May 27, 2018

Blue Origin Goes All In on Moon Settlements (Source: GeekWire)
Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos says his Blue Origin space venture will work with NASA as well as the European Space Agency to create a settlement on the moon. And even if Blue Origin can’t strike public-private partnerships, Bezos will do what needs to be done to make it so, he said here at the International Space Development Conference on Friday night.

Bezos laid out his vision for lunar settlement during a fireside chat with yours truly, which took place just after he received the National Space Society’s Gerard K. O’Neill Memorial Award. In the short run, Blue Origin’s objective is to reduce the cost of access to space — initially with its New Shepard suborbital spaceship, and then with its orbital-class New Glenn rocket in the 2020s.

In the long run, Bezos’ vision is to smooth the way for millions of people working in space. Those people just might live and work in hollowed-out asteroids — a concept that was proposed decades ago by O’Neill, a Princeton physicist whose ideas on space settlement fueled Bezos’ passion for the final frontier. The way Bezos sees it, moving heavy industry into solar-powered space outposts is the only way to ensure that our planet can cope with the rising demand for energy, and the stress that growing populations will put on Earth’s environment. (5/26)

NASA is Basically Trying to Get Hacked (Source: The Outline)
In 1999, a 15-year-old who called himself “c0mrade” hacked his way into NASA’s computers and stole $1.7 million worth of software that controlled the International Space Station. For his misdeeds, the teen was sentenced to six months in jail and was ordered to write a letter to the head of NASA saying he was sorry, as well as a similar letter to the Secretary of Defense (he also hacked the Pentagon).

According to a pair of reports issued this week by NASA’s Inspector General, the 2018 version of c0mrade the teen would have a pretty damn easy time of worming his hormonal way into NASA, too. One report focused on the agency’s Securities and Operations Center (SOC), which is meant to serve as NASA’s “cybersecurity nerve center.” It found that after ten years of existence, NASA hadn’t given its SOC much to really do, and even if it had, the SOC hadn’t developed the necessary tools to handle cybersecurity threats.

The second report audits the security of NASA’s supply chain and inadvertently points out the inherent weaknesses of the Trump administration’s vision for our space program — which involves essentially turning NASA into a company that buys and sells goods within the market of space. (5/26)

Chinese Astronauts Complete Desert Survival Training (Source: Xinhua)
Fifteen Chinese astronauts have just completed desert survival training deep in the Badain Jaran Desert near Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China. Organized by the Astronaut Center of China (ACC), the program was designed to prepare astronauts with the capacity to survive in the wilderness in the event their re-entry capsule lands off target.

Before venturing into space, astronauts have to survive in various hostile environments as a part of their technical training. Wilderness survival training is an important part of astronaut training in space agencies worldwide, leaving space mission candidates stranded at sea, in deserts, in jungles or on glaciers. This is the latest survival training activity for Chinese astronauts after their sea survival training with two European astronauts in waters off the coast of Yantai in east China's Shandong Province in August 2017. (5/27)

May 26, 2018

Apollo Moonwalker Alan Bean Dies (Source: Astronaut Scholarship Foundation)
Apollo and Skylab astronaut Alan Bean, the fourth human to walk on the moon and an accomplished artist, has died. Bean, 86, died on Saturday, May 26, at Houston Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas. His death followed his suddenly falling ill while on travel in Fort Wayne, Indiana two weeks before.

A test pilot in the U.S. Navy, Bean was one of 14 trainees selected by NASA for its third group of astronauts in October 1963. He flew twice into space, first as the lunar module pilot on Apollo 12, the second moon landing mission, in November 1969, and then as commander of the second crewed flight to the United States’ first space station, Skylab, in July 1973. (5/26)

Branson Says He Will Go to Space in 'Months Not Years' (Source: City AM)
Sir Richard Branson says he is in training to be an astronaut and his first trip to space could be in “months not years”. Branson said that he was close to achieving his long-held ambition of space travel. “We're talking about months away, not years away - so it's close. There are exciting times ahead.” The 67-year old said he was in a serious training regime to prepare his body for the experience.

"I'm going for astronaut training; I'm going for fitness training, centrifuge and other training, so that my body will hopefully cope well when I go to space. If you're going to really enjoy the experience, the fitter you can be the better. Instead of doing one set of tennis every morning and every evening, I'm doing two sets. I'm going kiting and biking - doing whatever it takes to make me as fit as possible." (5/26)

Branson Says He's 'Neck and Neck' with Bezos in the Space Race (Source: CNBC)
Richard Branson, the 67-year-old British entrepreneur, says he's in a closely-fought race with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to get the first fare-paying passengers into space. Speaking to the BBC's "You and Yours" radio show, he said that Tesla CEO Elon Musk is doing "fantastically well" with rocket development and space transport for cargo. But, he added that ultimately the commercial space race was between himself and Bezos.

"I think we're both neck and neck as to who will put people into space first," Branson said. "Ultimately, we have to do it safely. It's more a race with ourselves to make sure we have the craft that are safe to put people up there." (5/26)

Mars Rocks May Harbour Signs of Life (Source: U. of Edinborough)
Iron-rich rocks near ancient lake sites on Mars could hold vital clues that show life once existed there, research suggests. These rocks – which formed in lake beds – are the best place to seek fossil evidence of life from billions of years ago, researchers say. A new study that sheds light on where fossils might be preserved could aid the search for traces of tiny creatures – known as microbes – on Mars, which it is thought may have supported primitive life forms around four billion years ago. (5/26)

Bezos Says Amazon Will Save 'The Expanse' Sci-Fi TV Saga, and the Crowd Goes Wild (Source: GeekWire)
I wanted to start out talking with Jeff Bezos tonight about his vision for settling outer space, but the billionaire founder of Amazon and Blue Origin had other plans. When I asked my first question at a fireside chat, set up during an awards banquet here at the National Space Society’s International Space Development Conference, Bezos stopped me short. “Before I answer that question, I want to do one small thing,” he told me. “Does anybody here in this audience watch a TV show called ‘The Expanse’?”

Wild applause followed — in part because the science-fiction TV series is tailor-made for the space crowd, and in part because cast members and the show runner for “The Expanse” were sitting out in the audience. They came to the dinner after doing their own panel presentation about the science behind the show. “I was talking to the cast … right before dinner started,” Bezos said. “I was telling them we were working hard at Amazon to save ‘The Expanse,’ but it wasn’t a done deal yet. And during dinner, 10 minutes ago, I just got word that ‘The Expanse’ is saved.” (5/26)

China Appoints New Space Agency Administrator (Source: GB Times)
China's State Council has appointed a new head of the China National Space Administration (CNSA), with the position having been left unfilled since early in January. The announcement that Zhang Kejian would take on the role was made on May 24. Zhang also becomes the head of the State Administration for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence (SASTIND), which oversees Chinese space-related activities, for which he was previously deputy. (5/25)

NASA Awards $43.5 Million to Small Businesses for Technology Projects, 20 in Florida (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected 304 proposals from U.S. small businesses to advance research and technology in Phase I of its 2018 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program and 44 proposals for the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program, totaling $43.5 million in awards. These selections support NASA's future space exploration missions, while also benefiting the U.S. economy. Click here for the SBIR projects, and here for the STTR projects. (5/25)

New Head Of Roscosmos Is Under Formal U.S. Sanction (Source: NASA Watch)
Russian President Vladimir Putin has nominated former Deputy PM Dmitry Rogozin to head the State Space Corporation Roscosmos. "I will do everything possible and necessary to live up to your trust," Rogozin told the Russian leader. Unfotunately for Rogozin, he is among the Russian individuals who are sanctioned by the U.S. under a 2014 Executive Order blocking access to U.S. property of individuals involved in Russia's taking of Crimea from Ukraine. (5/26)

Wilbur Ross: That Moon Colony Will Be a Reality Sooner Than You Think (Source: New York Times)
The first man on the moon held an American flag. In the not-too-distant future, astronauts on the moon may be holding fuel pumps. The future for American commercial space activity is bright. Space entrepreneurs are already planning travel to Mars, and they are looking to the moon as the perfect location for a way station to refuel and restock Mars-bound rockets. As much as this sounds like the plot of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” it is coming closer to reality sooner than you may have ever thought possible.

A privately funded American space industry is the reason. This industry is making progress in leaps and bounds. The global space economy is approaching $350 billion and is expected to become a multitrillion-dollar industry. There are more than 800 operational American satellites in orbit, and by 2024 that number could exceed 15,000. Thanks to public-private partnerships, for the first time in seven years American rockets will soon carry NASA astronauts into space. Long dormant, Cape Canaveral is now bustling with activity. America is leading in space once again. Click here. (5/26)

Blue Origin Has Bought Landing Ship For New Glenn Rocket (Source: IB Times)
While Elon Musk and SpaceX hog most of the media spotlight when it comes to private companies involved with space exploration, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is very much in the race too. Development of the company’s New Glenn rocket and associated infrastructure seem to be moving along nicely. Bezos said Blue Origin had already purchased a landing ship for the first stage of the rocket (think drone ships that SpaceX uses to land the Falcon 9 first stages) and that work to refit the recovery ship would start soon.

The New Glenn rocket, which the company has been working on for 5 years, would have a reusable booster stage, while the second stage would be expendable. Reusability of the rocket is a key component to the success of private enterprise in space development, since the costs of setting up such a company runs into billions of dollars (Bezos has, and invested much of that money in Blue Origin). To demonstrate operable reusability, Bezos said he would want to fly the rocket’s booster stage 100 times. (5/26)

Curiosity Drilling Again on Mars (Source: Space.com)
The drill on the Curiosity Mars rover has collected its first sample in more than a year and a half. The drill bored into a rock early this week, collecting powered rock samples. The drill had been out of action since late 2016 when a motor that is part of a stabilization system stopped working. Engineers developed alternative techniques to use the drill and tested them on Earth. The drill was put to use earlier this year, but could not go deep enough to collect samples for analysis by the rover's instruments. (5/25)

SpaceX Propulsion Guru Looks Ahead to Raptor Rocket Engines for Mars (Source: GeekWire)
SpaceX’s success owes a lot to the tenacity of the company’s billionaire founder, Elon Musk, but some of the credit has to go to the guy who designed the engines that make the rockets go. That would be Tom Mueller, who was one of SpaceX’s first employees back in 2002 and now serves as its propulsion chief technology officer.

