July 1, 2016

Boeing Says Russian Co. Can't Trim $325M Sea Launch Loss (Source: Law 360)
Boeing blasted a Russian aerospace company in California federal court Monday for trying to trim $20 million off the $325 million it owes for a failed rocket-launch joint venture, arguing the company's contentions that another joint venture investor already paid that amount have been heard and rejected before. RSC Energia has already tried and failed twice to convince the court that its $325 million share of Boeing's $515 million in judgments should be reduced by $19.9 million. (6/28)

NASA Has Payloads List For SpaceX Red Dragon (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA is ready to help Elon Musk land a Dragon capsule on Mars and is taking a wait-and-see approach to sending its own expensive instruments along with it. The U.S. space agency has an internal list of potential scientific payloads for the “Red Dragon” mission the SpaceX founder and his engineers hope to launch in 2018. NASA is ready to spend “on the order of $30 million” to assist that first private mission to Mars. (6/30)

China Announces Success in Technology to Refuel Satellites in Orbit (Source: Xinhua)
China has successfully completed the in-space refuel of orbital satellites following last week's launch of a new generation carrier rocket, the National University of Defense Technology announced. Similar to air refueling for planes, the process refuels a satellite in orbit in a microgravity environment and will extend a satellite's functional life and boost its maneuver capabilities considerably. (6/30)

I Think it’s Time to Bet on the Guys with 21st Century Rockets (Source: Ars Technica)
In a first, the secretive Blue Origin rocket company invited the world to watch its Sunday launch, live. Blue Origin's New Shepard vehicle accelerated to 2,142mph, ascended into space, and returned to Earth 10 minutes later. Not that all that much of the world watched. It was Father’s Day, after all, and Blue Origin doesn’t have quite the cachet of SpaceX to draw in the masses. Moreover it’s easy enough to dismiss the achievements of Blue Origin—it’s just a small rocket, after all, and this only an unmanned suborbital flight.

Nevertheless, Sunday’s launch affirmed a singular, increasingly inescapable fact about the future of spaceflight: reusable rockets represent the future of the aerospace industry. SpaceX has proven that it can safely return large orbital rockets to Earth, both on land and at sea. With Sunday’s flight, Blue Origin has now definitively taken the next step, turning a rocket around and flying it again. Four times. Click here. (6/30)

End is Nigh for Rosetta: Spacecraft Will Crash Into Comet (Source: Ars Technica)
After launching 12 years ago and achieving its primary mission of reaching an orbit around Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, the aging Rosetta spacecraft will now die. On September 30, the European Space Agency says it will command Rosetta to crash into the comet it has been following since 2014.

Now at a distance of more than 850 million km from the Sun, Rosetta's two solar arrays cannot collect enough power to guarantee the spacecraft's heaters will keep it warm enough to survive. Instead of putting Rosetta into hibernation, which engineers believe is not survivable, Rosetta will follow its Philae lander to the surface of the comet. (6/30)

Paying for the Road to Mars (Source: Space News)
While the world’s focus, understandably, is on the amazing technologies being demonstrated by SpaceX and Blue Origin, it is their financial and strategic plans that may matter most. Unlike NASA or anyone else in the space industry, SpaceX and Blue Origin have plans to pay for their goals in space. The idea of major space projects paying for themselves, unfortunately, is just as unprecedented as the companies’ technologies. Click here. (6/30)

The Mystery of Tabby’s Star (Source: Air & Space)
Popular interest in Tabby’s Star—also known, less imaginatively, as KIC 8462852—continues as Yale astronomer Tabetha Boyjian just reached her $100,000 fundraising goal to look further into the spectral anomalies of this mysterious object. Tabby’s Star has been on the radar of alien intelligence enthusiasts ever since the discovery of anomalous and substantial (up to 20 percent) drops in its light curve.

The drops were irregular and lasted between 5 and 80 days. Why the excitement? Because there’s a small—make that miniscule—chance that the dips in brightness are caused by artificial constructions built by alien civilizations. 

This notion, however, is difficult to support. First, Tabby’s Star is an F-type star nearly 1,500 light years away. Main-sequence F stars are heavier than our Sun, and most have a life expectancy of less than two billion years. Here on Earth, it took more than 4.5 billion years for the first technological species (us!) to appear. Thus, any planet around KIC 8462852 would not be expected to be inhabited by complex or intelligent life. Click here. (6/29)

NASA Open to Using Silver-treated Water in Space, Despite FDA Opposition (Source: Space Safety)
Scientists have had to figure out how to recycle and disinfect water to be reused in space. Curiously, the two principal spacefaring nations, the U.S. and Russia, have developed completely different approaches in solving the problem. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) remains vehemently opposed to the idea of using silver as a bactericide. Research into silver’s bacteria-busting attributes are also repeatedly obstructed by the agency.

Unfortunately for the FDA, it apparently has no jurisdiction up in space, as both U.S. and Russian astronauts will now be taking advantage of silver as a water purifier. The fact that this element is now the primary method of keeping astronauts alive says a lot about its therapeutic potential.

“Due to widespread growth in the use of colloidal silver as a biocidal agent, development of a simple and cost efficient method of silver testing is valuable,” admits NASA on its website. “On station, silver is used as a biocidal agent based on its antimicrobial properties in the potable water system.” (6/30)

NASA Awards Contract to Increase Water Recovery on Space Station (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA has selected Paragon Space Development Corporation, a small business headquartered in Tucson, Arizona, to develop a system that will increase the rate of water recovery from the urine of astronauts aboard the International Space Station. The contract is valued at $5.1 million for the delivery of one Brine Processor Assembly (BPA), and is sponsored by NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems Division. Work on the contract will be performed at Paragon Space Development’s Tucson facilities.

The technology, currently scheduled for flight in 2018, will undergo a test demonstration on the space station to verify it further closes the “water loop,” with a goal of achieving at least 94 percent recovery of water from urine. The Water Recovery System, currently used on station, captures and processes astronaut urine, but additional unrecovered water remains in the resulting effluent (brine). The BPA assembly will be used to reclaim more water from the brine. (6/30)

Weezer Honor NASA Mission With New Song 'I Love The USA' (Source: Rolling Stone)
In August 2011, NASA launched an unmanned probe named Juno towards Jupiter. Juno is scheduled to enter the planet's orbit on July 4th, and the excitement around this achievement inspired a pair of new tunes from Weezer and Trent Reznor.

Weezer announced the arrival of "I Love The USA" with an enthusiastic tweet on Wednesday night: "Celebrating @NASAJuno’s historic landing on 7/4 w/ a new song!" The band's contribution starts as a simple piano ballad before building towards a climactic guitar solo and patriotic sentiments like, "F*** yeah, this place is great!" (6/30)

NASA Putting SpaceX's Crew Dragon Through the Wringer (Source: Popular Science)
In a spacecraft that's built to carry humans, the "pressure vessel" is the part of the structure the astronauts inhabit on their way to the International Space Station. The pressure vessel keeps air in and the vacuum of space out, and maintains a pressure that's friendly to Earthlings. Basically its job is to keep them alive despite the hazards of spaceflight. So, you know, no pressure.

All of that means the pressure vessel has to be vigorously tested on a brand new spacecraft like SpaceX's Crew Dragon. The Crew Dragon is shaping up to be the first privately owned vehicle to carry astronauts to the space station next year or in 2018. Click here. (6/30)

Brexit's Impact Stretches From Deep Space To Nuclear Fusion (Source: NPR)
The U.K.'s fraught decision to exit the European Union was motivated by everyday issues such as trade and immigration. But its impact could soon be felt in some of Europe's most esoteric locales — like particle accelerators.

Many scientific organizations, such as high-energy physics laboratory CERN, based in Switzerland, and the European Space Agency (ESA), were actually formed before the European Union. British membership in these organizations would not be directly affected, but its role could change. The U.K. wing of the pan-European aerospace company, Airbus, is putting ExoMars together. Brexit could cause export-control problems or other industrial snags.

