded by pine stands and coastal swamps where wild boars, armadillos and rattlesnakes roam. “Bayer CropScience” reads the sign, a clue to the site’s heritage as a manufacturing depot for insecticides, chemicals and trip flares.

A more uninviting location would be hard to find in Georgia, the beauty of the nearby marshes, Satilla River and Cumberland Island notwithstanding. The 11,000-acre site, though, isn’t an alien environment to the Camden County men reaching for the stars. (7/29)

New Horizons Data Hint at Underground Ocean (Source:
"We are amazed to see Pluto as dynamic and active as it is," said Richard Binzel, a New Horizons co-investigator and professor in MIT's Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences. The latest images of Tombaugh Region—the heart's official name in honor of Pluto's discoverer, Clyde Tombaugh—show evidence of nitrogen ice similar to Earth's glaciers, which appear to flow around elevated islands at the heart's edges.

Until now, scientists have only seen surfaces like this on active worlds such as Earth and Saturn's moon Enceladus. "No one dared imagine such a thick and localized buildup of geologically young ices, that even at 40 kelvins [-388 degrees Fahrenheit], have enough viscosity to create local landforms," he said.
Flowing ice and other previously revealed features, such as 11,000-foot water ice mountains and the heart's relatively young crater-free surface, support the idea that Pluto may have an interior ocean driving the geologic activity. (7/30)

Rocket Lab and NASA Sign Commercial Space Launch Agreement (Source: Scoop)
Rocket Lab has signed a Commercial Space Launch Act Agreement with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The agreement enables Rocket Lab to use NASA resources - including personnel, facilities and equipment - for launch and reentry efforts.

Rocket Lab is considering using NASA’s launch complexes to complement Rocket Lab’s primary launch range in New Zealand. “Rocket Lab is pleased to have the opportunity to utilise NASA facilities for those customers that may require lower inclination orbits,” said Peter Beck, Rocket Lab CEO. Use of a NASA range will give Rocket Lab the ability to launch Electron to lower orbital inclinations than the company’s New Zealand range, which offers inclinations from sun-synchronous through to 45 degrees. (7/31)

New Results From Philae Lander Offer First Close-Up of a Comet (Source: Science News)
During its brief time awake on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the Philae lander documented a diverse world. New analyses of lander data reveal the comet as uniform on the inside, but full of variety on the outside. Pebbles, boulders, cliffs and pits blanket the forbidding landscape. Complex organic molecules float above a surface that is as soft as sand in some places and as hard as rock in others.

Not too shabby for a lander that bounced, tumbled, bounced again, fell in a hole and landed on its side. For nearly 60 hours, Philae learned all it could about its new home before running out of power and slipping into a seven-month slumber from which it only recently awoke. (7/30)

Comet Probe Finds Key Ingredients for Life (Source: USA Today)
The comet probe Philae detected several elements essential to life during its historic, bouncing landing in November. Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko contains at least 16 organic compounds, four of which had never before been detected on a comet, the first analysis of the data found. Whether the complex, carbon- and nitrogen-rich molecules were formed in the early days of the solar system or later on the comet remains a mystery.

But their existence "could have played a key role in fostering the formation" of amino acids, sugars and nucleobases — the ingredients for life, said the European Space Agency, which launched the Rosetta orbiter and its probe. (7/30)

Mystery "Graffiti" on Saturn Moon has Experts Stumped (Source: CBS)
It's as if someone took a red marker to Saturn's icy moon Tethys. In new images from NASA's Cassini spacecraft, red arcs are clearly visible on the moon's surface, and are among the most unusual color features on Saturn's moons to be revealed by Cassini's cameras.

The images, obtained in April, are the first to show large northern areas of Tethys with such clarity. It also has helped that the Saturn system moved into its northern hemisphere summer over the past few years, meaning northern latitudes have become increasingly well illuminated. Click here. (7/30)

Iridium Delay Allows Glimpse of Complex SpaceX Launch Insurance Policy (Source: Space News)
Mobile satellite services provider Iridium Communications on July 30 said the Russian launch of its first two Iridium Next second-generation satellites would be delayed by two months, to December, because of a recent problem with hardware assuring the satellites’ Ka-band feeder links.

Iridium said that despite the delay, it still expects commercial launch provider SpaceX to conduct the seven following Iridium Next launches, each carrying 10 satellites, by the end of 2017. Insurance officials in the past have said they want to see the first two Iridium Next satellites operational for around four months before underwriting coverage for the follow-on launches, to be sure there are no systemic issues on the satellites.

That would put the first SpaceX Falcon 9 launch in April 2016 at the earliest even if Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX keeps to its original Iridium Next schedule despite its heavily booked manifest and delays related to its June 28 failure. (7/30)

Orbital ATK Completing Final Report on Antares Failure (Source: Space News)
Orbital ATK is wrapping up the final report into last October’s Antares launch failure for delivery to the Federal Aviation Administration, but has not indicated when the report will be released to the public. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said he believed Orbital ATK “is about ready” to deliver its report on the Oct. 28 launch failure to the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation. (7/30)

Closest Rocky Alien Planet Discovered (Source:
Astronomers have discovered a rocky exoplanet that lies just 21 light-years from Earth — closer than any other confirmed rocky alien world. The alien planet, called HD 219134b, is about 4.5 times more massive than Earth, making it a so-called "super Earth," a new study reports. HD 219134b lies extremely close to its host star, completing one orbit every three days, so its surface is too hot to harbor life as we know it, researchers said. (7/30)

Should Scientists Be Looking for the Last Life-Forms on Mars? (Source:
Life may have lived and thrived in the oceans and lakes that once covered Mars — but some scientists want to focus the search for life on Mars on the organisms that held on when the water dried up: The last life-forms to survive on the Red Planet. The surface of Mars was once so abundant with liquid water that rivers, lakes, possibly an ocean, and maybe even hot springs decorated the planet's surface.

The water of ancient Mars may have even been clean enough for humans to drink. This aquatic history is written in the rocks and dirt that dominate the Martian landscape today. Water can still be found sealed in ice, primarily at the poles, and very small amounts in the atmosphere and the soil. But any significant amount of liquid water on the Red Planet is a thing of the past.

Considering Mars' wet history, and its many similarities to Earth, scientists are actively seeking signs that life once existed there. The Red Planet may never have hosted plants or animals, but microscopic life-forms may have survived, even thrived, in that watery Martian environment 3 or 4 billion years ago. (7/30)

July 30, 2015

Billionaires and Their Spaced-Out Projects (Source: Economic Times)
Mankind's quest to boldly go where no one has gone before has received a boost from these mercurial wealthy men, known for investing in ideas that once might have been considered too good to be true. Click here. (7/30)

SpaceX Moving Test Equipment Back to Texas from Spaceport America (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Officials with Spaceport America on Wednesday confirmed tenant SpaceX is moving some of its equipment back to a testing facility in McGregor, Texas. But the company will maintain its lease with the spaceport for future launches after additional testing.

