March 20, 2018

Inside Swarm's Unauthorized Satellite Launch (Source: Quartz)
Swarm requested an experimental license from the FCC in April 2017, less than a year ago. The first step for a US organization seeking to operate satellites in space is to gain permission from the FCC, which is charged with fulfilling US obligations to the Outer Space Treaty that new objects in orbit not collide with existing satellites or generate dangerous debris to threaten future spacecraft. With space debris capable of destroying billion dollar satellites or even costing the lives of astronauts on ISS, this is no small matter. The regulatory process proceeded along several months, as Swarm developed its technology. Click here. (3/20)

The Odds That We’re the Only Advanced Species in the Galaxy Are One in 60 Billion (Source: Air & Space)
The Drake Equation has been used to estimate the number of technologically advanced species in the universe. Now Adam Frank and Woody Sullivan take a slightly different approach to the problem and suggest a modification of the Drake Equation. Instead of estimating how many civilizations are out there to communicate with today, they estimate how many civilizations have been out there since the beginning of the Universe.

At first glance this seems to be only a slight semantic difference, but it is not. A big unknown in the original Drake Equation is the average lifetime of a civilization. This window might be very short, especially if technological species are typically replaced by machines. Or it could be very long. Reframing the question makes longevity a moot point. Frank and Sullivan ask: What is the chance that we are the only technological species and always have been?

Based on recent exoplanet discoveries, they assume that one-fifth of all stars have habitable planets. So there should be other advanced civilization out there, unless the chance for developing such a civilization on a habitable planet in the observable universe is less than 1 in 10-to-the-24th (a 1 with 24 zeros). For our own galaxy, the odds of being the only advanced civilization are 1 in 60 billion. Thus, it’s very likely that other intelligent, advanced species evolved before us. Even if only one in every million stars hosts an advanced species today, that would still yield a total of about 300,000 such civilizations in the galaxy. (3/20)

NASA Might Send A Drone To Mars In Addition To New Rover (Source: Tech Times)
NASA is trying to determine whether it should accompany the new rover en route to mars with an unmanned aerial drone that'll fly across the surface of Mars. The space agency is reportedly working on a drone that could patrol Mars and potentially explore parts of the planet more easily than a ground-based rover could.

Plans are going well, it seems. NASA is already testing a drone that is able to navigate the Red Planet's thin atmosphere, a NASA representative confirmed. If the space agency pushes through with it, the drone could launch alongside the Mars 2020 rover. (3/20)

United Launch Alliance Stakes Future on New Vulcan Rocket (Source: CBS)
United Launch Alliance, a buttoned-down corporate alliance between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, is responding to the threat posed by the upstart SpaceX with long-range plans to phase out its workhorse Atlas 5 rocket and costly Delta 4 rockets in favor of a powerful, less-expensive launcher known as the Vulcan. Featuring reusable engines and an advanced, long-lived upper stage, company executives expect the Vulcan to be a major contender in the increasingly fierce slugfest between SpaceX, ULA and other international launch providers. Click here. (3/19)

NASA Confirms SLS Poised To Lose Another Mission (Source: Aviation Week)
The Trump administration’s $20 billion fiscal 2019 spending plan for NASA proposes to fly the Europa Clipper mission to Jupiter’s ocean-bearing moon aboard a commercial launcher rather than the agency’s heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, Planetary Science Division Director Jim Green said. (3/20)

Plutonium Hot Again for NASA Space Missions (Source: Space News)
In a reversal, NASA will allow scientists to propose spacecraft using nuclear power sources in the next Discovery competition. NASA originally ruled out the use of radioisotope power sources for the upcoming competition, citing demands on existing stocks of plutonium-238 from the Mars 2020 mission and future New Frontiers and lunar missions. However, agency officials said revisiting those demands, as well as the status of production of plutonium by the Department of Energy, allowed them to change their minds for the next Discovery mission. NASA plans to solicit proposals for that mission next year and select one in 2021 for launch by the end of 2026. (3/19)

Air Force Space Costs Shrinking? GAO Skeptical (Source: Space News)
The Air Force says it has cut the cost of military space programs, although some are skeptical of those claims. The Air Force's annual report on weapon acquisition programs, released earlier this month, cited cost savings of 12 to 23 percent on its AEHF and SBIRS satellite programs and EELV launch program. However, outside analysts, such as the Government Accountability Office, note that the cost savings are based on the cost of individual satellites or launches and does not reflect overall program costs, which in many cases have grown significantly. (3/20)

Some TRAPPIST Exoplanets Too Wet (Source: Science News)
Some of the worlds orbiting a crowded exoplanet system might have too much water to be habitable. Two of the seven planets orbiting the star TRAPPIST-1 are more than 50 percent water by mass, according to new estimates of their composition. Most of that water would be in the form of ice that can exist at high pressures, with a layer of liquid water at the surface. That much water could hinder geological processes that, on Earth, are essential to the formation of life. (3/20)

OneWeb Asks FCC to Authorize 1,200 More Satellites (Source: Space News)
Citing recent reforms that provide more time to orbit a new satellite constellation, satellite broadband-startup OneWeb asked U.S. telecom regulators to nearly triple the size of its authorized low-Earth-orbit constellation. The FCC in June approved OneWeb’s request to serve customers in the United States using a constellation of 720 satellites. Now OneWeb has asked that the company be permitted another 1,260 satellites, bringing the total number to 1,980 spacecraft.

OneWeb said the FCC’s September decision to give companies more time to fully deploy their constellations enables OneWeb to plan a larger fleet. The FCC previously required companies to launch 100 percent of their satellites within six years of authorization. Under the new rules, companies have six years to deploy half their fleet. Editor's Note: These satellites likely will be built at OneWeb's new facility at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. (3/20)

Space Grants Available for Florida Students and Teachers (Source: FSGC)
The NASA Florida Space Grant Consortium (FSGC) continues to provide funding for student and teacher projects, including a Masters Fellowship Program, a Dissertation and Thesis Improvement Fellowship Program, a Space Research Program, and a Technology Development and Commercialization Program. (3/20)

March 18, 2018

Fuel Farm Coming to Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Runway (Source: Florida Today)
A $500,000 fuel farm aims to drive more air traffic to Kennedy Space Center’s former space shuttle runway, now managed by the state. Space Florida’s board this week approved installing a 20,000-gallon jet fuel tank on the apron at the former Shuttle Landing Facility. That capacity could later be doubled. The tank will allow the runway to comply with Defense Logistics Agency standards.

“Having this certification significantly expands the market for the Launch/Landing Facility, in addition to reducing overall cost of providing the fuel,” said Howard Haug. Haug estimated the project would break even within four years. The state eventually hopes to attract companies involved in "horizontal launch" of space missions. Potential examples include Virgin Orbit or Stratolaunch Systems.

Space Florida already had approval to buy up to 100,000 gallons of jet fuel, delivered as needed by tankers. Haug said the agency determined it was time for a longer-term solution. “Demand has not only exceeded our predictions, the use of and services provided at the Launch/Landing Facility appears to be growing at an accelerated rate,” he said. The fuel farm will be located at the former site of NASA’s Mate/Demate Device — a gantry that was used to lift orbiters on or off the 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft during ferry flights.The gantry was torn down in 2014. (3/19)

SpaceX Indicates it Will Manufacture the BFR Rrocket in Los Angeles (Source: Ars Technica)
Anyone who has visited SpaceX's rocket factory in Hawthorne, California, knows that the company has filled up its facilities with Falcon 9 first stages, payload fairings, and Dragon capsules. In the coming years, as the company transitions into manufacturing the Big Falcon Rocket, or BFR vehicle, it will need a lot more capacity.

The company has not explicitly stated where it will build the BFR, expected to measure 106 meters tall and nine meters wide. However, it needs to do so near water, because such a large vehicle cannot be transported to the launch pad or test sites via a highway, the means currently used to move the Falcon 9 rocket.

A new document from the Port of Los Angeles indicates that the company is moving ahead with plans to build a "state-of-the-art" industrial manufacturing facility near Long Beach, about 20 miles south of its headquarters. The document summarizes an environmental study of the site for the port, on behalf of a proposed tenant—WW Marine Composites, LLC. This appears to be a subsidiary company of SpaceX. (3/19)

The Key to Cheaper US Rocket Launches May Sit in Brazil’s Jungle (Source: CNBC)
There's an unearthly market blooming in the Brazilian jungle. Aerospace giants Boeing and Lockheed Martin, along with small-rocket builder Vector, have expressed interest in launching from an old rocket complex on Brazil's Atlantic coast. The Alcantara base sits about 140 miles south of the Earth's equator, making it a prime location for launching satellites, a $260 billion business. From this spot, certain satellites can be launched more efficiently than from spaceports in the U.S.

The dormant military base "makes total sense" to be used "for launching large satellites with big rockets into geosynchronous orbits," said Jonathan McDowell. Launching satellites from Alcantara would save as much as 20 percent more fuel compared with a location such as Florida, McDowell estimated. Vector, on the other hand, wants to use its small rockets to tap a new equatorial LEO market by launching dozens of small satellites.