Airbus could even decide to move a portion of its U.K. manufacturing facilities to Europe, though it's unlikely to happen quickly. Womersley adds that Britain may end up paying more for scientific projects because its financial contributions to European organizations are paid in pounds. The pound has dropped by 10 percent against the U.S. dollar since the June 23 vote. (6/29)

Virgin Galactic Preparing for Busy LauncherOne Future (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
While Virgin Galactic prepare to restart test operations with its SpaceShipTwo vehicle, the company has revealed an ambitious future for its LauncherOne system – including a home base in California that is currently “too big” for their needs, but will allow for the expectation for dozens of missions per year. LauncherOne will be tasked with a multi-orbit, multi-payload ride for numerous small satellites via its air-launch system. Click here. (6/30)

Orbital Insight Raises $20 Million to Wring Actionable Intelligence from Satellite Imagery (Source: Space News)
Investor enthusiasm remains strong for companies that provide information drawn from Earth observation satellites, judging by $20 million in new investments for geospatial data company Orbital Insight.

Orbital Insight announced June 27 that it raised $15 million in Series B funding from venture capital groups and garnered another $5 million in investment and product development work for In-Q-Tel, the non-profit investment arm of the U.S. intelligence community. (6/30)

Russia, Mexico Continue Talks on Space Cooperation (Source: Sputnik)
Russia and Mexico continue negotiations on the issue of agreement on space cooperation. "I can say that work on a cooperation agreement in the sphere of space area is in progress. There is a draft agreement, we are in talks with them on the issue," Russian Ambassador to Mexico Eduard Malayan said. (6/30)

NASA Awards Grants to Nine Informal Learning Institutions [Three in Florida] (Source: NASA)
NASA has awarded almost $10 million in grants to informal education organizations in seven states to help inspire the next generation of scientists and explorers. The organizations include two botanical gardens, five museums, one foundation and one NASA visitor center. The selected projects include botany experiments focused on growing food in space, technology challenges using caves as an analog environment for other planets, hands-on aviation exhibits, and a traveling exhibit focusing on life in Earth’s extreme environments.

Three of the organizations are in Florida, including DNC Parks & Resorts at KSC, Inc., Kennedy Space Center, Florida; Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens, Coral Gables, Florida; and Orlando Science Center, Orlando, Florida. Click here. (6/30)

KSC Visitor Complex Tops Off Heroes & Legends Attraction (Source: Florida Today)
Raising a silhouette of a pioneering rocket plane above its entrance, NASA and the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on Thursday morning celebrated completion of the initial structure that will house the new Heroes & Legends attraction, scheduled to open to the public on Veterans Day. A steel beam signed by construction workers, VIPs and Visitor Complex employees and guests later was expected to be hoisted about 30 feet to ceremoniously top off the building. (6/30)

This Stinky Perfume Smells Like a Comet (Source: Seeker)
Ah, the sweet smell of a comet as it soars across the night sky ... stardust and rainbows with a hint of fresh mint, right? Wrong. More like cyanide and cat pee with a heaping helping of rotten eggs.

If you think you'd like to experience that in person, you're not alone; researchers from The Open University in England and ESA's Rosetta science team recently commissioned scent specialists at The Aroma Company to concoct a custom scent that more-or-less accurately portrays the various compounds found in the coma of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, first sniffed by ESA's Rosetta spacecraft on Oct. 10, 2014. (6/30)

June 30, 2016

Europe's ULA Finalized (Source: Reuters)
Airbus and Safran have finalized the creation of their launch vehicle joint venture. Two companies announced they had closed the deal to create Airbus Safran Launchers (ASL) that will be responsible for the manufacturing of the Ariane 5 and future Ariane 6 vehicles. ASL was already managing that work while their parent companies worked out final terms of the agreement. Under that new deal, Safran will pay Airbus 750 million euros ($835 million), 50 million euros less than originally planned, to give the companies a 50-50 share of ASL. (6/29)

SpaceX Gives NASA Discounted Rides After Cargo Mission Failure (Source: Space News)
NASA negotiated discounts and other considerations from SpaceX after the failure of a Dragon cargo mission last year. A report issued this week by the NASA Office of Inspector General said that NASA received discounted pricing on five additional cargo missions added to SpaceX's existing contract, as well as other "significant consideration" from the company to help compensate for the loss of the Dragon on a June 2015 mission to the International Space Station. The report praised NASA for negotiating those discounts, but also recommended that the agency improve how it investigates commercial cargo launch failures to better understand both technical and other causes. (6/29)

Canada Plans Arctic Satellite Coverage (Source: Space News)
Canada is planning a multibillion-dollar satellite system to provide communications for the country's Arctic regions. The Enhanced Satcom Project system, estimated to cost Canadian $2.4 billion (US$1.9 billion), would include at least two satellites in elliptical orbits to provide 24-hour communications, a Canadian military official said this week. The Arctic region is not well served by satellites in geostationary orbit because of its high latitudes, requiring alternative approaches. Enhanced Satcom Project replaces Polar Communications and Weather, a concept studied several years ago by the Canadian Space Agency but shelved because of its high price. (6/29)

Ceres Bright Spots are Salts Formed by Water (Source: Space.com)
Bright patches seen on the surface of dwarf planet Ceres are salts that form in the presence of liquid water. Scientists reported in the journal Nature Wednesday that the bright patches seen in the floor of one crater by NASA's Dawn spacecraft are sodium carbonate, a salt that on Earth is formed when water evaporates from a lake or hot springs. Scientists had previously speculated that the bright patches were ice or Epsom salt. A related study, also based on Dawn data, suggests that Ceres' surface is made primarily of rock and not ice. (6/29)

Japanese Space Agency to Trial Electric Cable for Space Junk Removal (Source: Kyodo)
The Japanese space agency JAXA will include a space debris removal experiment on an upcoming ISS cargo flight. The next HTV, or Kounotori, mission to the station, scheduled for launch this fall, will include a tether that will deploy from the spacecraft after it departs from the station at the end of its mission. The spacecraft will run a current through the tether to test its ability to use the Earth's magnetic field to slow down. That technology, JAXA believes, could be used to help deorbit space debris. (6/29)

Ocean Data Streaming In From International Satellites (Source: BBC)
Ocean scientists are reveling in the bounty of data being provided by satellites. Altimeters on six satellites are now providing scientists with data on the height and shape of the sea surface, which in turn supports applications ranging from weather forecasting to marine science. The data, coming from satellites operated by the U.S., Europe, India and China, are being used by both government agencies to understand the conditions of the ocean as well as by companies monitoring ocean currents for shipping and drilling work. (6/29)

Why America's Space Renaissance Starts in Oklahoma (Source: Ozy)
Jim Bridenstine’s journey to space began in the dusty plains of Oklahoma. Picking his way through the wreckage left by a horrific tornado that had killed dozens days before, Bridenstine was stunned. Elementary schools and neighborhoods had been “absolutely eliminated,” as the battle-tested Navy Reserve pilot described the scene later. “Who would have thought there was that much power in a tornado?”

The answer to that internal struggle is why Bridenstine sits here in his Washington, D.C., office three years later, his desk cluttered with science and technology magazines. The legislator recently proposed the American Space Renaissance Act, the most starry-eyed package since the days of John F. Kennedy.

When Bridenstine took a seat on both the House Committee on Armed Service and the Committee on Science, Space and Technology shortly after assuming office for Oklahoma’s 1st District in 2013, he was hoping to use satellite tech to better predict the kind of storms that ravaged his state. But since taking the post, Bridenstine has expanded his horizons and crafted a far more ambitious plan for the next frontier.  (6/30)

Getting Hooked on Space (Source: Jerusalem Post)
"The don't look for the most experienced individuals, they look for the most passionate individuals,” says mechanical engineer Gedi Minster, who certainly fits the bill. In July, he will be one of 13 Israelis participating in the Space Studies Program organized by the International Space University.

The program – which rotates through various campuses around the world and hosts lecturers from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the European Space Agency and the Japanese Space Agency – is being held in Israel for the first time, at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. Some of the biggest names in the field of space exploration will take part, including famed American astronaut Buzz Aldrin. (6/30)

Commercial Space Exploration—A Next Frontier for Manufacturers? (Source: Industry Week)
Within the U.S. market, NASA’s role has changed in relation to developing the space industry. Early on NASA themselves developed and sponsored the technology and manufacturing necessary to reach the moon. In recent years they’ve outsourced the development of private approaches to companies that have in effect developed dual-use technologies, for NASA and for private commercial use.