Christine Anderson, executive director of Spaceport America, confirmed the move Wednesday but said SpaceX remains a tenant at the facility. "After the crash, they said they were rethinking their testing," Anderson said. "They said 'we are going to do more testing at McGregor for a while.' They are keeping their lease but moving equipment. (7/29)

500 Yen for a Piece of a Real, Launched Rocket (Source: RocketNews)
Do you have any aspiring astronauts, astronomers, aeronauts, or cosmologists in the house? If so, you’ve just stumbled upon the perfect birthday gift for said person. For only 500 yen (US$4.05), you can now purchase legitimate fragments of a Japan-launched rocket being sold under the moniker uchuu gacha (“space capsules”). In fact, it’s such a good deal that we just had to buy one for ourselves! (7/30)

Preview: Andy Weir's 'The Martian' (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
It is the movie many space tech enthusiasts have been waiting for: a big-screen adaptation of Andy Weir’s book The Martian. Directed by Ridley Scott, the movie, like the book, promises to be a technically-accurate, action-packed story of human ingenuity and endurance on Mars. Originally set for a November 25 release, it has been moved up to October 2. Click here. (7/30)

Russia Schedules First Proton Launch Since Crash (Source: Space Daily)
Russia on Wednesday set a date for the first Proton rocket launch since an engine failure in May saw a Mexican satellite destroyed. Authorities said a Proton-M rocket would blast off from the Baikonur launch site in Kazakhstan on August 28 carrying a British Inmarsat-5F3 commercial communications satellite. (7/29)

Honda Replaces Fattah in Space Appropriations Role (Source: Roll Call)
The top Democrat on the House subcommittee that funds NASA and NOAA is stepping down from that post after a federal indictment. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA) was one of five people included in a 29-count indictment Wednesday for a racketeering conspiracy dating back to Fattah's failed 2007 campaign for mayor of Philadelphia. Fattah said he is innocent, but will step down as ranking member of the House Appropriations commerce, justice and science subcommittee. Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA), who has advocated for projects based at NASA's Ames Research Center, will take over as the subcommittee's ranking member. (7/29)

NewSat Must Sell Launch Contract Quickly (Source: Space News)
NewSat has until Aug. 1 to sell its Ariane launch contract to Measat. A bankruptcy court judge in Delaware set that deadline in a recent ruling, limiting NewSat's administrators to discussions with Measat. After that date, Arianespace would be free to terminate its contract. Arianespace has argued that the fate of the contract should not be determined in a U.S. court, since the contract specified France as the jurisdiction for any dispute. (7/29)

House Inaction Dashes Ex-Im Hopes Until Fall (Source: The Hill)
Any reauthorization of the Ex-Im Bank will wait until the fall. The House adjourned Thursday without taking up the Senate's version of a highway transportation funding bill that included a reauthorization of the bank, used in recent years by satellite manufacturers and launch services providers. The House instead passed a three-month extension of the highway bill without the Ex-Im Bank provision. The House will reconvene on Sept. 8. (7/29)

Senate Requires NASA to Identify Nuclear Fuel Needs (Source: Space News)
A Senate bill regarding space-based nuclear power requires NASA to lay out its plans for missions that need it. The bill, introduced last week by Ohio's two senators, would require the space agency to "detail the current projected mission requirements and associated time frames" for radioisotope power systems. The senators are also interested in NASA's plans for Advanced Stirling Radioisotope Generator technology, which promises to be more efficient than current RTGs but which NASA canceled substantially all funding for in 2013. (7/29)

$126 Million Stolen in Russian Spaceport Construction Project Funds (Source: Moscow Times)
Russian prosecutors said $126 million has been stolen during the construction of the Vostochny Cosmodrome. Russian Prosecutor General Yury Chaika said an inquiry into 250 companies working on the spaceport project in Russia's Far East found those thefts, although no specific companies or individuals were mentioned. Russian officials continue to state that the spaceport will be done by November, in time for its first launch by the end of the year. (7/28)

UK Sets Liability Cap for Satellite Operators (Source: Space News)
The British government has agreed to a new liability cap for satellite operators licensed there. Starting Oct. 1, the U.K. Outer Space Act will cap liability for satellite operators at 60 million euros ($66 million). The new cap, putting the U.K. in line with many other spacefaring nations, in intended to promote growth of the country's commercial space industry. (7/28)

NASA Says Commercial Crew Milestone Changes Don’t Affect Budget Request (Source: Space News)
While acknowledging delays in interim milestones for its two commercial crew contracts, NASA officials said July 28 they still require the full funding requested for 2016 to avoid delays in the overall program.

In a presentation to the human exploration and operations committee of the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) meeting at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, agency officials said they risk having to issue stop-work orders to Boeing and SpaceX and renegotiate their contracts if Congress provides less than the $1.243 billion NASA requested in its original 2016 budget proposal. (7/29)

Russia Formally Commits to Station Through 2024 (Source: Space News)
Russia has formally notified its International Space Station partners that it will continue in the partnership at least to 2024, ending several months of doubts that were fueled by the current poor state of Russia’s relations with the West.

The 22-nation European Space Agency confirmed that the Russia space agency, Roscosmos, had notified ESA and the other partners of its commitment to 2024, a decision that followed similar guarantees by NASA – the station’s general contractor – and the Canadian Space Agency. That leaves ESA and the Japanese space agency, JAXA, as the only two current partners yet to make a decision. ESA has yet to commit even to 2020 but expects to do so at a meeting of its member governments in late 2016. (7/29)

Stunning Photo Shows SpaceShipTwo Pilot Parachuting to Earth After Crash (Source:
It is a picture of bravery in the face of the unthinkable. A newly released photo by Virgin Galactic that shows a test pilot managing to parachute to safety after the tragic SpaceShipTwo crash last year is a moving reminder of the risks and resilience that have helped humanity push its way out into space.

The photo shows SpaceShipTwo pilot Peter Siebold floating back to Earth via parachute on Oct. 31, just moments after the vehicle broke apart in a test-flight disaster that killed co-pilot Michael Alsbury. The accident occurred because Alsbury unlocked the space plane's re-entry system too early, leading to the crash over California's Mojave Desert, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators announced Tuesday. Click here. (7/29)

NASA's Next Megarocket Could Launch Mission to Europa (Source:
The huge rocket NASA is developing to get astronauts to an asteroid, Mars and other distant destinations should also greatly aid robotic exploration efforts, members of Congress were told. The Space Launch System (SLS) megarocket, scheduled to fly for the first time in 2018, will blast unmanned spacecraft toward their targets at incredible speeds, dramatically reducing interplanetary travel times, said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate.

As an example, Grunsfeld cited NASA's planned flyby mission to Jupiter's ocean-harboring moon Europa, which the agency aims to launch in the early to mid-2020s. Using SLS instead of currently available rockets would slash the probe's journey to the Jupiter system from about eight years to less than three years, Grunsfeld said. (Mission team members are developing the Europa flyby craft to fit on a variety of different launch vehicles, including SLS.) (7/29)

Search for Alien Life Ignites Battle over Giant Telescope (Source: Scientific American)
There is a gaping hole in the latest effort to reinvigorate the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). The hole opened last week when tech billionaire Yuri Milner announced the Breakthrough Listen initiative, a 10-year, $100-million shot in the arm for SETI, operated through Milner’s Breakthrough Prize Foundation. The initiative includes funding for unprecedented amounts of SETI time at three world-class observatories: the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia, the Automated Planet Finder telescope in California and the Parkes Observatory in Australia.

What’s missing from the partnership is the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, which at 305 meters wide is the biggest and most sensitive single-dish radio telescope in the world. SETI godfather and former Arecibo director, astronomer Frank Drake, once calculated that the instrument could receive (or send) radio messages throughout much of the galaxy.

The omission at first seems inexplicable, because SETI and Arecibo are inseparably intertwined. Drake, a key player in Breakthrough Listen, famously used the telescope in 1974 to transmit his “Arecibo message” toward the globular star cluster M13. The message was meant to be an interstellar postcard from our culture, and included pictographic figures of our planet, our solar system and even the recipe for DNA. Click here. (7/29)

Roscosmos to Set Up National Manned Spaceflight Center (Source: Sputnik)
Ex-cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev is tapped to be the head of Russia’s future national center for manned flights to space. The new Center, to be comprised of the Cosmonaut Training Center, Roscosmos’ Manned Spaceflight Center, Energia Space Rocket Corporation and TsNIIMash, will be modeled after the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, which is NASA’s  Manned Spacecraft Center, where human spaceflight training, research, and flight control  are conducted. (7/29)

Kazakhstan to Pay Russia $20 Million for its Cosmonaut Space Flight in 2016 (Source: Tass)
Kazakhstan will spend $20 million on the space flight of its cosmonaut, the sum will be paid to Russia in 2016, deputy head of Kazakhstan’s Aerospace Committee Erkin Shaimagambetov told a news conference on Wednesday. Kazakh cosmonaut Aidyn Aimbetov will fly on 10-day mission to the International Space Station (ISS) in September, replacing British singer Sarah Brightman, who backed out of the mission in May. (7/29)

Kazakhstan Gets Russian Trip to Space Station 3 Times Cheaper Than NASA (Source: Moscow Times)
Kazakhstan will pay a mere $20 million to send an astronaut to the International Space Station on a Russian rocket — less than half the sum reportedly asked of a British passenger to make the same trip and less than one-third of the price routinely paid by NASA for U.S. astronauts, news agency RIA Novosti reported Wednesday, citing a Kazakh space agency official.