“[Merlin] is a world-class engine,” Mueller said. “This is very easy to make, very low-cost and extremely reliable. Very proud of it. And another thing that this engine had designed into it was fast and deep throttling. Fast and deep throttling allowed us to land the rocket, so this basically enabled recovery of the vehicles.”

Mueller dropped some hints about the more powerful Raptor engines to come. The methane-fueled Raptor is expected to be twice as powerful as the Merlin 1D, with liftoff thrust of 380,000 pounds. The BFR’s first-stage booster will use 31 of the engines to pack more punch than the Saturn V did during the Apollo era. Mueller said he’s been mulling over the Raptor for about a decade. The engine doesn’t make use of the Merlin design, but goes instead with a full-flow, staged-combustion system that requires a clean-sheet design. (5/24)

NASA: Commercial Partners Key to Sustainable Moon Presence (Source: Space Daily)
As NASA shifts human exploration back to the Moon, U.S. commercial partnerships will be a key to expediting missions and building a sustainable presence on the lunar surface. The agency is orchestrating a robotic lunar campaign with a focus on growing commercial base of partnerships and activity that can support U.S. science, technology, and exploration objectives.

NASA is planning a series of robotic commercial delivery missions as early as 2019 ahead of a human return to the Moon. These missions will deliver NASA instruments and technology to the surface of the Moon to conduct science and prepare for human exploration. Among the instruments to be flown are the instrumentation suite from the former Resource Prospector mission concept.

"We conducted a thorough science and engineering assessment of Resource Prospector and determined all four instruments are at a high technology readiness level, are appropriate for science on the Moon, and will make flights on future Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) missions," said Dennis Andrucyk, deputy associate administrator, Science Mission Directorate, at NASA Headquarters in Washington. (5/25)

Rocket Crafters Tests Hybrid Engine for Intrepid Rocket (Source: Ars Technica)
Another small booster company tests its engine. In a key step toward developing its Intrepid booster, Rocket Crafters has test fired a small-scale engine for 10 seconds. Florida Today reports the company's engine runs on a plastic-based hybrid fuel and that the Intrepid rocket could begin launching as soon as 2020. Under present designs, the Intrepid will carry up to half a ton into low Earth orbit. Rocket Crafters has already won a $650,000 contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to help develop a larger 5,000-pound thrust engine. (5/24)

Ripple Aerospace Developing Reusable Rocket for Ocean Launches (Source: Ars Technica)
A new sea-based launch system is under development. A Norwegian company called Ripple Aerospace is seeking to develop a reusable rocket called Sea Serpent One. The rocket will have a capacity of 2.6 tons to LEO and launch from an ocean-based platform. The company is certainly thinking BIG. The planned Sea Serpent Three would be capable of lifting 140 tons. Ripple Aerospace was founded in 2016 out of a Facebook group. (5/24)

Paul Allen's Space Plane Prepares for its Coming Out Party (Source: Politico)
Stratolaunch, the space startup established by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen in 2011, is banking on this year being a milestone in achieving its vision of the leading launch company for those who want to get to space at lower costs to help solve problems here on earth. “Paul is very interested in the small sat community, the entrepreneurs, the folks who are trying to invent new things and actually help us solve world problems," says CEO Jean Floyd. "So we start there and try to help that community first.”

Stratolaunch is eyeing a host of small satellite developers to hitch a ride into orbit on the world’s largest airplane, which it is designing to launch satellites into orbit via a rocket tucked under the wings. The company plans to flight test the all-composite aircraft, which will rely on six Boeing 747 engines for the first time later this year, according to Floyd.

But already the company is collecting letters of intent from companies interested in launching satellites at lower cost and with more flexibility than traditional space rockets. “The ride share is getting very difficult for small sats, so they’re looking for something a little faster, a little more flexible and cheaper than a ride share, where you have to get in line and wait,” he said. (5/25)

China Upgrades Spacecraft Reentry and Descent Technology (Source: Xinhua)
China has successfully tested its new space program's reentry and descent technology, which makes landing heavier spacecraft possible. Current spacecraft landing methods such as parachute and airbag landings can not satisfy the deceleration needs of heavier manned spacecraft reentry missions, according to China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC).

The CASC successfully conducted three experiments, involving upgraded parachute and airbag landing techniques as well as the inflatable reentry and descent technology (IRDT). It published the test results on its website earlier this week. The upgraded parachutes proved reliable with strong structure and performance and can be used to slow down a spacecraft at the initial stage of reentry. (5/25)

U.S. Military Seeks to Be More Lethal, Including in Space, Mattis Says (Source: AFSPC)
The U.S. military is seeking to be more lethal in all domains, including space, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said yesterday. Mattis said U.S. Northern Command will have to change to meet the challenges of the future, to include space-related security challenges. “As the threats to North America evolve, we'll have to evolve the command, too,” he said. “It will continue to adapt from what it does, incorporating cyber defenses, outer space priorities and, of course, the air-breathing threats that we'll have to stay alert to.”

Mattis said changes start with business reforms inside the Pentagon. He noted the Defense Department is currently not adopting best practices from industry. “We want to make the military more lethal in outer space and cyberspace, at sea, on land, and in the air,” Mattis said. The department, he added, also wants to strengthen relations with U.S. partners and allies. The department needs to examine the changing character of war, to include issues like artificial intelligence, hypersonics and outer space activities, according to Mattis. (5/24)

Astronaut Sally Ride Gets Her Own Stamp (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, is getting her own stamp. The United States Postal Service announced on Wednesday that the 50-cent “Forever” stamp would be available for sale immediately. Ride was just 32 years old on June 18, 1983 when she entered space on STS-7 aboard the shuttle Challenger. (5/24)

How to Get to Mars Without Going Mad (Source: Cosmos)
The technological challenges involved in sending a crewed mission to Mars are daunting, but new research highlights the need to focus on the psychology of spaceflight to prevent world’s first Mars explorers arriving at their destination stark raving crazy.

A paper in the journal American Psychologist reviews the already extensive research done by NASA into the psychological trials that come with being an astronaut, and concludes that there is still a hell of a lot of work still to be done.

The central problem for would-be Mars travelers is that early missions will comprise a team of people confined in a tin can about the size of a small Winnebago for two or three years. During this time, communication with family and friends will be extremely minimal. Even talking to Mission Control will be difficult, given that signals to and from the craft will take almost an hour to arrive. Click here. (5/24)

May 25, 2018

Rocket Lab's Hawke's New Zealand Launch Site to Eexpand Launch Options (Source: NZ Herald)
Rocket Lab's launch site at Mahia now has the widest range of launch angles in the world, after a change to New Zealand's space regulations. The U.S.-based orbital launch provider is due to launch its first all-commercial satellite from the East Coast's Onenui Station, and company founder and chief executive New Zealander Peter Beck said changes to environmental regulations that manage New Zealand's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and continental shelf would further the launch facility's capabilities.

"Under the new regulations, which commenced last month, Rocket Lab will be able to reach the widest range of launch azimuths of any launch site in the world," said Beck. Azimuths refer to launch angles. Space vehicle launches are expected to result in the deposit of material on the seabed in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and extended continental shelf. (5/25)

Rocket Lab Reschedules Next Electron Launch (Source: Space News)
Rocket Lab announced May 25 it has rescheduled the next launch of its Electron small rocket for late June after correcting a problem that delayed an April launch attempt. That launch, dubbed “It’s Business Time” by the company because this is the first commercial Electron launch after two test flights, is now scheduled for no earlier than June 22 (U.S. time) from the company’s New Zealand launch site. Four-hour launch windows, opening at 8:30 p.m. Eastern time, are available daily through July 5. (5/25)

Theoretical Physicist's Thoughts on DOD's Warp Drive Study (Source: Business Insider)
Sometime after August 2008, the US Department of Defense contracted dozens of researchers to look into some very, very out-there aerospace technologies, including never-before-seen methods of propulsion, lift, and stealth. Two researchers came back with a 34-page report for the propulsion category, titled "Warp Drive, Dark Energy, and the Manipulation of Extra Dimensions." The document is dated April 2, 2010, though it was only recently released by the Defense Intelligence Agency.

The authors suggest we may not be too far away from cracking the mysteries of higher, unseen dimensions and negative or "dark energy," a repulsive force that physicists believe is pushing the universe apart at ever-faster speeds. However, Sean Carroll, a theoretical physicist at Caltech who studies and follows the topics covered by the report, had a lot of cold water to pour on the report's optimism.

"It's bits and pieces of theoretical physics dressed up as if it has something to do with potentially real-world applications, which it doesn't," Carroll said. "This is not crackpot. This is not the Maharishi saying we're going to use spirit energy to fly off the ground — this is real physics. But this is not something that's going to connect with engineering anytime soon, probably anytime ever." (5/25)

Will Streamlined Rules Add Thrust to Commerce and Maintain Safety? (Source: USA Today)
The commercialization of outer space is starting to take off. President Trump signed a memorandum Thursday that aims to streamline federal regulations governing the growing and economically important activity private firms are conducting in Earth's lower orbit. The goal is to treat space like other platforms — such as the internet, highways and American air space — where strict government control has slowly given way to looser oversight that encourages private innovation while still maintaining rigorous safety standards.

The directive, which grew out of the council's February meeting at Kennedy Space Center in Florida: a) Requires the Department of Transportation to "reform the regulatory system" for launch and reentry; b) Mandates the Department of Commerce update rules governing satellite imagery; c) Creates  a "one-stop shop" at the Commerce for commercial space companies; and d) Calls for a Space Council review of licensing rules pertaining to commercial spaceflight activity to determine whether further streamlining should occur.