Reopening Alcantara would allow U.S. companies to equal the playing field against European competitors. But the Brazilian site isn't ready for rocket launches just yet. Alcantara has been little used since August 2003, when a rocket with two satellites onboard exploded on the launchpad, killing 21 people and damaging the launchpad's infrastructure. Click here. (3/19)

China's Growing Fleet of Small Launchers Could Push Prices Down (Source: Space News)
A wave of Chinese small launch vehicles could drive down smallsat launch prices. At a panel discussion last week, industry officials said they expect Chinese vehicles to drive down launch costs significantly, enough for some to worry about unfair competition. While U.S. companies can't export their satellites to China for launch, a number of companies elsewhere, including in Canada and Europe, are taking advantage of Chinese vehicles. (3/19)

Interagency Group Looking at Space Tech Collaboration (Source: Space News)
The Pentagon has been working with an interagency group to assess the health of the space industrial base. That group, which includes NASA, the FAA and the NRO, is looking at how agencies could share technology and, more broadly, how the government buys technology from the private sector, a Defense Department official said last week. That assessment is part of a broader review of the defense industrial base requested by President Trump last July and due in April. (3/19)

Virgin Galactic Saving a Seat for Hawking (Source: The Sun)
Virgin Galactic will reportedly leave a seat empty on the first commercial flight of its SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicle in memory of Stephen Hawking. An unnamed source said that Sir Richard Branson decided shortly after Hakwing's death last week to honor him by leaving the seat empty. Branson had offered Hawking a free ticket on SpaceShipTwo, the only free ticket Virgin Galactic has offered to date. (3/19)

Orbital ATK to Bring Defense Giant Into Space Coast Rocket Race (Source: Orlando Business Journal)
A new powerhouse is taking shape in the world of Cape Canaveral rocket launches. Virginia-based Orbital ATK is set to become a stronger player on Florida's Space Coast when it becomes part of defense giant Northrop Grumman. The marriage adds more fuel to Orbital ATK's plans to launch a new heavy-lift rocket from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport starting in 2021, sparking more commercial competition and helping Florida get a bigger share of the $330 billion space industry.

Orbital ATK plans to use NASA's iconic Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) for its NGL rocket. And that rocket assembly work may create opportunities for local specialty contractors, manufacturers and parts suppliers. (3/16)

Orbital ATK: NGL Reusability Not a Fit for EELV (Source: Orlando Business Journal)
Orbital ATK isn't following the crowd with its new NGL rocket. NGL is not in the reusable rockets business, with competitors SpaceX and ULA both using or planning reusable systems for their Falcon and Vulcan rockets. Mike Laidley said Orbital has been there and done that. "As a company that practiced reusability for 30 years on the Space Shuttle, we know what it takes. The flight rates for the Shuttle never made it economical and our analysis suggests reusability will not fit with the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle market." (3/16)

A Changing Shade of Blue (Source: Space Review)
Blue Origin has grown significantly in the last few years as it tests its New Shepard suborbital vehicle and prepares to build its New Glenn orbital rocket. Jeff Foust reports on that shift from development and operations, and how the company is seeking to maintain its ability to develop new technologies at the same time. Click here. (3/19)
Bombs in Orbit? Verification and Violation Under the Outer Space Treaty (Source: Space Review)
When does a nuclear weapon in space become a violation of the Outer Space Treaty? Taunton Paine discusses how that was debated a half-century ago and how that issue that may be newly relevant today. Click here. (3/19)
A Space Renaissance (Source: Space Review)
New policies, technologies, and companies all promise to open a new era of human spaceflight and space exploration. Madhu Thangavelu explains why he believes we’re at the beginning of a renaissance in spaceflight that will ultimately change how we view the Earth. Click here. (3/19)

In Pursuit of the Perfect Spacesuit (Source: Air & Space)
Twenty thousand feet above Ottawa, Shawna Pandya floats gently out of her seat and executes a graceful midair swoop. Our Falcon 20 jet is halfway through a series of parabolas, which produce brief periods of microgravity. But Pandya, a 32-year-old physician and astronaut wannabe, is not here for fun. She is testing an advanced spacesuit from Final Frontier Design, a startup co-founded by a designer who previously crafted costumes for Victoria’s Secret fashion shows. Click here. (3/19)

NASA Courts Commercial Options for Lunar Landers (Source:
As NASA refocuses – once again – on returning to the Lunar surface, the agency has published a Request For Information (RFI) that will be used to gauge interest from the private/commercial space sector in building domestic lunar landers. The request points to an evolution of concept, with small-scale cargo landers being used to prove the technology before feeding into the development of human-rated vehicles.

The RFI is related to the political direction – known as President’s Space Policy Directive-1 – that calls for American bootprints on the surface of the Moon for the first time since the 1970s. The request outlines NASA’s aim to better determine the state-of-art and maturity of lander capability in the private sector and mature its own requirements for a human-class lander.

NASA was in the process of building its own human-rated lander during the Constellation Program (CxP) era. Called Altair, the lander was to be launched on the Ares V, a rocket that has since morphed into the Space Launch System (SLS). When CxP was canceled, the baseline “Moon, Mars and Beyond” approach was refocused several times, with only Mars remaining as the primary long-term goal. An interim step to visit Near Earth Asteroids (NEAs) has also since fallen by the wayside. Click here. (3/19)

In Collaboration with ISRO, New Park to Give Wings to State’s Space-Tech Dreams (Source: New Indian Express)
Kerala is all set to make another mark in the satellite/space technology sector by starting a ‘space park’, which will incubate and promote startups in the sector. Currently in its nascent stage, the park will be set up with the technical support of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

A top officer with the Kerala IT department said startups in space technology, like in software, are growing fast, but the space park will be the first of its kind in the country. “There’re a number of space technology startups in India, most of them based in Bengaluru. If government support is provided, they can flourish into major business establishments in the future. CM Pinarayi Vijayan had discussed starting a space park in Kerala with the ISRO and they’ve promised to provide technical support to the project,” the officer told Express. (3/19)

Astrobotic Wins NASA Award to Produce Small Lunar Rover (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Astrobotic, in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University, has been selected by NASA to receive a Phase II SBIR award to develop a small lunar rover capable of carrying on small scale science and exploration on the Moon and other planetary surfaces. Astrobotic’s CubeRover should weigh in at approximately 4.4 lbs (2 kg). It is designed to utilize its lunar payload delivery service to provide NASA and potential other customers accessibility to the lunar surface at a very low cost. (3/19)

UNH Researchers Find Space Radiation is Increasingly More Hazardous (Source: UNH)
It might sound like something from a science fiction plot – astronauts traveling into deep space being bombarded by cosmic rays – but radiation exposure is science fact. As future missions look to travel back to the moon or even to Mars, new research from the University of New Hampshire’s Space Science Center cautions that the exposure to radiation is much higher than previously thought and could have serious implications on both astronauts and satellite technology.

“The radiation dose rates from measurements obtained over the last four years exceeded trends from previous solar cycles by at least 30 percent, showing that the radiation environment is getting far more intense,” said Nathan Schwadron, professor of physics and lead author of the study. “These particle radiation conditions present important environmental factors for space travel and space weather, and must be carefully studied and accounted for in the planning and design of future missions to the moon, Mars, asteroids and beyond.” (3/15)

We Already Have a Space Force (Source: Daily Beast)
But America already has a space force. It's called the Air Force. The flying branch has, over a period of decades, gradually assumed control of most of the military's orbital operations. "The Air Force is the main space force," Brian Laslie, an historian and author of The Air Force Way of War, told The Daily Beast. "And this makes perfect sense."
The Air Force's evolution into a de facto air and space force occurred in parallel with the introduction of intercontinental ballistic missiles and higher- and higher-flying bombers and spy planes. For a period in the 1960s, the Air Force combined ICBMs (which travel through space) and bombers (which can climb to 50,000 feet or higher) in the same units, which it called "aerospace wings."
Today the Air Force develops, launches, operates and protects most of the country's roughly 300 military satellites and other spacecraft. In exchange, it has received most of the roughly $11 billion the Defense Department annually has spent on space programs in recent years. (3/16)

March 17, 2018

NASA's Mission Control Team Shifts to Younger Recruits (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Ask Chris Kochling what inspired him to be a NASA flight controller and he'll point to the heroic ingenuity and quick thinking of the men on the Mission Control room floor during Apollo 13. If it weren't for those men, the three astronauts on the 1970 mission likely would never have returned home after an oxygen tank explosion forced them to abort their trip to the moon.

But when Kochling describes this scene, he's not talking about listening with rapt attention to the NASA airwaves - he wasn't even alive then. The 23-year-old is talking about watching the 1995 film "Apollo 13" starring Tom Hanks and Kevin Bacon.

NASA officials have found that younger flight controllers can better handle the unique demands of operating the space station, said Daryle Kuecker, who recruits and hires future flight controllers, because it requires 24/7 monitoring of both the station and its inhabitants 365 days a year. "It's shift work, so, quite honestly, the shift work is easier for folks that are younger," Kuecker said. "It's difficult when you have young children and you have the midnight shift." (2/18)

Russia Urged to Join Orbital Neighborhood Watch (Source: Space News)
To prevent collisions in space, nations with advanced orbital monitoring abilities need to share data with each other. Russia, being skilled in space situational awareness (SSA), should be part of the global effort to protect the space environment, experts said March 15 at the Satellite 2018 conference here.

“When we tend to talk about international SSA, we tend to focus on ‘friends and family’ type of people,” said Victoria Samson, Washington office director for the Secure World Foundation, a U.S. nonprofit focused on space sustainability. “The Russians have an excellent SSA network, and the question is: is there any way we can access that sort of capability?” (3/16)

Loral Warns of Possible Telesat Legal Battle, Xtar Restructuring (Source: Space News)
Loral Space and Communications wants to move ahead with a “strategic transaction” involving fleet operator Telesat that may spark a legal fight with Telesat’s other major shareholder, a Canadian pension fund. The long-simmering Telesat conundrum is coming to a boil as Xtar — another fleet operator majority-owned by Loral —  falls further behind on lease payments to co-owner Hisdesat of Spain, and owes more than $70 million for capacity it’s struggling to sell. (3/16)

China Outlines Two-Phase Chang'e 4 Moon Lander Mission (Source:
Later this year, the moon's far side will welcome its first robotic visitor — China's Chang'e 4 lander. Zhao Xiaojin, a senior official at the China Aerospace Science and Technology (CAST), explained that the nation's two-phase Chang'e 4 mission is being readied for launch this year.