One key is developing re-usable rocket launchers, which would drive down the cost of space flights. If that price could be driven down further, space flights would be cheaper and support any number of commercial applications such as travel, R&D, manufacturing of drugs and metal alloys, and possibly even new living environments. (6/30)

Scientists Discover New 'Dark' State of Hydrogen (Source: Cosmos)
Physicists have uncovered a new state of hydrogen dubbed "dark hydrogen", which is neither a metal nor a gas, and suggest it is lurking in gas giant planets. Stewart McWilliams from the University of Edinburgh and colleagues from China and the US squeezed pure hydrogen in the same conditions as the interior of massive planets and found an intermediate state between a gas and a metal.

This transitionary state does not reflect or transmit visible light, but does pump out heat. “This observation would explain how heat can easily escape from gas giant planets like Saturn,” co-author Alexander Goncharov says. Despite being the simplest element in terms of structure, with one electron, one proton and one neutron, and the most abundant element in the universe, there's plenty scientists don't know about hydrogen. (6/30)

Is Jeff Bezos's Secretive Rocket Company Coming Out of the Shadows? (Source: CSM)
Aerospace manufacturing company Blue Origin announced yesterday in an email that it has broken ground on a new factory in Florida. The 750,000 square foot factory will manufacture and test Blue Origin’s orbital rockets. "It’s exciting to see the bulldozers in action," wrote founder Jeff Bezos in an email to reporters. "We’re clearing the way for the production of a reusable fleet of orbital vehicles that we will launch and land, again and again."

Blue Origin, known for its secrecy, emerged from the shadows on June 19 to announce that it had tested its fourth reusable rocket. That launch also marked the first time Blue Origin offered a live webcast of the launch event for space afficionados. Competitor SpaceX has webcasted many of its launch events.

Mr. Bezos announced this week that all parts of the company’s orbital rocket, except the engine, will be manufactured in the new Florida facility. The engine, called the BE-4, is being developed in conjunction with the United Launch Alliance at Blue Origin’s home facility in Kent, Wash. – for now. “Initial BE-4 engine production will occur at our Kent facility while we conduct a site selection process later this year for a larger engine production facility to accommodate higher production rates.” (6/30)

NASA IG Wants Better Mishap Investigation Policy for Commercial Cargo Launches (Source: Space Policy Online)
The NASA Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a report that praised NASA for some aspects of its management of the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract with SpaceX, but reiterated earlier concerns about the independence of mishap investigations into these "commercial cargo" launch services. NASA concurred with most, but not all, of the OIG's recommendations.

On the positive side, the OIG concluded that "NASA is effectively managing its commercial resupply contract with SpaceX to reduce cost and financial risk." It has "taken advantage of multiple mission pricing discounts" and negotiated "significant consideration" after the 2015 failure including reduced prices for five launches awarded thereafter.

However, the report criticized NASA for not having "an official, coordinated, and consistent mishap investigation policy for commercial resupply launches, which could affect its ability to determine root cause of a launch failure and corrective action." (6/29)

June 29, 2016

The Sun Has ‘Gone Blank’ for the Second Time This Month (Source: Washington Post)
The sun is blank for the second time in less than a month — not a single dark sunspot mars its surface. It’s a sign our star is entering a new period of decreased activity — one that will continue to last for about five years. But, despite the overall decline, history has proven that some of the largest solar storms in memory can occur when sunspots appear to be ebbing. (6/28)

NASA: $118 Million in Cargo Lost in 2015 SpaceX Explosion (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
NASA's inspector general said Tuesday that an explosion of a SpaceX rocket last June destroyed a docking adapter crucial to converting the International Space Station for manned missions. The report, which said the explosion cost $118 million in cargo, came on the one-year anniversary of the Falcon 9 rocket exploding just minutes after launch on Florida's Space Coast on June 28, 2015.

In the report, the inspector general admonished NASA for not being more specific about risks associated with resupply launches, meaning NASA management cannot properly evaluate risks. The one-size-fits-all approach, which, according to the report, essentially places all commercial resupply launches at the lowest level of risk, "deviated from existing procedures for evaluating launch risks." (6/28)

NASA Investigation of Falcon 9 Explosion Questions Single Strut Theory (Source: Parabolic Arc)
While SpaceX blames a faulty strut supplied by a contractor for the explosion of a Falcon 9 rocket in June 2015, an independent investigation by NASA Launch Services Program (LSP) concluded there were several “credible causes” for the accident, including poor quality control at Elon Musk’s launch company.

“In addition to the material defects in the strut assembly SpaceX found during its testing, LSP pointed to manufacturing damage or improper installation of the assembly into the rocket as possible initiators of the failure,” according to a report published on Tuesday by the NASA Office of Inspector General (OIG). “LSP also highlighted improper material selection and such practices as individuals standing on flight hardware during the assembly process, as possible contributing factors.”

The information is contained in a new OIG audit, “NASA’s Response to SpaceX’s June 2015 Launch Failure: Impacts on Commercial Resupply of the International Space Station.” The report says LSP failed to find a probable cause for a failure that sent a Dragon supply ship carrying cargo for the International Space Station to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. Click here. (6/28)

HBO Pays a Visit to MDRS (Source: Mars Society)
HBO Vice, the network's award-winning news program, will broadcast a 15-minute report about current planning for a human mission to the planet Mars on Friday, July 1st at 11:00 pm EDT. The segment will include a visit to the Mars Society's Mars Desert Research Station in Utah, which took place last December during the field rotation of Crew 158. The program can be viewed on television, but can also be seen online via HBO GO immediately after the show is aired. (6/28)

Chinese Conduct Surprise Long March 4B Launch with Shijian-16-2 (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
China conducted another orbital launch, this time orbiting the Shijian-16 (#2) satellite via the Long March-4B (Chang Zheng-4B) rocket. The launch took place from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. Little information was available about the incoming launch, with NOTAM’s only appearing a few days before the event. However, this only hinted at the launch of a bird to be placed in a 75 degree orbit. (6/29)

The Future of Archaeology Is 'Spacejunk' (Source: The Atlantic)
The grand tour of the future, however, according to historian of astronomy Randall C. Brooks and conservationist Robert Barclay, might take place off the Earth entirely, involving a tour of derelict satellites and abandoned spacecraft, those ruined cathedrals of the sky.

In a paper called “In Situ Preservation of Historic Spacecraft,” collected in the massive 2009 Handbook of Space Engineering, Archaeology, and Heritage, they specifically use the analogy of the grand tour to describe this vision of future tourists planning “visits to preserved space vehicles.” (6/28)

NASA's New Horizons Views First Distant Kuiper Belt Object Beyond Pluto (Source: Forbes)
NASA’s New Horizons flew by Pluto in July 2015, but continued to coast deeper into the Kuiper belt, away from the Sun. In November 2015, its longest range camera imaged a Kuiper belt object (KBO) – (15810) 1994 JR1 — multiple times, independently, over the course of many hours. The Hubble space telescope imaged the exact same KBO simultaneously, creating the longest-baseline parallax observations ever made.

In April of 2016, New Horizons made its closest approach to this object at just 66 million miles, taking a much longer and more complex series of images. An incredible amount of science was learned, including: it rotates rapidly, with a period of just 5.5 hours, it has no moons, and is small and heavily cratered, with long evening and morning shadows. (6/27)

Virgin Galactic Official Leaves Company to Lead Aerospace Corp. (Source: Aerospace Corp.)
Steve Isakowitz, president of Virgin Galactic, has been elected president of The Aerospace Corporation effective Aug. 1. He will assume the position of Aerospace president and CEO upon the retirement of Dr. Wanda Austin on Oct. 1. (6/28)

City of Midland Offers $2 Million Loan for Spaceport Business Park Improvements (Source: CBS7)
An agreement between the City of Midland and the Spaceport Development Corporation looks to bring new and more diverse businesses to the Spaceport Business Park. The Midland City Council approved an economic development agreement between the Midland Development Corporation and the Spaceport Development Corporation for infrastructure and improvements at the Spaceport Business Park.

The entire project is estimated to cost $2.7 Million. $2 Million of those funds is coming from the Office of the Governor in a grant secured by the Spaceport Development Corporation. The Midland Development Corporation has agreed to cover the remaining $700,000 and up to $1 Million for the costs to improve the infrastructure in the Spaceport Business Park. (6/28)

Let’s Talk About the Space Industry in Australia’s Election Campaign (Source: The Conversation)
New Zealand’s announcement this month that it will establish a space agency means that of the 34 countries in the OECD, only two are not represented in the international community by a space agency: Iceland and Australia. Could we be last in space? The benefits of a national space program have been listed many times, most recently by the Canadians in their Comprehensive Socio-Economic Impact Assessment Of The Canadian Space Sector. Click here. (6/28)

Public Relations in Space: How to Pitch a Product That Doesn't Exist (Source: Inverse)
Commercial space travel is on the rise, and with it, budding young upstarts are looking to plant their flag in the next big thing. But how do you get investors to cough up dough for products that don’t exist? Here’s what experts at the NewSpace 2016 conference said were the best ways to make your star dreams come true.