The head of a trade group representing space firms such as SpaceX, Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin welcomed Trump's directive Thursday, saying it could shorten launch approvals from six months to as little as two weeks. Space companies "would rather hire engineers than lawyers," said Eric Stallmer, president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, referring to the time it takes to comply with the current slate of "arcane, outdated" regulations. (5/24)

New Policy Directive Implements Commercial Space Regulatory Reforms (Source: Space News)
President Trump signed a new space policy directive Thursday to reform commercial space regulations. Space Policy Directive 2 implements a series of recommendations approved by the National Space Council at its February meeting. They cover launch licensing and commercial remote-sensing regulatory reforms, creation of a "one-stop shop" for commercial space issues in the Commerce Department, and reviews of spectrum and export control issues. The reforms will take some months to implement through the rulemaking process, and in some cases may require legislation. Industry hailed the new policy as a step towards reducing red tape for companies. (5/25)

Virgin Orbit's Digitized Factory Reduces Costs for Air Launch System (Source: Space News)
Virgin Orbit is using advanced manufacturing software to develop its air-launch system. The company is using a digital manufacturing software system to reduce paperwork and create a digital thread, tracing rockets and components from requirements and design through manufacturing, testing and launch. That approach, the company said, is designed to reduce costs while increasing efficiency. (5/25)

Johns Hopkins Engineers Helping NASA Restore Links to Long-Lost 'Zombie' Satellite (Source: Baltimore Sun)
When aerospace engineers launch a satellite, they don’t expect it to last forever. So when the NASA orbiter known as IMAGE disappeared from view after five years in orbit, few were alarmed. What did stun the field came last January, when an amateur satellite watcher spotted IMAGE in the skies again after a dozen years — and realized that it was still trying to talk to Earth.

“I’ve been in this field since the late 1980s, and it almost never happens that a lost spacecraft is found again, especially after so long,” said J.E. Hayes. “IMAGE is this zombie that came back to life.” Now space scientists across the United States are working on the long-lost spacecraft again, trying to help NASA keep steady contact and assert control. Among them is a team at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel.

It was Bill Dove, an engineer who manages the Hopkins lab’s Satellite Communications Facility, and his colleague Tony Garcia, lead engineer in APL’s Space Exploration Sector, who led the way in locking down communication with the $150 million craft, first launched in 2000. They’ve spent months downloading its signals and feeding them to NASA. (5/24)

How Birds May Have Escaped the Dino-Killing Asteroid Impact (Source: Science News)
Nothing against trees. But maybe it’s better not to get too dependent on them if you want to survive a big flaming space object crashing into Earth. The asteroid impact that caused a mass extinction 66 million years probably also triggered the collapse of forests worldwide, a new investigation of the plant fossil record concludes. Needing trees and extensive plant cover for nesting or food could have been a fatal drawback for winged dinosaurs, including some ancient birds.

Reconstructing the ecology of ancient birds suggests that modern fowl descended from species that survived because they could live on the ground, an international research team proposes in the June 4 Current Biology. “You probably would have died anyway regardless of habitat,” says study coauthor Daniel Field. “But if you could get along on the ground, you at least had a shot at surviving across this devastated landscape.” (5/24)

ICEYE Raises a Cool $34 Million for Radar Satellites (Source: Space News)
ICEYE raised $34 million in a Series B investment round, bringing the Finnish commercial radar satellite operator’s total funding to $53 million. With the Series B money, ICEYE plans to further develop its Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) technology, pay for additional satellite launches and enhance analytics services for its customers. “From my perspective, [the funding] allows us to go back to our customers and say, ‘The constellation we’ve been talking about is a reality. We’ve got money to build satellites. We’ve got money to buy rockets. Now, let’s plan what you would like to observe and how frequently,'” said Rafal Modrzewski. (5/24)

Coolant Problems Found on GOES 17 Satellite (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
NOAA has found a performance problem with the cooling system on the GOES-17 spacecraft. It is unclear at this time, how this might impact the satellite’s launch, planned for 2019. The issue was discovered during the commissioning of the spacecraft’s Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) instrument. When engineers were conducting the on-orbit checkout phase of these tests – the ABI did not start up properly. The cooling element, which NOAA has described as an “integral part” of the system, will now be studied so as to find the cause of the issue by a team from NOAA, NASA, as well as the ABI contractor. (5/24)

UK Seeks MilSpace Resiliency with Small Satellites (Source: Space News)
The British military is interested in using small satellites to improve resiliency. At a conference this week, Air Chief Marshall Sir Stephen Hillier emphasized "resilience, efficiency and rapid capability development and deployment of new space capabilities." He said being able to quickly deploy constellations of smallsats is "hugely exciting" in terms of maintain space capabilities in a conflict. (5/24)

Intelsat Beats Eutelsat to Gain FCC Satellite Approval (Source: Space News)
The FCC has rejected a Eutelsat application for a communications satellite, saying Intelsat has priority. The FCC said Intelsat's application for Galaxy-15R, to provide Ka- and Ku-band services at 133 degrees west, was submitted earlier and thus had priority over a proposed Eutelsat satellite near the same location. Eutelsat said that it has priority for the location with the International Telecommunication Union and will "work to defend our interests and our rights at this position." (5/24)

Cygnus Arrives at ISS with 3,300 kg of Cargo (Source: NASA)
A Cygnus cargo spacecraft arrived at the International Space Station this morning. The station's robotic arm grappled the Cygnus spacecraft, named S.S. J.R. Thompson, at 5:26 a.m. Eastern, and will berth it to the station this morning. The cargo spacecraft, launched Monday, is carrying more than 3,300 kilograms of experiments, hardware, and supplies to the station and will remain at the station until July. (5/23)

Satellite Servicing Consortium Meets to Form Best Practices (Source: Space News)
A new consortium devoted to developing best practices for satellite servicing has held its first meeting. The Consortium for Execution of Rendezvous and Servicing operations, or Confers, met Monday in California. David Barnhart, director of the University of Southern California's Space Engineering Research Center, said at Space Tech Expo Wednesday that Confers, established by DARPA, will work to develop voluntary consensus-driven standards for rendezvous and proximity operations as well as on-orbit servicing. (5/24)

UK Set to Demand EU Repayment in Brexit Satellite Row (Source: Space Daily)
Britain ramped up a Brexit space row with the EU on Thursday, saying it will demand repayment if it is excluded from the Galileo satellite navigation project. Newspaper reports suggested London could seek 1 billion pounds ($1.34 billion, 1.14 billion euros) in compensation for its investment in the program. Brussels has said it will deny London access to Galileo's encrypted signals after Brexit, citing legal issues about sharing sensitive security information with a non-member state. (5/24)

Sierra Nevada Corp. Releases Video for Lunar Orbital Platform Concept (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The race to land one of NASA’s biggest contracts surges forth as Sierra Nevada Corporation rolled out video of its vision for the Lunar Orbital Platform. It’s one of six companies vying to build the the habitable portion of what was once called the Deep Space Gateway as part of NASA’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships-2 prorgam. The other five are Bigelow Aerospace LLC, Orbital ATK, Boeing, Lockheed and NanoRacks.

The outpost that would be located near the moon is not meant for continuous human presence, but would be capable of supporting four astronauts for 30 to 60 days. The habitat element of the gateway is not its first part in play, although Sierra Nevada Corp. is also vying for that contract as well. That first part is a power and propulsion element, which is actually part of the initial NextSTEP program with NASA. Click here. (5/18)

IAP Worldwide Services Tapped for Satellite Systems (Source: Space Daily)
Cape Canaveral-based IAP Worldwide Services Inc. was awarded a contract for satellite systems. The contract award from U.S. Army Contracting Command enables the company to provide "Satellite Baseband Systems satellite communications infrastructure" under a contract modification valued at more than $31.9 million, the Department of Defense announced on Thursday.

Satellite Baseband Systems satellite communications infrastructure provides the military with greater command and control over tactical and intelligence operations by improving significantly the communications between combatant commanders, ground forces and air assets. Work on the contract will occur in Cape Canaveral, Florida. (5/18)

Mars Society Launches Kickstarter to Create MarsVR Crew Training Program (Source: Space Daily)
The Mars Society, the world's largest space advocacy group dedicated to the human exploration and settlement of the planet Mars, has launched a Kickstarter campaign to help raise $27,500 for a new open-source virtual reality platform called MarsVR, which will be used for serious research to support the goal of sending humans to the Red Planet.

The MarsVR program will be a unique multi-phase effort designed to pioneer the emerging field of CrowdExploration, which we define as the partnership between the first astronauts on Mars and VR experts and enthusiasts back on Earth. The Mars Society aims to develop a special VR platform to assist with the initial human exploration of Martian landing sites. (5/22)

Bridenstine, Once Doubtful, Confirms He Believes Humans are the Leading Cause of Climate Change (Source: Washinton Post)
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who previously questioned whether humans are primarily responsible for climate change, left no doubt Wednesday that his position has changed. Signifying a striking conversion, he confirmed that he now accepts that humans are, in fact, the leading cause.

During testimony before the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on commerce, justice, science and related agencies, Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) asked Bridenstine whether he believes greenhouse gases are the primary cause of climate change. Bridenstine quickly replied in the affirmative.

“The National Climate Assessment, that includes NASA, and it includes the Department of Energy, and it includes NOAA, has clearly stated it is extremely likely, [that] is the language they use, that human activity is the dominant cause of global warming, and I have no reason to doubt the science that comes from that,” Bridenstine said. Schatz followed up by asking, “Is it fair to call this an evolution of your views?” (5/23)

May 24, 2018

SpaceX’s New Falcon 9 Still Needs a Key Update Before it Can Fly Astronauts (Source: The Verge)
On May 11th, SpaceX launched the inaugural mission of its powerful new Falcon 9 rocket, called the Block 5 — the same vehicle the company will use to send astronauts to the International Space Station. However, it turns out the vehicle used for that first launch wasn’t in its final configuration to fly crew members for NASA, Quartz reports, though it was believed to be.