"In the first half of 2018, we will first launch a relay satellite to Lagrange L2 Point, where the satellite can keep communication with both the far side of the moon and the Earth," Zhao said. Launch of the Chang'e 4 lander is slated for the second half of 2018. After performing a soft touchdown on the lunar far side, the craft will "conduct in-situ and patrol exploration at the landing site," Zhao said. (3/16)

China Launches Land Exploration Satellite (Source: Xinhua)
China launched a land exploration satellite into a preset orbit from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi desert of the country's northwest. The satellite is the fourth of its kind and mainly used for exploration of land resources by remote sensing. A Long March-2D rocket carried the satellite into space. The launch was the 268th mission of the Long March rocket series. (3/17)

Dawn Observations Indicate Ceres is Geologically Active (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, which has been orbiting Ceres for three years, has observed changes on the dwarf planet’s surface indicating it is a dynamic, geologically active world. Two separate studies published in the journal Science Advances discuss these changes with one centering on the changing amounts of water ice and the other discussing the formation and distribution of carbonates.

The probe’s Visible and Infrared Spectrometer (VIR) found water ice in 12 sites on Ceres’ surface. According to NASA, a study showed these these concentrations were especially high in the northern wall of the 12-mile wide Juling Crater. Between April and October 2016, the level of water ice on that crater wall noticeably increased. “This is the first direct detection of change on the surface of Ceres,” Raponi said. (3/17)

The Legal Battle to Colonize Mars (Source: The Outline)
Legally speaking, settling space isn’t as easy as Trump and Musk suggest. The foundational piece of space legislation is the Outer Space Treaty, which was ratified by the US, USSR, and dozens of other nations in 1967. Per the treaty, nations aren’t allowed to place “nuclear weapons” or “weapons of mass destruction” in outer space, period. And any celestial body — such as an asteroid, the Moon, or Mars — must be used “exclusively for peaceful purposes.” Depending on what Trump had in mind for the “Space Force,” this may put a damper on his plans.

The treaty spells problems for Musk as well. It states that nothing in space can become national territory, meaning that any base or settlement on Mars would have to be free to use by anyone else who can travel there. A person can’t just set up a colony, claim independence, and create rules that restrict access to it. According to Michael Listner, attorney and founder of the private firm Space Law & Policy Solutions, this aspect of the treaty directly conflicts with Musk’s plans to settle Mars. Click here. (3/17)

Air Force: GPS Satellites Vulnerable to Attack (Source: Washington Free Beacon)
Global Positioning System satellites that guide both precision guided weapons and car navigation systems are vulnerable to attack from Chinese and Russian lasers and missiles, Air Force officials told Congress. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said in House testimony on Wednesday that her service is working on developing jam-proof GPS satellites that currently can be disrupted by a variety of weapons.

"With respect to the threat that we face, I think it's everything from jamming from the surface or a cyber attack, to direct-ascent satellite weapons, either from Russia [or] in 2007 the Chinese tested an anti-satellite weapon and spread debris all over orbit," Wilson told a House Appropriations defense subcommittee hearing. (3/16)

SpaceX is Making Big Money Moves (Source: Tech Crunch)
Planning a Mars mission, a global telecommunications network for inexpensive internet service and creating an interplanetary hedge against World War Three isn’t cheap, so it’s no wonder that SpaceX is closing on $500 million in new cash through a financing round led by Fidelity, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the round.

Responding to clamoring demand from investors and their own desires to cash out (at least a little bit), existing shareholders in the company are creating several special purpose vehicles to sell shares on the secondary market — with our sources saying those secondary offerings could total an additional $500 million. (3/16)

Why Donald Trump's Space Force and Mars Trip Won't Happen (Source: Time)
This time, even the military isn’t buying what Trump is selling. In July of last year, when Congress actually considered funding a space force, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis shot it down. “At a time when we are trying to integrate the Department’s joint war-fighting functions, I do not wish to add a separate service that would likely present a narrower and even parochial approach to space operations,” he wrote.

Still, there’s Mars, right? We’re going there very soon, right? No. No, we’re not. Ever since the first moon landing, in 1969, the rule for Mars has always been that we’re going there, we just never actually get there. First, the target date was 1975, then 2019 — chosen because it will be the fiftieth anniversary of that moon landing. Now it’s 2035 or so. Elon Musk, the head of SpaceX, has claimed he could get there by 2024. (3/16)

How Should the US Engage China in Space? (Source: The Diplomat)
China is striving to become a space power that rivals or surpasses the United States, Russia, and Europe. In September 2006, China tested lasers against U.S. imagery satellites in a manner that could potentially blind or damage them in future conflict. For U.S. officials, this event and China’s subsequent destruction of its own weather satellite in 2007 signaled that space was a “contested domain.”

Subsequently, in 2011, U.S. lawmakers passed legislation that banned cooperation between NASA and the China National Space Administration – largely in response to China’s history of espionage against U.S. technical industries. The 2018 U.S. National Defense Strategy categorized China as a revisionist power, and through this lens, it seems strategically sound for the U.S. to shield its precious technical advantages from a potential adversary.

Nevertheless, some NASA officials insist that the United States should still collaborate with China to capitalize on a revolutionary period of high technical exchange between China and other space powers. Other officials warn that if the U.S. and China do not find meaningful ways to cooperate in space, relations could devolve into greater mistrust and lead to conflict. (3/17)

Maryland Senator Aims to Protect NASA Science Programs (Source: Space Policy Online)
Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) vowed that he will fight to protect scientific integrity at NASA and to fund NASA’s programs, especially science.  He is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) subcommittee.  He added that he hopes the issue of finding a new NASA Administrator is resolved as soon as possible. (3/15)

Coming Soon: Experience Live Rocket Launches in Game-Changing Augmented Reality (Source: Florida Today)
A fusion of futuristic technology and traditional rocket launch coverage will make its way to mobile devices next month with an app called 321 Launch. Thanks to augmented reality, or the overlay of digital objects onto the real world, users will be able to explore spaceflight like never before – both as a standalone experience to assemble and launch a rocket, as well as real-time, live coverage of launches from the Space Coast. Live updates by Florida Today and live video will also be incorporated, giving users the full experience of liftoff. (3/16)

SpaceX to Fly Life Support System on Uncrewed Dragon Test Flight (Source: Florida Today)
It sounded risky: NASA had given SpaceX a waiver allowing it not to fly life support on the first, uncrewed test of its Dragon 2 astronaut capsule, U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks asserted during a recent budget hearing. As a result, critical systems providing oxygen, carbon dioxide absorbers and heating and cooling would not be shaken out in orbit before astronauts strapped in for the next test flight.

“What is NASA’s reasoning for skipping this stage?” Brooks (R-AL) asked NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot. “And that’s assuming the information I have is correct. First, is the information I have correct?” Not exactly. SpaceX says it does plan to fly life support on the uncrewed test it calls Demo-1, which schedules currently show lifting off from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport on a Falcon 9 rocket in August.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program did not require the uncrewed test flights to fly Environmental Control and Life Support Systems, or ECLSS, as the systems are formally known. “NASA assessed the uncrewed test flight vehicle configurations against the test objectives and jointly agreed with the companies that certain hardware was not required to meet the uncrewed test flight objectives,” the agency said. (3/16)

Bezos and National Reconnaissance Office Talk About Space and Innovation (Source: GeekWire)
Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos paid a visit to the National Reconnaissance Office this week — which fits right in with his plan to participate in national security space missions through his Blue Origin space venture. Based on the readout from the NRO, the nation’s spy-satellite agency is also interested in what Bezos had to say about technological innovation. (3/16)

Musk: 'SpaceX is in a Different League to People like Richard Branson' (Source: GQ)
"What I'm doing at SpaceX is in a different league to people like Richard Branson and [Amazon founder and Blue Origin pioneer] Jeff Bezos. Our vehicles have around 100 times more energy than Richard Branson's. What he's doing is great - in fact, I've bought a ticket! But there is a pretty big distinction: what he's doing will be a really fun joyride, but there's no path to making life multi-planetary, which is our goal. We want to put life on Mars." (3/16)

Musk: California Was Key (Source: GQ)
"None of this would have been possible if I hadn't been living in California. There's no better place in the world for technology start-ups than Silicon Valley; there's such an incredible well of talent and capital and resources. The whole system is set up to foster the creation of new companies." (3/16)

Elon Musk Isn't Taking Deadly Space Radiation Seriously (Source: Inverse)
SpaceX founder Elon Musk can’t wait to bring people — and probably, regrettably, brands — to Mars. But unless he starts taking space radiation seriously, Musk’s Martian bachelor pad will more closely resemble a barren litter box. A physicist tells Inverse the problem of radiation on Mars is more dire than scientists previously assumed.

According to a new study published in the journal Space Weather, levels of galactic cosmic rays (GCR) are much higher than what scientists typically see at this stage in the solar cycle. GCRs are high-energy protons and heavy ions from outside our solar system, which lose electrons as they beam through space at around the speed of light. (3/16)

How Labs in Space Could Pave the Way for Healthcare Breakthroughs on Earth (Source: Tech Republic)
In 2006, in a small office in Lexington, KY, several scientists and researchers from Morehead University, the University of Kentucky, the University of Louisville, Murray State University, Western Kentucky University, and a handful of community colleges, began designing and building tiny, cube-shaped orbital satellites to send into space. They were members of the nonprofit Kentucky Space, LLC, and their satellites, which they began launching in 2011, were about the size of a tissue box.

It was the beginning of a venture into a new way to harness the powers of outer space—especially aimed at innovation in medicine. Clements and a team of electrical, mechanical, computer, and biomedical engineers got to work designing TangoLab-1, an automated lab that they launched into space and attached to the ISS in August 2016. "It's a laboratory," said Clements, "just without [normal] gravity. It's a state of pressure, with normal room temperature. You've got the electricity, the cooling loops, and everything else a regular laboratory has."