Russia's space agency last month confirmed that Kazakh cosmonaut Aidyn Aimbetov would replace British singer Sarah Brightman aboard an upcoming Soyuz rocket launch in September. Brightman backed out of the flight in May, citing personal reasons. The Russian and Kazakh space agencies have agreed on a price of $20 million for the flight — 2.5 times cheaper than Brightman's reported $52 million ticket. (7/29)

Clusters of Living Worlds Would Hint Life Came from Outer Space (Source: New Scientist)
Does life spread like an interstellar infection? If we spot it on clusters of planets, that might suggest it doesn’t stay put wherever it evolves. The theory that life crosses space to reach new worlds, called panspermia, is hard to test. Life on Earth could have been seeded by just one microbe-laden rock, but there are too many rocks to check, even if we had a foolproof test for extraterrestrial life.

“That’s not a very effective strategy of testing whether life came from outer space,” says Henry Lin of Harvard University. He says the answer lies in mapping life across the galaxy. Lin argues that if we find 25 worlds with life on one side of the sky and 25 lifeless ones on the other, it might mean the sun sits on the edge of a panspermia bubble – a strong sign that life radiated outward. “We would have smoking-gun evidence that panspermia actually happens,” he says. (7/29)

Space Research Supporting Canadian Farmers (Source: Govt. of Canada)
Member of Parliament Lawrence Toet (Elmwood-Transcona) today announced funding projects at five Canadian universities to analyze and compile measurements collected by NASA's Soil and Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite.

The SMAP mission will provide measurements of soil moisture and determine whether the ground is frozen or thawed in the Canadian boreal environment and other cold areas of the world. These measurements will help to produce global maps of soil moisture, helping scientists to better understand how changes in weather and climate affect the cycling of Earth's water and carbon.

This data could help improve weather forecasting including more accurate flood and drought predictions. With new insights into changing weather and water conditions, Canadian farmers will be able to better understand crop yields and get early warnings of soil conditions that could lead to crop-damaging pests. (7/28)

Governor Martinez Addresses Future of Virgin Galactic in New Mexico (Source: KRQE)
Federal investigators say human error caused New Mexico’s future space tourism aircraft to break apart and kill a co-pilot. Now New Mexico’s Governor Susana Martinez is reacting to the news that’s delayed a lot of business at the state’s more than $200-million investment. Without Virgin Galactic, the Spaceport has been losing about $500,000 a year. Though it’s unclear when the losses will stop, Governor Martinez says the state is still working closely to welcome Virgin soon.

Martinez says they’re focused on working with other partners at Spaceport America. “We want to diversify Spaceport America, I mean, we have other companies that are there, Space X, that are also testing rockets and a variety other things,” said Gov. Martinez. The governor says while there’s no timeline, the state hasn’t given up yet on Branson’s big dream. (7/28)

We Come in Peace: Taobao Sells Tickets to Earth-Like Planet (Source: Want China Times)
A Chinese online vendor has begun selling tickets for the right to migrate to the Earth-like planet recently discovered by NASA. Despite selling for a price of just 0.20 yuan (US$0.03) per ticket on Taobao, China's version of eBay, no one has yet snapped up the opportunity to move to Kepler-452b, which NASA claims has a "substantial opportunity" to host life.

One reason could be that Kepler-452b is situated 14 million light years away from Earth, meaning at current spacecraft travel speeds it would take more than 500 million years to get there. Though Chinese netizens are disappointed that they cannot migrate to another planet like in the movies, general interest in NASA is said to have spiked, with searches for the US space agency on Alibaba e-commerce platforms Taobao and Tmall rising by 19% over the past seven days. (7/29)

'Impossible' Propellantless Eengine Appears to Work Despite Breaking Laws of Physics (Source: The Age)
Ridiculed as impossible by the scientific community, the electromagnetic propulsion engine – which could supposedly take a craft from Earth to Pluto in just 18 months without the need for rocket fuel – has apparently been confirmed by an independent scientist as working.

German scientist Martin Tajmar​, who has a history of debunking fanciful propulsion systems, claims in a paper he has tested a copy of NASA's experimental device (known as the EMDrive) and that it does produce thrust. This is controversial because the theory that has been used to explain the device violates conventional physics and the law of conservation of momentum.

The EMDrive theoretically works by converting electric power into microwaves which bounce around inside an enclosed cavity, using the difference in radiation to move through an environment. This violates the laws of physics, which state that if something moves forward it must also push something back, as no propellant is expelled to balance the engine's momentum. (7/29)

Really, Propellantless Space Drives are Still Not a Thing (Source: WIRED)
The last time we saw the so-called EM Drive, it was causing a kerfuffle over at, where a member of a tiny team called Eagleworks at NASA’s Johnson Space Center had posted some information about a propellantless propulsion device. People got really excited, like you do when you think super smart physicists might have figured out a way to travel to the farthest reaches of space by bouncing microwaves around in a cavity—no propellant, no extra weight, no end in sight.

But as we explained, the NASA team’s results appeared just on the threshold of detection, weren’t peer-reviewed, and, you know, violated this pesky thing called conservation of momentum. All of those problems are still true. A new publication purports to test the drive’s magical thrust-making abilities. This time, the news is coming from a team at the Dresden University of Technology. They presented their results (thrust signatures of +/-20 microNewtons).

To be fair, these researchers constructed their version of the device so they could try to eliminate potential sources of error or interference, and they don’t say that they’ve validated the drive—just that they can’t explain where their teeny tiny thrust signatures are coming from. (7/29)

Space Kombucha in the Search for Life and its Origin (Source: ESA)
You might know it as a drink for hipsters or as an ancient brew drunk for centuries in Eurasia, but the culture that ferments sugary tea into Kombucha is going around the world. Bolted to the outside of the International Space Station are the same bacteria and yeasts that are used in making Kombucha.

Tests on Earth have shown that these multicellular biofilms are tough and will most probably survive an unprotected trip through space. But there is only one way to tell for sure and that is why the Kombucha-making organisms and other biological specimens are now circling Earth exposed to space. (7/29)

Astronaut Tony Antonelli Leaves NASA (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Another of NASA’s highly-trained and experienced space flyers has decided to leave the Space Agency. Dominic A. “Tony” Antonelli, who has been with NASA for 15 years, has concluded his time with the agency – his last day was on July 10. Antonelli joins Stephen Frick, who left NASA three days later, as well as other members of the Astronaut Corps since the close of the Space Shuttle Program.

Antonelli flew to orbit twice; the first time was on Space Shuttle Discovery on STS-119. The second time he flew on board Atlantis on mission STS-132. Both trips were to the International Space Station and both times Antonelli served as the mission’s pilot. (7/29)

UAE Space Agency Seeks Tie Up with Bahrain on Space Exploration (Source: Arabian Business)
The UAE Space Agency has held talks with Bahrain over how the two countries could work together on space exploration. On Sunday, the UAE Space Agency published a statement on its website revealing that representatives from Bahrain’s National Space Science Agency (NSSA) had visited Abu Dhabi to discuss potential areas of cooperation. The statement said: “The UAE Space Agency is looking for opportunities of co-operation with NSSA to strengthen partnership and work between the two organisations within the space sector. (7/28)

The Sadly Familiar Reason NASA Was Created (Source: Time)
NASA may be devoted to exploring the universe, but the agency owes its existence to a far more earthly concern: office politics. The National Aeronautics and Space Act, which was signed into law on July 29, 1958, was intended to “provide for research into problems of flight within and outside the earth’s atmosphere, and for other purposes.” One of those other purposes was “to overcome the interservice rivalries that had confused the U.S. missile and space programs.”