One of the most important values to bear in mind is credibility. Promising investors that you can take them to the moon and back may seem like a great way to get your foot in the door, but it could be catastrophic further down the line. Click here. (6/28)

Midland Texas Spaceport Business Park Gets Closer to Construction (Source: Midland Reporter-Telegram)
Midland Development Corp. board members voted to release $3 million to Midland Spaceport Development Corp. during a special meeting Monday morning at City Hall. The money will go toward funding Phase 1 of building Spaceport Business Park at Midland International Air & Space Port. Construction in this phase includes the extension of water and sewer to future tenants, as well as paving roads and building entrance points to the business park.

Lacy said competing with other states in the race for space will require more capital. “Well, $15 million is a great start, but you look at Spaceport Florida, which gets hundreds of millions of dollars, that puts us at a financial disadvantage when we’re trying to attract additional aerospace companies to our state because we don’t have the resources,” Lacy said. “You can’t put it all on the local entities. The city of Midland can’t spend $50 million, $60 million building a facility.

We’re going to need help from the state of Texas if it’s going to be a viable option.” Lacy added that Midland needs facilities and amenities to attract businesses that states with large aerospace presences, such as California and Colorado, currently offer. Doing so could mean huge payoffs for the city and the state. (6/28)

‘Infant’ Alien Planet Discovery Shakes Up Ideas About How Worlds Form (Source: Huffington Post)
Astronomers have found what they say is the youngest fully formed exoplanet ever seen, and it’s shaking up ideas about how planets form. “This discovery is a remarkable milestone in exoplanet science,” said Erik Petigura. The discovery, he said, could help explain the origins of Earth “and eventually the origin of life.”

More than 3,000 exoplanets (planets outside our solar system) have been found to date, and just about all are believed to be at least a billion years old. But the newly identified exoplanet, a body roughly six times the size of Earth that’s located about 470 light-years from Earth in the constellation Scorpio, is just 5 million to 10 million years old. (6/28)

Why This Former NASA Exec Is Building a Private Space Station (Source: Inc.)
When the International Space Station (ISS) is taken out of commission in 2024, it will end a a 26-year run as a hub of experimentation and exploration in low Earth orbit. One former NASA employee sees that as a big opportunity.

Mike Suffredini, the former manager of the ISS at NASA, has co-founded a startup with the intention of building a brand new, private space station. The company, Axiom Space LLC, will build a module to attach to the current ISS, and will eventually expand that module into a full station that can be used for space tourism and research. (6/28)

Sierra Nevada Talks with United Nations on Dedicated Dream Chaser Mission (Source: SNC)
Sierra Nevada Corp. and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding toward defining one or more Dream Chaser missions that will host payloads from member countries. SNC’s Dream Chaser is a reusable, orbital spacecraft designed to be a flexible Space Utility Vehicle (SUV) and transportation system for a variety of low-Earth orbit (LEO) missions.

Under the agreement, UNOOSA and SNC will work with member countries to develop an interface control document and payload hosting guide to allow payloads developed by participating countries to be hosted and operated on a dedicated mission, providing those countries affordable access to space.  By utilizing Dream Chaser as a flexible SUV for LEO missions, countries will benefit from social, economic and educational opportunities. (6/28)

Spaceport America Offers Deal for First-Time Users (Source: Spaceport America)
Your first flight and optical tracking are on us! We are here to help you get off the ground. Spaceport America and MARS Scientific welcome the brave new breed of commercial space entrepreneur, research and development operators, aerospace test and evaluation operators, corporate and academic users with our First Flight First Sight* program.

Spaceport America will waive the user fee for your first launch of a new customer’s flight campaign coupled with MARS Scientific for telescopic imaging and optical tracking at nominal cost. Post-campaign we will keep our user fees reasonable to make it easier for space innovators and prospective tenants to achieve those first essential milestones. (6/28)

DigitalGlobe, Esri Partner to Expand World Imagery Map (Source: Parabolic Arc)
DigitalGlobe announced an agreement to make more current satellite imagery of the entire world available to users of Esri’s ArcGIS product family. The new long-term partnership with Esri will enhance the World Imagery Map and give ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Data Appliance users access to current and complete high-resolution satellite imagery mosaics.

The World Imagery Map is foundational to Esri’s vision of connecting people with maps, data, and apps through geographic information systems. The multi-year subscription features DigitalGlobe’s Basemap +Vivid and Basemap +Metro products, which will be refreshed with the latest content throughout the contract term. New imagery will start flowing into the World Imagery Map later this year. (6/28)

DSI Seeks Florida Student Technicians to Produce Asteroid Simulant (Source: DSI)
Deep Space Industries is seeking Student Technicians to assist with the development and production of asteroid simulants in partnership with UCF and under a contract with NASA. Duties will include operation and maintenance of milling equipment; handling containers weighing up to 60 pounds, and processing of raw materials including comminution to fine powders; combining source materials under the direction of project leaders to produce asteroid simulants; and characterizing those simulants. Location: Orlando, Florida. Click here. (6/28)

June 28, 2016

Is China Militarizing Space? New Junk Collector Could Be Anti-Satellite Weapon (Source: SCMP)
A small spacecraft sent into orbit by the Long March 7 rocket launched from Hainan in southern China on Saturday is tasked with cleaning up space junk, according to the government, but some analysts claim it may serve a military purpose.

The Aolong-1, or Roaming Dragon, is equipped with a robotic arm to remove large debris such as old satellites. Tang Yagang, a senior satellite scientist with the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, said the Aolong-1 was the first in a series of craft that would be tasked with collecting man-made debris in space.
For instance, it could collect a defunct Chinese satellite and bring it back to earth, crashing it safely into the ocean, he said.

But the question is: did China develop the cutting-edge technology only to clean up space junk? To the military, the robot had potential as an anti-satellite weapon, the researcher said. The Roaming Dragon is small. During peacetime, the craft could patrol space and prevent defunct satellites from crashing into big cities such as Shanghai or New York. During wartime, they could be used as deterrents or directly against enemy assets in space, said the researcher. (6/28)

Chinese Space Garbageman is Not a Weapon (Source: Space Daily)
China has launched a robot space garbageman. It's about time. Space debris is a growing problem, and more countermeasures must be taken to combat this threat. De-orbiting satellites with robots is a useful option in some cases.

Curiously, a story in Hong Kong's "South China Morning Post" on Tuesday June 28 accused China of launching a space weapon in the Roaming Dragon, with the garbage collection story as a cover. All things considered, this accusation seems somewhat unfair to the project. Space analysts around the world are aware that China has tested anti-satellite weapons.

China operates an extensive fleet of military support satellites and surely intends to make even more progress in this area in the future. But the Roaming Dragon seems like an impractical space weapon... Let's be clear. China is a major force in military space. Its rapid advances in this field pose a strategic challenge to global security. But the calling the Roaming Dragon a weapon test seems to be stretching credibility. Click here. (6/28)

India Tells Aerospace Industry to Enhance Capacity to Meet Demands (Source: Space Daily)
The Indian aerospace industry should enhance its capacity to meet the growing demand for space-based services, India's space agency ISRO said. "It is imperative for the aerospace industry to enhance its capacity to meet the rapidly increasing national demand for space-based services," Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman A.S. Kiran Kumar said at a conference on 'Enabling spacecraft systems realization through industries' here. (6/28)

Airbus to Expand Poland's Satellite Production Capabilities (Source: Space Daily)
Airbus Defence and Space, the world's second largest space company, will be constructing a complex of clean rooms near Warsaw, thus boosting its Polish satellite production facility. The facilities are intended for use by PZL Warszawa-Okecie, a subsidiary of Airbus Defence and Space and PGZ. The clean rooms will initially be used for the production of harnesses, a vital element to keep the various electronic satellite components connected. (6/28)

Georgia Congressman Supports Spaceport Initiative (Source: Brunswick News)
A member of Congress from Georgia says he supports the development of a spaceport in the state. Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA), whose district includes the site of the proposed spaceport in Camden County, toured the area Monday and afterwards said he was "very enthusiastic" about the prospects of a launch site there.