Then, Space Tango developed TangoLab-2, which has an upgraded cooling system, and installed it on the ISS in August 2017. "It went from this very weird cartoonish-looking mailbox to this sleek machine," Clements said. The lab is simple for astronauts to set up. "They plug in these large cards that look like you're putting RAM into a computer, slide it in, and that's it," said Clements. "They close the door, and they turn it on." From there, Space Tango can control it from the ground. (3/16)

Musk Predicts How the Martian Government Will Operate (Source: Inverse)
“Most likely, the form of government on Mars would be something of a direct democracy […] where people vote directly on issues instead of going through representative government." Last year, Musk revealed his plans to pay for a colony on Mars while speaking at the International Astronautical Congress, so it only makes sense that the next step in planning would focus on governing systems.

Musk compared an early Martian community to a fledgling United States in the late 18th century, one wherein laws would be short and the democratic system would be immediate. “When the United States was formed, representative government was the only thing that was logistically feasible,” he said. “There was no way for people to communicate instantly." (3/15)

March 16, 2018

Kanematsu Partners with Vector to Market Launches in Asia (Source: Vector)
On the heels of its strategic investment in Vector made in January 2017, Kanematsu Corporation ("KG") has entered into an exclusive representative agreement with Vector, a nanosatellite launch company, to sell its products and services in Japan and three Asian countries including India, Thailand and South Korea. Based on the execution of this representative agreement, KG will provide customers with services stimulating demand for micro-satellite launch throughout Asia. (3/14)

Why Would We Need a U.S. Space Force, Anyway? (Source: Popular Mechanics)
The Air Force, which runs most of America's space-related defense activities, is strongly opposed to the Space Force. “When I was head of STRATCOM I thought I was commanding the U.S. space forces,” said USAF Gen. Robert Kehler (ret.). Like many who come from USAF, he's lukewarm on the idea of a Space Force. (The Secretary of the Air Force sidestepped questions about Trump in a separate meeting yesterday.) But he reiterated to the committee that the U.S. military must change its mindset about space.

American forces must “gain and maintain space superiority” as a condition for fighting, he said. This echoes the way the USAF first gains control of the airspace above before engaging in a ground campaign. One reason that superiority may erode is that disparate space-related efforts are scattered across the Army, Air Force, and Navy, not to mention intelligence officers, National Reconnaissance Office and Space and Missile Systems Center.

Doug Loverro, a former DoD Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy, noted that fighting in space is different than fighting anywhere else, in the same way that the Navy prepares for unique combat at sea. “We lack that focus for space, one of our five main warfighting domains,” he said. (3/14)

The Military Race for Space Will Turn on the Ability to Choose Commercial Services (Source: Defense One)
Like a befuddled consumer facing an entire aisle of jams and jellies, the Pentagon can’t figure out how to buy smart in an exploding market. The Pentagon’s drive to better harness orbital capabilities for missile defense, desert firefights, and everything in between is running “headlong into an acquisition process that doesn’t allow you to get there until the late 2020s,” said retired Gen. Robert Kehler. (3/14)

How The International Space Station Could Operate Commercially (Source: IBD)
Boeing envisions commercial developments in the biotech and fiber-optic industries helping fund the International Space Station after government funding runs out for the orbiting laboratory. Operating costs for the ISS have been estimated at $3 billion-$4 billion a year, with the bulk coming from the U.S. government. Boeing has a contract with NASA to operate and maintain the ISS, which is also used by more than a dozen other countries.

But under President Trump's 2019 budget request, federal ISS outlays will end in 2025 as the administration pushes NASA to shift resources toward a moon base. John Vollmer, Boeing's ISS chief engineer, has been on the program since its inception and told IBD recently that a public-private partnership might be the answer for the future of the space station, which has been in service for 20 years.

"Ultimately, the government is trying to reduce the cost so they can spend more money on deep space," he said in an interview at Boeing's facility near NASA's Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center. "We understand that and support that. What we need to do ... is look at those technologies that are mature enough to become commercialized" to fund the station. Editor's Note: ...And we must look at those processes that are mature enough to privatize. (3/14)

UK Spaceport Would Bring Opportunities for Britain (Source: Sky News)
Dreams of a spaceport for Britain will be a step closer to reality with new laws to cash in on the commercial opportunities of outer space. The Space Industry Bill, due to be given Royal Assent later, will enable launches from UK spaceports to help British companies enjoy quicker and cheaper access to outer space.

Currently, satellites must be launched into orbit from spaceports abroad, exposing British firms to substantial cost, delay and bureaucracy. The legislation aims to present new opportunities in the commercial space race, increasing Britain's share of the global space economy from 6.5% to 10% by 2030. (3/15)

Scott Kelly’s Medical Monitoring has Spawned Some Horrible Press Coverage (Source: Ars Technica)
Something very strange happened in the world of science news this week. A month-and-a-half-old press release, which reiterated news that was released in 2017, suddenly spawned a flurry of coverage. To make matters worse, a lot of that coverage repeated claims that range from biologically nonsensical to impossible. So if you've seen any mention of astronaut Scott Kelly's DNA this week, it's probably best if you immediately forget anything you read about it.

But there's quite a bit more to it than that. First and foremost, the Kelly twins' DNA is not identical. Every time a cell divides, it typically picks up a mutation or two. Further mutations happen simply because of the stresses of life, which expose us all to some radiation and DNA-damaging chemicals, no matter how careful we are about diet and sunscreen. Over the years, the Kelly twins' cells have undoubtedly picked up collections of distinctive mutations.

As a result, the more relevant comparison (and one NASA did) is Scott's DNA before and after his time in space. That can tell us how many changes were picked up while in space. But as noted above, he had probably pick up some mutations even if he sat here on Earth. (3/15)

Orbital Adding Hundreds in Arizona as Part of Large $200 Million Rocket Push (Source: Phoenix Business Journal)
Orbital ATK’s presence in Arizona continues to grow as it plans to hire 350 high-paying positions within the next year and a half while it prepares to build the largest rocket yet in Arizona. After becoming experts in building small- and medium-class rockets, the company now is moving into the heavyweight arena, and Arizona is a big part of that progression, said Mike Laidley, vice president for next generation launch system, based in Chandler. (3/15)

Space Florida's DiBello Forecasting Thousands of Launches in Future Years (Source: Florida Politics)
The market for private space launches is heading toward 800 to 1,000 launches a year of satellites and other space hardware; the Florida Spaceport at Cape Canaveral needs to be positioned to host as much of that business as possible, Space Florida President Frank DiBello told his board Wednesday.

“We’re not going to be able to capture all of that [business] at Florida Spaceport but we sure are going to try,” DiBello said. His prediction came in his quarterly briefing of the Space Florida board that controls Florida’s investments into the state-chartered corporation that runs private spaceport facilities at and around Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and promotes the space industry in Florida. (3/14)

Georgia Spaceport Could Trigger 12 Cumberland Island Evacuations a Year (Source: Savannah Morning News)
Portions of Cumberland Island National Seashore could be evacuated a dozen times a year to accommodate rocket launches from a proposed commercial spaceport less than ten miles away on the mainland, according to a draft environmental impact statement the Federal Aviation Administration released last week.

The more than 400-page document evaluates the impacts of construction and operation of the proposed launch facility at the selected brownfield site. The FAA tapped Virginia-based consultants Leidos to produce the review, for which project sponsor Camden County is paying more than $700,000.

“Launches from the launch site would be generally to the east, resulting in launch closure and hazard areas that could include portions of Cumberland Island and Little Cumberland Island,” the document states. Closures could last up to 12 hours on each launch day and up to three hours in a smaller area that does not include the islands for each test and rehearsal. All told, launches, tests and rehearsals are estimated to take place up to 36 times a year. (3/14)

A Revered Rocket Scientist Set In Motion China’s Mass Surveillance of its Citizens (Source: Science)
It's rare that a scientist becomes a folk hero. But in China, Qian Xuesen draws crowds almost a decade after his death. On a Saturday morning in a three-story museum here, tourists admire Qian's faded green sofa set, the worn leather briefcase he carried for 4 decades, and a picture of him shaking hands with opera star Luciano Pavarotti. Click here. (3/15)  

March 15, 2018

Why DoD is a Difficult Customer for Commercial Satellite Providers (Source: C4ISRNet)
Despite the fact that the U.S. Department of Defense is one of the biggest markets and users of commercial satellite capabilities, it can often be a demanding customer. One of the biggest gripes of the commercial providers is that requirements for the military continue to change, Sherin Kamal, chief scientist / engineer at SAIC, said at the annual Satellite 2018 conference in Washington March 12.

These requirements are fluid and the military typically doesn’t know in advance where, when, how much or what frequency it needs, which is troublesome for a commercial satellite operator that needs time and money to invest in the proper infrastructure. (3/12)

Blue Origin’s Job Listings Hint it Could Soon be Signing Up Astronauts (Source: GeekWire)
Some of the nearly 200 job opportunities posted by Blue Origin suggest Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ space venture is preparing to sign up passengers for its New Shepard suborbital spaceflights. One listing is looking for an astronaut experience manager to help create “a highly differentiated offering that culminates in the customer becoming an astronaut.”

Another listing calls for someone to run a training program for New Shepard flight controllers. Blue Origin says it has openings for New Shepard vehicle operators who can be certified to serve as capsule controllers, booster controllers, ground controllers or flight directors at the West Texas launch site. (3/13)

ULA Focuses on Increasing Commercial Missions for Atlas, Vulcan (Source: Space News)
ULA is making efforts to win more commercial business for its Atlas and future Vulcan rocket. ULA president and CEO Tory Bruno said the company is working to focus more attention on commercial customers through measures like taking sales and marketing of the Atlas in-house. Bruno said the first two Vulcan launches, planned for 2020, will also be commercial missions and will be part of efforts to win certification of the vehicle for government missions. However, he said the bulk of ULA's business will continue to be with government customers. Bruno declined to state when the company will select an engine for the Vulcan's first stage other than "soon." (3/15)

Trump Claims Long-Standing 'Space Force' Idea as His Own, Contradicting His Prior Stance (Source: Space News)
Some key House members are excited about President Trump's apparent interest in a "Space Force." The House Armed Services Committee discussed the comment made Tuesday by Trump where he appeared to endorse the formation of an independent space force, something his administration has previously opposed.