Before the launch, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk was asked if the Block 5 rocket met NASA’s requirements for flying astronauts, and he said he thought so. “That’s my understanding, but I could be mistaken,” Musk said. However, the rocket was missing some upgraded tanks that will have to be installed long before crewed flights can take place. And that means SpaceX will have to fly even more flights of the Block 5 before astronauts can board it. (5/24)

DARPA Begins Addressing Concerns Related to Proximity Operations and Satellite Servicing (Source: Space News)
A major challenge facing companies planning to perform on-orbit satellite servicing will be ensuring satellite operators do not view their activities as potential threats. “How do we avoid any potential for misperception of what one spacecraft is doing when it approaches another spacecraft,” David Barnhart asked. DARPA’s Consortium for Execution of Rendezvous and Servicing operations, called Confers, which held its first meeting May 21, plans to address those concerns with transparency and confidence-building measures, Barnhart said.

Specifically, Confers will delve into engineering and design criteria, operational issues and information sharing practices for proximity operations and satellite servicing. Data exchange, while essential for these activities, will pose challenges due to national export controls and corporate concerns about protecting proprietary information, said Barnhart, a former DARPA project manager. (5/23)

Air Force Uncovered LSD Use Among Airmen Guarding Nuclear Missiles (Source: NPR)
More than a dozen U.S. Air Force airmen were linked to a drug ring at a base that controls America's nuclear missiles and have faced disciplinary actions – including courts martial, according to an investigation by The Associated Press. Military investigators cracked the ring in 2016, after one of the service members made the mistake of posting drug-related material to social media.

Nearly half of the airmen were convicted of using or distributing LSD — which the Pentagon has stopped screening for in drug tests, the AP reported Thursday. Citing records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, the news service reports that the drug ring operated at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, just outside of Cheyenne, Wyoming. The airmen took the drugs — which also included ecstasy, cocaine and marijuana — during their off-duty time, but at least one airman acknowledged that while under the influence of LSD, he wouldn't have been able to respond properly if he had been suddenly called to duty. (5/24)

Plans for First Rocket Launch Dedicated to Scottish Satellite (Source: BBC)
Plans are in place for the first rocket launch dedicated to a Scottish satellite. It will be the first time a Scottish built orbiter has not had to piggyback on another launch vehicle. The satellite - called Unicorn 2-a - is another milestone for Scotland's growing space industry. It is expected to lift off from a launch site in Alaska later this year aboard an American built Vector-R rocket. (5/21)

Trump is Reforming and Modernizing American Commercial Space Policy (Source: White House)
President Trump’s Space Policy Directive – 2 reforms America’s commercial space regulatory framework, ensuring our place as a leader in space commerce. "This time, we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprint. We will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars." Click here. (5/24)

Italy's First Spaceport Planned in Puglia (Source: DDay)
The first Italian spaceport will be built in Puglia, precisely in the area between Taranto and Grottaglie within the Marcello Arlotta airport structure. The news came directly from the Ministry of Infrastructures and Transport following the decision taken by the National Civil Aviation Authority (ENAC) to place the structure in the deep south of Italy, an area that has an ideal territorial conformation.

This is the final result of an agreement signed between Enac, the Italian Space Agency (ASI) and the US Federal Aviation Administration, which will allow testing the first sub-orbital tourist flights as early as 2020, according to the forecasts. The first company to operate in the Italian spaceport will be Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic , in collaboration with the Turin-based Altec (a company owned by Asi and Thales Alenia Space). Branson's company is struggling with the latest tests on its Space Shuttle Two and its carrier WhiteKnight Two. (5/15)

Russia Says New Missile Test Did Not Fail, 'Trust' Putin Not U.S. Media (Source: Newsweek)
Russia has defended its new arsenal of advanced, nuclear-capable weapons from U.S. allegations that they failed during recent tests. Citing sources with direct knowledge of a U.S. spy report on Russia's latest weapons, CNBC reported Monday that a nuclear-powered cruise missile failed all four tests between November 2017 and February 2018, with its longest flight lasting only 22 miles.

The missile, later named Burevestnik after an online vote, was touted as having a virtually unlimited range. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peksov dismissed the report, which has been cited by a number of other U.S. media outlets, instructing journalists to place their faith in the Russian leader instead. "Listen to Russian President Vladimir Putin and trust him," Peskov said, according to the state-run Tass Russian news agency. (5/22)

China to Launch 11 More Beidou Satellites This Year (Source: Xinhua)
China plans to launch 11 more Beidou navigation satellites this year. Wang Li, chairman of China Satellite Navigation System Committee, said at a Chinese conference that the 11 will join eight that have launched so far this year. China still plans to provide global coverage with the Beidou system by around 2020. (5/24)

Europe Split on UK's Role in Galileo (Source: Guardian)
There are divisions within the European Union about Britain role in the Galileo program after Brexit. While the EU has indicated that Britain will no longer be able to work on the program after the UK leaves the EU, and will not have access to military signals without entering into an agreement, several EU members are sympathetic to Britiain's desire to remain in the program, fearing disruptions to security. A leaked British "technical note" suggested that the country could seek to claw back funding it has already provided for other EU space efforts. (5/24)

Bridenstine Offers Senators Reassurances on NASA Programs (Source: Space News)
In his first congressional testimony since becoming NASA administrator, Jim Bridenstine sought to assure senators about the status of several key programs. Speaking at a hearing of a Senate appropriations subcommittee Wednesday, Bridenstine said NASA was reconsidering two Earth science missions proposed for cancellation in the 2019 budget request based on the outcome of the Earth science decadal survey published in January.

He also stated that he believed humans were the leading contributor to climate change, a view he acknowledge was an "evolution" from past statements. Senators did criticize the proposed closure of NASA's education office, but avoided many issues, like exploration programs and commercial crew, that have been contentious in the past. The committee will mark up a spending bill that funds NASA next month. (5/24)

Sales Surge, Profits Plunge at Aerojet Rocketdyne (Source: Motley Fool)
Aerojet Rocketdyne stock lost 12% of its value in the two days after the company reported earnings  for the first quarter of 2018 -- a miss, and its third such miss in a row, according to data from Yahoo! Finance . Since that report and subsequent drop, however, Aerojet Rocketdyne has come roaring back, recovering all of its losses, and even adding a bit more. At last week's closing price of $28.72, Aerojet Rocketdyne stock now costs about one dollar a share more than it did pre-earnings.

But here's the thing Aerojet Rocketdyne investors need to remember: Yes, ULA has tapped Aerojet to power its Vulcan second stage for now. Who will build the larger, arguably more important first-stage engines, however, remains up for debate (and currently, Aerojet's privately funded rival Blue Origin seems to be winning that contest). What's more, ULA plans to switch out its Centaur second-stage (and Aerojet's) engines for a new "Advanced Cryogenic Evolved Stage" (ACES) second-stage rocket, which may or may not include Aerojet's RL10 in its design, in 2023. Thus, Aerojet's victory on Centaur may be short-lived. (5/23)

May 23, 2018

SpaceX Achievements Generate Growing Interest in Reusable Launchers (Source: Space News)
As SpaceX launched another Falcon 9 with a previously-flown first stage May 22, both the company and its competitors are seeing a growing acceptance of reusable vehicles in the overall market. The Falcon 9 that launched five Iridium Next satellites and two GRACE-FO Earth science satellites from California used a first stage that first flew in January, carrying the classified Zuma payload. That booster was the 12th first stage to be reflown, counting the two used as side boosters in the inaugural Falcon Heavy launch in February.

Most of those Falcon 9 missions with reflown boosters have been for commercial customers, enticed at least in part by the modest discounts SpaceX has offered for using previously-flown stages. NASA has flown two Dragon cargo missions to the International Space Station on reflown boosters, but the agency says it evaluates the use of such vehicles on a case-by-case basis.

We see a future where the most risk-averse customers are likely to prefer to fly on the second flight of a booster rather than the first flight,” SpaceX's Josh Brost said. “Once you demonstrate you can fly it many times, you can see that first flight as essentially a check flight.” Brost said that SpaceX was working with “other government entities” about the use of previously-flown boosters. That’s likely to include the U.S. Air Force, which has not yet certified reflown Falcon 9 vehicles for its missions. (5/23)

Air Force Aims for Reliable Launch Services in Spite of Dramatic Changes in Commercial, Military Space (Source: Space News)
Sending national security satellites into orbit is about to become more complicated. In the past, launches largely fell into two categories: big, expensive satellites requiring extremely reliable rides and smaller satellites on slightly riskier rockets. In the future, the U.S. Air Force will launch satellites of all different sizes for customers with varying degrees of risk tolerance.

Through the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program, the Air Force has sent more than $50 billion in assets into orbit on 72 successful launches, Strizzi said. The Air Force’s Rocket Systems Launch Program, which is geared to smaller satellites traveling on orbital or suborbital rockets, has flown more than 700 payloads for various research and development, and technology demonstration missions, Strizzi said. He said a key ingredient of the Air Force’s success has been its intimate knowledge of how each rockets is designed, tested, fabricated and operated.

To meet the often conflicting requirements for speed and mission assurance, the Air Force is exploring greater use of parts that do not meet military standards, additive manufacturing, new propellants, collaboration with NASA and the National Reconnaissance Office, and combining the best practices of traditional space programs with elements of commercial “new space,” Strizzi said. “We hustle but we do not hurry or rush,” he said. “We are not running with scissors. We do all the right steps along the way to ensure high reliability.” (5/23)

NOAA’s New GOES-17 Weather Satellite has Degraded Vision at Night (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Engineers are studying a malfunction with the main imaging instrument on NOAA’s GOES-17 weather satellite, launched March 1, that could limit the observatory’s ability to monitor storms, winds and other weather phenomena at night, officials said Wednesday. A cooling system aboard the satellite is unable to chill infrared detectors inside the Advanced Baseline Imager on GOES-17 to proper temperatures, degrading the camera’s performance.

The imager is designed to be sensitive to light in 16 channels, including 13 infrared and near-infrared wavelengths, and three colors in the visible spectrum. The thermal control anomaly currently under investigation affects the 13 infrared and near-infrared channels, according to Steve Volz, assistant administrator for NOAA’s satellite and information service. (5/23)

ICEYE Achieves the ‘Impossible’ with Miniature Radar Satellite (Source: Space News)
Until ICEYE produced its first image in January from a Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) on its 70-kilogram ICEYE-X1 satellite, many people said microsatellites could not perform radar missions. While not impossible, it was challenging. To succeed, ICEYE’s founders Rafal Modrzewski and Pekka Laurila had to dispense with a lot of the traditional rules for building space-based radars.