He said he wasn't concerned with potential environmental impacts from the spaceport, despite statements from the National Park Service that launches there could restrict access to the nearby Cumberland Island National Seashore. (6/28)

Seattle Space Pioneers Still Searching for Business Plan (Source: Crosscut)
The sky’s the limit on a burgeoning new industry in the Seattle area. No, not even the sky: These businesses have their eyes set on outer space. The region has become a hub for space technology companies such as Planetary Resources, which wants to mine asteroids, and Blue Origin, which builds rockets.

This cluster of local growth is why the NewSpace Conference decided to hold the event in Seattle last week, moving it away from Silicon Valley for the first time in the conference’s 11-year history. The conference brought aerospace engineers, company executives, investors and hopeful entrepreneurs together to talk about the state of the “NewSpace” age and where it’s heading. Click here. (6/28)

New NASA Tech Could Provide the Entire Solar System with Internet (Source: Inhabitat)
NASA is celebrating the first deployment of new technology at the International Space Station (ISS) that makes it much easier, faster, and more efficient to transmit data to Earth. Essentially, it’s the first step toward internet connectivity in space that is just as reliable as your home Wi-Fi signal. The new system, called Delay/Disruption Tolerant Networking (DTN), provides a smart solution to interrupted connections, and lays the groundwork for Solar System-wide internet connectivity in the not-so-distant future. Click here. (6/27)

Google Earth and Maps Get Sharper Satellite Imagery with New Update (Source: Tech Crunch)
Now Google has updated Google Earth with the imagery from Landsat 8, launched in 2013. The new satellite is able to capture images with “greater detail, truer colors, and at an unprecedented frequency — capturing twice as many images as Landsat 7 does every day,” Google announced on its Google Maps blog this afternoon.

As before, the new Google Earth imagery is also cloud-free, thanks to mining nearly a petabyte of data. That’s more than 700 trillion pixels, the company notes, or 7,000 times more pixels than the number of estimated stars in the Milky Way, it adds, having fun with the numbers. (6/27)

The Wizard War in Orbit : Black Black Boxes (Source: Space Review)
As the US signals intelligence satellite effort ramped up in the 1960s, agencies developed a wide range of payloads to fly on spacecraft to study radar signals and communications. In the second part of his history on the subject, Dwayne Day explores what is known about some of those efforts through declassified documents. Click here. (6/27)
 
Jovian Fireworks: Juno Arrives at Jupiter (Source: Space Review)
While many Americans will spend next Monday celebrating Independence Day, NASA will be busy with the arrival of the Juno spacecraft at Jupiter. Jeff Foust reviews the goals of the mission and the challenges it faces dealing with the harsh radiation environment around the giant planet. Click here. (6/27)
 
A New Level of Urgency for Space-Based Solar Power (Source: Space Review)
The US military has examined space-based solar power in the past, but has taken little action beyond studies. Nathan Kitzke argues that developing even small-scale systems could have benefits for both military operations and national leadership. Click here. (6/27)
 
How Next President Can Build New National Security Space Strategy (Source: Breaking Defense)
The next administration must do a “strategic rebalancing” of means to achieve what have been consistent national space security ends (goals): stability, sustainability and freedom of access. But a significant challenge to both reaffirming ends, and determining and implementing means, is structure, as we point out in a recent Strategy Paper for the Atlantic Council. Click here. (6/27)

If We’re Going to Get to Mars, These Rockets Need to Work (Source: WIRED)
If humans are going to get to Mars, they’re going to need rockets with some serious liftoff power. NASA’s Space Launch System is the most powerful rocket in the world—it has twin five-segment solid rocket boosters, four liquid propellant engines, and a minimum of 70 metric tons of lifting power—but engineers won’t know until June 28th if it’s really going to work. Click here. (6/27)

Aerojet Rocketdyne Consolidates Space and Defense Business Units (Source: Space News)
Aerojet Rocketdyne announced June 27  that it expects to save $8 million annually by consolidating its six business units into two: Space and Defense. Both units will report to Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO Eileen Drake once senior vice presidents have been named. Until that happens, the Space unit will report to Drake and the Defense unit will report to Aerojet Rocketdyne Chief Operating Officer Mark Tucker.

Aerojet Rocketdyne also announced last week that it plans to save up to $20 million a year by refinancing its debt. Neither California, Alabama, Florida, Virginia nor Washington — all states with a significant Aerojet Rocketdyne presence — had posted layoff notices from the company. (6/27)

DARPA’s Next Space Project: Command and Control Software (Source: Space News)
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency could award contracts worth as much as $21.5 million for industry to develop new software systems meant to improve how the Defense Department visualizes and responds to threats in space. The contracts are the first part of a DARPA program called Hallmark, which, in the past year, has become one of the agency’s top space priorities. The agency requested $28 million for the program in its 2017 budget. (6/27)

New Horizon’s Spacecraft Just Spot a Canyon on Pluto’s Moon (Source: CSM)
Pluto’s largest moon, Charon, has a canyon that rivals not only Earth’s Grand Canyon, but every other canyon in the solar system. NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft offered humanity its first detailed look at the icy worlds on the edge of the solar system when it sped past Pluto on July 14, 2015, with seven instruments collecting data that scientists will continue to receive until October.

The data sent back so far has already pointed to far more dynamic processes than scientists could have predicted shaping the dwarf planet and its moon over the past 4.5 billion years, which is exactly why the scientists launched the probe into the unknown. (6/27)

US, Chinese Spacecraft May Cut Demand for Russia's Soyuz Vehicles (Source: Tass)
Russia’s spacecraft manufacturer Energia fears that successes of US companies and China’s progress in upgrading its Shenzhou vehicles may reduce the demand for Soyuz and Progress spacecraft. "Systematic perfection of China’s manned spacecraft Shenzhou and creation of a national orbital station Tiangong are fraught with the risk demand for Russia’s manned spacecraft on the world market may ease unless their technical parameters and costs are improved," Energia said in the annual report. (6/27)

Russia's Plan To Spin Off a New Space Station From the ISS (Source: Popular Mechanics)
The potential breakup of an international alliance is now brewing, and no, we're not talking about Brexit. This one is happening above our heads. Russian plans to split the ISS have been circulating for years. Now, for a host of political, financial, and technical reasons, this isn't just a wild idea on paper anymore.

Russia's main contractor in human space flight just detailed its plans to separate the newest modules from the International Space Station (ISS) once the long-lived project comes to an end in the 2020s. It plans to build a new habitable base in Earth orbit called the Russian Orbital Station, or ROS. The outpost will include three modules initially, possibly joined by two more in the future. (6/27)

June 27, 2016

NASA Research Project Takes Off with Aim to Make Airports More Efficient (Source: Phys.org)
As part of the transition to NextGen, NASA is launching a new five-year project to research and test how information sharing between air traffic management can benefit airports. "Shared information leads to more accurate planning so we can create a clearer picture to streamline all airport and airline operations," said Leighton Quon, project manager for the NASA Airspace Technology Demonstrations project based at the Ames Research center in California. (6/24)

Curiosity Rover Finds Unusual Mineral on Mars (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Researchers using data from NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover have found an unexpected mineral in a rock sample at Gale Crater. The discovery may change our understanding of how Mars evolved. Curiosity has been studying sedimentary rocks in Gale crater since landing in August 2012. The rover collected powder from a rock at a location called “Buckskin” in July 2015.

Scientists analyzing sample data from the rover’s CheMin x-ray diffraction instrument detected significant amounts of a silica mineral called tridymide. This finding was a surprise to researchers as tridymite is usually associated with silicic volcanism, which occurs on Earth but was not thought to be present on Mars. The presence of this mineral suggest that the Red Planet may have once had explosive volcanoes. (6/27)

Moon Express Update at Space Club Meeting (Source: NSCFL)
Dr. Robert ‘Bob’ Richards, Founder and CEO, Moon Express, will be the featured speaker at the National Space Club Florida Committee’s (NSCFL) monthly luncheon on Tuesday, July 12. His presentation is entitled “Moon Express 2017: A Private Mission to the Moon.” The luncheon event begins at 11:30 am and will be held at the Radisson at the Port Convention Center, Cape Canaveral.
 