At a separate appropriations hearing Wednesday, Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson said only that "we look forward to the conversation" on the issue. Some outside observers endorsed the concept at the Armed Services hearing. "It's a question of whether you peel the band-aid off slowly or you rip it off. I am ready to rip the band-aid off," said Doug Loverro, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy. (3/14)

Trump: We're Trying to Top JFK by Looking at Mars Mission (Source: The Hill)
President Trump said Thursday that he wanted to "top" former President John F. Kennedy's ambitions to send a man to the moon by pursuing a trip to Mars. "We're looking at Mars, by the way," Trump said. "Trying to top [Kennedy]. We're going to get there. It's moving along pretty good. A lot of things have happened, Mike, having to do with that subject. Way ahead of schedule."

Kennedy, who served in the Oval Office from 1961 until his assassination in 1963, set the United States' sights on reaching the moon during the so-called "space race" with the Soviet Union. Trump has made a return to the moon and an eventual trip to Mars a primary goal of his administration's space policy. He signed a directive in December outlining the ambitions. "Very soon we're going to Mars," he said. "You wouldn't be going to Mars if my opponent won, that I can tell you. You wouldn't even be thinking about it." (3/15)

A Rare Look Inside Boeing’s Florida-Based CST-100 Starliner Facility (Source: CNBC)
On July 21, 2011, astronaut Chris Ferguson guided the Atlantis back to Earth to conclude the final space shuttle mission. It was the end of an era for launching humans to space from American soil — one he says brought tumbleweeds and empty parking lots to KSC. "But then the gates opened in 2014 and tumbleweeds stopped blowing across the road and the cars started showing up in the parking lot," said Ferguson, who is now Boeing's director of Starliner crew and mission systems. Click here. (3/15)

Putin: Russia Will Beat NASA to Mars and Find Water on the Moon (Source: Newsweek)
Russia will launch a mission to Mars in 2019 which if successful would beat NASA’s planned exploration of the red planet by a year. Vladimir Putin revealed his country’s space plans during a documentary about the president which was widely shared on social media. He said: "We are planning unmanned and later manned launches, into deep space, as part of a lunar program and for Mars exploration. The closest mission is very soon, we are planning to launch a mission to Mars in 2019." (3/15)    

It Takes a (Moon) Village (Source: Air & Space Magazine)
Nearly 50 years after humans first set foot on the moon, it’s a hot destination once again. Jan Wörner, director general of the European Space Agency, has advocated for creation of an international “moon village,” in which humans and robots work together on mining operations, astronomy, or other projects on the lunar surface. More recently, NASA has been directed to prioritize human moon exploration before visiting Mars.

It may be a long road back to the moon, however. Although rockets like NASA’s Space Launch System or SpaceX’s just-tested Falcon Heavy are in the works, substantial funding will be required to come up with everything from landers to spacesuits to lunar habitats. Engineers will have to find a way to achieve long-term stays under harsh lunar conditions, which include debilitating dust and alternating, two-week periods of strong sunlight and cold darkness. Click here. (3/6)

Using AI to Discover the Moon’s Hidden Treasures (Source: iQ by Intel)
With the help of artificial intelligence, NASA’s Frontier Development Lab and Intel are mapping the moon’s craters to find hidden lunar resources. Scientists believe the moon is rife with natural resources that could help space explorers settle the lunar landscape – much like early settlers did on earth. But before they can access those resources, they need to find them.

“We have 50 years’ worth of NASA imagery from all sides of the moon,” said Shashi Jain, innovation manager at Intel’s Software and Services Group. “We’ve only recently begun to combine them and make one big, awesome map.” Working with the NASA Frontier Development Lab (FDL), a team of Intel AI engineers and data scientists are tackling the challenge of building complex maps of the lunar poles.

Craters in the permanently shadowed polar regions of the moon are potentially filled with water, ice and other volatile resources that can be used to produce rocket fuel, an air supply for astronauts or other essential materials, according to Jain. (1/5)

Satellite Capacity Prices In Sustained Decline (Source: Space News)
Satellite capacity prices have dropped dramatically over the last two years, thanks largely to new high-throughput satellites. A study by Northern Sky Research presented at Satellite 2018 found prices dropped between 35 and 60 percent depending on application. Several factors in addition to new satellites have contributed to the decline, including operators who have been too eager to secure large connectivity deals in markets like inflight connectivity and maritime. The company said prices will continue to decline into next year, with a rebound unlikely. (3/15)

GEO Satellite Orders In Decline, Worrying Manufacturers (Source: Space News)
Satellite manufacturers are worried a dearth of orders could jeopardize their supply chains. As the slowdown in GEO satellite orders enters its fourth year, manufacturers worry that the suppliers they rely on, many being small businesses, won't survive without making major changes. Manufacturers are working to standardize components they use to increase the volume they order. Companies are looking at technologies developed in other industries that can be applied to satellites to lower their costs. (3/15)

China Preparing to Launch Experimental Commsat (Source: Space News)
China will launch an experimental large communications satellite on the return-to-flight mission of the Long March 5. The Shijian-20 satellite, weighing about 7 metric tons, will carry a communications payload with a capacity of 300 gigabits per second and a laser communications unit. That launch, the first since a failed launch of another experimental communications satellite last July, is expected this November. (3/15)

SpaceX to Fly Reused Boosters on Half of 2018 Launches (Source: Teslarati)
SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell highlighted her customers’ acceptance of reusable rockets, stating that SpaceX intends to fly reused boosters on at least half of their 2018 launch manifest. Barring unforeseen circumstances, SpaceX is effectively on track to complete 30 separate missions this year with more than half flying flight-proven Falcon 9 (and Heavy) boosters. (3/14)

Trump Officials Propose 'Transformative' Infrastructure Investments, Including Launch Pads, Satellite Broadband (Source: Washington Post)
The Trump administration wants to spend $20 billion on a range of risky but potentially “transformative” infrastructure projects, such as satellite networks to provide rural broadband, new launchpads for private rockets, and “augmented reality” technologies to visualize and manage urban traffic congestion, a senior official said Wednesday.

The administration “is already prepared with ideas” for “surgically-targeted” projects, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told senators as part of a broad, multiagency push for momentum on a 10-year, $200 billion infrastructure proposal facing head winds on Capitol Hill. Ross was joined by the secretaries of transportation, agriculture, energy and labor, offering new details on “bold and innovative projects … that would not otherwise attract private investment without federal incentives because of the risk.”

But the phalanx of cabinet chiefs provided no new information on the more pedestrian but pivotal question of how the president’s team would pay for its infrastructure aspirations. The officials repeated their refrain that the administration would rely on states, localities and private firms to come up with $1.3 trillion more to make a dent in the nation’s multitrillion-dollar infrastructure needs. (3/14)

Asteroids and Comets Shower Mars with Organics (Source: Space Daily)
Asteroids and comets appear to be a much more important suppliers of organic molecules on Mars than expected. Until now, astronomers assumed that the organics on Mars mainly came from dust particles from space. Now, computer simulations by an international team of researchers led by Dutch astronomers indicate that one-third of the material comes from asteroids and comets. The findings have been accepted for publication in the scientific journal Icarus.

In 2015, the Mars rover Curiosity discovered remnants of organic molecules on Mars. Scientists wondered how these organic molecules had ended up on Mars. The prevailing theory was that the molecules were tied to interplanetary dust particles. Those particles are everywhere. For example, around our Earth we see the dust particles when they enter our atmosphere and cause 'shooting stars

The calculations show that 192 tons of carbon per year end up on Mars. That is comparable to 8 truckloads. Approximately 129 tons (67%) of carbon come from interplanetary dust particles. But asteroids also deliver another 50 tons per year (26%) and comets provide about 13 tons (7%) of the organic material. (3/14)

Air Force Awards Launch Services Contracts to SpaceX and ULA (Source: USAF)
The Air Force has awarded two Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) launch service contracts. SpaceX has been awarded $290,594,130 to launch three GPS III missions (1 base and 2 options). ULA has been awarded $351,839,510 to deliver Air Force Space Command (AFSPC)-8 and AFSPC-12 satellites to orbit. Both contracts provide the Government with a total launch solution for these missions, which includes launch vehicle production, mission integration, launch operations, and spaceflight certification. The launches will be at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. (3/14)

SpaceX Selected to Launch DigitalGlobe Satellites (Source: Maxar)
DigitalGlobe, a Maxar Technologies company (formerly MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates), announced it has contracted with SpaceX to launch the next-generation WorldView Legion satellite imaging constellation. The WorldView Legion constellation will incorporate DigitalGlobe’s most advanced capabilities in Earth observation and satellite construction technologies. (3/14)

'Luna City 2175' Will Take Audience to a Future Community Grappling with How to be Civilized (Source: Space Daily)
A good book can transport the reader into a faraway universe filled with rich detail. The ASU Emerge event will do the same thing this weekend, but the audience actually will be able to touch, see and interact with the newly created world.

"Luna City: 2175," the title of the seventh annual ASU Emerge, will be a combined art, theater and museum experience that's based on real research about what an extra-planetary colony would be like 157 years from now. The two-day event will transform the Galvin Playhouse on the Tempe campus of Arizona State University. (3/14)

"It's Business Time" for Rocket Lab (Source: New Zealand Herald)
Aerospace company Rocket Lab has confirmed its first fully-commercial rocket launch will take off from Mahia in just a few weeks. The United States-based orbital launch provider confirmed its next launch will be a fully-commercial flight to put two Lemur-2 cubesats into orbit for launch customer Spire Global. Those would be used to provide commercial ship-tracking and weather monitoring services. Rocket Lab would confirm a full launch manifest in coming weeks. (3/14)

Toward a CisLunar Marketplace (Source: Aerospace America)
In the progression of the human economy, only one domain remains undeveloped: outer space. The high cost of reaching orbit has been an obvious hurdle, but another challenge is that goods and people must move efficiently from place to place once they are in space. ULA, the joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, is addressing both problems through its CisLunar-1000 initiative. Michael Holguin of ULA shares an insider’s account about progress to date.