Before founding ICEYE, Modrzewski moved from Warsaw, Poland, to Helsinki, Finland, to study radio science engineering at Aalto University and begin building a satellite. There, he met Laurila and the two enrolled in an Aalto University venture formation course taught by Mike Lyons, the Stanford University engineering professor who now serves as chief executive of ICEYE US Inc.

Modrzewski readily admits ICEYE’s satellites would fail some of the tests NASA spacecraft undergo before launch. Still, the first satellite is in orbit and it is gathering SAR imagery. “It did past this one test that was actually the ultimate test,” Modrzewski said. (5/23)

China to Launch Another 11 BeiDou-3 Satellites in 2018 (Source: Xinhua)
China will launch another 11 BeiDou-3 satellites by the end of 2018, adding to its domestic BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS), said an official at an academic conference on Wednesday. China has already launched eight BeiDou-3 satellites. The satellites will provide initial services for countries and regions along the Belt and Road by the end of the year, said Wang Li, chairman of China Satellite Navigation System Committee.

Addressing the Ninth China Satellite Navigation Conference in Harbin, capital of northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, Wang said the BeiDou system is moving to become a global service provider after offering stable and reliable time and space information for clients in the Asia-Pacific region. (5/23)

How SpaceX Beat Boeing to Become a $28 Billion Aerospace Juggernaut (Source: CNBC)
SpaceX has vaulted to become one of the most valuable private companies in the world, with a valuation estimated at $28 billion. As its long-term prospects soar, it is steadily raising funds from global investors to fuel its lofty ambitions. The company's achievements have many awestruck: In February it launched the world's most powerful rocket since NASA's Saturn V. It stood more than 21 stories high.

In 2019, Musk believes SpaceX will be completing "short trips" for its Mars rocket system, while also beginning to roll out its constellation of 4,425 satellites. It is in the next stage of Musk's master plan to put 1 million people on the Red Planet to ensure the survival of the human race in the event of a world war or catastrophe on Earth.

The competition — archrival United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin — has certainly been put on notice. Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg told CNBC in February that he thinks SpaceX is "adding energy to the space market," which is "good for the country." "I don't think anyone can" compete with even Falcon Heavy, let alone BFR, former Pentagon Under Secretary of Defense for acquisition tech and logistics John Young told CNBC in February. "Musk said it's 'game over,' and I believe that's true." (5/22)

Take a 360 Tour inside Boeing's Starliner Factory at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Boeing)
One, two, three Boeing CST-100 Starliners are coming together inside this historic spacecraft factory at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The goal of the commercially developed and operating spacecraft is to return crew launch capabilities to NASA and the United States. Click here. (5/23)

Spaceflight Orchestrates Smallsat Launch on Arianespace’s Vega (Source: Via Satellite)
Arianespace has signed an agreement with Spaceflight Industries for the launch of several small payloads. This will be the inaugural mission for Spaceflight customer spacecraft on an Arianespace vehicle. The initial batch of spacecraft is slated for launch aboard Vega in early 2019 from Europe’s spaceport at the Guiana Space Center.

The contract with Seattle-based Spaceflight Industries covers a microsatellite and a significant number of CubeSats to be launched on the Small Spacecraft Mission System (SSMS) Proof of Concept (POC) flight as well as on a subsequent Vega SSMS flight about one year later. The Vega POC flight will also be the first mission of the SSMS, a modular carbon fiber dispenser developed within a program initiated by the European Space Agency. (5/23)

3-D Printers And Robotic Arms: How One Startup Plans To Build Colonies In Space (Source: Forbes)
When history’s pilgrims and pioneers arrived in a new territory, they used the land’s natural resources to build their settlements. Space colonists, on the other hand, will have to bring materials from Earth and assemble them on Mars. Andrew Rush, president and CEO of space-based manufacturing firm Made In Space, believes the process of creating off-world infrastructure will be similar to building IKEA furniture. Only the parts will be made with an advanced 3-D printer and put together by an autonomous robot.

Made In Space has been at the forefront of space manufacturing since it was founded in 2010. Four years ago, the California-based company’s 3-D printer became the first manufacturing device in space when it was launched to the International Space Station (ISS) as part of a NASA demonstration project. The goal was to prove that a 3-D printer could be developed for use in zero gravity, and on 17 Dec. 2014 the device produced its first tool — a ratchet wrench — using a design file transmitted from Earth. Click here. (5/23)

Shotwell Says SpaceX is Profitable (Source: LA Times)
SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said the privately held space company is valued at almost $28 billion based on recent funding rounds, and that it is profitable. Shotwell said the company has had "many years" of profitability. She admitted 2016 — when a Falcon 9 rocket exploded on a Florida launch pad, destroying a commercial communications satellite it was set to launch — was "tough," though she stopped short of saying the company lost money then. (5/22)

Cruz, Nelson Criticize Plan to End Direct ISS Funding in 2025 (lource: Parabolic Arc)
Sharply conflicting opinions about the future of the International Space Station (ISS) and America’s path forward in space were on view last week in a Senate hearing room turned boxing ring. In one corner was NASA Associate Administrator Bill Gerstenamier, representing a Trump Administration that wants to end direct federal funding for ISS in 2025 in order to pursue an aggressive campaign of sending astronauts back to the moon. NASA would maintain a presence in Earth orbit, becoming one of multiple users aboard a privatized ISS or privately-owned stations.

In the opposite corner were Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Bill Nelson (D-FL). Normally divided on almost every issues, the senators were united in their anger at what they viewed as the Trump Administration’s unilateral decision to end station support as well as their determination to keep the $100 billion facility operating until at least 2028 for the sake of NASA, space exploration, America and their states. The station’s current end date is 2024. (5/21)

This is What America’s New Space Shuttles Look Like (Source: Quartz)
US astronauts haven’t had their own ride into orbit since the space shuttle was retired in 2011. Two private companies are racing to replace it and become the first to fly astronauts for NASA. Boeing and SpaceX are being paid billions of dollars to build and operate crewed space capsules that will take humans to the International Space Station. NASA and the two companies recently shared new pictures of the astronauts and their custom spacesuits training for their flights with simulated missions in mock-up capsules. Click here. (5/22)

Shetland Spaceport Decision Expected in June (Source: Shetland News)
Last year Shetland Space Centre launched plans for a spaceport in the north of the island as the government looks to kick-start the satellite launching industry in the country. The team's proposals were discussed by Shetland Islands Council's development committee on Monday and chairman Alastair Cooper said the government is set to announce its preferred sites for vertical and horizontal launches on 12 June.

Development director Neil Grant warned that the government's desire to have launch capabilities by 2020 means that the clock is ticking. The government is offering financial support for the country's first launch site and there are other two other bids in Scotland from Sutherland and the Western Isles. (5/23)

German Team Is Now Trying to Make the ‘Impossible’ EmDrive Engine (Source: Motherboard)
German physicists launched the SpaceDrive project to explore possible sources of error in EmDrive experiments. Their first experiment identified a possible source of false positives in past successful EmDrive tests. In particular, they described their research results on the EmDrive, a type of “impossible” spacecraft engine that is theoretically able to generate thrust without any propellant. It’s a bit like trying to design a Formula One race car that doesn’t need any gas and is instead powered by the driver pushing on the inside of the windshield.

While the researchers didn’t crack the secret to the propellantless-engine, they did manage to create a hypersensitive measurement device and identify sources of possible false positives that will help to better characterize EmDrive experiments in the future. (5/21)

Russia to Create Orbital Internet Satellite Cluster by 2025 (Source: Tass)
Russian Space Systems Company (part of the State Space Corporation Roscosmos) plans to implement a project to create a global satellite communications network, which will require 288 satellites operating in the 870 km orbit by 2025, Company representative and project Head Yuri Mishin said. "The Efir project envisages an aerospace infocommunications network. This is the project of creating orbital Internet. We plan 288 satellites in the 870km obit. They will form a system expected to start operating in 2025," Mishin said. (5/22)

Dozens of Volunteers Apply for Joint US-Russian Simulated Moon Orbital Flight (Source: Sputnik)
About 50 people from various countries have shown interest in an experiment simulating the flight to an orbital station near the Moon, said a representative of the Institute of Medicobiological Problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The experiment is part of international SIRIUS missions, which serve to help finish preparations for deep space flights, including flights to planned lunar-orbit space station Deep Space Gateway. (5/23)

NASA Satellites Track Unusual Changes in Earth's Water Supplies (Source: Space.com)
Fresh water is changing around the world, and a new set of NASA satellite observations is helping scientists better understand why. A new study suggests that the changes stem from human activities as well as natural variations in the climate. The data comes from 14 years of observations from the U.S./German Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) spacecraft mission.

The study shows that wet zones on Earth are getting even wetter, while dry zones are drying up, according to a statement from NASA. This is due to many factors, including climate change, how humans use water and natural environmental cycles. Changes in fresh water, particularly from ice near the poles (such as ice melting due to increasing temperatures), could affect how quickly sea levels rise. (5/22)

NASA-Trained Astronaut Joins Team in Bid for Australia's First Space Agency (Source: ABC)
New South Wales is hoping some extra star power will help its bid to bring the nation's first space agency to Sydney. Australia's first astronaut, Dr Paul Scully-Power, has been enlisted by the NSW Government to advise its bid to host the new Australian Space Agency. "Everyone thinks about space as being way out there," Dr Scully-Power said. "That used to be the case. But now it's way here. It's in our hands." (5/23)

White House Objects to HASC's Call for U.S. Space Command (Source: Space Policy Online)
The White House is objecting to the House Armed Services Committee’s (HASC’s) call for a U.S. Space Command to be created as a subunit of U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM). The provision is part of the FY2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) approved by HASC on May 9.  The House began consideration of the bill, H.R. 5515, today (Tuesday). The White House’s Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) says the provision is premature.