Before NASA, various branches of the military were conducting research into aspects of space exploration like jet propulsion and satellites, and each wanted a key role in the exciting new field. Giving a single branch agency over all space exploration would alienate the others. Moreover, it could signal that the universe was a battleground as much as a place of inquiry. As the NASA act noted, activities in space “should be devoted to peaceful purposes.” (7/29)

Australia Needs to do More in Space Race (Source: NineNews)
The first Australian, and first woman, to lead a NASA team to search for life on Mars has criticised the country's limited involvement in space exploration. Dr Abigail Allwood says Australia is losing some of its brightest minds because there isn't enough funding or research opportunities in the field. The principal investigator of the Mars 2020 rover mission believes her homeland is capable of being more involved in the space race and needs to get off the sidelines. (7/29)

July 29, 2015

SpaceTEC Plans Educator Workshop (Source: SpaceTEC)
The purpose of this 4 hour course is to teach aerospace technology instructors, STEM educators grades 6-12, and college STEM instructors how to set up their own student focused “space program” utilizing the Mini-Cube Program. With this STEM Project Based Learning Activity, students can have the unique, affordable, and challenging opportunity to send experiments and/or technology projects via high altitude balloon to an altitude of 100,000 feet (20 miles), commonly known as the “edge of space.” Click here. (7/28)

Russia Delays ISS Supply Launch (Source: Tass)
Russia is pushing back the next launch of a cargo mission to the ISS by 10 days. The Progress M-29M mission, previously scheduled for launch on Sept. 21, is now scheduled for Oct. 1. Russian officials did not explain the delay. Meanwhile, Khrunichev confirmed Wednesday that its Proton launch vehicle will return to flight August 28, carrying a satellite for Inmarsat. (7/28)

Russia Considers Angara for Sea Launch (Source: Tass)
Russia is considering using the Angara launch vehicle for Sea Launch. Khrunichev officials said they are looking at options to either modify the Sea Launch system to accommodate the A3 variant of the Angara, or modifying the Angara A3 to use the current Sea Launch system. Sea Launch has previously used the Zenit-3SL, manufactured in Ukraine. The future of the overall Sea Launch venture has been in question, including recent reports it could be sold to China. (7/28)

Observatory Chief Resigns Unexpectedly (Source: Science)
The head of a large observatory under development unexpectedly resigned Tuesday. Edwards Moses, president of the Giant Magellan Telescope Organization, is stepping down from the post because of "family matters," the organization said in a statement. The organization is developing a giant telescope in Chile made of seven mirrors, each 8.4 meters across, that will make it among the largest in the world when completed in the mid-2020s. (7/28)

Frick Leaves NASA (Source: NASA)
Astronaut Stephen Frick has left NASA, the agency announced this week. Frick left the astronaut corps July 13 "to accept a position in the private sector," according to a NASA statement. Frick was a pilot on the STS-110 mission in 2002 and commander of STS-122 in 2008. He is the second astronaut to leave the agency this month. (7/28)

Kickstarter Success Has Smithsonian Seeking Funds for Second Spacesuit Restoration (Source: CollectSpace)
Having won funding to "reboot" one spacesuit, the National Air and Space Museum is seeking to restore another. The museum's Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign, launched last week to restore Neil Armstrong's Apollo 11 suit, passed its $500,000 goal in just four days. The museum is now seeking to raise an additional $200,000 to restore Alan Shepard's Mercury spacesuit. The fundraising campaign runs for 20 more days. (7/28)

ISS Crew Ducks Debris as EVA Preparations Move Forward (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Members of the Expedition 44 crew had to move out of the way of satellite debris late in the evening of Saturday, July 25. The most recent reminder that the environment above our world is becoming increasingly cluttered, did not impact crew safety or operations and, in fact, it might even get the station’s current residents a little ahead in terms of scheduled tasks.

The six space flyers that are currently serving on the station hail from the U.S., Russia, and Japan. There are three reboosts of the orbiting outpost scheduled between now and the next flight of a Russian Soyuz spacecraft with members of the Expedition 45 crew. That flight is currently scheduled to take place on Sept. 2 of this year. (7/29)

Ex-Im is Left Out of House GOP Hhighway Funding Extension (Source: Roll Call)
House Republicans are calling for a three-month extension of the Highway Trust Fund that does not include reauthorization of the U.S. Export-Import Bank. The proposed extension would preempt a Senate plan that would attach Ex-Im's reauthorization to federal highway funding. (7/28)

Once-Rejected Electromagnetic Propulsion is Now a Promising Space Drive (Source: Telegraph)
A technology dismissed years ago as impossible has been proved both possible and practical and could be the key to interplanetary space travel. British inventor Roger Shawyer's electromagnetic propulsion drive works by using solar power to "generate multiple microwaves that move back and forth in an enclosed chamber," producing inexhaustible power that could take astronauts to the moon in four hours. (7/28)

As Sir Richard Branson Plunges Deeper Into the Space Race, Don’t Hold Your Breath (Source: The Times)
As ever with Sir Richard Branson, the project lacks neither ambition nor vision. The Virgin founder announced in January that he was joining an enterprise aiming to bring high-speed internet and telephony services to communities that lack them by building, launching and running a low-earth-orbit satellite constellation.

The business, OneWeb, is led by Greg Wyler, a satellite industry veteran who previously worked on something similar at Google. Taking part alongside Virgin, whose involvement is via its Virgin Galactic division, is Qualcomm, the American chip and mobile technology giant, with Sir Richard describing the pair as “the principal investors in OneWeb”. (7/28)

Virgin Galactic Craft Design Ignored Pilot Risk, Probe Finds (Source: Bloomberg)
Virgin Galactic’s spacecraft designers failed to anticipate that pilots might trigger its brakes too early, leaving the ship vulnerable to the error that led to last year’s fatal crash, investigators said. The National Transportation Safety Board focused on pilot training Tuesday in a hearing into the Oct. 31 accident that grounded Richard Branson’s space-tourism venture months before it was to start taking customers to the edge of Earth’s atmosphere.

Co-pilot Michael Alsbury was killed when the vehicle was torn apart after he prematurely unlocked a braking mechanism. The failure by Scaled Composites LLC, the craft’s designer, to consider and protect against the mistake was a probable cause of the crash, the NTSB determined. Scaled Composites knew the vehicle would be destroyed if the mechanism was deployed too early but assumed that only systems, and not humans, would cause an error, the NTSB found.

The FAA’s oversight also was “deficient,” the board said. The probe is the first detailed look into the new generation of space vehicles straddling the line between experimental flight and rockets. The NTSB findings “will help make the fledgling commercial space industry safer and better,” said Branson, the 65-year-old U.K. billionaire founder of Virgin Group, said in a blog post Wednesday. (7/28)

Earth Could Get Just 12 Hours' Warning of Damaging Solar Storm (Source: Guardian)
Humanity would only have a 12-hour warning about the arrival of a “coronal mass ejection” that could damage the National Grid, pipelines and railway signals, according to a newly released document from the UK Cabinet Office. In a report worthy of a Bruce Willis film, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has set out the nature of the risk to the UK from “severe space weather”, which it says results from various types of solar activity.

The report, the Space Weather Preparedness Strategy, states: “Solar activity can produce x-rays, high-energy particles and coronal mass ejections of plasma. Where such activity is directed towards Earth there is the potential to cause wide-ranging impacts. These include power loss, aviation disruption, communication loss, and disturbance to (or loss of) satellite systems.” (7/28)

Lockheed and Boeing Announce Quarterly Results (Source: Space Digest)
Lockheed Martin reported 2nd quarter 2015 net sales of $11.6 billion, compared to $11.3 billion in the 2Q 2014. Net earnings in the 2Q 2015 were $929 million, or $2.94 per share, compared to $889 million, or $2.76 per share, in the 2Q 2014. Meanwhile, Boeing reported that 2nd quarter revenue increased 11% (compared to 2Q 2014) to $24.5 billion on record commercial deliveries. Defense, Space & Security department's 2Q revenue was $7.5 billion, compared to $7.7 billion a year ago (3% decrease). (7/28)

When a Rocket Blows Up —1 in 20 Fail—Who Pays For It? (Source: CNBC)
Companies and governments spend huge sums to get things into space, but an average of about 1 in 20 launches will fail. That's why many of today's launches—especially those putting commercial satellites into orbit—are covered by space insurance policies to prevent catastrophic financial losses.