Creating an economy in the space between Earth and the moon’s surface, called cislunar space, has always posed a chicken and egg dilemma. The cost of launching, building and operating orbiting facilities makes the business case difficult to close, but without being in business, it’s difficult to lower costs and prove the business case. As a result, the great potential of space has sat idle on terra firma, despite the intriguing results of years of experiments aboard the International Space Station. Click here. (3/14)

Deep Space Industries to Provide Comet Satellite Propulsion for Astro Digital (Source: SpaceRef)
Deep Space Industries announced today that it has signed a contract with Astro Digital to provide several CometTM water-based satellite propulsion systems. Comet is a simple, launch-safe, and cost-effective electrothermal propulsion system that uses water as a propellant and can be customized for nearly any small satellite application.

“We chose DSI’s propulsion solution because of the team’s ability to deliver a unique and relatively large microsat propulsion system on an incredibly aggressive schedule,” explained Chris Biddy, chief executive officer of Astro Digital. “We are quite impressed by the Comet’s scalable nature and ease of integration.”

Comet is unique in that it uses water as propellant. This is especially important for Deep Space Industries’ future asteroid mining plans, as water will be among the first resources mined from asteroids. In the meantime, this propulsion system is efficient, affordable, and easy to use for small satellites that will stay much closer to home, for customers such as Astro Digital. (3/14)

March 14, 2018

Key Technologies the Commercial Satellite Constellations Need are on the Horizon (Source: Space News)
If satellite constellations are to fulfill their promise of offering global communications services, they will need key technologies including low-cost antennas and laser cross-links. “You’ve got to have ground antennas that are agile, affordable and can be produced in quantity,” said Erwin Hudson of Telesat Canada. Those antennas are on the horizon, he added, thanks in part to the investment of terrestrial communications companies in 5G networks. (3/13)

Spaceflight Raises $150 Million for BlackSky Constellation (Source: Space News)
Spaceflight Industries has raised $150 million to fund development of the next phase of its BlackSky Earth imaging constellation, with Thales Alenia Space and Telespazio taking minority stakes. Seattle-based Spaceflight said the Series C round will fund development of the next set of 20 BlackSky satellites, part of an ultimate constellation of 60 satellites intended to provide high-resolution images with rapid revisit times. (3/13)

SoftBank says GEO Operators Besides Intelsat Can Sell OneWeb Capacity (Source: Space News)
OneWeb’s largest investor SoftBank expects to bring in several partners to help sell OneWeb capacity, including potentially other geostationary satellite operators.

SoftBank, through its $1 billion investment in OneWeb, has rights to all the capacity on the operator’s planned low Earth orbit megaconstellation. Fleet operator Intelsat, in trying to combine with OneWeb last year, failed to close the merger but retained distribution rights for OneWeb capacity to several end-user customer groups. (3/13)

LEO and MEO Broadband Constellations Mega Source of Consternation (Source: Space News)
The world’s biggest, best established satellite operators talk of broadband as an enormously lucrative opportunity. But in truth, nothing is causing them more frustration. Demand for ever-faster broadband internet connections is maxing out today’s satellites, setting off an industry-wide stampede toward increasingly powerful high-throughput satellites (HTS).

While that might sound like a good thing, the rush to HTS is driving down bandwidth prices so fast that some fairly low-mileage satellites are struggling to keep up. Seasoned operators, determined to stay ahead of the curve, are thinking twice before investing $200 million or more in a geostationary broadband satellite designed to operate at least 15 years. (3/13)

Satellite Co. Seeks OK Of $1M ICC Award Against Korea's KT (Source: Law360)
Bermuda-registered satellite operator ABS is seeking to enshrine its recent $1 million arbitration victory against South Korea’s KT Corp. stemming from a politically fraught satellite transaction, asking a New York federal court Tuesday to confirm an award resolving the remaining issues in its favor. Asia Broadcast Satellite Global Ltd. and Asia Broadcast Satellite Holdings Ltd., referred to collectively as ABS, filed a petition to confirm a “final award” that was issued by an International Chamber of Commerce tribunal on March 9. (3/14)

NASA's Next Mars Spacecraft Will Launch From California, Not Florida (Source: The Verge)
InSight will be the first interplanetary mission to ever take off from the West Coast. So far, every US mission to another planet or distant moon in our Solar System has launched from Florida. Rockets that fly to the east from Florida get an extra speed boost, but InSight is fairly small It doesn’t need the boost as much as heavier spacecraft do. And since Florida is a busy place for rockets launches, NASA plans to launch this vehicle on May 5th, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Southern California, which is usually pretty open. (3/13)

Trump: U.S. Should Have a ‘Space Force’ (Source: Space News)
“We have the Air Force. We'll have the Space Force," Trump said in a speech to U.S. Marines in San Diego. An idea that the Pentagon has long opposed — creating a separate military service dedicated to space warfare — suddenly is back in the headlines after President Trump endorsed it in a speech on Tuesday. Addressing a military audience in San Diego, Trump boasted about his plans to modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal, develop hypersonic weapons, and the possibility that the U.S. will need a “space force” to fight enemies that threaten U.S. access to space.

But the president may not have been aware that the idea of a military branch dedicated to space is not new. In fact it has been championed for a long time by members of the House Armed Services Committee’s strategic forces subcommittee. And it’s one of the few issues in the House that gets bipartisan support. A provision in the House version of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act required the Air Force to spin off a separate department focused on space.

The bill passed the House but didn’t have enough votes in the Senate. And it was fiercely opposed by the Air Force and the Pentagon. The law directed the Defense Department to hire an independent think tank to study the issue. The Air Force manages most of the military’s space programs and has come under criticism from lawmakers for short-changing space programs. (3/13)

Stephen Hawking, Science's Brightest Star, Dies Aged 76 (Source: The Guardian)
Stephen Hawking, the brightest star in the firmament of science, whose insights shaped modern cosmology and inspired global audiences in the millions, has died aged 76. His family released a statement in the early hours of Wednesday morning confirming his death at his home in Cambridge. (3/14)

Biomedical Findings from NASA’s Project Mercury: a Case Series (Source: Nature)
The U.S. first sent humans into space during six flights of Project Mercury from May 1961 to May 1963. These flights were brief, with durations ranging from about 15 min to just over 34 h. A primary purpose of the project was to determine if humans could perform meaningful tasks while in space. This was supported by a series of biomedical measurements on each astronaut before, during (when feasible), and after flight to document the effects of exposure to the spaceflight environment.

While almost all of the data presented here have been published in technical reports, this is the first integrated summary of the main results. One unexpected finding emerges: the major physiological changes associated with these short-term spaceflights are correlated more strongly with time spent by the astronaut in a spacesuit than with time spent in space per se. Thus, exposure to the direct stressors of short-duration (up to 34 h) spaceflight was not the dominant factor influencing human health and performance. (3/13)

15 New Planets Confirmed Around Cool Dwarf Stars (Source: Science Magazine)
Scientists report the existence of 15 new planets — including one 'super-Earth' that could harbor liquid water — orbiting small, cool stars near our solar system. These stars, known as red dwarfs, are of enormous interest for studies of planetary formation and evolution. A research team led by Teruyuki Hirano of Tokyo Institute of Technology's Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences has validated 15 exoplanets orbiting red dwarf systems.

One of the brightest red dwarfs, K2-155 that is around 200 light years away from Earth, has three transiting super-Earths, which are slightly bigger than our own planet. Of those three super-Earths, the outermost planet, K2-155d, with a radius 1.6 times that of Earth, could be within the host star's habitable zone. (3/13)

NASA Wants to Change the Way We Think About the Habitable Zone (Source: Engadget)
"There are great possibilities in expanding the habitable zone beyond our traditional blinders on that vision where it's Earth or nothing."

That's Cynthia Phillips, a planetary geologist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. She's currently working on a mission to study Europa, one of Jupiter's icy moons with a subsurface ocean. Jupiter -- and, by association, Europa -- is well outside the "habitable zone," the gauge astronomers have used for years to determine whether a planet can sustain liquid water, a major precursor for life. But in Phillips' view, being outside of this zone doesn't automatically mean the moon or planet is devoid of life. (3/13)

Britain Hopes to Keep Stars Aligned with EU's Space Projects (Source: Space Daily)
While the Union Jacks on the wall indicate they are firmly on British soil, at an Airbus cleanroom in Portsmouth, the Eutelsat Quantum satellite is very much a European endeavour. Parts for the European Space Agency-led venture come from Spain, it is built in Britain and will be taken to France for testing ahead of next year's launch.

"The thing about space is that in order to succeed and achieve, really, you have to be part of international partnerships and cooperation," said UK Astronaut Tim Peake. The agency is not part of the European Union -- it has 22 members plus cooperating states -- but they are closely aligned and Brexit has cast doubt on Britain's role in regional collaboration. (3/7)

A Submarine for Titan’s Seas (Source: Air & Space)
For some time now, scientists have thought Titan may be a cradle of life, because it seems to contain all the necessary ingredients. This is especially true at the bottom of its lakes and seas, where heated hydrothermal water is thought to be in direct contact with a frigid nitrogen-rich hydrocarbon mixture. How could we ever explore such a place? In a submarine, of course.