During debate on last year’s NDAA, the White House opposed HASC’s attempt to create a Space Corps within the Air Force analogous to the Marine Corps within the Department of the Navy. DOD, the Air Force, and the Senate also opposed it. The final FY2018 NDAA required a study on the best way to organize the Air Force and DOD to manage national security space activities. An interim report is due in August and the final version in December. (5/23)

B612 Foundation Embraces Small Satellites for Asteroid Detection (Source: Science)
Last week, an asteroid the size of Egypt’s Great Pyramid of Giza whizzed by Earth, missing it by half the distance to the moon. The concern that we may one day not be so lucky has long preoccupied the B612 Foundation, dedicated to finding asteroids that cross Earth’s orbit and could devastate humanity. B612 itself had a near-death experience 3 years ago, when its bold plans for an asteroid-hunting space telescope fell apart. But now, its ambitions are rising again with a new technique for finding menacing objects.

On 10 May, B612 announced a partnership with York Space Systems, a Denver-based maker of standard 85-kilogram satellites, to investigate building a fleet of small asteroid hunters. For many years, B612—which takes its name from the asteroid home of Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry’s Little Prince—aimed to build and launch a much larger craft, Sentinel, a $450 million space telescope with a 50-centimeter mirror.

In 2012, NASA agreed to provide logistical support. But fundraising stalled and, in 2015, the agency ended its agreement with B612 because it wasn’t meeting mileposts, essentially killing the telescope. Now, B612 has developed a new technique to do the same thing at a far lower cost with small space telescopes. Ed Lu, B612's co-founder, expects the first telescope to cost about $10 million and believes a full constellation “would be a factor of many, many cheaper” than Sentinel. (5/23)

SpaceX Won’t Seek U.S. Rural Broadband Subsidies for Starlink Constellation (Source: Space News)
SpaceX says it will not go after any of the $2 billion in rural broadband subsidies the U.S. Federal Communications Commission will begin doling out this summer under its Connect America Fund II program.

The FCC invited telecommunications providers — including satellite operators — to bid July 24 for Connect America subsidies meant to make it financially worthwhile for companies to build out broadband networks to rural and remote areas otherwise too expensive to cover. The subsidies will be paid over 10 years using Universal Service Fund fees U.S. telcos routinely collect from customers. (5/23)

Shotwell Sees Satellites as Bigger Market Than Rockets (Source: GeekWire)
SpaceX is taking a commanding role in the rocket business — but Gwynne Shotwell, the company’s president and chief operating officer, expects the satellite business to be more lucrative. Shotwell sized up SpaceX’s road ahead in a CNBC interview that aired today in connection with the cable network’s latest Disruptor 50 list. For the second year in a row, the space venture founded by billionaire Elon Musk leads the list.

The 18 launches by SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets accounted for 20 percent of the world’s orbital liftoffs last year, and Shotwell said she expects the launch tally to rise to between 24 and 28 for this year. Next year, however, could bring a “slight slowdown” to a level that’s more in line with 2017’s pace, Shotwell said. That’s due to a projected decline in demand for satellite launches.

The satellite launch service market has grown to an estimated $5.5 billion in 2016, according to the latest State of the Satellite Industry Report. But that pales in comparison with the $127.7 billion market for satellite services and the $113.4 billion market for satellite ground services. That’s why SpaceX is putting its chips down on a plan to provide global broadband access through its own satellite constellation, known as Starlink. (5/22)

The International Space Station Should be Preserved (Source: TownHall)
The Trump Administration rolled out a long-term plan to end funding for the International Space Station (ISS) in 2025, well after President Trump is no longer in power. It is easy for the rulers of today to direct future Administrations to take actions to save money and cut federal spending.  The problem with this idea is that it will hurt national security by ceding outer space to America’s many enemies and withdraw American participation in cooperative scientific research with other nations. At the end of the day this decision will not save the taxpayer any money and the costs just keep mounting.

The ISS is the only world orbiting laboratory dedicated to human space travel and it is just reaching the peak of scientific utility. The case for ending direct funding for the ISS is to dedicate more resources to deep space exploration. This should not be an “either-or” proposition and we can have both. After the shuttle’s all landed for good it began to look like America’s time in space was on its way down. The ISS has become a shining example of what we can do in space and allowed for cutting edge research never before dreamt of. Following through with this policy directive will hurt the American space program when it is finally on the rise. (5/23)

How America Will Launch More Rockets, And Faster (Source: Bloomberg)
In the 1960s, a rocket launch was big news all over the world. Sixty years later, it’s still a big deal. Sure, SpaceX has leaped forward with reusable vehicles, but the ability to make space travel a reliable, everyday event is still a way off.

The U.S. government and some private companies want to change that. The Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is putting up $10 million to encourage launch firms to get faster and nimbler about traveling to space. The goal of the Rapid Launch Challenge is to hurl a small satellite into orbit with only a day’s notice—or less—from virtually anywhere in the country. (5/23)

New Network is Installed to Investigate Space Weather Over South America (Source: EurekAlart)
A group of Brazilian researchers affiliated with the National Space Research Institute (INPE) is working to install a network comprised of magnetometers (instruments used to measure the intensity of a magnetic field) across South America.

Known for its acronym Embrace MagNet (Embrace Magnetometer Network for South America), the project involves joint efforts from other Latin American institutions with the aim of studying the specific characteristics of magnetic field disturbances over the continent and comparing their intensities with those occurring elsewhere in the world. The possible damage done by space weather to electronic appliances is also a primary subject. (5/23)

The Nuclear Battle Between the Earth and Sun (Source: Space.com)
Deep in the sun's core, buried under hundreds of thousands of miles of twisting and convecting hydrogen and helium, a nuclear fire rages. At a temperature of over 15 million kelvins (27 million degrees Fahrenheit), the infernal pressures are high enough to squeeze together hydrogen nuclei, forging elemental helium and releasing a tiny bit of energy. Reaction after countless reaction, this energy accumulates and, in the form of photons, makes its way to the turbulent surface.

Once free, the photons race through empty space, bathing the solar system in radiance and heat. But they are not alone. The pent-up energies in the heart of the sun drive the surface into a boiling frenzy, and this kinetic turmoil unleashes floods of particles — the hydrogen and helium constituents of the sun's coronal atmosphere itself — that accelerate outward into space. (5/23)

The First Three Missions of NASA’s Next Big Rocket Will Have to Settle For a Less-Powerful Ride (Source: The Verge)
The first three missions of NASA’s next-generation rocket, the Space Launch System, will all fly on the least powerful version of the vehicle that the space agency plans to build. NASA is moving forward with its plan to use a downgraded version of the SLS for its second and third flights, according to a memo from NASA headquarters. The original plan was to fly those two flights on a much more powerful upgrade of the rocket, but now, it seems that version won’t debut until 2024 at the earliest.

The SLS, meant to take humans into deep space, has been under development for the last decade, with its first three missions mostly set in stone. However, these three missions weren’t all supposed to fly on the same version of the SLS. NASA is planning to make two main variants of the vehicle: Block 1 and Block 1B. Block 1B is designed with a much more powerful upper stage, allowing it to carry more than twice that weight. But now NASA is going to fly all three missions on Block 1.

The memo, signed by Bill Hill, NASA’s deputy associate administrator for exploration systems development, directs the space agency’s contractors to start planning for the change. Right now, NASA only has one mobile launch platform, which can only support flights of the Block 1. The platform would need significant upgrades to support Block 1B, requiring at least 33 months to complete. Under the original plan, NASA would first launch the inaugural mission of SLS on a Block 1 and then cease all flights of the rocket for nearly three years, while it upgraded the mobile launch platform. Now NASA has funding for a second platform. (5/22)

FAA Rulemakings Will Pave Way for New Supersonic Era (Source: AIN Online)
The FAA has launched two rulemakings that the agency said are designed to pave the way for development of civil supersonic aircraft. The first involves proposed noise certification for supersonic aircraft and the second is a clarification of procedures required to obtain special flight authorization to conduct supersonic flight-testing in the U.S. Neither rulemaking will rescind the current prohibition of supersonic flight over land without special FAA authorization, the agency added.

It is working in concert with the International Civil Aviation Organization Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection on noise and emissions standards for future supersonic aircraft, as well as collaborating with other national aviation authorities. (5/21)

Industry Warns of Launch Vehicle Glut (Source: Space News)
The launch industry is facing a shakeout in the coming years that could result in the failure of the vast majority of companies developing new vehicles, industry executives warned at a conference. Panelists in opening sessions of the Space Tech Expo conference here May 22 said they expect most of the current launch ventures to go out of business for one reason or another, primarily due to insufficient demand.

“There are way too many” companies in the launch market, said Greg Jones, senior vice president of business development and strategy for Aerojet Rocketdyne. “Eighty or ninety percent won’t make it to the end. Maybe there’s room for a dozen launch vehicles worldwide or something on that level.”

That surge of development is concentrated at the small end of the vehicle spectrum, with dozens of vehicles in various stages of design or testing. “It reflects the excitement going on in the small satellite market,” said Stephen Eisele, Vice President of Virgin Orbit, which is developing the LauncherOne small launch vehicle. (5/22)

SpaceX Launches Five Iridium Satellites and Twin Science Spacecraft (Source: Space News)
A SpaceX Falcon 9 still sporting soot from its last mission successfully launched May 22 with five Iridium Next satellites and two science satellites for NASA and the German Research Center for Geosciences. The rocket, reusing a first stage booster that successfully launched Northrop Grumman’s failed Zuma mission in January, took off from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

The twin Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow On (GRACE-FO) satellites separated from the rocket’s upper stage approximately 11 minutes later. Iridium’s five spacecraft separated one by one around 65 minutes into the mission. SpaceX did not attempt to recover the Falcon 9’s first stage. The rocket was a Block 4 version, designed for two to three reflights of the same first stage.

The company did try to recover the payload fairings, used to protect the satellites as the rocket exited the atmosphere, but was unsuccessful. The fairings landing in the Pacific Ocean after deploying parachutes to slow their descent. SpaceX’s launch narrator said a recovery vessel named Mr. Steven “came very close” to catching them using a giant upward facing net. Mr. Steven is so far 0 for 3 trying to catch the fairings. (5/22)

May 22, 2018

Jacksonville Resets Schedule for Spaceport Operations (Source: News4Jax)
Jacksonville could be one step closer to launching rockets. Jacksonville Aviation Authority CEO Steve Grossman told News4Jax on Monday that rocket launches could be coming to Cecil Airport by the end of this year or early next year.  "We have a commercial space operator who wants to use Cecil Spaceport for all their operations," Grossman said. "We have issued them an operating permit, we believe the first one in the country, for a horizontal launch spaceport. The company's called Generation Orbit."