Dr. Richards is a space entrepreneur and futurist. He is a co-founder of the International Space University, Singularity University, SEDS, the Space Generation Foundation and Google Lunar X PRIZE competitors Odyssey Moon Ltd. and Moon Express, Inc. Dr. Richards participated in the 2007 NASA Mars Lander mission and 2004 XSS-11 mission of the U.S. Air Force. He is a member of the International Institute of Space Law and co-chairs of the Exploration Committee of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. (6/27)

What India Gains From Missile Technology Control Regime (Source: Live Mint)
The Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) is an informal, voluntary grouping of countries which aims to check the proliferation of missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) capable of carrying weapons of mass destruction (WMD). It is not a treaty and does not impose any legally binding obligations on its adherents and members.

A grouping of 35 countries, MTCR keeps a check on transfer of missiles and UAVs capable of carrying a payload of at least 500kg over a range of at least 300km. It also focuses on any equipment, software or technology that can enable a nation to produce such systems. Once India puts in place an appropriate export policy for items covered by the MTCR, an argument can be made that the sale of any such systems to India will not lead to any further proliferation. (6/27)

Japanese Startup Aims High in Small Satellite Market (Source: Nikkei)
A Japanese startup is working to develop the world's first compact commercial rocket in southern Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost main island. Takahiro Inagawa, CEO of Interstellar Technologies, recently spoke with The Nikkei about the company's goal of building cheap booster rockets for small satellites. The startup is preparing to launch its first sounding rocket for observation as early as this summer. (6/26)

June 26, 2016

How Juno Will Survive Jupiter's Devastating Radiation (Source: Popular Science)
Mighty Jupiter is incomprehensibly large. More massive than all the other planets and asteroids in the solar system combined, the size of 1,300 Earths. Jupiter is also swathed in radiation that's many thousands of times harsher than around Earth. “Jupiter is by far the most severe radiation environment of any body in the solar system, other than the Sun,” says Kevin Rudolph, an engineer at Lockheed Martin who helped design and build the Juno spacecraft.

The Juno spacecraft will arrive at Jupiter on July 4 and orbit it for two years. How will Juno survive such blistering radiation? “We're basically an armored tank,” says Juno principle investigator Scott Bolton. “This mission is a first for NASA in many ways. It's probably one of the biggest challenges they've attempted, to get this close to Jupiter.” (6/24)

Virginia Looks at New Opportunities for Wallops Spaceport (Source: Roanoke Times)
With space station resupply launches expected to resume in August and a runway under construction for testing drone flights, Virginia is looking at another opportunity to lure a major federal research program to the state’s expanding spaceport complex. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is expected to begin looking for a place to base a new “science and technology testing ground” for unmanned vehicle systems — operating in the air and underwater — and boosters say the regional spaceport would be an ideal fit.

The federal agency has not yet issued a request for information for an unmanned vehicle testing ground, but officials for the alliance and the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority already are trying to ensure that Homeland Security and the U.S. Coast Guard have a long-term home at the 3,000-foot state runway for testing “unmanned vehicle systems” that is expected to be finished in December.

Virginia also is making a big push with its congressional delegation in partnership with Maryland and Delaware to persuade the U.S. Navy to base a portion of its new Triton drone fleet at the Wallops Flight Facility operated by NASA since the mid-1940s. “It’s becoming a very strong coalition,” said Dale Nash, executive director of the state space authority, also known as Virginia Space. (6/25)

Cuts in Enterprise Florida Incentives Spark Concerns (Source: Florida Today)
The Florida Legislature’s decision not to fund a key economic development tool could hamper future deals like ones that led to major corporate expansions in Brevard County, local officials say. The incentive — known as the Quick Action Closing Fund — provided Gov. Rick Scott with flexibility to offer cash to companies looking to expand in Florida, and was considered a handy tool in the state’s economic development toolbox for competitive projects.

But it was controversial, as were some of the operations of the state’s main economic development organization, Enterprise Florida Inc. Scott sought $250 million for the fund for the fiscal year that begins July 1. But the Florida Legislature decided not to set aside any money.

And the fallout from that decision was a major topic of discussion at recent meetings of the Enterprise Florida board of directors and the Ad Valorem Tax Abatement Council of the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast. Greg Weiner, the Economic Development Commission’s senior director of business development, says he is worried about the lack of money for the Quick Action Closing Fund program. (6/26)

How Does SpaceX Make Money? (Source: Motley Fool)
SpaceX just might be the most popular company on Earth that everyone wants to invest in -- but that no one can. Lots of people might want to invest in SpaceX, but should they? To answer that question, we need to figure out how SpaceX makes money, and how much that money (i.e., profit) is worth to investors.

Unlike its backers such as Alphabet, and unlike its rivals such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing, SpaceX is a private company and thus not required by the SEC to divulge its financials in detail. Figuring out how SpaceX makes money, and how much money it's making, is therefore largely an exercise in guesswork. Click here. (6/26)

Emirati Students Seek a Headstart in Space Race (Source: Gulf News)
American aerospace and global security firm Lockheed Martin is teaming up with the UAE Space Agency to help aspiring UAE students enter the realm of international space exploration. In an announcement on Sunday, Lockheed Martin said it had inked an agreement with UAE space officials to launch a “comprehensive dual-track space training program for students and early career professionals in space fundamentals.” (6/26)

Reentry Module Aboard Long March-7 Retrieved (Source: Xinhua)
A reentry module aboard carrier rocket Long March-7, which was launched on Saturday, was successfully recovered on Sunday, a move paving the way for technological breakthroughs in China's future manned spacecraft. According to officials in charge of the country's manned space engineering, the module landed in Badain Jaran Desert in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region at 3:41 p.m.

Before its landing, the reentry module weighing about 2,600 kilograms spent about 20 hours in orbit. In addition to laying a solid foundation for technological breakthroughs in designing future manned spacecraft, the recovery of the reentry module also means the Long March-7 has fulfilled all the objectives of its maiden flight, according to the officials. (6/26)

China Committed to Peaceful Use of Outer Space (Source: Xinhua)
China welcomed a newcomer to its Long March carrier rocket family on Saturday as the new generation Long March-7 blasted off successfully. It brings China one step closer to its goal of operating a permanent space station. As China ventures deeper into space, the country has not wavered in the key principles that govern its space missions -- namely, peaceful development in space exploration.

China has taken an active part in international space cooperation and been willing to provide platforms for countries and regions to use outer space peacefully. Currently, the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS), independently developed and operated by China, provides open services to the Asia-Pacific region free of charge.

China's Chang'e-4 lunar probe, which is scheduled to land on the moon in 2018, is expected to carry three scientific payloads, developed by the Netherlands, Sweden and Germany. The cooperation aims to help engineers and scientists from different countries conduct joint research and share scientific data. (6/26)

NASA to Test Fire Powerful SLS Booster (Source: Florida Today)
Smoke and fire will pour from the most powerful solid rocket booster ever built during a test this week of a key piece of NASA’s next exploration rocket. In Utah, Orbital ATK on Tuesday morning plans to fire the five-segment booster, a pair of which are slated to help lift the 322-foot Space Launch System rocket and an unmanned Orion crew capsule in late 2018. The boosters are slightly longer than four-segment SRBs that helped launch space shuttles for 30 years, and will each generate 3.6 million pounds of thrust. (6/26)

June 25, 2016

New Chinese Spaceport Prepares for First Launch (Source: Air & Space)
Sometime in the next few days (the launch window opens tomorrow), China’s Long March 7 rocket is expected to make its debut from the new Wenchang launch center on Hainan Island off the southern coast of China. Not only will Wenchang be the main site for launches to the next-generation Tiangong space station, it’s intended to be a destination for tourism, with a space theme park and a new Hilton hotel. (6/24)

China’s Powerful New Rocket Makes a Successful Debut Launch (Source: Ars Technica)
China's developing space program took another major step forward on Saturday with the launch of its Long March 7 rocket, a new class of booster capable of lifting up to 13.5 metric tons to low-Earth orbit (LEO). The primary payload of the flight was a dummy version of its next-generation crew capsule and some CubeSats.

The launch highlighted several key advances for the rapidly modernizing Chinese rocket program. It marked the first launch from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center, located on Hainan Island, the country's southernmost point.