The first step in making that technology a reality has now been taken by Ian Richardson and his colleagues from Washington State University, working with NASA. They recreated the pressure and temperature conditions of Titan’s seas of ethane and methane in their cryogenic laboratory to see how a submersible vehicle might fare in such a hostile environment. Check out this video. (3/13)

Satellite Internet Being Built to Span the Oceans (Source: The Economist)
Single undwerwater cables now carry as much as 160 terabits across the Atlantic every second. Oceanographers have mapped and drilled into the ocean floor around the world. But these capabilities have not come together. It is now very easy to get vast amounts of data from one side of an ocean to another; but it is hard to get even modest amounts of data out from the ocean itself. A new infrastructure is needed to enable sensors at sea to transfer their data back to land. Click here. (3/13)

Update on Investment in Commercial Space Ventures (Source: Bryce)
Start-up space ventures have attracted over $18.4 billion of investment, including $6.3 billion in early and late stage venture capital, $2.3 billion in seed financing, and $4.5 billion in debt financing, since 2000. More than 180 angel- and venture-backed space companies have been founded and funded since 2000. Eighteen of these companies have been acquired, at a total value of $3.6 billion. Most investment activity has occurred recently, particularly since 2015, with investment between $2 and $3 billion in each of the last three years: $2.4 billion in 2015, $3 billion in 2016, and $2.5 billion in 2017 (excluding debt financing). (3/13)

Bezos Says He'll Spend `Amazon Lottery Winnings' on Space Travel (Source: Bloomberg)
Jeff Bezos wants to make space travel as dynamic and entrepreneurial as the internet. “The price of admission to space is very high,” Bezos said while accepting the Buzz Aldrin Space Exploration Award at the Explorers Club Annual Dinner. “I’m in the process of converting my Amazon lottery winnings into a much lower price of admission so we can go explore the solar system.”

Bezos later declined to clarify just how much of his fortune he’ll spend on space travel. But Paulsen, at the next table, said Bezos could spend it all, “if he leaves enough to take care of his mother." Bezos is definitely not leaving mom behind. She said she’s going into space. She’s already been on an ocean voyage to recover F-1 rocket engines, a trip where the crew made accommodations for her, as Bezos recounted from the stage. (3/13)

Who's Running NASA? (Source: The Atlantic)
There was only one witness at a congressional hearing about nasa’s budget last week, and he wasn’t even supposed to be there. The witness, Robert Lightfoot, has worked at nasa for years. He arrived at the Marshall Spaceflight Center in 1989 as a test engineer. By 2009, he was running the whole place as director, and a few years later, he was number three at nasa headquarters. When President Obama left the White House, taking all his appointees with him, Lightfoot took over as nasa’s acting administrator. He would step down as soon as the Senate confirmed a successor, handpicked by President Trump.

More than 13 months later, that still hasn’t happened. With each passing day, nasa sets a new record for the longest the agency has gone without a permanent chief between two administrations. So it was Lightfoot who was summoned to Capitol Hill to face lawmakers and field questions about the future of a government agency he was never supposed to run for this long.

“Is it time to have somebody who’s permanent in that position?,” Ed Perlmutter, a Democratic congressman from Colorado, asked Lightfoot at the hearing, held by the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. “Is it hard as an acting administrator to move the agency forward?” (3/13)

Griffin Likely To Take A Hard Look At Military's Space Launch Plans (Source: Forbes)
Michael D. Griffin, the new Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, may be the most intellectually gifted public servant in the entire Trump Administration. He holds seven academic degrees in applied physics, aerospace engineering, electrical engineering and other demanding fields. When he was selected to head NASA in 2005, he was working on an eighth degree in computer science. He has occupied senior positions at some of the world's most respected aerospace research organizations.

You could probably plug Griffin into any technical job in the government and get good results. But the area where he is best known is space. How well known? A 2010 survey by the Space Foundation ranked him as one of the nation's most popular space heroes. You usually have to be an astronaut to achieve that kind of honor. And there's one other thing about Mike Griffin -- he's not the kind of team player who will go along with a bad plan for the sake of unity. When he sees something he doesn't like, he asks a lot of hard questions.

Which is why the Air Force officials overseeing the Pentagon's space program better be scrubbing their PowerPoint presentations for when the new Under Secretary comes calling. If there's a problem in their plans, Griffin is likely to find it, and fast. I'm betting that it won't take long for him to start probing how the Air Force backed into its current, high-risk strategy for assuring access to space when it already is using launch vehicles with perfect performance records that can reach every national-security reference orbit. (3/13)

Bezos Has a Crazy Plan for How to Spend $1 Billion a Year of His Own Money (Source: Money)
Jeff Bezos wants to make space travel as dynamic and entrepreneurial as the internet. “The price of admission to space is very high,” Bezos said Saturday night in New York, accepting the Buzz Aldrin Space Exploration Award at the Explorers Club Annual Dinner. “I’m in the process of converting my Amazon lottery winnings into a much lower price of admission so we can go explore the solar system.”

Bezos previously said he’s funding rocket company Blue Origin LLC to the tune of $1 billion a year through the sale of Amazon stock. His comments at the event suggest that may be only the start of his financial commitment to the project, which is developing reusable rockets. His net worth is $131 billion, with $125 billion of that in Amazon stock—and that “keeps on going up,” his mom, Jackie Bezos, said during the cocktail hour. His fortune has grown more than any other on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index this year. (3/13)

Japan/Luxembourg's iSpace Aims for the Moon (Source: iSpace)
At ispace, we’ve turned our attention to the Moon. By taking advantage of lunar water resources, we can develop the space infrastructure needed to enrich our daily lives on earth—as well as expand our living sphere into space. Also, by making the Earth and Moon one system, a new economy with space infrastructure at its core will support human life, making sustainability a reality. This result is our ultimate goal, and our search for water on the Moon is the first step to achieving that goal. Click here. (3/10)

March 13, 2018

A New Focus on Exploration Worries Space Technology Advocates (Source: Space Review)
One element of NASA’s 2019 budget proposal seeks to combine the agency’s space technology program with its exploration program. Jeff Foust reports that proposal has sparked concern among supporters of the current space technology program that such a move could jeopardize NASA’s technology development expertise. Click here.

Editor's Note: Florida built the Space Life Sciences Lab at KSC just prior to NASA's Constellation Program. After the state spent millions for state-of-the-art labs in the facility to support ISS science and technology, NASA pulled funding for the science programs to pay for Constellation hardware that never flew. The building still hosts some science, but not nearly to the degree envisioned prior to Constellation. (3/12)
Our Fear of “Heritage” Imperils Our Future (Source: Space Review)
The concept of “common heritage of humankind” can get many people in the space community riled up. Michelle L.D. Hanlon says there’s another way of thinking about “heritage” that offers a more commonsense approach to protecting our history in space. Click here. (3/12) 
The Secretary of (Space) Commerce (Source: Space Review)
Efforts by the National Space Council have given new prominence to the Department of Commerce for the regulation and promotion of the commercial space industry in the United States. Jeff Foust interviews Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross on some of this issues coming out of the latest council meeting. Click here. (3/12)
Why the Outer Space Treaty Remains Valid and Relevant in the Modern World (Source: Space Review)
Some wonder if the fifty-year-old Outer Space Treaty is no longer relevant in an era where commercial activities are eclipsing government efforts in space. Cristin Finnigan argues that the treaty remains a good foundation for international space law to this day. Click here. (3/12)

Japan's JSAT to Launch on Blue Origin's New Glenn Rocket (Source: Space News)
Japanese satellite operator Sky Perfect JSAT is the newest customer for Blue Origin's New Glenn rocket. The contract, announced Monday, covers the launch of a future, unspecified satellite for Sky Perfect JSAT. That operator, the largest in Asia, is the fourth customer for New Glenn after Eutelsat, OneWeb, and mu Space, a Thai startup operator that has converted an agreement announced last year into a formal contract. (3/12)

Brexit Impacts UK Aerospace/Defense (Source: Aviation Week)
In June 2016, on the eve of the Brexit referendum, I wrote in this column that the British aerospace industry was at a crossroads, faced with the prospect of a political outcome that could seriously compromise its future. Almost two years later, one can now officially say that the British aerospace and defense sector altogether, including the British Armed Forces, is in shambles.

Not a week goes by without some senior industry executive, highly ranked military official or politician commenting on the dangers of a bad Brexit deal, the worrisome state of the defense forces or the frailty of the British industrial base. Of course not all of that is directly related to Brexit, but the process of exiting the European Union is destabilizing an industry that was already struggling, and exacerbating budgetary uncertainties that, coupled with weak political leadership, contribute to the general malaise. (3/12)

Arianespace CEO Talks GEO/LEO Markets and Rocket Reusability (Source: Aviation Week)
The geostationary orbit remains key for us, but priorities have shifted over the last few years, with the Soyuz and Vega. The constellation market calls for lower orbits, and our backlog is now much better balanced. With the Ariane 6 and Vega C, we will strengthen the rebalancing. The geostationary market has, for two years, sent indications it is slowing. We have to accept that, although we anticipate an uptick this year.