But insuring a payload on the tip of a rocket is entirely different from insuring a home, boat or car. There are only about 50 insured launches each year paying about $750 million in premiums to a handful of companies. If just a few big accidents pile up, there is a real risk of the industry ending up in the red—and it looks like 2015 is shaping up to be a tough year.

"The nature of this business is very volatile," said Chris Kunstadter, senior vice president and global underwriting manager for space at XL Catlin. "You don't have many losses, but when you do, they're large." Not only are the potential losses huge, but there are too few launches each year to do the same sort of actuarial math as in other types of insurance. A few bad launches in an unlucky year can cause the failure rate to bounce between 3 percent and 10 percent, and accidents tend to be total losses. (7/28)

Meet the Badass Woman Who Will Put Humans on Mars (Source:
Since Dava Newman left her MIT teaching position in May to become deputy administrator of NASA (the agency’s second-in-command), things have been “a little hectic,” she told That’s understandable. It’s been a bumpy summer. Click here. (7/27)

China's Supercomputer to Support World's Largest Radio Telescope (Source: Xinhua)
Supercomputer Skyeye-1, capable of a quadrillion computing operations per second, will support space exploration by the world's largest radio telescope based in southwest China's Guizhou Province. Assembly of the telescope, with a dish the size of 30 football fields and located deep in the mountains of Guizhou, has got underway, according to Dawning Information Industry Co., which participates in its construction.

When it is completed in 2016, the five hundred meter aperture spherical telescope (FAST) will be the world's largest, overtaking Puerto Rico's Arecibo Observatory, which is only 300 meters in diameter. A radio signal as far as tens of billions of light years away could possibly be caught by the telescope, which will extend China's space tracking scope from moon's orbit to the outside edge of the solar system upon its completion next year. (7/28)

Russia to Carry Out 10 Test Launches of Angara Heavy Lift Rocket by 2020 (Source: Tass)
Russia will test launch around 10 Angara heavy carrier rockets in the next few years, the general designer of the rocket’s manufacturer, Khrunichev Center, Alexander Medvedev, told TASS. "We plan to complete test launches of the carrier rocket from the Plesetsk cosmodrome by 2020 and to start the serial Angara production after that," Medvedev said. He stressed that Angara rockets will carry spacecraft during test-launches. The first test launches of Angara heavy and light rockets were held in 2014 with simulated payloads. (7/28)

Spaceship Pilot Describes Harrowing Free Fall After Breakup (Source: ABC)
Free-falling miles above the desert, his test spaceship ripped to pieces and the frigid air hard to breathe, pilot Peter Siebold struggled through crippling injuries to turn on his oxygen and just to stay conscious. Siebold was aware that Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo had violently disintegrated but then blacked out. When he awoke, still far above the California desert, he repeatedly tried in vain to activate his backup oxygen.

He next remembered the jolt of his parachute automatically opening and the sensation of just having woken up. His account came from a written summary of a January interview done by accident investigators as part of their inquiry. Though bad, his injuries were not life-threatening — his right leg broke in four places, as did his collarbone. He was cut up, extensively bruised and had trouble seeing. (7/28)

July 28, 2015

Exoplanet Finds Keep Rolling in from Kepler Spacecraft Despite Glitch (Source:
NASA's planet-hunting Kepler space telescope continues to zero in on the first "alien Earth" despite being hobbled by a malfunction more than two years ago. Kepler generally needs to observe multiple transits to detect a planet, so it can take a while for the observatory to spot a potentially habitable world. (Earth, after all, would transit the sun from a hypothetical alien Kepler's perspective just once a year.) Small, rocky planets also present a signal-to-noise issue that can be mitigated by observing multiple transits.

Kepler team members have therefore long maintained that the most interesting Kepler finds should come at relatively late stages in the mission. So, while Kepler observed beyond the 3.5 years prescribed by the prime mission plan, the failure of the second reaction wheel was initially "crushing," Jenkins said. But only initially, for Kepler scientists have gotten better and better at analyzing the observatory's huge dataset and pulling out intriguing finds from the original planet hunt, team members said. (7/27)

Israeli Radiation Vest to Serve Deep-Space Astronauts (Source: Israel National News)
An Israeli company is partnering with Lockheed Martin for joint research and development (R&D) to see if its radiation shielding technology - initially designed to protect nuclear first responders from gamma radiation - can be used to defend astronauts exploring deep space.

StemRad, based in Tel Aviv with a branch in Palo Alto, California, works with militaries, nuclear energy sources and governmental agencies to create protection equipment for first responders to radiological events and disasters. The Israeli company's 360 Gamma is a vest protecting the source of bone marrow stem cells from gamma radiation exposure, thereby allowing the stem cells to stay safe and replenish cells throughout the body. (7/27)

Interactive Website Lets You Explore the Space Station (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The European Space Agency (ESA ) has created an incredible interactive website that lets you tour the International Space Station (ISS) without having to pay $35 million for the flight up to the orbiting laboratory. Located at International Space Station panoramic tour, anyone can take in a rather in-depth tour of what the station occupants work with every day. Everything from science stations to living quarters is covered in the website.

A simple interface makes traversing the station almost as effortless as if they were a weightless astronaut. As you travel around, you can zoom in on many details, including science experiments and computer screens. Thankfully, the controls stop at specific points, not letting you spin around uncontrollably. A handy heads-up display map is available to show your exact location in the ISS. Once you have a good feel for where you are, you can turn the map off. Click here. (7/27)

Space: Not Just for Rocket Scientists Anymore (Source: Popular Science)
For a long time now, space exploration has been the preserve of a tiny group of highly specialized and highly trained people, funded almost exclusively by public sector organizations. This is in large part due to the fact that space exploration has been prohibitively expensive, but it is also, according to innovators like Burt Rutan and Elon Musk, because politics and bureaucracy have stifled the innovations that would see costs come down.

That's all starting to change. With several related movements -- like open source, maker, and citizen science -- gaining momentum and converging, new possibilities are opening up. Here are a few for you to explore. Click here. (7/27)

Boeing's CST-100 Takes Shape at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The Commercial Crew transportation Capability (CCtCap) phase of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program continues to advance at a steady pace. This week, two major components arrived for Boeing’s Crew Space Transportation 100 (CST-100) spacecraft at a processing facility located at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The arrival of these parts marks just the latest step in the space agency’s efforts to cede the responsibility of sending crews to orbit via spacecraft produced by private firms.

The components that arrived at KSC are two domes that will form the pressure shell of the new spacecraft. This version of the vehicle is known as the Structural Test Article or STA. It is designed to test the design for effectiveness. It will also be used in a pad abort test similar to the one performed by SpaceX with their crewed Dragon vehicle.

The STA is not designed to carry astronauts. Instead it will fly with a large collection of sensors and data-gathering equipment. Getting a crew to safety in the event of an emergency is a critical requirement for the Commercial Crew Program. Work on the STA is being performed at the the former Orbital Processing Facility 3 where NASA’s shuttles were processed before heading to the VLA for mating with the boosters. Boeing has refurbished the facility to test and validate manufacturing and processing methods for the CST-100. (7/28)

Hypersonic Weapons Race Gathers Speed (Source: National Defense)
And they’re off! The race to field the first hypersonic weapon is officially on. And woe be to the losers. The United States is joined by China, Russia — and perhaps even India. For what nation wouldn’t want a weapon that closes in on its target at Mach 10, or about 7,500 mph? The hypersonic arms race is little talked about outside of military circles, but it should be. The winner would presumably have a huge strategic advantage over its rivals.