The company is headquartered in Atlanta, but will conduct its operations out of Jacksonville. They won't be vertical rocket launches, such as the ones in Cape Canaveral. Grossman explained how the horizontal launches work. "It's basically a business jet that they have mounted an 8- to 12-foot rocket underneath," he said. "They take off, fly out at 50,000 feet, drop rocket and ignite it and it'll take several nanosatellites -- they're the size of softballs -- up into low earth orbit."

The company has already completed test runs in Jacksonville. If this launch takes place, Grossman said, Jacksonville could be the first official horizontal spaceport in the country. (5/22)

Parsons Acquires Polaris Alpha, Seeks Bigger Footprint in Defense, Space, Intelligence (Source: Space News)
Parsons, a government contractor with more than $3 billion in annual revenues, announced it has acquired Polaris Alpha, a defense and intelligence technology firm with a growing business in space, artificial intelligence, command and control and cybersecurity.

With more than 14,000 employees, Parsons is known for engineering, construction and infrastructure. Polaris Alpha has a workforce of 1,300, nearly 90 percent with security clearances. The acquisition fits into Parsons’ strategy to expand its high-tech government services business, particularly in space, intelligence and cybersecurity.

The combination makes Parsons a more competitive player in the space and defense markets, Smith said. She noted the company’s deep roots as a Pentagon and Missile Defense Agency contractor, and Polaris Alpha’s expertise in cutting-edge intelligence and information technologies. (5/21)

Why the Pentagon Thinks Small Satellites Can Solve Big Problems (Source: Popular Science)
The U.S. military's old way of thinking about satellites goes something like this: Pack as much technology as humanly possible onto every spacecraft because they are so expensive. Strap that big satellite onto a rocket. Once the satellite reaches orbit, the dangerous part is over.

“It was assumed when you put a satellite up there, it was not going to be contested,” says Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, commander of Air Force Materiel Command. “That is no longer the situation.” As China and Russia develop weapons that can threaten satellites, defending space has suddenly become hugely important to the United States, which has led to an overhaul in America's strategic thinking. Suddenly, small satellites are all the rage in military circles. (5/22)

Telescope Partnership to Improve Access, Attract Funding (Source: Science)
Two other large telescope projects are joining forces to win a share of NSF funding. The Giant Magellan Telescope and the Thirty Meter Telescope have been competing for funding for years, and neither has raised all the money needed to complete their observatories. The two projects have now agreed to a partnership that will include the ability for astronomers not associated with organizations or countries involved with the observatories to complete for observing time. That partnership, the observatories hope, will be compelling enough to the NSF to convince it to pay up to 25 percent of the costs of each telescope. (5/22)

Retrograde Asteroid an Outsider (Source: Scientific American)
The discovery of an asteroid orbiting backwards around the sun has led some astronomers to conclude it is an interloper from another solar system. Asteroid 2015 BZ509 orbits near Jupiter in a retrograde direction, opposite that of the planets and other asteroids. A study by astronomers published Monday concluded that the only way to explain its existence is that it came from another solar system. Other researchers are not convinced, arguing that the astronomers haven't modeled how the asteroid could be captured, or considered other models, such as the influence of a hypothetical planet in the outer solar system. (5/22)

NASA's EM Drive Might Have No Thrust Afterall (Source: Ars Technica)
A controversial propulsion system could have a mundane explanation. The "EM drive" has been studied for several years, including by one NASA group, appearing to generate thrust without using any fuel. Research by a German team found that their EM drive created thrust even when not powered up. They believe that the thrust is actually just an effect of the Earth's magnetic field not properly accounted for in previous experiments. (5/22)

How SpaceX Beat Boeing to Become a $28 Billion Aerospace Juggernaut (Source: CNBC)
SpaceX has upended the rocket industry, making founder Elon Musk the world's most disruptive space pioneer. The visionary entrepreneur is bent on building giant low-cost reusable rockets and spaceships that can be used to colonize humans on Mars. In the process, he is helping to catalyze a private space exploration industry in the United States while outmaneuvering mammoth aerospace companies like Boeing.

SpaceX is the No. 1 company on the 2018 CNBC Disruptor 50 list, announced Tuesday. SpaceX has vaulted to become one of the most valuable private companies in the world, with a valuation estimated at $28 billion. As its long-term prospects soar, it is steadily raising funds from global investors to fuel its lofty ambitions. The company's achievements have many awestruck: In February it launched the world's most powerful rocket since NASA's Saturn V. It stood more than 21 stories high. Click here. (5/22)

Drug Could Prevent Memory Loss in Deep Space Astronauts (Source: Engadget)
Cosmic radiation is one of the greatest threats to astronauts embarking on deep space missions, not the least of which is the effect on the brain: it could hinder your memory and destroy vital synapses. Thankfully, you might only need to take some pills. UCSF researchers have discovered that a drug from Plexxikon potentially prevents memory problems from cosmic radiation. Tests on mice show that the medicine forces the brain to replace irradiated immune system cells (microglia) with healthy examples, preventing inflammation that could damage memory functions. (5/22)

Iridium Set to Provide Emergency Maritime Comms (Source: Space News)
Iridium has won approval from a maritime organization to provide emergency communications services. Iridium said Monday that the International Maritime Organization certified the company to provide Global Maritime Distress Safety System services, which only Inmarsat provides today by satellite. Iridium spent five years winning that approval, facing opposition from Inmarsat. (5/22)

Jurczyk Named NASA Associate Administrator (Source: NASA)
NASA named Steve Jurczyk as the agency's associate administrator Monday. Jurczyk, a former associate administrator for space technology and Langley Research Center director, had been serving in that role in an acting capacity since March. Associate administrator is the highest-ranking civil service position at NASA. The agency also announced that Krista Paquin, the deputy associate administrator, will retire at the end of May. Melanie W. Saunders, acting deputy center director at the Johnson Space Center, will take over for Paquin on an acting basis in June. (5/22)

Air Force Needs Time to Study Falcon-9 Upgrades (Source: Bloomberg)
The Air Force wants more time to study the upgraded version of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket. In a statement, the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center said the launch of the first GPS 3 satellite has been delayed to no earlier than October so that SpaceX can complete qualification testing, followed by final engineering reviews of the Block 5 variant of the Falcon 9. While the report states the launch slipped from this month, that mission had been scheduled for launch this fall for some time. (5/22)

Nova Scotia Spaceport Delayed (Source: Canadian Press)
Construction of a spaceport in Nova Scotia has been delayed until at least later this year. Maritime Launch Services had previously planned to start work on the launch site for Cyclone-4 rockets near the town of Canso this month, but the company says it needs more time to win approvals and complete an environmental assessment. The company still expects to begin launches from the site in 2021. (5/22)

Jeff Bezos Says it’s ‘Day One’ for Space Industry (Source: GeekWire)
“Day One” has been a mantra at Amazon since Bezos used the phrase in an annual letter to shareholders in 1997. In last year’s letter, Bezos went so far as to say there should never be a “Day Two” at Amazon. “Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death,” he wrote. “And that is why it is always Day 1.”

It makes sense that Bezos applies his “Day One” philosophy to his space venture as well, but in his public pronouncements, he usually emphasizes Blue Origin’s slow but steady pace. “Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast,” he has said. Blue Origin’s motto is “Gradatim Ferociter,” which is Latin for “Step by Step, Ferociously.” Its mascot is a tortoise, for heaven’s sake. Click here. (5/21)

How NASA Will Unlock the Secrets of Quantum Mechanics Aboard the ISS (Source: Gizmodo)
An Antares rocket launched from Virginia before sunrise this morning and is on its way to the International Space Station. Its 7,400 pounds of cargo include an experiment that will chill atoms to just about absolute zero—colder than the vacuum of space itself. The Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL) is set to create Bose-Einstein condensates on board the ISS. But what’s a Bose-Einstein condensate? And why make it in space?

“Essentially, it’s going to allow us to do different kinds of things than we’d be able to do on Earth,” said Gretchen Campbell. Bose-Einstein condensates are collections of certain atoms (like rubidium, for example) held motionless by lasers, which cools them to temperatures just above absolute zero. These systems magnify the mind-boggling effects of quantum mechanics to nearly macroscopic scales, making them easier to study. Scientists have used Bose-Einstein condensates to create entirely new states of matter, quantum entangle thousands of atoms, and even model the Big Bang. (5/21)

May 21, 2018

ARCA Space Founder Taken Into Custody by Homeland Security (Source: Parabolic Arc)
After having fraud charges dropped against him in New Mexico, ARCA Space Founder Dumitru Popescu has more legal woes. Dumitru was taken into custody by the Department of Homeland Security this morning, without warning. When Dumitru was arrested in October of last year, The DHS cancelled his business visa, and provided him with a temporary visa, allowing him to stay until his case ended.

Despite all charges against Dumitru being dismissed and Dumitru’s immediate efforts to restore his legal status in the US, he was taken into custody before he had a chance to do so. The DHS agent in charge of Dumitru is also denying Dumitru the right to speak to his immigration attorney, telling Dumitru something to the effect of “You don’t have this right, because you don’t exist.” Dumitru was also told he will be held at a detention center for around 2 weeks before being deported.

Dumitru also suffers from a life-threatening medical condition that requires medication, and the last time he was taken into custody, he was denied medication for 5 days, leaving him in extremely poor condition. (5/21)

Ariane Chief Seems Frustrated with SpaceX for Driving Down Launch Prices (Source: Ars Technica)
The France-based Ariane Group is the primary contractor for the Ariane 5 launch vehicle, and it has also begun developing the Ariane 6 rocket. The firm has a reliable record but it also faces an uncertain future in an increasingly competitive launch market. Like Russia and ULA, the Ariane Group faces pricing pressure from SpaceX, which offers launch prices as low as $62 million for its Falcon 9 rocket. It has specifically developed the Ariane 6 rocket to compete with the Falcon 9 booster.