This allows better access to geostationary orbit for Chinese satellites. The Long March 7 also operates with kerosene and liquid oxygen fuels, rather than more environmentally dangerous hypergolic fuels used to power earlier launchers that were based on 1970s technology. (6/25)

China to Launch Second Space Lab Tiangong-2 in September (Source: Xinhua)
China will send its second orbiting space lab Tiangong-2 into space in mid September, said a senior official with the country's manned space program on Saturday. The Shenzhou-11 manned spacecraft will be launched in mid October and its reentry module will return in November, said Wu Ping, deputy director of the manned space engineering office. (6/25)

China Plans Mega Rocket for Manned Lunar Missions (Source: Xinhua)
China is planning to start using a huge carrier rocket powerful enough for manned lunar missions before 2031. The new rocket will measure over a hundred meters in length and nearly 10 meters in diameter under the current design, according to a statement issued on Friday by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technologies (CALT), developer of the country's Long March rocket series.

It will have a maximum payload capacity more than five times as high as the current Long March series rockets, the CALT said, without offering specific figures. At present, the Chinese rocket capable of carrying most weight is the Long March-5, which is scheduled to debut in the latter half of this year. It is expected that the large thrust rocket, with a diameter of five meters, will boast a payload capacity of 25 tonnes to low Earth orbit (LEO), or 14 tonnes to geostationary transfer orbit. (6/24)

The Most Powerful Variant of the World’s Most Reliable Rocket Just Launched (Source: Ars Technica)
The Atlas V rocket is not the world's most powerful rocket, but it can credibly claim to be the most reliable. Before Friday morning, it had flown 62 times into space, completing its primary mission each time. That 100 percent mission success rate is unparalleled in the history of orbital rockets over so many flights. Accordingly, it's a source of pride for its manufacturer, United Launch Alliance. (6/25)

Will We Ever Be Able to Vacation in Space? (Seeker)
Space travel is only 55 years old, but soon tourists may be able to take a vacation among the stars. So how can you become a space tourist? How long will it be before vacation packages include a quick trip to the orbital spa? Maybe not so long. The concept of genuine space tourism is no longer science fiction -- in fact, several space tourists have already been up in orbit.

But it's an expensive proposition. The private space flight company Space Adventures, in collaboration with the Russian Space Agency, has flown seven tourists to the International Space Station since 2001. Tourists were taken along on regularly scheduled missions via the Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Each trip cost the customer between $20 million and $40 million and lasted around 10 days. (6/24)

SpaceX Rivals Said to Win EU Nod for Arianespace Rocket Deal (Source: Bloomberg)
Rocket maker Airbus Safran Launchers SAS is set to win European Union approval as soon as next month to take over launch-service provider Arianespace SA, countering the rising threat of Elon Musk’s SpaceX, according to two people familiar with the matter. The European Commission’s approval is conditional on strict separation between Airbus Group SE and ASL to ensure the businesses are run independently. (6/23)

Britain’s Quitting the EU, Will it Be Forced Out of EU Space Programs? (Source: Space News)
The British vote June 23 to leave the European Union is likely to occur gradually over two years, but it raises multiple immediate questions about the consequences for Europe’s space programs and Britain’s role in them. Click here. (6/24)

Branson Injects Cash Into Galactic Space Race (Source: Sky News)
Sir Richard Branson is to invest hundreds of millions of dollars more in his quest to build the world's first commercial space tourism venture. Sky News has learnt that Virgin Galactic is in the early stages of raising up to $300m from its existing shareholders, led by Sir Richard's Virgin Group. The latest injection of capital is aimed at accelerating the development of Galactic's commercial satellite venture and expanding production capacity at the company's headquarters. (6/24)

Atlas V Launches Navy Satellite at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
United Launch Alliance launched their Atlas V rocket with the fifth Mobile User Objective System (MUOS-5), the final spacecraft in a five-satellite communications system for the U.S. military. The launch took place on June 24 from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. This mission utilized the largest and most powerful version of the Atlas V, with a tall five meter fairing and five solid rocket boosters. (6/24)

Dutch Crops Grown on 'Mars' Soil Found Safe to Eat (Source: Phys.org)
Dutch scientists said Thursday crops of four vegetables and cereals grown on soil similar to that on Mars have been found safe to eat, amid plans for the first manned mission to the planet. Abundant harvests of radishes, peas, rye and tomatoes all grown on the soil were found to contain "no dangerous levels" of heavy metals, said the team from Wageningen University in the Netherlands. (6/23)

What Trump Or Clinton Would Mean For Aerospace And Defense (Source: Aviation Week)
Meanwhile, high-profile investment advisors are beginning to weigh in on which presidential candidate would be better for the aerospace and defense industries. So far, opinions are mixed—and sometimes all in the same person’s assessment.

Take John Linehan, a vice president at T. Rowe Price and the portfolio manager of the investment company’s $22 billion Equity Income Fund. Of Trump, Linehan says: “I’m not really sure whether he’s better for defense companies or not. On the one hand, he says he wants to bomb [Islamic State], but on the other hand he seems to be an isolationist. I’m not really clear whether he’d be good or bad for defense.” Click here. (6/24)

Aviation Subcommittee Dips Toe Back Into Commercial Space Issues (Source: Space Policy Online)
For the first time in 7 years, the Aviation Subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee held a hearing on commercial space transportation issues on Wednesday. Several Members were in attendance, some of whom acknowledged constituent interests in these issues, but there was no special focus other than getting an update from government and industry experts.

Congress assigned the Department of Transportation (DOT) the dual roles of both facilitating and regulating the commercial space launch industry in the 1984  Commercial Space Launch Act (CSLA), which has been amended several times, most recently in 2004.  All the legislation originated in the House Science, Space, and Technology (SS&T) Committee (and its predecessors), not T&I. The SS&T website clearly states that it has jurisdiction over “commercial space activities relating to the Department of Transportation…”

For the first 10 years, commercial space launch activities were handled in the Office of the Secretary of Transportation, but in 1995 it was delegated to the FAA (part of DOT). FAA thereupon created the Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST). Click here. (6/24)

Virgin Seeks More Investment for LauncherOne (Source: Sky News)
Virgin Galactic is reportedly looking to raise an additional $300 million. The company would use the funding to support development of its LauncherOne small satellite launch system and to allow increased production of the booster once it enters service. The company raised $280 million in 2009 by selling about one third of the company to Abu Dhabi-based Aabar. (6/23)

Fattah Resigns (Source: The Hill)
The former ranking member of the House appropriations committee that funds NASA and NOAA has resigned. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.) submitted a letter of resignation Thursday, effectively immediately, after earlier suggesting he would stay in Congress through September. Fattah was convicted earlier this week on 29 charges, including money laundering and fraud, and had lost a party primary for reelection in April. Prior to his indictment last year, he had been the top Democrat on the commerce, justice and science appropriations subcommittee, and supported a number of NASA programs. (6/23)

ISS Getting Another 3-D Printer (Source: GeekWire)
The International Space Station will be getting another 3-D printer. Firmamentum, a division of Tethers Unlimited, has won a $750,000 contract from NASA to develop a combination printer and plastic recycler that will be ready to go to the station next year. The printer will test how frequently plastic material used in the 3-D printer can be recycled and printed again. (6/23)

NASA Approves Five More Years for Hubble (Source: New Scientist)
Hubble will soon start seeing double. NASA has announced plans to extend operations of the famous space telescope for another five years, through to June 2021. That means it will still be on the job when its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) launches in 2018, giving astronomers a dual view of the universe.

NASA launched Hubble in 1990 and it has been operating well ever since, barring a few difficult repairs by space shuttle crews. The last in-flight servicing took place in 2009, and the retirement of the shuttle in 2011 has left NASA with no way of fixing Hubble, but it says the telescope is still going strong. “Hubble is expected to continue to provide valuable data into the 2020s, securing its place in history as an outstanding general-purpose observatory in areas ranging from our solar system to the distant universe,” said a NASA statement. (6/24)

NASA Cancels All Staff Travel to COSPAR Meeting in Istanbul (Source: Space Policy Online)
NASA is denying all travel for NASA employees and contractors to the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) conference to be held in Istanbul, Turkey beginning just five weeks from now. The reason: security. COSPAR President Lennard Fisk worries not only about the impact on COSPAR, but the messages NASA is sending about its commitment to leadership in space science and its resolve to not let terrorism be rewarded by changing what we do.