Hypersonic vehicles are generally defined as those traveling at speeds greater than Mach 5, roughly 3,840 mph. They are most often envisioned as cruise missiles, or gliders boosted by rockets. They could carry conventional weapons, nuclear warheads as well as sensors. Any of these vehicles could use their speed to avoid interception and to penetrate deep into enemy territory. If successful, experts have said it is a game-changing technology that will disrupt warfare. (7/28)

Falcon Failure Affects SES Revenue Forecast (Source: Space News)
Last month's Falcon 9 failure is affecting when SES can forecast its 2016 revenue. SES said it is waiting until when SpaceX can set a new launch date for its SES-9 satellite before it can forecast revenues for next year. SES expects the satellite, planned for a September launch prior to the failure, to launch by the end of the year, but it will take up to six month for the all-electric satellite to reach its final orbit and begin service. The company reported increased revenues in the first half of 2015 due primarily to currency-exchange effects. (7/26)

Senators Push Nuclear Power for Space Systems (Source: US Senate)
Ohio's two senators have introduced legislation to promote development of advanced nuclear power systems. Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced the Efficient Space Exploration Act last week, which would require NASA to deliver a report assessing the risks of delays in the development of Advanced Stirling Conversion technology that NASA had been working on as a potential replacement for radioisotope thermoelectric generators. That work has been done at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, while another Ohio company, Sunpower Inc., has also been working on that technology. (7/26)

1997, 2001, 1999: a Science Fiction Calendar from the Apollo Era (Source: Space Review)
As Apollo flew people to the Moon, the science fiction shows people watched on TV and at the movies painted a bright future for human spaceflight, but one in retrospect was wholly unrealistic. Andre Bormanis examines that disconnect between those visions of the future and what came to pass. Visit to view the article. (7/27)

Cutting the Costs of a Human Return to the Moon (Source: Space Review)
Governments have largely deferred plans for human missions to the Moon, citing their cost, while private ventures offer more affordable concepts but struggle to raise funding. Jeff Foust reports on a new study that argues that a combination of the two, through public-private partnerships, could reduce the cost of human missions by as much as an order of magnitude. Visit to view the article. (7/27)

The Mission of Zond 3 (Source: Space Review)
Fifty years ago, the Soviet Union launched a spacecraft that flew past the far side of the Moon and into deep space. Andrew LePage describes the mission of Zond 3 and how it fit into Soviet plans for missions to Mars and Venus. Visit to view the article. (7/27)

ESA to Begin Work on Jupiter Probe (Source: The Independent)
The European Space Agency is planning to begin development of its JUICE spacecraft, which will head to Jupiter to investigate signs of life in 2022. "For three-and-a-half years, JUICE will sweep around the giant planet, exploring its turbulent atmosphere, enormous magnetosphere, and tenuous set of dark rings, as well as studying the icy moons Ganymede, Europa, and Callisto," said an ESA spokesperson. "All three of these planet-sized satellites are thought to have oceans of liquid water beneath their icy crusts and should provide key clues on the potential for such icy moons to harbor habitable environments." (7/25)

Air Force: ULA Will Need 18-22 RD-180s To Compete with SpaceX (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force contends United Launch Alliance needs as many as 22 RD-180 rocket engines to compete against SpaceX for dozens of national security launches that start going out for bid later this year, according to a U.S. senator. ULA has ordered 29 RD-180 engines from Russia for its Atlas 5 rocket. Fifteen of those engines are for Air Force launches already under contract.

The remaining 14 are what ULA has said it needs to import in order to compete for military launches until its next generation rocket, known as Vulcan and powered by a U.S.-made engine, is ready around 2020. The Air Force plans to begin soliciting bids later this year for an initial batch of nine missions, all of which Air Force officials say Atlas 5 is suited to launch. A further 28 missions will be put out for bid starting in 2018, with 25 of those suited to the Atlas 5.

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James told the Senate Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee in April that ULA needs to be allowed to buy 18 RD-180 engines for missions not already under contract in order to ensure the government receives competing bids when it buys launch services over the next several years. But the Air Force now appears to be revising that estimate upward, complicating its quest for relief from a 2015 law barring the RD-180’s use for future military launches. (7/27)

Report: U.S. Air Force May Need To Guarantee Number of Launches (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force may need to guarantee SpaceX and United Launch Alliance a set number of national security launches if the service hopes to have to two financially viable families of rockets available in the future, according to a report completed in April.

The report, formally known as Broad Area Review 15 and led by retired Gen. Larry Welch, a former Air Force chief or staff, raises anew a persistent question about the U.S. national security launch market: Is there enough business for two companies?

The report was commissioned by Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James in January following delays to the Air Force’s certification process for SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. The process, which had been expected to be completed by the end of December, dragged on until June, when Falcon 9 was cleared to carry military payloads. (7/27)

U.K. Agrees to Liability Cap for Satellite Operators (Source: Space News)
The British government has agreed to limit the liability of U.K.-licensed satellite operators in an attempt to encourage growth in Britain’s commercial space sector. Effective Oct. 1, the U.K. Outer Space Act will cap operator liability at 60 million euros ($66 million), putting the U.K. in line with other spacefaring nations. The cap will be granted only after a risk analysis is performed for each new license application and may be higher for higher-risk missions. (7/27)

Pentagon IG Finds Evidence of ITAR Violations at NASA Ames (Source: Space News)
Foreign nationals did indeed have access to restricted defense technology at NASA’s Ames Research Center in 2008 and 2009, but it is impossible to tell if they shared technical details about that technology with anyone overseas, the Pentagon’s Office of the Inspector General reported. The IG’s investigation is the latest development in an export-control flap at Ames dating back to 2013, when a whistleblower whose identity has never been confirmed touched off a congressional inquiry over the possible transfer of classified military technology.

The hardware at issue, which the IG said was not classified, is a Divert Attitude and Control Subassembly (DACS): a small, rocket-propelled steering system built by Raytheon Co. for the Missile Defense Agency’s now-defunct Multiple Kill Vehicle — a missile-intercept payload designed to destroy incoming warheads using several steerable, rocket-powered bullets.

The Pentagon legally transferred a spare DACS to NASA in 2007 at the request of retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Simon “Pete” Worden, who served as director of Ames from May 2006 to this past March. Two classified subsystems, a seeker assembly and communications hardware, were removed from the DACS before NASA took possession of the unit. (7/27)

Tough Sledding for Proposed ESA Reorganization (Source: Space News)
The European Space Agency’s new chief had served notice well before assuming his post July 1 that, to streamline and save money, he wanted a broad reorganization that would slash the number of division directors. Johann-Dietrich Woerner is finding out that revamping a 22-nation bureaucracy, while not rocket science, is sometimes just as difficult.

The proposal that cleared ESA’s ruling council has the same number of formal directors – 10 – but they are organized into five “teams” that Woerner said will bring the agency closer to his goal of a “United Space in Europe through ESA.” (7/27)

GPS 3 Competitors Tout Fully Digital Navigation Payload Work (Source: Space News)
Contractors in the hunt to build the GPS satellites the U.S. Air Force will launch next decade are already touting their work on a fully digital navigation payload, an upgrade lawmakers want the Air Force to include when it finally places a follow-on order for the GPS 3 satellites now being built.

Most recently, on July 20, Boeing announced it completed a “breakthrough” toward that effort by generating digital signals from its version of a navigation payload. Boeing, which built a dozen GPS 2F satellites the Air Force expects to finish deploying early next year, is among at least three companies angling for a multibillion-dollar contract to build a second batch of GPS 3 satellites. (7/27)

July 27, 2015

What if a Black Hole Met an Antimatter Black Hole? (Source: Universe Today)
Would shooting a black hole into an antimatter black hole destroy them both? I’ve wondered out loud how it might be possible to destroy a black hole because I talk to myself and sometimes there’s a camera watching. I’ve suggested a bunch of crazy ideas, like blasting it with rockets, shooting lasers at it, smashing planets into it. Nothing would work, everything would just make it bigger and angrier.