The relevance of reusability depends on the mission. As the orbit gets lower and the satellite lighter, the booster becomes easier to recover. And from 30 to 40 missions per year, you offset the slower production rate. We have to look at all the evolutions possible for the Ariane 6. Reusability is one. As early as 2014, we began working on reusable engines with the Prometheus [demonstrator], planned to be ground-tested in 2020. State agencies are working on other technology bricks. (3/12)

Effective Space Signs for Proton Launch in 2020 (Source: Space News)
Effective Space, a company developing a satellite life extension system, has signed a contract with International Launch Services for the launch of its first two spacecraft. Effective Space will fly its two Space Drone servicing spacecraft as secondary payloads on a Proton launch in 2020 under terms of the contract announced Monday. The spacecraft will be delivered directly to geostationary orbit, where they will extend the lives of existing satellites there. Effective Space plans to ultimately launch up to six Space Drones a year. (3/13)

DOD's PODSat Sneaks a Ride with Hispasat on Falcon 9 (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
A recent commercial satellite launch carried a secretive military secondary payload. PODSat was a secondary payload ejected from the Hispsat 30W-6 satellite after its launch last week on a SpaceX Falcon 9. The payload was built by NovaWurks for DARPA, but neither the company nor the agency would discuss the payload's mission. NovaWurks and Space Systems Loral, manufacturer of the Hispasat primary satellite, confirmed the existence of PODSat after it showed up in satellite catalogs after the launch. (3/13)

Ukraine Proposes Australian Spaceport (Source: The West Australian)
The government of Ukraine is in talks with the state of Western Australia about cooperative ventures that could include a spaceport. The discussions are focused on the possibility of building a launch site near an air base on the northern coast of Western Australia. The reports don't state what vehicles would use the launch site, although Ukrainian officials said they are very interested in using the spaceport if it was built. "Ukraine could launch tomorrow morning if we had a site. We offer our people and our expertise if Australia has land for use," said Ukraine's ambassador to Australia. (3/13)

NASA’s IRT Publishes Report on SpaceX’s CRS-7 Failure (Source:
NASA’s Independent Review Team (IRT) published the first public report on the SpaceX CRS-7 failure. The accident occurred on June 28, 2015 when a Falcon 9 rocket’s second stage experienced an over-pressurization event during first stage ascent. SpaceX blamed the accident on a manufacturing defect involving a steel strut. However, the IRT report blames a design error on SpaceX’s behalf. SpaceX published its initial findings on July 20, 2015, saying “a helium filled composite overwrapped pressure vessel (COPV) within the Stage 2 LOx tank had become liberated” due to a strut failing.

The IRT determined that it was “credible” that a COPV was “liberated” due to a strut failing and thus rupturing the Stage 2 LOx tank. Therefore, the IRT’s assessment of the “direct and immediate causes” of the anomaly aligned with SpaceX AIT’s assessment. However, the IRT did not agree with SpaceX on the “initiating cause.” SpaceX AIT blamed a manufacturing defect for the failure. The IRT agreed that a manufacturing defect could have been involved, but noted that there were other potential strut related failures that were “credible” including an installation failure.

Regardless, the IRT had a significant problem with the grade of strut that SpaceX chose. The report stated, “the key technical finding by the IRT with regard to this failure was that it was due to a design error: SpaceX chose to use an industrial grade (as opposed to aerospace grade) 17-4 PH SS (precipitation-hardening stainless steel) cast part in a critical load path under cryogenic conditions and strenuous flight environments.” (3/13)

NASA Supporting Air Traffic Control System for Drones (Source: Daily Mail)
Amazon and Google are pushing ahead with plans to develop their own air traffic control network for low-level altitudes so their drones can make deliveries. The plans were outlined at a conference earlier in the week and have the backing of major players including Amazon, General Electric, Boeing and Google. The system would use automated cellular and web applications to track and prevent collisions among swarms of small unmanned aircraft flying a few hundred feet above the ground.

The move would create a sort of 'drone superhighway' and would be the next step in Amazon's ambitious plans to deliver packages via drone within 30 minutes. The vision is in line with that of Google's which would see all tracked drones to communicate their positions to a centralized computer system available to all operators, similar to aviation airspace, to avoid any collisions. In conjunction with NASA, tests are already being planned over the next three months at a handful of sites.

The intent is to develop a 'totally different, new way of doing things,' Parimal Kopardekar, NASA's senior air-transport technologist who first suggested the idea of an industry-devised solution, told about 1,000 attendees at the conference. (3/10)

AST&Science Announces Majority Investment in NanoAvionics (Source: Via Satellite)
AST&Science has closed on the purchase of a controlling interest in the European satellite manufacturer and system integrator NanoAvionics. All the key executives and management team of NanoAvionics will remain unchanged under the leadership of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Vytenis Buzas and Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) Linas Sargautis, both founders of the company.

Abel Avellan of AST&Science will chair the NanoAvionics board. The investment into NanoAvionics will be used to expand its manufacturing capabilities both in Europe and the U.S. "The capital infusion...will be a significant contributing factor in entering the U.S. market and successful further commercialization of our products. Our combined venture will be focused on a goal to become a go-to company for manufacturing and launching small satellite constellations for businesses worldwide,” said Buzas.

In June 2017, NanoAvionics launched its second satellite under the European Commission’s QB50 project dedicated to atmospheric research. In addition to the scientific study, the satellite performed an important validation of a green chemical propulsion system for smallsats developed by NanoAvionics. (3/9)

Research Beyond the Wild Blue Yonder (Source: ERAU)
In the near future, when suborbital spacecraft begin traveling to low-Earth orbit, a group of citizen-scientist astronaut candidates who have trained at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – regular people from around the world who have dreamed of going into space – will be on board for some of the first flights.

The nascent space travelers will journey up to and through a layer of clouds 50 miles high, formed of ice crystals seeded by fine debris from disintegrating meteors, on a mission to gather high-resolution three-dimensional imagery of noctilucent clouds in the mesosphere.

This hard-to-study cloud layer, seen seasonally over both poles, is so high it glows at night from sunlight on the opposite side of Earth. Imagery gathered of these elusive ‘night-shining’ atmospheric phenomena will be used to develop high-fidelity dynamical models that will help scientists better understand our changing global climate. (3/9)

Who Needs $20 Million? Moon Race Still on Without Google's Prize (Source: Bloomberg)
Google called off its race to the moon weeks ago, when it became clear no private explorer would complete the trip by the March 31 deadline. That won’t stop at least three teams from Israel, Japan and the U.S., who say their missions are still a go, with or without the contest's $20 million prize. “We are full steam ahead,” said Yigal Harel, program director at SpaceIL, the Israeli team that plans a soft-landing on the moon later this year.

When the Lunar XPrize was introduced in 2007, interest in moon exploration was at a low. No government had landed there since the 1970s and no businesses had seriously contemplated it. But the contest has had its intended effect, jump-starting a cottage industry of would-be space explorers, even if no one emerged to take Google’s money.

One reason the moon is within easier reach is that escaping Earth’s gravity is now so much cheaper. Private launch services like Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. can put a satellite into orbit for about one-tenth what it would have cost a decade ago. (3/11)

Mysteries Surrounding July 14 Soyuz Flight Solved? Not Quite. (Source: Space News)
For the first time since a Russian Soyuz rocket launched 73 satellites in July 2017, Glavkosmos, a subsidiary of Roscosmos, is confirming a problem with the Fregat upper stage. “According to the telemetry, an anomaly was detected in one of the Fregat’s low-thrust engines,” Glavkosmos said.

For months, satellite and insurance executives have tried to determine why a group of cubesats launched into the same orbit failed, while other spacecraft on the Soyuz flight worked. Roscosmos claimed consistently that none of the cubesat failures were caused by rocket problems. The new Glavkosmos statement solves the mystery surrounding the loss of cubesats sent into 601-kilometer orbit but leads to other questions.

After the July 14 launch, Roscosmos directed the Russian startup Dauria Aerospace to return the 290 million rubles or approximately $5 million Roscosmos paid it to build two remote sensing nanosatellites that failed to respond to commands after the July 14 launch. When Dauria said it could not pay because it spent the money building the MKA-N satellites, Roscosmos threatened to sue. Click here. (3/12)

Bezos and Musk are Ramping Up Their Space Race (Source: Vanity Fair)
While Musk has the functioning infrastructure in place and is working to create a viable business with SpaceX, which he said on Sunday is “alive by the skin of its teeth,” Bezos has nearly unlimited assets to devote to his aerospace company, Blue Origin. Click here. (3/12)

Elon Musk Wants to Preserve Humanity in Space (Source: C/Net)
Elon Musk wants to save humanity. That is, in part, what his quest to establish bases on the moon and Mars is all about. "There's likely to be another dark age," he told the crowd Sunday at the South By Southwest festival. Particularly if there's another world war in Earth's future, he said, we need to make sure "there's enough of a seed of human civilization to bring human civilization back." Click here. (3/11)

China’s Rapid-Response Rocket Prominent In 2018 Program (Source: Aviation Week)
China will conduct five missions with Long March 11 solid-propellant launchers this year, confirming that the fast-response rocket is finally regarded as mature. One of the launches will be from a ship, says Li Hong, the head of China’s main space-launcher builder, Calt, confirming a previously disclosed plan. (3/12)

Chinese Working On Giant Engine For Long March 9 (Source: Aviation Week)
Completing a demonstrator for a huge first-stage rocket engine, possibly this year, is among the technology acquisition projects being undertaken by China’s main space industry group in preparation for a go-ahead for manned Moon missions. Work on engines for second and third stages and on the structure for the giant launcher, informally called Long March 9 and due to go to the Moon around 2030, is also underway. Long March 9’s targeted payload to low Earth orbit is 140 metric tonnes. (3/12)

Rocket Lab Says Launch Preparations Not Affected by 'Rogue Satellite' Concern (Source: Stuff)
Rocket Lab says preparations for its next launch are not being impacted by a controversy involving one of its customers. Californian "internet of things" company Swarm Technologies has booked launch space with Rocket Lab. But it is in the doghouse with the US Federal Communications Commission after launching four satellites into space from India despite concerns they might be too small to easily and safely track.

Rocket Lab spokeswoman Morgan Bailey said the matter was between Swarm and the FCC, and had not caused any delay to preparations for Rocket Lab's next launch, which is tipped to take place in April. "For us, it doesn't really create any issues." Its Electron rockets are designed to carry a payload of up to 150 kilograms, meaning the tiny Swarm satellites would only be a small part of any cargo.

Rocket Lab, founded by Kiwi Peter Beck, was still finalising the payload for what will be its first commercial launch but would not include any satellites on it that did not have the right regulatory approvals, Bailey said. Rocket Lab had yet to confirm the launch window for its next flight, but the Electron would be transported to its launch site on the Māhia Peninsula in the next few weeks, she said. Electron's "plug and play" design meant satellites could be swapped out easily and at short notice, she said. "It is business as usual for us." (3/12)