The chief executive of Ariane Group, Alain Charmeau, expressed frustration with SpaceX and attributed its success to subsidized launches for the US government. When pressed on the price pressure that SpaceX has introduced into the launch market, Charmeau's central argument is that this has only been possible because, "SpaceX is charging the US government 100 million per launch, but launches for European customers are much cheaper." Essentially, he says, launches for the US military and NASA are subsidizing SpaceX's commercial launch business.

This may be so, but the prices that SpaceX has offered to the US Department of Defense for spy satellites and cargo and crew launches for NASA are below those of what other launch companies charge. And while $100 million or more for a military launch is significantly higher than a $62 million commercial launch, government contracts come with extra restrictions, reviews, and requirements that drive up this price. (5/21)

Pentagon Considers Space Based Tracking for Hypersonic Weapons (Source: Space News)
The Pentagon is considering development of space-based missile tracking satellites to deal with the threat of hypersonic weapons. The Trump administration is expected to seek funds in 2020 to begin work on a constellation of missile-watching sensors that could fill gaps in tracking of hypersonic cruise missiles reportedly being developed by Russia and China. The concept has a number of proponents in the Pentagon, including the heads of the Missile Defense Agency and Strategic Command, as well as Mike Griffin, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering. (5/21)

Orbital ATK Launches Cargo to ISS From Virginia Spaceport (Source: Space News)
An Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo spacecraft is on its way to the International Space Station after a successful launch early this morning. An Antares rocket lifted off from Wallops Island, Virginia, at 4:44 a.m. Eastern and placed the Cygnus into orbit less than 10 minutes later. The launch was delayed a day because of weather. The Cygnus, scheduled to arrive at the ISS early Thursday, is carrying more than 3,300 kilograms of hardware, experiments and supplies for the station. (5/21)

China Launches Lunar Data Relay Satellite (Source: GB Times)
China launched a relay satellite for its upcoming lunar lander mission Sunday. The Long March 4C rocket carrying the Queqiao satellite took off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 5:28 p.m. Eastern. The spacecraft is bound for the Earth-moon L-2 Lagrange point, where it will serve as a communications relay for the Chang'e-4 mission. That mission will be the first to attempt a landing on the lunar farside, which is out of direct contact with Earth. Chang'e-4 is scheduled for launch late this year. (5/21)

Martian Deadlines (Source: Space Review)
Can setting a specific date as a goal for a human Mars mission provide the impetus to make it happen? Jeff Foust examines some perspectives on the issue based on discussion at a recent conference. Click here. (5/21)
 
Sheriff Elon Musk? Who Will Govern Human Space Habitats, And How? (Source: Space Review)
If humans are going to live and work in space, they will need governance models that could differ from how things work on Earth.  Eytan Tepper argues that research needs to begin now on what paradigms for space governance would work best for future settlements beyond Earth. Click here. (5/21)
 
WFIRST’s Second Chance (Source: Space Review)
NASA’s 2019 budget request proposed cancelling WFIRST, the next large astrophysics mission after the James Webb Space Telescope. Jeff Foust reports that things are looking up for the mission, even if it is not out of the woods yet. Click here. (5/21)

May 20, 2018

Having Babies on Mars Is Going to Be a ‘Titanic Challenge’ (Source: Daily Beast)
A new report from the journal Futures forecasts that having babies on Mars is going to be a little more difficult than the birds-and-bees mechanics we experience here on Earth. In fact, the researchers go so far as to suggest that reproducing on the Red Planet—essential for the success of human colonization—could be downright dangerous.

The primary problem with having babies on Mars is the fact that the planet’s atmosphere does not protect against harmful radiation and magnetism. Earth’s atmosphere shields humans from these rays—a major reason why Earth was able to sustain life in the first place.

Mars, however, doesn’t have this sort of protective atmospheric armor that Earth does. Its atmosphere is actually about 100 times thinner than Earth’s, which means that cosmic radiation practically floods through the Martian atmosphere. For any human—adult, child, or fetal—on the ground below that, this is deadly. In fact, for fertilization to occur in the first place, it has to somehow withstand this radiation. (5/18)

Starfighters Expands Access to F-104 Flight Training at Kennedy Space Center (Source: Starfighters)
Licensed pilots now have direct access to F-104 flight training reservations through an online reservation process. This follows Starfighters Aerospace’s recent authorization from the FAA that opens the skies above NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) for pilot training in the legendary supersonic aircraft. An FAA Letter of Deviation Authority (LODA) allows licensed pilots to receive type-specific training in the same ‘right-stuff’ jets used for decades to prepare NASA astronauts for spaceflight and conduct to aeronautical research.

Pilots receive pre-flight syllabus-based training at Starfighters’ KSC-based hangar at the former Space Shuttle runway, ending with one or more checkout flights in the restricted airspace above the spaceport. This limited-access training covers the fundamentals of flying the F-104 and is designed to enhance confidence and flight safety. The amount of time it takes to complete the basic training and aircraft familiarization (TRA1) will vary by pilot. Click here. And here's a video. (5/21)

China’s First Private Rocket Reaches 127,000 Feet on Maiden Flight (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
OneSpace Technology Co., a Beijing-based aerospace company, has successfully launched a suborbital rocket. This was the first flight for China’s commercial launch sector. Nicknamed “Chongqing Liangjiang Star,” the booster lifted off from a launch site located somewhere in northwest China. The exact location was not disclosed by the company.

The mission was designated OS-X0 as it was the first test launch of OneSpace’s OS-X rocket. During the flight, the launch vehicle reached an altitude of 127,106 feet (38.74 kilometers) and had a top speed of more than 5.7 times the speed of sound. This was confirmed by Shu Chang, the company’s founder and CEO.

OS-X is a 29.5-foot (9-meter) solid-fueled single-stage rocket weighing about 7.2 metric tons. OneSpace disclosed that the rocket has a payload capacity of 220 pounds (100 kilograms) and can travel for around five minutes, or 170 miles (273 kilometers). The company also said that OS-X is equipped with wireless communication devices, low-cost energy sources and its control system can be customized to meet customer demands. (5/20)

Neil Armstrong’s Dyna-Soar Abort Training Aircraft Being Restored for Moon Landing Anniversary (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
A piece of Neil Armstrong’s pre-astronaut space history is being restored in preparation for next July’s 50-year anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing. The Armstrong Air and Space Museum in the astronaut’s hometown of Wapakoneta, Ohio, is restoring the Douglas F5D Skylancer aircraft that he flew as part of his training for the Dyna-Soar project, which was cancelled in December of 1963. Armstrong had been named to NASA astronaut group three in October of that year.

The Skylancer has been on outdoor display in front of the museum since its opening in 1972. Naturally, the years and the elements have caught up with the aircraft, which has been repainted only twice in the 46 years it has been on display. On longtime loan from NASA since its arrival at the museum, last year ownership was transferred to the Ohio History Connection—the operator of the museum—so the Skylancer could remain a permanent part of the facility. (5/20)

Russia May Renew 'Satan' Missile Launches to Place Satellites In Orbit (Source: Sputnik)
Russia may renew launches of the Voevoda (NATO reporting name Satan) intercontinental ballistic missiles to place spacecraft into orbit. In March, then-Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov said that Russia's space industry was ready to use Satan missiles that will then be replaced with Sarmat missiles.

"The issue of use of decommissioned RS-20V [NATO reporting name SS-18 Satan] missiles in line with the conversion launches program is being considered," the source said, adding that the RS-20B modification will not be used for launching satellites. Currently Russia has 46 RS-20V missiles and some 11 RS-20B missiles. (5/20)

Earth's Magnetic Field Is Drifting Westward, and Nobody Knows Why (Source: Space.com)
Over the 400 years or so that humans have been measuring Earth's magnetic field, it has drifted inexorably to the west. Now, a new hypothesis suggests that weird waves in Earth's outer core may cause this drift. The slow waves, called Rossby waves, arise in rotating fluids. They're also known as "planetary waves," and they're found in many large, rotating bodies, including on Earth in the oceans and atmosphere and on Jupiter and the sun.

Earth's outer core is also a rotating fluid, meaning Rossby waves circulate in the core, too. Whereas oceanic and atmospheric Rossby waves have crests that move westward against Earth's eastward rotation, Rossby waves in the core are "a bit like turning atmospheric Rossby waves inside out," said O.P. Bardsley, a doctoral student at the University of Cambridge in England, and the author of a new study on the Rossby wave hypothesis. Their crests always move east. (5/20)

Embry-Riddle Cubesat Malfunctions (Source: Phys.org)
Embry-Riddle's EagleSat-1 is working through post-launch challenges. "It turns out we are not getting data back. There is still learning occurring, which is our main reason for doing the program. The students are learning the process of failure analysis and understanding the spacecraft a little bit better as a result of trying to figure out what could have gone wrong and try to figure out if there is anything we can do while it is on orbit," said Dr. Gary Yale, associate professor of aerospace engineering and faculty mentor for EagleSat-1, at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

One possibility under consideration by the team of undergraduate researchers is that their antenna did not deploy after launch. The EagleSat-1 team hopes that if that is the problem, eventually the fishing line holding the antenna down will decay due to ultraviolet radiation in the space environment, causing the line to break and deploy the antenna, which was the backup plan for that eventuality. (5/14)

Mark Kelly: US Schools 'Absolutely' Should be Hardened (Source: The Hill)
Gun control advocate Mark Kelly said on Sunday that American schools “absolutely” should be hardened with metal detectors and restricted access. “Absolutely,” Kelly, a former astronaut, told “Fox News Sunday” when asked if schools should implement metal detectors and restricted access areas in an effort to prevent school shootings.

Kelly is married to former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ), who survived an assassination attempt while she was a member of Congress. His remarks come after ten people were killed in a shooting at a high school in Texas last week. While Kelly said on Sunday that schools should have increased security, he also argued that the U.S. must prevent dangerous individuals from obtaining a gun. (5/20)