Turns out the only way to defeat a black hole is to sit on your hands and wait for it to evaporate. That’s not really helpful if you’re getting pulled into the black hole, and have sense of immediacy about it. I mentioned one idea, antimatter, and dismissed it as just another hopeless and pointless way to enflame this galactic monstrosity. Click here. (7/24)

Arianespace Inaugurates New Fueling Facility for Soyuz Upper Stage (Source: Space Daily)
Arianespace has inaugurated FCube (Fregat Fueling Facility), the new building dedicated to fueling the Fregat upper stage of the Soyuz launch vehicle. Located at the Guiana Space Center, Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, this new facility will give Arianespace greater flexibility in managing its launch manifest, while also increasing launch capacity with Ariane, Soyuz and Vega for the greater benefit of all customers. (7/27)

July 26, 2015

China Adds Two More Satellites to its Homegrown GPS Rival (Source: South China Morning Post)
China launched two new satellites into space Saturday, state media reported, as it builds a homegrown satellite navigation system to rival the US’s Global Positioning System. A rocket carrying the satellites was launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwestern Sichuan province at 8:29 pm (1229 GMT), the official Xinhua news agency said.

The satellites are the 18th and 19th launched by China as it develops its domestic navigation system Beidou, or Compass. They take the total number launched this year to three. Beidou is currently centerd on the Asia Pacific region but is slated to cover the whole world by 2020. (7/26)

If You Think Your Internet Service is Bad, Try it in Space (Source: CNBC)
The International Space Station is a technological marvel that has expanded mankind's understanding of the universe. Despite the space station's cutting edge technology, one famous astronaut says Internet service on board is decidedly low tech.

"It's kind of like a cross between old dial-up and what you might have now with very high speed Internet," astronaut Captain Scott Kelly told CNBC in an interview this week. "It's not ideal, and it varies from time to time in how well it works." (7/26)

Just Who Exactly Blew Up SpaceX's Rocket Ship? (Source: Motley Fool)
When Orbital ATK's Antares rocket exploded over Wallops Island, Va., last year, fingers pointed immediately at the rocket's engine maker, Russia's now-defunct Kuznetsov Design Bureau, as the culprit. Fixing blame for NASA's latest rocket disaster, however, won't be as easy. And that's good news for SpaceX. Everything was going swimmingly for its CRS-7 mission when it first lifted off. For 139 glorious seconds, everything was "nominal."

So far as SpaceX can tell, the problems began when one single part within the Falcon 9 rocket's second stage failed, causing the now-infamous SpaceXplosion. Specifically, it appears that a two-foot-long steel strut -- one of several hundred built into the Falcon 9, responsible for holding the rocket's helium tanks in place -- snapped in half, failing under 2,000 pounds of stress, despite being designed to withstand 10,000 pounds.

What happened next is uncertain. But with two pieces of hardware rattling around within a pressurized metal tube straining under more than three "Gs" of acceleration -- plus a loose helium bottle they were supposed to hold in place possibly tossed into the mix -- it probably wasn't good. Long story short, the rocket blew up -- but it was neither the rocket's fault, nor the fault of the rocket maker, SpaceX. Rather, SpaceX is (tentatively) placing the blame on a supplier of metal struts that it declines to name. (7/26)

Making Contact with Alien Worlds Could Make us Care More About Our Own (Source: Guardian)
Human advanced technology is so recently acquired that any spacefaring civilization would, most likely, be far ahead of us. Hawking has said he doesn’t know anything about the extraterrestrials, but he knows about us. If our own history is any guide, he warns, first contact with a technologically superior civilization would be disastrous.

We respect that view and pledge not to send our message until a global debate has taken place. Still, I cannot help but wonder if we can assume that the extraterrestrials will have made technological leaps but somehow remained as politically and emotionally stunted as we are today. Perhaps they will have succeeded in finding ways to conquer their tendencies toward greed and violence, their shortsightedness – just as so many of us struggle to do here on Earth.

Could a deeper familiarity with the vast emptiness foster a greater respect for the preciousness and ancient continuity of life? Whether we decide to transmit our message or not, the act of conceptualizing it can be transformative. Every gesture of recognition that we share a planetary civilization takes us closer to maturity. We can’t think about how we might present ourselves to the beings of another world without seeing this one anew. (7/26)

The Inexcusable Jingoism of American Spaceflight Rhetoric (Source: Scientific American)
Throughout the history of the U.S. human spaceflight program, a peculiarly American rhetoric of manifest destiny, frontier conquest and exploitation has dominated official and public discourse. Take, for example, the credo of the Space Frontier Foundation, an American nonprofit advocacy group “dedicated to opening the Space Frontier to human settlement as rapidly as possible ... creating a freer and more prosperous life for each generation by using the unlimited energy and material resources of space.”

Such rhetoric reveals an ideology of human spaceflight—a set of beliefs about the nation's right to expand its boundaries, colonize other lands and exploit their resources. This ideology rests on a number of assumptions about the role of the U.S. in the global community and American national character. According to this ideology, the U.S. is and must remain “number one” in the world community, playing the role of political, economic, scientific, technological and moral leader, spreading democratic capitalism. (7/14)

Study: NASA Should Return to Moon Before Going to Mars (Source: CFL News 13)
Brevard County could once again become a moon port, a new study suggests. The NexGen Space study, partly funded by NASA, suggests astronauts should return to the Moon before going to Mars. The report found NASA could send astronauts to the lunar surface in five to seven years for $10 billion. Previous estimates were closer to $100 billion.
The study suggests NASA should use commercial rockets from SpaceX and ULA to launch astronauts to the moon at a more affordable cost. Then in the 2030s, a permanent moon base would be established, where commercial ventures would mine for resources that could be used for rocket fuel propellant. Former NASA executives reviewed the study, saying a sort of gas station could be established in lunar orbit, where a NASA rocket could re-fuel on its way to Mars.

Former NASA Program Manager Jim Ball, who now runs Spaceport Strategies, was a part of the independent review team. “Lunar resources reduce the risk and cost of going to Mars,” Ball said. “If you can provide propellant for those missions going to Mars by mining that propellant and providing it from the moon, you can save a dramatic amount of money.” (7/25)

Space Coast Revives Parties to Boost Space Tourism (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
As the Delta IV rocket rose in a blast of blinding light, a crowd of locals and tourists from across the U.S., Canada and Europe stood on a beach 15 miles away to witness the liftoff in awe. "We are absolutely excited," said Christian Preinsberger of Graz, Austria, at the launch Thursday evening with his family. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime event for us."

The Preinsbergers were among about 500 people drawn to a beachfront launch party, the latest effort to spur space tourism in Brevard County in the post-space-shuttle era. Space Florida, the state-chartered industry-development corporation, and Florida's Space Coast Office of Tourism are trying to make space cool again for visitors, even without big NASA rockets or astronauts.

This spring, Space Florida rolled out its $1.5 million "We Are Go" campaign, which includes targeted national and local advertising, and social-media efforts to publicize every rocket launch. They set up launch websites with countdown clocks and links to launch-related activities. "This campaign is aimed at reaching the global citizen to let them know that Florida is the one place in the world where they can come and view a launch today, with predictability, on a regular basis," said Space Florida President Frank DiBello. (7/24)

Pueblo Lands United Launch Alliance Rocket R&D Operation (Source: Denver Post)
Southern Colorado has a stellar new resident. Centennial-based rocket giant United Launch Alliance on Friday announced it will create a new engineering and propulsion testing center in Pueblo for its fleet of rockets. "Pueblo is officially in the rocket-science industry," said Pueblo Economic Development Corp. CEO Jack Rink as he announced the deal at the Pueblo Weisbrod Aircraft Museum.

"This is going to be a small engineering group that allows (ULA) to be mobile, aggressive and competitive in the rocket-development arena," Pueblo County economic development director Chris Markuson said. ULA inked a lease for 310 Keeler Parkway, a 28,000-square-foot building about a half-mile from Pueblo Airport. The building previously held the now-defunct jetmaker Adam Aircraft, and, most recently, was used for a hemp cloning operation.

ULA, which already has six people working in Pueblo, expects to have another 15 people at the new location by the end of 2015, and has committed to have at least 34 people working there by October 2017. Salaries will average $50,000 to $80,000. (7/25)

Space Tourism Just Got Another Big Boost, and This Time it's in Texas (Source: Business Insider)
Houston, Texas is already home to the Johnson Space Center, responsible for the famous Apollo program and every Space Shuttle mission. Now, Texas’ largest city will also be home to the tenth commercial spaceport in the United States.