In a June 21 memo, Al Condes, NASA Associate Administrator for International and Interagency Relations, advised NASA employees and contractors, including the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), that "the Administrator has determined that the Agency will not sponsor or process travel for the 2016 COSPAR conference." Condes added that "As Administrator Bolden has consistently stated, the safety of our NASA family is paramount." (6/24)

June 24, 2016

Ground Control to Couch Potatoes: NASA Releases App on Apple TV (Source: Extreamist)
We have often argued that we’d happily pay the price of admission to go to the theater to solely watch video of space exploration. Honestly, that scene from Interstellar where they were flying around Saturn before going into the wormhole… give me three hours of high definition footage like that, and we’re happy about the $12 we spent. And while the latest news coming out of NASA isn’t quite on that level, we’re certainly happy with their latest project. (6/23)

Company Seek Court Ruling in Virginia Launch Pad Suit (Source: Law360)
Advanced Fluid Systems Inc. sought a quick win in Pennsylvania federal court Wednesday against a former employee and a rival firm that allegedly worked together to steal AFS designs, and contracts, for hydraulic systems at a NASA-run rocket launch facility in Virginia. The evidence clearly shows that former employee Kevin Huber worked with rival engineering firm Livingston & Haven LLC to take proprietary designs, undermine and ultimately usurp contracts with Orbital Sciences Corp., AFS said. (6/23)

NASA Helicopter Could Fly on Mars (Source: AIN)
The U.S. House of Representatives has approved $15 million to continue development of a 2.2-pound NASA unmanned helicopter with twin contra-rotating blades designed to fly on Mars. The autonomous helicopter is slated to be included on a 2020 mission to the Red Planet and is designed to fly ahead of a surface rover for two to three minutes per day as a scout vehicle, before returning to the rover to recharge its solar batteries.

Accounting for the low atmospheric pressure on Mars, the rotor disc of the proposed prototype spans 3.6 feet and supports a body that resembles a medium-sized tissue box and is hardened against solar radiation. The current design has been tested at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. NASA says the Mars Helicopter could triple a rover’s daily range by delivering visual information that will help engineers on Earth plan the best driving route. (6/23)

Google-Owned Terra Bella Plans More India Launches (Source: Deccan Chronicle)
Google-owned remote sensing company Terra Bella is in discussions with ISRO about additional satellite launches. The company, previously known as Skybox Imaging, launched its first second-generation satellite on an Indian PSLV this week. ISRO Chairman A. S. Kiran Kumar said after the launch that negotiations between his agency and Terra Bella about future satellite launches are in progress. (6/23)

Air Force May Seek Funding to Launch Canceled Weather Satellite (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force is considering asking Congress again to support the launch of a weather satellite. Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, commander of the Air Force's Space and Missile Systems Center, said the Pentagon has pushed back a deadline to dismantle the DMSP-20 satellite three months to Sep. 1. The delay will give the Air Force time to decide if it will once again request funding from Congress to launch the satellite.

Congress eliminated funding to launch the spacecraft in the final fiscal year 2016 spending bill, but the on-orbit failure of DMSP-19 earlier this year led the Air Force to delay dismantling the satellite as it weighs its options. (6/23)

ESA: Mars Missions Not Feasible for at Least 15 Years (Source: Reuters)
The head of ESA doesn't think it's feasible to send humans to Mars for at least 15 years. Jan Woerner said absent levels of funding for space programs not seen since the Apollo era, it is not feasible to send humans to Mars before the 2030s. Woerner continues to advocate for a "moon village" international lunar base as a steeping stone for later Mars missions. His comments appear critical of SpaceX founder Elon Musk, who said earlier this month he believes SpaceX can start human missions to Mars in the mid-2020s. (6/23)

Boeing Proposes Big Satellite Constellations In V- and C-Bands (Source: Space News)
Boeing wants U.S. and international regulators to relax constraints on low-orbiting satellite broadband constellations using C- and V-band and has specifically asked for a license to launch and operate a network of 1,396-2,956 V-band satellites.

Boeing has placed itself squarely on the side of those arguing that low-orbiting constellations can be designed not to interfere with higher-orbit satellites [which it manufactures] and wireless terrestrial networks. Boeing’s V-band network would operate at 1,200 kilometers in altitude, the same orbit that the 700-satellite OneWeb Ku- and Ka-band network will be using. In its June 22 petition to the FCC, Boeing says it will be able to coexist with OneWeb. (6/23)

Boeing Expects to Meet New Starliner Schedule (Source: Ars Technica)
Boeing believes it has a "legitimate chance" of making its current schedule for its commercial crew contract. That schedule recently slipped, with the first crewed flight of its CST-100 Starliner delayed from October 2017 to February 2018 because of several technical issues with the spacecraft. Boeing officials say the new schedule is realistic and added they are not concerned about SpaceX, the other commercial crew company, which still plans a crewed test flight in 2017. (6/23)

No Matter the Job, Passion is Key in Space Ventures (Source: Seattle Times)
The space business is growing fast, and this area is full of companies creating the next steps in spaceflight. They need people, and despite what you may think, you don’t have to be an engineer to make a career in the industry. And while you do need the right stuff, you don’t necessarily need to bewilling to ride beyond the atmosphere atop an explosive device. Click here. (6/22)

Satellite Firm in Virgin Galactic Deal (Source: SBS)
Satellite communications firm Sky and Space Global is set to announce a strategic partnership with Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic. Shares in Sky and Space Global have been halted from trade on the Australian market until Monday, ahead of a formal announcement of the deal with Virgin Galactic. Sky and Space Global's strategy is to build communications coverage using nanosatellites - mini satellites around 10 centimetres tall and weighing between one and 10 kilograms. (6/23)

These Seven Arizona Companies are Quietly Leading in Space (Source: Phoenix Business Journal)
There has been a lot of great news lately for the commercial space industry, both in commerce and exploration. What we’re able to do with rockets, satellites, and deep space probes is far beyond what many even imagined in the past. In gushing over recent successes, I started to look at how much Arizona contributes to all of these achievements, and it’s something to be proud of. Click here. (6/21)

Boeing Opens Space Training Facility Near Houston (Source: Houston Business Journal)
Boeing opened the doors June 21 on a new astronaut-training module at its corporate campus in Houston, the first of several expected to be delivered to Space City over the next year. And with the opening of the Space Training, Analysis and Review, or STAR, facility, Boeing has committed to the greater Houston area as the aerospace company continues to develop its commercial space program.

The STAR facility features a multifaceted simulator allowing both NASA astronauts and mission control personnel to train on a variety of missions in Houston. It's located in Boeing's Bay-area building, four miles away from the Johnson Space Center in southeast Houston. It prepares astronauts and crew on flight missions using the CST-100 Starliner. (6/22)

NASA is Legally Required to Go to Jupiter—Why That’s Good (Source: Time)
For a planet that has absolutely no chance of harboring life, Jupiter gets a lot of love from Earth. Five NASA spacecraft have flown by or orbited it before and another orbiter, Juno, is set to arrive soon—on July 4, in fact.

Certainly, there are a lot of good reasons to study what is by far the largest planet in our solar system, even if looking for life is not one of them. Still, if Jupiter itself is a biological no-go, Jupiter’s little moon Europa might be a whole different matter, with the smart money betting that if we ever do find life elsewhere in our solar system, it’ll be the Europans who show their faces (or fins or membranes) first.

Now, it appears, NASA is finally going to go take a look. Thanks to an aggressive push in Congress (you read that right: Congress), a pair of missions to the mysterious moon may be launching as early as 2022 and 2024. Click here. (6/23)

World View Pivots from Stratospheric Tourism to ‘Stratollites’ Lofted by Balloons (Source: GeekWire)
World View Enterprises made a splash with its plans to send tourists up to the stratosphere, but now it has a more down-to-earth focus: using balloons to send up satellite-style payloads for months-long missions. “We are really focused on our Stratollite system this year,” CEO Jane Poynter told GeekWire.

The tours are still part of the Arizona-based company’s business plan, CEO Jane Poynter said today at the Space Frontier Foundation’s NewSpace 2016 conference in Seattle. The time frame for testing a full-size mockup of the Voyager crew capsule has been pushed back, however. In January, Poynter said the flight test would take place in mid-2016. Today, she said that test would be conducted early next year instead.

Stratollites would be equipped with navigation systems that take advantage of wind currents at different altitudes to loiter over a given location or meander along a given course, potentially around the world. At the end of the mission, the payload would deploy a parafoil and descend to a gliding touchdown. (6/23)