Renderings for the project, shown here, are what officials hope the field will look like, once their goal of 80 private partnerships is fulfilled and the facility is constructed. “Houston has been at the forefront of aviation history and innovation for decades,” Houston Aviation Director Mario C. Diaz said in a statement.

“Not only does this opportunity reinforce an already long-established connection with the aerospace industry, it offers Houston an opportunity to strengthen its reputation as a forward-looking city and leader in creating high-tech, next-generation type jobs.” (7/24)

65 Years Ago, Cape Took Flight with Bumper 8 (Source: Florida Today)
Lee Starrick remembers as a boy playing in his Titusville back yard with a neighbor when they noticed something strange and thought, “What the heck is that?” Fixing their gazes toward Cape Canaveral on the morning of July 24, 1950, they saw a light rising in the sky and occasional wisps of a contrail. Eventually they heard a light rumble.

“We had no idea what it was,” said Satrrick, now 73, the administrator of the U.S. Space Walk of Fame Museum in Titusville. “Back then everything was secret.” They had witnessed history: The Cape’s first rocket launch, 65 years ago today. The six-story Bumper 8 rocket lifted off from Complex 3 at 9:28 a.m. The two-stage rocket consisted of a captured German V-2 ballistic missile as the first stage, and a WAC Corporal sounding rocket for an upper stage. (7/25)

Space Camp has Hids Reaching for the Stars – and Mars – Despite NASA Struggles (Source: Guardian)
Recent evidence, at least, would seem to suggest that space camp – that all-American rite of passage for generations of young math wizards, science geeks and wannabe astronauts – ought to have disappeared into a black hole by now. NASA doesn’t launch humans into orbit any more, the US government’s investment in its own space agency is as low as it has ever been, and the last rocket sent from Cape Canaveral with supplies for the international space station exploded just seconds after liftoff.

On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much for the next wave of explorers and adventurers to get excited about. Yet for the thousand or so children who will attend the space camp at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida this summer, and the many more who will enjoy a similar experience at the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, their dream burns as brightly as a supernova in a nearby galaxy. (7/25)

July 25, 2015

Green Space Propulsion: For a Sustainable Space Era (Source: Space News)
In the early days of flight, the need for sustainable air travel was not listed among the top aviation priorities. On the contrary, the sole vision of flying between two locations enabled the nearly impossible of overcoming the technical challenges of flight. Today, it is possible to track a number of similarities between commercial aviation and some of the current plans for commercial spaceflight.

If stringent demands are posed for the foundation of an environmentally sustainable space era, enabling a comprehensive tool set of sustainable space solutions appears as an important choice. However, sustainability is a broad term within this context. Click here. (7/20)

Brazil Cancels Joint Rocket Launch Program with Ukraine (Source: Space Digest)
This is official. On July 16, 2015, Brazilian Minister of External Relations Mauro Vieira sent a letter to Ukrainian Ambassador in Brasilia Rostyslav Tronenko, where it is stated that Brazil denounces its rocket launch program Treaty with Ukraine. It is to remind that the 'Treaty between the Federal Republic of Brazil and Ukraine on long-term cooperation in utilization of the Cyclone-4 launch vehicle at the Alcantara Launch Center' (Treaty) was signed by foreign affairs ministers of both countries in October 2003.

The Treaty established a bi-national company Alcantara Cyclone Space (ACS), responsible for the Cyclone-4 program implementation. Recently Oleg Uruskyi, Chairman of the State Space Agency of Ukraine, estimated contributions to the ACS capital at about $235 million from each Party. Termination of Cyclone-4 program was hardly unexpected.

Main reason for such move of the Brazilian government is seen in an unclear commercial future of the project. Existence of highly competitive environment in launching small and medium class payloads, as well as absence of technology protection treaty between the USA and Brazil, which makes Cyclone-4 rocket unavailable for launch services customers from the US, are the most obvious 'cons' of the program. (7/23)

Space Cooperation Agreement Between India and Russia (Source: Business Standard)
India and Russia pursue joint programs in a few areas of space research. Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and Russian Federal Space Agency (ROSCOSMOS) have signed a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on expansion of cooperation in the field of the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes. There is no transfer of space technology envisaged under this MoU.

This new MoU provides scope for developing joint activities in areas of mutual interest, including satellite navigation; launch vehicle development; critical technologies for human spaceflight program; remote sensing of Earth; space science and planetary exploration; and use of ground space infrastructure. (7/24)

China Proceeds with FAST Telescope (Source: AFP)
China is starting a new phase in the assembly of the world's largest radio telescope. The Five-Hundred Meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope, or FAST, is being built in a bowl-shaped valley, similar to the 300-meter Arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico that is currently the world's largest. Construction of the telescope started four years ago, but only this week did workers begin attaching 4,450 panels that make up the telescope's main reflector. FAST is scheduled for completion next year. (7/24)

SpaceX Funds SolarCity with Bond Purchase (Source: Clean Technica)
SpaceX is buying more bonds from another Elon Musk-owned company, SolarCity. SpaceX will buy $75 million in "solar bonds" from SolarCity, months after buying $90 million of the company's bonds. SolarCity uses the bonds to finance the installation of solar power systems. Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, is the chairman of the board of SolarCity and its largest shareholder. (7/24)

Common Misconceptions About Operating an Observatory on Mauna Kea (Source: Pacific Business News)
While construction of what will be the 14th observatory atop the Big Island's Mauna Kea remains on hold, 13 other existing observatories are working hard just to stay in business. The controversy over the stalled $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope has grabbed the headlines. But, even without protesters, the business of astronomy can be challenging.

Here are some of the most commonly held misconceptions about the business of astronomy: Myth: Observatories are run by companies making a profit. Not true. Both Keck and CFHT observatories are 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations. “I don’t know how many times I've heard that, or that astronomers come and pay money to use telescopes,” Simons said. “Our product is scientific discovery, something that astronomers worldwide can use at no charge.” Click here. (7/24)

Is It Wrong to Admire Nazi Rocket Scientists? (Source: Huffington Post)
I have for a long time, perhaps to my shame, been an admirer of Dr. von Braun. The greatest developer of rockets in the twentieth century was also a leading Nazi scientist at whose hands lie 20,000 Jewish lives. It is arguable, and it has been argued, the extent to which he was responsible for these deaths. Many at the time made Faustian pacts, in the name of some ideal, and caused needless suffering.

But there are those, judged by their practical achievements, like Wehrmacht generals Rommel and Guderian, not tainted by their association. It was Werner Heisenberg, the admired quantum physicist, who worked on the Nazi nuclear program, imagine the result if Hiroshima and Nagasaki became Moscow and London. Yet Dr. Heisenberg remains unscathed by his association. Click here. (7/24)

Virgin Galactic’s LauncherOne Prepares For Mass Production (Source: Aviation Week)
Virgin Galactic aims to change the cost paradigm for putting smaller payloads into space by producing lightweight launch vehicles on an industrial scale similar to the commercial and military aircraft that were once made on the  same site in Long Beach, California, over a span of more than 60 years. It is a lofty goal for a company that has yet to send a vehicle into space, and whose target market is still emerging. (7/24)

Massive Air Launch System Promises Reduced Costs (Source: Aviation Week)
Air launching a vehicle to orbit is not new. Orbital ATK has been releasing the Pegasus rocket from a Lockheed L-1011 for 21 years and Virgin Galactic is poised to begin test flights of the LauncherOne from beneath the WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) carrier aircraft sometime next year. But the enormous carrier vehicle under development by Vulcan Aerospace’s Stratolaunch Systems takes the concept to an entirely new level. Click here. (7/24)

Reusable First Stages, Engines And Lifting Bodies To Cut Cost Of Space Access (Source: Aviation Week)
While few in the space business dispute that reusability is the key to dramatic reductions in the cost of space transport, there is less agreement on the best way to achieve this goal. Since the retirement of the winged space shuttle, the first technically reusable—but massively expensive—launch vehicle, the industry has redoubled efforts to achieve some form of reuse. Click here. (7/24)